Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- March 31, 2021


The recent bloodthirsty raid by jihadist militants from the Islamic State group (IS) in northern Mozambique has shocked the world.

Hundreds of well-armed fighters were able to overrun a town close to Africa's largest gas project. 

They massacred dozens of people, locals and expatriates, leaving decapitated bodies strewn around the streets. 

So how was this able to happen, why can the Mozambican government not control this insurgency and what will it take to defeat it? 

Read more .... 

 Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- March 31, 2021 

A growing challenge for Iraq: Iran-aligned Shiite militias -- Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Zeina Karam, AP 

China's New Bogeyman: Europe -- Stuart Lau, Politico EU

The cost of speaking up against China -- Joel Gunter, BBC News 

World News Briefs -- March 31, 2021 (Evening Edition)


(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron announced a nationwide four-week lockdown, closing schools and business, in the latest and alarming sign that Europe is yet again losing control of the pandemic. 

“We did everything we could to make these decisions as late as possible, when they became strictly necessary. That is now,” Macron said in a televised address on Wednesday. New variants make the virus “more contagious and deadlier,” he said. 








Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- March 31, 2021

Soldiers wearing the Integrated Visual Augmentation System while mounted in a Stryker vehicle in Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Washignton, February 2021 © US Army / Courtney Bacon 

 * Microsoft will deliver to the U.S. Army more than 120,000 devices based on its HoloLens augmented reality headset. 
 * The deal, which could be worth as much as $21.88 billion over 10 years, follows a contract Microsoft received to build prototype headsets for the Army.
 * The contract comes a year and a half after Microsoft won a cloud contract from the Pentagon that could be worth up to $10 billion. 

The U.S. Army said Wednesday that Microsoft has won a contract to build more than custom HoloLens augmented reality headsets. 

The contract for over 120,000 headsets could be worth up to $21.88 billion over 10 years, a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC. 

Microsoft shares moved higher after the announcement. The stock was up 1.7% to $235.77 per share at the end of Wednesday’s trading session. 

The deal shows Microsoft can generate meaningful revenue from a futuristic product resulting from years of research, beyond core areas such as operating systems and productivity software. 

 Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- March 31, 2021 

Covid-19 Cases And Deaths Are Surging In India

MUMBAI — India on Wednesday recorded its biggest jump in COVID-19 deaths so far this year, as authorities in worst-hit Mumbai commandeered private hospitals and nursing homes amid an unprecedented wave of coronavirus infections. 

Wednesday's death toll from the coronavirus was 354 — the highest since mid-December. 

India's confirmed caseload has more than quintupled from some 9,000 cases in late January to 53,000 today. The increase follows a marked decline in cases from their peak in September 2020 that scientists are still trying to understand. 

WNU Editor: India is not prepared for this .... ‘Double mutant’ Covid variant threatens to overwhelm India (The Week).

The Consensus Among Global Disease Experts Is That The Coronavirus Variants Will Make The Current Vaccines Ineffective Within A Year

In a new survey, 66.2% of global disease experts said they believe that within one year, mutations of the virus will render vaccines ineffective 

 * Surveyors interviewed 77 epidemiologists, virologists and infectious disease specialists about coronavirus vaccines
 * A total of 66.2% said they believe that within one year, mutations of the virus will render vaccines ineffective
 * Of that group, 18.2% said they believed it would occur within six months and 32.5% said within nine months
 * Another 18.2% said vaccines would be ineffective within two years while 7.8% said they believed mutations would never cause vaccines to become ineffective 
 * As of Tuesday, at least 10,985 cases of coronavirus variants from the UK, South Africa and Brazil have been reported across in every state 

Two-thirds of disease experts believe coronavirus variants will render vaccines ineffective within one year, a new survey finds. 

Conducted by the People's Vaccine Alliance, about 66 percent of epidemiologists, virologists and infectious disease specialists say they think that within 12 months, the virus will mutate to such a degree that first-generation vaccines will be useless at preventing infection. 

Of that group, nearly one-fifth believe it would occur within six months and one-third said within nine months. 

Fewer than one in eight doctors said they believed that mutations would never make the vaccines currently available ineffective.

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: Expect to read a lot of stories like this one in the coming months .... Over 100 fully vaccinated people contract COVID-19 in Washington state, officials say (ABC News) 

Update: Here is a more optimistic assessment .... Analysis-In mutant variants, has the coronavirus shown its best tricks? (Reuters).

French President Macron Orders A Complete COVID-19 Lockdown And Curfew Across All Of France

France's infection rate has soared in recent weeks in a resurgence blamed on the British variant of Covid-19, which has now resulted in a third national lockdown
Death rates are also climbing and the total is nearing the tally of 100,000 which has already been reached by the UK and Italy 

 * Macron announced a new national lockdown on Wednesday night in an address 
 * He explained the measures were in response to the spread of the 'British variant' 
 * From Saturday, all of France will be under a 7 p.m. curfew, with schools closed 
 * Non-essential shops will also close, with domestic travel and gatherings limited 
 * Macron has sought to avoid a third national lockdown since the start of the year 
 * But his options have narrowed during a third wave blamed on the British variant 
 * Number of intensive care patients passed 5,000 on Tuesday, the worst this year 

France will enter a third national lockdown for four weeks, French president Emmanuel Macron announced in an address to the nation on Wednesday night.

The decision comes as a third wave of Covid-19 - blamed largely on the so-called 'British variant' of the virus - surges across Europe and countries face a race against time to vaccinate their populations. 

'The epidemic is accelerating, and we are likely to lose control, so we must find a new way of reacting. We must therefore set ourselves a new framework for the coming months,' the head of state said during the dramatic address. 

Read more .... 

 More News On French President Macron Ordering A Complete COVID-19 Lockdown Across All Of France 

France to close schools and stop domestic travel after Covid surge -- The Guardian

Russian Hackers Suspected Of Stealing Thousands Of US State Department Emails

Daily Mail: Russians suspected of 'stealing thousands of State Department emails' in latest hack targeting U.S. government 

 * The cyber attack follows a similar breach carried out by the Russians in 2015 
 * They gained access to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs 
 * The hack comes after an espionage campaign targeting SolarWinds software 

Russian hackers are suspected of stealing thousands of State Department emails last year, two Congressional sources have revealed. 

The cyber attack is the second breach of the department's email server in a decade carried out by Russians. 

The hackers gained access to emails from the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, according to Politico. 

Coup Attempt Fails In Niger


A military unit tried to seize the presidential palace in Niger's capital Niamey overnight in an attempted coup but it was pushed back and order has been restored, the government said on Wednesday, days before a handover of power. 

"On the night of March 30-31, an attempted coup was thwarted," it said in a statement, condemning "this cowardly and regressive act which sought to threaten democracy and the state of law". 

Read more .... 

 More News On A Coup Attempt Failing In Niger 

BBC's China Correspondent Flees To Taiwan After Receiving Threats And Warnings


The BBC's Beijing correspondent John Sudworth has left China and moved to Taiwan following pressure and threats from the Chinese authorities. 

Sudworth, who has won awards for his reporting on the treatment of the Uyghur people in the Xinjiang region, left Beijing with his family. 

The BBC says it is proud of his reporting and he remains its China correspondent. 

China has denounced the BBC's coverage of Xinjiang. Sudworth, who was based in China for nine years, said he moved to Taiwan after it became increasingly difficult to remain in China. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: I am willing to bet that his friends in the Chinese government told him that he was a target because of his Xinjiang and Covid coverage, and that he better get out of the country ASAP. 

BBC correspondent John Sudworth's wife also reports on China for RTE, and she joined her husband to leave the country .... Irish journalist leaves China after rise in surveillance (RTE). 

 More News On BBC's China Correspondent Fleeing To Taiwan After Receiving Threats And Warnings 

Chinese Fighter Pilot Says Taiwan 'This Is All Ours' When Asked to Leave Airspace

This photo taken May 25, 2018, by Taiwan's Defense Ministry shows Taiwan's F-16 fighter jet, left, monitoring one of two Chinese H-6 bombers that flew over the Bashi Channel south of Taiwan and the Miyako Strait, near Japan's Okinawa Island. 

