Links for 10-18-2017

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Links for 10-3-2017

  • The U.S. ordered 15 Cuban diplomatic personnel to go home in retaliation for the “sonic weapon” attacks against American diplomats in Havana. The Cuban diplomats have a week to leave.

  • The U.S. Office of Special Counsel determined that U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley violated the Hatch Act when she re-tweeted Donald Trump’s endorsement of a South Carolina candidate from her personal Twitter account.

  • Yahoo said all three billion of its user accounts were compromised in a 2013 hacking. Previously Yahoo said “only” one billion accounts were compromised.

  • A Russian telecommunications company activated a new internet link to North Korea, which was previously limited to a single link supplied by China Unicom. The new link is handling about 60% of North Korea’s internet traffic, and it gives North Korea another avenue for committing cyber attacks.

  • American authorities alerted Egypt to a North Korean ship entering the Suez Canal that the U.S. believed was smuggling weapons. Egyptian authorities intercepted the ship and discovered 30,000 rocket propelled grenades. Then they learned the RPGs had been purchased by the Egyptian military:

    A U.N. investigation uncovered a complex arrangement in which Egyptian business executives ordered millions of dollars worth of North Korean rockets for the country’s military while also taking pains to keep the transaction hidden, according to U.S. officials and Western diplomats familiar with the findings. The incident, many details of which were never publicly revealed, prompted the latest in a series of intense, if private, U.S. complaints over Egyptian efforts to obtain banned military hardware from Pyongyang, the officials said.

  • The Iraqi parliament voted to strip its members from Kurdistan of their membership in the body. They furthermore want to strip them of their legal immunity so they can be prosecuted. Kurdistan plans to hold elections for its own president and parliament on November 1. Michael Rubin writes that Iraqi Kuristan’s leaders read the U.S. government completely wrong on their vote for independence. John Hannah writes that with Iraq, Iran, and Turkey taking steps to actively oppose an independent Kurdistan, the U.S. needs to engage to head off a disaster:

    There is now a real risk that U.S. warnings about the referendum’s most dangerous consequences could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is almost certainly the case that the ferocity of Washington’s public opposition in the days leading up to the vote unintentionally gave the KRG’s neighbors license to bully, threaten, and punish the Kurds. Largely missing from U.S. policy was any corresponding campaign of equal seriousness to deter those neighbors from responding with retaliatory actions that would only escalate the potential harm to U.S. interests and regional stability.

    Later:

    The urgent task confronting Washington is to short-circuit the dangerous escalatory dynamic now at work before it gets further out of hand. A high-level diplomatic initiative backed by the world’s major powers could give the parties the excuse they need to pause, back away from the brink, and begin exploring options on how to move past the immediate crisis triggered by the referendum. Substantive solutions may not be immediately available, but the process itself, imbued with sufficient outside support from Washington and other great-power capitals, could buy valuable time and space to calm the waters, begin the search for workable compromises, and at very least keep the very worst from happening.

  • Iraqi Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani passed away at age 83. Talabani was Iraq’s (largely ceremonial) president from 2005 to 2014, but he helped prevent factionalism from bringing down the Iraqi government. Talibani formed the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a political party which usually enjoyed good relations with Iran, unlike his rival Massoud Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP).

Links for 9-29-2017

Links for 9-27-2017

Links for 9-26-2017

  • The U.S. plans to restrict Russian military overflights under the Treaty on Open Skies because Russia is not allowing the U.S. to conduct flights over Kaliningrad, Russia’s enclave on the Baltic Sea.

  • The White House does not believe the Cuban government is behind the “sonic weapon” attacks against American diplomats. They aren’t saying who is behind the attacks, but it’s hard to believe that in a society like Cuba’s, the government wouldn’t know about this sort of thing. Nonetheless, the State Department plans to withdraw most of its personnel from Cuba, leaving behind a skeleton staff.

  • Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) won’t run for re-election in 2018.

  • The Senate won’t vote on the Graham-Cassidy health insurance bill after several Republican Senators declared their opposition.

  • The Department of Commerce placed a 220% duty on Bombardier commercial jets after finding that the Canadian government is subsidizing Bombardier’s planes.

  • The Boston Globe published a two part series on problems at the Federal Aviation Administration. The first details how the FAA does a poor job vetting airplane registrations, making it easy for criminal organizations like drug cartels to register planes:

    More than 16 years after aircraft were used as weapons in the worst terrorist attack in US history, the FAA still operates more like a file clerk than a reliable tool for law enforcement, enabling secrecy in the skies here and abroad. The price to register a plane is still just $5 — the same as in 1964, even though the agency has the power to raise it — generating little revenue that could be used to expand oversight. And the FAA does so little vetting of the ownership and use of planes listed in its aircraft registry that two of the airliners hijacked and destroyed on 9/11 were still listed as “active” four years after. And that’s prompt compared to this: The FAA didn’t cancel the registration for one TWA cargo plane until 2016, 57 years after it crashed in Chicago, killing the crew and eight people on the ground.

    They do a similiarly bad job licensing pilots:

    Almost a decade after Haghighi’s brazen identify theft, the FAA still does not include pilot photos on its licenses, and the agency does not fully vet pilot information before issuing them credentials. Last year, a leading congressional overseer of the FAA, then-Representative John Mica, called US pilot licenses “a joke” and said that a day pass to Disney World in his native Florida contains more sophisticated security measures.

    Later:

    FAA procedures also make it easy for pilots to hide damaging information, by simply not reporting it. That’s because the agency relies on them to self-report felony convictions and other crimes that could lead to license revocation. Among the licensed pilots currently listed in the airman registry are Carlos Licona and Paul Grebenc, United Airlines pilots who were sentenced to jail in Scotland earlier this year for attempting to fly a commercial airliner with alcohol in their blood. Under FAA rules, an alcohol-related offense, especially related to flying, can be grounds for license revocation or suspension, though the FAA decides on a case by case basis.

  • Fred and Cindy Warmbier disclosed that when their son Otto was released by North Korea, he was deaf, blind, and howling incoherently:

    “Otto had a shaved head, he had a feeding tube coming out of his nose, he was staring blankly into space, jerking violently,” said Mr Warmbier.

    “He was blind. He was deaf. As we looked at him and tried to comfort him it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”

    In short, North Korea tortured Otto Warmbier.

  • A group of abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood, sued Texas in federal district court over a new law banning live dismemberment abortions. The abortion clinics refused to comply with Texas’ discovery requests, so the judge ordered them to provide records about the second-trimester abortions they’ve performed:

    Of significance, the abortion providers must identify each individual who performs or has performed abortions on fetuses 14 weeks old or older, from 2001 to the present, detailing the procedure performed, whether digoxin or another fetal demise technique was used, and whether fetal demise occurred prior to dismemberment, as well as whether any complications occurred.

    Additionally, the federal court ordered the plaintiffs to provide all records of digoxin purchases, any informational material or consent forms related to digoxin, and communications between Planned Parenthood Federated of America and the Planned Parenthood plaintiffs regarding digoxin.

    This ties into the Center for Medical Progress undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood — they captured abortionists saying they don’t like to use digoxin because they can’t sell the baby body parts afterward. There’s also this:

    In its earlier court filings, Texas stressed that it would be illegal to kill an animal in the way the abortion providers kill a fetus in dismemberment abortions—pulling the unborn baby apart limb from limb until he bleeds to death.

  • Iraq’s central government gave Iraqi Kurdistan until Friday afternoon to relinquish control of its airports to avoid an embargo on international flights. This is part of the Baghdad government’s attempts to punish Kurdistan for holding an independence referendum yesterday. They’re still counting votes, but so far “yes” to independence is winning by over 90%.

  • One of the co-founders of Alternative for Germany, Frauke Petry, left the party the day after it won nearly 13% of the vote in parliamentary elections. Petry, who is one of the party’s moderates, won a seat in the Bundestag but will be an independent member. Her husband, Marcus Pretzell, is also leaving the party — he’s an AfD leader and a member of the European Parliament.