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Cyberattacks That Wildfired Into Worldwide Threats

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It all began with a seemingly innocuous experiment.

In November 1988, Robert Tappan Morris, a graduate student at Cornell University created a self-replicating computer program to ascertain the size of the internet i.e. the number of devices connected to it. The program was supposed to travel from computer to computer and ask each machine to send a signal back to the main server which would keep count.

Sadly, things did not go as planned.

The program encountered an error and morphed into a worm (Morris worm). Before spreading to a machine, the worm checked if the machine was already infected. If it was, the worm would re-infect it 1 in 7 times. This caused many machines to get infected several times. A machine with too many Morris worm processes ran out of computing resources and began to malfunction.

The Morris worm caused denial-of-service (DoS) to 10% of the 60,000 machines on the internet. It took 72 hours for the researchers at Purdue and Berkeley to stop the worm from causing further damage.

Robert Morris was convicted under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and sentenced to three years of imprisonment, 400 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine.

The experiment not only caused widespread damage but also laid the foundation for the distributed denial-of-service attacks we often hear of today.

Cyberwarfare is on an all-time high. Cybercriminals are developing sophisticated methods to target anything ranging from your personal systems to an entire computer network. If recent studies are to be believed, hackers, on an average, attack the internet every 39 seconds.

cyber resilience concept image

To paint a better picture of the damage done by cyberattacks, we have compiled a list of some notable cyberattacks that wildfired into worldwide threats. Let us discuss them one by one.

1) Yahoo

While the cyberattacks date back to 2013-14, it was in September 2016 that Marissa Mayer, then Yahoo CEO announced the company had been the victim of the largest data breach ever in 2014, possibly by a ‘state-sponsored’ actor. The attack exposed the names, email addresses, date of births and telephone numbers of around 500 million users.

A couple of months later in December 2016, Yahoo admitted that in a separate attack in 2013, over 1 billion user accounts were compromised. In addition to names, email addresses, DOBs and telephone numbers, security questions and answers were also compromised this time.

In October 2017, Yahoo revised the estimate, saying all of its 3 billion accounts were compromised in the attacks. In June 2018, Yahoo was eventually sold to Verizon Communications for $4.48 billion. But the disclosure of the breaches did significant damage to Yahoo’s reputation- Yahoo’s sale price was slashed by a whopping $350 million.

2) Equifax

In September 2017, Equifax, a noted consumer credit reporting agency, announced something particularly vexing for its customers- an application vulnerability on one of their websites resulted in a massive data breach compromising the data of its American, British and Canadian customers.

The breach exposed the personal data including names, date of births, social security numbers and addresses of 143 million customers in addition to 200,000 credit card numbers.

The breach was discovered in July 2017 but Equifax believed it started as early as mid-May.

Equifax uses an open-source framework Apache Struts for its online disputes web application. In March 2017, the Apache Software Foundation discovered a vulnerability in the application and released information regarding it. Equifax, however, did nothing to patch its system.

Two months after the vulnerability was disclosed, hackers attacked the portal accessing highly sensitive customer information from 51 databases bit by bit in a span of 76 days.

The company’s delay in disclosing the breach drew flak from all quarters. Equifax, however, claimed it needed time to gather information on the extent of damage done.

3) Adult Friend Finder

In what is referred to as the largest data breach of 2016, over 400 million accounts from six databases belonging to FriendFinder Networks Inc. were compromised. FriendFinder is the company that runs some of the most prominent adult-oriented social websites.

The bulk of these accounts came from Adult Friend Finder. The hackers stole 20 years of personal data including names, email addresses and passwords.

It was later discovered that the attackers cashed in on Local File Inclusion (LFI) to implement the breach. LFI is a web application vulnerability that hackers can exploit to read sensitive information and execute system commands remotely.

Interestingly, this was the second time Friend Finder users had their accounts compromised; the first time being in May 2015, when personal information of 4 million accounts was made public on a forum accessible only through Tor.

4) Marriott International

In November 2018, Marriott International, world’s third largest hotel chain, disclosed that hackers had access to the reservation systems of many of its hotel chains since 2014, exposing sensitive information of its 500 million customers.

