“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
Deployment of up to 50 commandos would be first sustained U.S. ground presence in Syria
The Obama Administration on Friday announced the deployment of up to 50 Special Forces troops to Syria to advise on a new military campaign against ISIS. This is the first sustained U.S. ground presence in the country.
WASHINGTON—The U.S. is sending special-operations forces to northeastern Syria, a shift in strategy that establishes the first sustained American military presence in the campaign against Islamic State in the war-ravaged country.
Up to 50 U.S. special-operations troops will assist Syrian rebel units spearheading what the Pentagon says would be a new military offensive against the militant group, marking a sharp escalation in the level of direct U.S. involvement on the ground inside Syria. The American forces are to link up with local forces in Kurdish-controlled territory whose mission will be to choke off supply lines to Islamic State militants in their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.
The move marks a change for President Barrack Obama who had long promised not to send ground forces to Syria.
“They are not being deployed with a combat mission,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “The mission of our men and women on the ground has not changed.”
If the initial deployment bears fruit, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Friday that he would be open to deploying more forces.
“We are going to continue to innovate, to build on what works,” Mr. Carter told reporters on a military jet as it landed in Fairbanks, Alaska, for the first leg of a trip through Asia. “Our role fundamentally and the strategy is to enable local forces. But does that put U.S. forces in harm’s way? It does, no question about it.”
It’s been a busy week. The Senate voted 74-21 to pass CISA, the problematic surveillance bill that has privacy advocates and civil liberties groups up in arms. In better news, the EU Parliament voted to net neutrality rules filled with loopholesthat aren’t exactly neutral. The Library of Congress approved copyright law exemptions that would allow people to modify software on their cars—but the exemptions only last three years after they begin to take effect, which won’t be for another year. And Tor launched the beta version of Tor Messenger, which looks like the easiest-to-use encrypted, anonymous instant messaging app.
But that’s not all. Each Saturday we round up the news stories that we didn’t break or cover in depth at WIRED, but which deserve your attention nonetheless. As always, click on the headlines to read the full story in each link posted. And stay safe out there!
The fact that local governments collect data on every driver’s travel history is pretty disconcerting. That idea that this data is sometimes widely available to anyone with a web browser is even scarier. Earlier this year, EFF learned that information from more than 100 auto license plate reader cameras was available online, and sometimes the camera’s live video stream (and plate captures) could be viewed in real time. The digital rights group was able to trace five cameras to their sources, and found multiple issues such as poor or default passwords, or no passwords at all. Luckily, when notified by EFF, the agencies secured the systems, but tracking the sources of all cameras wasn’t possible. Other than securing surveillance technology before using it (what a concept!) it would behoove law enforcement agencies to limit their data storage to days, not years—and only for vehicles suspected to have been involved with a crime, the EFF concluded.
The Islamic State, or ISIS, is the first terrorist group to hold both physical and digital territory: in addition to the swaths of land it controls in Iraq and Syria, it dominates pockets of the Internet with relative impunity. But it will hardly be the last. Although there are still some fringe terrorist groups in the western Sahel or other rural areas that do not supplement their violence digitally, it is only a matter of time before they also go online. In fact, the next prominent terrorist organization will be more likely to have extensive digital operations than control physical ground.
Although the military battle against ISIS is undeniably a top priority, the importance of the digital front should not be underestimated. The group has relied extensively on the Internet to market its poisonous ideology and recruit would-be terrorists. According to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, the territory controlled by ISIS now ranks as the place with the highest number of foreign fighters since Afghanistan in the 1980s, with recent estimates putting the total number of foreign recruits at around 20,000, nearly 4,000 of whom hail from Western countries. Many of these recruits made initial contact with ISIS and its ideology via the Internet. Other followers, meanwhile, are inspired by the group’s online propaganda to carry out terrorist attacks without traveling to the Middle East.
ISIS also relies on the digital sphere to wage psychological warfare, which directly contributes to its physical success. For example,
Ben Carson accidentally stumbled on a great idea for improving education
Last year, Ben Carson appeared to endorse a massive change in the way the US funds schools, asking reporter James Hamblin, “Wouldn’t it make more sense to put the money in a pot and redistribute it throughout the country so that public schools are equal, whether you’re in a poor area or a wealthy area?” The implicit idea here, of federalizing education funding and trying to eliminate the budget gap between rich and poor schools, is way more progressive than anything even Bernie Sanders has proposed. So CNN’s Jake Tapper pressed Carson further, and he stuck to his guns:
Republican presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson joined CNN’s Jake Tapper on The Lead.
A new report found that gun dealers tend to escape the oversight of law enforcement. Photo illustration by Juliana Jiménez. Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images.
