As limiting as self-isolation is, my conditions are comfortable. I have food, books, movies. I can actually leave my apartment if I choose. No one will challenge me if I go for a walk. I'm in touch with people who are important to me. How unlike the total isolation in Belmarsh prison in which Julian Assange has been kept for over a year while awaiting the outcome of his extradition case. Having committed no crime (other than the "crime" of doing real journalism), his exposure of US war crimes in Wikileaks evoked the wrath of the US State Department. This timeline reveals a classic "stitch up," as the Brits call it. In collusion with the Swedish and British governments, they trapped him in the Ecuadorian embassy in London (where he lived for nearly seven years, having been granted political asylum and Ecuadorian citizenship by former President, Rafael Correa) until they could work their money magic on Ecuador's current President, Lenin Moreno, supporting a $4.2 billion IMF loan to Ecuador. After the loan was granted, the Ecuadorian government cancelled Assange's asylum and revoked his citizenship, which allowed British authorities to arrest him. The total isolation in which he is now kept, with even contact with his lawyers severely limited (although his life depends on the outcome of a series of extradition hearings held in a kangaroo court), is in sharp contrast to the relative comfort of my own isolation. But it's a reminder that any truth-teller (and I hope there are many of us) who dares to expose the crimes of the Empire could face the same treatment. That Julian Assange could die in prison is a real possibility. He needs the support of conscientious people doing whatever we can to end his unjust imprisonment. Learn about the issues involved in his case; they affect all of us. Speak out loudly and often about them. If you can, please donate to WikiLeaks official Defence Fund.
Although I have video conversations, phone calls, and email exchanges with friends and loved ones, the last person I spoke with face-to-face was a cashier. My apartment building is under total lockdown. It started with closing the pool and sauna, and limiting the number of people in an elevator to two. Now we are not allowed to have visitors and cannot visit each other's apartments, and only one person is allowed in an elevator. Being over 70, I am advised to just "stay home."
Most of the deaths in my district (and across Canada) have occurred in long-term care homes. Recently, there were 31 deaths in a care home on the West Island, "at least five of which were due to COVID-19," according to Quebec premier Legault. And the rest? The care home is being investigated for gross negligence and "a class action lawsuit is in the works against the owners of the facility and the West Island Regional Health Authority (CIUSSS)." How many died there as a result of neglect, and how many died of COVID-19? We will never know for sure since Quebec is using "a new way of counting that includes victims not tested for COVID-19."
Sadly, because the lockdown applied early on to care homes, many people who died in these facilities died alone, in horrific conditions, with their loved ones unable to visit them (and perhaps monitor their living conditions). As staff numbers started dwindling, properly trained relatives could have stepped in to care for the residents. It's not surprising that there are people who feel this extreme curtailment of our freedom of movement is beyond what is necessary and proportionate, or even common sense, in this situation.
The situation is already a nightmare for victims of domestic violence isolated with their abusers. So far, a strong government response to this crisis has been lacking. If you are in danger, call 9-11 (if you can) or read about resources available in Canada (if you can). Obviously, in a typical domestic violence situation, especially if you are isolated with your abuser, you may not be able to use the phone or internet without endangering yourself. Children are also at risk, often being easy targets for parental frustration exacerbated by prolonged isolation and worries about money for the necessities of life. It is incumbent upon neighbours, who have all-too-often been reluctant to report hearing the sounds of violence coming from a neighbour's dwelling, to treat this as an emergency and phone 911. In a report released in November 2019 by Statistics Canada, "According to police reported crime statistics, women account for about 8 in 10 victims of intimate partner violence. The same is true with respect to homicide. In 2018, 77% of homicide victims killed by a current or previous spouse or an intimate partner were female (Table 9)."
It should come as no surprise that the April 18-19 mass murder of 22 people (13 women, 9 men) in Nova Scotia began with what the male RCMP spokesperson called "an assault between the gunman and a person known to him in Portapique." He referred to the killer as "Mr. Wortman," and the victim of his initial assault as "the female individual." After being asked by a reporter, he acknowledged that she was "his girlfriend." The death toll surpasses that of the École Polytechnique Massacre in 1989, when a gunman (not a "gunperson") killed 14 women because they were women. In 2018, a 25 year-old misogynist drove a van onto a crowded sidewalk in Toronto, killing 10 people and wounding 14 (according to police, "predominantly" women). There is a ‘Pandemic of violence’: Calls mount for recognition of misogyny in Nova Scotia shooting. In this time of physical distancing, let's not "social distance" from a problem that, like the unconscionable, systemic neglect of seniors in care homes, needs our immediate attention. An event that causes a radical disruption in society, like a pandemic, offers opportunities to make big changes. Let's decide to be the ones who make those changes.
