Welcome to Saturday's Potluck

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Pablo Picasso

Another installment of our summer spy stories series. One of my favorite fiction authors was Robert Ludlum. Stretched the mind of a teenager with travels around the world, complex conspiracy theories portraying history from a different vantage point than junior and high school history classes.

The current Chinese spy saga Operation Fox Hunt: How China Exports Repression Using a Network of Spies Hidden in Plain Sight is presented with all the intrigue of a good fictional story.

As part of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, in 2015 China released this list of its 100 most wanted fugitives sought for economic crimes. The names on the list were targets of Operation Fox Hunt, a global fugitive-apprehension program launched in 2014, and a related program called Operation Sky Net. This photo spread appeared in the Chinese Communist Party’s English-language newspaper, China Daily.
...
Chinese leaders defend their efforts to retrieve fugitives. The lack of an extradition treaty with the United States, they say, makes the country a refuge for runaway criminals. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson dismissed the allegations in the New York case as a “smear.”

“When conducting law enforcement cooperation with other countries, the Chinese law enforcement authorities strictly observe international law, fully respect foreign laws and judicial sovereignty, and guarantee the legitimate rights and interests of criminal suspects,” said the spokesperson, Wang Wenbin. “Their operations are beyond reproach. Driven by ulterior motives, the United States turns a blind eye to basic facts and smears Chinese efforts to repatriate corrupt fugitives and recover illegal proceeds.” (The Chinese embassy did not respond to a request for further comment.)

ProPublica’s examination of the New Jersey case, the first prosecution involving a Fox Hunt operation, and of other clandestine Chinese missions in the United States, contradicts the official’s statement. For years, covert repatriation squads from China have tracked their targets in all manner of quintessentially American settings, from quiet housing tracts to suburban chain restaurants to immigrant business districts. Hu’s trail reveals the ambition of the effort. He is just one officer in one team from Wuhan, part of a swarm of teams from other provinces and Beijing that have been active in the United States.
...
Now, he put that life on hold and became a secret agent for the Chinese government, prosecutors said. From Wuhan, Hu laid out the mission. His new target, Xu Jin, had directed Wuhan’s development commission before he left for the United States in 2010 with his wife, Liu Fang, a former insurance company executive. Prosecutors had charged them with taking millions of dollars in bribes — crimes for which the maximum punishment is death.

The couple, now both 56, had gotten U.S. green cards through a program that grants residency to foreigners who invest more than $500,000 in the United States. The California consultant who helped them apply later pleaded guilty to immigration fraud, and investigators in that case alleged that the wife’s petition for residency contained false information. But they remain legal residents. (The couple declined to be interviewed.)

In 2015, the Chinese government put the couple on its list of 100 most wanted fugitives in Operation Fox Hunt. Chinese authorities have said they made three formal requests for U.S. assistance about the wanted couple, providing evidence about alleged money laundering and immigration crimes that could be prosecuted here. (Continued)

________

1985 the year Jonathan Pollard, U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, was arrested for passing secrets to Israel Larry Wu-tai Chin a retired CIA translator/intelligence officer was arrested for passing secrets to the Peoples Republic of China.

Revisiting the year of the spy

I started covering Chinese espionage back in 1985 in what was dubbed the year of the spy. Over a remarkable period of months, US authorities arrested a former National Security Agency employee, two members of the US Navy, a civilian Navy analyst and a former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Larry Wu-Tai Chin, the retired CIA analyst, was by far the most intriguing member of this rogues’ gallery. He labored in an obscure corner of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service agency, whose main job was to translate “open source” stories from foreign press outlets for use by the public and others in the government.
...
Chin was betrayed by a defector, and his backstory was a jaw-dropping example of how well China’s intelligence services played the long game. Born in Beijing, Chin was recruited by the Chinese government as a spy as a college student and began spying on the US during World War II, when he was hired as a translator by the US Army’s liaison office in China.
(Continued)

________

Spycraft jobs are also falling victim being replaced by robots. The smart phones we carry around everywhere can gather all sorts of information. The story of the month is an Israel product called Pegasus.

Once installed, Pegasus can read the user’s messages, e-mails, and call logs; it can capture screenshots, log pressed keys, and collect browser history and contacts. It exfiltrates – meaning sends files – back to its server. Basically, it can spy on every aspect of a target’s life. Encrypting e-mails or using encryption services such as Signal won’t deter Pegasus, which can read what an infected phone’s user reads or capture what they type.

Many people use iPhones in the belief that they are safer. The sad truth is that the iPhone is as vulnerable to Pegasus attacks as Android phones, though in different ways. It is easier to find out if an iPhone is infected, as it logs what the phone is doing. As the Android systems do not maintain such logs, Pegasus can hide its traces better.
....
Snowden’s answer of banning the sale of such spyware is not enough. We need instead to look at de-weaponizing all of cyberspace, including spyware. The spate of recent cyberattacks – estimated to be tens of thousands a day – is a risk to the cyber-infrastructure of all countries on which all their institutions depend.

