Sunbathers on Russia's Baltic Coast were surprised by massive hovercraft landing on the beach. According to BBC News, Russian authorities said this was part of a "routine training exercise."
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Robbo sez, "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster members who held a procession in Moscow were dispersed by riot police and Orthodox activists; some were detained for holding an 'unsanctioned rally.' Best quote in the news post: 'We were detained for simply walking,' a message posted by another Pastafarian said. 'In particular, I was taken in for a sieve on my head.'
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Court finds for man who rewrote the credit-card fine-print to give himself unlimited, interest-free credit
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A wily Russian fellow crossed out the fine-print on an unsolicted credit-card application from Tinkoff Credit Systems in 2008 and wrote in his own terms, giving himself unlimited, interest-free credit and exemption from all fees, with a 3MM ruble fee should the bank change the terms and a 1MM ruble fee should they cancel his card. He crossed out the URL giving the terms and conditions and wrote in his own. And a court has ruled that his changes -- which were blindly accepted by the bank -- are binding. He's now suing them for breach of contract, since they refused to pay him the cancellation fee he'd written in -- he's seeking USD727,000.
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Stephen Fry to David Cameron and IOC: a Russian 2014 Olympics would be a repeat of the 1936 Berlin games
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Comedian and national treasure Stephen Fry has written an open letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the International Olympic Committee calling on them to move the upcoming Winter Olympics from Russia to another country, specifically, any country in which homosexuality is not criminalized and LGBT people are not violently scapegoated as they are in Russia. Vladimir Putin recently rammed through legislation that bans being gay, talking about being gay, or advocating for the rights of LGBT people, and violent gangs routinely and savagely attack LGBT people, with impunity. Vicious practices like "corrective rape" and murder are ignored by the police. Fry compares bringing the Olympics to Russia in 2014 to cowardice that led to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which legitimized Hitler and the Nazis on the global stage.
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Brian Krebs is a security expert and investigative journalist who has published numerous ground-breaking stories about the online criminal underground, much to the consternation of the criminal underground. Krebs has been the victim of much harassment, including a dangerous SWATting (where someone called a SWAT team to Krebs's door, having told them that an armed gunman was inside).
Most recently, a Russian crook called Flycracker crowdfunded the purchase of a gram of heroin on the Silk Road, which he mailed to Krebs, having first called the cops to alert them that Krebs was a narcotics trafficker. Luckily for Krebs, he lurks in the same forums in which this was planned, and knew of it in advance and tipped off the local cops and the FBI.
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Sound it Out # 54: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - “Nightwater Girlfriend” (free MP3)
Naming your band after a Russian political leader does not necessarily get you noticed in his home country, but it eventually did for Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. The Boris Yeltsin Foundation has been following the Springfield, MO band’s consistently lovely music-making for years, and invited them to visit the motherland as headliners of the Old New Rock Festival in Yekaterinburg, Russia this past January.
Once the band accepted the gig, the U.S. consulate in Yekaterinburg named them cultural ambassadors to Russia for a day. SSLYBY performed at a local high school and answered questions about being an American rock band. There’s a forthcoming documentary about this trip called “Discussions with Russians”.
Where do you go from there? SSLYBY returned to Missouri in the spring and wrote/recorded a new record in guitarist Will Knauer’s parents’ attic. It’s called Fly By Wire and is full of deliciously earnest pop gems like “Nightwater Girlfriend”, which you can download below.
About that phone call between the presidents of the US and Russia, held just hours after fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden met with NGO reps and a Wikileaks spokesperson in a Moscow airport to announce he would seek asylum in Russia:
"The two leaders noted the importance of U.S.-Russian bilateral relations and discussed a range of security and bilateral issues, including the status of Mr. Edward Snowden and cooperation on counter-terrorism in the lead-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics," read a White House statement.
The Sochi Olympics in Russia are next year. And Putin will be hosting Obama in Russia for the G20 leaders summit in less than two months.
