The cartel’s IT guy screwed up

Tech support was among the many services that Cifuentes said he offered to Chapo. He testified that he sent a Colombian systems engineer named Cristián to set up an encrypted network for the cartel in the rugged mountains of Sinaloa. Cifuentes said Cristián hooked Chapo up with wireless internet and a custom network that offered “secure communications.”

Cifuentes appeared to be vigilant about digital security. Prosecutors showed the jury his detailed accounting records, which included items like “cellular inhibitors” and “microphone searchers” among his expenses. “You turn it on during a meeting and there’s no way anyone can tape it or send out anything,” Cifuentes said, describing one of the devices.

Being the Sinaloa cartel’s tech guru was not an easy job. Prosecutors played the jury excerpts of a taped phone call where Cristián complains about being scolded for the encrypted network being down. Another member of the Cifuentes clan, Jorge’s younger brother Alex, was living with Chapo in the mountains and apparently laying into Cristián about the service outage.

The irony was that authorities were only able to obtain the call because the men were forced to use conventional cellphones while their secure network was down. Cifuentes called Cristián “an irresponsible person,” and said the engineer screwed up by forgetting to renew the license on the software they had purchased.


The US embassy in Havana more than halved its staff in 2017 when diplomats complained of headaches, nausea and other ailments after hearing penetrating noises in their homes and nearby hotels.

The mysterious wave of illness fuelled speculation that the staff had been targeted by an acoustic weapon. It was an explanation that appeared to gain weight when an audio recording of a persistent, high-pitched drone made by US personnel in Cuba was released to the Associated Press.

But a fresh analysis of the audio recording has revealed what scientists in the UK and the US now believe is the true source of the piercing din: it is the song of the Indies short-tailed cricket, known formally as Anurogryllus celerinictus.

“The recording is definitively a cricket that belongs to the same group,” said Fernando Montealegre-Zapata, a professor of sensory biology at the University of Lincoln. “The call of this Caribbean species is about 7 kHz, and is delivered at an unusually high rate, which gives humans the sensation of a continuous sharp trill.”

The Wall

Stable. Genius.

WASHINGTON — Before it became the chief sticking point in a government shutdown drama that threatens to consume his presidency at a critical moment, President Trump’s promise to build a wall on the southwestern border was a memory trick for an undisciplined candidate.

As Mr. Trump began exploring a presidential run in 2014, his political advisers landed on the idea of a border wall as a mnemonic device of sorts, a way to make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration, which was to be a signature issue in his nascent campaign.

“How do we get him to continue to talk about immigration?” Sam Nunberg, one of Mr. Trump’s early political advisers, recalled telling Roger J. Stone Jr., another adviser. “We’re going to get him to talk about he’s going to build a wall.”


Years ago we took all our hundreds of CDs out of their jewel cases and put them in vinyl sleeves. This saved an enormous amount of space and weight when we were moving – what took tens of shelves to store now fit in a couple small boxes. And as we were doing that, we ripped a lot of those CDs to MP3, but not all.

And, for six years, music has been sitting in the closet, out of sight. Not out of mind. Wouldn’t that bother you? It bothered me, from time to time anyway. What am I missing? I never ripped that Buddy Miller CD? There was a persistent and bothersome hole in my digital collection exactly the same shape as that first full-length Sonic Youth record (which I can’t stand, but dammit, I know I have it) !

It bothered Mrs, too. A few months back, she went through the boxes of CDs, pulled out all of her stuff, ripped what she wanted and then threw them out. I cringed at the last step.

But this week I finally went through the remainder and ripped all the CDs that hadn’t been ripped already.

There were a lot fewer than I had imagined: 78 in all. I was expecting twice that. What wasn’t surprising was that there were very very few that I think I will ever listen to. The only thing really interesting thing to me was a Peel Session CD from The Cure that I bought at a dingy little basement record store in Aachen Germany, December ’88. Then there were the dozen classical CDs that my father must have dumped on me. There were several CDs of bands we saw once, while on vacation somewhere. CD singles from the early 90s. Junk from junk bands. Least-favorite records from favorite bands. Friends’ bands. CDs from bands I’d heard good things about then realized I’d been mislead.

But I ripped them all, because it would be wrong to have those 780 songs sitting in the closet, never even having a chance of being scrolled past in the Sonos app. Now I can see them and remember where and why I got them, even if I never want to hear them. Satisfaction abounds.

I can’t bring myself to throw the actual CDs out though. That feels like a sin.


That these two stories should pop up last week?

When French politician Marine Le Pen needed cash for her far-right party, an obscure Russian bank agreed to help.

Four years later, the bank has gone bust. The owner is facing a warrant for his arrest. Former Russian military officers are demanding money. And the party’s treasurer is sending off some $165,000 every few months to a woman in Moscow, unsure of where the payments ultimately will go.

The money failed to deliver Le Pen the French presidency in last year’s election, denying the Kremlin a powerful ally in the heart of Europe. Instead, the 9.4 million-euro loan, then worth $12.2 million, dragged her party into the shadowy underworld of Russian cross-border finance, putting it in league with people accused of having ties to Russian organized crime, money laundering and military operations.

The mysterious saga of the loan offers a rare look inside the Russian influence engine, demonstrating how people, companies and networks outside the Kremlin pursue President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy aims, often without a centralized plan.


This month’s three-page summary D.C. Circuit decision revealed a fairly dry set of legal issues that just might conceal a juicy core. The dry issues involved matters of jurisdiction and statutory interpretation fathomed only by elite appellate lawyers, but the potentially juicier underlying issues hinted of fascination: Somewhere, a corporation (a bank? a communications firm? an energy company?) owned by a foreign state (Russia? Turkey? Ukraine? United Arab Emirates? Saudi Arabia?) had engaged in transactions that had an impact in the United States and on matters involved in the special counsel’s investigation.

Intriguingly, the decision revealed that a regulator from Country A had filed a submission claiming that compliance with the subpoena would cause the Corporation to violate Country A’s law. So whoever Country A is, this matter captured its officials’ attention and prompted them to send filings to a faraway country to block the subpoena. Why does Country A care? And, what is it trying to hide?