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Monday, July 28, 2014

Oliver on Geckos and Nukes

From John's HBO show last night.

The Shame of David Gregory--and 'NYT'

It's been a tough week for NBC's David Gregory.

First were reports that his "Meet the Press" was sinking under even weaker ratings and that he would soon be replaced.  Then as we noted here yesterday:  Gregory, after a weak interview with Prime Minister Netanyahu,  committed one of the worst journalistic ethical lapses of recent vintage.  After letting Netanyahu claim, again, that Israel may be blameless in the school massacre, despite all the evidence and logic to the contrary, he brought on UNWRA spokesman Chris Gunness--and blindsided him by showing a 10-second, hazy, tape just released within the hour by Israel allegedly showing a Hamas rocket being fired from the grounds of a UN school.  Yet Gregory said NBC had not "verified" that it's accurate--and admitted that Gunness could not view  it and had never seen it before.  Yet then asked Gunness to respond!  Gunness naturally protested the unfairness--and then the segment quickly ended.

Gregory has now issued this statement:  “An end note in a discussion about Gaza we asked a spokesman about this video which Israel claims showed rockets being fired by Hamas from a U.N. school in Gaza,” Gregory said. “This is shot by the Israeli government, and that’s their claim. The U.N. has reviewed it, tells us they have confirmed, in their view, the video does not show rockets being fired from U.N. administrative school in Gaza. So this is a back and forth we are not able to settle at this point.”   No apology or recognition of his severe ethical lapse.  Shameful.  And leaves it at the usual "he said/she said"--rather than NBC attempting to verify tape or prove Israeli propaganda.  Which it should have done before airing it.

Meanwhile, the NYT has not updated its report last night that focused on a different Israeli video to add the UN statement debunking the one alleged to show rockets fired from the school grounds.  Surely it's worth noting that Israel's videos may be nothing but propaganda.  And today @ChrisGunness has tweeted, "According 2 information UNRWA has gathered about Beit Hanoun incident, there were hundreds of people @ the installation when it was hit...We had staff @ the school when the incident occurred reporting in as the shelling, which caused multiple fatalities & casualties took place...In addition we have spoken to numerous eye witnesses at the Beit Hanoun school when it was hit." 

Will the Times now add this to their report which emphasized that casualties "reportedly" happened at the site?  Don't bet on it. 

This is what I wrote about it last night:
Will surprise no one that when NYT tonight reports on Israel's claim it killed no one the school--it's the same old refusal to take on the absurd IDF claims head-on.  You'd never know that Israel lied to them for three days that none of their bombs even hit the school.  It's as if the reporters say, "More propaganda, please."   As from the beginning, they ultimately rely on "different versions can't be reconciled now"--even though all evidence and testimony point to Israel being guilty of this slaughter.  It's a false "balance."

They give their point of view away by not even referring to Israel completely changing its story after three days.  That's more revealing than the totally unverified 10-second video.  Most of those who have gone to the site, such as Peter Beaumont of The Guardian, have all pointed their finger at Israel as no doubt the guilty party.  Another one here. Not the Times.

And see the IDF spokesman's "scenario" (below) that maybe the hundreds of wounded and dead were not hit there but brought to the site from elsewhere.  The Times now dutifully uses the phrase that 16 were "reportedly killed"  at the site.  This is the same Israeli official the NYT  reporters give the benefit of the doubt to re: the grainy video with no time stamp.  See my earlier report on the shameful NYT coverage on this (as with much else on the conflict).
 

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 9 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   In this way the fateful, and in my view, very tragic, decisions made by President Truman and his advisers can be judged more clearly in "real time."  As many know, this is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the recent Atomic Cover-Up on the U.S. suppression of film for decades and another on a Hollywood film)  since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media reactions in the decades after.

July 28, 1945

--Two days after receiving it, the Japanese leadership  rejected the Potsdam declaration calling for their "unconditional" surrender, or seemed to. The official word was that it would ignore the demand mokusatsu, or "with silence." Another translation, however, is "to withhold comment." This not-quite-rejection has led some historians to suggest that the U.S. should have pursued the confusing Japanese peace feelers already circulating, especially with suggestions that unconditional terms were the main, or perhaps only, obstacles.

--Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal had breakfast with Truman at Potsdam.  He had flown there at least partly to press the president to pursue Japanese peace feelers--especially concerning letting them keep their emperor-- before using the bomb and killing countless civilians.

 --Returning to Washington from Potsdam, Secretary of War Henry Stimson consulted with the top people at Los Alamos about the bomb (or "S-1" as it was then known) and wrote in his diary. "Everything seems to be going well."

 --U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Joseph Davies wrote in his diary that Secretary of State James Byrnes was overly excited by the success of the bomb test vis-a-vis future relations with our allies, the Soviets: "Byrnes' attitude that the atomic bomb assured ultimate success in negotiations disturbed me more than his description of its success amazed me. I told him the threat wouldn't work, and might do irreparable harm." Four days earlier, Byrnes aide Walter Brown had written in his diary that Byrnes' view was that "after atomic bomb Japan will surrender and Russia will not get in so much on the kill." The Soviets were scheduled to enter the war on August 7 (which might have prompted a Japanese surrender, even without use of the Bomb), so there was some urgency.

