Romania holds unprecedented commemoration of Jewish victims of 1941 pogrom

Romania, which has long denied taking part in the Holocaust, on Wednesday paid tribute to thousands of Jews killed during a 1941 pogrom in the northeastern city of Iasi.

An unprecedented meeting of parliament was convened in the presence of the massacre’s last survivors.

“We, as a nation, must openly admit that our past was not always glorious,” said Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu, recalling the “unimaginable suffering, cruelty and savagery” inflicted on the orders of pro-Nazi marshal Ion Antonescu.

Some 15,000 victims, almost a third of Iasi’s Jewish population, were killed in what historians call “one of the most documented massacres of the Second World War.”

On June 29, 1941, thousands of Jews were taken to the Iasi police headquarters while being beaten and humiliated by Romanian police and civilians.

They were then shot dead by army troops.

Between 7,000-8,000 people were crammed without water into two “death trains” comprised of sealed, overheated freight cars where most died of suffocation.

Around one hundred pictures of the massacre remain, along with about 600 portraits of victims.

“We have not completely fulfilled our mission,” lamented Silviu Vexler, head of Romania’s Jewish community in reference to “praise for war criminals” by elected officials of the nationalist AUR party who won seats in parliament in December.

Between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews died in the Holocaust in Romania and territories under its control, according to a commission headed by Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel, himself a Romanian-born Jew.

And though the commission’s report was validated by the Romanian government, Antonescu, sentenced to death for war crimes and executed in 1946, remains a hero in the eyes of many Romanians.

“By commemorating this massacre, the worst in modern Romanian history, the parliament is laying the foundations for a truth-based reconciliation,” said Alexandru Muraru, the government’s top representative for fighting antisemitism and xenophobia.

Eighty years on, around two hundred people laid flowers on mass graves where some of the victims are buried.

Source: AFP via TOI

Header: The Iaşi death trains are estimated to have killed between eight and fourteen thousand Jews in the summer of 1941. Over 100 people were stuffed into each car, and many died of thirst, starvation, and suffocation aboard two trains that for seven days travelled back and forth across the countryside, stopping only to discard the dead (as photographed).

After the Iasi pogrom events, Jews were forcibly loaded onto freight cars with planks hammered in place over the windows and traveled for seven days in unimaginable conditions. Many died and were gravely affected by lack of air, blistering heat, lack of water, food or medical attention. These veritable death trains arrived to their destinations Podu Iloaiei and Călăraşi with only one-fifth of their passengers alive.

Swiss govt announces bid for 36 F-35A fighter jets and Patriot missiles from US despite political pushback at home

Lockheed Martin beat other contenders for the contract, including the multinational Eurofighter built by Italy’s Leonardo, the Rafale from French company Dassault, and the Super Hornet from US manufacturer Boeing.

In its statement on Wednesday, the Swiss government also revealed it had decided to purchase the Patriot surface-to-air missile system from another US manufacturer, Raytheon, which beat competition from France’s Eurosam.

“An evaluation has revealed that these two systems offer the highest overall benefit at the lowest overall cost,” the government’s statement read.

“The Federal Council is confident that these two systems are the most suitable for protecting the Swiss population from air threats in the future.”

A fleet of 36 jets would be enough to cover the internationally neutral, alpine nation during “prolonged situation of heightened tensions”, the government added.

A cap of six billion Swiss francs ($6.5 billion) has been set for the purchase of the jets, an amount which was backed by the public in a vote last year.

However, the conservative government’s pursuit of new fighter jets has drawn criticism from opposition parties, the center-left Social Democrats (SP), left-wing Greens, as well as the campaign organization, Group for a Switzerland Without an Army.

The groups have backed a public referendum on the Lockheed Martin deal, claiming that the jets are too pricey, not technically sound and can be monitored by US intelligence, thus threatening Switzerland’s neutral foreign-policy stance.

“The American jets are simply too expensive,” SP member Priska Seiler Graf said in response to the government’s decision, noting that the upkeep costs over time would also be high.

“We should seek a European solution … we don’t want to be dependent on the United States,” she added.

A referendum on the planned purchase of the F-35A fighter jets would not be the first such national poll in Switzerland.

In 2014, the public voted to reject buying Gripen jets from Swedish manufacturer Saab.

Source: RT

Fauci must come clean on Wuhan lab

In early 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the National Institutes of Health knew much more than they let on about a possible lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology as the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. Taxpayers deserve to know exactly what Fauci was aware of, when, and why he didn’t take action.

On June 23, 2020, Fauci told Congress during a COVID-19 response hearing that he didn’t know why the Trump administration directed the NIH to cut funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Specifically, he said, “I don’t know the reason, but we were told to cancel it.”

Even at the time, the claim seemed spurious given the information available. White Coat Waste Project uncovered in April 2020 that Fauci’s NIH division had funded risky coronavirus experiments on bats and other animals at the Wuhan institute to the tune of $600,000 through subgrants since 2014.

Now, according to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, we know that as early as January 2020, at least one expert alerted Fauci about the possibility that COVID-19 was engineered in a lab based on several “unusual features” of the novel coronavirus. And as early as Feb. 1, 2020, Fauci was internally expressing concerns about NIH-funded gain-of-function experiments conducted at the lab.

Yet, when Congress asked him during the June 2020 hearing why the Wuhan institute’s funding was cut, Fauci claimed to have no idea.

Not only did he plead ignorance, but Fauci and other NIH officials publicly rejected the lab leak hypothesis through 2020 and well into this year.

Fauci dismissed the lab leak in interviews and literally laughed it off in at least one case. In March 2020, NIH Director Francis Collins called it “debunked” in a still-published tweet and blog on the NIH website.

Now, they’re both rewriting history and suggesting they never dismissed the possibility of a lab leak.

