Month: August, 2021
Afghanistan Follies
worker | August 31, 2021 | 8:50 pm | Afghanistan | Comments closed
A new posting –

Afghanistan Follies

– from Greg Godels is available at:
http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/

In twenty years, the US occupiers succeeded in fostering unimaginable corruption, in installing cynical leaders completely detached from the Afghani people, in introducing a swarm of NGOs parasitically feeding on Western funding, and in finally restoring Afghani acceptance of the Taliban… To read more, please go to: https://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/2021/08/afghanistan-follies.html
Mozambique/Global: “Most Egregious Corruption Case of the 21st Century”
worker | August 31, 2021 | 8:49 pm | Africa | Comments closed

Mozambique/Global: “Most Egregious Corruption Case of the 21st Century”

AfricaFocus Bulletin
August 26, 2021 (2021-08-26)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“In my view the hidden debt scandal is the most egregious corruption case of the 21st century.  In dollar terms, the Malaysian 1MBD case is larger, but Malaysia is far wealthier than Mozambique, ranked 47th out of 185 countries on GDP per capita whereas Mozambique ranks 180.“ – Richard Messick, senior contributor to the Global Anticorruption Blog and pro bono legal counsel to the Budget Monitoring Forum, a civil society coalition in Mozambique.

“The damage the scandal has done to Mozambique,” Messick continued, “has been incomparably greater than that 1MDB caused in Malaysia. Not only did it throw millions into poverty but it clipped several billion dollars off cumulative GDP.”

Among global corruption scandals, a listing by Transparency International does include many adding up to even larger sums, but those are the results of multiple years of corruption by ruling regimes and their collaborators, rather than specific instances such as the Mozambican and Malaysian cases.

The trial of 19 defendants in the transnational $2 billion corruption case began on Monday, August 23, followed intensely by Mozambicans at home and abroad, as well as all others with ties to that country. It was expected to continue for at least 2 months. The court proceedings are being streamed live on Mozambican television, which is available on YouTube (see, for example, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6aDwTkMBUI, reporting on today’s proceedings).

Despite the open proceedings and the presence of many journalists, however, the case has so far drawn relatively little international attention, apart from an initial article by the BBC. To date it has not been covered by the Washington Post, the New York Times, or even The Guardian or Al Jazeera.

Full reporting by Mozambique specialist Joseph Hanlon, with background documents and daily updates both in Portuguese and in English, is available on his Google Drive.

Yet, as noted in the summary articles by the Mozambique News Agency included below, the case is a dramatic illustration of the transnational character of corruption and illicit financial flows, implicating intermediaries, multinational companies, and banks from New York to Abu Dhabi. There has already been one trial in New York, and another in New York not yet concluded.

Just last month, A judge in London ruled that a case could also proceed there.

This will be a super-trial in 2023 of claims and counter-claims between the Mozambican state, the shipbuilding giant Privinvest and others in relation to the “hidden debts” scandal.

For a summary of background on the hidden debts, as of May 2021, see http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/moz2105b.php. And for background on the war in Cabo Delgado province, see http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/moz2105a.php.

The two issues are closely linked, both deriving from the high expectations of earnings from natural gas production in the far northwest of Mozambique. Most recently in the war, the entry of Rwandan troops, with support from France and approval from many other global and regional countries, has for now changed the dynamic of the conflict. It remains to be seen, however, if those military advances will benefit the population rather than only serve to protect the natural gas production zone.

For much additional documentation on the $2 billion debt scandal, from the leading Mozambican anti-corruption organization Center for Public Integrity, in both English and Portuguese. see https://www.cipmoz.org/pt/documentos/

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Mozambique, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/mozambique

For previous Bulletins on Illicit Financial Flows and Corruption, visit http://www.africafocus.org/intro-iff.pho

For an overview of the issue of illicit financial flows and tax justice, see

https://www.us-africabridgebuilding.org/tax-justice/tax-justice/, https://www.us-africabridgebuilding.org/tax-justice/movement/, and https://www.us-africabridgebuilding.org/tax-justice/local-and-global-action/

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South African History Online, led by photographer, artist, and political activist Omar Badsha, has launched a campaign to raise $100,000 to support its ongoing operations, which include a unique digital archive of background information on South African, aimed at students, teachers, and the general public. Please support this effort as you are able. The site provides options for international contributions by PayPal or credit card.

https://www.sahistory.org.za/support-saho

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on us, as our traditional supporters have moved their funding to fight the worldwide Covid-19 crisis.

Since our formation in 2000, South African History Online has become the largest popular history project in the country. Just over 6 million people annually use our resources.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic our income from donors and loyal supporters has shrunk, we need your support to keep our research and educational and community projects going.

We once again call on you for your support. Your support will help us: expand our student internship programme strengthen our research and partnership programmes with universities, archive community history and heritage groups develop new resources to support teach and learning in our schools.

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Hidden Debts: Massively Corrupt Scheme Will Be Tried As From Monday

Mozambique News Agency (AIM)
August 22, 2021

Available on Google drive

Maputo, 22 Aug (AIM) – The definitive charge sheet from the Public Prosecutor’s Office against 19 people accused of involvement in Mozambique’s largest ever financial scandal gives exhaustive details of bribes paid by the Lebanon-based company Privinvest, and of the involvement of senior Mozambican government officials, particularly from the country’s security and intelligence service (SISE).

The fraudulent scheme involved setting up three security-linked companies, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management). The companies eventually borrowed, in 2013 and 2014, over two billion US dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia.

Loans on this scale to recently formed companies with no track record, and run by SISE, were only possible because government officials, notably Finance Minister Manuel Chang, signed loan guarantees – pledging that, if the companies did not repay, the Mozambican state would be liable. All three companies are now bankrupt, and the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Council, has declared the loans and their guarantees unconstitutional. But that does not stop the creditors from demanding their money back.

The case comes to trial in Maputo on Monday, and the trial is expected to last for at least 45 days.

But not all the key figures will be in the dock – Chang himself has been under police custody in South Africa since December 2018, while the Justice Minister, Roland Lamola, decides whether to extradite him to Mozambique or to the United States.

The three corrupt bankers from Credit Suisse, who arranged the loans in exchange for huge bribes from Privinvest, are also not showing their faces in Maputo. Andrew Pearse, Detelina Subeva and Surjan Singh, when before US prosecutors, all admitted to taking bribes as part of plea bargaining. But they have not yet been sentenced.

The Privinvest official who distributed the bribes, Jean Boustani, is also avoiding Mozambican justice after he was acquitted in New York in 2019 when smart lawyers convinced a jury, quite wrongly, that the US court did not have jurisdiction in the case.

While the loans and their guarantees were ruinous for Mozambique, they were very good business for Privinvest, which became the sole contractor for the three fraudulent companies, providing them with boats and other assets at vastly inflated prices. According to the 2017 independent audit of Proindicus, Ematum and MAM, Privinvest overcharged Mozambique about 713 million dollars for equipment of dubious value.

But, initially, it was not clear that the Privinvest scheme would win Mozambican political approval. So, according to the prosecutors, one of the Mozambicans working on the project, Teofilo Nhangumele, contacted his old friend Bruno Langa, a SISE officer, to ask how to unblock matters. Langa turned to his friend and business partner, Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest son of the then President, Armando Guebuza. He agreed, provided he received adequate “thanks”. He took the project to his father, who did indeed give the green light. Then the bribes began to flow.

The largest bribe paid by Privinvest was 33 million US dollars, paid to Ndambi Guebuza, the prosecution says. The money was paid, partly into an account he had opened in the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, in the United Arab Emirates, and partly via various South African companies. The first major payment from Privinvest was for 14 million dollars, deposited on 26 March 2013, inThe first major payment from Privinvest was for 14 million dollars, deposited on 26 March 2013, in Guebuza Junior’s Abu Dhabi account.

In order not to alert the Mozambican financial authorities to what was going on, Ndambi Guebuza opted to use South African companies as middlemen. Hence on 18 June 2013, Privinvest transferred 2.55 million rands (about 167,000 US dollars, at current exchange rates) to the account of the law firm Jouberts Attorneys in South Africa’s First National Bank (FNB).

The money was then used to acquire real estate, automobiles and for other expenditure. Thus Guebuza Jr acquired one property in South Africa for 11.6 million rands, and 2.9 million rands were transferred to the company Imperial Collection, which trades in luxury cars.

On 17 June 2013, Privinvest transferred a further 700,000 dollars to Jouberts Attorneys, at Guebuza’s request. That money was used to buy a Ferrari luxury sports car. Privinvest then, on 23 April 2014, transferred 10.5 million rands to the South African company Pam Golding Properties. Ndambi Guebuza used this money to buy at least 15 vehicles in South Africa, some for himself and some to offer to friends. None of this had anything to do with coastal protection or tuna fishing, the supposed purposes of the Credit Suisse and VTB loans

The Mozambican prosecutors, sifting through Guebuza Jr’s financial records, drew up a long list of people and companies who received some of the Privinvest money. Among these was a transfer Guebuza Jr ordered of seven million rands from Pam Golding Properties to Apple Creek Real Estate Trust. The latter company received instructions from Ndambi to transfer three million rands to a second law firm, Nochumsoth Teper Attorneys, to buy a property for his sister, the late Valentina Guebuza.

In order not to alert the South African financial authorities, this payment was broken into three parts, each for a million rands.

Teofilo Nhangumele and Bruno Langa each received 8.5 million dollars from Privinvest. The prosecutors found that the two men used the bribe money to buy properties, luxury cars and livestock, among other expenditure, inside Mozambique and abroad.

Nhangumele will be among the first defendants to be heard on Monday. Before Nhangumele, the court will question Cipriano Mutota, the former director of the Studies and Projects Office of SISE. The prosecution says he received bribes of 980,000 dollars from Privinvest. He was the SISE officer who received the Privinvest proposal (supposedly for the protection of Mozambique’s Exclusive Economic Zone) via Nhangumele.

Both Nhangumele and Mutota face charges of corruption, abuse of trust, money laundering and membership of a criminal association.

The prosecution is asking the court, in addition to any custodial sentence, to order the defendants to pay compensation to the Mozambican state of 2.9 billion dollars.

That sum is not enough. The loans themselves were for about 2.2 billion dollars. But since they were contracted, the costs for Mozambique have spiraled upwards.

In a detailed study published in May, the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP) calculated that the “hidden debts” have already cost the country at least 11 billion dollars, and have plunged an additional two million people into poverty.

The CIP report puts the direct cost of the loans so far incurred, up to and including 2019, at 674.2 million dollars, in payment of interest and capital. If Mozambique is obliged to go on servicing the debts, there will be an additional 3.93 billion dollars to pay up to 2031.

But the indirect costs of the scandal are much higher. The secrecy and corruption surrounding the loans dealt devastating blows to Mozambique’s credibility and reputation.

The report notes that “When rumours about hidden loans began to circulate, Mozambican ministers lied to the IMF and ambassadors of Mozambique’s development partners, denying the existence of any loans. When the Wall Street Journal revealed the hidden debt in April 2016, the anger was extreme. Donors and lenders had kept the country afloat, and they pulled the plug”.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), angered that the Mozambican government had concealedThe International Monetary Fund (IMF), angered that the Mozambican government had concealed the true size of its foreign debt, suspended its programme with Mozambique in April 2016. All the 14 donors and funding agencies who had provided Mozambique with direct budget support, suspended further disbursements, and to this day, more than five years later, they have not resumed.

The loss of this foreign aid in 2016 cost Mozambique 831 million dollars, in comparison with 2015, and these losses have continued to cascade down the years.

The CIP report notes that the ensuing financial crisis meant that “the government became unable to pay its bills, there was a major currency devaluation, foreign debt became unpayable, the economy slowed down sharply, real GDP per capita fell, unemployment soared and poverty increased”. The report puts a figure on this damage. It calculates the fall in the value of Mozambique’s GDP at 10.7 billion dollars between 2015 and 2019. This is a loss that cannot be recovered, and it will continue to grow, year after year.

The report puts the total economic losses over this four year period at 11.33 billion dollars – or a loss of 403 dollars for every man, woman and child in the country.

The report noted that “the sudden rise in inflation in 2016 and rising prices drove 2.6 million people below the threshold of consumption-based poverty”. It estimates that, because of the hidden debt scandal, at least 1.9 million people had fallen below the consumption-based poverty line by 2019.

The prosecutors have been tracking all the bribes paid by Privinvest, leading to the discovery of more goods purchased with the bribe money, and more bank accounts. Although the properties can be seized, the money raised in this way comes nowhere near meeting the true costs of the scandal.

(AIM) Pf/ (1505)

******************************************************************

Hidden Debts: Intelligence Officer Admits Negotiating Huge Bribes with Privinvest

Mozambican News Agency (AIM)

August 24, 2021

Available on Google Drive

Maputo, 24 Aug (AIM) – A high-ranking Mozambican intelligence officer on Tuesday, admitted that he had negotiated bribes of millions of dollars with Lebanese businessman, Jean Boustani, a salesman for the Privinvest group.

Cipriano Mutota, the former head of the Studies and Projects Office of the Mozambican State Security and Intelligence Service (SISE), is one of 19 people on trial in Maputo for their role in the country’s largest financial scandal, the case of the so-called “hidden debts”.

This involved obtaining loans of over 2.2 billion dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia for three fraudulent, security linked companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).The loans were only possible because the government of the time, under the then President Armando Guebuza, issued illegal loan guarantees so that, if the companies proved unable to repay the loans, the Mozambican state would become liable.

Privinvest was the sole contractor for the three companies and, according to the investigations by both Mozambican and US prosecutors, diverted at least 200 million dollars of the loan money into bribes and kickbacks.

Mutota, the first of the defendants to testify, told the court how, at the request of SISE general director Gregorio Leao, he had drawn up a report in 2009 or 2010, on the main threats facing Mozambique – including terrorism, piracy, illegal fishing, drug trafficking and illegal migration.

A meeting was held at the Ministry of Science and Technology, where Boustani, representing the company Abu Dhabi Mar, which is part of Privinvest, put forward proposals supposedly for the protection of the Mozambican coastal waters (the Exclusive Economic Zone). This was the start of what would eventually become the first of the fraudulent companies, Proindicus.

Mutota worked on the project with a friend, businessman Teofilo Nhangumele, who came to act as a middleman between the Mozambicans and Boustani.

He said that the first estimate of the cost of Proindicus was 302 million dollars, eventually rising to 370 million. But on top of this was the “fee” (the polite term for a bribe) that was to be paid to the Mozambican fixers. Initially, said Mutota, this was to be 50 million dollars, divided among the Mozambicans involved.

But the Proindicus project stalled, with no go-head from the government. So Nhangumele contacted his old friend, Bruno Langa, who was a business partner of Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest son of President Armando Guebuza. Ndambi was persuaded to ask his father to give Proindicus the green light.Once this happened, the loan from Credit Suisse could be arranged, and the money began to flow. But initially, none of it found its way into Mutota’s pockets.

In 2013, Angela Buque, the wife of Gregorio Leao, asked Mutota if he had received his share of the money. He had received nothing, and when he turned to Boustani, the latter told him to ask Nhangumele for the money.

Mutota knew that Nhangumele, Langa and Guebuza Junior had all received some of the bribe money, but where was his part? (According to the prosecution, Privinvest paid Ndambi Guebuza 33 million dollars and Teofilo Nhangumele and Bruno Langa 8.5 million dollars each).

Mutota went to Nhangumele’s office and demanded his cut, but got nothing. When he contacted Boustani again, he said that Nhangumele, Langa and Guebuza should each give Mutota half a million dollars, so that this SISE agent would pocket 1.5 million dollars.

This too did not happen, and when Mutota complained to Boustani, the Lebanese told him to come to Abu Dhabi where Privinvest would open a bank account for him and deposit the money.

Mutota refused to travel to Abu Dhabi, and insisted the money be sent to Mozambique. When Boustani flatly refused to transfer money to Mozambique, an alternative was found whereby the money went via friends of Mutota in South Africa.

One of these friends, whom Mutota named as Russell Edmonds, sent him seven trucks in part payment, which Mutota then sold. A second friend, named as Chis Bruno, transferred 656,000 dollars, in three instalments, to Mutota’s account in the largest Mozambican commercial bank, Millennium-BIM.

When the bank wanted to know where this money came from, Mutota said it was the proceeds from the sale of his shares in a company in London. He admitted to the court that this was a lie.

When prosecuting attorney Sheila Marrengula asked Mutota how he had used the 656,000 dollars, he replied “I spent it”. He claimed there were no purchases of sizeable items, such as houses or cars – yet Marrengula noted there were several very large withdrawals from his account, including one for 155,000 dollars in 2014. Mutota said he could not remember why he had made that withdrawal.

In all, Privinvest paid Mutota the equivalent of 980,000 dollars, a far cry from the promised two million.

Marrengula asked Mutota to explain why his friend Nhangumele was so deeply involved in setting up Proindicus, even though he was not a SISE agent and seemed to have nothing to do with the defence and security forces. “I can’t answer that without authorisation”, replied Mutota.

(AIM) Pf/ (858)

****************************************************

London judge sets Mozambique Privinvest showdown for 2023

Zitamar

21 July, 2021

A London court will hold a super-trial in 2023 of claims and counter-claims between the >Mozambican state, shipbuilder Privinvest and others in relation to the so-called “hiddendebts” scandal, a judge ordered today.

Mr Justice Robin Knowles ordered that the trial would combine three separate sets of issues brought before the court, namely:

1) the Mozambican state’s legal action against Privinvest, bank Credit Suisse, Privinvest owner Iskander Safa and others, in which it is seeking damages and the cancellation of agovernment guarantee on a $622m loan taken out by state-owned company ProIndicus to

pay for a contract with Privinvest, which it says was obtained by bribery;

2) The question of whether Privinvest’s claim that the claims brought by theMozambican state should be dealt with through an arbitration tribunal is correct; and

3) The Mozambican state’s application to reject legal action brought by banks such as VTB Capital, United Bank of Africa and Portuguese bank BCP on the grounds of sovereign immunity, and whether or not the state is entitled to claim it. The judge said that he expected the hearing to be completed within three months and that President Filipe Nyusi would be a “fourth party” in the first set of issues.

The ruling means that Privinvest has failed in its bid to exclude from the trial of the econd set of issues, the question of whether the payments Privinvest made to government officials were bribes. It has also failed to delay the court’s consideration of those issues until after an arbitration has taken place. The Mozambican state’s request to initially exclude the question of whether payments to the Credit Suisse bankers who carried out the loan deal were also bribes was also rejected by the judge.

Privinvest denies the Mozambican state’s allegations that it paid bribes to government officials in order to secure contracts. The case continues.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter. For an archive of previous Bulletins, see http://www.africafocus.org ,

Current links to books on AfricaFocus go to the non-profit bookshop.org, which supports independent bookshores and also provides commissions to affiliates such as AfricaFocus.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. To subscribe to receive future bulletins by email, click here.

Fascism: A History
worker | August 31, 2021 | 8:47 pm | Fascist terrorism | Comments closed

https://rtd.rt.com/trailers/fascism-a-history/?utm_source=browser&utm_medium=push_notifications&utm_campaign=push_notifications

Fascism: A History

A vicious ideology before and after Hitler

On September 19, 2019, the European Parliament declared it was the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany who paved the way for WWII. However, the secret files revealed both of the USSR’s allies had signed several pacts with Hitler, while the US also lent Wehrmacht economic support. The UK and the US tried to enter into a separate peace agreement with Germany and hang the Soviet Union out to dry. Their further plans went even further and could’ve had disastrous consequences. What was going on in the allies camp?

Fort Detrick, where the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID) is located, is the center of U.S. bio-military activities and notorious for its illegal, non-transparent and unsafe practices.
worker | August 31, 2021 | 8:41 pm | COVID-19 | Comments closed

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-08-26/Full-text-Doubtful-Points-about-Fort-Detrick-USAMRIID–1323OC7GDgA/index.html

Translate
Full text: Doubtful Points about Fort Detrick (USAMRIID)
CGTN

The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, U.S., April 4, 2006. /CFP

A senior Chinese diplomat said on Tuesday that the labs of Fort Detrick and University of North Carolina in the United States should be subject to “transparent investigation with full access” for the origins tracing of COVID-19.

Ambassador Chen Xu, permanent representative of China to the United Nations (UN) Office at Geneva, said in his letter to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that the hypothesis of introduction of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – into human population was caused by lab leak in the Wuhan Institute of Virology is “extremely unlikely.”

The following is the full text of the non-paper attached to the letter by the diplomat titled “Doubtful Points about Fort Detrick (U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease).”

Fort Detrick, where the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID) is located, is the center of U.S. bio-military activities and notorious for its illegal, non-transparent and unsafe practices. Serious concerns have long been raised by the international community over U.S. activities at Fort Detrick, in particular about USAMRIID, and there are many doubtful points about its connections with COVID-19.

1. Fort Detrick was the center of the U.S. biological weapons program in history and USAMRIID was the main research entity there.

Fort Detrick was known as the center of the U.S. government’s darkest experiments. It remains the development center for U.S. germ warfare research, even after U.S. renouncement of all offensive biological weapons programs in 1969 and ratification to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in 1975.

2. The BSL-4 lab in USAMRIID is the only BSL-4 lab of the U.S. military.

USAMRIID stores almost all known deadly pathogens, such as Ebola, anthrax, smallpox, plague, and coronaviruses including SARS. Several staff in USAMRIID have conducted researches related to SARS, MERS and other coronaviruses. Back in 2003, after the SARS outbreak, USAMRIID worked with Ralph Baric’s team from the University of North Carolina (UNC) and developed a novel reverse genetic system for manipulation of a full-length cDNA of the SARS-CoV, and relevant outcomes were published in a paper in 2003.

According to the paper, within two months after obtaining the RNA of the SARS virus, the full-length cDNA of the virus was successfully synthesized. This shows that as early as 2003, these institutes already had the advanced capabilities to synthesize and modify SARS-related coronaviruses.

In 2007, USAMRIID published a paper in the Journal of Virology about using the Ebola virus to conduct animal testing on rhesus monkeys. The virus strains used in the experiments were obtained through reverse genetics techniques, to specifically remove the furin cleavage site, in order to compare the changes in virulence of the viruses. It is worth noting that the furin cleavage site is believed to be one of the reasons that make SARS-CoV-2 highly virulent.

In 2018, USAMRIID carried out experiments on African green monkeys. The monkeys were experimentally infected with MERS-CoV to help study viral pathogenesis and develop vaccines. After COVID-19 broke out, USAMRIID and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), a research institute affiliated to the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, co-developed the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

A staff works in the USAMRIID’s BSL-4 lab, November 15, 2002. /CFP

3. Multiple bio-safety incidents have occurred in USAMRIID.

In 2001, five people were killed in an anthrax attack in the United States, and the suspect was a former employee of USAMRIID. In 2009, U.S. officials found during inspections that multiple pathogens studied in the institute were not listed in the lab database, and suspended some of the lab’s research.

In May 2014, Waverley View Investors LLC sued the U.S. Army for loopholes in Fort Detrick’s disposal of toxic waste, which caused the levels of trichloroethylene in the area to be 42 times as high as the federal standard. In February 2015, 106 families and individuals from Frederic County of Maryland filed a class action lawsuit against Fort Detrick for harm and death caused by exposure to hazardous materials from Fort Detrick and asked for $750 million in compensation. However, the U.S. government and army have consistently denied wrongdoing.

During U.S. CDC inspections to the USAMRIID lab in June 2019, serious violations were found. The CDC then shut down the lab and halted all researches in July 2019. The CDC reports laid out seven violations:

a. The USAMRIID systematically failed to ensure implementation of biosafety and containment procedures. Specifically, lab personnel were found to leave a door open while removing large amounts of biohazardous waste, greatly increasing the risk of pathogens escape and environment contamination.

b. An individual partially entered a room multiple times without the required respiratory protection while other people in that room were performing procedures with a non-human primate on a necropsy table, resulting in a respiratory occupational exposure to select agent aerosols.

c. The lab did not ensure that employee training was properly verified when it came to toxins and select agents, making it unable to assess whether lab personnel understood and commanded necessary skills.

d. Lab personnel did not wear gloves when disposing of biohazardous waste.

e. The lab failed to safeguard against unauthorized access to lab waste. Contaminated personal protective equipment was stored in specific area, but such area did not limit access to those with access approval.

f. Lab personnel did not maintain an accurate or current inventory for a toxin.

g. A lab building and its interior facilities did not have a sealed surface to facilitate cleaning and decontamination. Cracks were found around a conduit box, in the ceiling, and in the seam above a biological safety cabinet.

The lab restarted operation in November 2019, but it is not made public what has been done to redress these violations.

4. After the lab was shut down, outbreaks of respiratory diseases occurred in nearby communities.

In July 2019, 54 people in Greenspring, Virginia displayed respiratory symptoms including cough and pneumonia. The community is only one hour’s drive from Fort Detrick. According to a health official from the State of Virginia, the number of reported respiratory cases in the area went up nearly 50 percent in the summer of 2019.

In July 2019, a mysterious pneumonia outbreak associated with e-cigarette use was reported in Wisconsin. Symptoms included shortness of breath, fever, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness and chest pain. Starting from then, an unprecedented outbreak of lung disease spread across the nation. As of December 17, 2019, more than 2,500 hospitalized cases were reported across 50 states. Experts believe this type of disease might represent one or more new clinical syndromes, and more researches are needed to determine the cause.

