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Hong Kong Protesters Trample, Burn Jersey of NBA star LeBron James

“We just can’t accept that.”

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Hong Kong protesters reacted to LeBron James’ comments on free speech by trampling on and burning his jersey in the street.

Following Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeting his support for the Hong Kong protesters, James said that Morey “wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke.”

“We all talk about this freedom of speech, yes, we all do have freedom of speech. But at times, there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others and you’re only thinking about yourself,” James told reporters.

These remarks sparked fury in Hong Kong itself, with around 200 people gathering in one area of the city to burn his jersey.

“Students, they come out like every weekend. They’ve got tear gassed and then they got gun-shot, like every weekend. Police beating students and then innocent people, like every day. And then he (James) just comes up with something (like) that. We just can’t accept that,” said James Lo, a web designer who runs a Hong Kong basketball fan page on Facebook.

Protesters leveled the same accusations at James that so-called “woke” companies in the United States have faced – they support social justice causes domestically but cave in when it comes to China, one of the biggest human rights abusers on the planet.

“Please remember, all NBA players, what you said before: ‘Black lives matter.’ Hong Kong lives also matter!” said 36-year-old office worker William Mok.

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The Chinese ‘Spy Balloon’ Story As Manufactured Crisis: An Alternative Reading

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Zero Hedge

Getty Images / JSABBOTT

Previous constant headlines of the Ukraine-Russia war were put on pause Friday into Saturday as the American public’s attention and discourse got temporarily consumed by the bizarre Chinese ‘spy balloon’ saga, which grew more dramatic by the hour until it was shot down by the Pentagon over the Atlantic Ocean.

But few are currently asking the necessary deeper questions related to the timing. Given the last major balloon crisis to take over 24/7 network news coverage ended up being a complete hoax (remember the “balloon boy” stunt of 2009 which had the world breathless and on edge for a full news cycle?), the current context to the Chinese balloon story and the question of cui bono is worth a deeper dive

Entrepreneur and geopolitical commentator Arnaud Bertrand, who as a Westerner has spent many years living in China and frequently attempts to correct the often misleading analysis of mainstream press reports, offers an ‘alternative view’ of what’s fast unfolding below [emphasis ZH’s)…

* * *

“I took a bit of time to dissect the “spy balloon” story – both how it is portrayed in the US and China’s response,” Bertrand begins a lengthy thread. As you’ll see, the more you think about it, the more stunned you get at the sheer absurdity of the whole thing.”

First, the US story.

China sent a “spy balloon” over highly strategic US sites. It chose to spy on these sites with a big visible balloon (reported as being “as big as multiple school buses”), that anyone can see with the naked eye from the ground, to “demonstrate it had the capability”, despite having a plethora of other more discreet ways to spy like satellites or stealth drones.

Unclear that anyone doubted China had mastered the technology of *check notes* hot air balloons and why it therefore needed to demonstrate this capability… China chose to do so on the eve of Secretary of States Blinken’s visit to China, where he was invited, and hours after signaling Blinken would also be meeting with Xi during his visit, a high-level meeting not granted to any US Secretary of States in years.

The story therefore being that China chose to disrupt a meeting with its own president and to sabotage its own efforts at détente in the US-China conflict… The Pentagon said it had been “tracking the balloon for quite some time” and that it wasn’t the first time such an incident occurred, but this time – for unclear reasons – it chose to do a public announcement. As a result, Blinken announced he was postponing his China trip.

Now the story from the Chinese side.

To them this is a fluke accident, the balloon being “a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes” that “deviated far from its planned course” because of strong “Westerlies” (wind that flows west to east) and “limited self-steering capability”, the main characteristic of a balloon being of course that it can only go up or down.

A piece in WaPo seems to confirm this, quoting “experts in national security and aerospace [who] said the craft appears to share characteristics with high-altitude balloons used by developed countries around the world for weather forecasting.”

(Source: washingtonpost.com/world/2023/02/… )

The Pentagon itself said that “the payload wouldn’t offer much in the way of surveillance that China couldn’t collect through spy satellites” and that “the balloon posed no serious physical or intelligence threat”. 

I.e. the Pentagon themselves say it would make zero sense for China to use a balloon like this for intelligence purposes when it has satellites. Kind of begs the question why they decided to make a big deal out of it in the first place… 

I’ll let you decide for yourself which story makes more sense… The sheer ridiculousness of this Nth “red scare” episode is absolutely obvious to anyone with an iota of common sense. Except, sadly, common sense seems to be in critically short supply nowadays. 

Also, as often, the real story is probably why this story became a story in the first place.

And the important context here is of course Blinken’s visit to China, which could – one can always dream – have been a step towards some form of de-escalation in China-US rapports. It was quite easily foreseeable that a story like this one on the eve of the trip would have made it politically very difficult for Blinken to go.

So a plausible hypothesis is that this whole episode is an attempt by internal US forces to prevent any US-China détente. One alternative hypothesis, much less likely, is that it’s internal Chinese forces trying to do the same thing by sending this big balloon.

Unlikely because:

a) China has time on its side so it gains from reduced tensions with the US and there isn’t any obvious “faction” in China who believe the contrary

b) it’d be immensely risky for anyone in China to do something like this as it’d undoubtedly be seen as an act of high treason with grave consequences for themselves

c) again, balloons like this particular one basically can’t be steered so… 

To plan sending a balloon like this from China to a place over US land isn’t even doable in the first place. The last hypothesis, which I guess is also somewhat likely, is that this is a series of unfortunate events without any malice on either side.

1) Balloon deviates from course and gets in US airspace,

2) people see it and Pentagon feels it has to communicate about it

3) the media, wearing their usual “China bad” hat, decide to go all-in on the scare-mongering,

4) political opposition and China hawks jump on the bandwagon,

5) administration feels it has no other choice than to cancel the trip and doesn’t have the political courage to say “this is just a balloon that drifted off course”.

Well I guess in this scenario there is in fact malice on the media’s part and that of politicians and wider members of the blob but it’s “organic malice”, so to speak, jumping at a golden opportunity to scare-monger. 

Conclusion: however you see it, this story is absolutely shameful and a sad reflection of the insane times we live in, when rather than take the time to carefully consider facts, apply reason and common sense, we instead choose as a society to incite fear and hostility.

This post was originally published at Zero Hedge

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Second Chinese “Surveillance Balloon” Flying Over Latin America

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Update (2215ET):

The US government says another Chinese spy balloon is traveling over Latin America.

“We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America,” Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson, told Fox News Friday night. “We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon.”

Ryder said during a briefing Thursday the U.S. government detected a high-altitude surveillance balloon over the continental U.S. A senior defense official said during the briefing the U.S. government is “confident” the surveillance balloon is from the People’s Republic of China.

The balloon was recently over Montana, and the official said the government considered shooting it down but decided against using military force because of the potential risks. A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Friday the balloon is a “civilian airship” being used for meteorological purposes and deviated from its planned course.

When President Biden was briefed on the situation, he asked for military options, the official said.

“You did see reports yesterday of a ground stop at Billings Airport and the mobilization of a number of assets, including F-22,” the official said. “The context for that was that we put some things on station in the event that a decision was made to bring this down while it was over Montana.”

* * *

Update (2143ET):  The City of Billings is aware of a video circulating social media of what appears to be an explosion in the sky. However, city officials confirmed with the Montana Disaster and Emergency Services and Governor Greg Gianforte there have been no explosions in Montana airspace. 

 “They are aware of the video, and it can not be substantiated,” the City said.

*   *   * 

Update (2006ET):

Here’s the clearest picture of the suspected Chinese spy balloon. 

*   *   * 

Update (1415ET): 

A suspected Chinese spy balloon flying over the US was spotted in the skies of north Kansas City on Friday afternoon.

The question people are asking: Where is the balloon headed? 

To answer that, Capital Weather Gang said:

Forward trajectory based on atmospheric steering currents would bring it close to St. Louis tonight & into North Carolina Saturday.” 

A map of the balloon’s trajectory. 

