Inside the Shutdown: What’s Happening in Shenandoah and the Smokies?

first_imgSince the partial government shutdown began three weeks ago, visitors to the national parks have been greeted by empty fee stations and red-lettered notices posted to entrance gates.The notice advises visitors to “use extreme caution” and that “any entry… is at the visitor’s sole risk.”While many national parks, including Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains, remain open to the public, National Park Service (NPS) personnel have been furloughed and thereby unable to provide guidance, assistance, maintenance, or emergency response. The parks have shuttered their information centers, locked the restrooms, closed the campgrounds, and left the public to its own devices.While the Park Service employs approximately 20,000 people, the reduction in staff leaves only 3,298 essential personnel remaining to manage 80 million acres of national park property. Across the country, national parks have suffered overflowing trash cans, inordinate amounts of litter and human feces, illegal off-roading, vandalism, and destruction of precious natural resources. The Department of the Interior’s Contingency Plan instructs the few remaining park rangers and law enforcement officers to take a “reactive rather than proactive posture.” Without warnings and supervision from experienced park staff, visitors expose themselves to serious dangers in the untamed wild. Three hikers have died in the national parks since the shutdown, at least one of which may have been prevented by the guidance of seasoned staff and timely emergency response.To make matters worse,Photo by Katherine YoderNovember and December of last year bore particularly brutal weather in the Blue Ridge mountains, leaving damage and debris still untended. In mid-November, an ice storm in Augusta County, VA took down hundreds of mature trees from the crushing weight of nearly half an inch of ice accumulation. Thousands of residents endured power outages for more than three days, but the destruction and damage have endured far longer. The majority of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the 40-mile stretch from the south entrance of Shenandoah National Park have remained closed and gated for over two months. Necessary maintenance and debris removal have halted indefinitely, leaving outdoor enthusiasts wondering when they will be able to enjoy the BRP and SNP once again. To further complicate the matter, the government-sponsored National Parks website will not be updated for the duration of the shutdown, leaving no way for prospective tourists to verify closures. A notice at top of the page states that the information therein “may not reflect current conditions.”Though SNP had previously been open from Swift Run Gap to Front Royal, morning hikers on January 12 found the gates to Skyline Drive completely blocked in preparation for Winter Storm Gia. Meg and Mathew Clayton drove over two hours to find their weekend plans thwarted. “We live in D.C. so, in a different way, we feel the effects of the shutdown everyday… We wanted to come out and get away,” said Meg Clayton. “I just wish there was a coherent policy. From what I gathered online, some of the parks are open, some aren’t… In other shutdowns, all the parks were closed and at least you would know before you got here.”Many guests feel conflicted,Photo by Lisa Bryant (Executive Director of Keep Sevier Beautiful) expressing a desire to enjoy the parks while simultaneously recognizing the consequences of unsupervised visitors. Mathew Clayton said, “For selfish reasons, it’s crap that we have to go through this because of the government shutdown. But at the same time, it’s good for safety reasons and preserving the land. People are just sneaking in and ruining the parks, leaving trash, and it can be unsafe. So, in a way, it’s a good thing.”Sadly, in some parks the damages from unrestricted activity and cost to human life are irrevocable. The bipartisan National Parks Conservation Association stated in a press release, “NPCA believes it is not only reckless to keep national parks open without adequate staffing, it endangers lives and is illegal.” They encourage people to consider waiting until the parks are staffed and safe before visiting but urge those who do visit to be alert to their safety and to exercise extreme vigilance in protecting and preserving park resources.But even with the end of the government shutdown, visitors will have a long road ahead before the Blue Ridge Mountains are restored to their original condition. “There’s so much maintenance, research, protection of wildlife, and behind-the-scenes work. So many facets to keep it running and it will be so backlogged when [the shutdown] is over,” said Justin Beach, one of only six Americorp volunteers serving in the GSMNP. “The fallout will be dealt with for over a year after it’s over. It’s disheartening, depressing, and anxiety-inducing.”Some organizations and citizens have taken measures into their own hands, determined to protect and maintain our beloved Blue Ridge Mountains. On January 10, the environmental non-profit Keep Sevier Beautiful organized 100 volunteers to pick up trash along