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January 07, 2021

Leaving In Style

Trump's supporters are taking care that their president can leave in style.


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U.S. foreign policy has come home to bite. Does anyone still remember when the Twitter blue ticks lauded this 'peaceful' 'pro-democracy' action?


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Speaker of the House Nanci Pelosi once said of the protests in Hong Kong: "It is a beautiful sight to behold."

teleSUR English @telesurenglish - 22:20 UTC · Jan 6, 2021
See any similarities? Images from Juan Guaidó's attempt to storm Venezuela's National Assembly and today's pro-Trump mobs occupying the U.S. Capitol building, just one year apart.

This ITV footage of average Americans storming their Capitol is truly extraordinary. These people are true believers who strongly feel that they have been wronged.

Ruslan Moldovanov @Revolov - 00:50 UTC · Jan 7, 2021
Washington, D.C., today resembles an Eastern European capital where a color revolution is unfolding.
...
The same very vibes

Some Capitol guests were violent but those may well have been saboteurs:

DR JANE’S DC 2.0 - @DrJaneRuby - 4:11 UTC · Jan 7, 2021
Trump supporters physically stopped Antifa rioter from trying to break window at Capitol building.
They were trying to call them out
pic.twitter.com/JKr2bKm9ax

Who by the way knew that members of Congress have gas masks under their seats?

Tear gas was deployed in the Capitol rotunda, so the order came down for lawmakers to ready gas masks that are stored under their seats. Allred helped some his colleagues take out their masks as Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Marine Corps veteran, provided instruction.

“When you put your mask on, breathe slowly or you’ll hyperventilate,” Gallego said, according to Allred.

There surely is a lot of hyperventilating right now. Trump is accused of inciting violence.

It doesn't read like that. In fact Trump spoke out against violence and called on the people to leave peacefully only to get censored by the blue tick monopoly:

Cont. reading: Leaving In Style

Posted by b at 5:33 UTC | Comments (391)

January 06, 2021

How Trump 'Appeased' Russia

Two years ago we wrote about Trump's relation with Russia:

Putin Asks And Trump Delivers - A List Of All The Good Things Trump Did For Russia

Trump obviously wants better diplomatic relations with Russia. He is reluctant to counter its military might. He is doing his best to make it richer. Just consider the headlines below. With all those good things Trump did for Putin, intense suspicions of Russian influence over him is surely justified.

There followed 34 headlines and links to stories about Trump actions, from closing Russian consulates to U.S. attacks on Russian troops, that were hostile to Russia.

In fact no other U.S. administration since the cold war has been more aggressive towards Russia than Trump's.

But some U.S. media continue to claim that Trump's behavior towards Russia has not been hostile at all. Consider this line in Politico about anti-Russian hawks in the incoming Biden administration:

Nuland and Sherman, who entered academia and the think tank world after leaving the Obama administration, have been outspoken critics of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy — particularly his appeasement of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Where please has Trump 'appeased' Vladimir Putin?

Here are a number of headlines which appeared in U.S. media since we published our first list two years ago. Which of the described actions were designed to  'appease' Putin or Russia?

U.S. to withdraw from nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, raising fears of a new arms race - Washington Post, Feb 1 2019

Putin says U.S.-Russia relations are getting 'worse and worse' - Reuters, Jun 13 2019

Green Berets train Polish, Latvian resistance units in West Virginia - Army Times, Jul 8 2019

Trump Adds to Sanctions on Russia Over Skripals - NYT, Aug 1 2019

INF nuclear treaty: US pulls out of Cold War-era pact with Russia - BBC, Aug 2 2019

US Slaps New Sanctions on Russia for 2018 Nerve Agent Attack - Daily Signal, Aug 2 2019

1000 U.S.Troops Are Headed to Poland - National Interest, Sep 29 2019

U.S. sanctions Russians over attempted interference in 2018 elections - CBS News, Sep 30 2019

US formally withdraws from Open Skies Treaty that bolstered European security - CNN, Nov 22 2020

Nord Stream 2: Trump approves sanctions on Russia gas pipeline - BBC, Dec 21 2019

