Take A Rare Glimpse Inside China’s Zero-Covid Madhouse
The western world has been given a rare, intimate look inside the confines of a Chinese Covid-19 concentration camp, after Financial Times Shanghai correspondent Thomas Hale was ensnared by the President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid regime.
It’s not that Hale had tested positive. Merely being designated as a “close contact” was enough to sentence him to 10 days of confinement on a secret island camp identified only as “P7.”
Hale provides a primer on framework of China’s system works:
“PCR testing in China is an almost daily ritual and testing booths are common on many street corners.They look vaguely like food stalls, except they’re larger and cube-shaped and a worker inside sits behind Plexiglas cut with two arm holes.
They are merely the surface machinery of a vast monitoring system. China’s digital Covid pass resembles track-and-trace programmes elsewhere, except it’s mandatory and it works. Using Alipay or WeChat, the country’s two major apps, a QR code is linked to each person’s most recent test results. The code must be scanned to get in anywhere, thereby tracking your location. Green means you can enter; red means you have a problem.”
Research: Countries That Sought ‘Zero-COVID’ Lockdowns Have The Least Immunity
Hale’s journey into Covid madness started with an innocent outing at a Shanghai bar. Apparently, someone who’d also been at the bar tested positive. Via the tracking system, the authorities knew Hale had been there too.
Hale had “won” some kind of terrible lottery: On the day he was in the bar, there were only 18 cases in all of Shanghai that day — a city of 26 million people.
A few days after his bar outing, authorities called to confirm he’d been at the bar. The next day, a caller from the Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention alerted him that authorities were on their way. Hale was about to be “taken away” — an expression Chinese use when describing the phenomenon.
Next, a hotel staffer called to say he couldn’t leave, and that the hotel was in lockdown due to his mere presence in it. Then came the men in hazmat suits, who escorted him down a deserted hallway to a staff elevator and out through the cordoned-off hotel entrance. He was directed to board a small bus driven by another man in a hazmat suit.
Hale joined the other condemned passengers — none of whom had actually tested positive. His hopes that he’d be taken to a quarantine hotel were dashed. A drive of more than an hour ended on a small road in the middle of a field, with several large buses queued up ahead of his.
The driver got out, locked the bus behind him and wandered off. A fellow passenger was surprised to hear that Hale was from the UK: “They brought you here? With a foreign passport?” Hours of waiting on the increasingly chilly bus went by, until it finally moved again at 2 am.
As he was trudging along to his assigned quarters, a fellow detainee pointed to three rows of wire above the perimeter fences, beyond which were only tall trees.
Hale’s new home was a box similar to a shipping container, elevated by short stilts. His and every door was monitored by a camera. There was no hot water.
“Inside my 196-sq-ft cabin there were two single beds, a kettle, an air-conditioning unit, a desk, a chair, a bowl, two small cloths, one bar of soap, an unopened duvet, a small pillow, a toothbrush, one tube of toothpaste and a roll-up mattress roughly the thickness of an oven glove
The floor was covered in dust and grime. The whole place shook when you walked around, which I soon stopped noticing. The window was barred, though you could still lean out. There was no shower.
…The bed was made of an iron frame and six planks of wood, and the mattress was so thin you had to lie completely flat. The bed frame, meanwhile, was impossible to lean against.”
He was pleasantly surprised, however, to find the internet connection was 24 times speedier than what he had at his hotel. Like Hale, the camp staff were prohibited from leaving or receiving deliveries there. A worker said he earned the equivalent of about $32 a day.
Hale tried to see if his status as a foreign journalist might spring him from detention. The worker he approached with that question was baffled by the mere premise…but we can’t blame Hale for trying.
Hale describes key aspects of daily life in Covid detention:
- Every morning, he was awakened by a “lawnmower-like noise,” as an industrial-grade machine sprayed the cabin windows and front steps with disinfectant
- Around 9 am, two workers came to administer PCR tests. A positive result would have meant being taken to a different type of detention
- Meals were delivered at 8 am, noon and 5 pm
- Hale pursued a strict routine of language study, writing, exercise, music, online chess, and then reading or watching Amazon Prime entertainment
The routine served him well. Over time, he noticed his neighbors stopped eating breakfast, while some could be heard pacing their shaky boxes at night.
He did endure some psychological discomfort, in the form of not knowing when he’d get out. He was originally told seven days but it ended up being 10.
