Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
The number of monkeypox cases in Los Angeles County doubled over the past week, after Los Angeles Unified School District opened with virtually no mitigation measures in place. A total of 7,885 COVID-19 cases were also registered in Los Angeles on August 22.
On the first day of the school year, 50,000 LAUSD students failed to attend classes. While there are number of factors driving high rates of absenteeism, a majority of parents and students are doubtless concerned about walking onto school sites which— for all intents and purposes— have been converted into human petri dishes.
As of Tuesday, LA County recorded 3,200 COVID cases a day. While this number represents a 7 percent decline over the previous week, experts are expected a sharp increase in cases during the fall and winter seasons.
Moreover, monkeypox is rapidly spreading among US children, with cases now reported in North Carolina, New York, Georgia, Oregon, California and other states. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health organizations have been desperate to claim that monkeypox is a disease affecting gay men only, in actuality, the disease affects individuals of all ages and sexual orientations and will have a particularly devastating effect on students at school sites.
In response to these devastating developments, the district, city and county governments in Los Angeles have been running a public relations campaign to suppress the danger of both monkeypox and COVID-19. Each day since their virtual Town Hall meeting on August 11, the LACDPH (Los Angeles County Department of Health) has argued that COVID-19 numbers have been steadily declining, in an effort to prop up the policy of 'living with the virus' established by the Biden administration and the CDC.
On the day of their Town Hall almost two weeks ago, LA County officially reported 15 deaths from COVID-19. The number of deaths for August 23, 2022 was 14. According to figures from the New York Times, the number of deaths for Monday was actually 24. For the same day in 2021, the number of deaths was 19.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been 3,386,161 reported cases of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, a number which is almost certainly a vast undercount, and a total of 33,041 deaths. All of these deaths would have been entirely preventable had there been a rational policy in place to eliminate and eradicate the disease rather than the decided approach of allowing the virus to spread unchecked, prioritizing profits over lives.
Monkeypox has been around for over 50 years and while there is still much to be learned about the virus, much is also known, including that it spreads through direct contact with infected rashes, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox, touching objects, fabrics and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox and contact with respiratory secretions.
The Biden Plan to Combat Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Prepare for Future Global Health Threats
THE BIDEN PLAN TO COMBAT CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) AND PREPARE FOR FUTURE GLOBAL HEALTH THREATS
For more information on Joe’s leadership during the Coronavirus pandemic, please visit here.
For more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the coronavirus, please visit here.
The American people deserve an urgent, robust, and professional response to the growing public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. That is why Joe Biden is outlining a plan to mount:
- A decisive public health response that ensures the wide availability of free testing; the elimination of all cost barriers to preventive care and treatment for COVID-19; the development of a vaccine; and the full deployment and operation of necessary supplies, personnel, and facilities.
- A decisive economic response that starts with emergency paid leave for all those affected by the outbreak and gives all necessary help to workers, families, and small businesses that are hit hard by this crisis. Make no mistake: this will require an immediate set of ambitious and progressive economic measures, and further decisive action to address the larger macro-economic shock from this outbreak.
Biden believes we must spend whatever it takes, without delay, to meet public health needs and deal with the mounting economic consequences. The federal government must act swiftly and aggressively to help protect and support our families, small businesses, first responders and caregivers essential to help us face this challenge, those who are most vulnerable to health and economic impacts, and our broader communities – not to blame others or bail out corporations.
Public health emergencies require disciplined, trustworthy leadership grounded in science. In a moment of crisis, leadership requires listening to experts and communicating credible information to the American public. We must move boldly, smartly, and swiftly. Biden knows how to mount an effective crisis response and elevate the voices of scientists, public health experts, and first responders. He helped lead the Obama-Biden Administration’s effective response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and the 2014 Ebola epidemic. Biden also helped lead the response to the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and ran point on implementation of the Recovery Act. He knows how to get relief out the door to families, as well as resources to state and local officials to deal with the challenges they are facing.
And, even as we respond to this crisis, we must prepare for the next one. As President, Biden will establish and manage a permanent, professional, sufficiently resourced public health and first responder system that protects the American people by scaling up biomedical research, deploying rapid testing capacity, ensuring robust nationwide disease surveillance, sustaining a first class public health and first responder workforce, establishing a flexible emergency budgeting authority, and mobilizing the world to ensure greater sustained preparedness for future pandemics.
Congress has taken a step forward by passing an initial bipartisan emergency plan to combat COVID-19. The Trump Administration must now heed the calls of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to put the health and safety of the American people first. Much more needs to be done, now, to bring our country together, respond to this emergency, and set the groundwork for bold, long-term reforms, including ensuring quality, affordable health care and a comprehensive paid leave program for every American.
Biden will be ready on Day One of his Administration to protect this country’s health and well-being. But he is not waiting until then to communicate his views on what must be done now to properly serve the American people. Biden believes the following steps must immediately be taken. If Trump does not take them, Biden will on Day One as President.
The Biden Plan calls for:
- Restoring trust, credibility, and common purpose.
- Mounting an effective national emergency response that saves lives, protects frontline workers, and minimizes the spread of COVID-19.
- Eliminating cost barriers for prevention of and care for COVID-19.
- Pursuing decisive economic measures to help hard-hit workers, families, and small businesses and to stabilize the American economy.
- Rallying the world to confront this crisis while laying the foundation for the future.
Biden understands that this is a dynamic situation. The steps proposed below are a start. As the crisis unfolds, Biden will build on this policy to address new challenges.
RESTORING TRUST, CREDIBILITY, AND COMMON PURPOSE
Stop the political theater and willful misinformation that has heightened confusion and discrimination. Biden believes we must immediately put scientists and public health leaders front and center in communication with the American people in order to provide regular guidance and deliver timely public health updates, including by immediately establishing daily, expert-led press briefings. This communication is essential to combating the dangerous epidemic of fear, chaos, and stigmatization that can overtake communities faster than the virus. Acts of racism and xenophobia against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community must not be tolerated.
Ensure that public health decisions are made by public health professionals and not politicians, and officials engaged in the response do not fear retribution or public disparagement for performing their jobs.
Immediately restore the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, which was established by the Obama-Biden Administration and eliminated by the Trump Administration in 2018.
MOUNTING AN EFFECTIVE NATIONAL EMERGENCY RESPONSE THAT SAVES LIVES, PROTECTS FRONTLINE WORKERS, AND MINIMIZES THE SPREAD OF COVID-19
Make Testing Widely Available and Free
Ensure that every person who needs a test can get one – and that testing for those who need it is free. Individuals should also not have to pay anything out of their own pockets for the visit at which the test is ordered, regardless of their immigration status. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must draw on advice from outside scientists to clarify the criteria for testing, including consideration of prioritizing first responders and health care workers so they can return to addressing the crisis.
Establish at least ten mobile testing sites and drive-through facilities per state to speed testing and protect health care workers. Starting in large cities and rapidly expanding beyond, the CDC must work with private labs and manufacturers to ensure adequate production capacity, quality control, training, and technical assistance. The number of tests must be in the millions, not the thousands.
Provide a daily public White House report on how many tests have been done by the CDC, state and local health authorities, and private laboratories.
Expand CDC sentinel surveillance programs and other surveillance programs so that we can offer tests not only only to those who ask but also to those who may not know to ask, especially vulnerable populations like nursing home patients and people with underlying medical conditions. This must be done in collaboration with private sector health care entities.
Task the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help establish a diagnosis code for COVID-19 on an emergency basis so that surveillance can be done using claims data.
Surge Capacity for Prevention, Response, and Treatment
Task all relevant federal agencies to take immediate action to ensure that America’s hospital capacity can meet the growing need, including by:
- Preparing to stand up multi-hundred-bed temporary hospitals in any city on short notice by deploying existing Federal Medical Stations in the strategic national stockpile and preemptively defining potential locations for their use as needed.
- Directing the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to prepare for potential deployment of military resources, both the active and reserve components, and work with governors to prepare for potential deployment of National Guard resources, to provide medical facility capacity, logistical support, and additional medical personnel if necessary. This includes activating the Medical Reserve Corps, which consists of nearly 200,000 volunteer health care professionals who stand ready to serve across America; training and deploying additional surge capacity, including U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs/DOD medical equipment and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Disaster Assistance Medical Teams; and directing and assisting existing hospitals to surge care for 20% more patients than current capacity through flexible staffing, use of telemedicine support, and delaying elective procedures.
