Buried in a Brazilian television report on Sunday was the disclosure that the NSA has impersonated Google and possibly other major internet sites in order to intercept, store, and read supposedly secure online communications. The spy agency accomplishes this using what's known as a "man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack," a fairly well-known exploit used by elite hackers. This revelation adds to the growing list of ways that the NSA is believed to snoop on ostensibly private online conversations.
In what appears to be a slide taken from an NSA presentation that also contains some GCHQ slides, the agency describes "how the attack was done" on "target" Google users. According to the document, NSA employees log into an internet router—most likely one used by an internet service provider or a backbone network. (It's not clear whether this was done with the permission or knowledge of the router's owner.) Once logged in, the NSA redirects the "target traffic" to an "MITM," a site that acts as a stealthy intermediary, harvesting communications before forwarding them to their intended destination.
Behind closed doors, textbook reviewers appointed by the Texas State Board of Education are pushing to inject creationism into teaching materials that will be adopted statewide in high schools this year, according to new documents obtained by watchdog groups. Records show that the textbook reviewers made ideological objections to material on evolution and climate change in science textbooks from at least seven publishers, including several of the nation's largest publishing houses. Failing to obtain a review panel's top rating can make it harder for publishers to sell their textbooks to school districts, and can even lead the state to reject the books altogether.
"I feel very firmly that 'creation science' based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption."
"Once again, culture warriors in the state board are putting Texas at risk of becoming a national laughingstock on science education," said Kathy Miller, the president of the Texas Freedom Network, a nonprofit group that monitors religious extremists and "far-right issues." TFN and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) obtained the review panel documents in response to a state open-records request.
What's more, because Texas has one of the nation's largest public school systems, publishers tend to tailor their textbooks for that market and then sell the same texts to the rest of America.
Here are five striking examples of comments submitted to publishers by the state review panels urging them to water down scientific teachings.
One reviewer directly implored the textbook companies Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Scientific Minds to teach "creation science":
I understand the National Academy of Science's [sic] strong support of the theory of evolution. At the same time, this is a theory. As an educator, parent, and grandparent, I feel very firmly that "creation science" based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption.
Text neglects to tell students that no transitional fossils have been discovered. The fossil record can be interpreted in other ways than evolutionary with equal justification. Text should ask students to analyze and compare alternative theories.
Another reviewer, Ray Bohlin, told the publisher Pearson/Prentice Hall that climate change isn't real because we "don't really know that the carbon Cycle [sic] has been altered." But even if it was, he continued:
In reality we don't know what climate change will do to species diversity…Question seems to imply that ecosystems will be disrupted which qwe [sic] simply don't know yet.
In the same review, Bohlin repeatedly promoted Signature in the Cell, a book written by Stephen Meyer—director of science and culture for the creationist Discovery Institute—without disclosing the fact that he is a fellow there:
There is no discussion of the origin of information bearing [sic] molecules which is absolutely essential in any origin of life scenario. Meyer's Signature in the Cell easily dismisses any RNA first [sic] scenario. The authors need to get caught up.
Reviewers examining the Pearson/Prentice Hall textbook also refer to "THE DISCREDITED PEPPERED MOTH SCENARIO" and "the replacement of discredited 'Peppered Moth' misrepresentations." (Starting during the industrial revolution, populations of peppered moths gradually changed color to match tree bark that had been darkened by soot from local industry—camouflage that made them less vulnerable to predators. After the plants closed and the pollution cleared up, the moths eventually returned to their lighter color. The moth example has been upheld as a classic case of evolution in action.)
Few of the textbook reviewers who were critical of the teaching of evolution and climate change possessed any scientific credentials, according to NCSE. Among those who did, several were active in anti-evolution organizations such as the Discovery Institute.
According to the groups, the Texas Education Agency has declined to release documents showing what changes, if any, the publishers have agreed to make in response to these reviews. A public hearing on the books will take place next week in Austin, followed by a final vote to approve or reject them in November.
The outcome of the foreclosure crisis—and the fate of many investors who bet on it—may hinge upon a city council vote tonight in a little-known working-class suburb (see update below). The Northern California town of Richmond (population: 105,000) will decide whether it wants to become first city in the country to use eminent domain to rid itself of underwater mortgages. The securities industry has threatened to make life miserable for Richmond and its residents if they move ahead with the plan.
In late July, Richmond sent letters to 32 banks and other mortgage holders, offering to buy 624 underwater mortgages at discounts to the homes' value. None of the offers were accepted. Richmond must now decide whether it will use eminent domain—a power more often used to build roads or shopping malls—to seize the homes, paying a court-determined fair market value.
Mary Jane made a new friend today: an old bearded hippie named Uncle Sam.
In a memo released this afternoon, the Department of Justice signaled that it will not meddle with state efforts to legalize and regulate the consumption and sale of pot. "Basically what it says is that the federal government is waving a white flag," says Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Today's announcement is a major historic step toward ending marijuana prohibition."
The federal government typically hasn't prosecuted individual pot smokers, but the memo breaks new ground by applying a similarly permissive approach to marijuana dispensaries, which have often been the targets of federal raids. Under the new policy, the DOJ will leave recreational and medical pot dispensaries alone in states that it believes are regulating them adequately.
