You need to know this. For the third time in two weeks, we learned about yet another NSA spying program. First we heard about the agency tapping the phones of world leaders. Then we learned about them collecting data on Europeans. And now, we find out that the NSA has broken into the main communication links of Yahoo and Google. New documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowed show that the National Security Agency has infiltrated communication hubs, and positioned themselves to collect data on millions of users – including Americans. And, this isn't just the metadata that we've previously learned about – this is content. The top-secret documents show that so-called “field collectors” are scooping up information including who sent and received an email, and any content it contained – including text, audio, and video. The NSA released a statement about this revelation, saying that the agency is only “focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets.” However, it's hard to accept them at their word after learning about this program. They said our data wasn't be collected – and we found out is was. They said they weren't collecting content – and we found out that they are. Everything that they have told us has been a lie, so why should anyone believe them now when they say that they're only spying on potential terrorists?
In screwed news... Next month, TEPCO will begin removing 1300 spent fuel rods at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. The highly radioactive fuel rods each weigh two-thirds of a ton, and according to nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson, they are “bent, damaged, and [brittle] to the point of crumbling.” TEPCO must move the rods from a cooling pool that sits 100 feet in the air, and transfer them to a different pool inside a nearby building. Under normal circumstances, the process is so dangerous that it's done using computer-operated machinery. However, because of the damage sustained in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, it all has to be done manually. And, if one of the fuel rods should fall, it could disrupt the entire cooling pool, which holds 400 tons of fuel, and release 15,000 times more radiation than Hiroshima. Anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman described the process as “humankind's most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.” TEPCO has been given the go-ahead to begin the process, but people around the world would rather see an international effort to make sure it all goes smoothly.
In the best of the rest of the news...
This week, activists from all across our nation came to Washington to call for a “Robin Hood Tax.” The movement has been building for the past two years, and is now endorsed by more than 160 local and national organizations. The groups are calling on lawmakers to stop instituting austerity measures, and enact a transaction tax on Wall Street. They say that rather than calling for more budget cuts, our elected leaders should be taxing stocks, bonds, derivatives, and other financial instruments. And, activists say that revenue could be used to create jobs, repair infrastructure, fund education, and fight climate change. George Goehl, executive director of National People's Action, said, “We have a revenue crisis, and we know where the money is – it's on Wall Street. We're going to ask the politicians – 'Are you going to stand with Wall Street or Main Street?'.” These groups have been fighting hard to stand up for the 99 percent, and they brought that fight to our nations capital to make it clear that they won't be ignored.
According to RadCast,org, there are radiation levels around our nation that we should be monitoring closely. Frederic, Wisconsin is averaging 59 counts per minute, but spiking at 74. And, three different cities in Arizona – Chino Valley, Prescott, and Tucson – are all averaging about 60 counts per minute or above. In addition, the East Coast is seeing some high levels today, with 63 counts per minute in Charleston, North Carolina, and 71 in Salisbury, Massachusetts. RadCast.org also issued a warning about “hot rain” in Salisbury, with spikes over 120. RadCast reminds us that alert level is 100 counts per minute, and as you can see, some areas in our nation are above that today.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is planning for the future. The pioneer energy utility, which was started under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is investing in green energy. The TVA just signed nine contracts with wind farms in Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois. When all that wind power comes online, it will supply enough electricity to power 650,000 Tennessee Valley homes. At the same time, the TVA set up a 20-year plan to cut its dependency on coal-fired power in half. The TVA and a new citizens advisory group are also tweaking that utility's long-term plans to create energy diversity, new jobs, and lower utility bills. The utility is leading the way towards a clean energy future, just as the TVA was a pioneer for hydro-power back in the 1930s.
And finally… All around our nation tonight, children and adults will be celebrating Halloween. In addition to spooky costumes, mounds of candy, and lots of pranks, there are several other things that October 31st should be known for. On this day in 1864, Nevada became the 36th state. In 1941, the carving of Mt. Rushmore was complete on October 31st. And, Harry Houdini died on this day in 1926, after letting a college student punch him the stomach. In case that wasn't enough to make this day special, you could celebrate the fact that Vanilla Ice was born on October 31st, 1967, although his real name is Robert Matthew Van Winkle. Perhaps the greatest reason of all to celebrate Halloween – on this day in 2011 – Andrew Fastow – the former CEO of Enron – was indicted on 78 counts of fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. It that doesn't put the “treat” in trick-or-treat, I don't know what does.
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