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July 23, 2020

Open Thread 2020-58

News & views ...

Posted by b at 14:04 UTC | Comments (273)

July 22, 2020

U.S. Claims Diplomatic Immunity For Covid-19 - Shuts Down Chinese Consulate

On Tuesday the U.S. government ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas. The move comes amongst a slew of factless accusations of Chinese hacking and surveillance.

While Trump, like Biden, is using anti-China propaganda as part of his campaign, the closure of the Houston consulate has nothing to do with it. But U.S. media fail to mention the real and unreasonable motive behind this move:

The United States ordered China to close its diplomatic consulate in Houston within 72 hours, dealing another blow to the rapidly deteriorating relations between the two countries. China promptly vowed to retaliate, calling the move illegal.

The State Department said the closure was made in response to repeated Chinese violations of American sovereignty, including “massive illegal spying and influence operations.”

The unmentioned reason for the State Department's move is a squabble over virus testing and quarantining of U.S. diplomats who are supposed to return to China.

In January, when the first outbreak of Covid-19 happened in the Chinese city of Wuhan the U.S. evacuated its consulate in the city. In total some 1,300 diplomats and their family members were moved out of China in January and February.

In June, after China had defeated the outbreak, the U.S. announced that that it diplomats would return:

U.S. ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, “intends to resume operations in Wuhan in the near future”, Frank Whitaker, minister counselor for Public Affairs at the embassy, said in an email to Reuters, without giving a specific date.

But by then the U.S. had become Cootiestan while China had defeated the virus. Chinese public health officials insisted on testing and quarantining everyone who entered from the U.S. to protect their country from another outbreak.

The State Department however rejected that:

Cont. reading: U.S. Claims Diplomatic Immunity For Covid-19 - Shuts Down Chinese Consulate

Posted by b at 16:36 UTC | Comments (179)

July 21, 2020

Is Trump Finally Getting It?

U.S. President Donald Trump has finally recognized that his reelection is in danger. The most obvious cause for that is the pandemic which  is spreading uncontrolled throughout the United States.

When the pandemic broke out in Wuhan, China, the U.S. did not take it seriously. The reporting in most main stream outlet was concentrated on maligning China. No danger for the U.S. was anticipated.

A small early outbreak in Washington state was soon brought under control. Trump thought that the pandemic was not going to touch him. It was - in his view - like Russiagate and Ukrainegate just another fake scare that the Democrats were using against him.

Then Italy was hit as well as other European countries. That was a bit of a warning but still not serious enough to take countermeasures. Then came New York and finally it dawned on everyone that the U.S. was unprepared.

Trump recognized that he had to do something. A chaotic White House started to buy up everything - masks, ventilators, drugs - that would be possibly needed. A nationwide lockdown was implemented. The stock market crashed but Trump threatened the Fed until it saved the markets and his bacon. Every day he held widely noted press conference about the pandemic and his 'wonderful' response to it.

The casualties in New York turned out to mostly black lower class people. Only few in Trump's social circles were affected. The numbers in New York came down but the economy still lingered. Against the opinion of every noted specialist Trump declared that the pandemic was over.

He stopped the press conferences and urged that the lockdowns be lifted. There was an election to win and an economy that had to be revived to make that possible.

But the virus had different plans. Trump's June campaign event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a flop. Too few people attended. Especially the elder people who usually attended such events stayed away. At the beginning of July Trump stopped live campaigning. Then came the big pandemic waves in states that had voted for Trump. Suddenly it was no longer the black underclass of liberal New York that was dying but the elderly white in Republican states who had voted for Trump.

The mood in the country had turned against him. Trumps poll numbers are down. The economy is still flatlining. The people are afraid and want reassurance. Sunday's Fox News interview (transcript) during which he was called out was a mess for him.

Yesterday Trump, who hates masks, tweeted this:


The tweet has more than 100,000 retweets and nearly 300.000 likes. Trump also announced that he will again hold daily press briefings on the pandemic.

