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How Nations’ Responses to Covid-19 Will Determine their Future Role in the World

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The United States, which recorded its ten-millionth case of coronavirus-19 (or covid-19) on November 6th, is currently on an upward trajectory of daily new cases of coronavirus-19 (or Covid-19), and reached an all-time-record high of 132,540 new cases on November 6th. Donald Trump’s conspicuous leadership-failure on this might have cost him the 2020 re-election victory he had hoped for, but its implications extend far beyond merely that. Of course, these are global implications.

Basically, coronavirus-19 is increasingly making clear, to the world, that libertarianism (as it’s called in the United States) or neo-liberalism (as it’s called in Europe) is a false model for running a country, and that, in order to maximize the happiness or satisfaction of a given nation’s people (or, in other words, to serve them in the most effective way), strong economic numbers are less important than maintaining and improving the health and well-being — the safety — of the nation’s public. Without doing this, a nation’s leadership is poor, even if the nation is a democracy, and even if its per-capita GDP is high. If the public live in fear, then the basis for happiness does not exist, no matter how wealthy they are, and no matter how free they are.

Here is how to get to the data that are the basis for this conclusion:

Click onto https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries

Wait till the main section, “Reported Cases and Deaths by Country, Territory, or Conveyance” finishes loading.

Then, click onto the column-heading “Tot Cases/1M pop” (total cases per million population).

As of November 5th:

The highest numbers of cases per million in countries larger than 10 million are (#5) Belgium at 40,338; (#6) Czechia at 35,956; (#17) U.S. at 29,784; (#18) Spain at 29,210; (#19) Peru at 27,522;(#20) Chile at 26,943; (#21) Argentina at 26,598; (#22) Brazil at 26,258; (#23) France at 24,514; and (#25) Netherlands at 22,772. All of them are countries in the U.S.-UK empire.

The lowest 10 countries, among nations larger than 10 million, are Tanzania at 8, Vietnam at 12, Cambodia at 17, Taiwan at 24, both Niger and Burundi at 50, Thailand at 55, China at 60, Yemen at 69, and Chad at 92. Only one of them — Taiwan — is yet in the U.S.-UK empire, though Thailand and Yemen formerly had been, and the U.S.-UK Governments are trying to get them back (and are trying to keep Taiwan there, though it is historically a part of China).

Tanzania ranked in Gallup’s — which is the most reliable — rankings of countries on corruption, as being dead last, #129 out of the 129 countries, the world’s most corrupt. It’s one of just two countries (the other being North Korea) that don’t report cases of coronavirus-19 to the WHO. So: that figure, of “8” per million, is totally unreliable. Vietnam ranked as one of the 17 least-corrupt of the 129 ranked nations, and so its low infection-rate for coronavirus is trustworthy. Cambodia, Taiwan, Niger, Yemen, and the U.S., all ranked as being about equally corrupt as one-another, all near the middle of the 129 nations surveyed. Thailand and Chad were among the 14 most-corrupt nations; and, so, their coronavirus infection-rates could be untrustworthy. China wasn’t rated by Gallup. (Perhaps Gallup didn’t want to find out what China’s corruption-score is. In 2019, Gallup polled in 144 countries on questions regarding the extent of “law and order” there; and, in this survey, China ranked as being the third-best. All other indications also place China at least in the top half of all nations, as being relatively non-corrupt. China’s count of 60 cases per million is trustworthy.)

Among large nations, others with rates that are less than 2% of the world’s highest, are: Burkina Faso 120, DRC 127, Mali 178, Benin 224, South Sudan 262, Somalia 264, Uganda 294, Nigeria 305, Malawi 308, Sudan 315, Syria 338, Angola 364, Rwanda (the world’s least-corrupt country) 398, Mozambique 424, South Korea 527, Zimbabwe 565, Sri Lanka 586, Madagascar 613, Cuba 634, Ivory Coast 782, Haiti 795, and Japan 822. Only Haiti, South Korea, and Japan, are in the U.S.-UK orbit, but each has significant resistance to remaining there, and could leave the U.S.-UK empire.

