One of ISIS’s most devoted female agents has been exposed as a Seattle journalism student

Compliments of News.com.au

On Twitter, she is known as @_UmmWaqqas, and is pictured shrouded head-to-toe in black; an inscrutable and high-ranking officer of ISIS who boasts more than 8000 followers online, and is in close contact with the British, Americans and the jihadi brides in Syria.

Channel 4 News has since revealed her identity as a woman in her 20s who went to school in the US, and by her friends’ accounts grew up as a regular teenager in a Western world.

Although her official Twitter account has been suspended, @_UmmWaqqas’ tweets are available on Favstar, an online service that tracks Twitter and its usage.

The news site discovered the woman’s identity by closely reading Tweets pertaining to her “offline” world, and matching the pictures she posted on Twitter to popular locations in Seattle. Eventually, they were able to identify @_UmmWaqqas’s movements, based on a timeline of her events and her activities, as well as tracking her name on Facebook.

Although it is not possible to confirm that she was the sole operator of the account for the three years it existed, @_UmmWaqqas is thought to have played a significant role in persuading young women to join ISIS, often posting “inspirations” quotes, practical advice about leaving for ISIS-occupied regions and a willingness to convert people to Islam.

According to Channel 4 News, the Twitter account has had multiple user names attached to it — such as @Rawdah_Abdi and @Rodaa27 — and identical images uploaded to multiple social networks in a short space of time, which gave away @_UmmWaqqas real name on a Facebook profile, also under one of the usernames.

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Tesla reveals Powerwall battery packs for homes, Powerpacks for cities

Compliments of The Register 

Elon Musk has revealed Tesla’s long-expected battery products and proclaimed they put an end to humanity’s production of carbon dioxide as a by-product of energy generation.

“No incremental CO2 is the future we need to have,” Musk said, during the battery packs’ launch, advocating that charging his new products with solar energy is the way to go.

The battery packs come in two flavours.

The Powerwall is intended for domestic use, is a 130 cm x 86 cm x 18 cm rechargeable lithium ion battery boasting liquid thermal control and capacity of 10 kilowatt hours for US$3,500. There’s also a 7 kWh version for $3000. Both can deliver 2.0 kW continuously with a 3.3 kW peak. Tesla offers a ten year warranty on the device and is willing to extend that by another decade.

The 10 kWH model is billed as backup for when the grid goes down, the 7 kWh model is suggested for daily loads. Up to nine Powerwalls can be assembled into a single rig.

Musk said the device can be installed inside or outside a home – its operating temperature range is -20°C to 43°C – and said the Powerwall is compatible with solar power systems. It even comes in several colours, in case you want Tesla’s logo and a wall-mounted battery to become a part of your decor.

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Texas State Guard ordered to monitor military’s Operation Jade Helm 15

Compliments of The Washington Post 

Two months after news surfaced that U.S. Special Operations troops will launch a broad training operation in several southwestern states this summer, the Texas state government is registering new concerns: Gov. Greg Abbott called Tuesday for the Texas State Guard to monitor the mission.

Abbott, a Republican, said in a letter to Maj. Gen. Gerald “Jake” Betty that he wants monitoring of Operation Jade Helm 15 “to address concerns of Texas citizens and to ensure that Texas communities remain safe, secure and informed occurring in their vicinity.” It marks the first time that a state governor has responded to outrage from those who fear the training exercise isn’t what the military promises.

Two months after news surfaced that U.S. Special Operations troops will launch a broad training operation in several southwestern states this summer, the Texas state government is registering new concerns: Gov. Greg Abbott called Tuesday for the Texas State Guard to monitor the mission.

Abbott, a Republican, said in a letter to Maj. Gen. Gerald “Jake” Betty that he wants monitoring of Operation Jade Helm 15 “to address concerns of Texas citizens and to ensure that Texas communities remain safe, secure and informed occurring in their vicinity.” It marks the first time that a state governor has responded to outrage from those who fear the training exercise isn’t what the military promises.

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Commonly Used Chemicals Come Under New Scrutiny

Compliments of The New York Times 

A top federal health official and hundreds of environmental scientists on Friday voiced new health concerns about a common class of chemicals used in products as varied as pizza boxes and carpet treatments.

