The person who understands the effects of novichoks best is Vil Mirzayanov, a scientist and later head of Foreign Technical Counterintelligence at the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology (GosNIIOKhT) in Moscow in the 1970s and 1980s, which allegedly produced the shadowy class of binary nerve agents known as the “novichoks” (newcomers). And he has a message for Skripal and his daughter: my bad.
“I’d tell him [Skripal] that I’m very sorry that I participated in the development of these weapons,” Mirzayanov told The Daily Beast.
GosNIIOKhT scientists developed the agents under a program codename “Folio” beginning in the 1980s. Mirzayanov spoke out about the covert program as the Soviet Union fell, earning him a prison term at home before he escaped to exile in the United States.
During the Cold War, the idea that a novichok agent would be used in a covert assassination seemed alien to Mirzayanov and his fellow scientists. The weapons, developed in intense secrecy by Soviet scientists, were originally designed for use in bombs and shells on a battlefield rather than a cloak-and-dagger assassination in a suburb in southern England.
“I couldn’t imagine. No one could imagine. It’s outrageous. We were convinced at the time that we were developing these weapons and testing others for the protection of the country and for defense,” Mirzayanov said. “It was not our goal. None of the scientists supposed that it would be used with terrorist goals. It was a military thing. It was a weapon for mass killing.”
Remember that rumor of a Russian attack on U.S. forces in Syria? Apparently it’s more than a rumor.
I’m not sure what Putin was thinking here. Did he think he could get away with it?
A senior U.S. general appears to have confirmed that hundreds of Russians fought – and died – in a major battle against American forces and their local counterparts in Syria. More importantly, U.S. Army Brigadier General Jonathan Braga, director of operations for the main U.S. military task force in charge of operations in Iraq and Syria, said he feared the situation could have escalated into an all-out conflict with Russia, something we at The War Zone have warned repeatedly is becoming a worryingly realistic possibility.
Braga gave the surprisingly candid account of what had happened to NBC’s Richard Engel, who traveled with the general to visit the exact site of the incident in Syria and to see what the U.S. military was doing to improve its defensive posture.
Looks like I may have found the orbital elements (TLEs) of SpaceX’s Starlink Internet satellites. I noticed on SatView’s site that three objects entered orbit on 22 February, one of which was SpaceX’s PAZ satellite. PAZ was the primary payload on SpaceX’s most recent Falcon 9 flight and the Starlink birds were the secondaries.
Following Satview’s links takes you to the real-time tracking of 43616U and 43617U (International Designators 2018-020A & 2018-020B), two satellites that are almost certainly Starlink’s TinTin A & B (or Microsat 2A & 2B). They show up in NORAD’s catalog as the bland descriptions of “Object B” and “Object C” and were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the same day as PAZ. From CelesTrak:
So now I know both what to look for and where and when to look for it. Now I need to acquire the gear to acquire the signals, which might be the biggest stumbling block of all. Well, aside from actually decoding any signals I happen to get.
Yes, folks, this actually is rocket science.
I’m still poking through all the meeting notes, but I thought it notable that the local Salvation Army signed off on the deal when it was presented to Raleigh City Council at its 3 January 2017 meeting. From Council minutes: [PDF]
Lisa Rivers, Salvation Army Advisory Board, told about herself, work she has done and stated she and the Salvation Army Advisory Board are huge advocates of the proposed program. They feel it would be cost efficient, provide positive environmental impacts, etc. Ms. Rivers pointed out she is on the committee which looks for/receives donations and feels the proposed program will actually increase the donations many nonprofits receive. She stated most people who donate do not consider their donations “trash.” She feels the proposed program is a great opportunity for all and feels it will create a lot of awareness related to needs, donations, be a great thing, and
be much more effective and provide a return for all. It is a great opportunity and will provide a great partnership.
Did anyone notice what just happened here?
1. The U.S. Government has confirmed it has been studying UFOs.
2. This study has been quietly supported at some of the highest levels of government.
3. A video of a compelling UFO encounter has just been officially released by the U.S. Government.
4. One of the highest ranking former members of Congress didn’t run away from these events but proudly claimed them.
5. In spite of all this, the world didn’t end. People didn’t run for the hills. Mostly everyone shrugged.
These are all remarkable events and unthinkable even a few years ago. If all the people who made this happen escape without being publicly crucified we may see more of these disclosures.
Is society becoming ready to accept the truth of other life in the universe?
The existence of the UFO study was first reported by the I-Team back in October. That’s when a high-ranking intelligence officer in charge of the program quit to take a job with a private company.
