Residents of Beijing are suffering through a sixth day of heavy smog. On Monday, authorities issued the second-highest level of pollution alert for a second time after it was used for the first time ever on Friday. During an orange alert, children and the elderly are warned not to go outside. Dozens of factories have shut down in a bid to curb pollution.
A Republican state lawmaker in Virginia is under fire after using the term “host” to refer to pregnant women. State Senator Steve Martin posted the comment on Facebook in response to a message from a pro-choice group urging him to change his policies on abortion. He wrote, “once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it to remain alive.” He later edited the post, changing the word “host” to “bearer of the child.” He told Huffington Post his remarks had been taken the wrong way and were meant to be sarcastic. Women’s health advocates plan to rally in the Virginia Senate gallery today wearing shirts that say “Not a Host.”
New York City has backed off on a plan to remove homeless people from subway stations following a public campaign against the planned sweep. Advocates for the homeless were on patrol early Monday morning to ensure people could remain in subways, where they are staying warm. Participants at a rally on Sunday said homeless people should not be forced to choose between shelters and jail.
Daniel Sanchez, Copwatch: “I graduated from Stuyvesant High School, which is known as one the greatest high schools in this city, and six months later, I was sleeping on the MTA trains. So I want to be clear to those of you who might be watching this and feel that this isn’t an issue that’s connected to you. I never thought I was going to end up homeless. Most New Yorkers are one paycheck away from homelessness. So understand that at any given time, a couple of bad breaks, and you could be in these same situations.”
The protest in New York City comes amid a nationwide crackdown on the homeless. Across the United States, more than 50 cities have adopted laws against camping or food sharing that make it harder for homeless people to survive.
A Washington, D.C.-based whistleblower group has reported a suspicious break-in at their office. The Project on Government Oversight says unknown people appear to have broken in, shuffled papers on employees’ desks and attempted to open a file cabinet, all while leaving computers and other valuable items behind. Police determined the break-in was related to the group’s work, which centers on exposing waste, fraud and abuse by the government, particularly by the Pentagon.
A new report based on leaks by Edward Snowden reveals new details of how Western spy agencies manipulate information online. Writing at TheIntercept.org, Glenn Greenwald describes the tactics of a secret unit inside Britain’s top spy agency called JTRIG, or Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group. JTRIG’s self-identified goals are to discredit targets by posting fake material — including, for example, fake blog posts purporting to be by a victim of the target — and to manipulate online discourse. A newly revealed document titled “Disruption: Operational Playbook” lists tactics like “false flag operation,” or posting material online, then falsely attributing it to someone else. The targets appear to include those suspected of “hacktivism,” meaning online acts of political protest. “The broader point,” Greenwald writes, “is that … these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats.”
Another source within the National Security Agency appears to have emerged. The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported Sunday that the NSA increased its spying on senior German officials after President Obama ordered a halt to spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel. The report cites a high-ranking NSA employee in Germany.