After the leak of NSA and CIA cyberweapons, and now with NSO’s indiscriminate use of Pegasus, we should be asking whether nation-states can really be trusted to develop such weapons.
....
It is this concern that certain leading companies within the industry – Microsoft, Deutsche Telekom and others – had raised in 2017, calling for a new digital Geneva Convention banning cyberweapons. Russia and China have also made similar demands in the past. It was rejected by the United States, who believed that it had a military advantage in cyberspace, which was something it should not squander.

The various articles published highlight different countries and

Washington Post

Mexico was NSO’s first overseas client in 2011, less than a year after the firm was founded in Israel’s Silicon Valley, in northern Tel Aviv.
...
Azerbaijan, a longtime ally of Israel, has been identified as an NSO client by Citizen Lab and others. The country is a family-run kleptocracy with no free elections, no impartial court system and no independent news media. The former Soviet territory has been ruled since the Soviet Union collapsed 30 years ago by the Aliyev family, whose theft of the country’s wealth and money-laundering schemes abroad have resulted in foreign embargoes, international sanctions and criminal indictments.
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The fear of widespread surveillance impedes the already difficult mechanics of civic activism.

“Sometimes, that fear is the point,” said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, who has researched Pegasus extensively. “The psychological hardship and the self-censorship it causes are key tools of modern-day dictators and authoritarians.”

________

Wednesday Open Thread by QMS has some great links including this video (4.54 min) on Pegasus)

________

Last weeks tips on garden pests have been helpful. Caught slugs in the beer bait trap by the hosta and corral bells, none by the cabbage. Cabbage looper is the culprit. Began laying soaker hoses Monday so the treatment was not washed off the plants daily by the hand watering.

Today a new issue. In thelast 4 days since I started laying the hose a California quail built a nest in the strawberry patch next to the cabbage.

soe nest.jpg

It may be late in the season, but I am going to back off working in the area and let them try to hatch a brood. I can always buy cabbage.

________

What is on your mind today?

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QMS's picture

to guard your cabbage? The possibilities are endless.

This summer's garden bounty so far has produced:

turnips, string beans, broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes (just starting), eggplant, cucumbers, onions and lettuce. The non-starters were strawberries, kale (bugs), rhubarb, spinach and squash (critters).

Watching a young woodchuck moving in under the front steps. Have nicknamed him/her Chuckie.
One of my wild pets, a chipmunk called Chippy, was caught and hauled away by a neighborhood cat Sad
Bird activity has been very active this year, quite a few bees and very few butterflies. The swallows have returned after a long hiatus. Scooping up the bugs like there is no tomorrow.

Thanks for the OT!

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studentofearth's picture

@QMS efficiently. The use in large fields is increasing for pest control.

Drones equipped with remote sensing technology could patrol fields for signs of pest infestation then target them by delivering a hit squad of biological control agents, like miniature paratroopers, or highly targeted delivery of pesticides.

UC researchers are also exploring drones to assess the need for fertilizer application in rice fields, and this quarter the UC Davis Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering launched a new class, “Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Systems for Agriculture and Environmental Science.” Drone use on campus remains strictly regulated and requires approval by Safety Services.

Thanks for the critter update. Each year is a little different, but the volume and variety life in the fields is increasing. Not sure completely on how I feel about them (quit a variety) within a few feet of the house. I restricted the dogs free range area and have not replaced the feral cat population as they passed from old age. The buffer zone is gone.

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Still yourself, deep water can absorb many disturbances with minimal reaction.
--When the opening appears release yourself.

Lookout's picture

I enjoy spy stories too.

Here's a fun one: "Secret State" which is a corporate vs. government spy series.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aeZT6IXCUg (episode 1 45 min)
The other 3 episodes are here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtOtPnXV1ZubNEAqpxNr_sw

The corporate / government line has definitely become a blur these days.

Glad to hear the garden grows. Ours is doing well. Lots of tomatoes coming in.

Take care and have a good one!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

studentofearth's picture

@Lookout subject. Internet Movie Database (ImDb) describes the series as

Secret State explores the relationship between a democratically elected government, big business and the banks.

Thanks for the show links.

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Still yourself, deep water can absorb many disturbances with minimal reaction.
--When the opening appears release yourself.

enhydra lutris's picture

continues mysterious & bizzare. We now are pretty sure that the damage to assorted greens is cabbage loopers and we'll have to deal with that. Something started digging in and digging up our strawberry boxes, so e built an exclosure for them and now need to see if they come back. We've harvested a ton of green beans and carrots, so maybe next year we'll largely stick to them. Wink Are tomatoes are coming in, but many of the romas have blossom end rot, the others not so much. Our basil is ready to harvest, a small amount in total, meaning pesto this week. We also just harvested all of our pears as a strictly defensive measure, we were losing too many and it is about our regular time of year for it anyway. They'll ripen in the garage.

