Tuesday 27th of June 2017

chemical warfare...

chemical warfare

A white cloud of pesticides had drifted into Fidelia Morales's back yard, coating her children's swing set.

The 40-year-old mother of five gestured toward the citrus groves that surround her house in California's Central Valley as she recounted when an air blast sprayer sent chemicals floating onto her property last year – landing on her family's red and blue jungle gym.

"We know this is dangerous for the kids, but what are we supposed to do?" she said on a recent afternoon, speaking in Spanish through a translator. Morales said she fears that these kinds of drifts, as well as long-term exposure to a variety of chemicals in the air, have hurt her children, ages 9 to 20, who have struggled to focus in school and have suffered from bronchitis, asthma and other chronic illnesses.

Under Barack Obama, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed an agricultural ban on chlorpyrifos, one pesticide widely used in her region, based on the growing body of research documenting the risks for farm workers and communities, including links to brain damage in children.

Donald Trump's administration, however, has rejected the science, announcing a reversal of the ban. That means that despite recent victories for families and environmentalists who have fought for more than a decade for protections from the insecticide, widespread use will continue in California, where a majority of the fruits and nuts in the US are grown.

"There's a sense of helplessness," said Luis Medellin, a 30-year-old dairy worker, sitting with his three younger sisters at his family's home in the small agricultural town of Lindsay. "I'm being poisoned and I can't do anything about it. It's like a slow death."

More than a dozen Latino residents in Tulare County, a rural farming community three hours north of Los Angeles, shared stories with the Guardian of direct pesticide poisonings from drifts and the long-term health challenges that they believe are linked to chronic exposure. They described children vomiting, suffering painful skin irritations, debilitating headaches and dizziness, as well as developing autism, learning problems, attention deficit disorders and respiratory ailments.

It's difficult to conclusively determine how chlorpyrifos may have contributed to individual children's conditions, but epidemiological studies have found links between the pesticide and a number of health conditions – research that led EPA officials to recommend the ban in 2015. Manufacturers and growers continue to assert that the chemical is safe and say that the studies are flawed.

read more:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/04/slow-death-families-fear-...

 

new EPA -- encouraging pollution agency...

The Environmental Protection Agency's administrator has found a slogan for his embattled agency's new direction. Last week, Scott Pruitt announced a #Back2Basicscampaign that proposes returning the EPA to its supposed roots: protecting the environment, spurring job growth, and not burdening industry with rules and regulations. Pruitt might see firsthand the problems with this vision on Wednesday when he visits East Chicago, Indiana, a mostly black and Latino city of 29,000 that is home to a Superfund site and a host of other environmental problems.

Local officials, including Indiana's Republican governor, Eric Holcomb, urged Pruitt to visit the site and address the issues surrounding the cleanup process, which has been lagging for several years. The site is known as USS Lead, referring to the smelting facility that operated there between 1906 and 1985, turning refined copper and lead into batteries and other products and, in the process, contaminating the soil in the area with lead and arsenic. The site was added to the National Priorities list in 2009, which means it's one of the most polluted sites in the country.

The EPA began conducting soil tests at the site in late 2009 and finally reached a consent decree with the liable companies in 2014. The White House has proposed a cut to funding for the Superfund program, but Pruitt told the U.S. Conference of Mayors in March that he believes it's vital. But his #Back2Basics plans for the EPA, which includes rolling back regulations for companies, would lead to additional problems in East Chicago. Abigail Dillen of Earthjustice.org said the plan is simply getting rid of "the health and environmental protections we all rely on—protections only the government can provide."

read more:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/04/scott-pruitt-new-epa-agen...

daesh chemicals...

A few months ago, the use of chemical weapons by the Daesh terrorist group was in the news seemingly daily. Now you hardly ever see a thing about them, and they’re treated as no big deal. So what happened?

It's not like the attacks stopped: this weekend alone, more than thirty Iraqi soldiers participating in the Battle of Mosul were treated for injuries sustained in chlorine gas attacks.

Iraqi and US military spokespersons are in agreement on the reason for the low coverage of gas attacks: they're an ineffective weapon being used by a desperate, cornered opponent. In a statement to Pentagon reporters, coalition ground forces commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin said that Daesh "has used chemicals in the vicinity of Mosul but the chemicals have had no impact on the Iraqi security forces. It had no impact on our forces."

