Just an aside. If you’ll watch yesterday’s Whitehouse briefing, you’ll notice that the modeling graphics used by both Drs. Fauci & Brix only used historical data from Italy. None – not any – from China.

I wonder if it’s finally dawning on people that trusting anything Chinese Communist goes past uncritical, straight to stupidly gullible.

As for America’s lame stream media, just consider them nothing more than propaganda organs for their political masters.

Birx: Initial Western COVID-19 response handicapped by “missing a significant amount of the data” from China.

Perhaps the most important moment of Donald Trump’s daily coronavirus crisis briefing yesterday came not from Trump but from Dr. Deborah Birx. As in other briefings, reporters asked why the administration initially downplayed the potential severity of COVID-19. Birx made it very clear, albeit in a diplomatic fashion, that the official reports from China about the numbers and the spread in Wuhan and Hubei painted a picture of a very different disease.

“I think the medical community made — interpreted the Chinese data as this was serious, but smaller than anyone expected,” Birx explained, “because probably we were missing a significant amount of the data” from China

What data were we missing? The much-larger numbers on COVID-19 spread, for one. China insisted as late as mid-January (if not later) that they were not seeing any signs of “asymptomatic spread,” meaning that casual contact would not propagate the disease. This turned out to be spectacularly wrong, and China knew it. In fact, they were suppressing doctors who tried to warn the outside world of the wildfire spread of this coronavirus, and their initial success in tamping that information down led other countries — including the US — to assume this was a SARS variant with low risk for pandemic, as Birx explains.

When did China finally start being honest about asymptomatic spread? Today, and only maybe:

A top Chinese health official said Wednesday that the government will begin counting coronavirus patients without symptoms in its official tally of cases of the virus, in what is a tacit acknowledgement that Beijing has underreported data on the pandemic.

China’s National Health Commission disclosed that the government is monitoring 1,541 people who have tested positive for coronavirus but have no symptoms.

Chang Jile, the head of the health agency, said at a press conference in Wuhan that the government will start reporting asymptomatic patient numbers Wednesday.

“From April 1, we will publish reports, outcomes and management of asymptomatic people in daily epidemic notifications, and respond to social concerns in a timely manner,” Jile said, according to CCTV.

Jile’s statement is the first time that the government has officially acknowledged that it has undercounted patients.

Yes, you read that correctly. Three months or more after China knew asymptomatic carriers were a problem, and at least a month since other countries learned that the hard way, Beijing now says they’ll start providing that data. It’s a little too late for that to do any good in terms of public policy, even if they start reporting that data honestly, which is far from certain even now. Had we known that data when China knew it and suppressed it, we might have been able to arrest the spread early and save thousands of lives, if not hundreds of thousands of lives.

And yet, as my friend Jeryl Bier points out at The Dispatch, the American media keep treating China’s data as both reliable and remarkable:

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rises quickly in the United States and in many other countries around the world, the official number of new cases in China, the source of the pandemic, has fallen dramatically. Given the record of secrecy, duplicity, and coverup by the Communist government of China, there is little cause to take those official figures at anything close to face value. Nevertheless, Western media organizations, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations have taken to referring to China’s numbers as “confirmed cases” comparable to cases in other countries with more open societies and transparent governments, giving the impression that China has largely conquered the virus. …

Various media organizations have similarly relied on China’s numbers for some pretty dramatic headlines. On March 18, the New York Times declared: “China Hits a Coronavirus Milestone: No New Local Infections.” While the article notes in passing that Chinese “officials initially concealed and mismanaged the outbreak,” it goes on to flatly assert that “Beijing’s sledgehammer approach … worked to quickly lower the number of infections[.]” Axios headlined a similar report “No new coronavirus cases in Wuhan, China, where global pandemic began,” while NPR went with ”China Reports No New Domestic Cases, But Battles Coronavirus Imported From Abroad.”

