TIME uk

U.K. Raises Terror Threat Level to ‘Severe’

But it doesn't mean an attack is "imminent"

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Updated at 12:39 p.m.

The United Kingdom raised its terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe” Friday, at a time when Britons have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside the Islamist militant group wreaking havoc there.

Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May first made the announcement, but cited no specific threat in doing so. Prime Minister David Cameron later said he agreed with the decision to raise the threat level in the wake of Briton’s fighting for the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). The new designation warns that a terrorist attack is “highly likely.”

“I understand and I agree with the assessment that they’ve made,” Cameron said, referring to MI5’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Center, which determines the threat level independent of the Prime Minister. “That there is a greater threat that we face from Syria and Iraq, that there is a greater problem of returning foreign fighters and also it’s worth remembering… you’re dealing not just with [ISIS], you’re also dealing with other al-Qaeda-linked franchises in Syria and indeed, potentially in Iraq.”

Cameron told Britons to “continue to go about our daily lives in our normal way.” He added that the changes will help the police put in place necessary security precautions.

“We must use all the resources we have at our disposal—aid, diplomacy, political influence and our military,” Cameron said, adding that the U.K. supports the U.S. airstrikes against ISIS. “Learning the lessons from the past doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for our military,” he said.

London’s Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said earlier this week that at least 500 Britons have fought in the Iraq and Syria conflict on behalf of ISIS, and that about half have already returned to the U.K., BBC reports.

May, the Home Secretary, said the change in threat level doesn’t imply, and that there is “no intelligence to suggest,” that an attack is “imminent.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that senior Administration officials have been in touch with their British counterparts about the change in the U.K. international terrorism threat level. “I don’t anticipate at this point that there’s a plan to change that level” in the U.S., added Earnest.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson confirmed in a public statement released Friday afternoon that the DHS and Federal Bureau of Investigation are “unaware of any specific, credible threat to the U.S. homeland from [ISIS].” Johnson also underscored recent efforts designed to improve U.S. national security.

“Additionally, in response to recent threats generally from overseas, the Department of Homeland Security over the past several weeks has taken a number of steps to enhance aviation security at overseas airports with direct flights to the United States, and the United Kingdom and other nations have followed with similar enhancements,” said Johnson. “This government, in close collaboration with our international partners, has also taken a series of steps to track foreign fighters who travel in and out of Syria, and we are contemplating additional security measures concerning foreign fighters. Some of the security measures will be visible to the public and some understandably will be unseen.”

 

TIME Infectious Disease

Senegal Confirms Country’s First Ebola Case

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Colorized transmission electron micrograph of the Ebola virus. Getty Images

The often-fatal disease has spread to a fifth West African country

Add Senegal to the four other West African countries—Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria—with recorded cases of Ebola.

Health Minister Awa Marie Coll Seck told reporters Friday that a young, infected Guinean man crossed the border into Senegal, the Associated Press reports. Senegal closed its border to its southeastern neighbor last week over fears that the often-fatal disease might spread into the country.

The World Health Organization announced Thursday that there have been 430 deaths from Ebola in Guinea alone. The United Nations agency reported that disease has been spreading more rapidly recently, with more than 40% of the total number of cases—3,069—occurring within the past 21 days.

The WHO has created a “roadmap” to stop the transmission of Ebola within nine months, while acknowledging that the disease could spread and infect over 20,000 people during that time.

Officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo recently said an Ebola outbreak has stricken that country as well, though they deny it’s connected to the one affecting West Africa.

[AP]

TIME Immigration

Labor Leader Urges Obama to Go Big on Immigration

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO Michael Bonfigli—The Christian Science Monitor.

Seeking a change in deportations policy and an energized liberal base for the midterm elections

A top labor leader predicted Thursday that President Barack Obama will use his executive authority to make changes in immigration policy without congressional cooperation, but also castigated him for the high rate of deportations under his watch.

“He’s going to do something; I just hope it’s bold enough to be worthwhile,” Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. “No matter what he does the right wing is going to go bonkers and say he doesn’t care about anything—[that] he isn’t enforcing the law.”

Obama has been under pressure from liberals to work around congressional opposition to comprehensive immigration reform by issuing executive orders. Trumka said that could be politically savvy with the midterm elections approaching—so long as Obama goes far enough to energize the liberal base.

“If he goes mild he’ll energize the right but he won’t energize the center and the left,” Trumka said.

