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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Iran"

State Dept. Investigator Fired by Trump Had Examined Weapons Sales to Saudis and Emiratis

WASHINGTON — The State Department inspector general fired by President Trump on Friday was in the final stages of an investigation into whether the administration had unlawfully declared an “emergency” last year to allow the resumption of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their air war in Yemen.

Employees from the office of the inspector general, Steve A. Linick, presented preliminary findings to senior State Department officials in early March, before the coronavirus forced lockdowns across the United States. But it was not clear whether that investigation, or others that Mr. Linick had underway, led to his dismissal.

Mr. Trump, speaking about the latest in his series of firings of inspectors general around the government, said on Monday of Mr. Linick: “I don’t know him. Never heard of him. But I was asked by the State Department, by Mike” to terminate Mr. Linick. He apparently was referring to a recommendation he received from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“I have the absolute right as president to terminate,” Mr. Trump added. “I said, ‘Who appointed him?’ and they say, ‘President Obama.’ I said, ‘Look I’ll terminate him.’”

Video

transcript

‘Never Heard of Him,’ Trump Says of Inspector General He Fired

President Trump said he didn’t know why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had asked him to terminate the official, who was investigating the administration.

“So, I don’t know him. Never heard of him, but they asked me to terminate him. I have the absolute right as president to terminate. I said, ‘Who appointed him?’ And they said, ‘President Obama.’ I said, ‘Look, I’ll terminate him.’ I don’t know what’s going on other than that. But you’d have to ask Mike Pompeo. But they did ask me to do it, and I did it. I have the right to terminate the inspector generals. Now, I don’t know anything about the investigation. But you’re just telling me about walking a dog, and what’d you say, doing dishes?” “Saudi arms deals, sir. Sales to Saudi Arabia over certain arms of concern over their use in the Yemeni crisis. So the question is whether Secretary Pompeo tried to subvert the deal with actions that he may have taken.” “I don’t think so. I mean, I think that when somebody pays us a fortune for, you know, arms, we should get the deal done. I will tell you that. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Westlake Legal Group 18vid-trump-pompeo-inspector-general1-videoSixteenByNine3000 State Dept. Investigator Fired by Trump Had Examined Weapons Sales to Saudis and Emiratis Yemen United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J State Department Saudi Arabia Raytheon Company Pompeo, Mike Linick, Steve A Iran Inspectors General House Committee on Foreign Affairs Foreign Aid Engel, Eliot L Defense Contracts Appointments and Executive Changes
President Trump said he didn’t know why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had asked him to terminate the official, who was investigating the administration.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The investigation into how Mr. Pompeo moved to end a congressional hold on arms sales to the Saudis was prompted in part by demands from the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, who said on Monday that the subsequent investigation might have been “another reason” for the firing of Mr. Linick. The White House announced the firing Friday night under a provision that requires 30 days’ notice to Congress before removing an inspector general.

Democratic leaders in Congress and several Republican lawmakers said on Monday that Mr. Trump had not given sufficient justification for the firing and that they wanted answers during the 30-day review period.

The inspector general’s office conducts multiple, simultaneous investigations into the activities of the State Department and its officials.

“We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed,” Mr. Engel said of the arms sale inquiry.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. Pompeo said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post that he had recommended to Mr. Trump that Mr. Linick be fired because Mr. Linick was “undermining” the department’s mission. Mr. Pompeo did not give details.

He also said his recommendation to fire Mr. Linick could not have been an act of retaliation to end an investigation because he had not been briefed on any inquiries.

However, top department officials had clearly received briefings from Mr. Linick’s office and been asked to comply with investigations.

Mr. Linick is widely seen as competent, though sometimes reluctant to wade into the most politically charged issues.

Nonetheless, he issued a harsh report in 2016 on the use of a private email server by Hillary Clinton, who served as Mr. Obama’s secretary of state, and played a minor role in the impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump last fall. He issued two reports last year that criticized political appointees at the State Department, some of whom work closely with Mr. Pompeo.

Mr. Trump has appointed Ambassador Stephen J. Akard, the director of the Office of Foreign Missions, for the role of acting inspector general. Mr. Akard, an associate of Vice President Mike Pence, failed to get congressional support for a top State Department job under Mr. Pompeo’s predecessor but was eventually confirmed for the lesser post at the foreign missions office.

The decision to resume lethal aid to the Saudis and Emiratis was a major initiative undertaken by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Trump, who often discussed the importance of the weapons sales with officers of Raytheon, the Massachusetts-based defense contractor that lobbied heavily to get a 2017 suspension of sales lifted. Congress had imposed the suspension because of a political rift among Gulf Arab nations driven by the Saudis and because of discoveries that bomb fragments traced to Raytheon by investigators were linked to a series of Saudi bombings that killed civilians, including children.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172054212_974f6070-527a-4661-b3b2-1cc78fa5f5d0-articleLarge State Dept. Investigator Fired by Trump Had Examined Weapons Sales to Saudis and Emiratis Yemen United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J State Department Saudi Arabia Raytheon Company Pompeo, Mike Linick, Steve A Iran Inspectors General House Committee on Foreign Affairs Foreign Aid Engel, Eliot L Defense Contracts Appointments and Executive Changes
Credit…Pool photo by Andrew Harnik

Mr. Trump had pushed to resume the sales in 2018, justifying it as a jobs issue.

“I want Boeing and I want Lockheed and I want Raytheon to take those orders and to hire lots of people to make that incredible equipment,” he said.

But the effort to restart the sales was delayed by the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident, Washington Post columnist and American resident. His death, and the suspected role of the Saudi leadership in ordering the killing, led to calls for a full end to military aid to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Pompeo broke the logjam a year ago, declaring an “emergency” over Iran’s activities in the Middle East that enabled him to sidestep the congressional ban and approve restarting the sales. That started the resumption of more normal exchanges with the Saudi government, as the Trump administration tried to move past Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. Saudi Arabia and Iran are archrivals in the region.

In June, after congressional hearings with State Department officials into the rationale for declaring an emergency over Iran, Mr. Engel sent a letter to Mr. Linick asking him to open an investigation. Mr. Engel’s office then tracked the investigation sporadically once it had begun, a Democratic aide said. The office learned by early spring that Mr. Linick had conveyed preliminary findings to the State Department.

This past weekend, after Mr. Trump notified Congress of the firing of Mr. Linick, Mr. Engel’s office learned more details of the circumstances around the arms sale investigation, leading Mr. Engel to ask whether the inquiry might have contributed to the sudden move against Mr. Linick by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Trump.

The separate inquiry into the possible misuse of a political appointee to run personal errands was still a potential factor, and there might be other motivations for the firing that remain unknown, an aide said.

Aaron David Miller, a former American official on Middle East policy who is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that a year ago, “there was no credible emergency nor any real urgency for invoking an Iran emergency declaration for lethal arms sales to the Saudis other than the administration’s desire to please Saudi Arabia.”

He added that American officials “don’t want anyone digging around in the triangular relationship between the administration, Raytheon and Saudi because somebody crossed the line.”

Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo were aware of the sensitivities around trying to bypass the congressional hold on the arms sales. Mr. Pompeo made the announcement of the “emergency” declaration over Iran on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend last year, a common move by government officials to avoid immediate questions from Congress and extensive news coverage. The administration also announced it was sending 1,500 more troops to the Middle East.

The move was aimed at allowing American companies to sell $8.1 billion worth of munitions in 22 pending transfers mainly to Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. At the time, a person briefed on the decision said, a part of the arrangement would involve a transfer of munitions from the U.A.E. to Jordan that had nothing to do with Iran.

Mr. Pompeo had pushed aggressively for the sales, over the objections of career Foreign Service officers and lawmakers.

After the announcement of the “emergency” on May 24, lawmakers pointedly asked why, if there was such a crisis, Mr. Pompeo and Patrick Shanahan, then the acting defense secretary, had not briefed them on the situation and on the need to push through arms sales in a closed-door discussion on Iran just three days earlier.

In June, lawmakers called top State Department officials to testify about the decision. Some of their questions focused on the roles played by Charles Faulkner, a former Raytheon lobbyist who worked in the State Department’s legislative affairs bureau, and Marik String, a former deputy assistant secretary in the political-military affairs bureau who became a top department legal adviser in late May.

