Shin Bet: Lose your job if your kid thows stones

Israel’s security service publishes notices in the Palestinian village of Beit Omar threatening to revoke work permits from families whose children are suspected of stone throwing.

By Yael Marom

Palestinian workers squeeze themselves to pass through the Israeli checkpoint of Bethlehem while heading to their work in Israeli cities, Bethlehem, West Bank, March 19, 2017. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers squeeze themselves to pass through the Israeli checkpoint of Bethlehem while heading to their work in Israeli cities, Bethlehem, West Bank, March 19, 2017. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Residents of the Palestinian village Beit Omar in the West Bank discovered last week that the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, had posted threatening notices on their homes and businesses. The notices, published in Arabic and signed by a Shin Bet agent known as “Captain Amar,” threaten to revoke work permits from families whose children are suspected of throwing stones.

Tamar Goldschmidt translated the notices into Hebrew:

Hello all,

As you know, a large portion of the breadwinners in the town have work permits that allow them to travel inside the Green Line. These permits allow the families to live with dignity, to maintain their health, to build, to get an education, and to cover the various, heavy costs of living.

We support anyone who tries to make a living by the sweat of their brow. On the other hand, it is senseless to stretch out our hand and provide you a place of work, while discovering that your son is throwing stones or Molotov cocktails on the main road, which is used by both Israelis and Arabs. Stone throwing is more than a crime, it is attempted murder.

Therefore, there is no forgiveness regarding the fact that it is your duty as a parent to keep an eye on your child and make sure they do not disturb the peace — it makes no sense that you do not have control over him — in order to ensure their education and your family’s livelihood.

You should know, should we revoke your work permit, that we are not to blame.

Additionally, as a gesture of goodwill on our part, we have decided to look into the possibility of forgiving all those who ask to have a rescinded work permit returned, and we invest all we can in the matter.

We will dedicate a special day for submitting these requests with the beginning of the new year, on January 1, 2018 at 9 a.m.

We wish you all a happy new year.

Amar

The kind words do not make the notices any less threatening. The village residents know Captain Amar, as well as his colleagues in the Shin Bet, quite well. This is the everyday life of villagers living under perpetual collective punishment, including frequent night raids, arrests, tear gar, checkpoints, closures, and pressure to inform on neighbors, family members, and acquaintances to the occupation authorities.

A Shin Bet notice, posted on homes and businesses in the Palestinian village of Beit Omar, threatening to revoke work permits from Palestinians whose children are suspected of stone throwing.

A Shin Bet notice, posted on homes and businesses in the Palestinian village of Beit Omar, threatening to revoke work permits from Palestinians whose children are suspected of stone throwing.

We reached out to the Shin Bet for comment, specifically about the impetus for the threats. We also asked if the Shin Bet has a policy of punishing parents whose children were allegedly involved in “riots” by taking away their livelihood. We will publish their response if and when it is received.

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

The Kremlin’s Shifting, Self-Contradicting Narratives on MH17

Just a few hours after the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), the circumstances that caused the tragedy came to light: a Buk-M1 Russian-made anti-aircraft missile system was fired by either Russian-led separatists or Russian forces from an area near Snizhne, Ukraine, leading to the death of 298 civilians aboard the passenger plane. Over three years since the downing, every credible investigation into the tragedy has confirmed this initial claim, with each photograph, video, and independent forensic investigation reinforcing the “Russian/separatist Buk” claim and adding new details that give us a greater understanding of how this incident happened. In short, the “narrative” from Western governments, the official Dutch criminal and forensic investigations, and the site you are reading now has been linear.

This same linear trajectory towards greater clarity and away from self-contradiction cannot be attributed to the Kremlin’s narrative, or narratives, related to MH17. On July 21, 2014, just four days after the downing, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) held a press conference that made a series of self-contradictory claims blaming Ukraine, rather than Russia or Russian-led separatists, for the Boeing 777’s shoot down. Today, the Kremlin–via its Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Ministry of Defense, state-funded media outlets, and state-funded defense company “Almaz-Antey”–has silently abandoned, while never explicitly retracting, nearly every piece of evidence it presented four days after the downing.

A microcosm of the Kremlin’s shift on MH17 can be seen in the Ukrainian fighter jet conspiracy theory. In comment sections and YouTube videos you will often encounter talk of how a Ukrainian fighter jet, most common named as a Su-25 or a MiG-29, shot down MH17; however, the Kremlin has long abandoned the claim that this was the cause of the MH17 shoot down. Instead, throughout 2017, the Kremlin has thrown its entire weight behind the idea that a Ukrainian Buk system shot down MH17 from a position near Zaroshchenske.

Unless you have closely followed each twist and turn of the MH17 case, including each Kremlin’s state-funded media outlet’s report on the tragedy, it is quite difficult to keep the Kremlin’s narratives on MH17 straight. In 2014 and 2015, Russia’s main state-funded news program, Vesti, threw nearly its full weight behind the Su-25 theory, even airing an experiment with actual fighter jets showing how a Ukrainian fighter jet riddled MH17 with cannon fire. However, at the end of 2017, in complete contradiction to their previous segments, Vesti aired a new segment claiming–without any mention of a fighter jet–that a Ukrainian Buk was solely responsible for the tragedy.

This article will detail the development of the Kremlin’s narratives on MH17, which have become unrecognizable over the past three years. It would take a full-length book to provide a comprehensive treatment of all of Russia’s messaging related to the MH17 case, but here we will focus on the development of the Kremlin’s position on the cause of the downing, and the current state of the Kremlin’s MH17 narrative. We will also deconstruct this narrative point-by-point, detailing how it may be even more illogical than the Ukrainian fighter jet theory it initially supported. To survey the Kremlin’s public messaging on MH17, we studied the following sources, with the presumption that they represent the official viewpoints of the Russian government:

  • Statements and reports from government officials (such as Vladimir Putin), committees (such as the Russian Investigation Committee), and ministries (such as the MFA and MoD and their spokespersons).
  • Statements and reports from Russian embassies and their ambassadors.
  • Statements and reports from Almaz Antey, a state-owned defense manufacturer that developed the Buk missile.
  • Media outlets funded either entirely through government or proxy government funds. Some of these outlets include television channels, such as Russia-1 & Russia-24 (which airs Vesti). We also included online portals and wire services, such as TASS and Sputnik.

