More questions asked of Golriz Ghahraman claims

An Australian “accredited specialist in immigration law” who claims to have been working in refugee law since 1990 has raised some serious questions about Green MP Golriz Ghahraman.

Ms Ghahraman is not a refugee or a “child asylum seeker.

Her claims of war and persecution do not stand up to scrutiny.  Her claim to be a “refugee” is disrespectful to the victims of the regime and the millions of Iranians forced to leave the country under threat of torture and death.

MPs have many challenges, often from anonymous people with questionable (or obviously ulterior) motives, but this looks to be a more credible challenge of Ghahraman’s back story and claims.

I think it’s fair to say that, after being touted as a new Green MP with a lot of promise, Ghahraman has had a fairly chequered political career so far. Her activities on social media keep raising questions about her capabilities – and her truthfulness, or possible lack of. I have seen her challenged a number of times for incorrect claims including for repeated incorrect claims.

Some attacks on Ghahraman, particularly in social media, are nasty, reprehensible.

But have been and continue to be valid questions about some of her claims. Her party profile was changed last November after it was questioned: Profile on party website of MP who defended Butcher of Bosnia now changed to be more accurate

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman worked as part of the legal defence team for Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadžić, who was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.

…her profile page on the Green Party website has now been changed to more accurately reflect the legal defence work she did at the Rwanda Tribunal and The Hague, and the prosecution work she did at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Her profile page on the Green Party website has now been changed, following her admission that it “could be clearer”.

It previously said: “Golriz has lived and worked in Africa, The Hague and Cambodia, putting on trial world leaders for abusing their power.”

Now it says: “Golriz worked for United Nations Tribunals as part of both defence (Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia) and prosecution (Cambodia) teams.”

Her Green Party current profile begins:

Golriz is an Iranian-Kiwi refugee, lucky to escape war and persecution as a child.

After becoming a list candidate (Newshub May 2017): Ten things you need to know about Golriz Ghahraman

2 She’s a former refugee, and fled Iran with her family without telling anyone

She arrived in New Zealand when she was nine years old, and left Iran with her family not telling anyone that they were leaving forever. “We essentially escaped one of the most oppressive regimes in probably modern history, which is the Islamic Republic of Iran and the repression was just a backdrop to a very bloody war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq,” she says.

Some of this has now been questioned by Australian lawyer Simon Jean in GOLRIZ GHAHRAMAN, GREEN PARTY NEW ZEALAND MP

The Green Party MP, Golriz Ghahraman, came to my attention on 3 August 2018 after she posted a video on Twitter saying, “No human right is absolute.  They are all subject to lawful limits.”  I responded that in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there are many human rights which are absolute, such as the right not to be tortured or suffer cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.  She blocked me on Twitter.

In a NZ Herald article, Meet Golriz Ghahraman, the Green Party’s newest Member of Parliament, 7 October 2017, Kirsty Johnston writes, “Most of Golriz Ghahraman’s childhood memories are of war.  She remembers howling sirens, sending families scurrying into basements.  She remembers people being trapped.”  In her Maiden Speech to Parliament, she said, “I remember the bombs and the sirens, running to a basement and just waiting.  But mostly I remember kids my age who stopped talking from the shell shock, and I still don’t know what happened to them.”

Ms Ghahraman stated in June 2017 that “I’m from Mashhad in the north of Iran”

The significance of Ms Ghahraman’s statement is that she has an affinity with Mashhad, which indicates she was living there and not in Tehran.

Mashhad is the largest city in eastern Iran, near the border with Afghanistan.  It was unaffected by the war, except as a safe haven for many people displaced by the Iran-Iraq war in the west and south.  There were no missiles attacks.  It is 900 km east of Tehran and 1500km from Iraq, well out of Iraqi rocket range.  If she was always living in Mashhad until 1990, the claim of war memories is fictional.

Jean gives more details which suggest at least a lack of completeness in Ghahraman’s Iranian past, and also on her claims to be a war refuge.

Ms Ghahraman makes much of the claim that she is a refugee.  In her Maiden Speech to the Parliament she said:

“I never intended to run as the first ever refugee MP but I quickly realised that my face and my story mean so much to so many, so my fear of tokenism dissipated.”