The AFL-CIO, an umbrella union group, wants the President to defer deportations, grant work authorization to “low-priority” undocumented immigrants, and restore the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s authority over local law enforcement, among other demands.

Trumka said Thursday that the current “deportation policy doesn’t make sense,” and that Obama fell into a “classic trap” set by Republicans, raising the number of the deportations without guaranteeing a comprehensive immigration bill in return.

“What it did do is undermine the support [Obama] had in the Latino community because those communities really believe that they are under attack right now,” Trumka said. “You’re seeing families split up.”

TIME Drugs

The Government Wants to Buy 12 Acres of Marijuana — for Research

Marijuana Pot Weed Farm Growers
Jordan Stanley and others prune hemp plants growing on their family'’s farm outside Wray, Colo., on July 31, 2014 Matthew Staver—The New York Times/Redux

The NIH is looking for pot farmers

Calling all pot farmers: Uncle Sam is looking to buy.

An arm of the National Institutes of Health dedicated to researching drug abuse and addiction “intends” to solicit proposals from those who can “harvest, process, analyze, store and distribute” cannabis, according to a listing posted Tuesday night on a federal government website.

A successful bidder must possess a “secure and video monitored outdoor facility” capable of growing and processing 12 acres of marijuana, a 1,000-sq.-ft. (minimum) greenhouse to test the plants under controlled conditions, and “demonstrate the availability” of a vault approved by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration to maintain between 400 and 700 kg of pot stock, extract and cigarettes.

Back-up plans in case of emergency required.

The NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is looking for growers who have the capability to develop plants with altered versions of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of pot, and cannabidiol (CBD), which is known for its medicinal properties. NIDA “anticipates” awarding a one-year contract with four one-year options, according to the posting. The vendor would also have to register with the DEA to research, manufacture and distribute cannabis.

NIDA spokeswoman Shirley Simson said the agency was simply starting a new bidding competition since its existing marijuana-farm contract is set to expire next year. The original solicitation for that contract was issued in 2009.

There are 18 states that have decriminalized pot, 23 states with laws allowing access to medical marijuana, and two states — Colorado and Washington — that have legalized the drug for recreational purposes. Federal law still classifies marijuana as a drug on par with heroin, acid and ecstasy.

— With reporting by Mark Thompson

TIME Crime

What Anonymous Is Doing in Ferguson

Ferguson Anonymous
Ron Johnson of Missouri State Highway Patrol speaks to a protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask while he walks through a peaceful demonstration in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 14, 2014 Lucas Jackson—Reuters

What the "hacktavist" group does, how it dealt with the affiliated member who misidentified Michael Brown's killer and how many members are involved in Operation Ferguson

On Aug. 12, Ferguson City Hall’s website went black, its phone lines died and officials had to communicate by text, according to the St. Louis Dispatch and the New York Times. Self-identified members of the amorphous, hard-to-define hacker community Anonymous had struck again, according to the papers, this time in response to the shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer. A Twitter account allegedly associated with Anonymous — @TheAnonMessage — threatened Jon Belmar, the St. Louis County police chief, with publicly releasing his daughter’s information “in one hour” unless he released the name of the officer who killed Brown. While Belmar didn’t give in, and @TheAnonMessage dropped the ultimatum, the account and other self-identified Anonymous members would post two days later the home address, Social Security number and phone number of Belmar, telling him to “run, Jon, run.” While that practice, known as doxing, is a common Anonymous cyberattack, @TheAnonMessage would go on to wrongly accuse a citizen of killing Brown. Twitter subsequently shut down the Twitter account @TheAnonMessage without much uproar from the Anonymous community, which prides itself on fighting censorship.

A week later, Anonymous is still at work, marking Thursday as a nationwide “day of rage” to protest police brutality. To better understand why Anonymous, whose targets have been varied (including MasterCard, a Tunisian dictator and Kiss singer Gene Simmons), is interested in the Brown shooting, TIME spoke with Jay Leiderman, an attorney who includes among his clients Anonymous hackers, and Gabriella Coleman, a McGill University anthropology professor who is writing a book on the loose-knit community. We also spoke about how many people were involved in Operation Ferguson and how the organization dealt with one of its own after falsely accusing someone of murder.

Why is Anonymous involved in the Ferguson protests?
Anonymous’ “main demand” is “justice” for Brown and his family, Leiderman says. They can grab the attention of the Ferguson police and “let them know that they’re serious,” he says. Operation Ferguson falls in line with previous Anonymous efforts to unmask alleged perpetrators, like the 2012 Operation Red Roll, which released private information about people allegedly complicit in the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio.

