If I’m remembering correctly, sex ed in the ’80s consisted of the following lessons:
— First grade: Tell someone if a grownup (who isn’t a doctor) touches your private parts
— Fifth grade: You’re going to bleed from your private parts one day, catch these free diaper-sized maxi pads as we lob them at your head
— Tenth grade: You know what sex is, right? Don’t do that unless you like making babies. And if you’re going to have sex, wear a condom because of AIDS. Good luck!
If you’re wondering where the big lessons on consent were, so am I. If I’m being generous, I can conjure up a fuzzy memory of a tenth-grade coach/teacher in belted short shorts telling the boys in the room, “Guys, no means no. I mean it.” And that would have been the final word on the subject, because we all thought we were using the same language when it came to consent. Yes was yes, no was no, where’s the confusion?
The confusion, as we’ve mentioned before, is in how pop culture tells men that no really means “maybe, try again,” and tells women that if you didn’t say no hard enough, you probably didn’t mean it in the first place. Maybe work on your communication skills, body language, and drinking schedule for next time, girly. The confusion comes in real-world situations in which body parts are already slippery and engorged and you want this but not that, and you aren’t sure how to say you want this but not that. The confusion comes when no one teaches that “maybe,” “not yet,” “let’s just kiss” and *gentle push to create distance* should be treated as “no,” full stop.
Consent is sticky and confusing not just because sex itself can be sticky and confusing, but also because we haven’t given future sexual beings the language, tools, or authority to communicate what they want out of sex. And yes, when I say “future sexual beings,” I mean kids. This is a column about kids and sex.
No, I’m not.
Parents, it’s on us to do better by our kids. Because lessons about consent start on Day One.
Teach Your Kids That They Don’t Owe Anyone Hugs And Kisses
Day One of Parenthood: So you’ve got a floppy-headed baby who can’t see straight, can’t do anything but sleep, cry, poop, and latch (if you’re lucky), and is basically a hair scrunchie in human form. Day One isn’t the best day to start teaching consent, I guess. Whatever, let’s fast-forward.
Skip ahead to Day 730ish. Now you’ve got a toddler, and this toddler is so effing cute that you’re considering renaming them “Pixar.” We’re talking about chipmunk cheeks, 20 perfect square teeth that aren’t crowded or decayed in any way, a big fat Buddha belly accentuated by a onesie that this child has no shame in wearing, turkey drum limbs, and a Frankenstein gait that only makes them more squeezable. I just LOVE TODDLERS SO MUCH. Parents, I want to hug your squishy toddlers.
Also, I’m your problem.
Your job as a parent is to teach your child that that they own their adorable squishy bodies, and that grandmas, aunts, uncles, fun cute adult friends who seem to pose zero harm (like me!) aren’t deserving of their hugs just because they’re big and nice and want the hugs.
Let’s put it this way: When you’re a toddler, every other human is a Mountain. Not necessarily the Mountain who gave birth to the Mountain who gave birth to you, just a huge mass of someone who isn’t your mom or your dad. For some babies, that distinction is wiped away quickly, and hugs and kisses are as naturally forthcoming as the poop that defies gravity to land mid-back while their parents are trying to enjoy a night at Olive Garden. That’s why you, the parent, have to start giving your child options about hugs and kisses as soon as they’re big enough to understand “yes” and “no.”
Here’s a dramatic reenactment of a conversation that’s happening somewhere in the world at this very second:
Mom: Give Grandma a hug.
Child: *Frozen, suspicious and belligerent*
Grandma: Awww, can I have a hug? I flew across the country to see you! *Holds flabby arms out*
Mom: Give Grandma a hug or you can go to your room until you’re ready to be nice.
Grandma: No, it’s OK. *Mimes wiping away fake tears for dramatic effect*
Child: *Gives robot hug*
When I was a little kid, the consequences of disappointing an adult by not giving them physical affection could have ended with a guilt trip, an earlier bedtime, or worst-case scenario, a spanking. When my parents were kids, I’m guessing they were sent to the coal mines if they let down their older relatives in the hugging department.
The point is that we’ve trained children to think that when it comes to something innocent like hugs or tickling (when the whole point is how much the kid doesn’t want it), an adult’s feelings are more important than a child’s personal space. If you want your kid to say “no” with authority and confidence in the backseat of a driverless car ten years from now, they have to get practice saying no in general. More importantly, they have to know that hurting Grandma or Miss Kristi’s (that’s what kids call me sometimes) feelings is much less important than listening to their own gut.
By the way, I’m not advocating for adults to glue their arms to their sides and bow in deep respect every time they encounter a toddler. If I get to meet your toddler, I’m going to do what I always do: Sit on the floor and play with them and ask for a hug at the end of the visit. And if they say no or hesitate, I’ll back off and maybe ask for a high five instead. I’ll be fine. Your job as a parent is to give your kids lots of practice at turning people like me down so that they’re really good at saying no when the stakes are way higher.
Grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cherished friends of children, the same message goes to you. Do not make a child feel guilty for not wanting to give you a hug, even if you gave them a really cool present.
Teach Your Kids That No One Can Hit Them (Not Even You)
Oh, we’re going there.
When my kids were little, we had a Biblical(ish) approach to parenting, and discipline included spankings. Back then, my husband and I agreed that spankings (or pops on the bottom, as we called them) were a good tool for teaching a lesson when a child did something that could get them hurt. Running out into the street, for example, would get a pop on the bottom. (And we were usually talking about a weak slap on a diapered booty.) The logic was that the fear of getting a spanking combined with the pain of the spanking would create a memory that would make them never ever want to run into the street again.
Unfortunately, once you’ve allowed yourself to hit someone as a form of discipline or instruction, you don’t always follow your own rules, because you’re also human. Did we also give reactionary “spankings” in anger? Yes, once or twice because we’d opened the door to spankings and didn’t manage ourselves as well as we should have. Did we give “spankings” on non-diapered bottoms to kids who weren’t running out into the street but were mouthing off? Sadly, yes.
I regret allowing spanking in my home because A) spankings allowed my kids to see the very worst version of me, and B) research is revealing that spanking is tied to aggressive behavior, lower self-esteem, and increased mental health problems. I know the Bible says that kids who don’t get spanked grow up to be spoiled, but if your best tool for raising nice children is to hit them when they’re bad, you maybe shouldn’t be raising kids? And maybe stay away from dogs too while we’re at it.
Actually, let’s drop the word “spank” altogether for a minute, because it’s a euphemism for hitting, and we should be honest with ourselves when we hit another person, especially a child. As a child, you’re told that hitting other kids is bad and that kids who hit are bullies. But if you’ve been bad, your parents, grandparents, and sometimes your principal can hit you, and that’s OK because they’re big and old and in charge. The most basic, fundamental standard of human decency we’ve come up with throughout human history — do unto others as you’d have done to you — doesn’t apply to children.
So how do childhood spankings tie into consent in sexual situations? A kid who received spankings goes into adolescence and adulthood with the memory of being physically punished for being disobedient. They know what it’s like to get hurt for disappointing someone they love and trust. They know that it’s possible for people they care about to hurt them if they do something wrong. Ultimately, they were raised to believe that no one should hurt them unless it’s someone they love.
How does that lesson not make its way into the bedroom?
If we want our kids to walk into their first sexual experiences with the confidence to say no if they want to say no, we should start by practicing what we preach in the decades before the moment happens. “No one is allowed to hit you, not even me. You are in charge of your body, all the time, even when you’ve done something wrong. There is nothing you can do that will make me hurt your body, because that’s now how we treat each other.”
If you take spankings off the table, your child never gets taught that authority figures are allowed to hurt them if the conditions are right. Or that big people are authorized to apply their own internal logic of when it’s OK to hit and when it’s not OK to hurt their bodies.