In addition to concerns about the lab raised internally at the NIH, we also know that the State Department warned in a 2018 cable that the Wuhan animal lab posed pandemic risks because of lax safety standards. And reports indicate that in November 2019 the staff members involved with the coronavirus animal experiments were hospitalized with COVID-19-like symptoms and that in December 2019, the spouse of one Wuhan lab staffer allegedly died of a COVID-19-like illness. Were Fauci and the NIH also aware of these troubling reports about the lab they were funding?

It’s now abundantly clear that Fauci and the NIH haven’t been forthright with Congress or taxpayers about their involvement with the Wuhan animal lab and early knowledge of a potential lab leak.

It’s indefensible but makes sense from their perspective: If a lab leak is determined to be the cause of the pandemic, their ties to the Wuhan lab would implicate them and the U.S. government in the biggest global catastrophe of our time.

We’re working together to pass the Defund the Wuhan Institute of Virology Act to hold the Communist Party-run Wuhan lab accountable and ensure it doesn’t receive another red cent of taxpayer’s money. But Fauci and his colleagues in the U.S. government must also be held accountable.

Taxpayers have a right to know if the NIH knew about and covered up a lab accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that placed global health and our economy in peril.

Source: Diana Harshbarger & Anthony Bellotti – Washington Examiner

Inside the risky bat-virus engineering that links America to Wuhan

In 2013, the American virologist Ralph Baric approached Zhengli Shi at a meeting. Baric was a top expert in coronaviruses, with hundreds of papers to his credit, and Shi, along with her team at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, had been discovering them by the fistful in bat caves.

In one sample of bat guano, Shi had detected the genome of a new virus, called SHC014, that was one of the two closest relatives to the original SARS virus, but her team had not been able to culture it in the lab.

Baric had developed a way around that problem—a technique for “reverse genetics” in coronaviruses. Not only did it allow him to bring an actual virus to life from its genetic code, but he could mix and match parts of multiple viruses.

He wanted to take the “spike” gene from SHC014 and move it into a genetic copy of the SARS virus he already had in his lab. The spike molecule is what lets a coronavirus open a cell and get inside it. The resulting chimera would demonstrate whether the spike of SHC014 would attach to human cells.

If it could, then it could help him with his long-term project of developing universal drugs and vaccines against the full spectrum of SARS-like viruses that he increasingly considered sources of potential pandemics.

A SARS vaccine had been developed, but it wasn’t expected to be very effective against related coronaviruses, just as flu shots rarely work against new strains.

To develop a universal vaccine that will elicit an antibody response against a gamut of SARS-like viruses, you need to show the immune system a cocktail of spikes. SHC014 could be one of them.

“If you study a hundred different bat viruses, your luck may run out.”

  • Ralph Baric, University of North Carolina

Baric asked Shi if he could have the genetic data for SHC014. “She was gracious enough to send us those sequences almost immediately,” he says.

His team introduced the virus modified with that code into mice and into a petri dish of human airway cells.

Sure enough, the chimera exhibited “robust replication” in the human cells—evidence that nature was full of coronaviruses ready to leap directly to people.

While Baric’s study was in progress, the National Institutes of Health announced that it would temporarily halt funding for “gain of function” research—experiments that make already dangerous viruses more virulent or transmissible—on SARS, MERS (which is also caused by a coronavirus), and influenza until the safety of such research could be assessed. The announcement brought Baric’s work to a standstill.

Baric was a legend in the field, but no matter how many safety precautions are taken, there is always a chance that a never-before-seen virus can escape and trigger an outbreak. Baric felt that the extreme measures he took in the lab minimized the risk, and in fact made his work categorically different from the high-risk influenza work the NIH had been targeting. He also felt that his research was urgent: new cases of MERS, spread by camels, were even then popping up in the Middle East. Eventually the NIH agreed, waving him forward.

His 2015 paper, “A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence,” was a tour de force, utilizing bleeding-edge genetic technology to alert the civilized world to a looming danger on its periphery. It also revived concerns about gain-of-function experiments, which Baric had known it would. In the paper, he spelled out the extra precautions he’d taken and held up the research as a test case. “The potential to prepare for and mitigate future outbreaks must be weighed against the risk of creating more dangerous pathogens,” he wrote. “Scientific review panels may deem similar studies building chimeric viruses based on circulating strains too risky to pursue.”

The NIH decided the risk was worth it. In a potentially fateful decision, it funded work similar to Baric’s at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which soon used its own reverse-genetics technology to make numerous coronavirus chimeras.

Unnoticed by most, however, was a key difference that significantly shifted the risk calculation. The Chinese work was carried out at biosafety level 2 (BSL-2), a much lower tier than Baric’s BSL-3+.

What caused the COVID-19 pandemic remains uncertain, and Shi says her lab never encountered the SARS-CoV-2 virus before the Wuhan outbreak. But now that US officials have said the possibility of a lab accident needs to be investigated, the spotlight has fallen on American funding of the Wuhan lab’s less safe research.

Today a chorus of scientists, including Baric, are coming forward to say this was a misstep.

Even if there is no link to COVID-19, allowing work on potentially dangerous bat viruses at BSL-2 is “an actual scandal,” says Michael Lin, a bioengineer at Stanford University.

The simmering concern that the US funded risky research in China burst into the national discussion on May 11, when Senator Rand Paul accused Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of funding “supervirus” research in the US and “making a huge mistake” by trading the know-how to China.

Paul repeatedly confronted Fauci and demanded to know if he had funded gain-of-function research in that country. Fauci denied the accusation, stating categorically: “The NIH has not ever, and does not now, fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

The denial rests on the NIH’s specific definition of what was covered by the moratorium: work that would have deliberately enhanced SARS-like viruses, MERS, or flu by—for example—making them easier to spread through the air.

The Chinese research did not have the specific goal of making the viruses more deadly, and rather than SARS itself, it used SARS’s close cousins, whose real-world risk to humans was unknown—in fact, determining the risk was the point of the research. Just as when you trade in part of a poker hand for fresh cards, there was no way of knowing whether the final chimeras would be stronger or weaker.

