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1 week ago · by · 273 comments

Utah Nurse Wins Settlement

 

 

 

Utah Nurse Alex Wubbels has won a $500,000 settlement after being violently arrested by police at The  Utah University Hospital for refusing a police officer’s demand that she draw a blood sample from an unconscious car crash patient.  Police body cam video shows an officer grab Wubbels, dragging her out of the hospital and into an unmarked car.  The incident happened on July 26 but the story went viral when bodycam footage was released weeks later.

In the video, Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne is seen arguing with Utah nurse Alex Wubbels, the charge nurse working the night shift on the burn unit at Utah University Hospital.   Wubbels was following hospital protocol and the law when she calmly refused to allow a blood draw on an unconscious patient without consent or a warrant.   She presented the officers with a printout of hospital policy on drawing blood and said their request did not meet the criteria.  Hospital policy specified police needed either a judge’s order or the patient’s consent, or the patient needed to be under arrest, before obtaining a blood sample.

The dispute ended with Payne handcuffing Wubbels and dragging her outside while she screamed that she’d done nothing wrong.  She was detained for 20 minutes and later released without charge.  Salt Lake City police detective Jeff Payne insisted on drawing the blood, maintaining in his report that he wanted the sample to protect the man rather than prosecute him. He was supported by his supervisor, Lt. James Tracy, who said the nurse could be arrested if she didn’t agree.

After the footage surfaced, the hospital said police would no longer be permitted in patient care areas, such as the burn unit where Wubbels was working that day.  Payne had 20 years on the force at the time.  He and a second officer, Lt. James Tracy, were put on full paid administrative leave by Salt Lake City police during an investigation involving the FBI.  On Oct. 11th, the Salt Lake City Police Department announced that Payne had been fired and Lt. James Tracy was demoted over the incident.

The patient in question, William Gray, was a reserve police officer with the Rigby, Idaho police department.  He worked as a truck driver and had been severely burned following a fiery head-on crash caused by a man in a pickup truck who was fleeing the Utah State Highway Patrol.  He spent two months in the University of Utah burn center before he passed away on September 25th.

Karra Porter, Wubbels’ attorney said her client has met the five goals she set when this incident occurred.  She wanted changes to policy, accountability from those who were involved in the incident, to start a public discussion about the urgent need for body cameras, to be compensated and to help other people who have a need for evidence obtained on body cam videos when these types of situations happen to them.  Wubbels said she plans to use a portion of the settlement toward a new initiative to help others pay for access to police body camera video clips.  “We all deserve to know the truth and the truth comes when you see the actual raw footage and that’s what happened in my case,” Wubbels said.  “Any person in the State of Utah who wishes to obtain body cam footage of an incident involving them will be able to do so, no charge to them.  Our law firm, Christensen & Jensen, will provide any legal services necessary to accomplish that,” Porter said. “Thanks to Alex, there will be more transparency.”

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2 weeks ago · by · 1 comment

Executive Order Allows Air Force To Recall Up To 1000 Retired Pilots

 

 

A combat pilot shortage has prompted the invoking of the National Emergencies Act as an executive order was signed that allows the Air Force to voluntarily recall up to 1,000 retired aviators for active duty.  The order could help ease the combat pilot shortage in the force and improve military readiness as the administration steps up its new Afghanistan war strategy to defeat the Taliban and terrorists. The new strategy includes additional U.S. troops going to Afghanistan as well as increased U.S. air support for the Afghan military.

According to the Pentagon, the Air Force is currently short by about 1,500 pilots.  Before the order was signed, the Air Force was allowed to rehire up to 25 retired officers under what’s known as the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty program and bring them back to active duty in critical aviation-related staff positions.   The executive order now allows the Air Force to temporarily exceed the limit of 25 rehires.  Other branches of the U.S. military also need more pilots, including the Navy, and the executive order could be used later to help address those challenges.

A release issued by the Air Force said they are now looking to have retired pilots return to the service for up to 12 months in positions that require qualified pilots.  The service is looking for retired fliers of any pilot specialty code — which includes bomber, fighter, helicopter, tanker, and remotely operated aircraft pilots — to fill “critical-rated staff positions” and allow active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements.

