A joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA) was released on December 1st by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), National Security Agency (NSA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD). See it below.
The advisory addresses ongoing malicious cyber activity targeting operational technology devices by cyber actors affiliated with the Iranian Government's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC is an Iranian military organization that was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States in 2019. In recent cyber operations, IRGC-affiliated actors operating under the alias "CyberAv3ngers" have been actively engaging in cyber attacks, primarily focusing on Israeli-made Unitronics Vision Series programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
These PLCs are commonly used in various sectors, including Water and Wastewater Systems (WWS), energy, food and beverage manufacturing, and healthcare. It's worth noting that the PLCs may appear under different manufacturers and companies, making detection more challenging. Since at least November 22, 2023, these IRGC-affiliated cyber actors have continued to exploit default credentials in Unitronics devices. They have left a defacement image with the message "You have been hacked, down with Israel. Every equipment 'made in Israel' is CyberAv3ngers legal target." These attacks have impacted multiple U.S. states.
What to do?
*Implement Multifactor Authentication (MFA): Multifactor authentication is a robust security measure that adds an extra layer of protection to user accounts and systems. It requires individuals to provide two or more types of authentication factors before gaining access. These factors typically include something you know (such as a password), something you have (such as a smartphone or token), and something you are (biometric data like fingerprint or facial recognition). By implementing MFA, organizations can significantly enhance the security of their systems, making it exponentially more challenging for unauthorized individuals to gain access, even if passwords are compromised.
*Use Strong, Unique Passwords: Strong, unique passwords are fundamental to cybersecurity. A strong password should be complex, incorporating a mix of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. Passwords should also be long and avoid easily guessable information, such as common words or phrases. To ensure uniqueness, individuals should refrain from using the same password across multiple accounts or systems. Employing a password manager can assist in generating, storing, and managing strong, unique passwords for various accounts, enhancing overall security.
*Check PLCs for Default Passwords: Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are often deployed in industrial environments, including critical infrastructure sectors like Water and Wastewater Systems (WWS). These devices are susceptible to compromise if default login credentials are not changed. It is crucial for organizations to regularly inspect and ensure that default usernames and passwords for PLCs are replaced with strong, unique, and non-default credentials. This action reduces the risk of unauthorized access by cyber adversaries who may exploit known default login information.
By comprehensively implementing multifactor authentication, maintaining strong, unique passwords, and diligently checking and updating PLC login credentials, organizations can substantially bolster their cybersecurity posture. These measures provide a layered defense approach, reducing the susceptibility to cyberattacks and helping to protect critical infrastructure systems from potential compromise by IRGC-affiliated cyber actors.
American and foreign water and wastewater facilities have been hit in recent years by various attackers:
1. Oldsmar, Florida Water Treatment Plant Attack (2021):** In February 2021, a hacker gained unauthorized access to the computer systems of the Oldsmar water treatment plant in Florida. The attacker attempted to manipulate the chemical levels in the water supply by remotely increasing the amount of sodium hydroxide (lye) to dangerous levels. Fortunately, a plant operator noticed the suspicious activity and intervened, preventing any harm. This incident underscored the potential risks to public safety posed by cyberattacks on water facilities.
2. Rye, New York Water Treatment Plant Attack (2021):** In April 2021, the water treatment plant in Rye, New York, experienced a cyberattack that disrupted its operations. The attack led to issues with chlorine and turbidity levels in the water supply. While the incident did not result in widespread harm, it raised concerns about the susceptibility of critical infrastructure to cyber threats.
3. Kane County, Illinois Water Utility Cyber Incident (2019):** In 2019, the Kane County Water Utility in Illinois fell victim to a cyber incident that resulted in unauthorized access to its computer systems. Although the attackers did not manipulate water quality, they did access and steal sensitive information from the utility's network, highlighting the broader risks associated with cyber intrusions in the water sector.
4. City of Atlanta Ransomware Attack (2018):** While not specific to water facilities, the ransomware attack that targeted the City of Atlanta in 2018 disrupted various city services, including the billing and payment systems for the water department. The attack demonstrated the potential for ransomware to impact critical infrastructure services, including those related to water.
5. Wastewater Treatment Plant in Maroochy Shire, Australia (2000):** Though not a U.S. incident, the Maroochy Shire cyberattack serves as an early example of a water facility cyber incident. In 2000, a disgruntled former employee of the Maroochy Shire Council in Australia gained unauthorized access to the computerized control system of a wastewater treatment plant. The attacker released millions of liters of sewage into nearby waterways, causing significant environmental damage.