In a contentious hearing on June 12, lawmakers pressed R. Clarke Cooper, the assistant secretary of state in the political-military affairs bureau, on the move. Mr. Cooper argued that a continued hold on the sales would cede commercial advantages to Russia and China. One lawmaker asked whether Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a Middle East adviser with close ties to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, had weighed in on the decision. Mr. Cooper demurred at first, then said no.

Michael LaForgia contributed reporting.

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U.S. to Accuse China of Trying to Hack Vaccine Data, as Virus Redirects Cyberattacks

WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security are preparing to issue a warning that China’s most skilled hackers and spies are working to steal American research in the crash effort to develop vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus. The efforts are part of a surge in cybertheft and attacks by nations seeking advantage in the pandemic.

The warning comes as Israeli officials accuse Iran of mounting an effort in late April to cripple water supplies as Israelis were confined to their houses, though the government has offered no evidence to back its claim. More than a dozen countries have redeployed military and intelligence hackers to glean whatever they can about other nations’ virus responses. Even American allies like South Korea and nations that do not typically stand out for their cyberabilities, like Vietnam, have suddenly redirected their state-run hackers to focus on virus-related information, according to private security firms.

A draft of the forthcoming public warning, which officials say is likely to be issued in the days to come, says China is seeking “valuable intellectual property and public health data through illicit means related to vaccines, treatments and testing.” It focuses on cybertheft and action by “nontraditional actors,” a euphemism for researchers and students the Trump administration says are being activated to steal data from inside academic and private laboratories.

The decision to issue a specific accusation against China’s state-run hacking teams, current and former officials said, is part of a broader deterrent strategy that also involves United States Cyber Command and the National Security Agency. Under legal authorities that President Trump issued nearly two years ago, they have the power to bore deeply into Chinese and other networks to mount proportional counterattacks. This would be similar to their effort 18 months ago to strike at Russian intelligence groups seeking to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections and to put malware in the Russian power grid as a warning to Moscow for its attacks on American utilities.

But it is unclear exactly what the U.S. has done, if anything, to send a similar shot across the bow to the Chinese hacking groups, including those most closely tied to China’s new Strategic Support Force, its equivalent of Cyber Command, the Ministry of State Security and other intelligence units.

The forthcoming warning is also the latest iteration of a series of efforts by the Trump administration to blame China for being the source of the pandemic and exploiting its aftermath.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed this month that there was “enormous evidence” that the virus had come from a Chinese lab before backing off to say it had come from the “vicinity” of the lab in Wuhan. United States intelligence agencies say they have reached no conclusion on the issue, but public evidence points to a link between the outbreak’s origins at a market in Wuhan and China’s illegal wildlife trafficking.

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The State Department on Friday described a Chinese Twitter campaign to push false narratives and propaganda about the virus. Twitter executives have pushed back on the agency, noting that some of the Twitter accounts that the State Department cited were actually critical of Chinese state narratives.

But it is the search for vaccines that has been a particular focus, federal officials say.

“China’s long history of bad behavior in cyberspace is well documented, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone they are going after the critical organizations involved in the nation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Christopher Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. He added that the agency would “defend our interests aggressively.”

Last week, the United States and Britain issued a joint warning that “health care bodies, pharmaceutical companies, academia, medical research organizations and local governments” had been targeted. While it named no specific countries — or targets — the wording was the kind used to describe the most active cyberoperators: Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

The hunt for spies seeking intellectual property has also accelerated. For months, F.B.I. officials have been visiting major universities and presenting largely unclassified briefings about their vulnerabilities.

But some of those academic leaders and student groups have pushed back, comparing the rising paranoia about stolen research to the worst days of the Red Scare era. They particularly objected when Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, declared last month on Fox News that it was “a scandal” that the United States had “trained so many of the Chinese Communist Party’s brightest minds to go back to China.”

Security experts say that while there is a surge of attacks by Chinese hackers seeking an edge in the race for a Covid-19 vaccine, or even effective treatment, the Chinese are hardly alone in seeking to exploit the virus.

Iranian hackers were also caught trying to get inside Gilead Sciences, the maker of remdesivir, the therapeutic drug approved 10 days ago by the Food and Drug Administration for clinical trials. Government officials and Gilead have refused to say if any element of the attack, which was first reported by Reuters, was successful.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172271916_02c910f3-90b1-492e-937d-34a8a3a4f8d0-articleLarge U.S. to Accuse China of Trying to Hack Vaccine Data, as Virus Redirects Cyberattacks United States Politics and Government United States International Relations South Korea National Security Agency Medicine and Health Israel Iran Homeland Security Department Federal Bureau of Investigation Espionage and Intelligence Services Cyberwarfare and Defense Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Computers and the Internet Computer Security China
Credit…Mike Blake/Reuters

Israel’s security advisers met last week for a classified session on a cyberattack on April 24 and 25, which the authorities were calling an attempt to cut off water supplies to rural parts of the country. The Israeli news media has widely blamed the attack on Iran, though they have offered no evidence in public. The effort was detected fairly quickly and did no damage, the authorities said.

The rush to attribute the attack to Iran could be faulty. When a Saudi petrochemical plant was similarly attacked in 2017, Iran was presumed as the source of the effort to cause an industrial accident. It turned out to be coordinated from a Russian scientific institute.

The coronavirus has created whole new classes of targets. In recent weeks, Vietnamese hackers have directed their campaigns against Chinese government officials running point on the virus, according to cybersecurity experts.

South Korean hackers have taken aim at the World Health Organization and officials in North Korea, Japan and the United States. The attacks appeared to be attempts to compromise email accounts, most likely as part of a broad effort to gather intelligence on virus containment and treatment, according to two security experts for private firms who said they were not authorized to speak publicly. If so, the moves suggest that even allies are suspicious of official government accounting of cases and deaths around the world.

In interviews with a dozen current and former government officials and cybersecurity experts over the past month, many described a “free-for-all” that has spread even to countries with only rudimentary cyberability.

“This is a global pandemic, but unfortunately countries are not treating it as a global problem,” said Justin Fier, a former national security intelligence analyst who is now the director of cyberintelligence at Darktrace, a cybersecurity firm. “Everyone is conducting widespread intelligence gathering — on pharmaceutical research, PPE orders, response — to see who is making progress.”

The frequency of cyberattacks and the spectrum of targets are “astronomical, off the charts,” Mr. Fier said.

Even before the pandemic, the United States was becoming far more aggressive in pursuing cases involved suspected Chinese efforts to steal intellectual property related to biological research. The Justice Department announced in January that it had charged Charles M. Lieber, the chairman of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, with making false statements related to his participation in China’s Thousand Talents program to recruit scientific talent to the country.

But Harvard also has a joint study program underway with a Chinese institute on coronavirus treatments and vaccines. And researchers have said that international cooperation will be vital if there is hope for a global vaccine, putting the expected national competitions to be first in tension with the need for a cooperative effort.

At Google, security researchers identified more than a dozen nation-state hacking groups using virus-related emails to break into corporate networks, including some sent to U.S. government employees. Google did not identify the specific countries involved, but over the past eight weeks, several nation states — some familiar, like Iran and China, and others not so familiar, like Vietnam and South Korea — have taken advantage of softer security as millions of workers have suddenly been forced to work from home.

“The nature of the vulnerabilities and attacks has altered pretty radically with shelter-in-place,” said Casey Ellis, the founder of Bugcrowd, a security firm. In some cases, Mr. Ellis said, hackers were just “kicking a baby,” hacking hospitals that were already overstretched and simply lacked the resources to prioritize cybersecurity.

In other cases, they were targeting the tools that workers used to remotely access internal networks and encrypted virtual private networks, or VPNs, that allow employees to tunnel into corporate networks, to gain access to proprietary information.

“Governments that might otherwise be reluctant to target international public health organizations, hospitals and commercial organizations are crossing that line because there is such a thirst for knowledge and information,” said John Hultquist, the director of intelligence analysis at FireEye, a cybersecurity firm.

Even Nigerian cybercriminals are getting in on the game: They recently started targeting businesses with coronavirus-themed email attacks to try to convince targets to wire them money, or to steal personal data that could fetch money on the dark web.

“These are not complex, but clever social engineering is getting them through,” said Jen Miller-Osborn, the deputy director of threat intelligence at Palo Alto Networks, a cybersecurity company. Because Nigerian hackers are less skilled, they lack the so-called “op sec,” or operational security, to cover their tracks.

David E. Sanger reported from Washington and Nicole Perlroth from Palo Alto, Calif.

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Peter Oborne and Kamal Alam: Why the time has come for a targeted lifting of sanctions on Syria

Peter Oborne is a columnist for Middle East Eye. His books include Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran and Wounded Tiger: A History of Cricket in Pakistan. Kamal Alam writes and teaches on Syrian affairs, he lectures at several army staff colleges in the Arab world.

Too often, sanctions are the coward’s way out.

On the one hand, politicians are unwilling to take strong action – such as troops on the ground – that will force through the changes they want.

On the other hand, they are eager to be seen to be doing something.

So they slap on sanctions. And once a country has been sanctioned, politicians are reluctant to remove them for fear of being seen as weak.

We’ve seen this again and again. Think of the commercial and financial embargo on Cuba which has been going strong since 1958.

Iran is another long-running case in point. And it is notoriously the case that the people who really suffer from sanctions are almost never the political and financial elites, who can find plenty of ways of surviving and even prospering from sanctions. It’s the ordinary people.

As the world’s leading economies struggle to cope with the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu, it is time the UK fundamentally re-examined its approach to sanctions on Syria.

France and Germany have actually by-passed US sanctions to provide much needed medical aid to Iran. But the country that probably needs most assistance, even without taking into the current pandemic, is Syria. Its long suffering civilians are not just recovering from a devastating nine year war. They now have economic hardships coupled with a crippled health care system made worse by sanctions.

It is time that these punitive sanctions are put to an end to alleviate the suffering of the common Syrian. It is clear that in Syria what is needed most is for education and healthcare to recover. But financial sanctions on even the most basic transactions make life unbearable.

To be clear: we are not advocating an end to all sanctions. We emphatically do not support any lifting of the arms embargo (for any party in Syria) and would not lift the sanctions targeted on individuals for egregious human rights abuses.

Nor do we support the lifting of sanctions on the majority of the institutions already sanctioned – unless it can be demonstrated that they are required for delivery of key humanitarian objectives. It is the sanctions that prevent ordinary Syrians from accessing humanitarian aid and economic opportunities that we would wish to see lifted.

The war is all but over across most of Syria. By a vicious paradox, living conditions for many ordinary Syrians have got worse. A key issue in terms of the crash of the Syrian economy is recent events in Lebanon. This cannot be underestimated.

Syrians on the ground are in most need of help, suffering from ailments beyond the immediate scope of war, including cancer, diabetes, the resuscitation of diseases that had once been eradicated, such as smallpox and tuberculosis that have hit both young and old.

Recent UAE and Kuwaiti healthcare aid to Syria has helped the hospitals in Damascus, but it is not nearly enough. Similarly, David Beasley, director of the World Food Program, has repeatedly said the world must help Syrians in Syria as the best way to tackle the overall crisis.

And whilst American and British officials insist that healthcare is not targeted, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it is being indirectly effected. The European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) has published a detailed report arguing that there must be a new way that helps Syrians suffering due to the economic hardships, and this way should include easing of some sanctions which are linked to helping ordinary Syrians.

In Damascus, financial sanctions hinder payments for any healthcare imports. And that’s before we get to the difficulty in getting hold of them. We’re told that many hospitals and healthcare centres are out of action and need urgent reconstruction.

We’re also told that diagnostic equipment are missing vital parts, or their life span has expired. Ventilators and laboratory equipment and the reagents they use to provide a pathological diagnosis of the referred cases are all lacking.

Endoscopies, cardiac catheters and coronary stents and the renal dialysis facilities are all suffering due to sanctions.
Even the private hospitals that can afford these repairs can’t garner them because no one wants to sell them the aforementioned equipment due to the fear of sanctions repercussions.

Doctors cannot attend regional conferences because of visa restrictions and could not subscribe to scientific journals as they are unable to pay the registration fee or the subscription fee as a result and because of the financial sanctions.

Recent statements claimed that humanitarian aids and healthcare equipment and requirements are not included in the sanctions list. How would you pay for them? Again, financial sanctions prevent them from doing so and therefore the exemptions they claim become irrelevant.

The purpose of this article is not a political point-scoring exercise. What we are arguing is the need to work in a way to help the suffering of the Syrians as it stands today.

David Davis, the former Brexit Secretary – who visited Damascus in 2016 and wrote about the experience for ConservativeHome – said we must come to a workable solution to end the destruction, and, at the very least, he argued that, from what he saw, the state is able to survive, and so the West must look at the easing of the suffering of those distant from politics.

Davis is certainly no Assad apologist. Similarly, Roger Tomkys, a former Ambassador to Syria and now Master at Merton College, Cambridge, told us that: “Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Syrian conflict, the motives and humanitarian crimes on all sides, it is now clear that the Damascus regime has won, will remain in control of the great majority of the country and must play a major part in its physical and political rebuilding.”

“It is high time for all who care for the victims of this human disaster to work for an end to the fighting, and first steps toward reconciliation and repatriation. The West should not leave it to regional powers and Russia but play their part. Lifting sanctions is an important step in engagement with Damascus to that end.”

Another former Ambassador to Syria that we spoke to, Henry Hogger, said that whilst he did not support lifting sanctions on Syria as a way to reward its government or the Russians, “there must be a workable solution, and Coronavirus awards an opportunity where a practical solution to work together can be reached beginning with the healthcare and charitable sector where allowances can be made for goods to be delivered.”

Two other former Ambassadors to Syria, Andrew Green and Peter Ford, recently signed a letter to the Times calling for a lifting of sanctions. Bob Bowker, a promiment former Australian Ambassador to Syria and Masaki Kuneida, a former Japanese Ambassador to Syria. have also called for a need to work with the Syrian government to help the suffering on the ground.

These are people who know the situation and have been to Syria. They all call for sanctions relief of some kind. Too often it’s those in offices in London, Beirut or Washington who disagree.

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The Covid-19 Riddle: Why Does the Virus Wallop Some Places and Spare Others?

Westlake Legal Group 00virus-notspots-facebookJumbo The Covid-19 Riddle: Why Does the Virus Wallop Some Places and Spare Others? World Health Organization Quarantines Princess Cruises Politics and Government Iraq Iran Indonesia India Haiti Guyana Genetics and Heredity Epidemics Ecuador Dubai (United Arab Emirates) Dominican Republic Daegu (South Korea) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China Cambodia Brazil Bangkok (Thailand) Africa

The coronavirus has killed so many people in Iran that the country has resorted to mass burials, but in neighboring Iraq, the body count is fewer than 100.

The Dominican Republic has reported nearly 7,600 cases of the virus. Just across the border, Haiti has recorded about 85.

In Indonesia, thousands are believed to have died of the coronavirus. In nearby Malaysia, a strict lockdown has kept fatalities to about 100.

The coronavirus has touched almost every country on earth, but its impact has seemed capricious. Global metropolises like New York, Paris and London have been devastated, while teeming cities like Bangkok, Baghdad, New Delhi and Lagos have, so far, largely been spared.

The question of why the virus has overwhelmed some places and left others relatively untouched is a puzzle that has spawned numerous theories and speculations but no definitive answers. That knowledge could have profound implications for how countries respond to the virus, for determining who is at risk and for knowing when it’s safe to go out again.

There are already hundreds of studies underway around the world looking into how demographics, pre-existing conditions and genetics might affect the wide variation in impact.

Doctors in Saudi Arabia are studying whether genetic differences may help explain varying levels of severity in Covid-19 cases among Saudi Arabs, while scientists in Brazil are looking into the relationship between genetics and Covid-19 complications. Teams in multiple countries are studying if common hypertension medications might worsen the disease’s severity and whether a particular tuberculosis vaccine might do the opposite.

Many developing nations with hot climates and young populations have escaped the worst, suggesting that temperature and demographics could be factors. But countries like Peru, Indonesia and Brazil, tropical countries in the throes of growing epidemics, throw cold water on that idea.

Draconian social-distancing and early lockdown measures have clearly been effective, but Myanmar and Cambodia did neither and have reported few cases.

One theory that is unproven but impossible to refute: maybe the virus just hasn’t gotten to those countries yet. Russia and Turkey appeared to be fine until, suddenly, they were not.

Time may still prove the greatest equalizer: The Spanish flu that broke out in the United States in 1918 seemed to die down during the summer only to come roaring back with a deadlier strain in the fall, and a third wave the following year. It eventually reached far-flung places like islands in Alaska and the South Pacific and infected a third of the world’s population.

“We are really early in this disease,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Research Institute. “If this were a baseball game, it would be the second inning and there’s no reason to think that by the ninth inning the rest of the world that looks now like it hasn’t been affected won’t become like other places.”