The Air Force is combating the pilot shortage with various incentive programs to keep officers in uniform longer.  A program launching later this year includes a 100 percent promotion opportunity and an aviator retention pay bonus worth up to $350,000 over a 10-year term that is already in effect.  Pay for officers and enlisted personnel will increase for the first time since 1999.  Incentive pay, also called flight pay, will increase for all officers, with those who have over 12 years of service potentially seeing the biggest boost, up to a maximum of $1,000 a month. Incentive pay will also increase for enlisted aircrew members — up to a maximum of $600 for those with over 14 years of service.

An Air Force official indicated they had no current plans to act on the authority granted to them by the president’s order.  “The Air Force does not currently intend to recall retired pilots to address the pilot shortage,” “We appreciate the authorities and flexibility delegated to us.”

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3 weeks ago · by · 0 comments

Red Cross Downsizing in Afghanistan

 

 

After more than three decades of medical work by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Afghanistan, it’s pulling most of its staff out of Afghanistan after a string of attacks on its employees.  The decision came after seven ICRC employees were killed in a series of attacks this year.  On December 19 2016,  ICRC employee Juan Carlos was abducted as he travelled from Mazar-e Sharif to Kunduz and held hostage for a month.  In February 2017, six Red Cross employees were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in northern Jowzjan province. Two others were abducted and later released.

Last month, Red Cross physiotherapist Lorena Enebral Perez was killed by a patient in Mazar-e Sharif.  Perez helped people who had lost limbs or had other forms of disability, learn to stand, walk or feed themselves again.  She was targeted by one of the patients, a man who had suffered polio as a child and had been coming to the rehabilitation center for 19 years, ever since he was two years old. He shot her with a gun he had concealed in his wheelchair.

The ICRC country head said the “painful decision” meant people in the north would no longer get help they needed.  She said they would not leave Afghanistan but they have to limit the risks faced by its staff as threats continue.  “After internal discussions with our highest level at the headquarters, we have reached the conclusion that we have no choice but to drastically reduce our presence and activities, and in particular in the north of Afghanistan.”

The ICRC’s operation in Afghanistan is the their fourth largest worldwide, with about 1,800 staff offering medical assistance, helping disabled people and visiting inmates in jail as well as enabling them to keep in contact with their families.  In some areas, particularly in the north, the ICRC is the only international group offering such services.  Many other humanitarian organizations have pulled out of Afghanistan in recent years as Taliban and Islamic State militants have stepped up attacks.

Head of delegation, Monica Zanarelli, announced the reduction. “After 30 years of continuous presence in the country, we are reducing our presence and operations.”  She went on to say that it’s hard to say whether they are being specifically targeted or if these are random attacks that they have suffered.

The ICRC is laying off staff and closing two of its offices, in Faryab and Kunduz provinces, while its sub-delegation in Mazar-e Sharif will be “seriously downsized.”  Those three ICRC offices cover nine provinces in the north and north west of Afghanistan. Activities run out of the Mazar office will now be limited to the ICRC’s Re-establishing Family Links program (tracing separate family members, facilitating phone calls to detainees and arranging family visits) and cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society.   The orthopedics center in Mazar, which treats those who have lost arms and legs and need prosthetic limbs as well as those with other disabilities, will remain open for now, but the ICRC is looking for others to run it. All other activities out of Mazar will be stopped, including the ICRC’s assistance programs.

Most international humanitarian organizations, including the ICRC, have already modified their operations to try to protect staff while continuing to reach the most vulnerable. The ICRC has a reputation for neutrality and service built up over decades but has had to accept that it can no longer work safely in parts of Afghanistan.  Many believe it is a sign of just how brutal the conflict in Afghanistan has become.

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1 month ago · by · 0 comments

Harvey Weinstein Scandal

 

 

 

 

An investigation by The New York Times exposed allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact by Harvey Weinstein that stretched nearly three decades.  The scandal was uncovered through interviews with current or former employees and film industry workers as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company.  Among other victims, the Times piece revealed that Rose McGowan had reached a $100,000 settlement with Weinstein after an encounter in a hotel room during Sundance Film Festival in 1997.  Later, the actress revealed Weinstein had raped her.