Speaking of authority figures …
Teach Your Kids That Authority Figures And Heroes Can Be Bad
As of this writing, Larry Nassar, the doctor who used his position to sexually assault at least 120 young gymnasts, has been sentenced to 40-75 years in prison for his crimes. He won’t have the opportunity to serve those years until he finishes his 60-year sentence for the child porn charges that came before. I know. I hate him too.
It’s important to note here that this Nassar monster doesn’t fit neatly in an article about consent, but I’m dragging his sorry name in here anyway because we’re talking about parenting, and every parent should know what this man did. Consent is something that happens between two adults who are trying to hash out how far they want to go together. Consent is not a thing when a child is involved, ever. I bring Nassar up because during his trial, his victims weren’t only pointing their fingers at him; they shed light on the dozens of moments when the system that was supposed to protect them protected him instead. We’re talking about a man who sexually abused little girls while their parents were in the room.
And these weren’t regular parents like you and me. These were the kind of parents who would change jobs, move across the country, and invest thousands of dollars into making their children’s athletic dreams come true. They reworked their entire lives around their kids. They were like, super parents. But they couldn’t tell when a doctor was molesting their babies. Why? Because the very first rule they learned in their sexual education, and the first rule they taught their own kids, was that doctors are allowed to touch private parts.
I bring up Nassar because I can imagine the thought processes of both the victims and the parents in the room when he was committing his crimes. At the heart of their misgivings about his actions was self-doubt, feeling that they were wrong for feeling uncomfortable. This man is a doctor. Self-doubt is also at the heart of every adult encounter in which one person isn’t sure of how far they want to go but they don’t know how to express themselves. For example, when a woman is on a date with a guy she’s liked for a long time and second-guesses herself when he wants to move too fast because he’s well-liked and kind.
Self-doubt doesn’t emerge fully formed in someone’s head out of nowhere. It comes from the stories you tell yourself about yourself, and how much you trust your own feelings. Nassar lasted as a predator for multiple decades because most of us are freaking little kids when it comes to submitting to authority, and Nassar was a doctor, so he was an authority. He lasted because we will do mental gymnastics to avoid confrontation with people who hurt us, and we’d rather suffer than trust our own instincts.
So give your kids some room to doubt authority figures every now and then. Let them explore the concept that grownups can be bad, because yeah, some of them are monsters. Let your kids practice saying “no,” like, all the time. You think I’m kidding, but it’s shockingly hard to say “no” as an adult, especially to someone you like.
Teach Your Kids To Read And Respect The People Around Them
I can’t speak for every other woman out there, but the Aziz Ansari date night story hit me harder than the James Franco stories or accounts of Louis C.K. masturbating in front of female comedians, even though their actions were objectively more disgusting in every way. The Ansari account was painful because his date tied herself into knots as she tried to come up with ways to say “no” without hurting his feelings, but every clue she dropped was met with “yes, but,” as if their whole date was an improv game. A woman left his apartment in tears, and he thought they had a great night 24 hours later.
Unfortunately, the story was the best illustration of a consent problem that I’ve ever seen. One person struggled to say no, and the other person didn’t read, see, or hear her struggle at all, or read it and didn’t care. While every other entry on the list is a way to help your kid not become a victim, this one is to help your kid not become a person who tries to have sex with someone who’s not into it. That’s a matter of empathy, and it can be taught.
This starts with modeling empathy over and over and over again. Read your kids’ faces and bodies, and show them that they can read their friends’ faces as bodies as well. Literally say “Your face looks sad. Are you OK?” Or “Why did your friend go hide under the slide and start crying when you were playing? What happened?” Or “I can tell you’re mad at me because I ate all of the Goldfish while you were at school. We can talk about it when you’re ready.”
If the idea of acknowledging a child’s facial expressions and body language out loud over and over again is exhausting, that’s because it is. And that’s not including the times you’re calling them out for the wrong reasons. “Wipe that face off your face” is a favorite expression in my house, because everybody hates grumpy faces. But I can’t think of another way to teach kids how to check in with the emotional states of the people around them than to just … do that. Like, all the time.
Despite what pop culture has taught us, we want boys (and girls) who want to read faces and body language and want to land on the same place as their partners. We want future adults to pride themselves on how attuned they are to the person in front of them, especially when we’re talking about sex. We want guys (and girls) who ask “Is this OK?” before they get handsy because that’s how much they respect the person they’re with, even if they just met.
Parents, don’t wait for pop culture to catch up on teaching consent. It’s not going to happen any time soon. By the time the next generation of screenwriters figures out how to write sexy scenes that handle consent really well, your kids are already going to be grown.
Feel free to check in on Kristi’s emotional state whenever you want over on Twitter.
If you have children yourself and need some help with this, authors are writing children’s books geared towards teaching them these very things. Check them out!
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Not everything is terrible. Sometimes we let ourselves forget how beautiful the world is. It doesn’t mean that the issues we face every day are not important. Sometimes we just need… a little break. A reminder of what it all could be more like. What we could be more like.
The pictures on this list will surely put a smile on your face, maybe make you cry a little. But happy tears only. Most importantly, we hope that they will inspire you to see more good in the world, and do more good.
Check out the wholesome stories collected by Bored Panda down below and don’t forget to vote for your favourites!
My boyfriend and i were at Walmart recently, and he recounted a story to me from his childhood. He grew up incredibly poor, his mother being a single mom raising two kids on her own, his father abandoning them when he was very young. He and his mom would â€œwindow shopâ€ at stores, just to pass the time and look at stuff they knew they couldnâ€™t buy. When he was…
My boyfriend and i were at Walmart recently, and he recounted a story to me from his childhood. He grew up incredibly poor, his mother being a single mom raising two kids on her own, his father abandoning them when he was very young. He and his mom would â€œwindow shopâ€ at stores, just to pass the time and look at stuff they knew they couldnâ€™t buy. When he was little, when pokemon was really big, Walmart had a Charizard lunch box. He thought it was the coolest thing; Charizard was his favorite pokemon, and how often did you see things with just Charizard? The lunchbox wasnâ€™t necessarily expensive, but with the threat of no power or running water, it might has well have been a billion dollars. His mom put the lunchbox on layaway and said heâ€™d get it for his birthday, but my boyfriend knew that it wasnâ€™t going to happen and it was definitely more of a gesture. It was so much more than a lunchbox. He felt if he had this lunchbox at school, heâ€™d feel normal, heâ€™d feel like everyone else. His birthday is in December, and after much eBay stalking I found the lunchbox he yearned for, 18 years ago. It was in amazing condition. This was the moment it really started to sink in. He cried for a LONG time. He finally got his lunchbox he could never have.
So, some a**hole did this. But then this happened… People rallied around to clean up the graffiti. And to post supporting messages. Including our Canadian Forces members, who know that the Muslim population isn’t to blame for one insane a**hole. All clean.
The “Girls Trip” actress announced on Thursday that she will be hosting the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards in Los Angeles on Monday, June 18. Haddish, who made history last November by becoming the first black female stand-up comedian to host “Saturday Night Live,” is making history again as the first black woman to host the award show. The last female host was Amy Schumer in 2015.
Haddish announced the news in a video on Instagram. “It’s gonna be off the chain! Because you know why? I’m hosting!” Haddish says in the video. “And you know what that means ― it’s gonna be hilarious.”
MTV released a statement shortly after Haddish’s announcement, writing that the actress, comedian and author is “quickly establishing herself as one of the most sought-after actresses and comedic talents in television and film.”
After her hilarious acting in “Girls Trip,” she released a New York Times best-seller titled The Last Black Unicorn. She recently made waves as the face of Groupon, appearing in the brand’s 2018 Super Bowl ad. The actress is also starring in the upcoming TBS sitcom “The Last O.G.” alongside Tracy Morgan.
The categories and nominees for the award show will be announced at a later date.
The MTV Movie & TV Awards will air on Monday, June 18, at 9 p.m. EST.