Prosecutors "should continue to review marijuana cases on a case-by-case basis," the memo says, "and weigh all available information and evidence, including, but not limited to, whether the operation is demonstrably in compliance with a strong and effective state regulatory system."
The DOJ signaled that it will allow Colorado and Washington to proceed with legalizing and regulating the sale and recreational consumption of marijuana so long as they can prevent:
Cannabis from being sold to minors
Pot revenue from going to criminal enterprises
Legally purchased marijuana from being diverted to states where it's illegal
State-authorized pot businesses from being used as legal cover for drug trafficking
Violence related to drug cultivation
The cultivation of marijuana on public lands
Marijuana possession on federal property
"Those are all reasons we've cited for why we should tax and regulate marijuana," the MPP's Riffle points out.
But other pro-marijuana activists are concerned that the memo gives federal prosecutors too much leeway. In particular, it's not clear whether the feds will stop prosecuting pot dispensaries in California. Unlike Colorado and Washington, California provides little state-level oversight of its medical pot industry, relying instead on a patchwork of local laws.
On July 8, 30,000 California prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest the treatment of those who are kept in extended solitary confinement. Even the slightest evidence of gang affiliation—such as possessing a copy of Machiavelli's The Prince—can land prisoners in the short corridor isolation unit (a.k.a. the SHU, or "the hole"), where they are confined to tiny windowless cells for 23 hours a day, denied many provisions and visitors, and often kept apart from other inmates. Hundreds of prisoners have been in the hole for a decade or more. (Read our hunger strike explainer for more.)
What follows are excerpts of letters from the hole by a leader of the prison strike who was eventually hospitalized after nearly starving to death. The group Legal Services For Inmates With Children provided the letters to Mother Jones on the condition that the prisoner’s name be withheld. He is a self-identified member of the New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalist Collective Think Tank, and an alleged member of the Black Guerilla Family, a prison gang. He resides in the SHU of the California State Prison, Corcoran. These excerpts are lightly edited for clarity and brevity, and are organized according to the date of the events being described.
July 11 — They came to me and [my cellmate's] cell and told us they were moving all "strike leaders" (us and 7 others) out of the 4B1L C-Sections short corridor isolation unit to an undisclosed location on 4A yard. After an initial discussion, we all refused. Warden Gipson's immediate reaction was to order a mass cell extraction of all of us—an attempt to provoke a violent confrontation with peaceful protestors, which would have occurred with serious injuries or casualties to people on both sides. Enough prisoners came to the consensus that maintaining the peaceful posture of this protest was our primary concern, so we agreed to move.
"And he responded, 'Well, apparently you're not isolated enough.'"
They opened our tray slot and told us to "cuff up." Captain Smith of the I.G.I. [Institutional Gang Investigators] came through the yard gate and stated to us: "The warden ordered that all of you 'strike leaders' be put on 4A yard to isolate you." I responded: "We're housed in the short corridor isolation unit already—isn't that it's purpose?" And he responded, "Well, apparently you're not isolated enough."
We're all now housed in 4A3R—a debriefer's block. They've isolated us in a block full of snitches, rats, state agents, informants and unprincipled elements of every description.
With all of the cells they could have moved [my cellmate] and I into, they've moved us into a cell with "FUCK YOU NIGGERS" written in big black ink print over the cell door and window, so that's the first thing we see every morning we wake up. No one can tell me that that was not intentional.
July 21 — Today is the 14th day we haven't eaten and my thinking's kind of fuzzy. I was 223 lbs in June and [my cellmate] was 178. We've both lost over 10 pounds thus far.
"They really did fuck over our property—most of the other guys still haven't been given more of their stuff."
I'm tired, and I'm sluggish—but other than a little light-headedness I'm holding up well, as is [my cellmate]. They have me [and 10 other hunger strikers] all stuck in C-Section around all these rats. I.G.I. said they would move us back when the protest is over. They really did fuck over our property—most of the other guys still haven't been given more of their stuff and they lost almost $100 of my books, which I'm appealing now. I'll be alright—such is the nature of sacrifice.
It is only through the exercise of the First Amendment to protest government when its laws are unjust, immoral, and inhumane have such crimes against humanity been abolished.
July 30 — This is the 23rd day I've not eaten. I was 235 on 7/7 and 204 on 7/26, a loss of 31 lbs.
They started giving [my cellmate] and me B-complex, thiamine, and a multivitamin yesterday to delay organ damage or failure (at this point). I do feel a little better, less dizziness, though I'm still light-headed and weak. This pain in my right side has intensified considerably—but my pain threshold is extraordinarily high—I can handle it.
I'm sure that you heard about how they've written us up for hunger striking. In classic authoritarian fashion, they seek to mask this crime of maintaining a domestic torture program by charging us with the "crime" of protesting this inhumane practice and couching it in the terms "gang activity." This is no different than what slave owners sought to do to abolitionists and runaway slaves in that epoch.
We're unwilling to start eating again—no matter what Pelican Bay and Sacramento decide—unless they rescind these 115s [disciplinary write-ups] and return these soldiers property (after they return us to 4B1L; we're still trapped in this rat block full of debriefers and informants).
If I had the ability, I'd hound, embarrass, and shame mainstream news agencies relentlessly for their utter failure to honestly report on this program of torture CDCR is running or our protest to it.