Passport

What's Burma building in there?

This Google Earth image of a mysterious building in Northern Burma posted by the New America Foundation's Jeffrey Lewis on the Arms Control Wonk blog has been making the Internet rounds.

It may look like an Olympic-sized swimming pool, but the thing is huge -- 80 meters long on each side and seems to roughly match up with the Sydney Morning Herald's report of a Burmese nuclear reaction construction project. The Institute for Science and International Security has more.

No one seems to have a conclusive idea about what the thing is yet, but it does seem worth keeping an eye on. Via James Fallows, the Lowy Interpreter has a useful roundup of the latest Burma nuke speculation.

Passport

August: Russia's cruelest month

Big news stories (which is what we in the biz like to call events of unspeakable horror and human tragedy) have an annoying tendency to occur in the middle of August, when reporters are on vacation and fewer people are reading. These events also have a tendency to involve Russia. 

Via Power Vertical, RIA-Novosti has a list of Russian "August Surprises" since the end of the Cold War:

August 19, 1991 - Communist hardliners disgruntled at Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms launch an unsuccessful coup attempt that leads to the break-up of the Soviet Union.

August 14, 1992 - The Georgian-Abkhazian war begins, with the conflict involving large numbers of Russian citizens.

Early August 1994 - The notorious MMM pyramid scheme collapses, leaving millions of Russians without their life-savings, a sum believed to be up to $1.5 billion.

August 24, 1995 - The Russian interbank credit system breaks down, leading to the ruin of 28 Russian banks.

August 29, 1996 - A Russian Tupolev TU-154 crashes over the Arctic Ocean, all 141 people on board die.

August 17, 1998 - The Russian government defaults on its foreign and domestic debt and the ruble loses two-thirds of its value in the next four weeks.

August 7, 1999 - Chechen fighters invade Dagestan, signaling the start of the second Chechen war.

August 8, 2000 - A bomb explodes in a pedestrian underpass in central Moscow killing 13 people.

August 12, 2000 - The Russian nuclear submarine Kursk sinks in the Barents Sea; all 118 sailors on board die.

August 8, 2002 - Floods and strong winds kill 59 people in the Russian Black sea city of Novorossiisk.

August 19, 2002 - A military Mi-26 helicopter is shot down over Chechnya, 126 servicemen die.

August 1, 2003 - A suicide bomber attacks a military hospital in the Russian North Ossetia town of Mozdok, killing over 50.

August 24, 2004 - Two Russian passenger planes are blown up by Chechen terrorists, over 90 people die.

August 31, 2004 - A Chechen suicide bomber blows herself up outside Moscow's Rizhskaya metro station, killing 10. The next day, September 1, sees the start of the Beslan school siege.

August 21, 2006 - Nationalists explode a bomb at Moscow's Cherkizovo market, killing 13.

August 22, 2006 - A Russian Tu-154 plane crashes in Ukraine, 170 lose their lives.

August 8-12, 2008 - Russia and Georgia fight a war over South Ossetia after Georgian forces attempt to bring the republic back under central control.

Perhaps the Kremlin might consider adopting Slate editor David Plotz's modest proposal.