Summary of “How Britain let Russia hide its dirty money”

The embarrassing truth is that, although I have written about Russia and its neighbours for two decades, during which I have increasingly specialised in analysing corruption, it had never really occurred to me to ascertain precisely how much stolen Russian money had found a home in the UK, or to chart exactly where it had ended up.
One way to begin investigating exactly how much Russian money there is in Britain – and how much of it is dirty – is to look at the official data.
Russian money that moves through another jurisdiction before arriving in Britain isn’t counted as Russian and, since the overwhelming majority of money that enters and leaves Russia does so via tax havens such as Cyprus and the Bahamas, this means the official figures reflect only a small portion of the money the MPs were interested in.
“Guselnikov believes that politicians’ sudden panic about Russian money in Britain is misplaced. When we met in his office in a grand terraced house on Grosvenor Square, he began by pointing out that Russian money had less influence over British business than people think.”I can’t recall any big enterprise controlled by Russians, or any big company.
Guselnikov said banks had become more stringent in their checks on the provenance of money in the last few years, so it was unlikely that significant flows of dirty money were entering the UK from Russia any more.
Why was Britain the only country that declined to act on the information Browder provided? His conclusion was that too many influential people – lawyers, bankers, accountants, property developers – were dependent on dirty Russian money for their livelihoods.
This is one of the problems with trying to ascertain the volume of dirty Russian money in London: how far back do we go? Do the fees Midland Bank received for banking Soviet money in the 1950s still count as Russian cash, and if so, are they dirty? Does the commission the estate agent earned by selling those flats in Kensington in the early 1990s count as dirty money? And what about the £800m that Russians paid for government bonds in return for golden visas? Or the $41,000 of Magnitsky money that was spent on a wedding dress in London? How many times does money have to circulate in the economy before we decide it’s not dirty any more?
We don’t know how much dirty money there is in the UK, nor do we know exactly where it is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio”

“If you were an ambitious young Foreign Service officer after 9/11, you wanted to get sent to some reconstruction team in Afghanistan or Iraq,” says Andrew Weiss, who worked on Russia at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration and now runs the Russia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The longtime Russia hand Stephen Sestanovich, a veteran of the Reagan and Clinton administrations, says there are two kinds of Russia hands – those who came to Russia through political science and those who came to it through literature.
Fried, who served in every administration from Carter to Obama, also thinks there are two kinds of Russia hands, though he draws a different dividing line: There are those, like himself, who “Put Russia in context, held up against the light of outside standards and consequences.” These people tend to be tough on Russia.
There are two kinds of Russia hands, or maybe there are six kinds of Russia hands, or maybe there is an infinite variety of Russia hands.
The decision on NATO was essentially made by early 1994, but it would take some years before the first countries joined the alliance, and in the meantime, relations between Russia and the United States steadily declined: Russia was angered by the NATO bombing of Bosnian Serb positions in 1995, by the American insistence that the Russians stop the sale of nuclear technology to Iran and especially by the 1999 NATO bombing – just a few weeks after the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland finally joined the alliance – of Belgrade.
The main Russia hand in the Bush White House was Thomas Graham, a quiet, intense, scholarly former State Department official who was described by a colleague as “the smartest Russia hand ever produced by the Foreign Service.
If you come to energy, Russia is obviously an important player in global energy markets, but Russia is not the most important player in global energy markets.
The absence of nuance on the Russia question – the embrace of Russia as America’s new-old supervillain – is probably best understood as a symptom of that sickness.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Gangster’s paradise: how organised crime took over Russia”

Organised crime truly began to come into its own in a Russia that itself was becoming more organised.
The challenge posed by Russian organised crime is a formidable one – and not just at home.
The Kremlin does not control organised crime in Russia, nor is it controlled by it.
There is a very high level of corruption in Russia, which provides a conducive environment for organised crime.
The assumption is that the money was not all his, but rather that he was the holder of the common fund of a gang of oboroten, or “Werewolves”, as organised crime groups within police ranks are often known.
When asked about how he felt about working in organised crime, he airily waved the suggestion away: “It’s all business, just business.”
A key characteristic of organised crime in today’s Russia is the depth of its interconnectedness with the legitimate economy.
For more sophisticated purposes, not least assassinations, organised crime gangs looked to sportsmen and martial artists – many of the first gangs came from sports clubs, such as the weightlifters and wrestlers who formed Moscow’s Lyubertsy gang – or to current and former police and military personnel.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How Much Did Russian Interference Affect The 2016 Election?”

One of my least favorite questions is: “Did Russian interference cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 election?” The question is newly relevant because of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians on Friday on charges that they used a variety of shady techniques to discourage people from voting for Clinton and encourage them to vote for Donald Trump.
You know what probably did cost Clinton the election? The letter that former FBI Director James Comey sent to Congress on Oct. 28, 2016, and the subsequent media firestorm over it.
The magnitude of the interference revealed so far is not trivial but is still fairly modest as compared with the operations of the Clinton and Trump campaigns.
The indictment alleges that an organization called the Internet Research Agency had a monthly budget of approximately $1.25 million toward interference efforts by September 2016 and that it employed “Hundreds of individuals for its online operation.” This is a fairly significant magnitude – much larger than the paltry sums that Russian operatives had previously been revealed to spend on Facebook advertising.
Thematically, the Russian interference tactics were consistent with the reasons Clinton lost.
That’s largely because Clinton was viewed as dishonest and untrustworthy, exactly the sort of message that the Russian campaign was trying to cultivate.
The hacked emails from the Clinton campaign and the DNC potentially also were more influential than the Russian efforts detailed in Friday’s indictments.
If it’s hard to prove anything about Russian interference, it’s equally hard to disprove anything: The interference campaign could easily have had chronic, insidious effects that could be mistaken for background noise but which in the aggregate were enough to swing the election by 0.8 percentage points toward Trump – not a high hurdle to clear because 0.8 points isn’t much at all.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Dave Barry’s Year in Review: Russia Mania, covfefe and the Category 5 weirdness of 2017”

A bizarre event would occur, and it would be all over the news, but before we could wrap our minds around it, another bizarre event would occur, then another and another, coming at us faster and faster, battering the nation with a Category 5 weirdness hurricane that left us hunkering down, clinging to our sanity, no longer certain what was real.
For his part, President Tweet declares – and Fox News confirms – that the allegations that Russia helped him are FAKE NEWS and furthermore the Russians had numerous contacts with Democrats, including Barack Obama, the Clintons, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
Bill O’Reilly, beset by accusations of sexual harassment, is fired by Fox News and immediately hired as director of new project development by the Weinstein Co. In aviation news, United Airlines breaks new customer-service ground when it decides that a 69-year-old passenger who has already boarded his flight must be “Re-accommodated” via a technique similar to the one the Mexican army used to re-accommodate the Texans at the Alamo, leaving him with a concussion, broken teeth and a broken nose.
Speaking of triggering, in …. May. … Trump fires FBI Director James Comey in an effort to get rid of this pesky FAKE NEWS – as confirmed by Fox News – Russia distraction so the administration can get on with the critical work of failing to enact its agenda.
In international news, Trump attends the Group of Seven summit in Sicily, where a major agenda item is climate change, which the president has stated – and Fox News has confirmed – is a HOAX. The summit ends in disappointment when the heads of state of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom inform Trump that he cannot legally fire them.
Trump Jr. claims the meeting was no big deal because – and Fox News confirms this – “It was last year, for God’s sake.”
Fox News declares it to be “The greatest eclipse of any presidential administration ever,” although CNN reports that, according to its sources, there have been “Suspiciously similar” eclipses in Russia.
The American people, wearied by the endless scandals and the relentless toxic spew of partisan political viciousness, turn away from 2017 in disgust and look hopefully toward the new year, which by all indications will be calmer and saner.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Fake news and botnets: how Russia weaponised the web”

For the country’s Russian-speaking minority – 25% of Estonia’s 1.3 million people – the removal of the memorial was another sign of ethnic discrimination.
Over the following two nights, as the street battles began to wane, the attacks on Estonia’s technological infrastructure picked up.
Were the attacks the opening moves of a military invasion? Estonia had recently joined Nato, despite the vocal protests of its Russian neighbour.
Perhaps more telling was the fact that the strategies used in Estonia had already been included in a Russian manual of war.
The techniques pioneered in Estonia are known as the “Gerasimov doctrine,” named after Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian military.
Since 2007, Estonia has established itself as a global hub for thinking about cyber-attacks and, more broadly, about what constitutes an act of war in the internet age.
The question is how the west can maintain its core values of freedom of speech and the free flow of information while protecting itself from malevolent geopolitical actors? For centuries, eastern European countries such as Estonia relied on walls, watchtowers, and fortresses to keep out invaders.
Whatever form these defences take, democratic countries will have to focus more resources on finding and spreading potent and reliable technologies, whether in partnership with private companies or in government cyber labs in Estonia or the US. But we will also have to accept the sobering reality that these attacks, like guerilla warfare and suicide bombings, aren’t going away.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for U.S. Secrets”

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Russian hackers had stolen classified N.S.A. materials from a contractor using the Kaspersky software on his home computer.
The role of Israeli intelligence in uncovering that breach and the Russian hackers’ use of Kaspersky software in the broader search for American secrets have not previously been disclosed.
Kaspersky Lab denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, the Russian hacking.
“Kaspersky Lab has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts,” the company said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
For years, there has been speculation that Kaspersky’s popular antivirus software might provide a back door for Russian intelligence.
Among the targets Kaspersky uncovered were hotels and conference venues used for closed-door meetings by members of the United Nations Security Council to negotiate the terms of the Iran nuclear deal – negotiations from which Israel was excluded.
Technical experts say that at least in theory, Russian intelligence hackers could have exploited Kaspersky’s worldwide deployment of software and sensors without the company’s cooperation or knowledge.
Steven L. Hall, a former chief of Russian operations at the C.I.A., said his former agency never used Kaspersky software, but other federal agencies did.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What Ever Happened to the Russian Revolution?”

