Saturday, March 12, 2022

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

We've definitely reached the "Assad regime chemical weapons" phase of the Ukraine invasion, and it's here that things get ugly within hours if they go wrong.

The United States and its allies have intelligence that Russia may be preparing to use chemical weapons against Ukraine, U.S. and European officials said Friday, as Moscow sought to invigorate its faltering military offensive through increasingly brutal assaults across multiple Ukrainian cities.

Security officials and diplomats said the intelligence, which they declined to detail, pointed to possible preparations by Russia for deploying chemical munitions, and warned the Kremlin may seek to carry out a “false-flag” attack that attempts to pin the blame on Ukrainians, or perhaps Western governments. The officials, like others quoted in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

The accusations surfaced as Russia repeated claims that the United States and Ukraine were operating secret biological weapons labs in Eastern Europe — an allegation that the Biden administration dismissed as “total nonsense” and “outright lies.”

Any use of poison gases in Ukraine would violate a decades-old international treaty banning such weapons, and represent a dangerous turn in Russia’s two-week-old military offensive against its neighbor. Russia, which possessed vast stocks of chemical and biological weapons during the Cold War, has used outlawed nerve agents in at least two assassination attempts against political foes of President Vladimir Putin in the past three years, including at least once outside its borders, Western intelligence agencies concluded.

Because the U.S. and European officials declined to describe the nature of the intelligence pointing to a possible Russian chemical attack in Ukraine, it was impossible to determine how significant it might be. U.S. officials have been warning publicly for days that Russia might carry out a false flag operation, after the Kremlin alleged the United States had supported a bioweapons program in Ukraine.

“It’s more than an urgent concern,” one European official said of the prospects for a Russian chemical attack. “Clearly there’s been an increase in the threat.”

A senior NATO official added that Russia “is preparing the ground for a chemical or bioweapons attack
Now, I'd be remiss in saying that over the last 20 years that the Washington Post (and the NY Times) haven't always been the most reliable sources of intel when it comes to enemies of America using NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) weapons. I can't help but think of the late Colin Powell's UN presentation about Saddam's "mobile chemical labs" in Iraq, which was 100% bullshit and that the world took seriously when it was made up out of whole cloth.

On the other hand, we have seen somebody willing to absolutely use chemical weapons on his own people before, and that's Syria's Bashar al-Assad. After 11 years, he's still very much in charge of the country, and it's because he got help in flattening any resistance from...Vladimir Putin.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin first launched airstrikes inside Syria in fall 2015, the Syrian conflict was in its fifth year. Armed rebels, who opposed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on civilians, were gaining ground; ISIS was on the rise; and Assad had acknowledged his army was on the retreat.

Russia had said its military was targeting ISIS and other terrorist groups. But in the days, months and years to come, Russian airpower reportedly exacted a stark toll on Syrian civilians. Putin’s military intervention — including aiding his ally Assad in besieging opposition-held areas of Aleppo and bombing hospitals, ultimately helped Assad regain territory and stay in power.

Now civilians in Ukraine are coming under Russian bombardment, with hospitals reportedly in the line of fire, according to Ukrainian officials. The New York Times has described “indiscriminate slaughter by an invading Russian army that has increasingly targeted heavily populated civilian areas.”

“You look at the bombing of Kyiv today, or Kharkiv, and it echoes the destruction of Aleppo that was carried out by Russian forces under the direction of Vladimir Putin,” The New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser told FRONTLINE in an interview with producer Mike Wiser for the upcoming documentary Putin’s Road to War.
The parallels are too big to ignore. Assad too warned that the people he was fighting were going to use chemical weapons, and hey, chemical weapons certainly got Assad. 

In this case, yeah, I actually believe the Post.

But It's For The Children, Con't

And now the court battle over Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's order to track down trans kids and their families like dogs and round their parents up for "child abuse", as a state court has halted the order as unconstitutional.

Investigations of parents with transgender children for possible child abuse were temporarily halted across Texas on Friday after a state court ruled that the policy, ordered last month by Gov. Greg Abbott, had been improperly adopted and violated the State Constitution.

The injunction, issued by Judge Amy Clark Meachum in Travis County, stemmed from a legal challenge by the parents of a 16-year-old transgender girl. Her family was among the first to be investigated by the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services under Mr. Abbott’s order, which directed state officials to consider medically accepted treatments for transgender youth — including hormones and puberty-suppressing drugs — as abuse.

In issuing the ruling, which came after a day of testimony, Judge Meachum said the governor’s actions, and those of the agency, “violate separation of powers by impermissibly encroaching into the legislative domain.” She said there was a “substantial likelihood” that plaintiffs would prevail after a trial on the merits because the governor’s order was “unconstitutional.”

The ruling applied to all investigations initiated across Texas under Mr. Abbott’s order, which the court said could no longer be enforced pending a trial on the issue, set for July.

Though it was not clear how many inquiries had already been initiated, several parents of transgender children had come forward in recent weeks to say they had been contacted by officials from the state agency about the treatment their children had received. A spokeswoman for the department did not respond to a request for comment.

Judge Meachum last week temporarily halted the investigation of the family, which was named only as John, Jane and Mary Doe in court papers, but had left the question of the policy’s broader legality open until the hearing.

“The judge understood loud and clear the harms being experienced by families like Jane Doe’s,” said Karen Loewy, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, which represented the plaintiffs along with the American Civil Liberties Union. “She heard also loud and clear that this was an unauthorized action by the governor,” she added, “unilaterally changing the way that child abuse is interpreted.”

The state immediately appealed the decision.
So, victory for now, sparing Texas trans children and their parents from the genital police, but don't expect the reprieve to last for long. Abbott and AG Ken Paxton will find the necessary appellate judges to rubber stamp his gestapo, and if the appeals court won't do it, the state supreme court almost certainly will. 

Add another front on the battlefield as Republicans try to criminalize and crucify anyone who isn't like them.
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