Quote of the week:
“Based on historical data and tsunami modeling, this earthquake is not capable of generating a tsunami affecting the Indian Ocean region,” said the Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency of Indonesia in a statement released prior to the tsunami’s arrival.” (The Weather Channel)
Scientists are reportedly puzzling over how such a large tsunami was generated from what has been measured as a small sub-ocean land shear. (More follows)
“It’s always the same story, always the same slow, stupid unpacking by predictable stages of the same media narrative.”
Whenever a natural disaster occurs, it never ‘occurs’ to anyone in the first few hours and days that it’s as serious as it’s going to turn out to have been, by the time hundreds or thousands of people have died unnecessarily through international inertia.
It’s been three days since a magnitude 7.5 (probably greater) earthquake struck off the coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia, at a relatively shallow depth of 6.5 km.
Did this not trigger alarm bells on Day One at International Rescue? Okay, it was a weekend. Do Save the Children, MSF, the Red Cross not work at weekends, is that it?
“Many people were reported trapped in the rubble of buildings that collapsed in Friday’s 7.5-magnitude earthquake, agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference. The quake triggered tsunami waves as high as 6m (20ft), he added. Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said the final death toll could be thousands.”
The city of Palu, from where within hours shaky cameraphone footage of the tsunami was beamed around the world, sits at the head of a long tidal inlet. At the mouth of the shallow inlet is a smaller city called Donggala, from where nothing has been heard since the quake struck on Friday.
What did the international rescue organizations imagine might have happened to Donggala, several miles nearer to the epicentre?
Once again we have seen the damn same media story unfolding with the usual inevitability of an editorial tick-sheet: big earthquake, tick. M6 aftershocks, tick. Tsunami, tick. 80… 300 dead… Oh, wait, did the tsunami warning people put out a false all clear before it hit? Double tick…. 800 dead… officials say maybe several thousand dead? Oh, they’re just trying to get more aid they can syphon off into Swiss bank accounts. Rescuers digging through rubble with their bare hands, tick; survivor pulled miraculously from the ruins, tick; still no indication that this is a major incident.
By Monday, no doubt, as the corpses start to rot under the rubble, on the beaches, under the mud, the world’s media will be on top of their game. It’s always the same story, always the same slow, stupid unpacking by predictable stages of the same narratative. By Wednesday, as the death toll inevitably mounts, the story will shift to the slowness of the relief effort; the looting; the lack of heavy earthmoving equipment, food, water and medical supplies. (And oh, look, it has!)
Followed after a week by an international emergencies appeal to send money indirectly to the Indonesian government, kerching, thank you very much. They can afford this, they’re not Haiti..
It’s always the exact same story.
But surely an editor knows? I knew right away, so why didn’t you know, that this one was going to run into the thousands?
And surely, any responsible government in one of the most earthquake-prone, tsunami-aware parts of the world bloody well ought, ought they not, to prepare for this exact eventuality, with equipment and emergency supply dumps and trained responders to hand, just inland from every strategic coastal town?
Because, as is always reported, the bloody roads are always impassable, the bridges always down, the airport unusable; and the areas are always “remote”, away from any city where reporters can find a hotel standing and a bar open; areas where the victims are left to fend for themselves while international media interest drains away.
But there was a twist: it seems someone had stolen the physical apparatus (or parts thereof) of the tsunami warning system, the sirens, in Palu.
Does anyone understand, it’s not the height of the tsunami wave, it’s the length of the wave that is so destructive? Gosh, 6, 10, 20 feet high! No, it’s the mile or two miles from crest to crest that generates the power. We saw that with the Japanese tsunami, only 8 feet high, nothing could stand in its way, 15 thousand dead. Japan!
The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, Indonesia again, and felt as far away as New Zealand, Japan, California, a quarter of a million. But it was days before the media comprehended the seriousness of those incidents; and the fact that many foreign tourists had died made it news.