As per the records, an unauthorized party had accessed the reservation database of Starwood properties (that included several renowned hotel chains) in July 2014 and had been there till the breach was detected.

Marriot acquired Starwood properties in 2016 but kept Starwood’s reservation system separate from its own. As a result, the attack did not affect Marriot’s reservation system.

In addition to personal information, hackers had stolen credit card details of over 100 million customers although it is not certain if the hackers were able to decrypt the card information. The breach was attributed to Chinese intelligence groups seeking to gather data on US citizens.

5) eBay

In May 2014, the e-commerce giant reported a cyberattack that exposed the names, addresses, date of births and passwords of its 145 million users. As per eBay, the attackers cracked some employee login credentials in order to gain access to its corporate network. They had complete inside access for 229 days; during this time they were able to make their way to the customer database.

Thankfully, the breach did not affect the financial information of users as it was stored separately. The cyberattack may have diminished user activity but had little impact on eBay’s earnings.

6) Quora

Discovered in November 2018, the intrusion exposed the user information of 100 million Quora accounts. The compromised data included names, email addresses, encrypted passwords, data imported from other networks, public content and actions (questions, answers, comments and upvotes) as well as  non-public content and actions (direct messages, downvotes and answer requests ). Users who had posted anonymously were, however, not affected as the site did not collect data from these users.

According to Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, the attack happened on account of unauthorized access to one of their systems by a ‘malicious third-party’.

In response to the attack, Quora immediately launched an investigation. As a security measure, it logged out all users and forced all accounts to reset their passwords.

7) Aadhaar

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risk Report considers Aadhaar data breach as the largest in the world. Aadhaar, the Indian government ID database, reportedly suffered multiple breaches that compromised the accounts of its 1.1 billion registered users. It was only in January 2018 that the cybersecurity experts discovered the criminals were selling access to the database at a rate of 500 INR for 10 minutes.

In the period between August 2017 and January 2018, Aadhaar numbers, names, phone numbers and addresses of 1.1 billion registered users were found susceptible to data breach. As per a report by The Tribune, anonymous sellers on WhatsApp were targeting village-level enterprise operators hired by the ministry of electronics and information technology to sell access to UIDAI data.

8) First American Financial Corp.

In what can be considered the biggest breach of 2019, over 800 million mortgage documents were left exposed on account of a vulnerability on First American Financial Corp website that allowed anyone with a web browser to access the documents. First American, an eminent real estate title insurance firm based out of the USA, patched the vulnerability in May 2019 after a real estate developer Ben Shoval discovered the flaw and notified a security researcher Brian Krebs of it.

Before the flaw was fixed, any user with access to the link to any document hosted on the website could change a single digit in the URL and access others’ files. These files did not require a password or any other kind of authentication. These documents included highly sensitive information including bank account numbers and statements, mortgage and tax records, social security numbers and transaction receipts dating all the way back to 2003.

So far, there have not been any reports of hackers accessing and misusing the data for personal gains.

9) Heartland Payment Systems

At the time of breach in 2008, Heartland Payment Systems was a prominent payment processing company that processed over 100 million payment card transactions per month for 175,000 merchants. The breach was identified in January 2009 when Visa and MasterCard notified Heartland of shady transactions from the accounts it had processed.

The breach started with a SQL injection attack in late 2007. The hackers spent months trying to access the payment processing system and eventually installed a spyware program that captured card data as the payments were processed.

The cyberattack had severe consequences. Heartland was considered out of compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard and barred from processing payments of prominent credit card merchants till May 2009. The company also paid $145 million in compensation for fraudulent payments.

The perpetrators were eventually apprehended. Albert Gonzalez, a Cuban American along with two Russian accomplices were indicted in 2009. In March 2010, Gonzalez who allegedly masterminded the operation was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

10) Target Stores

Target, the US retail giant, suffered a massive data breach in December 2013. The breach exposed the personal data of 70 million customers and banking data of over 40 million customers. The attack was, however, not discovered by Target. It was the US security services that detected some aberrant bank transactions and warned the brand. The hacker group located somewhere in Eastern Europe had accessed Target’s point-of-sale payment card readers through a third-party vendor and collected around 110 million debit and credit card numbers.

