Snowden warns government surveillance amid COVID-19 could be long lasting
Governments could look for reasons to continue tracking people's activity, he says.
Edward Snowden on Monday warned that high-tech surveillance measures governments use to fight the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the newly identified coronavirus, could have a long-lasting impact. That's according to an interview with the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival.
The US government, for instance, is reportedly in talks with tech companies like Facebook and Google to use anonymized location data from phones to help track the spread of COVID-19. While some say the measure could be a helpful tool for health authorities to track the virus, others have expressed concerns about their information being shared with the government.
Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked documents about mass surveillance activities, said governments can extend the access they have to people's personal information during a crisis and use it to monitor their actions. During this pandemic, for example, governments might say they're worried about public health and could send an order to every fitness tracker to look at measures like pulse and heart rate, and then demand access to that kind of activity, he said.
After the virus is gone and the data is still available to them, governments can use new causes like terrorist threats to justify continually gathering and analyzing people's data, he said.
"They already know what you're looking at on the internet," Snowden said during the interview. "They already know where your phone is moving. Now they know what your heart rate is, what your pulse is. What happens when they start to intermix these and apply artificial intelligence to it?"
In 2013, Snowden revealed details of NSA surveillance programs to journalists, which led to heightened concerns about privacy in the digital era. He faces charges of espionage and theft of government property in the US, and has been living in Russia since 2013.
The Army Asked Retirees in Medical Fields to Come Back. The Response Was Overwhelming
Days ago, the U.S. Army sent out an unusual plea to its retired officers and enlisted soldiers: If you served in one of eight high-demand medical specialties, it said, you may be able to "re-join the team" in order to help the service fight the coronavirus pandemic.
"We need to hear from you STAT!" the message from the Army's head of personnel, Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands, read.
The Army's retirees took that seriously.
"We reached out to more than 800,000 retired Soldiers to gauge their willingness to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic response," an Army spokesperson told Military.com Friday. To date, more than 14,000 retirees "representing various specialties" have contacted the service for more information, he said.
That comes out to a remarkable response rate of 1.75% – and that figure may grow considerably. Between Thursday evening and Friday, the pool of respondents increased by 5,000.
Seamands' message said the Army was looking for retirees from the following specialties: critical care officer; anesthesiologist; nurse anesthetist; critical care nurse; nurse practitioner; ER nurse; respiratory specialist; and medic.
Army officials have declined to answer questions about how many medical positions they're looking to fill or what the timeline will be to get volunteers vetted, trained and situated.
"We've had some positive responses," Gen. James McConville, the chief of staff of the Army, said Thursday in response to a Military.com question. "What we're looking for is medical expertise."
Lt. Gen. Raymond Scott Dingle, the surgeon general of the Army, added that volunteers will be assessed for current medical certifications and credentials.
"Then once we do that, we will plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission," he said.
The Army does not often issue voluntary retiree recall requests, but there is a process established for retirees returning to active duty. According to the Army Human Resource Center, the average retiree recall tour is 365 days long, although they can stretch 730 days or more. Ultimately the length of recall is determined and agreed upon between the command and the soldier.
While retirees may be eligible for an increase in retirement pay if the recall tour lasts two years or more, they cannot be promoted in recall status.
Dingle said it takes about 330 soldiers to man each military field hospital, including the headquarters element and all staffing.
The Army has already issued deployment orders for the first three field hospitals, bound for New York City and Seattle – two of the regions hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Those soldiers that are assigned to medical treatment facilities, what we call military medically assigned personnel, their primary mission is to support the force," Dingle said. "When they are called upon to deploy – in this case here, to support the whole-of-government, our nation, those medical providers, we look at cross-leveling within the medical command. And then the volunteers that you're talking about is where we also will leverage, in addition to the Army reserves, to fill those holes from the medical treatment facilities so that we can maintain the readiness of our soldiers as well as to the beneficiary population."
White Helmets use Covid-19 crisis to further US Coalition regime change agenda in Syria
The White Helmet ‘coronavirus campaign’ is a cynical exploitation of the pandemic to weaponize it against the Syrian government. To really help the Syrians they should demand a lift of Western sanctions, not support them.