Eight days later, the Times, again based on China’s “confirmed” numbers, told the world that, “The U.S. Now Leads the World in Confirmed Coronavirus Cases.” While the article says that “The Times is engaged in a comprehensive effort to track the details of every confirmed case in the United States, collecting information from federal, state and local officials,” apparently the Times applied considerably less rigor to acquire information on China.

On Monday, however, came news that China’s numbers have indeed been incomplete. The Wall Street Journal reported that “China said more than 1,500 people who were infected with the virus but haven’t shown symptoms weren’t included in its national tally of confirmed cases.”

That report finally prompted China’s rethink on reporting asymptomatic cases. Their track record right up to today should have everyone highly skeptical that they will suddenly discover honesty and transparency.

They may be coming to realize that Trump was right all along.

The Coronavirus Is Becoming A Public Relations Disaster For China.

It was only a matter of time before the coronavirus pandemic started to show a rupture in Western relations with China. Today, the market got some of the first hints of a rising probability of “decoupling”.

Evidence came today in the form of two BBC reports, one of the U.K. government of Boris Johnson (who has COVID-19 now) saying there would be ramifications for China failing to share how they stopped the virus from spreading. One such punishment was getting rid of Huawei in their 5G program.

Over the weekend, the Daily Mail reported that the Johnson team doubted China’s SARS-CoV-2 infection count, which totals around 81,000, saying they were probably off by a factor of 40.

The wide spreading disease throughout Europe is turning people off to China in leadership positions who, only a few months ago, were fine with Beijing and thought the U.S. trade war with China was just Trump being Trump………

The Chinese gubbermint might be lying? For shame.

Report: Thousands Of Urns Shipped To Wuhan, Where The Virus Is Supposedly Under Control.

If you can’t trust a totalitarian government waging a ruthless propaganda war to tell the truth about the extent of the epidemic within its borders, who can you trust?

Add this to the growing pile of circumstantial evidence that China’s coronavirus problem isn’t as well in hand as they’d like the world to believe. They kicked out American reporters shortly before announcing that cases in Wuhan had dropped to zero, presumably to choke off the flow of accurate information about the true state of the spread. On the day that number was announced, reports to the contrary were already trickling out on social media:

On the very days when the national health authority was announcing that there were no new local infections, social media accounts in China were circulating photographs of “urgent notices” put up in residential areas announcing new cases and warning people to stay home.

EBC News, a Taiwan cable news network, broadcast two such photographs dated March 20, which is two days after China reported there were no new local Wuhan infections. One of the notices, after announcing the new cases, read: “Do not go out, or gather, wash your hands, be careful, hold on, hold on, and hold on some more.”

EBC also broadcast video of a hospital in Wuhan that it says was taken on March 19 and provided by a local Wuhan journalist. The video shows a reception area crowded with people, some of them on gurneys with IV drips, and health care workers in full protective gear, white suits, face masks and goggles.

Yesterday the Hollywood Reporter noted that more than 600 theaters across China were suddenly told to close after having recently reopened. Yesterday also brought news that some patients in Wuhan who had recovered from the disease and then tested negative later tested positive. Had they been re-infected by a different strain of COVID-19 or is China playing games with the numbers? NPR pointed out that Beijing doesn’t include those people in its official case count as “new” cases. Nor does it include asymptomatic carriers who test positive, potentially an enormous group. “Caixin, an independent Chinese news outlet, reported earlier this week that Wuhan hospitals were continuing to see new cases of asymptomatic virus carriers, citing a health official who said he had seen up to a dozen such cases a day,” per NPR.

Have asymptomatic carriers seeded a second outbreak that the government is scrambling to hide? Bear in mind, according to officials in Europe, some Chinese diagnostic tests are garbage. Even if Beijing wanted to be forthcoming about the extent of the epidemic, their own tests may have left them partially blind as to who’s sick and who isn’t.

Lotta urns flowing into Wuhan right now, says Shanghaiist:

One photo published by Caixin shows a truck loaded with 2,500 urns arriving at the Hankou Mortuary. The driver said that he had delivered the same amount to the mortuary the day before.