The “whole reason why” Anonymous got involved was a local rap artist — Tef Po — who called out for help on Twitter, according to Coleman, and the affiliated members responded. A day after the Brown shooting, Anonymous, through Operation Ferguson, released a statement asking Congress to pass a bill to set “strict national standards for police conduct.” It also warned the Ferguson government and police department of cyber-counterattacks if the protesters were abused, harassed or otherwise harmed.

“If you attack the protesters, we will attack every server and computer you have,” wrote the Operation Ferguson author. “We will dox [document trace] and release the personal information on every single member of the Ferguson Police Department, as well as any other jurisdiction that participates in the abuse. We will seize all your databases and e-mail spools and dump them on the Internet. This is your only warning.”

Coleman says that there isn’t unanimous support within the hacker community nor Anonymous on shutting down websites. “It’s a big contentious debate between hackers who have a purist, free-speech view, and others who have a more contextual one,” says Coleman. “There’s also a debate within Anonymous itself where a lot of hackers who really do the work of intrusion are not fans of doxing for two reasons: a) it’s technically uninteresting and b) sometimes they’re actually trying to gain access to those sites to hack them.”

“Really the main point is to gain media attention,” she says. “That’s kind of why that’s done more than anything else.”

How many Anonymous members are involved in Ferguson?
Anonymous is by definition a secretive group, one without leaders, an agenda or a set list of members. “No one has any idea” how many people are involved in Operation Ferguson, according to Leiderman, who called Anonymous a “nebulous and decentralized collective.”

“It’s impossible to say who is and who isn’t a member of Anonymous,” says Leiderman. “There is now way to disprove it.”

But Coleman says you can see which causes are more popular than others.

After the arrest of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange in 2010, and Anonymous disrupted the websites of MasterCard, Visa and PayPal for declining to serve WikiLeaks, around 7,000 people logged onto the Anonymous chat channel and downloaded hacking tools, according to Coleman. That ad hoc association was “probably the largest ever,” Coleman says, and by her estimates, much more than the current Operation in Ferguson. (Anonymous distanced itself from Assange in October 2012 after he asked supporters to pay money for access to documents.) The Ferguson channel is used by up to 160 people, she says, although “thousands and thousands” are “within the orbit” supporting the cause through Twitter.

“It is really hard to tell in terms of the numbers,” says Coleman. “You do get a sense of which ones are bigger and smaller and I would probably put this in the definitely not small, [but] definitely not as big as something like WikiLeaks. Probably in between.”

How is the Anonymous community dealing with the member who misidentified the officer who shot Michael Brown?
The Twitter account @TheAnonMessage was not a very well-respected one within the Anonymous community, according to Coleman and Leiderman, despite the fact that it had been around for awhile.

“People had suspicions, but because he was being really active and contributing a lot to the operation,” says Coleman, “they kind of put their skepticism aside in some ways until it was too late … This is something that in some ways is perennially a problem and just has to do with the kind of architecture of Anonymous where you can’t really control what people are doing. There are norms and rules and ethics that definitely push behavior towards certain areas and not others, but by no means [are they] foolproof.”

After Twitter took down the account, an Anonymous member wrote a post to show a detailed ticktock “that this was the work of an Anon who was acting against the advice of others.” Other Twitter accounts associated with the group, like Operation Ferguson’s account, declined to name the Brown shooter as it looked for additional sources.

Coleman says that with the exception of a few cases, Anonymous has “generally been correct” in uncovering the right information. She calls @TheAnonMessage a “loose cannon” that had earned “skepticism” because of erratic actions in the past. Coleman says there “was no outcry” when Twitter shut down @TheAnonMessage despite Anonymous being “so famous for hating censorship.”

“Anonymous attracts people who are willing to push the envelope,” she says. “But there is always a hope that people who are doing it are getting the right names and information … I think that there was this expectation that people are doing that work carefully so when they’re not, people in Anonymous get really pissed off.”

When asked if Anonymous’ reputation was hurt after @TheAnonMessage released inaccurate information, Leiderman first blamed the media for going with an untrusted source before saying that Anonymous usually does a better job of establishing a correct verdict.

“Really you can’t pin that all on Anonymous,” he says. “The media that ran with it [failed] to confirm or deny the veracity of the statement … If the older and larger accounts run with something, it usually has a better chance of being more accurate.”