Did he finally get it?

Those leaders who had their countries successfully counter the pandemic, Xi in China, Moon in South Korea, Merkel in Germany, have all profited politically from their countries' performance. Even Boris Johnson who messed up in Britain did not lose much in the polls. He at least seemed to care for his people.

If from now on Trump plays it right the pandemic can still win him the election. He must show empathy. He must let the (selected) experts speak. He should comment as little as possible on the detailed points they make and stick to the generalities.

The daily face time on TV will be great for campaigning but will not be enough to lift him in the polls. For that he needs to show that he cares.

To tell the people that there is no need to fear the pandemic is wrong. He must acknowledge that the people are afraid and he should assure them that they are not alone in it. Only after he has done so can he appeal to them to go back to work, to again send their kids to schools and to behave reasonably by wearing a mask and by keeping social distance.

Is Trump capable of doing this?

I have my doubts about that.

Posted by b at 17:16 UTC | Comments (183)

July 20, 2020

Industrial Accidents In Iran Are Just That

New data supports last week's Moon of Alabama assertion that nearly all recently reported incidents in Iran were just normal accidents.

Lots of 'western' media speculated about the number of explosions and fires in Iran.

The seeming series of incidents led to some rather mediocre analysis butt fingering:

The Undeclared War Against Iran - National Interest July 15

A series of violent attacks, involving explosions and fires, has been hitting Iran. The incidents have been too frequent and intense to be random accidents. They are part of an organized effort.

No, they are not.

As we explained only one of the recent incidents in Iran, an explosion and fire at a centrifuge assembly plant in Natanz, was an organized effort most likely caused by a CIA operation.

All other incidents were just normal accidents:

While the incident in Natanz certainly smells of active sabotage the other incidents, like a recent explosion of gas cylinders at a hospital, look more like plain old accidents.

Someone is amplifying a number of rather normal accidents that occur in any large industrialized country in an attempt to sow fear and uncertainty in Iran.

From Tehran, Professor Marandi lauded our effort:

Cont. reading: Industrial Accidents In Iran Are Just That

Posted by b at 17:04 UTC | Comments (67)

July 19, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-57

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-57

Posted by b at 13:30 UTC | Comments (215)

July 18, 2020

Signees Of Letter Against 'Cancel Culture' Exposed As Frauds

On July 7 Harpers published a letter which condemned the 'cancel culture'. In the 'cancel culture' online masses seek to censor controversial speakers with whom they do not agree. Some 150 prominent writers and academics had signed the A Letter on Justice and Open Debate:

The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

Said shorter: "Don't cancel the Fascist but, more importantly, DON'T CANCEL US!"

The people who signed the letter, all in influential positions, seemed more concerned with being criticized themselves for the nonsense they write.

Next to Noam Chomsky there were quite a lot of warmongers and false 'liberuls' amongst the names, for example David Frum and J.K. Rowling. These are people who are themselves prone to practice 'cancel culture' when they disagree with others.

Counter letters were written and published:

The signatories, many of them white, wealthy, and endowed with massive platforms, argue that they are afraid of being silenced, that so-called cancel culture is out of control, and that they fear for their jobs and free exchange of ideas, even as they speak from one of the most prestigious magazines in the country.
[T]he irony of the piece is that nowhere in it do the signatories mention how marginalized voices have been silenced for generations in journalism, academia, and publishing.

That the original letter and its signers can not be taken seriously was emphatically proven with this:

Jeremy Repanich @racefortheprize - 23:14 UTC · Jul 17, 2020

LOL. Thomas Chatterton Williams, who wrote the Harper's letter, admitted today that Glenn Greenwald was kept off the letter b/c other signees didn't like his views.

The signers of the letter against the 'cancel culture' had cancelled Glenn Greenwald from signing it.

I am not sure who should be more embarrassed about this - Greenwald or the other signers.