Previously, the US Ambassador to Russia is reported to have said the administration believes he's no whistleblower, either.
Snowden invited human rights groups to a meeting in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport earlier today to announce his plans to seek asylum in Russia. A Wikileaks representative was at his side.
The BBC reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that Edward Snowden has not entered Russia at all -- but he and the rest of the country are mighty resentful of all the US officials who've been claiming that he was kidnapped by Russian authorities. Wikileaks says they know where Snowden is, and that he never went to Russia in the first place.
Meanwhile, saber-rattling American politicians are claiming that the big risk from Snowden is that he's had his laptop spirited away by foreign spies and the "four laptop harddrives" copied before it was returned. Apparently, none of these politicos have heard of whole disk encryption, and missed the bit when the story of Snowden's identity broke where Glenn Greenwald described the fact that he only logged into his laptop with a blanket covering him and it, so no one could video-record his keystrokes with a hidden camera.
"We are in no way involved with either Mr Snowden, his relations with US justice, nor to his movements around the world," Mr Lavrov said.
"He chose his itinerary on his own. We learnt about it... from the media. He has not crossed the Russian border.
"We consider the attempts to accuse the Russian side of violating US laws, and practically of involvement in a plot, to be absolutely groundless and unacceptable."
Edward Snowden has disappeared. The NSA whistleblower, who was presumed to be on a flight from Hong Kong to Moscow and thence to Havana did not board the flight to Havana. Some doubt whether he actually went to Moscow and suggest that though he had left Hong Kong, his alleged flight to Russia was a feint, misinformation to throw the press and governments off his tail. Ecuador's Minister of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador.
Wherever he is, we hope he's safe.
The Guardian's Paul Owen is doing a great job of liveblogging the twists and turns in this remarkable story.
• Edward Snowden’s whereabouts are currently unknown after he failed to get on an Aeroflot flight the Russian airline said he was booked on from Moscow to Havana. It has been assumed that he was heading via Cuba for Ecuador; Quito’s foreign minister Ricardo Patiño Aroca said yesterday the country had received an asylum application from him. But amid farcical scenes the plane full of journalists – and presumably representatives of various governments – took off for Cuba without him. One reporter tweeted a plaintive picture of Snowden’s empty chair.
• Patino said Snowden – the former CIA analyst whose leaks to the Guardian about US intelligence programmes have caused controversy around the world – had arrived in Russia and said his government was currently considering his asylum request. But he said Quito did not know where Snowden was at this moment – or where he was going next. Patino hinted that if Ecuador accepted Snowden’s request it would be on the grounds of privacy, freedom of speech, and human rights. The country already shelters Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at its embassy in London. Wikileaks was today forced to defend Ecuador’s questionable record on press freedom.
One note from Owen's liveblog: the USA are fuming mad that Hong Kong authorities rejected their request to imprison Snowden on technical grounds.
Two members of Pussy Riot have travelled to London under a cloak of secrecy to speak to the press about the plight of their bandmates in Russian labor camps. Laurie Penny was one of the reporters who got to interview them in a small, no-photos press conference:
These girls are young. Very young. For their safety, I can’t say how young, but imagine how young you think they might be. Are you imagining it? They’re about five years younger than that. When they arrived I wondered, for a second, who let a couple of moody work experience kids into a clandestine meeting...
And then there’s the cultural backlash - including sexist attacks on what Pussy Riot stand for. "The simplest example is the idea that there’s a [male] producer behind us, or that we must be being paid by foreign governments - nobody can imagine that women themselves are expressing their opinions!" says Schumacher.
"In the Russian mass media they're saying we're stupid girls, not able to think. Among the orthodox believers, in the media, they tell us to stay at home, do cooking, give birth to children," says Schumacher. "And Masha and Nadya are attacked for not fulfilling their roles as mothers." This last is particularly cruel, because not only is it the Russian state that placed Masha and Nadya in Labour camps far from their children, but both have been denied the usual clemency that allows mothers of young children to receive suspended sentences.
