A hacker was able to recreate the fingerprint of the German Defense Minister from a photograph. This is the same hacker who defeated Apple’s thumbprint verification within 24 hours of the release of the iPhone 5S. (source)
The Hidden Hand: Alien Contact and the Government Cover-Up
The Hidden Hand is a controversial Award-winning documentary that explores the possibility of an extraterrestrial presence here on Earth. The film takes a keen look at a spectrum of topics like alien abduction, human/alien hybridization, the military’s reverse-engineering of alien technology and the government cover-up of anything related to extraterrestrials. Is preoccupation with E.T.’s a form of cultural madness, or is something really going on? How would E.T. contact change the religious and political institutions of our society? The Hidden Hand is full of riveting interviews with experts and experiencers alike: Whitley Strieber, Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the 6th astronaut on the moon, Paul Hellyer, a former Canadian Defence Minister, Richard Dolan, Jim Marrs, Linda Moulton Howe, Col. John Alexander, Lyn Buchanan, Clifford Stone, Nassim Haramein, David Icke, Dr. Roger Leir, Graham Hancock and Paola Harris, among others. The shadowy world of UFOs is suddenly brought to light.
Radmila Šekerinska (b. 1972) is the
former Prime Minister of Macedonia, and currently its Minister of Defence. She
also served as the leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia.
She holds degrees in
Law and in Power Engineering, and is the author of several scientific works. In
2002, she was the Vice Premier of the Republic of Macedonia, responsible for
the country’s European integration.
Thoughts: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
I saw Valerian this week, and I have some thoughts on it. Most of them are problems I had with the film.
Problem #1: Laureline’s speech about love and trust.
Valerian and Larueline’s introduction on the beach establishes Valerian as a man who doesn’t much care for other people’s opinions (pining Laureline down despite her obvious disinterest in it) and says anything to get what he wants (see: flirting v. his “playlist*”), and Laureline as a cold, efficient soldier with no romantic interest, in Valerian. Okay, cool, I can get behind this.
The story goes on. Laureline is shown to have more of a soft spot for Valerian than she says. Aw, that’s cute.
The story continues on, Valerian and Laureline make contact with the Mül, and Valerian wants to be a Good Soldier (which he hasn’t seemed to have much interest in for the first two hours of the film, but whatever). Laureline disagrees and gives a speech about… love and trust? Where did this come from? If there had been some kind of event that gave her an obvious change of character I could buy this, but aside from when she was captured and offered as sexy food tribute (see also: problem #4), I didn’t see her going through any life-changing events that would make me buy her saying “love is the most powerful thing in the universe”. She could have believed this from the start, but then why would she join up with the violent, unbending federation?
I do believe that Laureline has a higher degree of emotional intelligence than we’ve seen her exhibit up to this point, but come on. This is a bit much.
Problem #2: There’s a war?
The planet Mül was destroyed when a nuclear battle was fought in its atmosphere, thus setting off the plot of the movie. But what war? Who were the humans fighting?
This could have been easily fixed by having the dealer who tried to sell the Mül Converter at the beginning be a member of the opposing force in the “war” (that has either concluded or wasn’t worth mentioning like, at all). This could have been woven into the plot as an overarching threat to Alpha station, with the Enemy presented a third player in the quest for the Mül Converter to drive up tension and intrigue. Still further, the Enemy could have been used as a red herring for “who kidnapped the commander”. The Commander had the Mül Converter on him (which, he didn’t, but bear with me), and the Enemy Species could have been looking for it as a way to fund their side of the war. Big reveal: it’s actually the Mül. Look how much nicer that looks! Using things that are already in the movie! AMAZING.
(who gave this movie the green light without consulting me, I mean really)
Problem #3: the way Valerian and Laureline get together at the end of the film.
Laureline didn’t want to be in a relationship with Valerian a.) probably because that’s fraternization, but also because b.) he was saying what she wanted to hear to get her in bed. (Personally, I think she didn’t want him due to his lack of respect rather than his fear of commitment, but let’s go with what the movie says.) By the end of the film she’s changed her mind. BUT WHY? At one point he demonstrates his trust in her by agreeing to give back the Mül Converter, but that’s not the same as commitment. It could be argued that his dedication to the Federation (when will this get a name?) shows a commitment, but there is a huge difference between being a good soldier and committing to a fellow human being on an intimate level.
Also, the he doesn’t agree to not see other people. It’s never formalized, just kind of assumed. Don’t assume in a relationship, guys, always say your feelings and wants OUT LOUD. It takes away plausible deniability and, more importantly, gives the other person a chance to do what you want them to do. They get to do something nice for you, you get to feel good, win-win.
Problem #4: why didn’t Laureline shoot the alien that fished her up?
