Monthly Archives: January 2008

Israeli ‘Economic Warfare’ to Include Electricity Cuts in Gaza

Washington Post | Jan 28, 2008

By Ellen Knickmeyer

JERUSALEM, Jan. 27 — Saying they were waging “economic warfare” against the Gaza Strip’s Hamas leaders, Israeli officials told the Supreme Court on Sunday that the military intends to start cutting electricity to the Palestinian territory and continue restricting fuel.

The statements by Israel’s state attorney, outlining Defense Ministry plans, came in response to a lawsuit filed by Israeli and Palestinian rights groups.

The organizations are asking the Supreme Court to make Israel end fuel restrictions that caused power blackouts in the Gaza Strip this month. The activists argue that the restrictions constitute collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5 million people and violate international law.

Israel’s restrictions on shipments into Gaza have become a central issue in the territory’s relations with Israel and neighboring Egypt. Israel halted deliveries of food, fuel and other supplies into the strip for 4½ days this month, saying it was acting in response to rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israel.

Guerrillas in Gaza blew up parts of the border wall between Gaza and Egypt on Wednesday. U.N. officials said roughly half of Gaza’s residents have crossed into Egypt since then, many to shop for goods now scarce under the Israeli restrictions.

The Israeli Defense Ministry has determined that a “continuation of a reduction of the supply of fuel and a reduction in the supply of electricity can assist Israel in the fight it is waging against the terror organization that controls the Gaza Strip,” the state attorney’s office said in the filing with the Supreme Court.

“The minister of defense has wide discretion in regard to fighting, including waging economic warfare,” the state attorney’s officials said.

In the filing, Israel committed to allowing the European Union to resume supplying Gaza with weekly shipments of 2.2 million liters of industrial fuel. The fuel is used by Gaza’s sole power plant, which shut down last week after its supply ran out. Palestinian electricity authorities said the plant’s shutdown cut power to about 500,000 people in central Gaza.

The United Nations said the fuel cuts deprived about 40 percent of Gaza’s people of running water and compelled Gaza to dump untreated sewage into the Mediterranean. Hospitals relied on generators.

Israel allowed fuel for the plant to enter Gaza last week. The plant received enough fuel to resume production at about half capacity, Palestinian authorities said.

Gaza receives as much as 70 percent of its electricity from Israeli power lines, Israeli and Palestinian officials say. In the court filing, the state attorney’s office said Israel intends to reduce supply by 5 percent to three lines starting Feb. 7.

Even before this month’s restrictions, electricity supply in Gaza ran about 30 percent below demand, officials overseeing Gaza’s power plant said last week.

Full Story

. . .

Related

Privatizing Zionism: Its ultimate objective is the Judaization of space

Man seeking shoe shine at Boise airport may face six months in jail

ASSOCIATED PRESS | Jan 25, 2008

BOISE, Idaho — A California man who breached security Friday at the Boise Airport may pay a lot more than he expected for a shoe shine.

Authorities say the 43-year-old Victorville, Calif., man bypassed a security checkpoint in his quest for a shoe shine, a breach that led to an 80-minute shutdown of the terminal, delayed four flights and required re-screening of at least 400 passengers.

He was cited for failure to be screened before entering a secure area, a misdemeanor, the Boise Police Department said in a statement. The violation is punishable by a maximum six months in jail. He also could face maximum fines of $3,000 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Transportation Safety Administration spokesman Nico Melendez said the man left a secure area of the terminal and was seen by passengers using an exit door to enter the concourse.

After confirming what had happened by checking a video camera, police and airport security began the search and shutdown of the airport.

During the search, a shoe shine employee shared information on a possible identity, Boise police said.

Security then obtained the California man’s cell phone number and called him and asked him to return to the airport. Police said the man was cooperative, acknowledged breaching security to get his shoes shined and was released.

Ten-finger biometric scan required to get into USA

Security screening for arriving passengers has been stepped up yet again at American airports, but The Sunday Times has learnt of worrying flaws in new fingerprint-scanning technology.

The Sunday Times | Jan 27, 2008

by Chris Haslam

Last week, Logan airport, in Boston, became the third US airport to install the 10-finger scanners. Dulles airport, which serves Washington, DC, began using the devices in November and Atlanta airport began this month. By the end of the year, the devices will be installed at every international airport in the USA, as well as at seaports and border crossings.

NonUS residents have had two fingers scanned on entry since 2004, but the Department of Homeland Security believes the 10-finger standard will allow easier identification of undesirables, based on full or partial prints left at the scene of a crime or collected from terrorist safe houses or battlefields. Described by Identix, their manufacturer as “slap and roll” technology, the scanners require four scans to capture a full set of prints. These are then compared with more than 3.2m fingerprints held in the FBI and Department of Defense databases.