First, we will consider the positions initially taken by the Kremlin soon after the downing of MH17 for greater context of how the current narrative came into formation.

The Initial Kremlin Position: July 2014

On July 21, 2014, four days after the MH17 downing, the Russian MoD held a press conference that took a scattershot approach to establishing the Kremlin’s MH17 narrative(s). Instead of presenting a firm, singular theory of the incident that led to the downing of MH17, they presented a series of self-contradicting claims that placed blame on the Ukrainian government.

Bellingcat has extensively detailed the factual issues with the claims made in this press conference, found chronologically in the following articles:

The main claims by the Russian MoD in this press conference are listed below, along with a brief description of each claim’s most glaring factual inaccuracy:

  • The course of MH17 was deliberately changed to shift it over a war zone in Ukraine [the map showing the MH17 flight path shown during the press conference was fabricated and not used in future Russian MoD press conferences, and there was no significant flight path diversion]

  • A video showing the Russian Buk that has since been confirmed as the weapon that downed MH17 shows the missile launcher moving not through Russian/separatist stronghold Luhansk, but instead Ukrainian-controlled Krasnoarmeysk [the video has been conclusively geolocated to Luhansk, not Krasnoarmeysk, and the text supposedly visible on a billboard showing an address in Krasnoarmeysk was fabricated]

  • A Ukrainian aircraft was detected near MH17 during the crash, as supported by Russian radar data [in 2016, the Russian MoD held another press conference in this same room on newly “discovered” radar data: this “Ukrainian aircraft” was no longer present]

  • A Ukrainian Buk TELAR was removed from its base near Spartak, Ukraine shortly before the downing of MH17, and was then relocated to a field south of Zaroshchenske, where it, along with a second Buk TELAR and another military vehicle, was deployed on July 17, 2014 [the satellite images published by the MoD have been thoroughly debunked: firstly, after Bellingcat purchased a satellite image taken at almost the exact same time provided by the Russian MoD, showing inconsistencies with their image; secondly, after Dr. Jeffrey Lewis and his team at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey used a sophisticated digital analysis tool to show conclusively that the Russian satellite images were significantly digitally altered]

All of these claims have been debunked by multiple sources, sometimes even from the evidence provided by the Russian government itself. Additionally, each of these claims have been abandoned by the Kremlin–except the final one, claiming that a Ukrainian Buk was deployed near Zaroshchenske, where it fired the missile to down MH17.

The statements made by Russian ambassadors and officials in the week following the tragedy match the July 21st press conference: no single narrative, but rather a wide-ranging list of “concerns,” grievances of Russia being accused by Western media and politicians, and accusations of Kyiv’s responsibility.

For example, in a July 21st interview with the Russian Ambassador to Malaysia, Lyudmila Vorobyeva, the diplomat gave credence to a number of claims: pointing out that a Ukrainian crew may have been targeting Russian President Putin’s plane, that a Ukrainian “air defense system” fired on the plane, and that Russian-led separatists had no access to any surface-to-air missile systems that could have downed MH17. Ambassador Vorobyeva also repeated the MoD’s false claim of a Ukrainian fighter jet near MH17.

The day after the downing. Russia’s UK Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko aired his grievances with Russia being “groundlessly” targeted for blame:

“Since the day of the disaster we have been witnessing a powerful information attack on our country in international media and fora (including the UNSC). It has been groundlessly claimed that Russia or ‘separatists controlled by Russia’ were responsible for the downing of Flight MH-17. Such irresponsible and unproven statements are being issued up to this moment. Their aim is to negatively influence the media background surrounding the investigation. We consider such statements and unfounded accusations as an attempt to dissimulate the true facts concerning the catastrophe and to cover up the identities of the true perpetrators of the crime.”

Ambassador Yakovenko dismissed the evidence against Russia and the separatist it leads by waving away the extensive amount of digital evidence showing a Russian Buk TELAR moving through Russian/separatist-held territory on the day of, and morning after, the shoot down:

“The case, as is admitted, is built upon photos and messages from social media sites, placed by Ukrainian authorities and since then proved to be forgeries, as ambassador Churkin demonstrated at the UN security council meeting. Naturally, our American partners say that they have no way of certifying the authenticity of those materials.”

On July 19, two days after the downing, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov repeated a fabricated claim that originated on Twitter of how a Spanish air traffic controller named Carlos saw two Ukrainian fighter jets near MH17. Despite the Kremlin’s supposed distrust of online materials related to MH17, one of their leading defense officials made an official statement on Russia-24 on this imaginary “Carlos,” who has since been thoroughly debunked as a Twitter hoax. Even Russian President Putin has repeated the “Carlos” claim in an interview with Oliver Stone in 2017.

Though the vast majority of official statements on MH17 in the week following the tragedy laid blame on Kyiv, we can see some alternate approaches that may have been considered by top Kremlin diplomats and officials, but abandoned. For example, when asked less than a week after the shootdown about the intercepted conversations between Russian-led fighters, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, though perhaps spontaneously in response to a press question, laid the groundwork for a Russian position that was never taken: conceding that Ukraine was not responsible for the tragedy, but shielding the Russians/separatists who fired the missile from the most significant consequences in international court.

“According to them, the people from the east were saying that they shot down a military jet … If they think they shot down a military jet, it was confusion. If it was confusion, it was not an act of terrorism.”

Mixed Messages: 2014-2016

Over the next few years, the Kremlin would vacillate between the Ukrainian fighter jet and the Ukrainian Buk theories.

The Russian news program Vesti filmed an “experiment” in October 2014 as part of a longer documentary to show that MH17 was actually downed by Su-25 cannon fire, not a Buk missile. Footage from this “experiment” was also published in an RT documentary on MH17.

In June 2015, the Russian Investigative Committee released information about a “witness” who described how a Ukrainian pilot (Captain Vladislav Voloshin) was responsible for the downing of MH17.

