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September 12, 2019

Boeing Foresees Return Of The 737 MAX In November - But Not Everywhere

The Boeing 737 MAX was expected to be flying again in October. Yesterday Boeing's CEO Dennis Muilenburg pushed that date to November:

Boeing chairman and chief executive Dennis Muilenburg on Wednesday reiterated his projection that, despite concerns publicly expressed by Europe’s air safety regulator, the 737 MAX should begin to return to service around November.

This is unlikely to be the last change of the date. Muilenburg had additional bad news:

However, he conceded that lack of alignment among international regulatory bodies could mean that the grounded jet may first resume flying in the United States, with other major countries following later.

“We’re making good, solid progress on a return to service,” Muilenburg said, speaking at a Morgan Stanley investor conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. He later added that “a phased ungrounding of the airplane among regulators around the world is a possibility.”

The "phased ungrounding" means that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration would certify the plane as being safe while other regulators would still not do so. U.S. passengers would be asked to fly on a plane that the rest of the world would still consider too unsafe to fly. 737 MAX flights from the U.S. to other countries would still be grounded as would the by far largest part of the total fleet in Europe and China.

It is doubtful that insurance providers, U.S. airlines, their passengers and their pilots would welcome such a "phased" move. It is an extremely risky behavior. Any accident during that time, no matter for what reason, would bring the affected airline, Boeing and the FAA into even deeper trouble.

It is likely that Boeing and the FAA would like to blame the foreign regulators for making late or unreasonable demands. But the history of the two deadly 737 MAX accidents and the development since prove that only Boeing and the FAA are to blame for this.

The Muilenburg statement followed a September 3 presentation (pdf) by the chief of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Patrick Ky for the European parliament. It documents how EASA early on told the FAA and Boeing what it would do before allowing the plane back into the air.


On April 1 EASA set 4 conditions:

  1. Design changes proposed by Boeing are EASA approved (no delegation to FAA)
  2. Additional and broader independent design review has been satisfactorily completed by EASA
  3. Accidents of JT610 and ET302 are deemed sufficiently understood
  4. B737 MAX flight crews have been adequately trained

The most important statement in the above is that EASA will not rely on the FAA's judgment of the 737 MAX flight safety but make its own one. This is the consequence of the FAA's delegation of certification authority to Boeing and its very late grounding of the plane.

Ky openly blamed the FAA for giving too much authority to Boeing:

“Yes, there was a problem in this notion of delegation by the FAA of the MCAS safety assessment to Boeing,” Ky told the EU Parliament committee.

“This would not happen in our system,” he insisted. “Everything which is safety-critical, everything which is innovative … has to be seen by us and not delegated.”

EASA tasked 20 of its experts, test pilots and engineers with the review of the 737 MAX. They evaluated 70 test points and in June and July performed simulator test flights. Significant technical issues were found and communicated to Boeing in early July. Solving these issues is a condition for the plane's re-certification:


These are:

  • Lack of exhaustive monitoring of the system failures resulting in a stabiliser runaway
  • Too high forces needed to move the manual trim wheel in case of a stabiliser runaway
  • Too late disconnection of autopilot near stall speed (in specific conditions)
  • Too high crew workload and risk of crew confusion in some failure cases, especially Angle of Attack single failure at take-off

Boeing was expected to provide solutions for each of these issues.

But in a August 2019 meeting of international regulators Boeing failed to present them:

Friction between Boeing Co. and international air-safety authorities threatens a new delay in bringing the grounded 737 MAX fleet back into service, according to government and pilot union officials briefed on the matter.

The latest complication in the long-running saga, these officials said, stems from a Boeing briefing in August that was cut short by regulators from the U.S., Europe, Brazil and elsewhere, who complained that the plane maker had failed to provide technical details and answer specific questions about modifications in the operation of MAX flight-control computers.

As a consequence of Boeing's unwillingness EASA went public with its demands by putting them into the above presentation. Even under political pressure there is no way EASA can now go back on them.

EASA will have its own pilots doing the certification flights on the revamped 737 MAX. They will test it with the modified MCAS as well as without it. They will also test the other points EASA listed.

The flight safety regulators do not provide technical solutions for the problems they find. They only tell Boeing to provide and implement designs that satisfies a regulator's demands. If any of the points above is not satisfactory solved EASA will not allow the 737 MAX to fly in Europe. Other regulators like the Chinese CAAC will likely follow EASA on the issue but may also add additional points. Some 80% of Boeing's single aisle planes are sold into foreign markets. These will not be allowed to fly until the EASA's and others' demands are satisfied.

Boeing has so far provided a solution for the Flight Control Computer problems. It has yet to improve the confusing alarms, crew procedures and the associated training. Boeing does not want mandatory simulator training for new 737 MAX pilots and the FAA seems to agree with it on that point. But Canada already said that it will demand such training and EASA and others are likely to do the same. Boeing has given no appropriate response for the Angle of Attack integrity issues. EASA wants a third AoA sensor or an equivalent technical solution. The manual trim wheel problem, which also applies to the older 737 NG type, is also still an open issue.

Muilenberg does not seem to understand (pdf) that Boeing has to do more about these issues than 'answer questions':

Rajeev Lalwani Analyst, Morgan Stanley & Co. LLCQ
... we've all seen the added sensor chatter. So we'd love for you to clarify what is and isn't accurate.

