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1

      

By Flora Thomas


Trinidad and Tobago’s Housing Development Corporation (HDC), a state agency that provides public housing assistance, has been criticised for not doing enough to curb crime in many of its communities. The most recent critique touches on incidents at Oropune Gardens, a housing estate in northern Trinidad.


Fed up with the lawlessness in Orupune Gardens and its impact on her quality of life as a resident of the area, former national television news anchor Colleen Holder spoke out in early July 2019, via a letter to the editor that was shared on several news sites. Now, her life is under threat.


Following another murder in her neighbourhood, Holder said:


We are starring in a monthly episode of CSI Oropune Gardens. […] Our community Whatsapp chat group has been lighting up with residents expressing their fear, frustration, irritation, anger at this situation that seems to be spiralling out of control.


         



      

On June 26, residents invited Brent Lyons, HDC’s managing director, to attend a meeting to discuss how the could take back control of their community. In place of Lyons, HDC sent a representative from its facilities management team who was ill-equipped to address matters like illegal activities and occupancy, flouting of community rules, and maintenance issues such as poor lighting and overgrown bushes that compromise residents’ safety.


Holder acknowledged that Lyons and Housing Minister, Edmund Dillon, had recently done a walk-through in the community, but she said the visit happened “during working hours when most residents would not have been at home”:



The blame for the spiralling crime in the community rests with the HDC. They are fully aware that they are not enforcing the rules that will allow the community to remain safe. […]


This situation predates both Mr. Lyons and Mr. Dillon, but it has persisted. We have persons harbouring criminals, hiding weapons, facilitating the crime.



Like many in the community, even though Holder has been a victim of crime herself, she doesn’t want to move, saying, “The criminals are the ones who need to pack up and leave.”


On July 5, the HDC said that although “the safety and security of residents in all HDC communities are issues which the corporation gives serious consideration […] there are several issues at play at Oropune Gardens which require a multi-pronged and multi-agency approach for resolution”.


Maintaining that it “cannot be held solely responsible for all of Oropune Gardens’ issues”, the HDC said that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service “remains the sole entity responsible for the investigation of criminal activity”.


The HDC subsequently began to take action against people in breach of community rules.




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As for death threats against Holder, both the Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith, and the Minister of National Security, Stuart Young, are aware of the situation; police patrols around Holder’s house have increased.


The silver lining — if there is one — is that Holder says the community has been “riled up into unity”:


Commentator Noble Philip has been supportive of Holder and clear on the need for the HDC to meet its responsibilities. In a post at Wired 868, he noted that “a 2015 study done in East Port of Spain showed that dysfunctional institutional resources, like the HDC, was the largest defining difference between high performing and crime-ridden communities.”


In another post, Philip took citizens to task for not being more outspoken in support of Holder:



We, in our comfortable homes, mutter about Colleen’s bravery but we keep our heads down. […]


Colleen’s tongue has brought her a death threat, yet her speech has been liberating. Silencing speaks to power in relationships; the powerful possess the capacity to silence us all, not just Colleen. Through intimidating violence, they heighten the consequences of us speaking up. […]


Yielding to this enforcement of silence makes crime more prevalent. Criminals want to be anonymous and free from prosecution. They want to eliminate all who would disseminate information about their actions. […]




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The actions (and lack thereof) of the HDC has brought us to this place. They refuse to acknowledge the existence of a Residents Association, thereby making this all about a single campaigner […] the focus is on one person, a woman who dared to persist.


The police are still in the midst of their investigation of the threats against Holder.


Image: Screenshot of former media personality Colleen Holder, who spoke out against criminal activity in her community of Oropune Gardens. Image is a still from a YouTube video “Let’s Talk Tobago, Episode 250″, uploaded by the Tobago House of Assembly.


Flora Thomas — I’m an aspiring writer and citizen of the world – definitely a believer in peace, friendship and the power of words.


This article was sourced from GlobalVoices.org


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By Tony Cartalucci


The US boasted of downing an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz, admittedly in international waters, just miles off Iran’s coast, and thousands of miles from Washington.


It claims the drone was “threatening” a US amphibious assault ship, the USS Boxer.


The Washington Post in its article, “Trump says the U.S. Navy downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz,” would claim:



A U.S. naval ship downed an Iranian drone that flew too close and ignored multiple calls to turn away, President Trump said Thursday, as tensions between the United States and Iran appeared to be rising once again in the Persian Gulf region.


Speaking at the White House, Trump said the drone came within 1,000 yards of the USS Boxer in the Strait of Hormuz before the crew “took defensive action” and “immediately destroyed” it.



         



      

An Associated Press article titled, “US warship downs Iranian drone in Hormuz Strait,” noted that (emphasis added):


The Pentagon said the incident happened at 10 am local time on Thursday in international waters while the Boxer was transiting the waterway to enter the Persian Gulf. The Boxer is one of several US naval ships in the area, including the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier that has been operating in the nearby North Arabian Sea for weeks.


The claims come nearly a month after Iran shot down a US drone – an RQ-4A Global Hawk – operating near Iranian shores, also in the Strait of Hormuz.


At the time, the US condemned Iran’s move claiming it had downed the drone over international waters. Now – the US openly claims it has shot down an Iranian drone over international waters. The overt hypocrisy is intentional. The US has been attempting to goad Tehran into an armed conflict for years with US policy papers openly admitting as much.


A 2009 Brookings Institution paper titled, “Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran,” would openly admit (emphasis added):


…it would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it. 


Apparently, the US is no longer concerned about whether or not the world recognizes this game and is doing everything in its power to goad Iran into miscalculating and granting the US justification for a long-desired and much larger conflict with Tehran.


Did the Iranian Drone Really Threaten the USS Boxer? Was it Even an Iranian Drone?


As with most deliberate provocations – the recent US claims of downing an Iranian drone came with minimum details and no evidence at all. Not even the type of drone was mentioned by The Washington Post or AP.


Claims that the drone came within 1,000 yards of the ship and was disabled through electronic jamming indicates it was most likely an off-the-shelf drone used for photography and in no way posed a threat to the USS Boxer.




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Iranian media – for its part – claims the US most likely shot down their own drone, and denies Iran was operating any of its own drones in the area at the time. Iran’s PressTV in an article titled, “US may have shot down own drone in Persian Gulf, Iran says of Trump’s claim,” would claim:



Iran has rejected US President Donald Trump’s claim that a US warship had shot down an Iranian Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) in the Strait of Hormuz.


“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araqchi said in a tweet on Friday.


“I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS by mistake!”



What is certain is that even if it were an Iranian drone, it couldn’t have posed more of a threat to the USS Boxer than America’s military presence in the Middle East poses to its inhabitants – a region where the US has repeatedly bombed, invaded, currently occupies or is waging war by proxy against multiple nations including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and indeed – Iran itself.


Beyond the Middle East the US has left Libya desolate and is currently occupying the Central Asian nation of Afghanistan – a military campaign that has lasted now nearly 2 decades and is unfolding along Iran’s eastern border while the US continues to maintain a military presence in Iraq on Iran’s western border.


The US currently maintains crippling sanctions against Iran, admittedly sponsors terrorist groups operating within Iran, and has repeatedly threatened to overthrow the Iranian government through open military intervention, US-sponsored “color revolutions,” as well as economic and covert military means.




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The UK – equally committed to Washington’s desire to overthrow the Iranian government – has even recently hijacked an Iranian tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar.


Under ordinary circumstances, a military drone approaching a ship of any kind from any nation in international waters – allegedly as close as 1,000 yards – would be considered a provocation. But Iranian drones – if this was indeed the case – approaching a US warship plying the waters of a region utterly ravaged by US military aggression can at best be considered scrutiny the US has earned itself through its own destructive foreign policy – a foreign policy that fully intends to visit the same destruction brought upon nations like Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan – upon Iran as well.


Iran surely has the right to defend itself – to track US warships as they pass just miles from its own shores – whether in “international waters” or not. And if Iran is not allowed to fire on US drones over these same “international waters,” what gave the US the right to do so?


There is a much easier solution for the US if its goal really is to ensure the safety of its vessels traveling the globe – stop provoking conflict, thus eliminating the chances of its vessels becoming targets during such conflict.


Of course, the US will not do this. It will continue pursuing hegemonic foreign policy until it is economically and militarily no longer able to do so. For Iran – the trick will be avoiding provocations designed to trigger a war the US still believes it can win until global dynamics change enough to ensure whatever war the US triggers it will have no chance of winning.


Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”, where this article first appeared.


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By B.N. Frank


Many are promoting LED lights as “environmentally-friendly” because they supposedly use less energy.  In fact, some environmentalists are really ticked off at the Trump administration because they want to exempt some of these bulbs from “green” standards.


Unfortunately, just because these LED supposedly use less energy to operate doesn’t mean they are harmless – biologically or environmentally.  There’s too much research that says they aren’t and warnings from the American Medical Association and other health experts have been covered extensively by the Mainstream Media (see 1, 2) and other credible sources over the years (see 1, 2, 3).  Their surveillance capabilities have been reported as well.


         



      






Activist Post regularly reports about issues associated with LED light bulbs used for street lights, vehicle headlights, and everything else.  For more information visit our archives.


Image credit: Pixabay


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4

      

By Aaron Kesel


Orlando’s pilot program of Amazon’s facial Rekognition software has ended with unsuccessful results after 15 months of technical issues with accuracy, bandwidth issues and controversy over the face-scanning technology, Orlando Weekly reported.


“At this time, the city was not able to dedicate the resources to the pilot to enable us to make any noticeable progress toward completing the needed configuration and testing,” Orlando’s Chief Administrative Office said in a memo to City Council, adding that the city has “no immediate plans regarding future pilots to explore this type of facial recognition technology.”


The pilot program started in December 2017 and was set to have two phases. The first phase ended on June 2018; eventually, the city started the second phase in October 2018 and has since now ended the program.


         



      

In October 2018 there were four cameras set up at the police department’s headquarters, three in downtown and one outside a community recreation center for the test.


This isn’t the first time that facial recognition camera tests were unsuccessful, and deemed to be a failure. In April of this year, the FBI failed to assuage concerns of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on its use of facial recognition technology, failing to test the accuracy of some of its facial recognition tools developed by third parties such as those programmed by state and federal law enforcement agencies.


The report further slammed the FBI for its failure to moderate its use of facial recognition software. This comes as the Bureau increases its use of the technology, currently trialing Amazon’s Facial Rekognition software.


Earlier last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California tested Amazon’s Facial Rekognition software and the program erroneously and hilariously identified 28 members of Congress as people who have been arrested for crimes.


According to Jake Snow, an ACLU attorney, the ACLU downloaded 25,000 mugshots from a “public source.”


The ACLU then ran the official photos of all 535 members of Congress through Rekognition, asking it to match them up with any of the mugshots—and it ended up mismatching 28 members to mug shots.


Out of those 28, the ACLU’s test flagged six members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia.)


Facial recognition historically has resulted in more false positives for African-Americans.


The test came just two months after the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos expressing concern over the “profound negative consequences” of the use of such technology.


The ACLU is rightfully concerned that faulty facial recognition scans, particularly against citizens of color, would result in a possible fatal interaction with law enforcement. Amazon’s Rekognition has already been used by a handful of law enforcement agencies nationwide.


Because of these substantive errors, Snow said the ACLU as a whole is again calling on Congress to “enact a moratorium on law enforcement’s use of facial recognition.”


Activist Post also previously reported on another test of facial recognition technology in Britain which resulted in 35 false matches and 1 erroneous arrest. So the technology is demonstrated to be far from foolproof.


In 2018 it was reported that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were using this same Amazon Facial Rekognition technology to sift through surveillance data.


The FBI isn’t the only ones using facial recognition software. Recently, watchdog organization Big Brother Watch observed UK Metropolitan Police trials stated the technology had misidentified members of the public, including a 14-year-old black child in a school uniform who was stopped and fingerprinted by police, as potential criminals in as much as 96 percent of scans.


In eight trials in London between 2016 and 2018, the technology gave “false positives” that wrongly identified individuals as crime suspects when an individual passed through an area with a facial recognition camera.


Further, according to Big Brother Watch, police scored a 100% misidentification rate in two separate deployments at Westfield shopping centers in Stratford, London. It is a horrifying thought that this technology is now being used to harass citizens as they shop.


Amazon employees who are against the company selling facial recognition technology to the government have protested the company’s decision.






Over 20 groups of shareholders have sent several letters to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urging him to stop selling the company’s face recognition software to law enforcement.


One letter was sent in June of last year signed by 20 groups of Amazon shareholders sent to Bezos, urging him to stop selling the company’s face recognition software to law enforcement.


“We are concerned the technology would be used to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of color, immigrants, and civil society organizations,” the shareholders, which reportedly include Social Equity Group and Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, wrote. “We are concerned sales may be expanded to foreign governments, including authoritarian regimes.”


Another letter was sent in January 2019, organized by Open Mic, a nonprofit organization focused on corporate accountability, and was filed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood both letters warned the technology poses “potential civil and human rights risks.”


Numerous civil rights organizations have also co-signed a letter demanding Amazon stop assisting government surveillance; and several members of Congress have expressed concerns about the partnerships.


Several lawmakers have even chimed in to voice concerns about Amazon’s facial recognition software, expressing worry that it could be misused, The Hill reported.


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained hundreds of pages of documents showing Amazon offering the software to law enforcement agencies across the country.


In a 2018 report, the ACLU called Amazon’s facial Rekognition project a “threat to civil liberties.”


Amazon responded by essentially shrugging off the employees’ and shareholder concerns by the head of the company’s public sector cloud computing business, stating that the team is “unwaveringly” committed to the U.S. government.


“We are unwaveringly in support of our law enforcement, defense and intelligence community,”  Teresa Carlson, vice president of the worldwide public sector for Amazon Web Services, said July 20th at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, FedScoop reported.


Now, police seem to be moving towards using Amazon’s smart surveillance system, Ring, instead of using the faulty Rekognition software which has been known to have numerous problems.




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Both of those are not good concepts for our future and are worrying prospects, which is why many privacy advocate groups, attorneys, and even more recently Microsoft (which also markets its own facial recognition system) have all raised concerns over the technology. They all point to the obvious issues of consent, racial profiling, and the potential to use images gathered through facial recognition cameras as evidence of criminal guilt by law enforcement. But the bigger issue is one that Jay Stanley an attorney at ACLU highlighted a full-blown police state.


“We don’t want to live in a world where government bureaucrats can enter in your name into a database and get a record of where you’ve been and what your financial, political, sexual, and medical associations and activities are,” Jay Stanley, an attorney with ACLU, told BuzzFeed News about the use of facial recognition cameras in retail stores. “And we don’t want a world in which people are being stopped and hassled by authorities because they bear resemblance to some scary character.” (Source)


A national survey of 3,151 U.S. adults in December, found only one in four Americans believe the federal government should strictly limit the use of facial recognition biometrics technology.


The survey also indicates Americans are more likely to support a trade-off to their own privacy caused by biometric technology if it benefits law enforcement, reduces shoplifting or speeds up airport security lines.


Only 18 percent of those polled stated they agreed with strict limitations on facial recognition tech if it comes at the expense of public safety, compared to 55 percent who disagreed with such limitations.


However, a poll from the Brookings Institution in September 2018 contradicts that and found half of Americans favored limitations of the use of facial recognition by law enforcement, while 42 percent felt it invaded personal privacy rights.


San Francisco, California, and Somerville, Massachusetts have both banned facial recognition from their cities, citing concerns about the safety and accuracy of the software. Now Orlando, Florida has ended its trial of Amazon’s Rekognition software, it’s time for the rest of America to follow suit!


Already, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has signaled it will investigate NSA Surveillance and Facial Rekognition.



5

      

By Aaron Kesel


Orlando’s pilot program of Amazon’s facial Rekognition software has ended with unsuccessful results after 15 months of technical issues with accuracy, bandwidth issues and controversy over the face-scanning technology, Orlando Weekly reported.


“At this time, the city was not able to dedicate the resources to the pilot to enable us to make any noticeable progress toward completing the needed configuration and testing,” Orlando’s Chief Administrative Office said in a memo to City Council, adding that the city has “no immediate plans regarding future pilots to explore this type of facial recognition technology.”


The pilot program started in December 2017 and was set to have two phases. The first phase ended on June 2018; eventually, the city started the second phase in October 2018 and has since now ended the program.


         



      

In October 2018 there were four cameras set up at the police department’s headquarters, three in downtown and one outside a community recreation center for the test.


