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The Optimism-Fatalism Historical Cycle

The Optimism-Fatalism Historical Cycle

Authored by Gregory Copley via The Epoch Times,

No fundamental form of human behavior, for better…



The Optimism-Fatalism Historical Cycle

Authored by Gregory Copley via The Epoch Times,

No fundamental form of human behavior, for better or worse, disappears forever.

Cycles of wealth, fear, or frustration force changes, and they bear an uncanny similarity to Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man.” We are, above all else, predictable.

The present decline, distortion, or much-heralded “end of democracy” is overstated. Still, it is difficult to disagree that the present cycle of democracy—beginning in the 18th century—has run its course. It is a human concept of behavior and, as with all things human, has its lifespan before it becomes feeble and sclerotic, corrupt and cynical, and ultimately a parody of what was intended in the flush of innocent youth.

Throughout the world, “democracies” now see themselves beset by the internal competition for office by career politicians whose goal, before all else, is to attain and retain power. The compromises of dignity, nobility of purpose, and service to the electorate are the hallmarks of the age. These compromises have led to the thing aspiring politicians once saw as the bane of human existence: autocracies or, worse, rampant and totalitarian tyrannies. But autocracies cloak themselves with the language of democracy.

Just as Africa, freed now from the coercion of major external powers, has resorted to removing governments by force, we see politicians in power using their office to suppress, deter, or remove their challengers for office.

The Communist Party of China (CCP) introduced the concept of “lawfare” to outmaneuver its domestic and international opponents: using legal mechanisms to constrain an adversary. This concept has been adopted vigorously by “democratically elected politicians” worldwide, so there are now few societies where “lawfare” is not used to eliminate legitimate opponents and constrain and channel society at large.

The spirit of democracy is nowhere to be seen.

Waste no time on mourning. Democracy has had its day and will return when the time is right.

But, equally, waste no time nurturing the self-delusion that moral or intellectual superiority lies in the pretense of democracy, the pretense that societies still embody what they once set out to represent. But we, most of us, insist on our certainty of the moral superiority of our own society because we have nowhere else to go. We cannot embrace our historical or geopolitical opponents’ rights to their own certainties.

But we do not know how best to reorganize our own society without the unthinkable collapse of that same democracy to force our actions.

The birth and death of states have been a preoccupation of scholars since humanity began to structure into durable communities. In 2006, I created—with the help of Greek Cypriot scholar Marios Evriviades—the words “cratocide” (the murder of nations) and “cratogenesis” (the birth of nations) for the book, “The Art of Victory.” Shortly afterward, we added the word “cratometamorphosis” to describe the total reorganization of societies.

Collapse is always the prerequisite to “cratometamorphosis.” Theoretically, this reorganization and revitalization of society should be feasible before total collapse creates a situation when no other option is available. But the very safeguards we have put in place over decades and centuries to protect our present structures also safeguard the corrupted wreckage they have become.

So if, as it appears, many societies—and by no means only those that thought of themselves as democratic—are waiting painfully for that total collapse so that they may be free to recreate themselves “closer to the heart’s desire,” then why is little thought given to that future society, that utopia?

During the years of difficulty that beset so many during the Industrial Revolutions, new concepts were conjured, speculatively, out of whole ideals. There were also years of uncertainty in societies in flux, during which new belief systems were devised.

These religions and ideologies all rippled down the ages and continue to inspire followers, often in the face of historical evidence that they failed here and there but were never revised to truly meet new requirements. Indeed, modern democracy itself—mirroring several iterations in the Hellenic states and earlier in the Indus Valley civilizations over the past 10,000 years—was just such a “revivalist creed,” and its new advocates failed to understand (or even question) why, in its earlier iterations, it had ultimately collapsed.

Is it possible that at our present impasse, there is some belief that technology—artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and so on—will define or create a new social framework? Have we, in so embracing “technology,” outsourced responsibility for devising ways in which humans can best work together? Certainly, technology has enabled the implementation of mass guidance of vast numbers of the human population, like the “murmuration of starlings,” the uncanny, but now understood, mass coordination of flocks of starlings in flight.

This “mass guidance” of humans is the mass psychosis tendency, a fundamental self-protection mechanism in human behavior designed to create herd protection.

