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Thursday, Jul 31st

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Kiss me, I'm an atheist

atheistIn Pope Francis’ Christmas address, he extended a surprise olive branch to atheists. But the reach was backhanded. “I invite even nonbelievers to desire peace,” he offered. Even nonbelievers? How magnanimous.

Religious tolerance has increased dramatically over the last few decades, at least in the United States. But one group remains behind the pack: atheists. A 2012 Gallup poll asked Americans if they would vote for a well-qualified presidential candidate nominated by their party if the person happened to be “X.” Catholic? Ninety-four percent said yes. Jewish? Ninety-one percent. Mormon? Eighty percent. Muslim? Fifty-eight percent. Trailing them all — and well behind blacks, women, Hispanics, and gays and lesbians — were atheists, at 54 percent.

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FBI Burglars from ’71 Confess

fbi burglers On March 8, 1971, a group of eight Vietnam War protestors broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation field office in Media, Pennsylvania and stole hundreds of government documents. The burglars were never caught but several are now stepping forward and claiming responsibility for the break in.

The stolen memos, reports and internal correspondence they found provided the first tangible evidence that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI was systematically targeting and harassing hundreds of American citizens then known collectively as “the New Left.”

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Jihad Jane: Despite cooperation, U.S. seeks 'decades' in prison

Jihad JaneThe Pennsylvania woman who called herself Jihad Jane and a teenage accomplice from Maryland provided "very significant" assistance to U.S. authorities in several terrorism investigations but still remain threats to the public, prosecutors say in new court filings.

Prosecutors said Colleen LaRose, 50, should be sentenced to "decades behind bars" for her role in a failed 2009 plot to kill Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who offended many Muslims by drawing the Prophet Mohammed on the head of a dog.

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Wells Fargo agrees to $541 million loan settlement

wells fargoWells Fargo & Co will pay a net $541 million to Fannie Mae to settle claims over defective home loans, completing the government-controlled mortgage company's efforts to have banks buy back troubled loans made before the financial crisis.

Fannie Mae said on Monday it has reached settlements worth roughly $6.5 billion over loan buybacks with eight banks, including Wells Fargo, the nation's largest mortgage lender and fourth-largest bank by assets.

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I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on

US drone programWhenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them some questions. I'd start with: "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?" And: "How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?"

Or even more pointedly: "How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicle] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?"

Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

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Cryptolocker ransomware has 'infected about 250,000 PCs'

cryptolockerA virulent form of ransomware has now infected about quarter of a million Windows computers, according to a report by security researchers.

Cryptolocker scrambles users' data and then demands a fee to unencrypt it alongside a countdown clock. Dell Secureworks said that the US and UK had been worst affected.

It added that the cyber-criminals responsible were now targeting home internet users after initially focusing on professionals.

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State surveillance of personal data is theft, say world's leading authors

authors say spying is theftMore than 500 of the world's leading authors, including five Nobel prize winners, have condemned the scale of state surveillance revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and warned that spy agencies are undermining democracy and must be curbed by a new international charter.

The signatories, who come from 81 different countries and include Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Orham Pamuk, Günter Grass and Arundhati Roy, say the capacity of intelligence agencies to spy on millions of people's digital communications is turning everyone into potential suspects, with worrying implications for the way societies work.

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