Saturday, March 16, 2019

Body language: The Russian science keeping North Korea's dead leaders looking fresh

By Josh Smith SEOUL Reuters - Perhaps none of the communist legacies shared by Vietnam and North Korea highlighted during Kim Jong Un’s “goodwill visit” to Hanoi is stranger than the embalmed leaders on display in their capital cities, and the secretive team of Russian technicians that keeps the aging bodies looking ageless. Kim laid a wreath outside Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum in the Vietnamese capital on Saturday, after the conclusion of his shortened summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. Inside the dark interior of the mausoleum, the embalmed corpse of Vietnam’s founding father lies displayed in a glass coffin for a steady stream of tourists who silently shuffle by. In Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and father are on similar display in the loftily named Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a monument to the cult of personality that surrounds North Korea’s ruling family. All three leaders were originally preserved by a team of specialists from the so-called “Lenin Lab” in Moscow, which first embalmed and displayed Vladimir Lenin’s body in 1924. The Soviet Union may have collapsed, and socialism in both Vietnam and North Korea has taken on forms barely recognizable to the ideology’s first thinkers, but that same lab still performs annual maintenance on Ho, and according to at least one researcher, still helps North Korea keep the Kims looking fresh. “The original embalming and the regular re-embalmings have always been conducted by the scientists of the Moscow lab,” said Alexei Yurchak, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, who is writing a book about the embalmed communist leaders. “Over the years they trained local scientists in some techniques, but not all, maintaining the core of the know-how secret.” BODY WORK Unlike earlier preservation processes such as mummification, the permanent embalming pioneered by Soviet scientists kept the bodies flexible, with unblemished skin and a lifelike, if rather waxy, pallor. With North Vietnam under regular attack by American warplanes at the time of Ho’s death in 1969, the Soviet Union airlifted chemicals and equipment to a cave outside Hanoi, which the Soviet experts turned into a sterile lab, Yurchak said. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, the government lab faced a funding crisis, leading it to rely more heavily on offering services to foreign clients, Yurchak said. Among those customers was North Korea, where Russian specialists embalmed both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at a laboratory built into the mausoleum in Pyongyang. The original embalming takes several months, and the bodies need regular upkeep. “Every one-and-a-half to two-years, these bodies are re-embalmed by the Moscow scientists,” Yurchak said, citing interviews he conducted with lab scientists and his own field research. The website for the committee that manages Ho’s mausoleum says Russia started charging for the chemicals after the Soviet Union collapsed, prompting Hanoi to ask that the supplies be produced in Vietnam. Vietnam has also sent technicians to study in Russia and can now handle the operations of the mausoleum by itself, the website says. A source with committee, however confirmed the monument is closed every year for two months and that Russian technicians help with annual maintenance of the body. When contacted by Reuters, the mausoleum lab in Moscow, which since 1992 has been known as the Center for Scientific Research and Teaching Methods in Biochemical Technologies, declined to comment on any aspect of its work. The North Korean delegation at the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment. Researcher Tom Fowdy, who founded a group promoting tourism and cultural engagements in North Korea, said he has seen the Kumsusan Palace closed for unexplained "renovations", but maintenance of the bodies is a mystery. "While it is obvious the methodology was derived from Russia, it will be a closely kept secret," he said. Some experts say China, which relied on its own scientists to embalmed Mao Zedong because of tension between Beijing and Moscow at the time, may have taught or helped North Korea. CHANGING SYMBOLS ors to Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Palace pass displays that include Kim Jong Il’s personal yacht and an Apple computer the dictator had once owned, before being required to bow three times to the bodies. "The personality politics of the Kims exceeds all others," Fowdy said, noting that maintaining the memorial will continue to "receive overwhelming priority" in North Korea's government budgeting. It's not clear how much impoverished North Korea spends on maintaining the Kims' bodies. When Moscow released preservation costs for the first time in 2016, it reported spending nearly $200,000 that year to maintain Lenin. Originally the embalming was seen as a way of joining the various countries to international communism, as embodied in Lenin. But as Vietnam and North Korea developed in their different political ways, so has the meaning attached to preserving the leaders’ bodies. “Today this original meaning of these bodies has changed – in Vietnam the body of Ho today stands for anti-colonial struggles for independence and even for new nationalism, much more than for communism,” Yurchak said. “In North Korea the two Kims’ bodies stand for a self-sufficient country organized around one leader and existing in the face of the ‘imperialist surroundings.’” Reporting by Josh Smith. Additional reporting by Tom Balmforth in MOSCOW and Khanh Vu in HANOI.; Editing by Lincoln Feast

Epidemic of after-school activities among Russian kids: Good or bad? 