Another photo shows stacks of urns inside the mortuary. There were seven stacks with 500 urns in each stack, adding up to 3,500 urns.

Taken together with the new shipment, the number of urns on hand at the mortuary looks to be more than double Wuhan’s death toll…

Wuhan has seven other mortuaries. If they are all sticking to the same schedule, this adds up to more than 40,000 urns being distributed in the city over the next 10 days.

There are photos at the link. Reportedly people had to wait in line for hours to receive one, so great was the number. There are innocent possibilities for the shipment: Maybe Chinese cities are supplied with enough urns to last several months, encompassing all causes of death, even in normal times. There are also less innocent possibilities, of course. Were so many urns needed because the actual death toll in Wuhan in the first wave was much higher than the regime let on?

Or are so many urns needed because they’re afraid of how high the death toll might be in the second wave?

An interesting number from Bloomberg:

There were 56,007 cremations in Wuhan in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data from the city’s civil affairs agency. The number of cremations was 1,583 higher than those in the fourth quarter of 2018 and 2,231 higher than the fourth quarter of 2017.

The official death toll in Wuhan from COVID-19 is 2,535. China didn’t lock down the area until late January of this year. If the height of the epidemic there didn’t come until 2020, how do we explain that unusual bump in deaths in the fourth quarter of last year — a number that would amount to more than half of the total number of deaths there from coronavirus to date?

Read this piece to see why China is so invested in its “zero” campaign. The numbers in Wuhan are a double-barreled propaganda opportunity to win a great-power competition with the U.S. Eradicating the disease domestically will be used first as proof that China’s authoritarian model is superior to the west’s in rising to great challenges and second as evidence that the virus’s spread abroad isn’t China’s fault, notwithstanding the early cover-up in Wuhan that allowed the disease to spread. If America is brought to its knees by an epidemic, well, maybe that has less to do with the severity of the illness than the weakness of America’s response. That’s the Chinese message, and why they can’t afford the world to know about a resurgence in Wuhan.

Globalization is the first casualty

“The suddenness with which this has happened is also stunning. The globalists who excoriated Trump as a racist xenophobe might have to face the fact that events have been proving him right: we do need to make America great again. It’s not academic, it’s not just a campaign slogan. It’s a reality staring us in the face.”

The Wuhan Virus and the Imperative of Hard Decoupling

It won’t be easy or painless, but the role China has played in exacerbating the fallout from the coronavirus crisis ought to force Americans to fundamentally reconsider the relationship.

All the yammering about calling this bug the Chinese Virus, Wuhan Flu & Kung Flu are nothing but ‘we’re against anything Trump’ yammering of those who still haven’t come to terms with the fact that Hillary lost.

This virus should be forever linked to the regime that facilitated its spread

Want to know why the U.S. economy is in free fall? Why restaurants and bars are closing, putting millions out of work, and why the airline industry is facing possible bankruptcy? Why schools across the nation are shutting down, leaving students to fall behind and parents without safe places to send their children everyday? Why the stock market is plummeting, wiping out the retirement and college savings of millions of Americans? Why the elderly are isolated in nursing homes and tens of millions who don’t have the option of teleworking have no idea how they will pay their bills?

Answer: Because China is a brutal totalitarian dictatorship.

More coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

We are in the midst of a pandemic lockdown today because the Chinese Communist regime cared more about suppressing information than suppressing a virus. Doctors in Wuhan knew in December that the coronavirus was capable of human-to-human transmission because medical workers were getting sick. But as late as Jan. 15, the head of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention declared on state television that “the risk of human-to-human transmission is low.” On Jan. 18, weeks after President Xi Jinping had taken charge of the response, authorities allowed a Lunar New Year banquet to go forward in Wuhan where tens of thousands of families shared food — and then let millions travel out of Wuhan, allowing the disease to spread across the world. It was not until Jan. 23 that the Chinese government enacted a quarantine in Wuhan.

