In a chilling New York Times article, James B. Comey, director of the FBI, is quoted saying the threat of terrorism is worse than he imagined before assuming his current position:
By Mr. Comey's own account, he also brought to the job a belief, based on news media reports, that the threat from Al Qaeda was diminished. But nine months into his tenure as director, Mr. Comey acknowledges that he underestimated the threat the United States still faces from terrorism.
"I didn't have anywhere near the appreciation I got after I came into this job just how virulent those affiliates had become," Mr. Comey said, referring to offshoots of Al Qaeda in Africa and in the Middle East during an interview in his sprawling office on the seventh floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. "There are both many more than I appreciated, and they are stronger than I appreciated." [The New York Times]
One might interpret this information differently, based on preconceived notions.
Neocons, for example, might see this as further evidence that skepticism of the surveillance state is rooted in nothing but ignorance and naiveté. Meanwhile, folks on the other side of the debate might view this as yet another example of someone being co-opted once they gain a position of authority.
But Comey's credibility on this issue is hard to impugn. As the No. 2 in the Bush Justice Department, he famously refused to approve reauthorization of the N.S.A.'s domestic eavesdropping program.
I don't know about you, but I'd be more comfortable if his credibility on this issue weren't quite so solid. Matt K. Lewis
California's State Water Resources Control Board released modified proposed conservation restrictions on Saturday, adjusting the planned cuts based on conservation efforts that have already been made by various communities, the Los Angeles Times reports.
A former draft divided water suppliers into four tiers; the new framework places them into one of nine tiers, "to more equitably allocate" cuts. The Associated Press reports that officials from cities which had proactively begun drought-saving efforts were frustrated with the board's original proposal, which answered Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order requiring a 25-percent cutback in urban water usage.
"The fact that we are being dinged additional costs doesn't seem fair,” John Helminski, San Diego's assistant director of public utilities, told AP.
Across the state, depending on their tier, water suppliers will be expected to cut total daily water use by anywhere from 8 percent to 36 percent. Water suppliers that do not meet their cut could face fines of up to $10,000 per day. The board is expected to vote on the revised framework proposal in early May. Sarah Eberspacher
Sixty-four years after it was scuttled off California's Farallon Islands, the USS Independence has been re-discovered, resting on the seafloor "amazingly intact," according to NOAA scientists. A survey team made up of representatives from NOAA, the U.S. Navy and private industry parties is working on a two-year project to map and study the more than 300 shipwrecks estimated to be lying off California's coast.
The Independence is thought to be the deepest shipwreck in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, which covers nearly 3,300 square miles of water beyond the Golden Gate Bridge.
"After 64 years on the seafloor, Independence sits on the bottom as if ready to launch its planes," James Delgado, chief scientist on the mission, said. "It is a reminder of the industrial might and skill of the 'greatest generation' that sent not only this ship, but their loved ones to war."
The Independence was one of more than 90 vessels used as a target fleet for the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests, in 1946. Before that, it operated out of the central and western Pacific for two years. Scientists used a remote-controlled submarine to take images of the shipwreck; check out the photo, below, and read more about the carrier via the National Marine Sanctuaries' website. —Sarah Eberspacher
(NOAA, Boeing, and Coda Octopus)
Australian officials said on Saturday that counterterrorism forces had arrested five men in the Melbourne area for plotting to carry out an ISIS-inspired attack on police officers during Australia's memorial day ceremonies, NPR reports.
At least two of the men were charged with terrorism-related offenses; the others were released after being questioned. Officials said two of the men planned to target police officers at ANZAC Day ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of Australia's entry into World War I. Sarah Eberspacher
Speaking at the Republican Leadership Summit in New Hampshire on Saturday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul attacked the Obama administration's role in the 2011 toppling of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, calling the operation "a mistake," The Guardian reports.
"One thing that is probably true in the Middle East, every time we have toppled a secular dictator, a secular strong man, we've gotten chaos and the rise of radical Islam," the presidential hopeful said. "The president won't name the enemy but I will: it's radical Islam. Until we name it, we can't defeat them and I will tell you this: If I were commander-in-chief, I would do everything it takes to…defend the country against radical Islam."
Paul went on to criticize Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server as secretary of state, asking, "Is she sort of above the rules?"
President Barack Obama announced in his weekly address that he will travel to the Florida Everglades on Wednesday, which is Earth Day, to bring attention to the dangers of climate change.
"Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have fallen in the first 15 years of this century," Obama says. "This winter was cold in parts of our country — as some folks in Congress like to point out — but around the world, it was the warmest ever recorded."
Florida has recently been in the news for how its legislators are addressing — or not — the problem of climate change. The Washington Post notes that Governor Rick Scott's administration reportedly tried to "ban" state officials from using the term, and presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio voted against an amendment that would have stated that "human activity significantly contributes" to climate change.
Watch Obama's prelude to his Wednesday speech on the topic, below. —Sarah Eberspacher
Scientist who discovered ozone layer hole: 'We are still inflicting major changes on the atmosphere'
Thirty years after three British scientists discovered a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, one of them says humans are still "inflicting major changes on the atmosphere."
"Then, it was chlorofluorocarbons; today it is greenhouse gases," Jon Shanklin of the British Antarctic Survey told The Guardian. "The ozone hole story tells us that it is very easy to cause major changes to the atmosphere — it only took about 10 years to develop — but it is very difficult to restore equilibrium. Unfortunately, we don't seem to have learned that lesson."
In 1985, Shanklin, along with colleagues Brian Gardiner and the late Joe Farman, discovered manmade chemicals were depleting the ozone in the upper atmosphere, allowing cancer-causing radiation to reach the earth. Their work led to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that banned CFCs and has been called "the single most successful international agreement to date."
But Shanklin now notes that "the CFCs we put up there will take a long time to dissipate," and that the ozone layer is far from fully recovered.
Speaking on Russia's state-run Rossiya channel on Saturday, President Vladimir Putin admitted that Moscow and Washington have "disagreements," but that "there is something that unites us, that forces us to work together," Reuters reports.
"I mean general efforts directed at making the world economy more democratic, measured and balanced, so that the world order is more democratic," Putin said. "We have a common agenda."
His comments come two days after he told a Russian phone-in show that the United States wants "not allies, but vassals," and is behaving like the former Soviet Union in its overreaching foreign policy. Sarah Eberspacher