The pandemic continues with no end in sight. Now we're being told we may still be wearing masks in 2022. That's outrageous. This has been a massive failure and, clearly, Joe Biden's not going to be any better at addressing the pandemic.
This is going around the world and it should result in us asking serious questions about our government and what it provides and what it should be providing. Alex Lantier (WSWS) reports:
Yesterday, the official death toll from the coronavirus pandemic across Europe surpassed 800,000.
Death on this scale is so massive a blow to society that it is difficult to comprehend. It is as if the cities of Frankfurt (753,056) or Amsterdam (821,752) had been wiped off the map. The loss of life has surpassed the total casualties at the battle of Verdun in World War I, and the number of soldiers killed in the gigantic 1941 battle of Moscow during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
One in 529 people has died of COVID-19 in Belgium, one in 545 in the Czech Republic, one in 558 in Britain, one in 625 in Italy, one in 630 in Portugal, and one in 646 in Bosnia. As deaths surge and births collapse, life expectancy has fallen in Western Europe for the first time since World War II: 1.5 years in Italy, one year in Spain and Britain, and half a year in Sweden and France.
Tens of millions in Europe have lost loved ones. By last month, 63 percent of Spaniards, 59 percent of Poles, 58 percent of Italians, 57 percent of Britons and Swedes, 51 percent of Frenchmen and 34 percent of Germans had at least one relative or close friend test positive. Fully 19 percent in Spain and Poland, 21 percent in Italy, 13 percent in Britain, 11 percent in France, 10 percent in Sweden and 8 percent in Germany, saw a relative or close friend die.
Tens of millions of workers lost their jobs as the economy fell by 11 percent in Spain, 10 percent in Britain, 9 percent in Italy, 8 percent in France, 5 percent in Germany, and 3 percent in Poland and Russia. Restaurants, theaters, gyms and other small businesses are unsure when or even if they will ever be able to reopen normally. Students who have lost part-time jobs are lining up to receive food and basic supplies from charities or other associations.
The pandemic is not only a tragedy, but a comprehensive failure of the social order. A ruling class utterly indifferent to human life is carrying out policies that amount, as the prestigious BMJ (British Medical Journal) recently wrote, to “social murder.”
Today, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 stands at 33.5 million, or about 5 percent of Europe’s population. Every day, 100,000 people or more test positive, and deadlier variants of the virus spread further. The Czech Republic recently appealed for international aid, with its hospitals overwhelmed, and expected to be swamped in two to three weeks. It received only one reply, from Berlin, offering to take just nine patients.
Yet amid warnings from scientists that a new upsurge of cases due to the variants is inevitable unless drastic action is taken, capitalist governments across Europe are rejecting shelter-at-home orders and moving to eliminate remaining social distancing measures.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Thursday:
Thursday, March 25, 2021. In the US, the war on speech continues, the Pope prepares to visit Iraq, and much more.
"I think," failed everywhere personality Soledad O'Brien, "that you should not be allowed -- and this should be for the news organization -- should not want people on the air if they are liars and they are in fact lying."
Soledad said that. While sporting the most ridiculous eyebrows you will ever in your life see. But she said that. This pimp for the Iraq War said that. This liar who used her position as a co-anchor of NBC's WEEKEND TODAY to lie constantly about the Iraq War.
As for not allowing lying to occur? They'd have to fire pretty much every person they have. They lie and they lie again. Carrying out the lies of Bully Boy Bush, NBC's David Gregory went on the air to attack Paul O'Neal for Ron Suskind's THE PRICE OF LOYALTY and how dare Paul steal these memos and how . . . And I'm on the phone with a friend at TODAY asking, "Did the fool read the introduction to the book he's waving around right now?" Because it's right there in the introduction that the White House, at Paul's request gave him the memos on a disc. The lies of the media have been big and small and the incompetence always gets rewarded -- which is how the hideous David Gregory ended up later becoming the host of MEET THE PRESS and running off a huge portion of the audience before he was finally dismissed.
Soledad was speaking at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday (stream it here).
"I am a proponent of debating," proclaimed known liar Soledad. "I do not believe that lies deserve equal time"
Really? Because she wasn't when she was at TODAY. Not only did she cheerlead the Iraq War, she mocked TODAY proper for the debate they did offer -- a townhall discussion on the war -- moderated by Katie Couric. She trashed that segment, she mocked and insisted to everyone who would listen that if she were the co-host of the Monday through Friday broadcasts of TODAY that never would have happened.
