UPDATE HISTORY
2013 - Part 2 
(May 1, 2013 - August 31, 2013)
A log of comments and changes made to the main pages.
www.anthraxinvestigation.com

Updates & Changes: Sunday, August 25, 2013, thru Saturday, August 31, 2013

August 30, 2013 - I can understand President Obama's (and everyone else's) reluctance to attack Syria.  I have a significantly smaller, yet similar problem.  I'm debating whether or not to pick a fight with the guy on Wikipedia who claims that "Brother Jonathan" was a "the national emblem of New England."  (See my comments for Aug. 22 & 23.)   This morning, I found I had a few minutes to do some research, and I quickly discovered a book called "Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of American's Founding Ideas" by
Brandeis University history professor and historian David Hackett Fischer.

Starting on page 221, the book explains in very great and thoroughly documented detail that the term "Brother Jonathan" began in England in the mid-1600's as a term meaning "country bumpkin."  According to Fischer, during the American revolution the term was used by the British troops to refer to American troops the same way American troops during the Viet Nam war referred to North Viet Namese soldiers as "Charlie."  During the American Revolution, the British called American troops "Brother Jonathans."

The fighting around Boston in 1775 and 1776 produced the first firmly documented use of this image in America.  When the British army evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776, they left a set of scarecrow-sentinals with signs that read "Welcome Brother Jonathan."

But do I want to wage what may become an unending war on Wikipedia with some guy who has his own sources and probably unshakable beliefs?  Not right now.

August 29, 2013 (B) - My (A) comment this morning resulted in an e-mail from a regular reader who seems to have noticed for the first time that the Leahy envelope used the full 9-digit zip code, and he wondered what could be deduced from that.

I remembered the subject coming up many years ago, so I did a Google search and found the web page by Richard M. Smith, which greatly influenced my thinking back in 2001 and early 2002.  Back then, Smith and I constantly exchanged ideas about the case.

Looking at his web page again, for the first time in many years, the first thing that jumps out at me now is this:

Each member of Congress has their own unique 9-digit Zip code, while all congressional offices share the same 5-digit Zip code. 

In the Leahy letter, all 9-digits are visible and they are correct.  The sender must have copied them right from a directory.

Looking up zip 20510-4502 finds that it still is the zip code for Senator Leahy. And zip 2510-4103 still belongs to Thomas A. Daschle, even though he is no longer a Senator.

But, Smith pointed out something that is perhaps even more interesting: the first names of the two senators aren't part of the addresses on the envelopes, but they would almost certainly be included in any directory entry.   The anthrax letters were simply addressed to "SENATOR LEAHY" and "SENATOR DASCHLE."  That would probably indicate that the person writing the addresses on the letters wasn't copying directly from any directory but from addresses that had been previously copied and modified.

But why did the anthrax mailer drop the first names?  To give the child less to copy?  Perhaps.   I don't know, but I'm reminded of something from some book or movie, very possibly "The Silence of the Lambs," where a kidnap victim was constantly trying to get her kidnapper to use her first name, so that she would be "humanized" to him, and she wouldn't just be an object he could do with as he wanted.  And, I also remember reading about how some Republicans during the FDR administration hated FDR so much they refused to even speak his name.  They referred to him as "That Person in the White House."  I wonder how threat letters to U. S. Senators are "typically" addressed.  

August 29, 2013 (A) - One of the unexplained "mysteries"about the anthrax letters is why the media letters didn't contain a return address, while the Senate letters did.  For years, I thought the anthrax mailer left off the return address because the he didn't want the letters returned to any innocent person if something went wrong somewhere.  He wasn't out to hurt anyone, only to warn people (evidenced by the medical advice in the media letter - TAKE PENACILIN NOW).  I assumed the return address was added on the Senate letters because the first mailing appeared to have been totally ignored, and the anthrax mailer may have wondered if was because of the lack of a return address.

Then, later, when Bruce Ivins was identified as the anthrax killer and the coded message in the media letters was made public, it suddenly became far more logical that the return address that was on the Senate letters had actually been created for the media letters, since it also contained "codes" that Ivins could explain to people when it came time to prove that he had sent the anthrax letters.  That was supposed to happen when he was hailed as a hero for awakening America to the dangers of a bioweapons attack from Muslin terrorists, perhaps even saving thousands of lives if his warning helped thwart an actual attack.

But, if the return address was created for the media mailing, why wasn't it used?

The best answer I could come up with when writing my second book was that, when Ivins asked the child to copy both addresses onto the Brokaw envelope, the results looked something like this:

Imagined First Brokaw Envelope

The child didn't have the ability to write smaller when writing the return address.  He could write larger, as a child would do when writing on a blackboard, but the child didn't yet have the hand-eye coordination skills to write smaller.  And, trying to persuade the child to give it a try could have just resulted in more ruined envelopes and a child who didn't want to play any more writing games.   Also, since the child wrote only in one size, the results may not have looked as readable as the illustration above.  He could very easily have run out of room before finishing Tom Brokaw's address.

So, rather than waste a bunch of pre-stamped envelopes and upsetting the child, Ivins simply asked him to only write the destination addresses on the media letters.

Ivins may also have worried that an envelope addressed like the one above would have ruined his "game" of making people think that a Muslim terrorist who didn't write very well in English wrote the letters.  Every normal adult has the writing skills needed to write smaller when writing a return address - regardless of his native language.   Investigators and handwriting experts looking at the envelope above might assume it is the writing of a child and not change their minds when they see the letter inside.

The problem went away with the second mailing.  By that time, the child had already learned to write smaller.   He was still writing just one size, but that size was now small enough to write both the return and destination addresses on the senate envelopes without running out of room or having the addresses run into each other:

Leahy anthrax envelope - B&W and resized

And now, of course, I have another handwriting observation that needs to be verified or disproved by looking at actual letters from children in the first weeks of first grade, and by talking with first grade teachers.  And, time is speeding by, so even if I tried to get some kind of verification myself, it wouldn't happen until a year from now.

August 27, 2013 (B) - SPOILER ALERT!!  A couple evenings ago, I watched the 1947 movie "Lured" on the Turner Classic Movies channel.  It's a crime story about a serial killer responsible for about seven missing young women in London.  At one point, all the evidence pointed to George Sanders as being the killer.  There seemed to be more than enough evidence to convict.  But, as Scotland Yard Inspector Charles Coburn explained to dance-hall girl, Lucille Ball, who was helping with the investigation, "Personality is the cement that binds the evidence together, and Robert Fleming [i.e., George Sanders] doesn't have a personality that fits the evidence."  And, of course, it turned out that George Sanders wasn't the culprit.  His assistant, Sir Cedrick Hardwick, tried to frame Sanders for the crime.

The phrase, "Personality is the cement that binds the evidence together" will probably stick with me forever.  I think I always viewed evidence and personality that way, but I'd never heard it expressed that way before.

A lot of friends and co-workers of Bruce Ivins didn't feel he had the personality to commit the anthrax killings.  But, they were looking at the crime incorrectly.  They were looking at it as a crime by religious fanatics wanting to kill Americans.   If you look at the crime as being done by someone who was playing a dangerous game to persuade the American people to do things his way and to demand support for his anthrax vaccine program, Ivins' personality is indeed the cement that binds the evidence together.  He was also the type to use a child from his wife's day care center to write the letters - since it would be a secret and nasty trick on his wife - and perhaps also on some others he knew who wouldn't do things the way he wanted.


August 27, 2013 (A) - This morning, my e-mail in box contained several messages about the handwriting on the anthrax letters.  One stated:

I am very confident Ivins did it, but your "child wrote the letters" theory is very weak.

and then the e-mailer posed a question:

Your repeated reference to a child copying the text begs the question: it was not dictated?
 
I responded with a list of 5 reasons why I do not believe the letters were dictated:

1.  No 6-year-old is going to spell "Israel," "Allah" AND "anthrax" correctly.  He'd probably have a hard time spelling "America" correctly.  Maybe "great," too.  From what I've seen of kindergarten handwriting and spelling, I would think that if the letters were dictated they'd be FILLED with misspelled words.

2.  The misspelled word "PENACILIN" is part of a code and was deliberately misspelled.   How do you do that via dictation?  If you spell the words out character by character, the writing should show a very irregular and unnatural pattern.  It doesn't.

3.  The highlighted A's and T's show they were inconsistently highlighted as they were written.  The writer didn't go back and later highlight them consistently.  How do you do that while dictating?

4.  There are pause marks all over the Brokaw envelope showing that the child paused at the end of a drawing a stroke in a character as he looked to see what character to draw next.   It doesn't make much sense to dictate the addresses on a bunch of envelopes, so why dictate the letters?

5.  The B in "NBC" on the Brokaw envelope was apparently almost written as an R as in "NRC" but then corrected.  That's consistent with a copying error, not with a dictation error.

And I suppose I could have added a sixth reason, which just occurred to me:

6.  Children of that age learn to write by copying, not by taking dictation.  So, the child would be very comfortable with copying and very uncomfortable with dictation.  And, when asking a child to do a chore, it's easier if it's comfortable for him to do.

Another e-mailer posed a question about whether we can be certain that the child was just entering first grade.  The e-mailer cited examples he'd seen of the handwriting of older children, and they didn't look as good as the writing in the anthrax documents.

I suppose it's possible that the child was older and was just entering second grade or third grade, but I think the fact that, in a matter of a few weeks, he changed the way he drew certain characters of the alphabet (R's specifically), and the fact that he changed the size of his handwriting to be much smaller is more consistent with a child just starting first grade than when starting some later grade.  While it certainly seems that the child wrote very well for someone just starting first grade, that might be explained by who his parents were and how much time they spent in helping the child learn to read and write.

Meanwhile, on Lew Weinstein's blog, "DXer" is once again arguing his nonsense that the T in NEXT on the media letter was not highlighted.  In an open letter addressed to the General Accountability Office (GAO), he writes:

I have suggested that the agent concocted the FBI’s Code Theory he falsely claimed the “T” in NEXT was double-lined. (It can be proved empirically, upon magnification and measurement, that it was not and is not in fair dispute). The FBI has failed to produce any of the underlying source documents setting forth its explanation and proof of the code. Specifically, what did the agent rely upon in claiming the “T” in NEXT to be double lined? (Nothing… he just asserted it).

and

But Bruce E. Ivins would have no reason to send a code. Thus, theory was always stupid from the start — in addition to being unprincipled given that the “T” in NEXT in fact could be proved not to be double-lined. Where was the FBI’s Questioned Documents Unit? Where was the USPIS Lab Director who was giving guidance on other Amerithrax issues?

It's a very simple matter to show that the T in "NEXT" was "double-lined" or traced over in the Brokaw letter.  All you have to do is first compare the T's in the two lines where there are also T's that are NOT double-lined, i.e, the lines that begin with the word "DEATH":

Highlighted T's in the Brokaw letter

Which of the four T's in the two lines beginning with "DEATH" are traced over?

It seems pretty clear that the horizontal line in the T's in "To" are both traced over, while the T's in DEATH are not traced over. 

Now, does the T in "NEXT" look more like the T's in "DEATH" or the T's in "To"? 

To me, it seems very clear that the T in "NEXT" is double-lined, highlighted or traced over in a way that is nearly identical to the T in the second "To."

The images above are from  a photo that was taken of the Brokaw letter inside two (2) Ziplock bags.  Just image how much clearer the image would be if I could do as the FBI and USPIS did and look at the actual letter highly magnified under a microscope!

So, where's the dispute?  That the T's aren't all double lined identically?  How do you get a child to double line letters identically?  And, if all the T's and A's were double lined identically, wouldn't that make it very clear to everyone looking at the letter that there was some kind of code or hidden message involved?   Ivins evidently didn't want everyone trying to decode the hidden message he put in the letter.  He wanted to be able to do it himself when the proper time came -- when he would want to prove that he sent the anthrax letters that awakened America to the dangers of a bioterrorism attack.

August 26, 2013 - After arguing with an Anthrax Truther for several days on my interactive blog, the Truther finally wrote something I found to be very interesting:

Mister Lake in turn wants to claim that the child "skipped" the punctuation in the text of the first mailing because 'he hadn't had it yet in class' (!!!!), only copied the punctuation in the Daschle text original because his class 'covered' punctuation in the intervening 3 weeks. EITHER subhypothesis is actually claiming the child was 'editing' the Amerithrax mailer's original texts, NOT 'copying' them in any literal sense.

He poses a question that never once occurred to me in the past decade, and it throws a monkey wrench into my 12 facts which show that a child wrote the anthrax letters

During the writing of the letters and addressing of the envelopes, if the child was copying what Ivins had hand-written or computer-printed, doesn't that mean that the first letter the child copied had no punctuation and the second letter did?  Doesn't it mean that Bruce Ivins was the person who used no punctuation on the first letter, but did use punctuation on the second letter?  And the child just copied what Ivins did.   Therefore, the punctuation has little to do with what the child was being taught in school?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

It definitely takes the matter out of the realm of solid facts and into the realm of speculation and deduction. 

There was no punctuation on the media envelopes, either.  The child wrote "New York NY" not "New York, N.Y."  And on the Senate envelopes there were no commas between "Franklin Park" and "NJ" in the return address, or between "Washington" and "D.C." in the address, although "D.C." did contain the periods.

So, I see two likely scenarios for the first letter:

(1)  Ivins didn't use punctuation and the child copied what was written.
(2)  Ivins used punctuation, but the child didn't know what the dots at the ends of the sentences were and didn't copy them.

I tend to very slightly favor scenario (2), particularly since the second letter contains a question mark which cannot be ignored.  And that probably would require that Ivins explain to the child what the question mark means, an explanation which might also include explaining that NON-question sentences have periods at the end.  So, the child then knew what the dots were for.

The question mark certainly looks like the first question mark the child ever wrote, since it is far bigger than the rest of the writing, and it's drawn with three distinct strokes.

There's no way to know for certain if Ivins used punctuation on his version of the first letter, but it seems certain that Ivins knew that the child wrote very well for his age, or Ivins wouldn't have used him.  On page 55 of my 2012 book, I speculate that Ivins got the idea for using a child to write the letters by watching the child and looking at examples of how well the child in his wife's day care center wrote.  The child wrote far better than a typical 6-year-old just starting first grade writes.  And, if the child didn't use punctuation, then maybe Ivins didn't use it in his versions either, until he needed the question mark for the second letter.

Either way, it doesn't significantly change the FACTS which say that a child wrote the anthrax letters.  It just exposes another area where some additional information is needed: When is punctuation first taught in school?  If a typical child entering first grade doesn't know about periods at the end of sentences and is copying a letter, will he copy the periods?  I'd certainly like to see an analytical study and some solid statistics on those questions.  Until that happens, I'll just have to make my own deductions.

Which brings up a second matter that the Anthrax Truther brought to my attention:

schools with a set curriculum/methodology teach first the ENTIRE DATE written out: e.g. 'November 7th, 2013', so that, eventually, the child will know what the numbers between the dashes or slashes stand for. This is one of a number of blunders made in the analysis.

I don't think the Truther is correct in his statement that a child is first taught to write the date with the month spelled out.  It's probably easier for a child to learn that it's the 11th month of the year than to remember how to spell "November."  Plus, I did a Google search for kindergarten handwriting for my August 21 (A) comment, and the results I found
HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE indicate that it is very common for young children to use all number dates with dashes, i.e., "09-11-01."  Furthermore, I've argued for 12 years that the date on the media letter seems to have been added as an afterthought by the anthrax mailer.  It's apparently not the child's handwriting.   So, it seems Ivins wrote the date on the first letter - perhaps using the same method the child used to write dates.  To make the date on the second letter consistent with the first, Ivins wrote the date the same way on his version, and the child copied it as written.

All this makes me think I need to create a NEW (third!) web page about the handwriting on the anthrax documents to explain what are known facts and what are deductions based upon the known facts.  Marshall Smith's explanation that the slanting addresses on the envelopes is the result of the child moving the envelope instead of his writing hand seems a better explanation than my theory that the slanting was because the child saw he was running out of room and steered his writing toward the farthest corner.

When new and better information appears, it's time to revise one's hypothesis.  The facts still say very clearly that a child wrote the anthrax documents.  There's still nothing that says an adult must have done the writing.  But, there is new information to add, and there are some facts which now also require more interpretation than was previously needed.  And, instead of endlessly patching up my two previous handwriting analysis pages, maybe it's time to start a total new one.  All I need is is to find more motivation.


August 25, 2013 - If the person who wrote the Brokaw anthrax letter was a 6-year-old child in 2001, that would mean that today that child is now 18.  And I have this daydream about him paying his way through college by writing (or having an eager professional "ghost writer" write) a sensational book titled "I Wrote the Anthrax Letters." 

Before a major publisher would handle such a book, of course, it would have to include proof that the author wrote the anthrax letters.

And that poses the question: If such proof exists, why didn't the FBI find it?

Answer: The #1 item of "proof" today would be the child's own testimony that he did it.  That's not something the FBI could have easily "found" in 2001 or even 2002.

The FBI didn't fully realize that Ivins was most likely the anthrax killer until the final months of 2004 - three years after the letters were written.  Plus, the handwriting didn't match Ivins' handwriting, and the FBI would not establish for another couple years that Ivins almost certainly acted alone.  So, even if the FBI was paying serious attention to my 2002 analysis of the handwriting, and even if they read the book I published in 2005, the question of who may have written the letters if Ivins didn't do it would not have come up until the child was 11 or 12 years old.

And, if an 11-year-old says he doesn't remember writing the letters, who could argue with that -- or try to make him remember? 

I've never seen any evidence that the FBI ever did any searches for samples of any child's handwriting.  I've never even seen any evidence that they tried to find out which 6-year-old children Ivins had access to in August, September and October, 2001.

It also seems likely the parents of the child could have figured things out long before the FBI.  If they did, everything would then depend upon how well they knew the Ivins family.  If they were very close, and if they saw that the handwriting on the envelopes and letters matched their child's handwriting, what would they do?  They didn't tell the FBI, so they would have either destroyed the handwriting samples -- or hidden them.

I hope, of course, that they hid the handwriting samples, and the 18-year-old now can use them for his book.

But, it's all just a daydream.  It seems far more likely that the parents would have done everything they could to protect their child and  make certain the FBI could never involve him in the case.   And, if the FBI and DOJ felt they had enough evidence to convict Bruce Ivins without any handwriting evidence (which certainly seems to have been the situation), they probably wouldn't want to ruin the child's life by putting him on front pages all over the world as "The Kid Who Wrote the Anthrax Letters."

An 18-year-old might want that kind of notoriety, but the parents of a 6- or 11- or 12-year-old would NOT want that.  However, an 18-year-old wouldn't need his parents' permission to get the book published.

Just daydreams.  I would really love to tell the world, "I told you so."

Failing that, I'd really like to have handwriting experts look at the evidence.  I've seen no "expert" try to explain why the letter writer drew R's and other characters of the alphabet incorrectly in the Brokaw letter, but correctly in all the other documents.  I've seen no "expert" try to explain why the writing in the Senate mailing is half the size of the writing in the media mailing.  I've seen no "expert" try to explain why there's no punctuation in the media letter, but there is punctuation in the senate letter.  I've seen a father of 5 explain that the slanted writing on the envelopes is the result of a child moving the envelope instead of his hand when writing successive lines on the envelopes.  But, I've seen no "handwriting experts" challenge or confirm that.

The 12th anniversaries of the anthrax attacks of 2001 are coming up next month and the month after.

Right now or very soon, 5- and 6-year-olds will be starting first grade.  Countless samples of their handwriting will be produced and then destroyed without anyone doing any kind of  professional evaluation of how their handwriting looks today versus their handwriting in mid-September and in the first week of October.

It can be argued that that kind of "evidence" wouldn't prove that Ivins used a child to write the anthrax letters.  No, but it could help prove or disprove my hypothesis that the handwriting on the letters and envelopes is almost certainly that of a 6-year-old just starting first grade.

But, that's just my daydream.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, August 18, 2013, thru Saturday, August 24, 2013

August 23, 2013 - As expected, someone with very strong opinions changed the Wikipedia entry for "Brother Jonathan" to conform to his understandings.  Unexpectedly, however, he didn't change it back to the way it was before, he created a 3rd interpretation which he claims agrees with "the consensus version."  In other words, he thinks it represents what most people believe, so that makes it valid.  And he added a new sub-heading:

This article is about the national emblem of New England.

The Library of Congress and other solid sources state that "Brother Jonathan" began as a symbol for the United States.   If the Wikipedia article now says it's only about the "national emblem of New England," I have no solid reason to go back and undo anything or make any further changes to the Wikipedia article.  It no longer has anything to do with the debate I was having on my interactive blog.  Besides, I have better things to do.
 
Auguste 22, 2013 - Hmm.  Debates with Anthrax Truthers sometimes go off in very odd directions.  This morning on my interactive blog, a Truther developed a theory that Marshall Smith didn't really believe what he wrote about the anthrax letters being a hoax to cover-up a 9/11-related radiation event, and that what Marshall Smith wrote was actually all just a "parody." The Anthrax Truther got that idea from Wikipedia, which described "Brother Jonathan" as
"a good-natured parody of all New England."   The FACTS about "Brother Jonathan," however, say something very different.

So, after doing the research to respond to the Truther's comment, I used the information I found to change the Wikipedia entry about "Brother Jonathan."  I used quotes from the authoritative sources, including The Library of Congress, which says:

The symbolic Uncle Sam's appearance evolved from that of Brother Jonathan, the most common earlier symbol for the United States. The two characters were used interchangeably from the 1830s through the 1860s.

I left all of the original material on Wikipedia, deleting nothing, merely adding the words: "Other views:" at the end of what I added and before those entries. 

Now, I'll wait and see if someone tries to delete what I added in order to go back to the basically incorrect earlier version, which they may have strong views about. 


August 21, 2013 (B) - Another reason for discussing the Amerithrax case with conspiracy theorists and True Believers is that they sometimes force me to check things, to verify things, and to re-read things.  As a result of a discussion with an Anthrax Truther on my interactive blog this morning, I re-read an article Marshall Smith wrote a week before his article about the anthrax letter handwriting.  The article from October 26, 2001, explains that at that time he believed that there were no anthrax letters.   He believed that the letters were part of a U.S. government cover-up of a massive
RADIATION event resulting from the 9/11 Muslim terrorists having transported plutonium aboard the planes they crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and that field in Pennsylvania:

In the meantime, if anybody in the U.S. government had suspected, which is what I suspect, that there might have been a massive radiation event, such as those workers who cleared the Pennsylvania crash site, this should have required a quick and permanent evacuation of millions of people from the U.S. northeast, and also around Washington DC and areas eastward from the Pentagon. This sudden shock to the U.S. government and populace would create a far greater panic and fear than the original WTC attack and even the current hoax of an anthrax bio-attack.    

To indicate that the current anthrax hoax is possibly part of a cover-up of the aftermath of a more terrible WTC 9-11 event, I would note that the symptoms of being under a plutonium cloud with very fine radiation particles raining down, would include: (1) lesions on the skin of the head, neck, face and hands where particles have landed, (2) pneumonia-like filling of the lungs where particles have been inhaled and (3) general weakness, nausea, vomiting of blood and severe intestinal distress where the radiation particles have landed on food or water which is ingested

That probably explains why he didn't write anything further about his conspiracy theory after Nov. 2, 2001.  Too much evidence kept pouring in to show that there indeed had been an anthrax letter attack, and there had been NO radiation event.  Once the basis for his conspiracy theory was thoroughly debunked, he had no further reason to write about the anthrax letters.

August 21, 2013 (A) - I did some further research this morning, and what I found seemed to confirm Marshall Smith's observation that children are generally taught to write dates with dashes (the way they were written in the anthrax letters), not with slashes.  Click HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for examples.  I did find one child's writing sample HERE where slashes were used, but it could be from an older child.  NONE put zeroes before single digit numbers, and, it seems more common to write out or abbreviate the month ("February" or "Feb.") than to use a date consisting of just numbers.

My research, however, seemed to confirm that Marshall Smith's own kids probably used serifs on number 1's and no serifs on capital I's.  So, to him, that was "normal" and how "most first graders" write.  But it seems to be very rare.  "Most children" do just the opposite, they put serifs on I's and no serifs on 1's.  Here's an illustration from my 2002 supplemental web page about the handwriting on the anthrax letters:

1's and I's with and without serifs
That poses questions: Which Frederick, MD, school taught children to put serifs on 1's?  Or, was it something the child's parents taught him, and his teacher didn't correct it?

August 20, 2013 - I keep writing comments explaining how the idea that a child wrote the anthrax letters came to me from reading the web site of "Brother Jonathan."  But, "Brother Jonathan's" comments about the anthrax letters no longer seem to be on his site.   While the link on my handwriting page from 2002 still goes to BroJon.org, there doesn't seem to be any way to get from the current web page at that link to anything else that might still be on the site from over a decade ago. 

Then, while working out at the health club on Monday afternoon, it occurred to me that I never tried the "WayBack Machine" to see if they had archived the BroJon.org site.

So, when I got home I checked.  Yup.  They did indeed archive it.  Just click HERE to view the archived page from November 2, 2001.

Reading that web page again for the first time in many years, I see that I should stop referring to him as "Brother Jonathan," since he signed his work this way:

----------- Marshall Smith
Editor, BroJon Gazette

I now see that Marshall Smith (formerly known as "Brother Jonathan") is a conspiracy theorist.  In November 2001, he believed the anthrax mailer would never be caught, because he evidently believed "the government" was somehow behind the attacks. 

However, the fact that he's a "conspiracy theorist" doesn't mean he's automatically wrong about everything.  Over the years, I've gotten a lot of solid facts from conspiracy theorists and True Believers.  That's why I've been debating with them for nearly 12 years.  They sometimes dig up facts that no one else ever bothers to dig up.  But you need to careful and sort their facts from their beliefs, since conspiracy theorists and True Believers constantly distort the significance of the facts to make them fit their beliefs.

However, Mr. Smith's observations about the handwriting on the anthrax documents don't seem to have any connection to his anthrax conspiracy theory.   They seem to be based upon his observations of how his own children write.  As a result, he appears to have had no reason to distort his findings.

Here's some of what Mr. Smith wrote regarding the handwriting:

The FBI has announced a large million dollar monetary reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the author of the letters. But this will never happen.

     The simple reason is because the author of the letters is a six year old boy, who had no knowledge of the reason for writing the letters and thus is not guilty of any crime. The person who sent the letters is most probably the father of the young boy, ...

Unlike typical conspiracy theorists, Mr. Smith carefully explains his logic and reasoning for many of his findings:

     First, it is easy to show that all three letters were written and addressed by the same person. By looking at the letter "O" and zeroes, which all slope upward to the right, it can be shown that the writer is right-handed. This would also help to indicate why the addresses all slope downward to the right.

Is that true?  It seems logical to me.  And, there are probably other reasons to believe the writer is right-handed, although at the moment I can't find any "handwriting expert" who specifically states that the writer was right-handed.

     The lettering style itself would seem most curious, but is quite simply the modified uncial style of lettering taught in American kindergarten and early first grade classes, using only all upper case letters. During most first grade classes young students learn both the upper and lower case alphabets. This would show the author of the letters went through kindergarten last year, and in the first weeks of September of this year when the letters were written had just started first grade but still had not yet learned the lower case letters. Nonetheless, to simulate the capital letters of proper nouns the students are taught to make the first letter larger. In all cases, on the anthrax letters and envelopes the writer uses this modified uncial style indicating that the author is a young boy just starting first grade in September 2001. Thus showing clearly the writer is about 6 years old.

Interestingly, at the bottom of the web site page there's a "Letter to the Editor" where a reader of the Brojon.org web site argues:

A six year old child is not yet capable of this level of mastery. Even a quick glance told me that this was written by someone much older. The formation of the letters shows an ease and a familiarity with forming those letters that comes from experience. Additionally a six year old would never substitute larger upper case letters because of not having yet learned lower case letters. They learn both at the same time, and if they were not familiar with upper and lower case then they wouldn't have the knowledge to even make a substitution of an upper case for a lower case. I think your theory is ludicrous.

Ah!  An actual argument over facts!  Who is right?  Are children taught only capital letters in kindergarten -- or are they taught both upper and lower case letters?  Or do some schools teach kindergartners one way while other schools teach a different way?   Mr. Smith also explains that the child wrote with a felt tip pen which makes his writing seem bolder and more adult.  There's some logic in that, too.

Mr. Smith clearly argues FACTS learned from experience when he responds:

I have five children and still have treasured writing samples from their early years. A first proud achievement for all children is writing their own name in all upper case letters. This frequently precedes kindergarten and even learning the complete alphabet. During kindergarten many children learn to read and recognize words and text made of both upper and lower case letters, but writing lower case letters is a special challenge.
     All upper case block letters are made quite simply from only four components: a vertical line (I), slanted lines (/), horizontal lines (--), and a curve or circle (C). Lower case letters contain more difficult combinations of letter components and also have the risk of confusing reversible letters such as "b"/"d" and "p"/"q" and even crossing a "j" instead of a "t." None of these problems exist in the upper case alphabet.
     Most beginning first graders can read the upper and lower case alphabet but retain the kindergarten practice of only writing with the simpler upper-case-only uncial style letters. With confidence most children begin to incorporate the lower case letters in their writing during the first months of first grade. I have several examples from my own children's writings showing this transition period in first grade.

If some schools teach children both upper and lower case lettering in kindergarten, and some don't, it would be interesting to know which schools in the Frederick, MD, area in 2001 did not teach kindergartners lower case lettering.

Next, Mr. Smith addresses the issue of whether or not an adult could imitate the writing of a child just entering first grade:

     Could this style of writing be "hoaxed" by an adult attempting to appear to be a youngster? Possibly, but most adults would either write in the full block letter uncial style with all the letters the same size, or simply not being aware that early first graders during the first weeks of September use the modified uncial style, the adult would use blocky but scrawled upper and lower case letters. Most adults are not aware that the modified uncial style indicates a very narrow age range of learning skills and child development, and thus this unique style would probably never be used by an adult attempting to write like a child.

Sounds very reasonable to me, particularly since (years later) I noticed additional and important evidence that a child did the writing, things that Mr. Smith did NOT notice, such as the change in the way certain characters of the alphabet are drawn - from an incorrect way in the Brokaw letter to the correct way in all the later writings.  Plus, there's the addition of punctuation in the second batch of documents along with the change to writing smaller, all of which are things taught in the first weeks of first grade.  And it seems highly unlikely that an adult would try to imitate those things.

Mr. Smith also has a theory about why the writing on the envelopes slants downward.  I had thought it was because the child wasn't experienced enough to see how much room he had, and when he started running out of room he steered his writing toward the farthest corner.   Mr. Smith seems to initially say something along that same line:

     This is further confirmed by the sloping lines of the addresses on the envelopes. This is typical of young children who do not have the writing experience to notice that the lines on the envelope do not line up with the edges of the envelope. At this age and stage of child development, just learning to color pictures with a crayon and staying within the lines is a great challenge. The ability to use spacial perception and eye-hand coordination to place writing or pictures centered on a page or within the confines of a small object such as an envelope does not develop until around the age of 7 or 8. Thus the writer of the addresses simply did not notice or could not perceive that the letters sloped downward to the right. To him, simply applying the addresses line by line on the face of the envelope was sufficient.

But then Mr. Smith's hypothesis goes in a very different direction, from a conscious action by the child who sees he's running out of room - to an unconscious action:

    Since the author was a young child and was seemingly copying the addresses from another piece of paper or book, the child simply used his left hand to slightly rotate his hand and the envelope upward to the left to start each address line. The child typically would rest his left hand on the envelope to hold the paper in place and use the first finger of the left hand as a writing guide. As each line is written the left hand would move the envelope upward (actually rotated) and then the left hand would be moved back down to the new writing spot thus covering up the writing of the previous line. Again with the left index finger being used as a writing guide.

     The young writer probably had never addressed an envelope before and did not notice that this simple procedure for both holding the envelope in place for writing on a small piece of paper and using the left index finger as a guide would result in each line sloping increasingly downward. On all of the envelopes, lines can be drawn through each text line and they would converge at a point just to the left of the envelope.

     This convergence point of the text lines is the position of the heel of the palm where the child rested his left hand while holding the envelope and is the pivot point for rotating the envelop for each succeeding line. Assuming the envelopes were standard letter size then the distance from the center of the envelope to the palm heel pivot point, or the distance from the tip of the writer's index finger to the heel of the palm is only about four inches.

Wow!  That is something that would never occur to a person like me who hasn't watched a kindergartner write.  Instead of doing as an adult would do, i.e., moving his hand down to write each line lower and lower on an envelope, a child moves the envelope upward so that he's always writing in the same place.  But, when he moved the anthrax envelope upward, he didn't move it straight upward.  He moved it in an arc, keeping his palm in the same spot.  And the effect on the writing was to make it appear that he was steering his writing gradually downward toward the lower right corner.

If true, it could indicate the size of the writer's hand!

Mr. Smith explains:

     Again this shows the writer is a very young child. For most adults the index finger tip to palm heel distance is six inches or greater. For an adult simulating child-like writing and using this same procedure the convergence point for the sloping lines would be about four inches beyond the left edge of the envelope, not as is observed about two inches. This would result in sloping lines but with far less degree of slope. Thus again confirming the author of the anthrax letters was, indeed, a young boy of six.

Unlike Mr. Smith, I have no actual experience to challenge or confirm this observation.  But, it certainly seems like it could be true - even if it might only pertain to the way Mr. Smith's own children did things and to no one else. 

Another observation from Mr. Smith that could be true only for his own children, but could also very possibly pertain to "most" first graders is this:

Most older children and adults use a slash to separate the numerals, as in "09/11/01," rather than the typical first grader who is taught to use the hyphens, "09-11-01." 

Is that really true for a "typical first grader"?  And here's another:

Another confirmation of the age and nationality of the child is the style of making the numeral one. In American schools the child is taught to make the numeral one with a small sloping flag on the left top of the vertical line and with a small horizontal line at the bottom. This is to distinguish for the child the difference between a numeral one and the uncial style upper case letter "I," which is simply a vertical line.

I've seen no information on who uses serifs on 1's and who uses them on capital I's.  When I do a good search for "kindergarten handwriting examples," nearly every illustration I find shows I's with serifs and 1's without, just the opposite of what Mr. Smith claims.  But, for all I know, that could be some recent change.  Or, they could still be teaching kindergartners that way in Frederick, MD, schools.

With the new school year about to start, I'd certainly like to try to get some actual observation-based comments from kindergarten and first grade teachers.  And, it seems like something that "handwriting experts" would want to know, since it could be a brand-new "tool" for their profession.  But, I'm no salesman -- I couldn't sell water for a penny a gallon in the middle of a desert -- so, trying to get my local school board to approve some tests to confirm this hypothesis is not likely to happen.  I'd be too uncomfortable to even ask them if they teach both upper and lower case lettering in kindergarten.  I can't give them a good reason for why I want to know.  I'm not a professional handwriting expert, and idle curiosity isn't a good enough reason.

Plus, what my local school district does today may have absolutely nothing to do with what Frederick, Maryland, schools did in August and September of 2001.

Another problem: In November 2001, Mr. Smith clearly didn't have enough data to make accurate observations about some other things in the letters.  For some reason, he never corrected anything, so conspiracy theorists and True Believers will point to the obvious mistakes he made as "proof" that he should not be believed on anything he wrote.

Specifically, in his November 2, 2001 article, Mr. Smith mistakenly deduced that the Daschle letter was sent before the Brokaw and New York Post letters.

The process of having the youngster carefully address the envelopes and then write the letters was so tiring and time consuming for such a young boy, that in fact, he did not write three letters but only two. The first letter was most probably the one to Daschle. It is the longest with seven lines in the "poem." But this was too much work, so for the next letter the preamble of four lines was shorted to just two lines. The second letter was the one sent to Brokaw.

It's not a critical error, and it has nothing to do with the handwriting.  But, he compounds that error by coming up with his own
personal theory about why the A's and T's are traced over in the Brokaw letter.  It's part of his response to the "Letter to the Editor" and is based upon his mistaken deduction that the Daschle letter was written first:

The first letter to Daschle still retains the bold smooth lines of the envelopes. The second letter to Brokaw begins to show the felt pen tip was starting to dry out and the writer was becoming fatigued after continuous "work" for about ½ hour. The result is the Brokaw letter shows several repeat strokes on the T's and A's where the drying pen began to skip. Also this second letter shows a much greater scrawling appearance due to the fatigue of the writer and the now thinner strokes from the drying pen, giving more the impression of a typical first-grader with a pencil. The Brokaw letter shows that both the pen and the writer had come to the end of their usefulness, so the 3rd letter to the NY Post was made by photocopying the Brokaw letter.

Why would the "drying pen" only skip when writing A's and T's?

Mr. Smith's article ends by mentioning a follow-up article titled "Sending The Anthrax Letters." But, searching the archive's index for the site, I can't find it in the archives or anywhere else.  Maybe he learned his beliefs about the Daschle letter being written first were untrue, and that may have shot down the rest of his theory.

Too bad.  Some of he wrote about the anthrax writings being that of a child just starting first grade still seems very insightful almost 12 years later.

 
August 18, 2013 - Last week, while looking for news articles containing "expert" opinions about the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes, I did a Google search for anthrax + letters + disguised + handwriting, and I found a link to a book-seller's web site HERE which contains the following text from a book called "Guilty or Innocent - People vs. The Bush Administration" by Don Rossignol:

Pages 430 and 431 of Guilty or Innocent

All this information is from my web site and from my 2005 book.  Except for the error in spelling "letteforms," the information about the Uncial style of writing is identical to what I wrote in my June 6, 2004 comment:

The word "uncial" was unfamiliar to me, so I looked it up and found this:
Uncial (pronounced un:shel) is a term applied to a particular calligraphic style based on ancient lettering, and is often considered the most expressive calligraphy. Typically an uncial face features a combination of capital and lowercase letterforms without the separate capital set and lowercase set that we're accustomed to.

I suppose it can be argued that the author might have looked up the word in the same place I looked it up.  But, the author has no "supplemental page dedicated to analyzing the handwriting," I do!  And, to whom is he referring when twice in that last paragraph the author writes about someone else figuring this out:

He also points out that a child of 6 who has just learned to write that way in kindergarten would have just been starting first grade in September of 2001, when the anthrax letters were written.

And, since the handwriting in the letters shows this form of writing along with other child-like indicators, he believes the handwriting could very well be the handwriting of a 6-year-old.

Who is "He"?  He is me, almost certainly.  But, it could be Brother Jonathan, from whom I learned about the Uncial style of writing.  Either way, it looks like the author was going to credit his sources at some point, but then changed his mind.

That site doesn't show page numbers, probably because it's an e-book.  So, researching further, I found another site where the book titled "Guilty or Innocent - People vs. The Bush Administration" is sold and the page numbers are shown.  The book was copyrighted in 2005, and it was being printed in Canada.  On that second site I found that the copied text in the black box above is from pages 430 and 431 of that book.  

The "preview" at that second site allowed me to look at the Table of Contents where I found that pages 430 and 431 are part of  "Exhibit 12," which has a somewhat familiar name:

Guilty or Innocent - Table of Contents

The Image below is part of page 423, which is the start of the 17-page section of the book that is titled "Exhibit 12":

Guilty or Innocent - Page 423

Compare the next to last paragraph above to the first paragraph of Chapter 2 of
my 2005 book "Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks - The First 3 Years" below:

The envelope addressed to Tom Brokaw still has a staple through the stamp where Brokaw's assistant fastened it to the letter before tossing it into a junk mail drawer.

