Sunday, September 22, 2019

"Ukraine's former national bank chief fears for life after arson attack"


Ms Gontareva fears she is the victim of a campaign of harassment linked to her decision in 2016 to nationalise Ukraine's largest commercial bank.


Ms Gontareva, speaking on Tuesday by phone from a wheelchair in London, listed what she had been subjected to over the last month: hit by a driver as she walked across a pedestrian crossing in Knightsbridge, her son's car set on fire, her apartment in Kiev raided and now her house just outside the Ukrainian capital targeted by arsonists.

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"China’s clampdown on Muslims creeps into the heartland, finds new targets"


Members of the Hui minority, who number 10 million, hoped that the state crackdown would not arrive here, in the fertile valleys and loess hills of Gansu province, as it had in Xinjiang, the homeland of the other major Muslim ethnic group in China, the Uighurs.

Hope faded in April. Government cranes began appearing ominously over Hui mosques. A video surfaced on social media showing workers taking apart the Gazhuang mosque’s gold dome, then smashing it into the prayer hall.


That tide of “Sinicization,” as Chinese policymakers call it, is surging nationwide. A recent, unescorted trip through Gansu, a corridor that once ushered Silk Road caravans and Islam into imperial China, revealed an accelerating campaign to assimilate another Muslim minority, the Hui, a Chinese-speaking people with no recent record of separatism or extremism.


Domes and minarets are lopped off mosques and replaced with curving Chinese roofs. News broadcasts are forbidden to show pedestrians wearing traditional Hui skullcaps or veils. Arabic script is outlawed in public spaces, so practically every restaurant has a sun-beaten facade with dark traces where the word “halal” has been scraped off.
This photo from the story strongly reminds me of the multi-level cities described in David Wingrove's epic series about China conquering the world.

"The Hope In Dystopia"

A dystopia is a speculative situation where the absolute minority of people habitually experience hope and joy. Embedded in every piece of dystopian fiction is utopian thinking – the speculative condition where the absolute majority of people habitually experience hope and joy.

Commercial dramatic fiction requires tension between two poles. It requires stakes, change, a goal to advance towards. Conflict. Dystopian fiction is almost never actually about the dystopia itself (although writing dystopia is good, crunchy stuff with lots of detail to relish in the authorship). Dystopian fiction is almost always about the utopian reach that’s suppressed by the situation.


Every well-written dystopia is, unlike most other forms of drama, already always about hope.

"Damning evidence on Prince Andrew could be in Russian hands: MI6"


Incriminating evidence of the prince’s alleged 2001 tryst with then-17-year-old Epstein “slave” Virginia Giuffre could be in Russian hands, fears MI6, the British intelligence service.

The agency’s concerns center on the curious case of John Mark Dougan, an ex-Marine and former Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy who now lives in Russia
An article by The Daily Beast from 2018:
In the early morning of March 14, 2016, the hunt for a Russian hacker brought FBI agents to a condominium complex in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Over the previous weeks, someone had been systematically targeting federal agents, judges, local cops and intelligence agency workers throughout Florida, posting 14,000 of their home addresses to the web, all of them specifically exempted from public records because of their sensitivity.

The perpetrator claimed to be stealing the data from county networks from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale. He called himself “ะ‘ะฐะดะ’ะพะปั„”, or “BadVolf.”

Little was known about BadVolf. In press interviews and public posts he claimed to be a government IT worker in Moscow with an interest in exposing police corruption. On the other hand, a lot was known about the owner of the website where the data appeared. He was a disgruntled ex-cop named John Mark Dougan who for years had been waging a relentless campaign against his former employer, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

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Wargaming miniatures roundup

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

"Video showing hundreds of shackled, blindfolded prisoners in China is 'genuine'"


Online footage purporting to show hundreds of blindfolded and shackled prisoners in a mostly Muslim region of China is believed to be authentic, a European security source has told Sky News.
Here's one attempt to try to identify the date and location of the footage:

"We're on the Verge of a Devastating OB-GYN Shortage"


a study released this week predicts a nationwide shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists in this country as soon as next year.


According to the study findings, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Miami will face the most dire lack of OB-GYNs. The study also shows drastic differences in demand in places where there’s already not nearly enough obstetricians: In Las Vegas, a physician delivers an average of 165 babies per year, while in Portland, where there’s an abundance of OB-GYNs, the average number of deliveries is about 62.


By ACOG’s math, nearly half of all U.S. counties lacked a single OB-GYN in 2017. Stack that on top of the shortage of clinics (becoming worse by the day), and being pregnant or needing just any sort of reproductive care in a rural county in the United States sounds inconvenient at best, and totally untenable at worst.

"Koch network to change strategy against Trump’s trade war after ad campaign falls short"


Koch network leaders said Thursday that their digital and TV ad blitz that emphasized how Americans could experience financial pain from the tariff fight wasn’t panning out the way they had hoped.

“The argument that, you know, the tariffs are adding a couple thousand dollars to the pickup truck that you’re buying is not persuasive,” a senior Koch official, who declined to be named, said during a briefing in New York. “It doesn’t penetrate with the people that are willing to go along with the argument that you have to punish China.”


“I think that we were wrong about how to change this one. We made a bet that the kind of retail, running ads and rallies, that sort of thing, to talk about the coming harm of tariffs, which we know is coming, would be persuasive,” the same official said. “And we were wrong about that.”

The leaders then went on to describe what they call a “two steps back strategy,” which will involve putting together a team of almost 100 business leaders to call on the Trump administration and lawmakers to end the trade war with China. Some of these executives have ties to the farming business, an industry that has been negatively impacted by the tariffs.
China hawks in Trump’s administration want Beijing to quit subsidizing strategic industries, yet that hasn’t deterred the White House from doling out billions in aid to American farmers, who have become more dependent on government money than they’ve been in years. At $28 billion so far, the farm rescue is more than twice as expensive as the 2009 bailout of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, which cost taxpayers $12 billion. And farmers expect the money to keep flowing: In an August survey by Purdue University and the CME Group, 58% said they anticipate another round of trade aid next year.

"Mitsubishi says Singapore-based oil trader lost $320 million in unauthorized trades"


While trying to locate the trader who had not returned to its Petro-Diamond Singapore (PDS) oil unit after a holiday, Mitsubishi discovered the losses, a spokesman told Reuters.


Mitsubishi has a reputation as a careful trader and only reported its first group annual loss in 2016, when commodities markets slumped. It was founded in 1954.
The employee, a Chinese national working at Petro-Diamond Singapore Pte, has been fired and reported to police, Mitsubishi said in a statement, declining to name him. The trader, hired in November 2018 to handle oil business with China, “repeatedly” engaged in the unauthorized deals since January, disguising them to “look like hedge transactions,” the parent company said.


A loss of $320 million would be less than one-tenth of Mitsubishi’s projected profit for the year.

What if when you finished a Telltale game episode you could hook up with the weirdos who made the same obscure choices you did?

That's what this new Tinder "game" starting in October sounds like:

The project, called SwipeNight, consists of four episodes. One will air each week on the Tinder app. In each episode, users who participate will be ushered through an apocalyptic scenario and prompted to make a series of choices, from the seemingly unimportant (how to best D.J. a party) to the critical (whose life to save). The show features a cast of young diverse actors and, like a video game, gives the user a first-person perspective on the action.

Participants will then show up in each other’s lists of potential matches. Some of the choices they made during the show will be visible on their profiles. That is when, the company hopes, a number of those people will swipe right on each other and talk about what they experienced.

Very long fall (art roundup)

*Buy Gotham Academy at Amazon.

People don't like to adopt black dogs so they're discounted this weekend in Los Angeles

Here's the Wikipedia page on "Black dog syndrome":
The proposed phenomenon may be due to a number of factors. Research has identified geographic location, fear stigma against certain breed types, and the fact that large, black dogs are often portrayed as aggressive in film and on television as possible correlates. Initial research at one location identified a longer period experienced by black dogs before adoption, but subsequent studies considered to be more robust (as conducted in a larger number of geographically spread shelters) has shown that when shelter visitors video-recorded their walk through the adoption area, they spent equal amounts of time looking at every dog, regardless of coat color. Other studies have suggested brindle dogs may be more likely to experience longer delays before adoption than black dogs. Coat color bias seems evident, but may change depending on geographic location.

Some people believe that during the pet adoption process some potential owners associate the color black with evil or misfortune (similar to the common superstition surrounding black cats), and this bias transfers over to their choice of dog. Additionally, many shelters feature photo profiles of their dogs on the shelter website. Because black dogs do not photograph well, lighter-colored dogs have an advantage with potential adopters browsing the site. A study done by the Los Angeles Animal Services challenges some of these claims, saying that a full 28% of adopted dogs are black. However, the bias theory simply asserts that predominantly dark animals take longer to be adopted than their lighter counterparts, and that large dogs take longer to adopt than small ones.

However, appearance in general does play a role in potential adopters' selection of shelter dogs. In a 2011 study by the ASPCA, appearance was the most frequently cited reason for adopters of both puppies (29 percent) and adult dogs (26 percent).

NFL player JuJu Smith-Schuster befriended a boy in Fortnite (video game roundup)

*Buy Control at Amazon.

Ten funny tweets

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Wargaming miniatures roundup

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