Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Police confirm that Nikolai Glushkov was murdered. But why?

Luke Harding writes: In recent months Nikolai Glushkov had been in good spirits. True, he had to go into hospital in December from an operation on his foot but remained characteristically cheerful, returning to his home in Kingston, south-west London, and hobbling round on crutches. Charming, with impeccable English, and debonair, Glushkov was well liked. He gave large parties attended by his friends and their children and chatted to his

Russian spy poisoning: chemist says non-state actor couldn’t carry out attack

The Guardian reports: The Russian chemist who revealed the existence of the novichok family of chemical agents to the world has dismissed the notion that a non-state actor could be behind the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, earlier this month. Vil Mirzayanov, 83, said the chemical was too dangerous for anyone but a “high-level senior scientist” to handle and that even he –

Russia has ability to shut off power in the U.S.

The New York Times reports: The Trump administration accused Russia on Thursday of engineering a series of cyberattacks that targeted American and European nuclear power plants and water and electric systems, and could have sabotaged or shut power plants off at will. United States officials and private security firms saw the attacks as a signal by Moscow that it could disrupt the West’s critical facilities in the event of a

Trump wants a torturer to run the CIA

Alberto Mora, a former general counsel of the Department of the Navy during the Bush administration, writes: Regardless of the other good a person may have done in the course of her career, the act of having tortured indelibly and forever defines the character and identity of that person. Is [Gina] Haspel [Trump’s nominee to become the CIA’s next director] a torturer? Yes, inescapably. The Justice Department may have approved

Steve Bannon’s fascination with fascism and Mussolini

Nicholas Farrell writes: We are in a hotel suite at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Zurich when Stephen K. Bannon tells me he adores the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. But let’s be clear. Bannon — as far as I can tell — is not a fascist. He is, however, fascinated by fascism, which is understandable, as its founder Benito Mussolini, a revolutionary socialist, was the first populist of the modern

Music: Tanghetto – ‘El Duelo’

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The ancient hunt in which the tracker’s skill united reason and imagination

“The San people of the Kalahari desert are the last tribe on Earth to use what some believe to be the most ancient hunting technique of all: the persistence hunt; they run down their prey,” says David Attenborough:   “The hunter pays tribute to his quarry’s courage and strength. With ceremonial gestures that ensure that its spirit returns to the desert sands from which it came. While it was alive,

Putin has revived a tradition of Russian exceptionalism in opposition to the West

Simon Tisdall writes: Putin has been crossing red lines, at home and abroad, with growing impunity since he first gained national prominence in 1999. He made his name with a brutal pacification campaign in Chechnya justified by a series of suspicious apartment bombings. Alexander Litvinenko, later murdered in London, blamed the bombings on the FSB and, by implication, Putin. Justified perceptions of western weakness, ambivalence and division have since encouraged

There are more Russian spies in London now than there were at the height of the Cold War

The New York Times reports: The British authorities once devoted abundant resources to tracking the movement of Soviet agents here. But in recent years terrorist threats have become the clear priority, and MI5 has fewer resources to keep pace with Russia’s expanding operations, said John Bayliss, who retired from the Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s electronic intelligence agency, in 2010 and now lectures on security threats. “I think it’s sort of

Stephen Hawking, in his own words

In memory of Stephen Hawking, who died on Wednesday at 76, the New York Times has gathered a selection of his quotes: “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” Don’t

Mike Pompeo is a ‘great climate skeptic’

The New York Times reports: The fall of Rex W. Tillerson from the Trump administration — on Tuesday, Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, was tapped to replace him as secretary of state — removes one the last remaining presidential advisers whose views on global warming are in line with the rest of the world. Mr. Pompeo has questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is changing the climate, and he

Mike Pompeo’s Islamophobia

On Tuesday, Trump named Mike Pompeo as his choice to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Last November, Peter Beinart wrote: Pompeo embraces anti-Muslim bigots, and defames Muslims, with almost as much gusto as Trump himself. Among Fransen’s closest American analogues are Brigitte Gabriel and Frank Gaffney. Gabriel, who has said a “practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the

Novichok chemical attack near Porton Down fed catnip to conspiracy theorists

Vladimir Putin has long understood that Russia can easily exploit the cynicism that permeates political perceptions across the West. The use of the Soviet chemical weapon, Novichok, in close proximity to the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, hardly seems coincidental. It accomplished two things: 1. By deploying this agent so close to the lab, operatives could be fairly confident that British authorities with the required expertise

Trump’s choice for new CIA director had leading role in torture

After firing Rex Tillerson and choosing Mike Pompeo, the current CIA director, as his next Secretary of State, Trump named Gina Haspel as his choice to become the CIA’s next director. In February 2017, the New York Times reported: As a clandestine officer at the Central Intelligence Agency in 2002, Gina Haspel oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects and later took part in an order to destroy videotapes documenting

We’re climate researchers and our work was turned into fake news

rawpixel.com / shutterstock By Michael Grubb, UCL Science is slow. It rests on painstaking research with accumulating evidence. This makes for an inherently uneasy relationship with the modern media age, especially once issues are politicised. The interaction between politics and media can be toxic for science, and climate change is a prominent example. Take the recent “deep freeze” along the US east coast. To scientists, it was one more piece

After a volcano’s ancient supereruption, humanity may have thrived

Shannon Hall writes: The Toba supereruption [about 74,000 years ago] expelled roughly 10,000 times more rock and ash than the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. So much ejecta would have darkened skies worldwide, causing scientists to speculate that it might have plunged the Earth into a volcanic winter whose chill could be felt far from Indonesia. Climate models suggest that temperatures may have plummeted by as much as 30 degrees