The NIH has still not fully explained its decision-making and did not reply to questions. Citing a pending investigation, it has declined to release copies of the grant that sent the Wuhan institute about $600,000 between 2014 and 2019. It has also revealed little about its new system for assessing gain-of-function risks, which is carried out by an anonymous review panel whose deliberations are not made public. Until there’s more sunlight, the agency will be fighting speculation, from Paul and others, that what occurred is a scenario Fauci himself had outlined in a 2012 commentary discussing research on pandemic germs.

“The only impact of this work is the creation, in a lab, of a new, non-natural risk.”

  • Richard Ebright, Rutgers University

“Consider this hypothetical scenario,” Fauci wrote. “An important gain-of-function experiment involving a virus with serious pandemic potential is performed in a well-regulated, world-class laboratory by experienced investigators, but the information from the experiment is then used by another scientist who does not have the same training and facilities and is not subject to the same regulations. In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic?”

A wake-up call

Paul’s grilling of Fauci brought new scrutiny to the relationship between Ralph Baric’s lab at UNC and Zhengli Shi’s at WIV, with some narratives painting Baric as the Shi’s master of SARS and Shi as his ascendant apprentice.

They did share resources—for example, Baric sent the transgenic mice with human lung receptors to Wuhan.

But after their initial collaboration, the two centers were more like competitors. They were in a race to identify dangerous coronaviruses, assess the potential threat, and develop countermeasures like vaccines.

For Baric, that research started in the late 1990s. Coronaviruses were then considered low risk, but Baric’s studies on the genetics that allowed viruses to enter human cells convinced him that some might be just a few mutations away from jumping the species barrier.

That hunch was confirmed in 2002–’03, when SARS broke out in southern China, infecting 8,000 people. As bad as that was, Baric says, we dodged a bullet with SARS. The disease didn’t spread from one person to another until about a day after severe symptoms began to appear, making it easier to corral through quarantines and contact tracing. Only 774 people died in that outbreak, but if it had been transmitted as easily as SARS-CoV-2, “we would have had a pandemic with a 10% mortality rate,” Baric says. “That’s how close humanity came.”

As tempting as it was to write off SARS as a one-time event, in 2012 MERS emerged and began infecting people in the Middle East. “For me personally, that was a wake-up call that the animal reservoirs must have many, many more strains that are poised for cross-species movement,” says Baric.

By then, examples of such dangers were already being discovered by Shi’s team, which had spent years sampling bats in southern China to locate the origin of SARS. The project was part of a global viral surveillance effort spearheaded by the US nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance. The nonprofit—which has an annual income of over $16 million, more than 90% from government grants—has its office in New York but partners with local research groups in other countries to do field and lab work. The WIV was its crown jewel, and Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, has been a coauthor with Shi on most of her key papers.

By taking thousands of samples from guano, fecal swabs, and bat tissue, and searching those samples for genetic sequences similar to SARS, Shi’s team began to discover many closely related viruses. In a cave in Yunnan Province in 2011 or 2012, they discovered the two closest, which they named WIV1 and SHC014.

Shi managed to culture WIV1 in her lab from a fecal sample and show that it could directly infect human cells, proving that SARS-like viruses ready to leap straight from bats to humans already lurked in the natural world.

This showed, Daszak and Shi argued, that bat coronaviruses were a “substantial global threat.” Scientists, they said, needed to find them, and study them, before they found us.

Many of the other viruses couldn’t be grown, but Baric’s system provided a way to rapidly test their spikes by engineering them into similar viruses. When the chimera he made using SHC014 proved able to infect human cells in a dish, Daszak told the press that these revelations should “move this virus from a candidate emerging pathogen to a clear and present danger.”

To others, it was the perfect example of the unnecessary dangers of gain-of-function science. “The only impact of this work is the creation, in a lab, of a new, non-natural risk,” the Rutgers microbiologist Richard Ebright, a longtime critic of such research, told Nature.

To Baric, the situation was more nuanced. Although his creation might be more dangerous than the original mouse-adapted virus he’d used as a backbone, it was still wimpy compared with SARS—certainly not the supervirus Senator Paul would later suggest.

In the end, the NIH clampdown never had teeth. It included a clause granting exceptions “if head of funding agency determines research is urgently necessary to protect public health or national security.” Not only were Baric’s studies allowed to move forward, but so were all studies that applied for exemptions. The funding restrictions were lifted in 2017 and replaced with a more lenient system.

Tyvek suits and respirators

If the NIH was looking for a scientist to make regulators comfortable with gain-of-function research, Baric was the obvious choice. For years he’d insisted on extra safety steps, and he took pains to point these out in his 2015 paper, as if modeling the way forward.

The CDC recognizes four levels of biosafety and recommends which pathogens should be studied at which level. Biosafety level 1 is for nonhazardous organisms and requires virtually no precautions: wear a lab coat and gloves as needed. BSL-2 is for moderately hazardous pathogens that are already endemic in the area, and relatively mild interventions are indicated: close the door, wear eye protection, dispose of waste materials in an autoclave. BSL-3 is where things get serious. It’s for pathogens that can cause serious disease through respiratory transmission, such as influenza and SARS, and the associated protocols include multiple barriers to escape. Labs are walled off by two sets of self-closing, locking doors; air is filtered; personnel use full PPE and N95 masks and are under medical surveillance. BSL-4 is for the baddest of the baddies, such as Ebola and Marburg: full moon suits and dedicated air systems are added to the arsenal.

“There are no enforceable standards of what you should and shouldn’t do. It’s up to the individual countries, institutions, and scientists.”