And here's part of page 17 from Chapter 1 of my 2005 book where I mention that same bleach stain described in the last paragraph above:

The first thing one might notice when looking at the Daschle letter
is the brown stain. There was a lot of Internet speculation and confusion
about this until a book called “The Killer Strain” by Marilyn W.
Thompson explained it. The stain was the result of an accident by John
Ezzell at USAMRIID. He had cleaned the surface of a safety cabinet
(a.k.a. "glove box") with bleach before trying to take a picture of the
envelope propped up against the back of the cabinet. He failed to realize
that there was still some liquid bleach in a groove in the floor of the
safety cabinet. He put the envelope into the groove to help it stand up,
and the bleach in the groove soaked up into the envelope and the letter.

What I wrote:

He had cleaned the surface of a safety cabinet (a.k.a. "glove box") with bleach before trying to take a picture of the envelope propped up against the back of the cabinet.

What he wrote:

He cleaned the surface of a glove box (a.k.a. "safety cabinet") with bleach before trying to take a picture of the envelope propped up against the back to the box

There are many many such examples of my words and findings being blatantly used as is or re-phrased.  He used my analysis showing that age played a role in who got inhalation anthrax and who didn't.  In my 2002 anthrax handwriting web page, I wrote:

People argue that the writer could be writing with his wrong hand.  But as stated elsewhere on this site, experts totally discount that theory.  When a person writes in an unaccustomed way, it can usually be easily detected by abnormal spacing between letters and words.  Plus, when most people write with their wrong hand, the writing looks like they have palsy

And, page 430 of Mr. Rossignol's book says:

There seems little chance that the person is right handed and wrote with his left hand.  When I've attempted that, the letters look ragged and irregular, like they were written by someone afflicted with palsy.

So, "Exhibit 12" consists of 17 pages which seem to be an edited and rewritten versions of my thoughts and writings on the anthrax case - but I can find no mention of my name or where the information came from.  The author rewrites my words, so it could be very difficult to argue a copyrights violation.  But plagiarism

So, who is Don Rossignol?  One source HERE says:

Don Rossignol, born in 1962, spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as a Military Policeman, and undercover drug investigator. After going back to college to obtain a degree in journalism, Rossignol pursued a career in political journalism. In 2005, Rossignol published his first book, Guilty or Innocent/People vs. the Bush Administration.

And then there's another source HERE which says twice that Rossignol's book has a conspiracy theory that pertains to the Bush Administration:

Author Don Rossignol puts the White House on trial in his book "Guilty or Innocent: People vs. The Bush Administration." Rossignol has uncovered evidence which proves President Bush conspired with members of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), in order to gain global domination.

Rossignol further shows that President Bush appointed many members of PNAC to the highest levels in his administration, and that the Bush administration conspired to commit numerous criminal acts, including murder and terrorism.

I would say that qualifies Rossignol as a conspiracy theorist.  That source also says:

Rossignol does not speculate about the criminal actions of the Bush administration, he backs the charges with copies of original governmental and organizational documents.

And, one of his "organizational documents" (Exhibit 12) consists entirely of re-phrased material taken from my web site and my 2005 book.  Calling it an "organizational document" probably makes the information more impressive and convincing than stating that it's a summary of an analysis of the anthrax attacks of 2001 done by some guy on the Internet.  But I can't find anything that explains how Exhibit 12 helps to prove a criminal conspiracy case against the Bush Administration.

The book is self-published, and it appears to be Rossignol's only book.  The paperback version was printed in Canada.   The ebook version has been read 113 times as of yesterday.

I'm not sure what to think about all this.  My first reaction was that I now have a source I can cite when "DXer," a.k.a. "Anonymous" claims that no one else believes a child wrote the anthrax letters.  But, I've always had such a source, since the finding originally came from "Brother Jonathan."

My second reaction was that it's simply not right to use all my material and not credit me as a source.

However, after doing further intensive and extensive research, I decided I probably don't want to pick a fight with a former military policeman and undercover drug investigator who seems to be currently in prison and who might be getting out in a few years.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, August 11, 2013, thru Saturday, August 17, 2013

August 17, 2013 - Someone just sent me an email reminding me that in the 1939 classic movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," three handwriting experts are called before Congress to testify to whether or not Mr. Smith actually signed the deed to land he was accused of trying to illegally profit from.  Two of the experts said it was definitely Mr. Smith's handwriting, and the third said it was definitely a forgery.  I guess my point is: Even back in 1939 people generally understood that "experts" frequently disagree, and that probably holds quintuply true for "handwriting experts."

August 16, 2013 - I've been doing some more research into "expert" opinions about the handwriting on the anthrax documents, and found a few that are of interest.

A couple "expert" opinions of particular interest to me are those described in a Washington Times article from October 19, 2001 at this link: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2001/oct/19/20011019-030140-9681r/

Highlights:

Two handwriting analysts independently concluded yesterday that the person who addressed the envelopes containing anthrax to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is dangerously depressed and determined.

"The writer is very tired and at the breaking point emotionally," said graphologist Glenda Ross of Olympia, Wash. "The writer is too violent and unable to listen" but feels he is doing the right thing.

In separate analyses for The Washington Times, Ms. Ross and Margaret L. Webb of Reading, England, each settled on the words "determination" and "depression" to characterize the writer of the letters.

They both said the downhill baseline and identical teetering block letters, notably the E's and B's, show that the same person addressed both envelopes.

The graphologists agreed the writer likely is a man, but both said that steps were taken to mask identifying traits in the handwriting. Both analysts said they initially thought a child did the writing.

Unfortunately, there's nothing in the article to explain why they changed their minds.  Below is the final paragraph in the article:

"As this writing is slow and not of a very high form standard it may have been written by a person with limited intelligence," Mrs. Webb said. This was her only real disagreement with Ms. Ross, who believes the writer may be intelligent but likely does not have a well-rounded education.

Maybe they should take another look at their original assessment.  It could explain the reason for their disagreement.

I also found another article from April 18, 2002 issue of The Washington Times.  Link:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2002/apr/18/20020418-042031-6787r/

Highlights:

A handwriting analyst familiar with the anthrax-laced letters sent last fall to Capitol Hill says the sender is a white, middle-age man who suffers from bipolar disorder, a sexual dysfunction and a martyr complex.
and
Mr. Smith says the use of block lettering indicates the anthrax sender's age because it's a style of writing taught to children between the late 1940s and mid-1960s. He says the use only of capital letters shows the sender was trying to exhibit power, something "linked to the martyr complex."

Maybe there are some schools in the Frederick, MD, area that still teach the way they taught writing back in the mid-1960's.

There's an "expert"opinion at this link: http://www.handwriting.com/anthrax.html

Here's part of that undated opinion:

Personality of the author of the envelopes:
*  The below personality profile is consistent with a person skilled in managing a dangerous substance such as anthrax.
    Despite this, it cannot be concluded with certainty that the writer of the letters is the sole manager and/ or creator of the anthrax even though it is highly probable.
*  Suicidal, severely depressed individual
*  Sociopathic character
*  Meticulous, perfectionistic and technical temperament
*  Rigid, consistent and predictable behavior due to neurotic compulsions and thinking

I found another undated opinion from a handwriting "expert" in Zambia:  The web site address: http://graphicinsight.co.za/anthraxletters.htm 

The first impression we receive from the handwriting is that the writer uses a lot of care in the formation of the letters which makes one suspect that he or she is not comfortable with writing in English.

Here's another undated assessment from that same Zambia handwriting expert site:
http://www.webdesign4smallbusinesses.com/portfolio/graphicinsight/anthraxletters.htm

Everything is carefully executed. The obvious concentration on precision is particularly noticeable where we see not only the careful printing of letters, but also the scrupulously crossed t-strokes and the carefully placed full stops at the end of each sentence.

I found the one below, from Nov. 1, 2001, to be very interesting, although it's probably not an "expert" opinion.  The site: http://www.hwa.org/AnthLtrs.shtml

I don't doubt that they were written by someone whose first language was not English. Take the "R's" and the "G" for instance of the letters. In general, these characters appear to be authentically mis-shapen formations consistent with the writing of a non-native writer of English alphabets. But then in other parts of the same instrument, the same characters appear more "normalized". Suspicious. Someone's trying to disguise his true writing.

I also found a BOOK I've never seen or heard of before which contains a detailed opinion that a child wrote the anthrax letters.  But, I need to do more research on that one.  I'll write more about it in my Sunday comment.


August 15, 2013 - For what it's worth, I've been searching around for other "expert" opinions about the handwriting in the letters, and I just found a Fox News article from October 27, 2001, that includes this:

Forensic document examiner Gerald Richards, a lecturer at George Washington University, says the formation of the lettering, the spacing and how the letters are constructed leads him to conclude that they all were prepared by the same person.

But whether that writer is American or foreign-born – based on handwriting analysis – is open to interpretation, he says. Richards leans more toward a homegrown writer theory.

"Most indications that I see are not consistent with a foreign-born writer," Richards said. "Even though they don't seem very articulate, it doesn't seem like the writer is very skilled. That may be a fact. The writer is not skilled. And also it may be a portion of a disguise or at least some way of attempting to downplay the handwriting."

And,

Some believe the misspelling of penicillin ("penacilin" in the letters) indicates that the writer is a foreigner without a dictionary. Others say an uneducated, lazy – or perhaps just devious – American would be more likely to spell penicillin the way it sounds rather than look it up.

"I think it's someone who's playing with us," said former CIA counterterrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro. "I think it's a nut. I don't think it has anything to do with foreign stuff."

Cannistraro added, "This is some American trying to imitate a foreign terrorist group. It's deceptive. There are no demands in the letters, only an attempt to inspire fear, create paranoia and impress the recipients with how powerful they are."

[A retired FBI agent and profiler,Clint] Van Zandt, who in the Unabomber case was able to match Kaczynski's letters to his manifesto against technology, said the anthrax attacker could be an American trying to send a message – perhaps one who believes the nation needs a wake-up call to prepare for a bioterrorism attack.

So, it seems we have yet another person who can now say, "I told you so."

But, there's another quote from Clint Van Zandt at a web site HERE that says:

Van Zandt said the case could suggest a domestic militia-type group that hates the government and is trying to establish a connection to the Sept. 11 attacks to provide cover, or it could suggest a foreign-based attack as the follow-up to the hijackings.

Either way, he said, the anthrax attacks aren't likely to stop.

This person, by extremely limited effort, has terrorized the nation and gotten the attention of the world,'' he said. ``If this guy is still alive, I don't think he's going to quit. This is emotional heroin like he's never had."

So, even "experts" aren't right all the time, particularly when they're talking about the future.

August 14-15, 2013 - Today, on my interactive blog, a regular poster quoted this from page 12 of the Amerithrax Investigative Summary:

The FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) found that "there is a high probability, bordering on certainty, that the letters and envelopes were authored by the same person" based on the observed linguistic similarities among the letters.

It just occurred to me that "authored" is not necessarily the same thing as "written," and I'm wondering if that is why the word "authored" was used. 

I can "author" a book, but the printing in the book probably won't be done by me.

If Ivins wrote out the texts, and a child copied those texts to write the anthrax letters and address the envelopes, can't it still be said that Ivins "authored" the letters? 

Furthermore, the finding mentioned in the Summary is based upon "linguistics," not upon handwriting.  The wording of last three lines of the Brokaw letter are identical to the wording of the last three lines of the Daschle letter.  So, even though one letter uses punctuation and the other letter does not, and even though the writing on media letter is twice the size of the writing on the Senate letter, and even though certain characters of the alphabet are drawn differently in the media letter versus the Senate letter,  "there is a high probability, bordering on certainty" that the letters were "authored" by the same person.  Linguistics don't really say very much about the envelopes.

However, that information brings to mind another official quote about the writing on the envelopes.   It's from the October 21, 2001, issue of USA Today:

Experts seek clues in a bioterrorist's penmanship

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY 

Days before authorities determined the strain of anthrax found in letters to newscaster Tom Brokaw and Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle were the same, handwriting experts reached a similar conclusion: One person launched both mail-in bioterror attacks. A third attack also may be linked by letters. An unopened envelope, laden with anthrax and mailed to the editor of the New York Post, matches the terrorist's handwriting characteristics, according to Sunday's Post.

The paper did not publish a photo of the envelope, but handwriting experts have seen photos of the Brokaw and Daschle ones.

"There are enough unconscious, habitual characteristics to say it's the same person," says Gideon Epstein, formerly chief forensic document examiner for the U.S. Army and for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"The more envelopes that surface, the more evidence you have for identifying the perpetrator," says Epstein, who is now in private practice in Rockville, Md.

So, a U.S. Government official stated that, based upon linguistics, one person "authored" both letters, and another official stated that based upon handwriting one person WROTE the addresses on both envelopes.

But, the facts say that the "author" and the "writer" are NOT the same person.

I find the use of the word "authored" to be very interesting.


August 13, 2013 - Yesterday, I finished going through all the FBI reports on the FBI's web site that I hadn't previously read.  The USPIS report mentioned in yesterday's comment is definitely my most significant finding.  I'm somewhat surprised that some journalist didn't find it first.  It seems like something that McClatchy newspapers would enthusiastically turn into headlines such as:

POSTAL SERVICE SAYS IVINS DIDN'T WRITE ANTHRAX LETTERS!

GOVT. EXPERTS: ANTHRAX HANDWRITING NOT BY BRUCE IVINS!

EXPERTS: BRUCE IVINS NOT ANTHRAX LETTER WRITER!

That would seem to be a much bigger deal than all the noise McClatchy and ProPublica made over a silly mistake a DOJ lawyer made in a court document in the Maureen Stevens' lawsuit.   And it would seem infinitely bigger than the stink they made over the finding of tin in the anthrax powders.

I've been thinking about sending out a "press release" telling the media about the USPIS document I found.  The problem is: I don't want to imply that the finding changes things.  It doesn't.  The facts still say Ivins did it.  And, Ivins still acted alone.  He just tricked a six-year-old into doing the writing for him -- as I've been saying for well over a decade, long before I ever heard the name Bruce Edwards Ivins.  Plus, the fact that Ivins' wife ran a day care center in their home was a form of confirmation.

I've also been thinking about sending emails to the reporters and authors who believe that Ivins was the anthrax killer but who cannot get themselves to believe that Ivins would have used a child that way -- leaving behind a living witness to his crime.  They all assume that Ivins disguised his handwriting in some way -- some way other than having another person do the writing for him.  Does the finding by the USPIS handwriting experts change things?  Most of those reporters and authors read this web site once a week or so.  I think I'll wait to see if any of them send me their thoughts about this.  They'll probably argue that the USPIS findings do not address disguised handwriting.

A second problem with me sending out a press release is: I found the document in FBI files that have been on-line for years.  I just didn't notice until a few weeks ago that when they changed the numbering scheme for the documents years ago, they also added a big batch of new documents to the stack.  So, to editors who haven't been following the case, my press release might look like I'm telling the world I just discovered something the USPIS wrote and the FBI showed to the world years ago.  That's not exciting news.

Lew Weinstein on his blog indicates he has read the comment I wrote yesterday, since he has provided his readers with some comments of his own:

What conclusions can be drawn from the DOJ/FBI failure to include evidence exculpatory to Dr. Ivins, which has happened often since the 2008 press conference where it was claimed that Dr. Ivins was the “sole perpetrator” of the 2001 anthrax attacks? … obviously, he could not be the “sole perpetrator” if he did not address the envelopes.

Is it reasonable to think there is a DOJ/FBI coverup of the real facts behind their untenable conclusion?

Was it a "coverup" to show the USPIS document to the entire world?  And, they've been saying since the August 8, 2008, news conference that the handwriting evidence was inconclusive.  Here are some questions and answers from U.S. States Attorney Jeff Taylor at that news conference:

QUESTION: Jeff, did you find any handwriting samples or hair samples that would have matched Dr. Ivins to the envelopes where the hair samples were found in the mailbox?

MR. TAYLOR: We did not find any handwriting analysis or hair samples in the mailbox. So there were no facts and circumstances of that part.

QUESTION: You didn't take handwriting samples from Dr. Ivins?

MR. TAYLOR: We examined handwriting samples but then there was no comparison made or a specific identification of the handwriting. It appears that when the analysts would look at it, that there was an attempt to disguise the handwriting. So it was unable to make a comparison.

With respect to handwriting samples, we did have indications from individuals with whom we spoke that there appeared to be some similarities in handwriting that were apparent. That said, we did not have a scientifically valid conclusion that we thought would lead us to be able to admit that in evidence.

In other words, the handwriting evidence was inconclusive.  All the facts said that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer.  If there are opinions that Ivins didn't do the writing on the letters and envelopes himself, that doesn't change what the facts say.  Handwriting analysis presented in court is just an "expert opinion."  That doesn't make it a fact. 

The USPIS report by Robert Muehlberger would almost certainly have been presented to the defense during "Discovery," since it could have (and now has) been termed "exculpatory."  But,
the USPIS report says nothing about any possibility that Ivins could have disguised his handwriting so thoroughly that the USPIS "handwriting experts" could not find any similarities whatsoever in the anthrax documents.  If handwriting did become a critical point in the case, the DOJ could always present the evidence that one possible explanation is that Ivins used a child from his wife's day care center to write the letters and address the envelopes.  That evidence is compelling -- and perhaps even more so when "handwriting experts" testify that Ivins did not do the actual writing himself.

On Lew Weinstein's blog, "DXer" did some research on Robert Muehlberger and found this:

Bob Muehlberger was the 25th president of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners.

After serving as a Captain in the Military Police Corps in Vietnam, Mr. Muehlberger returned to the United States and trained as a forensic document examiner with the United States Postal Inspection Service. He later became the Laboratory Director of the Postal Inspection Service Laboratory in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2008, he retired from the position of Laboratory Director for the Postal Inspection Service Laboratory in Dulles, VA.

So, his report was one of his last reports before retiring from the Postal Service.  That seems like something the Truthers could turn into a conspiracy if they wanted to.

Meanwhile, o
n my interactive blog, a regular visitor argues that the USPIS report shows the FBI and DOJ were "misrepresenting things" when they wrote the Amerithrax Investigative Summary and said on pages  89 and 90:

In addition, a witness who had received a number of packages and cards over the course of several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s was shown copies of the letters and envelopes used in the anthrax attacks. The witness thought that the handwriting on the envelope addressed to Senator Daschle reminded the witness of Dr. Ivins’s writing. If the witness were to receive a package with that writing on it, the witness would think of Dr. Ivins. The witness noted that, in particular, the style of the block letters with alternating heights stood out, as did the slant of the writing. The witness said that this was the type of writing Dr. Ivins used when he disguised his handwriting as part of a joke. As the witness studied the letters, the witness noted that the “E” and the “R” in the letter to the New York Post also looked familiar. The witness stated that these letters also reminded the witness of when Dr. Ivins disguised his handwriting as a joke. The witness described this “disguised” handwriting as being similar to Dr. Ivins’s standard handwriting, and that one could tell that he was trying to disguise his handwriting to a limited extent.  Another witness familiar with the handwriting of Dr. Ivins in many contexts said the same thing.

Those non-expert witnesses thought the handwriting on the anthrax letters did match Ivins' disguised handwriting.  And the USPIS experts thought the handwriting did not match Ivins' NORMAL handwriting.  They said nothing about disguised handwriting.  That makes me wonder if there were also certified "handwriting experts" used by the FBI who believed the handwriting was Bruce Ivins' disguised handwriting.  On July 1, 2013, I sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the FBI to see if they'll provide reports from any handwriting experts who were involved with the anthrax case.  From what I've seen over the years of "handwriting experts' opinions" about the anthrax letter handwriting, it seems very likely that the FBI had at least one or two certified "handwriting experts" who believed that the anthrax document handwriting appeared to be a disguised version of Bruce Ivins' handwriting.  

It seems to me, what the world needs now is a good debate about how "experts" can say the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes does not match Ivins' handwriting, yet all the solid facts say that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer and that he acted alone.  What possible explanation could there be for that conundrum -- other than that Ivins had somehow become an "expert" at something that is very difficult to do: thoroughly and completely disguising his handwriting?

Hint: The answer is explained in detail in my book: "A Crime Unlike Any Other: What the facts say about Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins and the anthrax attacks of 2001."


August 12, 2013 - Ah!  I'm almost finished reading those FBI files I hadn't previously read, and very near the end of my readings, on pages 31 and 32 of the FBI file identified as "Amerithrax Part 57 of 59," I found the official opinion of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) handwriting experts about whether or not the writing on the anthrax letters and envelopes belongs to Bruce E. Ivins.  (I put a copy of the 2-page pdf file on this site.  Click HERE to view it.)  The report is dated January 11, 2007, it's signed by USPIS Lab Director Robert J. Muehlberger, and within the report it says:

PROBLEM: 

Determine whether or not the questioned entries appearing on the "anthrax" envelopes and letters (photographic copies retained at the laboratory) were written by Bruce E. Ivins, whose known writings are depicted in the photocopies of various course of business documents.  

FINDINGS: 
 Bruce E. Ivins probably did not write the writings appearing on the "anthrax" envelopes and letters. 

REMARKS:

The qualified findings expressed above are due to the lack of original documents from which the examination and comparisons were conducted.  The submission of the original questioned and known writings could provide for more definitive findings.  In addition, the submission of known exemplars reflecting the writings appearing on the "anthrax" envelopes and letters would need to be examined prior to fully eliminating Bruce E. Ivins as the writer of these questioned writings.

The use of the qualifier "probably" means their findings are inconclusive, but that's only because they hadn't seen the original documents, only photographs.  Nevertheless, think it's the first time I've found an official document that says that Ivins probably did NOT write the anthrax letters and address the envelopes.  And, of course, I've never seen any official handwriting analysis documents which say Ivins did do the writing.

I've been saying for almost 12 years that the anthrax mailer almost certainly did not write the anthrax letters or address the envelopes.  The anthrax mailer manipulated someone else into doing the writing for him - most likely a child just starting first grade.

Too bad the USPIS hasn't been asked for their opinion about the "non-expert" finding that a child just entering first grade did the writings.  It would be very interesting to learn what the USPIS handwriting "experts" say about that.


August 11, 2013 - I feel I'm becoming a little overwhelmed by the deluge of details about the Amerithrax investigation that I'm now reading for the first time.  And, I've still got a few hundred pages left to read.  I get sidetracked sometimes by trying to figure out who is being interviewed in an interview report.   Since the FBI reports use a fixed-width font, you can often tell if the person being interviewed is male or female by whether there are two redacted letters or three in places where "he" or "she" is clearly being used.  And you can sometimes make a good guess as to who the interviewee actually is by the context and the number of characters in the last name. 

Page 70 of
"Amerithrax Part 34 of 59" is the start of an interview with someone who is male, who has a 7-character last name and who seems to have been in management at USAMRIID.   This is part of his opinion of Bruce Ivins from page 71:

IVINS enjoyed being an expert but did not relish taking on any kind of leadership role or roles which required significant decision making responsibilities.

He then explains that anthrax vaccine research was being dropped as a priority research area at USAMRIID prior to the anthrax attacks.  And, when specifically asked to confirm that work on the rPA vaccine had "run its course" at USAMRIID, he not only confirms it, he also names two others who would also confirm it.

That's important because some of Ivins' supporters have argued that the rPA vaccine program was not in jeopardy, and therefore Ivins had no motive to try to rejuvenate the vaccine program by sending out the anthrax letters.  They ignore the fact that Ivins was quoted as telling people that he didn't want to work on anything else -- like glanders research.  And, Ivins explained: "I am an anthrax researcher! This is what I do."

The person being interviewed in the FBI report explains that that kind of thinking doesn't fit with a true scientist.
  It's the thinking of "hobby scientists."  Page 72 of the report says:

XXXXXXX explained "hobby scientist" as those government scientists who were more interested and motivated to continue conducting research which suited their own individual motivations and comfort zone as opposed to pro-actively seeking to address those postings which address specific research gaps.

Another way of describing a "hobby scientist" seems to be someone who just likes doing the same thing over and over and over, because he's recognized as an expert at it and there is minimum risk of screwing up and getting criticized for mistakes.   In theory, "true scientists" will get bored if there isn't anything new to learn in their current field, and they would want to move on to a new field with new mysteries to explore.  You're not a "scientist" anymore if all you do is repeat what you've done countless times before.  You've become a "technician."

As I continued to read, I came across
a December 10, 2004, FBI status report on the FBI's investigation of Ivins.  The following sentence is on page 112 of FBI file "Amerithrax Part 54 of 59" which contains that report:

IVINS' house was the subject of a positive scent dog hit in 2002.

Really?  I don't recall reading anything about that before.  However, it doesn't say what the scent was being matched against.  It could be against the anthrax letters.  Or it could be something related to the pond search, since the report indicates they were also looking for some connection between Ivins and the "Sterilite container found during the December 2002 pond search."

Far more interestingly, the issue of "positive dog sent hits" comes up again in a massive spreadsheet report that occupies 88 pages (pages 145 through 232) of "Part 54".


My reading of the FBI files came to a grinding halt when I reached that report.  It seems to contain an enormous amount of information, yet so little of it is of any help if you try to match spreadsheet rows (lines) to known individuals. 
It seems to be a report on all 1,095 people the FBI investigated in the Amerithrax case.  Since a few of the 1,040 (or 1,095) names on the speadsheet are not redacted because the individual is deceased, it seems that the list is in alphabetical order.

The spreadsheet is too wide to be printed as one continuous report, so it's shown with the entire left half of the spreadsheet printed first (pages 1 through 41 of the 88 pages) followed by the entire right half of the spread sheet (pages 42 to 86 of the 88 pages). 

I even went so far as to try to paste the halves of the first two and a half spreadsheet pages together.   Unfortunately, the left and right halves
don't perfectly match up because some comments in the last column on the right half consist of multiple lines, and the left half doesn't show the same amount of space for the multiple lines.  The imperfect results are shown below (click on the image to see a larger version):

Person of Interest report - small
The "scent check" column is the second column on the right half of the report.  There are 3 positive results (Y) in the first page (#42) but the next positive is on page #45, then one each on pages #51, #54, #56, #58, #64, #67, #70, #72, #75, and #79.  So, either the dogs were especially attracted to people whose last names began with "A" or the first part of the list may not be in the same order as the rest of the list.

It's also interesting that while the second column of the left half of the report makes it clear that USAMRIID had the most people who were checked out, the FBI also checked out people from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), from Brigham Young University (BYU), The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), the University of New Mexico (UNM), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL), UC Berkeley,
Louisiana State University (LSU), "Scranton," "MRI," "IITRA" (whatever they mean), and others in addition to Battelle and Dugway Proving Grounds.

The FBI also seems to have done handwriting comparisons on dozens and dozens of these people -- presumably with no positive matches. 

I found the fourth column on the left half of the report to be particularly interesting, since it is titled: "Heightened Scrutiny."  There's one name with an "H" in that column on the first page of the report along with an indicator that seems to say he was being checked out by the Newark Field Office (NK).  "H" presumably means "heightened."  The vast majority of the names have nothing in that column, but quite a few names inexplicably have that column redacted.


Do I really want to spend the time to put the two halves of the report together perfectly, so I can get a better look at all the data for each name?  I couldn't get very much from what I've seen so far, so I don't think I have the interest -- or the energy.

Perhaps most interesting  of all, the last two pages include these totals:

FBI Person of Interest Access list
So, of the 1,095 people, 250 were officially "persons of interest" (POI), 396 had the necessary access to commit the crime, 178 had the necessary knowledge, 155 had the necessary technical experience, but only 21 had a motive.  Apparently, allegations were made against 55 of the names on the list -- which I assume to mean that others thought they could have done it and told the FBI so.

I cannot help but wonder:
What is under those 4 redacted sections of the total page?

443 Polygraph tests were given.  And there were 465 "scent checks" by dogs.

My analysis of this information also made me wonder what the FBI thinks of people like me who try to figure out what is under the redacted parts of FBI files.  I presume they don't mind having people try to figure things out, but what do they think of people who write Internet blog comments about what they actually did figure out?

I haven't had any FBI agents come knocking on my door, so I suppose it's okay - within reason.  It might even be helpful in teaching them how to redact things on future cases. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, August 4, 2013, thru Saturday, August 10, 2013

August 10, 2013 - It occurs the me that the NSA's reason for collecting phone call information is very similar (but not identical) to the reason I have been saving all my web site log files for the past 8 years: When I happen to notice something suspicious, I want to be able to check back to see when the suspicious activity began, how frequently it occurs, and whether it's something I should be concerned about .  If I were to start collecting information when I notice something suspicous, the potential problem will continue for weeks or months until I figure things out.  Having past information readily at hand to figure things out is infinitely better.  It allows me to do an analysis right way and correct the problem (if there is one) quicker.

If the CIA happens to learn the phone number of a dangerous terrorist, they don't want to have to start collecting information at that point, they want to be able to immediately go back and see who that terrorist has been talking with in the past.

It's basic for any analytical work, and I can see why the CIA and NSA (and probably the President) will strongly resist any attempt to eliminate that advantage.

August 9, 2013 -  I just happened to notice that a new movie about the John F. Kennedy assassination is coming out in September. It's called "Parkland."  What's unusual about it is that it evidently looks at the event from the perspective of Lee Harvey Oswald and his family, and it does not promote any conspiracy theory.  It apparently also tells how other people were affected by the assassination (doctors and nurses at the hospital, Abraham Zapruder who filmed the assassination, Secret Service people, etc.).  Is there an audience for such a story if it doesn't promote a conspiracy theory?  Time will tell.

August 8, 2013 - Hmm.  As a result of going through those "new" FBI files that I hadn't read before, I discovered I've had an error in my thinking for years.  Looking through "FBI Amerthrax file Part 52 of 59," I found an FBI interview from January 14, 2008, which I can reasonably deduce is with Ivins' former assistant, Patricia Fellows.  On page 103, the first page of the interview, I noticed this:

[Fellows] also provided a thick paperback book; Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.  The book was a gift XXXXXXXX from IVINS, back in the 2006-2007 time-frame.  IVINS wanted [her] to read the book and on occasion would inquire as to [her] status on reading it.  [Fellows] only briefly read a few pages and had no desire to read the book in its entirety.  Because of this IVINS seemed a little disenchanted with [her] for not reading the book and offering [her] insight; and at some point he asked [her] for the book back.  [Fellows] could not understand the book and never finished it, nor did [she] give the book back to him.

That wasn't the way I remembered things, so I checked the Amerithrax Investigative Summary and found that it says nearly the same thing on page 64:

Further, it turns out that Dr. Ivins gave a copy of this book to another scientist in the fall of 2006, telling the scientist that it was a great book, and later expressing disappointment that the scientist never read it, even asking the scientist to give it back to him, demonstrating that this is not a book he would casually throw away.

Somehow I'd gotten it into my mind that Ivins had given the book to Fellows when she was still working at USAMRIID, and most likely long before the anthrax mailings.  Clearly I had misread or misinterpreted something.

Since the book contains clues to how to decode the hidden message in the media letter, and since "PAT" is one way of decoding the message, and Ivins almost certainly coded "PAT" into the letter as a reference to Pat Fellows, one has to wonder what might have been going on in Ivins' mind when he gave a copy of the book to Fellows in late 2006 and then pestered her to get her to read it.

The facts say that Ivins was under close FBI scrutiny starting around January 2005, and by late 2006 they had labeled him "an extremely sensitive suspect" in the Amerithrax investigation.  Ivins was starting to feel the strain, undoubtedly from worrying that at any moment the FBI could put him under arrest.

The problem was: Ivins no longer had anyone at USAMRIID he could talk to about it.  Mara Linscott left in 1999, and Pat Fellows had left in 2002, although Ivins still kept in touch with both of them.  Ivins had loved telling them about his innermost thoughts, and his reasoning behind the attacks was something he couldn't talk with anyone else about at all -- even though it was the biggest and most important thing in his life. 

It seems clear that, if Ivins could get Pat Fellows to read the book, even if she didn't figure out the code in the media letters, he could use a discussion of the book to lead her in that direction -- if he decided to do that.

Ivins had almost certainly put the hidden message in the media letter because he wanted to have some way he could prove he sent the anthrax letters.  He didn't think anyone would die as a result of the letters, and he seems to have thought the letters would make him a hero by awakening America to the dangers of a bioweapons attack.

But, things didn't work out the way he'd planned.  He'd definitely alerted America to the dangers of a bioweapons attack, and he'd brought in a lot of funding for the anthrax vaccine programs at USAMRIID, but, because of the 5 deaths and all the injuries and damage he'd caused, no one was looking at the anthrax mailer as any kind of hero.

So, he wanted to talk with someone.  Although he couldn't manipulate Pat Fellows into a discussion by persuading her to read Godel, Escher, Bach, at the FBI's urging, Pat Fellows did get Ivins to talking five months later during a meeting over coffee on June 5, 2008, where Ivins gave his infamous non-denial denials.

We can only wonder what Ivins would have told Pat Fellows if he had managed to get her to read the book.  Would have have pointed out the coded message on page 404 to see if she would see that the highlighted characters were similar to the way certain characters were highlighted in the anthrax letter sent to the media?  If Pat Fellows had noticed the similarity, what would have happened then?

We'll never know.  But, it's interesting to think about.

August 7, 2013 - Oops.  Someone sent me an email telling me that the letter written by Bruce Ivins that I mentioned in my August 5 comment was sent to Eileen Stevens, whose son had died in a tragic hazing accident.  My comment originally said it was written to Hank Nuwer, the author of "Broken Pledges." Nuwer had a copy of the letter on his web site, but Ivins didn't send the letter to him.  I have the details correct on page 17 of my book, but I evidently had other things on my mind when I wrote the Aug. 5 comment.  I'm grateful that people are fact-checking what I write.   I corrected the Aug. 5 comment. 

August 6, 2013 - While reading through those FBI files I'd previously not seen, I found a true gold nugget.  The file identified as "Amerithrax Part 43 of 59" is a 12-page report of a March 9, 2004 FBI interview with a person whose name is redacted, but it can be fairly easily deduced that the interviewee is William C. Patrick III.   

The report begins with Mr. Patrick describing a previous meeting with the FBI where the attack spores were discussed.  Bruce Ivins and others were at that earlier meeting, and  Patrick had brought along 12 samples of the anthrax simulant Bacillus globigii (B.g.), all with different properties, such as free-flowing, non-free flowing, static, non-static. 

On page 2 there's this paragraph:

At the meeting the issue of the presence of electrostatic charge in the spores was discussed.  [Patrick] questioned whether the spores were easily put into a liquid suspension.  BRUCE IVINS and XXXXXX XXXX both said that the spores were easily dissolved into solution.  [Patrick] advised that if this was the case then the spores must not contain hydrophobic silica.

My reaction when I read that last sentence: Wow!  That's a very astute observation from a real expert in weaponized anthrax.  (Bruce Ivins' report on his examination of the material in the Dashcle letter is on page 29 of FBI Doc. #847443, now called "Amerithrax Part 29 of 59."   He easily diluted the material in sterile water.)

Page 2 of the FBI report also says that Patrick later took his B.g. anthrax simulant samples to USAMRIID where he showed them to a group of scientists, including Bruce Ivins.  Ivins was asked which sample most closely resembled the attributes of what he'd seen of the Daschle powder.

IVINS chose the sample of B.g. [that] had been freeze dried and contained hydrophobic silica.

So, Ivins picked the one sample that was demonstrably NOT like the powder in the Daschle letter.  But, it may not have been another attempt to mislead the investigation.  It could just have been a result of his ignorance of the effects of weaponization.

Then there's also this on page 2:

At a much later date [Patrick] was shown the actual material mailed in the Senator LEAHY letter.  [Patrick] was at USAMRIID with FBI Special Agent (SA) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.  IVINS showed [Patrick] a vial containing the spores.  To [Patrick] the spores looked unremarkable.  They had good "flowability," but not remarkable "flowability."  At the meeting [Patrick] also viewed an electron micrograph of the spores.

In later pages, Patrick says that h
e doesn't believe a lyophilizer was used to make the attack spores, since a lyophilizer would create much larger particles. 

Then on pages 9 and 10 of the FBI interview report: 

[Patrick] stated [he] believes it would have been easy for someone to have created the anthrax in a laboratory at USAMRIID.  [Patrick] advised that all the equipment needed to pull it off is located at USAMRIID, and someone with permission to work in the laboratories could have worked late at night making the material without drawing any suspicion.  Scientists like free movement in and out of their laboratories and work areas and do not like to be bothered with signing in and out.  Previous to recent changes, security at USAMRIID was based on this premise.  Equipment and materials could have been easily decontaminated, leaving no trail.  Dry spores could be stored anywhere, although they should be kept below 60% humidity.

That's the opinion of a real expert. 

August 5, 2013 (Corrected on Aug. 7) - I'm continuing to go through the "new" ("new" to me) FBI documents that I mentioned in my comment yesterday.  I found a document dated October 26, 2006, on page 40 of FBI file "Part 37 of 59" (click on the link within the link) which says:

3) Bruce Ivins is an extremely sensitive suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks.  Source coverage of Ivins is very limited, therefore the objective of the surveillance is to gather as much intelligence as possible about Ivins' personal life.  Subject walks to work during the week and therefore the only surveillance coverage needed is during weekends. 

4) The anticipated duration of the surveillance is expected to be weekends beginning approximately November 4, 2006 through December.

While my Bruce Ivins Timeline supplemental web page shows that the FBI had started putting Ivins under surveillance in early 2005, I previously hadn't seen Ivins referred to as "an extremely sensitive suspect" until April 11, 2007.  I'll have to add this as a new entry.  In addition, that same FBI file says this on page 43:

Due to the sensitivity of MAJOR CASE 184, Amerithrax respectfully requests that ground surveillance is supported by the WFO Aviation Unit.

So, they not only had Dr. Ivins under surveillance in October 2006, they were prepared to follow him by helicopter if necessary.

On page 45 of that same file it indicates that the FBI finally got around to going through the copy of Bruce Ivins' home computer hard drive that they'd made on March 31, 2005.  They found that Ivins had done searches for things like this:

birthday+kidnapping
blindfold
kidnap+new
abduct+new
kidnap
ransom

and he'd searched for Google images on these subjects:

pledge and kidnapping
sister and kidnapping
camp kidnapping
pledge+kidnapping
sister+kidnapping

On page 48 the report also mentions that on the hard drive they found that Ivins had visited the Frederick News-Post web site to look at the pro-hazing letter Ivins had maliciously written to the News-Post in 1982 using Nancy Haigwood's name.

The FBI was evidently already aware of Ivins' campaign to destroy Haigwood's career, but the finding caused them to contact Eileen Stevens, again.  Eileen Stevens' son had died in a tragic hazing incident.  They'd talked with Steven previously, but this time Stevens told them she had found the letter that Bruce Ivins had written to her telling her about the Frederick News-Post "letter to the editor" supposedly written by Nancy Haigwood. 
Hank Nuwer, the author of "Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing," has a blurry copy of the letter on his web site, but pages 50 and 51 of the FBI report show a fairly clear copy of the handwritten and signed letter from Ivins to Stevens.  It's dated "5-29-83" and begins:

I'm sending you a Xerox copy of a "letter to the editor" which recently appeared in a local paper.  Because of the nature of its subject matter, I thought that you would want to see it.  I'd like to encourage you to write a book on fraternity/sorority hazing.  I think it would benefit many people, especially many people entering college.  At this end, my research work on "Greek Affairs" continues, but is rather slow due to some very exciting scientific developments which recently took place at Fort Detrick. (I'm working on the anthrax project.)     

I don't see anything on the Ivins Timeline page about anything exciting going on at Fort Detrick at that time, but 1982, 1983 and 1984 were a definite high point in Bruce Ivins' campaign to cause trouble for Nancy Haigwood.  So, whatever was going on at Fort Detrick, it couldn't have been keeping Ivins too busy.

Hmm.  As I was adding a couple entries to the Ivins Timeline page I noticed that Ivins did a lot of his creepy things against Nancy Haigwood in May of 1982, 1983 and 1984:

1982, May 9 - Ivins gets a "letter to the editor" published using Haigwood's name in the Frederick News-Post. She knew it had to be Ivins. She confronted him on the telephone. He denied it.  Source: Fox News.  Ivins later admitted to it (see the EBAP report, page 64).

1983,  May 29 - Ivins sends a handwritten letter to  Hank Nuwer, the author of "Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing," telling Nuwer about the "letter to the editor" supposedly from Nancy Haigwood.  A copy of the letter is on pages 50-51 of FBI file "Part 37 of 59."

1984, May - Ivins puts an ad in the May issue of Mother Jones magazine to contact Carla Sander at a PO box in Gaithersburg, MD, if anyone wants a free copy of the "secrets and initiation ritual of Kappa Kappa Gamma," just send an SASE.  (FBI pdf file #847444, page 139)

That makes me wonder what significance the month of May had to Bruce Ivins and his obsession with Nancy Haigwood.  Or maybe it's just that "In spring a young man's fancy turns to" .... yada yada yada

August 4, 2013 - I can understand that, no matter how many times I explain all the facts which say that Dr. Bruce Ivins used a child (probably from his wife's day care center) to write the anthrax letters and address the envelopes, many people will still find it next to impossible to believe.  It just doesn't seem like something a "normal" person would do.  A "normal" person would want to avoid leaving behind any witnesses.  A "normal" person would find some other way to disguise his handwriting.

The fact that Ivins wasn't exactly "normal" and appears to have had good reasons to use a child that way, doesn't change anything.  It just continues to seem incomprehensible to most people.  And, I can accept that.  They want some recognized expert to say that a child did it.  If the expert tells them the same thing I've been telling them, then they may accept it.  But, they won't accept any arguments from some non-expert who shows the evidence on the Internet and self-publishes books that very few people read.

And, I can accept that, too.

But, last week in the Frederick News-Post, some "experts" who were co-workers of Dr. Ivins were still arguing that it was "impossible" for Ivins to have made the attack powders without his co-workers noticing what he was doing.  That is just plain ignorant.

But, I can see the problem.  In the Amerithrax Investigation Summary, the Department of Justice didn't describe how Ivins "most likely" made the anthrax powders.  They wouldn't have done that in court, either.  They'd just have proved that Ivins had the means to make the anthrax powders. 

When you start talking about which means Ivins most likely used, then you are getting into speculation.  The defense would argue that it is just speculation.  So, it's better to just prove in court with expert testimony that Ivins could have created the attack spores in a number of different ways, and then leave it to the defense lawyers to try to "prove the negative" - that Ivins could NOT have made the anthrax powders.

But, there never was any trial, so ignorant "experts" continue to argue that it was "impossible" for Ivins to have made the powders unnoticed, because making spores using the STANDARD methods involved lots of time and lots of specialized equipment - some of which was inoperable.  And the media continues to print their silly claims without serious risk that some real expert is going step forward and prove them wrong.

That, I find hard to accept.  The facts which say that Ivins used spores grown on plates inside autoclave bags that had been left to grow for weeks seem UNDENIABLE.  It's easy to understand.  It's relatively simple to do.  There's solid evidence to support it.  It's something that a "normal" scientist would likely do when committing such a crime.  Yet, it appears to be something that Ivins co-workers haven't even considered.

Or, if they have considered it, they don't want it discussed because it places some of the blame on them for allowing Ivins to keep hazardous waste in the form of bags full of inoculated plates around for WEEKS, instead of demanding that they be immediately sterilized and then incinerated as any "normal" scientist in any "normal" microbiology lab would be expected to do.

And, why isn't the media making a big deal of this?  You'd think that the Frederick News-Post would be concerned about a scientist in their community leaving dangerous biohazard waste laying around for weeks in violation of every known protocol.  Instead, however, they ignore the facts and allow scientists to make totally silly claims that it would have been "impossible" for Bruce Ivins to make the attack spores unnoticed.

Maybe the problem is that I'm just looking at what the facts say.  Others could be looking at what the facts mean.  The facts mean the crime was at least partially the result of carelessness on the part of USAMRIID's employees and management.  They allowed Ivins to let bags of hazardous waste lay around in his lab for weeks.  And we're not likely to see any "expert" from USAMRIID explaining that to the media.

Maybe it's just up to a NON-expert like me to do a better job of arguing against the "experts" whenever they repeat their silly claims.  The next time the Frederick News-Post or any other media outlet publishes such ignorant claims, I'll try to have a rebuttal ready to post as a comment after the article.  The 12th anniversary of the anthrax attacks will be coming up very soon.  The Truthers can continue to ignore the facts,
but they cannot dispute them.  And, History says that gradually the facts will be accepted, particularly since NO ONE has ever disputed the facts on this issue.  

Meanwhile, after I had finished writing a comment for the Frederick News-Post web site about the way Ivins created the attack powders, I realized that I needed to create a cross-reference list showing the FBI document numbers I've been using for nearly five years (e.g. #847418) and the document identification now being used on the FBI's "vault" web page (e.g. "Amerithrax Part 01 of 59"). 

On Thursday, after completing that cross-reference list, I realized that there were many documents among the 59 that weren't in the original collection, so I'd never read them.  (Parts 31, 32 and 34 through 39 don't fully appear when you click on the link, but there's a link within the page you get that allows you to download the file).

So, I've begun the tedious (but sometimes very interesting) process of going through them.   O
n page 9 of "Part 32 of 59," I found another reference about how long plates would remain in autoclave bags before they were sterilized and incinerated:

Once the tubes and plates in the incubator had been checked for colonies, they would have been placed in a garbage bag under one of the hoods to be autoclaved.  XXXX advised that they could have sat in the bag for weeks.

That's the general pattern.  The documents either add support to what is already known about Ivins being the anthrax killer, or they fill in some blanks to make the case more solid and understandable.  For example, I don't recall seeing any previous mention of any photocopy machines at USAMRIID other than the copy machine in the library.  But, several of the "new" documents say that there was a copy machine "near the rear entrance to Building 1425" which most people used instead of the photocopy machine in the library.  Here's a quote from page 24 of "Part 34 of 59":

Ivins office desk contains miscellaneous current and historical paperwork as IVINS does not have a filing cabinet, nor is he known for keeping laboratory notes.  It is likely that throughout the paperwork on his desk are papers derived from a USAMRIID photocopy machine.  Prior to September 2001, in the back of USAMRIID building 1425, where the current security check-in window is, was a doorway which entered a room that contained multiple copy machines.

In "Part 33 of 59" I noticed this comment on page 24 from an FBI interview done in December, 2006, when Ivins was already a key suspect in the case:

Because of USAMRIID's Personal Reliability Program (PRP), IVINS was identified as having a type of medical problem.  XXXX did not know the specifics but IVINS was not allowed in the hot suites for approximately one month in 2006, due to some type of problems with taking depression medication.  XXXX did not know how IVINS' problem was finally resolved that allowed IVINS access back into the hot suites.  The PRP program was not in effect in 2001.

And from an interview done in November 2006 (page 31 of "Part 33 of 59"):

Individual reiterated it was well known to most [Bacteriology] Division employees that IVINS has a fascination with sororities.  Years ago IVINS took an interest in a fellow Bacteriology Division co-worker's niece, and queried the co-worker as to whether or not the niece participated in a sorority specific event.

I've come across several interviews which describe how rare it was for any scientist to work evenings or weekends, other than to come in briefly to check on an experiment.  Animal handlers took care of disposing of dead animals.  And everyone seems to agree that prior to the anthrax attacks, it was easy to smuggle small items out of USAMRIID.

I came across Ivins' travel log for the day-trip he and some colleagues took to Covance on September 18, 2001.  It's on pages 29 and 30 of "Part 32 of 59," after some details about the trip, including this: "
Ivins was an awful driver."

"Part 31 of 59" begins with what appears to be a November 9, 2001 interview with top USAMRIID scientist John Ezzell.  (The person has a last name consisting of 6 letters and talks about things that John Ezzell has talked about.)   It's interesting because it shows that everyone at the time thought that the Ames strain came from Iowa, and that the fact that it was very difficult to distinguish one strain from another would make it totally impossible for  investigators to distinguish one batch from another. 

XXXXXX pointed out that the origins of the Ames strain are unclear.  Some sources believe it was first discovered in the bovine outbreak of the early 1980's.  Others believe it first appeared in the 1950's.  In addition, strains of anthrax may be virtually indistinguishable from one another.  Two samples isolated in Texas and one in Haiti are identical to the Ames strain.

Many many interviews show that everyone thought the Ames strain came from Iowa, and that it was a commonly used strain available to labs everywhere. 

The interesting stuff is few and far between, but it's like panning for gold.  When you find something really interesting, it makes you forget all the tedium that went before.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, July 28, 2013, thru Saturday, August 3, 2013

August 1, 2013 - Today is the 5th anniversary of David Willman breaking the story in the Los Angeles Times that the FBI's suspect in the Amerithax case - Dr. Bruce Ivins - had committed suicide. 

Looking back at my comments from that day, I see I was highly skeptical.  In my (A) comment for August 1, 2008 I wrote:

Bruce Ivins is a name I don't recall ever hearing before (but I'm told his name appears in several articles on this site).  Since the FBI isn't commenting, I think I'd better study this situation before I comment any further.

In my (B) comment I wrote:

Since I work with facts, there's nothing here (so far) that changes anything.  There are no facts which would alter my analysis.  And there seems to be a lot of area for misinterpetations by reporters.   There is a lot of information in the articles about things that Ivins may have done after the anthrax attacks which could have violated laws.  But none would make him a candidate for the death penalty.

I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and wait for some official information. 

In my August 1 (C) comment, I wrote:


There's something wrong about this media feeding frenzy.  Things just don't add up.

The next day, on August 2, 2008, I wrote:

There's an old saying: If you can keep your head while all those around you are losing theirs -- maybe you just don't understand the situation.

Yes.  Maybe I don't understand the Dr. Ivins situation. 

There are certainly a lot of people who seem to believe that they understand it.  A mentally ill Ft. Detrick scientist is the anthrax mailer?  Of course.  People have been claiming for years that the anthrax must have been made at Ft. Detrick as part of some illegal U.S. Government bioweapons program.  So, now they've got a dead guy who a lot of people are saying was the anthrax mailer, and he worked with the Ames strain at Ft. Detrick.  What more could anyone want?

What some people want is answers.  What evidence is there against Dr. Ivins?  How did a family man manage to make two trips to the Princeton area without being missed?  Why did he choose Princeton for his mailings?  Did he really make the Xerox copies in New Jersey as reported?  Why?  Does his handwriting match the handwriting on the letters?  How did he manage to make powdered anthrax at Ft. Detrick without anyone noticing?  If they did notice, why aren't they being indicted as co-conspirators?


And, since I knew the case against Ivins was NOTHING like the Steven Hatfill case, I saw similarities to a different case:

This really reminds me of the Dr. Kenneth Berry case from almost exactly 4 years ago.  Dr. Berry filed a patent shortly after 9/11, and people saw a possible profit motive there, too.  The media went into a feeding frenzy and tore a man's life apart because it looked like he might be the anthrax mailer -- or associated with the anthrax mailer.  For me back then, Dr. Berry was just a name that came "out of the blue."  The pieces just didn't fit there, either. 

Let's hope more of the "pieces" will be forthcoming soon.

However, in my August 3, 2008 comment it's clear I was already starting to see things somewhat differently:

After sleeping on this information overnight, I now feel that I have to shift from being very skeptical about the Ivins stories in the news to being far less skeptical.  I think there's a definite possibility that the FBI may have had a good case against Ivins. 

I'd still like to see all the evidence, of course.  But I'm definitely beginning to feel that the end of this 7-year examination of facts versus beliefs is getting close.

On August 4, 2008 I wrote:


Information about evidence continues to pour in.  While none of it has yet been verified by the FBI, and all the sources are still anonymous, there really isn't much reason to doubt that at least some of it is valid information.   The reasons why the information cannot yet be officially released are given in an NPR article:

In my August 6 comment I wrote:

I still keep getting emails from people who want me to fight the FBI's findings.  They're worried that I'll accept them blindly.  I won't.  But, it's already abundantly clear that they have more and better evidence against Bruce Ivins than I ever had against any scientist who lives and works in Central New Jersey.

That's where I had "turned the corner."  My theory that the anthrax killer was someone in New Jersey didn't include the kind of evidence the FBI had against Bruce Ivins.  And, since I was only concerned with what the facts and evidence said, I had no choice but to drop my old theory and to continue to look into all the NEW facts and evidence which said that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer.

It seems that many (or most) of those who had other theories, however, continued to stick with their own theories and ignore all the evidence against Ivins.  I cannot ignore evidence.  So, from that point on I just questioned the evidence when there was good reason for questioning, and I accepted the facts which could not be disproved.   It took a long time, but gradually I fully accepted the case against Bruce Ivins -- to the point where I could even find additional facts showing Ivins did it, facts that the FBI hadn't mentioned because they wouldn't need them in court.  Click HERE, HERE and HERE.

July 31, 2013 - This morning, I decided to unblock
www.panopta.com/checks to allow them to access my site again via IP address 198.105.219.56.  I decided that, just because I can't figure out why they visit my site every 15 minutes all day long, that isn't sufficient reason to block them.  So, I unblocked that IP address at around 9:50 a.m.  Their next check at 10 a.m. evidently detected that I had unblocked them, and they started doing checks every five minutes or so using the 198.105.219.56 IP address and two other IP addresses (5.63.145.69 & 108.161.131.134) I had also blocked for some reason and which are still blocked.   Here are the times of the visits:

10:00:57
10:07:04
10:12:12
10:17:59
10:23:00
10:28:02
10:33:10
10:38:12
10:43:13
10:48:15
10:53:17
10:59:14
11:05:34
11:10:36

So, I blocked IP address 198.105.219.56 again.  They immediately stopped the other two checks, going back to only checking every 15 minutes via IP address 198.105.219.56.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are showing signs of figuring a way around the blocks I put on
Zhou Pizhong's IP addresses in Kansas City

Sometimes it seems that at least half the visits to my site are "suspicious" activity from spammers and potential vandals.  The Russians and Ukranians are still at it, although they're no longer doing the massive accesses that caused me to block many of their IP addresses.  They just do a couple accesses at a time, but in very noticeable patterns.

It's like operating a coffee shop where once or twice a day some odd character comes in and studies the lock on the door for a moment before leaving again.  Then another odd character comes in and measures the width of one of the tables before leaving again.  Then another odd character comes in and lifts up a chair to see how much it weighs, then he puts it down and leaves.

I don't know what they're doing, but there's no law against it.  And they don't seem to be doing any harm - as far as I can tell.  It's just annoying.

The only solution seems to be to stop checking my web site logs so often.

July 29, 2013 - Today is the 5th anniversary of Dr. Bruce Ivins' death, and thus today's Frederick News-Post contains another article about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  It's titled "Scientists who worked with Ivins still question government's methods."  It begins with this paragraph:

Scientists who worked with Bruce Ivins said it would have been impossible for him to produce the amount of spores necessary to carry out deadly anthrax attacks given the time frame and equipment available to him at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

That argument is total nonsense, of course.  They're assuming that Ivins did things the "standard" way and followed all formal lab procedures.  That is a totally ridiculous assumption.  And there's this additional nonsense in a later paragraph:

The quantity used in the mailings would have translated to about 30 gallons of anthrax culture, Heine said.  USAMRIID didn’t have a fermenter that could have handled that amount, and the one the lab did have was broken, he said.

The only thing Bruce had available was shake flasks of which he could do a couple liters at a time,” Heine said.

It's nonsense because Ivins had more than enough spores readily available in the 546 inoculated growth plates from serial dilutions he'd recently used to test animal vaccine doses.  The NAS said he'd have needed only 463 such plates.  For all the details, check my web page "How Ivins Made the Anthrax Powders." 

The other reasoning by Ivins' co-workers is equally flawed.  But, it would certainly help to clear up the issue of the silicon in the attack spores if someone would just clarify how much silicon gets into spores that are grown under natural conditions versus typical lab conditions.  The spores Ivins used were almost certainly grown at room temperature in trash bags in a corner or under a desk and not at incubator temperatures.   

Uh oh.  There's also this tidbit of information in the article:


Patrick Eddington, a senior policy adviser to [Representative Rush] Holt, said the office is expecting a Government Accountability Office report about the FBI’s investigation, possibly sometime next year.

Next year!!!  DAMN!  I'd really been hoping that the GAO report would be released in September or October of this year.

Hmm.  The person posting as "roofmass2" on the recent News-Post survey page is less than eloquently arguing that I clearly don't know anything about the anthrax case because I never heard of his Internet name before:

Idiot...if you studied the Anthrax Case then why have you NEVER heard of me? Moron go away.

He also says,

All you did was smell cash just like Ed Lake and Xxxxs Xxxxxx, here you are the "Anthrax Man" writing books for profit or fame, misdirecting the American People with your "I know the fact routine"

Ah, yes!  All that "profit" I've gotten from my books.  I'd forgotten about that.  Where is all that profit?  Did I misplace it somewhere?  It certainly isn't in my bank account.  The last thing I remember is spending money to publish the books.  Hmm.    

July 28, 2013 (D) - Ah!  The survey mentioned in my (C) comment this morning evidently relates to a Frederick News-Post article dated today and titled "Questions on anthrax suspect linger."   The article didn't show up when I checked for news about the anthrax case earlier in the day, but it's there now.  The article says,

When the case against Hatfill unraveled, the FBI found Ivins an easy scapegoat, [Jeffery] Adamovicz said. He said the bureau focused on circumstantial evidence that included personal details about the scientist's peculiarities and fixations.

Ivins' only guilt was “being one custodian of this flask,” Adamovicz said, referring to USAMRIID's RMR-1049 labeled flask that the FBI said contained the source material. Over the years, dozens of other researchers had access to the flask and spores from it had been shared with other labs, he said.

This is politics at its most disgusting,” Adamovicz said.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and there are other opinions from Ivins' co-workers in the article, all basically saying what they've always been saying: They don't believe that Ivins could have done it without them noticing and realizing what he was doing.

But, the facts show how easy it really was.  And History is filled with killers who killed without their clueless friends and neighbors figuring out what what going on.

July 28, 2013 (C)  - When I checked Google this morning looking for any news about "anthrax" and "2001," I found that the Frederick News Post is doing a survey about "Do you still believe Bruce Ivins was responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks?"

That's an odd question.  Still believe?  It suggests that some new evidence has come to light which indicates that Ivins didn't do it.  I probably look for such evidence harder than anyone else, and I've seen no such evidence.   I've seen a lot of inflammatory questions, plus plenty of opinions and beliefs, but I've seen nothing that could ever be considered to be evidence of Dr. Ivins' innocence.

The current statistics from the survey are:

36% = Yes
56% = No
 8% = Not sure


The two readers responding with comments are somewhat typical of Anthrax Truthers.  One who posts as "roofmass2" has his own theory about who did it:

I am an American who has been trying to submit evidence to the FBI and other agencies over the "years", the story of "Bruce Ivins" is a farce, you know it and I am certainly convinced first hand. When a person approaches you one year prior to the 2001 Anthrax incident and tells you that he is going to send Anthrax to Government Officials and how he praises Al Qaeda (not a household name back then) and how he is specifically going to send the Anthrax, and as I said, the FBI never investigated this information (to my knowledge) and never asked me to look at a line up or "anything" in 8 years to date. These FBI and other agencies are writing history in the wrong.

The other, who posts as "thraxman," claims to be victim #13 in the attacks (victim #13 was a female postal worker in New Jersey), and she indicates that she either doesn't believe that Ivins worked alone to do the mailings, or that "anyone" could have walked into Suite B3 and walked out with the anthrax.  Either way, she doesn't believe the "official" story.

As soon as I finish writing my Sunday comment for this site, I'll have to write a comment for that site.

July 28, 2013 (B)  - An article in yesterday's Boston Globe titled "Conspiracy theories, innocence claims find audience" is about the Boston Marathon bombing and begins with this:

There are those who believe the bombs and blood were staged, the amputees and others injured were actors in some kind of Hollywood production designed to justify martial law.

Others acknowledge the carnage but say it was perpetrated by a secret squad of special operations soldiers. And there are those who insist that inconsistencies in early reports, erroneous statements by public officials, and unreleased evidence from prosecutors — among other things — reflect anything from a government coverup to an effort to frame the suspects.

Three months after two bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring more than 260, skeptics and conspiracy theorists from around the world have coalesced on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere — including at an acrimonious appearance this month in federal court in Boston — to defend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

They are making their case despite a trove of evidence that the surviving suspect and his older brother Tamerlan planted the bombs, including footage of them at the scene carrying bulky backpacks; Tamerlan’s death in a shootout after allegedly lobbing bombs at police in Watertown; and the discovery of Dzhokhar hiding a few blocks away in a shrink-wrapped boat, where he allegedly scrawled a confession.

Because of how long it took to identify Bruce Ivins as the anthrax killer, and because the Amerithrax case involved the use of a "weapon of mass destruction," it's not difficult to see how conspiracy theories could develop.  But, the Boston Marathon bombings occurred on April 15, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured on April 19th, just four days later.  And the evidence of his guilt, including his confession, seems indisputable.

But, you wouldn't know that the evidence seems indisputable if you haven't bothered to look at the evidence.  Dr. Meryl Nass was a conspiracy theorist on the Amerithrax case (click HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE), and she's posed questions about the Boston Marathon case that show she hasn't bothered to look at the evidence:

Where is the evidence the brothers made the bombs? 
What is Dzhokhar's side of the story?
Was Tamerlan alive when captured?

When I try to get people to look at the evidence in the Amerithrax case, it seems that all they can see is that no single piece of evidence proves Ivins was guilty.  The idea of looking at ALL the evidence seems wrong to them.  And the idea of using reasoning to put the pieces of evidence together seems almost incomprehensible to them.  It's as if they're all saying, "That's not the way things are supposed to work.  There's supposed to be just one piece of evidence that proves guilt beyond any doubt.  There's not supposed to be any disagreement by anyone.  And, if any official working on the case makes a mistake, everything automatically becomes totally invalid."

Of course, evidence to support a Truthers' own theory can be anything.  There are no rules.  If anything says their suspect is guilty, then it's solid evidence of guilt.  Period.  And anyone who disagrees is simply closed-minded.

I've never debated with anyone who thinks that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is innocent.  The evidence is so overwhelming that I find it difficult to imagine that anyone could possibly believe such a thing.  Yet, I know there were people like Professor James Tracy who were claiming from the very beginning that it was all a government plot.  And, I suspect others are very likely to argue that believing Dzhokhar is innocent is the right way to do things, since "everyone is innocent until proven guilty."

Shouldn't that also mean that "the government" is also innocent until proven guilty?  Or do the Truthers want us to assume that "the government" is always guilty until proven innocent?

If you're on a jury, you're supposed to consider the defendant to be innocent until he or she is proved guilty by viewing all the evidence.  If you're not on the jury, you're free to do your own evaluation of the evidence, or to simply believe whatever you want to believe.   And, you're also free to remain as ignorant of the evidence as you want to be.  However, when you claim someone else is wrong, then you need to start examining the evidence to make certain who is right and who is wrong.  If you just assume that you are right and that your beliefs override all the facts and evidence, then everyone else in the world has the right to assume you are an ignorant fool.
      

July 28, 2013 (A)  - Hmm.  My "analysis of suspicious China visits" has produced some unexpected results.  As soon as I blocked the visits from Zhou Pizhong's IP addresses in Kansas City, nearly all the log-in attempts from China stopped.  That made me curious about who had looked at my "China analysis" web page.  So, I did an analysis and found that the Chinese search engine "Baidu spider" seemed to be involved in nearly all the initial accesses that weren't from regular U.S. visitors.  And, after about 24 hours, all the Baidu Spider accesses to the "China analysis" page stopped.

After that, a lot of people in China seemed to be reading my "China analysis."  Here are all the accesses to my "China analysis" since I first created it and through today (read from the bottom up):
175.44.57.51 - - [28/Jul/2013:22:25:36 - Unicom, China 
125.78.241.11 - - [28/Jul/2013:15:52:23 - ChinaNet
199.167.148.90 - - [28/Jul/2013:13:56:01 - NOC4Hosts, Tampa, FL
5.10.83.35 - - [28/Jul/2013:12:35:55 - Singapore Robot
5.10.83.102 - - [28/Jul/2013:06:13:45 - Singapore Robot
192.95.22.165 - - [28/Jul/2013:05:49:10 - OVH, Newark, NJ
216.152.243.131 - - [28/Jul/2013:05:30:22 - Fayetteville, AR
84.240.30.56 - - [28/Jul/2013:04:52:06 - Lithuania
121.205.241.91 - - [28/Jul/2013:03:11:19 - ChinaNet
157.55.32.142 - - [28/Jul/2013:03:10:10 - Microsoft
198.100.148.8 - - [28/Jul/2013:01:26:52 - Marymount University, USA

8.37.226.30 - - [27/Jul/2013:08:11:32 - China service in Los Angeles
130.161.159.128 - - [27/Jul/2013:08:00:08 - A Netherlands University
192.74.232.130 - - [27/Jul/2013:06:09:37 - Xiamen, China
137.175.20.194 - - [27/Jul/2013:04:18:36 - yuchen China
123.65.220.22 - - [27/Jul/2013:04:02:33 - China Tiatong
198.245.63.218 - - [27/Jul/2013:02:13:30 - OVH Hosting, Canada

xxx.xxx.xx.xx - - [26/Jul/2013:21:36:09 - U.S. Regular visitor
121.205.213.107 - - [26/Jul/2013:20:23:06 - ChinaNet w/POST
144.76.95.39 - - [26/Jul/2013:20:11:31 - Germany
173.192.34.95 - - [26/Jul/2013:15:29:48 - Aboundex crawler
5.10.83.65 - - [26/Jul/2013:14:36:17 - Singapore Robot
192.99.1.119 - - [26/Jul/2013:13:30:30 - OVH Hosting, Canada
216.244.78.19 - - [26/Jul/2013:12:59:33 - McDowell, Australia
216.244.79.170 - - [26/Jul/2013:12:00:55 - McDowell, Australia
110.85.75.167 - - [26/Jul/2013:09:57:40 - ChinaNet w/POST
xxx.xxx.x.xx - - [26/Jul/2013:09:42:12 - U.S. Regular visitor
188.92.75.244 - - [26/Jul/2013:09:14:50 - Latvia
198.200.32.76 - - [26/Jul/2013:09:08:13 - Xiamen, China
66.249.75.135 - - [26/Jul/2013:08:50:08 - Google
199.21.99.117 - - [26/Jul/2013:07:56:35 - Yandex spider
117.26.76.69 - - [26/Jul/2013:06:05:31 - ChinaNet w/POST
112.111.189.144 - - [26/Jul/2013:04:04:28 - Putian City, China w/POST
142.4.110.219 - - [26/Jul/2013:00:44:03 - Yuchen China

5.10.83.32 - - [25/Jul/2013:23:46:23 - Singapore Robot
175.44.35.101 - - [25/Jul/2013:21:56:55 Putian City, China sign-in attmpt
202.101.97.89 - - [25/Jul/2013:21:45:31 - Fujian, China sign-in attempt
110.86.165.41 - - [25/Jul/2013:21:34:49 - ChinaNet w/POST
117.26.200.135 - - [25/Jul/2013:20:02:03 - ChinaNet w/POST
198.245.63.218 - - [25/Jul/2013:17:52:59 - OVH Hosting, Canada
192.74.231.42 - - [25/Jul/2013:17:13:58 - Xiamen, China
5.10.83.28 - - [25/Jul/2013:15:35:29 - Singapore Robot
5.10.83.28 - - [25/Jul/2013:15:09:56 - Singapore Robot
xxx.xx.x.x - - [25/Jul/2013:13:07:18 - Regular Michigan visitor
65.55.213.66 - - [25/Jul/2013:12:22:17 - Microsoft search engine
123.125.71.19 - - [25/Jul/2013:11:32:30 - ChinaUnicom Baiduspider
5.10.83.91 - - [25/Jul/2013:09:12:20 - Singapore Robot
220.181.108.83 - - [25/Jul/2013:08:32:43 - ChinaNet Baiduspider
220.181.108.99 - 25/Jul/2013:05:32:31 - ChinaNet Baiduspider
123.125.71.75 - 25/Jul/2013:02:32:42 - ChinaUnicom Baiduspider

123.125.71.96 - - [24/Jul/2013:23:32:27 - China Unicom Baiduspider
123.125.71.60 - - [24/Jul/2013:20:32:25 - China Unicom Baiduspider
66.249.75.113 - - [24/Jul/2013:19:45:52 - Google
89.123.3.82 - - [24/Jul/2013:17:37:26 - Romania Romtelecom
123.125.71.25 - - [24/Jul/2013:17:32:36 - China Unicom Baiduspider
123.125.71.70 - - [24/Jul/2013:14:32:28 - China Unicom Baiduspider
xxx.xxx.xxx.xx - - [24/Jul/2013:13:24:53 - Regular Indiana visitor
I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but it all seems positive, and that's good enough for me.  If things continue this way for the next few days, I'm going to consider "the case of the Chinese log-in attempts" successfully resolved. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, July 21, 2013, thru Saturday, July 27, 2013

July 26, 2013 (B) - Someone just brought an interesting New York Times article to my attention.  It explains some of the ways that DNA evidence in criminal cases can be misleading.  One of the most interesting situtions involves how blood got transferred to a "suspect" when he was transported (suffering from severe intoxication) in an ambulance with paramedics who had previously transported a murder victim.   Here's another:

In one famous case of crime scene contamination, German police searched for around 15 years for a serial killer they called the “Phantom of Heilbronn” — an unknown female linked by traces of DNA to six murders across Germany and Austria. In 2009, the police found their “suspect”: a worker at a factory that produced the cotton swabs police used in their investigations had been accidentally contaminating them with her own DNA.

The lesson, it appears, is that even DNA evidence should not be viewed as conclusive all by itself.   More importantly, it should never be presented to a jury that way.  And, it would probably also be a good idea for all detectives and prosecutors to be advised of every one of the unusual ways DNA evidence can be wrong.

July 26, 2013 (A) - Blocking Zhou Pizhong's IP addresses in Kansas City, MO, seems to have had the desired effect.  When he gets the 403 status code indicating he's being blocked and is "forbidden" to access my site, he immediately stops checking (for that day).  Previously, he'd do 30 to 100 accesses, even though he couldn't find any of the sign-in records he was looking for.   www.panopta.com/checks, on the other hand, just continues trying to access my site every 15 minutes, even though they are blocked.

Meanwhile, I found that while I can't view my local NBC station (WTMJ) any longer due to the dispute between WTMJ and Time Warner Cable, I can still get NBC programs via WMAQ in Chicago, although not in Hi-Def.  I also learned why I don't watch the evening news on my local CBS or ABC TV stations.  When I would turn on NBC at the end of my Internet work day (at approximately 4:50 p.m.), I would get the local news.  When I turn on ABC, I get Ellen Degeneres, and when I turn on CBS I get Dr. Phil.  So, I'm just going to have to work about 10 minutes longer to avoid those problems.

BTW, I found this comparison a bit looney:

"JBG is asking for a significant increase," Time Warner Cable spokesman Mike Pedalty said.

"What are they going to do over and above that additional income, additional revenue, that is what we are looking at."

To help you understand the dollars and cents of this deal, our parent company maintains that an average monthly cable bill costs the same as 58-and-a-half cups of coffee.

But a local television station like TODAY'S TMJ4 only receives the amount of money equivalent to a half cup of coffee.

"We can't accept a deal that is unfair and undervalues our TV," said Wexler.  "That would not be a good business decision."

Is there some kind of "standard" cost for a cup of coffee?  Checking the Internet, I find that

The good news, for coffee drinkers, is that not everything is getting more expensive. In keeping with Starbucks’s targeted approach to raising prices, it all depends on where you live and what you drink. So in New York, for example, the price of a tall brewed coffee will still be $1.85, but Americanos and lattes will be 10¢ more expensive.

When I do the computation, I find I pay a lot more than $1.85 per cup for cable.  But, I also use cable for my phone and to access the Internet.

Life is just getting too complicated.  What did I do to check on the price of a cup of coffee before the age of the Internet?  Or to check on what a dispute is all about?  I probably just didn't care.  Now I try to understand things --- maybe too many things?

July 25, 2013 (C) - I have a working hypothesis regarding the Chinese attempts to get register and log-in records for my web site.  First, I don't think I'm being specifically targeted.  There are probably tens of thousands, if not millions of web sites being targeted the same way.  What they appear to be doing is trying to access the email addresses for anthraxinvestigation.com, like: Louie at anthraxinvestigation dot com.

To use such an email addresses on a typical web site, you first have to log into the web site or register.  So, they're looking for sign-in, register, log-in, member, profile, log-in rules, registration rules, create-user, sign-up and other similar records.  If they get in, then they try to access the list of people who use the web site as a mailing address.  If they can do that, then they have addresses to use for spamming and to sell to other spammers.  There's probably a very good market for working email addresses, and you can probably sell the same lists to many thousands of different customers.  

However, the total number of people who use anthraxinvestigation.com as a mail address is ZERO.  I'd once thought about using edlake at anthraxinvestigation.com as my email address, but the email system used by my web site hosting company doesn't seem to be compatible with my archive of emails or with the antique program I use to receive, read and send emails. The trouble is: those Chinese programs don't know that I don't have any such email addresses for anthraxinvestigation.com.  So, they just mindlessly continue to try to get to a list of email addresses that doesn't exist.

And I feel totally comfortable in trying to block them from accessing my site.     

July 25, 2013 (B) - Hmm.  I just received an email saying that I can no longer get my local NBC TV channel via Time Warner Cable.   About the only thing I watch on NBC is the evening news, but it's still a warning that when you have a middle-man between you and a broadcast station, you can lose access to that station.  Supposedly, I can still get the station by using an antenna, but I'll first wait to see how long the problem continues.

July 25, 2013 (A) - I've spent about a day analyzing my log files to see if I can figure out what all those Chinese web sites are up to.  The analysis is HERE.  So far, I've gone back through the log files as far back as June 13.   What I see is very little repetition in the use of IP addresses by the Chinese visitors.  So, there's definitely a method behind the attempts to get my register or log-in information.  They're avoiding being blocked by constantly changing the IP addresses they use.

But, more interestingly, there are some American IP ranges involved, too.  The two American ranges that seem most interesting are the ones owned by (1) the Kansas City Internet Exchange in Kansas City, MO, and the ones owned by (2) someone named Zhou Pizhong in North Kansas City, MO.  I don't think it's a "coincidence" that Zhou Pizhong is a Chinese name and that the street addresses are about a half dozen blocks from one another in the same general area of Kansas City, MO.

I did a Google virtual tour around Zhou Pizhong's address in North Kansas City, and it appears to be a parking lot.  Checking for his name on the Internet, I find warnings about someone with that name HERE, but not for the IP addresses I've seen.  However, they show his address as the same as the Kansas City Internet Exchange.

Checking further, I learned HERE, HERE and HERE that other people have already done a LOT of research into Zhou Pizhong's activities on the Internet, and Zhou Pizhong appears to be "spammer friendly."  And, from what I see, there appears to be a clear connection between all those visits from Chinese IP addresses and the visits from IP addresses owned by Zhou Pizhong.

So, I don't know exactly what he's doing, but it definitely appears to have something to do with spamming.   And, I'll probably have to block more of his IP addresses.        


July 24, 2013 - I'm still seeing those odd visits to this site from Chinese web sites that I described in detail in my March 13, 2013 comment.  As a way of avoiding what I should be working on, I've decided to start an analysis of those Chinese visits.  The analysis will be HERE

The "problem" is that these Chinese visitors try log into my site.  They look for log-in information or registration information, going through a whole list of different attempts.  And sometimes they try to POST index or log information onto my site.  I can't think of any valid reason for doing such a thing.

There's an apparent pattern to the Chinese visits, in that there are one or two attempts per day, and they constantly change their IP addresses so I can't easily block them.

By doing an analysis, maybe I'll get a better idea of what they're trying to do.

I also decided to block visits from http://www.panopta.com/checks.   Starting early this year they began checking my main page every half hour.  And recently, they changed to checking my main page every 15 minutes.  They aren't causing any serious problems that I'm aware of, but I started blocking them anyway, simply because I don't know WHY they're doing what they're doing - or for whom.

July 21, 2013 - I'm not sure why, but most of my emails and discussions last week seemed to be about scientific evidence that was used in court to convict people in the past, but is now being questioned.  I got the impression that the comments were intended to argue that maybe the evidence against Ivins would someday be found faulty, too.  But, the main reason that convictions in the past are being overturned is because of the new developments in DNA testing, plus other kinds of evidence used in the past are being questioned today because of the Supreme Court's 1993 Daubert v Dow Pharmaceuticals decision which changed the standard for how scientific evidence is validated before it can be presented in court by experts.  The investigators and prosecutors in the Ivins case were fully aware of DNA testing and of the new Daubert standards before they collected their scientific evidence.  They made certain they followed the new Daubert standard.

Meanwhile, discussions on my interactive blog have died down; the 3 message discussion on the Frederick News-Post web site is still stopped at 3 messages; there hasn't been anything worthwhile posted on Lew Weinstein's blog in a long time (other than an occasional grumble over dead issues); and there was nothing worthwhile on Dr. Meryl Nass's blog for even longer.   I only check Dr. Nass's blog about once a week or less.  However, when I checked her blog yesterday, I saw she'd asked some very odd questions about the Boston Marathon bombers:

The Boston bombing case was horrific and unexplainable, unpardonable.  Yet the public lacks much evidence about it and no trial has taken place.

Where is the evidence the brothers made the bombs?  What is Dzhokhar's side of the story?  Have you heard it?  One brother is dead and the other has been under wraps since he was captured... with or without a weapon? After how many shots were fired at the boat he was in?  Was Tamerlan alive when captured?  I have no opinion about these matters, but the press has presented multiple contradictory stories at different times.

Dr. Nass appears to be totally unaware of all the evidence everyone has that shows where the Tsarnaev brothers bought the fireworks they used to make the bombs, how they still possessed some emptied fireworks containers after the bombing, and how their computer contained instructions for making the type of bombs that were used.  Plus, of course, they threw an identical bomb at police during the Laurel Street shootout.

She also seems to be unaware of the "confession" that Dzhokhar wrote on the inside of the boat where he was captured, a confession that explained his motives.

She also seems totally unaware of the circumstances of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's death, that he charged the police while firing his handgun at them and was wounded, then as he was being handcuffed, Tamerlan was run over by his brother and dragged about 25 feet under Dzhokhar's getaway car.

And, what difference does it make whether Dzhokhar had a gun or not when he was captured - or how many shots were fired at the boat?  He and his brother had used a gun to murder a police officer in cold blood, and they had shot at other cops.  A witness took photographs of the two brothers firing at and throwing bombs at the police! 
When the police learned Dzhokhar was hiding in that boat, were the police nonetheless supposed to assume that Dzhokhar was unarmed?   Besides, Dzhokhar was evidently not hit by any of the hundreds of shots fired at the boat.  He was captured alive.  His wounds were from the gun battle on Laurel Street the previous night - where he ran over his brother.  The police wanted to capture Dzhokhar alive, not to kill him.

Yes, the stories in the media were contradictory at times, but generally not on major issues.  And where there was bad information, it was generally corrected later.

Asking a bunch of inane questions which are clearly intended to argue that there are a lot of unanswered questions in the Boston Marathon bombing case may not be the same as stating an "opinion," but it suggests
there is doubt where there really is little or no doubt.  It suggests the police didn't do the terrific job they did.  It's only the questioner's abysmal ignorance of the subject that needs correcting.

The same tactic is still being used by Anthrax Truthers on the other blog where inane questions are being asked while ignoring all the questions that have been answered and the solid facts which say that Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins was the anthrax killer.

