Love, sex, and political intrigue. A great read.
Lisa Howard had been waiting for more than two hours in a suite of the Hotel Riviera, enough time to bathe, dress and apply makeup, then take it all off to get ready for bed when she thought he wasn’t coming. But at 11:30 p.m. on that night in Havana—February 2, 1964—Howard, an American correspondent with ABC News, finally heard a knock at the door. She opened it and saw the man she had been waiting for: Fidel Castro, the 37-year-old leader of the Cuban revolution and one of America’s leading Cold War antagonists.
“You may be the prime minister, but I’m a very important journalist. How dare you keep me waiting,” Howard declared with mock anger. She then invited Castro, accompanied by his top aide, René Vallejo, into her room.Over the next few hours, they talked about everything from Marxist theory to the treatment of Cuba’s political prisoners. They reminisced about President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated just a few months earlier. Castro told Howard about his trip to Russia the previous spring, and the “personal attention” he had received from the “brilliant” Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Howard admonished Castro for the repressive regime he was creating in Cuba. “To make an honorable revolution … you must give up the notion of wanting to be prime minister for as long as you live.” “Lisa,” Castro asked, “you really think I run a police state?” “Yes,” she answered. “I do.”
Source: ‘My Dearest Fidel’: An ABC Journalist’s Secret Liaison With Fidel Castro – POLITICO Magazine
I’ve only seen carrier flight operations from the perspective of my destroyer sailing behind it, acting as plane guard. This is a good overview of what is actually happening there.
LCDR Joe “Smokin” Ruzicka, the last F-14 Radar Intercept Officer to fly the Tomcat Tactical demonstration, is back to walk us through exactly what it took to strap on a 70k pound F-14 Tomcat in the dark of night and successfully get flung off the front of a US Navy super carrier via one of the ship’s mighty steam-piston catapults.
I walk closely behind Corky through the passageway, making sure I have all of my gear strapped down while there is still a fraction of light. Once you step outside the hatch to the flight deck, it’s likely the only real light will be a partial moon hidden behind some clouds. Corky told me to grab the back of his survival vest once we stepped out onto the flight deck and not to let go. The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is simply too dangerous for a new guy to wander around on, especially at night and alone.
Immediately after you step outside, your senses strain to help your brain figure out what is going on. Your eyes see nothing. It’s too dark. You better have your flashlight out and pointed at the ground or you will step on something dangerous. Your ears hear the high whine of other airplanes turning just above you. The first thing you smell is jet fuel. Lots of it. The fumes are everywhere, but it’s not suffocating, just omni-present. Mostly, you just feel the rush of wind interspersed with an intermittent burst of jet exhaust. The wind might be hot or it might be cold, depending on the time of year and the location of the ship, but the exhaust is always hot. In any case, the air is definitely moving and it creates a noise inside your helmet that can be partially deafening.
Source: How To Successfully Get Launched Off A Carrier At Night In A F-14 Tomcat
FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said that law enforcement agencies are “increasingly unable to access” evidence stored on encrypted devices.
Wray is not telling the whole truth.
Police forces and federal agencies around the country have bought relatively cheap tools to unlock up-to-date iPhones and bypass their encryption, according to a Motherboard investigation based on several caches of internal agency documents, online records, and conversations with law enforcement officials. Many of the documents were obtained by Motherboard using public records requests.
Source: Cops Around the Country Can Now Unlock iPhones, Records Show – Motherboard
Surprise! Russian-born Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan has ties to St. Petersburg and did work for the Russian oil firm Lukoil (if not others). He claims he’s just a scapegoat but he certainly is looking more and more like a key player in Russian election meddling.
I wonder how North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis feels about getting elected with potentially Russian help?
Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University academic who orchestrated the harvesting of Facebook data, had previously unreported ties to a Russian university, including a teaching position and grants for research into the social media network, the Observer has discovered. Cambridge Analytica, the data firm he worked with – which funded the project to turn tens of millions of Facebook profiles into a unique political weapon – also attracted interest from a key Russian firm with links to the Kremlin.Energy firm Lukoil, which is now on the US sanctions list and has been used as a vehicle of government influence, saw a presentation on the firm’s work in 2014. It began with a focus on voter suppression in Nigeria, and Cambridge Analytica also discussed “micro-targeting” individuals on social media during elections.The revelations come at a time of intense US scrutiny of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, with 13 Russians criminally charged last month with interfering to help Donald Trump.
In Britain, concerns about Russian propaganda have been mounting, with the prime minister, Theresa May, recently attacking Russia for spreading fake news, accusing Moscow of attempts to “weaponise information” and influence polls.
Lukoil, Russia’s second-largest oil company, discussed with Cambridge Analytica the data company’s powerful social media marketing system, which was already being deployed for Republican Ted Cruz in the US presidential primaries and was later used to back Brexit and Trump.
Source: Cambridge Analytica: links to Moscow oil firm and St Petersburg university | News | The Guardian
If Sergei and Yulia Skripal survive being poisoned by Novichok nerve agent, they may be left suffering illnesses that ruin their lives – which may be the point of the attack, security experts have warned.
The case of a Russian military scientist accidentally exposed to Novichok appears to show that even surviving the effects of the supertoxic nerve agent is horrific.
Andrei Zheleznyakov was said to have been injected with an antidote almost immediately, but a friend said he still went from being a jovial, creative man to suffering “chronic weakness, toxic hepatitis, epilepsy, severe depression and an inability to concentrate”, before dying five years later.
Source: Russian spy: This is how nerve agent Novichok destroys your mind and body, even if you survive | The Independent
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.”
Source: Soviet Scientist Who Developed Novichok Poison Used on Sergei Skripal: ‘I’m Sorry’
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.
Source: American General In Syria Confirms US Forces Killed Hundreds Of Russians In Massive Battle – The Drive
Vil Mirzayanov is a Russian emigre to the U.S. and chemical weapons specialist who helped develop the poison believed to have been used in the attack in Britain on Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence, and his daughter Yulia.
Mirzayanov spoke with VOA’s Russian service.
Q: You were involved in the development of unique Soviet chemical toxic substances of nerve agent, “Substance 33,” “A-232” and “?-234,” known today as “Novichok” (Newcomer). At the same time, you claim that no other country in the world except Russia has ever had such weapons. How were British investigators able to establish what kind of substance was used to poison Sergei Skripal?
Mirzayanov: To establish which chemical agent was used in this case, you need to have access to a powerful high-resolution mass spectrometer, in the library of which are the spectra of all known compounds. The sample taken is compared with those already known, and the computer indicates a spectrum with a 96 percent probability. That is, there can be no error here.
Source: Ex-Russian Chemical Weapons Specialist: Moscow Was Sure No One Would Find Poison
Regimes of all types throughout history have sought to harness science for war. As a result, otherwise beneficial technology can become ‘dual-use’. Biological weapons are among the starker examples: research meant to save lives is used to take them. Now, in the run up to elections in Russia, and with concerns mounting about the nation’s role globally, biological-weapons specialists Raymond Zilinskas and Philippe Mauger deliver Biosecurity in Putin’s Russia.
Bioweapons research in Russia and its environs extends back as far as 1928. It took off in the 1970s, for example through the infamous clandestine Biopreparat network. There, the Soviets weaponized pathogens including the smallpox and Marburg viruses and the anthrax bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Zilinskas and Mauger focus on the years 2012–16, when political tensions between Russia and the West intensified markedly. Concerned by apparent shifts in Russia’s pronouncements and actions regarding dual-use activities related to biosecurity, Zilinskas and Mauger write that they wish to “move the discussion over Russian compliance concerns to the public sphere”, where an evaluation based on evidence becomes possible.
Source: Ominous biosecurity trends under Putin
Good luck with that, Pootie-Poot.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin publicly announced the as yet unnamed missile in an annual speech on March 1, 2018. The Kremlin says it successfully tested one of the weapons near the end of 2017 and released video footage claiming to show the launch and it in flight. So far, Russian authorities have not released any other significant details about the weapon’s configuration or capabilities, though Putin implied that the final design would be broadly similar in size and shape to the existing, conventionally-powered Kh-101 cruise missile.
At the most basic conceptual level, the weapon could conceivably reach supersonic speeds, fly at very low altitudes, and have effectively unlimited range thanks to its nuclear powerplant, allowing it to hit targets anywhere in the world with little warning and dodge anti-missile defenses.
But shortly after Putin’s address, CNN, in a story citing an anonymous U.S. government official, cast doubt on the possibility that this weapon was anywhere near operational. That individual added that the “United States had observed a small number of Russian tests of its nuclear-powered cruise missile and seen them all crash.” Fox News said its own sources indicated the same thing, that the weapon was in the research and development phase and that at least one had crashed during testing in the arctic.
Source: U.S. Has Been Secretly Watching Russia’s Nuclear-Powered Cruise Missiles Crash and Burn – The Drive