Four-year-old Bella Devyatkina is taking part in the TV show Amazing People. In front of an audience of astonished adults, she talks and reads aloud in Russian, English, French, German, Spanish, and Chinese, before retelling everything in Arabic. Bella’s mom says that initially she and her husband just wanted the child to speak fluent English. At ten months, they decided to add French. Before starting to speak, Bella learned words on flashcards. At age three, Chinese was introduced to her studies, followed by Spanish, German, and Arabic. All her lessons take different forms: drama studies in English, drawing classes in French, figure skating with a German coach. Bella’s case is exceptional. But not that of her parents. Many people want to “create” a wunderkind by overscheduling their child’s day even more than their own. “Singing from age five, drama and English from age six, chess from age seven, choreography from age nine, plus a decorative arts study group,” Elena, mother of 11-year-old Yulia from the town of Miass in the Chelyabinsk region, describes her child’s pursuits. According to Elena, all of Yulia’s fifth-grade peers attend extra classes and study groups except one “for health reasons”. Two main dangers: inactivity and smartphones In addition to school or kindergarten, many children attend extra developmental or sports classes. Parents across the land make a point of filling their social media accounts with endless photos of their children’s extracurricular activities. According to Rosstat the Russian state statistics service, Russia is home to more than 32 million children under the age of 14—more than one fifth of the population. Parents want them to have a glittering future, and many consider the main obstacles to success to be inactivity and... information technology. “If my child isn’t given something constructive to do, he'll spend his time playing video games or messing around,” says Ekaterina, mother of four-year-old Roma, from Novgorod. “We didn’t have that much information when we were young. No Internet or computers. But children these days have too much information, and it needs filtering,” says Natalia from Moscow, the mother of two daughters aged ten and six. “If a child's schedule is correctly balanced, he or she will have time to do music and sport on top of their school studies. The main thing is that children should have an interest. If not, they'll be glued to their phones and fill their heads with all kinds of nonsense,” she believes. Today’s moms would prefer to forget what their own parents said about the evils of television. But since not every child is overly enthusiastic about non-smartphone activities, it falls to their parents to make the first choice. The most tigerish of them start as soon as the diapers come off: When typing “where to send child...” in Yandex, the search engine automatically completes the sentence: “... from age 3”. That particular query in Russian returns 277 million results. Sometimes the choice is dictated by parents’ own unfulfilled ambitions. As a child, Ekaterina said she wanted to have singing and piano lessons, but her mother refused. So she signed her son Roma up for music and gymnastics. Singing, in particular. “Roma likes singing, it’s probably his mother’s genes,” says Ekaterina. Personal time and space Sure, it’s an exaggeration to say that hyper-busy children have no free time at all. Except that “free” means weekends with parents and holidays packed with extracurricular activities. Not to mention all the “vacation assignments” to ensure that the child is top of the class when the new term starts. Most of the year, Russian children, like adults, follow a 5:2 weekdayweekend regime, under the strict supervision of teachers, coaches, and parents. Moreover, according to a letter issued by the Ministry of Education and Science MoES on September 5, 2018, students are “required to participate in extracurricular activities.” If a child does not do them at school, they must provide a note as per common Russian practice saying what study groups or circles they attend elsewhere, or why they are unable to do so for health reasons. Moscow and other big-city parents need little official encouragement. But regional schools pay more attention to MoES circulars. Anna from Veliky Novgorod, who has a daughter and son, says that in her city after-school options are few and prohibitively expensive. Many children do extracurricular activities at school just to fulfill the mandatory “extra class quota.” “Permanent activities are one way to keep control over children’s upbringing. But there are more minuses than pluses,” reckons Anastasia Klepinina, a specialist in developmental psychology. “Everyone needs personal time and space, and children are no exception. They must be allowed to run around and play to their heart’s content. This is the best motivator for learning and discovering new things, and stimulates mental development and well-being. Things learned at the ‘inappropriate’ time are quickly forgotten. Worse, children could develop an aversion to the learning process itself." Anastasia goes on to say that problems caused by constant parental control are beginning to manifest themselves in today’s adolescents: “They have no responsibility or self-reliance. Even dressing themselves can be a problem. Constant care and control deprives the child of the opportunity to cultivate an independent self.” “Children need breathing space from time to time—just to hang out online or somewhere else. Inactivity is an important component of life, or else you can go cuckoo,” says Anna from Veliky Novgorod. Her eldest daughter, 16-year-old Vera, has been keen on dancing since childhood and now dances hip-hop. Anna's son, 12-year-old Ilya, is home-schooled not for health reasons and goes to a fitness center twice a week by his own choice. What do children themselves think? “I don't like watching hockey. I like playing it. I do it because it's cool. My friends in kindergarten are a bit jealous that I go to hockey lessons,” says six-year-old Sasha from Lytkarino near Moscow. As for mom’s tablet and phone, Sasha is very good “friends” with them—at a younger age, he could readily spend 2-3 hours without looking up from the screen. But now he has other goals in mind. Sasha takes great pleasure in his own personal achievements. “Recently I learned how to slow down on the ice. Before I could only do it by grabbing hold of someone, but then I managed to stop all by myself. It was awesome!” Eleven-year-old Yulia, the daughter of Elena from Miass, talks about the pleasure she gets from her favorite activity—singing. “When you go on stage, it's very scary. But then people start to clap and you loosen up a bit,” she says. Yulia spends 12 hours a week solely on extracurricular classes, but she enjoys it. “There were times when I was jealous of kids with lots of free time, but then I got really involved in the out-of-school classes I was doing and still am, and now I don’t want to spend time on anything else,” she says. “I owe everything to mom” Does overscheduling your child increase their chances of becoming an Einstein or Mozart? We asked adults to evaluate how their own developmental and extra classes in childhood affected their lives, and what role their parents played. Forty-two-year-old Andrei, father of Ilya, is an IT expert. When he first got into computers, no one really understood what it was all about. “If adults disapproved, it was mostly down to technical ignorance. The usual ‘you’ll ruin your eyesight’ comments. But Andrei’s mother was ahead of the curve and realized he needed additional knowhow. “She suggested I take a computer course. They were new in our city back then and quite expensive. But she could see I was mad about computers, and guessed right,” says Andrei. Muscovite Alexandra, 32, is a former “hyper-busy” child herself. She recalls how her and her brother’s daily schedule was mapped out with precision. Her brother did sport, because their mother wanted him to “grow up strong.” And both children went to language classes, because mom wanted them to get into Moscow State University. For Alexandra, music school was the toughest, three times a week: “I hated it, although I had a good ear. But solfège ear training and piano... Mom made me do even more at home, it was terrible. In the end, I quit without finishing.” She did folk dancing twice a week, plus guitar on weekends. And at the grammar school where Alexandra and her brother studied, there were plenty of out-of-class activities: theater, hikes, trips, etc. “It sounds almost cruel,” says Alexandra. “But it never seemed to me that I didn’t have a childhood. I spent all summer running round the village where my granny lived. Sometimes I wondered why other kids hung out in the yard but I didn’t. My mom said they would grow up to be shop assistants or worse. By the way, she was right.” Alexandra is sure that everything she and her brother achieved in life is “thanks solely to mom, her energy and parenting.” Alexandra doesn’t do music anymore—her job is connected with foreign languages. But there are times when she regrets quitting music school. She was on the verge of graduating and would have got a diploma. But she never talks to her mother about it, “because she always said that if I quit, I’d live to regret it.” If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material. ' }, error: function { $email.val''; alert'An unknown error occurred. Try later.'; } }; } }; }; initFormSubmit; $completeButton.on'click', function evt { evt.preventDefault; evt.window.location.reload; }; };

Is Russia's S-400 a Paper Tiger or a Real Air Force Killer? 

In March 2019, the Swedish Defense Research Agency FOI published a report that alleges that Russia’s vaunted Anti-AccessArea-Denial A2AD capabilities in the Baltic region are overrated. It presents a technical and doctrinal argument for why Russian long-range missile capabilities, in the anti-air, anti-ship, and anti-land realms, may have been overstated in the media and in professional analysis. One of the key systems the paper takes aim at is the Russian S-400 air defense system. It suggests that analysts in media have overblown the threat the S-400 poses by taking claims about its range at face value, namely the 400 km figure for the 40N6 missile, and by overstating the S-400’s ability to engage incoming missiles meant to suppress or kill it. In order for the S-400 to have a 400 km range against large aircraft, it must be able to see over the “radar horizon” presented by the curvature of the Earth. There are a couple solutions to this, which are gone over in the paper: namely the use of an over-the-horizon OTH radar or through cooperative engagement capability CEC. CEC, in this scenario, would involve using data from airborne warning aircraft to fire surface-to-air missiles. The FOI authors of the paper state that current OTH radars cannot guide a missile effectively, citing a 2016 War is Boring article by David Axe and a Swedish paper regarding OTH radars. The 2016 article states that early low-frequency radars could only pinpoint a target’s position to 10,000 feet or so, which isn’t accurate enough to guide a missile. It is possible to lob 40N6 missiles out that far at approximate tracks generated by OTH radars and then rely on the active radar seeker on the missile, which has a range of around 30 km, to guide the missile finish the job. The paper acknowledges this capability, but dismisses it as inaccurate as “V-2 strikes”. However, depending on the kinematics and seeker capability of the S-400 missile, this capability could be a very real threat for large aircraft. Airborne warning aircraft provide far more accurate tracks. Russia fields over twenty A-50M airborne warning aircraft, which can detect aircraft out to 800 km, far beyond the range of the S-400. The sticking point here is the networking required: the airborne warning aircraft needs to send data to the S-400 system, which then uses that data to engage the plane at range. Russia has not discussed nor demonstrated this capability, and the FOI paper states that acquiring it is very hard. But, Soviet MiG-31 interceptors were known to possess similar capabilities during the Cold War, albeit solely in the air-to-air realm. They were able to pass track data and transfer missile guidance from one MiG to another. It was also possible to dump engagement data to ground stations, although the extent of that is not known. This suggests that Russia could develop CEC rather rapidly if required, though the air-to-ground data transfer may pose significant difficulties. The report may also overstate the ease of knocking the S-400 system out. In discussing countermeasures to the S-400, the article states that a S-400 battalion could engage between sixteen and sixty-four targets before having to reload, depending on the mix of medium-range and long-range missiles loaded into the launcher. From this, they state that a saturation attack with “dozens” of precision guided stand off weapons and decoys could take out the S-400’s engagement radar. While “dozens” is an approximate figure, this analysis ignores the presence of point defense missiles near the S-400, and the S-400’s ability to reject decoy targets. Earlier on in the paper, the FOI authors acknowledge that S-400 battalions are often deployed with Pantsir-S1 point defense systems. They largely dismiss the effectiveness of these systems, citing examples of the systems easily being destroyed by Israeli attacks in 2018 and 2019. However, in Syrian service the Pantsir was operating independently: relying on its own search radar to detect targets. When operating as point defense for the S-400, the Pantsir can receive track data from the S-400’s more powerful search radar, although it still must use its own fire control radar to engage targets. This may allow it to be more effective than it was in Syria against Western precision guided munitions. Russia is also working on new, smaller missiles to arm the Pantsir, so it can prosecute more engagements without reloading and be more effective in the face of swarm or saturation attacks. In addition, it’s possible that Russian forces may deploy the more effective Tor point defense systems to augment the point defenses of the Pantsir, following the Syrian performance. Tors are known to be fielded in Kaliningrad, as are S-400s . The S-400 also has the capability to perform non-cooperative target recognition NCTR, although there is little open data on this capability. From this, it may be able to classify some oncoming targets as decoys to avoid wasting ammunition on them. As a result, it may require more missiles than the report suggests to fully knock out an S-400’s engagement radar, although any system can be saturated. Overall, the FOI paper presents good analysis by showing that the Russian A2AD anti-air bubble is not as big as people might think. But they might be selling the S-400 system a little too short. Russia has had a limited form of CEC for decades, and the Tor is a formidable point defense system. Information about MiG-31 CEC was taken from Авиация ПВО России и научно-технический прогресс: боевые комплексы и системы вчера . Charlie Gao studied Political and Computer Science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues. Image: Wikimedia Commons

How Trump’s indecency and his disdain for science go hand-in-hand 

But Welsh’s last sentence — “it’s science alone that offers us any real hope” — diminishes the full impact of Oliver Sacks’ quote. As Welsh also notes, Sacks opined that qualities such as “decency, common sense, farsightedness and concern for the unfortunate and poor” are needed to aid science in offering hope to the world.

Russian trolls can be surprisingly subtle, and often fun to read 

On Sept. 10, 2018, PoliteMelanie tweeted to her more than 20,000 followers: “Criticizing Trump in a book is just unfair. It’s like criticizing the Amish on television.” The next day, this tweet won the Chicago Tribune’s “Tweet of the Week” contest. What the Tribune’s readers didn’t know when casting their votes, however, was that “Melanie” was a Russian troll. PoliteMelanie appears to be part of a well-coordinated network of Russian troll accounts that we monitored in the run-up to the 2018 elections. Examining a range of data points, including source material and the timing of tweets, told us that this account was most likely operated from Russia’s Internet Research Agency IRA. This secretive St. Petersburg-based organization, financed by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin known as “Putin’s chef” because he catered dinners for the Russian president, has worked for years to influence political conversations on social media around the globe. One may have assumed that the Russian trolls’ posts would be crass, vitriolic, vodka-fueled attacks featuring broken English and spreading fake news or simple pro-Putin propaganda. Most Americans probably believe that they could spot a Russian troll from a mile away — and that they would certainly never engage with one. These assumptions, however, do not give credit to what Prigozhin’s people have built. We’ve spent the past year studying Russian IRA disinformation on Twitter with the goal of better understanding its strategy and tactics. Like KGB disinformation operations of the past, this campaign has two overt goals. First, it seeks to further divide and polarize the United States along ideological lines. As long as we are fighting among ourselves, we aren’t paying attention to what Putin is doing in Ukraine and elsewhere. Second, it attempts to undermine our trust in the institutions that sustain a strong nation and a strong democracy. The media, science, academia and the electoral process are all regular targets of troll venom. The Russians want to push us further apart while causing us to lose trust in what has traditionally made us strong. U.S. Cyber Command operation disrupted Internet access of Russian troll factory on day of 2018 midterms Yet the IRA’s work is much subtler, often more palatable and always seemingly more organic than Americans may imagine. The operators in St. Petersburg understand the way information is spread on the platforms they use and, more important, they understand how to reach their American audience. On the theory that it is easier to catch a fly with honey, many troll messages are not negative. Instead, they are cute, or educational, or uplifting, all in an attempt to gain credibility and followers. PoliteMelanie won the “Tweet of the Week” because Americans found her funny. They spread her messages and followed her account for that same reason. Before Twitter suspended PoliteMelanie’s account, her winning tweet had more than 125,000 retweets and likes — and this wasn’t even her most popular post. Another tweet from this account became the topic of a heartwarming Scary Mommy blog post. A third PoliteMelanie tweet was highlighted by the popular humor website CollegeHumorm. PoliteMelanie garnered nearly 25,000 followers in less than six months — she effectively built a brand. The operators in St. Petersburg are good at their jobs. Tweets from other accounts that were part of the PoliteMelanie network had similar success: We found them cited by The Washington Post, CNN, BuzzFeed, Al Jazeera, the New York Post and Essence magazine, to name a few. One of these accounts, Blk_Hermione, had a tweet with cross-platform success, gaining more than 40,000 “upvotes” to make the front page of Reddit. An analysis of 2 million English-language IRA tweets released by Twitter last July shows that the trolls had at that point gained 30 million likes and 22 million retweets among 1,866 English-language accounts active between 2014 and 2017. And the data shows they have gotten better with each passing year. Compare the trolls’ performance to a typical tweet: The median number of likes and retweets a tweet receives is zero. You might be binge-watching Russian propaganda on Netflix The trolls may not always hit the mark, but they’ve achieved moments of social media virality that would make a grumpy cat jealous. They are remarkably astute in exploiting questions of culture and identity and are frequently among the first to push new divisive conversations. We’ve seen debates that they helped foment move quickly from Twitter to mainstream print media. On topics ranging from vaccines to Colin Kaepernick, they can speak vehemently to the extremes of both sides. In so doing, they work to drive Americans ideologically further apart. That’s why IRA accounts have differing target audiences and differently tailored messages. In June 2017, for example, Crystal1Johnson, a troll account that participated in Black Lives Matter communities, tweeted to her more than 50,000 followers, “Daily reminder that the most educated First Lady in American history is a black woman with two Ivy League degrees from Harvard and Princeton.” This tweet gained almost half a million likes and retweets, though even this seemingly positive message could still be read as a dig at other first ladies. The trolls know that a message is in the eye of the beholder. They know us and they know our sins. They can be bitter, dark and nihilistic at times, but that fits us. Active in 2016, Jihadist2ndWife, for instance, was a Russian troll account pretending to be a more conventional parody account, posing as the work of the second wife of an Islamic State fighter. It was clearly meant for a niche audience, but a large one. Its humor was anti-Muslim and popular, garnering 5,577 followers. Twitter continually shuts down accounts like Jihadist2ndWife, but the IRA’s success at spreading disinformation and dissent has been historic. It can afford to routinely lose accounts, given the low cost of replacement and the efficiency with which they can build followers. In relative terms, Prigozhin’s entire endeavor is incredibly inexpensive: The price tag for this online warfare has been far less than for one U.S. fighter plane. Other nations clearly view these asymmetrical tactics as fruitful, since new troll factories are spreading, to countries as diverse as Iran, Venezuela and Bangladesh. The U.S. military is quietly launching efforts to deter Russian meddling The IRA’s success has led to some outright boasting, and it has even used itself as a tool of division. As early as July 2015, five different IRA accounts tweeted, “#TrumpCampaignSlogans Real troll from America.” On Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the election, the IRA troll jonathandotnet tweeted to the New Yorker’s Adrian Chen, “Trump is Putin’s agent.” And in a final election victory lap, on Dec. 19, 2016, the day of Trump’s electoral college victory, 27 IRA accounts tweeted, “#ThingsYouCantIgnore a Russian plant as your next #POTUS.” The IRA’s operatives have studied us, and they know how to take advantage of the tools we’ve given them. IRA employees aren’t actually trolls; they are professionals with a job to do. So far we’ve made that job easy. We need to accept that we are engaged in nothing less than political warfare, and as we approach the 2020 election, we need to be more clever than the trolls. from Outlook: Our elections are still vulnerable to Russian interference An illustrated guide to the many, many people in the Russia investigation’s orbit Follow our updates on and Twitter.

The Real Russian Collusion: Fomenting EU, U.S. Climate Protests 

Russia is trying to influence the policies of foreign governments again, although this time the target is Europe, not the United States. In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States, the lamestream media has been awash in stories of Russian attempts to influence the U.S. elections. Although it seems clear Russia tried to influence U.S. voters via fake accounts on , Twitter, and other social media platforms, there is little if any evidence Russia’s efforts had any impact on the U.S. election. The 2016 elections were hardly Russia’s first attempt to influence U.S. politics. It has been happening since the beginning of the Cold War. Anyone remember the Cuban missile crisis? Most recently, while Barack Obama was president, Russia used social media and funneled money to U.S. environmental groups to hamper domestic efforts to expand oil and gas production in the United States and undermine efforts to expand natural gas exports. This was detailed in numerous reports almost uniformly ignored by the liberal mass media, probably because the U.S. press dislike fossil fuels and would never tell the truth about anything that might benefit Trump’s presidential efforts. Many of these efforts were detailed in a 2018 House Science Committee report, one portion of which states, “the Kremlin manipulated various groups in an attempt to carry out its geopolitical agenda, particularly with respect to domestic energy policy.” For instance, the report states: 
 In January 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report that contained “clear evidence that the Kremlin is financing and choreographing anti-fracking propaganda in the United States.” The report found that the Russian-sponsored news agency RT formerly Russian sic Today “ran anti-fracking programing, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health,” which “is likely reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact of fracking and the U.S. natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Russian energy companies’ profitability.” 
 Having had limited success, if any, in stopping fracking, pipeline construction, the licensing of new liquefied natural gas LNG export terminals, or LNG exports from those terminals, it seems Russia has set its sights on Europe. Russian efforts to stymie fracking in Europe have been observed as far back as 2014. For instance, the left-leaning newspaper The Guardian quoted Anders Fogh Rasmussen, then the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, saying Vladimir Putin’s government was behind attempts to undermine fracking. “I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations—environmental organizations working against shale gas—to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas,” Rasmussen said, according to The Guardian. Several other European leaders have either said or hinted in recent weeks student climate protests across much of Europe are being backed or encouraged by Russia. Large groups of students have walked out of their schools in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and in the U.K. to march against what the students say is the limited scope and slow pace of Europe’s climate policies. Multiple European leaders have indicated they believe the timing, scope, and organization of these protests is at least partially a result of hidden Russian encouragement through social media, including possibly providing indirect funding to nongovernmental organizations supporting and publicizing the kids’ protests. Speaking at an agriculture conference in early February, days after a large youth climate rally, Belgium’s Minister of Town and Country Planning, Environment, Nature, and Agriculture, Joke Schauvliege, said the country’s intelligence services had told her schoolchildren’s climate protests in Belgium were directed by an unnamed foreign power. Amid protests, Schauvliege resigned her post, but other European leaders have made similar statements indicating Russia is behind the youth climate protests. Speaking at an annual Munich Security Conference, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel indicated Russia was behind recent climate protests in Germany, during a discussion of hybrid warfare such as cyberwarfare and disinformation campaigns operated by Russia to destabilize its economic competitors. “In Germany now, children are protesting for climate protection,” said Merkel. “That is a really important issue, but you can’t imagine that all German children, after years, and without any outside influence, suddenly hit on the idea that they have to take part in this process.” Speaking in Belgium at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in mid-February, Pavlo Klimkin, Ukraine’s foreign minister, confirmed Russia was behind the kids’ climate protests in Europe. “It’s a point of exchange with all our partners. Russia has been supporting stirring up trouble around Europe because Russia’s goal is to weaken up the democratic institutions and to weaken the EU as such,” Euractiv reports Klimkin saying. “Concerning climate change protests: definitely yes. Different pseudo-environmental organizations: look at Italy, where they are trying to disrupt the future gas pipelines.” According to Klimkin, Russia is backing climate protests to hamper European energy development and leave the European bloc dependent on Russian natural gas. “The Russians are simply crazy about selling more gas to Europe. … To shift, to reshuffle climate change movements is one of the key Russian priorities, to explain that ‘more gas is fine, coal is bad, but Russian gas is good, Russian gas is reliable.’ And it’s not only in Germany, it’s also in Italy, it’s everywhere,” Klimkin said, “It’s about fake NGOs, it’s about trying to buy journalists, it’s about trying to buy media, it’s about meddling in the political class.” The Russians aren’t coming—they are already here, having invaded the energy and climate debate in the United States and Europe over the past decade. Sadly, in the grip of a monomaniacal climate frenzy, much of the mainstream media continues to ignore Russia’s links to environmentalists and their joint efforts to undermine Western countries’ energy security and independence. The blind eye major news services are turning toward Russia’s meddling in Western nations’ energy policies is a disservice to journalism as a profession and to the public the media is supposed to inform and serve. SOURCES: Euractiv; PoliticoEU; The American Spectator; Big Green Radicals; U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space, and Technology Committee; The Guardian IN THIS ISSUE … Solar activity influences European rainfall … NASA suppressing its own climate conclusions … Coral reefs recovering, contra climate fears SOLAR ACTIVITY INFLUENCES EUROPEAN RAINFALL Precipitation patterns are highly variable across Europe, across all time scales. Research indicates myriad factors drive decadal rainfall patterns across Europe—including Atlantic Ocean cycles, solar activity, volcanic activity, and a variety of anthropogenic factors—and nature seems to dominate. A forthcoming paper in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics indicates solar activity, in particular solar minima, periods of low sunspot activity, drive rainfall patterns, including periods of intense flooding, across Europe. Comparing monthly rainfall totals in 39 European countries from 1901 through 2015 to solar activity, particularly the 11 year solar cycle, the GermanSwiss research team found rainfall amounts consistently increase in certain months three to four years after each solar minimum. “Similar lags of a few years occur between solar activity and the solar-synchronized North Atlantic Oscillation,” the researchers found. In particular, rainfall in Central and Western Europe in February is the most strongly correlated with solar cycles. Rainfall amounts and patterns in April, December, June, July, and May are also strongly correlated with solar cycles, shifting across Europe from the British Isles eastward during the spring and summer. Perhaps not surprisingly, flood frequency also tracks the solar cycle, reflecting the increased rainfall, as in the months when rainfall amounts increase, flooding does as well. SOURCE: Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics behind paywall NASA SUPPRESSING ITS OWN CLIMATE CONCLUSIONS The National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA has been promoting research in recent years that hypes the idea humans fossil fuel use is causing catastrophic climate change. It turns out NASA itself does not believe the hype, a fact it is trying to hide. A 2010 screen capture from NASA’s website during the Obama administration shows the agency clearly said nature, not humans, is the primary driver of climate change, but as the market tracking and analysis blog Zero Hedge points out, if a reader tries to find this page today, its URL lands one on a page at NASA stating “Access denied.” Zero Hedge asks the question everyone should be asking, “What the Hell is NASA Hiding?” As the screen capture clearly shows, before the page was suppressed, a reader would have found the agency said natural factors, not human activities, have and still do dominate the climate. From the web statement: WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY FORCINGS OF THE EARTH SYSTEM? 
 The sun is the primary forcing of Earth’s climate system. Sunlight warms our world. Sunlight drives atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns. … Sunlight causes convection which carries warmth and water vapor up into the sky where clouds form and bring rain. In short, the sun drives almost all of our world’s climate system and makes possible life as we know it. 
 … After the industrial revolution, humans introduced increasing amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and changed the surface of the landscape enough to influence climate on local and global scales. 
 Other important forcings of the Earth’s climate system include such “variables” as clouds, airborne particulate matter, and surface brightness. Each of these varying features of Earth’s environment has the capacity to exceed the warming influence of greenhouse gases and cause our world to cool. 
 Why does NASA now suppress access to this page? Nothing said there is a secret vital to national security. One wonders if NASA would now deny any of those statements about our understanding of the climate, and if it denied one of more of these statements, how would its scientists justify the change. None of the fundamental science has changed since 2010. SOURCES:  Zero Hedge; Jo Nova CORAL REEFS RECOVERING, CONTRA CLIMATE FEARS Coral reefs in Hawaii affected by rising temperatures are responding as coral reefs around the globe have in the last few years. After the initial shock and bleaching, many corals are stabilizing and recovering. In Hawaii, as elsewhere, where corals are struggling to recover or adapt to warmer temperatures, it is almost always because the reefs are facing multiple stressors, often tied to human action, and not solely effects of anthropogenic climate change. The spike in temperatures that contributed to coral bleaching in Hawaii was due to a particularly severe El Niño event. Scientists from the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii NCH reported 60 percent of corals in West Hawaii bleached, with some reefs experiencing up to 90 percent mortality, although “mortality” in this case doesn’t mean death, instead meaning in many instances a temporary loss of the coral community. Many of these same corals are now coming back to life. As NCH Director of Marine Science Dr. Eric Conklin reports, “We surveyed over 14,000 coral colonies at 20 sites along the West Hawaii coast from Kawaihae to Keauhou and were thrilled to see that many of the area’s reefs have stabilized, which is the first step toward recovery.” “The most resilient reefs are in remote areas with limited shoreline access and exposure to human impacts,” reports Maui Now. By contrast, “The least resilient sites all had multiple ‘stressors,’ including fishing pressure, land-based pollutants and runoff, the cumulative impact of a number of stressors rather than the severity of a single stressor being the most significant factor impacting whether corals recover to a rise in temperatures.” SOURCE: Maui Now

On Trump's ties to Russia, Americans have made up their minds: Reuters/Ipsos poll 

NEW YORK Reuters - Only a small number of Americans have not yet made up their minds about whether Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign coordinated with Russian officials, according to new ReutersIpsos polling, which also showed deep divisions in the United States in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Eight out of 10 Americans decided almost immediately about Trump campaign ties to Moscow and only about two in 10 appear to be undecided, the opinion poll released on Friday showed. About half of Americans believe President Trump tried to stop federal investigations into his campaign, the survey found. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to soon wrap up his investigation into U.S. allegations that Moscow interfered in the U.S. political process as well as the Trump campaign links and possible obstruction of justice. Moscow and Trump deny the allegations. Barring bombshell revelations, the survey results suggest the investigation’s influence on voters in the 2020 campaign may already have run its course. The ReutersIpsos poll has tracked public opinion of the investigation since Mueller was appointed in May 2017 following Trump’s firing of FBI chief James Comey, gathering responses from more than 72,000 adults. Public opinion appears to have hardened early, changing little over the past two years despite a string of highly publicized criminal charges against people associated with the Trump campaign. Every time respondents were asked about the investigation, about 8 in 10 Democrats said they thought the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, while 7 in 10 Republicans said they did not. With so few voters left undecided, the report expected from Mueller looks unlikely to serve as a significant voter turnout tool for Republicans or Democrats in November 2020 and could backfire on Democrats if they overplay it. “We keep waiting for something to happen during the Trump era to vastly change the way people view him,” said Kyle Kondik, a non-partisan analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “It hasn’t happened yet,” he said. “Maybe at this point there just aren’t many minds left to change.” According to the latest poll that ran Feb. 27 to March 4, 50 percent of U.S. adults believe Trump “tried to stop investigations” into his campaign, while 32 percent said he did not and 18 percent said they were not sure. It also found that 53 percent believe the campaign “worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election,” while 32 percent do not and 15 percent said they were not sure. The poll result is about the same as it was in April 2018, two months after Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and agreed to cooperate and testify against his mentor Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman for five months in 2016. It is nearly the same as it was in February 2018, after Trump’s first national security advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with Russia, and in May 2017 after Trump fired Comey, who had been leading the probe. Many Democratic leaders have said they are waiting to see Mueller’s report before deciding whether to push for Trump’s impeachment. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump participates in an American Workforce Policy Advisory Board meeting in the White House State Dining Room in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERSLeah MillisFile Photo But 48 percent of U.S. adults polled already said Trump should be impeached, while 40 percent said he should not, with most Democrats favoring impeachment and most Republicans opposed. People in the two parties also have sharply opposing views of the investigation: 73 percent of Republicans believe federal investigators “are working to delegitimize President Trump,” while 74 percent of Democrats believe Republicans and the White House are trying to delegitimize the Russia investigation. Overall, the poll found 40 percent of adults approved of Trump’s performance in office, which is mostly unchanged in the past year. FEW ON THE FENCE To move public opinion at this point, political analysts said something truly remarkable and unexpected would need to happen. Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Republicans may not peel away from Trump unless the Mueller report dismantles Trump’s persona as a street-smart deal maker. Voters may not care about a president’s sexual behavior or business dealings, she said, “but if in fact he is simply a crook who got buoyed up financially by the Russians, that’s another story,” Kamarck said. Democrats in Congress, who have started additional inquiries into the president and his inner circle, run the risk of galvanizing Trump’s supporters and improving his chances for re-election the same way that the Whitewater investigation helped former Democratic President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Clinton thrived in the eyes of the public as the investigation wore on. According to Gallup, he was more popular on the day he was impeached in 1998 than the day that Ken Starr was appointed as an independent counsel four years earlier. Nicholas Valentino, an expert on partisanship at the University of Michigan, said the American public is even more polarized now than it was in Clinton’s time, and that may further insulate Trump politically. “There are fewer moderates in the Republican Party now that will be offended by anything Trump does,” Valentino said. Few of the registered voters polled remained undecided about whether to impeach the president. About 9 percent of registered voters said they “don’t know” if Trump should be impeached, including 10 percent of Democrats and 4 percent of Republicans. About one in five registered independents said they “don’t know” if Trump should be impeached. Democratic voter Sarai Ivanova, 26, a science tutor in North Carolina, a presidential battleground state, was one of the rare respondents who said she needed more facts before taking a stance. Impeachment, she said, is “not something that we should take lightly.” FILE PHOTO: Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing the U.S. House Intelligence Committee on his investigation of potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERSAaron P. BernsteinFile Photo The ReutersIpsos poll was conducted online in English throughout the United States. The latest findings are based on responses from 2,379 adults, including 888 registered Democrats and 796 registered Republicans. It has a credibility interval, a measure of the poll’s precision, of about 4 percentage points. To see the poll data, click here: tmsnrt.rs2C9VPf0, and for an interactive graphic, click here: tmsnrt.rs2Uu1Om9 Reporting by Chris Kahn; Additional reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Bill Trott and Grant McCool

Russian Nobel winner Alferov dies at 88 

No result found, try new keyword!He later became chairman of the Russian Academy of Science's nanotechnology committee. In the Duma, he was a member of the Communist Party faction and served on the committee for Eurasian integration ...

Trump Leaves Tornado Victims, Immediately Launches Massive Tweetstorm Attacking Russia Probe and Democrats 

Almost as if He Was Unmoved by the Tornado Victims' Suffering
 President Donald Trump spent a few hours in Alabama, reviewing the devastation caused by a series of tornadoes and spending time with Americans who lost loved ones, homes and businesses.
 He left after about three hours, including the 25 minutes in the air reviewing the horrific damage from Air Force One, according to pool reports.
 While on the ground the President reviewed a line of crosses honoring the 23 people who lost their lives last Sunday. He then spent some time in a local Baptist church, where he autographed Bibles.
 Immediately after leaving Alabama, the President did not post tweets of encouragement, no promises of help or support, no words of kindness or hope.
 Instead, launched into a rapid-fire tweet and retweet session, mostly about the Special Counsel's Russia probe. So far, 15 tweets in just over an hour's time.
 It's almost as if he was unmoved by the tornado victims' suffering.
 At one point the President of the United States retweeted five tweets from a conservative author, including one that labels the Democratic Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerry Nadler, "Joe McCarthy," the disgraced Cold-War era U.S. Senator.
 Trump also attacked his former, and now fired Attorney General, Jeff Sessions:
 Sessions didn’t have a clue!   See a mistake? Email corrections to: email protected

Russia's Zicron Hypersonic Missile: Now in Land-Attack Mode? 

The 3M22 Zircon Tsirkon missile is one of the most hyped-up weapons in the Russian arsenal. One of the big three publicly-revealed hypersonic missiles, the Zircon is an anti-ship missile designed to pose an “unstoppable” threat to ships within a 300-400 km range . But anonymous sources suggested to CNBC in a December 2018 interview that the Zircon was being adapted to be a land attack missile as well as an anti-ship missile. What could a land attack Zircon look like? What payloads could it carry, and which targets in Europe could be at risk? On the surface, the ground-attack Zircon is a very formidable weapon. It’s not interceptable by any known means, it has plasma stealth to avoid detection, and it would be able to strike at very quick notice. But its original role as an anti-ship missile perhaps hampers its usefulness. Deploying them would be rather straightforward, as K-300 Bastion anti-ship launchers are said to be able to be modified to fire the Zircon. According to Russian sources, the Zircon is derived from the supersonic P-800 Oniks , though the drawings of the Zircon looks significantly different from the P-800. The dimensions of the missiles are comparable, with the Zircon estimated to be between 8-10 meters long and the P-800 being 8.6 meters long in the surface-launched variant. Given that the missiles are approximately similar in dimensions, it’s possible to estimate the warhead size of the Zircon based on the P-800. The P-800’s “battle compartment” which houses the warhead is located in the nose of the missile and is relatively small, due to the constraints of the air-intake and ramjet engine. Although the Zircon missile moves the air intake to the bottom of the missile, the nose is also far more slanted and sharp than the P-800, so the “battle compartment” is likely of the same size or smaller. Based on this, we can estimate the payload of the ground-attack Zircon. The P-800 has a payload of either a 200kg high explosive or 250kg semi-armor-piercing warhead. It’s probably safe to assume the Zircon has a warhead of 200 kilograms or less given the shape of the missile and comparative weights. This makes it less than ideal for the ground-attack role. To compare, the Iskander-M ballistic missile has a payload of around 700 kg, and the Kaliber cruise missile has a payload of 450 kg. While the Zircon is not interceptable by any known means, it is unlikely to be able to take out more hardened NATO installations due to its small warhead. The seeker and guidance package of the Zircon is also practically unknown. While it likely it uses radar homing of some variety, the accuracy of the missile is unknown. Land attack missiles tend to use a variety of imaging technologies and satellite navigation technologies that may have trouble working at hypersonic speeds, so the ground-attack Zircon may not be very accurate. Finally, while the 300-400 range km range might be considered sufficient for anti-ship duty, it leaves a lot to be desired from the ground-attack role. Ground-attack Zircons stationed in Kaliningrad can reach most targets in Poland, but not further. With the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty off the table, ground-attack Zircons might find themselves significantly outranged by other missile systems. While ground-attack Zircons are not weapons to be scoffed at, their questionable accuracy and limited payload and range means they are not as worrisome as the stated capabilities of the other big hypersonic weapons, Kinzhal and Avangard. Charlie Gao studied Political and Computer Science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues. Image: Reuters

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