Trump sanctions Rosneft, Russia's largest oil company, for aiding Maduro in Venezuela - MSN, Feb 19 2020

Russia Says New U.S. Weapon Threatens Nuclear War - Newsweek, Mar 7 2020

Trump Continues to Be Exceedingly Tough on Russia - Townhall, Jul 25 2020

U.S.-Russia Military Tensions Intensify in the Air and on the Ground Worldwide - NYT, Sep 1 2020

White House rejects Putin’s proposal to extend last U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty - LA Times, Oct 16 2020

U.S., Russian Navies Involved In Brief Confrontation At Sea - NPR, Nov 24 2020

US sanctions NATO ally Turkey over Russian missile defense - AP, Dec 14 2020

Pompeo accuses Russia of sowing 'chaos' in the Mediterranean - Rawstory, Dec 15 2020

Exclusive: U.S. preparing new sanctions to impede Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline - Reuters, Dec 23 2020

As we have written before:

When one adds up all those actions one can only find that Trump cares more about Russia, than about the U.S. and its NATO allies. Only with Trump being under Putin's influence, knowingly or unwittingly, could he end up doing Russia so many favors.

Not.

Posted by b at 18:01 UTC | Comments (167)

January 05, 2021

U.S. Foreign Policy Blob Knows The Real Threat From China - Has Ideas Of How To Defeat It

Andrew Bacevich points to an interesting essay by Richard Hanania about the "threat" from China as perceived by the U.S. establishment.

China’s Real Threat Is to America’s Ruling Ideology

The author says that China, even as it is growing and has passed the U.S. economically, is not an enemy of the U.S. and no danger to U.S. or others' security:

While China is not blameless, one could reasonably make the argument that, from an international perspective, it has had easily the most peaceful rise to great power status of any nation of the last several hundred years.
...
Perhaps, as the McMasters of the world claim, this is all because Beijing is biding its time in hopes of world domination. Alternatively, China may be an inwardly focused civilization that, while it may have disputes with its neighbors, is not on a mission to fundamentally remake the world. While it would naturally prefer rules that favor it and resists any principles that would legitimize regime change supported from abroad, Beijing does not seek to fundamentally replace the U.N. or rewrite international law. Its strategy has mostly sought stability and growth within the rules of the system developed by Western democracies in the aftermath of the Second World War. While its current position of strength is recent, it has not yet broken from this precedent.

Nor does it, as far as is known, plan to do so.

Various U.S. influenced political scientists have claimed that democratization and liberalization is a necessary precursor for peace and economic growth. That ideological argument was used to seek and kill various 'dictator' dragons abroad. China has proved them to be wrong. And therein lies the real danger to the U.S. establishment.

China's development over the last 40 years proves that it is not necessary to wage wars in foreign countries to be secure and to prosper. For U.S. ideologues that is a bad example that should not exist:

If universal democratization is not the ultimate endpoint of history—or even an imperative for development, peace, and prosperity—how can the American role in the world be justified? What will it say about the American system if the U.S. is no longer the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, having been surpassed by a country that became the dominant power in East Asia without even paying lip service to democratic ideals?

Ultimately, Americans themselves might begin asking themselves difficult questions about how well they have been served by their own system, including the sacrifices in blood and treasure they are regularly asked to make abroad.

That would be really bad as the monetary fodder in the trough the national security establishment is feasting from would suddenly be seen as an unnecessary waste. That is the real danger to the blob:

Cont. reading: U.S. Foreign Policy Blob Knows The Real Threat From China - Has Ideas Of How To Defeat It

Posted by b at 19:19 UTC | Comments (87)

January 04, 2021

British Judge Rejects Assange Extradition

This was unexpected. The British district court judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected the U.S. extradition request against Julian Assange:

Kevin Gosztola - 11:07 UTC · Jan 4, 2021
BREAKING: Judge rules against US extradition of Julian Assange, contending extradition would be oppressive by reason of Assange’s mental health

The British judge said that the U.S. prison system is too brutal to be trusted with the health of Assange.

