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Monday, February 19

In the roots of Russiagate U.S. politics are not found. The highlights, in pictures.

The Key Incidents:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dmitry Medvedev, elected Russian President in 2008,  forge a surprisingly good working relationship

For the first time troops from NATO countries -- U.S., U.K., France (which had rejoined NATO just the year before) and Poland -- march in Red Square to celebrate Russia's WW2 Victory Day

Sitting together in the parade reviewing stand:President Medvedev, China's President Hu Jintao, Chancellor Merkel,and Vladimir Putin (in the office of Russia's Prime Minister) 

Despite Putin's great popularity in Russia, the largest street protests in the history of post-Soviet Russia 'spontaneously' break out across the country against the country's Duma (parliamentary) elections, with protestors claiming that Putin's political party rigged votes to pave the way for him to win the 2012 presidential election

Putin elected Russia's President with a majority of 63.64 percent. He dismisses his tears during the outdoor victory speech by saying they were caused by sharp winds

Chancellor Merkel and President Putin hit it off famously

Washington -- and London -- react

Leaders of Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine, photographed below with Belarus President, Alexandr Lukashenko, establish The Normandy Format to work out a resolution to the Ukraine Crisis. American and European Union officials are excluded from the negotiations

There are important ramifications to the incidents I've highlighted, which readers with a background in NATO/EU doings should know or be able to infer. But if you accept my outline of the real roots of Russiagate, it's clear American political contests played virtually no role in the storm that struck Europe. 

The storm was Merkel's ruling party and the Kremlin determined to establish an entirely new security order on the European continent, one with no need for NATO and American leadership, coupled with the reaction from many European quarters and NATO against any such new order. 

Was Donald Trump aware of the seismic change underway in Europe while he ran for the presidency and during his first year in office? I think it's likely he knew, at least as early as his candidacy, or at least was aware of the gist of the situation. 

Either way, I'd say President Trump's stumble was that he overlooked how Britain's defense establishment, including its intelligence agencies, would measure the impacts of Brexit against a seismic change led by the EU's most powerful member -- Germany. They feared Brexit would completely isolate the U.K. in a new European security order. And given how much they'd invested in a continued NATO and their 'special' relationship with Washington, a genuinely Russia-friendly American administration would have been intolerable to them and their strongest supporters in the British Parliament.

To put it bluntly, charges that Moscow meddled in the American 2016 president campaign are probably better directed at London. Thus, the growing rumors that Russiagate was a product of GCHQ, and probably using various East European and Russian 'cutouts' or frontmen.

Proving the rumors to be factual would be hard. But in this reading of the roots of Russiagate, the Hillary Clinton campaign and its paid anti-Trump operatives were nothing more than useful idiots, as the Russians describe people who can't see much farther than their noses. It would have been the same for any in the Obama Administration who  played along.


Sunday, February 4

Jerry Brown: California's rural-coastal cultural divide spans the U.S.

[California gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom] also is attempting to speak to the growing sense among the state’s more conservative rural voters that they are paying too much for services that primarily benefit those who live on the coast. That east-west divide largely has replaced the north-south rivalry that once shaped state politics.
In his final State of the State address on Jan. 25, [Governor Jerry Brown] said California is “prospering,” a nod to a growing economy that is the sixth-largest in the world.
But in an interview after the speech, Brown said that “does not mean all Californians are prospering,” and he made a distinction between the coastal “consulting class” and rural laborers whose “culture of working with their hands” is disappearing.
The state’s December unemployment figures tell the story: The rate in San Francisco County was 2.2 percent; in Imperial County, which borders Mexico and Arizona, the rate was nearly 18 percent.
“The state is more divided,” Brown said. “And it’s divided this way right across the country.”
Bridging the rural-coastal divide will be a difficult task for Newsom, who grew up in San Francisco’s Marina district with a divorced mother. He spent time with his father in rural Placer County — which stretches through California gold country, from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe — but his politics and well-tailored appearance are distinctly urban.
“There are often two different worlds in the same cities, not just the same state,” Newsom said. “There’s a cultural divide. And we’re not able to communicate on a level that is not seen as arrogant and dismissive. We need a new vernacular.”
From Think California politics is on the far-left fringe? Just wait for the next elections; Scott Wilson, February 3, The Washington Post.

