zaterdag 20 november 2021

Politie-Intimidatie. Er gebeurt iets heel griezeligs in Nederland

Er is iets heel griezeligs aan de gang in Nederland. Dat wij geleidelijk aan in een totalitaire 'democratie' wegzinken wordt steeds zichtbaarder. Daarbij speelt de politie een centrale rol, zoals ik enkele malen eerder merkte toen ik zag wat voor een excessief geweld de sterke arm toepast zodra burgers tegen de covid-maatregelen protesteren. Zowel in Rotterdam, Den Haag als Amsterdam is sprake geweest van wat vroeger een politierel heette, chaos als gevolg van politie-geweld, waarvan ik als journalist eind jaren zeventig, begin jaren tachtig van nabij getuige was. Dankzij de sociale advocatuur en enkele hervormingsgezinde journalisten werden de politie-excessen toen nog enigszins in toom gehouden. Maar sinds een jaar of vijftien is er weer een lichting politieagenten bij gekomen die zich weinig gelegen laat liggen aan democratisch tot stand gekomen wetten. Ze schoppen en slaan erop los zodra een slachtoffer dat op de grond ligt niet snel genoeg kan wegkomen. Het demonstreert dezelfde mentaliteit die de nationaal-socialistische knokploegen in het interbellum toonden, zonder dat de overheid ingreep. 

Aan het einde van de middag moest ik vandaag nog een boodschap doen in het centrum van Amsterdam, waar ik woon. Op de Dam zag ik een groep demonstranten en veel politiemensen. Het betrof hier een bijeenkomst om te protesteren tegen de covid-politiek van het demissionaire kabinet. Als journalist ging ik even kijken, en nam enkele foto's van de opgetrommelde politie.    


Omdat de sterke arm in rellen-outfit tamelijk intimiderend voor het Koninklijk Paleis stond nam ik enkele foto's. Ineens sprak onderstaande politieman mij aan met de vraag waarom ik foto's nam. Ik antwoordde dat ik journalist was, stelde mij voor als Stan van Houcke, en zei dat wanneer er veel politie in de publieke ruimte staat dit opmerkelijk is, aangezien de demonstranten een kleine groep vormde en alles ook nog eens uiterst rustig verliep. Dat antwoord beviel de man niet, want hij merkte op: 'o, je komt hier naartoe om vanavond met je pikkie te spelen terwijl je de foto's bekijkt.' Ik attendeerde de ambtenaar in functie dat hij tegen een 74-jarige man sprak, een Amsterdamse belastingbetalende burger. Ik haalde mijn camera weer te voorschijn, maar voordat ik een portret van hem kon maken draaide hij zich snel om, want hij bleek ineens veel minder dapper te zijn. Ik vertelde hem dat hij zich walgelijk gedroeg. Hij verdween snel.

Toen hij terugliep naar het ME-busje waarin hij vervoerd was, volgde ik hem en vroeg de andere agenten wie de commandant was, zodat ik bij hem een klacht kon uiten. Geen van de manschappen was bereid dit te vertellen. Daarop nam ik een foto van zowel het kenteken als het nummer van de bus. Hun argument om zo grof te zijn was dat ik niet vooraf had gevraagd of ik gemaskerde agenten kon fotograferen. Toen ik hen erop wees dat dit in een democratische rechtstaat niet hoeft, althans niet in de openbare ruimte, zwegen ze. 
Zoals ik stelde: er is iets heel griezeligs aan de gang in Nederland. Wij staan aan de vooravond van een fascistoïde opererende technocratie. Kijk uit, u bent gewaarschuwd. U leeft in een land waarin tijdens de oorlog politie en justitie, het trampersoneel en de NS meewerkten aan de deportatie van 75 procent van de joodse Nederlanders, dat is procentueel twee keer zoveel als uit België, en drie keer meer dan uit Frankrijk. En geen enkele autoriteit voelt zich vandaag de dag nog verantwoordelijk voor wat dan ook. U staat alleen tegenover een machtige staat, gesteund door collaborateurs. 
Nederland tijdens Covid-Pandemie





vrijdag 19 november 2021

Bespioneert Israël Nederlandse ngo’s of burgers?

 

Bespioneert Israël Nederlandse ngo’s of burgers met Pegasus-spyware?

Gevoed door sancties van het Witte Huis en nieuwe onthullingen in Palestina en Mexico nadert de ophef over de Israëlische spionage-software Pegasus het kookpunt. De vraag of ook Nederlanders doelwit zijn van de spyware wordt ten onrechte niet gesteld.

Overzicht van landen waar in 2018 infecties met Pegasus werden geïdentificeerd. [c] Citizen Lab 

De rel rond de Israëlische spionage-software (spyware) Pegasus breidt zich in razend tempo uit. Donderdag werd bekend dat hooggeplaatste officials van de Palestijnse Autoriteit zijn bespioneerd, onder wie naar verluidt de minister van Buitenlandse Zaken. Op dezelfde dag werd in Mexico een eerste arrestatie verricht nadat de nationale veiligheidsadviseur bleek te zijn afgeluisterd via een Mexicaans bedrijf van een Israëlische zakenman.

Enkele dagen eerder werd bekend dat spyware was ontdekt op de telefoons van zes Palestijnse mensenrechtenactivisten. Diezelfde dag besloot een Amerikaanse rechtbank dat Facebook een rechtszaak kan aanspannen vanwege het misbruik van zijn WhatsApp-servers. Op 3 november werd de fabrikant van de spyware door de VS op een zwarte lijst geplaatst als risico voor de ‘nationale veiligheid en buitenlandse belangen’. Zwaardere sanctiesdreigen.

Wat is Pegasus?

