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Friday, June 29, 2018

NYT: One Really Stupid Attempt to Demonize Assad

Alleged Chemical Attack in Douma, April 7, 2018
NYT: One Really Stupid Attempt to Demonize Assad
June 29, 2018
(rough, incomplete)
last edits July 3, 7, 12, 27...

For some reason the New York Times had to come back and easily slap down the blatant "lies' by Russia and Syria over the April chemical massacre in Douma. They came back on June 25 with a video report including a detailed visual analysis, complete with helpful narration and dark, though-simulating mood music. This has nothing to do with the Douma massacre story having fallen apart and needing repair, no, no... It's just that damn Russian disinformation warping minds, and their noble need to set the record straight on issues of war and peace. The paper of record, they call it, and they bring all the confidence of that to this endeavor.

One Building, One Bomb: How Assad Gassed His Own People
By Malachy Browne, Christoph Koettl, Anjali Singkvi, Natalie Reneau, Barbara Marcolini, Yousur Al-Hlou and Drew Jordan
New York Times June 25, 2018
Some the visual explained, valuable for those not familiar with the evidence here:

Browne calls this "the most detailed reconstruction of the attack so far." Note how it took seven authors worth of work and thinking! He explains how it was done working alongside open-source investigators Bellingcat and digital imaging experts at Forensic Architecture. Together, as usual, they answer some narrow but relevant technical questions about where and what, then distort the relevance of that and find ways to reach the preconceived conclusion: Assad dunnit.

But after reviewing their pseudo-forensic case, I have to wonder are they idiots or are they deliberately trying to fool us? I suppose it's the latter as usually, but it's also - more so than usual - the former. Host Malachy Browne, his co-authors, their cited experts, research staff, someone in there … is wrong on pretty much every point, to bad effect. Of course that's no surprise, but this case is especially glaring, a low point in the abuse of reality that truly deserves a rebuttal

I've been on break from research/blogging (this mostly-Syria stuff), and mainly staying that way for the moment. But I'll take this on and explain that bold assessment in the space below. It's taken a little assembly I'm not really done with yet, but it's taken long enough. Best to strike while the iron is … above room temperature, hopefully. As usual, this is rough (content and formatting, links, etc.) and will be improved over a couple days, with more improvements intended but perhaps never gotten to...

4 Reasons Why it HAD to be Dropped by Assad
The Times video report focuses on one of the two large chlorine gas cylinders shown as responsible for the April 7 attack, the building it crashed it into, and the 34/35 bodies (all those clearly known of) that were just found there. (NYT counts 34, we count 35, presuming a dark shape that seems human is (probably adult female), but it's debatable - 35 total is reported either way.)

"Our conclusion is it HAD to drop from the sky," Browne proclaims at 6:00. And it's the physical evidence, not power politics, that forces this choice, which they hoped to make for as many minds as possible. These are their four "Key pieces of evidence." (scroll down for small text and images below the video)
1) Indentation near the nose
2) Black corrosion from chlorine gas
3) lattice imprint on the bomb ("most importantly")
4) bomb's rigging found in the debris

Let's deal with these in another order, 2 briefly and 2 in more detail, along with just a few of the things they messed up or ignored here, and probably not on accident.

Point 4, rigging: The crumpled metal pieces they show do seem to assemble into the same kind of metal harness seen on the other chlorine canister blamed for this attack, and on others in the past. These have fins to stabilize the canister and make the nose point down, hooks so they can be suspended and then dropped from a helicopter and, in the case of the two Douma cylinders at least, small wheels on long axles along the bottom side, so it could also be rolled out of a chopper. So they conclude "clearly it was designed to drop from a helicopter."

But that's not really clear, as they ignore the obvious option this was designed to create that illusion. This design impression/illusion/fact matters, as they note at 4:30, because that would prove the government side did it, perhaps the Russians; again, rebels got nothing at all in the air. Case closed. If it really "HAD to drop from the sky." 

As for the quality of this possible costume - not bad. Perhaps overdone - the tiny wheels plus harness seem redundant. But that's subjective and from this alone, government guilt is suggested.

But luckily for NYT it's not alone - there's a wealth of evidence in support. As happens when you're on the true track, every turn confirms it. Like that telltale indentation near the nose; critics claim this thing is damaged nowhere near enough to have fallen from a helicopter, usually 2km or higher above the ground. Of course the way it punched a hole but then just stopped and tipped over doesn't seem right either.

