Saturday, September 26, 2009

Inside the Apocalyptic Soviet Doomsday Machine

Valery Yarynich glances nervously over his shoulder. Clad in a brown leather jacket, the 72-year-old former Soviet colonel is hunkered in the back of the dimly lit Iron Gate restaurant in Washington, DC. It's March 2009—the Berlin Wall came down two decades ago—but the lean and fit Yarynich is as jumpy as an informant dodging the KGB. He begins to whisper, quietly but firmly.

"The Perimeter system is very, very nice," he says. "We remove unique responsibility from high politicians and the military." He looks around again.

Yarynich is talking about Russia's doomsday machine. That's right, an actual doomsday device—a real, functioning version of the ultimate weapon, always presumed to exist only as a fantasy of apocalypse-obsessed science fiction writers and paranoid über-hawks. The thing that historian Lewis Mumford called "the central symbol of this scientifically organized nightmare of mass extermination." Turns out Yarynich, a 30-year veteran of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces and Soviet General Staff, helped build one.

The point of the system, he explains, was to guarantee an automatic Soviet response to an American nuclear strike. Even if the US crippled the USSR with a surprise attack, the Soviets could still hit back. It wouldn't matter if the US blew up the Kremlin, took out the defense ministry, severed the communications network, and killed everyone with stars on their shoulders. Ground-based sensors would detect that a devastating blow had been struck and a counterattack would be launched.

The technical name was Perimeter, but some called it Mertvaya Ruka, or Dead Hand. It was built 25 years ago and remained a closely guarded secret. With the demise of the USSR, word of the system did leak out, but few people seemed to notice. In fact, though Yarynich and a former Minuteman launch officer named Bruce Blair have been writing about Perimeter since 1993 in numerous books and newspaper articles, its existence has not penetrated the public mind or the corridors of power. The Russians still won't discuss it, and Americans at the highest levels—including former top officials at the State Department and White House—say they've never heard of it. When I recently told former CIA director James Woolsey that the USSR had built a doomsday device, his eyes grew cold. "I hope to God the Soviets were more sensible than that." They weren't.

The system remains so shrouded that Yarynich worries his continued openness puts him in danger. He might have a point: One Soviet official who spoke with Americans about the system died in a mysterious fall down a staircase. But Yarynich takes the risk. He believes the world needs to know about Dead Hand. Because, after all, it is still in place.

~ more... ~

Surreal experiences boost brain power

Psychologists at the University of California - Santa Barbara and the University of British Columbia have found that exposure to surrealism, by say, reading a book by Franz Kafka or watching a film by director David Lynch, enhances the cognitive mechanisms that oversee the implicit learning functions in the brain. The research was reported in the journal Psychological Science.

"The idea is that when you're exposed to a meaning threat - something that fundamentally does not make sense - your brain is going to respond by looking for some other kind of structure within your environment," said researcher Travis Proulx. "And, it turns out, that structure can be completely unrelated to the meaning threat."

Meaning, explains Proulx, is an expected association within one's environment. Fire, for example, is associated with extreme heat, and putting your hand in a flame and finding it icy cold would constitute a threat to that meaning.

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Call him doctor 'Orgasmatron'

Dr. Stuart Meloy never set out to study orgasms. It was an accident.

He was in the operating room one day in 1998, implanting electrodes into a patient's spine to treat her chronic leg pain. (The electrodes are connected to a device that fires impulses to the brain to block pain signals.) But when he turned on the power, "the patient suddenly let out something between a shriek and moan," says Meloy, an anesthesiologist and pain specialist in North Carolina.

Asked what was wrong, she replied, "You'll have to teach my husband how to do that."

Meloy moved the electrodes until he found the correct, pain-numbing position on the spine. "I went home, had a funny story to tell my wife," he says.

He almost left it at that.

But the next day, he told the story to some colleagues, and a gynecologist commented that one-third of his patients complain of orgasm dysfunction.

Might this, Meloy mused, potentially help such people?

He started a formal pilot study of the device, which is approved for use in treating bladder and pain problems, implanting it in the spines of 11 women, some of whom had never had an orgasm. The women, who were instructed to keep a record of all their sexual experiences, were allowed to use the device for nine days adlibitum.

Meloy's study, published in 2006 in the journal Neuromodulation, reported that 10 out of 11 of the patients felt pleasurable stimulation from the device, including increased vaginal lubrication. Five of the women had previously lost their ability to have orgasms; four regained it with the device. (The fifth never used her device during the nine-day trial because of work stress, she said.)

None of the five women who had never had an orgasm was able to experience one with the device, however. "They said it was pleasurable, but it wasn't sending them over the edge," Meloy says.

The experimental implant -- now trademarked by Meloy as the Orgasmatron after the orgasm-inducing cylinder in Woody Allen's 1973 movie "Sleeper" -- rests on the skin just above the belt line. Two electrodes snake into the space between the vertebrae and the spinal cord. A video-game-like remote control allows women (or their partners) to turn electrical pulses on and off and fiddle with timing and intensity.