Posted by b at 17:30 UTC | Comments (141)

July 17, 2020

Georgia's Gov. Kemp Faked The Numbers, Fights Mask Mandates And Hurts Its Economy

Yesterday I asked about Georgia's governor Brian Kemp:

What does Kemp think will happen in Georgia? Does he wish for more deaths in his state? Is it malice that is driving him? If not malice what is it?

The question is still open and there is now more data to find an answer.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp Sues Atlanta to Block City From Enforcing Its Mask Mandate

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is suing Atlanta to block the city from enforcing its mandate to wear a mask in public and other rules related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kemp and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, in a suit filed in state court late Thursday in Atlanta, argue that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has overstepped her authority and must obey Kemp’s executive orders under state law.

“Governor Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage the public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public,” the lawsuit states.

Kemp on Wednesday clarified his executive orders to expressly block Atlanta and at least 14 other local governments across the state from requiring people to wear face coverings.

This is irresponsible. It is not Atlanta Mayor Lance Bottoms who is confusing the public. It is Kemp who is doing it. We do not just ask people to put on seat belts, we mandate it.

It was also Kemp who decided to put out fake numbers:

Georgia Massaged Virus Data to Reopen, Then Voided Mask Orders

Among the last U.S. states to lock down, Georgia in April was first to widely reopen, after just three weeks. Critics said the state misrepresented its data to justify the move, and they predicted disaster.
[T]he same week Kemp ordered the reopening, his administration began presenting data in a way that made the state appear healthier than it was, said Thomas Tsai, a professor at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The technique involved backdating new cases to the time of first symptoms or taking a test, instead of reporting them as they were reported to the state, like Georgia had previously done -- and like most states do.
The effect -- as states were being told to predicate their reopenings on two weeks of declining case numbers -- was to artificially make Georgia’s trends look better. The state began adding new cases to past dates on its trend line, making current numbers both too low and incomplete, Tsai said.

“What’s deceptive is that they shave off the most recent two weeks,” he said. “If you look at the most recent two weeks, it’s always very low. It always looks artificially like a downward trend.”

Looking again at Georgia's data we can tell the moment Georgia did this.

Cont. reading: Georgia's Gov. Kemp Faked The Numbers, Fights Mask Mandates And Hurts Its Economy

Posted by b at 18:26 UTC | Comments (197)

July 16, 2020

Mask Mandates? Businesses Say Yes. Some Governors Still Say No.

This sad joke is making the rounds:

Q: What borders on stupidity?
A: Canada and Mexico.

Unfortunately there is some truth to it.

Gov. Greg Abbott says Harris County can't impose fine over face mask order - April 27 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that local officials cannot impose penalties on residents who violate rules about wearing masks in public — including those in Harris County, where county Judge Lina Hidalgo’s mask order went into effect that morning.

“We strongly recommend that everyone wear a mask,” Abbott said at a press conference where he announced his plans for reopening Texas. “However, it's not a mandate. And we make clear that no jurisdiction can impose any type of penalty or fine.

“My executive order, it supersedes local orders, with regard to any type of fine or penalty for anyone not wearing a mask,” he added.

Some three months later sanity had set in:

Cont. reading: Mask Mandates? Businesses Say Yes. Some Governors Still Say No.

Posted by b at 16:53 UTC | Comments (185)

Open Thread 2020-56

News & views ...

Posted by b at 14:06 UTC | Comments (150)

July 15, 2020

Trump Authorized CIA To Wage Cyberwar On Iran And Others

Recently there have been a number of incidents in Iran where unexplained fires or explosion have destroyed some infrastructure:

Since June, fires or explosions have erupted at six factories and other facilities, two of them military in nature—the Parchin missile-production plant and the Natanz nuclear site.

There was an explosion of a gas tank near a missile assembly facility in Khojir, some trouble at a transformer station near Tehran and some other incidents. Most remarkably was an explosion and fire at the centrifuge assembly facility in Iran's nuclear complex in Natanz.

