Reallife spy story Washingtonians describe life beside nowvacant Russia annex

first_imgWASHINGTON – To the neighbourhood gossips, the grand grey Russian building atop the hill was a goldmine.Now it’s empty.Amid escalating tensions, the U.S. government this month kicked Russians out of three diplomatic buildings, one of them an international-trade annex perched majestically atop a slope in Washington.Neighbours watched the exodus from the surrounding balconies. The Russians hauled out trash bags, and had one last barbecue behind the beaux-arts mansion. Only this time it wasn’t steak they were charring, but documents.The neighbours had often swapped stories that caused some to suspect they were living at the epicentre of a real-life spy-versus-spy showdown — a true, bricks-and-mortar version of the fictional rezidentura from TV’s Soviet espionage drama, “The Americans.”“I know that building well,” said David Major, a retired senior FBI executive, ex-counter-intelligence official, and now head of the C.I. Centre, which provides counter-intelligence training.“There’s a lot of little activities in Washington — what I call the hidden Washington that nobody knows. But if you’re in the spy business you know these little nooks and crannies.”He wondered whether there are still little wooden boxes up on its roof. There aren’t, he’s told. Well, he explained, there used to be some equipment for the Russians to communicate with satellites: “We have pictures of it.”Neighbours noticed a spike in other activities recently as international hostilities mounted.Cars started filling the parking lot at night. State-of-the-art surveillance cameras appeared above the street. Wi-Fi and cellphone signals started dropping — but only in rooms facing west, toward the Russian building.Then there was that burglar with no bag. On a January night, a neighbour spotted the hoodie-clad intruder on a fire escape.“He just sort of caught my eye,” said the neighbour, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of recriminations.“I’m like, ‘Wait, that looks like a guy up there… It actually is a guy.’”He shouted for the trespasser to leave. In a thick eastern European accent, the man replied that he’d climbed up there to hide from an assailant. Then, in a flash, he was gone.A snippet of what happened was captured on security video from next door. The man jumped off the fire escape onto the narrow top of a wooden fence, then pulled himself over another fence into an adjoining parking lot. Footage shows him sprinting through the nearby lot, tucking something into his hoodie.“He was pretty spry,” said the neighbour.Mark Stout, an ex-CIA Russia analyst and former intelligence officer, suggested the possibility that the man had been tending to eavesdropping gear.“He could have been doing something as simple as planting a battery,” Stout said. “That is an obvious place to surveil the Russians — and the Russians would be extremely interested in that.”Stout said he supports the U.S. government’s decision to close the buildings. He said the U.S. had no choice but to respond after the Russians ordered the U.S. to slash hundreds of staff in Moscow, following the U.S. expulsion of several dozen Russians.It’s far from the first such tit-for-tat dispute.Major described it as the third round of U.S.-Russia diplomat-tossing since the tail end of the Cold War — the others were in 1986 and 2001. He also floated some theories about the odd things witnessed by neighbours.An unusual number of cars in the parking lot? “Pre-positioning,” Major suggests: intelligence officers using a quiet, discreet spot with easy access to set their vehicles up before embarking on clandestine meetings.Then there’s the intermittent interruptions in wireless service.In the late-Victorian townhouses next door, neighbours used different internet and cellphone providers, but all had similar complaints about poor signals on the western side.Phone calls, videos, Bluetooth headphones — all would snap, crackle and pop in the rooms that faced the Russians.One neighbour says his internet access was twice as fast after the Russians left. Another noticed no difference.Added a third: “I think it’s a net positive they’re leaving.”Now the vacant property is guarded by American federal police. Linger too long in front at night, and they’ll shine a flashlight in your face.So what went on here? Major said he’s certain the building offered cover for Russian espionage activity.“(It’s) not likely — (it’s) for sure,” he said. “It’s been used for a base of human operations.”The Russians spread this activity spread around their different properties, to make it harder and costlier for the U.S. to monitor comings and goings.As for whether the neighbours were living at the nexus of another chapter in the Russian-American spy war? Not so much, he said.“No, no, no — (they’re) not the epicentre of anything,” he said. “It’s just another place in Washington (which) they use as a base for human operations.”The real ‘rezidentura’ — the true hotbed of U.S.-Russia spy games, said Major — is in a bigger building, on a taller hill, just north of Georgetown: the Russian embassy.last_img read more

Bringing an end to sex discrimination

first_imgAPTN InFocus In this episode we put Bill S-3 In Focus.That’s the legislation currently in front of the Senate that, if passed, will end sex discrimination in the Indian Act.Its aim is to restore full legal status to First Nations women and their children who were not eligible before.When that happens, thousands of people will become eligible for Treaty status.Reporter Todd Lamirande gave us an explanation as to what it means right now, and where the bill still has to go.And Jeannette Corbiere-Lavell came in studio to talk about the very first court case she launched challenging sex discrimination in the Act 47 years ago.Chief Rick O’Bomsawin of Odanak at the Akamaki First Nation in Quebec weighed in on the current court cases.And Donna Partridge joined us from Big Island Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan to talk about her struggles in getting her status.It’s a discussion not going away anytime soon, and it’s a discussion worthy of continuing.Subscribe to the APTN InFocus podcast below:last_img read more

Govts drive against black money brings Rs 3770 crore to its kitty

first_imgThe Indian government’s drive against black money to get back ill-gotten wealth stashed away by its citizens abroad has drawn responses from 638 declarants for total assets worth Rs 3,770 crore ($580 million), an official statement said on Thursday.The amnesty scheme ended on September 30. It called for a tax of 30% and an equal amount in penalty, which is to be paid before December 31. The compliance window had opened on July 1.The official statement said the actual quantum of declaration, under what is called the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, was subject to a final reconcilitaion.India has no official estimate about the quantum of black money stashed away by Indians abroad but unofficial estimates put the sum somewhere between $466 billion and $1.4 trillion.Even if the lowest estimate of $466 billion stashed away is taken into consideration, the amount declared as part of the drive is barely 1% of it.- With IANS inputslast_img read more

B3NO2 ring system serves as a versatile catalyst for amide bond formation

first_img This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. (Phys.org)—Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, such as graphene, have several potential uses as its π-conjugated structure lends itself to high stability and conductivity. Researchers are interested in exploring polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons with boron and nitrogen atoms in an effort to explore the functionality and potential uses for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Journal information: Nature Chemistry Amino acids formed from the single-electron activation of carbon dioxide One polyatomic six-member ring that has not been isolated and studied is 1,3-dioxa-5-aza-2,4,6-triborinane, or DATB. DATB has a core B3NO2 ring that evidences some aromatic character. Hidetoshi Noda, Makoto Furutachi, Yasuko Asada, Masakatsu Shibasaki and Naoya Kumagai of the Institute of Microbial Chemistry in Tokyo (Bikaken) isolated and analyzed DATB using an m-terphenyl template. They demonstrated its ability to catalyze the direct coupling of several carboxylic acids with a variety of amines. Their DATB catalyst is thermally stable, structurally planar, and does not undergo hydrolysis. Their work appears in Nature Chemistry.The m-terphenyl template came out of the necessity to combine the B-N-B fragment to the O-B-O fragment to make the 1,2-dioxa-5-aza-2,4,6-triborinane ring. Using a stepwise synthesis, the first compound they made had the m-terphenyl template attached to the B-N-B portion of the DATB and a phenyl group attached to the boron of the O-B-O portion. The other compound that resulted from their initial syntheses had another m-terphenyl attached to the boron in the O-B-O portion of DATB instead of phenyl.The presence of DATB was confirmed with multinuclear NMR, mass spectrometry, and single-crystal x-ray diffraction. Notably, the DATB portion is planar and it exhibited offset face-to-face pi stacking. Additionally, it displayed slight aromaticity based on bond length and showed resistance toward hydrolytic cleavage.The next step was to determine if the DATB derivatives were able to catalyze amide bond formation. Boron has an affinity for amines, making this compound a possible option for catalyzing the direct coupling of amines and carboxylic acids. Noda et al. tested a variety of carboxylic acids because one of the major setbacks with amine and carboxylic acid coupling is that current methods are not generalizable for a variety of carboxylic acids, particularly bulky carboxylic acids. They tested a range of acids and amines whose coupling reactions were successfully catalyzed using DATB. They found that their DATB derivative successfully catalyzed the amide bond formation for sterically bulky aliphatic and aromatic carboxylic acids. They also found that indole-containing substrates did not require a protecting group. And, their method worked with benzoic acid and primary amines, α-branched amines, cyclic secondary amines. Using higher temperatures, they successfully coupled α-tertiary amines and acyclic secondary amines to benzoic acid. Additionally, they showed that the stereochemistry of α-chiral carboxylic acids and α-chiral amines were maintained.Their DATB derivative also worked well in the presence of various functional groups showing that the catalyst displayed good selectivity. Additionally, Noda et al. tested the catalyst’s ability to make peptide bonds with amino acids and biologically relevant amines by coupling Bz-Val-OH with H-Leu-NH2.This catalyst is remarkably versatile compared to other catalysts used for amine-carboxylic acid coupling. The authors contend that this is due to the distinct mechanism in which the three Lewis acid sites on the DATB core are used to bind the carboxylic acid and the amine countering the entropy cost in forming the bond. Chemical space for six-membered heterocycles composed of B, C, N and O atoms and the structure of DATBs. Credit: (c) Nature Chemistry (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2708center_img Citation: B3NO2 ring system serves as a versatile catalyst for amide bond formation (2017, February 22) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-02-b3no2-versatile-catalyst-amide-bond.html More information: Hidetoshi Noda et al. Unique physicochemical and catalytic properties dictated by the B3NO2 ring system, Nature Chemistry (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2708AbstractThe expansion of molecular diversity beyond what nature can produce is a fundamental objective in chemical sciences. Despite the rich chemistry of boron-containing heterocycles, the 1,3-dioxa-5-aza-2,4,6-triborinane (DATB) ring system, which is characterized by a six-membered B3NO2 core, remains elusive. Here, we report the synthesis of m-terphenyl-templated DATB derivatives, displaying high stability and peculiar Lewis acidity arising from the three suitably arranged boron atoms. We identify a particular utility for DATB in the dehydrative amidation of carboxylic acids and amines, a reaction of high academic and industrial importance. The three boron sites are proposed to engage in substrate assembly, lowering the entropic cost of the transition state, in contrast with the operative mechanism of previously reported catalysts and amide coupling reagents. The distinct mechanistic pathway dictated by the DATB core will advance not only such amidations, but also other reactions driven by multisite activation. Explore further © 2017 Phys.orglast_img read more