If the regime had taken action as soon as human-to-human transmission was detected, it might have contained the virus and prevented a global pandemic. Instead, Chinese officials punished doctors for trying to warn the public and suppressed information that might have saved lives. According to the Times of London, Chinese doctors who had identified the pathogen in early December received a gag order from China’s National Health Commission with instructions to stop tests, destroy samples and suppress the news.

This is what totalitarian regimes do. First, they lie to themselves, and then, they lie to the world. The system creates such fear that people are terrified to report bad news up the chain, causing “authoritarian blindness.” Then, when those at the top finally discover the truth, they try to cover it up — because leaders who abuse their people are less concerned with saving lives than making sure the world does not discover the deadly inefficiency of their system.

The ongoing pandemic should serve as a reminder of the lesson that President George W. Bush tried to teach us after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks: What happens thousands of miles away in a foreign land can affect us here at home. Both viruses and virulent ideologies fester in the fever swamps of totalitarianism and then emerge to kill us in our cities and our streets. Two decades ago, it was a terrorist attack; today, it is a once-in-a-generation pathogen. But in both cases, the lack of freedom in a distant land created conditions that allowed an unprecedented threat to grow, bringing death and destruction to our country.

What Bush called the “freedom agenda” is out of vogue today. But we can now see that caring about freedom is putting America first, because how China treats its people affects the health and security of the American people. The same totalitarian system that lied about putting 1 million Uighurs in concentration camps lied about the outbreak of this virus, creating a global pandemic. If China were an open and transparent society, with an accountable government, Americans might not be on lockdown today.

The Opinions section is looking for stories of how the coronavirus has affected people of all walks of life. Write to us.

What can we do about it? We obviously can’t turn China into a democracy. But we can hold China accountable for its behavior and put a price on its lies and oppression. We can reaffirm that the advance of freedom, transparency and rule of law are central objectives of U.S. foreign policy, because the lives and safety of our citizens depend on it. And we can lay the blame for this crisis where it belongs: at the feet of the Chinese Communist Party. Once the crisis has passed, President Trump should calculate the damage and demand that Beijing pay for the death and destruction it unleashed on the United States and the world.

Some have suggested that calling this pathogen the “Wuhan virus” — or as President Trump recently called it, the “Chinese virus” — is racist. That is absurd. MERS is called the “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome” because that is where it originated. Moreover, the Chinese regime continues to lie, spreading a conspiracy theory that the source of the virus is really the U.S. Army.

It is important this virus be forever linked to the brutal regime that facilitated its spread. The virus grew in the cesspool of Chinese Communist tyranny. It’s time to drain the swamp.

Top Iranian general Shabani dies of Covid-19.


NKARA: Brigadier General Nasser Shabani, a commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, died from the Covid-19 coronavirus on Friday, Iran’s semi-official Fars news Agency reported.

Anadolu Agency quoted Fars as saying that Shabani began his career in 1982 during the Iran-Iraq War.

The commander is one of many leading Iranian political, religious and military figures who have been infected with or died from Covid-19.

China is In Denial About Coronavirus—Here’s What You Should Know.

Before MSNBC personalities were calling it “racist” and “astoundingly gross” to note the origin of the new coronavirus, NBC News reported in January on what it called the “Wuhan coronavirus.”

In recent days, the Chinese government has sought to cast doubt on whether the virus in fact originated in the city of Wuhan after initially acknowledging that the disease emerged from Wuhan, known as “South China Seafood City.” ………..

1. What Chinese Officials Have Said in Denial

“Some in the media say this coronavirus is a China virus. This is extremely irresponsible and we firmly oppose that,” Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said March 4. “We are still tracing the origin of the virus and there is no conclusion yet.”

More than just dodging responsibility, the Chinese government reportedly has pushed propaganda that the United States started the virus.

The Washington Post reported last week that China’s communist government was promoting conspiracy theories online about U.S. involvement.

