We Are Bellingcat, pp. 42 – 43: “2.2 kilograms of the nerve agent sarin”

That this nerve agent was used at all, against civilian targets in the eastern and south-western suburbs of Damascus, was a war crime. Consulting online reference material, the author identified the weapons carrying the sarin as “a Soviet 140mm M14 artillery rocket . . . only the warhead had been damaged, suggesting that this had not been packed with high explosives. According to reference material, the potential warhead of the M14 was a chemical payload: 2.2 kilograms of the nerve agent sarin.”

@bellingcat today (28 March 2022): “Bellingcat can confirm that three members of the Ukrainian delegation attending peace talks between Ukraine and Russia on the night of 3 – 4 March 2022 experienced symptoms consistent with poisoning with chemical weapons.”

@bellingcat today: “Three members of the negotiating team retreated to an apartment in Kyiv later that night and felt initial symptoms — including eye and skin inflammation and piercing pain in the eyes — later that night. The symptoms did not abate until the morning.”

We Are Bellingcat, p. 43: How a Uni Dropout from Leicester, England Used Google Earth To Become an Expert on The War in Syria

The dis-information about what Syrian President Assad was doing to his own people was being spread far and wide (getting a major leg up from Russian State Television) and all there was to counter it were a handful of people from Human Rights Watch (“an early user of open-source investigative techniques”) and the author, who made extensive use of Google Earth to find out whether the information the world was getting was accurate. At this point, the author was doing all of this online investigative work for free, even though “by September 2012,” his “blog had surpassed 200,000 page views … “

But, the sense of righteousness, the outrage at the lies!

“barrel bombs became an emblematic weapon of Assad’s forces, which rained down thousands more as a devastating and cheap alternative to conventional munitions. By the end of 2017, regime barrel bombs had killed nearly 11,000 civilians, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. Assad had denied that his forces had dropped even one. “I haven’t heard of Army using barrels, or maybe cooking pots,” he joked in a 2015 interview with the BBC. “There’s no indiscriminate weapons. When you shoot, you aim. And when you aim, you aim at terrorists in order to protect civilians. Again, if you’re talking about casualty, that’s war. You cannot have war without casualty.”

We Are Bellingcat: Global Crime, Online Sleuths, and the Bold Future of News, by Eliot Higgins, p. 43

wsj, Wednesday, 23 March 2022: Devastation, Mariupol

The excerpt below was from a Page 1 article written by WSJ correspondent Isabel Coles.

For those caught in Mariupol, the situation has been desperate. Women and children largely stayed hidden, while men ventured out to scavenge for food, find water and search for a phone signal to find out what was going on.

Dmitro, 25, joined efforts with neighbors he had never met before the war to find wood and keep a fire burning from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. On March 9, he was making tea on the fire when an airstrike hit the nearby maternity hospital in what was one of the highest profile attacks on civilians during the almost monthlong fighting. The shock wave lifted him off his feet. Since then, he said, the bombardment has been relentless.

As the bombing intensified, basements and bomb shelters filled up as people whose homes had been destroyed sought shelter in the shrinking area of the city controlled by Ukrainian forces.


After Russian forces took control of the main intensive-care hospital, there was nowhere to treat the wounded, nor any medicine, people who fled the city said. The director of the heart-disease center told Mykola Trofymenko he had been forced to amputate the mangled leg of a patient using a kitchen knife without anesthetic.

The Eastern Front

Self is still on Essay # 2 of WWCTUTW. The senselessness of war is brought home by passages like the one below:

Before winter came, they shipped him off to the eastern front. The soldiers he came across shared rumours of horrible massacres of civilians, lootings, rapes and deportations. Whole towns decimated in the course of a single night. Cities with no strategic value that vanished from the map as though they had never existed. The atrocities committed obeyed no martial logic.

WWCTUTW, p. 52

This sounds a lot like what is happening in Mariupol. We have come full circle from World War I. Russia and Ukraine have fought themselves into a stalemate.

Whoever Putin’s generals are, they must be pretty stupid. They keep putting themselves in harm’s way and getting killed.

Stay tuned.

Shattered: Essay # 1, Benjamin Labatut’s When We Cease To Understand the World

Self finds that so many of the books she’s read this year have a bearing. For instance, the book she started the year with: My Heart, a translation from the Bosnian by Semezdin Mehmehdinovic. The author is one of those displaced immigrants who cannot feel at home, not here in America, even though he has raised a son who is so very American in his nonchalance.

And All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, by Rebecca Donner, about Donner’s great great-aunt Mildred Harnack, who was part of a plot against Hitler and was executed in 1942.

Essay # 1 in her current read, Benjamin Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World, is about Fritz Haber, the brilliant Jewish chemist who directed the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry and is credited with the invention of Zyklon.


  • Haber had converted to Christianity at twenty-five years old. He identified so closely with his country and its customs that his sons knew nothing of their ancestry until he told them they would have to flee Germany. Haber escaped after them and sought asylum in England, but his British colleagues scorned him, aware of his instrumental role in chemical warfare. He had to leave the island not after arriving. Thenceforth, he would travel from country to country in the hope of reaching Palestine, his chest gripped with pain, his arteries incapable of delivering sufficient blood to his heart. He died in Basle in 1934, clutching the canister of nitroglycerine he needed to dilate his coronary vessels, not knowing that, years later, the Nazis would use in their gas chambers the pesticide he had helped create to murder his half-sister, his brother-in-law, his nephews and countless other Jews who died hunkered down, muscles cramping, skin covered with red and green spots, bleeding from their ears, spitting foam from their mouths, the young ones crushing the children and the elderly as they attempted to scale the heap of naked bodies and breathe a few more minutes, a few more seconds, because Zyklon B tended to pool on the floor after being dropped through hatches in the roof.

Today’s Headlines, 3rd Tuesday of March 2022

WALL STREET JOURNAL, Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine — Russian forces are killing civilians and looting stores and homes across occupied parts of southern Ukraine, residents said, as Moscow arrested elected local leaders and sought to replace them with pro-Russian collaborators.

People arriving here from Russian-held areas over the weekend described hungry and undisciplined Russian troops shooting unarmed villagers, breaking into supermarkets and shops, and raiding homes in search of food and valuables as their own supply lines have failed.

“They just brazenly come in, without any shame, and take whatever they want,” said Valentyn Khodus, 64, who came to Zaporizhzhia from the small village of Myrne after days hiding in the cellar with her daughter and grandson as Russian troops went door to door ransacking houses.

Two neighbors who were driving a car with a Ukrainian flag were shot and killed by a Russian patrol last week, she said. “It’s still there, on the roadside, and their bodies are still inside,” Ms. Khodus said.

Russia said it isn’t planning an occupation of Ukraine and that its forces are liberating Ukrainians.

Fun Fact: Life in Stalinist Leningrad

These two marketing blogs must really be getting desperate because they keep linking to my posts. Every time I see a link, I make that post private. I’ve done this with a lot of my posts the past week. Mostly my posts about Mendocino and Philo. These people have NO imagination.

It’s so beautiful to see them today. How are you? When every single one of my posts is private, maybe I can finally concentrate on writing a book.

I haven’t been able to join Bloganuary. Despite all the fanfare, I’ve only received one prompt in my ‘In’ box, and I check every day.

Fun Fact 1 from All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days:

  • Over forty thousand residents of Leningrad are murdered in 1937 — a number that reaches sixty-thousand in 1938. (Because executions are carried out at night and mass graves are hidden, most of the population remains blissfully ignorant of Stalin’s killing spree)

But, sixty-thousand people in the space of a year? Surely those people had family? Friends? Co-workers? Wouldn’t they notice if their family members and/or friends simply vanished? I mean, we’re not talking six or even sixty or even six thousand people. We’re talking sixty-thousand, which is 3/4 the population of self’s city in California.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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