Germany Accuses US of ‘Modern Day Piracy’ for Seizing a Shipment of Medical Equipment

 April 4, 2020

masks

A senior German politician on Friday accused the Trump administration of “modern piracy” after nearly 200,000 face masks ordered by Germany were seized by US authorities.

Andreas Geisel, the interior minister for Berlin state, confirmed media reports that about 200,000 FFP2 masks purchased for the Berlin police were seized at an airport in the Thai capital Bangkok following intervention by American authorities.

“We view this as an act of modern piracy,” he said in a written statement, stressing that such behavior between transatlantic partners is unacceptable.

“Even in times of global crisis there should be no wild west methods. I am urging the [German] federal government to demand the US respect international rules,” he added.

According to German public broadcaster RBB, Berlin had purchased the masks from U.S. company 3M, which has factories in China.

The shipment destined for Germany was stopped at the Bangkok airport following intervention by American authorities and was diverted to the U.S., local media reported.

US criticized by France and Canada

French politicians have also recently accused the US of buying up medical protective gear including face masks in China that had been meant for France.

Valerie Pecresse, president of the hard-hit Ile-de-France region, said this week that a shipment of protective masks were snatched at the last minute by “Americans who made a higher bid,” French news agency AFP reported.

“The Americans pay cash sight unseen, which obviously can be more tempting for people just looking to make money off the entire world’s distress,” she said. Pecresse did not give further details on the buyers.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he felt “concerned” by a report that a mask order arrived smaller than expected and that some of it was bought by “a higher bidder.”

“We understand that the needs in the US are very extensive, but it’s the same in Canada, so we have to work together,” Trudeau said.

Most countries worldwide, unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, don’t have the capacity to manufacture the millions of masks needed on a daily basis for health workers alone.

Many governments are turning to China and other Asian manufactures to meet the demands for medical gear.

Source: Agencieshttp://english.almanar.com.lb/987637

AFTER THE EXPLOSION, A PREPARATION TO RETURN TO NORMALITY AND LIVE WITH COVID-19

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

No country in the world is expecting to be spared and every country except perhaps China, South Korea, and some Asian countries, is waiting to reach the “explosion” level, the peak which represents the highest death rate of COVID-19, known as Coronavirus, after which the curve of new casualties will start sliding down. This is when world leaders will have to make the decision for most societies to regain normality even though the virus will still be around for many months to come. Precautionary procedures of high sanitation standards and social distancing will always be advised, particularly among the elderly and the most affected people. Still, the economy needs to return to its ordinary course sooner or later, notwithstanding the enormous losses.

On the 10th of March, the Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the city of Wuhan, in the province of Hubei, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak and declared that the situation was under control: “success has been achieved in stabilising the situation and turning the tide in Hubei and Wuhan”, he said. The Chinese President never mentioned the virus was over but that COVID-19 was under control. China has accepted its casualties and will be able to deal with the flow of new cases and will no longer be subject to a flood of severe cases being rushed to hospitals and overwhelming medical staff.

In fact, this is what European leaders will have to decide between the month of May (for some businesses most crucial to the economy) and the month of June (for all others). It will depend on which countries reach the Coronavirus explosion level and start to come down the curve to reach a much lower level of dozens of casualties per day, rather than the hundreds and thousands, happening in the US and Europe right now.

Governments cannot afford irreparable damage to their domestic economies and will have to call for a return to productivity. The population can’t afford to be at home for so many regularly prolonged two-week quarantine periods. This is the period that was initially imposed on the community at the outset, and it seems it will be renewed regularly until casualties are reduced.

The loss of income to families and individuals is so far estimated at between $860 billion and $3.4 trillion worldwide. The losses to the travel industry are estimated at between $30 to $60 billion. Failure of trade in goods and services will amount to $320 billion per quarter of trade disruption. 

Many people relied on part-time earnings with little savings and were caught by surprise in this pandemic crisis. But societies will eventually be happy to return to work with COVID-19 around and live with it. The reason is simple: no medicine will be available before the end of the year 2020. Therefore, there would be no point in imposing an endless quarantine that lasts until a solution for the Coronavirus is found- particularly when most scientists estimate that COVID-19 may infect between 80% and 85% of the population but are either unaware or only showing mild symptoms. These have an immune system capable of fighting the virus and could return to be productive in their respective societies. Having faced and dealt with the tsunami of cases rushing to hospitals, the medical staff, after the slowing down of the number of cases, will be able to offer medical support to newly infected people. 

The elderly and the young, and persons with critical medical history (obesity, heart attacks, cholesterol, pulmonary infections, high blood pressure, and inadequate immune systems) will be still asked to minimise their movements. Their families and friends will also be recommended to take the necessary precautions when meeting each other and those prone to the virus in order to avoid being the contributor transmitting the virus to them. Governments will have the time to provide enough tests for the entire population and to improve their medical systems and equipment so as to avoid future flooding of hospitals and the exhaustion of the medical personnel (which is what is happening today in many countries reaching the explosion of the virus spread).

Distance learning and working from home will be developed: the world is quite likely to be exposed to other, future viruses or the return of the COVID-19 before an antidote is found. Imposing quarantine with every new virus would mean the population spending years at home: the economy would never recover. 

During the spread of the pandemic, people acknowledged that their dear ones were dying, or would die, and that little could be done to defeat this unknown virus. Also, due to their fear for their own lives, people were forced to accept the fact that their national medical system had failed them, even in the most advanced western societies (Europe, Canada, Australia and the United States of America) or on any other continent. The population faced the possibility of not being able to be present at funerals to mourn their relatives and bury them- for fear for their own lives. And President Donald Trump believes that the prospect of 200,000 Americans deceased from Coronavirus represents “a good job” for his administration in containing the pandemic. 

