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The Early Edition: May 23, 2017

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here s today s news.

TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

President Trump asked the director of national intelligence Daniel Coats and the director of the N.S.A. Adm. Michael Rogers to push back against an F.B.I. investigation into possible Trump campaign-Russia ties, a request both Coats and Rogers refused, according to former and current officials. Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima report at the Washington Post[1].

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn refused to comply with a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee as the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) wrote a letter to committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) referring to a previously undisclosed document alleging Flynn had lied to security-clearance investigators about payments he received directly from Russia in relation to a Dec. 2015 gala he attended, Karoun Demirjian reporting at the Washington Post[2] that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee must now vote to decide whether to hold Flynn in contempt or accept his invocation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has plenty of options to respond to Flynn s refusal to honor a subpoena for a list of his communications with Russian officials during the presidential campaign, contempt among them, chairman Richard Burr said last night, calling Flynn s denial of the request nonsensical. Austin Wright and Burgess Everett report at POLITICO[3].

The Senate Intelligence Committee will vigorously pursue Flynn s testimony and his production of any and all relevant materials, Burr said yesterday, Jordain Carney reporting at the Hill[4].

Former F.B.I. director James Comey will not appear before any congressional committees this week as Comey wants to speak to special counsel Robert Mueller before testifying publicly, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz confirmed yesterday, Cristina Marcos reporting at the Hill[5].

Newly appointed special counsel in the Russia investigation Robert Mueller has been briefed on the memos James Comey used to document his interactions with President Trump, Pamela Brown and Shimon Prokupecz report at CNN[6].

Former Trump campaigner Paul Manafort and unofficial Trump adviser Roger Stone handed over documents requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its probe into Russian election interference, NBC News[7] Ken Dilanian reports.

President Trump is close to appointing outside counsel to see him through the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker report at the Washington Post[8].

Former acting attorney general Sally Yates warned the White House about former national security adviser Michael Flynn so that the Trump administration could act, she said in an interview with The New Yorker[9] s Ryan Lizza.

The White House may be preparing to claim that special counsel Robert Mueller has conflicts of interest that stop him from assuming his role a claim that does not hold up, explain Richard Painter and Norman Eisen at the Washington Post[10].

TRUMP VISITS ISRAEL

I never mentioned the word or the name Israel. Donald Trump denied specifically divulging that Israel was the source of the highly classified intelligence he reportedly shared with Russian officials earlier this month as he stood beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, Nolan D. McCaskill pointing out that Trump was never accused of explicitly telling the Russians that the intelligence came through Israel at POLITICO[11].

In insisting he had not named Israel Trump seemed to confirm reports that Israel was the source of the classified intelligence he revealed to Russian officials, writes The Daily Beast[12].

Intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Israel is terrific, Netanyahu told reporters, Philip Rucker reporting at the Washington Post[13].

President Trump said he will do everything to assist Israel and Palestine in achieving peace at talks with the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem this morning, the BBC[14] reports.

President Trump and Sunni Arab nations see peace with Palestine as an integral part of the new regional alignment Netanyahu has wanted for years, Trump indicated yesterday at the start of his two-day visit to Israel, Peter Baker and Ian Fisher reporting at the New York Times[15].

The United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon and must cease its deadly funding training and equipping of terrorists and militias. President Trump expanded on his anti-Iran theme of Sunday s speech in Saudi Arabia in a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin yesterday, and then later at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Guardian[16] s Peter Beaumont and Saeed Kamali Dehghan report.

President Trump is encouraging Israel and its Arab neighbors to unite around the common cause of their deep distrust of Iran, highlighting the extent to which opposition to Iran is an organizing principle of the president s attempts to remake the U.S. relationship with the Middle East, writes Julie Pace at the AP.

How far antipathy toward Iran is the glue that binds what some like to believe is an emerging coalition between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf States is unclear, explains Jonathan Marcus at the BBC[17].

Netanyahu may grow disappointed with President Trump in the coming months and years as Trump increasingly shows signs of taking a similar posture to his predecessors rather than breaking from the past as hoped, writes Ishaan Tharoor at the Washington Post[18].

