WHAT WOULD REALLY HAPPEN IF RUSSIA ATTACKED UNDERSEA INTERNET CABLES


The Russian nuclear submarine Dmitrij Donskoj sails through Danish waters in July 2017.
IT MIGHT SEEM like a nightmare scenario. A terrorist organization or nefarious nation state decides to derail the global internet by faulting the undersea fiber optic cables that connect the world. These cables, which run along the ocean floor, carry almost all transoceanic digital communication, allowing you to send a Facebook message to a friend in Dubai, or receive an email from your cousin in Australia.

US Navy officials have warned for years that it would be devastating if Russia, which has been repeatedly caughtsnooping near the cables, were to attack them. The UK’s most senior military officer said in December that it would “immediately and potentially catastrophically” impact the economy were Russia to fault the lines. NATO is now planning to resurrect a Cold War-era command post in part to monitor Russian cable activity in the North Atlantic.

The idea of the global internet going dark because some cables were damaged is frightening. But if Russia or anyone else were to snip a handful of the garden hose-sized lines, experts say that the consequences would likely be less severe than the picture the military paints. The world’s internet infrastructure is vulnerable, but Russia doesn’t present the greatest threat. There are plenty of more complicated problems, that start with understanding how the cable system actually works.

Russia snipping a handful of cables in the Atlantic, where its submarines have been spotted, would disturb the global internet very little.

“The amount of anxiety about somebody sabotaging a single cable or multiple cables is overblown,” says Nicole Starosielski, a professor at New York University who spent six years studying internet cables to write the The Undersea Network. “If somebody knew how these systems worked and if they staged an attack in the right way, then they could disrupt the entire system. But the likelihood of that happening is very small. Most of the concerns and fears are not nearly a threat at all.”

For one, ruptures aren’t exactly an anomaly. One of the estimated 428 undersea cables worldwide is damaged every couple of days. Nearly all faults aren’t intentional. They’re caused by underwater earthquakes, rock slides, anchors, and boats. That’s not to say that humans are incapable of purposefully messing with the cables; off the coast of Vietnam in 2007, fishermen pulled up 27 miles of fiber cords, disrupting service for several months. (It wasn’t cut off completely, because the country had one more cable that kept the internet going.)

You don’t notice when a cable faults, especially if you live somewhere like the United States, because your Instagram message or Google Voice call is instantly re-routed. If you’re Skyping with a friend in Romania for instance, and a fishing boat or anchor ruptures a cable—as causes two-thirds of faults—your conversation simply goes over another line. Many regions, like Europe, the United States, and East Asia have numerous cables running over the same path. You can check out a map of them all here.

That means Russia snipping a handful of cables in the Atlantic, where its submarines have been spotted, would disturb the global internet very little. In fact, even if it ruptured every single cable in the Atlantic Ocean, traffic could still be re-routed the other way, across the Pacific.

“It wouldn’t work very well or be the highest quality, but it’s not like there wouldn’t be any communication happening,” says Alan Mauldin, research director at TeleGeography, a market research firm that specializes in telecommunications, including undersea cables.

Even in a hypothetical, Black Mirror-esque world in which Russia somehow chops every cable that connects to the United States from every side, the internet would not go out like a light. Americans would still be able to utilize land networks that connect the continent; it would just be impossible to communicate overseas.

“You can still email people in the US if all submarine cables were gone,” says Mauldin. “But people in Europe wouldn’t see your silly cat video you posted on your Facebook profile.”

Because faults happen so frequently, cable repair ships patrol nearly all of the world’s waters. Even if Russia did start snipping, there are crews equipped to rapidly repair them. Besides, Russia’s epic hypothetical cable attack would primarily harm its own people, as another Telegeography analyst pointed out in a video. “It would hurt the Russians perhaps even more than it would hurt [Americans]. They’re far more dependent on international networks than we are, because so much of our content is stored locally” says senior analyst Jonathan Hjembo.

That’s not to say that the world’s undersea cables aren’t at risk, or that they don’t need protection—especially in areas of the world with less internet infrastructure, like Africa and some parts of Southeast Asia. When a fault happens there, the consequences can be more severe, including genuine internet disruption.

