Trump’s Russian Laundromat | New Republic

This story and the links in it offer a very detailed look at Trump’s troubling connections to Russian organized crime.

In 1984, a Russian émigré named David Bogatin went shopping for apartments in New York City. The 38-year-old had arrived in America seven years before, with just $3 in his pocket. But for a former pilot in the Soviet Army—his specialty had been shooting down Americans over North Vietnam—he had clearly done quite well for himself. Bogatin wasn’t hunting for a place in Brighton Beach, the Brooklyn enclave known as “Little Odessa” for its large population of immigrants from the Soviet Union. Instead, he was fixated on the glitziest apartment building on Fifth Avenue, a gaudy, 58-story edifice with gold-plated fixtures and a pink-marble atrium: Trump Tower.

A monument to celebrity and conspicuous consumption, the tower was home to the likes of Johnny Carson, Steven Spielberg, and Sophia Loren. Its brash, 38-year-old developer was something of a tabloid celebrity himself. Donald Trump was just coming into his own as a serious player in Manhattan real estate, and Trump Tower was the crown jewel of his growing empire. From the day it opened, the building was a hit—all but a few dozen of its 263 units had sold in the first few months. But Bogatin wasn’t deterred by the limited availability or the sky-high prices. The Russian plunked down $6 million to buy not one or two, but five luxury condos.

Source: Trump’s Russian Laundromat | New Republic

At the Crossroads

Dark money headquarters


I couldn’t end another visit to Warrenton without visiting the belly of the beast. On the first floor of this nondescript office building, tucked behind a small bank on a quiet Warrenton street, is the law firm of Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky. This is where billionaires go to buy elections. Hundreds of millions of dollars in dark money have passed through these doors on their way to skewing elections towards conservative candidates across the nation.

Forty-Five N. Hill Drive is the legal address of Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS PAC, American Crossroads, and several other right-leaning advocacy groups. Crossroads GPS, if you’ll recall, contributed nearly 99 percent of the funding to Dallas Woodhouse’s CarolinaRising group, which in turn spent 97 percent of its money to get Thom Tillis elected to the Senate. This appears to play fast and loose with IRS and election laws though as of yet regulators have taken no action. HVJT was also instrumental in filing voter challenges during McCrory’s failed reelection attempt. Several voters falsely accused of fraud have filed suit against a McCrory campaign official.

I plan to learn more about HVJT and the ways of bleeding edge campaign finance and law because what’s being done here undermines democracy.

Why I don’t like Nextdoor, part 4,671

A friend of mine recently posted this observation about NextDoor:

Not sure why I still use Nextdoor. Someone asked about the round reflective stickers you sometimes see on mailboxes. From the paper deliver, etc. A response:

I’ve been hearing about something like that happening in other areas where homes that have dogs are targeted to be stolen, the. re-sold for sparing with fighting dogs & for medical research.

#myneighborsareidiots

If you’re only seeing the world through the lens of paranoid neighborhood Nextdoor posts you’re liable to freak out at everything. The Internet and television’s greatest blessing – bringing news from far away – is also its curse. The obscure crime that happened once and thousands of miles away is brought to your doorstep. The folks across the street could be terrorists. Dead people really can come back to life as zombies and eat your brain.

Well, something has clearly eaten these people’s brains. I keep hoping people will take a deep breath and realize, as a great president once proclaimed, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

That time I got a Florida driver’s license without knowing it

One day a few weeks ago I was poking around my Facebook message inbox, looking for those messages that get stuck there when they are sent from someone who isn’t a Facebook Friend. Several messages were weeks or months old but one of them had been sent three days prior in an urgent attempt to contact me.

Reading further, the sender owned a store in western North Carolina and said she wanted to warn me of someone’s possible attempt to steal my identity. She didn’t want to discuss it online, she said, but left me her number so I could call.

Identity theft? Urgent matter? Wouldn’t discuss it online? I was quite skeptical of the whole thing; not only quite sure that my identity hadn’t been stolen, but also how and why was this woman contacting me through Facebook? Deciding I had nothing to lose, I picked up the phone the next day.
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You can fly but you can’t hide: Drones to get electronic IDs much like vehicle license plates | Local News | pilotonline.com

Can you count the FAA violations here?

You know that cool footage of the drone flying at night over downtown Raleigh’s Metropolitan Apartments fire last month? Yeah, the guy who filmed it broke all kinds of FAA rules. Kyle Snyder of N.C. State’s NextGen center tells The Virginia Pilot why.

Examples of rogue drone flying are many. A man flew one over a large fire in downtown Raleigh last month, breaking several rules including flying at night and beyond his line of sight, Snyder said. The pilot posted the footage online along with his identity.No citations are known to have been issued to drone pilots in North Carolina so far, Snyder said.

While we’re at it, footage apparently sold to another “viral media” company of the flooding on Wake Forest Road late last month also could be in violation of FAA rules if the pilot shot it and sold it without being a licensed commercial drone pilot with a Remote Pilot Certificate.

Source: You can fly but you can’t hide: Drones to get electronic IDs much like vehicle license plates | Local News | pilotonline.com

Google’s “Someone has your password” emails still ripe for abuse

Fraud or not? Always be on guard!

I got another “Someone has your password” emails today from Google’s security team. These appear to be sent due to a flaw in the way Google geolocates the IP addresses used by our T-Mobile phones and are thus false alarms. That doesn’t keep me from freaking out every time I get one, however.

What’s more, it is exactly these emails that compromised John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee’s emails during the campaign. I consider myself fairly savvy at detecting phishing emails but I have to admit that the fake email the Russians sent was good enough to have had a chance of catching me.

I emailed a friend at Google to make sure the company knew their geolocation stuff was in need of serious work. My friend replied that Google is aware that their algorithm needs work and were working on a way to receive feedback from the message recipients. It appears Google’s “New sign in from … ” emails have a feedback link at the bottom but the “Someone has your password” emails still do not.

I appreciate getting alerts when unauthorized activity is detected but I could certainly do without the false alarms.

Chinese spammers abuse Jetpack plugin

All day long, Chinese spammers have taken advantage of an apparent flaw in Automattic’s (the makers of WordPress) Jetpack plugin. This morning, I noticed a slew of email bounces in my inbox, all with Chinese letters in them and a link to one of my blog posts. It turns out that the spammer has been clicking on the post’s “Share This” link and somehow entering their spam as the resulting email’s “From” address. Each email goes to a “qq.com” address, which is a Chinese mail provider.

The only way I could stop these emails was to turn off Sharing under Jetpack’s settings. Upgrading to the latest Jetpack (4.6) didn’t seem to help.

Apparently this has been an issue since 2014. I have no idea why this is the first time my site has become a victim nor why Automattic hasn’t figured out a suitable countermeasure yet.