The event had repercussions-Target CIO resigned in March 2014, its CEO in May 2014. The cost of the breach was estimated to be around $162 million.

As per Target, it has made significant security improvements since the breach. In 2017, however, a settlement was announced that gave Target 180 days to develop and maintain a comprehensive security system. As per Tom Kellermann, CEO of Strategic Cyber Ventures, the security measures implemented by Target are grossly inadequate and focus more on keeping the attackers out and not on improving response.

11) Adobe

Though the breach was first announced in October 2013, Adobe was not aware of the extent of the breach then. The company originally reported that the hackers had stolen nearly 3 million encrypted credit card records in addition to login data for an undetermined number of accounts.

Adobe later discovered that the attackers had accessed usernames and encrypted passwords for over 38 million active users. After several weeks of investigation, it was discovered that the hackers had also stolen customer names, IDs, passwords along with debit and credit card information.

The cyberattack cost Adobe dearly-the company had to pay a whopping $1.1 million as legal fees. An estimated $1 million was paid to users to settle claims of violating the Customer Records Act.

12) Sony’s PlayStation Network

One of the most well-known cyberattacks that wildfired into worldwide threats includes Sony’s PlayStation data breach in April 2011 when the personal data of over 77 million users was compromised. 12 million credit card details were stolen. After the breach was discovered, PlayStation network as well as Sony Entertainment Network was closed for around a month.

The breach compelled Sony to pay 15 million dollars as compensation in addition to hefty legal fees. They also had to refund customers whose bank accounts were illegally used. Like in many other data breaches, the hackers exploited SQL Injection to steal sensitive information. Had Sony been vigilant enough, the breach could have been averted.

In November 2014, one of its subsidiaries Sony Pictures Entertainment was infected by a computer worm. Hackers who identified themselves as ‘Guardians of Peace’ stole 100 terabytes of data from the company including film scripts, emails and personal data of around 47,000 employees.

The attack was linked to the North Korean government who had expressed disapproval over ‘The Interview’, a Sony-backed film centered on an assassination plot against the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In light of the attack, Sony cancelled the broadcast of several films and paid an estimated $8 million as compensation to its employees and former employees.

The Final Word

These breaches show that even the best brands on the planet are vulnerable to cyberattacks. They may have leveraged the latest technologies to secure their data, but hackers always remain a step ahead- they exploit the same technologies to subvert the security mechanisms and misuse the data to their advantage.

In view of these developments, there are certain steps you need to take to minimize security threats:

Use a strong username-password combination for all accounts. Choose a different password for every account.

Delete the accounts you don’t use any longer.

Do not divulge too much personal information on third-party applications.

Seeking secure hosting solutions for your enterprise? We are there to help. At Go4hosting, we offer the best cloud server hosting solutions to safeguard your business from cyberattacks. For details, connect with our cloud experts today.

Parul Singh is an author at Go4hosting.com. She loves to write well-researched articles on web hosting, big data analytics and Blockchain.

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St. Louis man injured while riding motorcycle in Pike County

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St. Louis man injured while riding motorcycle in Pike County

BOWLING GREEN, Mo. – A St. Louis man was moderately injured while riding a motorcycle in Pike County.

The incident happened Sunday at about 11:15 a.m. on Route W south of Pike 226 when Thomas Muldrow, 47, was following another motorcycle that travelled off the right side of the road and then returned to the road.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol said Muldrow “laid down his motorcycle to avoid collision with the other motorcycle.”

Muldrow was taken by Pike County EMS to St. Charles West Hospital for treatment. MSHP said he was wearing a safety device at the time of the incident.

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More than 50% of schools rate bus driver shortage as ‘severe’ or ‘desperate’

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More than 50% of schools rate bus driver shortage as 'severe' or 'desperate'

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (NewsNation Now) — As COVID-19 vaccine mandates continue to go into effect in several states, some are worried the school bus driver shortage could get even worse if drivers refuse to get the shot.