Diagram van de informatie die via een met Pegasus geïnfecteerde telefoon kan worden verzameld. De gegevens zouden afkomstig zijn uit documentatie van NSO Group, die door WikiLeaks werd geopenbaard. Bron: E-mails van Hacking Team.

Pegasus is spyware die ongemerkt en zonder handeling van het doelwit op iemands telefoon kan worden geïnstalleerd, waarna persoonlijke gegevens en communicatie kunnen worden onderschept. Ook kunnen de microfoon en camera op afstand worden bediend, waardoor toegang wordt verkregen tot de omgeving van het doelwit.

De spyware is ontwikkeld door de Israëlische NSO Group, en mag volgens regelgeving van de Israëlische regering uitsluitend aan overheden worden geleverd (’government exclusive’). Dat proces staat in theorie onder streng toezicht: elke deal vereist een exportlicentie van het Israëlische ministerie van Defensie. Die wordt pas verstrekt nadat het zich heeft verzekerd dat de geleverde spyware uitsluitend wordt gebruikt ter bestrijding van criminaliteit en terrorisme, en niet leidt tot schendingen van de mensenrechten.

‘Hack-for-hire’

Van dat door Israël geschetste beeld van zorgvuldigheid is niets over: tot in het Amerikaanse Congres wordt NSO omschreven als een ‘hack for hire’ voor repressieve regimes, die Pegasus gebruiken om tot ver buiten hun landsgrenzen te spioneren. De spyware blijkt in tenminste 45 landen te worden gebruikt voor het bespioneren van journalisten, mensenrechtenactivisten, ngo’s, vakbondsleiders, politieke dissidenten, advocaten, parlementariërs, ministers en zelfs staatshoofden.

Sinds 2014 ontstond een patroon in de wereldwijd opduikende spionagepraktijken, die werden onderzocht en gedocumenteerd door Amnesty International en het aan de Universiteit van Toronto verbonden Citizen Lab, dat als eerste de technologie ontwikkelde om sporen van Pegasus te kunnen ontdekken op gehackte telefoons.

The Pegasus Project

In 2021 werd de omvang van het Pegasus-schandaal duidelijk toen een lijst met vijftig duizend telefoonnummers van (potentiële) doelwitten in handen kwam van Amnesty International en het Franse journalistieke platform Forbidden Stories. Op de lijst staan zo’n 180 journalisten, maar ook de presidenten van onder meer Frankrijk, Zuid-Afrika en Pakistan, en de voorzitter van de Europese Raad.

Dat leidde tot een grootschalig onderzoek – The Pegasus Project –, waaraan ruim tachtig journalisten van 17 grote media-organisaties meewerkten, ondersteund door Amnesty’s Security Lab dat forensische tests op mobiele telefoons uitvoerde. In juli leidde dat tot een reeks publicaties in internationale media, en een forensisch rapport van Amnesty. Daarnaast creëerde het in Londen gevestigde onderzoeksbureau Forensic Architecture een digitaal platform waarop de verspreiding van Pegasus in kaart wordt gebracht.

In september kwam ook het Europees Parlement in actie tegen het misbruik, en riep de Hoge VN-Commisaris voor de Mensenrechten, Michelle Bachelet, op tot een moratorium op de verkoop van surveillance-technologie. In oktober werd The Pegasus Project door de EU de Daphne Caruana Prize for Journalismtoegekend.

Nederlanders bespioneerd?

Al in 2018 rapporteerde Citizen Lab verdachte infecties met Pegasus-spyware in 45 landen, waaronder Nederland. Daarachter gingen volgens Citizen Lab ten minste 36 ‘operators’ schuil – instrumenten waarmee opdrachtgevers hun spionagepraktijken uitvoeren. In Nederland was een Israëlische operator met de naam DOME actief, evenals in Israël, Palestina, Turkije, Qatar en de VS. Gezien de activiteiten in Israël en Palestina kan DOME alleen opereren in opdracht van Israël en zijn veiligheidsdiensten. Dat roept de vraag op of Israël Nederlanders bespioneert.

Zorgen dat Nederlanders in opdracht van Israël worden bespioneerd, geïntimideerd of zelfs bedreigd bestaan al lang. Eind 2017 beschreven we de strategie en infrastructuur die Israël heeft opgetuigd om organisaties en personen die opkomen voor de rechten van de Palestijnen wereldwijd te bestrijden. Het recent verschenen rapport De ondermijning van pro-Palestijns activisme in Nederland geeft een actueel beeld waartoe die Israëlische strategie in de Nederlandse context heeft geleid.

In Nederland zijn meerdere gevallen bekend van spionage, bedreiging en cyber attacks, waarbij de betrokkenheid van Israël wordt vermoed. In enkele gevallen werd aangifte gedaan, maar onderzoek door het OM en de politie leverde niets op. Onbekend is of telefoons en andere apparatuur zijn onderzocht op sporen van Pegasus, en of de gangen van DOME zijn nagegaan.

Nederlandse kwetsbaarheid

Tegen deze achtergrond bestaan al jaren zorgen over de kwetsbaarheid van Nederland op het gebied van cyber security, waarvoor het Analistennetwerk Nationale Veiligheid in zijn Horizonscan 2018 nadrukkelijk waarschuwde (pagina 23-24):

Op het moment is er op informatietechnologisch gebied een sterke afhankelijkheid van buitenlandse bedrijven. Het overgrote aandeel van de benodigde hard- en software wordt gemaakt in China, de Verenigde Staten en Israël. 

De facto zijn Nederland en andere Europese landen dus afhankelijk van deze spelers voor kritieke onderdelen van vitale digitale infrastructuren. Er is hier echter sprake van een zekere naïviteit. 

