The Black Spy and the White Spy have been chasing each other around in MAD Magazine for 56 years
After penning one too many cartoons that were critical of Fidel Castro, Prohías — who was a prominent cartoonist and illustrator in his home country — headed for New York, writes Eric Grundhauser for Atlas Obscura. At the time, he didn’t speak a word of English.
“In New York, Prohías took work in a factory during the day, while working up his illustration portfolio at night,” Grundhauser writes. He changed the appearance of one of his characters from the strip he published in Cuba, El Hombre Siniestro, and gave him a counterpart: Spy vs. Spy was born.
“In 1960, just months after moving to the city, Prohías, along with his daughter Marta who acted as an intepreter, walked unannounced into the offices of MAD Magazine,” Grundhauser writes. “The editors were skeptical of the artist, but his silly spy gags won them over, and he had sold three of the strips to the magazine before leaving that day.”
His reason for going to MAD with his idea, writes scholar Teodora Carabas: he liked the magazine’s name. The Black Spy and White Spy have been a fixture in MAD ever since, appearing in the magazine’s Joke and Dagger Department. The strip’s appeal, which was one of the artist’s signature strengths, was partly its silence, writes Grundhausen. Like El Hombre Siniestro (“The Sinister Man”), the spies’ adventures were wordless, violent and hilarious, drawn in a dramatic style. Many of the jokes aren’t outwardly political, he writes, but Prohías said El Hombre was inspired by “the national psychosis of the Cuban people.” Read the rest of this entry »
Geoff Ziezulewicz reports: Fourteen sailors from the nuclear reactor department of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan face disciplinary action in connection to LSD abuse, Navy officials confirmed this week.
Two sailors are already heading to court-martial for using, possessing and distributing the hallucinogenic drug, while three are waiting to see whether they will be charged as well, according to 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Joe Keiley.
Another 10 sailors with the Japan-based ship were administratively disciplined on LSD-related charges, Keiley said.
A 15th sailor was also disciplined, but that person was not assigned to the carrier’s reactor department.
Keiley said the 14 reactor sailors charged or facing potential charges came from a department with more than 400 personnel.
- John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, “got into a physical altercation” with a Chinese official during President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing last year, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- Kelly reportedly told colleagues he would not accept an apology from the official unless it occurred under a US flag in Washington, DC.
- Relations between Washington and Beijing are tense as Trump spars with the Chinese government over trade and other issues.
John Haltiwanger reports: John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, “got into a physical altercation” with a Chinese official during President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing last year and refused to accept an apology, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The official was reportedly attempting to access the nuclear football, a 45-pound aluminum briefcase that’s always by the president’s side, carried by a military aide. It contains information and instructions for the president on how to conduct a nuclear strike.
Kelly told colleagues he would not accept an apology from the official unless it occurred under a US flag in Washington, DC, according to the report.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider. Read the rest of this entry »
OMAHA, Neb. — A 92-year-old woman has been buried in Nebraska with British military honors for a secret that she held for decades: her World War II service as a code breaker of German intelligence communications.
The Union Jack was draped over Jean Briggs Watters’ casket during her burial Monday, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Watters died Sept. 15.
The tribute honored Watters for her role decoding for a top-secret military program led by British mathematician Alan Turing, who was the subject of the 2014 Oscar-winning film “The Imitation Game .”
Watters was among about 10,000 people, mostly women, who participated in the Allied effort to crack German communication codes throughout the war. Read the rest of this entry »
U.S. strategy in region rooted in ‘principled realism’ and shared interests, defense secretary says.
SINGAPORE— Nancy A. Youssef reports: The U.S. and China appear to be headed for a more confrontational relationship in Southeast Asia as Washington warns of a more aggressive response to the militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned there could be “much larger consequences” in the future from China’s moves to install weapons systems on islands in the sea. He didn’t specify what the consequences would be.
The warning, in response to a question from an audience member, came after a speech by Mr. Mattis in which he said “despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.”
He also called his decision to not invite China to the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise, slated to begin later in June, “an initial response” to its increased militarization of the South China Sea. Read the rest of this entry »
In April 2018 the Chinese Air Force 15th Airborne Corps completed a yearlong reorganization effort that involved disbanding the three airborne divisions (the 43rd, 44th and 45th) and reassigning divisional headquarters and support troops as well as the units of the airborne regiments to six independent airborne infantry brigades (127th, 128th, 130th, 131st, 133rd, and 134th) which now report directly to the headquarters of the 15th Airborne Corps. While the new airborne brigades have some support troops they now also receive logistics, maintenance, engineer and signal support from the 15th Corps Strategic Support Brigade, as well as the Aviation Brigade (over a hundred helicopters and large UAVs) and Special Operations Brigade (airborne commandos and recon troops).
After the reorganization, the Chinese airborne force still has about 35,000 personnel who still serve in the Air Force 15th Airborne Corps. The airborne units no longer operate as three airborne divisions and an aviation brigade. The airborne divisions no longer exist as the brigades can operate independently and report directly to corps headquarters. This brigade organization makes it easier to rapidly deploy airborne forces and copies a practice that many other nations have adopted over the last few decades.
The Chinese have had some airborne units since the 1950s and these belonged to the air force from the beginning. The 15th Airborne Corps was created in the 1960s and was always considered a strategic reserve unit. By the late 1980s, China had enough air transports to move an entire division (about 10,000 troops) anywhere in China. At the time such a movement took weeks to organize and monopolized most of the air transport aircraft the military had.
