Friday, January 15, 2016

Causa Tsarnaev: commented witness testimony of Danling Zhou

This is the first of a series of documented and commented witness testimonies in the Tsarnaev case. Danling Zhou was questioned by prosecutor Aloke Chakravarty on March 9, 2015. The transcript is documented in the appendix. For convenience, I omitted the personal part of Zhou's testimony and started with the day of the bombing.

On March 4, 2015, the actual Tsarnaev trial started with the opening statement of prosecutor William D. Weinreb. He introduced only four witness by name, apparently because he deemed them important: Stephen Silva, Dun Meng, Nate Harman - and Danling Zhou, the friend of Lingzi Lu who was also a victim of the Forum bomb.

I have argued here that Weinreb grotesquely misinterpreted one of Danling's early statements. Danling clearly paraphrases that she had to vomit after the bomb blast, but Lyndsey Mastis, the interviewer, mistakes her words and thinks that she had a gaping wound in her belly with her viscera coming out. Weinreb overtook this graphic mistake into the opening statement.

I published the article on March 8, not knowing that Danling Zhou would be called to the witness stand the next day. The transcript has recently been published, so now is the occasion to check what really happened to her. Prima facie she seems to confirm Weinreb's version, but a closer look - which I will do now - reveals that her answers are preformed by prosecutor Chakravarty, i. e. he is putting words into her mouth.

Danling describes the first moment after the blast:

She doesn't realize the gaping wound in her belly. Amazing. Then her attention shifts to Lingzi:

But a little bit later, when she tries to stand up, she notices an "abdominal injury":

"Because my wound, I have to hold it, so... Like whole thing coming out from my insides" - what kind of wound? What is the "whole thing"? It is not entirely clear what she wants to say here. This obviously doesn't escape the interrogator, who, after a pause, keeps inquiring.

The interrogator formulates more precisely:

The interrogator has also not forgotten the "insides" and inquires:

In this passage, is it essentially Chakravarty who testifies. His questions already formulate the answers, and Danling conveniently affirms. Her last answer however raises serious doubts that interviewer and interviewee have the same thing in mind:

She is being asked if she was "holding her insides in", and she answers that she pushed her stomach, with all her strength. So she pushes her viscera back into her belly with all her strength to diminish her pain - is this supposed to be the way we should understand her? Or isn't it much more reasonable that she was queasy, had to vomit and pushed her (not wounded) stomach to fight her tummyache?

A little bit later, she indeed indicates that she had the feeling to throw up.

The author stands to his claim that the prosecution is misinterpreting Danling Zhou's testimony in this point.

Appendix - testimony of Danling Zhou

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The character assassination of Hasna Ait Boulahcen


Hasna Ait Boulahcen was a cousine of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the assumed mastermind of the Paris shootings. She was killed when the police stormed her apartment in Saint Denis. For more than two days, it was uniformly reported that she died from an self-ignited explosive vest in an act of suicide bombing.

Prosecutors have now announced that this is not the case. Boulahcen has been exculpated from the accusation, simply because she wore no suicide vest.

Hasna Ait Boulahcen was originally accused of being a fanatical Islamic State operative with an explosive vest strapped to her body.

The 26-year-old was embroiled in a siege with her twisted cousin Abdelhamid Abaaoud but it Paris prosecutors have now revealed her head was in fact blown off when a third man standing next to her in the St Denis flat blew himself up on Wednesday morning.

Ait Boulahcen, a suburban Parisian who had studied at university and run a building company, was heard to shout "Help me, help me!" in the seconds before her death. This raises the prospect that Ait Boulahcen was trying to give herself up – and may even have been a hostage – when she was caught in the crossfire.

Asked to explain the U-turn further tonight, the Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said: "All I can tell you is that the kamikaze was not Hasna."

The alleged suicide vest was the only indication that Boulahcen was in any way involved in the criminal activities of her cousin. This means that her exculpation is complete, she might even have been a hostage, as the Mirror writes. It is amusing and appalling at the same time how the media savaged Boulahcen as the first European femal suicide bomber or the party girl who became a jihadist. This kitchen sink psychology reveals an intellectual blackout and is in fact a brutal calumny of a young woman who became the tragic victim of a police raid. It shows once more that the mainstream media have sqaundered their self-assumed role as the guardians of democracy.

