One of the last big Holocaust trials that has been going on since April has finally been concluded on Wednesday. A German man who used to be one of Auschwitz’s book-keepers was charged and convicted of being an accessory to the murder of more than 300,000 people.

Oskar Groening, 94, was sentenced to four years in prison; even though he is not directly responsible for the death of no one during his time spent working at the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, prosecutors decided he helped and supported a regime responsible for genocide argued by keeping the records of the Jews arriving in trains.

An old man now, Groening has admitted moral guilt, but said it was the court’s call to decide whether he should be held legally responsible for his acts. In a statement earlier in July, he showed deep remorse by saying that he could only receive forgiveness from God, as he doesn’t deserve the victims of the Holocaust and their families to forgive him.

This trial helped answer the question of whether people who did not actively participate in the mass murder of 6 million Jews that happened during the Holocaust – but were still small parts oiling the great genocide’s machine – should be considered guilty of war crimes. The German justice system believed, until recently, that the answer is no.

Groening’s terrible jog at Auschwitz was to gather the belongings the deportees brought with them as they arrived at the camp by train. After being asked to leave all their luggage behind, the Jews were put through a selection process that sent most of them directly to the gas chambers.

According to his own description, the 21-year-old Groening was a passionate Nazi when he arrived at Auschwitz in 1942. He was assigned to inspect people’s luggage, search for and count any bank notes left inside and then send them to Berlin, where the SS offices directed them to various needs in the Nazi war effort.

The indictment charged Groening for his activity between May and July 1944, when more than 300,000 deportees out of the total 425,000 Hungarian Jews that came into Auschwitz were sent straight to of the gas chambers.

While many Germans are eager to see the Holocaust trials over and want to draw a line between that dark period and the post-war democratic nation, some disagree with the conviction of old men, who are often in poor health, for crimes that happened almost 70 years ago.
Image Source: Stars and Stripes

U.S. officials had to update their reports on how many million people were involved in the data hacking at the U.S. government’s personnel management agency. Authorities still looks at China as their number one suspect.

Reports from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) show that 21.5 million people have had some sort of data stolen – ranging from Social Security numbers to a whole deal of sensitive information used in background checks for security clearances – data that was stored in the agency’s computer networks.

These numbers add on top of the estimated 4.2 million people from the federal department who had their data stolen in a separate but related cyberattack incident. Because a lot of people were involved in both hacks, the final number rises to 22.1 million people, which is almost 7 percent of the entire U.S. population.

Due to its scale and the high sensitivity of the stolen information, this data breach is considered to have done the most damage on record.

Around 19.7 million of the people affected are those who applied for security clearances at some point – federal employees and contractors – while the remaining 1.8 million who haven’t applied, but still undergone background checks in their role of spouses or long-time partners of applicants.

Since the attack, lawmakers have been demanding that Katherine Archuleta, director of OPM, should be demitted, as President Barack Obama needs better leadership at the head of the agency, as well as punish the incompetence in his administration.

In spite of the lawmaker’s distrust in the current OPM team, Archuleta still seems to hold the favor of the White House. Neither Archuleta nor Donna Seymour, OPM leading information officer, have commented on whether or not they would resign.

After the United States has called China to be the suspect in the massive data breach, the China’s Foreign Ministry denied any involvement and said claims were “absurd logic.” White House spokespersons have been avoiding giving a clear answer on the matter of attributing this incident to anyone in particular, as the investigation is still ongoing.

OPM revealed that hacked personal identification data included so much more than just Social Security numbers; the critical information involves details about federal workers’ private lives, such as place of residence and academic history, information about immediate family; and financial, health, and criminal records. More than 1.1 million fingerprints were also stolen in the hacking incident, according to the agency.

Millions of Americans have been alarmed ever since the attack was revealed last month. Lawmakers emphasized the need for the agency to assume partial responsibility for it, since they have obviously failed to adequately protect this sensitive data.
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London Heathrow airport – Europe’s busiest and most important hub to trans-Atlantic flights – has recently won funding from a government-appointed committee for a third runway, in hopes that the issue of runway capacity shortage will be alleviated.

Independent Airports Commission is the one to win the bid for the expansion in a race against rival contender Gatwick Airport and its owner Global Infrastructure Partners. However, more than $20 billion will be invested in the building of the new runway at Heathrow.

After efforts to come up with a plan for the runway capacity shortage occurring in the London area have failed, the current panel was called into action, back in November 2012. Its job was to make sure that a third-party group would propose a viable plan.

Given that the U.K. has been going through elections, the commission kept the verdict on the low-key until after the finalization of general elections. Back in the 2010 elections, the Conservative Party – with Prime Minister David Cameron at helm – led a harsh campaign against Heathrow expansion, but that changed while the party was in office.

