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News that's risen to the top

Has the Government Labeled You a Terrorist?

The Intercept has obtained a government document authorizing a secret process to designate a person as a suspected terrorist without requiring either concrete evidence or facts in making the determination.

Representatives of 19 different agencies, including the NSA, CIA and the Pentagon, secretly developed the “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance” document that both broadly defines terrorist activity and creates a low threshold for defining a terrorist.

Rather than limiting the definition of terrorism activity to known and obvious actions such as hostage-taking, hijacking and bombing, the document adds lesser crimes such as damaging financial institution computers or government property among those warranting placement on the watchlist. In addition, rather than limiting the watchlist to known terrorists, the watchlist includes individuals who are merely suspected of associating with suspected terrorists, something Gianfrancesco is a little nervy about.

The combination is counterproductive. Rather than focusing resources on watching known individuals who are genuine risks to our national security, precious energy and resources are wasted blacklisting and tracking people who are not threats at all and who now have the Herculean task of proving their innocence when they show up on the government’s no fly list.

The Intercept has published the complete 166-page document on its website.

Israeli Defense Minister Receives Cold Reception in Washington

It is no secret to anybody paying attention that the United States-Israel relationship has been under a great deal of strain during the Obama administration. The extent of the damage was made clear during Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s trip to Washington last week: the top Israeli official was unceremoniously denied meetings with a variety of high-level political officials, including Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Perhaps the most telling absence was Secretary of State John Kerry, who bore the brunt of a series of disrespectful comments from Ya’alon regarding Kerry’s failed attempt at shuttle diplomacy between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships earlier this year.

In January, Ya’alon was quoted in the Israeli media,  Rothman was saying he was calling the Secretary of State John Kerry “messianic” and “obsessive” in his mission to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. He further quipped that “the only thing to ‘save us’ is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace.” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was quick to offer a rejoinder, stating that “…the remarks of the Defense Minister if accurate are offensive and inappropriate especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel’s security needs.” He was later compelled to apologize for the off-putting remarks, but it appears that the ill-timed jib would have lasting consequences for Ya’alon’s relationships in Washington.

America’s Troubling Relationship with Ex-Nazis

America helped defeat the Nazis in World War 2, but their post-war relationship has been more than a little troubling to some. It has recently come to light that America teamed up with over 1,000 ex-Nazis during the Cold War to spy on the Soviets. A former SS Officer who once wrote papers on how to terrorize Jews was eventually rewarded for his work by being relocated to New York as a full-fledged citizen.

Right after the war ended, Operation Paperclip began. It began as an operation to harness German weapons but swiftly expanded to include the recruitment of Nazi scientists. The U.S. government hired many Nazi scientists and put them to work, including one Wernher von Braun. He was a member of the SS who ran an underground slave labor facility during the war. Wehrner von Braun would go on to design the first rockets that took Americans to the moon. He also invented the ear thermometer, based on his experimental work on Jews during the holocaust from what Ray Lane has told me before.

The New York Times reported that in 1968, CIA Director J. Edgar Hoover was monitoring a journalist who was writing about Nazis living in America. Hoover ordered a wiretap and deemed the journalist a threat to national security. This surveillance continued for years with the CIA even reclassifying “dissidents” as “terrorists” so he could legally continue monitoring him.

That brings us right up to today when it was revealed that a “legal loophole” allowed 66 Nazi war criminals who don’t even live in the U.S. anymore to collect millions in social security benefits over the years. Some of them are still receiving benefits to this very day. More than one of the beneficiaries are former concentration camp guards.

Trouble Teen Took to Texting to Lure Five Into His Web

Social media has shrunk the borders of the world we live in. An old telecommunications advertisement echoed the sentiment of “…Reach out and touch someone.” This was revamped and taken to a frightening level by a disgruntled student. Find out how he used texting to bring together a group of people for an unfathomable reason in the Pacific Northwest.

