Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Aug 1, 2018 in Stuff You Should Know

New Cycle of Russian Hacking Begins

With the 2018 midterm elections less than 100 days away, many people have started wondering about the possibility of another Russian hacking attempt. Now there is new evidence to prove that this is indeed a threat.

Claire McCaskill, a Democratic senator from Missouri, is up for reelection this fall. McCaskill is a vocal critic of both Trump and Russia. Recently, it was discovered that Russian hackers attempted to break into her computer system, using methods similar to those used to access the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, in 2016. Here’s how the hack works: a fake notification email is sent to officials, telling them that their Microsoft Exchange password has expired and that they need to reset it. When they click on the link to do so, it gives the hackers access to their entire system.

In Senator McCaskill’s case, the attempted hack failed. But she has now earned the dubious distinction of being the first documented case of Russian hacking of the 2018 election cycle. Trump, who has long denied the possibility of Russian tampering with the 2016 election, finally admitted in a tweet last week that he fears that Russia will try to influence the 2018 elections. He then went on to say that the target of the attacks will likely be Republicans, not Democrats. This reinforces the belief of many members of Congress that Trump is refusing to take the Russian threat seriously enough, potentially jeopardizing the outcome of many 2018 races.

Dig Deeper Senator McCaskill was likely targeted because her seat is considered “vulnerable”–that is, she could potentially lose her race to a Republican. Use internet resources to find two other Democrats who are considered “vulnerable” in the 2018 race as well, and who therefore may be the next to be targeted by Russian hackers.

Lake Mars?

Have you ever wondered if there is life on Mars? Thanks to a recent scientific discovery, this idea just became more possible than ever before.

Scientists from the Italian Space Agency used a tool called MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding Instrument) to survey the southern ice cap of Mars. The machine works by sending radar pulses through the ice, and then measuring the radio waves that are reflected back. What they found may have staggering consequences: the first stable body of liquid water on Mars.

Based on their measurements, the “lake,” which is located almost a mile beneath the planet’s surface, is about 12.5 miles wide and resembles lakes found on Earth beneath ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. The researchers are also quick to point out that they only studied one small area so far, and so similar underground pockets of water may exist in other places on the planet as well.

For those who are interested in the possibility of life on Mars, this discovery raises a lot of interesting questions. Researchers have already determined that the surface of the planet is inhospitable to life. So now they will begin looking for potential life in the subsurface. While scientists stress that this new finding is no guarantee that alien life will be discovered, it does give them a much better sense of where to start searching. In order to do so, they will need to drill beneath the surface of the ice caps to see if they can locate any organisms underneath.

What Do You Think? Do you believe that there is life on Mars? Why or why not?

Rosenstein Under Attack

Capitol Building with American flag, Washington DC

Credit: ©Brand X Pictures/PunchStock

You are probably familiar with Robert Mueller and his role heading up the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election–as well as the possibilty of President Trump’s knowledge of this. This investigation has caused many Republicans to speak out against Mueller. But last Wednesday, members of the House Freedom Caucus–the most conservative faction of the House of Representatives–took their disagreement a step further, officially calling for the impeachment of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. This is because Rosenstein is the top Justice Department official in charge of overseeing the Mueller investigation, and he refused to hand over certain documents demanded by the Freedom Caucus. According to Rosenstein, this is because the documents contain sensitive, personal, or even confidential information.

Several prominent Republicans, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Rosenstein’s boss), objected to the Freedom Caucus’s demands and voiced their support of Rosenstein. In response, Mark Meadows–the North Carolina Republican who heads up the Freedom Caucus–backed off a bit, and said that rather than impeachment, he will instead seek to charge Rosenstein with contempt of Congress if the documents aren’t produced.

However, this doesn’t mean that the threat against Rosenstein’s job has passed. In fact, he is likely the most vulnerable person in the Mueller investigation. Trump can’t fire Mueller, but he can fire Rosenstein. Theoretically, Trump could then appoint someone to Rosenstein’s position who would be willing to shut down the entire investigation.

Dig Deeper Help yourself keep track of the key players in the Russia investigation by writing a sentence or two about each of the following: Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, Jeff Sessions, and Mark Meadows.

Trump Dials Back Tariffs

Earlier this summer, btw brought you the story of Trump’s plan to institute tariffs against our trading partners in Europe, and how this action could potentially set off a devastating trade war.

Last Wednesday, however, Trump decided to put these tariffs on hold. After a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Trump announced the beginning of a new era of productive and mutually-beneficial trade between the U.S. and its European allies.

But while the potential new trade agreement was billed as a victory by the Trump administration, the truth may be more complicated. The trade deal was decided the day after Trump’s announcement of a $12 billion bailout for American farmers, who are suffering economically at least partly because of Trump’s new tariffs, which have caused China and other countries to refuse to purchase American agricultural products. Therefore, while some consider this latest agreement to be a Trump victory, others see it as merely an attempt to fix the problems that Trump started in the first place.

Trump and Juncker said that they have agreed to a plan to eliminate all tariffs, trade barriers, and subsidies between the U.S. and Europe. They also plan to work together to undo the so-called “retaliatory tariffs” that have arisen in the last few months as a result of Trump’s trade policies. In the meantime, both parties agreed to put any new tariffs on hold until the new plan can take effect.

Dig Deeper Based on the context of this article and what you have seen and heard in the news, what is a “retaliatory tariff”? Now look up the definition. How does it compare to the one you wrote?