Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Belgians Get Fat

I expect that the results would be similar in the U.S.

A major study by the public science institute Sciensano involving over 40,000 participants said that during the lockdown, twice as many adults had succumbed to a sedentary lifestyle as two years ago. A total of 56.1 percent said they were sitting or at rest for more than 8 of their waking hours. On average, adults are now sitting or resting 8.6 hours during their waking day compared with 5.8 hours two years ago.

A quarter of respondents said they had gained weight while locked inside, with the oven churning out homemade pastries breads and other recipes from long-forgotten cookbooks.

Rwandan Genocide Fugitive Captured

Wow. It’s good to see some justice.

PARIS, May 17 (Reuters) – Rwandan genocide fugitive Felicien Kabuga, whose arrest on Saturday ended 26 years on the run, was a frail, elderly man who said little to neighbours and who would take a stroll most days outside of his apartment in a well-off suburb of Paris.

Kabuga, 84, Rwanda’s most wanted man with a $5 million bounty on his head, had been living under a false name in a five-storey apartment block in Asnieres-sur-Seine with the help of his children, according to France’s justice ministry.

Police detained him early on Saturday.

“I would see this man going out, maybe once a day, alone or with someone,” said Jean-Yves Breneol, 72, a resident in the same block where Kabuga lived. “He wouldn’t say a word, nothing.”

Breneol said he thought Kabuga might have lived in the building for four or five years.

[…]

A Hutu businessman, he is accused of creating and making contributions to a fund that raised finances to pay the youth militias that would slaughter some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, as well as importing huge numbers of machetes, according to the UN tribunal’s indictment.

Denmark and the Czech Republic Do Not See Surge of Deaths After Partially Reopening

Good news. Just like the election in Wisconsin, we are over two weeks away from these reopenings and there hasn’t been a surge. We can reopen responsibly.

There was, though, encouraging news from the Czech Republic and Denmark, where phased exits from strict lockdowns implemented early in the pandemic are under way. In Denmark, daycare facilities and schools began reopening two weeks ago, followed by hairdressers and other small businesses on 20 April.

“There are no signs at all that the partial reopening has caused a bigger spread of infection,” said Christian Wejse, a scientist at the department of infectious diseases at Aarhus University. “At least there is no indication that we are heading into another wave. That has been the concern, but I can’t see that at all.”

The Czech health minister, Adam Vojtěch, said the country’s number of new cases had been below 100 for the past eight consecutive days and also reported that a staggered reopening of shops and services had not so far led to a surge in infections.

“So far we do not see a negative trend resulting from previous relaxations,” Vojtěch said. “We will proceed with caution, gradually in the upcoming waves, and I believe we are on a good path.”

Government Coronapanic Causing Cancer Deaths

This is happening in the U.S. too. And it’s harming and killing more than cancer sufferers.

Almost 18,000 more people with cancer in England could die after the coronavirus pandemic led hospitals to suspend treatment and deterred patients from seeking NHS care, research has found.

Cancer experts claim that an extra 6,270 people in England who have been newly diagnosed with the disease could die from it over the next 12 months as a direct result of the disruption caused by coronavirus, and the additional toll taking into account all those living with cancer could be 17,915.

That is an increase of 20% on the 89,576 deaths among cancer patients recorded annually in England, according to the latest available statistics.

Global Economic Downturn

Ouch

“Just three months ago, we expected positive per capita income growth in over 160 of our member countries in 2020,” she said.

“Today, that number has been turned on its head: we now project that over 170 countries will experience negative per capita income growth this year.”

She added: “In fact, we anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression.”

Iranians Dying From Drinking Methanol to Cure Covid

Sad.

Iranian media report nearly 300 people have been killed and more than 1,000 sickened so far by ingesting methanol across the Islamic Republic, where drinking alcohol is banned and where those who do rely on bootleggers. An Iranian doctor helping the country’s Health Ministry told The Associated Press on Friday the problem was even greater, giving a death toll of around 480 with 2,850 people sickened.

The poisonings come as fake remedies spread across social media in Iran, where people remain deeply suspicious of the government after it downplayed the crisis for days before it overwhelmed the country.

