Talk for Article "Fact checking Carla Ortiz’s claims on White Helmets and Aleppo in Syrian civil war"

Talk about this Article

  1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    The claim “Rebel forces closed schools in Aleppo and used them as shelters”:

    I looked at what we have found out until now and wonder whether we should add a further claim for fact-checking.

    This is what Carla Ortiz said between time 12:48 and 13:14:

    “… these three buildings were taken and we then we are saying that the one was attacked Russia is bombing schools and hospitals who were in the schools and this is the thing that residents in Aleppo are saying they’re saying our children have been deprived of school for four years because the terrorists came they closed and shut down all the schools our children cannot go anymore to study and guess what [here she makes short pause, as if indicating a ‘:’] there’s where the terrorists are …”.
    (using subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCu8mNC1JyE&feature=youtu.be)

    Several sources give evidence that schools were being used for military purposes. That rebel forces did so, can be considered likely true, I think.

    We have no source with regard to shelters. By our sources, the use of schools as a shelter is only being reported to displaced persons. But, around time 13:10, Ortiz did not mention “shelter” at all. Did she anywhere else in the video?

    What does the result matter for?

    If I interpret the context right, Ortiz cited “what the residents are saying” in order to prove that Russia did not bomb schools that were used as such, but only schools that were taken over by “the terrorists”. Did she succeed? Does our claim rise the right question for this issue?

    According to our sources, the use of schools by combatants is proven, but seems to be the less frequent cause for schools not functionning. The question remains open whether the schools Russia bombed fall under this relatively rare category. If there were a more(?)/many(?) schools taken over by rebels, were it appropriate as a prove?

    By the way: To be exact, the statement about rebels is conveyed by indirect speech and it reads literally: “the terrorists came they closed and shut down all the schools”. If “all schools” were true, the statement about Russia could not be untrue 😉 Ortiz voiced the statement emotionally, like an outcry (by the residents), she mixes feelings with a (questionnable) factual statement, by this persueing an aim at the factual level. (Maybe, she privided facts in another part of the video, does she?)

    After all, our claim does not go to the hearth of what Ortiz intended to state, namely:

    Russia did not bomb schools functionning as such but schools that were taken over by terrorists.

    Should we add this (maybe better formulated) as a further claim to be fact-checked?

    The above recalls what Charles wrote in an earlier comment:
    “… what we can learn from this exercise is that fact-checking is very dependent on the words spoken rather than the intended message”.

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      It’s true that some rebels in Aleppo used schools for fighting purposes. But government forces did the same thing, according to Human Rights Watch and Whole of Syria.

      Aerial bombing seems to be a major reason why kids didn’t attend school under rebel control. Schools reopened when fighting subsided indicating that rebels didn’t kick out students so they could exclusively use the buildings.

      Ingrid, I took out your LOST GENERATION source because it cited the Whole of Syria study that you previously used. Let me know what you think.

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        It’s o.k. I did not like this double use of the source either. Only, the WoS source did not contain the data I cited from No Lost Generation.

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    I think what we have here is great! I’ve always thought it should be the responsibility of news agencies to report and publish to the highest ethical standards of seeking to establish the facts of a story and then reporting them as they are without bias, spin, expansion or reduction. The current state of MSM is so lamentable it should be obligatory for all news broardcasts and publications to include an advisory notice to view with discretion. In fact some independent sources of information already seem be obliged to, or have voluntarily offered this viewer driscretion notice. This at lest is informing the public that news reporting may not necessarily be factual but may instead be a rather creative offering of events in order to fit a predetermined narrative. Not to offer a viewer discretion notice is an intention to mislead the public with false information…

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    DU
    Deleted User

    Why did Ed Upright remove my edit? Is video evidence from France24 “contentious”? And contentious is not the same as wrong. I thought this place allowed opposing views so long as it is backed with evidence. I guess he does not consider clear video evidence and testimonies from Syria experts as evidence.

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      DU
      Deleted User

      Contentious information is more than welcome but given the explosive nature of the facts being presented it needed a once-over with a fine tooth-comb. I’ve made some edits based on a more thorough review.

      Your copy originally said ‘substantial video evidence of the White Helmets – whereas the original source you have linked to shows three videos which show one member of the group participating in corpse mutilation. The heading in the reference reads: “A White Helmet participated in the decapitation of the bodies of Syrian soldiers, thrown in a rubbish dump in Deraa.”

      You have also linked to videos in which people are speaking Arabic. We would need to review with multiple WikiTribune members what was being said in those videos before we would feel comfortable linking to them as proof of anything. Mohamed Salih speaks Arabic, and there are other community members who can assist if this is something we think we need but given that there is a White Helmets press release about this incident and given the France24 link you shared I don’t think that is necessary. We cannot add the claim regarding a ‘White Helmet with his foot on a corpse’ without further verification of the videos you linked to.

      I have removed the Thomas Pierret quote as it has the potential to be misleading. Not only did France24 already truncate his exact quotes, but without quoting the entirety of the text in France24, we would miss the nuances provided, which we do not want to do.

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        DU
        Deleted User

        Thanks for reinserting much of my edit back. Looking at it, I would agree that the original wording I used could be misinterpreted. As for the quote by Pierret, I thought it gave sufficient context and balance.

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    I think Carla Ortiz’s presentation of the situation in Syria is quite acceptable on balance regarding the generally biased state of Western media. The BBC’s reporting of the Sergei Skripal poisoning in Salisbury UK is the most eye-watering piece of biased, and at times, completely untruthful reporting of a very significant event. Whats more, the whole of Western media followed suit on this disgraceful display of Putin and Russia bashing. This could simply be regarded as a narrative issue, except the degree of untrufulness, and the aggressiveness of the way this narrative was promotion could well be interpreted as an attempt to start WW111…

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    DU
    Deleted User

    I updated the check on the claim that Al Nusra used a hospital as their base and included the Wapo link.

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    Hi, Charles, as to the “Al Nusra used a hospital”-claim, I’ld like to suggest to name the “Syrian Observatory”, which the BBC uses as source, complementary to the reference to the BBC itself.

    I take this as an example for a general consideration concerning sources for fact checking.

    I think we should refere to primary sources / original sources as evidences whenever possible. In other words: I wonder whether mass media like e.g. the BBC should be considered as prominent types of sources for proving claims, if there are primary sources available. My concern is not only about trustworthyness, but also about authenticity and about providing the reader with the environment for possible source-specific background information, incl. the background which allows to explore the position of the originator of the source.

    The “Syrian Observatory” e.g. is controversial. Should’nt this be called to attention?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Observatory_for_Human_Rights#Accuracy
    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrische_Beobachtungsstelle_f%C3%BCr_Menschenrechte#Kritik

    By the way, tnx for revising the “80% of refugees being men” claim.

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      DU
      Deleted User

      100% agree. Always find primary sources if possible and try to use multiple independent sources where possible. I have found many instances where trusted media like the BCC and others in the west said one thing and then I went to the primary source and it said something very different and even contradicting those claims.

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        Indeed. Will switch source to Syria Observ HR soon. Flaneur, were you able to reach out to Carla Ortiz? It’s okay if not. I can do it. Let me know though.

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          DU
          Deleted User

          Yes, I emailed her Sunday but she has yet to contact me back.

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      Hi Ingrid, I clarified Flaneur’s BBC link to reflect SOHR was the original source. I also linked to a NYT article that reported that the Aleppo Eye Hospital was used as a base for rebel groups. Please let me know if you think this section, or another section, needs further revision.

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        Tnx, Charles. I have just added further ISIS related evidence. Just a thought: isn’t it remarkable that there are serveral sources about ISIS using hospitals but none about Al Nusra?

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          Reporting on Islamic State is more comprehensive for sure. The main challenge is differentiating rebel groups outside of the Islamic State. Let me know what you think about the FACT CHECK on the use of school buildings. No contributions were deleted but more context was added.

          Of course, this is all up for discussion. Feel free to add information that you believe is missing.

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            Hi Ingrid- thank you for including that REACH study. Great find. I edited your contribution to include “Destruction of facilities” as the number one reason given in the report. Please let me know if you have problems with the edit. More than happy to alter the language if you think something is missing.

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              Hi Charles, thank you for editing, it reads much better now, also in respect of the journalistic style 🙂
              I just opened a new thread for the school claim theme.

  7. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)
    DU
    Deleted User

    “Claim: The refugees who are escaping Assad by crossing from East Ghouta on March 1st, 2018, are almost all (she says 80 percent) men in early 20s to 30s, without wives and children”

    This would appear to be a distortion of what she said. She did not claim that 80% escaping East Ghouta were men. She said the refugees going into Europe from Syria are 80% men (which is false) and she contrasted that with the people in her video who are moving from E Ghouta into another part of Syria.

    The people in her interviews are NOT refugees. Refugees are defined as someone who has been forced to cross national boundaries (such as from Syria into Europe). The people she interviewed are going from one area of Syria to another. There is a term that is used for them: “Internally displaced persons”.

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      Tnx, Flaneur, I’m sorry, it was my mistake. I find the video difficult to listen to.

      What’s missing now is the age statement so that the claim should read as follows: “The refugees coming into Europe are 80 percent men in their early 20s to 30s”

      Is there a reason why you did not keep the official European asylum statistics (Eurostat) as a source as contained in revision 69708? Eurostat is quite recent (2017) and combines values for country (Syria), sex and age.

      Eurostat could complement Politifact,
      whose values cover the year 2015 only up to October,
      which does not include age related values,
      which does not contain the value for male Syrian refugees, but reports the Syrian share of the total number of refugees seperately from the male share of the total number of refugees.

      Calculated on the basis of absolute Eurostat figures, the share of men in the age of 18 to 34 years of the total Syrian asylum applicants was
      38.88 percent in 2015,
      28.09 percent in 2016,
      16.25 percent in 2017.
      Please see https://www.wikitribune.com/wikitribune-revisions-viewer/?revisionID=69708.

      Politico (October 4th, 2015):
      “almost 534,000 people who have crossed into Europe this year”
      “69 percent of sea arrivals are men”
      “Of those 534,000, about 55 percent of them are from Syria”

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        DU
        Deleted User

        I will email Ortiz to get some clarification as I am not completely certain on what she meant and where she got her source on some of these claims.

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          Hi Flaneur- Let me know if you need any help with the email. Please keep in mind, people may ask for a transcript or the text of the email.

          What I’m learning from this exercise is that fact-checking is very dependent on the words spoken rather than the intended message. I think Ingrid did a great job in fact-checking what Ortiz said. The language barrier, and Ortiz’s general impreciseness of speaking, have made this a challenge.

          I tend to side with Ingrid that Ortiz’s claim is false. Whether Ortiz meant to or not, she insinuated that its mainly single men who leave Syria while families, “the sympathetic Syrians,” stay behind in the war zone.

          I have not approved edits on this section but will refer back now.

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            DU
            Deleted User

            English is clearly Ortiz’s second language but here, I thought she was very clear she was contrasting the refugees going into Europe with the people in her video.

            Here are her words (starting at around 25:45):

            “Every time that we show, oh, all these refugees are escaping al-Assad, let’s look at the footage, don’t believe us right now, don’t believe Jimmy, don’t believe myself, go and google ‘the refugees that were crossing and escaping Assad, they’re all, most, basically eighty percent of them are men in their early twenties to thirties, alone without wives…looking for ‘refugee in Europe’…What about these people [points at the screen], look at them. They’re women, they are parents with children.”

            It’s pretty clear from her words and the context that she was not referring to the people in her video as being 80% men in their 20s and 30s but contrasting them with the people in her video.

            The people going into Europe are from all over Syria while she filmed a much smaller group escaping from jihadi controlled territory and into Assad controlled territory.

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              Ingrid’s source addresses Syrians seeking asylum in Europe, which are mainly men. Do you think this needs further revision? Feel free to edit but I don’t think there’s reason to take out Ingrid’s Eurostat source.

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    DU
    Deleted User

    “CAR found in a 2017 study that three percent of weapons possessed by the Islamic State come from NATO countries.”

    The source from the Independent did not say this. It said that 3% of weapons are “Nato-grade.” Non Nato countries make Nato-grade weapons!

    “Nato-grade” presumably means that the weapons are chambered in 5.56X45
    which is often called a NATO round.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5.56%C3%9745mm_NATO

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      We will need to contact CAR to clarify. I will contact them. Send me any questions you have for them.

      This is a bullet point from the CAR study that made me think NATO-calibre indicates where the weapon was manufactured. (I’m assuming this is the study cited by the Independent):

      “Around 90 per cent of weapons and ammunition (97 per cent and 87 per cent, respectively) deployed by IS forces are Warsaw Pact calibres— originating primarily in China, Russia, and Eastern European producer states. NATO-calibre weapons and ammunition are far less prevalent, comprising 3 per cent and 13 per cent of the total, respectively; although these proportions are low, IS forces captured significant quantities of NATO weaponry during initial assaults on Iraqi forces in 2014.”

      ^^^ This makes it seem as if there is a NATO-calibre vs. Warsaw Pact calibre dichotomy that breaks along western and eastern lines.

      But more importantly, CAR study also reported that U.S.-backed forces may have sold Warsaw Pact-calibre weapons to opposition forces:

      “Unauthorised retransfer—the violation of agreements by which a supplier government prohibits the re-export of materiel by a recipient government without its prior consent—is
      a significant source of IS weapons and ammunition. The United States and Saudi Arabia supplied most of this materiel without authorisation, apparently to Syrian opposition forces. This diverted materiel, recovered from IS forces, comprises exclusively Warsaw Pact- calibre weapons and ammunition, purchased by the United States and Saudi Arabia from European Union (EU) Member States in Eastern Europe.”

      “Russia and China, combined, manufactured more than 50 per cent of the weapons and ammunition held by IS forces. Former Warsaw Pact countries that are now EU Member States manufactured a significant proportion of the remaining materiel (more than 30 per cent of weapons and 20 per cent of ammunition).”

      “Nearly 40 per cent of all 40 mm (PG-7) and 73 mm (PG-9) anti-armour rockets deployed by IS forces in Iraq were produced in the past four years (2014 to 2017)—the period during which the group became a significant component of the Iraq and Syria conflicts. EU Member States produced nearly 20 per cent of these post-2014-manufactured rockets (and 40 per cent of rockets manufactured since 2010)—a fact that sits uncomfortably with the EU’s parallel efforts to degrade the group’s capacity to wage war and terrorism and to mitigate the international effects of the Syrian conflict.”

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        I emailed CAR and I fixed the section to reflect U.S. involvement in diverting Warsaw Pact calibre weapons to Syria. Everyone can send additional questions for CAR in this thread.

  9. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)
    DU
    Deleted User

    ‘Claim: Red Crescent treatment center was designated as a “no fly-zone” or safe zone under NATO….’

    This seems like a very uncharitable interpretation of what she actually said. She seems to have corrected herself after saying “Nato” with “UN”.

    The Red Crescent, it’s workers, vehicles and buildings, as well as well as those of the Red Cross, enjoy certain protections under international humanitarian law (Geneva Conventions).

    She probably didn’t mean to use no-fly zone as a technical term but to say that they enjoys certain protections under international law. See here.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emblems_of_the_International_Red_Cross_and_Red_Crescent_Movement

    ‘Medical personnel during an armed conflict carry out humanitarian work and are “protected persons” under international humanitarian law. Whether military or civilian, they are considered non-combatants and may not be attacked and not be taken as prisoners of war by parties to a conflict. They use a protective sign such as the red cross, red crescent, or red crystal. Attacking medical personnel, vehicles, or buildings marked with one of these protective signs is a war crime.
    The emblems of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, under the Geneva Conventions, are to be placed on humanitarian and medical vehicles and buildings, and to be worn by medical personnel and others carrying out humanitarian work, to protect them from military attack on the battlefield.’

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      I also asked experts if Red Crescents were ever given “safe zone” status as well, and if Al Nusra built operations near by in order to benefit from this protective status.

      I know there’s a slight language barrier but it seemed that Ortiz was saying that Red Crescent buildings are protected by NATO and the UN.

      I will add the context you gave. And will ask the same experts if Red Crescent operations are indeed avoided by government forces.

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    DU
    Deleted User

    The grammar (and logic) of this sentence is confusing:

    “Thirty percent of government ministers are not female.”

    If they are “not female” does that mean they are male? If so, that means 30% of the parliament are male (are the other 70% female?).

    I think you meant to say “It’s not true that 30 percent are female.” Or “Less than thirty percent are female,” which is accurate according to the link I supplied.

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      I fixed it and included more context. Did not see you link though.

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        DU
        Deleted User

        I still think the sentence is confused. You want to say that she is inaccurate or that the available evidence contradicts her statement. However, you sentence:

        “Thirty percent of government ministers are not filled by female members.”

        Is perfectly logically consistent with her statement. She says that 30% of government ministers are women and therefore presumably the rest (70%) are men. However, within that 70% are 30% who are not female (because they are male!).

        My sentence is much clearer on this.

        Fact check : Some of these claims are inaccurate. Less than thirty percent of government ministers are women as of 04/13/2016 according to Inter Parliament Union.  However, she may have intended to say that 13 percent of parliament are women, (33 out of 250) which is true. (Inter Parliament Union).

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          You’re right. Could you include your copy when you have a moment? I can do it later if you’re unable. Also, I learned Syria had a ‘five-year’ plan to fill 30 percent of “decision-making” positions with women by 2010, but the government never came close to reaching this goal. I included this in the fact check citing Freedom House, though there are several other sources that detail the same plan. Surely Ortiz was referencing this so we should keep it along with your answer.

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            DU
            Deleted User
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    DU
    Deleted User

    It’s false to say that Gabbard did not “mention Al Nusra by name.” She did, according to the supplied link (at :32 second mark of the video). She was likely using the NYT article (also supplied in the links) as a source.

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      Thank you. You’re right that she did mention “Al Nusra” when quoting the NYT piece. I approved your edits.

      Also, that Equal Rights Trust source was very helpful. Much appreciated.

  12. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    The fact check regarding the age and gender distribution of refugees “fleeing Assad” is not on point with respect to Ortiz’s claim. The stats offered in the fact check refer to all asylum applications which, of course, includes those fleeing violence from any and all sides. I believe that Ortiz was referring specifically to those who have fled before the advance of government forces. The implication of their comparative youth and heavy skew toward men being that they are primarily rebel fighters who, obviously, have good reason to flee.

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      I cautiously phrased “[the statistics] do not readily support this claim”. The statistics can just serve as a hint, they might be taken into consideration along with further facts that hopefully will be contributed. They are neither about the specific place or exact time nor about reasons for fleeing, of course. Time information referes to years only, up to 2017 only.

      Time 24:18, the footage “March 1st 2018 the West said the corridors were a joke” starts. March 2018 should be the time we are taking about. If I understand right, the said 80 percent refere to “all these refugees” that are said to be escaping Assad (time 25:48). The 80 percent are “looking for refugee in Europe” (time 20:14). Please correct me if I don’t transcript right, it’s not easy for me to follow the spoken word – what does this mean: “looking for refugee in Europe”?

      Indirectly, Ortiz also claims that, as part of the remaining twenty percent, there are relatively few women and children fleeing at all. Furthermore she claims that women and children don’t flee Assad (time: 26:20).

      The EU statistics contrast with these statements.

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        I think that there is a bit of a misunderstanding of what she is saying. She is indeed claiming that women and children don’t flee Assad. Her claim is that that these people in the video are the few who got through the corridor prior to the assault by government forces (thereby avoiding the coming violence). Her claim is that when the government is poised to take over an area, most of those who leave are rebel fighters. We can evaluate the evidence for her claim (or lack of it). My point is that the UN figures do not speak to the issue because they refer to all claimants for refugees status in Europe or elsewhere, whereas Ortiz is talking about internal displacements in the face of advancing government forces.

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          Tnx, Blake. I have just submitted a clarification.
          I’ve also specified the phrasing of the claim because it is not about Aleppo as the intro puts it, and it referes to a definite time. Fact checking has to be about a single event in Ghouta on March 1st, 2018.

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    The tone is not neutral. Wikitribune should be neutral , unless I am wrong.

    1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      Hi Ferson, can you give us some examples that show how it’s not neutral? Many thanks.

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    An investigation into White Helmets themselves and fact-checking all we know about them would be more logical, I think. Why exactly Carla Ortiz?
    There are many other sources of information that questions their actions, as well as praising them, so it would be nice if a full report would be compiled, with fact-checking of all their activity, funding and neutrality.

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      These other sources. Please share them. Also are they just parroting the original source?

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      Hi Michael, we chose Ortiz for three reasons. (1) Her popularity amongst those who sympathize with the Assad government (2) She visited Aleppo and plans to release a documentary of her experience (3) Her introduction to left-leaning circles in the United States through the Jimmy Dore Show.

      Please share your sources on the white helmets at the bottom of the story.

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    Please, let’s not repeat propaganda uncritically; we must be careful with wording. “Syrian regime” is a derogatory term coined by the US. The proper (legal even) term is Syrian government. Or, more properly, the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic.

    1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      I totally agree with you, language matters a lot in framing events.

      By the way, your comment is a nice validation to the core idea that fact checking should be open and anyone can share their view.

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