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Threat Assessment: October 3-7

threat assessment junk mail usps

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AGAINST US

USPS plan to save itself: junk mail


The beleaguered U.S. Postal Service is trying to stave off a shutdown by increasing "standard mail," also known as the bulk mailings of catalogs and other marketing materials. The volume of first-class mail, which includes birthday cards, thank-you notes and the like, continues to fall as advertising mail is on the rise. The U.S. has been easing mailing rules and running reduced-priced promotions to encourage marketers. "What we want to do is to make standard mail more interesting for customers so we can grow the total volume," Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told reporters. "We don't call it junk mail—it's a lucrative avenue for anyone who wants to reach customers." [Wall Street Journal]

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Barbie maker cuts ties with forest-trashing suppliers


Under heavy pressure from the environmental group Greenpeace, toy-maker Mattel says it will no longer use paper products from companies that "are known to be involved in deforestation." The company, which came under fire for environmentally unfriendly companies such as Asia Pulp & Paper, has now issued new "sustainable sourcing principles," which include increased used of recycled materials and environmentally-friendly products. [Mother Jones]

threat assessment twitter iphone

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AGAINST US

Anti-gay bigots to protest Steve Jobs' funeral


Not long after the announcement of Steve Jobs' death Wednesday evening, the Westboro Baptist Church tweeted out its plans to protest the Apple guru's funeral … via Twitter for iPhone. The church is known for its anti-gay bigotry and fervent, insensitive funeral protests; Margie Phelps, a WBC member, tweeted that Jobs "gave God no glory and taught sin." She, too, tweeted the message from her iPhone. [Washington Post]

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New device could let paralyzed walk again


Researchers are making important strides toward creating a a full-body prosthetic device that would enable the paralyzed to walk and move again. Recent experiments on monkeys showed success with sending electrical messages to the animals' brains. "We are trying to provide the patient a new body, and we believe the patient's brain will assimilate the new body as part of the sense of self of the patient," Duke scientist Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, who heads an international team working on the device, told reporters. "It would be just like a car… only a little tighter." [Los Angeles Times]

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AGAINST US

Birther website to publish Jack Abramoff memoir


World Net Daily, the ultra-conservative birther website, is set to publish the memoir of former superlobbyist and convicted scammer Jack Abramoff's, intended to counter the "media conspiracy" against him. The book "reveals that the Abramoff on the front pages could not be further from the Abramoff who's ready to tell his honest and compelling story," according to WND. [Talking Points Memo]

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Dems launch plan to battle vote-blocking laws


The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has begun an online campaign to "raise awareness and fight back against partisan attacks on voting rights," according to its website. The 2012 Election Protection Project will use social media to protect the Democratic base – younger and minority voters – from Republican voter suppression laws in many states. [Talking Points Memo]

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AGAINST US

One in three U.S. vets say wars not worth it


One in three U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars doesn't believe they were worth fighting, and a majority of recent veterans think America should be looking inward to its own problems, according to a recent Pew survey. [Yahoo]

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Woman wins lotto by mistake


An innocent error by a cashier made unemployed Kathy Scruggs a multi-millionaire. The 44-year-old Lithonia, GA resident had asked for a Mega Millions lottery ticket but the cashier gave her a Powerball ticket instead. The ticket won her the $25 million jackpot, putting her months-long job hunt to an end. "I've been looking and looking and looking," she told reporters, adding that she's now "going to build [her] mom and grandmother a home." [NPR]

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AGAINST US

U.S. foreign aid for the chop


American foreign aid programs face major budget cuts, with Democratic and Republican deficit reduction plans alike slashing spending. Overseas aid accounts for about one percent of U.S. spending annually, but the State Department warns the cuts may affect foreign relations disproportionately. “The budget impact is negligible," the director of international aid group Mercy Corps told reporters. "The impact around the world is enormous.” [New York Times]

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Warren Buffett challenges Murdoch to tax duel


The Wall Street Journal has called on Buffett to release his tax returns, and the investor, who has drawn conservative ire by calling for higher taxes on the rich, said he would gladly oblige — so long as the WSJ's owner, Rupert Murdoch, would do so as well. "I'm ready tomorrow morning," he quipped. No response yet from Murdoch. [Huffington Post]

skulls threat assessment germany namibia

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Germany returns skulls to Namibia


Germany has returned 20 skulls to Namibia's local Herero and Nama tribes after keeping them for nearly a century. The skulls were among the booty from a three-year slaughter in the early 1900s, in which colonial Germans killed thousands of Africans. German scientists used the remains for a now-discredited study that sought to prove European superiority. Said Namibian Prime Minister Nanas Angular of the craniums' belated return, "We are receiving the mortal remains of our forefathers and foremothers. These mortal remains are testimony to horrors of colonialism and German cruelty against our people." [Reuters]

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AGAINST US

Prescription drug abuse – on Medicare


Medicare may be facilitating drug abuse by allowing patients to "doctor shop" and get numerous painkiller prescriptions, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO found that approximately 170,000 Medicare beneficiaries had prescriptions from five or more doctors; one woman had received a six-month supply of oxycodone in just 27 days, by getting seven prescriptions from five different doctors. [New York Times]

income inequality

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AGAINST US

Income inequality drags on economic growth


Fair income distribution is the most important factor in preventing a major economic downturn, according to a new study in the IMF's quarterly magazine. Economists found that making an economy's income 10 percent more distributed will prolong a growth spurt by 50 percent. "Countries where income was more equally distributed tended to have longer growth spells," said one of the researchers. "Getting growth is not that difficult; it's keeping it going that is hard." [Mother Jones]