“Other countries have only one problem, which is the new coronavirus pandemic. But we are fighting on two fronts here,” said Dr. Hossein Hassanian, an adviser to Iran’s Health Ministry who gave the higher figures to the AP. “We have to both cure the people with alcohol poisoning and also fight the coronavirus.”

Germany Covid Death Rate Less than 0.5%

As I, and many others, have pointed out for weeks, you can’t calculate an accurate death rate without knowing the denominator. What we are seeing is that there are many people who get the virus who show few, if any, symptoms – and many of those are never even being tested for the virus. In Germany’s care, they are testing more, finding more infected people, and thus their official death rate is lower. 0.5% is still pretty high, but it’s nowhere near the 8+% we have been hearing about in other countries.

Germany‘s rate of new coronavirus infections dropped from 21 per cent to 15 per cent today while the country’s death rate remained strikingly low.

Official figures from the Robert Koch health institute showed the total number of cases in Germany rising by 4,118, taking the total from 27,436 to 31,554.

The death toll climbed by 35, rising from 114 to 149 – an overall death rate of just under 0.5 per cent, far lower than Germany’s major European neighbours.

The low death rate has not been fully explained, but may be linked to more comprehensive testing, younger patients and more intensive care facilities.

Germany has a policy of ‘doing everything to find, isolate, test and treat every case’, unlike in the UK where people with mild symptoms are not routinely tested.

The Kingdom Sets Sights on U.S. Oil

This is a strategic threat to the United States. Saudi Arabia is trying to force the U.S. to be dependent on their oil again because they have lost the sway they once had.

When Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de facto leader and most influential member, decided at its latest meeting in Vienna to break its recent strategic oil partnership with Russia and adopt a new policy to maximize production levels, oil prices crashed — posting their biggest slide since the Gulf war in 1991.

But even more importantly, this new policy recalibrated global oil markets, giving Saudi Arabia the long-term advantage. This move marks a big change for the world’s largest oil exporter, which has in recent years attempted to manage the global oil markets by altering production levels, while garnering the difficult cooperation of Russia. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has finally decided to pursue a long-term policy that not only preserves and ultimately increases the kingdom’s market share, but also may signal the end of OPEC as a united functioning organization.
This decision is very unpopular with most oil exporting countries, international energy companies and American shale producers because collapsing prices will drastically decrease their revenues and, in some cases, force them into bankruptcy.
[…]
On April 1 or shortly thereafter, Saudi Arabia will most likely surpass Russia to become the world’s second largest producer. But this oil price war won’t end until Saudi Arabia takes back the global production crown from the United States, which should happen within the next two years.

Europe Struggles with Border Controls

Oh, sure... NOW they like borders… but seriously, Croatia is right: the cure is proving to be worse than the disease.

More than a dozen countries moved to tighten or even shut borders that are usually open and uncontrolled in response to the spreading crisis, hitting work commutes, stalling deliveries of goods including food and hampering some health workers.

“The transport sector is being severely affected by a wide range of national measures to contain the pandemic,” Croatia, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said in a statement after a video call of the 27-nation bloc’s transport ministers.

“We agreed it is important to keep freight moving, also across borders in order to make sure that essential goods and medical supplies reach our citizens …

“Responses to COVID-19 should not aggravate economic and social distress by cutting off much-needed transport links. It is imperative that we keep the economy going,” it said.

Venezuelan President Calls for Women to Have Six Children Each

Uh huh… have more children you can’t feed because their socialist policies have caused chaos and hardship.

“Give birth!” Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president, said at a televised event promoting a women’s healthcare plan on Tuesday evening. “Every woman is to have six children! Every one! For the good of the country!

The comment sparked outrage in the country where a deepening economic crisis is felt across society. Venezuela’s central bank said inflation reached nearly 10,000% last year, while shortages from basic foodstuffs to medical supplies are widespread.

Child malnutrition is estimated at 13%, according to Unicef.

Venezuela’s government has not published infant mortality figures since 2017, when a health ministry bulletin revealed that 11,466 children had died the previous year – a 30% jump in infant mortality.

The crisis has caused around 4.5 million Venezuelans to flee, with 1 million children left behind.

US and Taliban Move Toward Peace

Let’s hope it holds.