Simultaneous with their claims of a Ukrainian fighter jet using cannon fire and/or an air-to-air missile to down MH17, the same Russian state-funded news programs were promoting a contradicting theory of a Ukrainian Buk missile being used to down the passenger jet. On July 19, 2015, Vesti aired an 11-minute segment that included a witness report from a Ukrainian man named Sergei. This man, who lives in a village in the Donetsk Oblast, claims to have seen Ukrainian military vehicles at a position south of Zaroshchenske (this claim is examined in more detail in the following section of this article).

This segment also places the heavily digitally altered satellite images presented during the July 21, 2014 press conference into context with Sergei’s account, including mentioning footage from a Ukrainian Military TV July 16, 2014 segment showing Ukrainian Buk systems. However, what is not mentioned in this report is that this footage was filmed before July 16, and was actually in the Kharkiv Oblast at a rear ATO base camp, not on the front lines of the war or anywhere near the MH17 crash site.

Nine minutes into this report that provided the Kremlin’s account of how a Ukrainian Buk downed MH17, the report takes a dramatic shift in describing how Ukrainian pilot Captain Vladislav Voloshin downed MH17 with an Su-25 fighter jet. Immediately after this information, the report cites a LiveJournal blogger who claims that Ukraine used an Israeli air-to-air missile to down MH17. The contradictions between the varying accounts in this brief segment are not resolved. In sum, the nature of the Kremlin’s public messaging strategy on the downing of MH17 can be encapsulated in two tweets written on the same day by the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom:

The Current Kremlin Position

The Kremlin has shifted entirely away from the Ukrainian fighter jet theory, without any explicit redaction and after years of special media reports, fabricated radar evidence, witness reports, and official statements to the contrary. Throughout 2017 and going into 2018, the Kremlin narrative around MH17 is now focused on one theory: a Ukrainian Buk missile system downed MH17. Along with the promotion of this narrative, Russia intensified its attempts to discredit the Dutch-led criminal investigation into the downing, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

The Ukrainian Buk Theory

In review of all of Vesti’s segments on MH17 in 2017, there was no notable published content, such as witnesses who have come forward or alleged evidence uncovered, pointing to the Ukrainian fighter jet theory. However, there was a large number of reports asserting how Ukraine deployed a Ukrainian Buk missile system to a field south of Zaroshchenske. Before diving into the new developments in this claim, we should review the fundamental elements of the Ukrainian Buk theory.

According to the July 21, 2014 Russian MoD press conference, a Ukrainian Buk TELAR that was previously deployed at an air defense base in Spartak (just north of Donetsk) was not present at 11:32am on July 17, 2014.

Instead, the MoD implied that this Buk TELAR was, allegedly, 53.5km away (as the bird flies) in a field south of Zaroshchenske. These two satellite images were allegedly taken at the same time.

A December 2017 Vesti report highlights a military position just outside of Shaposhnykove, and a few kilometers south of the alleged launch site near Zaroshchenske. As the report details, this position was developed in the week prior to the downing of MH17, though allegedly created by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and not Russian/separatist forces.

This position is located near the alleged Zaroshchenske launch site, as seen in the map below (click for full size):

Russia also bolsters its theory with a witness account from a Ukrainian named Sergei, who gave a 2015 interview to Vesti in a field where he claims to have seen Ukrainian military equipment on the day of the MH17 downing while on his way to work on a nearby farm.

In the interview with Vesti, Sergei claims that on July 17 he was not allowed to pass through the area due to a heavy Ukrainian military presence. He says that he saw 20-30 Ukrainian soldiers, “radars,” and military vehicles. He explained that some of this equipment was covered up, but he was able to identify some of them, such as a BTR (armored personnel carrier) and a rotating radar with a “dome.” The July 2015 Vesti report went on to say that the BTR that Sergei claims to have seen was the same one as in the July 21 MoD satellite image, and that the “radar” units were the same as the two Buk TELARs also visible in the same image.

The Vesti report states that this area was represented in the Russian MoD satellite image from the July 21st press conference; however, in 2015, users at the MH17 Webtalk message board geolocated this footage to an area approximately 6km south of Zaroshchenske. No military equipment is visible in this area in any publicly available, free satellite imagery for mid-July 2014.

Below, a composite of the three locations that the Kremlin narrative has focused on are seen below: the field near where the Russian MoD claimed Ukrainian Buks were deployed on July 17, an alleged Ukrainian military fortification near Shaposhnykove, and the large deployment of military vehicles, including alleged radars, that were witnessed by Sergei on July 17.

Lastly, a recent element added to Russia’s Ukrainian Buk claim is a new Ukrainian witness named Yuri Baturin who claims to have observed the shoot down of MH17 on radar and spoken with Ukrainian Buk crew members who were allegedly deployed to near Zaroshchenske. This “discovery” of a witness is quite similar to the 2015 discovery of a witness who spoke about Ukrainian pilot Captain Vladislav Voloshin, as both witnesses served in the Ukrainian Armed Forces and later fled to Russia. This interview was originally taken by the Russian Ministry of Defense’s television channel TV Zvezda in October 2017, but then republished in December, where it was amplified across other state-funded outlets.

Radar Data and Almaz-Antey Reports

The two pieces of evidence related to the Ukrainian Buk theory that Russia most often highlights are the reports of state defense manufacturer Almaz-Antey (producer of Buk missiles) and radar data that was “discovered” in 2016. The Almaz-Antey reports, which claim that the missile that downed MH17 was launched from the area near Zaroshchenske, are presented by the Kremlin as an alternate source of information to the official forensic investigation into the plane’s downing conducted by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB). The proposed launch sites by Almaz-Antey and the Dutch investigations (determined by the NLR and Kyiv Research Institute) can be seen below:

http://ift.tt/2F2al8g

It should be noted that according to the most recent Almaz-Antey report, the field south of Zaroshchenske highlighted by Russian MoD satellite imagery is not within the area of potential launch sites.

The 2016 radar data, which contradicts the 2014 “radar data” presented by the Russian MoD, is widely considered inconclusive by the international community and the Dutch-led investigation into MH17.