The next time the USGS reports a M7.5 at only 6 km depth, on a known faultline just off the coast of a heavily populated developing country, do we think the world’s media might react in less than three days? At least make a phone call to see how serious it is? Employ at least one person on the editorial staff who isn’t a media studies graduate-through-the-medium-of-feminist-slavery?*
No, we don’t think it will. It can’t, it’s not made that way. It’ll be the sameold sameold. Oh look, another earthquake in a faroff land of which we wot not. Let’s wait and see.
(There have been several earthquakes around the world in excess of M7.5 in the past three months. None was as destructive as the Sulawesi quake; but combined with extreme weather events there has to be an effect on geo-economics, the story that no-one is covering.)
*I’m currently reading about the astonishing ineptitude of the incoming Trump administration following his election in November, 2016.
“…we are all at very much greater risk of a major nuclear accident”
Despite Obama’s meticulous preparations for the handover, which Trump’s people studiously ignored, no-one, not even Rick Perry, the Energy Secretary whom Trump had previously dismissed as a moron, apparently knew that the Department of Energy – which Trump wanted shut down – employed hundreds of physicists and risk-analysts responsible for maintaining the security both of America’s domestic nuclear power program and its military arsenal, at home and overseas.
Thus, no-one turned up to replace the staffers who were contractually obliged to resign their positions under the change of administration, until by dribs and drabs a load of inexperienced young Trumptards wandered in and started throwing their weight around. To date, almost none have been appointed with any experience or understanding of global nuclear security and energy issues; they have undergone almost no briefing or training.
Hence Trump’s lunatic unilateral decision to abrogate the Iran nuclear non-proliferation deal in the face of international condemnation, as he didn’t have a clue what it was about, but it sounded terrible. Bibi Netanyahu didn’t like it, Bibi’s a smart guy, and it had the black man’s fingerprints on it.
Hence too, Trump’s precipitate order pulling 100% funding from the DoE’s backstop investment programs driving US innovation, that had encouraged numerous breathrough technologies over the years where the market had been too risk-averse to invest.
Because Trump, the fatuous oaf, neither understands nor cares anything about science and innovation, but retains a singular fondness for the uncompetitive dinosaur industries of his youth, hiding behind tariff walls, where he imagines a few more votes may lurk among the left-behinds, the opioid-addicted viewers of daytime TV.
See: The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis (Penguin Books).
(Shades of Norman F Dixon’s devastating book, On the Psychology of Military Incompetence? Ed.)
Consequently we’re all at very much greater risk of a major nuclear accident or terrorist attack using radioactive materials; since no-one competent to recognize a Geiger counter is in charge. The nuclear business is fraught with difficulties; Lewis points out that there have been brilliant and inspirational leaders in the DoE who have come up with inspired solutions at critical times. That doesn’t look like happening under Perry.
So if the government of Joko Widodo in Jakarta had no idea earthquakes could strike at any time, and has nothing in place for when they do, preferring instead to build golf courses and buy US arms for his repressive military, it’s not really surprising.
We are increasingly ruled by self-regarding, lazy, irresponsible, unqualified, light-fingered, doctrinaire, strutting clowns with a taste for money, power and genocide.
As climate-related disasters pile up with ever-increasing effects, world governments are really going to have to get a grip or come clean: they are no longer in the business of caring for their people.
We’re on our own.
Indeed, nothing about Donald Trump is really shocking any longer. He just makes you feel nauseous to look at, to listen to. To please the nihilistic dumbfuck MAGA cult, he has plumbed the depths of the human spirit and come up covered in liquid shit. How they love to lick it up.
So it would not be a surprise to learn that, two months after taking office, he finally put in charge of the Department of Agriculture; a vast, sprawling organization employing 100 thousand people responsible for everything from fighting forest fires to feeding poor rural schoolkids (something Trump has vowed to put a stop to), as well as all the food production, farm subsidies and veterinary welfare in America, the following experts and others equally qualified by their loyalty to him, in jobs paying typically $80 thousand a year:
- A long-haul truck driver
- A clerk at AT&T
- A gas-company meter reader
- A country-club cabana attendant
- A Republican National Committee intern
- The owner of a scented candle company.
One Trump appointee got a job with the USDA after listing only “a pleasant demeanor” on their CV.
