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The Saker
A bird's eye view of the vineyard

offsite link No Sheep Is Safe In Syria: Israel And ISIS Against The Herders Thu Mar 04, 2021 18:13 | amarynth
South Front On February 26th, The Biden Administration carried out its first strike on Iranian-backed groups and then praised the success, so far unseen, of its attack. A response from

offsite link Biden becomes the fourth successive President to bomb Iraqis: how far could this latest round of esc... Thu Mar 04, 2021 13:01 | amarynth
By Aram Mirzaei for the Saker blog Another president, another act of aggression. For the past few decades, it’s almost like a mandatory rite of passage for US presidents to

offsite link The Bamiyan Buddhas: an Afghan tale Wed Mar 03, 2021 17:26 | amarynth
by Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times In the beginning, they were the Bamiyan Buddhas: the Western Buddha statue, 55 meters high, and the Eastern, 38

offsite link Sitrep: Eradicating absolute poverty in China Wed Mar 03, 2021 16:07 | amarynth
By Godfree Roberts ? selected from his extensive weekly newsletter : Here Comes China plus editorial notes. You can get it here: https://www.herecomeschina.... The Biggest News Xi declares ‘complete victory’

offsite link Leaked: Smith College memo demands workers admit White privilege Wed Mar 03, 2021 01:04 | amarynth
by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog As a daily reporter, columnist and author it seems I have developed a reputation for unparalleled bravery in exposing truths which the 1%

The Saker >>

Public Inquiry
Interested in maladministration. Estd. 2005

offsite link Mainstream media: Failing to speak truth to power

offsite link David Quinn’s selective tolerance Anthony

offsite link A Woulfe in judges clothing Anthony

offsite link Sarah McInerney and political impartiality Anthony

offsite link Did RTE journalists collude against Sinn Fein? Anthony

Public Inquiry >>

Human Rights in Ireland
A Blog About Human Rights

offsite link Poor Living Conditions for Migrants in Southern Italy Mon Jan 18, 2021 10:14 | Human Rights

offsite link Right to Water Mon Aug 03, 2020 19:13 | Human Rights

offsite link Human Rights Fri Mar 20, 2020 16:33 | Human Rights

offsite link Turkish President Calls On Greece To Comply With Human Rights on Syrian Refugee Issues Wed Mar 04, 2020 17:58 | Human Rights

offsite link US Holds China To Account For Human Rights Violations Sun Oct 13, 2019 19:12 | Human Rights

Human Rights in Ireland >>

Spirit of Contradiction

offsite link The Party and the Ballot Box Sun Jul 14, 2019 22:24 | Gavin Mendel-Gleason

offsite link On The Decline and Fall of The American Empire and Socialism Sat Jan 26, 2019 01:52 | S. Duncan

offsite link What is Dogmatism and Why Does It Matter? Wed Mar 21, 2018 08:10 | Sylvia Smith

offsite link The Case of Comrade Dallas Mon Mar 19, 2018 19:44 | Sylvia Smith

offsite link Review: Do Religions Evolve? Mon Aug 14, 2017 19:54 | Dara McHugh

Spirit of Contradiction >>

Maajid Nawaz - Fri Mar 05, 2021 13:36

Tony Blair is back. And so is everything that he entails. Including, among his many qualities, his characteristic disregard for our civil liberties. Perhaps inspired by the failure of his Labour government to introduce national identity cards, Britain’s most successful living former prime minister has turned his attention to domestic vaccine passports. From the War on Terror to Covid, Blair has rarely been one to miss the opportunity to suggest that the solution to what people fear most at any given moment is more state power.

Having met Blair and his team several times to discuss how to address jihadist terrorism, I understood their temptation to veer towards safety and security over life and liberty. But the truth remains that those who trade liberty for security invariably end up with neither. Sadly, many of the debates we had then about how to balance our safety with our freedoms are resurfacing now in the name of beating Covid. But it is not as if we haven’t been down this route before.

During my years spent largely unsuccessfully lobbying successive governments on extremism policy, I met Blair, Brown and Cameron. My work was mainly informed by my own survival of the War on Terror-era encroachments against liberty. I believed I was granted such audiences precisely because I had survived the human rights abuses of that decade only to emerge as a critic of my own former Islamist dogma, while advocating the universality of human rights.

In 2002, during my time as a Prisoner of Conscience in Egypt, I witnessed British and other detainees tortured in the name of the War on Terror. I do not know of any UK involvement in my own treatment, but my experience did inform my desire to work for an end to British complicity in such abuse anywhere in the world. Blair’s Labour government was in fact implicated in the “extraordinary rendition” of suspects to third countries, where they were tortured for intelligence. When this practice was eventually investigated, Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee went so far as to say that “British agencies continued to supply intelligence to allies despite knowing or suspecting abuse in more than 200 cases”.

It was also Blair’s government that criminalised the right to silence at British ports. Thanks to Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, to this day any person may be detained and questioned, with no need for reasonable grounds. It remains a criminal offence not to answer questions during such an interrogation. These laws were originally intended for Irish Republicans, and came to be used largely for jihadist terrorism — but typical of government mission creep, they were eventually applied to obstruct controversial journalism. The most publicised example of this occurred in 2013, when Glen Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was detained under these powers at Heathrow airport for nine hours.

It took New Labour’s successors, a Conservative-led government, to soften these Schedule 7 powers by including a reduction in the maximum period of detainment from nine hours to six, extending the rights to consult privately with a solicitor and to have a person informed of the detention, as well as the repeal of power to take a DNA sample. Staying silent, however, remains a criminal offence.

In 2006, upon my return from Egyptian prison, I too was detained and interrogated at Heathrow airport under Schedule 7. My DNA was taken from me by law. This is why, during my work around challenging Islamist extremism, I sought to use the limited platform that I had gained to challenge these powers and advised their repeal.

Sadly, civil liberties were not a priority for Blair. He tried and failed to introduce national identity cards, even insisting that the scheme should go ahead as a question of “modernity”. Blair also tried to extend the detention of terror suspects without charge for 90 days, the amount of time it took the Egyptian regime to charge me, after placing us in solitary confinement once they removed us from their torture dungeons. After being defeated by Labour backbenchers and the Tory opposition, Labour still managed to secure 28-day detention for suspects, which remains the longest period of pre-charge detention of any common law country.

I have always maintained that the answer to extremist speech is counter-speech, not proscription. In fact, PM Gordon Brown cited my views as a reason, when challenged by the then leader of the opposition, David Cameron, why certain extremist but non-terrorist groups had not been banned. Blair, more recently, co-signed a letter along with David Cameron and religious leaders from the three Abrahamic faiths asking for the taking down of extremist speech online, the argument being that it creates a “climate conducive to terrorism, hate crime and violence”. I fear the lines here are in danger of becoming increasingly blurred.

But Tony Blair’s biggest error committed in the name of “keeping us all safe” is one that requires no further elaboration. His decision to invade Iraq under the guise of “national security” and finding weapons of mass destruction will probably remain one of his biggest policy failures. That it was committed during a global emergency with bipartisan consensus should serve as a sobering lesson for all during today’s emergency and its increasingly dogmatic Covid consensus.

