Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Nerve Agent Attack in Britain Escalates Tensions with Russia

This is freakin' gnarly!

At Der Spiegel, "From Russia with Death: A Soviet Nerve Agent Triggers a New Cold War":

The poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this month has significantly worsened already tense relations between Moscow and the West. The crime marks the first chemical weapons attack on Western Europe since the end of World War II.

Vil Mirzayanov's home is located at the edge of a forest near Princeton, New Jersey. There's no buzzer, just a gate and behind it a long driveway leading up to the residence. The trees are still covered with snow. The gate opens and a man with a high forehead and white hair stretches out his hand in greeting. It's Mirzayanov, one of the creators behind the poison.

The 83-year-old wearing professorial eyeglasses walks cautiously. He invites the reporter into his living room and takes a seat in a leather armchair. He is ready, he says, to talk about the poison that he helped develop in the late 1980s and early 1990s for the Soviet government. A poison that was recently used in the first neurotoxin attack seen in Western Europe since the end of World War II. The substance is known as Novichok (Russian for "newcomer") and it is used for an entire group of nerve agents. All of them are deadly. In fact, it is one of the most dangerous toxins ever to have been produced by humans.

"I've led the fight against Novichok for the past 26 years," Mirzayanov says of a substance that has always haunted him for half his life.

He didn't invent the toxin, he says, but freely admits that he was involved in its development. He says he tested the substance on animals at the time -- on dogs and other species, which he then watched die in misery. The attack in Britain, he says, is the first time he knows of his poison being used on human beings.

Novichok is the chemical agent that was used to poison former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, a small, idyllic English city. Both have been fighting for their lives in the hospital ever since.

Tensions Worsen Dramatically

The attack using the nerve agent has triggered a serious diplomatic crisis between Russia, Britain and the entire West, with already tense relations having worsened dramatically. If Russia is unable to provide a better explanation, British Prime Minister Theresa May said earlier this week, then the attack will be seen as "an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom." She said the nerve agent had been developed in Russia and, assuming that Russia didn't lose control over the toxin, it's "highly likely that Russia was responsible for this reckless and despicable act."

Moscow countered that it had nothing to do with the attack and instead pointed the finger at other possible perpetrators, particularly the West. NATO and the European Union are currently deliberating over a response.

All because of Mirzayanov's poison.

It's a story reminiscent of a spy film. It involves undercover agents and oligarchs, betrayal and revenge. And nerve agents. It seems fitting that Mirzayanov himself is also a former Russian intelligence agent who now lives in exile in the United States.

He seems almost happy that someone has come to listen to him. And yet the whole world now wants to learn more about the kind of research he was doing in Mikhail Gorbachev's secret laboratories.

Mirzayanov began working as a chemist for the State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology (GosNIIOKhT) in the mid-1960s. Later, he and other researchers were requisitioned to a military laboratory responsible for the production of chemical weapons, a top-secret program that operated under the codename "Foliant." In the mid-1980s, he was chosen to lead the institute's counterespionage department.

Novichok is "extremely dangerous," he says. "You're holding death in your hands. It just takes a moment and then you're gone." He says a person exposed to the kind of dose received by Skripal and his daughter will never be totally healthy again. Mirzayanov saw how another colleague accidentally poisoned himself with Novichok and slowly died, despite immediately being given an antidote. He says it is 10 times as potent as conventional nerve agents and causes an extremely painful death. It can be absorbed by the respiratory tract, orally or through the skin. It blocks communication between nerve cells and muscles and leads to cramps, respiratory paralysis and cardiac arrest.

Mirzayanov says he's certain that the Kremlin was behind the attack on Sergei Skripal. But how certain can one be?
Keep reading.

BONUS: At the Guardian U.K., "Russia threatens retaliation after Britain expels 23 diplomats." And, "Sergei Skripal: Russia expels 23 U.K. diplomats as row deepens."

Still more, at the Observer U.K., "The Observer view on Theresa May’s response to Russia’s campaign against dissidents in Britain."

Monday, March 19, 2018

Ana Braga at the Carwash

At Taxi Driver, "Ana Braga Wet Boobs at the Carwash."

