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State Department computers hacked, email shut down

© AP
The State Department has taken the unprecedented step of shutting down its entire unclassified email system as technicians repair possible damage from a suspected hacker attack.

A senior department official said Sunday that "activity of concern" was detected in the system around the same time as a previously reported incident that targeted the White House computer network. That incident was made public in late October, but there was no indication then that the State Department had been affected. Since then, a number of agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service and the National Weather Service, have reported attacks.

The official said none of the State Department's classified systems were affected. However, the official said the department shut down its worldwide email late on Friday as part of a scheduled outage of some of its Internet-linked systems to make security improvements to its main unclassified computer network. The official was not authorized to speak about the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said the department expects that all of its systems will be operating as normal in the near future, but would not discuss who might be responsible for the breach. Earlier attacks have been blamed on Russian or Chinese attackers, although their origin has never been publicly confirmed.

The State Department is expected to address the shutdown once the security improvements have been completed on Monday or Tuesday.
Sherlock

Inspector: No sign of investigation in 1,111 New Orleans sex crime-related calls


The report is full of harrowing details alleging that five New Orleans Police Department detectives in the special victims unit may have failed to investigate sex crimes over a three-year period.

But one case stands out.

According to the seven-page document released Wednesday by the city's Office of Inspector General, a 2-year-old was brought to a hospital emergency room after an alleged sexual assault. Tests would show the toddler had a sexually transmitted disease, the report said.

The detective in the case, who worked in the child abuse unit, wrote in his report that the 2-year-old "did not disclose any information that would warrant a criminal investigation and closed the case," the inspector general's report said.

The detective -- identified as Akron Davis by the New Orleans Police Department after the report was released -- is one of five officers whose reports were examined in the investigation. Only nine detectives worked in the special victims unit during the period that was investigated.

Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux said the five officers are not rookies. Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said the detectives were "seasoned" and later said in a statement that they had been with the department at least 16 years each.

"These people should have known... the right way to do things," Quatrevaux said.
Arrow Down

Hazardous chemical leak kills four at Dupont plant in Texas


Family members said brothers Robert Tisnado (left) and Gibby Tisnado were two of the four victims who died in the DuPont chemical plant in LaPorte, Texas, Nov. 15, 2014.
Four workers were killed and one was injured Saturday during a hazardous chemical leak at a DuPont industrial plant in suburban Houston, company officials said.

The chemical, methyl mercaptan, began leaking from a valve around 4 a.m. in a unit at the plant in La Porte, about 20 miles east of Houston. Plant officials said the release was contained by 6 a.m.

Methyl mercaptan was used at the plant to create crop-protection products such as insecticides and fungicides, according to DuPont. The cause of the leak was not immediately known.

Five employees were in the unit at the time of the incident and were exposed to the chemical, the company said. Four died at the plant, and one was hospitalized.

Comment: Another tragedy manufactured by the same corporation that manufactures the cancer-causing teflon and tree-killing herbicides.

Stock Down

Jim Rogers on Putin, his suspicions about oil prices, and what history can teach us

Jim rogers
© Joel Benjamin
Jim Rogers
Few observers are more astute on the markets, modern life, and human nature than investor Jim Rogers. An early internationalist, Rogers has made a fortune over many decades, seeing what others don't. I recently spoke to him about a range of topics, from the latest market turns (and what he calls his "hopeless" timing abilities) to his life growing up.

Still wary of the US stock and bond markets, Rogers says he's not short now, but nor is he a buyer. He believes that sometime in the next year or two, US stocks will fall as interest rates rise, and that will be a turning point. The following has been edited for clarity and length:

Henry Blodget: So, you're bearish.

Jim Rogers: [No. Not yet.] If the stock market goes down - say, you pick the number, 13%, 23%, who knows - everyone will be screaming, and Mrs. Yellen and her friends will say, 'Oh, we're sorry, we didn't mean to hurt you,' and they will loosen up again. One way or the other, the markets will heave a sigh of relief, have a big rally, maybe even turn into a bubble, at which point I hope I'm smart enough to try to short stocks in the US.

HB: We seemed to have a preview of that a few weeks ago where we had a pretty sickening plunge for a few days, and then James Bullard came out and said, 'Hey, we'll do what we need to do.' And suddenly stocks took off again. So you're expecting a bigger version of that?

JR: That's exactly right. Wait until it gets worse and it will, somewhere along the line. At which point, the Fed will panic. It's all they know how to do, Henry, so they will pump huge amounts of money in. It's going to go into shares, and that will cause the top. I have no idea when that will be. That's when I would sell short. By the way, if it happens that way, one should be long, and long big time. I doubt if I will. Either I'm too smart or not smart enough. What we need is a 26-year-old. The 26-year-old will think this is wonderful. She will think she is very smart. She will make a lot of money for a while, and then it will collapse.

HB: You said recently we're going to pay a 'terrible price' for what the Fed doing is doing. What do you mean?

JR: We're going to have economic hard times again. Next time it will be worse because the debt is so much higher and because for the first time in recorded history, all major central banks are printing huge amounts of money. So there's this gigantic artificial ocean of liquidity that's going to dry up some day, and when it does, we're all going to pay a terrible price.
Bizarro Earth

Inexcusable! Waste water from oil fracking injected into clean aquifers

California Dept. of Conservation Deputy Director admits that errors were made

More Newsletters In a time when California faces an historic drought, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has uncovered that state officials allowed oil and gas companies to pump billions of gallons of waste water into protected aquifers. Video here.

State officials allowed oil and gas companies to pump nearly three billion gallons of waste water into underground aquifers that could have been used for drinking water or irrigation.

Those aquifers are supposed to be off-limits to that kind of activity, protected by the EPA.