These examples illustrate the diverse range of cyber threats and vulnerabilities facing water and wastewater facilities in the United States and around the world. While some incidents resulted in potential harm to water quality and infrastructure, others focused on disrupting operations or accessing sensitive information.
IRGC-Affiliated Cyber Actors Exploit PLCs in Multiple Sectors, Including U.S. Water and Wastewater Systems Facilities
Release Date December 01, 2023 Alert CodeAA23-335A
ACTIONS TO TAKE TODAY TO MITIGATE MALICIOUS ACTIVITY:
SUMMARY The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), National Security Agency (NSA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD)—hereafter referred to as "the authoring agencies"—are disseminating this joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA) to highlight continued malicious cyber activity against operational technology devices by Iranian Government Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) cyber actors.
The IRGC is an Iranian military organization that the United States designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2019. IRGC-affiliated cyber actors using the persona “CyberAv3ngers” are actively targeting and compromising Israeli-made Unitronics Vision Series programmable logic controllers (PLCs). These PLCs are commonly used in the Water and Wastewater Systems (WWS) Sector and are additionally used in other industries including, but not limited to, energy, food and beverage manufacturing, and healthcare. The PLCs may be rebranded and appear as different manufacturers and companies. In addition to the recent CISA Alert, the authoring agencies are releasing this joint CSA to share indicators of compromise (IOCs) and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) associated with IRGC cyber operations.
Since at least November 22, 2023, these IRGC-affiliated cyber actors have continued to compromise default credentials in Unitronics devices. The IRGC-affiliated cyber actors left a defacement image stating, “You have been hacked, down with Israel. Every equipment ‘made in Israel’ is CyberAv3ngers legal target.” The victims span multiple U.S. states. The authoring agencies urge all organizations, especially critical infrastructure organizations, to apply the recommendations listed in the Mitigations section of this advisory to mitigate risk of compromise from these IRGC-affiliated cyber actors.
This advisory provides observed IOCs and TTPs the authoring agencies assess are likely associated with this IRGC-affiliated APT. For more information on Iranian state-sponsored malicious cyber activity, see CISA’s Iran Cyber Threat Overview and Advisories webpage and the FBI’s Iran Threat webpage.
Hamas has launched the most depraved social media strategy in interactive history. But this campaign of horrors goes far beyond traditional psychological operations tactics, such as demonstrating the failures of the adversary’s military or striking fear in opposing forces. It’s designed to generate anguish and anger on a strategic level.
But unlike pysops of old, Hamas can leverage modern media to create psychological and even physical harm among the target audience, in this case millions of Israelis, Americans and citizens from across the world glued to their phone and television screens.
Research suggests that graphic images of terrorism can actually cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS) among viewers. PTS symptoms can include everything from flashbacks to insomnia and loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. These symptoms in turn have been linked to health issues, which can range from physical ailments to substance abuse. Given that this research has been mostly based on television viewing, the addition of pervasive, easily rewatched and sometimes accidentally viewed social media images potentially makes the impact worse.
A meta-analysis of twenty-three studies of media coverage of terrorism and PTS found a small but statistically significant link between watching television reports of terrorism and experiencing PTS symptoms. (Houston, 2009)
One study after 9/11 even reported that people in Denmark who watched coverage of the attacks suffered increased rates of “trauma and stressor-related disorders.” (Hansen, Østergaard, Sønderskov, & Dinesen, 2016)
“(M)edia coverage following collective traumas can diffuse acute stress widely” reported one study involving the Boston Marathon terrorist attack. The data even suggested frequent media exposure to terrorism images could sometimes be more stressful than direct exposure to the attack. “Repeated bombing-related media exposure was associated with higher acute stress than was direct exposure.” (E. Alison Holman, et al. 2013)
One particularly depressing study examined the reaction of survivors of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to media coverage of the 9/11 attacks. “Surviving a prior terrorist incident and developing PTSD in relation to that incident may predispose individuals to adverse reactions to media coverage of a future terrorist attack.” (Betty Pfefferbaum et al, 2015)
To be sure, there is debate about the strength of the link between watching terrorist acts and experiencing PTS. Also, according to some analysts, experiencing terrorism on a screen cannot lead to full-blown Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And it seems clear that in general, notwithstanding the Boston Marathon findings mentioned above, witnessing a terrorist event in-person causes far more serious issues than just seeing it on a screen. Many Israelis who watched Jihadists murder their families and fellow citizens, along with 9/11 survivors who witnessed the fire and destruction of that day, will suffer for the rest of their lives.
