Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

Monday, April 6

EUROPE BYE BYE .THAT'S REALLY TOO MUCH FOR ALL OF US!

Europe losing Italy for COVIN-19? Furious at their plight being ignored and over resistance to coronabonds, Italians’ sense of betrayal deepens. Miles Johnson in Rome, Sam Fleming in Brussels and Guy Chazan in Berlin wrote.  Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles.

A year ago Carlo Calenda ran in European parliamentary elections in Italy under the slogan “We are Europeans”, a rallying cry to defend his country’s place in the EU at a time of rising nationalism. Now even Mr Calenda, a 46-year-old former minister and Italian permanent representative to the EU, is experiencing a crisis of faith in an idea he has spent a lifetime fighting for. 

“This is an existential threat, I am not sure if we are going to make it,” he says. “You have to consider my party is one of the most pro-European parties in Italy and I now have members writing to me saying: ‘Why do we want to stay in the EU? It is useless.’” 

As Italy faces its most severe crisis since the second world war, with more than 15,000 deaths from coronavirus and its economy on course to suffer the deepest recession in its modern history, there is a rising feeling among even its pro-European elite that the country is being abandoned by its neighbours. 

As Italy faces its most severe crisis since the second world war, with more than 15,000 deaths from coronavirus and its economy on course to suffer the deepest recession in its modern history, there is a rising feeling among even its pro-European elite that the country is being abandoned by its neighbours. 

“A massive, massive shift is happening in Italy. You have thousands of pro-Europeans moving to this position,” says Mr Calenda, who leads the recently formed liberal Action party. 

Last month Sergio Mattarella Italy’s softly-spoken 78-year-old president, and the man its establishment has relied on to safeguard its constitution and international alliances, warned the future of Europe was at stake if its institutions did not show solidarity with their country. 

“I hope that everyone fully understands, before it is too late, the seriousness of the threat to Europe,” he said in an evening television address beamed into the homes of millions of Italians. Many in Rome now feel that unless bold action is taken by northern European countries, they risk Italy turning its back on the European project forever. 

There are already signs that Italian faith in the EU has been damaged. In a survey conducted last month by Tecnè, 67 per cent of respondents said they believed being part of the union was a disadvantage for their country, up from 47 per cent in November 2018.

Donald Tusk, the former European Council president, told the FT the situation today was much more worrying than during the euro crisis — both politically and economically. 

Southern European expectations of a rapid demonstration of solidarity from the rest of the EU early in the pandemic were not met, even if the bloc has subsequently ramped up its assistance including financial aid and equipment. 

“I hope everything can be fixed, but the loss of reputation is huge,” says Mr Tusk, who is now president of the European People’s party, the centre-right political alliance. “We must save Italy, Spain and the whole of Europe and not be afraid of extraordinary measures. This is a state of emergency.” 

Mr Tusk says the EU’s assistance for Italy and other hard-hit countries is vastly more substantial than that from China and Russia, but he warns that “in politics perception can be more important than fact”. 

In 2018 Italy became the first founding member to elect a government hostile to the EU, with Matteo Salvini, the anti-immigration League leader and then deputy prime minister of the coalition government, raging against “the Brussels bunker”. 

The following year that government fell, and Mr Salvini was banished to opposition, giving pro-Europeans hope that the nationalist threat had faded. But many believe bitterness felt from events over the past month could permanently alter the country’s politics in Mr Salvini’s favour.

“There was a feeling before that the political system had marginalised the anti-EU forces,” says Lorenzo Pregliasco, a pollster at YouTrend. “Now if pro-European party activists and politicians are no longer so sure how they feel, imagine what the voters think.”

Figure 1

At the core of the argument is a bitter divide over the extent to which euro area countries should be pursuing a far more unified economic response to the crisis. Finance ministers will meet on Tuesday to attempt to agree a package of measures aimed at marshalling greater Europe-wide fiscal firepower.

Italy is among the member states that are pushing for the euro area to be far more ambitious by collectively selling bonds to help fund the massive economic rebuilding efforts that lie ahead. 

The discussions mark just the latest iteration of a longstanding dispute over collective fiscal action that economists call debt mutualisation and which many see as the biggest missing element of the single currency. 

The EU does have a rescue fund called the European Stability Mechanism which countries can use. But despite assurances to the contrary from the ESM’s managing director, Klaus Regling, many Italians still fear lending from the institution would come with tough conditions attached and would stigmatise the country. It would feel to many that their country was being punished for a disaster that was outside of its control.

Roberto Gualtieri, Italy’s finance minister, has said that Italian gross domestic product is likely to fall by 6 per cent this year. Other economists believe this may be a conservative estimate. With the country entering the crisis with a debt-to-GDP ratio already at 136 per cent, there is a real threat that Italy’s debt reaches a level that brings into question its sustainability. 

In March, with the virus already ripping through southern Europe, nine euro members led by France, Italy and Spain signed a joint letter pushing for so-called coronabonds — jointly issued debt backed by all euro countries including deep-pocketed Germany — to help pay for the recovery effort. 

The depth of divisions over the topic was exposed at a tough EU leaders’ video conference call in late March in which the Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte and his allies pushed hard for the door to be opened to coronabonds. 

Mr Conte said the euro area’s bailout instruments had been developed for the last crisis and were ill-suited to the current symmetric shock hitting the entire continent. “What will we tell our citizens if Europe does not prove capable of a united, strong and cohesive reaction in the face of a symmetrical, unpredictable shock of this historical magnitude?” he asked.

Leaders eventually struck a compromise and issued a statement using vague language that effectively kicked deliberations in to Tuesday’s eurogroup meeting of finance ministers. 

But the truce did not last long. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president and a former German defence minister, appeared to use dismissive language in an interview, describing coronabonds as a slogan and appearing to express sympathy with Germany’s concerns about the idea.

The language provoked immediate rebukes from Mr Conte and Mr Gualtieri, forcing the commission to issue a late-night statement that vowed to leave open all options that are compatible with the EU treaty. 

Ms.Von der Leyen’s shifting positions reflected in part sharp divisions among her commissioners as well as the EU as a whole over the idea of coronabonds. 

While the discussion over which financial instruments can be used to help Italy is technical, the tone of the debate has become emotionally charged in both southern Europe and in the north, where the Netherlands has sided with Germany in opposing coronabonds.

Mr Calenda last week took out a full-page advert in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, signed by himself and a number of leftwing mayors and governors from the regions worst-hit by the outbreak. 

In it they attacked the Dutch position as “an example of a lack of ethics and solidarity”, called the country a tax haven and compared German reluctance to support joint European debt with the partial cancellation of Nazi war debts by European countries including Italy after the second world war.

“Germany could never have paid it,” the letter said. “Your place is with the Europe of institutions, of values of freedom and solidarity. Not following small national egoisms.”