Tot nu toe is het een onderbelicht probleem dat onze samenleving op zeer grote schaal gebruik maakt van buitenlandse apparatuur en technologie, waar mogelijk zogenaamde ‘Back doors’ in zijn gebouwd. 

Opmerkelijk is dat de Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding en Veiligheid (NCTV) de betrokkenheid van Israël in het op de Horizonscan gebaseerde rapport Cybersecuritybeeld Nederland 2019 wegmoffelde in een voetnoot (pagina 23, noten 83 en 84). Onbekend is of die ingreep getuigt van naïviteit, of een ander doel dient.

Overheid als makelaar

Net zo opmerkelijk was de oproep in april 2020 van de Nederlandse ambassade in Tel Aviv namens het ministerie van VWS aan Nederlandse techbedrijven om samen te werken met een onbekende Israëlische partner aan ‘slimme digitale oplossingen voor corona’. Enkele dagen eerder werd bekenddat NSO westerse regeringen warm probeerde te maken voor zijn corona-software. Het internetmedium Electronic Intifada beschreef de gevaren van een dergelijke ‘corona-samenwerking’.

Alarmerend is de overeenkomst die op 13 oktober jl. tussen Nederland en Israël werd gesloten over uitbouw van de defensiesamenwerking. Daartoe werd een Memorandum of Understanding ondertekend door de Nederlandse ambassadeur in Israël, Hans Docter, en Israëls Defensieminister Benny Gantz. De ambassade in Tel Aviv meldde op Twitter dat die betrekking heeft op ‘security cooperation’ tussen beide landen. Het Haagse ministerie van Defensie beschrijft de deal als ‘defensiesamenwerking’, die ‘vooral [is] gericht op kennisuitwisseling’.

In juli van dit jaar trachtte het ministerie van Economische Zaken Nederlandse bedrijven te koppelen aan de Israëlische wapen- en technologiefabrikant Elbit Systems – paradepaardje van Israëls militaire industrie. Naar verluidt was die poging succesvol.

NSO’s klantenkring

Volgens NSO is Pegasus verkocht aan leger, politie en/of veiligheidsdiensten van veertig landen. Voor die klanten heeft NSO een digitale attack infrastructure opgezet van servers, waarvan de meeste draaien in Europese datacenters van Amerikaanse hosting providers. Vijf servers staan in Nederland.

Met welke landen NSO zaken doet, houdt het geheim. Maar op basis van de gelekte lijst met telefoonnummers werden regeringen van elf landen geïdentificeerd: Azerbeidzjan, Bahrein, Hongarije, India, Kazachstan, Marokko, Mexico, Rwanda, Saudi-Arabië, Togo en de Verenigde Arabische Emiraten (VAE). Die elf spioneerden in tenminste 45 landen.

De overige circa dertig klanten van NSO zijn onbekend, maar steeds duidelijker wordt dat Pegasus niet alleen wordt geleverd aan regeringen of overheidsdiensten, maar ook aan bijvoorbeeld particulieren. Zo kreeg de heerser van Dubai de beschikking over Pegasus om zijn tweede vrouw en haar advocaat te hacken. Schokkend is het laatste nieuws uit Mexico, waar NSO het Mexicaanse bedrijf KBH Track gebruikte om onder meer hoge regeringsfunctionarissen en journalisten af te luisteren.

KBH Track blijkt onderdeel van een conglomeraat van tientallen bedrijfjes in Mexico, de VS en Panama, opgericht door de – inmiddels voortvluchtige – Israëlische zakenman Uri Ansbacher. In Mexico werden 18 van dergelijke bedrijven geïdentificeerd. Volgens de Mexicaanse mensenrechtenorganisatie Article 19 fungeren die als tussenstation tussen NSO en Mexicaanse politie- en veiligheidsdiensten, het leger en het kantoor van de openbaar aanklager.

Vervlochten met de regering

Opmerkelijk zijn de Pegasus-deals die NSO sloot met de VAE (2013) en Bahrein (2017). De in het najaar van 2020 tussen Israël en die landen gesloten Abraham-akkoorden blijken dus een aanloop te hebben gehad. Ook Marokko, dat eind 2020 zijn betrekkingen met Israël normaliseerde, beschikte al jaren over Pegasus. Saudi-Arabië kocht Pegasus in 2017, maar houdt formeel nog afstand van Israël.

In augustus 2020 bevestigde de krant Haaretz dat de Israëlische regering NSO destijds pushte om zijn spyware te verkopen aan de VAE en andere Golfstaten, en weg te kijken bij de slechte reputatie van de regimes. De regering fungeerde zelfs als tussenpersoon, en gaf in strijd met de eigen regels exportlicenties af.

De producten en diensten van NSO en collega-bedrijven als CandiruCirclesCellebrite en AnyVision vormen voor de Israëlische regering de ideale entree tot repressieve regimes, terwijl de bedrijven profiteren van een door de regering gecreëerd, exclusief speelveld waarop kapitalen te verdienen zijn. In sommige gevallen werden voor één hack ‘tientallen miljoenen dollars’ betaald.

Hierbij spelen ook persoonlijke belangen een rol. Met name de voormalige premier Netanyahu blijkt Pegasus te hebben ingezet om nieuwe internationale relaties aan te kunnen gaan – om die vervolgens in eigen land politiek te verzilveren. Ook genoemd wordt Yossi Cohen, de voormalige Mossad-chef die het handwerk verrichtte achter de Abraham-akkoorden, maar parallel daaraan werkte aan een particulier investeringsvehikel. Daarbij waren de machthebbers van de VAE, Trumps schoonzoon en adviseur Jared Kushner, en Trumps minister van Financiën Steven Mnuchin betrokken.

