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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Political guru Paul Manafort took at least 18 trips to Moscow and was in frequent contact with Vladimir Putin's allies for nearly a decade as a consultant in Russia and Ukraine for oligarchs and pro-Kremlin parties. ... Manafort's flight records in and out of Ukraine, which McClatchy obtained from a government source in Kiev, and interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with his activities, including current and former government officials, suggest the links between Trump's former campaign manager and Russia sympathizers run deeper than previously thought. read more


Friday, November 24, 2017

Donald Trump returned to a favourite subject on Thursday, telling a US coast guard audience the air force was ordering a new plane that was "almost like an invisible fighter".

The plane in question, the F-35, is not invisible, though it is unusually small and designed to be less visible to radar than conventional aircraft. Its development, however, has proved all too visibly costly and riddled with problems.

Trump first startled reporters with talk of an invisible plane in October, when he discussed the F-35 at a military briefing in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico.

Amazing job," Trump said then. "So amazing we are ordering hundreds of millions of dollars of new airplanes for the air force, especially the F-35. You like the F-35? ... You can't see it. You literally can't see it. It's hard to fight a plane you can't see."

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

A new study of prehistoric rock art reveals how hunters in the Arabian Peninsula pursued prey with dogs over 8,000 years ago -- and even controlled their packs with leashes. The engravings represent the earliest evidence for dogs on the Arabian Peninsula and might even stand as the earliest depictions of canines yet, as Science first reported. Found at two sites a few years ago -- at a wadi at Shuwaymis and at the desert oasis of Jubbah -- the stylized canines predate previous evidence for dogs in the region by over 2,000 years. As for the carved leashes, those simple lines are the earliest known evidence of leads in prehistory. read more


During a May 10 meeting in the Oval Office, the president betrayed his intelligence community by leaking the content of a classified, and highly sensitive, Israeli intelligence operation to two high-ranking Russian envoys, Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov. This is what he told them -- and the ramifications. read more


Stuff that bird like there's no tomorrow. read more


Comments

"So why? Why did a president who has time after volatile time railed against leakers, who has attacked Hillary Clinton for playing fast and loose with classified information, cozy up to a couple of Russian bigwigs in the Oval Office and breezily offer government secrets?"

Any answer is at best conjecture. Yet in the search for an important truth, consider these hypotheses, each of which has its own supporters among past and current members of the U.S. intelligence community.

The first is a bit of armchair psychology. In Trump's irrepressible way of living in the world, wealth is real only if other people believe you're rich. If you don't flaunt it, then you might as well not have it.

So there is the new president, shaky as any bounder might be in the complicated world of international politics, sitting down to a head-to-head with a pair of experienced Russians. How can he impress them? Get them to appreciate that he's not some lightweight, but rather a genuine player on the world stage?

There's also the school of thought that the episode is another unfortunate example of Trump's impressionable worldview being routinely shaped by the last thing he's heard, be it that morning's broadcast of Fox & Friends or an intelligence briefing in the Oval Office. As advocates of this theory point out, the president was likely told that one of the issues still on his guests' minds would be the terrorist explosion back in October 2015 that brought down a Russian passenger plane flying above Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. With that seed planted in the president's undisciplined mind, it's a short leap for him to be off and running to the Russians about what he knew about an ISIS scheme to target passenger aircraft.

Yet there is also a more sinister way to connect all the dots. There are some petulant voices in official Washington who insist that the president's treachery was deliberate, part of his longtime collaboration with the Russians. It is a true believer's orthodoxy, one which predicts that the meeting will wind up being one more damning count in an indictment that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, will ultimately nail to the White House door.

But, for now, to bolster their still very circumstantial case, they point to a curiosity surrounding the meeting in the Oval Office -- U.S. journalists were kept out. And, no less an oddity, the Russian press was allowed in. It was the photographer from TASS, the state-run Russian news agency, who snapped the only shots that documented the occasion for posterity. Or, for that matter, for the grand jury.

And...

Secular humanists won't be spared a sobering intellectual reckoning with first contact. Copernicus removed Earth from the center of the universe, and Darwin yanked humans down into the muck with the rest of the animal kingdom. But even within this framework, human beings have continued to regard ourselves as nature's pinnacle. We have continued treating "lower" creatures with great cruelty. We have marveled that existence itself was authored in such a way as to generate, from the simplest materials and axioms, beings like us. We have flattered ourselves that we are, in the words of Carl Sagan, "the universe's way of knowing itself." These are secular ways of saying we are made in the image of God.

We may be humbled to one day find ourselves joined, across the distance of stars, to a more ancient web of minds, fellow travelers in the long journey of time. We may receive from them an education in the real history of civilizations, young, old, and extinct. We may be introduced to galactic-scale artworks, borne of million-year traditions. We may be asked to participate in scientific observations that can be carried out only by multiple civilizations, separated by hundreds of light-years. Observations of this scope may disclose aspects of nature that we cannot now fathom. We may come to know a new metaphysics. If we're lucky, we will come to know a new ethics. We'll emerge from our existential shock feeling newly alive to our shared humanity. The first light to reach us in this dark forest may illuminate our home world too.

Saudi prince killed in helicopter crash near Yemen border
www.bbc.com

Here's the interesting bit:

"Prince Mansour was the son of Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, a former intelligence chief who was crown prince between January and April 2015, when he was pushed aside by Prince Mohammed's father, King Salman, now 81."

"The document took so long to produce, however, and the process of its production was so tortuous, that it had unanticipated results. First of all, by the time it was released, the United States had already entered the war, and Russia was irrevocably on the way out. Contrary to the wishes of those who framed it, the Balfour Declaration did not influence the outcome of World War I. But surely it influenced what happened after."

During the war, the British government had been attempting to win over the Zionists with one hand, while coaxing Arabs into serving its interests with the other. It successfully encouraged Husayn ibn Ali, the sharif of Mecca, to rebel against their common enemy, the Ottoman Empire. When the sharif launched his insurrection, he did so believing that the United Kingdom had promised to support the establishment of an independent Arab kingdom, including Palestine, of which he would be the leader -- not a home in Palestine for the Jewish people. He therefore viewed the Balfour Declaration as a great betrayal. After November 2, 1917, neither he nor his followers would trust "perfidious Albion."

Nor would many Zionists (although Weizmann remained an Anglophile all his life). This is because they had discovered that even as the British government was promising Palestine to them, it was bound by the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 to cede the north of the country to France and the holy cities to government by international condominium. Of course, Zionists did not view the Balfour Declaration as a betrayal, but they knew now that the British government was capable of forsaking them.

What they never learned was that Lloyd George had been prepared to betray them even as they celebrated the declaration he made possible. In January 1918, mere weeks after issuing it, he had sent an emissary to speak with the Turks about a separate peace. Having Turkey out of the war would be a greater contribution to an Allied victory than anything concerning Jews and Arabs. Lloyd George offered the Turks various inducements. One was that if the Ottomans deserted Germany, their flag could continue to fly over Palestine. Had they accepted this offer, no one would be referring to the Balfour Declaration today.

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