Walmart today announced a major expansion in terms of its global e-commerce presence: the retailer is entering a strategic partnership with Tokyo-based Rakuten, which will see the companies collaborating on the launch of a new online grocery service in Japan, and the sale of e-readers, audiobooks and e-books in the U.S., via Rakuten-ownedKobo.
The strategic alliance is one that has two of the world’s largest e-commerce retailers joining forcing in an effort to combat Amazon, and is yet another example of how Walmart is using large-scale partnerships to aid in that battle. For example, Walmart last year teamed up with Google in order to have an entry point in the voice-assisted shopping space, by way of Google Home smart speakers – an area where Amazon’s Alexa has mopped up market share.
In this new partnership, Walmart says it and Rakuten will co-create an online grocery service in Japan that will launch in the third quarter of 2018. The service will be operated by Rakuten and Seiyu GK, a Walmart subsidiary, and will be called “Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper.”
Walmart, via Seiyu, has operated a grocery delivery business in Japan since 2000. This new co-branded service will replace that, the company says.
Once live later this year, some customers’ orders will continue to be fulfilled by their local Seiyu store, as before. But depending on their geography, other customers’ orders may come from a new, dedicated fulfillment center operated by Walmart and Rakuten. The center, which is an existing building Walmart owns, will be exclusively used for online grocery.
Walmart today also operates an online grocery business in the U.S., where customers can shop online and pay, then pull up to a designated parking spot for curbside pickup when their order is ready. The option to take delivery is available for an additional fee, but Walmart hands off that part of the operation to third-party partners, like Uber.
However, in all other markets where Walmart operates online grocery – including Japan, the U.K., China, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and India – the service is focused on home delivery. This will be the case with Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper, as well. Groceries will also continue to be delivered to homes using existing local delivery companies, Walmart tells us.
Another difference between the U.S.-based pickup service and Japan’s delivery service is that Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper will offer pre-prepared meal kits, as well as partially prepared foods and other convenience-focused items like pre-cut vegetables, in addition to its selection of fresh produce and other consumables. Some items from Rakuten’s Ichiba marketplace – which has over 93 million registered members – will be available, too, including gourmet foods.
Rakuten will additionally help craft the website for the new online grocery service, which will take advantage of its e-commerce technology, including big data and A.I., in order to personalize the merchandise offerings.
“Rakuten is a strong e-commerce business and we’re excited to collaborate with the top online shopping destination in Japan,” said Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon, in a statement. “Here in Japan and everywhere we operate, we’re constantly exploring new ways to make every day easier for customers by offering great experiences in stores, online, via mobile—no matter how customers want to shop.”
The other significant initiative to emerge from this alliance is the addition of Kobo’s e-book and audiobook selection to Walmart’s website – a clear attempt to unseat Amazon Kindle’s dominance in e-readers and e-books, and Amazon-owned Audible’s dominance in audiobooks.
Kobo will bring nearly 6 million audiobooks and e-book titles from hundreds of thousands of authors to Walmart, which will sell them on Walmart.com starting sometime later this year. (E-books will arrive first, followed by audiobooks.)
Walmart will also sell digital book cards in stores, as well as Kobo’s e-readers.
Kobo is the second-largest e-reader manufacturer worldwide, but never became a household name here in the U.S. However, the company has been fairly innovative with its hardware, offering premium versions and even a waterproof model years before Amazon did with Oasis. If anything could take on Kindle, it’s more likely to be a Walmart-backed Kobo rather than a Nook.
The companies haven’t yet decided which of Walmart’s stores will get which e-reader models, as the assortment details are still being worked out.
The two companies will also release a co-branded Walmart/Kobo e-reading app for iOS and Android, as their alternative offering to Amazon’s Kindle app, as well as a desktop app. The new app will replace the existing Kobo app that’s live on app stores, but the companies couldn’t detail how the transition process will work for existing U.S. Kobo users.
Similar to how Amazon lets consumers choose the format of the book they want to purchase while shopping, Walmart says Kobo’s product selection will also be “fully integrated” into its Walmart.com shopping site. That means when customers find the book they want to buy, they’ll be able to choose from the physical book, an e-book or an audiobook version from one place.
Walmart says it will use the power of its physical retail presence to get this e-book offering off the ground, noting that its stores see over 140 million weekly customers who will be able to buy e-readers and digital book cards.
Amazon, meanwhile, has been moving in the other direction – it already has the e-book empire others want to topple, so now its focus is on launching Amazon bookstores that put physical books in front of shoppers, too. But unlike Walmart, the Amazon Books retail stores are only open in select (generally urban) markets at this time. The bookstore chain is part of Amazon’s larger efforts to establish a brick-and-mortar footprint to rival Walmart’s, in fact – efforts that include its acquisition of grocer Whole Foods and its new, cashier-less Amazon Go stores.
“Kobo has been very successful in working with market-leading book retailers around the world to provide a very competitive experience in the e-book space,” Rakuten Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn told TechCrunch.
“We’re very excited to come to the U.S. and bring e-books and audiobooks to Walmart, and take advantage of the scale that a market leader and a leading bookseller like Walmart can provide,” he added.
Veganism is more than a healthy lifestyle choice—it’s a moral imperative. Society continues to engage in widespread animal oppression, slaughtering billions of helpless living creatures each year. Vivisectionists and researchers torture and kill in the name of science, while corporations and governments plunder nature’s last remaining treasures.
Author, vegan, and dietician Stephen Saunders, RD, presents a compelling and sometimes controversial argument in favor of animal liberation. Drawing on historical examples of human oppression and comparing them to the plight of animals, Saunders reveals the hypocrisy of those who fight for human rights while ignoring speciesism.
Saunders offers a vision of animal oppression from the point of view of the victim. His irrefutable evidence positions veganism as the optimal diet from the viewpoints of ethics, the environment, and health.
Domination over the animal kingdom acts as the foundation for domination over women, ethnic minorities, and the socially disadvantaged. Unless we address and conquer speciesism, nothing will change—indeed, our place on this planet will become ever more precarious. Saunders makes an unapologetic call to arms. There can be no compromise or negotiation when fighting for animal liberation—but there may be justice.
A debut book contends that humanity can save itself through veganism.
These days, it seems people are facing more existential crises than they have time to contemplate: climate change, environmental degradation, income inequality, sexism, racism, and plain old violence. “I believe that man can change,” writes Saunders in the introduction to this work. “But it will take a revolution of empathy, compassion, and mercy, not toward the human species but toward the creatures with whom we share this earth—the animals.” According to the author, humans’ carnivorous behavior is their true original sin, the one that underlies all the others. The torture and slaughter of animals are injustices that people have rationalized, making it easier for them to defend other systems of subjugation, like patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism. Saunders takes readers through a wide range of disciplines and eras to make his case, exploring the origins of hunting and eating meat, contemporary research on what nutrients people need (and from what sources they are available), and how veganism builds on the values of earlier radical groups like the Romantics, the Luddites, the Transcendentalists, and abolitionists. Drawing from science, literature, and politics, the author maintains that the next stage of human freedom is to untether the race from the greatest vestige of its unenlightened past: the flesh of other creatures. Saunders demonstrates a good deal of erudition, but his tone is often abrasive and hyperbolic, as when he attempts to discredit high-protein, low-carb diets: “You may lose weight in the short-term on a low-carb diet if your goal is to fit into a skinnier casket.” With his cherry-picked nutritional studies, jeremiads against capitalism, and fondness for quoting Thoreau, the author will likely remind readers of a particularly dogmatic undergraduate. That is unfortunate, since this approach obscures his most enthralling and persuasive argument—that living off the killing of animals decreases people’s empathy. Tone aside, there is much here that should give the progressive meat eater pause. The book is a reminder that while vegans may sometimes sound patronizing to carnivores, their complaints about the food system cannot be ignored forever.
An intriguing, if somewhat heavy-handed, argument for veganism.
Stephen graduated from Plattsburgh State University with a B.S. in food and nutrition and then went on to complete an internship at the University of Delaware to become a registered dietitian. Stephen also graduated from Long Island University with a B.S. in biology. Stephen has worked as a registered dietitian for over 10 years including working as a clinical dietitian in several hospitals for over 10 years. He is board certified as a nutrition support specialist for critically ill patients. Stephen is a public speaker for health and veganism.
Stephen presents a compelling and sometimes controversial argument in favor of animal liberation. Drawing on historical examples of human oppression and comparing them to the plight of animals, Stephen reveals the hypocrisy of those who fight for human rights while ignoring speciesism. Stephen offers a vision of animal oppression from the point of view of the victim. His irrefutable evidence positions veganism as the optimal diet from the viewpoints of ethics, the environment, and health.
When a palliative paediatrician in South Africa saw too many negative stories appear on his Twitter feed, he decided to share some positive, inspiring thoughts of the terminally ill children in his care.
Alastair McAlpine, from Cape Town, tweeted: “I asked some of my terminal paediatric palliative care patients what they had enjoyed in life, and what gave it meaning. Kids can be so wise, y’know. Here are some of the responses.”
For an assignment, I asked some of my terminal paediatric palliative care patients what they had enjoyed in life, and what gave it meaning. Kids can be so wise, y'know. Here are some of the responses (Thread).
Animals played a huge part in their lives as they enjoyed talking about their pets. Dr McAlpine tweeted examples: “I love Rufus, his funny bark makes me laugh; I love when Ginny snuggles up to me at night and purrs; I was happiest riding Jake on the beach.”
Dr McAlpine trained in palliative care in May 2017 after he saw a huge gap in paediatric care.
“When it came to kids dying, it seemed we weren’t prepared for what to do. The best part of my job now is that I get to meet these extraordinary children and families. I walk a special road with them,” he says.
“As horrible as it is when a child dies, one of the best rewards is a dignified and pain-free death. If I can make their lives slightly less bad, it’s worthwhile. That keeps me going.”
MANY mentioned their parents, often expressing worry or concern: 'Hope mum will be ok. She seems sad.' 'Dad mustn't worry. He'll see me again soon.' 'God will take care of my mum and dad when I'm gone' /3
MANY wished they had spent less time worrying about what others thought of them, and valued people who just treated them 'normally'. 'My real friends didn't care when my hair fell out.' 'Jane came to visit after the surgery and didn't even notice the scar!' /6
It’s no surprise that kindness, laughter, toys and family were all very much valued by the children. As his threads unfolded and the comments poured in, Dr McAlpine left this take-home message: “Be kind. Read more books. Spend time with our family. Crack jokes. Go to the beach. Hug your dog. Tell that special person you love them… and eat ice cream.”
A team of Brazilian arachnid biologists (and presumed literature lovers) has discovered 7 new species of cave spiders – and they named each one after a famous eight-legged (and in one case two-legged) character.
The species were discovered in a cave system formed of iron-rich sediment deposits in the state of Pará. The group’s paper, published in the open-access journal ZooKeys, represents five years of work studying the spiders in the field and the collection of approximately 2,000 specimens.
The spiders spend most of their time tucked away in darkness, though at times they were observed venturing into the light at the cave entrances. This lifestyle choice earns them the title of an edaphic troglophile species, meaning that they live in dirt and have adapted to spending all their time in caves. But unlike their troglobite cousins, they are not bound exclusively to a subterranean domain.
Now that these species are immortalized in the biological record, let’s explore some of the masterful fictional universes that inspired their monikers.
First up are two species whose namesakes are monstrous arachnids from the mind of J.R.R. Tolkien:
Ochyrocera laracna is named for Laracna, the Portuguese translation of Shelob, a giant spider that guards one of the passages into Mordor. Much like O. laracna, Shelob is also a cave spider (slash immortal ancient creature). According to her Lord of the RingsFandom Wikia entry: “she resided [near Cirith Ungol], making a labyrinth of webs within a network of caves… She feasted primarily on those who wandered into her webs, though if a particularly juicy morsel was available, she would silently pursue and kill it.”
You might recall from the Lord of the Rings books and films that Frodo, apparently looking quite juicy, is poisoned by Shelob and wrapped up in a cobweb. He is paralyzed, jaundiced, and pathetically in need of rescue, again (sigh).
Ochyrocera ungoliantis named for Shelob’s mother, Ungoliant, the primordial spider from the Undying Lands who later moved to Middle Earth. The Wikia page tells us she was once an ally of Melkor (also known as Morgoth) an even badder baddie than Sauron. But then she “changed her allegiance from him to herself, desiring only to be a mistress of her own insatiable craving to devour all light, to feed her everlasting emptiness.” Yikes.
Next up, Ochyrocera varys was the only species named after a human character, Lord Varys from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Varys, a master of espionage, is called the Spider because of his skill at cultivating a web (get it?) of informants.
Ochyrocera aragogue is sure to please any invertebrate enthusiast in the millennial age bracket, as it’s named for Aragog, the car-sized sentient spider from the Harry Potter series. As everyone knows, Aragog was Hagrid’s pet back when the gamekeeper was a young Hogwarts student. But Aragog got loose around the time that Tom Riddle was terrorizing the school with a basilisk, and he and Hagrid became the unfortunate scapegoats.
Ochyrocera charlotte is an homage to – you guessed it – Charlotte, the clever and kind barn spider who saves the life of Wilbur the pig in the beloved 1952 children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web.
The last two species are Ochyrocera misspider and Ochyrocera atlachnacha, the former references a friendly children’s book character, and the latter represents Atlach-Nacha, a giant spider-like entity with a human face from the H.P. Lovecraft Myth Circle.
Now, unless you live in northern Brazil, it’s unlikely you’ll encounter any of these newly identified spiders. But the well-read researchers have provided an easy method for appreciating their existence: Go pick up one of the books or movies referenced here. And maybe think twice before messing with the next eight-legged friend you find hiding in the recesses of your closet.
LAST SONG AND DANCE is an illustrated novel which tells the grim story of Cy Sullivan, failed alcoholic author who has returned to his hometown after years of scandal and disgrace, not in triumph but simply to die. He has but a week to compose his great American novella, Curse of the Blue Nun which he structures in relation to the seven days of creation in the Book of Genesis. A surrealist bible of sorts–but unlike the original, this one does not purport to be true.
Stylistic influences/parodies run the gamut from biblical parables, Shakespeare to various 20th century modernists—Joyce, Faulkner, Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs etc as well as film noir, supernatural horror and even Fellini. I employed a number of voices ranging from erudite to jail house slang to hillbilly (my Kentucky voice) so it’s a veritable literary collage. The artist at Bookfuel did a great job with my visual designs which were primarily inspired from Gustave Dore although it concludes with a pastiche of Grant Wood’s American Gothic which is quite nice. While this all sounds rather heavy and artistically over the top, Last Song and Dance is very much a black comedy which takes nothing seriously including itself or its failed author. The LSD initials of the title are appropriate given the hallucinatory quality of much of the writing. I believe there is a potential cult audience but as of today, it’s only sold three copies and there is no browsing on these sales sites nor is it visually displayed on Bookfuel’s site which is primarily genre or non fiction/ self help that sort of thing so it’s a bit of an orphan as such…
Buy it on Amazon – http://amzn.to/2BBqONP
San Francisco Book Review – 5 Stars
Christopher Woods has penned a curious yarn in the Last Song and Dance. The book is written in a unique style unlike any other. It addresses a chaotic set of contentious characters who dare to be noticed, each with an eagerness for confrontation. With wonderful black ink drawings that capture the mood of the characters of the story, the author paints an ominous narrative. Last Song can be compared to Sanctuary by Paul Monette for its imagery and imaginative style. Many of the illustrations feature symbolic references to the plot that add intrigue to the story, forcing you to reflect on the meaning of certain passages. Much of the narrative reads like dialogue, but conveys a meaning of reaching into the mind of the character. The storyline is complex, with a variety of characters who seem to share certain traits.