Kevin Gosztola @kgosztola - 10:57 UTC · Jan 4, 2021
Baraitser says Assange is at high risk of suicide and that there is a "real risk" he will be detained subject to special administrative measures (SAMs) in US prison, especially because intelligence community is hostile to him
Baraitser: Extradition would be oppressive by reason of Assange’s mental health
The United States government's mass incarceration system just lost them their case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
Holy shit, the judge ends saying she is satisfied that procedures described by US would not prevent Assange from finding a way to commit suicide in US supermax prison
The judge and defense are discussing an application for bail. US government is going to immediately appeal.

The full ruling is available here.

Caitlin Johnstone @caitoz - 11:14 UTC · Jan 4, 2021

UPDATE: Judge ordered no extradition for Assange, and orders him released from Belmarsh Prison, both due to suicide risk concerns. The US has confirmed that it will appeal extradition ruling. He's still jailed, court is in recess and then they'll discuss possible bail or release.

It's likely they'll keep him jailed until after the US appeals the ruling, as Medhurst explains. We're definitely not out of the woods yet. But getting out of Belmarsh is excellent.

This is not a win for freedom of speech or a free press. The judge has accepted the U.S. prosecution arguments against Assange. The extradition rejection is solely on humanitarian grounds.

Anyway, the British government seems to have grown a spine? We can then hope that the U.S.government's appeal will fail.

Posted by b at 11:19 UTC | Comments (211)

January 03, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-001

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Elena_MYL @Elena_MYL - 2:28 UTC · Dec 29, 2020
I search a bit about #ZhangZhan online and here’s what I found. She was detained several times before, from 10 days to 65 days since 2019. She got warning for the first time in 2018.
Pic. She’s holding an umbrella says” End socialism, take down CPC”.
She’s a Christian zealot with a strong tendency towards martyrdom. She made hunger strike several times during the detention.
She had psychiatric assessments during the detention since she kept talking Jesus, Bible, God, etc.
Here’s video from her YouTube channel. She spoke in a very slow speed. “I preached gospel to her : The cross of Jesus Christ bears the sins of everyone, salvation is found in no one else, but Jesus. Actually I’d prefer to preach gospel to those cops and ppl who quarantined her.
Here is an article she wrote accusing Chinese government acting like god. She used the word “神” (God) 62 times.
#ZhangZhan regards herself undertaking God’s mission. Somehow reminds me of Adrian Zens who fabricated Uyghur genocide claiming he’s been led by God against Beijing. ...

---
Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-001

Posted by b at 15:14 UTC | Comments (239)

January 01, 2021

"Pull My Finger" - (Afghan Edition)

June 26 2020, New York Times

Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says

August 17 2020, CNN

US intelligence indicates Iran paid bounties to Taliban for targeting American troops in Afghanistan

December 31 2020, Axios

Scoop: Trump administration declassifies unconfirmed intel on Chinese bounties

January 1 2021, Moon of Alabama

Sources: To Keep Troops In Afghanistan U.S. Intel Paid Militants Bounties To Kill Them

Posted by b at 5:42 UTC | Comments (226)

December 31, 2020

The Year Of Masks Ends - The Year Of Vaccines Arises

This year was weird and somewhat depressing. But there are signs that the next year will be better. The virus will be defeated (vid).


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The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic created some interesting phenomenons. Historically it moved the world's power center towards the east. China and other eastern countries proved to be much better in controlling the outbreak and were rewarded with economic success. The U.S. has lost its leading role in the world but has yet to accept the new multi-polarity. That increases the chance of new conflicts.

Below are links to some of the stories, written throughout the last year, that document and reflect on those trends.

Writing about the virus was a challenge. Not from a scientific point but due to the reaction of some commentators who were unable to accept the facts. I never before had to delete and block so much nonsense. That, astonishingly, did not diminish the blog's readership. With some 11 million page views the blog even attracted a bit more public interest in 2020 than in 2019. A great comments on this blog have a lot to do with this success.

Thanks to all of you who come read and/or comment here.

