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CIA lost four paramilitary officers in daring South China Sea operation, say sources

September 25, 2020 by Joseph Fitsanakis Four highly trained paramilitary officers of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) died during a secret maritime operation off the coast of the Philippines in 2008, according to a new report. Yahoo News, which revealed the alleged incident last week, cited anonymous former intelligence officers in its reporting.…

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September 25, 2020
by Joseph Fitsanakis

Four highly trained paramilitary officers of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) died during a secret maritime operation off the coast of the Philippines in 2008, according to a new report. Yahoo News, which revealed the alleged incident last week, cited anonymous former intelligence officers in its reporting.
The four men were allegedly paramilitary operations officers (PMOOs) working for the CIA’s Maritime Branch, one of the three branches of the Agency’s Special Operations Group (SOG). The SOG operates under the CIA’s Special Activities Center (formerly Special Activities Division), which plans and supervises paramilitary and psychological operations around the world.
According to Yahoo News, the ill-fated operation took place in the South China Sea, a contested region that forms the epicenter of an ongoing rivalry between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, among other countries. The four PMOOs had been tasked with planting a sophisticated tracking device, disguised as a rock, which was designed to intercept signals produced by Chinese vessels belonging to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.
The operation involved the use of a 40-foot vessel belonging to the CIA and registered to a front company in the Philippines. Onboard the ship were four PMOOs, according to Yahoo News: Stephen Stanek, Michael Perich, Jamie McCormick and Daniel Meeks. Stanek, the group leader, had served as an ordnance disposal diver in the US Navy before he was hired by the CIA. His co-diver, Perich, had joined the CIA after having recently graduated from the US Merchant Marine Academy. McCormick and Meeks had orders to stay onboard the vessel as supporting personnel.
Yahoo News claims the four men departed from Malaysia; they were carrying fake papers stating they had been hired by a Japanese company to transport the 40-foot ship to Japan. As they approached Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island, they decided to proceed with the mission, despite Tropical Storm Higos, which was dangerously approaching their location. The operation’s planners believed the storm would change course and would not affect the Luzon region. They were wrong, however, and the four men were lost at sea. Their bodies have never been found, according to Yahoo News.
Several months after the fatal incident, the CIA approached the families of the four late officers and invited them to Langley for a private ceremony, which was attended by the CIA’s leadership. That was the first time those family members were told that their loved ones had worked for the CIA. Yahoo News said it reached out to the family members, but they did not wish to comment on the story. The CIA also refused commenting on the report.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 September 2020 | Permalink

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United States charges six Russian intelligence operatives with hacking

October 20, 2020 by Joseph Fitsanakis THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT of Justice has unsealed charges against six members of Russia’s military intelligence agency for allegedly engaging in worldwide computer hacking against several countries. The charges, announced in Pittsburgh on Monday, represent in a rare move that targets specific intelligence operatives and identifies them by name…

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October 20, 2020
by Joseph Fitsanakis

THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT of Justice has unsealed charges against six members of Russia’s military intelligence agency for allegedly engaging in worldwide computer hacking against several countries. The charges, announced in Pittsburgh on Monday, represent in a rare move that targets specific intelligence operatives and identifies them by name and visually. According to the US government, the six Russian operatives were instrumental in some of the most destructive and costly cyber-attacks that have taken place worldwide in the past five years.

The indictment alleges that the six Russian intelligence operatives were members of a hacker group named “Sandworm Team” and “Voodoo Bear” by cybersecurity experts. In reality, however, they were —and probably still are— employees of Unit 74455 of the Russian Armed Forces’ Main Intelligence Directorate, known as GRU. Their cyber-attacks employed the full resources of the GRU, according to the indictment. They were thus “highly advanced”, and were carried out in direct support of “Russian economic and national objectives”. At times, the group allegedly tried to hide its tracks and connections to the Russian government, by making it seem like its cyber-attacks were carried out by Chinese- and North Korean-linked hackers. However, according to the US government, its operations and targets were carried out “for the strategic benefit of Russia”.

The hacker group has been active since the end of 2015, and is alleged to have continued its operations until at least October of 2019. Alleged attacks include a major assault on the power grid of Ukraine in December of 2015, which left hundreds of thousands without electricity and heat. Other alleged attacks targeted the government of Georgia and the French national elections of 2017. The charges include alleged attacks on Western chemical laboratories that examined the toxic substance used in 2018 against former GRU officer Sergei Skripal in England.

Finally, some of the group’s alleged efforts centered on sabotaging the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Russian athletes were barred from the games, after the Russian government was accused of participating in wholesale doping of its Olympic team. Notably, none of the attacks connected with the group’s operations appeared to have directly targeted the United States —though some of the viruses that were allegedly unleashed by the group affected some American companies.

► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 October 2020 | Permalink

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Best coffee maker for 2020: Bonavita, Ninja, Oxo, Bunn and more – CNET

It’s hard to brew tasty coffee. Coffee grounds need to hit hot water for an optimal length of time. That water must be within a precise temperature range too. Only a handful of drip coffee makers can pull off this sort of alchemy. And the ones that don’t (which is the vast majority) serve pots that taste…

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It’s hard to brew tasty coffee. Coffee grounds need to hit hot water for an optimal length of time. That water must be within a precise temperature range too. Only a handful of drip coffee makers can pull off this sort of alchemy. And the ones that don’t (which is the vast majority) serve pots that taste truly awful.We’ve found some noteworthy exceptions on the market, so whether you want to brew perfect lattes, make iced coffee or turn coffee beans into the ideal cup of fresh coffee, you don’t need to spend a mint to get the best coffee maker. You can drop almost $500 on a tricked-out Ratio Eight that’s as beautiful as it is capable, or on a programmable commercial coffee maker. But all it takes is $15 to get Oxo’s superb Single Serve Pour Over funnel.

