Thursday, May 20, 2021

That ever changing COVID science

They just seem to make it up as they go along, this whole how to deal with the pandemic. I feel like I'm told to walk east and I take 3 steps and then they say, "No, south east!" I keep doing what they say but it's rather obvious that they don't really seem to know -- or maybe I can generously say that they are always adapting? Adapting to new knowledge?

At any rate, this is from Wednesday's All Things Considered (NPR):

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST: People who are fully vaccinated can now safely shed their face masks in many situations. That is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week. In changing its rules, the CDC is making a tacit gamble that easing mask rules will inspire more people to get their shots, but will it? Or will many people just rip off their masks regardless of their vaccination status? NPR's Yuki Noguchi talked to people who study behavior about how they predict people will react.
YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Katherine Milkman is fully vaccinated, but masks have become a protective habit, so she still feels uneasy about exposing her entire face.
KATHERINE MILKMAN: I feel like, oh, my God, I came outside naked if I don't have my mask on.
NOGUCHI: Milkman is an economics professor at Wharton School of Business. She wrote a recent book about how to change people's behavior, so she's also thought a lot about how people might react to the CDC's rollback of its mask guidance.
MILKMAN: What the CDC is betting on is that people care about their own health and they're going to be nervous. Holy moly, you know, I better keep my mask on because I didn't get the vaccine, and maybe I'd better get a vaccine.
NOGUCHI: But it's a gamble and one without historical precedent. The risk, of course, is that unvaccinated people will no longer feel compelled to wear masks at all. But Milkman says the new mask guidelines put the incentives on the unvaccinated, and that's the right place.
MILKMAN: The only people who are hurt by this change are the people who aren't doing the right thing and aren't getting the vaccine. I do think it's going to move people toward vaccination.
NOGUCHI: Swarthmore College assistant professor Syon Bhanot says he thinks relatively few people are ideologically opposed to vaccination. Most of the people hesitant to get the shots are likely willing, he says, if not exactly eager.
SYON BHANOT: A lot of the early data was people just kind of waiting and seeing.
NOGUCHI: So what's the best way to motivate them? Is this change in guidelines the best incentive? Bhanot says probably not. He says a local bar offering free drinks to those with proof of vaccination is a stronger sell.

Another thought? Maybe this is where we stress that it's not "an exact science"? Hopefully, lessons learned during this will lead to a smoother plan if there's a next time in our lifetime.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

 Thursday, May 20, 2021.  Turkey continues to terrorize Iraq, Mustafa al-Kadhimi remains inept one year later, and much more.

At WSWS, Andre Damon observes:

Around the world, millions of people are shocked and outraged at the brutal terror bombings, ethnic cleansing and communal violence being carried out by Israel, a US client state, against the people of Gaza.

Two hundred and twenty-seven people, including 63 children, have been killed in Israel’s ten-day-long assault on Gaza, a figure nearly 20 times higher than the number of Israelis killed in the conflict.These crimes are committed using American armaments, funded by American tax dollars, and with the approval of the American government. They are facilitated by arms deals and military alliances created behind the backs of the American population and orchestrated to facilitate the predatory interests of the US financial oligarchy.

On Monday, after a week of murderous bombardment of the Gaza’s civilian population, US president Joe Biden began a telephone discussion with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu by declaring, in the words of the official readout, “The President reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks.”

When on Tuesday Biden visited Dearborn, Michigan, the city with the nation’s highest percentage of Arab American residents in the United States, he was greeted by thousands of people protesting the crimes Israel is committing with US support.

Asked if he would take a question on the conflict from a reporter as he was test-driving a new Ford truck, Biden replied, “No, you can’t. Not unless you get in front of the car as I step on it.”

Journalists laughed at his comments.  They sucked up hard.  They should have been disgusted.  But they throw their itty-bitty, baby egos out the window when the insult comes from one of their higher ups.  At that point, they just lick the boots.

So busy spit polishing, they never seemed to grasp just how offensive Biden's remarks are.  The Israeli government is terrorizing the Palestinians.  Can Joe be asked a question?  Only if you're willing for him to drive you down in the vehicle he's in.

