Cyberattack Shuts Down US Pipeline

An international hacker group has attacked the computer systems of an important US fuel pipeline. The cyberattack forced operators to shut down most of the systems of the pipeline. It is the largest attack on existing infrastructure in US history.

Colonial Pipeline pumps 2.5 million barrels of fuel from the Houston to the eastern coast every day. It supplies the major population centers and airports.

According to the FBI, the relatively new hacker group DarkSide is responsible for the attack. It is reported to be Russian-operated but has no connections to the Russian government. Days after the attack, Colonial Pipeline confirmed that it had paid $4.4 million in ransom money to unlock the pipeline. As a result of the attack, panic-buying led to gas shortages in many areas of the eastern coast.

Ransomware attacks have been increasing steadily for some time. 2020 was the worst year in the history of cyberattacks.

Authorities are concerned about how vulnerable American infrastructure is. Especially since the pandemic started, more and more workers have been working from home, making it easier for hackers to get into the systems.

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • attack = here: to put bad code into a computer system, so that it doesn’t work anymore
  • authorities = people who are in charge of an organization
  • barrel = unit to measure oil = 159 liters
  • concerned = worried
  • confirm = to say that something is true
  • connection = link, tie
  • cyberattack = to use the Internet to get into a computer system and damage it
  • force = to make someone do something
  • fuel = here: gasoline or diesel
  • increase = to go up
  • infrastructure = important systems that a country needs, like, roads, railways, bridges, pipelines etc…
  • major = important
  • panic-buying = when people buy more things, because they think there won’t be enough in the future
  • pandemic = disease that affects people in many parts of the world
  • population centers = cities and areas in which many people live
  • ransom money = money that is paid to a hacker group to make the computer systems work again
  • ransomware = software that someone puts into your computer so that it doesn’t work the way it should; the attacker demands money to unlock it
  • responsible = here: to carry out
  • shortage = not enough of something
  • shut down = stop from working
  • supply = to bring from one place to another
  • unlock = to make something work again
  • vulnerable = weak; can easily be damaged

South Carolina Allows Execution By Firing Squad

South Carolina has become the fourth U.S. state to allow an alternative method of execution. Death row inmates can now choose to be killed by a firing squad.

Many states have had problems getting drugs used for lethal injection, which is the standard form of execution in most states. Many manufacturers do not want their products used in executions. Now, South Carolina has passed a law making the electric chair the primary execution method if drugs for lethal injection are not available. Alternatively, inmates can opt for being executed by a firing squad. South Carolina has not carried out an execution since 2011.

The electric chair has been a controversial topic for many years, as those opposed to the death penalty say that it is an inhumane way of killing people.

The firing squad is currently allowed as a form of execution in three other states. Since 1970, three such executions have taken place. On a global scale, eight countries execute people by firing squad, including China, Iran and North Korea.

Although widespread discussion about capital punishment in the United States still going on, public support for the death penalty has gradually decreased. At the moment, the death penalty is allowed in 24 states.

Capital Punishment By States Since 1970
States in black have abolished the death penalty in the year shown on the map
Fluffy89502, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Words

  • alternative method = a different way
  • although = while
  • available = here: can be used or bought
  • capital punishment = when the state or government kills someone who has committed a crime
  • carry out = to do something that needs to be planned
  • controversial = much discussed with many opinions
  • currently = now, at the moment
  • death row inmate = prisoner who is waiting to be executed by a state or the government
  • decrease = go down
  • drugs = here: substance used for lethal injections
  • execution = if a state or the government kills a person as a form of punishment
  • firing squad =group of people who punish someone by shooting and killing them
  • global scale = around the world
  • gradually = slowly
  • including = also
  • inhumane = cruel and not acceptable
  • lethal injection = killing someone by putting a mixture of deadly drugs into their body
  • manufacturer = here: producer of drugs
  • opposed to = against
  • opt for = choose
  • primary = main
  • public support = here: all the people who agree with something
  • widespread = here: among many people

2020 US Census Shows Texas The Big Winner

The population in the United States has grown to 331 million, an increase of about 7%, over the past decade. However, it is the slowest growth rate since the Great Depression between the two world wars.

The census, taken every ten years, has an impact on the Electoral College, and, as a result, the outcome of the presidential election.

The 2020 census shows that Texas is the big winner with the largest growth rate. 29 million people live in the state, whose population increased by 16% since the 2010 count. The southern state gained 2 seats in the Electoral College. One reason for the change may be the fact that more and more high-tech companies are leaving Silicon Valley and setting up headquarters in Texas.

For the first time in history, California’s population has actually decreased. Falling birth rates and more Californians leaving the state for other destinations have led to a loss of one electoral college seat.

According to the census, more and more Americans are leaving the northeastern US and the Midwest and heading towards in the sun-belt states of the south. Apart from Texas, Florida is another winner and has gained one seat.

The results of the census could increase Republican chances of winning back the White House in 2024, as typically Democratic states like California and New York have lost Electoral College seats while Republican strongholds have gained a few.

Census sign in a yard in Ohio
Blervis, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • birth rate = the number of people born for every 1,000 people in a certain place every year
  • census = the act of counting the number of people in a country
  • count = here: counting of the population
  • decade = ten years
  • decrease = to go down
  • destination = place to go to
  • Electoral College = group of people chosen by each state, who come together to elect the President of the United States
  • gain = get, receive
  • Great Depression = time after the Wall Street crash of 1929 in which banks and companies closed, and many people were out of work
  • growth rate = the speed at which something gets bigger
  • heading towards = moving in a certain direction
  • headquarters = the main building or offices that a company has
  • however = but
  • impact = influence
  • increase = to go up
  • loss = to lose something
  • outcome = results
  • population = the people who live in a country or state
  • Silicon Valley = area around San Francisco which is known as the center of the computer and high-tech industry
  • stronghold = area where you have a lot of support and many voters