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Ukraine recap: future of US support for Kyiv in question as Israel conflict reshapes Washington’s priorities

A selection of the best of our coverage of the conflict from the past fortnight.



There was some worrying news for Volodymyr Zelensky this week when the US House of Representatives finally elected a new speaker. Mike Johnson, a Republican congressman from Louisiana, has consistently opposed US funding for the Ukrainian war effort. Now he’s the second most powerful man in US politics behind the president, Joe Biden.

As Thomas Gift, the director of the Centre on US Politics at UCL spells out, Johnson’s cooperation will be vital if Biden is to get his latest US$105 billion (£86.5 billion) national security aid package through Congress. More than$60 billion of that is earmarked for Ukraine and if it doesn’t come through, Kyiv will struggle.

Of course, Washington has other fish to fry. Whether you can call the Israel-Hamas war a “bigger fish” remains unclear. Only $14 billion has been earmarked to go to Israel so far. But for most people in the US events in Israel and Gaza are seen as being of the highest importance. Israel has replaced Ukraine as the lead story on most news channels and knocked the European war off the front pages. With Donald Trump relentlessly demanding a moratorium on aid to Ukraine, Kyiv has clear grounds for concern as its counteroffensive grinds on in the south with still no end to the killing in sight.

Read more: Funding for Ukraine is anything but certain after US elects new speaker

Russia meanwhile is struggling with its own offensive in the east. According to a recent report published by the UK’s Ministry of Defence, the Russian push around the town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk Oblast has run into heavily fortified Ukrainian defensive positions (similar to what Ukrainian forces in the south are experiencing with entrenched Russian troops).

Since Vladimir Putin sent his war machine into Ukraine on February 24 2022, The Conversation has called upon some of the leading experts in international security, geopolitics and military tactics to help our readers understand the big issues. You can also subscribe to our fortnightly recap of expert analysis of the conflict in Ukraine.

The MoD update, dated October 17, says that heavy casualties have forced Russia from the offensive into what it calls “active-defence”. Death tolls vary widely and should be taken with a grain of salt, but Newsweek claimed in a report on October 20 that Russia’s death toll was approaching 300,000 men, including 1,300 killed in a single day.

Map showing the state of the war in Ukraine as at October 25.
The state of the war in Ukraine as at October 25 according to the Institute for the Study of War. Institute for the Study of War

But plenty of men still appear to be joining up – at least, according to Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president, deputy national security minister and outspoken Putin mouthpiece, who said 385,000 men had enlisted so far this year. So the burning question is whether and when the Russian public will get tired of the bodybags and the news from friends or relatives that a loved one has been killed or maimed at the front.

Ben Soodavar, of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, believes that military loss is deeply embedded in the Russian psyche. Most Russians are brought up with tales of self-sacrifice in the second world war – the heroes of the Red Army who made the world safe from fascism. “For Russia, every dead soldier in Ukraine constitutes a step towards victory and reclaiming the great power image of the country’s Soviet past,” he writes.

It helps, of course, that the head of the Russian Orthodox church is as good as promising soldiers the keys to the kingdom of heaven if they are killed in the line of duty.

Read more: Ukraine: Russia's losses mount -- but self-sacrifice in war is part of the country's mythology

War at sea…

If the war on land continues to grind on, with every metre of land bitterly contested, the sea war took an interesting turn recently when it was revealed that Russia has relocated many of the vessels in its Black Sea fleet from its base in Sevastopol in Crimea to safer bases in Novorossiysk and Feodosia, on either sides of the Kerch strait connecting eastern Crimea with the Russian mainland. There are even reports of plans to build naval facilities in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia.

Zelensky claimed on October 24 that: “The Russian fleet is no longer able to operate in the western part of the Black Sea and is gradually fleeing from Crimea. And this is a historic achievement.”

Map of the Black sea.
Strategic hotspot: Ukraine is claiming that Russia has lost control of the northwestern Black Sea. Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock

Basil Germond, a researcher in maritime strategy at the University of Portsmouth, believes this is a significant moment, marking Russia’s inability to properly enforce any blockade of Ukraine’s grain shipments. It also makes Russia look weak in Crimea itself, which, as Germond points out, “is a big problem, given the central role that Crimea plays in Putin’s imperialist narrative”.

Read more: Russia's plan to relocate its Black Sea naval base from Crimea is priceless for Ukraine's morale

… and in cyberspace

Another theatre of war not much discussed thus far is cyberspace. Russia has long been thought of as a master of cyberwarfare, spreading disinformation, launching attacks against western systems and disrupting communications. But now Kyiv has formed its own “IT army”, launching disruptive cyber-attacks and data thefts against the Russian government and other high-profile targets such as energy giant Gazprom.

Launched in February by the deputy prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, it is thought to be the first time that a state official has openly called on hackers from around the globe to join a nation’s military defensive efforts against an invading force. Vasileios Karagiannopoulos, who researches cybercrime and security at the University of Portsmouth, says the army has pulled off a number of coups, including hacking into Russian state TV channels to broadcast a message that: “the hour of reckoning has come.”

Karagiannopoulos believes this is the tip of the cyberwar iceberg and that a great deal of work is needed to incorporate activities in cyberspace into the rules of war.

Read more: Ukraine's IT army is a world first: here's why it is an important part of the war

Putin and Xi, a new world order?

Putin may not have been able to travel to South Africa for the Brics summit earlier this year for fear he might be and face war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court. But when China celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Beijing last week, Putin was there, front and centre, taking every opportunity to bask in the reflected glory of his apparently “no-limits friendship” with Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Stefan Wolff, an international relations expert at the University of Birmingham, noted the asymmetry of this friendship. While Xi travelled to Moscow in March for a one-on-one with the Russian leader, Putin had to content himself with being one of many leaders in Beijing, and while he made the most of it for the Russian press, the occasion was all about Xi and his Belt and Road project.

Read more: Xi-Putin meeting: here's what it says about their current, and future, relationship

Writing after the summit, Natasha Kuhrt, a senior lecturer in international peace & security at King’s College London and Marcin Kaczmarski, who lectures in security studies at the University of Glasgow, observed what they described as “Putin’s explicit acknowledgement of the different roles played by Moscow and Beijing in international politics”.

They note that despite the presence of a number of high level representatives of Russian business, no contracts of note were announced, perhaps a sign of China’s wariness of openly deriding the west’s sanctions regime. And, for all Putin’s boasts of the volume of trade between the two countries, the bulk of this trade consists of export of Russian hydrocarbons and other raw materials to China. In the 1990s, Russia feared becoming a “raw materials appendage” to China. As Kuhrt and Kaczmarski note, this appears to be becoming a reality.

Read more: Putin and Xi: Beijing Belt and Road meeting highlighted Russia’s role as China’s junior partner

Trapped doing business in Russia

Meanwhile, more than 600 days since Putin sent his war machine into Ukraine and Russia was hit by increasingly stringent western sanctions, more than 1,400 international companies are still operating in Russia, many of them unwillingly.

Simon Evenett, a professor of international trade and economic development at the University of St Gallen, and Niccolò Pisani, a professor of strategy and international business at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), have explored why some multinationals have been trapped in Russia, finding it very difficult, if not impossible, to exit the country. They explore four push and pull factors that have help explain why this is.

Read more: Four reasons why western companies have been 'trapped' in Russia since it invaded Ukraine

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Are Voters Recoiling Against Disorder?

Are Voters Recoiling Against Disorder?

Authored by Michael Barone via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The headlines coming out of the Super…



Are Voters Recoiling Against Disorder?

Authored by Michael Barone via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The headlines coming out of the Super Tuesday primaries have got it right. Barring cataclysmic changes, Donald Trump and Joe Biden will be the Republican and Democratic nominees for president in 2024.

(Left) President Joe Biden delivers remarks on canceling student debt at Culver City Julian Dixon Library in Culver City, Calif., on Feb. 21, 2024. (Right) Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump stands on stage during a campaign event at Big League Dreams Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nev., on Jan. 27, 2024. (Mario Tama/Getty Images; David Becker/Getty Images)

With Nikki Haley’s withdrawal, there will be no more significantly contested primaries or caucuses—the earliest both parties’ races have been over since something like the current primary-dominated system was put in place in 1972.

The primary results have spotlighted some of both nominees’ weaknesses.

Donald Trump lost high-income, high-educated constituencies, including the entire metro area—aka the Swamp. Many but by no means all Haley votes there were cast by Biden Democrats. Mr. Trump can’t afford to lose too many of the others in target states like Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Majorities and large minorities of voters in overwhelmingly Latino counties in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley and some in Houston voted against Joe Biden, and even more against Senate nominee Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas).

Returns from Hispanic precincts in New Hampshire and Massachusetts show the same thing. Mr. Biden can’t afford to lose too many Latino votes in target states like Arizona and Georgia.

When Mr. Trump rode down that escalator in 2015, commentators assumed he’d repel Latinos. Instead, Latino voters nationally, and especially the closest eyewitnesses of Biden’s open-border policy, have been trending heavily Republican.

High-income liberal Democrats may sport lawn signs proclaiming, “In this house, we believe ... no human is illegal.” The logical consequence of that belief is an open border. But modest-income folks in border counties know that flows of illegal immigrants result in disorder, disease, and crime.

There is plenty of impatience with increased disorder in election returns below the presidential level. Consider Los Angeles County, America’s largest county, with nearly 10 million people, more people than 40 of the 50 states. It voted 71 percent for Mr. Biden in 2020.

