December 9, 2007

U.S. Nuclear Lab Computers Hacked

The New York Times reports that the Department of Homeland Security released information that a cyber attack linked to China occurred at a federal government's nuclear weapons laboratory.

Attacks on Oak Ridge National Laboratory computers in Tennessee occurred from web and internet adresses that had origins in China, but no proof was evident that is was the Chinese government or Chinese citizens. Officials said that classified information was not compromised.

“At this point, we have determined that the thieves made approximately 1,100 attempts to steal data with a very sophisticated strategy that involved sending staff a total of seven ‘phishing’ e-mails, all of which at first glance appeared legitimate,? laboratory Thom Mason wrote in an e-mail message sent to employees on Monday. “At present we believe that about 11 staff opened the attachments, which enabled the hackers to infiltrate the system and remove data.? (New York Times)

The original email and first chance of stolen data occurred on October 29, 2007.

The Washington Post reports that the assault appeared "to be part of a coordinated attempt to gain access to computer networks at numerous laboratories and other institutions across the country," lab director Thom Mason said in a memo to the 4,200 employees at the Department of Energy facility.

"There was no classified data of any kind compromised," lab spokesman Bill Stair said Thursday. "There are people who think that because they accessed this database that they had access to the lab's supercomputer. That is not the case. There was no access at all." (Washington Post)

The lab currently posses the second faster supercomputer in the world and is planning to build another.

November 28, 2007

ABC News and Facebook Establish Partnership

According to the New York Times Facebook and ABC News have reached an agreement that will allow for Facebook members to interact with ABC reporters.

Along with the announcement of their partnership they also made it public that they will co-sponsor Democratic and Republican debates in New Hampshire on Jan. 5.

“There are debates going on at all times within Facebook,? David Westin, the president of ABC News and a new Facebook member, said. “This allows us to participate in those debates, both by providing information and by learning from the users.? (New York Times)

A few weeks ago the partnership started when Rick Klein, the author of ABC’s widely read political newsletter The Note, and Sunlen Miller, who has been covering Barack Obama, created Facebook personal pages that people could react with them on.

Encouraging users to interact with reporters is a significant step for a news organization like ABC News. Until recently, a viewer wanting to respond to Mr. Klein’s daily essay could only write a comment or send an e-mail message to a generic address. Now, they can send private messages directly to reporters or can post them on the reporters’ public Facebook pages. (New York Times)

No money was exchanged in the deal, as both parties are just seeking mutual benefits that come along with the deal. ABC News gets its content put on a site with 56 million active users, whereas Facebook adds a credible and new source of news for its political section.

November 16, 2007

Planes Avoid Midair Collision

The New York Times reports that two airliners almost collided 25,000 feet about Indiana Tuesday night.

A United Express and a Midwest Airlines plan came within 600 vertical feet of each other. The safety limit is 1,000 feet. They were able to avoid catastrophe due to an onboard collision alert system that alerted the pilots of both planes to separate further.

The near collision was the result of the third error in about six weeks from a radar control center in Illinois. Which has many questioning how safe the crowed Chicago airspace is.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating, classifies errors at radar control centers on an A-through-D scale, with A the most serious. The error Tuesday was classified a B, the third B-grade mistake since Oct. 1 at the Chicago Center, one of about 20 regional traffic control centers around the country. ( New York Times)

“Part of our review is to determine how and why this happened,? said an F.A.A spokeswoman, Elizabeth Isham Cory, “to find ways of preventing it from happening again.? ( New York Times)

The maneuver was so smooth, according to Midwest spokeswoman Carol Skornicka, that passengers and the flight attendant didn't notice. She said it was "too close for comfort" but added that the chance of a collision was "very remote." (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel )

November 9, 2007

Congress Flexes Its Muscles

The New York Times reports that Congress has overturned a President Bush veto for the first time in his presidency.

The veto was overturned with a vote of 79 to 14. As a result the government will adopt a $23.2 billion water resources bill, which will eventually distribute funds to approved projects around the country.

