Archivo de la categoría: Around the world

Tony Mendez, CIA master of disguise who was the real “Argo” spy, dies

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Por Andrés Roche / Editor

Tony Mendez, the “Argo” spy who in 1980 smuggled U.S. hostages out of Iran during the embassy takeover, died Friday at an assisted-living center in Frederick, Md., at age 78. He had Parkinson’s disease

A CIA forgery artist and disguise master, Mendez once transformed a black agent and an Asian diplomat into a pair of white business executives, using masks that gave them an uncanny resemblance to the movie stars Victor Mature and Rex Harrison. Another time, he devised an oversize “jack-in-the-box” — a spring-loaded mannequin — that enabled a CIA source to sneak out of his car while a dummy popped up in his place.

Mendez, a 25-year veteran of the spy agency, was effectively in the business of geopolitical theater. Pulling techniques from magicians, movie makeup artists and even the TV show “Mission: Impossible,” he changed one person into another, transforming agents into characters with back stories, costumes and documents that helped them evade detection and avoid capture in foreign countries.

Appropriately for a man whose career seemed drawn from a Hollywood thriller, his greatest triumph hinged on a bogus sci-fi film, a sham production office in Los Angeles and a fake location-scouting expedition to Iran. Disguising himself as an Irish filmmaker, Mendez successfully smuggled six State Department employees out of Tehran during the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis, passing them off as a Canadian movie crew in a daring mission that formed the basis of the Oscar-winning movie “Argo” (2012).

Mendez was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the film.

A painter of impressionistic landscapes and outdoor scenes, Mendez was working as a draftsman when he was recruited by the CIA in 1965, and ran an art studio after he retired. “I’ve always considered myself to be an artist first,” he once said, looking back on his career, “and for 25 years I was a pretty good spy.”

After stints in Laos, India and the Soviet Union, he was serving as the CIA’s chief of disguise when the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was seized by a militant Iranian student group on Nov. 4, 1979. The attack came months after the Islamic revolution forced out the country’s leader, the Western-backed shah, and replaced him with the hard-line cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Sixty-six Americans, including six CIA officers, were taken hostage, while six other U.S. diplomats managed to evade capture and took shelter in the homes of two Canadians, ambassador Ken Taylor and embassy official John Sheardown.

In the 444 days that followed, the hostage crisis drew unflagging news coverage, crippled Jimmy Carter’s presidency and resulted in the deaths of eight service members during a failed rescue mission in the Iranian desert. Mendez completed his rescue operation Jan. 28, 1980, but it took one more year before the last 52 hostages were released, on the day of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in January 1981.

The idea for the “Canadian caper,” as Mendez’s mission came to be known, was born out of desperation. A specialist in “exfiltration,” the art of whisking people out of harm’s way, Mendez initially worked on a plan to free the American hostages by exchanging them for a dead body double of the shah, who was being treated for cancer in the United States.

That plan was nixed by the White House, according to a Wired magazine account by Joshuah Bearman, and when Mendez was promoted to chief of the agency’s Authentication Branch in December 1979, his efforts shifted to rescuing the six Canadian “houseguests,” as the American diplomats were euphemistically called. Their very existence was kept hidden from the public in an effort to protect them from the Iranians.

While one Canadian minister suggested the diplomats head for the Turkish border, possibly on bicycles, only a departure through the air seemed viable. Mendez just needed to settle on a story that would enable the escapees to board a plane. Schemes centered on teachers, crop inspectors and oil technicians all seemed flawed. So Mendez decided to “reverse the rules and create a distraction.”

“A cover should be bland, as uninteresting as possible, so the casual observer, or the not-so-casual immigration official, doesn’t probe too deeply,” he wrote in a 1999 memoir, “Master of Disguise.” His solution, the film gambit, was the opposite of bland — an idea so bold, he believed, that Iran would never consider that it might be fake.

Mendez called his friend John Chambers, a makeup artist who had won an honorary Oscar for his work on “Planet of the Apes,” gave Spock his pointy ears and had assisted the CIA on old assignments. With another makeup artist, Bob Sidell, who later worked on “E.T.,” they opened a production office in Los Angeles; created business cards for their fictional company, Studio Six Productions; and developed backstories and career histories for the six escapees.

Mendez and Chambers named their purported science-fiction film project “Argo,” for the raunchy punchline to a knock-knock joke and in a sly nod to the mythological ship that Jason used to retrieve the Golden Fleece. Advertisements in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter promoted the film as a “cosmic conflagration.”