But research suggests some people who’ve only seen the events in Israel on a screen could also be psychologically harmed. And for that Hamas no doubt celebrates.
Mark Sauter is co-author of the McGraw Hill textbook Homeland Security: A Complete Guide. A former US Army Special Forces and Infantry officer, he witnessed the 9/11 attacks up close while a resident of the World Trade Center neighborhood.
(Bethesda, MD) The celebrated new “Anti-Hate Task Force” has a challenge. A leader of its Muslim group turns out to have a record of comments that, according to standards recently developed by the group’s Jewish participants, are antisemitic. Such “bias speech” is no trivial matter in Montgomery County, MD, a wealthy, diverse and progressive jurisdiction outside DC now working "to prioritize policies that promote safety and combat hate crimes." Local police -- supported by the County Council’s president, a former CNN reporter – already monitor bias speech, even when not linked to crime. “The MCPD (Montgomery County Police Department)…will not tolerate intolerance, exclusion, indifference, or open intimidation and asks that everyone report any incident of bias or hate crime.” (italics ours)
Montgomery County (MD) Police Department 2022 Annual Report on Bias Incidents (Copy at Bottom)
The allegedly antisemitic comments, made in Tweets over several years, may come up Sep. 11th, when the “Muslim Cohort” of the Task Force holds a “Community Listening Session” on Zoom. The county council declined to comment directly about the Tweets or whether it screened the social media of Task Force applicants before appointing them. Said a county spokesperson: “Members represent a diverse coalition of faith and community leaders who have varying ideologies, values and backgrounds. Each member brings their unique perspective and personal experience, and each of the six cohort groups are encouraged to engage with and learn from one another.”
The offensive Tweets come from the co-chairperson of the Task Force’s Muslim group. We are not naming this person as we have no desire for her to be “cancelled.” A social-science PhD, she works for a group seeking to improve perceptions of Muslims. She has not responded to our requests for comment and we will update this report if she does.
The Manchurian Candidate premiered in October 1962. Since then the specific strain of ideological corruption has mutated, from communism to violent Jihadism, but the public remains fascinated with the concept of brainwashing – of Americans returning from captivity secretly beholden to foreign enemies. Now U.S. government records, many declassified after decades of secrecy, are finally revealing the real story behind the enduring meme.
The records describe Chinese spymasters assigning intelligence and propaganda missions to returning U.S. POWs and sending them home to a Soviet-linked support network of collaborators from Middle America to Eastern Europe.
Told to expect contact once back in America, the men were to “lay low for two or three years,” and “prepare the way in the United States for progressives to come later,” Army intelligence reported. Unlike the enemy’s robotic control of The Manchurian Candidate, influence over these real “Candidates” was much closer to the indoctrination and blackmail of the television show Homeland. As to the ultimate effectiveness and extent of the program, much remains unknown. Just last year, the National Archives removed 60-year-old documents on this topic from public view, saying they’re still classified or may have “law enforcement sensitivities.” The CIA will not even confirm or deny it has such records. What has been uncovered tells a chilling tale, indicating reality was sometimes more disturbing than fiction. For example, the communists kept certain American prisoners forever to facilitate Soviet espionage and Cold War plotting, according to declassified files.
Not long ago we ran across a prostrate 'possum, just a baby, in the back yard. We did some online research and learned that if it failed to wake up and run off overnight, we should drop it off at the wildlife rehab center, which we did. Happy ending there.
But during that Internet research, we noted that opossums were reportedly introduced to the American West as a food source during the depression of the 1930s, which brought back childhood memories of the term "possum pie" and some mixed emotions about our upcoming barbecue.
In a flash we were consulting our dog-eared copy of the "Joy of Cooking," one of the most popular cookbooks in history, with an estimated 18 million sold since 1936.
There, in our 1964 edition of the book, we found cooking instructions for opossums, which included this surprising step: "If possible, trap 'possum and feed it on milk and cereals for 10 days before killing."
This edition also included recipes for other types of small game, noting they "may be substituted in most recipes calling for chicken." (It really does taste like chicken! Which is actually what we said the first time we ate rattle snake -- chicken with a hint of fish.) Instructions covered small game such as raccoon, woodchuck and beaver (blister the tail over open flame and then roast until tender.)
Big game is included. What caught our eye here was the section on cooking bear cubs: "Bear cub will need almost 2 1/2 hours cooking; for an older animal, allow 3 1/2 to 4 hours."
We wondered if these recipes made it past the 1964 version of the book. Most of them did, with some variations, based on the Amazon searchable copy of the Joy of Cooking: 2019 Edition Full Revised and Updated (see below). However, we could not find the bear cub recipe, an apparent bow to modern sensibilities by the editors of the new edition.
Now, we at Need to Share News are meat-eaters and outdoors lovers who appreciate hunting and fishing. And we don't want to be critical of anyone forced to eat more 'possum than usual because of the economy.
But even we were a little surprised at some of this, especially the idea of gorging your 'possum for 10 days before eating (we're afraid we'd grow too attached by the second day to ever eat it) and the part about consuming bear cubs (which we assume is now illegal except perhaps in rare circumstances, say road kill. Please add to comments if you know the regulations and customs around eating bear cubs.)
Are we just being squeamish and/or hypocritical? What do you think?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded thousands of flights in January after a software failure. The problem involved the organization's Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system, which provides information for pilots about their routes and potential hazards.
The failure caused delays and cancellations of over 8,200 flights and over 1,200 cancellations before it was fixed. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that an issue with NOTAM safety messages sent to pilots prompted the outage and called the ground stop the "right call" to make sure messages were moving correctly.
-"I once got a weather report (METAR) for Gallup, NM that simply said 'ROSNOT.' When I asked the briefer what that meant, he said he had no idea. So he called the observer (I’m dating myself here, phone calls amongst humans) and asked him what it meant. He said it meant 'Rattlesnake On Step. No Observation Taken.'”
-"ANIMAL HAZARD (SMALL AND MID SIZED MACROPODS) ON ENTIRE AIRFIELD PREDOMINANTLY WEST OF RWY 15/33 FROM 05 280147 TO 08 280200 EST also at YKMP SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN ANIMAL (EASTERN GREY KANGAROO) WI AD VCY FROM 06 080305 TO 06 082300 EST"
These IA/cyber security acronyms represent words the US government (CNSS) thinks IT security pro's should know.
CNSS -- the Committee on National Security Systems -- is in charge of "setting national-level Information Assurance policies, directives, instructions, operational procedures, guidance, and advisories for U.S. Government" military and intelligence organizations. Many of its guidelines are also followed by "observer" agencies, from the Senate to the Fed. Here are the 400 or so acronyms that survived the bureaucratic rigors of the 2010 CNSS review, which deleted acronyms that are too "narrow" and tried to balance "macro terms and micro terms." How many of these do you know off the top of your head? Many are easy, but if you're able to break the 200 mark you may be spending too much time in front of a computer, or at least in IA staff meetings. Check out the bottom of the page for the answers.
The hero dispatching his adversary by flinging a knife across a room -- it's a trope in many movies. And they never seem to miss, or have the butt of the knife hit the target instead of the blade.
The more recent movie "Skyfall" quite explicitly harkens back to the Bond spy tech of decades back, including the Aston Martin with machine gun and ejection button (the latter provides a gag line in this movie.) More centrally to the plot, "Skyfall" also arms Bond with a knife he throws with deadly efficiency at a critical juncture.
Unlike the knife provided by "Q" in "From Russia with Love" (remember the tear gas dispensing briefcase?), or the blades wielded against Bond in "Octopussy," this weapon comes from happenstance in the field and does not appear to be a throwing knife, and certainly not a classic English combat weapons such as the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife (readers: pls correct me if this is wrong, it's only shown twice for a second or two each time.)
But Bond hurls it with deadly precision, burying it hilt-deep in his target.
So how realistic is this?
Throwing knifes is hard, even when they're specifically designed for it. Check out the various youtube videos and web sites on it, such as http://www.throwingknives.info/
One of the main reasons is the knives are usually (thought not always, empathize the "no-spin throwers") thrown end-over-end, which injects a measure of luck in the process, even when the thrower accounts for distance and grip. Also, it's hard to get a deadly level of mass and velocity into a knife throw (unlike a knife thrust with the power of a person behind it). So getting the penetration needed for a killing strike is far from certain.