That mass psychosis, of course, is what we saw during the COVID-19 crisis. However, it presupposes that human societies can be made to walk willingly and fatalistically toward the scenario outlined in the book, “1984,” by George Orwell. It may be man’s good fortune that economic dislocations—now being evidenced in the tremblors that shake the values of currencies and the viability of major economies—will gradually erode the pace of technological progress, enabling human society to regroup on more elemental or human lines.

To “start again” with new concepts for societal organization—governance—will inevitably involve considering concepts that, whether we realize it or not, have probably been played out before. However, it would be ideal to recognize that the framework begins with the sovereignty of each individual and the requirement for each individual to respect each other individually to achieve progress and human reproduction.

At least that optimistic framework can reemerge for a while until we see politics once more fatalistically reach the point where all respect is once again lost, and the desire for power outweighs the desire for societal wellbeing.

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/29/2024 - 23:15

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CEPR Sanctions Watch March 2024

In this edition of Sanctions Watch, covering March 2024: World Bank finds that sanctions overcompliance is hindering the private sector in Afghanistan;…



In this edition of Sanctions Watch, covering March 2024:

  • World Bank finds that sanctions overcompliance is hindering the private sector in Afghanistan;
  • Cuba turns to the UN for assistance amid embargo-fueled food shortages;
  • New book argues that Iran sanctions have hurt civilians, strengthened government;
  • Human Rights Watch reports that North Korea sanctions negatively impact health, access to food;
  • EU moves forward with plan to seize profits from frozen Russian assets;
  • UN official describes Syrian economy as “in free fall amid tightening sanctions”;
  • Biden plans to allow Venezuela oil sanctions license to expire in mid-April;
  • Biden (partly) ends the Zimbabwe sanctions program, and more.

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Background: Following the Taliban takeover in 2021, the Biden administration blocked Afghanistan’s central bank from accessing roughly $7 billion of its foreign reserves held in the United States. Half of these assets have since been allocated to a trust fund, largely under US control, that has yet to disburse funds to Afghanistan. Around $2 billion of central bank assets have also been blocked by European authorities. Along with a cutoff of aid, this asset seizure — representing the near totality of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves — has contributed to a collapse of the country’s economy.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill that would require the US to withhold its contributions to the UN for assistance in Afghanistan until it is certified that US funds are not used in UN cash shipments to Afghanistan and that the Taliban are not receiving funds from these shipments. The bill is likely a reaction to a January report from the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) that states that some money from UN cash shipments to Afghanistan winds up in the country’s central bank. However, the same report states that the UN decided to ship cash into Afghanistan in consultation with the State Department in part to mitigate the effects of “sanctions on the Taliban and the isolation of Afghanistan’s banking sector.” ProPublica reported this month that “U.N. officials do not deny that the cash delivered to Afghanistan makes its way to the central bank. But they say there is no avoiding it since the Taliban control the country.”

The UN cash shipments are essential to funding humanitarian activities. Moreover, while there are concerns over the potential misuse of funds, the central bank urgently needs access to foreign currency to support the Afghan financial system.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports: “Afghanistan has been in the throes of an economic crisis for more than two years, after donors cut foreign funding in response to the Taliban takeover in 2021 and suspended Afghanistan’s Central Bank from the international system.” As a result, Afghans are going hungry. HRW recommends that governments “support measures to normalize payments and other transactions through Afghanistan’s banking system,” among other policies. The head of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific stated: “sectors such as finance have ‘basically collapsed’ and there are no major sources of economic activity such as exports or public expenditure, leaving small and medium enterprises … and farmers as the lifeblood of the faltering economy.” Indeed, a recent World Bank report on Afghanistan mentions that “correspondent banks have de-risked in response to a lack of clarity on the applicability of … sanctions by restricting transactions with most Afghan banks. These restrictions have directly affected private sector activities, disrupting trade as firms struggle to access international banking services and thus to pay for imports or receive payments for exports.”

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Background: The US embargo against Cuba is one of the oldest and most stringent of all US sanctions regimes, prohibiting nearly all trade and financial transactions between the United States and Cuba since the early 1960s. After a brief loosening under Obama, sanctions were tightened and expanded under Trump — a policy the Biden administration has, for the most part, maintained.