Doctors who study infectious diseases around the world say they do not have enough data yet to get a full epidemiological picture, and that gaps in information in many countries make it dangerous to draw conclusions. Testing is woeful in many places, leading to vast underestimates of the virus’s progress, and deaths are almost certainly undercounted.

Still, the broad patterns are clear. Even in places with abysmal record-keeping and broken health systems, mass burials or hospitals turning away sick people by the thousands would be hard to miss, and a number of places are just not seeing them — at least not yet.

Interviews with more than two dozen infectious disease experts, health officials, epidemiologists and academics around the globe suggest four main factors that could help explain where the virus thrives and where it doesn’t: demographics, culture, environment and the speed of government responses.

Each possible explanation comes with considerable caveats and confounding counter-evidence. If an aging population is the most vulnerable, for instance, Japan should be at the top of the list. It is far from it. Nonetheless these are the factors that experts find the most persuasive.

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Many countries that have escaped mass epidemics have relatively younger populations.

Young people are more likely to contract mild or asymptomatic cases that are less transmissible to others, said Robert Bollinger, a professor of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. And they are less likely to have certain health problems that can make Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, particularly deadly, according to the World Health Organization.

Africa — with about 45,000 reported cases, a tiny fraction of its 1.3 billion people — is the world’s youngest continent, with more than 60 percent of its population under age 25. In Thailand and Najaf, Iraq, local health officials found that the 20-to-29 age group had the highest rate of infection but often showed few symptoms.

By contrast, the national median age in Italy, one of the hardest hit countries, is more than 45. The average age of those who died of Covid-19 there was around 80.

Younger people tend to have stronger immune systems, which can result in milder symptoms, said Josip Car, an expert in population and global health at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

In Singapore and Saudi Arabia, for instance, most of the infections are among foreign migrant workers, many of them living in cramped dormitories. However, many of those workers are young and fit, and have not required hospitalization.

Along with youth, relative good health can lessen the impact of the virus among those who are infected, while certain pre-existing conditions — notably hypertension, diabetes and obesity — can worsen the severity, researchers in the United States say.

There are notable exceptions to the demographic theory. Japan, with the world’s oldest average population, has recorded fewer than 520 deaths, although its caseload has risen with increased testing.

The Guayas region of Ecuador, the epicenter of an outbreak that may have claimed up to 7,000 lives, is one of the youngest in the country, with only 11 percent of its residents over 60 years old.

And Dr. Jha of Harvard warns that some young people who are not showing symptoms are also highly contagious for reasons that are not well understood.

Cultural factors, like the social distancing that is built into certain societies, may give some countries more protection, epidemiologists said.

In Thailand and India, where virus numbers are relatively low, people greet each other at a distance, with palms joined together as in prayer. In Japan and South Korea, people bow, and long before the coronavirus arrived, they tended to wear face masks when feeling unwell.

In much of the developing world, the custom of caring for the elderly at home leads to fewer nursing homes, which have been tinder for tragic outbreaks in the West.

However, there are notable exceptions to the cultural distancing theory. In many parts of the Middle East, such as Iraq and the Persian Gulf countries, men often embrace or shake hands on meeting, yet most are not getting sick.

What might be called “national distancing” has also proven advantageous. Countries that are relatively isolated have reaped health benefits from their seclusion.

Far-flung nations, such as some in the South Pacific and parts of sub-Saharan Africa, have not been as inundated with visitors bringing the virus with them. Health experts in Africa cite limited travel from abroad as perhaps the main reason for the continent’s relatively low infection rate.

Countries that are less accessible for political reasons, like Venezuela, or because of conflict, like Syria and Libya, have also been somewhat shielded by the lack of travelers, as have countries like Lebanon and Iraq, which have endured widespread protests in recent months.

The lack of public transportation in developing countries may have also reduced the spread of the virus there.

The geography of the outbreak — which spread rapidly during the winter in temperate zone countries like Italy and the United States and was virtually unseen in warmer countries such as Chad or Guyana — seemed to suggest that the virus did not take well to heat. Other coronaviruses, such as ones that cause the common cold, are less contagious in warmer, moist climates.

But researchers say the idea that hot weather alone can repel the virus is wishful thinking.

Some of the worst outbreaks in the developing world have been in places like the Amazonas region of Brazil, as tropical a place as any.

“The best guess is that summer conditions will help but are unlikely by themselves to lead to significant slowing of growth or to a decline in cases,” said Marc Lipsitch, the director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard University.

The virus that causes Covid-19 appears to be so contagious as to mitigate any beneficial effect of heat and humidity, said Dr. Raul Rabadan, a computational biologist at Columbia University.

But other aspects of warm climates, like people spending more time outside, could help.

“People living indoors within enclosed environments may promote virus recirculation, increasing the chance of contracting the disease,” said Mr. Car of Nanyang Technological University.

The ultraviolet rays of direct sunlight inhibit the growth of this coronavirus, according to a study by ecological modelers at the University of Connecticut. So surfaces in sunny places may be less likely to remain contaminated, but transmission usually occurs through contact with an infected person, not by touching a surface.

No scientist has proposed that beaming light inside an infected person, as President Trump suggested, would be an effective cure. And tropical conditions may have even lulled some people into a false sense of security.

“People were saying ‘It’s hot here, nothing will happen to me,’” said Dr. Doménica Cevallos, a medical investigator in Ecuador. “Some were even going out on purpose to sunbathe, thinking it would protect them from infection.”

Countries that locked down early, like Vietnam and Greece, have been able to avoid out-of-control contagions, evidence of the power of strict social distancing and quarantines to contain the virus.

In Africa, countries with bitter experience with killers like H.I.V., drug-resistant tuberculosis and Ebola knew the drill and reacted quickly.

Airport staff from Sierra Leone to Uganda were taking temperatures (since found to be a less effective measure) and contact details and wearing masks long before their counterparts in the United States and Europe took such precautions.

Senegal and Rwanda closed their borders and announced curfews when they still had very few cases. Health ministries began contact tracing early.

All this happened in a region where health ministries had come to rely on money, personnel and supplies from foreign donors, many of which had to turn their attention to outbreaks in their own countries, said Catherine Kyobutungi, executive director of the African Population and Health Research Center.

“Countries wake up one day and they’re like, ‘OK, the weight of the country rests on our shoulders, so we need to step up,’” she said. “And they have. Some of the responses have been beautiful to behold, honestly.”

Sierra Leone repurposed disease-tracking protocols that had been established in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, in which almost 4,000 people died there. The government set up emergency operations centers in every district and recruited 14,000 community health workers, 1,500 of whom are being trained as contact tracers, even though Sierra Leone has only about 155 confirmed cases.

It is not clear, however, who will pay for their salaries or for expenses like motorcycles and raincoats to keep them operating during the coming wet season.

Uganda, which also suffered during the Ebola contagion, quickly quarantined travelers from Dubai after the first case of coronavirus arrived from there. Authorities also tracked down about 800 others who had traveled from Dubai in previous weeks.

The Ugandan health authorities are also testing around 1,000 truck drivers a day. But many of those who test positive have come from Tanzania and Kenya, countries that are not monitoring as aggressively, leading to worries that the virus will keep penetrating porous borders.

Lockdowns, with bans on religious conclaves and spectator sporting events, clearly work, the World Health Organization says. More than a month after closing national borders, schools and most businesses, countries from Thailand to Jordan have seen new infections drop.

In the Middle East, the widespread shuttering of mosques, shrines and churches happened relatively early and probably helped stem the spread in many countries.

A notable exception was Iran, which did not close some of its largest shrines until March 18, a full month after it registered its first case in the pilgrimage city of Qum. The epidemic spread quickly from there, killing thousands in the country and spreading the virus across borders as pilgrims returned home.

As effective as lockdowns are, in countries lacking a strong social safety net and those where most people work in the informal economy, orders closing businesses and requiring people to shelter in place will be difficult to maintain for long. When people are forced to choose between social distancing and feeding their families, they are choosing the latter.

Counter-intuitively, some countries where authorities reacted late and with spotty enforcement of lockdowns appear to have been spared. Cambodia and Laos both had brief spates of infections when few social distancing measures were in place but neither has recorded a new case in about three weeks.

Lebanon, whose Muslim and Christian citizens often go on pilgrimages respectively to Iran and Italy, places rife with the virus, should have had high numbers of infections. It has not.

