Thursday, February 27, 2020

Warning: Be Prepared

"This virus will show up. This is going to come soon, potentially. You've got to be shifting to readiness, rapid-response thinking."
"Think the virus is going to show up tomorrow. If you don't think that way, you're not going to be ready. [It's] an incredibly interconnected world."
"Why don’t you look at, have you got 100 beds where you can isolate people if you have to? Have you got a wing of a hospital that you’re going to close off? Have you got 30 ventilators?"
Dr.Bruce Aylward, Canadian epidemiologist, WHO

"Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in the United States. It's not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses."
"Disruptions to everyday life might be severe."
Nancy Messonnier, director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, U.S.

"The measures taken by the Italian government or the regional governments have been pretty strong and most likely should help in containing this virus as good as possible."
Christian Lindmeier, WHO, Geneva

"It is an uninvited and inauspicious visitor."
"God willing we will get through ... this virus."
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

"We're told we're in quarantine due to an Italian doctor testing for the coronavirus."
"The hotel seems to be acting normally, except that we cannot go out."
Christopher Betts, British guest, Costa Adeje Palace hotel, Tenerife, Canary Islands
Paramedics carry a stretcher off an ambulance in Hong Kong on Sunday, February 23.
Paramedics carry a stretcher off an ambulance in Hong Kong on Sunday, February 23. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images
Health officials in the United States have now urged Americans to begin preparing for the virus known as COVID-19 through leaders of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health responding to a rapid surge in cases of the novel coronavirus in locations outside mainland China. Where in the past several days Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand have been identifying cases lacking a known source of exposure.

A worker sprays antiseptic solution against the coronavirus in Seoul yesterday.
A worker sprays antiseptic solution against the coronavirus in Seoul yesterday. Credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Over 80,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been diagnosed worldwide, resulting in 2,700 deaths, mostly in China. Dr. Bruce Aylward has just returned from a two-week mission he headed on behalf of the World Health Organization to assess with his team of experts, how China is managing its epidemic. Efforts on the part of the government in Beijing appear to be failing the intention to contain the virus within the country.

South Korea has now diagnosed close to a thousand cases and up to 16 people have died in Iran from the coronavirus. In Italy the 11th death has been reported and for the first time Switzerland and Austria are reporting cases, along with a luxury resort in Spain where a four-star Canary Islands hotel is in lock-down following an Italian doctor and his wife testing positive for the virus.

According to Dr.Aylward's team, affected countries should be looking for expertise from China in management and treatment of COVID-19, taking particular note of the aggressive approach to testing, containing and treating people who have contracted coronavirus in China where entire cities of millions of people have been locked down in an effort to ensure COVID-19 is contained as much as posible.

Iraqi health officials and Civil Defense staff wearing protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus in the commercial markets and hotels used by Iranian citizens, in Najaf, Iraq, Wednesday, February 26.
Iraqi health officials and Civil Defense staff wearing protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus in the commercial markets and hotels used by Iranian citizens, in Najaf, Iraq, Wednesday, February 26. Anmar Khalil/AP
The numbers of new cases has been declining in China, stresses Dr. Aylward, due to certain measures undertaken including door-to-door checks of people in their homes to determine their temperature, discovering sick people and ordering them into mass treatment centres. No doubt those people whose homes are suffering intrusion, shake with dread at the very thought of being herded helplessly into containment centres with drug shortages, overworked health workers and cot-to-cot crowded conditions.

He is warning that spread of the virus to other countries now seems inevitable, and the need to tackle the epidemic with the goal of tracing every case and stopping chains of transmission is paramount, urging all countries to make certain their hospitals increase their capacities and have on hand sufficient ventilators for the very ill. Quarantining of large numbers of people coming into contact with others who have confirmed cases of the disease is imperative, he stresses.

Dick Pound, speaking for the International Olympics Committee, is of the opinion that this summer's Tokyo Olympics might be cancelled should the coronavirus not be under control by late May. The government of Italy has ordered a clampdown on gatherings. The Venice carnival, one of the largest of gatherings typically running for several weeks has been closed down early for the first time in decades.

Iran's death toll of 16 represents the most such deaths outside China. Iran's deputy health minister, the face of the government's campaign against the virus, tested positive for coronavirus, the day he gave press briefing on efforts to combat the outbreak. American health officials announced the first clinical trial testing of Gilead Sciences Inc.'s experimental antiviral drug, remdesivir in hospitalized patients with the coronavirus, now beginning.

Director of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Pauci, announced a potential coronavirus vaccine could be tested in people within six weeks in a Phase 1 trial.