The US and the Taliban have signed an agreement aimed at paving the way towards peace in Afghanistan after more than 18 years of conflict.

The US and its Nato allies have agreed to withdraw all their troops from the country within 14 months if the militants uphold the deal.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Taliban leaders attended the signing ceremony in Doha in Qatar.

Talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are due to follow.

Under the agreement signed in Doha, the militants also agreed not to allow al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in the areas they control.

 

Trump In India

Wow. Quite an event.

Across the stands of the world’s biggest cricket stadium, a sea made up of the faces of Donald Trump and Narendra Modi stared out. The 125,000-strong crowd who had gathered to welcome to US president on his first visit to India alongside the Indian prime minister, at a rally dubbed “Namaste Trump”, not only danced and chanted to show their appreciation, but many also donned masks of the two leaders.

“America loves India, respects India,” said Trump as he stepped out to address the rally, to roars of approval. “India gives hope to all of humanity.”

The event, organised in Ahmedabad in Modi’s home state of Gujarat on Monday afternoon, was the pinnacle of Trump’s visit to India and a platform for the two leaders to show off their enthusiastically friendly relationship. Before taking to the stage, Trump rally favourites Madman Across the Water by Elton John and Macho Man by the Village People boomed out across the giant stadium.

The effusive bond between the two leaders was on full display, and Trump delivered a gushing speech paying tribute to an “exceptional leader … and a man I am proud to call my true friend”, while Modi sat behind him looking pleased. “Everybody loves him but I will tell you this, he is very tough,” added Trump, who unusually did not appear to divert from his speech script at all.

Hunger in Venezuela

What a shame. There is not reason for this other than it is the predictable result of the implementation of socialism.

A total of 9.3 million people – roughly one-third of the population – are moderately or severely food insecure, said the World Food Program’s study, which was conducted at the invitation of the Venezuelan government. Food insecurity is defined as an individual being unable to meet basic dietary needs.

The study describes food insecurity as a nationwide concern, though certain states like Delta Amacuro, Amazonas and Falcon had especially high levels. Even in more prosperous regions, one in five people are estimated to be food insecure.

“The reality of this report shows the gravity of the social, economic and political crisis in our country,” said Miguel Pizarro, a Venezuelan opposition leader.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been largely reluctant in recent years to invite international organizations to provide assessments of the nation’s humanitarian ordeal, though the World Food Program said it was granted “full independence” and collected data throughout the country “without any impediment or obstruction.”

“WFP looks forward to a continuation of its dialogue with the Venezuelan government and discussions that will focus on the way forward to provide assistance for those who are food insecure,” the agency said in a statement.

There was no immediate response to the findings by Maduro’s government.

The survey found that 74% of families have adopted “food-related coping strategies,” such as reducing the variety and quality of food they eat. Sixty percent of households reported cutting portion sizes in meals, 33% said they had accepted food as payment for work and 20% reported selling family assets to cover basic needs.

Bipartisan Rejection of Anti-Civil Rights Bill in Virginia

Good!

Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s push to ban the sale of assault weapons failed on Monday after some of his fellow Democrats balked at the proposal.

Senators voted to shelve the bill for the year and ask the state crime commission to study the issue, an outcome that drew cheers from a committee room packed with gun rights advocates.

Four moderate Democrats joined Republicans in Monday’s committee vote, rejecting legislation that would have prohibited the sale of certain semiautomatic firearms, including popular AR-15 style rifles, and banned the possession of magazines that hold more than 12 rounds.

Transgender Person Poised to Compete in Women’s Soccer in Argentina

This is a global question.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Dozens of trophies, balls and cups sit on two worn, wooden shelves in the small home in a Buenos Aires suburb of Mara Gómez, who is poised to become the first transgender woman to play professional soccer in Argentina.

Tall and athletic, Gómez looks at the mementos from her arduous journey in soccer and life, and smiles. “When I started I was so bad. I’d kick the ball at the goal and it would go anywhere.”

Gómez spent years playing in local women’s leagues in Buenos Aires province before being signed recently by Villa San Carlos in the first division. Now the 22-year-old forward is awaiting the Argentine Soccer Federation’s decision whether to authorize the signing in a soccer-mad country that has produced some of the world’s greatest stars, from Lionel Messi to Maradona.

