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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Earth’s Inhabitants Vote To Phase Out People

Rest Of Earth’s Inhabitants Vote To Phase Out People By The Year 2040

By Paul Duncan
April 11, 2019

NEWARK - In a move that has been expected by everyone other than humans for quite some time, the rest of life on Earth today voted to do what has to be done to save the planet, deciding in a unanimous decision to phase out people over the next 20 years.

The consensus was reached at the 3,487,562,490th annual global convention for multi-cellular organisms an event that humans have been invited to but have yet to attend; citing an obscure religious text that they believe provides them with dominion over everything, but which is unrecognized by the rest of the planet’s co-occupants.

“I will not lie,” said a large bear, rising in the small hotel conference room just outside of Newark, New Jersey, which the flora and fauna have had to rent the past few years after finding their natural habitats decimated by the preternaturally destructive people.

“The surplus of garbage and warmer winters have been nice. But I can no longer lick a creek without tasting the mercury, and even now my bowels contain parts of a large yogurt container, three pairs of Ray Bans, a Nokia, and a small figurine I believe was originally meant to resemble the popular television character ‘Peppa Pig,’ but now just looks like a very large wad of gum with legs.”

“In any event,” the bear continued, after biting into a complimentary donut. “My home has been logged, my rivers dammed, and my photo taken badly I might add - without my permission. The people must go. I speak for all bears. As well as our cousins the raccoons, who were unable to attend this years meeting due to being deeply embedded in the human tribe, awaiting the order to eat all of the people’s car keys, thus beginning the end of their species.”

The bear’s speech earned a sustained round of applause/splashing/fluttering from all those present, and many of the creatures said it was the best address made in an assembly since the last of the dinosaurs delivered a scathing indictment of 10-kilometre wide asteroids, and the carnage that they bring.

But the plan to phase out humans was not without its dissenters.

“I for one have loved my masters,” said a small Shih Tzu, trying to pull off a look of deep gravitas, despite having his bangs gathered into a simply adorable topknot.

“Jesus Balto, would you listen to yourself,” shouted a wolf from the back of the room. Masters? What the hell is wrong with you? You used to be noble animals. Now you bark at your own shadow, do tricks for treats, and wear pashmina sweaters. You’re basically Piers Morgan. Why don’t you just grow a pair? Oh right. I’m sorry. I forgot.

Looking to pivot away from the ugly scene of the Shih Tzu trying to get its shit tzugether, a large bull elephant turned to another animal that was close to the humans, and had yet to offer an opinion.

“Cat, what say you?”

Cat blinked once and turned her gaze back into the room, from a windowwhere sheԒd be idly wondering why the world is such a disgustingly messy place.

What are we talking about?"”

The people. Theyre destroying the planet and we think we need to get rid of them. You guys live with them. What do you think?

“Oh yes,” Cat said, rolling her shoulders slightly, causing everyone to take a large step back. “Our position on that remains unchanged. Fuck em.”

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Posted by Elvis on 06/13/19 •
Section Dying America
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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

AC Phone Home

snooping on your pc

I got a new HONEYWELL THERMOSTAT for the air conditioner that has internet connectivity for remote access, and pulls a weather report.

Like everything IOT- it INSISTS ON A MIDDLEMAN (pretty much anyone after looking at their EULA) possibly peeking at the things connected to my network, and who knows WHAT ELSE:

The Internet has been around for around 20 years now, and its security is far from perfect. Hacker groups still ruthlessly take advantage of these flaws, despite spending billions on tech security. The IoT, on the other hand, is primitive. And so is its security.

Once everything we do, say, think, and eat, is tracked, the big data thats available about each of us is immensely valuable. When companies know our lives inside and out, they can use that data to make us buy even more stuff. Once they control your data, they control you.

Why can’t I just VPN into the house and connect to it that way?

Because then they can’t SNOOP.

Their EULA SAYS:

We may use your Contact Information to market Honeywell and third-party products and services to you via various methods

We also use third parties to help with certain aspects of our operations, which may require disclosure of your Consumer Information to them.

Honeywell uses industry standard web ANALYTICS to track web visits, Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics.

GOOGLE and Adobe may also TRANSFER this INFORMATION to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google’s or Adobe’s behalf.

You acknowledge and agree that Honeywell and its affiliates, service providers, suppliers, and dealers are permitted at any time and without prior notice to remotely push software

collection and use of certain information as described in this Privacy Statement, including the transfer of this information to the United States and/or other countries for storage

Wonderful.

I connected it to the LAN without asking it to get the weather - or signing up for anything at HONEYWELL’S SITE.

As fast as I can turn my head to peek at the firewall - it was chatting on the internet, and crapped out with some SSL error:

‘SSL_PROTO_REJECT: 48: 192.168.0.226:61492 -> 199.62.84.151:443’
‘SSL_PROTO_REJECT: 48: 192.168.0.226:65035 -> 199.62.84.152:443’
‘SSL_PROTO_REJECT: 48: 192.168.0.226:55666 -> 199.62.84.153:443’

Maybe the website has a problem:

# curl -sslv2 199.62.84.151:443
* About to connect() to 199.62.84.151 port 443 (#0)
* Trying 199.62.84.151… connected
* Connected to 199.62.84.151 (199.62.84.151) port 443 (#0)
> GET / HTTP/1.1
> User-Agent: curl/7.19.7 (i386-redhat-linux-gnu) libcurl/7.19.7 NSS/3.27.1 zlib/1.2.3 libidn/1.18 libssh2/1.4.2
> Host: 199.62.84.151:443
> Accept: */*
>
* Closing connection #0
* Failure when receiving data from the peer