Having failed at securing national identity cards, Blair has seen an opportunity with our understandable fear for our health. He now asks us to surrender our civil liberties “for the common good” by advocating for the introduction of digital domestic vaccine passports on our smartphones. The idea is that we would scan them for entry to bars, theatres, restaurants and so forth. For those who do not have a smartphone, Blair suggests that the venue could take a photo to check against a database of people who have been vaccinated. I am less animated here about such passports for international travel, since such things already exist to deal with illnesses like yellow fever, but implementing these measures domestically is an unsettling prospect.

I have been injected against my will, while in jail in Egypt. To this day I do not know what they put inside my body. Any sort of state coercion on the issue — up to and including compulsory vaccination — fills me with horror. Indeed, Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights concerns “consent”, and states (my emphasis): “Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice.”

As well as the core human rights questions involved in Blair’s suggestion to make digital vaccine passports a condition of reentry into everyday life, there is also the prevailing issue of minority mistrust. In the UK white people are more than twice as likely to have been vaccinated as black people the same age, and three times as likely as people from mixed ethnic backgrounds. There are a number of reasons for low minority uptake, but among Asians one must surely be the medical malpractice carried out during the War on Terror. As most Pakistanis know, in 2012 the CIA used a fake Hepatitis B children’s mass vaccination programme, reportedly to illegally collect DNA for intelligence purposes in the hunt for Bin Laden. Such was the outrage that the discovery of this fake vaccine programme provoked an alliance of 200 US aid groups to write to the then head of the CIA David Petraeus in protest, linking the agency’s behaviour to the ongoing polio crisis in Pakistan.

But the legacy of this fake vaccine campaign in Pakistan has understandably not been easy to overcome, and trust in public health officials and programmes has been irreversibly eroded. The Taliban promptly issued a fatwa against vaccination. The country’s polio cases among children have not recovered since. Sadly but predictably, the CIA’s actions in Pakistan formed the core justification for an armed backlash against immunisation workers, leading to 56 deaths between December 2012 and May 2014. To this day, local leaders believe that vaccination drives are Western spying programmes.

But Tony Blair’s advocacy here appears blind to any understandable concern around abuse and discrimination. The spectre of non-vaccinated minorities being turned away from shops is not one that any government should willingly embrace. And so, just as during the War on Terror we all did our bit while remaining critical of government overreach, I believe it is our duty now not to simply surrender before every encroachment being suggested.

Source: UnHerd

Tony Blair is back. And so is everything that he entails. Including, among his many qualities, his characteristic disregard for our civil liberties. Perhaps inspired by the failure of his Labour government to introduce national identity cards, Britain’s most successful living former prime minister has turned his attention to domestic vaccine passports. From the War on Terror to Covid, Blair has rarely been one to miss the opportunity to suggest that the solution to what people fear most at any given moment is more state power.

Having met Blair and his team several times to discuss how to address jihadist terrorism, I understood their temptation to veer towards safety and security over life and liberty. But the truth remains that those who trade liberty for security invariably end up with neither. Sadly, many of the debates we had then about how to balance our safety with our freedoms are resurfacing now in the name of beating Covid. But it is not as if we haven’t been down this route before.

During my years spent largely unsuccessfully lobbying successive governments on extremism policy, I met Blair, Brown and Cameron. My work was mainly informed by my own survival of the War on Terror-era encroachments against liberty. I believed I was granted such audiences precisely because I had survived the human rights abuses of that decade only to emerge as a critic of my own former Islamist dogma, while advocating the universality of human rights.

In 2002, during my time as a Prisoner of Conscience in Egypt, I witnessed British and other detainees tortured in the name of the War on Terror. I do not know of any UK involvement in my own treatment, but my experience did inform my desire to work for an end to British complicity in such abuse anywhere in the world. Blair’s Labour government was in fact implicated in the “extraordinary rendition” of suspects to third countries, where they were tortured for intelligence. When this practice was eventually investigated, Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee went so far as to say that “British agencies continued to supply intelligence to allies despite knowing or suspecting abuse in more than 200 cases”.

It was also Blair’s government that criminalised the right to silence at British ports. Thanks to Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, to this day any person may be detained and questioned, with no need for reasonable grounds. It remains a criminal offence not to answer questions during such an interrogation. These laws were originally intended for Irish Republicans, and came to be used largely for jihadist terrorism — but typical of government mission creep, they were eventually applied to obstruct controversial journalism. The most publicised example of this occurred in 2013, when Glen Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was detained under these powers at Heathrow airport for nine hours.

It took New Labour’s successors, a Conservative-led government, to soften these Schedule 7 powers by including a reduction in the maximum period of detainment from nine hours to six, extending the rights to consult privately with a solicitor and to have a person informed of the detention, as well as the repeal of power to take a DNA sample. Staying silent, however, remains a criminal offence.

In 2006, upon my return from Egyptian prison, I too was detained and interrogated at Heathrow airport under Schedule 7. My DNA was taken from me by law. This is why, during my work around challenging Islamist extremism, I sought to use the limited platform that I had gained to challenge these powers and advised their repeal.

Sadly, civil liberties were not a priority for Blair. He tried and failed to introduce national identity cards, even insisting that the scheme should go ahead as a question of “modernity”. Blair also tried to extend the detention of terror suspects without charge for 90 days, the amount of time it took the Egyptian regime to charge me, after placing us in solitary confinement once they removed us from their torture dungeons. After being defeated by Labour backbenchers and the Tory opposition, Labour still managed to secure 28-day detention for suspects, which remains the longest period of pre-charge detention of any common law country.

I have always maintained that the answer to extremist speech is counter-speech, not proscription. In fact, PM Gordon Brown cited my views as a reason, when challenged by the then leader of the opposition, David Cameron, why certain extremist but non-terrorist groups had not been banned. Blair, more recently, co-signed a letter along with David Cameron and religious leaders from the three Abrahamic faiths asking for the taking down of extremist speech online, the argument being that it creates a “climate conducive to terrorism, hate crime and violence”. I fear the lines here are in danger of becoming increasingly blurred.

But Tony Blair’s biggest error committed in the name of “keeping us all safe” is one that requires no further elaboration. His decision to invade Iraq under the guise of “national security” and finding weapons of mass destruction will probably remain one of his biggest policy failures. That it was committed during a global emergency with bipartisan consensus should serve as a sobering lesson for all during today’s emergency and its increasingly dogmatic Covid consensus.

Having failed at securing national identity cards, Blair has seen an opportunity with our understandable fear for our health. He now asks us to surrender our civil liberties “for the common good” by advocating for the introduction of digital domestic vaccine passports on our smartphones. The idea is that we would scan them for entry to bars, theatres, restaurants and so forth. For those who do not have a smartphone, Blair suggests that the venue could take a photo to check against a database of people who have been vaccinated. I am less animated here about such passports for international travel, since such things already exist to deal with illnesses like yellow fever, but implementing these measures domestically is an unsettling prospect.

I have been injected against my will, while in jail in Egypt. To this day I do not know what they put inside my body. Any sort of state coercion on the issue — up to and including compulsory vaccination — fills me with horror. Indeed, Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights concerns “consent”, and states (my emphasis): “Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice.”

