Behind The Woodshed Blogcaster – February 12, 2017.


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Behind The Woodshed 3rd year Anniversary at Real Liberty Media

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Love Martyrs

  • Saint Valentine

    Saint Valentine, officially known as Saint Valentine of Rome, is a third-century Roman saint widely celebrated on February 14 and commonly associated with “courtly love.”

    Although not much of St. Valentine’s life is reliably known, and whether or not the stories involve two different saints by the same name is also not officially decided, it is highly agreed that St. Valentine was martyred and then buried on the Via Flaminia to the north of Rome.

    In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar, because so little is known about him. However, the church still recognizes him as a saint, listing him in the February 14 spot of Roman Martyrolgy.

  • Valentine’s Day

    Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine,[1] is an annual holiday celebrated on February 14. It originated as a WesternChristianliturgical feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus, and is recognized as a significant cultural and commercial celebration in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country.

    Several martyrdom stories associated with the various Valentines that were connected to February 14 were added to later martyrologies,[2] including a popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome which indicated he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire.[3] According to legend, during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius,[4] and before his execution, he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell.[5]

    The day first became associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines“). In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”, as well as to children, in order to ward off epilepsy (called Saint Valentine’s Malady).[6] Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.[7]

    Saint Valentine’s Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion,[8] as well as in the Lutheran Church.[9] Many parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day, albeit on July 6 and July 30, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni).[10]

     

  • Shocking: Infant Twins Die Simultaneously After Vaccines, Medical Board Rules ‘Just A Coincidence’

    Given that the sudden and simultaneous deaths of twins rarely occur, you would think, especially given the fact that they had been recently vaccinated, that it would receive quite a bit of attention. However, this story went largely unreported. (In order for twins to meet the criteria for simultaneous SIDS both babies must have died independently and within the same 24 hour time period.)

    PubMed reports that identical twin girls, aged 3.5-months and delivered via c-section, were found dead (by their poor momma) in their crib, both laying face up. Not surprisingly, both babies were healthy will no serious medical history. Two days before their death, both of the girls had received their second dose of oral polio, DPT, and their first dose of hepatitis B vaccines. They had a fever the day after the vaccines and were given a teaspoon of acetaminophen.

    All that and yet, “the death scene investigation, judicial investigation, parental assessment, macroscopic and microscopic autopsy findings and the toxicological analysis didn’t yield any specific cause of death.”

    Because the case was so rare it was referred to a board of multidisciplinary medical professionals at the Institute of Forensic Medicine, in the Ministry of Justice, in Istanbul. And yet, the Board still decided that the data they had was consistent with SIDS.

     

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: is there a vaccine connection?

    In a scientific study of SIDS, episodes of apnea (cessation of breathing) and hypopnea (abnormally shallow breathing) were measured before and after DPT vaccinations. “Cotwatch” (a precise breathing monitor) was used, and the computer printouts it generated (in integrals of the weighted apnea-hypopnea density — WAHD) were analyzed. The data clearly shows that vaccination caused an extraordinary increase in episodes where breathing either nearly ceased or stopped completely. These episodes continued for months following vaccinations. Dr. Viera Scheibner, the author of the study, concluded that “vaccination is the single most prevalent and most preventable cause of infant deaths.

    Victory Over Crib Death

    by Lendon H. Smith, MD

    This article summarizes the book The Infant Survival Guide: Protecting Your Baby from the Dangers of Crib Death, Vaccines and Other Environmental Hazards, by Lendon H. Smith, MD

    We propose a new paradigm. The conventional paradigm, or system of thought about crib death, assumes the cause is unknown; and preventing it is hopeless; that SIDS is multifactorial, that several mechanisms can function, possibly several at the same time. Further, that no one of these may be fatal, but a combination can kill; and that one can only lower the risk and offer sympathy afterward. This approach to crib death is a cop-out and a failure.