“Cable damage can be a really serious problem, and can impair connectivity in parts of the world where they have limited access to cables,” says Mauldin. In 2011, for example, an elderly woman sliced through an underground cable while scavenging for copper, accidentally cutting off internet access for all of Armenia. The country spent five hours offline. The impact was so dramatic because Georgia provided nearly all of Armenia’s access to the internet, making that one cable vitally important.

Facebook and Microsoft Are Laying a Giant Cable Across the Atlantic

That single cable could be considered a “choke point,” or place where the internet infrastructure is at most risk, as Starosielski describes in a forthcoming article for the journal Limn. For example, in some areas, ocean cables must travel through narrow bodies of water that border several countries, like in the Strait of Malacca and the Red Sea. In these tight spots, there’s a greater risk of threats like dropped anchors. They’re also potentially subject to geopolitical disputes, since a larger number of countries and companies have an interest in the lines that run through those waters.

Several locales also serve as hubs for a large number of cables, and thus are sites of consolidated risk. If Egypt’s undersea cables ruptured, for instance, at least one third of the global internet could go down, according to Starosielski’s research. Fortaleza, a city in northern Brazil, is an undersea cable capital that connects North and South America. Were it compromised, it would take all data flowing from Brazil to the United States down with it.

Sometimes, the global internet is threatened not by anchors and the like, but by bad policies. In 2011 for example, as Starosielski notes in her article, Indonesia required that only ships with an Indonesian crew fix ruptured cables in its waters. The problem was that no such ships existed, causing repair delays for not just the country, but other regions that routed through it.

One thing we don’t need to worry about are sharks. Despite numerous media reports, they, and other fish, don’t pose a risk to the undersea cables we rely on to connect the world. “There’s been zero percent of cable faults attributable to fish bites or shark bites,” says Mauldin.

There have also been no ruptures attributed to Russian aggression. It appears that Putin has largely left the undersea cables alone, at least for now. In the meantime, we can work on addressing the more pressing ways the internet infrastructure is vulnerable.

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Chomsky: Trump is a Distraction, Used by the Deep State to ‘Systematically Destroy’ America


Smashing the two party paradigm Noam Chomsky called out deep state democrats and republicans alike for using Trump as a distraction to destroy America.

World-renowned intellectual giant and respected academic, MIT professor Noam Chomsky recently sat down for an interview called ‘A Continuing Conversation with Geographers’. In the interview, he clearly makes his thoughts known regarding the Trump administration’s ongoing media driven pseudo-scandal involving Russia, and specifically concerning Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer.

Chomsky, the author of more than 100 books, including “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” in which he breaks down how U.S. corporate media has been weaponized as a means of controlling public opinion by propagandizing the American people, didn’t mince his words, previously noting

“It’s a pretty remarkable fact that — first of all, it is a joke. Half the world is cracking up in laughter. The United States doesn’t just interfere in elections. It overthrows governments it doesn’t like, institutes military dictatorships.”

“Simply in the case of Russia alone—it’s the least of it—the U.S. government, under Clinton, intervened quite blatantly and openly, then tried to conceal it, to get their man Yeltsin in, in all sorts of ways,” said Chomsky. “So, this, as I say, it’s considered—it’s turning the United States, again, into a laughingstock in the world.”

“So why are the Democrats focusing on this?” he said. “In fact, why are they focusing so much attention on the one element of Trump’s programs which is fairly reasonable, the one ray of light in this gloom: trying to reduce tensions with Russia? That’s—the tensions on the Russian border are extremely serious. They could escalate to a major terminal war. Efforts to try to reduce them should be welcomed.”

“Just a couple of days ago,” said Chomsky, “the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jack Matlock, came out and said he just can’t believe that so much attention is being paid to apparent efforts by the incoming administration to establish connections with Russia.” He said, ‘Sure, that’s just what they ought to be doing.’”