“In recent days, run-of-the-mill mockery of the White House has taken a darker turn as the Chinese internet became inundated by the theory, subtly stoked by the Chinese government, that the coronavirus originated in the United States,” the newspaper said. “The U.S. government, one version of the theory goes, has been covering up mounting cases, and perhaps thousands of deaths, by classifying them as regular flu.”

There have been false internet rumors in the United States about China as well, but there is a clear difference, said Dean Cheng, senior research fellow for Asian studies at The Heritage Foundation.

“The problem here is that this seems to be echoes of Soviet information warfare,” Cheng told The Daily Signal. “America has a free press, from CNN to Alex Jones, The New York Times, and the National Enquirer. China’s press is state run. So these rumors are not random charges.”

The goal of the Chinese government is to define the virus as being as distant from government leaders and the Communist Party as possible, Cheng said.

Three U.S. troops wounded in renewed rocket attacks on Iraq’s Taji base

I guess Hezbollah needs the lesson repeated.

BAGHDAD/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three American troops and several Iraqi forces were wounded on Saturday in the second major rocket attack in the past week on an Iraqi base north of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi officials said, raising the stakes in an escalating cycle of attacks and reprisals.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said 33 Katyusha rockets were launched near a section of the Taji base which houses U.S.-led coalition troops. It said the military found seven rocket launchers and 24 unused rockets in the nearby Abu Izam area.

The Iraqi military said several Iraqi air defense servicemen were critically wounded. Two of the three wounded U.S. troops are seriously injured and are being treated at a military hospital in Baghdad, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman declined to speculate on potential U.S. responses but, in a statement, cited Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s warning last week: “You cannot attack and wound American Service Members and get away with it, we will hold them to account.”

The rocket attacks came less than two days after the United States launched retaliatory air strikes at facilities in Iraq that the Pentagon linked to the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia, which it blamed for Wednesday’s attack on Taji…..

US conducts airstrikes in Iraq in retaliation for attack that killed 2 Americans

Never underestimate the ability of the U.S. military to pick the time, place and target of their own choosing when they go for ‘payback’.

The U.S. military conducted airstrikes in Iraq on Thursday in retaliation for a recent rocket attack that killed two American service members and one British service member and wounded 14 others, according to two U.S. officials, one of whom characterized the strikes as defensive in nature.

It was unclear what targets were being struck by U.S. military aircraft, but earlier in the day, senior Pentagon officials had blamed Iranian-backed Shia militia groups for Wednesday’s attack on Camp Taji in Iraq.

“Yesterday’s attack by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups consisted of multiple indirect fires that originated form a stationary platform and was clearly targeting coalition and partner forces on Camp Taji,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Thursday. “But let me be clear, the United States will not tolerate attacks against our people our interests or our allies.”

Esper continued, “All options are on the table as we work with our partners to bring the perpetrators to justice and maintain deterrence.”

Islamic Scholar Who Said Coronavirus Was “Allah’s Punishment” Gets Coronavirus

And in the Silver Cloud Lining category.

An Islamic scholar who said the coronavirus was “Allah’s punishment” for China’s treatment of Muslims now has coronavirus.

How ironic.

Back in February, Hadi Al-Modarresi, who is based in Iran, said that the coronavirus outbreak was “undoubtedly an act of Allah that is divine punishment against the Chinese for their treatment, mockery, and disrespect towards Muslims and Islam,” reported MEMRI-TV.

“It is obvious that the spread of this virus is an act of Allah. How do we know this? The spread of the coronavirus began in China, an ancient and vast country, the population of which makes up one seventh of humanity,” said Al-Modarresi.

“More than a billion people live in that country. The authorities in that country are tyrannical and they laid siege to more than a million Muslims and placed them under house arrest. The journalists in that country began to mock the niqab of Muslim women and they forced Muslim men to eat pork and drink wine. Allah sent a disease upon them and this disease laid siege to 40 million [Chinese people]. The same niqab that they mocked has been forced upon them, both men and women, by Allah, by means of the state authorities and officials,” he added.