The storyline focuses on tested confrontations. Although these keep the reader busy, they add depth to the plot. It’s a little misdirected in places, giving the reader a chance to compare that part with other parts. This tends to function like a red herring in a mystery. You cannot tell if it’s a blooper or a ploy until you finish it. Sorry—no spoilers!
Christopher Woods does a fine job at depicting the characters with verbiage, the illustrations bringing them to life. The intricacy with which the characters are woven into the plot shows us only glimpses of what’s to come, kind of like a foreshadowing of events. The reader must do a lot of work to put the story together in his or her mind as he or she reads. This provides an overall aura of mystery, motivating the reader to keep turning the pages. And the text flows along fast, making it easy reading.
If you want to sit down and read something to contemplate and capture your attention, then you’ve come to the right work. Last Song kind of reads like a fairy tale or fable, yet some of the characters are using profanity that would not be appropriate for children under 18, and the characters appear to engage in behavior that would also not suit young readers.
Christopher Woods is aging gracelessly in Louisville, KY, USA. He lives in a box with his failing typewriter, Clarabelle and albino blind/deaf creature, Spot who is over fifty years old and rumored to be the world’s oldest living dog, if that is indeed its species. This is the first novel by Mr. Woods and assistants Clarabelle and Spot but, in all likelihood, is their last song and dance
This is the first of a three-part series based on never-before-published training manuals for the KGB, the Soviet intelligence organization that Vladimir Putin served as an operative, and that shaped his view of the world. Its veterans still make up an important part of now-Russian President Vladimir Putins power base. All were trained in the same dark arts, and these primers in tradecraft are essential to an understanding of the way they think and the way they operate.
U.S. intelligence operatives understand this only too well. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN earlier this month Putin is a great case officer, suggesting he knows how to handle an asset, and thats what hes doing with the presidentthat is, the president of the United States.
I am saying this figuratively, Clapper went on, when asked to clarify his remark. I think you have to remember Putins background. Hes a KGB officer. Thats what they do. They recruit assets. And I think some of that experience and instinct of Putin has come into play here, and hes managing a pretty important account, if I could use that term, with our president.
The first installment of this series, directly relevant to the question of how Putins minions played members of the Trump campaign, looks specifically at the use of third parties to target individuals and organizations.
Not many outside The Professors rarefied circle, knew who he was or what he studied or where he came from. No doubt that was part of his appeal. In his mid-fifties, he spoke of himself with a braggadocio not uncommon to unheard-of academics insisting that theyd been heard and heeded around the world. Hed served prominently, one online biography explained, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of his native Malta, where hed also advised the Ministry of Education. Hed been an election observer in a Central Asian autocracy. Hed worked for the kinds of institutions one remembers, if one remembers them at all, as interchangeable word jumbles of faux-gravitas: The London Academy of Diplomacy; The Euro-Mediterranean University of Slovenia.
The Professor had also attended confabs hosted by Kremlin-financed think tanks in Russia and spoken on appropriately vague topics such as economic and international cooperation. Hed once even claimed to have had a brief private audience with the Russian president himself, although his own assistant didnt buy that. The Professor, she said, was too small-time for such world-historical encounters.
Maybe. But somehow he knew that the Russians had intercepted thousands of emails belonging to a U.S. candidate for the White House long before the rest of the world did and he relayed this information to a young, inexperienced campaign adviser to a rival candidate, with whom hed struck up a rapport while both were traveling in Italy. At first The Professor was uninterested in the American. Then the American explained his promising new role back in New York in a presidential campaign and The Professor became very interested.
In fact, five days after the American was named publicly as one of the candidates top foreign policy hands in an interview with a major U.S. broadsheet, The Professor met him for lunch in London. By now the American had taken to referring to The Professor as a good friend of mine in his communiques back to campaign headquarters. The Professor opened doors, introducing him to Russias ambassador to the United Kingdom and to a Russian woman mistakenly or purposefully misidentified as a niece of the Russian president.
From here, The Professors interaction with the American diminished. The woman who wasnt a niece or any relative of anyone that important, together with a third man, a program director at one of those Kremlin-financed think tanks in Russia, henceforth led the discussion via email and Skype about a prospective liaison between members of the U.S. presidential candidates campaign (possibly the candidate himself) and the Russian leadership (possibly the Russian president himself). If such a liaison happened, itd have to happen in Moscow or a neutral city.
True, The Professor was still on hand to advise his good friend as to who exactly in the Russian government in Washington or London the American might speak with about arranging such a sensitive rendezvous. But the semi-anonymous Malteses work as a go-between was done. The Russians would take it from here.
The KGB training manual is still classified in Russia. Even though it is nearly 30 years old, it is still relied upon as an educational tool for Putins clandestine cadres.
I am aware, wrote FBI Special Agent Robert Gibbs in his affidavit accompanying the federal complaint against George Papadopoulos, the American campaign adviser who confessed he lied to the FBI, that the Russian government and its intelligence and security services frequently make use of non-governmental intermediaries to achieve their foreign intelligence objectives I am aware that the Russian government has used individuals associated with academia and think tanks in such a capacity.
Indeed. This common practice makes the story of the professor mentioned in the FBI court document, whose real name has since been revealed as Joseph Mifsud, even more intriguing than his suspicious overtures to a well-placed American political operative. Mifsud told The Daily Beast in an interview immediately after his name surfaced that he couldnt be the man in the FBI complaint. I am an academic, he insisted. But multiple inquiries have made it clear that U.S. investigators do not find that denial credible.
How would a former employee of a European Union member states foreign affairs ministry be made use of by Russian spies? Was he even cognizant of his role as a talent-spotter for high-value targets for recruitment or were his personality traitsa propensity for exaggerating his significance, a fondness for name-dropping well-connected Russian acquaintances and attending international conferencessimply exploited to make him an unwitting agent of Moscow Center?Or was he drawn into an international masquerade by his own folly, some hapless indiscretion on one of those jaunts to Moscow or St. Petersburg, which happened years ago but which his handlers wont ever let him forget?
The type of tradecraft suggested in the FBI complaint against Papadopolous, the transformation of civilians into assets who are then tasked with targeting other civilians, possibly of foreign or hostile nations, has been standard operating procedure for generations.
MOST OF WHAT WE KNOW of the Cold War, at least as it went down on the oppositions side, has come to us from the testimony of high-level KGB defectors such as Oleg Gordievsky and Sergei Tretyakov, or from the post-retirement memoirs of spymasters such as Oleg Kalugin. In one staggering case of good fortune, Vasili Mitrokhin, the archivist for the KGBs First Chief Directorate, which was in charge of foreign intelligence in the Soviet Union, managed to smuggle into the West handwritten copies of an enormous tranche of Soviet intelligence documents. From Mitrokhins resulting file, we have perhaps the largest and most edifying glimpse into how a totalitarian secret police functioned for decades: whom it recruited, how it succeeded or failed in getting the better of its adversaries (especially its main one, the United States), and to what depths of cynical manipulation it sank to try to conquer the world.
The Russian component of the Eastern bloc spy archives is by far the least complete. Whereas many of the occupied satellite regimes sought total transparency in their truth-and-reconciliation transitions from communism to democracy, the Russian Federation has mainly kept its occluded history in the dark.
As Masha Gessen observes in her new book, appropriately titled The Future Is History, even Boris Yeltsin was more interested in getting right to the reconciliation part by skipping almost entirely over the antecedent truth. Only a small portion of the KGB archives was declassified because Yeltsin foreclosed on a policy of full lustration for fear of what that might do to a fragile society just discovering freedom.
How does one reckon with an intelligence apparatus so vast and powerful that its reach touched every living soul in nearly one-third of the planet and transformed even good men and womenmothers, fathers, and childreninto informants or accomplices?Recriminations on this scale could cannibalize a democratic Russia before it even had a chance to take hold. Better to let past stay past and hidden. If granting impunity to all KGB operatives meant that those who otherwise might have been brought to justice were now in excellent positions to seize control of the Russian government, so be it.
Still, every now and then, a few more shadows recede from this secret history, whether Moscow Center likes it or not.
THE 108-PAGE DOCUMENT is marked secret in Russian and titled Political Intelligence from the Territory of the USSR. It is dated Moscow, 1989 (the year the Soviet bloc collapsed) and comes with the following disclaimer: Approved by the USSR KGB PGU as a teaching manual for students of the Andropov Red Banner Institute in special discipline course 1 and agents of external intelligence. PGU stands for Pervoye Glavnoye Upravlenie, or the First Chief Directorate, and the Andropov Red Banner Institute is the famous finishing school for Soviet operatives.
The document is a how-to guide for recruiting and running foreign agents who traveled to the Soviet Union, using institutions ostensibly dedicated to everything but espionage. Such as?
Well, such as: The Foreign Ministry, the Ministry for Foreign Economic Ties, the State Education Committee, the Ministry of Culture, the Peace Committee, the Academy of Science, etc. can be used as well as theatre, art shows, cinema, tourism Opportunities for contact with foreigners come when they have to solve problems and resolve a conflict situation, for example, violation of customs rules, road accidents, or violation of other Soviet laws. Agents can be placed in trains, planes and hotels to make these approaches. Conveniently, where problems or conflict situations dont arise spontaneously, they can be manufactured to serve precisely this purpose.
The First Chief Directorate training manual was passed to The Daily Beast several weeks ago by a European security service, which says that the document is still classified in Russia primarily because, even though it is nearly 30 years old, it is still relied upon as an educational tool for Putins clandestine cadres.
In the United States, spying was always a little-understood activity that took place at the margins and in the shadows, under the rule of law. In the Soviet Union, spying was central, and was the law.
CIA veteran John Sipher
We assess with high confidence, an officer from this European service says, speaking on condition of anonymity, that the thrust of this material is taught at Russias intelligence academies even today. Russias services are proud of their Cold War history, specific case studies and the lessons learned then continue to be relevant for current operational work.
Much of whats in here indeed has a ripped-from-the-headlines feel to it because, as two former U.S. intelligence officers who have studied the manual and attested to its authenticity suggest, plus a change.
There is a reason that espionage is referred to as the second-oldest profession in the world, says Steven Hall, a former CIA station chief in Moscow. Things dont change that much. Now, though, we have a fuller picture of what we always knew, and what makes this document valuable is it comes straight from the horses mouth.
Reading this document made me smile, says John Sipher, a veteran of the CIAs Senior Intelligence Service. This is The Sword and the Shield [the Mitrokhin archive], the basic playbook of Russian intelligence. In the United States, spying was always a little-understood activity that took place at the margins and in the shadows, under the rule of law. In the Soviet Union, spying was central, and was the law.
WITHIN THE KGBS FIRST CHIEF DIRECTORATE, the department responsible for recruiting foreign agents on native soil was known as Directorate RT, for Razvedka s Territorii (intelligence from the territory).According to the training manual, some 2,000 Soviet diplomats and hundreds of Soviet journalists and trade representatives were press-ganged into working on Directorate RTs behalf recruiting foreigners. Directorate RT had an ample number of people to work with. Virtually everyone living in the Soviet Union was a potential spy, as the KGB harvested a certain amount of its data from Soviet citizens in various ministries who work with foreigners. Poets, novelists, singers, painters, ballerinas could be enlisted in sophisticated operations aimed at snaring both minnows and whales from the West. French President Charles De Gaulles ambassador to Moscow once got reeled in by a KGB cast of hundreds, including some of the finest Soviet prostitutes.
There were, as the manual puts it, several thousand foreign government representatives to draw on, plus the children of those representatives; businessmen looking to widen their portfolios in the Eastern bloc under glasnost (which would certainly include New York real estate moguls); an untold array of visiting scientists and academics, many of them affiliated with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow; 2,000 diplomats, 100,000 foreign students in 800 universities; 10,000 military people from 30 countries; those with relatives in the USSR who remain for three to six months, including some 1.5 million Russian emigres, 2 million Ukrainians, 1.5 million Armenians, and 800,000 Balts.
Social scientists such as our Maltese professor of diplomacy were of particular interest given their likelihood of contract government work back home, drafting military or economic policy. If you were from abroad, there was almost no way you werent surveilled and scrutinized as a possible asset, with the omnipresent danger being of course that you were actually sent from abroad by a Western intelligence servicea danger Directorate RT was all too keenly aware existed and took a host of precautionary measures to avoid.
Thats why the due diligence for recruits was so exhaustive: Each time a foreign student goes to the USSR, he has to go through an application process, the manual states. The agentura [network of agents] becomes involved in the process of get-acquainted chats, and PGU operatives especially sent to various countries may be involved. After these students get to the USSR, they are studied via agents from among Soviet and foreign citizens in their universities, by administrative, professorial and other personnel and by the military in the cases of military training. … Before recruiting, it should be determined what prospect the student has of getting a job in institutions of interest to Soviet intelligence. Some potential recruits identified abroad can be invited especially to the Soviet Union for further workover.
The manual goes on to say: Diplomats and journalists accredited in the USSR cannot make a career without contacts among authoritative political and civic circles in our country." Foreign graduate students need access to professors and researchers. "Many political and civic figures in foreign countries need contacts with Soviet institutions and organizations for reasons of prestige, and sometimes strive to ensure themselves and their political groupings success in their domestic political arena as authorities in the area of relations of their country with the Soviet Union." (One thinks of The Professor and his American friend.) "All of these elements create bases for establishing contacts with foreigners, their operative development and attraction of them to intelligence cooperation.
Good tradecraft means inconspicuousness. If a potential recruit is traveling to the Soviet Union as part of a delegation, he should never be the head of that delegation and the delegations size should be sufficiently large to ensure greater anonymity for the mark. If the recruit cant come to Russia, then Russia will come to the recruit: An agent might be sent to visit him under the guise of a professional conference or a study-abroad program, or an embedded agent already residing in the recruits country can be activated and a pretext for contact created.
YOURE A PHYSICIST from Paris who has in the past done work for Frances nuclear weapons program. You naturally study research conducted by your Soviet counterparts and because you grew up in the West, where there still remains a healthy separation between government and private citizens, you assume that science is its own sacred field of human inquiry, free from the profanities of geopolitics. Although you have belatedly begun to believe that the arms race to which you contributed is madness and, afflicted with bourgeois ideology though you may be, you consider yourself a man of science first, a citizen of France second, and a NATO ally with clearance last.
Directorate RT is counting on this being your set of priorities and therefore on your eventual connivance, for the sake of preventing a nuclear disaster, of course.A scientific institution in the USSR is found to make the initial contact with you via a letter of introduction. Dont worry, theyll work around your busy schedule with ease because each year there are 300 international forums within the USSR and 700 abroad in which the Soviet Union takes part and the KGB ensures that these events are held with political interests of the USSR.
A Soviet physicist, one whose scholarship you greatly admire, is prevailed upon to do a bit of extracurricular work for Directorate RT by extending the offer of a visit to Moscow State University in the coming months to attend a symposium on antimatter which is preplanned or will perhaps be cobbled together solely for your benefit.
Outreach will take place carefully, as French counterintelligence will no doubt be alive to the prospect of a trained specialist who worked on the most sensitive national defense sector being lured beyond the Iron Curtain for less than scientific reasons. That is why the rules of the game here may get a little more complicated, owing to the need for plausibly deniable cut-outs who will act, in aggregate, as a convincing cover story should the operation go sideways.