This isn’t the first time that facial recognition camera tests were unsuccessful, and deemed to be a failure. In April of this year, the FBI failed to assuage concerns of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on its use of facial recognition technology, failing to test the accuracy of some of its facial recognition tools developed by third parties such as those programmed by state and federal law enforcement agencies.


The report further slammed the FBI for its failure to moderate its use of facial recognition software. This comes as the Bureau increases its use of the technology, currently trialing Amazon’s Facial Rekognition software.


Earlier last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California tested Amazon’s Facial Rekognition software and the program erroneously and hilariously identified 28 members of Congress as people who have been arrested for crimes.


According to Jake Snow, an ACLU attorney, the ACLU downloaded 25,000 mugshots from a “public source.”


The ACLU then ran the official photos of all 535 members of Congress through Rekognition, asking it to match them up with any of the mugshots—and it ended up mismatching 28 members to mug shots.


Out of those 28, the ACLU’s test flagged six members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia.)


Facial recognition historically has resulted in more false positives for African-Americans.


The test came just two months after the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos expressing concern over the “profound negative consequences” of the use of such technology.


The ACLU is rightfully concerned that faulty facial recognition scans, particularly against citizens of color, would result in a possible fatal interaction with law enforcement. Amazon’s Rekognition has already been used by a handful of law enforcement agencies nationwide.


Because of these substantive errors, Snow said the ACLU as a whole is again calling on Congress to “enact a moratorium on law enforcement’s use of facial recognition.”


Activist Post also previously reported on another test of facial recognition technology in Britain which resulted in 35 false matches and 1 erroneous arrest. So the technology is demonstrated to be far from foolproof.


In 2018 it was reported that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were using this same Amazon Facial Rekognition technology to sift through surveillance data.


The FBI isn’t the only ones using facial recognition software. Recently, watchdog organization Big Brother Watch observed UK Metropolitan Police trials stated the technology had misidentified members of the public, including a 14-year-old black child in a school uniform who was stopped and fingerprinted by police, as potential criminals in as much as 96 percent of scans.


In eight trials in London between 2016 and 2018, the technology gave “false positives” that wrongly identified individuals as crime suspects when an individual passed through an area with a facial recognition camera.


Further, according to Big Brother Watch, police scored a 100% misidentification rate in two separate deployments at Westfield shopping centers in Stratford, London. It is a horrifying thought that this technology is now being used to harass citizens as they shop.


Amazon employees who are against the company selling facial recognition technology to the government have protested the company’s decision.




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Over 20 groups of shareholders have sent several letters to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urging him to stop selling the company’s face recognition software to law enforcement.


One letter was sent in June of last year signed by 20 groups of Amazon shareholders sent to Bezos, urging him to stop selling the company’s face recognition software to law enforcement.


“We are concerned the technology would be used to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of color, immigrants, and civil society organizations,” the shareholders, which reportedly include Social Equity Group and Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, wrote. “We are concerned sales may be expanded to foreign governments, including authoritarian regimes.”


Another letter was sent in January 2019, organized by Open Mic, a nonprofit organization focused on corporate accountability, and was filed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood both letters warned the technology poses “potential civil and human rights risks.”


Numerous civil rights organizations have also co-signed a letter demanding Amazon stop assisting government surveillance; and several members of Congress have expressed concerns about the partnerships.


Several lawmakers have even chimed in to voice concerns about Amazon’s facial recognition software, expressing worry that it could be misused, The Hill reported.


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained hundreds of pages of documents showing Amazon offering the software to law enforcement agencies across the country.


In a 2018 report, the ACLU called Amazon’s facial Rekognition project a “threat to civil liberties.”


Amazon responded by essentially shrugging off the employees’ and shareholder concerns by the head of the company’s public sector cloud computing business, stating that the team is “unwaveringly” committed to the U.S. government.


“We are unwaveringly in support of our law enforcement, defense and intelligence community,”  Teresa Carlson, vice president of the worldwide public sector for Amazon Web Services, said July 20th at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, FedScoop reported.


Now, police seem to be moving towards using Amazon’s smart surveillance system, Ring, instead of using the faulty Rekognition software which has been known to have numerous problems.




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Both of those are not good concepts for our future and are worrying prospects, which is why many privacy advocate groups, attorneys, and even more recently Microsoft (which also markets its own facial recognition system) have all raised concerns over the technology. They all point to the obvious issues of consent, racial profiling, and the potential to use images gathered through facial recognition cameras as evidence of criminal guilt by law enforcement. But the bigger issue is one that Jay Stanley an attorney at ACLU highlighted a full-blown police state.


“We don’t want to live in a world where government bureaucrats can enter in your name into a database and get a record of where you’ve been and what your financial, political, sexual, and medical associations and activities are,” Jay Stanley, an attorney with ACLU, told BuzzFeed News about the use of facial recognition cameras in retail stores. “And we don’t want a world in which people are being stopped and hassled by authorities because they bear resemblance to some scary character.” (Source)


A national survey of 3,151 U.S. adults in December, found only one in four Americans believe the federal government should strictly limit the use of facial recognition biometrics technology.


The survey also indicates Americans are more likely to support a trade-off to their own privacy caused by biometric technology if it benefits law enforcement, reduces shoplifting or speeds up airport security lines.


Only 18 percent of those polled stated they agreed with strict limitations on facial recognition tech if it comes at the expense of public safety, compared to 55 percent who disagreed with such limitations.


However, a poll from the Brookings Institution in September 2018 contradicts that and found half of Americans favored limitations of the use of facial recognition by law enforcement, while 42 percent felt it invaded personal privacy rights.


San Francisco, California, and Somerville, Massachusetts have both banned facial recognition from their cities, citing concerns about the safety and accuracy of the software. Now Orlando, Florida has ended its trial of Amazon’s Rekognition software, it’s time for the rest of America to follow suit!


Already, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has signaled it will investigate NSA Surveillance and Facial Rekognition.



6

      

By Dylan Charles


Look around in this fancy land called the U.S. and you’ll get the impression that people are just rolling in dough. They got fabulous new cars, expensive houses loaded up with imported goods, the latest smartphones, designer wardrobes, and they’re never about to turn down a good time.


But it’s all an illusion. It’s fake.


In reality, 80% of Americans are in debt and living paycheck to paycheck. Which means most of us are broke, and almost nobody owns anything at all. All that great stuff you see all around isn’t true prosperity, it’s owned by banks and it all serves as chains in a modern form of slavery.


         



      

Americans owe over $1 trillion on just their cars, another $1 trillion in household credit card debt,  $1.5 trillion in federally insured student loan debt, $8.8 trillion in mortgage debt, and all the while 40% of U.S. households are paying down medical debt. To add insult to all this injury, the national debt is now over $22 trillion, and growing 36% faster than the economy.


Debt slavery is the new normal, and it’s no accident.


We’re part of an economic and monetary system built on debt, and our culture has been warped by decades of scientifically minded marketing, advertising and consumer programming, and our cities and communities have been designed and organized for shopping, not for sharing and communing. Strip malls and big box stores have replaced the town square.


It is what it is, and it’s not going away any time soon, but the personal consequences of chronically being in debt are severe.


There’s the stress and worry of it all, and what that does to your health. There are the lost dreams and wishes unfulfilled.  The exorbitant and crushing bank fees, penalties, and high interest rates, backed up by collection agencies and organized harassment. The damage it does to marriages and the broken homes, and perhaps most insidious, there’s the spiritual malaise of being a slave.


But you can escape. Anyone can. I mean, to be honest, you’re not going to escape the disaster of government debt, because as individuals we have no control over what the lunatics and crooks in government do. That’s another conversation, but you don’t have to tolerate a life as a slave to personal debt. You don’t have to live forever with student loans, car payments and mountains of credit card debt.


What’s at stake here is your freedom. That is, the quality of your life in the short time you get to be alive here on earth.


Financial literacy is not something most of us learn in school, and so very few of us have had positive examples of this in our lives, but there is a system to get out of debt that works very well, and there is a network of support that can teach you how, get you inspired, and keep you motivated as you walk your own path to freedom.


Having found myself in deeply debt a couple of times in life, and then working my way to being 100% debt free, I can tell you that there is really no feeling quite as joyful as being free.


The method I have found that works the best to achieve this is referred to as the ‘debt snowball’ and is outlined in the book, The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey. I was about to spell it out for you when I found an exceptional breakdown of it by Daisy Luther of the excellent blog, The Organic Prepper. Check it out, as it is the quickest way to get yourself out of debt.



