United Nations: Syrian Sarin Gas Attack Was ‘Staged’

September 21, 2017 Leave a comment

The United Nations have issued a bombshell report that confirms the sarin gas attack in Syria on April 4th was completely ‘staged.’

Upon close inspection of the report by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, it is clear that the official narrative claiming that the Syrian air force dropped a bomb containing nerve gas sarin on the insurgent-controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun, is completely false.

AlterNet reports:  The reports by the two official international bodies appear to be aimed at closing the book on what happened at Khan Sheikhoun, where at least 83 deaths and 293 injuries occurred. But a months-long investigation by AlterNet into the questions around the attack raise serious questions about whether a sarin bomb was the source of the deaths. Relying on analysis from forensic and weapons experts, as well as a senior intelligence official with decades of experience in assessing bomb damage, the investigation suggests that a conventional weapon dropped by a Syrian plane struck barrels of a pesticide that created deadly phosphine gas that caused symptoms paralleling those of sarin and capable of causing mass casualties.

The evidence gathered in this investigation undercuts the credibility of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) laboratory test results that showed exposure to sarin, demonstrating how the organization violated its own protocols and opened the door for tampering. Further, the investigation raises questions about whether Russian and Syrian intelligence knew – or should have known – that the conventional strike on the target in Khan Sheikhoun carried a serious risk of mass casualties.

At the center of the U.N. Commission’s case is a crater in the middle of a road in Khan Sheikhoun in which two metal objects were found. The shoddy narrative of a sarin attack carried out by the Syrian government has flowed from this hole in the ground.

The Sarin Bomb Crater That Wasn’t 

The UN commission report refers to the crater as a “hole,” commenting that it was “too small to be a crater,” but pronounces it consistent with a chemical weapon. Without any reference to a source of evidence, it refers to the two pieces of metal as “two parts of the bomb.” Although it admits to being “unable to determine the exact type of chemical bomb used,” it declared the two pieces of metal to be “consistent with sarin bomb produced by the former Soviet Union in the 250kg-class of bombs.”

But for longtime analysts of weapons impacts, the scene provoked serious doubts. In interviews, two highly qualified former U.S. government specialists noted that a chemical weapon could not have made a crater as large and deep as the kind that appeared in a raft of reports about the attack on Khan Sheikhoun, especially in asphalt.

“I have never seen a crater like that from a 122 millimeter CW [chemical weapon) warhead,“ said a former senior intelligence official, with decades of experience in analyzing bomb damage, who did not wish to be identified because of his continuing work with U.S. national security officials.

That observation reflects a fundamental difference between chemical and conventional high explosives munitions. Chemical weapons have only very small amounts of explosives in the “burster mechanism” – enough to open up the bomb to disperse the chemical, but not enough to cause a crater in the pavement. If a chemical munition had contained enough high explosives to create a large hole in the pavement, it would have burned up the chemical to be dispensed and could not have caused the mass casualties seen in Khan Sheikhoun.

The former senior intelligence officer declared the metal detritus inside the crater was staged. “I am certain that it was placed there after the fact,” he said. “The entire set-up looked like a pothole with a pipe over it, not a military explosion or impact.”

Pierre Sprey, an aeronautical engineer who spent many years at the Department of Defense as a weapons analyst, also doubted that the scene at the crater was genuine. “I have viewed the images of many, many weapons impacts of all kinds, and the photos didn’t look like any impact crater I’ve ever seen,” he said. Sprey said the site “looked more like a pothole than anything else – much more that than a weapons impact.”

Further undermining the credibility of the sarin attack narrative is the absence of any weapon. The main pieces of any chemical weapon should have fallen, still intact, just a few meters away from the crater, according to John Gilbert, senior science fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Proliferation and formerly head of the Onsite Inspection Agency in the Defense Department. Gilbert conducted the inspections of the former Soviet chemical arsenal in conjunction with the U.S.-Soviet 1990 chemical weapons agreement.

Sprey agreed that intact pieces of the weapon should have been found. “Without a shadow of a doubt you would have found the tail fins and nose cone,” said Sprey.

Not a single recognizable fragment of a weapon that could have delivered sarin gas was ever displayed in videos or photographs taken by the White Helmets or Syrian rebel media activists in Khan Sheikhoun. Solvang, the main author of the Human Rights Watch report on Khan Sheikhoun published May 1, acknowledged in an interview that he had asked all the personnel of the White Helmets civil defense organization and other witnesses interviewed by his organization whether they had seen any other parts of a weapon. All responded in the negative. (The White Helmets is a Western and Gulf-funded arm of the Syrian insurgency that is primarily responsible for influencing foreign news media and opinion for al local al Nusra Front officials).