Continuing, Chomsky said, “So, you know, yeah, maybe the Russians tried to interfere in the election. That’s not a major issue. Maybe the people in the Trump campaign were talking to the Russians. Well, okay, not a major point, certainly less than is being done constantly.”

“And it is a kind of a paradox,” he said, “that the one issue that seems to inflame the Democratic opposition is the one thing that has some justification and reasonable aspects to it.”

Maintaining a similar line of thinking in this most recent interview, Chomsky maintained that the Putin meeting should be seen as a responsible gesture of diplomacy rather than collusion with the Russians. He went on to note that the media would better serve the public interest if they actually focused on what is happening behind the scenes of the Trump administration.

“What’s going on is a very systematic two-tiered operation. One of them is Trump, Bannon, the effort to try to make sure you capture the headlines, that you’re top of the news, one crazy thing after another just to capture people’s attention. And the assumption is ‘Well they’re gonna forget later anyway.’”

Essentially, Chomsky believes that the contrived pseudo-scandal that is Russiagate only serves as a distraction from the actual scandalous happenings that are taking place on a daily basis in Washington, D.C., and only serve to embolden the “rich and powerful.”

“While everything is focusing on that, the Paul Ryan republicans, who are, in my view, the most dangerous and savage group in the country, are busy implementing programs that they have been talking quietly about for years. Very savage programs, which have very simple principles. One, be sure to offer to the rich and powerful gifts beyond the dreams of avarice, and [two], kick everyone else in the face. And it’s going on step by step right behind the bluster.”

To drive this point home, Chomsky says one need look no further than the configuration of the cabinet:

“Take a look at the cabinet. The cabinet was designed that way. Every cabinet official was chosen to destroy anything of human significance in that part of the government. It’s so systematic that it can’t be unplanned. I doubt that Trump planned it. My impression is that his only ideology is ‘me’. But whoever is working on it is doing a pretty effective job, and the Democrats are cooperating – cooperating in a very striking way.”

While typically the Democratic party would act as a counterbalance to the GOP agenda, in this Trump-era — with a media circus/reality show environment — Chomsky, a leftist, notes that they have simply played into the media hype over Russia. They are taking what would be looked at under almost any other circumstance as acts of diplomacy and attempting to paint them as scandalous.

“Take a look at the focus in Çongress. It’s one of the few decent things Trump has been doing. So maybe members of his transition team contacted the Russians. Is that a bad thing? Recent ambassador to Russia, Jack Matlock, had a blog where he pointed out that ‘It’s exactly what you should be doing. It’s the job of ambassadors and diplomats coming in. There are serious problems and tensions you want to talk over to see if there’s anything you can do about them. Instead of just building up force and violence.’ That’s what the democrats are focusing on, and meanwhile all these other things are going on and they’re not saying anything about them.”

Over the years, Chomsky has refined what he calls, the ‘propaganda model’ of the corporate mass media. He posits that not only does the media systematically suppress and distort, but when they do present facts, the context obscures the actual meaning. In essence, the mass media uses brainwashing to keep people subservient to large corporate interests.

Thus, Chomsky’s words should be taken extremely seriously when he recently referred to news stories being pushed in the mass corporate media, about Trump-Russia “collusion,” as little more than “a joke.” In fact, he says that this neo-McCarthyist/anti-Russia propaganda degrades one of the positive aspects of the Trump administration – a drive to reduce hostility with rival nuclear power Russia.

Russia Covered Up a Nuclear Fallout Worse Than Chernobyl, Confidential Report Reveals


“For many years, this has been a secret.”

 

The director of Russia’s Institute of Biophysics has uncovered a top secret report on the aftermath of a Soviet nuclear weapons test in Kazakhstan during the 1950s, and has handed it over to US journalists.

While the test itself was no secret, the report reveals that Soviet scientists discovered widespread radioactive contamination and radiation sickness surrounding the Semipalatinsk test site, and kept it secret from both the locals and the outside world for decades.

 “For many years, this has been a secret,” Kazbek Apsalikov, director of the Institute of Biophysics in Moscow, told Fred Pearce New Scientist. 