Korean Air employees are seen at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) wearing masks, to prevent the coronavirus infection,COVID-19 on February 12.
Korean Air employees are seen at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) wearing masks, to prevent the coronavirus infection,COVID-19 on February 12. Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

COVID-19 Initiation and Update

"In early December, a strange cluster of patients from a local seafood market, which also sold wildlife for consumption, started showing up in Wuhan hospitals. These initial patients developed a fever and pneumonia that did not seem to be caused by any known viruses. Given the SARS experience of 2003, local doctors were quickly alarmed. With any such novel virus, medical providers are keen to know how it spreads: If the virus is unable to spread from human to human, it’s a tragedy, but a local one, and for only a few people. If it can sustainably spread from human to human, as was the case with SARS, it could turn into a global pandemic, with potentially massive numbers of victims."
"Given exponential growth dynamics of infectious diseases, containing an epidemic is straightforward early on, but nearly impossible once a disease spreads among a population. So it’s maximally important to identify and quarantine candidate cases as early as possible, and that means leadership must have access to accurate information."
"Before the month of December was out, the hospitals in Wuhan knew that the coronavirus was spreading among humans. Medical workers who had treated the sick but never visited the seafood market were falling ill. On December 30, a group of doctors attempted to alert the public, saying that seven patients were in isolation due to a SARS-like disease. On the same day, an official document admitting both a link to the seafood market and a new disease was leaked online. On December 31, facing swirling rumors, the Wuhan government made its first official announcement, confirming 27 cases but, crucially, denying human-to-human transmission. Teams in hazmat suits were finally sent to close down the seafood market, though without explaining much to the befuddled, scared vendors. On January 1, police said they had punished eight medical workers for “rumors,” including a doctor named Li Wenliang, who was among the initial group of whistleblowers."
Zeynep Tufekci, The Atlantic

Aly Song / Reuters
"For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death."
"Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet."
Dr.Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general, World Health Organization

"These signs are concerning, and they mean that the window of opportunity for containment, that is for stopping the global spread of the virus is closing."
"The global risk situation is evolving. The window for containment is closing. These signs are worrisome."
"This is something we have to be prepared for [border measures to identify potential cases no longer effective or feasible]."
"We are trying to push past winter respiratory season. That will help a lot. The World Health Organization is telling countries to prepare as if COVID-19 is a pandemic although it has not declared it one."
"We have to prepare in the event of more widespread transmission in our communities."
Chief medical officer Dr.Theresa Tam, Canada

On Monday China reported about 77,362 cases of COVID-19 and 2,618 deaths internally. The coronavirus appears to havce been blunted by China's unprecedented lockdown and restrictions, possibly having averted hundreds of thousands of cases in the epidemic, according to a team of medical experts visiting the epicentre of the outbreak last week. China has in fact, boasted that only in China could such a swift authoritarian step be taken to place 700 million people in a state of quarantine.

In Iran, religious leaders have recommended daily repeating of 7 Islamic suras to successfully ward off contamination of the virus, even while political leaders in the country have been assuring Iranians that the country foresees no epidemic in its future. Aside from which the holy Islam Shiite city of Qom was reputedly placed in lockdown, and the country's deputy minister of health was seen to be in extremis on a public platform of reassurance. The following day it was revealed he had contracted the novel coronavirus.
A worker disinfects the shrine of Hazrat Masumeh in Qom, Iran (25 February 2020)
Teams are disinfecting public spaces in Qom, including the shrine of Hazrat Masumeh   AFP
Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait have reported their first cases of the coronavirus, while in Italy six people have died while the cases in the country leaped to over 200. There are 763 cases identified in South Korea, 605 transmitted within the country, where seven people had died by Monday morning, to Iran's eight deaths. In South Korea the first medical 'red alert' since the 2009 H1N1 swine flu epidemic was declared.

All flights to and from South Korea, Thailand and Italy have been suspended by Kuwait's civil aviation authority. The government of Canada has asked travellers returning from abroad no matter where they had travelled, to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 for a two-week self-quarantine period. The 7th case of the virus has been confirmed in British Columbia. Canada's cases of coronavirus now total eleven as Ontario announced its fourth case.

Police wearing masks at a hotel in Innsbruck, Austria
Cases have emerged for the first time in countries such as Austria following the Italian outbreak   AFP

According to Dr.Michael J. Ryan, WHO executive director, it is not yet possible to know whether COVID-19 will be contained in due time, or develop into a full-blown global pandemic, or even become a seasonal pattern of transmission somewhat like the flu. Countries must however, prepare for the worst. "We believe that all countries are vulnerable. It is time to do everything you would do in preparing for a pandemic."