Chunks of asphalt would also have been strewn around the crater by an airstrike. “Debris would be blown several meters away from the crater,” Gilbert noted in an interview. But independent Berlin-based forensic researcher Michael Kobs discovered footage suggesting no debris was on the road near the crater after that morning.

Kobs noticed a brief scene in a video published by Orient News Service on April 4, less than two hours after the alleged explosion at the site, showing (at 1.12) the road near the crater completely clear of pieces of asphalt and other debris. Using standard forensic techniques for estimating the time an image was taken based on the length of a shadow in relation to a fixed object, Kobs calculated that the video was shot between 8:30 and 8:50am, on April 4. The airstrike took place around 6:40-6:45 am, according to most witnesses.

Kobs found another video published April 6 that shows all the chunks of asphalt had been moved by hand to an area roughly five meters wide and two meters deep by the side of the road. The White Helmets or other health authorities authorities had placed the same red sign with skull and crossbones over the asphalt pieces that had been put inside the crater itself.

If a chemical weapon had exploded at that spot, the chunks of asphalt dislodged from the crater would have been covered with sarin liquid, which would have taken far more than a couple of hours to dry in the cool morning air. So any contact or inhalation near them would have been highly lethal.

Furthermore those two hours were the period during which the White Helmets and the Idib Health Directorate were engaged in taking dead and wounded to the White Helmet facility east of the Khan Sheikhoun. Given the extreme dangers associated with the handling of objects contaminated with sarin, the idea that the local government ordered civil defense teams to cart chunks of asphalt drenched in sarin away from the road during that first hour and a half seems absurd.

The video evidence indicates that the road near the crater was already clear before April 4 and the crater was therefore not the result of an air attack that morning. It now appears that the hole was either the remains of a previous military event or simply a pothole that had been filled in with dirt but not repaved. A video shot several hours after the chemical incident shows (at 3:04-3:08) what appears to be two large potholes within a few yards of the crater, both of which had been filled in with dirt but left unpaved.

Further evidence that the toxic gas that killed and injured residents could not have come from that crater can be found in the June 29 report of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Though the report concluded that sarin gas was used, and that it “likely” emanated from the crater, Figure 7 of the report contradicts these findings.

Figure 7 (seen above) provides an aerial view of Khan Sheikhoun, with the area where victims were stricken shaded in yellow. The image highlights the crater in red and labels it as “point 1,” and shows that the point lies only a few meters east of a residential neighborhood. Yet no part of that neighborhood is shaded yellow, meaning that no one in the immediate vicinity of the supposed blast site was exposed to a toxic gas. The OPCW did not explain how residents living just meters away from the scene of a chemical attack could have suffered no ill effects.

The U.N. Commission’s claim that the two pieces of metal found in the hole in the road were parts of the bomb dropped on the site relied on a report on Khan Sheikhoun issued by Human Rights Watch. HRW asserted that the large piece of metal and the small cap that had been shown in various positions in the crater could have been parts of a Soviet-era chemical weapon designated as KhAB-250. HRW argued that the KhAB-250 “has two green bands” supposedly used to indicate a chemical weapon, and that the piece of metal found in the crater had what appeared to be a green stripe on it. It also said the filler cap ”appears similar” to the cap covering the filling hole of that bomb.

That HRW claim was in turn apparently based on a tweet that itself relied on a Russian researcher who acknowledged that his assertion was just a hypothesis.

FULL STORY

FEC: Hillary Clinton Funnelled $1M Of Campaign Funds To Antifa

September 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Hillary Clinton funnelled $1 million dollars from her campaign fund and gave it to ‘resistance’ groups such as Antifa, according to FEC documents. 

Hillary’s Super-PAC, Onward Together, gave $800,000 to domestic-terrorist groups in order to disrupt and undermine the government.

Offendedamerica.com reports: Amid doubts that Hillary’s PAC was doing anything at all with the donations that it was receiving, Daily Caller reached out to five different Antifa linked groups, and only one was willing to deny donations from Onward Together. Soros-linked group, Indivisible, denied receiving financial support from Clinton or Onward Together.

“Onward Together has not given any financial support to us,” Helen Kalla, an Indivisible spokesperson, wrote to Daily Caller.

Kalla added that Clinton’s group has “been amplifying and highlighting our work through their digital networks,” which she explained has consisted of “retweeting [Indivisible], and they’ve highlighted our work via their emails to their list too.”

According to Federal Election Commission documents, Hillary Clinton transferred $800,000 from her failed political campaign “Hillary for America” to her new Super-PAC “Onward Together”, before she announced the existence of the PAC in May, 2017.

Amid other disturbing details, it’s now been revealed that “Onward Together” is a 501(c)4 “Social Welfare” organization, which means that it’s not required to disclose many of the details of its operations to the public or disclose who its donors are.

By receiving campaign funds, and then furnishing the funds to Antifa terrorist groups, Clinton may have implicated many of her supported in a crime.

Hillary Clinton, now too old to run for office, will go back to doing what she’s always done best, round up money from anonymous sources, and then use that money to influence elections and pedal power.

Bees Attack In California, 6 People Hospitalized

September 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Six people were hospitalized on Saturday, including three firefighters, after being stung by a swarm of bees outside a Ralphs grocery store in Monterey Park, California.

A beehive up a tree in the parking lot of the store was somehow disturbed causing the swarm, according to the fire department.

beesKTLA5 reports:

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The disturbance lead to the bees attacking numerous people in the parking lot and two women were completely covered in bees, according to Monterey Park Fire Chief Mark Khail. Another woman was stung and ran into the store.

When firefighters arrived on the scene and attempted to save the women they were also stung by the bees, Khail said.

One witness told KTLA that he was nearly stung while riding his bike near the lot.

“When I got here there was a bee around my head so I started riding faster,” said Michael Hsu, a witness and food truck employee. “They were still around me so I parked my bike over there and ran into the food truck. I saw a lot of people with bees around them.”

The hive, which was about 50 yards away from the store, was sprayed with expanding foam to keep the bees inside until the arrival of a bee keeper later tonight, according to the Department.

Three pedestrians and three firefighters were transported to multiple local hospitals in the area, according to authorities.

The firefighters were later released and the conditions of the other patients is unknown at this time, Khail said.

Officials do not yet know how or why the beehive was disturbed.

See Also20,000 Bees Swarm Over Car Looking For Their Queen

New study shows why college students can’t handle free speech

September 21, 2017 Leave a comment



That’s the logic that leads 20% of college undergraduates to believe that violence is a justifiable response to a controversial speaker, according to a survey by the Brookings Institution.

What do you do about a speaker you don’t like?

For many college students, the answer too often is either scream or fight. That’s because:

  • 44 percent of undergraduates don’t think the First Amendment protects so-called “hate speech”
  • 51 percent think it’s appropriate to shout over controversial speakers so they can’t be heard
  • 62 percent of students think the First Amendment requires a school to bring in a speaker of the opposite viewpoint to balance out a controversial speaker
  • 53 percent of students think colleges are supposed to foster a positive learning environment by prohibiting certain offensive speech, rather than allowing for the expression of all viewpoints

This writer’s perspective

We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to teach better. One other result the Brookings survey revealed is that many of these students were freshmen who came in to college with these beliefs about freedom of speech.

That reflects a failure by elementary and secondary school systems and parents alike, and it has produced a generation of students who aren’t equipped to cope with the reality that many people believe and say things that they will find unacceptable or disgusting.

Maybe it began with the good intention of discouraging racists and bigots from mistreating others, but without proper education, our country will lose sight of the difference between what someone should say and what they have a constitutional right to say.

I was taught that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Increasingly, incidents on college campuses show that children are being taught to pick up sticks and stones when someone’s words hurt their feelings. That has to change.

About the survey

This web survey of 1,500 undergraduate students at U.S. four-year colleges and universities was conducted between August 17 and August 31, 2017. Of the 1,500 respondents, 697 identified a Democrats, 261 as Republicans, and 431 as Independents. Another 111 respondents stated “Don’t Know” when asked to state their political affiliation. Of the 1,500 respondents, 1,116 are students at public institutions, and 384 are students at private institutions.

Scottie Nell Hughes sues Fox News over heinous sex harassment claim

September 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Source:

Former Fox News contributor and Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes filed a lawsuit Monday against the Fox News Channel alleging that they blacklisted her from the network after she accused a host of rape.

What is she claiming?

According to her lawsuit, Hughes is accusing Fox News of shutting her out of the network after she accused Fox News Business host Charles Payne of rape. IN July, Hughes had claimed she was blacklisted after ending the relationship, but the lawsuit added the rape allegation against Payne. Payne has since admitted to having an affair with Hughes, but denied all other allegations.

Hughes is accusing Payne of coercing her to have intercourse despite her telling him “no” and “stop” during an incident in 2013.

What does Fox News say about the accusation?

Fox News released a statement Monday excoriating Hughes and her lawyer for the filing.

“The latest publicity stunt of lawsuit filed by Doug Wigdor has absolutely no merit and is downright shameful,” it read. “We will vigorously defend this.”

“It’s worth noting that Doug is Ms. Hughes’ third representative in the last six months to raise some variation of these claims which concern events from four years ago, since it apparently took some time to find someone willing to file this bogus case,” it concluded.

What about Charles Payne?

The Fox News Business host was suspended for several weeks from his show while the network investigated the claims made in July. Without offering a conclusion about the investigation, they announced that he would be returning to his show, leading many to conclude they found the allegations to be without merit. The statement from Fox News Monday seemed to confirm that speculation.

Payne released a statement after the accusations first surfaced. “Charles Payne vehemently denies the allegations,” the statement from his lawyer read. “He will defend himself vigorously against these claims and will hold those responsible to account.”

Why does this matter?

The allegations against Fox News executives in the lawsuit could undermine viewers’ opinion of the network if they’re proven true. Fox is also fighting other allegations of racial and sexual harassment as referenced in their statement against lawyer Doug Wigdor, who represents many other litigants against the network.

If you paid to freeze your credit, here’s how you might get your money back

September 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and a group of other Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill that citizens from both parties may be able to get behind — and it’s aimed at stopping Equifax from profiting off the recent data breach.

What does the bill do?

The Freedom from Equifax Exploitation Act (FREE) would prevent credit reporting agencies from charging consumers for freezing and unfreezing their credit. Considering Equifax’s negligence is the main reason millions of people might consider freezing their credit, the authors of this bill don’t believe they should be able to charge people money for the service.

The bill would also:

  • Create a uniform federal process for credit freezes;
  • Prevent credit reporting agencies from selling lists of consumers for marketing purposes while their credit is frozen;
  • Enhance fraud alert protections for consumers;
  • Allow consumers to get a refund if they paid for a credit freeze after the Equifax breach; and
  • Entitle consumers to an additional free credit report (currently consumers can get one per year).

Where does the Equifax situation stand now?

It’s still unfolding. Reports surfaced today that Equifax suffered a data breach in March, which they didn’t tell anyone about. The company claims it is unrelated to the more recent breach of 143 million consumers’ data.

Two top executives retired from the company late last week; the chief information officer and the chief security officer.

The Department of Justice is investigating the three executives for insider trading because they sold their shares before the breach was public.

And all that is in addition to the litany of ongoing federal and state investigations into Equifax.

What Is China Thinking with Its Newest Plane Design?

September 21, 2017 Leave a comment

China’s latest large aircraft AG600 might be an ugly duckling, but the amphibious plane could turn out to be a shrewd investment.

China’s latest large aircraft AG600 might be an ugly duckling, but the amphibious plane could turn out to be a shrewd investment.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) recently announced that the various naval flying and engineering schools in Yantai (Shandong) have been consolidated and elevated to the status of the “China PLA Navy Aviation University” [中国人民解放军海军航空大学]. For a rising power with grand naval ambitions that just launched its second aircraft carrier, the move to consolidate and upgrade its institutions for training naval pilots is not at all surprising. Even putting carrier aviation aside, Chinese aircraft development (both manned and unmanned) has been a veritable beehive of activity in the last decade, producing numerous sleek fighters and attack aircraft, transports, trainers, electronic warfare and early warning aircraft, not to mention a slew of UAVs and helicopters too. Moreover, rumors regarding a long-range bomber, as well as vertical takeoff and perhaps tilt-rotor aviation need to be taken seriously. In combination with China’s bristling conventional missile strike forces, these new air capabilities are slowly but surely altering the military balance in the Asia-Pacific region.

Against that somewhat perturbing background, Beijing’s new large amphibious aircraft AG-600, which was first revealed at the Zhuhai airshow back in 2016, forms rather an anomaly since it is neither sleek, nor stealthy, nor bristling with weapons and sensors. Chinese sources readily admit (as discussed below) that the AG-600 falls short of the world’s leading designs for such aircraft. Deepening the mystery, moreover, is the fact that the U.S. Navy has not operated seaplanes of any type for decades, implying they are not cost-effective and have numerous operational limitations in modern naval warfare. So what exactly are Beijing’s planners thinking? Is this China’s “Spruce Goose”—the product of aircraft engineers run amok without strategic sense or fiscal constraints?

An expose (with a splashy front cover) from the aviation magazine Aerospace Knowledge [航空知识] last fall provides some specifics on the design, as well as an overview of the program. The AG-600 measures 37 meters tip to tail and has a wingspan of 38.8m. Its maximum takeoff weight is said to be 53.5 tons and it is planned to cruise at just 500km per hour. It can fly for about twelve hours and is reported to have a range of 4,500km. The aircraft is powered by four indigenously produced engines. Primarily intended for search and rescue, on the one hand, or firefighting duty on the other, this article boasts that the plane can carry fifty persons or alternatively scoop up 12 tons of water in just twenty seconds. However, it is also noted that the AG-600 can be reconfigured to accomplish other missions, including protection and observation of the marine environment, resource exploration, resupply of reef outposts, security against maritime smuggling, as well as “maritime enforcement and rights protection” [海洋执法与维权]. With a tip of the hat to China’s quite pervasive resource nationalism, the piece notes that AG-600 is appropriate for a “great maritime power” [海洋大国] and also duly observes that some analysts describe the South China Sea as a “second Persian Gulf” [第二个波斯湾]. However, the article also states clearly that “there is a lot of foreign chatter about military applications … [but] AG600 basically has no military use possibilities or requirements.” [基本没有军事用途的可能与必要]

As noted above, the large seaplane project seems to have more than a few critics among the Chinese military commentariat. That may explain why pictures and diagrams have yet to portray AG-600 in navy gray, but illustrations have appeared in white color with the large initials on its fuselage of “CMS” or China Maritime Surveillance [中国海监], now a subset of China’s rapidly expanding coast guard. Rather skeptical treatments have appeared in both Naval & Merchant Ships [舰船知识], as well as Modern Ships [现代舰船], two of China’s most important naval magazines. The former analysis points out the era of amphibious planes has already long past, in part due to the fact that such airframes require such a “huge expenditure of time and money” [需要花费更多的时间和经费] for maintenance. It is noted that just four of the first generation Chinese sea plane, SH-5, were actually built—less than originally planned. The latter piece makes a very explicit comparison between the AG-600 and the US-2 seaplane operated by the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces, revealing that the older US-2 actually has both superior speed and also range. Most critically, the Japanese seaplane can apparently take off and land in significantly rougher conditions [抗浪高度], affording it greater operational versatility.

Still, AG-600 may yet retain a few key advantages. For example, it is said that it can heft 2.4 tons more weight than Japan’s amphibious aircraft thanks to its larger size. Its electronics are said to be superior not surprisingly given it is much newer, but it is additionally asserted that AG-600 can be reconfigured to handle more varied missions. To that point, a rather interesting statement is made in the Modern Ships article: “An amphibious aircraft that can undertake the anti-submarine mission is not necessarily well suited for search and rescue or fire-fighting missions and vice versa.” In the end, even the very skeptical Naval & Merchant Ships article concludes that AG-600 will be “extremely useful for rights protection and search and rescue in the South China Sea” [非常有利于南海威权, 救援]. Moreover, the point is made that AG-600 is likely more affordable than the Japanese amphibious aircraft. Indeed, the Aerospace Knowledge article suggests that Malaysia and Indonesia and other such archipelagic states are ideal export markets for this unusual plane.

One should not exclude strategic implications of the development of China’s new, large seaplane. Intelligence and surveillance are not minor issues in modern warfare and, as has been widely observed, “presence” itself has major implications in maritime sovereignty disputes. The Modern Ships article does state explicitly in its conclusion that AG-600 “in times of military conflict can undergo a large-scale refit for combat” [在战事即可进行大规模的战争改装].

And yet it would be wrong to view AG-600 mainly as part of a threatening Chinese maritime posture. Inexpensive and secure transport networks are at the heart of Beijing’s vision for the “Maritime Silk Road” initiative and this is the most compelling explanation for the AG-600 program. One need not countenance China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea to nevertheless agree that the whole region can benefit from an improved maritime search and rescue posture, not to mention safe and efficient transport between far-flung littoral destinations.

Lyle J. Goldstein is Professor of Strategy in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the United States Naval War College in Newport RI. He can be reached at goldstel@usnwc.edu. The opinions in his columns are entirely his own and do not reflect the official assessments of the U.S. Navy or any other agency of the U.S. Government.

Image: Reuters

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