Five cases of coronavirus have now been reported by the health ministry in Syria. The country is subject to a curfew from 6pm to 6am as of March 25. Syria braces itself for a potential medical crisis.
The Syrian healthcare sector has been crippled under a “maximum pressure” economic sanctions campaign that has collectively punished the Syrian people for the duration of a war waged against them by the same governments inflicting the catastrophic economic damage. Hospitals and medical care centers have been targeted and occupied by the extremist armed groups throughout Syria, further reducing the Syrian state-ability to deal with the looming threat of an apparently rapacious pandemic.
Sanctions increase the risk of pandemic spread
All measures taken against the Syrian government by the UK, US and EU are ostensibly to “protect” the Syrian people. Of course sanctions never protect the people, they deprive the people of basic needs, they decimate essential infrastructure. They are designed to weaken the target state or leadership, to turn the people against the government, to serve US-led foreign policy agendas in the region. Sanctions enable war and destruction, they are taken to bring resistant nations into line with horrifying consequences for the civilian population.
Russia To Close All Borders Monday After Banning International Flights
Though official numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases out of Russia have remained comparatively low to other large countries, there's alarming signals coming out of the country of some 150 million people that authorities understand the true numbers to in reality be much higher.
Russia will “temporarily” initiate a complete shutdown of its borders staring Monday in order to curb the pandemic, impacting all automobile, railway, pedestrian and river checkpoints along all Russian border points.
The total border closure looks to be among the most comprehensive measures any country has yet taken to halt the spread of the virus, even as China has belatedly closed its borders to all foreign passport-holders this week. This after on Friday it was announced all international flights in and out of the country are grounded by a government decree.
"The authorities said they so far had recorded 1,264 confirmed cases, an increase of 228 in 24 hours, and ordered that all vehicle, rail and pedestrian checkpoints, as well as the country's maritime borders, be closed from Monday," the independent Moscow Times reports.
The only exemption to the drastic measure applies to diplomats and drivers of freight trucks, according to Russian media.
Meanwhile, according to US state-funded Radio Free Europe, "a consumer watchdog reported on March 28 that more than 166,000 citizens were under medical supervision for signs of chinavirus infection." Early in the crisis Russia closed all crossing points along its lengthy border with China, which health officials in the West attributed to the country's initial low numbers of Covid-19 infections.
This past week Russian President Putin declared next week a paid 'work holiday' as the entire country goes on lockdown. Most countries have thus far preferred to put in place quarantines on a city by city, region by region basis.
Should the drastic Russian action to shutter all borders produce good results, other countries with a growing outbreak crisis in their midst could follow suit.
NPR Station Is CENSORING Donald Trump as MSM Pushes Totalitarian Propaganda
A Seattle-based NPR station has stated that it will no longer be airing President Donald Trump’s coronavirus briefings because of “misinformation.” As we’ve learned over the past several years, misinformation is simply the information they don’t want you to hear.
So what is the “misinformation” Trump has been saying? Obviously things the mainstream media wants to avoid, like asking people to remain calm, look at the objective facts and statistics about the pandemic and stop playing into the fear-mongering of the mainstream media. Fear has boosted mainstream media’s ratings in the past few weeks, adding to their profits. Reopening the economy means people would be at work or at least out doing things instead of watching the panic-laced headlines scroll across the TV.
“KUOW is monitoring White House briefings for the latest news on the coronavirus — and we will continue to share all news relevant to Washington State with our listeners,” the station tweeted. “However, we will not be airing the briefings live due to a pattern of false or misleading information provided that cannot be fact-checked in real-time.”
Lawless: EPA Suspends Environmental Regulation Enforcement in US Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Citing the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has indefinitely suspended its own environmental regulations and will allow businesses to self-police amid the pandemic.
The EPA issued a news release Thursday unveiling its new temporary enforcement discretion policy which permits normally-regulated US facilities to ignore current environmental standards during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in the March 26 release.
"This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment."
Under the policy, relevant facilities will be required to document their decisions and provide details on how their noncompliance was related to the novel coronavirus. Due to its indefinite duration, the agency will announce the policy’s termination at least seven days in advance.
“This policy does not provide leniency for intentional criminal violations of law,” noted the agency. Despite being announced this week, the new policy will be retroactively applicable from March 13.
Cynthia Giles, an Obama administration-era head of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement, asserted to The Hill that the move was unusual because the agency did not reserve its “right to act in the event of an imminent threat to public health.”
“It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way 'caused' by the virus pandemic,” she explained to the outlet. “And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was.”
The EPA’s loosening of regulations comes just days after American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Michael J. Sommers issued a letter to US President Donald Trump and the environmental agency, requesting “temporary relief through nonessential compliance discretion.”
“I am writing to request that the Administration and states recognize that API’s members provide the necessary fuels that ensure products and services are delivered in a timely fashion around the country. Our supply chain is robust and complex,” Sommers argued in the letter, dated March 20.
The executive also highlighted that “the COVID-19 pandemic represents a significant and historic threat to our nation,” and the temporary lifting of regulations would allow the industry to better respond to the crisis.
Therapy & pharma vultures swoop down for easy profit as Covid-19 gets declared a ‘mental health crisis’
Transforming the Covid-19 pandemic into a mental health problem has created opportunities for a variety of therapeutic ‘experts’ and psychopharmaceutical companies to exploit anxiety and uncertainty.
The UK is a few days into a ‘lockdown’ on people leaving their houses to control the spread of Covid-19 along with many countries around the world. Boredom, uncertainty, working from home with children in tow and lack of social contact is likely to make many of us miserable. However, it has become difficult to ignore the way that the pandemic has been transformed into a mental health problem. A release from Harvard University described responses to Covid-19 in almost medical terms, listing likely ‘reactions’ such as “anxiety, worry or panic,” “anger” and “skepticism or bravado”.
Indeed, the mental health fallout of the pandemic has been construed as equally troubling as the virus itself. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have called coronavirus a “mental health crisis.” First lady of New York City Chirlane McCray and psychiatrist Kenneth Paul Rosenberg have said, “Just as we are moving rapidly to safeguard our physical health, we must act with equal urgency to preserve our mental health and make psychiatric care accessible.”
Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit: Statement on COVID-19
The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and vulnerabilities. The virus respects no borders. Combatting this pandemic calls for a transparent, robust, coordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity. We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat.
We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life and the suffering faced by people around the world. Tackling the pandemic and its intertwined health, social and economic impacts is our absolute priority. We express our gratitude and support to all frontline health workers as we continue to fight the pandemic.
The G20 is committed to do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank Group (WBG), United Nations (UN), and other international organizations, working within their existing mandates. We are determined to spare no effort, both individually and collectively, to:
Safeguard people’s jobs and incomes.
Restore confidence, preserve financial stability, revive growth and recover stronger.
Minimize disruptions to trade and global supply chains.
Provide help to all countries in need of assistance.
Coordinate on public health and financial measures.
Fighting the Pandemic
We commit to take all necessary health measures and seek to ensure adequate financing to contain the pandemic and protect people, especially the most vulnerable. We will share timely and transparent information; exchange epidemiological and clinical data; share materials necessary for research and development; and strengthen health systems globally, including through supporting the full implementation of the WHO International Health Regulations (IHR 2005). We will expand manufacturing capacity to meet the increasing needs for medical supplies and ensure these are made widely available, at an affordable price, on an equitable basis, where they are most needed and as quickly as possible. We stress the importance of responsible communication to the public during this global health crisis. We task our Health Ministers to meet as needed to share national best practices and develop a set of G20 urgent actions on jointly combatting the pandemic by their ministerial meeting in April.
We fully support and commit to further strengthen the WHO’s mandate in coordinating the international fight against the pandemic, including the protection of front-line health workers, delivery of medical supplies, especially diagnostic tools, treatments, medicines, and vaccines. We acknowledge the necessity of urgent short-term actions to step up the global efforts to fight the COVID-19 crisis. We will quickly work together and with stakeholders to close the financing gap in the WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. We further commit to provide immediate resources to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on a voluntary basis. We call upon all countries, international organizations, the private sector, philanthropies, and individuals to contribute to these efforts.