The Cuban government requested assistance from the World Food Programme for the first time ever at the end of last month — another sign of the increasingly dire economic situation on the island, caused in large part by the US embargo. When the worsening conditions, including food shortages and blackouts, prompted protests in the city of Santiago, the US Embassy “urge[d] the Cuban government to respect the human rights of the protestors.” This, in turn, prompted charges of hypocrisy, given the role of US policy in stoking the crisis. While sanctions hard-liner Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) responded to the events by claiming that there is “no food embargo” on Cuba, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made clear that US policies do significantly impede the export of food to the island (see also this explainer from Belly of the Beast).

Ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) expressed frustration with Biden’s Cuba policies, noting that “the decision not to reverse harmful Trump-era policies — including the State Sponsor of Terror designation — is a serious missed opportunity that has worsened the lives of everyday Cubans.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) lamented that “for 65 long years, the Cuban people have suffered under the weight of American embargo,” and called the terror designation, “completely unwarranted,” “cruel,” “counterproductive,” and “a political trap for the Biden administration.”

The second appropriations package passed by Congress this month included provisions paving the way for sanctions on foreign government officials that take part in Cuba’s medical brigades program — a valuable source of income for Cuba, and of medical assistance for vulnerable communities in many countries around the world.

Finally, two new studies by the National Institutes of Health have found no evidence of brain damage among those who experienced symptoms attributed to so-called “Havana Syndrome.” Accusations that US diplomats were being secretly targeted by Cuban spies with futuristic technology were used as a partial justification for the additional sanctions imposed under Trump. Last year, a US intelligence assessment concluded that it was “very unlikely” that these symptoms were caused by the actions of foreign adversaries.

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Background: US sanctions on Iran began during the 1979 hostage crisis, and currently bar US actors — plus some non-US actors — from almost all trade and financial transactions with Iran. Though certain sanctions were lifted as a result of the 2015 nuclear deal, the majority have been reimposed since the United States’ withdrawal from the agreement. The European Union also maintains certain trade and financial sector sanctions on Iran.

The Biden administration has again renewed a license allowing Iraq to make oil payments to Iran via a limited account that only allows Iran to use the proceeds for humanitarian purposes. Despite misrepresentations in the conservative press, the waiver does not grant Iran access to the full $10 billion already owed to it by Iraq. A week later, the administration announced new sanctions against a number of individuals and entities in Iran, Turkey, Oman, and Germany allegedly involved in helping Iran to procure materials that can be used in weapons production. Also this month, the European Union reiterated threats to sanction Iran if it transfers ballistic missiles to Russia, but is reportedly split on a separate, France- and Germany-led proposal to sanction individuals and entities involved in supporting Iran’s regional allies, such as Hezbollah and Ansar Allah. EU officials expressed concern that the latter would undermine nuclear diplomacy and “conflate the two theaters” — Russia and the Middle East.

In a webinar hosted by the Middle East Institute, the authors of a new book, How Sanctions Work, Iran and the Impact of Economic Warfare, argued that sanctions have had broad, adverse impacts across the Iranian economy — harming the middle class and increasing poverty rates, but in fact strengthening the government’s hold on power. Ongoing sanctions have likely contributed to the Iranian rial’s record depreciation — dropping to an all-time low against the dollar this month as annual inflation rates hit 50 percent.

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North Korea

Background: The United States first imposed sanctions on North Korea during the Korean War in the 1950s. Following the country’s 2006 nuclear test, more stringent sanctions were added, which have periodically intensified since then. US sanctions now target oil imports and cover most finance and trade as well as the key minerals sector. In addition, the UN Security Council has adopted nine major sanctions resolutions since 2006. The European Union has implemented these in addition to its own sanctions.

A Human Rights Watch report on North Korea’s response to COVID-19 found that sanctions contributed to the country’s isolation during the pandemic and deepened the suffering of its citizens. More precisely, “China’s enforcement of the new UN sanctions disrupted general cross-border trade and people’s movement, leading to impacts far beyond the economic sectors for which the sanctions were intended.” The report goes on to say:

by imposing broad-based sanctions on the North Korean economy, including formal and informal market activities, their enforcement exacted a toll on the population at large by undermining people’s rights to an adequate standard of living, and thus to food and health. This had an especially hard impact on women, the main breadwinners in most households, by reducing the activities in the markets in which they traded.

HRW recommends that the UN Security Council review its North Korea sanctions and their enforcement “to evaluate their impacts on human rights and delivery of humanitarian aid.”

