ToxicDocs.org – A Treasure Trove of Industry Secrets

An online database of corporate memos, meeting minutes, and letters related to a variety of toxic substances aims to augment public health and safety.
https://www.toxicdocs.org/

The historians Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner took notice when, in 2004, a colleague wrote a 41-page report lambasting their work. The two New York professors (Markowitz at the City University of New York and Rosner at Columbia University) had spent decades working together at the intersection of history and public health, and much of their research focused on the consequences of corporate wrongdoing, so attacks weren’t uncommon — or even surprising.

This one, though, was particularly scathing.

The database is “a rich new resource for researchers, journalists, and public health advocates.”

Philip Scranton, a historian at Rutgers University, had taken aim at their book “Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution” — and at Markowitz in particular. Scranton accused him of everything from “overgeneralization and failure to corroborate” to “selectively appropriat[ing] information,” among a list of other alleged misdeeds.

Rosner and Markowitz’s peers quickly came to their defense, calling Scranton a “hired gun” for the chemical industry. (Scranton had in fact been hired by a group of companies to review two chapters in the book, along with a report Markowitz had prepared for a court case involving job-related chemical exposure.) But Rosner and Markowitz knew there would be more rounds to the stressful, time consuming, and seemingly never-ending fight.

“We didn’t know how to respond,” said Rosner.

One of Rosner’s undergraduate students, Merlin Chowkwanyun, gave them the answer. Why not, he asked, just post all of their source documents — secret company memos, the minutes of internal meetings, industry letters, and more — online and let people decide for themselves? Rosner and Markowitz agreed. Together with Chowkwanyun, they started by creating a website and uploading the maligned chapters of “Deceit and Denial,” with each footnote linked to the original supporting documents in their entirety.

“It was an incredibly liberating moment,” Rosner recalls, adding that Chowkwanyun had “taught two old guys the possibilities of what can be done with the web.”

Since then, Chowkwanyun has expanded that early effort into what is now called ToxicDocs.org, a searchable public archive of the many documents that Rosner and Markowitz have gathered in their research over the years, as well as an ever-expanding host of others. The site officially launched last Friday with an initial 20 million pages of material focused on six toxic substances: asbestos, benzene, lead, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), polyvinyl chloride, and silica, and millions more pages are coming. “There is no other toxic substances database like this,” said Chowkwanyun, who now teaches at Columbia.

It took some time to get here. After completing his undergraduate degree, Chowkwanyun went on to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, and while he kept thinking about the work he’d done with Markowitz and Rosner, he wasn’t able to focus on the project in earnest until after he finished his Ph.D. and started his postdoctoral work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And even then, there were substantial hurdles. Many of the documents came un-scanned, and many others weren’t in the right format to be read and searched electronically. The first issue was solvable with many hours spent at a scanner. The second was more stubborn.

Chowkwanyun estimated that more than 5 million pages needed to be converted to “optical character recognition” (OCR) format, and commercial software took about 30 seconds per page. At that rate, it would have taken him nearly five years of 24/7 operations to complete. Far too slow. So, Chowkwanyun began tinkering with natural language processing technology and UW-Madison’s high-speed computer to develop a faster method. After about a year, he had found one. A recent batch of about 1.5 million pages only required about three days to convert to OCR, “which was nothing,” he said.

A test version of the website went live last February, with about 100,000 fully searchable pages. (In some other systems only the document titles are indexed, not the text on the page). Chowkwanyun has spent the last few months working out the kinks in the site. Some of those have been additions, such as the inclusion of a bookmarking button. Most, though, have been subtractions.

“We originally had a much more elaborate set of features,” he said. But they found that users preferred simplicity, and that a more streamlined site also performed better on mobile devices. “It goes back to the idea of keeping things as slim as possible.”