As well as the core human rights questions involved in Blair’s suggestion to make digital vaccine passports a condition of reentry into everyday life, there is also the prevailing issue of minority mistrust. In the UK white people are more than twice as likely to have been vaccinated as black people the same age, and three times as likely as people from mixed ethnic backgrounds. There are a number of reasons for low minority uptake, but among Asians one must surely be the medical malpractice carried out during the War on Terror. As most Pakistanis know, in 2012 the CIA used a fake Hepatitis B children’s mass vaccination programme, reportedly to illegally collect DNA for intelligence purposes in the hunt for Bin Laden. Such was the outrage that the discovery of this fake vaccine programme provoked an alliance of 200 US aid groups to write to the then head of the CIA David Petraeus in protest, linking the agency’s behaviour to the ongoing polio crisis in Pakistan.

But the legacy of this fake vaccine campaign in Pakistan has understandably not been easy to overcome, and trust in public health officials and programmes has been irreversibly eroded. The Taliban promptly issued a fatwa against vaccination. The country’s polio cases among children have not recovered since. Sadly but predictably, the CIA’s actions in Pakistan formed the core justification for an armed backlash against immunisation workers, leading to 56 deaths between December 2012 and May 2014. To this day, local leaders believe that vaccination drives are Western spying programmes.

But Tony Blair’s advocacy here appears blind to any understandable concern around abuse and discrimination. The spectre of non-vaccinated minorities being turned away from shops is not one that any government should willingly embrace. And so, just as during the War on Terror we all did our bit while remaining critical of government overreach, I believe it is our duty now not to simply surrender before every encroachment being suggested.

Source: UnHerd

The Babylon Bee - Fri Mar 05, 2021 12:01

Conservatives celebrated a major victory for the cause this week as Texas Governor Greg Abbott ended the unconstitutional mandates he himself implemented last year.

Republicans, libertarians, and other right-leaning Texans lauded the governor's move to fight tyranny by striking down his own mandates.

"Great job, Governor Abbott -- you really ended those tyrannical edicts that you yourself put in place last year!" said one Texan as he chugged a Bud Light and drove his tractor around for no good reason. "I'm proud to have you as my governor!"

"Look, whoever put these in place was a real bully!" said Governor Abbott. "I'm taking a bold stand against these tyrants by allowing businesses to fully reopen and knocking down the unconstitutional mask mandate!"

"Texas, we've been freed from the tyrannical dictates of 2020 me!"

At publishing time, Abbot said he was considering ordering everyone to turn in their guns, only to strike it down the next day, in order to get more positive press.

Source: The Babylon Bee

Conservatives celebrated a major victory for the cause this week as Texas Governor Greg Abbott ended the unconstitutional mandates he himself implemented last year.

Republicans, libertarians, and other right-leaning Texans lauded the governor's move to fight tyranny by striking down his own mandates.

"Great job, Governor Abbott -- you really ended those tyrannical edicts that you yourself put in place last year!" said one Texan as he chugged a Bud Light and drove his tractor around for no good reason. "I'm proud to have you as my governor!"

"Look, whoever put these in place was a real bully!" said Governor Abbott. "I'm taking a bold stand against these tyrants by allowing businesses to fully reopen and knocking down the unconstitutional mask mandate!"

"Texas, we've been freed from the tyrannical dictates of 2020 me!"

At publishing time, Abbot said he was considering ordering everyone to turn in their guns, only to strike it down the next day, in order to get more positive press.

Source: The Babylon Bee

Cebu Daily News - Fri Mar 05, 2021 10:31

The Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7) clarified to reporters that Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard 'Ahong' Chan did not receive an actual shot of Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine during the city's vaccine rollout simulation exercise on Mar. 3, 2021.

However, they confirmed that Chan is expected to come back 'for a second dose' this March 31 so they 'can monitor adverse reactions after he was injected with saline solution', and that these are just 'part of protocols'.

"That is to tell his constituents that it is the right process," said Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, spokesperson of DOH-7.

Source: Cebu Daily News

The Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7) clarified to reporters that Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard 'Ahong' Chan did not receive an actual shot of Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine during the city's vaccine rollout simulation exercise on Mar. 3, 2021.

However, they confirmed that Chan is expected to come back 'for a second dose' this March 31 so they 'can monitor adverse reactions after he was injected with saline solution', and that these are just 'part of protocols'.

"That is to tell his constituents that it is the right process," said Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, spokesperson of DOH-7.

Source: Cebu Daily News

Mike Martin - Thu Mar 04, 2021 13:36

The pair of towering Buddha statues in Bamiyan watched over Afghanistan’s Silk Road for fifteen centuries — until the Taliban came along and obliterated them using anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank mines and dynamite. When a video was released showing their destruction exactly 20 years ago, the West responded with unbridled horror. The Taliban Government, however, was resolute: idolatry had no place in their Afghanistan.

The statues’ demolition certainly lived up to the depiction of the Taliban in international media: they were a group of religious fundamentalists who beat women, banned music and measured the lengths of men’s beards to make sure they tallied with the religiously mandated length. This was the government of the day: coherent and imposing its will on the people of Afghanistan, whether they liked it or not.

But who are the Taliban now? Surely this is an important question, particularly if you are trying to work out what to do about Afghanistan; that country for which there were such high hopes after the supposed defeat of the Taliban in 2001, but which is currently disintegrating before our eyes. Yet those responsible for Afghanistan’s future don’t seem to be asking these questions. Which is, of course, one of the reasons that Afghanistan is collapsing. Nobody bothered to find out what the place was like.

Now, after nearly 20 years of hunting terrorists (Al Qaeda), conducting a counterinsurgency (against the Taliban), fighting a drugs war and developing the country, all foreign troops — including 2,500 Americans — are due to leave Afghanistan by the start of May.

This follows the signing of a peace accord between the US and the Taliban in February 2020. The agreement, which astonishingly was negotiated without the participation of the Afghan government, had few stipulations. The US would reduce its troop numbers and would release several thousand prisoners. The Taliban, meanwhile, would agree to peace talks with the Afghan government, and would prevent anyone using Afghan soil to threaten the United States and its allies.

In reality, this was not a peace agreement, but a fairly obvious smoke screen for a US withdrawal (much like, it has to be said, the Russian withdrawal 30 years earlier). The US had failed to achieve its goals and was leaving.

Since the signing of the accord, the US has broadly followed its side of the bargain, reducing troop numbers and releasing prisoners. The Taliban, however, have not — instead upping its attacks on the Afghan government, while stonewalling any attempts at negotiation.

And so reports from Afghanistan indicate that several provincial centres, including Kandahar, arguably the most important city in Afghanistan after Kabul, are in danger of falling from Afghan government control. Newly elected President Biden is said to be reconsidering whether it is safe for the US to be leaving Afghanistan at all.

All of which sounds like very sensible analysis, and reflects the sort of article you might read in the New York Times. But it is based on a massive assumption: that the Taliban are a coherent organisation with a defined membership, an organisational structure, a guiding framework of ideas and a leadership able to exert control over its fighters.

In turn, these assumptions support the so-called insurgency narrative: that the Afghan government and its international partners have been fighting an insurgency called the Taliban who grow drugs, throw acid in girls’ faces and are generally evil. In this telling, the Afghan government and its international friends are, by definition, good. It is a binary depiction of the war: good versus evil, black versus white, us versus them.

