Teen Boys Targeted by Sexual Blackmailers, FBI's Massive DNA Database, The Power of Human Contact
Revealing News Articles
October 10, 2023
Explore below key excerpts of revealing news articles on thousands of teen boys in the U.S. being targeted by sexual blackmailers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's increasingly massive DNA database, the questionable use of Google user data by law enforcement, and more.
In our independent media section, don't miss articles on censorship in the name of combating hate and the important role semiconductor manufacturing is playing in U.S. foreign policy.
Read also wonderfully inspiring articles on the power of human contact to bridge social divides, what we can learn from Norway's love of nature, an ambitious effort to map the ocean floor, and more. You can also skip to this section now.
Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails, see this page. The most important sentences are highlighted. And don't miss the "What you can do" section below the summaries. By educating ourselves and spreading the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Special note: John Kiriakou is a former intelligence officer whistleblower who exposed the CIA’s torture program. Listen to a powerful podcast interview where he shares the challenges of being a whistleblower, and his extensive experience witnessing the horrific crimes committed by his own country in the name of national security.
Quote of the week: We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false. ~~ William Casey, former director of the CIA
Video of the week: An excellent interview looks into the lives of billionaires who are reshaping technology, military capacities, and global affairs in unprecedented ways: Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Marc Andreesen.
‘IDK what to do’: Thousands of teen boys are being extorted in sexting scams
October 2, 2023, Washington Post
Lynn and Paul were sitting in their Seattle home one night earlier this year when their son, Michael, a 17-year-old high school football player, burst into the room and made a beeline for his mom’s purse. “I’m being blackmailed,” he said. Michael had fallen prey to what online safety and law enforcement experts call financial sextortion, in which predators befriend victims online under false pretenses, entice them to send incriminating photos and then demand payment under threat that they’ll expose the photos to family and friends. The number of sextortion cases targeting young people “has exploded in the past couple of years,” with teen boys being specific targets, said Lauren Coffren, executive director of the Exploited Children Division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC, which serves as a clearinghouse for records of abuse, received more than 10,000 tips of financial sextortion of minors, primarily boys, in 2022 from the public as well as from electronic service providers, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, which are required by law to report cases. By the end of July 2023, NCMEC had already received more than 12,500 reports. The repercussions of the abuse are devastating: At least a dozen boys died by suicide in 2022, after they were blackmailed, according to the FBI. Meanwhile, social media companies are playing catch up to stem the tidal wave of sextortion scams targeting children.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on sexual abuse scandals from reliable major media sources.
FBI Hoovering Up DNA At A Pace That Rivals China, Holds 21 Million Samples And Counting
August 29, 2023, The Intercept
The FBI has amassed 21.7 million DNA profiles — equivalent to about 7 percent of the U.S. population — according to Bureau data reviewed by The Intercept. The FBI aims to nearly double its current $56.7 million budget for dealing with its DNA catalog with an additional $53.1 million, according to its budget request for fiscal year 2024. “The requested resources will allow the FBI to process the rapidly increasing number of DNA samples collected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” the appeal for an increase says. “When we’re talking about rapid expansion like this, it’s getting us ever closer to a universal DNA database,” Vera Eidelman, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, [said]. “I think the civil liberties implications here are significant.” The rapid growth of the FBI’s sample load is in large part thanks to a Trump-era rule change that mandated the collection of DNA from migrants who were arrested or detained by immigration authorities. Until recently, the U.S. DNA database surpassed even that of authoritarian China, which launched an ambitious DNA collection program in 2017. That year, the BBC reported, the U.S. had about 4 percent of its population’s DNA, while China had about 3 percent. While DNA has played an important role in prosecuting crimes, less than 3 percent of the profiles have assisted in cases, the Bureau’s data reveals. By comparison, fingerprints collected by the FBI from current and former federal employees linked them to crimes at a rate of 12 percent each year.