Dave recommends something called “the Snowball Method” for repaying debt quickly. Imagine a snowball at the top of a hill.  As you roll the snowball, you pick up more snow, and the snowball gets bigger. By the time it’s at the bottom of the hill, it’s huge. You can do the same thing with debt by paying off the smallest bill first, then applying what you’d normally pay on that lowest bill to the next bill. Continue adding the minimum payment for each paid-off bill to the next largest one until all of your debt is repaid.


This method assumes you have enough money coming in to make your basic payments, plus a little bit extra. If you’re in a situation in which you truly do not have enough money to pay your bills, this article will be more appropriate.


I have personally used this technique to attack debt, with a few tweaks of my own.


Here’s a more detailed explanation of how the Snowball Method works.


1.) Write down every penny you owe.  This is tough love, and it’s painful, but go through all your bills and write down your totals. Most people find that the total is higher than they expected. The good news is, if you are truly committed to paying off your debt, this is the highest that it will be.




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2.) Organize the bills from smallest to largest amounts.  This may not seem like it makes much sense, but trust me…there’s a method to the madness here.


3.) Write another list of the minimum payments for each bill. This is your baseline of payments each month. For the sake of ease, let’s say there are ten bills with a total of $750 in monthly minimum payments.


4.) Now, figure out the rest of your budget. Once you pay your rent/mortgage, buy groceries, and pay the utility bills, how much money do you have on top of your $750 a month?  For this exercise, we’ll say you have an extra hundred dollars.


5.) Your worksheet might look something like this:



6.) Now, you’re going to start putting all of your extra money on the lowest bill each month. So, the first month, you make all of your minimum payments, put $80 extra on the Victoria’s Secret bill to pay it off, and then apply your leftover $20 to the JC Penney’s bill.



7.) The following month, take the minimum payment from Victoria’s Secret, the minimum from JC Penney’s, and your extra $100 to pay off your JC Penney’s debt. Keep in mind that due to interest, your other debts will not change much at all if you are only making the minimum payment. For the sake of this exercise, we’re living them as they are to demonstrate that.



8.) The month after that, you’ll combine all of your previous minimum payments with your extra hundred dollars, plus the minimum for Target for a total of $185 against that bill. It will take you two months of snowballing to pay this off.



And that’s how you pay off consumer debt quickly.



Being debt free as an individual is one of the most important things you can do for your happiness, security and for your family. Since pretty much everyone you know is doing the ‘normal’ thing of being a debt slave in an overly consumeristic culture, do yourself a favor and check out The Dave Ramsey Show and take back your freedom from the banks and credit card companies.



Read more articles by Dylan Charles.


Dylan Charles is the editor of Waking Times and co-host of Redesigning Reality, both dedicated to ideas of personal transformation, societal awakening, and planetary renewal. His personal journey is deeply inspired by shamanic plant medicines and the arts of Kung Fu, Qi Gong and Yoga. After seven years of living in Costa Rica, he now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and enjoys spending time with family. He has written hundreds of articles, reaching and inspiring millions of people around the world.


This article (Everyone is Broke But YOU Don’t Have to Be a Debt Slave Any Longer) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Dylan Charles and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.


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7

      

By Mac Slavo


The homeless crisis in the Democrat stronghold of California has reached epic proportions. Even after throwing billions of dollars at the problem, the state is unable to solve the epidemic they created.


And California’s plan to throw billions of dollars more at the issue won’t do much either.  The problem isn’t a lack of money.  The problem is the socialist policies in place that make homelessness inevitable. There are now nearly 60,000 homeless people living in Los Angeles County, a 12% increase from the previous year, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.


According to National Interest, Los Angeles is not the only county suffering under the weight of freedom-trampling socialist regulations that make it difficult for the average person to even get by, let alone afford a roof over their head. Other localities in California also saw substantial increases compared with 2017, when they last conducted a count, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. In San Francisco, the number [of homeless people] rose 17% while Alameda County, which includes Oakland, saw a 43% increase. Homelessness grew 42% in San Jose over the past two years and 31% in Santa Clara County, the heart of Silicon Valley.


         



      

“Even in the good old days, there was a Skid Row. Now the beggars, drug addicts, and lost souls are all over the city,” wrote San Francisco Chronicle columnist Carl Nolte.


The city is out of control. Traffic is a mess, but it’s rare to see a traffic control officer. Trucks are double-parked everywhere. The city is dirty—a friend just back from Mexico City was astounded to find the streets there far cleaner than the ones in her native city. There is so much human waste on the streets of San Francisco the city formed a ‘poop patrol’ where workers are paid $71,000 a year, about the same as the average school teacher. -Carl Nolte, San Francisco Chronicle


Nolte even nails the direct cause of the problem and it’s California’s government and the people who elect them.







To cope with these problems, the citizens have continued to elect weak city governments, all built on compromise and deals with competing pressure groups. At City Hall, everybody is responsible for everything and nobody is responsible for anything.


To make a complex problem worse, the city has so many rules and regulations that it has become nearly impossible to build anything. And the city desperately needs new housing. San Francisco has the highest building costs in the country. Architects and builders say it costs an average of $650,000 to build an ordinary San Francisco home these days. Even affordable housing is not affordable. — Carl Nolte, San Francisco Chronicle



To those who continue to warn of the destruction of socialist policies, this is obvious. To those who want everything handed to them after it’s first stolen from someone else, it looks like a utopia.  But that’s because it’s easier to vote for politicians to “steal from the rich” than it is to beat the politicians’ own rules and become rich. Humans have lost their sense of individuality and their freedom in the process of taking the easy road.


California’s government also seems to have more pressing matters to attend to anyway, like banning plastic straws, plastic bags, and paper receipts. They’ve also begun providing free health care coverage to illegal immigrants while their homeless population burgeons.  California maintains a generous welfare regime, and its temperate and generally pleasant weather make it a natural haven for homeless people.




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But the best way for the state to help the people is by doing the one thing the state won’t do: get the hell out of their way.


This article was sourced from SHTFplan.com.


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8

      

By Tyler Durden


Three weeks after a meeting between the countries who signed the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was ditched by US, French, British and German officials said the trade mechanism which was proposed last summer – designed to circumvent both SWIFT as well as US sanctions banning trade with Iran – called Instex, is now operational.


And while we wait for the White House to threaten Europe with even greater tariffs unless it ends this special purpose vehicle – it already did once back in May when it warned that anyone associated with the SPV could be barred from the U.S. financial system if it goes into effect – a response from the US is now assured, because in the biggest attack on the dollar as a reserve currency to date, on Thursday, Russia signaled its willingness to join the controversial payments channel, and has called on Brussels to expand the new mechanism to cover oil exports, the FT reported.


         



      


Moscow’s involvement in the Instex channel would mark a significant step forward in attempts by the EU and Russia to rescue a 2015 Iran nuclear deal that has been unraveling since the Trump administration abandoned it last year.



“Russia is interested in close co-ordination with the European Union on Instex,” the Russian foreign ministry told the Financial Times. “The more countries and continents involved, the more effective will the mechanism be as a whole.”


… and the more isolated the US will be as a currency union meant to evade SWIFT and bypass the dollar’s reserve currency status will soon include virtually all relevant and important countries. Only China would be left outstanding; after the rest of the world’s would promptly join.


On Thursday, the Kremlin confirmed the foreign ministry’s take:


“We are tracking the information regarding this. If I’m not mistaken, there have already been statements from our side that, taking into account the first experience of using this system, when it is activated, we cannot rule out interaction in this regard,” Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, told reporters.



This article was originally published by Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge.


This article was sourced from SHTFplan.com


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9

      

By Andrew Crocker and Gennie Gebhart


Why do we care about encryption? Why was it a big deal, at least in theory, when Mark Zuckerberg announced earlier this year that Facebook would move to end-to-end encryption on all three of its messaging platforms? We don’t just support encryption for its own sake. We fight for it because encryption is one of the most powerful tools individuals have for maintaining their digital privacy and security in an increasingly insecure world.


And although encryption may be the backbone, it’s important to recognize that protecting digital security and privacy encompasses much more; it’s also about additional technical features and policy choices that support the privacy and security goals that encryption enables.


