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Diane Abbott on Supporting the Teachers against a Premature Lifting of the Schools Lockdown

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/02/2021 - 10:33pm in

The much maligned MP Diane Abbott has written a piece for Labour Outlook discussing the effectiveness of the vaccines and the continuing death toll from Covid 19. While the vaccines are a great success, they are not going to end this disease on their own. Other measures are needed. Schools are important vector for the disease, which is why Abbott supports the teachers against the government in maintaining that the schools lockdown should not be lifted too soon.

Abbott writes

Only a safe reopening is in all our interests. Support the teachers, head teachers & school workers against the Tories – Diane Abbott MP Exclusive

“The government is currently refusing to budge.  But we know this is a government which can be forced to U-turn.”

Diane Abbott MP.

Diane Abbott MP

Life in Britain, including political life is once more dominated by the spread of the Covid-19 virus and the government’s failures to halt it. 

On February 22nd the government published a ‘roadmap’ out of the lockdown we have all had to endure.  This lockdown, our third, is actually longer than many countries’ sole lockdown.  The countries that have successfully suppressed the virus include Australia, China, New Zealand, Thailand and Viet Nam all achieved that by having a both a much stricter, shorter regime and by having an effective system of testing, tracing and properly supported isolation. The government still does not have any of those in place.

So, the roadmap is itself seriously, potentially fatally flawed.  Just as the government was outlining its plans there were two other important pieces of news.  The first was that the average of new daily cases is over 11,000 and the average for new deaths is almost 500 per day.  There is a possibility that new cases will be as high coming out of this lockdown as they were at the peak of the first wave in April, 5,000 a day or more.

The second news item was that the minutes of the most recent SAGE meeting were publicised.  SAGE emphasised that it had “previously advised that the opening and closing of schools is likely to have an impact on transmission and R, and that policymakers need to consider the balance of risks and harms. The opening of primary and secondary schools is likely to increase effective R by a factor of 1.1 to 1.5 (10% to 50%) (medium confidence)”.

There are two risks from a premature relaxation of lockdown led by reopening of the schools.  The first is that, exactly as SAGE says, transmission and infection rates will go into reverse, having fallen from late January after lockdown was imposed.  The second risk is that, in the absence of a suppression strategy, the virus will freely circulate and then mutate once more into even more deadly strains.  Again, this is a risk identified with current policy by SAGE itself. The government has clearly ignored this advice.

SAGE also emphasises the global nature of this pandemic, which is important for the whole world, including this country. “Aside from the significant human and social costs around the world, ongoing transmission in other countries would continue to pose a threat to UK health even if the epidemic were under control in this country and a high proportion of the population were vaccinated”. 

Yet the epidemic here is clearly not under control, and only a minority of the population has received even a single jab.  Public Health England (PHE) has assessed the efficacy of single jabs and the recommended double-dose. PHE found that protection from a single jab rose after a number of weeks to just under 60%.  But the protection after just a few days for a second jab was around 96%.  These are great outcomes. 

Yet contrary to government ministers, there is no suggestion in the minutes that vaccines are or can be a magic bullet.  Two-fifths of all those receiving a single jab have no protection from the virus.  But they are all encouraged to believe and to act as if they have full protection. Once again the Government is not being straight with the public and is taking another gamble with public health.  

The crunch point ahead is the government plan to reopen all the schools in a ‘big bang’ on March 8th.  This flies in the face of its own expert advice, the policy of the administrations in the rest of the country, and our own bitter experience about the spread of the virus after schools reopened last September.

I would urge everyone to read and support the joint statement from nine unions in response to the government’s plans.  They describe those plans as reckless, and argue instead for a phased return to schools, with rotas, ‘blended learning’ and a number of simple but effective safety measures. 

The government is currently refusing to budge.  But we know this is a government which can be forced to U-turn. Unions showed that over the Chancellor’s plans to cut furlough pay to two-thirds of wages, and both Marcus Rashford and Jo Whiley can testify to it over free school meals and vaccines for the learning disabled respectively.