Also, listen to the John Batchelor Show's latest "Pacific Watch" report with Jeff Bliss "Homeless & Abandoned in San Pedro." Podcast - February 2. 

And while the situation discussed in Nomadland isn't specific to California it's worth mentioning here because it will be happening to more Americans in the rural part of California -- and America's -- divide. 

The book is a report on older Americans who make too little income to afford housing in either the rural or coastal divides and live a nomadic existence in search of low-paying work. Marketwatch has reprinted Next Avenue's interview with Nomadland's author and I think it's a 'must read.'  Here's the introduction to the interview:
In her powerful new book, “Nomadland,” award-winning journalist Jessica Bruder reveals the dark, depressing and sometimes physically painful life of a tribe of men and women in their 50s and 60s who are — as the subtitle says — “surviving America in the twenty-first century.” Not quite homeless, they are “houseless,” living in secondhand RVs, trailers and vans and driving from one location to another to pick up seasonal low-wage jobs, if they can get them, with little or no benefits.
The “workamper” jobs range from helping harvest sugar beets to flipping burgers at baseball spring training games to Amazon’s ... CamperForce,” seasonal employees who can walk the equivalent of 15 miles a day during Christmas season pulling items off warehouse shelves and then returning to frigid campgrounds at night. Living on less than $1,000 a month, in certain cases, some have no hot showers.
As Bruder writes, these are “people who never imagined being nomads.” Many saw their savings wiped out during the Great Recession or were foreclosure victims and, writes Bruder, “felt they’d spent too long losing a rigged game.” Some were laid off from high-paying professional jobs. Few have chosen this life. Few think they can find a way out of it. They’re downwardly mobile older Americans in mobile homes.
During her three years doing research for the book, conducting hundreds of interviews and traversing 15,000 miles, Bruder even tried living the difficult nomad life; she lasted one workweek. I recently interviewed Bruder to learn more about the lives in Nomadland and what the future holds for these people:

Laptop Bombardiers: "the moral ADD afflicting America's pundit class"

"But this would only be fair if the conflict weren’t partly funded and armed by the United States and its allies in the first place. The United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey have actively armed, funded, and fueled the opposition for years. One Washington Post report puts the total CIA spending on anti-Assad forces at $1 billion a year—or one in every 15 dollars of the CIA’s official budget. This inconvenient fact is tossed into the memory hole in favor of a simplistic fable of Rwanda-like indifference."

Pundits, Decrying the Horrors of War in Aleppo, Demand Expanded War
By Adam H. Johnson
SEPTEMBER 12-19, 2016, ISSUE 
The Nation

As with Iraq and Libya, these laptop bombardiers offer no clear plan for how to actually end the suffering of the Syrian people.

The devastating photo of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance after his home was bombed in Syrian or Russian air strikes has amped up calls for direct US military intervention against the Syrian government. The now-viral photo of Omran—and the broader siege of east Aleppo—was prominently featured in most major newspapers, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and several other publications. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News all ran stories on the photo, and editorial boards and pundits weighed in as well, with several insisting that President Obama must “do something” to stop the suffering of the Syrian people.

According to the Chicago Tribune editorial board, State Department officials “sent a cable to Obama, urging stronger military action against Syrian government forces. They suggested that could include cruise missiles and ‘targeted airstrikes.’ That’s what we mean by leverage, of a sort Putin would comprehend.”

In The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote (in response to the siege of Aleppo, but before the photo went viral): “Many experts recommend trying to ground Syria’s Air Force so it can no longer drop barrel bombs on hospitals and civilians. One oft-heard idea is to fire missiles from outside Syria to crater military runways to make them unusable.”

And on Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough proclaimed: “Inaction by the United States and the West and the world is not only responsible for this [holding up the Omran image] and 500,000 deaths, it’s responsible for those images of those Syrian refugees, the little boy we saw washed up on the beach…. The world will look back. Save your hand-wringing…you can still do something right now. But nothing’s been done.”

So what do these outraged observers want “us” to do to ameliorate Syrian suffering? For prominent pundits and leading editorial boards, the answer is usually bombing the Syrian government. More often than not, they use humanitarian euphemisms like “safe zones” or “no-fly zones.”

Rarely mentioned is the fact that establishing these zones would require US bombing of Syria’s air capacity, including infrastructure, planes, buildings, possibly troops. That would, in effect, be a declaration of war. How Russia would respond is anyone’s guess, but it would certainly heighten tensions between Washington and Syria’s longtime ally (which also happens to have the world’s largest nuclear arsenal).

One 2012 Pentagon estimate found that enforcing a no-fly zone would involve at least “70,000 American servicemen”; another estimate insisted such an effort would involve “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines and other enablers.” These messy details are hardly ever mentioned when the do-something crowd calls for “action” in Syria.

The pundits also omit the rather glaring fact that the United States and its allies have done quite a bit already. Those pushing for bombing repeatedly assert that Washington sat “idly by”; while they sometimes concede that the Libya intervention was bad, they still insist that “doing nothing” in Syria has been far worse. The overall assumption is that US-led airstrikes against Bashar al-Assad’s government would have been preferable to the long-drawn-out conflict that has taken place.

But this would only be fair if the conflict weren’t partly funded and armed by the United States and its allies in the first place. The United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey have actively armed, funded, and fueled the opposition for years. One Washington Post report puts the total CIA spending on anti-Assad forces at $1 billion a year—or one in every 15 dollars of the CIA’s official budget. This inconvenient fact is tossed into the memory hole in favor of a simplistic fable of Rwanda-like indifference.

Even if they could make the case that Obama has, in some rhetorical sense, “done nothing” by not doing enough, the pundit hawks still have their work cut out for them. The pro-intervention pundits now widely accept that Washington neglected to plan for the aftermath in Iraq and Libya (President Obama even called the latter case his “worst mistake”). 

Yet almost no one calling for a ramped-up war in Syria has offered a clear indication of what it would entail. What are the risks? What is the endgame? Is there a realistic alternative to jihadi extremists seizing power, or—perhaps even worse—continued brutal warfare between rival militias after Assad is gone? We should be wary of pundits who use the horrors of Aleppo to rush Washington into bombing, just as they did with Iraq’s alleged WMDs and Gadhafi’s hypothetical massacres.

This is part of the broader problem of moral ADD afflicting our pundit class—jumping from one outrage in urgent need of US bombs to the next, without much follow-through. Kristof, for example, was just as passionate about NATO intervention in Libya in 2011, writing several op-eds that called for bombing in equally moralistic terms. Yet as Libya descended into chaos, the country faded into the background for him. His last post on the subject? September 2011. The plight of Libyans was urgent for the Times columnist when it involved selling war to weary liberals, but once the smoke cleared, his bleeding heart dried up and he moved on to the next cause.

Will Kristof and other pundits do the same with the Syrian people in the event that Assad’s government collapses after sustained US bombing? Given their track record and the lack of serious discussion about what “doing something” entails, this is the most important question—and one that few are bothering to address.

Adam H. Johnson is a contributing analyst for FAIR.org.


Saturday, February 3

If you don't have evidence, Sec. Mattis, why not keep your mouth shut?

Politico, February 2:
The Syrian regime should think carefully before using chemical weapons again, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned Friday, in an apparent reference to last year’s U.S. military strike on a regime airfield in retaliation for a previous chemical attack.
“You’ve all seen how we reacted to that,” Mattis said, adding that the Syrian regime “would be ill-advised” to launch more chemical attacks, as some recent reports from inside the country suggest. 
Mattis acknowledged those reports and said the Pentagon was looking for evidence to confirm them. “Groups on the ground, NGOs, fighters have said" that the regime has used sarin gas in recent attacks, he said, but “we do not have evidence.”
The regime appears to have weaponized chlorine again, Mattis said, but “we are even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use.” ... 
Yes we did see how the U.S. regime reacted to stories from al-Qaeda-linked sources -- or was it IS sources, I can't remember -- alleging that the Syrian Army used a chemical weapon last year. Why the army would have used such a weapon then, and why now, is a question only low-information Americans would seriously consider. 

Assad's government has had every reason to refrain from the use of chemical weapons and this remains as true now as it was in 2017. For years now, hardly a week has passed without news of a peace deal between Syria's government and insurgents -- the genuine insurgents, that is, not mercenaries for foreign regimes. Just today FARS reported:
Militants in More Regions Endorse Peace Agreement with Syrian Army
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Russian Defense Ministry announced in its latest report on Saturday that militants in more regions have laid down weapons and ended fighting against the Syrian Army.
The ministry said that representatives of militants in more regions endorsed the nationwide reconciliation plan and ended battle against the army, adding that the total number of villages, towns and regions that have thus far joined the peace agreement with the army stands at 2,344.
It added that peace talks are underway between Damascus and militants in Aleppo, Idlib, Damascus, Hama, Homs and Quneitra provinces.
Local officials reported last month that 350 militants that had laid down arms and accepted the terms of the government for amnesty were pardoned in Southwestern Damascus.
The sources said that the army has granted amnesty to 350 gunmen that had handed over their weapons to the army men and joined peace in Beit Jinn region in Southwestern Damascus.
The sources added that they gunmen returned to normal life in the Northeastern province, adding that laying down arms and delivering them to the Syrian army is underway in the region. [END REPORT]
This kind of situation happens so often it's hardly news anymore, and of course the reconciliations are rarely mentioned in the U.S. press -- and then usually accompanied by claims that the hapless pardoned militants are dragooned into the Syrian military.

A more interesting question is how James Mattis, a worthy general, came to be a puppet for the fiends trying to wrest control of Syria. Last year Mattis should have told President Trump to go to hell if he wanted to bomb a Syrian military installation on the basis of an obvious false-flag operation.


America's New Cold War is run by the Office Co-workers from Hell

The first and irredeemable mistake is asking the co-worker, 'How was your weekend?' Soon one is enduring daily accounts of the co-worker's complicated personal life. The second mistake is pretending interest. The third mistake -- made only by the naive -- is offering the co-worker advice. 

According to a description by Philip Giraldi I don't think Browder would dispute, William Browder is a "hedge fund operator who made his fortune in the corrupt 1990s world of Russian commodities trading."

That one sentence should explain everything about William Browder that a person who doesn't want to be driven crazy by complicated people would want to know about him. 

But then comes the hook. Giraldi continues:
Browder is also symptomatic of why the United States government is so poorly informed about international developments as he is the source of much of the Congressional “expert testimony” contributing to the current impasse [between Russia and the United States]. He has somehow emerged as a trusted source in spite of the fact that he has self-interest in cultivating a certain outcome. Also ignored is his renunciation of American citizenship in 1998, reportedly to avoid taxes. He is now a British citizen.
Well of course any American would be interested in learning how a British hedge fund operator became a trusted source for U.S. congressional committees engaged with U.S. defense policy.

That's how I ended up at the Business Insider reading these sentences:
A fierce but muted battle erupted last year between Bill Browder, a banker turned human-rights activist, and Fusion GPS, the opposition-research firm that produced the explosive, unverified dossier that detailed President Donald Trump's alleged ties to — and escapades in — Russia.
That battle escalated on Tuesday when the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, unilaterally released the transcript of an interview the committee conducted last August with Glenn Simpson, a Fusion cofounder.
In the interview, Simpson said his work for the American law firm BakerHostetler — which was representing Prevezon, a Russian holding company the US government accused of laundering money into New York City real estate — was focused "on trying to get William Browder to testify under oath about his role in this case and his activities in Russia."
As to how Mr Browder went from hedge fund operator to banker and human rights activist is a complicated story from what I've been able to gather. Just as the Fusion GPS story is complicated. 

Indeed, the more I delve into the story of the New Cold War, the more I come across complicated people with very complicated motives and associations.