In translation, it means making preparations to take and treat cases and putting in place appropriate containment measures. Health care systems, warns Dr.Ryan, in even the most developed countries are already strained. And it is the potential for outbreaks in less well developed countries of the world, unable to muster the medical resources available to more economically robust nations, that most concerns the World Health Organization; it is how that issue develops that will determine when and whether a global pandemic will be called. Listed below, countries where cases of coronavirus have been discovered.
  • Afghanistan
  • Australia
  • Bahrain
  • Belgium
  • Cambodia
  • Canada
  • China (mainland)
  • Egypt
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Macao
  • Malaysia
  • Nepal
  • Philippines
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
  • Vietnam

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Theft in Technical Innovation Research Blueprints

"These are [now] Huawei employees associated with great technological accomplishments ... and I recognized so many of them. At one level you're proud to be a Canadian, at the same time you're upset to be a Canadian."
"They [Nortel Telecommunications] lost sales not because of technology copying, not because of inferior technology, they lost because the customers lost faith in them. They did not believe that Nortel would be alive in ten years."
Jonathan Calof, business professor, University of Ottawa
"What people need to hear is that economic espionage caused Nortel's failure."
"So others better beware lest they succumb to the same fate. It was sickening hen and it is sickening now to see what was stolen."
Brian Shields, security advisor, Nortel
Huawei Canada’s VP, corporate affairs Alykhan Velshi. Wayne Cuddington/Postmedia
"None of our products or technologies have been developed through the theft of trade secrets."
"Huawei's development is the result of our huge investment in R&D and the hard work of our employees over the past three decades."
Alykhan Velshi, spokesman, Huawei
"What we knew from my point of view was about the agents, the people, human actors in and around Nortel. Definitely Nortel was targeted."
"To this day, I believe there might have been one or more agents of influence controlled by the Chinese which succeeded in neutralizing our warning [of] spying activities the Chinese were conducting [against Nortel]."
Michel Juneau-Katsuya, then head, CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) Asia-Pacific desk
"That's what threw all the alarms. We just knew that we had a major problem, that an executive's credentials are being hacked and being used to infiltrate documents."
"This was a very capable adversary. You have to be pretty darn good to achieve such a level of stealth."
Larry Bill, Nortel security staff, Raleigh, North Carolina
Some have warned against Chinese tech giant Huawei's operations in Canada. Now, a new perspective from someone who says he's seen the damage spying did to Nortel. CBC
Professor Calof was on a trip to China and with him MBA students, touring Huawei Technologies' Shenzhen, China campus. Despite rumours -- and despite his own previous investigation into the possibility that Nortel employees and employees of Huawei who were then networking and where Nortel had given over an entire floor of its operations in Ottawa to Chinese technology operatives in a cooperative venture -- was shocked to recognize so many faces at the Huawei headquarters that had been familiar to him when they were working for Nortel years earlier.
Both companies produced similar equipment for telecommunications and ended up competing for contracts and through their history together negotiated joint ventures. Nortel had achieved impressive advances in its technology, becoming a giant in the field of telecommunications. Now, Nortel is gone, no longer in business, while it is Huawei whose technological advances and business enterprise represents a colossus in the field, internationally established and respected as Nortel once was.
Nortel, it seems, was victimized through an invasion of hackers based in China for at least ten years, according to information unveiled in 2012. Sensitive internal documents belonging to Nortel mysteriously ended up with Huawei, unbeknownst to Nortel's top executives. Nortel had received warning from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service as well, of spies within its operations working for China, but that warning appeared to have been given short shrift.
When the spacious Nortel headquarters building was being renovated to be transformed to a new headquarters for Canada's National Defence department, listening devices were found within the building. Ex-Nortel staff are convinced that Nortel was destroyed partly as a result of plundering on the part of the Chinese of Nortel's intellectual property, enabling Huawei to benefit hugely from Nortel's research and development and to grow into a worldwide telecommunications giant.
Just incidentally, U.S. prosecutors filed a new indictment recently accusing Huawei of using surreptitious methods to purloin the intellectual property of other companies for decades. Professor Calof and some of his colleagues at the Telfer School of Management at University of Ottawa had once undertaken a major study into the collapse of Nortel, a blow to Canadian high-tech and communications industries.
The study, when completed, made no mention of hacking or espionage; it was felt that Nortel's stellar reputation in the development of cutting-edge technology aside, sales fell because clients failed to be impressed with its performance. As for Huawei and its $15-billion annual research and development budget, $650 of that budget, Huawei reminds us, has been spent in Canada over the last decade where Huawei has 1,200 employees. 
Nortel, at the height of its industry success, provided a wide array of Internet-based networking solutions and had 90,000 employees working for it, with a market capitalization accounting for a third of the value of companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Nortel researchers in Ottawa developed the Orbiter, a mobile phone with a user-interface screen years before the iPhone revolutionized the cellphone market.
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei Shenzhen, China June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song
The 2000 Internet bubble suddenly burst, taking Nortel with it as the company's stock plummeted overnight, triggering thousands of Nortel layoffs. During that time frame of a slow demise for Nortel, Huawei flourished. Founded by a former People's Liberation Army engineer, Ren Zhengfei, Huawei began life as a small producer of phone switches in 1987, eventually branching into building telecommunications networks and producing mobile phones. Low prices gave it an outsize market share.
In 2004 a Nortel employee in the U.K. noted documents he had stored in the "LiveLink" dababase for Nortel had been downloaded by a senior executive in Canada. He emailed the manager offering help with any questions about the material, but the manager had no idea what he was talking about. Another person on Nortel's security team based in Raleigh noticed the same manager had signed into the Nortel system from multiple global locations. That manager's account had been hacked.
Seven Nortel executives had been hacked and an alarming volume of sensitive material had been plucked out of the company's databases. Most of the hacks were later traced back to IP addresses and four Internet service providers in China, mostly appearing to wind up at an ISP in Shanghai. A hugely sophisticated theft of Nortel files undetected for years, pointing to the involvement of government-directed skilled thieves. 
In 2013, a report was produced by cybersecurity firm Mandiant, revealing the existence of a major Internet-espionage organization in Shanghai, ostensibly "Unit 61398" of the People's Liberation Army. Thefts of data were tracked by Mandiant from 141 companies in twenty major industries. Among the reams of material from Nortel was a document laying out Nortel technology, various products, sales proposals including pricing and network design, along with technical papers on optical circuits and an analysis of Nortel's lost contract with former Internet firm Genuity.
Security advisor Brian Shields describes one document pilfered in 2004 was "high speed data over UMTS Quad". Huawei beat out Nortel on a Telus/Bell contract four years later; its first major project in North America, involving a form of mobile data transmission called universal mobile telecommunications service; UMTS.
Blue lights illuminate a Huawei Technologies Co. NetEngine 8000 intelligent metro router on display during a 5G event in London, U.K., on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

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Monday, February 24, 2020

Syria's Agonizing Death Knell

"We call for an immediate ceasefire to prevent further suffering and what we fear may end in a bloodbath."
"The front lines and relentless violence continue to move closer to these areas which are packed with displaced people, with bombardments increasingly affecting displacement sites and their vicinity."
Jens Laerke, spokesman, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations


Syrian army soldiers are deployed in the town of Dahra Abd Rabouh, in Aleppo province, Syria, Feb. 17, 2020
Up to almost a million people altogether have fled the area around Idlib where the Syrian regime has been closing in on Syrian Sunni rebels to retake the area in Bashar al-Assad's determination to reunite greater Syria and return it to his rule. It has been costly. Over the past nine years of conflict much of the country has been pummeled, incessantly bombed and both ancient and modern infrastructure reduced to rubble, millions of Syrian Sunnis displaced internally, and millions more having fled conflict to become refugees have sought haven across the border in Turkey, living in squalid, crowded refugee camps, but for those who have managed to enter Europe.
Members of the Syrian army deploy in the al-Rashidin 1 district, in Aleppo's southwestern countryside, on February 16, 2020. - Syrian regime forces made new gains in their offensive against the last m
Syrian state television said army units 'have liberated all the villages and small towns west of Aleppo city' [AFP]

Hundreds of hospitals have been bombed by Syrian and Russian aircraft. The Russian warplanes have given air cover to Syria's military focusing on ground battle. In the last month alone, about a half-million people from Idlib, the last point of gathering before the Turkish border, where Syrian Sunnis have ended up after fleeing earlier capture by the Syrian military of rebel-held areas. Turkey, while actively supporting the rebel factions in Syria, refuses to allow any more Syrian refugees to cross the border to join the already-three-million-strong that have gathered over the years.

Turkey's preoccupation in launching its own border crossing into Syria to clear away its own version of rebel terrorists, has seen to it that the resident Kurdish population of the border area have flown with the Turkish army's advance, clearing the way for Recep Tayyip Erdogan to make good on his plan to re-settle as many of the refugee Syrians in Turkey on the abandoned farmland and in the Kurdish towns as he can make room for. At the same time, the Turkish army is challenging Syria's advance, negotiating with Russia to reach terms all involved can sign onto.

Syrian rebels sit outside Idlib, Syria, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. Syrian troops are waging an offensive in the last rebel…
Syrian rebels Idlib, Syria, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020.last rebel stronghold. (AP Photo)

Russia and Turkey would prefer to remain allies, bu the simple reality is that each backs opposite groups; Russia supports the Assad regime which Turkey loathes, and Turkey supports the Syrian Sunni rebels which Syria and Russia regard as 'terrorists'. Turkey's intention against the Kurdish presence in the area is, as always, maliciously confrontational, planning to force them away from their traditional territory, even as they remain backed by the United States who view them as allies in the front against Islamist terrorism.

Most of the civilian population uprooted in the latest offensive in Aleppo and Idlib regions have been women and children, fleeing clashes and chaos for sanctuary north, close to the Turkish border, closed to their entry. According to Russian Defence Minsitry spokespeople, reports of hundreds of thousands of fleeing Syrians from Idlib headed to the Turkish border are entirely false. False too are the reports of Russian air power striking countless hospitals in the region, killing both medical personnel and Syrian civilians.

FILE PHOTO: Internally displaced Syrians from western Aleppo countryside, ride on a vehicle with belongings in Hazano near…
Internally displaced Syrians from western Aleppo countryside, ride on a vehicle with belongings in Hazano near Idlib, Syria, Feb. 11, 2020.

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Canadian Diplomacy

"In Iran, we're told they still want to get the equipment or expertise [to examine the black boxes of the Ukraine civil airliner shot down by the IRGC in January]."
"I'm saying, well after 30 days you haven't managed to, and since the appendix says 'without delay' I interpret the spirit of the text and the law to be without delay. So what I'm telling Iran is: let the French experts do it. France has offered to analyze the black boxes."
"We are seeing the emergence of a multipolar world with new epicentres of influence and competition over ideas and models of government. Around the world, human rights are increasingly under threat."
"On behalf of the grieving nations of this tragedy, we told [the Islamic Republic Foreign] Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif in no certain terms that Iran must take steps toward resolving many outstanding questions of fact and of law."
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne
Soldiers carry a coffin containing the remains of one of the 11 Ukrainian victims of the Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 disaster during a memorial ceremony at the Boryspil International Airport, outside Kyiv, on Jan. 19, 2020.  Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters
On February 15, a joint committee met -- representing the nations whose citizens were killed when Iran shot two missiles on January 8 over Tehran bringing down a 3-year-old Boeing 737-800, flight 752 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, mere minutes after it lifted off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had fired two anti-war missiles, killing all 176 passengers and crew aboard the passenger jet instantly. The meeting comprised of representatives of the nations whose nationals were killed issued a statement emphasizing the Islamic Republic's international obligations to respond to questions surrounding the plane's deliberate destruction.

The committee,  the "International Coordination and Response Group for victims of Flight PS752", stated its expectation that Iran would live up to its international obligations, and that the five nations involved were awaiting closure to the many unanswered questions. The crash saw the death of 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians, eleven Ukrainians, ten Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three Britons, along with Iranian victims. The committee comprised of representatives of Canada, Ukraine, Germany, Britain and Afghanistan has been patient but their patience is running thin, finding it necessary to remind Iran of its unmet responsibilities.
People walk near the wreckage after a Ukrainian plane crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran early in the morning on January 8, 2020, killing everyone on board. The Boeing 737 had left Tehran's international airport bound for Kiev, semi-official news agency ISNA said, adding that 10 ambulances were sent to the crash site.
AFP via Getty Images

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany. Tehran insists the shoot-down of the plane was the result of a misunderstanding, an unfortunate accident. But it steadfastly refuses to send the black boxes to Ukraine, to the United States or elsewhere for expert interpretation, although it is well known it has neither the equipment nor the expertise to do so on its own. Iran has tentatively offered financial compensation to the victims, as is recognized in such events, but its offer fails to reflect the seriousness of the event.

By preventing the examination of the flight records from the jetliner Iran is deliberately flouting international law. Overcoming its initial reluctance, Iran has cooperated in the repatriation of the victims' remains to their countries of origins. The many questions surrounding the 'inadvertent' shooting down of the airliner killing all aboard remain unanswered, however. The Islamic Republic's refusal to comply with Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation ensures that those answers will not be forthcoming to the satisfactjon of the international community.
Officials inspect the wreckage of the Kyiv-bound Ukraine International Airlines jet that crashed near Tehran, killing everyone onboard. Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA

As it happens, the International Civil Aviation Organization has its head office based in Montreal. Canada's Foreign Minister Champagne has asked the president of the ICAO to disallow "that situation to continue because we're going against international law here". Canada is polarized on pursuing its insistence that Iran respond to entirely reasonable expectations from the international community, and most specifically from the International Coordination and Response Group for victims of Flight PS752, which had demanded of Iran that it commit to the most basic of its responsibilities; the turnover of the black boxes for expert analyzing.

Riccardo Vecchio Imprints illustration for Foreign Policy
Riccardo Vecchio Imprints illustration for Foreign Policy

That issue has managed to slip into the background of Canada's foreign relations agenda irrespective of the fact that Canadian citizens, Iranians seeking refugee status in Canada and living in Canada with landed immigrant status pursuant to qualifying as Canadian citizens, as well as Iranian students studying in Canada who were all killed by the Iranian regime's IRGC as a result of its conflict with the United States after the assassination of the commander of the IRGC Brig.Gen.Qasem Suleimani.

The conflicting issue is the vanity project undertaken by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as his legacy, to return Canada to one of the two-year revolving United Nations Security Council seats. To which end he has fastened his attention, and dedicated time and funding in travelling to Africa to speak with leaders of countries whose vote in the United Nations he covets, leaders of countries whose human rights record is that of brutality and compromise. His diplomatic overtures are beyond naive in his willingness to overlook corrupt leaderships for the greater interest of bribing human rights abusers so Canada can have a seat where nations manipulate world events to suit their singular agendas of division and hatred.

Just as he sought to soft-peddle Canada's position in urging Iran to meet its international obligations to bring closure to the families of the dead on board the Ukrainian airliner. And in the interests of being a friend to anyone whose influence could be bought at the United Nations, bowed and scraped in amity to the foreign minister of a country whose warped designs in assigning itself power and recognition, supporting terrorism and designing intercontinental ballistic missiles to threaten the world with nuclear warheads can be overlooked for a seat on the Security Council.

Enabling the Islamic Republic of Iran to use the photographs and video of a smiling, ingratiating Prime Minister of Canada to show its disaffected Iranian public that the government they would prefer to unseat has friends in the West. An Iranian public horrified by the deaths caused by their government of Iranian citizens and foreign citizens, and who have protested the conditions under which they are forced to live by a theocratic regime whose malevolence on the world stage is without question. And whose brutality can be seen in the fact that 1500 Iranians were killed during the protests. But smilingly countenanced by Canada's wish to rejoin the Security Council.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes handing with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the Munich Security Conference, Friday Feb 14, 2020.   IRNA

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Germany ... at War With Itself

"Racism is a poison; hate is a poison."
"This poison exists in our society and it's to blame for too many tragic events."
"Everything will be done to investigate the circumstances of these terrible murders. [The government] and every state institution would] stand up with all our strength and decisiveness to those people who try to divide Germany." 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

"If people are silent for long enough, then things like this will happen."
"You could have set the clock by this attack. People tell us they have learnt from Auschwitz, but this shows that sort of talk is just ‘blah, blah’."
Mehmet Daimagüler, lawyer for victims of far-right terrorism
A police officer outside the Midnight shisha bar in Hanau. Photograph: Ralph Orlowski/Reuters
A country divided. Where once it was united. But that was under the Third Reich of 'National Socialism', when everyone adored Hitler and was eager to do his bidding. Even the Protestant and Catholic Churches were silent and held their counsel at a time when their voices raised high in condemnation of a murderously racist public national agenda based on an Aryan ideal meticulously planned and carried out the mass murder and extermination of Jews, Roma, Gays, political dissenters and the occasional cleric who would not countenance that agenda.

German citizens have now, for the most part, turned their backs on that odiously shameful history. But within their psyches burns a social exclusionary devotion to heimat and all things Germanic. The mass presence of peoples from another heritage, religion, customs and values and legal system does not sit well with most people, anywhere in the world, when their own becomes degraded and a competition ensues between theirs and those who arrive who set no store by the indigenous laws and culture.

Fuelled in no small part by the stern unwillingness of a religious political system that spurns theirs and demands the foreign one be elevated to official status. Add to that the culture of oppression and repression that Islam represents, its hostility to other religions, politics, cultures and values along with the prevalence among Muslim youth of violent tendencies and the vulnerability of women in Islamic culture and there is a perfect storm brewing.

Two hostile sentiments in an arena where sparks of rage set off a firestorm of reaction. The German tendency to fascism is reborn within a society viewing itself as hard-pressed to maintain its culture and respect for its heritage. The left and the right, both of which tend in their extremes toward totalitarianism, yet despising one another, are in the process of clashing as they do periodically. Violence is always on the cusp of an explosion.

National Socialism demonstrated the extent that fascistic extremism could descend to in its mass extermination of European Jewry. That same population that devoured their Fuhrer's words of national superiority and scorn for all others, has now divided itself. Half driven by remorse and willing to accept migrants and refugees whatever their source, the other half resentful of the presence of strangers and reverting to the racist ideology that gave birth to the Holocaust.

Those killed in Hanau, by a white supremacist in two hookah bars were targeted because they were not German nationals, and the irony is that though some of the victims were Turkish in origin they were also Kurds, oppressed by Turks, seeking haven from that oppression in a Germany that declares itself open to refugees and migrants. There is injustice everywhere and anywhere. The tragedy is that human nature incessantly turns on itself, ravenous and hateful.