To safeguard the future, we commit to strengthen national, regional, and global capacities to respond to potential infectious disease outbreaks by substantially increasing our epidemic preparedness spending. This will enhance the protection of everyone, especially vulnerable groups that are disproportionately affected by infectious diseases. We further commit to work together to increase research and development funding for vaccines and medicines, leverage digital technologies, and strengthen scientific international cooperation. We will bolster our coordination, including with the private sector, towards rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of diagnostics, antiviral medicines, and vaccines, adhering to the objectives of efficacy, safety, equity, accessibility, and affordability.
We ask the WHO, in cooperation with relevant organizations, to assess gaps in pandemic preparedness and report to a joint meeting of Finance and Health Ministers in the coming months, with a view to establish a global initiative on pandemic preparedness and response. This initiative will capitalize on existing programs to align priorities in global preparedness and act as a universal, efficient, sustained funding and coordination platform to accelerate the development and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments.
BUSTED: Gov. Andrew Cuomo Stockpiled Thousands of Unused Ventilators
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged Friday the state did have a stockpile of unused ventilators, despite his complaints the federal government was not sending enough.
Cuomo responded to a comment from President Donald Trump on Twitter that there were thousands of ventilators in New York not being used.
“Yes, they’re in a stockpile because that’s where they are supposed to be, because we don’t need them yet,” Cuomo said. “We need them for the apex, the apex isn’t here, so we’re gathering them in a stockpile.”
Cuomo’s comments demonstrate there is not an immediate shortage in ventilators in the city, despite alarming reports.
“We don’t need them today, because we’re not at capacity today, that’s why they’re not deployed because they’re not needed,” Cuomo said.
The governor has repeatedly complained that the federal government is not sending enough ventilators to New York
Trump bucks business on Defense Production Act
President Trump on Friday bucked the U.S. business community by using the Defense Production Act (DPA) to order General Motors to ramp up production of life-saving ventilators.
Trump’s move, which came after the business community lobbied against the use of the emergency powers, forces GM to prioritize ventilators after a deal with the White House faltered.
“Our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course,” Trump said in a statement. “GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”
Trump also said the country “will be making over 100,000 pretty quickly.” States have warned of a dangerous shortage of the breathing machines.
Trump also tapped White House aide Peter Navarro to coordinate policies enacted under the Korean War-era law that gives the president broad authority to increase the manufacturing output of critical items in times of national emergency, including public health crises.
“My order establishes that Peter will serve as national Defense Production Act policy coordinator for the federal government,” Trump said Friday during a White House briefing. “That's a very important position. More important probably than it's almost ever been in our country.”
The president has been under pressure from former Vice President Joe Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others to use the DPA, but had repeatedly said he saw it more as a means of putting leverage on companies.
But the moves Friday suggest he is now leaning into the use of the act.
Biden and others have called on the administration to use it to force the production of surgical masks and other protective equipment for health workers.
Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for weeks had been pressing the administration to not use the act, arguing that government intervention was unnecessary because private industry would meet the pandemic’s increased demand.
The Chamber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
GM, after Trump’s move, said that its joint effort to produce ventilators amid reports of widespread shortages had “never wavered.”
“Ventec, GM and our supply base have been working around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need,” a GM official told The Hill after Trump’s announcement. “The entire GM team is proud to support this initiative.”
Trump’s actions with GM created a bit of whiplash.
Coronavirus cases are growing faster in red states, new data reveals, with Texas recording a whopping 236% increase of cases in just FOUR DAYS
Taliban Reject Afghan Government’s Negotiation Team, Say List Contradicts Deal With US
The Taliban* have rejected the Afghan government’s negotiation team, claiming that the list of negotiators goes sideways with the previous agreement between the Taliban and the United States, the movement’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement on Saturday.
"But as the team is announced by the Kabul administration it thus violates our principled policy and the agreement concluded with America", Mujahid said.
According to the Taliban’s spokesman, the team should represent all sides accordingly in order to achieve peace in Afghanistan and eliminate all obstacles for intra-Afghan talks. Moreover, Mujahid reaffirmed the Taliban’s willingness to participate in the talks "with all influential Afghan sides in line with the agreement".
Clashes occurred between the Afghan National Police and the Taliban terrorist group overnight Saturday in the Spin Buldak district of the southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan.
A security source said the clashes took place in the Sargo area of Spin Buldak, leaving six Taliban killed and seven others injured.
According to a civilian source, four policemen were also injured in the clash.