Saturday, November 25, 2006

A tiny nuclear bomb made with love from Russia:

I appears that my first impression of the Alexander Litvinenko poisoning story was slightly off the mark. I predicted that it would get swept under the rug so as not to offend that oil drenched Russian Czar, Vlad 'the impaler' Putin. On the front page of the NYT today it is reported that British authorities now say Litvinenko was poisoned by a radioactive substance called polonium 210, which is fatal if ingested, breathed, or injected. This is a story that can't be ignored, because both the political and national security implications are too serious to flub off in the interests of maintaining friendly business arrangements with Russian natural gas and oil interests. But while diplomats are scrambling to make sure this whole thing doesn't become an international incident, British scientists and police are scratching their heads trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Polonium 210 is not exactly something any Joe Schmo would be able to get his hands on easily. In fact, the NYT reports that "Polonium is extremely rare in nature. . . Making the 'significant quantities' described in Mr. Litvinenko's body by the British Health Protection Agency would require a nuclear reactor that could bombard the metallic element bismuth with neutrons." Another Times article quotes Dr. F. Lee Cantrell, a toxicologist and director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System, saying: ". . . It's such an obscure thing. It's not easy to get. That's going to be something like the K.G.B would have in a secret facility or something."

K.B.G? Who aid anything about the K.G.B? Where would anyone get that sort of idea? I mean, how many countries in the world have nuclear reactors and would want to kill a vocal opponent of Vlad? There must be at least a hundred, right? See, this is all a plot. According to Sergei V. Yastrzhembsky, [I'll take a vowel Pat] Putin's aide in charge of European affairs, speaking in Helsinki where Vlad is attending an EU shindig, Russia is facing a "well-orchestrated campaign or a plan to consistently discredit Russia and its leader." Yes, indeed, just because there are an "excessive number of deliberate coincidences of high-profiling deaths of people who positioned themselves as opponents to the existing Russian government with the international events in which the Russian president takes part," some people might get the idea he had something to do with all these mysterious "coincidences."

Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. Someone out there is using a nuclear reactor to cook up polonium 210 to make Vlad look bad. If they are, though, they probably read Russian, because the Times says Dr. Cantrell, after doing a quick scan of medical journals, could only find one reference to using polonium 210 as a poison. "It was from 1994, he said, published in Russian."

For his part, Vlad says, "I hope the British authorities won't fuel groundless political scandals. It is a great pity that even such tragic things as human death are used for political provocations." Naturally, his only concern is for the death of a human being. (I'm getting all choked up.) And besides, Putin says, who says anyone got murdered in the first place? "As I know, the medical certificate of British doctors does not indicate that he died a violent death. It does not say that. Hence there is no reason for such talk at all." Right, Litvinenko died of polonium poisoning by accident.

Meanwhile, British anti-terrorism authorities have been stunned to find traces of radioactivity in locations where Litvinenko had been in the days leading up to his poisoning; a sushi bar in Piccadilly, his home and the Mayfair Millennium Hotel (which happens to be near the American Embassy. Old habits die hard.) Anyone in the hospital where he was being treated is also being tested for polonium in their systems. Not to fear, though, apparently most of the radiation in Litvinenko's system would have lodged in his tissues, so there isn't much chance of anyone else getting sick, except possibly for the poisoned himself (or herself). That's a relief, but the Litvinenko family might want to opt for a burial, where polonium is already present, instead of cremation, which might release polonium into the atmosphere.

For anyone hoping this outrageous act of terror is just going to blow over, they've got something else coming, I think. Here we have a British citizen being killed in the capital of the UK by means of what Litvinenko's father Walter has called a tiny nuclear bomb. That's an apt analogy and one that should send shutters through the halls of MI6 and the CIA. Some how, an agent of a foreign government got through all the high-tech security of either, Heathrow, or Gatwick with a small amount of highly toxic nuclear material and not only killed someone with it, but also wasn't too careful about not spreading it around. Imagine if OBL & Co. got their hands on something similar. [Of course, right now, you know Cheney is ordering up some polonium 210 to sprinkle in OBL's beard]

I don't see anyway Tony B-liar can get away with giving Vlad a pass on this one. The Guardian reports that, "Government ministers. . . are said to be 'dreading' the possible repercussions of a public inquest into Mr Litvinenko's death, at which they expect his associates to make damning accusations against the Russian government." Somewhere along the line the Brains Trust at MI6 are going to be able to identify where this polonium 210 came from, because all radioactive materials have a geologic signature, and then the fit will hit the shan. The Russians have really gone too far this time.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Miami Dolphins on the way to the playoffs?

It looks like my Miami Dolphins have finally woken up, a bit too late perhaps . . . but you never know. We're on a four game winning streak, now at 5-6, and we're right in the thick of things again. The way things are going this year in the AFC East, there’s a good chance 10-6 could just get the job done. The Bills suck and the Jets are stinking the joint up, having just gotten shut out by the Bears -- a team we beat in Chi-town 31-10. Now all we have to do is beat Jacksonville and New England in Miami and keep on winning and we're in like flint. No problem!

OK, admittedly, this whole Dolphins-in-the-play-offs scenario may be just slightly overly optimistic, but if Jason Taylor has anything to say about it, it can be done. Yesterday, the Dolphin D really showed the rest of the league what they're all about. They rung up 8 sacks, held Detroit to 21 years rushing, forced a fumble and had an interception (a quiet day for Taylor & Co.). On the offensive side, Harrington threw for 3 touchdowns the running game rang up 151 yards rushing. True, the Lions are mere kitty cats these days, but keep in mind that last week the Dolphins had minus rushing yardage and beat the Vikes pretty soundly. Now, you tell me how many times you're going to win a game having no rushing at all. I would say pretty much never, yet some how they pulled it off. [DEFENCE! DEFENCE! DEFENCE!]

If good Saint Nick can get those bums on the O-line to keep blocking like they have been -- which is a total shock, because they couldn't block sunlight for the first 7 games of the season -- then we've really got something going. As long as the offense can hold on to the ball for a reasonable amount of time and Harrington has the time to throw down field and avoid throwing any really bad interceptions -- which he has a bad habit of doing -- the D can do the rest (Just look at how fast they adjusted to shutting down that little run Kitna and Williams went on in the first quarter.)

We're back Jet's fans, so you can put those ugly-ass, gang-green colored jerseys back in the closet and start acting like you're Giants fans. It's over! See you on Christmas day, losers!

Vladimir Putin's reign of thuggery.

Well, it looks like Vlad 'the Impaler' Putin is up to his old tricks again. Another prominent Putin regime critic has died of a mysterious poisoning. Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB agent who turned against Putin, died yesterday in a London hospital after being poisoned three weeks ago while trying to dig up information about the killing of yet another Kremlin critic, journalist Anna Politkovskaya. (Politkovskaya was herself poisoned back in 2004 while in route to cover the Beslan hostage crisis.) British authorities and doctors are completely baffled as to the poison used to kill Litvinenko. Initially, doctors thought it might have been a substance called Thallium, but today the MET announced they were looking into the possibility that a radioactive agent might have been the culprit. [AP reports that, "The Health Protection Agency said the radioactive element polonium-210, which is extremely hard to detect, had been found in Litvinenko's urine."]

Boy, when it comes to killing those who dare speak out about Vlad's crimes the Russian security forces sure aren't subtle about the methods they use. The poisoning of Kremlin opponent and now president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, by means of dioxin being slipped into his soup was particularly painful and nasty. Pictures of both Yushenko and Litvinenko, before and after, attest to the brutal nature of the poisons used and how far these the thugs working for Vlad are willing to go. This shouldn't come as any kind of big surprise, though, because it has been abundantly clear from the start that Vlad & Co. have absolutely no respect for human life, as is evidenced by the "rescue" attempts by Russian security forces in the Moscow theater incident and the Beslan school siege. In his death bed letter Litvinenko wrote that Putin had "no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value."