According to U.K. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, the government should not refuse what he called “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to answer a vital question.” He is scheduled to present upcoming plans in parliament on Wednesday.

Doing nothing about the Heathrow issue is not an option – it could deprive the wider economy of more than £45 billion ($70 billion), according to the panel. Adding a new runway, however, would not only create opportunities for connections to new travel destinations, but it would also add 70,000 jobs by 2050.

Before approving the current Heathrow third-runway proposal, the commission had rejected prepositions of building a brand-new airport and a nontraditional alternative of upgrading an existing runway by extending it and using it as two independent airstrips.

Making the Heathrow hub even larger has raised plenty of local concerns from environmentalists who worry about increasing pollution and noise. However, the commission has proved to hear and listen to their concerns by completely ruling out any possibility of a fourth runway, alongside the fact that no night flights will fly from 11:30 p.m. until 6 a.m.

Even though the commission has declined the alternate Heathrow runway plan, it was considered for a while to be a feasible solution. However, growth options and economic benefits would have been limited, as the additional capacity would have focused on intra-European routes rather than trans-Atlantic ones.
Image Source: Express.co.uk

Israel was not very pleased following Vatican’s announcement last month on reaching an agreement on the treaty with the “State of Palestine.”

The final agreement was signed this Friday between Vatican and the “State of Palestine,” as the Vatican released a statement expressing hope that its legal recognition of the state would be an incentive that will spark peace with Israel. At the same time, the treaty is a good model for other Mideast countries that need to bury the hatchet and start collaborating.

A private ceremony inside the Vatican marked this historical signing of the treaty, where the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki and his Vatican counterpart, Paul Gallagher, each represented their own countries.

Ever since Vatican’s announcement in May on the agreement with the State of Palestine regarding the Catholic Church regulations that will apply in Palestinian territories, the Israel was not shy to express disappointment.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry repeated its disapproval of the agreement on Friday, claiming that such a treaty will present a serious setback for peace prospects and would offer Palestinians an excuse to avoid direct negotiations.

He also said Israel is taking upon itself to study the agreement and measure the impact it will have on the future collaboration between the Vatican and Israel. Gallagher, however, is positive in his hope that this treaty will offer both part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a stimulus for peace, stopping the long-standing suffering that goes on in both territories.

Ever since 2012, when the U.N. General Assembly decided to recognize the Palestinian state, the Vatican has been a solid supporter, continuing to refer to the state on its official name during statements and announcements. This treaty, however, is the first legal recognition that the Vatican has officiated regarding the Palestinian territory as a state.

An “historic agreement,” that how Mr. Al-Malki called the signing on Friday, saying that it helps immensely with the recognition the Palestinian people need in order to earn their dignity and freedom in an independent state of their own.

Two of the strongest opponents of the recognition of the Palestinian state are Israel, evidently, and the United States, which is currently doing its own peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israeli populations.

Most of the Western Europe is also reluctant in recognizing the state, but there are signs of countries ready to change their position if current peace efforts remain stagnant. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said the treaty ignores “the historic rights of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and to the places holy to Judaism in Jerusalem.”
Image Source: Daily Sabah

An unofficial design of the $100 bill featuring Harriet Tubman – an African-American abolitionist during the Civil War.

Get ready for the Sawbuck to become a lot less masculine, as the advocates requesting for a woman to be featured on the $20 bill and the U.S. Treasury finally reached a compromise: redesigning the $10 bill.

According to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, the new notes are scheduled to enter the economy in 2020, partly as a way of celebrating 100 years since women received the right to vote by constitutional amendment.

Lew added that this decision of putting a woman on the $10 bill is also a step up on the democracy ladder, reflecting hopeful aspirations for the future in the same way it honors the past.

In this extremely digitalized era, the general public is allowed to offer suggestions on who should Alexander Hamilton – the very first U.S. secretary of the Treasury – be replaced with; you can either go on the New 10 website or tweet your replacement with the hashtag #theNew10.

Current celebrities such as movie stars are not viable options, however, so you might as well stay clear of that. The law says it’s not allowed to have a living person featured on U.S. currency. Lew explained that whoever comes next on the new note, it will be democracy-themed.

Before the U.S. Treasury threw the $10 bill curve ball, supporters wanted Andrew Jackson to be replaced by a woman on the $20 bill. To this day, both houses of Congress are to review bills on this matter.

Earlier in 2015, an unofficial campaign called “Women on 20s” allowed people to vote on who they wanted to see on the $20 bill instead of Jackson, and Harriet Tubman – an African-American abolitionist during the Civil War – was the choice of more than 100,000 voters.