Current returns show county District Attorney George Gascon winning only 21 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan primary. He’ll apparently face Republican Nathan Hochman, a critic of his liberal policies, in November.

Gascon, elected after the May 2020 death of counterfeit-passing suspect George Floyd in Minneapolis, is one of many county prosecutors supported by billionaire George Soros. His policies include not charging juveniles as adults, not seeking higher penalties for gang membership or use of firearms, and bringing fewer misdemeanor cases.

The predictable result has been increased car thefts, burglaries, and personal robberies. Some 120 assistant district attorneys have left the office, and there’s a backlog of 10,000 unprosecuted cases.

More than a dozen other Soros-backed and similarly liberal prosecutors have faced strong opposition or have left office.

St. Louis prosecutor Kim Gardner resigned last May amid lawsuits seeking her removal, Milwaukee’s John Chisholm retired in January, and Baltimore’s Marilyn Mosby was defeated in July 2022 and convicted of perjury in September 2023. Last November, Loudoun County, Virginia, voters (62 percent Biden) ousted liberal Buta Biberaj, who declined to prosecute a transgender student for assault, and in June 2022 voters in San Francisco (85 percent Biden) recalled famed radical Chesa Boudin.

Similarly, this Tuesday, voters in San Francisco passed ballot measures strengthening police powers and requiring treatment of drug-addicted welfare recipients.

In retrospect, it appears the Floyd video, appearing after three months of COVID-19 confinement, sparked a frenzied, even crazed reaction, especially among the highly educated and articulate. One fatal incident was seen as proof that America’s “systemic racism” was worse than ever and that police forces should be defunded and perhaps abolished.

2020 was “the year America went crazy,” I wrote in January 2021, a year in which police funding was actually cut by Democrats in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver. A year in which young New York Times (NYT) staffers claimed they were endangered by the publication of Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) opinion article advocating calling in military forces if necessary to stop rioting, as had been done in Detroit in 1967 and Los Angeles in 1992. A craven NYT publisher even fired the editorial page editor for running the article.

Evidence of visible and tangible discontent with increasing violence and its consequences—barren and locked shelves in Manhattan chain drugstores, skyrocketing carjackings in Washington, D.C.—is as unmistakable in polls and election results as it is in daily life in large metropolitan areas. Maybe 2024 will turn out to be the year even liberal America stopped acting crazy.

Chaos and disorder work against incumbents, as they did in 1968 when Democrats saw their party’s popular vote fall from 61 percent to 43 percent.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times or ZeroHedge.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/09/2024 - 23:20

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Veterans Affairs Kept COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate In Place Without Evidence

Veterans Affairs Kept COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate In Place Without Evidence

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




Veterans Affairs Kept COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate In Place Without Evidence

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

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reviewed no data when deciding in 2023 to keep its COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place.

Doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in Washington in a file image. (Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

VA Secretary Denis McDonough said on May 1, 2023, that the end of many other federal mandates “will not impact current policies at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

He said the mandate was remaining for VA health care personnel “to ensure the safety of veterans and our colleagues.”

Mr. McDonough did not cite any studies or other data. A VA spokesperson declined to provide any data that was reviewed when deciding not to rescind the mandate. The Epoch Times submitted a Freedom of Information Act for “all documents outlining which data was relied upon when establishing the mandate when deciding to keep the mandate in place.”

The agency searched for such data and did not find any.

The VA does not even attempt to justify its policies with science, because it can’t,” Leslie Manookian, president and founder of the Health Freedom Defense Fund, told The Epoch Times.

“The VA just trusts that the process and cost of challenging its unfounded policies is so onerous, most people are dissuaded from even trying,” she added.

The VA’s mandate remains in place to this day.

The VA’s website claims that vaccines “help protect you from getting severe illness” and “offer good protection against most COVID-19 variants,” pointing in part to observational data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that estimate the vaccines provide poor protection against symptomatic infection and transient shielding against hospitalization.

There have also been increasing concerns among outside scientists about confirmed side effects like heart inflammation—the VA hid a safety signal it detected for the inflammation—and possible side effects such as tinnitus, which shift the benefit-risk calculus.

President Joe Biden imposed a slate of COVID-19 vaccine mandates in 2021. The VA was the first federal agency to implement a mandate.

President Biden rescinded the mandates in May 2023, citing a drop in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. His administration maintains the choice to require vaccines was the right one and saved lives.

“Our administration’s vaccination requirements helped ensure the safety of workers in critical workforces including those in the healthcare and education sectors, protecting themselves and the populations they serve, and strengthening their ability to provide services without disruptions to operations,” the White House said.