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Blackwater involved in Bhutto and Hariri hits: former Pakistani army chief

According to the Tehran Times:

TEHRAN - Pakistan’s former chief of army staff, General Mirza Aslam Beg (ret.), has said the U.S. private security company Blackwater was directly involved in the assassinations of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto and former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Blackwater later changed its name and is now known as Xe.

General Beg recently told the Saudi Arabian daily Al Watan that former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf had given Blackwater the green light to carry out terrorist operations in the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and Quetta.

General Beg, who was chief of army staff during Benazir Bhutto’s first administration, said U.S. officials always kept the presence of Blackwater in Pakistan secret because they were afraid of possible attacks on the U.S. Embassy and its consulates in Pakistan.

During an interview with a Pakistani TV network last Sunday, Beg claimed that the United States killed Benazir Bhutto.

Beg stated that the former Pakistani prime minister was killed in an international conspiracy because she had decided to back out of the deal through which she had returned to the country after nine years in exile.

Beg also said he believes that the former director general of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence was not an accomplice in the conspiracy against Benazir Bhutto, although she did not trust him.

The retired Pakistani general also stated that Benazir Bhutto was a sharp politician but was not as prudent as her father.

On September 2, the U.S. ambassador to Islamabad, Anne W. Patterson, intervened with one of the largest newspaper groups in Pakistan, The News International, to force it to block a decade-old weekly column by Dr. Shireen Mazari scheduled for publication on September 3 in which Mazari, the former director of the Islamabad Institute of Strategic Studies, broke the story of Blackwater/Xe’s presence in Pakistan.

The management of The News International dismissed one of the country’s most prominent academics and journalists due to U.S. pressure. She joined the more independent daily The Nation last week as an editor.

On September 9, in her first column in The Nation, Dr. Mazari wrote:

“Now, even if one were to ignore the massive purchases of land by the U.S., the questionable manner in which the expansion of the U.S. Embassy is taking place and the threatening covert activities of the U.S. and its ‘partner in crime’ Blackwater; the unregistered comings and goings of U.S. personnel on chartered flights; we would still find it difficult to see the whole aid disbursement issue as anything other than a sign of U.S. gradual occupation. It is no wonder we have the term Af-Pak: Afghanistan they control through direct occupation loosely premised on a UN resolution; Pakistan they are occupying as a result of willingly ceded sovereignty by the past and present leadership.”

According to Al Watan, Washington even used Blackwater forces to protect its consulate in the city of Peshawar.

In addition, U.S. journalist Seymour Hersh has accused former U.S vice president Dick Cheney of being involved in the Hariri assassination.

He said Cheney was in charge of a secret team that was tasked with assassinating prominent political figures.

After the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005, the U.S. and a number of other countries pointed the finger at Syria, although conclusive evidence has never been presented proving Syrian involvement in the murder.

Britain's top officer 'secretly visited alleged Israeli war criminal'

The Chief of the General Staff of Britain's armed forces is reported to have visited Israel quietly last week at the invitation of his Israeli counterpart.

General Sir David Richards met Israel's General Gabi Ashkenazi on September 22 and 23, according to a report by the Israeli daily Haaretz on September 25.

The report claimed that Britain's top commander visited Israeli units making use of “advanced military equipment and briefed senior members of the Israeli staff on British action in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

The two sides were also said to have exchanged intelligence on the Middle East situation.

According to the report, during Richard's visit, Ashkenazi expressed interest in returning the visit by meeting the British general on UK soil. However, this is an impossibility at present since the Israeli commander fears arrest for crimes against humanity and war crimes if he sets foot on European soil.

The report said that Ashkenazi's visit to the UK would be contingent upon “legal relief” being put in place in Britain and the rest of Europe.

~ more... ~

Army to allow Iraq war objector to resign

From Audrey McAvoy's report for the Associated Press:

Watada, 31, refused to deploy to Iraq with his Fort Lewis, Wash.-based unit in 2006, arguing the war is illegal and that he would be a party to war crimes if he served in Iraq.

The Honolulu-born soldier was charged with missing his unit's deployment and with conduct unbecoming an officer for denouncing President Bush and the war - statements he made while explaining his actions.

His court-martial ended in mistrial in February 2007.

The Army wanted to try him in a second court-martial, but a federal judge ruled such a trial would violate the soldier's constitutional protection against double jeopardy. The judge said a second court-martial on key charges, including missing troop movement, would violate his constitutional right to be free from double jeopardy.

Watada's attorney said the soldier had handed in his resignation before, but the Army refused to accept it.

"This time, however, it was accepted, apparently only when the Army realized it could not defeat Lt. Watada in a courtroom," Kagan said.

~ more... ~

G20 protest in US: Freedom vs. cops







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