Identix claims that the scanner can perform its duties in “less than 15 seconds”. It says “you do need to be a trained fingerprint expert” to use the machines, and while operators at Atlanta have reported only “teething troubles” with the new equipment, the system has caused problems in the past.

In 2003, Californian Roger Benson filed a lawsuit after he was stopped by police for a traffic violation and fingerprinted using the same scanner. His prints were incorrectly matched with a convicted felon and he served 43 days in prison.

Miguel Espinoza brought a lawsuit against Identix in 2004 after his prints were wrongly assigned to a convicted murderer. The case was dismissed after the judge ruled that human error, and not the scanner, had caused the mix-up, but human-rights groups say overdependence on technology will continue to put travellers at risk.

Last July, a US government report found that “systems supporting the US-VISIT program have significant information security control weaknesses”, but homeland security chief Michael Chertoff is an enthusiast. “Moving to 10 fingerprints is completely consistent with, and in fact enhances, our ability to protect,” he said.

New Black Pope Pledges Obedience to White Pope

In this photo released by the Vatican newspaper ‘L’Osservatore Romano’, Pope Benedict XVI meets Spanish Reverend Adolfo Nicolas, the new Superior General of the Jesuits Roman Catholic order, at the Vatican Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008. Rev. Adolfo Nicolas is the 29th successor to St. Ignatius Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus, as the order is formally known, in 1540. With nearly 20,000 members worldwide, it is the largest Catholic religious order.

Zenit.org | Jan 27, 2008

New Jesuit Superior Renews Obedience to Pope

Pontiff Calls Practice a “Good Custom”

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 27, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI considers the Jesuit tradition that newly elected superiors-general renew their obedience to the Pope a “good custom.”

The Pope said this Saturday upon receiving the newly elected superior-general of the Society of Jesus, Father Adolfo Nicolás, reported the General Curia of the Jesuits in a communiqué.

Father Nicolás, 71, was elected Jan. 19 to lead the order, founded in the 16th century by St. Ignatius of Loyola. He succeeds Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, 79, who presented his resignation after having led the Society for nearly 25 years.

During the audience Father Nicolás handed an envelope to the Holy Father in which he renewed in writing his obedience to the Pope, fulfilling a Jesuit tradition for newly elected superiors-general of the Society.

In addition to this tradition for those leading the order, obedience to the Pope in missionary matters is the fourth vow that all Jesuits make alongside the traditional three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

“The Pope opened the envelope right away and read the vows,” reported the Jesuits. Then he said, “This is a very good custom.”

To serve

The Spanish Priest reaffirmed “his personal respect for the Vicar of Christ as well as the esteem of the whole Society of Jesus,” as well as the “desire of the society to serve the Church all over the world.”

The General Curia of the Jesuits reported that the Holy Father “encouraged the Jesuit leader to continue with dialogue with culture and evangelization and to ensure a thorough formation of young Jesuits.”

The Jesuits reported that the Holy Father was pleased to hear a committee had been formed to study the letter he sent Jan. 10 to Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach on the occasion of the order’s 35th General Congregation.

In the letter Benedict XVI wrote: “It could prove extremely useful that the General Congregation reaffirm, in the spirit of St. Ignatius, its own total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in particular on those neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked by secular culture, as for example, the relationship between Christ and religions; some aspects of the theology of liberation; and various points of sexual morality, especially as regards the indissolubility of marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons.”

On Friday, Father Nicolas held a press conference in Rome in which he maintained: “The Society of Jesus has always been, from the beginning, in communion with the Holy Father, and will always be.

“The Society wants to collaborate with the Holy See, to obey the Holy Father. This has not changed, and never will.”

Tantric master breaks ice record in NYC

 

In this photo provided by Rubin Museum of Art, Wim Hof, of the Netherlands, stands up to his neck in ice for an hour and twelve minutes, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008, outside the Rubin Museum of Art in New York, during a successful attempt to break his previous world record for immersion in an outdoor ice bath. Known as ‘The Iceman,’ Mr. Hof controls his body temperature by the tantric practice of tumo and is the only non-Tibetan in the world to have mastered this art.

AP | Jan 27, 2008

NEW YORK – A man who calls himself a tantric master broke his own world record by standing engulfed in ice for 72 minutes.

Wim Hof, 48, stood on a Manhattan street in a clear container filled with ice for an hour and 12 minutes Saturday.

Hof said he survives by controlling his body temperature through tantric meditation. Tantra is an Eastern tradition of ritual and meditation said to bring followers closer to their chosen deities.