We used to find empty snail shells all over the yard, but not lately. Whatever was chowing down on them isn't, but, OTOH, we never see snails around anymore, so maybe that explains it. We've had very meager success with slug traps, commercial and improvised, but do have some sharp tail snakes to help with that problem, though we'd like more. Birds, generally (with the exception of Turkey Vultures) won't touch them. We may have to resume our dawn and bedtime manual removal patrols, though, iirc, that is more of a winter sport.

Can't get too worked up about folks spying on the US, we mark everything under the sun as "classified" and "top sekret" so probably most of the stuff they learn should be public anyway. Case in point, possibly,

Larry Wu-Tai Chin, the retired CIA analyst, was by far the most intriguing member of this rogues’ gallery. He labored in an obscure corner of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service agency, whose main job was to translate “open source” stories from foreign press outlets for use by the public and others in the government.

No doubt he kept his handlers abreast of everything he was translating, and no doubt the fact that he was translating it, as well as the translations was all top sekret, even though it was all "open source", plus maybe which of the local FO reps were CIA, which simply would confirm the fact that none of them can be trusted to not be CIA.

Because of the fact that the government, its agencies, and the press can't be trusted at all, one never knows about cyber-crime. A pipeline company that happens to have an enormous poorly publicized ongoing leak gets hit with ransomeware, shutting down its deliveries (while it fixes the leak???). So, cybercrime or psyop? Your guess is as good as mine. The US lost control over tech that allows one to fake the source of hacks and do hacking while making it seem to come from any specific (target) source. The stuff got loose, but that also proves that we had and still have that capability, so no claims about anything are trustworthy, if, for any reason, one previously believed that some might be.

Time to head down to farmers' market. Thanks for the OT and information

be well and have a good one

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

studentofearth's picture

@enhydra lutris conflict. Barely beat the Starlings to the apples. Harvested a few green apples to dehydrate and been waiting for the rest to ripen for pies and freezer. The scouts (spies?) had been checking the tree for a week pecking an apple or two, then 6 showed up. Decided not to wait any longer and harvested the remaining from the semi-dwarf tree. Next morning 200 plus angry, screeching Starlings were flying and sitting on pasture fence wire around the tree.

So true, sometimes we simply need to flow with official narrative while evaluating our options.

Because of the fact that the government, its agencies, and the press can't be trusted at all, one never knows about cyber-crime.

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Still yourself, deep water can absorb many disturbances with minimal reaction.
--When the opening appears release yourself.

Lily O Lady's picture

@enhydra lutris

calcium deficiency. Bone meal maybe?

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"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

enhydra lutris's picture

@Lily O Lady

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Going Dark

This blog will be going dark for a few months. The Queen kindly paid for my dinners for over twenty years while I was a British diplomat and Ambassador, and now she is going to be paying for my dinners again. That is very kind, I thought she had forgotten me.

The following is a statement from Nadira:

29.07.21
Today is the most heartbreaking day. My husband whose health has been found to not be suitable for prison must hand himself in for detention within hours following the UK Supreme Court’s decision not to hear his appeal.

We were extremely hopeful that the Supreme Court would hear his case and had no doubt that this particular case should have been heard given how important and relevant it is in the context of Freedom of Speech in the UK. Instead, the Supreme Court declined to hear it.

Yet again my heart is deeply saddened to find that the UK, once a country which placed great importance on Human Rights issues, has failed to listen to my husband’s case. Additionally, the Scottish Court outright dismissed Craig’s poor health, having been made aware through the mandatory Social Work report and doctor’s reports that his wellbeing would be at risk if forced to go to jail.
...

Nicola Sturgeon and her coven of harpies should rot in hell. As well as the Scottish prosecutors (the charges were ridiculous) and judge, the UK Supreme Court, and the UK news media (as if what they did to Corbyn didn't tell the world who they are).

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studentofearth's picture

@Marie in Western Democratic governments. Thank you for posting. Agree with your thoughts.

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Still yourself, deep water can absorb many disturbances with minimal reaction.
--When the opening appears release yourself.

No matter how far out they go, they aren't as far out as our reality.
I envy one and all here that have access to a farmer's market. I must get serious about a spring garden next year.
I had to spend some time visiting at the jail to give the bad news that their relative is not going to get out of jail any time soon.
Have a good day, ok?

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studentofearth's picture

@on the cusp a day for yourself and loved one (Did I miss a marriage announcement?). No one else's problems intruding in your space.