When asked what sort of chemical was used in the attack, Martin admitted that he didn't know. "But the chemicals that they've used in the past are all low-grade chemicals because of their lack of production capability. And so we don't know what we'll find this time. But in the past, it's been a low-grade capability."

In early March, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi claimed that allegations of Daesh chemical attacks in Iraq were "wrong" and "what happened actually [was] just a mixture of smoke and gas," which has "a limited impact."

But the song being sung by the US and Iraqi governments isn't everyone's tune. A Kurdish official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, claimed that "multiple gas attacks did take place over the past week and that the military casualties were not known," but coalition forces deliberately quashed the story and obscured the figures.

According to London-based analyst group IHS Conflict Monitor, Daesh has used sulfur and chlorine weapons at least 52 times in Iraq and Syria since 2013. Luqman Ibrahim, an anti-Daesh Yazidi battalion commander, says that more than 50 of his men have sustained injuries from chemical-based weapons. A March barrage of chemical rockets on the town of Taza has killed one and injured 800.

"We believe Daesh is weaker than in the past, so they need to defend themselves with mines, IEDs and chemical weapons," said Brig. Gen. Hajar Ismail, director of coordination and relations at the Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministry of Peshmerga in an interview back in October. "We believe they will use more chemical operations as the Mosul operation starts."

The reason behind the discrepancy? An Iraqi intelligence source told Fox that the coalition is focused on "maintaining the psychological state of the soldiers," and is worried that media exposure of chemical attacks could shake the already-fragile ties of the coalition as well as make Daesh appear more fearsome.

Chemical attacks rarely kill, but they're scary as hell. Conventional wisdom holds that they wreak havoc on the morale of soldiers to keep fighting due to the horrific injuries they can cause. This has caused them to be banned from use in warfare by the 1925 Geneva Protocol.

read more:

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201704201052828694-daesh-chemical-wea...

guilty without proofs...

The US has sanctioned some 271 Syrians who Washington believes are involved in the research and production of chemical weapons. The move is yet another retaliatory measure for the Idlib incident which was pinned on Damascus without any investigation.

The US Treasury Department on Monday announced that it sanctioned 271 employees of Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) over their alleged involvement in the research and development of Syria's 'chemical program.'

Washington believes that SSRC members were responsible for developing the sarin gas allegedly used in the April 4 Idlib chemical attack.

“These sweeping sanctions target the scientific support center for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad s horrific chemical weapons attack on innocent civilian men, women and children,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said announcing the sanctions.

Mnuchin vowed to “relentlessly pursue and shut down the financial networks of all individuals involved with the production of chemical weapons used to commit these atrocities.”

The sanctions will see American banks freeze the assets of any individuals placed on the list. The new punitive measures also ban US companies from conducting business with them.

This is not the first time that Washington has placed sanctions on individuals connected to the activities of the SSRC. Just before the Donald Trump administration took office, on January 12, the US Treasury went on to sanction six Syrian officials connected with SSRC work.

Monday’s sanctions are the latest “retaliatory” measure taken by the Trump administration in response to the April 4 chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, which has so far seen no impartial or professional investigation.

Just 3 days after the chemical incident, the US navy launched 59 Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian air base.

Lavrov: False information about use of chem weapons by Syrian govt is used to move away from Resolution 2254 https://t.co/NYQQ1mavuHpic.twitter.com/TA9MBQMRyy

— RT (@RT_com) 21 April 2017

As many as 100 people were allegedly killed and several hundred injured in the April 4 chemical attack in Idlib. The US has pinned the blame on Damascus, claiming that it hid chemical weapons stockpiles from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) after pledging to hand them over in 2013.

read more:

https://www.rt.com/news/386030-us-sanctions-syrian-chemical-scientists/

 

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When the lynching mob that calls itself the USA decides you will hang from a tree, you have no recourse to proofs nor proper justice. Nothing new. It has operated this way since the pilgrims landed there and killed their first turkey...

foul US assessment for a foul US doctrine...

 

On the morning of April 4, a Syrian Air Force Russian-made Sukhoi-22 fighter bomber dropped or fired something at a target in rebel-held Idlib Governorate. A cloud of some chemical substance subsequently materialized and drifted to the adjacent inhabited village of Khan Shaykhun, where it killed between 50 and 100 people. We also know that the Russians used a “hotline” prior to the attack to alert the United States military that the strike would be taking place against what was apparently described as an arms depot.