It is now being reported that Al-Modarresi has contracted coronavirus, meaning that Allah must obviously be punishing him for wrongdoing.

Coronavirus: South Korea’s infection rate falls without citywide lockdowns like China, Italy

South Korea has seen a steady decrease in new coronavirus cases for four consecutive days, despite being one of the worst-affected countries outside China, although global attention has shifted towards outbreaks in Italy and Iran.

As of end-Monday, it had 7,513 cases and 54 deaths. The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said there was an increase of 131 cases from Sunday to Monday.
The country averaged more than 500 new infections a day for the past two weeks, but last Friday, this number dipped to 438, then 367 on Saturday and 248 on Sunday. The daily number of confirmed cases is reported the following day.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in  on Monday noted his country’s “slowing trend” of new infections but warned: “We should not be complacent at all.”

His point was underscored by the KCDC, which said that among the new patients were more than 60 people who were infected while working in close proximity to each other at an insurance company call centre.

“The total number of new confirmed cases is on a downturn but there are concerns over such mass infection cases”, said KCDC Deputy Director Kwon Jun-wook.

US begins withdrawing troops from Afghanistan

We’ve been in Afghanistan since late 2001.

The United States began withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Tuesday, taking a step forward on its peace deal with the Taliban while also praising Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s promise to start releasing Taliban prisoners after he had delayed for over a week.

The U.S.-Taliban deal signed on Feb. 29 was touted as Washington’s effort to end 18 years of war in Afghanistan. The next crucial step was to be intra-Afghan talks in which all factions including the Taliban would negotiate a road map for their country’s future.

But Ghani and his main political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, were each sworn in as president in separate ceremonies on Monday. Abdallah and the elections complaints commission had charged fraud in last year’s vote. The dueling inaugurations have thrown plans for talks with the Taliban into chaos, although Ghani said Tuesday that he’d start putting together a negotiating team.

The disarray on the Afghan government side is indicative of the uphill task facing Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as he tries to get Afghanistan’s bickering leadership to come together. In an early Tuesday tweet, Khalilzad said he hoped the two leaders can “come to an agreement on an inclusive and broadly accepted government. We will continue to assist.”

How China’s coronavirus crisis exposes the Achilles’ heel of Communist Party power.

But the demoncraps here yammer for ‘Moar Gubbermint!’ Moar Socialism!’

It may seem preposterous to suggest that the outbreak of the new coronavirus, has imperiled the rule of the Communist Party of China, especially at a time when the government’s aggressive containment efforts seem to be working. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the political implications of China’s biggest public health crisis in recent history.

According to a New York Times analysis, at least 760 million Chinese, or more than half the country’s population, are under varying degrees of residential lockdown. This has had serious individual and aggregate consequences, from a young boy remaining home alone for days after witnessing his grandfather’s death to a significant economic slowdown.

But it seems to have contributed to a dramatic fall in new infections
outside Wuhan, where the outbreak began, to low single digits.

Even as China’s leaders tout their progress in containing the virus, they are showing signs of stress. Like elites in other autocracies, they feel the most politically vulnerable during crises.

They know that, when popular fear and frustration is elevated, even minor missteps could cost them dearly and lead to severe challenges to their power.

With China’s censorship apparatus temporarily weakened – probably because censors had not received clear instructions on how to handle such stories – even official newspapers printed the news of Li’s death on their front pages. And business leaders, a typically apolitical group, have denounced the conduct of the Wuhan authorities and demanded accountability……

In the post-Mao era, the Chinese people and the Communist Party have adhered to an implicit social contract: the people tolerate the party’s political monopoly, as long as the party delivers sufficient economic progress and adequate governance.

The party’s poor handling of the Covid-19 outbreak threatens this tacit pact. In this sense, China’s one-party regime may well be in a more precarious position than it realises.

Italy shutters all schools, universities as COVID-19 death toll reaches 107.

March 4 (UPI) — Italian education officials closed all schools and universities Wednesday in reaction to a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 107 people in the country.