The plots in current non-fiction and news publications do keep getting stranger and stranger.

Does a fall planting work in your area for quick maturing vegetables like radishes, spinach, kale or salad greens? The garden season in my area is highly variable and I focus on plants which reach harvest in less than 75 days. Never seem to have time to create the perfect garden space and often simply plant seed by the perennial plants. Pot herbs add a burst of fresh flavor to grocery store vegetables.

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Still yourself, deep water can absorb many disturbances with minimal reaction.
--When the opening appears release yourself.

@studentofearth July 4th. We are just having our last hurrah blast in life!
I had an interview a week ago with a woman who had just lost her husband. She was in her mid-70's. My husband met her to notarize her signature.
She related a story that she married for 47 years, and her husband died. After a couple of years, she up and married the recently deceased husband. We talked about being old, about reaching for the stars until we couldn't reach anymore. She said her second marriage lasted 6 1/2 years, and it was the best 6 1/2 years of her life. I know exactly what she meant, and I am living the best years of my life right now, for as long as our old age marriage lasts.
I have lots of acres to choose from for the best soil. Thing is, time. We travel a lot. One must attend the garden regularly. We will figure it all out.

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studentofearth's picture

@on the cusp

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Still yourself, deep water can absorb many disturbances with minimal reaction.
--When the opening appears release yourself.

@studentofearth I will brag to this extent: Nobody guessing our age comes within 15 years of our true age. And, we are both extremely healthy and active.
That client was bringing in the love of her life's will for probate. A touchy interview, but it is my job, and this one gave me assurance that sometimes we oldsters who just do not give up, do not go sit in a room in front of a tv or computer, waiting to die, do get their last hurrah.
All I can say is, never give up.

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magiamma's picture

Just unburied my old pottery wheel bought 44 years ago and the motor still runs.

Other parts are very rusty.

So suggestions for “excoriating” rust ? Long shafts that used to move ...

Thanks for your open threads. Always enjoy.

Be well y’all...

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studentofearth's picture

@magiamma Extra virgin olive oil. Stumbled on this when had a house guest with pulmonary reaction to normal solvents used to remove rust. Spread on a thin layer, or saturate a cloth and wrap, or place in plastic bag with olive oil. Let set overnight, ash with dish soap, dry and repeat if necessary. Pam spray will also work but prefer the olive oil.

Moderate to severe rust I have used electrolysis. A couple of video links with instructions.
Wood Workers Guild of America
Family Handyman

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Still yourself, deep water can absorb many disturbances with minimal reaction.
--When the opening appears release yourself.

QMS's picture

@magiamma

There may be a seized bearing on the pulley.
I use a penetrating oil, like Liquid Wrench to free
frozen parts. If that doesn't work, heat up the metal
with a torch and bang the hell out of it Wink

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enhydra lutris's picture

@magiamma

oil, also good old WD-40 can be used. Don't sand, use 4/0 = 0000 steel wool. They weren't around back when I dealt with rust on a frequent basis, but those melamine sponges might be good too, look for generic instead of the "Magic Eraser" from Mr. Clean(tm). Years ago I ordered like 25 or so Chinese generics for about what 2 Mr. Clean units cost.

be well and have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

CB's picture

@magiamma
"Pink Solution Scrub" (AKA Mother's Choice). It is made from coconut oil, sodium alginate, sodium carbonate, sodium silicate, sodium tallowate and super fine pumice.

Apply with a black scouring pad wet with hot water and use plenty of elbow grease. Also FANTASTIC for maintaining a ceramic glass cook top looking new.

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magiamma's picture

Terrific. The motor is attached to two round shafts, maybe 3/4” diameter and it use to slide along them. The end of the two shafts attach to a small rubber wheel that moves from the outside to the inside of another round plate. This plate is attached to a belt that drives the wheel head. The speed is determined by the small rubber wheel moving in and out along the bottom of the plate. It gives amazing control over the speed of the wheel resulting in excellent control over the clay. A homemade job and I’ve never seen one like it.

Just in case you’re curious. (Picture worth a thousand words)
9606976A-D72A-4B5F-BA60-2D7B333AE1BA.jpeg

Thanks again !!

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QMS's picture

@magiamma

looks like the main drive from the motor is a friction type.
the suspect bearing (showing rust) preventing rotation is
on the lower right on your pic

the two bearings supporting the horizontal shaft look to be
(engagement clutch) in need of a squirt as well
wouldn't worry about surface rust, concentrate where the
shafts are driven and supported, soak-em good with oil
except for the friction plate - no lubricants there

Once you get her spinning again, you can clean up the rest
with glove holding oily steel wool or some such
watch your fingers!

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Lookout's picture

sorry for the mistaken comment.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”