Hundreds of drivers threatened to quit over new vaccine mandates going into effect this week in New York and Connecticut. As a result, administrators are breathing a sigh of relief that hasn’t happened yet.

In a recent National Association for Pupil Transporation survey, more than half of student-transportation coordinators nationwide described their school bus driver shortage as “severe” or “desperate.”

The nationwide shortage of bus drivers complicated the start of a school year, delaying the start of some schools and forcing school districts to find creative ways to fill vacancies.

Many school districts raised the starting pay, paid for training and offered thousands in signing and retention bonuses. For example, in New Jersey, one district is offering $23 an hour starting pay.

“We’ve had drivers leave our district to go to others that pay more; now we’re hoping some will leave other districts to come to us,” said Kyle Newton, Anderson District 5 spokesperson.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul pleaded to expedite the licensing process to speed up hiring. And Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker activated the National Guard, 90 members currently training to operate transport vans.

Schools in Deptford, New Jersey, shifted to early dismissal to get all students home.

Part of the nationwide scramble to adjust can also be felt in Arkansas.

“We have been able to consolidate a few of our routes in order to make it work with our current number of bus drivers, but we have no leeway if someone calls in sick,” said Gravette School District Superintendent Maribel Childress.

“We’re double- and triple-running some of our routes which may cause students to get home later in the evening, but we do want to provide a ride home for any student who needs it,” said Mike McClure, the director of transportation of Fayetteville Public Schools.

The ripple effect is also impacting many after-school sporting events.

“Many of those drivers aren’t available until after 4:45, so any of our athletic events that leave earlier, we’re going to have trouble finding a driver to take that,” said Paw Paw Public Schools Superintendent Rick Reo.

Here are the problems school districts face:

The national average pay for school bus drivers is $17 an hour, and they need a commercial driver’s license (CDL), just like a tractor-trailer driver. But on average, truck drivers make $24 an hour, and there’s a shortage of them right now, too. 

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East St. Louis man pleads guilty to distributing fentanyl and more

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East St. Louis man pleads guilty to distributing fentanyl and more

Posted: Updated:

File photo. (Credit: Getty Images)

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – An East St. Louis man pled guilty Monday to distributing fentanyl and more.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois said Anthony Wisham, 59, “pled guilty to two counts of distribution of fentanyl, one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and one count of felon in possession of a firearm” in federal court in East St. Louis, Illinois.

Wisham also admitted to “distributing ounce quantities of fentanyl on September 15, 2020.” He also admitted to possessing 21.3 grams of cocaine with the intent to distribute, and that he had a firearm in his possession after previously having a felony conviction.

He will be sentenced on December 29 at 10:30 a.m. Wisham faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The Drug Enforcement Administration investigated this matter.

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Still growing! Powerball jackpot hits $570 million

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Still growing! Powerball jackpot hits $570 million

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

(WJW) – You’ve got a few more days to buy a ticket for your chance to hit the big jackpot.

The Powerball jackpot once again went unclaimed after Monday night’s winning numbers — 21-22-39-44-60, with a Powerball of 12 — yielded no grand-prize winners. That means the jackpot will keep growing until the next drawing on Wednesday.

The new jackpot currently totals $570 million, with a cash option of $410.1 million.

The odds of winning a Powerball jackpot, meanwhile, are said to be roughly 1 in 292.2 million. So while it’s certainly possible that any individual with a Powerball ticket can win, players would have a better chance, at least statistically, of becoming a movie star or even the president of the United States than taking home the jackpot.

Wednesday’s drawing is scheduled for 11 p.m.

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Maryland newspaper gunman gets more than 5 life prison terms

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Maryland newspaper gunman gets more than 5 life prison terms

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A man who killed five people at a newspaper in Maryland was sentenced on Tuesday to more than five life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Anne Arundel County Judge Michael Wachs ordered the sentence for Jarrod Ramos, whom a jury previously found criminally responsible for killing Wendi Winters, John McNamera, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen and Rebecca Smith with a shotgun at the Capital Gazette’s office in June 2018.