While the incident in Natanz certainly smells of active sabotage the other incidents, like a recent explosion of gas cylinders at a hospital, look more like plain old accidents.

Someone is amplifying a number of rather normal accidents that occur in any large industrialized country in an attempt to sow fear and uncertainty in Iran.

Today a fire broke out on a shipyard in Bushehr. Some Twitterati immediately speculated that it was part of the incident chain and related it to Iran's nuclear reactor near that city.

Such speculation is nonsense. Fires on shipyards break out all the time. Just ask the U.S. Navy who's USS Bonhomme Richard has now been burning for three days after a fire broke out during yard maintenance. That fire turned a one billion dollar ship into 40,000 tons of feedstock for a blast furnace. Today's yard fire in Iran slightly damaged seven laid up dhows (vid), small civilian freight ships build from wood and used for coastal traffic in the Persian Gulf.

Israel has indirectly claimed responsibility for the Natanz incident:

[A] Middle Eastern intelligence official with knowledge of the episode said Israel was responsible for the attack on the Natanz nuclear complex, using a powerful bomb. A member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps who was briefed on the matter also said that an explosive was used.

I have my doubts about such self serving Israeli claims. It is more likely that the CIA has its fingers in these games.

There is a rather intense CIA program being run against Iran. Trump has not only appointed the aggressive Michael D'Andrea, the 'Prince of Darkness', to head the CIA's Iran Mission Center but he gave the CIA wide ranging new powers to run cyber attacks against the country:

Cont. reading: Trump Authorized CIA To Wage Cyberwar On Iran And Others

Posted by b at 17:17 UTC | Comments (123)

July 14, 2020

Syria - Attacks On Turkish-Russian Patrols Endanger Ceasefire

The Syrian province of Idleb continues to be a hotbed for Jihadis. Since the last Turkish Russian ceasefire agreement the Turkish army deployed more and more troops in Idleb to bring the various Jihadis it unofficially supports under control.

The main Jihadi group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), has now taken the role of a Turkish proxy force. All other groups were told to submit to it and after a few rounds of infighting during which dozens were killed most of them did do so.


One condition for the ceasefire was the re-opening of the M4 highway which connects Latakia with Aleppo. Common Turkish Russian patrols were established to control security on the road. If the re-opening does not happened the Syrian and Russian forces will attack to gain control over at least the southern part of the Jihadi held (green) area to regain full control of the economically important road.

HTS and other 'rebels' arranged 'protests' against the first patrols and tried to prevent them. After a few minor incidents Turkey told them to stop it. It is not interested in another round of fighting against the Russian supported Syrian side.

But the trouble continues. Earlier today some Jihadi attacked a common Turkish Russian patrol along the M4 highway east of the town Arihah. (Google map)

The suicide attack was by an explosive filled car which had been hidden in a garage right next to the M4. An armored Russian vehicle was thrown off the road and a Turkish mine protected vehicle was damaged. Three Russian soldiers were injured as were several Turkish ones.

A group of Chechen Jihadis, Khattab al-Shishani, claimed responsibility for the attack:

Our Knight attacked the negotiations table, to sign it with his blood, fire, steel and blazing heat.

The group published pictures of the incident.



There is also a video of the attack.

The same group had claimed a similar incident about a month ago. But it is doubtful that such a Chechen group exists at all. The Chechen Jihadis in Syria are not known for suicide bombings. They are mercenaries who train other groups and fight for money. It is more likely that some disgruntled folks from HTS or some other Jihadi outfit are trying to undermine the Turkish role in Idleb and the Turkish-Russian ceasefire agreement.

The Russian military responded to the attack with airstrikes on local headquarters of HTS in Benin and Jabal Al-Zawiya.

The Turkish Defense Ministry issued a statement:

The 21st Turkey-Russia Joint Patrol was targeted by terrorists with a car bomb to disrupt efforts to ensure an environment of peace and trust in Idlib. Two vehicles in the convoy were partially damaged. There was no loss of life. United Patrol Activities carried out within the framework of TR-RF Consensus will continue by taking all necessary measures.

