Michael McFaul | Containing Putin’s Russia

Relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated to their most dangerous point in decades. The current situation is not, as many have dubbed it, a new Cold War. But no one should draw much comfort from the ways in which today’s standoff differs from the earlier one. The quantitative nuclear arms race is over, but Russia and the United States have begun a new qualitative arms race in nuclear delivery vehicles, missile defenses, and digital weapons. The two countries are no longer engulfed in proxy wars, but over the last decade, Russia has demonstrated less and less restraint in its use of military power. The worldwide ideological struggle between capitalism and communism is history, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has anointed himself the leader of a renewed nationalist, conservative movement fighting a decadent West. To spread these ideas, the Russian government has made huge investments in television and radio stations, social media networks, and Internet “troll farms,” and it has spent lavishly in support of like-minded politicians abroad. The best description of the current hostilities is not cold war but hot peace.

Source: Michael McFaul | Containing Putin’s Russia

Evacuated after ‘health attacks’ in Cuba and China, diplomats face new ordeals in U.S.

Here’s a frightening, detailed account of what it’s like to become a victim of the mystery sonic/microwave attacks that have plagued our diplomatic corps.

WASHINGTON — Alone in her bed in a sprawling Chinese metropolis, Catherine Werner was jolted awake one night by a pulsing, humming sound. It seemed to be coming from a specific direction.

Perhaps the A.C. unit in her upscale Guangzhou apartment was malfunctioning, the American diplomat thought. But at the same moment, she also noticed intense pressure in her head.

The sounds and sensations returned, night after night, for months. When Werner’s health began declining in late 2017 — vomiting, headaches, loss of balance — she brushed it off at first, thinking China’s polluted air and water were getting to her.

It wasn’t until months later — after her mother, Laura Hughes, grew alarmed, flew in from the U.S. and then got sick, too — that Werner was medevaced from China back to the States. Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania found a vision disorder, a balance disorder and an “organic brain injury” — diagnoses similar to those of 26 U.S. diplomats and spies in Cuba who started hearing strange sounds and falling ill in late 2016.

Source: Evacuated after ‘health attacks’ in Cuba and China, diplomats face new ordeals in U.S.

Turks tell U.S. officials they have audio and video recordings that support conclusion Khashoggi was killed – The Washington Post


The Saudis are screwed.

The Turkish government has told U.S. officials that it has audio and video recordings that prove Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul this month, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.

The recordings show that a Saudi security team detained Khashoggi in the consulate after he walked in Oct. 2 to obtain an official document before his upcoming wedding, then killed him and dismembered his body, the officials said.

The audio recording in particular provides some of the most persuasive and gruesome evidence that the Saudi team is responsible for Khashoggi’s death, the officials said.

“The voice recording from inside the embassy lays out what happened to Jamal after he entered,” said one person with knowledge of the recording who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss highly sensitive intelligence.

“You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” this person said. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”

Source: Turks tell U.S. officials they have audio and video recordings that support conclusion Khashoggi was killed – The Washington Post

Gotcha! US Air Force’s Secretive X-37B Space Plane Spotted by Satellite Tracker


I am seriously considering making space object tracking a new hobby.

The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B space plane may be secretive, but it’s not invisible.

Netherlands-based satellite tracker Marco Langbroek snapped long-exposure photos of the robotic mini-shuttle zooming over the city of Leiden yesterday (Aug. 20), capturing the spacecraft’s rapid trek across the night sky as a thin streak of light.The Air Force discloses little about X-37B missions, keeping details about the plane’s orbit and most of its payloads close to the vest. But Langbroek said he’s confident that the light trail he photographed came from the space plane, which is also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV).

“The object in question is not in the public catalogue of satellite orbits maintained by JSpOC (the U.S. military tracking network), which shows for an object this bright that it must be a ‘classified’ object,” Langbroek told Space.com via email. “We nevertheless know where ‘classified’ objects like this are, because they are routinely tracked by a small network of amateur trackers, in which I takepart.”

Source: Gotcha! US Air Force’s Secretive X-37B Space Plane Spotted by Satellite Tracker

Russian Whistleblower Assassinated After Uncovering $200 Billion Dirty-Money Scandal

LONDON—A crusading Russian official traveled to Estonia in the summer of 2006 to warn the authorities that an unprecedented money-laundering scheme had been established in the tiny Baltic financial sector. The scam he had uncovered would go on to become the biggest dirty-money operation in history: the $200 billion Danske Bank scandal.

Three months after Andrei Kozlov, the first deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank, tried to raise the alarm, he was dead.

Source: Russian Whistleblower Assassinated After Uncovering $200 Billion Dirty-Money Scandal

Saudis are said to have lain in wait for Jamal Khashoggi – The Washington Post

ISTANBUL — As Jamal Khashoggi prepared to enter the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, a squad of men from Saudi Arabia who investigators suspect played a role in his disappearance was ready and in place. They had arrived from Riyadh, the Saudi capital, early that morning and checked in at two inter­national hotels in Istanbul before driving to the consulate in the leafy Levent neighborhood, said two people with knowledge of the investigation. One of them, the Mövenpick Hotel Istanbul, is a few minutes from the consulate by car.By the end of the day, a 15-member Saudi team had conducted its business and left the country, departing on planes bound for Cairo and Dubai, according to flight records and the people familiar with the investigation.

Source: Saudis are said to have lain in wait for Jamal Khashoggi – The Washington Post

Turkey concludes Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi killed by ‘murder’ team, sources say – The Washington Post

Well, this is disturbing.

ISTANBUL — Turkey has concluded that Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent journalist from Saudi Arabia, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week by a Saudi team sent “specifically for the murder,” two people with knowledge of the probe said Saturday.Turkish investigators believe a 15-member team “came from Saudi Arabia. It was a preplanned murder,” said one of the people. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

Source: Turkey concludes Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi killed by ‘murder’ team, sources say – The Washington Post

China Snuck Chips Into CIA, U.S. Military, Commercial Servers Leaving Them Open To Hacks: Report – The Drive

China seems willing to gamble its huge manufacturing industry in service to its spying. Why should foreign companies trust their manufacturing to China anymore? Regardless of the economic price China will pay for this, it can never be fully trusted again.

A new report is alleging the Chinese government directly interceded to insert small microchips into motherboards from a company called Supermicro, that are in use in servers everywhere from the adult film industry to U.S. military and U.S. Intelligence Community data centers, which make them vulnerable open them up to remote hacks. If the claims turn out to be true, it would be an intelligence operation of historic proportions that would have far-reaching and long-lasting ramifications.

On Oct. 4, 2018, Bloomberg Businessweek published its story, which is the culmination of years of investigative work and cites nearly 20 anonymous sources from both the U.S. government and private companies reportedly involved in the affair. The piece says that American authorities first became aware of the existence of the chips in 2015, that the classified probe is still ongoing, and that U.S. officials have identified an unspecified unit of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as being responsible for sneaking the malicious hardware into the servers.

Source: China Snuck Chips Into CIA, U.S. Military, Commercial Servers Leaving Them Open To Hacks: Report – The Drive

Hong Kong denies visa to Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet — Quartz

I was sorry to learn that Hong Kong’s freedom-of-speech protections are under attack by mainland China.

Mainland China frequently denies visas to foreign journalists and scholars—a preferred way to force out those whose reporting or research officials object to. But Hong Kong has long offered a welcoming visa regime that made it a safe hub for journalists in the region.

That may be changing. The Hong Kong Free Press on Friday (Oct. 5) reported that the Hong Kong Immigration Department denied a work visa renewal to highly-regarded Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet, the paper’s Asia news editor. The Financial Times said in a statement, “This is the first time we have encountered this situation in Hong Kong. We have not been given a reason for the rejection.”

Source: Hong Kong denies visa to Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet — Quartz

If I’m quiet, I must be busy!

As usual, I’ve had a ton of irons in the fire, squeezing as much out of the waning summertime days as I can. That hasn’t left much time nor inspiration for blogging but I’m hoping to get back on track with this.

Major stuff I’ve been doing around in my free time includes replacing the falling-apart wooden steps on my back deck with composite decking. This project took two sweltering Saturdays to complete but I’m very pleased with how the steps came out. Next up is the deck surface itself which, frankly, will be easier than the steps since there’s far less cutting needed. After that I’ll have to dream up a good plan for replacing the wooden railing but I’ve got a little time to figure that out.

I hope the whole project will be done by fall. Then I’ll combine the scrap wood from my deck with the scrap fencing from my fence job and haul it all away for a clean yard again. Yay!
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