Moving a division anywhere by air on short notice was first done in 2008 when one division was sent to Sichuan province to assist in earthquake relief. The early large scale movements by air movements were experimental. Read the rest of this entry »
Deadly protests in the southern Iranian city of Kazerun continued for a second day following the deaths of two protesters Wednesday.
Ben Evansky reports: Former State Department official David Tafuri on President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and Trump’s efforts to help protect jobs at Chinese company ZTE.
Deadly protests in the southern Iranian city of Kazerun continued for a second day following the deaths of two protesters Wednesday. Protesters aimed their wrath at the Iranian regime following a decision to split the city of nearly 150,000 into two townships.
“After anti-riot forces were dispatched to the city from Shiraz, the people charged at them and hand-to-hand clashes ensued,” a press release from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said. NCRI is a coalition of influential Iranian opposition groups.
The protests have left at least two people dead and six others injured.
The NCRI press release said that protesters had set fire to a trailer belonging to regime security forces and that four police vehicles had also been set ablaze. It said that parts of the city looked “war-torn.” It said smoke had filled the air close to the main square following the burning of tires by protesters. It also noted the Internet and mobile phones have been cut off.
Heshmat Alavi an Iranian political and rights activist who has been following the protests since they started last December, told Fox News that “the scene we are witnessing in Kazerun is merely one of the many flashpoints in Iran, a powder keg state considered ready to explode at any moment.”
Alavi said more protests have been occurring across the country.
“Reports from a variety of sources are indicating anti-regime rallies and protests throughout the country, staged by people from all walks of life,” he said. “This includes teachers, college students, store-owners and bazaar merchants, credit firm clients seeking their stolen savings.” Read the rest of this entry »
MODERATOR: All right, thanks everybody. So we are glad to have with us today two folks to talk about the President’s decision today to withdraw from the JCPOA. This will be on background, embargoed until the end. Our two speakers with us today are [Senior State Department Official One], and next to him is [Senior State Department Official Two]. And so they’ll start with a few comments and then we’ll take some questions.
I think – you’d like to start?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Great, yeah. Hi.
MODERATOR: Senior State Department Official Number One.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Hi. So I thought we would just start with a little bit more substance, going one level deeper. You all heard the President’s remarks; you saw the Secretary’s statement. So we wanted to put a little bit more meat on the bones and then open it up for questions and use the time the way that you think is most useful for you all.
So the sanctions reimposition that the President talked about is going to come in two phases. There’s going to be one period for wind down that lasts about – that lasts 90 days, and one period of wind down that lasts six months. The six-month wind down – wind downs are, by the way, pretty standard across sanctions programs. So this is not Iran-specific, but oftentimes when we either impose sanctions or reimpose sanctions, we provide a wind down to allow both U.S. companies but foreign companies as well to end contracts, terminate business, get their money out of wherever the sanctions target is – in this case, Iran. Because what we want – we don’t want to do is we don’t want to impact or have unintended consequences on our allies and partners. We want to focus the costs and the pain on the target. And in this case, that’s the Iranian regime.
So wind downs are pretty natural. In this case, we’re providing a six-month wind down for energy-related sanctions. So that’s oil, petroleum, petrochemicals, and then all of the ancillary sanctions that are associated with that. So, for example, banking; sanctions on the CBI in particular, because the Central Bank of Iran is involved in Iran’s export of oil and the receipt of revenues. Shipping, shipbuilding, ports – all of those sanctions that are related to both the energy sector and then the banking and the shipping or transportation of that energy will all have a six-month wind down. Everything else is going to have a 90-day wind down. So that’s – the architecture of the Iranian sanctions program was quite complex, but everything else includes things like dealing in the rial, providing metal – precious metals and gold to the Iranian regime, providing U.S. banknotes.
So there’s a whole kind of swath of other sanctions that are all going to have a 90-day wind down. In addition, within the first 90 days, the Treasury Department is going to work to end – to terminate the specific licenses that were issued pursuant to the statement of licensing policy on civil aviation. So Treasury’s going to be reaching out to those private sector companies that have licenses and work to end – terminate those licenses in an orderly way that doesn’t lead to undue impact on the companies.
The other big action that has to be done is the re-designation of all of the individuals that were delisted pursuant to the JCPOA. There are over – I think 400 and some odd were specifically designated for conduct, and another 200 or so were identified as part of the Government of Iran. Treasury – that’s obviously a big – it’s a lot of work for Treasury. Their aim is to relist all of those individuals and entities by the end of the six-month wind down. They’re not going to relist entities and individuals overnight, and – both for practical reasons, but also for policy reasons. If some of those individuals and entities were relisted right away, it would impact the wind down, right? So if we’re allowing a six-month wind down for energy-related or petroleum-related business, and then you designate – you re-designate tomorrow an Iranian-related petroleum entity, it makes null and void the six-month wind down that you just provided. So that’s all going to be done in a coherent way to provide a real wind down period.
So that’s kind of the – putting a little bit of meat on the bones of what it means to reimpose the Iran architecture, sanctions architecture.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That’s great.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Do you want to open it up for questions?
QUESTION: I have a question. Lesley Wroughton from Reuters. You said it’s not meant to have unintended consequences, but it does. Nobody’s going to touch Iran or – and immediately I think the U.S. ambassador to Germany just said to – told all German companies to move out immediately, so it does have unintended consequences.
QUESTION: Do you have guarantees from the Europeans that they’re going to go along with this? Or like they have with the Cuba sanctions, are they going to fight it? Do you know?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So what we’re going to do and what we’ve already – since last December, when we started working with our European allies on both the nuclear file but then also the broader array of Iranian threats, we’re going to continue to work closely with them. We’re going to broaden that engagement. And like both the President said and I think the Secretary said in his statement, he’s going to lead an effort to build a global effort to constrain and to prevent, both on the nuclear front but then also on the ballistic missile front, support to terrorism and the – kind of the six or seven areas that the President has outlined as kind of the broad array of Iranian threats. We’re going to build a global coalition to put pressure on Iran to stop that behavior. That’s —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: And let me just —
QUESTION: What was the —
QUESTION: We’ve heard from the Brits –
QUESTION: Sorry, could you just respond to her?
QUESTION: I was going to say, I mean – go on, Matt.
QUESTION: We’ve heard from others that they not only are not going to —
QUESTION: Would you mind? I had the first question.
QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Okay. Yep, I apologize.
QUESTION: And they haven’t even answered it.
QUESTION: If you don’t mind.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: So I just wanted to say that those are actually intended consequences. We do think that, given the IRGC’s penetration of the Iranian economy and Iran’s behavior in the region, as well as its other nefarious activities, that companies should not do business in Iran. That’s an intended consequence. And we thank our ambassador out there for reaffirming that message.
QUESTION: So all those companies that have gone in are moving out?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We’re certainly going to encourage them to.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.
QUESTION: Why —
QUESTION: And what if they don’t?
QUESTION: If they don’t, are you prepared to sanction German companies, French companies?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Those are discussions we’re going to have with the Europeans.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, you’ve been having discussions —
QUESTION: Sorry, just a point of clarification on that. That would begin after the 180-day period is over, correct?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: If it’s energy-related or banking-related. If it’s related to the provision of precious metals or gold or any of the sanctions that are being re-imposed after 90 days, then that would be —
QUESTION: So you are planning to sanction European companies, or you will have those discussions? Like —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’ve already started the discussions this afternoon, right. The discussions are ongoing and the effort is ongoing. Hopefully we will build – and this is the Secretary and the President’s desire and focus, is to build this global effort to put renewed and strengthened pressure on Iran. And that will include trying to isolate Iran economically.
QUESTION: Well, why not keep the structure of the deal and address these concerns on the side, as has been discussed for the last few months?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, I think as the President laid out, that the problem with the deal was that it reduced our ability to pressure Iran, right. It essentially cordoned off this huge area of the Iranian economy and said, “Hey, we know about the IRGC’s penetration of the economy. We know Iran’s doing all this nefarious, malign activities in the region. But because of this nuclear angle, which is only one aspect of Iran’s behavior – a critical one, but just one – you essentially can’t sanction these entities that are involved in all this other stuff.”
QUESTION: So wait, just – so the United States has basically no economic relationships right now with the Iranians, right? So there is no power of U.S. sanctions to prevent – in preventing U.S. economic activity. The only power that U.S. sanctions have is in preventing European and other economic activity, right?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Secondary sanctions.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The secondary sanctions, correct.
QUESTION: Why get out of the deal until you know for sure that Europe is going to go along with that secondary sanction activity or whether you’re – they’ll fight you? Because if they fight you, you’re going to be in a worse situation vis-a-vis Iran than you are now and than you are previously, right? So you don’t actually know – you’re saying that the President’s going to start this global coalition, but you don’t actually know whether even your closest allies are going to be part of that coalition, right?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The President made clear on January 12th that he was giving a certain number of months to try to – for – try to get a supplemental agreement with the E3. We didn’t get there. We got close. We made a – we had movement, a ton of good progress, which will not be wasted, but we didn’t get there. So he was clear January 12th that if we don’t get this supplemental, he’s withdrawing the United States from the JCPOA, and that’s what he did. That being said, you could even see that President Macron tweeted only a few minutes after the President finished his statement that France is eager to be part of an effort – I forget the exact words, but part of an effort on a broader deal that addresses the nuclear file but also —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Syria, Yemen.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — Syria, Yemen, and others. So you already see – you already see from President Macron a willingness to work on a broader deal; you see from the Saudis have also issued a statement supporting our withdrawal; the Israelis did as well. No one is saying this is going to be easy, right, but the President made clear his intention on January 12th. He made good on that – on that promise.
QUESTION: You don’t know right now whether you’re going to be in a better place or in a worse place; is that what you’re saying?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No, we think we’re going to be in a better place.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, we know we’re —
QUESTION: But you don’t know.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We know we’re going to be in a better place because we don’t think that the current JCP – the JCPOA, as it is now, adequately protects U.S. national security. So —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Because it allowed Iran to enrich after sunsets, after those restrictions melted away —
QUESTION: In seven years.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.
QUESTION: And even then, not enriching to a level where they could build a nuclear weapon.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Listen, after – after the Israelis revealed what they were able to find —
QUESTION: All old stuff, all old – before.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Listen, it was – we have acknowledged for quite some time that the Iranians had a nuclear weapons program, but nobody knew until the Israelis found it, this well curated archive, the level of detail, right. And the – I think it reinforced in a very meaningful way that all of the Iranian statements throughout the negotiations and after were lies.
