US Officials Leak Information About the ISIS Raid That’s More Sensitive than Anything Snowden Ever Leaked

AK Rockefeller (CC BY-SA 2.0)

AK Rockefeller (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Trevor Timm writes at the Freedom of the Press Foundation:

Over the weekend, the US government announced that special forces soldiers entered Syria to conduct a raid that killed an alleged leader of ISIS, Abu Sayyaf. In the process, anonymous US officials leaked classified information to the New York Times that’s much more sensitive than anything Edward Snowden ever revealed, and it serves as a prime example of the government’s hypocrisy when it comes to disclosures of secret information.

Here’s how the New York Times described how the US conducted this “successful” raid:

The raid came after weeks of surveillance of Abu Sayyaf, using information gleaned from a small but growing network of informants the C.I.A. and the Pentagon have painstakingly developed in Syria, as well as satellite imagery, drone reconnaissance and electronic eavesdropping, American officials said. The White House rejected initial reports from the region that attributed the raid to the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

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France Forces Big Supermarkets to Give Unsold Food to Charities

Now that’s some progressive legislation right there! Can you imagine Walmart giving away food in the US? The Guardian reports on the new French law requiring the likes of Carrefour to distribute unsold food to non-profits that presumably will give the food to the poor and hungry who previously had to forage in potentially poisoned garbage bins for that same food:

French supermarkets will be banned from throwing away or destroying unsold food and must instead donate it to charities or for animal feed, under a law set to crack down on food waste.

Monoprix, après l'averse

A Monoprix supermarket in France. Photo: Damien Roué (CC)

 

The French national assembly voted unanimously to pass the legislation as France battles an epidemic of wasted food that has highlighted the divide between giant food firms and people who are struggling to eat.

As MPs united in a rare cross-party consensus, the centre-right deputy Yves Jégo told parliament: “There’s an absolute urgency – charities are desperate for food.

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Average American Consumes Over 300 Gallons of California Water Per Week

CA Avocados at the grove

Photo: California Avocados (CC)

Note that it’s the average American who consumes more than 300 gallons of California water each week, not the average Californian (whose usage is way higher). This is because this mythical average American is consuming a tremendous amount of food produced in California, everything from almonds to avocados explains the New York Times:

California farmers produce more than a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. To do that, they use nearly 80 percent of all the water consumed in the state. It is the most stubborn part of the crisis: To fundamentally alter how much water the state uses, all Americans may have to give something up.

The portions of foods shown here are grown in California and represent what average Americans, including non-Californians, eat in a week. We made an estimate of the amount of water it takes to grow each portion to give you a sense of your contribution to the California drought.

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Students cheat for good grades. Why not make the classroom about learning and not testing?

Wonderlane (CC BY 2.0)

Wonderlane (CC BY 2.0)

Eric Anderman, The Ohio State University

We have been hearing stories about academic cheating: from students caught cheating on homework assignments as well as college entrance exams to teachers being caught in cheating scandals, such as the ones in Atlanta, Georgia, and Columbus, Ohio.

Today, between 75% and 98% of college students surveyed each year report having cheated in high school. So, if cheating is happening at that large a scale, is it just inevitable? And can we even blame our students?

In order to figure out how to answer these questions, it’s important to consider why students cheat in the first place. Although the obvious reason seems to be the desire of students to get ahead (eg, to get a good grade, or to avoid a punishment), the real reason is actually a bit more complicated.

Academic goals matter

When students do their schoolwork (which includes everything from daily homework assignments to major examinations), they usually have certain goals in mind.… Read the rest

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Ancient Bacteria Produce Carbon-Neutral Ethanol Using Just Sun, Waste Carbon Dioxide and Non-Potable Water

Scientists at innovative energy company Joule have engineered ancient bacteria to produce carbon-neutral ethanol using just the sun, waste carbon dioxide and non-potable water. It’s amazingly efficient, beating other ethanol sources like corn and wood chips by a huge margin and could eventually be cheaper than oil. Bloomberg’s Ramy Inocencio reports from Hobbs, New Mexico:

There’s more detailed information in Joule’s press release.

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Diablo III Players Stole Virtual Armor and Gold — Prosecuted IRL

Proving that the lines between your video game life and your real life are becoming increasingly fuzzy, two gamers who stole a load of loot in Diablo III have pled guilty in a real life case based on their virtual crimes, reports Fusion:

These days, we all have shadow selves that exist in virtual environments — be it on Facebook, Twitter, or in video games. And those digital avatars, it turns out, can get us in IRL trouble. Last year, in a first-of-its-kind legal case that has not previously been reported, two men pled guilty to misdemeanors in California and Maryland that stemmed from their robbing video game characters of gold, weapons and armor.

D3-inventory-smaller.jpg

Diablo III‍ ’​s inventory and HUD.

 

In the summer of 2012, Patrick Nepomuceno of California and Michael Stinger of Maryland, who had met each other through gaming chat platform TeamSpeak, committed a series of virtual “hold-ups” in the role-playing video game Diablo III.

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Seymour Hersh, Bin Laden, and Conspiracy Theories

As anyone who watched any kind of news outlet last week already knows, the big story was Seymour Hersh’s article alleging that the Obama administration’s story of the killing of Osama Bin Laden was a calculated lie. The theory has its critics and defenders in the mainstream media – okay, mostly critics.

But to me, the most interesting revelation raised by Hersh’s reporting, which his vociferous critics have written off as a crazy “conspiracy theory,” was not the surface level issues it raised about Middle East policy and torture. It was that the report revealed a fundamental truth about why we as humans, living under the rule of massive and impersonal governmental structures, are so fervently interested in conspiracy theories.

First of all, a bit of a breakdown of Hersh’s report is necessary.… Read the rest

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Study Shows Suicides Among Black Children Rise as Rates for Whites Drop

Don Gunn (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Don Gunn (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A recent study published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, has found that suicide rates among black children have nearly doubled over the last two decades. Whereas the suicide rates of white children has dropped. The study focused on children aged 5-11 in the US.

Liz Fields writes at Vice:

The study, published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, highlights a surprising trend and “potential racial disparity that warrants attention,” researchers said of the the findings.

While overall suicide rates remained steady among 5-11 year-olds during the 19-year-study, conducted from 1993 to 2012, suicide rates among black children in this age group jumped from 1.36 to 2.54 per one million children, while white suicide rates in the group dropped from 1.14 to 0.77 per 1 million children, according to the study.

The researchers noted that for children aged between 5-11, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death.

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Hacking the Brain to Get Smarter

Want to get smarter? There are ways… The Atlantic investigates brain hacking:

The perfectibility of the human mind is a theme that has captured our imagination for centuries—the notion that, with the right tools, the right approach, the right attitude, we might become better, smarter versions of ourselves. We cling to myths like “the 10 percent brain”—which holds that the vast majority of our thinking power remains untapped—in part because we hope the minds of the future will be stronger than those of today. It’s as much a personal hope as a hope for civilization: If we’re already running at full capacity, we’re stuck, but what if we’re using only a small fraction of our potential? Well, then the sky’s the limit.

brain

Credit: TZA (CC)

 

But this dream has a dark side: The possibility of a dystopia where an individual’s fate is determined wholly by his or her access to cognition-enhancing technology.

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