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Monday, June 10, 2013

Edward Snowden Revealed as NSA Whistleblower

The whistleblower behind the biggest leak in US intelligence history has been revealed as 29-year-old Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant at the CIA and currently an employee at defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. He had access to files at the National Security Agency (NSA) as a contractor for the past four years working for contractors such as Booz Allen and Dell. He asked the Guardian newspaper to reveal his identity because he has “no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong”. In a note attached to the first set of documents leaked to the newspaper, he said he understood he would suffer for his decision, but that his “sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them”. He chose to flee to Hong Kong because the city has “a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, but some analysts doubt China would hesitate in handing him back to US authorities. He checked out of his hotel room on Monday.

Syrian Army Preparing for Assault on Aleppo

Syrian government forces are said to be preparing to attack Aleppo, a city in the north of the country that has been held by rebels since last year. The Syrian military is looking to build on the capture of Qusair, a border crossing in the Golan Heights, in an attempt to cut rebel supply lines. Opposition activists have told the BBC that Syrian troops had been sent to the north-west of the city in anticipation of the attack, dubbed “Operation Northern Storm”. A security source said the battle would “start in the coming hours or days, and its aim is to reclaim the towns and villages in the province”. A rebel commander speculated the government troops would be bolstered by Hezbollah activists and Shia militants from Iraq. “The regime considers that it has received a shot in the arm after the Qusair battle, but they will find that it will not be easy to advance in Aleppo”, he said.

Nelson Mandela In ‘Serious but Stable Condition’

Ninety-four-year-old former South African president Nelson Mandela was in intensive care on Monday two days after being hospitalised in Pretoria with a recurring lung infection. A statement issued by the office of the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, said Mandela was “in a serious but stable condition” and that doctors were “doing everything possible to make him better and comfortable”. He was also said to be breathing on his own and with his wife Graça Machel at his side. His ailing health is a dominant topic in South Africa and headlines about his condition often stir up controversies. The Sunday Times published quotes from a longtime friend of the family, Andrew Mlangeni, where he suggested it was “time to let him go“. “You have been coming to the hospital too many times. Quite clearly you are not well and there is a possibility you might not be well again. Once the family releases him, the people of South Africa will follow. We will say thank you, God, you have given us this man, and we will release him too”, said Mlangeni.

Opportunity Rover Finds Evidence that Mars Was Habitable

The Opportunity rover, already in its 10th year on Mars, has found clay minerals in an ancient rock in Endeavour Crater. The find would suggest that neutral-pH water once flowed on the planet. “This is water you could drink. This is water that was probably much more favorable in its chemistry, in its pH, in its level of acidity, for things like prebiotic chemistry, the kind of chemistry that could lead to the origin of life. The fundamental conditions that we believe to be necessary for life were met here”, said Steve Squyres of Cornell University and principal investigator on the Opportunity team. The rover had already found signs of clay in other rocks, but nowhere near the concentration found on this specific rock, called “Esperance”. The current discovery echoes another made by the Curiosity rover, which found evidence that Mars could have supported microbial life in the past.

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