1. Over 600 Feared Dead From Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria
Opposition groups in Syria claim government troops killed over 600 with chemical weapons on Wednesday. There are reports of videos showing Syrians suffocating after gas-filled rockets struck the suburbs of Damascus. The strike would be the most deadly chemical weapons attack since the 1980s, if the opposition’s reports are confirmed. President Obama has called chemical weapons use a “red line” for U.S. involvement in Syria, but it’s unlikely he will send troops to Syria: Obama would be slammed if intervention in Syria went south, and he’d get little credit for a successful operation.
• Arming Syrian rebels is Machiavellian genius (PolicyMic).
• How the Syrian government hides its use of chemical weapons (FP).
• These incredible photos capture the turmoil in Syria (In Focus).
2. China Prepares For “Trial of the Century”
Former Communist Party leader Bo Xilai is in court today for the beginning of China’s “trial of the century.” Xilai is on trial for accepting bribes and abusing his political power. His family’s scandalous fall from power has made his case incredibly high-profile. A Chinese court last year convicted Bo’s wife of poisoning a British businessman; it’s even rumored a body double took her place at the trial. Communist leaders will probably rig the case against Bo for political reasons, while trying to put on the appearance of a fair trial.
• Read about Bo Xilai’s brutal pursuit of power (NY Times).
• Inside the secret memo that ensures there’s no democracy in China (Henry Zheng).
3. Obama to Tour New England Colleges
President Obama is setting off on a two-day bus tour of college campuses in New York and Pennsylvania. “The president's going to be talking about his view that we need to rein in the skyrocketing cost of a college education,” said a White House spokesperson. We don’t know any details about Obama’s proposals, but it’s possible he’ll suggest giving more money to colleges that find ways to drive down costs for students. Unfortunately, new laws won’t make college much more affordable: The shift to a technology-based economy is largely responsible for rising education costs.
• You won’t believe how many Americans have student debt (Pew).
• How Republicans won the student loan debate, and screwed over students (PolicyMic).
4. Find Out How Much the NSA Spies On U.S. Citizens
New details about the NSA’s surveillance programs have revealed the extent to which the agency has mistakenly spied on U.S. citizens. The Wall Street Journal reports the NSA’s partnerships with tech companies allow it to monitor up to 75% of U.S. internet traffic. Meanwhile, newly released court orders show the NSA gathered as many as 56,000 online communications of U.S. citizens every year from 2008-2011. This is mainly troubling because that it’s taken the NSA so long to come clean: U.S. communications account for 0.02% of the data collected during those years.
• Facial recognition software is going to make NSA surveillance even creepier (PolicyMic).
• This graphic shows how the NSA searches U.S. internet traffic (WSJ).
5. Anonymous Hackers Majorly Weakened According to FBI
An FBI cybersecurity agent says the arrest of five members of Anonymous has struck a major blow to the hacking collective. An informant from within Anonymous helped the FBI last year arrest the leaders of splinter cell Lulz Security. The FBI agent says the arrests created distrust within Anonymous. It’s up for debate if taking Anonymous down is a good thing: They often use their hacking for activism.
• Find out everything you ever wanted to know about Anonymous (PolicyMic).
• Anonymous made its own Facebook page for the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s unbelievably awesome (PolicyMic).
• Inside scientists’ efforts to print human tissue (NY Times).
• See what city life will look like in 2050 (BBC).
• Does junk food addiction actually exist? (Guardian)
• How to make a scientifically perfect grilled cheese (Smithsonian).
• 10 fast foods you can’t find anymore (CS Monitor).
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