Not surprising, really, as his head of Personnel, Johnny DeStefano, who has survived longer almost than anyone in Trump’s dysfunctional day-care creche, got the job as a reward for running a small computer bureau that helped the Republicans gerrymander electoral districts. He’s now reduced to holding job fairs to try to persuade anyone who graduated high school to come on board and work at the White House.
I fear you have to conclude, this demented old sack of rotting cheeseburger is just taking the American people for a very unprincipled ride.
Then, he always has: a 40-page exposé in the New York Times shows conclusively from thousands of Trump family and Trump business documents that, very far from being a successful business tycoon this lying bastard has been living on Daddy Trump’s money all his rotten life, has never made a penny out of his own hard work, is not and never has been a “billionaire” and is very likely guilty of serious tax fraud totalling $millions.
Just a shitty little con man – spoilt brat, superannuated playboy – with a flair for hogging headlines.
I suppose that’s why the President of the United States of America feels entitled to belittle and insult anyone he decides to pick on, in shameful and disgusting displays of bullying and bragadoccio.
Because he’s nothing, less than the dirt underneath your fingernails.
Credit for the above quote goes to: The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis (Allen Lane/Penguin Books, hardback price on Amazon about £14. Order now!)
xJazz hands? Vote with your feet
“Reps at the University of Manchester have voted to replace noisy appreciation with the British Sign Language (BSL) equivalent – a wave of both hands. Union officer Sara Khan said traditional clapping can cause issues for students with autism, sensory issues or deafness. Ms Khan, the union’s liberation and access officer, who proposed the motion at a recent meeting said clapping can ‘discourage’ some from attending democratic events.
“So-called ‘jazz hands’, she said, encouraged an ‘environment of respect’.” – (BBC report)
But where’s the respect for African Americans? For them, so-called “jazz hands” as displayed while doing the Bunny Hop would surely be the most grotesque cultural misappropriation, an insult akin to blacked-up minstrelcy.
And aren’t speakers going to think it’s a bit weird? They make their lapidary closing remarks, step back from the podium looking both relieved and deeply satisfied with themselves, waiting for the polite ripple of approbation that is undoubtedly due them for their valuable insights into Graeco-Roman poetry, only to be greeted in total silence by an audience making derisory flapping motions as if to say, thanks for that mate, now fuck off….
Ms Khan needs to rethink her entire strategy.
How about Zen clapping, with just one hand?
Oh, no… sorry, angry Buddhists alert.
GW: A whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on
Hurricane Update: As Typhoon Trami batters southern Japan with winds up to 134 mph, the eighth typhoon to hit the islands this year, with 3.7 million people advised to evacuate their homes on the main Honshu Island, another typhoon is forming in the Pacific.
The Express reports: “At least 53 people were injured by Trami as it barrelled through Okinawa and Kagoshima prefectures yesterday, according to state broadcaster NHK. More than 300,000 people there are still without power.” (Latest: 4 dead).
Now, in the wake of Mangkhut, the one before Trami, Cat 5 hurricane Kong-Rey is threatening the Philippines, Taiwan and the Chinese coast.
“Forecasters said it was still too early to confirm a route for the new storm, but they expected it to increase in strength to turn into a supertyphoon. Next Thursday, October 4, Kong-rey might approach the waters east of Taiwan and south of Okinawa, and weaken before turning north toward Japan, according to the Liberty Times report. How much it might affect Japan or Taiwan was still too early to determine, weather experts said.
“Kong-rey is the name of a Khmer princess and of a mountain in Cambodia.” (Taiwan News) So now you know.
In the eastern Pacific, on the heels of ex-Cat 4 Hurricane Rosa, now dumping inches of rain over the Arizona desert, “there’s a new tropical storm after Sergio formed on Saturday about 345 miles SSW of Acapulco, Mexico. Tropical Storm Sergio’s path is west, northwest at 13 miles per hour – a track taking it into conditions favorable for strengthening. The National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Sergio will likely become Hurricane Sergio by Monday.
