Category Archives: Politics: International

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?

Posted in Politics: International | Leave a comment

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:

Posted in Politics: International | Leave a comment

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

Another Modern Horror

From Robert Paul Wolff, a link to a new modern horror: what Prof. Wolff and his sources call a Chechnyan concentration camp for homosexuals.

My first thought was that perhaps the source was mistaken, but sadly snopes.com confirms the story, at least in its broad details, although it quotes an Amnesty International official as saying, “that it’s preferable, based on what we know, to refer to them as secret detention sites. ‘We should always be careful about using the language of ‘concentration camps.'”

Posted in Politics: International | Leave a comment

China?

Mexico Didn’t Pay For It

Brad DeLong writes, “I need to understand China. I do not understand China. How can I learn to understand China?”

They covered this at Yale. Jonathan Spence in his Introduction to Chinese History told us, when we got to the modern era, that there were three things we should never believe when we heard them: “1. ‘The check is in the mail.’ 2. ‘I’ll respect you in the morning'”…ok, it was the early 80s, … “and 3. ‘I understand what is happening in China.'”

Posted in Politics: International | Leave a comment

Vertebrate Paleontology

Congress gets a spine and nobody notices because it’s about Yemen.

Read this very interesting piece of Congressional vertebrate paleontology and thought, “Dan would like this; it’s the sort of thing he’d want for his rebooted White House Watch.”

But of course, it turns out that he wrote it.

Posted in Dan Froomkin, Politics: International | Leave a comment