Once the storm has abated, people will want to question their leaders about their performance and the failure of planning to prevent the arrival of the worst-case scenario. Societies will criticise the reasons offered during the explosion of the pandemic why not enough tests were made available to all people to rapidly prevent the deterioration of all the individual cases. No country was indeed prepared for such a Tsunami: thousands of cases with weak immune systems being rushed simultaneously to hospitals.  Also, no hospital in the world could provide enough beds to accommodate the tens of thousands of cases. There was a shortage of respiratory systems to meet the numbers involved and save lives. 

These handicaps had to be accepted during the outbreak of the virus. However, many leaders will have to be held accountable, and even disappear, once the panic dissipates. It is just unacceptable that developed countries spend hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ money on warfare, waging wars overseas or investing in sending military troops abroad, but fail to equip, maintain and dynamise their national medical system. This “economic strategy” makes them responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. 

Europe is not finally expected to stay divided, but the virus has created collateral damage. A good lesson was learned by member countries of the EU like Italy, who can no longer see China and Russia as enemies. In moments of need, these countries, including Cuba, rushed to help Rome even though the Italian government had imposed sanctions on Moscow. The “most powerful nation,” the US, failed to fulfil its role and did not respond to the needs of its supposed allies on the European continents until very late. France and Germany waited for many weeks before supporting Italy, the country that was most hit after China and was left alone in the eye of the storm when most in need. The Italian President Sergio Mattarella asked the EU to correct its behaviour before irreparable damage occurred to the EU institution because Italy was left alone to face the explosion of the pandemic.

China and Russia are both coming out winners. A few Italians recorded themselves, raising the Chinese flag and lowering the European flag, but China is not offering itself as a substitute for US hegemony but as a strategic partner. Russia also, like China, aimed at the hearts of the population and apparently has no policy of dominance comparable to that of the US. The Kremlin offered its help (100 virologists and tons of medical supplies were offered to Italy) unconditionally, and Rome was not pressured to lift its sanctions. 

In contrast, the US refused to help Europe in the first weeks of the Coronavirus outbreak, imposing new sanctions on Iran amid the pandemic, offering a reward of $15 million for Venezuelan President Maduro and threatening to wage war on Iraqi security forces Kataeb Hezbollah. There was no human compassion from the US towards its opponents, like Iran, harshly hit by a pandemic. The current US warmongering administration is unable to change or to express empathy towards other human beings. They cannot see, understand, or adapt to the fact that this enemy is global and is making no distinctions within humankind.

A COVID-19 antidote will not be available soon. But there is little doubt that governments will take a different approach to medical readiness in the future. It is equally sure that allies will be reshuffled and that world dominance will no longer be the same when governments regain control after the pandemic. The world before COVID-19 will not be the same as that after COVID-19. The virus will be living among us and within us, waiting in silence for months and years to come.

Proofread by:  Maurice Brasher and C.G.B

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Landlord class: Waive or donate rent-profits now or fear the Cultural Revolution

March 31, 2020

Landlord class: Waive or donate rent-profits now or fear the Cultural Revolution

By Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

While the concept of class warfare is verboten and greeted with expressions of bewilderment and fear in the West, at least now everyone is familiar with the 99% versus the 1%. However, this is really too facile an analysis.

It would be more accurate to talk of the “not-so-talented, toadying” 10% versus the 90%. But while this can prove quite accurate for neo-imperial clients, a genuine rise of the middle class in the West renders it less accurate than this distinction:

Today’s “proletariat” is Mao’s “property-less class”. This is easily understood – the propertied class has lives which are more stable by orders of magnitude.

I am a socialist and I want property – this is not a contradiction. In fact, the lack of property is making me crazy – fortunately, it turns out that I am not alone.

In my 2019 book Ending Western Propaganda on Red China (Part 5: The Cultural Revolution’s solving of the urban-rural divide) I relayed a fascinating transnational study which found that Paris and London had the highest rates of social psychosis; more importantly, they concluded that owning your home – or not – was found to be the single biggest predictor of mental and emotional stability.

Of course: being forced to hand over one-third of our pay checks every month to a rich, two-home owning landlord (which he or she probably just inherited from their parents) is a huge stress. I estimate my current landlord has received about €130,000 of my money over the past 8 years.

All that sweat of mine down the drain simply because I need a roof to live yet I can’t possibly qualify for a loan in Paris, where last year the real estate crossed the €10,000 per square meter mark.

As I summed up: “‘Bread, peace, land’ can be translated to ‘Bread, peace, a decent apartment’ in modern times. But it’s not only China and not only Maoism which has solved this issue, proven by their 90% home ownership rate: 80% of Cubans own their own home and thus pay no rent or mortgage.”

Please believe me: when I think about all that money in my landlord’s pocket I get pretty stressed, to put it mildly. I’m not edging into social psychosis, but the recalcitrant capitalists will probably want me locked up for making the following demand/social service announcement.

Now is the time for the landlord class to show who they are as individuals

Across the world there has been an incredible overreaction to the Corona crisis – in my estimation – as the global economy is shutting down. Places like the US, India and many other areas simply do not have the social safety net to accommodate such a move… but they have done it anyway.

Landlords across the world must do the following:

  • Talk to their renters to gauge their economic situation.
  • Admit that a poor economic outlook for their renters is an undeserved injustice.
  • Admit that their renters must be aided, and that landlords have already profited enough.
  • Waive this month’s rent – and perhaps for months to come. Give some profits back.
  • Or, at the VERY LEAST: reduce rent charges in order to only cover the landlord’s monthly mortgage payment on the property/property taxes/building assessments, etc.
  • If their renter has a good economic situation, landlords must donate their rent-profits to charity, because they have already profited enough and their nation almost certainly does not have the social safety net to take care of other poor renters.

This is all simple justice, and it is in the hands of individual landlords to do so.

