It’s Official: We’re Going to Mars

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A bipartisan bill was passed by the U.S. Senate committee that oversees NASA space projects. The bill would allocate $19.5 billion in funds to NASA in 2017, but it has a critical mission for the space agency: send men to Mars.

It looks like Republican and Democratic senators alike are keen on safeguarding America’s space programs. With the potential chaos of a new president on the horizon, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed a bipartisan bill giving NASA $19.5 billion to continue working on a mission to Mars. It also includes support for the continuation of the program to send astronauts on private rockets to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil no later than 2018.

UK ‘has not checked’ whether Saudi police training led to torture

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The UK has failed to check whether training it has provided to Saudi police has contributed to abuses including torture and the death penalty, new research by human rights organization Reprieve has revealed.

Since 2009, the British College of Policing has provided training to officers from the Saudi Ministry of the Interior, which oversees policing, prisons, and executions in the country. Human rights organization Reprieve has discovered that the College has carried out no checks that would establish whether human rights abuses, such as torture, have resulted from the training.

ISIS Against, and in, the West

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The retreat of the caliphate in Iraq-Syria signals a new phase in the 30-year war.

ISIS’s first two years of development, 2012-14, were primarily concerned with creating a new caliphate. This period culminated in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s announcement of the new entity in Mosul on 4 July 2014. ISIS propaganda greeted this as the distinguishing feature of the whole movement.

Now, over two years on, ISIS’s continued loss of ground in Iraq and Syria fuels its strategic aim of taking the war directly to the “far enemy”.

Sports diplomacy: Bahrain’s martial arts venture distracts from human rights abuses

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While the use of successful sporting events is a persuasive approach to international relations, it is limited in its ability to disguise Bahrain’s true nature.

On Friday, September 23, the inaugural combat sports event entitled Brave Combat Federation (BCF) is taking place in Khalifa Sports City in Isa Town, Bahrain. The event, which features a headlining bout between Iraq’s Rami Aziz and Jordan’s Abdulkareem Selwady, represents the small Island kingdom’s attempt to become a significant player in the world of mixed martial arts. However, it also represents an attempt at sports diplomacy to distract international stakeholders from ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain.

US Not A Genuine Broker, Can’t Separate Terrorists from Opposition: Syria Envoy

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The US lacks the “political will” to “respect the terms of its own agreement,” which includes targeting terrorist groups in Syria, Syrian envoy to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, said in an exclusive comment to RT on Saturday.

Commenting on a remark made by a top US general about the proposed US-controlled no-fly zone in Syria in the wake of the bombing of a humanitarian convoy, Jaafari said he believes Washington is trying to divert attention away from the US bombing of Syrian troops in Deir ez-Zor and its own failure to uphold the terms of the new ceasefire deal.

Scientific Consensus: Why Should We Accept It?

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Scientific consensus isn’t reached only through whipping up votes. It’s actually born out of an overwhelming agreement between scientists of varying fields of study regarding a particular issue at hand.
As if providing a systematic framework for understanding how everything in the cosmos works wasn’t enough, science is often found in the realm of the social — how people relate to each other as they live out their everyday lives. Across the world, arguments about bills and policies that govern entire countries cite “scientific facts” for support before they are passed into law. Companies convince their customers to purchase their products with appeals based on “scientific facts.”

A Rule of Law Crisis Overshadows the Refugee One

October 5, 2015-Lesvos, North-east Aegean sea, Greece: Children refugees arrive into a small plastic and cheap boat to the coast of the Greek island Lesvos from the Turkish land (Maro Kouri)

This week Greek officials agreed to deport a Syrian refugee back to Turkey. Without guarantees that his rights will be protected this risks contravening the EU’s established rules on asylum and human rights.

Greece is obligated to do so under the EU-Turkey deal agreed on 20 March 2016 where Turkey agreed to take back migrants and police its borders in exchange for $6bn and improved visa conditions for Turks in Europe.

The deal was intended to curb the flow of migrants arriving from Turkey to Greece and Italy. The effect has been short-lived. The recent attempted coup in Turkey led to the withdrawal of Turkish police and liaison officers from the Greek islands and saw a new rise in arrivals.

India to be the Fifth Country to Generate Power From Tidal Waves

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There are only approximately 20 locations on earth where power can be generated from tides and India is one of them.

In a bid to curb the country’s carbon emission levels, India will experiment with generating power from tidal waves. The government will tie up with an Israeli firm to set up tidal power plants in Goa. If the operation is a success, India will be the only fifth country in the world which to have operational tidal power plants.

Iran Executes Hundreds of People Each Year in Its UN-Funded War on Drugs

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The latest session of the United Nations General Assembly is underway in New York City. The assembly has featured many speakers, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who used the platform to address extremism in the world as well as the landmark nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers.

