chess study; Syrian SU-22 planes; al-Nusra and chemical war

IMG_4682.JPGblack to move and draw.

solution by Stockfish below.

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4-7-17         A truck plowed into a crowd on a shopping street and crashed into a department store in central Stockholm on Friday, killing four people and wounding 15 in what the prime minister said appeared to be a terrorist attack.

Police said they had arrested one person in a northern Stockholm suburb after earlier circulating a picture of a man wearing a grey hoodie in connection with the investigation into the attack on Drottninggatan (Queen Street) using a hijacked beer truck.  http://www.reuters.com/article/us-sweden-attack-idUSKBN179208

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Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 5.30.14 PM.jpg4-6-17     And then Thursday — before dawn on Friday in Syria — Mr. Trump ordered the attack on the Shayrat air base, from which, he said, the chemical attack was launched.

Witnesses described how Tuesday’s attack unfolded.  That morning, a network of observers was, as usual, tracking the skies to warn residents and rescuers of possible airstrikes.  They spotted Syrian aircraft and sent out warnings on walkie-talkies.

Syrian Su-22 aircraft were then seen circling above Khan Sheikhoun at 6:47 a.m. and again at 6:51 a.m. One of the observers — based on long experience — believed that the planes might be carrying a chemical payload.  “Guys, tell people to wear masks,” he warned.

Witnesses put the attack itself at just before 7 a.m.  A video of the area at that time shows three towering puffs of smoke and one smaller cloud.

Dr. Khalil said he and his wife were drinking coffee at home at 8 a.m. when he got a call and rushed to Idlib’s central hospital.  He found 60 patients already packing the wards. His nose began to itch, from the toxic substances, he believes.  Back in Khan Sheikhoun, new airstrikes hit a hospital and a civil defense headquarters.

Across the province, doctors were noticing symptoms similar to those from sarin.  Some of the displaced people who wound up in Idlib in recent years come from the Damascus suburbs that were attacked with sarin in 2013.

One, a media activist from near Damascus, Moaz al-Shami, was sickened for two months by the 2013 attacks.  Now living in Idlib, he was struck with the same vomiting and respiratory distress he remembered from that day.  His voice remained hoarse on the telephone two days later.        https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/world/middleeast/syria-bashar-al-assad-russia-sarin-attack.html?_r=0

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4-6-17         Witnesses said the air raids began shortly after 6.30 am on Tuesday, with four bombings around the town.  Initially they thought it was just another airstrike, until the first responders who arrived at the scene began falling to the ground.

Khutainy said:  “They told us ‘HQ, we are losing control’.  We had no idea what they were trying to say.  Then they said, ‘come save us, we can no longer walk’.  So the second and third teams went with just face masks.  We could smell it from 500 metres away.”

People described a scene of utter horror at the attack site.  The wounded were shaking and convulsing on the ground, foaming at the mouth, their lips blue, passing in and out of consciousness.

“I found children lying on the ground, in their last breaths, their lips going blue,” said Abu al-Baraa, who lives nearby and rushed to help when the full extent of what had happened dawned on him.

Standing across the street from the crater left by the missile, he added: “People on the rooftops and in the basements.  People on the ground in the street.  Wherever you looked there were dead human beings.”

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2017/04/syria-zip/giv-390282Y5Ti6gq3Ap/

The suffocating patients and those who had died were taken to the nearby civil defence centre and the adjacent clinic built into the side of a rocky mountainous outcrop to withstand potential airstrikes.  The dead were laid in a nearby shed while emergency workers hosed down the injured with water, and administered atropine, a nerve agent antidote.

But while medical workers were trying to come to grips with the crisis, between eight and 10 airstrikes targeted the medical facility and civil defence centre.  The shed collapsed on the dead, and the site was put out of service.

“Maybe the pilots heard the myth that you could come back to life 48 hours after dying from sarin, so they decided to bomb them again just in case,” said an official from the Ahrar al-Sham rebel group who was on the scene.  “Thank God there is a Day of Judgment in the afterlife.”

The Guardian visited the destroyed medical facility and civil defence centre briefly.  Local people said reconnaissance planes had been spotted in the sky earlier and believed the area might be targeted again later in the day.   https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/06/the-dead-were-wherever-you-looked-inside-syrian-town-after-chemical-attack

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4-7-17    Russia is still sticking to its guns in its blanket defense of the Syrian regime, but this time around Assad may have overplayed his hand.  He disrespected Putin by making him look helpless as a guarantor of the chemical weapons deal with Washington or worse, complicit with Assad in cheating on the agreement.  He humiliated Putin before Trump by making Putin look weak.  It is a slight the Russian leader has never taken lightly.

There is a sense among the Russian players that Assad was perhaps deliberately trying to scuttle the Astana peace process in which Moscow and Ankara invested much political capital.  Assad and Tehran want full military victory, not a power sharing arrangement with defeated rebels.  Assad and his Iranian backers never thought much about Astana and were clearly irritated by Russia and Turkey acting like the guys who run the show.  https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/russia-has-backed-itself-into-a-corner-in-syria-57673

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In Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front are breaking with this historical pattern and making chemical weapons part of their deadly arsenal.   A United Nations panel investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria reported last month that it found evidence that the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front have acquired and used chemical weapons.

Over the course of the last several months, the United States and coalition partners fighting both groups have bombed suspected Islamic State group chemical weapons store houses and production facilities.   Earlier this week, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian said in a press conference that coalition forces had struck a pharmaceutical plant that the Islamic State group was using to produce chemical agents.  This will certainly curb the Islamic State group’s and the Nusra Front’s chemical weapons production efforts for now, but the long-term impact is uncertain.

But what may have led to these groups doing what no other terrorist group has done in the last 21 years?  In a word, opportunity.

As the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front seized territory in Syria and northern Iraq, they came upon military sites where chemical munitions were hidden, abandoned or lost. In their land grab, they also captured industrial facilities with toxic chemicals. When these toxic capabilities became available, they used them. Tragically, the victims of these indiscriminate weapons were generally innocent civilians.

Not only did the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front exploit captured weapons resources, they also seized the opportunity to develop some of their own capabilities.  Just as al-Qaida once enjoyed a safe haven in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, both the Islamic State group and Nusra Front have had the freedom to develop capabilities in Islamic State group-controlled territory and ungoverned spaces that neither the Syrian nor the Iraqi government has been able to control.    https://www.rand.org/blog/2016/09/keep-chemical-weapons-out-of-terrorist-hands.html

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see also http://www.globalresearch.ca/pentagon-trained-syrias-al-qaeda-rebels-in-the-use-of-chemical-weapons/5583784

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http://en.censor.net.ua/photo_news/435213/militants_tried_to_bring_down_osce_drone_recording_russian_hardware_amassed_in_luhansk_area_photo

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chess study solution    (parentheses show Stockfish evaluation, then depth of search–such as “d24” meaning depth 24 pairs of moves; in terms of evaluation 1.0 equals one pawn advantage.)

1…Rh2, 2. Rf7+ Kb6, 3. Kc4 a5, 4. g4 Rc2+, 5. Kd3 Rb2, 6. Kc3 Rg2, 7. Rf5 Ka6, 8. g5 b5, 9. Re5 (.46,d24) b4+, 10. Kc4 Rc2+, 11. Kd4 a4, 12. ba4 b3, 13. Re8 =.

1…b5?!, 2. h4  Rc2, 3. Ka3 a5, 4. b4  ab4, 5. Kb4 Kb6, 6. g4 (1.08, d27) c5+, 7. Kb3 Rh2, 8. Rf6+ (1.05, d22) Ka5, 9. h5 b4, 10. Kc4 Rc2+, 11. Kd5 (.98, d22) Kb5, 12. Rf8 Rd2+, 13. Ke4 (1.05, d23) c4, 14. h6 c3 (-.99, d25), 15. h7  c2, 16. Rc8 Rh2, Rc2 Rh7, 18. g5 (1.34, d22) b3, 19. Rg2 Kc6 (-1.65,d28) -+.

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