FOD Saying of the Day
“I‘d rather see folks doubt what’s true than accept what isn’t.” — Frank Clark
FOD Trivia Question of the Day
I know most of you out there just finished off your turkey leftovers. Regarding that big bird, what is the wobbly red piece of flesh on top of the beak of a turkey?
Previous FOD Trivia Answer
Who was the first character represented by a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, in 1927? Answer: The Katzenjammer Kids. It is commonly claimed that Felix the cat was the first character to ever be represented by a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and that he debuted the year balloons were introduced, in 1927. However, contrary to popular belief and the assertions of Macy’s itself, Felix was actually the second character balloon to float in the parade, with The Katzenjammer Kids being the first. Felix’s balloon did not appear until 1931.
NASA’s InSight Spacecraft Lands Successfully On Mars
NASA’s InSight landed safely on Mars on Monday afternoon, with scientists now hopeful they’ll get a below-the-surface look at the Red Planet. Shortly before 3 p.m. ET on Monday, scientists at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, cheered, hugged and traded high-fives as their prized craft safely landed on the Red Planet and started sending back its first images. Great job you steely-eyed rocketmen and rocketwomen!
Russian Aggression On The March In Ukraine
One doesn’t have to look far to see the aggression by Russia these days. Vladimir Putin has been caught in numerous lies in just the last couple of years. His explanations and denial of the obvious facts points to a government and an individual lacking a moral compass of any type. That has been obvious for years and these actions continue the same type of behavior throughout Russian history dating back to the days of the USSR. Russia’s continued support of the despicable dictator in Syria, Syria’s use of chemical weapons, Russia’s flagrant disregard for the UN adopted sanctions against North Korea and it’s moving borders overnight in a “creeping annexation” of Ukraine are just three examples. The community of world nations has grown to recognize these deceptions as the norm when it comes to Russia. That’s why what you say and what you do as a nation is judged by all other nations. And that’s why we as a nation need to stand for values we represent to the world. Other countries are taking note and other countries are speaking out. In recent days, the accusation was direct and unflinching: Russian forces stationed in the Arctic Circle had been jamming NATO’s GPS signals during the alliance’s largest military exercise since the Cold War. The alleged incident happened during Trident Juncture, a huge, two-week drill hosted in Norway last month, involving 50,000 personnel from 31 countries. Last week Norway revealed that Russian forces stationed in the nearby Kola Peninsula had been jamming their GPS signals during the exercise. Finland summoned the Russian ambassador and NATO called it “dangerous, disruptive and irresponsible.” (Fireball note: To be honest, this would be an expected action during a time of actual conflict. You need a backup plan if you’re normal available to the public GPS signals are jammed. And you don’t reveal the backup plan until you actually need it and that does not include these kinds of exercises. If you have GPS jamming capability, I’m not quite sure why you would want to disclose to other nations and particularly competing nation’s militaries that you possess such a capability. On the other hand it just could be Putin’s thumbing his nose at western military exercises. We shouldn’t be surprised. It’s part of his playbook.) Russia denies the allegations. And experts say attempting to disrupt a military exercise on its doorstep is nothing new. But the incident was notable because it showed how Washington’s European allies are changing their tactics to deal with Moscow’s alleged misdeeds. Before, Western countries may have tried to address Russia’s actions in closed diplomatic sessions. Now they are openly reprimanding them. NATO and its partner states have shifted to a “public engagement campaign, which basically calls people out for cyber attacks, jamming and disruptive behavior to try and deter and discourage it,” said Jack Watling, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a think tank based in London. This change was not an official one; there was no speech, written statement or policy document signaling that allies were going to take a different approach. But analysts say that it’s been clear nonetheless; a demonstrable change of tactic after the ex-spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned — allegedly on Kremlin orders — on British soil in March this year. “There is a wider policy shift to call out Russia because of the increased intensity of challenges,” ranging from military threats and spying to hacking and signal jamming, according to Gustav Gressel, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank. “That policy-shift is shared by most NATO countries.” The Europeans now feel that “it does not make sense to address these issues in closed diplomatic sessions with Russia, as Russian diplomats would only deny and outright lie,” Gressel added. With Skripal, U.K. authorities laid out in painstaking detail how two men they identified as agents with Russia’s military intelligence agency, commonly known by its old acronym, the GRU, had traveled to the English city of Salisbury and poisoned their target. Six months of meticulous investigation allowed British police to trace the route they had taken, right down to the flights they boarded, the trains they rode and the hotels where they stayed. That incident appeared to signal that the gloves were off. In April, Dutch authorities busted an alleged GRU plot to hack into the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague. (Fireball note: covered in a previous edition of FOD). When they revealed the sting months later, as with the Skripal case, their investigators showed in forensic detail how the four men had traveled from Moscow to the Netherlands — right down to their taxi receipts. Hours before this information was made public, back in early October, the British government, backed by New Zealand and Australia, again named and shamed the GRU as being behind a number of “indiscriminate and reckless cyber attacks targeting political institutions, businesses, media and sport” around the world. The list published by the U.K. government ranged from attacks on the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2016 to the now-infamous hacking of the US Democratic National Committee in the same year. A triple whammy was capped off on the same day when the Department of Justice announced criminal charges against seven Russian military intelligence officers. In the U.S., intelligence officials have pointed the finger squarely at Russian hacking since 2016. Europe has also called out Russia in the past, such as during the Dutch-led investigation that found Moscow responsible