Saturday, April 22, 2017

Target Iran: Trump's "Axis of Evil" Brinkmanship

US secretary of state issues war threat against Iran

by Bill Van Auken  - WSWS

20 April 2017 

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a threat of military confrontation with Iran Wednesday at a hastily called news conference in which he drew a direct parallel to Washington’s reckless and increasingly dangerous confrontation with North Korea.

Referring to the nuclear agreement negotiated between Iran and the major world powers, Tillerson said:

“This deal represents the same failed approach of the past that brought us to the current imminent threat that we face from North Korea. The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran. The evidence is clear: Iran’s provocative actions threaten the United States, the region and the world.”

The Trump administration had acknowledged on Tuesday that Iran has fully complied with the terms of the nuclear agreement that it negotiated in July 2015 with the so-called P5+1—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States plus Germany. In the same breath, however, it signaled that it is preparing measures designed to blow the agreement up.

In a formal notification required every 90 days to the US Congress—the first delivered since Trump’s inauguration—Secretary of State Tillerson certified that, as of April 18, Iran was meeting its terms of the deal, which required it to cap its uranium enrichment, reduce its number of centrifuges by two-thirds and submit to international inspections to ensure compliance. These terms were supposed to preclude Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, something which Tehran insisted it had never sought.

The rest of Tillerson’s statement, however, revealed that the Trump administration is conducting a systematic review of all of the economic and financial sanctions that were waived in return for Iran’s reining in of its nuclear program.

Iran, the secretary of state alleged, “remains a leading sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods,” and therefore Trump has: 

“[D]irected a National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name of the Iran nuclear deal) is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer deflected a direct question as to whether the administration was seeking to abrogate the nuclear agreement, saying that the “inter-agency review” would be concluded in 90 days and would serve as the basis for policy recommendations.

“We're well aware of any potential negative impacts that an action could have,” he added, in relation to the re-imposition of suspended sanctions.

Indeed such “negative impacts” are precisely the purpose of taking this action, which would be designed to provoke Iran into repudiating its own obligations under the nuclear agreement and thereby creating the pretext for US military aggression.

Thus, even as Washington is pushing the world to the brink of a potential nuclear confrontation on the Korean peninsula, it is laying the foundations for another catastrophic war in the Middle East.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly denounced the Iran nuclear agreement as “the worst deal ever negotiated” and vowed to “rip it up” once elected.

In February, his since ousted national security advisor Gen. Michael Flynn marched into a White House briefing to ominously announce that he was putting “Iran on notice,” implying possible US military retaliation for the Iranian military’s testing of non-nuclear missiles, which is not barred by the nuclear agreement.

And last month, Gen. Joseph Votel, the chief of US Central Command, which oversees the American wars and interventions in the Middle East and Central Asia, denounced Iran as the “greatest long-term threat to stability” in the Middle East and advocated a campaign to “disrupt [Iran] through military means or other means.”

The latest escalation of these threats came as Trump’s defense secretary, Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, is conducting a tour of the Middle East, with meetings scheduled with Iran’s principal regional enemies, including the Saudi and Qatari monarchies and Israel.

Mattis has reportedly advocated a policy of increasing the already massive US military aid and arms sales to the Saudi royal dictatorship and providing more direct US collaboration in its more than two-year-old war against the impoverished population of Yemen, which has killed some 12,000 people, the majority of them civilians, turned 3 million into refugees and left large portions of the population on the brink of starvation.

Speaking to reporters in Riyadh after meeting with Saudi King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince and minister of defense Mohammed bin Salman, Mattis declared, “Everywhere you look if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran.” He added,

“We will have to overcome Iran’s efforts to destabilize yet another country and create another militia in their image of Lebanese Hezbollah but the bottom line is we are on the right path for it.”

The charges of Iranian “destabilization” stem from Iran’s objective position as Washington’s rival for regional hegemony in the Middle East and its participation, alongside Russia, in defending the government of Syria against the US-orchestrated war for regime change.

The hypocrisy of Washington’s labeling Iran as a sponsor of terrorism and the source of all “trouble in the region” is shameless. US imperialism has carried out a series of wars that have killed millions, toppled governments and devastated entire societies. The CIA has armed and funded terrorist Islamist groups in Libya, Iraq and Syria, including those directly tied to Al Qaeda.

In Yemen, the Pentagon has supplied the warplanes, bombs and missiles that have slaughtered men, women and children, while offering intelligence assistance as well as mid-air refueling to enable round-the-clock bombing aimed at crushing the Yemeni population’s resistance and compelling them to accept the re-imposition of the puppet regime of ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Now, the Pentagon is reportedly preparing to directly assist a Saudi-UAE offensive to conquer the Yemeni port of Hodeida, the last link between the country’s starving population and the outside world. Aid agencies have warned that such an attack may well tip the country into a full-blown famine.

Speaking alongside the Saudi deputy crown prince on Wednesday, Mattis offered an obsequious tribute to the 31-year-old “royal highness” while vowing to “reinforce Saudi Arabia's resistance to Iran’s mischief and make you more effective with your military as we work together as partners.”

Mattis went on to declare that it was in the US “interest to see a strong Saudi Arabia military security service and secret services,” this in a country where the “secret services” ruthlessly repress any manifestation of dissent and where criticism of the ruling royal family is grounds for beheading.

As with the attack on Syria, the ratcheting up of tensions with Russia and the ongoing nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea, the Trump administration has enjoyed crucial support from the Democrats for the buildup toward war with Iran.

Key Democratic members of the House and Senate have joined with Republicans in supporting the imposition of new sanctions. From the 2016 presidential campaign onward, the Democrats’ criticisms of Trump have been focused centrally on foreign policy and have come from the right, particularly over concern that the Trump administration would prove “too soft” on Russia, and, by extension, Iran, which has allied itself with Russia in Syria.

Kafarya Foua Massacre of Innocents Merely a "Hiccup" to Western Media

Rashideen Massacre: Children Lured to Their Slaughter by NATO State Terrorists

by 21st Century Wire

April 22, 2017 
On April 15th 2017, the people of Kafarya and Foua were attacked, their children mown down deliberately, by a suicide bomb or explosive detonation, that targeted these innocent children who had been lured to their deaths by NATO and Gulf state terrorists, including Ahrar al Sham and Nusra Front (Al Qaeda).

Mothers had to watch from behind the windows of the buses they had been imprisoned in for 48 hours, while strangers, terrorists, picked up their children, their wounded, bleeding, mutilated children, and piled them up in the backs of trucks and Turkish ambulances before driving them away from the horrific scene and stealing them from their distraught, powerless mothers.

“This is Zeinab, she was forced to watch the massacre of 116 children through the windows of a bus while the NATO and Gulf state terrorists, collected the dead, dying and mutilated bodies of her community’s children and flung them in the back of trucks and Turkish ambulances, before driving them to Turkey. She has 10 members of her family still missing. She has no idea where they are. 
She gave her courageous and emotional testimony to us in Jebrin registration centre, where the survivors of the 15th April, suicide bomb attack, were taken for shelter after this horrific event, described by CNN as a “hiccup”. 
I spoke about part of her testimony with RT yesterday, who also used my interviews in their news feed. Unlike corporate media, RT investigate these atrocities and honour the voices of the Syrian people. 
The Telegraph described the dead Syrian babies as “Syrian Government supporters” in an attempt to whitewash the UK Regime terrorist crimes by proxy and to erase the existence of these innocent children from our the familiar dehumanization process that we have witnessed every time the various NATO and Gulf state extremist carry out mass murder of Syrian civilians.”     ~ Vanessa Beeley 

The Telegraph edited out this appalling and callous phrasing immediately after the RT interview. 