--A U.S. bombing raid on the small Japanese city of Aomori -- which had little military significance beyond being a transportation hub -- dropped 83,000 incendiaries and destroyed almost the entire city, killing at least 2,000 civilians.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 10 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   In this way the fateful, and in my view, very tragic, decisions made by President Truman and his advisers can be judged more clearly in "real time."  As many know, this is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and two books (including the recent Atomic Cover-Up on the U.S. suppression of film for decades)  since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media reactions in the decades after.

July 27, 1945

Truman continued to meet with Allied leaders in Germany, as the Soviets got ready to declare war on Japan in early August ("fini Japs" when that happened, even without the bomb, Truman had written in his diary this week).

Preparations at Tinian in the Pacific to get the first A-bomb ready for use, possibly within a week (weather permitting) were finalized, with the city of Hiroshima remaining as #1 target. It has been barely touched by Allied bombing so it would serve as the best site to judge the bomb's experimental effects.  Also it is nearly surrounded by hills, promising a "focusing effect" that will likely guarantee killing tens of thousands.

The Japanese government today released an edited version of the "unconditional surrender" Potsdam declaration (which did not mention the atomic bomb) to their press and citizens, but had not yet rejected it. The Domei news agency had already predicted that the surrender demand "would be ignored." The U.S, after use of bomb, would later accept conditional surrender -- with Japan allowed to keep its emperor -- yet call it unconditional.

Eleven days after the first, and quite secret, atomic test at Trinity, which spread wide clouds of radioactive fallout over residents downwind -- livestock had been sickened or killed -- radiation experts had become concerned about the exposure for one family, the shape of things to come.

"A Petition to the President of the United States" organized by famed nuclear scientist Leo Szilard, and signed by sixty-eight of his Los Alamos colleagues -- the only real pre-Hiroshima protests -- urgently urging delay or extreme caution on the use of the new weapon against Japan, continued to be held in limbo and kept from the President's eyes while Truman remained abroad.

Sunday Updates (Added at Top) on Israel-Gaza Tragedy

10:35 David Grossman, famed Israeli writer,  op-ed at NYT just up.
"Since I cannot ask Hamas, nor do I purport to understand its way of thinking, I ask the leaders of my own country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessors: How could you have wasted the years since the last conflict without initiating dialogue, without even making the slightest gesture toward dialogue with Hamas, without attempting to change our explosive reality? Why, for these past few years, has Israel avoided judicious negotiations with the moderate and more conversable sectors of the Palestinian people — an act that could also have served to pressure Hamas?"

9:00 Will surprise no one that when NYT tonight reports on Israel's claim it killed no one the school--it's the same old refusal to take on the absurd IDF claims head-on.  You'd never know that Israel lied to them for three days that none of their bombs even hit the school.  It's as if the reporters say, "More propaganda, please."   As from the beginning, they ultimately rely on "different versions can't be reconciled now"--even though all evidence and testimony point to Israel being guilty of this slaughter.  It's a false "balance."

They give their point of view away by not even referring to Israel completely changing its story after three days.  That's more revealing than the totally unverified 10-second video. Most of those who have gone to the site, such as Peter Beaumont of The Guardian, have all pointed their finger at Israel as no doubt the guilty party.  Another one here. Not the Times.

And see the IDF spokesman's "scenario" (below) that maybe the hundreds of wounded and dead were not hit there but brought to the site from elsewhere. Note the Times now dutifully adding 16 "reportedly killed" at the school.   This is the same Israeli official the NYT  reporters give the benefit of the doubt to re: the grainy video with no time stamp.  See my earlier report on the shameful NYT coverage on this (as with much else on the conflict).


6:15  AP now reports on Israel claiming it fired at UN school and hit courtyard--but miraculously no one killed.  Like CNN, below, it reports the laughable claims at too great length but does hint at end the absurdity of the claim.  How evil is the Israel spokesman? He suggests that the only dead and injured there were brought from other sites, perhaps for a photo op?  "He also offered other scenarios — that the wounded were 'brought to the compound after injury' or were caught in a crossfire between Israeli troops and Gaza militants. Saed al-Saoudi, the commander of the Civil Defense in Gaza, said Sunday that 'all the testimonies of the wounded, witnesses, paramedics and doctors confirm that the Israeli shells are the cause of this massacre.'"

CNN questions--eventually--Israel's claim today (see full analysis below)  that it only fired one round at the UN school and did not cause any of the 16 deaths.  But it focuses on whether people might have died in the courtyard from that round--instead of also noting that up to half a dozen rounds hit the school away from the courtyard which Israel wants you to believe must have come from Hamas.  

1 p.m. ET  Transcript of predictably weak "Meet the Press"  David Gregory interview with Netanyahu today.  The Israeli leader still claims maybe Hamas rockets wrecking that UN school (see below).  He avows Israel not targeted "a single civilian" and anyway there are "plenty of places" they can flee to. This is standard stuff.

But Gregory then commits one of the worst journalistic ethical lapses of recent weeks.  After letting Netanyahu claim, again, that Israel may be blameless in the school massacre, he brings on UNWRA spokesman Chris Gunness--and blindsides him by showing a tape just released within the hour by Israel allegedly showing a Hamas rocket being fired from the grounds of a UN school.  Yet Gregory says NBC has not "verified" that it's accurate--and admits that Gunness cannot view it and has never seen it.  Yet asks Gunness to respond!  Gunness naturally protests the unfairness--and then the segment quickly ends.