  • Filippa Lentzos, King’s College London

In Baric’s lab, the chimeras were studied at BSL-3, enhanced with additional steps like Tyvek suits, double gloves, and powered-air respirators for all workers. Local first-responder teams participated in regular drills to increase their familiarity with the lab. All workers were monitored for infections, and local hospitals had procedures in place to handle incoming scientists. It was probably one of the safest BSL-3 facilities in the world. That still wasn’t enough to prevent a handful of errors over the years: some scientists were even bitten by virus-carrying mice. But no infections resulted.

Brand-new pathogens

In 2014, the NIH awarded a five-year, $3.75 million grant to EcoHealth Alliance to study the risk that more bat-borne coronaviruses would emerge in China, using the same kind of techniques Baric had pioneered. Some of that work was to be subcontracted to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Two years later, Daszak and Shi published a paper reporting how the Chinese lab had engineered different versions of WIV1 and tested their infectiousness in human cells. The paper announced that the WIV had developed its own reverse-genetics system, following the Americans’ lead. It also included a troubling detail: the work, which was funded in part by the NIH grant, had been done in a BSL-2 lab. That meant the same viruses that Daszak was holding up as a clear and present danger to the world were being studied under conditions that, according to Richard Ebright, matched “the biosafety level of a US dentist’s office.”

Ebright believes one factor at play was the cost and inconvenience of working in high-containment conditions. The Chinese lab’s decision to work at BSL-2, he says, would have “effectively increased rates of progress, all else being equal, by a factor of 10 to 20”—a huge edge.

Work at the WIV was indeed progressing quickly. In 2017, Daszak and Shi followed with another study, also at BSL-2, that one-upped Baric’s work in North Carolina. The WIV had continued to unearth dozens of new SARS-like coronaviruses in bat caves, and it reported making chimeras with eight of them by fusing the spikes of the new viruses to the chassis of WIV1. Two of them replicated well in human cells. They were, for all intents and purposes, brand-new pathogens.

The revelation that the WIV was working with SARS-like viruses in subpar safety conditions has led some people to reassess the chance that SARS-CoV-2 could have emerged from some type of laboratory incident. “That’s screwed up,” the Columbia University virologist Ian Lipkin, who coauthored the seminal paper arguing that COVID must have had a natural origin, told the journalist Donald McNeil Jr. “It shouldn’t have happened. People should not be looking at bat viruses in BSL-2 labs. My view has changed.”

But the WIV was not breaking any rules by working at BSL-2, says Filippa Lentzos, a biosecurity expert at King’s College London “There are no enforceable standards of what you should and shouldn’t do. It’s up to the individual countries, institutions, and scientists.” And in China, she says, the vertiginous rise of high-tech biological research has not been accompanied by an equivalent increase in oversight.

In an email, Zhengli Shi said she followed Chinese rules that are similar to those in the US. Safety requirements are based on what virus you are studying. Since bat viruses like WIV1 haven’t been confirmed to cause disease in human beings, her biosafety committee recommended BSL-2 for engineering them and testing them and BSL-3 for any animal experiments.

In response to questions about the decision to do the research in BSL-2 conditions, Peter Daszak forwarded a statement from EcoHealth Alliance stating that the organization “must follow the local laws of the countries in which we work” and that the NIH had determined the research was “not gain-of-function.”

Questioning China

There is no law against using tighter lab security, however, and according to Baric, these viruses deserve it. “I would never argue that WIV1 or SHC014 should be studied at BSL-2, because they can grow in primary human cells,” he says. “There’s some risk associated with those viruses. We have no idea whether they could actually cause severe disease in a human, but you want to err on the side of caution … If you study a hundred different bat viruses, your luck may run out.”

Since the pandemic began, Baric has not said much about the possible origins of the virus or about his Chinese counterparts. On several occasions, however, he has quietly pointed to safety concerns at the WIV. In May 2020, when few scientists were willing to consider a lab leak in public, he published a paper acknowledging that “speculation about accidental laboratory escape will likely persist, given the large collections of bat virome samples stored in labs in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the facility’s proximity to the early outbreak, and the operating procedures at the facility.”

He flagged Daszak and Shi’s BSL-2 paper, in case anyone didn’t understand what he was saying.

The National Institutes of Health has also revisited its ties to the Wuhan lab. In April of 2020, the NIH terminated its grant to EcoHealth Alliance for bat virus research. In a follow-up letter to Daszak on July 8, it offered to reinstate the grant, but only if EcoHealth Alliance could allay its concerns, noting reports that the WIV “has been conducting research at its facilities in China that pose serious bio-safety concerns” for other countries. It added, “We have concerns that WIV has not satisfied safety requirements under the award, and that EcoHealth Alliance has not satisfied its obligations to monitor the activities of its subrecipient.”

The genetic code of SARS-CoV-2 does not resemble that of any virus the WIV was known to be culturing in its lab, such as WIV1, and Baric says he still believes a natural spillover is the most likely cause. But he also knows the intricate risks of the work well enough to see a possible path to trouble. That is why, in May of this year, he joined 17 other scientists in a letter in the journal Science calling for a thorough investigation of his onetime collaborator’s lab and its practices. He wants to know what barriers were in place to keep a pathogen from slipping out into Wuhan’s population of 13 million, and possibly to the world.

“Let’s face it: there are going to be unknown viruses in guano, or oral swabs, which are oftentimes pooled. And if you’re attempting to culture a virus, you’re going to have novel strains being dropped onto culture cells,” Baric says. “Some will grow. You could get recombinants that are unique. And if that was being done at BSL-2, then there are questions you want to ask.”

Source: Rowan Jacobsen – MIT Technology Review

‘CDC overwhelmed with vaccine adverse effect reports’

The US Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is “overwhelmed” with reports of vaccine adverse effects in the wake of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough last week told Laura Ingraham on Fox News.

Asked to address the possibility of underreporting of COVID-19 vaccine-related “cardiac complications,” McCullough said he thought the CDC was “overwhelmed” by the massive increase in reports of vaccine adverse events.