It will take years to see whether the personal relationships Trump is cultivating in the Middle East in lieu of a step-by-step road map are enough to untangle decades of suspicion and competing objectives in the region, Karen DeYoung, Philip Rucker and William Booth write at the Washington Post[19].

Israel will cut President Trump a lot of slack for his day-to day stumbles because of his decidedly pro-Israel stance and the possibility of a reset with Washington following strained ties under former president Obama, write Emily Tamkin and Robbie Gramer at Foreign Policy[20].

TRUMP VISITS SAUDI ARABIA

Important U.S. regional allies in the war on terror Iraq and Lebanon have expressed concern and anger over President Trump s speech in Saudi Arabia Sunday which singled out Iran and its proxy Hezbollah while reinforcing the U.S.-Saudi relationship, Maria Abi-Habib and Margherita Stancati report at the Wall Street Journal[21].

While the president urged Muslim leaders to drive extremists out in his speech Sunday he provided no guidance as to how the war against extremism could be won, and demonstrated no appreciation of the fact that Wahhabism the fundamentalist orthodoxy that legitimizes Saudi Arabia s royal family has inspired the Islamic State and other regional terrorist groups, writes the New York Times editorial board[22].

UK TERROR ATTACK

A lone suicide attacker detonated a bomb as people left a concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande at England s Manchester Arena last night, killing at least 22 people including children and injuring 59, the BBC[23] reports.

A 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the attack in south Manchester this morning, Greater Manchester Police tweeted[24].

The identity of the attacker is known by police and security staff, but they will not reveal it for now, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said this morning. [AP]

Evil losers. President Trump denounced those responsible for the attack and extended his sympathy to the victims this morning, Reuters[25] reports.

The attack was also condemned by Iran, which advised that terrorism will only be uprooted by taking comprehensive measures, and avoiding double standards, while artificial alliances would not assist, Reuters[26] citing the comments as an apparent swipe at Western security cooperation with Gulf Arab states.

The KOREAN PENINSULA

The medium-range ballistic missile launched by North Korea at the weekend was not capable of flying far enough to strike U.S. military bases in Guam as analysts had feared, South Korean defense officials said yesterday, Choe Sang-Hun reporting at the New York Times[27].

Warning shots were fired at a suspected North Korean drone by the South Korean military today, more than 90 shots fired in return before it disappeared from radar screens, Ju-min Park and Christine Kim report at Reuters[28].

The U.N. Security Council vowed to fully and comprehensively implement all measures imposed on North Korea, urging other nations to do the same, following a meeting yesterday, the U.N. News Centre[29] reports.

SYRIA

A car bomb in Syria s Homs killed four this morning, two days after Syrian state television stated that the city had passed back to full government control, Reuters[30] reports.

You re doing ISIS wrong. Israeli military and intelligence units POLITICO[31] s Bryan Bender spoke to on a recent trip to Assania Mountain on the Israeli-Syrian border consider the U.S. strategy in Syria and Iraq to be making the situation only worse, by radicalizing the population and spreading the most dangerous militants into neighboring Lebanon and Jordan, and beyond into Europe and possibly America.

IRAQ

The liberation of Mosul is imminent, the U.N. envoy for Iraq said yesterday, adding that fighting remains a tremendous challenge because of the Islamic State s increasing use of civilians as human shields. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 18 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on May 21. Separately, partner forces conducted four strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command[32]]

AFGHANISTAN

A plan to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan that President Trump will decide on in the near future would involve almost doubling the number of American Special Operations forces in the country, explains Pamela Constable at the Washington Post[33].

Several militant attacks including a Taliban assault on a military outpost killed at least eight soldiers, seven civilians and a police officer in Afghanistan, officials said today. The AP reports.

TURKEY

The U.S. ambassador was summoned last week by Turkey s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protest the aggressive and unprofessional actions by U.S. security toward President Erdo an s bodyguards during his recent trip to Washington, Ned Levin and Felicia Schwartz report at the Wall Street Journal[34].

Turkish police are seeking 144 people including police, soldiers and prosecutors over suspected links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen blamed for the failed coup last year, Reuters[35] reports.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

A group with links to North Korea is highly likely behind the global WannaCry ransomware attack this month, according to cybersecurity researcher Symantec s analysis, reports Timothy W. Martin at the Wall Street Journal[36].

