Memo to first ladies: If you express a remotely controversial opinion, don't bother attempting to defend your remarks. Your husband can do that for you.
Governor Rick Perry's (R-Texas) views on women's reproductive rights are crystal clear: He's shuttered family planning clinics across the Lone Star State, championed abstinence education, and blamed rising teen pregnancy rates on the fact that America is ignoring the Boy Scouts. But last weekend, Anita Perry, who worked as a nurse before becoming the First Lady of Texas, said that abortion "could be a woman's right." Given her husband's efforts to destroy every last abortion clinic in Texas, news of her quote spread like wildfire. But before pundits' ink could dry, the governor made sure to shut that whole thing down.
“From time to time we’ll stick the wrong word in the wrong place, and you pounce upon it,” Perry said to the press yesterday during an appearance in New Jersey with Republican US Senate candidate Steve Lonegan. Anita Perry has not made any further public comment about her remarks—although they didn't seem to leave much room for interpretation:
In the interview she said, "it's really difficult for me...I see it as a woman's right, if they want to do it, that's their decision, they have to live with that decision." In response to a follow-up question from a Texas Tribune reporter—"are you saying that you believe abortion is a women's right, to make that choice?" Anita Perry said, "Yeah, that could be a women's right. Just like it's a man's right if he wants to have some kind of procedure. But I don't agree with it, and that's not my view." In the past, Anita Perry has done fundraisingfor a group called the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, which supports abortion rights. The Washington Post pointed out that Rick Perry pushed for his controversial (among social conservatives) executive order requiring HPV vaccines after his wife made a speech on the subject.
Perry will retire at the end of his third term. State Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democrat famous for staging a marathon filibuster against Texas Republicans' restrictive abortion bill, is expected to run, probably against Greg Abbott, the Republican state attorney general. Abbott, who opposes abortion, has not said whether he would make an exception for rape or incest, but noted that "we just don't discriminate against a child because of their beginnings."
You probably haven't heard, but the US government has shut down as of midnight on Tuesday, and it won't reopen until President Barack Obama and Congress quit bickering over Obamacare. Online, some government agencies appear to be in denial about the shutdown—the US Mint is still tweeting about coin laser imprints, and GOP.gov is running normally. But most of them are shuttering their Twitter feeds and websites, and leaving sad goodbye notes. Without further ado, here are 10 of the most tragic:
1. The National Zoo promises that someone's still feeding the animals. But, sorry folks. No pandacam!
2. USA.gov wins the politeness and optimism award.
3. The US Geological Survey doesn't beat around the bush.
4. The Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade informs us that, until hisinterns come back, small businesses are screwed.
5. US Fish and Wildlife Service leaves duck-stamp enthusiasts hanging.
6. The NSA isn't updating its site, but it's probably still spying on you!
7. The National Archives and Records Administration is basically in chaos.
8. The Government Accountability Office takes the opportunity to remind Americans that it won't be doing any government oversight while the government is shut down.
9. The White House thumbs its nose at Republicans.
And one bonus non-governmental Tweet: (we initially labeled this as an official NASA account, but a NASA spokesperson clarified that it is not.)
At a tech and music conference last weekend, John McAfee, controversial founder of the eponymous anti-virus software company, announced that he is inventing a device that will stop the NSA from spying on Americans. It's called D-Central, it will be out within the next six months, and it will only set you back around $100. But does it work?
McAfee—better known as a bath salts enthusiast (he says he was joking) who once dodged the police in Belize after his neighbor there was murdered (he maintains he didn't do it)—has been dropping hints about the device, but there are still big questions as to how it works and whether it will deter government snooping. Encryption experts say that the device McAfee describes is certainly possible—but if Americans want to be truly NSA-free, they'll have to say goodbye to everything that makes the internet fun, or better yet, get off the internet.
Here's what we know from McAfee's cagey description at the C2SV Technology Conference + Music Festival on Saturday (as reported by the San Jose Mercury News): The NSA-proof device acts like a wireless internet router that broadcasts small, private networks across a radius of about three blocks in the city and a little over a quarter mile in the country. By accessing these networks, users within range of the device can secretly swap files with each other or access a "public mode"— without jumping on the main internet backbone. "It will of course be used for nefarious purposes, just like the telephone is," McAfee said at the conference, agreeing that it could be described as a "dark web."
"It looks like this is definitely something that could be physically built, but whether anyone would want it is another question," says Matthew Green, an encryption expert at Johns Hopkins University. "You would still have to avoid Facebook, Google, Twitter—because these are centralized providers that have a relationship with the NSA."
So is McAfee the harbinger of a new wave of internet freedom? If so, he would be a surprising choice. He claims to have faked heart attacks while detained in Guatemala to avoid deportation to Belize. And last year, the New York Times reported that he "kept a pack of untethered dogs on his property who barked at and sometimes bit passers-by."
Eccentricities aside, there are several ways the device McAfee describes could work, based on current technology. The first, most likely, way is a mesh network in a box, which would carve out NSA-free space on the Web by creating little wifi villages. Instead of having big providers, such as Verizon, run a network, a single person controls his or her own little network, potentially renting out usage. Mesh networks are cheap and accessible and have traditionally been popular among Cape Town grandmothers. But they have a major downside: You can only communicate locally, and you don't get to participate on the regular internet. "You can do things like trade files, and chat and do voice and video calls, all locally," says Micah Lee, a staff technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). But even if you have a secure chatroom with your college dorm, you can't use Facebook. And as soon as you leave campus, you can't use your private network anymore.