That the Turkish statement speaks of a 'terrorist' attack is interesting. Turkey had always claimed that the Jihadis in Idleb are solely 'moderate rebels' who fight to 'liberate Syria'. That Turkey announced the continuation of the patrols shows that it currently has no interest in any escalation.

But a new escalation will come. Despite all other difficulties caused by sanctions, the pandemic and the economic consequences of Lebanon's bankruptcy Syria and its allies are committed to regain control over Idleb province.

It is Russia that is currently holding them back. But should another attack on a Russian patrol cause serious casualties that restraint is likely to vanish. 


Posted by b at 17:19 UTC | Comments (60)

July 13, 2020

Covid-19 - New Quick Tests Are Coming, Cootiestan, A Lack Of Lockdown Death

A fast test for SARS-CoV-2 infections is urgently needed. One is now is coming to the market:

FDA Authorizes First Antigen Test to Help in the Rapid Detection of the Virus that Causes COVID-19 in Patients

The name "antigen test" is a bit confusing. These tests look for fragments of proteins that are found on or within the virus. In this case the sample is taken via a nasal swab. Other such tests will soon work with saliva on a mouth swab. That these test use an antigen to the protein is a technicality and not really relevant.

These kind of tests are comparable to quick pregnancy test. They are for use at home or at points of care for quick screening. The usual turn around time for such tests is some 15 minutes and they do not require special equipment.

Today we use RT-PCR tests which require special preparations and expensive laboratory equipment. PCR tests are very specific and have a high sensitivity which means they show only very few SARS-CoV-2 positive people as negative. Antigen tests are less sensitive. Some low percentage of people who have the virus will have a negative antigen test.

But the advantage of the antigen tests is their simplicity, speed and the mass production costs of about one dollar. They can be integrated into normal life processes like international travel without causing long delays. That the tests have some false negatives does not matter much. Epidemiological modeling shows that when often used these are superior to other methods of epidemic surveillance:

Cont. reading: Covid-19 - New Quick Tests Are Coming, Cootiestan, A Lack Of Lockdown Death

Posted by b at 18:37 UTC | Comments (167)

July 11, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-55

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

The School of Medicine of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has posted a series of videos in which Department Chair Bob Wachter and various medical specialist discuss specific aspects of the Covid-19 epidemic. Yesterday's grand round was about The State of the Pandemic, Opening the Schools, and the Outbreak at San Quentin State Prison. Top first hand knowledge without politics.

This will probably have foreign policy consequences: Dozens of US Marines in Japan's Okinawa get coronavirus - Yahoo

[I am off for a family day.]

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 16:35 UTC | Comments (258)

July 09, 2020

The Pandemic Reveals The Real Disease Of Our Societies

This morning I saw this map on the Washington Post homepage.

Reported cases per 100,000 residents by county since last week


I immediately remembered that I had earlier seen a map with a similar pattern.

It was in my April 2 Moon of Alabama post. Here is the section as posted three months ago:

Cont. reading: The Pandemic Reveals The Real Disease Of Our Societies

Posted by b at 17:32 UTC | Comments (198)

Open Thread 2020-54

News & views ...

Posted by b at 14:35 UTC | Comments (125)

July 08, 2020

The U.S. Has Surrendered To The Pandemic. Protect Yourself.

Yesterday the United States registered more than 60,000 new Covid-19 cases. As the number of new cases continues to increase unabated about two weeks from now it is likely to reach hundred thousand new cases per day.

Source: 91-divoc - bigger

The increase of testing is not the cause of higher new case numbers. The rate of people among those who were tested and were found positive has also increased. In Florida, which yesterday had nearly 10,000 new cases, the positive test rate has reached nearly 20%. That means that the epidemic is still accelerating.

