Animals Spies are Back!

Six years after enraged Egyptians caught and imprisoned a spy bird (and later released, killed, and ate it), animals moonlighting as spies are back in the news.

Back at the end of April 2019, Norwegian fishermen became intrigued by a white Beluga whale that was wearing a harness and harassing their boats. Experts have come to believe that the whale has possibly been trained by the Russian navy to do something, though that something is still the subject of debate. Is it a spy whale, a whale saboteur, or a whale trained to disrupt shipping lanes?

Martin Biuw of the Institute of Marine Research in Norway and Audun Rikardsen of the Arctic University of Norway both cite the Russian navy as the likely master of the spy whale.

Whatever type of nefarious training it is, one thing is clear…the whale is kind of cute. And the fishermen don’t seem too threatened by it. No word yet whether the Norwegians have eaten the whale…

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The Oncoming Filipino-Canadian Trash War

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte is threatening to start a war against Canada if Canada does not take back trash that was shipped to Manila by a private company five years ago.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte waving hello to Canada

According to news reports, the Canadian company, Chronic Plastics, “reportedly shipped 103 containers holding 2,450 tons of trash between 2013 and 2014. While they were labeled as recyclable plastics, Philippine inspectors found them to not be recyclable.” Surprise surprise! North Americans do not know how to properly sort their trash!

The trash now sits in long-abandoned shipping containers sweltering in the heat. Local news reports say there could be “as much as 2,500 tons of trash in 103 shipping containers.”

One of the shipping containers of Canadian trash

To be fair, the Philippines has been complaining to Canada about the trash ever since the containers were opened. During a visit to Manila in 2015, local reporters asked Trudeau about the garbage, and Trudeau replied that “a ‘Canadian solution’ was in the works and he vowed to make legislative changes to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.”

In June 2018, the Philippines’s Office of the Ombudsman ruled against Chronic Plastics, finding that it shipped the cargo without proper import clearances. The company stated that the contents were recyclable plastics, but in actuality, they contain old wires, CDs, used plastic cups and soiled adult diapers and other reeking household trash, making them worthless as recyclables.

Still you have to wonder what Duterte’s usual histrionics will accomplish, other than to boost his own domestic support. The Philippines should take the case to the World Court at the Hague since the Basel Convention, to which Canada is a signatory, was made to reduce trash being sent from developed to developing countries.

Mexican/Korean leads raid of North Korean ’embassy’ in Spain

A mysterious raid on a North Korean diplomatic compound in Madrid (which serves as its embassy) has been blamed on an equally mysterious Mexican/Korean individual. Spanish authorities are pointing to Adrian Hong Chang as the leader of the raid that took place on February 22. According to El Pais, “The 35-year-old is a US resident with a Mexican passport who ‘owns several dubious companies and is in contact with various intelligence services.’”

Hong Chang is a known critic of Kim Jong Un’s regime who has testified against North Korea in front of the Canadian Senate in 2016. Hong Chang also started a NGO called Liberty in North Korea that has helped North Koreans defect. More recently, Hong Chang identified himself as the president of the Joseon Institute, a thinktank devoted to preparing for a post-Kim North Korea.

Hong Chang giving the ubiquitous TED talk

In the Feb 22 raid, the perpetrators tied up the occupants of the compound, struck one or more of them, and stole hard drives and documents. A group named Cheollima Civil Defense (CCD) took responsibility for the raid. The same group also helped the son of Kim Jong Nam go into hiding after Nam, Un’s older half-brother, was killed by women hired by North Korean agents at the airport in Kuala Lumpur in 2017. After the raid, Hong Chang contacted the FBI and passed over information taken from the diplomatic compound.

Most of his fellow suspects are said to be South Korea. The Spanish authorities have issued international arrest warrants for the suspects.

The North Korean diplomatic compound in Madrid was raided on Feb 22

So why target the North Korean compound in Spain of all places? Could it be a provocation against North Korean government’s most well known foreign employee, the Special Representative of the Foreign Ministry of North Korea, Alejandro Cao de Benós.

As we’ve described in past entries (we’re still in the process of adding our archives to the new site), Alejandro is a Spaniard who used to cosplay with other European weirdos in North Korea military uniforms. He used his IT expertise to build websites for the North Korean foreign ministry and they finally hired him as a plenipotentiary to represent the regime overseas. Alejandro currently lives in Spain and visits North Korea a couple of times a year. Perhaps the Madrid raid was an attempt to embarrass Alejandro or hurt his standing with the Kim regime.

Is it a signal? Iranian pol visits Japan while Pence tears into regime

Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani visited Tokyo February 13 to celebrate the 90th anniversary this year of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Iran. While in Tokyo, Larijani held talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and several Diet members.

The timing couldn’t be more interesting: At the very same time that Larijani was in Tokyo, US Vice President Mike Pence was at a Middle East Security conference in Warsaw, excoriating the Iranian regime and pushing Europe to join the US in abandoning the Iran nuclear deal, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

As outlined in our last post about the Trump Nobel nomination, there has been a very one-way relationship between Abe and Trump. Abe kisses up to Trump, and Trump removes the US from the Trans Pacific Partnership. Abe kisses up to Trump some more, and Trump levies tariffs against Japan. Abe keeps it up, Trump keeps Abe in the dark on the US-North Korea summit. And then Trump has the gall to ask Abe to nominate Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize.

While Larijani was in Tokyo, he took the opportunity to criticize the US-led proceedings in Warsaw. That’s right – a prominent Iranian politician criticized US actions from the capital of one of the US’s closest allies.

Japan has long been caught between a rock and hard place when it comes to its relationship with Iran. On one hand, Japan is dependent upon its security relationship with the US. On the other hand, it needs cheap crude oil, and it imports plenty of that from Iran. Japan was one of a handful of countries that received a waiver from US sanctions to import oil from Iran in November, after the US withdrew from JCPOA.

Is the timing of Larijani’s visit a signal? After getting dogged so many times by Trump, despite his best efforts to buddy up to him, is Abe finally showing a back bone? Remember that when Trump outed Abe as his Nobel nominator (which generally is not done), someone leaked to the Japanese press the fact that the request originated from the White House. Maybe both of these are signs that Abe has had enough. After all, Trump is extremely unpopular in Japan.