UPDATE  Gregory has now issued this statement:  “An end note in a discussion about Gaza we asked a spokesman about this video which Israel claims showed rockets being fired by Hamas from a U.N. school in Gaza,” Gregory said. “This is shot by the Israeli government, and that’s their claim. The U.N. has reviewed it, tells us they have confirmed, in their view, the video does not show rockets being fired from U.N. administrative school in Gaza. So this is a back and forth we are not able to settle at this point.”   No apology or recognition of his severe ethical lapse.

In perhaps the most revolting official Israel statement of the war, the IDF announced today that after a probe it admitted it had fired deliberately mortars at the UN school in Beit Hanoun where 15 were killed Thursday and over 100 injured.  This after claiming  (which the NYT and other media in U.S. swallowed eagerly) that quite possibly it was a misfired Hamas rocket.  But the IDF adds:  When they hit the school yard there was no one there!  And so Hamas and average citizens must have lied about the casualties from that, I guess.

Or more likely:  Israel knows that any media, UN or independent probe--once it's safe to visit the school site if shelling ever stops in area--will find evidence of Israeli missile or bombs.  In fact,  some of the journos who have gotten to the site have already suggested that.  So they can no longer lie and say they did not hit the school at all.  But, hey presto:  They can claim one single round did hit the playground--when it was empty!  Even though there were 1000 there at the time awaiting evacuation.  Meaning that it was also shelled, I guess, at the same time, by Hamas, which somehow misfired about five rockets that made direct hits killing everyone.  And if you believe that--and the NYT and others probably will, wait for it--I have a bridge to nowhere I'd like to sell you.

So will NYT and other U.S. media now admit they erred in publishing Israel propaganda denying it targeted school? My earlier report.

10:00 a.m. ET Israel's main talking point for continuing its brutal assault on Gaza involves "the tunnels"--but have any U.S. media done an indie probe of actual threat from them? We've seen NYT guided IDF tours and repeated claims of how many are found and destroyed but what is the real danger from them?  All that is cited are a handful of incidents, some from years ago, of "militants" sneaking in and killing or capturing a few Israelis.  I don't doubt that butyou'd think if they were that extensive and well-used that there would have been weekly, and bigger, Hamas entries.  Maybe I'm wrong about that but the point is--no one in the media is explaining this adequately.  More than any other aspect of the war, the IDF is the sole source.

Finally, what is the connection between "destroying tunnels" and targeting hundreds of buildings many miles from the border?  Israel claims tunnels run beneath buildings--but as far away as Gaza City and further south?  Yet media reports rarely raise this.  We know there are tunnels that stretch for a long way in the other direction, towards Egypt, but how far do the Israel-bound tunnels stretch? And why haven't they caused more deadly mischief in the past?


New Gallup poll finds women, people under 50, Democrats and non-whites all firmly against Israel's actions in this war.  Yet few if any members of Congress, that I've seen, and few in U.S. media reflect this.

Over a million around the world--including Tel Aviv--took to streets yesterday to protest Israel's actions.

Wast Post reveals in passing this factoid: One of the 3 Israeli civilians so far was a Thai worker.  Another was a Bedouin, who are not even recognized by Israelis with full rights.  That means exactly one actual full Israeli civilian (a settler) has been killed.  

Hamas this morning backtracks and announces ceasefire, saying it did so at urging of U.N.   No response from Israel so far.

Haaretz: 2 young Palestinian badly beaten by Israeli mob, then police don't call ambulance.

Wash Post, with straight face, in reviewing current state of war and compares to past conflict, states, "In Lebanon, too, casualties on both sides were high."  Yes puts on equal plain the 45 Israeli dead (military and civilian) and a few dozen injured and the 1045 Palestinian dead and 5700 injured.  The story does reveal this factoid:  one of the 3 Israeli civilians was a Thai worker.  Another was a Bedouin, who are not even recognized as Israelis with full rights.  That means exactly one actual full Israeli civilian (a settler) has been killed. 

I reported earlier on the soon-to-be-famous tweets by Jon Donnison of the BBC reporting that Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld had just told him that contrary to the claims that helped provoke this war Israel did not believe that Hamas had the three Israeli teens killed back in June.  Instead they now believed that it was a local "cell" that Hamas did not direct.  Well.  This was such a blockbuster that many held a wait and see attitude, since Donnison did not quickly produce a segment on it.  But Donnison last night tweeted, "For those asking, I stick by 100% tweets regarding comments made to me by Israeli police spokes Mickey Rosenfeld. He said it. Period....And what's more I suspect what he said is common knowledge in Israeli intelligence circles."

NYT late Saturday finally changed headline on story it posted this morning-- which declared, "Gazans and Israelis Tally Damage."   I pointed out here (see below) and via Twitter that the story did not, or could not, point to a single example of Israel damage (beyond it reputation and moral standing, perhaps).  Instead, it had Israelis going to the beach ("It's fun"), holding bar-b-qs and visiting soldiers.  Perhaps feeling shame, the paper has finally changed the headline.  It also added  reference to 21 Gazans in one family killed by Israeli shelling last night--but as always reporter allows Israel flack to claim it must have been because of Hamas fire from nearby.  

 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Updates (From the Top) on Gaza-Israel Tragedy

Hollywood's younger stars and other younger celebs, many of them Jewish,  much more willing to criticize Israel than older generation.  Reflects polls showing younger Americans less supportive of Israeli policies.  A Gallup poll shows that most Democrats oppose the Israeli attacks, while Republicans overwhelmingly support.

