They can’t be serious

From the Washington Post:

From NBC news:

Jeffrey Epstein’s body has been claimed from the New York City medical examiner’s office, a source close to the investigation told NBC News on Wednesday.

Epstein, 66, was found dead by apparent suicide Saturday morning in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. The center’s warden has been temporarily reassigned, and the two guards assigned to watch Epstein have been placed on leave.

Epstein wasn’t on suicide watch at the time of his death, multiple people familiar with the investigation have told NBC News. […]

The person who claimed Epstein’s body was described only as an “Epstein associate.”

In the mood for war

Looks like world is gearing up for a major conflagration:

  • Israel is now striking Iranian military targets in Iraq (the first Israeli strike in Iraq since 1981).
  • China’s top official overseeing Hong Kong affairs has described the protests as a “color revolution” and apparently suggested that the PLA could be deployed.
  • India has decided to revoke the autonomous status of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir, a move that Pakistan deems illegal.
  • “Turkey has threatened to re-open the floodgates of mass migration to Europe unless Turkish nationals are granted visa-free travel to the European Union.”

Better get to work on that home fallout shelter…

A cosmic warning shot

Deep Impact 1998

Is the universe trying to tell us something?

Astronomers were shocked in recent days when an asteroid that some are calling a “city-killer” passed last week within 45,000 miles of Earth — spitting distance in astronomical terms.

Ground-side observers had been tracking a couple of celestial objects that were slated to cross near Earth’s orbit around the same time, but the hunk of space debris, estimated to be between 57 and 130 meters (187-426 feet) wide, was only detected hours before it streaked past Earth on Thursday.

Speaking with the Washington Post, Alan Duffy of the Royal Institution of Australia said that he “was stunned” and that the sudden appearance of the object, dubbed Asteroid 2019 OK, “was a true shock.” It passed “uncomfortably close,” he said. […]

According to Duffy, if it had hit “it would have gone off like a very large nuclear weapon.”

A step forward

Always impossible to know what’s going on behind the scenes, and results matter more than gestures, but this seems like a good thing. As the saying goes, jaw, jaw is better than war, war. And it’s not all theatrics; grand symbolic gestures can create political space for outcomes that would otherwise be hard to imagine.

I also view it as a positive sign that Mr. “Troika of Tyranny” was off in Mongolia during this event.

Bridge supremacy?

Staggering. Are they building a bridge, or a bunch of skyscrapers?

Another video.

Spectacular drone footage captures the world’s highest concrete bridge under construction. The main tower of the Pingtang Bridge in Southwest China’s Guizhou Province stands 332 meters, as tall as a 110-story building. It is scheduled for completion by the end of 2019.

But wait! It looks like France keeps the crown for world’s tallest bridge:

However, France’s Millau Viaduct, arguably the most photogenic bridge of recent times, has its tallest tower listed at 1,125 ft (343 m), which would put the Pingtang Bridge in second place should all things stay the same by the time the Pingtang Bridge is completed. And while “world’s tallest” may be in dispute, there is no dispute about who leads in the total number of tall bridges. Of the 101 tallest bridges listed on Wikipedia, China has a whopping 66!

More Chinese engineering marvels:

Project 501

Photo by Amos Chapple

Photo by Amos Chapple

No matter how bad I think the Soviet Union was, it always turns out to have been worse:

These haunting photographs reveal the rotting carcasses of Soviet gulags and a partially built railway where up to 300,000 prisoners died, with their remains still buried in the soil.

The horrific camps were strewn across the Siberian wilderness, just below and above the Arctic Circle, and the prisoners in them were forced to work on a train line dreamt up by Joseph Stalin – the Salekhard-Igarka Railway. His aides knew it was a pointless scheme mapped out in terrain that was impossible to work with, but dared not tell him.

More background on Project 501, aka Death Road:

Stalin conceived of an 806-mile-long rail line to run between the Siberian cities Igarka and Salekhard. Between the years 1947 to 1953, political prisoners were tasked with turning two separate projects into one massive bad idea. Working from the banks on the River Ob prisoners constructing the 501 Railroad’s struggled to unite their project with that of a separate team of prisoners who were actively dying as they laid ties and rails on their 503 Railroad. On either side of the tracks, wooden barracks (also built by the very prisoners they once housed) can still be seen crumbling into the low brush of the tundra. As the years wore on, progress was made with ever increased sluggishness. Supervisors also started to realize that demand waiting on the other side for the completed railroad verged on nonexistent.

When word reached the camps of Stalin’s death in 1953, all work on the tyrant’s insane pet project was put to an end, leaving the railway a simple straight line through the sparsely populated Arctic.