The leak of an extremely sensitive and highly classified document by a very senior person. The leak of the memo of the conversation between President Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office, in which the president reportedly told Lavrov that former F.B.I. director James Comey was a nut job, to a New York Times reporter suggests a real attack on Trump from someone within his inner circle who should have resigned rather than eschew the proper processes for whistleblowing, writes Michael Gerson at the Washington Post[37].

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

U.S. forces carried out a raid on an al-Qaeda compound in Yemen, killing seven militants, the military confirmed[38] today, adding that the primary objective of the mission was to gather intelligence. Alex Johnson, Courtney Kube and Ken Dilanian report at NBC News[39].

A study of the costs involved in permanently stationing U.S. troops in Eastern Europe has been requested from the Pentagon by the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the Hill[40] s Rebecca Kheel reports.

The U.S. delivered six coastal patrol boats to Vietnam s coast guard in an expansion of the two nations security cooperation amid ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, the AP reports.

The first draft of a proposed global treaty to ban nuclear weapons was presented by the U.N. disarmament panel yesterday, Rick Gladstone reports at the New York Times[41].

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will arrive in Moscow today for a five-day trip during which he will meet his favourite hero President Vladimir Putin and try to shift the Philippine s alliances further away from the U.S. and toward Moscow, Shaun Walker reports at the Guardian[42].

References

  1. ^ Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
  2. ^ Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
  3. ^ POLITICO (www.politico.com)
  4. ^ Hill (thehill.com)
  5. ^ Hill (thehill.com)
  6. ^ CNN (edition.cnn.com)
  7. ^ NBC News (www.nbcnews.com)
  8. ^ Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
  9. ^ The New Yorker (www.newyorker.com)
  10. ^ Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
  11. ^ POLITICO (www.politico.com)
  12. ^ The Daily Beast (www.thedailybeast.com)
  13. ^ Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
  14. ^ BBC (www.bbc.co.uk)
  15. ^ New York Times (www.nytimes.com)
  16. ^ Guardian (www.theguardian.com)
  17. ^ BBC (www.bbc.co.uk)
  18. ^ Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
  19. ^ Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
  20. ^ Foreign Policy (foreignpolicy.com)
  21. ^ Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com)
  22. ^ New York Times editorial board (www.nytimes.com)
  23. ^ BBC (www.bbc.co.uk)
  24. ^ tweeted (twitter.com)
  25. ^ Reuters (uk.reuters.com)
  26. ^ Reuters (uk.reuters.com)
  27. ^ New York Times (www.nytimes.com)
  28. ^ Reuters (uk.reuters.com)
  29. ^ U.N. News Centre (www.un.org)
  30. ^ Reuters (uk.reuters.com)
  31. ^ POLITICO (www.politico.com)
  32. ^ Central Command (www.centcom.mil)
  33. ^ Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
  34. ^ Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com)
  35. ^ Reuters (uk.reuters.com)
  36. ^ Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com)
  37. ^ Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
  38. ^ confirmed (www.centcom.mil)
  39. ^ NBC News (www.nbcnews.com)
  40. ^ Hill (thehill.com)
  41. ^ New York Times (www.nytimes.com)
  42. ^ Guardian (www.theguardian.com)

That Time the TSA Found a Scientist’s 3-D-Printed Mouse Penis

When Martin Cohn passed through airport security at Ronald Reagan Airport, he figured that he d probably get some questions about the 3-D-printed model of a mouse penis in his bag. The model is 15 centimeters long, made of clear translucent plastic, and indisputably phallic like the dismembered member of some monstrous, transparent, 11-foot rodent. One of Cohn s colleagues had already been questioned about it when she carried it on an outward flight from Gainesville to Washington D.C. She put it through the security scanner, and the bag got pulled. A TSA official looked inside, winked at her, and let her go. She was amused but embarrassed, so Cohn offered to take the model home on the return flight. Once again, the bag was pulled[1]. A TSA officer asked if Cohn had anything sharp or fragile inside. Yes, he said, some 3-D-printed anatomical models. They re pretty fragile. The officer pulled out two models of mouse embryos, nodded to herself, and moved on. And then, Cohn recalls, she pulled out this mouse penis by its base, like it was Excalibur.

What is this?

Do you need to know or do you want to know? said Cohn. I m curious, she replied.

It s a 3-D print-out of an adult mouse penis. A what?

A 3-D print-out of an adult mouse penis.

Oh no it isn t.

It is. The officer called over three of her colleagues and asked them to guess what it is. No one said anything, so Cohn told them. They fell apart laughing. Cohn, who s based at the University of Florida, studies genitals and urinary tracts, and how they develop in embryos. Around 1 in 250 people are born with birth defects affecting these organs, and although such changes are becoming more common, their causes are largely unclear. By studying how genitals normally develop, Cohn s hoping to understand what happens when they take a different path. And like many scientists, he is working with mice. He recently analysed a mouse s genitals with a high-resolution medical scanner. To show his colleagues how incredibly detailed the scans can be, he used them to print a scaled-up model, which he took with him to the conference in DC. And because the conference was just a two-day affair, Cohn didn t bring any checked luggage. Hence: the penis in his carry-on.

Scientists, as it happens, are full of tales like this[2] because as a group, they re likely to (a) travel frequently, and (b) carry really weird shit in their bags. In previous years, Cohn has flown with the shin bone of a giant ground sloth and a cooler full of turtle embryos. Just last month, Diane Kelly from the University of Massachusetts, who studies the evolution of animal genitals, was stopped by the TSA because she was carrying what is roughly the opposite of Cohn s item: a 3-D-printed mold of a dolphin vagina[3]. Technically it s not even my dolphin vagina mold, she says. I was carrying it for someone. Other scientists who responded to a call for stories[4] on Twitter have flown with bottles of monkey pee[5], chameleon and skate embryos[6], 5,000 year old human bones[7], remotely operated vehicles, and, well, a bunch of rocks[8]. ( I’m a geologist. I study rocks.”) Astrophysicist Brian Schimdt was once stopped by airport officials on his way to North Dakota because he was carrying his Nobel Prize[9] a half-pound gold disk that showed up as completely black on the security scanners. Uhhhh. Who gave this to you? they said. The King of Sweden, he replied. Why did he give this to you?, they probed. Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.

Anthropologist Donald Johanson has flown with probably the most precious and the most famous of these cargos: the bones of the Lucy[10] the Australopithecus, who Johanson himself discovered. In a memoir[11], he recalls having to show her bones to a customs official in Paris. The man was an anthropology buff, and when Johanson told him that the fossils were from Ethiopia, he said, You mean Lucy? A large crowd gathered and watched as Lucy s bones were displayed, one by one, on the Customs counter. I got my first inkling of the enormous pull that Lucy would generate from then on, everywhere she went. Several people have stories about more animate luggage. Jonathan Klassen from the University of Connecticut[12] studies leafcutter ants, and the permits that allow him to collect wild colonies stipulate that he must hand-carry them onto planes. Inevitably, some poor security officer gets a duffle bag full of 10,000 ants and gets really confused, he says. Indeed, many animals have to be hand-carried onto planes because they don t fare well in the cold of cargo holds, (and often can t be shipped for similar reasons). That s certainly the case for the amblypygids docile relatives of spiders with utterly nightmarish appearances that Alexander Vaughan once tried to carry onto a domestic flight. My strategy was to pretend that everything I was doing was perfectly normal, he tells me. Others were more upfront about their unorthodox cargo. Ondine Cleaver from UT Southwestern Medical Center once tried carrying tupperware containers full of frogs from New York to Austin. At security, she realized that she couldn t possibly subject the animals to harmful doses of X-rays, so she explained the contents of her bag to a TSA agent. She totally freaked out, but had to peek in the container, says Cleaver. We opened it just a slit, and there were 12-14 eyes staring at her. She screamed. She did this 3 times. A few other agents came by to see, and none could deal with the container being opened more than a bit. But they had to make sure there was nothing nefarious inside, so we went through cycles of opening the container, screaming, closing it laughing, and again. They eventually let her through.