A woman leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial for the nine people killed in Hanau. Photograph: Armando Babani/EPA



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Friday, February 21, 2020

COVID-19 -- Novel Coronavirus

"It turns out the cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of the infection control. There was no distinction between the green zone, which is free of infection, and the red zone, which is potentially contaminated."
"There was no single professional infection control person inside the ship. The bureaucrats were in charge of everything."
Kentaro Iwata, infection control specialist, Kobe University Hospital
Two Coronavirus Patients From Cruise Ship Die
As the end of a quarantine allowed people to begin leaving the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess, Japanese health officials said two passengers hospitalized earlier had died. Photo: TAKASHI AOYAMA/GETTY IMAGES
In Iran, the holy city of Qom has been placed under lockdown conditions; no access to public areas, schools closed. In Ukraine, riots have broken out over locating people, evacuees from Wuhan, mostly Ukrainian with a sprinkling of foreigners with no symptoms of the novel coronavirus in quarantine close to local towns. In China, three journalists with the Wall Street Journal have been accused of 'racial' insults in their reportage for the Wall Street Journal and escorted out of the country.
Police officers clearing the road
In Ukraine, Police officers cleared the road for the buses to take the evacuees to the hospital to be quarantined  Reuters

People of Chinese descent living in North America and who have never been to Wuhan, most of them born in the cities where they live, and never having visited China at all, are being shunned as carriers of viruses, held in suspicion, while children of Chinese heritage are being harassed by other children at school. Hotels and doctors' offices are refusing to take Chinese clientele. People are being physically attacked and verbally insulted. Fear and suspicion have caused a vulnerable population to anguish over their place in society.

A restaurant in New York's Chinatown has no customers, despite zero cases of novel coronavirus in the state of New York.
A restaurant in New York's Chinatown has no customers, despite zero cases of novel coronavirus in the state of New York.

Chinese establishments, particularly restaurants, are being shunned, their popularity now a thing of the past. Once-busy establishments, prepared as always to serve loyal clientele discover that suddenly there are none. "On a normal day, we'd have around 100 tables a day," said David Zheng, an employee at New Shanghai Deluxe restaurant in New York's Chinatown. Now, "for a full day of business, we'd get only 20 to 30 tables." 

There is no racial discrimination in China, but there is silence, there is desperation and fear, and lockdown. The streets are quiet in most large cities, as everyone worries about contact and authorities take steps to ensure that there is no contact. People stay inside as much as they can. The economy, already showing signs of weakness, is in real distress. China has withdrawn into itself, the country that so belligerently and self-celebratorily emphasized its status as an Asian trade behemoth, investing in its Belt-and-Road initiative now bitterly accuses the West of 'racism'.
Empty streets in Shanghai's Hong Kou district amid ongoing coronavirus prevention measures.
Empty streets in Shanghai's Hong Kou district amid ongoing coronavirus prevention measures.
Thousands of passengers on a cruise in Asia on the Diamond Princess have been aboard the ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, in a state of quarantine, passengers in the limited area of their cabins being delivered food daily by the immense number of ship employees themselves under no quarantine in a situation where a virus which seems to communicate with ease spreads without distinction between passengers and crew, infecting hundreds among them.

Virologist Iwata whose experience includes working in Africa with the Ebola outbreak announced he had been ejected from the Diamond Princess having expressed his concerns as an infectious diseases expert about the 'chaotic' conditions aboard the vessel that could hasten the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Passengers, he claimed, had been given consent forms to sign that could have had the effect of passing on the infection. Now away from the ship, he has placed himself in self-quarantine in the fear he may have contracted the virus.



Ship passengers are being evacuated in an orderly fashion to be flown back to their countries of origin on planes dispatched or leased by their governments for that purpose. Those with no symptoms of the novel coronavirus will board the planes for home passage, while those in whom symptoms emerge must go into quarantine for 14 days in Japanese hospitals and find a way to make their own flight back home afterward.

The fly in that ointment is that many people infected with the virus have no symptoms; they simply are carriers, able to pass their infection along, unknowingly. Among about 250 Canadian passengers, 43 had been infected by the virus, as an example. Aboard ship new cases are being diagnosed daily, the latest, a further 79 cases on Wednesday for a total infected ship's population of 621 while hundreds of others begin to disembark having concluded the 14-day isolation period.

Dr. Iwata, familiar with the Ebola outbreak, cholera emergencies, the SARS epidemic in China in 2003, admitted to never before having felt so fearful for his own health and safety as with his experience on the Diamond Princess. He gave his support to the disembarkation process, however, with the caution that passengers must still undergo quarantine once back in their home countries.

Those who have tested negative for COVID-19 may freely depart the ship amidst concerns that some people could be asymptomatic carriers, since of the 79 people newly confirmed on Wednesday authorities admitted 78 had not demonstrated any symptoms. Forecaster Oxford Economics gave warning that the virus could end up costing the global economy a trillion dollars to manage the virus should it become a pandemic. Cases in China have now surged to 75,000, with South Korea having the most cases of coronavirus outside China.



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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Iran's Axis Imploding

"Sayyid [Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader] means a lot to me. There are thousands who admire him, but I'm like Number 100 on the list."
"Please help us [video of apology for denouncing Nasrallah]. Really, we're starving ... We don't have jobs."
Lebanese Shiite

"Hezbollah has never prioritized bread-and-butter issues, but suddenly they're faced with a community that's basically saying, bread and butter are a priority."
"It's now part of a government that's corrupt, and they can't blame others for the corruption; they're part of the corruption equation."
Randa Slim, Lebanon analyst, Middle East Institute
Anti-government demonstrators rally behind barbed wire.
Anti-government demonstrators rally behind barbed wire in downtown Beirut on Jan. 25. Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images

"The [military security] officer was forcefully raising my arms above my head, and another came on a motorcycle and hit me in the back. I felt a pop in my back.”
“They would take us outside of the [prison] building; we felt air as if we’re in an open space [blindfolded]."
"Suddenly, someone comes over and tells us to kneel, pushing us to the floor … reloads a Kalashnikov over our heads, waits a bit, then takes us back inside.”
Basal, Lebanese protester, among hundreds taken into custody
Since October 17 when the protests in Lebanon first began, hundreds of protesters have been injured in the melees between themselves and the military, and hundreds more have been imprisoned. Unlike protests taking place in Iraq, however, where hundreds of people are known to have been killed and thousands injured, there have been no such reports in Lebanon. They decry their corrupt government and their dire living conditions. They want a change in government hoping that things will change for them; employment, opportunities, affordability of the basic necessities of life.

Where four people have died in Lebanon during the protests and the clashes, over 600 were killed in Iraq and in Iran at least 1500 protesters lost their lives. Iranians are desperate for a change in government, to be able to live their lives more freely, with prosperity and hope for the future, denied them by a government that invests in terrorism in support of a murderous regime in Syria where a half-million have died in almost a decade of civil war. Iran's Shiite axis of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen is in poor health.

Basically, Iraq and Lebanon want a lot less of the Islamic Republic of Iran ordering their lives and their governments. An echo from Iranians themselves. And for all of them, the protests are of little avail.

Lebanese Shiites, loyal to Hezbollah and its leader, have turned critical of both. Hezbollah loyalists caught on television denouncing its leader in the early days of the uprising in Lebanon are now contrite; they have been warned to cease and desist. And because of that they have reappeared on television to counter their initial criticism of the leader of the terrorist militia which has achieved power in government, of a corrupt and failing country.

In Lebanon, of the 18 recognized religious sects, the Shiites represent the largest, dependent on Hezbollah for protection, employment, social services and a group loyalty in a shared struggle against enemies, principally Israel. Now entering its fifth month, Lebanon's disruptive protests that have roiled government have brought in people from all backgrounds united in their detestation for leaders incapable of guaranteeing their basic needs; a functional economy, good governance, reliable electricity.

For Shiites who joined in the protests and bitterly blamed Hezbollah for failing them, it represented a total rethink; how to be loyal to Hezbollah and critical of the government at the same time when Hezbollah now is the government? "I support resistance against Israel", declared 51-year-old Ali Ismail in Kafr Rumman, south Lebanon long dominated by Hezbollah and Amal the other Shiite power. "But I also support resistance against corruption", he added. He lacks party connections, and so is shut out of favouritism by either Shiite party.

In the early stage of the protests, Nasrallah told his supporters to go home. His words carry weight, his supporters believe Nasrallah is heroically responsible for having run Israel out of the country, after its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon. He is considered personally incorruptible; Hezbollah and its allies dominated the government which resigned in October, as it does the new cabinet formed to take the place of the old one, in January.

Both Hezbollah and Amal followers have beaten protesters with sticks and fists. Threatening calls, anonymous What'sApp warnings of a "negative impact on your life", or visits telling those known to take part in protests, to stop protesting, by party representatives have troubled protesters. The protests, insinuates Hezbollah, are in reality a foreign-led conspiracy against Shiites, amply belied by the fact that the protesters are friends, neighbours and relatives.

"People used to watch Nasrallah's speeches without asking questions. But now, even though they still support him, they've started asking questions", Ihab Hassane, 29, a Shiite protester from Tyre explained. He is among those who have lost hope in Lebanon, planning to leave and go abroad. If the protests have accomplished anything, he believes, it has been to question the value of Hezbollah and Nasrallah to the Shiite community that supports it.

Anti-government protesters in Beirut, Lebanon (21 January 2020)
Protesters in central Beirut were quick to reject the new government   EPA

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