Wash Post tonight, with straight face, in reviewing current state of war and compares to past conflict, states, "In Lebanon, too, casualties on both sides were high."  Yes puts on equal plain the 45 Israeli dead (military and civilian) and a few dozen injured and the 1045 Palestinian dead and 5700 injured.

The story does reveal this factoid:  one of the 3 Israeli civilians was a Thai worker.  Another was a Bedouin, who are not even recognized as Israelis with full rights.  That means exactly one actual full Israeli civilian (a settler) has been killed. 

I reported yesterday on the soon-to-be-famous tweets by Jon Donnison of the BBC reporting that Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld had just told him that contrary to the claims that helped provoke this war Israel did not believe that Hamas had the three Israeli teens killed back in June.  Instead they now believed that it was a local "cell" that Hamas did not direct.  Well.  This was such a blockbuster that many held a wait and see attitude, since Donnison did not quickly produce a segment on it.  But Donnison tonight tweets, "For those asking, I stick by 100% tweets regarding comments made to me by Israeli police spokes Mickey Rosenfeld. He said it. Period....And what's more I suspect what he said is common knowledge in Israeli intelligence circles."

NYT tonight finally changes headline on story it posted this morning-- which declared, "Gazans and Israelis Tally Damage."   I pointed out here (see below) and via Twitter that the story did not, or could not, point to a single example of Israel damage (beyond it reputation and moral standing, perhaps).  Instead, it had Israelis going to the beach ("It's fun"), holding bar-b-qs and visiting soldiers.  Perhaps feeling shame, the paper has finally changed the headline.  It also added  reference to 21 Gazans in one family killed by Israeli shelling last night--but as always reporter allows Israel flack to claim it must have been because of Hamas fire from nearby.  

Haaretz: 2 young Palestinian badly beaten by Israeli mob, then police don't call ambulance.  

Jodi Rudoren at NYT naturally includes in her fawning profile of Netanyahu tonight a reference to the "anti-Semitic tinge" of protests against Israel's bombing of Gaza.  Yes, there have been small examples of that--amid hundreds of thousands of protesters expressing none of that.  Except the usual anti-Israel policy = anti-Semitism. 

Typical top NYT headline today As Cease-Fire Holds, Gazans and Israelis Tally Damage.  Except, there's been so little damage in Israel--and the story, amazingly, can't even cite on example.   One side is pulling bodies out of rubble, those on other side go out to "beaches," host "barbeques,"  visit soldiers and "pick peppers." One Israeli there says,  "It's fun."  And civilian death toll 1020-3 so far.  And story makes clear near the top that we know Israel's only out to hit tunnels and Hamas hides weapons all over the place.  And closes with false hint that most of dead were armed militants.

Israel's ultra-hawkish ambassador to U.S. got his start working with GOP's Frank Luntz, then wrote book that influenced Bush foreign policy, helped Romney. Believes Israel today deserves Nobel Peace Prize.

Must-read New Yorker piece by a leading Israeli author on mood there now:  "It’s become clear during this operation that the right wing has lost its patience in all matters regarding that elusive term, 'freedom of speech.' In the past two weeks, we’ve seen right wingers beating left wingers with clubs, Facebook messages promising to send left-wing activists to the gas chambers, and denunciations of anyone whose opinion delays the military on its way to victory. It turns out that this bloody road we walk from operation to operation is not as cyclical as we may have once thought. This road is not a circle, it’s a downward spiral, leading to new lows, which, I’m sad to say, we’ll be unlucky enough to experience."  (h/t @BBedway)

Those who survived mass killings accuse Israel of using "human shields."  

Chris Guinness of UNWRA tweets:  "UN reports a rise child mortalities, miscarriages and premature births among pregnant women. Pity the women & children of Gaza...45,000 women pregnant women in in need of maternity care and an estimated 5,000 of these displaced by the current conflict...Access to maternal health services in increasingly limited by attacks near & on health facilities. Women paying inordinate price."  Women's organizations in U.S. largely silent. 

Major piece at The Guardian on Gazans able to venture out finally amid 12-hour ceasefire--and shocked at the full extent of the damage (left).  Also:  death toll there has shot up again and topped 1,000 as 85 bodies are pulled from rubble. 
At the nearby hospital, six patients and 33 medical staff had spent the night huddled in the X-ray department as the neighbourhood was shelled, said the director, Bassam Abu Warda. A tank shell had hit the second floor of the building, leaving a gaping hole, and the facade was peppered with holes from large-calibre bullets.
Two Red Crescent ambulances were hit in Beit Hanoun overnight, killing a medic and wounding three, one critically, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. On Saturday, rescue workers pulled the scorched body of the medic from the wrecked vehicle, which had been hit about 200 metres from the hospital.
"Targeting ambulances, hospitals and medical workers is a serious violation of the law of war," said Jacques de Maio, head of the ICRC delegation for Israel and the occupied territories.

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 11 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   In this way the fateful, and in my view, very tragic, decisions made by President Truman and his advisers can be judged more clearly in "real time."  As many know, this is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and two books (including the recent Atomic Cover-Up on the U.S. suppression of film for decades)  since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media reactions in the decades after.

July 26, 1945:

Early on July 26, Chief of Staff Gen.George Marshall cabled to Gen. Leslie Groves, military chief of the Manhattan Project back in Washington, DC, his approval of a directive sent by Groves the night before. It read: “1. The 509th Composite Group, Twentieth Air Force, will deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Nigata and Nagasaki…. 2. Additional bombs will be delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff…..”

This assembly-line approach would have tragic consequences for the city of Nagasaki. (Kyoto had been removed from the target list after the Secretary of War Henry Stimson pleaded that destroying this historic and beautiful city would really turn the Japanese against us in the postwar period.)

In a 1946 letter to Stimson, Truman reminded him that he had ordered the bombs used against cities engaged “exclusively” in war work. Truman would later write in his memoirs, “With this order the the wheels were set in motion for the first use of an atomic weapon against a military target.” Even years after the decision, and all the evidence (largely kept from the American people) that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only partly “military” targets, Truman still acted otherwise.

The other major event from this day was equally significant. The Potsdam Declaration was issued in Germany by the United States, Britain and China. (The Soviet Union was still ostensibly not at war with Japan but agreed to enter the conflict around August 7. This has led some to suggest that we used the bombs quickly to try to end the war before the Russians could claim much new territory.) It was Truman’s first key wartime conference with other top leaders.

The declaration ordered Japan to surrender immediately and unconditionally or face a reign of ruin—“prompt and utter destruction”—although the new weapon was not mentioned (such a warning had been considered by Truman but rejected). Much was made of the importance of the “unconditional” aspect but three weeks later, after the use of the new bombs, we accepted a major condition, allowing the Japanese to keep their emperor, and still called the surrender “unconditional.”

Some historians believe that if we had agreed to that condition earlier Japan might have started the surrender process before the use of the atomic bombs. Others believe an explicit warning to the Japanese, or a demonstration of the new weapon offshore in Japan, would have speeded the surrender process. But the Potsdam Declaration set US policy in stone.

Greg Mitchell’s latest book (also out as an e-book) is Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made. He also co-authored, with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Updates (From Top) on Gaza-Israel Tragedy

It's, in some ways, if true, just about  the biggest news of the day: An Israeli official has admitted, it's reported by @JonDonnison of the BBC, that Hamas did not kidnap and kill those three teens!  Instead it was a small local "cell" that might have been sympathetic to Hamas but not ordered to do it.

You'll recall this whole round of ultra-violence kicked off by savage crackdown in search for "Hamas" killers of the teens.  Some pointed out long ago that unlikely Hamas did this, knowing how Israel would respond, leading to claims that Israel wanted to pick fight with Hamas now.  This revelation may be coming to light as Israeli police need to explain why they have not caught the killers of the teens yet--so they are claiming very hard because an unknown "cell."  More to come.

From Israeli daily Haaretz just now (8:00 p.m. ET): "IDF forces stationed in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip continued bombing a hospital in the area before midnight Friday. There are approximately 60 medical staff members in the hospital, in addition to three patients and two international solidarity activists.

"Several people were injured in the fire including one swede. Most of the patients were already evacuated from the premises.  It's now chaos, the military is shelling directly at us. There are two patients on the second floor and we think they're okay, but we can't move them easily as they're bed-bound. I'm bleeding from a head wound and there's another person injured. People are very frightened," Fred Ekblad, a Swedish activist said. (Amira Hass)." 

Latest official numbers from Gaza Health Ministry:  Out of the 848 dead, 40 were elderly (20 males, 20 females), 600 were adults (518 males, 82 females) and 208 were children (138 males, 70 females).

Out of the 5,694 injured:  230 elderly (108 males, 122 females), 3685 adults (2573 males, 1112 females) and 1779 children (1126 males, 653 females).

Chris Guinness, UNWRA spokesman, in statement.  No proof on who fired but--now, why wouldn't Israel want a probe?  "At 1400 today an UNRWA team which included an international weapons expert went to the school at Beit Hanoun which came under attack yesterday causing multiple deaths and injury. The aim of the visit to the site was to survey the scene in the aftermath of the incident. The Israeli army had been notified in advance about the composition of the team, the time and purpose of the visit. The mission had to be cut short and the team was forced to leave the area after gunfire around the school. UNRWA regrets not being able complete even this initial assessment. We will attempt to visit the site when the situation allows. We again underline our call for an immediate and comprehensive investigation."

Five Palestinians now dead in West Bank protests.  One shot by a settler.  From The Guardian:
In the first incident, 46-year-old Hashem Abu Marieh and 30-year-old Sultan Yusef were killed in the Palestinian village of Beit Ummar near the flashpoint southern city of Hebron by Israeli soldiers.
In the second incident, a group of settlers opened fire on protesting Palestinians after they threw stones at their car near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. The settler fire killed an 18-year-old Palestinian named as Khaled Oudeh. Shortly afterwards, Israeli troops arrived at the scene and clashed with the Palestinians, firing live bullets and tear gas.
The Israeli army fire killed a second Palestinian, 22-year-old Tayyib Oudeh, the security sources said, adding that three other Palestinians were injured by live fire.
Hashem Abu Maria, 46, killed today in Beit Ummar near Hebron by Israeli soldiers worked with Defence for Children, an NGO for Palestinian kids.

You can rest easily now that Michael Gordon, veteran war hawk and Judy Miller's co-author on some of her most notorious Iraq WMD pieces, joins Gaza-Israel coverage at the NYT.  Reports that Hamas has chemical weapons may soon follow....