# curl -sslv3 199.62.84.151:443
* About to connect() to 199.62.84.151 port 443 (#0)
* Trying 199.62.84.151… connected
* Connected to 199.62.84.151 (199.62.84.151) port 443 (#0)
> GET / HTTP/1.1
> User-Agent: curl/7.19.7 (i386-redhat-linux-gnu) libcurl/7.19.7 NSS/3.27.1 zlib/1.2.3 libidn/1.18 libssh2/1.4.2
> Host: 199.62.84.151:443
> Accept: */*
>
* Closing connection #0
* Failure when receiving data from the peer

# curl -tlsv1 199.62.84.151:443
curl: (56) Failure when receiving data from the peer

# curl -tlsv1.0 199.62.84.151:443
curl: (56) Failure when receiving data from the peer

# curl -tlsv1.1 199.62.84.151:443
curl: (56) Failure when receiving data from the peer

# curl -tlsv1.2 199.62.84.151:443
curl: (56) Failure when receiving data from the peer

# curl 199.62.84.151:80
curl: (56) Failure when receiving data from the peer

Then I pulled the plug.  Even if Honeywell’s website is broke - I still fear this thermostat will find a way to download software, and maybe START SPYING ON MY HOME NETWORK:

The US intelligence chief has acknowledged for the first time that agencies might use a new generation of smart household devices to increase their surveillance capabilities.

Maybe, someday I’ll firewall off HONEYWELL’S NETBLOCKS, connect it again, see where it goes.

For now - I’m too AFRAID:

When the cybersecurity industry warns about the nightmare of hackers causing blackouts, the scenario they describe typically entails an elite team of hackers breaking into the inner sanctum of a power utility to start flipping switches. But one group of researchers has imagined how an entire power grid could be taken down by hacking a less centralized and protected class of targets: home air conditioners and water heaters.

---

Think that’s bad?  Check this out

Dont Toss That Bulb, It Knows Your Password

By Tom Nardi
Hackaday
January 28, 2019

Whether it was here on Hackaday or elsewhere on the Internet, youҒve surely heard more than a few cautionary tales about the Internet of ThingsӔ by now. As it turns out, giving every gadget you own access to your personal information and Internet connection can lead to unintended consequences. Who knew, right? But if you need yet another example of why trusting your home appliances with your secrets is potentially a bad idea, [Limited Results] is here to make sure you spend the next few hours doubting your recent tech purchases.

In a series of POSTS on the [Limited Results] blog, low-cost smart bulbs are cracked open and investigated to see what kind of knowledge theyve managed to collect about their owners. Not only was it discovered that bulbs manufactured by Xiaomi, LIFX, and Tuya stored the WiFi SSID and encryption key in plain-text, but that recovering said information from the bulbs was actually quite simple. So next time one of those cheapo smart bulb starts flickering, you might want to take a hammer to it before tossing it in the trash can; you never know where it, and the knowledge it has of your network, might end up.’

Regardless of the manufacturer of the bulb, the process to get one of these devices on your network is more or less the same. An application on your smartphone connects to the bulb and provides it with the network SSID and encryption key. The bulb then disconnects from the phone and reconnects to your home network with the new information. It’s a process that at this point were all probably familiar with, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it.

The trouble comes when the bulb needs to store the connection information it was provided. Rather than obfuscating it in some way, the SSID and encryption key are simply stored in plain-text on the bulbs WiFi module. Recovering that information is just a process of finding the correct traces on the bulbҒs PCB (often there are test points which make this very easy), and dumping the chips contents to the computer for analysis.

It’s not uncommon for smart bulbs like these to use the ESP8266 or ESP32, and [Limited Results] found that to be the case here. With the wealth of information and software available for these very popular WiFi modules, dumping the firmware binary was no problem. Once the binary was in hand, a little snooping around with a hex editor was all it took to identify the network login information. The firmware dumps also contained information such as the unique hardware IDs used by the cloudӔ platforms the bulbs connect to, and in at least one case, the root certificate and RSA private key were found.

On the plus side, being able to buy cheap smart devices that are running easily hackable modules like the ESP makes it easier for us to create custom firmware for them. Hopefully the community can come up with slightly less suspect software, but really just keeping the things from connecting to anything outside the local network would be a step in the right direction.

(Some days later)

[Limited Results] had hinted to us that he had previously disclosed some vulnerabilities to the bulb’s maker, but that until they fixed them, he didn’t want to make them public. They’re fixed now, and it appears that the bulbs were sending everything over the network unencrypted your data, OTA firmware upgrades, everything.  They’re using TLS now, so good job [Limited Results]! If you’re running an old version of their lightbulbs, you might have a look.

On WiFi credentials, we were told: “In the case where sensitive information in the flash memory wasn’t encrypted, the new version will include encrypted storage processing, and the customer will be able to select this version of the security chips, which can effectively avoid future security problems.” Argue about what that actually means in the comments.

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Posted by Elvis on 06/12/19 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
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Monday, June 10, 2019

Amazon

image: amazon honor system

Jeff Bezos’ Corporate Takeover of Our Lives
How Amazon’s relentless pursuit of profit is squeezing us all - and what we can do about it

By David Dayen
In These Times
June 10, 2019

Amazon is an online retailer. It also runs a marketplace for other online retailers. Its also a shipper for those sellers, and a lender to them, and a warehouse, an advertiser, a data manager and a search engine. It also runs BRICK AND MORTAR BOOKSTORES. And GROCERY STORES.