But what if this dynamic wasn’t actually what was generating most of the violence? For most of the violence in Afghanistan today is driven by hyper-local issues, such as land disputes, access to agricultural water, fights over drugs, generational feuds and abuses of administrative power. Indeed, when the Afghan communist party, heavily supported by the USSR, took power in a coup 43 years ago and precipitated a civil war which has been raging ever since, it unleashed a series of pent-up tensions in the country between conservatives and progressives, the educated and non-educated and, most importantly, between various local interest groups — mostly based on kinship — desperate to control their territories.

This same multifocal civil war continues today, with most of those people fighting the Government doing so for personal or local reasons. Perhaps they have had their land stolen by a warlord. Perhaps they are the victim of predatory behaviour from a local official and need to fight back to maintain their honour. Perhaps they are trying to sell their drugs, or protect their village, or enact a feud. The reasons are endless, but all of them are exacerbated by the fact that Afghanistan has nothing resembling a central government that adjudicates disputes and sets rules that apply to everyone. In fact, the Afghan government is as riven by local factional motivations as the Taliban.

What those on both sides do share, though, is a willingness to accept weapons from anyone — including, but not limited to, the Americans, the Russians, Pakistan and the Taliban — in order to pursue their own personal aims. Importantly, because of the strength of local issues in driving the conflict, the degree to which all these sponsors are able to control the on-the-ground actors is highly questionable.

So, what does this look like in a district in, for example, Kandahar Province? Imagine two villages, A and B. Running between these villages is a water course that both need for their agriculture. Because there hasn’t been a functioning government in Afghanistan for two-thirds of a lifetime — life expectancy is 65 — there is no functioning water management, and these villages are locked in a zero-sum battle over access to water (layered, no doubt, with multiple personal feuds).

Luckily, someone in village A has a relative in the provincial police and manages to have the village militia enrolled in it; they now have access to weapons and the confidence to label village B as “Taliban sympathisers” or some such slur. Village B, in response, decides to send an elder who fought in the mujahideen to the Taliban leadership in Quetta. When the elder says that village A are “westerners”, he is given enough weapons for village B to create their own militia.

Of course, whether village B accepts weapons from the Taliban before or after they are labelled “Taliban sympathisers” is a moot point — the key thing is that everyone is manipulating everyone else in order to access resources that will bolster their cause.

That partly explains why commanders and militias change sides all the time, and most actors very sensibly maintain feet in both the government and Taliban camps.

In 2011, I remember meeting a local Taliban commander who had been welcomed into the Afghan government and supplied with motorbikes and weapons to form his own (government-aligned) village defence militia. He had switched back less than a month later: in Afghanistan, survival always trumps ideology. Even the Afghan government sometimes deploys the Taliban and ISIS as spectres to ensure funds and commitments from international partners, such as the US.

Yet this mythologised Taliban died in 2001, when Pakistani funding all but dried up. So to describe the country’s civil war without reference to its vast array of tribal alliances, as a recent New York Times article does, is to miss the fundamental point. Likewise, while it may be hard to describe exactly what the Taliban are, it is not difficult to describe what they are not; they are not, as this BBC article helpfully describes, a coherent organisation. But it is upon this assumption of Taliban coherence that the plans of the Afghan government, the US and all the other involved countries rest.

And that could have serious repercussions. For assuming that the US continues on their withdrawal (and other countries follow them, because they can’t exist without the massive US logistical footprint in the country), the country is going to fragment, much like it did in the 1990s when the Russians withdrew.

In a mirror of today, it was assumed then that the mujahideen, who fought the Russians throughout the 1980s, would take over the government. But they were utterly divided, more interested in pursuing personal interests, so they ended up fighting each other. History is meant to rhyme, and not repeat, but in Afghanistan, the latter seems highly plausible.

When I speak to friends in Kabul, they are terrified, and trying to get themselves and as many relatives as possible out of the country. Afghanistan, they say, is about to collapse into tens or hundreds of fiefdoms. Those over 35 or so have memories of the different factions fighting over Kabul in the early nineties — the rocket attacks, the rapes and the brutal pogroms inflicted on the neighbourhoods of opposing ethnicities. Afghanistan’s current leadership, whether government or Taliban, won’t be able to be control it any more than anyone else.

And so we come to the recurring question of the last 20 years: what should the US President do about Afghanistan? Well, President Biden, there are a number of practical decisions to take. If you want to stop Afghanistan splintering into random fiefdoms, you should keep a minimal number of troops in the country and spend enough money necessary to keep the national ring road open (there is only one main road in Afghanistan), and the provincial centres in government hands. Accept that you are there for the long haul, like in Germany or South Korea, and see it as part of your policy towards China, a neighbour with acute interests in Afghanistan and the surrounding countries.

But as you reconsider America’s policy towards Afghanistan, you would do well to remember that, above all else, you will not be able to beat the Taliban, because what you understand as the Taliban simply do not exist.

Source: Unherd

The pair of towering Buddha statues in Bamiyan watched over Afghanistan’s Silk Road for fifteen centuries — until the Taliban came along and obliterated them using anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank mines and dynamite. When a video was released showing their destruction exactly 20 years ago, the West responded with unbridled horror. The Taliban Government, however, was resolute: idolatry had no place in their Afghanistan.

The statues’ demolition certainly lived up to the depiction of the Taliban in international media: they were a group of religious fundamentalists who beat women, banned music and measured the lengths of men’s beards to make sure they tallied with the religiously mandated length. This was the government of the day: coherent and imposing its will on the people of Afghanistan, whether they liked it or not.

But who are the Taliban now? Surely this is an important question, particularly if you are trying to work out what to do about Afghanistan; that country for which there were such high hopes after the supposed defeat of the Taliban in 2001, but which is currently disintegrating before our eyes. Yet those responsible for Afghanistan’s future don’t seem to be asking these questions. Which is, of course, one of the reasons that Afghanistan is collapsing. Nobody bothered to find out what the place was like.

Now, after nearly 20 years of hunting terrorists (Al Qaeda), conducting a counterinsurgency (against the Taliban), fighting a drugs war and developing the country, all foreign troops — including 2,500 Americans — are due to leave Afghanistan by the start of May.

This follows the signing of a peace accord between the US and the Taliban in February 2020. The agreement, which astonishingly was negotiated without the participation of the Afghan government, had few stipulations. The US would reduce its troop numbers and would release several thousand prisoners. The Taliban, meanwhile, would agree to peace talks with the Afghan government, and would prevent anyone using Afghan soil to threaten the United States and its allies.

In reality, this was not a peace agreement, but a fairly obvious smoke screen for a US withdrawal (much like, it has to be said, the Russian withdrawal 30 years earlier). The US had failed to achieve its goals and was leaving.

Since the signing of the accord, the US has broadly followed its side of the bargain, reducing troop numbers and releasing prisoners. The Taliban, however, have not — instead upping its attacks on the Afghan government, while stonewalling any attempts at negotiation.