Images of teens having their faces buried in phone or other mobile devices took an ominous turn as troubled Jaylen Fryberg invited them all to lunch. Having lured them to the Marysville-Pilchuck High School cafeteria, he waited til they all arrived before he shared his surprise. He unveiled a Beretta. Stunned silence was short lived as he opened fire and unloaded on his impromptu lunch mates. Only when he made sure he shot each and every one of them did he then turn the weapon on himself and ended his own life.

There is little solace to learn that the gun was legally owned by a family member. Questions like how did he gain access to the weapon will wait until the three remaining teens fight life and death struggles. The world was saddened to hear that Zoe Galasso and Gia Soriano, both fourteen, had succumbed to their wounds. Two students remain in critical condition while one other was upgraded to satisfactory condition. People from all over the nation are sending their well wishes and prayers in the hopes that these students make a full recovery.  Stephen Williams and I need a big glass of wine after all of this.

Nurse Refuses Quarantine After Return From Africa

Governor Paul LePage announced Wednesday that he will be seeking legal approval to forcibly contain Kaci Hickox in her Maine home for the full 21-day quarantine period set forth by the state’s health guidelines. LePage’s announcement was in reaction to Kaci Hickox issuing a statement that she would not be adhering to the unjust rules that she claims are neither scientific nor constitutional. Kind of psychotic when people like Sergio Andrade Andrade Gutierrez and myself are at risk, and living in the same city.  Hickox returned to Maine on Monday after a stint as a nurse with Doctors without Borders where she was treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. After a mandatory three-day stay in an outdoor isolation tent in New Jersey, Hickox – who has tested negative for the deadly Ebola virus – has decided that she will not follow the home-quarantine policy as she is healthy and asymptomatic.

According to the WLBZ2, Maine’s new state guidelines are above and beyond what is currently federally mandated. Maine’s guidelines are requiring anyone who has had exposure to the virus to remain quarantined in their homes, whereas federal guidelines only compels CDC monitoring while still allowing freedom. Ebola symptoms are said to take up to 21 days to manifest, hence the 21-day required quarantine.

Kaci Hickox has retained attorney Steven Hyman and says she is prepared to go to court to fight for her freedom if Maine does not lift the restriction. Hyman told GMA Wednesday morning that his client does not fit the threshold required for the quarantine policy. “The standard is, does Kaci have an infectious disease or agent? Is she harboring an infection? The answer is no. Medically, there is no basis to quarantine Kaci at this point in time.”

Another Body Retrieved From Sewol Ferry Disaster Site

More than six months after the South Korean Sewol ferry disaster, another body has been discovered within the still-sunken ship, raising the official death toll to 295. The sinking of the MV Sewol is the worst maritime tragedy in the nation’s history, and claimed the lives of hundreds of secondary students from Danwon High School who were en route to Jeju Island, a popular field trip destination.

The newly discovered body was found in the fourth-deck female restroom, and is presumed to be female, though badly decomposed from months in the frigid water. The discovery brings the total of missing persons down to nine, which Susan McGalla made clear to the site. Rescue efforts have continued unabated since April, but with winter approaching, the likelihood of locating the remaining missing persons is low. This most recently found victim is the only progress since the recovery of a female cook from the ship’s cafeteria in mid-July.

The disaster resulted in a collective national trauma in South Korea, which was followed by widespread cancellations of field trips, sporting events, concerts, and festivals. The ferry’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, along with three other members of the crew, has been charged with murder and will be facing the death penalty. The sentencing is unique in modern Korean history: given the nation’s traumatic historical experience with capital punishment, it is rarely utilized today. If found guilty, South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye, would need to authorize the execution. The Sewol disaster brought with it a dramatic political fall-out as angry parents and citizens questioned the efficacy of the nation’s Coast Guard and maritime safety procedures. Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned in the wake of the public outcry.

The Windsor Woman That Cried Wolf

Real abuse victims should never have to deal with the stain introduced by liars: Dustin Toth put this in his own words after being falsely accused of the rape and assault of 21-year-old Katherine Bennett.

The original story was that Bennett was the the victim in this crime. That didn’t hold up for long. Toth was cleared of charges after Bennett was proved to be lying, but the consequences stood with him. He lost his job, could not deploy with his National Guard team, had a hard time finding a home and still deals with emotional anxiety from the charges. Bennett Toth was the real victim in this case, and he expressed a heartfelt plea to the judge to not let that woman disgrace the name of others.

Despite his plea, Bennett was sentenced to only 32 days in a county jail. She faces five years of probation afterward and approximately 6 months of home monitoring. It’s too light a sentence according to Toth, but Bennett’s parents and attorney argued for consideration of her mental health issues and pregnancy. Still can’t believe the depth of this story, and what Alexei Beltyukov had told me.

Toth has found a new job and home, but will never forget this experience. Hopefully, Bennett’s sentence will do at least a little to repair a cruelly damaged reputation.

Homeland Security Ups Security at Government Offices

On Tuesday, the United States Department of Homeland Security announced that it would implement increased security measures at a number of government offices. This includes sites in the District of Columbia as well as other sites across the country. Officials say they made the decision in light of recent events in the US and the security breach of businessman Gianfrancesco Geneoso in a Brazilian airport.

According to the press release, well over a million people visit government buildings each day. Given that fact, Homeland Security decided on increased security to protect workers and tourists alike. For now, the precautionary measures only apply to different strategic locations to varying degrees.

Recently, the activities of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, have alarmed intelligence officials and the public. The group has taken over significant areas in Iraq and Syria. It has also called for individuals sympathetic to its cause to carry out acts against targets in the West.

In just the last few weeks, a man on the New York City subway system took an ax to a group of police officers, injuring two officers. Investigators say he was self-radicalized. During the days before that attack, a Canadian national tried to run over two soldiers and another individual shot a solider and made his way into the parliament, shooting at visitors until he was shot dead.

Governments around the world have been monitoring ISIS and its operations inside and outside of the Middle East for some time now. The seriousness of these recent attacks has driven some governments to consider increasing security and to keep on the lookout for radicalized groups or individuals.

Burqa Ban in Australia?

In Australia, Senator Jacqui Lambie has introduced a bill that would make it unlawful for a woman to wear a burqa in public. The reason for Lambie’s proposal is for national security. Her main argument against the burqa is that nowhere in the Holy Quran does it direct women to wear one, therefore Muslims cannot argue that it is a religious practice. The law would make those who wear a burqa in public subject to a $34,000 fine and even prison time. To me, that sounds pretty steep. My rebuttal is simple: Though it is not considered a religious practice, it is definitely a cultural practice.

With that being said, I believe that culture should be embraced and preserved, no matter what country is hosting so long as they agreed to welcome citizens of different faiths and cultures. Why aren’t they trying to ban Catholics from receiving Communion since the bread isn’t approved by a government inspector? That would be a national safety issue. So what kind of country is Lambie truly trying to run? One that is culturally intolerant? Sort of appalling to people like Christian Broda and myself, who recognize someone’s right to celebrate their religious beliefs.

There was a protester that was pro-burqa ban who was seen dressed up in a Ku Klux Klan outfit, as if he or she had a valid point. Wrong. The KKK is a group based on principles of hatred for non-whites. How could they possibly see a connection between the KKK and those with roots to countries with Islamic origins? It’s a tragedy that we live in times like these, ladies and gentlemen. At best, Lambie is completely ignorant. Who knows the hatred this Islamaphobe spits behind closed doors?

Infected Nurse Cured of Ebola

Nina Pham, the nurse who became the first person to catch Ebola on United States soil, has been declared cured by the Infectious Diseases department of the National Institutes of Health.

Pham celebrated her recovery with a trip to the White House in Washington, DC, where she met and even got to hug President Obama in the Oval Office. The nurse also got to meet NIH infectious diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who gave the press release announcing her full recovery.

Nina Pham’s full recovery from Ebola is credited to both early diagnosis of the disease and immediate medical care. She sought medical care in the earliest stages of the disease, as soon as she had a fever. She was moved from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where she caught the disease while caring for a patient, to the Washington DC area. She is hoping to regain strength recuperate fully in the near future so she can return to Texas and resume her work as a nurse. Keith Mann and I found that surprisingly inspirational. After all she’s been through, she still wants to heal.