To be sure, a person who puts in substantial training with a blade balanced for throwing can achieve excellent results (which, part from the faked acts, is why so many of those lovely assistants survived their tours with carnival knife throwers.)
Far harder is throwing a knife new to you under life-or-death conditions.
As a result, knife throwing is not one of the primary skills learned by special operators and spies, though some trainers, such as the legendary, and controversial, Mike Echanis, included this skill in the larger category of "combat throwing." Echanis, who at point trained US Special Forces and has had a long following among actual operators and buffs, can be seen in a nearby picture of knife throwing from one of his books.
The best movie knife throwing in film has to be the duel between James Coburn and a gunslinger in "The Magnificant Seven." If you haven't seen it, get it. (it also includes some great small unit tactics and counter/insurgency themes.)
Bottom line: If you're not James Bond, bring a gun to the knife fight.
The Cold War included plenty of oratorical combat as leaders of the two main sides fought for diplomatic and public advantage. The picture above depicts Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev making a non-verbal point with his shoe during a 1960 debate at the United Nations (it is said he pounded the shoe on the table for emphasis, although some observers disputed that.)
Here are the top 5 Cold War quotes, based on their value in underscoring significant themes in the conflict:
"From Stettin in the Baltic to Triesete in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent:" British Leader Winston Churchill, 1946, coining the phrase “Iron Curtain” to describe the border marking the area of Soviet control in Europe. "Behind the Iron Curtain" came to describe locations in the Soviet Union and its allied countries. The term "behind the Bamboo Curtain" was sometimes used for areas controlled by communist China and other Asian communist countries.
"We will bury you!" Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, 1956, to Western Ambassadors. The translation and context of Khrushchev’s original quote has been debated. He later expanded on the comment: "I once said, 'We will bury you,' and I got into trouble with it. Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you."
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty:” President John F. Kennedy, 1961. “Democracy is the wholesome and pure air without which a socialist public organization cannot live a full-blooded life:” Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, 1985. Gorbachev urged reform of the Soviet system based on two main principles: perestroika, or restructuring, and glasnost, or openness.
“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Ronald Reagan, 1987. The wall fell two years later. Runners Up: “Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum["I am a Roman citizen"]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner!"... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!" President John F. Kennedy, 1963. (Contrary to the urban legend, Kennedy did not garble his German and mistakenly say he was a “jelly doughnut.”) “What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?” President Ronald Reagan, 1983, in a speech about his “Star Wars” anti-missile plan that many, but certainly not all, historians believe helped hasten the end of the Cold War.
"My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes:” President Reagan.
When US Vice President Richard Nixon visited Moscow, he and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev ran a race around the Kremlin. Nixon came in first. "How should our media report on this?" a Soviet journalist asked his boss. “The report should be as follows: ‘In the international running competition the Soviet Premier took honorable second place. Mister Nixon came in next to last.'”
A Soviet worker was asked to describe his factory. "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us. ... A Moscow man was asked the difference between the Constitutions of the USA and USSR. "Both guarantee freedom of speech," he said. "But the Constitution of the USA also guarantees freedom after the speech.” ... A woman walks into a Soviet food store. "Do you have any meat?" "No," says the shopkeeper, "we don't." "What about milk?" "We only deal with meat. The shop across the street is where they have no milk."
Simply the finest of the Cold War movies from the Cold War, The Third Man "is a British cinematic icon: from director Carol Reed, author Graham Greene and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli and Orson Welles. Set in post-war Vienna, the film noir features some of cinema's most memorable set pieces --- the chase through the sewers, the enormous ferris wheel, the elm-lined cemetery...and Anton Karas' zither score, a worldwide phenomenon in itself."
Produced in the early days of the Cold War in a city divided between the West and Soviets, this Cold War movie established the noir atmosphere of those that followed and launched some enduring Cold War film themes, such as the innocence (or hubris) of American characters and the cynicism of the Europeans.
The best comedy among Cold War movies about the Cold War is Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The film's description -- “Psychotic Air Force General unleashes ingenious foolproof and irrevocable scheme sending bombers to attack Russia. U.S. President works with Soviet premier in a desperate effort to save the world” – fails to do this brilliant satire justice. From one of the great film directors, Stanley Kubrick, and starring the hilarious Peter Sellers (the Pink Panther) in multiple roles...
The Manchurian Candidate movie takes Cold War movie paranoia to a new level based on threats to America from outside and within (the book, seen below, tells the story with broader satire.) “Eerie, shocking, daring, thrilling and mesmerizing, The Manchurian Candidate will leave you breathless (People)! Featuring an all-star cast, including Angela Lansbury in an Oscar®-nominated performance, this chilling and controversial (Leonard Maltin) film may be the most sophisticated political satire ever made (Pauline Kael). When a platoon of Korean War G.I.s is captured, they somehow end up at a ladies garden club party. Or do they? Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) can't remember. As he searches for the answer, he discovers threads of a diabolical plot orchestrated by the utterly ruthless Mrs. Iselin (Lansbury) and involving her war hero son (LaurenceHarvey), her senator husband (James Gregory) and a secret cabal of enemy leaders.”
Produced years after the Cold War, The Lives of Others paints a harrowing picture of the communist East German surveillance state during the Cold War. It puts critical Cold War issues in a human context and also provides an interesting perspective on today’s debate in America over the proper role of national security surveillance. Certainly current US policies are nothing like what the communists did. But at what point should we be worried they are going too far? This is a superb Cold War movie. “This Oscar(R)-winning thriller (Best Foreign Language Film, 2006) tells the erotic story of an East German couple whose every intimate moment is being monitored by the Secret Police hoping to learn information that could destroy their lives.”
The Baader Meinhof Complex tells the dramatic story of this German terrorist group and probes the complex and often less-than-admirable motivations of its members. Filmed decades later, this Cold War movie focuses on the allure of communism, or at least an idealized version of it, to some young people in the West. Historical research has now revealed the substantial Soviet support of communist terrorists during the Cold War. This Cold War film works at times as a thriller and also provides insights on the attraction of violence for certain people. It's definitely not for kids. “Germany 1967: The children of the Nazi generation have grown up in the devastation their parents created. They vowed fascism would never rule again. In their fight for freedom they lost themselves in the cause and ignited a revolution around the world. Meet the original faces of terrorism, the Baader Meinhof Group, in this Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated film.”
A funny period satire about the Cold War --suitable for mature tweens and above -- is now available. One, Two, Three is an underappreciated comedy set in Cold War Berlin, starring James Cagney and directed by Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot.) Netflix and FREE streaming for Amazon prime members; also available on DVD/DHS.
Throughout modern history, Ukrainians have been fighting for their independence against outsiders such as the Poles, Germans and Soviets. After battling German occupiers during World War II, the Ukrainian resistance refocused once again on Moscow, which had incorporated Ukraine into the Soviet Union (and starved the nation during the 1930s.) To many Ukrainians, they were freedom fighters. To the Soviets, and others, they were Nazi-collaborators who continued the fight after WW2.
The debate continues as part of the Ukraine/Russia war. In June 2023, Moscow called the leader of the Cold War resistance, Stepan Bandera, a Nazi collaborator. Moscow did not mention the KGB killed Bander with a cyanide gun (see below)
"Referring to Nazi collaborators Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych, (an Israeli diplomat) recently said Israel does not like that the pair are role models but conceded that 'for most Ukrainians, these are heroes who fought for their independence.' He also noted that Tel Aviv’s support for Ukraine should not be conditioned to Kiev’s portrayal of such figures as heroes. During Tuesday’s summoning, the Russian Foreign Ministry blasted Brodsky for 'whitewashing' Ukrainian Nazi accomplices." See the report here.
The Cold War battle reached its peak in the late 1940s; the Ukrainian guerrillas even developed a system of elaborate bunkers across parts of the nation. See an excellent 2012 thesis on this conflict by a Ukrainian officer at the US Army Command and General Staff College here: http://www.dtic.mil/get-tr-doc/pdf?AD=ADA562947
Then, as now, anti-Russian sentiment was strongest in Ukraine's west. By 1950 Soviet counterinsurgency tactics had turned the tide (reports claim Soviet tactics included special units that impersonated resistance fighters and then brutalized the local population.) Significant resistance attacks ended by about 1957. By some estimates, the guerrillas killed 15-30,000 Soviets and Ukrainian sympathizers. The toll to resistance fighters and their networks was much higher. The Soviet KGB also worked to snuff out external support for Ukrainian independence with tactics that included assassinating exiled leaders with a cyanide gun (see below).