A happy New Year to all of you.

Bernhard

Cont. reading: The Year Of Masks Ends - The Year Of Vaccines Arises

Posted by b at 16:58 UTC | Comments (150)

December 30, 2020

A Tale Of A New Year's Resolution

The Wall Street Journal reports of another misguided decision by the Trump administration.

New U.S. Dietary Guidelines Reject Recommendation to Cut Sugar, Alcohol Intake Limit

The federal government on Tuesday issued new dietary guidelines that keep current allowances for sugar and alcohol consumption unchanged, rejecting recommendations by its scientific advisory committee to make significant cuts.

The scientific committee, which was composed of 20 academics and doctors, had recommended cutting the limit for added sugars in the diet to 6% of daily calories from 10% in the current guidelines, citing rising rates of obesity and the link between obesity and health problems like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
...
The dietary guidelines, which are updated every five years, have a wide impact: They shape school lunch programs, mold state and local health-promotion efforts, and influence what food companies produce.

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services reviewed the committee’s recommendations, which were released in July, and decided not to include the lower limits because “the new evidence is not substantial enough to support changes to quantitative recommendations for either added sugars or alcohol,” said Brandon Lipps, deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services at the USDA. Mr. Lipps said that the new limits recommended by the scientific committee didn’t meet a “preponderance of the evidence” standard required by law.

One would think that the obvious evidence of preponderance within the U.S. population would be sufficient to meet the "preponderance of the evidence"  required by law.

Anyway, I'll use the above as a hook to tell a personal story. One which is a bit off from the other content you usually find here.

Two years ago I made a private New Year's resolution to lose weight. Over the decades I had slowly, slowly gained one pound after the other. Having an office job and often being too lazy to do sports both had contributed to that. I was no longer comfortable with the look and feel of my body. So I set myself a target weight but not a time limit to reach it. Fearing failure I did not tell anyone about it.

This month I finally got there.

Cont. reading: A Tale Of A New Year's Resolution

Posted by b at 18:53 UTC | Comments (97)

December 29, 2020

Open Thread 2020-103

News & views ...

Posted by b at 18:55 UTC | Comments (269)

December 28, 2020

The 'Mighty Wurlitzer' - How U.S. Financed 'Human Rights' Organizations Create Anti-Chinese Headlines

During my daily skimming of the main stream media I at times detect news items that seem of little public interest but are widely published. These pieces are often suspiciously similar to each other and seem to come from the 'Mighty Wurlitzer':

In 1967 the magazine "Ramparts" ran an expose revealing that the Central Intelligence Agency had been secretly funding and managing a wide range of citizen front groups intended to counter communist influence around the world.
...
CIA official Frank Wisner called the operation his "mighty Wurlitzer," on which he could play any propaganda tune.

Today's 'Mighty Wurlitzer' song is played simultaneously by all major outlets:

From the BBC's version:

Cont. reading: The 'Mighty Wurlitzer' - How U.S. Financed 'Human Rights' Organizations Create Anti-Chinese Headlines

Posted by b at 18:28 UTC | Comments (128)

December 27, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2020-102

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

> What certainly has not come over is that Brussels has secreted into the system a complex and interesting treaty, one full of subtleties which is a long way from the basic "skinny treaty" that many of us originally expected.

It is one, also, which keeps the UK closer to the EU globally-based trading system than anyone could possibly have imagined at the outset of negotiations. It is one of considerable depth which creates a framework for a relationship which, if explored by people of far more diligence than Johnson and his cronies, could eventually be turned into a useful working agreement, albeit at savage cost to the UK in the interim.
...
To enable that trade, and much else, requires a working framework, which is set out in the first chapter of the treaty. One of the greatest misnomers of this modern world is the term "free trade". We have managed trade. The greater the degree of state involvement, the more freely goods (and services) flow.

In creating a framework, the first thing of this treaty that must be understood is that it is not the end of a process, but the start – where detailed sectoral negotiations will be conducted over term, to knock the basic agreement into some sort of shape which will enable the UK to re-establish a functioning relationship with the EU.

