Ellen DeGeneres's friendship with ex-President George W. Bush became controversial this week, in light of the progressive values she claims and the 600,000 corpses left by his occupation of Iraq. She delivered a monologue on her show in response, casting their friendship as an example of civility, overcoming political differences, and having "faith in America". So Rafael Shimunov added a simple backdrop of Iraq war scenes to her monolog, in the hopes DeGeneres might better understand the complaints. In response, copyright takedown notices flew and it was removed from the 'net, so it is at least getting under her skin.
Here's a copy, which I'll update if and when it disappears. Read the rest
Trump gave Erdogan green light, Putin nods in approval from Moscow. Read the rest
In a late-night press release, the White House announced that Turkey "will soon be moving forward" with an invasion of northern Syria—areas currently occupied by Kurds.
Mr. Trump’s decision goes against the recommendations of top officials in the Pentagon and the State Department who have sought to keep a small troop presence in northeast Syria to continue operations against the Islamic State, or ISIS, and to act as a critical counterweight to Iran and Russia. Administration officials said that Mr. Trump spoke directly with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on the issue on Sunday. And the officials indicated that the 100 to 150 United States military personnel deployed to that area would be pulled back in advance of any Turkish operation but that they would not be completely withdrawn from Syria.
The Kurds were key allies in the war on ISIS, and Trump is fully aware that withdrawing U.S. support for them could mean ethnic cleansing by the Turks, because he's boasted of stopping it in the past by not withdrawing.
On Monday a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - who occupy former IS territory in north-eastern Syria - strongly condemned the US move.
"There were assurances from the United States of America that it would not allow any Turkish military operations against the region," Kino Gabriel told Arabic TV station al-Hadath.
He added: "The (US) statement was a surprise and we can say that it is a stab in the back for the SDF."
Erdogan told Trump to do it, so he did it. Read the rest
If you take him at his word, Trump just said he wants to nuke Iran. The man is nuts, the man is also President. Are we going to start another war? No one knows. Read the rest
Gil Barndollar -- a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan, the Republic of Georgia, Guantanamo Bay and Bahrain, who also holds a PhD in History from Cambridge -- writes in USA Today about what a US regime change effort in Iran would mean, logistically speaking.
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Regular readers will know Richard Kadrey (previously) from his bestselling Sandman Slim series, but as much as I love those books, I think I love his latest, "The Grand Dark" -- a noir/dieselpunk novel set in a fictionalized weimar city in a brief, hectic interwar period -- even more.
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Anyone else getting Iraq déjà vu?
U.S. Department Of Energy Secretary Rick Perry gave “six secret authorizations by companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia,” Reuters reports, based on a copy of a document seen by reporters on Wednesday. Read the rest
Video footage captures the moment when an explosive drone, piloted by Houthi rebels, exploded over a military parade in Yemen. It killed six soldiers and injured at least 20 more, including the army's chief of staff.
Tobias Schneider, a Research Fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute, identifies it as a Qasef-1 loaded with shrapnel.
"Very effective attack. Houthi drone tactics are fascinating. Commonly used to blind Saudi/Coalition radars to cover missile launches (tactic pioneered by Hezbollah vs Isreal), sometimes as impromptu cruise missile itself."
Indeed, the military death toll of 6 equals that of the 2018 cruise missile campaign launched by Trump against Syria. Read the rest
Everyone raised in my hometown learned to recite In Flanders Fields in school. Every year, as November 11th, Remembrance Day, drew near, we were taught about the First World War. We made poppies. We prepared for a concert to honor our veterans. Elderly men with often vacant, watery eyes would visit our classrooms and talk to us about their time overseas. Sometimes they cried. Other times, they laughed as they talked about long absent friends and their lost youth. As I grew older, I marched in my town's annual Remembrance Day parade: first as an cadet and later in a different uniform. Each year as we gathered at the armory after the parade had ended, there were fewer survivors of the First and Second World War there to greet us. Decades have passed since those days. The men and women who served their fellows and the future generations that would become of them have largely passed on.