Even President Barack Obama seemed interested in the movement, as he talked in a September speech about a young girl who questioned him via letter about the complete absence of women from the U.S. currency.

Instead of taking up the $20 bill initiative, the Treasury chose instead to redesign the $10, which was long overdue. Among the many factors that are usually taken into consideration when currency is redesigned, the most important one is “addressing current and potential counterfeiting threats.”

So the new $10 bill will not only be featuring a woman, but also a tactile improvement that will allow the visually impaired to handle money with more ease.

A country’s currency is also a sign of where is the nation heading to, and that’s why the Treasury will release a completely new series of paper currency starting 2020, with all of their designs referring to the theme of democracy.
Image Source: New Republic

SAT exam books have a different time interval allotted for each section.

Based on an official press release issued by the national educational institution, the College Board Apologizes for SAT Printing Error, Student Will Not Be Affected, the committee reassured. The mistake was signaled by the U.S. educational facilities conducting the tests after noticing that students were allotted a different time interval than it was initially expected.

Students across the United States have taken part in the national evaluation program on June 6. The SAT books, however, contained a printing error which might now affect students’ scores. More specifically, the time interval allotted for the solving of a given section on the SAT books was set to 25 minutes instead of 20 minutes, as the rules say.

The College Board was forced to adopt new measures after the printing error has been signaled by many educational institutions taking the test on June 6. Students were particularly interested to find out what will happen with their tests now that the time interval has not been correctly observed.

The College Board published an official statement on their website on Monday afternoon. The committee apologized for the SAT printing error and reassured students that they will adopt the best measures to avoid any possible problems and inconveniences.

Based on the press release, the section that was attributed an incorrect time interval will not be taken into consideration for the total scores. The board concluded the declaration by saying that the commission has sufficient data to correctly score students without the answers they have provided on that specific section.

As one might expect, the board’s decision triggered a powerful wave of discontent on behalf of students and professors, who have been preparing for the SAT exam for a long period of time. In their opinion, the new SAT scoring can and will most likely affect students as they might have provided good answers in that particular section.

The SAT board college, however, claims that the SAT tests were purposefully designed to cover all sorts of unexpected incidents, such as the recent printing error. They have provided numerous examples of cases when the SAT exam may not be properly conducted, such as, for instance, power outages and fire drills.

Scores will be provided within the same deadline, the commission has further added in the end of their official statement. Additional information may be found on the official website of the College Board.
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Going to `the hole`, or the SCU (Solitary Confinement Unit) also called sometimes `the punk city` is one of the worst nightmares of a incarcerated person. It basically means that if you have the ill luck of getting into the SCU, you will be isolated from any form of human contact, outside the necessary relations with the prison staff. So you can imagine how dreadful it must be to stay for a day or to at the punk city, let alone 43 years. It is not only the absence of needed light or the poor food you receive, but is one of the most effective kinds of psychological torture. Come on, you`ve seen the movies. Now, the most recent info in connection to the case of an SCU convict talks about an inmate freed after 43 years of solitary confinement. It would be fascinating to observe in which way he gets back to the other members of the Homo Sapiens species.

The case of Albert Woodfox, an inmate who has lived the last 43 years of his life in the solitary confinement unit has attracted the interest of the international community. Over the past years, numerous demonstrations have been held in order to pledge for the release of Albert Woodfox, with protesters claiming that almost half a century on your own, within the same four walls, will not only drive you crazy, but it will suck out your soul.

James Brady, a Louisiana judge, has approved the release of Albert Woodfox after he banned the prosecutors appeals for the third time. Woodfox is now 68 and he has been kept at the SCU since April 18, 1972.

Albert Woodfox is part of the Angola 3 group, a group including 3 men for whom an organization bearing the same name has fought through protests and demonstrations, aiming at achieving the release of the Angola 3.

In 1972, Albert Woodfox was involved in a prison riot which led to the death of a prison guard. He was convicted to spend his sentence at the solitary confinement unit, even though he denies all charges against him until this day.

The other two men in the Angola 3 group, Robert King and Herman Wallace have been released in the past years, after also spending their time in the SCU of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, in 2001 and 2013 respectively. The penitentiary is near a former slave plantation called Angola, which gave the name of the group and the organization pledging for their cause.

Image Source: BBC

It is the age of cyber warfare, without any doubts. After the Chinese developed a cyber weapon which has surprised the security of some companies in the United States, called `the Chinese Great Cannon`, a recent attack targeted against the Office of Personnel Management, a governmental agency who keeps personal records of millions of US citizens threatens to represent the start point of a Chinese strategy of stealing information in order to boost its intel capacities and its cyber warfare. Now, another key factor in the security of the United States has been the target of a cyber attack. This time, it is about the official website of the United States Army, which has been taken down on Monday morning. And, as the authorities are still trying to figure out who exactly was responsible for the attack, some Syrian activists claim cyber attack over the official website of the US Army.