On March 28, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have extended the mandate of a UN panel of experts monitoring the enforcement of North Korea sanctions. The mandate is set to expire on April 30. The veto may have been a reaction to the Council’s failure to adopt Moscow and Beijing’s proposals to reduce the panel’s reporting requirements, and add sunset clauses to the sanctions themselves. Right before the vote, Russia’s ambassador to the UN said the West was trying to “strangle” North Korea with sanctions that are “detached from reality.”  

Also this month, the US State Department’s deputy special representative for North Korea said there is a need for “interim steps” with regard to North Korea’s denuclearization. This has raised questions about a potential US policy shift. The US official remained vague, but the Korea Times wrote: “In the negotiation lexicon for the North, interim steps usually involve such measures as Pyongyang’s freeze of its nuclear weapons development in return for sanctions relief or other incentives to encourage the regime’s denuclearization efforts.” Despite this, on March 27, the US and South Korea jointly sanctioned six individuals and two entities based in Russia, China, and the UAE for allegedly financing North Korea’s weapons program.

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Background: US sanctions on Russia’s financial, energy, and defense sectors began after the 2014 annexation of Crimea. This sanctions regime was greatly expanded, particularly by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union in response to the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. It includes the barring of most financial transactions and of Russian oil and gas imports as well as the freezing of Russian assets abroad, among other measures.

The EU is moving forward with a plan to seize profits generated by Russia’s frozen assets — projected to be around 3 billion euros per year — to assist Ukraine. EU leaders have agreed in principle to a proposal in which profits generated as of February 15 will primarily be used to fund Ukrainian weapons purchases, a portion will be used for recovery and reconstruction efforts, and around 3 percent will stay in the EU to finance the legal defense against Russian litigation. Some Western banks are lobbying against the proposal over fears of Russian retaliation, as Moscow has warned of “catastrophic consequences” for banks’ legal departments. The US had reportedly proposed an alternate plan — creating a special purpose vehicle backed by Russia’s assets to issue $50 billion in bonds to help fund Ukraine — but Germany and France are opposed.

The US issued two sets of Russia-related sanctions this month. On March 20, it imposed sanctions on two individuals and two entities for allegedly providing services to the Russian government in connection with disinformation campaigns, and on March 25, it sanctioned two individuals and 13 entities in Russia’s fintech sector for facilitating sanctions evasion. The US also threatened a major Austrian bank for its dealings in Russia, and the EU imposed sanctions on Russian judiciary and penitentiary officials over the death of Alexei Navalny, as did Canada. Japan (12 individuals and eight entities), New Zealand (45 individuals and 16 entities), and Switzerland (106 individuals and 88 entities) also sanctioned Russian targets to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia continues to face difficulties from the sanctions. “Indian oil refiners — Moscow’s second-biggest customers after China since the 2022 invasion — will no longer accept tankers owned by state-run Sovcomflot PJSC because of the risk posed by sanction,” Bloomberg reports. Last year, Sovcomflot transported one-fifth of Russian crude deliveries to India. At least nine Chinese banks are no longer processing transactions from Russia, and “Dubai’s main state-owned bank has shut some accounts held by Russian oligarchs and traders of Russian oil,” the Wall Street Journal notes. The head of Russia’s Central Bank recently said, “After the decline at the beginning of the year, exports have been rebounding, driven by the increase in oil prices. However, secondary sanctions hinder this process.”

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Background: As a designated “State Sponsor of Terrorism” since the list’s creation, Syria has faced unilateral sanctions in some form since 1979. These were augmented during the George W. Bush administration, and greatly expanded under Presidents Obama and Trump to bar most financial transactions with Syrian entities. The “Caesar Act,” passed by Congress in 2019, goes even further, imposing secondary sanctions on third-party entities that engage in such transactions, even if they have no connection to the US.

On the 13th anniversary of the start of Syria’s civil war, the humanitarian and economic situation remains dire, due in part to sanctions. According to the Chair of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria, “More than 90 percent [of those in Syria] now live in poverty, [and] the economy is in free fall amid tightening sanctions.” The Commission also warned that 16.7 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance, but that aid is severely hampered by funding shortfalls, the Syrian government’s “arbitrary decision-making,” and by economic sanctions. A piece in a UAE state-owned paper reports that only half of Syria’s hospitals remain fully functional, with doctors and pharmacists noting that sanctions severely limit their access to medicines and essential medical equipment.