Symbiotische relatie

Zowel blogger Richard Silverstein (op Jacobin) als journalist/schrijver Ronen Bergman (in The New York Times) gaan in op de symbiotische relatie tussen de Israëlische regering en de spyware-bedrijven. Silverstein schrijft daarover:

They comprise a network of willing accessories that advance Israeli security interests globally, in addition to their own corporate profits. When the state calls upon them, they offer their services […]. When these cyberwarfare companies face obstacles […], the state comes to their aid.

Bergman – auteur van Rise and Kill First, over de ‘targeted killing programs’ van de Israëlische veiligheidsdiensten – noemt de spyware van NSO een ‘cruciaal element’ in Israëls buitenlandpolitiek:

The company’s biggest backer, the government of Israel, considers the software a crucial element of its foreign policy […]. 

Dat cruciale belang verklaart ook de Israëlische paniek die volgde op de Amerikaanse sancties tegen NSO Group en Candiru van 3 november. Naar verluidt zijn drie Israëlische ministeries en het kantoor van de premier betrokken bij het uitoefenen van druk op de Amerikaanse regering om de sancties ongedaan te maken. Die inspanning valt slechts te begrijpen vanuit het nationale belang dat voor de Israëli’s op het spel staat.

De kans op Israëlisch succes is klein. Sterker, de kans dat de regering-Biden de sancties verder uitbreidt, en dat die door andere landen worden overgenomen, is aanzienlijk groter. Voor de Amerikanen is de maat vol. Silverstein somt de Israëlische misstappen op:

They’ve sabotaged US telecommunications companies like WhatsApp. In further jeopardizing American interests, Israel has enabled spying on senior US-Iran negotiator Rob Malley. Israel played a key role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. And now they’ve hacked a Palestinian American US citizen. 

Gevolgen voor de Palestijnen 

In de exportlicenties die het Israëlische ministerie van Defensie aan NSO afgeeft is standaard opgenomen dat de landennummers van Israël en Palestina het exclusieve domein zijn van de Israëlische veiligheidsdiensten, en dus voor elke NSO-klant verboden terrein. De gehackte Palestijnen weten dus met zekerheid dat zij worden bespioneerd door de Israëlische veiligheidsdienst Shin Bet.

Dat is dezelfde organisatie die in mei 2021 trachtte de Nederlandse regering te misleiden met een gefabriceerd dossier over zes Palestijnse ngo’s. Dit in een poging de Nederlandse steun aan drie daarvan te saboteren. Ook dat verhaal krijgt een steeds langer wordende staart. Nadat Nederland en andere Europese landen het Shin Bet-dossier afserveerden, nam Israël zijn toevlucht tot het bespioneren van de ngo’s. Toen dat werd ontdekt, plaatste Israël de zes ngo’s onverwijld op de terreurlijst in een ultieme poging zijn spionagepraktijken te legitimeren. De Palestijnen hebben de VN opgeroepen tot een onderzoek.

Elke Palestijn afgeluisterd

Intussen blijkt de realiteit nog veel grimmiger. Deze week onthulde Middle East Eye dat elke telefoon van Palestijnen op de Westoever en in Gaza kan worden afgeluisterd, dan wel daadwerkelijk wordt afgeluisterd. Daarbij wordt niet alleen gezocht naar eventuele ‘terroristen’, maar worden gewone burgers afgeluisterd op zoek naar compromitterende privé-informatie die hen chantabel maakt. Op elk moment van de dag houden zich hier honderden Israëlische militairen mee bezig.

Vorige week publiceerden wij een artikel over het gezichtsherkenningsprogramma waarmee de Palestijnen dag en nacht gemonitord worden. De digitale controle over de onder bezetting levende Palestijnse bevolking is daarmee totaal. Mag dat? Nee, natuurlijk niet. Maar de rest van de wereld laat het gebeuren. Nu is uitgekomen dat niemand veilig is voor Israëls surveillance-technologie dient dat te veranderen.

https://rightsforum.org/nieuws/bespioneert-israel-nederlandse-ngos-of-burgers-met-pegasus-spyware/?fbclid=IwAR0KgDc8dKE8ndLD1K1dcDJB0oU_009LnXgxnO3pNc7Iv98vwSXqA5MSrgs





Creating dangerous viruses

 

Creating dangerous viruses in the lab is a bad way to guard against future pandemics

By Laura H. Kahn | November 19, 2021

Disease surveillance in birds.USAID animal disease surveillance work in Asia. Credit: Richard Nyberg / USAID. Credit: CC BY-NC 2.0. 

In 2011, three top US government scientists penned an opinion piece in TheWashington Post arguing why research modifying highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) was a worthy undertaking. At the time, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was facing blowback over having funded experiments that modified the virus to be transmissible among ferrets. The scientists argued that eliciting potentially dangerous mutations in the virus was necessary to protect humanity, should those mutations evolve naturally.

“We cannot predict whether or not something will arise naturally, nor when or where it might appear. Given these uncertainties, important information and insights can come from generating a potentially dangerous virus in the laboratory,” wrote Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Francis Collins, the head of NIH, and Gary Nabel, then a top official at Fauci’s institute.

Amid the controversy generated by this influenza research, the US government implemented a “pause” on federal funding in 2014 for selected research reasonably anticipated to increase transmissibility or pathogenicity of influenza, SARS, and MERS viruses. These were experiments that fell within a subset of scientific study called “gain-of-function” research. In 2017, the government lifted the pause and put in place a requirement that the US Department of Health and Human Services conduct a risk-benefit assessment on research that could confer these attributes to potential pandemic pathogens.