The 2019 influenza in the United States might have overlapped with COVID-19.

According to U.S. CDC statistics, there were about 39 to 56 million influenza cases between October 2019 and April 2020, resulting in 24,000 to 62,000 deaths. Given the similar symptoms, COVID-19 patients could have been misdiagnosed as influenza patients. To determine whether such cases exist, in particular in and prior to October 2019, a nationwide retrospective investigation and research should be done in the United States.

5. In March 2020, a petition was filed on the White House petition website, asking the U.S. government to disclose information related to Fort Detrick, especially the reason why the USAMRIID lab was shut down in 2019 and whether it had anything to do with COVID-19. The U.S. government has made no response, and the petition website has been taken offline altogether.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency
The Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Thursday released a key publication on the Party’s mission and contributions.
worker | August 31, 2021 | 8:38 pm | Communist Party of China | Comments closed

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-08-26/CPC-releases-key-publication-on-its-mission-contributions-1325vu9YR44/index.html

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CPC releases key publication on its mission, contributions
Updated 13:46, 26-Aug-2021
CGTN

The document, titled “The CPC: Its Mission and Contributions,” stressed that over the past hundred years, all the struggles, sacrifices and efforts made by the CPC and the Chinese people under its leadership have targeted on one goal – the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

It also pointed out that the CPC is dedicated to the people and always puts their interests first. It said the CPC follows the underlying trends of social development and respects the people’s principal role in making history.

The CPC pursues the lofty goal of working for the well-being of the Chinese people, and it does everything in the interests of the people, the document said.

Serving the people wholeheartedly

Regarding serving the people as its abiding mission, the Party serves as the vanguard of China’s working class, the Chinese people and the Chinese nation, the publication highlighted. It noted that “of the people, by the people, for the people” is what has guided the CPC from victory to victory over the past century.

It said that over the past century, through all the changes in the domestic and international environments, both in good times and bad, the CPC put people first. It has never wavered in fulfilling this commitment.

After China was struck by COVID-19 epidemic, the CPC and the Chinese government responded swiftly, putting people’s lives before all else, organizing massive nucleic acid testing and inoculation, making every effort to identify every case of infection, and doing everything possible to save patients and protect people’s health, the document said.

“The Party and the people work together and share weal and woe, and there is an inseparable bond between them. No attempt to sever that bond will ever succeed, and any attempt to shake the people’s faith in the Party’s leadership is doomed to fail,” said the document.

Striving for realization of ideals

According to the publication, the CPC has been working tirelessly to realize its ideals and never gave up on the struggle despite hardships, existential trials and bitter sacrifices since its establishment in 1921.

The last 100 years saw the CPC fight on, guided by Marxism and buttressed by firm convictions, an enterprising spirit and unyielding determination, it noted.

The CPC upheld Marxism, stayed committed to its ideals and convictions, and kept breaking new ground, according to the document.

On its centennial journey, the CPC tempered its character with the courage to vanquish formidable enemies, defuse risks and overcome challenges, the document said, adding this has become the Party’s defining quality.

All of its achievements are the results of the hard work of generations of Party members, and the base on which the cause will continue to prosper, the document said.

The success of the Party in the past equips it to face the future with full confidence, according to the document.

Always maintains vigor and vitality

The document also hailed the vigor and vitality of the CPC. It noted that the CPC has been respecting the principal position of Party members and protecting their democratic rights, besides applying intra-Party democracy in elections, decision-making, management and oversight.

The CPC faced its problems and mistakes and corrected them by upholding the truth, the publication said, noting that through trial and error, the CPC has grown stronger and better, and continues to lead the people forward.

The Party takes resolute measures against anything that may undermine its integrity and progressive nature, it added.

The Party is committed to studying and reviewing as well as to drawing on good experience from other countries to strengthen its own capability for revolution, reconstruction and reform, said the publication.

After 100 years of struggle, the CPC has the courage and ability to carry out self-reform and is able to meet any challenge and withstand any test, the publication said.

The CPC will never change or betray its nature and will always remain dynamic and grow stronger, it noted.

Firm leadership and strong governance

According to the document, the CPC has firm leadership and strong governance capability.

Upholding the CPC Central Committee’s authority and centralized leadership has led to smooth and steady progress in revolution, reconstruction and reform, ensuring the CPC’s position as the governing party and the country’s long-term stability, according to the publication.

Over the past hundred years, at every historic juncture, the CPC has been able to analyze the situation from an overall, objective and forward-looking perspective, and set forth practical goals, tasks, policies and road maps. It is the Party’s sound guidelines that have enabled it to carry out its work in a well-organized and systematic manner, the publication said.

In addition, the Party has been consistent in building its organization, tightening its discipline and strengthening the rule of law. It has united tens of millions of Party members and organized hundreds of millions of Chinese people, thereby ensuring that its decisions and plans are implemented in a timely, resolute and forceful manner, it said.

The CPC is strong because it has always placed the united front in an important position, combining all the forces that can be united, mobilizing all positive factors, and pooling as much strength as possible for collective endeavors, the publication said.

The CPC can realize its overall leadership over state affairs and in all sectors of society because a large number of high-caliber officials play their role to the best of their ability, stated the publication.

Contributions to world peace and development

The CPC has also been contributing to world peace and development, said the document, adding the CPC is committed to pursuing development for both China and the world, and bringing benefits to all.

“Peaceful development is an everlasting aspiration of the CPC and the salient feature of China’s progress,” the document said.

Over the past 100 years, pursuing and safeguarding peace, the CPC has led the Chinese people on a new path of national rejuvenation that leads to prosperity rather than hegemony, it said, adding that this path enables China to accelerate its own development and contribute to world peace and development.

The CPC has proposed building a global community of shared future, with the goal of creating an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity, the document said.

By addressing practical problems faced by the world today, human society will achieve peace and sustainable development through win-win cooperation, joint efforts and shared benefits, it said.

(With input from Xinhua)

(Cover: CPC members help farmers harvest sorghum, Chongqing Municipality, China, August 18, 2021. /CFP)

The CPC Way: The Original Aspiration
worker | August 31, 2021 | 8:35 pm | Communist Party of China | Comments closed

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-08-26/-The-CPC-Way-The-Original-Aspiration-1328hQd4ltS/index.html

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The CPC Way: The Original Aspiration
45:06

“The CPC Way” is a six-part documentary about the keys to the success of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The first part, titled “The Original Aspiration,” explains the core missions aimed at rejuvenating the country. It all started in Shanghai a hundred years ago.

Texas Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily gave green light to Governor Greg Abbott’s ban on school mask mandates in the south central U.S. state, blocking Bexar County from continuing to defy the governor’s executive order.
worker | August 31, 2021 | 8:33 pm | Local/State | Comments closed

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-08-27/U-S-Texas-Supreme-Court-temporarily-blocks-school-mask-mandates-133N5NQdVvy/index.html

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U.S. Texas Supreme Court temporarily allows governor’s ban on school mask mandates
CGTN

People wear masks at a market in Houston City, Texas, U.S., April 24, 2021. /CFP

The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily gave the green light to Governor Greg Abbott’s ban on school mask mandates in the south central U.S. state, blocking Bexar County from continuing to defy the governor’s executive order.

“The status quo, for many months, has been gubernatorial oversight of such decisions at both the state and local levels,” the court said in its ruling, granting Abbott emergency relief to enforce his ban during the coronavirus pandemic.

“That status quo should remain in place while the court of appeals, and potentially this Court, examine the parties’ merits arguments to determine whether plaintiffs have demonstrated a probable right to the relief sought,” the court said.

The decision overrules an earlier district court’s ruling, forcing Bexar County to reconsider how to move forward with its health and safety requirements amid new surges of coronavirus infections driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, The Hill reported.

Abbott on Wednesday announced an executive order banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates, two days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine.

An Emergency Room nurse tends to a patient at the Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital in Houston, Texas, U.S., August 18, 2021. /CFP

“No governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” read the order, which excludes places like nursing homes and state-supported living centers.

As a result, public institutions in Texas including state agencies, local governments, universities, public schools and any other entities that receive public funding are banned from compelling employees to get the shots or asking people who use their services for proof of vaccination.

Meanwhile, Abbott asked state lawmakers to consider legislation addressing whether state or local governments could issue vaccine mandates, and if so, which exemptions should apply.

Key pandemic metrics in Texas continued to reach levels not seen since the last spike in the winter. According to the state and local health agencies, 23,412 new cases were registered in Texas on Wednesday.

The state is in the back of the pack nationally, with 46.2 percent of Texans fully vaccinated as of Monday, according to local media reports.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency