Trump defends use of the term ‘China virus’

President Donald Trump defended his use of the term “China virus” to describe Covid-19 on Tuesday, saying he uses the term because China tried to blame its spread on the American military.”I didn’t appreciate the fact that China was saying that our military gave it to them. Our military did not give it to anybody,” Trump said during a White House press briefing.”China was putting out information, which was false, that our military gave this to them. That was false. And rather than having an argument, I said I had to call it where it came from. It did come from China. So, I think it’s a very accurate term,” he said.

The President also pushed back at suggestions that using the term creates a stigma.

“I don’t think so. I think saying that our military gave it to them creates a stigma,” Trump said.CNN previously reported that a prominent Chinese official has promoted a conspiracy theory that the US military could have brought the novel coronavirus to China — and it did not originate in the Chinese city of Wuhan.Parts of Chinese social media, and even the country’s government, appear to have launched a concerted campaign to question the origin of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 170,000 people globally as of Tuesday midday, according to CNN’s case tracker.The first reported cases of the virus were in Wuhan, and scenes from the city in lockdown shocked the world. The lockdown gave an early indication for how seriously global authorities would need to combat the fast-spreading virus.

[CNN]

Reality

Some Chinese news outlets and officials have pushed the unfounded claim the American military gave China the coronavirus, but this is beyond petty to reciprocate.

Media

Trump tweets about coronavirus using term ‘Chinese Virus’

President Donald Trump drew backlash Monday night after posting a tweet using the phrase “Chinese Virus.”

After giving an address Monday afternoon in which he said the country may be headed toward recession and urged social distancing, he later tweeted his confidence in and support for various sectors while including the offensive remark.

“The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!” he wrote.

Many officials, including the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have criticized the phrase as inaccurate and potentially harmful in promoting racist associations between the virus and those from China.

The comments prompted massive backlash from many social media users, including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said the tweet was misplacing blame and could put more Asian Americans in danger.

Chinese officials condemned Trump’s comments, saying his tweet smeared China.

“The U.S. should first take care of its own matters,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry.

Trump has previously referred to COVID-19 as a “foreign virus,” and he has also retweeted a supporter who used the term “China Virus.” His newest reference comes days after CDC Director Robert Redfield agreed at a House hearing that it was “absolutely wrong and inappropriate” to use labels like “Chinese coronavirus,” as the virus had expanded beyond China to other parts of the world. There were roughly 3,500 confirmed cases of the illness in the U.S. as of Monday night.

Many others have condemned the practice of identifying the illness by location or ethnicity, including the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, which called on its fellow legislators to “help us prevent hysteria, ignorant attacks, and racist assaults that have been fueled by misinformation pertaining to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19)” by sharing only confirmed and verifiable information.

While some, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., publicly condemned the racism tied to the pandemic, others, such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., have continued to use the offensive language, pointing to outlets that have used similar wording.

The Asian American Journalists Association released guidelines for responsible reporting in February to curb “fueling xenophobia and racism that have already emerged since the outbreak.”

Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., previously told NBC News that it’s possible that several GOP legislators have continued to use the rhetoric to distract from Trump’s handling of the pandemic. She said it’s likely that officials are using China or Asian Americans as scapegoats “versus actually dealing with the problem at hand.”

Along with the virus’ spread, there has been an increase in racist incidents and discrimination targeting Asian Americans. Two Hmong guests endured harassment and were later barred from staying at first a Super 8 and then a Days Inn in Indiana. In California, an Asian teen was bullied, assaulted and sent to the emergency room over fears surrounding the pandemic.

De Blasio held a media roundtable Wednesday to condemn coronavirus-related discrimination against Asian communities in New York.

“Right now, we’ve seen particularly troubling instances of discrimination directed at Asian communities, particularly in Chinese communities,” he said. “This is unacceptable.”

CORRECTION (March 16, 2020, 11:05 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misidentified the U.S.’s primary health protection agency. It is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not the Center for Disease Control and Protection.

[NBC News]

Trump Offered ‘Large Sum’ to German Company for Exclusive Access to Coronavirus Vaccine Research

The Trump administration attempted to persuade a German firm developing a possible vaccine for coronavirus to move its research work to the United States, German officials said, raising fears in Berlin that President Trump was trying to assure that any inoculation would be available first, and perhaps exclusively, in the United States.

The offer arose from a March 2 meeting at the White House that included the chief executive of the German firm CureVac, Daniel Menichella. President Trump briefly attended the meeting and Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus task force, was also there.

“We are very confident that we will be able to develop a potent vaccine candidate within a few months,” Mr. Menichella said in a statement on the day of the meeting.

But four days ago, CureVac announced that Mr. Menichella, an American, was leaving the biotechnology company, which he had headed for two years.

The announcement gave no reason for his sudden departure and said one of the firm’s founders, Ingmar Hoerr, would succeed him. It thanked Mr. Menichella for a variety of accomplishments, including “the recent start of our coronavirus vaccine program.”

On Sunday, the company issued a statement in Germany describing its vaccine work. “CureVac refrains from commenting on current media speculations and clearly rejects claims about the sale of the company or its technology,” it said.

White House officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But two senior American officials said that some of the German news accounts first reporting the story were overblown, particularly with regard to any effort by the United States to secure exclusive access to a vaccine.

The Trump administration has spoken with more than 25 companies that say they can help with a vaccine, one of the American officials said, and is open to speaking with others. Any solution, he said, would be shared with the world.

Nevertheless, Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said that Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has a famously testy relationship with Mr. Trump, will lead a crisis meeting with ministers on Monday that will include discussion of a German defense strategy for the firm.

The coronavirus is no longer merely a health crisis, but “a question of national security,” Mr. Seehofer said Sunday. It is up to the government, he said, to ensure not only security of its borders and its food supply, but also “our medical products and our medicines.”

Asked by a reporter to confirm that the U.S. administration had tried to take over a German company researching vaccines, Mr. Seehofer responded that he had heard about the effort “from several members of the government and it will be discussed tomorrow in the crisis team.”

Another official, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said the company was offered a “large sum” of money.

The privately held biotechnology firm has its headquarters in the southwestern city of Tübingen, Germany. It also has an office in Boston, where many of the nation’s leading biotech firms have operations around the Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology campuses.

According to the German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag, which first reported the story on Sunday, Mr. Trump offered CureVac roughly $1 billion in exchange for exclusive access to the vaccine. The newspaper quoted an unnamed German government source who said Mr. Trump wanted the resulting vaccine “only for the United States.”

But another German official, reached by The New York Times, said it was unclear whether the administration simply wanted the research work, and for any resulting production to be on American soil.

Mr. Menichella was one of several industry executives invited by the White House to meet Mr. Pence, members of the coronavirus task force and pharmaceutical executives and discuss strategies to quickly develop a vaccine, the company said on its website.

CureVac started research on a number of different vaccines and is now picking the two best prospects for clinical trials, the firm’s website indicates. The company hopes that by June or July it will have an experimental vaccine that could go into trials. Many other companies are also working on vaccines.

The Trump administration has been unusually aggressive in attempting to get American control of companies that deal in technology Mr. Trump views as central to American security.

In February, Attorney General William P. Barr suggested in a speech that the United States should find a way to take over two European telecommunications makers, Ericsson and Nokia, which are the main competitors of Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant that is wiring up nations around the world for 5G, or fifth generation, networks.

Mr. Pence later played down that suggestion. But the idea that the Trump administration was seeking to take control of a major European technological asset sent unsettling ripples across Europe.

And the move to secure the intellectual property of CureVac, whether for exclusive or general use, is bound to inflame that debate.

Die Welt reported that the German government was making counterbids to the company to persuade it to stay. German lawmakers began to issue statements on Sunday.

“The exclusive sale of a possible vaccine to the USA must be prevented by all means,” Karl Lauterbach, a German lawmaker who is also a professor of epidemiology, said on Twitter. “Capitalism has limits.”

Adding to the dismay in Germany was the fact that CureVac works closely with a taxpayer-funded government research organization, the Paul Ehrlich Institute for vaccines and biomedicines.

Peter Altmaier, Germany’s economy minister, praised the company for not being tempted by any American offer. “It was a great decision,” he said in a television talk show on Sunday night. “Germany is not for sale.”

Mr. Altmaier said the government would “make sure that the necessary help is available” to the company in developing the vaccine. And he warned that if any hostile offer was attempted, Germany would step in.

“When it’s about important infrastructure and national and European interest,” he said, “we will also act if we have to.”

CureVac’s main investor ruled out giving exclusive access to a future vaccine to one country.

“We want to develop a vaccine for the whole world, and not for individual states,” Christof Hettich, chief executive of Dievini Hopp Biotech Holding, told the newspaper Mannheimer Morgen.

German officials sounded unsure about the reassurances that the United States would share a vaccine if it were developed.

A spokesman for the German health ministry said that German government officials were in regular contact with CureVac, confirming a quote in the original Die Welt article.

“The federal government is very interested in vaccines and antiviral agents against the novel coronavirus being developed in Germany and Europe,” the spokesman was quoted as saying in the original article. “In this regard the government is in an intensive exchange with the company CureVac.”

[The New York Times]

Trump Retweets Image of Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer in Traditional Islamic Clothing Before Iranian Flag

President Donald Trump took his attacks on Speaker Nancy Pelosi Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to a whole new level Monday morning, by retweeting a photoshopped image of the two in traditional Muslim garb before an Iranian flag.

The tweet came in a flurry of frenzied presidential tweets (and retweets) critical of Speaker Pelosi’s criticism of the Trump administrations handling of Iranian foreign relations, in particular, that following the deadly drone strike that took the life of Quds force leader and Iranian Republican Guard Major General Qasam Soleimani.

In the days that followed Soleimani’s death, a million Iranians reportedly flooded the streets of Teheran to protest the U.S. killing of the number two leader of Iran. But as Iran eventually admitted to shooting down a Ukranian airliner and killing 167 civilians, protests have started against the Iranian regime.

[Mediaite]


Trump believes Iran was targeting four U.S. embassies

President Donald Trump said on Friday Iran probably had targeted the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and was aiming to attack four U.S. embassies when its top general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. drone strike.

“We will tell you probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad,” Trump said in a clip of an interview on Fox News. “I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.”

[Reuters]

Reality

However Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Face the Nation “I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies,” completely rebuking Trump’s made-up claim.

‘Maybe we will, maybe we won’t’: Trump doubles down on threat to take oil from Syria

Donald Trump has renewed his threats to forcibly steal oil from Syria, a move which experts say would amount to a war crime.

The president defended his decision to leave a small number of American troops in the war-torn nation after a general withdrawal in October by claiming they were only there to secure Syria’s oilfields.

“They say he left troops in Syria… do you know what I did? I took the oil,” he said during a Fox News interview.

“The only troops I have are taking the oil, they are protecting the oil.”

When the interviewer, Laura Ingraham, attempted to correct Mr Trump by insisting the soldiers were not there to take the oil but to guard the facilities, the president cut her off.

“I don’t know, maybe we should take it, but we have the oil. Right now, the United States has the oil. We have the oil.”

This is not the first time the erratic former business tycoon has publicly mused about stealing Syria’s oil reserves.

In October, shortly after his abrupt withdrawal of US forces and abandoning of their Kurdish allies in the region, Mr Trump said he wanted an American oil firm to fly in to tap Syria’s oil on behalf of the government.

“What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly,” he said.

However, such a move would likely constitute pillage and looting, actions which have long been designated as illegal under international law and the rules of war.

The Geneva Convention, which the US is a signatory to, explicitly prohibits the looting of property during conflict, defining it as a war crime.

“The president appears to believe that the US can sell the oil, based on his statements in the past about Iraqi oil and Libyan oil … thinking that we can loot countries,” Benjamin Friedman, policy director at think tank Defence Priorities and adjunct professor at the George Washington University, told The Independent last year.

“I am sure people in the White House have tried to explain to him that is not how it works.

“Taking the profits from the sale of Syrian oil for the US treasury would be illegal. That would probably qualify as pillaging under the law.”

Ironically, experts say Syria’s oil fields are not much of a prize anyway. Even before the country descended in a chaotic civil war, it only produced about 380,000 barrels of poor-quality oil a day.

In 2018, after its production was several hampered by the conflict, it produced about the same amount of oil as the state of Illinois.

Before he entered the White House, Mr Trump had said several times that the US should have “taken the oil” from the other Middle Eastern nations its armed forces had intervened in, including Iraq and Libya.

Some commentators have speculated that defence officials desperate to persuade the president to permit some US forces to remain in Syria as a counter-balance to Isis and the Assad regime were forced to appeal to his oil obsession to gain his approval.

[The Independent]

Trump Blames Obama for Iran Attack Then Takes Credit for Obama’s Accomplishments in Off-the-Rails Address to the Nation

After three years there were likely few Americans hoping for some form of comfort from President Donald Trump’s address to the nation Wednesday in the wake of Tuesday night’s attack by Iran on air bases in Iraq that host thousands of U.S. Military troops. And President Trump, true to form, did not offer any.

The President descended as if from heaven (photo above) onto a stage filled with his military generals and advisors,

Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. A clear attempt to show strength which the administration apparently felt the Commander-in-Chief could not summon if he appeared on camera alone. A sad statement.

“As long as I’m president of the United States Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Trump, out of breath, declared as he walked up to the podium, flanked by his men in uniform. He then said: “Good morning.”

President Trump was expected to give Americans hope and comfort, and a clear indication that they are safe from attack.

Instead, he tried to show strength through military might – with no suggestion diplomacy might be a better route.

And he lied.

A lot.

“The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration,” Trump claimed, blaming President Barack Obama in a speech watched around the world.

“Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013,” Trump claimed. (It was actually 2015.)

He added, “they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash.  Instead of saying ‘thank you’ to the United States, they chanted ‘death to America.’  In fact, they chanted ‘death to America’ the day the agreement was signed.”

Those billions belonged to Iran, and reportedly were less than the numbers Trump quoted. They were Iranian funds frozen which had been paid to the U.S. for arms never delivered. It is a frequent trump lie he tells at rallies over and over.

“Then, Iran went on a terror spree, funded by the money from the deal, and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq,” Trump claimed  in his address to the nation – and to the world. “The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.  The regime also greatly tightened the reins on their own country, even recently killing 1,500 people at the many protests that are taking place all throughout Iran.”

“The very defective JCPOA [the “Iran deal”] expires shortly anyway,” Trump said. That’s just false – another lie Trump often tells. Various parts expire between 2025 and 2030.

He claimed the JCPOA “gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout,” which again is false.

After falsely blaming Obama for Iran’s attack he went on to take credit for Obama paving to road to energy independence.

“Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence.  These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities.  These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible.”

Again, false.

Here’s CNN’s Keith Boykin with graphs showing just how false Trump’s energy independence remarks were:

https://twitter.com/keithboykin/status/1214950568013242370?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

[The New Civil Rights Movement]

Trump’s evidence that Suleimani posed an imminent threat was ‘razor thin’: US officials

On Saturday, New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi laid out on Twitter the basic points of evidence cited by the Trump administration that Iranian military leader Qassim Suleimani posed an imminent threat to Americans in the region — and how they do not really hold water:

https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1213421769777909761


https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1213423621349224448

https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1213424489679196161

https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1213427304413777923

https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1213430242079125505

[Raw Story]


Mike Pence shares 9/11 conspiracy theory about Qassem Soleimani in attempt to justify killing

Mike Pence has promoted an unsubstantiated theory linking the 9/11 terrorist attacks to Iran in his defence of the Trump administration’s assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

Donald Trump‘s vice president posted a Twitter thread on Saturday in which he described Iran’s top military commander as “an evil man responsible for killing thousands of Americans”.

In the thread, Mr Pence claimed Soleimani had “assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States”.

However, his accusation is undermined by the conclusions of the official government report on the attacks.

The 9/11 commission report found “no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack”.

The report added: “At the time of their travel through Iran, the al-Qaeda operatives themselves were probably not aware of the specific details of their future operation.”

Soleimani’s killing is a major escalation in US-Iran tensions and has sparked fears of a direct war between the two countries.

The White House has said the assassination was a “decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad”.

In response to the vice president, foreign policy experts were quick to point out there were 19 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks, not 12, and the majority of them came from US allies Saudi Arabia.

Katie Waldman, Mr Pence’s press secretary, later clarified that the vice president was referring to 12 of the 19 hijackers who “transited through Afghanistan”.

“For those asking: 12 of the 19 transited through Afghanistan. Ten of those 12 were assisted by Soleimani,” Ms Waldman wrote, without providing any further evidence for the commander’s involvement.

The 9/11 report does acknowledge at least eight of the hijackers “transited Iran on their way to or from Afghanistan”, but this is thought to be because they were “taking advantage of the Iranian practice of not stamping Saudi passports”.

Although Soleimani was a senior figure in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps at the time of the attacks, he is not named in the 9/11 commission report.

It is also unclear why the commander, a leading military figure in a majority Shia Muslim country, would have assisted al-Qaeda, a militant Sunni Islamist group with links to Saudi Arabia.

In a 2018 study by the think tank New America, al-Qaeda is said to view Iran as a “hostile entity” and found “no evidence of cooperation between al-Qaeda and Iran on planning or carrying out terrorist attacks” in the documents studied.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said in 2019 he had no doubt “there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al-Qaeda.”

[The Independent]

Reality

See pages 240-241.

Trump Told Mar-a-Lago Pals to Expect ‘Big’ Iran Action ‘Soon’

In the five days prior to launching a strike that killed Iran’s most important military leader, Donald Trump roamed the halls of Mar-a-Lago, his private resort in Florida, and started dropping hints to close associates and club-goers that something huge was coming.

According to three people who’ve been at the president’s Palm Beach club over the past several days, Trump began telling friends and allies hanging at his perennial vacation getaway that he was working on a “big” response to the Iranian regime that they would be hearing or reading about very “soon.” His comments went beyond the New Year’s Eve tweet he sent out warning of the “big price” Iran would pay for damage to U.S. facilities. Two of these sources tell The Daily Beast that the president specifically mentioned he’d been in close contact with his top national security and military advisers on gaming out options for an aggressive action that could quickly materialize.

“He kept saying, ‘You’ll see,’” one of the sources recalled, describing a conversation with Trump days before Thursday’s strike.

Trump’s gossipy whispers regarding a “big” response in Iraq foreshadowed what was to come. After hours of silence, senior officials in the Trump administration argued that what had taken place in Iraq was not an act of aggression. Instead, they said both publicly and behind closed doors on the Hill that killing Qassem Soleimani was designed to “advance the cause of peace,” as U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook put it in a Friday interview

Those Mar-a-Lago guests received more warning about Thursday’s attack than Senate staff did, and about as much clarity. A classified briefing on Friday, the first the administration gave to the Hill, featured broad claims about what the Iranians were planning and little evidence of planning to bring about the “de-escalation” the administration says it wants.  

According to three sources either in the room or told about the discussion, briefers from the State Department, Pentagon, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence claimed that killing Soleimani was designed to block Iranian plans to kill “hundreds” or even thousands of Americans in the Mideast. That would be a massive escalation from the recent attack patterns of Iran and its regional proxies, who tend to kill Americans in small numbers at a time. 

“This administration has absolutely not earned the benefit of the doubt when it makes these kinds of claims. When you’re taking action that could lead to the third American war in the Middle East in 20 years, you need to do better than these kinds of assertions,” said a Senate aide in the room. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also said publicly that the Iranians planned to kill hundreds of Americans before Soleimani’s killing.

Nor, said four sources who requested anonymity to discuss a classified briefing, did the briefers provide detail on a key question surrounding an act of war against a regional power: what next? 

[The Daily Beast]

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