“The good news is that Sergio currently poses no threat to land and no coastal warnings or watches are in effect.” (Newsweek)
Tropical storm/hurricane Leslie hasn’t yet developed a definite track, but: “the storm is forecast to reach hurricane strength as it loops around the same patch of ocean far away from land. Eventually, Leslie will move away into the North or East Atlantic. Leslie’s large circulation will generate dangerous surf and rip currents on the U.S. East Coast and the north-facing sides of the Caribbean islands.” There’s just a possibility it will end up heading towards northern Europe.
USA: Invest 98L – ‘zombie Florence’, is still causing problems across the East Coast.
“Preliminary estimates as of 19 September suggested that 3.4m poultry birds and 5,500 hogs died after Hurricane Florence made landfall, exceeding the number killed in the state with Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Rain and floodwaters caused by Florence also caused outdoor hog manure pits, known as lagoons, to overflow, threatening the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” (Independent)
Down in Texas, 22 Sept. there were casualties, at least 1 killed, and dozens of rescues in 4x normal ‘record’ rainstorms bringing flooding for the Dallas area. More rain was forecast. The quaintly named town of Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee was taken out by a flash flood on the 28th, after a storm that affected Mississippi and Alabama too, 1 dead. Up to 10-in of rain was recorded over a 72-hour period. (CEWN #138.)
Canada: Wanna know what it’s like when a powerful F3 tornado hits your city? Or your car? Hull, Quebec is trashed in one of (so far) 6 confirmed tornadoes on one day last week. (CEWN #138.)
Mexico: 7 dead, 8 missing in Michocoan province, 23 Sept. Watch an idiot driving into a raging black torrent and others rescued on a disintegrating rooftop…. Still distant, on the 28th Hurricane Rosa brings flash floods to Cabo San Lucas, on the tip of the Baja pensinsula. It’s your Granny’s distinct impression, to echo the wise man in the White House, these storms are getting wetter, waterwise. (CEWN #138)
Venezuela: flash flood after torrential rain hits the city of Vargas. It’s one way to get rid of the garbage. In a landslide near the city, 2 young girls die in a collapsing house. (CEWN #138)
Hawaii: 700 miles SSW of Honolulu, Tropical Storm (now hurricane) Walaka is not expected to directly impact the islands but has brought extreme heat and humidity, moving toward the west near 15 mph. This motion is expected to continue through tomorrow, followed by a turn toward the northwest Sunday night and Monday and a turn toward the north early Tuesday. Maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph with higher gusts. Steady strengthening is expected for the next two to three days. (Khon 2 TV)
Tunisia: Wanna know what a terrifying flash flood looks like? See the Medicane hit Nebeul. They probably don’t expect many of these in North Africa, as the drainage can’t cope: 30 cm of rain fell on Beni Khalled in 24 hours. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZFAoY7P3OE. 4 dead. (CEWN #138)
Greece, Turkey: Medicane Zorbas brings high winds, flash floods (29/30 Sept.)
India: Himachal Pradesh, in the north, flash floods and landslides, watch as a swollen river eats its bank away and a tour bus falls into the water and is swept downstream. Around 25 dead to date. Chamba recorded 13 cm rain in 24 hours….
Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser eruption #21 recorded.
The Long Essay:
The Trouble with Skripals
In view of the attention being given to the success of the Bellingcat investigative website – okay, let’s get it out of the way, partly funded by George Soros – in identifying one of the assailants, our Uncle Bogler is still confused by elements of the Skripal case, and seeks enlightenment; not least on the question of why Sergei – of whose condition and location we have heard nothing more – and his daughter were not killed by the nerve agent supposedly used?
(He further notes that, two days after I accidentally uploaded this controversial piece, a review has come out of a new book by BBC correspondent Mark Urban, about Sergei Skripal. You may find some answers there.)
Created during the Cold War, I’ve been told that military weapons-grade novichok acts both as an aerosol and on contact with the skin, and either way was designed to kill quickly and efficiently. Yet it didn’t work on four out of five individuals exposed to it!