Toward the end of the month, the Biden administration announced new sanctions on individuals and entities involved in mining exports, and on others allegedly connected to the production and trade in Captagon, an amphetamine-like drug.

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Background: While the George W. Bush and Obama administrations adopted sanctions on military equipment and against Venezuelan individuals, it was under Trump that broad financial sanctions and restrictions on oil exports were first implemented. These have caused at least tens of thousands of deaths of Venezuelans, from the resulting economic collapse and drastic reduction in access to essential imports and production, including food, medicine, health care, and health infrastructure. In addition, the United States, the United Kingdom, and others have frozen — and in some cases transferred to opposition actors — Venezuelan state assets.

The Biden administration reportedly plans to allow its oil sanctions waiver to expire in mid-April if the Maduro government does not meet its conditions regarding this year’s presidential elections, now set for July 28. While the license is limited, the country has seen a modest improvement in oil output, reaching 820,000 barrels per day (bpd) in February — the highest since the 2019 oil sanctions were imposed, but still far short of the 1.9 million bpd level prior to Trump-era sanctions. Analysts predict that the license’s expiration would quickly wipe out the recent gains. The threatened expiration comes as Venezuelan authorities arrested members of opposition candidate María Corina Machado’s staff this month for their alleged role in “destabilizing” plots, and as they contested the Machado’s coalition’s replacement candidates’ registration. 12 other opposition candidates were able to register. The Brazilian government reportedly expressed concerns about the process, but warned that sanctions “only contribute to isolating Venezuela and increasing the suffering of its people.”

Also this month, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a bill led by hard-line sanctions advocate Rep. Maria Salazar (R-FL) that would reauthorize the 2019 Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance, and Development (VERDAD) Act. The bill was primarily cosponsored by Republicans, although three Florida Democrats also supported it. President Biden renewed the national emergency that forms the legal basis for the US’s Venezuela sanctions program (as it does for many other US sanctions regimes), which identifies Venezuela as “an extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

Finally, in an interview with “60 Minutes,” Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador reiterated his proposals for the United States to reduce migration to the southern border by ending unilateral sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela.

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On March 4, President Biden signed an executive order terminating the US’s national emergency declaration with respect to Zimbabwe, thereby ending the Zimbabwe sanctions program that had been in place for over 20 years. Initiated by President George W. Bush, purportedly over concerns about democracy and human rights, the program has been seen by many as punishment for then president Mugabe’s postcolonial land reforms, which expropriated many white large landowners’ farms for redistribution to Black subsistence farmers. Over the years, the sanctions program grew to cover over 100 individuals and entities, including major economic actors such as a state mining company.

Biden subsequently designated 14 Zimbabwean individuals and entities — including the president, vice president, and the heads of police, intelligence, and defense — under a different, non-geographically specific sanctions authority, the Global Magnitsky Act. Moreover, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) — which makes it US policy to oppose IMF, World Bank, and other multilateral development financing or debt relief for Zimbabwe — remains in place. (Read our blog post for further analysis.)

Reacting to the news, the office of President Mnangagwa stated:

Today Zimbabwe cannot be expected to thank or be grateful to President Biden and the US for announcing palliative measures towards finally rescinding an illegality and an outrage, even then at its own pace, perpetrated for more than two decades, and in flagrant violation of international law. Nothing short of some prompt, unconditional removal in toto of those illegal coercive measures, including the infamous ZDERA, is acceptable to Zimbabwe and her long-abused, innocent people.

Meanwhile, in Northern Gaza, mass “famine is imminent” and may arrive between mid-March and May, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a food security monitoring initiative used and developed by governments, UN agencies, and major NGOs. In the most likely scenario, the IPC warns, “half of the population of the Gaza Strip (1.11 million people) is expected to face catastrophic conditions (IPC Phase 5),” its highest level of food insecurity. An official from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization called this “unprecedented,” and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said: “the situation of hunger, starvation and famine is a result of Israel’s extensive restrictions on the entry and distribution of humanitarian aid and commercial goods,” which “may amount to the use of starvation as a method of war.” The EU’s foreign policy chief agreed that Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war. Already, 27 child deaths have been reported due to malnutrition.

Despite this, the spending bill recently signed by President Biden suspends US funds to UNRWA, the UN’s Palestinian aid agency, at a time when Israel has barred it from transporting assistance into Northern Gaza, where the need is most severe. To get around Israel’s blocking of aid, some countries have begun airdropping supplies into the blockaded territory. Human rights organizations argue that airdrops are inefficient, cannot substitute for humanitarian access, and that efforts should focus instead on pushing Israel to lift the siege. Airdrops are also dangerous: 12 Palestinians drowned in a desperate attempt to reach aid that had fallen into the sea, and earlier in the month at least 5 Palestinians were killed and 10 more injured when airdropped supplies fell on them. However, it appears that international and domestic pressure on the US government led it to abstain on a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate, but temporary, ceasefire in Gaza and the lifting of barriers to humanitarian aid, which allowed the measure to pass. In addition, the US has sanctioned three Israeli West Bank settlers, and the EU may follow suit for the first time.

Finally, in an apparent bid to incentivize maximum sanctions enforcement, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill to allow the Office of Foreign Assets Control — the main US sanctions enforcement agency — to keep 5 percent of any assets it seizes.

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About Sanctions Watch

Economic sanctions have become one of the main tools of US foreign policy despite widespread evidence that they can cause severe harm to civilian populations (which may, in fact, be the point). Though now a defining feature of the global economic order, sanctions and their human costs receive relatively little attention in most US media outlets.

CEPR’s Sanctions Watch news bulletin aims to generate more awareness on the use and impact of sanctions through monthly round-ups of news and analysis on US sanctions policy.

Click here to see past editions of CEPR’s Sanctions Watch.

Subscribe to Sanctions Watch here

Read the Sanctions Fact Sheet  

The post CEPR Sanctions Watch March 2024 appeared first on Center for Economic and Policy Research.

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Heart-Scarring Detected Over 1 Year After COVID-19 Vaccination: Studies

Heart-Scarring Detected Over 1 Year After COVID-19 Vaccination: Studies

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),




Heart-Scarring Detected Over 1 Year After COVID-19 Vaccination: Studies

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Heart scarring was detected more than one year after COVID-19 vaccination in some people who suffered myocarditis following receipt of a shot, researchers reported in new studies.

A health care worker prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Sydney, Australia, on July 1, 2021. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

A third of 60 patients with follow-up cardiac imaging done more than 12 months after their myocarditis diagnosis had persistent late gadolinium enhancement (LGE), which is, in the majority of cases, reflective of heart scarring, Australian researchers reported in a preprint of a new study, published on March 22.

Myocarditis is a form of heart inflammation.

The median time from receipt of a vaccine to follow-up imaging was 548 days, with the longest interval being 603 days.

“We found that the incidence of persistent myocardial fibrosis is high, seen in almost a third of patients at >12 months post diagnosis, which could have implications for the management and prognosis of this predominantly young cohort,” the researchers wrote.

“The long-term clinical implications of LGE in this condition are as yet unknown, but LGE has been demonstrated to confer worse prognosis in non-COVID-19 vaccine-associated myocarditis, especially if it persists beyond six months,” they added later, pointing to several previous papers.

Researchers in one of the previous papers, for instance, found that LGE was a “powerful prognosticator” of adverse outcomes in myocarditis patients.

Before the new testing, nine patients were determined to definitely have myocarditis, and 58 patients were labeled as probably having myocarditis. The findings of persistent LGE resulted in reclassifying 16 of the cases from probable myocarditis to definite myocarditis.

Exclusions included patients who were pregnant or allergic to agents used in gadolinium testing.

Among a subset of 20 patients who underwent imaging shortly after vaccination, 19 had LGE. In follow-up imaging, LGE was no longer visible in 10 of those patients. In five, it was reduced, but in four it was unchanged.

Andrew Taylor, a professor at Monash University’s Central Clinical School, and his co-authors conducted the study by recruiting patients who were diagnosed with myocarditis associated with COVID-19 vaccination between August 2021 and March 2022. The patients were invited to undergo imaging at Alfred Hospital or Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

The study population with follow-up imaging included 44 adults and 16 adolescents.

Most of the patients had received a Pfizer-BioNTech shot. A minority had received a Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccination. The companies did not respond to requests for comment.

Limitations of the paper, which was published ahead of peer review, included possible selection bias, since participation in the study was voluntary. Authors listed no conflicts of interest or funding.