The key issue now is the unity of all those demanding a different course of action from the government in applying the maximum amount of pressure on this issue.  Those who work in schools care about themselves, their own loved ones and the pupils we entrust to them.  But in opposing a reckless reopening of schools now they are acting in all our interests.  They deserve our full support.

…………

I realise that Abbott is hugely controversial and much reviled. About half of the abusive messages received by women MPs are actually directed at her. And the Tories have been trying to make her out to be stupid ever since she made a mistake about budget estimates a few years ago. Senior Tories have also made similar mistakes, but this is ignored and they are lauded as if they are mighty intellectuals. As this piece shows, Abbott is anything but stupid and she is exactly right to back the teachers. Contrary to what the Tories are shouting about teachers being lazy, they are not. Our mother was a primary school teacher for very many years, and I know exactly how hard they work. Most teachers I’m sure would love to be back in class, in front of blackboard, actually teaching. But they are also vulnerable to Covid-19 themselves and aware of the role contact in schools can play in its transmission. Children may not suffer particularly from it themselves, but they are able to spread it to adults, some of whom may be extremely vulnerable.

Abbott is right to urge for a cautious, phased reopening of schools and support our front line teaching staff. It’s what Starmer should have done from the start, but didn’t because he was too intent on chasing Tory votes.

See: Only a safe reopening is in all our interests. Support the teachers, head teachers & school workers against the Tories – Diane Abbott MP Exclusive – Labour Outlook

Beyond Donald Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/02/2021 - 5:23am in

In his 1967 speech at Riverside Church, Martin Luther King, Jr. laid out America's greatest problems: “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.” Continue reading

The post Beyond Donald Trump appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Afghanistan: US Supported Islamist Fighters in order to Provoke Russian Invasion

Here’s another piece of US myth-making that William Blum skewers, the story that America only started funding the Islamist fighters, the Mujahideen, after the Russians invaded. America supported them as a resistance movement against Soviet occupation. In fact, the truth is almost the direct opposite. The Russians invaded the country because the US was conspiring with the Mujahideen to overthrow its secular, but pro-Russian, government. Blum writes in America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy

The Russians were not in Afghanistan to conquer it. The Soviet Union had lived next door to the country for more than sixty years without any kind of invasion. It was only when the United States intervened in Afghanistan to replace a government friendly to Moscow with one militantly anti-communist that the Russians invaded to do battle with the US-supported Islamic jihadists; precisely what the US would have done to prevent a communist government in Canada or Mexico. (p. 83).

In fact America supported the Islamist insurgency against the Afghan government in order to provoke the Soviets to invade. In his book Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (London: Zed Books 2014), Blum states

Consider Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor to Jimmy Carter. In a 1998 interview he admitted that the official story that the US gave military aid to the Afghanistan opposition only after the Soviet invasion in 1979 was a lie. The truth was, he said, that the US began aiding the Islamic fundamentalist moujahedeen six months before the Russians made their move, even though he believed-and told this to Carter, who acted on it-that “this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.”

Brzezinski was asked whether he regretted this decision.

“Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving the USSR its Vietnam War. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”

Besides the fact that there’s no demonstrable connection between the Afghanistan war and the breakup of the Soviet empire, we are faced with the consequences of that war: the defeat of a government committed to bringing the extraordinarily backward nation into the 20th century; the breathtaking carnage; moujahideen torture that even US government officials called “indescribable horror”; half the population either dead, disabled or refugees; the spawning of thousands of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, who have unleashed atrocities in numerous countries and the astounding repression of women in Afghanistan, instituted by America’s wartime allies. (pp.5-6).

It’s ironic that one of the countries that became a victim to Islamist terror was America itself. The Soviet withdrawal convinced the terrorists that they could defeat America, just as they had defeat its rival superpower. And so they plotted the attack launched on 9/11.

Blum also makes it very clear that the subsequent American invasion of Afghanistan also wasn’t in reprisal for the attack, which was the overwhelmingly the work of Saudi nationals with deep connections to the Saudi secret services. It wasn’t done to free the Afghan people from the repressive Islamist government that the Americans had actually helped to install. No, the Americans had been on good terms with the Taliban. When the Taliban was willing to cooperate with them over the construction of an oil pipeline. When talks stalled over that, the Americans threatened them with military action and then invaded six months later.

America’s wars in Afghanistan are all about geopolitics and protecting American oil interests, nothing more. And the Afghan people, not to mention everyone else killed and maimed by the Islamist terror groups those wars have produced, are the real victims. And that includes our brave boys and girls, who have been sent in kill and die for the profits of western multinationals.

And America’s legacy of terror in the Middle East naturally worries people from the region. I’ve spoken to people from those countries, who told me they were worried about Joe Biden. They weren’t impressed with Trump, but they were worried about Biden, because of his connection to Carter. Carter was the US president at the time of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. I don’t think you can blame him for that, as you can the mujahideen in Afghanistan. The Americans really didn’t see the Iranian revolution coming, and when the Ayatollah Khomeini did arrive, they completely failed to realize what would happen. The CIA believed that he would lead a peaceful revolution like Gandhi. If only. However, America did support the Shah, who by the time of the Islamic revolution was a bitterly hated absolute monarch who ruled through terror.

It seems everything we’ve been told about Afghanistan is a lie, a lie that is continually told by the lamestream media and the western political-industrial establishment.

And the broader message is that just as you can’t believe what you’ve been told about Afghanistan, so you shouldn’t believe anything else about the supposed benign actions of the American empire and its allies either.

Patton and Westy Meet in a Bar

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/09/2020 - 3:03am in

This post first appeared on TomDispatch. It’s only mid-afternoon and Army Lieutenant General Victor Constant has already had a bad day.1 Soon after he arrived at the office at 0700, the Chief2 had called. “Come see me. We need to talk.” The … Continue reading

The post Patton and Westy Meet in a Bar appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

High Crimes against Journalism and Decency: Jeffrey Goldberg’s Insane “Trump Called Troops Suckers” Piece Is a New Low

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/09/2020 - 12:00am in

9-11-97

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote an article for The Atlantic that could harm Donald Trump’s chance to win re-election. Setting aside the controversial content of the remarks attributed to the president, it is important to note that this is an atrocious example of journalism.

You could almost call it “fake news.”

And corporate media is taking it at face value.

You may think Trump is a turd—I do. You may want him to lose the election—I do. (I also want Biden to lose, but that’s another column.) You may believe that Trump probably said what Goldberg reports—I think there’s a good chance. But everyone who cares about journalism ought to be deeply disturbed by the nonexistent sourcing for this story and its widespread acceptance by media organizations that ought to know better.

It’s easy to see why Democratic-leaning media corporations jumped all over Goldberg’s piece: it hurts the president and it reinforces militarism. But they’re degrading journalistic standards to manipulate an election.

According to Goldberg, four anonymous sources told him that Trump called American marines who died in World War I “losers” and repeatedly questioned why anyone smart would join the military or be willing to risk their life by fighting in one of America’s wars.

Anonymous sources have their place. I have used them. But basing a news story entirely on accounts of people who are unwilling to go on the record is journalistically perilous and ethically dubious. There are exceptions, as when a Mafia source fears physical retribution.

There is no such claim here. Most media organizations’ ethical guidelines are clear: news without attribution is not news. It is gossip.

            The Los Angeles Times, a publication my readers know that I hold in low regard, nevertheless takes a stance against anonymous sources. “When we use anonymous sources, it should be to convey important information to our readers. We should not use such sources to publish material that is trivial, obvious or self-serving,” the paper’s ethical standards say. “An unnamed source should have a compelling reason for insisting on anonymity, such as fear of retaliation, and we should state those reasons when they are relevant to what we publish.”

            The Atlantic piece falls way short.

Likewise, writing that strips statements of necessary context is anti-ethical. Trump, writes Goldberg, “expressed contempt for the war record of the late Senator John McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. ‘He’s not a war hero,’ Trump said in 2015 while running for the Republican nomination for president. ‘I like people who weren’t captured.’” He goes on to note that Trump wanted to deny McCain the honor of lowering flags to half-mast after McCain died.

Goldberg frames Trump’s comments as part of a general bias against the military and portrays his attacks as unprovoked. Truth is, long before Trump made those comments he had been engaged in a well-documented, long-running feud with the Arizona senator. McCain based his political career on his military service and the five years he spent as a POW in Vietnam. McCain was Trump’s enemy, and there is considerable evidence that McCain—known for a sharp tongue—started the war of words. Trump gave back in kind.

“Nor did he set his campaign back by attacking the parents of Humayun Khan, an Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004,” Goldberg continues in another context-free passage. Khan’s father famously spoke against Trump at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. “You have sacrificed nothing and no one,” Khan said. In Trumpian terms, Khan started it. But Goldberg’s omission makes it look like Trump attacked a fallen soldier out of the blue.

Goldberg does this a third time: “When lashing out at critics, Trump often reaches for illogical and corrosive insults, and members of the Bush family have publicly opposed him.” Both sides have insulted each other; as far as the record shows, Trump is usually running offense, not defense—but Goldberg falsely portrays the enmity as a one-way street.

One of the praiseworthy aspects of this president is his relatively restrained approach to military interventionism, coupled with his willingness to directly engage adversaries like North Korea and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the latter which recently signed a peace agreement with the United States. It is logical for Trump, who is skeptical of illegal wars of choice like Afghanistan and Iraq, to question why people would volunteer to fight and possibly die in such a pointless conflict. For Goldberg, militarism is a state religion. Questioning it is intolerable.

Goldberg’s piece, the tone of which reads like the pro-war hysteria following 9/11, reflects the aggressively militaristic neoliberalism of the Democratic Party in 2020.

Goldberg references Trump’s 2017 visit to Arlington cemetery with then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. “A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan … Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, ‘I don’t get it. What was in it for them?’ Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.”

            Joining the military, of course, is hardly a non-transactional decision. Soldiers get paid. They get medals. They get free college. They are revered and thanked for their service. Military service gives you a leg up when you run for political office.

Moreover, Trump’s question is one Americans should be asking more often. Why would a 29-year-old man volunteer to travel to Afghanistan in order to kill the locals? No one in that country threatened the United States. No one there did us any harm. Afghans don’t want us there. Why did Robert Kelly go?

Goldberg seems obsessed with Trump’s description of fallen soldiers as suckers. “His capacious definition of sucker includes those who lose their lives in service to their country, as well as those who are taken prisoner, or are wounded in battle,” Goldberg writes. But is he wrong?

            LBJ suckered us into Vietnam with the Tonkin Gulf incident, which historians of all stripes accept was a lie.

            George H.W. Bush suckered us into the first Gulf War with a tale of Iraqi soldiers rampaging through a Kuwaiti hospital and pulling babies out of incubators. Another lie.

            After 9/11 George W. Bush suckered us into Afghanistan by saying Osama bin Laden was there—he was not.

            Of course Bush lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. More suckering. (At the time, Goldberg spread the lie that Saddam Hussein was allied with his enemy Al Qaeda.)

            Assuming that anything in Goldberg’s piece was true, Trump was right.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Dental Surgeon – Bankstown, NSW

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/08/2018 - 7:23pm in

Don’t sit down – no long or in-depth story this time. Just a gentle reminder of the sort of shape a past life can sometimes take. For those who fled South Vietnam to escape the rule of the Vietnamese People’s Army, today’s Ho Chi Minh City will always be Saigon. No, it’s not a name […]