Last year alone, USPS approved nearly 50,000 “mail cover” requests from police and agency inspectors to secretly monitor individuals’ mail for criminal and national security investigations.
Law enforcement agencies have stepped up use of mail covers as part of counterterrorism and criminal cases since 9/11.
But the scope of the surveillance was not previously known to be so widespread, nor was the absence of oversight from potential abuses.
One of the nation’s leading universities has come forward with its own numbers on the disturbing problem of sexual assaults, which could spur fact-finding by other institutions.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported that one in six female undergraduates had been sexually assaulted while attending the prestigious school.
University President L. Rafael Reif said he was “disturbed by the extent and nature of the problem” at MIT. “Sexual assault violates our core MIT values." read more
Farm chemicals banned by European and Asian countries are still being used, often in large measure, across the U.S.
At least five pesticides being applied to American farms have been outlawed overseas. Some of the most popular are neonicotinoids, which farmers use widely on corn and soybean crops.
Another chemical banned in Europe as well as China is paraquat, which kills weeds and was famously used in marijuana eradication efforts in Mexico. It may also cause Parkinson’s disease.
Independent groups from both sides have spent at least $36 million on the race—in a state with only 490,000 registered voters. About 280,000 of those are considered to be likely voters.
The spending averages out to about $120 per likely voter. And that figure doesn’t or can’t account for the actual amount that’s gone into the election from third party interests.
So much money is being spent on the Senate race that it’s crowding other candidates off the airwaves. read more
The FBI has identified a federal contractor suspected of leaking sensitive documents about the terrorist watch list to journalist Glenn Greenwald.
Agents searched the suspect’s home, leading to an investigation by federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia.
“It’s fair to say that there are people who have been inspired by Edward Snowden’s courage and by the great good and virtue that it has achieved,” said Greenwald.
As the old saying goes, as temperatures rise, tempers flare. That adage also applies to the effects of global warming on the human condition.
Researchers found 55 credible studies linking increases in violence with rising global temperatures.
Those increases ranged from personal conflicts (domestic violence, road rage, assault, murder, and rapes) to country or group conflicts, including riots, ethnic violence, invasions, gang violence and civil wars. read more
One example cited is Komen’s decision to accept $100,000 from Baker Hughes, supplier of equipment to the oil and gas industry. Baker Hughes has helped companies carry out hydraulic fracturing operations that use cancer-causing chemicals. In response to public pressure, Komen canceled founder Nancy Brinker's acceptance of the check.
Komen has also partnered with water bottling companies that use BPAs, a carcinogen, and fast-food providers accused of selling food containing carcinogens. read more
Led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and former President José Ramos-Horta of East Timor, the Nobel laureates want Obama, who won the prize in 2009, to make “full disclosure to the American people of the extent and use of torture.”
That would include releasing the Senate report on the CIA's use of torture last decade against al Qaeda members and others.
“When a nation’s leaders condone and even order torture, that nation has lost its way,” wrote the laureates. read more
In some instances, patients find themselves being billed for the room they sat in while seeing a therapist. “How could it be that the doctor was in network and the hospital was in network, but I had to pay separately for the room?” asked Leo Boudreau, who found such a charge on a bill.
Some ophthalmologists are now charging “refraction fees” as part of eye examinations. A person with a broken arm is now billed separately for the sling. A visit to an ER can result in an “activation fee.”
The numbers are eye opening: Tokyo has 13.4 million residents, but only 1,697 are homeless. Compare that to New York, where there are 56,000 homeless.
"Income inequality is a massive and growing problem in the U.S., while Japan has historically had one of the lowest rates of inequality among developed countries,” wrote Scott Keyes.
In Japan, government provides more social services to help the homeless than the U.S. does, and families have a strong sense of duty to relatives in need. read more
Federal law enforcement has increasingly used a key provision of the Patriot Act to pry into people’s lives without having to tell them. This practice has been justified under the guise of counterterrorism, but government statistics show that less than 1% of all “sneak and peek” actions involve suspected terrorists.
Only 51 such requests during 2013 were for terrorism out of 11,129 total requests that year. The biggest reason for the warrants was to investigate drug crimes. read more
Of the 2,379 Pakistani drone fatalities, only 704 could be identified. Of those, only 295 were identified as members of an armed group inside Pakistan.
“Almost 30% are not even linked to a specific group,” Jack Serle reported. “Only 84 are identified as members of al Qaeda – less than 4% of the total number of people killed.”
These findings “demonstrate the continuing complete lack of transparency surrounding U.S. drone operations,” said Mustafa Qadri.
State Rep. Stacy Abrams (D) led an effort to register those who've never voted before, mostly minorities, and added about 90,000 people to the rolls. About 40,000 of those registrations have been lost. Georgia’s top election official, Brian Kemp, has been unhelpful with the missing registrations.
“We asked the Secretary of State to meet with us. We wanted to understand if we were doing something wrong, or if there was another database... But he refused...” said Abrams.
The wealthy, often criticized for hogging too much of the nation’s wealth, also are disproportionate contributors to global warming.
A new study from the Center for Global Development says the richest 2% of Americans are responsible for producing four times as much greenhouse gas emissions per person—53.5 metric tons of CO2 a year—as the bottom 20% of the population, which generates about 12.5 metric tons per person.
After Roger Hoeppner refused to pay $80,000 to the city and come out of his house after 24 deputies showed up, the department sent in its military surplus vehicle, known as the MARV (Marathon County Response Vehicle).
Hoeppner agreed to come out once he saw the MARV, and later paid the money he owed.
“People may not always understand why, but an armored vehicle is almost a necessity now,” said Sheriff's Captain Greg Bean.
Anti-abortionists have tried in several states to up the stakes in the fight to end women’s right to control their bodies by pushing new laws that would define human life as beginning at conception. After several defeats, they might finally succeed next month in North Dakota. However the wording of the amendment doesn’t mention abortion. Instead, it reads: “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.” read more
The U.S. nuclear weapons complex is greatly expanding the production of fissile cores to levels not seen since the end of the Cold War three decades ago.
The dramatic increase comes as part of a long-term billion-dollar effort to renew the nuclear arsenal under President Barack Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize largely because of his promise to greatly reduce the nation’s stockpile of these weapons—a promise he has not kept.