However, I have yet to find one account in which any of these complicated people jockeying for influence in the U.S. government held a gun to the head of a Member of Congress. That simple fact towers above every tale of America's New Cold War and its parade of complicated people engaged in complicated maneuvers. Every single congressional committee engaged with U.S. defense matters is entangled with people who are too damn complicated for America's good.     


Wednesday, January 24

Bhar Do Jholi Meri vitamin for droopy spirits

Last year I featured the movie version (sung by Adnan Sami for Bajrangi Bhaijaan) but when I visited YouTube this morning I noticed some commenters politely asked that the poster (T Series) include a credit to the legendary Sabri Brothers, who composed the qawwali and first sang it. In the Sabri version the traditional slow prelude, which fidgety moderns have difficulty sitting through, might be a tad longer than the movie version but the Sabri Bothers get to rollicking soon enough. Here's both versions, to blow away the cobwebs of political squabbles and the daily grind of war news. 

By the way I think I mentioned last year that Adnan isn't a qawwali singer, but all agree he did a great job with "Bhar Do Jholi Meri."  A true singer, it's been said, can sing anything. That would certainly apply to Adnan Sami because it's no easy task to do justice to a qawwali.       

Sunday, January 21

Operation Olive Branch. The Responsibility to Protect doctrine eats its own tail

From a headline today at the (U.K.) Daily Star, "Turkey INVADES Syria – tanks and soldiers cross the border: TURKISH military forces are invading Syria after pounding the war-torn country with airstrikes" and backs up the report with a photo (above) and video footage of Turkish tanks rolling across the border.

Given that the British military, as part of NATO, initially invaded Syria on trumped-up charges and did so under protest from Damascus, one has to take the Daily Star's umbrage with a grain of salt. The headline from Russia's Sputnik is more sanguine but couldn't resist highlighting the irony of Ankara's labeling of the invasion: "Operation Olive Branch: What Happened in Syria Today?"
A summary of the first day of a globally-disputed military operation launched by the Turkey against Kurdish organizations in Syria:
On January 20 Turkey made good on threats that it would begin a military operation against Kurds in Syria, as Turkish jets bombed targets around the Kurdish-populated Syrian city of Afrin.
The attacks, curiously dubbed ‘Operation Olive Branch' by Ankara, were announced by Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
"From this moment, the heroic Turkish Armed Forces have launched an air operation to destroy the PYD/PKK and Daesh elements in Afrin," Yildirim said.
Yildirim's announcement was later followed by remarks from President Recep Tayiip Erdogan.
"The Afrin operation has de-facto been started on the ground," Erdogan said in a televised speech, adding that, "this will be followed by Manbij," referring to another Kurdish-controlled Syrian town.
The operation is thought to be targeting Kurdish organizations Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its affiliates Democratic Union Party (PYD) and People's Protection Units (YPG).
The Turkish Foreign Minister stated that Turkey had notified Russia, Syria, the UN and the US about the operation.
"We are notifying the Syrian regime, as well as all other sides, including the United Nations, about the operation in written form," Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu said, quoted by the NTV broadcaster.
The Syrian regime is having none of it:
Officials in Damascus, however, denied that Erdogan notified them of the operation and declared it to be a violation of Syrian sovereignty.
"Syria completely denies claims by the Turkish regime that it was informed of this military operation," a Syrian foreign ministry source told state news agency SANA.
Note, however, that the Turkish minister didn't actually say his government had already notified Syria's.  He said, implied, that they were in the process of preparing a notification in writing. 

As to what the Turkish invasion has actually accomplished thus far, the answer depends on which spokespersons you're willing to believe. Sputnik reports:
The results of the initial strikes were announced in a statement of the Turkish General Staff.
"Out of 113 designated targets of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Kurdish Syrian terrorist group, 108 have been destroyed as of 18:30 [15:30 GMT]. All the killed and wounded people, who have been sent to hospitals, are members of terrorist groups," the statement asserted.
The later statement was refuted by Rojahat Roj, press secretary of the Kurdish Self-Defense Forces YPG in Afrin. Talking to Sputnik, he said that Turkish air Forces hit some 100 positions in the Afrin area, but did not injure any YPG staff.
From the Daily Star:
Turkey has claimed the massive movement of military hardware into the country is simply to create a 30km-deep "safe zone" in the north of the country.