Hof set the world record for full body ice contact endurance in 2004, when he immersed himself in ice for an hour and eight minutes.

Hof’s feat kicked off BRAINWAVE, a five-month series of events in New York exploring how art, music, and meditation affect the brain.

Brutal Indonesian tyrant laid to rest with full military honors

 

Soldiers carry the coffin of former Indonesian president Suharto in Jakarta January 28, 2008, before his body is flown to Solo in Central Java. Suharto, whose legacy was marred by graft and human rights abuses during his 32 years in power, will be given a state funeral in the royal city of Solo on Monday.

Suharto ruled with a totalitarian dominance that saw soldiers stationed in every village, instilling a deep fear of authority across this Southeast Asian nation. The bulk of the political killings occurred during his rise to power in 1965-1966 when between 300,000 and 800,000 alleged communists were rounded up and slain. Over the next three decades, 300,000 more were killed, disappeared or starved.

AP | Jan 28, 2008

SOLO, Indonesia (AP) – Former Indonesian President Suharto, who led a military dictatorship for three decades and whose regime killed hundreds of thousands of left-wing opponents, was laid to rest Monday at a state funeral with full military honors.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono led the ceremony, which began just before noon at the Suharto family mausoleum near the city of Solo, Suharto’s hometown, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of the capital.

Suharto died of multiple-organ failure Sunday, after more than three weeks on life support at a Jakarta hospital. He was 86.

Although he oversaw some of the worst bloodshed of the 20th century, Suharto is credited with developing Indonesia’s economy and was buried with the highest state honors.

After a long reading of Suharto’s military accomplishments, a shot was fired in his honor and Yudhoyono offered a salute.

We offer his body to the motherland, Yudhoyono said. His service is an example to us. Islamic prayers were said and as his body was lowered, mourners tossed flower petals into his grave. A military band played a dirge.

Tens of thousands of mourners lined the streets of Solo to watch the motorcade carry Suharto’s body to the mausoleum, many of them sobbing and calling the name of the man whose brutal rule brought stability to Indonesia.

Many waved Indonesian flags and threw flowers at his hearse.

“He was a great man,” said Sumartini, a 65-year-old woman who, like many Indonesians, goes by just one name. “His death touched us deeply.”

Sumartini came from a nearby village with her four children to watch the funeral procession.

Suharto’s body was flown to Solo on Monday morning after a brief ceremony at his Jakarta home, where a string of the country’s political elite visited Suharto’s family in a sign of his lingering importance.

“May god bless his soul and forgive his mistakes and sins,” said Agung Laksono, the speaker of Indonesia’s house of representatives.

The Hercules C-130 carrying Suharto’s body from Jakarta arrived in Solo just after 10 a.m., accompanied by two planes used by his family and friends.

Suharto ruled with a totalitarian dominance that saw soldiers stationed in every village, instilling a deep fear of authority across this Southeast Asian nation that stretches across more than 4,825 kilometers (3,000 miles).

He was toppled by mass street protests in 1998 after more than three decades in power. His departure from office opened the way for democracy in this nation of 235 million people and he withdrew from public life, rarely venturing from his comfortable Jakarta villa.

Suharto loyalists, who run the courts, have called for forgiveness and for his name to be cleared, but survivors of the atrocities that took place under his rule want those responsible to be held accountable.

Since being forced from power, he had been in and out of hospitals after strokes caused brain damage and impaired his speech.

Suharto’s poor health _ and continuing corruption, critics charge _ also kept him out of court.

The bulk of the political killings occurred during his rise to power in 1965-1966 when between 300,000 and 800,000 alleged communists were rounded up and slain. Over the next three decades, 300,000 more were killed, disappeared or starved in the independence-minded regions of East Timor, Aceh and Papua, human rights groups and the United Nations say.

With the court system paralyzed by corruption, the country has not confronted its bloody past. Rather than put on trial those accused of mass murder and multibillion-dollar (euro) theft, some members of the political elite consistently called for charges against Suharto to be dropped on humanitarian grounds.

The elite plan for our future: Tracker chips everywhere and in everything for total control

 

Carlyle Group Subsidiary Named “MATRICS” is Brimming with NSA and CIA Operatives and pushing a Swastika-Shaped Tracker Chip. When you look closer at the website, you will notice they talk about using RFID for Homeland Security and it’s clear that they’re selling the RFID as part of Big Brother’s infrastructure. – From Infowars

AP | Jan 26, 2008

By TODD LEWAN

Here’s a vision of the not-so-distant future:

_Microchips with antennas will be embedded in virtually everything you buy, wear, drive and read, allowing retailers and law enforcement to track consumer items — and, by extension, consumers — wherever they go, from a distance.

