Saturday, September 22, 2018

Big Brother Google: Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans To Closely Track Users

Google Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans to Closely Track Search Users in China

GOOGLE BOSSES HAVE forced employees to delete a confidential memo circulating inside the company that revealed explosive details about a plan to launch a censored search engine in China, The Intercept has learned.
The memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, codenamed Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location — and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have “unilateral access” to the data.
The memo was shared earlier this month among a group of Google employees who have been organizing internal protests over the censored search system, which has been designed to remove content that China’s authoritarian Communist Party regime views as sensitive, such as information about democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

According to three sources familiar with the incident, Google leadership discovered the memo and were furious that secret details about the China censorship were being passed between employees who were not supposed to have any knowledge about it. 

Subsequently, Google human resources personnel emailed employees who were believed to have accessed or saved copies of the memo and ordered them to immediately delete it from their computers. Emails demanding deletion of the memo contained “pixel trackers” that notified human resource managers when their messages had been read, recipients determined.

The Dragonfly memo reveals that a prototype of the censored search engine was being developed as an app for both Android and iOS devices, and would force users to sign in so they could use the service. The memo confirms, as The Intercept first reported last week, that users’ searches would be associated with their personal phone number. The memo adds that Chinese users’ movements would also be stored, along with the IP address of their device and links they clicked on. It accuses developers working on the project of creating “spying tools” for the Chinese government to monitor its citizens.

People’s search histories, location information, and other private data would be sent out of China to a database in Taiwan, the memo states. But the data would also be provided to employees of a Chinese company who would be granted “unilateral access” to the system.
To launch the censored search engine, Google set up a “joint venture” partnership with an unnamed Chinese company. The search engine will “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to documents seen by The Intercept. Blacklisted search terms on a prototype of the search engine include “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize” in Mandarin, said sources familiar with the project.
According to the memo, aside from being able to access users’ search data, the Chinese partner company could add to the censorship blacklists: It would be able to “selectively edit search result pages … unilaterally, and with few controls seemingly in place.”

That a Chinese company would maintain a copy of users’ search data means that, by extension, the data would be accessible to Chinese authorities, who have broad powers to obtain information that is held or processed on the country’s mainland. A central concern human rights groups have expressed about Dragonfly is that it could place users at risk of Chinese government surveillance — and any person in China searching for blacklisted words or phrases could find themselves interrogated or detained. Chinese authorities are well-known for routinely targeting critics, activists, and journalists.

“It’s alarming to hear that such information will be stored and, potentially, easily shared with the Chinese authorities,” said Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher with the human rights group Amnesty International. “It will completely put users’ privacy and safety at risk. Google needs to immediately explain if the app will involve such arrangements. It’s time to give the public full transparency of the project.”

Has Russia Given Up On The West?

Has Russia Given Up on the West?

This month, China’s leader-for-life Xi Jinping stood beside Vladimir Putin as 3,000 Chinese troops maneuvered with 300,000 Russians, 1,000 planes and 900 tanks in Moscow’s largest military exercise in 40 years.
An uncoded message to the West from the East.
Richard Nixon’s great achievement in bringing Peking in from the cold, and Reagan’s great achievement of ending the Cold War, are history.
Bolshevism may be dead, but Russian nationalism, awakened by NATO’s quick march to Russia’s ancient frontiers, is alive and well.

Russia appears to have given up on the West and accepted that its hopes for better times with President Donald Trump are not to be.
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is berating Russia for secretly trading with North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions, saying, “Lying, cheating, and rogue behavior have become the new norm of the Russian culture.”
Cold wars don’t get much colder than defaming another country’s culture as morally debased.
The U.S. has also signaled that it may start supplying naval and anti-aircraft weaponry to Ukraine, as Russia is being warned to cease its inspections of ships passing from the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov.
The three-mile-wide strait lies between Crimea and Kerch Peninsula. In Russia’s eyes, both banks of the strait are Russian national territory.
With U.S. backing, Ukraine has decided to build a naval base on the Sea of Azov to “create conditions for rebuffing the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation in this region.”
Kiev has several patrol boats in the Sea of Azov, with a few more to be transferred there in coming months. Russia’s navy could sink those boats and wipe out that base in minutes.

Are we going to send our Navy across the Black Sea to protect Ukraine’s naval rights inside a sea that has been as historically Russian as the Chesapeake Bay is historically American?
Poland this week invited the U.S. to establish a major base on its soil, for which Poland would pay two billion dollars, to be called “Fort Trump.”