QUESTION: So the President said that we would impose sanctions on countries who helped with Iran’s nuclear program, but actually, you will reimpose sanctions on companies and countries that do any – roughly any economic activity, no matter if it has anything to do with nuclear or anything, right?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: In the buildup – in the buildup to the negotiations that led first to the JPOA and the JCPOA, we had an extensive architecture of secondary sanctions that started more or less with CISADA in 2010. We had to use those secondary sanctions very, very rarely. In fact, we only ever sanctioned two banks with secondary sanctions, Kunlun and Elaf in Iraq. The leverage that we gained from the secondary sanctions is what we used throughout the world with engagement to get countries to partner with us to build the economic isolation of Iran. That’s what we want to do again. It’s not about sanctioning foreign companies; it’s about using the leverage and engaging the way we did before.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That’s right.
QUESTION: When you say that the – when you —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: This is a long-established practice, I mean, since ILSA in the late ‘90s, this is something the U.S. has been doing. Sorry.
QUESTION: When you say that the effort that you had in the negotiations with the E3 will not be wasted, will you be implementing any of that? Because I mean, it was the supposition that the U.S. would stay in the deal if these areas were addressed by the E3. The U.S. isn’t staying in the deal, so —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So we made a ton of progress on ICBMs, on access, on missiles writ large, on regional issues, and then we got stuck on sunsets, right? We didn’t quite make it. That work – we’re not sure. We have to – we’re starting those conversations with the E3 today, tomorrow, so I can’t – we can’t tell you exactly how it’s going to be used, but I can tell you it will be used. That work is not going to be wasted.
QUESTION: So you think they’ll go forward.
QUESTION: But if a ton of progress was made, then why not give it more time? Why take such a dramatic action that’s going to have you basically starting over from square one?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The President made very clear on January 12th his intention. If we got a supplemental agreement before May 12th, he would consider it. We didn’t get there. He said this – on January 12th, he said that was his last time waiving sanctions. He followed through on that promise.
QUESTION: And what was the sticking point? Can you just sort of tell us what didn’t work?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It was the one-year breakout.
QUESTION: The sunset program.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. Read the rest of this entry »
Well, after driving the United States into a foreign-policy wreck, it’s time for former members of the Obama administration to ask themselves the same question.
According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has recovered documents that demonstrate Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. These clandestine plans for five 10-kiloton nuclear warheads were hidden and stored by Iran while it was developing a ballistic-missile program that would be able to carry them to Tel Aviv.
So not only did the United States end up saving the Islamic Republic from economic ruin with the Iran deal, it allowed the nation to solidify its foothold in Syria and strengthen its terrorist proxy Hezbollah. And not only did the Obama administration allow a humanitarian disaster to unfold in Syria while it was placating Russia to save the deal, it destroyed a sanctions program that was working.
On top of that, we also now know that the Iran deal was sold to the American public in bad faith. Yet, even after these revelations came to light, the former Obama aides who established a media echo chamber meant to silence critics and mislead citizens were still taunting and whining from sidelines, offering one bizarre justification after the next to continue the charade.
Tommy Vietor, former spokesman for Obama’s National Security Council, defended the Iran deal by making the bewildering accusation that President Trump was “cooking up intel with the Israelis” to start a war. Read the rest of this entry »
Source: New York Post
31 paintings stolen from Jewish families during World War II are put on permanent display in Louvre as it searches for its owners.
The Louvre Museum in Paris has put 31 Nazi-looted paintings on permanent display in an attempt to find their rightful owners.The works were installed in two showrooms last month, The Associated Press reported.
Some 296 Nazi-looted paintings are stored at the Louvre and remain unclaimed.
“Beneficiaries can see these artworks, declare that these artworks belong to them and officially ask for their return,” he said.
Ways to prove ownership include old family photos, receipts or testimonies.
The Louvre initiative is the latest effort by French authorities to find heirs of families who lost their artwork during World War II. The French Culture Ministry has formed a committee in charge of locating the original owners of the paintings. Only about 50 artworks have been returned since 1951. Read the rest of this entry »
Al Jarida, a Kuwaiti newspaper which in recent years had broken exclusive stories from Israel, says Israel was ‘on the verge’ of assassinating Soleimani, but the U.S. warned Tehran and thwarted the operation.
The codes needed to launch a nuclear strike are never far from the president’s side — at least they’re not supposed to be.
The codes needed to launch a US nuclear strike are supposed to be kept close to the president at all times.
A department within the Defense Department is tasked with overseeing all aspects of the nuclear-launch process, including the codes.
During Bill Clinton’s presidency, officials from that department discovered the codes had gone missing.
Christopher Woody reports: The process the president has to go through to launch the US’s nuclear weapons isn’t as simple as pressing a button, but the key component of that process — the codes needed to authorize the launch — are never far from the president.
At least they’re never supposed to be.
According to Gen. Hugh Shelton, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1997 to September 2001, the number of redundancies in the nuclear-launch process “is staggering.” All of steps are “dependent on one vital element without which there can be no launch,” he wrote in his 2010 autobiography, “Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior.”
That element, the president’s authorization codes, is supposed to remain in close proximity to the president at all times, carried by one of five military aides, representing each branch of the military. The codes are on a card called the “biscuit” carried within the “football,” a briefcase that is officially known as the “president’s emergency satchel.”