“The CDC every year with all the vaccines combined get about 16,000 safety reports and about 25 deaths reported to the VAERS system. So far with COVID-19 they’ve received over 300,000 safety reports, over 6,000 deaths, nearly 20,000 hospitalizations, I think they’re completely overwhelmed,” he assessed.

Regarding COVID-19 vaccine effects being observed, he noted,

“What we’re seeing is a really disturbing pattern in those individuals under age 30, and that’s myocarditis, and that’s where the spike protein [induced by the COVID-19 vaccine] replicates inside heart muscle cells, damages the heart muscle cells and results in chest pain, EKG changes, positive troponin signs and symptoms of heart failure.”

“20 percent of these kids are developing abnormal echocardiograms with reduced left ventricular function. And in terrible cases like this, they actually die. So I think vaccination ought to be completely prohibited in anybody under age 30. That would simplify the picture greatly,” he concluded.

According to the VAERS website, VAERS “is a national early warning system to detect possible safety problems in U.S.-licensed vaccines. VAERS is co-managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

The site notes that “VAERS is a passive reporting system, meaning it relies on individuals to send in reports of their experiences to CDC and FDA. VAERS is not designed to determine if a vaccine caused a health problem, but is especially useful for detecting unusual or unexpected patterns of adverse event reporting that might indicate a possible safety problem with a vaccine.”

Source: Fox News via Arutz Sheva

Almost 25% of COVID cases in Belgium are more transmissible Delta variant, virologist reveals

Steven Van Gucht revealed in a news conference on Wednesday that the prevalence of the Delta [Indian] variant had increased to almost one in four coronavirus cases in Belgium – up 8% on the previous week.

The virologist for Belgium’s public health institute, Sciensano, did offer a note of optimism regarding the rise in Delta variant cases, saying,

“In absolute terms, the number of infections with the Delta variant is increasing relatively slowly. This is mainly due to the generally declining circulation of COVID.”

Van Gucht also cited Belgium’s widespread vaccination campaign as another reason why the overall spread of COVID-19 has fallen there.

As of June 28, data from Sciensano shows that 75% of all people in Belgium over the age of 18 had received at least one dose of a vaccine.

More than 50,000 children have also received their first jab.

These figures position Belgium among the fastest mass-vaccinating countries, both in the EU and globally.

However, Belgian biostatistician Geert Molenberghs offered a more pessimistic view on Monday, theorizing that the prevalence of the Delta variant would “probably have reached 80% to 90% at the end of July rather than at the end of the summer.”

Molenberghs’ remarks to VRT Radio 1 presented a bleaker image of the spread of the variant than even the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control forecast in a statement on June 23.

The agency estimated that, by August, 90% of coronavirus infections across the EU could have been caused by the Delta variant.

According to the latest World Health Organization data, Belgium has recorded more than a million confirmed COVID-19 “cases” and 25,168 deaths since the pandemic began.

Source: RT

Global warming is hitting Russia faster than most countries & government must be prepared for serious consequences – Putin

Speaking at his annual ‘Direct Line’ call-in show, he also suggested that climate change is affecting Russia faster than many other countries in the world.

The far north of the country will feel the consequences of climate change the most, he added.

“We have settlements and infrastructure located [in the north],” Putin explained.

“And if all [the permafrost] melts, it will lead to very serious social and economic consequences. And we should certainly be prepared for this.”

The president also named climate change as a cause for the extreme changes in weather in recent months, including wildfires in Siberia and flooding in Crimea.

“Many people believe, not without reason, that this is primarily due to human activity and due to emissions into the atmosphere,” he explained. “We must do everything to minimize our contribution.”

“What we can influence, we should influence,” Putin emphasized.

Other nations on Russia’s latitude, such as the Scandinavian countries, are also suffering from the serious consequences of global warming, he said.

The latest comments aren’t the first time Putin has discussed the risks global warming pose to Russia. Speaking last year to the Valdai Club think tank, he called for an end to “unrestrained and unlimited consumption,” noting that tensions regarding climate change had “reached a critical point.”

“It affects pipeline systems, residential districts built on permafrost, and so on,” Putin explained. “If as much as 25% of the near-surface layers of permafrost – which is about three or four meters – melts by 2100, we will feel the effect very strongly.”

Earlier this year, Putin revealed that the government would force industries to adapt to global warming, with the authorities being instructed to establish strict controls in the fight against harmful emissions.

“We must respond to the challenges of climate change, adapt agriculture, industry, utilities, the entire infrastructure,” Putin urged. “[We must] create an industry to recycle carbon emissions, achieve a reduction in their volume and introduce strict control and monitoring.”

Source: Jonny Tickle – RT

‘Even if Russia had sunk British warship, it wouldn’t have started WW3 because US & UK know they can’t win such a conflict’ – Putin

President Vladimir Putin claimed that London’s American allies had a hand in last week’s incident near Crimea.

However, apparently casting doubt on NATO’s ‘Article V’ collective defense pact, the Russian leader claimed that, even if Moscow had sunk the vessel, it wouldn’t have led to World War III, because the “provocateurs” know they wouldn’t be able to win.

Last week, the British naval ship HMS Defender entered the country’s territorial waters and traveled three kilometers (almost two miles) inside the frontier, near Cape Fiolent, in Crimea. According to Russia’s Ministry of Defense, the coastguard targeted warning shots at the boat. This has been disputed by the British, but video evidence suggests the Russian version of events is more accurate.

According to London, the destroyer was making a “peaceful” passage through the territorial waters of Ukraine in accordance with international law. The UK does not recognize Crimea as part of Russia.

Speaking at his annual ‘Direct Line’ call-in show, Putin revealed that a US strategic airplane took off from an airfield on the island of Crete and flew towards Russia on the morning before HMS Defender entered Russian waters.

However, despite the provocation, the two NATO members do not want a conflict, and it is not true to say that the world is now standing on the brink of a world war, he said.
“Even if we had sunk that ship, it would still be hard to imagine that the world would be on the brink of World War III,” the president said. “Because those who are doing this know that they can’t get out of this war victorious. That’s a very important thing.”

The president also pondered the exact reasons for the British provocation, noting that matters discussed at his recent summit with his American counterpart, Joe Biden, in Geneva might offer an explanation.

“Why was it necessary to make such a provocation? For what?” he asked.

“To show that they have no respect for the choice of the Crimeans to join Russia?”

Putin also slammed the West for its hypocrisy, noting that Moscow had ordered its troops to move away from Ukraine’s border earlier this year, after Russia had received complaints.

“We did it. But instead of reacting to it positively and saying: ‘OK, we understand your reaction to our indignation,’ instead, what did they do? They have come to our borders,” Putin said.

Source: RT

Heart inflammation after COVID-19 shots higher than expected in study of U.S. military

Members of the U.S. military who were vaccinated against COVID-19 showed higher-than-expected rates of heart inflammation, although the condition was still extremely rare, according to a study released on Tuesday.

The study found that 23 previously healthy males with an average age of 25 complained of chest pain within four days of receiving a COVID-19 shot. The incident rate was higher than some previous estimates would have anticipated, it said.

All the patients, who at the time of the study’s publication had recovered or were recovering from myocarditis – an inflammation of the heart muscle – had received shots made by either Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) or Moderna Inc (MRNA.O).

U.S. health regulators last week added a warning to the literature that accompanies those mRNA vaccines to flag the rare risk of heart inflammation seen primarily in young males. But they said the benefit of the shots in preventing COVID-19 clearly continues to outweigh the risk. read more

The study, which was published in the JAMA Cardiology medical journal, said 19 of the patients were current military members who had received their second vaccine dose. The others had either received one dose or were retired from the military.

General population estimates would have predicted eight or fewer cases of myocarditis from the 436,000 male military members who received two COVID-19 shots, the study said.

An outside panel of experts advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week that reports of myocarditis were higher in males and in the week after the second vaccine dose than would be anticipated in the general population. A presentation at that meeting found the heart condition turned up at a rate of about 12.6 cases per million people vaccinated.

Eight of the military patients in the study were given diagnostic scans and showed signs of heart inflammation that could not be explained by other causes, the study said. The patients in the study ranged from ages 20 to 51.

The CDC began investigating the potential link between the mRNA vaccines and myocarditis in April after Israel flagged that it was studying such cases in people who received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine there, and after a report that the U.S. military had also found cases.

Health regulators in several countries are conducting their own investigations.

Source: Carl O’Donnell and Bill Berkrot – REUTERS

Dr. Miriam Adelson inaugurates 150 new ambucycles in Jerusalem

United Hatzalah’s new ambucycle unit was inaugurated at Safra Square in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening.

The Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson ambucycle unit is comprised of 150 new United Hatzalah ambucycles, which were deployed nationwide when the ceremony concluded.

Ahead of the inauguration, the ambucycles were set up in Safra Square in the form of a seven-branched menorah. Following the ceremony, all 150 vehicles toured the Old City of Jerusalem in a convoy.

Every United Hatzalah volunteer saluted Dr. Adelson for her support of the organization and her help in saving the life of its founder and president, Eli Beer, when he was in critical condition with COVID-19 last year.

Beer spoke at the ceremony, citing Dr. Adelson’s great work and support of United Hatzalah.

“This event was held to honor some of the greatest supporters and defenders of Israel, Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson. The new unit, comprising 150 vehicles, is assisting 150 medical first responders in providing emergency medical care around the country, including the developing areas of the Negev, Galilee, and Judea and Samaria. This will significantly increase the effectiveness of emergency medical response in Israel. They will enable us to provide faster EMS response as soon as emergencies occur,” Beer said.

Speaking to the ambucycle drivers and members of the public who were present, Dr. Adelson said,

“I understand the magic of riding a motorcycle. It is clear that it is necessary for you and for the sake of everyone who you are helping. In your hands, these two-wheeled vehicles will work for the good of all. They will be used for the greatest good and the ultimate mitzvah of saving lives.”

“Anyone who saves a single life, it is as if they have saved an entire world. With that simple statement, our sages of old summed up the entirety of Judaism throughout the generations. This was an insight that the other great religions of the world adopted, and they have representatives of their faiths among you tonight and among the volunteers of United Hatzalah in general,” Dr. Adelson continued.

“When they told us that saving a life was akin to saving the world, our sages in fact commanded us to do whatever we can to save a person in danger as if the entire world were in danger. We are commanded to act quickly, it is our responsibility to do so. This is my blessing and gift to you,” Dr. Adelson told the audience.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion also spoke, telling the crowd, “We are standing here in the square outside of Jerusalem’s city hall in order to recognize and thank the Adelson family for their tremendous donation to the state of Israel, to the city of Jerusalem, and specifically today, to United Hatzalah. The Adelson family is one of the most ideologically driven and patriotic families that the Jewish nation has had in the recent past, and it is for that reason that we tell you all, and you in particular, my dear Miriam, thank you!”

Source: Arutz Sheva

Header: Miriam Adelson with one of the ambucycles.

Military situation In Afghanistan on June 29, 2021 (Map Update)

  • On June 27, Taliban reportedly captured Rustaq district in Takhar province
  • On June 27, Taliban reportedly captured Chak district in Wardak province
  • On June 27, Taliban reportedly captured the city center of Mughur district in Ghazni province
  • On June 28, local authorities have announced the recapture of the villages of Khof Dareh, Sang Atash, Khavaki, Khosdeh and Derbi Ahoo in Farkhar district of Takhar province
  • On June 28, Afghan army and popular mobilization forces recaptured the areas of Khajeh Souri, Piazak Mountain, Haji Ghafoor Mountain and the villages of Pakbar, Khaneghah, and Abkhaneh in the district of Chahar Kint in Balkh province
  • On June 29, Taliban claimed control over the districts of Waghaz and Giro in Ghazni province
  • On June 29, Taliban captured Khakriz district in Kandahar province
  • 235 Taliban militants were killed and 161 others were wounded as a result of Afghan Army operations in Nangarhar, laghman, Nuristan, Kunar, Ghazni, Kandahar, Zabul, Balkh, Faryab, Helmand, Baghlan, Badakhshan, Kunduz & Kapisa provinces during the last 24 hours, according to the Afghan MOD


A trans woman became Miss Nevada at the weekend. Well, it’s high time us blokes gave this beauty pageant caper a try

In this brave new inclusively woke world, birth gender no longer applies when it comes to pageants.

Kataluna Enriquez won Miss Nevada on Sunday and will go on to be the first openly trans woman to compete for Miss USA.

Awesome. I’ve got my make-up bag, a nice frock and a big roll of gaffer tape, so I’m good to go.

Call me weird, abnormal. But it has literally never been my ambition to win a beauty pageant. Plus, well, I always thought maybe it was a closed shop to someone like me, you know? On account of me being, well, a bloke, a dude, a man.

I’d take to the stage to be examined by those brutal judges and I’d be carrying the wrong equipment, if you get my drift. And there’s only so much you can do with gaffer tape when you’re wearing a bikini, right?

I’m in with a genuine chance in this woke world we’re falling into face-first, though. So, hey – as long as I can have a go pre-op, I’m in, I’m game, I’ll have a bash! Why not?

But not if I have to become a eunuch. Oh no. There’s only so far I’ll go for a story.

A man needs to have his limits, and I, like most men, am rather attached to the family jewels.

Kataluna Enriquez, 27, has forged the way. She won Miss Nevada at an event in Las Vegas on Sunday, and has her sights set on America’s top beauty pageant in November: Miss USA. She’s genetically a fella, same as me. Awesome. However, I don’t know whether she’s had the required surgery yet – surely yes?

She beat 21 other hopefuls, and presumably they weren’t all trans.

It’s Pride month, though, and maybe that was a disadvantage for the also-rans, if those judges felt the need to make a wokey statement.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kataluna Enriquez (@mskataluna)

“No words can describe how much I am grateful of you,” Kataluna oozed to her ‘pageant mommy’ on her Instagram feed.

“Huge thank you to everyone who supported me from day one. My community, you are always in my heart. My win is our win. We just made history. Happy pride.”

CNN in the Philippines says Ms Enriquez is a Filipina-American. Aha! This makes it all a hell of a lot clearer to me then.

I was a correspondent for two years in Manila a while ago and did a fair few stories on ‘ladyboys’, as they were called down there at the time.

Hey, Twitter mob! Drop your digital pitchforks (for now), as I didn’t coin the term! It’s really what they were called, even among themselves. And, I have to say, if you stood a genetically female beauty queen next to a ‘ladyboy’ beauty queen, not many people could have told the difference between the two. It was, I have to say, a little unnerving.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kataluna Enriquez (@mskataluna)

It’s not the same in Europe. Nope. No way. Not in my albeit limited experience.

On Sunday, for example, there was a Pride march near my house and there was an elderly bloke – he was at least 70 – who had basically just thrown on a wig and a dress and was tottering around on high heels, struggling to keep up with the other marchers. Also – and don’t ask me why – he had a cushion rammed up his blouse as if he were pregnant. That was wrong on so many levels – even if he were capable of gestating a foetus, he was way too old.

Lately, it seems the direction of travel is men – blokes, dudes, chaps, fellas like me – muscling in on female terrain.

Take Laurel Hubbard, for example, who made headlines across the world recently after being picked for the female New Zealand weightlifting team despite having gone through puberty as a man.

And what about transgender women – that’s trans folk born male – wanting to be banged up in all-female jails? I’ll tell you something: I’d much prefer to be locked up in a female jail too. Next time I get arrested, I’ll make sure I have a frock in my bag.

Come on, though, girls – don’t give up hope. And there are options for you guys, too. There’s activity in the other direction – take blogger and weightlifter Aydian Dowling, for example, or Chaz Bono, born as a daughter, to pop duo Sonny and Cher.

Or Thomas Beatie, the world’s first-ever pregnant ‘man.’

There’s loads of role models!

Is boxing your thing? Well then, you can ‘float like a butterfly and sting like a bee’, just like Muhammad Ali. Hmm, not quite, but you can be a bit like Patricio Manuel, the first transgender male to fight in a professional boxing match in the US.

Oh, wouldn’t Patricio and Kataluna make a wonderful couple?

One coming from one direction, the other coming from the other direction. Pow!

Kataluna won her beauty pageant in Las Vegas, and Vegas is a boxer’s kinda town. They could get married in any number of non-conventional ceremonies – getting hitched by Elvis is a perennial favourite. Or I could dress up as a trans Elvis – that’d be a bit different. Give me a call, guys. I’m in if you are.

Source: Charlie Stone – RT

Six weeks after Gaza Conflict, Israeli Arabs struggle luring back Jewish customers

It’s been nearly six weeks since the cease-fire went into effect, ending the major military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip – fighting that was accompanied by assaults, vandalism and other chaos in the form of clashes between Jews and Arabs in Israel itself.

But business owners in the triangle of Israeli Arab communities northeast of Tel Aviv say they have failed to recover from the disturbances. Their revenues remain substantially down from the month of April – the month before the fighting erupted.

The recent drop in business is another blow to the merchants, following the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the Arab business owners mention the word “fear” in its various iterations in conversations with Haaretz. Some express understanding regarding the reticence of Jewish customers, but add that it’s delaying the healing of the rifts that the recent hostilities created.

“We see Jews entering Kafr Qasem with weapons because there’s a certain fear,” said Muzhar Badir, a gas station owner in the Arab Israeli town northeast of Tel Aviv.

“The residents are divided. There are those who were against the disturbances and there are those in favor, because it serves their interests. But life needs to go on. People don’t need to get too carried away. People are entrenching themselves in their positions on both sides,” he said.

Mohammed (not his real name), an electrical contractor from Taibeh, north of Kafr Qasem, recounted that he was working on the home of a family in the Jewish Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Hasharon when the job was suddenly put on hold. He discovered later that it was for a background check on him.

“After the war, the apartment owners asked to suspend my work. I ultimately learned that they wanted to check my criminal and security past,” he said.

“It really caused emotional distress. To this day, I hear that there are several contractors and workers who have encountered difficulties following the war, but it seems that slowly things are returning to normal.”

Mohammed Masrawa, who also goes by the Hebrew name Dudu, owns a clinic in Taibeh. He too has been affected by Jewish customers’ fears. “My patients are Arab, but all of my service providers are Jewish,” he noted, including doctors and cosmeticians. “They are the ones who haven’t been coming in because they are afraid to come to Taibeh,” he said.

There were barely a dozen customers at Taraboosh, a café in Kafr Qasem owned by Amran Amer, when Haaretz visited the establishment early one evening.

Amer said that he has suffered a 62 percent drop in revenues during the recent period, a figure that in May during the war itself had fallen by more than 80 percent.

“To this day, I’ve been trying to bring back customers, mostly Jews. I used to get about 200 customers a day. Today it wasn’t more than 30. They’re not coming, out of fear,” he said. “I began accompanying customers who wanted to come to the café after the disturbances.”

Orian Bruner of the Tel Aviv suburb of Hod Hasharon is one of the Jewish customers who returned to the café. “I was a bit afraid of the events,” he acknowledged, referring to the disturbances, but he said that he came in any event because of his close relationship with the owner, describing their relationship as like brothers. “Today I feel less threatened, but there’s fear in the air that the war will return,” he added.

“If we were to have met on a Saturday before the disturbances, I wouldn’t have had time for you, but now look,” said Mohammed Jaber, pointing to his garage in the Arab town of Tira north of Tel Aviv. “The garage is nearly empty. Neither Jews nor Arabs are coming here much. There was serious harm done to the relationship between us, but I hope that we return to normal quickly.”

Ibrahim Samara, who manages the Buy Toys toy store in Tira, said that following the disturbances, his revenues dropped by 40 percent, and Jewish customers have been calling before coming to the store to ask whether it was safe. “They would ask if everything was all right. To this day, most of my customers, as well as suppliers, want to work through delivery services. They are afraid and I understand them, because I am also afraid to go around Bat Yam and Herzliya,” he said referring to two Jewish Tel Aviv suburbs.

Hadil Tilawi, who owns the Café Café chain’s Taibeh location, told Haaretz about the bat-mitzvah party that customers from the nearby Jewish town of Tzur Yitzhak had planned at his café – and then canceled. She said she had been thrilled to host the celebration, noting that it wouldn’t be common to hold a bat-mitzvah party in Taibeh. “Unfortunately they called and canceled and were also sorry about it. They weren’t afraid of coming, but most of their guests wouldn’t have come,” she acknowledged. “Almost no Jews are coming to the café. I believe that they are staying away due to fear, but I hope it ends quickly.”

There are other Arab business owners who say that their good relations with their Jewish customers have actually been maintained due to the tense atmosphere. “Jewish customers would call, ask about the situation and we would talk about all the incidents and refuse to surrender to what was happening. They weren’t resigned to the conflict,” said Qaid Qasem, who owns the Abu Omar Hummus Ful restaurant in Tira. Nevertheless, he said, his business revenues have dropped 30 percent.

“Two months ago, I would take in 10,000 shekels a month,” about $3,000, he said. “Now? 7,000 or 7,500 at most,” he added. “It’s not the first time that we have experienced such a situation, but this time, it’s taking longer to return to normal. The damage has been major.”

Maharan Balum, who owns the Hatzamet garage in the triangle Arab town of Kalansua, north of Tira, said his revenues have dropped by half since the end of May’s war. “Almost no one is coming from outside Kalansua. Only our most regular customers are coming. We’re still feeling the tension in the air.” he said.

“We’ve maintained good relations with Jewish customers during the period of the tension. All of us have expressed regret. The relations between us in general have in fact been hurt. It will take time for the situation to recover,” he acknowledged.

Afif Hatib, the owner of Afif’s Hummus in Kalansua, has persisted in hoping that coexistence is possible between Jews and Arabs, even though since the disturbances, most of his customers have been from Kalansua and Taibeh.

There are many people, he said, who are eager to live in peace.

But real peace, he added, has to be between Israel and the Palestinians “Rather than with Sudan and Dubai.”

“Just as the State of Israel identifies with Jews around the world and demonstrates solidarity and empathy towards them, it’s natural for the Arabs of Israel to identify with the Al Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah and their brothers in the Palestinian people in general,” he remarked.

The mayor of Taibeh, Sha’a Mansour Massarwa, points an accusing finger at the Israeli government when it comes to government assistance and support for the businesses. “We’re a major city in the triangle,” he said, “and trade from outside the city has been cut off. Unfortunately, the government has not taken any initiative to restore the businesses that have been harmed.”

“Without a doubt, relations between Arabs and Jews have been set back dozens of years,” he lamented. Israeli governments have ignored demands from Israeli Arab society to free up land for construction, for job creation and to address the disparities in local schools, the mayor claimed. And he reserved his greatest criticism of the government for its handling of crime and violence in Arab communities.

“It’s a badge of shame for the State of Israel, which has boasted about uncovering the Iranian nuclear program but has failed in collecting weapons from the crime families,” the mayor quipped.

Source: Deiaa Haj Yahia – Haaretz