The project does have similarities to the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents maintained by the University of California San Francisco — an archive of tobacco company advertising, manufacturing plans, marketing campaigns, scientific research, and political activities — as well as The Poison Papers collection, a project of The Bioscience Resource Project and The Center for Media and Democracy that does much the same with the chemical and pesticide industries.

But, Chowkwanyun said, ToxicDocs is designed to be broader in scope and content, as well as much easier for laypeople, like journalists and community members, to use. The goal is not only to take the wind out of critics’ sails, but also to encourage a deeper public exploration of the documents. The hope is that it could foster a better understanding of the industries, their impact on communities, and perhaps even lead to new discoveries.

That’s what happened with the tobacco documents, said Susan Polan, who is with the American Public Health Association and has decades of advocacy experience. There are still new tobacco finds to this day, she says, and the same potential exists with ToxicDocs, which she described as user-friendly. “That offers a phenomenal opportunity to the public-health community.”


For his part, Chowkwanyun is careful to differentiate ToxicDocs from sites like WikiLeaks, which publishes confidential or personal information often provided by anonymous sources. All the documents on ToxicDocs, he said, are already publicly available. The site just centralizes what would otherwise be scattered in courtrooms and law offices around the country.

The hope is that the site could foster a better understanding of the industries and their impact on communities.

With the official launch last week, the range of documents on ToxicDocs is expansive. There are notes from a 1969 Monsanto meeting where the company discusses plans to “sell the hell out of [PCBs].” There’s another document, from 1973, that shows the chemical industry debating whether it would be “illegal” to withhold the findings of a medical study from the government. There are some half a million more in the archive.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, is a staunch supporter of the project. When he was his state’s attorney general in the early 2000s, he worked with Markowitz and Rosner on a case against the lead paint industry. They’ve kept in touch since, and Whitehouse is excited about the doors that ToxicDocs might open. The new database combines “the reach of discovery with the capabilities of big data technology to provide a rich new resource for researchers, journalists, and public health advocates,” he said in a statement. “Unlocking the secrets of corporate archives can level the field between polluters and victims of industrial contamination.”

Of course, the potential impact of ToxicDocs is still largely theoretical. The earlier iterations were not heavily publicized and the bulk of the documents were only uploaded recently. It will take time for people to comb through them. But Chowkwanyun is already looking ahead, and hopes that the site will continue to grow and adapt. In addition to Markowitz and Rosner’s documents, he says, the archive could eventually include others. For example, he’s currently processing documents about the Flint, Michigan water crisis released through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Rosner and Markowitz would love to see the site thrive as well. But, for them, it’s also becoming the refuge they’d first hoped for. Instead of having to defend themselves to every critic, or respond to every document request, they have started referring people to the website. They thank Chowkwanyun for that.

The duo had always wanted to make the material available to the public, Rosner said. “But we didn’t know how.”


Tik Root is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Washington Post, Newsweek, The New Yorker, and PBS, among other outlets.

China wants an “orderly exit” from bitcoin mining

Anonymous Shares A Message For 2018 That Will Change The Way You Look At Social Media

Social media has changed tremendously within the past few years. Not only have social networks been used to “connect” the world in several different ways, they’ve also come at a tremendous cost, as discussed in the video below which was recently released by Anonymous.

The video features several snippets from two former major Facebook executives, Chamath Palihapitiya and Sean Parker.

In it, they discuss the real implications of Facebook that are probably unbelievable to some people. These are the, as I like to call, “little big things” that we’re not really aware of, and when presented with this type of information, it’s common for one to roll their eyes because sometimes it’s so out of left field.

Why? I’m not sure, what they say makes perfect sense and given who these people are and where they’ve worked, they obviously know a thing or two about the platform

Another strong point here is that sentiment like this doesn’t receive much attention from mainstream media, which is another indicator of why one should be looking into it.

What is social media today? It’s created an environment where some, not all, are starving for likes and attention. We constantly share parts of our lives with others, so we ourselves can be seen. It’s a total ego trip for the most part, but others do use it for genuine purposes other than attention grabbing.