[Incidentally, in the theater "rescue," a mystery gas was pumped into the building, which wound up killing the hostage takers as well as the hostages. When the hospitals started filling up with the survivors of the gas attack, Russian authorities won't tell doctors which suspected nerve agent they'd used, causing many more needless deaths for lack of a proper treatment. And, of course, who can forget Vlad's callous disregard for his own sailors slowly drowning on the submarine Kursk in 2000? He continued to vacation at his Dacha on the Black Sea and between breaks from jet-skiing, he adamantly refused to accept help from other nations that might have been able to rescue them.]

For years "Sasha" Litvinenko has accused Putin and his FSB of having been behind the killings and attempted killings of numerous Putin regime opponents, allegations Vlad and his defenders have always denied, naturally. One of the most serious of the allegations made by Litvinenko was that FSB agents were responsible for the bombings of several apartment buildings in Moscow in 1999, killing at least 145 innocent people. Vlad used these "terrorist" bombings as an excuse to start the second Chechen war. His manful response to those bombings and the subsequent pulverizing of the Chechen capital, Groznyy, propelled him into the presidency and his current high poll ratings among average Russians.

Vlad has very cleverly manipulated the "terror" message to get away with mass murder in Chechnya without as much as a peep of condemnation from the Europeans or the Bush administration. ['You're talking my language Put Put. Common', let's take a ride in your funny white car again! Heh, heh.'] Of course, his popularity might not be so high if he didn't totally control the media. It is very difficult for the regular Russian in the street to know anything other than what the Kremlin wants him to know and those who try to get the word out wind up like Politskaya and Litvinenko (not to mention Mikhail Khodorkovsky.) This is why London has turned into the capital of the Putin resistance, now home to some 100,000 Russian ex-pats. Not all of them are against Putin, many oil drenched Russian zillionaires choose to live in London for its fancy hotels and shops in which to spend their ill-gotten wealth, but a sizable number are living in London to avoid Putin's death squads. It appears, however, nowhere might be far enough away to escape the long arm of the FSB. And its all perfectly legal; the Russian rubber stamp Duma recently passed a law saying Russians security forces can go anywhere in the world to kill enemies of the state.

I find it funny --in light of Russian agents having just killed one of his opponents in the very heart of London -- that as Vlad comes swooping into Helsinki for a European summit meeting he's telling his European counterparts that they have nothing to fear from newly powerful Russia. And writing in the FT this week Putin reminds his squeamish European partners: "When speaking of common values, we should also respect the historical diversity of European civilization. It would be useless to and wrong to force artificial 'standards' on each other."

Yes, common values such as freedom of the press and "standards" such as not killing political foes in each other's capitals are all so relative. (When will these do-gooder "old Europeans" wake up to Russia's legitimate security concerns?) And, I suppose, the Europeans shouldn't have any anxieties either about what Russia did last winter to Ukraine or what she's doing now to Georgia and Poland. No Siree, Vlad is just a cuddly Russian bear trying to help out his European friends. So just lay back and enjoy it Europe. If you want that Russian natural gas and oil to keep flowing, you'd better tow the Putin line or you'll be sorry. And it's not like the US is going to do come to the rescue, W. is too busy dealing with Iraq to worry too much about "old Europe" nowadays, so you're on your own.

It'll be interesting to see what Scotland Yard comes up with in this Litvinenko investigation, though I'm not holding my breath that even if they find a Kremlin connection we'll ever find out about it. The case has gone from a "deliberate poisoning" to an "unexplained death," which says a lot about where the investigation is likely to go. Something tells me this whole thing will just be disappeared off the media radar [the NYT had a teeny, tiny caption about it below the fold on page A-4] as quickly as possible and we'll get back to business as usual, meaning looking the other way as Vlad continues his reign of terror.
hit counter script Top Blog Lists Favourite Blogs Top List
My Zimbio
Top Stories