Following the cyber attack against the US Army website, a twitter account has shared information according to which the aggressors behind the drop of the official website would be a group of Syrian activists, who call themselves the Syrian Electronic Army.

The Syrian Electronic Army has already earned a reputation of being supportive and to the Syrian regime and having activities which aim at backing the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who is the main protagonist of an international scandal over his legitimacy to power in the Middle Eastern country, that now has a civil war going on for more than 4 years.

The experts responsible for the security of the US Army website have tried numerous times to get the website back online, still their attempts failed and concluded with a “network error” message. Even if the US Army website was down on Monday afternoon, the other websites representing different arms of the Pentagon, like, for example, the Navy official website, were functioning in a proper way.

Officials talking on behalf of the US Army have announced that they have taken down the website, as its homepage was severely affected by the cyber attack.

“The Army took appropriate preventative measure to ensure there was no breach of Army data,”

Army Brig. Gen. Malcolm Frost has commented on the matter.

This cyber attack is another in a series of attacks targeting key factors of the United States security and data storage. Officials have warned that it is a top priority to improve the defense mechanisms of the US cyber warfare.

Image Source: The Register

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has recently achieved some important victories and the territories that they have control upon in both Iraq and Syria seem to get further away from the original status quo of administration in both countries on a daily basis. Recent reports have shown that the propaganda of the terrorist organization ISIL, which proudly claims that it has become a caliphate, is starting to convince people of the legitimacy of the Islamic State, so the threat to the international community of having to deal with a well equipped and extremely well funded jihadist group is getting bigger. On such background, a statement from the President of the United States has appeared. Barrack Obama has recently said that the US will boost support of Iraqi forces fighting ISIL, as the extremists are getting stronger day by day.

“We don’t have, yet, a complete strategy, because it requires commitments on the part of Iraqis as well,”

President Obama has said in a statement, during a conference within the G7 summit which takes place these days in Germany. Obama added that the details of a well established strategy of fighting the Islamic State have not been worked out yet, still a change in the way the United States participate indirectly in the conflict is needed.

Obama has also emphasized that the Islamic State is like no other terrorist organization that the world has ever seen by now. Its fighters are simply irrational when in comes to accomplishing a mission, they are opportunistic and extremely aggressive, Barack Obama has said.

From the point of view of the President of the United States, it looks like the best thing that the American government can do in order to back up the fighting against the Islamic State is to support and boos the training of the Iraqi forces who battle the Sunni militants of ISIL, or Daesh as they are known in Arabic.

Obama has added that the United States have made some progress when it comes to this subject, still, he reckons that the training of the Iraqis is not moving as fast as it is needed.

President Obama has also spoken about Turkey`s approach on this very delicate matter. Obama thinks that Turkey is not doing everything they could in order to monitor the border with Syria, through which a considerable steam of foreign fighters are travelling in order to join the Islamic State.

Image Source: NY Times

This is one of the most discussed moral problems of our times. Abortion is a delicate subject and it is a goo thing that people are starting to talk about it more and more, in order to decide whether it is moral or not or in what conditions it can be legitimate to end a pregnancy. The lawmakers of the United States have different opinions on this matter as well. And if you were to look at all the states in the US, you will see that some have a tendency of seeing abortion as a more acceptable thing than others do. However, a recent report by the Associated Press has shown that the abortion rate lowers almost everywhere in the United States. And while some voices claim that this is a success of the contraceptives, which have become more effective than ever, other say that a change in the social attitude towards ending the life of an unborn child has changed, and for the better, they claim.

Well, it might not surprise you to hear that in the states where the laws are strict about abortion and where it is a difficult process to proceed in such a way, the abortion rate has dropped. Still, what is more unanticipated is the fact that the abortion rate has also lowered in the more so called `liberal` states, where the laws are more permissive when it comes to this delicate subject.

For instance, in states like Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma the rate of abortion has dropped by over 15 per cent since five years ago. Such states have shown a firmer attitude towards passing laws against abortion. But, even if you were to take into consideration states that have maintained it rather facile to proceed to an abortion, like Oregon, New York or Washington, the numbers of the abortion rate drop look almost the same, according to the study led by Associated Press.

The lowering of the abortion rate goes together with a drop in the teen pregnancy rate. In 2010, the numbers of pregnant teens has been the lowest in decades. Even if there has been no official update to the 2010 study regarding teen pregnancy, the experts say that the numbers are at a steady level and this also contributes to the drop of the abortion rate overall.

On a national scale, the AP study results uncover the fact that, since 2010, the abortion rate has dropped by 12 per cent.

Image Source: CBS News