The way, right before the start of the Iraq War, Rachel Corrie was killed?  That's how she was killed on March 16, 2003.  She was protesting on behalf of the Palestinian people and an Israeli miliatry bulldozer ran over her.

Is that what Joe's threatening?  

Oh, by all means, laugh it up.

How embarrassing.

How shameful.

Tom Elliott Tweets:

After Biden jokes about running over a reporter trying to ask him about Israel, many reporters start laughing; he then peels off and the press corps breaks into hysterical laughter

Glenn Greenwald Tweets:

As you watch these reporters giggle in delight at Biden's playing with this car, remember - regardless of your view on Israel/Palestine - that there's a savage war going on for which Biden bears direct responsibility. Seems, at least, to be bad optics to being playing with toys.

So that's one point with regards to Andre Damon's article.

The second point?

Is WSWS ever going to note the Kurds in Iraq?  Is their hatred of the Kurds just going to mean they continue to be silent?

More 'reports' of Turkey 'neutralizing' Kurds in Iraq.  Murdering them.  Claiming they're terrorists.  Invading Iraq on the ground and dropping bombs from war planes.

How did we get to the point where the Israeli government could so openly and wantonly murder Palestinians?  By people looking the other way for years.  By the press ignoring the realities.

What's it going to take for the press to wake up to what the Kurds are doing?

Most of them covered for nearly 100 years -- covered for Turkey, looked the other way with regards to the Armenian genocide that Turkey carried out.  

Steve Sweeney (Australia's GREEN LEFT) reports:

Hundreds of Kurdish villagers have been forced to flee their homes in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq due to Turkish bombing — and are being replaced by jihadists imported from Syria.

An agricultural worker from Barwari Bala in the mountainous Duhok province, which borders Turkey, told the Morning Star that he had abandoned his land and home due to the intensity of the aerial bombardment.

“Every day, every night, for the past weeks we are being bombed. Our lands are being destroyed: we cannot grow our crops,” he said.

“Nearly all of us have left — there is nothing for us. Our future is being destroyed, and they give our homes to Daesh [Isis].”

“We are civilians: farmers, children. Why are they doing this? The world does nothing to help because we are Kurds. Everyone wants to kill us.”

He insisted that there had been no guerilla fighters in the villages — Turkey’s pretext for invasion — but added that the people supported the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkey deems a terrorist group, as the only force preventing a genocide.

“If I see them, I hug them,” he said. “Without them, Turkey would kill us all.”

Turkey’s illegal invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan, codenamed Operation Claw Lightning, started on April 23, the anniversary of the start of the Ottoman Armenian genocide in 1915, during which 1.5 million men, women and children were systematically exterminated.

Why the silence from WSWS?  Were the Kurds anti-Trotsky or have some long ago beef with SEP?  Maybe Eric London could write an article about that -- another long winded confusing article, as Mike pointed out.

The Kurds are being attacked.  This is genocide.  Turkey is carrying it out in Iraq and Syria as well as within the Turkish borders.  

The United Kingdom's Boycott Turkey notes:

Our arms industry arms Turkey. Turkey uses these weapons in places like northern Iraq and northern Syria where civilians are regularly killed and injured.

Podcaster Peculiar Blend wonders:

How many people knows what's happening between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdish? Which military giant is using hightech machineries e.g. F16 & F4 in Northern Iraq? Where's the noise discussion outrage about what Turkish Military is doing to Kurdish people? #OperationClawLightning

To hear the Turkish government tell it, they never kill or injure civilians in Iraq.  It's always terrorists, according to them.  To hear the Turkish government tell it, the Armenian genocide never happened.  Cableee3 points out:

Turkey: Soldiers shoot two Kurdish civilians in Hakkari near the Iraq border

MEDYA NEWS reports:

Turkish soldiers on 18 May reportedly shot Şahap Şendol, a 23 old shepherd and Celil Ekinci, aged 17, in the Derecik district of Turkey’s eastern province of Hakkari (Colemerg), which borders Iraq.

The incident took place at around 07:00 am on Tuesday in a rural area near the village of Hacı Bey. The soldiers on duty along the Turkey-Iraq border reportedly fired on Şendol and Ekinci ‘without warning’.

