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Author: Mandy Nagy

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Mandy Nagy

Mandy Nagy (aka "Liberty Chick") was an investigative writer and researcher. She primarily covered the institutional left, protest movements, hacking and cybercrime, and technology. After suffering a serious stroke in September 2014, Mandy no longer was able to work at Legal Insurrection, but she's always on our minds and in our hearts. For more information, see here.

A shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels left three dead and another severely injured on Saturday. (Update: Fourth person has died.) From CNN:
Three people were killed and another was seriously injured in a shooting Saturday at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, Belgian officials said. A person arrived by car at the museum in central Brussels, entered and quickly opened fire before leaving the scene, Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet told CNN affiliate Bel RTL. The circumstances of the shooting have raised suspicions that it may have been an anti-Semitic attack, but no motive has been determined. The shooter remains at large, and the nation's terror alert level was raised. Belgian public broadcaster RTBF quoted Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur as saying those killed were two men and a woman, while a man was seriously injured at the museum, which is near the tourist sites. At a press conference, Milquet said the threat level is highest at locations frequented by the Jewish community. This measure was precautionary, she added.
Other news reports, including a BBC News report, indicated that a possible suspect had been detained, but no additional details had been released at the time of this writing (which was Saturday evening).

The White House said Wednesday that the United States has deployed approximately 80 Armed Forces personnel to Chad “as part of the U.S. efforts to locate and support the safe return of over 200 schoolgirls who are reported to have been kidnapped in Nigeria,” according to a letter sent to lawmakers. From CNN:
The United States deployed 80 members of its armed forces to Chad to help in the search for the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, the White House said Wednesday. "These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area," it said in a letter. "The force will remain in Chad until its support in resolving the kidnapping situation is no longer required." President Barack Obama informed the House speaker and the president of the Senate of the move. The forces will be involved in maintaining aircraft and analyzing data, but because they are armed, the President is required by law to inform the speaker of the House, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said. "These are not combat infantry troops that we put into Chad," Kirby told CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" on Wednesday. "These are folks that are there to support the reconnaissance mission."
(View the letter from the White House to Congress here)

China is not taking lightly the recent announcement that the United States has charged five Chinese military officers with conspiring to hack into computers of commercial entities in the U.S. for competitive and economic advantage. In response to Monday’s announcement, China’s Assistant Foreign Minister summoned U.S. ambassador to China, Max Baucus, to complain about the indictment. From Reuters:
China summoned the U.S. ambassador after the United States accused five Chinese military officers of hacking into American companies to steal trade secrets, warning Washington it could take further action, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday. The U.S. Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, met with Zheng Zeguang, assistant foreign minister, on Monday shortly after the United States charged the five Chinese, accusing them of hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets. Zheng "protested" the actions by the United States, saying the indictment had seriously harmed relations between both countries, the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website. Zheng told Baucus that depending on the development of the situation, China "will take further action on the so-called charges by the United States".
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement Monday that “The United States fabricated facts in an indictment of five officers for so-called cybertheft by China, a move that seriously violates basic norms of international relations and damages Sino-U.S. cooperation and mutual trust.”

The Justice Department today announced the indictment of several Chinese military officers over accusations of economic cyber espionage against American companies and organizations. From the Washington Post:
A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh has found that five Chinese People's Liberation Army members hacked into the computers of a number of businesses and organizations in western Pennsylvania -- including U.S. Steel, Westinghouse Electric, and United Steel Workers. According to an indictment unsealed Monday, the Chinese men -- Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu and Gu Chunhui --  have been collectively charged with 31 crimes. This is the first criminal indictment against state-sponsored hackers who allegedly engaged in cyberespionage for economic purposes, according to the Justice Department. And the FBI said it's just the beginning of a larger crackdown. The government said the accused were members of  PLA Unit 61398, a military group based in Shanghai. Last year in a widely reported investigation, the cybersecurity firm Mandiant identified this group as a source of economic cyberspying. At a press conference Monday morning, government officials alleged the defendants hacked into the computer networks of companies as they engaged in trade disputes or competed against Chinese companies for major contracts -- stealing both technical trade secrets and strategic information. In some cases, the U.S. government alleges, the stolen information was used to benefit Chinese state-sponsored companies.
While many suspect it’s unlikely the accused will ever be brought to justice, U.S. authorities emphasized that they were specifically “exposing the faces and names behind the keyboards in Shanghai used to steal from American businesses.”