Ramos had pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible to all 23 counts against him in 2019, using Maryland’s version of an insanity defense. The case was delayed several times before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

Before announcing the sentence, the judge noted that Ramos showed no remorse for the crimes and even told a state psychiatrist he would kill more if he were ever released.

“The impact of this case is just simply immense,” Wachs said. “To say that the defendant exhibited a callous and complete disregard for the sanctity of human life is simply a huge understatement.”

Ramos, who sat in court wearing a black mask, declined to make a statement in court when asked by his attorney, Katy O’Donnell.

Also prior to the sentencing, survivors of the shooting and relatives of the five victims who died in the attack described the pain and loss they have experienced.

Montana Winters Geimer, daughter of shooting victim Wendi Winters, testified how her mother “woke up one morning, went to work and never came back.”

“The day she died was the worst day of my life,” Geimer told Wachs. “The hours spent not knowing if she was alive or dead have lived in my nightmares ever since.”

The assault was one of the worst attacks on journalists in U.S. history.

After a 12-day trial in July, a jury took less than two hours to reject arguments from Ramos’ attorneys that he could not understand the criminality of his actions.

Prosecutors contend Ramos, 41, acted out of revenge against the newspaper after it published a story about his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of harassing a former high school classmate in 2011. Prosecutors said his long, meticulous planning for the attack — which included preparations for his arrest and long incarceration — proved he understood the criminality of his actions.

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Watch: Gabby Petito’s family speaks out

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Watch: Gabby Petito's family speaks out

TAMPA, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — Gabby Petito’s family is set to speak publicly for the first time since the 22-year-old YouTuber’s body was discovered in a Wyoming national park as the manhunt for her boyfriend stretches on.

Brian Laundrie was last seen two weeks ago entering the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Florida but was not reported missing until a few days later. Investigators had focused intently on the area after Laundrie’s parents told police he may have gone there. The search for Laundrie is still underway, with the FBI taking the lead.

Petito vanished while on a cross-country road trip with Laundrie in a converted camper van. The trip was well-documented on social media until it abruptly ceased, allegedly somewhere in Wyoming. The couple documented most of their trip, which started in July, on a YouTube Vlog called “VAN LIFE”. The last posts to both their Instagram accounts were from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Petito, 22, was reported missing on Sept. 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days while the couple visited parks in the West. Her body was discovered days later at Grand Teton National Park.

NewsNationNow.com reporter Brian Entin confirmed that the Petito family would hold a press conference in New York Tuesday afternoon. NewsNation will live stream the Petito family press conference in the player above.

Protesters gathered outside the North Port, Florida home where Petito lived with Laundrie and his parents Monday. Those in the group yelled, “Where is he?” and, “Tell us what happened to Gabby!” specifically addressing Laundrie’s parents.

The Laundrie family attorney, Steven Bertolino, sent this text message to NewsNationNow.com Monday evening, denying the family was involved with Laundrie’s disappearance:

“Chris and Roberta Laundrie do not know where Brian is. They are concerned about Brian and hope the FBI can locate him. The speculation by the public and some in the press that the parents assisted Brian in leaving the family home or in avoiding arrest on a warrant that was issued after Brian had already been missing for several days is just wrong.”

STEVEN BERTOLINO

Teton County Coroner Brent Blue classified Petito’s death as a homicide — meaning her death was caused by another person — but did not disclose how she was killed pending further autopsy results. Laundrie, 23, has not been charged in relation to her death but has been considered a person of interest in her disappearance.

The FBI issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie last week. Laundrie is wanted for “use of unauthorized access device” related to his activities following Petito’s death. The FBI says Laundrie used a debit card and a PIN to access two bank accounts Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.

 A memorial service was held for Petito in Long Island Sunday.