Expanding mesh networks globally is "super hard, but not impossible," as Mother Jones contributor Clive Thompson reported. But they still won't necessarily be NSA-proof. Lee says, "We've learned that NSA has put backdoors in commercial crypto products [so] if a user of McAfee's system is being targeted by NSA, and NSA has hacked their computer and planted a keylogger, their communications will be compromised even if they are avoiding the internet."
A second way that D-Central could work is by creating a peer-to-peer network wherein one computer is hooked up to the web and the rest of the computers then piggyback onto that computer, accessing web services without actually having to be on the web. "I don't think anyone has really tried that before," says Richard Bejtlich, the chief security officer at Mandiant, a company that offers cybersecurity services for Fortune 100 companies. "That would be a much tougher situation for the NSA to break into, but, if they wanted to, it would be a little bit like the hunt for Osama bin Laden. There's only one of his courier's interacting with the outside world, and you've got to find him, and then the next courier, and so on."
The third way is simply getting more Americans to use cryptography and encrypt their communications from end-to-end. This kind of network technically already exists—it's called Tor, and it's popular among hackers and journalists. "If I was going to build some kind of NSA-proof device, I would build everyone a box that just plugs you right into Tor," says Green. (Still, Tor isn't perfect—researchers say that its encryption could potentially be broken by the NSA.)
McAfee didn't comment for this piece, so for now, we'll have to wait the 173 days or so until the product launches to find out more. McAfee said at the conference that he'd been tossing around the idea of the device long before the Edward Snowden disclosures—and if the United States bans it, he'll market it to "England, Japan, the Third World," because "this is coming and cannot be stopped."
Lee, from EFF, is more skeptical. "It could possibly end up being a cool product," he says. "[But] if anyone claims that their product is NSA-proof, I would not recommend buying it."
In less than two years, the United States will open its commercial airspace to drones, allowing these "unmanned aerial vehicles" to zip over American cities along with planes and helicopters. Tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and law enforcement agencies are intrigued by the possibilities—burrito drones! And the roughly $6-billion-a-year drone industry has launched a lobbying offensive to ensure Federal Aviation Administration regulations are as broad and permissive as possible. But lawmakers and civil liberties groups are concerned about the privacy implications and potential safety issues, and at least nine states have passed laws restricting drone use by law enforcement, private citizens, or both.
While drones were never banned in the United States, up until now their use has been strictly limited, with the FAA distributing a few hundred permits to researchers and law enforcement. But Congress has ordered the agency to open commercial airspace to a wide variety of unmanned vehicles by late 2015. And when it does, drones are bound to proliferate. The FAA anticipates there could be as many as 30,000 drones hurtling through US airspace by 2020.
Krokodil, a highly addictive designer drug that aggressively eats through flesh, has reportedly arrived in the United States. A Phoenix CBS affiliate revealed this week that two cases involving krokodil had been phoned into a local poison control center and quoted one of the center's medical directors, Dr. Frank LoVecchio, saying he and his colleagues were "extremely frightened." While the US Drug Enforcement Administration has not yet received a sample of the drug for analysis, and thus cannot confirm it was krokodil, Barbara Carreno of the DEA told Mother Jones that the agency often learns about new synthetic drugs (including the infamous bath salts) through local poison-control centers. "We've been scrambling to see what we know about the cases in Arizona," she added. "This concerns us very much."
Krokodil, technically known as Desomorphine, has a similar effect to heroin, but is significantly cheaper and easier to make. In the last few years, it's been wreaking severe havoc on the bodies and lives of Russian youth. The drug earned its nickname—the Russian word for crocodile—because of the ghastly side effects it has on the human body. Wherever the drug is injected, the skin turns green and scaly, showing symptoms of gangrene. In severe cases, the skin rots away completely revealing the bone beneath. Other permanent effects of the drug include speech impediments and erratic movement. Rotting flesh, jerky movements, and speech troubles have prompted media outlets to tag krokodil the "zombie drug." According to Time, the average user of krokodil only lives two or three years, and "the few who manage to quit usually come away disfigured." Quitting is its own nasty business. Heroin withdrawal symptoms last about a week; symptoms for krokodil withdrawal can last over a month.
Krokodil use has skyrocketed in poor rural communities in Russia in the last few years, despite the troubling side effects. The Federal Drug Control Service in Russia told Time that in the first three months of 2011, it confiscated 65 million doses of the drug. Desomorphine didn't originate in Russia; the potent painkiller was patented in the United States in 1934. It only became a recreational drug about 10 years ago, when it surfaced in Siberia. The Independent reported in 2011 that up to 5 percent of Russian drug users have used krokodil—as many as 100,000 people. Zhenya, a former user in Russia, told the Independent that when she used to inject krokodil, she was "dreaming of heroin, of something that feels clean and not like poison. But you can't afford it, so you keep doing the krokodil. Until you die."
The main ingredients in krokodil are codeine, iodine, and red phosphorous. The latter is the stuff that's used to make the striking part on matchboxes. Sometimes paint thinner, gasoline, and hydrochloric acid are thrown into the mix. Like meth, it's fairly easy to cook up in a home kitchen. You need a stove, a pan, and about 30 minutes. The drug is then injected directly into the vein, producing a high that lasts about an hour and a half. According to the Week, each injection costs about $6 to $8, while heroin is up to $25.
Carreno of the DEA says that krokodil isn't a controlled substance yet because the agency has to have more evidence that it's a public health problem. "You don't want a federal agency going around making things illegal willy-nilly…We'd have to see more than two cases before we control it," she notes. "But people are mixing codeine and gasoline, and shooting it into their veins. What do they expect?"
In the mean time, if you want to feel disgusted and never eat lunch again, look at the graphic picture below of a krokodil user. For more gruesome images, go here.