Over the weekend, news of Harry Reid’s role in the study surfaced in news reports. The senator gave his only on camera interview to the I-Team’s George Knapp.
Harry Reid’s interest in UFOs dates back to 1989 because that is when George Knapp first had conversations with him on the topic.
In the years since, Reid quietly collected more information, met with scientists, intelligence officials, and other experts, and finally authorized a study that was carried out by a company created by a Las Vegas billionaire.
Since the story broke on Saturday, Reid has been bombarded with media requests, but he gave his only on camera interview to the I-Team.
The release this weekend of videos recorded by military pilots is unusual because, officially, the U.S. government stopped collecting information about UFOs back in 1969, when the Air Force canceled Project Blue Book. But in the decades since, pilots and others continued to encounter technology that is beyond anything known on earth.
I’m still fascinated by this story of retired Navy F-18 pilot Dave Fravor intercepting a UFO off of San Diego in 2004. I admire this guy’s courage in sharing the story.
His statement, along with the official video, illustrates just one of many, many similar encounters that have taken place but were never publicly shared.
Retired Cmdr. David Fravor spent 18 years as a Navy pilot, but nothing prepared him for what he witnessed during a routine training mission on Nov. 14, 2004.
“I can tell you, I think it was not from this world,” Fravor told ABC News. “I’m not crazy, haven’t been drinking. It was — after 18 years of flying, I’ve seen pretty much about everything that I can see in that realm, and this was nothing close.”
I nailed on the last few pickets to our new fence yesterday. These took some time because they had to be custom-sawed to fit the odd gaps left when the full pickets didn’t line up. Rather than stop and cut individual boards during my previous fence work days, I chose instead to keep motoring so I got more surface area done. Thus, there were about ten or so odd-shaped pickets to create.
A few hours of measuring, cutting, and nailing on Sunday and I had the fence structurally complete. It is now critter-proof. I put in the last board as the sun was going down and then took out a section of our old fence so that we could enjoy our entire backyard for the first time ever. Hurray!
Now I need to go back and trim down the too-tall posts and 2x4s. I may even cap the posts to better weatherproof them. Then I will take down the old fence and either haul it to the dump or find neighbors who might want to scavenge it for spare pickets. I’ll also have to fill in the holes left by the old fence posts. Still a bit of work to be done but I’m getting there!
Sen. Al Franken resigned yesterday. A shame, I believe, as his situation is more nuanced than others. Here’s a good commentary on whether his punishment really fits his alleged “crime.”
Franken presents a more difficult case both because of the quality of the evidence against him and the nature of the alleged transgressions. Much of the alleged behavior took place before he joined the Senate, which doesn’t make it acceptable but does make it different. Some of the Senate-era behavior is offensive but less serious; a hand on the butt during a photo op is different from a tongue down the throat. And some is anonymous, albeit corroborated by other witnesses, which should give all of us pause. The final, and perhaps last-straw, allegation involved an unnamed former Democratic political aide who claimed Franken, while a radio host, attempted to forcibly kiss her, announcing, “It’s my right as an entertainer.” Franken said the story was “categorically not true.”
Consider: One of Franken’s colleagues, New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, is under federal indictment for allegedly taking bribes in the form of lavish gifts and using the power of his office to help a campaign donor/friend in dealings with the federal government. Menendez’s trial ended with a hung jury last month, after which the Ethics Committee announced it would resume its inquiry into his conduct.
If senators have the patience to let the ethics process proceed in the Menendez case, why not with Franken? What about weighing whether some lesser punishment than what was essentially forced resignation would better fit Franken’s circumstances?
The right policy is zero tolerance. That does not answer the question about what is the right punishment, or what proof there should be before it is meted out.
As I was saying about Al Franken.
As a survivor and active member in the struggle to protect and progress civil rights in the United States, I have a track-record of confronting both the Democratic and the Republican party for abuses. If Tweeden was a victim of a violent and predatory Al Franken, I would have stood right by her side and called for an investigation of the Senator and his immediate removal from office. I would have gladly lumped his name into a category with Roy Moore and Donald Trump and Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein. I would have written an article about how we can’t entrust or bodies to legislators that will assault our women and children and legally enable the predators to get away with similar crimes no matter what side of the aisle we come from.
She is not a victim. She is not an ally. And she is not a survivor. Those words have meaning. Those words hold weight. And she has not earned her right to wear those badges.
The story of the new environmental lawsuit that Hallie is participating in (along with two other teens) ran on the front page of the News and Observer today. Pretty cool to see that.
This is at least the second time she’s been featured on the N&O’s front page, if not the third. The first time was when she was still a guest of the WakeMed NICU.