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Mon, 16 Sep 2019
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Amnesty International: Palestinian members of Israel's Knesset face systemic discrimination

Haneen Zoabi Knesset

Haneen Zoabi addresses the Knesset
Amnesty International is calling out the discriminatory regulations taken out on Palestinian members of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, for undermining "their ability to represent and defend the rights of the Israeli Arabic minority population in Israel."

In a new report published on Wednesday, the human rights organization details how Palestinian MKs, unlike their Jewish counterparts, face systemic discrimination in the form of Knesset regulations, legislative changes, and bill proposals aimed at silencing them.

The report comes just two weeks before Israel heads into its general election, during which the Joint List of Arab parties in Israel are poised to win 10-12 seats — making them the third largest party in Israel.

Comment: Put plainly, Israel tolerates the election of representatives for the Palestinian people (which allows them to maintain the fiction of being a "democracy") but then hamstrings them from accomplishing anything substantive for their constituents.

Bizarro Earth

Colorado College drops SAT requirement to 'increase diversity'

university students
Colorado College announced last week that they will be dropping the SAT and ACT tests from its list of requirements for admission, to "increase the diversity of its student body."

According to a press release, Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado, will be dropping their standardized testing requirement. Prior to the change, all students were required to submit an SAT or ACT score in order to qualify for admission. Now, students will be permitted to apply with just their high school transcript.

Colorado College claims that the decision to make SAT and ACT scores optional will "increase the diversity of its student body."

Eye 1

Facebook's latest leak includes data on millions of users

© Reuters / Dado Ruvic
A security researcher has discovered databases containing more than 419 million records tied to Facebook accounts. It appears the data -- which includes phone numbers and Facebook IDs and in some cases users' names, genders and countries -- was scraped from the platform. However, it's not clear who pulled that information from Facebook or why.

The dataset included 133 million records on Facebook users in the US, 18 million on people in the UK and 50 million on users in Vietnam. The researcher, Sanyam Jain, found the databases on an exposed server that wasn't protected with a password. He told TechCrunch he found phone numbers linked to several celebrities.

"This dataset is old and appears to have information obtained before we made changes last year to remove people's ability to find others using their phone numbers," a Facebook spokesperson told Engadget. "The dataset has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised. The underlying issue was addressed as part of a Newsroom post on April 4th 2018 by Facebook's Chief Technology Officer."


Philly man pleads guilty for trying to access Trump's tax returns

Income tax form
A Philadelphia man has pleaded guilty to trying to hack the IRS to obtain President Donald Trump's tax returns.

Andrew Harris pleaded guilty Thursday to two computer fraud counts in federal court. The 23-year-old faces up to two years in prison and $200,000 fine.

Harris and 22-year-old Justin Hiemstra were both students at Haverford College outside Philadelphia in 2016 when they used a school computer lab to open a fraudulent federal financial aid application for an unnamed Trump family member.

The students managed to reset a password and, using Trump's Social Security number and date of birth, repeatedly tried to import Trump's federal tax information into the application, according to court documents.

Bizarro Earth

Finnish politician under 'hate crime investigation' for sharing Bible verse on Facebook

Päivi Räsänen
© Facebook: Päivi Räsänen
Finnish Christian Democratic member of parliament and former Minister of the Interior, Päivi Räsänen.
Police are investigating a Christian politician in Finland for an alleged "hate crime" because she shared a Bible verse on Facebook to criticize a national church that participated in LGBT Pride festivities.

In the post, congresswoman Päivi Räsänen, a Christian Democrat, criticized the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland for participating in the Helsinki LGBT Pride events in June. Her criticism was alongside a picture of Romans 1:24-27 that describes same-sex relationships as "shameful."

Her post made Räsänen the subject of a pretrial investigation by the Finnish Police for a suspected incitement against sexual and gender minorities.

Red Flag

Weaponized benefits: Ex-ISIS fighter abuses Swedish social security, demands $20K for UK jail time

© REUTERS/Stringer
A former IS fighter who posted photos of himself trampling on the corpses of Syrian soldiers and was once accused of attending a terrorist camp and spreading propaganda, is now demanding damages from the Swedish government.

The man, formerly known as Bherlin Gildo but who has since changed his identity upon returning to Sweden, was one of the country's first jihadists to travel to fight alongside Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). And now he is trying to use Sweden's benefits culture to to his advantage, demanding SEK 200,000 (about $20,600) from the country's social security agency which he claims denied him his benefits while he was being detained in the UK.

To be clear, this man reportedly uploaded images to his own social media profiles of him trappling on the corpses of Syrian soldiers, while appearing to humiliate Christians in other media he shared.


IN GOD WE DISTRUST: Will America's embrace of atheism be the death of us all?

in god we trust
© Getty Images / Roberto Machado Noa
Not long ago, atheists in 'God's Country' were shunned like lepers. Today, the non-believers are courted by the powers that be and nobody seems to mind. Is America losing its religion, and does it even matter?

Although America's purported devotion to God may be a tad overblown, the roots of religion in US politics date back to its very founding. In fact, the creation of the United States was considered to be such an extraordinary event that the Founding Fathers - fiercely devout Christians all of them - were often carried away with religious conceit.

Just as Jews believe they are God's 'chosen people,' Americans have long believed they are 'exceptional' citizens of God's 'chosen country.' This much was evident as the Founders were in the process of drafting the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, undertakings they truly believed were guided by divine intervention.

To get a sense of those overzealous times, you could do no worse than the dripping self-righteousness expressed by James Madison in 1772: "A watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest... we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven." Such lofty religious sentiments should come as no surprise considering that nearly half (24) of the Founders held seminary or Bible school degrees.


Hundreds attend service for WWII vet with no known family

Service for vet
Hundreds of strangers have honored a 97-year-old World War II veteran from Oklahoma who funeral home officials say died with no known surviving family.

Motorcycles carrying U.S. flags were part of Wednesday's service for Herman White, who died Aug. 11. White was buried next to his wife and son in Perry, 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City.


The vanishing: Large underwater observatory in the Baltic Sea has disappeared without a trace

shredded fiber optin cable baltic sea, missing observatory baltic sea
© Research Dive Center of the CAU
The shredded fiber-optic transmission cable.
A large monitoring station used to gather important scientific data in the Baltic Sea has mysteriously vanished.

The underwater observatory, which had been on the seafloor since December 2016, is managed by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel and the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht (HZG). On August 21 at 8:15 p.m. local time, transmissions from the €300,000 ($330,000) station came to a sudden halt. Divers were dispatched to the site, only to find — much to their astonishment — that the entire structure was gone, save for a shredded transmission cable, according to a GEOMAR statement.

The observatory was in a restricted area off the northern coast of Germany. Boats, including fishing vessels, are not allowed into the area, the BBC reported. That somebody, or a group of individuals, removed the observatory remains the most plausible explanation. Other factors, such as a massive storm, heavy currents, or even marine animals, were ruled out as potential causes owing to the weight of the instrument. Who or what removed the science station, and why, is a complete mystery. German police were alerted to the incident and are now investigating, according to GEOMAR.

The Boknis Eck Observatory is — or at least was — located at the outlet of Eckernförde Bay, which is north of Kiel, Germany and south of the Danish border. It was 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) off shore, planted at a depth of 22 meters (72 feet), reported the BBC.


Bricks of cocaine wash up on Florida beaches from Hurricane Dorian waves

Cocaine package
© Melbourne Police Department
Cocaine package found at Paradise Beach, Florida.
More than a dozen bricks of cocaine washed up on two Florida beaches Tuesday from waves churned up by Hurricane Dorian, police said.

At around 8 a.m., a Melbourne police officer on foot patrol at Paradise Beach Park was alerted by a beachgoer that something suspicious appeared to have washed ashore.

When the officer checked it out, he found a package "wrapped in a way that was consistent with narcotics," a Melbourne police spokeswoman said.

The brick was tested and was determined to be a kilo of cocaine, the spokeswoman said, adding that it will be destroyed.