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Friday, January 18, 2013


More on the U.N. "death toll" in Syria

I wrote recently about the improbability of the U.N.'s claim that the Syrian death toll is 60,000. I noted that that claim would require that 96 people had been killed every single day since the conflict began. Nearly 700 people a week.

Today's news illustrates my point. AP reports (emphasis added):

A rocket slammed into a building in Syria's northern city of Aleppo and two suicide bombers struck near a mosque in the south Friday, capping a particularly bloody week in the country's civil war with more than 800 civilians killed.
When 800 people (or should I say an alleged 800 people; these figures are no more confirmed than any others) are killed in one week, AP (correctly) describes it as a "particularly bloody week." Indeed, more than just "particularly," I don't believe there have been claims of that many people killed in any one week to date. And yet the U.N. thinks it perfectly credible that 700 people have been killed every single week for 82 straight weeks. Not bloody likely.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Iran is guilty because...we say so

The U.S. is ramping up pressure on the American public to accept an attack on Iran, with not one but two stories in today's news. It wasn't enough to accuse Iran of producing nuclear weapons based on no evidence, now we're throwing into the mix accusations of cyberattacks and hostage taking as well.

In perhaps the more serious charge, an AP story accuses Iran of holding retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in 2007 on an Iranian island. Iran has repeatedly denied holding Levinson, which would seem reasonable on two counts — one, they never denied holding the three American hikers, nor journalist Roxanna Saberi; why would they deny holding Levinson? And two, considering they have made no demands for a "spy swap" or anything of the sort, to what end would they be holding him?

Logic, of course, doesn't deter the U.S. authorities who planted this story. And what exactly is their "evidence"? "The tradecraft used to send those items [videos and pictures of the hostage] was too good, indicating professional spies were behind them." An example of that "professional tradecraft"? They used a cybercafe to send the video and never used that email address again! Oh, the amazing professionalism! The wondrous "tradecraft" of anyone who could pull off such a daring feat! Yes, you read right, this is the evidence on which "the U.S. government's best intelligence analysis" says that Iran is holding Levinson.

The second story comes with an equal lack of significant evidence. The U.S. government (through the accommodating auspices of the New York Times) is accusing Iran of being behind recent DDoS attacks on American online banking sites. And here comes the "evidence":

American officials have not offered any technical evidence to back up their claims, but computer security experts say the recent attacks showed a level of sophistication far beyond that of amateur hackers. Also, the hackers chose to pursue disruption, not money: another earmark of state-sponsored attacks, the experts said.
Again, two things. One, amateur hackers are pretty much capable of doing anything these days. And two, many amateur hacking attacks, probably most of them, are done for the purpose of disruption, not money.

The most interesting aspect of this story is actually this admission:

American intelligence officials...claim Iran is waging the attacks in retaliation for Western economic sanctions and for a series of cyberattacks on its own systems.
Needless to say, Iran would be perfectly justified in doing so, given that the U.S. is waging an all-out non-military war against Iran. It's no accident that sanctions are referred to as "tightening the noose." U.S. "officials" even admit that the sanctions are "designed to...threaten the country with economic collapse." This is war, and Iran would be perfectly justified in retaliating by a lot more serious means than these cyberattacks. That said, it must be noted again that the "evidence" that Iran is behind these attacks borders on the laughable.

But the U.S. government is not laughing. It is deadly serious in its intent to bring down the Iranian government, and remove from the world one more pole of independence from imperialism.

Thursday, January 03, 2013


Life and death in the Americas

Prensa Latina reports that Cuba has once again recorded the lowest infant mortality rate in the Americas, 4.6/1000 live births. "In the American continent, the only country with an infant mortality rate of five was Canada, followed by the United States (seven [6.4 per the CDC), Chile (eight) and Costa Rica and Uruguay (nine), according to UNICEF."

There were 4 million births in the U.S. last year. If the U.S. had the same infant mortality rate as Cuba (which means it would need the same universal, proactive health care as Cuba), 7200 fewer American babies would have died last year. Saving that many lives could have come at a far lower cost than the cost of the "war on terror," which of course has cost lives (hundreds of thousands of them, including many thousand Americans), not saved them.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


The latest Syrian "death toll"

Regular readers (if any are left) will remember that I wrote many posts on the subject of the number of dead in Iraq. There was a concerted effort on the part of the U.S. government and media to minimize that number, and to denigrate or ignore scientific studies which yielded higher numbers, in keeping with their own self-interest.

In Syria, of course, the shoe is on the other foot, and the U.S. government and media have every interest in maximizing the number of dead, and furthermore, in ignoring any breakdown of those numbers, because they want very much to leave the impression that if there are N dead, that all N of them were civilians butchered by a brutal government.

Into the fray today comes the United Nations, claiming with quite literally unbelievable precision that there were "59,648 people killed between March 15, 2011, and Nov. 30." How many people died in the United States between March 15, 2011 and Nov. 30? I absolutely guarantee you cannot find an answer to that question accurate to one part in 60,000 (that's 0.0017% accuracy). But the U.N. assures us that that's how many people were killed in Syria.

And how do they know that? Why they conducted "an 'exhaustive' five-month analysis in which researchers cross-referenced seven sources." Now note something very interesting about that claim. They don't claim to have cross-referenced seven independent sources, just "seven sources." And any reader of the media knows that virtually every article in every Western media outlet has been sourced to a single place, the "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights," described in the Washington Post article linked above as "a group based in Britain," but as far as anyone knows it's a single person. In Britain. So you can compare and cross-reference articles in The New York Times, and the Washington Post, and the Guardian, and AP, and CNN, and anything else you want, but you don't have seven sources, you have one source. The only other source routinely cited for death tolls is "Syrian opposition activists." Actually they are the single source, since the "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" gets its claims from those same "Syrian opposition activists." About as far from trustworthy data as can be imagined.

And even more curious is this: "The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights...said last week that approximately 45,000 people have been killed in the conflict." So the group which has been the source of this data, a group with an obvious agenda (overthrowing the Assad regime) and hence obviously not an unbiased source, a group which consistently has overestimated the number of dead, even they quote a number which is a whopping 25% lower than the U.N. number.

There are 626 days in the time period in question. The U.N. numbers require that 96 people have been killed every single day in that 20 1/2 month time period. Today, for example, we are told (with the only source being "opposition activists," i.e., hardly reliable sources) that 87 people were killed. That was a major event which made the news. A few such major events have made the news over the course of the war, but not that many. Is it is any way credible that more people than that have been killed every single day? It is not.

And once again, let me note what the article throws away in passing: "It [the U.N.'s tally] does not specify whether the dead were rebels, soldiers or civilians." If the data are actually as accurate as the U.N. asserts (0.0017%!), then even if it may be hard to distinguish between "rebels" and "civilians," surely it can't be difficult at all to distinguish "soldiers" in that "59,648" that have been killed. But the U.N. doesn't say. Again, there can be only one reason - because they want people thinking "Assad has murdered 60,000 of 'his people' in cold blood." Period.

Addendum More on the subject from Moon of Alabama.

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