And so reports from Afghanistan indicate that several provincial centres, including Kandahar, arguably the most important city in Afghanistan after Kabul, are in danger of falling from Afghan government control. Newly elected President Biden is said to be reconsidering whether it is safe for the US to be leaving Afghanistan at all.

All of which sounds like very sensible analysis, and reflects the sort of article you might read in the New York Times. But it is based on a massive assumption: that the Taliban are a coherent organisation with a defined membership, an organisational structure, a guiding framework of ideas and a leadership able to exert control over its fighters.

In turn, these assumptions support the so-called insurgency narrative: that the Afghan government and its international partners have been fighting an insurgency called the Taliban who grow drugs, throw acid in girls’ faces and are generally evil. In this telling, the Afghan government and its international friends are, by definition, good. It is a binary depiction of the war: good versus evil, black versus white, us versus them.

But what if this dynamic wasn’t actually what was generating most of the violence? For most of the violence in Afghanistan today is driven by hyper-local issues, such as land disputes, access to agricultural water, fights over drugs, generational feuds and abuses of administrative power. Indeed, when the Afghan communist party, heavily supported by the USSR, took power in a coup 43 years ago and precipitated a civil war which has been raging ever since, it unleashed a series of pent-up tensions in the country between conservatives and progressives, the educated and non-educated and, most importantly, between various local interest groups — mostly based on kinship — desperate to control their territories.

This same multifocal civil war continues today, with most of those people fighting the Government doing so for personal or local reasons. Perhaps they have had their land stolen by a warlord. Perhaps they are the victim of predatory behaviour from a local official and need to fight back to maintain their honour. Perhaps they are trying to sell their drugs, or protect their village, or enact a feud. The reasons are endless, but all of them are exacerbated by the fact that Afghanistan has nothing resembling a central government that adjudicates disputes and sets rules that apply to everyone. In fact, the Afghan government is as riven by local factional motivations as the Taliban.

What those on both sides do share, though, is a willingness to accept weapons from anyone — including, but not limited to, the Americans, the Russians, Pakistan and the Taliban — in order to pursue their own personal aims. Importantly, because of the strength of local issues in driving the conflict, the degree to which all these sponsors are able to control the on-the-ground actors is highly questionable.

So, what does this look like in a district in, for example, Kandahar Province? Imagine two villages, A and B. Running between these villages is a water course that both need for their agriculture. Because there hasn’t been a functioning government in Afghanistan for two-thirds of a lifetime — life expectancy is 65 — there is no functioning water management, and these villages are locked in a zero-sum battle over access to water (layered, no doubt, with multiple personal feuds).

Luckily, someone in village A has a relative in the provincial police and manages to have the village militia enrolled in it; they now have access to weapons and the confidence to label village B as “Taliban sympathisers” or some such slur. Village B, in response, decides to send an elder who fought in the mujahideen to the Taliban leadership in Quetta. When the elder says that village A are “westerners”, he is given enough weapons for village B to create their own militia.

Of course, whether village B accepts weapons from the Taliban before or after they are labelled “Taliban sympathisers” is a moot point — the key thing is that everyone is manipulating everyone else in order to access resources that will bolster their cause.

That partly explains why commanders and militias change sides all the time, and most actors very sensibly maintain feet in both the government and Taliban camps.

In 2011, I remember meeting a local Taliban commander who had been welcomed into the Afghan government and supplied with motorbikes and weapons to form his own (government-aligned) village defence militia. He had switched back less than a month later: in Afghanistan, survival always trumps ideology. Even the Afghan government sometimes deploys the Taliban and ISIS as spectres to ensure funds and commitments from international partners, such as the US.

Yet this mythologised Taliban died in 2001, when Pakistani funding all but dried up. So to describe the country’s civil war without reference to its vast array of tribal alliances, as a recent New York Times article does, is to miss the fundamental point. Likewise, while it may be hard to describe exactly what the Taliban are, it is not difficult to describe what they are not; they are not, as this BBC article helpfully describes, a coherent organisation. But it is upon this assumption of Taliban coherence that the plans of the Afghan government, the US and all the other involved countries rest.

And that could have serious repercussions. For assuming that the US continues on their withdrawal (and other countries follow them, because they can’t exist without the massive US logistical footprint in the country), the country is going to fragment, much like it did in the 1990s when the Russians withdrew.

In a mirror of today, it was assumed then that the mujahideen, who fought the Russians throughout the 1980s, would take over the government. But they were utterly divided, more interested in pursuing personal interests, so they ended up fighting each other. History is meant to rhyme, and not repeat, but in Afghanistan, the latter seems highly plausible.

When I speak to friends in Kabul, they are terrified, and trying to get themselves and as many relatives as possible out of the country. Afghanistan, they say, is about to collapse into tens or hundreds of fiefdoms. Those over 35 or so have memories of the different factions fighting over Kabul in the early nineties — the rocket attacks, the rapes and the brutal pogroms inflicted on the neighbourhoods of opposing ethnicities. Afghanistan’s current leadership, whether government or Taliban, won’t be able to be control it any more than anyone else.

And so we come to the recurring question of the last 20 years: what should the US President do about Afghanistan? Well, President Biden, there are a number of practical decisions to take. If you want to stop Afghanistan splintering into random fiefdoms, you should keep a minimal number of troops in the country and spend enough money necessary to keep the national ring road open (there is only one main road in Afghanistan), and the provincial centres in government hands. Accept that you are there for the long haul, like in Germany or South Korea, and see it as part of your policy towards China, a neighbour with acute interests in Afghanistan and the surrounding countries.

But as you reconsider America’s policy towards Afghanistan, you would do well to remember that, above all else, you will not be able to beat the Taliban, because what you understand as the Taliban simply do not exist.

Source: Unherd

Paul McLeary - Wed Mar 03, 2021 20:57

WASHINGTON: The Marine Corps commandant has for the first time put Russia alongside Iran, North Korea, and extremist groups as areas that will “continue to pose threats,” while elevating China to the undisputed top of threats facing US policy makers.

“China will remain the pacing threat for the next decade,” Berger wrote in the memo obtained by Breaking Defense, a point he has made before while usually including Russia as a close second.

The ordering of the Marine Corps’ threat picture over the next decade marks a major downgrade for how the Corps sees Russia, though Gen. David Berger’s Feb. 23 memo to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin largely maintains the major internal reforms he’s pushed over the past two years. Those efforts, which include divesting of the Corps’ inventory of Abrams tanks and shedding 12,000 Marines, has been aimed at reinventing the Corps for operations across the expanses of the Pacific.

In a joint op-ed with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown just last month, they wrote that to “compete with the People’s Republic of China and Russia and successfully address other emergent challenges, the U.S. military requires a new framework for assessing readiness. It should focus less on near-term availability and more on future capability and warfighting advantage over peer adversaries.”

While Russia is formidable, it appears that Berger is no longer looking at Moscow as a peer adversary his troops will have to deal with as they operate primarily in the Pacific. “We will face both China and other competitors employing sophisticated, multi-domain strategies,” in the Pacific he added, and his 27,000 Marines in the region “require significant modernization and redesign.”

But, as he has said for the past year, Berger informed Austin he’s not asking for more money to do so.