Dr. Nass also brought up the subject of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's picture on the front cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.  She  wrote:

Meanwhile, a Rolling Stone magazine cover of accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has led chain stores like CVS to pull the magazine off its shelves.  (Also Stop and Shop, Tedeschi's, 7-11, Walgreens and Rite-Aid refuse to carry the magazine.) Why?  No one is forcing anyone to buy it.  Why is a cover story-- of an alleged bomber who has pleaded not guilty and has yet to have his day in court--being censored?  Is this the Soviet Gulag or the USA?

I am glad the NY Times took up this latest example of perverted patriotism, pointing out that Hitler's face peppered many magazine covers, as did Charles Manson's and Osama Bin Laden's.  Censorship benefits no one.

What "example of perverted patriotism"?  I had to do a Google search to find where the words "patriotic" or "unpatriotic" were used in connection with the Rolling Stone cover.  The only places I see them being used is in readers' comments, and there aren't many of those.   It wasn't "unpatriotic" to put the photo of Dzhokhar on the front cover of Rolling Stone, though it may have been "outrageous," since it sparked "outrage" by making Dzhokhar look like a handsome, heart-throb movie star instead of a vicious killer.  

The New York Times opinion piece says,

But singling out one magazine issue for shunning is over the top, especially since the photo has already appeared in a lot of prominent places, including the front page of this newspaper, without an outcry. As any seasoned reader should know, magazine covers are not endorsements.

As I see it, it's not a matter of the cover looking like an "endorsement."  It's a matter of the photo making a cold blooded killer look like a movie or TV star - i.e., like someone young people want to be and maybe imitate.  There were other photos of Dzhokhar available to use.  I used one in my April 19 (A) comment.   Suppose some American magazine used the photo below as a cover shot for a 1942 article about Adolf Hitler and the German occupation of parts of Africa.   How would Americans have reacted?

Adolf Hitler as an action hero

Click HERE and HERE for details about the photo.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, July 14, 2013, thru Saturday, July 20, 2013

July 20, 2013 - Since wherever there is money to be made there will also be people trying to get some of it through fraud, I'd been expecting something to happen with the fund to help the Boston Marathon victims.  The first case just made the news in an article titled "New York woman accused of posing as Boston Marathon victim."

July 19, 2013 - As expected,

A definitive DNA match has been made from the remains of Albert DeSalvo, the confessed Boston Strangler, to crime scene evidence from a 1964 slaying that was part of the Strangler’s murder spree, authorities announced today.

According to the Boston Globe,

District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said, “We now have an unprecedented level of certainty that Albert DeSalvo raped and murdered Mary Sullivan. ...”

The officials said that a nationally recognized lab, Orchid Cellmark of Dallas, had matched seminal fluid recovered at the scene of Sullivan’s murder “with scientific certainty” to DeSalvo. The lab said the odds that a white male other than DeSalvo was the source of the evidence were 1 in 220 billion.

I don't know if anyone is still arguing that DeSalvo wasn't the Boston Strangler, but their arguments just became a lot weaker than they were in the past.

Of course, they can still argue that 1 in 220 billion isn't the same as absolute certainty, so there is still room for doubt.  Maybe so, but not reasonable doubt.

July 18, 2013 - The Frederick News-Post "article" titled "A look back at the Bruce Ivins saga" now has a video that works.  I don't know what the problem was yesterday, but everything works okay today.  The video is basically just a News-Post staffer reciting a three minute account of the Amerithrax case as of Feb. 19, 2010.  I don't see anything in it to cause "Anthrax Bologna" to comment, "
OMG I cannot believe what the Fredrick Post has done today."

I had expected that other Anthrax Truthers would jump in and post their baseless beliefs, too.  But, this morning I see only one new comment from "jojo40" saying the post by "Anthrax Bologna" was "the stupidest thing I have ever read on the internet."    That didn't seem enough of a response, so I posted this:

The comment from "Anthrax Bologna" shows total ignorance of the MOUNTAIN OF EVIDENCE against Bruce Ivins.

There are NO "colleagues and other scientists" who have proved ANYTHING about Ivins' innocence. All they've done is state their false beliefs while ignoring the facts. They falsely argue that Ivins couldn't have done it because the attack spores were weaponized. The spores were NOT weaponized. They falsely argue that Ivins couldn't have done it because it would have been a violation of the rules against making lethal anthrax powders at USAMRIID. Ivins DIDN'T FOLLOW the rules when he made the powders.

And the suggestion that Ivins was MURDERED is just plain silly. Bruce Ivins attempted suicide on March 19, 2008, but failed. His second attempt in July was successful. It was his only way to escape facing a jury of his peers and being found guilty of the murder of 5 innocent people.

I don't know if the "discussion" will continue, but I'm ready to debate anyone anywhere on the subject of the anthrax attacks of 2001.  I just wish the debates would be with people who think they have EVIDENCE they can present in support of their claims, instead of with people who just endlessly argue that they don't believe the government.

July 17, 2013 (B) - I feel I should write something about the new cover on Rolling Stone magazine that gives Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tzarnaev the heart-throb, movie star treatment, and according to the New York Daily News, caused "more than 11,000" people to post angry messages to Rolling Stone's Facebook page."

Dzohkhar Tsarnaev

The NY Daily News also says that "tens of thousands have now vowed to boycott the magazine."  CBS has an article titled "Rolling Stone defends cover featuring Boston Marathon suspect."

I saw a connection to something I was tempted to write about a few days ago when a Los Angeles Times article appeared about "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his disgusting fangirls."  But, The Atlantic wrote more about it than I could ever write.  Their article titled "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Female Supporters Are Not 'Fangirls" says,

Those who support Tsarnaev have a variety of reasons for doing so. Some believe he is innocent, and that the marathon bombings were perpetrated by the U.S. government. Others believe that Tsarnaev's rights were violated during and shortly after his capture, while others fear that he will be subject to the death penalty, which they oppose. Yet despite the fact that conspiracy theories and their adherents abound all over the web, it is the primarily female users of these social media outlets who have been, despite their varied reasons for supporting Tsarnaev, uniformly reviled as a single entity in the media.

About the only thing I can say on this subject is to once again quote Leo Rosten:

I never cease being dumbfounded by the unbelievable things people believe.     

July 17, 2013 (A) - I noticed a new "article" about the Amerithrax case on the Frederick News-Post's web site.  The "article" is titled "A look back at the Bruce Ivins saga."  But, all I see is a black square with the caption:

FILE - Federal investigators have closed the case on this country’s first major act of bioterrorism, sealing their findings that Bruce Ivins, a former Frederick resident and Fort Detrick scientist, acted alone in the 2001 anthrax letter attacks that killed five people and sickened 17 others in the weeks after Sept. 11. 2/20/10

When I looked at what they published on 2/20/10, I initially found nothing but the headline and a picture, so for awhile I assumed that you now have to be a subscriber to view the actual articles.  Then I noticed a place where I can click on "story" and see the article from 2010.  But there is no such link for the new article.  However, I can see a comment from a reader that says in part:

OMG I cannot believe what the Fredrick Post has done today. They have let the FBI and other agencies buffoon the family of Bruce Ivins and the People of The United States. What about the colleagues and other scientist who have proven beyond and doubt that Bruce Ivins was innocent!!! There is NO evidence that Bruce Ivins committed this act, however, there is the same evidence that "someone could have given Bruce Ivins" that deadly dose of "Tylenol", this case has smelled like $hit from the very beginning and not all evidence has been presented to the public.

Has anyone proven anything about Ivins' innocence?  I keep asking people for evidence to show that the FBI was wrong, and all I ever get is opinions and questions.  I've been arguing with people about the case for over 11 years, and all they do is argue that they do not believe the evidence against Ivins.  When I ask for evidence to support their own theories, all they do is give reasons why they do not believe the government.

I've seen ignorant claims that Ivins couldn't have done it, but those claims are all based upon false assumptions: (1) that the powders were "weaponized," and Ivins didn't know how to "weaponize" anthrax spores, and (2) that Ivins would have followed the rules, and the rules do not allow anyone at USAMRIID to make lethal powders.

Then a new link just appeared to another new Frederick News-Post "article," this one titled "File - Military Road abuzz with activity."  This time the black box was a short video about the topic.  So, it appears there isn't any article at the earlier link.  It appears they just have a video summary which, for some reason, I cannot view for that article.

Even though I cannot view the video, I was tempted to post a response to the reader's comment asking what evidence shows "beyond [any] doubt that Bruce Ivins was innocent."  If someone has such evidence, why keep it a secret? 

Maybe someone will provide me with a working link to the video.  Or maybe the Frederick News-Post will fix their site. 

July 16, 2013 - I noticed an NBC article this morning titled, "Zimmerman juror: He shouldn't have gotten out of that car."  Amen.

July 14, 2013 - I read about the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial last night just before I saved my web site log file.  I woke up this morning thinking I should write some kind of comment about the verdict.  It doesn't have anything to do with the Amerithrax investigation, but it has to do with the law, and that's been all I've been arguing about for the past month - interpretations of the law, and how things work in court.

In discussions on my interactive blog, as part of arguments over a theoretical Bruce Ivins trial, we argued law terms used in the Zimmerman trial, and at one point I wrote:

I see that some testimony was rejected "in limine" in the Zimmerman trial. A source HERE says,

"Also on Monday afternoon, Nelson granted the state's motion in limine that the defense's law enforcement expert cannot testify that Zimmerman was reasonable in his use of force against Martin, did not break the law and showed restraint before using deadly force."

Notice that the "law enforcement expert" would have been stating that Zimmerman "did not break the law." That is prejudicial testimony. It is NOT evidence. The jury is supposed to decide if Zimmerman broke the law or not. That's what the trial is all about.

The trial was about whether or not George Zimmerman broke the law?  How can that be?  It conjures up an image of a cop saying, "I don't know if you broke the law or not, but I'm going to arrest you anyway and let a jury decide if you broke the law."

But, that's not how things happened in the George Zimmerman case where, after six weeks of pondering over the matter, the district attorney decided that Zimmerman did break the law and had him arrested. 
The initial charge was "second degree murder," which says Treyvon Martin's death was not premeditated but still illegal because Zimmerman assaulted Martin and thereby causing his death. 

The lawyers for Zimmerman then argued that Zimmerman did NOT break the law, that Treyvon Martin did the assaulting, and so we had a trial  to see if Zimmerman truly did break the law or not.

An argument can be made for it being a "show trial" just to show angry citizens who view Treyvon Martin as an innocent victim that a jury of their peers can decide whether Zimmerman was guilty of a crime or not.

I didn't watch the trial, but there was almost no way to avoid seeing parts of it.  As I understand it, the trial was largely about what was going on in Zimmerman's mind when he killed Treyvon Martin.  And, since there's no way a jury can determine exactly what was going on in someone else's mind, a "Not Guilty" verdict would seem inevitable.

But there are lessons to be learned.  I keep thinking of the movie "Apocalypse Now" where the boat's cook, Frederick Forrest, wants to get some fruit for the crew's meal, and so he and Martin Sheen go ashore to hunt for mangos in the jungle.  The lesson learned, "Never get outa the boat.  Goddamn right, never get outa the boat."

Zimmerman should never have gotten out of his car.  It wasn't illegal to do so, but he was told he shouldn't do it, and he should have known better.  That's my verdict.    

Meanwhile, I think I may have settled on an "idea" for how to keep myself busy now that the Amerithrax investigation is long over and the debates have been reduced to a single debate with a single "Truther" who seems incapable of looking at the facts.  If things heat up again in September when the General Accountablity Office (GAO) might finally release their review of the Amerithrax investigation, there's shouldn't be any major problem with me working on two projects at once.

I don't know if the idea is going to work, but just thinking about it is occupying more and more of my free time.

It's not a new idea.  It's an idea from a science fiction screenplay I was working on back in 1996, but I never got as far as writing a final version of it.  I have a floppy disk which says on the label,

"Gizmo" - 1st draft 1/29/96
     "         - 2nd draft 2/5/96
     "         - 3rd draft 2/21/96

The screenplay versions are in an antique word processing format that my current word processing programs cannot read, but by playing technical tricks I can convert them to something readable. 

Reading over the 3rd draft,  which mentions some news events from that era, I can see that the plot is totally dated and unusable.  And I don't know if any of the characters are worth keeping, either.  All I really have is the
"gizmo" itself, a device unlike anything I've ever seen in any science fiction movie -- and I've seen many, many, many science fiction movies. 

But, while it might make a very good movie, I'm thinking more along the lines of writing a science fiction short story, or a series of short stories, or a book about this "gizmo."

But, thinking that way is where I always go wrong.  The story can't be about the "gizmo" itself, it must be about an interesting person who somehow does something interesting with the "gizmo."  There has to be a problem that needs solving by the main character, then complications set in, and when all seems hopeless a solution is finally found - or the story is somehow otherwise resolved.

Looking at the three versions of the screenplay, I see pages and pages of dialog where someone is explaining to someone else how the "gizmo" works.  I can't do that in any new story, either.  I have to "show" how it works.  The "Gizmo" is based upon real science, as all good science fiction should be.  Indirectly, it could be an explanation for dark matter and dark energy, although neither dark matter nor dark energy would be mentioned in the story.  It just seems that, if the scientific basis (i.e., "Theory X") behind the "gizmo" is valid, then dark matter and dark energy might be explained.  The "fiction" is that someone
utilizes "Theory X" to build a "gizmo" that eventually causes the characters to try to solve some kind of critical problem with the "gizmo."  Using the "gizmo," of course, involves significant and largely unpredictable risks. 

One key character in the story probably has to be the inventor of the "gizmo."  But, the central character would probably have to be "Joe or Jane Outsider," i.e., the person with whom the reader can identify as he or she gets involved and swept up in the story.  As the outsider learns what's going on and how the "gizmo" works, the reader also learns.

And, that's all I've got so far - an idea from 1996, some knowledge of basic story structure,
a title "Gizmo" which may or may not be used, and time to work on it. 

Hmm.  An idea just occurred to me - a way of using the "gizmo" that I hadn't thought of before - or at least since 1996.  It involves less risk to the characters, so it could be a very interesting way for them to initially test the "gizmo."  Maybe the test somehow causes the outsider to become involved.  Hmmmmm.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, July 7, 2013, thru Saturday, July 13, 2013

July 12, 2013 - An article in yesterday's USA Today says that Mary Sullivan's nephew has changed his mind about who killed his aunt, and he now believes that Albert DeSalvo did it.  The article says,

Sullivan's nephew Casey Sherman has for years maintained that DeSalvo did not kill his aunt and even wrote a book on the case pointing to other possible suspects.

He said he accepted the new findings after concluding that the DNA evidence against DeSalvo appeared to be overwhelming.

"I only go where the evidence leads," he said.

So, does this mean that "Truthers" CAN change their minds?  Or does it just mean that Casey Sherman was not a "Truther," but merely someone with his own personal theory about the case?   The answer appears to be the latter situation.   Anyone who can say, "I only go where the evidence leads" and mean it, CANNOT be a "Truther."   He's just someone who had a theory that was proved wrong.  Been there, done that.

July 11, 2013 (B) - Someone just sent me a link to news article that a 50 year old mystery involving the "Boston Strangler" looks like it will be solved very soon.   In the 1960's, Albert DeSalvo confessed to killing Mary Sullivan, but his confession was not allowed in court, and he later recanted on all of his confessions.  (He was convicted of armed robbery and sexual assault and died in prison.) 

There are, of course, "Truthers" with their own theories about the case.

The article says,

Authorities in the 1960s had the foresight to set aside evidence extracted from Sullivan’s body and a blanket and had it placed in a laboratory until science could be employed to link a suspect.

and

Sullivan is the only victim for which DNA evidence is available.

DNA experts have determined that there is a "familial" match between DNA on the items belonging to Mary Sullivan and the DNA of one of DeSalvo's nephews.  So, they're going to exhume DeSalvo himself to get his DNA for a direct comparison.

Once he is exhumed, the case will be closed.

There's an assumption in the above statement, but the assumption appears to be based upon solid evidence gathered so far.

Of course, even if there is a DNA match, the "Truthers" will almost certainly all find some reason to disagree with the facts and continue to stick with their beliefs.

July 11, 2013 (A) - I know this is totally off topic, but there are a lot of reports this morning about witnesses and passengers who were aboard Asiana Flight 214 calling 911 to report the airplane crash.  Click HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.  While some of the news reports say the calls were "frantic," they all seem weirdly calm to me.  The callers all dial 911 to report the plane crash, but the subtext from the passengers is that they are all wondering why there aren't more ambulances and emergency vehicles already at the scene "20 minutes to a half hour" after the crash.   It's like they're all politely saying, "I know you probably know there's been an airplane crash, but do you also know we need a lot more ambulances than you've sent so far?"  After a disaster, minutes probably seem like hours while you're waiting for help to arrive.  But, it also makes you wonder how many ambulances there are within a quick driving distance to a noisy airport.  

According to Google, San Francisco General Hospital is 11 miles or 14 minutes from SFO.  And Stanford Hospital is about 25 miles or 33 minutes from SFO.  SF General treated 62 injured passengers, Stanford treated 55.   The 911 calls may have brought
in ambulances from local fire departments to the scene more quickly.

Would I have called 911 in such a situation?   I dunno.  When you see that people need help that you cannot provide, it's easier to call 911 than to just sit and wait.  At least you can tell yourself that you tried to make things go faster.

ADDED NOTE: A "first responder" emailed me after reading the comment above and advised me that while fire trucks may sit in the station 95% of the time, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) vehicles are out on calls as much as 70 to 95% of the time.  So, even if there are EMS stations close to the airport, the EMS units could be busy on other calls.  They can't stop going to a heart attack in order to go to a plane crash.

July 10, 2013 - Uh oh.  It appears I goofed again.  On Monday I wrote that the Asiana airlines Boeing 777 aircraft that crashed in San Francisco "rotated horizontally about 45 degrees before falling back to earth again."  This morning, CNN is saying:

When the aircraft hit, it spun 360 degrees.

And the San Francisco Chronicle is saying,

The 777 yawed left (spun around its center of gravity), then spun 360 degrees, [National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Debbie] Hersman said.

If the plane "spun 360 degrees," it would have ended up parallel with the runway.  But all the photos show it ended up at about a 45 degree angle to the runway.

angle of crashed airplane

So, the visual "evidence" says it either spun 315 degrees (360 - 45) to the left or 45 degrees to the right.  However, since the NTSB is saying it "yawed left" and "spun around its center of gravity" (and that seems to be confirmed by the video), that means it rotated 315 degrees toward the left.  I was wrong, and the NTSB was just giving a "ball-park estimate."  If you demand perfection, you're living on the wrong planet.

July 8, 2013 (B) - There's a YouTube video of the San Francisco plane crash HERE, if you're interested.  The camera appears to be tracking a plane taxiing from left to right when Asiana Flight 214 enters the picture moving right to left.  There are other versions of the video HERE and HERE.  The video answers questions I had about eyewitness testimony saying that the plane "cartwheeled" and "rolled over."  The damage to the plane (and now the video) show it did neither.  After the plane's initial impact, it lifted off the ground a bit and rotated horizontally about 45 degrees before falling back to earth again.  That's why the wings were still connected to the fuselage and why the top of the plane showed no rollover damage.

San Francisco air crash location

The map and aerial image above indicate that the taxiiing aircraft was headed toward the end of the runway where the crash occurred.  

Whenever I see a video or a photo of a plane crash, I'm reminded of a scene in (I think) "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," where a government official says something like, "With all these reports of people seeing flying saucers and alien space ships, how come no one ever photographed one?"  And Richard Dreyfus replies, "How come there aren't any photos of plane crashes?  Does that mean plane crashes never happen?"

That dialog wouldn't work in any movie made these days.

Added Note:  This afternoon, I did a quick check of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and found that it's an Air Force officer who says to a room full of people who have just seen alien spacecraft, "There were over 7 billion pictures taken in this country last year.  With seven billion shutters clicking, where's the indisputable photographic evidence" [of these alien space ships].   Then a reporter standing behind Richard Dreyfus says, "I've been in the news business for a long time.  We never took a picture of a plane crash as it happened and got it on the 6 o'clock news." 

So, I got the basic idea right, I just didn't remember all the details correctly.

July 8, 2013 (A) - Someone just sent me a New York Post article, dated today, which provides a minute by minute description of the the Laurel Street shootout with the Boston Marathon bombers.  The part that is of particular interest to me is the description of the Tsarnaev brothers throwing pipe bombs.  According to the article, the brothers threw four pipe bombs, PLUS the pressure-cooker bomb.  The article says that two pipe bombs failed to explode.   But according to page 11 of the indictment,

36. On April 19, 2013, at approximately 12:43 a.m.,
DZHOKHAR A. TSARNAEV and Tamerlan Tsarnaev began firing at the
officers trying to apprehend them and used four IEDs against
them, one of which was made from a pressure cooker, low explosive
powder, shrapnel, and other materials.

The indictment says that three of the pipe bombs exploded.  The cops say that only two did.  So, who is right - the cops on the scene or the indictment?  My guess would be that the indictment is more accurate.  It's probably based on the physical evidence.  The Post article appears to be based totally on memories of the police officers on the scene, which are then remembered by the New York Post reporter as he wrote the article.

The recollections of the police officers also do nothing toward explaining how Tamerlan Tsarnaev received blast and shrapnel wounds.  If I were writing a book about the Boston Marathon bombings, I'd probably just leave out the part about the blast and shrapnel wounds, since I can't make it fit with the testimony and facts.  I might even assume that those injuries were really the result of Tamerlan being dragged under a car for 25 feet, instead of from any bomb blast, and the medical examiner just got things wrong. 

According to English novelist, poet and editor Aldous Huxley, History is:

A branch of speculation, connected (often rather arbitrarily and uneasily) with certain facts about the past.

Or as English historian Frederic W. Maitland put it, History is:

Not what happened but what people thought or said about it.

I wonder if an historian has ever been called to testify as an "expert witness" in a trial.  Probably not.

July 7, 2013 - Uh oh.  This is another Sunday morning when I don't have anything already written for my Sunday comment.  So, I'm going to have to "wing it."  Here goes:

Last week, in my arguments with "The Convincer," he asked me to check with a lawyer to see who was right in our interpretations of Rule 701-C of The Rules of Evidence.   I looked around the Internet and found a couple law web sites where lawyers were willing to answer legal questions for free.   I asked the question,

Is there any Rule of Evidence that says a layman cannot decode a relevant, secret message and testify in court to what he did?

And in the box where they asked for some details behind the question, I wrote:

The question is about Rule of Evidence 701-C . Someone is arguing that Rule 701-C says only a cryptographer or other coding expert can testify about decoding a message. I say that if a police officer who is not a cryptographer figures out and breaks a code that is relevant evidence in a case, he can testify in court to what he did and how he did it.

The argument with "The Convincer" was over whether FBI Agent Darin Steele would have been allowed to testify as a lay witness to decoding the hidden message in the media anthrax letters, as I say, or if only a certified cryptographer can testify in court to decoding messages, as "The Convincer" believes and argues. 

The lawyers generally agreed that a lay witness can testify in court to how he decoded a message and what it meant to him.  But, some lawyers also seemed to look for tricks or hidden meanings in the question.  One or two seemed to think that my question had something to do with decoding some drug dealer's notes.  Others didn't seem to fully understand the question.  One wrote (in part):

Actually, the debate is a TRICK QUESTION because it does not pose a question.

Note the vagueness of the construct of the call of the question:::

""would not have been allowed to testify to decoding the hidden message""

It did not state what the question was, and the rules of evidence deal with question and how they are put.

Question: What Happened then?
Answer: Well, as is my habit (406) I worked the message until I was able to see "Its me, I'm guilty" (401)

or

Question: What is the mathematical probability, given the length of this message, that it has one or more aliases as decoding possibilities ?
Answer: 1 in 150,000 (702 establishment of expert status needed)


That lawyer evidently clicked on the link to my blog and found the quote "would not have been allowed to testify to decoding the hidden message" there.  I have no idea why he says it is a "call question"?   I researched the term, and it seems to have to do with Robert's Rules of Order and how to do things in Parliment.   Evidently, the lawyer would have preferred that I had written the text at the top of my blog thread in legalese.

"The rules of evidence deal with questions and how they are put?"  I hadn't looked at things that way, and I'm not sure I can fully agree with him.

But, I see what he's saying.  If the prosecutor was addressing lay witness Agent Steele in the witness chair, he would ask, "What happened then?"  And Agent Steele would reply, "Well, I saw the coded message on page 404 in Godel, Escher, Bach looked very much like the highlighted characters in the media letter, so I tried to see if Dr. Ivins had put a hidden message in the letter using that type of code."

If the prosecutor was addressing a certified cryptographer in the witness stand, he would ask, "What is the mathematical probability, given the length of this message, that the message can be decoded in some totally different way and have a totally different meaning?"  The cryptographer would theoretically respond, "One in 150,000," and he'd then explain how he arrived at that number. 

Interestingly, "The Convincer" somehow believes that if Agent Steele can be called to testify as a lay witness to decoding the hidden message in the media letter, that somehow also means that I could have been called to testify in Dr. Ivins trial:

Yes, you would make a jim-dandy DEFENSE witness for Ivins.
And since you are a LAY witness, you could not be excluded, am I right? Just you giving your "rational perceptions" circa 2004-2009?

In my response, I pointed out that lay testimony also has to be relevant, and nothing I could testify about would be relevant in the Ivins trial.  Rule 701-B says that a witnesss's testimony must be "helpful ... to determining a fact in issue."  Nothing I or any random person chosen off the Internet would have to say would be "helpful" to determining the "fact in issue": Ivins' guilt or innocence. 

But, that argument from "The Convincer" caused me to write a couple responses where (1) I devised hypothetical testimony from Agent Steele in response to cross-examination questions from the defense, and (2) where I wrote hypothetical testimony from a cryptographer testifying to decoding "similar" messages in other letters.

My responses were written and posted yesterday afternoon.  No reaction so far from "The Convincer."  Writing hypothetical testimony was fun.  I look forward to doing more of it as the debates continue. 

I sometimes think that "The Convincer" has realized that he was wrong in arguing that lay witnesses cannot testify about something technical or scientific, but then he just starts arguing the same nonsense again in a different way.  I almost got fed up last week, but then things started to get interesting again.

And, it isn't like I have anything better to do.  I'm still "idea hunting."  The imaginary testimony I wrote for a hypothetical Bruce Ivins' trial has given me a vague idea.  But, I don't know if it's viable -- or even realistic.

Meanwhile, changing my email address on the main page of this web site to something that isn't easily read by a computer seems to have solved my junk mail problem.
  I'm now down to an average of less than 100 junk emails a day.  I peaked out at 358 junk emails on May 2, I fixed the email address shortly afterward, and there's been a gradual drop in junk emails ever since.

Junk emails in 2013

You can compare the chart above to the chart I showed as part of my May 19 comment when the trend was clearly upward to May 2.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, June 30, 2013, thru Saturday, July 6, 2013

July 5, 2013 (B) - There seems to be a lot of controversy over the revelation in the recent ricin case that the post office is photographing the outside of every letter and package that goes through the system.  To me, it makes sense.

It began after the anthrax case showed how difficult it is to trace a letter back to its source now that mail is no longer being processed in local post offices.  For efficiency reasons, the mail you drop in your local mailbox is being shipped to a central location where all the mail dropped in mail boxes in hundreds of square miles are processed together.  But, that means if a letter containing a bomb is found at the mail processing center, there's no way to track it back to any town or city, much less to a mail box.

In the anthrax case, the second batch of letters were almost certainly mailed in Princeton, NJ.  They were postmarked at the mail processing center in Trenton, about 12 miles away.   There's a good possibility that the first batch of anthrax letters was mailed in Franklin Park, which is 23 miles from from the Trenton processing center.

It was because the second batch of letters leaked anthrax spores into the mailbox that the Princeton mailbox was identified as the mailing point.  The first anthrax batch was more crudely made and the letters may not have leaked spores.   So, it's just assumed that the first batch of letters was also mailed in Princeton.  It can also be assumed that, since the return address on the second batch was Franklin Park, Franklin Park was planned to be the mailing point for one or both of the mailings, but for some reason the second batch was mailed in Princeton instead.

My point is, after the anthrax mailings, it was probably clear to everyone that it would be a good idea to get a better feel for the point where some dangerous letters were mailed.

At the Trenton mail processing center, machines (and people) interpreted the ZIP codes on the anthrax letters and printed a bar code along the bottom of the envelopes to enable other machines at and en route to the destination to sort the envelopes automatically.   A record was kept of every bar code printed and when it was printed.  That record enabled investigators to determine where letters WENT that were processed just before and just after the anthrax letters.  One went to a person on Ottilie Lundgren's mail route and probably cross-contaminated her mail and killed her.  That same letter contaminated the mail processing facility near her home.  Many other cross-contaminated letters were also tracked down.  Lives may have been saved.

But that system couldn't tell investigators where the anthrax letters were mailed.

So, they developed a new system that digitally photographs the outside of every letter going through the mail system.  In the anthrax case, such a system might have found that the letter was mailed in Princeton months before the mailbox was located by finding spores in mailbox.  It might have found that the first mailing was done in Franklin Park.  It's done by looking at the other letters that were processed at the same time.  The theory is that if most letters mailed at the same time and in the same place as the letter in question have Franklin Park return addresses, then it's very likely that those letters and the letter in question were mailed in or near Franklin Park.

That would be what investigators call "an investigative lead."  The mailer is likely to be someone who was in the Franklin Park area between specific mail pickup times.

If there's ever another anthrax mailing, I'd like the investigators to have that kind of information.  I don't see it as any kind of invasion of privacy, since post office personnel people are already looking at the outside of the letter
if some machine cannot read the ZIP code and when they put it in your mailbox.   

July 5, 2013 (A) - Hmm.  This morning, Reuters has an article titled "More Americans see Man who leaked NSA secrets as 'patriot' than traitor: Poll."  It says,

Some 23 percent of those surveyed said former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is a traitor while 31 percent said he is a patriot. Another 46 percent said they did not know.

That seems to be a very good example of a misleading headline created purely to sell newspapers and to create controversy.  

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post has an article titled "Edward Snowden Poll Finds More Americans Now Think He Did The Wrong Thing." It says,

More Americans now think Edward Snowden did the wrong thing in releasing classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll.

According to the new poll, 38 percent of Americans think that Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency, did the wrong thing, while 33 percent said he did the right thing. Still, 29 percent of Americans remain unsure about Snowden's actions.

And conspiracy theorist movie maker Oliver Stone is now calling Edward Snowden a "hero."   If Stone is for it, that generally makes me against it - whatever it is.  I certainly do not look upon Snowden as a hero.  I view him as a geek on a personal mission who should never have been allowed to access national secrets.  He was hired because he was a very good video game player.  The rules used in video games have nothing to do with the rules used in real life.  It appears Snowden cannot see the difference.

This will probably make a very interesting movie someday.  I'm certainly interested in seeing how the story ends.  At the moment, I have no idea how things will be resolved.  Snowden is reportedly still in the Moscow airport trying to find a country that will give him asylum - and a passport.  In theory, he could be there for years


July 3, 2013 - Wow!  The Internet is amazing!  I prowled around this morning looking for a place where legal questions would be answered for free.  And I found a few.  The first one I tried responded within a half hour.  The question and answer are HERE.

In theory, the answer should put an end to the argument "The Convincer" has been ranting about for the past few weeks.  He claimed on my inteactive blog that Rule 701-C of the Rules of Evidence would prevent a layman from testifying to breaking a code, because only experts can testify to breaking codes.  Here's the legal question I asked:

Is there any Rule of Evidence that says a layman cannot decode a relevant, secret message and testify in court to what he did?

And here are the salient parts of the answer:

Basically, there is nothing that would specifically prevent the officer from testifying about the code just like there would be nothing that would prevent you or me from doing so. He would not be considered an expert and there may be some limit on what he could testify about regarding the code but generally speaking he could probably say what he believed the code meant.
....

My belief, and others may disagree, is that code breaking could be accomplished by a lay person and they could then testify to the code (but probably not code breaking as a skill or details regarding other codes or other specific information). Think of it like solving a Sudoku puzzle. Anyone could do it if given the time. That person would not be barred from testifying about the solution simply because they are not a professional trained Sudoku puzzle solver.


Then I received another answer from another lawyer on the same web page:

If the officer has the personal experience of cracking the code, he or she can certainly testify as a lay witness. The officer's testimony is relevant and has no problem on admissibility as to the process and result of his or her own experiences without expert qualification.

Now, we'll see how "The Convincer" takes this.  He certainly won't be able to argue that the attorneys aren't real or that the answers can be interpreted to agree with his point of view.  But, he'll probably come up with some way to dispute and dismiss those answers.

July 2, 2013 - Hmm.  I just noticed an Associated Press article titled "2 Face Terror Charges After Canada Day Bombs Found."   When I first read the title, I wondered what a "Day Bomb" was.  But, then I realized what the title meant.  This is from the article:

Police in Canada have arrested and charged a man and woman with terrorism for attempting to leave pressure cooker bombs at British Columbia’s provincial legislature on Canada Day, when thousands of people were expected to be there.

John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Marie Korody were inspired by al-Qaida ideology but were self-radicalized, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said Tuesday. He called it a domestic threat without international connections.

Malizia told a news conference there was no evidence or indication to suggest a connection to the deadly Boston Marathon bombings in April, which used bombs made from pressure cookers.

It's difficult to believe there isn't any connection to the Boston Marathon bombings, since it seems to be a "copy cat" situation.  And, it's hard to figure what motivated suspects named John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Marie Korody.  They seem like very American (or Canadian) names.  "Self-radicalized" is a term we may all need to learn.  It seems to be a term that may have once applied to a young couple who go on a "killing spree" just for the hell of it.

July 1, 2013 - Grumble grumble.  This is totally off-topic, but with "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" on vacation, I've got only 4 TV shows to watch all week:

"Longmire" at 9 p.m. on the A&E channel at 9 p.m. on Monday
"Warehouse 13" on the SciFi channel at 9 p.m. on Monday
"King & Maxwell" on the TNT channel at 9 p.m. on Monday
"Under The Dome" on CBS at 9 p.m on Monday

Fortunately, my DVR can record two shows at the same time, AND three of the above shows air a second time later in the evening.  So, I'll record "Longmire" and "Under The Dome" at 9 p.m. and the two other shows later in the evening.

Things never used to be this complicated!

June 30, 2013 (B) - The Anthrax Truther who posts as "Anonymous" on my interactive blog and as "DXer" on Lew Weinstein's blog ended a long silence and joined my argument with "The Convincer" on my interactive blog by arguing once again that, in the first line of the anthrax letter sent to the media,

The "T" in NEXT was not in fact double-lined. 

"The Convincer" has been claiming that NONE of the T's are fully highlighted.  He apparently has a personal rule that a T must be fully traced over - both the horizontal and the vertical lines - before it can be considered to be "highlighted."

In my response to "Anonymous," I pointed out something that I don't think I've ever pointed out before:  There are three lines in the media letter where T's appear twice.  Here they are:

Highlighted and non-highlighted T's

The argument from "Anonymous" is that the T in "THIS" is not highlighted as clearly as the T in "NEXT," or as he phrases it: it is "in fact not double-lined."
 
However, note that the T's in both writings of the word "DEATH" are clearly not highlighted, but the T's in both writings of the word "TO" are highlighted - albeit slightly differently.  So, although there are minor differences, we have two nearly side-by-side examples of highlighted and non-highlighted T's. 

And, the T in "TO" in "DEATH TO ISRAEL" is highlighted to about an identical degree as the T in "NEXT" on the first line.

This would have been good evidence to present in court showing that the T in "NEXT" and the T's in the two writings of the word "TO" are all indeed highlighted.

Yes, there is a certain inconsistency to the way all the highlighted T's and A's are highlighted.  I explained the reason for that in my book, in a page on this web site, and in a YouTube video.  When you're tricking someone else into doing some writing for you, it can be very difficult to make certain they do things exactly the way you might want. 

In a response to my response, "Anonymous" indicated that he's going to "upload" some reports he received via Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests which will apparently involve the opinions of "handwriting experts" who the FBI utilized during the course of the Amerithrax investigation.   They could be interesting reading, since the facts seem to indicate that no two "handwriting experts" fully agreed on anything.  One may have said something to the effect that the T in "NEXT" does not appear to be highlighted.  So, "Anonymous" will probably use that as PROOF of his beliefs.  He makes a practice of finding an "expert" who agrees with him and then declaring that he must be right because there's an "expert" who agrees with him - never mentioning all the many other "experts" who totally disagree with him.

On Lew Weinstein't blog, "DXer" (a.k.a. "Anonymous") just posted this:

Why did Agent Steele arrive at a code theory inconsistent with the handwriting and document analysis documents?

As usual, he's just asking an irrelevant question to create doubt of some kind.  Why does Person-A have a theory that is different from Person-B?  Because they are two different people and view things differently.  Duh.  And it seems VERY likely that the handwriting experts wrote their opinions years before Agent Steele managed to put together all the facts about the hidden message in the media letter.  Maybe DXer (a.k.a. "Anonymous") has some personal rule that everyone everywhere must have the same theory about everything regardless of when they came up with the theory.  And, if they don't, they must explain to him the reasons for the discrepancies.

June 30, 2013 (A) - Ah!  Yesterday, I found the time to dig through the indictment against Dzhokhar Tzarnaev and found that on page 54 in section 135 it says:

DZHOKHAR A. TSARNAEV and Tamerlan Tsarnaev used an
explosive device constructed from a section of pipe, low
explosive powder, and other materials ("pipe Bomb #1") against
law enforcement officers in the vicinity of Laurel Street and
Dexter Avenue in Watertown, Massachusetts, resulting in damage to
property

On page 58 in section 142 it says the same thing about "pipe Bomb #2" and on page 62 in section 149 it says the same thing about "pipe Bomb #3."

So, the other IEDs were pipe bombs, they are described, they did explode, and they exploded on Laurel Street during the shootout, not during the car chase on the way to Laurel Street.   And that helps explain how Tamerlan Tsarnaev got his "shrapnel and blast wounds."  It didn't have to be from the pressure-cooker bomb we knew exploded on Laurel Street (even though that is still very possible), it could also have been the result of a home made pipe bomb that went off too soon after he tossed it.

The eyewitness to the shootout on Laurel  Street only mentioned one "large explosion," but that doesn't mean there weren't other smaller explosions amid the gunfire.

The Boston Herald had reported:

[New York Police Commissioner Raymond W.] Kelly said the brothers had six bombs in their possession [when the headed for New York]: one pressure cooker bomb like those used to attack the Marathon and five pipe bombs.

Commissioner Kelly was just using unverified information. 

We now also know which ATM machine they used to steal $800 from the driver of the car they hijacked.  In my April 28 (A) comment I wrote:

At 11:18 p.m., Thursday night, Dzohkhar Tsarnaev used a debit card taken from their hostage to withdraw $800 from a Bank of America ATM kiosk somewhere in Watertown.  I haven't yet determined which ATM(s) were used.  The ATM photos make it seem like it could be the one at 39 Main Street, but that would have required the brothers to backtrack and almost pass the crime scene where they previously shot and killed the MIT police officer.  Doing that seems highly unlikely.  Source.

Unlikely or not, it is what happened.

All the important questions have been answered.

So, it's time to get back to the anthrax attacks of 2001:  On my interactive blog, I argued most of the past week with an Anthrax Truther I've labeled "The Convincer."  I keep thinking he's starting to see that his arguments are false, but then he seems to start the same arguments over again.  So, like Jerry Seinfeld's imaginary supervillian "The Convincer" who argues until you give up, he's still still trying to convince me he's right.

