"Ali Soufan, a 43-year-old US citizen, worked as a special agent for the FBI until 2005 as part of its efforts to combat terrorism. In March 2002, he and a colleague were the first to interrogate Abu Zubaydah, who at that point was considered the most important al-Qaida prisoner held by the Americans. Because Soufan was born in Lebanon and speaks Arabic, and because he could quote the Koran during questioning, he was able to build up trust with the prisoner.
He was able to glean extensive information from Zubaydah. Nevertheless, the CIA still chose Zubayadah as the first prisoner on whom to test its "enhanced interrogation techniques". He was forced to undergo waterboarding and other cruel measures at least 83 times. In the prison where Zubaydah was interrogated, Soufan met James Mitchell, one of the two highly controversial men behind the CIA interrogation programs. In protest over the torture methods, Soufan left Guantanamo in the summer of 2002."
Fátima’s son, José, was severely malnourished. At two years of age, he was so small that Fátima wasn’t able to buy him shoes. For months Dr. Felipe, CREN’s paediatrician, tried relentlessly to fight off José’s recurrent infections with antibiotics and anthelmintics, without any success. One day, Dr. Felipe decided to visit the family home. Here he identified the main cause of José’s non-stop infections: the neighbours’ open-air sewage passed in front of Fátima’s house. This was barefoot José’s playground. Assuming that the family were too poor to find a permanent solution, Dr. Felipe suggested to lay planks of wood on top of the most contaminated areas in order to decrease José’s exposure to infections. Fátima “woke” up to the doctor’s suggestion and actively searched for resources, something that she had never done before. She decided to restructure her whole shack (barraco) and also bought a new sofa. The following month she went to tell Dr. Felipe: “Now my shack is beautiful.”
"IT WAS JUST BEFORE DAWN when 18 police officers poured out of an armored truck and an unmarked white van at the Laurel Park apartment complex on the outskirts of Atlanta. A few days earlier, a confidential informant reported seeing “a brown skinned black male” with “a small quantity of a green leafy substance.” The 22-year-old suspect, paroled for forging a check, lived in a small ground floor apartment with easy access. But the police didn’t plan on taking any chances."
Amid all the noise the Sony hack generated over the holidays, a far more troubling cyber attack was largely lost in the chaos. Unless you follow security news closely, you likely missed it. In a German report released just before Christmas(.pdf), hackers had struck an unnamed steel mill in Germany. They did so by manipulating and disrupting control systems to such a degree that a blast furnace could not be properly shut down, resulting in “massive”—though unspecified—damage.
This is "only" the second confirmed case in which a wholly digital attack caused physical destruction of equipment. The first case, of course, was Stuxnet, the sophisticated digital weapon the U.S. and Israel launched against control systems in Iran in late 2007 or early 2008 to sabotage centrifuges at a uranium enrichment plant. That attack was discovered in 2010, and since then experts have warned that it was only a matter of time before other destructive attacks would occur.
Industrial control systems have been found to be riddled with vulnerabilities, though they manage critical systems in the electric grid, in water treatment plants and chemical facilities and even in hospitals and financial networks. A destructive attack on systems like these could cause even more harm than at a steel plant.
It’s not clear when exactly the attack in Germany took place. The report, issued by Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (or BSI), indicates the attackers gained access to the steel mill through the plant’s business network, then successively worked their way into production networks to access systems controlling plant equipment. The attackers infiltrated the corporate network using a spear-phishing attack—sending targeted email that appears to come from a trusted source in order to trick the recipient into opening a malicious attachment or visiting a malicious web site where malware is downloaded to their computer. Once the attackers got a foothold on one system, they were able to explore the company’s networks, eventually compromising a “multitude” of systems, including industrial components on the production network.
A hundred ultra-wealthy liberal and conservative donors have taken over the political system. Do we have the guts to take it back? We are well past the point that anyone will be shocked or even surprised by how distorted our system of funding campaigns has become, but thanks to some excellent reporting by Ken Vogel at Politico, we now have some interesting new perspective.
