House with a supersonic jet in its back yard


Gautam Trivedi spotted this bit of real-world Russo-cyberpunk: a supersonic jet retired to the back yard of a stately Russian mansion.

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Russia's population declined by 7m (5%) between 1992 and 2009


The decades since the collapse of the USSR are the longest period of depopulation in Russian history, and the first peacetime loss of that scale anywhere in the world. Booze, violence, obesity, and poor standard of living alone don't account for the mortality either.

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Claims of looting at MH17 crash-site

An article in The Wire, citing mostly tabloid and Ukrainian government sources, claims that locals and separatists looted the wreckage of MH17, creating difficulties for forensic investigators.

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Rebels seize MH17 plane crash black boxes and bodies, human remains shipped on train to unknown site

Xeni Jardin recaps the latest news from Ukraine, where securing the crash site of Flight MH17 remains an open question

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Twitterbot catches Russian State Media anonymously editing MH17 Wikipedia entry

A bot that monitors Wikipedia for edits from Russian government IPs recorded a change to the MH17 entry, assigning blame to "Ukrainian soldiers" (a previous edit had blamed it on "terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation").

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Snowden: Dropbox is an NSA surveillance target, use Spideroak instead


A remarkable moment from last night's remarkable Snowden video from the Guardian.

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 reported shot down in Ukraine near Russian border

Around 11:00AM ET today, Interfax, CNN, and other news agencies began reporting that Malaysia Airlines flight 17, heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in eastern Ukraine.

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Kremlin offers Silicon Valley a Russian Internet with Chinese characteristics

A new Russian law requires companies to store Russians’ data within Russia’s borders, out of reach of the NSA, and in reach of Russia’s own secret police. It’s China all over again, writes Cory Doctorow.

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Cops bust cybercrook who sent heroin to Brian Krebs

Sergei "Fly" Vovnenko, a Russo-Ukrainian cybercrook who stalked and harassed security journalist Brian Krebs -- at one point conspiring to get him arrested by sending him heroin via the Silk Road -- has been arrested. According to Krebs, Vovnenko was a prolific credit-card crook, specializing in dumps of stolen Italian credit-card numbers, and faces charges in Italy and the USA. Krebs documents how Vovnenko's identity came to light because he installed a keylogger on his own wife's computer, which subsequently leaked her real name, which led to him.

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How the CIA got Dr Zhivago into the hands of Soviet dissidents


Working from recently declassified documents disclosed in The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book, the BBC World Service tells the extraordinary story of how the CIA conspired with a Dutch spy to publish a Russian edition of Boris Pasternak's Dr Zhivago and smuggle it into Russia by sneaking it into the hands of Soviet attendees at the Brussels Universal and International Exposition in 1958. Zhivago was banned by the Soviets, who also forced Pasternak to renounce the Nobel Prize in literature, which he was awarded that year.

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Astounding steampunk leatherwork bags and books


Russian leatherworker and throat-singer Sergueї Kooc produced this beautiful steampunk briefcase in 2013. It's just one of the many versatile and wonderful pieces he's posted to his Livejournal:

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Armed, masked Russian separatists seize "decadent" hackspace in Donetsk, Ukraine


The Izolyatsia makerspace in Donetsk, Ukraine, has been seized by armed, masked Russian separatists from the Donetsk People's Republic, who denounced it as "decadent" and accused it of being "an American-funded anti-Russian organisation which supports fascism and develops decadent kind of arts." Izolyatsia is the first hackerspace to be occupied by an armed militia.

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Russia's army of paid astroturfers message-bomb western coverage of Ukraine


A set of documents leaked by a group identifying itself as Russian hackers purports to be training materials for Russian psyops agents who were paid to make favorable comments about Russia's position in Ukraine on western media websites. The group of fake commenters, called the Internet Research Agency, is based in Saint Petersburg, and its operatives were ordered to maintain multiple commenter identities based on certain archetypes, and to post a minimum quota of pro-Russia messages every day. Included in the documents are per-site strategy notes for preventing moderators from erasing messages (for example, on Worldnetdaily, do not use "vulgar reactions to the political work of Barack Obama.")

These tactics are familiar ones. Rebecca MacKinnon's indispensable book Consent of the Networked describes the Chinese government's "Fifty Cent Army," each paid 0.5RMB per message pro-government postings. And of course, the 2011 HB Gary leak revealed the existence of a US Air Force RFP seeking "persona management" software that would let US psyops operatives maintain up to 20 fake identities from which to post pro-US messages on Arab-world websites.

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Kickstarting a coffee-table book of grisly, real Russian nursery-rhymes

Russian-born comedian Ben Rosenfeld is kickstarting a book of gruesome, real Russian nursery rhymes, illustrated by Dov Smiley (example: "A little boy found a machine-gun, nothing lives in the woods anymore"). $25 gets you the book and the ebook.

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Photos of Russia's Rocket Town

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For Air & Space Magazine, photographer James Hill visited Russia's "Rocket Town," the city of Baikonur in Kazakhstan, where, he says, "everything you see is related to space."