Google User Data Has Become a Favorite Police Shortcut
September 27, 2023, Bloomberg
Google maintains one of the world’s most comprehensive repositories of location information. Drawing from phones’ GPS coordinates, plus connections to Wi-Fi networks and cellular towers, it can often estimate a person’s whereabouts to within several feet. It gathers this information in part to sell advertising, but police routinely dip into the data to further their investigations. The use of search data is less common, but that, too, has made its way into police stations throughout the country. Traditionally, American law enforcement obtains a warrant to search the home or belongings of a specific person, in keeping with a constitutional ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. Warrants for Google’s location and search data are, in some ways, the inverse of that process, says Michael Price, the litigation director for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Fourth Amendment Center. Rather than naming a suspect, law enforcement identifies basic parameters—a set of geographic coordinates or search terms—and asks Google to provide hits, essentially generating a list of leads. By their very nature, these Google warrants often return information on people who haven’t been suspected of a crime. In 2018 a man in Arizona was wrongly arrested for murder based on Google location data. Google says it received a record 60,472 search warrants in the US last year, more than double the number from 2019. The company provides at least some information in about 80% of cases.
TechScape: How police use location and search data to find suspects – and not always the right ones
October 3, 2023, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
From Virginia to Florida, law enforcement all over the US are increasingly using tools called reverse search warrants – including geofence location warrants and keyword search warrants – to come up with a list of suspects who may have committed particular crimes. While the former is used by law enforcement to get tech companies to identify all the devices that were near a certain place at a certain time, the latter is used to get information on everyone who’s searched for a particular keyword or phrase. It’s a practice public defenders, privacy advocates and many lawmakers have criticised, arguing it violates fourth amendment protections against unreasonable searches. Unlike reverse search warrants, other warrants and subpoenas target a specific person that law enforcement has established there is probable cause to believe has committed a specific crime. But geofence warrants are sweeping in nature and are often used to compile a suspect list to further investigate. Google broke out how many geofence warrants it received for the first time in 2021. The company revealed it received nearly 21,000 geofence warrants between 2018 and 2020. The tech giant did not specify how many of those requests it complied with but did share that in the second half of 2020, it responded to 82% of all government requests for data in the US with some level of information. Apple has taken steps to publish its own numbers. In the first half of 2022 the company fielded a total of 13 geofence warrants and complied with none.
Note: The legal world is struggling to keep up with the rise of tech firms building ever more sophisticated means of surveilling people and their devices. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Decades Later, Closed Military Bases Remain a Toxic Menace
September 27, 2023, New York Times
Fort Ord was one of 800 U.S. military bases, large and small, that were shuttered between 1988 and 2005. The cities of Seaside and Marina, Calif., where Fort Ord had been critical to the local economy, were left with a ghost town of clapboard barracks and decrepit, World War II-era concrete structures that neither of the cities could afford to tear down. Also left behind were poisonous stockpiles of unexploded ordnance, lead fragments, industrial solvents and explosives residue, a toxic legacy that in some areas of the base remains largely where the Army left it. Across the country, communities were promised that closed bases would be restored, cleaned up and turned over for civilian use. But the cleanup has proceeded at a snail’s pace at many of the facilities, where future remediation work could extend until 2084 and local governments are struggling with the cost of making the land suitable for development. At more than 1,000 sites within the closed bases, the land is so badly contaminated that no one will ever be allowed to live on it. Sites that were supposed to be clean were later found full of asbestos, radioactivity and other health threats. Military base cleanups are often full of surprises, but Hunters Point is in a league of its own. Two former supervisors at an environmental firm, Tetra Tech EC, which the Navy hired to help clean up the base, were convicted in 2018 of fraudulently submitting clean dirt to a laboratory in place of the contaminated dirt at the shipyard.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on military corruption from reliable major media sources.