"There are verifiable facts," Soledad insisted. Where were the verifiable facts when you're cheerleading the Iraq War, Soledad.
The news media whored for the Iraq War and they think they can just walk away from that. You can't. You betrayed the trust of the American people and you never took accountability and you never apologized or did anything to fix it.
Did anything to fix it?
They rewarded the liars. And that's not just NBC and THE NEW YORK TIMES, that's MOTHER JONES which has Kevin Drum, for example.
The people who told the truth about Iraq didn't end up with columns or talk shows.
They weren't rewarded.
The media has lied repeatedly -- not just about the Iraq War -- and they have earned the low opinion that the public has of them.
But what does Soledad think happens? And what business does the government have in regulating speech? None.
Earlier this week, Glenn Greenwald (SUBSTACK via ICH) weighed in on efforts of some Democratic members of Congress attempting to attack the First Amendment:
Not even two months into their reign as the majority party that controls the White House and both houses of Congress, key Democrats have made clear that one of their top priorities is censorship of divergent voices. On Saturday, I detailed how their escalating official campaign to coerce and threaten social media companies into more aggressively censoring views that they dislike — including by summoning social media CEOs to appear before them for the third time in less than five months — is implicating, if not already violating, core First Amendment rights of free speech.
Now they are going further — much further. The same Democratic House Committee that is demanding greater online censorship from social media companies now has its sights set on the removal of conservative cable outlets, including Fox News, from the airwaves.
[. . .]
Since when is it the role of the U.S. Government to arbitrate and enforce precepts of “journalistic integrity”? Unless you believe in the right of the government to regulate and control what the press says — a power which the First Amendment explicitly prohibits — how can anyone be comfortable with members of Congress arrogating unto themselves the power to dictate what media outlets are permitted to report and control how they discuss and analyze the news of the day?
But what House Democrats are doing here is far more insidious than what is revealed by that creepy official announcement. Two senior members of that Committee, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Silicon-Valley) and Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) also sent their own letters to seven of the nation’s largest cable providers — Comcast, AT&T, Spectrum, Dish, Verizon, Cox and Altice — as well as to digital distributors of cable news (Roku, Amazon, Apple, Google and Hulu) demanding to know, among other things, what those cable distributors did to prevent conservative “disinformation” prior to the election and after — disinformation, they said, that just so happened to be spread by the only conservative cable outlets: Fox, Newsmax and OANN.
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq March 5th through March 8th. It would be the first visit by a pope to Iraq.
Like people in the rest of the world, Pope Francis is clearly going a little stir-crazy staying cooped up at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The globetrotting pontiff has been grounded since November 2019 when he visited Thailand and Japan. But if all goes to plan, Francis will hit the road again on March 5 with a four-day, six-city visit to Iraq, which has seen a spate in violence with three attacks on the U.S.-led coalition in the course of a week and a surge in coronavirus cases that sent the country into a strict two-week lockdown. The Iraq Health Ministry said the new wave is “being driven by religious activities—including Friday prayers and visits to shrines —and large crowds in markets, restaurants, malls and parks, where greetings with handshakes and kisses are the norm.”
While the Pope plans to visit, the US intends to stay and stay forever. Bonnie Kristian (DEFENSE ONE) reports:
The new administration’s goals for the war in Iraq, at least as briefly outlined last Tuesday to the United Nations Security Council, are likely to prolong U.S. involvement indefinitely.
“Among its top priorities, the United States will seek to help Iraq assert its sovereignty in the face of enemies, at home and abroad, by preventing an ISIS resurgence and working toward Iraq’s stability,” Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Mills told his fellow diplomats. That means facilitating free and fair elections, Mills continued, plus fighting Iran-linked militias and terrorist groups like the Islamic State, as well as funneling money toward economic development, humanitarian improvements, and the elimination of corruption. “The United States will remain a steady, reliable partner for Iraq, and for the Iraqi people,” he concluded, “today and in the future.”
That’s an understatement. With goals as expansive and flexible as these, the United States will have a military presence and roster of associated nation-building projects in Iraq not only through the end of the Biden administration but for decades to come.
Biden campaigned on a promise to “end the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, which have cost us untold blood and treasure.” “Staying entrenched in unwinnable conflicts,” he rightly reasoned, “only drains our capacity to lead on other issues that require our attention, and it prevents us from rebuilding the other instruments of American power.” And Biden had a record as a voice of comparative restraint in the Obama administration to give that pledge some credence, as campaign pledges go. In those years as vice president, he opposed the surge in Afghanistan. He was also against U.S. regime change in Libya, and he was willing to accept a federalized Iraq to reduce violent internal rivalries with less U.S. involvement.