New Zealand is small, only 5 million population, but its covid-infection-rate is only 394 — less than 1% of the world’s highest. That’s by far the lowest for any “Western” nation; and, of course, it’s also within the U.S.-UK empire.

How can it be that a nation, Belgium, with a per-capita GDP of around $50,000 per year, or the U.S., with a per-capita GDP of around $63,000, can have covid-infection-rates that are over 2,400 times higher than Vietnam’s, where the per-capita GDP is around $2,600? The multiple as compared to Taiwan is over 1,000 times. As compared to China, it is over 500 times. As compared to South Korea, it is over 50 times. As compared to Japan, it is over 30 times. Why does Belgium have an infection-rate that is more than 30 times higher than Japan’s, more than 500 times higher than China’s, and more than 2,400 times higher than Vietnam’s? 

There is something that is very important besides a nation’s economy. And that other extremely important thing is to maintain and improve the health and well-being — the safety — of the nation’s public. A nation’s economy has no clear relationship with a government’s success at minimizing the spread of a serious epidemic within its borders (as is now being reflected in these nation-by-nation figures). An epidemic does more than make people sick, and kill some; it also spreads fear amongst the currently uninfected; and, therefore, such an epidemic is both a health crisis and a public-health crisis. It not only affects people’s bodies; it affects their entire society.

This other factor — to maintain and improve the health and well-being, the safety, of the nation’s public — is actually more important than a nation’s economy. Health and safety are bigger determinants of a person’s happiness than the individual’s wealth is. And, yet, this factor is ignored in the Washington Consensus.

Furthermore, when an epidemic is increasing within a nation, that produces an economic depression in all economic sectors that depend upon people getting physically close to one-another, such as public transit, hotels, performing arts, and restaurants. Moreover, coronavirus-19 is massively destroying “mom-and-pop” retailers, while boosting the mega-corporate ones such as Walmart, and, especially, Amazon, and is therefore restructuring the economy of the affected nations. Bankruptcies are soaring because of small businesses losing money, as customers reduce their frequencies of patronizing brick-and-mortar businesses. As a result of this, wealth-inequalities are soaring, and the previously existing world — in which the vulnerability that a business will have, to being especially negatively impacted by an epidemic, was only a minor factor in determining the insurance-rates and interest-rates that it will be charged — is likely gone forever. Insuring, and investing in, a small business, will become even less attractive to invest in than it has previously been. The insurance-costs will rise for small businesses, but not for large businesses (which will increasingly be serving the customers that small businesses will be losing). Economic concentration will increase. And, so, success at keeping the infection-rate down is also a major component of a government’s success at retaining small businesses and economic diversity, and at keeping the economy’s production-rate up, and at preventing the mega-corporations from replacing even more small businesses and taking over everything. Maintaining full employment in the near term (by ignoring the virus) can then produce massive unemployment in the long term. The pressures that a government faces, to keep small businesses open, will — if the government yields to those current pressures — increase the spread of the virus, and thereby increase not only the death-rate, but the unemployment-rate, and thereby reduce economic output. So: not only is the public’s well-being and safety an additional factor in determining a government’s success, but it is the more basic factor, as compared to the Washington-Consensus-presumed only factor, which is per-capita GDP (current production). The public’s well-being and safety is actually the most crucial factor in determining a government’s success at serving its public, and it might even be the biggest factor, of all

It is a factor that is increasingly being shown in the international data as being independent of  how rich or poor a given nation is (i.e., how high its per-capita GDP is). The Washington Consensus (for neoliberalism) could thus soon be dead, killed by the coronavirus-19. 

The numbers that are already in, might already be sufficient so that the Washington Consensus has, by now, been effectively proven to be a false assumption. A new consensus will likely emerge within a year. It will be closer to the truth, but the world today is still very far away from yet understanding — in any more detail than this — what the truth is about political matters and ideology. In political theory, at least, there is no actual science, as of yet. That social ‘science’, of “political ‘science’,” is fake: science is actually yet to start, in the field of political theory; and all that exists there, at present, is still only mythology, which fails to recognize cause and effect, and which is obsessed with short-term results. It is (and has been) the Washington Consensus — the system for maintaining the U.S.-UK-imposed international economic and political order (supposedly so as to enhance the world’s productivity). The coronavirus numbers are exposing the reality, which is that the Washington Consensus is founded on a socio-economic theory that is, to a significant extent, false. Political science is yet to be born — or, at least, scientific political theory is yet to be born — in the wake of this global pandemic.

Japanthe country with the world’s highest life-expectancies, and with one of the world’s lowest coronavirus-19 infection rates — is estimated to decline in 2020 4.5% in its GDP, and then to experience a 4.8% increase in it during 2021. South Korea, which has an even-lower infection-rate, is estimated to be experiencing only 0.5% decline in GDP this year, and is projected at 5.4% GDP growth in 2021. U.S. is estimated to be experiencing 5.6% decline in GDP this year, and an unusually large 6.8% growth in 2021. Belgium is estimated to be experiencing 3.4% decline this year, and an unusually large 6.5% growth in 2021. China — which has been doing even better than Japan and South Korea at controlling the virus — is estimated to be experiencing 1.85% increase in GDP this year, and an 8.24% increase next year, to be followed thereafter by a return to near its normal 6% growth-rate in 2022. Vietnam — which is doing even better than South Korea and Japan, and even than China, at limiting the virus — is estimated to be experiencing 3.4% GDP growth this year, and 12.8% growth in 2021. Might Vietnam turn out to be the world’s future economic dynamo?

Those estimates are by Statistica, using a standard economic model. A year from now, we’ll be far better able, than we now are, to judge how good, or bad, the standard economic models — and economic theory itself — actually are. Will the Washington Consensus be confirmed — or, perhaps, shattered?

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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USA and Australia Worry About Cyber Attacks from China Amidst Pegasus Spyware

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Pegasus Spyware Scandal has shaken whole India and several other countries. What will be its fallout no one knows as we know only tip of iceberg. Amidst Pegasus Spyware Scandal USA and Australia both have shown serious concerns about Cyber Attacks on US and Australian interests. Both say that China is hub of malware software and both face millions of such attacks daily.

I am trying to understand why a software is needed to spy on a particular individual when all calls, messages, data, emails are easily accessible from server. In most of cases these servers are located in USA and some cases these are located in host country. In certain sensitive cases Government Agencies have their own server like Central Intelligence Agency and hundreds of other agencies and military establishment world over including India. Now point is who installs those servers.

A couple of years back I had talked to Mr Mike Molloy who is Chief Executive Officer of Orion Global Technologies previously known as Orion SAS. He had explained me how his company installs servers in host countries on request of private or gov bodies. He talks about contract and trust. That means even when a company or Gov buys a server or software for designated uses the “Secrecy” Factor remain on discretion of company which has supplied server or software.

Now  if all data, e-mail, chat, messages, calls are accessible to Gov as per law and technology (Through Server all components of Communication are accessible and thats why  me and you see start seeing call recording of a person even after many years later), I am unable to understand why a Gov will be needing a software to Spy on any one.

Now coming to where Australia and USA wants to carry the whole debate.

Australian Foreign Minister Sen Marise Payne said, “Australian Government joins international partners in expressing serious concerns about malicious cyber activities by China’s Ministry of State Security.

“In consultation with our partners, the Australian Government has determined that China’s Ministry of State Security exploited vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Exchange software to affect thousands of computers and networks worldwide, including in Australia. These actions have undermined international stability and security by opening the door to a range of other actors, including cybercriminals, who continue to exploit this vulnerability for illicit gain”, She further added.

She opined, ”The Australian Government is also seriously concerned about reports from our international partners that China’s Ministry of State Security is engaging contract hackers who have carried out cyber-enabled intellectual property theft for personal gain and to provide commercial advantage to the Chinese Government”.

She warned China by saying, “Australia calls on all countries – including China – to act responsibly in cyberspace.  China must adhere to the commitments it has made in the G20, and bilaterally, to refrain from cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and confidential business information with the intent of obtaining competitive advantage”.

On other hand USA’s The National Security Agency (NSA), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a Cybersecurity Advisory on Chinese State-Sponsored Cyber Operations. National Security Advisor said, ”Chinese state-sponsored cyber activity poses a major threat to U.S. and allied systems. These actors aggressively target political, economic, military, educational, and critical infrastructure personnel and organizations to access valuable, sensitive data. These cyber operations support China’s long-term economic and military objectives”.

The information in this advisory builds on NSA’s previous release “Chinese State-Sponsored Actors Exploit Publicly Known Vulnerabilities.” The NSA, CISA, and FBI recommended mitigations empower our customers to reduce the risk of Chinese malicious cyber activity, and increase the defensive posture of their critical networks. 

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Afghan issue can not be understood from the simplistic lens of geopolitical blocs

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pakistan-terrorism

Authors: Tridivesh Singh Maini  and Varundeep Singh*

On July 14, 2021 a terror attack was carried out in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province in which a number of Chinese engineers, working on the Dasu hydropower project (a project which is part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor) were killed. The attack predictably evinced a strong response from China. The Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi speaking before a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Minister’s meeting asked the Taliban to disassociate itself from ‘terrorist elements’ and in a meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, asked Pakistan to bring the perpetrators to book. Earlier in April 2021, a car bomb attack took place at Serena hotel in Quetta which was hosting China’s Ambassador to Pakistan (four people were killed and twelve were injured)

Wang Yi significantly praised the Ashraf Ghani government, for its attempts towards building national unity and providing effective governance. Beijing clearly realizes that its economic investments in the country as well as big ticket infrastructural projects can not remain safe if there is no security. Afghanistan also criticized Pakistan for its role in sending 10000 Jihadis to Taliban, this is important in the context of the region’s geopolitics.

 Like all other countries, Beijing and Islamabad, would have expected uncertainty after the US withdrawal of troops but perhaps over estimated their capabilities in dealing with the turbulence which had been predicted by many.

Importance of Chinese Foreign Minister’s statements

Wang Yi’s statements are important because days earlier a Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen had praised China and welcomed its role in the country’s reconstruction. He had also assured China that those involved in the insurgency in Xinjiang would not be given refuge in Afghanistan (one of China’s major concerns has been the support provided by Taliban to the East Turkmenistan movement)

While Beijing may have opened back channels with the Taliban and realized that it needs to adapt to the changing geopolitics, recent developments would have increased its skepticism vis-à-vis the Taliban. On the other hand, Russia has been more favorable towards the Taliban. Russia’s Deputy Chief of Mission in India, Roman Babushkin argued that the Taliban are a reality which needs to be accepted, and also that any military activities without a political process are insufficient.

Babushkin did make the point that for successful negotiations, Taliban needed to end violence.

‘that Taliban should deal with the problem of terrorism and other related issues in order to become legitimate, in order to [get] delisted [at the UN Security Council], in order to go ahead with the future Afghanistan and creation of the inclusive government

It would be pertinent to point out, that Zamir Kabulov, Russian President’s Afghanistan envoy went a step further and said that the Afghan government was not doing enough to make talks with Taliban a success.

China’s statements subtle warning to the Taliban, indicating its reservations, and praise of Ghani indicate a possibility of greater understanding between Washington and Beijing (even though Beijing has repeatedly attributed the current troubles in Afghanistan to Washington’s decision to withdraw troops).

Can US and China find common ground

 It remains to be seen if Biden who has exhibited dexterity on a number of complex issues reaches out to Xi Jinping to find common ground with regard to Afghanistan. Significantly, while US-Turkey relations had witnessed a downward trajectory and Biden has been critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies and Human rights record, both leaders met on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in June 2021. During the meeting Turkey agreed to secure Kabul Airport. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan while commenting on Turkey’s assurance said

‘The clear commitment from the leaders was established that Turkey would play a lead role in securing Hamid Karzai International Airport, and we are now working through how to execute to get to that,’

Taliban earlier this week warned Turkey of ‘consequences’ if the Middle Eastern nation increased its troop presence in Afghanistan.

Conclusion

Russia’s statements with regard to the Taliban indicate that it is not totally on the same page as China (its prior experience in Afghanistan has made it more cautious and circumspect), and that the Afghan issue can not be understood from the simplistic lens of geo-political blocs and traditional lenses. All major stakeholders in Afghanistan, both within the region and outside, seem to be understandably befuddled by the turn of events. It is not just the US, but even China which would be worried not just from an economic stand point but the overall security implications of the turmoil in Afghanistan. The terror attack in KPK indicates that other CPEC related projects could also face threats from militant groups. Beijing would thus need to be quick to react to the overtures from the Taliban in order to secure its economic assets and lives of Chinese workers in neighbouring Pakistan.

 It is especially important for Washington, Beijing and other important stakeholders in the region to work together for dealing with the near term turbulence as well as long term challenges Afghanistan is likely to face.

*Varundeep Singh is an Independent Policy Analyst.

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Pegasus: Human rights-compliant laws needed to regulate spyware

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The UN human rights chief on Monday said the apparent widespread use of Pegasus spy software to illegally undermine the rights of those under surveillance, including journalists and politicians, was “extremely alarming” and confirmed “some of the worst fears” surrounding the potential misuse of such technology. 

“Various parts of the UN Human Rights system, including my own Office, have repeatedly raised serious concerns about the dangers of authorities using surveillance tools from a variety of sources supposed to promote public safety in order to hack the phones and computers of people conducting legitimate journalistic activities, monitoring human rights or expressing dissent or political opposition”, said High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet in a statement

According to reports, the Pegasus data leak allegations which surfaced through a consortium of media organisations over the weekend, suggests widespread and continuing abuse of the software, which the manufacturers insist, is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists. 

The Pegasus malware infects electronic devices, enabling operators of the tool to obtain messages, photos and emails, record calls, and even activate microphones, according to the consortium’s reporting. The leak contains a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers which reportedly belong to those identified as people of interest, by clients of the company behind Pegasus, including some governments.  

‘Indispensable role’ 

Surveillance software has been linked to the arrest, intimidation and even killing of journalists and human rights defenders, according to the senior UN official.  

Reports of surveillance also trigger fear and cause people to censor themselves.   

“Journalists and human rights defenders play an indispensable role in our societies, and when they are silenced, we all suffer”, she said, reminding all States that surveillance measures can only be justified in narrowly defined circumstances when necessary and proportional to a legitimate goal.  

‘Deep intrusions’ 

Given that Pegasus spyware, “as well as that created by Candiru and others, enable extremely deep intrusions into people’s devices, resulting in insights into all aspects of their lives”, the UN rights chief underscored, “their use can only ever be justified in the context of investigations into serious crimes and grave security threats.” 

If recent allegations about the use of Pegasus are even partly true, she maintained that the “red line has been crossed again and again with total impunity”. 

‘Due diligence’ 

Companies developing and distributing surveillance technologies are responsible for avoiding human rights abuses, she said, and they must take immediate steps to mitigate and remedy the damage their products are causing, or contributing to, and carry out “human rights due diligence” to ensure that they no longer play a part in “such disastrous consequences” now, or in the future. 

States also have a duty to protect individuals from privacy rights abuses by companies, she added.  

One key step in this direction is for States to require by law that the businesses meet their human rights responsibilities by becoming more transparent in their design and use of products and by putting in place effective accountability mechanisms. 

Better regulation key 

Reports also confirm “the urgent need to better regulate the sale, transfer and use of surveillance technologies and ensure strict oversight and authorization.” 

Governments should not only immediately stop using surveillance technologies in ways that violate human rights, but also “take concrete actions” to protect against such invasions of privacy by “regulating the distribution, use and export of surveillance technology created by others”, the High Commissioner said.  

Without human rights-compliant regulatory frameworks, Ms. Bachelet upheld that there are “simply too many risks” that the tools could be used to intimidate critics and silence dissent.

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