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AGAINST US

Climate change causes water shortage in South Pacific


The South Pacific island groups Tuvalu and Tokelau have declared water emergencies, owing to a lack of rain and fouled underwater reserves that scientists have linked to climate change. Tokelau's 1,400 residents ran out of water last week and are using a seven-day supply of bottled water sent from Samoa. [Huffington Post]

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'Bad Lip Reading' Gets Political


"Bad Lip Reading," an anonymous YouTube account that posts re-imaginings of music videos by lip-syncing hilariously incorrect lyrics, has begun taking on politicians. So far, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and President Obama have been given the BLR treatment, to hysterical effect. [National Journal]

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AGAINST US

Fox News Spikes Occupy Wall Street interview


The bulk of Fox News' coverage of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests consists of Bill O'Reilly rants and attempts to "prank" the protesters, as Red Eye's Bill Schulz did. A segment shot on Wednesday for On the Record with Greta van Susteren paints a different picture of the protests: a producer interviewed Jesse LaGreca, who eloquently defended his cause and slammed Fox News. The only problem? The interview ended up on the cutting room floor. Check out the unaired clip here. [New York Observer]

Koch Industries

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AGAINST US

Koch brothers flout law to trade with Iran


Koch Industries, the massive conglomerate company of GOP megafunders Charles and David, has, in addition to making improper payments to win business in Africa, India, and the Middle East,sold millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment to Iran, according to a Bloomberg Markets investigation. Internal documents from the company show that it made the sales to Iran through a foreign subsidiary, bypassing the U.S. trade ban with the country. [Bloomberg]

Occupy Wall Street

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Occupy Wall Street gets institutional support


Progressive groups like Campaign for America's Future and MoveOn.org are throwing their considerable weight behind the Occupy Wall Street protests, and even organizing similar events in Washington, D.C. Campaign for America's Future will host a march on Capital Hill to protest the role of corporate and lobbying dollars in politics. "Occupy K Street is starting … to send the same message to corporate lobbyists that’s being sent to Congress and Wall Street," one of the march's organizers told reporters. "It’s a beautiful moment of convergence — versus Wall Street, versus cuts, for our future.” [Washington Post]

Keystone XL Pipeline

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AGAINST US

Cozy ties between State Dept. and Pipeline lobbyist


A State Department employee and a TransCanada lobbyist sent emails that were "extremely friendly and illustrative of a cozy and complicitous relationship," according to environmental group Friends of the Earth. The State Department is currently deciding whether to allow TransCanada to open the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas. In addition to emailing about the weather and family pets, the lobbyist and employee arranged "multiple meetings" between State Department officials and TransCanada reps. [Politico]

Gay Marriage

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Federal Government boosts same-sex marriage


Through a series of gradual regulation changes, the federal government has made strides towards officially recognizing gay marriages. A dozen-plus regulations issued in the past year extend spousal benefits to same-sex partners of government employees. “It’s things that people don’t think of often, but they are meaningful when couples get access,” said Brad Jacklin of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It’s a recognition that there are valued employees in the federal government who are living in same-sex households. The reality is the Obama administration has done what it can.” [Roll Call]

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AGAINST US

Federal data at risk of hacking, theft


Sensitive government data is at risk for theft and hacking, according to a new government report. Although security compromises to federal agencies' data have risen 650 percent over the last five years, the government has made minimal improvements in protecting its information, the report found. “Weaknesses in information security policies and practices at 24 major federal agencies continue to place the confidentiality, integrity and availability of sensitive information and information systems at risk,” the report, by the Government Accountability Office, said. [Politico]

Douglas Holtz-Eakin

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Retired Republicans push for sanity, honesty on climate change


Influential Republicans who had left the D.C. scene are now returning to challenge GOP climate-change denial. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a conservative economist who worked on the 2008 McCain campaign, for instance, has begun holding meetings in New Hampshire to explain the economic benefits of addressing climate change. "There are conservative voices that will hopefully show the way back to conservatism and away from a populist rejection of science," said former GOP Rep. Bob Inglis, who lost the 2010 race in South Carolina because of his belief in global warming. [National Journal]

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Reagan would have supported Buffett rule


President Obama's "Buffett Rule," which would close tax loopholes that allow millionaires to pay a lower rate than regular people, has been attacked by Republicans as "class warfare." But it turns out Ronald Reagan is (or was) on board! In a 1985 speech at Northside High School in Atlanta, Georgia, Reagan said that tax loopholes allowed "the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fare share," and that this "made it possible for for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying ten percent of his salary." And, as the Gipper told his audience, "that’s crazy." [ThinkProgress]

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Scientists create underwater 'invisibility cloak'


Scientists at the University of Dallas have created an invisibility cloak of sorts – sheets of carbon nanotubes that, when heated, cause a mirage effect and turn objects behind them invisible to the human eye. Check out the video and see the effect for yourself. [The Atlantic Wire]

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