This did not need to happen. Yesterday Germany, at a quarter the size of the U.S., had 279 new cases. It does 1 million tests per week and the positive rate is decreasing. China has defeated a new local outbreak in Beijing by testing more than 10 million people. The last two days it reported zero new cases.

Many of those who test positive, especially the younger ones, will not fall ill with severe symptoms. But some 10-15% are estimated to need medical support. How many of them will die depends on the quality of care that can be given to them. Some thirty hospitals in Florida have already run out of space in their intensive care units. That is the point where the real emergency begins.

Cont. reading: The U.S. Has Surrendered To The Pandemic. Protect Yourself.

Posted by b at 17:55 UTC | Comments (257)

July 07, 2020

The Latest 'Russiagate' BOMBSHELL Took Just One Week To Be Exposed As Dud. Who Was Its Source?

Within just one week the recent attempt to revive 'Russiagate' has failed. It was an embarrassing failure for the media who pushed it. Their 'journalists' fell for obvious nonsense. They let their sources abuse them for political purposes. 

On June 27 the New York Times and the Washington Post published stories which claimed that Trump was informed about alleged Russian bounty payments to the Taliban for killing U.S. soldiers and did nothing about it:

A Russian military spy unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan, including U.S. and British troops, in a striking escalation of the Kremlin’s hostility toward the United States, American intelligence has found.

The Russian operation, first reported by the New York Times, has generated an intense debate within the Trump administration about how best to respond to a troubling new tactic by a nation that most U.S. officials regard as a potential foe but that President Trump has frequently embraced as a friend, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive intelligence matter.

The story ran on page A-1 of the paper version of the NYT.

We immediately called it out as the obvious nonsense that it was:

Now the intelligence services make another claim that fits right into the above ['Russiagate'] scheme.

Reporters from the New York Times and the Washington Post were called up by unnamed 'officials' and told to write that Russia pays some Afghans to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. There is zero evidence that the claim is true. The Taliban spokesman denies it. The numbers of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan is minimal. The alleged sources of the claims are criminals the U.S. has taken as prisoners in Afghanistan.

All that nonsense is again used to press against Trump's wish for better relations with Russia. Imagine - Trump was told about these nonsensical claims and he did nothing about it!

Others likewise dumped on the shady reporting:

Cont. reading: The Latest 'Russiagate' BOMBSHELL Took Just One Week To Be Exposed As Dud. Who Was Its Source?

Posted by b at 17:08 UTC | Comments (105)

July 06, 2020


Secretary Pompeo @SecPompeo - 12:16 UTC · Jul 5, 2019

Today, #Venezuela’s Independence Day, we are reminded of the country’s prosperous past – and the future the Venezuelan people deserve. The U.S. stands with @jguaido, @AsambleaVE, and all Venezuelans yearning for a return to democracy and a brighter future. #EstamosUnidosVE

Joe Biden @JoeBiden - 21:10 UTC · Jul 5, 2020

On this Venezuelan Independence Day, my thoughts are with Venezuelans who continue to work tirelessly for the cause of democracy. It’s time for free and fair elections so that the Venezuelan people can turn the page on the corrupt and repressive Maduro regime.


h/t Syricide

Posted by b at 4:28 UTC | Comments (174)

July 05, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-53

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

[Sorry for postings this little during the last week. I had to take care of some repair issues I had to put off during the lockdown.]

Other issues:


This is only the second described case in which an infection was likely caused by fomites:

More than 99% of all new infections are caused by air transmissions. Washing your hands all the time is mostly unnecessary. We told you to #MaskUp. So do others:

Prozac as prophylaxis or early treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infections?

> We see the role of Fluoxetine in the early treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infected patients of risk groups. <

The Cocid-19 economic decline is fear drive:

Not astonishing when one reads stories like this one.