On the other hand, Anne Barnard of the Times tweets "RE "human shields"--Israeli troops' use of them in WB & Gaza is well-documented; IDF says punishable aberation; HR gps say in past systemic."  And she links to several cases, e.g. hereAnother incident took place near site of yesterday's school massacre.   Gaza residents this week have charges that IDF soldiers have entered their homes and fired weapons from there.

Richard Engel of NBC yesterday tweeted that he was in Gaza in ambulance under attack by Israel.  Here's his report on this common occurrence:


Massive demos in West Bank last night left one or more Palestinians dead and hundreds injured (235 admitted to one hospital).   John Kerry pressing "ceasefire" talks--or "humanitarian pause"--but it would leave Israel within Gaza to clean out more tunnels, which doesn't seem likely to fly with Hamas.

My full report on disgrace at NYT as it trumpets Israel claim on not hitting UN school yesterday in both its news and editorial sections.

Extra Basis for Katz: Cooperstown's Hizzoner and Upcoming Book

Update:  Now NYT follows with major profile of Jeff today.  He had told me it was coming this past Tuesday when we had lunch over in White Plains, on his trip down here for his son's orientation at SUNY-Purchase.    Induction ceremonies this weekend but Jeff's baseball book drawing notice.  We share several other interests, and we are also among the few who have journeyed out to....Big Pink. Last month he wrote about President Obama's recent visit to Cooperstown for my blog.

My man, Jeff Katz, mayor of Cooperstown, gets major tribute in his hometown rag, the Chicago Ttibune.  He recently hosted me there and wrote a piece on Obama tribute to Cooperstown for my blog.

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 12 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   In this way the fateful, and in my view, very tragic, decisions made by President Truman and his advisers can be judged more clearly in "real time."  As many know, this is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and two books (including the recent Atomic Cover-Up on the U.S. suppression of film for decades)  since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media reactions in the decades after.

Yesterday's entry.  Today:

July 25:  Still at Potsdam, Truman wrote in his diary this day the following.  Did he know that the U.S. was targeting the center of cities--the vast majority of citizens then living in the target cities were women and children--or was he lying to himself and history?   "We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.  Anyway we ‘think’ we have found the way to cause a disintegration of the atom. An experiment in the New Mexico desert was startling - to put it mildly. ...The explosion was visible for more than 200 miles and audible for 40 miles and more.

"This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new.

"He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I’m sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance. It is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler’s crowd or Stalin’s did not discover this atomic bomb. It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful."   
Note:  "Military" made up only about 10% of the casualties in Hiroshima, and 1% at most in Nagasaki (including American POWs.).

A Disgraceful Day for the 'Paper Of Record'

See Sunday night update. 

As this is written, the NYT continues to trumpet Israel's claims that the UNWRA school massacre today might have come from misfired Hamas rockets.  And an editorial tonight follows suite, citing "competing claims"--as if they are equally likely.  On the news pages, the latest revision--now, inevitably, bearing the stamp and byline of chief stenographer Jodi Rudoren--adds yet another explanation from Israeli officials: maybe there were "errant" shells fired in a Hamas-Israel exchange nearby.  After all, they say, Israel does not target UN schools so it couldn't have been them, or at least, not on purpose.

One problem with this claim: Israel hit three other UN schools earlier this week.

The Times adds to the "who knows" character of the story by staring that the UN itself has not IDed who fired the fatal rounds.  As if that's something the UN normally does, or at least would do in the hours after responding to this catastrophe.  But this gives the paper the wiggle room to blame all sides, or none.   As they put it,  "The source of the blasts was unclear, setting off recriminations between Israelis and Palestinians over which side was responsible."  You know, it equally could be either.

The one reporter who has visited the site and with some experience in these matters, Peter Beaumont of The Guardian, hours ago declared that it was clearly Israel's work and more.  NBC's Richard Engel on Twitter tonight pointed out that about five separate shells hit the UN school--meaning that Hamas would have had to misfire five separate times.  "Likely?" he asked.  This was the same point made by Chris Guinness, the UNWRA spokesman, today, on Democracy Now!
Well, Qassam rockets are notoriously inaccurate. So the idea that within a few minutes a group of Qassam rockets could hit roughly the same area seems beyond miraculous. But if that’s what the Israeli army and military spokesman and others, like Mr. Regev, were saying, that’s fine. But, you know, it’s perhaps useful to ask them why it is that weapons, when they fly into Israel, it’s said that they’re completely inaccurate; apparently they can all land in roughly the same space within a matter of minutes yesterday in Beit Hanoun. I think that needs some kind of unpacking.
NBC clearly IDed Israel as the culprit all day.   Yet most other top U.S. media sites, including the usually open-eyed McClatchy, have followed the NYT lead in pointing a finger away from Israel--based only on Israel's say-so.  School "caught in crossfire" was a popular headline.  (Some crossfire.) All of this has allowed U.S. officials to decry deaths at the school--without criticizing Israel.

Earlier, Israeli spokesmen, while denying guilt, at the same time claimed Hamas fighters were near the school, and firing came from around there, suggesting they had to return fire.   They also claimed they had warned school officials to evacuate ASAP--and why would they do it if a strike was not coming?

Then you have Kristen Chick of the Christian Science Monitor reporting, "Multiple witnesses described multiple explosions in the attack on the shelter and said they appeared to be shelling from Israeli tanks positioned within range of the school." She also tweeted, "After implying school strike was Hamas rocket, IDF now says militants shooting nearby, IDF  'responded with fire toward origins of shooting.'"