Garbage In, Toxics Out: They Promised “Advanced Recycling” for Plastics and Delivered Toxic Waste
September 28, 2023, The Intercept
Braven Environmental [is] a company that says it can recycle nearly 90 percent of plastic waste through a form of chemical recycling called pyrolysis. Traditional recycling is able to process only about 8.7 percent of America’s plastic waste; pyrolysis uses high temperatures and low-oxygen conditions to break down the remaining plastics, like films and Styrofoam, ideally turning them into feedstock oil for new plastic production. The American Chemistry Council, the country’s leading petrochemical industry trade group, claims that chemical recycling will create a “circular economy” for the bulk of the world’s plastic, diverting it from oceans and landfills. Plastic giants have gone so far as to dub the process “advanced recycling,” but environmentalists say this is a misnomer because the majority of the plastic processed at such facilities is not recycled at all. In fact, researchers have found that the process uses more energy and has a worse overall environmental impact than virgin plastic production. Despite these challenges, lawmakers nationwide are now embracing the technology, thanks to a massive lobbying push from ... petrochemical groups. One list of warnings in a Braven air permit application reads like a toxicologist’s worst nightmare: The pyrolysis oil may cause cancer and genetic defects, as well as damage to organs, fertility, and unborn children. Other hazards included being “extremely flammable” and “very toxic to aquatic life” with “long lasting effects.”
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption from reliable major media sources.
Uninvited and Unaccountable: How CBP Policed George Floyd Protests
September 21, 2023, The Intercept
At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, Customs and Border Protection encouraged officers to consider more lethal force when making arrests to protect themselves against the highly contagious virus, according to newly uncovered agency documents. In the coming months, CBP officers would join the sprawling law enforcement response to the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 — even policing George Floyd’s funeral. New documents, obtained by legal advocates through Freedom of Information Act litigation, reveal the extent of CBP’s involvement, conducting arrests and barraging protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets — sometimes without the knowledge of other agencies, city or state leaders, or even CBP officials themselves. CBP deployed officers to at least 18 cities and towns across the country. That list includes Chicago; Minneapolis; Buffalo, New York; Dayton, Ohio; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Louisville, Kentucky; and Whitefish, Montana. Dozens more law enforcement agencies requested assistance or equipment from CBP, the heavily redacted records show. The agency’s redactions of the document set ... conceal the number of officers deployed throughout the summer and other details about the operation. CBP officers provided “situational awareness” for police departments, conducted “general law enforcement activities” and “crowd control,” monitored encrypted online chat rooms, and even arrested protesters.
A mysterious source has been sending radio signals to Earth from space for decades
July 24, 2023, The Independent (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
An unknown source has been sending radio blasts towards Earth since at least 1988, scientists say. For 35 years, the source has been sending out regular 20-minute blasts of energy that vary considerably in their brightness, researchers say. The emissions appear something like the blasts that come out of pulsars or fast radio bursts, which last for milliseconds to several seconds. But the newly discovered source sends radio signals that pulsate on a period of 21 minutes – something previously thought impossible by expected explanations. Pulsars are neutron stars that spin around quickly, throwing out radio blasts as they do. When one crosses Earth, the emissions can be picked up very briefly and brightly, like being in the path of the light from a rotating lighthouse. Scientists believe that process can only work if the magnetic field of the pulsar is strong, and it is rotating quickly enough – if not, there would not be enough energy to see the pulsar from Earth. That has led to the development of the “pulsar death line”, which suggests that sources must be spinning fast and strong enough to be detected. The newly discovered object named GPMJ1839-10, however, is way beyond that death line. If it is a pulsar, then it seems to be operating in ways that scientists thought impossible. It could also be a highly magnetised white dwarf or magnetar, an extra kind of neutron star with incredibly strong magnetic fields. But they do not tend to send out emissions of this kind, researchers believe.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the mysterious nature of reality from reliable major media sources.
Key Articles From Independent Media
The New Push for Censorship Under the Guise of Combating Hate
October 1, 2023, Tablet
In March of 2021 a nonprofit group called the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) released a report about online misinformation. Founded [by] Imran Ahmed, the CCDH ... provides the White House with a powerful weapon to use against critics including RFK Jr. and [Elon] Musk, while also pressuring platforms like Facebook and Twitter to enforce the administration’s policies. One rumor that came up ... is that [Ahmed] works for British intelligence. “There’s nothing surprising about this,” said Mike Benz, a former State Department official who now runs the Foundation for Freedom Online, a free-speech watchdog. “This is not the first rodeo of British and U.S. intelligence services creating a cutout for the purpose of influencing the online news economy, to rig public debate in favor of political speech that supports agency agendas.” CCDH’s ... chairman is Simon Clark, a former senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a D.C. think tank aligned with the corporate arm of the Democratic Party. One might conclude that CCDH functions as an arm of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, to be deployed against the perceived enemies of corporate Democrats, whether they come from the left or the right. Clark was also a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab. “The Atlantic Council, in the past several years, has had seven CIA directors on its board of directors or board of advisers,” said Benz. “And it’s one of the premier architects of online censorship.”