But the Times investigation points out there is a dent (the one shown at right). There is, but compared to other cases, this damage is extremely mild, considering the alleged fall. See at right a fairly extreme example of another alleged helicopter-dropped chlorine tank. The norm is somewhere in between, averaging well to the distorted end. This thing looks more like it was dropped on a large rock from maybe truck-bed height,  before they dragged it upstairs and arranged it on the balcony.

To the extent it's asymmetrical, this dent is suggestive of an angled, not a fully vertical impact, if an impact at all. That is if it same down, it was fired or hurled from the surface, not from the air. In no cases, as far as I know, is an aircraft proven. If canister like this can be hurled, they can be hurled unknown distances, maybe long. If one is launched almost straight up, it will come down from pretty high. I'm no expert but it seems to me this could explain every case we've seen. Except those we can see where launched at shallower angles... (see here). Or perhaps explosives are used in some cases to achieve distortion levels too high for that. It's all pretty unknown and unclear. Let's recognize that.

But the Douma one (as well as the other Douma one we'll gloss over here) appear more likely to be set in place after being carried or dragged up the stairs, not launched or dropped.

The Lattice "Imprint"
One of the other big clues the Times uses to prove it came crashing down may actually help show how it was simply set in place. At 5:50 in the video report, they mention "most importantly" the grid pattern "seared" into the yellow paint, which matches "exactly" the square pattern of a section of latticework it apparently crashed through. Right after relating this, with dramatic musical intonations, is where they drop the bomb; "Our conclusion is it HAD to drop from the sky."
But this point is so incredibly stupid … or am I incredibly stupid to miss how it does make sense? Let me explain how I see it and then tell me if I'm missing anything. I've seen others claim this and ignored it in pity. I forget what idiot claimed this. But now a whole team of people at the paper of record put their names on it...

Below is an image from the NYT video - they propose these crossed lines are caused directly by the metal lattice we see crumpled in the foreground and its grid of crossing bars. They think this was stretched above the balcony. Across the outer railing makes more sense to me, but it could be like they say. We can see a chip in the roofline right at the balcony's corner. Maybe it also tore through this material before impacting just below that. So far so good...

See lower left in the above image for its square grid pattern. That is a nice visual match to the red-circled area, but so what? Does a falling bomb pause and notice "what a nice pattern? I'll have it tattooed on my side?" and then get that tattoo before it busts through the stuff head-first? No, no ... direct physical contact is mentioned. Does it come in nose-down, find the grid red hot and then pause to lay on it sideways long enough to have the pattern "seared" directly into its paint? And then continue its crash down?

No, if it's definitely falling from a regime helicopter, it will come in nose down and punch right through this stuff that way. They say "our analysis suggests that this imprint was made by the force of impact", but seemingly forget that impact is a violent event involving 3-dimensional movement, as in through the lattice. The contact will be passing, and the nature of the passing determines any marks left behind. The grid might imprint the nose end somehow before it splits apart to let the bomb through. The marks from that would be long lines down the cylinder's sides, running lengthwise - scratches dug in by the loose bars of the torn grid, not "imprints" that are "seared" in. They won't be like the marks we see.
Note: crude graphic. The curving lines would actually be straight, I suppose, just slanted; a curve would be caused by that plus a change in the ratio between forward movement and rotation. See below.

The grid we see - if it's even from that lattice - could be burned into the paint if the metal were hot (but why? heat of impact? But that would have movement too, no time for searing...). More logically, it could be rusted in from sitting on the lattice in the rain, but both require laid-on-top contact for some span of time in order to get this grilled sausage look.  It's got nothing to do with anything like a bomb crashing down - as they seem to realize, usually nose-first. Between them, they really don't seem to know what the hell they're talking about here. You can tell the cylinder crashed from the sky through that lattice because it looks like it laid sideways on that lattice?

Hello? 3-D world calling NYT research crew, reporters, experts; Your bodies live here. Those of the Douma victims used to live here. Do you care at all about how things actually happen here? You claim to...

Here are some other possibilities (basic idea, obviously). Possibly the first option (corrosion version), or the last option if repeated and mirrored backwards in one area, would explain what we see. What Browne et al. are certain happened would leave marks more like the second option.