Guns end up in the hands of violent criminals in many ways, and one of the most frequently cited arguments against gun control is that people who intend to use guns to commit murder will be able to do so even if law-abiding citizens who want to buy guns for legitimate purposes are forced to jump through more hoops. But the fact is that many “crime guns” are originally purchased at federally licensed gun dealers, rather than acquired on the black market. And according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a small handful of dealers—just 1.2 percent—are responsible for supplying more than half of them. To be clear, this doesn’t necessarily mean these dealers are knowingly colluding with criminals—lots of crime guns are bought by “straw purchasers,” who pass them on to traffickers and who are not always easy to identify—but it does suggest something’s not working.
An eye-opening report from the Trace—a new website that specializes in coverage of gun issues—reveals why these gun dealers tend to escape the oversight of law enforcement: Last year, just 7 percent of the 140,000 licensed gun dealers nationwide were subjected to ATF inspections.
According to the Trace, oversight rules prevent the ATF’s 780 inspectors from checking in with a given dealer more than once a year unless they have a warrant to do so. But in reality these inspections happen even less frequently than that: Though the ATF has set a goal of making sure that every dealer in the country is inspected every three to five years, statistics show that in 2013, just 42 percent of gun dealers had been subjected to an inspection in the previous five years.
The American Cancer Society’s report on rising rates among black women have researchers searching for answers in obesity, medical care and the environment
Why is breast cancer so much deadlier in black women than in white women? On the heels of an alarming new report that black women have caught up with their white counterparts in breast cancer rates, the question has taken on a fresh urgency.
But the answer is elusive.
The report, which the American Cancer Society released on Thursday, is a warning that breast cancer will cause an increasing loss of life for black women, who are already hit hardest by the disease. Black women are less likely to die of breast cancer today than they were 25 years ago. But a vast racial disparity in mortality rates has continued to widen: in 2012, black women were 42% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.
Researchers have known for decades that breast cancer takes a deadlier toll on black women. “Hundreds of studies have looked at the differences in incidence and mortality rates between black women and white women,” said Linda Blount, CEO of the non-profit Black Women’s Health Imperative. “Hundreds. We can tell you it exists – the ‘what’. What we don’t know is the ‘why’.”
Thursday’s report points to several possible explanations for why the incidence of breast cancer is rising in black women. (In white women, the rate has remained flat for a decade.) Obesity is on the rise in black women, and black women are having fewer children, later in life. Susan Brown, who directs health education programs for the Susan G Komen breast cancer foundation, added that black women breastfeed at comparatively low rates. All are risk factors associated with breast cancer.
Other researchers have pointed to disparities in comprehensive access to competent medical care to explain both the incidence rate and mortality rate. A 2014 analysis of morbidity rates in the country’s 50 largest cities found that black women in Los Angeles were 70% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. In New York, that number was 19%, leading researchers to believe that the city’s superior hospital and transportation system could be factors.
India is currently suffering a mental health crisis. With only 43 government-run mental hospitals serving a population of 1.2 billion, resources are spread thin. What’s more, mental illness is highly stigmatized in India, especially among women, who are typically committed to mental health facilities with no legal rights, receiving involuntary treatment, and sometimes without a proper diagnosis.
In this excerpt, VICE News speaks with “Vidya,” a woman who was falsely institutionalized by her husband in order to file for divorce.
NEW YORK – In the afterglow of a World Series debut in which he threw a 98-mph fastball in the general vicinity of the leadoff hitter’s head, won the game and capped that victory by threatening to kick his opponents’ asses, Noah Syndergaard, the New York Mets starter with the last name of a Viking, the nickname of a comic-book superhero and the disposition of a man with no damns left to give, sneered at the fauxtrage burbling around him.
Syndergaard is 23 years old, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound Texan, stubborn as a steer. So, yeah, he said. He did throw that fastball over the dome of Alcides Escobar, the Kansas City Royals‘ leadoff hitter with a propensity to whack at first-pitch fastballs. He did it because the idea of Escobar standing comfortably in the batter’s box, dead red on that pitch, bothered him.
“If they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away,” Syndergaard said. “I’ve got no problem with that.”
Alcides Escobar was left sprawled on the ground after the first pitch of Game 3. (AP)
Until Friday night – until the Mets’ bats reanimated and Syndergaard threw triple-digit petrol, until the Royals’ starter wilted on the mound and their gloves followed suit in the field and especially until the pitch that sizzled to the netting behind home plate – the World Series looked like a one-sided affair. Not only did the Mets’ 9-3 victory in Game 3 halve the Royals’ advantage in the series, it reminded them New York wasn’t going to hand a championship over willy-nilly.