Dennis A. Muilenburg Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer, The Boeing Co
[...] we're going to respect individual questions from different regulators and EASA has brought up some questions and that we're working our way through. I wouldn't see those as divisive. I just think those are questions that we need to answer as part of the process. And questions around things like angle of attack, system design. Recognize that our architecture on Boeing airplanes is different than Airbus airplanes. And that's always been a topic of discussion; that doesn't necessarily mean hardware changes. In some cases, those questions can be answered with simulation work or software updates or process updates. So there's no specificity on answers. They're just question areas that we work our way through as part of the normal certification process. So I would describe it that way. I think we've got to pay attention to it, lot of work to do to answer questions. But everyone's motivated to work together here and it creates timeline uncertainty.

The lack of AoA sensor redundancy and the blocked manual trim wheel need technical solutions. "Answering questions" will not provide those. I for one can not see that EASA or CAAC will let Boeing get away with this.

Muilenburg's admission that the plane is not ready for international certification is devastating news for the company even as he tried to sell its as progress. The FAA might lift the grounding of the plane under political pressure but other regulators will not follow through. The public uproar that will be caused by that will make it nearly impossible to sell tickets for 737 MAX flights.

Even if Boeing finds solutions that international regulators can finally accept, their implementation will take additional months. The AoA sensor and trim wheel issues will likely require hardware changes to the 600 or so existing MAX airplanes. The demand for simulator training will further delay the ungrounding of the plane. There are only some two dozen 737 MAX simulators in this world and thousands of pilots who will need to pass through them.

These technical and organizational problems have all been known for several months. EASA and others pointed them out early and often. But Boeing is still dragging its feet instead of solving them. The delays caused by this unreasonable behavior risk the company's sales, reputation and maybe even its existence.

Previous Moon of Alabama posts on Boeing 737 MAX issues:

Posted by b on September 12, 2019 at 14:51 UTC | Permalink | Comments (100)

September 11, 2019

Open Thread 2019-53

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 11, 2019 at 17:26 UTC | Permalink | Comments (212)

September 10, 2019

Obama And Brennan Burned A Very Useful Spy And Now CNN Outs Him

A sensational CNN story claimed yesterday that Trump caused the extraction of a U.S. spy from Moscow. The story was false but had the effect of outing the spy and where he now lives:

In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.

A New York Times opinion writer swallowed the above story and used it to write a piece about Trump's alleged untrustworthiness. Then her own paper debunked the CNN claim.

The story sounded dubious to me and I voiced doubt about it at Patrick Lang's site.

The CNN report allowed others to identify the spy. An aide to President Putin's foreign policy advisor had vanished around the time CNN described. The Russian Kommersant identified him and found the place where he now lives (machine translated):

Oleg Smolenkov, an employee of the presidential administration, who left for vacation in Montenegro with his family in June 2017 and disappeared without a trace there.
Kommersant managed to find data on where Oleg Smolenkov and his family can now be. The Washington Post website contains information on the sale of real estate on June 5, 2018, in the Stafford (Virginia) city, worth about $ 925 thousand, by certain Oleg and Antonina Smolenkovs.

Note that the wife of Oleg Smolenkov is called Antonina. The Daily Storm reported that she also worked in the government apparatus.

Photos of the mansion inside and out are on the site of one of the local real estate agencies. Its area is about 760 square meters. meters. The house stands on a plot of 1.2 hectares. The mansion has six bedrooms and six bathrooms.


That is quite a palace paid for with U.S. taxpayer money.

A search for Smolenskov's name turns up the property records that show that he and his wife bought Lot 28 at 270800 Hunters Pond in Stafford Virginia.


(Note: The joint revocable trust in the above is a legal construct for married couples to avoid probate. It does not change the real ownership.)

NBCNEWS tried to doorstep Smolenskov:

Yet the former Russian government official, who had a job with access to secrets, was living openly under his true name.

An NBC News correspondent went to the man’s house in the Washington area and rang the doorbell. Five minutes later, two young men in an SUV came racing up the street and parked immediately adjacent to the correspondent’s car.

The Washington Post and the New York Times debunk the CNN claim that extradition was caused by Trump's behavior.  The Post writes:

U.S. officials had been concerned that Russian sources could be at risk of exposure as early as the fall of 2016, when the Obama administration first confirmed that Russia had stolen and publicly disclosed emails from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

The Times detailed:

[W]hen intelligence officials revealed the severity of Russia’s election interference with unusual detail later that year, the news media picked up on details about the C.I.A.’s Kremlin sources.

C.I.A. officials worried about safety made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia. The situation grew more tense when the informant at first refused, citing family concerns — prompting consternation at C.I.A. headquarters and sowing doubts among some American counterintelligence officials about the informant’s trustworthiness. But the C.I.A. pressed again months later after more media inquiries. This time, the informant agreed.
Some operatives had other reasons to suspect the source could be a double agent, according to two former officials, but they declined to explain further.

Russian RIA news agency says that the Kremlin admits that Smolenskov worked there but claims that he was fired several years ago without providing a date (machine translation):

Spokesman for Vladimir Putin Dmitry Peskov said that Smolenkov worked in the presidential administration, but was fired several years ago. In addition, his position did not provide for direct contacts with the head of state.

The Kremlin did not respond to clarifying questions. "Naturally, it is simply impossible to provide all the information about the employees of the presidential administration," Peskov explained.

The U.S. spy, or maybe Russian-U.S. double agent, was outed by the Obama administration and its intelligence chief John Brennan when they provided details to the public that could only have come from someone near Russia's president.

Nothing in the above proves that the information the spy provided to the CIA was true. It might have been just as false as the fairytales in the infamous Steele dossier that alleged a Trump-Russia connection and was later debunked by the Mueller investigation.

The spy is said to have been recruited more than 10 years ago when he worked at the Russian embassy in Washington DC. The CIA got lucky that he ended up in the Kremlin. He must have been extremely helpful with a number of issues. Moreover he still had a Kremlin career before him and might have become even more useful. To burn such an important human source is unforgivable. However it was the Obama administration and the CIA chief who allowed the leaks when they planted the 'Russiagate' story and made his extradition necessary.

It was also 'officials' who have now provided the information that led to his outing.

Why the CIA would allow such a spy, once extradited, to live under his real name is beyond me. Does it have no interest in protecting him?

Posted by b on September 10, 2019 at 17:38 UTC | Permalink | Comments (70)

Trump Fires Yosemite Sam

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 17:58 UTC · 10 Sep 2019

I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore....
...I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.

Oh happy day!

Bolton disagrees with Trump's tweet and he is now texting reporters to say that he wasn't fired but resigned:

Robert Costa @costareports - 18:16 UTC · 10 Sep 2019

Ambassador Bolton sends me a text message just now: “Let’s be clear, I resigned, having offered to do so last night.”

John Bolton was the worst person I could think of to become National Security Advisor. But Trump being Trump he may find an even worse one. How about Jared Kushner?

Bolton will not take his firing without some revenge. There will soon be tons of 'leaks' in which a "former senior administration official" will claim that Trump did this or that very, very bad thing.

Gabby Orr @GabbyOrr_ - 18:43 UTC · 10 Sep 2019

A consistent complaint among Trump loyalists & fellow WH officials is that Bolton and his camp were extremely leaky. Doesn’t help that he’s texting every reporter in his rolodex now to clarify that he wasn’t canned

While he did not work long as Trump's NSA Bolton managed to create a lot of damage.

Michael Tracey @mtracey - 18:39 UTC · Sep 10, 2019

Bolton blew up the Hanoi summit with Kim, pushed for airstrikes on Iran, completely botched the attempted Venezuela coup, undermined the Syria troop withdrawal, demanded endless war in Afghanistan. And that's just in the past 9 months. The guy is a total lunatic

We published quite a bit about John Bolton. Here is a short selection:

Feb 12 2006 - Bolton

Mar 23 2018 - John Bolton - The Man With A Hammer Is Looking For Nails

May 13 2018 - John Bolton Once Sabotaged A Deal With North Korea - He Will Try To Repeat That Feat

May 24 2018 - How John Bolton Sabotaged The North Korea Talks

Jun  5 2018 - John Bolton Wants No Deal With North Korea Or Iran - But Is There Any Other Choice?

Jun 19 2019 - How John Bolton Controls The Administration And Donald Trump

Bolton will have nothing left to control but his anger.

May the fishes avoid him.

Posted by b on September 10, 2019 at 16:30 UTC | Permalink | Comments (112)

September 09, 2019

A Small Reminder Of The Lower-Than-Zero Value Of Partisan 'Analysts'

Avi Issacharoff is an Israeli 'Middle East analyst' who writes for the Times of Israel and other such outlets.

On August 27 he asserted that the drones which attacked Hizbullah in Beirut were not from Israel and that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah was lying about them.

Nasrallah is lying about Israeli drones in Beirut; Lebanon must urgently wise up

[W]hen it comes to the recent developments surrounding the Israeli attack at Akraba south of Damascus on Saturday night, and especially surrounding the two mysterious drones that subsequently crashed/exploded in the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahiyeh in Beirut, Nasrallah is lying. Lying through his teeth.

He lied in his speech on Sunday night when he described these two recent events. And he lied in the statement that his organization published on Monday night claiming that the two “Israeli” drones in Beirut were carrying explosives.

First of all, as has already been widely reported, these were not Israeli drones. Nor did they look like Israeli drones.

Every child in Dahiyeh knows that if Israel were involved in this incident, there was certainly no intention to blow up or assassinate but rather to convey a message.

Even if we believe for a moment the narrative Nasrallah advanced in his speech, where he described how one of these drones flew at such a low altitude that people in the neighborhood were able to bring it down by throwing stones at it, does anybody in the Middle East who’s ever encountered an Israeli drone find that description credible?
In the meantime, the official Israeli explanation of what really happened has not been heard, and therefore the field has been left open to the deluge of lies and fabrications being disseminated by Hezbollah. And through these lies and fabrications, Nasrallah has, in turn, painted himself and all of Lebanon into a corner.

Just five days after accusing Nasrallah of being a liar Avi Issacharoff exposed himself as such. Suddenly he had no doubt at all that the drone had come from Israel and were used against Hizbullah:

Hezbollah had vowed to exact revenge on Israel over the IDF’s operation in the Dahiya neighborhood in Beirut last week, as well as for the killing of two operatives south of Damascus, ...
[A]t the end of the day, the complex operations that took place almost simultaneously in Akraba, south of Damascus, and in Beirut’s Dahiya – the details of which remain largely classified at this time – did not provoke an overly forceful response from Hezbollah.

There is of course no remorse about the false 'analysis' provided previously nor a retraction of the nonsense Issacharoff had written five days earlier.

In response to the Israeli attack Nasrallah promised to take down Israeli drones if they fly over Lebanon. Today that promised was fulfilled for the first time:

The Iran-backed Hezbollah movement said Monday it had downed and seized an Israeli drone as it flew across the Lebanese border, a week after a flash confrontation between the arch-foes.
The Shiite militant group said it subsequently retrieved the device, but did not provide pictures.