BONUS: At the Daily Star, "Boobs that scream 'look at me': Ana Braga in topless public exposé."

Democrat Party Following Britain’s Labour Party Down the Anti-Semitic Rat Hole

From Caroline Glick, "Democrats, Labour and the anti-Semitic sewer":

The Democratic Party is following Britain’s Labour party down the antisemitic rabbit hole.

Today, with the British Labour Party firmly under the thumb of its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, Britain is one election away from being led by a man who has spent decades in the company of some of the most prolific and noxious antisemites in the world.

Allegations of anti-Jewish bigotry have hounded Corbyn for decades, and with good reason. It isn’t simply that he has associated with notorious antisemites, and referred to Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists as “my friends.”

It is that Corbyn has whitewashed antisemites in Labour. He has made Labour a warm and welcoming home for them. And at the same time, under his leadership, prominent Jewish pro-Jewish and pro-Israel voices have been marginalized while antisemitic Jews have been organized and empowered as a political weapon to sanitize the antisemitism that permeates the party.

Last week, British researcher David Collier published two reports (here and here), documenting in granular detail the postings at a virulently antisemitic secret Facebook page called “Palestine Live.”

Corbyn was a member of the group until shortly after he was elected leader of the Labour Party in 2015. While anyone can be placed on any Facebook page whether he wants to be there or not, and Corbyn claims that he was “joined” to the group without his knowledge, Corbyn was not a passive member. The leader of Labour was active on the wildly bigoted group.

The muck on the “Palestine Live” page runs the anti-Semitic spectrum from medieval to pogromist, from Nazi to Communist to anti-Zionist.

The group’s 3,200 members routinely post propaganda justifying the Holocaust, denying the Holocaust, and blaming the Jews for the Holocaust. They accused Jews of killing Palestinians to steal their organs and of controlling the global economy, the governments of every country on earth, and the media. They assign Jews responsibility for every major terrorist attack in the world.

As for Israel, group members accuse Israel of every possible crime against humanity. The Palestinians of Gaza are referred to as “Holocaust survivors,” while Israelis are “terrorists” and “Nazis.”

As Collier put it, “Palestine Live is a sewer, full of anti-Semitic ideologies.”

Members of the secret group were well aware of its bigoted nature. Jacqueline Walker, the a former member of Labour’s pro-Corbyn Momentum faction’s steering committee, who was twice suspended from the party over allegations of anti-Jewish bigotry asked Elleanne Green, Palestine Live’s founder and one of its administrators, “How safe is this group?”

Green responded, “Very…no one is allowed in who is not trusted…I am very careful…and it is a Secret Group…so it really is as safe as you will be able to find anywhere.”

As to Corbyn, whereas other prominent British leftists were inactive members, and could reasonably claim they were unaware that they had been added to the hate group, Collier documented multiple instances where Corbyn actively engaged with it.

In September 2014, members of the group asked Corbyn to host a lecture by noted American anti-Israel conspiracy theorist Max Blumenthal. Corbyn was happy to oblige. The event took place in early October 2014.

Green, like the other two group administrators, regularly posted antisemitic conspiracy theories. Anyone who had a glancing familiarity with her and with her posts on the hate group she established had to know that she is a fire breathing Jew hater.

In October 2014, she asked Corbyn on the page if he would invite prominent Israel basher and conspiracy theorist Dr. Mads Gilbert from Norway to speak at the British Parliament. Corbyn responded enthusiastically.

“Have huge respect for my friend Dr. Mads Gilbert and would be delighted to invite him to Westminster,” he wrote.

Gilbert has likened Israel to Nazi Germany. He also hates America and has justified the 9/11 attacks specifically and terrorism against the US generally.

“The oppressed … have a moral right to attack the USA with any weapon they can come up with,” he said.

When Corbyn responded to the Collier’s reports, he said his posts were limited to some replies, including “a suggestion on the vote on recognizing Palestine, which I supported, and inviting a doctor, [that is, Gilbert] to speak at an event.”

Since Collier published his reports, Labour suspended a few of its members who posted on the page. Corbyn denied seeing antisemitic postings and said, “Obviously, any anti-Semitic comment is wrong. Any anti-Semitism in any form is wrong.”