“I have not asked for any topline increase for the Marine Corps – only that we be allowed to reinvest the savings we create by divesting of legacy capabilities and excess capacity,” he wrote, suggesting that he needs the authority to retire older equipment and shrink the size of the force to modernize the way he envisions.

That will likely come as good news for the new Pentagon leadership, which is working on the 2022 budget while operating under a flat topline that will likely remain consistent with the past two years.

“We are fielding long-endurance unmanned air vehicles and appropriate payloads for airborne communication, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare as rapidly as possible using the savings from such divestments,” the memo reports. “Additional planned divestments include more of our towed cannon artillery along with significant numbers of manned fixed and rotary wing aircraft. We are also phasing out much of our legacy logistical capacity, previously intended for sustained land operations, while modernizing the rest for distributed maritime operations.”

Last year, Berger questioned how many F-35s the Marines could sustain in the coming years, calling for smaller squadrons, cutting them from 16 to 10. Current plans call for the Marines to buy 353 of the F-35B and 67 of the F-35C carrier variants. Whether this is the beginning of a plan to buy fewer aircraft remains unclear.

Source: Breaking Defense

WASHINGTON: The Marine Corps commandant has for the first time put Russia alongside Iran, North Korea, and extremist groups as areas that will “continue to pose threats,” while elevating China to the undisputed top of threats facing US policy makers.

“China will remain the pacing threat for the next decade,” Berger wrote in the memo obtained by Breaking Defense, a point he has made before while usually including Russia as a close second.

The ordering of the Marine Corps’ threat picture over the next decade marks a major downgrade for how the Corps sees Russia, though Gen. David Berger’s Feb. 23 memo to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin largely maintains the major internal reforms he’s pushed over the past two years. Those efforts, which include divesting of the Corps’ inventory of Abrams tanks and shedding 12,000 Marines, has been aimed at reinventing the Corps for operations across the expanses of the Pacific.

In a joint op-ed with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown just last month, they wrote that to “compete with the People’s Republic of China and Russia and successfully address other emergent challenges, the U.S. military requires a new framework for assessing readiness. It should focus less on near-term availability and more on future capability and warfighting advantage over peer adversaries.”

While Russia is formidable, it appears that Berger is no longer looking at Moscow as a peer adversary his troops will have to deal with as they operate primarily in the Pacific. “We will face both China and other competitors employing sophisticated, multi-domain strategies,” in the Pacific he added, and his 27,000 Marines in the region “require significant modernization and redesign.”

But, as he has said for the past year, Berger informed Austin he’s not asking for more money to do so.

“I have not asked for any topline increase for the Marine Corps – only that we be allowed to reinvest the savings we create by divesting of legacy capabilities and excess capacity,” he wrote, suggesting that he needs the authority to retire older equipment and shrink the size of the force to modernize the way he envisions.

That will likely come as good news for the new Pentagon leadership, which is working on the 2022 budget while operating under a flat topline that will likely remain consistent with the past two years.

“We are fielding long-endurance unmanned air vehicles and appropriate payloads for airborne communication, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare as rapidly as possible using the savings from such divestments,” the memo reports. “Additional planned divestments include more of our towed cannon artillery along with significant numbers of manned fixed and rotary wing aircraft. We are also phasing out much of our legacy logistical capacity, previously intended for sustained land operations, while modernizing the rest for distributed maritime operations.”

Last year, Berger questioned how many F-35s the Marines could sustain in the coming years, calling for smaller squadrons, cutting them from 16 to 10. Current plans call for the Marines to buy 353 of the F-35B and 67 of the F-35C carrier variants. Whether this is the beginning of a plan to buy fewer aircraft remains unclear.

Source: Breaking Defense

Rafi Metz - Wed Mar 03, 2021 15:15

MIDDLE EAST—Emmy winner and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo scored another award this week as Al-Qaeda honored him with their Jihadi of the Year prize for killing more Americans than they ever have–three times as many Americans as the terrorist organization did on 9/11.

“We really thought we outdid everybody with our attacks on 9/11,” Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said. “We thought nobody would ever be able to pull off something equivalent or worse than our attacks.

“But you know, Cuomo did it and more power to him. He did an amazing job, so our hats off to the scumbag infidel. He will take home the golden grenade launcher.

“Next year’s contestants are really going to have to work harder. I know some Jihadis that are aiming for Cuomo’s record as we speak – it’ll be carnage and murder on a scale never seen before.”

Cuomo humbly accepted the award. “Sure I was the one who murdered all those senior citizens, but I made sure to do it while wearing a mask and social distancing.”

Following the slogan, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” Al-Qaeda officially hired Cuomo as its new leader.

Cuomo will be staring in the hit new show next year called “How I Killed Your Grandmother.”

Source: Genesius Times

Text may contain traces of satire.

MIDDLE EAST—Emmy winner and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo scored another award this week as Al-Qaeda honored him with their Jihadi of the Year prize for killing more Americans than they ever have–three times as many Americans as the terrorist organization did on 9/11.

“We really thought we outdid everybody with our attacks on 9/11,” Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said. “We thought nobody would ever be able to pull off something equivalent or worse than our attacks.

“But you know, Cuomo did it and more power to him. He did an amazing job, so our hats off to the scumbag infidel. He will take home the golden grenade launcher.

“Next year’s contestants are really going to have to work harder. I know some Jihadis that are aiming for Cuomo’s record as we speak – it’ll be carnage and murder on a scale never seen before.”

Cuomo humbly accepted the award. “Sure I was the one who murdered all those senior citizens, but I made sure to do it while wearing a mask and social distancing.”

Following the slogan, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” Al-Qaeda officially hired Cuomo as its new leader.

Cuomo will be staring in the hit new show next year called “How I Killed Your Grandmother.”

Source: Genesius Times

Text may contain traces of satire.

Dave DeCamp - Wed Mar 03, 2021 14:38

In defending the US decision not to take action against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki falsely claimed that the US does not sanction foreign heads of state.

Psaki made the claim in an interview with CNN on Sunday when explaining why MbS was left out of a list of Saudis sanctioned for the Khashoggi killing. The sanctions were implemented after a newly released US intelligence report said the crown prince ordered the murder.

“Historically, and even in recent history, Democratic and Republican administrations, there have not been sanctions put in place for the leaders of foreign governments where we have diplomatic relations — and even where we don’t have diplomatic relations,” she said.

CNN fact-check on Psaki’s comments found that the previous three US administrations had sanctioned eight world leaders. President Trump slapped sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The administration of Barack Obama sanctioned North Korea’s Kim Jong UnSyrian President Bashar al-Assad, and then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. President George W. Bush imposed sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, and former Myanmar leader Than Shwe.

Psaki slightly walked back the false claim at a press briefing on Monday. She said the US “has not typically sanctioned government leaders of countries where we have diplomatic relations.” Including the caveat “not typically” makes the statement not an outright lie, but it is still misleading.

As far as not sanctioning countries the US has “diplomatic relations” with, of the eight leaders listed above, the US only had no diplomatic relations with Iran and North Korea when sanctions were imposed. The US cut diplomatic ties with Libya as it implemented the sanctions on Gadhafi.

Besides the false claim, Psaki’s comments don’t line up with the logic she used in earlier remarks. While MbS is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, his father, King Salman, is still technically the head of state. At a press briefing on February 16th, Psaki recognized that fact.

