- By Blake Hounshell
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.
The posting of pictures purporting to be from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s private jet set off a small furor in Russia today, and somebody may be in big trouble with Vlad’s security people. The photos were uploaded to the Livejournal account of somebody nicknamed “hectop,” and then later linked by ür-blogger Mark Frauenfelder at Boing Boing. They show that someone, if not Putin himself, really likes burled walnut paneling and gold accents:
I did some digging to try and verify whether these photos are legit, and here’s what I’ve found so far. Putin’s plane, an Ilyushin 96-300, was refurbished back in 2001 by a firm in Bristol in the United Kingdom known as Diamonite Aircraft Furnishings Ltd for £10m. Diamonite’s preliminary drawing (pdf) from the time looks an awful lot like the style of the plane’s conference room in one of the leaked photos, so they could well be real:
Kommersant, an online Russian daily, reports that after a Russian newspaper’s republication of the photos, “Russian special services have shown interests [sic] to the blog which posted the pictures.”
The person who posted the snapshots insists that they show Putin’s aircraft. He declined to name the source. Speaking to Kommersant, the man introduced himself as Yury and said he lives in the United States. Yury says that Russian intelligence services have shown interest to the pictures as he has noticed their e-protocols in his blog. “I emailed them to give information about these pictures,” he told Kommersant. “It’s up to them whether to give it to Voronezh Aircraft or not.
Voronezh Aircraft’s director general said the information about “such a top-security objective as the president’s aircraft ought to be closely guarded.”
And we know what happens when Russian special services show interests in individuals. What started out as poking fun at Putin’s grotesque taste could well end up getting someone in deep trouble. As for Putin himself, it’ll be interesting to see if the Russian public reacts to the photos like some Venezuelans did back in 2002, when they discovered the luxuriousness of Hugo Chávez’s own private IL-96-300.