Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The European Commission and WHO launch landmark digital health initiative to strengthen global health security

The European Commission and WHO launch landmark digital health initiative to strengthen global health security

The World Health Organization (WHO) and European Commission have announced today the launch of a landmark digital health partnership.  

In June 2023, WHO will take up the European Union (EU) system of digital COVID-19 certification to establish a global system that will help facilitate global mobility and protect citizens across the world from on-going and future health threats, including pandemics. This is the first building block of the WHO Global Digital Health Certification Network (GDHCN) that will develop a wide range of digital products to deliver better health for all.

“Building on the EU’s highly successful digital certification network, WHO aims to offer all WHO Member States access to an open-source digital health tool, which is based on the principles of equity, innovation, transparency and data protection and privacy,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “New digital health products in development aim to help people everywhere receive quality health services quickly and more effectively”.

Based on the EU Global Health Strategy and WHO Global strategy on digital health, the initiative follows the 30 November 2022 agreement between Commissioner Kyriakides and Dr Tedros to enhance strategic cooperation on global health issues. This further bolsters a robust multilateral system with WHO at its core, powered by a strong EU.

“This partnership is an important step for the digital action plan of the EU Global Health Strategy

By using European best practices we contribute to digital health standards and interoperability globally—to the benefit of those most in need. It is also a powerful example of how alignment between the EU and the WHO can deliver better health for all, in the EU and across the world. As the directing and coordinating authority on international health work, there is no better partner than the WHO to advance the work we started at the EU and further develop global digital health solutions,” said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

This partnership will include close collaboration in the development, management and implementation of the WHO GDHCN system, benefitting from the European Commission’s ample technical expertise in the field. A first step is to ensure that the current EU digital certificates continue to function effectively.

“With 80 countries and territories connected to the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate, the EU has set a global standard. The EU certificate has not only been an important tool in our fight against the pandemic, but has also facilitated international travel and tourism. I am pleased that the WHO will build on the privacy-preserving principles and cutting-edge technology of the EU certificate to create a global tool against future pandemics,” added Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market.

A global WHO system building on EU legacy

One of the key elements in the European Union’s work against the COVID-19 pandemic has been digital COVID-19 certificates. To facilitate free movement within its borders, the EU swiftly established interoperable COVID-19 certificates (entitled ‘EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate’ or ‘EU DCC’). Based on open-source technologies and standards it allowed also for the connection of non-EU countries that issue certificates according to EU DCC specifications, becoming the most widely used solution around the world.

From the onset of the pandemic, WHO engaged with all WHO Regions to define overall guidelines for such certificates. To help strengthen global health preparedness in the face of growing health threats, WHO is establishing a global digital health certification network which builds upon the solid foundations of the EU DCC framework, principles and open technologies. With this collaboration, WHO will facilitate this process globally under its own structure with the aim to allow the world to benefit from convergence of digital certificates. This includes standard-setting and validation of digital signatures to prevent fraud. In doing so, WHO will not have access to any underlying personal data, which would continue to be the exclusive domain of governments.

The first building block of the global WHO system becomes operational in June 2023 and aims to be progressively developed in the coming months.

According To Forecasts, Israel Will Soon Face A Major Multi-Front War With Iran’s Proxies.

IDF is confronting a dangerous multi-front situation in the Middle East

“Israel is preparing for a war the likes of which we haven’t seen in years,” said General (retired) Amir Avivi, founder and executive director of the Israel Defense and Security Forum (ISDF). “This is an exercise that will end a long era in Israel in which the Israel Defense Forces have enjoyed only ‘luxury’ wars.”

Last week Israel launched a major military exercise simulating a multi-front war codenamed “Firm Hand” (the Hebrew could also be translated as “Fist Punch”). 

In a conversation with Israel Radio, the ex-general explained the new situation and why Israel’s army urgently needs to prepare. “This is a historic maneuver that ends a very long period since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which the Israeli army only fought luxury wars, in theaters such as the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria or a selective war in Lebanon,” Avivi underscored.

“For the first time in many years, the IDF is confronting a dangerous multi-front situation in the Middle East, stretching as far as Iran. 

With a number of complex combat zones in Lebanon and Syria, in Judea and Samaria and in the Gaza Strip. Because of the missiles, this war will be a big challenge for Homefront Command.”

According to Avivi, such large-scale exercises demand not only battlefield courage, but creativity as commanders must deal with complex dilemmas of prioritizing and deploying finite resources. “For many years the Israeli army has not operated in the reality it will one day find itself in, in real distress. These are big wars where you have to be very creative. What we urgently need and the IDF has been missing for years is fresh morale, real motivation.”