In early 2017, the primary focus of the Russian messaging on MH17 was focused on the Russian radar data presented to the Dutch investigation. This radar data was first presented in September 2016 after it was “discovered” accidentally during “scheduled maintenance.” This data was presented in the same room and in the same fashion as the July 21, 2014 MoD press conference, yet it dismissed evidence presented two years prior of a Ukrainian fighter jet in the area. This contradiction was not acknowledged in the Kremlin messaging around MH17, with the focus instead shifting to how this radar data did not show a Buk missile launch from the field south of Snizhne where Buk 332 was present at the time.

The Dutch government explained that this radar data would not necessarily show a Buk missile due to its trajectory and size; however, the Russian aviation regular Rosaviatsia disputes this claim: “It is inappropriate to say that a radar station could miss the missile,” its head said in June 2017. After Russia’s “discovered” radar data did not significantly alter the trajectory of the Dutch investigation into the MH17 downing, the Kremlin and its media outlets took this as evidence that the JIT only considers evidence that fits a supposed preconceived notion of Russia’s guilt.

In a response to an interview held by Fred Westerbeke, the head of the Dutch criminal investigation into MH17, Russian MFA spokesperson Maria Zakharova aired Russia’s grievances of how its “evidence” is not valued by the international community:

“Mr Westerbeke’s interview has shown that contributions from Ukraine and the United States, as well as information  from online sources are considered to be highly valuable, whereas any assistance provided by Russia has been deliberately downplayed, including the secret data we declassified for this purpose, information about an unprecedented experiment held by the Almaz-Antey Concern, and the original data from our radar, all of which is objective and accurate information that could really help the investigation.”

Fundamental issues with Zaroshchenske: the route

Even if one discounts the conclusive evidence showing that the Russian MoD’s satellite images concerning Zaroshchenske were heavily digitally altered, it is impossible that the Buk TELAR at the base near Spartak was able to travel to this field by 11:32am. Additionally, this Buk was heavily damaged, as seen below.

A satellite image taken by Digital Globe at 11:08am on the same day shows that the Buk TELAR was present on the base, with no evidence that it was being loaded onto a transport truck at that time. Needless to say, it is impossible that this Buk TELAR could travel from the base to the field in 24 minutes. Even if the Buk TELAR was immediately loaded onto a truck after the satellite image was taken at 11:08am, and then traveled at a normal speed through the Russian/separatist-strongholds of Donetsk, Makiivka, and/or Yasynuvata and was not stopped in any of the numerous Russian/separatist checkpoints along the way, it would have taken over 90 minutes to reach Zaroshchenske.

Fundamental issues with Zaroshchenske: territorial control

If we make a concession to fantasy and say that it is possible that this Ukrainian Buk TELAR, or other ones deployed at another base, was able to reach the Zaroshchenske field in time for the 11:32am satellite image, we must consider the reality of the situation of territorial control on July 17, 2014. Despite continued Russian statements that the village of Zaroshchenske was controlled by the Ukrainian government in mid-July 2014, there is no credible evidence corroborating this claim, while there is extensive documentation of Russian/separatist control in both this area and a village even further south of the field in question. Furthermore, the December 2017 Vesti report claimed that the military position just south of the Zaroshchenske field, near the village of Shaposhnykove, was controlled by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in mid-July 2014. There is a wealth of evidence directly refuting this allegation.

Bellingcat has written two extensive reports on the situation around Zaroshchenske in mid-July 2014: Zaroshchens’ke Launch Site: Claims and Reality and Zaroshchens’ke Revisited: Almaz-Antey’s New Launch Areas. Nearly every point raised in Russia’s claims surrounding Zaroshchenske can be refuted by the open source evidence detailed in these two reports. When looking at Zaroshchenske in particular, there was no fighting reported in mid-July 2014 in the village, and there were a number of known Russian/separatist checkpoints and fortifications nearby, including Shakhtarsk to the north and Velyka Shyshivka to the east and southeast.

This military position south of the Zaroshchenske field was built facing the south, towards Ukrainian-held territory, and not the north, towards Russian/separatist-held territory. In the days leading up to the downing, there were no reports in Ukrainian, Russian, or separatist media outlets of any fighting in this immediate area. In fact, locals told Dutch journalist Rudy Bouma that there were no Ukrainian forces within 4-6km of Zaroshchenske in mid-July 2014 and there was no missile launch in the area. However, Ukrainian forces did eventually launch an offensive near this area: after the downing of MH17. The BBC visited Shaposhnykove on July 24, 2014, a week after the MH17 downing, following reports of a civilian death as a result of Ukrainian shelling of the village the previous night.

In this report, it is clear that the village is controlled by Russian/separatist forces, with soldiers even patrolling the area. A conversation between the BBC correspondent and two Russian/separatist fighters takes place a bit over a half-kilometer southeast of the military position highlighted by Vesti.

If the military position just outside of Shaposhnykove was actually constructed and manned by Ukrainian forces, as the Vesti report from December 2017 alleges, then we would expect to find some evidence of fighting or a retreat before July 23, when Ukrainian artillery shelled Russian/separatist-controlled Shaposhnykove.

Lastly, the Dutch-led criminal investigation into MH17 published a phone conversation between two Russian/separatist fighters where they discuss the Zaroshchenske theory, prompted by a press conference held by Almaz-Antey. The two men agree that the area was controlled by Russian/separatist forces at the time, and there was no missile launch in the region.

Fundamental issues with Zaroshchenske: location of deployment

Another fundamental issue with the Russian MH17 narrative is the likelihood that the Ukrainian Armed Forces would deploy two Buk TELARs, highly vulnerable and valuable pieces of military equipment, to an area that the Kremlin would say was under, in even the most generous interpretation, soft Ukrainian control. Multiple fortified Russian/separatist fortifications and checkpoints were located a few kilometers east in Velyka Shyshivka and north in Shakhtarsk, leaving the two Buk TELARs allegedly in the Zaroshchenske field highly vulnerable, as the Russian MoD’s satellite image showed only a single military vehicle, likely a BTR (armored personnel carrier), nearby.