The federal government continues to fund such experimentation, but, as scientists, media, and online sleuths have delved into the origins of COVID-19, they have revealed weaknesses in past and current government oversight of projects modifying viruses. The revelations have underscored the degree to which gain-of-function research in the name of predicting pandemics is an idea that doesn’t seem to fade.

US-funded coronavirus bioengineering. In 2018, EcoHealth Alliance, a US-based nonprofit research organization, submitted a grant proposal to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) called DEFUSE: Defusing the Threat of Bat-borne Coronaviruses asking for over $14 million for a three-and-a-half year project to, as the name suggests, prevent a bat coronavirus from spilling over into people and seeding an outbreak. The team would study  “viral evolution and spillover risk[s]” of SARS-related bat coronaviruses by collecting viruses from caves in Yunnan, China and doing experiments that included testing hybrid, lab-created bat coronaviruses on mice engineered to have human receptors.

One eye popping segment in the 2018 EcoHealth proposal to DARPA dealt with finding so-called “furin cleavage sites.” In SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, a furin cleavage site allows its spike protein to be cut by the furin enzyme present in human airway tissues, making the virus better able to infect cells than others without the feature. The furin cleavage site represents a crucial difference between the COVID-19 virus and its relatives, including SARS-CoV, the virus responsible for the 2003 outbreak of that respiratory disease.

The process by which viruses hijack the cellular machinery of their hosts to reproduce themselves is sloppy, and the viruses that a cell produces aren’t always identical to the ones that infected the cell to begin with. This sloppiness helps the virus to evolve and adapt to new hosts—such as us. The furin cleavage site in SARS-CoV-2 could have evolved in this way.

Some proponents of the idea that the pandemic began with a lab accident in Wuhan, however, wonder whether the furin cleavage site’s presence in the COVID-19 virus is simply a mark of natural viral evolution—an artifact of sloppy viral reproduction—or rather is something else entirely: a sign of human bioengineering.

DARPA did not approve EcoHealth’s 2018 proposal, and it’s unknown whether the project received other funding. But the EcoHealth proposal, like another of the organization’s collaborations with the Wuhan Institute of Virology that did get government funding, show the enduring interest scientists have in modifying viruses in the name of predicting pandemic pathogens. (NIH officials have denied that EcoHealth’s NIH-funded research is gain of function research, although NIH documents show that the organization failed to adhere to terms related to enhanced viral growth in its hybrid bat coronavirus studies. There is significant debate on what the definition of a dangerous gain-of-function experiment is.) 

Predicting pandemics through gain-of-function research. An overarching goal of EcoHealth’s work—as documented in the DARPA proposal and in other projects—was to learn which viruses were poised to spill over, in other words, to predict pandemics. Predicting how and when the next pandemic could arise is important, but tampering with viruses to do so is the wrong way to go about it. Predicting pandemics isn’t like predicting the weather.

Weather prediction is a purely observational exercise. We have satellites and other tools to track weather to predict hurricanes. The forecast process begins with observations. Scientists use this data to develop hurricane forecast models.  Geophysical fluid dynamics are well understood, based on the laws of physics (i.e. density, flow velocity, pressure, and temperature) enabling scientists to develop atmospheric and climate models.

Scientists do not experiment on clouds to see if they can cause hurricanes.

In 2004, the National Academy of Sciences published its seminal report, Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism. It listed seven experiments of concern that should not be done.

  1. Demonstrate how to make a vaccine ineffective
  2. Confer resistance to antibiotics or antiviral agents
  3. Enhance a pathogen’s virulence or make a non-virulent microbe virulent
  4. Increase transmissibility of a pathogen
  5. Alter the host range of a pathogen
  6. Enable a pathogen’s ability to evade diagnostic or detection modalities
  7. Enable the weaponization of a biological agent or toxin

Bioengineering SARS-related coronaviruses in ways that could increase efficient infection of human cells and that increase viral load, pathogenicity, and lethality in mice genetically engineered to have respiratory cells with human features, i.e., humanized mice, as NIH documents show was done by EcoHealth Alliance and its Wuhan partners, would conceivably implicate points 3, 4, and 5 of the 2004 report. Whether the Wuhan experimentation was gain of function is a matter of debate, but some scientists disagree with NIH’s assessment that it wasn’t.

Ideally, Congress should hold a hearing to debate what kind of research should not be done and do more to investigate the origins of the pandemic. Certainly, there have been calls to do so.

There are other less risky ways of preventing pandemics than conducting gain-of-function research on pathogens. Many pathogens capable of causing human outbreaks originate in animals, and surveillance of wild and domestic animals for signs of illness makes sense. This is the One Health approach. With One Health, the goal is to prevent the spread of deadly zoonotic microbes into humans through improved communication and collaboration between human and veterinary medicine.

Preventing pandemics through rapid identification and response is an important goal; the One Health approach that emphasizes animal and human health and disease surveillance is the key to doing this, not risky gain-of-function research.

Author’s note: Many thanks to Richard Ebright, Board of Governors Professor of Chemistry and  Chemical Biology, Waksman Institute, Rutgers University for his invaluable comments and links to technical references.

https://thebulletin.org/2021/11/creating-dangerous-viruses-in-the-lab-is-a-bad-way-to-guard-against-future-pandemics?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social+Media&utm_campaign=FacebookPost11192021&utm_content=DisruptiveTech_RiskyBusinessofPredictingPandemics_11192021



Two Palestinian minors severely abused




Two Palestinian minors playing in olive grove detained for 24 hours and severely abused 

On Monday, 13 September 2021, at around 5:00 P.M., Mustafa (13) and Muhammad (15) ‘Amira from the village of Ni’lin in Ramallah District were playing on their family’s land. The teens were playing with plastic bottles, which they were blowing up with detergent and aluminum foil. About a kilometer away, near one of the gates in the Separation Barrier, were more than 10 soldiers watching them play. After about an hour, two rubber-coated metal bullets were fired at the teens. Half an hour later, the soldiers came over and arrested them.