Now there is a similarity in line widths/grid proportions here, and I suspect that lattice is involved - or about three bars of it anyway. If you look, you'll see this grid pattern is sort of fragmentary: there are exactly two lines angling one way near the front, then 2 lines the same length angling the same way, then another 2 the same way with one bending and a third appearing now, at the back of the canister. Then crossing those, two lines about the same distance apart, running perpendicular to the third set. There only does it look like a grid. But what if that's an illusion, and we just see two sets of angled marks, from two different episodes of manual pulling and rotation, maybe separated by days? Here's what I specifically propose:

In fact we know it was pulled an rotated between one early images (below, left: black side down) and all later ones (right, TV4, black side mostly up), perhaps just the degree evidenced in heave 4; this might be the mark of that shift.  (the full scrape isn't seen, so that "total rotation" (not marked as such) is actually a minimum. So is the other one marked in red. Should update that...).

If so, the other marks would be the same thing but in reverse and with a longer pull, about the canister's length, at least. This is likely from the initial planting. The smoke stains here (see below) show this is mainly on the underside in its planted position, so they probably didn't notice the scratching.

Perhaps my reasoning is off (maybe backwards in some regard) on that specific reading. But unless the reasoning above that is flawed (please let me know if so!), … Duh! That's their grilled sausage theory of impact. Paper of record, folks.

The Black "Corrosion"
While suggesting burning along those black scrape marks, this ludicrous NYT report ignores the actual sign of fire and heat here; one end of this non-grilled sausage is coated in black soot like you see after a fire (visible on the underside above), like it tipped into the grill, or down a chimney. But they decide to call this something else, as they ignore the smoking gun clue it's part of.

At 8:11 they address this important "black residue." A metals expert told them chlorine mixes with water, or here frost, and corrodes the metal, creating "a dark compound." That, they decided, is what coats the canister on the underside, where it frosted over during gas release (that it did - they call this auto-refrigeration).

Indeed, chlorine plus moisture - that in the air even - will create hydrochloric and other acids, which will oxidixe metals, creating new compounds with different colors. Generally, that's called rust, but that word is avoided in the report. Cartoon writers know about it (but the passing out part is incorrect). So do others (see "bleach" - same idea: "The oxidizing properties of bleach accelerate rusting; iron loses electrons more readily in the presence of bleach than in plain water.") In most cases rust is not this type of dark.

The color of rust varies with the metal; orange with iron, green with copper, etc. Any black metal at this swimming pool suffering from chlorine corrosion to the metal fixtures? No, it's all sort of orange-colored. I believe these gas canisters are usually made of steel, which is made primarily of iron. So its rust will be what we call rust color, not dark/black. In cases I've seen previously, chlorine canisters exposed to their own contents wind up that color (at the bare metal parts). In fact this one the NYT report refers to rusted orange. Below is a color-enhanced details from Russia 1 footage. There's your "dark compound" that chlorine caused, and it's not black at all (on valve cap threads, a stray wire, and the metal slat). Over there is the black stuff, and it's something else. 

In fact the black material appears on top of, and would derive from, the yellow paint, not the metal itself, in the Times/Bellingcat scenario. They didn't ask a paint and coatings expert what chlorine would do to that. So are we left in the dark? Does it turn black on exposure to chlorine? No. In every chlorine case yet seen, paint stays yellow, while bare metal parts turn rusty orange-brown.

Here's a closer view of the black side. If this is soot as I suspect, it should deposit pretty evenly, but we see an odd parted-hair pattern. Some of this may be streaking from the smoke's original deposition, but it seems mostly this is from some from light rain. Scattered droplet shapes of clean yellow can be seen on the upside, with rivulets of white dust down the sides, wiping the soot away too in streaks that converged in the middle, ran to the lowest point, and dripped down (so that hair-part was its straight-down side during this rain). See light gray streaks here on the lower half to prove running dust. Also the frost of auto-refrigeration would melt and run away the same way, perhaps explaining this effect even more than the rain does.

Does chlorine-darkened paint rinse away like this, to reveal another layer of still-yellow paint beneath it? Uh, no. This something else, black and unexplained, on top of the cylinder, at least the part that was sticking down in that hole after the attack/staging.

Coincidentally, this black stuff they have no good explanation for looks just like another thing they don't mention - the soot stains from a fire set on top of the rubble (after impact) but before that first camera crew arrived. Does someone setting a fire under the bomb help prove it fell from a regime aircraft? Nope. Ignored.

The smoke clearly comes from a fire that somehow broke out in the southwest corner of the room beneath the canister, the corner closest to right below the canister. Above, the burned material ispartly visible on the bottom edge of the image. Below is a Reuters photo facing south:
Swedish TV4 facing northwest
There a few ways of reading this scene, but here's the best by far: a pile of fabric or something flammable was laid ON TOP of the pre-existing rubble, doused in accelerants and lit up, perhaps with more fuel added later.

