The American Dream
by Michael Snyder
The Russian military is in the midst of a sweeping modernization program, and it is currently developing some incredibly impressive offensive and defensive next-generation weapons that are designed to be used in a future war with the United States. The key to winning World War III will be to strike hard and to strike fast, and the Russians understand this. Meanwhile, the U.S. military has totally shifted gears from a “Cold War mindset” and is now completely focused on fighting smaller regional wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. As a result, U.S. strategic forces have suffered. There has been very little effort to modernize, and many of our nuclear missile silos are using technology that is ridiculously outdated. For example, CBS News has documented that eight inch floppy disks are still being used in many of our missile silos. And don’t expect things to change any time soon. At this point, the U.S. military plans to keep Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles that were originally deployed in the 1960s and 1970s in service until 2030.
What all of this means is that the Russians are feverishly preparing to fight World War III and we are not. The following are just a few of the next-generation weapons that Russia will use against the United States during the next great global war…
The Sarmat Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
Most Americans have heard of the infamous SS-18 “Satan” intercontinental ballistic missiles. But these are now being replaced by the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile…
The Sarmat (also known as Sarmatian) is a Russian liquid-fueled, MIRV-equipped, super-heavy thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile in development as of early 2015, intended to replace the previous SS-18 Satan and carry extensive counter-missile defense measures. Its large payload would allow for up to 10 heavy warheads or 15 lighter ones, and/or a combination of warheads and massive amounts of countermeasures designed to defeat the anti-missile systems. The Sarmat is expected to be ready for deployment around 2020, but other sources state that the program is being fast-tracked and it could comprise up to 80 percent of Russia’s land-based nuclear arsenal by 2021.
As you can see below, these missiles are extremely huge…
The Borey Class Nuclear Submarine
Of even greater concern than the Sarmat are the new Borey class nuclear submarines that Russia is building. The following is from an article about the launch of one of these new submarines, the Vladimir Monomakh, in 2013…
Russia recently launched its near silent nuclear submarine following several years of development.
The Borey Class submarine, dubbed Vladimir Monomakh, has a next generation nuclear reactor, can dive deeper than 1,200 feet, and carries up to 20 nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
Each of these “Bulava” ICBM’s can carry ten detachable MIRV warheads, what they call “re-entry vehicles,” capable of delivering 150 kiloton yields per warhead (luckily, tests of the warheads only yielded 11 “successes” out of almost 20 attempts). Which doesn’t mean they aren’t a concern, MIRV’s are what shook the Cold War to its foundation when they first appeared in the 1970s.
One of the primary things that has U.S. military planners worried is how quiet these subs are. In fact, according to an RT article these subs are supposed to be “almost silent”…
It belongs to a class of missile strategic submarine cruisers with a new generation of nuclear reactor, which allows the submarine to dive to a depth of 480 meters. It can spend up to three months in autonomous navigation and, thanks to the latest achievements in the reduction of noise, it is almost silent compared to previous generations of submarines.
So why is that a problem?
Well, imagine a scenario where Russian nuclear subs approach our coastlines completely undetected and launch a barrage of missiles toward our cities and military bases. We could be wiped out before we even knew what hit us.
If you don’t think that this could ever happen, just consider the following excerpt from a Fox News article published back in 2012…
A Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine armed with long-range cruise missiles operated undetected in the Gulf of Mexico for several weeks and its travel in strategic U.S. waters was only confirmed after it left the region, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.
It is only the second time since 2009 that a Russian attack submarine has patrolled so close to U.S. shores.
If we can’t detect them, how are we going to defend against them? Here is a look at one of them in the water…
The Bulava Submarine-Launched Nuclear Missile
The Borey class submarines are going to be carrying Bulava submarine-launched nuclear missiles. The Russians have had some difficulties with the development of these missiles, but most of those difficulties now appear to be ironed out. The following is a description of these missiles from globalsecurity.org…
The Bulava (SS-NX-30) is the submarine-launched version of Russia’s most advanced missile, the Topol-M (SS-27) solid fuel ICBM. The SS-NX-30 is a derivative of the SS-27, except for a slight decrease in range due to conversion of the design for submarine launch. The SS-27 has is 21.9 meters long, far too large to fit in a typical submarine. The largest previously deployed Russian SLBM was the R-39 / SS-N-20 STURGEON, which was 16 meters long. Russian sources report that the Bulava SS-N-30 ballistic missile can carry ten warheads to a range of 8,000km. Other sources suggest that the Bulava might have a range of 10,000 km, and is reportedly features a 550 kT yield nuclear warhead. Apparently up to six MIRVs can be placed at the cost of offloading warhead shielding and decoys.
The Bulava is specifically designed to avoid interception, and each warhead is independently maneuverable to help ensure that they reach their targets intact. The following was written by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Tom Spahn…
Similar to its land-based variant, the Topol-M SS-27, to thwart evolving Western ballistic-missile-defense shields, the Bulava can conduct evasive post-launch maneuvers and deploy a variety of countermeasures and decoys to defend against interception. Its ten hypersonic, independently maneuverable warheads are protected against both physical and electromagnetic-pulse damage to ensure that they can reach their targets intact.
The Barguzin Strategic Missile Train
When nuclear missiles are in a stationary location (such as a missile silo), they can be pretty easy to target. But if you put them on a mobile platform, you can gain quite a strategic edge.
With that in mind, the Russians have reintroduced the strategic missile train…
A Russian military source outlined the capabilities of Barguzin strategic missile train. The country may roll out five such disguised mobile launch platforms each carrying six RS-24 Yars missiles in five years.
A ‘nuclear train’ – properly called BZhRK, short for ‘combat railway missile complex’ in Russian – is a mobile platform for transporting and launching strategic nuclear missiles. Similarly to nuclear submarines, such trains are hard to wipe out in a preemptive strike because of their mobility and ability to be disguised as regular freight trains.
The Soviet Union had 12 such nuclear trains, each carrying three RT-23 Molodets (SS-24 Scalpel in NATO disambiguation) missiles, but they were released from combat duty after Russia and the US signed the START-2 treaty in 1993 and eventually decommissioned.
Last year the Russian military said that nuclear trains – which are no longer banned under the New START treaty – would be revived.
The S-500 Missile Defense System
Lastly, I want to discuss a very important weapons system that I recently mentioned in another article.
It is called the S-500 missile defense system, and it fundamentally changes the balance of power between the United States and Russia.
Once fully deployed, the S-500 will be able to intercept our intercontinental ballistic missiles. This means that the concept of “mutually assured destruction” does not necessarily apply any longer. If the Russians can take out most of our nukes with a devastating surprise first strike and intercept whatever we are able to launch back at them with the S-500, the cost/benefit analysis of a nuclear conflict completely changes.
The following information about the S-500 comes from military-today.com…
The S-500 is not an upgrade of the S-400, but a new design. It uses a lot of new technology and is superior to the S-400. It was designed to intercept ballistic missiles. It is planned to have a range of 500-600 km and hit targets at altitudes as high as 40 km. Some sources claim that this system is capable of tracking 5-20 ballistic targets and intercepting up to 5-10 ballistic targets simultaneously. It can defeat ballistic missiles traveling at 5-7 kilometers per second. It has been reported that this air defense system can also target low orbital satellites. It is planned that the S-500 will shield Moscow and the regions around it. It will replace the current A-135 anti-ballistic missile system. The S-500 missiles will be used only against the most important targets, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, AWACS and jamming aircraft.
Sadly, most Americans do not believe that there is even a remote possibility that we will ever fight a war with Russia.
As a result, most Americans will never see the point of articles like this one.
But over in Russia, anti-American sentiment is at an all-time high and many of their talking heads and intellectuals are now convinced that a shooting war with the United States is inevitable.
So what do you think?
Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…
The New American
by Alex Newman
After largely failing to prod state governments into developing a national identification system known as “REAL ID,” Republican lawmakers in Congress are once again pushing an Obama-backed scheme that would force every American to have a national ID card containing sensitive biometric data. The controversial plan, embedded in an immigration-enforcement bill, has been in the works for years, but has consistently been met with stiff opposition from liberty-minded grassroots organizations and activists. While the plan has failed in previous Congresses thanks to a groundswell of opposition, critics of the measure say that without prompt action, the unconstitutional scheme could soon become a reality.
The legislation, officially dubbed the “Legal Workforce Act” (H.R. 1147), is ostensibly aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining jobs in the United States. Among the most troubling elements highlighted by critics, though, is that the bill would purport to mandate a national ID card for every American as a condition of working. It would also force every employer in America to purchase and use so-called “E-Verify technology” to check with Washington, D.C., as to whether potential employees have government permission to work. Finally, it would create a massive federal database containing sensitive data on virtually every person in the country — a database that could easily be expanded to include even more information.
While establishment lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem fond of the measure, critics are sounding the alarm about the bill and its implications for liberty. In an e-mail to supporters urging them to help crush the unconstitutional legislation, for example, former Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), in his capacity as chairman of Campaign for Liberty, warned that the national ID scheme would be a nightmare. Among other concerns, the two-time GOP presidential contender noted that it would allow federal bureaucrats to include biometric information — potentially including fingerprints, retinal scans, and more — that could and likely would be eventually used as a tracking device. It would also make it illegal for anyone to work in the United States without obtaining the national ID.
“Every time any citizen applies for a job, the government would know — and you can bet its only a matter of time until ‘ID scans’ will be required to make even routine purchases, as well,” Dr. Paul warned, adding that “statists in both parties have been fighting to ram their radical national ID-database scheme into law” for years. “In fact, this scheme was a key portion of the infamous so-called ‘Comprehensive Immigration Reform’ bills both parties have tried to ram through.” Now, Paul said, the statists believe they have found a way to impose their national ID: Drop the amnesty provisions and focus on immigration “security.”
According to Dr. Paul, a constitutionalist who served in Congress for more than 20 years, the term “security” is being used as “nothing more than a buzzword meant to trick Americans from all over the country into thinking that Congress is finally going to seal our southern border.” In reality, though, it means something much different. “The ‘security’ members of both parties in the U.S. House want doesn’t target any U.S. border,” Paul added. “Instead, it’s meant to create an all-out police state within them.”
Paul also warned that the national database required for the ID regime could easily expand to include information on gun ownership, medical records, political affiliation, and “virtually anything else at the stroke of a President’s pen.” In fact, the stakes are so high, he said, that this type of battle is often decisive in “whether a country remains free or continues sliding toward tyranny.” Existing abuses such as lawless NSA spying, IRS harassment, and more offer further evidence that the feds cannot be trusted with such Orwellian tools to track, monitor, and ultimately control Americans.
Despite the dangers, the legislation has already been passed out of the House Judiciary Committee, getting a vote just three days after it was introduced — and the markup took place before the text of the bill was even available online. “The speed with which this bill was rushed through Committee means the House leadership is very serious about passing this bill into law as soon as possible,” warned Paul, urging Americans to fight back immediately to prevent the bill from passing. He also warned about potential “bipartisan compromises” that could be even worse than the original.
The legislation was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who has a dismal 54 percent in the Freedom Index, a tool provided by this magazine that scores lawmakers’ votes based on adherence to the U.S. Constitution they all swore to uphold. The controversial bill already has dozens of co-sponsors in the House, too. It is being publicly touted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who claimed it would bring the “nation’s employment eligibility system into the 21st century,” as well as chief sponsor Smith.
“The Legal Workforce Act turns off the jobs magnet that attracts so many illegal immigrants to the United States,” Rep. Smith said in a statement promoting the measure, ignoring the fact that amnesty and the porous borders have been crucial in encouraging illegal immigration. “The bill expands the E-Verify system and applies it to all U.S. employers. Equally important, the American people support E-Verify,” Smith argued, citing polls showing that Americans overwhelmingly support stronger laws to stop businesses from hiring illegal immigrants. “This bill is a common-sense approach that will reduce illegal immigration and save jobs for legal workers. It deserves the support of everyone who wants to put the interests of American workers first.”
The bill also has the support of several major lobbying powerhouses — including some, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that are infamous for their support of granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. Other organizations backing the bill include immigration enforcement-focused Numbers USA, the National Restaurant Association, the National Association of Homebuilders, and several others. However, in the past, similar national-ID schemes have met with major opposition from groups including Downsize DC, the Rutherford Institute, the American Policy Center, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, the Republican Liberty Caucus, the U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation, Conservative Republican Women, and many more.
In a letter to lawmakers about the same legislation in the 112th Congress (2011-2012), that broad coalition of organizations blasted the bill as an affront to freedom and the Constitution. Among other concerns, they said it “violates individual civil liberties such as the right to work and free speech; mandates a costly job-killing regulatory burden that cripples small business; requires employers to become enforcement agents of the federal government; and encourages identify theft of law-abiding citizens.” The bill should never have even left committee, according to opponents.
“It is anathema to limited government, the right to privacy, free enterprise and prosperity,” the coalition said in the letter to members of Congress. “It violates the philosophy of the Constitution and intent of the Framers by subordinating the liberty of citizens to the administrative convenience of government. And the Founding Fathers would have rebelled against such a staggering Federal intrusion into every workplace in the nation and our personal civil liberties.”
As The New American reported as far back as 2010, the same plot to impose a national ID on America has been pushed before by some of the leading Big Government-mongers in Congress. The “bipartisan” amnesty-national ID legislation pushed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and backed by Obama in 2010 eventually failed due to a massive uprising against legalizing illegal immigrants. Back then, though, promoters of the biometric national ID scheme were boasting about their machinations.
“Our plan has four pillars: requiring biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here,” wrote Graham and Schumer in a joint op-ed promoting their legislation. “We would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card.” At the time, Obama called the proposal “a promising, bipartisan framework which can and should be the basis for moving forward.”
With the amnesty provision now out of the more recent bill — Obama is using executive decrees funded by the GOP Congress in a bid to provide amnesty anyway — analysts say the national ID plot stands a much greater chance of coming to fruition. In addition to being unconstitutional by virtue of the fact that the Constitution grants no power over identification systems to the federal government, history shows that national ID schemes are dangerous and very often abused by authorities. Considering the U.S. government’s track record, Americans can be sure that, if the plot becomes law, the ID regime will be eventually be abused as well.
If solving the illegal immigration crisis is truly the goal, there is a much simpler solution. Rather than foisting an unconstitutional national ID scheme on Americans and building a massive database, Congress could stop funding Obama’s amnesty decrees and ensure that the borders are secure. For that to happen, though, Americans who value liberty and the Constitution must get involved.
This is Why You Need Your Money Out of the Bank: Freeze Outs, Glitches and Holds Increasingly Locking Customers Out of Funds
by Mac Slavo
The above image was captured from a real ATM machine not long ago, and could be seen anytime for any reason by anyone operating on the digital grid.
If ever you needed a better motivation to get your funds out of the bank, this is a clear sign that a digital clampdown is coming.
There are increasing examples of technology failures and stricter bank policies that are keep people from getting their money.
And they are happening all across the globe.
Ulster Bank in Ireland just made news after customers were locked out of their accounts by a glitch that disabled access to wage money:
Following a number of complaints from those expecting their weekly and monthly salaries to post, the bank apologised on Twitter for the glitch.
“We’re aware that a number of customers are experiencing delays in receiving credits this morning, our tech team are working on this at the moment,” the bank’s customer care account, @UlsterBank_Help tweeted.
Supposedly the problem is minor, short term and only happening at the one local branch. The bank has apologized for difficulties.
Unfortunately, the larger picture makes clear that this will happen again somewhere, and it could happen to many more people.
Even routine maintenance and website updates can be enough to block customers out of their accounts, often without even giving advanced notice; many credit unions, while offering a better choice, likely hold most of the same policies.
Consumer Affairs.com reported on many customers who’ve been shut out of their funds due to Suspicious Activities Reporting including cases where small business owners were considered potentially money launderers for conducting ordinary business by sending out checks to pay bills and employee salaries:
“I am a sole proprietor with a small business and have my income direct deposited into my checking account at 5/3. 3 days ago I went into the bank to get money orders and they treated me like I was robbing the bank. After about 40 minutes, they gave me the money orders and unknown to me had placed two half-a-million-dollar holds on my accounts with them. I was told it looked like money laundering and was treated like I had done something wrong,” she said. “They won’t give me my money and I can’t pay my employees nor my bills. They basically stole my money and I have to fight to get it back.”
South Africa just set new rules requiring banks to freeze the accounts of anyone who has the wrong address listed on their account.
If your bank statements are still being posted to an address that is no longer your residence, your bank account could be frozen, according to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), which has urged South Africans to update their personal details with their bank.
In terms of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA), banks must have the correct customer information to ensure FICA compliance. ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) documents include, among others, identity documents and proof of address.
Similar policies in the United States, many of them established under terrorism laws, already require banks to automate monitoring and reporting of any suspicious transactions, including any transfers above $3,000 dollars, large cash withdrawals, all currency exchange activities and dozens of other details about individual accounts.
The laws even give banks legal immunity from any harm or false imprisonment that may come from false reporting “suspicious” activities.
As SHTF reported a few days ago, banks have even been ordered to seize cash from customers and alert police over large cash activities:
The Justice Department has ordered bank tellers across America to contact law enforcement if they suspect your cash withdrawal may have something to do with illicit activity. There doesn’t need to be proof, or any sort of red flag indicator – merely suspicion by the bank teller processing your transaction is now enough to have you investigated by authorities.
Via The Sovereign Man Simon Black
What a lot of people don’t realize is that banks are already unpaid government spies.
Federal regulations in the Land of the Free REQUIRE banks to file ‘suspicious activity reports’ or SARs on their customers. And it’s not optional.
Banks have minimum quotas of SARs they need to fill out and submit to the federal government.
A new wave of tech disruptions may even occur, as American consumers step inside of an era of cybersecurity full of hacks, denials of service, account restrictions, password fails, lockouts and the integration of biometrics for authentication that ultimately connects billions of people through millions of nodes on a global Internet dominated by corporations and ultimately regulated by the highly political FCC.
What happens when individuals are locked out of their lives or unable to monitor their accounts due to changing rules and standards for things like verifications, password retrieval, insufficient funds and suspicious (or misunderstood) transactions that draw red flags.
Establishing the status quo of strict surveillance and control has played out under a narrative of white and black hackers battling it out under the new rules of the game for cybersecurity.
“The banks are not only doing this for compliance purposes, but also to minimise customers’ exposure to bank crimes such as fraud, identity theft and cybercrime,” Pillay insisted. (source)
Quite simply, banks are required to comply with any and all requests for information, and increasingly, you will be required to comply with the banks on these policies, including verified up-to-date information on all manner of personal information and transaction details.
How far will it go?
The Halifax bank in the UK is already running trials to wirelessly verify biometric readings of your heartbeat signature in order to authorize ATM and bank transactions:
Halifax is believed to be the first British bank to trial technology which will allow customers to prove their identity through the analysis of their heartbeat.
Bank customers of the future could wear slender bracelets which measure the intricate “cardiac rhythms” unique to every person.
As with today’s existing contactless card technology, the bracelet, called a “Nymi”, will communicate with a checkout till or cash machine to allow the customer to pay for goods or draw money.
Keeping your money in banks under these circumstances will make banking convenient only for the most compliant members of society.
On the other hand, pulling all your money out can already draw suspicions. You are most certainly being watched.
Hence, many people have already opted out of the banking system. As Daisy Luther reported, an estimated 43% of Americans don’t rely on their deposits any more:
This means that 43% of the people who are saving money are not putting it in the bank. This is good news for those of us who wish people would wake up and see the net being cast around them, but bad news for the banks that depend on deposit accounts to be able to give out loans and earn interest.
In an recent interview, alternative asset manager Eric Sprott explains why stashing fiat currency in a bank is a bad idea:
In my mind the biggest reason to own precious metals is because of the risks in the banking system… you get nothing for putting your money in the bank… and yet when you have your money in the bank you take on all the risks of a leveraged bank… and I’ve always thought it’s the risks in the banking system that would cause people to go to gold… (Source: SHTFplan)
Long term, there may be value and necessity in reorienting your efforts in the barter system, and not only being able to buy and trade goods and services in gold and silver, but in being able to sustain yourself by providing a useful skill or service.
Transitioning into that could be challenging, but is a worthwhile pursuit in your prepping readiness lifestyle, and a big part of being self-sufficient, as Tess Pennington’s Prepper’s Blueprint explains in chapter 53 on the importance of bartering and community for survival.
Don’t say it couldn’t happen, lest, we should wait for another MF Global to happen, and customers to take a loss on their stolen funds.
BY PATRICK TUCKER
The research agency is making underwater robots that can sleep for years and other robots that can fix satellites in space.
An artist’s rendering of the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access system.
To reduce the price of weapons and other gear by creating new solutions to old problems–or “rethink complex military systems,” as deputy director Steven Walker of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency puts it–is among DARPA’s focus areas for the next few years. This week, the agency highlighted potential solutions to this and other problems, describing a menagerie of magical technologies that are entering a new phase of research or development.
Some are listed in the agency’s biannual Breakthrough Technologies for National Security report, released this morning to coincide with DARPA director Arati Prabhakar’s testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. Others have been highlighted by DARPA officials who recently spoke around Washington. They include:
Zombie Pods Of the Deep
The Upward Falling Payloads program seeks to put robot pods on the ocean floor and then allowing them to lie in wait for years until, triggered by either an event or a command, they wake from their deathly sleep and rise to the surface to release their payloads. “Those payloads could hold things like UAVs [drones] that can go up and do ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], to electronic warfare components to UUVs [underwater drones] that can do similar things under the water,” Walker said.
He added that the aim was to create a “worldwide” architecture for such pods, allowing them to be used everywhere —and potentially even replacing submarines.
“Today, the U.S. Navy puts capability on the ocean floor using very capable but expensive submarine platforms. What we would like to do in this program is pre-position capability on the ocean floor and have it be available to be triggered in real-time when needed,” said Walker. He highlighted a wide array of technical challenges in making zombie-pod drones, such as getting them to float to the surface in the right way (a phenomenon that they call upward falling), power supplies and protecting the payloads on the ocean floor for years at a time.
“You put this thing down beneath 4 kilometers you see extremely high pressures that have to be withstood for potentially years. There’s other issues like befouling you have to think about dealing with and then the [communication] system that wakes these things up and tells them what to do.”
The program consists of three parts, DARPA program manager Dick Urban said at a National Defense Association event in Washington. “One is to make a canister that is able to hold different types of payloads.”
The program will enter its second phase this year. “We haven’t actually built anything, but we’ve done the design studies,” Urban said“We’ll be taking those different technologies, taking them into the water and testing and seeing how well they work.” He said, “If we’re successful in this program, we’ll be showing what’s possible here, but we’ll also be showing what’s possible in terms of a distributed architecture across the entire ocean.”
The Distributed Agile Submarine Hunting or DASH program seeks to develop what Walker called “sub-ulites.” Think of these as satellites for the ocean. “Because they’re deep, they have a detection envelope that’s pretty broad,” he said.
Meanwhile, Urban highlighted the Transformational Reliable Acoustic Path System or TRAPS program, a passive sonar that sits at the bottom of the sea at six kilometers, listening for acoustic signatures that could indicate passing submarines. When it detects one, it sends word to a surface node.
Satellites Launched From Planes and Satellite-Fixing Robots
In DARPA’s future, you don’t rely on today’s Global Positioning System to get around. The agency has been working for years to build alternative ways to tell people where they are without connecting them to a network of expensive satellites. But DARPA’s world is still one in which we go to space—in fact, a lot.
Director Prabhakar said,“A major focus on our space investments is a realization that we are extremely reliant on space,” She highlighted military intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities as well as space-based communication and its role on the battlefield. “We can’t fight the way that we’re trained to fight today without this space assets.”
She said some of the key questions that DARPA will be asking this year include: “How do we change what’s possible to do on orbit? How do we change space domain awareness so that we can understand in real-time so that we can see what’s happening and then control what we need to do on orbit?”
What does that mean specifically? In his own talk, Urban highlighted the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access program, or ALASA, program as key to that vision. ALASA seeks to send 100-pound satellites into orbit within 24 hours for less than a $1 million apiece. It aims to accomplishes this by shooting them into space from super-high flying jets.
“Where we are today is it takes years to schedule launch, billions to put anything of substance on orbit,” said Prabhakar, who also highlighted the costs of maintaining objects in space as a key challenge to maintaining U.S. space dominance.
“The satellites that we put up there, they’re supposed to last a long time and sometimes things happen to them. They fail; an asteroid goes through the solar sail. But if you can fix them you can potentially save a lot of money.”
That’s the aim of the Robotic Servicing of Geostationary Satellites, or RSGS, program. Picture a team of armed robots clinging to a piece of military spy equipment far above the earth, fixing and repairing the damage caused by space junk, debris, the harsh elements of space and simple mechanical age. “We have to have robotic arms that are very accurate. We have to have camera systems that can do inspection and find out what’s wrong” said Urban. You can read more about it here.
With its $2.9 billion budget, DARPA is hardly the biggest player in DOD or technology development. It faces technological competition not just from adversaries but non-state actors and the commercial sector. The days of being 30 years ahead of the rest of the world are long gone, something that DARPA representatives acknowledge frequently. “There are technologies arriving globally that are as good as anything we’re developing in this country,” said Urban. “The cost of our acquisition system is really holding us back.” The hope is to continue to secure some technological advantage, do so repeatedly, and at a cost that doesn’t drive the country bankrupt.
The Economic Collapse
by Michael Snyder
The average American spends more than 10 hours a day using an electronic device. And most of that activity is not even interactive. The vast majority of the time we are just passively absorbing content that someone else has created. This very much reminds me of the movie “the Matrix”, but with a twist. Instead of humans being forcefully connected to “the Matrix”, we are all willingly connecting ourselves to it. There is a giant system that defines our reality for us, and the length of time that the average American spends connected to it just continues to keep growing. In fact, there are millions upon millions of us that simply do not “feel right” unless there is at least something on in the background. Just think about it. How much time do you spend each day with all electronic devices completely turned off? Thanks to technology, we live at a time when more news, information and entertainment is at our fingertips than ever before, and we are consuming more of it than ever before. But this also gives a tremendous amount of power to those that create all of this news, information and entertainment. As I have written about previously, more than 90 percent of the “programming” that we absorb is created by just 6 enormously powerful media corporations. Our conversations, attitudes, opinions and belief systems are constantly being shaped by those entities. Unfortunately, most of us are content to just sit back and let it happen.
The following numbers regarding the media consumption habits of average Americans come directly from Nielsen’s most recent “Total Audience Report“. The amount of time per day that Americans spend using these devices is absolutely staggering…
Watching live television: 4 hours, 32 minutes
Watching time-shifted television: 30 minutes
Listening to the radio: 2 hours, 44 minutes
Using a smartphone: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Using Internet on a computer: 1 hour, 6 minutes
When you add it all up, the average American spends more than 10 hours a day plugged into the Matrix.
You have heard the old saying “you are what you eat”, right?
Well, the same applies to what we put into our brains.
When you put garbage in, you are going to get garbage out.
In my recent article entitled “It’s Official: Americans R Stupid“, I discussed how the U.S. population is being systematically “dumbed down” and how we are now one of the least intelligent industrialized nations on the entire planet.
A big contributor to our intellectual and social demise is the Matrix that has been constructed all around us.
Virtually every television show, movie, song, book, news broadcast and talk show is trying to shape how you view reality. Whether you realize it or not, you are constantly being bombarded with messages about what is true and what is not, about what is right and what is wrong, and about what really matters and what is unimportant. Even leaving something out or ignoring something completely can send an extremely powerful message.
In this day and age, it is absolutely imperative that we all learn to think for ourselves. But instead, most people seem more than content to let the Matrix do their thinking for them. If you listen carefully, you will notice that most of our conversations with one another are based on programming from the Matrix. We all love to talk about the movie that we just saw, or what happened on the latest reality show, or what some famous celebrity is doing, or what we saw on the news that morning. The things that matter to us in life are the things that the Matrix tells us should matter.
And if someone comes along with information that contradicts the Matrix, that can cause anger and confusion.
I can’t tell you how many times someone has said something like the following to me…
“If that was true I would have seen it on the news.”
To many people, the Matrix is the ultimate arbiter of truth in our society, and so anything that contradicts the Matrix cannot possibly be accurate.
Fortunately, more people than ever are waking up enough to realize that they have a choice.
It is kind of like that moment in the Matrix when Neo is being offered the red pill and the blue pill.
Admittedly, a lot of people that do begin to wake up choose to take the blue pill and go back to sleep.
But there are so many others that are grabbing the red pill. That is why we have seen such an explosion in the popularity of the alternative media in recent years. Millions of people all over the planet now understand that they are not getting the truth from the Matrix and they are hungry for real information.
Yes, the Internet is being used for unspeakable evil, but it can also be used for great good. The Internet has allowed ordinary people like you and I to communicate on a mass scale like never before in history. The Internet has allowed us to reclaim at least some of the power that we have lost to the Matrix. I don’t know how long this period of history will last, so we should make full use out of this great tool while we still have it.
On my own website, I have felt called to mainly focus on economics in recent years. And I will continue to chronicle economic conditions as we descend into the greatest economic crisis in U.S. history. What is coming is going to be worse than 2008, it is going to be worse than the Great Depression, and it is ultimately going to be worse than most Americans would ever dare to imagine.
But I also want to take my readers on a journey down the rabbit hole.
Our world is about to get really, really strange, and I would like to be a light in the chaos.
Yes, I believe that great darkness is coming. But I also believe that a great awakening is coming.
Personally, I believe that it is a great privilege to be alive at this time in human history.
It is a time of great evil, but it is also a time of great opportunity.
It is a time when everything that can be shaken will be shaken, but it will also be a time when those that stand for what is right will shine like the stars.
So what do you think about all of this? Please feel free to add your two cents by posting a comment below…
Mint Press News
By Tom Engelhardt
James Cartmill holds an American flag while protesting in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, after the announcement that a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.
Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.
And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.
Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of “we the people.”
Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway, and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.
1. 1% Elections
David Koch, Executive Vice President of Koch Industries, Inc., the Koch brothers network has already promised to drop almost $1 billion into the coming campaign season, doubling their efforts in the last presidential election year.
Check out the news about the 2016 presidential election and you’ll quickly feel a sense of been-there, done-that. As a start, the two names most associated with it, Bush and Clinton, couldn’t be more familiar, highlighting as they do the curiously dynastic quality of recent presidential contests. (If a Bush or Clinton should win in 2016 and again in 2020, a member of one of those families will have controlled the presidency for 28 of the last 36 years.)
Take, for instance, “Why 2016 Is Likely to Become a Close Race,” a recent piece Nate Cohn wrote for my hometown paper. A noted election statistician, Cohn points out that, despite Hillary Clinton’s historically staggering lead in Democratic primary polls (and lack of serious challengers), she could lose the general election. He bases this on what we know about her polling popularity from the Monica Lewinsky moment of the 1990s to the present. Cohn assures readers that Hillary will not “be a Democratic Eisenhower, a popular, senior statesperson who cruises to an easy victory.” It’s the sort of comparison that offers a certain implicit reassurance about the near future. (No, Virginia, we haven’t left the world of politics in which former general and president Dwight D. Eisenhower can still be a touchstone.)
Cohn may be right when it comes to Hillary’s electability, but this is not Dwight D. Eisenhower’s or even Al Gore’s America. If you want a measure of that, consider this year’s primaries. I mean, of course, the 2015 ones. Once upon a time, the campaign season started with candidates flocking to Iowa and New Hampshire early in the election year to establish their bona fides among party voters. These days, however, those are already late primaries.
The early primaries, the ones that count, take place among a small group of millionaires and billionaires, a new caste flush with cash who will personally, or through complex networks of funders, pour multi-millions of dollars into the campaigns of candidates of their choice. So the early primaries — this year mainly a Republican affair — are taking place in resort spots like Las Vegas, Rancho Mirage, California, and Sea Island, Georgia, as has been widely reported. These “contests” involve groveling politicians appearing at the beck and call of the rich and powerful, and so reflect our new 1% electoral system. (The main pro-Hillary super PAC, for instance, is aiming for a kitty of $500 million heading into 2016, while the Koch brothers network has already promised to drop almost $1 billion into the coming campaign season, doubling their efforts in the last presidential election year.)
Ever since the Supreme Court opened up the ultimate floodgates with its 2010 Citizens United decision, each subsequent election has seen record-breaking amounts of money donated and spent. The 2012 presidential campaign was the first $2 billion election; campaign 2016 is expected to hit the $5 billion mark without breaking a sweat. By comparison, according to Burton Abrams and Russell Settle in their study, “The Effect of Broadcasting on Political Campaign Spending,” Republicans and Democrats spent just under $13 million combined in 1956 when Eisenhower won his second term.
In the meantime, it’s still true that the 2016 primaries will involve actual voters, as will the election that follows. The previous election season, the midterms of 2014, cost almost $4 billion, a record despite the number of small donors continuing to drop. It also represented the lowest midterm voter turnout since World War II. (See: demobilization of the public, below — and add in the demobilization of the Democrats as a real party, the breaking of organized labor, the fragmenting of the Republican Party, and the return of voter suppression laws visibly meant to limit the franchise.) It hardly matters just what the flood of new money does in such elections, when you can feel the weight of inequality bearing down on the whole process in a way that is pushing us somewhere new.
2. The Privatization of the State (or the U.S. as a Prospective Third-World Nation)
Although this Oct. 18, 2011 photo of then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton became famous for online memes aiming to demonstrate her no-BS leadership style, yet another potential scandal, this time in her State Department, might have her less-than-nonchalent about seeing messages in her inbox. Photo credit: AP.
In the recent coverage of the Hillary Clinton email flap, you can find endless references to the Clintons of yore in wink-wink, you-know-how-they-are-style reporting; and yes, she did delete a lot of emails; and yes, it’s an election year coming and, as everyone points out, the Republicans are going to do their best to keep the email issue alive until hell freezes over, etc., etc. Again, the coverage, while eyeball gluing, is in a you’ve-seen-it-all-before, you’ll-see-it-all-again-mode.
However, you haven’t seen it all before. The most striking aspect of this little brouhaha lies in what’s most obvious but least highlighted. An American secretary of state chose to set up her own private, safeguarded email system for doing government work; that is, she chose to privatize her communications. If this were Cairo, it might not warrant a second thought. But it didn’t happen in some third-world state. It was the act of a key official of the planet’s reigning (or thrashing) superpower, which — even if it wasn’t the first time such a thing had ever occurred — should be taken as a tiny symptom of something that couldn’t be larger or, in the long stretch of history, newer: the ongoing privatization of the American state, or at least the national security part of it.
Though the marriage of the state and the corporation has a pre-history, the full-scale arrival of the warrior corporation only occurred after 9/11. Someday, that will undoubtedly be seen as a seminal moment in the formation of whatever may be coming in this country. Only 13 years later, there is no part of the war state that has not experienced major forms of privatization. The U.S. military could no longer go to war without its crony corporations doing KP and guard duty, delivering the mail, building the bases, and being involved in just about all of its activities, including training the militaries of foreign allies and even fighting. Such warrior corporations are now involved in every aspect of the national security state, including torture, drone strikes, and — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of contract employees like Edward Snowden — intelligence gathering and spying. You name it and, in these years, it’s been at least partly privatized.
All you have to do is read reporter James Risen’s recent book, Pay Any Price, on how the global war on terror was fought in Washington, and you know that privatization has brought something else with it: corruption, scams, and the gaming of the system for profits of a sort that might normally be associated with a typical third-world kleptocracy. And all of this, a new world being born, was reflected in a tiny way in Hillary Clinton’s very personal decision about her emails.
Though it’s a subject I know so much less about, this kind of privatization (and the corruption that goes with it) is undoubtedly underway in the non-war-making, non-security-projecting part of the American state as well.
3. The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves after speaking before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 3, 2015.
On a third front, American “confidence” in the three classic check-and-balance branches of government, as measured by polling outfits, continues to fall. In 2014, Americans expressing a “great deal of confidence” in the Supreme Court hit a new low of 23%; in the presidency, it was 11%, and in Congress a bottom-scraping 5%. (The military, on the other hand, registers at 50%.) The figures for “hardly any confidence at all” are respectively 20%, 44%, and more than 50%. All are in or near record-breaking territory for the last four decades.
It seems fair to say that in recent years Congress has been engaged in a process of delegitimizing itself. Where that body once had the genuine power to declare war, for example, it is now “debating” in a desultory fashion an “authorization” for a war against the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq, and possibly elsewhere that has already been underway for eight months and whose course, it seems, will be essentially unaltered, whether Congress authorizes it or not.
What would President Harry Truman, who once famously ran a presidential campaign against a “do-nothing” Congress, have to say about a body that truly can do just about nothing? Or rather, to give the Republican war hawks in that new Congress their due, not quite nothing. They are proving capable of acting effectively to delegitimize the presidency as well. House Majority Leader John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to undercut the president’s Iranian nuclear negotiations and the letter signed by 47 Republican senators and directed to the Iranian ayatollahs are striking examples of this. They are visibly meant to tear down an “imperial presidency” that Republicans gloried in not so long ago.
The radical nature of that letter, not as an act of state but of its de-legitimization, was noted even in Iran, where fundamentalist Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei proclaimed it “a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.” Here, however, the letter is either being covered as a singularly extreme one-off act (“treason!”) or, as Jon Stewart did on “The Daily Show,” as part of a repetitive tit-for-tat between Democrats and Republicans over who controls foreign policy. It is, in fact, neither. It represents part of a growing pattern in which Congress becomes an ever less effective body, except in its willingness to take on and potentially take out the presidency.
In the twenty-first century, all that “small government” Republicans and “big government” Democrats can agree on is offering essentially unconditional support to the military and the national security state. The Republican Party — its various factions increasingly at each other’s throats almost as often as at those of the Democrats — seems reasonably united solely on issues of war-making and security. As for the Democrats, an unpopular administration, facing constant attack by those who loath President Obama, has kept its footing in part by allying with and fusing with the national security state. A president who came into office rejecting torture and promoting sunshine and transparency in government has, in the course of six-plus years, come to identify himself almost totally with the U.S. military, the CIA, the NSA, and the like. While it has launched an unprecedented campaign against whistleblowers and leakers (as well as sunshine and transparency), the Obama White House has proved a powerful enabler of, but also remarkably dependent upon, that state-within-a-state, a strange fate for “the imperial presidency.”
4. The Rise of the National Security State as the Fourth Branch of Government
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, right, and CIA Director John Brennan, left, sit in the front row before President Barack Obama spoke about National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, at the Justice Department in Washington.
One “branch” of government is, however, visibly on the rise and rapidly gaining independence from just about any kind of oversight. Its ability to enact its wishes with almost no opposition in Washington is a striking feature of our moment. But while the symptoms of this process are regularly reported, the overall phenomenon — the creation of a de facto fourth branch of government — gets remarkably little attention. In the war on terror era, the national security state has come into its own. Its growth has been phenomenal. Though it’s seldom pointed out, it should be considered remarkable that in this period we gained a second full-scale “defense department,” the Department of Homeland Security, and that it and the Pentagon have become even more entrenched, each surrounded by its own growing “complex” of private corporations, lobbyists, and allied politicians. The militarization of the country has, in these years, proceeded apace.
Meanwhile, the duplication to be found in the U.S. Intelligence Community with its 17 major agencies and outfits is staggering. Its growing ability to surveil and spy on a global scale, including on its own citizens, puts the totalitarian states of the twentieth century to shame. That the various parts of the national security state can act in just about any fashion without fear of accountability in a court of law is by now too obvious to belabor. As wealth has traveled upwards in American society in ways not seen since the first Gilded Age, so taxpayer dollars have migrated into the national security state in an almost plutocratic fashion.
New reports regularly surface about the further activities of parts of that state. In recent weeks, for instance, we learned from Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley of the Intercept that the CIA has spent years trying to break the encryption on Apple iPhones and iPads; it has, that is, been aggressively seeking to attack an all-American corporation (even if significant parts of its production process are actually in China). Meanwhile, Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal reported that the CIA, an agency barred from domestic spying operations of any sort, has been helping the U.S. Marshals Service (part of the Justice Department) create an airborne digital dragnet on American cell phones. Planes flying out of five U.S. cities carry a form of technology that “mimics a cellphone tower.” This technology, developed and tested in distant American war zones and now brought to “the homeland,” is just part of the ongoing militarization of the country from its borders to its police forces. And there’s hardly been a week since Edward Snowden first released crucial NSA documents in June 2013 when such “advances” haven’t been in the news.
News also regularly bubbles up about the further expansion, reorganization, and upgrading of parts of the intelligence world, the sorts of reports that have become the barely noticed background hum of our lives. Recently, for instance, Director John Brennan announced a major reorganization of the CIA meant to break down the classic separation between spies and analysts at the Agency, while creating a new Directorate of Digital Innovation responsible for, among other things, cyberwarfare and cyberespionage. At about the same time, according to the New York Times, the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, an obscure State Department agency, was given a new and expansive role in coordinating “all the existing attempts at countermessaging [against online propaganda by terror outfits like the Islamic State] by much larger federal departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies.”
This sort of thing is par for the course in an era in which the national security state has only grown stronger, endlessly elaborating, duplicating, and overlapping the various parts of its increasingly labyrinthine structure. And keep in mind that, in a structure that has fought hard to keep what it’s doing cloaked in secrecy, there is so much more that we don’t know. Still, we should know enough to realize that this ongoing process reflects something new in our American world (even if no one cares to notice).
5. The Demobilization of the American People
Protestors confront police during an impromptu rally, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 to protest the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Police said Brown, who was unarmed, was fatally shot Saturday in a scuffle with an officer. Photo credit: AP.
In The Age of Acquiescence, a new book about America’s two Gilded Ages, Steve Fraser asks why it was that, in the nineteenth century, another period of plutocratic excesses, concentration of wealth and inequality, buying of politicians, and attempts to demobilize the public, Americans took to the streets with such determination and in remarkable numbers over long periods of time to protest their treatment, and stayed there even when the brute power of the state was called out against them. In our own moment, Fraser wonders, why has the silence of the public in the face of similar developments been so striking?
After all, a grim new American system is arising before our eyes. Everything we once learned in the civics textbooks of our childhoods about how our government works now seems askew, while the growth of poverty, the flatlining of wages, the rise of the .01%, the collapse of labor, and the militarization of society are all evident.
The process of demobilizing the public certainly began with the military. It was initially a response to the disruptive and rebellious draftees of the Vietnam-era. In 1973, at the stroke of a presidential pen, the citizen’s army was declared no more, the raising of new recruits was turned over to advertising agencies (a preview of the privatization of the state to come), and the public was sent home, never again to meddle in military affairs. Since 2001, that form of demobilization has been etched in stone and transformed into a way of life in the name of the “safety” and “security” of the public.
Since then, “we the people” have made ourselves felt in only three disparate ways: from the left in the Occupy movement, which, with its slogans about the 1% and the 99%, put the issue of growing economic inequality on the map of American consciousness; from the right, in the Tea Party movement, a complex expression of discontent backed and at least partially funded by right-wing operatives and billionaires, and aimed at the de-legitimization of the “nanny state”; and the recent round of post-Ferguson protests spurred at least in part by the militarization of the police in black and brown communities around the country.
The Birth of a New System
Otherwise, a moment of increasing extremity has also been a moment of — to use Fraser’s word — “acquiescence.” Someday, we’ll assumedly understand far better how this all came to be. In the meantime, let me be as clear as I can be about something that seems murky indeed: this period doesn’t represent a version, no matter how perverse or extreme, of politics as usual; nor is the 2016 campaign an election as usual; nor are we experiencing Washington as usual. Put together our 1% elections, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the U.S. military, and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism), and you have something like a new ballgame.
While significant planning has been involved in all of this, there may be no ruling pattern or design. Much of it may be happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion. In response, there has been no urge to officially declare that something new is afoot, let alone convene a new constitutional convention. Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state.
Out of the chaos of this prolonged moment and inside the shell of the old system, a new culture, a new kind of politics, a new kind of governance is being born right before our eyes. Call it what you want. But call it something. Stop pretending it’s not happening.
Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books).
by LORENZO FRANCESCHI-BICCHIERAI
The facial recognition pilot program launched last week by US Customs and Border Protection, which civil liberties advocates say could lead to new potentially privacy-invading programs, is just the first of three biometric experiments that the feds are getting ready to launch.
The three experiments involve new controversial technologies like iris and face scanner kiosks, which CBP plans to deploy at the Mexican border, and facial recognition software, according to a leaked document obtained by Motherboard.
All three pilots are part of a broader Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program to modernize screenings at American entry and exit ports, including at the highly politicized Mexican border, with the aid of new biometric technologies. The program is known as Apex Air Entry and Exit Re-Engineering (AEER) Project, according to the leaked slides.
These pilot programs have the goal of “identifying and implementing” biometric technologies that can be used at American borders to improve the immigration system as well as US national security, according to the slides.
“The public should take notice. These programs may be coming to a theater near you.”
The facial recognition pilot is up and running at Washington Dulles International airport, as first reported as operational by Motherboard, while the other two programs appear to have not been deployed yet. Unlike the facial recognition one, the other two appear to only target foreigners.
The CBP did not respond to Motherboard’s questions regarding these programs. The slides were leaked to Motherboard by Arjun Sethi, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) legislative counsel, who attended a presentation held on March 10 at the CBP headquarters.
The second pilot is called Biometric Exit (BE) Mobile Experiment and has the goal of helping CBP “confirm with certainty that a foreigner traveler has departed the United States.”
As part of this experiment, the slides say that the CBP officers at the Atlanta Hartsfield International airport will use a “handheld device” to record the exit of a foreign national from the US and create a match with the person’s entry records, in order to figure out whether a foreigner has stayed in the US more than he or she was allowed to.
It’s unclear what the device actually does, but according to another person who attended the presentation at the CBP, the device is probably a fingerprint reader.
The third pilot is called Pedestrian Biometric Experiment and it will be deployed at the Otay Mesa border between the United States and Mexico, according to the slides.
This experiment has the goal of testing “the viability of facial and iris image capture” in a land border such as the one in Otay Mesa, and create “an additional layer of security” at the US southern border to “combat national security and public safety threats.”
The CBP will install devices capable of scanning a traveler’s face and iris, replacing existing entry kiosks, the agency explains in the slides. Other gizmos to be deployed include RFID document readers, iris biometric scanners, and facial biometric cameras, according to a sketch of the border station included in the slides.
While both these two programs, as well as the facial recognition one, are just experiments at the moment, privacy advocates warn that there’s a risk of mission creep, and that technologies like those used for these experiments could soon be deployed more widely. Moreover, given the ever-increasing political pressure to secure the border with Mexico, the third program has good chances to be fully implemented.
“The public should take notice,” Sethi, of the ACLU, told Motherboard. “These programs may be coming to a theater near you.”
The Rutherford Institute
By John W. Whitehead
“The game is rigged, the network is bugged, the government talks double-speak, the courts are complicit and there’s nothing you can do about it.”—David Kravets, reporting for Wired
Nothing you write, say, text, tweet or share via phone or computer is private anymore. As constitutional law professor Garrett Epps points out, “Big Brother is watching…. Big Brother may be watching you right now, and you may never know. Since 9/11, our national life has changed forever. Surveillance is the new normal.”
This is the reality of the internet-dependent, plugged-in life of most Americans today.
A process which started shortly after 9/11 with programs such as Total Information Awareness (the predecessor to the government’s present surveillance programs) has grown into a full-fledged campaign of warrantless surveillance, electronic tracking and data mining, thanks to federal agents who have been given carte blanche access to the vast majority of electronic communications in America. Their methods completely undermine constitution safeguards, and yet no federal agency, president, court or legislature has stepped up to halt this assault on our rights.
For the most part, surveillance, data mining, etc., is a technological, jargon-laden swamp through which the average American would prefer not to wander. Consequently, most Americans remain relatively oblivious to the government’s ever-expanding surveillance powers, appear unconcerned about the fact that the government is spying on them, and seem untroubled that there is no way of opting out of this system. This state of delirium lasts only until those same individuals find themselves arrested or detained for something they did, said or bought that runs afoul of the government’s lowering threshold for what constitutes criminal activity.
All the while, Congress, the courts, and the president (starting with George W. Bush and expanding exponentially under Barack Obama) continue to erect an electronic concentration camp the likes of which have never been seen before.
A good case in point is the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), formerly known as CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act). Sold to the public as necessary for protecting us against cyber attacks or internet threats such as hacking, this Orwellian exercise in tyranny-masquerading-as-security actually makes it easier for the government to spy on Americans, while officially turning Big Business into a government snitch.
Be warned: this cybersecurity bill is little more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing or, as longtime critic Senator Ron Wyden labeled it, “a surveillance bill by another name.”
Lacking any significant privacy protections, CISA, which sacrifices privacy without improving security, will do for surveillance what the Patriot Act did for the government’s police powers: it will expand, authorize and normalize the government’s intrusions into the most intimate aspects of our lives to such an extent that there will be no turning back. In other words, it will ensure that the Fourth Amendment, which protects us against unfounded, warrantless government surveillance, does not apply to the Internet or digital/electronic communications of any kind.
In a nutshell, CISA would make it legal for the government to spy on the citizenry without their knowledge and without a warrant under the guise of fighting cyberterrorism. It would also protect private companies from being sued for sharing your information with the government, namely the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in order to prevent “terrorism” or an “imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm.”
Law enforcement agencies would also be given broad authority to sift through one’s data for any possible crimes. What this means is that you don’t even have to be suspected of a crime to be under surveillance. The bar is set so low as to allow government officials to embark on a fishing expedition into your personal affairs—emails, phone calls, text messages, purchases, banking transactions, etc.—based only on their need to find and fight “crime.”
Take this anything-goes attitude towards government surveillance, combine it with Big Business’ complicity over the government’s blatantly illegal acts, the ongoing trend towards overcriminalization, in which minor acts are treated as major crimes, and the rise of private prisons, which have created a profit motive for jailing Americans, and you have all the makings of a fascist police state.
So who can we count on to protect us from the threat of government surveillance?
It won’t be the courts. Not in an age of secret courts, secret court rulings, and an overall deference by the courts to anything the government claims is necessary to its fight against terrorism. Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case challenging the government’s massive electronic wiretapping program. As Court reporter Lyle Denniston notes:
Daoud v. United States was the first case, in the nearly four-decade history of electronic spying by the U.S. government to gather foreign intelligence, in which a federal judge had ordered the government to turn over secret papers about how it had obtained evidence through wiretaps of telephones and Internet links. That order, however, was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, whose ruling was the one the Justices on Monday declined to review…. One of the unusual features of the government’s global electronic spying program is that the individuals whose conversations or e-mails have been monitored almost never hear about it, because the program is so shrouded in secrecy — except when the news media manages to find out some details. But, if the government plans to use evidence it gathered under that program against a defendant in a criminal trial, it must notify the defendant that he or she has been monitored.
It won’t be Congress, either (CISA is their handiwork, remember), which has failed to do anything to protect the citizenry from an overbearing police state, all the while enabling the government to continue its power grabs. It was Congress that started us down this whole Big Brother road with its passage and subsequent renewals of the USA Patriot Act, which drove a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights. The Patriot Act rendered First Amendment activists potential terrorists; justified broader domestic surveillance; authorized black bag “sneak-and-peak” searches of homes and offices by government agents; granted the FBI the right to come to your place of employment, demand your personal records and question your supervisors and fellow employees, all without notifying you; allowed the government access to your medical records, school records and practically every personal record about you; allowed the government to secretly demand to see records of books or magazines you’ve checked out in any public library and Internet sites you’ve visited.
The Patriot Act also gave the government the green light to monitor religious and political institutions with no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they told anyone that the government had subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation; monitor conversations between attorneys and clients; search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without showing probable cause; and jail Americans indefinitely without a trial, among other things.
And it certainly won’t be the president. Indeed, President Obama recently issued an executive order calling on private companies (phone companies, banks, Internet providers, you name it) to share their customer data (your personal data) with each other and, most importantly, the government. Here’s the problem, however: while Obama calls for vague protections for privacy and civil liberties without providing any specific recommendations, he appoints the DHS to oversee the information sharing and develop guidelines with the attorney general for how the government will collect and share the data.
Talk about putting the wolf in charge of the hen house.
Mind you, this is the same agency, rightly dubbed a “wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast,” that is responsible for militarizing the police, weaponizing SWAT teams, spying on activists, stockpiling ammunition, distributing license plate readers to state police, carrying out military drills in American cities, establishing widespread surveillance networks through the use of fusion centers, funding city-wide surveillance systems, accelerating the domestic use of drones, and generally establishing itself as the nation’s standing army, i.e., a national police force.
This brings me back to the knotty problem of how to protect Americans from cyber attacks without further eroding our privacy rights.
Dependent as we are on computer technology for almost all aspects of our lives, it’s feasible that a cyberattack on American computer networks really could cripple both the nation’s infrastructure and its economy. So do we allow the government liberal powers to control and spy on all electronic communications flowing through the United States? Can we trust the government not to abuse its privileges and respect our privacy rights? Does it even matter, given that we have no real say in the matter?
As I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, essentially, there are three camps of thought on the question of how much power the government should have, and which camp you fall into says a lot about your view of government—or, at least, your view of whichever administration happens to be in power at the time, for the time being, the one calling the shots being the Obama administration.
In the first camp are those who trust the government to do the right thing—or, at least, they trust the Obama administration to look out for their best interests. To this group, CISA is simply a desperately needed blueprint for safeguarding us against a possible cyberattack, with a partnership between the government and Big Business serving as the most logical means of thwarting such an attack. Any suggestion that the government and its corporate cohorts might abuse this power is dismissed as conspiratorial hysterics. The problem, as technology reporter Adam Clark Estes points out, is that CISA is a “privacy nightmare” that “stomps all over civil liberties” without making “the country any safer against cyberattacks.”
In the second camp are those who not only don’t trust the government but think the government is out to get them. Sadly, they’ve got good reason to distrust the government, especially when it comes to abusing its powers and violating our rights. For example, consider that government surveillance of innocent Americans has exploded over the past decade. In fact, Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin has concluded that, as a result of its spying and data collection, the U.S. government has more data on American citizens than the Stasi secret police had on East Germans. To those in this second group, CISA is nothing less than the writing on the wall that surveillance is here to stay, meaning that the government will continue to monitor, regulate and control all means of communications.
Then there’s the third camp, which neither sees government as an angel or a devil, but merely as an entity that needs to be controlled, or as Thomas Jefferson phrased it, bound “down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution.” A distrust of all who hold governmental power was rife among those who drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. James Madison, the nation’s fourth president and the author of the Bill of Rights, was particularly vocal in warning against government. He once observed, “All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.”
To those in the third camp, the only way to ensure balance in government is by holding government officials accountable to abiding by the rule of law. Unfortunately, with all branches of the government, including the courts, stridently working to maintain its acquired powers, and the private sector marching in lockstep, there seems to be little to protect the American people from the fast-growing electronic surveillance state.
In the meantime, surveillance has become the new normal, and the effects of this endless surveillance are taking a toll, resulting in a more anxious and submissive citizenry. As Fourth Amendment activist Alex Marthews points out,
Mass surveillance is becoming a punchline. Making it humorous makes mass surveillance seem easy and friendly and a normal part of life…we make uneasy jokes about how we should watch what we say, about the government looking over our shoulders, about cameras and informers and eyes in the sky. Even though we may not in practice think that these agencies pay us any mind, mass surveillance still creates a chilling effect: We limit what we search for online and inhibit expression of controversial viewpoints. This more submissive mentality isn’t a side effect. As far as anyone is able to measure, it’s the main effect of mass surveillance. The effect of such programs is not primarily to thwart attacks by foreign terrorists on U.S. soil; it’s to discourage challenges to the security services’ authority over our lives here at home.
by Chris Carrington
News reports today indicate that Venezuela is starting to install fingerprint scanners in supermarkets as a way of preventing ‘food hoarding’. Venezuela is experiencing widespread shortages of most foodstuffs including the most basic such as bread, flour and grains as well as an acute shortage of medicines.
Unable to buy imported food due to a plummeting currency and falling oil prices resulting in a lack of revenue Venezuelans are becoming increasingly desperate.
President Maduro has accused Colombian food smugglers of buying up massive amounts of staples to sell back to people at vastly marked up prices.
The scanners that are being installed in stores are to prevent people buying more than their allotted quota as the implementation of rationing begins.
In a statement President Maduro said:
“We will establish 20,000 fingerprint readers throughout the socialist system to guarantee the people their food. And also (there) has been a meeting today with the seven major private channels and all voluntarily join the establishment of the secure supply system,” said the president in an announcement translated from Spanish on his website. (source)
An Executive order from Barack Obama this week saw further sanctions applied to some Venezuelan citizens including freezing their assets in the United States and the prevention of the United States businesses trading with them. The reasoning behind the sanctions, according to Obama is the “unusual and extraordinary threat” that Venezuela poses to the security and foreign policy of the United States.
The White House stated:
“This new authority is aimed at persons involved in or responsible for the erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to anti-government protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of anti-government protesters, as well as the significant public corruption by senior government officials in Venezuela.” (source)
The citizens of the United States need to watch how this plays out. As Henry Kissinger famously said:
“Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.”
by ALEX JONES & KIT DANIELS
FCC cherry picking existing laws for cable, radio & broadband to regulate Internet
Image Credits: C-Span (Public Domain)
The FCC is combining several separate sections of telecommunications law developed for radio, cable TV and broadband access for a regulatory takeover of the Internet and is enforcing it with the same rules and methods as the Justice Department, according to its 400-page report released Thursday.
The agency is going to regulate the Internet like broadcast radio and television through a patchwork of telecommunications laws which were developed not only separately of each other but also in different decades.
“We ground the open Internet rules we adopt today in multiple sources of legal authority – Section 706, Title II and Title III of the Communications Act [of 1934],” page 120 of the 400-page FCC report states.
But what are these statues? Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Section 706, Broadband Internet Regulation and Access, of the Telecommunications Act of 1996
- Title II, Common Carrier Regulations of the Communications Act of 1934
- Title III, Broadcast Station Requirements of the Communications Act of 1934
We already knew the FCC was reclassifying Internet Service Providers as “common carriers” under Title II regulations developed in 1934, but the agency is also invoking the regulatory frameworks created for broadcast radio and television stations under Title III and for “Internet broadband services” under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
The FCC is claiming jurisdiction over the Internet by cherry picking existing regulations and combining them into new authority.
Section 706 in particular grants the FCC and its state commissions “with regulatory jurisdiction over telecommunications services” under the guise of improving “advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans.”
This section allows the FCC to utilize “price cap regulations” and “measures that promote competition in the local telecommunications market,” i.e. de facto favoritism toward select interest groups.
In other words, the government, not the free market, makes the decisions over broadband access.
But what does the FCC plan on doing with these regulations? Well, many current and former members of the FCC were members of a leftist organization called Free Press and through the group they advocated draconian restrictions placed on the Internet.
For example, the FCC’s former chief diversity officer, Mark Lloyd, co-authored a 2007 report calling for the regulation of political talk radio by limiting free speech on AM and FM stations under the guise of “balanced radio programming,” i.e. a fairness doctrine.
“While progressive talk is making inroads on commercial stations, conservative talk continues to be pushed out over the airwaves in greater multiples of hours than progressive talk is broadcast,” the report stated, oversimplifying politics into a false left/right paradigm. “These empirical findings may not be surprising given general impressions about the format, but they are stark and raise serious questions about whether the companies licensed to broadcast over the public airwaves are serving the listening needs of all Americans.”
Media mogul Mark Cuban was proven right when he said the feds would f*** the Internet up.
FCC outlines net neutrality rules in 400-page report: 5 things you need to know
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday published a 400-page report containing the open internet rules that the agency’s panel moved to adopt last month in a 5-3 vote hailed as a victory by net neutrality advocates.
The report, the FCC says, “once and for all…puts into place strong, sustainable rules, grounded in multiple sources of our legal authority, to ensure that Americans reap the economic, social and civic benefits of an open Internet today and into the future.”
Want to know what that means, but without wrapping your brain around the report’s 270,000 or so words? We’ve outlined a few key takeaways to help explain the FCC’s latest release.
The FCC says that strong rules are required in order to protect consumers against past and potentially future tactics that would threaten the existence of an open internet, and first on the agency’s list is a “no blocking” provision. As one might expect, this rule prohibits internet service providers, or ISPs, from keeping customers from accessing content that isn’t against the law.
“A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management,” the FCC says.
In other words, an ISP, such as Comcast or Verizon, for example, can’t take action to keep ordinary customers away from certain websites (or stop them from downloading certain movies or music, for that matter), unless the content in question and the act of obtaining it is otherwise illegal. So while the new rules prohibit ISPs from blocking access to blogs that might be critical of their corporations, web service providers can still take action if a customer is somehow caught downloading illegal content.
“[T]he no-blocking rule only applies to transmissions of lawful content and does not prevent or restrict a broadband provider from refusing to transmit unlawful material, such as child pornography or copyright-infringing materials. We believe that this approach will allow broadband providers to honor their service commitments to their subscribers without requiring a specified level of service to those subscribers or edge providers under the no-blocking rule,” the agency says.
Throughout the report, the FCC notes that, notwithstanding rules such as the “no blocking” provision, certain custodial efforts (or “reasonable network management”) might affect access to the internet. As long as the management is reasonable, however, the FCC says it will find no fault.
Similarly, the FCC’s new rules also say that internet providers can’t decide to speed-up and slow-down the delivery to customers of online content at an ISP’s own discretion. Adding to open internet rules adopted by the FCC starting in 2010 (and enforced up until a federal court judge told them otherwise, eventually paving way for the release of this report nearly a half-decade later), the agency says this no throttling rule means ISPs can’t “degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application or service, or use of a non-harmful device, subject to reasonable network management.”
“Degrading access to legal content and services can have the same effect as blocking and will not be permitted,” reads a portion of this week’s report.
According to the FCC, “the ban on throttling is necessary both to fulfill the reasonable expectations of a customer who signs up for a broadband service that promises access to all of the lawful Internet, and to avoid gamesmanship designed to avoid the no-blocking rule by, for example, rendering an application effectively, but not technically, unusable.”
“With the no-throttling rule, we ban conduct that is not outright blocking, but inhibits the delivery of particular content, applications or services, or particular classes of content, applications or services.”
Once again, though, illegal content isn’t covered by the FCC’s “no throttling” provision, meaning the agency’s new rules won’t stop ISPs from adjusting the connection speeds of customers caught sharing copywrited material, as RT previously reported.
No paid prioritization
Ahead of the FCC’s decision last month to adopt the rules released in this week’s report, a hot topic among commentators watching the debate was whether the agency would allow for paid prioritization; that is, whether ISPs should be able to cut deals with content creators in which the delivery of web traffic, specifically with regards to the speed, could differ depending on how much those content creators chose to pay.
“Paid prioritization occurs when a broadband provider accepts payment (monetary or otherwise) to manage its network in a way that benefits particular content, applications, services or devices,” the FCC says, and allowing for it would indeed enable the creation of “fast lanes” feared by net neutrality advocates.
“To protect against ‘fast lanes,’ this Order adopts a rule that establishes that: A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not engage in paid prioritization,” reads another one of the FCC’s new rules.
Along with no blocking and no throttling, the FCC says this this provision is one of three “clear, bright-line rules” necessary to preserve net neutrality.
Well, almost no paid prioritization
Yet while paid prioritization and “fast lanes” became a central argument to the net neutrality debate, the FCC has included language in its report that doesn’t outright ban that concept 100 percent. According to the FCC, the ban on paid prioritization may be waived “only if the petitioner demonstrates that the practice would provide some significant public interest benefit and would not harm the open nature of the Internet.”
In order to demonstrate as much, the FCC says that the applicant “must demonstrate that the practice will have some significant public interest benefit,” and explain how it wouldn’t harm the concept of net neutrality.
According to the rules, “An applicant seeking waiver relief under this rule faces a high bar.”
“We anticipate granting such relief only in exceptional cases,” wrote the commissioned.
Regulations won’t restrict law enforcement
Speaking of exceptional cases, the FCC made sure to include language in this week’s report that reiterates the importance of ensuring authorities can bypass open internet protections adopted through the ruling for the sake of law enforcement operations.
“The record is generally supportive of our proposal to reiterate that open Internet rules do not supersede any obligation a broadband provider may have – or limit its ability – to address the needs of emergency communications or law enforcement, public safety, or homeland or national security authorities,” the FCC says. According to the report, broadband providers have obligations under statutes such as the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) that “could in some circumstances intersect with open Internet protections,” given that access must always be prioritized “in order to coordinate disaster relief and other emergency response efforts, or for other emergency communications.”
“Most commenters recognize the benefits of clarifying that these obligations are not inconsistent with open Internet rules” the FCC says.
Privacy advocates have raised questions in recent years about the scope of laws like CALEA, FISA and ECPA, however, especially given statements from government officials concerning ways in which authorities may rely on certain legislation to conduct online eavesdropping.
RT reported at the time that a Justice Department attorney said in 2013 that the government wants to use CALEA to monitor the online conversations of suspected criminals in real time, and disclosures that same year from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the government uses Section 702 of FISA to authorize digital surveillance on foreign persons – the likes of which, tech experts have argued, has involved exploiting security weaknesses on behalf of the government and, as a result, secretly undermining the protocols meant to protect online activity.
The language in the report doesn’t provide any new powers to law enforcement, but rather clarifies that open internet provisions shouldn’t in any way preclude the authorities’ already established abilities.
by Daniel Barker
The technology has been around for some years now, but the use of RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips and other beneath-the-skin implants has only recently become more widespread.
A high-tech office complex in Sweden is now offering tenants’ staff the option of having a small RFID chip implanted in one’s wrist that allows certain functions in the building to be performed with a wave of the hand, such as opening doors and operating photocopiers.
Epicenter office block developers are in support of the implanting program, which is being made available through a Swedish bio-hacking group. The group promotes the use of bio-enhancement technology and predicts a future in which sophisticated implant systems will closely monitor a range of inputs from body sensors while interacting with the “internet of things.”
In other words, we will soon have the option of being physically connected to the Internet as well as to an increasingly widespread network of smart devices.
For many, the idea of having an implant containing personal information inserted under the skin is not a welcome option. Not only is there maybe something creepy about the whole idea to begin with, but the fact is that a lot of us feel our privacy and autonomy has been compromised enough already, without voluntarily becoming walking transmitters of our personal data.
Some predict that one day it won’t be a matter of choice, or that the use of implants and other types of bio-enhancement and connectivity will become so commonplace as to be expected, if not required. The fear is that we will lose our freedom and privacy in the process.
Others welcome the prospect of becoming physically connected to the internet of things, such as the bio-hacking group responsible for the office block’s RFID program.
A BBC News feature profiled Hannes Sjoblad, a bio-hacker who organizes “implant parties” where volunteers are implanted:
He is starting small, aiming to get 100 volunteers signed up in the coming few months, with 50 people already implanted. But his vision is much bigger.
Then will be a 1,000, then 10,000. I am convinced that this technology is here to stay and we will think it nothing strange to have an implant in their hand.
Although the RFID chips being used now are capable of little more than opening doors and operating copiers, the potential is far greater. RFID chips will likely evolve into ever-more sophisticated devices, capable of a wide range of interactions.
Already companies are developing technologies that will go a step beyond the already-familiar “wearable” gadgets — examples include a digital tattoo that can be stamped onto skin and can monitor body functions.
It’s certainly easy to imagine that within a few years there will be dramatic advances regarding what this type of technology can do. And since various types of bodily enhancement — bionic limbs, pacemakers and cosmetic surgery — are already commonplace, it stands to reason that many people will have few if any qualms about implants and other bio-hacking tech.
On the other hand, the idea of a central authority having the advantage of direct connections and access to an individual’s physical body with the potential of monitoring GPS position, heart rate, perhaps even brain waves, is frightening to contemplate.
Most of us have embraced the revolutionary technological advances of the past few decades. We’re more connected than ever before, and even if we don’t all agree that this is necessarily a good thing, very few of us would willingly give up our smartphones at this point.
But perhaps we should be extremely careful about making the leap to cyborg status. Is this truly an inevitable and potentially useful tech advancement or is it a step too far?
The time for debate is now, because the technology is already entering the mainstream. And as with most technological revolutions, once it has happened there is little hope of turning back.
The American Dream
by Michael Snyder
Transhumanists believe that the time has come for humans to take control of their own evolution. Many of them are fully convinced that we can use emerging technologies to “fix” the flaws in the human race and ultimately eradicate sickness, disease, poverty and war. So would you like to have the eyesight of an eagle? Would you like to download an entire library of information directly into your brain in just minutes? Would you like to rid your family line of all genetic diseases? Would you like to extend your lifespan to 500 years or even longer? Transhumanists promise that all of these things will soon be possible, if we are willing to embrace a new way of doing things. They foresee a future in which we will all have lots of little nanobots running around inside of us, in which we are all connected directly to the Internet, and in which we have all been genetically modified to at least some degree. In fact, one prominent transhumanist recently stated that he believes that “eventually every human will be designed on a computer“. In the end, the goal is to produce a vastly improved version of the human race which will usher in a golden new age for the planet. But as we merge ourselves with animals, machines and weird new technologies that scientists cook up, at what point do we cease to be human?
And when I say “weird new technologies”, I am not overstating things in the least. Just consider what one transhumanist says that they have planned for us…
As with all radical social movements, there is bound to be resistance. After all, transhumanists are interested in some pretty bizarre things: mind uploading, living indefinitely through life extension science, biohacking themselves to install cyborg body parts, and creating artificial general intelligence. Each of these areas of research will radically change the lives of people—and some, such as cyborg body parts, are already doing so.
Once upon a time, the only people that talked about “cyborgs” were science fiction geeks.
But today, many transhumanists speak of us becoming “cyborgs” as if it was some sort of foregone conclusion. It is almost as if they are the Borg, and they are telling us that there is no choice but to assimilate.
And this assimilation is already happening to a certain degree. If the idea of humanity “merging with machines” sounds bizarre to you, just check out the following excerpt from a recent Vice article…
Next up are brain implants, tiny computer chips inserted surgically directly into the brain itself. So far, they’ve been used mainly to help treat patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and epilepsy.
But some scientists are now tinkering with brain implants that enable more physical pursuits, from controlling people’s prosthetic limbs to restoring movement in paralyzed rats. Scientists say that the capabilities of brain implants are only in their infancy, and some of them envision a near-future where brain implants can even be installed in healthy people to connect them directly to the internet and improve memory] a la Black Mirror. The US military agency DARPA is already building such memory chips, and wants to develop implants that could be installed throughout a soldier’s nervous system to provide advanced, on-the-spot healing of conditions from mental illness to arthritis.
Of course most of those developing these new technologies believe that they are doing something wonderful for humanity.
And in many cases they are.
But at what point do we enter a danger zone?
In a previous article , I noted that one recent survey discovered that approximately one-fourth of all professionals in the 18 to 50-year-old age bracket would like to connect their brains directly to the Internet.
I don’t know about you, but that is something that I will never be doing.
Meanwhile, scientists continue to push the envelope when it comes to merging humans with animals.
Most people don’t realize this, but today we are creating genetically modified cattle with human DNA, we are growing human kidneys in rats, and we are experimenting on human-mouse hybrids with freakishly large brains.
Once again, those involved in this kind of research believe that they are finding “cures for diseases” or that they are working to make life better for all of us somehow.
But when we combine animals and humans, what exactly are we creating?
Are they animals?
Are they humans?
And where do we draw the line? Will we someday have creatures that are 50 percent human and 50 percent animal walking around our cities?
For much, much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “The Era Of Chimeras: Scientists Fearlessly Create Bizarre Human/Animal Hybrids“.
Another area that transhumanists are extremely excited about is the ability to use technology to genetically edit our children.
At Harvard, researchers now believe that it will soon be possible to completely remove genetic diseases from our family lines…
As I listened to Yang, I waited for a chance to ask my real questions: Can any of this be done to human beings? Can we improve the human gene pool? The position of much of mainstream science has been that such meddling would be unsafe, irresponsible, and even impossible. But Yang didn’t hesitate. Yes, of course, she said. In fact, the Harvard laboratory had a project to determine how it could be achieved. She flipped open her laptop to a PowerPoint slide titled “Germline Editing Meeting.”
Here it was: a technical proposal to alter human heredity.
“Germ line” is biologists’ jargon for the egg and sperm, which combine to form an embryo. By editing the DNA of these cells or the embryo itself, it could be possible to correct disease genes and to pass those genetic fixes on to future generations. Such a technology could be used to rid families of scourges like cystic fibrosis. It might also be possible to install genes that offer lifelong protection against infection, Alzheimer’s, and, Yang told me, maybe the effects of aging.
And “maybe the effects of aging”?
Life extension technologies are something that many transhumanists are particularly obsessed with.
For example, Bloomberg recently did an interview with one technology executive that believes that it will eventually be possible for all of us to live to the ripe old age of 500…
“If you ask me today, is it possible to live to be 500? The answer is yes,” Bill Maris says one January afternoon in Mountain View, California. The president and managing partner of Google Ventures just turned 40, but he looks more like a 19-year-old college kid at midterm. He’s wearing sneakers and a gray denim shirt over a T-shirt; it looks like he hasn’t shaved in a few days.
Maris is using his position to pour millions upon millions of dollars into companies that are developing radical life extension technologies that they hope will enable people to live for hundreds of years. Maris just hopes that he can stay alive long enough to take advantage of them…
“We actually have the tools in the life sciences to achieve anything that you have the audacity to envision,” he says. “I just hope to live long enough not to die.”
And of course Maris is far from alone. The most famous transhumanist on the entire planet, Ray Kurzweil, is absolutely obsessed with immortality. He takes 150 vitamin supplements a day in a desperate attempt to extend his life until more advanced life extension technologies can be developed. In chapter 7 of “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology“, he expressed his thoughts on where the future is taking all of us…
“Evolution moves toward greater complexity, greater elegance, greater knowledge, greater intelligence, greater beauty, greater creativity, and greater levels of subtle attributes such as love. In every monotheistic tradition God is likewise described as all of these qualities, only without any limitation: infinite knowledge, infinite intelligence, infinite beauty, infinite creativity, infinite love, and so on. Of course, even the accelerating growth of evolution never achieves an infinite level, but as it explodes exponentially it certainly moves rapidly in that direction. So evolution moves inexorably toward this conception of God, although never quite reaching this ideal. We can regard, therefore, the freeing of our thinking from the severe limitations of its biological form to be an essentially spiritual undertaking.”
But what about those of us that do not want to be a part of this future?
Is there any room for people that do not want to be genetically modified and that do not want to merge with animals and technology?
Some transhumanists believe that those that do not adapt will eventually be wiped out because they simply will not be able to survive in the new world that is emerging.
Other transhumanists believe that in order to truly have a world where there is no sickness, disease, poverty and war, all of the “inferior” humans will ultimately have to be “removed”.
But what almost all of them agree on is the fact that the future belongs to them and not to us.
So what do you think? Is humanity on the verge of a great leap forward, or are these new technologies actually opening up a door for great darkness? Feel free to tell us what you think by posting a comment below…
Back in August, when we wrote about the latest instance of trouble in Maduro’s socialist paradise, we cautioned that as a result of the economic collapse in the Latin American nation (and this was even before the plunge in crude made the “paradise” into the 9th circle of hell), Venezuelans soon may need to have their fingerprints scanned before they can buy bread and other staples. This unprecedented step was proposed after Maduro had the brilliant idea of proposing mandatory grocery fingerprinting system to combat food shortages. He said then that “the program will stop people from buying too much of a single item”, but did not say when it would take effect.
Privacy concerns aside (clearly Venezuelans have bigger, well, smaller fish to fry) there was hope that this plunge into insanity would be delayed indefinitely, as the last thing Venezuela’s strained economy would be able to handle is smuggling of the most basic of necessities: something such a dramatic rationing step would surely lead to.
Unfortunately for the struggling Venezuelan population, the time has arrived and as AP reported over the weekend, Venezuela “will begin installing 20,000 fingerprint scanners at supermarkets nationwide in a bid to stamp out hoarding and panic buying” as of this moment.
The government has been selectively rolling out the rationing system for months at state-run supermarkets along the western border with Colombia where smuggling of price-controlled goods is a major problem.
On Saturday, President Nicolas Maduro said that seven large private retail chains had voluntarily agreed to install the scanners.
Last month the owners of several chains of supermarkets and drugstores were arrested for allegedly artificially creating long queues by not opening enough tills.
It gets better: Maduro also accused Colombian food smugglers of buying up price-controlled goods in state-run supermarkets along the border.
For the first time in recent history the economists who say the effort is bound to fail, are right. They blame Venezuela’s rigid price controls that discourage local manufacturing and the recent slide in world oil prices that has further diminished the supply of dollars available to import everything from milk to cars.
As BBC further adds, in January the hashtag #AnaquelesVaciosEnVenezuela (“Empty shelves in Venezuela”) became a worldwide Twitter trend, with over 200,000 tweets as Venezuelans tweeted pictures of empty supermarket shelves around the country.
‘Empty shelves in Venezuela’ became a worldwide Twitter phenomenon
Last week South American foreign ministers said the region would help Venezuela address the shortages.
The lack of staple foods and medicines has contributed to discontent and to frequent large, often violent anti-government demonstrations.
What assures that Venezuela is bound to become the next Greece is that the one saving grace the socialist nation had left, high oil prices, aren’t coming back for a long time, which effectively makes the country’s oil production industry a drain of cash, cash the country can’t afford to spend, at current oil prices. As a reminder, crude oil amounts for 95% of the country’s exports. Venezuela’s plummeting currency rates and the falling price of oil by nearly half since November has diminished its supply of dollars to buy imported food.
The good news is that with the world having no lack of failed countries in the past year, for the IMF this should be a token state-rebuilding exercise for Christine Lagarde and her henchmen. One knows they have had more than enough “sovereign bail out” experience in the past year, the one in which the world was supposedly on the road to “recovery.”
BY CHRISTINA SARICH
What’s an intentional mutation? Nothing more than a fancy technological phrase which describes a new way that biotech is getting around regulatory approval for genetically modified crops.
Scientists have already created ‘designer monkeys’ by orchestrating precise genetic mutations. The same technology used to achieve this feat more than ten years ago is now being used by companies like Scott’s (of famed and failed GMO grass) to create genetically modified food without the oversight of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
It isn’t as though these alphabet agencies offer much protection to the average US consumer anyway. Considering that no long-term studies have been conducted on altered DNA and human health, and the fact that the USDA and FDA seem to give their rubber stamp to almost every biotech creation without a second glance, many people have long turned to other ‘experts’ to get their facts on genetically modified foods.
However, taking away the regulatory process makes it that much easier for biotech companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, Scott’s, etc. to infiltrate non-GM crops with their altered plants.
Until now, at least the guise of a regulation would stall a biotech company long enough for the public to get wind of their plans, and to at least voice their concern, if not smoldering outrage, at a GM apple that doesn’t brown, or GE salmon that grows ten times the size of non-GM salmon.
How do companies like Scott’s plan to unleash new GM grass, and other genetically modified crops? By utilizing “genome editing” which wasn’t even heard of when regulations for GMO crops were originally penned.
Plant researchers at the University of California, Davis, have remarked that the regulatory framework has become “obsolete and an obstacle to the development of new agricultural products.”
The system is indeed obsolete, but not for the reasons Big Ag thinks. If companies like Monsanto have their way, genome editing will be used instead of the previous methods for altering living organisms by genetically altering DNA material through artificial manipulation in a laboratory. In this way, they can bypass the FDA and other agencies throughout the world who are trying to ban GMOs.
The genetic manipulation (through gene transfer) process already differs from traditional hybridization where only species that are very similar can be combined to produce a new offspring. For example, in hybridization practiced by gardeners and horticulturalists you would never put a bacteria gene inside a plant gene to create a plant that is essentially a pesticide – and then end up with plants that, when consumed, are cytotoxic to the human organism.
“. . . developing genome-scale editing tools as fast and easy as word processing have rewritten the genome of living cells using the genetic equivalent of search and replace — and combined those rewrites in novel cell strains, strikingly different from their forebears.”
“The payoff doesn’t really come from making a copy of something that already exists,” said George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, “You have to change it — functionally and radically.”
By altering crops in this way, biotech companies are, according to Michael Hansen, senior scientist for Consumers Union:
“…using a technical loophole so that what are clearly genetically engineered crops and organisms are escaping regulation. [Gm grass] can have all sorts of ecological impact and no one is required to look at it.”
Like other biotech techniques, genome editing isn’t fool-proof either. In the pharmaceutical industry this technique has been used to try to cultivate cultures that can be used for drugs. A notable example of this technology going very wrong can be seen with the biotech company Genzyme, where estimates of costs due to viral contamination from genome editing reachupwards of $1 billion. The company has attempted to develop various gene technologies for diseases of the central nervous system, diabetes, and more.
If gene editing isn’t completely predictable for pharmaceutical drugs, how can we be sure that gene editing will result in anything different than other biotech practices that have been used to genetically modify crops to date? Without regulatory oversight, these practices will also likely be carried out without the public’s awareness, and once again we will be eating food that is, in the least, very questionable.
There are multiple methods of gene editing, but this video from MIT explains one of them.
Pics Courtesy of: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/science/gmfoods/
21st Century Wire
BY Jay Dyer
Recently, the world’s vultures, the economic power elite, met in Davos to discuss the maintenance of their global fiat hegemony. Highlights included furthering austerity, noting that the serf class can’t have air conditioning and cars, as well as cheering on the death of privacy through the rise of technocracy. The degenerate elite, completely out of touch with humanity, resembles the controllers in the George Lucas classic, THX 1138, building their own prison destined to entrap their own progeny.
Degenerate elite always end up being their own worst enemy because pride detaches man from reality, which can only be perceived in the truth. Pride causes man to adopt a delusory sense of the world and his own relation to it, thereby bringing about a praxis divorced from the rules of nature, logic and classical wisdom.
The banking man, homo economicus, with his foaming at the mouth rapaciousness, will find his own descendants trapped in the virtual A.I. prison grid he has built.
“This is why the solution has to come from within, as every system will simply corrupt again. Philosophers and great thinkers have warned us continuously for thousands of years. The manifestation of inner dysfunction and imbalance will always be represented physically as dysfunction and imbalances in the systems man develops.”
Here is a revealing clip from the motion picture ‘Margin Call’…
When we consider the global economic situation, it is crucial to understand we are living in the midst of a long-running script that was hammered out long ago by European banking houses. CFR archivist and historian Dr. Carroll Quigley laid all of this out in his 1300 page work, Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, admitting that both world wars and economic crises, as well as so-called “leftist,” “communist,” and “fascist” movements have been the creation of international banking elites.
Davos thus represents a yearly public manifestation of this same superstructure Quigley described, and with Davos we can see another insight into the digital future – since digits are useful in both banking and computing. At this juncture, I recommend the following documentary on flash trades, where the nexus of the virtual meets the banking, coalescing into a hybrid chimera of fraud like the world has never seen. It’s not accidental the documentary is titled “alchemy,” since this also brings to mind George Soros’ book, The Alchemy of Finance.
Is there a deeper sense to all this alchemy and digit talk? I have argued in the absolute affirmative. This is no mere banking scam confidence trick: the metamorphosis of economics into virtual, digital existence mirrors the transference of the social sphere into the virtual as well. It is not by organic happenstance that both realms of civilization have moved in this direction – it is not as if the coming technocracy was only interested in dominating the social realm for constructing A.I., while the banking sphere would be left to “market forces.” Collins comments on the problem-reaction-solution scripting that, in my view, corresponds to the alchemist’s solve et coagula, and readers will take note of the connections to the French Revolutions I also highlighted in relation to the French terror events:
“The World Economic Forum and the IMF today called for a “central bank of oil”, which is code for regulating the oil pricing mechanism and ultimately using the SDR as the unit of account for not just oil, but all other commodities. This CSI scripting fits perfectly with what we have been discussing for the last year in regards to the multilateral transition. So far our analysis has been correct on both the methodology and scripting practices of the transition.
All central banks around the world are implementing their own micro CSI script for the purpose of shifting upward into the macro CSI script. This also includes Russia and China, both of which have been the most vocal about the need for the multilateral framework.
We are all like the people of France in the years and months leading up to the French Revolution. Please don’t accept any scripting which promotes the idea of the source of the problem becoming the solution to the problem. The French had no idea what hit them. We do.”
In contrast to the common idea, the banking sector is in no way left to “market forces,” but is completely gamed, and the same plan is evident in the A.I. reconnaissance program known as the “Internet” and “Facebook.” It becomes evident in flash trading and wash trading, which is preparing us for a cashless global currency. The alchemy of A.I. is the alchemy of finance, as both are geared towards the reductionist quantification of all things. Humans are thus resources being translated into a data resource as currency is becoming a digital “resource.”
Referencing JC again, in my Plato piece, I noted:
“To see this principle in action, and I think operating as an interesting proof of my thesis, Philosophy of Metrics writer J.C. Collins has recently posted a great article on the ultimate goal of social media and information trafficking in relation to AI. Normally, A.I. can perform logical tasks of if, then relations like what we see inmodus ponens or formal logic, but spontaneous emergence of the ideational – consciousness, is really the key. This subconscious manifestation (directly linked to the aether and psyche like Jung and Pauli argued), isn’t easy to “catch.” Ideas come and go, and may be written down, but how might we “capture” the archetypal flow and trend of mass thought? What about mass thought-forms that are floating about? Collins is right to use computerized banking as a model, but the purpose is much deeper.
As Collins relates, going to other galaxies is problematic for humans because of the obviously brief lifespan, but what about AI? Certainly the plan is to concoct such AI systems, but an AI system is still stuck within the walls of formal logic and set theory strangeloops, as Hofstadter grappled with in his Godel, Escher, Bach.
However, what if an AI could draw from a deep well of a synthetic matrix? What if AI could be made to experience some form of spontaneous (supposedly) archetypal imagery?
Here enters the matrix “web” of the Internet and social media. A synthetic anima mundi would have to be constructed, gathering massive amounts of data and information over a long period of time. And that, my friends, is the entire, ultimate goal of the Internet and social media.”
As we are tempted to think of alchemy as real, and in a sense it is, with bio-engineering and nanotechnology, it is important to keep in mind the classical alchemists were fraudsters. They were masters of the con, from adventurous characters like Count Cagliostro to 007 Dr. John Dee, the “great work” of many of history’s alchemists was to defraud credulous monarchs into being patrons of their quest to create gold from base matter. Today’s alchemists of finance are like their transhumanist counterparts – devious and intelligent, but con men in the last analysis. They, like their forebears, con heads of state into signing on public wealth, just as the shadow surveillance agencies con heads of state into handing over through contrived legalities “big data.” TragedyandHope.com has recently done an excellent interview with William Binney on this point:
The technocracy is here. Recall the market suddenly dropping to “666” in 2009, echoing Lagarde’s “magic 7.” If this event was an engineered twilight language scenario by the shadow banking establishment, it was a window into the nature of how gamed this technocratic system really is. Forbes, laughing at the occurrence, stated:
“This beastly number, 666, has also weirdly popped up during recent stock market panics. On March 9, 2009, the S&P index hit its lowest point — 666, of course — of the Great Recession.
Monday the S&P fell, you’ve got it, 6.66%. Does Monday’s 6.66% drop thusly mark the demonic bottom of the August 2011 panic?”
I sense more at work than mere coincidence, and I certainly don’t think it had anything to do with actual biblical prophecy, except for the fact that the occult elite do have their own version of using “magic numbers” and magic squares as a form of lesser magic. Does the Forbes writer also think Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s “Eyes Wide Shut” lifestyle and Lagarde’s “magic 7″ speech are also laughable?
Was the Dutroux affair that ensnared the occult elite in Belgium also a joke, Vatican pedos, or the recent revelations about Savile and the Satanic British establishment?
The reality is, this is all very real, and the same establishment insider that exposed elements of this years before it was mainstream news, Malachi Martin, also revealed Davos to be a key part of the “Grand Design” back in 1990 in his Keys of This Blood:
“At Davos, of course, the participants already contemplated the third circle of the Grand Design, the one that included North America. All agreed that while the decade of the nineties will be the “decade of Europe,” the twenty-first century will see the emergence of the “Pacific Rim,” as a potent member of the great grid. For the Asia/Pacific countries were already bent on capitalizing the “new European economic space.”
Of course, as West Germany’s Helmut Haussmann said, the European nations will compete with North America and “Pacific Rim” economies. But the new Europeans must integrate with the economic grid of the Asia/Pacific nations. In other words, the twenty-first century will not be a European or a Pacific Rim century. The term “geopolitical” was rather rarely used at Davos, but it is the only term adequate enough to cover that third circle (along with the first and second circles) of the Grand Design. The twenty-first century will be the century of the Geopolitical Earth.
At Davos, for the first time, a representative group of the society nations did peek beyond the traditional limits of international politics and transnational globalism, just long enough to etch the bare outlines of a geopolitical world to come – the new world order, the world of the Grand Design of nations. As Helmut Kohl stated soundly, the new Europe must have as its goal the grand vision expressed by Thomas Jefferson: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (pg. 649)
In other words, economic liberalism is the path to globalism and the new world order, and Davos is part of that “Grand Design.” The “Grand Design” is synonymous with the alchemist’s “Great Work,” and Martin is correct to outline the esoteric and occult aspects of this plan in his massive tome. This design undoubtedly has a secret society and occult background to it, but while Martin’s book highlights the economic and occult highlights, his book missed the synthetic and A.I. element of the coming world order.
The alchemists designs do not end at world banking or the creation of the Golem – they extend to the creation of a Golem economy, where the hidden philosopher’s stone can only be perceived through Mirco-Google virtual glasses.
by Lisa Egan
Smartphones have made our lives easier and more efficient. They allow us to call people, find directions, and look up virtually anything we want to know within seconds – with a mere touch of the screen.
But are we too reliant on these devices to do things for us? New research indicates that there is a downside to all of this convenience: we are becoming lazier thinkers.
The study, from researchers at the University of Waterloo and published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, suggests that smartphone users who are intuitive thinkers — more prone to relying on gut feelings and instincts when making decisions — frequently use our device’s search engine rather than our own brainpower.
In other words, smartphones allow some of us to be even lazier than we would otherwise be.
Gordon Pennycook, co-lead author of the study and a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at Waterloo, explains:
“They may look up information that they actually know or could easily learn, but are unwilling to make the effort to actually think about it.”
Nathaniel Barr, the other lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at Waterloo, elaborated:
“Decades of research has revealed that humans are eager to avoid expending effort when problem-solving and it seems likely that people will increasingly use their smartphones as an extended mind.”
In contrast, those who are analytical thinkers tend to second-guess ourselves and analyze a problem in a more logical sort of way. Highly intelligent people are more analytical and less intuitive when solving problems.
The researchers conducted three studies involving 660 participants. They examined various measures including cognitive style ranging from intuitive to analytical, plus verbal and numeracy skills. Then they looked at the participants’ smartphone habits.
Participants in the study who demonstrated stronger cognitive skills and a greater willingness to think in an analytical way spent less time using their smartphones’ search-engine function.
Pennycook explained their findings:
“Our research provides support for an association between heavy smartphone use and lowered intelligence. Whether smartphones actually decrease intelligence is still an open question that requires future research.”
The researchers pointed out another downside to lazy thinking: avoiding using our own minds to problem-solve might have adverse consequences for aging.
“Our reliance on smartphones and other devices will likely only continue to rise,” said Barr. “It’s important to understand how smartphones affect and relate to human psychology before these technologies are so fully ingrained that it’s hard to recall what life was like without them. We may already be at that point.”
Does it really take scientific studies to show us that there are many ways smartphones make us lazier and and dumb us down? If we are honest with ourselves, most of us probably are already aware of the not-so-positive impacts these gadgets have on our lives.
Do you recognize any of these habits?
We don’t remember phone numbers. Gone are the days when we had to memorize the phone numbers of our close contacts. Now we just go to the contact list in our phone, click on a name, and voila – we’ve got someone on the line. Tip: Be sure to memorize – or least write down and store – important numbers. If something happens to your phone, you don’t want to be stuck contact-less, do you?
We can’t do simple calculations in our heads. Whether it is estimating a tip or sales tax, or figuring out if we have enough cash to buy everything in our grocery cart, we’ve become reliant on a handy tool that comes built in to most smartphones: a calculator. Admit it – you used to be pretty good at doing those simple math problems in your head, pre-smartphone. Tip: Don’t reach for your phone immediately every time a situation that requires everyday math presents itself. Work out the problem in your head. (Feel free to check your math with your calculator, if you must.)
We can’t spell. Autocorrect might make you a lightening-fast texter, but have you developed a dependency on it (and perhaps spellcheck, as well)? Do you take the time to spell out words correctly, or do you rely on your phone to do the work for you? Tip: Turn off the autocorrect feature on your smartphone. See what happens. (I bet it will force you to slow down and THINK, and will prove just how reliant you’ve become on your phone to spell for you.)
We have the attention spans of gnats. How often do you quickly lose interest in an article or video you are viewing on your phone? Do you finish most activities you start, or do you get bored easily and seek out something more entertaining? Are you easily distracted? Tip: Force yourself to finish every article you start to read (yes, including this one – if you have made it this far, congratulations!), or every video you begin to watch.
We are oblivious to what is going on around us. If you haven’t actually done this to someone, you’ve likely had someone do it to you: cell phone tunnel vision causes you walk right into people. Or, someone has tried to speak to you, and you don’t hear them because you are out in smartphone la-la land and are tuning out (intentionally or not) everything and everyone around you. If you aren’t familiar with this phenomenon, be sure to observe the people around you the next time you are standing in line at your favorite coffee shop (I’ll bet you a caramel latte that nearly everyone will be looking down at their phones.) Tip: Turn your phone on silent and put it away when you are in public. Pay attention to the people around you, and your surroundings. Email, Facebook, and Twitter can wait.
We don’t have as many real-life conversations. If most of the people you interact with live in your phone, you just might be missing out on genuine, face-to-face communication with your fellow humans. And when you ARE fortunate enough to be sitting with a person or people you care about, pay attention to THEM. Tip: Save cyber-conversations for times when you are not in the physical presence of others. The person in front of you should be your priority. And no smartphones during mealtime – put ‘em away!
We don’t sleep as much, or as well. Sleep experts say that having your smartphone in your bedroom while you try to sleep – even if you aren’t actively using it in bed – can interfere with the quality and quantity of your snoozing. Having your phone within reach may tempt you to check your email or social media accounts instead of getting the rest you need. It also can cause you to be hyper-alert to any potential calls or texts that come in. Tip: Don’t bring your smartphone to bed with you. Leave it in another room while you sleep.
We miss out on life. As previously mentioned, walking around with our faces buried in our phones can create a barrier between us and other people. But it also can place a barrier between us and our environment – it can prevent us from fully experiencing everything the world around us has to offer. Are you engaging with and observing your surroundings, the actual world around you…or the cyber-world of your smartphone?
While smartphones do provide us with valuable technology and easily accessible resources, they have downsides of which we should be mindful. As with most things in life, moderation is key. If you find yourself falling behind in any of the areas discussed here, perhaps it is time to take a good look at your relationship with technology and explore ways to find balance.
Project reveals the Android apps that are the worst privacy violators
If you thought seemingly innocent apps like Angry Birds did not violate your privacy, you thought wrong. A new project reveals that many unexpected apps are guilty of breaching the privacy of many mobile users.
Mobile applications are fundamentally about making money for their creators, so if an app is free it still has to rake in the cash somehow. That fact leads to many apps relying on advertising to bring in that revenue.
The apps that collect revenue through advertising often share contact lists with third parties or even use the mobile user’s location to deliver targeted advertisements.
“These apps access information about a user that can be highly sensitive, such as location, contact lists and call logs, yet it often is difficult for the average user to understand how that information is being used or who it might be shared with,” Jason Hong, the leader of the new Privacy Grade project said in a press release. “Our privacy model measures the gap between people’s expectations of an app’s behavior and the app’s actual behavior.”
Since many mobile users are completely ignorant of this practice, the Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Human Interaction: Mobility Privacy Security (CHIMPS) Lab created Privacy Grade.
Privacy Grade gives Android applications grades from A+ to D based on how much information the app gathers from a user’s device and how that gathering aligns with the user’s expectations.
IEEE Spectrum states that the grading model is based on the preference ratings of 725 users on 837 free Android apps.
The project clearly and simply lays out the permissions requested by a wide range of applications and what these permissions are used for. This helps users identify when apps request permission for information that allows internal app functionality versus advertising purposes or market/customer analysis.
Google’s apps, on the other hand, received high marks from Privacy Grade, with most of their applications receiving an A grade. This is somewhat surprising given the privacy breaches Google has been guilty of in the past. Furthermore, a recent report found that Americans are more concerned about data collection by Google than the NSA.
So far, the database does not include paid apps since the researchers believe they are much less likely to be seeking additional revenue from selling user data to third parties.
Additionally, Privacy Grade currently only covers Android apps but the researchers are currently considering adding apps on the iOS, Windows Mobile and Blackberry platforms if funding is available.
Do you use any of the apps covered by Privacy Grade? Are you surprised by the marks your favorite apps have received? Let us know by leaving a comment below, tweeting us or leaving a comment on our Facebook page.
Creepy Tracking Tech Gone Too Far: “Police Surveillance Now Fully Automated and Integrated Into Wireless Networks”
by Mac Slavo
Welcome to 2015. We’re certainly not in Kansas anymore.
Not only is the police state here, but it is upgrading all the time.
While people are busy fighting an uphill battle with apparently rampant cases of abuse, excessive force and a misguided and failed War on Drugs, many are too far behind the times to keep up with these technologies – now being tested or used in police departments across the country.
While the use of technology in policing is nothing new, it might surprise you have far things have gone – with much of police surveillance now fully automated and integrated into wireless networks, and monitored by Homeland Security-funded fusion centers.
Reason.tv rounded up these examples of creepy, robot, privacy destroying police tactics (and it’s only just beginning):
• Smart street lights created a stir in the alternative media a few years ago, with news that Homeland Security grants were putting big brother funding on the streets quite literally. Now, they are being tested in Las Vegas. The intelligent street lights are equipped with two-way communication and monitoring devices, and may be used to record conversations on the streets, or to broadcast official messages from the authorities during an emergency, or in the midst of a crime. Apparently, they can also broadcast music. Maybe that will give them enough street cred to keep the creepy level off the radar. Paul Joseph Watson wrote:
The Intellistreets system comprises of a wireless digital infrastructure that allows street lights to be controlled remotely by means of a ubiquitous wi-fi link and a miniature computer housed inside each street light, allowing for “security, energy management, data harvesting and digital media,” according to the Illuminating Concepts website.
In terms of Homeland Security applications, each of the light poles contains a speaker system that can be used to broadcast emergency alerts, as well as a display that transmits “security levels” (presumably a similar system to the DHS’ much maligned color-coded terror alert designation), in addition to showing instructions by way of its LED video screen.
The lights also include proximity sensors that can record both pedestrian and road traffic. The video display and speaker system will also be used to transmit Minority Report-style advertising, as well as Amber Alerts and other “civic announcements”.
• Location tracking Wi-Fi is now being tested in Seattle and other locations as part of a wireless mesh network. Of course, most already know that their cell phones and computers share data with their providers, the NSA and a host of other data hungry watchers, but now the police are using boxes set up at numerous street intersections to ping and track cell phones in the area, logging location data for thousands of drivers, passengers and pedestrians that could be used to establish the whereabouts of a suspect, pursue criminals, as evidence in traffic disputes or perhaps for crowd control.
The Wi-Fi tracking devices appear as white boxes mounted on poles or street lights. The data interconnects through a wireless mesh network with existing traffic cameras, police squad vehicles, networks of cameras and other interfaces on the emerging fiber network, and a host of authorities in the region, including police, the Sheriff’s Department and the regional fusion center. Officially, the mesh network aides communication during emergency scenarios, but also functions as a roaming live-time surveillance network.
Reason.tv reports that Seattle residents been reporting wi-fi networks popping up on their cell service with the names of intersections (such as 3rd & Union) since 2013.
• Sting Ray cell phone interceptor / cell phone tower impersonator devices are now being secretly used by the FBI, local police departments and… probably other spy agencies, foreign and domestic, as well. The use of this technology remains less known than other techniques, in part because the Justice Department has pressured local law enforcement to keep hush hush about the use of this tool, even in the face of court testimony.
The best part, from a policing point of view, is the kid-in-a-candy store, fish-in-a-barrel opportunity for revealing data on everyone from suspects to innocent bystanders who may have data wanted by the authorities… now or later. No warrants need apply.
Melissa Melton writes:
According to the Associated Press, the Obama Administration has been actively advising police departments to refuse disclosure about certain cell phone surveillance technologies, including the widely used “StingRay” device, even in routine state records requests.
Evidently, the StingRay technology allows law enforcement to “trick” cell devices into sharing identifying personal and location data with them that would ordinary be sent to communications companies and require request procedures.
Instead, police are bypassing company assistance and collecting unique information on suspects, persons of interests, and – as the AP reports – they can even “sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods,” all without any court orders or oversight.
• See-through-radar, as used in such on the market technologies as the Range-R, allows police to see the location of all the people inside a building through the walls, again, without a warrant.
USA Today reports:
At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.
Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person’s house without first obtaining a search warrant.
• PoliceBots – Right now, the Knightscope K5 looks like an inept R2D2 unit, but soon people will see it as the early deployment prototype of the dangerous Robocop type units that science fiction has long warned us about.
They are scheduled to begin actual patrols in the Silicon Valley area sometime this year, and will principally be used to detect criminal activity and alert human officers… for now, of course. Later, they are supposed to be capable of crime prediction as well as prevention, but we already know that Minority Report is no-knocking at the door.
According to the Daily Mail, these bot-officers carry a number of advanced and perhaps troubling capabilities, including rapid license plate scanning and something referred to as ‘odor detection’:
The five foot tall robots have a combination of laser scanning, wheel encoders, inertial measurements, and GPS that allows fully autonomous operation and charging.
It also has odour detectors, and can even monitor air pollution as it travels around.
Using cameras they can also read up to 300 car number plates a minute, allowing them to monitor traffic.
• Drones – The use of drones is, unsurprisingly, also expanding, but the devices are become so cheap at the same time that their use is becoming accepted. Hence, police departments and law enforcement are snatching them up and making purchases that often fly under the radar of public controversy. Infinitely cheaper than helicopters and other aerial devices, drones are poised to be anywhere and everywhere that law enforcement wants eyes.
• “Eye in the Sky” – Reason.tv also included an “Eye in the Sky” HD camera mounted inside a Cessna-style aircraft that flies over a city locale for up to six hours, recording everything that takes place in the community – with options to zoom in on areas of interest in live-time and play back to review what officers weren’t focusing on.
The Atlantic reported on how the device was used secretly in Compton, California, and only revealed to the public years afterwards – kept hush hush by law enforcement to quell privacy concerns:
In a secret test of mass surveillance technology, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent a civilian aircraft* over Compton, California, capturing high-resolution video of everything that happened inside that 10-square-mile municipality.
Compton residents weren’t told about the spying, which happened in 2012. “We literally watched all of Compton during the times that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,” Ross McNutt of Persistence Surveillance Systems told the Center for Investigative Reporting, which unearthed and did the first reporting on this important story. The technology he’s trying to sell to police departments all over America can stay aloft for up to six hours. Like Google Earth, it enables police to zoom in on certain areas. And like TiVo, it permits them to rewind, so that they can look back and see what happened anywhere they weren’t watching in real time.
The question is, where does it all end?
Are there any limits to how far police or government authorities will go or can go?
The Fourth Amendment seems clear enough in its intent to protect people from unwarranted searches and seizure, but it has been all but trashed and scrapped in the wake of the paranoid War on Terrorism and unparalleled mass surveillance technologies.
The problem is that there may simply be no turning back. Expectation of privacy are now as low as a fat, bald, unemployed dude hoping for a date with a supermodel. Basically, freedom is dormant and privacy is, for the time being, now all but nonexistent.
by Amanda Warren
Travel becomes truly ominous…
In a trend that isn’t wholly surprising, EU Observer reports:
US citizens and other non-EU nationals who enter Europe will be asked to have their faces image-captured and fingerprints scanned upon arrival at a half-dozen major airports. [emphasis added]
This “biometric dragnet” is the pilot test for the EU’s new “smart borders” packages. The test portion will run March – September 2015, for starters. The commission originally proposed this package in 2013 but pulled it and began revising. While there is some opposition, the experiment is shortly underway.
The captures include fingerprint scans, iris scans and facial recognition scans for all forms of European travel – road, train, sea and air.
Of course, what’s usual for such programs – travelers can refuse…for now. But officials are letting travelers know through the media that it will become mandatory in time.
Arlanda (Sweden), Charles de Gaulle (France), Frankfurt (Germany), Lisbon (Portugal), Madrid (Spain), and Schiphol (Netherlands) are the test airports. The multi-million euro project is still in the draft stages but nevertheless, is set to go…now. The document notes:
Should traveller participation be lower than expected, there would be a high risk that the results of the tests would be biased or would not reflect reality.
A special token is expected for frequent travelers to complete journeys without the inconvenience of the future traveler to Europe…
Arlanda, Charles de Gaulle, and Madrid airports will capture facial recognition images from passengers stepping off flights. Lisbon is “tickled” – yes, tickled – to capture iris pattern scans, live at the same time as facial captures. Moving trains from Paris (Gare du Nord) and Lasi (Romania) will house border guards who will take fingerprint scans. Travelers at Lasi will be compelled for their facial images.
Again, this practice will include other modes of travel where in some areas, iris scans will be taken. For instance, iris scans will be taken from drivers (willing at first) on roads leading into border towns Udvar in Hungary and Sculeni in Romania. The article notes that “drivers should also expect live face scans in Sculeni.”
Roads leading into Kipoi Evrou in Greece and Vaalimaa in Finland will compel drivers for fingerprints. “The traveller[sic] will walk up to the border guard or be one of the first persons to be called by the border guard,” the document notes. Certain cars and buses will be “pulled aside” in a waiting area for the duration of the experiment.
Lastly, Helsinki (Finland), Port of Piraeus (Greece), Gerbourg (France), and Genova (Italy) are the seaports and ship areas participating in the data collection.
There is, of course, the assurance that all data will be depersonalised, kept local and destroyed afterward with only a limited retention period. The only data “risk” in their consideration being that certain member states won’t comply with data protection guidelines. Notably, eu-LISA is the EU agency that will manage this large-scale undertaking with systems that in current use by EU border guards and law enforcement. Reports come out July 15th and November.
The “full monty” biometric trend is likely to burgeon at U.S. airports soon, if not already – as this is a major global goal. The events of September 11 were used to justify major spending for biometric measures worldwide. Or rather, the extra push for projects that were already underway.
From EU Observer:
The package includes the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the Registered Travellers Programme (RTP).
Both rely on the collection, storage, and processing of biometric data to enhance border control checks on any non-EU national entering the EU.
EES is meant to identify and prevent people from overstaying their visas.
A witness reported to us of a promotional flight video depicting biometric scanners at Atlanta, GA International Airport. Sure enough, all the equipment was set up at the airport in the summer of 2012, but was not yet in use. Feel free to comment if you know where the airport stands currently on biometric use.