  • December 21 - Happy Christmas
    Related:
    Christmas in the grip of the Spanish Flu - Daily Mail
    As shops removed blackout curtains for the first time in four years in 1918, war-weary Britons faced the difficult decision over whether to see family during global pandemic that killed 50 million

---
Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2020-102

Posted by b at 14:33 UTC | Comments (166)

December 26, 2020

The Brexit Deal Is Done But Services Are Likely To See Losses

So I was wrong predicting that there would be no Brexit deal.

Good.

A deal was found on Christmas eve and while both sides, Britain and the European Union, may have lost, the British loss seems bigger.

The 1256 pages of the deal are mostly about trade in goods, not about trade in services. While there will be no tariffs and quotas on goods there will be new bureaucratic measures imposed on goods exports:

In announcing the trade deal this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain acknowledged it offered “not as much” access for financial firms “as we would have liked.” But he was not as straightforward about the difficulties facing even British retailers under the deal, analysts said.

In promising that there were “no non-tariff barriers” to selling goods after Brexit, he ignored the tens of millions of customs declarations, health assessments and other checks that businesses will now be responsible for.

The declaration issues will take a few months to sort out. Border queues can be expected in the first few weeks. Sensational reporting about them will follow. But the queues will soon make place for more routine patterns. Trade in goods will then revive to previous levels.

But services like banking, insurance, and legal advice will have more difficulties. Adherence to British rules will no longer be sufficient to be recognized as legit within the EU. Service companies will have to adhere to local rules of other EU countries to do business with them. It is here where Britain is most likely to lose business:

On services, by quitting the single market, it was made clear during the negotiations that the U.K. lost some market access for trade in financial services. This is still the case since there is no provision for the sector in the agreement. More than 40 percent of the U.K.’s exports to the EU are services, and the sector accounts for around 80 percent of the U.K.’s economic activity.

A look at recent British trade balance data shows why that will matter:


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Britain has an overall trade deficit in goods and a trade surplus in services. While the deficit in goods is expected to stay in the current range the surplus in services will probably shrink. The above numbers are for all British imports and exports. The numbers for Britain's trade with the EU are even more unbalanced:

[The deal] leaves financial firms without the biggest benefit of European Union membership: the ability to easily offer services to clients across the region from a single base. This has long allowed a bank in London to provide loans to a business in Venice, or trade bonds for a company in Madrid.

That loss is especially painful for Britain, which ran a surplus of £18 billion, or $24 billion, on trade in financial and other services with the European Union in 2019, but a deficit of £97 billion, or $129 billion, on trade in goods.

“The result of the deal is that the European Union retains all of its current advantages in trading, particularly with goods, and the U.K. loses all of its current advantages in the trade for services,” said Tom Kibasi, the former director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, a research institute. “The outcome of this trade negotiation is precisely what happens with most trade deals: The larger party gets what it wants and the smaller party rolls over.”

The British trade balance with the EU as well as its global trade balance are now likely to worsen. That will put pressure on the British pound. As Britain has a sovereign currency it can devalue it. But that is likely to increase the import prices for goods, especially food, and hit its people in their pockets.

But that will be a slow process and by then few will make the connection.

I have always seen the whole Brexit idea as something born out of British nostalgy for its lost empire. Ironically the result seems to have put it even further away from that once mighty status.

Posted by b at 18:33 UTC | Comments (60)

December 24, 2020

Happy Christmas

Winter solstice has passed and the days are again getting longer. The dark is receding.

Time for a festivity that is about hope, about the birth of a revolutionary and savior who will make the walls come down. If only symbolically.

 


Picture courtesy of the Bethlehem Association

In other years I used to visit family for Christmas. This year I decided against doing that. Staying apart makes it more safe for everyone. It also relieves me of three days of cooking. Not that I mind doing that. Not at all.

I will miss the kids' surprise and smiles when they open their presents, their curiosity in trying out all the new stuff. They promised to phone me up and to tell me what they got. I will, as usual, make fun about each piece. They will then fiercely defend their new toys as the best things ever. That exchange is an important part of our ritual.

