Godspeed, John Glenn . . .Space hero dead at 95. A Marine, a pilot, an astronaut, a senator, a great American.
John Glenn, who captured the nation’s attention in 1962 as the first American to orbit the Earth during a tense time when the United States sought supremacy over the Soviet Union in the space race, and who rocketed back into space 36 years later, becoming the oldest astronaut in history, died Dec. 8 at a hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Mr. Glenn, who in his post-NASA career served four terms as a U.S. senator from Ohio, was 95.
Schneier on Friday's attacks:
Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. We don't know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation state. China or Russia would be my first guesses.
... about to be commissioned:
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy will commission the destroyer Zumwalt (DDG 1000), Saturday, Oct. 15, during a 5 p.m. EDT ceremony in Baltimore.Story.
The ship is named in honor of Adm. Elmo R. "Bud" Zumwalt Jr., former chief of naval operations (CNO) from 1970 to 1974. A veteran of World War II and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, Zumwalt exemplified honor, courage and commitment during 32-years of dedicated naval service, earning a Bronze Star with Valor for his actions during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He passed away in 2000 at the age of 79.
The U.S. government on Friday formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organizations during the campaign for the Nov. 8 presidential election.Story.
U.S. officials have said in the past few months that they believe cyber attacks were orchestrated by hackers backed by the Russian government, possibly to disrupt the election in which Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton faces Republican Party candidate Donald Trump. Russia has dismissed allegations it was involved in cyber attacks on the organizations.
The question is, how do you retaliate - make Russia have a real election?
Any Sunni country, looking at the genocidal tactics being used in Syria, will conclude that they need a nuclear weapon. Why? Because Iran, which is part of the Syrian/Russian coalition, clearly has no qualms against total war, and would not hesitate to use those tactics against them. The WEst will not stop the, and Russia will encourage them.
Story on Aleppo.
. . . is possible. Is it probable?
The Washington Post:
Reports this week of Russian intrusions into U.S. election systems have startled many voters, but computer experts are not surprised. They have long warned that Americans vote in a way that's so insecure that hackers could change the outcome of races at the local, state and even national level.Story.
Multibillion-dollar investments in better election technology after the troubled 2000 presidential election count prompted widespread abandonment of flawed paper-based systems, such as punch ballots. But the rush to embrace electronic voting technology - and leave old-fashioned paper tallies behind - created new sets of vulnerabilities that have taken years to fix.
"There are computers used in all points of the election process, and they can all be hacked," said Princeton computer scientist Andrew Appel, an expert in voting technologies. "So we should work at all points in that system to see how we make them trustworthy even if they do get hacked."
This is reality, not a premise for a book:
Multiple former officials and security researchers said the cyberattacks on Arizona’s and Illinois’ voter databases could be part of a suspected Russian attempt to meddle in the U.S. election, a campaign that has already included successful intrusions at major Democratic Party organizations and the selective leaking of documents embarrassing to Democrats. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has alleged that the digital attacks on her party are an effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime to sway the election to GOP nominee Donald Trump. Moscow has denied any involvement.
Russia prepares to move again:
Ukraine’s president warned of a possible invasion by Russia, further fraying nerves that have been on edge since his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin accused his neighbor last week of engaging in “terror” tactics in Crimea.Story.
The actual motives this time may be more in the way of intimidation than invasion, but either way it's unacceptable.
This year's most popular motif seems to be . . . faces coming out of darkness.
It's not just us:
Here's the cover for novelist Javier Marias's new book, which is also coming out in November:
We don't pretend to have invented the idea, by the way. I count at least three books with somewhat similar ideas over the past two or three years, and more on the way. When one designer has a good idea, others follow.
. . . my new book with blind Special Forces Major Ivan Castro, to be published this November by St. Martin's Press.
Book's website (still a work in progress at this point).
. . . one of the real-life inspirations for Puppet Master.
CANCUN, Mexico — In 2009, one or more prestigious researchers received a CD by mail that contained pictures and other materials from a recent scientific conference they attended in Houston. The scientists didn't know it then, but the disc also delivered a malicious payload developed by a highly advanced hacking operation that had been active since at least 2001. The CD, it seems, was tampered with on its way through the mail.Story.
I suspect that the real life intrigue, in this case at least, is even more mind-blowing than fiction can ever be.
(There's not much hacking in book 1; more in book 2 and beyond. You can preorder here.)
. . . in southeast Asia.
PERTH, Australia — On July 29, loudspeakers and screens for national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines were hijacked in two major Vietnam airports in the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Offensive messages and what has been described by state media as "distorted information" about Vietnam and the Philippines’ claims to the South China Sea were displayed on flight information screens and broadcast over the public address systems.Story.
Shades of Red Dragon Rising; (book one at Amazon.com / B&N / your local indie store.
. . . but Big Brother is actually for hire.
Forget telephoto lenses and fake mustaches: The most important tools for America’s 35,000 private investigators are database subscription services. For more than a decade, professional snoops have been able to search troves of public and nonpublic records—known addresses, DMV records, photographs of a person’s car—and condense them into comprehensive reports costing as little as $10. Now they can combine that information with the kinds of things marketers know about you, such as which politicians you donate to, what you spend on groceries, and whether it’s weird that you ate in last night, to create a portrait of your life and predict your behavior.
(The underlying technology is similar to tech used in Puppet Master. There, of course, it won't be used for nefarious purposes . . . at least not yet.)
How about both?
Or have they been hacked already?
In light of Russia's recent attacks on our electoral system, I'm surprised that this isn't getting more attention:
The State Board of Elections (SBE) fell victim to a cyberattack that was detected on July 12, 2016. Specifically, the target was the IVRS database. Once discovered, State Board of Elections closed the point of entry. On July 13th, once the severity of the attack was realized, as a precautionary measure, the entire IVRS system was shut down, including online voter registration.
Election official's Facebook post, which includes details.
The real question is whether other states would even know if they'd been compromised.
Sitting at a typewriter, we are always in the present moment as the carriage trundles forward character by character, line by line. Word processing, by contrast, allowed writers to grasp a manuscript as a whole, a gestalt. The entire manuscript was instantly available via search functions. Whole passages could be moved at will, and chapters or sections reordered. The textual field became fluid and malleable, a potentially infinite expanse, or at least limited only by the computer’s ever-expanding memory.
(I would definitely agree that computers have changed the way a writer can relate to a book, and specifically, make it easier to alter individual facets of it, be they plot lines plot characters. I can't imagine writing a novel in any other way. Some writers I know, however, only write forward -- they don't go back once they've finished a page. Ever. Or at least that's what they say. It would be interesting to see a more in-depth study . . .)
. . . in Turkey:
Istanbul (CNN)Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for 42 journalists, state-run news agency Anadolu reported Monday, as a purge on the country's democratic institutions following a failed military coup intensifies.Story. (And just for the record, the Western media's version is way milder than how it feels there.)
. . . takes a bizarre turn in Russia - weirder even than the Cold War.
BRUSSELS — An executive with NBCUniversal said he had been denied entry into Russia and detained for several hours on Wednesday, raising the prospect that a growing spy and diplomatic confrontation could now be tipping into the world of business.
The executive, Jeff Shell, who oversees the motion picture unit, said he was traveling to Russia on business when he was detained briefly and ordered to leave the country. Mr. Shell said NBCUniversal had a movie operation in the country. He is also the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency that oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other government broadcasters that are not well liked in the Kremlin.Story is here - Make sure to read at least as far as the dump - and I'm not talking about an info dump.
. . . and stop building sand castles in everyone else's backyard.
A tribunal at The Hague ruled in a sweeping decision Tuesday that China has no legal basis for claiming much of the South China Sea and had aggravated the seething regional dispute with its large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands that destroyed coral reefs and the natural condition of the disputed areas.
China "does not accept or acknowledge" the tribunal or the ruling, China's state Xinhua news agency said. The nation has long maintained that the tribunal did not have jurisdiction over the dispute.Story.
The question is what anyone's going to do about it.
. . . of North Korea, the fact that they want war justifies them wanting war.
"It's the United States that caused this issue," Han Song Ryol, director-general of the department of U.S. affairs at North Korea's Foreign Ministry, said in his first interview with an American news organization since assuming the post three years ago. "They have to stop their military threats, sanctions and economic pressure. Without doing so, it's like they are telling us to reconcile while they are putting a gun to our forehead."
The real question is when does Japan decide to implement an offensive capability to meet the threat. Because even with the best defensive shield in place, retaliation will be seen as necessary. And especially after the recent launchings, they have to feel they're the ones in the bull's eye.
Very sorry to hear of the death of pilot Bill Gordon in a tragic crash of a Thunderbolt on the Hudson the other day.
Here are some stories that tell a little bit about who he was:
To the earlier post . . .
I've long since stopped trying to correct or comment on the false stories about Chris; it's a fool's errand. I would always suggest people consider the source and the motivation of anything they read or hear instead. However, as I've gotten a number of inquiries from people whom I respect:
Short answer: Believe the book.
[Long, convoluted and wandering prologue, which has nothing to do with reality or anything that follows, but for reasons unknown takes us to the following non sequitur...]
. . . in Pakistan. Item:
“Two months after Osama bin Laden was killed, the CIA’s top operative in Pakistan was pulled out of the country in an abrupt move vaguely attributed to health concerns and his strained relationship with Islamabad. In reality, the CIA station chief was so violently ill that he was often doubled over in pain, current and former U.S. officials said. Trips out of the country for treatment proved futile. And the cause of his ailment was so mysterious, the officials said, that both he and the agency began to suspect that he had been poisoned.
Politco summary of story.
North Korea on Saturday fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile from a submarine off its northeast coast, South Korean defense officials said, Pyongyang's latest effort to expand its military might in the face of pressure by its neighbors and Washington.
Does someone have to be burned before we take the matches away from the psychopath? I guess so.
Fivethirtyeight continues its excellent analysis of the new tools to analyze baseball -
Statcast’s new metrics have enormous potential to change our understanding of baseball, telling us not only what happened, but also howit happened. On the other hand, they’re largely unfamiliar to fans used to thinking in terms of old-school metrics. So today, I’m going to dive into two of Statcast’s new statistics — launch angle and exit velocity, both of which long existed only in the dreams of sabermetricians — and explore what they can tell us about hitters.The article.
In honor of National Library Week, some applause for my local library, declared the best in the country:
Applause, too, for some military libraries that have aided me greatly in my work and supported me as an author by distributing my books and even hosting me as a speaker - West Point, Carlisle Military College, Barr Memorial Library at Fort Knox.
Thank you, all.
When American Sniper was chosen as the "big read" a few weeks back, the publisher asked me to write something about what I did on my summer vacation. Instead, I wrote about libraries and what they mean to me.
Here's an excerpt:
. . . and measuring it as well.
I'm not a stat head by any means, but there's no denying that sabermetrics has enriched baseball over the past several decades.
Fivethirtyeight published a good overview of the way the science of baseball is continuing to change; the implications go far beyond the sport.
Here's an excerpt; if you're interested in baseball, or even human performance metrics or science, check out the entire article:
What many of these new data sources have in common is an emphasis on process. Outcomes — strikes, walks, home runs and so forth — are already well-tracked and have been scrutinized by sabermetricians for decades. But the new generation of data will allow analysts to understand how those outcomes are generated, perhaps even down to the level of a player’s brain activity. Some of this process-oriented data challenges cherished analytics theories like DIPS; some of it confirms the utility of sabermetric dogma like shifting. And some of it will probably advance our understanding of baseball in ways we can’t yet predict.
I didn’t always think this way. Maybe like most people – I hope most people think this way – I thought at one time that the world was basically good. I believed, and still believe, that we can all live together in peace, and by working together make our communities and the world a better place. I believe, I know, that it is better to make and to build than to tear down and destroy.
I thought all people around me believed that too.
Little by little, I saw this wasn’t true. Destroying is so much easier than building.
You may remember this:
Now there is this:
After an extensive inquiry, American investigators concluded that the attack in Ukraine on Dec. 23 may well have been the first power blackout triggered by a cyberattack — a circumstance many have long predicted. Working remotely, the attackers conducted “extensive reconnaissance” of the power system’s networks, stole the credentials of system operators and learned how to switch off the breakers, plunging more than 225,000 Ukrainians into darkness.
NY Times story.
WASHINGTON — A Navy SEAL who helped rescue an American hostage in Afghanistan received the nation’s highest military honor Monday, hailed by President Barack Obama as “a special breed of warrior who so often serves in the shadows.”Story.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers Jr. is the first living, active duty member of the Navy to receive the Medal of Honor in four decades.
. . . A lot like the old boss?
The Air Force unveiled a sketch of its new B-21 bomber today, and it looked a lot like the B-2:
Kind of like those mid-model refreshes the car companies do?
Whatever it ends up looking like, the real differences will undoubtedly be under the skin.
The AF press release.
Have some fun with them, like "Jolly Roger" did:
. . . I figured I’d try something. I was getting a lot of repeat calls from numbers. Obviously the same company’s predictive dialers were calling me at various times trying to find me home. I thought, what if I play a sound file that says “hello?… Hello?… Hello?…” a few times? Would it fool their predictive dialer into thinking it had reached a real person? So recorded some “hellos”, then “hang on a sec”, and then some silence. I created a “parrot” routine and sent these obvious telemarketers to this parrot.
And it worked like a champ! So then I thought “hmmmmm, how far can I take this parrot?”Very far, it turns out. Read the rest here. "Roger" is my nominee for man of the year.
...in the presidential race.
According to Cigar Aficionado, cigar smokers prefer the Donald and Hillary as their candidate, depending on their respective party.
I don't think either smokes (unlike, say, Cruz), which I guess proves that cigar smokers are not one-issue candidates.
There are many reasons George Washington should be celebrated today, but probably the most important: he refused to be king.
From the History.com website:
On the morning of March 15, 1783, General George Washington makes a surprise appearance at an assembly of army officers at Newburgh, New York, to calm the growing frustration and distrust they had been openly expressing towards Congress in the previous few weeks. Angry with Congress for failing to honor its promise to pay them and for its failure to settle accounts for repayment of food and clothing, officers began circulating an anonymous letter condemning Congress and calling for a revolt.
When word of the letter and its call for an unsanctioned meeting of officers reached him, Washington issued a general order forbidding any unsanctioned meetings and called for a general assembly of officers for March 15. At the meeting, Washington began his speech to the officers by saying, “Gentlemen: By an anonymous summons, an attempt has been made to convene you together; how inconsistent with the rules of propriety! How unmilitary! And how subversive of all order and discipline…”Read the rest. (It's well worth it.)
More than one politician would do well to contemplate that.
. . . and the bizarre twists of truth that would make George Orwell blush:
The truth doesn’t matter, because it’s already mission accomplished for the Kremlin. . . .[Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov pulled off a common trick in Russia’s self-declared “information war” against its enemies: a government official picks up on a report in state media, leading to its legitimation and further dissemination. Fake news is essentially laundered and enters the public consciousness as fact.
I am truly bummed that I wasn't involved in this project:
Bruce Springsteen fans have reached the literary Promised Land. The New Jersey rocker will be releasing his autobiography later this year.
Springsteen privately started writing the book — appropriately named “Born to Run,” after his breakout song and album from the mid-1970s – seven years ago, shortly after he and the E Street Band played at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2009, according to publisher Simon & Schuster.
It will be released world-wide on Sept. 27. Simon & Schuster will publish it in hardcover, audio and ebook editions in the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and India. Additionally, rights have been sold to publishers in nine countries, the publisher said.Story.
I've been reading Peter Ames Carlin's biography, Bruce, for a project I'm working on. It's extremely sympathetic to Springstein's point of view; it will be interesting to see how much more in-depth the memoir is - or isn't.
The Japanese Defense Force unveiled its new 5th Generation fighter (aka 'Stealth Fighter') the other day. The implications for China are obvious, but imagine Japan competing with the U.S., Europe, and Russia for fighter contracts (and more?) in the next decade . . .
Saudi Arabia hates Iran more than it hates ISIS. The conventional wisdom is that ISIS is a radical Sunni group that is being funded by Sunnis in the gulf and opposed by Iran. But Iran is the arsonist and the fire brigade. Iran’s support for Assad and the [Nouri al-]Maliki government in Iraq led to many Sunnis supporting ISIS. It will have to be Sunnis who put out the ISIS fire.
Karim Sadjadpour, in an interview with Slate magazine, available here. Among other things, he highlights the interplay of sectarian and geo-political conflicts in the Middle East.