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Thu, 29 Oct 2020
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Eye 1

Who deserves your trust in the COVID debate?

lockdown protest
Stoic philosopher Epictetus believed that honorable character and a life of wisdom begin with a clear understanding of one basic principle: "some things are within our control, and some things are not." How we are perceived by others — our popularity — is ultimately outside our control; we should focus on character, not reputation, because "trying to control or change what we can't only results in torment." The year 2020 has revealed this to be true. Many Americans, especially affluent types, prioritize reputation over character, and it has indeed resulted in torment.

In the COVID debate, there is a mainstream, "popular" narrative, and a competing, "unpopular" narrative — a "fringe." The former exploits the common, mediocre desire to be "popular." Joining the movement is easy. It results in back-pats, validation, and requires no uncomfortable confrontations. This narrative states that it is impossible for humanity to survive the COVID19 pandemic without a vaccine, lockdowns, and masks, some combination of which will be required into the indefinite future. The narrative supports blaming others for "infecting you" with diseases, rather than encouraging personal responsibility for immune and general health.

Proponents of the competing narrative, on the other hand, must stand up to massive social forces simply to make their arguments, which are not radical: they support a return to classic pandemic management tools, the same ones used by Sweden and other states and countries which did not lock down for COVID19, which resulted in average mortality for 2020. They do not believe this pandemic warrants a complete overhaul of the economic, social, and educational systems. They believe that every human being should be empowered with truthful information about risk and how to best care for personal health, and to make his or her own choices.

Comment: We may well be reaching a tipping point as people are getting restless and anti-lockdown protests are on the rise:


Russian watchdog reinstates face mask mandate in public places, on transport

masks public transit
Russia's Chief Sanitary Doctor Anna Popova, who heads the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, has mandated mask wearing in places of mass gatherings, on public transport, including taxis, and in elevators. Read also Over 46,000 people in Moscow fined for not wearing face masks since September 1

"All those residing in Russia are obliged to ensure the use of hygienic masks in order to protect the respiratory system in places of mass gatherings, on public transport, including taxis, in parking lots and elevators," Popova said in an order published on the government's website containing legal information.

The watchdog specified that places of mass gatherings included public spaces in settlements and city districts, specially designated territories outside settlements and public spaces in buildings where more than 50 people can gather in certain circumstances.

Popova requested regional heads to enforce the order, which will take effect on October 28.

Comment: In addition to the mask mandates, they are looking at the closure of all nightclubs and 11pm curfew for bars & restaurants:
According to Tuesday's decree by health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, from October 28, entertainment events and public catering should be stopped by 11pm. The recommendation, which effectively means that all restaurants would only be able to work until the end of dinner service and nightclubs would not be able to open at all, has not been imposed on Russian regions, with the decision to follow the decree falling on regional administrations. The unexpected announcement follows assurances that everything would be done to keep the service industry alive in the world's largest country.


Russia's bars and nightclubs began to re-open in late June, after spring saw some of the world's strictest anti-Covid measures. In Moscow, residents were restricted from leaving their apartments for anything other than food, medical help, or walking a dog. The restrictions were partially lifted on June 16, with cafes and restaurants being allowed to open terraces, and bars and clubs operating fully just weeks later. Ever since, most of the country has been functioning normally, with regional governor's having control over their area's restrictions.

Last week, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced that the city's nightclubs and bars would be allowed to keep working if they introduced electronic registration for contact tracing. This system may now become obsolete. In Saint Petersburg, the city authorities had already decided to shut down nightlife after 23.00. In some other regions, there were curfews that were often not strictly enforced.

On October 19, speaking to the press service of Saint Petersburg's regional government, local Vice Governor Yevgeny Elin called for citizens to "dance and cuddle a little less and give less work to our health care system," adding that now is not the time for "having fun and transmitting the virus to each other during a hot dance."


'Jews for Trump' harassed during rally against Cuomo restrictions

© REUTERS/Yuki Iwamura
A pro-Trump caravan organized by a group of Orthodox Jews in New York City faced harassment Sunday from anti-Trump marchers.

The groups, who clashed in Times Square, traded insults before the anti-Trump group began to become violent. Videos showed counterprotesters chanting, "New York hates you," at the Trump supporters. Several anti-Trump marchers threw objects at the police officers monitoring the event, including soda and eggs. Eleven people were arrested.

The pro-Trump march, organized by the Brooklyn-based group Jews for Trump earlier in the day, launched a rally of more than 100 cars to drive around the city to "turn DeCuomo's red zones into NY-red," a reference to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's revamped coronavirus worship restrictions placed on many Orthodox communities.

Bad Guys

UK lockdown madness: Tesco apologises after banning sale of 'non-essential' sanitary products in Welsh supermarkets

tesco ban sail sanitary products lockdown wales
© Twitter / @nicholasmith6
Tesco have issued an apology after it mistakenly prevented customers from buying sanitary products as part of new lockdown measures in Wales.

On Sunday (October 25), Wales Minister Mark Drakeford said supermarkets have "discretion" over the ban on selling non-essential items during the nation's firebreak lockdown.

Comment: RT reports on the frustration of the Welsh population:
Social media has been awash with exasperated citizens making their own protest. A Welsh man responded to the announcement that clothes were non-essential by taking to the supermarket only wearing his underwear.

Many people were angered by the availability of alcohol but not other items. One woman claimed that she couldn't buy a sympathy card for her friend who had lost their father to Covid, but she could buy vodka.

Whilst another lady questioned the government's commitment to mental health.

One woman told the BBC that she was unable to buy replacement clothes for her daughter after she was taken to hospital covered in blood. "I have never felt so angry, frustrated or upset, ever. You just never know when a 'non-essential' item will become 'essential' to you."

The shopping rules were introduced on Friday evening, as part of Wales' 17-day lockdown, but retailers argue that they weren't given enough time to prepare as the restrictions were only announced on Thursday morning.

Businesses also claim that they haven't been given a definitive list of banned items, leading to confusion as shops try to interpret the new rules.

Over 65,000 people have signed a petition demanding the removal of the ban on non-essential items being sold in supermarkets.

On Saturday, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said the government would "be reviewing how the weekend has gone with the supermarkets and making sure common sense is applied."

Wales is subjected to the strictest Covid-19 measures in the UK, with guidance suggesting people should only leave the house if they really need to. The lockdown will remain in place until November 9.


Feds investigating ballot dropbox torched outside Boston Public Library, 35 ballots destroyed

Suspect ballot box fire
© Boston Police
Ballot box arson attempt
The FBI has joined the investigation into a torched ballot dropbox outside the Boston Public Library that was set ablaze early Sunday morning, destroying 35 ballots cast by city voters, officials confirmed.

U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and FBI special agent in charge Joseph R. Bonavolonta in a joint statement Sunday night, said:
"Federal authorities are now investigating this matter. For the next several weeks, it is a top priority of our offices to help maintain the integrity of the election process in Massachusetts by aggressively enforcing federal election laws.

"What happened in the early hours of this morning to the ballot drop box in Copley Square is a disgrace to democracy, a disrespect to the voters fulfilling their civic duty, and a crime."
The state's top elections official, Secretary of State William Galvin, along with Mayor Martin Walsh expressed outrage earlier in the day and urged local officials to increase security at ballot dropboxes across the state. Galvin and Walsh pledged that "any effort to undermine or tamper" with the elections process will "be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Of the 122 ballots inside the dropbox, 87 were legible and able to be processed, the Boston Elections Department told Galvin's office. The ballot dropbox was not substantially damaged and is still available for use.

Eye 1

Gardaí use batons and handcuffs to quell anti-lockdown protest in Dublin

Dublin lockdown
© Damien Storan
Violence flares as anti-lockdown protesters clash with gardaí on Grafton Street in Dublin.
Intelligence gathered by gardaí shows that far-right groups planned to try to disrupt key State institutions and infrastructure, says Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

Nine people have been arrested following clashes between gardaí and anti-lockdown protesters in Dublin on Thursday afternoon have been charged with public order offences.

In total 11 arrests were made during an incident in which a number of gardaí used batons to overpower protesters before pinning them on the ground and handcuffing them.

Comment: Protests against the lockdowns are erupting all over Europe:

Arrow Up

Norwegian police 'apologize' for ordering local to take down drawings of Prophet Mohammed he put up in defense of free speech

police Norway
© Reuters / NTB Scanpixc / Ole Berg-Rusten
FILE PHOTO: A police vehicle in Norway. 2017.
Norwegian police have admitted they were wrong in asking a local man to tear down cartoons of Prophet Mohammed which he had hung around the town in response to the gruesome murder of a teacher in France.

A man in his 40s, who wished to remain anonymous, printed out cartoons of Prophet Mohammed and hung them around the town of Kongsberg last week. He chose popular places like the local mall and cinema, as well as bus stops, to make sure the cartoons would be seen by as many people as possible.

The man explained to the public broadcaster NRK that he wanted to highlight the importance of freedom of expression and that "Islam cannot have any special protection in a free society." He added that he wanted an "honest conversation about Islam without people getting labeled as racists and fascists."

Comment: See also:

Yellow Vest

"Libertà!": Protests erupt all over Italy amidst new lockdown restrictions

italy protest lockdown
© Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP
The protests began shortly after the national government's order took effect. Smoke billows as clashes broke out during a protest against the government restriction measures
Protesters turned out by the hundreds in Turin, Milan and other Italian cities to vent their anger, sometimes violently, at the latest pandemic restrictions.

In the northern city of Turin, some demonstrators broke off from a peaceful protest, smashing store windows on a shopping street, setting off smoke bombs and hurling bottles at police in a main city square where the Piedmont regional government is headquartered, RAI state TV said.

A photographer was injured by a hurled bottle, RAI said. Police fired tear gas to clear the protesters in Piazza del Castello.

Comment: RT has collected some Tweets from the protests:

And it's not just Italy that has seen a surge of lockdown protests, it's happening across Europe:

Stock Up

Is the NHS really in danger of being 'overwhelmed'?

Morten Moreland in yesterday’s Times

Morten Moreland in yesterday’s Times
Just how great a risk is there of the NHS being overwhelmed? We're constantly being told by Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and others that unless we observe the traffic light restrictions in our area, we will witness the kind of scenes we saw in Lombardy back in March, with Covid patients dying in hospital corridors. But is that true? Not according to my friend who's worked as an NHS doctor for the past 30 years. Here is his guest post for today's Lockdown Sceptics.

The last three weeks have seen much speculation about the numbers of COVID patients in intensive care units, particularly in the North West and London. Further local lockdowns have been enforced by the Government in the North West, London and yesterday in the Midlands on the grounds that the NHS risks being overwhelmed. But how close is the system to being swamped, and what can we reasonably conclude from publicly available information?

NHS data released to the public to date is incomplete and usually a week in arrears. Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson point out in their recent Spectator article that this crisis has been characterised by sequential data inadequacy from the Government's scientific advisors, Public Health England and the NHS. As they say "a look back at the figures issued shows that the track record, eventually validated against the facts, is abysmal. This is important because major decisions continue to be taken on the strength of such data".

Some of these mistakes relate to crass errors of basic management, others more disturbing over-exaggeration or over-extrapolation of the size of the threats to public health. It is known that more granular data exist - for instance around the cause of death statistics and in-hospital Covid infection rates. But these figures are not being released to the public by the NHS despite requests for more transparency - seemingly at odds with Freedom of Information obligations.

The data we do have throw up some interesting patterns.

Eiffel Tower

Tens of thousands stage anti-France rally in Bangladesh capital

Bangladesh protest france
© Munir Uz Zaman, AFP
Supporters of the Islami Andolon Bangladesh, an Islamist political party, at an anti-France protest in Dhaka on October 27, 2020.
Tens of thousands of protesters marched through the Bangladesh capital on Tuesday calling for a boycott of French products and burning an effigy of President Emmanuel Macron after he defended cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Police estimated that more than 40,000 people took part in the march organised by an Islamist party, which was halted before it could get close to the French embassy in Dhaka.

Hundreds of officers used a barbed-wire barricade to stop the protesters who broke up without violence.

The French leader has been the target of protests in several countries over his comments, made after a teacher was decapitated for showing the cartoons to his pupils.

The rally was organised by Islami Andolon Bangladesh (IAB), one of the country's largest Islamist parties, and started at Bangladesh's biggest mosque.

Protesters chanted "Boycott French products" and called for Macron to be punished.

Comment: Rival nations Iran and Saudi Arabia joined in their condemnation of Macron.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said it rejects "any attempt to link Islam and terrorism" and denounced the cartoons as "offensive," adding that it condemns any act of terrorism, "whoever committed it." "We reject all practices and actions that generate hatred, violence and extremism and violate the values of coexistence and mutual respect among the peoples of the world."

French officials are warning their citizens abroad to exercise caution.