I wish you all a contemplative, hope- and peaceful Christmas.

Bernhard

Posted by b at 14:43 UTC | Comments (107)

Open Thread 2020-101

News & views ...

Posted by b at 10:44 UTC | Comments (165)

December 23, 2020

Deficit Hawk Joe Biden Sabotaged Pandemic Relief Efforts

The recent negotiations about a pandemic relief bill are a preview of Joe Biden's presidency.

U.S. President Donald Trump asked for a $2,000 check for every U.S. citizen. 'Moderates' rejected to send checks. Some people on the left and right kept pushing for them.

Washington Post, December 9

Trump has privately indicated a willingness to send another round of stimulus checks of as much as $2,000, according to one person in direct communication with the president. Congress in March approved a round of $1,200 stimulus checks that the Treasury Department disbursed to more than 100 million American families in a matter of weeks.

A second round of stimulus checks was left out of the $908 billion bipartisan framework unveiled last week by a group of moderate lawmakers hoping to break the months-long impasse over stimulus negotiations. Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have been pushing for the checks to be included in the final package, with Sanders going as far as saying he will vote against the relief legislation unless they are approved.

“While the amount is yet to be determined, direct payments to American workers continue to be a high priority of the president’s,” a White House spokesman said in a statement.

Congress compromised on a paltry, means tested $600 check.

USA Today, December 20

The measure contains a $600 direct payment to Americans who earned up to $75,000 in 2019. That is less than the $1,200 checks approved in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in March.

It provides $600 per child, up from $500 in the spring. The bill also includes $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000 a year.

Some lawmakers on the left and on the right are furious over the meager result.

Newsweek, December 22

Democratic Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard criticized the COVID-19 economic stimulus bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, calling the amount of direct assistance payments a "slap in the face."
...
"This bill dished out hundreds of billions of dollars going toward special interests, going toward the military-industrial complex, going towards foreign countries meanwhile saying, 'Here's what's left for you. You get 600 bucks,'" Gabbard said in a video
...
In a Sunday floor speech, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley said the $600 checks were "hardly adequate and we should not pretend otherwise." Hawley forced a vote on Sunday to raise the amount of the direct assistance to payments to $1,200, the amount of direct payments allocated after the CARES Act passed in March, but that attempt failed.

Turns out that President-elect Joe Biden had sided with the 'moderates' who favored not to send any check. He thereby successfully sabotaged those Democrats who were pressing for a bigger one.

Cont. reading: Deficit Hawk Joe Biden Sabotaged Pandemic Relief Efforts

Posted by b at 11:24 UTC | Comments (135)

December 21, 2020

A No Deal Brexit Is Now All But Certain To Happen

"Fog in channel. Continent cut off." is a famous headline that was once used in a British newspaper (or maybe not). It encapsulates the snobbish British attitude towards Europe. Some fog indeed arose in the channel today but a much denser cloud will arise from the waters on January 1.

The new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus now per-dominant in south England has give a sudden foretaste of the chaos that can be expected at Britain's borders 10 days from now when Britain will leave the custom union and common market with the EU.

It remains unclear how much the mutant virus will change the course of the pandemic:

Scientists, meanwhile, are hard at work trying to figure out whether B.1.1.7 is really more adept at human-to-human transmission—not everyone is convinced yet—and if so, why. They’re also wondering how it evolved so fast. B.1.1.7 has acquired 17 mutations all at once, a feat never seen before.
...
One reason to be concerned, [Andrew Rambaut, a molecular evolutionary biologist at the University of Edinburgh,] says, is that among the 17 mutations are eight in the gene that encodes the spike protein on the viral surface, two of which are particularly worrisome. One, called N501Y, has previously been shown to increase how tightly the protein binds to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptor, its entry point into human cells. The other, named 69-70del, leads to the loss of two amino acids in the spike protein and has been found in viruses that eluded the immune response in some immunocompromised patients.
...
In a press conference on Saturday, Chief Science Adviser Patrick Vallance said B.1.1.7, which first appeared in a virus isolated on 20 September, accounted for about 26% of cases in mid-November. “By the week commencing the ninth of December, these figures were much higher,” he said. “So, in London, over 60% of all the cases were the new variant.” Johnson added that the slew of mutations may have increased the virus’ transmissibility by 70%.

