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Mon, 05 Dec 2016
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WikiLeaks publishes new email batch in honor of whistleblower Barrett Brown - HBGary Federal discussed 'sniffers & taps on journalists'

© Tim Chong / Reuters
Thousands of leaked emails from a US cybersecurity contractor were published by WikiLeaks to mark the release of whistleblowing journalist Barrett Brown from federal prison. Among other things, the emails discussed targeting journalists and governments.

Emails belonging to HBGary Federal were first obtained by hacktivist collective Anonymous in February 2011. WikiLeaks published them for the first time on Tuesday in the form of a searchable database comprised of some 60,000 emails.

The release was dedicated to Brown, a Texas journalist who spent almost two years in federal prison for his work in reporting on the HBGary leaks and the 2012 hack of the private intelligence company Stratfor. Some 5.5 million emails from that hack were published by WikiLeaks between 2013 and 2014.

In January 2014, Brown was sentenced to 63 months behind bars for obstruction of justice, threatening a federal officer and being an accessory after the fact. He was paroled Tuesday.

Among the revelations contained in the HBGary Federal emails was the company's proposal to spy on Russia using mobile telephony and wireless "sniffers," hinting at capabilities of the NSA before they were disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013.

Take 2

5 Things We Learned From The First Episode Of Leah Remini's Scientology Exposé TV Show

For decades, actress Leah Remini - best known as the female lead on the hit TV series King of Queens — was one of Scientology's most diehard celebrity members, along with fellow actors Jenna Elfman, Giovanni Ribisi, Kirstie Alley, John Travolta and, of course, Tom Cruise. She appeared in promotional videos and at events designed to recruit new followers, dazzling them with stories of how Scientology was not only responsible for her success in Hollywood, but offered the only solution to curing the planet of its many ills.

Then, in 2013, after 34 years of devotion, Remini left the Church of Scientology and became the religion's most famous defector - and its most outspoken critic courtesy of Troublemaker, her 2015 memoir about her time as a member. But the book's publication failed to provide her with closure; as she learned about the experiences of other ex-members, including former high-ranking officials, the actor found herself unable to walk away with a clear conscience. Having participated in promoting propaganda and vehemently defending the organization against criticism, Remini felt a responsibility to help undo the damage she says the Church has caused. So she began documenting these stories for her new A&E series, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, hoping to use her star power to expose the abuses of what the show calls a "multi-billion dollar church, corporation, empire and cult."

Like her memoir, this TV documentary series breaks down Scientology's allure, ably explaining the manipulative and abusive tactics used to indoctrinate followers into prioritizing the Church's supposed goals over anything else. Here are five things we learned from last night's premiere episode.

Comment: You can read more about Leah Remini's experiences and knowledge of Scientology in her Reddit AMA where she answers questions from readers.


Slavery was never abolished! It simply evolved into the prison system

© Collective Evolution
To many, the end of the Civil War in 1865 represented the end of slavery; at least, that's what the history books tell us. In January of 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment was passed, freeing millions of black citizens as they finally received emancipation. The Thirteenth Amendment reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

It is clear that a loophole exists, which allows slavery to continue within the confines of prison walls. The documentary 13th explores how slavery was never abolished, but actually shifted into the modern prison system, ultimately fuelling mass incarceration of black citizens. In fact, 1 in 3 black males will serve jail time at some point in their lives, whereas only 1 in 17 white men will. Don't let government propaganda fool you: The only reasons for mass incarceration in the U.S. are racism and profit.



Pipeline explosion sparks big fire near KCI Airport, no injuries

A pipeline explosion caused a large fire in Platte County Tuesday evening, but no injuries were reported.

Crews were called to the scene in the 9600 block of Mellon's Bridge Road, an isolated area near Kansas City International Airport.

The pipeline ruptured on private property about 6:30 p.m. The property owner reported the explosion and fire.

Che Guevara

Almost a million people gather in Havana to pay respects to Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro

© EPA/Ernesto Mastrascusa
About one million people gathered in the Cuban capital Havana on Wednesday night to pay their respects to Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, according to estimates by local security forces.

Formal delegations from about 50 states attend the event that started at 3:00 Moscow time outside the memorial to Cuban independence hero Jose Marti in Havana's Revolution Square. The service is led by the island nation's current leader Raul Castro.

The Russian delegation is led by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.

In his speech at the meeting, Volodin said that Russia and Cuba "will always be together."

"Your power and your faith have served as an inspirational example for many countries and peoples in the cause of the fight for freedom and the right to choose own path of development," Volodin told the crowd.


Man awarded $600k after being trapped in maximum security prison for 32 hours with no food or water

© Frank Polich / Reuters
Farad Polk was awarded $600,000 after a visit to his son at the Cook County Jail turned into a weekend stay. Following directions from a guard, Polk accidentally entered a super-maximum security visitors room, where he was trapped for 32 hours.

There are a number of reasons why people spend a weekend in jail, but most of them involve a crime. Unfortunately for Polk, the only crime he committed in early July 2014 was asking a Cook County Jail guard how to get to the visitors' room, where he could see his son. Instead, he was sent to an eight-by-eight foot cell, where he was trapped for 32 hours, according to WBBM.

"They just sent me down the hall by myself and told me to go into the room," Polk told WBBM.

When the door shut behind him, he was trapped.


"Sextortion" operations lead to rise in webcam blackmail cases in UK over last year

© Yuya Shino / Reuters
The number of 'sextortion' cases, where victims are persuaded to commit sexual acts on a webcam and then blackmailed, has doubled in a year, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Organized gangs, made up of actors in studios and money launderers, run the 'sextortion' operations. They are based all around the world and often target young British men by luring them into potentially-compromising positions.

Victims are befriended online by people using fake identities, and persuaded to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam. They are then threatened that the images will be made public if they don't pay up.

The NCA says police have had 864 reports of webcam blackmail in 2016, but it says the number is probably higher as many victims are too embarrassed to come forward.

The highest proportion of victims is aged between 21 and 30 years. Some are as young as 11.

Black Cat

Congress passes ban of online store 'gag orders' that prevent customers from posting negative reviews

© Jim Young / Reuters
Dissatisfied consumers soon won't have to fear punishment from online retailers for leaving negative comments, if a newly passed law making it illegal for businesses to retaliate against unflattering reviews is signed by President Barack Obama.

Congress passed the so-called Consumer Review Fairness Act on Monday, leaving it up to President Obama to decide the bill's fate.

Should he sign the act into law, online stores and businesses will be banned from using "gag clauses" to silence consumers who leave critical feedback on products and services.

Comment: If any company requires that you agree to terms that include limiting or removing your right to make a complaint in whatever way you choose then that company ought to be viewed as possibly having significant customer service issues, in which case you might want to reconsider doing business with that company.


South Florida family's missing dog found three years later -- in New Jersey

Bill Gerstein of Delray Beach and Bella
Missing dog reunited with owners after three years

Bill Gerstein couldn't believe it. Words he never thought he'd read were right there on his phone: Bella has been found.

Nearly three years after disappearing outside Gerstein's law office in Fort Lauderdale, the family's Maltese-Pomeranian mix was in an animal shelter in Paterson, New Jersey — about 1,200 miles from home. The shelter, which had checked Bella's microchip, sent him pictures. She looked ratty, her coat was in rough shape, but it was her. Gerstein got on a plane that day.

"It was jubilant for us to finally get her back," Gerstein, 45, said Tuesday, as Bella scampered about the living room, still getting acquainted with the family's other two inseparable dogs, Maya and Lily, two Cavapoos who became new additions while Bella was still missing. Bella occasionally growls and bares her teeth at Maya, who tends to avoid eye contact with Bella.

"I didn't have any realistic hope of seeing her again," Gerstein said. "The possibilities were endless: She could've been killed, she could've wandered into a swamp near our office."

Fortunately, Bella didn't wander into a swamp, but how she got to New Jersey is a mystery. Gerstein, whose immigration law office is near Commercial Boulevard and NW 31st Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, regularly brought Bella to work, and that's where she was last seen.

Comment: As heart-warming a story as this is, it's still a plug for microchips. How long before the push starts for microchipping children?


California aims to regulate cow flatulence to slow global warming

California is taking its fight against global warming to the farm.

The nation's leading agricultural state is now targeting greenhouse gases produced by dairy cows and other livestock.

Despite strong opposition from farmers, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in September that for the first time regulates heat-trapping gases from livestock operations and landfills.

Cattle and other farm animals are major sources of methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas. Methane is released when they belch, pass gas and make manure.

"If we can reduce emissions of methane, we can really help to slow global warming," said Ryan McCarthy, a science adviser for the California Air Resources Board, which is drawing up rules to implement the new law.

Livestock are responsible for 14.5 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, with beef and dairy production accounting for the bulk of it, according to a 2013 United Nations report.