Psaki said reporters had asked her whether or not Biden would speak with MbS, but she insisted that King Salman was the appropriate contact for the president. “The President’s counterpart is King Salman, and I expect that, in appropriate time, he would have a conversation with him,” she said. President Biden ultimately spoke with King Salman on February 25th.

Source: Antiwar.com

In defending the US decision not to take action against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki falsely claimed that the US does not sanction foreign heads of state.

Psaki made the claim in an interview with CNN on Sunday when explaining why MbS was left out of a list of Saudis sanctioned for the Khashoggi killing. The sanctions were implemented after a newly released US intelligence report said the crown prince ordered the murder.

“Historically, and even in recent history, Democratic and Republican administrations, there have not been sanctions put in place for the leaders of foreign governments where we have diplomatic relations — and even where we don’t have diplomatic relations,” she said.

CNN fact-check on Psaki’s comments found that the previous three US administrations had sanctioned eight world leaders. President Trump slapped sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The administration of Barack Obama sanctioned North Korea’s Kim Jong UnSyrian President Bashar al-Assad, and then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. President George W. Bush imposed sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, and former Myanmar leader Than Shwe.

Psaki slightly walked back the false claim at a press briefing on Monday. She said the US “has not typically sanctioned government leaders of countries where we have diplomatic relations.” Including the caveat “not typically” makes the statement not an outright lie, but it is still misleading.

As far as not sanctioning countries the US has “diplomatic relations” with, of the eight leaders listed above, the US only had no diplomatic relations with Iran and North Korea when sanctions were imposed. The US cut diplomatic ties with Libya as it implemented the sanctions on Gadhafi.

Besides the false claim, Psaki’s comments don’t line up with the logic she used in earlier remarks. While MbS is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, his father, King Salman, is still technically the head of state. At a press briefing on February 16th, Psaki recognized that fact.

Psaki said reporters had asked her whether or not Biden would speak with MbS, but she insisted that King Salman was the appropriate contact for the president. “The President’s counterpart is King Salman, and I expect that, in appropriate time, he would have a conversation with him,” she said. President Biden ultimately spoke with King Salman on February 25th.

Source: Antiwar.com

Colonel Cassad - Wed Mar 03, 2021 13:27

Recently published new footage of an Iranian missile strike on the American military base Ain Assad in 2020 in retaliation for the murder of Qassem Soleimani. It was the first open strike by another country on a US military facility in a long time.

Iran, through the Iraqi and Qatari diplomatic channel, notified the United States in advance that it would bomb the base, giving the United States time to remove personnel to bomb shelters, and planes and helicopters to other bases.

According to official statements, the total number of wounded and shell-shocked people was 115, although these numbers are also questioned, since the Pentagon was caught several times for underestimating losses during strikes on the Ain al-Assad base.

The Americans note the high accuracy of the Iranian missiles and the fact that if Iran struck without warning, the losses would be enormous. In this case, the United States would have had to react, otherwise they pretended that "nothing terrible happened."

View from the UAV.

View from the ground.

Below, a more complete version of the plot in English, where these shots were presented with a commentary by an American general.

Source: Live Journal

Recently published new footage of an Iranian missile strike on the American military base Ain Assad in 2020 in retaliation for the murder of Qassem Soleimani. It was the first open strike by another country on a US military facility in a long time.

Iran, through the Iraqi and Qatari diplomatic channel, notified the United States in advance that it would bomb the base, giving the United States time to remove personnel to bomb shelters, and planes and helicopters to other bases.

According to official statements, the total number of wounded and shell-shocked people was 115, although these numbers are also questioned, since the Pentagon was caught several times for underestimating losses during strikes on the Ain al-Assad base.

The Americans note the high accuracy of the Iranian missiles and the fact that if Iran struck without warning, the losses would be enormous. In this case, the United States would have had to react, otherwise they pretended that "nothing terrible happened."

View from the UAV.

View from the ground.

Below, a more complete version of the plot in English, where these shots were presented with a commentary by an American general.

Source: Live Journal

bne IntelliNews - Wed Mar 03, 2021 12:34

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban received the Chinese Sinopharm jab, one of the non-EMA approved vaccines on February 28. Hungary is the only EU country to have approved the use of the vaccine and has ordered a total of 5mn doses. Earlier, the PM stated that he would personally choose the Chinese vaccine, but also highlighted the reliability of the Russian one.

"My standpoint is that the Chinese have known this virus the longest, so I believe that they probably also know the most about it. Anyway, I’m waiting for my turn, and if at that point I have a choice of vaccines, I’ll ask for the Chinese one",  he told state media a month ago.

The government claims that buying from China and Russia is essential to speed up inoculation and reach herd immunity faster as it constantly pins the blame on the EU for being slow on the delivery of vaccines.

Hungary has secured a total of 19.7mn doses from western manufacturers [little of which has been delivered], including AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Janssen and Curevac, 5mn from China and 2mn from Russia.

Vaccination has been heavily overpoliticised. The cabinet blames the opposition for speaking out against vaccines coming from the East as public trust in Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V is extremely low.

Opposition parties say Orban pressured health authorities to give the green light for these drugs in Hungary. Experts claim that  Sinopharm has not provided the complete, detailed results of its clinical trials.

After calls by the opposition, the government was forced to admit they had ordered fewer doses from Moderna from the EU pool than available because it costs more than Pfizer. Comments like that are not helping the acceptance of Eastern vaccines.

Statements like that are also at odds with claims that there is no financial burdens to protecting lives. During the first wave Hungary bought 16,000 ventilators, although health experts warned that there are only 2,200 skilled personnel to operate them at a single time.

In his regular Friday morning interview with state media, the prime minister did not rule out imposing further restrictions.

This came after stark warnings by officials and Orban himself that the next two weeks would be critical and the situation could worsen dramatically.

Last week Hungary saw weekly infections surge to 25,000 from 15,000 in the previous week and from 10,000 between February 8-14. The weekly growth per 100,000 inhabitants was the fastest in the world.

Hungary changing vaccination protocol 

Hungary’s chief medical officer announced over the weekend that the country has changed its vaccination protocol to delay the second jab to favour boosting the vaccination rate. On Saturday a record 104,000 people received a jab, a two-fold increase from the previous days' average.

Over the weekend, the government also amended the decree on the vaccination certificate, which must not indicate the type of jab received. This means that authorities can’t check whether it was a vaccine approved by European Medicenes Agency or by the Chinese or a Russian one.

The government did not comment on rules introduced by Poland. Health authorities said that travellers without a negative test would have to stay in self-isolation for 14 days. The same would apply to people with non-EMA approved vaccines.

Hungary's president also received the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine on Friday. Janos Ader urged people to get vaccinated and trust doctors and the Hungary's healthcare system.

Source: Bne Intellinews


Slovakia has purchased 2 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, making it the second country in the EU to go ahead and purchase the shot, which has not been approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Prime Minister Igor Matovič held a press conference Monday at the Košice Airport, where the first delivery of the vaccine arrived, reported local newspaper SME. He declared that the Russian vaccine will allow the country to speed up its vaccination program by 40 percent.