We'll wind down with this from Human Rights Watch:
On February 15, Iraqi authorities detained at least four men,
with alleged ties to a unit within the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF
or Hashad, formally under the control of the prime minister) who are
alleged to have killed at least four protesters
in the southern city of Basra in January 2020. One of the detained men
holds a senior police position. These arrests represent an important
step in government efforts to fulfill its promise to hold accountable
those who have abused or killed protesters, but authorities should take
swift action to carry out further arrests of abusive forces where there
is evidence that they are linked to recent attacks, Human Rights Watch
“These arrests in Basra may represent a real change in the government’s willingness to hold its own forces accountable for perpetrating serious crimes and will help deter such abuses in the future,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government should also ensure that the trials of the men are fair and devoid of any political influence.”
Protests broke out in south and central Iraq in October 2019, with violence and excessive force killing at least 487 protesters and wounding thousands more. At the same time, a range of armed forces targeted protesters with harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and enforced disappearances. In May 2020, then-newly appointed Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced the creation of a committee to investigate killings and other attacks on protesters but until now no information has been made public about the work or findings of the committee.
On February 15, al-Kadhimi announced on Twitter that “The death squad that terrorized our people in Basra, and killed innocents, are now in the hands of our heroic forces, on their way to a fair trial.” On the same day, a local media outlet publicized the names of four men detained for their alleged role in this death squad linked to the PMF Hezbollah Brigades with potential ties to another PMF unit as well. According to other media coverage, authorities arrested them for their roles in the killings of Jinan Madi, a paramedic who had been treating wounded protesters at demonstrations when she was killed, Ahmed Abdessamad, 37, a journalist, and his cameraman Safaa Ghali, 26, who had been covering the protests for Dijlah, a privately owned local station, and Mojtaba Ahmed al-Skini, 14, a protester. A source close to the government said that authorities had identified 16 men implicated in the killings, but most had already fled the country.
Given extensive documentation of the unfair nature of Iraq’s criminal justice system, which often relies solely on confessions to convict, the government and judicial authorities need to preserve the credibility of measures to rein in abusive security forces by ensuring that these trials are fair, Human Rights Watch said.
While the Basra arrests mark a positive step when it comes to accountability, PMF attacks on protesters have continued. Ali Naseer Alawy, 25, a prominent member of the protest movement in Najaf, told Human Rights Watch that on February 12, four armed masked men in black uniforms picked him up off the street within view of a police patrol, which did not intervene, at around 6:30 p.m. He said they put him into a white pickup truck with no license plate and drove him to an office where they blindfolded him and started beating his back and legs with the butts of their guns. He said,
I could tell there were many men in the room who were asking me all sorts of questions about other activists’ names and who was leading the protests in Najaf. They saw I had tattooed October 25, the first day of protests in Najaf, on my arm and they tried to remove it with an acid mixture. They also attached electric cables to me and shocked my chest and legs before I fainted.
Alawy said that when he regained consciousness, he found himself
lying on a highway outside the city near his house. It was about 1 a.m.
He went to the hospital where he spoke to police but said that because
he did not know who the kidnappers were, there was no point in filing a
complaint. He said he believes that they must wield power since nearby
police had done nothing to intervene in his abduction. He shared two
photographs with Human Rights Watch that show bruising and blood on his
face and scarring on his shoulder and back around his tattoo. Alawy is
currently in hiding and said he still receives threatening messages on
In addition, there has been no accountability for other killings of protesters in Basra since 2019, despite the government’s commitments. For example, on October 3, 2019, Hussein Adel Madani was shot dead along with his wife by masked gunmen who stormed their house. The couples were taking part in ongoing protest. On August 14, 2020 two masked armed men in civilian dress shot and killed activist Tahseen Osama Ali, 30, in his apartment. On August 19, 2020, Reham Yacoub, a doctor and activist in the local protest movement since 2018, was shot by an unidentifiable armed man on the back of a motorcycle. As far as Human Rights Watch is aware, the authorities have yet to arrest any suspects of these killings.
“The government can prove there has been meaningful change only when protesters no longer fear getting hauled off the streets in broad daylight and held and tortured with impunity,” said Wille.
The following sites updated: