Thirty years after a young hacker played by Matthew Broderick nearly triggered a nuclear war in the movie "WarGames," fears of malicious computer attackers causing real-world destruction are an everyday reality.
Online attacks, such as those recently aimed at U.S. banks and the Federal Reserve, represent a new front in wars fought with computer keystrokes rather than weapons. Costly to the banks, the attacks merely annoyed customers who could not access their accounts online. Future strikes, top military experts warn, could be destructive - even deadly - targeting nuclear power plants, public water systems, railways, air traffic control and hospitals.
Shortly before noon on March 6, 2007, Small Kill Team leader Michael Barbera rose from his squad’s position in high grass in a palm grove here and shot two teenage cattle herders.
A short time later, the Army staff sergeant ordered his soldiers to kill a third teenager walking toward them.
Barbera would report to his superiors that the three dead boys were insurgents operating out of this farming village about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad.
In reality, Ahmad Khalid al-Timmimi, 15, his brother, Abbas, and their cousin, Muhamed Khaleel Kareem al-Galyani, both 14, were unarmed deaf mutes with no known ties to the insurgency. Their slayings angered most members of Barbera’s squad — decorated combat veterans who reported the killings to Army investigators in Fort Bragg, N.C.
Those soldiers believed Barbera’s actions triggered two reprisal suicide bombings at their combat outpost that killed 10 of their fellow paratroopers in the 5th Squadron of the 73rd Cavalry Airborne Reconnaissance Regiment.
In late 2010, several of Barbera’s former soldiers asked the Tribune-Review to get answers about what happened to a secret Army probe into their allegations. In a two-year investigation, a Trib reporter traveled to Fort Bragg, across the United States and into an area of Iraq vacated by American troops to find out what happened.
Classified documents provided to the Trib eventually revealed what no soldier or Iraqi villager knew: Army investigators recommended that Barbera face charges, including two counts of murder. But Barbera was never brought to court.
More than half the world's money passes almost undetected through a series of financial black holes that shelter it from not only the tax collector but from shareholders, partners and wives, a Tribune-Review investigation found.
Once employed by gangsters such as Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, these secret bank accounts have grown so vast and lawless that some experts tell the Trib they fear the amount of money involved threatens societies from China to Africa, Europe and the United States. World leaders railed against the impact of secret havens during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh three years ago.
Charities and consumer-product companies raise up to $6 billion a year for breast cancer research, according to the Better Business Bureau. Yet for all the publicity, little attention focuses on gaping racial divides in diagnoses and deaths from the disease.
Breast cancer is more likely to appear in black women under age 40. Struck by such disparities, the Tribune-Review worked to explore trends and the research addressing them. Though men can contract breast cancer, women comprise most patients and survivors.
Hospitals and doctors make more money by aggressively treating terminal patients than by keeping them free of pain and letting them die with dignity. Some doctors derisively call the practice "flogging" — as in, beating a dead horse.
Medicare, which paid most of Massco's bills and is the nation's largest health insurance program, spends about $113 billion a year, or a quarter of its budget for people 65 and older, to treat patients during the last year of their lives. As lawmakers argue about ways to cut costs, many experts say the government wastes billions of dollars on unnecessary care for dying patients.
Thousands of sick and wounded soldiers within the Army's Warrior Transition program aren't receiving psychological care they need and are being discharged into communities ill-prepared to help them.
A nine-month investigation by the Tribune-Review, buttressed by documents passed to the newspaper by soldiers and the Pentagon's Office of Wounded Warrior Care & Transition Policy in Alexandria, Va., reveal an Army reeling from an epidemic of mental and behavioral health problems after nearly a decade of constant combat overseas.
The failure of doctors at dialysis clinics to inform thousands of patients about kidney transplantation may be shortening lives and costing taxpayers millions of dollars a year, a Tribune-Review investigation found. Kidney transplantation adds an average of 10 years to a patient's life, and a new kidney costs the federal Medicare program $50,000 less per patient than conventional dialysis.
Yet, thousands of patients started dialysis without hearing about transplant options. Some spend as long as five years on the debilitating treatments before they are placed on the nation's transplant wait list, while others who would benefit from the surgery are not even on the list.
Hundreds of patients each year undergo liver transplants when they don't need them, and possibly never will, a four-month Pittsburgh Tribune-Review investigation found.
One in 10 of those patients dies when they could have lived longer without the transplant. The rest - all at the rock-bottom of waiting lists - must resign themselves to an early battle with the burdensome risks of anti-rejection drugs and complications that can follow: infections, cancers, kidney damage, and high blood sugar.
What's worse, a third of those patients get the worst available livers, organs sometimes rejected by surgeons for thousands of sicker patients across the country. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and three other centers head the list of hospitals doing such surgeries.