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Online ‘propaganda’ campaign targets USA Today reporters

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Two USA Today reporters have become the target of a propaganda campaign after they reported on the tax problems of a intelligence contractor.

Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker reported in February on “dubious, costly” propaganda campaigns carried out by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reporters noted that Leonie Industries was awarded a contract from the Department of Defense, even though the company’s owners owed at least $4 million in federal taxes.

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Leonie Industries is a relatively small company that specializes in cyber operations, intelligence analysis, psychological operations, and counter-IED explosives operations. The company said that due to the owner’s financial troubles, they were unable to fulfill their “personal tax obligations on time,” but have since been “faithfully paying their tax liabilities through installment plans.”

Since reporting on the company, fake Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created in the name of Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker, according to USA Today.

In addition, dozens of comments criticizing the reporters on message boards, Yahoo! answers, Wikipedia, blogs, and other websites have suddenly sprung up. Websites were even registered in their names, but have since been taken down.

“I find it creepy and cowardly that somebody would hide behind my name and presumably make up other names in an attempt to undermine my credibility,” Vanden Brook said.

The propaganda campaign appears to be similar in concept to “persona management software” that the U.S. Air Force had sought to acquire. The technology would allow a single individual to command virtual armies of fake, digital “people” across numerous social media portals.

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A Pentagon spokesman told USA Today that he was not aware of any contractors who were targeting the reporters “nor would it be acceptable.”

“This is a clear attempt at intimidation that has failed,” Locker said.


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75 years ago: When atomic scientist Leo Szilard tried to halt dropping bombs over Japan

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As this troubled summer rolls along, and the world begins to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the creation, and use, of the first atomic bombs, many special, or especially tragic, days will draw special attention.  They will include July 16 (first test of the weapon in New Mexico), August 6 (bomb dropped over Hiroshima) and August 9 (over Nagasaki).   Surely far fewer in the media and elsewhere will mark another key date:  July 3.

On July 3, 1945, the great atomic scientist Leo Szilard finished a letter/petition that would become the strongest (virtually the only) real attempt at halting President Truman's march to using the atomic bomb--still almost two weeks from its first test at Trinity--against Japanese cities.

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Former Trump administration official refers to a renowned Black scholar as ‘some criminal’

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President Donald Trump's former Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred to renowned Black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. as "some criminal" in an interview with The New York Times Magazine.

Sessions, one of Trump's earliest supporters who was later fired after years of attacks from the president, is currently attempting to reclaim his old Senate seat in Alabama. Sessions has desperately tried to tout his Trumpist credentials on the campaign trail, even as the president has waged a campaign aimed at sabotaging his primary bid.

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Miami-Dade cop relieved of duty after punching irate woman at Florida airport

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A bad situation turned worse, after a woman missed her flight at Miami International Airport. When police were called, things got even worse.

According to the Miami Herald, body-camera footage, which surfaced Wednesday evening, showed the officer hitting the woman yelling at him.

“You acting like you white when you really Black...what you want to do?” the woman without a mask says.

She then stepped very close to the officer, putting her face against his and that's when he struck her in the face.

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