The czar and the upper strata of Russian society insist that the country stay in the war, for the sake of national honor, and for their allies, some of whom have lent Russia money.
Russian ideas are the most exhilarating, Russian thought the freest, Russian art the most exuberant; Russian food and drink are to me the best, and Russians themselves are, perhaps, the most interesting human beings that exist.
The February Revolution happened in the snow, but in swampy Russia, the glorious October Revolution happened in the mud.
In 1967, a New York Times editorial titled “Russia’s Next Half-Century” congratulated the Soviet Union for becoming “One of the world’s foremost economic, scientific, and military powers.” The Times said it looked forward to a prosperous future for the country, but added, “Russia’s leaders, surveying the changes of fifty hectic years, surely understand that the vision of a monolithic, uniform world-whether Communist or capitalist-is a fantasy.”
“Expectations were high. But everyone also remembers the rest of the ’90s, the years that followed, which were quite terrible. Therefore we became less excited about romantic images of revolution. Two years after Yeltsin stood on the tank, he ordered tanks to fire at the Parliament building, to resolve the constitutional crisis brought on by those trying to overthrow him. As Putin himself said, ‘In Russia we have over-fulfilled our plans in revolutions.'”.
Nicholas not only ruled Russia, he not only signified Russia, he was Russia.
In order to stay in power Lenin had prostrated Russia before Germany with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, by which Russia renounced claims on vast amounts of territory including the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine.
Before his early death, from a series of strokes, in 1924, the person of Lenin had become interchangeable with revolutionary Russia, just as the czars had been Russia before the revolution.

The orginal article.

Summary of “A lot of our ideas about bilingual children are total myths”

Beyond the desire to pass one’s native language on to a new generation, there are other reasons to bring up bilingual children.
Her groundbreaking research has shown that compared to children who speak only one language, bilingual children are better at executive-function skills like focusing, multitasking, and weeding out unnecessary information.
“Bilinguals are always having to solve a problem of attending to the language they need to be using right now and not getting distracted by the other language that is also active,” Bialystok explains.
Bringing up a bilingual child is hard-even more so due to a number of myths about language acquisition.
Although it’s common to expect that someone who is bilingual has a perfect grasp of both languages-the kind with no accent, ginormous vocabularies, and no jumping back and forth between languages in a conversation-perfect bilingualism is pretty rare.
“There is nothing magical in the child’s brain that allows them to learn any language they hear without lots of environmental support,” says Erika Hoff, a professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University and author of books on language development.
Another big myth of raising a bilingual child is the parents’ mistaken belief that it will be easy to make a second language the default one at home.
One popular approach is known as “One parent, one language,” wherein a parent speaks to the child in exclusively his or her native language, at least at home.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Trump Jr. Was Told in Email of Russian Effort to Aid Campaign”

The email is likely to be of keen interest to the Justice Department and congressional investigators, who are examining whether any of President Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election.
At the White House, the deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was adamant from the briefing room lectern that “The president’s campaign did not collude in any way. Don Jr. did not collude with anybody to influence the election. No one within the Trump campaign colluded in order to influence the election.”
The younger Mr. Trump, who had a reputation during the campaign for having meetings with a wide range of people eager to speak to him, did not join his father’s administration.
In an interview Monday, Mr. Goldstone said he was asked by Mr. Agalarov to set up the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.
The elder Mr. Agalarov and the younger Mr. Trump worked together to bring a Trump Tower to Moscow, but the project never got off the ground.
Mr. Goldstone said the last time he had communicated with the younger Mr. Trump was to send him a congratulatory text after the November election, but he added that he did speak to the Trump Organization over the past weekend, before giving his account to the news media.
Donald Trump Jr., who initially told The Times that Ms. Veselnitskaya wanted to talk about the resumption of adoption of Russian children by American families, acknowledged in the Sunday statement that one subject of the meeting was possibly compromising information about Mrs. Clinton.
His decision to move ahead with such a meeting was unusual for a political campaign, but it was consistent with the haphazard approach the Trump operation, and the White House, have taken in vetting people they deal with ahead of time.

The orginal article.