Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 22, 2018

The MoA Week In Review And Open Thread 2018-19

The U.S. is currently attempting Color Revolutions by Force in Nicaragua and Armenia. This form of 'regime change' uses the typical 'peaceful demonstrators' schemes and media push but adds an armed element that is supposed to shoot at both sides - the protesters as well as government forces - to create marketable victims and chaos. The war on Syria was started this way as was the war in Libya and the violent regime change in Ukraine.

Telesur TV has a good write up on the situation in Nicaragua. Earlier today a journalist was shot in Bluefields, Nicaragua, during live reporting, probably by the opposition which now accuses the government.

AFP has an overview of the conflict in Armenia. It is sympathetic to the 'western' sponsored opposition. Just an hour ago the opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan was arrested after a short talk with the Prime Minister. He demanded total surrender of the government. I expect that further demonstrations will be shut down.

Last week's posts on MoA:

Yesterday, a week after arriving in Damascus, the OPCW fact finding mission finally reached one of the sites and took some probes to be analyzed elsewhere. It will take several weeks before the results are in.

I reported that the ISIS Takfiris in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp had given up and were ready to be transported into the eastern desert. But, as happened before in Douma, some hardliners killed the lead negotiator of the Takfiris and the fighting resumed. Artillery fire and aerial bombing continued today. The Syrian army has now plenty of capacities and, unless they give up, will turn all the Takfiris into fertilizer without taking many losses.

The Bolivian actress Carla Ortiz is back from Syria where she produced a new documentary. Jimmy Dore interviews her (vid, 40 min) and shows some of her footage. It is excellent and I recommend it.

(This was the longest piece I have ever written for this site and, I believe, it is quite important. Please spread it.)

The war on dissenting opinions described therein continues with the Sunday Times smearing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn because one or two of the 2,444 people he follows on Twitter once wrote something the Sunday Times dislikes:


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Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on April 22, 2018 at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (98)

April 21, 2018

The Media War On Truthful Reporting And Legitimate Opinions - A Documentary

Early in life I have noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines’.
George Orwell, Looking back on the Spanish War, Chapter 4

Last week saw an extreme intensifying of the warmongers' campaign against individuals who publicly hold and defend a different view than the powers-that-be want to promote. The campaign has a longer history but recently turned personal. It now endangers the life and livelihood of real people.


In fall 2016 a smear campaign was launched against 200 websites which did not confirm to NATO propaganda. Prominent sites like Naked Capitalism were among them as well as this site:

This website, MoonofAlabama.org, is now listed as "Russian propaganda outlet" by some neoconned, NATO aligned, anonymous "Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Serviceprominently promoted by today's Washington Post. The minions running that censorship list also watch over our "Russian propaganda" Twitter account @MoonofA.

While the ProPornOT campaign was against websites the next and larger attack was a general defaming of specific content.


The neoconservative Alliance For Securing Democracy declared that any doubt of the veracity of U.S. propaganda stories discussed on Twitter was part of a "Russian influence campaign". Their 'dashboard' shows the most prominent hashtags and themes tweeted and retweeted by some 600 hand-selected but undisclosed accounts. (I have reason to believe that @MoonofA is among them.) The dashboard gave rise to an endless line of main-stream stories faking concern over alleged "Russian influence". The New York Times published several such stories including this recent one:


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Russia did not respond militarily to the Friday strike, but American officials noted a sharp spike in Russian online activity around the time it was launched.

A snapshot on Friday night recorded a 2,000 percent increase in Russian troll activity overall, according to Tyler Q. Houlton, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. One known Russian bot, #SyriaStrikes, had a 4,443 percent increase in activity while another, #Damsucs, saw a 2,800 percent jump, Mr. Houlton said.

A person on Twitter, or a bot, is tagged by a chosen name led with an @-sign. Anything led with a #-sign is a 'hashtag', a categorizing attribute of a place, text or tweet. Hashtags have nothing to do with any "troll activity". The use of the attribute or hashtag #syriastrike increased dramatically when a U.S. strike on Syria happened. Duh. A lot of people remarked on the strikes and used the hashtag #syriastrike to categorize their remarks. It made it easier for others to find information about the incident.

The hashtag #Damsucs does not exit. How could it have a 2,800% increase?  It is obviously a mistyping of #Damascus or someone may have used as a joke. In June 2013 an Associated Press story famously carried the dateline "Damsucs". The city was then under artillery attack from various Takfiri groups. The author likely felt that the situation sucked.


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The spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security Tyler Q. Holton, to which the Times attributes the "bot" nonsense, has a Twitter account under his name and also tweets as @SpoxDHS. Peter Baker, the NYT author, has some 150,000 followers on Twitter and tweets several times per day. Holton and Tyler surely know what @accounts and #hashtags are.

One suspects that Holton used the bizzare statistic of the infamous 'Dashboard' created by the neoconservative, anti-Russian lobby. The dashboard creators asserted that the use of certain hashtags is a sign of 'Russian bots'. On December 25 the dashboard showed that Russian trolls and bots made extensive use of the hashtag #MerryChristmas to undermine America's moral.


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One of the creators of the dashboard, Clint Watts, has since confessed that it is mere bullshit:

“I’m not convinced on this bot thing,” said Watts, the cofounder of a project that is widely cited as the main, if not only, source of information on Russian bots. He also called the narrative “overdone.”

As government spokesperson Holton is supposed to spout propaganda that supports the government's policies. But propaganda is ineffective when it does not adhere to basic realities. Holton is bad at his job. Baker, the NYT author, did even worse. He repeated the government's propaganda bullshit without pointing out and explaining that it obviously did not make any sense. He  used it to further his own opinionated, false narrative. It took a day for the Times to issue a paritial correction of the fact free tale.


With the situation in Syria developing in favor of the Syrian people, with dubious government claims around the Skripal affair in Salisbury and the recent faked 'chemical attack' in Douma the campaign against dissenting reports and opinions became more and more personal.

Last December the Guardian commissioned a hatchet job against Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett. Beeley and Bartlett extensively reported (vid) from the ground in Syria on the British propaganda racket "White Helmets". The Guardian piece defended the 'heros' of the White Helmets and insinuated that both journalists were Russian paid stooges.

In March the self proclaimed whistle-blower and blowhard Sibel Edmonds of Newsbud launched a lunatic broadside smear attack (vid) against Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett. The Corbett Report debunked (vid) the nonsense. (The debunking received 59,000 views. Edmonds public wanking was seen by less than 23,000 people.)


Some time ago the CIA propaganda outlets Voice of America and Radio Free Europe started a 'fact-checking' website and named it Polygraph.info. (Some satirist or a clueless intern must have come up with that name. No country but the U.S. believes that the unscientific results of polygraph tests have any relation to truthfulness. To any educated non-U.S. citizen the first association with the term 'polygraph' is the term 'fake'.)

On April 4 the Polygraph wrote a smear piece about the Twitter account Ian56 (@Ian56789). Its headline: Disinfo News: Doing the Kremlin’s Work: A Fake Twitter Troll Pushes Many Opinions:

Ben Nimmo, the Senior Fellow for Information Defense at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, studies the exploits of “Ian56” and similar accounts on Twitter. His recent article in the online publication Medium profiles such fake pro-Kremlin accounts and demonstrates how they operate.
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Nimmo, and several other dimwits quoted in the piece, came to the conclusion that Ian56 is a Kremlin paid troll, not a real person. Next to Ian56 Nimmo 'identified' other 'Russian troll' accounts:

Ben Nimmo @benimmo - 10:50 UTC - 24 Mar 2018

One particularly influential retweeter (judging by the number of accounts which then retweeted it) was @ValLisitsa, which posts in English and Russian. Last year, this account joined the troll-factory #StopMorganLie campaign.

Nimmo's employer, the Atlantic Council, is a lobby of companies who profit from war.

Had Nimmo, a former NATO spokesperson, had some decent education he would have know that Valentina Lisitsa is a famous American-Ukrainian pianist. Yes, she sometimes tweets in Russian language to her many fans in Russia and the Ukraine. Is that now a crime? The videos of her performances on Youtube have more than 170 million views. It is absurd to claim that she is a 'Russian troll' and to insinuate that she is taking Kremlin money to push 'Russian troll' opinions.


Earlier this month Newsweek also targeted the journalists Beeley and Bartlett and smeared a group of people who had traveled to Syria as 'Assad's pawns'.


On April 14 Murdoch's London Times took personal aim at the members of a group of British academics who assembled to scientificly investigate dubious claims against Syria. Their first investigation report though, was about the Skripal incident in Salisbury. The London Times also targeted Bartlett and Beeley. The piece was leading on page one with the headline: "Apologists for Assad working in universities". A page two splash and an editorial complemented the full fledged attack on the livelihood of the scientists.


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Tim Hayward, who initiated the academic group, published a (too) mild response.


On April 18 the NPR station Wabenews smeared the black activists Anoa Changa and Eugene Puryear for appearing on a Russian TV station. It was the begin of an ongoing, well concerted campaign launched with at least seven prominent smear pieces issued on a single day against the opposition to a wider war on Syria.

On April 19 the BBC took aim at Sarah Abdallah, a Twitter account with over 130,000 followers that takes a generally pro Syrian government stand. The piece also attacked Vanessa Beeley and defended the 'White Helmets':

In addition to pictures of herself, Sarah Abdallah tweets constant pro-Russia and pro-Assad messages, with a dollop of retweeting mostly aimed at attacking Barack Obama, other US Democrats and Saudi Arabia.
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The Sarah Abdallah account is, according to a recent study by the online research firm Graphika, one of the most influential social media accounts in the online conversation about Syria, and specifically in pushing misinformation about a 2017 chemical weapons attack and the Syria Civil Defence, whose rescue workers are widely known as the "White Helmets".
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Graphika was commissioned to prepare a report on online chatter by The Syria Campaign, a UK-based advocacy group organisation which campaigns for a democratic future for Syria and supports the White Helmets.

The Syria Campaign Ltd. is a for profit 'regime change' lobby which, like the White Helmets it promotes, is sponsored with millions of British and U.S. taxpayer money.

Brian Whitaker, a former Middle East editor for the Guardian, alleged that Sarah Abdullah has a 'Hizbullah connection'. He assumes that from two terms she used which point to a southern Lebanese heritage. But south Lebanon is by far not solely Hizbullah and Sarah Abdallah certainly does not dress herself like a pious Shia. She is more likely a Maronite or secular whatever. Exposing here as 'Hizbullah' can easily endanger her life.  Replying to Whitaker the British politician George Galloway asked:

George Galloway @georgegalloway - 14:50 UTC - Replying to @Brian_Whit

Will you be content when she’s dead Brian?
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Will you be content Brian when ISIS cut off her head and eat her heart? You are beneath contempt. Even for a former Guardian man

Whitaker's smear piece was not even researched by himself. He plagiarized it, without naming his source, from Joumana Gebara, a CentCom approved Social Media Advisor to parts of the Syrian 'opposition'. Whitaker is prone to fall for scams like the 'White Helmets'. Back in mid 2011 he promoted the "Gay Girl in Damascus", a scam by a 40 year old U.S. man with dubious financial sources who pretended to be a progressive Syrian woman.


Also on April 19 the Guardian stenographed a British government smear against two other prominent Twitter accounts:

Russia used trolls and bots to unleash disinformation on to social media in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning, according to fresh Whitehall analysis. Government sources said experts had uncovered an increase of up to 4,000% in the spread of propaganda from Russia-based accounts since the attack, – many of which were identifiable as automated bots.

Notice that this idiotic % increase claim, without giving a base number, is similar to the one made in the New York Times piece quoted above. It is likely also based on the lunatic 'dashboard'.

[C]ivil servants identified a sharp increase in the flow of fake news after the Salisbury poisoning, which continued in the runup to the airstrikes on Syria.

One bot, @Ian56789, was sending 100 posts a day during a 12-day period from 7 April, and reached 23 million users, before the account was suspended. It focused on claims that the chemical weapons attack on Douma had been falsified, using the hashtag #falseflag. Another, @Partisangirl, reached 61 million users with 2,300 posts over the same 12-day period.

The prime minister discussed the matter at a security briefing with fellow Commonwealth leaders Malcolm Turnbull, Jacinda Ardern and Justin Trudeau earlier this week. They were briefed by experts from GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre about the security situation in the aftermath of the Syrian airstrikes.

The political editor of the Guardian, Heather Steward, admitted that her 'reporting' was a mere copy of government claims:

Heather Stewart @GuardianHeather - 10:38 UTC - 20 Apr 2018

It's not my analysis - as the piece makes quite clear - it's the government's.

The government claim was also picked up by other British outlets like Sky News (vid).


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A day earlier Ian56/@Ian56789 account with 35,000 followers had suddenly been blocked by Twitter. Ben Nimmo was extremely happy about this success. But after many users protested to the Twitter censors the account was revived.

Neither Ian, nor Partisangirl, are 'bots' or have anything to do with Russia. Partisangirl, aka Syria Girl, is the twitter moniker of Maram Susli, a Syrian-Australian scientist specialized in quantum chemistry. The first time she was interviewed on Australian TV (vid) is four years ago. She has published videos of herself talking about Syria on Youtube and on Twitter and held presentations on Syria at several international conferences. Her account is marked as 'verified' by Twitter. Any cursory search would have shown that she is a real person.

The claim of bots and the numbers of their tweets the government gave to the Guardian and Sky News are evidently false. With just a few clicks the Guardian and Sky News 'journalists' could have debunked the British government claims. But these stenograhers do not even try and just run with whatever nonsense the government claims. Sky News even manipulated the picture of Partisangirl's Twitter homepage in the video and screenshot above. The original shows Maram Susli speaking about Syrian refugees at a conference in Germany. The picture provides that she is evidently a living person and not a 'bot'. But Sky News did not dare to show that. It would have debunked the government's claim.


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After some negative feed back on social media Sky News contacted the 'Russian bot' Ian and invited him to a live interview (vid). Ian Shilling, a wakeful British pensioner, managed to deliver a few zingers against the government and Sky News. He also published a written response:

I have been campaigning against the Neocons and the Neocon Wars since January 2002, when I first realised Dick Cheney and the PNAC crowd were going to use 9/11 as the pretext to launch a disastrous invasion of Iraq. This has nothing to do with Russia. It has EVERYTHING to do with the massive lies constantly told by the UK & US governments about their illegal Wars of Aggression.
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Brian Whitaker could not hold back. Within the 156,000 tweets Ian wrote over seven years Whitaker found one(!) with a murky theory (not a denial) about the Holocaust. He alleged that Ian believes in 'conspiracy theories'. Whitaker then linked to and discussed one Conspirador Norteño who peddles 'Russian bots' conspiracy theories. Presumably Whitaker did not get the consp-irony of doing such.


On the same day as the other reports the British version of the Huffington Post joined the Times in its earlier smear against British academics, accusing Professor Hayward and Professor Piers Robinson of "whitewashing war crimes". They have done no such thing. Vanessa Beeley was additionally attacked.


Also on the 19th the London Times aimed at another target. Citizen Halo, a well known Finnish grandma, was declared to be a 'Russian troll' based on Ben Nimmo's pseudo-scientific trash, for not believing in the Skripal tale and the faked 'chemical attack' in Syria. The Times doubted her nationality and existence by using quotes around its of her as a "Finnish activist".

Meanwhile the defense editor of the Times, Deborah Haynes, is stalking Valentina Lisitsa on Twitter. A fresh smear-piece against the pianist is surely in the works.


The obviously organized campaign against critical thinking in Britain extended beyond the Atlantic. While the BBC, Guardian, HuffPo, Times and Sky News published smear pieces depicting dissenting people as  'Russian bots', the Intercept pushed a piece by Mehdi Hasan bashing an amorphous 'left' for rejecting a U.S. war on Syria: Dear Bashar al-Assad Apologists: Your Hero Is a War Criminal Even If He Didn’t Gas Syrians.

Mehdi Hasan is of course eminently qualified to write such a piece. Until recently he worked for Al Jazeerah, the media outlet of the Wahhabi dictatorship of Qatari which supports the Qatari sponsored al-Qaeda in its war against Syria. The Mehdi Hasan's piece repeats every false and debunked claim that has been raised against the Syrian government as evidence for the Syrian president's viciousness. Naturally many of the links he provides point back to Al Jazeerah's propaganda. A few years ago Mehdi Hasan tried to get a job with the conservative British tabloid Daily Mail. The Mail did not want him. During a later TV discussion Hasan slammed the Daily Mail for its reporting and conservative editorial position. The paper responded by publishing his old job application. In it Mehdi Hasan emphasized his own conservative believes:

I am also attracted by the Mail's social conservatism on issues like marriage, the family, abortion and teenage pregnancies.

A conservative war-on-Syria promoter is bashing an anonymous 'left' which he falsely accuses of supporting Assad when it takes a stand against imperial wars. Is that a 'progressive' Muslim Brotherhood position? (Added: Stephen Gowans and Kurt Nimmo respond to Hasan's screed.)


On the same day Sonali Kolhatkar at Truthdig, as pseudo-progressive as the Intercept, published a quite similar piece: Why Are Some on the Left Falling for Fake News on Syria?. She bashes the 'left' - without citing any example - for not falling for the recent scam of the 'chemical attack' in Douma and for distrusting the U.S./UK government paid White Helmets. The comments against the piece are lively.


Those working in the media are up in arms over alleged fake news and they lament the loss of paying readership. But they have only themselves to blame. They are the biggest creators of fake news and provider of government falsehood. Their attacks on critical readers and commentators are despicable.

Until two years ago Hala Jabar was foreign correspondent in the Middle East for the Sunday Times. After fourteen years with the paper and winning six awards for her work she was 'made redundant' for her objective reporting on Syria. She remarks on the recent media push against truth about Syria and the very personal attacks against non-conformist opinions:

Hala Jaber @HalaJaber - 18:36 UTC - 19 Apr 2018

In my entire career, spanning more than three decades of professional journalism, I have never seen MSM resolve to such ugly smear campaigns & hit pieces against those questioning mainstream narratives, with a different view point, as I have seen on Syria, recently.

.2/ This is a dangerous manoeuvre , a witch hunt in fact, aimed not only at character assassination, but at attempting to silence those who think differently or even sway from mainstream & state narrative.

.3/ It would have been more productive, to actually question the reason why more & more people are indeed turning to alternative voices for information & news, than to dish out ad hominem smears aimed at intimidating by labelling alternative voices as conspirators or apologists.

.4/ The journalists, activists, professors & citizens under attack are presenting an alternative view point. Surely, people are entitled to hear those and are intelligent enough to make their own judgments.

.5/ Or is there an assumption, (patronizing, if so), that the tens of thousands of people collectively following these alternative voices are too dumb & unintelligent to reach their own conclusions by sifting through the mass information being dished at them daily from all sides?

.6/ Like it or hate it, agree or disagree with them, the bottom line is that the people under attack do present an alternative view point. Least we forget, no one has a monopoly on truth. Are all those currently launching this witch hunt suggesting they do?

The governments and media would like to handle the war on Syria like they handled the war in Spain. They want reports without "any relation to the facts". The media want to "retail the lies" and eager propagandists want to "build emotional superstructures over events that never happened."

The new communication networks allow everyone to follow the war on Syria as diligently as George Orwell followed the war in Spain in which he took part. We no longer have to travel to see the differences of what really happens and what gets reported in the main stream press. We can debunk false government claims with freely available knowledge.

The governments, media and their stenographers would love to go back to the old times when they were not plagued by reports and tweets from Eva, Vanessa, Ian, Maram and Sarah or by blogposts like this one. The vicious campaign against any dissenting report or opinion is a sorry attempt to go back in time and to again gain the monopoly on 'truth'.

It is on us to not let them succeed.

Posted by b on April 21, 2018 at 07:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (94)

April 20, 2018

Syria Sitrep - Cleanup Around Damascus - WMD Rumors Prepare For New U.S. Attack

After the Syrian army liberated Douma, the next Takfiri held areas near the capital Damascus fell in short order. The Jaish al-Islam militants in Dumayr, north-east of Damascus, gave up without a fight. As usual by now the Takfiris were transferred to the north-western Idleb governorate held by al-Qaeda and other Turkish supported forces. The town of Dumayr controls the Damascus Baghdad highway. Capitulation negotiations in the nearby Eastern Qalamoun are ongoing.

The former Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk is an upbuild suburb south of Damascus. One part is in the hands of al-Qaeda and another was controlled by an Islamic State group. Offers to evacuate the groups were made but rejected. Yesterday the Syrian army launched a massive artillery barrage and the Russian and Syrian air force dropped bombs onto the quarter. Today, just twenty-four hours later, the Takfiris gave up. The al-Qaeda aligned militants will be evacuated to Idleb, the Islamic State aligned group to the eastern Syrian desert.

With each elimination of a 'rebel' pockets Syrian army is gaining strength. Ten-thousands of soldiers who were needed to hold the Takfiri held areas around Damascus surrounded and under control are now free to attack elsewhere. Some of the militants who did not evacuate also joined the government forces.

The evacuation of many militants to the north-west might later turn up to be problematic. They will eventually come under Turkish control and could be used in another Turkish attempt to take Aleppo. But for now they are infighting. Al-Qaeda in Syria, now renamed to Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is fighting with other groups over control of the area. Over the last months about one thousand of the militants have killed each other, 3,000 were wounded and many of their heavy arms were destroyed. The Syrian government hopes that such infighting will continue for a while.

When all the surrounded areas within the government realm are consolidated the Syrian army will move towards the borders in the south. The area around Deraa up to the Israeli occupied Golan heights and the Jordan border is in the hands of various groups of militants. Like in the north rebel infighting is a frequent occurrence. Two days ago an Islamic State aligned group tried to wrest control over some villages east of Deraa from some other local militant group. Fighting has been ongoing since and both sides are losing strength. One wonders how many of these fights between rebels are instigated by undercover Syrian intelligence agents.

The greatest difficulty for the Syrian army operation in the south is the Israeli supply and support for a number terrorist groups in that area. Should Israel intervene in any form in the Syrian operation to liberate the area the fight can easily escalate into a larger war.

The destroyed city of Raqqa in the east is becoming a headache for the U.S. occupation force. The U.S. used unwilling Kurdish ground troops to attack the city. It was not much of an infantry fight. Anything that moved was simply bombed from the air or ground. The one U.S. artillery battalion that covered the city fired more than 35,000 155mmm rounds during the five month operation. Now some 80% of the buildings in Raqqa are completely destroyed. The rest is inhabitable.

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The city has no water and no electricity. The U.S. claimed that 2,500 ISIS militants were in the city when the fighting started. In the end the U.S. let at least 500 of those leave the city and move further east to fight the Syrian army. It also said that only 30 civilians were killed in its attack. That is of course nonsense. At least 2,000 dead bodies have been recovered so far and 6,000 more dead are recorded as still lying under the ruins. There will be more. The city administration has no equipment and money to recover them. The U.S. is unwilling to spend any money for the city it destroyed and the Kurdish warlords who now occupy the city are incompetent and have no interest to help its Arab inhabitants. The population that has returned is hostile towards the U.S. and the Kurds. It wants to get back under Syrian government control.

Further east at the Syrian Iraqi border and north of the Euphrates some 3-5,000 ISIS fighters live unmolested by U.S. air or ground attacks. The U.S. prevented Syrian government troops who control the area south of Euphrates from attacking the ISIS forces. But neither Syria nor Iraq can allow that ISIS pocket to survive. Yesterday a high level meeting was held in the operation room in Baghdad where Russian, Iranian, Syrian and Iraqi commanders arrange common operations against ISIS. Shortly thereafter an Iraqi jet attacked a ISIS command meeting near Hajin in Syria. The strike had Syrian government approval. Syrian government forces have rebuild a military bridge that will allow them to cross the Euphrates in a future operation. Several battalions, including auxiliary troops under Iranian command, are ready to attack. Will the U.S. bomb them when they cross the river? Or will it hold back and allow Iraqi air support for the Syrian troops?

The neo-conservatives are busy insinuating that Syria still has chemical weapon program and that it is distributed throughout the country.

U.S. assessments following the U.S., British and French missile strikes on Syria show they had only a limited impact on President Bashar al-Assad’s ability to carry out chemical weapons attacks, four U.S. officials told Reuters.
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U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the available intelligence indicated that Assad’s stock of chemicals and precursors was believed to be scattered far beyond the three targets.

This is of course just nonsense. Syria gave up its chemical weapons in 2013 and the OPCW confirmed that all weapon and precursor stocks were destroyed and all laboratories and production facilities dismantled.

This new fairytale of Assad's chemical weapons is designed to create a pretext for a another, more extensive bombing campaign against Syria. A fake pretext build on fake 'chemical attack' in Douma.

There is no evidence that any 'chemical attack' occurred in Douma. All the U.S., French and British government have are some videos created by known propagandists like the White Helmets who work for  those governments. The State Department's spokesperson finally acknowledged that:

MS NAUERT: Yeah. ... We recognize and appreciate and are very grateful for all the work that the White Helmets continues to do on behalf of the people of their country and on behalf of the U.S. Government and all the coalition forces.
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I’ve just exchanged emails with him the other day. My understanding is that their work is still going on, and we’re proud to work with them.

Republican Representative Massie remarked today:

Thomas Massie @RepThomasMassie - 14:03 UTC- 19 Apr 2018

In briefing to Congress, DNI, SecDef, and SecState provided zero real evidence. Referenced info circulating online. Which means either they chose not to provide proof to Congress or they don’t have conclusive proof that Assad carried out gas attack. Either way, not good.

After being stalled for five days the OPCW fact finding mission finally reached the area in Douma where the alleged 'chemical attack happened. It entered under protection of Russian military police.

The scientific research service of the German Bundestag published a report (pdf, German) today which concludes that the U.S. led attack on Syria on April 13 was evidently in violation of international law.

Posted by b on April 20, 2018 at 03:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (134)

April 19, 2018

Syria - Who Is Stalling The OPCW Investigation In Douma?

Why has the fact finding mission (FFM)of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) not visited Douma?

The OPCW inspectors are held up by the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) which has a say about any movement of UN aligned organizations in areas that might be dangerous. The UNDSS is led by an Australian police / intelligence officer. The holdup seems to be intended.

On Sunday April 8 videos were published of an alleged 'chemical attack' in Douma near Damascus. At that time the area was under control of Jaish al-Islam, a Salafi terrorist organization financed by Saudi Arabia. The various videos from terrorist supporters like the 'White Helmets' were unconvincing. They showed obviously arranged scenes of an alleged 'barrel bomb' and manipulated bodies of dead children that had been moved and decorated with shaving foam to superficially fit the claims of a 'chemical incident'. Another video showed people in a hospital being doused with water for no apparent reason.

An often quoted opposition news outlet, the Syrian Observatory in Britain, denied that a 'chemical attack' had happened. It reported on April 8 of suffocation after a shelter collapsed due to bombing:

[I]n among the casualties there are 21 civilians including 9 children and 3 women were killed as a result of suffocation caused by the shelling which destroyed basements of houses as a result of the violence bombardment that stopped about an hour ago on Douma area.

The 'chemical incident' was likely faked. It suspiciously happened just a few days after U.S. President Trump had announced the he wanted the U.S. military to leave Syria. A year earlier a similar incident was claimed to have happened after a similar announcement by Trump. The U.S. had responded to the 2017 incident by bombing an empty Syrian airfield.

A day after the incident the Salafi terrorists of Jaish al-Islam gave up and left the area under a ceasefire deal arranged with the help of the Russian military in Syria. The ceasefire deal does not allow the Syrian army to enter the area, only the Russian military police is allowed.

Russian military police immediately entered the area and investigated the house where, allegedly, people were killed by 'chemical weapons'. They found no evidence that such an event had taken place. The Syrian government asked the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical aWeapons (OPCW) to investigate the case.

Many international news teams have since visited the area where the incident allegedly took place. The also visited the field hospital shown in one of the opposition videos. Doctors at that hospital deny (vid) that any patient of theirs had been affected by a chemical attack. The cases they had seen had breathing difficulties caused by the inhalation of dust thrown up through exploding bombs and artillery. Alleged 'victims' shown in the hospital video claim (vid) they were paid to perform.

The regime-change shills are denying that any claims of the hospital staff working in the now government controlled Douma could be true. Medics are liars, unless they are controlled by Jihadis. See for example this shoddy propaganda piece by the Guardian: Syrian medics 'subjected to extreme intimidation' after Douma attack by Martin Chulov in Beirut and Kareem Shaheen in Istanbul.


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The piece begins:

The head of the largest medical relief agency in Syria claims that medics who responded to the suspected gas attack in Douma have been subjected to “extreme intimidation” by Syrian officials who seized biological samples, forced them to abandon patients and demanded their silence.

Now look at the picture. It shows Syrian Red Crescent personal. The caption is false. It says: "Medics take a wounded man into hospital in Damascus after rockets were fired in Douma on 7 April." The picture is actually from a series published by the Syrian news agency SANA.


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The SANA series is headlined: "Injuries among civilians in Jaish al-Islam mortar attacks on Damascus".

The attack was FROM the terrorists in Douma on civilians in Damascus, not IN Douma as the Guardian insinuates.

The pictured Red Crescent in Syria, founded in 1942, has 1,592 staff and some 6,000 volunteers. It is indeed the "the largest medical relief agency in Syria". But it is not the one the Guardian describes and quotes:

Dr Ghanem Tayara, the director of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM) said doctors responsible for treating patients in the hours after the 7 April attack have been told that their families will be at risk if they offer public testimonies about what took place.

The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations was founded in 2012, works from Reyhanli in Turkey and claims to have 600 staff. It consists of the Syrian American Medial Society (SAMS), which is funded by the CIA front USAID and lobbies for regime change in Syria, the British-Syrian Medical Society which only works in 'rebel' held areas, as well as British and U.S. p.o.-box 'charities' which collect donations. SAMS and UOSSM are said to be Muslim Brotherhood fronts.

The Guardian shows a Syrian Red Crescent/Red Cross picture in the context of ridiculous claims made by an organization on the side of the Jihadis. The Syrian Red Crescent has no relation to that organization. UOSSM is misidentified as the largest relief organization in Syria. Its claims are repeated without doubts by Guardian 'journalists' in Turkey and Lebanon to counter interviews and observations made by real journalists on the ground in Douma. The piece and its presentation is bottom fishing by a once reasonable paper. Jonathan Cook has more to say about that shoddy Guardian piece.

On Friday April 13 the OPCW fact finding mission arrived in Damascus. On Saturday France, the U.K and the United States, (FUKUS), bombed an agricultural and medical research center in Damascus as well as two Syrian army depots. The attack missed its other targets, a failure the U.S. military attempts to cover up. The attack came despite doubts in the Pentagon and elsewhere about what actually happened. High ranking British military generals have publicly doubted the claims of a Syrian 'chemical attack'.

The suburb where the alleged incident happened is only a few miles away from the center of Damascus. Journalists and camera teams walk all over the place without any protection and freely interview hospital personal. The OPCW has yet to reach the area. It claims that the security is insufficient.

Like other organizations aligned with the United Nations the OPCW is relying on the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) for intelligence and protection.

Yesterday the Director General of the OPCW Ahmet Üzümcü, a Turkish career diplomat who was earlier Turkey's Permanent Representative to NATO, issued a statement:

On 16 April, we received confirmation from the National Authority of the Syrian Arab Republic that, under agreements reached to allow the evacuation of the population in Ghouta, the Syrian military were unable to enter Douma. The security for the sites where the FFM plans to deploy was under the control of the Russian Military Police. The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) has made the necessary arrangements with the Syrian authorities to escort the team to a certain point and then for the escort to be taken over by the Russian Military Police. However, the UNDSS preferred to first conduct a reconnaissance visit to the sites, which took place yesterday. FFM team members did not participate in this visit.

On arrival at Site 1, a large crowd gathered and the advice provided by the UNDSS was that the reconnaissance team should withdraw. At Site 2, the team came under small arms fire and an explosive was detonated. The reconnaissance team returned to Damascus.

(Note: Only about 10% of the population of the Ghouta area to which Douma belongs, the terrorist and their families, were evacuated. Other people have stayed or returned to the now liberated areas.)

No other organization reported of recent shots or explosions in Douma.

Even the New York Times, a staunch defender of the 'opposition' in Syria, wonders about the hold-up but does not bother to answer the question:

[T]he fact that journalists had been able to wander around Douma unmolested raised questions about why it was not deemed safe enough for the investigators to visit.

Why were, allegedly, shots fired at the UN Security team but not on anyone else visiting the area?

If, as the terrorist supporters claim, Chlorine was used in the 'chemical attack', the OSCE investigators are unlikely to find any physical evidence of it. Chlorine dissipates and leaves no unique traces in the dead body. Interviews with local witnesses though could be of value.

One gets the impression that certain circles fear the the OPCW could reach the area, talk to witnesses and confirm the claims made by doctors in the hospital as well as by many journalists that no 'chemical attack' took place. It would expose the attack on Syria as a reckless and unjustified war crime.

The leader of the UNDSS is an Australian police commander:

Mr. Drennan, who from 2009 served as Deputy Commissioner National Security with the Australian Federal Police, brings to the position an extensive career in policing and law enforcement at the community, national and international levels.

Is it possible that a distinguished Australian police commander delays or prevents the OPCW investigation to protect the British and U.S. allies?

---
Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the 'chemical attack' in Douma and its consequences.

April 8 - Syria - Timelines Of 'Gas Attacks' Follow A Similar Scheme (Update II)
April 9 - Syria - Any U.S. Strike Will Lead to Escalation
April 11 - Syria - A U.S. Attack Would Be Futile - But Serve A Purpose - by M. K. Bhadrakumar
April 11 - Trump Asks Russia To Roll Over - It Won't
April 12 - Syria - Threat Of Large War Recedes But May Come Back
April 13 - Syria - Manipulated Videos Fail To Launch World War III - Updated
April 14 - F.U.K.U.S. Strikes Syria - Who Won?
April 16 - Syria - Pentagon Hides Attack Failure - 70+ Cruise Missiles Shot Down

Posted by b on April 19, 2018 at 12:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (222)

April 17, 2018

Open Thread 2018-18

The post I worked on did not pan out. You are on your own.

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 17, 2018 at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (227)

April 16, 2018

Syria - Pentagon Hides Attack Failure - 70+ Cruise Missiles Shot Down

The U.S. military seems to hide that its attack on Syria last Saturday largely failed. We checked the numbers and sources and said so in our weekly review published yesterday. This post is extending yesterday's analysis.

The U.S. attack on Saturday was launched as revenge for an alleged 'chemical attack' by the Syrian government forces against the then 'rebel' held Damascus suburb Douma. The alleged 'chemical attack' never happened but was theater staged by the 'rebels' and their supporters after some people suffocated in a collapsed building.

There is a very large discrepancy between the Russian Ministry of Defense report of the strike as well as other sources and the description in the Pentagon briefing on the strike. According to the Pentagon only three places related to a nonexistent Syrian chemical weapon program were targeted:

This combined military strike was directed against three distinct Syrian chemical weapons program targets.
...
We are confident that all of our missiles reached their targets.
...
In summary, in a powerful show of allied unity, we deployed 105 weapons against three targets.

One hundred and five weapons against three targets would be a remarkable overkill. Just consider that the U.S. Tomahawk and JASSM cruise missiles and the British Skalp EG cruise missiles used in these attacks carry 450 kilogram (~1,000 pounds) of high explosives each. Did the U.S. military really plan to use 15 metric tons of high explosives against each target. That would be enough to blow up a whole town.

The U.S. claims it sent 76 cruise missiles against the non-hardened, non-defended Barzeh research center. This was a small two story building complex and had just recently been declared free of chemical weapons and weapon research by the OPCW.


Barzeh Research center before and after - bigger

Sure, the facility is destroyed. But by 34 tons of high explosives? Or by maybe 2 tons?

The Barzeh center was a civilian facility next to a densely populated suburb of Damascus. It was concerned with agricultural and medical research, not with chemical weapons. The U.S. certainly knew that from the recent OPCW report. The U.S. claim that it was a chemical weapons facility is ridiculous as it would (hopefully) never consider attacking a real chemical weapons facility in the middle of a civilian population center. That would be mass murder and a serious war crime.

The Pentagon also claims it hit two undefended military storage facilities near the Lebanese border. It says that those three were the only targets of its attack.

But on April 12, two days before the strikes, CNBC reported that the Pentagon planned to attack eight targets:

[A] source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told CNBC the U.S. was considering striking eight potential targets. Those targets include two Syrian airfields, a research center and a chemical weapons facility.

The strikes commenced on April 14 between about 1:00 and 2:30 UTC, 4.00am to 5:30am local time in Damascus. At 7:00am local time (4:00 UTC) journalist Danny Makki reported from Damascus:

Danny Makki @Dannymakkisyria - 4:06 UTC - 14 Apr 2018

Thread: Here’s how the U.S led strikes on #Syria developed from here in the Capital #Damascus in the early hours of this morning

  1. At around 4.30 Damascus time I awoke to initial large sounds of over 10 rocket attacks, it immediately was clear from the types of missile being heard that it was a Western Attack conducted by the #U.S #France & #U.K
  2. The strikes were heard clearly in all parts of the Capital and continued on and off for a duration of 50 minutes, Syrian state media reported the strikes but didn’t provide information as to the locations
  3. All In all over 50 different strikes were heard or reported in different locations around #Damascus
  4. The strikes had targeted a number of military sites across Damascus and further north in #Syria reportedly in #Hama & #Homs
  5. Barzeh research facility which sits on the Eastern stretch of #Damascus was hit by numerous missiles
  6. #Jamraya was reportedly hit as well, from my current location which is quite close to the site its clear something big was hit in Western #Damascus , the last barrage shook the neighborhood im In to the core
  7. Mezzeh Military airport was reportedly struck as well (...)
  8. A research facility in #Masyaf was reportedly attacked as well
  9. Also, a number of sources in #Homs have reported strikes with additional information that Russia air defenses participated in countering the strikes in #Homs
  10. A string of other locations have been cited as being targeted by U.S led strikes, its not clear at the moment, but it seems this attack was limited to a number of locations
    ...

It seems clear that Mr. Makki refers to more than three attacked sites.

Another source, Wael al Russi, also reported some eight targets including the coordinates of some.

The Syrian opposition outlet SOHR in Britain, which works from local sources, reports a multitude of targets:

[T]he Trio Coalition “the USA, Britain and France”, .. targeted .. the scientific research centers in Jamraya north of Damascus, and Barzeh in the north-west of the capital Damascus, arsenals of the 4th Division and the Republic Guards in the area of Al-Mazza Military Airbase, the arsenals of Al-Kiswah area in the southern countryside of the capital, and the scientific research center in the outskirts of Homs city, where the missiles fired on the latter position, fell away from the target, also violent explosions heard in the Eastern Qalamoun, while no missiles fell on Al-Dumayr and Al-Naseriyah Military Airbases.

Those are 8 targeted places or installations.

SOHR also reports that more than 65 of the 105 missiles failed to hit their targets:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights managed to monitored interception by the regime forces to tens of missiles which targeted their positions and military bases in the Syrian territory, where several intersected sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory, that the number missiles that were downed, exceeded 65 missiles, of the total number of missiles fired by the Trio Coalition, while the air and rocket strikes, caused great material damage, while no information about casualties was reported yet.

The report of the Russian Ministry of Defense quoted below is consistent with the multitude of independent sources quoted above. The Russian briefing (video with English subtitles) was held at noon Damascus time, hours before the Pentagon issued its report. It mentions 103 cruise missiles against eight targets:


Target map from the Russian briefing - bigger
In total, 71 cruise missiles have been intercepted.
...
Four missiles targeted the Damascus International Airport; 12 missiles – the Al-Dumayr airdrome, all the missiles have been shot down.

18 missiles targeted the Blai airdrome, all the missiles shot down.

12 missiles targeted the Shayrat air base, all the missiles shot down. Air bases were not affected by the strike.

Five out of nine missiles were shot down targeting the unoccupied Mazzeh airdrome.

Thirteen out of sixteen missiles were shot down targeting the Homs airdrome. There are no heavy destructions.

In total 30 missiles targeted facilities near Barzah and Jaramana. Seven of them have been shot down.

Another Russian military briefing (Ru) (added: English transcript) given today claims the following success numbers for each type of air-defense systems the Syrian army used. It lists the numbers of cruise missiles shot down by each versus the number targeted:

  • Pantsir - 23 hits with 25 engagements, 
  • Buk-M2 - 24 of 29,
  • Osa - 5 of 13,
  • S-125 - 5 of 13,
  • Strela-10 - 3 of 5,
  • Kvadrat - 11 of 21,
  • S-200 - 0 hits with 8 launched missiles.

Pantsir and Buk-M2 are new systems, the Osa, S-125, Strela, Kvadrat and S-200 are Soviet era systems, some of which might have been partially upgraded.

Some 'expert' claims that the high number of hits the Russians assert are impossible as the systems would be overwhelmed with such a large attack. The 'expert' obviously didn't consider the relevant facts:

  • Eight geographically distinct places were targeted. The research lab had no short-range point-defense but was only covered by the older medium-range area-defense systems S-125 and S-200. The attacked storage areas had no point-defense. The military airports all had point-defense systems especially the impressive new Pantsir-1S (video) of which Syria recently received 40 units.
  • At least two Pansir-1S are stationed near each Syrian military airport. Each Pantsir has 12 missiles ready to fire and two machine cannons with 700 shots each.
  • Cruise missiles, developed from the German V-1 (vid) used in World War II, are small compared to fighter planes. But they fly relatively straight, slow and low. They are easy targets for any newer point-defense systems.

Therefore the number of eliminated cruise missiles the Russians and others claim have been downed is completely plausible.

Had the Russian air-defense area around its bases in Latakia been attacked, the excellent electronic warfare systems of the Russian military would have provided an additional layer of defense. These systems can divert cruise missiles from their path by messing up their electronic systems. The Syrian army has, to my best knowledge, no such capabilities.

The Pentagon had planned to hit eight targets in Syria two of which were research labs. Six airports or storage areas were targeted according to the Russian and other reports.

The Pentagon reports no strike on Syrian airports but claims to have launched a way too high number of cruise missiles for each of the claimed three targets it hit. Its claim that 76 missiles were used against Barzeh alone is ridiculous. The generals just added up all the failed and downed cruise missiles targeted at the well defended airfields and attributed them to Barzeh.  

At least three other sources confirm the Russian version of events. The Pentagon is lying. The attack was a U.S. attempt to disable the Syrian air force by destroying its airports. It failed miserably and the Pentagon is hiding this failure by claiming that all its cruise missiles hit the undefended targets some of its missiles reached.

The Russian briefing today (Ru) (added: English transcript) puts the finger into that wound. Will any of U.S. media follow up on it?

---
Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the 'chemical attack' in Douma and its consequences.

April 8 - Syria - Timelines Of 'Gas Attacks' Follow A Similar Scheme (Update II)
April 9 - Syria - Any U.S. Strike Will Lead to Escalation
April 11 - Syria - A U.S. Attack Would Be Futile - But Serve A Purpose - by M. K. Bhadrakumar
April 11 - Trump Asks Russia To Roll Over - It Won't
April 12 - Syria - Threat Of Large War Recedes But May Come Back
April 13 - Syria - Manipulated Videos Fail To Launch World War III - Updated
April 14 - F.U.K.U.S. Strikes Syria - Who Won?

Posted by b on April 16, 2018 at 03:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (168)

April 15, 2018

The MoA Week In Review And Open Thread 2018-17

Last week was dominated by the run-up to the U.S. attack on Syria:

There is a very large discrepancy between the Russian Ministry of Defense report of strike and the description in the Pentagon briefing on the strike. According to the Pentagon only three places related to non-existing Syrian chemical weapons were targeted:

This combined military strike was directed against three distinct Syrian chemical weapons program targets.
...
In summary, in a powerful show of allied unity, we deployed 105 weapons against three targets.

It does not make any sense to send 35 cruise missiles against each of those not hardened, not defended targets like the now destroyed Barzeh research center which was a small two story building complex (pic of destruction) and had been declared free of chemical weapons and weapon research by the OPCW. Why would the U.S. military use such a high number of precision weapons against only three targets? This is extremely unusual and does not make sense at all.

The Russians, as well as other sources on the ground, report in detail of many more targets:

Four missiles targeted the Damascus International Airport; 12 missiles – the Al-Dumayr airdrome, all the missiles have been shot down.

18 missiles targeted the Blai airdrome, all the missiles shot down.

12 missiles targeted the Shayrat air base, all the missiles shot down. Air bases were not affected by the strike.

Five out of nine missiles were shot down targeting the unoccupied Mazzeh airdrome.

Thirteen out of sixteen missiles were shot down targeting the Homs airdrome. There are no heavy destructions.

In total 30 missiles targeted facilities near Barzah and Jaramana. Seven of them have been shot down.

At least six airports were targeted according to the Russian report. The Pentagon reports no strike on Syrian airports but claims to have launched a way too high number of cruise missiles for each of the claimed three target. The Syrian opposition outlet SOHR reports of eight targets and says that at least 65 of the cruise missiles were downed by the Syrian air defenses. The Russians say 71 were shot down while the Pentagon says none of its cruise missiles were hit.

At least three other sources confirm the Russian version of events. The Pentagon is lying. The attack was a U.S. attempt to disable the Syrian air force by destroying its airports. It failed and the Pentagon is hiding that failure. Will the U.S. media report this discrepancy?

Not unrelated to the strike on Syria is the Skripal case where the mysteries continue to pile up.

Use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b on April 15, 2018 at 10:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (268)

Were the Skripals 'Buzzed', 'Novi-shocked' Or Neither? - May Has Some 'Splaining' To Do

The Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, threw a bombshell at the British assertions that the collapse of the British secret agent Sergej Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4 in Salisbury was caused by a 'Novichok' nerve agent 'of a type developed by Russia'. (See our older pieces, linked below, for a detailed documentation of the case.)

  • The Skripal poisoning happened on March 4.
  • Eye witnesses described the Skripals as disoriented and probably hallucinating. The emergency personal suspected Fentanyl influence.
  • A few days later the British government claimed that the Skripals had been affected by a chemical agent from the 'Novichok' series which they attributed to Russia. It insinuated that the Skripals might die soon.
  • A doctor of the emergency center at the Salisbury District Hospital publicly asserted that none of its patients was victim of a 'nerve agent'.
  • On March 14, after much pressure from Russia, Britain finally invited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to analyze the blood of the victims and to take environmental samples.
  • The OPCW arrived on March 19 and took specimen on the following days. It also received a share of the samples taken earlier by the British chemical weapon laboratory in Porton Down, which is only some 10 miles away from Salisbury.
  • The OPCW split the various samples it had in a certified laboratory in the Netherlands and then distributed them to several other certified laboratories for analysis.
  • One of those laboratories was the highly regarded Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland which is part of the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection and fully certified.
  • On April 12 the OPCW published a public version of the result of the analyses it had received from its laboratories.
  • A more extensive confidential version was given to the state members that make up the OPCW.

During a public speech yesterday Lavrov stated of the OPCW report:

[A] detailed and fairly substantial confidential version was distributed to the OPCW members only. In that report, in accordance with the OPCW way of conduct, the chemical composition of the agent presented by the British was confirmed, and the analysis of samples, as the report states, was taken by the OPCW experts themselves. It contains no names, Novichok or any other. The report only gives the chemical formula, which, according to our experts, points to an agent that had been developed in many countries and does not present any particular secret.

After receiving that report Russia was tipped off by the Spiez Laboratory or someone else that the OPCW report did not include the full results of its analysis.

According to Lavrov this is what the Spiez Laboratory originally sent to the OPCW:

“Following our analysis, the samples indicate traces of the toxic chemical BZ and its precursor which are second category chemical weapons. BZ is a nerve toxic agent, which temporarily disables a person. The psycho toxic effect is achieved within 30 to 60 minutes after its use and lasts for up to four days. This composition was in operational service in the armies of the US, the UK and other NATO countries. The Soviet Union and Russia neither designed nor stored such chemical agents. Also, the samples indicate the presence of type A-234 nerve agent in its virgin state and also products of its degradation.

The "presence of type A-234 nerve agent", an agent of the so called 'Novichok' series, in its "virgin state", or as the OPCW stated in "high purity", points to later addition to the sample. The 'Novichok' agents are not stable. They tend to fall rapidly apart. Their presence in "virgin state" in a sample which was taken 15 days after the Skripal incident happened is inexplicable. A scientist of the former Russian chemical weapon program who worked with similar agents, Leonid Rink, says that if the Skripals had really been exposed to such high purity A-234 nerve agent, they would be dead.

The whole case, the symptoms shown by the Skripals and their recuperation, makes way more sense if they were 'buzzed', i.e. poisoned with the BZ hallucinogenic agent, than if they were 'novi-shocked' with a highly toxic nerve agent.

The Spiez Laboratory responded by not denying Lavrov's claims:

Spiez Laboratory @SpiezLab - 19:49 UTC - 14 Apr 2018

Only OPCW can comment this assertion. But we can repeat what we stated 10 days ago: We have no doubt that Porton Down has identified Novichock. PD - like Spiez - is a designated lab of the OPCW. The standards in verification are so rigid that one can trust the findings. #Skipal

Science Direct has several excerpts of reports about BZ. The basics:

Agent 15 is also called compound 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, BZ, or “Buzz.” It is a powerful chemical warfare agent. As one of the most potent psychoactive chemical agents, only a small amount of BZ is needed to produce complete incapacitation. When used as an aerosol, BZ is absorbed through the respiratory system (it has no odor). It can also be absorbed through the skin or the digestive system. It takes approximately 1 h for BZ to take effect, and the symptoms of exposure include confusion, tremors, stupor, hallucinations, and coma that can last for more than 2 days.

BZ is a psycho agent 25 times stronger than LSD. It was developed by the U.S. military as an incapacitating agent. At least 50 tons were produced and filled into weapon delivery systems. It was allegedly tested on U.S. soldiers in Vietnam:

Working with the CIA the Department of Defense gave hallucinogenic drugs to thousands of "volunteer" soldiers in the 1950's and 1960's. In addition to LSD, the Army also tested quinuclidinyl benzilate, a hallucinogen code-named BZ. Many of these tests were conducted under the so-called MKULTRA program, established to counter perceived Soviet and Chinese advances in brainwashing techniques. Between 1953 and 1964, the program consisted of 149 projects involving drug testing and other studies on unwitting human subjects. Although many human subjects were not informed or protected, Dr. Gottlieb defended those actions by stating "...harsh as it may seem in retrospect, it was felt that in an issue where national survival might be concerned, such a procedure and such a risk was a reasonable one to take."

This is what the military tried to achieve with BZ and other psycho agents.

BZ (and LSD) turned out to be impractical as battlefield weapons.

According to British parliament records BZ was also produced and tested, allegedly on unknowing civilians, by the British chemical weapon laboratory Porton Down.

The Russian Foreign Minister asserts that the OPCW suppressed the details of the Spiez Laboratory report:

Nothing is said whatsoever about a BZ agent in the final report that the OPCW experts presented to its Executive Council. In this connection we address the OPCW a question about why the information, that I have just read out loud and which reflects the findings of the specialists from the city of Spiez, was withheld altogether in the final document. If the OPCW would reject and deny the very fact that the Spiez laboratory was engaged, it will be very interesting to listen to their explanations.

The current Director-General of the OPCW is the Turkish carrier diplomat Ahmed Üzümcü who earlier served as the Turkish Permanent Representative to NATO.

I have no theory how the BZ or the A-234 made it into the OPCW samples or if the Skripals were really influenced by either of these poisons  or are victims of simple shellfish poisoning. Your guess is a good as mine.

But the story the British government has so far told is full of holes and discrepancies and makes absolutely no sense at all. The suppression of the Spiez Laboratory report by the OPCW is a serious breach of its procedures.

The British Prime Minister Theresa May, and the OPCW, have some 'splainin' to do.

---
Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the Skripal case:

March 8 - Poisioned British-Russian Double-Agent Has Links To Clinton Campaign
March 12 - Theresa May's "45 Minutes" Moment
March 14 - Are 'Novichok' Poisons Real? - May's Claims Fall Apart
March 16 - The British Government's 'Novichok' Drama Was Written By Whom?
March 18 - NHS Doctor: "No Patients Have Experienced Symptoms Of Nerve Agent Poisoning In Salisbury"
March 21 - Russian Scientists Explain 'Novichok' - High Time For Britain To Come Clean (Updated)
March 29 - Last Act Of 'Novichok' Drama Revealed - "The Skripals' Resurrection"
March 31 - Hillary Clinton Ordered Diplomats To Suppress 'Novichok' Discussions
April 3 - Operation Hades Blamed Russia - A Model For The 'Novichok' Claims?
April 4 - It's The Cover-Up" - UK Foreign Office Deletes Tweet, Posts False Transcript, Issues New Lies
April 5 - Novi-Fog™ In Fleet Street - Truth Cut Off
April 6 - The Best Explanation For The Skripal Drama Is Still ... Food Poisoning
April 7 - A Very British Farce
April 12 - New Developments In The Skripal Drama - Police Statement, OPCW Report Release

Posted by b on April 15, 2018 at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (82)

April 14, 2018

F.U.K.U.S. Strikes Syria - Who Won?

Last night France, the UK and the U.S. launched an illegal attack on Syria and bombed several military and civilian sites within the country. They justify their attack as revenge or punishment for an alleged 'chemical attack' that had taken place a week earlier.

The 'chemical incident' on April 7 in Douma was designed to reverse Trump's publicly announced decision to order the U.S. military out of Syria. The Saudi financed Salafi 'rebels' in Douma collected bodies, probably from another incident, and stacked them up in one apartment to stage a scene and to create fake videos of a 'chemcial attack' which they falsely attributed to the Syrian government.

Trump pretended to fall for the videos and tweeted threats against Syria and Russia. Russia threatened to respond with strong force should any U.S. attack hurt its soldiers or interests in Syria.

The UK and France, who like the U.S. were only recently visited by the Saudi clown prince and showered with fresh Saudi billions, jumped onto the case. France now admits that its 'intelligence' of the Douma incident is solely based on the obviously staged youtube videos and claims made by 'western' financed propaganda operations who cooperate with the Jihadis.

Yesterday the Russian Defense Ministry accused Britain of having organized the 'chemical incident':

Today, there are other evidences at the disposal of the Russian military department, which testify to the direct participation of Great Britain in organizing this provocation in the Eastern Ghouta.

The Russian party knows for certain that from April 3 to 6, representatives of the so-called White Helmets were influenced by London for the speedy implementation of the provocation prepared in advance.

The White Helmets received information that Jaysh al-Islam militants were to conduct a series of powerful artillery shelling of Damascus on April 3 to 6.

This will promote a response from the government troops, which the White Helmets’ representatives will have to use to carry out provocations with alleged chemical weapons.

The 'White Helmets' are financed by the British government and are led by a 'former' British military intelligence officer. The direct accusations against Britain may have been a factor in the hasty launch of last night's strike. Another was surely the arrival of technicians of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in Damascus. These will today investigate the alleged incident in Douma and will likely find that it did not take place. That the three countries did not even wait for preliminary results from the investigation must be seen as an admission of guilt. They know that the 'chemical attack' did not take place.

The U.S. military was wary of any potential conflict with Russia. Intense negotiations took place over the last week between the Pentagon and the Russian defense ministry. Secretary of Defense Mattis is said to have talked Trump out of a more serious strike. World War III was avoided.

Last night some 107 missiles and cruise missiles were fired against two research sites and eight military airports in Syria by U.S., French and British forces. The Russian and Syrian forces were warned. People and equipment had been moved. The Russian forces did not directly respond as their areas in Syria were not targeted. The Syrian air defense managed to shoot down or divert 71 of the incoming missiles before they reached their target. The Pentagon claims that none of its missiles were destroyed or diverted from its aim. A well known Syrian opposition outlet disagrees with the Pentagon's claim:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights managed to monitored interception by the regime forces to tens of missiles which targeted their positions and military bases in the Syrian territory, where several intersected sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory, that the number missiles that were downed, exceeded 65 missiles ...

A 60 to 70% air defense success rate against incoming missiles is stunning. Most of these will have been killed by the Pantsir-S1 systems Russia supplied to Syria. Every Syrian military airport is now protected by such short range systems and while eight were targeted only one was hit.

One of the targets that were hit was the undefended Barzah Scientific Research Center near Damascus. The Pentagon claims that chemical weapons are made or stored there. That claim is obviously a lie:

  • In 2013 Syrian joined the Chemical Warfare Convention and gave up all its chemical weapons.
  • The OPCW has checked all accessible former chemical weapon sites in Syria and observed the destruction of the production equipment.
  • It has since visited and inspected (pdf) the Barzeh facility at least twice. That last time in November 2017.
  • One does not attack a site with normal bombs if one knows that chemical weapons are stored their. The bombs would distribute the dangerous chemicals and everyone downwind would be seriously affected.
  • After the U.S. strikes people can be seen walking through the fresh ruins. None wear any protection. There surely was nothing 'chemical' there.

The same holds for the Jaramana facility hit by the strikes. The Pentagon's claim that the strikes hit Syrian 'chemical production and storage facilities' is a lie.

No one has been reported killed by the strikes. The Russian Defense Ministry assessment says that three people were injured. Further assessments of the strikes can be found here: 1, 2 and 3.

What will be the consequences of these strikes?

Last weeks push by the media, by interventionists and by neoconservatives for a wider war on Syria (and Russia) has now been calmed down. Even John McCain, who always wants more wars, seems somewhat satisfied.

The President of Russia Vladimir Putin issued a strong statement:

An act of aggression against a sovereign state that is on the frontline in the fight against terrorism was committed without a mandate from the UN Security Council and in violation of the UN Charter and norms and principles of international law.

The Chinese government likewise laments the violation of international law and the UN charter.

In ordering the strike President Trump also broke U.S. law specifically the War Powers Resolution.

A Security Council meeting will take place today but, as the U.S., Britain and France have vetos, will have no consequences.

One issue the U.S. is certainly not happy about is the successful demonstration of the Russian supplied air defenses which was used last night against the U.S. strikes. This announcement from the Russian Defense Ministry statement will create additional headaches:

It is to be stressed that several years ago given the strong request by our western partners, Russia opted out of supplying the S-300 AD systems to Syria. Taking into account the recent incident, Russia believes it possible to reconsider this issue not only regarding Syria but other countries as well.

More countries will now be able to buy and receive state-of-the-art Russian air defense equipment. Future interferences by the U.S. as well as Israeli strikes against Syria will become significantly more risky. When Syrian receives the S-300 systems it will have the reach to detect and attack any Israeli plane flying over Lebanon. Israel has often used Lebanese airspace to attack targets in Syria.  It will soon lose that luxury.

Syria, Iran and Hizbullah all issued statement promising retaliation for the attack. Their responses will likely come on the ground against U.S. targets and assets in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Israel. The Syrian people in Damascus could observe the success of the air defenses and were quite happy with it. They will respond with more support for their government and its plans to liberate all of Syria.

Trump evaded the public pressure created by the fake 'chemical attack' with a more or less symbolic airstrike. He tweeted "Mission Accomplished!" I expect that he will continue to press for an end of U.S. operations in Syria. Whoever instigated the faked attack has won nothing.

Trumps reaction to the incident is also an invitation to Jihadis and those who influence them to repeat such stunts whenever it suits them.

The Pentagon keeps the option open for such further 'chemical attack' stunts and U.S. strikes. It today claimed that Syria still has additional chemical weapon facilities. If this were really the case why isn't the U.S. demanding an inspection and dismantling of these facilities by the OPCW? Syria has signed the Chemical Warfare Convention and would have to accept that.

The obvious U.S. disregard for any international law and for the international organizations like the UN, the OPCW and IAEA will have serious consequences. The U.S. can now surely forget about its desire for an disarmament agreement with North Korea. Russia, China and others will use the example of last night's strikes to disregard international law when it will suit them. There will be no more favors like holding back S-300 systems or adhering to U.S. sanctions against other countries.  

In the end the instigators of the incident, the U.S., and its partners in crime will have hurt themselves more with these strikes than they hurt Syria.

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Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the 'chemical attack' in Douma and its consequences.

April 8 - Syria - Timelines Of 'Gas Attacks' Follow A Similar Scheme (Update II)
April 9 - Syria - Any U.S. Strike Will Lead to Escalation
April 11 - Syria - A U.S. Attack Would Be Futile - But Serve A Purpose - by M. K. Bhadrakumar
April 11 - Trump Asks Russia To Roll Over - It Won't
April 12 - Syria - Threat Of Large War Recedes But May Come Back
April 13 - Syria - Manipulated Videos Fail To Launch World War III - Updated

Posted by b on April 14, 2018 at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (233)

April 13, 2018

Syria - Manipulated Videos Fail To Launch World War III - Updated

[Update April 14, 5:00 UCT]

Last night the U.S., UK and France launched a symbolic attack on Syria. It was not intended to hurt the Syrian government, its people or its allies. It did not hit any of Syria's allies. So far there is no report of anyone being killed or wounded.

This was a one-off:

Mattis [...] said the assault was a “one-time shot,” so long as Assad does not repeat his use of chemical weapons.

The only purpose of the attack was to do 'something' and to somewhat calm down the warmongers within those three 'western' countries. It was probably insufficient for that.

As we wrote yesterday in the piece below. World War III had been called off.

A report from an observer on the ground in Syria:

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 4:22 UTC - 14 Apr 2018

Wow:
#USA #France #UK: 3 countries to bomb 3 #Syria/n objectives in #Homs #Damascus? A centre of research, a Control & command and an ammunition warehouse? And before the OPCW investigation expected today?

A say In ME: Huge mountains moving to give a birth to a small mouse!
-
No "Political hits: (Presidential Palace or gov or security HQ)
No #Iranian objectives hits
No #Hezbollah objectives hit
No Syrian Army key capabilities hit.#
And of course no #Russian deployment w/ #SAA hit
#USA looks weaker than ever with this "strike".
-
The giants trio hit (#USA #UK #France) fired from US base in #Qatar is celebrated in #Damascus government controlled area with #Russian #Iranian #Syrian and #Hezbollah flags, dancing and mocking @realRonaldTrump's strike
-
This is the 1st time in history where a capital, #Damascus, is hit by foreign power and people celebrate it in the street few hours later, challenging the attackers and expressing their solidarity with the government by dancing in the street: #USA #UK #France boosted #Assad today
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#USA #UK #France targeted empty objectives in #Syria since the entire #SAA was dislocated. @realDonaldTrump wanted to save his image: the Syria people's reaction (1000s in the street expressing solidarity with Assad) to the hit is seriously damaging him.

To limit the attack to the absolute minimum was a wise decision by U.S. President Donald Trump. The people who had faked the 'chemical attack' in Douma on April 7 wanted to pull the U.S. into a wider war with Syria and Russia. They failed. Russia's threat of retaliation for any attack was strong enough to deter the U.S. military. Secretary of Defense Mattis saved the situation when he publicly doubted the evidence and held Trump back from a spontaneous 'revenge' response. Netanyahoo will be furious and the neocons will now try to kick Mattis out.

[End-Update - the original post, written before the attack, follows below]

It seems to me that World War III has been called off - for now. Sanity prevailed over a stampede of warmongering which erupted after dubious but well timed claims of a 'chemical attack' in Syria.

Secretary of Defense Mattis let know of his doubts about the alleged 'chemical attack' in Douma which the 'rebels' attributed to the Syrian government. This changed the tone of Donald Trump's tweets and the international conversations on the issue. Several NATO countries, including Germany and Canada, said they would not take part in any threatened 'revenge' operation.

Today the Russian Defense Ministry accused Britain of having directed the staged attack:

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, released statements by medics from Douma’s hospital who said a group of people toting video cameras entered the hospital, shouting that its patients were struck with chemical weapons and causing panic. The medics said none of the patients were hurt by chemicals.

Here are videos of that hospital scenes from the 'rebel' propaganda outlets. The 'treatment' by the 'rebels', dousing with water and administering some asthma spray, is unprofessional and many of the 'patients' seem to have no real problem. It is theater. The real medical personal is seen in the background working on a real patient.

The people in the video scenes were "rent-a-mob" actors which the Russians say they have found. They also found the medics and videotaped their statements. They Russian government claims to know the main culprit:

"Today, the Russian defense ministry has other evidence proving the United Kingdom’s direct involvement in the organization of this provocation in Eastern Ghouta," [Igor Konashenkov, the defense ministry’s spokesman] said.

An OPCW technical team has arrived in Damascus. It will investigate the scene and talk to the witnesses.

Cause of the recent panic were a few videos by several propaganda outlets associated with Takfiri 'rebels' in Ghouta. These videos immediately looked staged to me. Yes, they showed dead people - mainly children - in a basement or apartment. But the bodies were not in the place where they had died and were probably not, as was claimed, killed by chemical weapons.

In the videos some 20 dead children and a few women lie on the floor as if they were thrown in there. The scene was obviously manipulated several times. The various videos show the bodies in different positions. They have been moved around for presentation. Later videos show, for example, a baby in diapers on top of two older kids. In an earlier video that baby is not there.

The 'rebel' claim that the people were killed by chlorine and a nerve agent: "Look, the dead have foam at their mouth." (Foam at the mouth  is wrongly assumed to be a sure symptom of exposure to a nerve agent.)

Yes, they have foam at their mouth. But it seems to be shaving foam and/or some white gel, not a human secretion. We have seen this trick before.

Compare for example this video from the scene uploaded by فادي عبد الله on Apr 7, 2018 at 20:49:26 UTC with this video from the same scene by Yaser AlDoumani2 uploaded on Apr 7, 2018 at 22:43:16 UTC.

A screenshot from the first video (graphic):


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The corridor where the cameraman stands at that moment is filled with dead bodies. The body with the white bonnet on its head lies in a backroom. The detail picture below is turned 180 degree:


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A screenshot from the second video. The body with the white bonnet has been moved from the backroom to the corridor and added to a pile of other bodies.


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Detail of the body with the white bonnet turned 180 degree:


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It is the same body with the same cloth in a different position. It seems obvious that shaving cream or something similar has been added to the body after it was moved. The shaving cream simulates "foaming at the mouth".

Stephen McIntyre found and collected several other discrepancies between the various videos from the scene.

The people shown have died. They probably suffocated after a shelter collapsed as the Syrian Observatory reported on that day. But the videos were likely not made at the scene of that incident. The bodies had been moved and manipulated. There were likely no chemical weapons involved in their death.

It would have made no sense at all for the Syrian government to launch a 'chemical attack' on a nonmilitary target in the Douma situation. Its imminent victory was already guaranteed. The 'rebels' and their supporters had their reasons to fake such an 'attack'. It was an attempt to drag the U.S. into destroying the Syrian government and its army. It nearly succeeded.

The various 'leaks' and media claims around the staged 'attack' have reached comical grounds.

CNN headlined today: Biological samples from Syria attack site test positive for chlorine and nerve agent, official says:

Biological samples from the area of the alleged chemical attack in Syria have tested positive for chlorine and a sarin-like nerve agent, according to a US official familiar with the US analysis of the test results.
...
Medical sources and activists in Syria said blood, urine and hair follicle samples were smuggled in batches to Turkey after rebel groups and their families were pushed out of the area by the Assad regime, CNN reported earlier on Friday.

The sources did not know what happened to the samples after they reached Turkey.

That chain of evidence is joke and the claim is nonsense. There is simply no way to diagnose chlorine exposure in blood, urine or hair samples.

The Center of Disease Control notes of Chlorine exposure:

Laboratory criteria for diagnosis:

Biologic: No biologic marker for chlorine exposure is readily available.
...

Chlorine is highly reactive. When it enters the bloodstream it turns into chloride and associates with sodium and potassium and other basic elements. The natural chloride level in a body is already quite high and changes often. We all eat and naturally dispose of table salt, aka sodium chloride, each and every day. The chloride level in a body can be measured but it is not a criterion for chlorine exposure. The 'official' who made those claims to CNN is lying.

The evidence for a 'chemical attack' in Douma is simply not there. The videos provided by the 'rebel' propaganda outlets are manipulated. Medical personal in Douma dispute their propaganda claims.

Secretary of Defense Mattis spoke out and U.S. allies refused to swallow the faked evidence. Donald Trump pulled back from his earlier aggressive threats. There will likely be no bombing of Syria and in consequence no violent conflict with Russia. 

Trump already began to change the headlines. He just pardoned Dick Cheney's former errant boy Scooter Libby. He is preparing the grounds for pardoning his own staff should they be caught up in the Mueller investigation.

This will give the media enough material to cover throughout the weekend and to forget about attacking Syria.

The staged 'chemical attack' was designed to draw Trump back into the conflict over Syria after he announced that he wants the U.S. military to pull out. Has it changed his mind? Will those who initiated this stunt, probably the Brits, try again?

Will Russia be able to prove its claim of British involvement? If so could it free Yulia Scripal?

Posted by b on April 13, 2018 at 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (388)

April 12, 2018

Syria - Threat Of Large War Recedes But May Come Back

The expected U.S. attack on Syria last night did not happen.

Today U.S President Trump seemed to pull back from his earlier attempt to pressure Russia over a faked chemical incident in Ghouta, Syria:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 10:15 AM UTC - 12 Apr 2018
Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”

Over night high level military and political negotiations between Russia and the U.S. continued with at least some success:

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 12:49 PM UTC - 12 Apr 2018
#BreakingNews
#Russian sources told me: possibility of war on #Syria has gone down from 9 to 5/10. Diplomatic contacts with #USA never stopped. It was acknowledged that the possible war on #Syria serves no purposes but to create a war situation where worse case scenario can happen

A war on Syria has been ongoing for over seven years. It will continue for another two or three years. But Trump's recent threat of a large U.S. air or missile campaign against the country has probably been defused.

Trump is certainly under pressure to attack Syria. U.S. media, the neoconservatives and Zionists are pushing for it. The CBS News graphic department revealed their real aim:


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What made Trump blink? Was it the lack of evidence his Secretary of Defense Mattis acknowledged? Or was it the earlier reluctance of Britain to become a partner in crime? Was it the threat of Russian retribution?

Just now Britain seems to reengage. Prime Minister May called a cabinet meeting to discuss a possible strike on Syria. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn demands a parliament vote on the issue. The British public opposes any missile or airstrikes.

The French poodle Macron claims that he has proof that the Syrian government attacked Douma with chemical weapons. He did not provide any.

Britain, the U.S. and France have recently been visited by the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman. He offered billions of dollars in form of new contracts. Where promises to attack Syria part of those deals?

The only 'proof' for a 'chemical attack' in Douma are dubious videos of stacked bodies, staged pictures with babies added for extra effect. Claims from the White Helmets, a mainly British financed propaganda organization, and by SAMS, the Syrian American Medical Society which is a Muslim Brotherhood outlet financed by the CIA offshoot USAID.

UN personal in Damascus, the Syrian Red Cross, journalists on the ground and Russian military police have checked the place where the incident allegedly happened as well as local hospitals. They found neither casualties nor witnesses confirming such an attack.

The often quoted Syrian Observatory For Human Rights in Britain did not report any casualties of a chemical attack. Its report of the day in question notes of Douma:

21 civilians including 9 children and 3 women were killed as a result of suffocation caused by the shelling which destroyed basements of houses as a result of the violence bombardment

It is possible that the terrorist propaganda made videos of the casualties of this incident to make its 'chemical attack' claims.

The terrorist group Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), which held Douma when the incident happened, received Saudi and British money and in 2016 used chemical weapons and commit war crimes against a Kurdish suburb of Aleppo. Of the 3,000 men, women and children it abducted from Adra in 2013 only 200 survived. It is not beyond them to kill dozens for propaganda purposes.

Why would anyone believe such sources like the terrorists supporting SAMS and White Helmets? Why should the Syrian government uses an illegal weapon in the very moment it is winning the battle and shortly after Trump said that he wants to retreat from Syria? It makes no sense at all. Despite that two U.S. professors, Joshua Landis and J.R. Cole, swallow the propaganda nonsense hook, line and sinker. They sold out. Their job and reputation requires that they stick to the official narrative. Keep that in mind the next time they lecture and lament about the 'corrupt' Middle East.

The Syrian army and Russian forces in Syria had prepared for U.S. missile attacks. Essential equipment was secured and soldiers had left their barracks. They will stay dispersed until the imminent danger is over.

Today the last Jaish al-Islam takfiris left Douma and were transported to the terrorist haven of Idleb governorate. All other 'rebel' groups now sheltered in Idleb hate Jaish and will try to eliminate it. Russian military police deployed in Douma. The Syrian government flag was raised above the suburb. The last important opposition holdout near to Damascus has been eliminated. (While the Islamic State still holds an enclave in the southern Yarmouk quarter of Damascus it is, unlike Jaish, only a small threat and not under foreign control.)

With the end of the resistance in Douma the U.S. and Saudi Arabia lost their capability to directly attack the capitol Damascus with (proxy) boots on the ground. All the 'rebel' terrorists are now in Idleb and fight each other. Neither the U.S. nor Saudi Arabia has enough (proxy) forces left on the ground to defeat the Syrian government. The hullabaloo of the 'chemical attack' expresses their anger about this defeat.

Trump is under pressure to do 'something'. He has only himself to blame. A year ago he said that he wants the U.S. to leave Syria. Soon thereafter a fake chemical incident happened and he was pulled back in. The same thing happened this time after he declared that he wants the U.S. troops to leave. Why wasn't he prepare for the follow up?

Now his earlier blustering and tweets brought him into this unpleasant position. He will have to find an 'action' or deal that is big enough to claim that he did 'something', but small enough to not incite a deadly Russian or Syrian response. He will also have to act within the next 48 hours.

Posted by b on April 12, 2018 at 11:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (260)

New Developments In The Skripal Drama - Police Statement, OPCW Report Release

There are a few notable developments in the Skripal case about the poisoning of a former British secret agent from Russia and his daughter in Salisbury.

(If you are new to the issue please refer to our older pieces listed below. You may want to start with The Best Explanation For The Skripal Drama Is Still ... Food Poisoning.)

On Sunday Yulia Skripal was secretly released from the Salisbury District Hospital but immediately taken into British government custody. She is under guard at an unknown location. Yesterday the Metropolitan Police released a Statement issued on behalf of Yulia Skripal:

"I have specially trained officers available to me, who are helping to take care of me and to explain the investigative processes that are being undertaken. I have access to friends and family, and I have been made aware of my specific contacts at the Russian Embassy who have kindly offered me their assistance in any way they can. At the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services, but, if I change my mind I know how to contact them.
"Most importantly, I am safe and feeling better as time goes by, but I am not yet strong enough to give a full interview to the media, as I one day hope to do. Until that time, I want to stress that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves. I thank my cousin Viktoria for her concern for us, but ask that she does not visit me or try to contact me for the time being. Her opinions and assertions are not mine and they are not my father's.

"For the moment I do not wish to speak to the press or the media, and ask for their understanding and patience whilst I try to come to terms with my current situation."

While written in quotes it is doubtful that Yulia Skripal expressed any of these words. "At the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services" is British bureaucratese, not the wording any Russian (or anyone else) with English as a second language would ever use.

The Russian embassy in Britain seriously doubts that the letter is from Yulia Skripal. It notes that despite the claim that Yulia has "access to friends and family" none of her nearest family members, who are in Russia, was recently contacted by her. It also notes a contradiction:

Particularly amazing is the phrase “no one speaks for me” appearing in a statement which, instead of being read on camera by Yulia herself, is published at Scotland Yard website.

(The embassy also published a refutation of earlier British government accusations.)

In discussing the police statement the former British ambassador Craig Murray suggests that Yulia Skripal Is Plainly Under Duress:

It strikes me as inherently improbable that, when Yulia called her cousin as her first act the very moment she was able, she would now issue a formal statement through Scotland Yard forbidding her cousin to be in touch or visit. I simply do not believe this British Police statement.

---

Today the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) released the summary of a technical finding of the substance that allegedly injured Sergej and Yulia Skripal.

The British state media BBC headlines: Russian spy poisoning: Nerve agent inspectors back UK

The report itself does not holdup to the headline claim:

The international chemical weapons watchdog has confirmed the UK's analysis of the type of nerve agent used in the Russian ex-spy poisoning.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons did not name the nerve agent as Novichok, but said it agreed with the UK's findings on its identity.

The British government accused Russia as having caused the incident with a 'nerve agent'. In no way does the OPCW confirm any of those claims. Its press release only states:

The results of the analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories of environmental and biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury and severely injured three people.

Some unnamed 'toxic chemical' was found by Porton Down and the OPCW confirmed that Porton Down was correct in its chemical analysis.

Neither in its press statement nor in its public Summary Report (pdf) does the OPCW speak of finding a 'nerve agent'. But what is this 'toxic chemical'? Saxitoxin, a natural poison that causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) which would be consistent with the symptoms the Skripals showed shortly after eating a Risotto Pesce with mussels? Or some artificial agent designed as chemical weapon? Neither the OPCW nor Porton Down will say.

The BBC continues:

The OPCW does identify the toxic chemical by its complex formula but only in the classified report that has not been made public.

Early involvement of the OPCW, as demanded by Russia, was resisted by the British government. Only on March 14, ten days after the incident happened and two days after Prime Minister Theresa may had made accusations against Russia, did the British government invite the OPCW. Only on March 19, 15 days after the incident happen did the OPCW technical team arrive and took blood samples.

Nowhere does the OPCW support the British claims of a 'Novichok' nerve agent nor does it support the British accusations made against Russia.

---
Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the Skripal case:

March 8 - Poisioned British-Russian Double-Agent Has Links To Clinton Campaign
March 12 - Theresa May's "45 Minutes" Moment
March 14 - Are 'Novichok' Poisons Real? - May's Claims Fall Apart
March 16 - The British Government's 'Novichok' Drama Was Written By Whom?
March 18 - NHS Doctor: "No Patients Have Experienced Symptoms Of Nerve Agent Poisoning In Salisbury"
March 21 - Russian Scientists Explain 'Novichok' - High Time For Britain To Come Clean (Updated)
March 29 - Last Act Of 'Novichok' Drama Revealed - "The Skripals' Resurrection"
March 31 - Hillary Clinton Ordered Diplomats To Suppress 'Novichok' Discussions
April 3 - Operation Hades Blamed Russia - A Model For The 'Novichok' Claims?
April 4 - It's The Cover-Up" - UK Foreign Office Deletes Tweet, Posts False Transcript, Issues New Lies
April 5 - Novi-Fog™ In Fleet Street - Truth Cut Off
April 6 - The Best Explanation For The Skripal Drama Is Still ... Food Poisoning
April 7 - A Very British Farce

Posted by b on April 12, 2018 at 08:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (96)

April 11, 2018

Trump Asks Russia To Roll Over - It Won't

Donald Trump may perceive these bad cop/good cop tweets as a serious way to negotiate with Russia. They ain't.

Donald J. Trump - @realDonaldTrump - 10:57 AM UTC - 11 Apr 2018
Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!
Donald J. Trump - @realDonaldTrump - 11:37 AM UTC - 11 Apr 2018
Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?

Russia said it would destroy the platforms that launch the missiles, not only the missiles themselves. Did nobody explain the difference to Trump?

There is reason that U.S. relations with Russia are now worse than they have been for some time and Russia is not responsible for these. The GW Bush administration killed the Anti-Ballistic-Missile treaty which guaranteed Mutually Assured Destruction and thus strategic stability. The Obama administration launched a trillion dollar program to ramp up U.S. nuclear capabilities and ballistic missile defense with the aim of achieving superiority in a nuclear conflict.

It is cynical to say that "Russia needs us to help with their economy". The U.S. under Trump is waging economic war on Russia by implementing more and more economic sanctions. The last round on Friday targeted Russian industrialists, many of whom are not even aligned with Putin. Aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, disliked in the Kremlin, lost 15% of his fortune. The Rubel plummeted against the dollar for two days in a row. U.S. Treasury stooges are now traveling in Europe to press European banks to shut down all services for Russian companies.


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(Ironically both economic attack vectors will help Putin's program. Since 2014 Russia has been pressing its oligarchs to repatriate the billions the stashed in 'western' offshore banks. They will now do so out of fear of confiscations. The lower Rubel will increase local production and allow for cheaper exports.)

The U.S. incited Georgia to attack Russia. It 'regime changed' the Ukraine. It attacks Syria, an old Russian ally. Then there are the hoaxes that get attributed to Russia without any evidence. Russia did not influence the U.S. election. It did not poison the Skripals. There was no 'chemical attack' in Douma.

Russia has all kinds of reasons to be hostile to the U.S. but always stays calm and well mannered. It is stupid to mistake that for fear or inferiority. Taunting Russia like Trump now does will only increase its resistance to U.S. moves.

Is Trump trying to make an offer to really help Russia's economy and to stop the arms race?

If Russia would roll over and give up on Syria would Trump really lift the sanctions? Would he really stop the U.S. race for nuclear supremacy? Could he even promise to do such? And why would anyone believe Trump anyway?

Unlike western European countries, Russia is no led by yapping poodles. The Russian government and its people will not roll over. They have historically never done so. President Putin will start his period of governance on May 7 with a war cabinet structured and manned for conflict. He expects a long fight.

Russia will have to respond to any U.S. strike on Syria. It needs to do so to keep face and the faith of its allies. But it also needs to so in a way that avoids further escalation. Something that is very strong, in a different theater and not attributable? Or something that is openly targeting U.S. interests, but not U.S. soldiers, in the Middle East?

It is Israel which is behind the war on Syria and which is pressing for further conflict. There are one million Russians in Israel, many of whom are not even Jewish. Could Russia ask them for help to change the strategic picture? Or should it increase support for those who directly fight the Zionist state?

Posted by b on April 11, 2018 at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (355)

Syria - A U.S. Attack Would Be Futile - But Serve A Purpose

by M. K. Bhadrakumar

The United Nations Security Council turned down a compromise resolution on Syria, proposed by Sweden and seconded by Russia seeking investigation on the alleged chemical attack in Douma. Five countries supported the resolution with two permanent members – United States and Britain – opposing it. Earlier, a resolution on the same lines which was supported by Russia and China was also opposed by the US and Britain.

This is a significant political and diplomatic victory for Russia insofar as only two other countries joined the US and Britain to oppose the Swedish resolution. Six countries abstained.

The big question is whether this development portends an impending US attack on Syria, bypassing the UN. The UN has refused to confirm there has been any attack at all. Russia and Syrian government insist there has been no attack and have approached the Organization for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for an international investigation. The good thing is that the OPCW is deputing two teams of experts to go to Douma later this week. Russia has offered to give them full security protection.

So Trump has a major decision to make. Logically, punishment follows a crime that has been committed and it seems no crime has been committed. This appears to be a false flag operation – that is, a fabrication with a view to trigger a sequence of events. That was how the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and it is an established fact today that Saddam Hussein did not have any program to develop weapons of mass destruction, as then US Secretary of State Colin Power had misled the UN Security Council. (Powell later admitted that he was misled by his own administration.)

One difference in the present case is that Trump has been on record that he wants the American military presence in Syria to end. That stance and the present threat to launch an attack on Syria are contradictory. Because, a US attack on Syria will have serious repercussions, including possibly a showdown with Russia, which would mean a US drawdown in Syria may not be possible in a conceivable future.

Perhaps, Trump is indulging in doublespeak and the backdrop could be the criticality that has arisen over Robert Mueller’s investigation into his collusion with Russia, which has now dramatically expanded in scope. The FBI raid on the office of Trump’s attorney in the White House is a very serious development. Trump is just inches away from being implicated in the charges against him leveled by porn star Stormy Daniels. The CNN says, “There could be dark and unprecedented times ahead.” A US attack on Syria can distract attention from the stormy controversy that may arise if at this point Trump axes Mueller and derails the investigation against him. There are precedents when beleaguered American presidents resorted to diversionary tactic. Bill Clinton fired cruise missiles at Kandahar when the scandal over Monica Lewinsky peaked and he was facing the prospect of impeachment.

A US That brings us back to the alleged chemical attack in Douma last weekend. Who would have staged a false flag operation? The finger of suspicion points toward Israel’s role. Israel is desperately keen that the US should have a permanent military presence in Syria. To that end, Israel is fueling tensions that will take matters to a point that a US withdrawal from Syria somehow gets stalled. This is also the impression conveyed by DebkaFile, the Israeli website with links to the intelligence, which specializes in disinformation tactic.

The coincidental Israeli attack on a Syrian air base on Sunday had all the hallmarks of a deliberate act of provocation. Four Iranian military advisors were killed in the Israeli raid. Israel must be hoping against hope that the Iranians will retaliate, leading to a flare-up where the US would get pitted against Iran at some point. Such subterfuges are typical of Israel’s strategy. The point is, Israelis lacks the capacity on its own to tackle the challenge of the expanding Iranian influence in next-door Syria.

Trump has reportedly cancelled a planned trip to Latin America. The New York Times has reported that Trump is weighing “more robust” military strikes against Syria. No doubt, tensions are rising. To my mind, however, Trump may not order an attack on Syria. Maybe it’s wishful thinking — frankly, I am a man of peace and am terrified of war — but I’ll explain why there is reason to believe still that sanity will ultimately prevail in Washington.

First, a US attack on the Syrian regime at this stage of the 7-year old war doesn’t make sense insofar as it cannot stop President Bashar Al-Assad on his tracks from attaining total victory. Bashar’s victory is a fait accompli. Period. On the other hand, in order for the Syrian regime to be degraded to a point — like in Libya for example — and deposed from power, there has to be a massive western military intervention, including deployment of ground forces in tens of thousands. That seems improbable, given the level of disenchantment in Europe regarding Trump. So, the US has to go alone — at best with the (British) poodle. In such an enterprise, what does US hope to gain? Again, the chaos that follows will be beyond imagination. Indeed, the risk of escalation is exceedingly high and that is not in the interests of Trump’s ‘America First’. By the way, hey, what about the “trade war” with China? What about the meet with Kim Jong Un? What about Afghanistan? What about Yemen? Above all, will another Middle Eastern war go down well in the US opinion? Will the US Congress support an attack on Syria when American interests are not directly facing threat?

Finally, the US cannot afford to overlook the explicit – and repeated – Russian warnings at various levels that an American attack on Syria will have grave consequences. Trump would know Vladimir Putin is “smart” and means business when he says something to the effect that Russia will ensure that what happened in Libya does not repeat. (TASS) However, the Syrian conflict is approaching yet another new flashpoint. Make no mistake, Israel will have to pay a price for the killing of the Iranian 4 military advisors. The powerful Iranian statesman, Ali Akbar Velayati has has explicitly stated as much. Indeed, Israel is going to be in real fix if Trump now decides not to attack Syria.


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M.K. Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings including India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001).

This column was first published at Indian Punchline, Mr. Bhadrakumar's personal blog. It is republish here with his permission.

Posted by b on April 11, 2018 at 02:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (98)

April 10, 2018

Open Thread 2018-16

After last nights maintenance there still appear to be some small problems with the back-end of the blog infrastructure. I currently can not upload pictures and have difficulties editing longer text. The provider is working on these issues.

Use as open thread ..

Posted by b on April 10, 2018 at 01:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (127)

April 09, 2018

Maintenance Announcement - Updated

The provider of the blog platform for Moon of Alabama announced a planned upgrade and maintenance of its systems starting tomorrow at 3:00am UTC. It is not know how long this will take. During the maintenance this site will not be available.

Update (Apr 10 11:30 UTC)

The maintenance is over and everything seems to back up and working. The necessary clean-up of the aftermath is ongoing. There may still be some glitches and small outages over the next few hours.

Posted by b on April 9, 2018 at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Syria - Any U.S. Strike Will Lead to Escalation

Yesterday's alleged 'gas attack' in east Ghouta likely never happened. A video shows a number of presumably dead kids in a basement or dark apartment. Another video shows an undamaged yellow gas cylinder which, we are told, was dropped from some unseen helicopter and crashed through a concrete roof. We do not know when or where these videos were made.


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Besides those videos of murky origin we hear claims from two 'western' paid anti-Syrian propaganda organizations, the White Helmets and SAMS, which claim hundreds were wounded in a chlorine attack.

Interestingly the MI6 outlet in Coventry, the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights (SOHR), does not confirm a 'gas' incident. In its version of events some 40 people died after their shelter collapsed:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a higher death toll, saying at least 80 people were killed in Douma, including around 40 who died from suffocation. But it said the suffocations were the result of shelters collapsing on people inside them.

Main stream media, which have quoted SOHR for years, now ignore it and report of a 'chemical attack' as if it were a proven reality.

All this happens at a moment when the Syrian army is victorious and Trump had just announced that he wants the U.S. to leave Syria. We noted that something similar happened exactly a year ago when similar illogical claims were made:

We are told to believe that each time the U.S. pulls back from the war on Syria the Syrian government is responding with a 'chemical attack' that pulls the U.S. back in.

Hours later the New York Times headlined: As Trump Seeks Way Out of Syria, New Attack Pulls Him Back In.

Over the last month Russia has several times warned that such fake gas attacks were being planned by the so-called 'rebels'. It also warned the U.S. that any strike it might take in 'retaliation' of such a fake attack would endanger Russian troops and installations in Syria. The Russian said they will respond to any severe U.S. attack with a strike against U.S. missile launching platform - be they jets or ships.

Israel immediately tried to further escalate the situation. Last night it hit the T4 airport in Homs with 8 cruise missiles launched from Israeli planes flying over Lebanon. The T4 airport is in the middle of Syria. Some Iranian drones are stationed there next to Syrian planes and helicopters to help in the fight against ISIS in east Syria. The damage was relatively light, but the Israeli strike requires a response. Russia had so far not commented on any Israeli strikes on Syria. This time it was first to condemn the attack. It will no longer hinder Syria or Iran should they decide to launch a counterattack on Israel or its interests.

Douma, where the alleged 'gas attack' happened, is now accessible. The terrorist of Jaish al-Islam are being evacuated to Idleb governorate. Russian military police entered and did not find any indication for the alleged chemical incident. The OPCW or some other organization could investigate the situation. This would as usual take several weeks.

Trump is under pressure from neoconservatives, military hawks ans some allies to do 'something', i.e. to attack Syria, and to do it immediately. Such an attack would likely escalate.

So far Trump sounds uncommitted:

Speaking at a Cabinet meeting, Trump promised a “major decision” over the next 24 and 48 hours and said one may come as soon as the end of the day. The U.S. president was meeting with military advisers Monday evening.

“Nothing is off the table,” he said when asked if U.S. military action was a possibility.

Russian troops in Syria and the Syrian army have raised their alarm levels. Should an attack come they will be ready to respond in kind.

Posted by b on April 9, 2018 at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (242)

April 08, 2018

The MoA Week In Review And Open Thread 2018-15

Last weeks posts:

The false headline is still up.

Our Skripal pieces attracted a large number of readers. Many people seem to distrust the mainstream reporting and came here for an alternative view. Welcome!

The farce continues. As the Skripals are apparently alive and well the British government has a problem. When they talk and tell the world that it was actually food poisoning and not a chemical weapon attack that hit them, the government of Theresa May is toast. The Skripals have to be kept isolated and eventually vanished. The CIA might give them a new identity or lock them into one of its black sites. The Skripals house and the Zizzy restaurant are to be destroyed. (Who will kill the hospital doctors?)

The "doorknob" theory the UK spread to explain the alleged injury of one policeman is so outrageously stupid that many doubt it. To counter the mistrust, HMG comes up with an even more implausible explanation:

Russian agents watched Sergei Skripal for a fortnight and chose to strike on a Sunday morning so no postmen or delivery men would be exposed accidentally to the nerve agent. Any third parties touching the door handle before the Skripals would have required the agents to reapply the gel to the door handle, at the risk of being seen doing so.

Sure, that's why so many neighbors spoke of foreigners milling around in the street for two weeks (not). And its why there was such a large manhunt right after the incident happened (not).

Veterinarians in Salisbury post on Facebook that they had contacted the police several times immediately after they learned that the Skripals were admitted into hospital. They offered to take care of their cats and guinea pigs. The police did not react at all. One cat escaped, the guinea pigs died of thirst and the cat left behind was so starved that it had to be put down.

Use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b on April 8, 2018 at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (108)

Syria - Timelines Of 'Gas Attacks' Follow A Similar Scheme (Update II)

Updated below

An alleged new 'chemical incident' in Syria reminds of a similar series of events we saw last year. We are told to believe that each time the U.S. pulls back from the war on Syria the Syrian government is responding with a 'chemical attack' that pulls the U.S. back in.

March 30 2017
U.S. priority on Syria no longer focused on 'getting Assad out': Haley

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States’ diplomatic policy on Syria for now is no longer focused on making the war-torn country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, leave power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Thursday, in a departure from the Obama administration’s initial and public stance on Assad’s fate.

April 4 2017
Suspected gas attack in Syria reportedly kills dozens

World leaders expressed shock and outrage Tuesday at reports of a suspected chemical attack in northwestern Syria that killed scores of civilians, with one UK official suggesting the incident amounted to a war crime.

April 7 2017
Trump launches attack on Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles

The U.S. military attacked a Syria-government airfield with 59 Tomahawk missiles on Thursday evening.

April 10 2017
US envoy Nikki Haley says Syria regime change is inevitable

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has told CNN that removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power is a priority, cementing an extraordinary U-turn in the Trump administration's stance on the embattled leader.

The Khan Sheikhun incident had been faked. An international investigation found that half of the alleged casualties arrived in hospitals before the incident was said to have happened. Nothing followed after Haley's last announcement. The administration was apparently not willing to go beyond the one-off strike. The flip-flop was attributed to confusion or infighting within the Trump administration.

A year later the exactly same development can be observed.

March 29 2018
Trump says US will withdraw from Syria 'very soon'

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump said Thursday that the US would "be coming out of Syria like very soon," just hours after the Pentagon highlighted the need for US troops to remain in the country for the immediate future. "We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now," Trump told supporters at an Ohio event on infrastructure.

April 7 2018
Syria poison gas attack kills at least 40, activists and medics say

A poison gas attack late Saturday on a rebel-held town near Syria's capital has killed at least 40 people, activists, rescuers and medics said.

April 7 2018
U.S. State Department On the Chemical Attack in Douma

We continue to closely follow disturbing reports on April 7 regarding another alleged chemical weapons attack, this time targeting a hospital in Douma, Syria. Reports from a number of contacts and medical personnel on the ground indicate a potentially high number of casualties, including among families hiding in shelters. These reports, if confirmed, are horrifying and demand an immediate response by the international community.

April 8 2018
Donald J. Trump

Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price...
....to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!

...


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Over the last months the Syrian army secured 90% of 'rebel' enclave in east-Ghouta right next to  the Syrian capital Damascus. Only the town of Douma, held by the Saudi financed Salafist Takfiris of Jaish al-Isalm, was left in enemy hands. Negotiations about an evacuation of the terrorist were ongoing. At one point last week the hard core leaders of Jaish al-Islam pulled their negotiators back from the talks and reportedly executed them. Jaish al-Islam wanted to essentially stay in place and keep all its weapons. The Russian negotiators did not agree with this. On Friday the negotiations failed.

Barrages of missiles and grenades from Douma hit Damascus. The 'rebel' supporting Syrian Observatory reported of several killed in Damascus and dozens of wounded. The Syrian army hit back with intensive air strikes and artillery fire on Douma.

The terrorist in Douma hold several thousand of hostages who were abducted in 2013 from the town of Adra. The prisoners were paraded around in cages. The abducted men were forced to dig the extensive tunnel network Jaish al-Isalm uses to hide its weapons and fighters.

Two years ago Jaish al-Islam admitted that it used chemical weapons against a Kurdish suburb of Aleppo. Just two days ago the Russian military command said that it detected 'rebel' preparations for new false flag gas attacks.

Now the terrorists and their supporters claim that a new "chemical weapon attack" happened and blame the Syrian government. A video of the alleged gas attack aftermath shows a basement with some 30 dead children between two and 10 years old. They seem to have suffocated, probably from carbon monoxyd. Astonishingly there are no dead women or men - only children under 10.

Russia, which has observers on the ground, rejects any claims of Syrian government involvement in the incident.

It is quite obvious that the "chemical weapon attack" is a false flag event. The terrorist commit the crime and blame the Syrian government. They want the U.S. to attack the Syrian government.

Will Trump fall for this stunt and attack Syria? Or had he and his minions planned this series of events all along?

Added:

Trump and the U.S. military claim to "fight ISIS" but have completely stopped doing so. There are some 3,000 ISIS fighter in east Syria near the border with Iraq. Most of these are north of the Euphrates where U.S. troops are stationed. If Syrian government troops cross the Euphrates northwards the U.S. attacks them. But ISIS can cross the Euphrates southward and launches large attacks on Syrian government positions in east Syria:

[I]n a surprise attack, the militants stormed Boukamal on Monday, triggering heavy fighting before Iranian-backed Shiite militias beat them out, according to a war monitoring group and Syrian opposition activists with connections to the region. Approximately 400 Islamic State fighters crossed the Euphrates River and ambushed the town, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, killed 11 pro-government fighters in clashes, and losing five of their own.

From their desert territory, the ISIS militants have harassed forces at oil stations, as well, according to Mohammad al-Ayed, director of the Palmyra News Network.

Another group of ISIS fighters is in the south-eastern corner of Syria and under protection of U.S. forces stationed in al-Tanf, near Jordan.

Despite large concentrations of ISIS troops, air attacks of the U.S. coalition against ISIS have practically stopped.

US led Coalition strikes update

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Trump is playing theater to the crowd that wants the U.S. out of Syria. He claims that U.S. troops will leave soon. At the same time he is asking the Saudis to come up with $5 billion to pay for the U.S. 'service' of occupying a third country. Trump claims that he wants to eliminate ISIS, but the U.S. military is doing absolutely nothing to achieve such. On the contrary - it protects ISIS from Syrian government attacks.

Russia has troops embedded with every Syrian unit. Russia had warned that it will attack U.S. launching platforms, ships and air planes, should the U.S. strike at Syrian forces and thereby endanger its own soldiers.

Is Trump really willing to escalate towards that?

Update II

Elijah J. Magnier, currently in Syria, relates information about the attack on the T4 airbase in Syria a few hours ago:

  • 8 missiles launched against the T4 could be #Israeli attack. Jet heard over the Lebanese city of Baalbek. #Damascus said the missiles came from the south. Syrian air defence managed to intercept 3 missiles. #ISIS advanced towards Sabaa-Byar simultaneously with the missile attack.
  • The information coming from #Syria T4 military base report at least 6 killed and 12 wounded by the 8 #Tomahawk missiles launched in the last hours.
  • The T4 military airport is situated in the heart of al-Badiya and serves to deal mainly with #ISIS pocket
  • In my [April 1] article I said Israel won't accept the ROE despite #Israel Chief of State - I would say tactical - denial: Israel won’t leave the Syrian sky alone and Damascus is ready for confrontation
  • The number/type of missiles launched against the military airport called T4 situated in rural #Homs and the count of casualties need to be confirmed. In few hours, #Damascus will issue a communiqué offering its version in details.
  • Many #Syrians celebrate #Israel attack against their own country. This is what #Assad #Iran and #Hezbollah are mainly fighting along with takfiree.
  • T4 military airport supports Deir-Ezzour & al-Badiyah battle against #ISIS. It is unrelated to "#Hezbollah supply of weapons". The attack is directly related to #Israel unwilling to see the end of the war in #Syria. Israel supports Jihadists in the south.
  • Because #USA #UK #France can't look weak and not bomb the #Syrian army in response to the "chemical attack" claim/staged in #Ghouta... Because #Russia can't look weak and not respond... Maybe the T4 #Isrtaeli attack is a compromise to halt a wider war?

Posted by b on April 8, 2018 at 06:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (193)

April 07, 2018

A Very British Farce

Mark J. Doran wrote this very British farce. (Publish here with his permission.)

SERGEI: I'm not dead!
MORTICIAN: What?
CUSTOMER: Nothing - here's your ninepence.
SERGEI: I'm not dead!
MORTICIAN: Here - he says he's not dead!
CUSTOMER: Yes, he is. The 'Times' said so. March 12th. Front page. Trust me: he's dead.
SERGEI: I'm not!
MORTICIAN: He isn't.
CUSTOMER: Well, he will be soon. It was a Novichok nerve agent. There's no treatment, and no recovery is possible.
SERGEI: It was just the prawns, that's all! I'm getting better!
CUSTOMER: No, you are not. It was 'military grade', 8 times stronger than VX. You were dead in seconds.
MORTICIAN: Oh, I can't take him like that - it's against regulations.
SERGEI: How's my daughter? And what about my pets?
CUSTOMER: Oh, don't be such a baby.
MORTICIAN: I can't take him ...
SERGEI: I feel fine! I want to go back to Russia!
CUSTOMER: Oh, do us a favor ...
MORTICIAN: I can't.
CUSTOMER: Well, can you hang around a couple of minutes? He won't be long. We've someone coming over ...
MORTICIAN: I think I'll write a letter to the 'Times'.
CUSTOMER: No you bloody won't. Look at the trouble the last one caused.

b adds:

Yes, the scene is somewhat familiar.

 

 

Thank god that the 'morticians' at the Salisbury District Hospital were less bribable than Monty Python's medieval undertaker.

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Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the Skripal case:

March 8 - Poisioned British-Russian Double-Agent Has Links To Clinton Campaign
March 12 - Theresa May's "45 Minutes" Moment
March 14 - Are 'Novichok' Poisons Real? - May's Claims Fall Apart
March 16 - The British Government's 'Novichok' Drama Was Written By Whom?
March 18 - NHS Doctor: "No Patients Have Experienced Symptoms Of Nerve Agent Poisoning In Salisbury"
March 21 - Russian Scientists Explain 'Novichok' - High Time For Britain To Come Clean (Updated)
March 29 - Last Act Of 'Novichok' Drama Revealed - "The Skripals' Resurrection"
March 31 - Hillary Clinton Ordered Diplomats To Suppress 'Novichok' Discussions
April 3 - Operation Hades Blamed Russia - A Model For The 'Novichok' Claims?
April 4 - It's The Cover-Up" - UK Foreign Office Deletes Tweet, Posts False Transcript, Issues New Lies
April 5 - Novi-Fog™ In Fleet Street - Truth Cut Off
April 6 - The Best Explanation For The Skripal Drama Is Still ... Food Poisoning

 

Posted by b on April 7, 2018 at 08:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (109)

April 06, 2018

The Best Explanation For The Skripal Drama Is Still ... Food Poisoning

Doctors at the Salisbury District Hospital announced today that Sergej Skripal's health is rapidly improving. He and his daughter Yulia will likely be well again.

It is unlikely that any targeted poisoning with a real 'military grade' nerve agent would have allowed for such an outcome. This brings us back to food poisoning as a possible cause of the Skripals' ordeal.

A friend of this blog, Tore, sent us his considerations which we publish below. He suggest that shellfish poisoning, which is caused by a neurotoxin known as Saxitoxin or STX, is the real culprit of the Skripal incident. He explains how this would fit to the observable behavior of the British government and other participants in the drama. In my view his theory has significant merit.   

On Wednesday the niece of Sergej Skripal, Viktoria Skripal, received a phone call from Yulia Skripal. She was interviewed by a Russian TV station and suggested that food poisoning might have been the real cause of the calamities her relatives were in:

“Did they eat a dish that one cannot eat, or is it banned in England?

"The first signs when they were found were very similar to fish poisoning.”

Victoria intended to visit the UK and to bring Yulia back home to Moscow. The United Kingdom just rejected Victoria Skripal's visa application because she "did not comply with the immigration rules." No further explanation was given.

For those who have not read our previous posts on the issue we offer a short recap of the case. Regular readers may want to scroll down to Tore's part.

Sergej and Yulia Skripal were found on a public bench in Salisbury at about 4pm on March 4. They had collapsed, were conscienceless and were brought into emergency care at the Salisbury District Hospital. Local media wrote of a potential Fentanyl overdose.

Half an hour before the Skripal's collapsed they had eaten at Zizzi, a seafood and pizza outlet.

Over the next days the British government started to make a fuzz about the case. Sergej Skripal was a British spy who had been caught in Russia, put into jail and, in 2010, exchanged for Russian spies. The British government hinted of Russian involvement in the Salisbury incident.

But that story smelled fishy from its very beginning. To target an exchanged spy would guarantee that no further exchanges would ever happen. Sergej Skripal had links to the "dirty dossier" about Donald Trump that was created for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Russia had no good motive, others potentially had one. If there was something nefarious going on it seemed unlikely that Russia was involved.

I now believe that the British government jumped onto the case because it needed to divert attention from the seriously bad results of the Brexit negotiations in Brussels. There are local elections coming up in May and Theresa May's Tory party was lagging in the polls. (There may have been additional reasons related to a planed 'chemical weapon' surprise in the east-Ghouta campaign in Syria.)

Whatever it was - the spin-masters in Downing Street 10 saw a chance to convert the poisoning of the Skripals into something big that would help their political aims. The general push was to blame Russia. The idea to speak of the fearsome nerve-agent 'Novichok' came from a spy drama that had just run on British TV.

On March 12 the British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke in Parliament and claimed that the Skripals were 'attacked' with 'Novichok', a "military grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia". It was her "45 minutes" moment. Russia was declared guilty without any evidence. Britain and other NATO countries expelled Russian diplomats.

'Novichok' is a name for a group of chemicals that are indeed deadly. But Russia never had a 'Novichok' program. It had worked on a different class of chemicals than the ones described in Vil Mirzayanov's 'Novichok' book. Moreover, if 'Novichok' chemicals were involved than Russia was only one of many suspect. The formulas for 'Novichoks' are known, various military laboratories have made some and any decent organic chemistry laboratory can create them too. The U.S., which had produced some of the 'Novichok' agents for itself, had long told its diplomats to avoid any discussions about them.

The first serious unraveling of the dubious case came on March 18 when a doctor at the Salisbury District Hospital publicly denied that any of its patients had been hurt by a nerve agent. We wrote at that time:

Commentator Noirette had suggested here that the Skripal case was about food poisoning or a food allergy, not nerve agents. The Skripals had visited a fish restaurant one hour before they were found. The letter points into a similar direction. Food poisoning would also explain why a doctor who gave emergency help to the unconscious Yulia Skripal for over 30 minutes was not effected at all.

To my best knowledge none of the main stream media picked up on the doctor's letter.

Then a miracle happened. On March 29, just in time for the Roman Christian Easter, the doctors in Salisbury said that Yulia Skripal was no longer in a critical condition. We headline: Last Act Of 'Novichok' Drama Revealed - "The Skripals' Resurrection":

It seems that the 'Novichok' fairy-tale the British government plays to us provides for a happy ending - the astonishing and mysterious resurrection of the victims of a "military grade" "five to eight times more deadly than VX gas" "nerve agent" "of a type developed by" Hollywood.

Happy Easter!

The alleged nerve agent should have killed anyone who came even into slight contact with it. Survival did not fit to the earlier claims by the British government.

Now, just in time for the Orthodox Christian Easter, the condition of Sergej Skripal is reported to be rapidly improving. Another Resurrection! Hallelujah!

In my view all the stories we were told about 'Novichok', the 'doorknob' or a 'Russian attack' are fairy tales. They simply do not make sense.

Commentators of this blog, Noirette, TomGard and others, had discussed several theories of food poisoning. Food poisoning makes sense but none of the ones discussed here fitted the picture of the case. Last week Tore, a friend of this blog from Norway, sent me his theory which makes eminent sense to me.

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Tore writes:

Craig Murray's described the pressure on Porton Down to establish that a nerve agent was used in the alleged Skripal attack. I use 'alleged attack', because there is a fair chance that this was no attack, only a serious food poisoning from the very start.

The Skripals had a seafood risotto pesce with king prawns, mussels and squid rings at Zizzi, as reported here in the Daily Mail on March 6.

This is a dish with a well known reputation as a source of shellfish poisoning.

The Skripals were okay when they arrived, okay when they left, and passed out 40 minutes later on the bench with symptoms similar to a paralytic reaction from shellfish poisoning (PSP):

Symptoms of PSP could begin within a few minutes and up to 10 hours after consumption.

Symptoms of PSP can include:
...
...
Respiratory difficulty, salivation, temporary blindness, nausea and vomiting may also occur.

In extreme cases, paralysis of respiratory muscles may lead to respiratory arrest and death within two to twelve hours after consumption. Seriously affected people must be hospitalized and placed under respiratory care.

Another official PSP Fact Sheet (pdf) provides:

What is the treatment?

Unfortunately, there is no antidote for PSP toxins; however, supportive medical care can be life saving. For example, persons whose breathing muscles become paralyzed can be put on a mechanical respirator and given oxygen to help them breath, and people who develop a cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) can be given medications to stabilize their heart rhythm.

The similarity with symptoms and effect derived from a nerve agent are striking, but no surprise:

In fact the substance at work in a case of paralytic seafood poison is a neurotoxin called Saxitoxin (STX) which is among the most potent poisons found in nature. It works the same way as a nerve agent: It acts on the neurons, preventing normal cellular function and leading to paralysis and in worst case death. In fact Saxitoxin is so potent that it was weaponized by the U.S. and used as a chemical weapon - a nerve agent.

The U.S. developed Saxitoxin into a chemical weapon in the 1960s. The U.S. military designation is TZ. It was also used by the CIA for covert operations and liquidations as evidenced by the Church commission - see: Excerpts of CIA inventory 1, 2.

Serotoxin is registered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as evidenced in the Wikipedia article Saxitoxin. The agent stays active even after boiling or steaming.

Now back to Porton Down and the pressure to come up with the 'traces of a nerve agent'. The Saxitoxin could obviously pass as a nerve agent, because it is a nerve agent - but without mention of its origin - the food poisoning.

The nerve agent claim was released by police on March 7, three days after the incident.

According to the Daily Mail article mentioned above, the hospital alarmed the police the day after, on March 5, when the staff became aware of Skripal's 'spy credentials', probably through BBC which first brought the news. This means Porton Down at the most had two days from first tests to the conclusion 'nerve agent' announced on the 7th.

This also implies that the hospital probably treated the Skripals for a food poisoning from the start, until they became aware of Skripals credentials the day after. This fits with the letter to the Times from Stephen Davies, the hospital doctor.

(The timeline used above is from the Associated Press' Key moments in the case of former spy Sergei Skripal.)

The media storm had been going on for a week when Theresa May on March 12 entered parliament and announced the 'Novichok'. The blame had been on Russia from the first moment.

Speculation:

Now suppose the government in the meantime had become aware they had a weak case from the start - because they had rushed Porton Down to a premature conclusion?

There would be no way back for May. The die had been cast. The government had walked out on a limb from the start, now they had to continue the theater by naming the agent.

No nerve agent would suit their narrative better than 'Novichok'. Developed in USSR, a substance with some foggy features and many variants - as opposed to other more well known agents with distinct features. And most important an agent that is not listed in OPCW and which was deliberately chosen to confuse. [b adds: 'Novichok' was also known to the British and U.S. public as a 'fearsome Russian agent'  through a current spy drama on TV. It increased the propaganda value.]

The initial reluctance to involve the OPCW also fits into this picture: the decision to involve OPCW came after May had landed the Novichok claim in parliament on March 12.

The day before, on March 11, police found traces of a nerve agent in the Zizzi restaurant.


Note that the police inside is unprotected - bigger

Did they find the mussel in the risotto? Or 'Novichok'?

More than three weeks into the investigation this is, as far as I know, the only confirmed police find of traces of the nerve agent. Zizzi fits in perfectly as the origin of the poisoning considering the 40 minutes it took before the Skripals passed out on the bench. Though I wonder how a "military grade nerve agent", destined to kill instantly on the battlefield, took that long to incapacitate the Skripals.

I am no doctor, nor a specialist in chemistry - only a retired journalist working with open sources. There are so many curiosities with this case, so many speculations, ...

Here in Norway we have an expression called blodtåke - best translated as blood fog - when all the media are rushing blindly in one direction, without asking the most elementary questions.

After I wrote this they found 'Novichok' on the door of the Skripals' home, which makes it even more unlikely, considering the time frame.

Did they have to divert attention from the restaurant as origin of the poisoning?

There are of course some holes in the above - just regard this as an idea to go along the line of food poisoning.

End of Tore's deliberations.
---

b here:

Tore's theory of food poisoning with Saxitoxin makes sense. It is a fitting explanation for what happened in Salisbury and for the murky tale the British government tries to sell.

(update)

Commenters noted that the theory does not immediately explain what happened to Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was also treated in the hospital but less severely effected than the Skripals. Off-Guardian noted on March 23:

It was announced today that Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey – allegedly the third victim of the alleged “nerve agent” poisoning in Salisbury, UK – has been released from hospital.

Bailey did not speak to the press, and no photographs or film of him leaving the premises and going home have yet emerged.
...
Where Bailey was poisoned, and how he was poisoned is still not clear – which is puzzling of itself. Was it while attending the Skripals as a first-responder, as claimed by Theresa May (improbable on the face of it, since CID officers in Britain do not act as first-responders). Or did he, on the contrary,“have no direct contact with the Skripals”, as put out by the Daily Mail? Was he poisoned while searching the Skripals home? Or was it somewhere else entirely?

And why did he become poisoned when no one else at the scene, and indeed no one else anywhere in Salisbury fell ill, or even showed signs of contamination in their bloodwork?

If Bailey was on the scene on Sunday afternoon, it was likely not because he was on duty, but because he happened to be in the area. Did he have a private lunch? At Zizzi's?  With mussels? We do not know and the government won't say.

(end update)

One of these days the Skripals, Nick Bailey, the doctors at the hospital, or some of the people at Porton Down will talk and let us know the truth.

The Zizzi website says that the restaurant in Salisbury is still - four and a half weeks after the incident - "temporarily closed". If it served healthy food and the Skripals were really poisoned by touching a doorknob at their home why would that still be the case?

But do not take off your tinfoil hat just yet.

If Saxitoxin was the cause of the Skirpals' illness, the story has still potential for a decent spy drama. Was the poison in the mussels Zizzi's served of natural occurrence, or had someone at the CIA rummaged through its old inventory? Who applied the dosage?

In another message Tore notes that there is a foreign member in the British Joint Intelligence Commission which advises Downing Street:

Ever since World War II, the chief of the London station of the United States Central Intelligence Agency has attended the JIC's weekly meetings.

These connections might yet bring us back to Skripal's participation in the 'dirty dossier' about Trump which MI6 agent Chris Steele prepared for the Hillary Clinton campaign. The U.S. and the British intelligence services under Clapper and Brennan waged a war against then candidate Donald Trump. They did not want him to win the election under any circumstance. Were the Skripals late casualties of this fight?

But no. I would not trust that story any more than I trust the British government's current tale.

Another possible explanation, more likely that the election manipulation mentioned above, is a false flag incident solely created to incriminate Russia. It would be a reproduction of the 1994 Operation Hades, a highly propagandized case made up by the German spy service BND to incriminated Russia with a (faked) plutonium smuggling case.

Then again - if it looks like food poisoning, Occam's razor says, it might just be that - food poisoning.

The Skripals' beloved animals though, were admittedly killed by the British government. The Skripal's should sue the responsible persons to hell for committing this murder and for lying about its circumstances.

---
Previous Moon of Alabama reports on the Skripal case:

March 8 - Poisioned British-Russian Double-Agent Has Links To Clinton Campaign
March 12 - Theresa May's "45 Minutes" Moment
March 14 - Are 'Novichok' Poisons Real? - May's Claims Fall Apart
March 16 - The British Government's 'Novichok' Drama Was Written By Whom?
March 18 - NHS Doctor: "No Patients Have Experienced Symptoms Of Nerve Agent Poisoning In Salisbury"
March 21 - Russian Scientists Explain 'Novichok' - High Time For Britain To Come Clean (Updated)
March 29 - Last Act Of 'Novichok' Drama Revealed - "The Skripals' Resurrection"
March 31 - Hillary Clinton Ordered Diplomats To Suppress 'Novichok' Discussions
April 3 - Operation Hades Blamed Russia - A Model For The 'Novichok' Claims?
April 4 - It's The Cover-Up" - UK Foreign Office Deletes Tweet, Posts False Transcript, Issues New Lies
April 5 - Novi-Fog™ In Fleet Street - Truth Cut Off

Posted by b on April 6, 2018 at 04:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (180)

April 05, 2018

Novi-Fog™ In Fleet Street - Truth Cut Off

Having been caught lying and covering up its lies about the Salisbury incident, Theresa May's government peddles new unbelievable stories to the press. This may divert the immediate attention but time is not on her side. The story will further unravel. What else can she do?

The British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson decide to attack opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn:


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A pity endeavor. It were the lies of Theresa May and Boris Johnson which convinced the other countries, not any factual evidence:

BERLIN (Reuters) - Britain needs to show proof that Russia was behind last month’s poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in England, the German government’s coordinator for Russia said on Thursday.

Gernot Erler said pressure was rising on Prime Minister Theresa May’s government after Britain’s military research centre, at Porton Down, said on Tuesday it could not say yet whether the nerve agent used in the attack had been produced in Russia.

That contradicts what we had previously heard from British politicians and will certainly raise the pressure on Britain to show further proof that the traces plausibly point to Moscow,” Erler told German broadcaster ARD.

Armin Laschet, head of Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia and an ally of Merkel, also questioned (German) the British behavior (my translation):

If you force almost all NATO allies to solidarity, should you not have assured evidence? You can stand towards Russia however you like, but in my the studies of international law I learned of other ways of dealing with states.

Myth has it that a British paper once printed the headline "Fog in Channel - Continent cut off". That British view put the self-importance of the island above anything else. Throwing Novi-Fog™ at the Skripal affair will indeed cut off the continent. It will leave the British government isolated from any support.

The international loss of trust for the British claims is serious. Unless the UK government comes up with a very plausible story with some real evidence behind it no serious European official will lend it any further support.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who's skepticism convinced 165 countries to not fall for Boris Johnson's lies, says that Johnson has to answer "serious questions".

The spin-masters of the May government throw more Novi-Fog™ into Fleet Street to prevent that.

Operation 'Save Boris' feeds new sensational but implausible stories to the papers. It claims that top secret intelligence, which can not even be shown to the opposition leader, proves that Russia tested how to smear nerve agents onto doorknobs:

Police said last week they believed Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned at home in Salisbury via their front door.

Now agents have confirmed that Putin's scientists carried out experiments looking at its effectiveness on door handles before the March 3[sic!] attack.

A security source told the Daily Mail: "We have intelligence that goes beyond Russia made Novichok and stockpiled it.

"We have evidence that they also explored using it as an assassination weapon including on areas such as door handles and everyday objects."

"Putin's scientists" experimented and found that

  • two persons leaving a home will both touch the exterior doorknob and
  • reliably infect themselves with a
  • rain-resistant, sticky "military grade" nerve agent which
  • several hours later has
  • a similar sudden effect on a 33 year old healthy women and a 66 year old man with serious diabetes.

That indeed sounds quite plausible to me (not).

More Novi-Fog™:


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The Times was told that the spies found the source of the nerve agent. But the front-page piece is extremely vague and makes little sense:

There are two different sources in the above: 1. "Security services" which say they know the source but neither name it, nor pin its location to Russia and 2. a Whitehall spin-master who points to Russia.

Some photo editor made sense of what the "security services" said and introduced the Times piece with a picture of a likely source:


via D'Aramitz - bigger

Behind the wall of Novi-Fog™ the outrageous claims the government earlier made about the case get pushed down the memory hole.

Meanwhile Victoria Skripal, a cousin of Yulia Skripal, claims to have been called by Yulia and told that everything is fine. In response(?) the Metropolitan Police claims to have a statement from Yulia in which she also says that everything is fine. Neither claim is verifiable and both might well be false.

Theresa May's government is in serious trouble. It tries to spin its way out of its lies. But the time is working against it. The fog will rise:

  • The OPCW investigation, to which Russia was denied access, will not help May to make a case against Russia. In the best case for May it will come up with a similar result as Porton Down. It might say that some nerve agent was used on the Skripals but that it is impossible to pin it to a source. It might say that it can not identify the nerve agent at all. It may find nothing.
  • Yulia Skripal will have to be released from hospital and is likely to fly home to Russia. She will talk. She is unlikely to know anything that could help May, but might well say something that lets the whole story fall apart. She will have to watch her back.
  • Britain's allies are miffed. They have been lied to and damaged their relations with Russia for no good reason. The Brexit negotiations will become more difficult as Brussels has lost trust in any British claim or commitment.
  • Russia will continue to attack May while she has lost the protection from her allies.
  • The upcoming local elections could well go against the Tories. In 2004 the Spanish Prime Minister Aznar blamed the Basque ETA for the Madrid train bombing. When that was exposed as a lie he lost his lead in the polls, the election and his job. When the Skripal case broke and was pinned to Russia the Tories rose in the polls. But the fall after the exposure of the lies will probably be of equal size.

What will the British government do to get out of this dilemma?

---
Previous Moon of Alabama reports on the Skripal case:

Posted by b on April 5, 2018 at 03:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (158)

April 04, 2018

"It's The Cover-Up" - UK Foreign Office Deletes Tweet, Posts False Transcript, Issues New Lies

It's Not The Crime, It's The Cover-Up:

When a scandal breaks, the discovery of an attempt to cover up is often regarded as even more reprehensible than the original deeds.

The British government is trying to cover-up the lies it made with its false allegations against Russia. The cover-up necessitates new lies some of which we expose below.

Yesterday the head of the British chemical weapon laboratory in Porton Down stated that the laboratory can not establish that the poison used in the alleged 'Novichok' attack in Salisbury was produced by Russia. This was a severe blow to the British government allegations of Russian involvement in the poisoning of Sergej and Yulia Skripal.

Now the British government tries to hide that it said that the poison used in the Salisbury was 'produced in Russia' and that Porton down had proved that to be the case. The government aligned media are helping to stuff the government lies down the memory hole.

We all need to make sure that the new lies get exposed and that the attempts to change the record fail.

Yesterday the British Foreign Office deleted this from its Twitter account:


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The March 22 tweet was part of a now interrupted thread which summarized a briefing on the UK government's response to the Salisbury incident given by the British Ambassador to Russia, Dr Laurie Bristow, to the international diplomatic community in Moscow.

After the silent scrubbing of the record was publicly questioned the Foreign Office admitted that it deleted the tweet:

After it emerged on Wednesday that the tweet had been deleted, the Foreign Office said the post was removed because it "did not accurately report" the words of Laurie Bristow, the UK's ambassador to Russia, which the tweet was supposed to be quoting.

Hmm - fool me once ...

All the tweets in the thread used quotation marks, but none was a literal reproduction of the ambassador's briefing. Only one of the tweets was deleted.  A look at the transcript and video of the briefing shows that all the tweets, including the deleted one, "accurately reported" the speech. The cover-up of the false statement the ambassador made thus includes at least one new lie.

The original tweet said "Analysis by world-leading experts at the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down made clear that this was a military-grade Novichok nerve agent produced in Russia. .."

The transcript of the briefing in Moscow - "exactly as it was delivered" - is (still) available at the Foreign Office website.


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The ambassador, reading from a prepared script, recapitulates the event and, according to the posted transcript, then says:

Four days later the analysts at Porton Down, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in the UK, established and made clear that this was a military-grade chemical weapon. One of the Novichok series; a nerve agent as I said produced in Russia. Porton Down is an Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons accredited and designated laboratory.
..
First, there is no doubt that the weapon used in the attack was the military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok series. This has been confirmed by specialists, our specialists. An Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons mission is in the UK now to independently confirm this analysis.

There is also no doubt that Novichok was produced in Russia by the Russian state.

The last line in the -"exactly as it was delivered" - transcript is false. Here is my transcription from a short Foreign Office video of the briefing (saved copy) which includes the uncut passage of the last two paragraphs quoted above:

... there is no doubt that the weapon used in the attack was the military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok series. This has been confirmed by specialists, our specialists. On Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons mission is in the UK now to independently confirm this analysis.

There is also no doubt that the Novichok was produced in Russia by the Russian state.

The written "exactly as it was delivered" transcript of the briefing says "... that Novichok was produced ...". At 0:20 in the video I clearly hear the ambassador saying "... that the Novichok was produced ...". A tiny but very important difference.

The person who put the official captions on the official Foreign Office video agrees with what I hear and transcribed.


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The ambassador referred to "the Novichok", the Novichok he specifically mentioned earlier in the speech. The Novichok that he said had been detected by Porton Down. The transcript on the Foreign Office website leaves out the definite article "the". It makes it look as if the ambassador referred to some unspecified batch of the substance.

The deleted tweet was a faithful rendition of what the ambassador said, it "accurately reported" it. The transcript the Foreign office posted on its website is false. The ambassador clearly accused Russia of having produced the very batch that Porton Down analyzed.

Three days earlier Bristow's boss, Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, made the same false claim (vid at 5:32) in an interview with DW.

Porton Down has now said that it made no such claim. The ambassador's claim was false. The Foreign Office attempt to cover this up by deleting its tweet and by posting a not-so-exact transcript only amplifies the falsehood of the original claims.

The briefing continued to emphasize the "produced in Russia" meme. The phrase occurs four times.

...
Russia’s claims that Novichok could have been produced elsewhere have no credibility. We have no information to indicate that this agent could have been produced anywhere else except in Russia. So we have no doubt that the nerve agent was produced in Russia.
...
So the fact that the Novichok was produced in Russia, the fact that Russia has a history of state-sponsored assassinations, and the fact that Russia has responded with the usual playbook of disinformation and denial left us with no choice but to conclude that this amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.

The Foreign Office may want to claim that all the above uses of "produced in Russia" were only references to decades old research and development in the Soviet Union, not to the "Skripal" case. The highlighted details shows that this is not the case. Any listener to the briefing surely got the impression that the UK ambassador was talking about the specific batch analysed by Porton Down.

It highlighted paragraph of Ambassador Bristow's briefing includes several other lies. 'Novichok' agents can and have been produced in other countries than Russia.

In 2016 five nerve agents of the 'Novichok' series were synthesized by Iranian scientists in cooperation with the OPCW. Details of their production process were published. In 1998 the US Army’s Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center produced and catalogued 'Novichok' agents. It added the data for the substances to the National Institute of Standards and Technology Mass Spectral Library. The data was later removed and U.S. diplomats were ordered to suppress all international discussion about 'Novichok' agents.

The U.S. military chemical weapon laboratories work in close cooperation with Porton Down. Porton Down continues to receive tens of millions of U.S. military research money for its chemical weapon experiments including tests on animals. The UK government surely knew that 'Novichok' agents can and have been produced by other actors than Russia.

British and U.S. media aligned with the ongoing anti-Russia campaign now downplay the earlier claims of the British government.

BBC Radio 4 news at 6:31am today made this comical effort:

"... Russia requested the meeting to address the UK government's suggestion that it was behind the poisoning ..."

The British government did not make a mere "suggestion". Its ambassador and other officials stated outright that Russia was the culprit:

"... the fact that the Novichok was produced in Russia .. left us with no choice but to conclude... "

The New York Times today also uses the "suggestion" wording (one wonders who 'suggested' that):

The British authorities have blamed Russia for the March 4 poisoning, with Foreign Minister Boris Johnson suggesting it was “overwhelmingly likely” that President Vladimir V. Putin had ordered the attack.

On March 16, when the NYT first wrote about Johnson's claims against Russia, it surely did not convey that they were only 'suggestive':

Mr. Johnson’s remarks were a significant escalation in the dispute between London and Moscow, directly linking the Russian leader to the poisoning of Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English city of Salisbury.

The British Prime Minster herself went way further than just 'suggesting' that Russia was guilty:

[T]he Government have concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Based on that 'conclusion' the British government threw out 23 Russian diplomats from their embassy in London. There was nothing 'suggestive' with that.

Off-Guardian points out that another tactic to divert from the earlier false claims is to now declare Russia guilty of not cooperating with the investigation:

The UK’s flagrant hysteria of the last weeks, the war cries and spittle-flecked abuse is all being airbrushed away and being replaced with the idea the UK simply requested Russian co-operation and Russia refused – preferring to make nasty insinuations instead.

To claim that Russia did not cooperate is another lie told to cover up for the now debunked ones. The Chemical Weapons Convention, which Britain and Russia have signed, dictates the procedures that must be taken when chemical weapon allegations are made. They foresee the involvement of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

It was the British government that rejected the involvement of the OPCW in the investigation. It only agreed to do so after Russia insisted on it:

[Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov] added that a case of alleged use of chemical weapons should be handled through the proper channel, being the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – of which both Russia and Britain are members.

“As soon as the rumors came up that the poisoning of Skripal involved a Russia-produced agent, which almost the entire English leadership has been fanning up, we sent an official request for access to this compound so that our experts could test it in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC],” Lavrov said. So far the request has been ignored by the British side, he added.

The request from the British government to the OPCW was sent on March 14, ten days after the incident happened, two days after the Prime Minister made her "highly likely" claims against Russia and one day after Lavrov publicly insisted on OPCW involvement.

It is obviously the British government which at first rejected OPCW involvement and not the Kremlin.

The OPCW is by statute a technical agency, not a court. It will release a technical assessment of the involved agent and not a judgment on responsibility or guilt.

The attempted cover-up by the Foreign Office of the lies the British government spread about the case has already failed. To play down the original strong claims against Russia as mere 'suggestions' is comical. Allegations that Russia was or is holding up a serious international investigation are also false. It was Britain which at first rejected the CWC and OPCW involvement.

The fact that the British government even makes these attempts must be seen as acknowledgement that it has no case and lied in it its official statements to the global public. It now covers its trail with more lies.

What else is the British government lying about?

---
Previous Moon of Alabama reports on the Skripal case:

Posted by b on April 4, 2018 at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (131)

April 03, 2018

Operation Hades Blamed Russia - A Model For The 'Novichok' Claims?

(This is a 'working thread' to collect various items related to the alleged 'Novichok' incident in Salisbury and the fate of the British spy Sergej Skripal and his daughter Yulia. For a wider overview of the case please check our longer write-ups linked at the end of this post.)

The Russian government sent fourteen specific questions to the British government and thirteen questions to the OPCW. There seems to be some French involvement in the investigation of the alleged nerve agent and Russia ask why that is the case.

Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to Britain, further increased the pressure on Theresa May by publicly asserting that the Skripal case was a 'provocation' carried out by British intelligence.

Telepolis points out (in German) that this would not be the first time that a 'western' service would stage such a 'provocation'. The Skripal case is indeed quite comparable to Operation Hades.

On August 10 1994 German officials in Munich 'found' 363 grams of plutonium on a plane coming from Moscow. They immediately asserted, that the plutonium 'must' have come from a Russian reactor. There was a lot of media panic, international political noise and condemnation of Russia.


Time Cover August 29 1994

This put pressure on the Russian government to increase its security at its nuclear sites. The U.S. offered to 'help' with nuclear security and thus got easy access to Russia's nuclear secrets. The case broke in the mid of the federal election campaign in Germany and helped chancellor Kohl to get re-elected.

Months later first leaks appeared, reporters dug deeper into the story, it all started to unravel.

Der Spiegel filled ten pages (in German) with the explosive story.

"The BND's Nuke Hustle"
"How German secret agents invented the plutonium hazard"

SPIEGEL Cover May 10 1995

It turned out that the plutonium was not from Russia but had been planted by the German equivalent of the MI6, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).  More leaks and counter-leaks created a convoluted story of a sting operation gone wrong to hide the truth behind it. It was a fake incident from A to Z, a scam created for solely political reasons. A parliamentarian commission investigated the case but the Kohl government eventually shut it down without any political consequences. Shortly thereafter the deeply involved BND head, Bernd Schmidbauer, was sent into retirement.

The Russian depict the 'Novichok' case as a staged 'provocation'.  There is a historic antetype for such a 'provocation' by a 'western' intelligence service. That gives the Russian claim some significant merit.

---

It took only nine month for the 1994 'Operation Hades' story to fall apart. The 'Novichok' fairy-tale may now see an even earlier end. 

Sky News Breaking @SkyNewsBreak -

Chief executive of Porton Down research laboratory has told Sky News scientists have not been able to prove the Novichok nerve agent used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal came from Russia or establish its country of origin

Mind the gap, Mrs. May. Mind the credibility gap.

Video of Mr. Aitkenhead's Sky News interview. (Nice word play included: He only provides scientific evidence. The government may additionally have 'other' (i.e. unscientific) evidence to make a case.)

In light of the Proton Down statement we can now state that Boris Johnson, on March 20 on DW, proved to be an 'absolutely categorical' liar:

You argue that the source of this nerve agent, Novichok, is Russia. How did you manage to find it out so quickly? Does Britain possess samples of it?

BJ: Let me be clear with you … When I look at the evidence, I mean the people from Porton Down, the laboratory …

So they have the samples …

BJ: They do. And they were absolutely categorical and I asked the guy myself, I said, "Are you sure?" And he said there's no doubt.

In the interview Boris Johnson tried to preemptively put any eventual fault in the case on Porton Down. Today he received the response.

Payback is a bitch, Mr Johnson. A biting bitch.

---

The Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, a number British academics, published an update to their briefing ‘Doubts about Novichoks’ at Tim Hayward's site.

The update carefully distinguishes and discusses the various chemical substances and research programs relevant to the British 'Novichok' claims. The 'Novichok' nerve agents Vil Mirzayanov describes in his book seem to differ from the substances other Russian scientists  talked about in their recent interviews. The U.S. though, as well as other countries, has evidently worked on some of the substances described by Mirzayanov and concealed these efforts from the OPCW. The Working Group concludes:

The UK government has asserted that “No country bar Russia has combined capability, intent and motive” to carry out the Salisbury poisonings. Published studies show that these compounds can be synthesized at bench scale (sufficient for an assassination) in other countries. The UK government’s declared case therefore rests only on subjective judgements of “intent and motive”, which are open to question. 

---

A few days ago Victoriya Skripal, a cousin of Yulia Skripal, was interviewed by the Russian website MKRU (Ru). The Stalkerzone provides an English translation of the full interview. From it we learn that:

  • Victoriya Skripal tried to get information on her allegedly poisoned cousin Yulia and uncle Sergej from the British embassy in Russia since March 5. She also unsuccessfully tried to contact the hospital in Salisbury. She heard from the Russian embassy in Britain that Yulia is awake, can eat and drink and can say a few words.
  • Shortly before the incident Yulia had gained access to some $200,000 owned by her deceased brother. This, for now, seems to have nothing to do with the case.
  • Sergej Skripal is not a lone man but has a number of friends and family in Russia and in Britain who visited him regularly in Salisbury.
  • Sergej Skripal has two cats and two guinea pigs. Victoriya Skripal asks: What happened to them? (They licked the doorknob and turned into walking-dead?)
  • Victoriya Skripal wants to travel to Britain and bring at least Yulia back home with her.

Victoriya Skripal apparently also did an interview with the Mail Online (or the Mail plagiarized its piece from MKRU). There seems to be no additional information in it.

---

British officials spread various theories about where and how the Skripal's were poisoned. According to 'official' leaks to the British press the alleged nerve agent was smeared to the door of Sergej Skripal's car,  was in a pizza,  in Yulia Skripal's luggage or perfume, or in the car's air vent. I may have been sprayed by a mini drone, or the stuff was smeared onto to the doorknob of Skripal's house or maybe it was, as claimed yesterday, in buckwheat cereals brought from Russia on Sergej Skripal's request.

In my view none of these explanation is plausible. The multitude of the discussed possibilities alone shows that either no one has a clue of what happened and how it happened, or someone is trying to bury the case in a heap of misinformation. We shall call this phenomena 'Novi-fog'. It unmasks headlines like this one as mere propaganda: Poisoned Door Handle Hints at High-Level Plot to Kill Spy, U.K. Officials Say. "It was on the doorknob (maybe)! Thus Putin himself did it!"

---

John Helmer, who reports from Moscow, documents that the British government is breaking several British laws as well as international agreements by keeping the family and the consular service of the Russian embassy in Britain away from the Skripals.

---

Previous Moon of Alabama reports on the Skripal case:

Posted by b on April 3, 2018 at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (148)

This Washington Post Headline Is Fake News

On March 30 the Washington Post, the blog site of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, published a report about the expulsion of some 'western' diplomats from Russia. The move was an expected and proportional retaliation for the expulsion of Russian diplomats from some 'western' countries.

The piece was originally published under the headline:

One by one Russia tells European ambassadors of latest diplomatic expulsions

This is visible in the web-address (URL) of the piece which was formed from the original headline when it was first published.

.../washingtonpost.com/world/europe/one-by-one-russia-tells-european-ambassadors-of-latest-diplomatic-expulsions/2018/03/30/...

The editors apparently disliked the original headline. It was factually correct but did not create enough reason to hate Russia. The original headline was therefore replaced with a factually false one:


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One by one, European ambassadors learn they’re being expelled from Russia

For the record: "They", i.e. the ambassadors, learned of no such thing. Russia has not expelled any ambassador. The report below the false headline does not claim that Russia did such.

The blatant falsehood of the headline was immediately pointed out in the comments to the piece. The @WashingtonPost Twitter account was notified of the 'mistake'.

Three days later the Post has not taken any corrective action. The fake news headline is still up on its website. Most visitors of the Washington Post site will not read the piece. They skim the headlines of the site and get a daily dosage of Russia-hate from it. 

The slogan of the Post, prominently displayed under its name, is "Democracy Dies in Darkness". When it peddles such sable propaganda it becomes obvious that the paper hates democracy and an informed public. To curry favor with thuggish tyrants, as Post owner Bezos does, is obviously more profitable than factual reporting.


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The next time the Post laments about fake news and asks for censoring blogs like ours, the above shall be thrown into its face.

Posted by b on April 3, 2018 at 12:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

April 02, 2018

Why I Did Not Buy A Smartphone

This my current cell phone:


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It is an Ericsson T39M bought in 2001. I have used it since. Back then it was the top-of-the-line phone and cost, in today's equivalent, some €600-700 ($800). It has triband GMS which enabled me to use it in Europe and in the United States. GPRS and HSCSD allowed for fast 56 kbit/sec data transfers. I had also bought the wireless Bluetooth headset for the phone but soon lost it. It was anyway somewhat unpractical.

Despite daily use and rough handling the phone itself shows no sign of aging. (The light color of the phone attracts lots of dirt and I did not clean it before taking the picture.) It works very well. The rubber cable coating of the charger has fallen apart which necessitated a support construction, made from matches and tape, at the connector side.

I would love to keep the phone for another 17 years but its battery is dying on me. Originally the phone would be up for three or more days under normal use. It is now down to less than a work-day. Talk time is down to some unpredictable 3-7 minutes without recharging. This is no longer acceptable. 'New' special batteries for this phone are offered on eBay and elsewhere for €50 to €80. But their provenience is murky and the only dealers are in Turkey, Serbia, Hongkong or Indonesia.

The obvious question came up: Should I buy a smartphone to replace my trusted Ericsson?

I tested several of the current top-of-the-line smartphones - Motorola, Samsung, Apple. They were in the same relative price range as my old Ericsson was at its time. But they lack in usability. They either have a too small screen for their multitude of functions or they are bricks that require an extra pocket.

In 1999 science fiction writer David Gerrold was asked how cell phones would develop. He correctly predicted the integration of all media, communication and services into one 'smart' device:


via Esther Schindler - read the full column

But Gerrold was wrong with this part:

It will be a box less than an inch thick and smaller than a deck of cards. (The size will be determined by the convenience to hold, not by the technology inside.)

Progress in the mobile phone market was once defined as phones getting smaller and thus easier to carry. But all the new phones are larger than my old one. Why did this happen?

This graphic offers an explanation:

"Evolution of cellphones"

The arrow points to the moment "where people discovered
mobile phones can be used to watch porn".
via Carl Zha - bigger

I don't watch porn. But if I would watch porn I would want a screen big enough to see the details. Any handheld device is too small for that.

Most people I observe use their smartphones for "social network" stuff. To them smartphones are a synonym for Facebook, Whatsapp and other such services.

I don't use social networks. The one Twitter account I have is exclusively used for writing and promoting this blog.

Smartphones and the attached social networks make you dumb - literally:

The results of experiment 1 indicate that the mere presence of participants’ own smartphones impaired their performance on tasks that are sensitive to the availability of limited-capacity attentional resources.
...
... the results of experiment 2 suggest that the mere presence of consumers’ own smartphones may adversely affect cognitive functioning even when consumers are not consciously attending to them. Experiment 2 also provides evidence that these cognitive costs are moderated by individual differences in dependence on these devices. Ironically, the more consumers depend on their smartphones, the more they seem to suffer from their presence—or, more optimistically, the more they may stand to benefit from their absence.

Smartphones take up A LOT of time:

[A]n average smartphone user clicks, taps and swipes 2,617 times (145 minutes) per day! With heavy users that number jumps to 5,427 times (225 minutes) per day.

Another disadvantage of smartphones is enormous amount of personal data they inevitably steal for uncontrolled use by third parties. The technical consultant Dylan Curran studied this:

Want to freak yourself out? I'm gonna show just how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realising it --->

As soon as an Android smartphone is switched on Google will collect ALL data on every location change and on anything done on the phone. Apple does likewise with its iPhones.

Most applications on a smartphone will collect and sell not only your personal data but also of those persons you are in touch with. As soon as you install Whatsapp ALL personal contact data of other people stored in your phone-directory is transferred to Whatapp's servers. Under German law it is illegal to do this unless everyone in your phone book explicitly consented to it.

Any mobile phone can be tracked by the telecommunication provider it is connected to. We usually know and trust these providers. They are regulated. But a smartphone positions can be independently tracked by various third parties even when its location service is turned off:

We describe PinMe, a novel user-location mechanism that exploits non-sensory/sensory data stored on the smartphone, e.g., the environment’s air pressure, along with publicly-available auxiliary information, e.g., elevation maps, to estimate the user’s location when all location services, e.g., GPS, are turned off.

In his 1999 prediction David Gerrold acknowledged the inherent danger to privacy 'smart' integrated devices would create:

I call this device a Personal Information Telecommunications Agents, or Pita for short. The acronym also can stand for Pain In The Ass, which it is likely to be, because having all that connectivity is going to destroy what's left of everyone's privacy.

I do not want to give all my data into the hands of some unaccountable billionaires and unknown third parties. I do not want my privacy destroyed.

So no - I decided not to buy a smartphone as replacement for my trusted Ericsson companion.

Here is my new phone:


bigger

It is a Chinese product sold in Germany under the Olympia brand. It is a GSM quad-band 'dumb' phone with FM radio and a flashlight. The standby time is 140 hours and talk-time is 3+ hours. The battery is a standardized model and future replacements will be easy to find.

Size and weight are nearly the same as the old Ericsson. The keys are much bigger, illuminated and easier to handle, especially in the dark. It is a robust construction and the sound quality is good.

It cost me €22.00 ($26.40).

Posted by b on April 2, 2018 at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (85)

April 01, 2018

The MoA Week In Review And Open Thread 2018-14

An idea for your next Easter brunch, or for a caption contest:


via English Russia - bigger

Last weeks posts:

Two short items on Syria:

  • The last part of terrorist bastions in east-Ghouta will shortly be handed over to the government:
Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 2:08 PM - 1 Apr 2018
#Duma deal:
Falyaq al-Rahman to #Idlib
Jaish al-Islam to Jarablus/#Turkey controlled area
All heavy weapons delivered to the Syrian Army
A local council with a city, unarmed, to run local needs with #Damascus approval.
End of #easternGhouta and safety to #Damascus #Syria.
  • Trump's proclamation that the U.S. military will leave Syria 'very soon' is likely not serious. It is a bargaining strategy to get the Saudis to pay for the occupation they want. The Zionists, Saudis and the dimwits at the Washington Post editorial board argue that the U.S. must stay in Syria to prevent an Iranian role in that country. But the only reason why Iran is playing a security role in Syria at all is the attack on and occupation of that country by foreign forces. When the attacks stop and the occupiers leave Iran will no longer have such a role. The real intent of those who argue otherwise is 'regime change' in Syria and in Iran.

Use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b on April 1, 2018 at 11:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (136)

The Easter Walk

Easter echoes the eons-old human festivity that celebrates the spring equinox. The cold and dark days of winter are gone, the bright time of fertility has come.

Ishtar, a Mesopotamian goddess of love, stepped down into the underworld of death but was revived:

Inanna-Ishtar's most famous myth is the story of her descent into and return from Kur, the ancient Sumerian underworld, a myth in which she attempts to conquer the domain of her older sister Ereshkigal, the queen of the Underworld, but is instead deemed guilty of hubris by the seven judges of the Underworld and struck dead. Three days later, Ninshubur pleads with all the gods to bring Inanna back, but all of them refuse her except Enki, who sends two sexless beings to rescue Inanna. They escort Inanna out of the Underworld, but the galla, the guardians of the Underworld, drag her husband Dumuzid down to the Underworld as her replacement. Dumuzid is eventually permitted to return to heaven for half the year while his sister Geshtinanna remains in the Underworld for the other half, resulting in the cycle of the seasons.

The Christian resurrection of Jesus is probably an adaption of this old tale. Today's fertility symbols of Easter, the egg and the hare, relate to the old Germanic fertility goddess Eostre (Ostara).

When the Christian message developed from its eastern Mediterranean origin it incorporated older local gods and fables to convert the multi-theistic societies to the new monotheistic* believe. The gods of the pre-Christian religions were not completely discarded but their tales transformed to support the new uniting message the Christian preachers were spreading.

Whatever. It's spring, the darkness has vanished and this is my favored holiday.

Happy Easter


Faberge egg with flowers - bigger

 

The greatest work of German literature is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust. In part one Dr. Faust and his famulus Wagner take an 'Easter Walk' (Charles T. Brooks' translation, original version). Each Easter Sunday my dad recited this poem for us. I continue that tradition.

Faust:
Spring's warm look has unfettered the fountains,
Brooks go tinkling with silvery feet;
Hope's bright blossoms the valley greet;
Weakly and sickly up the rough mountains
Pale old Winter has made his retreat.
Thence he launches, in sheer despite,
Sleet and hail in impotent showers,
O'er the green lawn as he takes his flight;
But the sun will suffer no white,
Everywhere waking the formative powers,
Living colors he yearns to spread;
Yet, as he finds it too early for flowers,
Gayly dressed people he takes instead.
Look from this height whereon we find us
Back to the town we have left behind us,
Where from the dark and narrow door
Forth a motley multitude pour.
They sun themselves gladly and all are gay,
They celebrate Christ's resurrection to-day.
For have not they themselves arisen?
From smoky huts and hovels and stables,
From labor's bonds and traffic's prison,
From the confinement of roofs and gables,
From many a cramping street and alley,
From churches full of the old world's night,
All have come out to the day's broad light.
See, only see! how the masses sally
Streaming and swarming through gardens and fields
How the broad stream that bathes the valley
Is everywhere cut with pleasure boats' keels,
And that last skiff, so heavily laden,
Almost to sinking, puts off in the stream;
Ribbons and jewels of youngster and maiden
From the far paths of the mountain gleam.
How it hums o'er the fields and clangs from the steeple!
This is the real heaven of the people,
Both great and little are merry and gay,
I am a man, too, I can be, to-day.


---
*The Christian Trinity, the three aspects of the one God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is a doctrinal addition of the 4th century. It just adds an explanatory layer on top of the Abrahamic core of the monotheistic Christian message.

Posted by b on April 1, 2018 at 05:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (32)