On January 31, 1961, a Mercury-Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral carried a chimpanzee named Ham, aka Ham the Astrochimp, on a journey to become the first great ape in outer space. As you can see in the photoset, Ham was fitted with bio-censors and fastened into a “flight couch,” a biopack placed inside the space capsule. But Ham wasn’t just a passenger.
Unlike previous simian spacemen, Ham was trained to perform a lever-pulling task in response to a flashing blue light. (Training involved rewards of banana and the “positive punishment” of mild electric shocks. More on that later.) Like any good mission specialist, Ham bravely did his job, all while racing 640 kilometers down range in an arching trajectory that reached a peak of 254 kilometers above the Earth.
This humble primate, born in the wilds of Cameroon, didn’t set out to beat both Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard in the race to space. But when history came calling, he stepped up. After splashdown in the Atlantic, Ham the Space Hero was lavished with love and apples….(more)
On January 31, 1961, a brave 3-year-old chimpanzee was strapped into a capsule inside the Mercury Redstone rocket and launched 160 miles above the earth. For 16 minutes, he orbited at a speed of 5857 mph before crashing down into the Atlantic Ocean, a little dehydrated, but otherwise unharmed. Read the rest of this entry »
Islamists set the time machine to the Dark Ages. Putin dreams of czarist Russia. A common enemy: America
Garry Kasparov writes: The recent terror attacks in Paris at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, and at a kosher supermarket, leaving 17 people dead, represented the latest offensive in a struggle that most people, even many of its casualties, are unaware is even taking place.
“The guaranteed freedoms represented by the First Amendment frighten the radical mullahs and dictators more than any drone strike or economic sanction.”
Globalization has effectively compressed the world in size, increasing the mobility of goods, capital and labor. Simultaneously this has led to globalization across time, as the 21st century collides with cultures and regimes intent on existing as in centuries past. It is less the famous clash of civilizations than an attempt by these “time travelers” to hold on to their waning authority by stopping the advance of the ideas essential to an open society.
“Many politicians and pundits in the Free World seem to think that refusing to acknowledge you are in a fight means you can avoid losing it. But ignoring the reality of the conflict puts more innocents like the Paris victims—instead of trained soldiers and law enforcement—on the front lines.”
Radical Islamists, from the Taliban and al Qaeda to Boko Haram and Islamic State, set the time machine to the Dark Ages and encourage the murder of all who oppose them, often supported by fatwas and funds from terror sponsors like Iran. The religious monarchies in the Middle East are guilty by association, creating favorable conditions for extremism by clamping down on any stirring of freedom.
“There are no easy ways to deter homegrown terrorists or nuclear-armed dictators, but this culture of denial must end before true progress can be made.”
Vladimir Putin wants Russia to exist in the Great Power era of czars and monarchs, dominating its neighbors by force and undisturbed by elections and rights complaints. The post-Communist autocracies, led by Mr. Putin’s closest dictator allies in Belarus and Kazakhstan, exploit ideology only as a means of hanging on to power at any cost.
Since the time travelers cannot fight head-to-head with the ideas and prosperity of the Free World, they fall back on their arsenal of ideology, violence and disregard for human life.”
In the East, Kim Jong Un ’s North Korea attempts to freeze time in a Stalinist prison-camp bubble. In the West, Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela and the Castros in Cuba use anachronistic socialist propaganda to resist increasing pressure for human rights. Read the rest of this entry »
Russia Says Mohammed Cartoon Publication Illegal: ‘One Cannot Laugh at the Feelings of the Faithful’Posted: January 16, 2015
Russia is an overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian country, but is also home to a sizeable Muslim minority
Russia’s media watchdog on Friday warned publications that printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed was against the country’s law and ethical norms following the Charlie Hebdo attack in France.
“The publication in Russian media of such caricatures go against ethical and moral norms worked out over centuries.”
“The publication in Russian media of such caricatures go against ethical and moral norms worked out over centuries,” said the media and communications watchdog Roskomnadzor.
