Gathered mainly from international media sources
These are news/opinion items which caught my eye.
Click on the link below:
14 Jan 2021 "Hidden Wars - Syria"
12 Jan 2021 "An interview with David Reaboi by a Hungarian journalist"
11 Jan 2021 "Crisis in UK National Health Service "
10 Jan 2021 "Snow blizzards hit Spain"
4 Jan 2021 "Julian Assange" "Iran seizes South Korean tanker" "The fate of Beirut"
2 Jan 2021 "US$ vs Gold"
29 Dec 2020 "Covid-19 - Extreme concern in UK"
"Spain to keep registry of those who refuse the vaccine"
27 Dec 2020 "The death of a spy"
24 Dec 2020 "Two cases of another new strain of Covid-19 in UK"
23 Dec 2020 "Tesco puts buying caps on several products"
"WHAT'S IN THE NEW $900B CORONAVIRUS RELIEF PACKAGE?"
22 Dec 2020 "The new variant of coronavirus - Is it more deadly?"
"UK-France border blockage"
"More than 40 countries ban visitors from UK"
"39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in lorry trailer in Essex"
20 Dec 2020 "The World is living beyond its means !"
19 Dec 2020 "Air leak on ISS, crew safe but for how long?"
18 Dec 2020 "Hacking attacks linked to Russia "
"28 Symptoms of Long Covid"
"Charlie Hebdo killers sentenced"
"A dog's life at the North Pole"
"Flynn advocates 'Martial Law'"
"Freedom of speech includes the right to offend"
"Coronavirus: Swiss count cost of surge in deaths"
"Charlie Hebdo hearings in Paris, France"
"Manchester police failed to record 80,000 crimes last year"
"Sweden's Covid-19 strategy failed"
"Slovakia goes into shutdown"
"The changing face of Europe"
17 Dec 2020 "France's President tested positive for Covid-19"
"Lockerbie bombmaker to be charged"
16 Dec 2020 "No more Arab-Israeli peace deals if Biden mollifies Iran"
"Ossoff: ICE should make illegal immigrants paid minimum wage"
15/12/20 "Netherlands in Lockdown"
13 Dec 2020 "British espionage writer John le Carré has died aged 89,"
12 Dec 2020 "What next with Iran?"
"First black American nominated as defence secretary"
11 Dec 2020 "California School Districts removes 5 classic books ..."
"Covid: Genes hold clues to why some people get severely ill"
"Referendum for the state of Texas to secede from the U.S. ?"
"Covid-19 More single day dead than in 9/11 terror attack"
"Covid-19: France moves to night-time curfew from 15 December"
"Elon Musk has launched the latest prototype of Starship "
"Covid-19 - $600 direct payment to most Americans?"
"Hunter Biden under federal investigation"
"Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine data gets positive FDA review"
For earlier entries drill down the list
10 Dec 2020 - Covid: Genes hold clues to why some people get severely ill
10 Dec 2020 - Referendum for the state of Texas to secede from the U.S. ?
10 Dec 2020 - Covid-19: More single day dead than in 9/11 terror attack or on D-Day landing
10 Dec 2020 - Covid-19: France moves to night-time curfew from 15 December
10 Dec 2020 - Elon Musk has launched the latest prototype of his Starship vehicle from Texas.
9 Dec 2020 - Covid-19 - $600 direct payment to most Americans?
9 Dec 2020 - Hunter Biden under federal investigation
9 Dec 2020 - Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine data gets positive FDA review
9 Dec 2020 - Is BIG TECH censoring different ideas about COVID-19?
9 Dec 2020 - Clashes in Portland
9 Dec 2020 - UK is investigating two possible allergic reactions to Pfizer coronavirus shot
9 Dec 2020 - Open letter by the Prime Minister of Hungary to the European Union
9 Dec 2020 - VACCINE OPTIMISM AND PESSIMISM
9 Dec 2020 - UK EXIT FROM THE EU (Last supper?)
8 Dec 2020 - ROALD DAHL AND A WOKE APOLOGY
Israel has reportedly carried out a wave of air strikes on Iran-backed militia positions in Syria overnight, in the fourth such attack in two weeks.
The Syrian state news agency Sana said Israeli aircraft attacked the eastern Deir al-Zour and Albu Kamal regions.
It did not mention any casualties, but the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 14 Syrian soldiers and 43 allied militiamen were killed.
Israel has not commented, but it often attacks Iran-linked targets in Syria.
The chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Gen Aviv Kochavi, told Israeli media last month that it had struck more than 500 targets during 2020 "on all fronts, in addition to multiple clandestine missions".
"The Iranian entrenchment in Syria is in a clear slowdown as a result of IDF activity, but we still have a long way to go to complete our goals," he said.
Israel has accused its enemy of building up a force inside Syria and using the country to smuggle advanced weapons to Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.
Iran is believed to have deployed hundreds of troops to Syria and to have armed, trained and financed thousands of Shia Muslim militiamen - from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen - to support forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the nine-year Syrian civil war.
Sana reported that Israel had carried out "air aggression" around the city of Deir al-Zour and the town of Albu Kamal, which is near the Iraqi border, at 01:10 on Wednesday (23:10 GMT on Tuesday).
It said the damage was still being assessed and accused Israel of "directly interfering to support terrorist organisations", particularly the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), which is active in the area.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria through a network of sources on the ground, reported that 18 Israeli strikes had targeted military storage facilities and a base on the outskirts of Deir al-Zour, military installations in Albu Kamal, and warehouses outside Mayadin.
At least 57 people were killed, including 14 Syrian soldiers, 16 Iraqi fighters and 11 Afghans, and many others were wounded, the group said.
Forces linked to Hezbollah and the Fatemiyoun Brigade, an Afghan Shia militia, operated in the areas that were attacked, it added.
Iran's state-run Arabic TV channel, Al-Alam, quoted a source as saying "no Iranians, Syrians, or members of the Fatemiyoun Brigade were martyred".
An unnamed senior US intelligence official told the Associated Press that the air strikes had been carried out with intelligence provided by the US and that they had targeted warehouses being used as part of a pipeline to store and stage Iranian weapons.
The warehouses also served as a pipeline for components that supported Iran's nuclear programme, according to the official.
Omar Abu Layla, the Europe-based head of the activist DeirEzzor24 news website, tweeted that the warehouses had contained a shipment of missiles and other weapons brought to the Deir al-Zour area by the Fatemiyoun Brigade in recent weeks for distribution among Iran-backed militias.
He described the air strikes as "a painful blow that indicates how much the Israelis are monitoring Iranian movements in every inch of Syria".
Israel is reported to have carried out three other rounds of air strikes in Syria in the past fortnight, hitting facilities, depots and positions in the southern and western outskirts of Damascus and in the Golan Heights.
Wednesday's were the deadliest strikes attributed to Israel since the start of the war in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. In June 2018, 55 pro-government fighters were reportedly killed in the same region.
They come amid heightened tensions in the region, with Israeli and US forces on alert for attacks by Iran to avenge the US assassination of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani a year ago.
|An interview with David Reaboi by a Hungarian journalist
David Reaboi: The favored strategy of left-wing powers to overcome ideological debates is to brand their enemies or those they dislike as either antisemitic or racist. The problem with this, is they overuse the terms—revealed David Reaboi. Recently entrusted by Washington’s Hungarian embassy to represent Hungarian interests overseas, Reaboi—though American born—is extraordinarily proud of his Jewish ancestors born in Transylvania. He’s a national security expert, dubbed a “right-wing pugilist on Twitter” by Politico, and director of Strategic Improvisation, a communications company; he told our paper, that under Joe Biden’s presidency, countries that don’t surrender to liberal ideals will have a hard time. That is, surrender to the tyranny of Democrats who adore immigration, support the aggressive efforts from the LGBTQ communities, and are struggling in the blindness of left-wing ideologies.
– Multiple Hungarian sources have already announced that last September, you signed a contract with the Hungarian embassy in Washington. Specifically, what kinds of assignments were you tasked with?
– The entire contract is open to the public online and the Hungarian media has already thoroughly examined every detail, so I won’t bore you with that–but my assignment is basically to find new friends among American conservatives. Despite Hungary’s small size, the world’s most-read platforms mention the country often; it goes without saying, this happens almost exclusively in the framework of incessantly repetitive and expounded pejorative commentary. However, it is one thing to be at the crossroads of media hatred, and another how people react to this. To the outside observer, Hungary is usually seen as the focal point of conflict between globalism and nationalism–a trail blazed by the Hungarian government which many Americans would be delighted to follow. I am referring here to family policy, immigration policy, and the struggle against the abstract network of NGOs and George Soros. The Hungarian government represents values that are sympathetic to many people–and they would be for even more, if not for the constant negative, construed, distorted image of Hungary by the left-wing media. It is my job to help.
– Antisemitism frequently appears among the accusations flung at Hungary on the international stage. You yourself are extremely proud of your Transylvanian Jewish ancestry and family history rooted in Hungarian culture. How do you react to this kind of criticism?
– In short: I find it to be utterly stupid. On the other hand, I understand that Hungarians may be thoroughly confused by the criticisms leveled at them by the NGO networks supported by George Soros and the liberal media which provides their ideology with a front page and millions of views. For me though, as a Jew who has fought against antisemitism my whole life, I have a completely different take on Hungary and the attitude of the Hungarian government towards Jewish culture.
– But why is this accusation brought up over and over again if it has no basis?
– When a right-wing leader or government is to be denounced on an ideological basis, the antisemitism or racism card is immediately pulled. In Europe, labelling others “antisemitic” is an extremely powerful weapon, while in America, the same goes for “racist”. The favored strategy of left- wing powers to overcome ideological debates is to brand their enemies or those they dislike as either antisemitic or racist. The problem with this, is they overuse the terms. At this point, we’ve reached a state where real antisemitic acts barely generate a reaction. It’s practically spilling out of our ears, making a concept that has caused tremendous suffering not only to my family but millions of others, meaningless. Not to mention the fact that the same voices advocating for the antisemitic stamp on Hungary are simultaneously loudly opposing and lobbying against Hamas (which treasures a close friendship with Hezbollah) being on the list of terrorist organizations. The radical Islamist Palestinian organization is defended, claiming it’s not antisemitic–while Hamas is just that, antisemitic. But of course, according to them, it is actually the Hungarians and the Hungarian government. How can this be?
– You’ve worked previously for the Trump administration and even today are often referred to as a “trumper” or “alt-right”. Does this hold a negative connotation in everyday American life?
– You’re mistaken, I never worked for the Trump administration–although I’m well aware that in the recent past the liberal media primarily has painted this picture of me. It is complete insanity, and I can only assume that something was misread during their research. Though it is true that in 2017, I was mentioned in a few articles as an advisor to Trump on national security issues, but these are two totally separate things: I worked for a think tank as one of thirty-forty colleagues who then proceeded to advise the government on various national security issues. But it obviously was not the goal of these detracting articles to provide accurate information about me. Yet verifying this information would’ve been the easiest thing in the world because the name of anyone who has ever worked in the White House is on their website. And mine isn’t there.
– And what about the “trumper” label?
– I have no problem with it because I supported and do support Donald Trump, and I think he was a great president, especially looking back on his foreign policy. As a national security expert, I believe America hasn’t had such an excellent leader like him since Ronald Reagan; although it’s obviously difficult to compare the two presidencies because they faced totally different challenges, at the same time, they did stand up to the unprecedented challenges of their times. Of course, I understand the question and I’m not avoiding it, but I want to go back a little further. In the ‘70s, the New York Times had a very popular film critic, Pauline Kael. When Richard Nixon won in a never-before-seen landslide victory in 1972, Kael wrote: I can’t believe Nixon won, I don’t know anyone who would’ve voted for him. This sentence has been a buzzword in American politics ever since as it perfectly illustrates the absurdity of the media’s world and the extent to which the opinion- forming liberal elite doesn’t leave its constructed reality. However, if you leave the rainbow media bubble, the prospects are much better. Naturally, there are also blue states where if I put out a Trump sign, my house may actually be lit on fire– but American society is much more heterogenous than the media wants to reveal. Last year’s close results from the presidential election confirm this. Of course, in 2016, it was a different situation, it was, so to speak, more problematic to be a Trump supporter. But four years have passed during which people have had the chance to see the economy in better shape than ever, unemployment at its lowest level in a long time, the never- ending wars have come to an end, and I could go on and on. Moreover, Trump was able to confront the ruling far left, calling out fake news factories by name and proving his patriotism, and people appreciated that.
– What should Hungary prepare for? What can we count on during Joe Biden’s presidency?
– There are a few countries in the world that are in a similar situation, namely those with right-wing governments in power and where traditional values are still important to the majority of society. This is usually described by political analysts as the globalism versus nationalism debate, but I don’t think this fully depicts its essence. A good friend of mine who previously worked in the White House called this “blue tyranny”. This concept can primarily be interpreted within the context of the United States where blue is typically associated with the Democrats, but the concept itself extends far beyond America’s borders. Take for example Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, or Israel’s right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu, but this also includes Poland. They all face the international liberal forces that deify immigration and the aggressive efforts of LGBTQ communities. The rule of law accusations are the preferred weapon against these countries. “Blue tyranny” however, near-insanely clings to its own ideals, does not tolerate any other opinion or attitude, and the ideological blindness in which they live is almost evocative of religious fundamentalism. It is for certain that the countries who don’t succumb to the “blue tyranny” will not have an easy time under Biden’s presidency.
Crisis in UK National Health Service - The worst is still to come
Chris Whitty took to the airwaves to highlight the scale of the threat, saying that there are 30,000 people in hospital compared to the peak of 18,000 in April. Amid signs of a looming crackdown on stopping to chat in the street and in shops, Prof Whitty urged people to remember that 'every unnecessary contact' was an opportunity for the virus to spread. He insisted that vaccines mean the UK can be back to normal in 'months not years' - but he cautioned that the situation is a long way from that currently. The intervention came amid fears that the number of daily deaths is on track to rise to 2,000, with Boris Johnson looking at tightening the national lockdown rules even more dramatically if cases keep surging. Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi this morning suggested that shops are in the firing line, stressing the need for everyone to wear masks and follow one-way systems in supermarkets.
|Emergency crews in central Spain have cleared 500 roads and rescued more than 1,500 people stranded in vehicles as the country slowly shovels its way out of its worst snowstorm in recent memory.
After recording 20 inches of snow in the Spanish capital between Friday night and Saturday, Madrid and a large swathe of the country remained impassable, with roads, rail lines and air travel disrupted by Storm Filomena.
The blizzard has been blamed for four deaths.
Transport minister Jose Luis Abalos said by Sunday crews had cleared two runways at Madrid's Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas International Airport and, weather permitting, service would slowly return sometime between Sunday evening and Monday.
Trains traversing the capital were to start gradually coming back online Sunday aftern
|The blast that blew away Lebanon's faith in itself
By Samia Nakhoul
BEIRUT (Reuters) - They gather in groups, wearing black, in the shadow of buildings gutted by the explosion that shook this city on Aug. 4. Men, women and children from Christian and Muslim sects cradle portraits of their dead.
Beirut has been blown back to the vigils of its 1975-1990 civil war. Then, families demanded information about relatives who had disappeared. Many never found out what happened, even as the country was rebuilt. Today’s mourners know what happened; they just don’t know why.
Four months on, authorities have not held anyone responsible for the blast that killed 200 people, injured 6,000 and left 300,000 homeless. Many questions remain unanswered. Chief among them: Why was highly flammable material knowingly left at the port, in the heart of the city, for nearly seven years?
For me, the port explosion rekindled memories I’ve spent 30 years trying to forget. As a reporter for Reuters, I covered the civil war, the invasion and occupation of Lebanon by Israel and Syria – and the assassinations, air strikes, kidnappings, hijackings and suicide attacks that marked all these conflicts.
But the blast has left me, and many other Lebanese, questioning what has become of a country that seems to have abandoned its people. This time, the lack of answers over the catastrophe is making it difficult for an already crippled nation to rise from the ashes again.
“I feel ashamed to be Lebanese,” said Shoushan Bezdjian, whose daughter Jessica – a 21-year-old nurse – died while on duty when the explosion ripped through her hospital.
It took 15 years of sectarian bloodletting to destroy Beirut during the civil war. It then took 15 years to rebuild it – with lots of help from abroad. In 1990, billions of dollars poured in from Western and Gulf Arab countries and from a far-flung Lebanese diaspora estimated to be at least three times the size of the country’s 6 million population.
The result was impressive: Beirut was reincarnated as a glamorous city featured in travel magazines as an exciting destination for culture and partying. Tourists came for the city’s nightlife, to international festivals in Graeco-Roman and Ottoman settings, to museums and archaeological sites from Phoenician times.
Many highly educated expatriates – academics, doctors, engineers and artists – returned to take part in the rebirth of their nation. Among them was Youssef Comair, a neurosurgeon who had left Lebanon in 1982 to pursue a specialization in the United States.
Comair had then worked as assistant professor of neurosurgery at UCLA and head of the epilepsy department at the Cleveland Clinic, where he pioneered the use of surgery as a therapy for epilepsy. When he landed back in Beirut to work as head of surgery at the American University of Beirut, Comair believed the country had turned a corner. Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, the industrialist-turned-politician who had rebuilt post-war Beirut, was in power and promised a renewed age of prosperity.
“I was yearning for a life and a place ... receptive to all kinds of civilizations. This is what we were in Lebanon before the war,” recalled Comair.
Behind the splendor of Beirut, however, post-civil war Lebanon was being built on shaky political ground.
At the end of the war, militia leaders on all sides took off their fatigues, donned suits, shook hands after the 1989 Saudi-brokered Taif peace accord and largely disarmed. But the nation’s political leaders, it seemed to many here, continued to pay more attention to a revolving door of foreign patrons than to the creation of a stable state.
The country’s Shi’ite Muslims turned to Iran and its Arab ally Syria, whose troops entered Lebanon in 1976 and stayed for three decades. The Sunnis looked to wealthy oil producers in the Gulf. Christians, whose political influence was heavily curtailed in the post-war deal, struggled to find a reliable partner and shifted alliances over the years. Domestic policy was dictated, at different times, by the foreign power with the deepest wallet.
|Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in Gulf waters and detained its crew, Iranian media said on Monday, amid tensions between Tehran and Seoul over Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks due to U.S. sanctions.
Seoul confirmed the seizure of a South Korean chemical tanker by Iranian authorities in the waters off Oman, and demanded its immediate release.
Several Iranian media outlets, including state TV, said the Guards navy captured the vessel for polluting the Gulf with chemicals.
“According to initial reports by local officials, it is purely a technical matter and the ship was taken to shore for polluting the sea,” state television quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh as saying.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency published pictures showing the Guards’ speed boats escorting the tanker HANKUK CHEMI, which it said was carrying 7,200 tonnes of ethanol.
It said the vessel’s detained crew members included nationals of South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar. Iran’s state TV said the tanker was being held at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port city. The ship had 20 crew members, according to South Korea’s foreign ministry.
The U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet is aware of the incident and is monitoring the situation, spokeswoman Rebecca Rebarich said in response to a Reuters query.
The incident comes ahead of an expected visit by South Korea’s deputy foreign minister to Tehran. Khatibzadeh said the visit would happen in coming days, during which officials would discuss Iran’s demand that South Korea release $7 billion in funds frozen in South Korean banks because of U.S. sanctions.
|UK judge rejects extradition of 'suicide risk' Assange to United Stateslian
A British judge ruled on Monday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States to face criminal charges including breaking a spying law, saying his mental health problems meant he would be at risk of suicide.
|In 2020 the US currency lost 22% of its value relative to gold. Most other national currencies lost value more or less to the same extent.
The answer to this problem is buy and hold gold. Governments/central banks can print paper money, and will print paper money, but they can't print gold.
The most economical way to buy and hold gold is via bullionvault.com.
A surge in coronavirus cases in the UK is of "extreme concern", a health boss says, as a record number of cases was reported for the second day running.
On Tuesday, 53,135 new Covid cases were recorded as well as 414 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Not all data was reported in full over the Christmas period, leading to a lag in some data, but Public Health England said there had been a "real increase".
The health secretary said the NHS was facing "unprecedented pressures".
Ahead of an announcement on any changes to England's tier restrictions on Wednesday, Matt Hancock added in a tweet: "We must suppress this virus to protect our NHS & save lives until the vaccine can keep us safe."
Hospitals in England and Wales are now treating more Covid patients than at the peak of the first wave in April.
Dr Susan Hopkins, senior medical adviser at PHE, said: "We are continuing to see unprecedented levels of Covid-19 infection across the UK, which is of extreme concern, particularly as our hospitals are at their most vulnerable.
"Whilst the number of cases reported today include some from over the festive period, these figures are largely a reflection of a real increase."
Dr Hopkins said it was "essential, now more than ever" that people follow social distancing rules to help drive infections down, and protect the NHS and vulnerable people.
It comes a day after more than 40,000 daily virus cases were announced for the first time in the UK, although it is thought infection rates were higher earlier in the year, before mass testing.
In Wales' Brecon Beacons beauty spot, police have had to turn away visitors from as far away as London - which is under "stay at home" tier four rules.
People in Scotland have been urged to stay at home and not celebrate Hogmanay with other households.
And in Northern Ireland a top doctor has warned a third surge of Covid cases is expected in mid-January, in part driven by the spread of a new coronavirus variant.
|Spain is to set up a registry of people who refuse to be vaccinated against coronavirus and share it with other European Union nations, the health minister has said.
Salvador Illa said the list would not be made accessible to the public or to employers.
He said the way to defeat the virus was "to vaccinate all of us - the more the better".
Spain has been one of the countries in Europe worst affected by the virus.
It is currently rolling out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which was approved for EU member states last week.
In an interview with La Sexta television on Monday, Mr Illa emphasised that vaccination would not be mandatory.
"What will be done is a registry, which will be shared with our European partners... of those people who have been offered it and have simply rejected it," he said.
"It is not a document which will be made public and it will be done with the utmost respect for data protection."
He added: "People who are offered a therapy that they refuse for any reason, it will be noted in the register... that there is no error in the system, not to have given this person the possibility of being vaccinated."
According to a recent poll, the number of Spanish citizens who have said they will not take the vaccine has fallen to 28% from 47% in November.
In other comments on Monday, Mr Illa said people would be contacted by regional authorities when it was their turn to be inoculated.
"People who decide not to get vaccinated, which we think is a mistake, are within their rights," he told reporters. "We are going to try to solve doubts. Getting vaccinated saves lives, it is the way out of this pandemic."
The number of people who have died from Covid-19 in Spain rose above the 50,000 mark on Monday. The country has registered more than 1.8 million infections during the pandemic.
Spain is under a nationwide curfew, between 23:00 and 06:00, until early May. In many places, people are only allowed out in that period to go to work, buy medicine, or to care for elderly people or children.