The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. April 16, 2017:”The print media in American has basicially collapsed. The once mighty and very influential New York Times and the Washington Post are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. The reading public has gone over to free news on the Internet and paid circulations have plummeted. A newspaper’s life-blood are not in subscriptions but in advertising revenue and no advertister wished to spend large amounts of corporate cash on running advertisements in a paper with almost no subscribers. Ergo, we see frantic efforts to keep what is left of the paper afloat by going onto the Internet and trying, desperately, to get readers to pay for information that is, in the main, trivial, late and badly written. RIP”
Table of Contents
- Journalism faces a crisis worldwide – we might be entering a new dark age
- Bad News on the Doorstep
- The Washington Post Is In Even Worse Shape Than You Think
- Sample headlines from the April 16, 2017 on-line issue of the WP, otherwise known as Jeff Bezos’ Cat Box Liner
- A Father Describes Saving His Daughter From U.S. Bombardment of Mosul
- North Korean test missile ‘fizzles’ hours before Pence arrives in South
- New Revelations Belie Trump Claims on Syria Chemical Attack
- North Korea nuclear: US ‘working with China’ on response
- The new evil empire
Journalism faces a crisis worldwide – we might be entering a new dark age
Almost anyone can use the worldwide web to be a media outlet, so how will we differentiate between truth, myth and lies?
April 14, 2017
by Margaret Simons
Australia’s two largest legacy media organisations recently announced big cuts to their journalistic staff. Many editorial positions, perhaps up to 120, will disappear at Fairfax Media, publisher of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and News Corporation announced the sacking of most of its photographers and editorial production staff.
Both announcements were accompanied by corporate spin voicing a continuing commitment to quality journalism. Nobody in the know believes it. This is the latest local lurch in a crisis that is engulfing journalism worldwide.
Now, partly thanks to Donald Trump, many more people are turning their mind to the future of news, including “fake” news and its opposite.
How, in the future, are we to know the difference between truth, myth and lies?
Almost too late, there is a new concern for the virtues of the traditional newsroom, and what good journalists do. That is, find things out, verify the facts and publish them in outlets which, despite famous stuff-ups, can generally be relied upon to provide the best available version of the truth.
As this week’s announcements make clear, the newsrooms that have traditionally provided most original journalism are radically shrinking.
News media for most of the last century appeared to be one relatively simple business. Gather an audience by providing content, including news. Sell the attention of the audience to advertisers.
The internet and its applications have brought that business undone. As any householder can attest, the audience no longer assembles in the same concentrations. The family no longer gathers around the news on television. Most homes have multiple screens and news is absorbed as it happens.
“Appointment television” is nearly dead, at least for those under 50.
At the same time, technology has torn apart the two businesses – advertising and news – that used to be bound together by the physical artefact of the newspaper. Once, those who wanted to find a house, a job or a car had to buy a newspaper to read the classifieds. Now, it is cheaper and more efficient to advertise and search online, without needing to pay a single journalist.
Publishers and broadcasters have moved online, but the advertising model fails. Ads on websites earn a fraction of the amount that used to be charged for the equivalent in a newspaper or during a program break.
All this is last century’s news – but over the past five years the landscape has shifted again because of the dominance of Google (which also owns YouTube) and Facebook. These social media engines have quickly become the world’s most powerful publishers. Besides them, Murdoch looks puny. Yet Google and Facebook don’t employ journalists. They serve advertisements and news to the audience members on the basis of what they know about their interests.
For advertisers, it’s all gravy. Why pay for a display ad in a newspaper when you can have your material delivered direct to the social media feeds of people who you know are likely to be interested in buying your product?
It is now estimated that of every dollar spent on advertising in the western world, 90 cents ends up in the pockets of Google and Facebook.
Today, just about anyone with an internet connection and a social media account has the capacity to publish news and views to the world. This is new in human history.
The last great innovation in communications technology, the printing press, helped bring about the enlightenment of the 1500s and 1600s.
The optimists among us thought the worldwide web and its applications might lead to a new enlightenment – but as has become increasingly clear, the reverse is also possible. We might be entering a new dark age.
Fake news isn’t new. The place of Barack Obama’s birth was about as verifiable as a fact gets – with the primary document, his birth certificate, published online. But the mere publication of a fact did not stop a large proportion of US citizens from believing the myth that he was born overseas.
It is very hard to say how many Australian journalists have left the profession over the last 10 years.
This is partly because the nature of journalistic work has changed. Many now work aggregating or producing digital content, never leaving their desks.
Institutions such as universities and NGOs are now producing journalistic content, published online, but the people employed to do this task rarely show up in the figures compiled by unions and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, because their employers are not classified as media organisations.
Nevertheless, the big newsrooms have shrunk beyond recognition. This week’s announcements were the latest in a 15-year trend. In 2013, industry commentators estimated that more than 3000 Australian journalists had lost their jobs in the previous five years. Since then, there have been further deep cuts, and last week’s announcements were merely the latest. In the US, it is estimated that 15 per cent of journalistic jobs disappeared between 2005 and 2009, and the cuts haven’t paused since then.
At the same time, and offsetting this, there are new participants in the Australian media. We now have online local versions of the British Daily Mail, the youth-oriented news and entertainment outlet Buzzfeed, the New York Times, (which has just launched) and the Huffington Post, which operates in partnership with Fairfax. Not least, there is this outlet – an Australian edition of the Guardian.
There are also many small, specialist outlets that exist because the economics of online publishing beat the cost of buying broadcasting licences or printing on bits of dead tree, trucking the papers around the nation and throwing them over the fences.
For the same reasons, almost any large organisation can, if it chooses, use the worldwide web to be a media outlet – though whether the output classes as journalism or public relations is another matter.
Most of the new entrants to the business employ only a few local journalists. The reputable ones struggle to perform miracles each hour with hardly any reporters.
So what does the future hold?
I think it is clear we will have many more smaller newsrooms in the future – including new entrants, non-media organisations touting their wares and the wasted remains of the old businesses.
Some of these newsrooms will operate on the slippery slopes that lie between news, advocacy and advertising.
Some of them will be the fake news factories, devoted to earning an income from spreading clickable, outrageous lies.
If it were only the decline of businesses, we would not need to worry so much. It is rare in history for those who have profited from one technology to go on to dominate the next. Cobb and Co ran the stagecoaches, but not the steam trains.
But it is more serious than the decline of private businesses.
The future is far from clear, but here are some things we can expect to see delivered more quickly than we might think.
First, social media companies will begin to invest in quality content, because otherwise they will lose their audiences.
This is not merely wishful thinking. In China, WeChat, owned by Tencent Corporation, is the dominant social media engine and has functionality that makes Facebook and Twitter look old-fashioned. If you want to know what’s coming next in social media, look to China.
As I found on a recent research trip to China, WeChat is investing a lot of money in original journalism. Many of the most interesting journalists in China – including some who have been jailed in the past for their work – are now earning better salaries than those available on party media outlets by freelancing for Tencent, which actively supports and encourages them in multiple ways.
It’s counterintuitive, given China’s record on freedom of speech, but then the country is changing so fast and is so complex that preconceptions can only be challenged. China might have begun by copying the social media activity of the west, but it has long since outstripped it.
Not that the future dominance of Tencent-like operations is entirely reassuring. WeChat is also a cashless payment system, earning money from transactions. It knows absolutely everything about its users, to a much greater extent than Facebook and Google. It surpasses all previous means of citizen surveillance.
Second, governments will have to take some responsibility for news and information. In Europe and Canada, they are experimenting with methods of helping bolster journalism.
Meanwhile, international research confirms that countries blessed with a strong tradition of publicly funded media are more cohesive, better informed and less polarised. Our own ABC is one of the main reasons we can hope that the trajectory of our democracy will be better than that of the United States.
Lastly, there are citizens. The experience of the last decade tells us that citizen-journalism cannot replace the work done by properly resourced and trained professionals, but it will be a permanent part of the news ecology.
For the foreseeable future, we will be only a few minutes and clicks away from a citizen leaking information, publishing a bare account of a news event or providing a subversive point of view.
In fact, being a responsible consumer, funder and purveyor of news and information is now best understood as one of the many duties of good citizenship. If we can hold firm to that notion, we will come through the crisis.
Bad News on the Doorstep
by Paul Gillin
After a spate of closures and layoffs in the latter part of the last decade, the newspaper industry appeared to find its footing over the past few years. But now that oasis of stability may be drying up.
Hard times are hitting some of the most resilient titles, and the trend indicates that things are only get worse. The decline in print advertising revenue at The New York Times has accelerated from 9 percent to nearly 19 percent in the most recent quarter, writes Mathew Ingram in a Fortune story ominously headlined “The New York Times Scrambles to Avoid Print Advertising Cliff.” In announcing its financial results, the paper said it expects the falloff to continue “at a rate similar to that seen in the third quarter,” or at least 19% per quarter.
The only good news in that statement is that sequential 20% declines take a smaller total dollar bite out of revenues with each iteration because the base number is smaller. But that’s the only good news. If the last three quarters are any indication, the Times advertising business is in free-fall. The paper has done a better job than anyone of growing its base of circulation revenue and increasing its digital advertising business, but both pale in comparison to the size – and profitability – of the print advertising business.
Almost in tandem with the Times’ disappointing financial results, The Wall Street Journal announced that it will consolidate sections and lay off staff as it seeks to stabilize its print business while it scrambles to grow its digital operations. Last week, the Journal laid off the staff of its “Greater New York” section and offered buyouts to 450 employees. Only 48 took the package, indicating that things could get ugly soon.
A new “Business & Finance” section will combine the Journal’s current “Business & Tech” and “Money & Investing” sections, Reuters reports. New York coverage will be reduced and moved into the main section of the newspaper.
The Journal has proved more resilient to the downturn than most print newspapers because of its pricey subscriptions and well-heeled readership. When the most optimistic statement management can make is that the paper is seeking to create a “print edition that can stand on a sound financial footing for the foreseeable future,” that doesn’t sound good.
Speaking of Reuters, the company completed this week’s morbid hat trick by announcing that it will lay off about 2,000 workers at a cost of $250 million as part of a “transformation” of its business. The silver lining – journalistically speaking – is that Reuters said none of the cuts will be in the newsroom. Instead, they will be focused in financial and technology operations that primarily serve financial services companies. Things have been tough in that business amid low interest rates and pressure from new-economy competitors. Reuters has the advantage of being a diversified company with a strong position in financial markets, but revenues are flat and there’s no indication of where additional business will come from.
The Washington Post Is In Even Worse Shape Than You Think
by Jeff Bercovici
The Washington Post Co. reported its first-quarter earnings on Friday, and the news coming out of the newspaper division was mostly grim. The unit lost $22.6 million in the quarter, with revenue down 8% and revenue from print advertising specifically falling 17%.
Meanwhile, the Post just reported one of the biggest circulation drops of any major newspaper with the lucrative Sunday edition selling 5.2% fewer copies and the daily edition skidding almost 10%. Oh, and newsroom leaders are so distressed about the way the business decline is affecting them, they held a secret meeting with the paper’s president, — without inviting the executive editor.
Sample headlines from the April 16, 2017 on-line issue of the WP, otherwise known as Jeff Bezos’ Cat Box Liner
- President says he can’t be sued for violence at his rallies because he won the election
- Democrats fear that Trump has barred key federal workers from speaking to them
- An Easter without Peeps
- Here comes that chatty co-worker
- Brazil’s response to a huge yellow fever outbreak: Kill the monkeys
- In D.C.’s Shepherd Park, residents are close to downtown — and each other
- Only 2 of the 300 case studies read by first-year Harvard Business School students include black executives
- Carolyn Hax: Man is convinced ex-girlfriend ‘betrayed’ him with breakup
- Enslaved man who helped build U-Va. has a building named for him
- Share news tips with us confidentially!
- The case for impeaching President Donald J. Trump. (Too soon?)
But the excited reader is unable to read any or all of these heart-warming, informative stories. If he clicks on a title, he gets a green-bordered message saying:
You obviously love great journalism!
With special savings on our National Digital package, you’ll never miss a single story again! Subscribe now!
In other words, unless you subscribe, you cannot read any of our wonderful stories.
With headlines like these, how can one go wrong?
A Father Describes Saving His Daughter From U.S. Bombardment of Mosul
April 16 2017
by Anna Lekas Miller
On March 17, Ala’a Ali left his wife and 4-year-old daughter at the home of relatives in the al Jadida neighborhood of Mosul, and went home to wash before the morning call to prayer. Two minutes after he arrived home, a deafening explosion ripped through the neighborhood, engulfing the narrow street in black smoke.
“I hid in the corner of the building, and smoke crept in through the windows,” 28-year-old Ali told The Intercept. “Then the smell hit me, and I could barely breathe.” As soon as he could, he bolted from his hiding place and ran to the scene of the explosion, and the house where he had left his family.
It had been hit by an airstrike from U.S.-led coalition forces bombing Islamic State fighters.
Corpses were everywhere in the ruins of the building; more than 200 people were reportedly killed. Ali’s wife was among them, but he wouldn’t know that until Iraqi civil defense forces found her body later that day. Ali heard the sound of a child groaning underneath the rubble. It was his daughter, Awra. Her body was charred black with severe burns, and shrapnel had pierced through the side of her head, cutting across her face, and sealing her eyes shut. Miraculously, she was breathing.
“I lifted her up, and started carrying her through the streets, but then an ISIS sniper started to shoot at the army,” Ali said. “I finally was able to leave her at the neighbors for a few minutes, and then take her to the field hospital once the fighting calmed down.”
Transferred between field hospitals and waiting for hours at checkpoints, Ali and Awra made it to the casualties ward of the West Erbil Emergency Hospital, 50 miles from Mosul and away from the front line. Doctors treated Awra’s infections and set her broken leg in a cast. A few days ago, they operated on her to dislodge a piece of shrapnel from her eye, restoring her vision for the first time since the airstrike.
Though her face is still scarred from burns and shrapnel cuts, Awra is enjoying her newly-recovered sense of sight. She flipped through a picture book and played with leftover gauze, winding and unwinding a fake cast on her uninjured leg, laughing and energetic.
Her grandmother, Alia, tried to keep the child from itching the raw wounds on her head, scolding gently, “You can’t touch it — you will make it hurt more.” With Awra’s mother’s passing, Alia is tending to her full-time. The doctors at West Erbil have been overwhelmed with patients from the airstrike in al Jadida, and so it is Alia who dresses Awra’s wounds.
“Every day, there is more shrapnel,” Alia said, sitting on the linoleum floor of the hospital, stroking the tuft of brown hair on Awra’s head that is growing back after it was shaved to remove the first pieces of metal when she arrived at the hospital. Bits of shrapnel are still coming out of her head wounds, and larger pieces remain lodged in her legs.
Downstairs, Mubasher Zanoon sat next to his sleeping brother, who is his last remaining sibling after 20 of his family members perished in the same strike that nearly blinded Awra. The brother’s arm is pinned in place, barely intact.
“We don’t have anything left to go back to,” he said. Zanoon escaped the attack by seeking shelter in one of the adjacent homes, and it was four days before he was able to find his brother in the ruins.
The month of March saw an unprecedented number of civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria. While the strikes have been crucial in assisting the Iraqi Security Forces to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State, as the fight moves closer into the Old City, narrower streets and older buildings means a greater concentration of civilians — and greater potential for deadly incidents like the strike that hit Awra.
The Pentagon has acknowledged that it struck a truck full of explosives in the area on March 17, and that the attack may have caused civilian deaths, though there are conflicting reports about the precise number of casualties and their cause. Major General Najim al-Jabbouri, the Iraqi Security Forces Commander in charge of Mosul operations, told The Intercept that there may have been an ISIS car bomb or “an ISIS booby trap that also contributed to civilian casualties.” He stated that the airstrike had hit one building, killing 101 civilians; an Iraqi civil defense official told the Los Angeles Times that there were several homes struck, and 278 victims had been removed from the rubble. Other local groups put the death toll even higher.
Adding to the confusion, the March 17 strike was not the only coalition airstrike in al Jadida that week; just four days before, another attack killed as many as 29 civilians, according to the U.K.-based monitoring group Airwars. Due to the neighborhood’s dangerous position near the front line, Iraqi civil defense forces did not reach the scene until after March 17, and some of the bodies included in their casualty count may have been rotting for days.
“What is absolutely clear is that a significant number of civilians died primarily as a result of incoming air and ground bombardments from both the U.S.-backed coalition and the Iraqi forces,” said Chris Woods, a conflict specialist with Airwars. In all, Airwars estimates a minimum of 2,900 civilians have died from coalition strikes in both Iraq and Syria since 2014. The Pentagon has acknowledged killing 229.
After almost one month in the hospital, Alia and Awra are packing their bags to leave. Ala’a Ali has rented a small house in one of the neighborhoods in eastern Mosul that has been taken back from ISIS, where he hopes Awra can complete her recovery and the family can start a new life with a modicum of peace.
“Because of this airstrike, we won’t be able to go home, to our old house,” Alia said, becoming tearful as she looked at the black garbage bags filled with the family’s belongings. “We tried so hard not to be refugees, but here we are.”
North Korean test missile ‘fizzles’ hours before Pence arrives in South
April 16, 2017
by Roberta Rampton and Sue-Lin Wong
SEOUL/PYONGYANG-A North Korean missile “blew up almost immediately” on its test launch on Sunday, the U.S. Pacific Command said, hours before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence landed in South Korea for talks on the North’s increasingly defiant arms program.
The failed launch from North Korea’s east coast, ignoring repeated admonitions from major ally China, came a day after North Korea held a grand military parade in its capital, marking the birth anniversary of the state founder, displaying what appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles.
U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledged China’s help with the North Korean issue on Sunday, linking it to a softer line taken on China’s management of its currency.
“Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!” Trump said on Twitter. Trump has backed away from a campaign promise to label China in that way.
China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchanged views on the “situation on the Korean peninsula” by phone on Sunday, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said. Yang said the two sides should maintain dialogue.
South Korea said the North’s latest show of force “threatened the whole world” but a U.S. foreign policy adviser traveling with Pence on Air Force Two sought to defuse some of the tension, saying the test of what was believed to be a medium-range missile had come as no surprise.
“We had good intelligence before the launch and good intelligence after the launch,” the adviser told reporters on condition of anonymity.
“It’s a failed test. It follows another failed test. So really no need to reinforce their failure. We don’t need to expend any resources against that.”The adviser said the missile’s flight lasted four or five seconds.
“It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. The good news is that after five seconds it fizzled out.”Pence, addressing an Easter service with American troops in South Korea, said the U.S. commitment to South Korea was unwavering.
“Let me assure you under President Trump’s leadership, our resolve has never been stronger. Our commitment to this historic alliance with the courageous people of South Korea has never been stronger.”
Pence was beginning a 10-day trip to Asia in what his aides said was a sign of U.S. commitment to its ally in the face of rising tension.
The U.S. nuclear-powered Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group is also heading to the region.
A U.S. Navy attack on a Syrian airfield this month raised questions about Trump’s plans for reclusive North Korea, which has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. sanctions, regularly threatening to destroy the South and the United States.
The White House has said Trump has put the North “on notice”.
South Korea, which hosts 28,500 U.S. troops and holds a presidential election on May 9, warned of punitive action if the Sunday launch led to further provocation.
“North Korea showing a variety of offensive missiles at yesterday’s military parade and daring to fire a ballistic missile today is a show of force that threatens the whole world,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Impoverished North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
The North has warned of a nuclear strike against the United States if provoked. It has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland United States but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology, including miniaturizing a nuclear warhead.
The North launched a ballistic missile from the same region this month, ahead of a summit between the United States and China in Florida to discuss the North’s arms program.
But that missile, which U.S. officials said appeared to be a liquid-fuelled, extended-range Scud, only flew about 60 km (40 miles), a fraction of its range before spinning out of control.
Tension had escalated sharply amid concern the North may conduct a sixth nuclear test or a ballistic missile test around Saturday’s 105th anniversary of the birth of founding father Kim Il Sung, what it calls the “Day of the Sun”.
China, which Trump has urged to do more to rein in North Korea, has spoken out against its weapons tests and has supported U.N. sanctions. It has repeatedly called for talks while appearing increasingly frustrated with the North.
China banned imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off its most important export. China’s customs department issued an order on April 7 telling traders to return North Korean coal cargoes, said trading sources with knowledge of the order.
In Pyongyang, there was a festive atmosphere at a flower show, with families out, taking pictures with North Korean-made smart phones. There was no mention of the test failure by the KCNA state news agency.
Company worker Rim Chung Ryol, 30, said he had not heard of the test.
“If it is a failure, then failure is the mother of success,” he told Reuters.
Factory worker Ri Gul Chol, 37, also had not heard about the missile test.
“But whatever Kim Jong Un decides and instructs will succeed and all the citizens will support him,” he said, referring to the North’s young leader.
(Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in SEOUL, Joseph Campbell and Philip Wen in DANDONG, Christian Shepherd in BEIJING and Daniel Trotta in NEW YORK; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Keith Weir)
New Revelations Belie Trump Claims on Syria Chemical Attack
April 15, 2017
by Gareth Porter
Two unnamed senior Trump administration officials briefing journalists Tuesday asserted that a Syrian regime airstrike in the city of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 had deliberately killed dozens of civilians with sarin gas.
The Trump administration officials dismissed the Russian claim that the Syrian airstrike had targeted a munitions warehouse controlled by Islamic extremists as an afterthought to cover up the Syrian government’s culpability for the chemical attack. Moreover, the Trump officials claimed that US intelligence had located the site where the Syrian regime had dropped the chemical weapon.
However, two new revelations contradict the Trump administration’s line on the April 4 attack. A former US official knowledgeable about the episode told Truthout that the Russians had actually informed their US counterparts in Syria of the Syrian military’s plan to strike the warehouse in Khan Sheikhoun 24 hours before the strike. And a leading analyst on military technology, Dr. Theodore Postol of MIT, has concluded that the alleged device for a sarin attack could not have been delivered from the air but only from the ground, meaning that the chemical attack may not have been the result of the Syrian airstrike.
The Trump administration is pushing the accusation that the Assad regime was the force that carried out the highly lethal chemical attack on April 4 very hard, perhaps not so much to justify the already politically popular US strike against the Shayrat airbase on April 6, but rather to buttress a new hardline policy against the Syrian regime.
The two unnamed senior Trump officials who briefed journalists Tuesday sought to discredit the Russian claim that the Syrian airstrike had hit a warehouse in Khan Sheikhoun that was believed to hold weapons including toxic chemicals. One of the two unnamed officials said that a Syrian military source had “told Russian state media on April 4 that regime forces had not carried out any strike in Khan Sheikhoun, which contradicted Russia’s claim directly.”
This Trump administration official appeared to be suggesting that there was no evidence that a weapons storage site had been hit by a Syrian airstrike. But an internal administration paper on the issue now circulating in Washington, a copy of which Truthout obtained, clearly refers to “a regime airstrike on a terrorist ammunition dump in the eastern suburbs of Khan Sheikhoun.”
More importantly, the US military allegedly knew in advance that the strike was coming: Russian military officers informed their American counterparts of the Syrian military’s plan to strike the warehouse in Khan Sheikhoun city 24 hours before the planned airstrike, according to the former US official who spoke with Truthout. The official is in direct contact with a US military intelligence officer with access to information about the US-Russian communications. The military intelligence officer reported to his associate that the Russians provided the information about the strike to the Americans through the normal US-Russian Syria deconfliction telephone line, which was established after the Russian intervention in 2015 to prevent any accidental clash between the two powers. The officer said that Russia communicated to the US the fact that the Syrians believed that the warehouse held toxic chemicals.
That information was considered so politically sensitive that after its initial dissemination, it was available only to a few officials, the US military intelligence officer told his associate.
Despite the US denial of the Russian account of a Syrian strike on a warehouse in the city, an eyewitness account appears to confirm it. A 14-year-old resident told The New York Times she was walking only a few dozen yards away from a one-story building when she saw a plane drop a bomb on it. The eyewitness reported the explosion created a “mushroom cloud” that stung her eyes.
She added that she then hurried back home and watched as people began to arrive to help others in the neighborhood and were stricken by the toxic chemical in the air.
The airstrike she saw appears to be the one that was the objective of the Syrian operation in Khan Sheikhoun. The mushroom cloud she saw seems to be the widest of the three mushroom clouds shown in a video taken sometime after the explosion.
Two other strikes were apparently carried out after the initial strike on the building for which there is an eyewitness account. One was at a hospital in or near the city and the other was at a center of the White Helmets organization, built into a rock formation. The hospital strike was reported in an Associated Press story on Tuesday, which reported that a Russian drone was said to be hovering over a hospital as victims of the earlier attack were being brought in for treatment. The story said the hospital was later attacked.
The hospital attack was cited by an anonymous AP source as evidence that the Russians knew in advance that a chemical weapons attack was going to be carried out. In fact it indicates that the hospital strike may well have been linked to the earlier airstrike on the one-story building.
When asked about the bombing at the hospital during the press briefing on Tuesday, one of the unnamed senior US officials would not confirm that the Syrians had carried out the attack or discuss the issue further, saying, “We don’t have any comment right now on who may have been involved in bombing that hospital and why and how.”
The senior US officials briefing the press insisted that a Syrian air strike delivering sarin was the only credible explanation for the dozens of deaths in Khan Sheikhoun. One of the officials cited a video showing a crater in the middle of a main road, which the Trump administration’s key officials have determined was the site of the chemical weapon that reportedly killed 50 to 100 people. He implied that this was evidence that a Syrian airstrike had released what was believed to be sarin.
But Dr. Theodore Postol of MIT, who debunked the original official claims of the location of rockets that hit Syria’s Ghouta area with what appeared to be sarin on August 21, 2013, has come to a different conclusion. Postol says that the carcass of the delivery vehicle – shown in last week’s video and in still photos of the small crater – indicates that the chemical attack was not delivered via airstrike but from the spot on the road where it was found.
In an assessment completed on Tuesday, Postol called the collapsed metal tube shown in the crater, which he estimates to be about two and a half feet long, “an improvised dispersal device.” He analyzes the device as having been assembled from a section of pipe from a 122 mm rocket with caps at both ends that was filled with sarin and with some kind of explosive placed on top of it. The explosive on top smashed in the pipe holding the sarin, and pushed the sarin out of its tube, according to Postol, “like toothpaste from a toothpaste tube.”
Postol estimates that the device might have held eight to 10 liters of sarin. Was it actually used to emit the toxic chemical that killed dozens of residents? Postol doesn’t claim to know, but he states that it did not resemble an air-delivered chemical weapon. “The administration attempted to use evidence that contradicted their own claim,” Postol told Truthout.
One of the unnamed US officials briefing the press declared, “We are confident that terrorists or non-state actors did not commit this particular attack,” and explained that non-state actors don’t have the sarin required. But whether that assumption is well-founded or not, the universal assumption that the deaths could only have been caused by exposure to sarin is mistaken. Exposure to smoke munitions that create phosphine gas when in contact with moisture can cause neurological symptoms that mimic those of sarin, because they both damage the body’s ability to produce the enzyme cholinesterase.
Both the Syrian Army and the Al-Nusra Front fighters in the Aleppo area, moreover, had abundant stocks of phosphine-producing smoke munitions in 2013, as was documented by German journalist Alfred Hackensberger of Die Welt. Furthermore, both ISIS (also known as Daesh) and al-Qaeda in Aleppo have been reported to have access to phosphine-based weapons.
These phosphine-producing munitions can be lethal if humans are exposed in confined space, and they have the smell of garlic or rotting food. That is precisely the smell that was reported by eyewitnesses in Khan Seikhoun. Sarin, on the other hand, is normally odorless.
North Korea nuclear: US ‘working with China’ on response
April 16, 2017
The US and China are working on a “range of options” on North Korea, the US top security adviser has said, as tensions mount over the country’s nuclear and missile programmes.
Lt Gen HR McMaster told ABC News there was consensus with China that this was a “situation that just can’t continue”.
The comments come after a failed missile test launch by North Korea and a massive military parade.
President Trump had earlier said China was “working with us” on the issue.
Beijing, Pyongyang’s biggest ally, has come under pressure from Washington to exert more pressure on its neighbour.
Sunday’s comments appear to be the first confirmation that both countries are working together on how to deal with the North Korean issue.
Gen McMaster, who was in the Afghan capital, Kabul, said the US would respond “in the best interest of the American people”.
“The president has made clear that he will not accept the United States and its allies and partners in the region being under threat from this hostile regime with nuclear weapons,” he said.
“I think there’s an international consensus now, including the Chinese and the Chinese leadership, that this is a situation that just can’t continue.”
President Donald Trump last week met Chinese President Xi Jinping, who offered co-operation on “communication and co-ordination”, the BBC’s Robin Brant in Shanghai reports.
Earlier on Sunday, South Korean and US military officials said a North Korean missile had detonated soon after launch. The US Pacific Command said it believed it to be a ballistic missile.
One unnamed US official said it was unlikely to have been an intercontinental (ICBM) missile, but investigations were continuing.
Ballistic missiles follow high trajectories and are initially powered and guided, but fall to their target under gravity. ICBMs follow a sub-orbital trajectory, others stay within the atmosphere.
North Korea is banned from any missile or nuclear tests by the UN, though it has repeatedly broken those sanctions.
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson issued another warning to North Korea after its failed missile launch.
“They must stop these belligerent acts and comply with UN resolutions,” he said.
The new evil empire
America has become what Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union used to be
by John Kaminski
Remember the Red Menace, also known as the Communist threat? Or how about the Third Reich, the creator of which became the chief metaphor for evil in the 20th century?
Most Americans, certainly those younger than 30, don’t remember either. Hell, they don’t even remember Vietnam or Nixon or The Beatles. The terms and their connotations are totally unfamiliar, unless encountered in history texts. Millions of Americans simply do not remember what America used to stand for — freedom, justice, equality — and as a result, don’t fully comprehend the appalling reality of what America has become.
Once upon a time, back in the days of Elvis and the hula hoop, when I was a little shaver, I was taught in school that when Germany took over France, Poland and other European countries, that was wrong, and the United States sacrificed almost a half million of its own young people to reverse those situations in the name of freedom. And that happened twice, 1916-18 and 1941-45.
In the same vein, I grew up being taught that the Soviet Union’s annexation of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and all of Eastern Europe was an evil deed, and that for many years in a period called the Cold War, the American military objective was aimed at overturning this unjust oppression. Back in the 1950s when I was in elementary school, we used to have routine Civil Defense drills where we used to have to hide under our desks pretending we were about to be nuked by the Russians. Really!
It’s a new world now. For one thing, the population of the planet has doubled in those mere 50 years. And for another, it is the United States that is now sweeping the world, scooping up all these other countries in the name of capitalist democracy, and telling lies about why it has to go to war. And instead of railing against the powerful giant stealing freedom from all these hapless victims, as it did in years past, the American press is now cheering it, justifying it in the increasingly ambivalent names of capitalism and democracy. Worse, the American people are cheering it, too, something that’s never really happened in U.S. history, when the people support a war that they know is based on lies.
Of course, the American press is cheering it because it is the American military doing it. Even the German and Russian press aren’t really criticizing it in a serious way. Because there is no country that can oppose America, which spends more on its military than all the other countries in the world combined, yet still complains that it needs to spend more, even as its bridges and schools are falling apart and its manufacturing base has completely disappeared, precipitating its imminent economic collapse. Still the military spending increases, and war plans ooze out like an evil ink stain spreading across the globe.
The evil empire, number one threat to peace in the world, is now the United States. No more Red Menace. No more Third Reich. Now it’s a War on Terror executed by the biggest terrorist of all — America, the nation that killed its own people by the thousands in order to trigger World War III and capture all the world’s oil fields.
Now the shoe is obviously on the other foot. The United States has now assumed the role of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia at their worst and all rolled into one. It has troops poised and threatening in 127 other countries. By the diabolical mechanisms of the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, it has already plundered most other countries financially, stealing their utilities and impoverishing their inhabitants. And those nations who resist this financial con game, like Yugoslavia, are simply invaded and coerced into servitude. Those nations who play the game, like Russia and Argentina, are reduced to abject poverty with a few pro-Western billionaires owning everything.
And woe to those nations who won’t play the game, like Iraq. They are obliterated and turned into permanent war zones. Their people are murdered in their sleep by hopped-up American soldiers who are told by their cynical leaders that they are spreading democracy, when really what they are spreading are endless opportunities for plunder by politically connected corporations.
And America’s leader lie about absolutely everything. Never at any time in my personal history has there been a time when an American president has not at least accidentally told the truth about something, but that time is now.
Once upon a time, Americans used to preach the cause of freedom and justice for all. It’s actually written in their Pledge of Allegiance. But they don’t adhere to that anymore. After all, Americans have canceled their Bill of Rights, which once made them famous — made them loved! — all over the world. Now they are feared all over the world. Reviled. When Americans launched their worldwide war on terror — based on a treasonous event in which they killed large numbers of their own people — they betrayed the whole world. They betrayed every dream of freedom anybody ever had anywhere.
The people who did it did it for a few billion dollars. Can you blame them? It’s easy money blowing up countries and blaming it on somebody else. Even you might do it if you had the chance. Americans support such an idea. It’s capitalism at its best, controlling the market, make money on the destruction by selling the weapons, make money on the reconstruction by involving your friends in the contracts, no public bids, of course. So you lose a few dark-skinned lives. The world is overpopulated anyway. Look at it as population control (although that it another, much larger topic).
Things have become so ugly in the United States that the liberal opposition candidate for president tells peace activists to “Get over it!” That there will be no peace no matter who is president. That America is united to overrun and ravish the whole world, simply because there is no one to stop it. This is the America that was venerated and admired all over the world. This is what America became when there was no other power to keep it honest. It became dishonest — and a killer nation.
People overseas make a mistake when the say they have nothing against the American people, that it is simply the American government they loathe and fear. It is the American people who have permitted this to happen, and they who bear the blame and will reap the whirlwind for their inaction.
Once, America set an example for the world to establish representative government and take care of its less fortunate. Today, America is still setting an example for the world, an example that democracy is a hoax, and that all we can expect for our children’s futures is a dark abyss of endless war based on phony pretenses.
The thing that made the episodes with Nazi Germany and Soviet Union have happy endings was that there was somebody to fight for freedom ready to rescue those oppressed by military tyranny from a foreign power.
But now, who is ready to defend the freedom of those in Afghanistan, or in Iraq, or in Macedonia, Serbia, the Philippines, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala … or Palestine?
Who is ready to defend freedom now that the Americans have declared freedom incompatible with security?
But these things tend to even out over time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it took centuries to fall apart, but eventually it was picked apart by jackals and sycophantic traitors from within.
The world will yet have the last laugh on America, after its own leaders have finished picking the bones of its financially depleted carcass.
Because Americans have given up defending true freedom around the world, the day will soon arrive (sooner than they think) when they will have to defend their own freedom against the very monster they have created by their own selfish indifference. The corporate beast that consumes freedom around the world will one day soon turn its gaping jaws on America itself, and the Americans, who have decided to forget how to defend true freedom around the world, will necessarily have forgotten how to defend their own.
Once upon a time, when I was a little shaver and the president was some guy named Ike, I was told that America was the greatest nation in the world because it was a champion of freedom and justice, and rescued the oppressed whenever people were in trouble.
So … were they lying then and telling the truth now, or telling the truth then and lying now?
And when the rest of the world comes calling to rectify this murderous tyranny and worldwide oppression that America now practices, what will you say to them when they aim their guns at you? That you didn’t know?