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Sunday, March 18

"Turkish-backed forces storm Afrin city in all-out assault - BREAKING NEWS"

(There's so much big breaking news from the Syrian war front that Al Masdar News has installed a Breaking News ticker tape.)

BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:49 A.M. March 18 - report filed by Andrew Illingworth for AMN)

After a week of systemically outflanking the Kurdish-held city of Afrin in Syria’s Aleppo province, Turkish-backed forces have now kicked-off the operation to capture the small but nonetheless highly strategic settlement.

The assault has been confirmed by a local Syrian paramilitary fighter (belonging to the National Defence Forces) in contact with Al-Masdar News.

The ground assault on Afrin by pro-Ankara militants comes after a week of relentless bombardment of the city by Turkish jets and artillery that has ultimately served to kill hundreds.

The[re] exists unconfirmed reports that Syrian Kurdish fighters will not actually attempt to fight for Afrin and have instead abandoned the city and its remaining inhabitants, as well as virtually all of the Afrin region, to the control of Turkish coalition forces.


Let me see if FARS has a report yet on the assault. [taptaptap] No but some related reports:



Saturday, March 17

Deadly nerve poison no match for London bobbies

British government claims about the "poisoning" of a former Russian double agent and his daughter by a super-toxic nerve agent are so silly they can't be considered propaganda or even fake news. What could they be termed, then?

Obviously, the Spanish Inquisition  

For a straight-faced analysis here's Moon of Alabama's March 16 deconstruction of the latest exercise in British anti-Russian buffoonery.


Thursday, March 15

Washington, DC needs a busload of exorcists

To protect terrorists U.S. officially threatens to attack Syrian Army

That's about par for the American course in Syria. 

On March 12, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley actually threatened that the US will strike Syrian government forces if they don’t halt their operation against terrorists in Eastern Ghouta.

“We also warn any nation that is determined to impose its will through chemical attacks and inhuman suffering, most especially the outlaw Syrian regime, the United States remains prepared to act if we must,” Haley said.

The US diplomat proposed a new UN ceasefire resolution that “will take effect immediately upon adoption by this Council. It contains no counterterrorism loopholes for Assad, Iran and the Russians to hide behind”.

According to Haley, the previous resolution “failed” because it had allowed the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies to conduct operation in Eastern Ghouta against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and other militant groups.

Russian ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia reacted by saying that Syria has all the legal right to fight terrorism near its capital. The US-drafted document was not put to the vote on March 12.

On the same day, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that infighting had erupted among militant groups in Eastern Ghouta following a Russian proposal of safe passage out of the region for militants and their families which also demanded that Faylaq al-Rahman separate from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

The SAA liberated the village of Aftris where it found a militant chemical weapons workshop and advanced on Jisrin, Saqba and Hamuriyah.

Jaish al-Islam, which is the key group in the area of Douma, also claimed that no negotiations are ongoing between it and the government over a surrender or withdrawal agreement.

Reports are circulating that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have started handing over checkpoints near Tell Rifaat, the Menagh airbase and nearby villages to the government’s National Defense Forces. However, the situation remains unclear.

Even if the reports are true, this may be too late for the YPG to reach any wide-scale deal with Damascus because the YPG-held city of Afrin is almost cut off from the government-held area by Turkish forces.



Two more analysts who help keep my blood pressure under control

In addition to MOA's b, Gregory Copley and Lee Smith are strong empiricists who write for the public. Here are John Batchelor's latest interviews with them.

How Trump aims to solve North Korea and undermine China's One Belt, One Road imperialism in Asia. Gregory Copley, Defense & Foreign Affairs Podcast. March 13

Why does Robert Mueller chase barkeep fiction in the Seychelles? @LeeSmithDC
Podcasts: 1 of 2Part 2. Lee Smith. March 14


Wednesday, March 14

The Russians did it or someone copied the secret nerve agent formulas from my online book

From Moon of Alabama's Theresa May's 'Novichok' Claims Fall Further Apart; March 14): 
... The former Soviet scientist, Vil Mirzanjaov, who 'blew the whistle' and wrote about the 'Novichoks', now lives in a $1 million home in the United States. The AFP news agency just interviewed him:
"Only the Russians" developed this class of nerve agents, said the chemist. "They kept it and are still keeping it in secrecy."
The only other possibility, he said, would be that someone used the formulas in his book to make such a weapon. ...
Better b than me because I don't have the patience to fisk that much insult to the public's intelligence; it's not even a propaganda war against Putin; it's pure spite. So why the Russians bother to do any business with the British is beyond me, unless you want to say oil has no nationality. But now the British have gone over the top, and with America's Ambassador to the U.N. playing Gunga Din for them. (Nikki Haley warns: Russia could use chemical weapons in New York.