Dani Oliver @DaniOliver - 20:49 UTC · Jul 3, 2020
Hey, so, I got #Covid19 in March. I’ve been sick for over 3 months w/ severe respiratory, cardiovascular & neurological symptoms. I still have a fever. I’ve been incapacitated for nearly a season of my life. It's not enough to not die. You don’t want to live thru this, either. 1/
... thread


Max Abrahms @MaxAbrahms - 16:07 UTC · Jul 3, 2020
RussiaGate stories follow a predictable pattern:
1. Explosive allegation
2. Media goes nuts
3. Evidence disproves or at best weakly supports allegation which is much less damning than sold
4. Media moves on to next explosive allegation without apology

Point 5. The intended aim was reached:

Wrongly accusing Russia started way before 'Russiagate':

> For five years, the sporting world has been gripped by Russian manipulation of the anti-doping system. Now new evidence suggests the whistleblower who went into a witness protection program during the scandal may not have been entirely truthful. <


Right conclusion but the argument made is superficial:


Last week Turkey brought two MIM-23 Hawk air defense systems to the al-Watiyah Airbase. Last night they were bombed by either French,  UAE, Egyptian or Russian mercenary airplanes. Officially the LNA (Hafter) has taken responsibility for the bombing. Whoever did this had a message to Turkey: Stop trying to break our red lines.


Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 14:32 UTC | Comments (176)

July 03, 2020

On Its Way Into Poverty Lebanon Is At The Crossroads

Lebanon is drifting towards hyperinflation and armed strife.

The main reason is the deflating of a Ponzi scheme with which the governor of the Central Bank enriched Lebanese business banks and politicians.

Since December 1997 the rate of the Lebanese pound has been fixed at 1507.5 pounds per U.S. dollar. The country needed dollars to import food, fuel for its electricity plants and pretty much everything else. As Lebanon exported little but some hashish and ran a large budget deficit it needed other ways to continuously acquire dollar. Tourism from the Gulf states brought some foreign currency and a large number of expatriates sent parts of their incomes home. But neither was enough to pay for everything Lebanon imported.

The Central Bank started to increase its interest rate for dollar holdings to attract more of them. The business banks set up dollar accounts for their customers and offered some of the highest rates around the globe. Money came in. The business banks lent those dollars to the Central Bank at ever higher interest rates.

Importing companies went to the Central Bank and exchanged their Lebanese pounds into dollars so they could pay for the goods from abroad. Whenever their were too few dollars in its vault the Central Bank increased its interest rates to attract more of them. It ended up offering above 20% for U.S. dollar accounts.

In the normal economy it is the Central Bank that is paid interest by the business banks. In Lebanon the scheme reversed and insanely  enriched the owners of the banks. Meanwhile the local manufacturing and farming economy could not compete with the steady stream of cheap goods that came into the country. It remains underdeveloped.

The war on Syria and Saudi discontent with Hizbullah's role in Lebanon hit the tourism business. Some people started to ask questions about the high interest rates. In August 2019 the scheme broke down. A parallel market rate developed. Continuous financial pressures from unsustainable sovereign debt, a high trade deficit and deposit outflows had become too much.

Finally the truth came out. There were no more dollars in the Central Bank's vaults. The dollar loans from the business banks to the Central Bank can not be paid back - at least not in dollars. The dollar denominated saving accounts with the banks can only be paid out in Lebanese pounds. The banks simply deny people access to their dollar accounts. Their current worth is now some 15% of their original value.

In 2018 the much lauded Lebanese banks had nominal assets in excess of 360 percent of Lebanon’s GDP. Today hardly any are left.

The Lebanese pound has crashed to today's exchange rate of 1 dollar for 9.500 pounds. Hyperinflation has set in. Today a chicken cost double as much as 10 days ago. Many people are ruined. Their life savings are gone. Crime has already increased. There will soon be hunger.

But the Lebanese bankers and politicians are still in denial:

Cont. reading: On Its Way Into Poverty Lebanon Is At The Crossroads

Posted by b at 17:03 UTC | Comments (94)