Upon his release and return to civilization, Hale savored the hot water of the hotel’s shower and the softness of its bed.When he went out for a celebratory meal, however, he faltered — pacing the street as he contemplated the fact that entering China’s contact-tracing matrix brought the peril of a return to confinement.
He settled on takeout from a steak restaurant, where an employee said there’d be no need for his code to be swiped — if he ordered takeout.
* * *
Check out Hale’s full tale at the Financial Times (subscription required)This post was originally published at Zero Hedge
US “Strongly Urges” Compromise As Massive Protests Erupt Across Israel After Anti-Judicial-Reform Minister Fired
Update (2045ET): Massive protests have erupted across Israel tonight after PM Netanyhau fired his Defense Minister, a day after he called on the Israeli leader to halt a planned judicial overhaul that has fiercely divided the country.
As a reminder, Netanyahu and his allies say the plan will restore a balance between the judicial and executive branches and rein in what they see as an interventionist court with liberal sympathies. But critics say the constellation of laws will remove the checks and balances in Israel’s democratic system and concentrate power in the hands of the governing coalition.
Gallant’s dismissal signaled that Netanyahu will move ahead this week with the overhaul plan, which has sparked mass protests, angered military and business leaders and raised concerns among Israel’s allies.
“The country is facing the greatest danger since the Yom Kippur War,” writes former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
“I call on the prime minister to withdraw Galant’s dismissal letter, suspend the reform and begin negotiations until after the Day of Independence.
Israel’s Consul General has resigned…
Bibi later tweeted “we must all stand strong against refusal.”
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets… in Tel Aviv…
… and Haifa…
Not everybody is protesting…
Haaretz reports that amid the unprecedented protests that erupted in Israel on Sunday night, several Likud lawmakers and ministers call to stop the highly controversial legislative process of Netanyahu’s judicial reform.
Additionally, as Nadav Eyal notes, for the first time in history, Israel’s main union, as well as leaders from the banks and the entire business sector, are about to declare a general strike demanding that the government stop the plan to overhaul the judicial system.
Finally, and more ominously, amid chatter across social media of the same, Iran has dropped the c-word:
The situation is definitely escalating, as Joyce Karam summarizes…
Ratcheting up the pressure on Netanyahu, Washington has chimed in:
We are deeply concerned by today’s developments out of Israel, which further underscore the urgent need for compromise.
As the President recently discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu, democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.- Israel relationship.
Democratic societies are strengthened by checks and balances, and fundamental changes to a democratic system should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support.
We continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible.
We believe that is the best path forward for Israel and all of its citizens. U.S. support for Israel’s security and democracy remains ironclad.
Which follows a report earlier in the month of the U.S. State Department has been funding a left-wing organization in Israel that is helping to promote anti-government protest aimed at bringing down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his judicial reforms. The Washington Free Beacon reported Monday that U.S. taxpayer funds have been granted to the Movement for Quality Government (MQG), which has participated in the protests that have rocked Israel for weeks. The protests began after Netanyahu, whose right-wing coalition won a commanding majority in recent elections, began tackling the decades-old problem of the judicial usurpation of power from the legislature.
And finally, as the crisis is worsening tonight, Bibi has called the leaders of the ruling coalition parties to an emergency meeting on Monday morning.
* * *
Update (1415ET): In perhaps the least surprising geopolitical move of the day, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister on Sunday, a day after Yoav Gallant called for a halt to the planned overhaul of Israel’s judiciary that has divided the country.
Netanyahu’s office did not provide further details.
As we detailed below, Gallant, a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, became the first to break ranks late Saturday by calling for the legislation to be frozen.
* * *
In a major development, Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant on Saturday called for Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to halt its planned judicial reforms, which have prompted enormous protests and are starting to disrupt the country’s military.
“I see the source of our strength eroding…The rift within our society is widening and penetrating the Israel Defense Forces,” said Gallant in a televised evening speech. “This is a clear and immediate and tangible danger to the security of the state. I shall not be a party to this.”
In addition to calling for a suspension of the reforms, Gallant also implored Israelis to stop their enormous protests, which raged even as he spoke.
The coming week could bring high drama and even more upheaval, as the Knesset is expected to hold its final vote on the first aspect of the judicial overhaul: a measure giving the government more power over Supreme Court appointments.
Other reforms would allow the Knesset — Israel’s unicameral legislature — to override Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority vote. Others would end the court’s practice of applying a “reasonableness” test when evaluating laws and government actions.
Critics characterize the scheme as a step deeper into authoritarianism. Some say the moves are in part designed to help Netanyahu terminate his ongoing prosecution on corruption charges.