However, around 2000, according to Shelton, a member of the department within the Pentagon that is responsible for all pieces of the nuclear process was dispatched to the White House to physically look at the codes and ensure they were correct — a procedure required to happen every 30 days. (The set of codes was to be replaced entirely every four months.)
That official was told by a presidential aide that President Bill Clinton did have the codes, but was in an important meeting and could not be disturbed.
The aide assured the official that Clinton took the codes seriously and had them close by. The official was dismayed, but he accepted the excuse and left. Read the rest of this entry »
Because they have lost the ability to cover real news when it happens.
Lee Smith writes: As widespread anti-regime protests in Iran continue on into their third day, American news audiences are starting to wonder why the US media has devoted so little coverage to such dramatic—and possibly history-making—events. Ordinary people are taking their lives in their hands to voice their outrage at the crimes of an obscurantist regime that has repressed them since 1979, and which attacks and shoots dead them in the streets. So why aren’t the protests in Iran making headlines?
“The problem, of course, is that the places that have obsessively run those stories for the past year aren’t really news outfits—not anymore. They are in the aromatherapy business.”
The short answer is that the American media is incapable of covering the story, because its resources and available story-lines for Iran reporting and expertise were shaped by two powerful official forces—the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Obama White House. Without government minders providing them with story-lines and experts, American reporters are simply lost—and it shows.
It nearly goes without saying that only regime-friendly Western journalists are allowed to report from Iran, which is an authoritarian police state that routinely tortures and murders its political foes. The arrest and nearly two-year detention of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian drove this point home to American newsrooms and editors who might not have been paying attention. The fact that Rezaian was not an entirely hostile voice who showed “the human side” of the country only made the regime’s message more terrifying and effective: We can find you guilty of anything at any time, so watch your step.
The Post has understandably been reluctant to send someone back to Iran. But that’s hardly an excuse for virtually ignoring a story that threatens to turn the past eight years of conventional wisdom about Iran on its head. If the people who donned pink pussy hats to resist Donald Trump are one of the year’s big stories, surely people who are shot dead in the streets in Iran for resisting an actual murderous theocracy might also be deserving of a shout-out for their bravery.
Yet the Post’s virtual news blackout on Iran was still more honorable than The New York Times, whose man in Tehran Thomas Erdbrink is a veteran regime mouthpiecewhose official government tour guide-style dispatches recall the shameful low-point of Western media truckling to dictators: The systematic white-washing of Joseph Stalin’s monstrous crimes by Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty.
Here’s the opening of Erdbrink’s latest dispatch regarding the protests:
Protests over the Iranian government’s handling of the economy spread to several cities on Friday, including Tehran, in what appeared to be a sign of unrest.
“Appeared”? Protests are by definition signs of unrest. The fact that Erdbrink appears to have ripped off the Iran’s government news agency Fars official coverage of the protests is depressing enough—but the function that these dispatches serve is even worse. What Iranians are really upset about, the messaging goes, isn’t the daily grind of living in a repressive theocratic police state run by a criminal elite that robs them blind, but a normal human desire for better living standards. Hey, let’s encourage European industry to invest more money in Iran! Didn’t the US overthrow the elected leader of Iran 70 years ago? Hands off—and let’s put more money in the regime’s pocket, so they can send the protesters home in time for a hearty dinner, and build more ballistic missiles, of course. Erdbrink is pimping for the regime, and requesting the West to wire more money, fast.
Selling the protesters short is a mistake. For 38 years Iranian crowds have been gathered by regime minders to chant “Death to America, Death to Israel.” When their chant spontaneously changes to “Down with Hezbollah” and “Death to the Dictator” as it has now, something big is happening. The protests are fundamentally political in nature, even when the slogans are about bread. But Erdbrink can hardly bring himself to report the regime’s history of depredations since his job is to obscure them. He may have been a journalist at one point in time, but now he manages the Times portfolio in Tehran. Read the rest of this entry »
North Korea Readying for Another Nuclear Test? Satellite Images Show Heightened Activity at Punggye-riPosted: December 13, 2017
Over the weekend, Radio Pyongyang broadcast secret coded messages hinting at a possible impending weapons test.
Experts say that after North Korea’s last nuclear test, minor tremors were detected near Mt Mantap, located close to the nuclear site. However, Pyongyang is now engaged in additional tunnel work at the site.
According to experts at 38North, a US-based think tank, the fresh activities were detected at the West Portal of the site – indicating that the site may be undergoing an expansion. Meanwhile, the North Portal, where the previous five tests were conducted, appears to have been temporarily abandoned.
“At the West Portal, there has been a consistently high level of activity since North Korea’s last nuclear test. This includes a routine presence of vehicles and personnel around the portal, movement of mining carts from the portal to the adjacent spoil pile and signs of fresh spoil being dumped onto the pile,” 38North experts said in a blog. “These activities suggest that tunnel excavation is underway at the West Portal, as the North Koreans expand the site’s potential for future nuclear testing.”
Ryan Barenklau, CEO and founder of Strategic Sentinel, a Washington-based nonpartisan geostrategic consulting agency, told IBTimes UK, “The tunneling is occurring at the West Portal and activity near that area has been relatively high for the last month. They are most likely digging deeper and expanding the complex underneath so they can continue their normal operations.” Read the rest of this entry »
Tom DiChristopher reports: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Wednesday appeared to threaten to disrupt Chinese crude oil shipments to North Korea following the hermit kingdom’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday.