    The New Paradigm

    (A) SIDS has one primary cause, which we identify, noting a very few exceptions.

    (B) And we present the preventives that have achieved 100-percent success; whence the title: VICTORY OVER CRIB DEATH.

    Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is an unexpected infant death, after which thorough autopsy and examination of the death scene and circumstances at time of death reveal no identifiable cause of death. SIDS risk begins about two weeks after birth. It is the leading cause of death in months one to six, declines rapidly after a peak in the third month when the immune status received from the mother is ebbing, and is rare after a year of age.

    The definition “SIDS” is faulty, for two reasons.

    (1) A syndrome is “the aggregate of symptoms associated with a disease condition.”[1] In crib death the only symptom is death itself. The “syndrome” designation opened the door for well-paid specialists to enjoy a nice lifestyle while investigating various “risk factors”–but ignoring the actual cause.

    (2) The term “sudden” also is inapplicable; we show that certain precipitating events make crib death, and sometimes its probable date, predictable.

    Before World War II, unexplained infant deaths were unusual. But after 1950, the governments of nearly all the rich industrialized countries (regarding Japanese practice, see later) required treatment of baby and child mattresses with flame retardant chemicals. Phosphorus and antimony were most commonly used; arsenic was sometimes added later as a preservative.[2]

    Sadly, this well-intentioned measure was counterproductive in two ways.

    (1) American SIDS deaths ballooned 400-fold; the toll has since declined.

    (2) Among knowledgeable observers, it is well known that the number of baby deaths in residential blazes multiplied.[3] Statistical evidence, unfortunately, is not available.

    The mechanism of death is identical in both types of tragedy: the generation of extremely poisonous gases from the chemicals that had been added—in all innocence. First, with regard to SIDS. Common, ordinarily harmless household fungi such as Scopulariopsis brevicaulis and certain microorganisms consume the phosphorus, arsenic, antimony, added as fire retardants and plastic softeners.

    In consuming the chemicals, the fungi emit the heavier-than-air neurotoxic gases based on phosphine (PH3), arsine (AsH3)[4] and stibine (SbH3). These gases are about one thousand times more poisonous than carbon monoxide, which can kill a person in a closed garage with a running engine. They are about as toxic as Sarin, used in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and in a Tokyo terrorist subway poisoning in 1995.

    In probably the worst environmental disaster of the 20th century, these toxic gases have killed about one million victims of SIDS worldwide. Gas generation starts when a mattress, containing both the chemicals and the fungi, is warmed to body temperature in contact with the baby. Perspiration, dribble, urine, vomit, body heat and—as we shall see, critically important–high (alkaline) pH enable the fungi to grow and generate gas rapidly.

Legislating Rights Back

  • BREAKING: Constitutional Carry Passes In New Hampshire

    Guess what, folks? We’re about to have another constitutional carry state.

    A bill that would make it easier for Granite Staters to carry a concealed weapon on Thursday easily passed its final major legislative hurdle on its path toward becoming law.

    The state House of Representatives voted 200-97 in favor of the measure, which would repeal the need for a permit or license to carry a concealed handgun. There were a large number of absent state representatives, due to the powerful snowstorm slamming New Hampshire.

    Last month the New Hampshire state Senate, in a 13-10 party line vote, passed the bill.

    Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has repeatedly said he’ll sign the bill into law.

    Last month, following the measure’s passage in the state Senate, the state’s first GOP governor in a dozen years wrote “I am pleased that the State Senate today voted to advance common sense legislation in support of a citizen’s fundamental right to carry a firearm, joining neighboring states throughout the region and across the country,” Sununu wrote in a statement following the vote.

    .