Health Minister Marek Krajčí said the shot won't be administered right away because it still requires a sign-off from the national drug regulator, the newspaper wrote.

According to the Slovak Spectator, the country has received 200,000 doses, with 800,000 more due in March and April, and a final million scheduled for May and June.

But the decision to break ranks with the rest of the bloc is already causing tensions, with one member of parliament, Tomáš Valášek, quitting the government coalition over the decision.

Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok was also critical of the move. He took to Facebook to criticize Matovič's decision to attend the arrival of the Sputnik shots, noting the lack of EMA approval to date.

Source: Politico


The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund) announces the registration of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against coronavirus in the Slovak Republic.

Thus Slovakia has become the 39th country in the world and the second country of the European Union to authorize the use of Sputnik V. The vaccine was approved under the emergency use authorization procedure. The approval is based on the results of the clinical trials of Sputnik V in Russia and a comprehensive assessment of the vaccine by experts in Slovakia.

First shipment of the vaccine to Slovakia was delivered on March 1.

Sputnik V is one of the world's top three coronavirus vaccines in terms of the number of approvals issued by government regulators. It is now registered in 39 countries with total population of over 1.1 billion people.

The vaccine had been approved earlier in Russia, Belarus, Argentina, Bolivia, Serbia, Algeria, Palestine, Venezuela, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Hungary, UAE, Iran, Republic of Guinea, Tunisia, Armenia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Republika Srpska (entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Lebanon, Myanmar, Pakistan, Mongolia, Bahrain, Montenegro, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Gabon, San-Marino, Ghana, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Guyana, Egypt, Honduras, Guatemala and Moldova.

Source: Sputnik Vaccine

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban received the Chinese Sinopharm jab, one of the non-EMA approved vaccines on February 28. Hungary is the only EU country to have approved the use of the vaccine and has ordered a total of 5mn doses. Earlier, the PM stated that he would personally choose the Chinese vaccine, but also highlighted the reliability of the Russian one.

"My standpoint is that the Chinese have known this virus the longest, so I believe that they probably also know the most about it. Anyway, I’m waiting for my turn, and if at that point I have a choice of vaccines, I’ll ask for the Chinese one",  he told state media a month ago.

The government claims that buying from China and Russia is essential to speed up inoculation and reach herd immunity faster as it constantly pins the blame on the EU for being slow on the delivery of vaccines.

Hungary has secured a total of 19.7mn doses from western manufacturers [little of which has been delivered], including AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Janssen and Curevac, 5mn from China and 2mn from Russia.

Vaccination has been heavily overpoliticised. The cabinet blames the opposition for speaking out against vaccines coming from the East as public trust in Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V is extremely low.

Opposition parties say Orban pressured health authorities to give the green light for these drugs in Hungary. Experts claim that  Sinopharm has not provided the complete, detailed results of its clinical trials.

After calls by the opposition, the government was forced to admit they had ordered fewer doses from Moderna from the EU pool than available because it costs more than Pfizer. Comments like that are not helping the acceptance of Eastern vaccines.

Statements like that are also at odds with claims that there is no financial burdens to protecting lives. During the first wave Hungary bought 16,000 ventilators, although health experts warned that there are only 2,200 skilled personnel to operate them at a single time.

In his regular Friday morning interview with state media, the prime minister did not rule out imposing further restrictions.

This came after stark warnings by officials and Orban himself that the next two weeks would be critical and the situation could worsen dramatically.

Last week Hungary saw weekly infections surge to 25,000 from 15,000 in the previous week and from 10,000 between February 8-14. The weekly growth per 100,000 inhabitants was the fastest in the world.

Hungary changing vaccination protocol 

Hungary’s chief medical officer announced over the weekend that the country has changed its vaccination protocol to delay the second jab to favour boosting the vaccination rate. On Saturday a record 104,000 people received a jab, a two-fold increase from the previous days' average.

Over the weekend, the government also amended the decree on the vaccination certificate, which must not indicate the type of jab received. This means that authorities can’t check whether it was a vaccine approved by European Medicenes Agency or by the Chinese or a Russian one.

The government did not comment on rules introduced by Poland. Health authorities said that travellers without a negative test would have to stay in self-isolation for 14 days. The same would apply to people with non-EMA approved vaccines.

Hungary's president also received the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine on Friday. Janos Ader urged people to get vaccinated and trust doctors and the Hungary's healthcare system.

Source: Bne Intellinews


Slovakia has purchased 2 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, making it the second country in the EU to go ahead and purchase the shot, which has not been approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Prime Minister Igor Matovič held a press conference Monday at the Košice Airport, where the first delivery of the vaccine arrived, reported local newspaper SME. He declared that the Russian vaccine will allow the country to speed up its vaccination program by 40 percent.

Health Minister Marek Krajčí said the shot won't be administered right away because it still requires a sign-off from the national drug regulator, the newspaper wrote.

According to the Slovak Spectator, the country has received 200,000 doses, with 800,000 more due in March and April, and a final million scheduled for May and June.

But the decision to break ranks with the rest of the bloc is already causing tensions, with one member of parliament, Tomáš Valášek, quitting the government coalition over the decision.

Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok was also critical of the move. He took to Facebook to criticize Matovič's decision to attend the arrival of the Sputnik shots, noting the lack of EMA approval to date.

Source: Politico


The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund) announces the registration of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against coronavirus in the Slovak Republic.

Thus Slovakia has become the 39th country in the world and the second country of the European Union to authorize the use of Sputnik V. The vaccine was approved under the emergency use authorization procedure. The approval is based on the results of the clinical trials of Sputnik V in Russia and a comprehensive assessment of the vaccine by experts in Slovakia.

First shipment of the vaccine to Slovakia was delivered on March 1.

Sputnik V is one of the world's top three coronavirus vaccines in terms of the number of approvals issued by government regulators. It is now registered in 39 countries with total population of over 1.1 billion people.

The vaccine had been approved earlier in Russia, Belarus, Argentina, Bolivia, Serbia, Algeria, Palestine, Venezuela, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Hungary, UAE, Iran, Republic of Guinea, Tunisia, Armenia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Republika Srpska (entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Lebanon, Myanmar, Pakistan, Mongolia, Bahrain, Montenegro, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Gabon, San-Marino, Ghana, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Guyana, Egypt, Honduras, Guatemala and Moldova.

Source: Sputnik Vaccine

Anti-Empire - Tue Mar 02, 2021 19:12

The site has never been much liked by Google but has now gotten to where more people find it via Duckduckgo (2.3% of the market) than with Google (87% of the market):

By some measure, pageviews originating on Google are more than 90 percent down from where they were back in 2019:

It was bound to happen. Google does not hide it has employees check news sites and manually assign them "authoritativeness" and "trustworthiness" ratings, which then determine if Google will promote you, or suppress you.

The site has never been much liked by Google but has now gotten to where more people find it via Duckduckgo (2.3% of the market) than with Google (87% of the market):

By some measure, pageviews originating on Google are more than 90 percent down from where they were back in 2019:

It was bound to happen. Google does not hide it has employees check news sites and manually assign them "authoritativeness" and "trustworthiness" ratings, which then determine if Google will promote you, or suppress you.

Anti-Empire >>

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