I am not asking landlords to ruin their credit rating by refusing to pay the mortgage on their properties (though they should demand such an agreement with their lending bank, in order to force banks to consent to widespread debt furloughs), merely to forego gaining profits on their properties.

Can they not afford do that for one month? Perhaps three?

Of course they can.

If they cannot, then they have proven themselves to be the true “(rent) welfare queens”, because they must be living such unaffordable, extravagant lifestyles; they have proven themselves to be as bad as the most ruthless venture capitalist and job-moving globalist; they have proven themselves to be traitors.

Is traitor too harsh a word?

No – failure to do so means that your landlord is only looking out for himself and his nuclear family, so of course he has necessarily betrayed every other larger group: neighborhood, town, metro area, province, region, nation and earthlings. Furthermore, there is constant public and media shaming of “welfare queens”, poor people and non-college educated workers. Have you ever read somebody calling out the landlord class like this? Not in any Mainstream Media and probably not even in Anglophone world, where the landed petit-entrepreneur is supposed to be the rightly-guided class of moral heroes.

This is the best I can do: if not “traitors”, then “deserters”. Feel better?

Won’t do it? Then fear the revolution

Last spring I wrote an 8-part series about China’s Cultural Revolution precisely because I witnessed that France’s Yellow Vests were essentially demanding a French Cultural Revolution: a near-total shutdown of society in order to have huge discussions about their society’s most contentious socioeconomic and cultural issues and their current trajectories. Of course, such trajectories are quite, quite unpopular, and this was before the Great Recession threatened to turn into the Great Depression 2.

The West has now shut down, but still appear far from joining China and Iran as the only two nations with state-protected Cultural Revolutions. However, the horrendous economic impact – which will create such widespread poverty, unemployment, homelessness and death precisely because they do not have the big government of socialist-inspired nations like China, Iran, Cuba and others – seems certain to eventually push the entire world towards the leftism and cooperation of socialism rather than the continued greed, selfishness and competition of “capitalism with Western characteristics”.

From the the very beginning of China’s Cultural Revolution landlords were openly vilified, along with the “four olds”, unrepentant capitalists and known-to-be-corrupt party members. The bad ones were paraded around in dunce caps, or sent to (finally) work for a living instead of living off of parasitic rent-seeking, and – if we listen to balanced Chinese sources and not Western ones – abused physically pretty rarely for an event I refer to as the “Chinese Socialist Civil War” (here, Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution?).

So landlords can either double down and grab as much cash as they can, or when the Cultural Revolution comes to their town people can testify that during this crisis they were true human patriots. It’s an individual choice landlords must make now, and they may not ever be judged harshly by their society for their choices… but they might be. Asian societies know this: Fear and shame are perfectly acceptable motivations for good deeds, after all – but why not just go socialist?

For the people reading this in huge housing developments with corporations for landlords, there are easy ways to resist:

  • Organise on a building-by-building level to refuse collectively to pay your rent as normal, or at least to collectively demand some reduction.
  • Follow the Chinese, if only because what they did worked: outside your buildings put up dàzìbào, or big-character reports/posters to publicly shame your corporate landlords.
  • Contact your local newspaper media and insist they cover your actions against unfair landlords.
  • If your local media won’t side with the People, then resort to social media. Social media can be quite effective, but it is easily overestimated – apply pressure on your local journalists and publishers.
  • The youth class has had it bad enough since 2008, eh? The average age of the Yellow Vests is, in my estimation, 50 years old because, in my estimation, people that age and older have comparatively little to lose. So be an elder leader and risk your credit score, blacklisting, harassing phone class from bill collectors, etc., so the youth can resist in other ways and not live so very long under Western capitalist-style stigmatisation.

Many medium and large businesses are reportedly already telling their creditors – banks – that they are stopping parasitic rent payments for the time being; they have to keep their savings for the long, slow Corona recovery which will surely eat through their cash. (Again, do the doctors, helicopter Moms and Western politicians have any understanding of economics on a micro- or macro-level? I wonder….)

The non-propertied class doesn’t have these types of levers but social shaming is one – I suggest you use it with your landlord.


Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.

Tough times need vanguard parties – are ‘social media users’ the West’s?

Tough times need vanguard parties – are ‘social media users’ the West’s?

by Ramin Mazaheri exclusive for The Saker log

So when did you become an epidemiologist? You seem quite willing to shame anyone not sterilising every square inch of every square inch.

And when did you become an economist? “The economy is not important now” must have been a pretty unusual PhD thesis.

We have likely all heard of “internet tough guys” – people who make bold claims or threats online, yet would flee at the sight of conflict – but who knew social media had so many people qualified to tell entire nations what to do regarding Corona?

How much of the Corona crisis has been caused by social media virtue-signallers, hypochondriacs, communications degree-holding intellectuals, helicopter Dads, bossy cows, and sheep who generally follow whatever the herd, management or pop stars tell them to do? That’s an interesting question: would we all be in lockdown prior to the internet and Facebook?

A practical follow-up question is: which nations have leadership which are perhaps even steered by social media, and which nations have leaders who can steer the national boat through choppy waters?

As socialists know and accept, a vanguard party is essential precisely because there are so many choppy waters in life. Choppy waters are doubled for socialist-inspired countries due to imposed wars, sanctions, blockades and endless cold war.

Capitalists and libertarians once again use Orwell against us – the same old, facile “some pigs are more equal than others” of Animal Farm – conflating totalitarianism with socialism, even though the two have entirely different ends and means.