Others say the balloon could take a different path:

*   *   * 

Update (1012ET): 

Bloomberg confirmed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would postpone his trip to Beijing amid spy balloon allegations. 

The two-day trip was set to begin on Sunday. Even before Blinken postponed his trip, expectations were low to reset deteriorating Sino-US ties. 

*   *   * 

Update (0932ET):

In response to some US officials accusing China of sending a spy balloon near ICBM fields in Montana, the Chinese foreign ministry said the balloon was for monitoring the ‘weather’ and veered off course and entered into US airspace due to force majeure. 

The ministry “regrets the unintended entry” and said Chinese officials would continue communicating with the US about the balloon. They added the balloon is for meteorological and ‘other scientific research.’ 

Earlier, foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning urged the US to act “calmly and prudently” after some US officials accused China of sending a spy balloon. 

“I want to emphasize that before the facts are clear, any speculation and hype are not conducive to the solution of the problem,” Ning said.

So China states the balloon is for weather purposes only, while some US officials declare it a spy balloon. One thing is certain. The balloon mysteriously ended up near a highly sensitive area in Montana that is home to ICBM fields. 

*   *   * 

US military commanders have advised President Biden against shooting down a Chinese spy balloon flying over the US. 

Reuters said the US military took “custody” of the “high-altitude surveillance balloon” and deployed military aircraft, including stealth fighter jets, to observe it. 

Such balloons operate at an altitude of 15-22 miles, well above commercial air traffic. The balloon’s size is estimated to be equivalent to three buses. 

“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters Thursday. 

“The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground,” Ryder continued. 

Right now, the spy balloon appears to be occupying Montana airspace. This alarmed the state’s Republican Senator Steve Daines, who sent an alarming letter to the Department of Defense (DOD). He said the spy balloon is a “concerning event”: because Montana airspace includes “Malmstrom Air Force Base (AFB) and the United State’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fields.” 

Daines wrote that given “the serious nature of the event,” he is “requesting a full security briefing from the administration on this situation.”

“It is vital to establish the flight path of this balloon, any compromised US national security assets, and all telecom or IT infrastructure on the ground within the US that this spy balloon was utilizing,” he continued.

“As you know, Montana plays a vital national security role by housing nuclear missile silos at Malmstrom AFB,” the senator said. 

Separately, Canada’s defense ministry is monitoring a “potential second incident” but declined to give further details. 

News of the spy balloon followed CIA Director William Burns’ speech at a Georgetown University event, where he called China the “biggest geopolitical challenge” facing the West. 

This post was originally published at Zero Hedge

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Aussie Cops Ask Neighbors To Rat Out ‘Anti-Government, Anti-Police, Or COVID-Vaccine Conspiracy Theorists’

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Australian police are using a brutal ambush on two cops to encourage residents to rat out neighbors who are skeptical of the Covid-10 vaccine, or harbor anti-government views.

On December 12, two Brisbane police officers were gunned down by a family of rural Australians, who opened fire as the two officers approached their home. Constables Rachel McCrow, 29, and Matthew Arnold, 26 died in the attack, while a third officer, Constable Randall Kirk, was shot in the leg but managed to escape. A fourth officer, Keely Brough, fled to safety in the bushes.

Later that evening, members of the rural family were killed in a shootout with tactical police.

In response to the incident, Deputy Commissioner Tracy Linford suggested that neighbors need to assume anyone who harbors non-mainstream views is clearly a threat.

“As I said before, if there’s anybody out there that knows of someone that might be showing concerning behavior around conspiracy theories, anti-government, anti-police, conspiracy theories around COVID-19 vaccination as what we’re seeing with [shooting perpetrators] the Train family, we’d want to know about it. We want to know about that. And you can either contact the police directly or go through Crime Stoppers,” she said.

In response, Rebel News‘ Avi Yemini replied: “Queensland Police appealing to the public to dob in their neighbours who “are anti-government or believe Covid-19 vaccine conspiracy theories.””

This has not sat well with many:

This post was originally published at Zero Hedge

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