The claim that she is a “refugee” does not stand up to scrutiny[6].

The claim to be a refugee from Iran is a significant claim, historically and morally.

Ms Ghahraman has described in the NZ Herald and Stuff online how her parents supported the Islamic Revolution, like many people at that time from all sides of politics who came together to oppose the Shah.

She described how she left Iran, with an orderly departure at an airport.  The family was issued with passports, given permission to leave the country and allowed to take a holiday in Malaysia.  The regime had a watch list to stop opponents obtaining passports and departing from an airport.

This indicates that Ms Ghahraman’s family were viewed by the regime as their supporters…

The issuing of passports, permission to leave for a holiday and an orderly departure, is not consistent with people who were persecuted by the regime.

Ms Ghahraman is not a refugee or a “child asylum seeker[7]”.  Her claims of war and persecution do not stand up to scrutiny.  Her claim to be a “refugee” is disrespectful to the victims of the regime and the millions of Iranians forced to leave the country under threat of torture and death.

I think this warrants a response from Ghahraman. Perhaps she can refute Jean’s claims, or clarify.

 

Molyneux also talks up war

Stefan Molyneux has left New Zealand, grizzling on the way out.

Did he think he should be given VIP treatment and be able to bypass security? Not a very classy whine from Molyneux.

While he was still here he said some outlandish things. Like the business of war talk.

Newshub: Stefan Molyneux warns ‘war is coming’, asks for likes, shares and money

Mr Molyneux has now taken to YouTube, uploading a 12-minute video which oscillates between decrying the “demonic mob” that got their show cancelled, and asking for supporters to “like, subscribe and share” – and give him money.

“We lost a venue. Hundreds and hundreds of people who had come a long way and were very passionate to hear this conversation, to engage in what Lauren and I were going to discuss, we lost the venue and that’s costly. It’s very expensive, and I need your help”.

“I would really, really appreciate it.”

Both an attention seeker and a money seeker.

He said the funding is necessary for him to keep speaking out against the “encroaching mob and horde of mindless violence the left seems to want to unleash on the failing remnants of civilisation”.

He was relatively restrained in media interviews while in New Zealand. He tried to provoke reactions here, which successfully attracted opposition and media attention, but via Youtube he shows how dangerous he could be if he got more than fringe support.

Without more money, Mr Molyneux fears “self-contempt, self-hatred and possibly incarceration or death itself”, because “that’s what happens when the left gains power”.

He then took a shot at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who at the weekend said Kiwis were “hostile” to Mr Molyneux’s views.

“The Prime Minister was the head of a youth socialist organisation not a decade ago, so that’s what you get.”

That’s a bit pathetic.

Mr Molyneux says unless “free speech” is kept alive, “we are going to end up with bayonets pointed at each other’s hearts”.

“I am trying with all of my might and all of my rhetoric and all of my energy and efforts to stop the war that is coming. This feral escalation of abuse and violence and threats and deplatforming is going to escalate into war. History is very clear on this point.

“I don’t know if the left knows how much it’s going to escalate, I don’t know if they want it, I don’t know what the hell is going on, but I’m telling you, it’s coming.”

He seems to be trying hard to make a left-right war come.

While general populations seem to be less and less aligned to left or right politics people on the fringes are having to go to extremes to get attention.

There is a risk, because if a few on the fringes turn to violence it could get very nasty.

It’s ironic that Molyneux is trying to talk up the sort of problems he claims he is warning against.

If a Muslim radical came to New Zealand (or spoke to New Zealand via Youtube) with language anything like what Molyneux is using the sort of person supporting Molyneux would be up in arms, metaphorically at least.

Molyneux’s visit has raised some important issues about free speech.

Through his speech, especially his orchestrated self edited speech via Youtube, he has shown how dangerous he could be if he managed to raise a rabble. Fortunately his Kiwi experience didn’t rise to much. I doubt he will be back. Good riddance to him.

Trump escalates ‘enemy of the people’ to ‘war’

Donald Trump’s ongoing attacks on media as ‘fake news’ and ‘enemy of the people’ has been widely criticised, for good reason. See Trump’s “enemy of the people’ attacks teetering on tyranny.