Despite their absurd claims, the vanguard party concept is not anti-democratic. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel had truly universal support from every Cuban (in Cuba) I asked because he rose level by level by repeatedly showing his competence as a civil servant. The same goes for Xi of China (as I will soon remind). Nobody expected a low-ranking cleric like Khamenei to take over for Khomeini, but he has repeatedly showed his competence and abilities; go tell the tens of millions shouting “Khamenei rahbar” (Khamenei the leader) that socialist-inspired democracy, with both direct and indirect, hasn’t worked out well. In post-1917 countries one rises to the 1% via actual competence, and not just by buying elections, as in the West.

Conversely, Hillary Clinton married the governor of Arkansas, who became president, and then America was stuck with her. Emmanuel Macron did… I don’t even know how he got so far so fast, and I really don’t want to know what went on behind closed doors with him.

Regardless, are some pigs more equal than others, to pose their question?

Certainly, what you won’t hear from such socialist detractors is that China’s President Xi spent years doing hard rural work during the days of the Cultural Revolution, and then teaching illiterate farmers how to read during his Cultural Revolution nights. Now, I suppose it is technically a possibility: none of that was earnestly heartfelt on Xi’s part, and he is secretly amassing a personal fortune because the recesses of his heart are nothing but pure bitterness and hate for the socialist ideal of equality which he was forced to display and teach; he has also spent decades duping everyone in China that he is a competent public servant; Xi has zero warm sentiment for those rural citizens he worked with, and wants only revenge; any moment now Xi will launch a surprise attack of totalitarianism designed solely for his personal benefit and revenge.

These are the very real – yet ALWAYS unsaid – logical extensions of Western arguments made against vanguard parties in general, as well as against Xi. Westerners insist that socialist vanguard parties are corrupt not just at the core but all the way to the periphery.

Another unsaid logical extension is that no vanguard parties informally exist in the West. If, however, there are, it is because such people have risen to the 1% solely on merit. Xi’s supposed “merit”, is not merit at all… unlike theirs. Don’t push Westerners to explain these points – they have no answers.

Much of this applies to Iran as well – their system is based on the idea of the “guardianship of the Islamic jurist”. “Down with those opposed to the guardianship of the Islamic jurist” is always included in the “down withs”, and even before “down with the MKO, England, the US and Israel”. The vanguard party in Iran is obviously the clergy; I have written extensively and objectively about how I believe this is being bureaucratically formalised into the “Basij”, and I have discussed how the structure of the Basij has been clearly modelled on the Chinese Communist Party.

How can that be, Ramin, when Communists are atheists? Firstly, they are not. Maybe Marx was, but to hell with him on this point. Cuba is full of Catholics, but even more prevalent are those who practice Santeria; Vietnam has always constitutionally protected religion; Confucianism and Taoism, it is rarely recognised, are two sides of the same East Asian cosmological coin, and China’s intolerance on this point is being remedied. The USSR never reconciled religion and socialism, and this is a huge reason explaining why they are no more; a reason as big as Krushchevian corruption and capitalist-roading.

However, the structural and political similarities between the Basij and the CCP arise not from cosmological agreement but from the natural similarities of two countries who have had post-1917, socialist-inspired revolutions. The similarities are not “coincidental” at all, though those who misunderstand and reject socialism would surely explain away my comparisons with such sweeping, facile, pseudo-explanations. I’m not sure that you can have a vanguard party without the structures, policies and protections – as well as many of the aims and demands – which are greatly dissimilar from the CCP and the Basij? Few examples exist, sadly, for me to study and compare. Never say never, I suppose.

The idea of a formalised vanguard party – as in Iranian Islamic Socialism and other forms of socialism – does not mean totalitarianism. I suppose it could, but why can it not also mean elite governance performance? Why must we look only at the negative aspects, and not the positive? What are we – capitalist-imperialists?

The Corona crisis is not going to validate the support of formal, socialist-inspired vanguard parties in China, Iran, Cuba and elsewhere – they need no validation among their people; their bones are made.

What it will certainly do is discredit the Western model of “non-vanguardism”, “hidden-vanguardism”, “technocratic vanguardism”, “1%er-vanguardism” or whatever else you want to term their bankocratic, aristocratic, bourgeois oligarchies which govern.

The incredible spanner Western politicians have suicidally thrown into their economies will prove this: they have none of the unity, foresight, determination and especially the political modernity of countries like China and Iran, yet they are adopting similar Corona responses. It simply can’t be done without causing Great Depressions in the Lost Decade II-embarking Eurozone for certain, and also for the US economy, which disastrously combines a finance & service & consumer-based economy with non-Trumpian evangelism for self-harming globalisation.

It will take great pain, but this is what humans often require to make serious change, sadly. It will split apart families, but that is what civil war does.

I don’t know which nation will be the first to see their lower class starting to attack their neoliberal/neoliberal-client systems – and attacking as well the reactionary selfishness of the “first responders” whom they are repeatedly told to adulate – but they will all reach the same place as China and Iran: who is in charge? Who is the vanguard party to lead and staff the bureaucracy, which organises and decides on the logistics, and who needs to spread the night soil so we all can eat?

All workers are valid and equal, of course, but a vanguard party is needed to run a government. The alleged path goes capitalism, socialism, communism, anarchism – the idea that no vanguard parties are needed is anarchism, and Cubans will also correct you when you call them communist: they know they are not that far. The amount of self-empowerment espoused in anarchism may not even be possible on a billions-level? These are questions for a later date….

Allow me to disqualify myself from the vanguard party: I have been passed up for management over and over (of course everyone claims this), so maybe they are right? I am used to being a powerless cog in a machine, and I quite like it now!

The people who deserve to be in vanguard parties are those who evince both the capability for selflessness as well as the capability for superior political thought. After all, some have capabilities for great artistic thought, or great engineering thought, or have great social skills – political policy certainly requires input from all sectors and classes but their bureaucrats do need to have a masterful grasp of modern political ideology, as well as a grasp of what not to do: i.e., the ideologies held by the enemies of modern political ideologies. These qualifications are evinced by people like Xi, Khamenei, Diaz-Canel and France’s Yellow Vests.