Many in U.S. media claimed that Guinness, the spokesman for UNWRA, had tweeted that Hamas rockets had landed near school.  I had read his tweet and knew he was only citing claims by others.  Today he makes this clear in a tweet:  "It is being reported that I confirmed there were Hamas rockets being fired near the school in Beit Hanoun yesterday. I did not."

Yet all of this logic and evidence is missing in the world of Rudoren and the Jerusalem bureau (some reporting by Anne Barnard from Gaza this week was fine).  In fact, the day began with a disgraceful top NYT story--also co-authored by Rudoren--that flat-out took Israel off the hook for previous killings.  Minutes after it appeared...the school was bombed.

 


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thursday Updates on Gaza-Israel Tragedy

8:30 p.m. ET  The NYT continues to trumpet Israel claims that Hamas might have fired missiles that caused school massacre.  But Israel spokesmen continue to also come up with fallback explanations for why they fired on school.  NYT dutifully floats another in latest revision of their story--Israel now says "errant shells" may have come from a clash with Hamas nearby.  McClatchey, in surprise, follows same line, giving equal weight to evidence and logic that Israel "can't rule out" Hamas attack.   Seems pretty transparent--to most.  Such as Richard Engel from NBC who tweets:  "IDF suggests Hamas rocket/rockets hit school. it would mean five inaccurate rockets all hit a small location in rapid succession. likely?" 

Engel also points out: "UNRWA says it formally conveyed its location to Israeli forces 12 times, including at 10:56AM tdy....UNRWA chief tells us agency was not given any warning before strikes on school."

4:15 p.m. ET Reporter from The Guardian with first on-the-scene analysis of who fired at school.  He concludes clearly: Israel (see NYT eagerly accepting Israel's claim that it might be Hamas). 

Although missiles belonging to Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups in Gaza do sometimes fall short, there was no visible evidence of debris from broken Palestinian rockets in the school. The injuries and the number of fatalities were consistent with a powerful explosion that sent shrapnel tearing through the air, in some cases causing traumatic amputations.
The surrounding neighbourhood bore evidence of multiple Israeli attacks, including smoke from numerous artillery rounds and air strikes. One building was entirely engulfed by flames.
Earlier, updated from the top: Israel's ambassador to U.S. Ron Derner says at Christan convention in USA that his country should get the Nobel Peace Prize for the "unimaginable restraint" it has shown in waging latest war.

It would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic: IDF spokesman just claimed that, yes, they warned UN folks to get out of school in target period (which UN folks deny)--and says rocket fire coming from area--then  suggests school hit by misfired Hamas rockets.  What a coincidence. Of course, could be true.  In any case, Israel's claim has gotten NYT to shift from IDing Israel to saying source of attack unknown.  Some others in U.S. following suit though most abroad note Israel's claim but still name them, for now, as guilty party.

Via @RichardEngel, Israel defends school bombing:  "Idf in the midst of combat w/ Hamas terrorists in Beit Hanoun using civilian infrastructure and int symbols as human shield....Israeli army suggests hamas rocket hit UN school: 'several rockets fired by Hamas from within Gaza strip landed in the Beit Hanoun area.'"  But spokesman at school says at least five shells hit school grounds--unlikely to be five "misfires." 

Al Jazeera reports 15 to 30 killed, 100 to 200 injured, today in UN school designated as "safe haven" and with no warning from Israelis. Update here.  Photo from hospital, left, via ITV reporter Dan Rivers.  UN says Israel given full info on school and knew it was used as shelter and with no military activity there.  AP story.  Awaiting NYT defense (see below).  Dan Rivers: "I will never forget the utter shock on these kids faces - they thought they were safe in a UN school."

@RichardEngel of NBC just tweeted:  "Ambulances under attack again tdy. Was in one that came under fire in shejaia market." And:  "UN school attacked in north gaza.. 13 at least killed. Bloody desks. Blood on ground. Terrified children."  And then: "Israeli ch 2: the government holding a special meeting to discuss the expansion of the operation and increasing the financial support."  Remember: much of money comes from USA.

Sadly relevant again:  Bruce Cockburn classic, "If I Had a Rocket Launcher."  Great cartoon on "two-state solution" by Pulitzer winner Mike Luckovich.  Jon Snow: Child in Gaza asks, "Am I going to die, daddy?" 

William Booth of Wash Post at the UN school tweets: "At Beit Hanoun UNRWA school after Israeli shells: a scene of flight & panic: blood, bandages and sheep running through the halls."

Finally a straight-out defense of Israel slaughter of kids and other civilians--in a NYT news story.  No punches pulled in top story today.  Reads like what we used to call a "make-up" story after pushback.  Should have run as an op-ed.

One reason I've written about atomic bombings for over 30 years--killing kids rarely considered war crime.  Up to 50,000 children died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and then U.S. suppressed much of evidence for decades.  

Good to see Robert Mackey joining in with blog coverage at NYT.  His post last night covers Israeli attacks on journalists (while they've been welcomed in Gaza), including the now-famous on-air assault; and the state media there refusing to run add listing the names of Palestinian kids killed.   One of the banned ads here.

Jeremy Scahill calls coverage of this war worst ever, with no TV push back on Israeli leaders and failure to hit constant "war crimes" and massacres.

Powerful little post and photo by NBC's @AymanM from Gaza--survivor of bomb that took 8 members of his famly.


