Europe/Americas update: August 9 2017



Buzzfeed’s Alberto Nardelli interviewed a bunch of European diplomats–all off the record, for obvious reasons–about Donald Trump. Turns out they don’t think too highly of the guy.

huh, I wonder why?

I think their impressions are instructive of the deeper issues with the Trump administration though. While Trump himself as laughingstock wouldn’t have to be the worst thing in the world, what really makes this administration a danger to life as we know it is his utter incompetence at properly staffing it and managing it. To wit:

Another diplomat said it had proved impossible to discuss serious international issues, such as Libya, with Trump. And seven months into his presidency, the European officials say they are still struggling to figure out who else they can engage with in the US administration.

Describing a meeting between their boss and the president as “basically useless,” they said: “He [Trump] just bombed us with questions: ‘How many people do you have? What’s your GDP? How much oil does [that country] produce? How many barrels a day? How much of it is yours?’”

“He’s not the kind of person you can have a discussion about how to deal with [Fayez] al-Sarraj [the prime minister of Libya],” the official added. “So you look for people around him, and that is where it’s a problem: The constant upheaval, it’s unclear who has influence, who is close to the president.”

Trump’s broken brain isn’t the only or even biggest problem. Reagan’s brain was broken too, and as shitty as his administration was I think many of us would prefer it to whatever we’re experiencing right now. The main difference is that Reagan could be managed and Trump can’t, at least not by the idiots and sycophants he collects around him.


Bosnian religious leaders–Christian, Jewish, and Muslim–are beginning to take the country’s political leadership to task for failing to bridge the divides in the country’s politics and society since Bosnian War ended in 1995:

But Mufti Husein Kavazovic, head of the Islamic community in Bosnia, says people of faith cannot achieve peace alone.

“It is up to political elites to do more. For a start, it would be good that they stop their ideological manipulation of religion for their own political goals. It is up to us, of course, not to allow them to do that,” he said.

Even though nationalists from all three ethnic groups still insist on exclusivity for their own groups, religious leaders are keen to heal rifts after the 1992-1995 war in which about 100,000 civilians were killed and millions displaced.

Friar Zeljko Brkic at Kraljeva Sutjeska – among the oldest Franciscan monasteries in Bosnia and dating from 1385 – said: “Bosnia can only survive as a multi-ethnic state, no matter how much politicians try to convince us that this is not possible.”


French police on Wednesday shot and arrested a man who earlier deliberately (allegedly, due process and all) drove his car into a group of soldiers in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Peret. That incident is being treated as a terrorist attack. Six soldiers were injured, three seriously–but none is believed to be in life-threatening condition.



Venezuela’s new constituent assembly is about to put together a “truth commission” to, I guess, investigate the 120 deaths that have accompanied the current round of public protests against President Nicolás Maduro. Something tells me that the assembly’s version of the “truth” might be a little less than objective, but I guess we’ll see. What’s interesting to me is that, for a body whose mandate is supposed to be rewriting the Venezuelan constitution, this constituent assembly seems content to just act like the country’s new legislature instead.

Meanwhile, the US Treasury Department blacklisted eight more high-ranking Venezuelan officials on Wednesday and the actual Venezuelan legislature says inflation in the country has risen to nearly 250 percent so far this year.


In late May, the US government expelled two Cuban diplomats from Washington. On Wednesday the State Department revealed that the expulsions were in response to what it termed “incidents” targeting US diplomatic personnel in Cuba. It’s not clear exactly what that means, but several US personnel have apparently had to return to the US for medical reasons that seem to be related to hearing problems, so make of that what you will. The Cuban government says it will investigate the American allegation.


Today’s big political news, I think (I haven’t watched any cable news today so who knows what’s happened), is that the FBI apparently raided former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s home late last month. This would seem to mark a significant escalation of the investigation around Manafort (at least) from the “we’re subpoenaing relevant documents” stage to the “we think a crime was committed and is being covered up” stage. It’s hard to imagine a well-connected guy like Paul Manafort getting served with a search warrant unless investigators really did have probable cause.

One interesting element to this story is that there’s been no reporting to indicate that Manafort was stonewalling special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign, or that he’d been unwilling to obey subpoenas issued by Congress. Quite the opposite, actually–he’s seemed to be cooperating with the investigation. But Marcy Wheeler notes that among whatever else they took the investigators apparently seized tax and other financial documents, which implies that Mueller is looking at Manafort on some kind of financial crime not necessarily related to the 2016 campaign at all. Manafort’s pals seem to be running to any reporter they can find openly fretting that Mueller is trying to build an unrelated case against Manafort to then use to get him to testify against Trump. Time will tell, I suppose.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with something blessedly unrelated to Donald Trump but, unfortunately, potentially much, much more serious:

The UpGuard Cyber Risk Team has discovered a new data exposure within the systems of Texas-based electrical engineering operator Power Quality Engineering (PQE) , revealing the information of such clients as Dell, the City of Austin, Oracle, and Texas Instruments, among others. Left accessible to the wider internet via a port configured for public access and used for rsync server synchronization, the breach allowed any interested browser to download sensitive electrical infrastructure data compiled in reports by PQE inspectors examining customer facilities.

With a poor CSTAR external cyber risk score of 181 out of a possible 950 at the time the exposure was discovered, PQE presents a number of potentially damaging attack vectors with this exposure. Beyond this highlighting of potential weak points and trouble spots in customer electrical systems, publicly downloadable schematics reveal the specific locations and configurations of government-operated top secret intelligence transmission zones within at least one Dell facility. In addition to this exposed customer data, a plain text file of internal PQE passwords was also stored in the repository, potentially enabling further access to more company systems.

UpGuard’s job is to test a company’s resilience to cyber attack, which it obviously does for the benefit of that company, but it also frequently catches flaws that could have major implications for the general public. In this case, not only did they find weaknesses compromising schematics for SCIFs (Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facilities, the rooms in, say, an embassy where top secret stuff gets talked about and done because they’re supposed to be unbuggable), but they also found assessments of vulnerabilities in energy facilities–vulnerabilities that could be, you know, exploited. I only sort of care if the plans for the CIA’s clean rooms are compromised, but I very much care if some company is keeping information on how to take down the electrical grid on an unprotected drive like a bunch of dipshits. That’s the kind of thing that could get lots of people killed. This is a really important story that as far as I can tell hasn’t gotten much play in the media, so I urge you to check it out.

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