Taiwan and its surrounding airspace "is all ours," a Chinese fighter pilot reportedly remarked on Monday as the People's Liberation Army flew jets and spy planes toward the democratic island for more than half the days in March. 

According to a recording carried by newspapers in Taipei and acquired by Newsweek, the exchange between pilots from the Republic of China Air Force and PLA Air Force took place at 10:04 a.m. local time after the Chinese warplane flew into Taiwan's southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ).

Taipei's interceptor aircraft, which was not identified in local reports, dispatched a standard radio warning to its Chinese counterpart: "This is the Republic of China Air Force. The Chinese military aircraft currently flying at 6,000 meters in Taiwan's southwestern airspace, you have entered our airspace and are affecting aviation safety. Turn around and leave immediately." 

The reply which came a few seconds later was brief, with the response in Chinese saying: "This is all ours." 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: My gut tells me that the Chinese appear to be looking for an "incident".

Trust In Technology Companies Fell All Around The World Last Year

Exclusive: Trust in tech craters 

Trust in tech — including companies specializing in AI, VR, 5G and the internet of things — fell all around the world last year, the Edelman Trust Barometer found in a massive survey of 31,000 people in 27 countries. 

Driving the news: The study, provided first to Axios, is a special tech edition of data collected for the annual Trust Barometer. All-time lows, going back to comparable Edelman polling in 2012, were hit in 17 of 27 countries, including the U.S., U.K., France, China, Japan, Thailand, Brazil and Mexico. 

Why it matters: High public esteem has helped protect the tech industry from critics and regulators, but that shield is weakening. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: While trust in tech companies in falling around the world, a lot of people still trust these companies. In my case I did not only trust these companies but I also openly supported them. That all changed when this happened .... It Appears That Google Has A Black List Of Conservative Sites (War News Updates Is On The List) (July 22, 2020). I now want to see them broken up.

The Taliban's Use Of Thermal Scopes By Their Snipers Is Tilting The Afghan War In Their Favor

This Tweet shows thermal optics scopes manufactured by US-based ATN and China-based Longot that were seized from the Taliban by the Afghan army. © © ANA 

The black-and-white videos show ghostly images of men in combat gear sheltering behind ruined walls in the crosshairs of Taliban snipers, who under cover of darkness pick them off one by one. While the Taliban have been known to use thermal-imaging technology for night-time combat for years, the Afghan insurgents are increasingly publishing sniper videos online as part of an apparent propaganda effort. An investigation by the France 24 Observers shows that most of the videos feature thermal scopes that are commercially available for civilian use. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: This makes you wonder if the Taliban are better armed than the Afghan Army on the battlefield.

The Taliban Are Saying That They Have Already Won The War In Afghanistan

Taliban delegates speak during talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar Sept. 12, 2020. 

The Taliban are trumpeting that they have already won the war in Afghanistan, with little apparent interest in making concessions in negotiating a peace deal, The New York Times reported

Tuesday. Peace talks in Turkey are set to begin next month, but the Taliban — who have slowly overrun Afghan military bases, steadily taken control of large swaths of countryside and encroached on cities — now have the advantage in the country. 

The insurgent group’s dominance makes it unlikely it will agree to power sharing with the Afghan government once the United States makes its intended exit. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: No one has won this war. And with each passing day it looks like US forces are going to stay for awhile .... Trump Afghan pullout deal unachievable, says ex-Pentagon leader (The Hill).

What Are the Details In The Iran - China 25 Year Strategic Partnership Agreement? No One Knows


Government official hints China standing in way of publication, as protesters insist ‘Iran is not for sale’ 

Iran’s ministers are being pressed by critics in the country to reveal details of a 25-year strategic partnership deal signed with China at the weekend, following accusations that Iran has sold its sovereignty. 

Many analysts say the agreement is largely aspirational, but the secrecy surrounding the final version has provided a useful stick for the regime’s critics. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: Iranians justifiably want to know what are details of their country's agreement with Iran. But Iran is saying that they cannot disclose the details of their deal with China because China wants to keep a publishing ban. 

My contacts in China are not so reserve, and they are telling me that China got a great deal. In a nutshell. Iran is going to owe China hundreds of billions of dollars to build up its infrastructure and modernize its oil facilities (using Chinese labor), and this debt will be paid with oil but a few points below spot price. 

