07 April 2010

America Not Ready 4 Cyberattacks, Pelosi Death Threats, Iraq Violence, Kyrgyzstan Riots, Skinhead Leaves Hate Behind - News Headlines 7 Apr 2010

Attacks In Iraq Surge Amid Postelection Wrangling: (NPR) Insurgents in Iraq appear to be taking advantage of the political gridlock after the country's March 7 election by launching attacks on the government and civilians. More than 100 people have died in bombings and massacres over the past five days, and Iraqis fear a return to the dark days of sectarian violence.

The killings this week stirred Baghdad's most traumatic memories of the carnage from several years ago. In one suburb, men wearing army uniforms, but most likely imposters, arrived and executed Sunnis off a written list of names. Car bombs struck three embassies, and seven explosions ripped through several neighborhoods Tuesday, killing 50 people and wounding scores.

The only thing the neighborhoods had in common was that they saw terrible violence in the past...

Opposition Says It Has Claimed Control In Kyrgyzstan: (NPR) Thousands of protesters furious over corruption and spiraling utility bills seized internal security headquarters, a state TV channel and other levers of power in Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday after government forces fatally shot dozens of demonstrators and wounded hundreds in the capital, Bishkek.

A revolution in the Central Asian nation was proclaimed by leaders of the opposition, who have called for the closure of a U.S. air base outside Bishkek that serves as a key transit point for supplies essential to the war in nearby Afghanistan...

This mountainous former Soviet republic erupted when protesters called onto the streets by opposition parties for a day of protest began storming government buildings in the capital and clashed with police. Groups of elite officers opened fire.

The Health Ministry said 40 people had died and more than 400 were wounded. Opposition activist Toktoim Umetalieva said at least 100 people had died after police opened fire with live ammunition...

Since coming to power in 2005 on a wave of street protests known as the Tulip Revolution, Bakiyev had ensured a measure of stability, but many observers say he has done so at the expense of democratic standards while enriching himself and his family. He gave his relatives, including his son, top government and economic posts and faced the same accusations of corruption and cronyism that led to the ouster of his predecessor.

Over the past two years, Kyrgyz authorities have clamped down on free media, and opposition activists say they have routinely been subjected to physical intimidation and targeted by politically motivated criminal investigations...

FBI Arrests Man For Threatening Speaker Pelosi: (NPR) The FBI says the suspect accused of making threatening phone calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a 48-year-old San Francisco man.

FBI spokesman Joseph Schadler identified the man as Gregory Lee Giusti. Giusti was arrested at his home shortly after noon Wednesday.

Schadler did not disclose the charges against Giusti, but said he's due in court Thursday.

Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the suspect made dozens of calls to Pelosi's homes in California and Washington, as well as to her husband's business office. They say he recited her home address and said if she wanted to see it again, she would not support the health care overhaul bill that since has been enacted.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

On Tuesday, authorities announced charges against a Washington state man who allegedly made threatening calls to Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat. Charges also have been filed against a Philadelphia man who allegedly made a YouTube video threatening Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA).

Supreme Court May Soon Lack Protestant Justices: (NPR) With U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens talking openly about retirement, attention has focused on the "who" — as in who is on President Obama's short list of potential nominees. But almost nobody has noticed that when Justice Stevens retires, it is entirely possible that there will be no Protestant justices on the court for the first time ever.

Topic With A Hint Of Taboo

Let's face it: This is a radioactive subject. As Jeff Shesol, author of the critically acclaimed new book Supreme Power, puts it, "religion is the third rail of Supreme Court politics. It's not something that's talked about in polite company." And although Shesol notes that privately a lot of people remark about the surprising fact that there are so many Catholics on the Supreme Court, this is not a subject that people openly discuss.

In fact, six of the nine justices on the current court are Roman Catholic. That's half of the 12 Catholics who have ever served on the court. Only seven Jews have ever served, and two of them are there now. Depending on the Stevens replacement, there may be no Protestants left on the court at all in a majority Protestant nation where, for decades and generations, all of the justices were Protestant.

The first Catholic to serve was Chief Justice Roger Taney, historically famous for writing the Dred Scott decision upholding slavery. After he left, no Catholic was appointed for 30 years. But by the early 20th century, the nation settled into a pattern in which there was one seat on the court occupied by a Catholic, and usually one by a Jew, beginning with Louis Brandeis in 1916. There was no Jewish justice, however, in the 24 years between 1969 and 1993. The 20th century hiatus for Jews began under President Nixon, who, when asked by his attorney general when he was going to fill the Jewish seat, replied, "Well, how about after I die."