Apsalikov says he recently uncovered the top secret report in the archive of the Russian Institute of Radiation Medicine and Ecology (IRME) in Semey, Kazakhstan, and passed it on to New Scientist last week.

According to Pearce, the report is marked as “top secret”, and outlines “the results of a radiological study of Semipalatinsk region”, where in 1956, a nuclear disaster four times worse than Chernobyl in terms of the number of cases of acute radiation sickness had occurred.

As one of the few reports that happened to evade Soviet censors during the 1950s, the report shows for the first time just how much government scientists knew about the risks of the aftermath, and the extent to which they kept their research from being disseminated to the public.

The report has yet to be made public, but you can see the title page below:

2nd scan 20170316Institute of Radiation Medicine and Ecology (IRME)

For a bit of background on the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site (SNTS) – also known as the Polygon – it’s now notorious as the world’s worst radiation hotspot, where Soviet officials carried out 456 nuclear detonations between 1949 and 1991.

According to a more recent 2014 report by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, and co-authored by Apsalikov, 1 million people have been recognised by the government of Kazakhstan as having suffered, “in a broad sense”, from the SNTS.

 The first nuclear test to be carried out in the 18,300-square-km (7,065-square-mile) territory was the detonation of a plutonium bomb on 29 August 1949, that was “almost an exact copy” of the US bomb dropped on Nagasaki four years earlier.

The first atomic bomb dropped from a plane by the Soviet occurred at the SNTS on 18 October 1951, and in 1953, they tested their first thermonuclear weapon.

Experts have estimated that 111 of the tests carried out at the site were conducted on the surface or in the air, between 1949 and 1962.

The Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 banned such “atmospheric” tests on a global scale in 1963 because they caused the most contamination of the environment and radiation exposure to the public.

According to the 2014 report, after 1962, all tests at the SNTS were conducted underground in tunnels and shafts.

“One reason – not at least for secrecy purposes – for the initial choice of Semipalatinsk as nuclear test site was the vastness and relative remoteness of the Kazakh steppes,” Apsalikov and his colleagues report.

“But atomic bombs do not restrict their impact to the location of their detonation, and a large population could potentially be affected.”

Case in point: one test in 1956 at Semipalatinsk blanketed the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk, some 400 km (248 miles) away, in nuclear fallout, and put 638 people in hospital with radiation sickness.

That’s more than four times the 134 radiation sickness cases diagnosed after the Chernobyl disaster.

And as recently as 2014, researchers still didn’t have access to information about what ended up happening to those people.

As Apsalikov and his team explain:

“During Soviet times, nuclear tests and their consequences for human health were surrounded by total secrecy. In fact, until 1956, the government did not even conduct studies about the nuclear testing’s effect on the population living close to the test site.

There are no clear statistics available about the acute effects of the testing.

The immediate impetus for health studies came later, in connection with an emergency situation caused by a surface nuclear detonation on 16 March 1956, the radioactive cloud of which reached the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk, 400 km from the explosion epicentre.

The city’s population was exposed to nuclear fallout with radiation doses so high as to cause acute radiation poisoning. In response, the Soviet leadership established a special medical institution and hospitalised 638 persons suffering from radiation poisoning. No information about the fate of these people is available, however.”

But now, according to the newly uncovered report, Soviet researchers investigated conditions at Ust-Kamenogorsk on three separate occasions, the results of which are only just coming to light.

As Pearce explains, the researchers found that a month after another disastrous 1956 test, radiation rates were still up to 100 times what the report classifies as the “permissible rate”.

The report also revealed that scientists who had conducted expeditions to eastern Kazakhstan had recommended the immediate halt of eating local grain, based on “considerable radioactive contamination of soils, vegetable cover, and food”, but this does not appear to have been acted on.

And perhaps the most damning part of the report was the way in which it deliberately misappropriated blame for alterations in the local people’s nervous system and blood composition at the time of the nuclear tests.

The changes “could not be considered as the changes which arose only due to impact of ionising radiation”, the report concludes, and instead should be put down to put sanitation, a “dreary diet”, and diseases such as tuberculosis.

Hopefully, with the release of this report, and the work of Apsalikov and his colleagues, we’ll get some more clarity about what actually happened to the locals during this time.

Source: sciencealert.com

Russia Has Decided To BAN The Use Of Genetically Modified Ingredients


Russia has announced a game-changing move in the fight against Monsanto’s GMOs, completely banning the use of genetically modified ingredients in any and all food production.

Russia

In other words, Russia just blazed way past the issue of GMO labeling and shut down the use of any and all GMOs that would have otherwise entered the food supply through the creation of packaged foods (and the cultivation of GMO crops).

“As far as genetically-modified organisms are concerned, we have made decision not to use any GMO in food productions,” Deputy PM Arkady Dvorkovich revealed during an international conference on biotechnology.

This is a bold move by the Russian government, and it sits in unison with the newly-ignited global debate on GMOs and the presence of Monsanto in the food supply. It also follows the highly-debated ruling by the World Health Organization that Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup is a ‘probable carcinogen.’

But I also want to put it into perspective for you. If this announcement were to be made in the United States, for example, it would mean a total transformation of the food manufacturing industry. But in Russia, the integration of GMOs is not close to the same level as in the U.S.

We know that, in the United States, 90 plus percent of staple crops like corn are genetically modified, along with 94 percent of soybeans and 94 percent of cotton. A ban on GMOs in food production would radically change the entire food supply. In Russia, however, the country is much more poised for a GMO food revolution.

As RT reports:

“According to official statistics the share of GMO in the Russian food industry has declined from 12 percent to just 0.01 percent over the past 10 years, and currently there are just 57 registered food products containing GMO in the country. The law ordering obligatory state registration of GMO products that might contact with the environment will come into force in mid-2017.”

 

President Vladimir Putin believes that he can keep GMOs out of the country, even while staying in compliance with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) commandments. In a past meeting addressing the members of the Board of the Russian Federation Council he stated:

“We need to properly construct our work so that it is not contrary to our obligations under the WTO. But even with this in mind, we nevertheless have legitimate methods and instruments to protect our own market, and above all citizens.”

Russia’s brand new cosmodrome launches first-ever rocket.


Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome has conducted its first space launch on Thursday. A Soyuz rocket boosted three scientific and distance viewing satellites into orbit.

Vostochny is located in a desolate area of the Amur Region in Russia’s Far East, which allows spent stages to safely land in the taiga or neutral waters. Its construction was launched in 2012, as Russia saw the need for a domestic launch site for civilian rockets.

Russia has the large military launch facilities Plesetsk and Kapustin Yar, but for civilian launches has to rely primarily on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Vostochny is located in a desolate area of the Amur Region in Russia’s Far East, which allows spent stages to safely land in the taiga or neutral waters. Its construction was launched in 2012, as Russia saw the need for a domestic launch site for civilian rockets.

Russia has the large military launch facilities Plesetsk and Kapustin Yar, but for civilian launches has to rely primarily on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Watch the video. URL:https://www.rt.com/news/341192-vostochny-cosmodrome-first-launch/?_e_pi_=7%2CPAGE_ID10%2C2779544997

Russia has already banned GMOs — when will the rest of the world follow suit?


Image: Russia has already banned GMOs — when will the rest of the world follow suit?

Russia’s consumer protection group, Rospotrebnadzor, said the country has banned all imports of genetically modified (GM) corn, following the results of a French study showing massive tumors in rats after having been fed Monsanto’s GM corn.

Monsanto, on the other hand, continues to insist that its crops are no different from regular crops, while criticizing the methodology of the aforementioned study. According to Monsanto, the researchers involved in the study did not use enough rats as test subjects, and the duration was too short to come up with conclusive findings — an ironic, absurd claim given that Monsanto’s own studies only last 90 days in duration, at most.

Notably, the large cancer tumors in the subject rats did not begin to appear until after they reached adulthood. Monsanto’s GM corn has been in the U.S. food supply for more than ten years now, and its corn is found in many popular breakfast cereals.

CRIIGEN.org issued a statement summarizing its findings of the recent rat study, saying:

“The implications are extremely serious. They demonstrate the toxicity, both of a GMO with the most widely spread transgenic character and of the most widely used herbicide, even when ingested at extremely low levels, (corresponding to those found in surface or tap water). In addition, these results call into question the adequacy of the current regulatory process, used throughout the world by agencies involved in the assessment of health, food and chemicals, and industries seeking commercialization of products.”

Following Russia’s ban, 19 countries out of the European Union’s 28-member bloc have now officially joined the fight against GMOs. As reported by EcoWatch, Austria, Belgium for the Wallonia region, Britain for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia have all taken the “opt-out” clause of a European Commission rule passed in March 2015 that allowed its members to abstain from growing GMO crops.

In stark contrast to the growing anti-GMO sentiment among EU countries, however, several thousand miles away in the United States, Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of all food products containing genetically modified organisms in California, remains in limbo after its defeat back in 2012. Following its failure, no GMO labeling initiative has yet succeeded in the state.

Monsanto buys off scientists, government regulators

Despite all the flak GMOs have been getting, most food regulators — and not only those in California — seem to keep turning a blind eye on the adverse effects of genetically modified produce. Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, attributes this to these regulators’ ties to Monsanto:

“In truth, Monsanto has managed to influence food regulators all around the world. It has paid money to numerous scientists in the USA, and it has essentially “placed” GMO-pushing individuals such as Michael Taylor into influential positions in government.

The European Union’s Food Safety Agency (FSA) is also staffed by decision makers with financial ties to genetic engineering seed companies.”

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has called for a national GMO labeling law. He says: “The FDA has received over a million comments from citizens demanding labeling of GMOs. Ninety percent of Americans agree. So, why no labeling? I’ll give you one reason: The influence and the corruption of the political process by Monsanto. Monsanto has been a prime mover in GMO technology, a multi-million dollar GMO lobby here and a major political contributor.”

Russia is planning to establish a base on the moon by the 2030s


First woman in space Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova is seen during a training session aboard a Vostok spacecraft simulator on January 17, 1964

Russian news agency TASS reports that Russia is planning several missions to create a permanent base on the moon by the 2030s.

Although the US beat the former Soviet Union to a moon landing almost 50 years ago, apparently Russia is finally catching up – and trying to go one better.

The latest plans show that up to six heavy-lift rocket launches are planned.

The USSR tried and failed to launch N1 rockets to the moon several times in the 1970s, eventually shelving the project in 1976.

The new Angara A5 rockets have completed testing and will fly in pairs on three different missions to establish a permanent base on the surface of the moon, which will include:

… a solar power station, telecommunication station, technological station, scientific station, long-range research rover, landing and launch area, and an orbiting satellite.

Critics have pointed out what is likely to be the phenomenal cost of such a project at a time when the Russian economy is doing particularly badly.

But still. It would be pretty cool. And maybe we’ll finally find out how the old man from the John Lewis ad got up there.

disney

Battle Of Waterloo Might Not Have Happened If It Wasn’t For Neurosurgeon Jean Massot: How Medicine Changed The Course Of History


Napoleon Bonaparte’s failed attempt to invade Russia in 1812 may not be as widely known as his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo two years later, but it is largely credited as the beginning of the end for the French commander. A new study presents compelling evidence to suggest that the true reason for Napoleon’s blunder in Russia was not due to his poor military judgement but rather the skilled hands of a French brain surgeon.

napoleon

 

In 1812, Napoleon and his Grande Armée marched to Russia in an attempt to conquer the eastern lands in the name of the newly founded French Republic, according to The History Channel. Much to the surprise of Napoleon, instead of finding the Russian military, he found Moscow razed to the ground and the beginning of an early winter — rather than stay and fight the French, Russian General Mikhail Kutuzov ordered his troops to burn down the capital city and retreat to the East. As a result, there were no supplies for the French troops to use when they arrived in Moscow and many of them died in the harsh Russian winter.

