Sunday, January 31, 2021

Transparency International Has Released Its 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index

Zero Hedge: US Corruption Hits Highest Since 2012 Amid COVID Bailouts & Democracy Doubts Transparency International has released its 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index which gauges levels of perceived public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories around the world. The index scores them on a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (clean) with the average score just 43 out of 100. As Statista's Niall McCarthy notes, two thirds of countries scored less than 50. The research found that corruption was rampant across the world in 2020 and that it undermined the response to Covid-19, threatened the global recovery and contributed to democratic backsliding. Transparency International states that 2020 has shown that Covid-19 is not just a health and economic crisis but also a corruption crisis. When it comes to healthcare in particular, corruption takes many forms such as bribery, embezzlement, overpricing and favoritism. Reports of corruption have grown since the pandemic broke out and countless lives were lost due to the issue undermining a fair and equitable global response. Read more .... 

WNU Editor: No surprises on who are the most corrupt countries.

Taiwan Says Chinese Fighters And U.S. Aircraft Both Entered Its Defence Zone This sunday

Reuters: Taiwan says Chinese fighters, U.S. aircraft both entered defence zone 

 TAIPEI (Reuters) - Six Chinese fighter aircraft and a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft entered the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Sunday, the island’s defence ministry said, in an unusual admission of U.S. military activity. 

Tensions have spiked over the last week or so after Taiwan reported multiple Chinese fighters and bombers flying into the zone last weekend, in an area close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the northern part of the South China Sea. 

The Chinese missions coincided with a U.S. aircraft carrier group entering the South China Sea for what the U.S. military termed a routine deployment. 

The United States has criticised the Chinese flights. Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said a total of seven Chinese aircraft flew into the same waters near the Pratas Islands on Sunday - two J-10 fighters, four J-11 fighters and a Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft. 

WNU Editor: A lot of air traffic now happening between China and the U.S..

Ex-Leader Of Ethiopia's Tigray Region Vows 'Extended Resistance'

FILE PHOTO: Debretsion Gebremichael, Tigray Regional President, attends the funeral ceremony of Ethiopia's Army Chief of Staff Seare Mekonnen in Mekele 

Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have waged a "devastating and genocidal war" in Ethiopia's Tigray region, the region's ousted leader has said. 

Debretsion Gebremichael urged the international community to investigate the alleged atrocities. 

The Ethiopian government said his claims were "unfounded", and his forces were guilty of "horrendous crimes". 

Conflict broke out in November after Mr Debretsion's forces captured Ethiopian government military bases in Tigray. 

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy responded by ordering a ground and air offensive, which led to his troops capturing the regional capital, Mekelle, on 28 November.

Mr Debretsion fled the capital with fighters from his Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), and vowed to resist federal control over the region. 

Read more .... 

 More News On The Ex-Leader Of Ethiopia's Tigray Region Vowing 'Extended Resistance' 

Over 5,100 Arrested At Pro-Navalny Protests Across Russia


 * Riot police clashed with anti-Putin protesters as thousands gathered across 11 timezones in the country 
 * Demonstrators are calling for the release of Alexei Navalny whose trial is set to take place on Tuesday 
 * He is being held over breaching parole while he was recovering from his Novichok poisoning in Germany 
 * So far, 4,400 people have been detained, including Navalny's wife Yulia Navalnaya who broke house arrest 
 * Police used tear gas on people chanting anti-Putin songs in scenes of unrest not seen before in his presidency 
 * Authorities had threatened demonstrators with hefty jail terms but thousands still took to the streets 
 * US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the 'harsh tactics' used by Russian police 

More than 4,400 anti-Putin protesters, including the wife of Alexei Navalny have been arrested today as violence broke out across Russia between riot police and activists demanding the release of the jailed Kremlin critic. 

From Vladivostok in the Far East to Saint Petersburg on the Baltic Sea, thousands of police in riot gear were deployed to prevent a second weekend of mass demonstrations over the arrest of President Vladimir Putin's most prominent opponent. 

The authorities mounted a massive effort to stem the tide of demonstrations after tens of thousands of people rallied across the country the previous weekend in the largest and most widespread show of discontent the country has seen in years. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: From what I understand and from what I am hearing. Protests occurred in every major Russian city today. And this 5,100 arrest total is on the low side. I know the law firm that my family's business use in Moscow are going to be working all week defending some of the protesters were arrested today, and they told my cousin that just in Moscow today, there were over 4,000 arrests (and counting).

As to what is the thinking in the Kremlin right now. My guess is that they are not too worried. Most of the people involved in today's protests were young (under 30). The parents of those who were arrested today were not on the streets (which would really freak out the Kremlin if they did show up). And more importantly. Putin's base (the church, seniors, business community, government employees, the rural community) are still supporting him.

 More News On Today's Massive Protests Across Russia 

Myanmar Military Stage A Coup. Aung San Suu Kyi Has Been Detained


 * Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained, according to a ruling party spokesman 
 * The government said Suu Kyi had been detained alongside other senior figures 
 * The move comes after days of tension between the government and military 

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained amid reports a military coup is underway in the country. 

The National League for Democracy, Myanmar's governing party, said that Suu Kyi and other senior figures from the ruling party have been detained in an early morning raid. 

The move comes after days of escalating tension between the civilian government and the powerful military that stirred fears of a coup in the aftermath of an election the army says was fraudulent. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: Rumors that the Myanmar military were going to stage a coup started a few days ago .... Myanmar’s Military Refuses to Rule Out Coup Over Election Fraud Claims (VOA). It is not longer a rumor. 

 More News On The Myanmar Military Staging A Coup 

Is The Biden Administration Progressing In Curtailing The Covid-19 Pandemic?

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks about his plan to beat COVID-19 in Wilmington, Delaware, October 23, 2020. Kevin Lamarque, Reuters 

Biden’s team is still trying to locate upwards of 20 million vaccine doses that have been sent to states — a mystery that has hampered plans to speed up the national vaccination effort.

Joe Biden promised he’d bring in a competent, tested team to run the pandemic response, set ambitious vaccination targets and impose strict public health guidelines. 

His team arrived at the White House with a 200-page response plan ready to roll out. But instead, they have spent much of the last week trying to wrap their hands around the mushrooming crisis — a process officials acknowledge has been humbling, and triggered a concerted effort to temper expectations about how quickly they might get the nation back to normal. 

After a week on the job, Biden’s team is still trying to locate upwards of 20 million vaccine doses that have been sent to states — a mystery that has hampered plans to speed up the national vaccination effort. They're searching for new ways to boost production of a vaccine stockpile that they've discovered is mostly empty. And they're nervously eyeing a series of new Covid-19 strains that threaten to derail the response. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: 3,600 Americans died yesterday from the Covid-19 pandemic. The priority is to grab as much vaccine as possible, and to jab it into as many vulnerable and essential people as possible. Spending time trying to figure out what the states did with 20,000,000 doses (which I am sure was administered as quickly as possible by the medical community) is a luxury that no one can afford right now. And as to the rest of the Biden plan. Is anyone surprised that their 200 page plan of action booklet is not working as planned? This pandemic is unprecedented for the modern era. Everyone is learning on the go on what needs to be done. The Biden team included.

Has The Common Flu Been 'Wiped-Out'?

Fewer people are being struck down by flu than at any time in the past 130 years (file photo) 

 * Experts say bug appears to have been 'almost wiped out' after 95 per cent drop 
 * Week in January saw 1.1 in 100,000 people report flu-like symptoms to their GPs 
 * This compares to five-year average of 27 in what is typically worst time for virus

Fewer people are being struck down by the flu than at any time in the past 130 years. 

Experts say that the bug appears to have been 'almost wiped out' after the number of sufferers plummeted by 95 per cent. 

The second week of January, normally the worst time for the seasonal virus, saw the number of flu-like symptoms reported to GPs at 1.1 per 100,000 people – compared with a five-year average of 27. 

WNU Editor: One positive side-effect.

American Taxpayers Have Spent $161 Million On Keeping 9/11 Mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed In Prison And Alive

This February 2017 photo provided by his lawyers shows Khalid Shaikh Mohammad in Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. (Courtesy Derek Poteet via AP) 

Guantanamo Bay has grown into what seems to be the most expensive prison on earth 

Built nearly 18 years ago to detain suspected terrorists on a remote island off Cuba, Guantanamo Bay has grown into what seems to be the most expensive prison on earth. 

The U.S. government has spent an estimated $161.5 million housing the suspected mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks – Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And up until Saturday, Mohammed was to receive a coronavirus vaccine so that he could be tried and put to death, if convicted. 

Captured in 2003, Sheikh Mohammed confessed to being a mastermind behind some of the most prolific terror attacks in the past few decades, most notably the 9/11 attacks. 

WNU Editor: the cost of keeping a prisoner at Guantanamo is somewhere between $9.5 and $13 million per prisoner, per year. The prison currently has 40 inmates. That's compared to $78,000 spent per inmate at a "supermax" prison in Florence, Colo., home to some of the highest-risk prisoners in the U.S.

NATO Sources: Foreign Troops To Stay In Afghanistan Beyond May Deadline

FILE PHOTO: A U.S. soldier keeps watch at an Afghan National Army base in Logar province, Afghanistan August 5, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo 

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - International troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline envisaged by the insurgent Taliban’s deal with the United States, four senior NATO officials said, a move that could escalate tensions with the Taliban demanding full withdrawal. 

“There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end,” one of the officials told Reuters. “Conditions have not been met,” he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “And with the new U.S. administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.” 

The administration of then-President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May in return for the insurgents fulfilling certain security guarantees. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: This would violate an accord struck by the Trump administration and Taliban negotiators last year that calls for the removal of all coalition forces by May. There will be a backlash from the Taliban who have convinced themselves that they have won the war .... The Taliban says they won the war in Afghanistan. They are not wrong (Task and Purpose).

Tweets Of The Day

U.S. Senator Joe Biden On The Falklands Conflict, 1982


WNU Editor: Fascinating.

Picture Of The Day

Schoolchildren swab and test themselves for COVID-19 in the classroom at South Boston Catholic Academy in Boston, Massachusetts, January 28, 2021. REUTERS/Allison Dinner 

WNU Editor: The above picture came from this photo-gallery .... America's COVID deaths surge as vaccines roll out (Reuters).

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Is President Biden's Vaccination Program The Same As Former President Trump's Plan?

Zero Hedge
: Biden Plagiarizes Again After Bloomberg Points Out Virus Plan Is Basically Trump's 

While President Biden has done nothing but disparage President Trump's COVID-19 vaccination plan - while promising on the campaign trail to 'introduce his own,' it now appears there was no 'new' plan whatsoever - and his team is essentially using Trump's playbook with "modest changes," according to Bloomberg.

Biden has said vaccine distribution was in “worse shape than we anticipated.” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said a Trump administration plan “did not really exist.” Adviser Cedric Richmond said they “didn’t leave a plan.” Xavier Becerra, Biden’s choice for health secretary, said it was like taking over a plane in a nosedive.

But while Biden’s approach to the virus -- frank warnings about the pandemic, mask mandates on federal property -- is a reversal from Trump’s policies, his administration’s distribution of vaccines so far looks little different from that of its predecessor. Before Biden was sworn in, vaccines already were being delivered at a pace to meet his goal of 100 million doses in his first 100 days as president.

The Biden administration has said they’ll order new doses, but will do so by exercising options in contracts negotiated by the previous administration, which thought it premature to do so. They say they’ll use the Defense Production Act, which Trump used repeatedly. Rather than a total overhaul, they have otherwise made course corrections and modest shifts. Data released Friday by Johnson & Johnson will fuel hopes that a third vaccine soon could hit the U.S. market. -Bloomberg

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Aside from the mask mandates and issuing warnings about the pandemic, I see little if any differences between President Biden's vaccine plan and President's Trump's. And while I do know it is still early in President Biden's term, there have been no real surprises.

Thousands Flee The Central African Republic's Capital As Rebels Close In


Nearly half of those fleeing crossed over into the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The national army has been battling rebels since a presidential vote took place in December. 

Conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) has displaced more than 200,000 people since violence erupted over a December election result, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday. Nearly half of those fleeing crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo, the agency said. 

"Refugee arrivals into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have reached 92,000 according to local authorities and some 13,240 people have crossed into Cameroon, Chad, and the Republic of Congo, since violence erupted in December 2020 ahead of CAR's general elections," the statement said. 

 More News On The Central African Republic Civil War

Putin's Former Judo Partner Says He Owns Black Sea Palace Linked To Russian Leader

The documentary claimed the property features a casino, an ice rink and a vineyard. YOUTUBE/ALEXEI NAVALNY 

Russian oligarch Arkady Rotenberg says he is the owner of an opulent Black Sea mansion, not President Vladimir Putin, as the leaders' critics had alleged. 

A video report about the vast palace, by Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, went viral across Russia and has now been watched more than 100m times. 

The Russian president rubbished reports he owned the resort earlier this week. Mr Rotenberg, a billionaire with close links to Mr Putin, went public claiming to be the owner on Saturday. 

The revelation came in an interview posted on the pro-Kremlin Mash Telegram channel, before being confirmed to the Interfax news agency. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: On paper Arkady Rotenberg owns this property, but my gut tells me that he is just a front man for someone else. Is that person Putin? Your guess is as good as mine. 

 More News On Russian Oligarch Arkady Rotenberg Saying He Is The Owner of an opulent Black Sea mansion Linked To Russian President Putin 

Russia Braces For Fresh Protests On Sunday

Detained protesters in Moscow: Filip Kuznetsov is front right 

Filip Kuznetsov spent an entire night crammed into a police van with 17 other protesters because Moscow's detention centres were all full. 

He was among a record 4,002 people arrested across Russia last week, as large crowds took to the streets to demand the release of the opposition politician Alexei Navalny. 

Further protests have been called for Sunday, threatening to strain the system even further. 

"We didn't sleep all night. One person always had to stand for space, so we took it in turns,

" Filip told me by phone on Wednesday from the back of the police van, which he described as an "ancient vehicle with metal bars all round". 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: The pandemic has caused a lot of harm to a lot of countries, and many governments are paying the price for this crisis .... Russia and Russian President Putin included. 

Anti-Putin protests have happened before, but they never got anywhere. I am skeptical that there is momentum to keep the current protests alive, but everyone I know in Russia are telling me that it is different now. 

We shall see. 

 More News On Sunday's Protests In Russia 

Pfizer CEO Says There Is A 'High Likelihood' That Covid Variants Will Make Current Vaccine Shots Ineffective


 * Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO, spoke at a virtual Davos summit on Friday 
 * Bourla said they were working on speeding up the process of creating vaccines
 * Vaccines against COVID-19 have been created in record time: Bourla said they must go faster 
 * The CEO also warned that in the future vaccines may not be effective 

The CEO of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has revealed his company is trying to speed up vaccine development to under 100 days, warning there is a 'high possibility' that vaccines in the future would not be effective. 

New York-based Pfizer was the first company in the world to produce a COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently being administered worldwide. Yet Albert Bourla, CEO, told the virtual 2021 Davos World Economic Forum that vaccines may one day not be a solution, in a session held on Friday.

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla is not the only one who is voicing concerns that current vaccines may become ineffective with time .... New clinical trials raise fears the coronavirus is learning how to resist vaccines (L.A. Times). 

The South African 'Super' COVID-19 Variant Has Now Spread To Maryland

The South African 'super' COVID-19 variant has now spread to Maryland with the state recording its first case in a woman in Baltimore and the third case confirmed overall on US soil 

 * Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Saturday a case of the new B.1.351 variant in a woman from Baltimore 
 * This marks the state's first case of the South African variant and the third on US soil 
 * The woman had no recent travel history overseas, sparking concerns the strain is already spreading 
 * The case comes just two days after two South Carolina residents became the first Americans found to have contracted the South African strain
 * There is no evidence the new strain is more deadly but it is feared to make the vaccine less effective   * The US topped 26 million cases Saturday and the death toll reached 438,239 
 * More than 166,000 new cases were recorded in the last 24 hours and more than 3,600 people died 
 * Hard-hit California marked a grim record Saturday morning as it topped 40,000 deaths 
 * The CDC issued an order late Friday that masks must be worn on all public transport nationwide 

The South African 'super' COVID-19 variant has now spread to Maryland with the state recording its first case in a woman in Baltimore and the third case confirmed overall on US soil, the same day the nation surpassed 26 million cases of the virus. 

Governor Larry Hogan announced Saturday that state health officials had confirmed a case of the new B.1.351 variant in an adult female living in the Baltimore metro region who had no recent travel history overseas, sparking concerns that the strain is already spreading in the community. 

The case comes just two days after two South Carolina residents became the first Americans found to have contracted the South African strain, despite also having no recent travel history and no known connection to each other. 

WNU Editor: Another terrible day in the U.S. .... 166,000 new cases recorded and 3,600 deaths in the last 24 hours. The U.S. death toll is now 438,239. I hope I am wrong. But it looks like the U.S. is about to face a third Covid wave, and this one has the makings to be the worst one. 

 More News On the South African Covid-19 Variant Being Detected In Maryland 

Pentagon Orders Pause In Giving Covid-19 Vaccinations To Gitmo Detainees

The initial decision to offer the in-demand shots to the terrorists sparked widespread outrage. Some accused the Biden administration of prioritizing criminals over ordinary US citizens 

 * On Friday, the Pentagon signed a memo approving COVID-19 vaccination efforts at Guantanamo Bay 
 * Al Qaeda terrorists including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are among the detainees at Gitmo 
 * The terrorists were set to receive their first dose of the in-demand vaccines as early as next Monday
 * The move caused widespread outrage, with 9/11 first responders saying the government was putting terrorists ahead of ordinary US citizens 
 * Tom Von Essen, who was city Fire Commissioner during 9/11, said: 'You can't make this up. The ridiculousness of what we get from our government' 
 * On Saturday, the Pentagon announced they were 'pausing' the plan in light of the backlash 

The Pentagon is 'pausing' a plan to have Guantanamo Bay detainees vaccinated against COVID-19 next week.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed Saturday afternoon that the process was on hold following widespread outrage that terrorists were being given priority treatment for the in-demand vaccines. 

'No Guantanamo detainees have been vaccinated. We're pausing the plan to move forward, as we review force protection protocols. 

We remain committed to our obligations to keep our troops safe,' Kirby wrote on Twitter. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: Cannot say that I am surprised. The optics are just horrible if this was to proceed. Elderly Americans, veterans, and the vulnerable being passed over for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 40 other 'Gitmo' detainees. You just cannot make this up. But what I would like to know is what will happen to Biden appointee Terry Adirim, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, who signed this mindless memo. My prediction is nothing. 

Update: Claims that it is because of Republican outrage that these vaccine shots have been paused is outrageous .... Vaccine Plan For Gitmo Paused After Outrage From Republicans (Forbes). This is not a partisan issue. 

 More News On The Pentagon Ordering A Pause In Giving Covid-19 Vaccinations To Gitmo Detainees 

Canadian Government Bans All Flights To Mexico And The Caribbean


 * Canada announced stricter restrictions on travelers including a mandatory $2,000 hotel quarantine on Friday 
 * Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also banned all flights to Mexico and the Caribbean until April 30
 * Canada now also requires tests at the airport on arrival with international travel only allowed into Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary airports 
 * Travelers will be forced to quarantine in a hotel at a cost of $2,000 Canadian or until the result arrives 
 * Following a negative result they will quarantine at home, with expanded 'surveillance and enforcement' and another test on the tenth day 
 * Those with positive tests will be immediately required to quarantine in government facilities 
 * Trudeau said the extra precautions measure will take effect 'in the coming weeks' but the flights suspension is 'immediate' 
 * Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said it hope the ban would be reversed soon to avoid a 'deep economic crisis' 

Canada announced stricter restrictions on travelers including a mandatory $2,000 hotel quarantine, multiple tests, increased 'surveillance' and banning all flight to Mexico and the Caribbean. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the new measures on Friday in response to the more contagious variants of the novel coronavirus.

Starting next week, all international passenger flights to Canada must land at four airports: Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: Too little and too late. The problem with these restriction is that if you want to go to Mexico, you simply fly to another destination and from there go to Mexico. And if you want to return to Canada from Mexico. You fly to another destination and from there you then fly to Canada. All travelers entering Canada will still be subject to a covid-19 test, 3 days in a hotel, and subsequent 11 days at home. And it is not going to be cheap .... Travellers to pay ‘more than $2K’ for new mandatory COVID-19 hotel quarantine, Trudeau says (Global News). 

 More News On the Canadian Government Banning All Flights To Mexico And The Caribbean 

Northrop Grumman Says It Will Not Build Cluster Bombs

Cluster bomb. Credit: Textron 

The company's CEO says the decision is part of a move to "be thoughtful about potential human rights implications" of its products. 

Northrop Grumman said Thursday that it would walk away from a U.S. government cluster bomb contract as the company moves to distance itself from the deadly weapons commonly associated with civilian casualties. 

The contract involves the “testing of cluster munition components” and is “structured to help remove cluster munitions safely,” Northrop CEO Kathy Warden said on her company's quarterly earnings call on Thursday. 

The company does not make cluster munitions, which are air or ground-launched bombs that contain submunitions that spread indiscriminately over a wide area. Unexploded weapons from wars decades ago are still killing civilians. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: This means that there are now no US companies making cluster munitions. Textron, the last U.S. company to make cluster bombs, announced in 2016 that it would quit producing them​.

Comparing U.S. Special Forces To China's Special Forces

SOFREP: How China's Special Forces Stack Up Against The U.S.'s Special Operators 

Over the last two decades, special operations forces have become the go-to choice for policymakers and military leaders around the world. 

The successes of U.S. and coalition special operations units in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and in Syria against ISIS have showcased the importance and utility of small teams of highly trained troops. 

While the U.S. and its allies have been fighting in the Middle East, the Chinese military has been paying close attention, especially to U.S. special operations. As a result, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is increasingly investing resources in its own special-operations forces. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: The use of Special Forces is a new approach for the PLA. Bottom line. They have a lot of ground to cover if they want to match the U.S..

Pentagon To Investigate Possible War Crimes Committed By Special Forces Troops

A U.S. soldier provides security near a blockade on a road toward Manbij, Syria, June 20, 2018. (Timothy R. Koster/U.S. Army) 

The Defense Department inspector general will examine whether elite U.S. commando forces are doing enough to comply with the laws of armed conflict and hold violators accountable. 

For decades the Defense Department has relied on covert and classified special operations troops to kick in doors and raid high-value targets around the world. The department’s Inspector General’s Office now may be taking its first broad look at whether those shadowy strike forces committed war crimes along the way. 

The office sent a memo on Monday to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to Special Operations Command, advising them it was beginning an inquiry into whether the forces overseen by the command, which include the Navy SEAL teams, the Army’s Delta Force, Marine Raiders and other elite commandos, have programs in place to ensure they are following the law during combat, and whether they are reporting troops when those laws are broken. 

The four-paragraph memo, which was first reported by Task & Purpose, could have seismic repercussions in the special operations community, current and former commandos and military legal experts say. 

The Pentagon has come to rely heavily on special operations troops, who often conduct missions with little oversight, backed by a military and nation that often idolize the elite fighters. Accountability has at times been scant. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: This is part of President Biden's review .... Pentagon To Probe Middle East, Special Forces Law of War Violations Amid Biden Review (Newsweek). 

President Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan Says Iran, Afghanistan, China Are Key Areas Of Focus

Jake Sullivan, President Biden's national security adviser, says there are some foreign policy initiatives the Trump administration started that the new White House will build on. Carolyn Kaster/AP 

New national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, details some of the post-Trump foreign policy priorities for Biden 

US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, says dealing with China, Afghanistan and Iran are key early priorities for the new administration. 

“From our perspective, a critical early priority has to be to deal with what is an escalating nuclear crisis as they (Iran) move closer and closer to having enough fissile material for a weapon,” Sullivan told an online programme sponsored by the US Institute of Peace on Friday. 

“We would like to make sure that we establish some of the parameters and constraints around the program that have fallen away over the course of the past few years,” Sullivan continued. 

Sullivan’s comments come after Biden’s new secretary of state, Tony Blinken, on Wednesday insisted Tehran must resume complying with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal before Washington would do so. 

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The problem is not the Biden administration's focus. It is their polices. A nuclear deal with Iran, staying in Afghanistan, and shifting away from President Trump's use of tariffs  against China are not the policies that I think will succeed. But that is what we are going to see from this administration.

Biden Administration Appoints Former Obama Foreign Policy Expert Robert Malley Who Was Part Of The Negotiating Team For The Iran Nuclear Deal


Washington (CNN)The Biden administration has tapped Robert Malley, a progressive foreign policy expert who served on the Obama administration's negotiating team for the Iran nuclear deal, as its new top envoy for Iran. 

In a harbinger of the fight the administration is likely to face over Iran, Malley's appointment was preceded by attacks from conservative lawmakers and Iran hawks. 

A contingent of progressive think tankers and NGO officials and government alumni released a statement in support of Malley in response to the criticism. 

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that on Iran, Secretary of State Antony Blinken "is building a dedicated team, drawing from clear-eyed experts with a diversity of views." 

WNU Editor: More evidence that the Biden administration wants an Iran deal. 

 More News On The Appointment Of Former Obama Foreign Policy Expert Robert Malley 

Some Countries Will Keep Their Borders Closed Until At Least 2022 To Stop The Spread Of Covid-19

Jordan Schachtel, American Institute for Economic Research: Two Years to Stop the Spread: Some Countries will Close Borders until at least 2022 

Australians and Kiwis are looking at the very real possibility of being shut off from the rest of the world for at least another year. 

The two countries, often touted by the media and the “public health expert” class as a COVID-19 response success story (and described by the likes of Dr. Anthony Fauci as countries that the United States should model their response after), may remain closed off from the rest of the world until 2022.

In a conversation with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday, Aussie Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy, the country’s top health official, revealed: “I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions.” 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: The economic costs for keeping borders closed are steep. In the case of New Zealand they have experienced a 12.2% economic contraction in the third quarter last year (link here).

Chinese Gene Firm Providing Worldwide COVID Tests Has Ties To The Chinese Military

FILE PHOTO: Technicians work at a genetic testing laboratory of BGI, formerly known as Beijing Genomics Institute, in Kunming, Yunnan province, China December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer 

SYDNEY (Reuters) - BGI Group, the world’s largest genomics company, has worked with China’s military on research that ranges from mass testing for respiratory pathogens to brain science, a Reuters review of research, patent filings and other documents has found. 

The review, of more than 40 publicly available documents and research papers in Chinese and English, shows BGI’s links to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) include research with China’s top military supercomputing experts. 

The extent of those links has not previously been reported. BGI has sold millions of COVID-19 test kits outside China since the outbreak of the new coronavirus pandemic, including to Europe, Australia and the United States. 

Shares of BGI Genomics Co, the company’s subsidiary listed on the Shenzhen stock exchange, have doubled in price over the past 12 months, giving it a market value of about $9 billion. 

WNU Editor: Rule of thumb when it comes to large Chinese companies. They must always comply to what the Chinese government tells them to do, and in this case it will not be a stretch to say that the Chinese government wants a data base of DNA from around the world. 

 More News On The Chinese Gene Firm Providing Worldwide COVID Tests Having Ties With The Chinese Military 

Chinese President Xi Warns Against 'Black Swan' And 'Grey Rhino' Events

FILE PHOTO: China's President Xi Jinping is seen on a screen in the media center as he speaks at the opening ceremony of the third China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, China November 4, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song 

China must be on high alert against "black swan" and "grey rhino" financial events in the face of a slowing economy, President Xi Jinping told senior members of the Communist Party faithful. 

State news outlet Xinhua said Mr Xi instructed officials to "prevent and defuse major risks" across a range of fields — politics, ideology, society, science and technology — to "ensure a healthy economy and social stability". 

A "black swan" is an unpredictable market event with extreme financial consequences, while a "grey rhino" is a large, visible threat that goes ignored.

WNU Editor: A “black swan” event refers to an unforeseen and unlikely occurrence that typically has extreme consequences, while a “grey rhino” is a highly obvious yet ignored threat. (Reuters).

Is This The New Normal For Washington D.C.?

National Guard members salute in front of the U.S. Capitol building during the inauguration, January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Allison Shelley 

Weeks after their jogging routes and day care drop-offs were interrupted by a mob storming the U.S. Capitol, the residents of a quiet neighborhood nestled amid the national monuments are wrestling with life in a fortress, where checkpoints abut corner stores and armed soldiers are new neighbors. 

Some residents on Capitol Hill have rallied behind the thousands of National Guard members stationed nearby, bringing them wagons full of snacks and hot coffee to express gratitude for their service. Other locals have gone to great lengths to avoid the encampment, saying the presence of armed troops and fencing topped with razor wire makes them feel even more on edge in their own neighborhood. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: This is not the America that I know.

There are calls to make this permanent .... Calls for permanent Capitol fencing blasted over hypocrisy of canceled border wall: 'Take down these fences!' (The Blaze).

Trust In Government Declines Globally

Zero Hedge:
Global Government 'Trust Bubble' Bursts In 2020, Led By China & UK 

Joe Biden has moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and one of his administration's most difficult tasks is going to be the restoration of trust in the American government. 

Even though the foundations of U.S. democracy withstood the events of January 06, cracks are still in place, as shown by continuing suspicion and accusations on Capitol Hill. 

Along with distrust inside government, Statista's Niall McCarthy notes that the nation is divided with a recent survey finding that a mere 42 percent of the U.S. public trusted the government in late 2020. 

The findings come from Edelman Research's latest Trust Barometer which polled 33,000 people in 28 countries about their trust in various institutions between October 19 and November 18, 2020. 

Globally, 'trust' collapsed in the second half of 2020... 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: Not surprised that the majority of Russians do not trust their government. I do not believe in the 82% number in China saying they trust their government.

Pentagon Says Chinese Fighter Jets And Bombers Flew Repeatedly Near A U.S. Aircraft Carrier Strike Group In The South China Sea

FILE PHOTO: The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) is pictured as it enters the port in Da Nang, Vietnam, March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Kham/File Photo 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Friday that Chinese military flights in the past week in the South China Sea fit a pattern of destabilizing and aggressive behavior by Beijing but posed no threat to a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group in the region. 

“The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group closely monitored all People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and Air Force (PLAAF) activity, and at no time did they pose a threat to U.S. Navy ships, aircraft, or sailors,” the U.S. military’s Pacific Command said in a statement. 

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Chinese aircraft did not come within 250 nautical miles (460 km) of the U.S. Navy vessels. 

WNU Editor: This is why the Pentagon is not happy with these Chinese flights .... Chinese bombers simulated an attack on a US Navy aircraft carrier in the South China Sea (Business Insider).