         



      

But as we careen from one attack on encryption after another by governments from Australia to India to Singapore to Kazakhstan, we risk losing sight of this bigger picture. Even if encryption advocates could “win” this seemingly forever crypto war, it would be a hollow victory if it came at the expense of broader security. Some efforts—a recent proposal from Germany comes to mind—are as hamfisted as ever, attempting to give government the power to demand the plaintext of any encrypted message. But others, like the GCHQ’s “Ghost” proposal, purport to give governments the ability to listen in on end-to-end encrypted communications without “weakening encryption or defeating the end-to-end nature of the service.” And, relevant to Facebook’s announcement, we’ve seen suggestions that providers could still find ways of filtering or blocking certain content, even when it is encrypted with a key the provider doesn’t hold.


So, as governments and others try to find ways to surveil and moderate private messages, it leads us to ask: What policy choices are incompatible with secure messaging? We know that the answer has to be more than “don’t break encryption,” because, well, GCHQ already has a comeback to that one. Even when a policy choice technically maintains the mathematical components of end-to-end encryption, it can still violate the expectations users associate with secure communication.


So our answer, in short, is: a secure messenger should guarantee that no one but you and your intended recipients can read your messages or otherwise analyze their contents to infer what you are talking about. Any time a messaging app has to add “unless…” to that guarantee, whether in response to legislation or internal policy decisions, it’s a sign that messenger is delivering compromised security to its users.


EFF considers the following signs that a messenger is not delivering end-to-end encryption: client-side scanning, law enforcement “ghosts,” and unencrypted backups. In each of these cases, your messages remain between you and your intended recipient, unless…


Client-side scanning


Your messages stay between you and your recipient….unless you send something that matches up to a database of problematic content.


End-to-end encryption is meant to protect your messages from any outside party, including network eavesdroppers, law enforcement, and the messaging company itself. But the company could determine the contents of certain end-to-end encrypted messages if it implemented a technique called client-side scanning.


Sometimes called “endpoint filtering” or “local processing,” this privacy-invasive proposal works like this: every time you send a message, software that comes with your messaging app first checks it against a database of “hashes,” or unique digital fingerprints, usually of images or videos. If it finds a match, it may refuse to send your message, notify the recipient, or even forward it to a third party, possibly without your knowledge.


Hash-matching is already a common practice among email services, hosting providers, social networks, and other large services that allow users to upload and share their own content. One widely used tool is PhotoDNA, created by Microsoft to detect child exploitation images. It allows providers to automatically detect and prevent this content from being uploaded to their networks and to report it to law enforcement. But because services like PhotoDNA run on company servers, they cannot be used with an end-to-end encrypted messaging service, leading to the proposal that providers of these services should do this scanning “client-side,” on the device itself.


The prevention of child exploitation imagery might seem to be a uniquely strong case for client-side scanning on end-to-end encrypted services. But it’s safe to predict that once messaging platforms introduce this capability, it will likely be used to filter a wide range of other content. Indeed, we’ve already seen a proposal that WhatsApp create “an updatable list of rumors and fact-checks” that would be downloaded to each phone and compared to messages to “warn users before they share known misinformation.” We can expect to see similar attempts to screen end-to-end messaging for “extremist” content and copyright infringement. There are good reasons to be wary of this sort of filtering of speech when it is done on public social media sites, but using it in the context of encrypted messaging is a much more extreme step, fully undermining users’ ability to carry out a private conversation.


Because all of the scanning and comparison takes place on your device, rather than in the cloud, advocates of this technique argue that it does not break end-to-end encryption: your message still travels between its two “ends”—you and your recipient—fully encrypted. But it’s simply not end-to-end encryption if a company’s software is sitting on one of the “ends” silently looking over your shoulder and pre-filtering all the messages you send.


Messengers can make the choice to implement client-side scanning. However, if they do, they violate the user expectations associated with end-to-end encryption, and cannot claim to be offering it.


Law enforcement “ghosts”




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Your messages stay between you and your recipient…unless law enforcement compels a company to add a silent onlooker to your conversation.


Another proposed tweak to encrypted messaging is the GCHQ’s “Ghost” proposal, which its authors describe like this:


It’s relatively easy for a service provider to silently add a law enforcement participant to a group chat or call. The service provider usually controls the identity system and so really decides who’s who and which devices are involved—they’re usually involved in introducing the parties to a chat or call. You end up with everything still being end-to-end encrypted, but there’s an extra ‘end’ on this particular communication. This sort of solution seems to be no more intrusive than the virtual crocodile clips that our democratically elected representatives and judiciary authorize today in traditional voice intercept solutions and certainly doesn’t give any government power they shouldn’t have.


But as EFF has written before, this requires the provider to lie to its customers, actively suppressing any notification or UX feature that allow users to verify who is participating in a conversation. Encryption without this kind of notification simply does not meet the bar for security.


Unencrypted backups by default


Your messages stay between you and your recipient……unless you back up your messages.


Messaging apps will often give users the option to back up their messages, so that conversations can be recovered if a phone is lost or destroyed. Mobile operating systems iOS and Android offer similar options to back up one’s entire phone. If conversation history from a “secure” messenger is backed up to the cloud unencrypted (or encrypted in a way that allows the company running the backup to access message contents), then the messenger might as well not have been end-to-end encrypted to begin with.




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Instead, a messenger can choose to encrypt the backups under a key kept on the user’s device or a password that only the users know, or it can choose to not encrypt the backups. If a messenger chooses not to encrypt backups, then they should be off by default and users should have an opportunity to understand the implications of turning them on.


For example, WhatsApp provides a mechanism to back messages up to the cloud. In order to back messages up in a way that makes them restorable without a passphrase in the future, these backups need to be stored unencrypted at rest. Upon first install, WhatsApp prompts you to choose how often you wish to backup your messages: daily, weekly, monthly, or never.  In EFF’s Surveillance Self-Defense, we advise users to never back up their WhatsApp messages to the cloud, since that would deliver unencrypted copies of your message log to the cloud provider. In order for your communications to be truly secure, any contact you chat with must do the same.


Continuing the fight


In the 1990s, we had to fight hard in the courts, and in software, to defend the right to use encryption strong enough to protect online communications; in the 2000s, we watched mass government and corporate surveillance undermine everything online that was not defended by that encryption, deployed end-to-end. But there will always be attempts to find a weakness in those protections. And right now, that weakness lies in our acceptance of surveillance in our devices. We see that in attempts to implement client-side scanning, mandate deceptive user interfaces, or leak plaintext from our devices and apps. Keeping everyone’s communications safe means making sure we don’t hand over control of our devices to companies, governments, or other third parties.



Andrew is a senior staff attorney on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s civil liberties team. He focuses on EFF’s national security and privacy docket, as well as the Coders’ Rights Project. While in law school, Andrew worked at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, and the Center for Democracy and Technology. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University. His interests include Boggle and donuts.





Gennie conducts and manages research and advocacy for the Electronic Frontier Foundation on consumer privacy, surveillance, and security issues. Prior to joining EFF, Gennie earned a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington Information School, where she published on Internet censorship in Thailand and zero-rating in Ghana, as well as investigating mobile access and technology terms in Myanmar (Burma) and public Internet access in Laos. While at the UW, she also co-founded and led a successful initiative for a university Open Access policy. Outside work, Gennie is a cyclist, avid CouchSurfer, sticker enthusiast, and friend to all cats.





This article was sourced from EFF.org


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10

      

This is a critical update from one of the best financial commentators I know, a good friend of ours, Mr. Tom Beck, who runs PortfolioWealthGlobal.com and we’re excited to share this one with you!


For the past two months, I’ve sunk my mind into the subjects of income inequality and wealth inequality. It took me on a journey that included over 13 lengthy books, countless recorded lectures, and numerous all-nighters to finally articulate my main conclusion on the matter, based on the facts.


Bottom line: America’s politicians, wealthy businessmen, and CEOs do not, in their heart of hearts, give the slightest thought to the average person’s well-being.


There are laws that could be legislated, right here and right now, that would make life in America more equal and give opportunity to the poor and under-skilled to prosper.


         



      

There are policies and business strategies which would achieve the same results.


In other words, my first conclusion is that MUCH MORE could be done, by both the government and by business leadership, to tackle this and ease income and wealth inequality – but it isn’t getting done.


As it took me 60 days to reach the obvious conclusion that extreme wealth inequality is a PROBLEM, I can only imagine that any person, when presented with the data, would draw the same conclusion. When any group of people living under the rule of the same governmental system drift further apart, without the issue being addressed, there is a price to be paid by ALL, but certainly not alike.


Warren Buffett, for example, will most likely not be impacted by what happens in this matter. Buffett has resided in Omaha, Nebraska for the majority of his life, but will donate his wealth to the Gates Foundation, which will take that money and disburse it an ocean away from North America, in Africa, where the foundation focuses.


Had Buffett cared about America as much as he says, his billions would have gone to assist with education in his hometown or his own state or country, but it won’t.


Elites, especially in America, do not feel bonded by the borders of the 50 states. They also do not feel compelled to donate or invest in programs that train more people to be a part of the modern world. It wouldn’t take much for either. What the poor need is inspiration, which even a tour of HQ for Fortune 500 companies would give most people.






The wheels of the brains of elites and of politicians do not turn along those lines at all!


Therefore, my 2nd conclusion is that I wouldn’t spend even one second contemplating what either Washington or the CEO of the company you’re employed with will do for you, nor, for that matter, what anybody will. The bailout is not coming and, with that, no real changes to how federal funds are siphoned.


“No man is an island” is a great quote, but in the Western world, it does look like there’s a will to try to prove otherwise.


Therefore, it is clear that for now, equity prices will remain expensive – both stocks and real estate – while governments continue to over-spend in order to fund social safety nets and enslave newborn babies to pay for all of this.


As this madness lingers, the need to live under NEGATIVE REAL RATES will only grow, which plays right into the hands of precious metals.




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The companies that I’ve profiled as my TOP PICKS have, for the past month, rallied big and hit all-time highs!


Bottom line is that YOU ARE YOUR OWN BAILOUT PLAN – the cavalry is not coming.


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11

      

By Michael Boldin


We’ve all heard the claims – various clauses of the Constitution, rather than limiting federal power, are used as a justification for more and more of it.


From the necessary and proper, general Welfare and commerce clauses, to the preamble, federal “supremacy” and more – there are a lot to choose from.


The hardest part about putting this list together was keeping it to just the top five.


         



      


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The Commerce Clause and the Constitution: Not a Power to Do Whatever They Want


The Preamble to the Constitution: What It Tells Us and What It Doesn’t


Necessary and Proper: Not Anything and Everything


Thomas Jefferson on the General Welfare Clause


The Supremacy Clause Smackdown





Michael Boldin [send him email] is the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center, where this video first appeared. He was raised in Milwaukee, WI, and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on twitter – @michaelboldin and Facebook.




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By Renee Parsons


While there is considerable telecom hubris regarding the 5G rollout and increasing speculation that the next generation of wireless is not yet ready for Prime Time, the industry continues to make promises to Rural America that it has no intention of fulfilling.  Decades-long promises to deliver digital Utopia to rural America by T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T have never materialized.


Despite much bravado, the biggest telecom carriers have never shown the willingness to fund the necessary infrastructure nor do they possess the necessary infrastructure to bridge the digital divide  – despite $22 billion in government subsidies and grants over the last five years specifically to provide wireless coverage to rural America.  At the same time, the incompetence at the FCC has been staggering – as an unreliable, albeit compromised, Commission that has consistently failed to provide accurate, reliable maps to identify broadband availability for rural America.


         



      

Whether 5G will measure up to its hype of performance and expectations remains a question since there is a different market today than when 4G came on line in 2010.   At that time, there was room for improved cell service, more apps, video streaming and new subscribers.  Today there is little new subscriber growth except in the chronically underserved areas of rural America which has been neglected by the telecom industry and FCC for decades.  The challenge for 5G is to create a market demand, to devise new gimmicks to finagle higher revenues out of current subscribers and most especially to expand their toxic infrastructure to rural America.  The market is much more aware than it was in 2010 as customers are no longer lining up around the corner to purchase the newest thingamajig.


As universal wireless coverage remains a myth in rural America, the Digital Divide is alive and well after decades of neglect by those telecoms who now see rural customers as their cash cow.


With the digital world of personal computers and cell phones a reality for the last three decades,  broadband service to rural America has continued to play second fiddle in favor of upgrades to more affluent urban customers and the telecom industry’s bottom line.


Unlike the national commitment to provide rural electrification in the 1920s as a major accomplishment, there has been no such Federal commitment to bring geographically challenged citizens into the digital age nor has Congress demanded that the telecom industry do whatever it takes to end the Digital Divide.


The fact that rural America was the topic of three previous Commerce committee hearings is indicative of how closing the Digital Divide is considered mandatory for a successful 5G rollout.  As the National Security Council power point suggested “by initially focusing on rural broadband, the network would guarantee a revenue stream while further business models develop.”  In other words, the telecom industry is banking on rural America, in its desperation for wireless service, to subscribe (probably at premium rates) after decades of neglect.


In 2017, the USDA reported that 29% of American farms had no internet access. The FCC says that 14 million rural Americans and 1.2 million Americans living on tribal lands do not have 4G LTE on their phones, and that 30 million rural residents do not have broadband service compared to 2% of urban residents.  It’s beginning to sound like a Third World country.


Despite an FCC $4.5 billion annual subsidy to carriers to provide broadband service in rural areas, the FCC reports that “over 24 million Americans do not have access to high-speed internet service, the bulk of them in rural area” while a  Microsoft Study found that  “162 million people across the US do not have internet service at broadband speeds.


At the same time, only three cable companies have access to 70% of the market in a sweetheart deal to hike rates as they avoid competition and the FCC looks the other way.  The FCC believes that it would cost $40 billion to bring broadband access to 98% of the country with expansion in rural America even more expensive.  While the FCC has pledged a $2 billion, ten year plan to identify rural wireless locations, only 4 million rural American businesses and homes will be targeted, a mere drop in the bucket.


Which brings us to rural mapping:  Since the advent of the digital age, there have been no accurate maps identifying where broadband service is available in rural America and where it is not available.   The FCC has a long history of promulgating unreliable and unverified carrier-provided numbers as the Commission has repeatedly ‘bungled efforts to produce accurate broadband maps” that would have facilitated rural coverage.


During the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on April 10th regarding broadband mapping, critical testimony questioned whether the FCC and/or the telecom industry have either the commitment or the proficiency to provide 5G to rural America.  Members of the Committee shared concerns that 5G might put rural America further behind the curve so as to never catch up with the rest of the country.  Committee Chair Roger Wicker (R-Miss) opened the hearing with


To close the digital divide, we need to have accurate broadband maps that tell us where broadband is available and where it is not available. This is critical because maps are used to inform federal agencies about where to direct broadband support. Flawed and inaccurate maps ultimately waste resources and stifle opportunities for economic development in our rural and underserved communities.


Tim Donovan of the Competitive Carriers Association told the committee that the FCC had falsely claimed in a December report that “approximately 100% of the American population lives in geographical areas covered by mobile LTE with a minimum 5Mbps speed” as an example of the Commission peddling false data.


Mike McCormick, President of the Mississippi Farm Bureau with 200,000 family members quoted from the FCC’s 2018 report that 72% of Mississippi resident had broadband coverage while data from a comparable  Microsoft study found that only 487,000 citizens or 16% had broadband service.   Further, the FCC reported that 41% of Jefferson County residents had broadband usage while the Microsoft study found that only 5.6% Jefferson County residents had usage.  McCormick told the committee he was ‘very confident” in disputing the FCC figures.






In discussing variable terrain and foliage in rural areas that has delayed installation of necessary cellular infrastructure, McCormick mentioned that “pine needles are some of the bigger deflectors of broadband signal because they are the exact same size of band width” as an example of challenges in rural America. Who knew pine needles could be a factor to 5G?


McCormick went on to explain that in February 2018, the FCC released a map showing areas eligible to receive FCC Mobility Fund Phase II funding for deployment of 4G LTE service which provides $4.53 billion over ten years for telecom carriers to bring mobile and broadband service to rural and underserved areas.  The Mississippi map showed that 98% of the state was already receiving mobile broadband service which the Farm Bureau disputed, ultimately filing a waiver request with the FCC to challenge the map’s accuracy.


The short of the story is that while the Farm Bureau collaborated with the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) to fulfill FCC requirements, the final conclusion was that not one of their speed tests processed through the PSC program was approved by the FCC for challenge.  In  other words, no ‘average’ member of the public would have been able to successfully challenge the integrity of the FCC maps.


Chair Wicker (R-Miss) responded,


Here’s where you were not a failure Mr. McCormick…we determined that the challenge process is unworkable and frankly worthless. The map is inaccurate and almost impossible using that challenge process to demonstrate this.  It needs to be fixed and no program should go forward unless we are satisfied in the Congress that the process is going to touch areas that need it.


There was unanimous agreement among Members of the Committee and the witness panel that “the maps are fake news and not reliable.”  Sen. Roy Blount (R-Missouri) who reported that 51% of rural Missouri is without broadband coverage, inquired “Does anyone believe that the maps are worth relying on?”  No one responded affirmatively.


Jonathan Spalter of the US Telecom Association informed the Committee that the ‘our 5G future will be built and based on our ability to pull the fiber ubiquitously, extensively and quickly” and further dropped a bomb on the Committee that the “final last mile of any 5G wireless network is built and based on the fiber based backhaul opportunities that exists through the wireline businesses..upon which 5G wireless networks ultimately rely.”


Chair Wicker used the analogy that when electricity came to rural Mississippi, “we ran the power out to the end of the dirt road.  Are you saying that, as a general rule, we are going to have to, big time, run fiber out to the end of the dirt roadSen. Blount has touched on a very, very important subject that we’ll need a lot more discussion about.” Spalter confirmed Wicker’s understanding. Clearly, the concern about providing 5G to rural America had just hit a seemingly insurmountable roadblock that given the diversity of rural terrain obstacles, laying fiber cables would be mandatory as Spalter had described.


NTSA




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Previously, both T-Mobile and Sprint promised, if allowed to merge, 5G networks to 85% of rural areas in three years, and 90% of rural areas in six years but that was before the issue of how installing miles and miles of fiber optics might affect that promise.  Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTSA, the rural broadband association representing 850 rural telecom companies, responded that the T-Mobile/Sprint promise


would require huge amounts of fiber backhaul that neither company currently possesses, as small cells must be placed very close to the customer (often within 300 to 500 feet) to reach the higher speeds contemplated by 5G making the technology particularly impractical (and very expensive) for most rural applications anytime soon.


In October, 2018, NTSA opposed the merger citing T-Mobile as the owner of “valuable spectrum for many years” that “had ample time to build out the rural areas or enter into a joint venture.” In other words, the telecom industry is already well aware of the necessity to “pull wire” in order to install 5G infrastructure throughout rural America.


The question for the telecom industry is that if the economics of 4G did not dramatically increase subscribers in rural America, how will the very expensive and much more controversial 5G provide a sufficient customer base to guarantee a return on the telecom industry’s $275 billion investment?


To be continued….


Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist with Friends of the Earth and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31


Image credit: MeriTalk


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By Matt Agorist


Stebbins, AK — A disturbing report out of ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News exposes just how easy it is for criminals — who have been convicted of heinous crimes — to become cops. In one town in Alaska, the “bad apple” excuse goes completely out the window as every single cop on the force has been convicted of domestic violence, with one of the cops being a registered sex offender.


One of these cops is Nimeron Mike, who never thought he’d be hired as a police officer but applied anyway. According to the report, Mike was a registered sex offender and had served six years behind bars in Alaska jails and prisons. He’d been convicted of assault, domestic violence, vehicle theft, groping a woman, hindering prosecution, reckless driving, drunken driving and choking a woman unconscious in an attempted sexual assault. Among other crimes.


Nevertheless, when Mike put in his application, he was hired immediately.


         



      

“Am I a cop now?” he remembers thinking. “It’s like, that easy?”


But Mike is only one of seven cops in the town who has a history of beating and raping women. Every other cop on the force, including the current police chief has a criminal record involving abuse of women.


As ProPublica reports:


The seven-man police force has served a combined six years in jails, prisons and halfway houses on dozens of criminal charges. That doesn’t include Mike, who was terminated on March 29, city records show. He says he wasn’t given a reason, but the city administrator said it was because he wasn’t responding to calls and didn’t get along with another officer.


Stebbins is only one town too. According to the report, the problem is widespread.



The first-of-its-kind investigation by the Daily News and ProPublica has found that at least 14 cities in Alaska have employed police officers whose criminal records should have prevented them from being hired under Department of Public Safety regulations. The news organizations identified more than 34 officers who should have been ineligible for these jobs. In all but three cases, the police hires were never reported by the city governments to the state regulatory board, as required.


In eight additional communities, local tribal governments have hired tribal police officers convicted of domestic violence or sex crimes.


All 42 of these tribal and city police officers have rap sheets that would prevent them from being hired by the Anchorage Police Department and its urban peers, as Alaska state troopers or even as private security guards most anywhere else in the United States. Many remain on the job today.



“It’s outrageous that we have a situation where we have a, such a lack of public safety that communities are resorting to hiring people who have the propensity for violence,” said Melanie Bahnke, a board member for the Alaska Federation of Natives, which represents 191 tribes. “And placing them in a position where they have control over people and possibly could victimize the victims further.”


“That’s like a frontier mentality,” said Bahnke.


Indeed, it is. But it’s not just Alaska either.


The average rate of families who experience domestic violence in the country is around 10 percent. When we look at police officers families, however, that number quadruples. As the National Center for Women and Policing points out, two studies have found that at least 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence.


The most recent data on the matter shows that Officer-Involved Domestic Violence or OIDV, is a major problem.


Individuals who are the victims of domestic violence at the hands of police officer-batterers are often in a unique and particularly vulnerable situation. Unlike most victims of domestic violence, where the success of protective efforts depends on the cooperation of law enforcement, those subject to officer-involved domestic violence (OIDV) may, for a variety of reasons, be unable to secure the assistance they seek. This is particularly troublesome in light of increased rates of domestic violence in police officer families.


Even more startling than the fact that 40% of police officer families experiencing domestic violence is the fact that this number is likely far higher as it is estimated that much of it goes unreported.






According to Leigh Goodmark, author of Hands Up at Home: Militarized Masculinity and Police Officers Who Commit Intimate Partner, 


The data on intimate partner abuse by police officers are both dated and potentially flawed, but in ways that make it more likely that abuse is being under—rather than over—reported. Most of the studies rely on self-reporting by police officers to establish prevalence of abuse. Self-reporting is a notoriously unreliable measure; as one study noted, ‘The issue of the reliability of self-reports data is problematic when considering any socially undesirable behavior.’


The problem of police violence often times comes out in full display in the form of violent murder suicides. In December, the nation was shocked to hear about the tragedy that unfolded in Plant City, Florida in which a Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy killed his wife, daughter and granddaughter, then confessed to their murders over his agency radio before killing himself.


Terry L. Strawn, 58, a Sheriff’s Office veteran who was once named Officer of the Year was the perpetrator. It is unclear how much abuse his family suffered before he made the ultimate decision to murder them.


In less serious cases, police have been seen beating their wives or girlfriends—in public, while in uniform.


As TFTP reported last year, officer Ian Ray and his girlfriend attended McGavock Elementary School for a child’s graduation when the two got into a verbal argument during the ceremony.


Ray was in uniform at the time and multiple witnesses reported seeing a police officer grab his girlfriend around the neck or hair and brutalize her. During the altercation, witnesses called police who showed up and then arrested the officer.


In that case, the officer was arrested. Sadly, however, many of these abusive cops are protected by their own departments and when an abused spouse or girlfriend attempts to get help, they are ignored and the abuser protected.


As TFTP has previously noted, a report by a government-appointed watchdog group shows that most of the time, the abusive officers commit these crimes with seeming impunity.




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A study conducted by the Domestic Violence Task Force called Domestic Violence in the Los Angeles Police Department: How Well Does the Los Angeles Police Department Police Its Own? revealed that performance evaluations of cops with a history of domestic violence are largely unaffected. The study of the LAPD examined 91 cases in which an allegation of domestic violence was sustained against an officer.



Over three-fourths of the time, this sustained allegation was not mentioned in the officer’s performance evaluation.
Twenty-six of these officers (29%) were promoted, including six who were promoted within two years of the incident.

The report concluded that “employees with sustained allegations were neither barred from moving to desired positions nor transferred out of assignments that were inconsistent with the sustained allegation.”


Sadly, it is estimated that many of the abused women never come forward as they know the likely result — which is getting shamed by the department for reporting it and potentially more abuse.


Diane Wetendorf, a specialist on police abuse, points out the most common fears when reporting police domestic abuse in her handbook:


If your abuser is an officer of the law, you may be afraid to:



Call the police — He is the police.
Go to a shelter — He knows where the shelters are located.
Have him arrested — Responding officers may invoke the code of silence.
Take him to court — It’s your word against that of an officer, and he knows the system.
Drop the charges — You could lose any future credibility and protection.
Seek a conviction — He will probably lose his job and retaliate against you.