The concerted public campaign renews a years-old debate about a class of chemicals known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs. After studies showed that some PFASs lingered in people’s bodies for years, and appeared to increase the risks of cancer and other health problems, the chemical manufacturer DuPont banned the use of one type of PFAS in its popular Teflon products, and other companies followed suit.

At issue now are replacement chemicals developed by those manufacturers and used in thousands of products, including electronics, footwear, sleeping bags, tents, protective gear for firefighters and even the foams used to extinguish fires.

The companies assert that the alternatives are safe and vehemently contest the scientists’ contentions, pointing to extensive studies conducted in the last decade or so.

But two separate salvos fired on Friday question whether enough research has been done to justify the chemical industry’s confidence in the safety of this crop of PFASs.

“Research is needed to find safe alternatives for all current uses of PFASs,” Linda S. Birnbaum, the head of the national toxicology program for the Department of Health and Human Serviceswrote in a commentary piece published Friday in Environmental Health Perspectives. “The question is, should these chemicals continue to be used in consumer products in the meantime, given their persistence in the environment?”

The journal, published by the National Institutes of Health, devoted several pages to the issue, with articles from researchers and from the industry trade group.

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ACLU Launches “Mobile Justice” Recording App to Film Police

Compliments of NBC

The ACLU of Northern California launched a free cell phone recording app Thursday which would allow people to record and send videos to their local ACLU affiliates when they feel their rights are being violated by police.

The app comes as protests decrying police violence are taking over the country, most recently for the controversial death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man who died after suffering a spinal cord injury in Baltimore.

The Mobile Justice app is unique in the sense that it will allow videos captured by the app to be preserved in the case police seize or destroy the device.

“The concerns over police practices, including racial profiling and excessive use of force, are very real for communities across the state,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. “This app will help serve as a check on abuse — whether by police officers, sheriff’s deputies, border patrol, or other officials — allowing ordinary citizens to record and document any interaction with law enforcement.”

The app, which can be downloaded through Apple’s App store or Google Play, lets users register, record, witness and report interactions with law enforcement officials, ACLU said.

“From Rodney King to Walter Scott, we’ve seen video bring police abuse into public view that otherwise could have gone ignored,” said Peter Bibring, director of police practices at the ACLU SoCal. “Helping the public record law enforcement will help deter misconduct and document abuse when it does happen, so both officers and the criminal justice system can be held accountable.”

For more information on the app, visit the ACLU website.

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The Amateur Photographer Covering Baltimore’s Protests

Compliments of Time 

Devin Allen, a 26-year-old amateur photographer with aspirations to make a career out of his work, has become a viral sensation. This week, his images of protests in Baltimore have amassed thousands of likes and have been shared by international media organizations around the world.

Allen grew up in West Baltimore, just five minutes away from where Freddie Gray’s encounter with the police left him with a fatal spinal injury. The police have denied using force against the 25-year-old, but one of the family’s attorneys said Gray’s spine was 80% “severed at the neck.”

“When I first saw the news of what happened to [Freddie Gray], I knew I was going to cover it,” says Allen, who usually shares his street photography onInstagram. “But I never thought it would get this big. My city kind of has a bad rap, but I thought if we can come together peacefully, it [would] be epic for this city, and it was my goal to capture that.”

The protests, which were peaceful for most of the weekend, devolved into scenes of rioting, arson and looting after Gray’s funeral, leaving more than a dozen police officers injured and prompting the declaration of a state of emergency as reinforcements arrived to restore order.

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Speeds Faster Than Light Possible?

Compliments of Tech Times

The idea of faster-than-light travel has been one of the greatest staples in science fiction for as long as the genre has been around.

The idea of traveling to other planets with terrestrial technology seemed impossible for a long time – but, with the power of faster-than-light travel, moving from planet to planet would be almost instantaneous.

Who wouldn’t want to go zipping through the galaxy, discovering and visiting all sorts of different planets?

Unfortunately, science hasn’t done much to encourage mankind’s dreams of planet-hopping our way across the galaxy.

Much of the scientific community believes that faster-than-light travel is physically impossible, and no matter the material, accelerating something to such ludicrous speeds simply can’t happen.

However, there are also those who believe that faster-than-light travel is possible – and one team may have just accidentally stumbled onto it.