To put it bluntly. If what my contacts are saying is true, China took advantage of Iran's weak position to take them to the cleaners. 

The only public reaction from Beijing on this deal is that they are taking all the risk .... China warned 25-year deal with Iran ‘is hugely risky’ (SCMP).

Former President Trump Launches A New Website

WNU editor:
The former President has launched a new website (link here). There is nothing special about it. I suspect that it is a work in progress. But in the meantime critics of the former President are onloading .... Trump launches new website with fault-free history of his presidency (Global News).

One-Third Of U.S. Voters Say They Would Use A Social Media Platform Backed By Former President Trump

The Hill:
Poll: One-third would use a Trump-backed social media platform 

One-third of voters said they would use a social media platform that was backed by former President Trump, a new Hill-HarrisX poll finds. 

By contrast, 54 percent of registered voters in the March 22-24 survey said they would not join such a platform while 16 percent said maybe. 

Seventy-eight percent of Democratic respondents and 58 percent of independent respondents said they would not use a social media platform created by Trump. 

On the other hand, 54 percent of Republican respondents said they would use a Trump-backed social media platform. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: It depends on what this new social media platform will be offering. If it does not practice censorship in the matter that Twitter does, and if publishers can earn revenue instead of Twitter taking it all. I can see this platform performing well. 

As for the other social media platforms. 

It will be very hard to compete against Facebook, and YouTube already has a number of competitors that another one backed by the former President will not make a difference.

Is YouTube Changing It's Policy On ‘Dislikes’ To Protect President Biden?

RT: ‘Protecting Biden from further embarrassment’: YouTube to hide ‘dislikes’ on videos as users ruthlessly downvote president 

YouTube has announced that it will temporarily hide how many ‘dislikes’ a video has received. The news went down poorly online, but President Joe Biden’s social media team might be happy with the change. 

At a glance, the number of thumbs down a YouTube video has received can tell a user to steer clear. The video could be boring or misleading, or the creator could say something so unpopular that thousands of viewers log in to downvote it to oblivion. Then again, mass downvoting campaigns have been launched against some users, and YouTube claims to have listened to these users’ pleas. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: You can still dislike videos of President Biden on the official White House YouTube channel. Will this be changed? I do not know. But it is comical to see that for every "like" President Biden receives, there are usually 20 or 30 dislikes (and more) on the same video.

The White House Has A Dog Problem

President Joe Biden's dog Major has bitten another employee at the White House, according to reports. The German Shepherd was last seen on a walk with an aide on Monday at 5pm 

 * The rescue German Shepherd bit a National Park Service employee on Tuesday 
 * Major was out for a walk when he 'nipped' the employee, Jill Biden's office said
 * It comes just three weeks after Major bit another security guard 
 * Biden's beloved dog was banished to the Delaware family home for two weeks 

President Joe Biden's dog Major has bitten another employee at the White House, according to reports. 

A National Park Service employee was taken to the White House Medical Unit for treatment after the German Shepherd 'nipped' him while out for a walk. 

Jill Biden's press secretary Michael LaRosa told CNN: 'Yes, Major nipped someone on a walk. 'Out of an abundance of caution, the individual was seen by WHMU and then returned to work.' 

WNU Editor: German Shepherds like Major do not nip. They bite. 

The problem with dogs that have been rescued is that they usually have not been trained to be social in public settings. This is going to be a recurring problem for the Bidens with this dog, especially since the staff and the Secret Service now know that they have a dog on the premises that is unpredictable. 

In the meantime some are having fun with this situation (see picture below).

Tweets Of The Day

Saudi F-15 Fighter Swoops In Low To Blast A Houthi Rebel Drone (Video)


The action-packed clip underscores the immense expenditure of resources on the part of the Saudis to respond to these relatively low-cost threats. 

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen launching suicide drones, as well as ballistic and cruise missiles, at targets in Saudi Arabia has become a regular occurrence. Announcements about interceptions by Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 fighter jets, as well as Patriot surface-to-air missiles, very costly responses to these relatively cheap threats, have become equally routine. However, video footage has now emerged online offering a different kind of look at this ongoing duel as Saudi troops on the ground watch an F-15 swoop in a relatively low level to knock down a Houthi Qasef-series suicide drone.