The roar that the Yellow Vests will make when France’s lockdown in over… that’s another article.

I don’t think you can find a journalist writing in any Western language who has stood shoulder to shoulder with them more often, and I can promise France: put the Yellow Vests in charge and you’ll have exceptional national governance immediately. Unlike the Iranian clergy, Chinese commies and Cuban socialist-Santeriaists, the Yellow Vests’ actual support is hard to gauge: polls constantly showed over 50% support, yet the Animal Rights Party won 2.2% in the 2019 European Parliament elections, double the Yellow Vests parties combined.

Who is the vanguard party in the US? That I cannot say – I do not think one is apparent. I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and their few public comrades are interesting given the limitations of the US political context, but they are still far from what’s necessary now, and especially far from what will be necessary given the trajectory of Great Depression 2.

The times make the man, as they say.

The West’s vanguard parties seem intent on making times as difficult for the lower classes as they possibly can. Time well spent would be turning of Western MSM, as well as social media, and reflecting on who you think should really be in charge.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.

Paris Hospitals Near Coronavirus Breaking Point

March 27, 2020

s4.reutersmedia.net

A spike in coronavirus cases will put France under huge pressure in coming days, its prime minister said on Friday, after reporting its biggest daily death toll and officials fearing hospitals in and around Paris could be saturated in 48 hours.

Paris and its suburbs now account for over a quarter of the 29,000 confirmed coronavirus infections in French hospitals, with almost 1,300 now in intensive care. Highlighting the disease’s brutality, a 16-year-old girl with no underlying health conditions died of the virus on Thursday.

The death toll nationwide stood at 1,696, with signs that the virus is also becoming endemic in the southwest.

“The epidemic wave that is sweeping France is a wave that is extremely high and it is putting the entire care and health system under tremendous strain,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told reporters after a visioconference between ministers.

“The situation will be very difficult in the coming days.”

President Emmanuel Macron on March 17 imposed a lockdown to slow the spread of the virus, but doctors say they expect a wave of cases next week after the government pressed ahead with local elections and thousands of people mingled in parks and streets before they were confined at home.

Officials in the Paris area have been scrambling to find more intensive care beds, ventilators and medical staff and spread the load of patients across the capital and its wider suburbs.

France has already increased the number of intensive care units from 5,000 to about 8,000, but doctors say Paris is already at its limit after almost doubling its capacity to about 1,200.

“We will clearly need help in the Ile-de-France (Greater Paris region) because what happened in the east is coming here,” Frederic Valletoux, French Hospital Federation president, told BFM TV on Friday.

He was referring to the Grand Est region, where the first major cluster took hold in France and where hospitals are already overwhelmed.

“We will be at the limit of our capacities in 24 or 48 hours. We will need to show real solidarity between regions, hospitals and increase the numbers of patient transfers,” he said.

The army has been drafted to transfer some critically ill patients to other cities from the east, while on Thursday the first patients were moved to western France from the east using high-speed TGV trains.

HEALTHCARE SERIAL KILLERS

Emergency services have been redistributing patients in the capital to hospitals that are not already overwhelmed.

“If we let hospitals cope by themselves, and let every territory that has been taken by the epidemic cope alone, then we shall head toward a catastrophe,” Valletoux said.

Isolation centers were being set up across Paris to allow people with symptoms to be assessed to avoid cramming hospitals.

“This center was set up to welcome patients that are suspected of having the coronavirus and to group patients in a place where we ensure patients are isolated,” said one of the attendants at a center in Cergy-Pointoise, in the northeastern Paris suburbs.

Other regions are also starting to feel the pinch with medical staff decrying a lack of equipment, especially masks.

“They are letting us enter the lion’s cage without anything to protect ourselves and our patients,” Michelle Drouin, a nurse and union official in the southwestern Aude region, told Reuters, stressing that they were having to even replace blouses with plastic bags.

“They are turning us into serial killers. They are putting at risk health professionals and, because they are a vector of the virus, their patients too.”

Source: Reuters

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Why France is hiding a cheap and tested virus cure

March 26, 2020

By Pepe Escobar – Posted with permission

The French government is arguably helping Big Pharma profit from the Covid-19 pandemic

A mask-wearing French citizen in Paris. Photo: Facebook

What’s going on in the fifth largest economy in the world arguably points to a major collusion scandal in which the French government is helping Big Pharma to profit from the expansion of Covid-19. Informed French citizens are absolutely furious about it.

My initial question to a serious, unimpeachable Paris source, jurist Valerie Bugault, was about the liaisons dangereuses between Macronism and Big Pharma and especially about the mysterious “disappearance” – more likely outright theft – of all the stocks of chloroquine in possession of the French government.

Respected Professor Christian Perronne talked about the theft live in one of France’s 24/7 info channels: “The central pharmacy for the hospitals announced today that they were facing a total rupture of stocks, that they were pillaged.”

With input from another, anonymous source, it’s now possible to establish a timeline that puts in much-needed perspective the recent actions of the French government.

Let’s start with Yves Levy, who was the head of INSERM – the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research – from 2014 to 2018, when he was appointed as extraordinary state councilor for the Macron administration. Only 12 people in France have reached this status.

Levy is married to Agnes Buzy, who until recently was minister of health under Macron. Buzy was essentially presented with an “offer you can’t refuse” by Macron’s party to leave the ministry – in the middle of the coronavirus crisis – and run for Mayor of Paris, where she was mercilessly trounced in the first round on March 16.

Levy has a vicious running feud with Professor Didier Raoult – prolific and often-cited Marseille-based specialist in communicable diseases. Levy withheld the INSERM label from the world-renowned IHU (Hospital-University Institute) research center directed by Raoult.