Education Minister Lucia Azzolina made the announcement with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during a news conference at Palazzo Chigi, Conte’s residence in Rome…………

Italy’s Civil Protection Agency said that in addition to the deaths, there were 2,706 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease in the country as of Wednesday. Most were centered in the Lombardy region, with smaller clusters in Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Piedmont, the Marche, Campania, Liguria, Tuscany, Lazio, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Sicily, Puglia, Abruzzo, Trento, Molise, Umbria, Bolzano, Calabria, Sardinia and Basilicata.

Some 276 people have recovered from the disease.

Iran’s coronavirus response: Pride, paranoia, secrecy, chaos

Nearly three dozen Iranian government officials and members of parliament are infected, and a senior adviser to the supreme leader has died.

The Health Ministry has proposed sending 300,000 militia members door to door on a desperate mission to sanitize homes. The top prosecutor has warned that anyone hoarding face masks and other public health equipment risks the death penalty.

Iran’s leaders confidently predicted just two weeks ago that the coronavirus contagion ravaging China would not be a problem in their country. They even bragged of exporting face masks to their Chinese trading partners.

Now Iran is battered by coronavirus infections that have killed 77 people, among the most outside of China, officials said Tuesday. But instead of receiving government help, overwhelmed doctors and nurses say they have been warned by security forces to keep quiet. And some officials say Tehran’s hierarchy is understating the true extent of the outbreak — probably, experts contend, because it will be viewed as a failure that enemies will exploit.

As the world wrestles with the spread of the coronavirus, the epidemic in Iran is a lesson in what happens when a secretive state with limited resources tries to play down an outbreak and then finds it very difficult to contain.

Iran Supreme Leader’s top adviser dies from coronavirus: VP and health minister infected

They can be as suspicious as they want. I think the offer of aid was genuine and their refusal makes the bug even more their own problem to deal with.

A top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has died from the coronavirus pandemic amid a sweeping outbreak that has already infected Iran’s vice president and deputy health minister.

This weekend, Iran confirmed the death of Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a senior adviser to the Ayatollah. The news comes amid reports that Iran is trying to cover up the pervasive extent of the coronavirus epidemic in the nation.

The Iranian Health Ministry recorded 523 new cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours — bringing the total number of people infected in Iran to 1,501, Fox News reported.

The virus has killed at least 66 people in Iran so far. That’s the highest death toll from the coronavirus outside of China. Most of the 1,150 cases of coronavirus observed in the Middle East reportedly originated from Iran.

Last week, Iran rejected U.S. offers of help to contain the virus after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed concern that Iran is trying to hide the mass outbreak in the nation.

In a statement, a spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Iran is “suspicious” of America’s offer of aid. He also accused the United States of trying to weaken Iran’s morale. The rep said: “We neither count on such help nor are we ready to accept verbal help.”

Stunning NASA images show drop in pollution over China amid coronavirus outbreak

I made the point earlier that the economic effects of this bug will probably over shadow the medical. Of course, cleaner air doesn’t hurt.

NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites have detected significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over China.

Coronavirus is clearing the air in China.

Stunning aerial images of Earth show a drastic decrease in pollution levels over northern China in the past month, as entire towns the size of New York City have been shut down amid the deadly outbreak.

The images, produced by NASA and the European Space Agency, compare air quality between Jan. 1 and Jan. 20 with pollution levels between Feb. 10 and 25 — and the difference in nitrogen dioxide concentration is stunning.

In a typical February, NO2 levels surge after Chinese New Year celebrations, as factories reopen and more vehicles take to the roads following the annual holiday.

This year was an exception, as the coronavirus emerged in mid-January, just as celebrations were getting underway.

“This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” said NASA researcher Fei Liu, adding there was a similar change in air quality following the 2008 recession.

Coronavirus: Italian Virus Deaths Rise to 29, Number of Confirmed Cases Goes Above 1,000

Schools and universities will stay closed for a second consecutive week in three northern Italian regions in an effort to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus, dashing any hopes of a swift return to normality.