What Gets Snookered Passed You

  • Trump Fumes At “So-Called Judge” After DHS Suspends “All Actions” On Travel Ban

    In what has been an almost complete reversal of Trump’s immigration executive order, following Friday night’s ruling by a Washington Judge to halt Trump’s travel ban, on Saturday morning the Department of Homeland Security announced that “in accordance with the judge’s ruling, DHS has suspended any and all actions implementing the affected sections of the Executive Order entitled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” 

    “This includes actions to suspend passenger system rules that flag travelers for operational action subject to the Executive Order. DHS personnel will resume inspection of travelers in accordance with standard policy procedure.”

    However, keeping the defiant tone, the DHS also said that “at the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this order and defend the President’s Executive Order, which is lawful and appropriate. The Order is intended to protect the homeland and the American people, and the President has no higher dury and responsibility than to do so.”

    That may be true, although at this point an “epic court battle”, including a Supreme Court showdown now appears inevitable.

     

  • FULL President Donald Trump Speech Sheriffs Conference

    President Donald Trump Speech Sheriffs Conference

  • Trump Today: President sounds off on 9th Circuit Court judges

    President Trump on Wednesday morning leaned on the judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in San Francisco, anticipating they will uphold a ruling against his executive order banning travel to the United States by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.

    “If these judges wanted to – in my opinion – help the court in terms of respect for the court, they’d do what they should be doing. I mean, It’s so sad,” Trump said at a meeting with the National Sheriffs’ Association.

  • The Ninth Circuit and President Trump’s Lies

    If there was a single question at the center of Tuesday afternoon’s hearings on President Trump’s executive order keeping people from seven Muslim-majority nations and all refugees out of the country, it was this: Do the courts, or the American people, have any recourse when the President lies? Judge James Robart, of the U.S. District Court, in Seattle, had granted the states of Washington and Minnesota a temporary restraining order that put a hold on Trump’s ban, pending further hearings in the next two weeks. The Justice Department had gone to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to ask for an emergency stay of that order, meaning that it could continue to keep people out and revoke tens of thousands of visas before any court had a say—and even then, the Trump Administration argued, the courts were not allowed to say much. The three judges on the appeals court—Michelle Friedland, Richard Clifton, and William Canby—wanted to know what, exactly, the emergency was.

    When the ban’s opponents got their turn, Noah Purcell, Washington State’s solicitor general, argued that this was indeed that sort of situation, and the states were as proper plaintiffs as anyone to bring the case. “It has always been the judicial branch’s role” to serve as a check on abuses, he began, but the President had asked them “to abdicate that role here, to reinstate the executive order without meaningful judicial review, and to throw this country back into chaos.” The chaos was the disorder and uncertainty occasioned by Trump’s action. The appeals court should let the district court do its work—as it “absolutely” would. To get its stay, the government had to show irreparable harm, and “it was the executive order itself that caused irreparable harm” to families in his state and to its many interests. If there was an emergency, in other words, it was entirely of the President’s creation, if not a product of his imagination.

    There had, Purcell said, been about five contradictory statements from the Trump Administration on basic questions, such as the order’s application to green-card holders. As a result, the question of how it affected long-time legal permanent residents of his state and others was not moot. Nor was the effect of an establishment-clause violation on every citizen, or other statutory concerns. “The court can review this order; the court should review this order,” Purcell said. (Whichever side prevails, this case is almost certainly headed for the Supreme Court, which is short a Justice at the moment.)

    As for the question of bad faith, Purcell noted that there was already “rather shocking evidence of intent to discriminate against Muslims.” Trump’s first articulation of the order, in a campaign statement in December, 2015, and at subsequent rallies, posited it as nothing more than a Muslim ban. And he and his aides had made multiple statements making their mendacity and their discriminatory “animus” clear. “We’ve presented an enormous amount of evidence” on the intent of the order, Purcell said, especially given that the discussion was just about a temporary restraining order, and that there hadn’t been any real substantive legal proceedings yet. Indeed, he said, “It’s remarkable to have this much evidence of intent without any discovery.” If the judges, or any Americans, look for the lies—if they acknowledge that they have a right to recognize what is the truth and what is not—they will find them, all around. And in this White House, lies resonate.