“I want you to take a look at these pictures and I want you to be inspired by them. If there’s a trip you want to take, take it. Now. Do it now while you’ve got the time. If there is a relationship that you’re in that might not be the best thing for you, leave it now,” Petito’s father, Joseph Petito said. “Gabby is the most amazing person I’ve ever met. I’m asking you guys to be inspired by the way she treated people, all people.”

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

NewsNation affiliates WFLA, KTXL and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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After a year-plus of essential work, employees at Aurora HelloFresh pushing to unionize

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After a year-plus of essential work, employees at Aurora HelloFresh pushing to unionize

Sisters Mary and Sarah Williams are proud to be essential workers, the ones who have gone to their job sites each day during the pandemic to produce goods to keep the country moving.

The sisters both work on the assembly line at the Aurora site of HelloFresh, the country’s largest home-delivered, meal-kit provider.

“A lot of homes were ordering meal kits because restaurants were closed and grocery stores were wiped out,” said Mary, 28, who started at HelloFresh almost a year ago after losing her job in the hospitality industry.

The sisters are still proud of the role they play in meeting people’s needs. But the two say while business and revenue have skyrocketed for the Germany-based HelloFresh during the pandemic, so has the pressure on employees to work harder to meet the demand.

The Williams sisters said nothing changed after meetings with managers about safety concerns and what they described as work speed-ups. The majority of the nearly 400-member staff have signed up to form a union and are waiting for an election to be scheduled.

“We’re literally treated like robots,” Mary said. “This is really the only way we can make changes at this warehouse.”

Unite Here!, a union representing 300,000 people in food service, gaming and other industries, is working with HelloFresh workers in Aurora and at a larger facility in Richmond, Calif. Besides complaints of low pay and not enough workers, a recent accident that seriously injured two employees in Aurora has galvanized employees to organize.

“I’m organizing with the union to stand up for those victims. I believe this whole thing could’ve been avoided,” said Brandon Lolin, who was close by when four people were struck June 16 by a pallet of bins that fell from a high shelf.

“The health and safety of our team members is our top priority and following an incident in June 2021, we took immediate steps to correct the hazard, update protocols, and increase our on-site safety team headcount,” HelloFresh U.S. spokesperson Robyn Schweitzer said in an email.

The company works with its team members every day to advocate for improvements and continuously enhance safety programs, Schweitzer said.

HelloFresh declined to discuss the accident, but employees said one person suffered a broken back and another sustained a head injury. The woman with the back injury hasn’t returned to work, said Kevin Abels, Unite Here Local 23 president, based in Denver.

Kishore Kulkarni, an economics professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, said he isn’t surprised that workers are trying to organize unions. He said businesses across the spectrum are struggling to fill positions, offering signing bonuses and other benefits.

“It goes without saying that when there is a shortage of labor, labor does have some of the upper hand,” Kulkarni said. “I would say as long as there is a high demand for labor and as long as there is a shortage of labor, it gives them better bargaining power.”

In 2020, 14.3 million of the country’s wage and salaried workers, or 10.8%, were members of unions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1%, or 17.7 million people.

“This is what America is all about. The middle class has been built by organized labor and the union movement in America,” Colorado Rep. Jason Crow said during a Sept. 23 video town hall organized by Unite Here.

The Democratic congressman was among several state and local politicians on the video conference. Adams County Commissioner Emma Pinter said the HelloFresh workers are among the thousands of employees “who’ve put their lives on the line” during the coronavirus outbreak so other people can stay home out of harm’s way.

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U.S. military leaders favored keeping troops in Afghanistan

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U.S. military leaders favored keeping troops in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — In their first congressional testimony on the tumultuous final months of America’s longest war, top U.S. military officers on Tuesday acknowledged misjudging the fragility of Afghanistan’s army and said they believed the U.S. should have kept at least several thousand troops in the country to prevent a rapid takeover by the Taliban.

Without saying what advice he had given President Joe Biden last spring when Biden was considering whether to keep any troops in Afghanistan, Gen. Mark Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee it was his personal opinion that at least 2,500 were needed to guard against a collapse of the Kabul government.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, who as head of Central Command had overseen the final months of the U.S. war, said he agreed with Milley’s assessment. He also declined to say what he had recommended to Biden.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., asked Milley why he did not choose to resign after his advice was rejected.

