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Wed, 29 Jan 2020
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Commander of Iranian security forces murdered outside his home by masked gunmen

© Twitter
Basij commander Abdolhossein Mojaddami
Iranian Basij forces commander Abdolhossein Mojaddami was gunned down in front of his own home on Wednesday in the Khuzestan province of Iran, news agency IRNA reported.

The Basij forces, one of the five forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), are often used to suppress protests and demonstrations in the Islamic Republic. He was killed by two men who wore masks and were riding a motorcycle, Iranian media reported. Iranian security forces are investigating the matter.

The killing could possibly signal that the regime is unable to contain widespread discontent among the Iranian public. Mojaddami's murder follows the assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani earlier this month by US special forces.

Comment: More details from Iran News Update 22/1/2020:
Two gunmen on a motorcycle, armed with an assault rifle and a hunting rifle, ambushed Mojaddami, IRNA reported. Other Iranian media said the gunmen's faces were covered with masks and that four shots were fired.

The case is under investigation and a motive was not immediately clear, but Basij units had been involved in violent clashes with demonstrators in the area in November in which many protesters were injured and killed.

Mojaddami's killing is seen another blow to the Revolutionary Guard. Mojaddami was described by IRNA as an associate of Soleimani, who was the head of the Quds forces, the foreign wing of the Guard.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the assassination nor has a motive been established.

Star of David

No reprieve! Israel continues flooding Gaza farmland to destroy Palestinian food supply

Gaza farmland destroyed
© Mohammed Asad/MEMO
Israeli forces opened rainwater stores allowing water to flood Gaza January 2020.
Israeli authorities have "for days now" been opening rainwater stores near the besieged Gaza Strip drowning Palestinian land, the enclave's agriculture ministry reported yesterday.

The ministry added that the occupation forces were "controlling the opening and closing of the rainwater stores in Gaza," noting that it had damaged Palestinian farmers' crops.

Two million Palestinians live in the enclave which has been under a strict Israeli-led siege for 13 years. As a result, unemployment has soared with the farming industries providing an income for thousands of Palestinians.

Poverty rates in Gaza reached 75 per cent in 2019, with 34 per cent of Gaza residents living in abject poverty, Deputy Welfare Ministry in Gaza Ghazi Hamad said in October last year.

Comment: See also:

Arrow Down

'So much for special relationship': US rejects extradition request for American agent's wife

Harry Dunn's mother
© Reuters/Dylan Martinez
Harry Dunn's mother Charlotte Charles outside Buckingham Palace
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been ridiculed on social media for a weak response to Washington rejecting the extradition request for Anne Sacoolas, a US agent's spouse charged with teenager Harry Dunn's death.

Dunn was killed in a head-on crash with a car in August last year near to RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, England. Sacoolas, the driver of the vehicle, claimed diplomatic immunity and returned to the US. Her husband is thought to be a US intelligence officer.

Following the US administration's decision, Raab took to Twitter on Friday to reveal that he had been in contact with the US ambassador to "express the [UK] Govt's disappointment," adding that they were "now urgently considering our options."

Comment: See also:


China temporarily bans wildlife trade in wake of outbreak

Dead animal market
Chinese authorities announced a temporary ban on the trade of wild animals Sunday following a viral outbreak in Wuhan, saying they will "severely investigate and punish" violators.

Local authorities will "strengthen inspections and severely investigate and punish those who are found in violation of the provisions of this announcement," read the the ban issued by three government agencies.

No wildlife can be transported or sold in any markets or online, according to text of the announcement in state media. Suspected violators will be sent to security services, and their will be properties closed and sealed. Legal breeding centers will be quarantined.

The ban will continue until "the epidemic situation is lifted nationwide" in order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus and block potential sources of infection and transmission.

Comment: See also: New research casts doubt coronavirus epidemic started at Wuhan food market


Israeli backpacker jailed in Russia files for pardon

Naama Issachar
An Israeli woman jailed in Russia on drug charges has submitted a petition to be pardoned by President Vladimir Putin.

State news agency Tass reported Sunday that Naama Issachar's lawyer said the request was filed following a statement by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov that she couldn't be pardoned without making a personal appeal.


Chinese health officials warn coronavirus is growing 'stronger', mutation possibilities being closely monitored

cornovirus china disease control workers
© cnsphoto / Reuters
Workers from local disease control and prevention department in Ruichang, Jiangxi Province, China. January 25, 2020.
The mysterious coronavirus is now spreading more rapidly and little is still known about it, China's senior health officials said, as Beijing grapples with shortages of hazmat suits and protective masks.

"The virus' transmission ability has become stronger," National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said at a press briefing on Sunday.

Ma said that the previously-unknown coronavirus, which has already killed 56 people in China, is spreading faster, while the outbreak is entering a "more serious and complicated phase."

Comment: TASS reports on China's progress on a vaccine:
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has started developing a vaccine against coronavirus of the new type 2019-nCoV that causes pneumonia, China Daily has reported.

"Research and development of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, which has caused a wider outbreak in China, is under way," the paper writes, citing Xu Wenbo, head of the center's viral disease control and prevention institute.

"Scientists from the center have successfully isolated the virus, and are working to select the proper strain for vaccine production," the report said.
Other countries are implementing measures to protect their populations from the spread. In India:
On Saturday, Health Ministry officials briefed top cabinet members, including the home, foreign, defense and civil aviation secretaries, about the screening and other preventative measures being undertaken as more countries report 2019-nCoV infections.

While nobody in India has tested positive for the new coronavirus yet, authorities routinely take samples from all travelers who show any respiratory disease symptoms. Over 20,000 passengers on 115 flights at seven international airports across India have been screened in recent days.

In addition to thermal scanners set up earlier, several multidisciplinary teams comprising public health experts, clinicians and microbiologists were sent to airports in New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kochi on Sunday. According to Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, screening measures have also been increased at the border with Nepal, which reported the first coronavirus case on Friday.

The Health Ministry also issued a fresh advisory for travelers going to or returning from China, urging them to avoid close contacts and promptly seek medical attention, and report to the Indian Embassy, if they feel sick and have symptoms like fever and cough.
While in Hong Kong, part of the population is panicking, a situation U.S.-backed protestors seem happy to exploit :
In a bizarre attack, masked protesters have thrown Molotov cocktails into the lobby of a building that the Hong Kong authorities were planning to use to quarantine people in need of testing for the deadly coronavirus.
Hong kong quarantine center arson fire
© Reuters / Tyrone Siu
Hong Kong protesters set alight the building that authorities planned to use as a quarantine facility.
As of Sunday, a total of eight people in Hong Kong had been diagnosed with the disease originating from the mainland China city of Wuhan, with three more patients added to the list. Hong Kong has declared a state of emergency over the outbreak and rolled out measures to prevent the spread of the infection.

One of these was meant to reserve a newly-built empty public housing building in the Fanling area as a backup quarantine area for people who may have contacted infected patients but don't show symptoms themselves.

But the decision has sparked protests from some local residents fearful that the building would pose a public health threat. On Sunday, some seemed to have taken their fears to another level, by using firebombs.

In the wake of the incident the Hong Kong health authorities said the plan to use the building was suspended. Several other sites in more isolated locations have been set aside for the same purpose.

The firebombing incident highlights how the tactics embraced by violent anti-Beijing protesters in Hong Kong has become common in the city. Amid the coronavirus outbreak the city authorities have come under increased pressure, with a medical staff union demanding the closure Hong Kong's border, threatening to go on strike otherwise.

The city is also working on providing isolated temporary housing to medics working with infected patients and who want to live separately from their families until the threat is dealt with.
The hunt for blame takes to social media as a Chinese travel blogger was forced to apologize for eating a bat on camera in 2017:
The clip from the show resurfaced and went viral after Chinese scientists discovered that the new rapidly-spreading coronavirus, which has already killed 56 people in the country, is nearly identical to the coronavirus found in bats, a delicacy in some part of China.

Many commenters on social media deemed Wang's video unsettling and accused her of spreading a dangerous message by encouraging others to consume bats. "Every Chinese ppl think it's disgusting," one person wrote of Twitter.

The blogger promptly apologized, saying that she was "just trying to introduce the life of local people" to the viewers.

"I didn't know that bat is a primary reservoir of viruses ... I really did not check the information or explain its dangerous nature," she wrote, promising not to eat wild animals ever again. After the backlash, the video has been taken down from the channel.
China is struggling to maintain internal order and also to present to the world the appearance of a competent, pro-active response to the emergency:


Sweden: Immigration has put its welfare state in crisis

sweden immigrant children
© David Ramos/Getty Images
Migrant children are in a school in Halmstad, Sweden, February 8, 2016.
Many children born in Sweden learn Swedish so poorly that they cannot really speak it, because there is not enough Swedish spoken in some preschools and grade schools. This change is unfolding at a rapid pace.

The Swedish welfare state has often been praised by the left in the United States. After the migration crisis of 2015, however, when Sweden was flooded by Syrian refugee claimants, Sweden is now facing a welfare crisis that threatens the entire Swedish welfare state model.

Sweden had 9.7 million inhabitants in 2015, before it received 162,000 asylum seekers. 70% of those asylum seekers came from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. 70% of those asylum seekers were also men. The migration crisis created an unsustainable financial and social situation that caused the Swedish political establishment to rethink its stance on asylum migration, which, until then, had been extremely liberal.

Asylum migration has continued, nevertheless. Between 2016 and 2018, more than 70,000 additional migrants have applied for asylum in Sweden, and more than 105,000 asylum migrants have been granted asylum.

Microscope 1

Jon Rappoport: Man who pushed SARS dud now pushing new Chinese virus

wuhan coronavirus outbreak
First, a few updates. Things are moving fast.

The Chinese government has locked down Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, owing to the "threat of the coronavirus." There are also travel restrictions in several other Chinese cities. What does all this prove?

Answer: Nothing.

It proves the Chinese government wants to install tighter controls. It doesn't lead to the conclusion that a coronavirus is making people sick or killing them.

Microscope 1

New research casts doubt coronavirus epidemic started at Wuhan food market

wuhan market
Although practically all of the western media reports from the city of Wuhan have claimed that the city's hospitals have been completely overwhelmed by cases of pneumonia as more cases of the Wuhan coronavirus are confirmed, the South China Morning Post reports that a team of researchers at Wuhan's Jinyintan hospital have retraced the movements of the first individual who was diagnosed with the virus, and determined that he had no links to a shady seafood market selling live snakes and bats for human consumption.

Amazingly, SCMP caveated its report by claiming that other patients among the earliest cases had "continuous exposure to the market," which was shut down on Jan. 1 by Wuhan authorities over fears that its trade in wild animals was linked to the viral outbreak. Authorities have since banned the selling of live animals at markets.

Comment: See also:

Eye 2

Israeli Air Force strikes multiple targets in Gaza in response to 'explosive balloons'

israel jet
© Reuters / Amir Cohen
Israel has carried out a series of airstrikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for multiple explosive and incendiary balloons launched from the enclave over the past few weeks.

The targets included an alleged "weapons production site and a military compound," the IAF said amid reports of explosions in the central Gaza Strip, as well as near Khan Younis in the south. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Earlier on Saturday, a rocket-propelled grenade attached to several balloons was found in the Negev Desert some 70km from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave. This was not the first such incident over the past two weeks, according to Israeli media.

Comment: A disproportionate response to alleged activity - especially during yet another election - is exactly what one has come to expect from Israel: Babies, children and pregnant women among 25 killed and 140 Palestinians wounded in 2nd day of Israel's attack on Gaza

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