We are told that we are "nearing the peak" because we have observed self-isolation and physical distancing measures; but in order to properly attribute reaching "the peak" to these measures, a control group of people who are not self-isolating or keeping "social distance" is needed. It seems there are a large number of people in the US who have volunteered to be in that control group, not in the name of science, but of "freedom." They've been joined by groups in British Columbia and Ontario. I hope they're right, for their sakes and for the wellbeing of the people with whom they come into contact.
With so little "actionable intelligence" available, many of us are seeking information on the internet and social media to get a better sense of what's going on and how we should prepare for an uncertain future. There's a lot of information, misinformation, and disinformation online, and it can be tricky to sort out the truth. Some information is clearly false, even if it comes from the highest "authority." For example, the idea that ingesting / injecting cleaning products can cure COVID-19 is clearly dangerous; but frightened (and ignorant) people can often be induced to behave in self-harming ways by a leader to whom they have a cultish devotion. The danger has been recognised by companies making these products. Following "recent speculation and social media activity...the company that makes Lysol and Dettol is urging customers not to consume its cleaning products."
In Contagion, an influential Youtube personality, Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law), who claims his channel has logged "over two million unique visitors looking for the truth," is selling an ineffective naturopathic cure, Forsythia, from his website, and making a fortune. He is interviewed on television by Dr. Sanjay Gupta (as himself):
Gupta: "On your blog you also wrote that the World Health Organization is somehow in bed with pharmaceutical companies?"
Krumwiede: "Because they are. That's who stands to gain from this. They're working hand in glove. And the hand is reaching into our pockets."
Like many people propounding unorthodox ideas online, Krumwiede is tragically wrong about the cure--but he's not wrong about everything (0:21 to 1:27). There are good reasons to question the involvement of the World Health Organisation, the World Economic Forum, pharmaceutical companies, and the self-proclaimed "health expert," Bill Gates, who said in a recent BBC video interview:
Well, there's the period when I and other health experts were saying that this is the greatest potential downfall that the world faced. Going back quite a ways with a speech in 2015 and a New England Journal of Medicine article about this specific thing. So we definitely will look back and wish we had invested more so that we could quickly have all the diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines. So, we underinvested. Which was my goal, to get that to happen. We did do CEPI , which helped with some of the vaccine platforms. But not even five percent of what we could have done. Then there is the period where the virus first shows up in those first few months. What were the tests prepared?Did countries think through getting their ICU and ventilator capacity up? There'll be time for those post-mortems. Very few countries are going to get an A-grade for what that scrambling looked like. Now here we are. We didn't simulate this, we didn't practice. So both the health policies and the economic policies we find ourselves in uncharted territory.
His third claim, "We didn't simulate this, we didn't practice," is an outright lie. As recently as October 2019, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the World Economic Forum, hosted a "high-level pandemic exercise," Event 201. The partners in the event have "explicitly stated that it was not a prediction"; but I respectfully suggest that if you take this at face value, Bill Gates has a bridge to sell you.
The only significant difference between the test drill and the pandemic we now face is that Cygnus was assumed to be the H2N2 influenza virus, while Covid-19 is a coronavirus. Both spread rapidly and kill by causing acute respiratory illness.
There is one other difference. While the real Covid-19 epidemic is being played out in public, the report detailing the findings of Exercise Cygnus have never seen the light of day. A senior former government source with direct involvement in the exercise said they were deemed “too terrifying” to be revealed. Others involved cited “national security” concerns.
- What about the economy?
- What about our rights?
- What are the psychological effects of prolonged isolation, and why are these not being adequately acknowledged, much less addressed?
- Why does it seem that no one is dying of the flu anymore?
It is true that we don’t yet fully understand this new virus and can’t predict exactly how destructive it’s going to be. It is also true that people are experiencing a frightening amount of financial pressure. It is also true that authoritarian government policies are very dangerous and might not be rolled back once implemented. You don’t need to come to any hard-and-fast conclusions which unify these disparate truths right now. You can just not know for a while and watch the picture become more clear.
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