Note: Read an excellent piece on what gave rise to the modern censorship regime. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and media manipulation from reliable sources.
You Are Reading This Thanks to Semiconductors
May 4, 2023, ScheerPost
On 7 October 2022, the United States government implemented export controls in an effort to hinder the development of China’s semiconductor industry. The next day, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said: "... By politicising tech and trade issues and using them as a tool and weapon, the US cannot hold back China’s development but will only hurt and isolate itself when its action backfires." Under the Trump and Biden administrations, the US has placed hundreds of Chinese companies on trade and investment blacklists. These restrictions have banned any company in the world that uses US products – effectively every chip designer and manufacturer – from doing business with Chinese tech firms. The US has also pressured governments and firms around the world to impose similar restrictions. Washington fears that China’s technological development will lead, through trade and investment, to the dispersal of advanced technologies more broadly throughout the world, namely, to states in the Global South that the US sees as a threat. This would be a significant blow to the US’s power over these countries. The scale of the developments in digital technology is staggering. Earlier conflicts took place over energy and food, but now this conflict has heated up ... the resources of our digital world. This technology can be used to solve so many of our dilemmas, and yet, here we are, at the precipice of greater conflict to benefit the few over the needs of the many.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.
Key Articles From Years Past
Reassessing Flu Shots as the Season Draws Near
November 5, 2012, New York Times
read on well.blogs.nytimes.com
It's flu-shot season, and public health officials are urging everyone over 6 months of age to get one. For vaccine manufacturers, it's a bonanza: Influenza shots ... are a multibillion-dollar global business. But how good are they? Last month, in a step tantamount to heresy in the public health world, scientists at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota released a report saying that influenza vaccinations provide only modest protection for healthy young and middle-age adults, and little if any protection for those 65 and older. Moreover, the report's authors concluded, federal vaccination recommendations ... are based on inadequate evidence and poorly executed studies. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy [stated,] "It does not protect as promoted. It's all a sales job: it's all public relations." While researching the report ... the authors discovered a recurring error in influenza vaccine studies that led to an exaggeration of the vaccine's effectiveness. They also discovered 30 inaccuracies in the statement on influenza vaccines put forth by the expert panel that develops vaccine recommendations, all of which favor the vaccine. The new report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy is not the first to point out the shortcomings of influenza vaccines, however. The Cochrane Collaboration, an international network of experts that evaluates medical research, concluded in a 2010 review that the vaccines ... have minimal impact in seasons when vaccines and viruses are mismatched.
Note: A 2020 study on the annual flu vaccine in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that "no evidence indicated that vaccination reduced hospitalizations or mortality among elderly persons." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on vaccines from reliable major media sources.
The power of contact in the rehumanization process
September 12, 2023, Waging Nonviolence
‘Contact theory’ has been shown to lead to harmony and an enlarged sense of a common good, even when there are limited resources and competing interests. It's a theory that suggests that the more contact that people have, the more willing they are to rehumanize and understand each other, even across their personal differences. It originated in the 50s with the work of Gordon Allport. After World War II, he asked himself, how can we reduce conflict in society? He put forward that, under the right conditions, having positive experiences with people of another social, ethnic, cultural, religious backgrounds could improve our tolerance and reduce our prejudice against them. 50 years later, the vast majority of studies show that it does work. If you talk about moving beyond past violence and having a harmonious society, one of the biggest things that could hamper having these contact experiences [is] the homophilia principle, where you go with your own group. It's easy to avoid having experiences with other groups. But once we do, they're very beneficial. We spoke with someone named Ali Abu Awad [who] is a Palestinian activist. He said he never had contact with an Israeli ... until he was in his 30s. And they were brought together into a group. This Israeli woman was crying, and he was crying. They were both grieving the loss of family members of the conflict. That moment of contact actually changed the whole direction of his life because he realized that this Israeli woman was human like he was. He ended up becoming an activist working toward a solution that humanizes Israelis and humanizes Palestinians at the same time.
Note: This summary is a transcript of an interview with Jasper Van Assche, professor at the University of Ghent in Belgium. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.
The Norwegian secret: how friluftsliv boosts health and happiness
September 27, 2023, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
Friluftsliv [is] a way of being that is part of the Norwegian national identity. The term was coined by the playwright Henrik Ibsen in his 1859 poem On the Heights, although the concept is much older. Its literal translation is “free-air life”, but Ibsen used it to convey a spiritual connection with nature. To modern Norwegians, it means participating in outdoor activities, but also has a deeper sense of de-stressing in nature and sharing in a common culture. An astonishingly high percentage of Norwegians report spending time outdoors. A survey in June by the market research company Kantar TNS found that 83% are interested in friluftsliv, 77% spend time in nature on a weekly basis and 25% do so most days. At many nurseries, toddlers spend 80% of their time outside; at school, there are special days throughout the year when children go out in nature and build campfires. Studies show that being in green spaces helps reduce anxiety and improve cognition. In a 2020 survey, 90% of Norwegians said they felt less stressed and in a better mood when they spent time in nature. Helga Synnevåg Løvoll, a professor of friluftsliv at Volda University College, says the five documented ways to wellbeing can be achieved through friluftsliv (they are “connect”, “be active”, “take notice”, “keep learning” and “give”). This nature-induced wellbeing could be one reason why Norway ranks among the happiest countries in the world. It came seventh in the UN’s World Happiness report in 2023.
Note: Read about the rise of "green prescription" programs in different healthcare systems around the world. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.
Can a map of the ocean floor be crowdsourced?
October 1, 2023, BBC News
In 2023, Seabed 2030 announced that its latest map of the entire seafloor is nearly 25% complete. The data to make the world's first publicly available map is stored at the International Hydrography Organization (IHO)'s Data Centre for Digital Bathymetry. 17 research vessels owned by American universities ... constantly circle the globe studying the deep ocean. The ocean mappers came up with a new plan: crowdsourcing. By attaching a data logger to a boat's echosounder, any vessel can build a simple map of the seafloor. Tion Uriam, the head of the Hydrographic Unit at the Republic of Kiribati's Ministry of Communications, Transport and Tourism Development, recently received two data loggers that he's planning to install on local ferries. "It's a win to be part of that initiative," he says. "Just to put us on the map and raise our hands [to say] we want to be part of a global effort." The military or commercial value of nautical charts will always be a barrier. "Sea charts were destined to be removed from the academic realm and from general circulation," wrote the map historian Lloyd Brown. "They were much more than an aid to navigation; they were the key to empire, the way to wealth." [Marine geologist Kevin] Mackay experienced this on a scientific-mapping expedition. He received a call from a military he chooses not to name and "they said 'you need to destroy that data because there was military value ... it's a place where submarines like to hide'," he recalls. "Obviously, we ignore them because we're [mapping] for science, we don't care."
Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.
Dolphins recorded having a conversation 'just like two people' for first time
September 11, 2016, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
read on telegraph.co.uk
Two dolphins have been recorded having a conversation for the first time after scientists developed an underwater microphone which could distinguish the animals' different "voices". Researchers have known for decades that the mammals had an advanced form of communication. But scientists have now shown that dolphins alter the volume and frequency of pulsed clicks to form individual "words" which they string together into sentences in much the same way that humans speak. Researchers at the Karadag Nature Reserve, in Feodosia, Ukraine, recorded two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, called Yasha and Yana, talking to each other in a pool. Each dolphin would listen to a sentence of pulses without interruption, before replying. Lead researcher Dr Vyacheslav Ryabov, said: “Essentially, this exchange resembles a conversation between two people. “Each pulse represents a phoneme or a word of the dolphin's spoken language. “The analysis of numerous pulses registered in our experiments showed that the dolphins took turns in producing [sentences] and did not interrupt each other, which gives reason to believe that each of the dolphins listened to the other's pulses before producing its own. “This language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language. This indicates a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins. Their language can be ostensibly considered a highly developed spoken language, akin to the human language.”
Note: Learn more about the amazing world of marine mammals.
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