Bombed out remains of one of the buses that had been carrying evacuated
civilians from Kafarya and Foua to Rashideen holding centre.
Photo: Vanessa Beeley

Vanessa Beeley, associate editor at 21st Century Wire, was present at the scene and provided video footage of the witness and survivor testimony to RT for use in the news section. She also spoke to RT about the heartbreaking accounts given to her by Zeinab, a mother, from these besieged Idlib villages of Kafarya and Foua, who had seen the carnage and who still has 10 missing relatives, who were taken to Turkey by the waiting ambulances. A full report, and subtitled video will follow shortly, when internet and time allows, but for now, here is the report from RT and the interview at the end of the report.

For more details on Kafarya and Foua please read Eva Bartlett’s article: The Children of Kafarya and Foua are Crying in the Dark

RT Report:

Terrorists lured evacuees out of buses with snacks before blast – Aleppo attack witnesses:

Eyewitnesses to the bomb attack on a refugee convoy near Aleppo that killed dozens of children said the militants lured people out of the vehicles with snacks before the explosion, and also stopped them from escaping the blast site.

A powerful explosion hit several buses full of people leaving militant-held towns and villages outside Aleppo last Saturday, killing over 100 people, including dozens of children, and injuring scores more.

Read more on the White Helmets:

White Helmets helping rebrand terror groups to create Syrian no-fly zones’ – Vanessa Beeley

Following the attack, Vanessa Beeley of the 21st Century Wire website gathered first-hand accounts from those who survived the assault. People told her that the militants did their utmost to increase the death toll. The exclusive videos she provided to RT shed more light on the incident.

“Just before the explosion, a strange car got from the militants’ checkpoint. They said they were bringing snacks for children,” the bus driver who was in the convoy said.

“Then they got out of the car and started shouting, ‘Who has children? Who has children?’”

The driver said the militants knew for sure that the children “haven’t seen biscuits and crisps for so long” as they were under siege. “People have been stuck in buses for 48 hours as the rebels didn’t let us out,” he noted. A woman said that she and other evacuees were held in the buses “like prisoners,” adding that they were only allowed to get out and stretch 10 minutes before the explosion.

Many people, including children, left the buses and approached the car when the blast hit the convoy.

One of evacuees said that the militants “were throwing potato chips on the site of the future blast. One of the terrorists said that it was food for the infidels.”

The driver recalled that “there were Ahrar ash-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra [Al-Nusra Front], and some factions of the Free Syrian Army [FSA]…”

According to another witness, “the Ahrar ash-Sham fighters didn’t hide their faces, while Jabhat al-Nusra were always wearing masks. One could only see their eyes,” one of the eyewitnesses said.

WARNING: Graphic and distressing footage from the attack ~

There were many foreigners among the terrorists – “Uzbeks, Turks, people from Chechnya, Saudis and Qataris. One could judge on their appearance; their language,” another evacuee added.

“When the blast rocked the area, people rushed into the woods but militants surrounded them and forced back to the buses,” the bus driver said.

A female evacuee recalled that “the militants told us that terrorists from another group were shelling our buses and that we must flee towards the bushes… but then they said that the bushes were mined and found ourselves trapped.”

Another woman also told Beeley that even before the explosion, four yellow Turkish ambulances were present at the scene for some reason. After the blast, the ambulances started picking up the dead and injured, only to take them to an unknown location.

“We don’t know where they [the children] are. They’re gone. There are no bodies. We’ve searched for them, but with no result,” one of the witnesses said.

Many relatives of those missing still know nothing of their whereabouts, other witnesses said. Some people told Beeley that the controversial White Helmets were also seen at the blast site, retrieving bodies of Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham militants, but apparently leaving injured civilians.

Beeley, who has consistently covered the Syrian war, also filmed people’s testimonies about their escape from the rebel-held areas. The evacuees boarded the buses on Friday in the Rashideen neighborhood of Aleppo, but were not allowed out of the vehicles for nearly three days.

Many of them, however, were happy to leave as “this place turned into a terrorists’ hotbed,” one woman said.

[Some] international organizations have already condemned the attack on the humanitarian convoy in the strongest terms.

“We must draw from this not only anger, but renewed determination to reach all the innocent children throughout Syria with help and comfort,” said UNICEF’s executive director, Anthony Lake.
“And draw from it also the hope that all those with the heart and the power to end this war will do so.”

However, Beeley told RT that not many in the West followed the UN’s example in decrying the attack.

“We’ve just witnessed one of the most heinous crimes of our lifetime, and yet corporate… there’s no international condemnation from governments, from NGOs, from the media,” she said.

On the contrary, the media is making an attempt to “whitewash this utterly abhorrent” incident, in which, according to Beeley’s information, 116 children lost their lives.

Full video interview. Watch ~

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files

READ MORE KAFARYA AND FOUA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Kafarya and Foua Files

READ MORE ON THE WHITE HELMETS AT: 21st Century Wire White Helmet Files

SUPPORT 21WIRE and its work by Subscribing and becoming a Member @ 21WIRE.TV

Friday, April 21, 2017

Venezuelans in the Streets

Massive Pro and Anti Government Protests in Venezuela


April 21, 2017

While international media focused almost exclusively on the opposition protests and clashes with the police, the pro-government protests were equally as large, says Lucas Koerner from Venezuelanalysis.

Wednesday was another day of major pro and anti-government protests in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. Tens of thousands took to the streets on both sides of Venezuela's political divide. While most media outlets focused mainly on the opposition protest, the pro-government demonstration appeared to be equal in size.

When opposition protesters tried to break through police lines to reach the center of Caracas, which the government had restricted to avoid violence, street fights broke out between police and the demonstrators. According to media reports, the fighting left three people dead on Wednesday, and one national police officer was also killed on Thursday.

Joining us from Caracas, Venezuela, to take a good look at the latest developments, is Lucas Koerner. Lucas is a writer for and is a Masters student at Venezuela's Institute for Advanced Studies. 

Earth Day March for Science (Victoria)

Earth Day March for Science (Victoria)

by March for Science

April 22, 2017


2PM - Music by Still Fools / Centennial Square
2:15PM - Opening Ceremony by Esquimalt Dancer & Singers
2:20PM - Featured speakers / Centennial Square
3:20PM - March leaves / Centennial Square
3:45PM - March arrives / BC Legislature


• to stand up for academic freedom and the right of all scientists to communicate their results freely.
• to support science and evidence-based politics and policy making.
• to demand that public support for research is based on scientific merit, not political agenda.
• to protect the right of EVERY person to engage with, learn from, and help shape science.
The Earth Day March for Science will take place on the unceded territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations!


Dr. Patrick von Aderkas
Plant Biologist at the University of Victoria
Dr. Jay Cullen
Chemical Oceanographer at the University of Victoria
Dr. Rebecca Warburton
Health Economist at the University of Victoria
Scott McCannell
Executive Director of the Professional Employees Association

University of Victoria Faculty Association
University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS)
UVic Evidence for Democracy
Social Environmental Alliance (SEA)
Dogwood Initiative
Ancient Forest Alliance
Wilderness Committee
Sierra Club, BC
The Planetary Society
Professional Employees Association
Women in Science

OUR GOALS - March for Science, Victoria BC

Scientists aim to better understand the world around us, translating knowledge to benefit humanity and our environment.

We stand up for all scientists, including those in academia, non-for-profit organizations, public service, and private industry. All scientists must be allowed to communicate their results freely, without misrepresentation or distortion and without the fear of retribution.

Science is a process, not a product. Continued discovery enables us to constantly expand and revise our knowledge. Each answer generates new questions. Science allows us to examine societal and environmental questions more rationally. With it, we can craft policies and regulations that best serve our interests. Political decision-making that impacts lives must consider evidence and scientific consensus, and not only impulse, attitude, and popularity.