“We just didn’t see what we were expecting,” said Dr. Roy Nasnas, an infectious disease consultant at the University Hospital Geitaoui in Beirut. “We don’t know why.”

Finally, most experts agree that there may be no single reason for some countries to be hit and others missed. The answer is likely to be some combination of the above factors, as well as one other mentioned by researchers: sheer luck.

Countries with the same culture and climate could have vastly different outcomes if one infected person attends a crowded social occasion, turning it into what researchers call a super-spreader event.

That happened when a passenger infected 634 people on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan, when an infected guest attended a large funeral in Albany, Ga., and when a 61-year-old woman went to church in Daegu, South Korea, spreading the disease to hundreds of congregants and then to thousands of other Koreans.

Because an infected person may not experience symptoms for a week or more, if at all, the disease spreads under the radar, exponentially and seemingly at random. Had the woman in Daegu stayed home that Sunday in February, the outbreak in South Korea might have been less than half of what it is.

Some countries that should have been inundated are not, leaving researchers scratching their heads.

Thailand reported the first confirmed case of coronavirus outside of China in mid-January, from a traveler from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the pandemic is thought to have begun. In those critical weeks, Thailand continued to welcome an influx of Chinese visitors. For some reason, these tourists did not set off exponential local transmission.

And when countries do all the wrong things and still end up seemingly not as battered by the virus as one would expect, go figure.

“In Indonesia, we have a health minister who believes you can pray away Covid, and we have too little testing,” said Dr. Pandu Riono, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Indonesia. “But we are lucky we have so many islands in our country that limit travel and maybe infection.”

“There’s nothing else we’re doing right,” he added.

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To Pressure Iran, Pompeo Turns to the Deal Trump Renounced

Westlake Legal Group 26dc-iransanctions-facebookJumbo To Pressure Iran, Pompeo Turns to the Deal Trump Renounced United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Security Council (UN) Russia Pompeo, Mike Nuclear Weapons Iran Europe Embargoes and Sanctions Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Arms Trade

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is preparing a legal argument that the United States remains a participant in the Iran nuclear accord that President Trump has renounced, part of an intricate strategy to pressure the United Nations Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Tehran or see far more stringent sanctions reimposed on the country.

The strategy has been described in recent days by administration officials as they begin to circulate a new resolution in the Security Council that would bar countries from exporting conventional arms to Iran after the current ban expires in October. Any effort to renew the arms embargo is almost certain to be opposed by Russia and, publicly or quietly, by China. The Russians have already told American and European officials they are eager to resume conventional arms sales to Iran.

In an effort to force the issue, Mr. Pompeo has approved a plan, bound to be opposed by many of Washington’s European allies, under which the United States would, in essence, claim it legally remains a “participant state” in the nuclear accord that Mr. Trump has denounced — but only for the purposes of invoking a “snapback” that would restore the U.N. sanctions on Iran that were in place before the accord.

If the arms embargo is not renewed, the United States would exercise that right as an original member of the agreement. That step would force a restoration of the wide array of the sanctions that prohibited oil sales and banking arrangements before the adoption of the agreement in 2015. Enforcing those older sanctions would, in theory, be binding on all members of the United Nations.

European diplomats who have learned of the effort maintain that Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo are selectively choosing whether they are still in the agreement to fit their agenda.

The entire drama could play out this autumn in the weeks before the presidential election, setting up a potential confrontation with Iran in the midst of the contest.

Political calculations aside, the administration’s larger plan may go beyond imposing harsher sanctions on Iran. It is also to force Tehran to give up any pretense of preserving the Obama-era agreement. Only by shattering it, many senior administration officials say, will Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani be forced to negotiate an entirely new agreement more to Mr. Trump’s liking.

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Iran has resisted even opening talks with the Trump administration, saying that before it would sit down Mr. Trump to amend the previous agreement, the United States would have to re-enter the accord and fully abide by its terms. Mr. Trump has refused.

The intricate strategy has been described by senior administration officials involved in devising it. Asked about it, Mr. Pompeo said in a statement to The New York Times: “We cannot allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to purchase conventional weapons in six months. President Obama should never have agreed to end the U.N. arms embargo.”

“We are prepared to exercise all of our diplomatic options to ensure the arms embargo stays in place at the U.N. Security Council,” he added.

A draft of the American resolution to extend the arms embargo indefinitely has been shared with some members of the Security Council by Brian H. Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, who is carrying out the new strategy.

In trips to New York and Paris, he has described the administration’s insistence that Tehran never receive even small conventional arms, much less missiles. But he did not explain the next step if the arms embargo lapses: an effort to unilaterally force the imposition of even more crushing sanctions.

The timing is critical for Iran, which has been ravaged by the coronavirus. A month ago, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, wrote to the world’s largest economic powers and urged a lifting of economic sanctions on Iran, along with Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea and Zimbabwe. “I am encouraging the waiving of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and Covid-19 medical support,” he wrote. “This is the time for solidarity not exclusion.”

He did not say how long that waiver should last, and his appeal has made little progress.

Mr. Trump said that he would be willing to give some medical equipment to Iran to combat the virus, such as ventilators, “if they ask for it.” Iran’s leaders have not asked.

Trump administration officials say their threat to return to the far harsher sanctions — which blocked virtually all oil sales and drove Iran to the negotiating table — would not come until fall, presumably after the first phase of the coronavirus response has passed. They maintain it is separate from any relaxation of restrictions on medical supplies, some of which are exempted already from U.S. sanctions.

The arms embargo at the center of the dispute was something of a sideshow to the main nuclear agreement. The agreement covers only Iran’s nuclear activity: It required Iran to ship about 97 percent of its nuclear fuel out of the country — moved to Russia, in early 2016 — and to observe sharp limits on its production of nuclear material for 15 years.

Iran abided by those limits for a year after Mr. Trump pulled out of the agreement. But since last summer, it has gradually violated the limitations on both how much nuclear fuel it is allowed to stockpile and the level to which it can enrich its fuel. As a result, experts agree that it has greatly shortened its “breakout time,” the period needed to make enough fuel for a single nuclear weapon. Iran insists it would return to the agreed-upon levels as soon as Mr. Trump came back into compliance with the agreement by lifting unilateral sanctions.

The arms embargo — along with limits on missile launches — was part of a United Nations Security Council resolution that enshrined the nuclear accord, and suspended years of U.N.-imposed sanctions. That is what begins to expire in October. (The limits come off in stages: Small arms restrictions end this year, but restrictions on missiles and their components remain in place for another three years.)

Wendy R. Sherman, who served as the negotiation team leader of the Iran accord during the Obama administration and now directs the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard, recalled that the Russians and Chinese never wanted a conventional arms embargo on Iran, and only agreed to one of limited duration.

In an interview, Ms. Sherman predicted that if the United States argues that it remains a participant in the agreement for the purposes of dismantling the accord, “I think they will get tremendous pushback, because the Trump administration withdrew from the agreement.” She predicted that any move to impose the snapback provisions “will be strongly resisted, and should be.” But she added, “That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t succeed.”

Under Mr. Pompeo’s plan, an American-drafted resolution, which has already been given to the Europeans, the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, would propose extending the conventional arms embargo, according to a copy reviewed by The New York Times.

The American draft says that “Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer, directly or indirectly, from its territory, by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft, any arms or related matériel, and that all member states shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flagged vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran.”

Russia, the U.S. expects, would veto the resolution in the Security Council.

In response, the United States would then attempt to declare that it remains a participant state in the agreement, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, despite Mr. Trump’s declaration that he was abandoning it.

As a participant state, the United States would declare that Iran is violating the agreement because it is now producing nuclear fuel above the limits in the accord — and impose the snapback of U.N. sanctions that Mr. Obama referred to in his 2015 speech, when he was trying to reassure critics of the agreement.

Relying on a legal opinion developed by lawyers within Mr. Pompeo’s department, the United States would dispute the arguments of the other signatories that Mr. Trump gave up all rights to invoke the snapback when he declared that the United States was reimposing its own sanctions on Iran, despite Washington’s obligations under the agreement.

A senior European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, dismissed the strategy as pushing the words of the agreement far beyond their logical context.

But the administration’s strategy could well work, even if other members of the United Nations ignored the move. At that point, on paper at least, the United Nations would be back to all the sanctions on Iran that existed before Mr. Obama reached the accord with Tehran.

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Jailed Huawei Workers Raised a Forbidden Subject: Iran

Westlake Legal Group 25huawei-2-facebookJumbo Jailed Huawei Workers Raised a Forbidden Subject: Iran WeChat (Mobile App) Ren Zhengfei Meng Wanzhou Iran Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Embargoes and Sanctions China

The five men were all locked in disputes with their onetime employer, the Chinese technology giant Huawei. And they had all joined a group on the social app WeChat to organize.

Then, one of them wrote a message to the group that would upend their lives:

“I can prove that Huawei sold to Iran.”

The message, and the brief discussion that followed, touched on an explosive issue for the company. Huawei had just begun fighting allegations by the U.S. government that it had committed fraud to bypass sanctions against Iran. The company’s chief financial officer, a daughter of its founder, had been arrested less than two weeks earlier as part of the case.

The employees’ messages in the chat group included no hard evidence that Huawei’s activities in Iran were unlawful. Yet within weeks, the Chinese police had arrested all five men, two of them told The New York Times.

The two former employees — Li Hongyuan, 42, and Zeng Meng, 39 — said officers had questioned them about Iran and asked why they had been in contact with foreign news outlets, both topics they had discussed on WeChat.

Mr. Li eventually spent more than eight months in detention. Mr. Zeng spent three.

For over a year now, Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment and a leading smartphone brand, has been the target of an intense clampdown by the Trump administration. The Justice Department has charged Huawei with stealing trade secrets and lying about its business in Iran. The company denies wrongdoing. American officials say Huawei answers to the Chinese state, which the company also denies.

But even if Huawei is not government controlled, Chinese officials often defend it as if it were a strategically vital state asset.

Beijing has vowed to retaliate for the U.S. government’s restrictions on Huawei. China’s ambassador to Germany threatened consequences if that nation’s government excluded the company from its telecom market. State propaganda outlets cast supporting Huawei as a patriotic act.

And in the case of the jailed employees, Mr. Li and Mr. Zeng said, the police appear to have arrested them in part to stop them from speaking out about Huawei’s activities in Iran.

Huawei declined to comment. It referred to an earlier statement saying that Mr. Li’s case was not a labor dispute, and that the company had reported suspected illegal conduct to the authorities. Huawei also reiterated that it was committed to complying with the law wherever it operates.

The police in the city of Shenzhen, who seized the men, didn’t respond to a faxed request for comment.

News of Mr. Li’s detention set off a wave of anger at Huawei in China last year. Internet users were outraged at what seemed to be a case of a vindictive corporation’s punishing an employee who dared to demand the pay he was owed. Censors quickly erased critical comments and articles. But at the time, the police’s interest in the employees’ discussions about Iran was not reported.

Mr. Li, Mr. Zeng and the three others were first detained in December 2018, not long after the world learned that Washington was accusing Huawei of fraud related to its Iranian business. The five men were embroiled in labor disputes with the company, and they chatted and commiserated in a WeChat group.

The discussion about Iran took place on Dec. 11, according to screenshots seen by The Times. Days later, Mr. Li was arrested in Shenzhen, where Huawei has its headquarters. Mr. Zeng was arrested shortly thereafter in Thailand, where he was vacationing, and taken back to China.

For Huawei, not all sales to Iran would have been illegal. In principle, only those involving U.S.-origin goods, technology or services would have fallen afoul of American sanctions. The company has said its sales in Iran were for commercial civilian use and did not violate sanctions.

Even so, Mr. Li said, the police asked him about his involvement in Iran, which he had mentioned on WeChat. As a former global manager in Huawei’s electrical inverter business, Mr. Li naturally had contact with colleagues in Iran, he told The Times. But he said he had never been there himself.

“I only knew so much. Whatever I knew, I told them all of it,” Mr. Li said. The police did not say why they were questioning him about Iran, he said.

The police also knew that he had been arranging to meet with a reporter for a Hong Kong news outlet that month, Mr. Li said. But he had planned to talk with the reporter about Huawei’s labor and tax practices, not Iran, he said.

“I said, ‘There’s nothing illegal about that,’” Mr. Li recalled.

Mr. Zeng said the police had explained it clearly to him: By discussing Huawei’s Iranian business and communicating with foreign news outlets, the former employees had crossed a line.

China and the United States were in a trade war, Mr. Zeng said one officer had told him. At a delicate time, weren’t they just making trouble?

It was the equivalent, Mr. Zeng said the officer had told him, of supporting Japan after it invaded China in the 1930s.

“At the time, the Meng situation was too hot,” Mr. Li said, referring to the arrest of Huawei’s finance chief, Meng Wanzhou. “They might have been afraid that we were making these noises and would cause problems for Boss Meng.”

The three other employees who were jailed couldn’t be contacted.

Mr. Zeng said he had been working as a product manager for Huawei in Morocco when the company began hinting, in 2017, that it was dissatisfied with his performance. In May the next year, he was let go, but his severance package did not include his year-end bonus, and he sued.

During that time, Mr. Zeng looked for other disgruntled Huawei workers to add to a WeChat group. Word reached Mr. Li, who was suing Huawei for his own bonus after his contract wasn’t renewed. The group eventually swelled to more than 60 people.

They knew they were probably being monitored. Huawei has a habit of infiltrating unhappy employees’ chat groups, Mr. Zeng said.

In November 2018, a WeChat group consisting of Mr. Li, Mr. Zeng and a few others split off from the larger one. They discussed how to draw the international news media’s attention to Huawei’s labor practices.

On Dec. 11, the larger WeChat group was discussing Huawei’s political troubles when someone in the group brought up Iran, screenshots of the messages show.

“I worked on IranCell projects from 2012 to 2014,” the person wrote, referring to an Iranian telecom operator. “I went on business trips.”

“I can also confirm,” Mr. Li replied. “Internally, it’s an open secret that Huawei sells to Iran.”

The police arrested Mr. Li on Dec. 16, according to a document from Shenzhen prosecutors. He was initially accused of leaking trade secrets, he said. Mr. Zeng said he was arrested two weeks later on the same accusation.

The three other employees were also in the smaller WeChat group, Mr. Zeng said. He said one was the person who had first spoken up about Iran in the larger group.

When the police took Mr. Zeng back to his Thai hotel, one officer demanded his phone, he recalled. The officer saw that he had been in contact with international news outlets, including The Times, about his colleagues’ arrests.

The officer uttered an expletive, Mr. Zeng said. Did he really have to go to the foreign media? the officer asked.

Mr. Zeng said his damp cell in Shenzhen had held more than 30 detainees. Only at midday would it get some sunlight, on a patch of wall near the toilet. They would crowd around, basking in the warmth and holding their noses.

After Mr. Zeng had spent a few weeks in detention, the police changed the accusation against him to fraud, he said. He denied wrongdoing, and in March 2019, he was released. But he said the police had first made him write a statement promising that he would not publicly go against Huawei’s company line on Iran or be manipulated by foreign forces with ulterior motives, a reference to the international news media.

The accusation against Mr. Li ended up being extortion. He was freed in August with no charges.

“China is still some distance away from having rule of law,” he said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Death rates shouldn’t be used to make political points. And can’t be truthfully. Here’s why.

Britain may be reaching the peak of its Coronavirus outbreak, with the total number of coronavirus-related hospital deaths reaching 11,329.

On Sunday, as the count surpassed 10,000, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, remarked that it was a “sombre day”. The nation will share his sentiments. The death of one person, let alone thousands, is a tragedy – a reflection of how contagious this disease is.

And the release of this terrible figure duly sparked immediate anger on social media, with many blaming the Government for the death toll.

Some pounced on the words of Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, who claimed on The Andrew Marr Show that “the UK is likely to be certainly one of the worst, if not the worst affected country in Europe”. 

Taken in isolation, the UK’s figures look bleak compared to those others. And there is no getting away from the fact that the amount of lives lost is over 11,000 – a dire total that will not even be definitive.

But even so, it is naive and wrong to suggest that interventions could have magicked away the staggering impact of the Coronavirus. The media should not have carte blanche to claim the UK is the worst country in Europe – as many outlets have implied throughout the Coronavirus crisis.

The only way of pushing such a narrative is to remove context and nuance from the data. Anyone with common sense knows there are reasons why countries exhibit different statistics – quite apart from their governments.

To state the obvious, there are variations across population size, population density, demographics (age, ethnicity, gender) and climates. These have to be woven into the debate if we are to achieve a mature dialogue and find a sensible way forward.

One factor that is especially important in understanding the Coronavirus is population density, which speeds up the transmission of the disease. The more people living in one space, the more get it.

The UK is at a disadvantage in this regard; 727 of people per square mile and 83 per cent living in urban areas. Comparatively, Ireland has 186 people per square mile and 63 per cent living in urban areas. So one can begin to understand why it has suffered 8,928 cases and 320 deaths, next to Britain’s 78,991 cases and 9,875 deaths.

This pattern extends to other countries. Germany and France, for instance, have lower population densities (623 and 309 people per square mile, respectively) and less people living in urban areas (76 per cent and 81.5 per cent respectively).

Another disadvantage for the UK is that its capital, where the outbreak has been most virulent, is the largest city in Europe, with a population of almost nine million. Berlin and Paris have 3.7 million and 2.1 million, respectively – so this is yet another reason why their statistics will vary.

Furthermore, there’s the aspect of age. Considering that the virus disproportionately kills older people, it follows that countries with more elderly populations will be worse impacted.

This helps to explain why Italy has one of the worst death rates, as the average age of those tested positive for the Coronavirus was 62: compare that to South Korea, where a third of infected cases were people aged 30 or under. The majority of Germany’s infections have been people aged 15 to 59, which helps to account for its low death rate.

Even gender has a role in statistics, with women more likely to survive the virus. So one can expect this to impact negatively on countries that have higher male populations. Other factors such as the timing of the epidemic, compliance of citizens (some countries are worse at following a lockdown) and how sociable a nation is play a role in its infection rates. The list goes on and on and on… and these factors have to be “controlled” for in statistical analyses.

Another major, secondary consideration to understanding death rates is how these are recorded. There is not simply “one correct way” to measure death. Some of these methods are demonstrated by John Hopkins University, which measures “deaths per 100,000 of the population” and “observed case-fatality ratio”.

Here, the methods of countries start to vary. When measured per 100,000, the UK death rate is lower than that off Spain, Belgium, Italy and France, but above that of Netherlands, US, Germany, Iran and China (though we can probably discount the latter two). By way of contrast, on observed “case-fatality rate”, the UK looks one of the worst. This brings us onto another point.

Testing plays a unique function in how death rates appear – a role which is sometimes forgotten, with some believing Germany has performed a miracle (on the basis of having one of the best ratios).

But here’s the deal: countries that test more will have better “case-fatality ratios”. This is because they detect a broader range of the Coronavirus, picking up many mild cases, and that brings the infections to death ratio down. The UK, which only tests in hospitals, will only detect the most severe cases – which are more likely to result in death. Therefore, our ratio is worse, and we have no idea of overall survival rates.

In conclusion, people have to understand that counting the number of deaths is only one way in which potentially to measure the rate – and that other ways might help to contextualise infections, controlling for the fact that some countries have much higher and more cooped up populations, and all the other variables that inhibit, or facilitate, the Coronavirus spread. 

We are still in the infancy of this crisis, and it remains unknown which country will have turned out to have adopted the best plan. The UK figures, as those around the world, are disturbing, and causing huge pain. It is conceivable that the Government’s strategy was flawed, and it has big questions to answer. 

But too much of this crisis has felt like an extension of the Brexit wars, with some people determined to find fault in the UK. They say that they want the Government to be honest with them. But each time MPs have levelled about the severity of the disease and its outcomes – which can’t all be mitigated – they receive enormous backlash.

This pandemic should not be turned into a morbid global competition. Now is the time to learn from our European brothers and sisters, not sensationalise statistics to further divide an anguished nation.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Ex-F.B.I. Agent Who Vanished on C.I.A. Mission to Iran Is Likely Dead, U.S. Concludes

Westlake Legal Group ex-f-b-i-agent-who-vanished-on-c-i-a-mission-to-iran-is-likely-dead-u-s-concludes Ex-F.B.I. Agent Who Vanished on C.I.A. Mission to Iran Is Likely Dead, U.S. Concludes Wray, Christopher A United States Politics and Government O'Brien, Robert C (1952- ) missing persons Levinson, Robert A Kidnapping and Hostages Iran Haspel, Gina central intelligence agency
Westlake Legal Group 25dc-levinson-facebookJumbo Ex-F.B.I. Agent Who Vanished on C.I.A. Mission to Iran Is Likely Dead, U.S. Concludes Wray, Christopher A United States Politics and Government O'Brien, Robert C (1952- ) missing persons Levinson, Robert A Kidnapping and Hostages Iran Haspel, Gina central intelligence agency

WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials have concluded that Robert A. Levinson, the retired F.B.I. agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007 on an unauthorized mission for the C.I.A., died while in Iranian custody, his family announced on Wednesday.

Newly revealed intelligence pointed to Mr. Levinson’s death, top national security officials told his relatives inside White House Situation Room in recent weeks, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The officials provided strong evidence that Mr. Levinson had died sometime in the past several years, the person said, but did not detail the proof.

“We recently received information from U.S. officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody,” Mr. Levinson’s family wrote in a statement on Facebook. “We don’t know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Mr. Levinson was the longest-held hostage in American history, according to the F.B.I. His disappearance caused a major scandal inside the C.I.A. after lawmakers discovered what happened, but it was kept quiet. Three longtime analysts were forced out, others disciplined and agency rules rewritten.

But the C.I.A. and other government officials never publicly acknowledged that Mr. Levinson was working for the agency even as friends and family confirmed it. Had they never uncovered his work, the secret might have died with Mr. Levinson.

The intelligence community’s assessment that Mr. Levinson is no longer alive puts to rest a question that has haunted his family for years. But it still remains unclear how and when Mr. Levinson died.

The Iranian government has never admitted abducting Mr. Levinson. This month, he would have turned 72.

The family thanked the C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel; the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray; and Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, in its statement. They were all in the White House meeting when the family was told, the person said.

This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Governments Point Fingers Over Coronavirus as Death Toll Mounts

Westlake Legal Group 06virus-global1-facebookJumbo Governments Point Fingers Over Coronavirus as Death Toll Mounts World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus South Korea Saudi Arabia Medicine and Health Japan Iran Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Abe, Shinzo

An Iranian official claimed without evidence that the epidemic could be an American bioweapon, after some U.S. officials said the same about China. Saudi Arabia said its cases were Iran’s fault. South Korea lashed out at Japan over travel restrictions and responded in kind.

At a time of global crisis, when the new coronavirus has infected more than 100,000 people, killed more than 3,400, and all but shut down whole industries, the world’s scientists and public health officials are working together across ideological and national borders to try to stop the epidemic.

But as the virus continues its rapid spread, political leaders in many countries seem to have seized on a different question: Who can be blamed?

“Outbreaks take place within the context of the real world, so of course there’s always some level of politics going on,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, a former assistant director general of the World Health Organization. “But I think that what we’re seeing now is at a higher level of blame game than we’ve seen in the past.”

The accusations within countries and between them is often well-founded — there really have been failed quarantines, inadequate equipment and training, and attempts to deny the crisis.

But even when it is justified, experts say, the criticism can hinder efforts to pull together to face down the emergency. They said the urgent problems should be aired in a way that does not threaten cooperation while those that can wait should be set aside.

Public displeasure with global leaders has spread nearly as fast as the virus itself, which has reached more than 80 countries. And when those leaders look to point fingers elsewhere, they tend to point in the most predictable directions, piggybacking on old hostilities.

President Trump tried to deflect criticism of his government’s response by pinning testing deficiencies on former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Mr. Trump — whose critics note that he has cut health programs and made unrealistically rosy pronouncements about the new disease — had a rare moment of accord with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. Both men claimed their enemies were cynically ginning up fear of the virus.

Iran’s government at first insisted that all was well but now admits to thousands of infections, and outbreaks in several countries have been traced to people returning from Iran. But the sharpest reaction came from its regional adversary, Saudi Arabia, which forbids its people from traveling to Iran.

Get an informed guide to the global outbreak with our daily coronavirus newsletter.

In a statement made through the official Saudi Press Agency, the government on Thursday accused Iran of recklessly allowing the disease to spread. It said that five Saudis had visited Iran, helped by Iranian officials who did not stamp their passports, and had returned to the kingdom infected by the virus.

In Japan, more than a million posts on Twitter recently demanded that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resign over his handling of the outbreak. He was largely invisible in the early weeks of the outbreak, and the government’s lax treatment of the outbreak aboard a cruise ship allowed it to spread.

On Thursday, Mr. Abe imposed a 14-day quarantine on all visitors from South Korea and China. More than 90 countries have restricted travel from South Korea, which has the second-largest outbreak after China, but it was the move by Japan, historically Korea’s nemesis, that struck a nerve.