We have reached a tipping point where mega donors completely dominate the landscape. The 100 largest donors in the 2014 cycle gave almost as much money to candidates as the 4.75 million people who gave $200 or less (and certainly that number goes from “almost” to “more” if we could include contributions that are not required by law to be disclosed).
More dying Americans than ever now spend their last days in the care of a hospice, a service that offers a gentle alternative to a hospital setting. Hospice providers give comfort to the terminally ill, often in their homes. The promise is of a dignified death, surrounded by loved ones.
Someone’s finally doing something about Twitter’s gendered harassment problem. There’s just one problem: it isn’t Twitter. Yesterday, Women, Action & the Media (WAM!), a nonprofit group that addresses gender issues in the media, announced that they have partnered with Twitter to “cut down on the harassment of women” on the social media platform.
The largest single repository of human genetic data in the world is not at any university, research institute, or pharmaceutical company. It sits on the servers of the consumer genomics company 23andMe and consists of data from 820,000 individuals.
The company was well on its way toward its stated goal of 25 million people’s DNA when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered the company to stop selling its $99 “Personal Genome Service” kit in late 2013. The FDA claimed that its decision would benefit consumers, but instead it challenged the fundamental right of individuals to access their genetic information. The questions around personal medical data are only growing more complicated, as 23andMe’s latest move illustrates.
Its my Friday lay day – which means I don’t write as much as I usually do and perhaps focus on different issues to my normal considerations. Remember back to 2007. In March 2007, an Australian citizen named David Hicks pleaded guilty to charges that he intentionally provided material support or resources to an international terrorist organisation engaged in hostilities against the United States. It set in place his return to Australia after he was illegally detained by the US, tortured and incarcerated at the Guantanamo Bay gulag without trial for more than five years, and deprived of his rights as an Australian citizen by the very government that is entrusted with defending our rights – our own Federal government. Upon his return to Australia he was incarcerated for a period of 9 months before being finally released. Today, the ABC news report (January 23, 2015) – US agrees David Hicks is innocent, lawyer says – reported that the US government has admitted that David Hicks was not guilty of any crime and a full pardon will be forthcoming. Why is this important?
Today, we read:
The United States has agreed that former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Australian David Hicks, is innocent ,,, [and] … the government did not dispute his innocence and also admitted that his conviction was not correct.
Dionisio Diaz takes a seat inside the Evangelical Christian Assembly Church at an office park in Doraville, an Atlanta suburb. It’s been another six-day week working for a landscaping crew, mowing lawns and pruning shrubs. The 37-year-old undocumented immigrant from Guatemala clutches a Bible and joins dozens of worshipers belting out a hymn in Spanish.
Fox News consistently pushes fears of government "land grabs" surrounding environmental regulations. But the network celebrated the recent court decision allowing TransCanada to force construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on private land -- with no mention of the threat to landowner rights.
The Nebraska Supreme Court recently overturned a lower court ruling that would have protected the property rights of landowners who do not want the Keystone XL pipeline built on their land and fear that a spill could devastate region's drinking water and agriculture-based economy. As CBS reported, the ruling upheld a 2012 law allowing Canadian oil firm TransCanada to "seize property using eminent domain from any landowners who deny the developer access." A majority of Nebraska's Supreme Court -- four of the seven judges -- actually voted that the statute authorizing TransCanada's use of eminent domain was unconstitutional, but that fell just short of the supermajority (of at least five judges) necessary to make such a ruling.
Bob McDonnell, the disgraced ex-governor of Virginia, appealed for the mercy of the court, and he received it. A former Presidential prospect with a career in state politics, McDonnell, along with his wife, Maureen, was convicted in September of trading the powers of his office for loans, shopping sprees, golf trips, a Rolex, and use of a Ferrari and a country home—a pattern that unfolded in the course of eleven months, netting his family a range of pleasures worth a hundred and seventy-seven thousand dollars, until federal prosecutors took notice.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich will roll out “responsible” tax plans that protect against revenue gaps. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Arizona’s new Republican governor are delaying big dreams of nixing the income tax as they face budget shortfalls. And Missouri Republicans, once jealous of their neighbor Kansas’ massive cuts, are thankful they trimmed less.