This began a sequence of abuse that lasted more than 24 hours, at the end of which the two teens were released. The soldiers handcuffed them tightly, punched them, kicked them all over their bodies and swore at them. The soldiers repeatedly asked about the whereabouts of another person who they claimed had been with the two teens. Although the two denied his existence, the soldiers insisted until Mustafa – for lack of choice – gave them a false name.

The teens were then taken to a military facility near the Ni’lin Checkpoint. There, after waiting again, they were interrogated separately – without the presence of an adult acting on their behalf. The interrogators only called a lawyer, whom the two do not know, and allowed them to talk briefly with him. At the end of the interrogation, the two were required to sign documents in Hebrew, had fingerprints and DNA samples taken from them, and were then forced to wait outside, blindfolded.

At 1:00 A.M., they were handcuffed and taken to a military camp, where they were put in a freezing room, given wet mattresses and left to their devices. In the morning, soldiers brought them some water and dry biscuits and left them again. Only in the afternoon, at around 5:00 P.M., they were taken – handcuffed and blindfolded – to a hospital, where they were examined. During their time at the hospital, they were led into a room in which a police officer held a video call on his phone with the military court at Ofer Prison. That was the first time they saw their lawyer, who translated the proceedings for them. After a hearing that lasted less than 10 minutes, the judge announced that they would each be released on a NIS 3,000 (~966 USD) bail. They underwent further medical examinations and were driven to the entrance to their village, where they were left at 9:30 P.M. with no prior coordination with anyone. A person who recognized them took them home.

Soldiers apprehended two teens who were playing on their family’s land and beat them severely. This began more than 24 hours of abuse in which they were beaten, starved and deprived of sleep. Dozens of people were involved in the abuse : soldiers, police officers, doctors, interrogators, nurses, ISA agents, clerks and a judge. Not one stopped to talk to them – two boys, one 13, the other 15. Not one bothered to ask why they had been taken from their families and homes in the first place. Not one explained to them or to their parents what lay ahead. Not one checked if they were hungry, thirsty, tired or scared. Not a single one.

In a statement to Israeli daily Ha’aretz, the IDF Spokesperson said: “Two Palestinian suspects were seen detonating an IED at the security fence.” In fact, the teens played for about an hour at blowing up bottles, about a kilometer from the fence, in full view of soldiers who did nothing and did not treat them as “suspects.” The spokesperson also claimed the “suspects fled.” In fact, one of them ran into the soldiers’ hands and the other surrendered immediately afterwards. He went on to claim that the soldiers did not beat them at all, offering an excuse: “One of the suspects fell to the ground and was lightly injured in the face. He received immediate medical treatment from the force.” Finally, the spokesperson added that “the suspects were provided food and drink.”

The IDF Spokesperson’s response indicates how routine such abuse is for the military: The detention of Palestinian minors has long been a daily occurrence in the West Bank. It is met – as in the case at hand – with utter indifference by all the authorities and people involved. These choose to ignore the rights of the detained minors, the special protections to which they are entitled as minors, and the long-term effect on their lives.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Mustafa ‘Amira (13) recounted what happened:

Mustafa ‘Amira. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 19 September 2021
MUSTAFA ‘AMIRA. PHOTO BY IYAD HADAD, B'TSELEM, 19 SEPTEMBER 2021

On Monday, 13 September 2021, at around 5:00 P.M., I went with my cousin Muhammad to play near Mount Abu Saydam (al-Kark) not far our homes, where there are olive groves. We were playing “Arabs and Jews”, a game in which you pretend to be Palestinians and soldiers fighting. We made fireworks that don’t make a lot of noise: plastic bottles with aluminum foil and cleaning detergent that explode when you shake and throw them. We also imitated the sounds of police sirens and gunfire.

Soldiers were sitting under a sunshade at one of the openings in the Separation Barrier, watching us. About 150 meters away from them, there were about 10 more soldiers lying under trees on a hill. About an hour after we started playing, the soldiers under the sunshade fired two “rubber” bullets at us, which didn’t hit us. We were scared and moved about 25 meters towards the village, but stayed inside our grove. I shouted at the soldiers and one of them swore at us. We swore back.

At 6:30 P.M., while we were just talking, Muhammad suddenly said soldiers were coming and ran away. I didn’t see the soldiers, but I ran and then the soldiers caught me. There were five of them, and they pointed their weapons at me. One of the soldiers ordered me to sit down on the ground and then they tied my hands tightly behind my back. It hurt a lot. Then another soldier arrived. The first one grabbed my head and rubbed it into the ground, on the stones and dirt. I screamed from the pain and felt that I was bleeding from the scratches. Then one of them put his foot on my back and punched me in the face few times. Meanwhile, I saw they’d caught Muhammad. They brought him close to me. There were more than four soldiers with him.

They handed me a cell phone and told me to talk to someone who identified himself as an ISA agent. He asked me in Arabic for our names, how old we were, and what we were wearing. He asked me about another boy, and I told him there was no one else. He insisted there was someone, and when I told him there wasn’t, he told me I was lying. One of the soldiers took the phone away from me and then punched and kicked me. He demanded I admit that someone else had been with us. Just to make it stop, I made up a name and said that there’d been someone called Yusef with us. He kept hitting me and asking me questions about Yusef. I said I didn’t know, but he insisted I give him Yusef’s full name, so I made up a full name just to get the beating over with. Then the soldier handed me the phone again to give the ISA agent the name. I did as he said.