We know she had a gun from when she used it to threaten the pigeons, why was Valerian the only one who shot the creature that fished him up?
This could have been fixed with some line about how the guns get one shot and need to be recharged, then a quick bit of Laureline trying to shoot the fisher aliens when they catch her and not having any ammo.
Even better, they could have had her fight her way partly out of capture while Valerian set up the rescue mission so she could meet him somewhere in the middle of the stronghold instead of having the be rescued. That would have shown both Valerian and Laureline were Capable Soldiers. Which leads me to…
Problem #5: Bubbles.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore Rhianna, and her shapeshifting scene was probably my favorite visual element of the entire film, but her character was ultimately not useful. She was there to make us feel bad for her, then get Valerian into the alien stronghold**, then die for dramatic effect***. Here’s a thought: Rhianna as the same character, but once she gets Valerian and Laureline out of the stronghold, she breaks off from the party to alert the Federation instead of, you know, dying in a sad pile of dust.
Problem #6: when Valerian planned to go into the Mül pocket alone, he told Laureline to go for backup. When Laureline proceeded to go first, he did not go for backup.
They couldn’t have gotten a message out anyway, but he didn’t even try.
Problem #7: Valerian is carrying around the soul of an alien princess, I guess?
One, why did the princess choose Valerian instead of Laureline? The Mül species shown to be about harmony and compassion; since Laureline was the one who wanted to give back the converter (even though I disagree with her speech), she’s clearly the better choice.
Two, what purpose did this serve? It kind of lead Valerian to the Mül pocket dimension in the end, but that’s it. There was no indication this had any other effect. It would have been cool if the Mül Princess had been the one to teach Valerian about commitment and respect and all of those things which I guess is implied, but we didn’t see that happen at all.
Problem #8: why is everyone white?
This is a problem I have with a lot of scifi. Alpha station was an international earth space station before it was sent out into space, so why do so many of the humans look the same? I counted three non-white humans: Bubble (Rhianna), the Defence Minister who Never Got a Name (Herbie Hancock), Sergeant Neza (Kris Wu), maybe a few tourists and possibly some of the soldiers at Big Market. Maybe there were some background people I missed. I would love to be wrong about this because this movie should be too beautiful for something like this, let me know.
*Which, by the way, what is this? It can’t be his romantic history because the film ends with Laureline saying “I want to be the only girl on your playlist” and you can’t erase someone’s romantic history; it can’t be Valerian’s current list of partners, because that is way too many people to juggle. I can only conclude that there’s some kind of literal playlist of recordings going on, and I guess since Laureline wants to be on it, it’s normal to make a record of your sexual encounters in the future. Rock on.
**Which is unnecessary because we’ve already been shown the future has holographic capabilities, why couldn’t Valerian have cobbled something together out of that instead of getting Rhianna killed?
***What was the cause of death here? “I must have been injured during the fight” okay, but when and how? Did you get too sad? Because you seemed like you were doing a great job out there.
This wouldn’t be a proper review without some positives, so here’s what I liked about Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets:
The opening scene showing the formation of Alpha was excellent! I loved the way it showed the station’s progression. It felt real and the pacing was great. Also, props for using Major Tom. I saw this movie on Sunday and that song is still going around in my head.
Visually, this movie was absolutely beautiful. The effects were great, and the different species were integrated enough that Alpha and Big Market really felt like an alien environment.
Big Market. I really loved the idea of interdimensional interaction via technology, it’s a new and clever take on alien species and how the can/can’t interact.
The Mül Converters were so loveable! The first time one puffed up for conversion, I was terrified something bad was happening to it, and if it had, I would have really and truly cried in the middle of the movie theater.
These are my thoughts on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017). I’d love to get a dialog going about this, please message or reply with your thoughts and feels!
After his evening prayers, Mohammad Shahzadah closed the house gates and sat down for dinner. Then the blast came, engulfing the sky in flames and sending tremors through the ground.
“The earth felt like a boat in a storm,” Shahzadah said. “I thought my house was being bombed. Last year a drone strike targeted a house next to mine, but this time it felt like the heavens were falling. The children and women were very scared.”
The US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on eastern Afghanistan on Thursday in another dramatic show of military force by the Trump administration.
The GBU-43/B, colloquially known as the “mother of all bombs” or Moab, targeted tunnels and bunkers in Achin district in Nangarhar province, built by fighters loyal to Islamic State who also kept prisoners there.
A GPS-guided demolition bomb with an explosive yield equivalent to 11 tonnes of TNT, it explodes above ground with a radius of more than a mile.
The bomb was dropped in the mountains close to Moman village in an area called Asadkhel. About 1.5 miles away, in Shaddle Bazar where Shahzadah lives, the impact was palpable.
“My ears were deaf for a while. My windows and doors are broken. There are cracks in the walls,” he said.