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And there are plenty of compelling choices in between for a coffee lover’s brew. One is our Editors’ Choice winner, the Oxo Brew 8-Cup, our pick for best all-around automatic brewer. Another is the KitchenAid Siphon Brewer, which uses an ancient technique to achieve outstanding and dramatic results. No matter your budget, there’s a coffee machine on this list that’ll fit your drip needs perfectly and be the best coffee maker for you. We’ll periodically update the list with new products as we test them. We promise, you’ll never have to drink coffee from pods or an ancient coffee pot again.

Brian Bennett/CNET

The Oxo Brew 8-Cup Coffee Maker delivers SCA Golden Cup-rated coffee that tastes just as good coffee from our previous favorite, the Bonavita Connoisseur, but Oxo’s new brewer is more thoughtfully designed. This drip machine also comes with a special single cup filter basket for Kalita Wave filters. The Oxo Brew is compact, stylish, and also sturdy, plus it comes with a thermal carafe that doesn’t drip or spill. 

Read our Oxo 8 Cup Coffee Maker review.

Those who seek lots of coffee in a hurry will love the quick brew cycle of this coffee maker. The Bunn Velocity Brew BT drip coffee maker with its stainless steel-lined thermal carafe whips up a large coffee pot of joe at astonishing speed. In as little as 3 minutes, 33 seconds, the coffee maker can deliver full batches of tasty drip to drink.

Read our Bunn Velocity Brew BT review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

It’s hard to find a coffee maker that beats the KitchenAid Siphon Brewer’s unique combination of spectacle and quality. It makes a coffee pot of distinctly rich, deep and seductively flavorful coffee. Its vintage brewing process, based on vapor pressure and vacuum suction, is also mesmerizing to watch. No paper filters needed as the Siphon Brewer comes with a reusable stainless steel filter.

Read our Kitchenaid Siphon Coffee Brewer review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Think of this kitchen appliance as the Swiss army knife of the drip coffee maker world. The Ninja programmable brewer (with frother, thermal carafe and reusable filter) offers an uncanny degree of flexibility, making it the best coffee maker for those who don’t always want the same cup. It can create everything from solid drip, to perfect cold brew, to iced coffee, to latte-style drinks with its milk frother, and it will adjust the temperature according to your choice. Its thermal carafe will keep tea or coffee hot up to two hours. This programmable coffee maker even lets you brew iced coffee and hot coffee in multiple sizes, from small cups all the way up to full carafes.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Cold brew coffee is delicious, but it can be a pain to make. Oxo’s cold brew coffee maker takes much of the headache out of the process. This Oxo Brew coffee maker saturates coffee grounds evenly and lets you drain cold brewed coffee from them into its glass carafe with relative ease.

Read our Oxo Cold Brew Coffee Maker review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Delicious coffee and great tasting drip from a product that costs just $15? It sounds unlikely but that’s just what the affordable Oxo Good Grips Pour-Over offers. It only makes coffee one drink at a time and requires you to provide the hot water. That said, the simple brewer transforms the otherwise complex task of pour-over into one that’s easy, clean and almost foolproof.

Read our Oxo Good Grips Pour-Over Coffee Maker review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Judging by the Ratio Eight appliance, the people at Ratio believe that a coffee maker should be beautiful as well as functional. Starting at $495, each brewer is crafted from a selection of premium materials like walnut, mahogany and glass. (Both the water reservoir and carafe are made from hand-blown glass.) Their sturdy aluminum bases are available in numerous finishes as well. And yes, the Ratio Eight with its glass carafe also makes excellent drip.  

Read our Ratio Eight review.

Megan Wollerton/CNET

Dutch company Technivorm has sold exceptionally good drip coffee makers for decades. Its Moccamaster KBT 741 drip coffee machine sports a design with clean lines and sharp angles that harkens back to 1968, the year the first Moccamaster hit stores. Retro design aside, the Moccamaster KBT 741 consistently puts out perfect freshly brewed coffee that will satisfy coffee connoisseurs. Its stainless steel thermal carafe also keeps its contents hot a full six hours.

Read our Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 review.

A note on testing coffee makers Evaluating the performance of a coffee maker is trickier than it might sound. The first step is to know what good drip coffee actually is. According to the Specialty Coffee Association, there are criteria critical to brewing quality java. Mainly these are brewing time and water temperature. Hot water should come into contact with grounds for no less than four minutes and no longer than eight. Additionally, the ideal water temperature range is between 197 degrees Fahrenheit (92C) and 205 degrees Fahrenheit (96C). To confirm how each coffee maker meets that challenge, we log the length of their brew cycles. We also employ thermocouple heat sensors connected to industrial-grade data loggers. That enables us to record the temperature within the coffee grounds while brewing is underway. We measure the temperature inside the brewing chamber of every coffee maker we test.
Brian Bennett/CNET
After brewing coffee, we take sample readings of the produced coffee liquid with an optical refractometer. Given we factor in the amount of water and freshly ground coffee used, that data lets us calculate the Total Dissolved Solids percentage of each brew. From there we arrive at the extraction percentage. The ideal range is commonly thought to be between 18 and 20%. We also back up measured data with a good, old fashioned taste test. If the taste of a cup of coffee is bitter, there’s a good chance it was over extracted during the drip. On the opposite end, an under extracted cup of coffee will typically taste weak — it can even taste sour or have the flavor of soggy peanuts. And to be certain, we brew identical test runs a minimum of three times to achieve average results. More coffee recommendations

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Pope endorses civil union laws for same-sex couples

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