“You really want to see more consensus in the collective before you run with something like that,” he adds. “People that identify with Anonymous are really good at asking, ‘Are you sure?’, ‘How do you know?’, ‘Can you share the data with us in a secure way?’… and I’m not sure that happened in this case.”

TIME 2014 Election

This Democratic Senator Is Running on Obamacare in a Surprising New Ad

Hell freezes over

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Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is running in one of the tightest reelection races in the country, facing freshman Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a U.S. Army veteran. So it may come as some surprise that in Pryor’s new ad released Wednesday, he chose to hone in on his support of President Barack Obama’s unpopular healthcare law.

In the personal new ad, Pryor’s father, David, a former senator himself, talks about his son’s battle with sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in 1996. “When Mark was diagnosed with cancer, we thought we might lose him,” David Pryor says in a voiceover. “But you know what? Mark’s insurance company didn’t want to pay for the treatment that ultimately saved his life.”

By opening up about the struggle for his own life, Pryor aims to connect with his constituents. “No one should be fighting an insurance company when you’re fighting for your life,” he says in the ad. “That’s why I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you’re sick or deny coverage from preexisting conditions.”

Pryor’s ad does at least three things right. First, he hones in on the most popular aspect of the Affordable Care Act: coverage for those with preexisting conditions, which has support across the aisle. “We all agree that nobody should be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition,” David Ray, a Cotton campaign spokesman, told TIME in an emailed statement.

Second, Pryor’s ad doesn’t use the term “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act’s nickname first coined by its critics. A Kaiser Health Tracking poll released August 1 found that a little over half of the public—53%—have an unfavorable view of Obamacare. But when referred to by a different name, the law’s negative ratings can decrease, polls show. One Kentucky poll in May found that while 57% of registered voters disliked “Obamacare,” only 22 percent had unfavorable views of Kynect, the state exchange created as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s passage in 2010.

Third, the ad includes his father, a former Congressman, Senator and Governor who is still a popular advocate despite being out of office for the better part of two decades.

And as Pryor runs on Obamacare, Senate Republican candidates and their supporters across the country have backed off on their attacks against the law. In April, anti-Obamacare advertising accounted for 54 percent of the issue ads in North Carolina, and almost all ads in Louisiana were focused on the health care law, according to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, as reported by Bloomberg. But by July, that number dropped to 27% in North Carolina and 41% in Louisiana.

This shift could be for a variety of reasons, including a renewed focus on the economy and jobs in this election cycle. But Republicans might also be reacting to a law that beat expectations, with higher enrollment figures and fewer than expected cancelled plans (1.9 million versus the purported 4.8 million, according to Health Affairs.) In Arkansas, the law reduced the percentage of uninsured from 22.5% to 12.4% over last year, according to Gallup. That 10.1% decline is the largest of any state in the nation.

Of course, Republicans stated goal on Obamacare remains “repeal and replace,” and ads could reemerge this fall even if premiums don’t increase. David Ray, a campaign spokesman for Pyror’s opponent, Cotton, told TIME in an emailed statement that the aforementioned pre-existing condition provision makes sense, but overall the law should be overturned as it raises health care costs and taxes and lowers wages.

“We thank God that Senator Pryor survived cancer, and we admire his courage in that fight,” wrote Ray. “However, we didn’t need Obamacare to change insurance regulations. We all agree that nobody should be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. Obamacare raises taxes on the middle class, has caused millions of Americans to lose insurance plans they were promised they could keep, has doubled or even tripled premiums on families who can’t afford it, has caused lost wages and hours at work, and is preventing many small businesses from growing and hiring more people. Further, Senator Pryor has supported a taxpayer-funded bailout of big insurance companies that lose money as a result of Obamacare. We need to start over with reform that makes healthcare more affordable and keeps healthcare decisions between patients and doctors.”

TIME Security

UPS: We’ve Been Hacked

The United Parcel Service logo on the side of a delivery truck on April 23, 2009 in New York City.
The United Parcel Service logo on the side of a delivery truck on April 23, 2009 in New York City. Chris Hondros—Getty Images

Malware that impacted 51 franchises in 24 states may have compromised customers' credit and debit card information

The United Parcel Service announced Wednesday that customers’ credit and debit card information at 51 franchises in 24 states may have been compromised. There are 4,470 franchised center locations throughout the U.S., according to UPS.

The malware began to infiltrate the system as early as January 20, but the majority of the attacks began after March 26. UPS says the threat was eliminated as of August 11 and that customers can shop safely at all locations.

