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Tuesday, Sep 30th

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The Next Frontier In The GOP War Over Science

National science foundationThe Obama administration and the scientific community at large are expressing serious alarm at a House Republican bill that they argue would dramatically undermine way research is conducted in America.

Titled the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014," the bill would put a variety of new restrictions on how funds are doled out by the National Science Foundation. The goal, per its Republican supporters on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, would be to weed out projects whose cost can't be justified or whose sociological purpose is not apparent.

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New Report Documents Chemical Disasters and Environmental Injustice in the U.S.

Chemical toxicity studyAmericans who face the greatest threat from potential toxic chemical disasters are predominantly from low income and minority communities, a new report released by the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance asserts.

In a first-of-its-kind study, the report, Who’s in Danger? A Demographic Analysis of Chemical Disaster Vulnerability Zones, documents the high-risk factors of living within the vicinity of chemical facilities—including water and wastewater treatment facilities, power plants, bleach production facilities, petroleum refineries and paper mills. The report dubs these hotspots “vulnerability zones,” or “fenceline zones.”

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This American Refused to Become an FBI Informant. Then the Government Made His Family's Life Hell.

Naji MansourIt was after 10 p.m. on July 8, 2009, when Sandra Mansour answered her cellphone to the panicked voice of her daughter-in-law, Nasreen. A week earlier, Nasreen and her husband, Naji Mansour, had been detained in the southern Sudanese city of Juba by agents of the country's internal security bureau. In the days since, Sandra had been desperately trying to find out where the couple was being held.

Now Nasreen was calling to say that she'd been released—driven straight to the airport and booked on a flight to her native Kenya—but Naji remained in custody. He was being held in a dark, squalid basement cell, with a bucket for a bathroom and a dense swarm of mosquitoes that attacked his body as he slept. "You have to get him out of there," Nasreen said. But she was unfamiliar with Juba and could only offer the barest details about where they'd been held. "He's in a blue building. You've seen it. It's not far from your hotel."

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Texas: When fracking comes to town

Texas frackingFor northern Texans who live near gas wells, fracking'€™s promise of cleaner energy is overshadowed by drilling, pollution and fears for their health. Some residents have started to fight back.

Alyse and Lance Ogletree moved to the Meadows at Hickory Creek, a subdivision of modest houses in this fast-growing city 40 miles north of Dallas, in the fall of 2011. They found the home prices attractive and thought the well-regarded school district would be a good fit for their son, Kyle, who had suffered brain damage after contracting encephalitis when he was 8 months old.

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Telecom firm fails in first known FISA court surveillance challenge

telecom company fails FISA challengeFor the first known time since the U.S. government began collecting data about Americans’ phone calls in bulk after the 9/11 attacks, a telecommunications company has questioned those surveillance activities in court, according to a judge’s opinion unsealed on Friday.

That company, whose name was redacted from the opinion, did not directly challenge the government’s right to make companies turn over “telephony metadata” — information about the phone numbers customers dial and the time, data and duration of such calls.

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Ferry sinks in South Korea, nearly 300 still missing

Ferry sinks SeoulA multi-story ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by ships and helicopters. At least three people were confirmed dead and 55 injured.

The high number of people unaccounted for — likely trapped in the ship or floating in the ocean — raised fears that the death toll could rise drastically, making it one of South Korea's biggest ferry disasters since 1993 when 292 people died.

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Online Security Flaw Exposes Millions of Passwords

password security flawAn alarming lapse in Internet security has exposed millions of passwords, credit card numbers and other sensitive bits of information to potential theft by computer hackers who may have been secretly exploiting the problem before its discovery.

The breakdown revealed this week affects the encryption technology that is supposed to protect online accounts for emails, instant messaging and a wide range of electronic commerce.

Security researchers who uncovered the threat, known as "Heartbleed," are particularly worried about the breach because it went undetected for more than two years.

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