Many scientists have had tougher experiences because their equipment looks suspicious[13]. The bio-logging collars that[14] Luca Borger uses to track cattle in the Alps look a lot like explosive belts. And the Petterson D500x bat detector[15], which Daniella Rabaiotti uses to record bat calls, is a big, black box with blinking lights on the front. She had one in her backpack on a flight going into Houston. The security people said, Take your laptop out, and I did that. But they don t really say, Take your bat detector out, and I forgot about it. When the scanner went off, she had to explain her research to a suspicious and stand-offish TSA official, who wasn t clear how anyone could manage to record bat calls, let alone why anyone would want to do that. So Rabaiotti showed him some sonograms, pulled out her laptop, and played him some calls all while other passengers were going about their more mundane checks. By the end of it, he said: Oh, I never knew bats were so interesting, she says. Many of the stories I heard had similar endings. The TSA once stopped Michael Polito, an Antarctic researcher from Louisiana State University, because his bag contained 50 vials of white powder. When he explained that the powder was freeze-dried Antarctic fur seal milk, he got a mixed reaction. Some officers just wanted to just wave me on, he says. Others wanted me to stay and answer their questions, like: How do you milk a fur seal? I was almost late for my flight.

Airport security lines, it turns out, are a fantastic venue for scientists to try their hand at outreach. Various scientists are said to have claimed that you don t really understand something if you can t explain it to your grandmother, a barmaid, a six-year-old, and other such sexist or ageist variants. But how about this: can you successfully explain it to an TSA official someone who not only might have no background in science, but also strongly suspects that you might be a national security threat? Can you justify your research in the face of questions like What are you doing? or Why are you doing it? or Why are you taking that onto a plane? Cohn did pretty well to the four assembled TSA agents who started quizzing him about his mouse penis. They noticed that the translucent object had a white tube inside it, and asked if it was a bone. It was indeed the baculum. I explained to them that most other mammals have a bone in the penis and humans have lost them, says Cohn. I do outreach at the drop of a hat, and I m ready to teach a bit of evolution to the TSA if they re interested. And they were freaking out. Eventually, Cohn asked if he was free to go.

You are, said the agent who first looked inside his bag. And then: I gotta go on break, my mind is blown.

References

  1. ^ the bag was pulled (twitter.com)
  2. ^ full of tales like this (www.forbes.com)
  3. ^ 3-D-printed mold of a dolphin vagina (gizmodo.com)
  4. ^ a call for stories (twitter.com)
  5. ^ monkey pee (twitter.com)
  6. ^ chameleon and skate embryos (twitter.com)
  7. ^ 5,000 year old human bones (twitter.com)
  8. ^ bunch of rocks (twitter.com)
  9. ^ because he was carrying his Nobel Prize (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
  10. ^ Lucy (www.theatlantic.com)
  11. ^ In a memoir (books.google.com)
  12. ^ University of Connecticut (uconn.edu)
  13. ^ suspicious (twitter.com)
  14. ^ The bio-logging collars that (twitter.com)
  15. ^ D500x bat detector (www.batmanagement.com)

Rhode Island Air Show attracts thousands on Saturday

by Mario Hilario, NBC 10 News

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WJAR)

A cool, cloudy start to the day gave way to warmer temps and blue sky for spectators taking in the sights and sounds of this year’s Rhode Island Air National Guard Air Show and Open House. Some, like Michelle White of Rehoboth have a favorite act.

“The first year I came to the airshow I saw the (U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B) Harrier and it so impressed me that’s what brings me back every year, it really impressed me that much, that’s why I keep coming back,” said White who called it an amazing display of technology and power. The performances are as varied as the crowd they draw, including a fan favorite act: plane versus Shockwave Jet Truck.

And as much as the acts bring many of the same spectators back year after year, they also welcome many newcomers into the crowd as well.

“This is my first time here, so I’ve seen it many times before (on television), but this is my first time actually here, boots on the ground,” said Nate Holloway of Fall River. In addition to the high flying performances, there are plenty of static displays on the ground that are especially fun for the kids.

“If you don’t bring your family, you’re missing out on a wonderful weekend,” said James Myers of North Providence. The air show continues Sunday at Quonset State Airport in North Kingstown. Gates open at 9 a.m., and the show starts at 10 a.m.

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