#HEADLINES: Group Says Syria Used Chemical Weapons, Wreck of Columbus's Santa Maria Found?, NSA Tampering with US-made Internet Routers, MERS Outbreak, DATA Act, South Sudan Food Crisis, Food Stamps Double Value at LA Farmers Markets

Group says Syria used chemical weapons in April -- Associated Press
"An international human rights group said Tuesday it has strong evidence that Syrian army helicopters dropped bombs carrying chlorine gas on three rebel-held towns last month.

The report by the New-York based Human Rights Watch adds to concerns that chemical weapons are still being used in Syria, eight months after a chemical attack killed hundreds of civilians in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

The Syrian government did not immediately comment on the HRW claims. It has accused rebels of using chlorine gas in the past."

Exclusive: Found after 500 years, the wreck of Christopher Columbus's flagship the Santa Maria -- The Independent
"More than five centuries after Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria, was wrecked in the Caribbean, archaeological investigators think they may have discovered the vessel’s long-lost remains – lying at the bottom of the sea off the north coast of Haiti. It’s likely to be one of the world’s most important underwater archaeological discoveries.

'All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship, the Santa Maria,' said the leader of a recent reconnaissance expedition to the site, one of America’s top underwater archaeological investigators, Barry Clifford."

Glenn Greenwald: how the NSA tampers with US-made internet routers -- The Guardian
"A June 2010 report from the head of the NSA's Access and Target Development department is shockingly explicit. The NSA routinely receives – or intercepts – routers, servers and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers.

The agency then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users."

MERS outbreak becomes more serious, but not an emergency, WHO says -- CNN
"Declaring an emergency is 'a major act' that can 'raise anxieties,' said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the organization's assistant director-general for health security.

Despite concerns about the syndrome, researchers have not found 'any increasing evidence of person-to-person transmissibility,' he said.

There have been 571 confirmed cases of MERS, including 171 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The number of countries with confirmed cases expanded to 18, with a case in the Netherlands, WHO reported Wednesday.

Many of the cases are in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates."

source: Data Transparency Coalition
US government will finally make it easy to see how your tax dollars are spent -- The Verge
"Americans will soon have a much easier time figuring out how their tax dollars are being spent. The United States government is going to begin standardizing its spending data and publishing it on a single website within three years, in a move that's hoped to dramatically enhance transparency around federal spending. The new policy is a result of what's being hailed as the first "open data" law, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (the DATA Act), which was just signed last Friday. It'll be several years before all of its components go into effect, but the result should be federal agencies using a standardized reporting method to detail even more of their expenditures than were previously disclosed."

South Sudan food security crisis could spiral into famine, agencies warn -- The Guardian
"Five months of fighting in the newly-created nation have undermined its food security, leaving farmers unable to sow and harvest their crops, fishermen barred from rivers and waterways, and herders prevented from migrating between grazing areas. The growing number of displaced people fleeing the conflict has also placed previously food-secure communities under strain.

According to a new survey by the South Sudanese government and aid and development agencies including the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and Save the Children, 3.7m people – nearly a third of the population – are now in critical need of humanitarian assistance."

Where Do Food Stamps Go the Furthest? At the Farmers Market -- TakePart
"Shopping at the farmers market is about to get a whole lot easier for hungry residents of Los Angeles County. Despite the cuts to the program brought about by the new farm bill, a $2.5 million grant from First 5 L.A. will make SNAP recipients’ food assistance go twice as far at farmers markets across the Southland.

Market Match, the program receiving the funding, will now be able to extend its doubling program—which turns $1 in SNAP into $2 of fresh fruits and vegetables—to 37 L.A. markets by 2019. Statewide, there will be 150 participating markets this year. The program, run by the Ecology Center in partnership with local market operators and nonprofits, started in Los Angeles in 2010 at just two locations with a budget of $3,000."


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