As both were wounded by the gunfire, they were taken to a hospital in Iraqi Kurdistan. Whilst Şendol was wounded in his hand and released from hospital, the treatment of 17-year-old Ekinci, who was wounded in his stomach, continues.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) MP for Hakkari Sait Dede announced the incident in his social media posts, sharing the footage that was recorded at the scene of the incident.

Turkey gets away with it.  They get away with attacking anyone.  Even Americans on US soil.  Barack Obama was president then and he looked the other way.  Sorry, Barack, diplomatic immunity does not cover assaults.  Those people should have been charged and put on trial.  They should not have been allowed to slip out of the country.

Meanwhile, Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) reports:

Weapons in Iraq are not the solution to the crises the country is facing, Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi said as he encouraged citizens to participate in the upcoming elections to create a change for the better.

Iraq faces serious issues, from a dilapidated healthcare system, corruption and war-battered economy, to the task of reining in armed groups that operate outside the state's authority.

The country has witnessed dozens of assassinations and targeted killings of activists and reporters in recent months by unknown gunmen, the latest was Ihab Al Wazni who was murdered last month in the southern city of Karbala.

"There is anarchy in Iraq’s planning system that has caused the accumulation of a large number of problems. The use of weapons is not the solution, rather elections and a large voter turnout is needed to change for the better,” Mr Al Kadhimi said during a visit to the southern governorate of Wasit.

Anarchy, huh?

Well, Mustafa, you've had a year and what have you done?  

It was May 7, 2020 that Mustafa became prime minister.  A year later, what can he claim to have accomplished?

No killed of activists has been brought to justice.  The report, the government report, remains suppressed, he's the one refusing to release it -- despite repeated, public promises.  The Iraqi people continue to suffer.

Turkey has set up a base in Iraq and Mustafa won't address that.  He was supposed to be a one term prime minister -- by his own statements -- but instead he's trying to get a second term -- even going so far as to form a conditional alliance with cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.  

What has he accomplished?

Lawk Ghafuri noted May 6, 2020 what Mustafa was planning:

The highlights of Iraqi PM-designated Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s cabinet agenda:- - Improve Iraqi security forces - Improve #Iraq’s economy - Develop diplomatic ties - Fighting corruption

What has he done?  You could say "develop diplomatic ties" if you ignored that fact that his recent flurry of phone calls have to do with his attempts to shore up support for a second term.

The following sites updated:

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Jeffrey Epstein's Circle of Sewage

Human Evil Bill Gates is in the news lately ensuring that his dead friend Jeffrey Epstein is as well. For example, Radar reports:

Nearly 50 charities have decided to cut ties with Prince Andrew after his close friendship with Jeffrey Epstein was revealed.
The bombshell came out over the weekend in The Sunday Telegraph. A total of 47 groups have decided to no longer work with Andrew amid accusations he hung out with Epstein, who was a convicted sex offender at the time of his death.
The report says the Royal Navy and royal Marines Children's Fund have asked Andrew to cease helping them. Other charities decided to replace Andrew with Prince Charles as their royal patron.

Good. The man should be behind bars. Barring that? May he live the rest of his life in disgrace.

By the way, since Prince Harry is so fond of weighing in on every news topic -- even when he's an idiot who doesn't have the knowledge to weigh in -- shouldn't someone ask him about his pedophile uncle? He and his wife love to play woke, so someone needs to ask him about his uncle. And what of 'lovely' Ghislaine Maxwell? Donna Miller (GRUNT STUFF) reports:

Ghislaine Maxwell — who has been whining for months about situations at the Brooklyn federal lockup the place she is being held on sex-trafficking raps — griped in a brand new courtroom submitting that the pc setup she’s been given there’s “totally insufficient.”
Calling the fallen socialite’s digital association “a colossal waste of time,’’ a lawyer for Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged cohort claims that the jail’s pc system randomly shuts down each two hours, amongst different issues.
Inmates usually have entry to e-mail however not the web at the jail.

