Who is Richard Burr, Really? Why the public can’t trust his voice in the Russia probe | Just Security

On the same day that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) officially joined the Trump campaign as a senior national security advisor, the U.S. intelligence community released a statement that the Kremlin was trying to interfere in the election. But the Senator already knew those facts, and much more. Burr had been fully briefed in secret by the U.S. intelligence community a few weeks earlier. Senior U.S. officials told Burr that Russia’s interference was designed to support Donald Trump’s electoral chances. Burr decided to team up with the Trump campaign anyway, and hitch his own electoral fate in North Carolina to Trump’s political fortunes.

More than two years later, Burr now leads the Senate’s flagship investigation into whether fellow members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia’s efforts. As the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr’s work with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on the investigation is heading toward its final stage. The committee is expected to issue its major findings in the coming months.

Burr has received remarkably favorable press coverage for his stewardship of the investigation. Many mainstream commentators have heralded his committee as a bipartisan effort to follow the facts and tell the American public what it finds. Closer observation, however, raises serious questions whether that’s how this chapter in the 2016 election saga will end.

What’s largely escaped scrutiny is the case of Burr’s own words and deeds during the 2016 campaign. It was impossible to put the pieces together back then. We now have a much clearer picture due to news reports, court filings by the special counsel, and congressional testimony by former administration officials. We have learned a lot about what Russia was doing, what the U.S. intelligence community knew, and what Burr was told. The picture that emerges is neither favorable for Burr personally, nor for what truths Americans can expect to receive from his stewardship of the committee in the months ahead.

Source: Who is Richard Burr, Really? Why the public can’t trust his voice in the Russia probe | Just Security

Mark Galeotti: ‘We should laugh at Russia more’ | Books | The Guardian

Here’s a great intro to what the West is doing wrong with regards to Vladimir Putin: building him up. Mark Galeotti says we should “laugh at Russia more,” and I agree.

Mark Galeotti is an expert on Russian politics and crime. He is a Jean Monnet fellow at the European University Institute, a non-resident fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague and senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. He has published extensively on Russia. Galeotti’s latest book, We Need to Talk About Putin, argues that the Russian leader is widely misunderstood.

What is the biggest popular misconception about Vladimir Putin?I think it is precisely that he runs everything. There is still this notion that he is some kind of James Bond super-villain. First, that’s just not the way the world is; also, he could be considered something of a lazy autocrat who sits back and lets others come up with all kinds of plans and stratagems of their own.

Source: Mark Galeotti: ‘We should laugh at Russia more’ | Books | The Guardian

Hengameh Golestan: Witness 1979


I was reminded again of this story, where in 1979 100,000 Iranian women took to the streets to protest the repressive ways of the Iranian Revolution on women. Perhaps one day Iranian women will regain the rights they lost in this sorry episode.

Iranian photographer Hengameh Golestan was married to the award-winning Iranian photojournalist Kaveh Golestan, who died while on assignment in Iraqi Kurdistan, in 2003.

Hengameh took her first images aged 18, and for a brief time attended photography school in England, but learnt most about taking pictures from working as her husband’s assistant. “To say that working with Kaveh was inspiring would be an understatement,” she says. “He was always critiquing my work and offering advice to help me improve. Technically and also spiritually I got everything from him.”

Hengameh liked to photograph everyday life in her home city of Tehran, in particular the lives of women and children, and quiet, often mundane domestic details. But in 1979, when she was 27, revolution came. In January, following two years of demonstrations, the last Persian monarch – the Shah – left Iran for exile. In Feburary, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to the city, bringing about the final collapse of the royal reign and a new Islamic Republic.

“It was the best time of my life,” says Golestan. “I was in the streets from morning until night as something was always happening. Every day was so unpredictable. The mood was one of anticipation and excitement, and a bit of fear. We were actively taking part in shaping our future through actions rather than words and that felt amazing.”

Source: Hengameh Golestan: Witness 1979

U.S. GAO – Key Issues: Disposal of High-Level Nuclear Waste

The United States has over 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that requires disposal. The U.S. commercial power industry alone has generated more waste (nuclear fuel that is “spent” and is no longer efficient at generating power) than any other country—nearly 80,000 metric tons. This spent nuclear fuel, which can pose serious risks to humans and the environment, is enough to fill a football field about 20 meters deep. The U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program has generated spent nuclear fuel as well as high-level radioactive waste and accounts for most of the rest of the total at about 14,000 metric tons, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). For the most part, this waste is stored where it was generated—at 80 sites in 35 states. The amount of waste is expected to increase to about 140,000 metric tons over the next several decades. However, there is still no disposal site in the United States. After spending decades and billions of dollars to research potential sites for a permanent disposal site, including at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada that has a license application pending to authorize construction of a nuclear waste repository, the future prospects for permanent disposal remain unclear.

Source: U.S. GAO – Key Issues: Disposal of High-Level Nuclear Waste

Opinion | Awash in Radioactive Waste – The New York Times

On its 60th anniversary, the civilian age of nuclear power in America appears to be almost over. But with the country awash in radioactive waste and plutonium stockpiled for warheads, the task of managing this atomic legacy grows ever more urgent. Opening a long-delayed waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada is imperative.

President Dwight Eisenhower formally opened America’s first commercial nuclear power station at Shippingport, Pa., near Pittsburgh, on May 26, 1958. He declared it would “put the atom to work for the good of mankind, not his destruction.” His nuclear cheerleader, Lewis Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, had promised power “too cheap to meter.”

Today, with cheap gas and falling prices for wind and solar energy, nuclear power is often now too expensive to sell. Six plants closed from 2013 to 2017. At least seven more — from the Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey to the Diablo Canyon plant in California — have been earmarked for final shutdown, often years before their operating licenses expire. About a quarter of the nation’s nuclear power plants don’t cover their operating costs, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Source: Opinion | Awash in Radioactive Waste – The New York Times


Callan report can be found here. [PDF]

The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance… — ProPublica

I would like to express my gratitude to Jared Kushner for reviving interest in my 2006 book, “The Price of Admission.” I have never met or spoken with him, and it’s rare in this life to find such a selfless benefactor. Of course, I doubt he became Donald Trump’s son-in-law and consigliere merely to boost my lagging sales, but still, I’m thankful

.My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their under-achieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of twenty.)

I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.

“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”

Source: The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance… — ProPublica

Impeach Trump Now – The Atlantic

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.

Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.

This is not a partisan judgment. Many of the president’s fiercest critics have emerged from within his own party. Even officials and observers who support his policies are appalled by his pronouncements, and those who have the most firsthand experience of governance are also the most alarmed by how Trump is governing.

Source: Impeach Trump Now – The Atlantic

The Lincoln Memorial During the Government Shutdown – The Atlantic

We had made plans to go to Washington weeks ago, and there was no way to change the trip. The train was almost empty when it pulled into Union Station on Friday night. The next morning, we went out into the dead heart of the city. The government shutdown was in its third week. Nearly all the museums that would have interested the kids were closed, and so were the ones that would have bored them. There was nothing to do except wander around, but the crowds we expected in the district center were absent, the streets and sidewalks almost empty. Without people, the scale of the capital dwarfed us. Each mid-century concrete building looked like its own walled city, the National Mall was a vast plain, and an endless highway separated the White House and the Capitol dome. It was as if Washington had been stricken by a grotesque illness that caused the body to swell up and suffocate the spirit within. The federal city was one great sarcophagus.

Source: The Lincoln Memorial During the Government Shutdown – The Atlantic

Defense Department Announces Departure of Chief of Staff > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > News Release View

RADM Kevin Sweeney stepped down as SECDEF chief of staff this weekend. I served with Sweeney when he was a mere lieutenant serving as Combat Systems Officer (CSO) on the USS Elliot DD-967. Though some considered him an “arrogant prick,” Sweeney seemed to me to be a brusque-yet-squared-away sailor and I have been pleased to learn of his career success.

Rear Admiral Kevin Sweeney, USN (Ret.), has stepped down as Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense. He has served in this role since January 2017. “After two years in the Pentagon, I’ve decided the time is right to return to the private sector. It has been an honor to serve again alongside the men and women of the Department of Defense,” said Sweeney.

Source: Defense Department Announces Departure of Chief of Staff > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > News Release View

My daughter, Laura Riddick, is in prison. There’s nothing ‘light’ about her punishment. | News & Observer

Cue the tiny violins. I understand the desire for Riddick’s father to defend his daughter but sometimes by doing so one does more harm than good.

In October, a News & Observer editorial endorsing Democratic Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman asserted that Freeman had agreed to “a relatively light sentence” in the embezzlement case of my daughter, former Wake County Register of Deeds Laura M. Riddick.

The newspaper was hardly alone in that assessment, but the common assumption is wrong. The truth is the opposite — and it’s time to respond to mistaken claims of “a relatively light sentence.”

Relative to what, exactly? Not compared to other embezzlers. Not as to other public officials across North Carolina, either. Not even other public-figure embezzlers in Wake County.

Source: My daughter, Laura Riddick, is in prison. There’s nothing ‘light’ about her punishment. | News & Observer