[Vogue] On a clear, cold winter’s day, my boyfriend Andrew* drives me to a gas station on Route 123 a little before dawn. I kiss him, then leave him standing there, raw and stoic, in the empty forecourt, his hands thrust into his peacoat pockets, as he watches me climb into the warm camaraderie of a crowded beige van.
Jokes masking our nerves, we drive through the familiar gates at Langley, step out of the van and into the blacked-out bus that will deliver us to the Farm‐a simulated Truman Show set in a fictionalized country called the Republic of Vertania (ROV), where we are to undergo the most demanding espionage training on Earth. We are to play the roles of first-tour case officers assigned to the U.S. Embassy in the ROV city of Womack. We each have training names‐aliases to protect our identities from one another. But other than that, everything feels real. There is an actual embassy building, with an American flag fluttering out front, on an actual town square with a wooden gazebo. There’s a cable news channel, like CNN, but reporting the news of this fictional universe: Prime Minister Cartwright did this or the Sons of Artemis blew up that. There are diplomats visiting from neighboring countries, including a North Korea‐style rogue state called the Democratic People’s Republic of Vertania (DPRV).
Every citizen of the ROV, every newscaster, every bombastic DPRV diplomat, every person we interact with in this giant game of make-believe is played by a CIA operative, assigned to the Farm for a tour as an instructor. And every one of them has a thousand stories‐like that time a highly sensitive source brought a six-piece mariachi band to a covert meeting in a midnight back alley. They have pro tips, too, not covered in the training curriculum, like carrying Rolaids to make signal marks on brick because it’s less incriminating than chalk in case of capture and search.
They break character only to share these gems with us a few hours each night in the sanctity of our SCIF, small room‐size safes where five of us work on our cables and intelligence reports, under the watchful eye of our advisers. The rest of the time, they stay in character, talking about the impact of upcoming fake elections on the value of the country’s fake currency, speculating about weapons proliferation across the fake border with the DPRV and worrying about threats from fake terror groups. We go to embassy parties, bump into our targets, recruit our assets.
We drive off-base in cars tricked out with concealment compartments for our notes and dread unannounced searches at the roadside, our knees in the gravel and our graduation dependent on our not having anything incriminating lying about in the cup holders. The crises ramp up quickly. Soon our every night’s sleep is interrupted by urgent walk-ins reporting imminent threats and simulated terror attacks. We’re under constant surveillance, pitted against one another, tested well beyond our limits.
A multilayered game takes hold. On one level, we recruit the fictional characters played by instructors. On a second, we recruit the real-life instructors we know decide who graduates. All the while continuing to play a third, long-distance level, recruiting chiefs back at headquarters to ensure the best real-world assignment. All without ever breaking character. It’s exhausting. And like the running millipede, we learn to avoid thinking about how we do it all for fear of tripping up.
Is this for real ? Next they'll be playing video games. Login to your avatar at Langley to see your next fictional assignment. Click here for the "No Gore" option. It makes the character you set-up or have disemboweled by proxy just disappear. Zero guilt makes a better agent of chaos.
The memoir probably ends with her 'recruiting' Bobby Kennedy, the longest game of all.
And she seemed so...stable
[NY Post] Less than a year after getting married, it’s over for Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth.
"Liam and Miley have agreed to separate at this time," a rep for Cyrus told People. "Ever-evolving, changing as partners and individuals, they have decided this is what’s best while they both focus on themselves and careers. They still remain dedicated parents to all of their animals they share while lovingly taking this time apart. Please respect their process and privacy."
Cyrus, 26, and Hemsworth, 29, tied the knot in an intimate ceremony in December after their on-and-off relationship spanned 10 years.
The couple was previously engaged to each other in 2012 and called it off a year later. They reunited and rekindled their romance in 2015.
[ENGLISH.ALARABIYA.NET] Hundreds of flights were cancelled and a million people were evacuated from their homes as the third-largest typhoon on record in China hit the east of the country, state-run China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Saturday.
Typhoon Lekima made landfall early on Saturday morning in the eastern province of Zhejiang with maximum winds of 187 km per hour, although it had weakened from its earlier designation as a ’super’ typhoon, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
China’s weather bureau on Saturday issued an orange alert, its second highest, after putting out a red alert on Friday, when the storm forced flight cancellations in Taiwan and shut markets and businesses on the island.
The storm was moving northward at 15 kph and was gradually weakening, Xinhua reported, citing the weather bureau.
Some 625 flights at airports in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu were due to be cancelled, CCTV reported, citing the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
Several dozen trains connecting Zhejiang with northern and central China had also been cancelled.
More than 250,000 residents in Shanghai and 800,000 in Zhejiang province had been evacuated due to the typhoon, and 2.72 million households in Zhejiang had experienced blackouts as strong winds and rains cut electricity transmission lines, state media reported.
[ENGLISH.ALARABIYA.NET] A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected Facebook Inc's effort to undo a class action lawsuit claiming that it illegally collected and stored biometric data for millions of users without their consent.
