How did Kim Jong Un get his Mercedes-Benzes? – CNN Style

On June 14, 2018, two armored Mercedes-Maybach S600 Guard vehicles were shipped from the Dutch Port of Rotterdam, heading out on a journey that would take months and see the cars transported thousands of miles through six countries, according to a new report from the Washington-based Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS).

After stops in China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, the two cars — each worth about $500,000 — are believed to have been flown to their final destination, Pyongyang. And in the North Korean capital, there’s only one customer who likely requires this type of ride.

The origin and journey of the two Mercedes luxury vehicles were exposed in the C4ADS report. CNN has not independently verified C4ADS’ reporting.

Source: How did Kim Jong Un get his Mercedes-Benzes? – CNN Style

The Navy Says UFOs Are Real. UFO Hunters Are Thrilled – VICE

With the Navy’s recent revelation that its pilots have been regularly spotting unidentified flying objects, some of those in the UFO community who were once thought crazy now have some concrete evidence to point to. And the regular spate of mainstream news stories about UFO sightings has inspired a new generation of UFO hunters and researchers.

I’m regularly asked why I, a 32-year-old man with a good job and a young family spent six years researching the UFO subculture. Simply put, I find the culture and the people fascinating.

Ufology has always been a counter-cultural movement. Faced with decades of ridicule, the UFO community has always been the underdog. I like underdogs. But unidentified flying objects have made a cultural comeback, and the last two years have seen a huge growth in popular media coverage of this curious phenomenon and the people who explore it. It seems that UFOs have become all the rage, and this popular resurgence is inspiring a young new breed of UFO researchers and hunters.

Source: The Navy Says UFOs Are Real. UFO Hunters Are Thrilled – VICE

Don’t Panic about Rare Earth Elements – Scientific American

As trade tensions rise between the U.S. and China, rare earth minerals are once again in the political spotlight. Today Chinese mines and processing facilities provide most of the world’s supply, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping has hinted about using this as political leverage in trade negotiations with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration. But in the long run, many experts say the global market involving these materials would likely survive even if China completely stopped exporting them.

Source: Don’t Panic about Rare Earth Elements – Scientific American

The Final Secret of the USS Scorpion | HistoryNet

The article doesn’t say it but I will: fuck John Walker, Jr.

In 1968 one of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines went missing in the Atlantic. Now, 50 years later, the full story of its disappearance can finally be told.RADIOMEN 2ND CLASS MIKE HANNON WALKED TO WORK WITH A PALPABLE SENSE OF UNEASE on the morning of May 23, 1968. As a communications specialist at Submarine Force Atlantic Headquarters, he was responsible for processing dozens of messages each day from submarines at sea, ranging from routine announcements to top-secret operational dispatches. But hours earlier, when his eight-hour shift had ended at midnight, Hannon feared that one of the submarines on his watch might be in trouble—or worse.

The Norfolk-based USS Scorpion, one of the Atlantic Fleet’s 19 nuclear attack submarines, had been scheduled to transmit a four-word “Check Report”—encrypted to prevent the Soviets from intercepting it—that meant, in essence, “Situation normal, proceeding as planned.” In this instance, the Skipjack-class submarine was returning to Norfolk after a three-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. Its standing orders called for a burst transmission every 24 hours that, when decrypted, read: “Check 24. Submarine Scorpion.” But the previous day no message had come clattering out of the secure teletypewriter that Hannon used. As he prepared to leave for the night, Hannon had briefed Radioman 2nd Class Ken Larbes, the petty officer coming on duty, about the overdue message. He then tapped on his supervisor’s office door and asked whether any late word had come in from the Scorpion. Warrant Officer John A. Walker Jr. silently shook his head no. Was this the first hint of an emergency, Hannon wondered, or merely a delayed transmission caused by mechanical problems or stormy weather conditions?

Source: The Final Secret of the USS Scorpion | HistoryNet

Trump’s Orders Are Routinely Disregarded by His Staff – The Atlantic

It’s been another dizzying few days in Washington, starting with yet another border controversy, as President Donald Trump threatened to bus unauthorized immigrants to sanctuary cities, and ending with the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which turned out to be far more damning than advertised by Trump’s attorney general.

These two very different stories have more in common than meets the eye. In each case, there’s a central tension between the president and aides who refuse to execute orders from him that they believe are illegal or foolish. Mueller’s report is packed with incidents in which White House staff not only didn’t do things Trump said, but never had any intention of doing them. In the case of the border, Immigration and Customs Enforcement staff rebuffed Trump’s plan to bus migrants on legal grounds; meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan refused to turn away migrants seeking asylum, concluding that it was illegal. (Nielsen was sacked soon after, while McAleenan is now her acting replacement.)

Source: Trump’s Orders Are Routinely Disregarded by His Staff – The Atlantic

Julian Assange Got What He Deserved – The Atlantic

Justice.

In the end, the man who reportedly smeared feces on the walls of his lodgings, mistreated his kitten, and variously blamed the ills of the world on feminists and bespectacled Jewish writers was pulled from the Ecuadorian embassy looking every inch like a powdered-sugar Saddam Hussein plucked straight from his spider hole. The only camera crew to record this pivotal event belonged to Ruptly, a Berlin-based streaming-online-video service, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of RT, the Russian government’s English-language news channel and the former distributor of Julian Assange’s short-lived chat show.

RT’s tagline is “Question more,” and indeed, one might inquire how it came to pass that the spin-off of a Kremlin propaganda organ and now registered foreign agent in the United States first arrived on the scene. Its camera recorded a team of London’s Metropolitan Police dragging Assange from his Knightsbridge cupboard as he burbled about resistance and toted a worn copy of Gore Vidal’s History of the National Security State.

Source: Julian Assange Got What He Deserved – The Atlantic

Russia’s passive-aggressive reaction to SpaceX may mask a deeper truth | Ars Technica

Interesting analysis of Russian reaction to SpaceX’s successful docking and return of it’s CrewDragon spacecraft.

One of the big questions surrounding the first launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft was how the Russians would react. They have held considerable sway in the International Space Station partnership by controlling access to the orbiting laboratory since the 2011 retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle. So far, the Russian response has been one of throwing small bits of shade here and there but trying not to be too obvious about it.

On Sunday, when SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft docked with the International Space Station, the Russian space corporation sequestered cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko in the Russian segment of the station. This was, Roscosmos said, so that Kononenko could take emergency action in case the Dragon became uncontrollable and crashed into the space station.

After the successful docking, Roscosmos tweeted a Russian language congratulation to NASA, but underscored the fact “that flight safety must be above reproach.” An hour later it published a rare tweet in English, sending “its sincere compliments to the colleagues from NASA,” but without the emphasis on vehicle safety. Neither tweet mentioned SpaceX. (Later, Roscosmos said NASA ordered the ship and, therefore, deserved the congratulations.)

Source: Russia’s passive-aggressive reaction to SpaceX may mask a deeper truth | Ars Technica

At 28, my brain was already fizzling out

I was searching for stuff on my computer tonight when I came across a diary entry I created back on my 28th birthday, 21 Jan 1997. I had started journaling then mainly because I had started having trouble with my memory. It is also why I began this blog, as I’ve said before.

This entry is from a time when I was young, single, fit, and supposedly at the top of my game, yet I was deeply concerned about my future. I post it today to remind myself of just how long I’ve been dealing with Gulf War Illness.

It has been three decades of pain and frustration but I am still here.

Looking at the old clock on the wall I see that I’ve just turned 28 years old. Here I am sitting at my keyboard on my 28th birthday, all alone save for a lazy cat. I didn’t feel like staying at the party because I’m feeling down, so I guess I really didn’t have to be alone. I can’t talk to those guys about what’s bothering me because they couldn’t relate. There are very few people who could. But the party was getting my down because I couldn’t seem to jump-start myself into the conversation, and I became alarmed at this inability to speak.
Continue reading

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