 

But as is typical of Trump when he is criticised, he has escalated his rhetoric.

So he emphases his tyrant talk of ‘enemy of the people’ and then ups the ante to ‘War’! One could question whether he is becoming unhinged under pressure – which is a dangerous thing for someone who can easily start wars.

Will Trump use a war to try to justify his claims, and then blame it on the media?

One thing that is apparent about Trump – he projects.

Psychological projection is a defense mechanism people subconsciously employ in order to cope with difficult feelings or emotions. Psychological projection involves projecting undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings.

It Trump’s case it may not be unwanted feelings, it looks more like a propensity to blame others for one’s own problems or aims.

Purposely cause great division and distrust? That’s exactly what Trump is doing, more and more.

Can also cause war? That’s much more likely to be a president than a newspaper.

Very dangerous and sick? That could be a very worrying projection.

Trump frequently tells lies. Sometimes he may simply make things up to suit his line of attack, but he repeats many of his lies, suggesting in part at least it is a deliberate strategy.

He tries to sound truthful (and blame others for lying when they report and criticise him).

He is also known for his contradictions.

It wouldn’t seem out of character for him to start a war (like starting a war with the media or a trade war), and try to make murder respectable, and at the same time blame others.

The Trump attacks are not limited to crazy tweets. He seems to be increasing the number of campaign style meetings where he stirs up crowd emotions, promoting division with attacks on opponents, critics and the media with lies and manipulation – much like tyrants of the past have done.

For a long time the US has been able to avoid war on it’s own soil, but a Trump provoked or inspired civil war is effectively under way already. If that turns violent it could get very messy.

For how long will Trump be allowed to follow such a high risk path before someone steps in and tries to restore relative sanity?

Or will the Madness of King Trump be allowed to continue unabated? That looks like an increasingly risky option.

Doing terrible damage to the world but not totally disastrous

Of course the number of wars doesn’t necessarily relate to the level of damage being done, but reducing numbers suggest fewer areas of conflict.

People in democracies have the freedom to debate how good or bad their democracy is, but that’s a huge increase in countries countries with some form of democracy.

Historic meeting in Korea, an end to the war?

For the first time since North and South Korea split into separate countries after the 1950-53 war the leaders of the two countries have met, at the demilitarised zone that separates the two countries.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have said they will formally end the war (which has never been done to date) and will work towards complete de-nuclearisation of both countries.

This is just a step – many meetings have been held over the years (just not between leaders) – but it is a promising step in the right direction. Credit should be given to both leaders for this.

RNZ: North and South Korea announce end of Korean War

The two countries plan to sign a peace treaty, formally ending the Korean War this year, the 65th anniversary of the armistice.

“There will be no more war on the Korean peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun,” the statement says.

The two leaders agreed to work for the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

Smiling and holding hands, the leaders met at the heavily fortified demilitarised zone between the countries on Friday, pledging to pursue peace after decades of conflict.

Mr Kim became the first North Korean leader since the 1950-53 Korean War to set foot in South Korea, stepping over a concrete curb marking the border at the truce village of Panmunjom to shake hands with his counterpart.

“We are at a starting line today, where a new history of peace, prosperity and inter-Korean relations is being written,” Mr Kim said before the two Korean leaders and top aides began talks.

Mr Kim told Mr Moon he would be willing to visit the presidential Blue House in Seoul, invited Mr Moon to Pyongyang, and said he wanted to meet “more often” in the future, the official said. Just days before the summit, Mr Kim said North Korea would suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests and dismantle its only known nuclear test site.

So a promising move but a lot to happen yet, including a meeting between Kim and Donald Trump planned for next month. Trump may have helped nudge the Korean leaders towards this meeting and pledges, but he is still a loose cannon who could as easily make trouble as make a historic move for the US.

Reuters:  From nuclear weapons to peace: Inside the Korean summit declaration

In the agreement, the two Koreas “confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete decentralization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula” and “agreed to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities in this regard”.

Such language is similar to past declarations, however, and South Korea offered no additional details beyond saying it would closely cooperate with the United States and the international community on the issue.

Past efforts to entice Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program have failed in part due to North Korean demands the United States withdraw its troops from the peninsula and remove its “nuclear umbrella” of support for the South. South Korea has said Kim may be willing to compromise on this traditional sticking point, but no new details were announced at the summit.

Trump and the US will have to play a part in this.

South Korea and a U.S.-led U.N. force are technically still at war with North Korea and the idea of an official peace deal to change that is not something that can be resolved by the Koreas alone. So the declaration calls for meetings with the United States and possibly China, which were both involved in the conflict.

South Korean leaders at the time opposed the idea of a truce that left the peninsula divided, and were not signatories to the armistice, which was officially signed by the commander of North Korea’s army, the American commander of the U.N. Command and the commander of the “Chinese People’s volunteers”, who were not officially claimed by Beijing at the time.

North and South Korea have seriously discussed the idea before. In 1992, the two sides agreed to “endeavor together to transform the present state of armistice into a solid state of peace”.

The last inter-Korean summit in October 2007 concluded with a declaration by the two Koreas to “recognize the need to end the current armistice regime and build a permanent peace regime” and “to work together to advance the matter of having the leaders of the three or four parties directly concerned to convene on the Peninsula and declare an end to the war”.

Again Trump and the US are important to this.

A Reuters analysis shows the five decades of communication between the two Koreas.

North and South Korea are technically still at war, and contact between them was almost nonexistent after they accepted a truce at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. Since the early 1960s they have held hundreds of official meetings.

The more frequently the two sides have communicated, the fewer incidents there have been between them. But the number of meetings has yet to recover from a peak of nearly 90 sessions in 1992, the year after the Soviet Union collapsed.

In the past, the volume of communication varied dramatically depending on who was in charge in the South. From the late 1990s to 2007, there was a prolonged period of increased dialogue under policies driven by an approach in the South known as “Sunshine.”

That came to an end in 2008. Now Kim Jong Un is presiding over an accelerated missile programme and has tested a rocket which could reach Alaska. Southern president Moon Jae-in has pledged new efforts to boost dialogue, but sceptical analysts have dubbed his efforts “Moonshine.”

Here’s a look at the history of every discussion, agreement and major incident – from spy submarines to bombs on planes – between the two sides.

Progress will depend on the intent and determination of both leaders, and also of their main allies China and the US.

Trump expanding Afghan war he had denounced

Candidate Trump last year denounced US involvement in the Aghan war.

President Trump has just announced an expansion of the longest running war that the US has been involved in.

Fox News:  Trump the unconventional president proposes a conventional response for Afghanistan — more US soldiers

President Donald Trump has now officially embraced and expanded the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan which Candidate Trump denounced as a waste of American blood and treasure. In his first major foreign policy speech in prime time, Mr. Trump unveiled what he called a new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, which he called “principled realism.”

But many of its key components remain infuriatingly vague, such as the number of additional troops he intends to deploy in Afghanistan and how much more money he intends to spend there. Moreover, some of the goals he espoused Monday night seemed inherently contradictory.

Mr. Trump did explain why he had abandoned his initial “instinct” to withdraw the 8,500 American forces deployed in Afghanistan immediately.

He said that after listening to the generals whose wisdom and views he had denigrated as a candidate, he had become convinced that an abrupt withdrawal would create a vacuum that the Islamic State, the Taliban, and other terrorists would fill.

That, in turn, he said, would enable America’s Islamist foes to strike America and its allies, as Al Qaeda had done on September 11th from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

While Mr. Trump said his administration would no longer engage in “nation-building,” he also said that the Afghan government in Kabul would have to do more to ensure that Afghans do the bulk of the fighting.

While he vowed to stay in the region to kill terrorists and defeat the Taliban who support the Islamists until “victory” was achieved, he also said that America’s commitment to Afghanistan was not “open-ended.”

He did not define what “obliterating ISIS” or “victory” meant, or specifically what conditions on the ground would enable an eventual withdrawal of American forces.

That cartoon is from the start of US involvement in Afghanistan 16 years aago.

North Korean nuclear threat ‘is real’

After the Iraq debacle the world should be very sceptical of claims that crappy regimes have weapons that demand urgent military action.

But nuclear risks are so large, potentially threatening the well being of the whole plant, that any nuclear threat is a major concern. As are the increasing rhetoric and tensions over North Korea.

Nuclear weapons can be used as a threat. They can also be used as a deterrence to being attacked.

So far that has more or less worked for those countries that have acquired them, but there is always a very real concern that a mad or irresponsible leader will use nuclear weapons pre-emptively, or just out of spite, or under pressure, or to play to a domestic audience, or for any number of reasons.

A nuclear attack is most likely when, not if. The timing, and the degree of escalation and destruction, are probably all that is in doubt, along with who pushes the button.

Vox: North Korea’s growing nuclear threat, in one statistic

Here is the most frightening thing you’ll read all day: Growing numbers of US intelligence officials believe North Korea can produce a new nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks.

That’s one of the most jarring takeaways in an exhaustive New York Times story about North Korea’s rapidly expanding nuclear program — and the decades of US efforts that have tried, and failed, to slow it. The Trump administration plans to detail its own approach Wednesday when it brings the entire US Senate to the White House for a highly unusual briefing on the North Korean threat.

The threat is real. Here are a few more details, courtesy of the Times’s David Sanger and William Broad. North Korea is on pace to have 50 nuclear weapons by 2020. It already knows how to miniaturize those weapons so they can fit into missiles capable of hitting Japan, South Korea, and the tens of thousands of US troops stationed in those two countries. And a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the US — while not yet in Pyongyang’s arsenal — is now seen as a genuine possibility.

The reclusive country’s steady efforts to develop that type of missile, the Times reports, “have resulted in North Korean warheads that in a few years could reach Seattle.”

That’s not all. As Alex Ward wrote for Vox, South Korea’s capital of Seoul is well within range of the thousands of conventional weapons in North Korea’s enormous arsenal. Pyongyang could devastate the city of 25 million people without needing to use a nuclear weapon.

The threat to South Korea from conventional attack has been well known for decades.

All of that means President Trump faces the same hard question that bedeviled George W. Bush and Barack Obama before him: whether to risk war to prevent one of the world’s most unstable governments from building more of the world’s most dangerous weapons — including some capable of one day hitting the US.

This is, without doubt, a genuinely scary moment, with Washington and Pyongyang both making increasingly explicit threats against each other.

The Trump administration has specifically talked about a preemptive strike against North Korea and has a large US Navy carrier strike group steaming toward the region (yes, the same one that Trump had falsely said was heading there last week). And a US submarine docked in South Korea Tuesday as part of an explicit show of force.

North Korea has responded with threats to sink a US aircraft carrier and destroy American military bases in Japan (it’s far from clear the country could pull off either one). On Tuesday, it test-fired huge numbers of its artillery pieces (which are basically large guns capable of hitting distant targets), including many of the ones capable of striking South Korea. Many observers expect North Korea to conduct a nuclear test — its sixth in the past 11 years — as soon as the end of this week.

Still, none of this means that war is inevitable — or likely.

I’m not so sure about the likely bit. North Korea is being put under increasing pressure, and Donald Trump hasn’t exactly earned the world’s trust yet by any means.

Philly.com: Two bad options on North Korea: Acceptance or war

The Trump administration’s approach to the deadly serious problem of North Korea is the worst of all possible formulations. It is Teddy Roosevelt, turned upside down – “Speak loudly, and pretend to carry a big stick.”

What the administration wants is absolutely the ideal objective, to prevent North Korea from acquiring the capability to launch nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles at the United States.
But the means being discussed, such as putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism (“sticks and stones may break my bones…”), banning the North Korean airline from flying places it will never fly anyway, and banning the import of North Korean seafood (seriously?), are almost comically insufficient to the problem. Then there’s the “armada,” 3,500 miles away, but, maybe, on the way. These things, and other non-military options which might be considered, all pale by comparison to both the carrots and sticks that have already been used by prior presidents.

The hope that President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson can persuade China to exercise maximum leverage against North Korea — perhaps shutting off energy supplies, or stopping the regime  from reaching nuclear ICBM capability through sanctions-backed diplomacy, while also preventing it from “going out with a bang” if it thought it would be stopped — is almost certainly a mirage. Likewise, even the best offensive cyber-wafare operations can do little more than slow down the march toward nuclear capability against us.

Even limited preemptive military action won’t work. How could merely wounding and cornering a fierce animal not lead to a rageful last gasp of dreadful retaliation?

There is a good reason none of these are viable options. It’s because, from the North Korean point of view, only achieving that most fearsome military capability can provide reasonable assurance of this regime’s long-term existence.

So here is the truly horrible truth about North Korea. There are only two choices.

The first is that we acknowledge and accept, as we have done with Russian and Chinese ICBM capabilities for decades, and then try to deter and contain, and to defend against, a North Korea able to strike us with nuclear weapons.

…the alternative, the only alternative, is war. War waged to victory, not stalemate. War waged and won before the North Koreans achieve their weapons development goal. War waged with both sufficient force and tactical surprise, so as to not leave the opponent wounded, cornered, and still able to lash out.

This means the WWII notion of war, one aimed at toppling the enemy regime and destroying its capacity for harm, not limited “surgical strikes” aimed to send messages or merely degrade the other side. In the case of North Korea, limited war would almost certainly lead to total war, which would likely include the North’s use of nuclear weapons. So if any use of force will very probably lead to total war, it needs to be total war from the outset, on the most advantageous terms from our perspective.

Frightful though it surely is, there is a clock ticking on this decision, and sound judgments cannot be made on the basis of false premises. Our choices are both bad and difficult. Our choices are acceptance or war.

It’s hard to see any alternatives to those two options.

 

Conservatives pick very poor fight

The Conservative Party need to try to attract attention, but using war and Anzac Day to do it very poor.

ConservativesAnzacDisgrace

Leighton, this is crappy. Some will see it as disrespectful, even disgraceful.

Conservative Party Leader Leighton Baker, an ANZAC message to New Zealand.

“The Conservative Party is still here, and we are still continuing the fight. People ask what we are fighting for, well we are actually fighting for exactly the same things that our soldiers fought for in WW1 and WW2 and other wars.  We are fighting for our families, we are fighting for our freedom, and we are fighting for democracy.

Years ago in WW1 and 2, our soldiers went offshore and they fought for freedom, democracy and their families. There is another war and that’s going on right here in New Zealand, right now.  We are losing our democracy.  In all the citizens initiated referenda we’ve had, no Government, on either side – left or right, had ever listened to or ever acted on the results.

Life is important to all New Zealanders. From birth, through to the grave, we’ve got to value life. That’s part of who we are as New Zealanders.  We have always done that and that’s what we fought for.

Our families are being destroyed.  We are seeing more and more crime,  suicides and addictions. And why is that? Because there is a disconnect within our families.  That’s where we believe, as the Conservative Party, we need to focus.  We have to focus on families survival.

I would encourage you to get behind the Conservative Party, because our policies are practical, they’re addressing the real issues, and they are real solutions that are not just ‘throw money at it’.

The Conservative Party is a party for all people that want to see a decent society, where we can bring up our children, and our grandchildren, now and into the future”.

War and remembrance of those who have died through Anzac Day should be off limits to tacky political promoters.

The Conservative Party needs support. This is more likely to lose it.

Claims of chemical attack in Syria

The war in Syria that began in 2011 has been destructive and dirty, with a number of groups within the country and a number of countries involved in fighting with and against the Syrian government.

The war has created millions of refugees and hundreds of thousands of casualties.

Bombing shit out of cities and civilians is bad enough, but there have been claims over the course of the war of even dirtier tactics that are forbidden by international law – the use 0f chemical weapons.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has just called for an investigation into suspected chemical attacks.

BBC: Syria conflict: ‘Chemical attack’ in Idlib kills 58

At least 58 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town in north-western Syria, a monitoring group says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that strikes on Khan Sheikhoun by Syrian government or Russian jets had caused many people to choke.

Later, aircraft fired rockets at local clinics treating survivors, medics and activists said.

A Syrian military source denied the government had used any such weapons.

Russia’s defence ministry meanwhile insisted it had not carried out any air strikes in the vicinity.

If confirmed, it would be one of the deadliest chemical attacks in Syria’s civil war.

But not the only one.

The warplanes are reported to have attacked Khan Sheikhoun, about 50km (30 miles) south of the city of Idlib, early on Tuesday, when many people were asleep.

Hussein Kayal, a photographer for the pro-opposition Edlib Media Center (EMC), told the Associated Press that he was awoken by the sound of an explosion at about 06:30 (03:30 GMT).

When he reached the scene, there was no smell, he said. He found people lying on the floor, unable to move and with constricted pupils, he added.

Mohammed Rasoul, the head of a charity ambulance service in Idlib, told the BBC that his medics had found people, many of them children, choking in the street.

The Syrian Observatory (SOHR) quoted medics as saying that they had been treating people with symptoms including fainting, vomiting and foaming at the mouth.

An AFP news agency journalist saw a young girl, a woman and two elderly people dead at a hospital, all with foam still visible around their mouths.

The journalist also reported that the same facility was hit by a rocket on Tuesday afternoon, bringing down rubble on top of doctors treating the injured.

One aid agency, the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), put the death toll at more than 100 and said that the figure was likely to rise.

Do the allegations and assertions about an attack in Afghanistan using conventional weapons in 2011 pale into insignificance?

The SOHR said it was unable to say what exactly was dropped.

However, the EMC and LCC said it was believed to be the nerve agent Sarin, which is highly toxic and considered 20 times as deadly as cyanide.

Chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta said that determining whether Sarin was involved simply by examining video clips is problematic.

He added that Tuesday’s attack could have been the result of one of any number of chemical agents as they tend to “behave the same in terms of their physiological effects on the human body”.

War is dirty. The war in Syria seems to be very dirty.  Claims of the use of chemical weapons is not new.

The government was accused by Western powers of firing rockets filled with Sarin at several rebel-held suburbs of the capital Damascus in August 2013, killing hundreds of people.

President Bashar al-Assad denied the charge, blaming rebel fighters, but he did subsequently agree to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal.

Despite that, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has continued to document the use of toxic chemicals in attacks in Syria.

In January 2016, it said blood samples taken from the victims of one unspecified attack showed victims had been exposed to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance.

BBC:

From Wikipedia:

Advanced weaponry and tactics

That doesn’t sound very advanced to me. The technology may have ‘improved’ but the barbarity hasn’t, in fact in the hands of depraved people it is just dangerous and awful.

Total killed:
321,358–451,358 (March 2017 SOHR estimate)[65]
470,000 (February 2016 SCPR estimate)[83]


Over 7,600,000 internally displaced (July 2015 UNHCR estimate)

Over 4,800,000 refugees (August 2016 estimate NRC Handelsblad)[84]; over 4,000,000(July 2015 UNHCR estimate)[85][86][87]

BBC:

A very good question.

Korea, USA, nukes

South Korea and Japan in particular are likely to be increasingly nervous about what two unpredictable leaders might do as North Korea ramps up provocations against the US.

Stuff: ‘Inching to the brink of a nuclear war’: North Korea says missile launch was training for attack on US’s Japan bases

North Korea has warned that US-South Korean military exercises are driving the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia toward “nuclear disaster”.

The reclusive state fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan’s northwest on Monday (NZT), angering South Korea and Japan.

Kim Jong Un supervised the test launches which were by an army unit commissioned with attacking US military bases in Japan, the country’s state media said on Tuesday (NZT).

The launches were a training exercise for a strike on those bases, it said.

The North Korean ambassador to the United Nations, Ja Song Nam, said in a letter to the UN Security Council hours after the missiles were launched that the US-South Korea exercises were the “the most undisguised nuclear war manoeuvres”.

“It may go over to an actual war,” Ja warned of the military drills, “and, consequently, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is again inching to the brink of a nuclear war”.

How will Donald Trump respond to provocations like this?

Hopefully he will stick to pushing buttons on his Twitter rather than anywhere else.