We also know about what might be considered collateral damage. The deaths and alleged use of chemical weapons were described by President Donald Trump as a “vital national-security interest” and served as the pretext for a strike by 59 U.S. cruise missiles two days later, which was directed against the Syrian air base at al-Shayrat. The U.S. attack did little damage and the base was soon again operational. The White House also reversed itself regarding possible Syrian peace talks, declaring that Bashar al-Assad must be removed as a condition for any political settlement of the ongoing crisis. It also described Russia as complicit in protecting the Syrian president. Secretary of State Tillerson declared that bilateral relations with Moscow cannot improve as long as Russia is supporting al-Assad. The relationship with Russia is, according to President Trump, at an “all-time low.”

The U.S. government, in support of its narrative justifying the cruise-missile attack, has issued a four-page assessment entitled “The Assad Regime’s Use of Chemical Weapons on April 4, 2017.” The report was issued by the National Security Council, which is part of the White House, and was authored by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national-security advisor, rather than Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. The provenance suggests that it might not be what it is touted as, a “Summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Assessment …” It makes a number of claims, some of which might be considered fact-based, while others seem questionable.

Bear in mind that nearly all the information and physical evidence available from the attack site in Syria has come from anti-Assad sources linked to al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra, which controls the area. This includes the so-called White Helmets, who are opposition surrogates. The established narrative derives from this material as well as from bipartisan assertions of Assad’s “certain” guilt, even from normally liberal Democrats, which are being presented as fact. 

The four-page White House report is supplemented by commentary provided by McMaster and Secretary of Defense James Mattis (also a former general) on the day of the U.S. attack, as well as a more recent interview with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, which describes the decision-making process and the military options. Each official, as well as President Trump, took it as a given that Syria had carried out the attack. Regarding the motive for such an attack, the report claims that Damascus was seeking to halt a rebel advance. Others in the media have claimed that it was done to “test” the United States or intimidate the Syrian population, but some other observers find those explanations elusive. After all, Bashar al-Assad would have had no good reason to stage a chemical attack when he was winning the war, while the rebels theoretically had plenty of motivation to stage a “false flag” attack to alienate Damascus from Western Europe and the Americans.

There is considerable repetition in the White House report describing Syrian involvement, rebel inability to mount a chemical attack, physical remains, and symptoms of the dead and injured. It says that the U.S. government is “confident” that the Syrian government carried out a chemical attack using “a neurotoxic agent like sarin … against its own people” on the morning of April 4, and that it would have been impossible for the rebels to fabricate the incident because it would be too complicated for them to do so. The alleged U.S. intelligence relating to understanding the attack included Sigint, geospatial monitoring, and physiological examination. Plus “Credible open source reporting … tells a clear and consistent story.” This included commercial-satellite imagery, which shows the impact sites of the weapons used, and opinions registered by civilian agencies like Medecins Sans Frontieres and Amnesty International.

The U.S. government report also maintains that Syria has violated its international obligations by retaining chemical-weapons capabilities even though it agreed to destroy all stocks in 2013. The narrative also insists that the still highly controversial attack made on Ghouta in 2013 was, in fact, carried out by Damascus. Syrian chemical-weapons experts were probably “involved in planning the [current] attack.” Symptoms of the victims were consistent with exposure to sarin.

Since the attack, per the report, the Russians and Syrians have been spinning out “false narratives” employing “multiple, conflicting accounts [of what took place] in order to create confusion and sow doubt within the international community.”

As noted above, beyond the bare bones of the Syrian attack, the U.S. retaliation, and the casualties, there is little in the incidents and the surrounding analysis that can be regarded as hard fact. Little in the National Security Council report is unassailable, and one should note that almost none of it is based on U.S. intelligence resources. The possibility that a Syrian chemical-weapons expert was “probably” involved expresses uncertainty, suggesting that an intercepted telephone call is being generously interpreted. And the geospatial monitoring is either a satellite (or even a drone) overhead, or possibly an AWACS plane operating along the nearby Turkish border, which would register the flight path of the Su-22 and the subsequent explosion(s), hardly conclusive evidence of anything beyond what we already know to be true.

The thinness of the U.S. intelligence came through in an April 13 talk by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who described the pressure from the White House to come up with an “assessment.” As a bottom line, he commented that “Everyone saw the open-source photos, so we had reality on our side.” One might observe that that reality was derived from Google satellite photography possibly adjusted by the rebels and freely interpreted by the media, not from the $80 billion per year intelligence community.

Observers should also reexamine the assumption that rebels would be unable to either mount a chemical attack or create a “false flag” operation. There have been numerous instances of ISIS and al-Nusra use of chemicals both in Syria and Iraq, the most recent being just this past week in western Mosul. And the similar Ghouta “false flag” in 2013 almost succeeded, apparently aided by Turkish intelligence, stopped only when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper paid a surprise visit to President Obama in the Oval Office to tell him that the case against Damascus was not a “slam dunk.”

And the physical evidence that the Syrians launched a chemical attack from the air has been challenged. The only eyewitness to surface, a 14-year-old, has described how she saw a bomb drop from an airplane and hit a nearby building, which produced a mushroom cloud. It is just as the Russians and Syrians described the incident and rules out sarin, which is colorless. And then there is the testimony of Professor Theodore Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology, and national-security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Postol has examined the evidence in the photos and concluded that the toxin was fired from the ground, not from the air, adding that no competent analyst would believe otherwise—suggesting that there was a rush to judgment. Postol concluded that “it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the U.S. government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack.”

Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter has also disputed the findings in the White House report, noting that what evidence there is points to the use of conventional weapons by the Syrians. He also notes that the Su-22’s available weapons cannot deliver a chemical or gas attack from the air, something which Donald Trump and his advisers might not have been aware of.

And then there are the victims. The tests confirming the presence of sarin were carried out in Turkish hospitals and Ankara is far from a neutral party, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having demanded repeatedly that al-Assad be removed.

It is all too easy to forget that the rebels and their associates are killers, with little to differentiate them from the crimes that are being laid at Bashar al-Assad’s door. Two recent examples of rebel brutality include the beheading of a child and the recent bombing of Syrian refugees waiting to cross into government-controlled territory. The latter attack killed more people—including women, children, and babies—than the incident at Khan Shaykhun, but it was not so much as mentioned by President Trump. It was only briefly reported in the U.S. media before being dropped down the memory hole, presumably because it did not fit the prevailing narrative.

Other videos and pictures of Khan Shaykhun victims cited by the White House show survivors being assisted by alleged medical personnel, who appear not be wearing any protective garb. If the chemical agent had actually been sarin, they too would have been affected. And the symptoms of sarin are similar to the symptoms experienced with exposure to other toxins, including chlorine and smoke munitions. One survivor noted a smell of rotten food and garlic. Sarin is, in addition to being colorless, odorless.

And then there is the question of al-Assad’s chemical-weapons supply. It is now being asserted by the White House that the Syrians retained a significant capability, but that is not what Secretary of State John Kerry said in July 2014, when he claimed everything was destroyed: “We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.” The United States, working with Russia, was instrumental in destroying the Syrian chemical stockpile.

It certainly appears that there was a rush to judgment on the part of the White House and the top presidential advisors. It is possible that al-Assad did what he has been accused of, but the Trump administration decided to assign guilt to the Syrians before they could have known with any clarity what had happened. As in the case of Iraq, the available intelligence was made to fit the preferred narrative. All that remained was to call a meeting of top advisors to determine exactly how to punish Damascus. The truth about what occurred in Syria on April 4 remains to be discovered, and is almost certainly possessed by many in the U.S. intelligence community. Perhaps someday, someone who understands what happened will feel compelled to reveal what he or she knows.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the incident and the U.S. retaliation is severe and potentially catastrophic. As Princeton Professor Stephen Cohen, America’s leading expert on Russia, put it recently:

I think this is the most dangerous moment in American-Russian relations, at least since the Cuban missile crisis. And arguably, it’s more dangerous, because it’s more complex. … So the question arises, naturally: Why did Trump launch 50 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian Air Force base, when, God help us, he did kill some people, but was of no military value whatsoever? Was this meant to show ‘I’m not a Kremlin agent?’ Because, normally, a president would have done the following. You would go to the United Nations … and ask for an investigation about what happened with those chemical weapons. And then you would decide what to do. But while having dinner at Mar-a-Lago with the leader of China, who was deeply humiliated, because he’s an ally of Russia, they rushed off these Tomahawk missiles.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

Read more: 

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/did-assad-order-the-syrian-gas-attack/

 

read also:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/debunking-trumps-casus-belli/