Monday Reads: Pollen Tsunami, Tornadoes, and Seymour Hersh

It's a pollen tsunami!

It’s a pollen tsunami!

Good Afternoon!!

Dakinikat is still grading papers and also has to work this afternoon and tonight, so I’m filling in at the last minute.

Have your allergies been worse than usual this spring? Mine have. As it is I have to take antihistamines and decongestants year round to beat back my sinus problems.

I’ve been taking Allegra D almost every day for years. I started to worry about taking so much Sudafed, so this weekend I decided to try taking Flonase. It hasn’t been a roaring success. It does help me breathe, but it doesn’t seem to do anything for my other allergy symptoms like scratchy throat and eyes and itching skin. Last night I got so desperate that I went out to the drugstore around 10PM to get some Benedryl for the unbearable itching. So between the Benedryl hangover and the allergy symptoms, I feel like a zombie.

So I decided to google for allergy news, and look what I found:

ABC News: “Pollen storm” may not let up anytime soon.

Allergy experts are warning of a “pollen tsunami,” adding to the downside of Spring for the roughly 50 million Americans with nasal allergies.

One of the biggest pollen hot zones in the country spans the Northeast and there are indications it won’t let up anytime soon, reports CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan.

Blooming flowers and budding branches mean Spring is in the air — and so is the pollen. It’s everywhere, collecting in thick clumps on the ground and coating cars.

Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of allergy and asthma care of New York, said there’s so much pollen, even people who have never had allergies are suffering.

“This particular season, we’ve been bombarded by phone calls from people experiencing allergy symptoms for the very first time,” Bassett said. “And not only allergies, but pollen triggered asthma — wheezing. People in their 50s, 60s, and beyond — never had it before.”

pollen tsunami

Great. So what’s causing the “pollen tsunami?”

Normally, trees release their pollen in early Spring, but the long, brutal winter delayed that until now, when other plants and grasses are just starting to release theirs. For allergy sufferers, it’s a perfect pollen storm.

“Right now we have birch, oak, maple pollen in the Northeast, very prevalent. If you’re sensitive to those tree pollens, you’re going to feel miserable,” Bassett said.

The article says pollen counts are at medium-to-high levels in other parts of the country also.

Tornadoes hit Texas and Arkansas early today.

Fox News: At least 10 missing after deadly tornadoes hit Arkansas, Texas.

Emergency crews were searching through wreckage Monday in parts of Texas and Arkansas and were attempting to contact relatives after a line of tornadoes battered several small communities, killing two people and leaving at least 10 missing.

The couple in their late 20s or early 30s died when a twister hit their mobile home late Sunday in the Arkansas town of Nashville, Howard County Coroner John Gray said.

Their daughter was 1 or 2 years old. He did not release the parents’ names.

Once the word spreads, he added, it will be a sad week for the community.

“That’s what it’s like in a small town,” Gray said. “You either know them or you know somebody who knows them.”

Howard County Sheriff Brian McJunkins told KLSA-TV that two other people in the town about 50 miles north of Texarkana were critically hurt.

In this Saturday, May 9, 2015 photo provided by Brian Khoury, a tornado touches down in Cisco, Texas. One person was killed Saturday night and another left in critical condition after the tornado hit Cisco, a rural farming and ranch area about 100 miles west of Fort Worth. (Brian Khoury via AP)

In this Saturday, May 9, 2015 photo provided by Brian Khoury, a tornado touches down in Cisco, Texas. One person was killed Saturday night and another left in critical condition after the tornado hit Cisco, a rural farming and ranch area about 100 miles west of Fort Worth. (Brian Khoury via AP)

USA Today: Death toll rises to 5 after storms roar through several states.

A massive cleanup and hunt for the missing were underway Monday after a line of tornadoes and wild storms roared through the nation’s Tornado Alley, killing five people and injuring dozens.

Tornadoes caused major damage in parts of Arkansas, Iowa, South Dakota and Texas on Sunday.

In Van, Texas, Van Zandt County Fire Marshal Chuck Allen said a man and a woman died and 43 people were taken to hospitals after a tornado tore through the county Sunday night. Eight people remained missing.

About 30% of the city suffered some kind of damage, and 50 people in the town of 2,700 sought shelter with the American Red Cross, Allen said.

County Judge Don Kirkpatrick thanked the public for the outpouring of support.

“We are working very hard to get Van back to normal,” Kirkpatrick said. “Van is a strong city, a strong community. We will rebuild.”

Reuters: At least four dead, 50 injured after Arkansas, Texas tornadoes.

At least four people were killed and 50 injured in Texas and Arkansas after a series of tornadoes hit the Great Plains states overnight, flattening buildings and snapping power lines, officials said on Monday.

Two people were killed in Van, about 70 miles southeast of Dallas, by a tornado that hit late on Sunday. Eight adults were still unaccounted for on Monday, Van Zandt County Fire Marshal Chuck Allen told a news conference.

Allen said workers with search dogs have been going over the wreckage to look for more victims.

Authorities said 43 people in Texas were taken by ambulances to hospitals with injuries and several more arrived on their own.

Obviously, this is a developing story; and the death toll is likely to arise. I’m just posting the latest articles.

Seymour Hersh

Seymour Hersh

Seymour Hersh’s latest project is a story on the Osama bin Laden killing published at the London Review of Books. Hersh claims that President Obama lied when he said that Pakistan did not know in advance about the U.S. raid on the bin Laden compound and that he fabricated the entire story of the Navy Seals taking down the Al Qaeda leader. Here’s the introduction to the long piece.

It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.

The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March 2014. Gall, who spent 12 years as the Times correspondent in Afghanistan, wrote that she’d been told by a ‘Pakistani official’ that Pasha had known before the raid that bin Laden was in Abbottabad. The story was denied by US and Pakistani officials, and went no further. In his book Pakistan: Before and after Osama (2012), Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad, wrote that he’d spoken to four undercover intelligence officers who – reflecting a widely held local view – asserted that the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation. The issue was raised again in February, when a retired general, Asad Durrani, who was head of the ISI in the early 1990s, told an al-Jazeera interviewer that it was ‘quite possible’ that the senior officers of the ISI did not know where bin Laden had been hiding, ‘but it was more probable that they did [know]. And the idea was that, at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been when you can get the necessary quid pro quo – if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States.’

This spring I contacted Durrani and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources: that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his way courier, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false.

Osama bin Laden’s “secret” compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Here’s a useful summary of the Hersh article by Erin Fuchs at Business Insider.

Here are the main takeaways:

The White House’s “most blatant” lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military officials were never informed of the mission, Hersh says.

While US officials say they found bin Laden by tracking his trusted courier, Hersh says they discovered his whereabouts from a former Pakistani intelligence officer who wanted the $25 million reward the US was offering.

The government claimed bin Laden was hiding out, but Hersh says the Pakistani intelligence agency had actually been holding him captive since 2006 to use him as leverage against Taliban and Al Qaeda activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

While the White House has said it would have taken bin Laden alive if it could have and that he was killed in a firefight, Hersh says that wasn’t the case. “There was no firefight as they moved into the compound; the ISI guards had gone,” Hersh wrote.

The article also takes issue with the White House’s claim that bin Laden was buried at sea in a service that followed Islamic practices. “The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains — or so the Seals claimed,” Hersh reported, citing his senior US intelligence official.

Personally, as I wrote at the time, I disapproved of the killing of bin Laden. I thought he should have been arrested and put on trial in the U.S. There were obvious problems with the story, beginning with the number of ex-Navy Seals who claimed to have been the killer. I never believed the burial at sea claims either. Frankly, I found the whole episode distasteful, and I’m not all that interested in the details of what really happened–there are so many other important issues that I think are more urgent. At the same time, I’m not happy that Republicans will now have a new conspiracy theory to flog Obama with.

Hersh’s story is getting some pushback in the media, and the White House has denied his claims. Others, such as Suzie Madrak and Joseph Cannon are praising Hersh’s report. Obviously I have no way to know what the truth is, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the public story of what happened has serious problems. I haven’t had time to read these articles or the Hersh piece yet, so I’m just putting the controversy out there for you to explore if you wish.

Max Fisher at Vox: The many problems with Seymour Hersh’s Osama bin Laden conspiracy theory.

Peter Bergen at CNN critiqued the report: Was there a cover-up in bin Laden killing?

CNN: White House rejects Seymour Hersh ‘baseless assertions’ on bin Laden raid.

Slate: Explosive, Controversial Report by Seymour Hersh Says Obama Administration Lied About Bin Laden Raid.

Taylor Marsh: Seymour Hersh Weaves Wild Tale on bin Laden.