Tensions between China and Vietnam have recently escalated after more than two weeks of conflict over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea. From CNN:
China has evacuated more than 3,000 of its citizens from Vietnam and is sending ships to retrieve more of them after deadly anti-Chinese violence erupted last week over a territorial dispute between the two countries. Five Chinese ships will travel to Vietnam to help with the evacuation, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Sunday, citing the Ministry of Transport. One of the ships has already set off from the southern island province of Hainan, the ministry said. Sixteen critically injured Chinese citizens were flown out of Vietnam on Sunday morning on a chartered medical plane organized by Chinese authorities, Xinhua said. Two Chinese citizens were killed and more than 100 others were injured in the violence that hit parts of Vietnam last week, according to the news agency. Some of the worst violence appeared to have taken place in the central coastal province of Ha Tinh. Foreign factories, particularly those run by companies from China and Taiwan, were burned and looted by rioters outraged over Beijing's decision to send an oil rig into waters of the South China Sea that both countries claim as sovereign territory.
Protests are usually not permitted in Vietnam, but were initially allowed until violence erupted and the situation grew out of control, according to CNN.  Authorities there are now trying to stop the protests.  Reuters reports that police in a few areas of Vietnam on Sunday were directing those gathering for rallies to disperse. The conflict began earlier this month when China first parked the aforementioned oil rig in the disputed waters, triggering back and forth demands from both sides to retreat. From the Associated Press via Yahoo News:

Glenn Greenwald's book on Edward Snowden and the NSA is apparently headed for the big screen. From the Hollywood Reporter:
Sony Pictures Entertainment has optioned film rights to Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. The book by Greenwald, whose reporting on the revelations contained in Snowden’s top-secret NSA documents won the Pulitzer Prize for The Guardian newspaper this year, was published May 13. James Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli of EON Productions will produce the politically themed drama that is expected to be in the vein of other Sony true story films like The Social Network and Captain Phillips. Greenwald's highly anticipated book examines the journalist's personal involvement in working with Snowden to break numerous stories about the U.S. government's intelligence-gathering operations. The book is both a personal narrative of the events as they unfolded and a historical reflection on the broader implications of the NSA's activities. Greenwald and his family have been harassed throughout the process of bringing Snowden's story to the public.
Greenwald’s book, released this week, covers in part some of the background on his dealings with the former NSA contractor, according to the NY Times.

The White House voiced its opposition Tuesday to any ransom or other concessions in exchange for the release of more than 250 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped last month. From the Washington Post:
The Obama administration underscored its opposition to any offer of ransom or other concessions to retrieve more than 250 schoolgirls abducted by the terrorist group Boko Haram on Tuesday, even as the United States widened its participation in the international effort to locate and free the girls. “We, as a matter of policy, deny kidnappers the benefits of their criminal acts, and that includes ransoms or other concessions,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. He said the Nigerian government is leading the search effort, however, and the United States is merely assisting. That was a tacit acknowledgment that despite the outpouring of American popular and political support for efforts to free the girls, the United States cannot intervene if Nigeria chooses to pay off the terrorist group or release captured militants in a trade.
The statement from the administration comes after a video surfaced on Monday in which a purported leader of Boko Haram claimed to show some of the kidnapped girls and said they would only be released in exchange for militant prisoners.

In a new video that claims to show some of the Nigerian girls recently kidnapped from a school in Chibok, a purported Boko Haram leader said the girls would only be released if exchanged for militant prisoners in custody. From Agence France-Presse:
Boko Haram's leader said in a new video obtained by AFP on Monday that more than 200 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls would only be released if the government freed militant fighters from custody. Abubakar Shekau made the claim in a 27-minute video, which he claimed showed about 130 of the girls who were kidnapped from their school in the remote northeastern town of Chibok nearly a month ago. The girls' disappearance has triggered global outrage, in part due to a social media campaign that has won the support of high-profile figures from US First Lady Michelle Obama to Pope Francis. The militant leader said the girls shown in the video had converted to Islam and all were shown in Muslim dress, reciting the first chapter of the Koran and praying at an undisclosed location. Boko Haram has made prisoner exchange demands before without success and Nigeria's government again dismissed the request outright.
(AFP video embed is blocked, view video on YouTube or click the link in the video below) At the time of this writing, it could not yet be confirmed if the girls in the video are in fact some of those abducted last month. More description of the video from the NY Times:
The video shows dozens of girls dressed in head scarves and long gowns that cover their bodies but reveal their faces. They are praying and seated cross-legged in the type of scrubland that is pervasive in this region, not far from the Sahara Desert. One of the girls is shown reciting the opening of the Quran; three express allegiance to Islam; two say they had converted from Christianity.

I don’t always find the segments on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart all that funny, but every so often he hits on something that gives me a chuckle. And Thursday night I found myself nodding my head at the TV and laughing aloud at one of those moments. Stewart poked fun at the silly spectacle of a debate over whether or not to designate yogurt as the official state snack of New York, after lawmakers took to the floor to consider the bill in the state Senate earlier this week. It seemed a fitting representation of the state of politics and the political process today. The idea for the bill was suggested by a local fourth-grade class, according to Republican State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer, who sponsored the bill.
Ranzenhofer said the idea for yogurt as the state snack came from teacher Craig Schroth's class at Byron-Bergen. Earlier this year, the fourth-grade class had been learning about state government, when the Russian government blocked a shipment of Chobani yogurt during the Winter Olympics, Ranzenhofer said.
The ensuing debate over that bill was described by the New York Times, Animated Debate in New York State Capital? It’s About Yogurt:
The New York State Senate sometimes considers weighty matters like taxes and budgets.

On Tuesday, it focused its attention on yogurt.

Specifically, it took up a proposal to designate yogurt as the official state snack. Yogurt production happens to be a booming industry upstate.

But in Albany, no matter is too small to provoke disagreement. And honoring yogurt, it turned out, was too much for some lawmakers to stomach.

One senator, Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, suggested the designation might be inconsiderate to people who are lactose intolerant. Another, Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat, wondered if yogurt could count as a snack if it were consumed at breakfast time.

Alternative snack ideas were raised. The distinction between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt was clarified.

The Washington Free Beacon reminds us that the teleprompter sometimes gets the better of MSNBC host Al Sharpton. From "Resist We Much," to the "Environmental Projection Agency," to the mispronunciation of various names and places - some of The Rev Al's best word and phrase bungles...

After months of technical problems, the state of Massachusetts will abandon much of its health insurance exchange website and replace it with new software, while simultaneously preparing to shift its exchange to the federal system as part of a “dual track strategy.” From the NY Times:
Massachusetts will stop trying to fix its deeply flawed health insurance website and instead buy new software to help its residents enroll in coverage, officials there said Monday. But the state will also prepare to join the federal insurance marketplace by the next enrollment period, which starts in November, in case the new system is not working in time.

The decision follows months of problems with enrollment through the state website, which Massachusetts set up in 2006 under its landmark health insurance law. The site worked well until it was revamped last year to comply with the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care law. The state had put CGI, the company that also helped design the initially problem-plagued federal exchange, in charge of the overhaul.

Massachusetts announced in March that it was dropping CGI, but it is still negotiating the terms of ending its $69 million contract, of which the state has paid $17 million. The state received $174 million from the federal government to overhaul its health insurance website and has spent about $57 million so far, including the amount paid to CGI, according to Glen Shor, the state’s secretary of administration and finance.

Sarah Iselin, a health insurance executive whom Gov. Deval Patrick appointed to oversee fixes to the website, said the new “dual-track” plan would cost a little more than $100 million through 2015. But she said it was too soon to know whether the state would seek more federal money; that will depend partly on whether the state ends up owing CGI more money.

It must be a difficult pill to swallow for the state, given that it had a functioning system prior to revamping its site to comply with the new federal law.  And that’s spurred some sharp criticism.
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