South Korea’s government on Friday called the measures “excessive and irrational,” suggested that Tokyo had “other motives than containing the outbreak,” and said it would restrict Japanese visitors in return.

“We cannot understand Japan’s decision to take this unfair step without consulting with us in advance,” South Korea’s presidential National Security Council said in a statement.

In Britain, opposition politicians are quick to note that a decade of austerity under Conservative governments has drained the health care system of resources, which they say leaves the country unprepared for an epidemic.

Dr. Fukuda, who now heads the University of Hong Kong’s school of public health, said that widespread anger in Hong Kong at the government’s refusal to bar arrivals from mainland China built on months of protests against that government for being too close to Beijing.

Facing a previously unknown, fast-moving virus, experts say, it is inevitable that even the best governments will be caught unprepared and make mistakes.

“We shouldn’t be associating, ‘oh, increase in numbers’ with failed government,” said Dr. Devi Sridhar, a professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. “We should see that governments can be trying their best but still find it hard to contain this virus.”

In China, where the virus emerged in the city of Wuhan, the authorities were slow to react at first, denying that there was a problem and even punishing those who raised the alarm. Since then, the government has responded aggressively, all but halting the spread of the virus by locking down areas with more than 50 million people. This approach won international praise, and China has been touting its strategy as a model for the rest of the world.

Yet in China, anger at the government continues to fester. When Chinese officials, including the one leading the central government’s response, visited Wuhan on Thursday, locked-down residents shouted complaints out their windows.

“Everything is fake!” one resident yelled, according to a video shared by People’s Daily, a state-run newspaper.

In a sign of just how much countries have struggled to rein in the outbreak, government officials themselves have been infected in China, France, Iran and Japan. The virus has especially roiled Iran’s government, with dozens of officials having fallen ill and an adviser to the supreme leader and a diplomat having died.

The head of the W.H.O., Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, aired his frustration on Thursday with governments that he said have not taken the virus seriously enough, in his strongest public rebuke to date.

“This is not a time for excuses,” he said. “This is a time for pulling out all the stops.

“In some countries, the level of political commitment and the actions that demonstrate that commitment do not match the level of the threat we all face.”

But mindful, as always, of political sensitivities, the W.H.O. leader was careful not to call out any countries or leaders by name.

From the start of the epidemic, obfuscation has eroded government credibility. Experts fear that finger-pointing is also lowering trust in public health systems and governments, when those are essential in overcoming the crisis.

“You can say, ‘It’s your fault, it’s my fault,’” said Dr. David Heymann, a former chief of communicable diseases at the W.H.O. “I think we have to just get on with it and accept where we are now.”

Reporting was contributed by Russell Goldman, Choe Sang-Hun, Amy Qin, Elaine Yu, Javier C. Hernández and Ben Dooley.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Governments Point Fingers Over Coronavirus as Death Toll Mounts

Westlake Legal Group 06virus-global1-facebookJumbo Governments Point Fingers Over Coronavirus as Death Toll Mounts World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus South Korea Saudi Arabia Medicine and Health Japan Iran Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Abe, Shinzo

An Iranian official claimed without evidence that the epidemic could be an American bioweapon, after some U.S. officials said the same about China. Saudi Arabia said its cases were Iran’s fault. South Korea lashed out at Japan over travel restrictions and responded in kind.

At a time of global crisis, when the new coronavirus has infected more than 100,000 people, killed more than 3,400, and all but shut down whole industries, the world’s scientists and public health officials are working together across ideological and national borders to try to stop the epidemic.

But as the virus continues its rapid spread, political leaders in many countries seem to have seized on a different question: Who can be blamed?

“Outbreaks take place within the context of the real world, so of course there’s always some level of politics going on,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, a former assistant director general of the World Health Organization. “But I think that what we’re seeing now is at a higher level of blame game than we’ve seen in the past.”

The accusations within countries and between them is often well-founded — there really have been failed quarantines, inadequate equipment and training, and attempts to deny the crisis.

But even when it is justified, experts say, the criticism can hinder efforts to pull together to face down the emergency. They said the urgent problems should be aired in a way that does not threaten cooperation while those that can wait should be set aside.

Public displeasure with global leaders has spread nearly as fast as the virus itself, which has reached more than 80 countries. And when those leaders look to point fingers elsewhere, they tend to point in the most predictable directions, piggybacking on old hostilities.

President Trump tried to deflect criticism of his government’s response by pinning testing deficiencies on former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Mr. Trump — whose critics note that he has cut health programs and made unrealistically rosy pronouncements about the new disease — had a rare moment of accord with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. Both men claimed their enemies were cynically ginning up fear of the virus.

Iran’s government at first insisted that all was well but now admits to thousands of infections, and outbreaks in several countries have been traced to people returning from Iran. But the sharpest reaction came from its regional adversary, Saudi Arabia, which forbids its people from traveling to Iran.

Get an informed guide to the global outbreak with our daily coronavirus newsletter.

In a statement made through the official Saudi Press Agency, the government on Thursday accused Iran of recklessly allowing the disease to spread. It said that five Saudis had visited Iran, helped by Iranian officials who did not stamp their passports, and had returned to the kingdom infected by the virus.

In Japan, more than a million posts on Twitter recently demanded that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resign over his handling of the outbreak. He was largely invisible in the early weeks of the outbreak, and the government’s lax treatment of the outbreak aboard a cruise ship allowed it to spread.

On Thursday, Mr. Abe imposed a 14-day quarantine on all visitors from South Korea and China. More than 90 countries have restricted travel from South Korea, which has the second-largest outbreak after China, but it was the move by Japan, historically Korea’s nemesis, that struck a nerve.

South Korea’s government on Friday called the measures “excessive and irrational,” suggested that Tokyo had “other motives than containing the outbreak,” and said it would restrict Japanese visitors in return.

“We cannot understand Japan’s decision to take this unfair step without consulting with us in advance,” South Korea’s presidential National Security Council said in a statement.

In Britain, opposition politicians are quick to note that a decade of austerity under Conservative governments has drained the health care system of resources, which they say leaves the country unprepared for an epidemic.

Dr. Fukuda, who now heads the University of Hong Kong’s school of public health, said that widespread anger in Hong Kong at the government’s refusal to bar arrivals from mainland China built on months of protests against that government for being too close to Beijing.

Facing a previously unknown, fast-moving virus, experts say, it is inevitable that even the best governments will be caught unprepared and make mistakes.

“We shouldn’t be associating, ‘oh, increase in numbers’ with failed government,” said Dr. Devi Sridhar, a professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. “We should see that governments can be trying their best but still find it hard to contain this virus.”

In China, where the virus emerged in the city of Wuhan, the authorities were slow to react at first, denying that there was a problem and even punishing those who raised the alarm. Since then, the government has responded aggressively, all but halting the spread of the virus by locking down areas with more than 50 million people. This approach won international praise, and China has been touting its strategy as a model for the rest of the world.

Yet in China, anger at the government continues to fester. When Chinese officials, including the one leading the central government’s response, visited Wuhan on Thursday, locked-down residents shouted complaints out their windows.

“Everything is fake!” one resident yelled, according to a video shared by People’s Daily, a state-run newspaper.

In a sign of just how much countries have struggled to rein in the outbreak, government officials themselves have been infected in China, France, Iran and Japan. The virus has especially roiled Iran’s government, with dozens of officials having fallen ill and an adviser to the supreme leader and a diplomat having died.

The head of the W.H.O., Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, aired his frustration on Thursday with governments that he said have not taken the virus seriously enough, in his strongest public rebuke to date.

“This is not a time for excuses,” he said. “This is a time for pulling out all the stops.

“In some countries, the level of political commitment and the actions that demonstrate that commitment do not match the level of the threat we all face.”

But mindful, as always, of political sensitivities, the W.H.O. leader was careful not to call out any countries or leaders by name.

From the start of the epidemic, obfuscation has eroded government credibility. Experts fear that finger-pointing is also lowering trust in public health systems and governments, when those are essential in overcoming the crisis.

“You can say, ‘It’s your fault, it’s my fault,’” said Dr. David Heymann, a former chief of communicable diseases at the W.H.O. “I think we have to just get on with it and accept where we are now.”

Reporting was contributed by Russell Goldman, Choe Sang-Hun, Amy Qin, Elaine Yu, Javier C. Hernández and Ben Dooley.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com