Dawn Sturgess, the uninvolved woman who did die, inhaled the novichok directly in the spray from a perfume bottle. Yet she took several days to die. Novichok is said to act almost instantaneously in the lungs, but seems not to in practise. Her friend Charlie Rowley, who apparently found the discarded bottle and gave it to her as a present, had little direct contact with the contents and so survived. But even he was able to testify that the ‘perfume’ was odourless, so he must have inhaled some.
The mystery is, why did Sergei Skripal not die from his substantial skin contact with the nerve agent? And why did it take four hours to have an effect on him and on Yulia?
Was the two-part nerve agent incorrectly assembled? Or was it dated stock that had lost its potency? Or was it administered later than the police version is saying? And why if the GRU or whoever wanted Skripal dead, did they not simply kill him? Why go to the fuss, bother and mess of using an apparently ineffective chemical warfare agent from the 1980s?
As a trained operative himself, it seems odd that Sergei did not realize what was happening at an earlier stage during their visit to the town centre. Four hours seems an improbably long time to be driving, parking, visiting a pub and having lunch in a restaurant without noticing that you have been attacked with a nerve agent designed to disable troops on the battlefield; in other words, pretty well immediately.
And the perfume bottle, by Nina Ricci. Rowley said it was still in its original packaging, which, given the resources of the Russian intelligence agency it could have been. If it had been used to spray Skripal’s front door, however, how and why would the GRU team have repackaged it so convincingly?
And why was it thrown away, apparently at the place where the Skripals were found? How would the GRU team have known they would end up there, coincidence? – or was a meeting set up in advance?
Where indeed was it thrown away? How did it remain “thrown away” for three months without being swept up in the usual local authority garbage disposal operations? By what bizarre coincidence was the same park involved as the location for both poisonings?
Are we to conclude therefore that there was more than one bottle? And that others may be out there? Or that the bottles were not brought into the country as duty-frees by the two GRU goons, but by someone else, or even made up here beforehand, and deposited in dead-drops, to be collected as needed? Does Aeroflot even sell Nina Ricci?
And why, the question has been asked elsewhere, why would a pair of assassins risk entering the country together on a Russian airliner, directly from Moscow, on Russian passports, and have to go through the process of organizing tourist visas with Immigration, when they could so easily have been given false EU national identities and just waltzed in through the Green channel?
Why were the consecutive numbers in their passports not picked up? (Whatever else Jacob Rees-Mogg might tell you, we have not “lost control of our borders” – except apparently when it comes to Russian hit squads.)
Who was the “third man” thought to have carried out a reconnaissance in advance of their arrival? (Maybe their travel agent!) Where is the CCTV footage of him?
Apart from buying scratchcards in the corner store, what was Skripal doing, living quite openly in a nice house in Salisbury, a pleasant country town (city. Ed.) that just happens to be at the heart of the UK defense industry and close both to the biological warfare establishment at Porton Down and to southern naval command?
As a known double-agent who had been part of a complex spy exchange involving six Russian agents (including the sultry Anna Chapman) busted by the FBI in the USA, treated as heroes on their return, and therefore a potential target, why was Skripal not apparently given a safe house, but essentially staked out like a goat in plain view; even being given a bright red BMW car you couldn’t miss from space?
Was not the provision of CCTV cameras covering the house front and rear the most basic of precautions that should have been taken? And wasn’t? (Other conspiracy theorists have concluded there were cameras, but someone must have disabled them. So if there was no Russian involvement, why do that?)
It seems a feature of this case, that despite Britain being one of the most densely surveilled countries in the world, so much of what took place seems to have been out of view of any cameras. Thousands of hours of CCTV had to be reviewed before the limited range of street views we’ve been shown of the two clowns (at least one with the rank of Colonel) could produce some ID.
Did MI6 seriously not consider Skripal’s life would forever be in danger from the long reach of Putin’s revenge, that he has taken out on so many other ‘traitors’ to the Motherland – and on oligarchs who have fallen out of favor? Or did they not care? (Or did they not need to care, as the doctrine appears to be that the spies are no longer in business so don’t bother creating an international incident by sending hit squads to eliminate them? That, at least, is the Russian view.)
Given that Skripal’s brother and mother had both recently died, the brother in possibly suspicious circumstances, would that not have alerted the security service? Or were they too busy safeguarding us against Muslims to keep their eye on the Russian ball? At the end of the day, it’s Russians versus Russians, they’re not here to kill British citizens or make our streets less safe. We only make a fuss when they foul up somehow.
Is it possible that there could have been any connection with matters troubling the security establishment in the United States, for instance the so-called Steele dossier, supplied by the former MI6 Moscow bureau chief to the FusionGP political research agency – also, incidentally, funded by George Soros – and thence, to the FBI?
Crumbs of both unverified and unverifiable intelligence compiled from reports about Candidate Trump from Steele’s high-level contacts in Russia, who subsequently seem to have been purged by Putin’s security people – thus verifying the reports? Was Skripal connected with that purge? Might that explain the timing of the attack, given that Putin could have ordered it at any time?
(It has been suggested the attack was ordered as part of Putin’s re-election campaign strategy, to stir up international animus against Russia, boosting his image as the strong defender of Russian values and importance on the world stage….
I don’t buy that, since at least 14 other Russian exiles had already died in Britain alone in recent years, most under suspicious circumstances. Why would one more have been so significant? No, I see these targeted assassinations as part of the “Gerasimov” hybrid warfare being conducted against us, showing Russia’s ability to operate globally to create uncertainty, divide the West, discredit our intelligence services and reduce the influence of NATO.)
Britain’s most important-ever Russian defector, the former KGB mole Oleg Gordievski is supposedly being held in an anonymous-looking suburban safe house “somewhere in the Midlands”, with a new identity and under armed guard 24 hours a day. Why was Skripal not being similarly protected?
Or maybe he was? Who exactly is Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, the third person affected in the Skripal attack, of whom since his discharge from hospital we have heard nothing more – a silence reminiscent of that of Trevor Rees-Jones, the police bodyguard who survived the Paris tunnel crash in which Princess Diana and Dodi al-Fayed died, who has remained invisible ever since, apparently suffering from amnesia?
Described as a heroic “first responder”… No! If police were called to two semiconscious people found behaving oddly on a park bench by passers-by (including a doctor) who said they thought they were high on drugs, the ‘first responders’ would have been uniformed patrol or even Community Policing officers, not a plain-clothes Detective Sergeant!
(Why would the media describe as ‘heroic’, an officer who had merely responded to a non-violent incident – if, as must have been the case, it was not known at the time of first response that an assassination was being attempted, and a military-grade nerve agent was the weapon? What would be ‘heroic’ about that?)
Who then did come into contact with the physical persons of Skripal and Yulia, when attending to them and rescuing them from the park bench? It could not possibly have been known at first-response stage – could it? – that a deadly military-grade toxin had caused their symptoms. Why were those unprotected first responders unaffected?
And how was it so quickly determined that samples taken from the Skripals – samples of what? The agent would surely not have been obvious – needed to be sent to Porton Down, eight miles away, and how did Porton Down scientists manage to identify the substance so quickly? Was anything known in advance?
So where did Sgt Bailey come into contact with enough of the nerve agent to land him in hospital? Obviously not in the park, because other responders were not affected.
How would Sgt Bailey have known to go to Skripal’s house if he had not identified Skripal first and subsequently obtained details of his address?
Or did he already know Skripal and where he was being kept? Was he in fact already at the address, perhaps as the duty surveillance officer? (You cannot tell me there was no surveillance on the house! I refuse to believe MI6 would simply abandon their man to go wandering around wherever he felt like it. Had there been a breakdown in the security arrangements?)
Why, even knowing the address, would Sgt Bailey have gone straight to the house after the discovery of the victims? What was he hoping to find? Was he despatched, or did he go on his own initiative? If the former, why was he not accompanied by scene-of-crime officers? If it was already known that a nerve agent was involved, why would he go alone and unprotected?
After several months of intensive enquiries, it was announced that the novichok had been sprayed on the front doorknob of Skripal’s house, unobserved. A curious choice of method, but who knows the assassin’s mind. The story subsequently went out that the Russians had been practising the technique. Really? You need to practise spraying stuff on a door? It’s hardly an innovative idea.
The question then is, why did it take so long to establish where the nerve agent had been applied, with all the comings-and-goings, to’ings and fro’ings via the front door that must have been involved, and the evidence staring investigators in the face? To my mind, the doorknob theory doesn’t add up; it’s too plausible – too limited.
Was Sgt Bailey actually contaminated by the doorknob in the same way as Skripal? It seems extraordinarily careless, given that he should have touched nothing without wearing protective gloves, if he thought a crime had been committed, to avoid blurring any fingerprints or DNA evidence. So what did he hope to find at the house?
Then, why would a middle-ranking detective have been put on the case, when it would (or should) have been known from that first ID of the pair that Skripal was an MI6 asset? Or hadn’t the spooks from Vauxhall Bridge told the local plod about him? As a classified operation, the investigation would surely have involved more senior officers right from the start; not the local firm.
Indeed, there are three living witnesses to say exactly what happened, who were directly harmed in the attack and could provide a detailed account; yet the enquiries have been going on for months and police are still responding with alacrity to false alarms, cordoning off premises and whole areas of the town, destroying vehicles and furniture and are still clearly trying to establish an evidence trail…
What else is involved with this case, that we’re not being told about?
The nerve agent was on the outside boss of the door…. This presupposes Skripal and his daughter must have been inside the house when the poison was applied as Sergei would have had to grasp the outside doorknob as they were leaving to go into town, to close the door. But how did the Terrible Twins know who would handle the doorknob first?
Yulia would not have needed to come into contact with the nerve agent via the door, which her father presumably closed. How then did she come to be seriously contaminated? From what source? Would the assassins not have taken into account, the possibility that she might have been the last one out?
Why didn’t the assassins just ring the doorbell and shoot Skripal in the face, instead of taking the risky decision to coat the doorknob, and maybe risk killing an Amazon delivery driver instead? It was early March – bad weather – what if Skripal had been wearing gloves for outdoors?
But of course, it’s harder to get a gun into Britain than to smuggle in a duty-free perfume bottle. And in any case, Putin likes to play cat-and-mouse with his victims. Shooting traitors isn’t his style – too easy.
But we return to the main question: why did the novichok not work as specified in the military manual?
And how did the GRU agents manage not to poison themselves? (My brain has asked the same question even more pertinently about Dmitri Lugovoi and the other man involved in the Polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. They left a radioactive snail-trail all over London, a radioactive isotope is much harder to control even than a bottle of nerve agent. How did they manage to avoid self-contamination?)
The first version of how the Skripals were poisoned centered on the aircon in the red BMW and the idea that novichok was blown into the car as a powder. That sounds unlikely as Sergei, a trained killer himself, an ex-military veteran of the KGB school in Moscow, would have spotted it immediately and called for aid.
Indeed, did he have no means of making an immediate emergency call once symptoms became apparent? A number on speed dial? Or was he overcome too quickly – in which case, the attack must have happened either in the park or shortly before they arrived there. Again, had a meeting been pre-arranged with the would-be assassins? The carelessness of his MI6 handlers must surely form the basis of a formal enquiry.
But why did the investigation team initially think that the car was the source? Because Skripal had handled the steering-wheel, presumably – and nearer the time of his succumbing to the nerve agent. But the difference between a trace liquid and a powder would surely have been obvious to any trained investigator?
The next action was to completely seal off the house, which was done so efficiently and for such an extraordinarily long period of time without anyone going back in, that Sergei’s cat died of dehydration inside, no-one having thought to remove it for questioning… Also, two guinea-pigs starved to death.
Guinea-pigs??? Was he keeping them for food? Or company? No serious late-middle-aged man hardened by service in the spying business keeps guinea-pigs as pets, unless for some scientific purpose. Children keep guinea-pigs; laboratories keep guinea-pigs. Why did Skripal have guinea-pigs? Was it to warn him of an expected chemical attack, or could he have been preparing something himself?
I expect many of these questions will already have answers we are not party to, and the rest we shall probably never know about. It’s like an itchy scab you know you should leave alone.
None of it makes sense. But I am not an investigative journalist, or a police detective: just an old man in a chair.