Fundamental issues with the Zaroshchenske claim: Sergei’s witness account

Sergei’s claim of a Ukrainian military deployment 6km south of Zaroshchenske came a year after the initial development of the Kremlin MH17 narrative, but it is still worthwhile to analyze. The most important detail in the July 2015 Vesti report about the witness account is that it took place in the same location as the Russian MoD satellite image, which is demonstrably false through simple geolocation, showing that Sergei was actually near a poultry farm 6km south of the Zaroshchenske field.

Another detail from Sergei’s witness account is that he saw “radar” vehicles with domes in this area, which the Vesti report then claims are the same as the two Buk TELARs visible in the Russian MoD satellite image. To stress the appearance of these “radar” vehicles, Sergei makes an arcing motion with his hands when speaking about the dome. Even though the Buk radar system is called “Dome” (“Купол“), it looks nothing like one. In fact, there is no Buk-M1 vehicle, radar or otherwise, that has a dome that would match Sergei’s description. The Vesti report shows what a Buk radar unit looks like: a rotating radar mast, which is not dome-shaped.

Additionally, in the Russian MoD satellite image itself, the two Buk units are noted to be TELARs (самоходные огневые установки ЗРК “Бук-М1”), not radar systems (cтанции обнаружения целей).

It is possible that Sergei saw Ukrainian military equipment near the poultry farm 6km south of Zaroshchenske on July 17, 2014, as Bellingcat’s previous research into this topic shows that this area was not under firm Ukrainian or Russian/separatist control in mid-July 2014. However, Sergei’s descriptions give no indications that there were any Buk systems present among this alleged military equipment; in fact, his own descriptions work against the Kremlin’s claim due to the “dome” on the alleged radar systems that were present.

Fundamental issues with the Zaroshchenske claim: Baturin’s witness account

Former Ukrainian officer Yuri Baturin claimed in an interview with Russian MoD television channel Zvezda TV that he witnessed the downing of MH17 while watching a radar screen in Kharkiv and spoke to a Ukrainian soldier who spoke about a Buk missile complex being deployed near Zaroshchenske. The claim that a Ukrainian Buk complex was in a field near Zaroshchenske on July 17, 2014 has been thoroughly debunked. However, when addressing Baturin’s claim, there is a simpler detail to tackle. In his interview, Baturin told TV Zvezda that immediately after the downing of MH17, he knew the truth of what happened, and decided “precisely at this moment” to leave the military and leave Ukraine for Russia.

As Meduza has noted, both Baturin and TV Zvezda failed to mention the fact that he continued to serve in the Ukrainian military until 2016, where he resigned “for family reasons,” in complete contradiction to the reasons he gave in the TV Zvezda interview.

Fundamental issues with the Zaroshchenske claim: lack of physical evidence

While all of this evidence refutes a range of specific details claiming a Zaroshchenske launch site, there is a far simpler reality that refutes the theory: a complete lack of any physical evidence or reliable witness accounts. There are no visible traces of a missile launch or deployment of military equipment in the field of Zaroshchenske in available satellite imagery between July 16 and 19, 2014. Additionally, numerous journalists have visited Zaroshchenske after the shoot down and spoke with local residents, and were unable to find a single person in the area who observed military activity in mid-July 2014, a missile launch, or movements of Ukrainian military equipment near the field. It was not until July 2015 that Russian-funded media outlets found a witness named “Sergei” who claimed to have seen Ukrainian military equipment in the vicinity, though still over six kilometers south of the alleged launch site.

The Shaky State of the Narrative

In over three years, the Kremlin has completely abandoned one of its two primary claims, the Ukrainian jet theory, and moved all-in towards the other, the Ukrainian Buk theory. However, with as many factual inconsistencies and gaps of logic that the Ukrainian jet theory had, the Zaroshchenske launch site may have even more. As of the publishing of this article, the five main pieces of evidence that buttress the Kremlin’s Ukrainian Buk theory are as follows, with a brief description of where the Kremlin has tripped up with their claim.

  • Technical reports from the state-funded defense manufacturer of the Buk missile. These reports were directly contradicted by the Dutch Safety Board’s forensic report.
  • A couple of satellite images showing the deployment of two Ukrainian Buk TELARs to a field south of Zaroshchenske. These images were heavily digitally altered.
  • Satellite imagery showing the development of a Ukrainian military fortification south of the Zaroshchenske field. This position was in territory controlled by Russian/separatist forces, near a village it had soldiers stationed.
  • A witness who described seeing radar and military units near Zaroshchenske on July 17, 2014. This alleged deployment was 6km south of Zaroshchenske, and the visual description given by Sergei of these radar systems does not match that of the Buk complex.
  • A former Ukrainian officer who says he quit the Ukrainian military as soon as he realized that they were lying about MH17. He actually quit in 2016 for “family reasons,” and only emerged to tell his story over three years after the MH17 downing. No details in his witness account are corroborated by non-Kremlin sources.

The post The Kremlin’s Shifting, Self-Contradicting Narratives on MH17 appeared first on bellingcat.

Rey Misterio: Lucha y Superación

Por Mario A. Cortez

Foto / Alfonzo Lorenzana

Ser optimista y mantenerse determinado ante la adversidad es difícil para muchos. Aun así, siempre hay algo por que luchar, aunque se vea poca esperanza.

Rey Misterio, ex luchador de talla mundial, ha enfrentado muchas dificultades en su camino a volverse una leyenda de los cuadriláteros. A pesar de enfrentar momentos amargos en su carrera y vida personal, él siempre ha se ha enfocado en salir adelante.

“Aun con todo lo que debe que cargar un luchador, mi cosa favorita de luchar siempre ha sido traer a la vida a el personaje de Rey Misterio, el cual es muy querido por muchos”, dijo Misterio a La Prensa San Diego en una entrevista.

Rey Misterio, cuyo nombre de pila es Miguel Angel López, cree que tenía como destino ser luchador.

Su afición a la lucha libre comenzó a muy temprana edad, cuando un grupo de vecinos de su barrio fue a una función de luchas en su natal Tijuana. Fue esa noche en la que nació dentro de López la afición por la lucha libre.

Con el paso de los años, López recibió entrenamiento por parte de figuras locales dentro de la lucha libre tijuanense como el “Chamaco” Martinez, El Marinero, y Maravilla Blanca.