Add 7/27: for good measure, it's hypothetically possible the fire started naturally upon impact, but I can't think of a plausible mechanism. No one has suggested one. How would a steel tank hitting concrete cause a pile of flammable fabric not get covered in rubble, and also to start on fire and then burn out of control for some time? There are no explosives involved, no sign of ruptured electrical lines, nothing but maybe some sparks on first impact, up on the balcony. 

It seems the window was open, sucking in a lot of oxygen to fuel this. The lower south wall is very deeply charred, suffering great heat. The south and west walls here are coated in black soot up to the ceiling, across that and the upper walls all around the room (just what's smoke vs. shadow isn't totally clear, but it's at least partly smoke.). What this means is smoke pooled up here as it waited to exit the main functional chimney here - that hole in the ceiling mostly filled with the chlorine cylinder. Most or all of it would finally escape that way, sticking to any surface it passed on the way.

Add 7/27: new graphic, noting OPCW sample spots - wiped on first visit, April 21

Most crucially; this fire was set before the first seen video, taken at 10:06 pm on the night of the attack (per data shared with NYT, see 11:44 in the video). By then the ceiling appears dark, and the upper walls also get black, along the same lines we would later see more clearly. So the fire was set after the alleged impact (atop the rubble allegedly from that) but before the "first responder" video - an odd time to be setting fires beneath just landed CW bombs. As for planted ones, it depends whether there's a good reason to do so...

Explaining that in images… marking the smoke lines as seen later (may appear a bit different in different lighting, etc.). On the left, the way the curve relates to the corner (vert line). On the right, tracing those two wires, the starts of a faintly dark area vs. a darker-yet area (app.)

10pm video still, rotate-skewed to match other scene, with its own apparent dark patches outlined in white (and wires in black for reference as they washed out in enhancement). Corner on left can't be called, but the curves of the burn line match. Bands on right side look curved here, straight later, so I call straight with a mild illusion. Bottom view has the above image overlaid after careful matching. I didn't get the line-up completely right, but close - the effect is minimal. (was tricky - decided curtain/window edge illusion (right curtain pulled down before other views), etc.)
Here with just the images and judge for yourself. Check the videos if you want. (the links are … around. I got rusty)
The part that's darker doesn't look much different at all, despite the lighting and perspective differences. Clearly, this is the same smoke-staining, there already at 10 as chlorine is actively pouring from the canister (it's frosted-over). That was allegedly dropped anywhere between 7 and 10 pm - accounts differ, apparently for good reason. The Times report heard this frosting can last, vaguely, for "hours," depending on the conditions. Early evening in early April would be middle conditions, FWIW. (Or actually pretty warm, as Charles Wood finds - 27C at 7pm, 22C at 10pm (see comments)).

The canister should be there, in its own impact hole, after impact. Right? Well the fire was set after impact, and has deposited its smoke and stopped burning by the 10pm video. So the canister's bottom side should already be soot-covered too, just hidden underneath that frost we see. Host Browne reasons "where we once saw frost we now see corrosion." Oops, the order is backwards. After the melt, we see something right there that looks just like that hidden smoke-stain we should expect. Where there's smoke there's fire, but the NYT/Bellingcat investigation ignored the fire and called the smoke something else - that had to be poorly made-up

Why The Fire?
So ignored or not, the clues are clear - the locals lit a fire under the alleged chlorine-sarin bomb as a first order of business after it landed (or was set in place, depending). Maybe it was to melt the frost, thinking that was the problem causing the chlorine? They are Islamists, quite likely idiots. What's the big deal?

Well, none of them seems to have dropped dead anywhere near their fooling around right beneath the chlorine-sarin device blamed for the sudden deaths of dozens on the floors below. So did they set the fire before the gas came out? Were they protected? Was the gas not so deadly (just plain chlorine?) Or is it a combination answer?

And as it happens, there's a good reason someone might set such a fire, depending on the time and their reasons. Recalling the frost means it's releasing its gas, we can note it did this at least partly after the fire. Fire then gas: is that why? I think so.

After positioning the canister - and most or all of the bodies (see far below) - they could use fire to get the chlorine out to complete the scene and document a true frosty release atop of "in-situ" dead people. Here's how: they position the valve so the fire's heat will melt away the softer-metal fusible plug. This is set below the main outlet, designed to release gas in case of a fire, to prevent an even-more dangerous explosion. (here  shown is the poured variety - another kind can be screwed in or out). As you can see, if that were to vanish, gas would start escaping, even if the valve was screwed tightly closed.