China’s refusal to completely cut off energy exports to North Korea have been a sticking point as the United States leads the charge to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
Haley revealed during a speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York City that President Donald Trump called Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday morning to tell him the time has come for China to cut off crude oil supplies to North Korea.
“We now turn to President Xi to also take that stand. We believe he has an opportunity to do the right thing for the benefit of all countries. China must show leadership and follow through. China can do this on its own, or we can take the oil situation into our own hands,” she said.
The Army is testing an exoskeleton technology which uses AI to analyze and replicate individual walk patterns, provide additional torque, power and mobility.
Using independent actuators, motors and lightweight conformal structures, lithium ion battery powered FORTIS allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs while expending less energy.
“We’ve had this on some of the Army’s elite forces, and they were able to run with high agility carrying full loads,” Keith Maxwell, senior program manager, exoskeleton technology, Lockheed Martin..said.
Lockheed engineers say FORTIS could prove particularly impactful in close-quarters urban combat because it enhances soldier mobility, speed and power.
BIRDS & BEES: Married Science Teacher Hunter day, 22, Arrested for Doing the Secret Handshake with Teen Boy StudentPosted: November 17, 2017
A married teacher in Oklahoma was arrested Wednesday, accused of having a sexual relationship with an underage student.
Hunter Day, 22, a science teacher at Yukon High School, was arrested by the Canadian County Sheriff’s Department on complaints of second-degree rape, facilitating sexual contact with a minor and possession of child pornography, KWTV reported. She is reportedly married to the school’s football coach.
“I’m no longer surprised by the people who commit these crimes, because predators come from all walks of life.”
— Canadian County Sheriff Chris West
Authorities said they investigated the relationship after being notified by the boy’s parents and finding explicit photos and messages on his phone, the report said.
On the day of the arrest, the sheriff’s department said that Day and the teen had planned to meet at her house, KWTV reported. Deputies arrived at the residence and reportedly texted the teacher from the boy’s phone saying he’d arrived. Day responded to the message saying, “The doors [sic] unlocked as usual,” the report said.
When investigators entered the home, Day was sitting on the floor of her living room with candles lit and all of the lights off, authorities said. She was also reportedly wearing a Christmas cat T-shirt and workout shorts.
The teacher confessed to sending the boy illicit “bra and panty” photos and said he’d also sent her photos of his genitals, KWTV reported. Read the rest of this entry »
An invaluable resource finally becomes public.
Jonathan V. Last reports: Over at the Long War Journal, Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio have the first analysis of the massive trove of documents, files, and images which were recovered at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, during the raid in which bin Laden was killed.
The cache of documents, released today for the first time by the CIA, are an amazing stockpile of information that has never before been public. Per Joscelyn and Roggio:
* For the first time, there’s a picture of Hamza bin Laden, Osama’s secretive son, who’s never before been photographed.
* There’s a file with bin Laden’s hand-written, 228-page private journal.
* There’s a good deal of evidence that at the time of his death, bin Laden was still actively leading al Qaeda.
* Also, there’s a great deal of information on bin Laden’s ties to Iran and Iraq.
Here’s Joscelyn and Roggio on al Qaeda and Iran:
One never-before-seen 19-page document contains a senior jihadist’s assessment of the group’s relationship with Iran. The author explains that Iran offered some “Saudi brothers” in al Qaeda “everything they needed,” including “money, arms” and “training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in exchange for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.” Iranian intelligence facilitated the travel of some operatives with visas, while sheltering others. Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, an influential ideologue prior to 9/11, helped negotiate a safe haven for his jihadi comrades inside Iran. But the author of the file, who is clearly well-connected, indicates that al Qaeda’s men violated the terms of the agreement and Iran eventually cracked down on the Sunni jihadists’ network, detaining some personnel. Still, the author explains that al Qaeda is not at war with Iran and some of their “interests intersect,” especially when it comes to being an “enemy of America.” Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON (AP) — It sounds sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what? It seems to undulate, even writhe. Listen closely: There are multiple, distinct tones that sound to some like they’re colliding in a nails-on-the-chalkboard effect.
The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks. The recording, released Thursday by the AP, is the first disseminated publicly of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon.
The recordings themselves are not believed to be dangerous to those who listen. Sound experts and physicians say they know of no sound that can cause physical damage when played for short durations at normal levels through standard equipment like a cellphone or computer.
What device produced the original sound remains unknown. Americans affected in Havana reported the sounds hit them at extreme volumes.
Whether there’s a direct relationship between the sound and the physical damage suffered by the victims is also unclear. The U.S. says that in general the attacks caused hearing, cognitive, visual, balance, sleep and other problems.
The recordings from Havana have been sent for analysis to the U.S. Navy, which has advanced capabilities for analyzing acoustic signals, and to the intelligence services, the AP has learned. But the recordings have not significantly advanced U.S. knowledge about what is harming diplomats.
The Navy did not respond to requests for comment on the recording. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert wouldn’t comment on the tape’s authenticity.
Cuba has denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. The U.S. hasn’t blamed anyone and says it still doesn’t know what or who is responsible. But the government has faulted President Raul Castro’s government for failing to protect American personnel, and Nauert said Thursday that Cuba “may have more information than we are aware of right now.”
“We believe that the Cuban government could stop the attacks on our diplomats,” said White House chief of staff John Kelly.
Not all Americans injured in Cuba heard sounds. Of those who did, it’s not clear they heard precisely the same thing.
Yet the AP has reviewed several recordings from Havana taken under different circumstances, and all have variations of the same high-pitched sound. Individuals who have heard the noise in Havana confirm the recordings are generally consistent with what they heard.
“That’s the sound,” one of them said.
The recording being released by the AP has been digitally enhanced to increase volume and reduce background noise, but has not been otherwise altered.
The sound seemed to manifest in pulses of varying lengths — seven seconds, 12 seconds, two seconds — with some sustained periods of several minutes or more. Then there would be silence for a second, or 13 seconds, or four seconds, before the sound abruptly started again. Read the rest of this entry »
Hackers had the power to cause blackouts, Symantec says. And yes, most signs point to Russia.
Andy Greenberg writes: In an era of hacker attacks on critical infrastructure, even a run-of-the-mill malware infection on an electric utility’s network is enough to raise alarm bells. But the latest collection of power grid penetrations went far deeper: Security firm Symantec is warning that a series of recent hacker attacks not only compromised energy companies in the US and Europe but also resulted in the intruders gaining hands-on access to power grid operations—enough control that they could have induced blackouts on American soil at will.
Symantec on Wednesday revealed a new campaign of attacks by a group it is calling Dragonfly 2.0, which it says targeted dozens of energy companies in the spring and summer of this year. In more than 20 cases, Symantec says the hackers successfully gained access to the target companies’ networks. And at a handful of US power firms and at least one company in Turkey—none of which Symantec will name—their forensic analysis found that the hackers obtained what they call operational access: control of the interfaces power company engineers use to send actual commands to equipment like circuit breakers, giving them the ability to stop the flow of electricity into US homes and businesses.
“There’s a difference between being a step away from conducting sabotage and actually being in a position to conduct sabotage … being able to flip the switch on power generation,” says Eric Chien, a Symantec security analyst. “We’re now talking about on-the-ground technical evidence this could happen in the US, and there’s nothing left standing in the way except the motivation of some actor out in the world.”
Never before have hackers been shown to have that level of control of American power company systems, Chien notes. The only comparable situations, he says, have been the repeated hacker attacks on the Ukrainian grid that twice caused power outages in the country in late 2015 and 2016, the first known hacker-induced blackouts.
The Usual Suspects
Security firms like FireEye and Dragos have pinned those Ukrainian attacks on a hacker group known as Sandworm, believed to be based in Russia. But Symantec stopped short of blaming the more recent attacks on any country or even trying to explain the hackers’ motives. Chien says the company has found no connections between Sandworm and the intrusions it has tracked. Nor has it directly connected the Dragonfly 2.0 campaign to the string of hacker intrusions at US power companies—including a Kansas nuclear facility—known as Palmetto Fusion, which unnamed officials revealed in July and later tied to Russia.
Chien does note, however, that the timing and public descriptions of the Palmetto Fusion hacking campaigns match up with its Dragonfly findings. “It’s highly unlikely this is just coincidental,” Chien says. But he adds that while the Palmetto Fusion intrusions included a breach of a nuclear power plant, the most serious DragonFly intrusions Symantec tracked penetrated only non-nuclear energy companies, which have less strict separations of their internet-connected IT networks and operational controls. Read the rest of this entry »
Caroline B. Glick writes: The nuclear confrontation between the US and North Korea entered a critical phase Sunday with North Korea’s conduct of an underground test of a thermonuclear bomb.
If the previous round of this confrontation earlier this summer revolved around Pyongyang’s threat to attack the US territory of Guam, Sunday’s test, together with North Korea’s recent tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the continental US, was a direct threat to US cities.
In other words, the current confrontation isn’t about US superpower status in Asia, and the credibility of US deterrence or the capabilities of US military forces in the Pacific. The confrontation is now about the US’s ability to protect the lives of its citizens.
The distinction tells us a number of important things. All of them are alarming.
First, because this is about the lives of Americans, rather than allied populations like Japan and South Korea, the US cannot be diffident in its response to North Korea’s provocation. While attenuated during the Obama administration, the US’s position has always been that US military forces alone are responsible for guaranteeing the collective security of the American people.
Pyongyang is now directly threatening that security with hydrogen bombs. So if the Trump administration punts North Korea’s direct threat to attack US population centers with nuclear weapons to the UN Security Council, it will communicate profound weakness to its allies and adversaries alike.
Obviously, this limits the options that the Trump administration has. But it also clarifies the challenge it faces.
The second implication of North Korea’s test of their plutonium-based bomb is that the US’s security guarantees, which form the basis of its global power and its alliance system are on the verge of becoming completely discredited. Read the rest of this entry »
Ayaan Hirsi Ali joins me to discuss her new book, The Challenge of Dawa: Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Contain It and her views on the challenges facing Western civilization in regards to political Islam. She argues that Islam needs to be separated into two different parts, one part of religion and the other part, political philosophy. She concedes that many aspects of the religious part of Islam are peaceful but argues that the political side is much more concerning due to its focus on Dawa, which means “to plead or to call non-Muslims to Islam.” This call to convert people to Islam is what she argues was a driving force behind the spread of Islam throughout history.
Earlier this year Ayaan Hirsi Ali was called before Congress to testify on her book. She discusses her testimony and that although she was invited by a Democrat senator to speak “about the ideology of radical Islam,” the Democrats present didn’t ask her a single question because they were likely uncomfortable with what she had to say about Islam. She argues … (read more)
Source: National Review
Regime uses sanctions relief to beef up weaponry, leading their neighbors to do the same.
When a speedboat manned by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) personnel approached American vessels operating in open water, the U.S. Navy patrol craft USS Thunderbolt issued a series of warnings, all translating as “stay away, keep safe distance.” The Revolutionary Guards kept coming, as they often do, probing until the USN reacts.
A fanatic’s boat weaving among American warships could disrupt the U.S. formation and cause a collision. Tehran propagandists would tout that as a victory at sea. Worse, an Iranian boat might be a water-borne bomb capable of sinking a big ship. The deadly October 2000 terror attack on the USS Cole is very much on the minds of Navy sailors when Iran’s small boats appear. Read the rest of this entry »
Mediha Medy Salkicevic has claimed that her support of ISIS constituted “legitimate warfare” and that she was waging war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, just as the U.S. government is doing by supporting Syrian rebels.
Salkicevic was working for a cargo company at Chicago’s International O’Hare Airport when she was arrested in 2015. Investigators allege she said she wanted to “bury unbelievers alive” and kill infidels.
“Under United States law, acts of legitimate warfare during a civil war are not murder and are entitled to combatant immunity,” her attorneys said. They argue that Americans are “protected from prosecution as acts of legitimate warfare under the doctrine of combatant immunity.”
On Friday, her attorneys filed a motion to dismiss two charges: conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists.
Salkicevic and her alleged co-conspirators stand accused of sending money and military equipment to Bosnian national Abdullah Ramo Pazara, an ISIS leader in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »
OH HELL YEAH: U.S. Urges All Nationals In North Korea To ‘Depart Immediately’, Bans Tourists From VisitingPosted: July 21, 2017
YA THINK? The U.S. is to ban its citizens from travelling to North Korea.
US officials linked the move to the death of jailed American student Otto Warmbier.
Once the ban is in effect, US citizens will need special validation to travel to or within North Korea.
Mr Warmbier travelled to North Korea with Young Pioneer Tours. He was arrested in 2016 for trying to steal a propaganda sign and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was returned to the US in a coma in June and died a week later.
How did the news come to light?
Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, who both operate in North Korea, revealed on Friday that they had been told of the upcoming ban by the Swedish embassy, which acts for the US as Washington has no diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
Rowan Beard, of Young Pioneer Tours, told the BBC the embassy was urging all US nationals to depart immediately.
He said the embassy was trying to check on the number of US tourists left in the country.
What form will the ban take?
Ms Nauert’s statement said: “Due to mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement, the Secretary has authorised a Geographical Travel Restriction on all US nationals’ use of a passport to travelling through, or to North Korea.
“Once in effect, US passports will be invalid for travel to, through, and in North Korea, and individuals will be required to obtain a passport with a special validation in order to travel to or within North Korea.
“We intend to publish a notice in the Federal Register next week.
“The restriction will be implemented 30 days after publication.”
Rowan Beard said that the 30-day grace period would “give leeway for any [Americans] currently in the country as tourists or on humanitarian work”.
How have the travel agencies reacted?
Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours told the BBC the agency would still conduct tours and take Americans until the ban came into effect.
“If their country allows them to go, we will take them,” he said.
Mr Cockerell added: “It’s unfortunate for the industry but also for North Koreans who want to know what Americans are really like.”
After the death of Mr Warmbier, the China-based Young Pioneer Tours announced it would no longer take visitors from the US to the country. Read the rest of this entry »
W. James Antle III writes: It’s impossible in some quarters to discuss Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a shady Russian lawyer without being quizzed about similar bad things politicians from the opposing party have done.
This bit of rhetorical judo has become so common in our politics that it even has a name: “whataboutism.” Naturally, its origins have been traced back to the Russians, if not even further back. The Economist‘s Edward Luce described it as an attempt to “match every Soviet crime with a real or imagined Western one.”
More recently, the tactic has been deployed by diehard supporters of President Trump, as well as by his more removed “anti-anti-Trumpist” backers.
And you know what? Trump’s supporters are not wrong to urge us all to truly examine historical precedents. Because all too often, Trump’s fiercest critics declare his every utterance and action unprecedented without bothering to thoughtfully consider the precedents.
Now, when “whataboutism” is used to defend the indefensible, it is obviously wrong. But not every historical comparison can be dismissed as simple “whataboutism.” And there are good reasons why “What about … ” questions have so frequently been raised under this president. The case against Trump is not simply that he does things that are wrong or bad, but that he is bad in ways that are unprecedented and represent a sharp break from important political norms.
If we are going to chastise Trump for norm violations, shouldn’t we first establish how normal or abnormal his actions in a given area really are? If we are going to say he is guilty of doing the unprecedented, shouldn’t we look to see if there are in fact any precedents? Read the rest of this entry »
The Cold War test of nerves is back. Risky close encounters between Russian and NATO forces have increased dramatically in the Baltic region over the past three years. The WSJ’s Tanya Rivero explains what’s at stake.