At the time, people criticized Kutuzov’s decision as crazy and impulsive. But in retrospect, historians speculate that if Kutuzov had stayed to challenge Napoleon, the battle may not have ended in favor of the Russians. According to the recent study, however, Kutuzov’s impulsive military tactics may have been influenced by two life-saving operations he received nearly 40 years earlier. Researchers at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Arizona believe that a head injury Kutuzov received in 1774, while fighting the Turks in Crimea, destroyed his frontal lobe and altered his personality and behavioral pattern.

The Brain’s Control Panel

The frontal lobe is commonly referred to as the control panel for our personality, and is believed to have a large influence over our emotional expression, problem solving skills, memory, language, sexual behavior, and, most importantly, our judgement.

“It seems that the more primitive regions of the brain drive impulses to pursue larger rewards, but the frontal lobes take a longer view of the situation and put the brakes on these urges in situations when larger rewards may not be the most profitable ones in the long term,” said Dr. Stan Floresco, a researcher at the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia,in a 2014 statement about a study he conducted involving the human decision-making process.

The Barrow team proposes that the damage to Kutuzov’s frontal lobe can explain why  he left the Russian stronghold open to French invasion. The gunshot to the head that the general received in 1774, and a second one that he received in 1788, would have surely killed Kutuzov if not for the intervention of the French brain surgeon Jean Massot. Massot’s surgeries on Kutuzov’s brain two are considered the hallmarks of modern brain surgery, and without a doubt saved the general’s life, albeit with some side effects.

“The other generals thought Kutuzov was crazy, and maybe he was,” lead researcher Dr. Marc C. Preul said in a statement. “The brain surgery saved Kutuzov’s life, but his brain and eye were badly injured. However ironically, the healing resolution of this situation allowed him to make what turned out to be the best decision. If he had not been injured, he may well have challenged Napoleon and been defeated.”

Preul and his team scoured the globe for 200-year-old evidence to back this claim. Unfortunately, it is unknown what happened to the remains of Kutuzov’s brain. It was last mentioned during his autopsy in 1813, according to the statement. Records of eyewitness accounts from the time, however, back the researcher’s hypothesis, as they claim that Kutuzov’s personality was indeed altered after his two brain surgeries.

According to Preul, the team’s finding are not just a story of the early days of brain surgery but also “a story of how medicine changed the course of civilization.”

Source: Kushchayev SV, Belykh E, Fishchenko Y, et al. Two bullets to the head and an early winter: fate permits Kutuzov to defeat Napoleon at Moscow. Journal of Neurosurgery . 2015

Russian student invents bracelet to tackle computer addiction .


Russian students have invented a unique bracelet capable of preventing kids from spending too much time in front of a computer. Tracking children’s biorhythms, it can even autonomously switch off computers, averting possible health-related consequences.

RIA Novosti/Igor Zarembo

The bracelet is currently in the final stages of development at the Academic IT School of Perm State University, with a model ready for production expected by the end of year.

“The project is aimed at lowering the psychological pressure experienced by the personal computer users. It’s especially important for children as we live in the 21st century when kids have unlimited access to computers, which don’t always have a positive effect on them,” Dmitry Zotin, the bracelet’s inventor and an Academic IT School student, told RT.

It’ll be “more like parental control,” but it’ll be the hardware and software, not parents, managing the time spent by the youngster in front of a PC, he explained.

Spending too much behind the computer can make it hard for children to sleep at night and increase risk of attention problems, anxiety, depression and even obesity, medics warn.

The bracelet will be tracking the child’s cardiac rhythm and skin temperature, using Bluetooth to transfer this data to a program installed on the computer.

Based on the physiological data, the software will decide whether to change the computer’s settings, adjust screen brightness, block certain parts of the operating system or even shut down the whole PC.

The program will also record all actions performed by the user on the computer, including mouse clicks, buttons pressed and others, to provide him with advice on how to use his time in front of the monitor more effectively.

It’s going to be “an enforcement procedure” for the children, Zotin said, adding that the bracelet will turn the computer off automatically if the kid ignores the program’s warnings that he or she spent too much time in social networks or playing.

As for adult users, the bracelet will inform them that they are tired or stressed and advise to change activity or take a break, he added.

