Golden showers? Russia knows nothing about America’s sex habits

❝ Dear Vlad,

You don’t mind if I call you, Vlad, do you? I wanted to write you about your close relationship with our president-elect, Donald J. Trump.

❝ I read recently that your intelligence agents had collected some “compromising and salacious personal information” on The Donald. A memo about this was said to be generated by a former agent of MI-6, one of Britain’s premier spook agencies, so our US news media has taken this allegation seriously.

But, really, golden showers? You say the “perverted sexual acts” worthy of blackmailing a US president consisted of renting a hotel room in Moscow where Trump hired some prostitutes to “perform a golden showers (urination) show in front of him” on the bed that president and Mrs. Obama supposedly slept in?

❝ Vlad, by your own admission in an interview with Bloomberg News, you clearly have no understanding of American culture or domestic political life…

❝ This is a country that endorses gay marriage. It celebrates the freedom of choosing your own gender. One of our most decorated male athletes at the age of 66 decided he was in fact she and ended up on the cover of Vanity Fair in a corset. We are having so much oral sex that throat cancer rates among men have shot up. Our young people publicly declare themselves to be polyamorous (Vlad, that means they sleep with lots of different people, with consent). Way back in the 1990s one of our most popular female vocalists released a coffee-table book called Sex that showed bondage, full nudity, scenes with a dog, and scenes from a New York sex club…

If the best dirt you’ve got on a our highest elected official is he hired a bunch of girls to pee on a bed, we’ve got nothing to worry about. You don’t understand freedom and democracy enough to upset it.

❝ Sincerely,

Joe Q. Public

Vlad mistakenly accepts the hypocrisy so beloved of our priests, pundits and politicians as somehow representative of what private life may decide is participatory sport in bedrooms ranging from home grown to Trumpkins. Tain’t so.

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How Russian cyberwar hackers invaded the U.S.


A filing cabinet broken into in 1972 as part of the Watergate burglary sits beside a computer server that Russian hackers breached during the 2016 presidential campaign

❝ When Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Democratic National Committee in September 2015 to pass along some troubling news about its computer network, he was transferred, naturally, to the help desk.

His message was brief, if alarming. At least one computer system belonging to the D.N.C. had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government…

❝ Yared Tamene, the tech-support contractor at the D.N.C. who fielded the call, was no expert in cyberattacks. His first moves were to check Google for “the Dukes” and conduct a cursory search of the D.N.C. computer system logs to look for hints of such a cyberintrusion. By his own account, he did not look too hard even after Special Agent Hawkins called back repeatedly over the next several weeks — in part because he wasn’t certain the caller was a real F.B.I. agent and not an impostor…

❝ It was the cryptic first sign of a cyberespionage and information-warfare campaign devised to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, the first such attempt by a foreign power in American history. What started as an information-gathering operation, intelligence officials believe, ultimately morphed into an effort to harm one candidate, Hillary Clinton, and tip the election to her opponent, Donald J. Trump.

❝ Like another famous American election scandal, it started with a break-in at the D.N.C. The first time, 44 years ago at the committee’s old offices in the Watergate complex, the burglars planted listening devices and jimmied a filing cabinet. This time, the burglary was conducted from afar, directed by the Kremlin…instead of Republican President Richard Nixon.

RTFA. Journalism from the NY TIMES mostly unadulterated by editorial requirements. Well done tale of the level of cyber-ignorance common to much of our government, a significant chunk of the global corporate world.

A worthwhile read for you and me – long before the movie comes out. And it will.

Milestone: For the first time in a century, tiger populations are growing

After a century of constant decline, global wild tiger populations are on the rise! According to the most recent data, around 3,890 tigers now exist in the wild — up from an estimated 3,200 in 2010.

We can attribute this updated minimum number — compiled from national tiger surveys — to rising tiger populations in India, Russia, Nepal, and Bhutan; improved surveys; and enhanced protection of this iconic species…

Governments of countries with tiger populations came together in 2010 to pledge the goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022. Our work is not done: these countries are meeting again this month to report on their progress and commit to next steps to help tigers rebound…

Tracking tiger populations and understanding the threats the species faces is absolutely vital in order to protect these big cats. Classified as endangered, tigers face daily the hazards of poaching and habitat loss. Every part of the tiger — from whisker to tail — is traded in illegal wildlife markets, feeding a multi-billion dollar criminal network.

Though we’ve seen real gains in some countries, the outlook isn’t as clear in Southeast Asia, where poaching and rampant deforestation continue to negatively impact tiger numbers.

But the hopeful news of rising tiger numbers proves we can make a difference when we come together to tackle these challenges. WWF works with governments, law enforcement, and local communities to advocate zero tolerance for tiger poaching across Asia, and uses the latest technology to protect and connect fragile tiger habitat. Together, we have a chance to reach our goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022.

Huzzah!

Autumn 2015 — from around the world

Bosque Apache New-Mexico
Click to enlargeFlickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Throw on a scarf and grab your cider; it’s time to embark on a far-reaching fall foliage tour. From Scotland to Russia, Canada to Iceland, and (of course) the United States’ New England region, here are some of the most lush shots of fall 2015 we have come across.

Click through to some lovely photos – and a video explanation of the colors of autumn.

Asylum seekers enter Norway in the Arctic – from Russia – by bicycle

Norway Arctic border crossing
Click to enlargeStorskog Boris Gleb border crossingCornelius Poppe/AFP/File

As Europe grapples with record-breaking numbers of migrants, a trickle of asylum seekers from Syria and the Mediterranean region have found an unlikely route: Through Russia to a remote Arctic border post in Norway, partly on bicycles.

Police Chief Inspector Goeran Stenseth said…that 151 people have crossed the border this year near the northeastern Norwegian town of Kirkenes, 2,500 kilometers northeast of Oslo.

He said that most of the migrants are from Syria, with some from Turkey and Ukraine, and that they mainly cross in motor vehicles although some have resorted to arriving on bicycles because the Storskog border post is not open to pedestrians, in line with a Norwegian-Russian border agreement.

“There have been about 100 during the past two months, at least 50 in July and looks like August will be much the same,” he told The Associated Press. “But the conditions will be bad soon. It’s getting colder by the day … Soon no one will be able to bike, that’s for sure.”

Woo-hoo! Probably be snowing there, next week. I’ve done a few not-so-legal border crossings in my life; but, none this far North.

Meanwhile, the Mother of Invention still rules.

BRICS development bank ready to roll

The New Development Bank being launched by the BRICS group of emerging economies plans to raise money both on local markets and internationally…

The bank, with an initial capital of $50 billion, is being introduced at an organisational summit of the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – in the Russian city of Ufa…

Kundapur Vaman Kamath, 67, a former executive with India’s largest private bank, ICICI Bank, was appointed president of NDB in May this year. The bank is headquartered in Shanghai, China.

The bank, which the BRICS countries see as an alternative to the World Bank, will have its capital expanded to $100 billion within the next couple of years. It plans to issue its first loans, yet to be agreed, in April – a plan K.V. Kamath said was on track…

He added that the NDB will seek international and local agencies ratings – a necessary step for issuing debt…

K.V. Kamath added that there were no specific deals yet in the pipeline and no limit had been set on the size of loans.

The size of the loan “will depend on what is the structure of the loan, what is a need of a borrowing country and then we will look at it,” he said.

One positive side of global growth is the new capability of banking based in developing nations – for developing nations. Not the least of which is the absence of colonial-era strictures required by present and former imperial governments.