El 6 de enero de 1976, López recibiría la oportunidad de debutar como luchador profesional ante un lleno total en el Auditorio de Tijuana. Esa noche nació la persona de Rey Misterio, nombre que proviene de la fecha en la que debutó, el Dia de Reyes, y por la necesidad de mantener en misterio su identidad, esto debido a que López no quería que su familia se enterara que era luchador.

Desde esa noche, y en cada función en la que se presentaba Rey Misterio, el personaje de López se comenzaba a ganar el respeto y cariño de la afición tijuanense. Con cada lucha, López también sometia a su cuerpo a una serie de impactos muy fuertes.

Durante su etapa como luchador profesional, el personaje de Rey Misterio subió a el rombo de batalla de seis por seis en las más importantes arenas de Mexico, al igual que plazas en Estados Unidos y varios paises mas.

A pesar del amor a su profesión, López afirma que durante sus largas giras el sentia que más que su salud, su sacrificio más grande era no estar con su familia.

“Yo estuve fuera durante fechas muy importantes y eso siempre me pesó muchisimo”, aseguró. “Esta forma de vida te da mucho pero te quita cosas que no tienen precio”.

Rey Misterio sin su mascara

El Legado de Rey Misterio como luchador incluye varios campeonatos nacionales y la formación de luchadores tijuanenses quienes se han vuelto figuras internacionales como Damian 666, Konnan, Psicosis, Extreme Tiger y Rey Mysterio Jr., quien es sobrino de López.

En una función realizada en Denver, Colorado, López lucho contra La Parka, uno de los personajes favoritos entre los aficionados a la lucha. Durante su enfrentamiento, López recibió un golpe que le provocó espasmos musculares y a los dias le causó mucho dolor.

“En este deporte hay un gran riesgo y siempre termina uno sacrificado por el aficionado”, compartió López. “Cuando un luchador se siente bien físicamente jamás quiere que eso se acabe”.

Una noche, al levantarse de su cama, López sintió que las piernas ya no le reaccionaban y entró en desesperación y pánico.

“Me arrastré hacia un sofá y me senté, luego me quise suicidar”, confesó López. “Fue tan fuerte la depresión que sentí en ese momento que intente matarme”.

Con la fuerza para seguir con vida, López se sometió por varios meses a estudios médicos y tratamientos. Eventualmente, la lesión que sufrió finalmente le costó el uso total de sus piernas.

Durante una terapia y tras hablar con amigos, López vio que tenía un propósito más grande que simplemente ser Rey Misterio.

Encontrando inspiración en su cristianismo, López ahora vive nueva etapa como orador motivacional y busca impartir consejos y ejemplos de las experiencias que ha tenido, tanto como figura pública como en su vida privada.

López mas que nada busca llevar esperanza a gente con discapacidades, ya que el conoce de primera mano lo aterrador que puede llegar a ser perder el uso de las extremidades.

“A la gente discapacitada con la que hablo siempre le hago saber que que la vida no se acaba estando en una silla de ruedas, todavia se puede vivir una vida plena”, afirmó López. “Les comparto mi testimonio de vida y les aconsejo que no caigan en cadenas de pensamientos negativos”.

Durante sus presentaciones, López también realiza convivencias con el público, creando así un enlace más personal con quienes escuchan su mensaje.

“Aveces cuando platico con gente de la audiencia me preguntan más acerca de mi vida, mas acerca de como me supere psicológicamente de mi lesión y varias cosas”, mencionó.

“A veces también me preguntan si me quito la mascara para dormir o para bañarme”, López agregó en tono de broma.

Sin perder de vista lo más importante, López siempre recomienda a todos no tener miedo a la hora de enfrentar nuevos retos, por tan intimidantes que estos sean.

“Yo he sobresalido en mi vida personal y como luchador por mi audacidad”, concluyó López. “Siempre el mundo ha sido para los audaces”.

OP-ED: Oregon Foster Care Said Parents Not Smart Enough to Raise Their Son, But Judge Vehemently Disagreed

Last month, the Oregon Department of Human Services deployed three lawyers to call 40 witnesses over 11 days in a desperate attempt to keep one child in foster care. They had confiscated the child, at birth, from Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler. Fortunately, they failed. After ten months in foster care, the child was returned to his parents. But DHS will be back in court this month trying to terminate Fabbrini and Ziegler’s parental rights to their other child, who has been in foster care for four years.

Oregon DHS is an agency where people constantly whine about how overworked and underfunded they are. So surely any couple who would bring so much legal firepower down upon them must have done horrible things to their children. But what? Did they beat them? Torture them? Try to sell them on the street for drugs?

No.

In fact the parents never abused or neglected their children at all.

Eric Ziegler & son, Hunter, Facebook

The legal assault on this couple initially was based on the fact that Ziegler’s IQ is 66 and Fabbrini’s is 72. (The average is between 90 and 110.) That may be illegal – a violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services drew that conclusion in a scathing letter to the state of Massachusetts when it tried to pull the same stunt in a remarkably similar case. (DHS’ behavior also probably violates the “reasonable efforts” requirement in federal child welfare law, but almost no one in child welfare pays attention to that.)

It certainly should be illegal. As Susan Yuan, former associate director of the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion at the University of Vermont told Samantha Swindler, a columnist for the Oregonian who first wrote about the case, “Research literature has found that the IQ really doesn’t correlate with parenting until the IQ is below 50.”

I say IQ was initially the reason because I believe the hostility to the family escalated after the couple went public, speaking first to Swindler, then to the television program Inside Edition. That prompted a DHS spokeswoman to complain that “This family has been very public about this case. We have to protect the privacy of those children.”

Translating from child welfare-speak to plain English, that really means: Now that they’ve gone public it will be really, really humiliating for us here at DHS if we lose — especially since, in Oregon, court hearings in these cases are open and everyone will be able to see what we’ve done to this family.

In fact, it’s likely that the only way the family stood a chance was to go public. But I think that’s why the Oregon Department of Human Services is trying so hard to Make. Them. Pay. Indeed, this is not the first time Oregon DHS has gone to great lengths to seek vengeance against a family that made the agency look bad.