As the manual puts it, the recruitment agent, in this case the Soviet physicist, is introduced into the operation separate from the agent who is running the recruitment, that is, the more established asset of Directorate RT who in turns answers to an officer of the KGB. This chain of command is in place so that in the event of failure, the intelligence agent who is working through the cover institution isnt exposed, the institution here being one of the most prestigious and oldest universities in the world. Also, given the specialized nature of the quarry involved, the recruitment agent is needed when the agent doesnt have enough background in the topic in which the foreigner specializes or doesnt have a position in the cover organization which would be at the foreigners level and authoritative for him. In other words, because youre coming to Moscow to discuss antimatter, youll need to do so with someone who understands the subject matter and with whom you can develop a mutual trust and camaraderie before any trap may be set.
A file is drawn up on you known as the Initial Study File. If the operation proceeds well and a relationship with you migrates into the realm of actual intelligence work then an Operative Development File will be opened. You will be handled by multiple agents of various departments of KGB, not just Directorate RT, and some of these will be working under cover in ministries; counterintelligence agents, agents from among Soviet and foreign citizens, trusted persons, and the special PGU reserve disguised as citizens from foreign countries. Ernesto, that lovely Argentine lawyer you shared a cigarette with at the InTourist Hotel?He works for the First Chief Directorate.
From the moment you arrive in Moscow, you will be watched and followed everywhere you go.
If all proceeds well, the final stage of your recruitment will be an assessment of your reliability and loyalty. Do you have the bravery, restraint, operational acuity, resourcefulness and readiness to take an intelligence risk?
Your word will not be enough given what is to be invested in you. If physics and de-proliferation got you on the hook, then what will keep you dangling there indefinitely is a flagrant act of criminality.
Maybe youve already committed a crime without realizing it. Maybe you let slip a telling classified detail of Frances atomic program with a colleague at the antimatter symposium, a detail to which only yourself and a handful of others in France were ever privy to. It wasnt your fault. You were conferring with such engaging and charming equals at a symposium few scholars could comprehend. If yours was an unconscious misstep, even better.
If you didnt break the law up unbidden, there will be plenty of other opportunities to do so, with encouragement. Recruitment is strengthened above all by giving intelligence tasks to the person recruited for collaboration, the performance of which violates certain legal or moral norms of his country. Now your interlocutors are revealed to you as more than physicists and academicians. You are asked to return to Paris, regain access to Frances nuclear program and begin stealing state secrets.
You will be brought deeper into a criminal conspiracy, if only to confirm your readiness for practical intelligence cooperation and to make it impossible or difficult for you to refuse such cooperation in the future. Even now, your fate is not entirely clear because there is always the chance that youll go wobbly. You may even be introduced to a psychiatrist at some point who will sketch a personality profile of you and find out what really motivates you. Contrary to your professed love of knowledge and world peace, are you actually driven by baser instincts: career ambition, status anxiety, revenge, hatred, love? Are you perhaps attracted to one of the agents assigned to your case and, even though youre married, acted on that impulse? (Here the psychiatrist will be aided with an array of audio and visual materials to confirm your behavior in Moscow.) Do you fear betraying your country and the legal consequences?
You could run home only to inform the French authorities of your treachery and beg forgiveness, which they might actually, dreadfully, bestow upon you by asking you to turn double agent: Spy on the spies who recruited you. Or your nerves might simply get the better of your resolve in the course of some as-yet-determined practical intelligence cooperation and you could be caught red-handed by the DGSI, Frances internal security service, and then locked up or worse: traded for some complementary French asset being held the USSR. That might be worse than prison because it would mean being sent back to Moscow, your new and permanent home, where you spend the rest of your life, never to see your friends and family again.
What began as a pantomime of professional courtesya simple invitation to attend a symposiumhas culminated in your personal and professional destruction. You have become a citizen of no-mans-land, as one fictional hero of counterintelligence memorably phrased it, the collateral damage of History. No one told you it would ever be otherwise.
VICTOR CHERKASHIN, THE ERSTWHILE handler of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, the two biggest KGB moles in American history, was also the chief of Directorate RT. Contacts included members of almost every U.S. organization whose members set foot in the country, he writes in his memoir Spy Handler. As a rule, the arrival of every foreigner created counterintelligence work.
Directorate RT was a truly totalitarian approach to intelligence, according to Andrei Soldatov, the co-author of The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russias Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB. It made the territory of the Soviet Union a gigantic trapall regional branches of the KGB had special departments tasked to look for ways to recruit foreigners on their soil.And this extraordinary apparatus, dedicated to the incrimination of hapless visitors as to the complicity of coerced natives, is by no means a relic of the Cold War.
There is a certain irony that when Putin became chief of the FSB in 1999, and the FSB wanted to expand its powers and get a foreign intelligence branch, this empire of regional departments was used to build it, Soldatov says. A special coordination body was created and then turned into the foreign intelligence arm of the FSB, the Federal Security Service, the domestic security arm that grew out of the demise of the KGB. The foreign arm is today known as the SVR, which is the actual successor of the First Chief Directorate; the Andropov Red Banner Institute, in fact, is now called the SVR Academy.
The continuity doesnt end there.
A phrase that recurs quite a lot in the manual is one that the American man in the street now knows, thanks to the unpleasantness of the last two years.Active measures, or activniye meropriyatiya, is an antique KGB concept of deploying dirty tricks to vitiate and demoralize a Western opponent, now much in sensationalized circulation in the Age of Trump owing to the deluge of falsehoods emanating from Russian government media portals and non-government, non-Russian social media platforms.
Nobody does it better, and if you dont trust MSNBC to define what disinformation is and how it works, you can trust the KGB: The conspiratorial promotion to the enemy of fabricated news, especially prepared materials and documents, so as to lead him into confusion and motivate him to decisions and actions that meet the interests of the Soviet state. Disinformation measures are undertaken to undermine the positions of imperialism in various countries of the world, increase the contradictions among imperialist states, bourgeois political parties and individual figures, to weaken their positions, counteract the unleashing of anti-Soviet campaigns and also for the purposes of influencing the outcome of negotiations not only on political matters but in concluding major trade deals with foreign companies and firms.
Disinformation isnt designed to make you believe something false but convincing; it is designed to make you doubt everything true and demonstrable; to make the very existence of unimpeachable facts null and void.
Excepting the turgid and outmoded ideological terms, how can this not still be a serviceable textbook on deceiving and dividing the West for those just initiated into the ranks of the FSB, SVR, and GRU, Russias domestic, foreign, and military intelligence services, respectively?
Maybe the CIA invented Ebola to kill Africans.
Neo-Nazis have taken over Ukraine with the help of the State Department.
Russia is pulling its military out of Syria because its destroyed ISIS.
Emmanuel Macron might be gay.
Couldnt the Democratic Party have had Seth Rich murdered?
What if they hacked themselves?
Did you hear there was a chemical plant explosion in Louisiana?
Hillary Clinton had a stroke.
North African migrants have raped a young German girl and Merkel is covering it up.
These ideas, once injected into the zeitgeist, are incredibly difficult to dislodge from it, which is precisely the point of them. Disinformation isnt designed to make you believe something false but convincing; it is designed to make you doubt everything true and demonstrable; to make the very existence of unimpeachable facts null and void.
And where crude or inventive falsehoods dont work, the truth will often suffice, provided its told with bad intent or weaponized, in the contemporary parlance. Disseminating the private correspondence of one political party or campaign in order to embarrass it in a democratic election, if not make it lose that election, is undoubtedly interference in the sovereign affairs of another country. But that doesnt make the content of such correspondence fabricated.
Exposure as a method of active measures is used to reveal to the world public or the public of individual countries secret anti-Soviet plots, aggressive plans and intentions, bad deeds and other such actions of military political groupings of the enemy Exposure operations can have significant influence on the formation of public opinion abroad in the direction favorable to the Soviet Union, enable the strengthening of anti-American sentiments in various countries, the growth of the anti-war movement and so on.
The italics are mine. The ablest of these operations seize upon already existing weaknesses and vulnerabilities and simply nudge them along. The victims herethe Western recipients of propaganda and disinformationare themselves the plausibly deniable cut-outs of Russian intelligence, only they dont know it. When is someone predisposed to accepting the false statistics or bogus news clippings posted to some anti-Muslim Facebook page transformed into a dupe of an influence operation, and when is that person just a whipped-up bigot?
On the other hand, the classified works of Directorate RT remind us that the KGB was one of the most high-octane engines of mass media in the 20th century. Active measures, the manual states, took the form of publication in the foreign press of articles, publication of books, brochures, leaflets in the name of foreign authors; organization of radio and television broadcasts; press conferences and interviews with prominent state, political and civic figures, prominent scientists and other influential foreigners instigation in foreign countries of meetings, rallies, demonstrations, appeals to the governments, inquiries in parliaments; promotion of decisions, resolutions, manifestos corresponding to the interests of the Soviet Union and so on.
Putin and his surrogates decry a Cold War mentality in the West while never having abandoned it themselves.
Foreign journalists and commentators were of particular value because they could easily be made to appear in print or on air with KGB-derived talking points, or theses. Now Directorate RT has given way to RT and Sputnik, and presidents, too, can be made to recite or retweet the concoctions of Moscow Centerall without the need of expensive and months-long recruitment efforts.
Here is Steven Hall, once Langleys top man in Russia: Russian intelligence is more sophisticated and better today than it was during the Cold War. Why? The dictatorship of Putin has got far better resources to play with. Alexander Herzen once said that what he feared most for the future was Genghis Khan with the telegraph. Newspaper, radio, and television never possessed the universality and possibilities of the internet, where content is manufactured by anyone with a keyboard and a pulse, and sometimes not even then, but by self-running algorithms.
Technology may have improved by orders of magnitude, but the general contours of these influence operations have not changed overmuch since Lenins Cheka, the predecessor of the KGB. It scarcely helps that the West has had to re-learn this toolkit, and its manifold adaptations for the 21st century, in extremity and only after suffering unexpected tactical defeats in Ukraine and Syria and perhaps more lasting strategic ones in Europe and the United States.
This shock in Western societies, Hall says, from the Catalonian independence movement, to the German, French elections is navet. The Russians never got rusty at this, we just got rusty at identifying it.
Moreover, the virtues of an open society are vices to its enemies. The notion, for instance, that foreign spies might look to blackmail or incriminate and then recruit sojourning scientists or graduate students or newspaper columnists was anathema to liberal sensibilities. The Russians just think it so quaint when we say, students and cultural exchanges ought to be sacrosanct and certainly nobody would use these honest exchange programs for espionage purposes, said Hall. "They take it to the bank every time.
There is no such thing as clean business, people-to-people contact or cultural work that is off limits, agrees John Sipher. Any time a foreigner interacts with the Russian state, he or she should expect to be targeted, assessed and scrutinized. But it wont do to have that foreigner know this going in, or to understand more broadly that he is naturally a target for manipulation.
Putin and his surrogates decry a Cold War mentality in the West while never having abandoned it themselves because doing so preys upon a very Western sense of self-criticism and guilt. Suspicions about people and institutions make us feel lousy. How McCarthyist! Yet the absence of vigilance leads to susceptibility. Is it a surprise that the Russians would have a full dossier on someone like Donald Trump? asks Sipher.
Mobbed-up blowhards, flashy pop singers who have married into (and out of) kleptocratic dynasties in the Caucasus, ex-prosecutors from the Moscow suburbs who defend state oligarchs and their offspring from money-laundering allegations in foreign jurisdictions, founders of anti-virus software companiesall may seem a likely dramatis personae for a carefully choreographed influence operation. But, says Hall, even well-meaning people under normal circumstances, if they have any exposure in Russia whatsoever, whether its family, finances, connections, friendsthose are vulnerabilities for the FSB. They can be coaxed into living a double, triple, quadruple life when it comes to interacting with a Westerner. If they dont say the right things under the right conditions, they could get a call or a knock at the door that would be disastrous for them.
Doesnt that make the work of Western spies and counterspies infinitely more difficult, given that those they will have to rely on for credible human intelligence may be keeping multiple sets of books. Say, your lowly Gazprom secretary who is reporting everything she says to her British informant back to her Russian handler. Hall laughs. They dont call it a wilderness of mirrors for nothing.
Start scrounging up your birth certificate if your name is Sydney, because it could be your golden ticket for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia. United Airlines recently announced that they are adding nonstop service from Houston, Texas to Sydney, Australia, and they’re giving away a killer grand prize to celebrate. Keep reading to find out how to win a free trip to Australia, because if your name is Sydney, you could start the new year down under.
United Airlines will have their first flight with nonstop service from Houston to Sydney take off on Jan. 18, 2018, according to To kick it off, United wants all people named Sydney (first last name) to enter the airline’s sweepstakes for a chance to win roundtrip tickets to their namesake Australian city. Five “Sydneys” and their guests (hope for non-Sydneys!) will be chosen to fly on the inaugural flight on Jan. 18, 2018.
So, if your legal name is Sydney — or one of the other 19 accepted spellings of the name — you can enter the contest by filling out the entry form on the United Airlines website. Seriously, pretty much all you have to do is fill out the form and be named Sydney. The other musts are that you’re a legal U.S. resident and are at least 18 years old.
Hey, Sydney! Want to go on a #UnitedJourney to Sydney?! If you have the first or last name Sydney, enter for a chance to win a trip to Australia on our new nonstop flight between Houston and Sydney! Enter/Official Rules: https://t.co/QWbk5ztvKr https://t.co/ChNICEXMl6
If you fit all the contest parameters, remember that the entry period runs from Dec. 13, 2017 to Dec. 27, 2017 (so enter ASAP). The winners will be chosen on Dec. 28, 2017.
What exactly will you win if you’re one of the five lucky Sydneys? First, you’ll get two free economy-class roundtrip tickets that will take you to Sydney from Jan. 18 until Jan. 25, 2018. While you’re in Australia, you’ll spend your five nights at the Westin Sydney, explore the beautiful sights aboard a Sydney Harbor Sightseeing Cruise, check out the iconic Sydney Opera House, and discover Australia’s natural beauty during a day tour in the Blue Mountains. Plus, you’ll receive a $500 gift card to help you live your best Sydney life.
With a prize package that loaded, United must be excited about their new nonstop flights from Houston to Sydney. Even though the trip is free if you win, you be paying for it with your time. The nonstop flight to Sydney from Houston is a whopping 17 hours and 35 minutes long, but the return fight cuts it down a bit lasting just 15 hours and 45 minutes. I get it, that is a time to be up in the air — but hey, it’ll be a great time to get a jump on all that reading that you resolved to do in 2018. Or, you can prep for your Australian adventure by re-watching the Mary-Kate and Ashely Olsen classic, (feel free to enjoy it totally un-ironically). Either way, you’re on a free trip to Sydney, so really it’s all good.
Before you hop on that free flight, you can take some steps to ensure that you’re not waiting around all day at the airport. Instead of arriving at the airport at the crack of dawn to make sure you don’t get stuck in a long security line, you can check security line wait times on the TSA website beforehand. You can also sign up for TSA Precheck to cut down wait times to a mere five minutes. Given that your flight will be quite the haul, cutting down wait times is a definite must.
If you’re name is Sydney, make sure you remember to enter the contest before Dec. 27. For all of us poor non-Sydneys, all that’s left to do now is buddy up with your closest pal named Sydney and hope their name gets drawn on Dec. 28. Good luck!
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