Saturday, January 18, 2020

Some passengers from a city in China could be detained at some airports and possibly quarantined for a new "SARS"; could this spread?

The Centers for Disease Control reports on the screening of airline passengers for a new corona virus, 2019-nCoV, when they come from Wuhan, China and arrive at LAX, San Francisco, or JFK in New York.
The virus has caused infections in Thailand and Japan also (maybe passengers from China). It appears to spread from animals to humans.  It is less clear that it can spread person to person.

It is unclear if this screening would spread to other airports or people from other cities.

It appears that the risk of personal quarantine or detention is very minimal, but it could obviously be very disruptive.  It is likely that generally most patients would recover without treatment, despite the few deaths.  It is likely that some people could carry the virus with no remarkable symptoms. 
Corona viruses are common, and cause cold-like symptoms and laryngitis, sometimes some bronchitis. It’s not clear why a few varieties from Asia or the Middle East have turned deadly with pneumonias and overwhelming immune response.
Forbes has a typical media story

By 于/Yu 回/Hui from Chengdu, China - Wuhan, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Friday, January 17, 2020

Iran's attack did cause serious injuries to American soldiers after all

Elizabeth McLaughlin and Mark Osborne report for ABC News that eleven soldiers from Iraq (Al Asad) were transported to military hospitals in Germany and Kuwait for concussion brain injury symptoms, story.

Apparently they had been sheltered only in bunkers built previously by Saddam Hussein’s regime.  The base did not have advanced air defense as do other bases.

This report could dilute the claims that Iraq fired the empty retaliation to appease its people and to encourage lowering of tensions.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Did Soleimani actually help control ISIS?

A group called “In the Now” has challenged conventional wisdom, that Soleimani was “just” a terrorist for the Iranian state, and had in fact been instrumental in fighting ISIS back in 2014, as with this Tweet

Facebook supposedly removed material related to this observation for violating “community standards”.
CNBC (certainly mainstream and credible)  has a report that somewhat confirms this idea.  But it also reports that Iranian government forced businesses to close and owners to join the protests. A book by Kim Ghattas is featured in the video.
CNBC also warns that a closure of the Strait of Hormuz could send oil prices to $100 a barrel. But I can remember a lot of such threats back in 1980.

Wiki: Volleyball tournament in Iran in 2015 
By Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0, Link

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Trump behaved like a Mafia boss with the assassination of Soleimani, and it might just work in Trump's favor in the 2020 elections

David Brooks created some controversy with an op-ed Trump Has Made Us All Stupid: The decline of discourse in the anti-Trump echo chamber.”  The op-ed really doesn't support the idea that we're stupid, though (see David Pakman last February). 
He’s probably right that, other than Israel, some countries in the Middle East behave like Maria crime bosses.  Violence is the tool of communication. Then you make a gesture and let it fail to break the cycle.

If so, this could make the assassination of Soleimani look right, given you accept the intelligence that four or more embassies would have been attacked.

Furthermore, if all the protests by Iranians (over shooting down a plane with Canadian and Iranian civilians after mistaking it as a missile from the US)  get the current ayatollah removed, that could help get Trump re-elected, if he survives impeachment (the 25th amendment may be much more “serious”).
The New York Times has a piece by Thomas Gibbons-Neff, that Defense Secretary Esper says now he didn't see evidence that Iran planned to attack four embassies.

Wikipedia attribution link for Soleimani picture, CCSA 4.0. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Trump makes 10-minute speech on Iran, threatens more sanctions, otherwise wait and see

President Trump spoke for about 10 minutes, starting at about 45:00 in this NBCNews video, livestreamed and just released.

The tone of the speech was not as bellicose as it might have been, and Trump said that Iran can become a “great country”.  But he threatened more sanctions immediately.  He also specifically mentioned Saudi Arabia and talked as if the most immediate threats were to Sunni Muslims in the region. 
It sounds as if right now, the policy is “wait and see”.
There is little question that this is a distraction from the impeachment issue.

There is a speculative theory (even Chris Cuomo advanced it last night on CNN) that Iraq deliberately shot into the open desert as a way to slap Trump's hands and stop the cycle. On the other hand, the attack caused Iraqi casualties, so it is aggression on another nation (remember the 1980s and the Iran-Iraq war, which Keith Meinhold helped monitor from a submarine hunter over the Hormuz area, only to become involved in fighting DADT in the 1990s).
The New York Times, in a piece by Michael A. Grynbaum, analyzes Tucker Carlson's and Steve Bannon's apparent disapproval of Trump's strike on Suleimani.  Trump is said to be "selectively militaristic. I'm not sure I follow the claims of Carlson's supposed "white nationalism";  I don't hear that in him.  On the other hand, Trey Yingst, Fox international correspondent now in Baghdad who is usually very reluctant to offer opinions said this initially about the Iran raid. 

Monday, January 6, 2020

Dershowitz tells Americans to calm down over Soleimani, and that Trump's act was lawful

Alan Dershowitz has an op-ed on p. A17 of the Wall Street Journal today, “Easy Call: The Strike on Soleimani Was Lawful”, link.
Dershowitz often sounds conservative these days but is considered a “liberal” by, say, PragerU.

The heart of the argument here is that Soleimai was in the uniformed Iranian military and had executed many plans that  threatened American lives in the area, especially at the embassies. He was responsible for the deaths of American civilians and contractors.   As a practical matter, he had assisted Assad in Syria and in a way Putin.
Dershowitz seems to think the media should calm down and that Americans are safer than they were before.   This seems to be a kind of military-imposed death penalty.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Washington Examiner, Fox News, and even NYTimes have speculative articles on possible domestic threats from Iranian reprisal

The Washington Examiner reports that a member of the Iranian Parliament, Abolfazl Abutorabi , has said that Iran might try to hit within the United States.  Fox News made an even more hyperbolic report (which I cannot like because I get an http 403 from Fox; here is their tweet).  Let’s say he mentioned the White House itself.  A number of Hollywood movies have shown such fictitious attacks, such as “Olympus Has Fallen”.

Such a happenstance would probably require a saboteur, like in the Hitchcock movie by that name.  I think that’s a good reason to be careful with borders and immigration.   
Susan Rice has an op-ed in the New York Times where she notes that Iranian sleeper cells in the US could exist.  But they would be ideologically very different from ISIS or Al Qaeda, which is Sunni. We have not heard this in the past (not since maybe the hostage crisis in 1979). 
Today, as I drove into church in DC, I saw a bizarre accident where a car crashed into a building at 18th and E, and another car crashed into it, and Secret Service around the block.  Later today, part of the plaza in front of the White House was fenced off. 

Americans have a lot of enemies.  Radical Sunni Islam, radical Shiite Islam (probably much smaller despite the hype), North Korea, some element of the radical Right (or alt-Right), and sometimes the extreme domestic Left (some elements of Antifa), as well as Russia and China.  Totalitarians and religious fanatics don't like to see people in other groups with privilege. 
Remember Vladimir Putin assassinates people in other countries all the time (particularly Britain).  But not military "chiefs of staff".  Kim Jong Un did it in Malaysia.  
CNN has a more normal story about Iran's just going against "military" sites. 

Friday, January 3, 2020

Iran vows revenge as Suleimani is taken out; DPRK could get more aggressive if it thinks Trump will be forced out or lose

Two big stories usually means two posts.  This Friday morning I’ll combine them.

The world is hopping mad, with oil prices soaring and stock market falling, after a US drone killed Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani (of the Quds Force) in Baghdad Jan. 2.  Pompeo says it was necessary to deter another imminent attack on US servicemembers and civilians in the air.  David E. Sanger analyzes the risks of the “shoot first” policy in the New York Times this morning.    CNN sounded quite alarming in tone as I got up this morning, that there even could be retaliation within the US.  Of course, Suleimani himself was in a "foreign country" behaving "illegally". 

Look at Trey Yingst's statement for Fox News as foreign correspondent from Jerusalem, "This Is Not a De-escalation."

Back in October 2019, I had an impromptu lunch at a Starbucks in Rockville MD with two men from Iran, in a Starbucks, before going to an unrelated Better Angels forum nearby, as I explained here.  They said daily life in Iran was OK and not very politicized.

Also, Anthony Kuhn, of NPR, suggested that North Korea may be open to more talks now despite saying if feels free to resume nuclear and ICBM missile tests.  North Korea could get even more provocative if Trump is removed from office (the 25th Amendment talk probably influences it) or if it calculates by summer that Trump will lose in 2020 (even more so to, say, a candidate like Buttigieg). 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Do "protesters" in Baghdad recall the Iran hostage crisis?; North Korea looks determined to resume ICBM tests

First, Iraqi security (not the world’s best) has regained some sense of law and order near the US embassy in Baghdad. Of course, it’s of concern that this comes from Iran and I remember the hostage crisis of 1979 all too well. CNN’s story today (video included)Trey  by Sheena McKenzie et al.  Governments seem to be able to “draft” protesters in countries like Iraq.
Trey Yingst had reported on this remotely from Jerusalem for Fox News, story

Trump “spake” about both Iraq and North Korea at his Mar a Lago New Years Eve gala.  (No, I was not invited.)

North Korea has apparently completely taken denuclearization off the table.  It is claiming it will talk “productively” only when sanctions are eased.  It claims it no longer is obligated

The Christmas “present” seems to be the “policy change”.  North Korea could try another ICBM launch and some sort of demonstration of re-entry capability (it’s hard to see how to do that, other than it’s simply surviving all the way to splashdown). DPRK could also try to demonstrate EMP capability from a satellite (Woolsey’s warning back in 2017).
There is a new game “WWIII” from “Conflict of Nations” that shows the US being divided up by enemies as a result of Trump’s impeachment, rather, rather like the NBC series “Revolution”. cynical.


By MohammadHuzam - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

PragerU presents an interesting take on democracy in a fragile Islamic country

I found this PragerU video today, about whether Sharia and Democracy can coexist in Pakistan.

The incident the video describes is horrific.  But the video makes the point that the extremist parties are multiple and fractured.  If they came together, they would make Pakistan into another Saudi Arabia, to say the least. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Senate needs to call and hear John Bolton, and his comments on North Korea really matter right now

ABC News provided more coverage of Kim Jong Un’s possible “Christmas present”, which Donald Trump sounded blasé about from his desk in his resort at Mar a Lago today.  “We’ll see what happens.”

USA Today, in a story by Jeanine Santucci, reports on Bolton’s tweets and articles, to the effect that Trump really does not have a policy to deter North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and missiles that can reach the US, and that Trump is playing a rhetorical game.
Axios has an article by Jonathan Swan that “goes deeper” Dec 22, link.
Democrats want the Senate to call John Bolton to testify in any impeachment trial, but did not try to do so themselves, claiming that courts could delay the impeachment.


Update: Dec. 25

A speaker on CNN reminded viewers today that apparently North Korea had never proven it could launch an ICBM that could survive re-entry.  Maybe it has now.  But even without that possibility, it could try a high-altitude EMP blast, maybe a test over the mid Pacific.

The Washington Post has a sobering article by Joby Warwick Christmas Day which includes speculative discussion of possible DPRK submarines and anti missile detection technology.  It also reposted an article from Bloomberg by Jon Herslovitz (paywall). 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

More nuanced interpretations on CBS (from Trump's own camp at Bedminster) of Kim Jong Un's Christmas card

CBSN interviews prof. Chang in Bedminster NJ, recommending that the US pay more attention to Kim Jong Un’s increase of missile test threats, probably a long range test right after Jan 1, 2020.

North Korea has taken a vacation from this while doing unit testing under the radar right now.  And Peter Bergen’s recent book explains Trump’s softening in March 2018 as a response to South Korea’s overtures right after the Winter Olympics (p. 214-215);  my book review will come later.  But Trump’s softening did not lead to the respite from long range tests, as Trump claims;  North Korea’s work schedule did.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

CNBC studies health care in other countries: Germany

CNBC explains with a recent video, “How Germany’s Universal Health-Care System Works”

The main point is to make the commitment to cover everybody.

Germany has a private and public system with mandatory insurance and carefully managed premiums and actuarial rating. But it spend less per patient than American systems and has better outcomes.
CNBC covers some other countries, which we’ll cover over time. 
In the US, a federal judge has thrown out the individual mandate as potentially unconstitutional since Trump’s tax package removed the “tax” penalty.

I visited Berlin and Dresden in 1999.  I also visited Germany by Eurailpass in 1972 and saw the East German border from the train. 
By Mfield, Matthew Field,; edit by Waugsberg (rotation 0,4°) - Own work, GFDL 1.2, Link

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Gay "civil union" in Israel, which still does not formally recognize gay marriage, but accepted gays in the military long before the U.S. did

Although Israel has been seen as progressive on LGBT issues, allowing (even requiring) gays to serve in the military after about 1992, it does not fully recognize gay marriage, although it recognizes gay marriages from other countries. (Rand corporation had used Israel as an example in recommending how to lift the ban in the U.S.) 

The video above notes a same-sex wedding, which is more what we would call a civil union. 
Wikipedia: By Foto: Bernd Schwabe in Hannover - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Fareed Zakaria: Democracy is in recession (to quote a Stanford professor)

Liberty and Law Are Under Attack WorldWide;  Consider the Impeachment Crisis in that Context” Fareed Zakarai opines on CNN, Washington Post op-ed today here. Fareed presented this on his Global Public Square on CNN this morning. 
All over the west, even with the Brexit rout, voters seem to want voters and jobs and are willing to accept more rules to see others toe the line.