An Israeli army spokeswoman told AFP a drone "fell" in Lebanese territory, adding that "there is no risk of a breach of information".

Nasrallah is expected make another speak tonight. He may make some additional announcements which Avi Issacharoff and other 'analysts' may then again question.

They are free to do so but it is obvious whose words deserve more trust.

Posted by b on September 9, 2019 at 18:35 UTC | Permalink | Comments (69)

September 08, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-52

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Former Boeing official subpoenaed in 737 MAX probe won’t turn over documents, citing Fifth Amendment protection - Seattle Times
This is the Boeing pilot who told the FAA that MCAS does not need to be mentioned during pilot training. The FAA agreed with him.

Door blows out during ground test on Boeing 777X jet - Seattle Times
This happened during an overpressure and wing bending test on the new version of the 777. Maybe it is an easy to fix issue. But this learned speculation lets me assume that there is a much bigger issue behind it:

Frames were changed from sheet metal to milled aluminum and reduced by 2" thickness each, giving a total of 4" additional space.

So they might be as strong as on the "traditional" 777 but more flexible (stiffness increases at the order of 4 with thickness), causing more deformation to the door surround structure and putting more loads on the locking system.

Rob Slane at The Blogmire explains the current Brexit situation:

There are a number of parties. One of them wants to take us out, but there are some within that party that didn’t want to take us out, so they were kicked out by the man who just came in. In order to get us out, the man who just came in tried to get himself out, so that he could then get back in, in order to take us out. But he was thwarted by the other parties, who despite wanting him out, kept him in because they fear that if he gets out, he will then get back in and will then take us out. But if they can keep him in long enough, and prevent him from taking us out, they figure that soon after he has failed to take us out, they will be able to get him out and get themselves in. And then after he gets out and they get in, they may try to take us out or they may try to keep us in. It’s anyone’s guess. Then again, it’s entirely possible that if they do get in, they might try to get us out, then campaign against their deal for taking us out to try and keep us in. It really is that simple.

When panic sets in:
Air Force Puts Out Contract Opportunity Announcement For Literally Anything Hypersonic - The Drive

How India secretly armed Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance - The Hindu

Other issues:

How the CIA, Mossad and “the Epstein Network” are Exploiting Mass Shootings to Create an Orwellian Nightmare - Whitney Webb/Mintpressnews

Xeni Jardin @xeni - 17:07 UTC · Sep 7, 2019
I told the @nytimes everything. So did whistleblowers I was in touch with inside @MIT and @edge. They printed none of the most damning truths. @Joi is on the board of the NYT.
THANK GOD FOR @RonanFarrow

How an Élite University Research Center Concealed Its Relationship with Jeffrey Epstein - Ronan Farrow/New Yorker

𝙻𝚎𝚎 𝚂𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚊𝚑𝚊𝚗 @stranahan - 6:03 UTC · Sep 1, 2019
It's time for a pretty exhaustive late-night THREAD on the biggest story in the world right now being covered up in near real-time: the clear, easy to confirm connections between pedophile blackmailer Jeffrey Epstein and Zionist elitists, who I will name here.

From mind control to murder? How a deadly fall revealed the CIA’s darkest secrets - Stephen Kinzer/Guardian

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on September 8, 2019 at 13:58 UTC | Permalink | Comments (170)

To Leave Afghanistan Just Leave Afghanistan

AP reports: Trump calls off secret meeting with Taliban, Afghan leaders

President Donald Trump said Saturday he canceled a secret weekend meeting at Camp David with Taliban and Afghanistan leaders after a bombing in the past week in Kabul that killed 12 people, including an American soldier, and has called off peace negotiations with the insurgent group.

It is doubtful that the meeting was planned at all. The optics of such a meeting, shortly before an 9/11 anniversary, would have been too terrible. On Friday the Afghan President Ghani already said that he would not come to Washington. And would the Taliban leaders really step on a U.S. plane or helicopter to fly to Camp David when the real destination might well be Guantanamo Bay?

There is also this:

Dalchico @Dalchico 1:14 UTC· Sep 8, 2019

I hope reporters will investigate this. As a resident of Frederick County, where Camp David is located, I'm highly skeptical as I have seen no evidence of planning and preparation. There is usually increased helicopter activity for events held at CD.

It is good that there was no such meeting. The negotiations with the Taliban were never going to work anyway. The blob wants to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban want them out. All of them. The recent negotiations in Qatar were going nowhere as neither side budged on those central points. Trump finally acknowledged that by calling off a meeting that was not going to happen anyway.

Trump had the right instinct to press for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan. The situation there is getting worse by the day and there is nothing that any number of U.S. troops can do to change that. The Afghan government is utterly corrupt. Its troops and police have high casualty rates and fail in every battle. The Taliban own most of the countryside.

Why negotiate with the Taliban at all? As the U.S. can do little to them they would have no incentive to stick to any promise they make.

The U.S. should just leave as long as it can. There will come a point when the only way out will be by helicopter from the embassy roof. Check the map. That day will come sooner than many assume.

Drexl Spivey @RisboLensky - 20:26 UTC · Sep 6 2019

Roads in #Afghanistan today's situation based on @ArianaNews_ and my data
red-total #Taliban control
orange-occasional #Taliban control


Posted by b on September 8, 2019 at 13:19 UTC | Permalink | Comments (69)

September 07, 2019

Media Make False "Russian Prisoners" Claims To Blame Russia, Hide Ukraine's Civil War


Reuters: Russia and Ukraine swap prisoners in first sign of thawing relations

On the same day, a group of 35 Russian prisoners held in Ukraine landed in Moscow as part of the deal.

CNN: Film director Oleg Sentsov and MH17 suspect among those freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

The return of 35 Ukranian prisoners and 35 Russian prisoners is a move that could ease tensions between the two countries after Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Human Rights Watch: Russia/Ukraine Prisoner Exchange Includes Release of Oleg Sentsov

At around the same time, a plane with 35 Russian prisoners, released by Ukraine, landed in Moscow.

Real news:

Jonah Fisher @JonahFisherBBC - 14:44 UTC · Sep 7, 2019
35 prisoners flew Kiev to Moscow as part of the swap. 22 of them have Ukrainian passports, 1 Moldovan, the rest Russian. Tsemakh the MH17 “witness” confirmed officially as swapped. (machine translated): At least 30 Ukrainian citizens left for Russia as part of the exchange

In the framework of the exchange of prisoners, Ukraine gave Russia 35 prisoners, at least 30 of whom are citizens of Ukraine. This follows from the preliminary list that appeared in the media.

The difference between the 30 Ukrainians counts and the 22 Ukrainian passports tally by BBC Kiev reporter Jonah Fisher are people from Crimea who now have Russian passports but who the Ukraine counts as Ukrainians.

So Ukraine released "at least" 30 (former) Ukrainians, 1 Moldavian and maybe a few Russians who probably never took part in the war in east Ukraine. One of the Russians released today was one Evgeny Mefedov (pictured) of whom writes (machine translated):

Russian, a participant in the Odessa "Anti-Maidan" and clashes on May 2, 2014.

He claimed that he came to Odessa as a tourist.

In September 2017, he was acquitted in a riot case, but was immediately detained for an encroachment on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Mefedov had done nothing. He was imprisoned five long years for being a Russian who visited Odessa at the wrong time.

The Ukrainian accounts find many less "Russian" prisoners than the "35 Russian prisoners" Reuters, CNN and HRW falsely claim.

In the still smoldering civil war in east Ukraine Ukrainians are fighting against Ukrainians. There was and is no "Russian invasion" of the Ukraine as 'western' media want to make us believe. The prisoners' nationalities prove it but Reuters CNN and HRW do not want you to know that. They want their readers to believe that "Russia did it".

A hat tip for the above goes to Ivan Katchanovski, a political scientist at the University of Ottawa who works on Ukrainian civil war issues.

Ivan Katchanovski @I_Katchanovski - 13:02 UTC · Sep 7, 2019

My analysis shows that overwhelming majority of more than 1,000 people, who were exchanged by #Ukraine government with #donbas separatists or #Russia in 2014-2019, were Ukrainian citizens, 1.5% regular Russian military members & 4% other #Russian citizens.

Posted by b on September 7, 2019 at 18:45 UTC | Permalink | Comments (75)

September 06, 2019

State Department 'Swagger' Means Offering Bribes

U.S. Secretary of State "we lie, we cheat, we steal" Mike Pompeo said that U.S. diplomats must have "swagger". This is what he meant:

Four days before the US imposed sanctions on an Iranian tanker suspected of shipping oil to Syria, the vessel’s Indian captain received an unusual email from the top Iran official at the Department of State.

This is Brian Hook . . . I work for secretary of state Mike Pompeo and serve as the US Representative for Iran,” Mr Hook wrote to Akhilesh Kumar on August 26, according to several emails seen by the Financial Times. “I am writing with good news.”

The “good news” was that the Trump administration was offering Mr Kumar several million dollars to pilot the ship — until recently known as the Grace 1 — to a country that would impound the vessel on behalf of the US. To make sure Mr Kumar did not mistake the email for a scam, it included an official state department phone number.


As the captain did not agree to be bribed the U.S. sanctioned him. The ship now sits off the Syrian coast and is unloading its 2 million barrels of oil. That will be enough for three month of Syria's consumption.

Farsnews notes that this was not the first time the U.S. tried to bribe and pressure tanker captains:

Hook, who heads the state department’s Iran Action Group, has emailed or texted roughly a dozen captains in recent months in an effort to scare mariners into understanding that helping Iran evade sanctions comes at a heavy price.

No one fell for it. The Iranian ship captains are obviously patriots who do not take bribes from the enemies of their country.

Brian Hook has a really lousy job and zero success in it.

Posted by b on September 6, 2019 at 18:25 UTC | Permalink | Comments (102)

September 05, 2019

Putin Trolls Trump

This is some high class trolling by Russia's President Vladimir Putin:

Putin said he offered U.S. President Donald Trump in a recent phone call the chance to buy one of the hypersonic nuclear weapons Moscow is developing. He said Trump spurned the offer and replied that Washington was making its own.

Hypersonic weapons fly faster than Mach 5 or five times the speed of sound. Their high speed leaves little warning time for the target. There are currently no practical defenses against them.

While the U.S. spent an enormous amount on developing large aircraft carriers, 'stealth' airplanes and useless missile defenses, Russia spent much less to developed weapons that can defeat all three. Carriers are today, at least for Russia, India and China, not threats but large and juicy targets.

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal Mach 12 capable missile carried by a MIG-31


Trump is wrong in claiming that the U.S. makes its own hypersonic weapons. While the U.S. has some in development none will be ready  before 2022 and likely only much later. Hypersonic weapons are a Soviet/Russian invention. The ones Russia now puts into service are already the third generation. U.S. development of such missiles is at least two generations behind Russia's.

That Russian radar can 'see' stealth aircraft has been known since 1999 when a Yugoslav army unit shot down a U.S. F-117 Nighthawk stealth aircraft. Russian air and missile defense proved in Syria that it can defeat mass attacks by drones as well as by cruise missiles. U.S.-made air and missile defense in Saudi Arabia fails to take down even the primitive missiles Houthi forces fire against it.

The new weapons Russia announced in March 2018 make strategic missile defense useless.

The U.S. military and its weapons are regularly hyped in 'western' media. But it has long been clear to (non-U.S.) experts that U.S. military technology is not superior to that of other countries. In several important fields Russian, Chinese and even Indian weapons have much better capabilities. The reason is simple. U.S. weapons are not developed or built with a real strategic need in mind. They don't get developed for achieving the most effect in an existential war against a capable enemy but to create profit.

The last is probably the only thing Trump knows about them.

Posted by b on September 5, 2019 at 16:53 UTC | Permalink | Comments (208)

September 04, 2019

A Brexit Thread

I give way to the Leader of The House of Commons the right honorable Jacob William Rees-Mogg.

source (vid) - bigger

The Parliament of the UK just voted 329-300 for the preliminary approval of a bill aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit. The bill requires the government to seek an extension to Article 50 if it does not have a deal for the UK’s exit from the EU. There is now a discussion about various amendments to the bill which will then need a second and third vote to become law.

Even if the bill becomes law it is is not assured that the Boris Johnson government would follow it.


Posted by b on September 4, 2019 at 16:37 UTC | Permalink | Comments (169)

September 03, 2019

737 MAX - Boeing Insults International Safety Regulators As New Problems Cause Longer Grounding

United Airline and American Airlines further prolonged the grounding of their Boeing 737 MAX airplanes. They now schedule the plane's return to the flight line in December. But it is likely that the grounding will continue well into the next year.

After Boeing's shabby design and lack of safety analysis of its Maneuver Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) led to the death of 347 people, the grounding of the type and billions of losses, one would expect the company to show some decency and humility. Unfortunately Boeing behavior demonstrates none.

There is still little detailed information on how Boeing will fix MCAS. Nothing was said by Boeing about the manual trim system of the 737 MAX that does not work when it is needed. The unprotected rudder cables of the plane do not meet safety guidelines but were still certified. The planes flight control computers can be overwhelmed by bad data and a fix will be difficult to implement. Boeing continues to say nothing about these issues.

International flight safety regulators no longer trust the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which failed to uncover those problems when it originally certified the new type. The FAA was also the last regulator to ground the plane after two 737 MAX had crashed. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) asked Boeing to explain and correct five major issues it identified. Other regulators asked additional questions.

Boeing needs to regain the trust of the airlines, pilots and passengers to be able to again sell those planes. Only full and detailed information can achieve that. But the company does not provide any.

As Boeing sells some 80% of its airplanes abroad it needs the good will of the international regulators to get the 737 MAX back into the air. This makes the arrogance it displayed in a meeting with those regulators inexplicable:

Friction between Boeing Co. and international air-safety authorities threatens a new delay in bringing the grounded 737 MAX fleet back into service, according to government and pilot union officials briefed on the matter.

The latest complication in the long-running saga, these officials said, stems from a Boeing briefing in August that was cut short by regulators from the U.S., Europe, Brazil and elsewhere, who complained that the plane maker had failed to provide technical details and answer specific questions about modifications in the operation of MAX flight-control computers.

The fate of Boeing's civil aircraft business hangs on the re-certification of the 737 MAX. The regulators convened an international meeting to get their questions answered and Boeing arrogantly showed up without having done its homework. The regulators saw that as an insult. Boeing was sent back to do what it was supposed to do in the first place: provide details and analysis that prove the safety of its planes.

What did the Boeing managers think those regulatory agencies are? Hapless lapdogs like the FAA managers`who signed off on Boeing 'features' even after their engineers told them that these were not safe?

Buried in the Wall Street Journal piece quoted above is another little shocker:

In recent weeks, Boeing and the FAA identified another potential flight-control computer risk requiring additional software changes and testing, according to two of the government and pilot officials.

The new issue must be going beyond the flight control computer (FCC) issues the FAA identified in June.

Boeing's original plan to fix the uncontrolled activation of MCAS was to have both FCCs active at the same time and to switch MCAS off when the two computers disagree. That was already a huge change in the general architecture which so far consisted of one active and one passive FCC system that could be switched over when a failure occurred.

Any additional software changes will make the issue even more complicated. The 80286 Intel processors the FCC software is running on is limited in its capacity. All the extras procedures Boeing now will add to them may well exceed the system's capabilities.

Changing software in a delicate environment like a flight control computer is extremely difficult. There will always be surprising side effects or regressions where already corrected errors unexpectedly reappear.

The old architecture was possible because the plane could still be flown without any computer. It was expected that the pilots would detect a computer error and would be able to intervene. The FAA did not require a high design assurance level (DAL) for the system. The MCAS accidents showed that a software or hardware problem can now indeed crash a 737 MAX plane. That changes the level of scrutiny the system will have to undergo.

All procedures and functions of the software will have to be tested in all thinkable combinations to ensure that they will not block or otherwise influence each other. This will take months and there is a high chance that new issues will appear during these tests. They will require more software changes and more testing.

Flight safety regulators know of these complexities. That is why they need to take a deep look into such systems. That Boeing's management was not prepared to answer their questions shows that the company has not learned from its failure. Its culture is still one of finance orientated arrogance.

Building safe airplanes requires engineers who know that they may make mistakes and who have the humility to allow others to check and correct their work. It requires open communication about such issues. Boeing's say-nothing strategy will prolong the grounding of its planes. It will increases the damage to Boeing's financial situation and reputation.

