CNN is ending ‘Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter’

(CNN) CNN is ending ‘Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter’.


(CNN) See Brian Stelter’s message on final ‘Reliable Sources’ show.

Brian, you will be missed, particularly as you occasionally seemed to break the fourth wall of the actor’s stage in this direction.

In Chris Wallace announces he is leaving Fox News, joining CNN+, a Great Match, I wrote,

Journalism has a history of frequent, though not inevitable political bias. CNN is these days self-consciously liberal. Liberalism is not by itself the foundation of U.S. political discourse, which is a perpetual state of teeter-totter.

CNN does have a problem. I didn’t see Reliable Sources meta-media-coverage as a nonobjective contribution to the above perception. Perhaps management thought of meta-media as an unaffordable luxury in the quest for more than 5 viewers in Wyoming.

I’ll be looking for you, especially in print.




Mar-a-Lago Secrets — The Plot Thickens; a Spy Job?

We continue from  Nuclear Secrets at Mar-a-Lago.

The response of DOJ to the media request for release of the affidavit offers important clues. Quoting (CNN) DOJ opposes making public details in Mar-a-Lago search warrant’s probable cause affidavit,

“Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage would also likely chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses, as well as in other high-profile investigations,”…

The purpose of the search-and-seizure was not simply to retrieve top-secret documents. It was also to gather evidence. It indicates that the documents were the center of some form of illicit activity.

If we add to the affidavit the list of seized items, we get something resembling a zebra puzzle, familiar to every taker of the LSAT. If the real world were a logic puzzle, we could solve Mar-a-Lago in the manner of Hercule Poirot, obtaining both the nature of the crime, and the perpetrator.

The world is not a logic puzzle. It revels in overturning the puzzler’s logic, which risks accusation of the innocent. I will not risk that here. You have the chance to solve the puzzle yourself. For warmup the Zebra puzzle goes like this:

    1. There are five houses.
    2. The Englishman lives in the red house.
    3. The Spaniard owns the dog.
    4. Coffee is drunk in the green house.
    5. The Ukrainian drinks tea.
    6. The green house is immediately to the right of the ivory house.
    7. The Old Gold smoker owns snails.
    8. Kools are smoked in the yellow house.
    9. Milk is drunk in the middle house.
    10. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
    11. The man who smokes Chesterfields lives in the house next to the man with the fox.
    12. Kools are smoked in the house next to the house where the horse is kept.
    13. The Lucky Strike smoker drinks orange juice.
    14. The Japanese smokes Parliaments.
    15. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.

Now, who drinks water? Who owns the zebra?

If you prefer, watch some shows of Penn and Teller, Fool Us!

Without risking the right of presumed innocence, I will share one implication of the Mar-a-Lago puzzle: While the Espionage Act covers various offenses that are not actually espionage, this is an espionage case. If you manage to solve it,  keep it to yourself.

Hint: It helps to know some spy craft,  the kind described for entertainment in open source.



Nuclear Secrets at Mar-a-Lago

The nuclear football is a well known icon of the atomic age. Given the requirement of maximum reliability, there is a tendency for military computer systems to lag their civilian counterparts.  Even the latest version of the football lacks a modern GUI with self documenting displays, complicating unauthorized use.

A simple football was compatible with retaliation described by MAD (mutual assured destruction.) In 1980, the options became more complicated. Quoting Wikipedia,

The original US MAD doctrine was modified on July 25, 1980, with US President Jimmy Carter‘s adoption of countervailing strategy with Presidential Directive 59. According to its architect, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, “countervailing strategy” stressed that the planned response to a Soviet attack was no longer to bomb Soviet population centers and cities primarily, but first to kill the Soviet leadership, then attack military targets, in the hope of a Soviet surrender before total destruction of the Soviet Union (and the United States).

With the emergence of non-state actors that may influence nuclear states, or which may gain their own nuclear capability, the nuclear arsenal has acquired a menu of plan books that require more presidential education than the simple end-of-the-world directive of original MAD. With requirements of simplicity and reliability, the plans are on paper.

This is likely what was retained at Mar-a-Lago. It may include

  • Plans,  on paper.
  • Meeting minutes, or addenda useful to an adversary to divine actual intention.
  • Launch Codes corresponding to each plan, which as sparse block codes, prevent unauthorized activation of the deterrent, and would otherwise be indecipherable to an adversary.

The plans are of significant value to an adversary in

  • Deployment of air and missile defense resources. Some anti-missile systems are highly mobile.
  • Survival of their leadership.

The search and seizure is justified by the critical need to recover the materials. But absent criminal intent, justice has been lenient in recent cases. Trump is preceded by Hillary Clinton, David Petraeus, and John M. Deutsch, all of whom have continued their public lives without prejudice.

This affair threatens to unnecessarily occlude the serious  events  of January 6, 2020, unless it comes to this:






Could Monkeypox Mutate into Smallpox? Part 1

Smallpox and monkeypox are both orthopox viruses, with a common ancestor. The genomes are sufficiently different that one genome can’t become the other, at least on the timescale of human history. Something equally devastating could happen, through convergent evolution.

Convergent evolution is the process by which two or more species, of no or distant relation, evolve to resemble each other, so as to fill a similar ecological niche. The most visible, widespread examples come from Australia. Beginning 2.5 million years ago, Australian marsupial mammals evolved that resemble placental mammals. There were marsupial lions and wolves, and others resembling bears and pigs. Yet placentals and marsupials forked at least 125 million years ago.

It is comforting to think that, unlike COVID, the pox viruses are remarkably stable. This is due to their double-strand DNA, which has inherent error correcting properties, reducing the rate of mutation. Unlike COVID,  a single-strand RNA virus which rapidly obsoletes vaccines with each succeeding strain, the same cowpox vaccine used by Edward Jenner in 1796 to immunize against smallpox would work today, if you could find it. And it would work against a number of animal  orthopox viruses, such as monkeypox. Sharing the same or similar serotypes, these orthopox viruses display identical or overlapping epitopes to the immune system.

Some pox virus features are less conserved than others. The replication machinery is well conserved. Orthopox virus DNA is a linear string that tends to fray in mutation at those ends, and that is where virulence is encoded. Over the historical time period,  orthopox evolution has not been seen of the kind that affects disease presentation. But all pox viruses are the products of profound evolution, with a common ancestor that may have been an adenovirus.

How then could monkeypox become as dangerous as smallpox? A surprising impediment to the answer is this: How smallpox was transmitted in the community is not known! See (NIH) What was the primary mode of smallpox transmission? Implications for biodefense. Quoting,

The mode of smallpox transmission was never conclusively established. Although, “respiratory droplet” transmission was generally regarded as the primary mode of transmission, the relative importance of large ballistic droplets and fine particle aerosols that remain suspended in air for more than a few seconds was never resolved.

It wasn’t resolved because the danger of the disease made design of rigorous studies impossible. All the knowledge gleaned from actual smallpox came from case-control studies, meaning you look for types of patients, which you characterize by findings. A gem from the paper:

In one survey, (Sarkar et al., ) 10% (Westwood et al., ) of 328 contacts had positive swabs, but only 12% (Kaplan et al., ) of those with positive swabs developed smallpox. Among 59 unvaccinated contacts 27% (Miller, ) were culture positive, but only one developed smallpox.

So if it’s not inhaled, it must be the infectious pustules, right?

In contrast to oropharyngeal excretion, scabs contained large quantities of virus regardless of disease severity (Mitra et al., ) and were shed for another week or more after throat cultures were negative. Scabs alone, however, were not associated with further cases (Rao et al., ; Mitra et al., ).

The definitive experiment, exposure of humans to smallpox aerosols, could not be performed, so resort was made to animal studies, with the relatively safe vaccinia virus as a model. Quoting,

The animal data show that artificial respirable aerosols were effective means of producing poxvirus infections, that the infectious dose by the airborne route could be very low, and that animal-to-animal airborne transmission of rabbitpox and variola was observed. They also suggest that inoculation of mucus membranes was less effective at producing a generalized rash than was exposure of the lower respiratory tract.

This is not a rigorous answer for smallpox in humans. It does raise a question. Other pox viruses transmit efficiently via aerosols. Transmission of monkeypox is currently thought to occur mainly through bodily contact, contaminated objects, and secondarily via large respiratory droplets. Could airborne transmission of monkeypox become more efficient, sustaining or enlarging an epidemic?

This has not been decided in all detail for smallpox. CDC favors transmission via large droplets while other sources implicate fine aerosols; see What was the primary mode of smallpox transmission?

See Figure 1. Smallpox case presentations suggest that by efficient airborne transmission, monkeypox could manifest as a more severe disease, with a big step towards smallpox virulence.

To be continued shortly. Several mechanisms will be discussed.



Zawahiri Killed in Drone Strike

(CNN) How Joe Biden and his team decided to kill the world’s most wanted terrorist.

I am of two minds about this. It is an impressive achievement of technology and intelligence. I probably would have pressed the button myself. Yet there is an argument of some force that it would have been more effective counter-terror to let him live:

  • Zawahiri was in ill health and immobile.
  • Ill health deprives one of ingenuity.
  • Immobility facilitates contact tracing and bugging.
  • He was an unpopular, uncharismatic leader, a factor in Al Qaeda’s relative inactivity.
  • He will be replaced; the role is now looking for an actor.
  • The replacement may have none of Zawahiri’s impediments.

See Baghdadi Dead; the Role Looking for an Actor.


(CNN) ‘Something has changed’: Stelter on Trump and Fox relationship

(CNN) ‘Something has changed’: Stelter on Trump and Fox relationship. Quoting,

CNN’s Brian Stelter asks his panelists about the shifting relationship between former President Donald Trump and Fox after the cable news organization decided not to cover one of his recent speeches.

The panelists did not entertain the ultimate possibility, that Fox would turn against Trump. Yet that is the implication of the WSJ and NY Post editorials. That Fox has not immediately followed their lead is not an expression of ultimate intent.  For Murdoch, a shift to another Republican candidate would be minor indeed, compared to the contrast of apparent communist sympathies at Oxford with his later life. Quoting Wikipedia,

Murdoch studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Worcester College, Oxford in England, where he kept a bust of Lenin in his rooms and came to be known as “Red Rupert”. He was a member of the Oxford University Labour Party,[21]: 34 [26] stood for Secretary of the Labour Club[27]

The process that will lead to this result is much more complex than print editorials, which often turn on a dime. Unlike the rational on-camera personalities of CNN, Tucker Carlson is a bionic implant in his viewers’ heads. Sanjay Gupta will doubtless attest that sudden reprogramming of the implant could result in a psychotic break. It must be done by degrees.

In place of the declarative freedom of the editorial, this is to be accomplished by putting Carlson in “learning situations”, where he interacts with the chosen replacement,  appears to learn from him, and assesses his personal characteristics. Such is the relationship with his viewers that many will experience the transition, not as Carlson’s, but theirs, as a vicarious experience like seeing a really good movie.

An as yet to be determined fraction of Fox viewers will say to hell with this. Yet even if bionic reprogramming fails for them, it may cool their passions, which in some cases verge on sedition.

Murdoch is 91. He wants to live forever, and takes megavitamins with young brides. With the nagging concern that forever might not be in the cards, he may want to do us a good turn.

Let’s hope so.





CNN Exclusive: FBI investigation determined Chinese-made Huawei equipment could disrupt US nuclear arsenal communications

CNN Exclusive: FBI investigation determined Chinese-made Huawei equipment could disrupt US nuclear arsenal communications.

You probably know that your cellphone communicates with the cell tower with radio waves. But how does the tower connect to the Internet backbone, by which your voice or message is sent to another user? This is called backhaul. In urban or suburban areas, fiber optic cable is usual, your voice riding a beam of light. In sparsely populated areas, where missile silos are located, microwaves are used, similar in principle to the frequencies of your phone, but much higher, so that one backhaul link can carry thousands of conversations.

The U.S. military has 5 MILSTAR satellites, orbiting 22,500 miles above the earth, part of MEECN. They are ancient, as satellites go; the U.S. has newer satellites with much higher performance. But MILSTAR was not built to be a speed demon. It has the virtues of reliability and survivability. It has one purpose, to ensure communication with the nuclear deterrent.

The MILSTARs communicate with the deterrent via a (Gunter’s Space Page) 20 GHZ downlink and a  44 GHZ uplink.  The downlink frequencies are bracketed by popular cell tower backhaul frequencies. See the chart at (Cerago) Wireless Backhaul Spectrum- Everything You Need To Know in 2022.

It is no surprise that Huwaei equipment can, with firmware modification, intercept and transmit on MILSTAR frequencies. The technological advances that make this possible, which are available to all equipment manufactures are:

  • High performance microwave semiconductors.
  • Flash A/D converters enabling software radio.
  • Frequency agile, synthesized transmitters.

Since the above has become universal, it comes down to:

Who do you trust?

See also (Reuters) To counter Huawei threat, U.S. should consider taking ‘controlling stake’ in Ericsson, Nokia -attorney general.

Medical Arguments with CIA Bill Burns (Putin) & CNN (NY Polio)

(CNN) The CIA chief says Putin is ‘entirely too healthy.’ What do we really know about his condition? Quoting,

CIA Director Bill Burns gave an unusually candid assessment this week, when he told attendees at the Aspen Institute’s annual security confab that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “entirely too healthy.”

Bill, he’s sick. The main question in my mind is whether he has two distinct diseases, Parkinsons and cancer, or a cancer that produces motor signs due to “mass effect”, the compression of functional nerve tissue by a growing tumor mass. See also Is Putin Seriously Ill?


(CNN) New York adult diagnosed with polio, first US case in nearly a decade. Quoting,

There is no cure for polio. Treatment to address symptoms may include medication to relax muscles and heat and physical therapy to stimulate muscles. However, any paralysis caused by polio is permanent.

This is FALSE. See (Mayo Clinic) Polio. Quoting,

Paralytic polio can lead to temporary or permanent muscle paralysis, disability, bone deformities and death.

See (ECDC) Disease factsheet about poliomyelitis. Quoting,

The paralysis can progress for up to one week. Permanent weakness is observed in two-thirds of patients with paralytic poliomyelitis. After 30 days, most of the reversible damage will have disappeared, and some return of function can still be expected for up to nine months.

The author apparently misunderstood the absence of treatments to reverse paralysis to mean “there is no reversal of paralysis”, which can spontaneously occur.

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