The decision was taken as the death toll from the contagion rose by eight during the day to 29, while the total number of cases jumped by 240 to 1,128 — the vast majority in the wealthy regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna.

Iranian Coronavirus Cases Jump as More Officials Infected

Iran’s coronavirus cases continue to spike, with more cases confirmed among government officials days before a high-ranking delegation is poised to attend a critical OPEC meeting in Austria.

There were 205 new coronavirus cases in the country, bringing the total count to 593 with 43 fatalities, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpour said. That’s the highest number of deaths from the virus outside of China.

The number of lawmakers infected rose to six on Saturday, after Masoumeh Aghapour said she had tested positive for the virus, the semi-official Tasnim news reported. So far 100 MPs have been tested and a growing number of current and former officials are being diagnosed. Previously, one of Iran’s vice presidents, Masoumeh Ebtekar, and deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi were confirmed to have the virus. Tasnim news agency reported that a lawmaker died of the flu, but said he had not contracted the coronavirus.

China’s factory activity plunges to all-time low, worse than global financial crisis, February data show.

So, it appears there’s better intelligence on China’s economy, than on their epidemic?

  • China’s official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dropped to 35.7 in February from 50.0 in January, below the 38.8 figure reported in November 2008
  • The non-manufacturing PMI – a gauge of sentiment in the services and construction sectors – also dropped to 29.6 from 54.1 in January, the lowest since November 2011

The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dropped to 35.7, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Saturday, having slipped to 50.0 in January when the impact of the coronavirus was not yet visible.

Chinese manufacturing activity plunged to an all-time low in February, with the first official data published amid the coronavirus outbreak confirming fears over the impact on the Chinese economy.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected the February reading to come in at 45.0. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction in sector activity. The farther the figure is below 50, the greater the contraction in activity.

China’s official manufacturing PMI dropped to 38.8 in November 2008 at the start of the global financial crisis.

The economy experienced huge negative growth in February, the trough has been reached, the duration of the impact should be monitored in the next step
Ren Zeping chief economist at Evergrande Research Institute, said on Weibo.

China’s non-manufacturing PMI – a gauge of sentiment in the services and construction sectors – also dropped, to 29.6 from 54.1 in January. This was also the lowest on record, below the previous low of 49.7 in November 2011, according to the NBS. Analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected the February reading to come in at 50.5.
Within the official manufacturing PMI, China’s export order sub-index dropped to 28.7 from 48.7 in January, while imports fell to 31.9 from 49.0. The sub-index for manufacturing production nosedived to 27.8 in February from January’s 51.3, while the reading for new orders plunged to 29.3, down from 51.4 a month earlier.
The employment index, meanwhile, dropped to 31.8, a decrease of 15.7 points from the previous month, indicating that the employment level within manufacturing enterprises had decreased.

US Signs Peace Deal With Taliban, Will Withdraw All Troops If Taliban Keeps Commitments


The United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban Saturday that would end America’s longest war, if the group keeps its commitments.

Under the deal, the U.S. would reduce deployment numbers in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 over the next several months. The U.S. will withdraw completely within 14 months if the Taliban holds to the deal’s commitments of controlling terrorism.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo personally oversaw the signing of the deal in Doha, Qatar, where U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad signed the deal with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

“This country is not in the best shape after 40 years; they’ve been suffering from conflict. If we ripped everybody out overnight it would, almost in a certain sense, threaten everything we’ve done,” one senior Trump administration official familiar with the deal said.

The officials emphasized to reporters on background that the troop withdrawals will happen “if and only if” the Taliban hold up their end of the deal.

Indeed, the signing only took place after the Taliban proved willing and capable of minimizing violence under the reduction in violence agreement signed earlier in February.

Among the officials’ top priorities was ensuring that a U.S. withdrawal didn’t result in a power vacuum, as it had under the Obama administration, leading to the rise of ISIS.

“If this all blows up that’s unfortunate, but fine, we’ll just start killing them again,” one official said…….