Milley, who was appointed to his position as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by President Donald Trump and retained by Biden, said it was his responsibility to provide the commander in chief with his best advice.

“The president doesn’t have to agree with that advice,” Milley said. “He doesn’t have to make those decisions just because we are generals. And it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to resign just because my advice was not taken.”

Testifying alongside Milley and McKenzie, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin defended the military’s execution of a frantic airlift from Kabul and asserted it will be “difficult but absolutely possible” to contain future threats from Afghanistan without troops on the ground. Under questioning, he, too, declined to say what advice he had given Biden about whether to make a full troop withdrawal.

Milley cited “a very real possibility” that al-Qaida or the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate could reconstitute in Afghanistan under Taliban rule and present a terrorist threat to the United States in the next 12 to 36 months.

It was al-Qaida’s use of Afghanistan as a base from which to plan and execute its attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, that triggered the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan a month later.

“And we must remember that the Taliban was and remains a terrorist organization and they still have not broken ties with al-Qaida,” Milley said. “I have no illusions who we are dealing with. It remains to be seen whether or not the Taliban can consolidate power or if the country will further fracture into civil war.”

Austin questioned decisions made over the 20-year course of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. In retrospect, he said, the American government may have put too much faith in its ability to build a viable Afghan government.

“We helped build a state, but we could not forge a nation,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The fact that the Afghan army we and our partners trained simply melted away – in many cases without firing a shot – took us all by surprise. It would be dishonest to claim otherwise.”

Asked why the United States did not foresee the rapid collapse of the Afghan army, Milley said that in his judgment the U.S. military lost its ability to see and understand the true condition of the Afghan forces when it ended the practice some years ago of having advisers alongside the Afghans on the battlefield.

“You can’t measure the human heart with a machine, you have to be there,” Milley said.

Austin acknowledged shortcomings in the final airlift from Hamid Karzai International Airport that began Aug. 14, such as an initial wave of violence at and near the airfield that led to multiple deaths of Afghan civilians. But he asserted that the airlift was a historic accomplishment that removed 124,000 people from Taliban rule.

“To be clear, those first two days were difficult,” said Austin, who is a veteran of the war. “We all watched with alarm the images of Afghans rushing the runway and our aircraft. We all remember the scenes of confusion outside the airport. But within 48 hours, our troops restored order, and process began to take hold.”

The Biden administration faces criticism on multiple fronts for its handling of the final months of the war.

Sen. James Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services panel, told Austin and Milley that the withdrawal and evacuation amounted to an “avoidable disaster.”

Republicans in particular have intensified their attacks on President Joe Biden’s decision to pull all troops out of Afghanistan by Aug. 30, saying it left the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorism. They are demanding more details on the suicide bombing in Kabul that killed 13 American service members in the final days of the withdrawal.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, who as head of Central Command oversaw the withdrawal, testified alongside Austin and Milley.

Inhofe has peppered the Pentagon with a lengthy list of questions about multiple aspects of the withdrawal, including the suicide bombing on Aug. 26 at Kabul’s international airport that killed some 169 Afghans in addition to the American service members. He also is demanding information about decision making over the summer as it became apparent that the Taliban were overwhelming U.S.-backed Afghan forces.

“We need a full accounting of every factor and decision that led us to where we are today and a real plan for defending America moving forward,” Inhofe wrote last week.

The withdrawal ended the longest war in U.S. history. The Biden administration, and some Democrats in Congress, have argued that former President Donald Trump bears some of the blame for the war ending in a Taliban victory, since his administration signed a deal with the Taliban in 2020 that promised a full American withdrawal by May 2021. They also have pointed to a yearslong U.S. failure to build an Afghan military that could stand up to the Taliban.

“This is not a Democratic or a Republican problem. These failures have been manifesting over four presidential administrations of both political parties,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I, said the day after the Taliban took over Kabul on Aug. 15.

Although Tuesday’s hearing was scheduled to focus on Afghanistan, other topics were sure to come up, including Milley’s actions during the final months of Trump’s presidency.

Some in Congress have accused Milley of disloyalty for what the book “Peril,” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, reported as assurances to a Chinese general that the U.S. had no plan to attack China, and that if it did, Milley would warn him in advance. In the days following news accounts of the book’s reporting, Milley declined to comment in detail, instead telling reporters that he would lay out his answers directly to Congress. His only comments have been that the calls with the Chinese were routine and within the duties and responsibilities of his job.

Both Milley and Austin have defended the U.S. military’s execution of an Afghanistan withdrawal that Biden ordered in April. The pullout was largely completed by early July, but several hundred troops were kept in Kabul, along with some defensive equipment, to protect a U.S. diplomatic presence in the capital. The State Department initially said the diplomats would remain after the military withdrawal was completed by Aug. 31, but when the Afghan forces collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, leaving the Taliban in charge, a frantic evacuation began.

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Missouri locksmith dressed as George Washington charged for role in Jan. 6th Capitol Insurrection

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Missouri locksmith dressed as George Washington charged for role in Jan. 6th Capitol Insurrection

WASHINGTON D.C. — A Nevada business owner has been arrested and charged for his role in the Capitol Insurrection.

An online tip to the FBI National Threat Operations Center submitted on February 26, 2021 stated,

“I was made aware that an individual that works at Yoder locksmith in Nevada Missouri was involved in the storming of the Capitol on Jan 6th. I am unsure of the gentleman’s first name but know the day of the event he was inside the Capitol and was dressed as George Washington.”

With this information, the FBI reviewed the business’ website and contact numbers and found an image of a man in colonial period attire captioned “Isaac & Kelly Yoder.”

FBI screenshot of “Yoder Lock & Key” website

After cross-referencing the website picture, a Missouri driver’s license photo, social media accounts, photographs from inside the Capitol, CCTV footage, and cell phone usage during the Insurrection the FBI ID’d the man as Isaac Samuel Yoder.

Yoder voluntarily agreed to an interviewed by the FBI on March 16th at the Joplin Resident Agency. At this interview Yoder brought the same outfit seen in photographs and admitted to entering the Capitol on January 6th; saying his family attended the Trump rally with him and that his brothers were exposed to tear gas with one being hit by rubber bullets.

Yoder said he wore a George Washington costume as seen in one Newsweek article titled: “George Washington Says if Capitol Rioters wanted Trouble There’d Be ‘Piles of Bodies.” (Seen below)

Missouri locksmith dressed as George Washington charged for role in
Yoder as seen on January 6th at the Capitol building talking with Capitol Police
BRENT STIRTON/GETTY IMAGES

Footage from the Capitol building’s cameras affirmed Yoder’s testimony showing Yoder in his colonial outfit entering through a west facing door and leaving the same one 18 minutes later.

According to a complaint from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Yoder committed multiple violations against United States Code while at the Capitol:

  • (Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building, in violation of Title 18, United States
    Code, Section 1752(a)(1))
  • (Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building, in violation of Title 18,
    United States Code, Section 1752(a)(2))
  • (Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building, in violation of Title 40,
    United States Code, Section 5104 (e)(2)(D))
  • (Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building, in violation of Title 40, United States Code, Section 5104 (e)(2)(G))

A warrant for Yoder’s arrest was served on Wednesday, August 4th at Springfield, Missouri.

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Police ID woman killed in weekend shooting on Interstate 70

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Police ID woman killed in weekend shooting on Interstate 70

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Police have identified a woman killed over the weekend in a shooting on Interstate 70 in north St. Louis that also wounded a man. Police say the shooting happened late Saturday night, when officers were called to an area near the I-70 Madison Street exit. Arriving officers found 27-year-old Kala Taylor in a vehicle with several gunshot wounds. She was taken to a hospital, where she died Sunday. Police say another victim of the shooting — a 29-year-old man — was taken by a private vehicle to a hospital and was last listed in critical but stable condition. Police say three other people at the scene of the shooting were not injured. No arrests have been reported.

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