There are OVER 100 MILLION AMAZON PRIME SUBSCRIBERS in the United States - more than half of all U.S. households. Amazon makes 45 PERCENT of all e-commerce sales. Amazon is also a product manufacturer; its Alexa controls two-thirds of the digital assistant market, and the Kindle represents 84 percent of all e-readers. Amazon created its own holiday, Prime Day, and the surge in demand for Prime Day discounts, followed by a drop afterward, skewed the nations retail sales figures with a 1.8% bump in July 2017.

Oh, it’s also a major television and film studio. Its CEO owns a national newspaper. And it runs a streaming video game company called Twitch. And its cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services, runs an astonishing portion of the Internet and U.S. financial infrastructure. And it wants to be a logistics company. And a furniture seller. It’s angling to become one of the nation’s largest online fashion designers. It recently picked up an online pharmacy and partnered with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Warren Buffett to create a healthcare company. And at the same time, its competing with JPMorgan, pushing Amazon Pay as a digital-based alternative to credit cards and Amazon Lending as a source of capital for its small business marketplace partners.

To quote Liberty Media chair John Malone, himself a billionaire titan of industry, Amazon is a “Death Star” moving its super-laser “into striking range” of every industry on the planet. If you are engaging in any economic activity, Amazon wants in, and its position in the market can distort and shape you in vital ways.

Elizabeth Warren’s PROPOSAL to break up Amazon, along with the FTC’s NEW OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATION, has spurred a conversation on the Left about its overwhelming power. No entity has held the potential for this kind of dominance since the railroad tycoons of the first Gilded Age were brought to heel. Whether you share concerns about Amazon’s economic and political power, or you just like getting free shipping on cheap toilet paper, you should at least know the implications of living in Amazons world - so you can assess whether its the world you want, and how it could be different.

Booksellers were the first to find themselves at the tip of Amazon’s spear, at the company’s founding in 1994. Years of Amazon peddling books below cost SHUTTERED THOUSANDS OF BOOKSTORES. Today, Amazon sells 42 PERCENT of all books in America.

With such a large share of the market, Amazon determines what ideas reach readers. It ruthlessly squeezes publishers on wholesale costs; in 2014, it DELIBERATLY SLOWED DOWN deliveries of books published by Hachette during a pricing dispute. By stocking best-sellers over independents and backlist copies, and giving publishers less money to work with, Amazon homogenizes the market. Publishers can’t afford to take a chance on a book that Amazon won’t keep in its inventory. The core belief of bookselling is that we need to have the ideas out there so we can discuss them says Seattle independent bookseller Robert Sindelar. You don’t want one company deciding, only based on profitability, what choice we have.

These issues in just the book sector are a microcosm of Amazon’s effect on commerce.

The term RETAIL APOCALYPSE took hold in 2017 amid bankruptcies of established chains like The Limited, RadioShack, Payless ShoeSource and Toys R’Us. According to frequent Amazon critic Stacy Mitchell, more people lost jobs in general-merchandise stores than the total number of workers in the coal industry in 2017.

Amazon isn’t the only cause; private EQUITY LOOTING must share much of the BLAME, and a shift to e-commerce was always going to hurt brick-and-mortar stores. But Amazon transformed a diverse collection of website sales into one mammoth business with the logistical power to perform rapid delivery of millions of products and a strategy to underprice everyone. That transformation accelerated a decline going back to the Great Recession (and much earlier for booksellers). Analysts at Swiss bank UBS estimate that every percentage point e-commerce takes from brick-and-mortar translates into 8,000 store closures, and right now e-commerce only has a 16 percent market share.

Take Harry Copeland (or, as he calls himself, “Crazy Harry” ) of Harry’s Famous Flowers in Orlando, Fla., at one time a 40-employee retail/wholesale business. Revenue at his operation has shrunk by half since 2008, equal to millions of dollars in gross sales. “The internet killed us,” Harry says. “I was in a Kroger, this guy walks up and says, I want to apologize. It’s so easy to go on the internet.” I said, “I did your wedding, I did flowers for your babies, and you’re buying [flowers] on the internet?” Even Harry’s own employees receive Amazon packages at the shop every day. In January, tired of the fight, Harry sold his shop after 36 years in business.

“Amazon was particularly deadly to the original everything stores,” the department stores like Sears and J.C. Penney that anchor malls. When the anchor stores shut down, foot traffic slows and smaller shops struggle. Retailers are planning to close more than 4,000 stores in 2019; the 41,201 retail job losses in the first two months of this year were the highest since the Great Recession.

Dead malls trigger not only blight, but also property tax losses. The broader shift to online shopping also transfers economic activity from local businesses to corporate coffers, like Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle.

Some of these failed retail spaces have been scooped up, ironically, by Amazon’s suite of physical stores, such as Whole Foods. Amazon also skillfully pits cities against one another and wins tax breaks for its warehouse and data center facilities, starving local budgets even more.

Amazon, of course, argues it is the best friend small business ever had. Jeff Bezos 2019 annual letter indicated that 58% of all sales on the website are made by over 2 million independent third-party sellers, who are mostly small in size. In this rendering, Amazon is just a mall, opening its doors for the little guy to access billions of potential customers. “Third-party sellers are kicking our first-party butt,” Bezos exclaimed.