Trump seemed to like the idea, and the name.
Yet, the Bush II decision to install a missile defense system in Poland brought a Kremlin counter-move: the installation of nuclear-capable Iskander cruise missiles in Kaliningrad, the former German territory on Poland’s northern border annexed by Stalin at the end of World War II.
In the Balkans, over Russian protests, the U.S. is moving to bring Macedonia into NATO. But before Macedonia can join, half its voters have to come out on Sept. 30 to approve a change in the nation’s name to North Macedonia. This is to mollify Greece, which claims the birthplace of Alexander the Great as it own.
Where are we going with all this?
With U.S. warships making regular visits into the Eastern Baltic and Black Sea, the possibility of a new base in Poland, and growing lethal aid to Ukraine to fight pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass and the Russian navy on the Sea of Azov, are we not crowding the Russians a bit?
Are we confident the Russians will always back down?
When Georgia, believing it could kick Russian peacekeepers out and re-annex its seceded province of South Ossetia, attacked in August 2008, the Russian Army came crashing in and ran the Georgians out in 48 hours.
George W. Bush wisely decided not to issue an ultimatum or send troops. He ignored the hawks in his own party who had helped goad him into the great debacle of his presidency: Iraq.
So, what exactly is the U.S. grand strategy with regard to Russia?
What might be called the McCain wing of the Republican Party has sought to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, which would make the containment of Russia America’s policy in perpetuity.

Are the American people aware of the costs and risks inherent in such a policy? What are the prospects of Russia yielding always to U.S. demands? And are we not today stretched awfully thin?
Our share of the global economy is much shrunken from Reagan’s time. Our deficit is approaching $1 trillion. Our debt is surging toward 100 percent of GDP. Entitlements are consuming our national wealth.
We are committed to containing the two other greatest powers, Russia and China. We are tied down militarily in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, with the War Party beating the drums for another and larger war — with Iran. And we are sanctioning adversaries and allies for not following our leadership of the West and the world.
In looking at America’s global commitments, greatly expanded since our Cold War victory, one word come to mind: unsustainable.

Hezbollah Now Owns 'Precision Missiles' - Gives Israel Warning

Hezbollah defies Israel, says has 'precision missiles'

Lebanon's Hezbollah said Thursday it had acquired "precision missiles" despite extensive efforts by neighbour and foe Israel to prevent the Shiite movement developing this capability.
"It has been done. The resistance now owns precision missiles" as part of its weaponry, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address during the key Shiite commemoration of Ashura.
Israel this month acknowledged carrying out more than 200 strikes over the past 18 months in war-torn Syria, where Hezbollah fights alongside Israel's arch-foe and Shiite powerhouse Iran in support of the Damascus regime.
Israel has said it is working to stop Iran from entrenching itself military there and to keep Hezbollah from acquiring sophisticated arms.
"Attempts in Syria to block the way towards this (missile) capability" have failed, Nasrallah said.
"If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, it will face a fate that it never would have expected."
Israel has fought several conflicts against Hezbollah, the last in 2006.
The Israeli military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Nasrallah should not think twice but "at least 20 times" before deciding whether to attack Israel.
"If he seeks conflict with us, he will receive a blow he cannot even imagine," Netanyahu said in a statement.
- Iran's 'dangerous deadline' -
Late Monday, an Israeli raid hit Syria's coastal province of Latakia to prevent what it said were deliveries of materials for advanced weaponry to Hezbollah.
The same evening Syrian air defences downed a Russian military plane by mistake, killing all 15 on board.
Russia backs Syria's government militarily and it was the worst case of friendly fire between the two allies since Moscow intervened in the conflict in 2015.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu said his country was "determined to stop Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and the attempts by Iran, which calls for the destruction of Israel, to transfer to Hezbollah lethal weaponry (to be used) against Israel".
Nasrallah accused the Israelis of trying to kill him "day and night". He has lived in a secret location for decades and rarely appears in public.
The Hezbollah chief also reiterated his support for Iran, after the United States withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal in May.
Washington reimposed sanctions on the Islamic republic last month, and a new round of even harsher sanctions targeting Iran's vital oil sector is set to go into effect in early November.
"It is our duty today to stand by Iran, who in a few weeks' time will face a dangerous deadline -- the start of American sanctions," he said.
Nasrallah accused the United States of "going to all the world's capitals in a bid to besiege" Iran, as Washington seeks support for its measures against the country.

Russia vs Israel: The Aftermath Of Russian Plane Downed

Russia & Israel at odds over cause of Il-20 crash after Israeli air force chief’s Moscow talks

Russia and Israel agreed to continue their military coordination in Syria, although Israel’s Air Force chief Maj.-Gen Amikam Nurkin and Russian officers differed sharply on the circumstances which caused the Russian Il-20 spy plane to crash last Monday. The absence of a joint Russian-Israel communique summing up a day and-a-night of intense interviews upon the departure of the Israeli delegation on Friday, Sept. 21 indicated that each side adhered to is own version of the event and the crisis between Moscow and Jerusalem is not over. According to a subsequent IDF announcement, the coordination mechanism between Israel and the Russian command in Syria was nonetheless functioning “routinely.”

The Israeli military tried to put a positive face on the Moscow talks, describing them as friendly and positive, including even an Israeli invitation to the Russian investigators to come to Israel to further pursue their inquiries. This was in striking contrast to the hostile Russian media coverage of the tough interviews. The Russians insisted that, when Syrian air defenses shot down the Russian Ilyushin-20 spy plane, an Israeli air raid was still ongoing in Latakia, whereas the IDF probe established that the Israeli fighter jets had returned to home base.

That was one of several points of discord.

A senior IDF officer briefed reporters Friday on the most prominent:

  • Syrian anti-air fire was “reckless, irresponsible and unprofessional and the direct cause of downing the Russian aircraft.”
  • The plane was struck by large Syrian SA-5 anti-air missiles.
  • The Syrian missile barrage went on for 40 minutes – after Israel planes were gone and landing at their home base.
  • A video recording of the conversation between the Israeli Air Force Command in Tel Aviv and the Russian Khmeimim Air Base proves that Israel gave the Russians much longer than one minute’s notice of the coming air raid over Latakia and disproves the Russian claim.
  • The Israeli delegation presented evidence disproving the Russian MoD’s accusation that the Israeli jets acted provocatively in using the Russian aircraft against Syrian missiles.
  • The IDF’s investigation of the incident as presented in Moscow covered three main points:
    1.  Evidence of Iran’s deepening military presence in Syria.
    2. Tehran’s exploitation of Syria for funneling strategic weapons to Hizballah.
    3. The Israel air raid over Latakia and how the Russian reconnaissance plane came to be shot down by Syrian air defense fire.

The Russian version of the Ilyushin incident and the Israeli delegation’s findings – as released to local media on Friday.

  • The Israelis presented a 40-page report on the IDF investigation “which absolved Israel of involvement in the tragedy.”
  • The IDF maintained in particular that the Syrian missile which downed the Ilyushin was fired “almost an hour after Israeli jets had returned to base.”
  • The Russian military “previously claimed that the IL-20 was shot down during the attack by Israeli aircraft [of Iranian targets in Latakia] – and does not withdraw its accusations against Israel.”
  • The Russian militia refutes reports in the Israeli media that the failure of the “friend or foe” identification system could have caused the tragedy – as “not correct.”
  • Moscow continues to stand behind the words of Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman. He said that “each system has its own identification system – the Russian Il-20 plane as well as the Syrian S-200. They don’t automatically ‘recognize’ each other, so this requires a special request and matching codes which change regularly.”
  • Both countries’ militaries agreed “to continue coordinating their actions in Syria and to carry on implementing the system of deconflictization.”
As to the future impact on Russian-Israeli relations of thee  plane incident, that decision is up to President Vladimir Putin, as DEBKAfile reported earlier. He will also decide to what extent – if at all – the Israeli air force will continue to enjoy free rein to pursue its government’s objective of ridding Syria of Iran’s military footprint. For now, it is too soon to predict Putin’s response, our sources confirm.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Friday that President Putin had been briefed on what an Israeli military delegation had to share with the Russian Defense Ministry on the downing of its jet in Syria, but stressed a decision on the Kremlin’s next step was premature.

“It is too early to ask about that. You should ask the Defense Ministry,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow after a query about the Russian government’s future relationship with Israel.
The spokesman confirmed that Putin was “aware of the information” presented, but added this was “special data,” and only military experts were capable of saying whether it was satisfactory.

Yellowstone Themal Activity Increases, Geysers Shoot Rocks - Certain Areas Of Park Closed

Latest From Yellowstone: Thermal Activity Increases, Geysers Shoot ROCKS

The latest news from Yellowstone National Park is a little terrifying, but experts keep reminding us that we have nothing to fear.  The thermal activity in the park has been increasing lately, and geysers have reportedly been shooting out rocks.
Authorities have been forced to shut down certain areas of the park after hot plumes of water erupted from the ground several feet up in the air.  This prompted fears that new geysers are forming over the caldera.  
New vents were seen blasting water and steam across the basin area in Geyser Hill, ever since the Ear Spring erupted on Saturday shooting water up to 30 feet in the air.  The new activity was said to be endangering visitors as “debris and rocks flew into the sky,” according to The Express UK
The last known eruption on that scale occurred in 1957, though several smaller eruptions were observed in 2004. Ear Spring is one of the hottest pools in Yellowstone National Park and contains water above the boiling point up to 200 degrees

Authorities have attributed the rise in geothermal activity to Saturday’s eruption, after several new surface fractures and splashes of water were spotted at the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park.  On Tuesday, spouts of water shot from the ground west of Pump Geyser and north of Sponge Geyser, also ejecting large amounts of hot steam. The new feature, which is eight feet in diameter, continues to show increased signs of geothermal activity after geologists observed the ground rising and falling by six inches every 10 minutes.
Additionally, geologists have also observed new geysers formin and some boiling at the hot spring Doublet Pool and North Goggles Geyser, located in the Upper Geyser Basin. Officials have warned visitors to beware of new eruptions and have closed down several parts of the basin as they continue to study the rare change in the area’s activity.
The activity in the Upper Geyser Basin will have no impact on any of the other geysers such as the world-famous Old Faithful. And geologists still say that his kind of activity is completely normal and that Yellowstone isn’t going to erupt anytime soon.  “Shifts in hydrothermal systems occur only the upper few hundred feet of the Earth’s crust and are not directly related to [the] movement of magma several kilometers deep. There are no signs of impending volcanic activity,” The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory said.  “There has been no significant increase in seismicity nor broad-scale variations in ground movement.