Corbyn’s unqualified rejections of antisemitism are a rarity. He almost always gives himself an escape hatch which is often itself antisemitic. For instance, in 2016 in a statement ostensibly about rejecting anti-Jewish bigotry, Corbyn said, “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organizations.”

Which brings us to the Democratic Party.

Corbyn’s statement recalled a statement then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) made during the 2008 presidential campaign.

“There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel,” Obama told an audience in Ohio.

Likud is Israel’s ruling party. It won the last three elections. By insinuating that Likud is illegitimate, Obama rejected the legitimacy of Israelis who elect Likud to lead them.

In addition, during the 2008 election and throughout his presidency, Obama diligently obfuscated his associations with antisemites.
Keep reading.

BONUS: At the Other McCain, "Jew-Hating as ‘Intersectionality’? The Women’s March Farrakhan Problem."

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BONUS: Tyler Cowen, Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation.

Telling Truth = Race Hate

Some bad things going down in Britain. Evil things.

Theo's Pic Dump

At Theo Spark's, "Pic Dump..."

Paige Spiranac in Emotional Photo Shoot (VIDEO)

At Sports Illustrated:

JoJo Levesque in Tank Top

At Taxi Driver, "JoJo Levesque Braless in Slightly See-Through Tank Top."

Facebook Breach Ignites Uproar

The Facebook breach is all the rage at Memeorandum, and I love this headline, at Bloomberg, "Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Under Pressure Over Data Breach."

Also, at LAT, "Exploiting Facebook data to influence voters? That’s a feature, not a bug, of the social network":

With each comment, like and share, users provide Facebook with a deeply personal window into their lives.

The result of that voluntary behavior? Advertisers looking to finely target their pitches can glean someone's hobbies, what they like to eat and even what makes them happy or sad — propelling Facebook's ad revenue to $40 billion last year.

This trove of rich information is now at the center of a rapidly growing controversy involving one of President Trump's campaign consultants, Cambridge Analytica, which reportedly took the advertising playbook and exploited it in a bid to influence swing voters.

Former employees accuse the firm, owned by the conservative billionaire Robert Mercer and previously headed by Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon, of taking advantage of ill-gotten data belonging to millions of unwitting Facebook users. News of the breach was met with calls over the weekend for stricter scrutiny of the company.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) demanded that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Maura Healey, attorney general for Massachusetts, said her office was launching an investigation. And the head of a British parliamentary inquiry into fake news called on Facebook to testify before his panel again, this time with Zuckerberg.

The accusations raise tough questions about Facebook's ability to protect user information at a time when it's already embroiled in a scandal over Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential campaign and under pressure to adhere to new European Union privacy rules.

They also highlight the power and breadth of the data Facebook holds over its 2 billion users. Whether used to sway voters or sell more detergent, the information harvested by the world's biggest social network is proving to be both vital and exploitable regardless of who's wielding it.

"The data set assembled on people by Facebook is unrivaled," said Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University Stern School of Business and author of "The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google." "The bad news is, people are discovering this can be used as a weapon. The worse news is that people are learning how to detonate it."

The controversy began late Friday when Facebook's vice president and deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal, announced in a blog post that the social network was suspending Strategic Communication Laboratories and its affiliate, Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook said the companies failed to delete user data they had acquired in 2015 in violation of the platform's rules. The data were supplied by a University of Cambridge psychology professor, Aleksandr Kogan, who built an app that was supposed to collect details on Facebook users for academic research. Kogan was not supposed to pass that information to a third party for commercial purposes under Facebook guidelines.

Facebook said the data collection was contained to 270,000 people who downloaded Kogan's app as well as "limited information" about their friends.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Rita Ora in White Lace

At Taxi Driver, "Rita Ora Panties in White Lace."

BONUS: "Rita Ora for Liu Magazine."

Vita Sidorkina String 'Butterfly' Swimsuit (VIDEO)


Gal Gadot is 'Very Ableist'

The L.A. Times had a fascinating obituary of Stephen Hawking earlier this week, "Stephen Hawking, who redefined the view of the universe for scientists and public alike, dies at 76."

