Archive for Russia

Look, Up In the Sky!

It’s a bird! It’s a plane!

It’s that fu**ing Russian rocket hurtling toward earth!

A Russian Progress cargo ship bound for the International Space Station spun out of control Tuesday. Engineers were unable to direct the wayward ship and soon gave up any hope that it would be able to dock to deliver the 3 tons of equipment and supplies it was carrying for the space station crew. Now, it’s a waiting game, as the craft tumbles back toward Earth, and specialists on the ground can’t say for sure when it will return — or where it might be heading.

Under normal circumstances, ground control targets the timing of reentry so that debris won’t land in populated areas. But in this case, with the ship out of a stable orbit and engineers unable to regain control of its propulsion system, where pieces may end up is almost anyone’s guess.

“The Progress is going to come down where it comes down,” said CBS News Space Consultant William Harwood. “And while I can’t say that the chance of getting hit by debris is zero, it’s very close to zero. Remember, the Earth is three-quarters water, so there’s a very good chance it’s going to land in an ocean somewhere, whatever manages to survive.”

That’w what we always say, and we’re right three out of four times. Here’s hoping.

NASA said the United States Air Force Joint Functional Component Command for Space’s Joint Space Operations Center is tracking Progress as it gets pulled down toward the lower atmosphere and will provide “warning of any potential collisions in space.”

Could you send me a text? (617) xxx-xxxx?

What am I saying? You know my number. You know my underwear size. I always knew the Ruskies would get me in the end, the bastards.

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Wanna Read Hillary’s Missing Emails?

Ask the Russians. Pozhaluysta, Vladimir?

Russian hackers reportedly obtained some of President Obama’s emails when the White House’s unclassified computer system was hacked last year, indicating that the breach was significantly more intrusive than originally thought.

Citing officials briefed on the investigation, The New York Times reported Saturday that while the hackers did not appear to have breached more carefully guarded servers that contain Obama’s BlackBerry messages, they did manage to obtain access to email archives of people with whom Obama communicated.

That Obama’s emails were obtained by Russian hackers in particular – presumed to be linked to the Russian government – caused the intrusion to be seen as so serious that officials met on a nearly daily basis for several weeks afterwards, The Times reported.

“It’s the Russian angle to this that’s particularly worrisome,” a senior US official told The Times.

Not that the Chinese angle or the North Korean angle would be any less worrisome.

But who knew Russians worked so hard?

Russian hackers accessed an unclassified Pentagon network earlier this year, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Thursday, the latest high-profile penetration of U.S. government networks that has been blamed on Russian hackers.

Speaking at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, Carter said the breach, which was only recently declassified and was never publically reported, was quickly detected by Defense Department sensors. It was unclear when the penetration occurred or if the hackers were working on behalf of the Russian government. Attempts by CNN to glean additional details were not immediately successful.

“(The hackers) discovered an old vulnerability in one of our legacy networks that hadn’t been patched,” Carter said. “While it’s worrisome they achieved some unauthorized access to our unclassified network, we quickly identified the compromise, and had a crack team of incident responders hunting the intruders within 24 hours.”

Carter added: “After learning valuable information about their tactics, we analyzed their network activity, associated it with Russia, and then quickly kicked them off the network in a way that minimized their chances of returning.”

Maybe you should have left them where they were. If they get into Biden’s account, the game will be over.

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#unitedforukraine

Well, that’s done!

Russia has recently sent arms and drone aircraft into eastern Ukraine and is massing its troops along the tense border, which raises concern about new escalation in the conflict, the State Department said Wednesday.

Russia has built up its air defense systems to their highest levels since August of last year, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. Russia has been supporting separatists battling Ukrainian government forces.

Harf said Russia has now deployed more troops and military material on its border with Ukraine than at any time since the heaviest fighting in October.

“After maintaining a relatively steady presence along the border, Russia is sending additional units there,” Harf said. “These forces will give Russia its largest presence on the border since October 2014.”

Despite Moscow’s denials of any involvement in the escalating tensions, Harf said Russians and separatists are conducting complex training missions that leave “no doubt” that Russian troops are present in that part of the embattled country.

The cease-fire agreement, which sought to end the months of fighting between the Ukrainian government and the separatists, is being violated, Harf said.

Chillax. Her boss has it under control.

Earlier in this week, U.S. paratroopers arrived in western Ukraine to train with Ukrainian national guardsmen. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the armed forces needed to be rebuilt from scratch to deter international military threats.

Russia decried those actions, calling them a potential cause of destabilization.

Come on, gang! Who’s with us?

Michelle Kwan, is that you? Atta girl!

Who else? Anyone?

You we’ve already heard from.

Awesome, sir. Inspirational.

We’ll have to take your word for it. But thanks!

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Hillary, Rated X

You think I’m critical?

A Russian TV channel aired Hillary Clinton’s first campaign video with a rating stamp that means it’s for mature audiences, because of fears it might run afoul of the country’s anti-gay propaganda law.

A clip of the video, which features a gay couple holding hands, got the 18+ rating from the independent TV Rain channel in Russia on Monday.

The channel told CNN that it didn’t want to break the controversial law, which bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors” and bars public discussion of gay rights and relationships within earshot of children.

Clinton’s video was released over the weekend to announce the start of her 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. It features about five seconds of two men holding hands. One of the men says, “I’m getting married this summer to someone I really care about.”

I’m sure you and “Olga” will be very happy together. Otherwise, shut up.

Russia’s controversial law caused an international outcry after it was passed by the Russian Parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin in July 2013.

Human Rights Watch described the anti-gay propaganda law as “a profoundly discriminatory and dangerous bill that is bound to worsen homophobia in Russia.”

“I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgendered persons in ways that intimidate them or harmful to them,” Obama told Jay Leno in 2013.

No patience? These must have been two long years then. Now you know how the last six have felt to me. But Putin had his reasons:

Putin defended the law, noting that unlike other countries, Russia decriminalized homosexual relationships (in 1993).

“We don’t outlaw anything and don’t nab anyone,” he said before the 2014 Games. “That’s why you can feel safe and free here,” he added, “but please leave our children in peace.”

Can’t be fairer than that.

PS: I wonder if I could walk into a Russian bakery and order a cake that reads “Free Crimea”?

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Where Russian Hackers Go, Chinese Hackers Have Already Come and Gone

And Hillary thinks her little wi-fi set-up in Bill’s rumpus room was secure.

Ho-Lee Fuk:

Russian hackers behind the damaging cyber intrusion of the State Department in recent months used that perch to penetrate sensitive parts of the White House computer system, according to U.S. officials briefed on the investigation.

While the White House has said the breach only affected an unclassified system, that description belies the seriousness of the intrusion. The hackers had access to sensitive information such as real-time non-public details of the president’s schedule. While such information is not classified, it is still highly sensitive and prized by foreign intelligence agencies, U.S. officials say.

The White House in October said it noticed suspicious activity in the unclassified network that serves the executive office of the president. The system has been shut down periodically to allow for security upgrades.

The FBI, Secret Service and U.S. intelligence agencies are all involved in investigating the breach, which they consider among the most sophisticated attacks ever launched against U.S. government systems. ?The intrusion was routed through computers around the world, as hackers often do to hide their tracks, but investigators found tell-tale codes and other markers that they believe point to hackers working for the Russian government.

Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said the White House’s use of a separate system for classified information protected sensitive national security-related items from being obtained by hackers.

“We do not believe that our classified systems were compromised,” Rhodes told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.

“We’re constantly updating our security measures on our unclassified system, but we’re frankly told to act as if we need not put information that’s sensitive on that system,” he said. “In other words, if you’re going to do something classified, you have to do it on one email system, one phone system. Frankly, you have to act as if information could be compromised if it’s not on the classified system.”

To get to the White House, the hackers first broke into the State Department, investigators believe.

The State Department computer system has been bedeviled by signs that despite efforts to lock them out, the Russian hackers have been able to reenter the system. One official says the Russian hackers have “owned” the State Department system for months and it is not clear the hackers have been fully eradicated from the system.

You want Hillary’s deleted emails? Ask the Russians. Putin probably keeps them in the bathroom for reading material.

And like I said, it ain’t just the Russkies:

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in a speech at an FBI cyberconference in January, warned government officials and private businesses to teach employees what “spear phishing” looks like.

“So many times, the Chinese and others get access to our systems just by pretending to be someone else and then asking for access, and someone gives it to them,” Clapper said.

[H]ackers have long made Clinton and her associates targets.

The website The Smoking Gun first reported in 2013 that a hacker known as Guccifer had broken into the AOL email of Sidney Blumenthal, a friend and advisor to the Clintons, and published emails Blumenthal sent to Hillary Clinton’s private account. The emails included sensitive memos on foreign policy issues and were the first public revelation of the existence of Hillary Clinton’s private email address? now at the center of controversy: hdr22@clintonemail.com. The address is no longer in use.