In practice, in October 2019, Levy revoked the status of “foundation” of the different IHUs so he could take over their research.

French professor Didier Raoult, biologist and professor of microbiology, specializes in infectious diseases and director of IHU Mediterranee Infection Institute, poses in his office in Marseille, France. Photo: AFP/Gerard Julien

Raoult was part of a clinical trial that in which hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin healed 90% of Covid-19 cases if they were tested very early. (Early, massive testing is at the heart of the successful South Korean strategy.)

Raoult is opposed to the total lockdown of sane individuals and possible carriers – which he considers “medieval,” in an anachronistic sense. He’s in favor of massive testing (which, besides South Korea, was successful in Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam) and a fast treatment with hydroxychloroquine. Only contaminated individuals should be confined.

Chloroquine costs one euro for ten pills. And there’s the rub: Big Pharma – which, crucially, finances INSERM, and includes “national champion” Sanofi – would rather go for a way more profitable solution. Sanofi for the moment says it is “actively preparing” to produce chloroquine, but that may take “weeks,” and there’s no mention about pricing.

A minister fleeing a tsunami

Here’s the timeline:

On January 13, Agnes Buzyn, still France’s Health Minister, classifies chloroquine as a “poisonous substance,” from now on only available by prescription. An astonishing move, considering that it has been sold off the shelf in France for half a century.

On March 16, the Macron government orders a partial lockdown. There’s not a peep about chloroquine. Police initially are not required to wear masks; most have been stolen anyway, and there are not enough masks even for health workers. In 2011 France had nearly 1.5 billion masks: 800 million surgical masks and 600 million masks for health professionals generally.

But then, over the years, the strategic stocks were not renewed, to please the EU and to apply the Maastricht criteria, which limited membership in the Growth and Stability Pact to countries whose budget deficits did not exceed 3% of GDP. One of those in charge at the time was Jerome Salomon, now a scientific counselor to the Macron government.

On March 17, Agnes Buzyn says she has learned the spread of Covid-19 will be a major tsunami, for which the French health system has no solution. She also says it had been her understanding that the Paris mayoral election “would not take place” and that it was, ultimately, “a masquerade.”

What she does not say is that she didn’t go public at the time she was running because the whole political focus by the Macron political machine was on winning the “masquerade.” The first round of the election meant nothing, as Covid-19 was advancing. The second round was postponed indefinitely. She had to know about the impending healthcare disaster. But as a candidate of the Macron machine she did not go public in timely fashion.

In quick succession:

The Macron government refuses to apply mass testing, as practiced with success in South Korea and Germany.

Le Monde and the French state health agency characterize Raoult’s research as fake news, before issuing a retraction.

Professor Perrone reveals on the 24/7 LCI news channel that the stock of chloroquine at the French central pharmacy has been stolen.

Thanks to a tweet by Elon Musk, President Trump says chloroquine should be available to all Americans. Sufferers of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, who already have supply problems with the only drug that offers them relief, set social media afire with their panic.

US doctors and other medical professionals take to hoarding the medicine for the use of themselves and those close to them, faking prescriptions to indicate they are for patients with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Morocco buys the stock of chloroquine from Sanofi in Casablanca.

Pakistan decides to increase its production of chloroquine to be sent to China.

Switzerland discards the total lockdown of its population; goes for mass testing and fast treatment; and accuses France of practicing  “spectacle politics.”

Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, having had himself treated with chloroquine, without any government input, directly calls Sanofi so they may deliver chloroquine to Nice hospitals.

Because of Raoult’s research, a large-scale chloroquine test finally starts in France, under the – predictable – direction of INSERM, which wants to “remake the experiments in other independent medical centers.” This will take at least an extra six weeks – as the Elysee Palace’s scientific council now mulls the extension of France’s total lockdown to … six weeks.

If joint use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin proves definitely effective among the most gravely ill, quarantines may be reduced in select clusters.

The only French company that still manufactures chloroquine is under judicial intervention. That puts the chloroquine hoarding and theft into full perspective. It will take time for these stocks to be replenished, thus allowing Big Pharma the leeway to have what it wants: a costly solution.

It appears the perpetrators of the chloroquine theft were very well informed.

Bagged nurses

This chain of events, astonishing for a highly developed G-7 nation proud of its health service, is part of a long, painful process embedded in neoliberal dogma. EU-driven austerity mixed with the profit motive resulted in a very lax attitude towards the health system.

As Bugault told me, “test kits – very few in number – were always available but mostly for a small group connected to the French government [ former officials of the Ministry of Finance, CEOs of large corporations, oligarchs, media and entertainment moguls].  Same for chloroquine, which this government did everything to make inaccessible for the population.

They did not make life easy for Professor Raoult – he received death threats and was intimidated by ‘journalists.’

And they did not protect vital stocks. Still under the Hollande government, there was a conscious liquidation of the stock of masks – which had existed in large quantities in all hospitals. Not to mention that the suppression of hospital beds and hospital means accelerated under Sarkozy.”

This ties in with anguished reports by French citizens of nurses now having to use trash bags due to the lack of proper medical gear.

At the same time, in another astonishing development, the French state refuses to requisition private hospitals and clinics – which are practically empty at this stage – even as the president of their own association, Lamine Garbi, has pleaded for such a public service initiative: “I solemnly demand that we are requisitioned to help public hospitals. Our facilities are prepared. The wave that surprised the east of France must teach us a lesson.”

Bugault reconfirms the health situation in France “is very serious and will become even worse due to these political decisions – absence of masks, political refusal to massively test people, refusal of free access to chloroquine – in a context of supreme distress at the hospitals. This will last and destitution will be the norm.”

Professor vs president

In an explosive development on Tuesday, Raoult said he’s not participating in Macron’s scientific council anymore, even though he’s not quitting it altogether. Raoult once again insists on massive testing on a national scale to detect suspected cases, and then isolate and treat patients who tested positive. In a nutshell: the South Korean model.

