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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cooperation with NSA Closer Than Thought

A new document released by Edward Snowden shows that collaboration between tech companies and the NSA was much closer than either body indicated. For example, Microsoft actually helped the NSA circumvent the company’s own encryption codes to allow it to intercept web chats; via Skype, it helped Prism to collect video conversations as well as audio. Needless to say, both actions are in violation of each company’s privacy policy. Microsoft has previously directly denied involvement.

While this is not wholly surprising given recent revelations, the extent of Microsoft’s willingness to disclose its users’ information is disturbing. Microsoft gave the NSA direct access to its servers, then the NSA routinely showed material passing through Prism to the FBI and the CIA. One document even refers to their collective efforts as a “team sport.”

Fukushima Waste Hits Pacific

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) “strongly suspects” that radioactive groundwater is  leaking into to Pacific Ocean from the damaged Fukushima power station. Samples taken from monitoring wells show some radiation levels over 200 times the allowed limit. They also show the highest levels on record of cesium 134 and cesium 137, which are suspected of increasing the risk of cancer.

While the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), denied that any contaminated water has been leaking into the Pacific, but the NRA radiation levels in the monitoring wells and in the sea near the plant have the same high levels of radioactivity. The NRA’s chairman said he believed that irradiated water has been leaking into the Pacific ever since the 2011 accident.

Congress Still Disagrees on Everything

House Republicans rejected comprehensive immigration reform, insisting instead that they would be pursuing a ‘step by step’ approach. They did not give specifics, a timetable, or any mention of possible citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants on the Senate’s comprehensive bill. There is no sign yet that the House will even bring the Senate bill to the floor. If they do not, however, Nancy Pelosi could use a “discharge petition” to force the vote. House Republicans also removed the traditional funding for food stamps from the agricultural bill, despite President Obama’s veto threat.

Frustrated by the GOP’s refusal to confirm Obama’s cabinet nominees, Senator Harry Reid said he would recommend that the Democrats take the exceptional measure of barring the minority party from filibustering Presidential appointees. GOP Senators are now calling for a bipartisan meeting to stop Democrats from taking the so-called “nuclear option.” It’s more likely, however, that Reid is simply using the threat as leverage to get Obama’s nominees confirmed.

Morsi Sabotaged

No more gas shortages. No more power cuts. The police are back on the streets. And Mohamed Morsi is no longer president. Most of the personnel at these crucial public institutions held their positions under dictator Hosni Mubarak and members of the old establishment helped organize and fund those who wanted to oust Morsi. These sudden improvements amid ongoing turmoil suggest that Morsi may have been undermined.

The Muslim Brotherhood vowed to keep peacefully resisting the coup; the United States called Morsi’s government undemocratic and claimed it was too early to tell if there had been a coup. Meanwhile, Egypt’s food stocks are dwindling. It has less than two months’ supply of imported wheat left.


Srebrenica Re-Buries Genocide Dead

On the 18th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, tens of thousands gathered for the re-burial of 409 newly-identified victims. Srebrenica was the site of the worst mass killings in Europe since World War II; in 1995, Bosnian-Serb forces massacred 8,000 Muslim inhabitants and bulldozed them into mass graves.

An appeals court at the UN’s Yugoslav war crimes tribunal reinstated a charge against Radovan Karadzic, who allegedly masterminded the Srebrenica genocide. This genocide charge (Srebrenica is the other) relates to whether or not there was ‘genocidal intent’ in killings allegedly carried out by Bosnian Serbs at the start of the war. Karadzic now faces 11 charges, including accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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