One thing he did not mention was the death penalty. Iran has one of the globe’s highest rates of capital punishment, a fact that if ignored inside the chamber, was highlighted by protesters outside the General Assembly.

Syrian Forces Advance in Eastern Aleppo

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Syrian military forces intensified attacks against terrorist groups in the city of Aleppo, making advances on eastern neighborhoods of the strategic city.

The Syrian army’s advance on eastern Aleppo follows a siege of the terrorist-held area, where a quarter of a million people are estimated to be living.

Meanwhile, the army has provided safe passages for civilians to flee the terrorist-held neighborhoods, declaring that any individual who reaches the Syrian army positions will be safe and not arrested.

Digital Encryption 101 – Securing Your Messages

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For many, the task of learning how to thwart the electronic eyes and ears of the State may seem quite daunting. However, the good news is that this need for basic communication between private individuals has been met by technophiles who are constantly working to make sure that the average person has the ability to communicate via electronic medium in a secure manner without great effort. This skillset is not hard to gain and the software required is free. If you can follow simple instructions and install software using the software’s included installation wizard, then you can do this. This article will teach the beginner to send and receive encrypted email.

The method of encrypting email we will use is known as PGP (short for Pretty Good Privacy) and it is as of yet considered unbreakable. The two facets of PGP that make it extraordinary for this task are its use of asymmetric encryption and digital signatures. Asymmetric encryption simply means that if you wish to send an encrypted email to a person or entity, you can email so that only their specific passphrase, or private key, will decrypt the message, only knowing publicly available information, which is referred to as their public key. This public key will allow a person to lock the message, but only the private key of the pair will unlock the message. This makes it an excellent tool for contacting persons that you do not know personally, such as reporters (think Edward Snowden contacting Glenn Greenwald). Digital signatures allow a person to verify the veracity and integrity of the data being sent, which prevents any tampering with the message. The contents of the email, but not the subject line, will be fully encrypted.

Drone video from independent investigation exposes illegal of 3000 hectares

Image Source: YouTube screenshot

A drone video captured the extent of burnt oil palms and the clearing of land in the western region of Indonesia. The burning of land is believed to be the cause of the haze that has blanketed Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia every year.

The drone’s launch was part of an investigation by Eyes on the Forest Indonesia (EOF), a coalition of three environment groups which was established in 2004 to study the recurring forest fires.

Florida is Building a Pipeline That Could Explode and Kill Thousands

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Florida will soon be home to a 515-mile interstate natural gas pipeline that will bring “affordable, clean natural gas supplies to Florida.” Of course, this is immediately suspicious because there is nothing “clean” about natural gas.

“Problematically, natural gas is prone to leaking from pipelines, wellheads, and the nooks and crannies of processing and storage facilities. ‘Accounting for methane leakage throughout the supply chain of natural gas, natural gas might actually be worse for the climate than coal,’ said Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Stop Dirty Fuels Campaign, at a panel on energy hosted by Politico.

A Toxic Mix of Illegal Logging and Corruption Is Devastating Europe’s Last Primeval Forests

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Earlier this week, journalists from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and the RISE Project published a new documentary studying the effects of illegal logging in Romania and Ukraine. The film, titled “Clear Cut Crimes,” examines the collusion of illegal and legal businesses that are devastating the last of Europe’s primeval forests.

In Bulgaria, an Example of How Refugees Need Not Be a Problem, but a Solution

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Refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere continue to follow the so-called Balkan Route from Turkey to Hungary in search of better life in Western Europe, and some European governments continue to greet them with hostility. Mainstream right-wing politicians use their presence to intimidate their constituencies, and in some countries the refugee crisis is used as an excuse for paramilitary activities.

If you happen to believe that this is the wrong approach, here’s one more reason to add to your arsenal.

The UAE Has Avoided an ‘Arab Spring’ by Systematically Repressing Critical Speech

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Three years ago, the UAE government prosecuted en masse 94 government critics and activists who called for reform in the Emirates.

Since this time, there has been no Arab Spring-like uprising. No anti-government protests that have come close to shaking the ruling regime. Yet the state-sponsored repression of human rights advocates and journalists continues unabated.

Arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, unfair trials, deportations, and revocation of citizenships are among the tactics the UAE authorities regularly deploy to silence dissident voices and make sure that no such uprising takes place within its borders.

Drones, surveillance, population control: how our cities became a battleground

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A new kind of warfare: how urban spaces are becoming the new battlefield, where the distinction between intelligence and military, and war and peace is becoming more and more problematic.

In the late 18th century the institutional building of the so called panopticon, was designed by British Jeremy Bentham. The aim was to obtain “power of mind over mind”.[1] Since its design the panopticon has served as an inspiration for the construction of prisons since it allows for people to be observed without their knowing whether or not they are being observed. The constant uncertainty of being under surveillance serves as a behaviour changer.