"It's inexcusable," said Hollin Kretzmann, at the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco. "At (a) time when California is experiencing one of the worst droughts in history, we're allowing oil companies to contaminate what could otherwise be very useful ground water resources for irrigation and for drinking. It's possible these aquifers are now contaminated irreparably."

California's Department of Conservation's Chief Deputy Director, Jason Marshall, told NBC Bay Area, "In multiple different places of the permitting process an error could have been made."

"There have been past issues where permits were issued to operators that they shouldn't be injecting into those zones and so we're fixing that," Marshall added.

In "fracking" or hydraulic fracturing operations, oil and gas companies use massive amounts of water to force the release of underground fossil fuels. The practice produces large amounts of waste water that must then be disposed of.

Marshall said that often times, oil and gas companies simply re-inject that waste water back deep underground where the oil extraction took place. But other times, Marshall said, the waste water is re-injected into aquifers closer to the surface. Those injections are supposed to go into aquifers that the EPA calls "exempt" - in other words, not clean enough for humans to drink or use.
Star of David

Norwegian trauma surgeon Mads Gilbert will defy Israeli ban on Gaza entry

Gaza devastation
© talkingpointsmemo.com
Scene from Gaza, July 19, 2014
Norwegian has worked in Gaza for 15 years and will resist attempts at stopping him returning there

A Norwegian trauma surgeon and activist who helped provide life-saving medical care during this summer's 100-day war in Gaza has said he will defy an Israeli ban on his return.

Chief surgeon Mads Gilbert, 67, has spent 15 years treating patients in Gaza and spent 51 days in Shifa hospital earlier this year treating many of the 11,000 Palestinians who were wounded in the war between Hamas and Israel.

When he returned last month to try and enter Gaza via the Erez crossing in Israel he was denied entry indefinitely.

The Israeli government now says Gilbert is banned from entering Gaza for security reasons. The Norwegian embassy in Tel Aviv has taken up Gilbert's case on his behalf after he was refused entry in October.

"When we came back to the Erez border station the Israeli soldiers told me I was not allowed to go into Gaza," he told media.

"I had a valid permit for multiple entries, an invitation from the Palestinian Ministry of Health and a recommendation from the director at my hospital."
Pills

Antibiotics contaminated with rat poison chemical linked to Indian sterilization camp deaths

© Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee
Women, who underwent surgery at a government mass sterilization camp, pose for pictures inside a hospital at Bilaspur district in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh November 14, 2014.
Tablets linked to the deaths of more than a dozen women who visited a sterilization camp in India are likely to have contained a chemical compound commonly used in rat poison, two senior officials in Chhattisgarh state said on Saturday.

Preliminary tests of the antibiotic ciprocin tablets were found to contain zinc phosphide, Siddhartha Pardeshi, the chief administrator for the Bilaspur district, told Reuters.

The antibiotics were handed out at the mass sterilization held a week ago in the impoverished state. At least 15 women have died, most of whom had attended the camp.

Authorities tested the tablets after being informed that zinc phosphide was found at the nearby factory of Mahawar Pharmaceuticals, the firm at the center of investigations into the deaths at a government-run family planning camp, Pardeshi and Chhattisgarh health minister Amar Agarwal said.

Samples of the drugs have now been sent to laboratories in Delhi and Kolkata to verify that the tablets were contaminated as the preliminary report suggested, Pardeshi said.

Comment: The 2012 ban on manufacturing medicines was little more than a slap on the wrist, basically giving Mahawar a free pass to continue its shoddy practices. Just another case of BigPharma managing to buy its way out of oversight.

Crusader

Police arrest homeless 'Jesus' for accepting donations

Philly Jesus
© Unknown
Last Friday Philadelphia residents and tourists saw quite the sight: police officers arresting a homeless man dressed as Jesus. The man's crime, according to police, was related to his acceptance of donations.

The homeless man, Michael Grant, was allowed to accept donations, but he had decided to give the tourists something for their donations: a picture with him.

Grant never harassed any passersby, but numerous tourists found the idea of "taking a picture with Jesus" to be humorous, and so a number of them were seen donating and snapping pictures with him. Philly police took issue with that and slapped the cuffs on Grant.
Stormtrooper

Cops slam unarmed woman on the pavement, killing her in front of family

tanesha_ohio police
© Unknown
Cleveland police officers recently killed a 37-year-old African American woman who died after police slammed her head on the concrete, just outside of her family's home.

Her brother explained that Tanesha Anderson was pronounced dead at Cleveland Clinic after the assault by the Ohio cops. The pronouncement came early Thursday about two hours after the police "take down" caused Anderson to bash her head on the concrete outside of her home.

"They killed my sister," Joell Anderson, Tanesha's 40-year-old brother said as he fought back tears. "I watched it."

Officers came to the house after a call from a family member who thought the police could calm the bi-polar Tanesha down, during an argument.

Police came, responding to the situation as a "disturbing the peace" call. It seemed that everyone agreed Tanesha should undergo an evaluation at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, police sources told us.

But what happened next is described very differently by police and family members.
Handcuffs

Crushing college debt: The unforgiven generation

© TICAS
Of the nearly 70 percent of U.S. graduates who are forced to take out a loan to pay for colllege, the burden continues to grow by leaps and bounds. When will students rise up?
Latest figures shows that today's college graduates are being saddled with the burden of increasingly high student loan debt as they begin careers or start families. But isn't there a better way to finance higher-education? (Hint: The answer is 'Yes.')

When will students and recent college graduates shake off the burden of increasingly higher student debt and demand a system that serves them instead of making them servants?

The amount of personal debt being accrued by college students in the nation's private and public colleges continues to rise at shocking rates with current graduates of four-year schools exiting with a national average of nearly $30,000 in loans to repay, according to a new report released Thursday.
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