That’s exactly what is expected from the IHU in Marseille, where hundreds of residents continue to queue up for testing. And that ties in with the conclusions by a top Chinese expert on Covid-19, Zhang Nanshan, who says that treatment with chloroquine phospate had a “positive impact,” with patients testing negative after around four days.

The key point has been stressed by Raoult: Use chloroquine in very special circumstances, for people tested very early, when the disease is not advanced yet, and only in these cases. He’s not advocating chloroquine for everyone. It’s exactly what the Chinese did, along with their use of Interferon.

For years, Raoult has been pleading for a drastic revision of health economic models, so the treatments, cure and therapies created mostly during the 20th century, are considered a patrimony in the service of all humanity.“That’s not the case”, he says, “because we abandon medicine that is not profitable, even if it’s effective. That’s why almost no antibiotics are manufactured in the West.”

On Tuesday, the French Health Ministry officially prohibited the utilization of treatment based on chloroquine recommended by Raoult.  In fact the treatment is only allowed for terminal Covid-19 patients, with no other possibility of healing. This cannot but expose the Macron government to more accusations of at least inefficiency – added to the absence of masks, tests, contact tracing and ventilators.

On Wednesday, commenting on the new government guidelines, Raoult said, “When damage to the lungs is too important, and patients arrive for reanimation, they practically do not harbor viruses in their bodies any more. It’s too late to treat them with chloroquine. Are these the only cases – the very serious cases – that will be treated with chloroquine under the new directive by [French Health Minister] Veran?” If so, he added ironically, “then they will be able to say with scientific certainty that chloroquine does not work.”

Raoult was unavailable for comment on Western news media articles citing Chinese test results that would suggest he is wrong about the efficacy of chloroquine in dealing with mild cases of Covid-19.

Staffers pointed instead to his comments in the IHU bulletin. There Raoult says it’s “insulting” to ask if we can trust the Chinese on the use of chloroquine. “If this was an American disease, and the president of the United States said, ‘We need to treat patients with that,’ nobody would discuss it.”

In China, he adds, there were “enough elements so the Chinese government and all Chinese experts who know coronaviruses took an official position that ‘we must treat with chloroquine.’ Between the moment when we have the first results and an accepted international publication, there is no credible alternative among people who are the most knowledgeable in the world. They took this measure in the interest of public health.”

Crucially: if he had coronavirus, Raoult says he would take chloroquine. Since Raoult is rated by his peers as the number one world expert  in communicable diseases, way above Dr. Anthony Fauci in the US, I would say the new reports represent Big Pharma talking.

Raoult has been mercilessly savaged and demonized by French corporate media that are controlled by a few oligarchs closely linked to Macronism. Not by accident the demonization has reached gilets jaunes (yellow vest) levels, especially because of the extremely popular hashtag  #IlsSavaient (“They knew”), with which the yellow vests stress that French elites have “managed” the Covid-19 crisis by protecting themselves while leaving the population defenseless against the virus.

That ties in with the controversial analysis by crack philosopher Giorgio Agamben in a column published a month ago, where he was already arguing that Covid-19 clearly shows that the state of exception – similar to a state of emergency but with differences important to philosophers – has become fully normalized in the West.

Agamben was speaking not as a doctor or a virologist but as a master thinker, following in the steps of Foucault, Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt. Noting how a latent state of fear has metastasized into a state of collective panic, for which Covid-19 “offers once again the ideal pretext,” he described how, “in a perverse vicious circle, the limitation of freedom imposed by governments is accepted in the name of a desire for security that was induced by the same governments that now intervene to satisfy it.”

There was no state of collective panic in South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam – to mention four Asian examples outside of China. A dogged combination of mass testing and contact tracing was applied with immense professionalism. It worked. In the Chinese case, with the help of chloroquine. And in all Asian cases, without a murky profit motive to the benefit of Big Pharma.

There hasn’t yet appeared the smoking gun that proves the Macron system not only is incompetent to deal with Covid-19 but also is dragging the process so Big Pharma can come up with a miracle vaccine, fast. But the pattern to discourage chloroquine is more than laid out above – in parallel to the demonization of Raoult.

Interview with Professor Didier Raoult in the Parisien newspaper 22 March 2020

Interview with Professor Didier Raoult in the Parisien newspaper 22 March 2020

Via the Saker

March 25, 2020

Professor Raoult is a leading expert on infectious diseases. He is confident he has a cure for Covid 19, which he is using in his Marseille hospital. He is having trouble getting the French health authorities to take him seriously. Despite his international renown he does not get on too well with the Parisian medical establishment. And he has long hair. Oh dear… Read on: —

[Translation Robert Harneis – The article in French is here]

LE PARISIEN – The government has authorized a large scale clinical trial to test the effect of Chloroquine on Coronavirus. Is having got that to happen important for you?

DIDIER RAOULT – No, I couldn’t care less. I think there are people living on the Moon and who contrast controlled trials for Aids with trials for a new infectious disease. Like any other doctor, once a treatment has been shown to be effective, I find it immoral not to use it. It is as simple as that.

LE PARISIEN – What do you say to doctors who recommend caution and have reservations about your trials and the effect of Chloroquine, particularly in the absence of more extensive trials?

DIDIER RAOULT – Let me make myself clear: I am a scientist and I think like a scientist with verifiable evidence. I have produced more data about infectious diseases than anybody else in the world. I am a doctor, I see sick patients. I have 75 patients in hospital, 600 consultations a day.

So, regarding the opinions of other people, I couldn’t care less. In my team we are practical people, not birds for television interviews.

LE PARISIEN – How did you come to work on Chloroquine with the idea that it could be an effective treatment for Coronavirus?