  • Ninth Circuit Rejects Trumpism and Affirms the Rule of Law in Immigration Ban Case

    The Supreme Court will have the final word, but for now, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued the country’s most resounding rejection of Trumpism (PDF).

    This is not because the court affirmed the temporary injunction against Donald Trump’s travel ban. It is not because travel continues as normal, pending the litigation over the ban’s constitutionality. Rather, the significance of the court’s opinion is in its careful, measured reaffirmation of the rule of law, in the face of an administration that has challenged it at every turn.

    There are four major holdings in the order, all about the rule of law taking precedence over executive fiat.

    First, Trump had denied that the judiciary can review his discretion at all, when it comes to national security. On Twitter, he called the judge who first put a hold on the ban a “so-called judge.”

    The Ninth Circuit utterly rejected that argument, saying that “although courts owe considerable deference to the President’s policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.”

    The president’s views on national security, in other words, do not trump the Constitution—or the courts’ power to interpret it. No one is above the law.

    Second, the Trump administration denied that it had to produce any evidence to support its claim that the seven-nation ban was essential for national security. It is so because we say so, they argued.

    The court slapped down that argument. “Despite the district court’s and our own repeated invitations to explain the urgent need for the Executive Order to be placed immediately into effect, the Government submitted no evidence to rebut the States’ argument that the district court’s order merely returned the nation temporarily to the position it has occupied for many previous years. The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all. We disagree.”

    That is a searing indictment of the unprecedented, rushed way in which the executive order was put together. Just like Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud, his false claims of seeing Muslim Americans rejoice on 9/11, his spokesman’s alternative facts regarding inauguration attendance, and his false statements about crime in America—among many, many other such claims—there was no evidence offered to support the position that were the travel ban to be lifted, disaster would result. It would because we say so, they argued.

    Wrong, said the court. Unsubstantiated claims may fly on Fox News, but not in a court of law. And with the government not only providing no evidence, but arguing that it didn’t need to, the court dismissed its baseless warnings of imminent doom.

    Third, the Trump administration argued that aliens have no rights. No one has any right to travel to the United States, after all, so suspending some people’s ability to do so is not an infringement on any rights. In the court’s words, “the Government argues that most or all of the individuals affected by the Executive Order have no rights under the Due Process Clause.”

    Wrong again, said the court. In fact, the Fifth Amendment, which requires the government to provide due process before depriving people of their life, liberty, or property, applies to everyone, including undocumented persons—not to mention green card holders, who were part of the initial order.

    Believe it or not, “illegals” have rights too.

  • Another Travel Ban: IRS Moves To Revoke Passports For Unpaid Taxes

    President Trump’s executive order on travel may be generating big protests, but an IRS missive on travel and passports may not go down too well either. More than a year ago, in H.R.22, Congress gave the IRS a new weapon to collect taxes. Tax code Section 7345 is labeled, “Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Tax Delinquencies.” The law isn’t limited to criminal tax cases, or even cases where the IRS thinks you are trying to flee. The idea of the law is to use travel as a way to enforce tax collections. It was proposed and rejected in 2012. But by late 2015, Congress passed it and President Obama signed it.

    Now, over a year later, the IRS has finally released new details on its website. If you have seriously delinquent tax debt, IRS can notify the State Department. The State Department generally will not issue or renew a passport after receiving certification from the IRS. The IRS has not yet started certifying tax debt to the State Department. The IRS says certifications will begin in early 2017, and the IRS website will be updated to indicate when this process has been implemented. It’s not too soon to start compiling 10 ways to keep IRS from taking your passport!

MilitaRazing Your Future MegaPoverty

  • It’s Time to Create a Megacities Combat Unit

    Every year, more and more of the world’s population moves into cities. The number of megacities is growing exponentially. Both of these global patterns and their inevitable consequences for military operations are well documented. Yet we still do not have units that are even remotely prepared to operate in megacities. If we want to find success on the urban battlefields the US Army will inevitably find itself fighting on in the future, that needs to change.