It turns out that Hawking was an anti-Israel BDS advocate.

Which makes this piece at about Gal Gadot interesting, if not ironic. At Althouse, "'Gal Gadot’s Seemingly Innocent Tribute To Stephen Hawking Pissed Off Some People/ Several disability rights advocates called it ableist'."

(PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons.)

Laura Ingraham on Parkland Massacre and Stupid Student Gun Control Walkout (VIDEO)

At Fox News:

The 51st State

The Los Angeles Times has a great piece on rural Northern Californians who voted for Trump after the the 2016 election. See, "This Northwest timber county hadn't voted GOP since Herbert Hoover. But times have changed."

This is the same region that's gaining steam to succeed from the state. Boy, sometimes I'd like to join them.

Here, "In California's rural, conservative north, there are big dreams for cleaving the state":

The two young, blond women in figure-flattering ball gowns hoisted whiskey and shotguns.

An auctioneer rattled off bids. Above the stage in the banquet hall hung a green flag for the 51st state of Jefferson, with its pair of Xs called a “double-cross” representing a sense of rural abandonment.

Hundreds of people packed into the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9650 hall on this chilly Saturday night, ready to crack open wallets to help fund their dream of carving — out of California’s northernmost reaches — a brand new state.

Someone offered $350 for a state of Jefferson belt buckle. Someone else won a lamb, still in its mother’s womb, that should be born in time to be butchered for Easter. Outside, vehicles bore bumper stickers supporting President Trump and the 2nd Amendment.

“We Okies are fun, aren’t we?” one man quipped.

The scene last month in this small Shasta County city seemed like a perfect we’re-not-in-California-anymore-moment. That is, if you only knew California as the diverse, liberal bastion whose elected officials have tried to stymie the Trump administration’s moves on immigration, legalized marijuana, climate change and so on.

But the so-called Northstate is looking less and less like the rest of the Golden State. The vast, sparsely-populated region is whiter, more rural and poorer than the rest of the state — and residents are more conservative. While California has become the center of the resistance to Trump, a number of Northern Californians are waging a resistance of their own: against California itself.

Inside the banquet hall, the man many see as the founder of the modern Jefferson movement told the crowd that their gun rights, property rights, grazing rights and water rights were under siege by politicians who write them off as “country bumpkins.”

“You’re the ones being exterminated by a lack of liberty,” said Mark Baird, a Siskiyou County rancher.

The breakaway state of Jefferson is a decades-old idea, but it has been revived in earnest in recent years by residents who say they are fed up with their voices being drowned out in Sacramento, where outspoken urban Democrats hold a vise grip on the state Legislature.

Supporters say overregulation has hobbled rural industries such as timber, mining and fishing and that the state’s high taxes and cost of living are driving young people away, quickening the decline of small towns. They chafe under California’s strict gun-control policies and are infuriated by its liberal immigration laws.

They cite California’s new gas tax increase of 12 cents per gallon, saying it has an outsize impact on rural people who drive farther for work and basic needs such as hospitals, schools and grocery stores.

How likely is it that a new state will be broken off, like a piece of Kit Kat bar, from California? Not likely at all, experts say.

Eric McGhee, a political scientist at the Public Policy Institute of California, said that while you can “never say never,” there are too many legal obstacles to overcome.

“It’s easy to think that because there’s this large piece of territory, that it’s a large share of California in terms of the population," he said. “That’s just not the case. … It’s an absolutely minuscule portion of the state’s population.”

Supporters of a breakaway state say they are sorely underestimated and point to the number of passionate people who show up to their events. One man put it this way: “We’re not a bunch of dumb rednecks.”

But some Northern Californians have had enough of talk of breaking away from California. After several county boards began considering Jefferson proposals, Kevin Hendrick, a retired municipal employee from Crescent City, in Del Norte County, formed a political action committee in 2015 called Keep It California to oppose the idea.

“You’ve got a handful of residents that are grumpy and pining for the good old days, but that shouldn’t represent all the good people living in rural counties,” he said...

Far-left progressives aren't "good people," but keep reading.