Pegasus Spyware Maker NSO Group Sued in U.S. Court

A group of journalists working for an award-winning Central American independent news outlet have filed a lawsuit in a U.S. court against the NSO Group. That’s the Israeli company that operates Pegasus spyware, which has been used to monitor and track journalists, human rights activists and dissidents across the globe. The journalists suing the NSO Group all work for El Faro, which is based in El Salvador, perhaps the oldest exclusively online Latin American newspaper. They allege that malicious Pegasus surveillance software was used to infiltrate their iPhones and track their communications and movements. The journalists believe the Salvadoran government and President Nayib Bukele were behind the surveillance. The lawsuit, which was filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute, states, quote, “The attacks have compromised Plaintiffs’ safety as well as the safety of their colleagues, sources, and family members.”

there were 15, including me, of — 15 members of El Faro who decided to bring this suit. There were 22 of us in total who tested positive for Pegasus on our phones. And that’s in a broader context where the Citizen Lab and Access Now found as many as 35 people who were surveilled using Pegasus between roughly June 2020 through November 2021. And El Faro, in particular, being that 22 of us were infected, it was the most systematic and, in the words of the Citizen Lab, “shocking” case that they had reviewed of Pegasus infections focused on one organization. In my case, there were four attacks against my phone in May and June of 2021 while I was doing investigative work in El Salvador.

— source | Dec 06, 2022

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Azerbaijani Laundromat

What is the Azerbaijani Laundromat?

A scheme to curry influence, pay lobbyists, apologists and European politicians and to launder cash. The $2.9bn (£2.2bn) operation ran between 2012 and 2014 – meaning that on average $3m was channelled out of Azerbaijan every day. The source of money isn’t always clear, but it comes from companies linked to Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, state ministries and the International Bank of Azerbaijan, the country’s largest bank, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection. The cash was transferred into four offshore-managed UK companies. From there, it was spent in various countries, including Germany, the UK, France, Turkey, Iran and Kazakhstan.

How was it done?

By clever use of the west’s financial system. Danske, Denmark’s largest bank, handled the payments via a small branch office in Estonia. It noticed nothing amiss. The organisers of the scheme exploited Britain’s weakly regulated company system. They registered four firms at Companies House in London. These were Hilux Services, Polux Management, Metastar Invest and LCM Alliance. The first two were incorporated in Glasgow, the third in Birmingham and the fourth in Hertfordshire. The beneficial owner of the firms is a secret.

— source | Luke Harding, Caelainn Barr and Dina Nagapetyants | 17 Aug 2022

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The Great Flood

How many times will we rebuild Florida’s cities, Houston, coastal New Jersey, New Orleans and other population centers ravaged by storms lethally intensified by global warming? At what point, surveying the devastation and knowing more is inevitable, will we walk away, leaving behind vast coastal dead zones? Will we retreat even further into magical thinking to cope with the fury we have unleashed from the natural world? Or will we respond rationally and radically alter our relationship to this earth that gives us life?

Civilizations over the past 6,000 years have unfailingly squandered their futures through acts of colossal stupidity and hubris. We are probably not an exception. The physical ruins of these empires, including the Mesopotamian, Roman, Mayan and Indus, litter the earth. They elevated, during acute distress, inept and corrupt leaders who channeled anger, fear and dwindling resources into self-defeating wars and vast building projects. The ruling oligarchs, driven by greed and hedonism, retreated into privileged compounds–the Forbidden City, Versailles–and hoarded wealth as their populations endured mounting misery and poverty. The worse it got, the more the people lied to themselves and the more they wanted to be lied to. Reality was too painful to confront. They retreated into what anthropologists call “crisis cults,” which promised the return of the lost world through magical beliefs.

“The most significant characteristic of modern civilization is the sacrifice of the future for the present,” philosopher and psychologist William James wrote, “and all the power

— source | Chris Hedges | Sep 11, 2017

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Decades Ago, Paul Manafort Played a Leading Role in a Pioneering Operation to Secretly Funnel Foreign Money Into U.S. Politics

Former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was a major player in a transnational operation that was both pioneering and innovative during its time, according to court documents and interviews with key figures. This decades-old scheme may fit the same pattern investigators are probing in regard to Russian government’s influence on the 2016 campaign.

When Manafort joined Trump’s campaign, a flurry of stories was written about the shady clients the lobbyist had represented over his long career. But by shifting the focus from who he represented to how, a more interesting picture begins to emerge.

Trump accepted Manafort’s resignation in August 2016 — just three months after he joined the campaign — after reports of Manafort’s ties to a pro-Russian Ukrainian became too much to stomach. He is known to have worked for a series of controversial clients, including an international arms dealer. A closer look into one of Manafort’s former clients, as well as details from a past top official of that organization, provides insight into a scheme to funnel foreign government money into the United States through a nonprofit

— source | Maryam Saleh | Sep 5 2017

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100-Year Flood, 500-Year Flood: Real Risk Probabilities

When the Army Corp of Engineers and NFIP came up with the 100-Year Flood and 500-Year Flood designations, it’s almost as though they wanted to confuse the public. With Hurricane Harvey, much has been written on the meaning of the terms 100-year flood (it means a 1% chance of flooding in a single year), and the term 500-year flood (a 0.2% chance of flooding in a single year). While these basic definitions are correct, they don’t really help homeowners, whose question is: what’s the chance that my house will flood while I own it?

In the case of the 100-year flood zone, this means that the chance of flooding is at least 1% in a single year. But what if you plan to own your home for 30 years? In this case, you have a 99% of NOT flooding each year, but you’ve got to NOT flood for all 30 years. The probability of NOT flooding over 2 years is 0.99 * 0.99, and thus the probability of not flooding over 30 years is 0.99^30, or 74%. This means that the home has a 26% of flooding over the 30 years in question.

Of course, that doesn’t take into account the change in probabilities resulting from a combination of climate change and reckless development in most American cities. According to Kenneth Trenbeth, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, “What used to be a 500-year event has become a 50- or 100-year event.” With this in mind, we can

— source | Aug 30, 2017

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It’s a Myth That Corporate Tax Cuts Mean More Jobs

“The arithmetic for us is simple,” AT&T’s chief executive, Randall Stephenson, said on CNBC in May. If Congress were to cut the 35 percent tax on corporate profits to 20 percent, he declared, “I know exactly what AT&T would do — we’d invest more” in the United States.

Every $1 billion in tax savings would create 7,000 well-paying jobs, Mr. Stephenson went on to say. The correlation between lower corporate taxes and more jobs, he assured viewers, runs “very, very tight.”

As Congress prepares to take up tax legislation this fall, including an effort to reduce the corporate tax rate, this bold jobs claim merits examination. Notably, it comes from the chief executive of a company that’s already paying comparatively little in federal taxes.

According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, AT&T enjoyed an effective tax rate of just 8 percent between 2008 and 2015, despite recording a profit in the United States each year, by exploiting tax breaks and loopholes. (The company argues that it pays significant taxes, at a rate close to 34 percent in recent years, but that includes

— source | Sarah Anderson | Aug. 30, 2017

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This Labor Day, Remember That Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign Was for Workers’ Rights

Most Americans today know that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, but few know why he was there. King went to Memphis to support African American garbage workers, who were on strike to protest unsafe conditions, abusive white supervisors, and low wages — and to gain recognition for their union. Their picket signs relayed a simple but profound message: “I Am A Man.”

Today we view King as something of a saint, his birthday a national holiday, and his name adorning schools and street signs. But in his day, the establishment considered King a dangerous troublemaker. He was harassed by the FBI and vilified in the media. He began his activism in Montgomery, Alabama, as a crusader against the nation’s racial caste system, but the struggle for civil rights radicalized him into a fighter for broader economic and social justice.

As we celebrate Labor Day on Monday, let’s remember that King was committed to building bridges between the civil rights and labor movements.

— source | Peter Dreier | Sep 4, 2017

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Teacher equity and maths identity

Who can do well in math? How you answer that question may depend on where you live. Whereas people in East Asian countries tend to believe that hard work can lead anyone to succeed at math, people in the United States are more likely to believe that people need natural talent in the subject to succeed. This perception means that students in the U.S. may be particularly susceptible to racial and gender stereotypes about who is and is not “good at math.”

“Americans don’t realize what strange stereotypes we have about math,” says Shifrer. “It really sets kids up for failure here.”

The fact that some high school students are more likely to give up on math than others has important implications for their individual futures and for the lack of diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.

“U.S. STEM spaces are not a meritocracy,” says Shifrer. “The cultural biases that we have around people’s identities, status characteristics like race and gender, and our cultural stereotypes about math and science and who belongs there play a key role in who enters these fields and does well in them. The more that educators and students are aware

— source Portland State University | Mar 3, 2023

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Dying for ration: No health aid for those without PDS cards

A scheme to distribute free ration to 813.5 million beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) is supposed to have come into effect from the New Year. Down To Earth looked at the ground situation of beneficiaries in Jharkhand.

The Public Distribution System (PDS) started in the 1960s to provide food grains at subsidised rates to the people of the country facing a food crisis. PDS was transformed into the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in 2013.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, free ration was given out to the needy under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY).

PMGKAY has been discontinued and the benefits have been integrated into NFSA from January 2023. But the ground situation in parts of Jharkhand tells a different story about the condition of the recipients. Health treatments under the Ayushman Card are also not

— source | Raju Sajwan | 02 Jan 2023

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