Shortly after, The New Yorker published another expose that alleges the producer raped three women.  The New Yorker article contains on-the-record accounts from 13 actresses who reported Weinstein forcibly received or performed sexual acts on the women.  A slew of women have sine come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and rape.  Among his accusers are some of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette, Kate Beckinsale and Heather Graham.

Many of the instances occurred during meetings that agents, studios and assistants set up for Weinstein under the guise of a potential movie role.  The common theme in the accusations is that the harassment took place early in their careers and they kept quiet out of fear that they would destroy their budding careers.  Other lesser known actresses and models have come forward as well.  Weinstein’s lewd behavior seemed to be an open secret in Hollywood for decades.  Fear of Harvey Weinstein’s influence helped keep his treatment of women shrouded for years with a network of aggressive publicists and lawyers helping.

New revelations have surfaced showing his studio, Weinstein Company, knew for at least two years that he had been paying off women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Weinstein was fired from the company shortly after the New York Times article was published.   Police in the US and outside the country are investigating allegations of sexual assault involving Harvey Weinstein as the scandal surrounding the disgraced Hollywood movie mogul mounts.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein denied the rape allegations in a statement.  “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein,” the statement read. “Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”  Weinstein sent an official statement to The New York Time in response to the accusations saying “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.  Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment.”

Shortly after The New Yorker piece came out, Harvey Weinstein’s wife of a decade, Georgina Chapman, announced she was She said in a statement, “My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” the statement read. “I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.”

 

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1 month ago · by · 383 comments

Las Vegas Mass Shooting Leaves 58 Dead

 

 

 

On October 1st 2017, the deadliest mass shooting in the US occurred at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring 527.  The shooter, identified as 64 year-old Stephen Paddock, broke two windows in his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel and sent more than 22,000 country music fans scrambling for their lives.  Between 10:05 and 10:15 pm, Paddock fired thousands of rounds at concert goers, turning the last day of the festival into a massacre.  The headlining performer, country music singer Jason Aldean was giving the closing performance when the first shots were fired.

Several videos of the attack show the terror as countless rounds of gunfire can be heard with intervals of just a few seconds in between.  Many concert-goers and performers still in the area initially thought the sounds were fireworks.  When the second round of gunfire is heard, Jason Aldean ran off the stage and fans realized it was automatic gunfire-but for many, it was already too late.  As terrified fans got down, many noticed people nearby who had already been shot.  Videos of the attack show fans running, and then dropping to the ground as another round of gunfire starts.  As people ran for their lives, many were separated and left not knowing if their friend or loved ones made it out.  The day after the attack, stories circulated of the many brave people helping people to safety, tending to those injured and loading wounded into their vehicles to get them to area hospitals.  Slowly, the identities of those lost were confirmed either through family confirming on social media or reaching out to news outlets.

Six minutes prior to the shooting, Mandalay Bay hotel security guard Jesus Campos was checking an alert for an open door in another guest’s room near Paddock’s room.  Paddock, who had placed security cameras outside his room, shot Campos through the door of his suite, which was outfitted with a camera to survey the hallway, as was a room service cart parked outside. Police said Paddock fired 200 rounds into the hallway, hitting Campos once in the leg.  Campos radioed the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department that the gunman was in room 32135 and began evacuating people from the 32nd floor, including a maintenance worker who entered the hallway moments after he was shot.

The first 911 call was at 10:08 pm but police officers were initially confused as to where the shooting was coming from.  Officers eventually spotted multiple flashes of gunfire on the northern side of Mandalay Bay and responded to the hotel.  At 10:12 pm, two officers on the 31st floor reported the sounds of gunfire on the floor above them.  Between 10:26 and 10:30pm, eight officers reached the floor but didn’t hear anymore gunfire.  They systematically searched and cleared rooms, evacuating any remaining guests using a master key provided by Campos.   At 10:55pm officers reported all guests had been evacuated and at 11:20pm, police breached Paddock’s room with explosives.  Paddock was found dead, having shot himself in the head before the police entered.

Police found 22 rifles and one handgun inside Paddock’s hotel room that he had occupied since September 28.  Police believe Paddock’s surveillance cameras and additional evidence found in the room suggest that Paddock intended to escape after the shooting.  Police, relatives, and neighbors described him as a wealthy, high-stakes gambler who kept to himself -with no political or religious affiliations.  They say he frequently gambled tens of thousands of dollars-earning him valuable comps from Vegas area casinos.  Paddock had no criminal record or known history of mental illness.  Police believed he acted alone but have not determined his motive.

 

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1 month ago · by · 45 comments

Thousands Evacuated As Bali Threatened By Volcano Eruption

 

 

Thousands of people have been evacuated on the Indonesian island of Bali and on Ambae island in Vanuatu as two volcanoes threaten to erupt.  The entire population of Ambae, around 11,000 people, is being moved from the path of the “increasingly active” Manaro volcano while more than 144,000 people from Bali have been taken to shelters as authorities warn that Mount Agung could erupt at any time.  The National Disaster Management Agency has said that 447 temporary shelters have been set up outside the exclusion zone around the volcano.  Thousands of evacuees sleep on floors and wait for something to happen.

Seismic activity continues in the volcano and the alert level for an eruption is at the highest on the scale.  A statement from Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department said “Ambae volcano is in an ongoing moderate eruption state, people in local villages could experience the danger of flying rocks, volcanic gases and acid rain.”

Experts explain that there are very good indications that an eruption is imminent.  Seismic tremors beneath the volcano are increasing in number, intensity, and the reduction in their depth in the last week is a very good indication that magma is moving up to the surface.  Another signs of an eminent eruption include gas emissions from the summit as a sign that pressure underground has become to great and bulging on the volcano’s surface.

On September 25, the area experienced 844 volcanic earthquakes and by mid-afternoon on September 26, had experienced another 300-400 earthquakes.  Seismologists say the force and frequency are alarming and it has taken much less for similar volcanoes to erupt.

Mount Agung last erupted in 1963 when more than 1,700 people were killed and hundreds more were injured.  Lava flowed for 4.7 miles from the crater for over 20 days ash reached the capital, Jakarta, about 620 miles away.  The most devastating effect of an eruption is the pyroclastic flows which are waves of superheated gas, ash and rock that can travel hundreds of miles an hour.

In the 1963 eruption, these flows devastated numerous villages, killing an estimated 1,300 people. Cold lahars caused by heavy rainfall after the eruption killed an additional 200.  A second eruption months later, led to pyroclastic flows that killed another 200 people. Minor eruptions and flows followed for almost a year.  During the 1963 eruption, there was no evacuation plan and people had seconds to minutes to escape the pyroclastic flows which led to a devastating death toll.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said no one should be within 6 miles of the crater and within 7.5 miles to the north, northeast, southeast and south-southwest where lava flows, lahars (a type of mudflow) or rapidly-moving white-hot ash clouds from where an eruption could reach.

Indonesia, the country of thousands of islands is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.  Mount Agung is 1 of more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

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2 months ago · by · 241 comments

Hugh Hefner Passes Away At 91

 

 

Playboy founder and icon Hugh Hefner died on Wednesday evening at the age of 91.  Hefner passed of natural causes at his home, the famed Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, surrounded by loved ones.  Playboy began on Hefner’s kitchen table 64 years ago and spawned an empire that encompasses print and digital publications, merchandise and other portfolio companies.  After leaving his job as a copywriter for Esquire magazine, Hefner put up his furniture as collateral for a loan, raising money from various investors and borrowing the rest from family and friends.  He published the very first issue of Playboy in December of 1953 which featured Marilyn Monroe on the cover.

For decades, Playboy was the most successful men’s magazine in the world and the company branched into movie, cable and digital production, sold its own line of clothing and jewelry, and opened clubs, resorts and casinos.  Playboy Enterprises’ chief executive, Scott Flanders, acknowledged that the internet had overrun the magazine’s province causing the brand to fade over the years with its magazine’s circulation declining to less than a million.

In 2012, Hefner announced that his youngest son, Cooper, would likely succeed him as the public face of Playboy.  Mr. Hefner remained editor in chief but in 2016, he handed over creative control of Playboy to his son Cooper Hefner.