We can't get enough of painter Winslow Homer and author Norman Maclean (A River Runs Through It). Aside from their mastery of water colors and non-fiction, respectively, their skill at capturing the essence of fishing transports us. We wondered what Maclean, a skilled essayist, would have said about Homer. This AI version, which only took minutes to generate, is striking. A longtime media executive judged it "better than most writing at the LA Times." Said another reader: "Incredible! Happy I'm retired and no longer need to make a living from writing and editing." What do you think?
**Winslow Homer: A Painter's River of Life**
By Norman Maclean, via AI and inspired by "A River Runs Through It"
"In the vast expanse of the American landscape, where the rivers meet the horizon and the mountains kiss the sky, there was a man named Winslow Homer. Much like the rivers I've known and loved, Homer's life was a series of ebbs and flows, twists and turns, and moments of stillness that captured the essence of the American spirit.
I remember the first time I laid eyes on one of Homer's paintings. It was a scene of fishermen battling the waves, their faces etched with determination and their hands gripping the lines with a strength that spoke of their connection to the sea. It reminded me of my own days on the Blackfoot River, where the rhythm of the water and the dance of the fly line became a meditation, a way to connect with something greater than oneself.
Homer's brushstrokes, much like the cast of a fly rod, were deliberate and precise. Each stroke told a story, each color evoked an emotion. His seascapes, with their tumultuous waves and stormy skies, were a testament to the power and unpredictability of nature. And yet, amidst the chaos, there was a sense of serenity, a reminder that even in the wildest of storms, there is beauty to be found.
As I delved deeper into Homer's work, I discovered his portraits of everyday life. Children playing in the fields, women gazing out to sea, and men returning from a hard day's work. These scenes, so simple and yet so profound, spoke of a time when life moved at a slower pace, when moments of quiet reflection were cherished, and when the bond between man and nature was unbreakable.
It's said that in our later years, we return to the places of our youth, to the rivers and mountains that shaped our souls. Homer did just that, retreating to Prouts Neck, Maine, where he painted some of his most iconic works. The rugged coastline, with its crashing waves and windswept dunes, became his muse. And in the solitude of his studio, he found a deeper connection to the land and the sea, a connection that resonated with those who viewed his paintings.
As I think back to my own days on the river, I'm reminded of the lessons it taught me. The river, like life, is ever-changing, and yet there is a constancy to it, a rhythm that remains unchanged. Homer understood this. Through his art, he captured the essence of the American spirit, the resilience of its people, and the beauty of its landscapes.
In the end, much like a river, Homer's legacy flows on, touching the hearts and souls of those who take the time to truly see. And as I stand on the banks of the Blackfoot River, casting my line into the shimmering waters, I'm reminded of the words my father once told me: "In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing." And in the world of art, there was no clear line between Winslow Homer and the soul of America."
Dec. 15, 2020 (Washington) Beaudry Robert “Bowe” Bergdahl was awarded and still holds an Army medal for “exemplary behavior, efficiency, and fidelity” -- given for the same time period he deserted and endangered his fellow soldiers “through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct.”
Bergdahl’s military “personnel file,” obtained by Need to Share News under the Freedom of Information Act (see bottom), lists three Army Good Conduct Medals (AGCMs), raising questions about why he was awarded the medals in the first place and still apparently holds them, despite the service’s ability to revoke medals when subsequent information suggests they were wrongly awarded.
The personnel file also reveals Army officials declined a controversial request from Bergdahl’s lawyer to grant him the Prisoner of War Medal, for troops taken prisoner, and Purple Heart Medal, for being wounded in combat. That lawyer, Eugene R. Fidell, said he and his client have no comment on this report.
Army Good Conduct Medal
Privacy regulations limit Army comments on specific personnel records of soldiers, including Bergdahl. We asked the service if a soldier who received an AGCM for a period of time during which he violated military law could have the medal withdrawn. “The AGCM can be revoked by the soldier's current commander. If the soldier has separated from service, the AGCM can be revoked by the commander of Human Resources Command or by the Army Board for Corrections of Military Records,” said a representative of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command. “(It) is at the commander's discretion.”
Statistics do not exist on how often such medals are revoked and why, according to the Army. “It would be impossible to provide an accurate answer to this question, since this decision is made at individual units across the Army,” said the representative. One well-publicized recent case involves the Army stripping an officer charged with murder of his Special Forces “tab,” awarded to graduates of the Special Forces course, and Distinguished Service Cross, one of the highest awards for heroism in combat.
Bergdahl Personnel File Summary
The revocation of Bergdahl’s medals might hold limited significance for him in comparison to nearly five years of brutal captivity in Taliban hands and eventual court-martial conviction. But the Army’s apparent inaction on the decorations may anger some soldiers from his unit who’ve been highly critical of Bergdahl’s behavior and the failure of the military to sentence him to prison. Those wounded searching for Bergdahl and the families of men killed in action soon after his desertion have also contended the military was too lenient. Just last year, Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen, shot in the head during the search Bergdahl intentionally triggered, died after long-term medical problems (read more here.)
AGCM’s are generally awarded after three-year periods of service by a “(s)oldier who distinguishes himself or herself from among his or her fellow Soldiers by their exemplary conduct, efficiency, and fidelity throughout a specified period of continuous enlisted active Federal military service,” according to Army regulations. In practice, the medal is widely awarded to soldiers in good standing. The personnel file shows Bergdahl received his first Good Conduct Medal for the stretch during which he received an Article 15 non-judicial punishment, shortly before his disappearance, and then deserted and “misbehaved before the enemy.” “Misbehavior Before the Enemy” under military law covers actions by a soldier “who before or in the presence of the enemy…through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any such command, unit, place, or military property.”
The second medal covers years he was imprisoned, during which he did not collaborate with the enemy, according to military investigators. The Army also concluded Bergdahl had psychological issues and did not intend to defect to the Taliban, but instead left his outpost to create a “crisis” and prompt a major search and rescue operation. The third AGCM encompasses the phase of his enlistment when he returned to the US and was investigated, charged and faced court martial.
The most obvious issue is why Bergdahl was awarded an AGCM for the time he deserted and was then allowed to keep it, even after confessing to and being convicted of serious military crimes. Immediately after Bergdahl’s disappearance, members of his unit suspected the Idaho-native, who had complained about the Army and his leaders, had voluntarily left their isolated post. missing guard duty. Not long after, government officials told the media Bergdahl “just walked off” and by 2010 a secret Army investigation had uncovered “incontrovertible” evidence he had willingly abandoned his unit, according to the Associated Press. A year later Bergdahl was awarded a good conduct medal for this same period of service, the records indicate.
“The factors that would disqualify an individual from receiving the award are outlined in different regulations,” the Army explained. Under Army Regulation 600-8-22, cited by the Army representative, the AGCM may be withheld for factors including if a soldier: “Cannot follow orders; shirks responsibilities; takes too much time; is recalcitrant” and “(c)annot adapt to military life; (is) uncooperative; (or is) involved in frequent difficulties with fellow Soldiers.” Related regulations noted by the Army suggest soldiers Absent Without Leave (AWOL) for 96 or more hours might not be eligible for the AGCM and that “(i)ndividuals whose retention is not warranted under standards prescribed in AR 380 - 67 are not eligible for award of the AGCM.” This raises questions about whether the Army actually believed Bergdahl’s future retention as a soldier was still warranted, and therefore he was eligible for a third AGCM, even after his sworn admissions of improper conduct upon his return to the US.
In past cases involving possible deserters in enemy hands, the military has erred on the side of the soldiers during their captivity by, for example, promoting them, as the Army did Bergdahl, and foregoing negative personnel actions until their return to U.S. control allowed full investigations of their conduct. So we asked the service: If an individual who received an AGMC was later proven by an investigation to have committed serious violations of military law during his period of purported “Good Conduct,” could his medal be revoked? The answer: Army commanders could have revoked the medal(s) and still could.
Bergdahl returned home as part of a controversial prisoner swap by the Obama Administration, who traded him for top Taliban leaders in U.S. captivity, dubbed the “Taliban Five.” The enemy leaders were allowed to resettle in Qatar and ultimately rejoin the Taliban's political arm. Media reports indicated the release of the Taliban officials had been opposed by some U.S. military and intelligence officials. The deal also violated federal law, according to a report by the federal Government Accountability Office.
When the swap was announced, Obama Administration National Security Advisor Susan Rice (now headed to a senior role in the Biden Administration) claimed on national television that Bergdahl had "served the United States with honor and distinction.”
The current occupation and home of Bergdahl, now 34, are unclear, along with his progress in recovering from injuries sustained in captivity. His lawyer declined to comment.