It was a line I repeated to several merchants, mostly to snickers. Take Crazy Harry. In late 2017, Amazon reached out with the opportunity for Harry’s Famous Flowers to sell through its website. Sales representatives promised instant success. “We went live in November,” he says. I made three transactions, [including] one on Valentine’s Day and one on Christmas. The closest delivery to his shop was 34 miles away. By the time Harry paid his $39.99 monthly subscription fee for selling on Amazon and a 15% cut of sales, his check came to $6.92. “The gas was $50,” he says.

It wasn;t hard to find the source of the trouble: “When Harry searched on Amazon under flowers in Orlando,” his shop didn’t come up. Without including his name in the search, there was no way for customers to find him. Before long, Harry closed his Amazon account.

Crazy Harry’s troubles could be a function of Amazon running a platform that’s too big to manage. Two million Americans, close to 1% of the U.S. population, sell goods on Amazon. “There’s so much at stake for these sellers,” says Chris McCabe, a former Amazon employee who now runs the consulting site eCommerceChris.com. They’ve left jobs [to sell on Amazon]. They are supporting themselves and their families.

THIRD PARTY RESELLERS have been a great deal for Amazon - unsurprisingly, since Amazon sets the terms. Sellers pay a flat subscription fee and a percentage of sales, and an extra fee for “Fulfillment by Amazon,” for which Amazon handles customer service, storage and shipping through its vast logistics network. Fee revenue grew to nearly $43 billion in 2018, equal to more than one out of every four dollars that third-party sellers earned.

In other words, Amazon is collecting rent on every sale on its website. This strategy increases selection and convenience for customers, but the sellers, who have nowhere else to go, can get squeezed in the process. Once on the website, sellers are at the mercy of Amazons algorithmic placement in search results. They must also navigate rivals’ dirty tricks (like fake one-star reviews that sink sellers in search results) and counterfeit products. And if you get past all that, you must fight the boss level: Amazon, which has 138 house brands. Armed with all the data on sellers businesses, Amazon can easily figure out what’s hot and what can be cheaply produced, and then out-compete its own sellers with lower prices and prioritized search results.

Any failure to follow Amazons always-changing rules of the road can get a seller suspended, and in that case, Amazon not only stops all future sales, but refuses to release funds from prior sales. And all sellers must sign mandatory arbitration agreements that prevent them from suing Amazon. Several consultants I interviewed talked of sellers crying on the phone, finding themselves trapped after upending their lives to sell on Amazon.

While retail workers lose jobs, Amazon picks up some of the unemployment slack, hiring personnel to assemble its packages, make its electronics, and deliver its goods, with a U.S. workforce of more than 200,000, and another 100,000 seasonal workers - though 2018 research from the Conference Board confirmed the jobs created by e-commerce companies like Amazon do not make up for the loss of millions of retail jobs.

Plus, the experience of being a cog in Amazons great machine is, shall we say, unhealthy. We know much about the HORRORS OR BEING AN AMAZON WAREHOUSE WORKER IN THE UNITED STATES. These workplaces are aggressively anti-union. Amazon sets quotas for how many orders are fulfilled, monitoring a worker’s every move. Poor performers may be fired, typically over email. The daily monotony and pressure to perform has pushed workers to suicidal despair. A Daily Beast investigation found 189 instances between October 2013 and October 2018 of 911 calls summoning assistance to deal with suicide attempts or other mental-health emergencies at Amazon warehouses. And even these grunt jobs are insecure; Amazon had to reassure people this year that it wouldn’t turn over all warehouse jobs to robots, even as it rolled out machines that box orders.

Amazon’s other jobs, while less scrutinized than the warehouse workers, can be just as brutal. Thousands of delivery drivers wear Amazon uniforms, use Amazon equipment and work out of Amazon facilities. But they are not technically Amazon employees; they work for outside contractors called delivery service partners. These workers do not qualify for the guaranteed $15 minimum wage Bezos announced to much fanfare last year.

Contracting work out lets Amazon dodge liability for poor labor practices, a trick used by many corporations. At one such contractor in the mid-Atlantic, TL Transportation, one former employee (who requested anonymity) described the work as running, running, running, rushing. “There was no break time.” According to pay stubs, TL built two hours of overtime into its base rate, which is illegal under U.S. labor law. Other workers reported they always worked longer than the time on their pay stubs. Driver Tyhee Hickman of Pennsylvania testified to having to urinate into bottles to maintain the schedule.

Amazon runs plenty of air freight these days as well, through an “Amazon Air” fleet of planes branded with the Amazon logo - but these are also CONTRACTED OUT. At Atlas Air, one of three cargo carriers with Amazon business, pilots have been working without a new union contract since 2011. Atlas pays pilots 30% to 60% below the industry standard, according to Captain Daniel Wells, an Atlas Air pilot and president of the Airline Professionals Association Teamsters Local 1224. Planes are understaffed. “We’ve been critically short of crews,” Wells says. “Everyone is scrambling to keep operations going.”

The go-go-go schedule leaves little time for mechanics; planes go out with stickers indicating deferred maintenance. One Atlas Air flight carrying Amazon packages crashed in Texas in February, killing three workers.

Maine’s largest shopping center, the Maine Mall in South Portland, has struggled to survive the loss of multiple anchor stores. Linens N Things went bankrupt in 2008 (only to reemerge the next year as an online-only retailer). (Photo by Doug Jones/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Even while driving workers at a frenetic pace, Amazon doesn’t always deliver on its promise of convenience and efficiency. Many products no longer arrive in 48 hours under Prime’s guaranteed two-day shipping. Its so challenging to reach customer service that Amazon sells a book on its website about how to do that. Whole Foods shoppers who have groceries delivered get bizarre food substitutions without warning.

