Coronavirus infections pass SARS; Trump’s peace plan; Anti-hypersonic research; Toll rises from Iran missile attack; And a bit more.
China’s new coronavirus has spread more widely than SARS almost two decades ago, but so far it is less deadly than SARS. “The number of confirmed cases jumped to 5,974, surpassing the 5,327 in mainland China during the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003,” AP reports this morning. “The death toll rose to 132, which is still lower than the 348 people who were killed in China by SARS.”
Infected people outside China have been found in the United States (five cases), Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, Ivory Coast, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. That's all according to the Washington Post, as of Tuesday afternoon EST.
Empty subways: The Atlantic has "Photos From Wuhan Under Quarantine," here.
Airlines affected: British Airways became the first global airline to suspend flights to mainland China, the Wall Street Journal reports. CNN has more on other airlines affected this morning, including United Airlines, Lion Air, Seoul Air, Air Asia, Cathay Pacific, Air India and Finnair, here. And there’s this from USA Today this morning: “Flight full of Americans fleeing Wuhan coronavirus 'erupts in cheers' after arriving in Alaska.”
Nearly 200 people are being evacuated to March Air Reserve Base in California, DoD spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in a Wednesday morning statement. They include U.S. Department of State employees, dependents and U.S. citizens evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. “Should routine monitoring of the evacuees identify ill individuals, the [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] has procedures in place to transport them to a local civilian hospital.”
BTW: North Korea reportedly declared a national emergency due to the epidemic.
The U.S. has fast-tracked work on a possible vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday. But CNBC reports, “It could take a year or more before a vaccine is ready for sale to the public.” More here.
Know the lingo? According to NPR, "The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak has its own vocabulary. Here are definitions for some of the key words and phrases you might be hearing."
You may have heard some crazy things over the past couple days. That’s why four-dozen fact-checkers from 30 countries are fighting various bits of misinformation about the coronavirus, the Florida-based Poynter Institute for Media Studies announced Tuesday. “So far misinformation regarding the launch of a miraculous vaccine has been the largest trend, followed closely by a huge amount of fake data about the source of the fatal illness. Conspiracy theories come in third.” Read on, here.
And what film just made it to the top 10 list on iTunes movie rentals? The 2011 Steven Soderbergh drama/thriller, "Contagion." The Hollywood Reporter has more escapism, here.
From Defense One
Pentagon Seeks a Way to Shoot Down Putin’s ‘Invincible’ Hypersonic Missiles // Patrick Tucker: A $13 million DARPA contract will get Northrop working on the problem.
Lockheed Has Best Year Ever, And Expects a Better 2020 // Marcus Weisgerber: Three years of defense spending increases show as the company’s sales hit nearly $60 billion.
Great Powers Must Talk to Each Other About AI // Elsa B. Kania and Andrew Imbrie: Even as they compete, major militaries have reason to cooperate: to avoid misunderstanding and to establish best practices and pragmatic parameters.
US Army Sleuths Seek Social-Media Search Services // Brandi Vincent, Nextgov: The Criminal Investigation Command is looking to tap into social media sites for digital evidence.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1820, the monarch who lost the American colonies, British King George III, died with dementia at the age of 81.
The U.S. military recovered two bodies from near the E-11A crash site in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, USFOR-A Spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett announced Tuesday. The flight data recorder was also recovered from the site, and “U.S. forces destroyed the remnants of the aircraft,” Leggett said.
So far, "A mechanical issue is believed to have caused the E-11A to crash," a defense official told ABC News. "A second official told ABC News that the pilots had declared an in-flight emergency."
Sixteen more U.S. personnel have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries resulting from the Jan. 8 Iranian missile strikes on Iraqi bases, and all but one of those troops have returned to duty, CNN reported Tuesday afternoon. That raises the total TBI-affected troop count to 50.
"Of these 50, 31 total service members were treated in Iraq and returned to duty, including 15 of the additional service members who have been diagnosed since the previous report," which was five days ago, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell said in a statement. "[Eighteen] service members have been transported to Germany for further evaluation and treatment. This is an increase of one service member from the previous report. As previously reported, one service member had been transported to Kuwait and has since returned to duty.”
There could be still more affected troops in the days ahead, CNN’s Barbara Starr reported. “Several Pentagon officials told CNN that the number of diagnosed cases is likely to continue to change. Approximately 200 people who were in the blast zone at the time of the attack have been screened for symptoms."
BTW: The VFW is still waiting for an apology from President Trump for his dismissive remarks about TBI last week in Davos, Switzerland. "And, we ask that he and the White House join with us in our efforts to educate Americans of the dangers TBI has on these heroes as they protect our great nation in these trying times. Our warriors require our full support more than ever in this challenging environment," William Schmitz, Veterans of Foreign Wars national commander, said last Friday in a statement. A bit more from CNN, here.
The White House unveiled its long-awaited plan for Israeli and Palestinian coexistence on Tuesday. The president’s son-in-law and the plan’s chief architect, Jared Kushner, went on CNN to talk about its prospects for success. If the Palestinians reject it, Kushner said to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, “they’re going to screw up another opportunity, like they’ve screwed up every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence.”
Here is the White House’s overview and its full 181-page plan. And here's how the Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor summarizes the proposals: "Israel maintains sovereignty west of the Jordan river, a capital in an undivided Jerusalem, and control over Jewish enclaves and settlements scattered through the Palestinian territories. The Palestinians, meanwhile, get...not much....they would give up the claims of Palestinian refugees and accept a conditions-based path to statehood in a patchwork of territory carved up by Israeli roads and settlements.”
One big problem, according to the Wall Street Journal: “Trump on Tuesday said his plan would allow for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. Yet the map released with the plan showed the boundaries of this Palestinian capital would begin only at the outskirts of the city and not include any part of the coveted old city, which contains important Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites.”
Surprise, surprise: “We say a thousand times, no, no, no to the deal of the century,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced Tuesday after the White House’s presentation. “We rejected this deal from the start and our stance was correct.”
Supporting the plan: the UK, Egypt and the UAE.
Not supporting the plan: Jordan and Turkey, as well as of course Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip. Also the United Nations, which has long supported a two-state solution.
Worth noting: “The Palestinians were not just absent from this meeting” announcing the plan on Tuesday, the BBC’s defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus reports, “they have boycotted the Trump administration ever since it unilaterally moved its embassy to Jerusalem.”
As things stand now, “they have essentially been presented with an ultimatum — accept the Trump parameters or else,” Marcus writes, “and they have been given some four years to come around.”
For Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the plan is “a total abandonment of decades of U.S. Middle East policy.” Murphy laid out his four main objections — including that it “was negotiated with no one but the Israelis” — in a Twitter thread, here.
Leadership failures are to blame for certain “unacceptable conduct” among America’s special operators, Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of Special Operations Command, explained (CNN) Tuesday “in a memo to service members that accompanied [a] 71-page report documenting the initial findings of a comprehensive ethics review he ordered last August following a flurry of incidents, including allegations of sexual assault and cocaine use against Navy SEAL team members."
"Certain aspects of our culture have, at times, set conditions favorable for inappropriate behavior," Clarke told reporters Tuesday. "Nearly twenty years of continuous conflict have imbalanced that culture to favor force employment and mission accomplishment over the routine activities that ensure leadership, accountability, and discipline. This is a problem, and our review team recommended more than a dozen ways to address it... Most importantly, we need to improve our leader development programs and improve accountability in our training and management processes." More at CNN, here.
Speaking of: In a video posted to Facebook and Instagram on Monday, retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher referred to some members of his former platoon as “cowards” and highlighted names, photos and their duty status and current units, potentially putting them in jeopardy, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Monday. (FWIW: “The video appears to be a trailer for an unspecified future project,” SDUT notes.)
Related: “Navy SEAL Promoted After Choking Green Beret to Death.” That’s The Daily Beast’s headline for a report on Chief Petty Officer Tony DeDolph, who “was formally charged in November 2018 with felony murder, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, burglary, hazing, and involuntary manslaughter in the strangulation death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a Special Forces soldier assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group.”
And finally today: $50K per month to spy for China? A nanotechnology researcher who was also the chair of Harvard’s chemistry department was arrested by the FBI on Tuesday for lying to the Defense Department and the National Institutes of Health about his contacts with China’s Thousand Talents Program. Read over the charges, here.
What’s going on: The New York Times writes “The arrest of Charles M. Lieber, the chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, signaled a new, aggressive phase in the Justice Department’s campaign to root out scientists who are stealing research from American laboratories.”
“The case was one of three presented Tuesday by federal authorities in Massachusetts,” the Wall Street Journal reports, “with each underscoring U.S. concerns that the Chinese government is trying to obtain cutting-edge U.S. research by exploiting U.S. universities and their professors and researchers.”
About those other two: “Zaosong Zheng, a Harvard-affiliated cancer researcher was caught leaving the country with 21 vials of cells stolen from a laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston,” the Times reports. Those vials were found wrapped in a sock. “The third was Yanqing Ye, who had been conducting research at Boston University’s department of physics, chemistry and biomedical engineering until last spring, when she returned to China. Prosecutors said she hid the fact that she was a lieutenant in the People’s Liberation Army, and continued to carry out assignments from Chinese military officers while at B.U.”
“The charges brought by the U.S. government against Professor Lieber are extremely serious,” a Harvard spokesman told the Times. “Harvard is cooperating with federal authorities, including the National Institutes of Health, and is initiating its own review of the alleged misconduct.”
In case you’re just catching up, the Journal reminds us that “Through its government-backed Thousand Talents Plan and hundreds of similar programs, China pays scientists around the world to moonlight at Chinese institutions, often without disclosing the work to their primary employers.”
Show me the money: "As part of the Thousand Talents program, Wuhan University of Technology gave Mr. Lieber more than $1.5 million to set up a research lab in China,” WSJ writes. “The school also agreed to pay him a $50,000 monthly salary and offered about $150,000 in annual living expenses for ‘significant periods’ from 2012 to 2017."
Bigger picture consideration: “While we are still confronted with traditional spies,” said Joseph Bonavolonta, who runs the FBI’s Boston office, “I can tell you China is also using what we call nontraditional collectors such as professors, researchers, hackers and front companies.” More here.