“The customer information that may have been exposed includes names, postal addresses, email addresses and payment card information,” wrote the company in a public statement. “Not all of this information may have been exposed for each customer. Based on the current assessment, The UPS Store has no evidence of fraud arising from this incident. The UPS Store is providing an information website, identity protection and credit monitoring services to customers whose information may have been compromised.”

A list of impacted franchises can be found here.

TIME major league baseball

MLB Upholds First Team Protest in 28 Years in Giants Versus Cubs Game

Chicago Cubs ground crew members struggle to get the tarp on the field as rain falls during the fifth inning of the Chicago Cubs game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field on August 19, 2014 in Chicago.
Chicago Cubs ground crew members struggle to get the tarp on the field as rain falls during the fifth inning of the Chicago Cubs game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field on August 19, 2014 in Chicago. Brian Kersey—Getty Images

The Cubs can't even tarp a field, it seems

After protesting that the Chicago Cubs didn’t tarp the field properly in a 2-0 rain-inducing loss Tuesday night, the San Francisco Giants were allowed by Major League Baseball Wednesday night to finish the game Thursday. The heavy fifteen minutes of rain had stopped the game after four and a half innings, and the Cubs were declared the winners only after a 4 hour and 34 minute delay.

It was the first time in 28 years that Major League Baseball upheld a team’s protest, USA Today reports.

The Giants had asked the MLB to forfeit the game, but the League decided that the groundskeepers had worked “diligently” enough to reschedule it. The League’s investigation found that the Cubs failed “to properly wrap and spool the tarp after its last use,” rendering the ground crew unable to complete the job.

The teams had looked into suspending the game on Tuesday, but since the tarp was manual and not mechanical in nature, the officials had to call the game or wait until the field became playable, according to ESPN.

You can find the MLB’s entire ruling here.

TIME

Winona Ryder Will Join David Simon’s Show Me a Hero

Actress Winona Ryder attends special screening of "Turks and Caicos" hosted by Vogue and The Cinema Society at the Crosby Street Hotel on April 7, 2014, in New York.
Actress Winona Ryder attends special screening of "Turks and Caicos" hosted by Vogue and The Cinema Society at the Crosby Street Hotel on April 7, 2014, in New York. Evan Agostini—Invision/AP

Winona Ryder will star alongside Oscar Issac and Catherine Keener

Winona Ryder will embark on her “largest TV commitment to date,” joining the Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal and Alfred Molina for the new HBO miniseries Show Me A Hero, created by The Wire‘s David Simon, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The six-hour show is based on Lisa Belkin’s eponymous nonfiction book, which was billed as a “A Tale of Murder, Suicide, Race, and Redemption” when it was published in 1999. The protagonist of Show Me A Hero is Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Issac), the mayor of Yonkers, New York in the late 1980s who, to the detriment of his political career, was court-ordered to build 200 units of low-income public housing in a more upscale, whiter side of town. Ryder will play Vinni Restiano, a Yonkers councilwoman who loses her seat after her housing vote, THR reports.

Ryder also joins actress Catherine Keener, who will portray Mary Dorman, an East Yonkers homeowner who comes to a “remarkable realization” of where to build the units. Bernthal will portray Michael H. Sussman, a top NAACP lawyer and Molina will play councilman Henry J. “Hank” Spallone, an anti-housing advocate and former NYPD detective from the Bronx.

[THR]

TIME Auto Racing

Tony Stewart to Miss Third Consecutive NASCAR Race

Tony Stewart stands in the garage area after a practice session for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International, in Watkins Glen, N.Y on August 8, 2014.
Tony Stewart stands in the garage area after a practice session for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International, in Watkins Glen, N.Y on August 8, 2014. Derik Hamilton—AP

Since his car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a race in upstate New York on August 9

Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart will not participate in this weekend’s Bristol Motor Speedway, Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday, marking the third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup race he has missed since his car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a race in upstate New York on August 9.

Stewart could face criminal charges for Ward’s death, who had exited his vehicle after Stewart clipped his car and sent it crashing into the wall. After exiting his car, Ward wandered onto the track and tried to flag down Stewart, but was struck by Stewart’s fast-moving vehicle as the driver lapped back around.

Jeff Burton will replace Stewart for the second straight week. Burton took the number 14 car for Saturday’s Michigan International Speedway race.

NASCAR announced new rules on Friday to protect the safety of its drivers, requiring that “at no time” should a driver or crew member approach another moving vehicle or the racing surface after an on-track incident that prohibits the car from moving forward.

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