The US military said it had killed 36 militants. The following morning around 9am, fighter jets strafed the area, a local police commander, Baaz Jan, said.
“We don’t know who was killed yesterday or this morning. But there is confusion and fear in the radio chats we are intercepting. There is limited communication among Isis fighters,” he said.
A local security official said they had requested a large strike because fighter jets and drones had failed to the destroy the tunnel complex.
The top US commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, told reporters in Kabul that the decision to drop the bomb was made in Afghanistan, not in Washington, DC. “Since early March, we’ve been conducting offensive operations into southern Nangarhar,” Nicholson said. “However, this was the first time we encountered an extensive obstacle to our progress.”
Some observers, however, questioned the necessity of deploying a weapon of that scale against a group whose estimated 600 to 800 fighters pose only a limited threat to the Afghan state.
“There is no doubt that Isis are brutal and that they have committed atrocities against our people. But I don’t see why the bomb was dropped,” said the mayor of Achin, Naweed Shinwari. “It terrorised our people. My relatives thought the end of the world had come. Every day fighter jets, helicopters and drones are in the area.”
The US had sustained an air campaign to eradicate Isis in eastern Afghanistan for more than a year, and according to Borhan Osman, an Isis expert with the Afghanistan Analysts Network, it had already been effective.
“Isis was on the brink of losing their stronghold. It didn’t seem like there was a need for such a dramatic military measure,” he said.
Western security reports show that two days of regular airstrikes from 7 to 9 April killed 58 Isis militants.
“The greater threat to the government is the Taliban, but the US is fixated on this minor splinter group because, unlike the Taliban, the Isis group wants to destabilize the region,” said a western diplomat.
He speculated that the US was trying to send a message to countries in the region “that we’re all fighting the same enemy together”, but said the attack could erode US prestige among its allies.
“A basic tenet of international humanitarian law is the principle of distinction. You’re supposed to know what you’re hitting, and it’s not clear that any such targeting is possible with the Moab,” he said.
If the intention was to “shock and awe” Isis fighters and deter recruitment, Osman said he doubted it would be effective.
“Making such big news out of a small organisation, and countering this threat with such a huge measure could indeed make them look more attractive. One of the grounds on which Isis is building its recruitment drive is to say they are fighting the big enemy, the Americans.
“The more it can drive them to the battle, the more successful they are in recruiting anti-western radicals,” he said.
In an attempt to mock the US, an official Isis outlet, Khilafah News, distributed photos on the Telegram messaging app shortly after the bombing of its fighters supposedly continuing daily life in Achin.
The Taliban, who are rivals of Isis, condemned the attack, which the group called an act of “terrorism”.
The Kabul government praised the strike, but Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai denounced it, as did Afghanistan’s envoy to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal. It was “reprehensible and counterproductive,” Zakhilwal said on Twitter.
Hours before Thursday’s bombing, the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Nicholson, visited Nangarhar with the Afghan president’s national security adviser, minister of defence and intelligence chief.
The strike was closely coordinated with Afghan soldiers and special forces, and tribal elders had been informed to evacuate civilians, the district chief of Achin, Ismail Shinwari, said.
Sanat, a resident of Moman village, said he didn’t think any civilians were left in the area, but an MP from Nangarhar, Esmatullah Shinwari, said locals had told him a teacher and his young son had been killed.
As clearing operations continued into Friday, it was not possible to confirm casualties.
Donald Trump is not the first US president to bring heavy weapons down on Isis in Afghanistan. Last year, under Barack Obama, the US military deployed B-52s, which pack a payload three times greater than the Moab.
Javid Kohistani, a military analyst in Kabul, questioned the wisdom of such measures. “Isis has killed thousands of innocent Iraqis and Syrians. Why are they not dropping the bomb there? Why use it in Nangarhar?” he said.
To eradicate terrorism in Afghanistan, he said, the US should target the source of its finances and support. “The Trump government should put more pressure on Pakistan,” he said.
SWEDEN. Gotland. February 2017. Swedish soldiers on training. Sweden has recently reintroduced mandatory military service, abolished in 2010. “Politicians at the time maybe thought that the future would be more sunny than the reality is today,” Sweden’s defence minister said of the era after the Cold War.
I can report the Division as being in first class fighting trim. I have never seen the men look so well as they do today. The sick rate is low… Even venereal, for the time being, is a negligible quantity.
I am afraid we must put that down rather to the fact that no leave is being granted to England than to any sudden development of virtue on the part of the men.
An April 1917 letter from Major General Sir Andrew Russell (GOC NZ Division) to Sir James Allen New Zealand Minister for Defence.
The state-run news agency KCNA said preparations for the strike could be ready in days, with Hwangsong-12 rockets flying directly over Japan before landing in the sea roughly 30km (17 miles) from Guam.
It said the plan could be sent to leader Kim Jong-un for approval within a week or so, when he would decide whether to approve it.
Guam, a tropical island more than 3,000 km (2,000 miles) to the southeast of North Korea, is home to about 163,000 people and a US Navy installation that includes a submarine squadron, a Coast Guard group and an air base.
The US Seventh Fleet currently has six Aegis ballistic missile defence ships in the region capable of targeting North Korean missiles, and Japan has a further four. Guam also has a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, similar to one recently installed in South Korea.
Japan could legally intercept a North Korean missile headed towards Guam, its defence minister said, but experts believe Japan does not currently have the capability to do so.
The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce rather than a peace treaty.
North Korea has unleashed personal attacks on past Washington and Seoul leaders. It called former President Barack Obama a monkey and ex-South Korean President Park Geun-hye a prostitute.
To answer the first question – Is Stalin a dictator? – we must agree on what meaning is to be attached to the term dictator: otherwise argument is waste of time. Assuming that we accept the primary meaning of of the term dictator, as it is defined in the New English Dictionary –“a ruler or governor whose word is law; an absolute ruler of the state– and who authoritatively prescribes a course of action or dictates what is to be done” (the example given being the Dictators of ancient Rome) – Stalin is not a dictator.
So far as Stalin is related to the constitution of the USSR, as amended in 1936, he is the duly elected representative of one of the Moscow constituencies to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. By this assembly he has been selected as one of the thirty members of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, accountable to the representative assembly for all its activities. It is this Presidium which selects the Council of Commissars (Sovnarkom) and, during the intervals between the meetings of the Supreme Soviet, controls the policy of the Sovnarkom, of which Molotov has been for many years the Prime Minister, and since 1939, also the Foreign Secretary.
In May 1941, Stalin, hitherto content to be a member of the Presidium, alarmed at the menace of a victorious German army, invading the Ukraine, took over, with the consent of the Presidium, the office of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, leaving Molotov as Foreign Secretary; in exactly the same way, and for a similar reason –the world war– that Winston Churchill, with the consent of the House of Commons, became Prime Minister and Minister of Defence with Chamberlain, the outgoing Prime Minister, as a prominent member of the British Cabinet.
As Prime Minister I doubt whether Stalin would have offered, as Churchill did, to amalgamate the USSR on terms of equality with another Great Power without consulting the Presidium of which he was a member. Neither the Prime Minister of the British Cabinet nor the presiding member of the Sovnarkom has anything like the autocratic power of the President of the U.S.A., who not only selects the members of his Cabinet subject to the formal control of the Senate, but is also Commander-in-Chief of the American armed forces and, under the Lease-Lend Act, is empowered to safeguard, in one way or another, the arrival of munitions and food at the British ports. By declaring, in May this year, a state of unlimited national emergency, President Roosevelt legally assumes a virtual dictatorship of the United States. He has power to take over transport, to commandeer the radio for the purposes of propaganda, to control imports and all exchange transactions, to requisition ships and to suspend laws governing working hours, and, most important of all, to decide on industrial priorities and, if necessary, to take over industrial plants.
In what manner, then, does Stalin exceed in the authority over his country’s destiny the British Prime Minister or the American President? The office by which Stalin earns his livelihood and owes his predominant influence is that of general secretary of the Communist Party, an unique organisation the characteristics of which, whether good or evil, I shall describe later on in this volume. Here I will note that the Communist Party, unlike the Roman Catholic and Anglican Church, is not an oligarchy; it is democratic in its internal structure, having a representative congress electing a central committee which in its turn selects the Politbureau and other executive organs of the Communist Party.
Nor has Stalin ever claimed the position of a dictator or fuhrer. Far otherwise; he has persistently asserted in his writings and speeches that as s a member of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, he is merely a colleague of thirty other members, and that so far as the Communist Party is concerned he acts as general secretary under the orders of the executive. He has, in fact, frequently pointed out that he does no more than carry out the decisions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
Thus, in describing his momentous article known as “Dizzy with Success”, he expressly states that this was written on “the well-known decisions of the Central Committee regarding the fight ‘against Distortions of the Party Line in the collective farm movement… In this connection”, he continues, “I recently received a number of letters from comrades, collective farmers, calling upon me to reply to the questions contained in them. It was my duty to reply to the letters in private correspondence; but that proved to be impossible, since more than half the letters received did not have the address of the writers (they forgot to send their addresses). Nevertheless the questions raised in these letters are of tremendous political interest to our comrades… In view of this I found myself faced with the necessity of replying to the comrades in an open letter, i.e. in the press… I did this all the more willingly since I had a direct decision of the Central Committee to this purpose.”
Sidney and Beatrice Webb, “Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation” (1944), pp. 20-21.