Some experts said requiring vaccination meant many younger people were forced to get a vaccine despite the risks potentially outweighing the benefits, leaving fewer doses for older adults.

By mandating the vaccines to younger people and those with natural immunity from having had COVID, older people in the U.S. and other countries did not have access to them, and many people might have died because of that,” Martin Kulldorff, a professor of medicine on leave from Harvard Medical School, told The Epoch Times previously.

The VA was one of just a handful of agencies to keep its mandate in place following the removal of many federal mandates.

“At this time, the vaccine requirement will remain in effect for VA health care personnel, including VA psychologists, pharmacists, social workers, nursing assistants, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, peer specialists, medical support assistants, engineers, housekeepers, and other clinical, administrative, and infrastructure support employees,” Mr. McDonough wrote to VA employees at the time.

This also includes VA volunteers and contractors. Effectively, this means that any Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employee, volunteer, or contractor who works in VHA facilities, visits VHA facilities, or provides direct care to those we serve will still be subject to the vaccine requirement at this time,” he said. “We continue to monitor and discuss this requirement, and we will provide more information about the vaccination requirements for VA health care employees soon. As always, we will process requests for vaccination exceptions in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies.”

The version of the shots cleared in the fall of 2022, and available through the fall of 2023, did not have any clinical trial data supporting them.

A new version was approved in the fall of 2023 because there were indications that the shots not only offered temporary protection but also that the level of protection was lower than what was observed during earlier stages of the pandemic.

Ms. Manookian, whose group has challenged several of the federal mandates, said that the mandate “illustrates the dangers of the administrative state and how these federal agencies have become a law unto themselves.”

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/09/2024 - 22:10

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Low Iron Levels In Blood Could Trigger Long COVID: Study

Low Iron Levels In Blood Could Trigger Long COVID: Study

Authored by Amie Dahnke via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

People with inadequate…



Low Iron Levels In Blood Could Trigger Long COVID: Study

Authored by Amie Dahnke via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

People with inadequate iron levels in their blood due to a COVID-19 infection could be at greater risk of long COVID.


A new study indicates that problems with iron levels in the bloodstream likely trigger chronic inflammation and other conditions associated with the post-COVID phenomenon. The findings, published on March 1 in Nature Immunology, could offer new ways to treat or prevent the condition.

Long COVID Patients Have Low Iron Levels

Researchers at the University of Cambridge pinpointed low iron as a potential link to long-COVID symptoms thanks to a study they initiated shortly after the start of the pandemic. They recruited people who tested positive for the virus to provide blood samples for analysis over a year, which allowed the researchers to look for post-infection changes in the blood. The researchers looked at 214 samples and found that 45 percent of patients reported symptoms of long COVID that lasted between three and 10 months.

In analyzing the blood samples, the research team noticed that people experiencing long COVID had low iron levels, contributing to anemia and low red blood cell production, just two weeks after they were diagnosed with COVID-19. This was true for patients regardless of age, sex, or the initial severity of their infection.

According to one of the study co-authors, the removal of iron from the bloodstream is a natural process and defense mechanism of the body.

But it can jeopardize a person’s recovery.

When the body has an infection, it responds by removing iron from the bloodstream. This protects us from potentially lethal bacteria that capture the iron in the bloodstream and grow rapidly. It’s an evolutionary response that redistributes iron in the body, and the blood plasma becomes an iron desert,” University of Oxford professor Hal Drakesmith said in a press release. “However, if this goes on for a long time, there is less iron for red blood cells, so oxygen is transported less efficiently affecting metabolism and energy production, and for white blood cells, which need iron to work properly. The protective mechanism ends up becoming a problem.”

The research team believes that consistently low iron levels could explain why individuals with long COVID continue to experience fatigue and difficulty exercising. As such, the researchers suggested iron supplementation to help regulate and prevent the often debilitating symptoms associated with long COVID.

It isn’t necessarily the case that individuals don’t have enough iron in their body, it’s just that it’s trapped in the wrong place,” Aimee Hanson, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge who worked on the study, said in the press release. “What we need is a way to remobilize the iron and pull it back into the bloodstream, where it becomes more useful to the red blood cells.”

The research team pointed out that iron supplementation isn’t always straightforward. Achieving the right level of iron varies from person to person. Too much iron can cause stomach issues, ranging from constipation, nausea, and abdominal pain to gastritis and gastric lesions.

1 in 5 Still Affected by Long COVID

COVID-19 has affected nearly 40 percent of Americans, with one in five of those still suffering from symptoms of long COVID, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Long COVID is marked by health issues that continue at least four weeks after an individual was initially diagnosed with COVID-19. Symptoms can last for days, weeks, months, or years and may include fatigue, cough or chest pain, headache, brain fog, depression or anxiety, digestive issues, and joint or muscle pain.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/09/2024 - 12:50

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