Russia’s Dr. Evil
June 12, 2019
“Most Americans are close to total ignorance about the world. They are ignorant. That is an unhealthy condition in a country in which foreign policy has to be endorsed by the people if it is to be pursued. And it makes it much more difficult for any president to pursue an intelligent policy that does justice to the complexity of the world.”
“[American exceptionalism] is a reaction to the inability of people to understand global complexity or important issues like American energy dependency. Therefore, they search for simplistic sources of comfort and clarity. And the people that they are now selecting to be, so to speak, the spokespersons of their anxieties are, in most cases, stunningly ignorant.”
– Zbigniew Brzezinski
The Great Game (in Africa)
Documents leaked from an investigative unit based in London reveal an elaborate Russian ‘influence mission’ across Africa, led by close Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin. The mission’s goals are to “strong-arm” the US, Britain and France out of the region, and increase Russia’s presence on the continent by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals, and grooming a new generation of “leaders” and undercover “agents.” The documents show the scale of recent Prigozhin-linked operations in at least 13 African countries, and Moscow’s ambition to turn the region into a strategic hub.
Prigozhin is the St. Petersburg businessman known as ‘Putin’s chef’. He was indicted in 2018 by US special counsel Robert Mueller for running a Moscow troll factory that operated an extensive social media campaign in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump. Prigozhin is also linked to the Wagner group, a private military contractor that has supplied mercenaries to fight in Ukraine and Syria.
The investigative unit is called the Dossier Center; it was set up by Putin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an exiled former energy executive living in London. The center’s website features a sprawling diagram of interconnected Russian officials described as the “main beneficiaries” of corruption. Khodorkovsky is self-funding the center, which he says gets its data from a series of anonymous digital drop boxes. The leaks carry evidence of high-level corruption in Moscow, as well as the Kremlin’s “illegal attempts to influence Western public opinion and Western politicians.”
- The new scramble for Africa: how China became the partner of choice (Guardian, 2016)
- China pledges $60bn to develop Africa (BBC, 2015)
- What China hopes to achieve with first peacekeeping mission (BBC, 2015)
- Is China the World’s New Colonial Power? The rising superpower has built up enormous holdings in poor, resource-rich African countries — but its business partners there aren’t always thrilled. (NYT, $, 2017)
- Ivan Golunov arrest: Russian reporter is freed after public outcry (BBC)
- The Great Game (Wikipedia)
Blood Is Thicker Than A Chemical Weapon
- The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that an unnamed “person knowledgeable about the matter” had said that Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, ‘was a CIA informant’ before being assassinated in Malaysia in 2017.
- According to the Journal’s source, Kim traveled to Malaysia in February 2017 to meet his CIA contact, although that may not have been the sole purpose of his trip. Two women were charged with smearing Kim’s face with a lethal chemical weapon at the Kuala Lumpur airport. Many details of Kim’s relationship with the US intelligence remain unclear and the WSJ’s claims have not been independently confirmed. (Guardian)
- ‘The Great Successor’ Aims To Fill In Blanks On The Life Of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un (NPR)
- North Korea: Hundreds of public execution sites identified, says report (BBC)
- Daily Pnut on Kim Jong-nam Killed by Weapon of Mass Destruction
Justice Served In Child Murder Case
- In January 2018, an 8-year-old Muslim girl was kidnapped from a meadow and taken to a remote Hindu temple, where for several days she was kept locked up, starved, drugged, beaten gang-raped, and eventually hit in the head with a rock and killed. Investigators said the man behind the plot to kidnap the child was a retired government revenue officer who wanted to strike fear into her Muslim nomadic tribe, the Bakarwal, and drive them from the rugged Himalayan region where they live as shepherds.
- The crime became a religious flashpoint in India, with Hindu women threatening to kill themselves if the case proceeded and other Hindu nationalists claiming the men were innocent and had been set up.
- On Monday a special court in the state of Punjab convicted six men, among them police officials, handing them sentences ranging from five years to life in prison. (NYT)
Cuban Doctors Are Embargone
- Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro took a tough stance against Cuba when he was elected last October. In response the Cuban government announced in November it was recalling 8,517 doctors it had deployed to poor and remote regions of Brazil.
- Bolsonaro vowed to replace the Cuban doctors with Brazilian ones, but six months into his presidential term, Bolsonaro is struggling with that promise. As of April, 3,847 public-sector medical positions in almost 3,000 municipalities remain unfilled, sharply curtailing access to health care for an estimated 28 million people. (NYT)
You’re going to want to sit down for this one. ButcherBox is celebrating their Bacon Day by giving you free bacon FOR LIFE. If you sign up for a ButcherBox subscription today, they’ll send you free bacon with every box for the life of your subscription.
All of ButcherBox’s bacon is uncured and free of added sugar and nitrates. ButcherBox delivers humanely-raised, high quality meat directly to your door – 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef, organic free-range chicken, heritage breed pork, and wild Alaskan salmon. Sign up today and get free bacon for life!
Build The Firewall!
- Customs officials said in a statement Monday that photos of approximately 100,000 travelers and their vehicle license plates taken at a US border control point were hacked from the database of a government subcontractor.
- The agency did not name the sub, but last month computer security website The Register reported that Tennessee-based Perceptics — which purports to be “the sole provider” of license-plate readers at land border points in the US — had been hacked.
- The American Civil Liberties Union is among other groups concerned about the lack of regulation of license-plate-reading cameras. An enormous database of information is being collected and sometimes pooled into regional sharing systems with little or no restrictions to protect privacy rights. (NPR)
- Don’t smile for surveillance: Why airport face scans are a privacy trap (WaPo, $)
- Project Svalbard: The Future of Have I Been Pwned (Troy Hunt)
- What Happens to Your Stolen Medical Data (Lifehacker)
- I Needed to Save My Mother’s Memories. I Hacked Her Phone. After she died, breaking into her phone was the only way to put together the pieces of her digital life. (NYT, $)
Additional USA News
- Trump Wants To Limit Aid For Low-Income Americans. A Look At His Proposals (NPR)
- With Most States Under One Party’s Control, America Grows More Divided (NYT, $)
- Blight is eating American cities. Here’s how Mobile, Alabama, stopped it: The story of blight in Mobile, Alabama, is the story of the rich and poor in America, of unregulated real estate, and of centuries of inequality. But in Mobile, a small team figured out how to change the narrative. (Fast Company)
- Near-record ‘dead zone’ forecast off U.S. Gulf coast, threatening fish (Reuters)
Plantlife’s Expedited Extinction
- A comprehensive scientific study has found that 571 plant species have disappeared in the last two and a half centuries. The number is more than twice the number of birds, mammals and amphibians recorded as extinct.
- This data suggests plant extinction is happening as much as 500 times faster than what would normally be expected, that is, if humans weren’t around. All life on Earth depends on plants, which provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat.
- A conservation scientist said plant extinction is bad news for all species, because it can lead to a whole cascade of extinctions in other organisms that rely on them, such as insects that use plants for food and for laying their eggs.
- In May a UN report estimated that one million animal and plant species were threatened with extinction. (BBC) Hopefully we save the seeds of all of these disappearing plant species.
A Ten Thousand Year Long “Do Not Touch” Sign
- The Long Now Foundation was established in 1996 and is based in San Francisco. It is a public, non-profit organization that seeks to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution.
- Its goal is to promote “slower/better” thinking as a counterpoint to what it views as today’s “faster/cheaper” mindset.
- The Clock of the Long Now, one of several of the foundation’s on-going projects, is a monument-scale timepiece designed to operate with minimum human intervention for ten thousand years. It is being constructed in the Texas desert as an icon to long-term thinking.
- World-traveling author, historian and journalist Alexander Rose has been working over the past two decades on the clock with a team of Long Now engineers. Rose explains what he’s learned about designing for extreme longevity. (BBC)
Gold Soundz by Pavement, a song we discovered that we hope brings Daily Pnut readers as much joy as it has to us.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU