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- How does the NSA spy on non-targets?
How does the National Security Agency go through the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ email and text communications into and out of the country? How does it hunt for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance? The N.S.A. temporarily copies emails and other text-based communications that cross the border. The NYT spoke to a senior intelligence official who said the N.S.A. makes a “clone of selected communication links” to gather the communications. To systematically search the communication, the information is captured in small packets and re-assembled abroad. A computer goes through the data for the identifying keywords or other “selectors” and stores those that match so that analysts could look at them later. The remaining communications, the official said, are deleted and the entire process takes “a small number of seconds.”
Read the full story on NY Times.
Magnifying glass photo from Shutterstock
- The most frightening terrorist of all
The Daily Beast reports “no al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operative worries the United States more than Ibrahim al-Asiri”. Quoting two U.S. counterterrorism officials, the online news site calls him “the group’s diabolically clever bombmaker”. Daily Beast sources says he overshadows even AQAP’s cunning leader, Nasir al-Wuhayshi. A chemistry drop-out from Saudi Arabia, he is credited with building bombs that can escape sophisticated forms of screening. His early claim to fame was a suicide attack in 2009 by his brother that nearly killed Saudi prince Muhammed Bin Nayef. The bomb had been sewn into the bomber’s underwear. Four months later, AQAP came close to blowing up a commercial plane in Detroit. The device was traced back to al-Asiri, being similar in design to a 2010 attempted attack that ingeniously put explosive material in printer ink cartridges.
U.S. officials believe al-Asiri has succeeded in developing a new kind of bomb that can be surgically implanted inside the human body. In 2011, U.S. intelligence learned that al-Asiri was working closely with AQAP doctors who had tested the bomb on dogs and other animals. Like his other devices, it had no metal and could pass through detectors.
Read full story on The Daily Beast.
- US Marine demoted for urinating on corpse
A US Marine sergeant is demoted after pleading guilty to urinating on dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. In 2012, a video circulated showing 4 Marines urinating on 3 corpses. The incident increased tensions between the United States and Afghanistan. Sergeant Robert Richards is one of 8 Marines to be punished for the incident, which occurred in July 2011 during a counter-insurgency operation in Helmand province. Al-Jazeera reports Richards was earlier charged with dereliction of duty, violation of a lawful general order, and conduct prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the armed forces. The Marine Corps says in a statement Richards pleaded guilty to two counts at a court martial session in North Carolina Wednesday.
Read full story on Aljazeera.
- Taiwan lifts sanctions
Taiwan lifts its sanctions against the Philippines Thursday after Manila apologized for the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman. In a statement, Taiwan’s foreign ministry announces the removal of the sanctions “after the Filipino side displayed apology and goodwill in written statements and action.” The move comes after Manila Economic and Cultural Office chair Amadeo Perez offered an “official apology” on behalf of President Benigno Aquino. Tensions between the 2 countries rose after Philippine Coast Guard personnel shot 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng in May, after his vessel sailed into Philippine waters. Taiwan rejected earlier apologies by Manila as inadequate and imposed a series of sanctions, including a ban on hiring new Filipino workers, an advisory urging Taiwanese not to visit the Philippines and the suspension of trade and academic exchanges. Diplomatic tensions ease after Philippine investigators said they recommend homicide charges against eight Coast Guard personnel for Hung’s death.
Read full story on Rappler.
- Napoles eldest daughter drops partylist ambitions
The eldest daughter of alleged pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles drops her ambitions of joining Congress. On Thursday, Jo Christine Napoles withdraws her “nomination” as the second representative of the OFW Family Party List in the House of Representatives. In a statement, OFW Family Rep Roy Señeres Sr says Napoles made the decision to “spare the OFW Family Party List of the controversy associated with her mother.” But before she announced her withdrawal, the Commission on Elections long said Napoles could not sit as party-list representative because she is not among the original set of nominees submitted to the poll body. The Napoles family has been in the media spotlight because of the multi-million peso pork barrel scam and news of the lavish lifestyle of Janet Napoles’ youngest daughter.
Read full story on Rappler.
- Bezos overpaid? $250 million for $60 million paper
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos pays $250 million to acquire the Washington Post — a paper that was worth closer to $60 million. A Reuters report says the usual financial metrics do not apply to newspapers like the Post. It adds, the price depends on what a buyer was willing to pay. Paul Zwillenberg of The Boston Consulting Group adds, “These are trophy assets whose value is in the eye of the beholder.” The Reuters report says the average sale of a metro U.S. newspaper commands a valuation of 3.5 to 4.5 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). The Washington Post is estimated to have an EBITDA of $15 million in 2012. The paper’s $250 million price tag means Bezos paid 17 times the 2012 EBITDA. Intangible assets like the brand name are factors behind the large premiums.
Read full story on Reuters.
- After Boston Globe & Washington Post, NY Times not for sale
The New York Times says the publication is not for sale, after both The Boston Globe and The Washington Post announce they will be sold to new owners. In a statement, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. says, “Will our family seek to sell The Times? The answer to that is no.” Sulzberger says the Times’ digital subscription model is “perfectly able to fund [its] future growth.” He adds, the paper plans to expand investment internationally and use paid products and brand extensions to find profit. The Times’ empathic declaration comes after Saturday’s announcement The Boston Globe will be sold to Boston Red Sox owner John W. Henry for $70 million. On Monday, the Washington Post also announced it will be bought by Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos for $250 million. The Times says this leaves the publication as “one of the few major American newspapers still run by a family.”
Read full story on NY Times.
- How climate change affects PH
Climate Change Commission Secretary Lucille Sering says global warming will affect the Philippines in 3 ways: sea level rise, more rain, and temperature increase. In an interview on Rappler’s Talk Thursday, Sering discusses the dangers and opportunities in the country considered 3rd most vulnerable globally. Sering says the impact of disasters will be felt the most at the local level. She cites the case of Compostela Valley, listed as one of the top 10 poorest provinces in the country. In 2012, Typhoon Pablo killed hundreds and left the area devastated. Sering says the effects of global warming not only kill people but also wreak havoc on livelihood.
Read full story on Rappler.
- Sanjay Gupta backtracks on weed
CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta reverses his stand on marijuana. In an article posted August 9, Gupta reveals he has been working on a new documentary called “Weed.” For research, he traveled around the world to interview medical leaders, patients, and marijuana growers and reviewed scientific literature on medical marijuana. He concludes, “We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.”
He adds, “I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now…I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.” The Drug Enforcement Agency currently lists marijuana as a schedule 1 substance with “high potential for abuse.” Gupta says recent research on marijuana has focused consistently on its negative effects.
Read full story on CNN.
- Rare tiger cubs born
Two rare Sumatran tiger cubs are born this week at the National Zoo in the United States. Zookeepers call it a conservation victory for the critically endangered cats. The births late Monday are a first for the tiger mom, Damai. A webcam on the National Zoo’s site shows images of the cubs lounging and rolling in a den with their mom. In a statement, the zoo says, “Not only are our two new Sumatran tiger cubs the cutest cubs in town but they are also a huge conservation success.” There are less than 500 Sumatran tigers in the wild. The World Wildlife Fund says the only place where these tigers can be found in the wild is on Sumatra, Indonesia. Poaching and deforestation threaten the species’ survival.
Read full story on Rappler.