Russia is harassing U.S. diplomats all over Europe – The Washington Post

Russian intelligence and security services have been waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against U.S. diplomats, embassy staff and their families in Moscow and several other European capitals that has rattled ambassadors and prompted Secretary of State John F. Kerry to ask Vladimir Putin to put a stop to it.

At a recent meeting of U.S. ambassadors from Russia and Europe in Washington, U.S. ambassadors to several European countries complained that Russian intelligence officials were constantly perpetrating acts of harassment against their diplomatic staff that ranged from the weird to the downright scary. Some of the intimidation has been routine: following diplomats or their family members, showing up at their social events uninvited or paying reporters to write negative stories about them.

Source: Russia is harassing U.S. diplomats all over Europe – The Washington Post

Brexit Is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions

Great commentary by Glenn Greenwald on Brexit.

Brexit — despite all of the harm it is likely to cause and despite all of the malicious politicians it will empower — could have been a positive development. But that would require that elites (and their media outlets) react to the shock of this repudiation by spending some time reflecting on their own flaws, analyzing what they have done to contribute to such mass outrage and deprivation, in order to engage in course correction. Exactly the same potential opportunity was created by the Iraq debacle, the 2008 financial crisis, the rise of Trumpism and other anti-establishment movements: This is all compelling evidence that things have gone very wrong with those who wield the greatest power, that self-critique in elite circles is more vital than anything.

But, as usual, that’s exactly what they most refuse to do.

Source: Brexit Is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions

What mysterious force whisked away the water on Venus? – CSMonitor.com

Fascinating research might explain why all the water on Venus has disappeared.

Venus is remarkably Earth-like, with a similar size and gravity to our own planet. But the second planet from the sun is missing a key element to be a twin to our blue planet: water.

Scientists say there were once oceans on Venus’s surface, but with surface temperatures topping 860 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s no surprise the surface of Venus today is bone-dry.

But where did that water disappear to?

Source: What mysterious force whisked away the water on Venus? – CSMonitor.com

Obama, Truman, and the atomic bomb

Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman

On my port visit to Sasebo, Japan, during my Navy service, I decided to take a tour of Nagasaki. Standing at ground zero of this city was an unexpectedly deeply moving experience for me, one that I will never forget. The U.S. Army photos displayed there of mangled, radiation-poisoned bodies will haunt me forever.

It was a horrendous decision to drop the bomb. Anyone who visits Nagasaki or Hiroshima and does not agree has lost all humanity.

Obama is visiting Hiroshima and some of my right-wing friends are having a hissy fit about it. Many claim this is a “slap in the face to veterans,” though many of them are not veterans themselves, so it’s unclear how they can speak for veterans.

As a veteran I have debated whether dropping the bomb was the right thing to do. I always thought Harry Truman did a lot of good as President but how could I reconcile his decision to nuke hundreds of thousands of people with his good deeds? I’ve since grudgingly come to think it was the right call, given the fanaticism in Japan at the time. Casualties from an invasion of Japan (proposed as Operation Downfall) would have been from 500,000 to over a million in bloody, take-no-prisoners fighting.

So Truman’s decision most likely saved lives, though it brought the world the madness of nuclear weapons. It was a decision we’re still paying for today.

It’s easy to second-guess President Truman today since things look so much different from our perspective. The war, however, has long been over. Japan and America are close friends and important allies.

Should Obama apologize? I really don’t care either way. The only people who do care are the ones who just can’t let go.

The Astonishing Age of a Neanderthal Cave Construction Site – The Atlantic

The Bruniquel Cave site is an incredible discovery of the earliest known civilization in Europe, 176,000 years ago. We are learning that our distant Neandertal cousins were at least as clever as we were.

Bruniquel Cave

Bruniquel Cave

After drilling into the stalagmites and pulling out cylinders of rock, the team could see an obvious transition between two layers. On one side were old minerals that were part of the original stalagmites; on the other were newer layers that had been laid down after the fragments were broken off by the cave’s former users. By measuring uranium levels on either side of the divide, the team could accurately tell when each stalagmite had been snapped off for construction.

Their date? 176,500 years ago, give or take a few millennia.

Source: The Astonishing Age of a Neanderthal Cave Construction Site – The Atlantic

Does criticism of government turn off new leaders?

A few weeks ago, a local media outlet published a story taking a few swipes at Raleigh’s city manager. While the criticism was mostly harmless (and city managers know it comes with the territory), it reminded me again that while taking digs at city government might seem to win points with hipster readers, it also alienates those hipsters from possibly getting involved themselves. Make public service look uncool and you run the risk of scaring off good people who might do great things with it.

I’m not saying don’t afflict the comforted when they rightfully earn it, but at the same time if you’re taking swipes just for the sake of taking swipes then you could be inadvertently turning away the bright, creative people who could be doing us all good.

I guess the constant focus on the negative when there’s really a ton of good being done gets tiring to me. And it’s not just the local level but at every level. Maybe it’s human nature to find something to complain about. Or maybe not.

Soaring profit?

A “free market” story I read tonight reminded me of one of the most surprising aspects of the Wright Brothers’ invention of the airplane. The Bishop’s Boys author Tom D. Crouch makes the point that Wilbur and Orville Wright were not motivated by profit when they began their chase for powered flight. The Wrights took their airplane designs on more as an interesting hobby, funded by their very successful bicycle shop. They were not venture-funded and did not answer to Wall Street. Their innovation grew mainly from their intense curiosity and desire to create things.

That’s not to say that they were altruistic because they certainly weren’t. Once they began flying, the brothers became secretive and litigious. They went after anyone else who seemed to infringe on their patents, with the aim of making as much money as possible.

While they were not top-notch businessmen, they were top-notch engineers. Their love of engineering, not their love of money, wound up making them a fortune.