    Throughout history, military forces either sought to avoid or simply had no need to engage in urban combat. Most military doctrine, and the strategic theory it is built upon, encourages land forces to bypass, lay siege to, or—if required—isolate and slowly clear cities from the outside in. The great armies of the world have historically fought for cities rather than in cities, a distinction with a significant difference. In cases where military forces had no choice but to operate within cities, the environment, almost without exception, proved very costly in both military and civilian casualties. Today, many armies have accepted that global population growth and urbanization trends will increasingly force military operations into crowded cities, and military forces must therefore be capable of conducting the full range of operations in large, dense urban areas. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley recently remarked that the Army “has been designed, manned, trained and equipped for the last 241 years to operate primarily in rural areas.” But that is about to change.

  • Military Contingencies in Megacities and Sub-Megacities

    Urbanization is one of the most important mega-trends of the 21st century. Consequently, the possibility of U.S. military involvement in a megacity or sub-megacity is an eventuality that cannot be ignored. After elucidating the nature of urbanization and developing a typology in terms of smart, fragile, and feral cities, we give consideration to the kinds of contingencies that the U.S. military, especially the Army, needs to think about and prepare for. Understanding the city as a complex system or organism is critical and provides the basis for changes in intelligence, recruitment, training, equipment, operations, and tactics.

    One of the key takeaways is the need to understand the urban environment and the need to work with (instead of against) the flows and rhythms of a city. Without such an approach, the results of military involvement in such a formidable environment would likely be disastrous; with it, the prospects for success would at least be enhanced.

     

  • MEGACITIES AND THE UNITED STATES ARMY
    PREPARING FOR A COMPLEX AND UNCERTAIN FUTURE

    “Crowded megacities, beset by poor living conditions, periodic rises in the price of commodities,
    water shortages, and unresponsive municipal services, will be fertile petri dishes for the spread
    of both democracy and radicalism, even as regimes will be increasingly empowered by missiles
    and modern, outwardly focused militaries.”-Robert Kaplan,The Revenge of Geography: What the Map tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle against Fate
    “Failing to prepare for military operations in dangerous megacities could leave a future presi-
    dent without the means to do something that he or she considers to be in the national interest.”
    – Steven Metz, Strategic Horizons: How the U.S. Military Might Get Involved in a Mega.

 

Digital Marshmallows

  • Thousands of Hacked WordPress Sites Abused to Infect Millions of Visitors

    A Large number of WordPress websites were compromised in last two weeks with a new malware campaign spotted in the wild.

    WordPress, a Free and Open source content management system (CMS) and blogging tool, has been once again targeted by hackers at large scale.
    Researchers at Sucuri Labs have detected a “Malware Campaign” with an aim of getting access to as many devices they can by making innumerable WordPress websites as its prey.
    The Malware campaign was operational for more than 14 days ago, but it has experienced a massive increase in the spread of infection in last two days, resulted in affecting more than 5000 WordPress websites.
    The Security researchers call this malware attack as “VisitorTracker”, as there exists a javascript function named visitorTracker_isMob() in the malicious code designed by cyber criminals.
    This new campaign seems to be utilizing the Nuclear Exploit Kit and uses a combination of hacked WordPress sites, hidden iframes and number of known and unknown Browser exploits.
  • WordPress Malware – Active VisitorTracker Campaign

    We are seeing a large number of WordPress sites compromised with the “visitorTracker_isMob” malware code. This campaign started 15 days ago, but only in the last few days have we started to see it gain traction; really affecting a large number of sites.

    Here is a quick snapshot of what we’re seeing with the infection rates over the past two weeks, but the most interesting trend is over the past 48 hours, as it has grown significantly.

     

  • Free Website Malware and Security Scanner

    Disclaimer: Sucuri SiteCheck is a free & remote scanner. Although we do our best to provide the best results, 100% accuracy is not realistic, and not guaranteed.

     

Internet Of Things Have Eyes

  • Vizio Pays Big After Accusations of Smart TVs Spying on Owners

    The company is accused of tracking the viewing habits of 11 million television owners 24-7, without providing any notice of their actions.

    On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint that Vizio televisions contained automated content-recognition software to capture second-by-second information about what was being played on the screens. The software reportedly also collected and transmitted other personal information to Vizio-controlled servers, including where the appliances went, when sold to third parties, Ars Technica reports.

    Information beyond viewing habits obtained by Vizio’s software included age, sex, income, marital status, household size, education level, homeownership, and home value.

    The Internet-connected televisions began collecting user information in February 2014, and did so on both new and older devices that did not originally come with the spying software.

  • VIZIO to Pay $2.2 Million to FTC, State of New Jersey to Settle Charges It Collected Viewing Histories on 11 Million Smart Televisions without Users’ Consent

    VIZIO, Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers and sellers of internet-connected “smart” televisions, has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General that it installed software on its TVs to collect viewing data on 11 million consumer TVs without consumers’ knowledge or consent.

    The stipulated federal court order requires VIZIO to prominently disclose and obtain affirmative express consent for its data collection and sharing practices, and prohibits misrepresentations about the privacy, security, or confidentiality of consumer information they collect. It also requires the company to delete data collected before March 1, 2016, and to implement a comprehensive data privacy program and biennial assessments of that program.

    According to the agencies’ complaint, starting in February 2014, VIZIO, Inc. and an affiliated company have manufactured VIZIO smart TVs that capture second-by-second information about video displayed on the smart TV, including video from consumer cable, broadband, set-top box, DVD, over-the-air broadcasts, and streaming devices.

    In addition, VIZIO facilitated appending specific demographic information to the viewing data, such as sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value, the agencies allege. VIZIO sold this information to third parties, who used it for various purposes, including targeting advertising to consumers across devices, according to the complaint.

    According to the complaint, VIZIO touted its “Smart Interactivity” feature that “enables program offers and suggestions” but failed to inform consumers that the settings also enabled the collection of consumers’ viewing data. The complaint alleges that VIZIO’s data tracking—which occurred without viewers’ informed consent—was unfair and deceptive, in violation of the FTC Act and New Jersey consumer protection laws.

    The $2.2 million payment by VIZIO includes a payment of $1.5 million to the FTC and $1 million to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, with $300,000 of that amount suspended.

     

Prying Eye Lids

  • Republicans are reportedly using a self-destructing message app to avoid leaks

    Trump administration members and other Republicans are using the encrypted, self-destructing messaging app Confide to keep conversations private in the wake of hacks and leaks, according to Jonathan Swan and David McCabe at Axios. Axios writes that “numerous senior GOP operatives and several members of the Trump administration” have downloaded Confide, which automatically wipes messages after they’re read.

    One operative told Axios that the app “provides some cover” for people in the party. He ties it to last year’s hack of the Democratic National Committee, which led to huge and damaging information dumps of DNC emails leading up to the 2016 election. But besides outright hacks, the source also said he liked the fact that Confide makes it difficult to screenshot messages, because only a few words are shown at a time. That suggests that it’s useful not just for reducing paper trails, but for stopping insiders from preserving individual messages — especially given the steady flow of leaks that have come out since Trump took office.

    As Axios notes, official White House business is subject to preservation rules, although we don’t know much about who’s allegedly using Confide and what they’re doing with it, so it’s not clear whether this might run afoul of those laws. It’s also difficult to say how much this is a specifically Republican phenomenon, and how much is a general move toward encryption.

     

The Big Reveal

  • Real life CSI: Google’s new AI system unscrambles pixelated faces

    Google’s neural networks have achieved the dream of CSI viewers everywhere: the company has revealed a new AI system capable of “enhancing” an eight-pixel square image, increasing the resolution 16-fold and effectively restoring lost data.