“They shouldn’t be using such emotional arguments,” says Eckhardt Rehberg, a German MP in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. “Every country should ask itself whether it bears some responsibility for the situation it is in. Look at Italy’s health system. You cannot blame all your difficulties on Europe and Germany. As a German politician, I find that unfair.

The current German-Italian tensions are part of a much longer dispute, stretching back to the eurozone sovereign debt crisis of 2010-12. 

Even back then, many in southern Europe saw eurobonds as a potential solution. But Ms Merkel was always opposed, saying in 2012 that there would be no such instruments “as long as I live”. For the chancellor and her CDU party, the EU treaties were sacrosanct: and they expressly forbade the mutualisation of debt. The rule was clear: states cannot finance each other.

Yet in the eurozone more broadly, her reputation suffered. Southerners increasingly saw her as Europe’s great disciplinarian. Posters appeared in Greece showing her with a Hitler moustache. She was depicted as a witch, a dominatrix or a wicked stepmother, and accused of trying to subjugate the whole continent.

In Italy the hostility to her was fanned by the media empire of then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Records of bugged phone calls emerged in which he referred to the chancellor in extremely disparaging terms. In August 2012 the newspaper Il Giornale, owned by Mr Berlusconi’s brother, had a front-page picture of Ms Merkel raising her hand in a vaguely fascist salute, accompanied by an article claiming Italy was “no longer in Europe, it is in the Fourth Reich”. 

The crisis has emboldened politicians on Italy’s right who sense the mood in the country is shifting against Brussels, as well as becoming more anti-German. 

“The EU has gone from doing absolutely nothing to some trying to profit from the difficulties we are facing,” says Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy, which has made significant gains in opinion polls to become the second most popular rightwing party after Mr Salvini’s League.

“There are people who are trying to use the virus to speculate. There is a game to weaken Italy and buy its strategic assets,” she told the FT. “While we are counting our dead, they are counting the risk of losing interest on their bonds.”

Claudio Borghi, a League MP who has led a ferocious campaign against Italy accepting money from the ESM — arguing it would be tantamount to a surrender of sovereignty — this week posted an Italian Fascist era poster with a smiling German soldier extending his hand. The text reads “Germany is truly your friend”. Mr Borghi wrote: “Time goes on, but the tactics are always the same.”

Franziska Brantner, a German Green MP, says the Italians she has spoken to see themselves as “a laboratory for corona”, adding: “They feel, Germany is just watching them and trying to learn from their experience. There is real bitterness among my pro-European friends in Italy. They’re saying what have we done to the Germans to make them treat us like this?”

Italy’s pro-Europeans are hoping that the mounting shock from the Covid-19 crisis will jolt recalcitrant northern European countries into making a large enough gesture of solidarity to repair the damage that has been done. 

In recent days opponents of collective fiscal action have been on the defensive as the sheer scale of the economic slump has become clearer. In the Netherlands, the government of prime minister Mark Rutte last Wednesday proposed a solidarity fund worth €20bn, with cash transfers set to go straight to the coffers of Rome and Madrid to fund emergency medical spending. 

His finance minister Wopke Hoekstra had been criticised in the south after he called on Brussels to investigate why some economies did not have fiscal buffers to see them through a crisis. Portugal’s prime minister António Costa called the remarks “repulsive”. 

Mr Rutte’s proposal would only fill a small part of the gap given the vertiginous public finance challenges facing Italy and Spain, but the very fact that a country that has traditionally been a vociferous opponent of any fiscal transfers between euro area members should make such a suggestion is indicative of the changing public mood. 

Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister, on Thursday laid out plans for an “exceptional and temporary” joint fund that would help countries kick-start their recoveries. This would issue bonds with the joint guarantee of all EU member states and be operated by the European Commission. 


For Mr Tusk there is now little time left for the EU’s richest nations to come forward with bold and positive initiatives and avoid instilling any sense of humiliation in countries that needed help. “People are suffering now — it is not a political game,” he says. “People have to feel that we are a real community and a real family in such a time.”

UNITED EUROPE WILL LOSING ITALIANS PEOPLE

Oil markets are facing a perfect storm. The scissors of supply and demand are moving against one another, generating increasing pain on the oil industry and the political and financial stability of oil-producing countries.

Global oil demand is dropping due to the recession induced by the COVID-19 shut down of economic activity and transport in the most industrialized countries. Goldman Sachs predicts that global demand could drop from 100 million barrels per day (mdb) in 2019 to nearly 80 mdb in 2020.[1] If confirmed, this would be single biggest demand shock since petroleum started its race to become the most important energy source in the world.

Meanwhile, global supply is increasing due to the “oil price war” triggered by the Saudi decision on 7 March to offer discounts and maximize production, increasing output to a record high of 12.3 mbd. The Saudi government had reacted to the refusal by Russia to contribute to a coordinated OPEC production cut of 1.5 mbd, thus shelving, for the moment, the OPEC Plus alliance than had been forged in 2016 precisely to prevent a continuous drop in oil prices

Figure 1 OPEC oil production and supply adjustments


Most analysts explain the ongoing Saudi-Russian oil war with their willingness to increase their respective market share to the detriment of US shale producers. A different, but authoritative interpretation of the Saudi strategy, comes from Bernard Haykel, a professor at Princeton University who is personally acquainted with Saudi crown-prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Professor Haykel maintains that the Saudi decision might actually be motivated by the long-term goal of maximizing oil rents while there still is a market for Saudi oil “because climate change has fueled a global push toward de-carbonization and renewable energy”.[2]

In the short-term, the Saudi leadership is probably seeking to bring Russia back in line with OPEC while at the same time punishing US shale producers which rely on higher oil prices for commercial viability. Yet, Riyadh is also pursuing a longer-term goal, which entails producing as much oil as possible for a world that will be less reliant on petroleum in the medium term.

There is an inherent contradiction between the two goals stated above and the need for Saudi Arabia to preserve a relatively high oil price in order to guarantee fiscal income for the state, thus providing adequate welfare to its citizens.

As a result of the twin supply and demand shocks, the price of US oil (West Texas Intermediate – WTI) has dropped below 20 dollars a barrel followed by wild oscillations. At this price, most US shale companies will not be profitable, (only 3 US shale companies have an average breakeven cost at 30 dollars), while certain qualities of US crude have been sold at negative prices.

The world’s most important crude benchmark (Brent), is below 30 dollars per barrel. With these prices, the political, social and economic turmoil already experienced by OPEC countries such as Venezuela, Libya, Algeria, Nigeria and Iran before the present crisis will become unbearable; while both Saudi Arabia (with a fiscal breakeven at 84 US dollars per barrel) and Russia (with its lower fiscal breakeven price at 48 US dollars) will face tremendous pressures.[3]

The present crisis holds numerous similarities with the oil “counter-shock” of 1985/86 (Figure 2).[4] At the time, global oil demand was declining due to the economic recession of the early 1980s, as well as to the introduction of efficiency measures and the shift to “alternative” energy sources (nuclear and natural gas) put in place by most OECD governments. Similarly to today, there was a problem of over-supply, due to the advent of new oil production, particularly from the British and Norwegian North Sea. Today, a large portion of new supply instead comes from the US shale industry, especially in the Permian Basin, that has increased US production from 5 mbd in 2008 to more than 12 mbd in 2019, giving rise to the so-called “shale revolution”.


Like today, Saudi Arabia was fed up of being forced to continuously cut production to defend the OPEC price and, in the Autumn of 1985, decided to discipline non-OPEC producers by offering discounts and maximizing production. Oil prices fell to nearly 10 dollars a barrel as a result, having a terrible impact on oil producers. US “independent” producers faced bankruptcy, and the cycle of oil industry “mega-mergers” began. OPEC countries entered a phase of political and economic turmoil: Saddam Hussein’s ill-conceived gamble to revive a bankrupted Iraq by invading neighbouring Kuwait in 1990 was only the most evident consequence of the “counter-shock”.


The first novelty is that we might now have reached “peak oil demand” due to a combination of cultural, financial and political shifts in the largest industrialized countries, combined with the ever-increasing pressures for “deglobalization”, heightened by the recent shock from the global pandemic.[5] While the price “counter-shock” of 1985/86 led to a massive expansion of global oil consumption that fuelled the neoliberal globalization of the 1990 and 2000s (global oil consumption increased from 60 mbd in 1985 to 100 mbd in 2019), it is unlikely that the price shock of 2020 will bring global oil demand back beyond the peak of 100 mbd. This will be especially true if state investment plans to counteract the COVID-19 induced recession will be also oriented toward boosting “green” technologies and infrastructures.

The other novelty is that most OPEC countries, and crucially the two countries that played a key role for the creation of OPEC, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, are for different reasons shifting from a “political approach” to oil production, to a prevailingly “commercial approach”. The Venezuelan government has essentially lost control over its oil industry – which has been effectively privatized and controlled by foreign, mostly Russian, companies. Saudi Arabia has taken the unprecedented step to market 1.5 per cent of its national oil company Saudi Aramco, and as a result now needs to consistently produce dividends for its shareholders, even if at the expense of Saudi state finances.

The spread of this “commercial approach” by OPEC national oil companies will not allow for significant structural production cuts in a competitive environment. Nor will it allow for strong international cooperation with a focus on preserving oil rents for OPEC governments and protecting the availability of the natural resources for future generations. National companies will be struggling to defend their market share, and will thus offer discounts to their customers and demand fiscal incentives from their governments.

The combined pressures from the new “peak demand” scenario, together with the weakening of OPEC due to the commercial orientation of national oil companies, will basically wipe out whatever was left of a “structure” of the oil market that has become increasingly unstable since the 1970s. The race to the bottom of oil prices will wreak economic havoc on most oil-producing countries and regions of the world, including on US states such as Texas (where the oil industry represents 10 per cent of the GDP and directly employs 360,000 workers), and on high-cost OECD oil producers such as Canada.

Since the 1970s, OPEC has been the only international organization that, with moderate success, has attempted to control production and stabilize prices. It cannot, and will not, continue doing so any longer. It will not accept to rein in production while the rest of the world simply strives to pump out as much oil and gas as possible, be this from shale formations, from tar sands or from below the Arctic, with utter lack of environmental concerns. Oil production cuts will either be shared and coordinated with other world producers, or they will simply not happen.

John Maynard Keynes had repeatedly warned about the need for global management to stabilize the price of commodities.[6] The only precedent for global negotiations on energy prices has been the Conference for International Economic Cooperation (CIEC) held in Paris from 1975 to 1977. At the time, a select group of 27 participants from the OECD, OPEC and the “less developed countries” tried to discuss energy prices and development issues in parallel. The danger stemmed from soaring oil prices and the widespread fear of “running out of oil”. The exercise ended in failure because of the unwillingness of OPEC, then at the peak of its power, to discuss prices without relevant concessions by industrialized countries.

This time is different. The risk and instability derive from peak oil demand, low prices and the need for stable prices in order to plan a speedy transition away from fossil fuels, while avoiding the political and economic collapse of oil-producing countries. A new “pro-rationing” effort must be undertaken at a global level, involving the US and other OECD members, OPEC and non-OPEC states such as Russia, Mexico and Brazil. Significantly, the “pro-rationing” conducted by the Texas Railroad Commission in the 1930s already served as the model for the founders of OPEC.

Whatever its format and however difficult it may be to change a “neoliberal” ideology that rules out state-led regulation of production, the time for a global dialogue on production levels and oil prices (and possibly on environments standards) has come. Deregulation of the energy market has to give way to a new era of regulation of the oil industry at both national and international levels.

The alternative will leave commercially-oriented oil companies, both national and international, free to engage in a destructive price war that will maximize environmental degradation and the squandering of natural resources. A destructive price-war will ultimately endanger decarbonization efforts (car-markers are already pressing governments to relax emissions standards), and will increase political and economic instability in OPEC countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, that are key regional actors.

Giuliano Garavini teaches International History at Roma Tre University. He is the author of “The Rise and Fall of OPEC in the Twentieth Century” (Oxford University Press, 2019).

[1] Tsvetana Paraskova, “Goldman Sachs: Prepare for a Massive Oil Demand Shock”, in OilPrice.com, 26 March 2020, https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Goldman-Sachs-Prepare-For-A-Massive-Oil-Demand-Shock.html.

[2] Bernard Haykel, “Saudi Arabia’s Radical New Oil Strategy”, in Project Syndicate, 23 March 2020, https://prosyn.org/LmBSCnq.

[3] Jack Farchy and Paul Wallace, “Petrostates Hammered by Oil Price Plunge and Pandemic’s Spread”, in Bloomberg, 28 March 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-28/petrostates-hammered-by-oil-price-plunge-and-pandemic-s-spread.

[4] Duccio Basosi, Giuliano Garavini and Massimiliano Trentin (eds), Counter-Shock. The Oil Counter-Revolution of the 1980s, London/New York, IB Tauris, 2018.

[5] The debate on “peak demand” has been raging since 2018. See Spencer Dale and Bassam Fattouh, “Peak Oil Demand and Long-Run Oil Prices”, in OIES Energy Insights, No. 25 (January 2018), https://www.oxfordenergy.org/?p=30822.

[6] See Robert W. Dimand and Mary Ann Dimand, “J.M. Keynes on Buffer Stocks and Commodity Price Stabilization”, in John Cunningham Wood (ed.), John Maynard Keynes. Critical Assessments, Second Series, Vol. VIII, London/New York, Routledge, 1994, p. 87.

Wednesday, March 11

PANDEMIA CAPIAMOLA VERAMENTE E SENZA BUGIE!

L’Organizzazione mondiale della sanità (OMS), in modo specifico per l’influenza, ha individuato una serie di requisiti necessari perché si verifichi una pandemia. In primo luogo deve emergere un virus geneticamente diverso in modo significativo dai virus che circolano nella popolazione umana e per il quale, quindi, la maggior parte della popolazione non ha immunità. 


Da sempre (?) l’OMS tiene sotto controllo l’emergere di epidemie nel mondo: già nel 1947 (un anno dopo la sua fondazione) aveva creato un servizio di informazione epidemiologica via telex. Tuttavia, negli ultimi anni le cose sono cambiate. In particolare, le International health regulations (IHR) del 2005, entrate in vigore nel 2007, hanno radicalmente modificato i requisiti per le notifiche internazionali. 

A questo scopo l’OMS ogni giorno raccoglie informazioni da fonti diverse: servizi sanitari nazionali, uffici regionali, organizzazioni non governative, università, ospedali, ma anche stampa, radio, televisione, Internet. Quindi non solo informazioni ufficiali, ma anche quelli che gli anglosassoni chiamano rumours, ovvero chiacchiere

Mentre in precedenza gli Stati membri avevano l’obbligo di notificare all’OMS in modo automatico i casi di colera, peste e febbre gialla, da quel momento in poi la notifica parte quando nel territorio di uno Stato viene identificato un evento che può costituire un’emergenza per la salute pubblica di rilevanza internazionale, chiamato anche PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern). 


A questo punto comincia un processo di verifica al termine del quale parte la diffusione dell’informazione e l’organizzazione della risposta: l’OMS offre un sostegno alle autorità sanitarie della nazione colpita attraverso il GOARN (Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network), una rete alla quale aderiscono le maggiori istituzioni scientifiche e sanitarie del mondo. 

Le capacità di intervento del GOARN vanno dall’invio di team per le indagini epidemiologiche e l’assistenza medica alla fornitura di strutture per le diagnosi di laboratorio o la raccolta dei campioni biologici.

Le malattie epidemiche e pandemiche emergenti e riemergenti costituiscono una seria minaccia alla salute, tanto che il 12° programma generale di lavoro dell’OMS (2014-19) pone come uno dei cinque obiettivi strategici la riduzione di mortalità, morbidità e disagi sociali dovuti alle epidemie attraverso la prevenzione, la preparazione, la risposta e le attività di recupero. 

Prendiamo ora in esame alcuni dei principali eventi di questo inizio secolo che costituiscono o potrebbero costituire potenziali emergenze per la salute pubblica mondiale:




L’influenza s. fu causata dal virus a RNA H1N1.
L'influenza spagnola, altrimenti conosciuta come virus dell'influenza H1N1, questa tragica epidemia, fu una pandemia influenzale, insolitamente mortale, deflagrò tra il 1918 e il 1920 uccise un minimo di 50 milioni di persone: Prima delle tre pandemie che coinvolsero la maggior parte del mondo durante l'ultimo secolo.

Questa epidemia fu portata dai soldati che ritornavano dal fronte del 15-18. Molti di essi, scampati alle granate nemiche, morirono di influenza già al fronte, a guerra quasi finita. Oltre cinquanta milioni di morti "dimenticati".

All’inizio l’influenza virale H1N1 non sembrava destare molta preoccupazione: «Cette maladie a fait son apparition aussi chez-nous, mais sous une forme assez bénigne et peu allarmante. Quelques jours de fièvre et voilà tout» scriveva l’11 ottobre Le Pays d’Aoste e si augurava che «les premiers froids en balayeront les derniers vestiges». Invece la epidemia colpiva solo e soprattutto giovani adulti precedentemente sani. 


 Si stima che un terzo della popolazione mondiale fu colpito dall’infezione durante la pandemia del 1918–1919. La malattia fu eccezionalmente severa, con una letalità maggiore del 2,5% e circa 50 milioni di decessi, alcuni ipotizzano fino a 100 milioni.

Tre focolai di influenza (pandemia) in tutto il mondo si sono verificati nel 20 ° secolo: nel 1918, 1957 e 1968. Questi ultimi 2 erano nell'era della virologia moderna e caratterizzati in modo più completo. Tutti e 3 sono stati identificati in modo informale dai loro presunti siti di origine rispettivamente come influenza spagnola, asiatica e di Hong Kong. Ora sono noti per rappresentare 3 diversi sottotipi antigenici del virus dell'influenza A: H1N1, H2N2 e H3N2, rispettivamente. 

Non classificate come vere pandemie sono 3 notevoli epidemie: una pseudo-pandemia nel 1947 con bassi tassi di mortalità, un'epidemia nel 1977 che fu una pandemia nei bambini e un'epidemia abortiva di influenza suina nel 1976 che si temeva avesse un potenziale pandemico. 

Le principali epidemie di influenza non mostrano periodicità o pattern prevedibili e differiscono tutte l'una dall'altra. Le prove suggeriscono che le vere pandemie con cambiamenti nei sottotipi di emoagglutinina derivano dal riassortimento genetico con i virus dell'influenza A animale.I morti furono più di 200 milioni.Negli anni trenta furono isolati virus influenzali dai maiali e dagli uomini che, attraverso studi siero-epidemiologici furono messi in relazione con il virus della pandemia del 1918. 

Si è visto che i discendenti di questo virus circolano ancora oggi nei maiali.

Forse hanno continuato a circolare anche tra gli esseri umani, causando epidemie stagionali fino agli anni ’50, quando si fece strada il nuovo ceppo pandemico A/H2N2 che diede luogo all’Asiatica del 1957.

Da allora virus simili all’ A/H1N1 continuarono a circolare in modo endemico o epidemico negli uomini e nei maiali, ma senza avere la stessa patogenicità del virus del 1918.

Dal 1995, a partire da materiale autoptico conservato, furono isolati e sequenziati frammenti di RNA virale del virus della pandemia del 1918, fino ad arrivare a descrivere la completa sequenza genomica di un virus e quella parziale di altri 4. Il virus del 1918 è probabilmente l’antenato dei 4 ceppi umani e suini A/H1N1 e A/H3N2, e del virus A/H2N2 estinto.

Questi dati suggeriscono che il virus del 1918 era interamente nuovo per l’umanità e quindi, non era frutto di un processo di riassortimento a partire da ceppi già circolanti, come successe poi nel 1957 e nel 1968. Era un virus simile a quelli dell’influenza aviaria, originatosi da un ospite rimasto sconosciuto.


La curva della mortalità per età dell’influenza, che conosciamo per un arco di tempo di circa 150 anni. ha sempre avuto una forma ad U, con mortalità più elevata tra i molto giovani e gli anziani. Invece la curva della mortalità del 1918 è stata a W incompleta, simile cioè alla forma ad U, ma con in più un picco di mortalità nelle età centrali tra gli adulti tra 25 e 44 anni.

I tassi di mortalità per influenza e polmonite tra 15 e 44 anni, ad esempio furono più di 20 volte maggiori di quelli degli anni precedenti e quasi metà delle morti furono tra i giovani adulti di 20–40 anni, un fenomeno unico nella storia conosciuta. Il 99% dei decessi furono a carico delle persone con meno di 65 anni, cosa che non si è più ripetuta, né nel 1957 e neppure nel 1968. I fattori demografici non sono in grado di spiegare questo andamento.


I virus imparentati a quello del 1918 non diedero più segnali di sé fino al 1977, quando il virus del sottotipo H1N1 riemerse negli Stati Uniti causando un’epidemia importante nell’uomo.

Dopo aver causato un primo focolaio in America Settentrionale ad aprile 2009, un nuovo virus influenzale ha cominciato a diffondersi rapidamente nel mondo, finché a giugno dello stesso anno l’OMS ha dichiarato che si trattava di una p. influenzale. 

L’evento non si era più verificato dal 1968, anno dell’influenza di Hong Kong. 

Nel 2009 la p. di influenza H1N1 è stata dichiarata un PHEIC, così come il riemergere di casi di poliomielite in alcuni Paesi asiatici, del Medio Oriente e dell’Africa centrale nel 2014 e, nello stesso anno, l’epidemia di Ebola in Africa occidentale.

Il virus del 2009 (A/H1N1pdm09) non era mai stato identificato come causa di infezioni negli esseri umani. Le analisi genetiche hanno mostrato che ha la sua origine nei virus influenzali che colpiscono gli animali e che non ha relazioni con altri virus H1N1 che circolavano in precedenza.

La p. del 2009 si è mostrata meno pericolosa delle antecedenti. 

Tuttavia, le prime stime sulla mortalità diffuse dall’OMS nel 2010, contando i casi confermati dai laboratori (circa 16.000 morti), si sono rivelate troppo ottimistiche. 

Uno studio del 2013 valuta che la mortalità per problemi respiratori dovuta alla p. influenzale del 2009 sia stata circa 10 volte più alta: un numero di morti che va da 123.000 a 203.000

Inoltre, benché la mortalità sia simile a quella dell’influenza stagionale, è decisamente più alta tra le persone al di sotto dei 65 anni: tra il 62 e l’85% delle morti ha riguardato persone al di sotto di quella età, contro il 19% dell’influenza stagionale. Questo vuol dire che si sono persi molti più anni di vita (Simonsen, Spreeuwenberg, Lustig et al. 2013).

MERS-CoV. – Nel 2012 in Arabia Saudita è stata identificata una nuova malattia virale che colpisce le vie respiratorie e che può essere anche molto grave. Poiché i casi sono tutti collegati ai Paesi della penisola arabica, la malattia è stata battezzata MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) e il coronavirus che ne è la causa è il MERS-CoV. I coronavirus sono abbastanza comuni e normalmente causano malattie piuttosto lievi delle alte vie respiratorie, come il raffreddore, ma nel 2002 in Cina è apparso un nuovo coronavirus dalle caratteristiche particolari: causa una malattia molto grave chiamata SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) che, tra il 2002 e il 2003, ha colpito 8.098 persone in 25 Paesi uccidendone 774.

Anche il MERS-CoV è degno di attenzione: la malattia che causa, i cui sintomi sono tosse, febbre e respiro affannoso, fino a metà gennaio 2015 ha colpito 955 persone e ne ha uccise 351, circa il 30%. I dati disponibili suggeriscono che i dromedari rappresentino la fonte d’infezione (diretta o indiretta) di molti casi umani (Al-Tawfiq, Memish 2014).

La trasmissione interumana appare invece limitata. Il passaggio del virus avviene prevalentemente attraverso goccioline di saliva o per contato diretto; sembra tuttavia plausibile anche la trasmissione per via aerea in quanto tracce di RNA (RiboNucleic Acid) virale sono state rilevate nell’aria di una stalla di dromedari colpiti dal virus. Le misure di prevenzione e controllo sono difficili da mettere in atto perché spesso non è possibile identificare i pazienti in modo precoce: infatti, i sintomi iniziali di questa malattia si possono confondere con quelli di altre patologie respiratorie.

Influenza H7N9 e H5N1. – Un’altra malattia che deve essere tenuta sotto controllo è l’influenza aviaria. Ci sono due virus rischiosi per l’uomo: H7N9 e H5N1. Il primo nel 2013 in Cina è stato individuato per la prima volta negli esseri umani, in pazienti che avevano avuto contatti con i polli. Da allora e fino a gennaio 2015 sono stati riportati 347 casi con un tasso di mortalità del 21%. 

Fino al 2015 non è stata confermata una trasmissione da persona a persona che possa considerarsi efficiente. L’altro virus, H5N1, è apparso per la prima volta nel 1997 e ha un tasso di mortalità ancora più alto: 59% (Bartlett 2014). La differenza principale tra i due virus è che mentre l’infezione causata da H5N1 risulta fatale in tempi rapidi negli uccelli, quella causata da H7N9 è normalmente asintomatica in questi animali. Questo vuol dire che H7N9 ha un reservoir (serbatoio) stabile e silente che è molto difficile da trovare ed eliminare.

Media e pandemie. – Le epidemie e le p. più recenti hanno messo in evidenza il ruolo determinante dei media nella comunicazione e nella gestione del rischio. Da un lato, come abbiamo visto, grazie ai rumours i media sono una delle fonti che contribuiscono a identificare un evento rischioso per la salute pubblica. Dall’altro lato, sono anche il canale di diffusione delle notizie alla popolazione quando c’è un’emergenza per la salute pubblica.

Oggi i social media e le informazioni scambiate su Internet si stanno sostituendo ai media tradizionali e si sta pensando di utilizzarli come opportunità per migliorare la sorveglianza degli eventi epidemici (Velasco, Tumacha, Denecke et al., 2014). 

In particolare, sta nascendo un nuovo settore di ricerca chiamato digital epidemiology che è un approccio interdisciplinare tra scienza, tecnologia e salute pubblica. Già esistono esempi di cosa può produrre questo approccio: un sistema per identificare le comunità con un maggior rischio di alta incidenza di influenza basato sull’analisi delle attitudini nei confronti della vaccinazione rilevate da Twitter (Costello 2015).

Nella percezione del pubblico, tuttavia, non sempre i media svolgono il loro ruolo in modo ineccepibile. Uno studio pubblicato in Svizzera ha analizzato come il pubblico dei non esperti ha recepito il comportamento di quanti, a vario titolo, sono stati coinvolti nella p. influenzale del 2009. 

Ne è uscito un quadro drammatizzato dove si muovono eroi (medici, ricercatori) e vittime (i Paesi poveri), mentre i media sono i cattivi che generano allarme o che sono marionette al servizio di interessi forti e industrie farmaceutiche (Wagner-Egger, Bangerter, Gilles et al. 2011). Infatti, un’accusa che spesso viene mossa ai media è quella di esagerare il rischio di un’epidemia contribuendo così a creare malintesi. Ma si è visto che spesso i media hanno avuto un’influenza positiva sulla percezione della malattia da parte della popolazione, facilitando gli interventi di prevenzione (Riva, Benedetti, Cesana 2014).

Un problema da tenere presente è che il termine epidemia viene utilizzato in due accezioni diverse dagli esperti e dai non esperti. Per i secondi il termine di solito implica un pericolo per la popolazione e un grande numero di vittime, non così per gli epidemiologi, come abbiamo visto. Questa discrepanza contribuisce a creare confusione e può diventare un problema nella comunicazione del rischio. 

L’obiettivo fondamentale infatti è evitare la paura, ma non sempre la comunicazione degli esperti riesce a raggiungerlo: il «New York Times», inondato negli ultimi mesi del 2014 da domande dei lettori su come ci si contagia con Ebola, sostiene che gli esperti spesso sono poco chiari e usano termini ambigui, come per es. l’espressione fluidi corporei, utilizzata senza specificare a quali fluidi è legato il rischio di contagio (Altman 2014).

C’è poi un problema di fondo: ogni nuova minaccia alla salute è accompagnata da incertezze che riguardano in particolare la comprensione di che cos’è la malattia e di quali sono i rischi di trasmissione. L’ammissione dell’incertezza però spesso dà luogo alla sensazione terrorizzante che le autorità sanitarie non sappiano quello che stanno facendo (Rosenbaum 2015). L’equilibrio tra la necessità di essere trasparenti anche su ciò che si ignora e la necessità di trasmettere indicazioni con autorevolezza è difficile da raggiungere e le strategie per ottenerlo meritano un’attenta riflessione da parte dei diversi attori coinvolti.

Bibliografia: Pubblicato da Treccani- P. Wagner-Egger, A. Bangerter, I. Gilles et al., Lay perceptions of collectives at the outbreak of the H1N1 epidemic: heroes, villains and victims, «Public understanding of science», 2011, 20, 4, pp. 461-76; L. Simonsen, P. Spreeuwenberg, R. Lustig et al., Global mortality estimates for the 2009 influenza pandemic from the GLaMOR project: a modeling study, «PLoS medicine», 2013, 10, 11:e1001558; J.A. Al-Tawfiq, Z.A. Memish, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus: epidemiology and disease control measures, «Infection and drug resistance», 2014, 7, pp. 281-87; T.R. Frieden, I. Damon, B.P. Bell et al., Ebola 2014. New challenges, new global response and responsibility, «The New England journal of medicine», 2014, 371, 13, pp. 1177-80; E.C. Hayden, The Ebola questions, «Nature», 2014, 514, 7524, pp. 554-57; M.L. McNairy, W.M. El-Sadr, Antiretroviral therapy for the prevention of HIV transmission: what will it take?«Clinical infectious diseases», 2014, 58, 7, pp. 1003-1111; M.A. Riva, M. Benedetti, G. Cesana, Pandemic fear and literature: observations from Jack London’s The scarlet plague, «Emerging infectious diseases», 2014, 20, 10, pp. 1753-57; UNAIDS (United Nations AIDS), The gap report, Genève 2014; E. Velasco, A.T. Tumacha, K. Denecke et al., Social media and Internet-based data in global systems for public health surveillance: a systematic review, «The Milbank quarterly», 2014, 92, 1, pp. 7-33; L. Rosenbaum, Communicating uncertainty. Ebola, public health, and the scientific process, «The New England journal of medicine», 2015, 372, 1, pp. 7-9. Webgrafia: L.K. Altman, Epidemic of confusion. Like AIDS before it, Ebola isn’t explained clearly by officials, «The New York Times», 10 nov. 2014, http://www.nytimes. com/2014/11/11/health/ likeaids-before-it-ebola-isnt-explained-clearly-byofficials. html?_r=0; J.G. Bartlett, An epidemic of epidemics, «Medscape infectious diseases», 2014, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/821073;Graphic: as Ebola’s death toll rises, remembering history’s worst epidemics, «National geographic», 25 ott.2014, http://news. nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/10/ 141025-ebola-epidemic-perspective-historypandemic/; V. Costello, Researchers changing the way we respond to epidemics with Wikipedia and Twitter, «PLoS blogs», 29 genn. 2015, http://blogs.plos.org/blog/2015/01/29/researchers-changing-wayrespond-epidemics-wikipedia-twitt/. Tutte le pagine web si intendono visitate per l’ultima volta il 6 agosto 2015.

Saturday, July 28

1991-2011 FASCISMO-ECONOMICO OVVERO BUGIE E SANGUE

Guai se la denuncia del nazi-fascismo, risuonata nel 70° anniversario della liberazione di Auschwitz, servisse a depistare l’opinione pubblica dall’altro più pericoloso FASCISCMO quello ECONOMICO, fondato, principalmente, sulla menzogna che giustifica i peggiori atti, terminando in sistematiche aggressioni a POPOLI E CULTURE, AUTOCTONE, DEL MONDO INTERO

Per esempio la Jugoslavia, rasa al suolo dopo la decisione della Germania, assieme al Vaticano (1991) di riconoscere i separatisti, cattolici, sloveni e croati: inaccettabile, per la nascente EUROZONA, la sopravvivenza di un grande Stato, multi-etnico, come la JUGOSLAVIA  e, con l’economia interamente in mani pubbliche. 

Per esempio la Libia, di Muhamar Gheddafi, travolta dopo una sua  decisione di costituire una Banca Centrale africana con  un'unica moneta in oro, alternativa al dollaro. 

E avanti così, dalla Siria all’Ucraina, fino alle contorsioni terrificanti del cosiddetto ISIS, fondato sulle unità di guerriglia addestrate dall’Occidente in Libia contro Gheddafi, poi smistate in Siria contro Assad e quindi dirottate in Iraq. Possiamo chiamarlo come vogliamo, dice John Pilger, ma è sempre fascismo-economico


«Se gli Stati Uniti e i loro vassalli non avessero iniziato la loro guerra di aggressione in Iraq nel 2003, quasi un milione di persone oggi sarebbero vive, e lo Stato Islamico non ci avrebbe fatto assistere alle sue atrocità», scrive Pilger in una riflessione ripresa dal “Come Don Chisciotte”. 


Se gli USA avessero esitato, disse Obama, la città di Bengasi «avrebbe potuto subire un massacro che avrebbe macchiato la coscienza del mondo». Peccato che Bengasi non sia mai stata minacciata da nessuno: «Era un’invenzione delle milizie SCIITE-islamiche che stavano per essere sconfitte dalle forze governative libiche».

I nuovi “mostri” sono «la progenie del fascismo-economico moderno, svezzato dalle bombe, dai bagni di sangue e dalle menzogne, che sono il teatro surreale conosciuto col nome di “informazione”». Infatti, «come durante il fascismo-economico degli anni ‘30 e ‘40, le grandi menzogne vengono trasmesse con la precisione di un metronomo grazie agli onnipresenti, ripetitivi media e la loro velenosa censura per omissione». 

In Libia, nel 2011 la NATO ha effettuato 9.700 attacchi aerei, più di un terzo dei quali mirato ad obiettivi civili, con strage di bambini. Bombe all’uranio impoverito, sganciate su Misurata e Sirte, bombardate a tappeto. Il massacro di Ghedaffi in diretta mondiale, da parte degli uomini del DGSE, mischiati tra la folla, «è stato giustificato con la solita grande menzogna: Ghedaffi stava progettando il “genocidio” del suo popolo». Al posto della verità: Ghedaffi stava denunciando Nicholas Sarkozy per corruzione

L'insignificante Barak Obama, premio Nobel per la pace disse che se gli USA, non fossere intervenuti immadiatamente, la città di Bengasi «avrebbe potuto subire un massacro che avrebbe macchiato la coscienza del mondo» 

Paradossalmente, avvene un ALTRO tragico fatto:" il, prevedibile, massacro dell'ambasciatore statunitense Chris Stevens e della sua scorta a Bengazi sotto la totale INERZIA della Casa Bianca e del Dipartimento di Stato. 

Peccato per il povero Stevens, ma Bengasi non è mai stata minacciata da nessuno: «Era una INFAME invenzione delle milizie islamiche sciite libiche che stavano per essere sopraffatte e sconfitte dalle forze governative tripolitane». Le milizie, aggiunge Pilger, dissero alla “Reuters” che ci sarebbe stato «un vero e proprio bagno di sangue, un massacro come quello accaduto in Ruanda». 

La menzogna, segnalata il 14 marzo 2011, ha fornito la prima scintilla all’inferno della NATO, definito da David Cameron come «intervento umanitario». Molti dei “ribelli” sciiti, segretamente armati e addestrati dalle SAS britanniche, sarebbero poi diventati ISIS, decapitatori di “infedeli”. 

In realtà, per Obama, Cameron e Sarkozy – scrive Pilger – il vero crimine di Gheddafi, come prima anticipato, fù l'imminente indipendenza economica della Libia dal franco francese e dal dollaro USA e la sua dichiarata intenzione di smettere di vendere in dollari USA le più grandi riserve di petrolio dell’Africa, minacciando così il petrodollaro, che è «un pilastro del potere imperiale MONDIALE DO CONTROLLO americano». 

«Era l’idea stessa ad essere intollerabile per gli Stati Uniti, che si preparavano ad “entrare” in Africa -gia nel 1999, corrompendo i governi africani con offerte di Clinton e Blair-collaborazione-militare».

Così, “liberata” la Libia, Obama «ha confiscato 30 miliardi di dollari dalla banca centrale libica, che Gheddafi aveva stanziato per la creazione di una banca centrale africana e per il dinaro africano, valuta basata sull’oro».

La “guerra umanitaria” contro la Libia aveva un modello vicino ai cuori liberali occidentali, soprattutto nei media, continua Pilger, ricordando che, nel 1999, Bill Clinton e Tony Blair inviarono la Nato a bombardare la Serbia, «perché, mentirono, affermando che i serbi stavano commettendo un “genocidio” contro l’etnia albanese della provincia secessionista del Kosovo»


Finiti i bombardamenti della NATO, con gran parte delle infrastrutture della Serbia in rovina – insieme a scuole, ospedali, monasteri e la televisione nazionale – le squadre internazionali di polizia scientifica scesero sul Kosovo per riesumare le prove del cosiddetto “olocausto”. L’FBI non riuscì a trovare una singola fossa comune e tornò a casa.

Il team spagnolo fece lo stesso, e chi li guidava dichiarò con rabbia che ci fu «una piroetta semantica delle macchine di propaganda di guerra». Un anno dopo, un tribunale delle Nazioni Unite sulla Jugoslavia svelò il conteggio finale dei morti: 2.788, cioè i combattenti su entrambi i lati, nonché i serbi e i rom uccisi dall'UCK. «Non c’era stato alcun genocidio.

L' "olocausto” jugoslavo è stato una menzogna».

L’attacco NATO era stato fraudolento, insiste Pilger, spiegando che «dietro la menzogna, c’era una seria motivazione: la Jugoslavia era un’indipendente federazione multietnica, unica nel suo genere, che fungeva da ponte politico ed economico durante la guerra fredda».

Attenzione: «La maggior parte dei suoi servizi e della sua grande produzione era di proprietà pubblica. Questo non era accettabile in una Comunità Europea in piena espansione, in particolare per la nuova Germania unita, che aveva iniziato a spingersi ad Est per accaparrarsi il suo “mercato naturale” nelle province jugoslave di Croazia e Slovenia». 

Sicché, «prima che  gli europei si riunissero a Maastricht nel 1991 a presentare i loro piani per la disastrosa Euro-Zona, un accordo segreto era stato approvato: la Germania avrebbe riconosciuto la Croazia». Quindi, «il destino della Jugoslavia era segnato».

La solita macchina stritolatrice: «A Washington, gli Stati Uniti si assicurarono che alla sofferente Pilger-economia jugoslava fossero negati prestiti dalla Banca Mondiale, mentre la NATO, allora una quasi defunta reliquia della guerra fredda, fu reinventata, CON PRONTEZZAcome tutore dell’ordine imperiale».

Nel 1999, durante una conferenza sulla “pace” in Kosovo a Rambouillet, in Francia, i serbi furono sottoposti alle tattiche ipocrite dei sopracitati tutori. «L’accordo di Rambouillet comprendeva un allegato B segreto, che la delegazione statunitense inserì all’ultimo momento».

La clausola esigeva che tutta la Jugoslavia – un paese con ricordi amari dell’occupazione nazista – fosse messa sotto occupazione militare, e che fosse attuata una “economia di libero mercato” con la privatizzazione di tutti i beni appartenenti al governo.

«Nessuno Stato sovrano avrebbe potuto firmare una cosa del genere», osserva Pilger. «La punizione fu rapida; le bombe della Nato caddero su di un paese indifeso. La pietra miliare delle catastrofi era stata posata

Seguirono le catastrofi dell’Afghanistan, poi dell’Iraq, della Libia, della Siria, e adesso dell’Ucraina. Dal 1945, più di un terzo dei membri delle Nazioni Unite – 69 paesi – hanno subito alcune o tutte le seguenti situazioni per mano del moderno fascismo-economico

Sono stati invasi decine e decine di governi, i loro legali rappresentanti rovesciati, i loro movimenti popolari soppressi, i risultati delle elezioni sovvertiti, la loro gente bombardata e le loro economie spogliate di ogni protezione, le loro società sottoposte a un assedio paralizzante noto come “sanzioni”. Lo storico britannico Mark Curtis stima il numero di morti in milioni

«Come giustificazione, in ogni singolo caso una grande, immensa, sporca menzogna è stata raccontata dalla centrale del fascismo-economico-mondiale.»

Tuesday, April 24

THE SPECIAL FEELINGS BETWEEN C.I.A. AND MONTENEGRO

Dedicate to H.E. JOHN McCAINE (from Adriaticus)

U.S. Congressional investigators want to know what an former CIA operative was doing in Montenegro last fall at the time of an alleged Russian backed coup plot against NATO’s newest member.
Michele Rigby and Joseph Assad
(U.S. authorities say they are curious why former CIA operative Joseph Assad, seen above in 2016 with his wife, Michele, was in Montenegro last fall around when an alleged coup plot was foiled). 
Photo by Lady Hereford/ Palm Beach Atlantic University
Former Central Intelligence Agency‎ Officer Joseph Assad is celebrated in Washington for helping extract dozens of Iraqi Christians from Islamic State territory in 2015‎. Last October, days before a hotly contested national election in Montenegro, Mr. Assad flew to the tiny Balkan country that has been the subject of tensions between the U.S. and Russia.


The imbroglio is a sign that old East-versus-West spy games are alive again in Europe. Current and former U.S. and Russian officials acknowledge privately that their operatives are at work in the Balkans and in Montenegro in particular.


U.S. and Montenegrin officials say the campaign culminated in a Russian-backed plot that was thwarted at the last moment. The government’s opponents say the events amounted to a fake coup intended to rally the people to the ruling party’s side.


Montenegrin officials said they are investigating whether Mr. Assad was hired to help the alleged perpetrators. Prosecutors have charged 14 people in the alleged plot, including what the indictment describes as a group of Serb nationalists, several of whom called themselves The Wolves. 

The indictment, recently upheld by Montenegrin courts, says the men planned to overthrow Montenegro’s government, possibly kill its prime minister and install a pro-Russian regime. It doesn’t charge Mr. Assad, but names him as a potential contractor hired to help to lead a subsequent escape from the country.

U.S. and allied officials have said it makes no sense that the coup plotters would use an outsider to help extract their team from the country. But Montenegrin and U.S. officials said it is possible Russian operatives wanted to associate a former CIA officer unwittingly with the plot so as to obscure Moscow’s responsibility.

U.S. and allied officials said one reason they believe there was a coup planned was that Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said his country’s security services had found “undeniable and material” evidence to back the Montenegrin account and cooperated with the investigation.

Prosecutors allege in their indictment that Mr. Assad approached a Florida security firm, Patriot Defense Group, looking for someone to help with “counter surveillance and evacuation” for the opposition party.

Brian Scott, a former CIA official and chief executive of Patriot Defense Group (John McCain), said a staff member spoke with Mr. Assad about general security work in Montenegro for a company affiliated with Patriot. Mr. Scott said he didn’t know if the work was to conduct an evacuation, adding his company quickly turned down the job because it wasn’t aligned with his firm’s mission to assist U.S. companies overseas.

Mr. Assad, who hasn’t been indicted, declined to speak to The Wall Street Journal. His lawyer, Vincent Citro, said Mr. Assad had been in Montenegro to assist a friend and colleague who was managing the opposition’s campaign. Mr. Citro says Mr. Assad had nothing to do with any plot and denies Mr. Assad was working as a spy for Russia or anyone else.

Mr. Citro confirmed there was a call between Mr. Assad and Patriot Defense Group. He said Mr. Assad has cooperated with the U.S. government “to clarify misinformation coming from Montenegro” but said he was told his client isn’t under investigation.

A story about Mr. Assad and his wife on the website of his college alma mater and a 2016 profile in a Florida newspaper provides this sketch of Mr. Assad: He is an Egyptian Christian raised in Lebanon and Egypt and is now a naturalized U.S. citizen. He moved to the U.S. to attend Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida, where he focused on political science and biblical studies and graduated in 1994. In 1999, Mr. Assad and his wife, born in the U.S., both joined the CIA.

In 2015, after Mr. Assad moved to a private security consultancy, ABC’s 20/20 featured a segment on how the Assads helped rescue 149 Iraqi Christians from ISIS.

Among those charged in the alleged plot in Montenegro are two accused Russian operatives, three members of the Montenegrin opposition and nine Serbs. The trial will hinge on the credibility of the government’s main witness, a (unindicted) Serb who in a statement cited in the indictment says he was recruited by a Russian intelligence agent to overthrow a government.

Staff members and investigators of the House Intelligence Committee this week reached out to Mr. Assad and Mr. Scott to ask them questions. “If Americans were involved we need to investigate,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), the committee’s chairman. He recently visited Montenegro to meet with prosecutors about the allegations of Russian involvement. “This was an attempt to take down the pro-NATO government by Russian interests,” he said.

Last year, Montenegro’s Democratic Party of Socialists, which has ruled the country since independence in 2006 and has pushed for NATO membership, faced a stiff challenge from the Democratic Front, a coalition of opposition groups that campaigned on an anticorruption platform and called for a referendum on NATO.

The opposition hired Aron Shaviv, a British-Israeli campaign manager who had made his mark producing amusing political advertisements for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. With Mr. Shaviv’s satirical ads poking fun of the government on the air, Mr. Shaviv said, he was followed and pulled over by Montenegrin police and security.

Mr. Shaviv said he called Mr. Assad, with whom he had worked previously, to come to Montenegro to conduct a security assessment. Mr. Assad’s lawyer says his client provided the assessments for Mr. Shaviv, then left on the day of the election.


Montenegrin and U.S. congressional investigators have questioned the timing of Mr. Assad’s exit. In conversations with the Journal, they asked why a security adviser would leave his client on the day of the election, hours after high-profile arrests of alleged plotters.

Mr. Shaviv, who hasn’t been accused in the plot, said the Montenegrin prosecutors’ allegations amount to believing Moscow tried to topple a government using a team made up of a political consultant, a former CIA agent and “some farm boys from rural Montenegro with their hunting rifles.”

Mr. Shaviv said Montenegro’s government faced defeat in the October election and whipped up the “sloppiest conspiracy theory ever concocted.” Both the Montenegrin government and ruling-party officials deny the allegation.


While Russian officials deny they are trying to destabilize NATO aspirants or countries on their borders, U.S. officials said they expect more Russian interference across Europe. 

Gen. Ben Hodges, a senior U.S. Army commander in Europe, said Russia is “going to continue doing this, putting pressure on countries on their periphery.”

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com and Drew Hinshaw at drew.hinshaw@wsj.com