what to make of "conspiracy theories"?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Feb 12 07:12:04 MST 2002


>Finally, if we follow comrade Jim's advice and "[t]hink shoddy building
>codes [and] corruption and Mafia involvement", that's fine. But it begs the
>question I asked in my last post: whom shall we -- i.e., those affected by
>the destruction -- never forgive ... the terrorists abroad or the terrorists
>at home?
>
>I only want the truth, not excuses and not conspiracies. I think those
>affected deserve that much.
>
>Comradely;
>Martin

Don't know if Martin was on the list when I posted this:

NY Times, December 14, 2001

THE TOWERS
Trade Center's Fireproofing Had a Questionable History
By JAMES GLANZ and MICHAEL MOSS

Engineering experts involved in studying the World Trade Center 
disaster are now closely examining the spray-on fireproofing used on 
much of the steel framework of the twin towers to determine whether 
it contributed to their collapse.

The federally financed experts hope to determine whether faulty or 
scanty fireproofing, the heat of the burning fuel from the jets that 
crashed into the towers, structural design or perhaps some 
combination of factors explain why the buildings ultimately failed to 
withstand the suicide hijacker attacks.

The experts have been careful to say that it is possible that no 
building, no matter how well built or fireproofed, could have 
withstood the damage inflicted, and they have not speculated on 
whether an enormous number of lives — particularly the many trapped 
on the upper floors — might have been spared if the buildings had 
stood longer.

But while the final determination of what caused the collapses is 
perhaps far off, what is clear is that the fireproofing used in the 
towers had a tortured history that included technical criticism and 
bitter lawsuits among the builders of the trade towers. Then as now, 
some experts questioned whether the fiber-based material sprayed onto 
the 110-story structures could permanently stick to the steel 
framework and not crumble over time, hidden away behind office walls 
and the gleaming facade.

Officials with the Port Authority, the owner of the buildings, have 
discounted the notion that a failure of fireproofing played a 
significant role in the collapses, arguing that the damage was so 
extreme that the performance of the fireproofing was, in effect, 
moot. And they have disputed the assertion of some experts that the 
authority had failed to adequately maintain the fireproofing.

A review of the history of the buildings shows that even as the steel 
columns first rose into the sky, problems arose. Wind-driven rains 
stripped the fireproofing from the framework it was meant to protect, 
and construction workers had to improvise dams and diverters to 
channel the water away. The workers then reapplied the fireproofing.

That episode was but a harbinger for the decades of dispute and 
repairs to come. The company that applied the wool-like sheathing was 
run by a reputed Gambino crime family member, Louis DiBono, who in 
1990 was gunned down on orders of John Gotti. The manner in which Mr. 
DiBono obtained the work was then included in a criminal 
investigation into Port Authority construction contracting. No 
criminal charges resulted from the fireproofing work.

The Port Authority says the fireproofing material was thoroughly 
tested, and that when it did come off, the agency had a rigorous 
inspection and repair program in place.

Mr. DiBono was contracted to apply the fireproofing material starting 
in 1969. The project began with fireproofing containing asbestos but 
most of the floors were protected with another form of fireproofing. 
After health concerns arose about the asbestos, he was hired by 
another firm to oversee removal of the early fireproofing.

Guy F. Tozzoli, former head of the world trade department for the 
Port Authority, said the agency had awarded Mr. DiBono the work 
through competitive bidding. "He had a reputation as the best in the 
city," Mr. Tozzoli said.

But according to the chairman of the company that made the 
fireproofing, a problem arose at the start. James Verhalen, chairman 
of United States Mineral Products of Stanhope, N.J., said the steel 
had been allowed to rust during storage.

Port Authority officials did not respond yesterday to questions on 
the rust, but Mr. Tozzoli said that Mr. DiBono's firm had the 
responsibility to prepare the steel surface so the fireproofing 
adhered.

But the effectiveness of the very material installed in the towers is 
the subject of much debate among experts and competitors. The 
spray-on fireproofing chosen by the Port Authority was an early 
replacement for the asbestos-based materials that were eventually 
banned.

A competitor whose own cement- like product came to dominate the 
industry says the material used on the trade center did not stick 
well and was prone to deterioration.

Lawrence Shapiro, a marketing director at W. R. Grace & Co., said the 
fiber-based fireproofing — especially the early asbestos-free 
versions — never had the strength of the cement-like fireproofing 
that Grace produced.

But Mr. Verhalen vigorously defends the product, known as Blaze- 
Shield. He said he had no involvement with Mr. DiBono or his spraying 
work. He said his product had been thoroughly tested and approved by 
Underwriters Laboratories, an independent testing organization.

"There is no reason for that product in a typical commercial 
environment to deteriorate," he said.

Still, a consultant paid by Mr. Verhalen's firm during years of 
litigation with the Port Authority has said that there were, in fact, 
major problems over the years with the fireproofing used on the 
higher floors of the towers.

The consultant, Roger G. Morse, said years of inspections had 
revealed that whole sections of the original fireproofing had fallen 
away and other sections had deteriorated, leaving the steel 
inadequately protected.

Mr. Morse says Mr. DiBono's firm had improperly sprayed the 
fireproofing onto rusted steel, which would have caused it to slough 
off.

Mr. Morse recently contacted experts working on the federally 
financed investigation of the collapses and turned over hundreds of 
photographs that he said depicted the failure to repair the problems 
with the fireproofing.

One expert helping lead the investigation, Frederick W. Mowrer, said 
Mr. Morse's material had convinced him that the fireproofing had to 
be scrutinized as a potential contributor to the failures of the 
buildings.

Louis Proyect
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