Zotin says that in the future his invention may also be introduced in offices to monitor how effectively employees use their time behind the computer and to ensure they get enough rest from staring at the screen.

The bracelet is currently only compatible with desktop computers, with no plans yet to make a version for tablets and video game consoles.

Russia-US nuclear material security cooperation discontinued .


Moscow and Washington have officially ceased 20 years of co-operation over securing storage of nuclear material in Russia, US media reports. Russia’s Rosatom warned that no new contracts with the US were expected in 2015.

The declaration on stopping co-operation in the nuclear material protection sphere was signed on December 16, The Boston Globe reported on Monday. The newspaper obtained a three-page document that draws a line under 21 years of fruitful cooperation between the two nations’ nuclear agencies.

The decisive talks took place in Moscow over a month ago, but the outcome remained secret until early this week.

The meeting was attended by reportedly well over 40 experts from both sides, representing various industries dealing with the use of fission material. According to the Globe, the American delegation consisted of officials from the US State Department, Department of Energy, the Pentagon and its nuclear weapons labs. The Russian host party was made up of officials representing dismantling entities that varied from arms control to outgoing nuclear submarines’ disposal.

Reuters / Sergei Karpukhin

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US assisted Russia in securing its huge stockpiles of weapons-grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium, as well as financing dismantling nuclear weapons.

Over the two decades of the Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, the US reportedly spent $2 billion, with $100 million allocated for 2015 and plans to continue the programs until at least 2018. The money was spent on creating a computerized record keeping system, personnel training, inventory of fission materials, and withdrawal of fission materials from former Soviet republics.

Starting from January 1, joint security operations at Russia’s 18 civilian facilities with weapons-grade nuclear material have been discontinued, as well as further security upgrades in 7 ‘closed nuclear cities’ hosting military and civilian nuclear laboratories, institutes and nuclear research centers.

Russian authorities scotched America’s plans to install radiation sensors in the country’s airports, seaports and border crossings that would monitor Russia’s fission material circulation to “catch potential nuclear smugglers,” according to the official version.

Russia also stopped work on diluting its weapons-grade plutonium and uranium stock into a “less dangerous” form, previously conducted at two facilities.

Installation of high-tech surveillance systems at 13 nuclear material storage buildings in Russia has also been called off.

An employee looks at equipment in a new facility at a nuclear waste disposal plant in the town of Fokino in Russia's far-eastern Primorsky region (Reuters / Yuri Maltsev)

An employee looks at equipment in a new facility at a nuclear waste disposal plant in the town of Fokino in Russia’s far-eastern Primorsky region .

“They need continuous attention and international cooperation,” said Siegfried S. Hecker, a former head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, who has traveled to Russia more than 40 times since 1992. “You cannot afford to isolate your country, your own nuclear complex, from the rest of the world,” Hecker stressed, as cited by BG.

Former Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who has fostered and monitored Russia-US fission material control programs over the years, questioned Russia’s expertise in keeping track of its vast reserves of nuclear material.

“The housekeeping by the Russians has not been comprehensive,” Lugar said in an interview. “There had been work done [with the US] hunting down nuclear materials. This is now terminated.”

At the same time, David Huizenga, nonproliferation expert at the National Nuclear Security Administration, who led the US delegation to Moscow in December, said: “We are encouraged that they stated multiple times that they (Russians) intend to finish this work.”

The crisis in Russia–US relations over developments in Ukraine has been deepening throughout 2014, and has finally affected the business of international control over radioactive materials.

The first signs of discord were visible months ago, in August, when BG headlined: ‘US-Russia work on nuclear materials in jeopardy’.

The head of Russia’s state nuclear monopoly Rosatom, Sergey Kirienko, warned in November that no new contracts with the US are planned for 2015. A month later, Kirienko reported that international sanctions on Russia had failed to disrupt any Rosatom contracts planned as far ahead as 2040.

“None of our partners abandoned the realization of signed contract and deals,” Kirienko said, stressing that all decisions made in the nuclear energy sphere are long-term and lie outside politics and political cycles.