- Instructing the CDC to establish real-time dashboards tracking (1) hospital admissions related to COVID-19, especially for ICUs and emergency departments, in concert with the American Hospital Association and large hospital chains, for which the HHS must ensure data is able to be shared, as needed; and (2) supply chain information – including availability, allocation, and shipping – for essential equipment and personal protective equipment, including in the various places where there may be federal reserves. The strategic national stockpile must be used to supplement any shortages that exist, especially for essential medical supplies, like oxygen, ventilators, and personal protective equipment.
- Ensuring that training, materials, and resources reach federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, and safety-net hospitals, which are typically resource-poor and care disproportionately for vulnerable populations that will bear the brunt of COVID-19. This effort will lay the foundation for a deeper and more lasting public health infrastructure for accessible national health care for all.
Surge tele-emergency room, tele-ICU care, and telemedicine through a concerted, coordinated effort by health care providers to enable staff to manage additional patients and save beds for the very sick. Leverage existing efforts like Project ECHO to ensure health professionals have tele-mentoring and other training resources they need to make informed decisions.
Support older adults, vulnerable individuals, and people with disabilities. Ensure essential home- and community-based services continue and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid works to provide the waivers necessary for those who rely on medication to have a sufficient supply.
Protect health care workers, first responders, assisted living staff, and other frontline workers.
- Give all frontline workers high-quality and appropriate personal protective equipment – and enough of it and appropriate training to use it – so they don’t become infected. If our health care workers, first responders, and essential workers like transportation and food workers cannot function, we cannot protect and care for the public. The Biden Plan calls for issuing guidance to states and localities to ensure first responders and public health officials are prioritized to receive protective personal equipment and launching an education campaign to inform the general public about equipment that should be reserved for professionals.
- Direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to keep frontline workers safe by issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard that requires health care facilities to implement comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plans; increasing the number of OSHA investigators to improve oversight; and working closely with state occupational safety and health agencies and state and local governments, and the unions that represent their employees, to ensure comprehensive protections for frontline workers.
Ensure first responders, including local fire departments and Emergency Medical Services, can meet the staffing requirements needed to respond and are trained to recognize the symptoms of COVID-19.
Accelerate the Development of Treatment and Vaccines
Ensure the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority are swiftly accelerating the development of rapid diagnostic tests, therapeutics and medicines, and vaccines. NIH must be responsible for the clinical trial networks and work closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on trial approvals.
Ensure the FDA is working with the NIH to prioritize review and authorization for use of COVID-19 countermeasures and strengthen regulatory science at the FDA to make certain it has the needed resources to evaluate the safety and efficacy of new tools.
Provide Timely Information and Medical Advice and Guidance
Work with the CDC and HHS to ensure that health departments and health providers across the country give every person access to an advice line or interactive online advice so they can make an informed decision about whether to seek care or to stay at home. This will preserve the health care system for those who are sick and prevent people who may not need to see a provider from becoming needlessly exposed. Ensure all information provided to the public is accessible to people with disabilities, including through plain language materials and American sign language interpreters.
Instruct the CDC to provide clear, stepwise guidance and resources about both containment and mitigation for local school districts, health care facilities, higher education and school administrators, and the general public. Right now, there is little clarity for these groups about when to move toward social distancing measures, like cancelling school, mass gatherings, and travel and when to move to tele-work and distance learning models.
Ensure firefighters and other emergency responders are notified if they have been exposed to individuals infected with COVID-19.
Launching Urgent Public Health System Improvements for Now and the Future
Work with businesses to expand production of personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, and additional products such as bleach and alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Incentivize greater supplier production of these critically important medically supplies, including committing, if necessary, to large scale volume purchasing and removing all relevant trade barriers to their acquisition.
Task the U.S. Department of Justice with combating price gouging for critical supplies.
Take steps in the aftermath of the crisis to produce American-sourced and manufactured pharmaceutical and medical supply products in order to reduce our dependence on foreign sources that are unreliable in times of crisis. The U.S. government should immediately work with the private sector to map critical health care supplies; identify their points of origin; examine the supply chain process; and create a strategic plan to build redundancies and domestic capacity. The goal is to develop the next generation of biomedical research and manufacturing excellence, bring back U.S. manufacturing of medical products we depend on, and ensure we are not vulnerable to supply chain disruptions, whether from another pandemic, or because of political or trade disputes.
Establish and fund a U.S. Public Health Service Reserve Corps to activate former Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers to expand medical and public health capacity. By creating the Reserve Corps, we will have a larger team of health professionals to deploy across the nation to help train health care systems in detection and response, educate the public, provide direct patient care as needed, and support the public health infrastructure in communities that are often under-resourced and struggling.
On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden pledged an additional $3 billion in weapons to Ukraine, the largest single funding disbursement since the start of the war six months ago. To date, the US has provided more than $50 billion in weapons and other funding to Ukraine, including long-range missile systems, high-end anti-ship missiles, helicopters and other aircraft.
Six months since the start of the war, the message is clear: Far from seeking to end the conflict, the US is doing everything to expand and to prolong its new “forever war” against Russia in Ukraine.
Wednesday’s announcement came after weeks of extraordinary provocations, designed to goad the Kremlin into an expansion of the conflict. Multiple Russian military bases in Crimea were subject to major attacks by Ukraine. On Saturday, Daria Dugina, the daughter of far-right nationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin, was assassinated in central Moscow. All of these operations bear the imprint “made in Washington.”
With these provocations, the US is seeking to strengthen the forces inside the Russian state apparatus and oligarchy that are calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin to retaliate. The aim is to force the Kremlin into a military response that would create the necessary justification for a further escalation of the war.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky reaffirmed that the goal of his country’s involvement in the war is to retake the Crimean Peninsula, declaring, “the war started with Crimea, and it will end in Crimea.”
Zelensky’s statement revealed more than it intended to. Indeed, the war with Russia began not in February 2022 but in February 2014. However, it did not start with Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, but rather with the February 2014 coup that was orchestrated and funded by the imperialist powers. The coup provoked not only Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula, but also an eight-year-long civil war in which Russian-backed separatists, fighting against the imperialist-armed Ukrainian military, came to control significant portions of East Ukraine.
Above all, the 2014 coup formed the basis for the open transformation of Ukraine into the launching pad for an imperialist war against Russia. In the eight years between February 2014 and February 2022, the imperialist powers spent tens of billions of dollars to train, arm, expand and restructure the Ukrainian army. Neo-Nazi forces in the Ukrainian state apparatus and military were built up and armed as the principal shock troops of imperialism for the war against both Russia and the working class in the region.
US troops in Iraq and Syria are on “high alert” for attacks by Iran-backed groups, a senior US commander said on Thursday.
US President Joe Biden authorised military strikes on Tuesday against bases the Defence Department said were being used by Iran-aligned groups to attack the US-led coalition in Syria.
The strikes in oil-rich Deir Ezzor province "targeted infrastructure facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps".
About six weeks ago, U.S. President Joe Biden boasted in the Washington Post that the Middle East was “more stable and secure” than when he inherited the region from his predecessor, Donald Trump. Among other examples, Biden named Iraq, where rocket attacks against U.S. troops and diplomats had diminished. While he’s correct that fewer Americans have been targeted, this single metric alone is hardly enough to support his claim of stability. By nearly every other measure, Iraq is less stable today than in January 2021—and U.S. interests there more threatened.
It’s a remarkable turn of events. Just 10 months ago, Iraq improbably appeared poised to form a government committed to diminishing the destructive role played by Iran-backed militias and enforcing Iraqi sovereignty against its bigger neighbor. Now, Iran’s political allies in Iraq have the upper hand, the country’s fragile democracy is threatened as never before, and, for the first time in a decade, violence even among Shiite groups is a possibility.
Then the Iran-backed Coordination Framework coalition—Sadr’s Shiite rivals—played their ace card. To prevent Sadr, the Kurds, and Sunnis, who had secured a majority of the seats in parliament, from selecting a prime minister and cabinet, the Iran-backed opposition used their control of the corrupt judiciary to move the goalposts. The Federal Supreme Court ruled that now—for the first time—not just a simple majority but a two-thirds supermajority would be needed to form a government. Unable to reach that threshold, Sadr’s 73 members of parliament resigned en masse in June, and their seats were reallocated to Iran-aligned parties.