Christian Drosten, a virologist at Charité University Hospital in Berlin, says that was premature. “There are too many unknowns to say something like that,” he says. For one thing, the rapid spread of B.1.1.7 might be down to chance. Scientists previously worried that a variant that spread rapidly from Spain to the rest of Europe—confusingly called B.1.177—might be more transmissible, but today they think it is not; it just happened to be carried all over Europe by travelers who spent their holidays in Spain. Something similar might be happening with B.1.1.7, says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Georgetown University. Drosten notes that the new mutant also carries a deletion in another viral gene, ORF8, that previous studies suggest might reduce the virus’ ability to spread.

Some 40 countries reacted to yesterday's news of the new virus variant by stopping air traffic with Britain. France closed all transport links with the island. Britain depends on food from abroad and there were immediately fears about supply shortages:

Cont. reading: A No Deal Brexit Is Now All But Certain To Happen

Posted by b at 19:22 UTC | Comments (171)

December 20, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2020-100

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

> While Kushner was not a driving force behind AMMC, the source who spoke on a condition of anonymity explained, the joint effort was led by campaign lawyers to reassure a paranoid Trump that no one was taking secret cuts. Parscale, it was thought, should not hold dual roles as head of a company serving as a campaign clearinghouse and campaign manager. Parscale and Kushner both signed off the arrangement, the source confirmed. <

---
Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2020-100

Posted by b at 14:41 UTC | Comments (252)

December 19, 2020

To Blame Russia For Cyber-Intrusions Is Delusional - A Treaty Is The Only Way To Prevent More Damage

The New York Times continues to provide anti-Russian propaganda and to incite against it:

Pompeo Says Russia Was Behind Cyberattack on U.S.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is the first member of the Trump administration to publicly link the Kremlin to the hacking of dozens of government and private systems.

The first paragraph:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday it was clear that Russia was behind the widespread hacking of government systems that officials this week called “a grave risk” to the United States.

That is a quite definite statement.

But it is very wrong. Pompous did not say "that it was clear that Russia was behind" the IT intrusions.

The third paragraph in the NYT story, which casual readers will miss, quotes Pompous and there he does not say what the Times opener claims:

“I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity,” Mr. Pompeo said in an interview on “The Mark Levin Show.”

Merriam Webster's definition of 'pretty' as an adverb is "in some degree : moderately". The example it gives is "pretty cold weather". The temperature of pretty cold weather on a July day in Cairo obviously differs from the temperature of pretty cold weather during a December night in Siberia. "Pretty xxx" It is a relative expression, not an assertion of absolute facts.

The first paragraph of the Times statement tries to sell a vague statement as an factual claim.

Moreover - Pompous finds it amusing that the CIA lies, steals and cheats (vid). As a former CIA director he has not refrained from those habits. Whenever Pompous says something about a perceived U.S. 'enemy' it safe to assume that it he does not state the truth.

On top of that even his boss does not agree with his claim:

Contradicting his secretary of state and other top officials, President Donald Trump on Saturday suggested without evidence that China — not Russia — may be behind the cyberattack against the United States and tried to minimized its impact.

Trump AND Pompous both made their contradicting assertions "without evidence".

It is inappropriate for the media to accuse Russia - or China - of the recently discovered cyber-intrusion when there is zero evidence to support such a claim.

The Times did that at least twice without having any evidence to support the claim:

Cont. reading: To Blame Russia For Cyber-Intrusions Is Delusional - A Treaty Is The Only Way To Prevent More Damage

Posted by b at 19:29 UTC | Comments (95)

December 18, 2020

Another 'Russiagate' Like Trump Scandal Which Isn't One

Some of the 'Russiagate' fanatics dream of indicting U.S. President Donald Trump as soon as he leaves his office. But they never explain what crime he should be indicted for. What did he actually do wrong?