There is no reason to believe that Hasna Boulahcen was a radical Islamist or even ready to support a terror attack. She deserves a posthumous apology from those who offended her. The Telegraph has now corrected his original story and apparently still considers her a terrorist - without any justification, however. This doesn't look like an apology.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The strange circumstances of Lingzi Lu's death

Dr. John Cowin (source: Healthy Living)

The "official" Boston Bombing story has it that Lingzi Lu lost her life within a few minutes after the bomb blast, on the sidewalk in front of the Forum. The official story goes on to claim that her body was covered with table cloths and stayed at the crime scene for a couple of hours. At the Tsarnaev trial, the prosecution tried to carve this story into stone by the testimony of Boston Police officer Lauren Woods. Unfortunately, the transcript of her intriguing statement will not be published before December 24, 2015. However, there are enough snippets saved in Twitter messages and reports to get a fairly coherent picture of the circumstances of the expiring of Lingzi Lu. I added an appendix with the most important tweets.

To make it short: Woods testified that, after Lingzi Lu was provisionally treated on the sidewalk, she was put onto a backboard and moved to an ambulance. But the personnel of the ambulance refused to load her onto the vehicle in order to "save space for those they could save." Lingzi was then moved to the sidewalk at Crate&Barrell and covered by a white sheet - obviously she had died in the meantime.

Another key witness for the expiring of Lingzi Lu has not been called by the prosecution: Dr. John Cowin, a surgeon from Florida, who happened to be at the second bomb site and provided several victims with first aid. Dr. Cowin has spoken about this experience at a few occasions in the aftermath of the bombings.

The earliest quote is from April 15, 2013, maybe three hours after the bombings. He gave a short statement to Al Jazeera:
"The worst thing was a little boy, his mother was holding hand but he was obviously expired. We had another woman who arrested while we were there."
 Orlando Sentinel, April 17:
John Cowin said he ran to try to help Lingzi after tending to a man who lost a foot and his 3-year-old son, who suffered a small cut to his head. People were administering CPR when he stepped in to try to clear Lingzi's airway until she could be loaded onto an ambulance. "But I knew she wasn't going to make it," he said.
He said her friend, another student from China, was propped up against a fence with a shrapnel wound to her stomach. People from a nearby restaurant were using tablecloths to bandage her wound. John Cowin, who served as a military physician more than three decades ago and was stationed in the Philippines, helped load the students and other patients into ambulances.
Boston Globe, April 18:
Next, Cowin encountered two Boston University graduate students, one propped against a fence after being hit in the chest with shrapnel. Her friend lay unconscious a few feet away with a severe neck wound.
Cowin tended to the first, as paramedics began unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate her friend, later identified as Lingzi Lu. “I’ve been calling the consulate ever since,” Cowin said Wednesday. “If it will help them at all, I just want her family to know that she didn’t suffer.”
A compilation of Dr. Cowin's facebook notices after the attacks - the exact date is unclear:
The next two most seriously injured were two Chinese girls.  The first was propped up against a fence and was obviously going into shock.  There was someone trying to help her.  People from the restaurant where the bomb exploded were bringing out tablecloths to use as bandages.  She had one covering her abdomen.  When I lifted it, she had a shrapnel wound to her belly.  We got some tablecloths under her head so we could lay her down.  At the same time they were giving CPR to the other Chinese woman.  She had vomited so they were trying to clear her airway. At that point the medics arrived with an airway.  The airway was inserted and I bagged her until they were able to put her in an ambulance.
Healthy Living, June 1:
He also attempted to help Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Chinese woman who was attending graduate school at Boston University. She had vomited, so Dr. Cowin attempted to clear her airway while paramedics used an Ambu bag — a squeezable bag with a face mask — to help her breathe.
“Unfortunately, she suffered devastating injuries, and I knew she was not going to make it,” he says in a somber voice. “However, her friend suffered from shrapnel into the abdomen, and people were using tablecloths from the restaurant where they were eating to help bandage her wound. I also laid her down, so she would not go into shock. She ended up living.”

When Dr. Cowin was separated from Lingzi, he obviously regarded her as alive, if most precarious ("she wasn't going to make it"). He believed that she was being loaded onto an ambulance and moved to a hospital. He must have missed the dramatic scene when the EMT personnel refused to accept Lingzi. In the first interview he said that she "arrested", which probably means cardiac arrest - but that doesn't mean she was dead. That's why they performed CPR. He uses the term "expire" only for Martin Richard, not Lingzi Lu.

The behavior of the ambulance team is not only strange, it is outrageous and a denial of assistance resulting in death. The alleged reasoning ("to save space for those they could save") insinuates masses of life-endangered victims, but this was not the case at the second bomb site. The crime scene was quite overseeable now, several minutes after the blast. Many people were maimed, but the few individuals whose live was in danger were already moved to a hospital minutes ago.

How is it possible that Lingzi Lu was denied access to the ambulance???

Please read also Did Officer Lauren Woods mix up Lingzi Lu and Zhou Danling?

Appendix - Tweets on the Lauren Woods testimony

Friday, July 10, 2015

Official "Forum video": where is Jacqui Webb?

Chitose Suzuki/Boston Herald

Jacqui Webb is a survivor of the second explosion. She was very close to the bomb and suffered heavy injuries, but didn't lose a limb. She was at the Forum restaurant with her fiancé Paul Norden and some friends from Stoneham.

Initial reports say that the Norden brothers pushed her onto the street after the first blast, but this is quite obviously invented by the media to have a hero story to tell. After all, there was the line of metal barricades in the way. Jacqui Webb herself declares in this "Flipping Boston" video clip that she was thrown through the air, which is confirmed by a report in the New York Times:
The blast propelled Ms. Webb into the street, where she landed on her hands and knees. Her hands were burning so hot that her rings began to melt, and her right leg was gouged with shrapnel. She was afraid that the bomb had contained chemicals, so she stripped down to her underwear. A firefighter pulled off his sweatshirt for her. Others draped her in tablecloths.
In another report, she says:
"I remember the rings on my fingers were burning. A cop met me on Boylston, and he walked me across the street and sat me down. I had a large burn on my leg, and two large holes in it. You could see the muscle and down to the bone. My boyfriend was across the street.”
These statements make it possible to identify her on the available post-blast footage, namely the photos of David Silverman who has pictured a woman taking off her smoldering shirt in the middle of Boylston street, 7 seconds after the blast:

She can also be identified on another Silverman photo, if fairly blurred. The photo was taken only 2 seconds after the blast and shows her on the street while trying to get up (just left of the Spartan runner):

She then hobbles over to the other side of Boylston street (in the red rectangle) where she finally gets some aid.

The young woman in the photos is clearly Jacqui Webb. Based on the Forum video and the official narrative that the bomb exploded left of the tree, she must have been blown off a respectable distance of about 15 feet. This allows it to pinpoint her last position prior to the blast quite precisely. In the diagram, the hatched area around the tree depicts the area where she might have been and where we have to look for her in the video. 

And indeed, there is one - and only one - candidate for being Jacqui Webb in the Forum video: a woman with long dark hair, coming in from the left at 14:49:34 according to the clock, i.e. nine seconds after the first blast. She moves rapidly in front of Paul Norden and then towards the barriers, and in this moment the second bomb explodes. I have highlighted her location (head) by a yellow rectangle. The still is taken immediately before the second explosion.

The next still is taken immediately before the first blast, and the same place is now occupied by one of the girls seen at the barriers in the pre-blast photos from across the street (she moves away six seconds later):

 It is this girl here:

So the woman in the first still was directly at the barrier when the bomb exploded, at the same place as the girl seconds before. In the diagram, I have denoted her position with a light green circle and "JW", under the assumption that she is Jacqui Webb.

When "JW" passes Paul Norden in the Forum video (14:49:35), it seems indeed possible that he pushes her a little bit, thus confirming her identity. But then she moves towards the barriers by her own while her boyfriend moves off to the right. So the notion that he heroically saved her by pushing her out of the way of the blast is way exaggerated.

Given the questionable character of the Forum video, a critical analysis of the situation is essential. Let's have another look at the diagram.

JW was standing directly at the barrier that was blown across the street (barrier 3). Is there a physical explanation why the pressure wave blew her away in an entirely different direction than the barrier? It doesn't look so. Being so close to her, the barrier also looks like a serious obstacle for being "propelled in the air", as she told the New York Times.

Given that the woman in the Forum video is supposed to be Jacqui Webb it seems to be another case for someone whose actual pre-blast location is not correctly mapped in the video. This adds to the already overwhelming evidence that the video is manipulated. Jacqui Webb neither testified as a witness at the trial nor did she deliver a victim impact statement. She almost fell into oblivion as a victim of the second blast.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Boston Bombing: the Fred Langa photos

Fred Langa is a Boston journalist specialized on technics and computer science. Like Bill Hoenk he was a witness of the second blast and shot some photos of the immediate aftermath. He put them on his blog page on April 15, 2013, yet they have received little attention until now.

The FBI knows the photos since April 18, 2013, if not earlier. They visited Mr. Langa and asked him for high-resolution versions.

I have displayed here the four most important ones. Source: