Bradley Manning Sentenced to 35 Years for Espionage

Former U.S. Army private Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years in prison following his conviction on charges of having leaked several hundred thousand classified U.S. military documents to WikiLeaks.org, an online website.

The 25-year-old native of Crescent, Oklahoma remained stoic as military judge Colonel Denise Lind pronounced sentence on August 21, 2013. Besides receiving a lengthy prison sentence, Manning will be demoted to the rank of private, be dishonorably discharged, and forfeit all military pay and allowances.

The court convicted Manning of 20 out of a total of 22 espionage-related, fraud, and theft crimes. He was acquitted of the most severe charge of aiding the enemy, however. Conviction on that count would have mandated a life sentence for Bradley.

Originally, the 20 charges for which Bradley Manning sentenced carried a combined maximum sentence of 136 years in prison. However, Judge Lind granted defense counsel’s motion to reduce the maximum prison term just 90 years. When the sentencing phase concluded, military prosecutors argued for a minimum 60-year sentence, while the defense urged the court to sentence his client to a maximum 25-year term.

During the sentencing phase, Manning read a brief statement to the court in which he apologized for his behavior and expressed remorse for having hurt people and the United States. He further stated that he thought he was going to “help people, not hurt people” when he decided to do the things that lead to his criminal conviction.

Following the trial, defense attorney David Coombs described his client as a “na├»ve young solder” who sincerely felt that he could single-handedly “change the world.” By contrast, the trial judge described Manning’s conduct as “wanton and reckless” actions that placed others in actual and imminent danger.

The court martial

Formal court-martial proceedings against Manning commenced three years after his detention in Iraq based on official suspicions that he had leaked video footage of an Apache helicopter attack that resulted in the deaths of several Iraqi civilians in 2007.

Military officials subsequently charged Manning with having deliberately leaked a group of 750,000 documents comprised of American military battlefield reports from diplomatic cables, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Some have dubbed this unauthorized release as the biggest classified data leak in our nation’s entire history.

During the court-martial process that lasted almost two months, government prosecutors presented in-depth computer forensic analyses of Manning’s computer activities during his tour of duty in Iraq from late 2009 to mid-2010. According to the prosecution, this evidence revealed that Manning had started to search networks that contained classified military data for content of interest to WikiLeaks.

In a failed bid to prove that had Manning aided the enemy, prosecutors alleged that many of the classified battlefield reports were eventually located on PCs that belonged to Osama bin Laden — all of which were seized during a raid wherein bin Laden met his demise.

Prosecution witnesses testified that Manning’s leaks put many sources of U.S. intelligence in serious danger, some of whom relocated to other countries due to concerns over their personal safety. Moreover, several ambassadors were reassigned, recalled, or expelled when embarrassing revelations became known.

Manning’s prosecution is a prime example of the Obama administration’s attempts to crackdown on espionage. A total of seven people have faced criminal charges for leaking classified information to news media during Barak Obama’s tenure as U.S. President. Only three people have been prosecuted for such offenses during the combined tenures of all prior U.S. Presidents.

Manning reportedly intends to appeal his recent conviction and will become eligible for parole in fewer than ten years. At least one commentator has posited that any subsequent parole decision will probably be as much of a political issue as Manning’s court martial.

During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors urged the court to impose a harsh sentence in order to serve as an effective deterrent for other soldiers who might contemplate the theft of classified information.

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NJOY Funds New E-cig Study after Attracting Major Investors

NJOY 5-packs.In recent years, electronic cigarettes have become significantly more popular, and this has attracted the attention of some notable investors. The most recent famous face to back this ground breaking technology is Sean Parker, the shrewd brains behind online success stories such as Spotify, Facebook and Napster. Reportedly, alongside Peter Thiel (co-founder of the online payment processor PayPal), Douglas Teitelbaum (head of Homewood Capital merchant bank) and other investors, Parker has purchased a $75,000,000 stake in NJOY, which is among the biggest e cig brands on the American market.

Apparently flush with new-infused capital, NJOY has funded a new e-cig study, as well as marketing efforts and global expansion. Undoubtedly, these new investors are leaders in spotting and developing game changing consumer technology. Hence, their investment is a vote of confidence in the NJOY business model. Furthermore, by acquiring this capital, NJOY have underscored their potential for future growth. They are already an established name in the e cigarette industry, and this recent development promises to make them the dominant force.

This year, in the US, e cigarette retail sales are predicted to reach one billion. This is an increase of 100% on the previous year. Thus, it is easy to understand why this industry has lured in big investors, in spite of grim forecasts regarding the FDA’s decisions about implementing regulations.

However, Parker, who is known for his philanthropy and interest in cancer research, appears drawn to e cigarettes for reasons other than monetary gain. As an investor and entrepreneur, Parker has stated that he identifies with “disruptive” brands in “explosive” new industries. The common theme with these brands is the intention to use technology to improve people’s lives. In a Wall Street Journal interview, Parker said that he believed the clever implementation of technology may one day eliminate combustion cigarettes and all the damage they cause.

Addressing this issue requires top class leadership that unites executives across an array of disciplines, such as chemistry, consumer marketing and electrical engineering. The facts speak for themselves: The King product from NJOY has successfully captured the lion’s share of the market. As with all leading technology companies, NJOY have displayed a propensity to reinvent the brand. The consequence of all of this has been an unsurpassed alternative to combustion cigarettes. The investors are all reported to be very excited by this company, and relishing the prospect of participating in the huge growth of the sector.

Indeed, Parker’s investment partner in NJOY, Douglas Teitelbaum, has said that he believes both the company and the e cigarette industry are showing excellent potential. After lots of research, Teitelbaum claims he is sure that NJOY will carry on innovating and leading smokers away from the dangers of combustion, using their ground breaking products. Teitelbaum is a former smoker and tested numerous products, while looking for a viable replacement for cigarettes. Eventually, he discovered the NJOY King and saw that it was in a class of its’ own, with regards to brand, product experience and flavor.

In the US, there are 46,000,000 smokers. For various reasons, many of these smokers want a cigarette substitute that will give them the identical brand reliability and flavor. Teitelbaum states that NJOY’s principles clearly position them as leaders in guiding smokers towards a healthier future. Due to this, he adds, he is honored to invest in such a laudable project. Meanwhile, in a Wall Street Journal interview, Mitch Zeller (the FDA Tobacco Center Product Director) described the electronic cigarette industry as “the wild west”, with regards to regulations. However, he did not comment on how the FDA intended to regulate the industry in future.

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Latest News on Green Technologies Impacting Numerous Industries

U.S. weather map.Currently, a US study is being carried out to assess potential ways of limiting global warming, such as carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management. Mainly, the study will analyze peer reviewed literature, rather than conducting much new experimentation or research into new geo-engineering technologies. This analysis will encompass general opinions on green technologies impacting numerous industries. It will look at the impact of these technologies on the economy, national security and the environment too.

The committee in charge of the study is comprised of experts in earth sciences, oceanography, remote sensing, environmental sciences, geochemistry and marine chemistry, global ecology, climate and atmospheric science, science history, national security and public policy. Many of the suggested geo-engineering methods for carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management have worldwide implications. Thus, generally, they are debated in a worldwide context. The study is backed by the National Academy of Sciences, the US intelligence community, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Altering the Climate

For almost 70 years, efforts to alter the climate have taken different forms. Agencies have utilized cloud seeding to move snow and rain to parched regions of western America. From the early 1960′s to the mid 1980′s, the US government unsuccessfully attempted to modify hurricanes. In June, Indonesia utilized cloud seeding to assist with dousing forest fires. In 2008, the government in China utilized its’ climate modification department to try to stop rain from falling at the Beijing Olympics.

Climate adjustment is the practice of changing the weather to enhance rainfall and/or obstruct hail, via the use of silver iodide (glaciogenic) and/or calcium chloride (hygroscopic) material. Ground base generators or aircraft are employed to deposit these substances into the clouds. The West Texas Weather Modification Association (WTWMA) seeds the bases of convective thunderstorms using aircraft. On the ground, their meteorologists work with the pilots via radio to find suitable clouds and inflow areas. The primary equipment used is radar and satellite imagery from software called “Thunderstorm Identification, Tracking, Analysis & Nowcasting” (TITAN). The National Atmospheric Research Center supports this software.

Based on predefined criteria, safeguards have been set up to halt cloud seeding missions. For instance, the WTWMA’s North Dakota program does not seed any storm that creates a tornado or funnel cloud. Also, they pause their operations in the event of flash flooding. Typically, winter missions have snow pack criteria, whereby seeding might be paused. However, this depends on how far the snow season has advanced, and on the quantity of standard precipitation.

Cloud seeding does not cause any notable damage to the environment, but it does improve precipitation by 5% to 15%. Also, it can lessen crop hail harm by 40% to 45%. Generally, the advantages of increased water, via snow and rain, and less crop hail harm (as a consequence of cloud seeding) greatly outweighs the cost. Often, water generated from cloud seeding only costs a few US dollars per acre foot. For instance, approximately, desalination generates one acre foot of H2O for between $500.00 to $2000.00 per acre foot.

In July 2013, a report was published by the World Meteorological Organization’s expert Weather Modification Research team. This report stated that, apart from the US, 42 other countries have climate adjustment programs. Climate warfare is forbidden under a treaty signed in 1980 by the US. However, there is no doubt that the US intelligence community is interested in the technology.

Climate change could affect the stability of other nations and cause problems for the US government. Hence, 1 national security advantage would be to stop African states from failing, especially in a country like Somalia, that has experienced problems like ongoing civil war and famine. Furthermore, it would be entirely acceptable for the US government to utilize climate adjustment to save money and lives. This US study is scheduled to be completed by the Autumn of 2014.

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Do Red Light and Speed Cameras Violate Your Rights?

Automated traffic camera at intersection photo.

The Two Sides of the Argument

The presence of red light and speed cameras on American roads has generated heated debate, lawsuits, and even referendums in some states. Proponents of the automated installations say that they are necessary because they enhance road safety. According to a study carried out by the Insurance Institute for Highway safety (IIHS) from 2004 to 2008, such cameras reduced the number of intersection fatalities in 99 cities by about 24%. Furthermore, the aforementioned IIHS study also found that such cameras would have saved the lives 815 Americans over the same period if all major cities in the US had deployed them.

On the other hand, opponents of the technology say that they violate the constitution and civil rights. Some people are even questioning whether such cameras actually save lives. This is because a study carried out by the Houston Police Department (HPD) in 2011 returned some rather unexpected results. If the results of the HPD research study are anything to go by, five months after people in the city of Houston voted to turn off traffic cameras placed at road intersections, the number of accidents at the same intersections fell by an astonishing 16%. Of course, the results left HPD officials scratching their heads wondering how intersection accidents could fall when there were no cameras at all.

Websites that sell products and apps that are intended to prevent tickets from speed and red light cameras have begun to pop up all over the web. While some of these products may be considered illegal in some jurisdictions, apps that display the locations of automated traffic cameras, speed traps, and DUI checkpoints are well within the law, and are now available for GPS systems, smartphones, and tablets.

Road safety arguments notwithstanding, US courts and organizations that champion civil rights have waded into the debate. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that traffic light cameras violate privacy rights, they are not 100 percent accurate, and do not reduce the number of accidents at road intersections. To bolster these claims, ACLU gives the example of Richard Gregory who found himself in the spotlight after authorities in the city of Dallas accused him of running a red light while driving a black Acura 32T.

The problem was Richard Gregory did not own a black Acura let alone live in the city of Dallas. At the time of the red light incident (7:15 a.m.), he was at home hundreds of miles away in League City. The officer involved in this case misread an “N” as an “M”. ACLU reckons this shows traffic light cameras could lead to the prosecution of innocent Americans. Another aspect that worries ACLU is the misuse of such cameras.

For instance, a report published by ACLU states that law enforcement officers used information captured by traffic light cameras at the Texas-Oklahoma border to harass law abiding and innocent Americans. Finally, ACLU says a study carried out by the Washington Post found that road safety cameras do not actually improve road safety. Instead, fatalities increased by 81% and side impact crashes by 30%.

Decisions made by US courts do not seem to be clear-cut. In March 2011, US appellate judge Frank Easterbrook said road safety cameras are legal and do not violate the constitution. According to judge Easterbrook, drivers should be accountable for any traffic rule violations. In June 2012, a judge in Wake County, North Carolina changed a lawsuit filed by two drivers challenging Cary town’s red light traffic system into a class action suit. One the other hand, support for opponents of these cameras came from a judge in Ohio who ruled in March this year that speed cameras in Cincinnati violate the rights of drivers under the state’s constitution.