Yes, he killed foreigners. But no U.S. president will ever be indicted for that. It is seen as a part of the job. Trump may have old tax issues. But those are usually solved by negotiating about the amount of money in question. As soon as the negotiated amount is paid such cases get closed.

But now the Russiagaters have new hope. There is a new Trump scandal!

Russiagaters on Twitter are in an uproar about a story the Business Insider broke today:

EXCLUSIVE: Jared Kushner helped create a Trump campaign shell company that secretly paid the president's family members and spent $617 million in reelection cash, a source tells Insider

The story seems well researched but is carefully arranged to put Trump and his family into a bad light.

The first graphs:

President Donald Trump's most powerful advisor, Jared Kushner, approved the creation of a campaign shell company that secretly paid the president's family members and spent almost half of the campaign's $1.26 billion war chest, a person familiar with the operation told Insider.

The operation acted almost like a campaign within a campaign. It paid some of Trump's top advisors and family members while shielding financial and operational details from public scrutiny.

When Kushner and others created the company in April 2018, they picked Trump's daughter-in-law Lara Trump, to become its president, Vice President Mike Pence's nephew John Pence as its vice president, and Trump campaign CFO Sean Dollman as its treasurer and secretary, the person who spoke on the condition of anonymity said.
...
The shell company — incorporated as American Made Media Consultants Corporation and American Made Media Consultants LLC — allowed Trump's campaign to skirt federally mandated disclosures. The tactic could attract scrutiny from federal election regulators.

While that sounds like Trump pushed campaign money into the private pockets of his family there is no evidence in the story that he or his family did so.

There are in fact several exculpatory details in the different parts of the long story. When one puts those into chronological order the real story comes to light:

Cont. reading: Another 'Russiagate' Like Trump Scandal Which Isn't One

Posted by b at 20:20 UTC | Comments (54)

December 17, 2020

After Recruiting For ISIS Anand Gopal Justifies The War Crimes The U.S. Committed While Removing It

Apologists for war crimes are a dime for a dozen. With a new piece in The New Yorker Anand Gopal has joined that trade.

Headlined America’s War on Syrian Civilians the piece starts out with some hand wringing about the total destruction of Raqqa in 2017 by an extremely violent U.S. attack on the ISIS held city.

For four months in 2017, an American-led coalition in Syria dropped some ten thousand bombs on Raqqa, the densely populated capital of the Islamic State. Nearly eighty per cent of the city, which has a population of three hundred thousand, was destroyed. I visited shortly after ISIS relinquished control, and found the scale of the devastation difficult to comprehend: the skeletal silhouettes of collapsed apartment buildings, the charred schools, the gaping craters.

It follows some mumbling about the historic and current view of 'human war'.

Then comes this monster of a paragraph:

The U.S.-led coalition waged its assault on Raqqa with exacting legal precision. It vetted every target carefully, with a fleet of lawyers scrutinizing strikes the way an in-house counsel pores over a corporation’s latest contract. During the battle, the coalition commander, Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend, declared, “I challenge anyone to find a more precise air campaign in the history of warfare.” Although human-rights activists insist that the coalition could have done more to protect civilians, Townsend is right: unlike Russia, America does not bomb indiscriminately. The U.S. razed an entire city, killing thousands in the process, without committing a single obvious war crime.

Aaron Maté quoted that paragraph and remarked:

Aaron Maté @aaronjmate - 14:24 UTC · Dec 17, 2020

A masterclass in US war crimes apologia from @Anand_Gopal_ in the New Yorker: “unlike Russia, America does not bomb indiscriminately. The U.S. razed an entire city [Raqqa], killing thousands in the process, without committing a single obvious war crime.”

Gopal is, as usual, loose with the facts and disingenuous in his judgment.

First the U.S. not only "dropped some ten thousand bombs on Raqqa". It dropped much more:

Cont. reading: After Recruiting For ISIS Anand Gopal Justifies The War Crimes The U.S. Committed While Removing It

Posted by b at 18:58 UTC | Comments (84)