This crude method has advantages; Unlike smashing the valve off, that can be done without jarring the thing loose to finally fall in on your head. Unlike simply opening the valve, it can be done without risking a possibly fatal facefull. It has a crude time delay; set the fire, leave, and wait.

The downsides are the right heat level may not be achieved, and it looks obvious - in fact just like this - to anyone paying attention. The crime scene will be coated in smoke (photo above: did they really try scrubbing it off as it appears in that one spot?). 

Also, the soot-coated valve assembly will have an extra and telltale hole in it.  We can see the valve is gone later (see views above, around). Russia 1's argument that we can see the screw threads where the valve was manually removed are incorrect; the threads seen there are for the outer safety cap that's never on these things when they're used or staged as alleged CW weapons. The threads in question are on the inside of that neck and never seen that I know of.

In fact, those odd metal slats laid beneath the cylinder have no clear explanation, aside from how they cover the valve hole, blocking any useful view so we can't see how it went away. There are three possibilities:
- broken off (it'll be partly there, snapped off near the base - any fragment left barely sticks out, never visible - not likely)
- popped out by overpressure (stripping the threads - very unlikely - esp. considering the fusible plug)
- manually unscrewed. I suspect this is how, and the reason is to hide the clues it held; the scorching and the wrong hole in the side that the gas finally came out of.

Considering that, the unusual absence of the valve assembly here is further evidence supporting this release-by-fire hypothesis.

So far the best counter-argument I hear is the fire doesn't matter enough to mention, and coincidentally this abnormal yellow paints turns black on contact with chlorine - at least the outermost coating of it does. Also punching through a lattice head-first leaves a mark like you had the lattice design tattooed on your belly. So you can see why I stick with my line of reasoning here - clearly, because Putin orders it.

Other Errors and What They Ignored (in part)
Idiot expert on corneal burns: I'll pass over the foam issue for now, as raised by one of the Times' experts. The copious foam from many victims' mouths and noses seems legit to me, at least in part if not totally (some details are debatable, I'm unsure). It argues somewhat against sarin of the sudden-death type (the kind suggested by how everyone fell where they were, which has nothing to do with chlorine - in a sudden death, you don't breathe enough to even produce foam). This proves the people were exposed, probably, to one of the many kinds of poisons that can cause lung damage and mucous secretions, etc. to trigger this foam (which is fluids in the airways, filled with the air one is trying to breathe, locked up inside bubbles). This pulmonary edema is caused by (among other things including sarin) irritants, chlorine included. Perhaps chlorine did cause it. But as for other signs...  

Another supposed expert (Jennifer Knaack) thinks chlorine causes corneal burns that make the eyes appear white? What a moron. The literature has been pretty clear for over a century, but a bit more mixed the last few years in Syria; the acid created when chlorine contacts the water in the eyes causes a mild to severe redness in the eyes, which we don't really see at all. In more severe cases, from what I know, they'll start melting, get really red and pour blood. The point where the whites are still white is at little or no exposure, not at severe exposure like they heard. Whiteness over the whites is generally the point the Douma victims are at.

The added whiteness over the pupils she seems to be referring to, I think, is a simple phenomenon; they call "clouding." It's a basic thing that happens to all dead people and animals, like rigor mortis. I'm not sure what causes it, but it sets in quick. (I'm not sure why the activists showed us the victims' eyes so much, when they don't even support the case (no redness).) How is Knaack considered an expert in these things, when she's not even aware of what chlorine does to eyes vs. what any kind of death does? I'm not out to harm anyone's reputation, but hey, she's the one clearly speaking past her expertise, for some reason (which would be what?)

Add 7/7: This eye claim has previously been made by supposed chemical expert Keith Ward. In an article run by Bellingcat, he makes a ludicrous claim that "even if only 1% of the contents of a cylinder (1 pound) of chlorine made its way into the lower floors and basement of the buildings attacked, that would be sufficient to fill a large space with a concentration of chlorine that would cause death to those sheltering therein within a matter of minutes." He also decided "the vast majority of the clinical signs and symptoms (such as the corneal opacification and the frothing from mouths and nostrils, due to pulmonary edema, seen on dead bodies) ... are most consistent with exposure to high levels of chlorine, although they do not completely rule out that a nerve agent might have also been involved." What a moron. He clarifies they refer to clouding, and are unaware this is just a sign of death. Period. Ward is described as "an Affiliated Faculty member at George Mason University. He received his B.S. in Physics from Texas A&M and his Ph.D. in Biophysics from the Johns Hopkins University. He was on the Chemistry Faculty at the University of Wisconsin before serving as a civilian scientist for the US Navy, DHS, and the FBI Laboratory. Since retiring, he occasionally provides technical assistance to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, specializing in chemical and biological defense topics." Huh. He can blame regimes ok. Good prosecution 'expert witness' type. He's also cited in the NYT repot at 9:24, testifying to the frothy mucous clue, but not the eyes. Instead, Knaack is brought on to address that. Did Ward decide to drop that point, forcing them to find someone less qualified to repeat what they had heard around from the likes of Mr. Ward?

This BBC article takes reports from locals of "corneal burns" and/or "cornea irritation" as signs of chlorine, seen/reported on patients and those found in the home. But this image search for cornea irritation shows what I'm saying: this means red eyes, not ones that are cloudy as if one were dead. We hear some kind of burn was seen on the living, but where we can see (the dead victims in the house), we see clouding, and little to no redness. The conclusion to draw from this is they're dead, and it's not from regular chlorine exposure. (but perhaps irregular exposure: if they were wearing goggles, for example, red eyes could be avoided even with exposure to chlorine or another caustic agent.)<end 7/7>

Add 7/12: I could stand to have better sources on this, but here's one easily found online explanation of post mortem eye clouding. Here's another list of the basic signs of death, one of which is "Clouding of the cornea." Explained: "The transparent window of the eye begins to cloud quickly after death."

Some images show an additional red-black band across the white of the eye I've rarely seen or noted. Digging around, it seems they call this tache noir (black spot): if the eyes are left open after death, I guess from not blinking/moving and moistening like usual, the exposed part darkens that way (in the dark or only in the sun or light?). This may be the cause of the dark spots on the eyes of the boy whose left eye is shown below (small, in the lower right corner). That also is not a chlorine burn. 

There are injuries to the eye that cause scarring that appears opaque like the Douma victims and all other dead people. Glaucoma causes similar. But that, I believe, is scar issue. It appears after the initial injury has healed, whereas dead people don't heal. What the injury looks like, before and shortly after a related death: acid burn to the cornea: like after the swimming pool but worse in a severe (deadly) case. cornea burn, chemical: can cause opacification, but also causes severe redness, capillaries engorged with blood - chlorine causes acids, which burn less severely than an alkaline would (per this graphic and other sources.)

Feel free to compare.
Below, the boy displaying tache noir in larger form, to note the dark spots and clouding to show he died, and the lack of red to suggest chlorine did it. But the orange stuff that wound up in his airways suggests it included blood, from inhaling chlorine or similar. So what could be different between his eyes and lungs? <end 7/12>

7/16: Eye stuff expanded into a broader post on the subject.

Lack of rational motive: The report argues that Assad had the motive for this chemical massacre, as his forces conquered Douma the next day - probably because of the attack. Many have wondered why Assad would make such a move and risk re-crossing president Trump's "all kinds of red lines" and incur fresh military strikes or other fallout, when he was on the verge of victory here anyway. 

But Browne at al. seem sure rebels here, led by the Saudi-backed Army of Islam, were prepared to hold out, despite the fact they were totally surrounded, split in half, and many had already surrendered and left the area. Some others did put on a show of refusing to surrender (and I suspect it was just a show, planned along with their false-flag CW event), shelling Damascus April 6 as a provocation for return shelling and, it's thought, this chemical attack. This is what we're to believe broke their will; they couldn't risk any more dead babies from gas attacks, and had better just fold.

Well if so, that's some unexplained change of heart. Consider how the same basic guys in August 2013 claimed 1,700 civilians were killed by Assad's chemicals, and they insisted at the time they'd never surrender, no matter how many (of their hostages?) wound up gassed/executed (like the one guy and that other one, at least). There should be a no-fly zone, but either way, they swore the fight would go on until God willed otherwise.

They were not surrounded, cut-off, and starting to surrender at that time. On April 7, 2018 they were, and suddenly they also cared this much about whoever those people are? Is it the closeness of defeat improving their ethics, or is this just a coincidence since they were still miles from that? Or is it just more sold and bought bullshit?

Clues the victims were massacred, planted here: At 8:45 the report explains the "most damning" clue  - the 34/35 dead victims are actually verified to be at the building with this shady chlorine tank staging stuff they messed up so badly in reading. And the videos "show that this was a lethal chemical attack," not just some kind without a bunch of dead people piled fairly near the exit/entrance of a building that seems mainly uninhabited.

But there are a lot of clues they blur out or gloss over suggesting those poor folks were killed deliberately (yes, with toxic gasses, not guns) and then planted here. Consider as the terrorists surrendered and were given safe passage to Idlib, etc., they were not allowed to bring any chemical weapons they might have, nor any hostages (both of which they were known to possess, in somewhat uncertain kinds and quantity). Would they just leave and free these, or take a last chance to use them - hostages and poisons together - to score more points against their hated Assad? To save space and slow the alienation of weaker readers, I'll just direct you to victim analysis if you're curious which of these clues I've noted here (there are other clues too, but mine are very interesting, if incomplete).


  1. Temperature at 7pm 7 Apr 18, Damascus, was 27C (81F). Dewpoint -4C, 25F. Wind 6 knot, 3 m/s

    10pm Temperature 22C (72F). Dewpoint 0C (32F). Calm.

    So a warm dry evening. Frost duration would be minutes without active cooling by boiling chlorine. In the later part, the day's hot air in the building would rise through the hole by chimney effect. Earlier, the warm dry breeze would make short work of any frost.

    1. 81F! Well that makes 3 hours … less likely. By some margin.

    2. I just noticed this says April 18. Typo? I need to check where you get that reliable record for the 8th. Or, whoever know how to crunch it with decompression rates to get the expected time to drain the tank. FWIW, it seems close to empty - I think the frost area is seen is the whole thing at that time.

  2. An interview that goes with the NYT piece:


    Malachy Browne says cylinder fins "turns it into a missile that falls nose down"

    Helicopters "provide a stationary platform for them to drop straight down"

    As shown by neither of these 2 cylinders. And no satellite images of that lattice to show when it was damaged. They'll probably win an award.

    1. They won a "news Emmy". Tedious documentary or silly animation, all anti-Assad propaganda gets some award no matter how badly done.

  3. Interim report https://www.opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/S_series/2018/en/s-1645-2018_e_.pdf

    Still ongoing (though everyone is trying to spin this report one way or the other). Describes the delay in the OPCW getting to the site, not quite as NYT claimed.

    1. Haven't had chance to read in detail but someone else notes the description of entry 21 and 22 ("burnt")

      Possible this part NYT worked on with Bellingcat as Higgins seems to show a lack of understanding here https://imgur.com/j4oIW6u

    2. Thanks A+A for these latest comments. The Twitter exchange forced me to pop in with some questions.


      I'm penning a short (as planned) post on the last couple of attack findings compared. Thanks for the direct report link. Will review soon.

    3. To be fair, I don't think it is possible to explain in their version. Even a fire to try and remove the chemicals would be backwards if you accept frost at 10pm

      The NYT did provide 2 photos of the cylinder in the same position as the earliest video, both sides show the 'black corrosion' only formed above the hole


      For the victim ID:

      "Touka" = Taqa Hanan?

  4. Re the OPCW interim report.

    They didn't report any sampling of the 'black' on the cylinder as such. It would have helped shut up the wild directed speculation in the NYT piece.

    FYI there is a black oxide of Iron Fe3O4. It's the same black as on guns. It is formed by strong acid or caustic solutions oxidising the Iron in preference to the red Fe2O3 form we know as rust. If it was possible to do it by exposing to chlorine there would be a dozen patents by now.

    And yet another what-the! They clearly have no meteorologists on staff. They plucked some data for the weather from some hipster American website that aggregates and interpolates met data to give an 'impression' of what the weather could have been. They had hard reliable data from Damascus airport METARS they could have used but through ignorance didn't.

    My day job includes reading forensic evidence, and the OPCW report reads as so much bureaucratic flim-flam used as a pretty story rather than something that can be used in court. It's all dressed up with official procedure references, bit zip on who did what where and when - actual evidence. Worse, they plan to publish the websites and blogs they used in compiling the report! Sacred Blue!

    So now we have a completely made up NYT report and a farce of non report from OPCW. Will anyone do an actual investigation at some time?

  5. No third cylinder? That makes the BBC/CNN/Sunday Times witness story seem absurd. Chlorine would have to shoot through the building, out into the street and down into the neighbouring basement in "seconds".

    The NYT theory of people moving up from the basement when they smelled chlorine and that they for some reason "couldn't have known it was coming from the roof" didn't make sense anyway. Now they would also have to run towards the *only* alleged source of chlorine gas in the street.

  6. lots of excellent material. In fairness to NYT theory, they do not argue that cylinder hit roof coming straight down, but rather argue that it first hit a corner of the balcony (showing damaged area in Russian video), then deflected to the hole. I'm not suggesting that this is any more sensible, only that it's a more accurate representation of their theory.

    1. If that was the theory, they don't seem to have put the part about the corner of the roof in their video or animation?

      They say "these deep dents mean the tip of the bomb made first impact, consistent with it falling nose down from above and piercing the ceiling" (shot of the room below at this point) and that it "crashed through the metal lattice"


      "The dent on the front of the bomb indicates that it crashed nose down into the floor of the balcony and pierced the 4th-floor ceiling".

      Before showing bombing damage for 6-7 April they show an admittedly not very clear satellite photo where that corner of the building looks to be already damaged:


    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Unknown person, good point. I did mention this damage in the article, and I noticed their graphics somewhere did indicate this damage as one of few details, so I presumed that was their argument, even though I didn't explain that (and they didn't either, that I noticed). But that still won't explain how this mesh would leave an imprint of its still pattern on the tank's side. It would mean the minor dent is from either part of the suggested 2-part impact. That would add SOME plausibility to the sudden stop, and in fact the way it implicitly tipped over compared to the dent makes sense. I don't think it can explain this as a genuine helicopter drop. Anything making sense would reflect luck, or some decent thinking-out by the people staging it.

    4. As for the satellite views - compelling. I should compare some footage of the roof to see how different things come through - Checking Google Earth though, there seems to be the same corner darkness, and perhaps balcony darkness suggesting a hole is included, going way back. 6-11 and 6-28 2009 included. So … apparently some coincidence?
      8-8-2011, dark corner, intact-looking balcony.
      4-25-2012, dark corner, dark spot like the hole, but in the wrong place (almost at opposite corner)
      5-14, 5/22, 8/18, 2012: that other dark corner persists?
      8-28, 9-1-2012: dark/damage corner looks like a sharp round hole?

      3013-2014: images get blurrier, details unclear.
      12-14, 12-27-2014: clearer images with shifting dark spots on balcony, darm damage corner remains
      6-27-2016: looks most like the scene we see the following April. Coincidence?
      10-3-2016, 1-21-2017 also look similar, or like the balcony is blown open entirely, very dark. Hm.
      5-5-2017, after the incident, is less clear, but should look like what we saw a month earlier.

    5. The damage on the left of the roof seems to match at least, images are not good. There is a bucket on the roof / connection from roof to lattice frame but I couldn't tell if it was intact at the time or how it was connected, maybe someone else can.


      Looks like it would have been the only building in Douma with an intact lattice though.

    6. That makes it look really compelling. If I hadn't seen the same apparently since 2009 or earlier, I'd say prior war damage, close to sure. I'll need to look at it again soon...

    7. To compare, I think this kitchen may be through the doorway next to the lattice remains on the balcony


      It isn't the kitchen to the right of the room below the cylinder (tried to use NYT map but they have even got that wrong)


      Looks top floor, damaged and abandoned

    8. Not getting the point, but that kitchen could be to the left or right, pretty high up from the view. It's app. not the one next to the fire/cylinder room, sharp eye. And the NYT map does have this wrong, a little hall to nowhere in its place. (my own leaves this area blank, I think - and that still seems OK)

    9. Good point, it could be on the left from the White Helmets twitter video from the 9th. Brightness adjusted:


      I didn't think it had the diagonal strips of metal but I can't find a clear shot of the other direction to compare. But maybe not significant anyway

    10. Hitting that part of the roof (while hitting the lattice) is the forensic architecture theory though


      Bunch of errors I don't need to point out, but has one or two different angle videos/photos. By pointing to the cloth (that wasn't there) and not quite knowing how the metal lattice was connected to the roof, they obviously don't have any images to show it was intact.

  7. I've fished since the '50's. The pupils go cloudy white after you kill them. I think it's the fluid inside the eye. Also, my uncle was a vet and he put animals to sleep. They were kept outside before they were taken to Glasgow University's Vet College. The pupils "fogged over" or went opaque.

    Scots Law. Sheriffs are big on terms like REASONABLY PRACTICABLE or reasonable proof. That covers material evidence, statements and the legal procedures. The expectation of "100% certainty" sets a standard that may be impossible to satisfy in practice. The failure to meet such a standard doesn't make that a reasonable doubt...because it was unreasonable to expect to meet such an exceptionally high standard as that in the first place. Sheriffs do not have an eternity to reach this "100% certainty" standard in every detail and in every case. No doubt they have their standards based on their practising the Law and in consultations between each other and they set a high bar....but they do not perform miracles like getting it right with "100% certainty." That's why they have Appeals and re-trials etc.


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