No matter where I am in the world, I take pause on November 11th, as many others do, to remember those that gave up their lives in the name of democracy and decency. I try to hold the millions that died from hate, xenophobia and greed. I give thanks that I am now too old and too broken to fight. I fear for those in uniform today that will see things that will never leave them and for those who deployed who will never come home.Amidst these meditations, I wonder over who will carry the torch of remembrance of wars and atrocities past, once those who survived them are no more. Read the rest
Britain, like most of western Christendom, celebrates Christmas with ornamented trees. The British mark Remebrance Day for World War I on November 11 by wearing paper poppies. A shopping mall in Salisbury, England, has ingeniously combined the two events by making a giant Christmas tree out of paper poppies.
One tweet described the red tree as an oddity, saying: "Christmas and Remembrance Sunday, together at last in one oddly conceived package."
Another comment described it as "tasteless", while a further tweet said it was "disrespectful". But the Royal British Legion said it was "grateful to all individuals, as well as any shops, pubs and other commercial enterprises, which choose to show their support for the Armed Forces Community".
There's something about the way monumental paganism remains an emergent property of the British condition, even (especially) when it's trying to do blithely inoffensive corporate promotional material.
MARKETING CONSULTANT: George, something's come up about the sign by the poppy tree. It's Selfridges. They object to some of the text.
GEORGE: What now?
CONSULTANT: It's the line that reads "KNEEL BEFORE THE BLOOD TREE! FUCK BEFORE THE BLOOD GOD!" They're wondering if it could say "copulate" or "make love" instead of "fuck".
GEORGE: (sighs angrily) There's always something.
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The latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has proven a sumbitch to contain. Since this latest "oh shit" moment in the history of this infectious outbreak started on August 1st, the brave healthcare professionals and epidemiologists throwing their shoulders into the problem have reported 200 total cases of the disease, 117 confirmed Ebola-related deaths and 35 deaths that are probably related to the illness. This latest outbreak, the 10th to have cropped up in Congo since 1976, is proving more difficult, logistically, than past outbreaks have been. The epicenter of the outbreak is in North Kivu Province: chockablock with danger as government forces, local militias and regional warlords get their violence on. This makes getting folks in the region to the care that they need and, just as vital, containing the disease, far more difficult than it already is.
From The New York Times:
Congolese rebels have killed 15 civilians and abducted a dozen children in an attack in the center of the latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, Congo’s military said Sunday. The violence threatened to again force the suspension of efforts to contain the virus.
Congo’s health ministry has reported “numerous aggressions” in the new outbreak against health workers, who have described hearing gunshots daily. Many are operating under the armed escort of United Nations peacekeepers or Congolese security forces, and ending work by sundown to lower the risk of attack.
The World Health Organization hasn't classified the outbreak as a world health emergency, yet. Read the rest
The Nazis never got close to building the bomb, but they understood the science and knew what was coming. A top-secret raid led by Norwegian resistance fighter Joachim Rønneberg destroyed a heavy water-producing plant in Rjukan, Telemark in 1943—a key victory that put Nazi nuke research to bed. Ronneberg died this week at 99.
The following year, Ronneberg chose a team of five other commandos in an Allied operation codenamed Gunnerside.
"We were a gang of friends doing a job together," he told the BBC during the 70th anniversary of the mission.
The men parachuted on to a plateau, skied across country, descended into a ravine and crossed an icy river before using the railway line to get into the plant and set their explosives.
"We very often thought that this was a one way trip," he said.
After the explosion, the men escaped into neighbouring Sweden by skiing 320km (200 miles) across Telemark - despite being chased by some 3,000 German soldiers.
With a wry smile, Ronneberg described it as "the best skiing weekend I ever had".
Rønneberg told a BBC interviewer that he only realised the importance of the mission after the bomb on Hiroshima. When reading elaborate counterfactual histories concerning different outcomes to World War II, remember that in all of them Germany gets nukes for Christmas in 1945. Read the rest
The Trump administration "held secret meetings" with officers in Venezuela's military to discuss overthrowing President Nicolás Maduro, reports The New York Times.
Read the rest
American officials eventually decided not to help the plotters, and the coup plans stalled. But the Trump administration’s willingness to meet several times with mutinous officers intent on toppling a president in the hemisphere could backfire politically. ... Mr. Maduro has long justified his grip on Venezuela by claiming that Washington imperialists are actively trying to depose him, and the secret talks could provide him with ammunition to chip away at the region’s nearly united stance against him.
“This is going to land like a bomb” in the region, said Mari Carmen Aponte, who served as the top diplomat overseeing Latin American affairs in the final months of the Obama administration.
The B2 Spirit Stealth Bomber looks like one of Batman's rides. In service since the mid-1990s, the B2's distinctive flying wing shape, even after decades in service, still looks like the future – and an expensive future, at that. Each B2 costs $2.1 billion. As such, only 21 of the stealthy aircraft were ever made.
Congress, even in the heyday of "what about potential war with Russia," refused to pay for any more. It's an aircraft with a mystique that comes both from its exotic design and how little information we have on the pilots who fly it, and their experience of flying one of them.
Recently, journalist William Langewiesche was given the opportunity to become familiar with the bomber and those that pilot it. More intriguingly, given that the bomber scarcely has space in its cockpit to accommodate a pilot and co-pilot, Langewiesche, by the sound of things, was allowed to join a B2 flight crew on a mission that would take them all the way from the United States to a bombing run on an ISIS camp in Libya.
From The Atlantic:
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Night came quickly after a short day. Once they passed into the Mediterranean, the pilots used their radar to find three tankers that had come from Germany to meet them for their second refueling, and to map some thunderstorms that were active in the area at the time. Because of its composite structure, the B-2 is particularly vulnerable to static discharges and lightning strikes, and is required to stay 40 miles away from thunderstorms—twice as far as other airplanes.
Around a month ago, Ebola popped back up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, scant days after the World Health Organization had declared that another outbreak of the disease had come to an end.
Trying to contain the Ebola virus, which is transmitted via bodily fluids, can be a nightmare for healthcare professionals, especially in areas where medical resources and the infrastructure required to rapidly deploy field investigators, ship HAZMAT gear or refrigerate vaccines is non-existent. Doing it in a war zone? So much worse. But that’s where the latest outbreak is going down.
Congo’s North Kivu Province is hotly contested by a number of militant groups, vying for control over the region’s mineral resources. There’s a lot of shooting. There’s a lot of blood. The local population, fearing for their lives, is highly mobile. This makes it hard to track Ebola or treat those who risk further spreading the virus. In the midst of this untenable situation, even those brave enough to risk their own lives to keep the disease at bay are now proving vulnerable.
From The Guardian:
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The WHO said a doctor in Oicha had been hospitalised with Ebola, and 97 of his contacts had been identified. “It is the first time we have a confirmed case and contacts in an area of high insecurity. It is really the problem we were anticipating and at the same time dreading,” Salama said.
Karin Huster, coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières in Mangina, the epicentre of the outbreak, said new patients were arriving at the emergency treatment units every day.
A few days after skipping out on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ebola decided, ‘nah,’ cropping back up in a town of around 60,000 potential carriers called Mangina, located in Congo’s North Kivu province. Since the latest outbreak was identified, four people have died of the hemorrhagic fever. The World Health Organization is hoping that the strain of Ebola that’s shown up in North Kivu province is the same as the one that Congolese health workers and an international team of medical professionals were able to put down, this past July: they have a vaccine for that particular strain and it works fabulously. The WHO plans on giving the vaccine a go with this new outbreak—fingers crossed! Unfortunately, in addition to the possibility that the vaccine might not work for this Ebola outbreak, those tasked with stemming the spread of the disease are facing a threat that doesn’t involve contracting a virus: Working in an active war zone.
From The New York Times:
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But North Kivu Province, the volatile region in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the new outbreak is centered, creates security complications that health officials did not confront in the outbreak they just defeated in northwest Équateur Province, 1,550 miles away. The World Health Organization is worried about the safety of medical workers in North Kivu and their access to areas controlled by militants.
“This new cluster is occurring in an environment which is very different from where we were operating in the northwest,” said Dr. Peter Salama, the deputy director general of the health agency and the head of its emergency response unit.