A team at NASA may have unintentionally accelerated particles to faster-than-light speeds while using the EmDrive resonance chamber – basically, if their findings turn out to be accurate, the team may have just discovered faster-than-light travel.

To clarify, the EmDrive resonance chamber is a proposed method of interstellar propulsion: basically, this could end up being the engines that the starships of the future use. The advantages of using such a device are numerous: it’s electrically powered, it features no moving parts and doesn’t require any material fuel to move. If it ends up working as planned, there’s a good chance that it could lead to a new breed of engine.

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Gay marriage to be legalized in all sates?

Compliments of Time Magazine

Just two years ago, the Supreme Court debated the constitutional implications of same-sex marriage. As it returned to the issue Tuesday, the underlying facts that it will take into consideration have changed substantially.

When the court heard arguments on two cases in March of 2013, gay marriage was still a live issue. Just 11 states recognized same-sex marriage, while a majority of Americans had only recently begunto tell pollsters that they approved.

Today, 37 states recognize gay marriage, many of which did so after federal judges took the logic of the Supreme Court’s previous rulings further. The trend toward acceptance has only solidified,reaching a record 61 percent of Americans in one recent poll.

The justices themselves have personally mirrored this trend, with liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburgand Elena Kagan officiating at gay weddings since the last decision.

Court watchers predict that a slim majority of justices — led by swing vote Anthony Kennedy — will finish what they started two years ago, finding a way to get all 50 states to recognize gay marriage. The question, then, is how they will do so.

The case they are considering,Obergefell v. Hodges, is named for James Obergefell, who married his now-deceased partner in Maryland, where gay marriage is legal, but cannot have his marriage recognized in Ohio, where it is not.

The court has several options to resolve the case. The justices could narrowly decide that states such as Ohio have to recognize marriage certificates from beyond their borders as a matter of legislative courtesy. Or they could more broadly decide that marriage is a constitutional right that no state may deny to gays and lesbians, forcing even reluctant states to issue same-sex marriage licenses of their own.

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Robotic telescope discovers three super-Earth planetary neighbors

Compliments of UC Berkley News Center 

Using a robotic telescope at Lick Observatory that scans the sky night after night, astronomers have discovered three planets – supersized Earths ‑ around a nearby star.

“The three planets are unlike anything in our solar system, with masses seven to eight times the mass of Earth and orbits very close to their host star,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Lauren Weiss.

She is the leader of the UC Berkeley component of the team that discovered the planets with the help of the Automated Planet Finder, a relatively new telescope atop Mt. Hamilton near San Jose dedicated to finding super-Earths and Earth-size planets.

To date, most of the planets discovered outside our solar system have been the size of Neptune — 17 times the mass of Earth — or larger, with the majority gas giants like Jupiter, which are several hundred times the mass of Earth. The goal of the APF is to find small planets around the nearest stars, some of which might have temperatures and surface conditions suitable for life.

“The discovery demonstrates the APF’s ability to find low-mass planets around nearby stars,” Weiss said. “Robotic telescopes are going to be the way we find planets in the future.”

Wobbling stars

The planets, invisible to the naked eye, betrayed their existence by the slight wobble they created in their host star, detected by the Doppler technique pioneered by Weiss’s adviser, Berkeley professor of astronomy Geoff Marcy. The new APF facility offers a way to speed up the search for exoplanets, Weiss said.

“We initially used the APF like a regular telescope, staying up all night searching star to star. But the idea of letting a computer take the graveyard shift was more appealing after months of little sleep. So we wrote software to replace ourselves with a robot,” said University of Hawaii at Manoa graduate student Benjamin “BJ” Fulton.

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Self Correcting Bullet

Compliments of Time 

The U.S. military has developed a self-steering bullet that can change direction midair to hit a moving target, and now you can see it in action.

The Department of Defense’s research agency, DARPA, released footage on Monday showing the bullet, after completing a prototype in February, as part of DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program. Footage posted to DARPA’s official YouTube channel shows live-fire tests by an expert sniper and a first-time sniper. In both cases, the bullet course corrects in midair, speeding toward a target even if it’s not centered in the crosshairs. An optical guidance system enables the bullet to compensate for weather, wind and other factors that might push it off course.

DARPA hailed the results as the “most successful” live-fire test of the technology to date.

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