At the same time, social media became a great platform to share information that’s not presented in the mainstream. Whether it be important scientific papers that’ve been published on GMOs or vaccines, social media has brought light into several worlds of darkness.

Information started going super viral, and it wasn’t uncommon for popular alternative independent media outlets to see a couple million people on their site by mid-afternoon.

Sharing of classified documents, government corruption, and creating awareness on technologies, ideas and innovation were at the forefront of independent media. More people were becoming aware of false flag terrorism. There are important publications out there that would never have seen the light of day if it wasn’t for social media, like the multiple studies that’ve been published in major science and engineering studies that conclude, without a doubt, that the twin towers were brought down by controlled demolition.

You can find those studies linked within multiple articles that we’ve published on 9/11.

There are several examples from multiple areas that affect multiple aspects of human life. This was huge, because prior to the birth of social media, information and our source for learning about what’s really happening on our planet was controlled by a small group of people and the corporations they run.

That being said, social media also created the birth of outlets spreading fake news. This can’t really be denied, we’re talking about sites making claims that provide absolutely no sources at all, or sources that can’t really be deemed credible. A lot of people were making a lot of money on Facebook, while at the same time spreading tremendous amounts of false information.

This resulted, as well as a few other factors, in Facebook changing their algorithms. The spread of new information is now not as prominent as it once was as the result of censorship of information.

NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden said it best, the solution here is not to censor what people read but rather teaching people how to think critically:

“The problem of fake news isn’t solved by hoping for a referee but rather because we as participants, we as citizens, we as users of these services help each other…The answer to bad speech is not censorship. The answer to bad speech is more speech. We have to exercise the idea that critical thinking matters now more than ever, given the fact that lies seem to be getting very popular.” (source)(source)

At the end of the day, platforms like Facebook are sovereign. They can do as they please and have every right to do so. When it comes to the search for truth and information, if people are really interested in finding out what’s going on, they’ll look.

The main point here is to question your use of social media. It’s not natural, and the amount of screen time we spend on these networks is creating problems with us and our children  that we’re just starting to recognize.

The power is in our own hands. We have the choice; we as people, as parents and as friends have the choice to voice our concern, and limit our own use. It’s the same thing as junk food, we always have the choice. What seems unfair, however, is like junk food, these platforms play with our brain chemistry, thus shaping our perceptions, manipulating our chemistry and sometimes making our decisions for us.

Something to think about as you watch the video below…

Everything You Need To Know About Bill Gates, Vaccine Safety & His Relationship With Big Pharma

This post was provided to Collective Evolution by The World Mercury Project. An important initiative that deserves serious attention. 

Bill Gates is fond of using his bully pulpit to talk about “miracles” and “magic.” Gates has featured one or both words in nearly all of his annual wrap-up letters for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (200920102011201220142016 and 2017), most often in reference to the Gates Foundation’s outsized financial and ideological support for global vaccine programs. As Gates says, “In the same way that during my Microsoft career I talked about the magic of software, I now spend my time talking about the magic of vaccines.”

Gates’s words give us an immediate clue that he is engaging in his own brand of magical thinking—which social scientists define as “illogical causal reasoning.” How else to explain his simplistic endorsement of vaccines as a miraculous intervention with unmitigated benefits and no down side? The Gates Foundation’s global spreadsheet appears to have no room to tally the massive flood of vaccine injuries afflicting children worldwide, despite abundant evidence that this damage is standing the vaccine risk-benefit calculus on its head and turning childhood into an extended round of Russian roulette.

Let’s report history accurately

In a widely cited 2014 blog post on the “miracle of vaccines,” Gates expressed enthusiasm about the “inspiring” data on vaccines and the “fantastic” and “phenomenal” progress being made to expand vaccine coverage. There is one major problem with Gates’ professed reliance on “data,” which is that the philanthropist ignores fundamental historical facts governing infectious disease and vaccine timelines.

There is one major problem with Gates’ professed reliance on “data,” which is that the philanthropist ignores fundamental historical facts governing infectious disease and vaccine timelines.

Vital statistics data reveal that in the U.S. and elsewhere, fatalities from diseases such as scarlet fever—in the absence of any vaccine—had become quite rare by the mid-20th century. Mortality from infectious diseases such as measles and whooping cough (pertussis) also had declined rapidly, well before the introduction of the corresponding vaccines (see Figure 1). A meticulous review of U.S. mortality data from 1900–1973 concluded:

Medical measures [such as vaccines] contributed little to the overall decline in mortality in the United States since about 1900—having in many instances been introduced several decades after a marked decline had already set in.”

The same researchers, in another article, chastised the medical establishment for its misplaced confidence in “magic bullets” (there is that word “magic” again!). Instead, if the decline in infectious disease incidence and mortality in the last century represented any kind of “miracle,” the phenomenon was, by all honest accounts, attributable to classic and long-term public health measures such as better sanitation and, especially, improved nutrition. A study of 20th-century mortality trends in Italy found a significant association between increased caloric intake and declining mortality, reflecting “progress in average nutritional status, lifestyle quality, socioeconomic level and hygienic conditions.” Moreover, mortality dropped most sharply in Italy’s youngest age groups—who were “probably the most sensible to the changes in nutrition and wellness.” Even early 20th-century epidemiologists who were inclined to give some credit to vaccines recognized that other factors were at play, including changes in “human resistance and bacterial quality” as well as factors yet to be determined.

Figure 1. U.S. mortality rates, 1900–1963Source: http://drsuzanne.net/dr-suzanne-humphries-vaccines-vaccination/


Oh miracle, where art thou?

Even if one leaves 20th-century vital statistics behind, there is a glaring piece of evidence that gives the lie to Bill Gates’ disingenuous assertions about vaccine miracles: vaccines are not actually making or keeping children healthy. Instead, in the U.S. (where children are the most highly vaccinated in the world), over half of all young people have a chronic illness—a trend that coincides with the expansion of the nation’s vaccine schedule. Similar patterns of chronic illness are emerging worldwide, including for potentially life-threatening conditions such as food allergies and asthma.

…there is a glaring piece of evidence that gives the lie to Bill Gates’ disingenuous assertions about vaccine miracles: vaccines are not actually making or keeping children healthy.

The World Mercury Project’s Campaign to Restore Child Health has been documenting parents’ first-hand accounts of serious adverse outcomes experienced by their children following vaccination. These testimonials, which represent the tip of the iceberg, cover a panoply of disorders that were rare or even unheard of a few decades ago:

  • Thirteen percent of U.S. children are in special education.
  • One in six American children has a developmental disorder such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects nearly 11% of American children.
  • One in 20 children under the age of five has epilepsy.
  • Peanut allergies are the most common cause of food-related death.
  • Women who receive flu and Tdap vaccines during pregnancy are at greater risk of miscarriages and other problems.
  • Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal or other infections (PANDAS or PANS) may affect as many as 1 in 200 children in the U.S., including up to 25% of children diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and tic disorders.
  • Sensory processing disorder (SPD) often co-occurs with ADHD and ASD.
  • In the U.S., the infant mortality rate, including from sudden infant death syndrome(SIDS), is double the rate in many other high-income countries. In Africa, a comparative study in Guinea-Bissau found that infant mortality was at least twice as high (10%-11%) in children who received the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) and polio vaccines as in children who did not receive the vaccines (4%-5%).
…large foundations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation exert influence not just through their “enormous resources” but also “by shaping development concepts and policies.”

Cui bono?

A recent German report on global philanthropy observes that modern philanthropy has its roots, first and foremost, in business tycoons’ self-interested desire to shield income from taxation while “garner[ing] prestige and influence in the U.S. and world affairs.” The report’s authors note that large foundations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation exert influence not just through their “enormous resources” but also “by shaping development concepts and policies.” The Gates Foundation—established in 2000 with an initial endowment of $42.9 billion and amplified by an additional $30 billion from Warren Buffet in 2006—has become the world’s leading global health player as well as the largest non-state funder of the World Health Organization (WHO). As a result of the Gates Foundation’s “tremendous agenda-setting power,” the global health community designated 2010–2020 as the Decade of Vaccines; developed a Global Vaccine Action Plan; and created the public-private Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI Alliance), which receives almost one-fourth of its funding from the Gates Foundation.

While Gates has rhapsodized that vaccines are a fantastic investment, the vaccine industry, in fact, is a primary beneficiary of Gates Foundation largesse. According to the German analysts, for example, the Gates Foundation’s support of the GAVI Alliance has incentivized manufacturers to increase production of specific vaccines. These incentives have resulted in payments of over $1 billion to Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Some reporters have described this arrangement as “a leg-up for pharmaceutical companies ‘seeking to expand into faster-growing, lower-income countries.’” However, as the German report notes, the non-governmental organization Doctors without Borders (MSF) has questioned the GAVI Alliance’s overall impact on vaccine affordability, stating that “the cost to fully immunize a child was 68 times more expensive in 2014 than it was in 2001.”

The German analysts and others have outlined key features of the Gates Foundation’s close partnership with the pharmaceutical industry, including the revolving door between the staff of the Foundation and pharmaceutical companies such as Merck and GSK…

The German analysts and others have outlined key features of the Gates Foundation’s close partnership with the pharmaceutical industry, including the revolving door between the staff of the Foundation and pharmaceutical companies such as Merck and GSK; the preponderant focus of the Foundation’s largest global health awards (20/50 or 40%) on research and development of new vaccines and drugs; and the Foundation’s $52 million equity stake in CureVac (a German pharmaceutical company) to speed up development of mRNA-vaccines. The Gates Foundation also has increased its direct support for the biotechnology industry, which is of considerable relevance to the vaccine industry due to the rapidly increasing use of biotech in modern vaccine manufacturing. Recent articles have pointed out, moreover, that the Gates Foundation routinely pays public relations firms to manipulate scientific decision-making in favor of the risky genetic engineering technologies that the Foundation supports.

What these observations make apparent is that  Bill Gates’s vaccine philanthropy indeed represents a “miracle”—but the miracle’s beneficiaries are the corporations and stockholders who are laughing all the way to the bank, and certainly not the children and adults around the world who are bearing the brunt of unsafe vaccines. Dr. Arata Kochi, the WHO’s former director of malaria research, chose to call a spade a spade in 2008 when he described the Gates Foundation as a cartel that suppresses diversity of scientific opinion and is “accountable to no one other than itself.”

 

EXCLUSIVE: One Man’s Quest to Expose ‘Absolutely Historic’ BBC Panorama ‘Fakery’

For over four years, Robert Stuart has been forensically investigating the innumerable inconsistencies, contradictions, anomalies and apparent falsehoods in the BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children. Speaking exclusively to Sputnik, the former journalist shares his most troubling discoveries.

On the evening of August 29 2013, just as the UK parliament was quite literally voting on possible military intervention in Syria, BBC News at Ten broadcast a report by journalist Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway from Syria, which claimed a Syrian fighter jet had dropped an incendiary bomb containing a “napalm-type” substance — possibly thermite — on the playground of an Aleppo school.

After its broadcast, some viewers took to the internet to express concerns about the veracity of the report’s footage. Among them was Robert Stuart, a former journalist working for a small community organization in Islington, London.

Walking Dead?                                                                         

One scene in particular struck him as “extremely odd.” In it, males young and old, their skin apparently in tatters, race into a “basic hospital funded by handouts” to be treated for chemical burns. At one particularly disturbing point, a number writhe, drool and groan, apparently in great distress.

However, the men are initially “quiet and static,” before the central figure looks directly into the camera for several moments and raises his arm, at which point “they start rolling around in agony and wailing. It looks farcical, ridiculous,” Robert told Sputnik.

A GMC-registered practicing doctor, who’d worked with burns victims firsthand, believed the scene to be “an act.”

“[They] were able to sit down, be touched by others, even talk. This is not how a severe burn victim would present. Most would be screaming the place down in agony even after treatment and all sorts of pain drugs, but they’re able to speak and breathe very well. Some are shown with skin hanging off but the flesh beneath actually looks like more skin. Also, if the poison was dropped from a plane, their hair would’ve been lost and patches would be evident — many still have full heads,” the doctor said.

This scene and other questionable aspects of the brief report prompted him to pen a letter to the BBC — as he was writing it, the BBC broadcast a Panorama documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, which expanded on the original report, and included further footage.

The documentary was said to have been intended to cover the work of two British doctors in Syria — but apparently completely by chance, while they were filming, the chemical attack occurred.

Ever since, Robert has repeatedly reviewed the program. As of December 2017, he’s identified contradictions, anomalies and areas of concern “almost too numerous to list.” At best, he believes the broadcast contains many scenes which are “largely, if not entirely, staged” — at worst, he suggests its content, and even the attack it allegedly covers, may be “fictionalized.”

​His correspondence with the UK’s state broadcaster about these issues has also continued — their response has been equal parts “stonewalling, evasion and misdirection.” Part of this effort, he alleges, includes the “diligent” blocking of every copy of Saving Syria’s Children on YouTube — as a result, one won’t find a “single scrap” of footage from the documentary on the platform. Anything uploaded is “taken down within hours,” which Robert claims isn’t the case with “any other” Panorama documentary.

Nonetheless, the documentary remains viewable on Vimeo.

Where, When, What, How?

One key source of confusion concerns the exact point of the attack. According to the BBC it took place August 26, 2013, although accounts of its timing “implausibly” span a range of six hours — Human Rights Watch states it occurred “around midday,” while the Violations Documentation Center places it at two in the afternoon.

Conversely, Pannell himself stated in BBC Complaints correspondence with Robert the strike occurred “at around 5.30pm,” while Conway places it between three and five. Alleged eyewitness Abu Yousef suggests it was closer to six, which is corroborated by a Turkish media article quoting a Syrian doctor who says it occurred at that time — although the chemical weapon was instead said to be a “phosphorus bomb.”

​Complicating the picture further, a team of Syrian investigators has researched the attack, contacting a former commander of the Al-Tawhid Brigade based in Aleppo province in August 2013. Despite having every reason to validate the claim, given it would offer useful propaganda against the Syrian government, they instead attested a “napalm bomb” attack did not happen that month, and none of the events depicted in the documentary actually occurred.

“We did not meet any air strike with the substance of napalm on Urum al Kubra or on any other region in the North West Aleppo countryside and the cheap fabrication of the BBC undermines the credibility of the Free Syrian Army. We’ve done a field investigation with the help of the delegate of the Free Syrian Red Crescent and [found] no victims, no traces and no memory with anybody of the alleged air strikes with the substance of Napalm,” the commander said.

The commander has agreed to provide a full statement to the BBC and offered to provide BBC journalists with safe transit from Antakya, Turkey to Urm Al-Kubra to interview witnesses and conduct their own investigation.

A July 2014 telephone conversation between two members of said Syrian investigative team documents the account of a local resident, who similarly affirms the alleged napalm bomb attack did not occur.

“He told me, ‘we didn’t hear about such a thing…we hear about rockets, there is a lot.’ When I told him it burns, he told me ‘we never had something like that, never, never. Nor did we ever hear about it.’ I asked him whether he was maybe out of the region at the specific time, and he said ‘even if I would have left the people keep on talking about this thing, I would have known about it’,” the investigator said.

Untroubled Journey

Almost every repeat viewing of Saving Syria’s Children raises further concerns and questions for Robert. A relatively recent discovery was reporter Pannell and cameraman Conway’s apparent embedment with jihadi group Ahrar al-Sham.

Approximately 10 minutes into the documentary, in a scene said to be shot August 25, Dr. Hallam sets off to “see what medical care is available for children closer to where the fighting is” — and Pannell follows.

“Western journalists have been targeted in Syria, so I have to travel with my own security. The doctors are able to be more low key and take their own vehicles,” he explains.

A number of vehicles are then shown setting off in convoy — among them a white pickup truck which, dashcam level footage reveals, bears the Ahrar al Sham emblem on its bonnet.

Ahrar al Sham has been accused of being involved in, or leading, numerous atrocities over the course of the Syrian crisis — a mere three weeks prior to Pannell’s trip, Human Rights Watch alleges the group were, alongside Daesh and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, “key fundraisers, organizers, planners, and executors” of an attack in which at least 190 killed and over 200 — “the vast majority women and children” — were kidnapped.

As the program enters its eleventh minute, Pannell’s van approaches a checkpoint held by a separate rebel faction, an experience common across the country at the time. After a brief and seemingly superficial inspection, the convoy is allowed to pass through unmolested.

As Pannell himself narrates, the faction in question is “ISIS…the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” At the time, the group was not subject to the extreme global notoriety it endures today — Robert suggests such a scene “simply wouldn’t be plausible now.”

“Conway is seemingly able to hop between vehicles with impunity at the checkpoint. As they reach it, Pannell instructs the cameraman — presumably Conway, the sole shooter credited on the documentary — to ‘put the camera down a bit’. Seconds later, in footage filmed from the rear of another vehicle, a Daesh guard inspects vehicles. How did they not end up in orange jumpsuits having their heads chopped off?” Robert told Sputnik.

​Daesh also crops up elsewhere in the documentary — in a scene filmed at close quarters by Conway, an ambulance bearing the group’s distinctive flag transports victims of the apparent attack to hospital, a “marked contrast” from the “ostensibly tense” checkpoint scene.

Trust Me, I’m a Doctor

A recurring character throughout Saving Syria’s Children is Dr. Rola Hallam, a British doctor representing the charity Hand in Hand for Syria. She immediately jumped out to Robert due to the manner of her introduction — taking time out during the apparent mass casualty scenario to conduct a calm and coherent to-camera interview.

​Dr. Hallam also appeared on the BBC prior to the Panorama broadcast — interviewed on Newsnight August 30 2013, the day after parliament voted against military action, she expressed disappointment at the result, suggesting the world had “failed the Syrian nation.”

Subsequent digging into the doctor’s background offered yet further indications she and the organization she represents harbor strongly interventionist stances.

For instance, her father is Dr. Mousa al-Kurdi — who, according to a February 2013 article written Dr. Hallam’s colleague Dr. Saleyha Ahsan, is “involved politically” with the controversial Syrian National Council.

Dr. Hallam has denied that allegation — nonetheless, in a 2012 Al Jazeera interview, he passionately advocated for the Syrian National Council’s recognition as the “sole representative” of all Syrians. He also boasted of how at that year’s Friends of Syria summit in Istanbul — attended by Hillary Clinton — he told the foreign ministers of several governments, including Victoria Nuland of the US State Department, “either you defend us or you arm the Free Syrian Army to defend us — you have the choice.”

Facebook banner of Faddy Sahloul, cofounder of Hand in Hand for Syria.
Facebook banner of Faddy Sahloul, cofounder of Hand in Hand for Syria.

Robert’s exploration into Hand in Hand for Syria also raised many serious anxieties. The UK Charity Commission states the organization exists for “the advancement of health or saving lives” — yet, he found until July 2014, the Facebook banner of cofounder Faddy Sahloul read “WE WILL BRING ASSAD TO JUSTICE; NO MATTER WHAT LIVES IT TAKES, NO MATTER HOW MUCH CATASTROPHE IT MAKES.”Moreover, he uncovered a photo of a Hand in Hand for Syria nurse, who also appears in the documentary, tending to the injuries of a child soldier.

Unidentified Hand in Hand for Syria worker with child soldier.
Unidentified Hand in Hand for Syria worker with child soldier.

“In September 2015, I formally raised my concerns with the Charity Commission, which ruled the cofounder’s bloodthirsty Facebook banner was a ‘historical issue’ that had since been addressed by the charity’s trustees, and the image of the nurse treating a child fighter was not ‘sufficient’ evidence Hand in Hand for Syria was ‘celebrating or supporting violence’,” Robert told Sputnik.

Iessa Obied, a medical professional connected with Hand in Hand for Syria, poses with rocket launcher.
Iessa Obied, a medical professional connected with Hand in Hand for Syria, poses with rocket launcher.

His battles with the Charity Commission did not end there — in March 2016, he submitted a further complaint, after uncovering images of Iessa Obied, a medical professional connected with Hand in Hand for Syria, posing with a “shocking” array of armaments, including rocket launchers, sniper rifles, “hell cannon” mortars, tanks, and more.

Iessa Obied, a medical professional connected with Hand in Hand for Syria, poses with a rifle.
Iessa Obied, a medical professional connected with Hand in Hand for Syria, poses with a rifle.

However, for the Commission, the images “[did] not raise sufficient regulatory concern.”RIP BBC?

Despite official denials, Robert intends to continue his campaign until the truth has finally been revealed — his determination stems from a belief the alleged falsification was “absolutely historic, and unbelievably brazen.”

“It was clearly very carefully orchestrated and set up. I had few illusions about the corporate media and the BBC, the one remaining perhaps being they wouldn’t fake something outright. This is an absolutely historic case, and unique. Whatever criticisms you could level at state-owned media in Iran or North Korea, nobody has ever done this before,” he rails.

In March 2017, Robert’s efforts attracted the attention of leading TV and radio producer Victor Lewis-Smith. He raised troubling questions with the BBC about Saving Syria’s Children, threatening to literally tear up a contract for a forthcoming radio comedy pilot with the corporation unless top brass could offer satisfactory answers.

In response, the BBC alleged Ofcom had reviewed the program and confirmed the authenticity of the documentary. However, the organization’s ruling related to a news report by television channel RT, which featured Robert’s investigation.

The BBC complained to OfCom “the program presented information in an inaccurate and misleading way.” While Ofcom upheld the complaint, it acknowledged it did not “undertake an assessment of the accuracy and/or impartiality of the program” in reaching its decision. Robert states this was “in no way a clean bill of health” for the documentary.

“It was not possible or appropriate for Ofcom to attempt to prove or disprove the allegations made about the BBC in the program. Similarly, Ofcom had no statutory jurisdiction to assess the accuracy and impartiality of the BBC program. Rather, our concern in this case was solely whether [it] resulted in unfairness to the BBC,” the regulator wrote.

​Lewis-Smith didn’t accept their defense, again threatening to terminate his contract, and demanding Panorama release raw footage of the event in order to gauge its veracity.

The eventual statement issued by the BBC did nothing to address his concerns, so he shredded his contract. ​He now intends to make a crowdfunded documentary investigating the program, with Robert’s assistance. Sputnik submitted requests for comment from the BBC, but as of December 30 2017 has received no response.

“If the extent to which the BBC manufactured this documentary was proven, it would be a watershed moment. There’d be no coming back from that. It would destroy their credibility globally. Pannell and Conway could go down in history as having destroyed the BBC,” Robert concludes.

The views and opinions expressed by Robert Stuart are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.