Another Paper

In the other recent paper, researchers in Canada reported finding about half of patients referred for imaging due to possible post-vaccination myocarditis had persistent LGE in follow-up imaging.

Overall, 60 patients were included in the retrospective study. Of those, seven reported persistent symptoms.

In a subset of 21 patients for whom follow-up MRIs were available, 10 had persistent LGE, the researchers said. On the other hand, function of the left ventricle, which pumps blood, had normalized in all patients.

The persistent LGE “likely reflects replacement fibrosis,” or heart scarring, Dr. Kate Hanneman, with the University of Toronto’s Department of Medical Imaging, and her co-authors wrote. They cited some of the same papers as the Australian group, including the study that found patients with persistent LGE had a higher risk of adverse outcomes, as well as a paper on what it represents when LGE is found on MRI in patients with myocarditis.

“However, the significance of LGE is uncertain in patients post-myocarditis with recovered normal left ventricular systolic function,” the researchers said. They called for additional studies to evaluate patients with persistent LGE and a recovered left ventricle.

The study included adult patients who were referred to a hospital network with suspected myocarditis and had new cardiac symptoms such as chest pain within 14 days of COVID-19 vaccination. The patients all received either the Pfizer or Moderna shot.

Limitations of the study, which was published by the Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance, included a lack of biopsy-confirmed myocarditis.

The authors declared no funding and listed only one competing interest, that an author is an associate editor of the journal.

The corresponding authors for the two papers did not respond to requests for comment.

My concern from reading these two studies is that myocardial damage and scarring is present in a significant number of COVID vaccine injured individuals at up to 18 months after vaccination. This suggests potential for permanent heart damage from the vaccines,” Dr. Danice Hertz, the research lead for the U.S. group React19, told The Epoch Times in an email. “The long-term implications are not yet known but need to be studied carefully.”

Earlier Findings

The new papers add to earlier studies, which found that LGE persists for months in some people following a COVID-19 shot.

Researchers in Washington state reported in 2022 that LGE persisted in children for up to eight months after vaccination. Later that year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that more than half of 151 patients with follow-up imaging had residual LGE, which was described as “suggestive of myocardial scarring.”

The CDC has longer-term data on the patients, the agency confirmed to The Epoch Times in January, but has not yet published another paper describing that data. The CDC, which failed to warn the public about the risk of post-vaccination myocarditis, declined to comment on the new Australian and Canadian papers.

Hong Kong researchers in 2023 reported finding that about half of 40 patients with follow-up MRIs months after vaccination had LGE.

Symptoms have also persisted in some patients with post-vaccination myocarditis.

The CDC, describing preliminary updated results from its longer-term study, said in early 2023 that there were patients still suffering from symptoms more than one year after a shot. Researchers in Australia in late 2023 said that symptoms persisted at least six months after a shot in a majority of patients they followed. And some patients also told The Epoch Times they have lingering health issues years after vaccination.

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/29/2024 - 04:30

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Moldova: Russia continues its mischief-making in breakaway Transnistria

Russia has long harboured territorial ambitions in this former Soviet republic.

In mid-February, the leader of Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, Vadim Krasnoselsky, summoned deputies “of all levels of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic”. The purpose of their meeting, he announced, would be to discuss “pressure from the Republic of Moldova that is violating the rights and worsening the socioeconomic situation of Transnistrians”.

The meeting was set for February 28, the day before Vladimir Putin’s “state of the union” address. This was taken by some – including the influential Washington-based thinktank the Institute for the Study of War – to signal an intention to announce that Transnistria would formally declare its intention to join Russia.

The Transnistrian congress met as planned. But its resolution, while full of praise about Transnistria and complaints about Moldova, fell well short of expectations. In the end, the assembled deputies merely appealed to Russia – as well as the Interparliamentary Assembly of States Parties of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the UN, the EU, the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Red Cross – to protect Transnistria and prevent an escalation of tensions with Moldova.

Transnistria declared independence from the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic in 1990, as the dissolution of the Soviet Union was gathering pace. A brief violent conflict ended with a Russian-mediated ceasefire in 1992. This ceasefire mandated negotiations on the reintegration of Transnistria into Moldova, which included, among others, Russia and Ukraine. Efforts to agree on a deal proved futile over the following three decades and have completely stalled since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Thus, the Transnistrian region of Moldova has remained in a limbo state for more than 30 years now. Its separate identity is not even recognised by Russia and it remains formally part of Moldova.