These fears can make someone feel incredibly trapped and feel like there is no way out.


If you or someone you know is a victim of this type of abuse we encourage you to no longer remain silent. As long as people go unpunished for their abuse, they will continue to dole it out.



Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor at Large at the Free Thought Project, where this article first appeared. Follow @MattAgorist on Twitter, Steemit, and now on Minds.


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By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch


A decade-long fight over the proposed construction of a giant telescope on a mountain considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians came to a head Wednesday when 33 elders were arrested for blocking the road to the summit, HuffPost reported.


The most recent protests kicked off Monday, when construction on the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) was set to begin on Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island. Astronomers say the mountain is one of the best places in the world to get a clear view in an attempt to understand the origins of the universe. But some Native Hawaiians revere the mountain as sacred. It is both a place where important ancestors are buried, and a place believed to be an entrance point to heaven, CNN explained.


         



      

“We’re losing all of the things that we’re responsible for as Hawaiians,” activist Walter Ritte, who was one of eight to chain himself to a grate on the access road Monday, told Hawaii News Now. “We’re responsible for our oceans. We’re responsible for our land. We’re responsible for our future generations,” he said. “We must win this battle,” he added.




Ritte was one of the 33 arrested between around 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Wednesday morning, Hawaii News Now reported. Most of them were kupuna, or elders.


“We’re kupuna fighting for our families,” Ranette Robinson, another of the arrested activists, said.


Hours after the arrests, Hawaii Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation to give authorities more “flexibility” to stop protesters from blocking construction.


“We are certainly committed to ensuring the project has access to the construction site,” Ige said, as ABC News reported. “We’ve been patient in trying to allow the protesters to express their feelings about the project.”








Hawaii News Now estimated that 1,000 people were present at the demonstrations, while ABC News reported those numbers swelled to 2,000 after Wednesday’s arrests.


Plans for the TMT were first announced 10 years ago, according to Hawaii News Now, and opponents have tried both direct and legal means of blocking it since then. HuffPost gave a brief run-down of some of them:


Protesters, who call themselves “protectors” of the mountain, disrupted a groundbreaking back in 2014. And police arrested more than 30 opponents the following year after they attempted to stop construction. Later that year, the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated a construction permit, finding that the state Board of Land and Natural Resources violated due process when it approved the permit in 2011. Those behind the project were forced to apply for a new one.


Last year, the Hawaii Supreme Court declared the project’s latest permit legal, according to ABC News. Opponents are, however, still fighting in court as well. Last week they filed a suit arguing that the telescope’s builders must post a security bond equal in cost to construction before starting their work.


Not all Native Hawaiians oppose the project, however. Annette Reyes, who lives on the Big Island, said most important cultural traditions were not practiced on the summit.


“It’s going to be out of sight, out of mind,” she said, as ABC News reported.




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The 13 observatories already located on the mountain have put work on hold during the protests.


“The safety of everyone on the mountain, (observatory staff), law enforcement and protesters is of paramount importance to us,” East Asian Observatory Deputy Director Jessica Dempsey said in a statement to CNN.



Olivia Rosane is a freelance reporter for EcoWatch.


This article was sourced from WakingTimes.com


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The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in technology and human rights around the world. This report covers news and events from July 6 – July 19, 2019.


Rules against online “insult” have long been a feature of cybercrime and other internet-specific laws around the world. While they may be intended to reduce online harassment — which can have a stifling effect on free speech — such policies also can be abused by government authorities seeking to curb critical speech of a political nature.


One recent example of this trend has been at issue in Nigeria, where seven students and alumni of the privately-owned Madonna University in the Niger Delta, Nigeria could face up to seven years in jail over social media posts denouncing poor conditions and mistreatment of students and staff at their university. Nigerians on social media are advocating for their exoneration, calling them the “Madonna 7.”


         



      

One member of the group appears to have been targeted for running a WhatsApp group where people discussed concerns about the school administration, including allegations that administrators had locked up a staff member who had spoken critically about school policies.


All were granted bail on July 3 and released from a detention facility where they had been held since March 2019 after being charged under Nigeria’s Cybercrime Act. They are accused of sending “false messages” through social media which caused “annoyance, inconvenience, danger, insult, injury, criminal intimidation” to Madonna University and its chief security officer, Titu Ugwu.


Meanwhile in Russia, activist Igor Gorlanov was accused by police in Novokuznetsk of violating a March 2019 law against making “insulting statements” towards state authorities online on July 15. The activist had shared a link to a MediaZona article about Yuri Kartyzhev, a carpenter who had the dubious honour of becoming the first person sentenced under the new law after he called Vladimir Putin an “unbelievable f***wit” on VKontakte.


On July 10 Pavel Chikov, a lawyer with the human rights organisation Agora, noted on his Telegram channel that, by his count, more than 20 court cases have been launched referencing the new law against insulting the authorities.


Twitter campaign targets “anti-Pak” journalists in Pakistan


On July 5, #ArrestAntiPakJournalists trended on Twitter with over 28,000 tweets shared within a few hours. The hashtag went viral soon after a Twitter account named @IK_Warriors posted a tweet calling for the arrest of journalists belonging to what they described as “the pro-Indian, anti-Pak media group.” The tweet, which called on others to join the campaign, was accompanied by a photo of a list of journalists to be targeted.


The tweets mainly targeted journalists who criticize the government and the military. The @IK_Warriors Twitter account (IK refers to Prime Minister Imran Khan) bears a picture of Khan and the logo of the ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf or PTI. “We are standing for the truth and right [sic]”, the bio of the @IK_Warriors account reads. A cricketer-turned-politician who has been in office for just under a year, Khan’s critics say he was hand-picked by the military.






Responding to the #ArrestAntiPakJournalists hashtag, Mubashir Bukhari, executive editor of the Truth Tracker, told Global Voices:


Anyone who gives an alternate solution to the policies of the government or the military is labeled as anti-Pakistan or a traitor. Such trends are not only threatening and intimidating journalists but also putting the life of journalists at risk.


Mauritania’s internet is back on, for now


Mauritanian authorities restored access to the internet after disrupting it for 10 days following the disputed presidential elections of June 23 and resulting protests. The Ministry of the Interior reportedly ordered the shutdown for security reasons, although activists and human rights groups believe the real aim was to prevent the opposition from mobilizing protesters.


Advocates pressure MTN to keep the internet on in Sudan


A coalition of digital rights and free expression groups are calling on telecommunication company MTN to push back against government demands to disrupt internet access following a five-week shutdown in Sudan. The South Africa-based MTN, which is a leading internet provider in the country, implemented the block as military forces in Sudan violently repressed peaceful protesters, cutting off a critical channel for people to report abuses and access emergency medical services. An open letter signed by Access Now, African Freedom of Expression Exchange, Committee to Protect Journalists, NetBlocks, Paradigm Initiative and others says that by pulling the plug, the company contributed to human rights violations.


IBM and Google are working with surveillance tech makers in China. Should we be surprised?


The OpenPOWER Foundation, a non-profit consortium led by Google and IBM and established to improve interoperability of certain kinds of computing hardware, is working with the Chinese company Semptian, according to a report from The Intercept. Semptian has built multiple powerful technical surveillance tools that authorities in China, the Middle East and North Africa have used to vacuum up people’s private emails, texts and web browser histories. The partnership has enabled IBM and US chip manufacturer Xilinxon to collaborate with Semptian to build a microprocessor that enables computers to efficiently analyze immense amounts of data. A Semptian representative told a reporter posing as a customer that beyond China’s well-known digital dragnet, the firm has set up a mass surveillance system in an unnamed country within the MENA region.


US trade agency orders Facebook to pay up — but are they asking enough?




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Facebook is facing a $5 billion fine from the US Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations related to the Cambridge Analytica data breach, in which the analytics firm used private information it improperly harvested from 87 million Facebook users to influence voters approaching the 2016 US election. The penalty would be the largest ever imposed by the Commission against a technology company, but privacy advocates still say the figure amounts to a slap on the wrist for Facebook, which pulled in more than $15 billion in revenue alone in the first quarter of 2019.



This article was sourced from GlobalVoices.org


Top image: The Madonna 7 outside the courthouse. Photo provided by Vivien Douglas and used with permission.


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