the Spur, a heavily trafficked road in the GSMNP.Photo by Katherine Yoder“It was eye-opening,” said Americorp volunteer Keely Dunham, a participant in the clean-up. The group collected 160 garbage bags of trash full of single-use plastics, cigarette butts, metal cans, soda cups, wrappers, and fast food containers that had been tossed to the side of the road. “It just goes to show just how important the work of the National Park Service really is.”Alleyn Harned, Executive Director of Virginia Clean Cities, organized a clean-up with twelve volunteers to pick up litter and trash along 14 miles of Skyline Drive in SNP. In collaboration with Keep Virginia Beautiful, a non-profit dedicated to improving Virginia’s natural and scenic environment, Harned and volunteers emptied overflowing trash bins and collected litter in baby strollers they had modified to carry and wheel away debris. Photo by Katherine YoderHarned expressed frustration about the government shutdown, stating, “There’s no reason for this. The level of maturity to resolve this through negotiation or communication has not been displayed by the president. I don’t know when to expect this to end.” However, he feels his volunteer efforts have helped alleviate some of his disappointment in the current administration. “The clean-up was wonderful and rewarding. It’s a way to make myself feel better in the face of this national trauma.” The NPCA, however, is wary of volunteer efforts,and encourages interested parties to wait until parks are fully staffed. “While we appreciate that people want to help, there are major safety hazards and liability issues with volunteering at parks where park staff aren’t present… This is also not the public’s burden to bear. It is the responsibility of the administration and Congress to fully fund the government and reopen our parks with adequate staff.”Like SNP and GSMNP, many parks have resorted to creative measures to finance maintenance and cleanup in the parks through help from local municipalities, non-profits, and private concessions. But clearly, this is not sufficient. On January 6, the Interior Department announced it would dip into the park’s fund of visitor fees to manage immediate costs. These fees are usually used for maintenance projects, visitor services, wildlife habitat projects, law enforcement, and recreation projects.Daniel Smith, Deputy Director of the NPS stated in a press release, “In the coming days the NPS will begin to use these funds to clean up trash that has built up at numerous parks, clean and maintain restrooms, bring additional law enforcement rangers into parks to patrol accessible areas, and to restore accessibility to areas that would typically be accessible this time of year…. utilizing these funds now will allow the American public to safely visit many of our nation’s national parks while providing these iconic treasures the protection they deserve.”This decision is met with controversy.Photo by Lisa Bryant (Executive Director of Keep Sevier Beautiful)The NPS is unable to collect more entrance fees during the shutdown and their $6 billion maintenance backlog continues to grow larger every day. The NPCA slammed the current administration, stating that this policy decision is inefficient and puts pressure on an already struggling agency. Said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for the NPCA, “Instead of robbing from park funds, the president needs to work with Congress to fully reopen the federal government, including our national parks. And he should propose budgets that will authentically help operate parks and address their maintenance needs in the long-term. Budget antics are not the way to fund our parks.”And for residents in vicinity of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the shutdown damages lives on a personal level. Brent Finnegan, candidate for Virginia’s 26th District House of Delegates and SNP clean-up volunteer stated, “This has caused a ripple effect to local businesses. We lose tourists who come to spend money in our cities, which bolster our economies. Jobs should not be used as a bargaining chip. This is affecting our families. It needs to end and it’s already gone on for too long.”The financial toll of the shutdown extends beyond the national park itself, but also impacts local economies. A report from the NPS found tourism from SNP supported 1,200 jobs in the neighboringcommunities and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $126 million. GSMNP supports over 10,000 jobs and reaps $734 million per year. The BRP supports over 15,000 jobs in the region having a cumulative impact to local economies of $1 billion. As far removed as the actions of Congress may appear, it is impossible to ignore the fact that this shutdown affects every person with the Blue Ridge Mountains on their horizon.When the government shutdown is finally over and the NPS is fully operational once again, the damage will take effort and time to repair. Volunteers will be in high demand and the onus of work will be considerable. Now it is simply a matter of waiting and hoping for an end to this strange anarchy.Photo by Lisa Bryant (Executive Director of Keep Sevier Beautiful)last_img read more

iPhones, Android Devices & Samsung TVs Vulnerable to CIA Spies, Leaks Reveal

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A major CIA leak published by WikiLeaks on Tuesday revealed that the world’s most popular smartphones and television sets from a major manufacturer are vulnerable to the covert agency’s burgeoning cyber unit.The leak of more than 8,000 CIA documents to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks contains perhaps the most explosive set of revelations since NSA secrets were provided to journalists by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The CIA has reportedly declined to comment on the authenticity of the documents, but WikiLeaks has a long history of disclosing genuine top-secret government files. Dubbed “Vault 7,” the document dump outlines the vast resources at the disposal of the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, the agency’s own version of the NSA. These include an arsenal of computer exploits—malware, viruses, trojans and other invasive tools—the CIA’s covert hacking operation can deploy to target Apple iPhones, Google Android devices, Samsung TVs, Microsoft’s ubiquitous operation system Windows, and other targets. Among the most eye-opening of the disclosures is a CIA Center for Cyber Intelligence attack cryptically called “Weeping Angel” targeting Samsung smart televisions. The intrusion allows government hackers to manipulate the TVs to act as if they’re turned off while covertly recording conversations and routing audio files to a secret CIA server. The attack was allegedly developed alongside the United Kingdom’s MI5 agency, according to the WikiLeaks. One document published by the group Tuesday titled “Weeping Angel – Things you might do” considers the possibility of extracting browser history and WiFi credentials from Samsung TVs and opportunities to remotely access devices. Also troubling for privacy advocates, the CIA has found a way to circumvent encrypted messaging software like Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram by accessing smartphones directly and collecting communications before encryption protocols take effect, WikiLeaks revealed. In response, Telegram said it was “misleading” to suggest that its software is prone to CIA attacks. WikiLeaks did not identify the source of the leaks, but the group said the person sought to inspire an “urgently” needed debate into the agency’s cyber division powers. “The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons,” WikiLeaks said in a press release accompanying the disclosures. WikiLeaks also noted that the CIA “lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal”—encompassing more than a hundred million lines of code—which would give any person in possession of the arsenal “the entire hacking capacity of the CIA.” The CIA’s extensive hacking unit included more than 5,000 users at the end of last year. The state-sponsored hackers were so prodigious that they “utilized more code than that used to run Facebook,” according to WikiLeaks. What the CIA achieved in terms of building its army of hackers was impressive. If what the documents indicate are true, it would mean the agency, much like the National Security Agency, is capable of large-scale cyber espionage, but without public oversight and working as rivals to the NSA instead of collaborators. “The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive,” the organization said. The disclosures are the most significant in the nascent Trump administration and may rival those by NSA whistleblower Snowden, who revealed massive government spying on a scale never before known publicly. WikiLeaks was previously the source of 700,000 secret U.S. State Department cables and military documents regarding the Iraq and Afghan wars leaked by Chelsea Manning. Prior to leaving office, former President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, effective later this year. The group’s mercurial leader, Julian Assange, has most recently made news for WikiLeaks’ release of emails from the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton, and a powerful Democratic operative during last year’s presidential election campaign. The Russian government was allegedly the source of the disclosures, though no definitive proof has yet to emerge publicly.Now WikiLeaks is making waves again. In an increasingly interconnected world, the revelations could trigger yet another public debate about privacy in the United States and abroad. That’s because the ubiquitous smartphones around the world are predominantly Google Android and Apple iPhone devices—both of which the CIA’s hacking division can allegedly exploit, according to WikiLeaks.Google’s Android operating system, which is the software used by several leading smartphone makers, accounts for more than 80-percent of the worldwide market share as opposed to Apple’s 12-percent share. The documents state that the CIA’s Mobile Devices Branch can deploy attacks “to remotely hack and control popular smartphones.” The person conducting the hack can gain access to the smartphone owner’s geolocation, audio and text communications, and remotely engage the phone’s camera and microphone, the documents suggest. Included in the dump was information about a program called “Umbrage,” in which the CIA can re-use malicious attacks that originated from other countries, including Russia. If the CIA repurposes such an attack, it can appear as if it were deployed from where it originated, thus misleading investigators. WikiLeaks said some information, such as email addresses and names, had been redacted prior to publication. The documents cover a three-year period from 2013 to 2016.last_img read more

Landlords, become sea ambassadors: 10 little things you can do for our sea…

first_imgCover photo: Catherine Sheila from Pexels “We want to draw attention to the environmental, social, economic and cultural importance of marine ecosystems as well as the causes of their degradation, in order to preserve them and thus contribute to raising public awareness and improving relations that local communities, visitors and tourists develop and nurture with the sea.” aMORE festival. Namely, the organizers of the aMORE festival published a leaflet: 10 little things you can do for our sea… which is intended for the education of tourists. As a renter, you can print a pdf flyer and place it in your accommodation in a visible place, as well as share it on your social networks. Let us guard our sea, the sea from which we live. What if there is no tourism? Where would they be? The sea as well as space are our most valuable resource, let’s preserve it. If we don’t guard our sea, who will? The story is very simple and it only takes a little of your effort. In order to make as many tourists and travelers aware of the importance of preserving our sea, the organizers of the aMORE festival, the first festival entirely dedicated to the sea where art, culture, science, new technologies, innovations, stories and legends intertwine, invite all renters to become ambassadors. must. You can download the leaflet in English and Croatian attached. Side dish: 10 little things you can do for our sea… Also, the organizers of this great initiative are asking for help in translating the leaflet into other foreign languages, in order to expand the whole story. last_img read more

Eversheds change of toon trips up city developers

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Hawaii linebacker Scheyenne Sanitoa dies at 21, university announces— Hawaii Football (@HawaiiFootball) July 5, 2019MORE: Notable sports deaths of 2019″It’s always heartbreaking to lose a member of our UH ohana, particularly when it’s one of our young student-athletes,” Matlin said in a statement, per Hawaii News Now. Sanitoa, a native of American Samoa, played in 12 games (two starts) for the Rainbow Warriors in 2018. He recorded 21 solo tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks. Hawaii junior linebacker Scheyenne Sanitoa died Thursday, the university announced. He was 21.No cause of death was given. Athletics director David Matlin said UH was informed of Sanitoa’s death Friday morning.last_img read more