Previous Moon of Alabama posts on Boeing 737 MAX issues:

Posted by b on September 3, 2019 at 18:05 UTC | Permalink | Comments (111)

September 02, 2019

Hong Kong Rioters Wage Sabotage Campaign To Press Congress Into Punishing China

The Associated Press is doing its best to make the Hong Kong police look bad by describing an incident without its context:

Late at night Saturday, video from Hong Kong broadcaster TVB showed police on the platform of Prince Edward subway station swinging batons at passengers who backed into one end of a train car behind umbrellas. The video also shows pepper spray being shot through an open door at a group seated on the floor while one man holds up his hands.

Police officers said at a briefing Monday that they rejected accusations that they “beat up” ordinary citizens without first confirming their identities. They said they specifically targeted those who they believed to be rioters, including those who had changed out of their black protester outfits, and arrested 63 people on suspicion of illegal assembly and possessing explosives and offensive weapons.

The incident described in the first paragraph above did indeed happen. But it was only the last part of a larger story which the AP fails to mention. Here is how it started:

The violence in Prince Edward Station began during a dispute between protesters and some older men who were insulting them. One of the men swung a hammer at the protesters, who threw water bottles and umbrellas and later appeared to set off fire extinguishers in the car. After the clashes, the subway system suspended service across much of Hong Kong. Three stations remained closed on Sunday.


Some 30 black clad people with gas masks and helmets had entered a train to ride to another place to create another of their usual flash mob riots. The other passengers clearly disagree with the rioters' plans. Some made remarks the black clad youth disliked.

They later dismounted the train but an argument continued. The black clad people reacted quite aggressively. They stopped the train from leaving by blocking its doors. They threw stuff at the middle aged passengers and tried to hit them with umbrellas and sticks. Some of them rushed back into the train, hit at some passengers and were again pushed out. This went back and forth for a full ten minutes. Finally someone in the black clad crowd snatched a fire extinguisher and let it go off within the subway car. The passengers then tried to get out and more scuffle ensued.

A full 10 minutes long video of the scene can be watched here.

It was the above incident that led the MTR, the public Mass Transit Railway operator, to stop the traffic at the station and to call up the police. When the riot police entered the station it immediately faced resistance:

This train then departed and protesters used umbrellas as a screen to change their clothes, before crossing the platform and boarding a Central-bound train. Before this train left, the Raptors arrived shortly before 11pm.

Protesters confronted the elite force with umbrellas and hard objects while police fought back with pepper spray and batons.

After the Raptors left the train, it was stopped at Yau Ma Tei station and all passengers were asked to leave. Police intercepted and arrested seven people and seized two bags of slingshots and metal balls on the platform.

A badly cut SCMP video of the event is here (scroll down).

The whole scene was not an isolated incident. Black clad folks ripped wastebaskets off the wall and threw them on the rail tacks. They smashed customer service centers, vandalized subway entry gates and hit regular passengers who disliked their behavior. This happened not only in one subway station but was part of a systematic attempt to disrupt the whole service:

The MTR Corporation later issued a statement strongly condemning the continuous vandalism at stations. It said a number of stations including Tung Chung, Tsing Yi, Lam Tin, Kwun Tong, Diamond Hill, Lok Fu, Tsuen Wan, Lai King, Sha Tin, Sha Tin Wai, Siu Hong and Tin Shui Wai were targeted on Sunday, with CCTV cameras, ticket issuing machines and other facilities damaged.

On Saturday, protesters severely damaged facilities at 32 stations.

The intent was obviously not to protest but a well planned and coordinated sabotage campaign against the city's indispensable mass transport system. Sabotaging infrastructure is an old CIA tactic to "harass and demoralize enemy administrators and police".

Which brings me to a Lambert Strether's piece at Naked Capitalism which he headlined:

Clever Tactics “Add Oil” to Hong Kong Protests (and not “Hidden Hands”).

Strether asserts that there are no outside forces fueling the protests in Hong Kong:

[T]his post will have a simple thesis: The people of Hong Kong have considerable experience in running protests, and we don’t need to multiply invisible entities (“hidden hands”) to give an account of what they’re doing. For example, it’s not necessary to postulate that the participants in the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests consulted CIA handlers on tactics; their tactics are often available, in open source, on the Internet; other tactics are based on Hong Kong material culture, things and situations that come readily to hand and can be adapted by creative people (which the protesters clearly are).

If one ignores the evidence of U.S. influence one can indeed come that conclusion.

A commentator to Strether's piece correctly notes that this is not a question of either - or:

I am genuinely puzzled, and I have to say concerned, about the way this issue has been framed here. One does not have to accept the argument that *either* (1) the protests are completely spontaneous and genuine; *or* (2) the protests are mainly the product of CIA manipulation of otherwise clueless dupes (a whole lot of them apparently!). This is a false dichotomy. None of the critics of the mainstream Hong Kong narrative that I am familiar with take a position any where close to (2). It is a straw-man position if applied to most reputable “skeptics.”

Rather, the argument I have seen most often among these skeptics (including some commenters here) is that, while the protests *were* authentic and directed at real issues of concern to protesters, there have also been efforts on the part of Western agents to manipulate this situation. This included support of particular, strategically significant leaders and groups and, of course, control of the Western media narrative. We have pictures and stories in even the mainstream press of US officials and representatives of western NGOs meeting with such individuals. Hell, we have US politicians bragging about it.