Hefner is survived by his wife Crystal, and four grown children from his two previous marriages.  Over the years, Hefner became known and highly criticized for moving an ever-changing group of young women into the Playboy Mansion.  His reputation was highly criticized and overshadowed the fact that he staunchly advocated freedom of speech in all its aspects, for which he won civil liberties awards. He supported progressive social causes and lost some sponsors by inviting African-American guests to his televised parties at a time when much of the nation still had Jim Crow laws.

In 1966, during the civil rights era, Hefner sent African-American journalist Alex Haley to interview George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party-who has been described as the “American Hitler”.   Rockwell agreed to meet with Haley only after gaining assurance from the writer that he was not Jewish though Rockwell kept a handgun on the table throughout the interview.

Hefner was also a philanthropist who donated $100,000 to the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts to create a course called “Censorship in Cinema”, and $2 million to endow a chair for the study of American film.  Through his charitable foundation, Hefner contributed to many charities and threw multiple fundraiser events for Much Love Animal Rescue. In 1978, he helped organize and raise funds for the restoration of the Hollywood sign and in 2010, Hefner donated the last $900,000 sought by a conservation group for a land purchase needed to stop the development of the famed vista of the Hollywood Sign.  Children of the Night founder and president Dr. Lois Lee presented Hefner with the organization’s first-ever Founder’s Hero of the Heart Award in appreciation for his unwavering dedication, commitment and generosity. He also supported legalizing same-sex marriage, and he stated that a fight for gay marriage was a fight for all our rights.

 

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2 months ago · by · 34 comments

Hurricane Maria Leaves Puerto Rico Devastated

 

 

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, one of the most powerful hurricane to strike the island in nearly a century. It destroyed the island’s entire electrical grid and caused severe flooding and widespread damage to homes and infrastructure.  Still recovering from Hurricane Irma two weeks prior, approximately 80,000 remained without power as Maria approached.

Immediately after Maria passed, the entire island was without power and 70,000 people were ordered to evacuate the areas around the Guajataca Dam after storm damage put it at risk of collapsing.  More than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory remain without adequate food, water and fuel.  Flights in and out of Puerto Rico are still severely restricted.  Hospitals struggling to provide care are running on generators with limited access to electricity, no running water and dwindling supplies.  At least 24 people have been confirmed dead.

Six days after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Governor Ricardo Roselló pleaded for more government aid in order to avert a total humanitarian catastrophe.  Officials said 1,360 of the island’s 1,600 cellphone towers were down, and 85% of above-ground and underground phone and internet cables were knocked out.

Thousands of tourists and residents who have been stranded in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria devastated the island nation were evacuated on cruise ships headed towards Fort Lauderdale.  Royal Caribbean cancelled voyages on its Adventure of the Seas ship to free it up for rescue missions.  Around 1,700 evacuees were picked up from San Juan before it headed to St Croix and St Thomas to pick up another 2,000 before making its way to Florida.  Norwegian Cruises has done the same as well as transporting supplies to affected islands.

Large amounts of federal aid began moving into Puerto Rico but distribution has stalled efforts.  Many of the island’s roads remain impassable because of debri.  There is also a shortage of drivers to help distribute food and supplies to some of the hardest-hit remote regions.  Port of San Juan held 9,500 shipping containers filled with supplies but with only 20% of the island’s truckers reporting back to work since Maria hit and a diesel fuel shortage- distribution has left many without any relief since the storm hit.

The Pentagon, which has troops working on disaster relief in Texas and Florida, promised to boost the number of troops in Puerto Rico from the current 2,500 to as many as 5,000 in the next several days. The United States currently has 16 Navy and Coast Guard ships operating near Puerto Rico and 10 more are on the way, said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long. One of those vessels is USS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship.

 

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2 months ago · by · 24 comments

29 Injured In London Subway Bombing

A homemade bomb exploded in a rush-hour subway car injuring 29 people in London on Friday.  Most of those injured suffered flash burns while others were hurt when the blast triggered a stampede.  Police and ambulances were on the scene within minutes and emergency services said none of the injuries were serious or life-threatening.  Britain raised its terrorism threat level to critical — meaning another attack is expected shortly.   The British government is investigating the explosion as a terrorist incident and a manhunt for the perpetrators ensued in what police said was the fourth terrorist attack in the British capital this year.

The bomb went off around 8:20 a.m. as the train was at Parsons Green station in the southwest of the city.  The bomb was hidden in a plastic bucket inside a supermarket freezer bag but it only partially exploded, sparing the city much worse carnage.  Prime Minister Theresa May said the device “was intended to cause significant harm.”  Witnesses describe a loud bang and a massive flash of flames that went up the side of the train, followed by a chemical smell.  As the flames shot up the side of the train chaos ensued as hundreds of people poured from the train.   Others describe a scene of “every man for himself” as people pushed to get out the doors.  Photos taken inside the train showed a white plastic bucket inside a foil-lined shopping bag, with flames and what appeared to be wires emerging from the top.

Trains were suspended along a stretch of the Underground’s District Line, and several homes were evacuated as police set up a 150 foot area around the scene while they secured the device and launched a search for those who planted it.  Hundreds of police investigators, along with agents of MI5 were pouring over surveillance camera footage, carrying out forensic work and interviewing witnesses.

The next day, two suspects were detained over the bombing, an 18-year-old refugee from Iraq and a 21-year old from Syria.  Police searched three addresses, including the house of Penelope and Ronald Jones, of Sunbury.  The couple has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II for fostering more than 200 children, including refugees from Middle Eastern conflicts.  Both of the suspects were fostered by the British couple.

The 18-year-old was detained Saturday at the southeast England port of Dover, a departure point for ferries to France. Later the same day, the 21-year-old man, identified as Yahyah Farroukh, was detained as he left his work shift at a restaurant in Hounslow, West London.  Surveillance footage shows a man near the Sunbury address Friday morning carrying a bag from Lidl supermarket. Images posted on social media following the attack appeared to show wires protruding from a flaming bucket contained in a Lidl bag on the floor of the train carriage.

The threat level was lowered to severe by Sunday and police said the investigation was making rapid progress.  Both men are being held under the Terrorism Act 2000 but neither has been charged.  British authorities say they have foiled 6 terror plots since the since the van and knife attack on Westminster Bridge and Parliament in March, which killed five people. Police and MI5 say that at any given time they are running about 500 counterterrorism investigations involving 3,000 individuals.

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2 months ago · by · 27 comments

Equifax Massive Data Breach

 

 

A huge security breach at credit reporting company Equifax has exposed sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers and addresses, of up to 143 million Americans.  Others in the U.K. and Canada were also impacted, but Equifax hasn’t said how many. The data breach is considered one of the worst ever because of its reach and by the sensitivity of information exposed to the public.

The hackers have accessed sensitive information — including names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and the numbers of some driver’s licenses. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 U.S. customers were compromised, in addition to “personal identifying information” on about 182,000 U.S. customers.

Equifax (EFX) is one of three nationwide credit-reporting agencies that track and rate the financial history of consumers. The company gets its data from credit card companies, banks, retailers and lenders.   The data breach is among the worst ever because of the amount of people affected and the sensitive type of information exposed.  The company said it found no evidence that consumers in other countries were affected beyond the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

Equifax said the breach happened between mid-May and July 2017.  They discovered the hack on July 29th and promptly engaged a leading, independent cybersecurity firm which has been conducting a comprehensive forensic review to determine the scope of the intrusion, including the specific data impacted. Equifax also reported the criminal access to law enforcement and continues to work with authorities.

They reported the breach to the public on September 7th.  They said hackers exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files and they are investigating the breach.  New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also launched a formal investigation into the hack.  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking into the breach as well.

Equifax said it will send notices in the mail to people whose credit card numbers or dispute records were breached.   They have also established a dedicated website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com  to help consumers find out if they have been impacted.  To find out if you are potentially impacted, you can go the website-click on “Potential Impact,” and enter your last name and last 6 digits of your Social Security number.

The company is also offering a program called TrustedID Premier. It says that includes 3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identity theft insurance; and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers – all complimentary to U.S. consumers for one year.  You must complete the enrollment process by November 21, 2017.  Consumers should be aware that buried in the terms of service of this program, is language that bars those that enroll in the Equifax checker program from participating in any class action lawsuits that may arise from the incident.

The best defense against identity theft and credit fraud is to monitor your credit report frequently to check for any suspicious activity, such as accounts you didn’t open, address changes, or anything else that you don’t recognize.

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