They Have a Rocket Launcher

Sadly, again, Bruce Cockburn.

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 13 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   In this way the fateful, and in my view, very tragic, decisions made by President Truman and his advisers can be judged more clearly in "real time."  As many know, this is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and two books (including the recent Atomic Cover-Up on the U.S. suppression of film for decades)  since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media reactions in the decades after.

Yesterday's entry.  Today:

July 24:   Truman at Potsdam discloses the existence of the atomic bomb to Stalin (who had possibly already been informed about it by his spies).  In his memoirs, a decade later, Truman would describe it briefly this way:  "On July 24 I casually mentioned to Stalin that we had a new weapon of unusual destructive force. The Russian Premier showed no special interest. All he said was he was glad to hear it and hoped we would make 'good use of it against the Japanese.'" American officials present would assert that Stalin failed to grasp the import of the new weapon in future world affairs.  But a Soviet official with the Stalin party later claimed that Stalin immediately ordered his scientists to speed up work on their own weapon.  See views of Churchill and others who witnessed the telling.

Gen. Groves drafts the directive authorizing the use of the atomic bombs as soon as bomb availability and weather permit. It lists the following targets in order of priority: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki.  They are all large cities and orders are to drop bombs over center of them, thereby dooming tens of thousands of civilians for death. This directive constitutes final authorization for atomic attack--no further orders are issued.  Indeed, there would never be a separate order, even by Truman, to use the second bomb against Japan--it just rolled off, as if from atomic assembly line. 

State of Affairs

Great editorial cartoon by Pulitzer-winner Mike Luckovich.


Topical Song Pick of the Day

Greatest song of recent years about the conflict (or just about anything else) from our favorite lefty songster, Steve Earle's "Jerusalem."

Kayakers Go for a Whale of a Ride

In Argentina they got a big more than they bargained for.  What an adventure.  Wash Post with a little background.   h/t @Bbedway

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Another Botched Execution

This time it's Arizona and it's Joseph Wood on the gurney.  UPDATEs:  His attorney IDs two drugs used in this "experiment."  Reporter who witnessed says witnessed 660 gasps.  Another witness called it "very disturbing to watch ... like a fish on shore gulping for air." The Guardian:
A convicted killer gasped on the gurney as the state of Arizona attempted to execute him on Wednesday, before being declared dead almost two hours after the process began.
Lawyers for Joseph Wood attempted to halt the execution in an emergency court motion, saying he had been "gasping and snorting for more than an hour". The state attorney general announced Wood had died before the court could rule on the motion.
The developments echoed the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed and groaned on a gurney for nearly 45 minutes before eventually dying of a heart attack. The two-hour process in Wood's case appeared certain to revive the arguments surrounding the death penalty in the US, as a shortage of execution drugs has forced states to use untried methods and unregulated drugs.
All week there were legal rights over the secrecy surrounding the drugs used.  For background on all this see my ebook Dead Reckoning

Wednesday Updates on Gaza-Israel Tragedy

Good to see Robert Mackey joining in with blog coverage at NYT.  His post tonight covers Israeli attacks on journalists (while they've been welcomed in Gaza), including the now-famous on-air assault; and the state media there refusing to run add listing the names of Palestinian kids killed.   One of the banned ads here.

Jeremy Scahill calls coverage of this war worst ever, with no TV push back on Israeli leaders and failure to hit constant "war crimes" and massacres.

Powerful little post and photo by NBC's @AymanM from Gaza--survivor of bomb that took 8 members of his famly. 

I suppose this offers some hope for a lasting ceasefire:  war is gutting Israel's much-needed tourist industry.   Hamas may shift aim of rockets to more airfields.   

Writer in Gaza I've often RTed lately, known as "Mo Gaza," with important op-ed in NYT today.

NYT's hits a new low with headline on new story by calling casualty counts just a competing "game of numbers."   Some game.  Some competition:  650 to 30.  Or 500 civilians to 2.    

Max Blumenthal interviews that MSNBC contributor who has now apparently been axed for criticizing the network's one-sided coverage of the war.   She also did interview with Chris Hayes who told her, hey, what do ya expect for criticizing your bosses on air? Blumenthal also talks to unnamed NBC producer who backs her on claims of bias and bosses wanting that. Hayes denies there was "no conspiracy."

I'm sure we are shocked that chief NYT stenographer Jodi Rudoren in her amused--rather than appalled--piece tonight on Israelis who take to a hill to enjoy deadly air strikes on Gaza civilians makes this slanderous error:  She claims that the CNN reporter got "pulled from her post last week after she used the word 'scum' in a Twitter post to describe Israelis on the hill who she said cheered airstrikes on Gaza and threatened to destroy her car."   In fact, her tweet clearly referred to just those threatening her vehicle.   A CNN spokesman explained, "She deeply regrets the language used, which was aimed directly at those who had been targeting our crew."  I'm sure a correction will be coming?

Gaza from Space

From Sophie Weiner at AnimalNY: 

Alexander Gerst, a German astronaut living aboard the International Space Station took this photo of the Gaza Strip from space and posted it to Twitter today. The tweet reads, “My saddest photo yet. From #ISS we can actually see explosions and rockets flying over #Gaza & #Israel.”  Of course, some of this is normal nighttime lighting, although much of power is out in Gaza. Also: there is a claim that this is actually Israel and Jordan and merely shows city lights.