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Monday, December 20, 2004

The WTC Collapse: A Crime Scene Never To Be Investigated

NOTE: This article was originally published here on 2 October 2004. Republished for the purpose of newsfeed distribution.

The following is a collection of audio and video materials related to the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Among other things, it includes this reference to "WTC 'Investigation'? A Call to Action" by Bill Manning, Editor-in-Chief of Fire Engineering, an American firefighters' professional publication.

In his initial article, Mr Manning calls for a full investigation of the WTC collapse scene.

There are many, many questions to be asked by us about the World Trade Center collapse and its implications on high-rise firefighting across the nation. Some questions are political, many are technical, others are philosophical. Here are a few (in no particular order) to think about.

* Given the typical resources of most fire departments, can we be expected to handle every high-rise fire thrown at us? When was the last time your city manager asked you for a complete list of resources that you need to fight a high-rise fire, including personnel? When was the last time a high-rise building owner asked if you would like him to install a special "firefighter elevator" for your exclusive use during a high-rise fire? When was the last time a building code committee called up a "downtown" battalion chief and asked him what he thought of the unlimited area and height provisions found in all of the model building codes-is it OK if we allow a 400-story building in your battalion, Chief? The bottom line is, Can we really handle high-rise fires adequately? Who are we kidding? Isn't this the "big secret" that Chief Vincent Dunn has been talking about for years?

* Beware the truss! Frank Brannigan has been admonishing us for years about this topic. It has been reported that the World Trade Center floors were supported by lightweight steel trusses, some in excess of 50 feet long. Need we say more?

* Modern sprayed-on steel "fireproofing" did not perform well at the World Trade Center. Haven't we always been leery about these materials? Why do many firefighters say that they would rather fight a high-rise fire in an old building than in a modern one? Isn't it because of the level of fire resistance provided? How much confidence do we have in the ASTM E-119 fire resistance test, whose test criteria were developed in the 1920s? ASTM E-119 is an antiquated test whose criteria for fire resistance do not replicate today's fires.

* The defend-in-place strategy was the wrong strategy at the World Trade Center. Many of those who ignored the directions to "stay where you are" are alive today because they self-evacuated. Do you still use defend-in-place strategies for large high-rise fires? When should you use them, and when should you not?

* We can see live broadcasts from Afghanistan, but we can't communicate via radios in many high-rise buildings. What gives?

There are many more questions, more than we have answers for. What is clear is that things must change. Where do we begin? By putting things in perspective. The World Trade Center disaster was

* The largest loss of firefighters ever at one incident.
* The second largest loss of life on American soil.
* The first total collapse of a high-rise during a fire in United States history.
* The largest structural collapse in recorded history.

Now, with that understanding, you would think we would have the largest fire investigation in world history. You would be wrong. Instead, we have a series of unconnected and uncoordinated superficial inquiries. No comprehensive "Presidential Blue Ribbon Commission." No top-notch National Transportation Safety Board-like response. Ironically, we will probably gain more detailed information about the destruction of the planes than we will about the destruction of the towers. We are literally treating the steel removed from the site like garbage, not like crucial fire scene evidence.

The World Trade Center disaster demands the most comprehensive detailed investigation possible. No event in our entire fire service history has ever come close to the magnitude of this incident.
Both Fire Engineering articles date back to January 2002. It was by then already clear to the fire professionals that there was nothing resembling a proper investigation taking place. In fact, in this accompanying article Mr Manning condemns what was happening at the WTC scene in no uncertain terms as he tries to draw parralels to other high-profile fires.
Did they throw away the locked doors from the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire? Did they throw away the gas can used at the Happyland Social Club Fire? Did they cast aside the pressure-regulating valves at the Meridian Plaza Fire? Of course not. But essentially, that's what they're doing at the World Trade Center.

For more than three months, structural steel from the World Trade Center has been and continues to be cut up and sold for scrap. Crucial evidence that could answer many questions about high-rise building design practices and performance under fire conditions is on the slow boat to China, perhaps never to be seen again in America until you buy your next car.

Such destruction of evidence shows the astounding ignorance of government officials to the value of a thorough, scientific investigation of the largest fire-induced collapse in world history. I have combed through our national standard for fire investigation, NFPA 921, but nowhere in it does one find an exemption allowing the destruction of evidence for buildings over 10 stories tall.