Recently, security expert and retired IDF general Yitzhak Brickwarned that Israel was unprepared for a regional war. He presented this in a speech to the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Avivi sees things a little differently: “I think that’s a false statement. The correct definition is that a war of this magnitude, for which Israel’s armed forces must now prepare, will indeed be a very difficult war, typical of wars in the past. We haven’t seen that for many years.” Asked whether Israel’s army could handle a multi-front war, Avivi replied, “I think Israel’s armed forces can handle it, and the Israeli homefront can handle it. But it’s true, this war will not be easy.”

The Arab media, including Hezbollah’s Al Mayadeen, ran with headlines such as: “Israel faces worst security crisis in decades, army unprepared for war.” Brick said the refusal to serve by reservists opposed to judicial reform could lead to internal divisions, a breakdown in cohesion and a loss of ‘fighting spirit.’

According to all forecasts, Israel will soon face a major multi-front war with Iran’s proxies. “For this reason, Israel is now training this scenario in the ‘Firm Hand’ maneuver, because it could happen in the not too distant future. Tomorrow morning? No. That has consequences and the other side understands that too. For a militia like Hezbollah, for example, this war could also be the end. So it’s not an easy decision,” explained Avivi.

Also related is Israel’s recent announcement of the successful test of the C-Dome, a ship-based equivalent to the vaunted Iron Dome anti-missile system. Israel’s Navy is also taking part in the current maneuvers. According to Avivi, this announcement is no coincidence and is related to the question of the degree of readiness and relevance of the troop build-up. “We understand that in a multi-front scenario, [the major threat will] not be armored divisions storming Israel’s borders like in the Yom Kippur War, but the launching of rockets, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles at Israel.”

Brick pointed out that Israel is surrounded by 200,000 missiles and attack drones, all of which pose a threat to its very existence. “In the event of war, an average of about 3,000 rockets and dozens of drones are fired at Israel every day. In a multi-front war, the attacks could result in a multitude of deaths every day.”

An Iranian threat at sea has been known to Israel for over a year, but recently Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke publicly about it. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. naval force is working to convert merchant ships and oil tankers into warships capable of carrying and launching UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). 

These ships, which may be disguised as civilian vessels, have the potential to transit international shipping lanes such as the Mediterranean, as well as via the Suez Canal. This endangers the entire European continent. Certain UAVs and limited numbers of kamikaze drones can even be launched from a common merchant ship. So Israel is altering its tactics to deal with such scenarios. “Putting a missile defense system like Iron Dome on a ship is a very complex challenge because the ship moves and doesn’t stay in one place.”

And that’s why Israel has been training vigorously for a large-scale, multi-front war more frequently than usual.

LAVROV: Russia Will ‘Never Again’ Accept US Rules

Russia will ‘never again’ accept US rules – Lavrov

Russia is at the forefront of a global rebellion against US hegemony, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

Speaking on a visit to Tajikistan on Monday, Lavrov stated that Russia’s diplomatic corps is increasing its global engagement after a period of disarray that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Over the last couple of years, we have been returning to Africa [and] Latin America. A determination has accumulated never to accept the ‘rules’ that Washington is imposing. Its role is diminishing, slowly but surely. An increasing number of nations are disillusioned with it,” Lavrov insisted.

The US-backed ‘rules-based order’ is prone to inconsistency whenever any nation attempts to determine its own policies, Lavrov said. He added that Russia is “at the very forefront” of resisting Western pressure, despite the US and its “subjugated” allies targeting Moscow with sanctions and attempting to isolate it. In practice, they have failed to separate Russia from the international community, the diplomat argued.

Lavrov said that US foreign policy was aimed at destabilizing certain parts of the world, so that Washington could “fish in the troubled water” under the guise of fighting terrorism and offering security. This is among the ways Washington coerces others into accepting its orders, the Russian foreign minister added.

Lavrov made the comments as he addressed Russian troops stationed at a military base in Dushanbe. The site is one of a handful of military facilities that Moscow operates on foreign soil. The diplomat said that whether dressed in suits or bearing guns, people were serving Russia “each in our own place” as they oppose Western machinations.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Russia holds West responsible for dam disaster – UN envoy

Russia holds West responsible for dam disaster – UN envoy

Ukraine destroyed the Kakhovka dam in an “unthinkable crime”intended to harm Crimea for choosing Russia in 2014, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN Vassily Nebenzia told the Security Council on Tuesday.

The Russian diplomat brought up US media reports documenting the Ukrainian attacks on the Kakhovka dam in December 2022, using the US-supplied HIMARS rockets.

“Feeling its total impunity and being encouraged by Western sponsors, the Kiev regime decided to carry out this terrorist plot this time,” Nebenzia said. He noted that the Ukrainians had significantly increased the discharge of water from the Dnepropetrovsk hydroelectric power station, leading to even greater flooding downstream, “which indicates that this sabotage was planned in advance.”

The terrorist act was intended to free up Ukrainian forces for the “counter-offensive” currently getting bogged down in Zaporozhye, while inflicting massive humanitarian damage on the population of Kherson Region, Nebenzia said.

Not only did the flood render a dozen towns along the Dnieper River uninhabitable, it has also reduced the levels of water in the North Crimea canal, which supplies water to the Russian peninsula. Ukraine had shut off the canal after Crimea voted to rejoin Russia in a 2014 referendum. It was only reopened last year, when Russian troops took control of the area.

According to Nebenzia, Kiev “once again decided to take revenge on the Crimeans for their choice in favor of Russia and leave the population of Crimea without water.”

Nebenzia called the claims by Ukraine, US and EU officials that Russia was responsible for the dam’s destruction a “well-coordinated disinformation campaign,” in the same vein as previous allegations that Moscow was behind the shelling of its own people at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, or the destruction of Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea.

According to the Russian envoy, Kiev has fully embraced terrorist tactics, from the bombing of the Crimean Bridge to the targeted assassinations of journalists Darya Dugina and Vladlen Tatarsky, and the attempt on Zakhar Prilepin – which none of the Western governments said a word to condemn.

“The Kiev regime has good teachers, responsible for destroying the Nord Stream [pipeline] and the deliberate targeting of the Tabqa dam in Syria. The West is used to doing the dirty work with other people’s hands,” the Russian envoy told the Security Council.

“We also do not rule out an attempt at provocation against the Zaporozhye NPP,” Nebenzia said, given that the UN has persistently refused to condemn Ukrainian attacks on the facility, “although it is obvious to everyone which side they are coming from.”

America Likely Heading For A Summer Of Blackouts

America Likely Heading For A Summer Of Blackouts
Written by The Wall Street Journal

How many warnings does it take before the Biden Administration wakes up to the risks of its climate policies to the U.S. electric grid?

The latest came this month from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and please pray the wind keeps blowing.

NERC’s summer reliability assessment forecasts that no less than two-thirds of the U.S., including most everyone living west of the Mississippi River, could experience power outages.

Texas and most of the Midwest should have enough power to meet demand—assuming they don’t experience any sizzling hot and still summer days.

Texas last summer narrowly averted a power outage by leaning on businesses to curtail operations. The state has since added enough solar to power about 200,000 homes.

But demand has grown even more, and the sun doesn’t shine at night. NERC forecasts a 19 percent probability of a grid emergency at 8 p.m. Do Texans feel lucky?

One new variable this summer is the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently finalized Good Neighbor Plan, which requires ‘fossil-fuel’ power plants in 22 states to reduce NOx emissions. 

NERC predicts power plants will comply by limiting hours of operation but warns they may need regulatory waivers in the event of a power crunch.

The EPA claimed the rule wouldn’t jeopardize grid reliability, but then why would power plants need waivers to prevent blackouts? 

This month, the Fifth Circuit of the Court of Appeals stayed the rule in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. But it [remains] a wild card in determining whether the lights stay on in the Midwest and West.

Another growing concern is glitchy solar plant inverters, which convert DC to AC power.

These have caused solar plants in California and Texas to experience concurrent outages when there has been a problem somewhere else on the grid.

Solar plants have “exhibited systemic performance issues,” NERC recently warned.

Faulty solar inverters can amplify minor grid problems and trigger widespread power outages.

But fixing the glitches requires a software update, which NERC reported in December was still in the “study phase.”

Such technical problems could become a bigger threat to grid reliability as solar generation grows across the country, NERC warns.

One state that hasn’t learned from California’s green-energy folly is New York.

A new state regulation will force 627 megawatts of gas and oil “peaker” plants—which can rapidly ramp up to provide power in a pinch—to shut down this year.

That’s enough to power 470,000 homes. This year’s state budget requires the New York Power Authority to retire all peaker plants by 2030.

New York plans to compensate by building more offshore wind farms, but they face permitting challenges and don’t provide reliable power.

The NERC report is an alarm about the Biden Administration and states moving full-speed aheadon the ‘green-energy’ transition.

Maybe when the power does go out, they will stop hitting snooze.