(There are indeed two distinct groups of protesters which I hope to discuss soon in another piece.)

To claim that the U.S. is not heavily involved in the events in Hong Kong is nonsense. It is obviously not by chance that the U.S. sponsored Hong Kong rabble rouser Joshua Wong gets published in the New York Times with a call for U.S. Congress action against China:

American legislators are supposed to vote on a bill, the Human Rights and Democracy Act, that would give the president of the United States power to penalize Chinese officials who interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs. The law could also allow the United States to revoke the special economic treatment that Hong Kong enjoys, as separate from the mainland.

If the United States Congress passes the bill, it will be delivering a firm message both to other silent allies of Hong Kong and to China’s dictators. The clock is ticking in Hong Kong. Our future is being determined now.

The Trump administration strategy towards the new super villain China is a general decoupling between the 'west' and China. The violent protests in Hong Kong are obviously one instrument it applies to achieve that.

The Trump administration and the rioters hope that the Chinese military will intervene and create another Tianamen situation:

Some of the frustration of the protesters – and I read this more than once in, the go-to online forum for the city’s disaffected youth – comes from Beijing not having sent in mainland troops. For all their efforts and perceived self-sacrifice, many of them would rather face Chinese troops than Hong Kong police because the latter, though considered evil or illegitimate by some in the city, are at least seen as doing their job by most foreign observers. But the presence of Chinese troops in the city, no matter what they do, would immediately cause global condemnation while legitimising and glorifying the local resistance movement universally.

Well, if you wonder why the central government hasn’t sent troops, it’s because they think along the same line as the protesters.

Tianamen was, as we now know, a CIA led color revolution attempt, set up within a background of general protests, in which the U.S. regime change mastermind Gene Sharp was directly involved. The mostly falsely reported incident, during which soldiers were lynched and protesters gunned down, led to 'western' sanctions against China.

Beijing is not going to fall for the same trick twice.

The Joshua Wong op-ed shows that the aim has now been lowered. The riots and the inevitable police response to them are now supposed to push Congress to give the Treasury a tool to sanction Chinese officials for interfering in a Chinese(!) city's affairs.

Imagine the possibilities!



Naked Capitalism provides a daily "Links" post that is a valuable aggregation of interesting and important stuff to read. Up to August 2 the daily "Links" roundup, often edited by Lambert Strether, regularly included links to current Moon of Alabama pieces.

On August 2 your host took to the NC comments sections to argue against this balderdash which, incidentally, was posted by Lambert Strether:

On the question of whether the Hong Kong protests are a US-sponsored “color revolution,” alert NC reader MsExPat threw this over the transom:

"The line about foreign interference is Beijing boilerplate. Everyone here knows it’s bullshit. Laughable. ..."

I commented:

I call bullshit on MsExPat.

The Hong Kong stuff is clearly a U.S. instigated “color revolution” just like the Umbrella movement 2014. ...

MsExPat responded:

The National Endowment for Democracy funding is old news, consistently trotted out by pro-China trolls as a smoking gun. But NED donated to the pan-Democratic old school parties, not to the independent Civil Human Rights front, which is the only large organization that has been involved in these protests from day one ...

Funny how one can assert that the Civil Human Rights front is an 'independent' front when it largely consists of U.S. sponsored "pan-Democratic old schools parties" and other U.S. sponsored entities and when its former convener Ching Yin 'Johnson' Yeung is now a well paid "fellow" at the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy.

Anyway. My argument had consequences. Since August 2 no more links to Moon of Alabama pieces were posted in the daily Naked Capitalism "Links" roundup. I had expected less parochialism from an otherwise open minded site.

Posted by b on September 2, 2019 at 18:59 UTC | Permalink | Comments (216)

September 01, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-51

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Last night Saudi Arabia bombed a Houthi run detention center in Yemen's southwestern province of Dhamar multiple times. Over 60 people were killed. The prison was registered with the International Red Cross and had been visited by ICRC staff. The Saudis knew exactly what it was. Similar Saudi attacks on prisons took place in December 2017 in Sanaa and in October 2016 near Hodeidah port. Most of the prisoners were on the Saudi side of the war. Why did it kill them?

There are murky reports that several thousand Saudi proxy forces and Saudi special force are under siege north of Kitaf in Sadaa province in north Yemen: Mansour Hadi’s forces in north of Kitaf are still under siege by Ansar Allah and heavy engagements continuing - ISW News

As predicted the unilateral ceasefire ended after the strike. Syrian army artillery shelled some 'rebel' positions. Air attacks have not yet resumed. The Russian military smartly denies that it knew of the U.S. attack.

Other issues:

Loser of the week: Bretbug Stephens and everyone working for the New York Times. - LA Times / WaPo

The Epstein saga continues to make waves - at least in Britain. Peter Mandelson ex-Labour minister pictured shopping with Epstein 2005 - Daily Mail

The Taliban are winning in Afghanistan. Trump wants all U.S. troops out of there before the defeat becomes obvious. John Bolton is trying to prevent that. The welcome result: Bolton sidelined from Afghanistan policy as his standing with Trump falters - Washington Post

Israel is getting nervous: Israel is hiding its soldiers and Hezbollah is winning without firing a shot- so far. - E.J. Magnier.

While I wrote the above antitank missiles fired from Lebanon hit an Israeli military target. The expected strike was in retaliation of Israel's recent killing of two Hizbullah personnel in Syria and its drone attack in Beirut. Will Netanyahoo escalate and start a war to win his reelection?

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on September 1, 2019 at 14:11 UTC | Permalink | Comments (255)