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> Better Living through Chemistry, Salisbury - what's at Steak? (Stake! Salisbury steak - geddit?
post Mar 19 2018, 06:33 PM
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Every day, when I wake up, I thank the Lord I'm Welsh

Group: Committee Members
Posts: 2,941
Member No.: 496
Joined: February-14-03

From: Swindon, UK
Gender: Male
Politics: Liberal
Party affiliation: Other

Apologies for the headline punnery on what is a pretty serious topic (at least three lives are still in the balance).

So, anyway, as you may know, a Russian ex-double agent and his daughter (who remains a Russian citizen and was visiting from Russia) have been hospital in the UK in critical condition for the last 10 days or so. The first responder, a local policeman, was also hospitalised in a serious condition, though that condition seems to have now stabilised, though he his still an in-patient. The initial reaction was swift, with NBC-suited teams on site within hours.

Rumours circulated that day that some kind of nerve gas had been used, but early reports were vague. Within a few days, however, the official story was that a Soviet-era toxin called Novichok - an order of magnitude more potent than the Sarin gas used in a terror incident in Japan some years back - was responsible, and that the only source could have been Russia. It wasn't clear whether the official Russian state agencies had merely lost possession of a quantity of this substance, or whether they or their agents* had actively deployed it in an assassination attempt.

Conspiracy theorists on both sides have conjectured as to the possible motivation.

At one end, Western commentators have wondered whether Vladimir Putin wished to stage a confrontation with a (still, in our diminished state) powerful enemy to demonstrate his willingness to defend Russian interests (and ability to portray the incident that way) to a Russian domestic audience and build a more impressive victory in yesterday's Russian presidential election. Or whether, as part of a wider Russian campaign of leveraging perceive weak points in Western states (social media, economic inequality, concerns about globalisation and immigration, and many others), Putin is merely sowing dissent and disinformation to keep the attention of his rivals away from his and Russia's wish for greater world influence by whatever means.

At the other end, others (mostly Russians, that I've heard advance the idea) argue that this is a Western false flag operation; that a British government bogged down by Brexit-induced problems of their own making have engineered a confrontation with Russia to distract attention from their own incompetence and untie a divided people behind resistance to an external threat, at the potential cost of a couple of lives, and foreign ones at that.

At the same time, and for some time, the FBI have been attempting to investigate accusations that the Trump campaign used Russian money and a Russian-enabled (or even Russian-led) social media campaign to 'steal' the 2016 Presidential election in the USA, and may still have nefarious links to hostile foreign actors.

And, linked to that (and to Brexit, and - it sometimes seems - to pretty much everything that the liberal Establishment dislikes about modern politics), a tech firm called Cambridge Analytica is in the process of being investigated (by journalists, so far, but if they're right, law enforcement officers won't be far behind) for 'stealing' data from Facebook and using it to manipulate social media in favour of Western electoral campaigns that both paid them and were politically suited to their funders. Link to the story

Questions for debate:

Who do you think caused the Salisbury Novichak attack, and why?

What is behind the Cambridge Analytica story, and why?

Are the two threads linked by the person of Vladimir Putin? Is as much of a Bond villain archetype as he may appear to be?
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