With a Canadian passport in hand, Mendez flew to Tehran on Jan. 25, under the name Kevin Costa Harkins. (He chose an Irish identity, he later said, because the Irish are “nonthreatening” and “ubiquitous around the world.”) Supported by a second CIA agent known as Julio, he spent a few days preparing the six diplomats, teaching them their new identities – including as a cameraman and set designer – and preparing them for potential interrogations at the airport.

Before dawn on Jan. 28, they headed to Tehran Mehrabad International Airport for an early Swissair flight to Zurich. After being delayed for an hour because of a mechanical problem, the flight took off and cleared Iranian airspace, leading Mendez to celebrate by ordering a bloody mary and delivering a toast: “We’re home free.”

The diplomats returned to a heroes’ welcome in the United States, where Canadian flags were flown from town halls, and billboards reading “Thank you, Canada” cropped up around the country. Mendez met with Carter in the Oval Office and received the Intelligence Star, one of the CIA’s highest honors. But his and the CIA’s role in the rescue operation was concealed until 1997, when Mendez was honored as one of 50 “trailblazers” who shaped the agency’s first 50 years.

Antonio Joseph Mendez was born in Eureka, Nevada, on Nov. 15, 1940, to a mixed-heritage family (Italian, Mexican, Welsh) that he later credited with helping him blend in around the world. He was 3 when his father died in a copper-mining accident; his mother worked several jobs.

The family had little money, and Tony contributed by digging up bat guano in caves, loading it onto a toy wagon and selling it to his Mormon neighbors as fertilizer, $1 per gunny sack. He sometimes dated his covert operations experience to an incident in which he posed as a girl to gain entrance to a couples-only school dance.

Mendez graduated from high school in Denver and, unable to cover tuition, quit the University of Colorado after one year. He was an illustrator at Martin Marietta, drawing parts for an intercontinental ballistic missile, when he saw a help-wanted ad in a newspaper: “Artists to Work Overseas — U.S. Navy Civilians.” Consumed by wanderlust, he went to interview and was handed a CIA recruitment guide.

Mendez retired in 1990 with a rank equivalent to that of a two-star general. He wrote several memoirs including “The Master of Disguise,” co-authored with Malcolm McConnell. The book, along with Bearman’s article in Wired, served as the source material for “Argo,” which won the Oscar for best picture. (It took some liberties with the facts, Mendez said, including adding a chase scene and writing out two of his children.)

Mendez’s first wife, Karen, died of lung cancer in 1986. In 1991 he married Jonna Hiestand, an expert on clandestine photography who also served as the CIA’s chief of disguise. In addition to his wife of Reston, Virginia, who confirmed his death, survivors include two children from his first marriage, Amanda Mendez of Smithsburg, Maryland, and sculptor Toby Mendez of Knoxville, Maryland; a son from his second marriage, Jesse Mendez of Charleston, West Virginia; several sisters; and two grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son from his first marriage, Ian Mendez.

Makeup, Mendez often said, was typically one of the easier parts of developing a disguise. Behavioral tics needed to be adjusted, credible backstories invented.

“There are occasions when you’re getting ready to put your name on the hotel ledger,” he told The Washington Post in 2000. “You’ve got reservations made for you in an alias. You’ve just flown 10 hours. There’s that moment when you put the pen down and you think, ‘Oh, jeez, what’s my name?’ ”

“Once you go into the netherworld like that, by yourself,” he added, “it’s like going into another dimension. It’s like being a time traveler. How do you get back?”

/ Méxicodigital noticias

Mérida, Yuc. 23/12/19

🔴NASA Confirmed landing of #Startliner spacecraft at 7:58am ET – Live exclusive video

LANDING CONFIRMED

The #Startliner spacecraft safely touched down at 7:58am ET at

WSmissile range in New Mexico with a bulleye landing. This marks the 1st time an American-made, human-rated capsule has landed on land.

Watch our live coverage: exclusive video…🔽📶🅾Ⓜ

Live VIDEO from NASA SPACE MISSION CONTOL CENTER:

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Latest Photos as SUNDAY 22 0630 hours Central Time

NASA.gov brings you the latest news, images and videos from America’s space agency, pioneering the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.

Origen: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Domingo 22, Diciembre del 2019

Roberto Medina /mexicodigital

Mérida, Yuc.

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A Billion Surveillance Cameras Forecast to Be Watching Within Two Years

https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-billion-surveillance-cameras-forecast-to-be-watching-within-two-years-11575565402?reflink=share_mobilewebshare

A Trader Who Lost $19 Million Wins $1.4 Million Payout Over His Dismissal

A former trader at BNP Paribas SA’s investment banking arm in the U.S. who was fired over a one-day 17.3 million-euro ($19 million) loss, won nearly 1.3 million euros in an unfair-dismissal lawsuit.

The Paris court of appeals said that Lionel Crassier, the bank’s former U.S. head of equities, was unduly punished twice by BNP. The judges ruled he was unfairly fired after the bank had already sanctioned him for the trading loss by abruptly recalling him from New York.

Labor lawsuits are a rare opportunity to glean details on trading disasters. Last year, BNP lost a separate case in Paris after demoting its former global head of foreign exchange arbitrage over a 2.7 million-euro loss he suffered during his first month on the job. Even the country’s biggest trading loss ended with Jerome Kerviel briefly winning 455,500 euros before that unfair-dismissal award was overturned last year.

Crassier’s dismissal letter, cited in the ruling, says the 17-year veteran built up a trading position on March 26, 2012, comprising 65,000 mini futures that exceeded his 100 million-euro overnight limit and generated the $19 million loss at market close.

 Crassier failed to react that day when BNP Paribas Securities Services, “surprised” by the volume, contacted him. It was only after his boss reached out that the former trader provided explanations, according to the dismissal letter.

“You acknowledged having focused on volume, rather than the total value of your positions and without monitoring your P&L in real time, which is proof of your poor analysis and a flagrant lack of vigilance,” BNP said in the letter, in reference to his portfolio of trades. “Your behavior is unacceptable.”

Officials at BNP said the bank doesn’t comment on court cases, when asked about the Nov. 26 ruling. A lawyer for Crassier declined to immediately provide a comment.

Full article….

<a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-29/bnp-trader-fired-over-19-million-loss-wins-1-4-million-lawsuit">https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-29/bnp-trader-fired-over-19-million-loss-wins-1-4-million-lawsuit</a>

Charges of Ukrainian Meddling? A Russian Operation, U.S. Intelligence Says – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Republicans have sought for weeks amid the impeachment inquiry to shift attention to President Trump’s demands that Ukraine investigate any 2016 election meddling, defending it as a legitimate concern while Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of pursuing fringe theories for his benefit.

The Republican defense of Mr. Trump became central to the impeachment proceedings when Fiona Hill, a respected Russia scholar and former senior White House official, added a harsh critique during testimony on Thursday. She told some of Mr. Trump’s fiercest defenders in Congress that they were repeating “a fictional narrative.” She said that it likely came from a disinformation campaign by Russian security services, which also propagated it.

In a briefing that closely aligned with Dr. Hill’s testimony, American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election, according to three American officials. The briefing came as Republicans stepped up their defenses of Mr. Trump in the Ukraine affair.

The revelations demonstrate Russia’s persistence in trying to sow discord among its adversaries — and show that the Kremlin apparently succeeded, as unfounded claims about Ukrainian interference seeped into Republican talking points. American intelligence agencies believe Moscow is likely to redouble its efforts as the 2020 presidential campaign intensifies. The classified briefing for senators also focused on Russia’s evolving influence tactics, including its growing ability to better disguise operations.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/22/us/politics/ukraine-russia-interference.html

From The New York Times.

SpaceX launched 60 satellites from: Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX Twitter

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STARLINK MISSION. On Monday, November 11 at 9:56 a.m. EST, 14:56 UTC, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station , Florida.

Video of launch & mission

https://www.spacex.com/webcast

WEBCAST MAGIC LINK

“All information and video provided by Space X “.

From Roberto Medina / mexicodigital


A constellation of satellites it’s beginning to be for by Elon Musk to form part of this great proyect.

The Legend of Anna: American Town Where Black People Weren’t Welcome After Dark

ProPublica Illinois is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force.

ProPublica.Org

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By Roberto Medina/mexicodigital

I GOT INTO TOWN JUST AFTER SUNSET. The lights were on at a place called the Brick House Grill, and if you were out on South Main Street on a Friday night in February, chances are, that’s where you were going. So I went in, too.

I took a seat at the bar. A man two stools over from me struck up a conversation. I told him I was a journalist from Chicago and asked him to tell me about this town. “You know how this town is called Anna?” he started. “That’s for ‘Ain’t No Niggers Allowed.’” He laughed, shook his head and took a sip of his beer.

The man was white. I am white. Everyone else in that restaurant in Anna was white.

Later that night, I realized what shook me most about our conversation: He didn’t pause before he said what he said. He didn’t look around the room to see whether anyone could hear us. He didn’t lower his voice. He just said it.

Full article…

https://features.propublica.org/illinois-sundown-towns/legend-of-anna/