Some people have successfully challenged tickets issued for infringing traffic rules. One case that stands out involved the wife of a math tutor from Collier County in Florida. When Mike Mogil’s wife told her husband how she received a ticket for violating traffic light rules, he decided to put his math skills to use. He drove to the same intersection with a stopwatch at hand and measured how long it took the yellow lights to turn off. He found that the yellow lights in a 45 mph zone were on for a paltry 3.8 seconds.

This was wrong because they should have been on for at least 4.5 seconds. Armed with this evidence, Mike Mogil went to court where the judge agreed his wife had no case to answer. Another worrying aspect is the revelation by NBC’s Chuck Todd that traffic enforcement camera violations can have a negative impact on one’s credit score, and this actually happened to Todd when he failed to settle a traffic light violation.

The debate over the legality and illegality of red light and speed camera systems will likely continue to play out in the public arena as well as in courtrooms across the country. Nevertheless, the president of Houston Police Officer’s Union, Gary Blankinship believes that such cameras actually save lives.

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Is the NSA Reading Your E-mail?

The NSA and your rights.
As 2013 has progressed, the embarrassment of the US government over the original revelations of the whistle blower Edward Snowden has if anything intensified. However, a New York Times report in early August 2013 suggests that the scope of the government’s invasion of its citizens’ privacy goes even further than Snowden’s leaks had indicated. This prompts the question for virtually every citizen: Is the NSA reading your e-mail?

The original disclosures from Edward Snowden, first published in the UK Guardian newspaper, alleged that his agency, the National Security Agency or NSA, had been filtering all the electronic correspondence of individuals with contacts outside the USA. The agency had obtained direct access to the systems of Internet giants, including Google and Facebook, using a program called Prism, which enables officials to collect a wide range of data, including e-mail content and search history. This report followed an earlier revelation about the existence of a secret court order forcing the telecoms provider Verizon to hand over information about its customers’ phone calls.

These revelations caused a major international stir, and forced Snowden to go on the run. However, according to the newest reports, the NSA is not only scrutinizing international e-mail contacts, but is scrutinizing electronic communications for even small shreds of information connected with an overseas target, such as a name or an e-mail address. This means that just about any e-mail sent to an overseas recipient could potentially be read by the NSA.

Predictably, this report has provoked an even greater storm of protest. Many commentators have pointed out the constitutional illegality of such a process, which is carried out without a warrant. What is more, they point out that millions of citizens are having their privacy invaded and there is little they can do about it.

The repercussions of these disclosures are already proving to be far reaching. One area where the consequences are being felt is the nervousness of ordinary Americans about what they used to regard as their freedom to express themselves online. There are already reports that users are cutting back on Facebook posts, removing Facebook friends, and generally making drastic changes to their online habits. This is largely driven by apprehension that, as the scope of the NSA’s surveillance has expanded once, it could expand further without anybody realizing it, and that any innocuous joke or comment could see them landed in a government enquiry.

Meanwhile, the repercussions for technology companies in the USA are at least as alarming. These companies calculate that they could lose literally tens of billions of dollars over the next three years, in lost international cloud computing contracts. A survey has found that 10% of overseas customers had already canceled orders with a US provider, and 56% had stated they would be less likely to use a cloud computing provider based in the USA. Generally, UK and European competitors are benefiting at these companies’ expense — apart from one unfortunate London-based company called Prism Solutions.

Particularly for those Internet companies named in the disclosures, the stakes are enormous, as the European markets are essential for their bottom line. For instance, the total of active European users of Facebook is greater than the total in the USA and Canada combined. This could have a major impact on the US economy — not to mention the credibility of the US government as an international defender of Internet freedom.

The answer to the question: Is the NSA reading your e-mail? is probably yes, if you correspond with any international friends or relatives at all. The assurance from the government is that this is done with the best of intentions, and with the interests of the safety and security of US citizens at heart. However, numbers of these citizens are beginning to wonder where they can look for a defender of their personal freedom and privacy.

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