[…]

The federation’s decision on Gómez could come in days, and in the run-up her cellphone pings constantly with messages from people reaching out to her. While many support her bid to play professional soccer, others contend it is unfair to the non-transgender women in the league.

“The rights of transgender athletes and the social demands to integrate them into competitions challenge and seriously threaten the rights of women in sports,” said Juan Manuel Herbella, a former soccer player who is a sports doctor. “Athletes who were born men, if they maintain their base conditions, start with an enormous advantage.”

Juan Cruz Vitale, the Villa San Carlos coach, rejects the idea that Gómez would have an unfair advantage.

The coach said she caught his eye with her speed and her scoring in two straight tournaments. But, he said, “If we talk of strength, I have at least five or six girls who are stronger than her. On that side I don’t see that there is an advantage.”

Intelligence Agencies Used Front Company for Technical Surveillance

Huh

The Swiss government has ordered an inquiry into a global encryption company based in Zug following revelations it was owned and controlled for decades by US and German intelligence.

Encryption weaknesses added to products sold by Crypto AG allowed the CIA and its German counterpart, the BND, to eavesdrop on adversaries and allies alike while earning million of dollars from the sales, according the Washington Post and the German public broadcaster ZDF, based on the agencies’ internal histories of the intelligence operation.

“It was the intelligence coup of the century,” the CIA report concluded. “Foreign governments were paying good money to the US and West Germany for the privilege of having their most secret communications read by at least two (and possibly as many as five or six) foreign countries.”

[…]

The operation, codenamed Thesaurus and then renamed Rubicon in 1980s, demonstrated the overwhelming intelligence value of being able to insert flaws into widely sold communications equipment. The CIA’s success over many years is likely to reinforce current US suspicions of equipment made by the Chinese company Huawei.

Neither China or the Soviet Union bought Crypto encryption devices, suspicious of the company’s origins, but it was sold to more than 100 other countries.

Russia Threatens U.S. Spy Satellite

One wonders how often this happens.

A top Space Force official has lashed out at Russia for trailing a US spy satellite with two spacecraft.

Gen John Raymond, the chief of space operations for America’s newly-minted Space Force, said the two Russian satellites began pursuing the multi-billion dollar US satellite in November and have at times flown within 100 miles it.

‘This is unusual and disturbing behavior and has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space,’ Raymond said in a statement to Business Insider.

‘The United States finds these recent activities to be concerning and do not reflect the behavior of a responsible spacefaring nation.’

The US has raised concerns about the matter to Moscow through diplomatic channels, Raymond told Time magazine, which first reported the stalking on Monday.

The confrontation marks the first time the US military has publicly identified a direct threat to a specific American satellite by an adversary.

Chinese Military Accused of Hacking Equifax

Cyber-warfare is real.

Four members of the Chinese military have been charged with breaking into the networks of the Equifax credit reporting agency and stealing the personal information of tens of millions of Americans.

The 2017 breach affected roughly 145 million people, with the hackers successfully stealing names, Social Security numbers and other personal information stored in the company’s databases.

The Justice Department on Monday blamed China for one of the largest hacks in history.

The four – Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke and Liu Lei – are members of the People’s Liberation Army, which is an arm of the Chinese military.

Another Terrorist Killed

Excellent.

The United States has killed the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), President Donald Trump said.

Qasim al-Raymi, who has led the jihadist group since 2015, was killed in a US operation in Yemen, the White House said.

The jihadist leader had been linked to a series of attacks on Western interests in the 2000s.

He took over the leadership after his predecessor was killed by a US drone strike.

Brexit. Done.

For all of the controversy this has roiled over the past few years, it seems almost anticlimactic today.

The UK officially left the European Union on Friday at 23:00 GMT after 47 years of membership, and more than three years after it voted to do so in a referendum.

Brexit parties were held in some pubs and social clubs as well as in London’s Parliament Square, as the country counted down to its official departure.

In a message released on social media an hour before the UK left, Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to bring the country together and “take us forward”.

“For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come,” he said. “And there are many of course who feel a sense of anxiety and loss.”

I forget… did liberals say that this would cause World War III or a global economic collapse? I can’t remember.