The past ten weeks have seen major public protests all across Israel. Saturday night’s crowds were reportedly the largest yet, estimated in the hundreds of thousands.
Gallant said the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are feeling the effects: “The events happening in Israeli society are not staying out of the military. Feelings of rage, disappointment and fear have reached heights we have never seen before,” saidGallant.
More pressingly, a growing coalition of Israeli service members — calling themselves Brothers in Arms — are committing to stop showing up for duty in protest of the measures.
Some say they’ll stay home if the judicial reform passes, but others aren’t waiting — particularly among Israel’s reserve forces. On Friday, two hundred Israeli Air Force reserve pilots signed a letter saying they will not report for two weeks. Reservists are an essential part of Israel’s military, and especially its air force, which has been active in bombing targets across Syria, including the Damascus airport.
IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi has already sounded an internal alarm, saying the dip in reservists reporting for duty is now so large that the the military is on the verge of curtailing some operations, according to The New York Times, which quoted three anonymous Israeli officials. Two of those officials are bracing for resignations from full-time service members.
Underscoring the divisions caused by the judicial proposal, far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir lashed out at his fellow cabinet member, urging Netanyahu to fire Gallant, whom he condemned for “succumbing to the pressure of those [IDF members] who threatened to refuse [to report for duty] and are trying to stop the important reform.”
Similarly, Israel’s communications minister accused Gallant, a former navy commando, of “giving wind to a military coup.”
However, just minutes after Gallant concluded his remarks, two of his fellow Likud party lawmakers endorsed his plea, Haaretz reports. One is the chair of the Knesset’s security and foreign affairs committee, and the other is a person who rarely criticizes Netanyahu.
Israel’s agriculture minister and another Likud member reportedly favor a freeze as well. If they went as far as to become “no” votes, that quartet would be sufficient to impede the legislation.
On Friday — the day before Gallant’s speech — Netanyahu told reporters:
“Surrendering to [IDF] refusal is a terrible danger to the state of Israel…The country cannot exist without the IDF. There will not be a nation, it’s very simple. All red lines have been crossed. People who were responsible for the security of the country suddenly adopted this cynicism.”
Gallant said he had privately shared his views with Netanyahu, who asked him to delay going public with them. Gallant cancelled plans to speak out on Thursday, but said he now felt compelled to take his message to all Israelis.This post was originally published at Zero Hedge
National Embarrassment: Saudi TV Mocks Biden In Skit
International laughing stock
If there was ever any doubt that Joe Biden has made the U.S. an international laughing stock, then look no further than this clip from Saudi TV.
The MBC channel In Saudi depicted Biden as extending his hand to shake a non-existent person’s, getting lost on stage, and falling up the steps of Air Force One, while an equally useless Kamala Harris looks on.
It’s funny because it’s true:
The Saudi channel is continually using Biden for laughs:
It is not surprising given that, as reported by The Wall St Journal, sources inside the Saudi government have claimed that the country’s leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman privately mocks gaffes made by Joe Biden, and has questioned his mental fitness to be President.
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US Firms No Longer Safe In Mexico? Army Commandeers US-Owned Marine Terminal
We’ve heard many heartbreaking stories of American tourists venturing into Mexico only to be kidnapped or, worse, killed in crazy cartel drug war battles. It appears these days, no one is safe across the southern border, not even US-owned companies.
Bloomberg reported that Mexican marines and police officers seized US construction firm Vulcan Materials’ port terminal near Playa del Carmen in southern Mexico.
Footage from the seizure showed a long line of police and military units entering the property last Tuesday.
In a statement, Vulcan Materials claimed that Mexican officials did not possess any legal documentation to warrant the seizure of the terminal.
“It should be clear that the rule of law is no longer assured for foreign companies in Mexico,” the Alabama-based company said in a statement. “This invasion, unsupported by legal warrants, violates Vulcan’s commercial and property rights.”
AP News pointed out that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the company have been in a multi-year dispute:
López Obrador needs the dock to get cement, crushed stone and other materials into the area to finish his pet project, a tourist train known as the Train Maya. The president shut down Vulcan’s stone quarries last May, arguing the company had extracted or exported stone without approval.
US lawmakers, including Republican Senator Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, voiced concern about the forced takeover of the terminal. He said this “adds to the trend of misguided and counterproductive behavior” by the Mexican president.
This presents a significant concern for US companies considering relocating production from China to Mexico – how can they be sure their businesses will be safe from government seizure?This post was originally published at Zero Hedge
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