Hoping beyond hope, I have called experts to ask if the towers were the only high-rise buildings in America of lightweight, center-core construction. No such luck. I made other calls asking if these were the only buildings in America with light-density, sprayed-on fireproofing. Again, no luck-they were two of thousands that fit the description.

Comprehensive disaster investigations mean increased safety. They mean positive change. NASA knows it. The NTSB knows it. Does FEMA know it?

No. Fire Engineering has good reason to believe that the "official investigation" blessed by FEMA and run by the American Society of Civil Engineers is a half-baked farce that may already have been commandeered by political forces whose primary interests, to put it mildly, lie far afield of full disclosure. Except for the marginal benefit obtained from a three-day, visual walk-through of evidence sites conducted by ASCE investigation committee members- described by one close source as a "tourist trip"-no one's checking the evidence for anything.
When an arson or a murder occurs, it is routine procedure to thoroughly investigate the scene. Apparently, not so when an arson takes close to 3,000 lives.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Ellen Mariani: The Story That Could Have Been Big

NOTE: This article was originally published here on 18 September 2004. Republished for the purpose of newsfeed distribution.

Ellen Mariani is suing "Bush et al". One would think that I need not go any further here,- anyone suing the US President, one would think, would get so much publicity that I could hardly stand a chance of being able to add anything of value to it. Unfortunately, that is hardly the case. Most people in the US would probably never know whom you are talking about if you mentioned Mrs Mariani's name to them.

So, who is she? She is a widow of Louis Neil Mariani, and late Mr Mariani was one of the passengers on United Air Lines flight 175, one of the doomed planes involved in the September 11, 2001 tragedy.

Mrs Mariani was not happy with the official version of the events of that fateful day and decided to seek justice in the US Court System.

(Philadelphia, PA – 11/26/03) - Philip J. Berg, Esquire, announced today that he, attorney for Ellen Mariani, wife of Louis Neil Mariani, who died when United Air Lines flight 175 was flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9-11 at a news conference regarding the filing of a detailed Amended Complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on 11/26/03 in the case of Mariani vs. Bush et al that he is alleging President Bush and officials including, but not limited to Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and Feinberg that they:

1. had knowledge/warnings of 911 and failed to warn or take steps to prevent;

2. have been covering up the truth of 911; and

3. have therefore violated the laws of the United States; and

4. are being sued under the Civil RICO Act.

It is certainly comforting to know that in the US we have a rule of law, not men, and anybody, even the President, can be named a defendant in a court of law. The US media, however, did a shameful job of covering this case,- which most would view as being of paramount importance.

Grieving New Hampshire widow who lost her man on 9/11 refuses the government's million dollar hush money payoff, studies the facts of the day for nearly two years, and comes to believe the White House "intentionally allowed 9/11 to happen" to launch a so-called "War on Terrorism" for personal and political gain.

She retains a prominent lawyer, a former Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania, who served with distinction under both Democrats and Republicans and was once a strong candidate for the governor's seat.

The attorney files a 62-page complaint in federal district court (including 40 pages of prima facie evidence) charging that "President Bush and officials including, but not limited to Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Ashcroft and Tenet":
1.) had adequate foreknowledge of 911 yet failed to warn the county or attempt to prevent it;
2.) have since been covering up the truth of that day;
3.) have therefore abetted the murder of plaintiff's husband and violated the Constitution and multiple laws of the United States; and
4.) are thus being sued under the Civil RICO (Racketeering, Influence, and Corrupt Organization) Act for malfeasant conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wrongful death.

The suit text goes on to document the detailed forewarnings from foreign

governments and FBI agents; the unprecedented delinquency of our air defense; the inexplicable half hour dawdle of our Commander in Chief at a primary school after hearing the nation was under deadly attack; the incessant invocation of national security and executive privilege to suppress the facts; and the obstruction of all subsequent efforts to investigate the disaster. It concludes that "compelling evidence will be

presented in this case through discovery, subpoena power, and testimony [that] Defendants failed to act and prevent 9/11 knowing the attacks would lead toтА| an 'International War on Terror' which would benefit Defendants both financially and politically."

Press releases detailing these explosive allegations are sent out to 3000 journalists in the print and broadcast media, and a press conference to announce the filing is held in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia on November 26th (commemorating the end of the first futile year of the independent National 9/11 Commission).

Imagine the world-churning implications of these charges. Imagine the furor if just one was proved true. Imagine the courage of this bribe- shunning widow and an eminent attorney with his rep on the line. Then imagine a press conference to which nobody came.

(Well, more precisely, imagine a press conference at which only FOX News appears, tapes for 40 minutes, and never airs an inch.)

Now imagine the air time, column inches and talk show hysteria that same night devoted to the legal hassles of Michael, Kobe, and Scott Peterson, and divide that by the attention paid to our little case of mass murder, war profiteering and treason. (OK, this is really a trick question because no number divided by zero yields any answers whatsoever, which evidently in this case is the result preferred.)

This is not to say that Ellen Mariani and her attorney Phil Berg have no support. Thousands of people are backing their efforts, and, according to this press release, they have got at least one member of the US Senate, Sen. Mark Dayton, Democrat of Minnesota, making statements that bolster their argument. However, the unfortunate reality appears to be that the majority in the US is not even aware of this case. And this contributes to a widespread illusion that no one disputes the official version of what went down on 9/11 in any meaningful way. However, an illusion it is,- to which the multitude of alternative media sources challenging the official version of events is testament.

For additional info, links to articles on the Mariani court case, an online petition supporting Mrs Mariani's effort, etc. you may want to go here.

Iraq: Some Facts To Consider

NOTE: This article was originally published here on 25 November 2004. Republished for the purpose of newsfeed distribution.

The Nation
's Ari Berman has compiled a short summary of facts regarding the situation in Iraq today. It is a poignant article. Consider this:

** 400,000 Iraqi children suffer from chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein, according to a UN development report. Iraq's child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi--a war-torn central African nation--and is far above both Uganda and Haiti.
One of the official goals of the US-led invasion was to free the Iraqis from the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein and alleviate their suffering. It appears that,- while they may or may not find themselves free,- the Iraqis are definitely suffering from the lack of food to a much greater extent than they did under Saddam. But help is on the way, isn't it? Maybe it is, but it seems awfully,- some may say, criminally,- slow in coming:
** Of the $18.4 billion in reconstruction funds allocated last year by Congress, the US has spent only $1.7 billion.

Was It Really That Difficult, Mr Secretary?

According to this Reuters report,
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will now personally sign letters of condolence to families of troops killed in action, after the Pentagon (news - web sites) acknowledged signing machines had been used in the past.
This official acknowledgement confirms what had earlier been alleged by Colonel David Hackworth.
And now, apparently, Rumsfeld's obsession with machines and their efficiency has translated into his using one to replace his own John Hancock on KIA (killed in action) letters to parents and spouses. Two Pentagon-based colonels, who've both insisted on anonymity to protect their careers, have indignantly reported that the SecDef has relinquished this sacred duty to a signature device rather than signing the sad documents himself.
When I went to Jim Turner, a good man saddled with a tough job as one of Rumsfeld's flacks at the Pentagon, for a confirmation or a denial, he said, "Rumsfeld signs the letters himself."
I then went to about a dozen next-of-kin of American soldiers KIA in Iraq. Most agreed with the colonels' accusations and said they'd noticed and been insulted by the machine-driven signature. One father bitterly commented that he thought it was a shame that the SecDef could keep his squash schedule but not find the time to sign his dead son's letter. Several also felt compelled to tell me that the letter they received from George Bush also looked as though it was not signed personally by the president.
Dr. Ted Smith, whose son Eric was among the first 100 killed in Iraq, notes that the letter he received "from the commander in chief was signed with a thick, green marking pen. I thought it was stamped then and do even now. He had time for golf and the ranch but not enough to sign a decent signature with a pen for his beloved hero soldiers. I was going to send the letter back but did not. I am sorry I didn't."
I am not particularly big on memorial ceremonies. To me it is the feelings that matter. One may be too busy to attend a funeral or express one's sympathy at length, but there is always time for a personal gesture,- a brief phone call, an e-mail, or,- in this particular case, a letter signed by one's own hand (and, preferably, at least read prior to that). However, it appears that Mr Rumsfeld could not squeeze the time to sign a little over a thousand letters over the period which lasted in excess of one year into his busy schedule,- that is, until negative publicity forced him to act otherwise. It is also highly likely, in my humble opinion, that a signing machine feels more sympathy for fallen soldiers than our Secretary of Defense.

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