    The neural network could be used to increase the resolution of blurred or pixelated faces, in a way previously thought impossible; a similar system was demonstrated for enhancing images of bedrooms, again creating a 32×32 pixel image from an 8×8 one.

    Google’s researchers describe the neural network as “hallucinating” the extra information. The system was trained by being shown innumerable images of faces, so that it learns typical facial features. A second portion of the system, meanwhile, focuses on comparing 8×8 pixel images with all the possible 32×32 pixel images they could be shrunken versions of.

    The two networks working in harmony effectively redraw their best guess of what the original facial image would be. The system allows for a huge improvement over old-fashioned methods of up-sampling: where an older system might simply look at a block of red in the middle of a face, make it 16 times bigger and blur the edges, Google’s system is capable of recognising it is likely to be a pair of lips, and draw the image accordingly.

     

  • TSA’s Own Files Show Doubtful Science Behind Its Behavior Screening Program

    Newly released documents from the Transportation Security Administration appear to confirm the concerns of critics who say that the agency’s controversial program that relies on body language, appearance, and particular behaviors to select passengers for extra screening in airports has little basis in science and has led to racial profiling.

    Files turned over to the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act include a range of studies that undermines the program’s premise, demonstrating that attempts to look for physical signs of deception are highly subjective and unreliable. Also among the files are presentations and reports from the TSA and other law enforcement agencies that put forth untested theories of how to profile attackers and rely on broad stereotypes about Muslims.

    The TSA has deployed behavior detection officers, or BDOs, at security checkpoints and in plainclothes throughout airports to look for travelers exhibiting behaviors that might betray fear, stress, or deception. According to the documents, these officers engage in “casual conversations” such that the passengers don’t realize they “have undergone any deliberate line of questioning.”

    These spotters can pick people out for extra screening, refer them to law enforcement or immigration authorities, or block them from boarding a plane.

    Looking out for suspicious behaviors is hardly surprising, but TSA’s approach has been roundly criticized by government watchdogs and outside observers who say there’s no scientific basis for the clues the officers rely on as indicators. The program — previously known as “SPOT,” for Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques, and now called “Behavior Detection and Analysis” — has cost $1.5 billion since it was rolled out in 2007, according to a recent inspector general’s report.

    In 2015, The Intercept published the TSA’s checklist for behavior detection officers, which included dozens of apparently suspicious indicators, such as “excessive fidgeting,” “strong body odor,” “whistling,” and “exaggerated emotions.” Many of the behaviors on the list contradicted one another, and most seemed like they could apply to any number of travelers going through a security screening and heading to a flight. A former officer in the program told The Intercept at the time that the list was “just ‘catch all’ behaviors to justify BDO interaction with a passenger. A license to harass.”

    In an emailed statement, TSA spokesperson Bruce Anderson said that “TSA stands by its Behavior Detection capability.” The TSA’s approach, he said, “is threat-agnostic, and unlike technology, does not become obsolete when the adversary develops a new weapon or tactic. It is one element of TSA’s efforts to mitigate threats against the traveling public, and is critical to TSA’s systems approach to deter, detect, and disrupt individuals who pose a threat to aviation.” He pointed to a TSA report asserting that the agency has relied on “sound and substantial” outside research as well as its own studies to refine and revise the list of indicators. 

    Anderson also said that the TSA no longer considered behavior detection a unique program and had incorporated behavior detection officers into the regular workforce.

    The TSA has previouslybeen accused of racial profiling in picking out passengersfor extra screening. The documents obtained by the ACLU reveal additional details of incidents at airports where the TSA was prompted to investigate. In Newark, for example, a TSA investigation found that officers had been directed to focus on particular nationalities and “to pull Latin American and Arabic looking passengers.” In Chicago, an officer alleged that BDOs were told to “pay particular attention” to passengers flying on Middle Eastern airlines, who were likely to carry large amounts of money and have outstanding warrants.

    “In these investigations, it becomes very clear how the indicators can be used for wrongful profiling, how they give them a basis for action against someone they don’t like the look of,” said Hugh Handeyside, an attorney at the ACLU’s National Security Project. “They underscore that these indicators are subjective and can be arbitrarily applied.”

Häraising Experiment

  • A well-kept open secret: Washington is behind India’s brutal experiment of abolishing most cash

    In early November, without warning, the Indian government declared the two largest denomination bills invalid, abolishing over 80 percent of circulating cash by value. Amidst all the commotion and outrage this caused, nobody seems to have taken note of the decisive role that Washington played in this. That is surprising, as Washington’s role has been disguised only very superficially.

    US-President Barack Obama has declared the strategic partnership with India a priority of his foreign policy. China needs to be reigned in. In the context of this partnership, the US government’s development agency USAID has negotiated cooperation agreements with the Indian ministry of finance. One of these has the declared goal to push back the use of cash in favor of digital payments in India and globally.

    On November 8, Indian prime minster Narendra Modi announced that the two largest denominations of banknotes could not be used for payments any more with almost immediate effect. Owners could only recoup their value by putting them into a bank account before the short grace period expired at year end, which many people and businesses did not manage to do, due to long lines in front of banks. The amount of cash that banks were allowed to pay out to individual customers was severely restricted. Almost half of Indians have no bank account and many do not even have a bank nearby. The economy is largely cash based. Thus, a severe shortage of cash ensued. Those who suffered the most were the poorest and most vulnerable. They had additional difficulty earning their meager living in the informal sector or paying for essential goods and services like food, medicine or hospitals. Chaos and fraud reigned well into December.

    Four weeks earlier

    Not even four weeks before this assault on Indians, USAID had announced the establishment of „Catalyst: Inclusive Cashless Payment Partnership“, with the goal of effecting a quantum leap in cashless payment in India. The press statement of October 14 says that Catalyst “marks the next phase of partnership between USAID and Ministry of Finance to facilitate universal financial inclusion”. The statement does not show up in the list of press statements on the website of USAID (anymore?). Not even filtering statements with the word “India” would bring it up. To find it, you seem to have to know it exists, or stumble upon it in a web search. Indeed, this and other statements, which seemed rather boring before, have become a lot more interesting and revealing after November 8.

    Reading the statements with hindsight it becomes obvious, that Catalyst and the partnership of USAID and the Indian Ministry of Finance, from which Catalyst originated, are little more than fronts which were used to be able to prepare the assault on all Indians using cash without arousing undue suspicion. Even the name Catalyst sounds a lot more ominous, once you know what happened on November 9.

    Catalyst’s Director of Project Incubation is Alok Gupta, who used to be Chief Operating Officer of the World Resources Institute in Washington, which has USAID as one of its main sponsors. He was also an original member of the team that developed Aadhaar, the Big-Brother-like biometric identification system.

     

  • 12 U.S. Code § 411 – Issuance to reserve banks; nature of obligation; redemption

    Federal reserve notes, to be issued at the discretion of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for the purpose of making advances to Federal reserve banks through the Federal reserve agents as hereinafter set forth and for no other purpose, are authorized. The said notes shall be obligations of the United States and shall be receivable by all national and member banks and Federal reserve banks and for all taxes, customs, and other public dues. They shall be redeemed in lawful money on demand at the Treasury Department of the United States, in the city of Washington, District of Columbia, or at any Federal Reserve bank.

    (Dec. 23, 1913, ch. 6, § 16 (par.), 38 Stat. 265; Jan. 30, 1934, ch. 6, § 2(b)(1), 48 Stat. 337; Aug. 23, 1935, ch. 614, title II, § 203(a), 49 Stat. 704.)

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