This limbo state has contributed to fears – in Moldova and the west – that Russia has territorial ambitions in the region. These have worsened since the invasion of Ukraine two years ago. Talk of Kremlin-backed plots to destabilise the country is not uncommon.

In the event, the Russian president failed to mention Transnistria even once in his state of the union address the day after deputies had gathered in Transnistria. With the initial “excitement” of a potential crisis around Moldova gone, the predominant view among regional and international analysts was that this was a storm in a tea cup rather than a full-blown crisis.

This is also the view of Moldova’s foreign minister, Mihail Popșoi. In an interview with Politico at the beginning of March, a month after taking office, Popșoi said that “the probability that the Russians would be able to advance and reach our territory is much lower now than it was two years ago”.

Russian ambitions

But this is, at best, only half of the more complex geopolitical context in which Moldova finds itself. Wedged between Ukraine and Romania, a member of Nato, Moldova’s future prospects are heavily intertwined with the outcome of the war against Ukraine. At present there appears to be little chance of Russia expanding its land bridge to Crimea all along the Black Sea coast to the Ukrainian border with Moldova. But that’s not to say that the Kremlin has completely given up on this ambition.

Just days after the deputies’ meeting in Transnistria, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, complained about Moldovan violations of Transnistria’s rights. He alleged Moldovan discrimination against the Russian language as well as economic pressure on the Russian enclave. This eerily echoes Russian justifications for the invasion of Ukraine both in 2014 and 2022.

Transnistria is not the only card Russia is playing. Four days after Lavrov’s comments, Putin met the leader of the Gagauzian region in Moldova, Yevgenia Gutsul, at the so-called World Youth Festival, which was held near the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi at the beginning of March.

Map of Moldova showing the breakaway regions of Transnistria and Gaugazia. Institute for the Study of War

Gutsul – and other powerful Russian allies including the fugitive Moldovan oligarch Ilan Shor, who was convicted of fraud in the “theft of the century” of US$1 billion (£792 million) from three Moldovan banks a decade ago – have been fomenting protests against the Moldovan government since September 2022. These protests reflect many ordinary Molovans’ existential fears over a cost-of-living crisis that has engulfed one of Europe’s poorest countries since the COVID pandemic and has worsened since the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Moldova’s European aspirations

At the same time, the Moldovan president, Maia Sandu, has proposed a referendum on joining the European Union. Sandu, who faces a reelection campaign later this year, hope that this will boost her popularity among Moldova’s generally – but not unequivocally – pro-European electorate.

Wanting to capitalise on popular discontent with economic conditions in Moldova, Russia has been supporting Shor’s protests and linking the unrest to Sandu’s pro-European foreign policy. Relying on allies in both Gagauzia and Transnistria, Moscow’s aim is primarily the destabilisation of the country ahead of presidential elections at the end of 2024 and parliamentary elections in the spring of 2025.

In this context, even non-events such as the resolution passed by the Transnistrian deputies at the end of February are useful to Moscow. They increase uncertainty not only in Moldova but also among the country’s western allies. And this feeds into a broader narrative in which a status quo that has been stable for decades is suddenly questioned – with potentially unpredictable consequences.

There is no evidence that the Kremlin has any concrete plans, let alone any capabilities, for military action against Moldova. Nor does it need to, as long as it has local allies to do its bidding against the country’s president and her government. This does not give Moscow a lot of leverage in its war against Ukraine but it is helpful in the broader efforts to weaken support for, and from, the European Union.

The more Russia can peddle a narrative that connects European integration with economic decline and constraints on language and cultural rights, the more division it can sow – and not just in Moldova, but potentially also in other EU candidate countries from the western Balkans to the south Caucasus.

Stefan Wolff is a past recipient of grant funding from the Natural Environment Research Council of the UK, the United States Institute of Peace, the Economic and Social Research Council of the UK, the British Academy, the NATO Science for Peace Programme, the EU Framework Programmes 6 and 7 and Horizon 2020, as well as the EU's Jean Monnet Programme. He is a Trustee and Honorary Treasurer of the Political Studies Association of the UK and a Senior Research Fellow at the Foreign Policy Centre in London.

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