It must be so difficult for her when she's trying to earn money via the webcam. That was sarcasm. Boo-hoo. Ghislaine needs to get a grip. She also needs to apologize to the young girls and women she has harmed. She then needs to atone for her crimes. All we've seen instead has been non-stop whining. Marie Claire magazine notes:

Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and alleged accomplice of Jeffrey Epstein, will be the centre of an upcoming docuseries from author James Patterson. It will be Patterson's second project diving into the life of Epstein, with his Netflix documentary Jefferey Epstein: Filthy Rich, premiering in 2020.
The series, titled Chasing Ghislaine, was announced on May 19, 2021, and will premiere later in the year. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series will provide a new glimpse into Epstein's "wealth and influence", as well as explore how “Maxwell’s alleged role within this conspiracy threatens a shadowy cabal of international elite and world leaders who might do anything to keep their identities—and motives—hidden.”
Notably, Prince Andrew found himself involved in the case due to his close relationship with both Maxwell and Epstein. Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of the most outspoken of Epstein's survivors, maintains that Maxwell introduced her to British royalty Prince Andrew, adding that she was forced to have sex with him when she was just a teen.
Prince Andrew and the royal family have so far denied all claims, with Andrew himself telling journalist Emily Maitlis that he has “no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever” in his infamous defense interview last year. He has since retired from all royal responsibilities permanently.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, May 19, 2021.  Robert Pether remains held in an Iraqi prison, an asylum seeker in Iraq sets himself on fire, another attack on a US convoy in Iraq, and much more.

Australian citizen Robert Pether has apparently been abandoned by his own country which does nothing to object to his imprisonment in Iraq.  (The Australian Embassy staff didn't even meet with Pether until May 3rd, 26 days after he was imprisoned.)   It's now been over forty days that he's been held in a prison with no charge (they say they are holding him for "questioning").  His appeal for bail was denied on May 11th.  He was told by his own government that it was safe to go to Baghdad for a meeting.  He showed up at the meeting but there was no meeting.  Instead, he was hauled off to an Iraqi prison.  Earlier this month THE IRISH EXAMINER noted:

Robert Pether was arrested and detained on April 7 in what his wife, Desree, believes is some form of contractual dispute, involving his employer, over the building of a new Central Bank building in Iraq, reports

While Australia has done little to nothing, Irish politicians have lodged public objections.  One example is Senator Eugene Murphy:

I again raised the case of Robert Pether in the Seanad this week. I am asking the Irish Government and to assist in a bid to have Mr Pether released from Iraq. His wife Desree and their children are Irish citizens living in Elphin for the past number of years.

Robert Pether's wife Desree is Irish. She spoke with THE JOE FINNEGAN SHOW last month.   Christopher Knaus (GUARDIAN) speaks with Robert and Desree's oldest son Flynn:

Flynn said it had hit the family hard.

“I feel like it’s criminal what they did,” he said. “It’s downright inhumane the way they’ve been treating him, given he has worked tirelessly around the clock to deliver the project.”

Flynn is currently preparing for his university entrance exams in Ireland, something that brings its own enormous stress. Usually, his father would be there to support him. They were close and spoke daily, often about university and Flynn’s future.

But he has managed to speak to his father behind bars just once during the ordeal, for about 30 seconds.

“As soon as he knew that I was on the line, he was just apologising, saying ‘Sorry I can’t make it to graduation, sorry I can’t get to your birthday, I will make it up to you, I promise,’” he said.

“I said to him, ‘It’s not going anywhere without you, and it’s all being recorded anyway. You’re not missing out.’”

Robert’s wife Desree has previously told the Guardian that, prior to travelling to Baghdad for the meeting, her husband sought advice from the Australian embassy. She says he was advised there would be little risk in going to the meeting.

The 46-year-old man is having problems with dizziness and, due to COVID restrictions, cannot be seen by a doctor any sooner than May 22nd.  

In other news, we hear often of Iraqis who have sought or are seeking asylum outside of Iraq.  The US government, for example, has done damn little to assist those in need.  But Iraq is also a country in which people seek asylum.  Ghazi Ghareeb Zorab Tweets:

An Iranian Kurd who was asylum seeker in Iraq doused himself in fuel and set himself alight, while the journalists and the reporters didn't stop him. It happened near the UNHCR office in Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurfistan Region in protest against living conditions.

AFP reports:

Medics in Arbil treating Mohammad Mahmoudi, 27, said he was in a critical condition.

Before setting himself on fire, Mahmoudi was filmed on a video posted on social media saying he had fled Iran because he was a critic of authorities in Tehran.