A litany of non-horrors

Because these hearings are open in Oregon, Swindler could cover the court hearing where Judge Bethany Flint returned the younger child, Hunter, to the parents.

Over the course of 11 days Judge Flint heard a litany of non-horrors about the parents: They had to be told to put sunscreen on the baby’s arms, not just his face! Their home “smelled of dog”! They chose the wrong snacks for the child!

Judge Bethany Flint

And, at a time when thousands of people lose their children to foster care because their housing is too bad, DHS argued that this couple’s housing was, in effect, too good. As Swindler reported:

At one point [a lawyer for DHS] argued the couple’s housing permanency – they live in a house with the mortgage paid by Ziegler’s parents – was a sign of deficiency. “Going through the rental and purchasing processes show a level of functioning and a level of ability that would be important to look at,” she said.

Fortunately, Judge Flint understood exactly what was really going on – at least up to a point. Again from Swindler’s story, quoting the judge:

“I searched and searched [in DHS’ case] for some sort of language that was provided to articulate what the current threat of harm is to Hunter right now. … There is no allegation that they’re not able to meet his basic needs. …

“I found it difficult to read that these parents tried this thing and tried that thing and then they are advised that instead of chicken nuggets they should have boiled chicken breast, that giving fried foods is a parenting deficiency. …

At times, the state argued that Fabbrini and Ziegler asked too many questions, suggesting they didn’t know how to parent. At other times, the state implied they didn’t ask enough questions, trying to show they didn’t understand their cognitive limitations.

“They can’t win for losing,” Flint said. “I think there’s a lot of evidence in the record that whenever they do say things they are attacked for them, which could create a culture of silence around the parents as well.”


The DHS visit supervisor supports the parents

The judge’s view jibes with that of a neutral outside observer who spent a lot of time with the family. Sherrene Hagenbach is a professional mediator and a member of the Board of Advisers for Healthy Families of the High Desert, a home visiting program for new mothers. She’s also a volunteer visit supervisor for DHS – or rather she was. Before Hunter was born, she was assigned to supervise visits between the parents and their older son, Christopher. But after she testified in court in favor of the parents, she says her supervisor said her services no longer were needed.

Now she volunteers her time as an advocate for the family. On a fundraising page for them (which is well worth reading in full) she wrote:

“In my professional opinion, after multiple sessions observing Amy and Eric interact with their son for hours on end, I found no reason they should have had their child taken from them and placed in the State’s care. … I would also add that it was apparent from their body language and how they treated each other that the couple was in love, and while that is not a requirement to be a parent, it’s a big bonus for a child.

Hagenbach writes that when Hunter was born she offered to take in the entire family – the infant and her parents – and supervise them around the clock. She says a judge ordered DHS to do a background check in preparation for that placement. Somehow DHS never got around to it, and the placement never happened. Hunter was placed with strangers.


The real issue is poverty

In an interview with Swindler, Hagenbach revealed that the real issue went beyond I.Q. Once again, a child protective services agency was after a family because it was poor:

They’re saying that this foster care provider is better for the child because she can provide more financially, provide better education, things like that. If we’re going to get on that train, Bill Gates should take my children. There’s always somebody better than us, so it’s a very dangerous position to be in.”

The parents jumped through every hoop DHS put in their way. They took courses in parenting, CPR, first aid and nutrition – probably leaving them better qualified to meet their children’s needs than many parents with higher IQs.

In addition, Hagenbach told Inside Edition, Ziegler was chosen for jury duty on a four-day case involving a housing dispute. “So he’s capable of deciding somebody else’s fate,” Hagenbach said, “and yet he can’t even raise his own child?”


The dangerous underlying assumption

Implicit is all of this is a common, and dangerous, assumption by child welfare agencies: In order to be allowed to have their children the people in our society who have the least must prove they can do something that nobody else does: raise their children with no help.

Even Judge Flint may have fallen into this trap. Though she returned Hunter to his parents, she expressed concerns about doing the same for the older child, Christopher, because he has developmental problems and the judge isn’t convinced that the parents fully understand those problems.

But if the parents were middle-class, they could hire whatever help they needed for the child. Middle-class parents are not expected to raise their children with no help.

Of course since they can’t necessarily afford to pay for the help on their own, that means taxpayers would foot the bill. But it would be a bargain.

An Oregon group that promotes adoption estimates that a year of foster care costs taxpayers at least $26,600. (Obviously not all of that is going to the foster parents, a lot of it goes to support the whole DHS foster care bureaucracy.) These children have been in foster care for a combined total of about five years. That’s $133,000 wasted – and counting, since the older child is still in foster care. Add to that the cost of all those lawyers, and the expert witnesses and the court time and, well, you get the idea.

You could buy a lot of parenting help for that kind of money.

Or as Swindler put it:

“No doubt, these parents will need outside help to face the challenges ahead. How much heartache could have been avoided if the state had opted to, say, provide a parenting aide to coach them rather than a case worker to criticize them?”

Oregon spends on child welfare at a rate more than 55 percent above the national average. That’s largely because it wastes so much money on needless foster care, taking away children at a rate 30 percent above the national average.

So the next time people in Oregon complains about how overworked the good folks at DHS are, ask them why DHS wasted so much time and talent needlessly tearing apart this family instead of providing them with help. And the next time they whine about how underfunded they are, ask them why they wasted so much money needlessly separating these children from their parents.

And one other question comes to mind: Wasting all that time and money and inflicting all that unnecessary trauma on a family isn’t very smart. Has anyone given the decision-makers at DHS an I.Q. test?


Editor’s Postscript:  

In late September, 2012, the National Council on Disability  released an important and extremely comprehensive report titled “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children.

Parents with disabilities, wrote the authors of the 347-page encyclopedic accounting, “are the only distinct community of Americans who must struggle to retain custody of their children.”

The right to parent without interference is protected by the U.S. Constitution, the authors noted in the report’s cover letter addressed to then-President Obama.  That constitutional right is, of course, ” balanced by the judicially recognized power of the state to interfere to protect the well-being of its children.”

Yet, despite the strides made since the 1990 passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA, for parents with disabilities, according to the researchers, the factors used in both the nation’s dependency courts and family court proceedings to determine whether children need to become wards of the state, “are not objectively or justly applied.”.

To the contrary, parents with disabilities and their children “are overly, and often inappropriately, referred to child welfare services” and, once involved, the report found that the children of parents with disabilities are permanently separated from their kids at alarmingly disproportionate rates.

In detail, the report described state and local foster care systems that were “pervaded with bias.”

This bias was made far worse by state laws that very often “overtly discriminate against parents with disabilities,” or at best failed to protect parents “from unsupported allegations that they are unfit” solely based on their disabilities—in clear and egregious violation of the ADA.

In general, the researchers found a dispiriting “lack of expertise or even familiarity regarding parents with disabilities and their children.”

This lack of knowledge and expertise was particularly problematic when it came to parents with intellectual or psychiatric disabilities, according to the report.  As a result, the authors wrote, removal rates where parents have a psychiatric disability were as high as 70 to 80 percent. And, where the parent has an intellectual disability, removals ranged from “40 percent to 80 percent.”

The report pointed to California as one of the few states that had made legislative strides in the direction of protecting parents with physical disabilities from discrimination with the passage of  SB 1188, which was signed into law by Arnold Schwarzenegger in August 2010.  

Yet, according to a 2017 policy review by Disability Rights California,  protection from discrimination on the basis of “mental, psychiatric, or developmental disability” is still sadly lacking in the state.

In no community, the 2012 federal report concluded, is the welfare of children served “by breaking up families based on fear and stereotype.” Instead, if the nation is truly concerned about the welfare of children, as Richard Wexler suggests in his op-ed above, we would be best off, wrote the federal researchers, investing “more money and energy in preventive services for families rather than in parental rights termination and foster care.”

And yet, as of 2016, warns an NCD published “Know Your Rights” toolkit for parents with disabilities, 35 states still have discriminatory laws on the books that mean “if you had a disability, you could lose your right to be a parent, even if you didn’t hurt or ignore your child.”

Celeste Fremon



Richard Wexler is the executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. This Op-Ed was first published on NCCPR’s Child Welfare blog.

The Palestine Question

I have written about the Palestinian/Israeli situation for years…..I have even given my idea on a way from them to establish a separate state…..the protests by Palestinians have been going on for 20+ years although there has been friction between the two people since 1919 and the end of World War One. (more info about posts c an be learned using the “Search” feature)

A new round of all out disobedience has begun with Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem…..this situation opens up a whole new line of thought about the two states…..

What does Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel mean for the future of Palestine and the Palestinians, and what does it reveal about US policy? Al-Shabaka policy analysts examine these questions and recommend ways for Palestinian civil society and leaders to safeguard Palestinian rights in the face of such a setback.

Nur Arafeh argues that Trump’s announcement cements Israel’s apartheid regime and “Judaization” policies in Jerusalem, and calls for the PA to end coordination with Israel and nullify the Oslo Accords. Dana El Kurd makes the case that the US move creates two opposing legal frameworks for Jerusalem, one that follows international law and one that bends to Israeli interests. “[Trump’s declaration] sets a precedent for greater legal recognition in the future,” she writes. “Palestinians should consider new ways of resisting Israeli colonization.” Munir Nuseibah reasons that the development confirms the US as a biased mediator. “The only positive outcome is that it ends the illusion that the ‘peace process’ is legitimate,” he writes.

http://ift.tt/2qwOJh1

That was the opinions of analysts in the region……

Some in the West are saying that with Trump’s announcement that the idea of a one state solution was once again on the table….

Jerusalem was an Arab and Muslim city for close to 1300 years. Like other parts of Palestine, it was a harmonious mosaic. But, though there was always a Christian and Jewish presence — both of people and of monuments — it was predominantly a Muslim city.

This was violently disrupted twice: first in the year 1099, from which for a period of 88 years the city was occupied by the Crusaders, and then again in 1948 when the newly created Jewish State took the city and made Jerusalem its own. When the State of Israel took the western part of the city in 1948, in violation of a United Nations Resolution, it destroyed its Arab and Muslim character and then declared it as the capital city of the Jewish people.

http://ift.tt/2BbOauW

More on the one state solution……

Donald Trump’s rash declaration of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital does not, of course, deserve thanks. How could it, when it in effect amounts to American complicity in supporting Israeli war crimes of illegal occupation? But one inadvertent positive outcome from the US President’s blundering is that it renews the alternative concept of a One-State solution.

Ironically, Trump’s outrageous bias towards the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu slams a nail into the coffin of the Two-State solution.

The charade of Washington acting as a neutral broker between Israelis and Palestinians is finally dead and buried with Trump’s clumsy intervention.

http://ift.tt/2AR4MHb

Personally I say NO to the one state solution…..there has been a Palestine for over a thousand years and there should be for a thousand more.

The announcement by Trump gave the Saudis an opportunity to try and placate the Palestinians by proposing an alternative to Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine……

It was once a small rural village, noted for its fields of olive trees and spectacular views, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem to the south-west and the Jordan Valley to the east.

But now Abu Dis is a name spoken by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a potential capital of a future Palestinian state, as reported in the New York Times on 3 December.

This small East Jerusalem suburb was flung into the spotlight a few days later by Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

http://ift.tt/2kLWqKl

Seriously?

Jerusalem has always been the capital of Palestine and will always be the capital…..why does the US kiss the ass of Israel at every turn?

This is a situation that can only be solved by the two people involved….not as oppressor and oppressed but as equals.

#BREAKING English article “Russia simulated a large-scale military attack against @NATO”, Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, General Riho Terras, confirms to @BILD http://ift.tt/2F4wJ0G; #http://Zapad2017pic.twitter.com/gbprazAmHD

via aleksey godin

#BREAKING English article

“Russia simulated a large-scale military attack against @NATO“, Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, General Riho Terras, confirms to @BILD

http://ift.tt/2E9XP5C
#Zapad2017 http://pic.twitter.com/gbprazAmHD

DSxDiL3XkAAK5rv.jpg