What do you think? As always this is an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.



18 Comments on “Monday Reads: Pollen Tsunami, Tornadoes, and Seymour Hersh”

  1. Fannie says:

    Sorry to hear about your allergies. Since my son was a teen, he has had the worst of allergies, and has to do daily meds to deal with it. He told me it’s the worst, and generally it’s Memorial Day weekend that gets to him.

    I think that Seymour Hersh is full of shit. Like JJ said yesterday, the whole of the whacked out conservatives are being supported by the media. Notice Peter Schwitzer (Clinton’s Cash) was doing the Sunday rounds, convincing everybody to read his book. I think he was on ABC, and at the end he was asked about funding, and he finally admitted the Koch brothers gave him a chunk of money.

    If we don’t get Citizens United, and all the gerrymandering out of policitcs, we might as well write our obit, and kiss our asses goodbye.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I have some concerns about Hersh’s reliability at this point. He may be past due for retirement.

      • RalphB says:

        I have oak trees in my yard and, earlier this spring, they just about tried to kill me with pollen. I have never that much from them and I couldn’t go outside without being attacked. Of course, oaks are all over the place here it wasn’t just my trees. 🙂

        I read Hersh’s story and it just makes no damn sense. It’s also sole sourced which is always dubious. Personally I think he’s either past due for retirement or just fabricated the story. Shame considering his work in the 60s and 70s but it is what it is.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    You have to wonder why The New Yorker chose not to publish the article by Sy Hersh. Maybe because it’s based on the word of one anonymous source, as the Slate article notes. From Slate:

    Hersh is a legendary investigatory journalist—he broke two of the biggest stories about American war atrocities of the last 50 years with his account of the 1968 My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and with his 2004 revelation of the U.S. Army abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. He has voiced skepticism about the official account of the Bin Laden assassination, as well as an account of it by Nicholas Schmidle in Hersh’s usual home, the New Yorker. Last year, the New Republic asked New Yorker editor David Remnick about Hersh’s doubts about the Bin Laden raid. Remnick defended his magazine’s story, while also noting his respect for Hersh.

    Read the New Yorker response at the Slate link. It certainly sounds like they don’t trust Hersh’s account.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Also see the Vox story.

      Hersh’s story is amazing to read, alleging a vast American-Pakistani conspiracy to stage the raid and even to fake high-level diplomatic incidents as a sort of cover. But his allegations are largely supported only by two sources, neither of whom has direct knowledge of what happened, both of whom are retired, and one of whom is anonymous. The story is riven with internal contradictions and inconsistencies.

      But why would the US do this? What’s the point?

      The story simply does not hold up to scrutiny — and, sadly, is in line with Hersh’s recent turn away from the investigative reporting that made him famous into unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

      A decade ago, Hersh was one of the most respected investigative journalists on the planet, having broken major stories from the 1969 My Lai massacre to the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal. But more recently, his reports have become less and less credible. He’s claimed that much of the US special forces is controlled by secret members of Opus Dei, that the US military flew Iranian terrorists to Nevada for training, and that the 2014 chemical weapons attack in Syria was a “false flag” staged by the government of Turkey. Those reports have had little proof and, rather than being borne out by subsequent investigations, have been either unsubstantiated or outright debunked. A close reading of Hersh’s bin Laden story suggests it is likely to suffer the same fate.

      • bostonboomer says:

        More from Max Fisher’s analysis at Vox:

        The evidence for all this is Hersh’s conversations with two people: Asad Durrani, who ran Pakistan’s military intelligence service from 1990 to 1992, and “a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.” Read that line again: knowledgeable about the initial intelligence. Not exactly a key player in this drama, and anonymous at that.

        Hersh produces no supporting documents or proof, nor is the authority of either source established. We are given no reason to believe that either Durrani or the “knowledgeable official” would have even second- or thirdhand knowledge of what occurred, yet their word is treated as gospel. His other two sources are anonymous “consultants” who are vaguely described as insiders.

    • janicen says:

      Yeah, I gave the story a brief glimpse and came away not caring. Thank you for providing us with a nice collection of pieces about the Hersh story. It’s quite probable that we weren’t told the entire truth, especially the part about the burial at sea, but the rest of Hersh’s claim seems a bit difficult to understand. I’m sure we haven’t heard the end of it.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Peter Bergen:

        Hersh’s account of the bin Laden raid is a farrago of nonsense that is contravened by a multitude of eyewitness accounts, inconvenient facts and simple common sense.

        Let’s start with the claim that the only shots fired at the Abbottabad compound were the ones that killed bin Laden. That ignores the fact that two SEALs on the mission, Matt Bissonnette, author of “No Easy Day,” and Robert O’Neill have publicly said that there were a number of other people killed that night, including bin Laden’s two bodyguards, one of his sons and one of the bodyguard’s wives. Their account is supplemented by many other U.S. officials who have spoken on the record to myself or to other journalists.

        I was the only outsider to visit the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden lived before the Pakistani military demolished it. The compound was trashed, littered almost everywhere with broken glass and several areas of it were sprayed with bullet holes where the SEALS had fired at members of bin Laden’s entourage and family, or in one case exchanged fire with one of his bodyguards. The evidence at the compound showed that many bullets were fired the night of bin Laden’s death.

        Common sense would tell you that the idea that Saudi Arabia was paying for bin Laden’s expenses while he was living in Abbottabad is simply risible. Bin Laden’s principal goal was the overthrow of the Saudi royal family as a result of which his Saudi citizenship was revoked as far back as 1994.

        Why would the Saudis pay for the upkeep of their most mortal enemy? Indeed, why wouldn’t they get their close allies, the Pakistanis, to look the other way as they sent their assassins into Pakistan to finish him off?

        • bostonboomer says:

          The Usual Suspects:

          From Mahablog

          Glenn Greenwald, Marcy Wheeler and the FireDogLake crew have more or less embraced Hersh’s narrative. The crew at Vox say that Hersh’s book is riddled with inconsistencies, and its sourcing is more than flimsy. For what it’s worth, journalists and Middle East experts have expressed huge doubts about Hersh’s claims.

      • NW Luna says:

        Interesting info and commentary. I agree it seems odd that Hersh’s story was not published in the New Yorker, as has been done with several other of his important stories.

        His sources (or lack thereof) are troubling.

        And we don’t need anything about body-parts-tossed-out-the-airplane and other disrespectful practices given publicity.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Cops: George Zimmerman involved in road rage shooting

    The bullet missed him, but he was injured by flying glass from the windshield.

    • janicen says:

      Every time you turn around, there’s some kind of trouble involving this individual. He’s proven again and again to be a menace to society.

    • RalphB says:

      I don’t doubt this guy’s story.

      After Monday’s encounter involving the two men, Ken Cornell, an MRI tech who works at nearby Cyrus Diagnostic Imaging, told 48 Hours’ Crimesider that he was returning to work from lunch when he saw Apperson get out of a gray Infiniti. He said Apperson asked him, “Please call 911, I just shot George Zimmerman.”

      Cornell said he didn’t see the incident or Zimmerman.

      Cornell said he dialed 911 and put Apperson on the phone with dispatchers, and that Apperson told police it was his third dispute with Zimmerman.

      “He said the cops know who I am, this is an ongoing dispute,” Cornell said.

      Apperson said he saw a gun before opening fire, according to Cornell. Apperson was “definitely shaken,” he said.

  4. jawbone says:

    I don’t know about the sourcing, but NBC has reported that the info about where Bin Laden was did come from a “walk in” source, someone from the ISI. Not from following a courier and getting that courier to talk.

    A woman reporter, who has long covered intel issues, also wrote essentially the same things back in 2011. She says that this was the first story where she was very clearly advised to STFU. She was told to go black on it and felt she should destroy all her notes. She said the Saudi government was paying the Pakistani government to keep Bin Laden under house arrest.

    The Intercept covers this woman’s report from 2011:

    The NBC report:

    Given the MSM’s willingness to ignore the woman’s report back in 2011 and their approach to Hirsch’s report this week, I’m now willing to write off what they’re telling us.

    • jawbone says:

      Oops — Hersh is correct spelling. Gleep.

    • bostonboomer says:

      NBC got that from the Hersh article, I think; but your link doesn’t work. That’s just what I heard. As for the article in The Intercept, I take everything they publish with a very large grain of salt. If you like conspiracy theories, keep reading them there.

      I’m sure there are many problems with the official story. I stated my own doubts in my post. But some of Hersh’s claims just don’t make sense. You might want to take a look at the Max Fisher article at Vox and at the two articles I posted in the Tuesday Reads.