Historically, Republicans have been the party of Protestants. But Protestant Republicans — Reagan and both Bushes — appointed five of the Catholics currently sitting on the court: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

The sixth Catholic, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, was appointed by President Obama. As for the two Jews, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, both were appointed by President Clinton.

And what is particularly interesting, as attention focuses on a potential replacement for Justice Stevens, is that the two leading contenders to succeed him, Solicitor General Elena Kagan and federal Judge Merrick Garland, are both Jewish, while another often mentioned name, Michigan's Gov. Jennifer Granholm, is Catholic. Yes, there are some Protestants in the mix, too, but it remains a distinct possibility that when the dust settles and a new justice takes his or her seat, there will be no Protestants on the high court.

Does it matter? Should it matter? Should it be discussed in polite society?

"It would certainly raise a lot of eyebrows," says University of Virginia professor Henry Abraham. "I don't know whether it matters. Speaking idealistically, to me the only thing that matters is competence, quality, education, ability, morals and so forth..."

Cyberattack: U.S. Unready For Future Face Of War: (NPR) Georgia in August 2008 lasted just nine days, but it marked a turning point in the history of warfare. For the first time ever, the shooting was accompanied by a cyberattack.

In the opening hours of battle, unidentified hackers shut down Georgian government, media and banking Web sites. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili insisted that Russia was responsible for the cyberattack, and U.S. officials subsequently said he was probably right.

The timing was propitious. Just as Russian ground troops were engaging Georgian forces in combat, the Georgian government was forced to deal with malfunctioning computer systems. U.S. intelligence analysts were convinced that the actions were carefully coordinated.

The disruption was relatively minor, but an important threshold had been crossed. In announcing a cybersecurity initiative nine months later, President Obama referred back to the August events in Georgia, saying they offered "a glimpse of the future face of war."

That is now a widely held view.

"The next time there is a big war, it will include a cyberattack," says Richard Clarke, a former White House cybersecurity adviser and the author of a new book, Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It.

For the United States, the prospect is especially worrisome. The entire U.S. economy depends on operations in cyberspace. If computer networks shut down, so will the country.

Indeed, in a major cyberwar scenario, the United States would be uniquely vulnerable. No military is more dependent on data networking. Unmanned aircraft send video feeds back to Earth 24/7, while soldiers on the ground are guided by GPS signals and linked via computers to other units and command posts.

"In the first Persian Gulf War, we were able to overcome our opponent easily, largely because of our informational advantage," says James Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"But as others realized that," he adds, "they began looking for ways to degrade that capability. How do I disrupt the data? How do I disrupt the communications? How do I monkey with GPS? And so, we have countries out there — big and small — who work every day to figure out how to break DOD's [Department of Defense] informational advantage."

Countries around the world are now preparing to fight a cyberwar. And none takes it more seriously than China, according to Lewis.

"Twelve years ago, they said, 'We're going to develop this capability,' " says Lewis. "And you know what? They did. They're very powerful. They're very effective. They're not the best in the world. But they have spent a lot of time and energy thinking about how to attack the United States in cyberspace."

Of course, the U.S. military is planning its own cyberattacks. Pentagon cyberwarriors have detailed plans to take down power, telecommunication and transportation systems just about anywhere.

There is just one problem: What if the other side strikes first? In cyberwar scenarios, pre-emptive attacks are favored, and effective retaliation can be difficult.

"We have extremely good cyberoffensive capabilities and almost nothing in the way of cyberdefense," Clarke says.

The United States' lack of preparation for a cyberattack was highlighted in a recent exercise co-sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center and CNN.

The participants, playing top government roles, went through a simulation of an aggressive cyberattack. The scenario featured a cascading series of technology failures, beginning with mobile telephone networks. Internet traffic soon slowed to a crawl, and communication between financial centers came almost to a standstill.

The mock exercise, dubbed "Cyber Shockwave," was set in the White House Situation Room, with top U.S. security officials struggling to keep up with the developments.

"What do we have to do now to contain this?" asked Stephen Friedman, an economic adviser to President George W. Bush, playing the role of Treasury secretary for the purposes of the exercise.

No one had an answer.

Other former officials, including John Negroponte, the first director of National Intelligence, and Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of Homeland Security, also played key roles in the simulation. None found that their government experience prepared them for the decisions and policy actions that the cybercrisis required.

Some experts later disputed the likelihood of an attack as overwhelming and fast-moving as the one in the simulation, but they agreed it could not be ruled out. In any case, the exercise showed that the U.S. government is not prepared to deal with a massive cyberattack on its civilian infrastructure...