Even as two-day shipping is creaking, Amazon has announced a move to one-day shipping, which will strain its systems even further while forcing competitors to adjust. Amazon’s one-day shipping announcement alone caused retail stocks to plummet on April 26, before any changes were implemented.

This feedback effect reveals how Amazon is not merely riding the wave of online retails convenience; only a company with ambitions as vast as Amazo’s could influence Fortune 500 business models across America.

Some retailers have given in. Walmart quickly announced its own next-day shipping. Kohls sells Amazon Echo devices. Target has bought up competitors to compete with Amazon on a larger scale. Call it concentration creep; one giant business triggers the need for others to get big, too. Corporate America is at once terrified of Amazon and reshaping itself to imitate it.

Take Amazon’s ever more sophisticated ploys to modify consumer behavior. With “personalized pricing,” Amazon uses the data of what someone has paid in the past to test what that person is willing to pay. The price of an item featured “in the buy” box on Amazon’s website may change multiple times per day, and can be tailored to individual shoppers. Amazon has charged more for Kindles based on a buyer’s location, and has steered people to higher-priced products where it makes a greater profit, rather than cheaper versions from outside sellers.

“Now, even big-box stores have electronic price tags that retailers can surge price” when demand increases. Amazon’s Whole Foods stores have become a testing ground for advancing this technique. Prices shown on electronic tags are tested, combined with discounts for Prime members, and relentlessly tweaked.

The potential damage to society from personalized pricing is significant, notes Maurice Stucke, a professor at the University of Tennessee. “It’s not just price discrimination, but also behavioral discrimination,” he says. Getting people to buy things they might not have otherwise purchased, at the highest price they’re willing to pay.

Amazon has plenty of options for this behavioral nudging, from listing a fake higher price and crossing it out to make it look like the customer is getting a deal, to its work on a facial recognition system using phone or computer cameras to authenticate purchases. With this tool, Amazon could theoretically read faces and increase prices when someone shows excitement about a product. Amazon has already licensed facial recognition software to local police units for criminal investigations, to outcry from privacy groups.

Then there’s Alexa, Amazons digital assistant, a powerful tool for manipulation. Alexa was designed to “be like the Star Trek computer,” said Paul Cutsinger, Amazon’s head of voice design education, at a developer conference earlier this year. Users can ask Alexa to play music and podcasts, answer questions, run health and wellness programs, set appointments, make purchases, even raise the temperature in the shower.

Psychologist Robert Epstein, who has pioneered research into search engine manipulation, has done preliminary studies on Alexa. “It looks like you can very easily impact the thinking and decision-making and purchases of people who are undecided,” Epstein says. “That unfortunately gives a small number of companies tremendous power to influence people without them being aware.” For example, Alexa can suggest a wine to go with the pizza you just ordered. It can also encourage you to set up a recurring purchase, the price of which may then go up based on Amazon’s list price.

The influence only increases as Alexa takes in more data. We know that Alexa is constantly watching and listening to users, transcribing what it hears and even transmitting some of that data back to a team of human listeners at Amazon, who “refine the machine’s comprehension.” The surveillance doesnt only happen on Alexa, but in the smart home devices it integrates with, and on the website where Amazon tracks search and purchase activity. Amazon even has a Ring doorbell and in-home monitor, which sends information back to Amazon. There is no escape. “Devices all around us are watching everything we do, talking to each other, sharing data,” Epstein says. “We’re embedded in a surveillance network.”

Even as it’s influencing our behavior, Amazon is transforming our physical world. Jos Holgun-Veras, a logistics and urban freight expert at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, estimates that in 2009, there was one daily internet-derived delivery for every 25 people. By 2017, he calculates, this had tripled. “The number of deliveries to households is now larger than the number of deliveries to commercial establishments,” Holgu-Veras says. In skyscrapers in New York City where 5,000 people live, it’s 750 deliveries a day.

Think of the difference between one trip to the grocery store for the week, and five or ten trips from the warehouse to your house. Our streets are too narrow and our traffic too plentiful to handle that additional traffic without crippling congestion. Plus, every idling car, and every extra delivery truck on the road, spews more carbon into the atmosphere. Our cities are not designed for the level of freight that instant delivery demands.

More deliveries also means more people staying indoors. “One thing I think about is how much we overlook the community and democracy value of running errands,” says Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “These exchanges - chatting with someone in line, bumping into a neighbor on the street, talking with the store owner-may not be all that significant personally. But this kind of interaction pays off for us collectively in ways we don’t think about or measure or account for in policy-making.”

In These Times asked Frank McAndrew of Knox College, who has researched social isolation, whether Amazons perfect efficiency could be alienating. He wasn’t ready to make a definitive statement but did see some red flags. I do think we’re sort of wired to interact with real people in face-to-face situations, McAndrew says. “When most of our interactions take place virtually, or with Alexa, its not going to be satisfying.”

For most of our history, Americans didn’t require a personal digital assistant to answer our every whim. Why are we now reordering our social and economic lives, so one man can accumulate more money than anyone in the history of the planet?