It came just hours after Turkey [launched] airstrikes in Afrin, with the military claiming it had hit 153 targets so far, including shelters and hideouts used by Kurdish militants.
But the YPG – which is backed by the United States but classed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey – said they had killed six civilians and three of its fighters.
Turkey has dubbed the action "Operation Olive Branch", which has seen them carry out relentless airstrikes yesterday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, wrote on Twitter: "In its second day, Olive Branch Operation continues to ensure peace and security for our people, protect Syria's territorial integrity and eliminate all terrorist elements in the region.
"Turkey expects its allies to support its fight against terrorism in all of its forms."
But the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia has denied there is a full-scale invasion underway, claiming forces clashed in Afrin but Turkish soldiers were beaten back.
YPG official Nouri Mahmoudi, said "all the Turkish military's ground attacks against Afrin have been repelled so far and they have been forced to retreat."
One claim, however, can be taken as perfect truth, which is that YPG is indeed backed by Turkey's fellow NATO member, the United States. And so, I will assume, it's also backed by NATO member Britain. This would explain the Daily Star's outrage and also Turkey's attempt to brand a clear attack on Syria as a peacekeeping operation.

This is not the first time we've seen the snake eating its own tail in the Syrian War; in fact the entire invasion of Syria, conducted largely by proxy forces, has been based on untruths ranging from exaggerations to outright lies.  

As to where this has led if we don't count the destruction of the country's infrastructures and God Knows how many Syrian innocents killed -- for one thing, it's led to a recent claim by Qatar's government that they never actually supported the Muslim Brotherhood; no, the government of the United States of America supported the Brothers and  Qatar simply went along with the support to please the Americans.

To my knowledge no spokesperson for Al-Thani's regime has come right out and told such a big lie; they've done it through cutouts. But there you have it: once again, the United States of America is left holding the bag. 

However, given that U.S. machinations in Syria have been predicated on one untruth after another, and that the U.S. government indeed gave at least some support to the Brothers for many years (and, it has been argued, initially helped create the organization), Qatar considers it okay to place blame on the American government for the Muslim Brotherhood's predations in Syria and elsewhere.

Just as Ankara considers it okay to betray its alliance with NATO in the name of defending a "safe zone" in Syria. But that excuse puts Turkey in line with the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. 

That the doctrine is by now rejected by observers with integrity, on the basis of solid evidence it can be used by liars as an excuse for invading a country and toppling governments -- the rejection came too late in the day for the Libyans and Syrians. Only Al-Thani's incredible financial wealth, and skill in using it for defense, saved Qataris from the same fate. 


Sunday, January 14

The smart way to finance U.S. Mexico Wall

From Col. Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis (A Coupla Things, January 12):
1.  A couple of Border Patrol/ICE people tell me that the US does not effectively charge an entry fee to non-US citizen individuals seeking to enter the US legally across the southern border.  The point made by these border and immigration professionals is that the money would enable the construction and installation of more and better border barrier systems.  They make the point that where border barrier systems have been installed the flow of illegal migrants is much reduced.  Mexico evidently collects such a fee in the San Diego sector.  My question for the lawyers is whether or not such a fee would be legal if put in place under an EO or would this require legislation?
I'll be darned. There's been a smart way to finance the wall, all along.  


Uganda's Ministry of Health tries to put down a panic

"We are in control. We know everything. ... There is no cause for alarm."

What with the story about a wrong-button pusher in Hawaii this is a very bad week for governments to attempt to assure the public they are in control -- although I must say Dr Atwine's wonderfully emotional declamation should get a prize for Most Convincing Assurance that government is leaving no stone unturned. 

So is this is a new, highly infectious deadly disease, or an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever?  Either way, the incident underscores that officials trying to cover up or downplay an infectious disease outbreak is so last century. In this century of globalized 24/7 news and social media, governments the world over are being forced to the realization that they must somehow thread the camel through the needle: keep the public well informed about a possible infectious disease outbreak but without setting off or adding to a panic.  

