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Kim Jong-Nam was Assassinated with a Binary Version of VX

February 23, 2017 6 comments

As many of you must have heard by now, Kim Jong-Nam (the elder brother of the current North Korean leader Kim Jong-Um) was assassinated about 10 days (on 13 February 2017) by two women spraying something toxic on his face. Since that day, there has been much speculation about the identity of the toxic substance in the sprays which killed him. This was especially so because the two women who were paid to spray him were themselves unskilled locals who were unaffected by whatever they used on him. However that very fact that two sprays were used seemed to suggest that the toxic compound was a binary chemical agent- most likely a never gas.

It seems that this particular theory has now been confirmed. Earlier today, the Malaysian police announced that preliminary tests show that Kim Jong-Nam was killed by a potent nerve gas known as VX. So why does the use of VX suggest that it was generated in situ by a binary chemical reaction– apart from two women spraying him with stuff that did not kill them? Well.. because VX is highly toxic and has certain physical properties (high viscosity and low volatility) which make its use as a gas or spray really problematic- especially if an actual human being is doing the spraying. However it is far easier to use as binary chemical weapon because both components of the binary mix (QL and Sulfur) are fairly safe by themselves.

The structure of VX and QL as well as the general schematics of the chemical reaction which generates VX from QL and Sulfur are shown below. The short version of the story is that QL reacts with Sulfur to generate an intermediate compound which then undergoes a slight chemical rearrangement to form VX.

vx-binary-form-1

As you can see, the reaction is fairly simple and the two components which generate VX in situ are themselves fairly non-toxic. While there have a few isolated incidents in the past 2-3 decades (link 1, link 2, link 3) of people using weaponized organophosphate compounds aka ‘nerve gases’ to kill a few people- this incident is perhaps the first the first one to use a binary chemical agent for assassinating a public figure of any significance.

Update: It is possible that the North Koreans might have used the binary version of another structurally similar compound or a different organophosphate ‘nerve gas’ such as Sarin.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting YouTube Sub-Channel: The Empire Files with Abby Martin

February 19, 2017 1 comment

Here is another interesting YouTube channel, or sub-channel, I came across a few months ago. It is basically a series of interviews and short documentaries hosted by Abby Martin on teleSUR English. She largely covers issues which the MSM either does not report or lies about such as interference by USA in the affairs of other countries, serious systemic problems in USA, abuses perpetrated by USA-based multinational companies etc.

Link for sub-channel: The Empire Files with Abby Martin

Here is one recent and relevant clip containing an interview with Mark Ames about the massive and destructive interference by USA in Russia from 1991 to the election of Putin in late 1999. It is a useful summary of all the reasons why Russians grew to hate the USA (especially its establishment) and support Putin.

Enjoy! Comments?

Spoof on Silicon Valley and Internet of Things from 2014 : Smart Pipe

February 18, 2017 6 comments

While writing an upcoming post about why the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) is a terrible idea on multiple levels, it occurred to me that I had not yet posted one of the best and smartest YouTube spoofs about that subject. FYI, I first came across this spoof in late-2014 and thought it was hilarious enough to post on many places other than this blog. In case you are wondering, the imaginary IoT product mentioned in that spoof is scarily close to some products that have actually received venture capital funding in Silly Valley.

Enjoy! Comments?

A Brief Overview of Historical Facts Behind the Russian Claim to Crimea

February 16, 2017 14 comments

I originally considered writing this post in early 2014, but thought that the subject matter was so straightforward that even the average geography and history averse person in USA could figure it out by simply googling around for a few minutes. Well.. it is early 2017 now, and based on recent comments made by the newly elected president of USA and many “credentialed” experts and policymakers in the same country– it is obvious that many people in USA (especially those in power) are either naive, or more likely, deliberately ignorant about the historical nature of the Russian claim to Crimea. So let me give you a brief refresher in why Russia has a very solid and strong historical claim to Crimea.

Here is a little relevant history. Crimea, also known as the Crimean Peninsula, is a land mass on the northern coast of the Black Sea which is almost completely surrounded by the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov to the northeast. Over the millennia, it has been part of many different empires- from the Greek city states, Persian Achaemenid Empire, Roman Empire, various groups of Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Byzantine Empire, Khazars, the Kipchaks, the Golden Horde and Crimean Khanate. However since 1783, it has been a part of the Russia- first as part of the Russian Empire, then the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and now the Russian Federation.

Now, it is true that in 1954 a then newly elected Nikita Khrushchev (who was Ukrainian by birth), did transfer administration of Crimea from the Russian part of USSR to its Ukrainian part. While we can not be completely certain about his precise motivations, it is likely that convenience of administration in combination (mainly geography) with a belief in the durability of USSR were the principal factors. In any case, this transfer was largely symbolic since Crimea retained a Russian-speaking majority. Let us now fast forward to 1991 and the dissolution of USSR. At that time, Russia did not take Crimea back by force- largely because it could get everything it wanted through treaties with Ukraine.

That arrangement worked pretty well for a decade or so.. and then the USA started to interfere in Ukrainian politics through various ‘color’ revolutions. USA-friendly political parties and governments in Ukraine then started to talk about abrogating their previous arrangements with Russia regarding many things- including agreements regarding Crimea. All of this talk about taking a tougher line with Russia coincided with the resurgence of Russian military and economy power in that decade. As some of you might know, Crimea apart from being a favorite destination for sun-seeking Russian tourists over the years has long been an important military (and commercial) port for Russia- since the time it was originally annexed in 1783.

Asking Russia to give up Crimea has no basis in anything approaching reality. Firstly, Crimea has been part of Russia since 1783. Secondly, Crimea has had an ethnic Russian majority for many decades now. Thirdly, Russia has successfully fought multiple and bloody wars to retain possession of Crimea since it first annexed it in 1783. Fourthly, Russia still has many thousands of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles making it essentially suicidal to challenge its claim to Crimea via use of military power. Fifthly, economic sanctions are not going to make Russia give up Crimea- because it is seen by the majority of Russians as an integral part of their country.

And this brings me to an interesting comparison of the time-frame that Crimea has been part of Russia to American history. As many of you know, USA was formed when thirteen British colonies in North America declared independence from England in 1776. In other words, USA has been a nation for only 7 years longer than Crimea has been a part of Russia. But it gets even better. Have a look at the map of the original 13 colonies below- click on map to enlarge it. Notice something?

usa_1775-1776

Ya.. most territory which is now considered to be part of USA was not part of it in 1776. To be more precise, precursors to 37 out of the 50 current states which constitute USA today did not even exist in 1776. In fact, the first major expansion of USA, the so-called Louisiana Purchase, would not occur until 1803- about 20 years after Crimea first became part of Russia. Here is a list of the dates when each state officially joined USA. Many states in USA (especially in the South-West and Hawaii) therefore have a far stronger claim to secession from USA than Crimea has from Russia.

But perhaps the oddest, and peculiar, part of the current official policy of USA towards the historically justified Russian claim to Crimea is the massive amount of magical thinking necessary for any non-retarded person to even consider the possibility that Russia will negotiate on (let alone give up) Crimea. It is as if all the “experts” and policy makers in USA mentally inhabit a world where the USA is the sole superpower, rather than the rapidly crumbling mess that it has become. Or maybe the government elite in the USA see such exercises in stupid futility as a useful distraction for the masses so that they keep on robbing the system for a little while longer..

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting YouTube Channel: The Jimmy Dore Show

February 13, 2017 Leave a comment

While one of my older posts does contain a clip from his channel about Barack Obama’s less than stellar legacy, I thought it would be a good idea to post a link to Jimmy Dore’s YouTube channel and explain a bit more about him. So.. Jimmy Dore is a stand-up comedian and political commentator, who is currently best known for his scathing commentary on establishment democrats and republicans on TYT.

What sets him apart from other comedians who comment on politics is his willingness to skewer establishment democrats and corporate liberals with the same viciousness and frequency as republicans and self-righteous religious nutcases. As many of you know, most comedian-turned-political-commentators are not interested in delivering any significant critique on establishment democrat and “moderate” republican public figures.

Here is a link to his YouTube channel: The Jimmy Dore Show

Interesting Clip 1

Interesting Clip 2

Enjoy! Comments?

Interesting Blog: McMansion Hell

February 11, 2017 3 comments

A few months ago, I came across a blog called McMansion Hell. As you might have guessed, it is about the overall poor quality of design and construction of large and expensive houses in suburbs and exurbs. While the blog is mostly about McMansions in USA, it does has some posts about similar monstrosities in other countries- especially Canada.

On another note, I wish that he had not hosted it as a Tumblr Blog as finding older posts can be real pain. Here is the link to the index – McMansion Hell Archives.

It is important to understand the critique (and mockery) in that blog is largely directed towards poorly designed and built houses which happen to be large, as opposed to living in or buying a large house. The person who writes that blog is trying to point out that people who buy such ugly and dysfunctional monstrosities have more money than taste or common sense.

Here are a few of her most interesting posts:

Mansion vs McMansion (Part 1) – The real thing Vs its pale imitation- Part 1

Mansion vs McMansion (Part 2) – The real thing vs its pale imitation- Part 2.

Aesthetics Aside, Why McMansions Are Bad Architecture – Many ways McMansions suck.

The McMansion Scale, Explained! – Quantifying the shiftiness of any given McMansion.

Where and Why Do We Build McMansions – Factors enabling these abominations.

and here are a few examples of her brutal and much deserved take down of these shitty stucco-boxes. Browse her tumblr blog archives for more..

Montville Township, NJ – This lovely home, built in 2004 can be yours for the low price of $2,250,000.

Fort Worth, TX – This week’s house, a Mansard built in 1993 (but is totes 1987) is pushing 5,000 square feet, and is currently on the market for $1.3 million USD.

Scottsdale, Arizona – This house, built in 1996 and boasting around 4,000 square feet can be all yours for just under a million dollars!

What do you think? Comments?

Netflix or HBO should Adapt Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” into a MiniSeries

February 8, 2017 3 comments

A couple of weeks ago, I published a post containing links to arial drone views of the two castles most associated with Vlad the Impaler aka the historical model for Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel of the same name. While that particular post might have looked like clickbait, it was actually a prelude to the current post- which is about a topic quite different from the ones I usually write about.

So here is the background story of what motivated me to write this post.

I have, over the years, watched many film and television adaptations of ‘Dracula’ and other vampire-genre movies and television series. This particular genre of horror has, however, never been by favorite- largely because the vast majority of films and series in it are.. for the lack of a better word.. underwhelming. In other words, the majority of vampire genre films and serials today are either too campy and formulaic or poorly disguised action movies with nonexistent story-lines.

For a long time, this made me wonder why the vampire genre became popular in the first place. As some of you might know, the vampire horror genre (as we know it today) started with the publication of Bram Stoker’s gothic novel ‘Dracula’ in 1897. While his novel was certainly not the first instance of english language literature about that topic, it was by far the most polished and well written. Consequently it also became the seminal book of that genre.

Oddly enough, I had never read the original novel in its entirety until about a year or so ago. This oversight was, in my opinion, largely due to my generally less-than-favorable impression about that particular genre. However a series of events which began with another YouTube clip led me to finally acquire that novel and read it in its entirety. After reading it, I realized that my previous negative impressions about that genre were largely due to the multitude of mediocre adaptions of that novel.

The novel itself is very well written and I can totally see why there have been so many attempts to adapt it for film and TV. So why does almost every film and tv adaption of that novel look so mediocre when compared to the source? In my opinion, it comes down to their inability to overcome three types of problems inherent in adaptation of that particular novel.

1] The inability (or unwillingness) of screen adaptations to capture the overall atmospherics of the original novel account for a significant part of why they suck so badly when compared to the original book. To some extent, this problem arises from the time scale over which the novel occurs- a few months rather than a few weeks. Also, a lot of the detail which makes the novel so engrossing are either lost or cut out of movies because of time and “commercial” constraints. Let me put it this way.. it is just too hard to properly adapt ‘Dracula’ into anything with a running time of less than 7-8 hours.

2] Screen adaptations of that novel almost always try to make the central character in that story (Count Dracula) to be far more scary, aristocratic, bloodthirsty or violent than he is depicted in the novel. Similarly, screen adaptations almost always underplay his intelligence, cunning and resourcefulness. They seem to forget, or ignore, that the central character in that novel is memorable because he is very smart, cunning and ruthless- and not because he is violent or bloodthirsty. Similarly the other characters in the novel are not naive and bumbling idiots who exist to make the story possible.

3] The novel has very strong sexual undercurrents which are intrinsic to the story. In other words- any adaption of that novel which ignores or minimizes those undercurrents (for commercial reasons) cannot do full justice to source material. I should point out that those sexual undercurrents are important not just to understand what happens between Dracula and the female characters, but also between the other male and female characters in that book. If you do not understand what I am talking about reread the parts about Lucy’s interactions with her various suitors (and other men around her) or the parts about the lack of sexual chemistry between Jonathan and Mina.

To summarize, I think that a proper movie-type adaption of ‘Dracula’ requires about 8-16 hours of screen time. It also requires an outlet that will largely ignore commercial concerns about moderate levels of adult content. Only HBO and, to some extent, Netflix have demonstrated an ability to repeatedly produce high-production value shows and mini-series with moderate adult-themed content.

What do you think? Comments?

Categories: Critical Thinking, Musings