And Obama accuses Israel of spying. What a pantload. Our allies are the last to know what we think.

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Priorities

Google sees Obama almost as much as the IRS chief conspiring to take down the Tea Party:

WASHINGTON – As the federal government was wrapping up its antitrust investigation of Google, company executives had a flurry of meetings with top officials at the White House and Federal Trade Commission, the agency running the probe.

Google co-founder Larry Page met with FTC officials to discuss settlement talks, according to visitor logs and emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt met with Pete Rouse, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, in the White House.

The documents don’t show exactly what was discussed in late 2012. Soon afterward, the FTC closed its investigation after Google agreed to make voluntary changes to its business practices.

Google’s access to high-ranking Obama administration officials during a critical phase of the antitrust probe is one sign of the Internet giant’s reach in Washington. Since Obama took office, employees of the Mountain View, Calif., company have visited the White House for meetings with senior officials about 230 times, or an average of roughly once a week, according to the visitor logs reviewed by the Journal.

Whereas the head of NATO can’t get a sniff of the White House:

President Barack Obama reportedly will not meet with NATO’s new secretary general when he is in Washington this week, despite requests from the alliance chief’s staff for a get-together.

Bloomberg View reported Tuesday that Jens Stoltenberg’s office requested a meeting with Obama in advance of his scheduled visit, but did not receive any response from the White House. Instead, Bloomberg View reported that Stoltenberg had to settle for a last-minute meeting with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

Just make sure you lock your wife up during the meeting, Ash. Or that Biden is wearing an ankle bracelet.

What is there to discuss, pray tell?

The report of Obama’s snub comes amid Russia’s growing willingness to test NATO’s military readiness. On Tuesday, NATO jets were scrambled after four Russian military planes were spotted flying over the Baltic Sea with their transponders turned off. Over the weekend, a Danish newspaper published remarks by the Russian ambassador to Denmark in which he hinted that Russian missiles could target Danish warships if Copenhagen joins NATO’s missile defense system.

But the most far-reaching example of Russian belligerence came Tuesday, when Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported that Moscow was preparing to lease 12 long-range bombers to Argentina in exchange for shipments of beef and wheat. The report comes after a round of rhetoric from Russian officials questioning Britain’s claim to the Falkland Islands.

If Argentina gets long-range bombers for cooperating with Russia, shouldn’t Obama get a lifetime supply of caviar and a case of Stoli? He couldn’t be more supine if he were meeting a Saudi sheikh. And Iran also owes him a carpet or two if we’re talking about quid pro quo.

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The Chutzpie

Whaddya say we come up with a new award, Aggie, to go along with the Ya Think Award? One for the person who displays the greatest gall, the biggest balls, the most enormous nerve?

I give you the winner of the first BTL Chutzpie, Vladimir Putin:

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has called for an end to “shameful” political killings in Russia, after the shooting of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov just outside the Kremlin walls.

He said the most serious attention should be paid to high-profile crimes.

The former deputy prime minister, 55, was murdered on Friday night and buried in Moscow on Tuesday.

The motive is unknown, but Mr Putin’s aides have rejected suggestions that he had any involvement.

Mr Nemtsov, who had been planning a march against the conflict in eastern Ukraine, said recently that he feared the president would have him killed because of his opposition to the war.

Putin also called for self-determination among Eastern European states, respect for diverse points of view, and for tolerance of bourgeois sensibilities.

I’ve already got the look of the award. We just need to change the name.

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Cleaning Obama’s Clock

Sure, Bibi did.

But Garry Kasparov too:

BLOOMBERG HOST TWO: If you were sitting with President Obama today, what would you tell him to do?

GARRY KASPAROV: [pause] Resign.

BLOOMBERG HOST TWO: To resign?!

BLOOMBERG HOST ONE: Over this issue?

GARRY KASPAROV: No! Look what’s happened! I believe every thug in the world is counting the remaining time — 22 months in the office.

BLOOMBERG HOST TWO: How does the president’s resignation solve that?

GARRY KASPAROV: OK, I have to apologize, I’m emotional, but he proved to be a weak leader. He is the top of the free world, the only man who Putin counts as a potential opponent. And looking at Obama’s actions, in fact, inaction, Putin believes he can do whatever. Every negotiation he’s in, Cuba, Iran, whatever, shows America is weak.

Checkmate.

Of course, Kasparov is falling for the Obama Gambit. Reduce your arsenal to a queen (Valerie Jarrett), three pawns (Psaki, Harf, and Earnest), led by a king (himself), and lookout! Mate in five moves.

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Kiev Chickens Come Home to Roost

One of the excuses Russia peddled for its invasion and annexation of Ukrainian sovereign land was to rescue the latter’s Jews from hatred and bigotry:

Russia has consistently asserted that Ukraine’s post-revolutionary government, which took power after popular demonstrations pushed out pro-Moscow President Victor Yanukovich, is composed of fascists and anti-Semites.

And replace it with their own:

Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebel chief on Monday branded the country’s leaders “miserable” Jews in an apparent anti-Semitic jibe.

Apparent? Well, let’s read on:

Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, claimed that Kiev’s pro-Western leaders were “miserable representatives of the great Jewish people”.

Oh, so he loves Jews! Most of them. Some of them.

“I can’t remember a time when Cossacks were led by people who have never held a sword in their hands,” Zakharchenko told a press conference in the eastern rebel stronghold of Donetsk, in a reference to Ukraine’s nationalist forebears, the Cossacks.

Zakharchenko said that the country’s historical nationalists “would turn in their graves if they could see who is running Ukraine.”

Anti-Semitic sentiment remains widespread in Ukraine, where leaders are commonly labelled as Jewish by those seeking to discredit them.

I doubt Obama has held a sword in his hands. I deplore antisemitism, but if swordlessness were a disqualifier for high office, I would support it. High crimes and misdemeanors don’t seem to be enough to get your law-breaking ass kicked to the curb.

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Where Have I Heard This Before?

This:

“We have no interest in seeing Russia weakened or its economy in shambles. We have a profound interest, as I believe every country does, in promoting a core principle, which is: Large countries don’t bully smaller countries,” Obama told reporters.

Really? Because the opposite appears to be true.

It sounds an awful lot like this:

“It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century,” Kerry said. “You just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests.”

That was almost a year ago. What’s changed? I love the sanctions, and the oil price plummet has squeezed Putin by his rubles, but if our leaders really believe their striped-pant rhetoric, dasvidaniya Ukraine.

His visit comes a day after city officials in Mariupol, Ukraine, said shelling in southeastern Ukraine killed at least 30 people, including two children.

Another 102 people were injured, at least 75 of whom needed hospital treatment, and many suffered shrapnel injuries, Mariupol City Council said.

Pro-Russian separatists are blamed for the attack on residential areas in the port city, Donetsk regional police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin said on his Facebook page.

PS: And don’t think Iran hasn’t taken notice.

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Hey Obama! How’s That Unclenched Fist Working Out?

Russian spy ship in Havana.

Russian intelligence warship docked in Havana on Tuesday, a day before the start of historic US-Cuba talks aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations.

There was nothing stealthy about the arrival of the Viktor Leonov CCB-175, which was moored to a pier in Old Havana where cruise ships often dock. But the visit was not officially announced by Cuban authorities.

US officials in Washington played down the presence of the Russian vessel, saying it was perfectly legal and not at all out of the ordinary.

“It’s not unprecedented. It’s not unusual. It’s not alarming,” a defense official told AFP.

Whistling past the graveyard…

– Aggie

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News Flash

China is very corrupt. Russia is more corrupt.

Try not to let this news destroy your faith in ex-Communist states run by the very same party hacks who ran it before.

So much for President Xi Jin Ping’s much-vaunted anti-corruption campaign.

Transparency International’s annual index of perceived levels of corruption across the world is out Wednesday, and China has slid 20 places in the ranking to joint 100th, after posting one of the sharpest declines in its index score of all the countries in the survey.

Transparency’s index, which measures perceptions of corruption from various sources, also showed alarming declines in the scores of Turkey and Russia, the latter falling to 136th place in the rankings, level with Nigeria (and one place ahead of its embattled neighbor, Ukraine).

China’s performance meant that it fell below India, which rose nine places in the ranking to 85th and which, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is promising its own crackdown on bureaucratic corruption.

There is a ray of hope, however:

Another country to post a big improvement in TI’s rankings was Greece, It’s now risen to 69th place from 94th in two years, as the austerity plan imposed by the International Monetary Fund and Eurozone has bitten hard. The good news there is that it’s now only as corrupt…as Italy, according to TI.

As expected, the top of the rankings showed no real change from previous years, with the Scandinavian Goody Two-Shoes quartet of Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway taking four of the top five spots.

The U.S. edged up to 17th from 19th in 2013, level with Barbados and Ireland, and just ahead of Chile and Uruguay.

They must not be looking too hard into Obama’s shenanigans, then. And Greece is only less corrupt because it’s more broke.

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