The soldiers led me to a spot near where Muhammad was lying on the ground. One of them asked me about our bottles. We had three bottles left, and I showed him where they were. I explained how to make “fireworks” and how we play with them. The soldiers brought Muhammad over and sat him next to me for a few minutes, and then they led us through groves for several hundred meters. They swore at me and the soldier who was leading me kept trying to take me through the terraces so I’d trip. I did trip twice, but didn’t get hurt. They led me to a jeep and one of the soldiers said “Welcome to Israel” and banged my head against the jeep door. It hurt a lot. The soldiers put me in the jeep and started driving. I didn’t know where we were going, and I was terrified and shaking with fear.

After a short while, the jeep stopped. A soldier covered my eyes. I later found out that I was at the Ni’lin Checkpoint. It was around 7:30 P.M. A few moments later, they brought Muhammad in and sat us both down on wooden benches. A soldier watched over us. We were two meters away from each other, but we weren’t allowed to talk. I asked for a drink, and the soldier brought me a glass of water and helped me drink because my hands were tied. I also asked to wipe the dirt and blood off my face, because it had dried up and was bothering me, and the soldier brought me a tissue. He cut off the zip ties so I could wipe it off, but wouldn’t let me take the blindfold off, just move it a bit. After I was done, he left the blindfold on but didn’t put the zip ties back on.

At around 8:00 P.M., I heard a soldier take Muhammad away. Half an hour later, they took me, too. They sat me on a chair inside a room and the interrogator asked me to take the blindfold off. There were two police officers there. The interrogator explained I had rights. He said I could refuse to answer the questions, but the court would see that. Then he called a lawyer and gave me the phone to speak to him. He and the policewoman stood by the door. On the phone was a man who introduced himself as a lawyer called Naser Nubani. He told me not to be afraid and that no one would hit me. I told him that they’d already hit me. He told me not to confess to anything I hadn’t done and asked me to hand the phone back to the interrogator.

The interrogator asked for my father’s phone number, but I was so scared that I gave him a wrong number. I gave him mother’s number, and he spoke with her and told her that I was under arrest and that he’d talked to a lawyer. He said, “Your son’s causing problems.” She told him, “My son is still little boy, it’s unthinkable to arrest him.” Then the interrogator ended the call. He told me I was in trouble and would be brought before a court. I was afraid I’d be held for a long time and that my studies would suffer. He asked me what we were doing in the grove and about the bottles. Then he asked if we’d thrown stones. I explained to him everything that had happened to us, in detail. Then he said, “You should thank the soldier that he only beat you and didn’t kill you.”

He took me out of the room and Muhammad went in. After about 40 minutes, they took me back into the room. They wanted me to sign all kinds of papers in Hebrew. They said it was proof that they’d let me speak to a lawyer. I signed everything, even though I didn’t understand was I was signing. Then they took my fingerprints and a DNA sample.

At around 1:00 A.M., they covered our eyes, tied our legs together and drove us to some military camp. They put us in a freezing room, took the masks off our eyes and covered them with a white cloth. They untied our feet, tied our hands and brought us wet, cold mattresses. They told us to go to sleep but I couldn’t sleep, it was too cold. We were hungry, but they didn’t bring us food and we didn’t ask for it because we were so tired. We just wanted to sleep.

We stayed that way until 8:00 A.M. They brought us water, took us behind one of the rooms to relieve ourselves, and then brought us back to the room. They brought us dry biscuits and some pretzels. Then I feel a sleep for a bit. At 5:00 P.M., police officers came and woke us up. They covered our eyes and put us in a car. When it stopped, they put masks on us, and then we realized we were inside a medical facility , like a hospital. We underwent tests there, and someone asked me if it hurt where I’d been beaten.

Before we left the hospital, a court hearing was held through a police officer’s phone. The judge talked and our lawyer translated. The judge told us, “I don’t want you to back in court, and don’t do the things you did.” The hearing lasted less than 10 minutes and then the officer closed the phone. They took us to the fifth floor, where I was examined again, and then they took us back to the car, covered our eyes and drove off. I didn’t know where. I fell asleep in the car and woke up when we were at the entrance to our village. The time was 9:30 P.M. Someone we know took us home. After I got back, I was still in pain and had bruises on my face and swelling around my right eye, as well as marks on my wrists from the zip ties and scratches. But I didn’t go to hospital. I rested at home and took painkillers. I didn’t go to school for two days.

 

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Muhammad ‘Amira (15) recalled what happened to him after the soldiers came to the grove:

I managed to escape but didn’t get far. I decided to go back so I wouldn’t leave my cousin alone. I went back with my hands raised, to hand myself in. An officer and a soldier came up to me. The officer was angry. He was swearing and shouting in Hebrew. I didn’t understand what he was saying. He pressed my hands to my sides and slapped me hard in the face, pulled my ears sand headbutted me with his helmet.

He laid me down on the ground and more soldiers came and stood around me. I couldn’t see Mustafa but heard him screaming for help. The officer asked me about the third person who had been with us. I told him there were only two of us there. He kept asking me questions, but I didn’t know what to answer him. He walked over to Mustafa, and then came back and told me to talk on the phone with someone he called “Captain Hamza.” The man on the phone also asked me where the third person was, and I told him we were there alone. After a while, another officer arrived, I think it was the man I’d spoke to on the phone. He interrogated me again and asked me what we were doing there and where we lived. Then asked about the bottles and I explained to him what we’d done. I was terrified and confused.