“Disseminating caricatures on religious themes in the media can be considered insulting or humiliating to the representatives of religious confessions and groups, and qualified as inciting ethnic and religious hatred.”
– Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media and communications watchdog
The publication would also violate the Russian media and anti-extremism laws, the watchdog said, adding that it was asking Russian media to “refrain from publishing caricatures that can be seen as a violation”.
The watchdog published the statement as a response to the ongoing debate on the “legality of publishing caricatures depicting religious objects of worship which affect feelings of religious people.”
“It further said Charlie Hebdo’s post-attack issue featuring a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the front page was an ‘unacceptable response’ to the shooting, because one ‘cannot laugh at the feelings of the faithful’.”
Many newspapers and magazines around the world reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris office was attacked by Islamist gunmen on January 7, leading to the deaths of 12 people.
Although Russia’s leadership extended its condolences to France, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov participated in the unity march staged at the weekend, pro-Kremlin commentators and Muslims accused the cartoonists of provoking the attack. Read the rest of this entry »
Mike Bird reports: The value of the ruble isn’t the only thing that is vanishing in Russia. A Moscow hedge fund chief executive has disappeared, along with all the money in the firm’s accounts.
That’s according to a stunning feature in The Wall Street Journal. Kim Karapetyan, 29, the youthful founder of Blackfield Capital CJSC, has disappeared, much to the dismay of his staff, which didn’t know until a group of men charged into the firm’s plush offices.
From The Journal:
The firm’s employees didn’t know anything was amiss until mid-October, when three men charged into Blackfield’s offices in an upscale complex along the Moscow River in central Moscow, said people who were there.
The men, who didn’t identify themselves, said they were looking for Blackfield’s 29-year-old founder, Kim Karapetyan, according to the people who were there.
But Mr. Karapetyan wasn’t in the office that day or the next, when senior executives explained to the staff of about 50 that there was no longer any money to pay their salaries, said one former senior executive and ex-employees. The executives disclosed that all the money in the company accounts — some $20 million, including investor cash — was also missing, they said. It couldn’t be determined whether investors were from Russia or other countries.
“Our CEO just … disappeared,” said Sergey Grebenkin, one of the firm’s software developers, in an interview.
No attempts to contact or find Karapetyan were successful, and he is still MIA. The company’s website brags that its “systematic investment process helps avoid human-factor, cognitive-biases, and emotional-trading errors,” but the CEO running away with all your money seems like a fairly big human error. Read the rest of this entry »
The Navalny brothers were found guilty of embezzling 26.7 million rubles ($470,000) from cosmetics company Yves Rocher Vostok and stealing more than 4.4 million rubles ($80,000) from a processing company between 2008 and 2013.
Critics have called the charges politically motivated. Alexei, an anti-corruption blogger and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has maintained his innocence.
The judge on Tuesday gave Alexei a suspended sentence of three years and six months while Oleg was sentenced to prison for the same amount of time.
Alexei yelled angrily as the sentence against his brother was read in the courtroom.
The brothers were also ordered to pay a fine of more than 4 million rubles ($70,000) to the Multi-Profile Processing Company. Read the rest of this entry »
oil on canvas
91.5 by 71cm., 36 by 28in.