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: All that money being spent to knock-out just one drone. There has to be a better way.

Picture Of The Day

Sunny, a 325th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, poses next to a Quad-legged Unmanned Ground Vehicle at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, March 24, 2021. © PHOTO US AIR FORCE / AIRMAN 1ST CLASS ANABEL DEL VALLE 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Twenty-Seven National Organizations Urge President Biden To Halt His 'Reckless' Rhetoric Against Russian President Putin


Twenty-seven organizations, including a number of left-leaning groups, issued a statement on Tuesday urging President Biden to halt the use of “reckless” rhetoric with Russian President Vladimir Putin and instead conduct “constructive bilateral talks.” 

“As national organizations that advocate for diplomacy, arms control, disarmament and peace, we are deeply alarmed by the recent negative exchanges between leaders of the two countries with more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads in their arsenals,” the organizations wrote in a statement obtained by The Hill. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: It is too late. The damage has already been done. The Kremlin also knows that President Biden is not going to change his views and policies when it comes to Russia, and in particular against President Putin.

NATO Says It Intercepted Russian Warplanes '10 Times In One Day'

An Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon escorting a group of Russian military aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea off the Lithuanian Coast during an intercept on March 29, 2021. (Image credit: Italian Air Force via NATO). 

NATO says it scrambled fighter jets 10 times amid what it called an unusual level of Russian air activity over Europe.

Alliance warplanes were scrambled on March 29 "to shadow Russian bombers and fighters during an unusual peak of flights over the North Atlantic, North Sea, Black Sea and Baltic Sea," NATO said in a statement on March 30.

"In all, NATO aircraft intercepted six different groups of Russian military aircraft near Alliance airspace in less than six hours," the statement said. 

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: I am old enough to remember that during the height of the Cold War .... 10 interceptions was regarded as a quiet day. 

 More News On NATO Saying It Intercepted Russian Warplanes '10 Times In One Day' 

Fighting Escalates in Eastern Ukraine. Current Cease-Fire Unravelling

WNU Editor: Ukraine is saying that Russia is threatening the security in the region .... Ukraine says Russian military buildup threatens its security (Reuters). The Kremlin is accusing Kiev Of doing the same thing .... Kremlin says Kiev to blame for worsening Ukraine conflict (AFP). 

This blogger predicted a few days ago that the war will escalate after Orthodox Easter (May 2) .... U.S. Escalates Military Hardware Deliveries To Ukraine's Army (March 28, 2021). It looks like I am off by a few weeks.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- March 30, 2021


Already, Myanmar's Armed Forces Day 2021 will be go down as a day of infamy. Security forces on Sunday went and opened fire on a funeral. 

Can the junta get away with its February First coup by shooting its way out of the crisis? What more can the international community do? 

After targeted sanctions against regime big wigs, how to squeeze the businesses that make money for the military or at least not be complicit in their enrichment? 

We ask about the US suspending a trade deal with Myanmar. Will those measures help or hurt? 

Read more .... 

 Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- March 30, 2021 

The geopolitics of Myanmar’s black swan coup -- Michael Vatikiotis, Asia Times

India's Dangerous Myanmar Policy -- Sudha Ramachandran, The Diplomat

Americans fear China over Russia -- Roger Zakheim and Rachel Hoff, The Hill 

The EU Is Unprepared for a Taiwan Crisis -- David Hutt, Internationale Politik Quarterly 

The Return of German Politics -- Joschka Fischer, Prokect Syndicate 

Analysis: Under political attack, Brazil's Bolsonaro goes on the offensive -- Stephen Eisenhammer and Eduardo Simões, Reuters 

World News Briefs -- March 30, 2021 (Evening Edition)


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and 13 other countries expressed concerns on Tuesday that the World Health Organization (WHO) report on the origins of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was delayed and lacked access to complete data, according to a joint statement. 

It followed WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s assertion that data was withheld from its investigators who traveled to China to research the origins of the pandemic. 

Read more ....