Scary Russian business-man insists he isn't scary: "you are in no possible danger of being murdered if you come to Moscow!"
Brian Krebs reports on the Russian arrest of Pavel Vrublevsky, owner of the ChronoPay service (about whom Krebs has written an upcoming book) for witness intimidation. Vrublevsky is on trial for hiring hackers to attack a ChronoPay competitor called Assist, and he admitted that he phoned a witness in the trial and offered that person money; the witness said "he felt pressured and threatened by the offer."
Where this gets good is where Krebs recounts his own conversation with Vrublevsky, when the Russian businessman offered Krebs money as well:
“My proposition to you is to come to Moscow, and if you don’t have money….I realize journalists are not such wealthy people in America, we’re happy to pay for it,” Vrublevsky said in a phone conversation on May 8, 2010.
When I politely declined his invitation, Vrublevsky laughed and said I was wrong to feel like I was being bribed or intimidated.
“It’s quite funny that you think somehow when you fly to meet me in Moscow or ChronoPay offices that you are in any possible danger from me for being murdered,” Vrublevsky said. “Come to Moscow and see for yourself. Take your notebook, come to my office. Sit in front of me and look around. Because you’re getting information, which, to be honest, is not factual.”
As you can see, Vrublevsky is a master of putting people at their ease with his warm and cuddly demeanor, as is evidenced by his official Facebook profile photo, above.
Top UK government officials tamper with inquest into Brit assassinated by Russian spies in London, suppress evidence
Marina Litvinenko, widow of Alexander Litvinenko (a British citizen who was assassinated in London by two former KGB agents who poisoned him with radioactive polonium) has accused the British government, Secretary of State William Hague, and PM David Cameron of sabotaging the coroner's inquest into her husband's death. Hague and Cameron intervened in the coroner's hearing to seal key evidence that implicated the Russian government in Litvinenko's killing.
Sir Robert Owen, who is leading the inquest and who has seen the material, characterised it as "documents that examined whether UK officials could have done more to prevent his murder." 's widow says that this is part of "a secret political deal with the Kremlin." This comes against a charm offensive by the UK government to increase Russian investment in Britain.
The former Labour government severed all contacts with Russia's FSB spy agency in 2007 after concluding it had played a leading role in Litvinenko's assassination. Putin is the agency's former chief.
Mrs Litvinenko added: "This is a very sad day, a tragedy for British justice which has until now been respected around the world, and a frightening precedent for all of those who have been trying so hard to expose the crimes committed by a conspiracy of organised criminals who operate inside the Kremlin."
In his ruling (pdf), Owen said the inquest scheduled to take place later this year might now result in an "incomplete, misleading and unfair" verdict.
The coroner said he would consider inviting Theresa May, the home secretary, to hold a public inquiry instead. The inquiry could hear the sensitive evidence buried by Hague in secret sessions.
A meteor has exploded over Chelyabinsk , a remote part of Russia 150km north of Kazahstan. The meteor's descent was captured by many video cameras (largely the ubiquitous Russian dashboard cams, it seems). There are no reports of deaths, but apparently there are now 400 reported injuries. At least one large building, a zinc factory, had its roof demolished by the explosion.
A witness in Chelyabinsk reported hearing a huge blast early in the morning and feeling a shockwave in a 19-storey building in the town centre.
The sounds of car alarms and breaking windows could be heard in the area, the witness said, and mobile phones were working intermittently. "Preliminary indications are that it was a meteorite rain," an emergency official told RIA-Novosti. "We have information about a blast at 10,000-metre altitude. It is being verified."
"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day," said Viktor Prokofiev, a 36-year-old resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals mountains.
"I felt like I was blinded by headlights," he told Reuters.
Meteorite explosion over Russia injures hundreds [The Guardian]
From English Russia, original source unknown, "These are the Chechen homemade guns. There is a risk that the war will never end if they use such weapons..." No way to tell how accurate that description is -- Chechens are such bogeymen in the Russian press-pantheon that I always take anything ascribed to them with a grain of salt.
Syria's brutal Assad regime has damned few allies left in the world, but one of them, Russia, is governed by a dirty-tricking ruling elite who've made a science out of manipulating Internet opinion. This may explain the weird, stilted pro-Assad astroturf army who appear in any discussion of the regime's atrocities to explain that it's all a Jewish conspiracy.
And on like that. SyriaTribune maintains a YouTube channel stocked with clips from — surprise — Vladimir Putin’s Russia Today portraying Assad as the victim of a bloody-minded western conspiracy. A self-described French intellectual named Thierry Meyssan — author of 9/11 The Big Lie — reveals that TV images purporting to show Assad’s massacres of civilians were prepared by the CIA, along with White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, and “aims at demoralizing the Syrians in order to pave the way for a coup d’etat.” The #FakeRevolution hashtag on Instagram provides pictorial, meme-filled boosterism for Bashar, like a screengrab from Time’ app kindly telling user mybubb1e to stop voting for Assad for Person of the Year or Hillary Clinton with flames shooting out of her eyes and ear, courtesy of Bashar4Ever.
Security researcher Brian Krebs picks out some choice exchanges out of a dump from an elite Russian spammer message-board, and suggests that this contains clues to the identities of the world's most prolific spammers.
“Everything is all right with John. We drank with him recently in Europe. He is getting married soon. He is no longer spamming stocks. He got squeezed [arrested/questioned] once very badly some time ago. Now he is all clean. His friend – SP – screwed him and also is not working with stocks now. Rin is in total shit. He is going to be in jail (or he is going to be hiding) for a long time. He calls me pretty often, so he is alive so far. I am helping his wife with money from time to time.”
The two exchange recommendations about their favorite nightclubs in St. Petersburg, Russia. Tarelka inquires how Severa is doing, which elicits the following reply:
“I am okay. Damn, where to find sponsors? I am sure I can spin off stocks even in the current market. Are there any more contacts? Maybe I will ask Apple. Maybe he can give me some referrals. Who could think two years ago that this “theme” would die, huh? Give my regards to Igor [possibly Igor Gusev, the co-curator of SpamIt]. I wish you luck and patience.”
Tarelka says he tried to convince John/Apple that there was still money to be made in stock spam, but that John insisted the market was dead, and that no one was coming forward to pay spammers to send pump-and-dump spam anymore.
Brian Krebs has published an ad from "Foreign Agents," a notorious Russian crime service. They're advertising the availability of foot soldiers in the USA who can help cash out hacked bank accounts and credit cards. Unlike traditional bank-fraud mules, who don't know that they're part of a scam, these "associates" are "неразводные" ("nerazvodni" or "not deceived").
The proprietors of this service say it will take 40-45 percent of the value of the theft, depending on the amount stolen. In a follow Q&A with potential buyers, the vendors behind this service say it regularly moves $30,000 – $100,000 per day for clients. Specifically, it specializes in cashing out high-dollar bank accounts belonging to hacked businesses, hence the mention high up in the ad of fraudulent wire transfers and automated clearinghouse or ACH payments (ACH is typically how companies execute direct deposit of payroll for their employees).
According to the advertisement, customers of this service get their very own login to a remote panel, where they can interact with the cashout service and monitor the progress of their thievery operations. The service also can be hired to drain bank accounts using counterfeit debit cards obtained through ATM skimmers or hacked point-of-sale devices. The complicit mules will even help cash out refunds from phony state and federal income tax filings — a lucrative form of fraud that, according to the Internal Revenue Service, cost taxpayers $5.2 billion last year.
Say what you will about their criminal tendencies, those bank robbers have excellent art direction.