George Wilson of Redgrave Hall, Suffolk and thence by descent to Mr P.J. Holt Wilson, by whom sold Sotheby’s, 28 November 1972, lot 49
John P. Seddon, Memoir and Letters of the late Thomas Seddon, artist, By his Brother, 1859, pp. 16-17;
The Journal of the Society of Arts, May 1857, pp.360-362;
The Art Journal, 1857, p.198
This is the first recorded work from the hand of the short-lived and very remarkable Pre-Raphaelite artist Thomas Seddon. Thought of principally as a painter of eastern landscape subjects, the present beautiful and important work provides a fascinating clue to his artistic training and formative years. Although quite unlike the type of work for which he did become known, it reveals the instinctive creative talent and natural skill that he possessed. An unusual subject for an English painter to take in the 1850s, and therefore possibly reflecting his knowledge of contemporary French art, it shows Penelope looking out as the dawn breaks – her companions still sleeping – after a night spent undoing the previous day’s work on a woven shroud. Her reason for doing this was because – according to the story told in Homer’s Odyssey – during the long period during which her husband Odysseus was away, assumed by most to be dead, she remained faithful to him and, when pressed to give herself in marriage to another, always said she could not until the shroud was finished, a subterfuge which she maintained for ten years until a maid servant revealed how it was that the garment was never completed. Read the rest of this entry »
MOSCOW—James Marson and Andrey Ostroukh report: Striking a defiant tone, President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the West of provoking a crisis in Ukraine and using sanctions to try to constrain Russia.
In his annual state of the union address, Mr. Putin defended Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March, saying Russia would never give up the “sacred” peninsula. He accused the U.S. and Europe of cynically using the Ukraine crisis as an excuse to pursue a long-held strategy aimed at weakening Russia.
“The policy of containment was not invented yesterday. It has been carried out against our country for many years,” he said. “Whenever someone thinks that Russia has become too strong or independent, these tools are quickly put into use.”
Mr. Putin’s one-hour speech in the Kremlin’s ornate St. George’s Hall underscored his hard-line response to Western sanctions that, along with low oil prices, have pushed Russia’s economy toward recession. Read the rest of this entry »
On September 1, 2014 the US State Department published a report, in which it was stated that for first time since the collapse of the USSR, Russia reached parity with the US in the field of strategic nuclear weapons. Thus, Washington admitted that Moscow regained the status that the Soviet Union had obtained by mid-70’s of the XX century and then lost.
According to the report from the State Department, Russia has 528 carriers of strategic nuclear weapons that carry 1,643 warheads. The United States has 794 vehicles and 1,652 nuclear warheads.
It just so happens that today, Russia’s strategic nuclear forces (SNF) are even more advanced in comparison with those of the US, as they ensure parity on warheads with a significantly smaller number of carriers of strategic nuclear weapons. This gap between Russia and the United States may only grow in the future, given the fact that Russian defense officials promised to rearm Russia’s SNF with new generation missiles. Read the rest of this entry »
Large Convoys Reported to be Moving Into the Region
BRUSSELS—Naftali Bendavid reports: Russia has sent convoys of tanks, howitzers and other weaponry along with troops into eastern Ukraine in recent days, possibly aiming to consolidate separatist enclaves there in preparation for a long-term standoff, Western observers say.
The new incursions represent a sharp increase in Russia’s presence in the region, posing a significant new challenge to the peace plan signed in early September in Minsk, Belarus.
“This is a severe threat to the cease-fire,” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. “Any attempt by separatist forces to seize more territory in eastern Ukraine would be another blatant violation of the Minsk agreement.”
The flow “includes Russian artillery, tanks, air defense systems and troops,” he said.
‘We…are again at a point in which we can’t say for sure how this conflict will proceed.’
—German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
In addition, international monitors in the region said that the Russian-backed rebels have been gaining territory, and that the mission’s surveillance drones have been shot at and jammed.
‘While our aim is to try to work to consolidate the cease-fire, it is more on paper.’
—Lamberto Zannier, OSCE secretary-general
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied the allegations of a military presence—troops or weaponry—in Ukraine, calling them, like previous ones, “regular concussions of the Brussels air.”
Since the cease-fire was reached between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists on Sept. 5—under Russian auspices—the two sides have regularly accused each other of violations. Hundreds of deaths of fighters and civilians have been recorded since then. Read the rest of this entry »
Patrick de la Chevardière, CFO of Total SA (which is France’s largest energy company), has publicly announced that Total is looking to finance its share in the $27-billion Yamal LNG project using euros, yuan, Russian rubles, and any other currency but US dollars.
The effect of US sanctions was that Yamal LNG [in Russia’s far North] will be prevented from raising any dollar financings,” Patrick de la Chevardière stated in London at a news briefing.
Patrick de la Chevardière’s boss — the CEO of Total SA and presumably the man who made that decision — was Christophe de Margerie. De Margerie is now dead, along with three crew members aboard his private jet when it collided with a snowplow just after midnight at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport. The plow’s driver was drunk, according to Russian investigators, and was seemingly unhurt.
[Check out Marin Katusa’s book “The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp” at Amazon]
You have more of a chance of being struck by lightning than hitting a plow or any other ground support vehicle.
So… is it a coincidence that the one CEO who prominently broke with the petrodollar is now dead?
In my new book The Colder War, there is a whole section on “suspicious deaths” that have occurred during the current conflict between Vladimir Putin and the West. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of this political stare down, and it doesn’t much matter whether you’re against Putin or against the West. Many have fallen on both sides.
De Margerie could now be one of them. We may never know for sure.
What we are sure of is that he was outspoken in his support for Putin’s agenda, and believed Russia was a good partner for Europe. He wasn’t afraid to take on the U.S. and its primary support mechanism, the petrodollar. Read the rest of this entry »
Russian hackers use ‘zero-day’ in cyber-spy campaign
For The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima reports: A Russian hacking group probably working for the government has been exploiting a previously unknown flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system to spy on NATO, the Ukrainian government, a U.S. university researcher and other national security targets, according to a new report.
“This is consistent with espionage activity. All indicators from a targeting and lures perspective would indicate espionage with Russian national interests.”
– iSight Senior Director Stephen Ward
The group has been active since at least 2009, according to research by iSight Partners, a cybersecurity firm.
Its targets in the recent campaign also included a Polish energy firm, a Western European government agency and a French telecommunications firm.
“This is consistent with espionage activity,” said iSight Senior Director Stephen Ward. “All indicators from a targeting and lures perspective would indicate espionage with Russian national interests.”
“The firm began monitoring the hackers’ activity in late 2013 and discovered the vulnerability in August…The flaw is present in every Windows operating system from Vista to 8.1, he said, except Windows XP.”
There is no indication that the group was behind a recent spate of intrusions into U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Ward said.
“ISight dubbed the recently detected hacking group SandWorm because of references embedded in its code to the science-fiction novel ‘Dune.’ There were various mentions in Russian to the fictional desert planet of Arrakis, for instance.”
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials say the capabilities of Russian hackers are on par with those of the United States and Israel. Read the rest of this entry »
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 29, 2014
Weakness Invites Aggression. Putin’s Only Responding to Passive U.S. Leadership, Happily Accepting the Invitation
Update 5:50 P.M.: This story has been updated to include developing information about the Russian incursion off the coast of Alaska
Bill Gertz reports: Russian strategic nuclear bombers carried out air defense zone incursions near Alaska and across Northern Europe this week in the latest nuclear saber rattling by Moscow.
“They are having a very aggressive nuclear readiness exercise now as a show of force. Whereas the U.S. has been on a path of nuclear zero which they think is ridiculous.”
Six Russian aircraft, including two Bear H nuclear bombers, two MiG-31 fighter jets and two IL-78 refueling tankers were intercepted by F-22 fighters on Wednesday west and north of Alaska in air defense identification zones, said Navy Capt. Jeff A. Davis, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. Two other Bears were intercepted by Canadian jets on Thursday.
Russia, under Putin, is engaged in a large-scale nuclear buildup that includes new missiles, submarines, and a new bomber.
A day later two more Bear bombers were intercepted by Canadian CF-18 jets in the western area of the Canadian air defense identification zone near the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska, he said. Read the rest of this entry »
The Islamic State and Vladimir Putin’s Russia are enemies of liberty, democracy and the rule of law
Anders Fogh Rasmussen writes: The abhorrent beheading of two American journalists and a British aid worker shocked the world. So did the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. The deaths of these innocents show the global consequences of two major crises on Europe’s doorstep: the advance of the so-called Islamic State terrorist group across Iraq and Syria, and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The peace and security we enjoy in Europe and North America are under threat like never before.
These challenges will last for years, and we need to face that reality.
With Russia, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has tried long and hard to build a partnership that respects Russia’s security concerns and is based on international rules and norms. Regrettably, Russia has rejected our efforts to engage. Russia has trampled on all the rules and commitments that have kept peace in Europe and beyond since the end of the Cold War. It is now clear that Russia regards the West as an adversary, not a partner.
The terrorist threat is now growing in Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State terrorists are fueling the fire of sectarianism already burning across the Middle East and North Africa, with the risk rising that terror will be exported back to our shores. Read the rest of this entry »
George Dvorsky writes: As Russian troops advance into Ukraine, and as ISIS forces ravage parts of the Middle East, the world is being forced to confront an uncomfortable fact: these belligerents aren’t just winning battles on the ground, they’re also winning over minds. Here’s what propaganda looks like in the 21st century — and how the West has failed to adapt.
Propaganda may seem like an archaic concept, but it’s very much alive and well. The world has changed significantly in the past few decades, as has our means of consuming information. Many state and non-state actors have taken notice, developing new strategies to sway public opinion both at home and abroad, and as a means to further their foreign policy agendas.
The Revival Of State Controlled Media
One area in which Western leaders have most certainly lagged behind is the effective use of media to promote its perspective. Much of this has to do with the independent nature of media in democratic countries; freedom of the press is a much-vaunted institution of free thinking and critical societies who look to the media for unbiased accounts of world events and as a way to hold their governments to account.
But these values aren’t shared at the global scale, particularly in authoritarian states such as China and Russia. Inspired by the state-controlled media of the Soviet regime, President Vladimir Putin is making a concerted effort to “break the monopoly of the Anglo-Saxon mass media” and to “illuminate abroad the state policies” of the Kremlin. To that end, he’s pouring incredible amounts of money into Russian media. The country now invests around $136 million each year just to influence public opinion abroad.
Russia is currently expanding its foreign broadcaster RT (formerly known as Russia Today) and the Ruptly News Agency. Launched back in 2005, RT is currently available in English, Spanish, and Arabic, and is being positioned as an alternative to Western international media, such as CNN and the BBC. Ruptly is currently working to establish itself as an alternative to Reuters and the Associated Press in providing video coverage.
As noted by Anton Troianovski, “While viewership is relatively small, observers say that by airing increasingly shrill criticism of the West and comments from anti-American conspiracy theorists as well as far-right and far-left Western politicians, RT has sought to undermine the authority of Western media.”
According to Andrew Weiss, the Vice President of studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “We’re in the middle of a relentless propaganda war.” He describes RT as a crucial tool used by Russia to conduct its foreign policy. By using the Internet, newspapers and television — along with the deployment of allegedly neutral journalists and pundits dispatched around the world — the Kremlin is effectively propagating its position.
Currently, RT reaches out to more than 644 million people worldwide, and as a state-influenced organization, it can slip messages about Russian policy into its programming (a good example can be found here). Looking ahead, Russia plans on expanding its Berlin office from two staff members to 30. It has also adopted a $39 million budget for expansion into French.
By using the media and other information channels, the Russian Federation has relentlessly and effectively conveyed it’s own narrative on unfolding events. Its startling ability to control information has become a critical tactic in its current efforts to annex portions of Ukraine and to influence events in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
It isn’t so much that former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was a prophet. Just that he had read a book or two.
…In 2012, Romney called it “troubling” and “alarming” that Barack Obama had essentially appeased the Russian bear by offering concessions like the withdrawal of interceptor missile and radar installations in Eastern Europe without reciprocity from Moscow. He said that Russia’s actions have made that nation “without question, our number one geopolitical foe.”
This prompted a flood of scorn and mockery from a raft of self-assured critics. But by 2014, after Russia had frustrated America’s ambition to contain the Syrian civil war, invaded neighboring Ukraine, and unilaterally annexed a portion of that nation’s territory into Russia proper, nearly all of Romney’s self-respecting critics were forced to concede that he had a point. Read the rest of this entry »
Foreign Ministry Summons Russian Ambassador
An official from the Internal Security Service (ISS), Estonia‘s national agency for counterintelligence and high-profile corruption investigations, was abducted at gunpoint at Luhamaa border checkpoint this morning where he was discharging service duties, and taken to Russia.
The incident occurred at about 9:00 on the Estonian side of the border and was preceded by jamming of communications and use of a smoke grenade, the agency said; the interference was said to originate from the Russia side.
The ISS said the official was in the process of interdiction of a cross-border crime.
The area is in Võru County, by Russian border post #121. The border is largely demarcated and lacks major fortifications; the area is thinly populated.
The whereabouts of the official are not known, Postimees daily’s online site said.
There was no immediate explanation on the late disclosure of the incident – more than six hours after it occurred – which comes during a period of more tense relations with Russia. Read the rest of this entry »
Calm when it comes to Putin, ISIS and Hamas, but furious with Israel
Barack Obama “has become ‘enraged’ at the Israeli government, both for its actions and for its treatment of his chief diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. ” So reports the Jerusalem Post, based on the testimony of Martin Indyk, until recently a special Middle East envoy for the president. The war in Gaza, Mr. Indyk adds, has had “a very negative impact” on Jerusalem’s relations with Washington.
Think about this. Enraged. Not “alarmed” or “concerned” or “irritated” or even “angered.” Anger is a feeling. Rage is a frenzy. Anger passes. Rage feeds on itself. Anger is specific. Rage is obsessional, neurotic.
[Also see Bret Stephens’ - ‘Pay Attention to Other People’s Nightmares, Because They Might Be Contagious’]
And Mr. Obama—No Drama Obama, the president who prides himself on his cool, a man whose emotional detachment is said to explain his intellectual strength—is enraged. With Israel. Which has just been hit by several thousand unguided rockets and 30-odd terror tunnels, a 50-day war, the forced closure of its one major airport, accusations of “genocide” by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, anti-Semitic protests throughout Europe, general condemnation across the world. This is the country that is the object of the president’s rage.
Think about this some more. In the summer in which Mr. Obama became “enraged” with Israel, Islamic State terrorists seized Mosul and massacred Shiite soldiers in open pits, Russian separatists shot down a civilian jetliner, Hamas executed 18 “collaborators” in broad daylight, Bashar Assad‘s forces in Syria came close to encircling Aleppo with the aim of starving the city into submission, a brave American journalist had his throat slit on YouTube by a British jihadist, Russian troops openly invaded Ukraine, and Chinese jets harassed U.S. surveillance planes over international waters.
Mr. Obama or his administration responded to these events with varying degrees of concern, censure and indignation. But rage? Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Barone reports: I have never eaten at a McDonald’s in France. But evidently a lot of French men and women do. Business Insider reports that France is McDonald’s most profitable country after the United States. So much for all the French cuisine snobs who lament the presence of McDonald’s in la belle France…(read more)
“Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.”
Aug 29 (Reuters) – Alexei Anishchuk reports: President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia’s armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: “It’s best not to mess with us.”
“Russia is far from being involved in any large-scale conflicts. We don’t want that and don’t plan on it. But naturally, we should always be ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.”
Putin told the assembly, on the banks of a lake near Moscow, the Russian takeover of Crimea in March was essential to save a largely Russian-speaking population from Ukrainian government violence. He said continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising in April, was the result of a refusal by Kiev to negotiate.
“Russia’s partners…should understand it’s best not to mess with us.”
Ukraine, and Western governments, accuse Russia of sending troops and armour to back the separatists in a conflict that has already killed over 2,000 people. Russia denies the charge. Read the rest of this entry »