DIDIER RAOULT – The problem in this country is that the people that talk are abysmally ignorant. I did a scientific study of Chloroquine and viruses, which was published, thirteen years ago. Since then four other studies by other authors have shown that Coronavirus responds to Chloroquine. None of that is new.

That the group of decision makers do not even know about the latest science takes my breath away. We knew about the potential effect of Chloroquine on cultured viral samples. It was known that it was an effective antiviral.

We decided in our experiments to add a course of treatment of azithromicyne (an antibiotic used against bacterial pneumonia – ed).

When we added azithromycine to hydrochloroquine, in treating patients suffering from Covid-19, the results were spectacular.

LE PARISIEN – What do you expect from the bigger scale trials on Chloroquine?

DIDIER RAOULT – Nothing at all. With my team we think we have found a treatment. And as far as medical ethics are concerned, I do not think I have the right as a doctor not to use the only treatment which has so far worked.

I am convinced that in the end everybody will use this treatment. It is only a matter of time before people agree to eat their hats and to say that is what should be done.

LE PARISIEN – In what form and for how long do you administer chloroquine to your patients?

DIDIER RAOULT – We give hydro chloroquine in doses of 600mg per day for 10 days (the name of the medicine is Plaquenil – ed.) in tablet form administered three times a day. And 250 mg of azithromycine twice a day for the first day and then once a day for five days.

LE PARISIEN – Is it a treatment that can be taken as a preventive?

DIDIER RAOULT – We don’t know.

LE PARISIEN – When you apply the treatment, after how long can a patient with Covid 19 be cured?

DIDIER RAOULT – What we know for the moment is that the virus disappears after six days.

LE PARISIEN – Even so, do you understand why certain of your colleagues are cautious about this treatment?

DIDIER RAOULT – People give their opinions about everything but I only talk of things I know about, I don’t give my opinion about the French football team! Each to his own. Today, scientific communication in this country is on the level of a chat in a bistro.

LE PARISIEN – But aren’t there precautionary rules to follow before using a new treatment?

DIDIER RAOULT – To those who say there has to be thirty multi-centered studies with a thousand patients, I reply that if we had to apply these existing methodological rules, we would have to re-do a study on the usefulness of the parachute. Take a hundred people, half with parachutes and half without and count the dead at the end to see which is the best method.

When you have a treatment that works versus zero other available treatments, this treatment should be the norm.

And I am free to proscribe it as a doctor. It is not necessary to obey the orders of the state to treat patients. The recommendations of the Health Authority are advice, but not binding. Since Hippocrates, the doctor does what is best, to the best of his knowledge according to the state of scientific knowledge.

LE PARISIEN – What of the risks of serious undesirable side effects connected with taking chloroquine, especially high doses?

DIDIER RAOULT – Contrary to what certain people say on the television, Nivaquine (name of a medicine based on chloroquine – ed.) is rather less toxic than a strong dose of Doliprane or Aspirin.

In any event, a medicine should not be taken lightly and always prescribed by a general practitioner.

LE PARISIEN – Are you aware that you have given rise to an immense amount of hope of a cure for affected patients?

DIDIER RAOULT – What I see, essentially, is that there are doctors writing to me from all over the world every day to know how to treat patients with hydroxy chloroquine. I have had calls from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Mayo Clinic in London.

The two world leading specialists, one of infectious diseases and the other for antibiotics have contacted me to ask for details on how to put this treatment into effect.

Even Donald Trump has tweeted on the results of our tests. It is only in this country that people don’t quite know who I am! Just because you don’t live inside the Périphérique (the dual carriageway round Paris – tr.) does not mean that you can’t do science. This country has become Versailles in the 18th Century.

LE PARISIEN – What do you mean by that?

DIDIER RAOULT – Discussions are going on between French people or even between Parisians. But Paris is completely out of touch with the rest of the world.

Take the example of South Korea and China where there are no more cases. In these two countries, they decided a long time ago to do tests on a great scale to be able to diagnose infected patients more quickly. It is the basic rule in dealing with infectious diseases.

But we have arrived at a degree of madness where doctors in television studios do not advise diagnosing the illness, but tell people to stay shut up at home. That is not medicine.

LE PARISIEN – You don’t think that shutting up the population will be effective?

DIDIER RAOULT – We have never done this in modern times. It was done in the 19th Century for Cholera in Marseille. The theory of isolating people to stop the spread of an infectious disease has never been successfully tested. We don’t even know if it works. What is going to happen when people are shut up in their homes for 30 or 40 days? In China there are reports of suicides out of fear of Coronavirus. Some people will be fighting amongst themselves.

LE PARISIEN – Should we, as recommended by the WHO carry out extensive testing in France?

DIDIER RAOULT –We have to have the courage to say it: the mish mash ‘à la française’ does not work. France is only at 5000 tests a day whilst in Germany they are carrying 160,000 a week! There is a sort of dissonance. With infectious diseases, you diagnose the patient and when you have the result you treat them. Particularly as we are starting to see people with the virus apparently without visible symptoms, but who in quite a lot of cases have pulmonary lesions visible on the scanner, showing they are ill. If these people are not treated in time there is a reasonable risk that we will have them in recovery or that we will lose them. Not to test people until they are seriously ill is thus an extremely artificial way of increasing mortality.

LE PARISEN – And should everybody wear masks?

DIDIER RAOULT –It is difficult to evaluate. We know that it is important for health workers because they are the rare people who have really have very close contact with sick patients when they examine them, sometimes 20cm from their faces.

We don’t really know how far the virus reaches. But certainly not more than a meter. So beyond that distance perhaps it does not make sense to wear a mask.

In any event, the hospitals should have the priority for masks to safeguard health workers. In Italy and in China, a considerable percentage of the sick turned out in the end to be health workers.

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