for downing Malaysia Airlines MH17 in July 2014. But in recent months we’re seeing something more coordinated, asserts Tate Nurkin, a military analyst and founder of the defense consultancy OTH Intelligence Group. “I suspect this isn’t the first time that Western actors have noticed Russian activities of a disruptive nature during exercises,” Nurkin said. The difference, he added, is that previously we didn’t hear about it. This is all designed to put pressure on the Kremlin and associated individuals, making them think twice before engaging in behavior the U.S. and Europe are likely to punish, said Watling, the RUSI researcher. “Are they prepared to live the rest of their lives in Russia? Are they prepared to not engage in the international financial system?” Watling said they should be asking themselves. “The Russians for a very long time have relied on deniability as a way of doing things that otherwise wouldn’t be acceptable,” he said. Russia has in no way given up however and their actions are becoming more brazen. On 25 November, Ukraine convened an emergency meeting of what it called its war cabinet on Sunday after it accused Russia of having fired on three of its vessels in the Black Sea, injuring at least six sailors. Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, confirmed that it had seized what it called three Ukrainian “warships,” saying they had trespassed into Russian territorial waters. It said that “weapons were used to force the Ukrainian warships to stop” and three Ukrainian service members were treated for minor injuries, TASS, the official Russian news agency, reported Sunday night. The Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry said it had mobilized all naval personnel and had sent all of its ships to sea after what it described as two gunboats and a tugboat came under attack off the coast of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, yet another illegal action that has gone for the most part unpunished. Obviously Ukraine is outgunned by quantum margins by the Russian military. Oleksii Makeiev, political director of Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, called the incident an act of “warmongering” that “undermines security of the whole region.” The country’s National Security and Defense Council, of which President Petro Poroshenko is chairman, approved a proposal to introduce martial law for 60 days, Poroshenko’s office said early Monday. “We have all irrefutable evidence that this aggression, this attack on the Ukrainian navy’s warships, was not a mistake, not an accident, but a deliberate action,” Poroshenko said. The United Nations scheduled an emergency meeting of the Security Council for Monday morning, said Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Russia’s seizure of the naval vessels would represent an escalation of tensions that flared a few hours earlier, when it blocked all traffic under the Crimean Bridge into the Kerch Strait — the only passage into the Azov Sea — because of what it said was an approach of Ukrainian vessels, TASS said. The FSB said Ukraine failed to notify Russia that its ships were planning to use the strait, a contention that Ukraine denied. While both Ukraine and Russia have rights to the sea under a 2003 treaty, Russia controls both sides of the strait. “The vessels are carrying out dangerous maneuvers and are disobeying the Russian authorities’ demands,” the FSB’s Border Service said in a statement. “The Border Service is taking all steps to ensure security of navigation and regulation of maritime traffic in the waters of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.” The government called the Russian actions “an act of aggression aimed at deliberately escalating the situation in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.” “We appeal to the whole pro-Ukrainian coalition: we must stand united!” Poroshenko said Sunday on Twitter. We appeal to the partner countries under the Budapest Memorandum, to the EU countries, to participants of the Normandy format in order to coordinate effective measures to protect Ukraine. We appeal to the whole pro-Ukrainian coalition: we must stand united! NATO is closely monitoring the developments and called for restraint, said Oana Lungescu, a NATO spokeswoman. “NATO fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, including its navigational rights in its territorial waters,” she said in a statement. “We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.” (Fireball note: Calling upon Russia to do anything is a waste of time. Russia through it’s illegal annexation of Crimea controls both sides of the Kerch Stait and has constructed a low bridge over the strait so as to limit passage of Ukrainian vessels through the strait and has by doing so isolated Ukraine’s access to the Sea of Azov. Cutting off Ukraine’s access to these waters would isolate half of the country’s coastline, including the economically important port city of Mariupol, and effectively turn the Sea of Azov into a Russian-controlled lake.) Similarly, the European Union said that it expected Russia “to restore freedom of passage at the Kerch strait” and that it urged “all to act with utmost restraint to de-escalate the situation immediately.” “The EU does not and will not recognize the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia” in 2014, the union said in a statement. Why have European countries been reticent to brand Russia for the assaults they are committing through the use of US sponsored sanctions? I would say it’s because they are getting oil from Russia via the large pipeline and the threat of degradation of that supply has had the desired effect. But the explanation by President Vladimir Putin’s government runs into several problems, according to Valentin Schatz, a research associate in public international law at Germany’s University of Hamburg. He said under the 2003 agreement, Ukraine “did not need Russian permission” to pass through the Kerch Strait. However, it could be argued it had an obligation to notify and cooperate with the Russian authorities controlling it, Schatz added. Ukraine said it informed Russia; Russia denies this. If Ukraine is correct then blocking its ships’ passage was “clearly illegal,” Schatz said. The use of force as a means to protect coastline can only be used in “exceptional circumstances” under international law, he said, and “foreign warships cannot be detained for trying to pass through a strait.” In any case, if the Russian objection was that the Ukrainian ships were in Crimean waters, Russia’s annexation of that peninsula is not recognized under international law, “rendering any Russian enforcement action illegal per se,” he said. The United States and Russia clashed in July after the White House rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to organize an independence referendum in separatist-leaning eastern Ukraine. But there has been no statement regarding these actions coming from the White House.
Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day November 23 rd through 26 th 2018”