No Adversary, No Directed Energy Weapon

The other intelligence assessment that dropped last week was on so-called Havana Syndrome.

This one was led by the CIA, and, unlike the assessment of how SARS-CoV-2 jumped to humans, there is a reasonable role for intelligence agencies. Whether an adversary country is sending agents with a mystery weapon to disable government workers is the kind of thing the intelligence agencies are set up to investigate. The assessment issued last week also represents several years of effort; investigation of one sort or another has been in progress since the first reports of symptoms in 2016.

A summary report has been issued, but the complete report is classified. Beyond the CIA, none of the intelligence agencies was identified in the New York Times or Washington Post reports, which contain additional material.

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The History Samuel Alito Left Out

There’s a reason Samuel Alito had to go back to the thirteenth century to draw his history. There’s much more recent history that isn’t so supportive of his claim to and tradition.

The abortion issue is a cynical concoction by the Republican Party of the 1970s, along with the Southern Strategy.

In the late 1960s, there was a general societal move toward acknowledging abortion and including it in women’s healthcare. It included much of the Republican Party and the mainline Protestant Churches, as well as many Catholics. It was part of the larger movement at the time to give women full civil rights.

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Update on “Havana Syndrome”

Last week Julia Ioffe published an article claiming that Walter Reed Army Hospital had filled up with victims of unidentified health incidents, although she used the title phrase. I use it only because it is familiar; no medical syndrome has been defined. I am also not linking to Ioffe’s article because she published it on Puck News, where everything is behind a paywall.

The good side of that erroneous claim is that some good factual articles showed up.

Jonathan Jarry of McGill Office for Science and Society

Natalie Shure, TNR

Philip Bump, Washington Post

Some of the insistence that there must be a directed-energy weapon in the hands of our adversaries comes from the feeling that psychogenic illness is “all in your head” and indicates malingering. Bump talks about his anxiety attacks, which bear strong resemblance to some of the incidents.

Followup to my earlier post.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

The White House Coronavirus Task Force

Here are some early thoughts about what the Pence Task Force should do, coming out of my experience in project management.

Determine who is in charge. In Donald Trump’s typical desire to weaken subordinates and watch them fight, he has appointed three people as being in charge of the task force. No work will get done unless they agree who is to be the responsible decision-maker. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Pharmaceutical Profit Alex Azar, or Ambassador Deborah Birx, MD. Once a leader is determined, all members of the task force must turn back Trump’s meddling on this issue.

As a part of setting up a responsibility structure, leaders must be chosen for subgroups as noted in the following topics. Read More

PSA: Potassium Iodide

I see that, with Donald Trump’s threats of nuclear war, sales of potassium iodide are up.

A couple of reminders.

Potassium iodide protects your thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine, which is one of the fission products that would be spread around in a nuclear war. But it’s only one, and potassium iodide doesn’t protect against the large number of others, which go to other parts of your body. It also doesn’t protect against the radiation from a blast.

Taking potassium iodide can disrupt your physiology, so don’t take it unless the bombs go off. If you want to stockpile it just in case, go ahead, but treat it as medicine and keep it away from kids and pets. Put it in your survival gear, if you have something like that.

And I don’t think we’re going to have a nuclear war. Trump seems to be spinning down from that and moving on to disrupting North America’s economy by pulling out of NAFTA. He’s got a short attention span.


Cross-posted to Balloon Juice.

Signs of big power divisions over Iran nuclear report

Russia and China have urged the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief to give Iran time to study and respond to allegations of possible military-linked atomic activities before he publishes a report on the issue next month, diplomats said on Friday.

Russia and China have urged the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief to give Iran time to study and respond to allegations of possible military-linked atomic activities before he publishes a report on the issue next month, diplomats said on Friday.

The move by Moscow and Beijing may be a sign of divisions among the six major powers — also comprising the United States, France, Germany and Britain — on how to best handle the long-running dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.


We’ve heard a lot about the Solyndra loan in the past weeks. Susan Kraemer states “Obama DOE picked more energy winners than Silicon valley VCs.


The European Commission has proposed new energy infrastructure regulations aimed at boosting funding for projects that serve the European Union’s common interest.They’re launching an ambitious bid to overhaul and refocus EU rules on electricity transmission systems and natural gas pipelines. The centerpiece is the creation of a $69 billion “Connecting Europe” financing facility — $12 billion of which would be used to encourage energy grid projects the EU deems necessary to contribute to the growth of a trans-European infrastructure.