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Thursday, December 5, 2013

NSA Tracking Cell Locations

The National Security Agency currently gathers almost 5 billion records a day on the locations of cell phones around the world according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden and interviews with US intelligence officials. The agency stores the movements of hundreds of millions of devices, meaning it can track individuals wherever they travel and retrace previous trips. Because cell phones transmit location data whenever they are turned on, regardless of whether they are being used, this information can be used to study patterns of behavior and reveal relationships between different users.

The NSA gets this data by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally, which inevitably include information from domestic cell phones. At this point, the NSA has collected about 27 terabytes of data, and the accumulation of data is “outpacing” the NSA’s ability to analyze the information. Clearly, the movements of the overwhelming majority of cellphone users is irrelevant to national security; only 1% of the data was useful to its anti-terror work.

UN Approves French Military Action in CAR

The UN Security Council has voted to allow French troops to join the African peacekeeping force in Central African Republic (CAR). The current contingent of 650 troops will be “doubled within a few days, if not a few hours.”

At dawn today, Christian fighters who oppose the current rebel coalition attacked Muslim neighborhoods in the capital, Bangui, with rifles and machetes, causing a day-long gun battle and leaving over 100 dead.

Medical personnel from Médicins Sans Frontiers said the harm to CAR civilians that they had witnessed was the worst they have seen in a decade.

Fast Food Workers Strike in Hundreds of Cities

Fast food workers nationwide staged a 24-hour strike in over 100 cities to protest their low wages. Organizers are demanding $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. The median wage in New York City is $8.89 an hour, the lowest of any occupation in the city. Real median wages for food service workers have risen a measly 10 cents since 1999, while the real value of the minimum wage has plummeted 22% since 1968.

President Barack Obama has voiced his support for raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10, but even if the Senate passes a bill to raise the minimum wage, the House of Representatives will almost certainly shoot it down.

Assault on Yemen’s Defense Ministry

A coordinated attack on Yemen’s defense ministry complex in the heart of the country’s capital, Sanaa, has left at least 52 dead and hundreds injured. A suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into the gate, while another carful of gunmen opened fire on another part of the complex, kicking off a fierce gun battle with the military. No groups have claimed responsibility, but the assault bears the hallmarks of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Nelson Mandela Dead

South African President Jacob Zuma has just announced that Nelson Mandela died today at age 95. The former South African president’s death ends one of the defining stories of the 20th century – the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

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