One answer is that Amazon has paid as much attention to capturing government as it has to captivating customers. Amazon’s lobbying spending is among the highest of any company in America. After winning a nationwide procurement contract, over 1,500 cities and states can buy office items through the Amazon Business portal; a federal procurement platform is on the way. Amazon Web Services has the inside track on a $10 billion CLOUD contract to manage sensitive data for the Pentagon, something it already does for the CIA. Thats part of the reason why Amazon moved its second headquarters (after an absurd, game show-style bidding war that gave the company access to valuable data on hundreds of cities planning decisions) to a suburb of Washington, D.C., the seat of national power.

Making the directors of the regulatory state dependent on your services is a genius move. What political figure would dare crack down on the behavior of a trusted partner like Amazon?

In fact, Amazon has relied on government largesse since day one. No sales taxes for online purchases gave it a pricing advantage over other sellers (while a 2018 Supreme Court ruling changed that, the damage had been done). No carbon taxes helped Amazon build energy-intensive businesses dependent on fossil fuels for transportation and server farms. A lack of antitrust enforcement created a path for Amazon to super-size into an e-commerce monopoly. Weak federal labor rules let Amazon stamp out collective bargaining and rely on independent contractors. Mandatory arbitration locked third-party sellers inside Amazons private appeals process. Favorable tax law allowed Amazon to apply annual losses in previous years to its past two tax returns, paying no federal taxes on billions in income.

Of course, these rules helped all corporate giants and made executives filthy rich, often at the expense of workers. But Amazon tests the laissez-faire system in unique ways. In a future where Amazon broadens its control over our lives such that citizens have nowhere else to shop, businesses have nowhere else to sell, workers have nowhere else to toil, and governments have no other way to function, then who actually holds the power in our society? Avoiding that dark future requires leaders with the political will to stop it.

Elizabeth Warren;s plan to break up Amazon would rein in what she sees as unfair competition by preventing Amazon from selling products while hosting a website platform for other sellers. Warren also suggests splitting off Whole Foods and the online retailer Zappos, which Amazon bought in 2017 and 2009, respectively.

Fostering competition is a good start, but regulation must also prevent Amazon from bullying suppliers and partners. Lawmakers must force Amazon to pay for the externalities associated with its carbon-intensive delivery network. The company must pay a living wage to its workers, including its so-called independent contractors. It must be accountable to the legal system rather than a corporate-friendly arbitration process. It must not profit from spying on its customers.

If Amazon has caused this much upheaval today, when online shopping is still only 16 percent of retail sales, the future is limitless and grim. We have time to reverse this transfer of power and make it our world instead of Amazon’s. It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to squander.

David Dayen is the executive editor of The American Prospect. He was a 2018-2019 Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Reporting Fellow.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 06/10/19 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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Thursday, June 06, 2019

Wake Up America Redux

image: dying america

North American, European Public: Finally Wake Up, Damn It!

By Andre Vltchek
New Eastern Outlook
June 6, 2019

Year after year, month after month, I see two sides of the world; two extremes which are getting more and more disconnected:

I see great cities like Homs in Syria, reduced to horrifying ruins. I see Kabul and Jalalabad in Afghanistan, fragmented by enormous concrete walls intended to protect NATO occupation armies and their local puppets. I see monstrous environmental devastation in places such as Indonesian Borneo, Peruvian gold mining towns, or the by now almost uninhabitable atoll island-nations of Oceania: Tuvalu, Kiribati or Marshall Islands.

I see slums, a lack of sanitation and clean drinking water, where the boots of Western empires have been smashing local cultures, enslaving people and looting natural resources.

I work on all the continents. I never stop, even when exhaustion tries to smash me against the wall, even when there are hardly any reserves left. I cannot stop; I have no right to stop, because I can finally see the pattern; the way this world operates, the way the West has been managing to usurp it, indoctrinate, and enslave most of the countries of the world. I combine my knowledge, and publish it as a warning to the world.

I writebooks about this pattern: My most complete, so far, being the 1,000 pages long - EXPOSING LIES OF THE EMPIRE.

Then, I see the West itself.

I come to speak, to Canada and the United States, as well as Europe. Once in a while I am invited to address Australian audiences, too.

The West is so outrageously rich, compared to the ruined and plundered continents, that it often appears that it does not belong to the Planet Earth.

A lazy Sunday afternoon stroll in Villa Borghese in Rome, and a horror walk through Mathare slum in Nairobi could easily exist in two distinct realities, or in two different galaxies.

Even now, after I slightly misspelled Villa Borghese, my Mac immediately offered a correction. It is because Villa Borghese does exist. On the other hand, Mathare, which I spelled correctly, was underlined red. Mathare is an error,. Because it does not exist. It does not exist, despite the fact that around one million men, women and children lives there. It is not recognized by my MacBook Pro, nor by the great majority of my relatively well-educated readers in the West.

In fact, almost entire world appears to be one big error, non-entity, if observed from New York, Berlin or Paris.

I come and speak in front of the Western public. Yes, I do it from time to time, although with decreasing frequency.

Frankly, to face European or North American crowds feels depressing, even humiliating.

It goes like this: you are invited to tell the truth; to present what you are witnessing all over the world.

You stand there, facing men and women who have just arrived in their comfortable cars, after having good dinners in their well-heated or air-conditioned homes. You may be a famous writer and a filmmaker, but somehow, they make you feel like a beggar. Because you came to speak on behalf of beggars.

Everything is well-polished, and choreographed. It is expected that you do not show any gore. That you do not call your public names. That you do not swear, do not get drunk on the stage, do not start insulting everyone in sight.

What you usually face is quite a hard, or at least hardened, crowd.

Recently, in Southern California, when I was asked, by a fellow philosopher and a friend of mine, to address a small gathering of his colleagues, some people were banging on their mobile phones, as I was describing the situation at the Syrian frontline, near Idlib. I felt that my account was nothing more than a background, an elevator music to most of them. At least when I am addressing millions through my television interviews, I do not have to see the public.

When you speak in the West, you are actually addressing men and women who are responsible, at least partially, for the mass murders and genocides that are being committed by their countries. Men and women whose standards of living are outrageously high, because The Others are being robbed, humiliated, and often raped. But their eyes are not humble; they are drilling them into you, waiting for some mistake that you might make, so they can conclude: He is fake news. For them, you are not a bridge between those who exist and those who don’t. For them, you are an entertainer, a showman, or more often than not: a nuisance.

To learn about war, about the terror that the West is spreading, is, for many in my audience yet another type of luxury, high-level entertainment, not unlike an opera performance or a symphony concert. If necessary, they can even pay, although mostly they’d rather not. After a titillating experience, it is back to the routine, back to a sheltered, elegant life. While you, the next day, are often catching a plane back to the reality of the others; to the frontline, to dust and misery.

They - your public (but face it, also most of your readers) - came to show how open-minded they are. They came to learn from you, to get educated, while keeping their lifestyles intact. Most of them think that they know it all, even without your first-hand experience, they are benevolently doing you a favor by inviting you, and by dragging themselves all the way to some university or a theatre or wherever the hell you are standing in front of them. They did not come to offer any support to your struggle. They are not part of any struggle. They are good, peace-loving, hardworking people; that’s all.

You know, like those Germans, in the late 1930’s; self-righteous, hard-working folks. Most of them love their pets, and recycle their garbage. And clean after themselves at Starbucks.

A few days ago, we stopped the coup in Venezuela. I say we, because, although deep in devastated Borneo Island, I had been giving interviews to RT, Press TV, addressing millions. Even here, I never stopped writing, tweeting, always ready to drop everything just fly to Caracas, if I were to be needed there.

To defend Venezuela, to defend the Revolution there, is essential. As it is essential to defend Syria, Cuba, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Bolivia, South Africa and other revolutionary and brave nations that are refusing to surrender to the Western diktat.

While the ideological battle for Caracas was raging, I was thinking: is there anything that could still move the Western public into action?

Have they Europeans and North Americans - become totally indifferent to their own crimes? Have they developed some sort of emotional immunity? Is their condition ideological, or simply clinical?

Here we were, in the middle of a totally open coup; an attempt by the West to overthrow one of the most democratic countries on our planet. And they did almost nothing to stop the terrorism performed by their regimes in Washington or Madrid! At least in Indonesia in 1965 or in Chile in 1973, the Western regime tried to hide behind thin fig leaves. At least, while destroying socialist Afghanistan and the Communist Soviet Union by creating the Mujahedin, the West used Pakistan as a proxy, trying to conceal, at least partially, its true role. At least, while killing more than 1 million people in Iraq, there was this charade and bunch of lies about the weapons of mass destructionђ. At least, at least

Now, it is all transparent. In Syria, Venezuela; and against North Korea, Cuba, Iran, China, Russia.

As if propaganda was not even needed, anymore, it as if the Western public has become totally obedient, posing no threat to the plans of the Western regime.

Or more precisely, the once elaborate Western propaganda has become extremely simple: it now repeats lies, and the great majority of Western citizens do not even bother to question what their governments are doing to the world. The only thing that matters are domestic issues; meaning - the wages and benefits for the Westerners.

There are no riots like during the Vietnam War. Now riots are only for the better welfare of European workers. No one in the West is fighting in order to stop the plunder abroad, or the terrorist attacks unleashed by NATO against non-Western countries, or against those countless NATO military bases, against the invasions and orchestrated coups.

How much more can the Western public really stomach?

Or can it stomach absolutely everything?

Would it accept the direct invasion of Venezuela or Cuba or both? It has already accepted the direct intervention and destruction of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, to name just a few terrorist actions committed by the West in recent history.

So, how much more? Would an attack against Iran be acceptable? Lets say, 2-3 million deaths?

North Korea, perhaps? A few more millions, a new mountain of corpses?

I am asking; it is not a rhetorical question. I really want to know. I believe that the world has to know.

Has the Western public reached the level of the ISIS (or call them IS or Deash)? Is it so self-righteous, so fanatic, so convinced of its own exceptionalism, that it cannot think, clearly, analyze and judge, anymore?

Would provoking Russia or China or both into WWIII be acceptable to people living in Bavaria or South Carolina, or Ontario?

And if yes, are they all really out of their minds?

And if they are, should the world try to stop the, and how?

I want to know the boundaries of the Western madness.

That there is madness is indisputable, but how massive is it?

I understand, I have now accepted the monstrous fact that the French, Yanks, Canadians, Brits or Germans do not give a shit about how many millions of innocent people they kill in the Middle East, or Southeast Asia, Africa or in ґplaces like that. I accept that they know close to nothing about their colonial history, and want to know nothing, as long as they have football, plenty of meat and 6 weeks vacations on exotic beaches. I know that even many of those who can see monstrous crimes committed by the West, want to blame everything on Rothschilds and ґZionist conspiracy, but never on themselves, never on their culture which expresses itself through the centuries of plunder.

But what about the survival of our planet, and the survival of humankind?