The U.K. Star, which has made itself a clearing house for tales of infectious disease outbreaks, has a report on the Uganda situation. (See also their slide show report on recent globalized deadly disease outbreaks): 

Black Death TWO: Girl, 9, drops dead as strange 'eye-bleeding fever' spreads
By Anthony Blair
January 13, 2018

A NEW disease is feared to become even more deadly than the Black Death that killed thousands in 2017 after it killed a nine year-old 

She had contracted the bizarre new disease with similarities to the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever.

This disease — usually spread by tick bites or contact with infected livestock — can cause muscle pains, headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding.

And panic is spreading after the sudden death of a girl in the Nakaseke District of Uganda.

A rapid response health team was rushed from the local hospital with a body bag to collect her and prevent any possible outbreak.

Health teams disinfected the girl's home after her death on Thursday night local time, but didn't give her grieving family any details about when they could have her body back. [read on]


Local district Health Officer Dr Badru Ssesimba confirmed that blood samples from the girl's body had been handed over to the Uganda Virus Research Institute, but wouldn't give more details.

Authorities at the hospital — who didn't want to be named — said that the body would be buried by health teams due to the "sensitivity" about a further outbreak.

Four people have now died in Uganda this week from the 'eye-bleeding fever'.

But local officials in the East African country — which has been plagued by similar outbreaks recently — said this could be a completely new disease.

Last week Uganda's Ministry of Health denied claims by local officials in Nakaseke that Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic fever had broken out.

But Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health Dr Diana Atwine confirmed that fluid and blood samples from the dead child are being tested to find out exactly what she died from.

This week MPs in Uganda's Parliament claimed there was a cover-up of a deadly plague outbreak in Uganda by the government.

Recently there were fears that a tribal 'Cleaning of Corpses' ritual in Indonesia could lead to a fresh Black Death outbreak.

And the World Health Organisation warned last week that an extra £3 million was needed by April to stop the return of Black Death.



Friday, January 12

U.S. remains determined to unseat Assad at any cost

"In Washington last month, I was told that a main strut of U.S. Syria policy going forward would be marshalling America’s international and regional allies to isolate the Assad regime economically. America is meant to play a key leadership role in this effort, reinforcing international consensus on an economic blockade of Assad. The idea is to use economic leverage on the regime and its ally Russia, in parallel with diplomatic pressure, to push for a transition and Assad’s removal."

The quote is from Sam Heller's What an unfolding humanitarian disaster in a U.S.-protected enclave in Syria tells us about American strategy in Syria, published November 20 at War on the Rocks. But you'd have to read to the last part of the report to find the quote. At the time the U.S. was making noises about allowing Assad to stay on as head of the Syrian government. By the end of December, however, the U.S. had again showed its true face. From Heller's latest Syria analysis (January 8) for War on the Rocks (America in search of un-Geneva for Syria):
“We are confident that the fulfillment of these [Geneva] talks will produce a Syria that is free of Bashar al-Assad and his family,” wrote Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in The New York Times on Dec. 27. As I argued recently for the Century Foundation, this will not work.
In short, nothing has changed about U.S. involvement since 2011 in the attempts to remove Assad from power, and it's demonstrated a willingness to see Syria reduced to ruins in order to accomplish the goal. Yet one never hears about the U.S. attempting to remove the Baathists from power. This is curious given that much of the Syrian opposition is actually against the Baathists, who were in power long before Bashar al-Assad was installed as the figurehead leader of the party. 

So why the ongoing American focus on removing Assad? Because Assad is completely committed to Syria's government remaining secular, as are most Syrians, and Al Saud can't tolerate a genuinely secular society in the Middle East -- one that puts Sunni Islam on par with other religions and Islamic sects. To whatever extent possible the United States serves Saudi interests.
Any other American reasons for wanting Assad removed are distant seconds. All things being equal, Assad would still have to go because he stands as a bulwark against sectarian rule of Syria.


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