Who masterminded this judicial coup? None other than Nouri al-Maliki, who served as premier from 2006 to 2014 and is best known for his prodigious corruption and vicious sectarianism, which in no small part contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. In January 2021, he reportedly narrowly escaped being sanctioned by the Trump administration. As kingmaker, Maliki would once again be pulling the strings.
Sadr and Maliki have been rivals for the mantle of Shiite leadership in Iraq since at least 2008, when government forces led by Maliki attacked and defeated Sadr’s Mahdi Army in the Battle of Basra. Given this history of bad blood, Sadr responded to the Coordination Framework’s July 25 nomination of a Maliki ally—Mohammed Shia al-Sudani—for prime minister by directing his supporters to occupy the parliament and prevent a vote for prime minister, which they duly did. It was as if Sadr had taken a page from the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrectionists in Washington.
Congress is urging the administration of US President Joe Biden to enhance engagement with Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government over "a range" of ongoing disputes, while condemning Iran's "blatant violations of Iraqi sovereignty".
Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government's escalating disputes over natural resources have threatened Washington's investment in "supporting a stable, sovereign and democratic Iraq free from malign foreign influence", Michael McCaul, Republican leader of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The natural resources dispute has been exacerbated by infighting among Iraq's political parties, which have failed to form a government since elections in October last year.
"Meanwhile, the Iraqi people suffer, lacking a government that represents their interests and unable to reap the full benefits of revenues from Iraq’s oil, gas and other natural resources," Mr McCaul wrote.
The deep political deadlock in Iraq has entered its 10th month with no solution in sight and fears there could be a violent escalation.
Why it matters: Many are concerned the political crisis — the longest in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein — will lead to a flare-up of armed conflict on the streets between supporters of the different parties.
- A civil war in Iraq could lead to a larger conflict in the region with neighboring countries weighing in.
State of play: Iraq held early elections in October 2021 in response to a nationwide, pro-reform protest movement that began in late 2019.
- Since the vote, a political deadlock, mainly among Shiite parties, has prevented the formation of a new government.
Last October's elections made Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Sadrist movement the largest bloc in Parliament.
- His rivals — the Coordination Framework grouping of Shiite parties, which includes Iran-backed former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — have thwarted al-Sadr’s efforts to form a coalition government with leading Sunni and Kurdish parties.
- The Framework, for example, has been able to prevent enough MPs from attending parliament to vote on forming a new government.
- Al-Sadr has ordered his own MPs to resign and blocked the Framework from nominating its own prime minister.
- Both camps, which command heavily armed militias, also organized protests in the capital Baghdad in recent weeks.
With the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court finally resuming its activities after suspending them due to a protest by supporters of controversial cleric and political agitator Muqtada al-Sadr, questions have been raised about the Shia leader’s own credentials after he tried to force Iraq’s highest court to overturn last year’s election result.
With Sadr raising doubts over the legality of the elections he himself had won, there are signs that Iraq’s disparate political forces are manoeuvring to seal a deal that will finally see a government formed 10 months after the vote.
Kurdish groups and Sunni coalitions are moving closer to overtly Iran-sponsored parties in a move that may sideline Sadr and dampen his rising star once again.
Sadr may be marginalised after Supreme Court gambit fails
With feelings of public fury and apathy at the Iraqi political process growing rapidly and in equal measure, there are signs that the players involved in last year’s elections are starting to cut deals that will not only bring about a new government but will also marginalise the election winner.
Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist-led Sairoun coalition that won last year’s poorly attended vote, may find that he will face significant blowback from the risky gamble he took over the summer to have all his deputies resign their parliamentary seats, effectively ceding them to his erstwhile rivals in the Coordination Framework.
His most recent gambit last Wednesday was to threaten and then blockade the Federal Supreme Court, demanding that Iraq’s most powerful judges issue a ruling to order new elections and to overturn October’s result – which was almost entirely in Sadr’s favour and gifted him more than 50 seats in parliament.
Initially, the Supreme Court announced that it would cease its activities and close its offices as it could not conduct its business while being besieged by Sadrist protesters. However, the Shia leader has now called on his followers to withdraw from Iraq’s highest court, leading to it announcing it is once more open for judicial business.