They had me on my knees, and the stones and gravel stuck to my knees and hurt me. I asked if I could sit normally, but the soldiers didn’t let me. After a few moments, I saw them leading Mustafa. His hands were tied behind his back and he was bruised from a beating. I saw scratches on his face and a red and blue mark around his right eye. He looked messy, dusty and scared. He was trembling.

Then a soldier tied my hands with a piece of cloth and they walked, leading me before them. The whole way, the soldiers swore at me and pushed me. We walked across terraces and thorns, but I didn’t fall. We walked for some time. On the way, they told me to speak on the phone with a man who introduced himself as “Captain Wissam,” and he also asked me about a third person named Yusef who he said had been with us.

We walked on and then they put me in a jeep. They told me to keep my head down so I wouldn’t see where they were taking me. After a short drive, they stopped and I saw we were inside a police station or a military camp near the Ni’lin Checkpoint. They took the handcuffs off, covered my eyes and sat me on a chair. After a short while, I heard Mustafa coughing and realized he was sitting next to me. I called out to him, but one of the soldiers ordered me to be quiet. After about 15 minutes, I asked for water and they let me drink. I asked to go to the bathroom, and they took off my blindfold and let me go.

At around 8:00 P.M., one of the soldiers took me to an interrogation room. I sat there for about 10 minutes without anyone talking to me, and only then a soldier took off my blindfold. I saw two interrogators, a man and a woman, and each had a computer. I refused to answer their questions without a lawyer. I know I have the right not to speak without the presence of a lawyer or parent. The interrogator agreed to call my brother Safi (25) to give him the name of a lawyer. He called my brother and informed him I was under arrest, and Safi apparently gave him a lawyer’s name. I wanted to speak with my brother, but the interrogator refused. He called the lawyer and let me talk to him. The lawyer instructed me not to talk about anything I hadn’t done, not to be afraid and to answer the interrogator’s questions. He also said there would be no beatings at that point. I ask him if he was coming to the court hearing, and he said yes and that the hearing would be the next day.

The interrogation lasted about half an hour. The interrogator asked me what we’d been doing there and who was with us. After the interrogation, they sat me on a bench outside and brought Mustafa in. He was also interrogated for about half an hour. After he came out, they brought me back in. They demanded I sign documents in Hebrew, and I refused because I didn’t understand what was written there. They took my fingerprints and a DNA sample and then put me back in the yard, near Mustafa. My hands were untied but my eyes were covered. It was already night-time and there was no traffic outside except military and police. It was freezing, and we were exhausted and hungry.

At around 1:00 A.M., they put us in a jeep, tied our legs and took us to a military camp. I don’t know where it was. They put us in a room with the air-conditioning on and it was so cold, like a fridge. They gave us wet mattresses. Our clothes got wet from the mattresses and we shivered. We couldn’t really sleep, despite the exhaustion. At night, a soldier came and asked me where Yusef was. I said I didn’t know, and he left.

 

Muhammad ‘Amira with the blindfold that soldiers tied over his eyes. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 11 Oct. 2021
MUHAMMAD ‘AMIRA WITH THE BLINDFOLD THAT SOLDIERS TIED OVER HIS EYES. PHOTO BY IYAD HADAD, B’TSELEM, 11 OCT. 2021
We stayed like that until 8:00 A.M., and then a soldier came to wake us up. They brought us each a glass of water, took us to the bathroom, and then brought us back to the room and gave us dry biscuits and some pretzels. Even though we didn’t want to, we ate them because we were hungry. One of the soldiers asked me if I had any pain or illnesses. I told him I have excess water in my kidneys. He made me sign a paper and left. After a while, another soldier came and asked me the same questions, and also made me sign something.

At 5:00 P.M., two police officers arrived and told us they were going to take us to hospital and then to prison. They drove us in a police car with our eyes covered. On the way, we fell asleep from exhaustion, so we didn’t know how much time had passed or where we were being taken. They stopped and took off our blindfolds and put masks on us. We realized we were in a hospital. I don’t know which one. I had tests done and told them about my medical history.

Then they took us to one of the upper floors, where the police officers sat us down with a cellphone and ordered us to join a video call. We saw our lawyer there, and we realized it was a court hearing in our case at Ofer Prison. Our lawyer translated what the judge said. There was an exchange between him and the judge, and he demanded they release us because we’re minors and because they had nothing incriminating against us. The judge said she’d release us on the condition we wouldn’t do anything that would land us back in prison.

Then, we had more tests. At around 8:00 P.M., we were taken with our eyes covered to Ofer Prison, where we were told we were being released. I later understood from my brother Safi that he’d deposited 3,000 shekels (~965 USD) as bail for each of us, and was waiting for us there because he thought he could take us home from prison. But they didn’t release us there. Instead, they drove us to the entrance of our village without letting anyone know. When we got out of the car, Mustafa was still in handcuffs. They didn’t coordinate anything with our families. One of the villagers saw us and took us home.

Because of the beatings, the cold, the hunger and the lack of sleep, my head and ears ached badly and I was exhausted. It was more than 24 hours of severe mental stress. I didn’t go to school the next day.

 

https://www.btselem.org/routine_founded_on_violence/20211117_military_detains_two_minors_playing_in_olive_grove_for_24_hours_and_severely_abuses_them?fbclid=IwAR3NqP-UudNSI0fLwjuqz3iH-GZwMuQqiHiQ1agwYnuXnCVyAmF6PrJvfKQ 



 

De Europese Identiteitscrisis

  Bernard Claeys 2 1   j u n i   o m   1 3 : 1 3    ·  Nu de oorlog ten einde loopt, hoe moet het nu verder? In tegenstelling tot de triomfa...