I can see that I need to try different tactics.  I need to try to clearly define exactly what is being argued.  For example, here is one of his main arguments as he
posted it to my interactive blog:

Lay witnesses are explicitly prevented from testifying in scientific/technical areas by Rule of Evidence 701c, therefore FBI Special Agent Darin Steele would NOT have been allowed to testify to any amino acid code he allegedly found in the Amerithrax text(s).

I've shown him PROOF that lay witnesses are NOT "explicity" prevented from testifying in scientific/technical areas by Rule of Evidence 701c, and therefore, FBI Special Agent Darin Steele WOULD have been allowed to testify to the "amino acid code" he found in the anthrax letters sent to the media.   Rule 701-C only applies only to experts who meet all the criteria described in Rule 702.

But, will "The Convincer" accept the proof?  Will he just ignore the proof and continue arguing?  Will he argue that his interpretation of Rule 701-C overrides all the interpretations  from professional lawyers?  Or will he simply change the subject and pretend he was never proved wrong?  Time will tell. 

I'd thought that he was changing his argument, since he suddenly seemed to be arguing about the "amino acid code" instead of the "hidden message."  But, I did some research and found that he's been using the term "amino acid code" since May 16.  I just assumed it meant the same thing as the "hidden message."  As near as I can figure, he's talking about the
"single letter amino acid code."  But, that's just another assumption.  I need to try to get him to explain exactly what he's saying and what "amino acid code" means to him.   Here are the 20 "single letter codes" for amino acids (there is no B, J, O, U, X or Z): 

single letter designators

In the hidden message in the anthrax letters sent to the media, the highlighted letters were TTT, AAT and TAT.  That doesn't translate directly to the "single letter amino acid code" solution of "FNY."  Before you could get to that "decoded message," you first have to use a different "code" that isn't really part of any "amino acid code."  They are called "codons" and have three letters:

DNA code 1

In the codon table above, TTT = Phenylalanine, AAT = Asparagine, and TAT = Tyrosine.  Is it just a coincidence that the first letters of those three amino acid names spell out "PAT," the name of one of Ivins' co-workers?  "The Convincer" believes it's just a coincidence, but the FBI, DOJ and I do not think it's a coincidence.   Is it just a coincidence that, if you then take the three amino acid names (Phenylalanine, Asparagine and Tyrosine) and get their "single letter code," the results are "FNY," which seems to relate to another of Ivins' co-workers?  "The Convincer" believes it's just another coincidence, but the FBI, DOJ and I do not think it's a coincidence.

But, more importantly, there's nothing in this decoding process that a microbiologist would routinely do as part of his regular work.

Perhaps even more importantly, none of this has much to do with what a microbiologist does.  As far as I know, a microbiologist is NOT required to be an "expert" in DNA or amino acid codes.  Agent Steele was only a part-time microbiologist, since he was also an FBI agent.  Dr. Bruce Ivins, on the other hand, was a full time microbiologist and he claimed he didn't know much of anything about amino acid codes.  The passage below is from page 318 of my book "A Crime Unlike Any Other":

It was pointed out to Ivins that the first three highlighted
characters in the letter were "TTT," and that was a codon for an
amino acid. Ivins merely shrugged and said he didn't know that the
amino acids used in his lab had single letter designators. He claimed
that he never used codons or sent any messages using codons. He
claimed he had never read anything related to any "linguistic" meaning
of codons.

I got the information from Dr. Ivins' June 9, 2008 "off the record" FBI/DOJ interview, which is also described on page 300 of David Willman's book "The Mirage Man." 

"The Convincer's" argument appears to be that a microbiologist is an expert in "amino acid codes."  But, the quote above shows that a microbiologist is NOT necessarily an expert in "amino acid codes."  This puts "The Convincer" in the spot of having either to argue that Ivins was lying because he was guilty, or that Ivins was telling the truth and therefore a microbiologist is not necessarily an expert on "amino acid codes," and Agent Steele would qualify as a lay witness.

I'm awaiting his response. 

And, I'm learning a lot while doing so.   Soon, "The Convincer's" only argument will be: "I don't care what the facts say, I'm going to believe what I want to believe."  Those are the magic words which can easily end the debate.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, June 23, 2013, thru Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 28, 2013 - There were three interesting emails in my inbox this morning.  The first provided a link to the DOJ's press release announcing the indictment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  At the bottom of the press release is a link to the actual indictment pdf file.  When I get some time, I'll have to study the indictment.

The second email said that the indictment doesn't explain anything about the other three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly used against the Watertown police during the chase that ended on Laurel Street.  The emails said the indictment only describes the pressure cooker IED the Tsarnaev brothers tossed into the middle of Laurel Street before Tamerlan rushed the police with his gun blazing.  So, I still have to do more research to try to figure out what the Boston Globe was talking about when they wrote:

After fleeing the Cambridge scene of the Collier slaying, the Tsarnaevs confronted police in Watertown, using four of the five IEDs against them. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was tackled by three Watertown police, who struggled with him as they tried to handcuff him. Dzhokhar drove his car at the three officers, running over his brother, “seriously injuring and contributing to his death,” the indictment alleged.

The third email was about how news stories change.  The emailer had previously written me about something that wasn't explained in a newspaper article about the George Zimmerman case, but when I checked, the matter was explained.  The on-line news story had been revised.  That third email also mentioned a web site HERE that is trying to keep track of changing news stories at certain newspapers.  Unfortunately, there are probably too many news outlets and too many changes for anyone but the NSA to keep track of them all.  When I wrote the beginning of this comment, I checked the Boston Globe and found that the paragraph I quoted yesterday and above is no longer in the article.  Instead, the paragraph now reads as follows:   

After the driver managed to escape, the brothers drove to Watertown, where they confronted police early on the morning of April 19, using four of the five IEDs against them. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was tackled by three Watertown police, who struggled with him as they tried to handcuff him. Dzhokhar drove his car at the three officers, running over his brother, “seriously injuring and contributing to his death,” the indictment alleged.

It still says that the Tsarnaev brothers used three IEDs that my email source says weren't mentioned in the indictment. 

But, when I read the indictment document for myself, I found this on page 11:

36. On April 19, 2013, at approximately 12:43 a.m.,
DZHOKHAR A. TSARNAEV and Tamerlan Tsarnaev began firing at the
officers trying to apprehend them and used four IEDs against
them, one of which was made from a pressure cooker, low explosive
powder, shrapnel, and other materials.

Ah!  Another mystery solved!  Four IEDs were used in the firefight on Laurel Street.  None were tossed out of cars during the police chase.   Three of the IEDs may have failed to explode, or those three IEDs may just have been smaller and their explosions may have been lost amid the gunfire.  Or maybe the witness just didn't mention them.  Or maybe he mentioned them but I didn't recall it.  Whatever the explanation, the mystery of what happened to the three smaller IEDs is resolved.

My email source said that ''
there's only a description of one IED" in the indictment.  That is true.  But I erroneously interpeted the comment to mean that only one IED was mentioned in the indictment.  He even sent paragraph #36 with his comment, but I didn't read it carefully enough.  Good thing I have the ability to change this comment to correct everything.  I can see why news organizations are doing the same thing in the on-line versions of their articles.

June 27, 2013 - Someone just sent me an email with a link to an article about NFL football player Aaron Hernandez being charged with murder.  The subject of the email was "OJ 2.0?"  I responded by sending back a link to an article that says 27 NFL football players have been arrested in the past 5 months.  The article says that the 27 arrests
include former Detroit Lions wide receiver Titus Young, who was arrested multiple times in the span of a week this past spring.  It appears Titus Young is only counted once.  However, another article says that the number of NFL player arrests has actually gone down in the past 6 years:
NFL player arrests
Someone else sent me an email link to an article titled "George Zimmerman Witness Can't Read Letter She 'Wrote' About Shooting."  The 19-year-old witness in the Treyvon Martin case had to admit on the stand that she had to dictate the letter to "someone" because she couldn't read (or presumably write) cursive.  It looks like someone not very smart may have been trying to "create evidence," but it backfired.

Meanwhile, it's all over the news that Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarneav had been indicted on 30 charges, including 4 murders, using a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy, malicious destruction of property resulting in death, etc.

One thing I noted specifically is the section in red below:

The indictment alleges that after their pictures had been released to the public by law enforcement, the Tsarnaevs, armed with five improvised explosive devices, a Ruger P95 semi-automatic pistol, ammunition, a machete, and a hunting knife, killed MIT officer Collier and attempted to steal his service weapon.

After fleeing the Cambridge scene of the Collier slaying, the Tsarnaevs confronted police in Watertown, using four of the five IEDs against them. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was tackled by three Watertown police, who struggled with him as they tried to handcuff him. Dzhokhar drove his car at the three officers, running over his brother, “seriously injuring and contributing to his death,” the indictment alleged.

I recall the pressure-cooker-based improvised explosive device (IED) they used during the firefight on Laurel Street.  Where were the other three IEDs used?  Were they tossed out of the cars as they were being pursued?  How was that managed while driving?   Or were all four IED bombs used on Laurel Street?  I'll have to dig for more details when I get some free time.

June 26, 2013 (revised on June 27) - I don't know if anyone else is still interested, but my arguments with "The Convincer" have reached a critical point.  We've clarified exactly where we disagree on a several issues which can be decided by experts, and we're looking for some "expert" to help us determine who is right and who is wrong.

The thread on my interactive blog where we were doing the arguing has grown to be 225 messages long, and it's running into technical problems because he have to click on "load more" to see everything.  For that reason and to further clarify our disagreement, I created a new thread titled "Subject: Rule of Evidence #701-C" where we will hopefully continue the debate.

Here are the two sides of the one issue:

"The Convincer's" argument is as follows:

Lay witnesses are explicitly prevented from testifying in scientific/technical areas by Rule of Evidence 701c, therefore FBI Special Agent Darin Steele would NOT have been allowed to testify to finding the hidden message Ivins put in the media letter.

I say,

Lay witnesses who testify to what they rationally perceived, even if it is in a technical area, are NOT prevented from testifying by rule 701c.  Therefore FBI Agent Darin Steele WOULD have been allowed to testify to the hidden message he found in the anthrax letters sent to the media.

Note added on June 27: "The Convincer" strongly objects to the argument I attribute to him above.  (Only the part that is NOT in bold is actually a quote from him taken from HERE.  The rest I added to clarify his position.)  He now says in a comment on my interactive blog that the following is his true argument:

Lay witnesses are explicitly prevented from testifying in scientific/technical areas by Rule of Evidence 701c, therefore FBI Special Agent Darin Steele would NOT have been allowed to testify to any amino acid code he allegedly found in the Amerithrax text(s).

It appears that he is adding the part about the "amino acid code" to change his argument in order to partially agree with all the evidence I've been showing him to prove he was wrong in his interpretation of Rule 701-C.   Agent Steele might be considered to be an expert on DNA, so it seems "The Convincer's" new claim could be that FBI Agent Steele couldn't testify as a layman to something in which he is an expert.  It's still a totally bogus claim, but I'll have to go into greater detail in a new comment, perhaps tomorrow.  Or after I confront him about it.

I checked one web site where lawyers seemed to be willing to answer legal questions, but after working my way through several levels of clarification, I was informed that an answer from a lawyer would cost me $44.  I'm not willing to spend anything for an answer that might be wrong because the question is misunderstood, particularly if there is some way to get an answer for free.


So, if there are any lawyers out there who are willing to help resolve this issue for free, your help would be greatly appreciated.  I've been doing research, and I found a legal discussion HERE which seems to address the question and resolve the issue, but "The Convincer" doesn't see it that way.   The problem is, his interpretation is so off-the-wall, that it's unlikely that any lawyer has ever looked at the matter from such a point of view.  So, it's unlikely that anyone even addresses "The Convincer's" point of view.

But, I'll keep hunting.  Maybe I'll find something.  There's another discussion HERE which seems very clear to me, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how to use it to convince "The Convincer."  He seems to ignore anything that doesn't confirm his beliefs.  There are other discussions HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

Meanwhile, another issue is waiting.  "The Convincer" believes that the relevancy of all testimony is determined by some law.   My argument is that relevancy is determined by the lawyer making the claim to be decided by the court, and no law could possibly cover all types of relevant testimony.  The only rule is #701-B: which says the testimony must be helpful "to determine a fact in issue."   In court, relevancy can be challenged by the judge or by the other side, but it is humans who decide if evidence is "helpful" or not.  No law can "decide" if testimony is helpful or not toward getting the jury to understand something.

June 24, 2013 (D) - Ah!  People were wondering how an American citizen can be charged with "espionage" for doing what Snowdon did.  Typically, people charged with espionage work for other countries.  But, the Huffington Post has the answer in an article titled "Edward Snowden Says He Sought Booz Allen Hamilton Job To Gather NSA Surveillance Evidence."    The article begins with this:

Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked information on the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, says he sought the job with Booz Allen Hamilton to gather evidence on the agency's data collection networks.

That's called "espionage" in any court.  It's akin to "industrial espionage," except that Snowdon was not working for another company.

June 24, 2013 (C) - The Washington Post has a news story this morning titled "Snowdon apparently did not board Havana flight, but may leave Moscow Tuesday."  I found these two paragraphs a bit amusing:

The flight to Havana was packed with journalists, who set off a flutter of Tweets when the airplane door was closed.

“They’ve just locked the doors of the plane, #Snowden is NOT on this plane!!!” tweeted Egor Piskunov, a reporter with Russia’s government-financed RT.

A plane full of angry journalists on a 12½ hour Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Havana?   Hopefully, there was a full supply of vodka aboard.

June 24, 2013 (B) - The Wall Street Journal has an article dated yesterday attacking James Comey, President Obama's nominee for FBI Director.  The article is subtitled "Obama's FBI nominee has a record of prosecutorial excess and bad judgment."  The article says this about the anthrax attacks of 2001,

Or the atrocious FBI investigation, harassment and trial-by-media of virologist Steven Jay Hatfill, falsely suspected of being behind the 2001 anthrax mail attacks. Mr. Comey continued to vouchsafe the strength of the case against Dr. Hatfill in internal Administration deliberations long after it had become clear that the FBI had fingered the wrong man.

Vouchsafe?  Vouchsafe is a verb meaning to offer in a condescending way.  So, it seems to mean that Comey didn't fully accept the case against Hatfill, but he didn't dispute it, either.  I can understand that.  It was very clear to me that Dr. Hatfill was innocent because of the politics of all the conspiracy theorists who were pointing their fingers at him, plus Hatfill lacked the required expertise and access.  But, I could understand that the FBI could not just ignore all the people who were pointing at Hatfill when the FBI didn't have any solid proof they could use to point to a better suspect. 

The Wall Street Journal wasn't one of the "trial-by-media" newspapers pointing at Steven Hatfill.  They had - and probably still have - a different theory about the anthrax mailings of 2001: Pesky foreigners did it.

June 24, 2013 (A) - There's an common saying attributed to a number of different writers, "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."  That's the feeling I have about yesterday's comment.  It could have been a lot shorter if I'd have had more time.  And I could have been a lot clearer in what I wanted to say.  But, today, instead of going back and trying to fix things, I'm just going to leave it the way it is.  While some of what I wrote about yesterday was very interesting to me, I'm not sure that revising things would help make it more interesting to readers of this web site.

June 23, 2013 (D) - Another one of the subjects that kept me busy last week was totally off-topic, yet extremely fascinating to me.  A relative of mine has been looking for ways to make a quick fortune by investing in new technologies.  A few weeks ago, he asked me about investing in "cloud computing."  I had heard the term, but I had never had any reason to seriously look into it.  But, I was curious, so I did some research.  I ended up advising my relative that I had no idea where there might be money to be made by investing in "cloud technology."  To me, there seemed to be more investment pitfalls than good opportunities.   And no new companies seemed to have any edge on anything.

Then, last week the same relative contacted me again about a different scientific area where a totally new technology seems to be on the verge of creating new consumer products which could make zillions for companies on the forefront of that technology.  He'd picked what appeared to be a newly formed company run by scientists.  He wanted to invest, and he asked my advice.

That was a very different request.  It wasn't about the general technology (which was very interesting) but about a specific company involved with that new technology.

The first thing I did was check out the address of the company.  Using Google Maps, I found that it belonged to a dry cleaning shop in a small shopping center in a small town in Canada.  But, other facts said it couldn't be.  Unexpectedly, the location was one of those places where I could do a Google virtual tour around the entire area to  examine every building.  I verifed that the stores next door were indeed next door to the address of the company I was checking out.  Then I noticed that the Google virtual tour was done in 2011, so maybe the  dry cleaning shop had moved out of that shopping center and the new company had moved in.  Checking further, I found that was not exactly the case.  I found that the dry cleaning shop had moved out and that a UPS Store had moved in, and the address for the company was a mail box at that UPS Store.

Doing more research, I found that the new company was basically run by scientists who were also prospectors.  They were using investment money to explore and buy land in Northern Canada where gold, copper and the raw materials for the new technology might be found in meaningful quantities.  So, the company wouldn't make money from selling new products featuring the new technology, they would make money by selling raw ore that could then be made into consumer products by a different company.  The company that would be making the actual products was a private company wholy owned by the university where the scientists worked.

And, further research found that the prospectors' company had actually been around for about five years.  Before the new technolgy was developed, the scientists had been prospecting for gold and copper.  And the price of their "penny stocks" hadn't fluctuated significantly in the past five years.

All of this information totally quashed my relative's interest in that company.  But what it showed me was how much an amateur like me can find out about a company without having all the resources of the NSA.       

June 23, 2013 (C) - One of the subjects that kept me busy last week was discussions of "lay witness testimony" versus "expert witness testimony."   As part of that discussion, the George Zimmerman case came up, specifically, the ruling NBC News headlined in an article titled "Zimmerman trial judge bars expert testimony on 911 call recording."  The article says,

In a written order filed to county court this morning, Judge Debra Nelson called methodologies used by forensic voice analysts seeking to determine who is screaming during the call "not reliable."

However, Nelson said the recording itself can be played at trial -- and left the door open for family and others who knew Zimmerman or Martin to testify about it.
....

Two state experts, forensic voice analysts Tom Owen and Alan Reich, said it was not Zimmerman screaming on the tape.  Reich also said he could discern Martin speaking, claiming he could hear the 17-year-old say "stop" and "I'm begging you" in the moments before he was shot.

But three defense experts testified that the recording was of insufficient length and quality to make a determination, and attacked the research methods used by the state's experts.

In her ruling today, Judge Nelson said there is "no competent evidence that the scientific techniques used by Dr. Owen and Dr. Reich are generally accepted in the scientific field."

That standard -- evidence that the techniques are generally accepted in the field -- was the basis for the so-called Frye Hearing on the science behind voice analysis.

The argument reminds me very much of what I wrote back on June 4 about "audio forensic experts" listening to kidnap victim Amanda Berry's 911 call and somehow hearing the 911 operator curse at Amanda Berry after the call ended.  Yet, when I listened to the call, I hear no such thing.  I heard a third person say, "What was that!?"

But, that wasn't what the arguments were about last week.  The arguments were over different interpretations of Rule 701-C of the  "Federal Rules of Evidence." 

Rule 701. Opinion Testimony by Lay Witnesses

If a witness is not testifying as an expert, testimony in the form 
of an opinion is limited to one that is:
(a) rationally based on the witness’s perception;
(b) helpful to clearly understanding the witness’s testimony
or to determining a fact in issue; and
(c) not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized
knowledge within the scope of Rule 702.

Rule 701-C was added in 2000 to resolve problems where expert witnesses were testifying as lay witnesses because their testimony didn't meet the Daubert reliability standard required of expert witnesses.  An Anthrax Truther brought up the Zimmerman case in a comment HERE where he argued,

The screams are crucial pieces of evidence because they could determine who the aggressor was in the confrontation. Martin's family contends it was the teen screaming, while Zimmerman's father has said it was his son.
....
Now according to Mister Lake (ie if he were being consistent across cases), the prosecution, stymied at presenting this expert testimony on the screams, could then turn around and ask any law enforcement official who ever heard the tape, whether, in HIS OPINION, the scream was that of a 17 year old or that of a 28 year old.

Um.  No, that is NOT what I argued.  If I had mentioned the Zimmerman case at all, knowing what I know now, I would have argued that, if someone who knew Treyvon Martin or George Zimmerman heard the screaming on the tape, he could testify as a lay witness about who he believed was screaming, even though he's not a certified "expert" in deciphering screams heard in the night.  Bringing in a police officer chosen at random to listen to a tape and give an opinion makes no sense, since no one cares what the police officer's opinion is.  He wasn't at the scene, he wasn't familiar with either person's voice, and his opinion testimony does NOT help "to determining a fact in issue."

The real argument between the Truther and I is over the Truther's claim that Rule 701-C says that if a lay witness is not an expert cryptographer he cannot testify about decoding an encoded message.  Therefore, Agent Darin Steele's deciphering of the hidden message in the media letter would not be allowed in court.

My argument is that Rule 701 (a, b and c) says:

IF Agent Steele acquired his knowledge of decoding message in his regular job and his regular life, then he CAN testify as a lay witness to what he did.

IF Agent Steele acquired his knowledge of decoding messages by taking courses and becoming a certified cryptographer, then he CANNOT testify as a lay witness and MUST testify as an EXPERT witness.

Either way, FBI Agent Darin Steele can testify to what he figured out.

I must have studied a dozen articles on Rule 701-C to find the one that really makes it clear what the (c) amendment did.  The best source I found is HERE and says,

The effect of this change is that if testimony COULD qualify under 702, then it CANNOT qualify under 701. The focus of the amendment is on the subject matter of the testimony, rather than whether the witness is a layperson or an expert.

So, now I'm waiting to see how the Truther will spin this in order to argue that his interpretation is still the only correct interpretation.

And I'm learning that the best way to argue with a Truther is to find sources which I can quote to dispute his beliefs, rather than arguing in my own words based upon my own understanding of the issue.  That's probably something I've learned again and again over the years.  But, it's just easier to simply explain things than to find the perfect quote from an unimpeachable source.


June 23, 2013 (B) - In my arguments with Anthrax Truthers, I'm constantly being puzzled and surprised by the many strange things they believe.  For example, an Anthrax Truther who's a lawyer posted this on Tuesday:

The AUSAs Ken and Rachel reported directly to FBI Director Mueller.

Evidently, he never watched "Law & Order" and never heard the opening lines:

In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.

An Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) might be assigned to work with an FBI team on a particular case, but they are never working for the FBI, and they would never report "directly to the FBI Director."

The Truther is a civil law lawyer, and I got a great deal of my knowledge of criminal law from watching "Law & Order."  But who is right? 

Last week on my interactive blog, a different Anthrax Truther made it clear that he is almost totally ignorant of the legal case against Bruce Ivins, and that appears to be why he has been endlessly arguing that the government had no legal case against Dr. Ivins.  The Truther has his own theory which he thoroughly believes, therefore he sees no possibility that the government can be right.  That's typical for Truthers.

But, it's not typical for Truthers to explain their reasoning.  When a Truther did that last week, it was very enlightening.  The argument was over the hidden message in the anthrax letters sent to the media.  The Truther doesn't believe the hidden message exists.  Last week, he explained why:

If each and every 'highlighted' letter in the Brokaw text were highlighted 100%, (as is the case on page 404 of Hofstadter's book), then the would-be decryptor couldn't possibly err (ie do something in the first instance that would throw off, and throw off COMPLETELY the decryption.....actually throw off even the POSSIBILITY of a correct decryption...if there were such a message).

In other words, if there's an encoded hidden message in the media letter, why didn't encoder (Bruce Ivins) make certain that the hidden message could be easily and decisively decoded?  Why make the hidden message difficult (or next to impossible) to decode by NOT clearly highlighting each A and T that is part of the hidden message?

The answer is simple:  If the message were easily decoded, it would too easily point to Bruce Ivins as the anthrax mailer.

1. People would quickly realize that the code came from the book Godel, Escher, Bach.

2. People would quickly realize that the code involved 3-letter codons, meaning the encoder MUST be a scientist who has read Godel, Escher, Bach.

3. Then they'd realize that "FNY" and "PAT" must have some meaning to the scientist who sent the letter.

4. The FBI could learn that Ivins once loaned a copy of Godel, Escher, Bach to PAT Fellows.

5. Nancy Haigwood was the person who first recommended Godel, Escher, Bach to Ivins.  She would tell the FBI that Ivins was a fan of the book Godel, Escher, Bach, had a great interest in codes AND had vast expertise in making anthrax.

But, how do you get that across to someone who not only has no understanding of circumstantial evidence, he has a solid misunderstanding that he will defend to the end?

On the other hand, the Truther stopped arguing that point.  Maybe he'll start again later, but for now he's silent on that subject.


June 23, 2013 (A) - Wow!  What a busy week!  It was so busy that I didn't have time to start working on a Sunday comment.  So, I'm starting from scratch this morning.  I'll probably have to write several comments, since I can't see any easy way to combine all the stuff that I've been doing into one coherent comment.

Although the Snowdon case wasn't one of the topics I've been focused on during the past week, I happened to notice these headlines when I turned on my computer this morning:

Reuters: "Snowdon leaves Hong Kong, maybe heading for Venezuela"

CNN: "WikiLeaks: Snowdon arrives in Moscow"

The LA Times: "Snowdon stopping in Moscow en route to Cuba, Russian says"
and later
The Houston Chronicle: "WikiLeaks: Snowdon going to Ecuador to seek asylum"

From the LA Times:

NSA leaker Edward Snowden is flying from Hong Kong to Havana via Moscow, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said Sunday. The former National Security Agency contractor is expected to land in Moscow at 5 p.m.  Sunday, a Foreign Ministry official told the Los Angeles Times on condition of anonymity.

The next flight to Havana is Monday afternoon so Snowden most likely will spend his time in the transit zone of Moscow Sheremetyevo airport, he said.

“Snowden doesn’t have a Russian visa and he can’t get outside the transit area of the airport,” the official said. “Even if there is an Interpol warrant for his arrest, of which we are not aware, our law enforcement agencies won’t be able to do that in the transit area.”

Hmm.  So, they'd be able to talk with him, photograph him, but not arrest him?  Oddly enough, I find that perfectly logical.  Just don't ask me why I think it's logical.  I spent much of last week studying legal documents and interpretations of the law.  I don't want to have to start researching the laws regarding airport transit areas so that I can explain the logic behind such a law.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, June 16, 2013, thru Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 21, 2013 - Someone just sent me an email with a link to an article titled "Embattled lawmaker who alleged Boston bombing was government plot resigns."

Rep. Stella Tremblay, R-Auburn, who was widely criticized for her public comments after the Boston marathon bombings for suggesting a federal "black-ops" team was behind them, has resigned.
...

Tremblay apologized for her remarks, including saying that bombing victim and double amputee Jeff Bauman in pictures taken just after the explosion did not appear to be in pain or shock.

New Hampshire Republican Party chairman Jennifer Horn said this afternoon, "The New Hampshire Republican State Committee made it very clear that Representative Tremblay was unfit for public office and not welcome in our party. We are glad to see her go."

Rep. Tremblay was another "Truther" who probably believed that most people were on her side and believed as she believed.  It must have been a big shock to her to discover that the only people who agreed with her were total nut cases on the Lunatic Fringe. 

June 20, 2013 - Ho hum.  Another day, another conspiracy uncovered by the FBI.  CNN is reporting "KKK member, accomplice created lethal X-ray system, FBI says."

Glendon Scott Crawford, 49, and Eric J. Feight, 54, were arrested Tuesday after an undercover operation by the Albany FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. They were charged with conspiracy to provide material support for use of a weapon of mass destruction, according to the criminal complaint.

Crawford and Feight were developing a device "intended to be mobile ... designed to turn on remotely from some distance away" that would emit "some dangerous levels of X-ray radiation," according to John Duncan, executive assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York.

Individuals who might have been "subject to this X-ray radiation, would not immediately know that they had been harmed until some days later when they would either be injured, or it could result in their death," he said.

The suspects intended to use the device to harm and kill "enemies of Israel," a Department of Justice news release said.

A "KKK member" working on a device to kill enemies of Israel?  Evidently, Crawford is a KKK member who has his own unorthodox beliefs.

Crawford contacted two Jewish organizations in April 2012 for funding assistance of an "off the shelf" technology that could be used by Israel to defeat its enemies by killing them while the slept, according to the criminal complaint.

The "brains" of the outfit appears to be Eric Feight.

"When I started seeing how things, the direction things were going ... after the elections," Feight said, "You know, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

That's an adage I've heard before, specifically HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

June 19, 2013 - The "Truthers" are at it again.  This time it's about the 1996 explosion that downed TWA flight 800 just off the coast of Long Island.  CNN has an article titled "Filmmaker asserts new evidence on crash of TWA Flight 800."  As with so many complex issues, the new documentary supposedly has "experts" who do not accept the official ruling.  But, it seems very doubtful that the "new evidence" presented in the documentary will conclusively prove anything.   That would eliminate the controversy.  And it is controversy that sells tickets and attracts audiences.

A CBS News story titled "TWA Flight 800 gets another look 17 years later" includes these comments:

The problem was that certain rumors could not be shot down or proven one way or another easily - or quickly, said [CBS News correspondent Bob] Orr, because investigators couldn't prove a negative. "It probably took close to a year before sources I trusted could say definitively, 'we know a navy missile didn't shoot it down.' But the best they could do for a long time was say, 'that doesn't fit with the evidence we have.'"

In the Flight 800 investigation, Orr said "we were always looking for that 'Eureka' piece of damage ... the one [piece of wreckage] that would reveal the cause of the blast. But, they never found that 'Eureka' piece, because there wasn't one."

Ah!  If there were only "Eureka!" pieces of evidence in every case, then all mysteries would be conclusively solved and people could just argue over whether vanilla ice cream is more enjoyable than chocolate ice cream.  No evidence to evaluate, only opinions to argue endlessly and mindlessly.  A perfect(?) world.

June 18, 2013 (revised) - This is somewhat off-topic, but I just noticed an interesting article on the ABC News web site that says the feds think that a serial bomber who rides to his bomb sites on a bicycle may be on the loose in New York City.

The FBI said they believe the March 6, 2008 blast at the Armed Forces Career Center is likely linked to two earlier blasts at the consulates of foreign nations in New York -- the U.K.'s in 2005 and Mexico's in 2007. The bureau also announced a reward of $65,000 for information on the case, the first time there has been a reward associated with the case.

There's a YouTube video HERE of the suspect bicycling to the 2008 bomb scene in New York.  He enters the scene at about the 11 second mark; he (or she) lays down the bicycle at about the 27 second mark; and he walks to the Armed Forces Career Center where the bomb was placed, disappearing behind the structure.  At about the 2 minute 10 second mark he emerges again, picks up his bicycle and rides off away from the camera.  About a minute later, at the 3 minute 14 second mark, the explosion occurs.  The Times Square surveillance video ends at about the 4 minute mark when the first cop car arrives at the bomb scene.  The same YouTube video then shows various surveillance videos of the same bicyclist before and after the bombing.

The FBI has a web page HERE that provides some more details, including general information about where the other bicycling surveillance videos were taken:

The suspect rode a blue Ross bicycle west on 37th Street, took a right up Sixth Avenue, and made a left on 47th Street before turning left down Seventh Avenue. The suspect got off his bike near the recruiting station at West 43rd Street and Seventh Avenue, placed the explosive device at the recruiting station, lit a fuse, and fled the scene on the bicycle. Although the suspect appears to be working alone, he or she may have had a lookout or surveillance team of as many as five other individuals in Times Square at the time of the attack. The suspect then rode his or her bike south on Broadway before turning left on 38th Street. The bike was later recovered in a dumpster near Madison Avenue and 38th Street.

The June 18, 2013 ABC News article also contains a link an ABC News article from March 6, 2008, which indicates the same person (or persons) who planted the Times Square bomb then mailed letters to as many as 10 members of Congress declaring "We did it!"  However, an article in the Toronto Star from the next day, March 7, 2008, says that the writer of the "We did it!" letters was NOT the person who planted the Times Square bomb.  So, don't believe everything you read in the newspapers or see on TV.


June 17, 2013 - As anticipated in yesterday's (A) comment, "The Return of the Convincer" occurred today on my interactive blog.  He posted 3 messages:  The first was another argument over the definition of the word "eyewitness."  He equated it to "bystander," which doesn't include a witness who merely testifies to something he saw (or heard, felt, smelled or tasted) that is relevant to the case.   The second argument was that a hypothetical child using a Scooby Doo iPhone ap to decode a critical message is not the same as an FBI agent using a code book and a magazine to decode a message.  According to "The Convincer,"

The important point: the PROGRAM ('ap') is doing the decoding, not the child.

But, of course, the child had to know how to use the program and that the message could be decoded by using the program.  So, the child USED the program to decode the message just as FBI agent Darin Steele used the book Godel, Escher, Bach and a science magazine to decode the hidden message Ivins put in the anthrax letters he sent to the media.   The FBI agent just had to figure things out first.

The third post by "The Convincer" is an argument over whether the same rules of evidence apply during a sentencing hearing as during the actual trial.  I assume so, he hopes not.  "The Convincer" is looking for a way to ignore and dispute any similarity to the Jodi Arias secret coded message I mentioned in my (A) comment yesterday.

In an effort to find some common ground, I posted a message where I attempt to settle on a term that can be used by both of us to describe a NON-expert who testifies about some relevant fact in a court case.  I think "lay witness" is good.  But, "The Convincer" may prefer to argue endlessly, rather than to agree on anything.

June 16, 2013 (B) - As soon as I posted my (A) comment this morning, I had some additional thoughts about my arguments with "The Convincer."  He and I had argued at length on what the three different kinds of witnesses - (1) eyewitnesses/lay witnesses, (2) expert witnesses and (3) character witnesses - could testify about in court.  But, it had never occurred to me to check to make certain that a police officer could testify as an "eyewitness" or "lay witness" and not as an "expert witness" in court.

So, after posting my (A) comment this morning, I did a Google search for - police officer lay witness -  and found an article from "The Police Chief" magazine which said,

During criminal and civil litigation, police officers on the witness stand are sometimes asked to offer their opinions. According to two recent state court rulings, some officers who offer opinion testimony are expert witnesses and should be presented as such.

Recent Court Rulings: Some Officer Opinion Testimony Is Expert Testimony
The intermediate appellate court in Maryland recently found that a trial court committed reversible error when it admitted, in a prosecution for distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, opinion testimony of two police officers as lay opinions. The court ruled that because the officers' opinion testimony was validated by and based on their specialized knowledge, skill, training, and experience, it was more properly characterized as expert opinion testimony.

So, if FBI Special Agent Darin Steele testified in court about how he decoded the hidden message in the anthrax letters sent to the media, it seems quite possible that he could have testified as an "expert witness" on that one subject, since his expertise as a microbiologist had previously enabled him to notice a key clue -  that some of the highlighted characters in the letter seemed to represent the parts of DNA called codons.

That same Google search also found a pair of interesting articles about Section 701 and Section 702 of the Massachusetts Court's "Guide To Evidence" (which evidently is nearly the same as the federal rules):

Section 701.    Opinion Testimony by Lay Witnesses

If the witness is not testifying as an expert, the witness’s testimony in the form of opinions or inferences is limited to those opinions or inferences which are

(a) rationally based on the perception of the witness;

(b) helpful to a clear understanding of the witness’s testimony or the determination of a fact in issue; and

(c) not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Section 702.

Section 702.    Testimony by Experts

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise if

(a) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data,

(b) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and

(c) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

So, it can be argued that FBI Agent Steele's testimony about decoding the hidden message could be either lay testimony or expert testimony, or maybe some of each.  Interestingly, that same Google search found an article titled "One Witness, Two Hats, Three Cases," which begins with this:

It is well established that a police officer may testify as an expert witness in one case and a lay witness in another. However there has been some debate as to whether an officer can offer both kinds of testimony in the same trial; in other words, whether a policeman can wear "two hats" on the witness stand.

However, I would think that Special Agent Steele would have testified as a lay witness in Dr. Ivins' trial (if there had been one), since he'd been involved in so many aspects of the case from the very beginning, and it would have been fully accepted that his testimony would involve his considerable expertise in many different areas.

In another link as a result of that same search I found that a police officer can give a lay opinion on the type of wounds he saw ("The Convincer" argued that only a doctor could give an opinion on medical matters):

It was not error to allow officer to give lay opinion testimony regarding comparison of murder victim's injuries to those of her cat, over claim he lacked scientific training in the area to support admission as expert opinion testimony, where he did not purport to possess any specialized knowledge or to be an expert in wound determination; he testified based upon his first-hand observation of the wounds themselves; his observations did not require significant expertise to interpret and were not based on scientific theory; although the jurors could view photos of the wounds, they were not in a position to observe the cat's body first-hand; officer had a superior vantage point in viewing those wounds, having observed the body of the cat, while the jurors could view only two-dimensional photos; his inferences helped to provide a clearer understanding of what took place contemporaneously to the offense.

This is probably a good example of finding devastating points to argue after an argument is long over and everyone has gone home.  But, if "The Convincer" returns for another round, I've got a loaded cannon waiting to blast his beliefs to smithereens.

What this comment is meant to show is even after arguing for nearly 12 years, there are still some very interesting things to learn.  That's why I enjoy debating the case so much.

June 16, 2013 (A) - In "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," at about the  10 minute mark in the segment with Brian Regan, Jerry Seinfeld and Regan riff on the idea of having a supervillain called "The Convincer."  The comedy concept is that "The Convincer" has the super power to convince people of anything.

Seinfeld: It's a great name for - like- a Spiderman villain.  His only power is ... he wins every argument.  No matter how stupid his point of view is, you eventually go, You know what, I think you convinced me.

Regan: You wore me down.

Seinfeld: And I see your point.

I thought it was particularly amusing, because I sometimes feel that I'm in a battle with "The Convincer," a man who doesn't use facts, so he cannot logically win an argument, but he will not give up no matter what anyone says, and he just continues to try to convince people he's right.   "The Convincer" tries to wear down his victims.  

In discussions on my interactive blog, "The Convincer" has been trying to convince me that witnesses in court who are NOT "expert witnesses" can only testify about things for which they ARE "expert witnesses."  That's about as absurd an argument I've heard since a True Believer argued that it was the FBI's job to prove themselves wrong about the anthrax case. 

I, in turn, of course, tried to convince "The Convincer" that eyewitnesses are not the same as expert witnesses and do not have to have the expertise of "expert witnesses."

At times, it was a very interesting argument, because I would look for different ways to try to get "The Convincer" to understand that what he's arguing makes no sense whatsoever.  It appears that I've (at least temporarily) managed to get him to stick to just one argument, instead of constantly changing the subject and going off in fifteen different directions at once.  That might be considered to be progress.

"The Convincer's" current argument is that FBI Agent Darin Steele would not be allowed to testify in court that he decoded the hidden message in the anthrax letters sent to Tom Brokaw and the New York Post, because Agent Steele was not a cryptographer.  "The Convincer" believes that only a certified "expert" in cryptography can testify in court about decoding a message.

My counter argument was:

An eyewitness testifies in court about what they saw or heard or smelled or felt [or tasted]. The only rules are they must tell the truth, it must be something they personally did (no hearsay), and they can only respond to questions that are asked by members of the court (they can't make speeches).

If an eyewitness decoded a message, they can testify that they decoded a message, even if they are not an accredited cryptographer.
 
I even pointed out that, if a child used a Scooby-Doo decoder ap on his iPhone to decode a message, and if that information was relevant to a court case, the child could testify to decoding the message.

I also did a Google search for "coded message" and "testimony,"  to see what I could find.

I found an article which says that Jesus once sent a coded message to John the Baptist.  But, there didn't seem to be any court case involved, and "The Convincer" would likely argue that the laws are different in other countries.  Besides, since Jesus was the Son of God, he can probably be considered to be a "certified expert" on almost everything.

Then I found articles about a coded message in a court case where an actress sued for "wrongful termination" after being fired from the TV show "Desperate Housewives."  It seems a coded message "Steven drinks OJ" was sent indicating that the actress's days on the show "were numbered."  But, I could see a hundred ways that "The Convincer" could argue that the case was in no way similar to the case against Bruce Ivins.

Then I found an ABC News article that says the prosecutor in the Jodi Arias trial told the jury about decoding a message that Arias allegedly may have used to tamper with a witness.  Not only didn't the prosecution need to have a cryptographer do the actual decoding and testimony, the prosecutor didn't even need a witness of any kind to describe the code and how it was decoded.  Prosecutor Juan Martinez described the decoding process himselfI advised "The Convincer" of this.

The secret code Jodi Arias allegedly used involved writing brief meaningless comments on the margins of various pages of a copy of Digital Photo Pro magazine.  Then, in a copy of Star Magazine, she wrote a series of numbers.   The prosecutor (or one of his staff) determined that the numbers in Star Magazine related to page numbers in Digital Photo Pro magazine where the pieces of the coded message could be found, and the order in which they were to be read:
43 40 56 20 37 54

Evidently, Arias gave or was going to give the two magazines to the witness and tell the witness how to decode the hidden message.  That is witness tampering.  The decoded message (with page numbers) was:

43 = You f***ed up what you told my attorney the next day
40 = directly contradicts what I've been saying for over a year
56 = get down here ASAP and see me before you talk to them again and before
20 = you testify so
37 = we can fix this
54 = interview was excellent! Must talk ASAP!

For awhile, it appeared that this example of a NON-expert telling a jury about the decoding of a secret message just bounced harmlessly off "The Convincer" as if it was meaningless, since he just continued to argue his beliefs as if the Arias incident and the child with the decoder ap had not been mentioned.  But, then on Friday, after I wrote a long message describing all the things that eyewitnesses can testify about even though they aren't "certified expert witnesses" on the subjects, "The Convincer" went quiet.  He didn't respond.  He disappeared.

The Convincer

But, he's probably just off somewhere plotting tactics for a different argument.  So, I suspect it won't be long before we'll all be witnessing "The Return of The Convincer."

Updates & Changes: Sunday, June 9, 2013, thru Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 12, 2013 - This is totally off topic, but this morning while looking for something else, I stumbled across an ad for Season 2 of "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," which features Jerry Seinfeld chatting with various comedians while having coffee.  Season 2?  I'd never heard of it before!  Life is getting too complicated if Jerry Seinfeld can be in Season 2 of a show that I never heard of!  Investigating further, I found that Season 1 consists of 10 episodes  ranging in length from about 8 to about 17 minutes in length, totally free, and usually absolutely hilarious.  Click on the link and check it out.

June 11, 2013 - Each morning for the past decade, I've been doing a Google news search for the words "anthrax" and "2001" to see if there is anything new being written about the anthrax attacks.  This morning, a post by one of The Three Professors (the others are James Tracy and Lance DeHaven Smith), showed up on the World Socialist Web SiteProfessor Francis Boyle wrote this comment in response to an article about the "Obama Administration collecting phone records of tens of millions of Americans":

And be sure to add to your list of FBI cover-ups since 9/11/2001 the FBI covering up the DOD/CIA origins of the anthrax attacks in October 2001. See my book Biowarfare and Terrorism (2005). The retiring FBI Director Mueller was also the architect of the cover-up of the Lockerbie bombing, blaming Libya instead of whoever the real culprits were. See my book Destroying Libya and World Order (2013), I would recommend your readers have a look at Swearingen, FBI Secrets (Southend Press). There the author, a retired and decorated FBI agent, repeatedly calls the FBI “an American Gestapo.” The FBI/CIA also put me on all the US government’s terrorist watch lists when I refused to become an informant for them on my Arab and Muslim clients. Q.E.D.

Francis Boyle
8 June 2013

The comment mentions a name I never heard before: FBI Agent (from 1951 to 1977) M. Wesley Swearingen, whose book "FBI Secrets" was published 6 years before the anthrax attacks.  It appears to be a rant against FBI activities during the height of the Cold War.  So, Anthrax Truthers like Boyle, who think the U.S. Government was behind the anthrax attacks of 2001, can use it as evidence in support of their current beliefs.  After all, if J. Edgar Hoover was a cross-dresser, then it's only logical that all FBI directors after Hoover must do the same thing.   

June 10, 2013 - DXer (from Lew Weinstein's blog)  just emailed me a complaint:

you mischaracter what is on its face as a tweet as an email

Please correct your mistakes and take greater care in getting basic facts right.

The only relevant use of the word "email" in Sunday's (B) post was in what I wrote about Yazid Sufaat's daughter.  Sure enough, looking at the post in question, it says:

His daughter today writes:

Soraya Yazid ‏@sorayaanur4h
Tomorrow. 9am. Court of Appeal. #FreeYazidSufaat

I'm not a tweeter (the appeal of "tweeting" totally eludes me), so I didn't immediately recognize the tell-tale "hashtag."  I stand corrected, and I fixed Sunday's post.

June 9, 2013 (B) - Consider this:  Yazid Sufaat is a known al Qaeda terrorist.  A Google search indicates he's currently under arrest in Malaysia.   Yazid Sufaat is also the subject of a lot of posts on Lew Weinstein's web site about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  And, it appears that DXer, who posts endlessly to Weinstein's site, is reading tweets from Yazid Sufaat's daughter.

Moreover, in a post from two days ago, DXer appears to ask Yazid Sufaat a question:

Yazid, if you have the chance, can you also describe your relationship with Adnan?

One article on Weinstein's site is titled "Before his recent arrest, Yazid Sufaat declined to tell DXer the strain of 'anthrax spore concentrate' harvested July 4, 2001."

That title appears to come from when DXer posted this:

I asked Yazid Sufaat, prior to his recent arrest, to identify the strain in the bottle labeled “anthrax spore concentrate” that was harvested July 4, 2001.

He complimented the question but graciously declined to tell me.

In another message, DXer posted this:

Yazid’s wife Chomel should have their daughter Soraya delete those tweets that might be misunderstood such as “Full of hatred” and “The war is far from over” out of contest. If Soraya is going to engage in PR, then it is important that it continue to be calculated to be in Yazid’s interest. And she has been doing a great job in emphasizing what a great dad he is. Anyone who has had contact with him can see how gracious and witty he can be. That’s a rare quality under such trying circumstances. That’s the PR Yazid needs right now from her.

And in another thread, DXer posted this:

Communicating with me by Facebook and chat, Yazid Sufaat tells me he can work magic.

And the above post seems to be related to this comment by DXer:

Al Qaeda anthrax lab tech Yazid affably brags to me that he could do “magic” — but I didn’t think the journalist’s description fit. We have had one or two others say that Yazid had poor lab technique.

In another message, DXer posted this:

In connection with Yazid Sufaat’s work with anthrax — he is due in court, I believe, on May 6 on another charge — the key factual question in regard to analysis in the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings is: what strain was he working with? Yazid wouldn’t tell me.

In another message, DXer posted this:

Yazid, in my experience, has not engaged in false denials. He simply respectfully declines to answer.

I could probably go on and on and on.  But, my point is that DXer appears to be blatantly and unabashedly communicating with a known al Qaeda terrorist.  It's been going on for a long time, and I hadn't thought much about it before, since DXer is a lawyer and should know more about the law than I do.  I also assumed that the FBI and CIA keep track of discussions between American citizens and known al Qaeda terrorists.  But, when it was in the news the other day that Verizon was turning over to the National Security Agency (NSA) information about local calls, I recalled that my web site logs show that all of DXer's visits to my web site come from a verizon.net account.   That made me wonder what kind of phone calls DXer has been making.  If he talks on the phone (or exchanges text messages) with a known al Qaeda terrorist, does he realize that he may be communicating with an FBI or CIA agent pretending to be Yazid Sufaat?  And, does Yazid Sufaat assume that DXer is a CIA agent?

The apparent reason DXer is talking with known terrorists is because he believes

Amerithrax represents the greatest counterintelligence failure in the history of the United States because the threat is still ongoing — and the FBI closed the Amerithrax investigation.

DXer clearly feels that he can do a much better job than the FBI of figuring out who actually sent the anthrax letters of 2001.  He doesn't seem to accept any of the evidence against Bruce Ivins found by the FBI and used by the Department of Justice.  So, he's doing his own investigation by schmoozing with at least one known al Qaeda terrorist.

I guess my point in all this is: When you read that the NSA is tracking telephone calls between Americans and known terrorists, you shouldn't assume that no American you know would be communicating with known terrorists.  If you know someone who doesn't trust the government, that person could be out there doing his own investigation to prove the government is wrong about something.

Hopefully, there aren't many such people.

And, I'm going to continue to have my all my debates and discussions with DXer (a.k.a. "Anonymous") in public.  I'm going to continue to ignore (but archive) his emails or put them on my blog for discussion there.  I don't have any serious problem arguing with someone who talks with known al Qaeda terrorists, but I certainly don't want to talk with such people in private.   I want everything out in the open for all the world to see.

By the way, my web site log files show that, on Monday, the CIA was prowling around my web site.  They started on my main page at 2:31 p.m., after doing a Google search for "Amerithrax."  And they finished at 3:04 p.m. on part 3 of my Update History for 2011.   Here's the Site summary report as of Tuesday morning:

Top 30 of 1714 Total Sites
# Hits Files KBytes Visits Hostname
1 314 3.94% 115 1.80% 13759 2.64% 42 2.78% crawl-66-249-75-135.googlebot.com
2 298 3.74% 298 4.66% 2143 0.41% 1 0.07% ch05.slc.monitorengine.com
3 234 2.93% 66 1.03% 5031 0.97% 3 0.20% 110.85.114.123  [China]
4 129 1.62% 128 2.00% 9280 1.78% 1 0.07% relay202.net.cia.gov

I hope they found what they were looking for. 

June 9, 2013 (A) - Someone just sent me an email asking whether the guy who went on a rampage in Santa Monica, CA, Friday was a "terrorist."  (The emailer still doesn't accept the dictionary's definition that a "terrorist" is someone who has a motive of changing government policy through acts of terror.)  I think the emailer may also have noticed that the last name of the killer was Zawahri.  That certainly  seems like a Muslim name.  When Muslims go on a shooting rampage, can it be anything but terrorism?

However, when I did some research, I found a couple interesting comments following an article about the shooter HERE.  The first comment says:

He was a terrorist...We have Imams calling for Jihad in the USA, and Muslims of American training for Jihad in camps in 35 areas of the US, with arsenals of weapons on American soil..What do you expect? Our government does nothing to protect us from incidents like this. The Imam in Virginia calling for Muslims in America to commit Jihad has not been arrested or deported..     

And one of the responses to the above comment reads as follows:

He is Lebanese. Roughly 40% of Lebanon's population is Christian. His parents named him John and named his brother Christopher. Killing your family doesn't really fit the Muslim extremist profile. Usually they just go kill non-believers without the killing their family part. I don't see what logic would lead any educated person to assume this man was Muslim. This story is yet another warning that America's mental health system needs a complete overhaul.

Would a Muslim name his children after Christian saints?  I think not.  John Zawahri was just another nut case with too easy access to powerful weapons.  But, if anyone really wants to consider Zawahri a "terrorist," then he has to be a Christian terrorist.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, June 2, 2013, thru Saturday, June 8, 2013

June 8, 2013 - This morning, someone sent me an email with a link to an article on TheSmokingGun.com titled
"Ricin Mailer Was Tracked Via Mail Scanners."  They also provide images of the complaint filed against alleged ricin mailer Shannon Rogers Guess Richardson.  The complaint lists a lot of evidence found in the case.  On page 4 there is some interesting information about how the feds tracked down Richardson by using photographs of every piece of mail going through the mail processing system at the Shreveport Processing and Distribution Center on May 20, 2013.

This appears to be an update of the system that was used in the anthrax letters case to locate cross-contaminated letters that went through the mail system in at the Trenton mail facility around the same time as the anthrax letters.  That system identified a letter that went to someone on Ottilie Lundgren's mail route which cross-contaminated Lundgren's mail.  The feds also tracked down a lot of other letters that may have been cross-contaminated.  That system used the data collected when the scanner code is applied to the bottom of each processed letter.   That code is still printed on the bottom of envelopes.  It can be seen in the photo below, which was taken after delivery, not by the Shreveport system:

Bloomberg ricin letter 

So, even though the ricin letters themselves (like the one above to Mayor Bloomberg) didn't have any return addresses, the photos taken of each piece of mail indicated in what town they were probably mailed by associating the ricin letters with other letters processed at the same time.  The probable mailing locations, New Boston, Maud and Texarkana, Texas, are all within about 20 miles of each other.  And Shannon Richardson lived in New Boston.  Item #37 of the complaint says that Shannon Richardson confessed to the crime when confronted with all the evidence against her.

June 7, 2013 - Ah!  Surprise surprise!  They evidently caught the person who allegedly sent the ricin-laced letters to President Obama and NYC Mayor Bloomberg ... and it's a woman.   I haven't been keeping statistics, but I think this may be the first time a woman has been nabbed in a ricin attack.  And, she's a TV actress!  And that's not the end of it.   She allegedly tried to frame her husband for the crime.  Here's what NBC News says:

Shannon Rogers Guess Richardson of New Boston, Texas, originally called the Federal Bureau of Investigation claiming that her husband had sent the letters, officials said. The investigators found that she had sent the letters herself, they said.

Richardson is an actress with minor roles on television shows like The Walking Dead and the Vampire Diaries, and was arrested in Arkansas on charges that will be filed Friday afternoon, the authorities said. She has five sons, according to the New York Times.

In a statement to E! News, Shannon Rogers Guess Richardson said:

Guess said: "I really can't say much at all but the accusation couldn't be further from the truth. I would not put my unborn child or other children in danger just to 'frame' someone. He simply needed someone to blame for what he has done and I was the obvious person for him to blame. Most of what is being reported in this case is absolutely inaccurate. That's all I can say. Thank you for asking for my side of this instead of running with the inaccuracies many others are publishing."

And according to The New York Post:

The flame-haired, thrice-married mom of five is the one who called police to the couple’s New Boston, Texas, home after she found “Tupperware with what looked like ricin in the refrigerator,” a source said.

“He says they are going through a divorce and that she was away for a few days,” said one law-enforcement source. “He says it was when she got back that she found the [purported] ricin.”

The beans were bought with a credit card, according to a source.

Shannon Rogers Guess Richardson

USA Today says,

Richardson, according to a federal criminal complaint, is charged with mailing a threatening communication to the the president. An arrest affidavit says Richardson mailed the letters on May 20. She made an initial court appearance in Texas Friday afternoon. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.

So, they're evidently not going to charge her with "terrorism."  And, we've got a "Did he frame her or did she frame him?" situation.  That seems like it could be a very interesting plot for a TV movie.


June 6, 2013 - I've been spending most of my on-line time arguing with Anthrax Truthers on my interactive blog.  I think some progress is being made.  There's no possibility of agreement, of course, but I've been able to show one of the Truthers that his arguments are wrong.  He sees patterns in things that really are not patterns.  He sees a "pattern" in the fact that all hoax letters are "deceptions" and the anthrax letters were also a "deception" in that they were supposed to look like they came from al Qaeda when they really didn't.  So, he argues that the deceptions are "evidence" that all the letters came from the same person (except where proved otherwise).  

I explained to him that the fact that the letters are from different locations, use different writing styles, use different threats, and are different in many other ways says that there is NO pattern indicating they all came from the same person.  He then changed the subject, so I don't know if that argument made any impression.

My response to another of his arguments, however, may have made an impression.  I illustrated his argument with this cartoon at the top of the thread where we are arguing:

Misspelling theory

It appears he not only totally disbelieves all the evidence which shows that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer, he also never paid any attention to that evidence.  At one point, he argued that Bruce Ivins would know how to spell "penicillin."  He posted:

Mister Lake wants to have it both ways: dispute me at every turn, even when his disputations cut against the GOVERNMENT'S case against Ivins!

Okay, have it your way: "penacilin" was a legit misspelling. Which indicates that the author was NOT Bruce Ivins!

Whereupon I pointed out to him that the deliberate misspelling of "PENACILIN" was a key point in the government's case against Ivins.  It was a key element in the "hidden message" encoded within the media letters.  The Truther's response was, of course, to change the subject.

Interestingly, I also told him that misspelling Israel as "Isreal" is common. (It was misspelled that way in the Ayaad Assaad letter.)   The Truther responded

I don't think that that's true.  The commonest mistakes are: true mistakes (misremembered
spellings that the writer doesn't catch as looking odd); typos (when a typewriter or other keyboard is used); phonologically-based mistakes.

I neglected to mention that a typewriter or keyboard WAS used to write the Ayaad Assaad letter.  Instead, I chose to do a Google search for the word "Isreal."  Google informed me that it appeared to be 71,800,000 uses of the word "Isreal" on the Net.  Looking at some of them, it turns out most appear to be a failure to add a space between "is" and "real."  Isreal also appears to be a last name for a lot of people (or it could be a misspelling of their last name). But, what surprised me most was that I found a web page which does nothing but tell people how to avoid misspelling Israel as "Isreal."  Click HERE.  And, I found a Newsday article with this headline:

Syria vs. Isreal, HUD legislation, Internet tax collection: Top stories for May 6, 2013

And I found an article from the Mat-su Valley Frontiersman with this headline:

Isreal Attacks Syria

And what appears to be an Afghan newspaper "Khaama Press" has this headline:

Iran hangs two men over espionage charges to Isreal and US

And, another Mid-East news site, Albawaba News, has this headline:

Isreal detains Jerusalem's top Muslim cleric after scuffles at al-Aqsa mosque

I rest my case.

June 5, 2013 - Someone just sent me an interesting article which says NYC personnel did not follow established protocols when handling the ricin letter sent to Mayor Bloomberg:

City agencies, led by the NYPD, ignored their own bioterrorism protocols while investigating a threatening letter sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and didn't realize it was laced with potentially deadly Ricin for days, DNAinfo New York has learned.

I never heard of "DNAinfo" before, and I don't see any additional reports from any recognized media source, so I suppose this has to be taken with a grain of salt.

The article says that instead of taking the suspicious letter to the NYC Department of Health as protocols required, the letter was instead taken to the NYPD forensic crime lab.  The NYPD forensic lab had it for four days before something they saw on the news alerted them to what might be in the letter they were handling:

“[The city] did not know they had a dangerous substance on their hands,” a law enforcement source said.

It was not until four days later — after a similar letter was received at Bloomberg’s Washington-based anti-gun lobbying group and was tested at an appropriate local lab — that authorities in New York fully realized the danger.

“It was only then that authorities said we better take a better look at the letter in New York,” the source said.

As I recall, the anthrax letter sent to Tom Brokaw was also handled as if there was no serious danger.  It was apparently carried to a lab by a cop who was contaminated by the powder in the letter, and then two lab technicians were also contaminated.  It's unclear which lab was involved in that instance, but the lessons certainly weren't fully learned.

On the other hand, the DNAinfo article also says this about the ricin letter:

NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit cops suited up in their safety gear and handled the letter, police said. Even so, three officers became contaminated and later developed symptoms, primarily diarrhea, related to Ricin exposure.

There aren't any details, so we don't know exactly what went wrong.  But, it certainly seems like the NYPD should have left the handling of the letter to the NYC DOH.

June 4, 2013 - The puzzle over why so many people think the 911 dispatcher cursed at Amanda Berry is still nagging at me.  One news outlet says:

Cleveland station WOIO reports that the call taker is a male and a police forensic audio team examined the call but cannot be sure what is said. “They do say the first words begins with an ‘F’ and the second word begins with ‘B’,” the station reports.

Meanwhile 19 Action News hired their own independent audio forensic experts.

One expert says the second word is b****,” according to the station.

And the second expert believes both curse words are used.

It’s a shocking and cruel twist in a story that has captured national headlines. The investigation is ongoing.

When I listen to it, there is no cursing and no mystery.  As I stated in my comment on May 20, the controversial part is a third person saying very clearly, "What was that?"

It's like we're all watching President Obama on TV as he says, "Good evening my fellow Americans," and there's an immediate uproar from everyone else as they say, "Did you hear that?!  The President just said 'We're going to war with Syria!'"

Huh? 

The only thing I can figure out is that I'm listening to the Amanda Berry 911 call on a pair of good quality stereo speakers attached to my computer, and everyone else (including the "audio forensic experts") are probably listening to the call on their iPhone or iPad or some similar device.  Those things apparently have speakers about the size of a pea and no capability of turning the volume up to any significant degree.

If I tried to convince any of the "audio forensic experts" of this, I wonder if they'd argue, "No one uses computers anymore.  Computers are old, iPhones and iPads are new.  New is always better.  Everyone knows that."

Sometimes it seems that the world is going to Hell at 90 miles an hour, and I'm being left far behind.  And no one understands why it doesn't bother me.

June 2, 2013 - In a heated exchange of posts on my interactive blog on Friday and Saturday, I think I may finally have gotten to the heart of one particular Anthrax Truther's argument.  The problem is correctly interpreting the information I've found.  The most obvious interpretation may not be the correct interpretation.

The Anthrax Truther's CLAIMS begin with his belief that the anthrax writer is:

someone who knows enough of the Hebrew alphabet to incorporate elements of same into his printing of Amerithrax, enough of Cyrillic to incorporate elements of that into the St Pete hoax letters.

He believes the anthrax letters,
, the Assaad letter, the hoax letters mailed from St. Petersburg, the B'nai B'rith package, and several other hoaxes were all perpetrated by the same person or group.  In a posting HERE he CLAIMS:

1)the multiple Hebrew elements all but preclude someone who ISN'T thoroughly familiar with the Hebrew alphabet as being the printer.

2)since only about 2.1% of the US population is Jewish, and many of these totally secular Jews who have had no reason/opportunity to use the Hebrew alphabet in any way, EVEN if we throw in Near East scholars, journalists who have learned Hebrew as part of their work, seminary students/ministers who learned Hebrew as part of their education, and other Gentiles who have learned Hebrew to one degree or another, we are still looking at a US population of which no more than 3% can be said to know the Hebrew alphabet to any degree.*
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_population#Populations_as_a_percentage

3) The value of this is eliminative: anyone who DOESN'T know the Hebrew alphabet to a considerable degree, can be eliminated as a PRINTING suspect.

and HERE he says:

Bruce Ivins left no indication that he knew Hebrew in the slightest.

Anyone can see that there is a definite hint of anti-Semitism in what he writes.  He somehow sees Hebrew elements in the writing on the anthrax documents.  He claims that what he sees shows that the anthrax writer learned to write in Hebrew at some point in time, but he doesn't appear to have any actual evidence to support his claims about Hebrew elements in the handwriting.  He also provides statistics about Jews to support his beliefs.  And, although he doesn't seem to be able to justify his beliefs, he seems totally unshakable in what he believes.  Plus, and he won't name or even describe how his suspect can be a better suspect than Dr. Ivins.  

Of course, he denies that his claims are anti-Semitic and says:

What's Anti-Semitic about it? (none of my Anthrax Gang is Jewish, as if that matters!).

When I press him for evidence to support his claim that there's a Hebrew aspect to the anthrax writings, he points to past discussions, but those past discussions only show his claims, not any actual evidence.  He uses the same tactics as the Anthrax Truther/True Believer who claims that Islamist militants were behind the attacks, i.e.,  he  says the evidence is in his past writings and in articles for which he has provided links.  I just need to hunt for the evidence in those places, and if I don't find it, then it's my fault.  If I don't want to hunt for something that seems to be non-existent, then I'm not interested in learning about any evidence that doesn't support my own personal beliefs.

There seems to be enough evidence to argue that that Anthrax Truther is just another anti-Semite blaming the Great Jewish Conspiracy for everything.  But, could there be some other explanation for the intensity of his apparently baseless beliefs?

In my debates with Anthrax Truthers, I constantly do research, not only to look for new facts and evidence, but also to look for better ways to explain the facts and evidence. 


I find it mindboggling that Truthers absolutely refuse to understand the importance of facts and evidence.  Even more mindboggling is their repeated argument that they see NO EVIDENCE to support the FBI/DOJ's claim that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer.  Yet, they see their own muddled arguments as being unquestionablely correct and they feel they have solid evidence that their own suspect sent the anthrax letters.

There may be a clue to understanding that kind of thinking in the way the quasi-anti- Semite Truther also endlessly goes off into bizarre debates over the meanings of words.  For example, we went round and round on the difference between "argument" and  "evidence."   We also argued at length about the difference between "lay witness" and "eyewitness" and what an eyewitness can testify about versus what an expert witness testifies about.  So far, we've reached no clear agreement on anything.

A Colorado State University writing class web page titled "Distinguishing Between Fact, Opinion, Belief and Prejudice" says:

A fact is verifiable. We can determine whether it is true by researching the evidence. This may involve numbers, dates, testimony, etc. ... The truth of the fact is beyond argument if one can assume that measuring devices or records or memories are correct. Facts provide crucial support for the assertion of an argument. However, facts by themselves are worthless unless we put them in context, draw conclusions, and, thus, give them meaning.

An opinion is a judgment based on facts, an honest attempt to draw a reasonable conclusion from factual evidence. ... An opinion is potentially changeable--depending on how the evidence is interpreted. By themselves, opinions have little power to convince. You must always let your reader know what your evidence is and how it led you to arrive at your opinion. 

Unlike an opinion, a belief is a conviction based on cultural or personal faith, morality, or values. Statements such as "Capital punishment is legalized murder" are often called "opinions" because they express viewpoints, but they are not based on facts or other evidence. They cannot be disproved or even contested in a rational or logical manner. Since beliefs are inarguable, they cannot serve as the thesis of a formal argument.

Another kind of assertion that has no place in serious argumentation is prejudice, a half-baked opinion based on insufficient or unexamined evidence. ... Unlike a belief, a prejudice is testable: it can be contested and disproved on the basis of facts.

It appears that the only part of this that is understood and accepted by "Truthers" is:

facts by themselves are worthless unless we put them in context, draw conclusions, and, thus, give them meaning.

And, they seem to view things slightly differently:

facts by themselves are worthless BECAUSE we put them in context, draw conclusions, and, thus, give them OUR OWN meaning.

In other words, facts are worthless and mean nothing.  It's only the interpretation of the facts which means anything.  But Truthers seem to go one step further and dismiss the need for facts altogether.  Why even bother with discussing facts if it is only personal interpretations that have meaning?

I would ask:  Interpretations of what?  If you don't start with the facts, what is it you are interpreting?

The answer seems to be:  They are interpreting the situation.

sit·u·a·tion n

1.
a. The way in which something is positioned vis-à-vis its surroundings.
b. The place in which something is situated; a location.
2. Position or status with regard to conditions and circumstances.
3. The combination of circumstances at a given moment; a state of affairs.
4. A critical, problematic, or striking set of circumstances.

The Anthrax Truthers with whom I've been arguing seem to seriously believe that they know better than anyone else in the world (particularly "the government" or the people in authority) how to correctly interpret a situation.  They seem to have an unshakable "faith" in their own ability to correctly figure things out, and an unshakable "belief" that "the government" and/or people in authority failed to correctly figure things out.  So, it can be argued that their beliefs are based upon prejudices, not on faith.  They're steadfastly prejudiced towards their own interpretations of situations.  On the other hand, maybe "faith" is what you have when you talk about your own beliefs, and "prejudice" is what you have when you talk about someone else's opinions.

The Anthrax Truthers who believe that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks seem to have developed that belief because the anthrax attacks occurred so soon after the horrific al Qaeda attacks of 9/11.   They cannot see any possible way the two events coming so close together could just be "a coincidence."  Their interpretation of the situation is that the two events MUST be the work of the same people.   The DOJ's case against Ivins is just a "flawed chain of reasoning" and a "total mess."

The quasi-anti-Semitic Anthrax Truther has been arguing that some kind of criminal mastermind sent the anthrax letters, the Assaad letter, the St. Petersburg letters, the B'nai B'rith package, etc., etc.  Why does he believe that?  His explanation HERE doesn't really provide reasons.  It's just the way he views the situation.  It appears he simply can't believe that many different people would all be doing similar things at the same time due to pure coincidence.  That evidently doesn't make sense to him.   So, he doesn't believe what the government says.  He has his own ideas about how the world works.  He sees the same person (or group) as being behind them all.  And he believes "the DoJ case against Bruce Ivins is chockful of mindreading, bad psychology, over- stated evidence, evidence that bears no logical relation to Ivins' guilt or evidence etc."

Truthers
simply prefer their own interpretations to those of people who seem to have a different view of the way the world works.  That's where prejudices come into play.  The Truthers argue that "the government" has been wrong in the past, so they are wrong now.  The Truther may also have been wrong in the past, but he's not wrong now.  That's pure prejudice.

According to that Colorado State University writing class web page:
  

An opinion is potentially changeable--depending on how the evidence is interpreted. By themselves, opinions have little power to convince. You must always let your reader know what your evidence is and how it led you to arrive at your opinion. 

That's the way I like to do things.  And, in an ideal world it would be the way everyone does things.  But what if you're arguing with people who have a totally different view of the world, a different view of evidence, a different interpretation of the rules of evidence and a different interpretation of how evidence is viewed in court and how a legal case is made?  And, if you try to explain to them that that is not the correct way, they simply believe that they know more than you do.  They know what facts mean, you don't.  They know what evidence is, you don't.  They know how the legal system works, you don't.

When encountering such people, the most common response would be to just walk away.  But, I'm not here to just walk away.  I'm here to explain my understandings to people.  If I can't explain the facts to Anthrax Truthers, I can still explain to the other readers of this web site.  That's what I've been doing for nearly 12 years.  The more I argue, the more I learn,
the more I understand, the more experience I get in arguing with Anthrax Truthers, and the more interesting the debates often become - for me.

And, maybe --- just MAYBE -- I'll someday find the "trick" to getting an Anthrax Truther to realize that his view of the world may not be the correct view.  Maybe it's just a matter of finding the right argument.  Yesterday's discussions ended with me trying to show the quasi-anti-Semitic Truther that a claim is not the same as evidence.  He seems to think they are the same, probably because "facts by themselves are worthless."  If facts are worthless, then making claims is all that matters.  Let the other fellow prove the claims are incorrect or provide better claims.

Sometimes I feel I should assemble a collection of "debate enders," so when an Anthrax Truther starts arguing some old subject all over again, I can just quote from or provide a link to the "debate ender" which shows the solid points I made in the past that caused various Truthers to walk away or change the subject.  Examples:

"Mohamed Atta did NOT write the anthrax letters"
"Van der Waals Force and Static Electricity: How They Affect Bacillus Spores"
"The Media & Iowa State University"
"How Bruce Ivins Made the Anthrax Powders - Allegedly"
"The Attempted Lynching of Steven Hatfill"

I could create similar pages for "the rabbit argument" (how much time it took Ivins to care for rabbits and how it relates to his "unexplained" overtime hours in his lab),  for "the ZIP code argument" (how the ZIP code on the senate letters relates to Ivins' apparent obsession with all things named "Monmouth"), for "the lay witness argument" (what a lay witnesses can and cannot testify about in court), and for numerous other subjects that Anthrax Truthers will endlessly argue about because they seemingly believe that claims are evidence and that they just need to convince me of that in order to win their argument.

I just need to summon up the will-power to create those new pages.   Or maybe I'll just lay on a couch, eat a bowl of warm butterscotch pudding and watch a movie.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 26, 2013, thru Saturday, June 1, 2013

May 31, 2013 - There's been a number of news stories (click HERE or HERE or HERE) about President Obama's likely choice to replace Robert Mueller as FBI Director.  Robert Mueller officially became Director of the FBI on September 4, 2001, just one week before 9/11.  The appointment term for FBI Director is 10 years.  However, in 2011, President Obama asked that Mueller remain on the job for an additional 2 years, and the Senate agreed.  So, Director Mueller is expected to step down in early September, just over 3 months from now.

Coincidentally, September 11, 2013 will be the 12th anniversary of 9/11 and September 18 will be the same anniversary for the first anthrax letter mailing.

It seems to me that, if the General Accountablity Office (GAO) is going to ever produce their review of the Amerithrax investigation, the perfect time for it would be in late September or early October, right after Mueller leaves office.  The report could then theoretically provide information to the new Director on how to do things better in the future, and there wouldn't be any need to discuss anything with the previous Director.  I'm not speculating or predicting, I'm really just hoping.

May 30, 2013 -
Although I said I wouldn't write anything else about the Amanda Berry case, I can't resist commenting on the controversy over her phone call to 911 and the response from the 911 dispatcher (also HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE). 

I can't understand how so many people can think that the 911 operator called Amanda a "f--king b--ch" at the very end of the call.  What I hear is the 911 operator just trying to get the facts from a nearly hysterical woman. 
I also notice that earlier in the call the operator responds, "I got that, dear," after Amanda says she's been on the news for ten years.  That's not usually what an angry person calls someone else.

I've played the controversial part at the end of the call at least two dozen times with the volume turned up as far as it will go, and what I hear at the very end, is this:

911 Dispatcher: Talk to them [the police] when they get there.
Amanda Berry
:  All Right.  Okay.

911 Dispatcher.  Thank you.
Amanda Berry:  Bye.
Unknown voice: What was that?!

It's at about the 1:34 mark.  That third voice very clearly says, "What was that?!"  It's not the same 911 dispatcher and it's definitely not a curse.  My best guess is that it's the voice of another 911 dispatcher who had been listening in.  It's incomprehensible to me how anyone could hear it as a curse from the dispatcher.

I think there's more than enough real controversy going on without people imagining things and demanding that the 911 operator be fired because of what they imagined.


As another example, the media is reporting that the father of Ibragim Todashev, who was shot by an FBI agent during an interrogation related to three grizzly murders in Waltham, MA in 2011, is claiming that his son was "executed."  What appears in photos to be a cut on the top of Ibragim's head - possibly from being hit with a gun barrel during a struggle - is described by the father as a bullet hole in the back of his son's head.  So, we can expect the media to generate a lot of controversy over this.

And, by now everyone has probably heard about the two letters containing ricin that were sent to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and
Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group Bloomberg helps run and finance.  The letters threatened Mayor Bloomberg and made reference to the real controversy and debate over gun control laws.  According to ABC News,

The letters – with identical text -- were printed from a computer and are postmarked May 20 from Shreveport, La. 
...

Asked if he was angry, Bloomberg said he wasn't.

"There are people that do things that might appear irrational - things that are wrong," he said. "But it's a complex world out there. And you just have to deal with that."

One Bloomberg insider told ABC News the mayor himself made the decision to go public with news of the ricin-laced letters as soon as a second, more reliable round of tests returned positive results for the poison.

Technically, the ricin letters are probably classified as a "terrorist" attack, since the motive behind the letters appears to be to intimidate Mayor Bloomberg and others to get them to change government policies about gun control.

Added note: Later in the day, The New York Times reported that it appears an identical letter was also sent to President Obama.  It hasn't yet been examined.

Other than that, there's nothing more to say.  Hopefully, the FBI and other investigative organizations will find the ricin mailer and lock him up.

And, hopefully, the Cleveland authorities have listened to Amanda Berry's 911 call and can tell that that there's nothing seriously wrong with the 911 operator's reponses. 

May 28, 2013 - I was just provided a link to an amusing blog page where an Anthrax Truther attempted in 2006 to explain his views of the differences between "fact" and "fantasy."  Click HERE to go to the page.

It's a very bizarre blog page because most of the fantasies are nonsense made up by the Truther and then debunked by the same Truther.  And, in many instances, he clearly cannot tell the difference between fact and fantasy.  One of the best examples:

2. Fantasy: The Ames strain was obtained from Ft. Detrick.

Fact: The Ames strain had been distributed to at least a score of known labs, and the genetic investigation could not pinpoint the source of the anthrax, though it may have narrowed the field to four labs at least known to have had genetically identical Ames.

In that one, it seems to me that there is more fact in what the Truther thinks is fantasy than in what the Truther thinks is fact.  The Ames strain came from Ft. Detrick, they distributed it to 17 other labs, and the genetic investigation did pinpoint the source.

In the item below, the "fantasy" is blatantly created by the Truther, since no one ever made such a preposterous claim:

4. Fantasy: The fact that the hijacker with the black leg lesion was dead proves his black lesion was not related to anthrax.  

Fact: In June 2001, hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi told a doctor that he had gotten a gash associated with blackened lesion -- such as occurs with cutaneous anthrax -- in Afghanistan after bumping into a suitcase. He had come from the Darunta camp where Al Qaeda's anthrax production program at Kandahar was located and where virulent anthrax was found.

The Truther's "fact" is just a fantasy.  According to a more reliable source, there was nothing found at Darunta camp that related to anthrax:

Working in a crude laboratory at the Darunta terrorist training camp, eight miles south of Jalalabad, al-Masri led a group that experimented with several World War I-era chemical agents, including hydrogen cyanide, chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas. After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, U.S. troops searched the Darunta camp and found training manuals detailing the synthesis of nerve agents and how to enhance conventional explosives with toxic chemicals.

Below is one where fact is described as fantasy by the Truther, and then the deliberate mis-classification is justified by explaining that terrorists sometimes lie:

8. Fantasy: Shortly after the mailings, Al Qaeda denied responsibility for the anthrax letters, and there was no claim of responsibility.

Fact: Bin Laden and Zawahiri also initially denied involvement for the 1998 embassy bombings and initially denied responsibility of 9/11.

Osama bin Laden did deny responsibility for the anthrax letters.  Click HERE.  The Truther just doesn't believe him, so he claims that fact is fantasy.

While there are many other fact-fantasy items that are also largely nonsense because of distortions, to bring an close to this comment, here's an item labeled as "Fantasy" that was a solid FACT:

14. Fantasy: The FBI suspects someone who is not a supporter of the militant islamists

Fact: In a press conference in October 2005, Director Mueller said that the FBI was pursuing all domestic and international leads. He said "remember Oklahoma City. Remember 9/11." He declined to say if they had a suspect. That year, FBI agents reportedly had visited Asia, Africa and Afghanistan in the course of the Amerithrax investigation.

On September 23, 2006, when the Truther created that blog page, Dr. Bruce Ivins was already a suspect in the case (he was not known to be a supporter of militant Islamists), and flask RMR-1029 (the "murder weapon") was already becoming a major piece of evidence in the investigation.

Rule #1 for people trying to separate fact from fantasy: Understand the difference.

May 27, 2013 - This morning I stumbled across this:

Bruce Ivins singing on a record?

The 45 rpm record appears to contain recordings of Dr. Bruce Ivins singing "Pass Me By" and "All Shook Up."

Bruce Ivins singing 2 

Bruce Ivins singing 1

The links are from a blog posting by Dick Destiny dated April 13, 2011 which says:

As promised, here’s the newly found recording career of Bruce Ivins, the USAMRIID scientist declared the anthrax mailer by the US government.

But Ivins, in addition to being the best bioterrorist US money could buy, was by all accounts a man of many talents. His fondness for entertaining with music and keyboard playing is documented in newspaper stories worldwide.

And so the founder of Bona Fide Records, Rick Noll of Pennsy, has discovered, recovered and brought to the attention of a fascinated country, the bioterror scientist’s 7-inch vinyl, recorded as Bruce Ivins and the Country Boys.

Is it really THE Bruce Ivins, or is it someone else named Bruce Ivins?  In an earlier article from GlobalSecurity.org titled "Bruce Ivins, first bioterrorist/recording artist ever?" dated April 8, 2011, George Smith (a.k.a. "Dick Destiny") wrote:

Maybe so. We don’t know for sure. Perhaps it’s all phlogiston, Bruce Ivins and the Country Boys another Bruce Ivins — not the Bruce Ivins at the center of the anthrax case. It’s all just a coincidence, what Klaatu was to the Beatles, sort of. It’s just one more mysterious embellishment contributing to the fascination over lore connected to the nation’s most famous bioterrorist. Like the FBI/DoJ case against Ivins, the evidence is circumstantial yet still compelling.

Maybe time will sort it out.

Maybe.  If it is THE Bruce Ivins, then his friends and family probably have copies of the record.  In the articles, the experts seem to be saying that all the backup music and background singing cannot be created digitally with the keyboard Ivins was using in the photos, but knowing how to play that kind of keyboard would have provided him with all the basics he would need to use the type of keyboard used to make the recordings.  So, the recordings most likely involved playing a more sophisticated studio keyboard.

I don't recall ever seeing those articles by Dick Destiny before, and the only reason I found them this morning was because of an article on GlobalSecurity.org from last week which mentions that ricin letter mailer James Everett Dutschke is also a musician who produced some recordings, and so is another guy associated with ricin, Robert Alberg, of Kirkland, WA.

Like Alberg, J. Everett Dutschke stands accused of making ricin. Unlike Bruce Ivins, the anthrax mailer, recent American history has shown that castor bean pounders kill and sicken no one. 
...

American bioterrorists are few in number. But they are a very modern phenomenon.

And the most famous bioterrorist of all, Frederick, Maryland's anthrax mailer, the research scientist Bruce Ivins, was also a recording musician.

Ivins, the only accused bioterrorist whose work killed people, five in the anthrax mailings of 2001, ignited a national panic and launched a bioterrorism defense industry boom that lasted for over a decade.

I'd seen the pictures of Ivins singing at his keyboard before.  But, it never occurred to me to wonder what kind of music he sang.  "Pass Me By " is a Country and Western tune.  And "All Shook Up" is an old Elvis Presley Rock and Roll song.  Does that mix say anything about Ivins?  If it does, I have no clue to what it says.

May 26, 2013 - It's been almost a full week since a couple Anthrax Truthers last posted comments about  the anthrax attacks of 2001 on my interactive blog.  But at 7:11 a.m. yesterday morning,  "DXer" posted this to Lew Weinstein's blog:

A prolific poster named Ed, a retiree in Wisconsin, argues regularly that a First Grader wrote the anthrax letters. He did not take care to inform himself about the FBI’s manhunt for Adnan El-Shukrijumah — and still studiously avoids the facts relating to the issue (Very uncivil and adopting ad hominem labels rather than analysis of the facts relating to El-Shukrijumah was the mailer, he would not address the facts when over the course of years it would be pointed out). Instead, his argument was that because the FBI did not talk about its hunt for an unidentified accomplice, such an accomplice must not exist.

Instead, Ed imagined a First Grader — who does not exist — to have written the anthrax letters.

Since I'm banned from posting to Weinstein's blog, it seems I'll have to respond here.

It's difficult to decipher exactly what "DXer" is saying in his convoluted and largely incoherent ramblings.  "Unidentified accomplice?"  What "unidentified accomplice?"  Accomplice to what?  And where did I ever argue that this "unidentified accomplice" doesn't exist?  

And, the first grader doesn't exist?  Don't you have to have some idea of who the first grader might be before you can say that he doesn't exist?  Or is "DXer" claiming he can prove that NO first graders existed anywhere near Bruce Ivins in 2001, even though his wife ran a day care center in their home and had friends with children?

"DXer" seems to now be arguing that Adnan El-Shukrijumah was the anthrax mailer, and he seems to want me to examine his "evidence."  I'm translating this:

He did not take care to inform himself about the FBI’s manhunt for Adnan El-Shukrijumah — and still studiously avoids the facts relating to the issue (Very uncivil and adopting ad hominem labels rather than analysis of the facts relating to El-Shukrijumah was the mailer, he would not address the facts when over the course of years it would be pointed out ).

to mean this:

He ... still studiously avoids the facts relating to the issue ... rather than [analyzing] the facts relating to El-Shukrijumah [being] the mailer.  He would not address the facts when over the course of years [the facts were] pointed out [to him].

In reality, I created a web page titled "The illogical al Qaeda theory" on June 17, 2012, which addressed some of the so-called "evidence" against al Qaeda.  I got bored with it after a couple days, and I never finished it.  But, I'm certainly willing to debunk more of "DXer's" highly and easily debunkable beliefs.  It's just difficult to figure out exactly what he's saying.

As you may recall, two weeks ago, "DXer" he was arguing that

The anthrax letters are in the handwriting of [Mohamed] Atta.

To me, it looks like "DXer" is trying to recover after being shown to be wrong when I showed him solid evidence that Mohamed Atta did NOT write the anthrax letters.  So, it seems that "DXer" is now trying to start some kind of a new debate.

He now seems to have turned to arguing that El-Shukrijumah mailed and probably wrote the anthrax letters, although there do not appear to be any handwriting "exemplars" to analyze.  That means there is no current risk that I or anyone else can also prove that El-Shukrijumah handwriting does not match the writing on the anthrax documents. 

"DXer's" new belief about the handwriting is evidently supported only by his primary unshakable belief: militant Islamists were behind the anthrax attacks of 2001. 

At 6:32 a.m. this morning, "DXer" stated on Lew Weinstein's blog:

I have been publicly explaining the importance of Adnan El-Shukrijumah to the solution of the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings for over a decade.

On Friday, "DXer" declared in one post on Lew Weinstein's blog:

I have argued that Adnan El-Shurkijumah was the mailer of anthrax letters in the Fall 2001. He stayed with Al-Hawsawi in safe houses in Karachi from February – April 2002. Al-Hawsawi had the anthrax spraydrying documents his laptop.

And in another post on Friday:

KSM and El-Shukrujumah, who I have argued is the Fall 2001 anthrax mailer for over a decade, likely knew each other from fighting in Bosnia in 1995. Adnan’s Dad’s mosque in Brooklyn was a conduit for fighters going to Bosnia.

However, 12 days ago, on a thread titled "FOIA Suit Relating to Theory That Aberaouf Jdey Is The Anthrax Mailer," "DXer" evidently wasn't as certain as he now seems to be:

Let’s first more fully visit Ken Dillon’s theory that Jdey was the anthrax mailer — notwithstanding my argument below that as between Jdey and El-Shukrijumah, El-Shukrijumah is the more likely candidate for mailer.

and

finding that Jdey is alive will not serve to debunk [Kenneth] Dillon’s brilliant hypothesis that Jdey was the mailer (He first shared it with me almost a decade ago and I knew then he was on to something).. As I’ve said, I’ve suggested that alternatively maybe El-Shukrijumah was the mailer

Using Google, I cannot find any posts on Lew Weinstein's site prior to March 2012 that even mention El-Shukrijumah (or El-Shurkijumah or El-Shukrujumah).   The way I recall it, for many years "DXer" seemed to be focused on pointing at Ali al Timimi as being somehow responsible for the mailings.  At a seminar on November 29, 2010, "DXer" used a slide presentation that doesn't even appear to mention El-Shukrijumah.  Click HERE to access the slide presentation.

So, what kind of "evidence" does "DXer" have to support his strong belief that militant Islamists were behind the anthrax attacks?   An August 8, 2011 post lists some of what he considers to be "evidence."

1.  The "cloud" evidence:

While the anthrax letters themselves were copies on plain paper, the J-Lo letter (which facts say did NOT contain anthrax and had nothing to do with the attacks) was reported in The National Enquirer to have been written on

a business-size sheet of stationery decorated with pink and blue clouds around the edges.

And according to "DXer,"

In admitting that he had taken over supervising the development of anthrax for use against the U.S. upon Atef’s death (in November 2001), Khalid Sheikh Mohammed separately noted that “I was the Media Operations Director for Al-Sahab or ‘The Clouds,’ under Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri.”

This seems to be the item of "evidence" that "DXer" mentions most often.  The J-Lo letter was reportedly written on stationery decorated with clouds, and a Muslim terrorist organization was called "Al-Sahab" or "The Clouds."  So, the clouds on the stationery were evidently some signature code for "The Clouds" organization.

Yet, "DXer" evidently sees no evidence in the FBI's finding that Ivins put a coded message into the anthrax letters sent to the media (a coded message relating to his two co-workers) and was observed throwing away the code books.

Obviously, "DXer" has a different standard for "evidence" when it's evidence that doesn't support his personal beliefs.

2.  The "green bird" evidence:

The anthrax letters were mailed in pre-stamped Post Office envelopes.  The stamp on those envelopes was an American Eagle design:

post office stamp on envelope 
While the eagle looks to me to be light blue (as in red, white and blue), "DXer" sees it as being blue-green:

The “Federal Eagle” stamp used in the anthrax mailings was a blue-green. It was widely published among the militant Islamists that martyrs go to paradise “in the hearts of green birds.”

Blue?  Green?  Blue-green?  There's apparently no difference when looking for evidence to support a belief.  So, the stamp (with USA printed on it) was a code for the "green birds" in the hearts of which militant Islamists will travel to paradise.  Again, he shows that he has a totally different standard when looking at what he considers to be "evidence" versus the FBI's evidence.

3.  The "Greendale School" evidence:

The return address on the anthrax letters sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy was:

4TH GRADE
GREENDALE SCHOOL
FRANKLIN PARK NJ 08852


According to "DXer":

The mailer’s use of “Greendale School” as the return address for the letters to the senators is also revealing. A May 2001 letter that al-Zawahiri sent to Egyptian Islamic Jihad members abroad establish that he used “school” as a code word for the Egyptian militant Islamists.

So, according to "DXer's" theory, the fact the senate letters had a return address that included the word "school" is another code used by militant Islamists.  And, of course, "green" is also part of "Greendale," which again relates to the "green birds" inside which the Islamists go to heaven.

4.  The "4th grade" evidence:

According to "DXer":

The “4th grade” in the return address “4th Grade, Greendale School,” is American slang for “sergeant” — the rank of the head of al-Qaida’s military commander Mohammed Atef, who along with al-Zawahiri had overseen Project Zabadi, al-Qaida’s biochemical program.

4th grade is American slang for sergeant?   Really?  And sergeant is also the rank of an Islamist military commander?  So, that's the reason "DXer" believes the Islamists used it in the return address?  It's another code?
 
Of course, "4th grade" is also the actual grade of student who was given corporal punishment at the Greendale Baptist Academy in Wisconsin, which was the subject of a feature story in The American Family Journal just prior to the attacks, a magazine to which Ivins and his wife subscribed.  But, according to "DXer," that isn't "evidence."  If he doesn't believe it, then it isn't "evidence."


5.  The "Franklin Park" evidence:

According to a post by "DXer" in 2012:

On the return address, Greendale School purported to be in Franklin Park. Padilla, the former Broward man suspected of plotting to explode a ”dirty bomb” to spread radiation in the United States, worshipped at a Broward County mosque, Masjid Al-Iman, in Fort Lauderdale. That mosque was across the street from Franklin Park.

Of course, the town of Franklin Park, NJ, is just 10 miles beyond where the anthrax letters were mailed, so it could also be where Dr. Ivins planned to mail the letters before he was sidetracked by a visit to the KKG sorority location in Princeton.  For all we  know, the first anthrax letters could have been mailed in Franklin Park, NJ.  The first powder wasn't as pure and fine as the second powder and wouldn't have leaked through the envelopes as much.

But, "DXer" says "Franklin Park" relates to a mosque used by El-Shukrijumah.  Comments from "DXer" (
using a different name) located HERE say:

On the return address, Greendale School purported to be in Franklin Park where fugitive Adnan El-Shukrijumah worshipped along with others who now have been indicted.

But, a little research finds a private detective's web site
HERE that says,

Darul Uloom Institute & Islamic Training Center 7050 Pines Blvd. Pembroke Pines is the mosque that Adnan El Shukruijumah attended in Pembroke Pines, El Shukruijumah shows an address in April 2001 at 6839 Pembroke Rd Pembroke Pines Fl.

So, it appears that El-Shukrijumah (or El Shukruijumah) went to a mosque in Pembrook Pines that was 13.7 miles from a park called "Franklin Park" in Fort Lauderdale, not the mosque that was "across the street from Franklin Park."  But, I suppose that if there was a Franklin Park anywhere near any militant Islamist ever traveled, it's "evidence" of why Franklin Park was used as the return address on the anthrax letters.  You just have to use a different standard for what is "evidence" and what is not.

6.  The Kandahar "anthrax lab":

A major part of the beliefs of the Anthrax Truthers who argue that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks is their claim that al Qaeda had an anthrax lab in somewhere in Afghanistan.  This belief is based upon some apparent "false positives" encountered during tests for anthrax in 2004 in a lab near Kandahar, Afghanistan.  Those tests found absolutely NO ANTHRAX OF ANY KIND in the lab.  The tests just found pieces of DNA that were supposed to be unique to the Ames strain of anthrax. 
The positive results were noted in one swab taken from the outside of an unopened medicine dropper package,  one swab taken from a sink, and one swab from a drain hose.

I wrote about this in my comment for June 3, 2012 and on my blog on May 4, 2013.

When the FBI returned to the lab to check and attempt to verify what had been found, they dismantled much of the lab and took the parts back to the U.S. for thorough testing.  According to page 12 of the FBI field report on the subject:

1254  samples were taken from these 528 items and submitted to the NBFAC for analysis.  All 1254 samples were negative for the presence of Ba via culture analysis at the NBFAC and PCR at NMRC.

So, there is NO "evidence" about any anthrax in any al Qaeda lab in Afghanistan, it's all just wild interpretations of rumors and speculation by "insiders" and reporters who didn't know what they were talking about.

And the fact that Bruce Ivins created trillions of Ames anthrax spores and was in charge of the murder weapon isn't evidence at all to "DXer."  Nor is the fact that, at the time of the mailings, Ivins had more than enough anthrax spores to make the powders for the letters.  And those spores were a perfect match for what was found in the letters.

Conclusion:

There is no meaningful evidence that any militant Islamists were behind the anthrax attacks of 2001.  All that the Truthers have is vague beliefs that they twist to use as an argument, while all the solid real evidence the FBI found which says Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer isn't really evidence to the Truthers.

On May 18, 2013, "DXer" wrote on Lew Weinstein's blog:

It was the failure to act on the travel of the two key hijackers that led to 9/11.

It was the failure to act on the travel of El-Shukrijumah that led to the botched Amerithrax investigation.

If we don’t learn from history, we are bound to repeat it.

And on May 24, 2013, "DXer wrote on Lew Weinstein's blog:

the Amerithrax mystery was never solved.

The country remains at risk.

The leading suspect for the mailings (in my opinion) is now head of Al Qaeda’s external operations and is planning to the attack the United States.

As George Bush famously said, failure is not an option.

Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins was the anthrax mailer, not some militant Islamist.  And, while there's no denying that al Qaeda would use anthrax and other biological weapons against us if they could, it is also clear that no evidence of any kind will persuade "DXer" that the anthrax attacks of 2001 was a mystery that has indeed been solved. 

"When objective evidence disproves strongly held beliefs,
what occurs, according to the theorists of 'cognitive dissonance'
is not rejection of the beliefs but rigidifying, accompanied by
attempts to rationalize the disproof.  The result is 'cognitive rigidity';
in lay language, the knots of folly grow tighter."
--Barbara W. Tuchman: "The March Of Folly"

If I've missed any other "evidence" that "DXer" considers to be important and wishes to explain, I recommend he tell me about it on the subject thread on my Interactive blog called "Facts vs Evidence."
Facts vs Evidence cartoon
Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 19, 2013, thru Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 24, 2013 - Wednesday's "terrorist" attack in London reminds me of a conversation I had a couple weeks ago about the definition of the word "terrorism."  Someone wrote me about a 14-year-old girl who set fire to the entrance to a roller rink in Dorchester, MA, and he called her a "wannabe terrorist."  I supplied him with this definition:

ter·ror·ism  n.
The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

As the discussion continued, we categorized other recent crimes.  The Newtown massacre?  A mass murder, not an act of terrorism.   The Norway shooter?  A terrorist.

The Boston Marathon bombing was a clear act of terrorism.  The recent  ricin mailings?  The man arrested in Spokane this week was charged with "mailing a threatening communication," and James Everett Dutschke in Tupelo, Mississipi, was charged with "producing a biological agent for use as a weapon."  No terrorism charges were filed, even though they used a "potential terror weapon."

Bruce Ivins, of course, would have been charged with "terrorism," since the facts show his motive was to "coerce societies or governments" into funding his anthrax vaccine development program.     

And now we have two "terrorists" who killed a British soldier but didn't seem to terrorize anyone.  A video shows three women, including one pulling a cart of groceries, cautiously walking past the ranting terrorist, almost bumping into him, as he held up a bloody cleaver for someone with a camera and declared his reasons for his actions, which were clearly done with the "intention of intimidating or coercing" the British government "for ideological or political reasons."  Later, other women fearlessly stood over or knelt beside the body and argued with the terrorists.  The end result: one dead soldier and two terrorists arrested.  That's not the usual ratio.

But it certainly makes clear that a "terrorist" is defined by why they commit their crime, not by what kind of weapon they use or how much "terror" they create.

May 22, 2013 - This morning, the Boston Globe had a "breaking news" story titled "FBI agent shoots and kills Orlando man with ties to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev."  Early in the morning, the Globe said,

The FBI identified the person shot and killed as Ibragim Todashev, 26.

According to the FBI and local news accounts, the shooting took place in an apartment building on Peregrine Avenue while Todashev was being questioned about the bombings and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

“The agent, along with other law enforcement personnel, were interviewing an individual in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing investigation when a violent confrontation was initiated by the subject,’’ the FBI said in a statement released around 9:30 a.m. today.

“During the confrontation, the individual was killed and the agent sustained non-life threatening injuries,’’ the FBI said.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel had a similar story with a few additional details:

Todashev knew bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev because both were mixed martial-arts fighters.
....

Todashev, who is from Chechnya, "flipped out" during an interview Tuesday night and an agent was forced to shoot him,

It appears from those and other articles that Todashev was paranoid about being linked to the bombings.  But, at the same time, NBC News had a very different angle to the story:

The man who was shot, Ibragim Todashev, 27, allegedly attacked an agent with a knife during questioning. He was not suspected of having played any role in the bombing that killed three people and injured scores more in April, but he did confess to being involved in a brutal Boston-area slaying two years ago, investigators said.

Law enforcement officials said Todashev was being questioned as part of the FBI’s effort to find and talk to anyone who had any contact with Tsarnaev, the older bombing suspect.

Todashev, they say, had spent some time in the Boston area, where he was a mixed martial arts fighter, and knew Tsarnaev there.  Investigators say he confessed to the agent in Florida that he played a role in a triple murder in 2011 in which three men were murdered in an apartment in Waltham, Mass. 

Their throats had been cut, and their bodies were covered with marijuana. No suspects had been arrested in that case.

That was at around 10:00 a.m., CDT, and time will tell if that NBC News story is the "real" story.  At that time, no other news media outlet mentioned the knife or the connection to the drug-related triple murder in 2011.

Update at 10:33 a.m. CDT: The Orlando Sentinel and Wired.com are now repeating what NBC news wrote about the knife and the connection to the Waltham triple murder, but they provide no additional details.

Update at 11:29 a.m. CDT: Business Insider is also repeating what NBC reported, but they've added one interesting detail related to the Waltham triple murder:

Todashev, 27, allegedly attacked an FBI agent with a knife right before he was about to sign a written statement based on his confession. The agent shot and killed Todashev during the confrontation.

Update at 11:57 a.m. CDT: The FBI's statement is HERE.  It says there were also two Massachussets State Police officers in the room at the time of the shooting.

The articles which originally did not mention the knife or the confession now mention the knife and the confession, but the links remain the same.  So, if I want to make such comparisons in the future, I'll probably need to take snapshots or save files showing the original articles.  But, I can't complain too much.  This comment has been changed many times as new information became available.  That's the easiest way of doing things.  When newspapers and printed magazines eventually go bye-bye, maybe there'll be no record of incorrect early news reports, and days afterwards, every news outlet will only be showing articles which appear to be right about everything. 

It appears that, in the future, the public will often be misled by news stories which quickly cease to exist and which cannot be proved to have ever existed. 

On the other hand, maybe we'll all learn to be patient and look for other news reports from other sources before we come to any conclusions about some breaking news story that requires the interpretation of reporters.  That seems like a good idea even now.

May 21, 2013 - This is totally off-topic, but I found it very interesting.  Check out the article "3-D printable food?  NASA wants a taste."  The comments following the article are mostly intelligent comments, something I can't remember ever seeing before.

May 20, 2013 - This probably won't interest anyone, but it's significant to me: Today I started volume #26 of my journal.

My journals

I started keeping a journal on January 30, 1982, when I noticed blank journals on sale in a book store for 80 cents and bought three of them.  They mostly just contain a summary of what I did in a given day (particularly regarding progress made on a book or on a screenplay) and what my weight was.  Boring stuff.  But, if anyone asks me where I was and what I was doing on a specific date in the past 31 years, I can tell them.  Knowledge isn't just what you know, it's mostly knowing where and how to look things up.

May 19, 2013 - I actually seem to be making some headway with one of the two Anthrax Truthers who have been tag-team arguing with me on my interactive blog

I'd been arguing all week with both Anthrax Truthers that lay witness testimony about handwriting as described on page 89 of the DOJ's Amerithrax Summary Report below would be acceptable in court:

The witness thought that the handwriting on the envelope addressed to Senator Daschle reminded the witness of Dr. Ivins’s writing. If the witness were to receive a package with that writing on it, the witness would think of Dr. Ivins. The witness noted that, in particular, the style of the block letters with alternating heights stood out, as did the slant of the writing. The witness said that this was the type of writing Dr. Ivins used when he disguised his handwriting as part of a joke.

The argument from both Truthers was that such evidence can only be presented in court by a qualified "expert witness" who is certified to be knowledgeable on the subject of disguised handwriting.  And, even then, it wouldn't be allowed if the actual handwritten notes from Ivins weren't also presented as evidence in court for the jury to see.

The first Truther mostly just argues that evidence isn't evidence unless he believes it's evidence, but the second Anthrax Truther (who happens to be a lawyer) had dumped one legal citation after another on me to argue about what "expert witnesses" did in court, and he totally rejected everything I said about what "lay witnesses" can testify about in court.   (He's the same Truther who erroneously argued that the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes was the handwriting of 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta.)

Their arguments didn't make any sense to me at all.  I'm no lawyer, but the subject of the law and courtroom procedures is another life-time interest of mine, mostly the result of reading hundreds of books by authors like Scott Turow and Elmore Leonard, watching dozens of movies like "Inherit the Wind" and "Anatomy of a Murder," and a long-ago interest in watching TV lawyer shows like "The Practice" and "Ally McBeal."  That was all fiction, of course, but it was fiction based upon real legal situations.  (I did sit in a courtroom and watch part of a real murder trial in Kansas City, MO, circa 1962.  And, like most Americans, I did watch some of the O.J. Simpson murder trial on TV.)

So, starting with an understanding of courtroom procedures that was based almost entirely on fiction, I did some research looking for real trial transcripts, and I stumbled upon a web site where there is a wealth of information about many famous trials.  I picked the Timothy McVeigh trial from the list, then I picked the first witness whose name I didn't recognize (Lori Fortier), and I found a transcript of her testimony.

After presenting the Anthrax Truthers with a few examples that neither one of them accepted as being similar to the handwriting situation, I located an example where Lori Fortier had testified to seeing a "fake driver's license" in the possession of Timothy McVeigh.  Here are some of the prosecutor's questions and Lori Fortier's answers:

Q. Again, during this two-and-a-half-month period that McVeigh was staying in the Kingman area, did you ever loan him anything?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. Just tell us in your own words what you loaned him, what the circumstances were, what he said to you, where you were.
A. I was at the house, and he came and asked if he could use the typewriter; and I let him take it for a couple days.
Q. Go ahead.
A. He brought it back a few days after that; and when he brought it back, he asked if he could use the iron, because he had something to laminate.
And I told him no because I didn't want him to ruin our iron.
So I took what it was that he had and I laminated it for him.
Q. What was it?
A. It was a false driver's license.
Q. Describe it, please.
A. It was white. It had like a blue strip across the top, and Tim had put his picture on there. And it was like the false name of Robert Kling. I believe it was a North Dakota license.
Q. When you say it was a false name of Robert Kling, how is it you remember that name?
A. Because I looked at it.

The actual driver's license was NOT presented in court.  It had evidently been destroyed by McVeigh after he used it to rent a Ryder truck to haul the explosives he used to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995.   So, this key piece of evidence existed only in the memory of a lay witness who could testify about it.  No "expert witnesses" were needed to testify that it truly was a fake license, that it showed McVeigh's photograph, or that Timothy McVeigh had the capability to create it.   There were no objections from the Defense when the lay witness testimony was given.  Both Truthers had argued that such things would never be allowed in court.

That testimony seemed to have an effect on the first Anthrax Truther.

In one comment on my blog, I had written:

In the theoretical trial of Bruce Ivins that never took place because Ivins committed suicide, the testimony of the lay witness in court would have been that Ivins would DISGUISE HIS HANDWRITING when writing cryptic notes to her.

The testimony of the lay witness in court would have been that the lay witness believed the handwriting on the anthrax envelopes could have been Ivins' disguised handwriting.

To which the first Anthrax Truther responded:

Okay, I'm confident that your first paragraph could have been admitted in court as testimony, but I'm not sure to what effect

So, the first Truther seems to have changed his mind and now agrees that lay testimony about the disguised handwriting would be allowed in court.  It was a small but perhaps significant concession.  The second truther just went silent.  I've heard nothing further from him.  He seems to be busy on Lew Weinstein's web site posting comments about a different Muslim terrorist who he now seems to believe wrote (or merely mailed) the anthrax letters. 

It appears that the  key trick to arguing with Anthrax Truthers (and probably Truthers of all kinds) is to get them to make declarations of things they believe that can be disputed with facts.  They try to avoid making such declarations and much prefer to ask loaded questions that imply government conspiracies or incompetence, and to voice bizarre opinions about why the FBI or DOJ did or didn't do something, which they want you to try to somehow disprove.

There were no new comments on my interactive blog this morning, so maybe both Truthers have gone silent until they can figure out a way to argue baseless beliefs again without risking that facts can be found which will thoroughly and embarrassingly disprove their beliefs.

Meanwhile, I discovered there is a relatively easy way to illustrate the problem I'm having with junk emails.  Here's a chart of the emails I've received for every day of 2013 through May 17:


Junk emails for 2013

Each horizontal line on the chart represents 100 emails.   So, my junk emails first broke through the 100 per day line on January 8, they first broke through the 200 emails per day line on February 13, and they first broke through the 300 emails per day line on May 1.  On May 2, it appears that the junk emails peaked out at 358 in one day.  Of all the 21,948 emails this year, only about a hundred or so were emails I wanted to read.

Encrypting the email address at the top of this web site may have helped reduce the number of junk emails I get, but it looks like it could be a long time before I can be certain that the long-term effect is going to be a gradual decrease in junk emails.

I could start using a new email address.  ed-lake (at) ed-lake (dot) com, would be perfect, but because I'm using very old software on almost everything, there's an incompatibility problem somewhere.  Unless I solve the incompatibility problem, I wouldn't be able to merge new emails into my existing archive of 50,000+ emails that I've accumulated since 2001.  So, I'm going to continue to simply procrastinate for awhile longer ( - probably until some disaster forces me to stop procrastinating).

Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 12, 2013, thru Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 17, 2013 - The debate on my interactive blog rages on.  While I was thinking about ways I might resolve some of the issues under debate, I found a very interesting web site on "Famous Trials" which contains a wealth of information about many different trials - from the trial of Socrates in 399 BC to the trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui in 2006.   Unfortunately, anything I find in those trial documents that might resolve an argument about what would have happened in a trial of Dr. Bruce Ivins would more likely just dissolve into a pointless argument of opinion versus opinion.  Or the Truther would just change the subject.  While it appears that a lot of disagreements could be resolved if Truthers could just be required to stick to a subject and not change the subject as soon as they see they are losing an argument, in reality they would also have the option of just walking away and ignoring what was resolved.  Of course, they would then return in a few weeks or months to argue it all over again as if nothing had been previously resolved.


May 16, 2013 (B) - If you're interested, you might check out an interesting debate about reality versus what "Truthers" believe that "lay witnesses" can and cannot testify about in court.  It's on my interactive blog.  Just click HERE.

May 16, 2013 (A) - CBS News is reporting that Dzohkhar Tsarnaev wrote what amounts to a confession on the inside wall (bulkhead) of the boat in which he was hiding when he was found.  Dzohkhar explained why he and his brother did what they did.  So, even if a clever lawyer gets his verbal confession tossed out of court because it was made before he was read his Miranda rights, the feds still have a confession that can be used.

May 15, 2013 - I find it highly amusing that the
True Believer who was declaring that the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes was the handwriting of 9/11 terrorist Mohamed Atta has suddenly and dramatically changed his tune.  

First, while not admitting he may have been wrong in declaring that it was Mohamed Atta's handwriting, he's now hinting that it may have been the handwriting of a different Muslim terrorist.  But, he hasn't provided any evidence to support that belief.  It doesn't seem to matter to him which Muslim terrorist wrote the letters, just as long as he can argue that it was Muslim terrorists who sent the letters, and not Dr. Bruce Ivins.

Second, the True Believer seems to have suddenly gone bananas in declaring that the handwriting is NOT the normal handwriting of Dr. Bruce Ivins.   He also declares:

No handwriting expert has put their reputation behind an Ivins Theory.

It appears that this is a new discovery for him. 

Anyone comparing Dr. Ivins' handwriting to the handwriting on the anthrax letters can see that there are great differences.  The FBI has (non-expert) witnesses who claim the handwriting is similar to the disguised handwriting that Ivins used when he sent out packages and cards to people and didn't want them to know who the sender was.  Page 89 and 90 of the DOJ's Summary Report of the Amerithrax case says:

In addition, a witness who had received a number of packages and cards over the course of several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s was shown copies of the letters and envelopes used in the anthrax attacks. The witness thought that the handwriting on the envelope addressed to Senator Daschle reminded the witness of Dr. Ivins’s writing. If the witness were to receive a package with that writing on it, the witness would think of Dr. Ivins. The witness noted that, in particular, the style of the block letters with alternating heights stood out, as did the slant of the writing. The witness said that this was the type of writing Dr. Ivins used when he disguised his handwriting as part of a joke. As the witness studied the letters, the witness noted that the “E” and the “R” in the letter to the New York Post also looked familiar. The witness stated that these letters also reminded the witness of when Dr. Ivins disguised his handwriting as a joke. The witness described this “disguised” handwriting as being similar to Dr. Ivins’s standard handwriting, and that one could tell that he was trying to disguise his handwriting to a limited extent. Another witness familiar with the handwriting of Dr. Ivins in many contexts said the same thing.     

That is the only handwriting evidence related to the anthrax letters and envelopes used by the DOJ and FBI in the Amerithrax case.  It appears that no two "handwriting experts" used by the FBI agree on much of anything about the handwriting.  

In the legal case against Bruce Ivins as described in the Summary Report, the DOJ uses experts to show that Ivins was lying when he claimed he didn't write labels on the slants he sent to the FBI Repository.  But there is no expert testimony about the handwriting on the letters and envelopes - because the evidence is inconclusive.   In court, they'd leave it to the defense to argue that the handwriting didn't match Ivins' handwriting.  If the defense tried that, the prosecution could then bring in a bus-load of experts who could argue that Ivins could have used various methods to disguise his handwriting when writing the letters and addressing the envelopes.  Proving that Dr. Ivins did NOT disguise his handwriting to write the anthrax documents requires proving the negative.

Meanwhile, it appears that many readers of this web site were also somewhat surprised to learn that the handwriting on the anthrax documents doesn't match Dr. Bruce Ivins' handwriting.  A lot of attention has been paid to the illustration I used on Monday to show how Ivins, Atta and the anthrax writer wrote the number 4.  I could go through dozens of comparisons, but I'll just do one more here.  Below is a comparison of how Mohamed Atta, Bruce Ivins and the anthrax writer wrote the alphabetical character R:

Handwriting comparisons - R's

Both Ivins and Atta appear to have drawn their R's similar to cursive style, i.e, with  single stroke, first drawing the vertical line, then tracing back over the vertical line to the top where the arc is drawn and then reversing directions in order to add the extender (the diagonal line.)  The anthrax writer always used 3 strokes when drawing R's: (1) the vertical line, (2)  changing his method from kindergarten style of drawing small circles for the tops of his R's on the Brokaw letter to first grade style of properly drawing arcs as the tops of his R's on the Brokaw envelope, and (3) then drawing
the diagonal line.  Click HERE to view a video explaining 12 facts which clearly show that Ivins used a child to do the writing on the anthrax documents.  There is no logical explanation for why any adult - Ivins or Atta or anyone - would change his style of drawing R's and other letters of the alphabet, change the size of his handwriting, and change the use of punctuation between the first anthrax mailing and the second.

May 13, 2013 - This morning, my personal email inbox is being flooded with emails from a True Believer who continues to bizarrely argue that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta's handwriting matches the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes.  In over a dozen emails, he has been specifically arguing that Atta's 6's and G's are the same as the anthrax letter writer's 6's and G's  - probably because I previously didn't bother to explain the obvious differences in the new "Mohamed Atta did NOT write the anthrax letters" page I created on May 8th.  So, I've now updated that page to show that there are also great differences between the two writing styles for 6's and G's.

I wish the True Believer would post his arguments to my interactive blog where the entire world can watch a discussion of his claims, but it appears he doesn't like making a fool of himself in public.
This afternoon, I created a new thread for my interactive blog on the specific subject of "Mohamed Atta's handwriting."  However, he's still making his bizarre declarations about the handwriting via private emails (to which I never respond, except by commenting in public here or on my blog.  There's no point in arguing in private, since there's no way of changing his mind.  But, a public argument is a good demonstration of the fact that there's no way to change the mind of a True Believer).  Some of his email arguments make no sense.  Example, he wrote this at 4:13 p.m.:

Dr. Ivins did not write the date similar to the writer of the anthrax letters ; the FBI should disclose the handwriting comparison 

A couple of the messages I received this morning include rantings about how Bruce Ivins drew his 4's with an open top (just the way Atta did), while the anthrax letter writer drew his 4's with a closed top.  The True Believer is once again declaring that this proves that the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes does NOT match that of Bruce Ivins.  But, who ever said that it did?  The writing styles are obviously different.  The "official" explanation appears to be that that may be because Bruce Ivins disguised his handwriting.  I have been saying for 11 years that the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes is that of a child used by the anthrax mailer to avoid writing the letters in his own style -- or attempting to disguise his own style of handwriting.  I even created a video
HERE to explain the facts which show that a child wrote the letters.   
Handwriting comparison - 4's

In the bizarre logic of a True Believer, however, it appears that if Bruce Ivins' 4's do not match the 4's on the Leahy and Daschle envelopes, then that means Mohamed Atta was the letter writer, even though the 4's do not match Mohamed Atta's writing, either.

May 12, 2013 (B) - I've been exchanging emails with people regarding two new potential controversies.  First, there's the question of whether or not the Tsarnaev brothers were mass murderers long before they also became terrorists.  I.e., did they cut the throats and nearly decapitate three men in a Waltham, Mass. apartment on September 11, 2011?  Second, is there some connection between a paramedic who seems to have a hobby of making explosive devices and the explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas that killed 15 people?

I don't have any theories about either case.  I'm totally content with letting the police investigate those matters.  Generally, I only become interested in such matters when people start arguing beliefs against facts, causing controversy.  Then I usually side with the facts.  Right now, there don't seem to be enough facts to argue one way or the other.  There are interesting details in both cases that could just be coincidences.  Tamerlan Tsarnaev was the best friend of one of the slain men in Waltham; Dzohkhar Tsarnaev was allegedly a marijuana dealer; and the three slain men may also have been marijuana dealers.  The paramedic who made pipe bomb components may have profited from the fertilizer plant disaster, and he had a brother who was killed in the explosion.  And, he was fired a couple days after the explosion, but no news report explains why.

I don't see much potential in either case for the creation of a conspiracy theory.  But, if someone develops such a theory, I'd probably feel a need to examine the facts.   


May 12, 2013 (A) - This is somewhat off-topic, and I don't know if it is going to be of interest to anyone else, but it was fairly interesting to me. 

I've mentioned in previous comments that my newsguy.com email address is being bombarded with junk mail - over a hundred junk mail messages per day.  What I didn't mention is that I have the capability of using "filters" to try to filter out junk mail.  I've had 98 filters in place since 2004.  And those filters have been deleting hundreds more junk emails.  For example, here are the subjects for the emails one filter automatically deleted on Friday because the email subject line contained a dollar sign ($):

05/10/13
$19.99 Mothers Day Flowers and Gifts!
Don't Forget Mother's Day - $19.99 Flowers
Life Policy - $1/Month for $25k Policy
Go shopping w/a $50 Costco giftcard on us for...
Wow, $19.99! That's right, beautiful Mother's...
A $50 surveycard for Applebees for a couple m...
Complete this Subway Survey; Claim a $25 Gift...
$250,000 policy for around $10/Month
Go shopping w/a $50 Costco giftcard on us for...
A $50 surveycard for Applebees for a couple m...
$19.99 Flowers for Mom
Almost as gorgeous as Mom…beautiful blooms ...

And here are the subjects of the emails automatically deleted on  Friday because they came from a sender with a .biz email address (the .biz test is done first, that's why some of these subjects contain a dollar sign):

05/10/13
The Natural Testosterone Booster, Women love ...
Breaking News- You MUST Have Health Insurance...
Options from do-it-yourself to full service p...
A Power Wheelchair at little to no cost?
[*to] claim your free Ecig kit
A Power Wheelchair at little to no cost?
Someone REALLY wants to meet YOU:)
Get a Customized Moving Experience
detect@newsguy.com your warranty is expired
Need Printer Ink? Take an Additional 10% Off ...
Hot brides from Russia! Log in details enclos...
Someone REALLY wants to meet YOU:)
Make this Mother's Day unforgettable with fra...
detect@newsguy.com, your credit score may hav...
A Beautiful Bride Could Be Yours
detect@newsguy.com your VIP pass to instant ...
$500k life insurance policy for $20
Hot brides from Russia! Log in details enclos...
$500k life insurance policy for $20
The Natural Testosterone Booster, Women love ...
detect@newsguy.com your VIP pass to instant ...
The Natural Testosterone Booster, Women love ...
 
And here are the subjects and the senders' email addresses for the mails that were automatically deleted on Friday because the subject lines contain a percent sign (%):

05/10/13
offers@oomschyak.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@preuxhypho.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@thofguary.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@sockytroca.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@trubtrye.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@venycrims.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@patelavera.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@wlokatpis.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@urledrosit.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
info@vcuopwert.pw C-card companies compete-you win(lower %'s/su...
offers@upmixscawd.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@spawgotra.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@benabkamia.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@vateswalsh.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@stytepayen.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@paxtosanka.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@upflypokie.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@sensuansu.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@oomschyak.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@ghegchan.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off
offers@vicuaslour.com Last Call: Mother's day flowers 75% off

A filter I created a week ago that looks for "Dr." in the "from" part of the email is currently causing the most deletions.   Here are the subject lines and email addresses for the spam emails that were automatically deleted on Friday:

05/10/13
Dr.Oz@waftyleon.com Crazy video shown last evening on CNN (Watch ...
Dr.Oz@toatbari.com Everyone Will Be Talking About This Insane Ne...
Dr.Oz@reliebafta.com Everyone Will Be Talking About This Insane Ne...
Dr.Oz@wolofbayes.com Crazy video shown last evening on CNN (Watch ...
Dr.Oz@ouzestith.com Everyone Will Be Talking About This Insane Ne...
Dr.Oz@getfdedder.com Crazy video shown last evening on CNN (Watch ...
Dr.Oz@xctldeen.com Crazy video shown last evening on CNN (Watch ...
Dr.Oz@scuzmoove.com Everyone Will Be Talking About This Insane Ne...
Dr.Oz@loirewaise.com Crazy News Story
Dr.Oz@timbeammi.com Everyone Will Be Talking About This Insane Ne...
Dr.Oz@stymecuffo.com Crazy News Story
Dr.Oz@upsunmaki.com Everyone Will Be Talking About This Insane Ne...
Dr.OzNews@watchkit.info new video to watch see what doctors are sayin...
Dr.Oz@unrowhohed.com Crazy video shown last evening on CNN (Watch ...
Dr.Oz@sheatherne.com If your email is %%EMAIL%% you must read this...
Dr.Oz@jainmulet.com Crazy News Story
Dr.Oz@minowould.com Crazy News Story
Dr.Oz@regetiago.com Crazy video shown last evening on CNN (Watch ...
Dr.Oz@jizyamelia.com Crazy video shown last evening on CNN (Watch ...
Dr.Oz@coyotowd.com Crazy video shown last evening on CNN (Watch ...
Dr.Oz@durgyturgy.com Crazy video shown last evening on CNN (Watch ...
Dr.Oz@annisinai.com Everyone Will Be Talking About This Insane Ne...
Dr.Oz@corvotwant.com If your email is %%EMAIL%% you must read this...
Dr.Oz@wauffkusa.com If your email is %%EMAIL%% you must read this...
Dr.Oz@avokekrina.com Everyone Will Be Talking About This Insane Ne...
Dr.Oz@borshapium.com Crazy News Story

And I'm using 94 additional filters.   Filters for the word "credit" or "homeowner" or an equal sign (=) in the subject line cause almost as many deletions as the ones shown above.   Filters for "blood pressure," "garden," "timeshare," "Valium," "bargain" and "insurance" in the subject line cause fewer deletions.

The emails shown above are examples of the spam emails I do not see because the filters deleted them before I looked at my inbox.  But I still see about 200 junk mail messages a day that get through because I haven't found any common word or character to use in a filter that wouldn't also be easily used by people who send me genuine emails.

Last week, I also noticed I had a new "mystery" on my web site logs.  I noticed there were at least a fifty log entries every day for visits to the new web page I just created  to show solid evidence that "Mohamed Atta did NOT write the anthrax letters."  But, there was a strange pattern to those visits.  The visitors accessed the main page of my site and then immediately did an access to the new page, but neither access looked at any of the images that are on those two pages.  They only looked at the text.  I've seen that often happen with the main page, and I never bothered to try to figure out what was going on.  This time I wanted to know more.

So, I started going through the log entries, one by one, to see where the visits came from.  They seemed to be from a wide variety of different IP addresses, but after I looked up the IP addresses for each one I started to see a second pattern:
   
173.232.86.244 = 5280 Enterprises LLC, Kittery, ME
5.135.167.93 = Ovh Systems, Roubaix, France
176.31.50.87 = OVH, Wroclaw, Poland
216.172.145.155 = 5280 Enterprises LLC, Kittery, ME
173.232.124.147 = 5280 Enterprises LLC, Kittery, ME
50.117.64.164 = 5280 Enterprises LLC, San Jose, CA
173.208.158.148 = The Kansas City Internet Exchange, Kansas City, MO
173.232.45.198 = Infinitie.net, Henderson, NV
173.208.158.159 = The Kansas City Internet Exchange, Kansas City, MO
23.29.57.49 = 5280 Enterprises LLC, Kittery, ME
205.164.15.231 = 5280 Enterprises LLC, Kittery, ME
142.54.170.243 = 5280 Enterprises LLC, Kittery, ME
50.117.65.97 = 5280 Enterprises LLC, San Jose, CA
173.232.23.227 = Infinitie.net, Henderson, NV
216.172.139.6 = 5280 Enterprises LLC, Kittery, ME
205.164.15.201 = 5280 Enterprises LLC, Kittery, ME
199.180.130.151 = Kansas City Internet Exchange, Kansas City, MO
37.59.171.217 = OVH Systems, Roubaix, France
176.31.50.82 = OVH, Wroclaw, Poland
50.117.64.231 = 5280 Enterprises LLC, San Jose, CA
5.39.83.7 = Ovh Systems, Roubaix, France
94.23.162.192 = Ovh Systems, Roubaix, France

About half the visits were from "5280 Enterprises"  using a wide variety of IP addresses.  So, I did some research into "5280 Enterprises," and I found an interesting entry HERE which led me to a web site for Proxy51.com, which sells 100 "shared proxies" for $35.  They advertise:

Our shared proxies are just as fast and high quality as private proxies. The only difference is that a few other users can also access them. We will never allow more than 10 people access to one proxy, and even that is very rare.

That required research into "shared proxies" and "private proxies."  As I understand it, proxies are a way of hiding your own IP address when you visit web sites and/or send out emails.  I don't know exactly how proxies work, but it's clear that they are used for sending spam emails.  By using many different proxy IP addresses, it makes it very difficult for me to block accesses by "5280 Enterprises" to my web site.  And, I suspect that "5280 Enterprises" isn't the one sending me the junk mail, anyway.  They're just providing proxy IP addresses to the peddlers who send me the junk mail.  And those IP proxy IP addresses are probably being used to access my web site to look for my email address so that a spammer can use it to send me junk mail.

Groan!   Anyway, as a result of this research, I removed the email addresses from the top of my current and previous main web pages and replaced them with "detect (at) newsguy (dot) com", which human beings can read and figure out, but a computer program probably won't be able to decipher to be an email address.

I still didn't know why all those visits also accessed my new web page about Mohamed Atta's handwriting.  That new page has no email address on it.  Then, when I checked my logs from before I created that new web page on May 8, and I found an identical pattern using what was previously the newest page, the page about "PBS Frontline vs. The Facts."  It, too, has no email addresses on it.  So, I suspect that the Atta handwriting page was being accessed just because it is the newest page.  And the spammers were checking it to see if I also had an email address on it.  The question now is: Since they focus on new pages, does that mean they don't save email addresses for very long and will stop using an email address after a while?  Or do they continue to use an email address they've saved as long as it doesn't always get an error message back? 

I also wonder: Will the spammers find and use all the email addresses in the Dr. Oz and Offers lists I created above?  I hope so.
  Although it wasn't my plan, it appears that those lists could cause a lot of spammers to spam each other

On a hunch, I checked who has been doing all the visits to the
"Russian Mystery" page I created early in 2012.   That supplemental page contains a lot of Russian web site addresses in log entries that do not seem to the result of legitimate visits.  My checking found that the visits to the "Russian Mystery" page turned out to be all from those same shared proxy IP addresses dispensed by "5280 Enterprises," Proxy51.com and "OVH."  So, it appears the spammers not only look for email addresses, they look for additional web site addresses they can search for even more email addresses. 

If I had more time, I could undoubtedly figure things out more definitively.  But there are far more interesting mysteries that I prefer to dig into.

When I turned on my computer this morning, I had 22 junk emails waiting in my inbox.  That's less than a third of what I've been typically receiving lately.  But, I'll watch it for a  week or so to see what immediate effect (if any) may have resulted from removing my email address from the main page .

Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 5, 2013, thru Saturday, May 11, 2013

May 11, 2013 - For what it's worth, USA Today has a new article titled "Poll: Belief in JFK conspiracy slipping slightly."  It says,

A clear majority of Americans still suspect there was a conspiracy behind President John F. Kennedy's assassination, but the percentage who believe accused shooter Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone is at its highest level since the mid-1960s, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

According to the AP-GfK survey, conducted in mid-April, 59% of Americans think multiple people were involved in a conspiracy to kill the president, while 24% think Oswald acted alone, and 16% are unsure. A 2003 Gallup poll found that 75% of Americans felt there was a conspiracy.

It's discouraging that so many people still believe there was a conspiracy, while it's a bit encouraging that fewer people believe it now than ten years ago.   Maybe it's because we seem to get new conspiracy theories almost every day, and most are incredibly dumb.

On the other hand, it's easy to understand a person starting with a belief and then changing his mind as he learns the facts, but it's difficult to imagine that anyone who understands the facts can change his mind as a result of some new belief.

The Boston Globe also has a lengthy new article about the JFK assassination.  It begins with this:

On the very day John F. Kennedy died, a cottage industry was born. Fifty years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, it’s still thriving.

Its product? The ‘‘truth’’ about the president’s assassination.

‘‘By the evening of November 22, 1963, I found myself being drawn into the case,’’ Los Angeles businessman Ray Marcus wrote in ‘‘Addendum B,’’ one of several self-published monographs he produced on the assassination. For him, authorities were just too quick and too pat with their conclusion.
...

Most skeptics, including Marcus, didn’t get rich by publishing their doubts and theories — and some have even bankrupted themselves chasing theirs. But for a select few, there’s been good money in keeping the controversy alive.

Best-selling books and blockbuster movies have raked in massive profits since 1963. And now, with the 50th anniversary of that horrible day in Dallas looming, a new generation is set to cash in.

With the advent of the Internet, it's even easier for "Truthers" to publish their ideas.  They can create a web site or a blog to promote and argue their personal version of "the truth."  And, they don't even have to believe what they write and say.  They can do it just for profit, or they can do it for no other reason than to be malicious -- to attack "the government," to create doubt, to generate fear, and to replace trust with distrust.

May 9, 2013 - In standard True Believer fashion, the Anthrax Truther/True Believer who argued that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta wrote the anthrax letters hasn't changed his mind.   This morning he wrote:

The anthrax letters are in Atta’s handwriting. I have uploaded the exemplar and handwriting comparison.

He doesn't explain, so presumably his "exemplar and handwriting comparison" are just the silly, error-filled graphic he created that is located HERE.  He's sticking with his beliefs, even though his graphic appears to indicate that an M in "MALE" is similar to an A in "ATTA," he compares a 6 written by Atta to another 6 written by Atta and finds them similar, and he makes other ridiculous comparisons as well.  My new supplemental web page "Mohamed Atta did NOT write the anthrax letters" explains my analysis in detail.   Anyone can look at the Anthrax Truther's reasoning (which you mostly have to figure out for yourself) and my very clear analysis and judge for themselves whether the writing on the anthrax letters and envelopes was done by Mohamed Atta or not.

Meanwhile, someone sent me a link to some very large and very gruesome pictures from the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Click HERE if you have the stomach for it.  And Professor James Tracy seems to have added some additional pictures to his blog while still arguing that things didn't happen in Boston the way he believes such things happen. Therefore, the government must have contrived it all.

The screwball reasoning of "Truthers" never ceases to amaze me.  Of course, they both believe the government is wrong about their particular issue, but they probably totally disagree with each other's beliefs about what really happened, a.k.a, "The Truth."  Each seems to think that he's the only person on Earth capable of figuring out "The Truth."


May 8, 2013 - Ah!  I can get back to discussing the anthrax attacks of 2001!  An Anthrax Truther just made some bizarre declarative statements about the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes.  On Lew Weinstein's blog, he wrote:

The anthrax letters are in the handwriting of Atta.
....
Code was used in the letters — but it was not the made-up code offered by the FBI in its “Ivins Theory.” It was the code known to have been used by Atta, Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, and Ayman Zawahiri.
....
Amerithrax represents the greatest counterintelligence failure in the history of the United States because the threat is still ongoing — and the FBI closed the Amerithrax investigation.

The handwriting, of course, is NOT the handwriting of Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers.  Any handwriting expert can tell you that.  However, it certainly doesn't require an "expert" to see all the significant differences. 

To show how silly it is to believe that Mohamed Atta wrote the anthrax letters, I've assembled parts of comments I wrote in 2012 into a new supplemental page for this web site.  The new page is titled "Mohamed Atta did NOT write the anthrax letters."

I also noticed that in another thread on Lew Weinstein's blog, the same Truther says,


I have argued that Adnan El-Shurkijumah was the mailer of anthrax letters in the Fall 2001. He stayed with Al-Hawsawi in safe houses in Karachi from February – April 2002. Al-Hawsawi had the anthrax spraydrying documents his laptop.

So far, I haven't been able to find where he argued that and what his reasoning was.  But, until he clarifies himself, I think it's fairly safe to assume that his reasoning is just as ridiculous as his reasoning that Mohamed Atta was the anthrax letter writer.

On the other hand, I recently advised him that the number of visitors to this site in April was 4½ times the number visitors to Lew Weinstein's blog that same month.  The Truther has begun to demonstrate that he doesn't really believe some of what he posts, he just wants to provoke people and/or to maliciously manipulate people into doing what he wants.  If he wanted to provoke me into providing some links to Weinstein's blog to give them more traffic, he has accomplished that.

May 7-8, 2013 (B) - This has nothing to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001, but it has to do with deciphering and trying to understand the news.  TheAtlanticWire.com has two totally fascinating (and almost hilarious) video interviews with Charles Ramsey (a convicted wife beater), the man who helped Amanda Berry escape from what appears to be a barricaded home owned by kidnapper, Ariel Castro.  Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight had been held captive in the house for ten years, since April 23, 2003.  Michelle Knight had been held captive for eleven years.  There's been nothing on the news so far about what prevented the women from escaping when their captive was away (as he was at the time of the escape), but the description of events from Mr. Ramsey seems to indicate that he responded when Amanda Berry was screaming through a hole of some kind in a front door that seems to have been covered on the inside with tape and plastic.  Here's the front door (click on it for a larger version):

Amanda Berry's prison front door 
Ramsey went onto the porch, saw Amanda was trying to get out, and he evidently helped kick out a screen that allowed Amanda and her daughter to crawl out of the bottom part of the door.  Later, the police entered and found the two other women.  The New York Daily News, however, doesn't even mention Ramsey and describes the escape this way:

Berry, 27, managed to break through the bottom of the home's front door and call 911 from a neighbor's house.

ABC News says,

Ramsey, who initially believed Berry was involved in a domestic dispute, said he helped kick in the aluminum screen door through which Berry and her daughter escaped.

"Luckily … it was aluminum, it was cheap," he said. "And she climbed out with her daughter. ... She went to my house, we called 911."

The Daily Beast says,

Police said one of the women, Amanda Berry, 27, broke out the bottom lock of a door, and ran into the arms of a passerby, telling him that she had been kidnapped.

In the first TV interview with Charles Ramsey, he says he called 911.  Ramsey's 911 call is on-line and is also hilarious, even though the situation is deadly serious.   In the second TV interview, Ramsey seems to say that Amanda Berry made the first 911 call to the police.  The transcript of Amanda's call says it began at 5:51:59 pm.  Ramsey's call began at 5:52 pm and 34 seconds.  Evidently, they were on different phones, at or in front of a neighbor's home, both making 911 calls at roughly the same time.

Interestingly, there's also an April 2009 CNN report about "Three teens disappear from same neighborhood."  Two of the "teens" are Berry and DeJesus.  The third was Ashley Nicole Summers, who wasn't one of the 3 women rescued yesterday.  Also, Berry's mother died in 2006, while Berry was missing.  And Michelle Knight's brother didn't even know she was missing (for eleven years) until this story broke.  There will undoubtedly be a lot more fascinating details released as the days pass, but, since a lot of it will undoubtedly be very grim and about all the horrible things that happened in that house during the past ten years, I don't expect to write any further comments on this subject.  I just needed to do it today to organize what I was reading.   

May 7, 2013 (A) - I received an email this morning with a link that advised me that The Boston Globe is reporting that the officer who was shot during the shootout on Laurel Street was apparently struck by friendly fire.   The article also suggests that there may have been two other "friendly fire" incidents.  It says the police fired up to 300 shots at the two suspects during the shootout.  Real life shootouts are never as organized and tidy as shootouts in the movies.

Digging further, I found a Boston Globe article from April 26 which says a witness saw the police officer fall, apparently as a result of friendly fire:

A neighborhood resident, who said she saw Donohue fall as she watched from the window of her home, said in an interview Thursday she was immediately concerned that Donohue and other police officers were in the line of fire of fellow officers.

“There were bullets flying all around,” said the witness, who asked not to be named. “There was concern about officers being in harm’s way. It was a war out there.”

The second law enforcement official said that whether Donohue was hit by friendly fire or not, officers were involved in a chaotic scene where they were trying to subdue a dangerous suspect. The suspect was shooting at police, and police were trying to protect themselves and each other by firing back, officials said.

“It doesn’t change anything at the scene, friendly fire or not,” the official said. “These suspects set in motion a chain of events that required this kind of response.”

I agree.  Another Boston Globe article gives more details.

May 6, 2013 (B) - Groan!  Someone just advised me that the two cars parked in front of the Tsarnaev home in 2007 are a Chrysler minivan and Toyota sedan, NOT the gray 1999 Honda SRV and the green 1999 Honda Civic owned by the Tsarnaev brothers.  I stated in my April 26 (B) comment about the cars that
"Identifying cars are NOT one of my areas of expertise."  And, now I seem to have fully demonstrated that. 

I'd checked pictures of 1999 Honda SRVs and Odysseys before writing the comment, but now I can see a decorative grove on the side of the Odyssey going through the door handles that  isn't seen in the car on Norfolk Street, and the 1999 Honda Civic tail lights are not the same as those on the sedan on Norfold Street.  The wheels are not Honda wheels on either vehicle. 

As I keep telling everyone: To err is human.   And, I've proved I'm definitely human.

May 6, 2013 (A) - I don't know if this is going to be of interest to anyone else, but I just finished using Google to create an illustration of the Tsarnaev shootout on Laurel Street in Watertown, MA.  You can click on the image below to view a larger version:

Laurel Street shootout map - small

I used photos taken by the witness to figure out where the witness was located, where the stolen Mercedes SUV and the green Honda Civic were parked during the shootout, where the pressure cooker bomb went off, where Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot and taken down, and the route that Dzohkhar Tsarnaev took to escape the scene.  He got into the SUV, did a U-turn, traveled West on Laurel St., ran over his brother, sideswiped at least one police car, then disappeared into the night.

Listening to the police tapes again, it appears that Dzohkhar abandoned the SUV near the intersection of Spruce and Lincoln, which means that after sideswiping the police car on Laurel Street, he crossed Dexter Avenue and drove west on Spruce to Lincoln, where he left the car and continued southwest on foot.  But, my main purpose was to figure out how far the explosion was from the SUV.  It appears to have been no more than 20 feet, yet the SUV showed no visible shrapnel damage.  That suggests to me that the bomb was less dangerous (less powder and maybe no shrapnel) than the ones exploded during the Boston Marathon. 

I'm getting to the point where I think I understand the time and location of everything that happened.  If called upon, I can debunk all the nonsense "evidence" the conspiracy theorists use.  I also found it amazing that Google Street View allows me to explore  the scene and see everything as it looked in July 2007.  The stone wall around the front lawn of the house across the street from the witness is a key landmark, as are the white fence two doors to the west, lamp posts and the black circle patches in the asphalt that help pinpoint exactly where the bomb exploded.  The image below shows blast marks on the street in relation to the round patches in the asphalt that were also there in 2007.

shootout image

Years ago, I did the same kind of street view tour of the area where the anthrax letters were mailed in Princeton in 2001.  And I did the same thing in the area where Tamerlan Tsarnaev lived, noticing two cars that I mistakenly thought were the cars both brothers used parked in front of the Tsarnaev home in July 2007.  But check my (B) comment for today.  It appears I know nothing about cars and can't tell a Honda from a Chrysler or a Honda from a Toyota.  But, I still think that finding those cars was like the opening scene for a movie script -- a guy does a Google street view tour and spots a vehicle parked in front of his house that belongs to an old boyfriend of his wife.  Lots of possibilities.       

May 5, 2013 (C) - Someone else just sent me an interesting email containing a link to an article illustrating someone's stupidity.   It's a report from a CBS station in Seattle titled, "Teachers Shocked, Frightened After School Holds Unplanned Shooting Drill."

In Oregon, fifteen teachers were having a meeting in a school in the town of Halfway on a day when the students were not in school, and suddenly two masked men burst into the room and started shooting directly at the teachers with handguns. 

Teachers only realized it wasn’t a real shooting when none of them were bleeding.

“There was some commotion,” school principal Cammie DeCastro told The Oregonian.

Teachers were frightened about what happened.

“I’ll tell you, the whole situation was horrible,” Morgan Gover told the paper. “I got a couple in the front and a couple in the back.”

The school held the unplanned drill in hopes to better educate teachers on how to deal with a school shooting. Of the 15 teachers in the room, only two would have survived.

And what if one or more of the teachers had been carrying a weapon?  Who would have been responsible if the two "shooters" using blanks had been killed by real weapons?  Or suppose one of the surprised teachers had a heart attack?  And what about eye damage from the wadding in the blank rounds?  TV actor Jon-Erik Hexum killed himself with a blank round.  And what about powder or blast burns if someone tried to grab one of the guns wielded by the intruders?  And, what is learned about protecting school children when the "drill" takes place during a teachers meeting?

It would appear that the primary lesson taught by the "drill" is that their school principal seems to be an idiot.

May 5, 2013 (B) - In response to my (A) comment this morning about errors in the media, someone sent me a link to an article from the British tabloid "The Guardian."  As is common with conspiracy theorists and devious mind-game players, the article's title asks a question instead of making a statement: "Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?"

The article is laden with double-talk and words with double meanings, but it seems to say that every phone call in America is being recorded by the phone companies and is accessible by the U.S. government.  Since a great deal of computer communications also goes over telephone lines, that would mean that those transmissions are being recorded as well.  That would require an enormous (and probably unrealistic) amount of storage space by the various phone companies, for no logical purpose other than to be able to give the government a recording of any phone call if and when they request it.

It's known that text messages and emails get recorded and stored for a period of time.  But I'll need a lot more evidence before I'll believe the phone companies (and my cable company) are recording my phone calls to my sister.  And I'll also need a much better source than The Guardian and Glenn Greenwald.

It was The Guardian which had the June 24, 2002 headline "Anthax killer 'could grow more bacteria'," which reported:

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a biological warfare expert at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and a vocal critic of the official investigation, has claimed that biodefence experts had told the FBI the identity of a likely suspect but that the bureau was keeping it secret, possibly because the suspect knows too much about US experimentation with germ warfare.

Mrs Rosenberg said the suspect, whom she does not name but describes in detail, was an American contractor working for the CIA, who suffered a career setback last summer that "left him angry and depressed".

"He must be angry at some biodefence agency or component, and he is driven to demonstrate, in a spectacular way, his capabilities and the government's inability to respond. He is cocksure that he can get away with it," she wrote in an assessment on the FAS website.

"Does he know something that he believes to be sufficiently damaging to the United States to make him untouchable by the FBI?"
        
May 5, 2013 (A) - My 2012 book about the anthrax attacks of 2001 examined the role the media played (and still plays) in misinforming the public about what happened in the FBI investigation of the attacks.  The media coverage of the Amerithrax investigation was probably the worst media reporting in the past 100 years.  One key example was the "media feeding frenzy" over the anthrax collection at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.  It dominated the news for weeks, but it had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks or the FBI investigation.  It was entirely a media feeding frenzy concoction.   Another key example was how the media misreported (and continues to misreport) how Steven Hatfill became a "person of interest" to the FBI.
  
The
Boston Marathon bombings have now provided another look at how "the media" often gets things wrong.  I used quotation marks around "the media" because talking about "the media" is like talking about "the government."  It's not a "thing," it's a collection of many people with many talents, many failings, often with personal agendas and usually with a desire to do a good job.  However, to err is human, and even reporters who just want to report the facts sometimes misinterpret what they personally see, and they often quote "experts" who are dead wrong.  Reporters rely on the "experts" who are willing to talk to the media, which are very often NOT the key people in an investigation.  Sometimes "experts" are just more people with personal agendas.

Yet, I rely very heavily on the media for my understanding of what is going on.  And, so do most people.  That's because we want to know what's going on before it's all over and the official findings come out.  And, unless the event is in our own home town, the media is usually the only source of information we have. 

What I do to sort fact from beliefs is to read more than one media source.  I compare reports, and if there's a discrepancy, I dig deeper to figure out what really happened.  The Boston Marathon bombings provided a cram course in sorting fact from fiction. 

Here's a list of the most interesting errors I noticed in the media reports since the reporting on the Boston Marathon bombings began on March 15:

The media erroneously reported that 25 to 30 people had lost limbs in the blasts.  The real number seems to be around 10. 
The reports about 25 to 30 people losing limbs all came from one "expert" who seems to have simply made an inaccurate estimate.

The media erroneously reported that unexploded bombs were found at the bomb scene.  No unexploded bombs were found. 
The reports of unexploded bombs were probably just misinterpretations of what happened when bomb squads blasted suspicious objects apart with water cannons.

The Washington Times erroneously reported that "
the two Boston bombing suspects were likely taking direction from overseas."  They've since deleted that opinion.

The media erroneously reported that a Saudi national who was a "person of interest" in the bombings was going to be deported.  Totally false.  There was no Saudi "person of interest," just another bombing victim, and the Saudi who was being deported (for a visa violation) wasn't the same Saudi as the individual the media thought was a "person of interest." 
The injured Saudi student had been tackled at bomb scene because he looked "suspicious" to bystanders.

The media erroneously reported that Michelle Obama visited a "person of interest" in a hospital.  The man was that same Saudi victim of the attacks, and
Michelle Obama was just being attacked by ignorant, biased media people with a political agenda.  

The media erroneously reported that the Tsarnaev "lobbed bombs" at the police as they were being pursued through the streets of Watertown.  Never happened.  It appears that reporters listened to the police chatter on the police band and assumed that what a cop said on the radio was a fact, even though it was apparently just what one cop thought was happening miles away based upon what he was hearing on the police radio.  

The media erroneously reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was wearing an "explosive vest" when he was captured.  He wasn't. 
The reports appear to be just assumptions that a terrorist would typically have such a vest and/or the result of comments by "experts" who were concerned that the bombers might have such vests.

The Boston Herald erroneously reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was injured by "shrapnel and blast wounds" and "did not appear to have been run over."   Wrong on both counts.  That was evidently another report based upon statements from an "expert" who had misinterpreted what he had seen or been told.

And that list doesn't even include the New York Post's deliberate printing of a picture of two innocent men with the headline "
BAG MEN: Feds seek these two pictured at Boston Marathon."  That was evidently deliberate, not an error.  For a time, the Feds were looking to check out everyone who was carrying a backpack near the scene of the crime - including the two men in the picture in the Post.  But, gradually the Feds were able to eliminate most of them, and they narrowed in on two specific men who the videos showed had actually dropped their backpacks at the scenes of the explosions.  The Post just used one of the pictures of innocent men for sensationalism purposes - and probably as part of some political agenda.

And, of course, The New York Post erroneously reported that there were 12 deaths.  There were "only" 3.

And The New York Post erroneously reported that a Saudi national had been taken "into custody."  Such reports evidently fitted the Post's political agenda.

And, then there's the Boston Globe story about a cab driver who thinks he may have driven the Tsarnaev brothers home from a train station the day before the bombing, and that they may have been carrying the bombs with them at that time, suggesting that they got the bombs somewhere and didn't actually make them in Tamerlan's apartment.  It's a reporting of an unsubstantiated story from a not-very-credible witness who isn't even certain of what he saw.  It's brainless rumor mongering, not journalism. 

And there were many other reporting errors by many others in the media. 

Figuring out what actually happened at a horrific event can be a fascinating look into how people think.  I was totally fascinated by one reporter on CNN who just couldn't shut up about how suspicious a man seemed in the pictures taken of him stumbling through one of the bomb scenes.  The reporter just went on and on for what seemed to be hours about the man in shredded black clothing in the upper left of the picture below:

Boston marathon bombing victim

Others in the media were also highly suspicious of that man's actions.  To me, the man was doing nothing suspicious.  He seemed not so badly injured that he would have to sit down and wait for help, nor did he seem so slightly injured that he could stop and help others.  He looked like someone looking for the nearest aid station or an ambulance - possibly someone in shock.  The mere fact that he was moving around all by himself, separate from the others in the picture, isn't automatically suspicious to me.

The reactions from conspiracy theorists is, of course, another fascinating part of all this, the same way it was with the anthrax attacks of 2001.  Doing a Google search for pictures from the bomb scenes, I found a gruesome shot of a man whose leg was missing its foot, and there was just a long bloody bone where the lower part of his leg used to be.  The picture traced back to an anti-Semitic web site where the bombing was being blamed on the Great Jewish Conspiracy.  The picture no longer seems to be on Google, which makes me believe Google operators try to remove particularly gruesome shots from the bombing scenes.  So, conspiracy theorist Professor James Tracy needs to understand that the lack of pictures of people with gruesome wounds doesn't mean they don't exist.  It just means you have to go to where the gruesome photos are kept from the general viewer who doesn't want to see them.  I do the same on this web site.  I'm only trying to sort fact from fiction in a major event.  I'm trying to understand what happened.  I'm not here to provoke people, nor am I trying to promote some political agenda by preying on people's emotions.

I simply find sorting fact from fiction to be totally fascinating.  It is what caused me to become interested in the anthrax attacks of 2001 in the first place.  Scientists were arguing with scientists, and I wanted to know which scientist was discussing facts and which was discussing personal beliefs.  The anthrax attacks taught me that respected scientists can be as mindlessly biased and ignorant as newspaper reporters, lawyers, doctors, college professors, and just about everyone else.  Luckily for humanity, the truly ignorant ones seem to be fairly small minorities. 

Updates & Changes: Wednesday, May 1, 2013, thru Saturday, May 4, 2013

May 4, 2013 - Yesterday's Boston Globe had this headline: "Bomb suspect died of bullet wounds, trauma to head."  And they report:

The death certificate of marathon bombing mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev lists the cause of his death as “gunshot wounds of torso and extremities” as well as “blunt trauma to head and torso.”

Peter Stefan, owner of Graham, Putnam, and Mahoney Funeral Parlor in Worcester, where Tsarnaev’s body is being prepared for burial, tonight showed reporters the death certificate. It has not yet been filed with the city of Boston.

The injuries occurred after Tsarnaev was shot by police and then run over and dragged by a vehicle, according to the death certificate.

So, it's almost official.  It will be "official" as soon as the death certificate is filed with the city of Boston.  Tamerlan did not suffer blast and shrapnel injuries.  That was just another erroneous media report.  I'm going to have to compile a list of the more significant media errors I noticed in the news reports about the Boston Marathon bombings.

May 3, 2013 (C) - As I was preparing to close the office for today, I noticed a very interesting article in The Telegram & Gazette.  The headline: "Worcester funeral director defends role in bomber case."  A few sample paragraphs are below:

[Peter Stefan, owner of Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors] said plans for the funeral of the alleged bomber are being held up by the refusal of several cemeteries to accept Mr. Tsarnaev's body for burial.
....

As word spread this morning that the body had arrived at Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors, at 838 Main St., television news trucks from Boston and a few curious locals congregated outside the white Victorian building, drawn by the spectacle of a story that has made headlines around the world.
.....

But Dorrie Maynard of Worcester didn't approve of Mr. Stefan's actions.

“Worcester is bad enough,” she said. “I think he should be sent back.”
....

"Don't do it? OK, what do you suggest I do? What would you do?" Mr. Stefan said, as Boston media converged on his funeral home.
....

The medical examiner's office has not released the cause of death for Tamerlan Tsarnaev. A death certificate could be released as early as today.

May 3, 2013 (B) - Uh oh.  I keep making assumptions and getting zapped for them.  This morning in my (A) comment, I assumed that the Tsarnaev brothers had enough sense to avoid setting off smoke detectors and therefore they most likely tested the trigger devices for their bombs in the back yard.  But, while I was working out at the health club this afternoon, CNN was reporting that explosive residue was found inside the Tsarnaev home.

The residue turned up in at least three places, the source said: the kitchen table, the kitchen sink and the bathtub.

So, they did the testing in the bathtub?  And on the kitchen table?  And in the kitchen sink?  Maybe that explains why the bomb they set off on Lambert Street did so little damage.  It was just some leftover gunpowder with very little added shrapnel.  However, now that I've mentioned that hypothesis, there'll probably be a news report very soon shooting it down and saying there's a much better explanation for the lack of damage.

Meanwhile, CNN is also reporting that an uncle of the Tsarnaev brothers has claimed the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the funeral will be in Worcester, MA.  That should mean the death certificate will soon be released, and we'll get a better idea about whether or not he was run over by his brother, and whether or not Tamerlan was injured by shrapnel and the blast from one of his own bombs - as was previously reported.

May 3, 2013 (A) - The news media is making a big deal of the confession from Dzohkhar Tsarnaev that the two brothers were planning to use the bombs during the 4th of July celebration in Boston, but they finished the bombs much quicker than expected.  So, they were eager to use the bombs, and while looking for other potential targets, including police departments, they finally settled on the Boston Marathon.

But, I find something else in the reports much more interesting: The bombs were built in Tamerlan Tsarnaev's apartment

The bombs used in the Boston Marathon attack were built in the apartment that suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev shared with his wife and child, a U.S. law enforcement official with first-hand knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Thursday.

That not only seems to shoots down the theory that the bombs were made by someone else and carried to the Tsarnaev home via a cab from the Malden train station, it also draws an image of Tamarlan Tsarnaev building the bombs while also taking care of his 3-year-old daughter.  That's something that most people just cannot imagine anyone would do.

But, if you put all the pieces together and look at how the bombs were probably made, you can even picture Tamarlan and Dzohkhar taking the child with them out into the back yard to test the detonators.  Setting off a teaspoonful of gunpowder with a broken lightbulb trigger would produce only a soft puff of white smoke.  It would be a way to surprise and entertain a 3-year-old.  But, for the Tsarnaev brothers, it would be more than that.  It would be solid assurance that the makeshift trigger would also work on a full-size bomb.

May 2, 2013 (B) - While I was working out at the health club this afternoon, one of the TVs on the wall was tuned to CNN and was flashing the banner "FBI has found missing laptop."  Checking the news when I got home, I found that there wasn't much more than that being said.  CNN merely reports,

The FBI has a laptop computer belonging to Boston Marathon attack suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, two federal law enforcement officials told CNN. It's not clear how or when the FBI got the laptop. One official said that investigators didn't find it during last week's search of a landfill near the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, which Tsarnaev attended.

As I wrote yesterday, I can't see any student throwing away someone's laptop, no matter whose it is.  Meanwhile, Slate.com says this about the CNN report,

If true, the discovery could provide investigators with a trove of information about the Boston bombing suspects, perhaps including how the brothers learned to make the homemade explosives they are said to have used near the finish line of the Boston marathon.

Let's hope it has all the FBI needs and more.

Meanwhile, another stupid kid - a high school student - has been arrested for making on-line threats to "out do the Boston Marathon Bombings."   A copycat wannabe.

May 2, 2013 (A) - When I shut off my computer at 5 p.m. yesterday, I hadn't yet read the complaints filed against the three college buddies of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  As expected, this morning the media has summarized them for me in a Boston Herald article titled "Timeline of alleged cover-up."  Someone sent me the link, so I didn't even have to hunt for it.  Someone also sent me a link to a site where I can read and/or download all the court documents.  Click HERE.

But, what interested me most was that that second link had a link to another article titled "In Which I Make Up Tsarnaev Legal Conspiracies So You Don't Have To."  It begins with this:

"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind," says John Donne.

But why stop there? Any man's (or woman's) fatigue or writer's block diminishes me as well.

Is anyone sparing any thought for the people furiously writing conspiracy theories about the federal prosecution of accused Boston Marathon terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Does anyone even care about the quality of home life of the people laboring to misinform their readers about federal criminal procedure and the contours of constitutional rights?

So far, I've only read some of what that very interesting and amusing article contains, and I've only followed some of the links, which go to other very interesting articles.

There's so much to read that I don't have time to read it all, much less digest it all.  And, other issues left unresolved keep nagging at me.  I need to understand exactly what happened when the Tsarnaev brothers set off that pressure cooker bomb on Laurel Street.  I haven't yet made sense of it.  Were the two brothers injured by the explosion or not?  Or did they protect themselves by taking cover behind their vehicles?  If so, how could the vehicles still be in working condition?   Here's a picture of the Mercedes SUV after the shootout:

Boston bombing Mercedes SUV

I can see bullet holes in the windshield and the side.  The rear tire looks flat.  The fender damage is almost certainly from crashing through the police line after the bomb went off on Laurel Street and created a diversion.  CBS News says there were 32 bullet holes in the car.  But where's the bomb damage?

You'd think that the tires would be shredded.  But, I don't know how far the bomb was from the two vehicles when it went off.  I think I have all the information to figure it out, I just need to set everything else aside to work on it.

Of course, I could get more done by expanding my "office hours."  I just "work" from 9 to 5.  I could work on it until I resolve it, even if it takes until 3  in the morning or longer.  But, this is all just an interest, a hobby, a pastime, not an obsession.  Plus, I need the time away from the issues to let my subconscious work on things and sort them out while I go to the health club, do chores, eat meals, watch TV, watch movies and sleep.

On my interactive blog yesterday, I got into a discussion which led me to wonder about the differences between "coming to an understanding" (which I think I do) and "coming to a conclusion" (which I think True Believers do).  Maybe there's something in that difference that can help me better explain things.

Meanwhile, I'm now getting about 20 junk emails per hour.  When I find some free time, I'll need to get a new email address and think about all the implications of doing that.

And, I need to think about upgrading my computer operating system.  I'm teetering on the brink of a total shutdown if someone changes something that my obsolete version of Windows XP cannot handle and I can't back out of.

But, then again, I really really enjoy having a day filled with much more "work" than I can possibly handle.   I remember "bad days" when I ran out of things to do before 9:30 a.m., after saving my daily statistics and answering an email or two.  Terrible times.

Ah, jeeze!  Today's May 2.  I forgot to do my bi-monthly file backups yesterday.  I'll have to stop everything and do that now.

May 1, 2013 (B) - All morning I've been getting emails with links to news articles about three "suspects" who have been arrested "in connection with" the Boston Marathon bombings.  It all appears to be media distortions.  Reading the articles, it seems that two of the students were arrested because their visas had expired.   According to ABC News:

The two have been held in jail for more than a week on allegations that they violated their student visas while attending the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

A Boston Globe article later in the day (and the actual complaint filed in court) provide a lot of interesting details.  The Globe reports:

Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both 19 and of New Bedford, were charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice by plotting to dispose of a laptop computer and a backpack containing fireworks belonging to bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the US attorney’s office said in a statement.

Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge was charged with making false statements to law enforcement officials in a terrorism investigation, prosecutors said. All three began attending the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2011, the same university Tsarnaev attended.

and

Three days after the blasts, on April 18, the three men allegedly removed Tsarnaev’s backpack, which contained fireworks that had been opened and emptied of gunpowder, from his dormitory room.

Suspecting that Tsarnaev was involved in the bombing after authorities released surveillance video of the bombers that afternoon, the trio decided to throw the backpack and fireworks in the trash “because they did not want to get Tsarnaev into trouble,” according to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent in support of the charges.

On Friday, authorities recovered the backpack from a landfill in New Bedford. Inside, agents found fireworks, a jar of Vaseline, and a UMass Dartmouth homework assignment sheet, among other things. The homework sheet was for a class in which Tsarnaev was enrolled, the agent said in the sworn statement. It wasn’t clear from the affidavit what happened to the laptop.

I don't understand why Dzohkhar would haul a backpack full of emptied fireworks 60 miles from Cambridge, where his brother lived, to UMass-Dartmouth which is near New Bedford.  And why would he leave it there after it became clear that the FBI and the police were zeroing in on him and his brother?  I can't come up with any scenario where Dzohkhar made the bombs at school.  And, I can't see a student throwing away a laptop, no matter whose it was.  They'd probably pawn it or sell it to someone.   On the other hand, stupidity seems to explain everything - both why Dzohkhar left evidence behind and why his school buddies didn't tell the police.

May 1, 2013 (A) - The affadivit asking the judge to authorize the arrest of James Everett Dutschke for sending the ricin letters is now on-line HERE.




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