Back to b's analysis of nonsense:
... There is no independent evaluation of the alleged poison. The British government claims that its own chemical weapon laboratory at Porton Down, only a few miles from where the incident happened, has identified the poison as one of the 'Novichok' chemicals.
But in 2016 a leading chemist at Porton Down published a piece in a scientific journal that denied that such chemicals exist. (Tim Hayword and Craig Murray both point this out):
As recently as 2016 Dr Robin Black, Head of the Detection Laboratory at the UK’s only chemical weapons facility at Porton Down, a former colleague of Dr David Kelly, published in an extremely prestigious scientific journal that the evidence for the existence of Novichoks was scant and their composition unknown.
In recent years, there has been much speculation that a fourth generation of nerve agents, ‘Novichoks’ (newcomer), was developed in Russia, beginning in the 1970s as part of the ‘Foliant’ programme, with the aim of finding agents that would compromise defensive countermeasures. Information on these compounds has been sparse in the public domain, mostly originating from a dissident Russian military chemist, Vil Mirzayanov. No independent confirmation of the structures or the properties of such compounds has been published. 
Robin Black. (2016) Development, Historical Use and Properties of Chemical Warfare Agents. Royal Society of Chemistry
Additionally the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has not recognized Novichoks as chemical weapons because it found scant evidence that they exist at all. The U.S. and the UK are both part of the organization and both agreed with this evaluation:
The OPCW Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) appeared to doubt the existence of “Novichoks”, and did not advise that the compounds described by Mirzayanov, or their precursors, should be designated as Scheduled Chemicals that should be controlled under the Chemical Weapons Convention:
[The SAB] emphasised that the definition of toxic chemicals in the Convention would cover all potential candidate chemicals that might be utilised as chemical weapons. Regarding new toxic chemicals not listed in the Annex on Chemicals but which may nevertheless pose a risk to the Convention, the SAB makes reference to “Novichoks”. The name “Novichok” is used in a publication of a former Soviet scientist [Vil Mirzanjaov] who reported investigating a new class of nerve agents suitable for use as binary chemical weapons. The SAB states that it has insufficient information to comment on the existence or properties of “Novichoks”. (OPCW, 2013)
Yes yes Mirzanhov's book of secret formulas is available online -- for $8.16. See the rest of b's discussion for the details.

On a personal note -- b (a German who writes anonymously and might or might not be a retired defense analyst for NATO) deserves a medal for the time, effort, and patience he's invested in deconstructing for netizens attempts to demonize Russians and Syrians who're on U.S., Saudi, and British hit lists. (The lists are pretty much interchangeable.)

Colonel Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis, where b is a frequent commenter, obviously respects b's opinion but once called him "anti-American." If only Americans had more such anti-Americans to catch our government with its hands in the cookie jar.

Why does he keep knocking himself out, I have wondered. His closing words in a March 7 post (No, Russians Do Not Hack The FCC's Public Comments) might be the best explanation:
The Russiagate nonsense has do be debunked at each and every corner to prevent its further abuse against dissent on everything else.
But to debunk consistently, on an almost daily basis, takes courage as well as commitment. I don't agree with every one of b's conclusions; however, his readers can at least make a distinction between his opinions and evidence he presents. I thank him for staying true to the empirical approach to defense analysis, without which political freedom has no chance.  Its the same for intelligent defense decisions.  


"It depends on who is dead and from what"

Guest post by Brad Lena:
The reality of death in the modern era

It should come as a surprise to no one that death, along with much of modern life, has been politicized, monetized and utilized by both private and public sectors. In the before time it was taken for granted that death caused anguish, loss and suffering among the family, friends and acquaintances of the dead. Not anymore; if a death does not fall into one of appropriate categories its aftershocks are of little import to modern sensibilities

According to a 1999 Institute of Medicine estimate, approximately 98,000 people die annually in American hospitals due to incompetence and error. 
Then came a 2013 study published in the Journal of Patient Safety. From ProPublica's article on the study:

... between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death.
A 2016 study published in BMJ (formerly British Journal of Medicine) titled Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US, which built on the 2013 study, put the estimated total of hospital deaths annually from medical errors at 251,454 -- "surpassing the CDC’s stated third-leading cause of death, respiratory disease, which kills close to 150,000 people per year" as Stat's article on the 2016 study noted.

Much of the reason for the wide discrepancy in the estimates is due to how the cause of death is recorded. From Stat:
Currently, deaths are categorized based on insurance billing codes, which sometimes miss the true cause of death
The insurance code is based on the death certificate code. From the 2016 study:
... a major limitation of the death certificate is that it relies on assigning an International Classification of Disease (ICD) code to the cause of death.(1) As a result, causes of death not associated with an ICD code, such as human and system factors, are not captured. 
While the authors of the study are hopeful that improving methods of recording will mean more accurate counts of deaths due to medical errors (including incorrect medications, surgical mishaps, and wrong diagnoses), as it stands now annual deaths in America from medical errors are substantial, no matter which estimate is cited. However, it's not only the errors in themselves:
“There’s vast underrecognition, underpreparation, and underfunding of the problem of medical care gone awry, even though it has a significant impact on public health,” said Dr. Martin Makary, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author on the [2016] paper.
Dr Makary also noted, "People don’t just die of billing codes."

But they die in large numbers because of a medical industry that takes advantage of the limitations in billing codes to consistently obscure deaths from medical errors.

Where are the politicians and social justice warriors? Why aren't they protesting the outrage? 

The reality is that in their time of need innocent people turn to hospitals as sources of healing, rehabilitation and restoration and they die by the tens of thousands. They are blindsided, never expecting to be killed rather than given a chance at healing or life. 

And what of those maimed and crippled by medical errors? What are the numbers for them? What of the suffering, the loss and hardship?

If someone is killed by a gun, politicians and SJWs 
will come out of the woodwork to demand the slaughter cease. Death by guns totaled approximately 33,500 in 2015. But 60% or so of the gun deaths were from suicide

My guess is that the families and friends suffer just as much from the gunshot suicide of a loved one as those shot to death by a criminal or the mentally ill. 

Yet which cause of gun death is given greater prominence? Judging by the sparse public attention to the issue perhaps suicides are not as politically viable as gunshot murders. 

Is death the great equalizer? In the modern era? I would say it depends on who is dead and from what. 


The Storms

Photo: AP/Alessandra Tarantino

Extraordinary weather, from the 'Snowmageddon' that battered the European Continent and U.K. countries, to a series of 'bomb cyclones' along the U.S. Atlantic coast, preceded the solar flare. (See reports after the Daily Mail article.) Have no idea whether there's a connection between the storms on earth and the sun storm. From the Daily Mail, March 13; article by Harry Pettit (see the website for video and pix):

Massive solar storm that will slam Earth TOMORROW [March 14] could knock out power supplies, damage satellites and trigger stunning auroras
A huge solar storm is heading for Earth, and it's likely to hit tomorrow.

The storm could knock out satellites, disrupt power supplies and spark stunning displays of the Northern Lights.

It was created last week by an enormous explosion in the sun's atmosphere known as a solar flare, and charged particles from that flare are now on their way to our planet.

The arrival of the solar storm coincides with the formation of 'equinox cracks' in Earth's magnetic field, which some scientists believe form around the equinoxes on March 20 and September 23 each year.

These cracks weaken our planet's natural protection against charged particles and could leave commercial flights and GPS systems exposed to the incoming storm.

The cracks also mean stargazers are more likely to catch glimpses of the Northern lights this week.

This may include parts of Scotland and northern England, as well as the 'northern tier' of the US including parts of Michigan and Maine. 

The charged, magnetic particles from the solar storm can interfere with machinery in Earth's orbit as well as at the planet's surface, such as GPS systems and radio signals. 

They can also threaten airlines by disturbing Earth's magnetic field.

Very large flares can even create currents within electricity grids and knock out energy supplies.

'A minor geomagnetic storm watch is now in effect for the 14 and 15 March, 2018. Aurora may be visible at high latitudes,' the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wrote in a statement.

The particles, which came from the sun after solar flares took place on March 6 and 7, could cause 'weak power grid fluctuations' and a 'minor impact on satellite operations,' according to the NOAA.

Nasa said the first of the two flares - classified in the potent X class and facing directly at the Earth - was the biggest this year.

It was one of the largest of this cycle known as the solar minimum, which began in early 2007.

Geomagnetic storms are ranked on a severity scale, with G at the bottom, R in the middle and S at the top.

[Inset: What Are Solar Storms and Why Are They Dangerous?]

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that the forecast suggests the solar storm will be a G-1 or 'minor' storm.

This could become a G-2 'moderate storm' depending on how the charged particles hit Earth.

The event coincides with the formation of 'equinox cracks' - theorised by some scientists to form semi-annually during the equinox.

On March 20 and September 23 each year, the Earth and sun line up so that day and night are of roughly equal length.

But the equinoxes also cause cracks to open up in Earth's magnetic field which stay open for hours.


I want to focus on explanations about why the unusual storms happened so I omitted several interesting paragraphs from the following report concerning how the storms affected various countries. 

From The New York Times, March 1:
Heaviest Snow in Decades Batters U.K., Ireland and the Continent


Since last Friday, Europe has been locked in a Siberian weather patternthat has pummeled the Continent with snow, freezing rain and brutal wind chills, paralyzing cities unaccustomed to more than a thin wet film of snow and killing dozens of people, mainly older and homeless people.

The weather system that is being called the “Beast From the East” has hit Britain especially hard, with some areas buried in up to three feet of snow and pushing temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 Celsius).[...]

Europe’s weather usually approaches from the Atlantic, to the west, keeping conditions mostly temperate, but that pattern has temporarily reversed, bringing a frigid system from Asia that meteorologists named “the Beast From the East.” Rome had its first snowfall in six years this week.

The cold weather in Britain and northwestern Europe is to some extent a mirror image of the “sudden stratospheric warming” in the arctic, experts say, referring to a disturbance in the polar jet stream that has alarmed scientists and forced some to reconsider even the most pessimistic forecasts for climate change.

As warm air has surged into the Arctic, experts say, a return flow into Europe dropped average February temperatures there to among the coldest ever.

“These changes in the upper areas of the atmosphere over the North Pole then lead to the jet stream being pushed southwards, which is what normally drives weather patterns in the U.K. and northwestern Europe,” said Chloe Moore, a meteorologist for the Royal Meteorological Society in Reading, southern England.

“When we have this setup in winter, the winds then come from the east, and this brings a very cold air mass from Scandinavia and Northern Russia,” she added.



Bomb Cyclones
The last of these unusual Nor'easters struck the U.S. around March 13 but going back to March 1: from a report filed by Doyle Rice for USA Today:

Nor'easter a 'life and death' situation with high winds for almost all of East Coast


The storm is expected to undergo explosive development known as bombogenesis, which is a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure of 24 millibars or more in a period of 24 hours or less, the Weather Channel said.

"This 'bomb cyclone' wind field is larger than most Category 1 hurricanes, with winds to match," Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weather.us said.

The storm will be the most powerful to hit the East since January's bomb cyclone, AccuWeather said.

All along the East Coast, authorities told residents of coastal communities to be prepared to evacuate if necessary in advance of Friday morning’s high tide, the Associated Press said.

Up to 2 feet of heavy, wet snow could bury portions of New York and Pennsylvania. Strong winds are likely Friday afternoon and evening, and whiteout conditions are possible, the weather service said. Blizzard conditions are possible in portions of eastern Pennsylvania.




Sunday, March 4

Here We Go Again

Isley Brothers; full length version from Go All the Way album released in 1980 (via YouTube).  One of the greatest 'Old School' songs, although they'll be playing it a thousand years from now and it will still sound new.  

But right now the lyrics are a kind of touchstone for me --  how I've come to feel about my society, my government.   

Well, what do you do when you love somebody
and everything is going wrong
Nobody knows the way you feel about it 
'cause only you know you can't leave it alone
Here we go again .. .

I rarely visit Zero Hedge but saw the headline somewhere, last night. At first I didn't read the report then I was sorry when I did.

Contradictions In Seth Rich Murder Continue To Challenge Hacking Narrative

The contradictions, the questions, I don't want to think about them. God help me, I'm now scared to talk about so many things in public, on this blog. Dammit I'm an American, born and raised. I should not have to live in fear of speaking out, but now I live in -- I don't know what to call it; maybe 'great caution bordering on fear. ' 

What do you do when you love somebody
And realize you're walking away
You hesitate when it's time for leaving 
You and I know it's never too late
Here we go again

Is it really never too late? Can I never walk away from the nation, the society, that protected me all my life, even if it was often by hook or by crook? It's the kind of question a Mafia daughter would have to wrestle it. But the USA isn't a criminal organization.     


When does Mr Trump plan to announce he's aiding al Qaeda in Syria?

I don't want to hear that Trump doesn't know, unless I'm to believe that no members of the National Security Council have informed him, and that the facts about what the U.S. military is up to in Syria have been withheld from the presidential briefings.  

The American people repeatedly suffered blowback from U.S. support for terrorist groups and tyrants during the Cold War. Yet actions by successive American presidential administrations since the end of the Cold War showed that nothing had been learned, nothing had changed. I'd hoped, briefly, that Trump would be able break the cycle. If he tried, the nightmare in Syria is evidence that he failed.

There's really nothing more to be said. Explanations, arguments, trotting out of evidence -- all that is the attempt to persuade people who are sincerely making a mistake. The American defense establishment is not making a mistake. Its leaders know exactly what they're doing. Assad remaining in power, and threats from Iran and Russia -- all that is phony rationalizations for aiding not only al Qaeda but also other terrorist organizations, including Islamic State, operating in Syria. This aid started during the Obama Administration, but the Trump Administration doubled down.    

To ask why is useless. Evil does not need a reason.


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