Public research funds must be distributed based on scientific merit, not on political agenda.

Science driven by curiosity has captivated humans for millennia. This curiousity was and continues to be the basis for dramatic changes in the way we live and think. As a society, we must support the breadth of independent basic science to allow for the next breakthrough.

Inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility are critical to ensuring that science reaches its full potential and serves all communities. We protect the right of every person to engage with, learn from, and help shape science.

Right-Wing Worming into Canadian Student Unions

Centre-right student associations are hiring bogus, expensive audit firms and then firing unionized workers

by Michael Bueckert -

April 21, 2017

It appears that regressive, centre-right student associations across Ontario have adopted a brand new tactic to pursue their agenda on university campuses. Over the past month, the Ryerson Students' Union (RSU), the University of Toronto Students' Union (UTSU) and the Carleton University Students' Association (CUSA) have all hired consultation firms to produce internal audits and other services in order to evaluate and reform the practices and strategies of their unions.

In all three cases, the companies hired to conduct the audits are being run by individuals with suspicious personal or political ties, either to the executives in power or to more regressive provincial organizations like the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) and its national counterpart the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA).

In two cases, the consulting firms do not appear to be legitimate at all, but rather shell companies set up for the specific purpose of conducting the audits.

What these students' unions have in common is that they are all large undergraduate unions in Ontario under the leadership of more regressive, centre-right executive slates who are all actively trying to defederate from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). It would appear that these questionable audits are being used to justify defederation and the firing of full-time, generally unionized staff.

Political opposition to the CFS is not new. The existence of groups like CASA is reflective of fundamental disagreement on the aims and tactics of a national student body. CASA was formed in the early to mid-nineties to act as a lobby group on issues of post-secondary education, often advocating for piecemeal reforms such as inflation indexation or tax benefits for students, rather than a transformative vision for post-secondary education and society.

CUSA and the "Sarkany Group"

In early April 2017, CUSA revealed a new report that it had commissioned from a little-known consulting firm, the Sarkany Group, which included an assessment of CUSA's business practices. The report is full of incoherent business-student jargon and is based on several focus groups and "value canvas mapping sessions" that were apparently conducted during the summer of 2016. The report's methodology is questionable at best: with focus groups totalling 49 individuals in an organization of 25,000, it is hardly representative.

Apart from the price tag -- CUSA spent a whopping $22,000 on the report -- the most shocking aspect of this story is that the Sarkany Group does not actually appear to be a legitimate company: its website and LinkedIn page contain little more than a generic email address and a note that the company was founded in 2016.

The report's two authors, Michael Cacho and Alejandro Barreto, appear to be the Sarkany Group's only employees. Cacho is a former employee of CUSA (the first director of "Hatch," CUSA's entrepreneurship incubator), and his LinkedIn page notes he is also a former campaign manager for CUSA's current President, Fahd Alhattab. Barreto, for his part, says he served as "Co-Founder and Chief Strategist" for Sarkany Group from May 2016 to September 2016.

According to Barreto's own account, the Sarkany Group could only have been founded in May 2016, the same month the company began performing work for CUSA. There is no evidence that it had any other clients or that it was formed for any other purpose than performing CUSA's audit.


There are strong parallels between CUSA's relationship to the Sarkany Group and the RSU's reliance on a firm called the Appian Way Group, which was commissioned in 2015 to conduct an "efficiency audit." The Appian Way Group was paid $3,955 for the audit.

As the Eyeopener reports, the mysterious company was only registered in November 2015, which is after the audit would have been complete, and then it disappeared months later -- almost as if it had been formed for the single purpose of the RSU audit. What we do know about the company is that it was run by individuals with strong connections to the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA).

Taking a slightly different approach, the UTSU recently hired the non-profit consulting firm Kokobi to advise them on the Student Commons building, for which Kokobi was paid $7,113. Unlike the Sarkany Group or the Appian Way Group, Kokobi is clearly a legitimate organization. Nonetheless, its founder and Operations Director is a former anti-CFS campaigner from Quebec, and Kokobi is being assisted in its work by a former UTSU staff person.

Firing Workers

This new tendency of regressive, anti-Federation student associations to utilize politically affiliated (or hastily assembled) consulting firms does seem to have a very specific purpose: creating a technocratic cover for firing workers.

Immediately in the wake of the Appian Way Group's audit, the RSU fired Gilary Massa and Dina Skvirsky, unionized employees under CUPE 1281. The UTSU is following suit, moving to fire two employees who are also CUPE 1281 members.

As Vajdaan Tanveer noted in a blog, "it's a little weird that these external consulting groups are popping up around our students' unions and suddenly people are losing their jobs." It's worth mentioning that virtually all staff fired at these locals recently have been women.

The Sarkany Group's report to CUSA may not specifically recommend any changes to staff, but it would not come as a surprise if attempts at staffing changes were on the way. The report observes that "in a perfect world other benefits could have been drawn out for CUSA, [but] the restrictions from a political stance, and from being a unionized organization did not permit that" [sic].

The degree to which these efforts are actively coordinated by students' unions is unclear, but there is no question that centre-right student leaders have a lot to gain by hiring their friends and allies to "audit" their unions, thereby creating the justification for restructuring in a way that erodes workers' rights.

Students and workers need to hold their unions to a higher standard and keep them accountable. In this instance, it means getting to the bottom of whether these costly and questionable audits have aims beyond simply financially supporting their friends.

Michael Bueckert is a PhD candidate in Sociology and Political Economy at Carleton University. He has been active as an organizer in the student movement, previously serving as the President of the Graduate Students' Association at Carleton University and as the Chairperson of the Ontario Graduate Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario.

After Assad: US Plans to Install "Rebels" in Raqqa

After “Liberation,” U.S. To Give Control Of Raqqa To Rebels, Not Syrian Government

by Whitney Webb  - MintPress News

April 20, 2017

While the public justification for the presence of United States troops in Syria has long been focused on fighting the terror group Daesh (ISIS), the recent actions of the U.S. and its allies within Syria continue to suggest that fighting terrorism is merely a cover for a very different type of operation, one that seeks to keep Syria fragmented and destabilized long after any terrorists are defeated.

On Tuesday, the U.S.-allied militias that have been encircling Raqqa – the de facto stronghold of Daesh – announced that they had formed a “civilian council” to govern Raqqa after its capture from Daesh militants.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed militia that comprises a large number of Syrian Kurds, claim to have spent six months setting up the council, with a preparatory committee having met “with the people and important tribal figures of Raqqa city to find out their opinions on how to govern it,” Middle East Eye reported.

SDF spokesman Talal Selo stated that some towns near Raqqa had already been turned over to the council following a successful operation to drive out Daesh forces.

The U.S. military had previously hinted that power would be given to rebel groups following Raqqa’s “liberation” when the head of U.S. Central Command General Joseph Votel told the Senate in early March that military officials anticipated “that America’s allies will need assistance preventing their [Daesh’s] return and establishing Syrian-led peacekeeping efforts” after a successful operation.

Considering that the Syrian government is far from being one of “America’s allies,” Votel’s statement implied that the U.S.-backed militias would be given control of Raqqa and the surrounding area, despite the implications this would have for Syrian sovereignty and further destabilization in the war-torn country.

As MintPress previously reported, Votel also told senators that “conventional U.S. forces would be required to stabilize the region once ISIS fighters are flushed from Raqqa,” meaning that the current U.S. troop build-up around Raqqa is by no means a temporary deployment, but rather the foundation for creating a standing army.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has not been surprised as to what the U.S.-backed operation to remove Daesh from Raqqa would bring.

Last week, Assad told Agence France-Presse:

“We support whoever wants to liberate any city from the terrorists, but that doesn’t mean to be liberated from terrorists and being occupied by American forces, for example, or by another proxy, or other terrorists. So, it’s not clear who is going to liberate Raqa. Is it really Syrian forces that are going to hand it over to the Syrian army? Is it going to be in cooperation with the Syrian army? It’s not clear yet.”

Given that the Trump administration’s current position involves the removal of Assad from power, keeping Raqqa out of the Syrian government’s control via a U.S.-backed militia seems like a clear attempt to force Assad’s hand.

While Assad had previously stated that the country’s civil war would likely conclude this year – barring foreign intervention – a U.S.-military-supported rogue government in Raqqa would prevent the Syrian government from reacquiring its territory. Any attempts by the Syrian Army to take back Raqqa from the SDF and U.S. military could allow U.S. officials to demonize Assad and take stronger actions to remove him from power.

However, the U.S. plan is unlikely to go smoothly, given the Kurds’ dominant presence in the SDF. Turkey, Syria’s northern neighbor, will probably not be happy to see a Kurdish-majority group gain governing power over a region near its border, as the Turkish government has long considered Syrian Kurdish militias, including those backed by the U.S., to be terrorist groups.

Turkey has repeatedly bombed U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds for this very reason.

Que Sarin, Sarin: Khan Sheikhun Gas Attack Narrative Nothing But Vapour

Chlorine, Not Sarin, Was Used In The Khan Sheikhun Incident

by Moon of Alabama

April 20, 2017

Those who blame the Syrian government for the allegedly chemical incident in Khan Sheikhun on April 4 are now playing up the analysis of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

But the results of the OPCW tests are inconsistent with all observed and reported technical and medical facts of the incident.

Yesterday the OPCW Director General Ambassador Üzümcü, a Turkish career diplomat and former Turkish ambassador to NATO, released the first analytic results of the OPCW investigation into the Khan Sheikhun incident:

The bio-medical samples collected from three victims during their autopsy were analysed at two OPCW designated laboratories. The results of the analysis indicate that the victims were exposed to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance. Bio-medical samples from seven individuals undergoing treatment at hospitals were also analysed in two other OPCW designated laboratories. Similarly, the results of these analyses indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance.

Director-General Üzümcü stated clearly: “The results of these analyses from four OPCW designated laboratories indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance.

"Sarin or Sarin-like substance" is noted three times a row. Sarin is also mentioned in the headline. The OPCW director is pushing that meme - hard.

But the OPCW did not conclude that a chemical attack occurred in Khan Sheikhun. It suggested nothing about the incident itself. It only talked about bio-medical samples of several persons - nothing more, nothing less. It also did not give any hint of how much exposure the persons in question received. Was it a minimal traceable amount that had no effect on them or did they die from it? The OPCW does not say.

The Russian foreign ministry claims that "western" powers within the OPCW block a full-scale investigation of the incident.

The "sarin like substances" the OPCW mentions could be a different chemical weapon than sarin - soman is a possible candidate. It would be more consistent with the "smell" several witnesses described after the incident (Sarin is odorless). Many general insecticides belong to the same class of chemicals as sarin and soman. They are all organophosphorus compounds. (Sarin was originally developed as an insecticide). All of such compounds could be a source of the exposure found by the OPCW. These chemicals degrade within hours or days. A forensic analysis will not find the original substance but only decomposition products of some organophosporus compound. That is the reason why the OPCW result is not fixed on sarin but also mentions "sarin like substances".

Another question is where those samples come from. Who "collected" them? When? Where? And what is the chain of evidence that connects the samples to the incident? The OPCW has not send an investigation team to Khan Sheikhun. No samples were taken in Khan Sheikhun by its own inspectors. While Russia and Syria have asked for OPCW inspections on the ground, Tahrir al-Sham, the renamed al-Qaeda in Syria which controls the Khan Sheikhun area, has not asked for inspectors. Without its agreement any investigation mission is perceived as too dangerous. None of the OPCW inspectors is interested in literally losing his head to those terrorists.

Al-Qaeda propaganda organizations in Khan Sheikhun were the first to claim that sarin was used on the ground. "Western" media and governments later repeated those claims before any further investigations could have been done. The very first claim I found was made by the former British doctor Shajul Islam who works for the terrorists. This video of him of "doctors "and "patients" in an emergence room in Khan Sheikhun is pure theater, taken over a longer time period. The main presenter, Shajul Islam, is a well-known criminal Takfiri with links to the British secret service. He talks of sarin even though the "patients" around him show no signs of sarin effects and the emergency personal in the video is unprotected against potent chemical agents.

A White House assessment later claimed that it had evidence that sarin was used. It used the claim to justify the bombing of the Syrian military airport Al Syairat. But the White House assessment contains no evidence. It includes a number of factually false statements. It claims, for example:

[T]he World Health Organization stated on April 5 that its analysis of victims of the attack in Syria showed the had been exposed to nerve agents.

The WHO report from April 5 stated no such thing. It only noted:

[S]erious reports of the use of highly toxic chemicals in an attack in Khan Shaykhun

It WHO made no analysis of its own. It only mentions "reports".

Immediately after the incident, bodies of dead and wounded were brought to Turkey where they were taken into hospital. Al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda aligned personal must have transported them. It is a three hour car ride from Khan Sheikhun to the Turkish border.

The incident happened on April 4. First reports on that day by the Turkish government news agency Anadolu mentioned only chlorine:

At least 100 people were killed Tuesday when Assad regime warplanes carried out a chlorine gas attack in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, according to Syrian opposition Health Minister Firas Jundi.
A local civil defense official earlier told Anadolu Agency a regime aircraft carried out a chlorine gas attack on the town early Tuesday.

The first OPCW statement on April 4 referred to chlorine, not sarin or similar:

The OPCW is investigating the incident in southern Idlib under the on-going mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), which is “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic”.

The first report of the Turkish government also said chlorine. The UN Security Council convened on April 6 to discuss the incident. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported:

Turkey sent a report to the United Nations just before a U.N. Security Council meeting to address accusations that the Syrian government staged a chemical weapons attack on April 4, stating that the gas used in the attack was chlorine gas.
Turkey’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear teams (KBRN) prepared an initial report over the possible material of the alleged chemical attack, relying on the symptoms of and tests conducted on the victims and their testimonies.

The report stated that the initial findings of the tests conducted on around 30 victims brought to Turkey for treatment pointed to a chlorine gas attack.

Thirty victims were immediately brought to Turkey after the incident. But the Turkish doctors and CBRN specialist did not consider sarin, but chlorine gas -a much less potent chemical- to be involved. (Chlorine is not designated a chemical weapon under the chemical warfare regulations. This fact is often obfuscated for propaganda reasons. ) The symptoms of chlorine ingestion and the effects of sarin exposure are quite different. It is extremely unlikely that the emergency doctors and chemical weapon specialists misdiagnosed the issue when the patients arrived and were taken care of. The 30 casualties arriving in Turkey were not the casualties of a sarin incident.

But then the Turkish Health Ministry started to tell a different story:

The poison used in the deadly chemical bomb attack in a rebel-held part of northern Syria this week was the banned nerve agent sarin, the Turkish Health Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
“According to the results of preliminary tests,” the statement said, “patients were exposed to chemical material (Sarin).”
The Turkish statement did not elaborate on how the sarin had been identified in the assault on Tuesday, but it said some of the telling symptoms seen in the victims included “lung edema, increase in lung weight and bleeding in lungs.”

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emergency Response Database:
At high exposure levels, irritation of the upper respiratory tract and accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) contribute to a sensation of choking.

But that is from the CDC entry for chlorine.

The CDC entry for sarin mentions "fluid accumulation in the airways" as one symptom among many more conspicuous ones. It does not mention an edema in the lungs.

Contradicting the first Turkish reports the Turkish Health Ministry claimed "sarin" (in parenthesis?!). But the symptom it described as proof was not of sarin but of chlorine exposure.

The Turkish Justice Minister also made a statement, but did not mention sarin at all:

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters that "Autopsies were carried out on three of the bodies after they were brought from Idlib. The results of the autopsy confirms that chemical weapons were used," quoted by state-run Anadolu news agency.

"This scientific investigation also confirms that Assad used chemical weapons," Bozdag added, without giving further details.
Bozdag said autopsies were conducted with the "participation" of officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) in the southern province of Adana together with officials from Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

But WHO immediately countered Bozdag's claims that it was involved in the postmortem, saying the organisation did not conduct autopsies, adding: "It is not our mandate."
[It] also stressed that no samples or swabs had been taken by WHO despite claims by the Adana prosecutor that "examples" had been sent to the organisation and the OPCW.

The Justice Minister claimed that samples had been given to the WHO and OPCW from the very first autopsies. But the WHO clearly denies that. I find no OPCW statement on this. Did it receive any of those first samples or only some that were later produced by Turkish authorities?

In 2013 a Turkish court, under Justice Minister Bozdag, set one suspected Ahrar al Sham member free after he was caught with sarin precursors. The person was later sentenced in absentia as he had fled back to Syria. Ahrar al Sham, while not in charge, has a presence in Khan Sheikhun.

The neuroscientist and neuro-pharmacologist Denis O'Brien, a Ph.D. with a research and teaching career in that field, analyzed the symtoms of the casualties that were depicted in the various videos coming out of Khan Sheikhun. His detailed diagnostics and chemical-biological explanations are humorously titled Top Ten Ways to Tell When You're Being Spoofed by a False-Flag Sarin Attack.

O'Brian notes the total absence of feces, urine, vomit and cyanosis (turning blue) in the videos. Sarin exposure causes, according to the CDC database, "Nausea, vomiting (emesis), diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramping." Sarin effected patients would spontaneously shit, pee and vomit all over. But the casualties in the videos, even the "dead" ones, have clean undies. The "clinic" in the videos has clean floors. The patients show red skin color, not oxygen deprived blue. The patients in the videos were not effected by sarin.

Medical personal and rescue workers in the videos (example) and pictures also show none of the typical sarin symptoms. Sarin degrades relatively fast. Half of the potency will be gone within five hours after release (depending on environmental factors). But these rescue workers and medical personal were immediately involved with the casualties. They do not wear any reasonable protection. They would have been dead or at least effected if sarin would have been involved in any relevant concentration.

The Turkish doctors and chemical weapon specialists who received the first patients diagnosed chlorine exposure, not sarin. The first news and Turkish reports to the UN speak of chlorine, not sarin. It is only the Turkish Health Minister who mentions sarin - in parentheses, but then lists a symptom of severe chlorine exposure as one of sarin. Neither the casualties nor the unprotected medical personal involved in the incident show any effect of sarin exposure. The only one who claimed "sarin" early on was an al-Qaeda alligend former doctor in a staged propaganda video.

Fifteen days after the incident the OPCW say that samples (it was given?) "indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance".

Turkey has been the supply and support lifeline for Ahrar al Sham as well as for al-Qaeda in Syria. The samples given to the OPCW were taken by Turkish personal in Turkey. The current head of the OPCW is a Turkish civil servant. It is in the interest of Turkey and its terrorist clients in Syria to blame the Syrian government for chemical weapon use.

The medical and technical evidence is not consistent with a sarin attack by the Syrian government. All of the videos and pictures of the incident were taken in al-Qaeda controlled territory. All witnesses were under al-Qaeda control. How much of the incident was staged for videos (see al-Qaeda doctor video linked above) or how many of the witnesses were told to lie is not testable under current circumstance. The Syrian government insist that it had given up all its chemical weapons and keeps no stocks. The Russian government also asserts that no chemical weapon attack took place.

The OPCW analysis may well have found that samples it received indicated some organophosphorus exposure. But the chain of evidence for these samples is very dubious. The amount of exposure was not defined.

The observable facts of the incident do not support the conclusion that sarin was present in the Khan Sheikhun incident.

Note: Part of the above is based on the work and tweets of Ali Ornek

Kenya's Ogiek Reach Across the Ocean for Assistance

Protect Ogiek of Kenya

by Wayne Medrud - GoFundMe

via World Temperate Rainforest Network

April 21, 2017

My Friend Simon Nadungwenkop is chief of the Ogiek tribe of Kenya. They are the traditional beekeepers of the Mau forest. In recent years 1/3 of the forests have been lost to illegal logging and land grabbing.

Being a nomadic tribe, the Ogiek are not recognized under Kenyan law.

Simon has received numerous death threats due to his representation of the rights of indigenous tribes of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania at the United Nations and his activism to save the forests.

With a law suit filed in Kenyan courts, (Crimes Against Humanity) he can name those that threaten him and put them on notice with local police in case anything happens to him. This will provide a sense of security while he fights to save the last 30,000 members of his tribe.

The cost of filing the suit is $3000.

Simon has recently been introduced to bee's wax candle making and soap making which will give his people a viable product to sell in the market place. To this day they do not trade in currency, only honey.

Time is of the essence as he is only in the US until May 6th. To allow for withdraw of funds we have only until April 26th to complete our goal.

I sincerely believe that without this suit, we are condemning this wonderful man and his people to death as well as a way of life that has existed for over 1000 years.

Pat Rasmussen
World Temperate Rainforest Network
PO Box 13273
Olympia, WA 98508
Phone: 509-669-1549

Cri Moi a River

Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers

by Robert Hunziker - CounterPunch

April 21, 2017  
One of the least understood aspects of global warming is entire countries threatened by loss of major rivers, for example, the Lancang River (70% of its headwater glaciers gone), affectionately known as “the Danube of the East” of China and the Andes river system in South America (the World Bank warning that millions threatened by loss of glacial water supplies), and the Lower Colorado River in America, at “the breaking point.”
Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair

River systems provide recreation, sport, wildlife habitat, agricultural irrigation, and drinking water for the majority of the world’s population. The loss of river system integrity and strength of its flow indubitably throws the world into utter chaos, likely leading to worldwide water wars, e.g.: India’s numerous clashes and riots over water for example in Bundelkhand (deadly clashes), Bangalore, and Munak (18 people killed and 200 injured); and, Tunisia’s “thirst uprisings”; and, 10 deaths over water rights on Iran and Afghanistan border; and, Peru farmers challenging (clashes) a corporation over water rights; and, Syria’s repeated fighting over water; and, Somalia where dozens killed over water access; and, Mexico’s 100 injured in water clashes; and, Yemen, where 4,000 die every year from water-related violence. Moreover, the list of water wars goes on and on, seemingly evermore.

It is established science that anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming contributes heavily to water stress throughout the world, and in fact, is likely the prime factor behind severe water shortages, as the Great Acceleration, aka the first ever human-directed biosphere, grows in stature and impact.

For example, 14 of the 30 most water stressed countries of the world are in the Middle East and North Africa, where massive migration is out of control. The World Resources Institute claims water shortages in Syria influenced the advent of civil disturbances, on the heels of Syria’s worst drought in 900 years.

Meanwhile in America, Trump’s hatchet job on ecosystem/biosphere regulations in concert with global warming will destroy rivers. Trump is Mister Double Trouble, wearing two hats: (1) global warming enthusiast and (2) head hatchet man of sensitive environmental rules & regulations. Thus, Trump is in mortal combat with Mother Nature, except for careful grooming of his golf courses.

Global warming’s threat to river water systems is one of the least understood aspects of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change, but it may be the most risky of all the global warming effects.

The rivers of the world are under attack, namely:

The Slims River in Canada flowed for hundreds/thousands of years, but it suddenly vanished within only 4 days. Now, the wind whips up dust storms from Slims’ crusty riverbed. The river dried up because of rapid retreat of Kaskawlush Glacier. Global warming hit Kaskawlush Glacier so hard that it retreated beyond headwaters of Slims River (Source: Slims River: Climate Change Causes ‘River Piracy’ in Canada’s Yukon, BBC News, April 18, 2017).

In China, major waterways like Yellow River, Yangtze River, and Lancang River, which becomes Mekong River once it leaves China, are drying up “…because of climate change, says geologist Yang Yong” (Source: Liu Qin, Source of Mekong, Yellow and Yangtze Rivers Drying Up, China Dialogue, March 3, 2017).

Lancang River, affectionately known as “the Danube of the East,” is a major commercial waterway. According to Cheng Haining, senior engineer with the provincial survey bureau: “Seventy (70) percent of the glaciers in Lancang River headwaters have disappeared due to the warm weather” (Source: Wang Guanqun, Glaciers on China’s Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Melting Fast Due to Global Warming, Xinhuanet, October 21, 2011).

When Lancang River leaves China, it becomes Mekong River, one of the world’s most important international waterways. It flows 2,130 kilometres thru China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam to South China Sea. Global warming has already robbed it of over 70% of its headwater glaciers, which create water flow for millions of people and irrigation for 30%-to-80% of the agriculture along its trek.

Trump at War with America’s Rivers

Trump is at war with wildlife enthusiasts, fishing, hunting, farming, towns, and cities all across America by abandoning or cutting back, crucial river protections, including Clean Water Act rules and environmental regulations.

According to Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers Org:

“The rivers Americans depend on for drinking water, jobs, food and quality of life are under attack from the Trump administration’s rollbacks and proposed budget cuts” (Source: Amy Souers Kober, Announcing America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2017,, April 11, 2017).

Critically, Trump’s reckless behavior and cockamamie ignorance serves as a major setback to America’s Most Endangered River of 2017, the Lower Colorado River.

Here’s the issue: The Lower Colorado River provides drinking water to 30 million, irrigates fields that grow 90% of the nation’s winter vegetables, and provides water for LA, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

“But the water demands of Arizona, Nevada and California are outstripping supply, the impacts of climate change are becoming acute, and the river is at a breaking point… If the deficit is not addressed, the Bureau of Reclamation will be forced to cut water deliveries, with severe economic impacts to farms and cities across Arizona, Nevada and California,” Ibid.
“Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget proposal threatens to reverse progress made by states, cities and farmers to reduce water consumption across the three states,” Ibid.

Sadly for America’s southwestern states, at the very moment when the Lower Colorado River is “at a breaking point,” Trump is elected as president. Here’s the Trump problem: His hatchet men destroy crucial, as well as pivotal, rules and regulations that protect and regulate waterways for millions of Americans. There is no other way to look at his cuts to the EPA and Clean Water Act and removal of critical regulations than the handiwork of hatch men, like the Visigoths slicing and chopping their way across Medieval Europe, actually pre-Europe.

There is no getting around the straightforward fact that Trump has declared war on America’s rivers. Trump is an environmental terrorist.

According to America’s Rivers Org, here’s a sampling of what Trump’s cuts mean to the environment:

Cuts to the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture could hamstring efforts to find water management solutions to meet the crisis on the Lower Colorado River.

Cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency could undermine regulation of pollution from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations like those on the Neuse-Cape Fear and the Buffalo National River.

Virtually zeroing out the Land and Water Conservation Fund would eliminate opportunities such as the conservation purchases that have helped protect Washington’s Green River.

Cuts to the Department of the Interior likely would foreclose any opportunity to adequately fund the proper planning, management, and protection of the neglected Wild and Scenic Rivers System, including the Buffalo National River and Middle Fork Flathead — a sorry state of affairs as the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act approaches its 50th anniversary in 2018.

According to the Washington Post d/d April 14, 2017:

“President Trump signed an executive order on March 28, to obliterate former president Barack Obama’s environmental record. The order will instruct federal regulators to rewrite Clean Power Plan rules that curb U.S. carbon emissions, as well as halt other environmental regulations.”

Meanwhile, Scott Pruitt, new head of EPA, lied about the Paris climate agreement on Fox & Friends. He claims it’s a bad deal for America because China and India have “no obligations under the agreement until 2030” whereas America has to meet obligations much earlier. That is a bold-faced lie as India and China do have 2030 obligations, but even a grade school kid can figure out they cannot achieve the obligations all in one year, or 2030. It takes tons of work several years beforehand. In point of fact, both countries are already installing renewables and taking other initiatives to meet their obligations for 2030.

Without hesitation, it is easy to label Scott Pruitt as the least enlightened head of EPA in American history working for the least enlightened president throughout U.S. history. This toxic cocktail of maladministration and ultra low levels of insight is almost certain to bring to surface brutal water wars, death, and destruction so extreme that its impossible to grasp at this early stage of their hostile actions.

Henceforth, discord supplants science.

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at
More articles by:Robert Hunziker

Flanders in the Field: Ireland Rises Again

Ireland's New Rising: An Exclusive Report from The Laura Flanders Show


April 21, 2017

The question of Irish sovereignty still looms large. In this special report, Laura Flanders returns to Ireland, 30 years after first reporting on the so-called "Troubles".

Laura Flanders is an Air America radio host and journalist. She is the author of Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species and Real Majority, Media Minority: The Cost of Sidelining Women in Reporting. Flanders was the Founding Director of the Women's Desk at the media-watch group FAIR.

Ghosts of the Deepwater Horizon: What BP and George W. Knew

Deepwater Horizon

BP and GWB Knew: The Real Story of the Cover-up

by Greg Palast – for Channel 4, UK

April 20, 2017

Two years before the Deepwater Horizon blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP off-shore rig suffered a nearly identical blow-out, but BP concealed the first one from the U.S. regulators and the United States Congress.

5 years ago, we located an eyewitness with devastating new information about the Caspian Sea oil-rig blow-out which BP had concealed from government and the industry.

The witness, whose story is backed up by rig workers who were evacuated from BP’s Caspian platform, said that had BP revealed the full story as required by industry practice, the eleven Gulf of Mexico workers “could have had a chance” of survival. But BP’s insistence on using methods proven faulty sealed their fate.

One cause of the blow-outs was the same in both cases: the use of a money-saving technique—plugging holes with “quick-dry” cement.


By hiding the disastrous failure of its penny-pinching cement process in 2008, BP was able to continue to use the dangerous methods in the Gulf of Mexico—causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. April 20 marks the 7th anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster.

There were several failures in common to the two incidents identified by the eyewitness. He is an industry insider whose identity and expertise we have confirmed. His name and that of other witnesses we contacted must be withheld for their safety.

The failures revolve around the use of “quick-dry” cement, the uselessness of blow-out preventers, “mayhem” in evacuation procedures and an atmosphere of fear which prevents workers from blowing the whistle on safety problems.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance and senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, said,

“We have laws that make it illegal to hide this kind of information. At the very least, these are lies by omission. When you juxtapose their knowledge of this incident upon the oil companies constant and persistent assurances of safety to regulators, investigators and shareholders, you have all the elements to prove that their concealment of the information was criminal.”

The first blow-out occurred on a BP rig in the Caspian Sea off the coast of Baku, Azerbaijan, in September 2008. BP was able to conceal such an extraordinary event with the help of the ruling regime of Azerbaijan, other oil companies and, our investigators learned, the Bush Administration.

Our investigation began just days after the explosion and sinking of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010 when this reporter received an extraordinary message from a terrified witness—from a ship floating in the Caspian Sea:

“I know how …. Would not be wise for me to communicate via [official] IT system, ….”

When the insider was contacted on a secure line, he stated that he witnessed a blow-out and the panicked evacuation of the giant BP “ACG” drilling platform.

To confirm the witness’ story, British television’s premier investigative program, Dispatches, sent this reporter under cover into Baku, Azerbaijan, with a cameraman. While approaching the BP oil terminal, the Islamic republic’s Security Ministry arrested the crew.

To avoid diplomatic difficulties, we were quickly released. However, two new witnesses suddenly vanished, all communication lost with them, after they confirmed the facts of the 2008 blow-out. Both told us they had been evacuated from the BP off-shore platform as it filled with methane.

Furthermore, witnesses confirmed that, “there was mud (drill-pipe cement) blown out all over the platform.” It appears the cement cap failed to hold back high-pressure gases which, “engulfed the entire platform in methane gas,” which is highly explosive.

In both cases, the insider told us, BP had used “quick-dry” cement to cap their well bores and the cost-saving procedure failed catastrophically.

We have learned this week that BP failed to notify the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) about the failure of the cement. (British companies report incidents as minor as a hammer dropped.) Notification would have alerted Gulf cement contractor Halliburton that the process of adding nitrogen to cement posed unforeseen dangers.

In fact, this past December, BP attempted to place the blame and costs of the Gulf disaster on Halliburton, the oil services company that injected quick-dry cement into the well under the Deepwater Horizon. BP told a federal court that Halliburton concealed a computer model that would show that, under certain conditions, the cement could fail disastrously.

Following the Deepwater Horizon explosion, it became clear that nitrogen-laced mud can leave “channels” in the cement, allowing gas to escape and blow out the well-bore cap. However, that would have become clearer, and risks better assessed, had Halliburton and regulators known of the particulars of the Caspian blow-out.

We have also just learned that the cement casing itself appears to have cracked apart in the Caspian Sea. The sea, we were told, “was bubbling all around [from boiling methane]. You’re even scared to launch a life boat, it may sink.”

This exposed another problem with deepwater drilling. BP had promoted Blow-Out Preventers (BOPs) as a last line of defense in case of a blow-out. But if the casing shatters, the BOPs could be useless.

BP has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal the story of the first blow-out, and for good reason: If the company deliberately withheld the information that it knew “quick-dry” cement had failed yet continued to use it, the 11 deaths on its Gulf rig were not an unexpected accident but could be considered negligent homicide.

Kennedy told me, “This is a critical piece of information. The entire government is basing its policy on the assurances of this company that this process can be done safely and it never failed before. This is what they were telling everybody. Yet, the whole time they knew that this was a process that had failed disastrously in the Caspian Sea.”

Why haven’t these stories come out before? This week our witness explained that in Azerbaijan, “People disappear on a regular basis. It’s a police state.”

But even in the U.S. and Europe, BP and other industry workers are afraid to complain for fear their files will be marked “NRB,” for Not Required Back­­—which will end a workers’ offshore career. Jake Malloy, head of the Offshore Oil Workers Union, reached in Aberdeen, Scotland, independently confirmed statements of the whistleblowers. He noted that companies create an atmosphere of fear for one’s job with the “NRB” system and its latest variants, which discourage reports on safety problems.

BP refused an interview for this investigation, though the company responded to our written questions regarding the Caspian blow-out. Notably, the company does not deny that the blow-out occurred, nor even that it concealed the information from U.S. and UK regulators. Rather, the company says there was a “gas release”—a common and benign event, not a blow-out. As to the accusation of concealment, BP states:

While BP says it issued a press release at the time of the September 2008 Caspian blow-out, the company did not tell the whole truth as reported by workers and witnesses. The BP press release of that day admitted only that, “a gas leak was discovered in the area of” the platform when, in fact, it was an explosion of cement and methane, say our witnesses, “which engulfed the platform.”

BP later stated that all operations on the platform were suspended as a “precautionary measure,” suggesting a distant, natural leak. In fact, the workers themselves said that, like the workers on the Deepwater Horizon, they were one spark away from death, with frightened minutes to escape.

While BP called the evacuation a by-the-textbook procedure, in fact, said our witness, “It was total mayhem,” and that a lifeboat rammed a rescue ship in the chaos. U.S. government investigators in the Gulf cite BP’s confused and chaotic evacuation procedures for possibly adding to the Deepwater Horizon’s death toll. Information about the 2008 blow-out should have led to improved procedures and possibly could have saved lives.

More seriously, BP PLC’s official filing to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission, which requires reporting of all “material” events in company operations, again talked about a “subsurface release,” concealing that the methane blew out through its drilling stack.

Both the safety of quick-dry cement (which some drillers won’t use) and deep water drilling itself were in contention before the April 20, 2010 Gulf blow-out. In fact, the U.S. Department of Interior was refusing BP, Chevron and Exxon the right to expand the area of their deep water drilling in the Gulf over safety questions.

However, BP and the industry conducted a successful lobbying campaign to expand deep water drilling. BP’s Vice-President for operations in the Gulf, David Rainey, testified before Congress in November 2009, five months before the Deepwater Horizon explosion that, “Releases from oil and gas operations are rare.” Rainey assured Congressmen that reliable “well control techniques” such as cement caps will prevent a deep water disaster. Rainey made no mention to Congress of the blow-out in the Caspian Sea which occurred a year before his testimony.

BP itself states that if not for Halliburton’s quick-dry cement failures, the Deepwater Horizon would never have blown out. Halliburton defends itself by saying that BP’s methods created air channels in the cement that caused it to fail. Notably, BP’s court Motion states, “Halliburton has deprived the Court and parties of uniquely relevant evidence.” BP claims that hiding the information about problems with the cement caused the loss of lives.

Kennedy suggests that if Halliburton’s withholding evidence was deadly, so was BP’s concealment of the cement failure in the Caspian. Stefanie Penn Spear, editor of, says that BP’s hiding evidence ultimately led to, “The biggest oil spill in U.S. history. It entirely turned the Gulf Coast economy upside down and threatened—and continues to threaten—the health and livelihoods of the people in the Gulf region.”

How is it that a major oil disaster, a blow-out that shut down one of the world’s biggest oil fields and required the emergency evacuation of 211 rig workers could be covered up, hidden from U.S. regulators and Congress?

The answer: pay-offs, threats, political muscle and the connivance of the Bush Administration’s State Department, Exxon and Chevron.

For that story, read Part 2 of Greg Palast’s investigation BP Covers up Blow-Out—Bush, Big Oil and WikiLeaks.

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures’ Picnic (Penguin 2011), which centers on his investigation of BP, bribery and corruption in the oil industry.

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is also the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Brexit's Dam: May Brings No Flowers for Britons

Theresa May: An Unstoppable Undemocratic Disaster in a Dismal Brexit Britain Without Adequate Opposition 

by Andy Worthington


Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

Since Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty three weeks ago, starting the two-year process of the UK leaving the EU, based on a slim majority in a referendum whose outcome was not legally binding, I have withdrawn into a protective shell, unable to cope with her deluded dictatorial arrogance, the pointlessness of the MPs who have persistently refused to challenge her in any way, with the spinelessness or corruption of most of the mainstream media, and with the racism and xenophobia and pathetic Little Englander nationalism unleashed by Brexit.

In these three weeks, I’ve been interested to note, I’ve met many other people who have felt the same, and who, like me, are refusing to watch the news any more — not just because it’s depressing to have to keep watching May and her fellow pro-Brexit ministers attempting to justify their idiocy, but also because of the bias of those bringing the news to us — the horribly corrupt BBC above all, with right-wing mouthpieces like the dreadful Laura Kuennsberg pretending to be journalists rather than stenographers for those in power, and with programmes like Question Time persistently giving far too much airtime to right-wing panel members and audiences.

Those of us who are so sickened that we’ve switched off are, of course, all Remainers, and we all know — not believe, know — that Brexit is an unprecedented disaster, that racism and xenophobia are out in the open now, poisoning our streets, and, along with our now-broken reputation for tolerance, we also know that far too many of our fellow citizens are flag-waving fantasists, longing for a golden age that never was, but that, in their minds, actually existed and, crucially, involved no foreigners. We also know that our economy is already in a self-inflicted decline, as the everyday cost of living is already noticeably more expensive than it was last June, a situation that can only get worse. We also despair that May and the Tories are so popular, and despair of the plight that Labour has dug itself into, with an unelectable leader, however worthy he is.

I’ve spent some of the last three weeks wondering if this detachment would lead to new ways of challenging the runaway Juggernaut that is Theresa May and her bloodless zombie enthusiasm for as destructive a break with Europe as is possible, or if we, the 48%, the 16.1 million UK citizens who voted to remain in the EU, would have to end up reluctantly retreating from politics as so many of us did in the 1980s.

I still don’t know the answer to that question, but as I returned from nearly a week away — with friends in Stroud, for 24 hours, and then, for four days, in a cottage in the Brecon Beacons, when the horror of having to look at May’s undead face or to listen to a tide of everyday bigots had been almost completely forgotten — I suddenly discovered that May had now added “total hypocrite” to the long roll-call of her failings, calling a General Election on June 8, even though she has no excuse to do so under the laws her own party brought in after the 2010 election to guarantee fixed five-year terms for parliaments, and even though, since running for leader last June, she has persistently said that she would not call an election.

As the Guardian explained, in a wonderfully hard-hitting editorial:

Britain does not need, and its people are not demanding, this general election. There is no crisis in the government. Mrs May is not losing votes in the Commons. The House of Lords is not defying her. No legislation is at risk. There is no war and no economic crisis. Brexit is two years away. The press are not clamouring for an early election.

And yet, as the Guardian added, it is now happening “solely because Mrs May sees Conservative partisan advantage in making it happen.” As the editorial proceeded to explain,

“As U-turns go, it is an absolute screecher. The smell of rubber on the Downing Street black top is acrid and foul. Judgments about Mrs May will never be quite the same, and deservedly so. She has built her authority by being, and by appearing to be, a leader who plays straight, gets on with the job and takes politics seriously … But now there is a new dimension to Mrs May. She is now a party political leader whose words can’t be trusted at face value as much, and for whom politics is, after all, a game. The Tory party may win, if opinion polls can be believed, because Mrs May is trusted far more than Mr Corbyn. But the loss to wider politics ought to be severe. The damage inflicted by the hypocrisy of the apparently sincere is more serious than the damage inflicted by the transparently untrustworthy.”

The Guardian’s editorial added:

Some of Mrs May’s reasons for calling the election are particularly unacceptable. To say, as she did, that a poll is needed because “division at Westminster” is causing “damaging uncertainty and instability” sails troublingly close to being a Thames Valley version of the sort of thing that President Erdoğan might say in Turkey. Division in parliament is necessary and inherent, above all on something as momentous as the Brexit terms. Brexit reflects life-influencing divisions in the country. Mrs May’s decision and language illustrate the damage that referendums do to parliamentary democracy.

The election is also an invitation to voters to buy Mrs May’s Brexit terms sight unseen. She said … that she wants support “for the decisions I must take”. But we do not know what those decisions will be. They depend on negotiations that have barely begun with some EU partners who face elections of their own, as well as on events. All this will involve give and take. Mrs May is seeking a mandate to do something of which not even she knows the main planks, the details and the trade-offs. She wants to get parliament off her back in making the Brexit terms. This election must ensure that this does not happen.

Many things may change over the coming weeks. At this early stage the danger is that the 2017 election may be less a contest about who should govern and more a contest about how much power the voters are willing to entrust to Mrs May. The Tory manifesto will have to be watched like a hawk; it will be an unusually crucial document. This is a premature election which the country does not need, the people do not want and Mrs May does not require in order to do her job effectively. Above all else, this election must not write her a blank cheque over Europe.

The Guardian also shone a light on what happened yesterday when MPs voted on May’s decision. Just a third of MPs could have derailed it by voting against it, but in the end only 13 MPs did, with 522 others voting to allow it, including the SNP and the Liberal Democrats, who both hope to gain from it, and probably will (in the former case, strengthening the chances of a second independence referendum, and in the latter, creating the very real possibility that Tory MPs in constituencies that voted Remain will turn to — or revert to — the Lib Dems), and the Labour Party also going along with it, even though it could well be a disaster for them. As the Guardian noted, however, the Labour Party, currently, is too intimidated and fatalistic to have seen the importance of resistance.

What happens next? Well, who knows? I reluctantly sense that I will have to wake up from my slumber and engage, but how, exactly, has yet to become apparent. As Ian Dunt, the author of the very necessary book, Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? has explained, “May has called a referendum on Jeremy Corbyn and is going to pretend the result is a mandate for her Brexit strategy.”

Ian Dunt has also written another useful article, How the general election could go against Theresa May, which I recommend, and Gina Miller, who launched the successful lawsuit last year against Theresa May’s dictatorial insistence that she could trigger Article 50 without Parliament, is crowdfunding funds to launch a new organisation, ‘Best for Britain’, next week, which is planning “the country’s biggest tactical voting drive ever [to] stop Extreme Brexit.” As the funding website states, “We are launching a tactical vote campaign, aiming to ensure the final vote on the Brexit deal is a real one; one that is best for Britain. We need to prevent MPs and the people being forced into an Extreme Brexit that is not in Britain’s best interests. We will support candidates who campaign for a real final vote on Brexit, including rejecting any deal that leaves Britain worse off.”

In addition, a Facebook group has already been set up to encourage tactical voting in the local elections taking place on May 4, which, presumably, will now be expanding its operations to include the General Election on June 8, and I look forward to as much tactical voting as possible to try and damage the Tories as much as possible. I also look forward to significant pro-European Tories — like Lord Heseltine, who regards Brexit as the most idiotic peacetime policy in his lifetime — refusing to be silenced as May attempts to stifle any vestiges of internal dissent — and, as noted above, I look forward to Tory MPs in pro-Remain constituencies losing their seats across the south east and the south west of England if they fail to support their constituents’ wishes.

Mostly, though, this most cynical of elections is in many ways unknown territory, with UKIP, who secured 3.8 million votes in the 2015 General Election, now falling apart as a party, and the probability that the biggest winner this time around will, yet again, be the biggest party of all — the non-voting party, those who, put off by corrupt and/or remote politicians, and by the lack of representation in our ridiculous first-past-the-post system, don’t vote at all. And in 2015, lest we forget, just 66.2% of the 46,354,197 people eligible to vote actually bothered to do so. That’s 15,656,672 people — or, to go by the turnout in the referendum, the 27.8% of registered voters (12,948,018 people), who didn’t vote, making “the will of the people” that Theresa May and her ministers bang on about incessantly, with the full support of the right-wing media, the will of just 37.4% of the electorate. That’s way more than the 2015 General Election, when only 24.9% of registered electors voted for the Tories, who, nevertheless, took 50.9% of the seats, but it falls far short of providing anything like a mandate for all of the horrors that the Tories have been inflicting on us over the last seven years, and that, with Brexit, looks set to damage us permanently unless we can find a way to defeat them, and to discredit their malignant view of what Britain is, and what its place is in the world.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp).

He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

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