I imagine the eyes of those people who come to my ґcombat presentations. I tell them the truth. I say it all. I am never holding back; never compromise. I show them images of the wars they have unleashed. Yes, they; because the citizens are responsible for their own governments, and because there is, clearly, something called collective guilt and collective responsibility!

Those eyes, faces҅ I will tell you what I read in them: they will never act. They will never try to overthrow their regime. As long as they live their privileged lives. As long as they think that the system in which they are the elites, at least has some chance of surviving in its present form. They play it both ways, some of them do: verbally, they are outraged by NATO, by Western imperialism and savage capitalism. Practically, they do nothing tangible to fight the system.

What is the conclusion then? If they do not act, then others have to. And I am convinced: they will.

For more than 500 years the entire world has been in flames, plundered and murdered by a small group of extremely aggressive Western nations. This has been going on virtually uninterruptedly.

Nobody finds it amusing, anymore. Where I work, in places that I care about, nobody wants this kind of world.

Look at those countries that are now trying to destroy Venezuela. Look closely! They consist of the United States, Canada, majority of Europe, and mostly those South American states where the descendants of European colonialists are forming majority!

Do we want another 500 years of this?

North Americans and Europeans have to wake up, soon. Even in Nazi Germany, there were soldiers who were so disgusted with Hitler, that they wanted to send him to the dogs. Today, in the West, there is not one powerful political party which believes that 500 years of Western colonialist plunder is more than enough; that torturing the world should stop, and stop immediately.

If Western imperialism, which is the greatest and perhaps the only major threat our planet is now facing, is not decisively and soon dismantled by its own citizens, it will have to be fought and deterred by external forces. That is: by its former and present victims.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 06/06/19 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Still Looking For Reasons To Keep Away From Windows? Part 22

badwindows.jpg

Russia’s Would-Be Windows Replacement Gets a Security Upgrade

By Patrick Tucker
Defense One
May 28, 2019

For sensitive communications, the Russian government aims to replace the ubiquitous Microsoft operating system with a bespoke flavor of Linux, a sign of the country’s growing IT independence.

For the first time, Russia has granted its highest security rating to a domestically developed operating system deeming ASTRA LINUX suitable for communications of “special importance” across the military and the rest of the government. The designation clears the way for Russian intelligence and military workers who had been using Microsoft products on office computers to use Astra Linux instead.

There is hope that the domestic OS [operating system] will be able to replace the Microsoft product. “Of course, this is good news for the Russian market,” said German Klimenko, former IT advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin and chairman of the board of Russia’s Digital Economy Development Fund, a venture capital fund run by the government. Klimenko spoke to the Russian newspaper Izvestia on Friday.

Although Russian officials used Windows for secure communications, they heavily modified the software and subjected Windows-equipped PCs to lengthy and rigorous security checks before putting the computers in use. The testing and analysis was to satisfy concerns that vulnerabilities in MICROSOFT OPERATING SYSTEMS could be patched to prevent hacking from countries like the United States. Such evaluations could take three years, according to the newspaper.

A variant of the popular Linux open-source operating system, Astra Linux has been developed over the past decade by Scientific/Manufacturing Enterprise Rusbitech. In January 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense said it intended to switch to Astra Linux as soon as it met the necessary security standards. Before that, the software had been on some automated control systems, such as the kind sometimes found on air defense systems and some airborne computer systems.

It’s another example of Russia’s self-imposed IT exile, along with the efforts to disconnect the country from the global Internet by 2021 and to create its own domain name service.

“The Russian government doesn’t trust systems developed by foreign companies to handle sensitive data, due to fears of espionage through those systems,"” said Justin Sherman, Cybersecurity Policy Fellow at New America. Using domestically produced technologies to manage sensitive data is just another component of the Kremlin’s broader interest in exercising more autonomy over the digital machines and communications within its borders.

Sam Bendett, research analyst with the “Center for Naval Analyses” International Affairs Group, said, One of the main sticking points for the Russian government was the fact that imported operating systems had vulnerabilities and back doors that Moscow thought could be exploited by international intelligence agencies. This is essentially Russia ensuring its cybersecurity against potential intrusions.

It’s unsurprising that Moscow distrusts Microsoft software, given that Russian-developed malware, like the NotPetya virus used against energy targets in Ukraine, exploits vulnerabilities in Windows.

Sherman says that while the Russian government may find Astra Linux a suitable substitute for Windows, its not a serious competitor anyplace else. There’s no particular reason for others to use this bespoke variant of Linux. Also suspicion of Russian software has been rising internationally. The country’s most successful and recognized software company, Kaspersky, can no longer sell its wares to the U.S. government. Last May, the cybersecurity firm opened a “transparency lab” in Switzerland in an attempt to assuage jittery European customers.

“If this operating system were to be marketed outside of Russia, the prospects likely aren’t great,” Sherman said. Astra Linux doesn’t exactly have worldwide foothold compared to the systems its replacing within Russia, and this is only compounded by the fact that just as the Russian government has security concerns about software made in other countries - Other countries may very well have security concerns about using software made in Russia and endorsed by the Russian government.

But, says Bendett, a potential client list for Russian software does exist outside of Russia, just as there is for Russian anti-aircraft systems. “There is a growing list of nations that will probably want to have its main government and military systems run on an OS from a nation more friendly to their interest like Syria.. or other countries where Russia is seeking to make inroads. So the possibility for export definitely exists.”

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 06/04/19 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Microsoft And Windows
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