Russian Company Adds Pre-Crime Emotional Recognition Tech To Surveillance Cameras

Nicholas West
Activist Post

Nearly all areas of the modern world have now adopted some form of surveillance camera apparatus. With the concurrent rise in biometric identification technology, we are now entering the next phase of unprecedented privacy reduction: surveillance cameras equipped with real-time facial recognition, tied into police departments.

Russian company NTechLab made headlines last year for its implementation of FindFace, a software that was applied to Russia’s social media site VKontakte and its nearly 300 million users. The software claimed a 70% success rate in matching any photo taken to a social media profile, allowing strangers to identify one another instantaneously. FindFace was an immediate hit, signing up half a million users in its first two months. Continue reading


China’s Spending $500 Billion to Reshape the World in Its Image


China is one of the few countries in the world today with money to spend, and Xi Jinping is ready to write some checks.

China’s president will host almost 30 world leaders in Beijing on Sunday at the first Belt and Road Forum, the centerpiece of a soft-power push backed by hundreds of billions of dollars for infrastructure projects. More than 100 countries on five continents have signed up, showing the demand for global economic cooperation despite rising protectionism in the U.S. and Europe.

For Xi, the initiative is designed to solidify his image as one of the world’s leading advocates of globalization while U.S. President Donald Trump cuts overseas funds in the name of “America First.” The summit aims to ease concerns about China’s rise and boost Xi’s profile at home, where he’s become the most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping died in 1997.

The Belt and Road Initiative “will likely be Xi’s most lasting legacy,” said Trey McArver, the London-based director of China research for TS Lombard, an investment research company. “It has the potential to remake global — particularly Asian — trade and economic patterns.”

The strategy also carries risks. The initiative is so far little more than a marketing slogan that encompasses all sorts of projects that China had initiated overseas for years, and major world leaders like Trump, Angela Merkel and Shinzo Abe are staying away. How Xi answers a range of outstanding questions will go a long way in determining its success.

Key to reducing uncertainty will be addressing the concerns of strategic rivals like India, Russia and the U.S., particularly as China’s growing military prowess lets it be more assertive over disputed territory. Chinese moves to spend more than $50 billion on an economic corridor in Pakistan, build a port in Djibouti and construct oil pipelines in central Asia are all creating infrastructure that could be used to challenge traditional powers.

“China needs to recognize that the way it perceives the Belt and Road Initiative is not necessarily the same way others will,” said Paul Haenle, a former China director on the U.S. National Security Council who now heads the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing. For countries like the U.S., he said, “it’s impossible not to view the BRI through a geopolitical lens — a Chinese effort to build a sphere of influence.”

Excess Capacity

In September 2013, when Xi first pitched the plan at an obscure Kazakhstan university, he focused on the Eurasia landmass. Since then, it has repeatedly changed names and expanded to include the entire world, with the main goal of rebuilding the ancient trading routes from China to Europe overland and by sea.

One key driver was economic: China wants to spur growth in underdeveloped hinterlands and find more markets for excess industrial capacity. With more than $3 trillion in international reserves — more than a quarter of the world’s total — China has more resources than developed economies struggling to hit budget targets.

The plan gained steam last year when populist movements spurred a backlash against trade and immigration in the U.S. and Europe. Brexit raised questions about the European Union’s viability, while Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership gutted the biggest U.S. push to shape global economic rules.

Trade Champion

“It was very disappointing, and it makes us feel that there is a big vacuum that Belt and Road can help to fill,” Cheah Cheng Hye, chairman and co-chief investment officer at the Hong Kong-based Value Partners Group. “So all of sudden, we begin to appreciate this Chinese initiative.”

Xi wasted no time filling the void. With exporting nations looking for a free-trade champion, he told the global elite in Davos, Switzerland, to resist protectionism and join China in boosting global commerce.

The U.S. and Europe “almost unwittingly” created space for Xi to push China’s interests, according to Peter Cai, research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

“China is offering an alternative to the U.S. version of globalization,” Cai said. “In the Chinese case, it’s globalization paved by concrete: railways, highways, pipelines, ports.”

Draft Communique

This year, five European countries — Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, France and Italy — openly voiced support for the initiative. On trips to China in February, Italian President Sergio Mattarella proposed plans for the ports of Genoa and Trieste, while French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve attended the arrival ceremony of a freight train from Lyon.

The summit will feature the likes of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Greece’s Alexis Tsipras and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte. The U.S. will send Matt Pottinger, a special assistant to Trump and senior director for East Asia on the National Security Council, according to State Department spokesman Justin Higgins.

A draft communique circulated before the event combined a commitment to open markets with endorsements of China’s diplomatic goals, Bloomberg reportedWednesday, citing people familiar with the document. It also generated some controversy among Beijing-based diplomats who said they didn’t have enough time to vet the document, underscoring the initiative’s potential to cause conflict.

$500 Billion

China has invested more than $50 billion in Belt and Road countries since 2013, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Credit Suisse Group AG said this month that China could pour more than $500 billion into 62 countries over five years.

China’s state-run companies like China National Petroleum Corp. and China Mobile Ltd. — the world’s largest wireless carrier — are positioned to reap the rewards. Executives from six of China’s largest state-run firms sought to reassure the public this week that the risks were manageable.

China’s three development banks, its Silk Road Fund and the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank were involved in $39 billion of lending outside of the country last year, up about 50 percent from 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“One Belt, One Road — I think, it is potentially a plus,” JPMorgan Chase International Chairman Jacob Frenkel told Bloomberg Television on Friday. “And we should not worry about it because what it does is basically connects hundreds of millions of people, hundreds of millions of markets. And you know what? If somebody gains from it, that’s perfectly fine.”

Still, financial hurdles are starting to appear. China’s slowing economic growth has left fewer resources to spend overseas. Its international reserves have fallen about 6 percent over the past year, and China needs a healthy amount to defend the yuan.

Some previous Chinese ventures abroad have turned sour. While China’s no-strings-attached approach to investment is generally welcomed by developing countries, they often have poor credit ratings and questionable governance. China has struggled to recoup loans in Venezuela and Africa, and several projects in Central Asia have spurred protests. Announcements with big dollar signs often fail to materialize.

Nonetheless, Chinese scholars see the sum of Xi’s plan as bigger than any individual project. It represents a “profound change” in how China interacts with the world, according to Wang Yiwei, director of at Renmin University’s Institute of International Affairs in Beijing, who has written three books on the initiative.

“China has moved from a participant of globalization to a main leader,” he said. “It’s Globalization 2.0.”

— With assistance by Ting Shi, and Miao Han

(Updates with U.S. representation to summit under ‘Draft Communique’ subheadline. A previous version of this story corrected the amount of lending by China-related development banks and funds.)


Ransomware infections reported worldwide

BBC News

A massive ransomware campaign appears to have infected a number of organisations around the world.

Screenshots of a well known program that locks computers and demands a payment in Bitcoin have been shared online by parties claiming to be affected.

There have been reports of infections in the UK, US, China, Russia, Spain, Italy, Vietnam, Taiwan and others.

Security researchers are linking the incidents together.

One cyber-security researcher tweeted that he had detected 36,000 instances of the ransomware, called WannaCry and variants of that name.

“This is huge,” he said.

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) was also hit by a ransomware outbreak and screenshots of the WannaCry program were shared by NHS staff.

A number of Spanish firms were among the apparent victims elsewhere in Europe.

Telecoms giant Telefonica said in a statement that it was aware of a “cybersecurity incident” but that clients and services had not been affected.

Power firm Iberdrola and utility provider Gas Natural were also reported to have suffered from the outbreak.

There were reports that staff at the firms were told to turn off their computers.

Screenshots of WannaCry with text in Spanish were also shared online.

In Italy, one user shared images appearing to show a university computer lab with machines locked by the same program.

Bitcoin wallets seemingly associated with the ransomware were reported to have already started filling up with cash.

“This is a major cyber attack, impacting organisations across Europe at a scale I’ve never seen before,” said security architect Kevin Beaumont.

According to security firm Check Point, the version of the ransomware that appeared today is a new variant.

“Even so, it’s spreading fast,” said Aatish Pattni, head of threat prevention for northern Europe.

Several experts monitoring the situation have linked the infections to vulnerabilities released by a group known as The Shadow Brokers, which recently claimed to have dumped hacking tools stolen from the NSA.

A patch for the vulnerability was released by Microsoft in March, but many systems may not have had the update installed.

China Is on Track to Fully Phase Out Cash

Jamie Fullerton

Experts believe it won’t be long before China, the first country to introduce paper money, becomes the first to go totally cashless.

In a poky sex toy shop in Sanlitun shopping district in central Beijing, a placard with a QR code is strategically placed next to a pink, vein-knobbled dildo called the Super Emperor, and a clitoral pump. Just scan your phone, and walk out with your purchase.

The cigarette vendor across the street accepts smartphone payments too. A fast-moving queue of customers purchase smokes by scanning their phones over a tatty cardboard QR code.

All the bars in Sanlitun, equal parts seedy and swish, still take cash, but have likewise implemented cashless pay, largely through the ubiquitous WeChat and Alipay app, as primary payment platforms. Beijing taxi drivers accept smartphone payments too.

Continue reading

Secret messages hidden in TV adverts can order smartphones to spy on people, researchers warn

Jasper Hamill
UK Sun

SECRET messages hidden in television adverts can order smartphones to quietly spy on their owners.

That’s the shocking revelation in a new piece of research which exposes the scary snooping techniques corporations are using to pry into people’s lives in unprecedented detail.

A team of German academics have noticed a huge growth in the number of Android apps that are designed to look out for inaudible “ultrasonic” signals. Continue reading

Facebook loses landmark hate speech case with global consequences


An Austrian court has ruled that Facebook must delete hateful posts directed at the leader of the country’s Green Party, but the fallout could soon be felt worldwide.

Viewed as a landmark victory for anti-hate speech campaigners, the case is thought to have wide-reaching ramifications for the social media giant with the court ruling that Facebook must delete the posts across the platform irrespective of jurisdiction, not just in Austria.

The case was filed last year by Austria’s Green Party, whose leader Eva Glawischnig, was subjected to online abuse by a fake account.

The Commercial Court of Vienna granted a preliminary injunction last December, but Facebook’s subsequent appeal of the ruling now appears to have been firmly defeated.

Austria’s Green Party told the court that despite repeated requests that the company remove the posts, Facebook failed to comply.

The party is now hoping to take its case to the country’s highest court in a bid to force Facebook to remove other similar posts and identify holders of fake accounts.

Further to removing the original posts, the court also said that Facebook must remove all verbatim reposts.

The party also wants Facebook to pay damages which, according to Reuters, would make it easier for others involved in similar cases to run the financial risk of taking the world’s biggest social network to court.

“Facebook must put up with the accusation that it is the world’s biggest platform for hate and that it is doing nothing against this,” said Green parliamentarian Dieter Brosz.

The social network has come under increasing pressure in recent months to tackle hate speech on the platform.

In April, the German government approved a new bill on combating hate speech and fake news, under which social networks could face hefty fines if they fail to remove offensive content promptly. Critics denounced the bill as a violation of free speech.

In the UK, the company has been accused of ignoring complaints about extremist content and child abuse imagery being shared on the site.

Continue reading

Observers worried that “nuclear chain reaction” could still occur at Fukushima… cleanup could take 100 years or more

Jayson Veley

On March 11, 2011, terror struck northeastern Japan in the form of a massive magnitude-9 earthquake, which in turn unleashed a devastating tsunami that wiped out virtually everything in the city of Sukuiso. The effects of the earthquake were felt around the entire world, and even years later, the people of Japan were still finding debris washing up on shore. According to the Japanese government, the total damage caused by the earthquake cost the country an astonishing 25 trillion yen, the equivalent of roughly 300 billion U.S. dollars.

A few years later, it was discovered that radioactive water was being leaked from the Fukushima power plant, which experienced a level 7 nuclear meltdown following the tsunami. According to Japan’s Reconstruction Agency, as of 2015, 230,000 people whose homes were destroyed in 2011 were still living in temporary housing. Also as of 2015, according to Japan’s National Police Agency, a total of 15,891 people were confirmed dead.

But perhaps one of the most devastating long-term consequences of the earthquake and the tsunami that followed was, and continues to be, the cooling system failure at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Even two years after the event, the Tokyo Electric Power Company admitted that an astonishing 300 tons of radioactive water was flowing into the Pacific Ocean every single day. “Fukushima was created by the tsunami. The earthquake was not a factor,” explained Vasily Titov, director of the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration’s Center for Tsunami Research, based in Seattle, Washington. “Fukushima was designed for a tsunami smaller than the one we saw.” (RELATED: Read about the brutally honest way this nuclear engineer describes Fukushima).

Incredibly, small amounts of radioactive chemicals have even been discovered along the western coasts of the United States and Canada. In 2014 and 2015, trace amounts of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 were collected from the ocean.

But even after all of this, Japan’s problems may still be far from over. Neil Hyatt, a professor of nuclear materials chemistry, claims that the cleanup process at Fukushima could take generations. “Somewhere between 40 and 100 years for the Fukushima cleanup and complete decommissioning is probably a reasonable estimate,” he predicts during an interview with TRT World, a government funded public broadcaster of Turkey. Hyatt goes on to say, “So right now work is proceeding to target and to plan, and they have an ambitious goal to retrieve some of the core material by 2020. They have a lot of different approaches to doing that.” (RELATED: Read about the unimaginable levels of radiation detected at Fukushima)

“One concern is there could be a resumption of the nuclear chain reaction and there are systems in place that would allow us to detect that,” Professor Hyatt added.

While the threat of a nuclear chain reaction is certainly legitimate, Tokyo Electric is still working tirelessly to reach the cores of the nuclear reactors. The problem they are having, however, is getting past a lethal wave of radiation that has the ability to kill a human in less than one minute. In order to get around this, Tokyo Electric pumps 400 tons of water nonstop each day through the reactors in order to cool melted fuel that is too radioactive to move. The water passes through into storage tanks, which Tokyo Electric has to continuously build as the amount of stored water accumulates. Currently, a total of 1,000 tanks hold a total of 920,000 tons of contaminated water. A new problem may soon be appearing over the horizon, however, as the workers are quickly running out of room to build new storage tanks.

It’s clear that the Japanese certainly have their hands full, and it is unfortunate that they may be forced to continue the cleanup process over the course of the next century. Our thoughts and our prayers are with all of them. Stay informed about radiation effects at


International tribunal finds Monsanto guilty of crimes against humanity

Vicki Batts

Is Monsanto, the corporate scourge of the Earth, finally going to pay for its crimes? If the International Monsanto Tribunal has any say in the matter, the answer to that question appears to be an emphatic “Yes.” The tribunal, based in Hague, Netherlands, describes itself as “an international civil society initiative to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations, for crimes against humanity, and for ecocide.” Continue reading

Pope Francis offers to act as mediator in Venezuelan conflict


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday welcomed an offer by Pope Francis for Vatican mediation in the crisis-torn country but opposition leaders rebuffed the overture.
The pope’s call for a “negotiated solution” came in response to waves of protests by Venezuelans demanding new elections to pull the country out of a downward spiral.
At least 28 people have died in protests since they began April, and hundreds have been arrested.
“Dramatic news on the worsening of the situation in Venezuela keeps coming in with numerous deaths, injuries and prisoners,” the pontiff said before a crowd of 70,000 attending weekly prayers in Saint Peter’s Square.
“United in sorrow with the families of the victims… I issue a sincere appeal to the government and all sectors of Venezuelan society to avoid all forms of violence henceforward,” said the pontiff.
Urging respect for human rights, Francis said the Vatican was willing to act as a mediator under “clear conditions”.
Maduro responded on his weekly program on state VTV television, pointing a finger of blame at the opposition.
“If I say dialogue, they flee in horror. They don’t want dialogue.  Yesterday they lashed out at Pope Francis. I respect what Pope Francis is saying,” Maduro said.
He charged that the protests were an attempt to plunge the country into chaos, take over power and “impose a counter revolution on Venezuela”.
“There are no words for what they have done since April,” he said.
The opposition walked away from talks in December, accusing the government of failing to fulfill promises to set up a timetable for elections and free political prisoners.
Julio Borges, president of the opposition controlled National Assembly, said on Sunday he would send a document to Pope Francis reaffirming the opposition’s demands centered on general elections.
“The pope says some very interesting things. In the first place that, if there are no guarantees, there is no possibility of moving forward here,” he said.
Saturday, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said dialogue might be nice, but not involving Spanish ex prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The former PM, who took part in an earlier mediating team, was not neutral, according to Capriles.
Eight Latin American governments — Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay — backed the pontiff’s proposal in a joint statement released Sunday by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Sunday, a day before Workers’ Day, Maduro increased the minimum monthly wage by 60 percent to the equivalent of 90 dollars at the official exchange rate; or 15 at the black market rate.
Venezuela suffers from one of the world’s highest rates of inflation — forecast by the IMF to come in at 720 percent this year.

UK’s New ‘Digital Economy’ Law Somehow Now Gives Police The Power To Remotely Kill Phone Service


The UK’s long-gestating Digital Economy Act has finally gone into force. The law is mainly interested in porn and pirates — two issues most of the UK public is far less interested in having subjected to intrusive regulation.

But just keeping an eye on who is or isn’t availing themselves of porn/torrents isn’t the only intrusive aspect of the Act. As Joseph Cox of Motherboard points out, an amendment to the law grants some pretty scary new powers to UK law enforcement, allowing them to kill citizens’ means of communication.

[L]aw enforcement agencies can remotely disable or restrict a mobile phone if it is suspected of being used for drug dealing or related to it, and in some cases regardless of whether a crime has actually been committed, according to legal commentators.

Law enforcement isn’t being given a kill switch. But it’s being given the next best thing. With a court order, police can approach service providers and have them restrict or cut off service. The only thing law enforcement will have to provide is a vague theory the targeted phones may be involved in criminal activity.

Orders can apply if the user is “facilitating the commission by the user or another person of a drug dealing offense,” or “conduct of the user that is likely to facilitate the commission by the user or another person of a drug dealing offence (whether or not an offence is committed).”

Nice touch there, with the “whether or not an offence is committed.” A person may not know someone they communicate with is involved in criminal activity, but they’re at risk of having their phone service interrupted (possibly indefinitely) nonetheless.

The only way this part of the Act [PDF] could be considered “narrowed” or “tailored” is its limitation to alleged drug-related crimes. That narrowness is immediately removed once you realize how things like buying gardening supplies or driving around with too many air fresheners is considered evidence of drug trafficking.

So, UK police will be doing even more “pre-crime” work, robbing people of their ability to converse with others or keep up with the world around them using nothing more than a target being in the same social circle as criminal suspects currently under investigation.

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