The next few weeks in which several several budget bills will try to get passed, will remain difficult for Republicans as they must decide whether to support their president or distance themselves from an unpopular president, as another election year is approaching.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed concerns that she hopes the president thinks about the implications of using his veto power in the future.“We are hopeful that the president will reconsider his chronic use of the veto to block the priorities of the American people, from water resources to ending the war in Iraq to providing health care for 10 million children," she said according to the New York Times.

November 4, 2007

Residential Smoking Bans?

According to the New York Times
a growing movement exists that hopes to restrict smoking in apartments and condominiums.

Various cities, including Minneapolis, have enacted bans of smoking in public places but apartment complexes and condos were not included in the law.

This year alone, two California cities have passed laws that prohibit smoking inside multiunit residential buildings. Also large residential real estate companies with apartment complexes in several states have banned smoking within units.

“It’s frustrating,? said Joanie Shockley, 59. “I like to have my grandchildren come over, and I don’t like for them to be exposed to people smoking.? (New York Times)

60 public housing authorities across the country now have smoke-free policies as well. Three years ago there were less than 10, said Jim Bergman, founder of the Smoke-Free Environment Law Project.

Edward Sweda Jr., senior lawyer at the Tobacco Control Resource Center of the Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, says he has studied the legal issues of secondhand smoke for 28 years and knows of no law in the United States prohibiting residential property owners from banning smoking. (New York Times)

October 28, 2007

Report Details Political Media Trends

The New York Times reported on a new study done by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, part of the Pew Research Center, and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School at Harvard.

The study which examined 1,742 stories that appeared from January through May in 48 news outlets found out about various political media trends. For example there has been increased coverage of political strategy and tactics as opposed to the issues.

Also, Democratic presidential candidates were more favorably covered compared to Republican candidates. According to the study Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois had overwhelming support and positive coverage from the media compared to Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

Other highlights from the study include statistics showing that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York recieved the most coverage but only 27 percent of her stories were considered positive whereas 47 percent about Obama were positive.

The study found that voters were craving coverage of candidates positions on issues and personal background information but only 12 percent of stories dealt with information relevant to voters' decision making.

October 21, 2007

Maine Middle School to Offer Birth Control

According to the New York Times King Middle School in Portland, Maine voted to provide girls access to prescription contraceptives.

They will be added to services offered at the school's health clinic, after the school committee voted 7-2 in favor of the added service.

The decision has received mixed reactions. Some have stated that it is morally wrong to advocate that sexual activity is alright at such a young age, while others say that sexual activity is something that happens so we need help them take care of themselves.

“I think it’s a great idea,? said Cathleen Allen, whose son is enrolled at King. “Someone is finally advocating for these students to take care of themselves.? Ms. Allen added, “It’s an eye-opener for all of us, but when you look at the facts, why not?? (New York Times )

The school's clinic has offered condoms and tests for pregnancy and STD's since 2000. Whereas, Portland high schools have offered prescription contraceptives for years, said Douglas S. Gardner, the city’s director of health and human services. (New York Times)

In the past four years 17 middle school students had become pregnant in Portland, which influenced the officials to extend to program to the middle school.

Parents must sign a waiver if they want their children to have access to the clinic, at King 135 out of the 500 students have permission to use the clinic. Girls will only be allowed access to the prescriptions after counseling and being examined by a physician or nurse practitioner and no prepubescent children will get it.

The Washington Post reports that Gov. John Baldacci said he had reservations about the program and was trying to learn more.

"I appreciate local officials trying to address a need in a medically appropriate way, but these are children," he said in an interview with the AP. "An appropriate balance must be struck addressing the troubling situation that a small number of students find themselves in and recognizing the important role that parents and other family should play." (Washington Post )

October 6, 2007

U.S. Prosecutor Held in a Child Sex Sting Kills Himself

According to the New York Times a federal prosecutor committed suicide on Friday while being held in prison for allegedly traveling from Florida to Michigan to have sex with a 5-year-old girl.

J.D. Roy Atchison, 53, was arrested on Sept. 16 at the Detroit airport after being caught in an Internet sting operation led by Macomb County sheriff's department.

An undercover detective posing as a mother who was soliciting sex with her daughter had been chatting online with Atchison for two weeks, said authorities.

Mr. Atchison's defense attorney, James C. Thomas, had heard but not confirmed that Atchison had hanged himself in the showers at the federal prison in Milan, Mich. He was previously put on watch due to earlier attempts at taking his life, according to prison officials.

He was charged with traveling across state lines to have sex with a child younger than 12, using the Internet to entice a minor and traveling to another state to engage in illicit sex to which he pleaded not guilty. However according to authorities, when he was arrested he was carrying a Dora the Explorer doll, hoop earrings and petroleum jelly.

According to the Washington Post Atchison, a married father of three, was an assistant U.S. attorney in northern Florida, based in Pensacola. Gulf Breeze, Fla., residents have described him as a respected figure who coached girls' softball and basketball in a park a few blocks from his home.

September 29, 2007

Citizenship Test Redesigned

According to the New York Times Federal immigration authorities introduced 100 new questions that will be featured on the civic test that immigrants have to pass to become American citizens.

It is the first time the test has been redesigned since it was created in 1986. Changes were made due to complaints by various groups. Conservatives have said the test was too easy and immigrant advocates complained that it was too hard. Both sides were not pleased with the release of the new test as immigrant groups feel the new test is even harder.

Alfonso Aguilar, a senior official at Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that designs and administers the test, said it was not intended to be punitive.“We don’t seek to fail anyone,? said Mr. Aguilar, an architect of the test. (New York Times)

The $6.5 million redesign took six years before it was completed. Historians, immigrant organizations and liberal and conservative research groups were used to write and discuss potential topics and questions to be featured on the test.

In the pilot runs of the revised test, Mr. Aguilar said, the pass rates improved over the current tests, with 92 percent of participants passing on the first try, as opposed to 84 percent now.

According to the Washington Post the format of the test will remain the same. The citizenship test is administered orally and, except in rare cases, in English. Applicants must answer correctly six out of a randomly assigned, representative selection of 10 questions.

September 23, 2007

Military Funding to Increase by $50 Billion

The New York Times reports the Bush administration plans to add $50 billion for military operations on its 2008 financing request. Almost $200 billion would be spent on the war effort for the year 2008 if the request is accepted.

The majority of the money is intended for the repair of military equipment and for the purchase of new protective equipment for troops, said officials. “We’d put in an original request for 7,000 MRAPS, but we’re going to double that number,? said a senior Defense Department official. MRAPs are mine-resistant, ambush-protective vehicles, which cost around $1 million each.

“We have no higher obligation than to protect those we send to the front lines,? Senator Joesph R. Biden Jr. said in a statement on Wednesday. “So when our commanders in the field tell us that MRAPs will reduce casualties by 67 to 80 percent, it is our responsibility to provide them.?

The request comes after several weeks of partisan politics which included the infamous General "Betray Us" ad in the New York Times and the failed attempt by Democrats to to limit troop rotations.

September 16, 2007

Antiwar Protests Anything but Peaceful

Several thousand gathered on Saturday for what began as a peaceful march against the war in Iraq, but it ended with dozens of demonstrators being taken away in handcuffs.

According to The New York Times ( ) , the police, including some officers dressed in riot gear, tried to halt demonstrators as they sought to climb over a low wall near the Capitol after a march that had begun near the White House in a festive atmosphere. Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a spokeswoman for the Capitol Police, said that the authorities had arrested 189 people and that they would be charged with illegally crossing a police line.

Chris Hager, 62, of Falls Church, Va. was one of the protesters present said that he wants to make America aware of what is going on over there. “We want to make people think about what is happening. This certainly wasn’t the country I was brought up to believe in,? he said.

The Washington Post,
reports that several notable speakers were present at the rally, including Ralph Nader and former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, who talked about Iraqis who were refugees, hungry, or ill. "You can't believe a word the administration says," Clark said.