To deter a cyberattack, however, is far more difficult. One of the gravest challenges is what experts call the "attribution problem." U.S. defense and intelligence agencies would likely have a hard time determining precisely where an attack came from and to whom it could be attributed...

If anything, the attribution problem is growing more complicated. Cyberwarriors can now hijack computers in other countries, working remotely through them, hopping from server to server. Because it's so hard to trace the attack to a perpetrator, direct retaliation may be impossible...

Lewis likes to cite the German military leaders 70 years ago who took pride in their ability to encrypt radio communication through their Enigma machines. What they did not realize, Lewis says, was that U.S. allies had cracked the Enigma code and were intercepting all those "secret" German messages.

"Unfortunately, today we've reversed the roles," says Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "We're the people sitting there fat, dumb and happy, thinking we're getting all this advantage from our network and not realizing that our opponents are sitting in it and reaping all the benefits."

He adds, "I see this as possibly one of the gravest intelligence battles the U.S. has ever fought, and it's a battle we're currently losing."

Under Israel's Divorce Laws, Men Get The Final Word: (NPR) Israel has a singular system when it comes to matters of family law. For Jews, the religious or rabbinical court is the only one able to grant a divorce. The court rules according to Jewish law — a system that has been in place for thousands of years — and it is run exclusively by Orthodox rabbis.

According to Jewish law, a man has to agree to grant the divorce of his own free will before the legal separation can proceed. Rights groups say the system unfairly discriminates against women.

"If he's incapacitated, if he's abusive, if he committed adultery, it really doesn't matter," says Susan Weiss, who runs the Center for Women's Justice in Israel. "If he doesn't say yes, you're stuck."

Ramit Alon, 40, was living in an Orthodox community with her husband and three children when she decided to leave her marriage...

Alon says she was optimistic about what lay ahead. "I thought that after I leave, it will take some months and then I could get divorced and start again, a new life. But it's not over."

refuses to give his wife a divorce, she is stuck."

And that's where Alon finds herself. Her husband does not want to divorce her, and she cannot just decide to go and live with another man and bear his children, because under Jewish law, the children of the new union would be considered bastards.

They would not, for example, be able to legally get married here in the Jewish faith, Alon says.

"I have a new life now, but I can't start all over again," she says. "I can't meet someone and marry him and have kids. If I will have new kids before I have my divorce, they won't be able to marry here."

Weiss says the stigma is carried for generations.

"Very few women want to be in the position where their kids are considered mamzerim or bastards. The stigma is really great and the stigma is so bad that it goes forever," she says. "In other words, this person who's stigmatized — his children are stigmatized; his grandchildren are stigmatized; everyone is stigmatized..."

A 'Recovering Skinhead' On Leaving Hatred Behind: (NPR) As a teenager, Frank Meeink was one of the most well-known skinhead gang members in the country. He had his own public access talk show, called The Reich, he appeared on Nightline and other media outlets as a spokesman for neo-Nazi topics, and he regularly recruited members of his South Philadelphia neighborhood to join his skinhead gang.

At 18, Meeink spent several years in prison for kidnapping one man and beating another man senseless for several hours. While in prison, Meeink says, he was exposed to people from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds and started reevaluating his own racist beliefs. His transformation solidified, he tells Dave Davies, after the Oklahoma City bombing, when he saw the iconic photo of a firefighter cradling a lifeless girl in his arms.

"I felt so evil. Throughout my life, even when I was tattooed up and wanting to be a skinhead, I felt like maybe I was bad on the outside. But I felt good on the inside," he says. "And that day it switched. I felt OK on the outside, but I felt so evil inside. I had no one to talk to. ... So I went to the FBI and ... I told them my story. I said 'I don't have any information on anybody, but I just need to let you know what it's like.' And of course they wanted to listen, because the Oklahoma City bombing had happened.''

The FBI recommended that Meeink contact the Anti-Defamation League — which he did. He now regularly lectures to students about racial diversity and acceptance on behalf of the ADL, and he has written a memoir about his past, called Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead.

Meeink says the biggest change in the skinhead movement since he left is how easily members can spread their message and communicate with one another.

"When I was around, we contacted each other through P.O. Box numbers — and not through Web sites," he says. "So the Web has really got numbers looking bigger than they are. But you gotta remember, too: Sometimes those are just misguided kids who are looking for anything to do. But if your children are looking at these Web sites more regularly, and they're not looking at them for research, you need to step in and ask why and ask the right questions..."

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