“Are we supposed to live the way I live because of my political activity? Is that life?” he said. “We have been living like homeless dogs for four years”.

Friends of Mahmoudi told AFP he is a former Peshmerga and dissident originally from the Boukan region, 480 kilometers (300 miles) west of Tehran, but had sought sanctuary in neighboring Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

A day laborer, he submitted an application for refugee status to the United Nations four years ago, but his request was still reportedly under review, friends said.

“If I return to Iran, I will be executed,” Mahmoudi said.

Shahram Mirzaei offers this Twitter thread:

Mohammad Mahmoudi, an Iranian Kurdish political activist and #asylumseeker, has been living in Iraqi Kurdistan for four years in the worst conditions and without any right to asylum. The #UN did not activate his case and did not grant him any rights.

He set himself on fire to protest the situation. He had previously warned UN staff that he would set himself on fire if his asylum case was not activated and his rights were not respected.

But UN officials told him, "If you set yourself on fire, do not do this here so that our building is not damaged." He only wanted the right to asylum.

There is no Kurdish homeland.  The closest thing to a Kurdish homeland is the area Mohammad set himself on fire in, the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq.  

Protests continue in Iraq.  One in Sulaimani gets some press attetion.

Second day of strikes, protests by non-contract teachers in Sulaimani, Raparin #NRTnews #Iraq #TwitterKurds #Sulaimani

NRT notes:

Wednesday's protests follow earlier demonstrations by the teachers across Sulaimani governorate the previous day and a strike in Said Sadiq on Sunday.

One teacher protesting in front of the Sulaimani Education Directorate told NRT that nearly 85 percent of positions in the Region’s public education sector are staffed by non-contract teachers.

She said that the teachers have the same duties, but fewer rights, compared with other classes of teachers.

In response to an earlier financial crisis, the KRG instituted a number of austerity measures in 2014 to save money, including by creating a status known as “non-contract,” where teachers are paid a lump sum per class and do not receive bene

Meanwhile, attacks on the US continue in Iraq.  MEHR NEWS AGENCY notes, "A US-led coalition logistics convoy was hit by a roadside bomb on Tuesday afternoon in Al-Diwaniyah province, southern Iraq."

The persecution of the Palestinians continues -- an issue that the Iraqi people care about deeply.  We'll note this from THE KATIE HALPER SHOW.

Let's wind down with this from IAVA:

May 17, 2021

New York, NY – On Wednesday, May 19th, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will host a Facebook Live celebrating the one year anniversary of the launch of IAVA’s flagship program, Quick Reaction Force (QRF). QRF is IAVA’S 24/7 peer support hotline and comprehensive care management program.

Chief Operating Officer Sean Ullman and Executive Vice President Hannah Sinoway will provide an overview of the data collected by the QRF in its first year. They will also discuss the program’s highlights and IAVA’s plan to expand QRF offerings. The full scope of the program and ways to connect to QRF can be found here.

“As a leading veteran service organization, caring for veterans and their families is our top priority, ” said Hannah Sinoway. “We launched QRF one year ago as a response to a pressing need for easily accessible mental health resources and overall support for veterans. Over the past year, QRF has helped veterans navigate transition related challenges as well as the mental health, economic, employment and social challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“As members of the armed services, our veterans experience unique challenges from their time in service,” said Sean Ullman. “QRF is tailored to meet the specific mental health needs of veterans and their families by providing 24/7 peer support.”

WHO: Sean Ullman, COO, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Hannah Sinoway, EVP, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
WHAT: IAVA Highlights First Year Success of Flagship QRF Program Live Event
WHEN:  Wednesday, May 19th at 11:00am EST/ 8:00am PST
WHERE: Join the Facebook Live event here. The event is open to the press.

IAVA is the voice for the post-9/11 veteran generation. With over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide, IAVA is the leader in non-partisan veteran advocacy and public awareness. We drive historic impacts for veterans and IAVA’s programs are second to none. Any veteran or family member in need can reach out to IAVA’s Quick Reaction Force at or 855-91RAPID (855-917-2743) to be connected promptly with a veteran care manager who will assist. IAVA’s The Vote Hub is a free tool to register to vote and find polling information. IAVA’s membership is always growing. Join the movement at


The following sites updated: