Category Archives: Politics: International

Kazakhstan Trials Major Attack on Internet Freedom

According to an article in ZDNet the government of Kazakstan is requiring all internet users in the capital to install government-issued certificates on their phones and computers. This will allow the government to eavesdrop on all otherwise secured https web communications by routinizing so-called man-in-the-middle attacks.

Starting today, December 6, 2020, Kazakh internet service providers (ISPs) such as Beeline, Tele2, and Kcell are redirecting Nur-Sultan-based users to web pages showing instructions on how to install the government’s certificate. Earlier this morning, Nur-Sultan residents also received SMS messages informing them of the new rules.

Kazakhstan users have told ZDNet today that they are not able to access sites like Google, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Netflix without installing the government’s root certificate.

This is the Kazakh government’s third attempt at forcing citizens to install root certificates on their devices after a first attempt in December 2015 and a second attempt in July 2019.

Both previous attempts failed after browser makers blacklisted the government’s certificates.

Posted in Cryptography, Internet, Politics: International | Leave a comment

Mental Whiplash (Oil Cartel Edition)

I remember when the major casualties of the OPEC oil cartel were Japan, the US, and Europe. I remember the oil shock, aka the oil crisis of 1973. I’m still stuck in a world in which higher oil prices are not in the short-term interests of the average US consumer, although given the effects on global warming and the need to transition away from carbon fuels, I understand that the longer-term picture is much more complicated.

Still, it creates mental whiplash when I read that the head of the US Government, some guy by the name of Donald Trump, just brokered a deal with the Saudis and the Russians, two of his favorite autocrats, to lower oil production by almost 10% in order to raise oil prices. Of course this also helps out his over-leveraged buddies in the US fracking business. It isn’t, I’m quite sure, motivated by concern for the environment.

The next election can’t come too soon.

Posted in Econ & Money, Politics: International | Leave a comment

Our Tax Dollars at Work

The CIA has a list and brief analysis of every country’s national anthem.  This is not from The Onion.

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The WHAT?

Today’s NYT has a long obituary of “Rafi Eitan, Israeli Spymaster Who Caught Eichmann

It contains this utterly arresting (at least to me) paragraph:

He played important roles in the surgical strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981; the theft in the late 1960s of at least 100 pounds of highly enriched uranium from a nuclear fuel plant in the Pittsburgh area that helped Israel’s atomic bomb program; and the assassinations of the Palestinian commandos who carried out the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

Wait a minute. [T]he theft in the late 1960s of at least 100 pounds of highly enriched uranium from a nuclear fuel plant in the Pittsburgh area that helped Israel’s atomic bomb program.??? First I heard of it.

Apparently it’s called the Apollo Affair and there’s some dispute if it was measurement error or an Israeli spy ops. Wikipedia is neutral, and quotes Seymour Hersh — never one to err on the side of there being no cover-up — as concluding that Zalman Shapiro, the company’s president, did not divert any uranium; rather “it ended up in the air and water of the city of Apollo as well as in the ducts, tubes, and floors of the NUMEC plant.” On the other hand, the free-standing website on the NUMEC Affair thinks the Israelis did it:

After the AEC and its Oak Ridge office calculated the processing losses based on NUMEC’s records, they determined that the fate of about 100 kilograms of U-235 in the form of HEU remained unexplained. NUMEC paid for the missing material, but later disputed the AEC calculations, maintaining that the unexplained 100 kgs could be attributed to other processing losses. After decommissioning of the Apollo plant, more than 330 kgs of U-235 in the form of HEU were unaccounted for, with most of that deficit occurring while NUMEC ran the plant.

For decades there have been allegations and suspicions that foreign agents, perhaps aided by American citizens, diverted a significant fraction of NUMEC’s unexplained uranium deficits to Israel for its nuclear-weapons program. Because of the high stakes involved, the affair has been clouded in denial and concealment for nearly a half century.

And there is this:

In 2009 The FBI released a detailed statement that was made in 1980 by a former NUMEC employee who said he started work at Apollo in February 1965 and was fired in October 1978 by the present owner, Babcock and Wilcox, Inc., for job abandonment following an alleged job-related illness. The former employee said he encountered armed strangers on the uranium plant’s loading dock one night in early 1965. He said they were loading what appeared to be canisters of HEU onto a truck in racks that he had not seen before. He also saw a shipping manifest that said the material was heading to a ship bound for Israel on the Zim-Israel shipping line. He said that a NUMEC manager later threatened him to keep his mouth shut about what he had seen.

I suppose this claim might be retaliation by a disgruntled former employee – in particular the shipping manifest part sounds a bit suspect (why would they be open about this in a way he could see?). And the official US position is that nothing was proved. But stil.. Did everyone except me know about this?

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Clarity

Really the Kevin Drum post, Saudis: Khashoggi Committed Suicide By Cop, Sort Of is so much easier to follow than the NYT version. Drum summarizes it like this:

The Saudis now say that they intended to negotiate a return to Saudi Arabia with Khashoggi, so they sent a 15-man team to meet him at the consulate. Fifteen men! Unfortunately, a fistfight broke out during the negotiations and one of the negotiators accidentally killed Khashoggi.

It seems odd that a 60-year-old man would pick a fight with 15 guys, doesn’t it? But that’s what happened. At that point, the Saudi team apparently went rogue and decided they had to cover up what happened. Luckily, they had come equipped with a bone saw and a forensic pathologist, so they were able to dismember the body and dispose of it. However, everyone on this rogue team has been arrested now, so the case is closed.

I’m pretty sure that a six-year-old could come up with a better story if he had two weeks to work on it.

Contrast the NYT:

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UK Finally Starts to Prepare for Brexit

Well, not really, but that was my first thought on seeing this headline:

Posted in Brexit, Completely Different | Leave a comment