March 31, 2017

Cisco engineers reportedly leapt into action after Wikileaks revealed intelligence community hacking of their hardware. “Senior Cisco managers immediately reassigned staff from other projects to figure out how the CIA hacking tricks worked, so they could help customers patch their systems and prevent criminal hackers or spies from using the same methods, three employees told Reuters on condition of anonymity.”

Former CIA analyst says Trump was probably right about “wiretap”. “…we suspect that much more may be learned about the special compartmented surveillance program targeted against top US national leaders if Rep. Nunes doesn’t back down and if Trump doesn’t choose the road most traveled – acquiescence to America’s Deep State actors.”   Names of officials who assembled documents leaked to Nunes are also leaked. “After assembling reports that showed that Trump campaign officials were mentioned or inadvertently monitored by U.S. spy agencies targeting foreign individuals, Cohen took the matter to the top lawyer for the National Security Council, John Eisenberg. The third White House official involved was identified as Michael Ellis, a lawyer who previously worked with Nunes on the House Intelligence Committee but joined the Trump administration as an attorney who reports to Eisenberg.”

Rights group condemns Arkansas’ “ag-gag” law which criminalizes whistle-blowing. “The bill is so sweeping that it would also gag employees who try to expose the abuse of children at a daycare center.”

Elevated section of I-85 in Atlanta collapses. “The fire, which started around 6:30 p.m. ET, broke out near the Buford-Spring Connector. Around 7 p.m. the northbound lanes collapsed.”

March heat wave in India kills 5. “Akola recorded 44.1 degrees Celsius (111 F) and Wardha, Nagpur and Chandrapur have recorded 43 degrees (109 F).”

Venezuelan Supreme Court revokes powers of country’s parliament. “Maduro has essentially ruled Venezuela by decree since late 2015, when his unpopular government was trounced in parliamentary elections and his opponents took control of congress.”

Geneva Film Festival highlights human rights films “Silent War” (rape as a weapon in Syria), “I Am Not Your Negro” (bio of James Baldwin), “500 Years” (genocide against native population of Guatemala) and films by Cambodian director Rithy Panh on Khmer Rouge atrocities.

Some airlines to offer business class customers loaner electronic devices on flights affected by laptop ban. “The specially purchased computers will be available to business-class travelers from next week, Qatar Air said Thursday….  Abu Dhabi-based Etihad said earlier on its website that it will hand out Apple Inc. iPads to its premium guests.”   Another example of how life’s little problems are eased for the business class. Did you know they have showers at airports for business travelers too?

Double-mastectomy rates vary widely across the U.S. “… between 2010 and 2012, among women ages 20 to 44 with cancer in one breast, about 15 percent had both breasts removed in the District of Columbia, compared to about 49 percent in South Dakota.”

Leading cause of illness and disability is depression says World Health Organization. “The current state is that depression is neither being identified nor treated adequately anywhere in the world.”

Sanders discusses “dark money” with investigative journalist. “Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday sat down with investigative journalist Jane Mayer to discuss the threat that secretive and undisclosed campaign financing—exemplified by the outsized influence of powerful billionaires like Charles and David Koch—continues to have on U.S. democracy and what should be done to push back.”

Secretary of Education DeVos says education should be like transportation. “DeVos, a vocal advocate for school choice, drew a comparison between consumers picking ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft over a taxi to parents electing to send their kids to private or  charter schools over public schools.”   So is the government going to pay for my rideshare, or do the less affluent still need to take the bus? Will teachers be hired like Uber drivers? Who pays for their classrooms? Where do the profits from public-funded tuition vouchers go?

Pence breaks tie in Senate, allows states to selectively exclude healthcare providers from Title X programs. “The measure repeals an Obama-era rule that blocks states from defunding healthcare providers for political reasons.”

Deaths of pedestrians up 25% since 2010, smartphones suspected. “Researchers said there doesn’t appear to be any other variable besides increased smartphone usage, which can lead to distracted walking and driving, that could explain the spike.”

State Department employees allegedly told not to speak to Secretary of State Tillerson or make eye contact with him. “Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department.”   Being shunned, or is he used to being treated like a pharaoh at Exxon Mobil?

Appeals court rules that revealing disciplinary records of officer who put Eric Garner in a chokehold would put officer at risk, union official agrees. “The release of police officers’ personnel files poses a grave safety risk for police officers and their families.”

Former NSA director blames Russian fake news posts for Democratic Party split. “Senator, I think what they were trying to do was drive a wedge within the Democratic Party between the Clinton group and the Sanders group.”   Thanks, I needed a good laugh.

Senate witness tries to link Russian crackdown on cyber spies to U.S. election hacking. “There’s been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation who have assets in banks all over the world. They are dropping dead, even in western countries.”   See “Russian spy purge after suspected leaks to U.S. intelligence” for a more likely explanation.

Kansas Gov. Brownback vetoes Medicaid expansion bill, lawmakers plotting veto override vote. “The veto sparked an immediate debate and attempt to override it in the House, but Democrats and moderate Republicans quickly backed down and tabled the matter, nervous that more time was needed to rally the necessary 84 votes.”

U.S. military officials claim IS is forcing civilians into buildings in Mosul and then intentionally attracting coalition fire. They are even setting off their own explosions at precisely the same time to frame coalition forces. “Armed ISIS fighters forced civilians into a building, killing one who resisted, and then used this building against (Iraqi counter-terrorist forces).”

Tipster claims 500 bodies buried in secret mass grave in Veracruz, Mexico. “…experts have identified only two of the 253 bodies exhumed since searches began in August at the site in the hilly fields known as Colinas de Santa Fe. Those bodies were identified largely because the victims were found with ID cards.”

U.S. reportedly offering more support for Saudi coalition attacks on Yemen as the country teeters “on the brink of famine”. “Now, the U.S. wants to… become more involved, particularly in an offensive that the Emiratis, the UAE, who are part of the Saudi-led coalition, are looking to launch on the Red Sea Coast, particularly on the port of Hodeidah, which is a vital supply line for northern Yemen, which is the most densely populated part of the country, which relies heavily on that route for the import of food.”

Kurdish voters reportedly stabbed outside Turkish embassy in Brussels, Belgium. “During Thursday’s incident, three Kurds were stabbed by pro-government supporters as they went to cast their ballot, while more were injured as the Belgian police intervened.”

March 31, 2017

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