The 3-0 decision from the ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in the Socialist paradise of San Francisco ...where God struck dead Anton LaVey, home of the Sydney Ducks, ruled by Vigilance Committee from 1859 through 1867, reliably and volubly Democrat since 1964... over Facebook's facial recognition technology exposes the company to billions of dollars in potential damages to the Illinois users who brought the case.
It came as the social media company faces broad criticism from politicians and regulators over its privacy practices. Last month, Facebook agreed to pay a record five billion dollar fine to settle a Federal Trade Commission data privacy probe.
"This biometric data is so sensitive that if it is compromised, there is simply no recourse," Shawn Williams, a lawyer for plaintiffs in the class action, said in an interview. "It's not like a Social Security card or credit card number where you can change the number. You can't change your face."
Facebook said it plans to appeal. "We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time," a front man said in an email.
Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, won the dismissal of a similar lawsuit in reliably Democrat Chicago, aka The Windy City or Mobtown ...home of Al Capone, the Chicago Black Sox, a succession of Daleys, Barak Obama, and Rahm Emmanuel... last December.
The lawsuit began in 2015, when Illinois users accused Facebook of violating that state's Biometric Information Privacy Act in collecting biometric data.
[Jpost] Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom said on Saturday a fatal accident at a military site in northern Russia earlier this week took place during a rocket test on a sea platform, Russian news agencies reported.
The rocket's fuel caught fire after the test causing it to detonate and the earth-shattering kaboom threw several people into the sea, TASS news agency cited Rosatom as saying.
Hundreds of participants in the Russian opposition rally gather near the presidential administration area building in Moscow, prompting the riot police to form a protective ring around it.https://t.co/5REYwATeJr
[Aljazeera] Hong Kong police have fired tear gas at demonstrators after petrol bombs exploded in the downtown bar district of Wan Chai as clashes during a tenth weekend of protests in the city intensified.
Reuters News Agency on Sunday said its reporters in Wan Chai saw two petrol bombs thrown, setting small fires on the streets, while tear gas volleys and advancing riot police sent some protesters fleeing.
Demonstrators are demanding the resignation of the city's leader Carrie Lam, democratic elections, the release of those arrested in earlier protests, and an investigation into police use of force against the protesters.
Banners at the rally in Victoria Park read "Give Hong Kong back to us" and "Withdraw the evil law," the latter a reference to an extradition bill that was the original spark for the protests.
The demonstrations have since morphed into a broader bid to reverse a slide in democratic freedoms in the city.
Protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial hub, blocking traffic and setting up another night of likely showdowns with riot police as they chanted: "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time."
They hurled bricks at officers and ignored warnings to leave the Sham Shui Po area before tear gas was deployed, police said, calling the march an "unauthorised assembly."
Protesters used metal fencing and plastic ties to construct makeshift barricades and block the road near the local police station, shining blue lasers at the building as officers held up a flag warning the crowd to disperse.
[ENGLISH.ALARABIYA.NET] North Korea ...hereditary Communist monarchy distinguished by its truculence and periodic acts of violence. Distinguishing features include Songun (Army First) policy, which involves feeding the army before anyone but the Dear Leadership, and Juche, which is Kim Jong Il's personal interpretation of Marxism-Leninism, which he told everybody was brilliant. In 1950 the industrialized North invaded agrarian South Korea. Twenty-one countries of the United Nations eventually contributed to the UN force opposing the invasion, with the United States providing around 90% of the military personnel. Seventy years later the economic results are in and it doesn't look good for Juche... fired two unidentified projectiles into the sea off its eastern coast on Saturday, South Korea’s military said.
The latest launch comes shortly after US President Donald Trump ...Oh, noze! Not him!... said he had received a "very beautiful letter" from North Korean leader Kim Pudge Jong-un ...the overweight, pouty-looking hereditary potentate of North Korea. Pudge appears to believe in his own divinity, but has yet to produce any loaves and fishes, so his subjects remain malnourished... North Korea has fired a series of missiles and rockets since Kim and Trump agreed at a June 30 meeting to revive stalled denuclearization talks.
Trump said Kim had said he was "not happy" about the missile tests, which the North Korean leader has said were a response to US-South Korean military drills being held this month.
The United States and South Korea have kicked off their largely computer-simulated exercises as an alternative to previous large-scale annual drills that were halted to expedite denuclearization talks.
North Korea decries such exercises as a rehearsal for war aimed at toppling its leadership.
The projectiles were fired at dawn on Saturday from the area around the northeastern city of Hamhung, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. Hamhung is known to have a solid-fuel rocket engine production site.
Beijing tells the UK to stay out of China’s internal affairs after Britain’s foreign minister called for an independent investigation into the recent protests in its former colony Hong Kong.https://t.co/qogOEZMVYc
A multi-volume chronology and reference guide set detailing three years of the Mexican Drug War between 2010 and 2012.
Rantburg.com and borderlandbeat.com correspondent and author Chris Covert presents his first non-fiction work detailing
the drug and gang related violence in Mexico.
Chris gives us Mexican press dispatches of drug and gang war violence
over three years, presented in a multi volume set intended to chronicle the death, violence and mayhem which has
dominated Mexico for six years.