_A seamless, global network of electronic “sniffers” will scan radio tags in myriad public settings, identifying people and their tastes instantly so that customized ads, “live spam,” may be beamed at them.

_In “Smart Homes,” sensors built into walls, floors and appliances will inventory possessions, record eating habits, monitor medicine cabinets — all the while, silently reporting data to marketers eager for a peek into the occupants’ private lives.

Science fiction?

In truth, much of the radio frequency identification technology that enables objects and people to be tagged and tracked wirelessly already exists — and new and potentially intrusive uses of it are being patented, perfected and deployed.

Some of the world’s largest corporations are vested in the success of RFID technology, which couples highly miniaturized computers with radio antennas to broadcast information about sales and buyers to company databases.

Already, microchips are turning up in some computer printers, car keys and tires, on shampoo bottles and department store clothing tags. They’re also in library books and “contactless” payment cards (such as American Express’ “Blue” and ExxonMobil’s “Speedpass.”)

Companies say the RFID tags improve supply-chain efficiency, cut theft, and guarantee that brand-name products are authentic, not counterfeit. At a store, RFID doorways could scan your purchases automatically as you leave, eliminating tedious checkouts.

At home, convenience is a selling point: RFID-enabled refrigerators could warn about expired milk, generate weekly shopping lists, even send signals to your interactive TV, so that you see “personalized” commercials for foods you have a history of buying. Sniffers in your microwave might read a chip-equipped TV dinner and cook it without instruction.

“We’ve seen so many different uses of the technology,” says Dan Mullen, president of AIM Global, a national association of data collection businesses, including RFID, “and we’re probably still just scratching the surface in terms of places RFID can be used.”

The problem, critics say, is that microchipped products might very well do a whole lot more.

With tags in so many objects, relaying information to databases that can be linked to credit and bank cards, almost no aspect of life may soon be safe from the prying eyes of corporations and governments, says Mark Rasch, former head of the computer-crime unit of the U.S. Justice Department.

By placing sniffers in strategic areas, companies can invisibly “rifle through people’s pockets, purses, suitcases, briefcases, luggage — and possibly their kitchens and bedrooms — anytime of the day or night,” says Rasch, now managing director of technology at FTI Consulting Inc., a Baltimore-based company.

In an RFID world, “You’ve got the possibility of unauthorized people learning stuff about who you are, what you’ve bought, how and where you’ve bought it … It’s like saying, ‘Well, who wants to look through my medicine cabinet?'”

He imagines a time when anyone from police to identity thieves to stalkers might scan locked car trunks, garages or home offices from a distance. “Think of it as a high-tech form of Dumpster diving,” says Rasch, who’s also concerned about data gathered by “spy” appliances in the home.

“It’s going to be used in unintended ways by third parties — not just the government, but private investigators, marketers, lawyers building a case against you …”

Presently, the radio tag most commercialized in America is the so-called “passive” emitter, meaning it has no internal power supply. Only when a reader powers these tags with a squirt of electrons do they broadcast their signal, indiscriminately, within a range of a few inches to 20 feet.

Not as common, but increasing in use, are “active” tags, which have internal batteries and can transmit signals, continuously, as far as low-orbiting satellites. Active tags pay tolls as motorists to zip through tollgates; they also track wildlife, such as sea lions.

Retailers and manufacturers want to use passive tags to replace the bar code, for tracking inventory. These radio tags transmit Electronic Product Codes, number strings that allow trillons of objects to be uniquely identified. Some transmit specifics about the item, such as price, though not the name of the buyer.

However, “once a tagged item is associated with a particular individual, personally identifiable information can be obtained and then aggregated to develop a profile,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded in a 2005 report on RFID.

Federal agencies and law enforcement already buy information about individuals from commercial data brokers, companies that compile computer dossiers on millions of individuals from public records, credit applications and many other sources, then offer summaries for sale. These brokers, unlike credit bureaus, aren’t subject to provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, which gives consumers the right to correct errors and block access to their personal records.

That, and the ever-increasing volume of data collected on consumers, is worrisome, says Mike Hrabik, chief technology officer at Solutionary, a computer-security firm in Bethesda, Md. “Are companies using that information incorrectly, and are they giving it out inappropriately? I’m sure that’s happening. Should we be concerned? Yes.”

Even some industry proponents recognize risks. Elliott Maxwell, a research fellow at Pennsylvania State University who serves as a policy adviser to EPCglobal, the industry’s standard-setting group, says data broadcast by microchips can easily be intercepted, and misused, by high-tech thieves.

As RFID goes mainstream and the range of readers increases, it will be “difficult to know who is gathering what data, who has access to it, what is being done with it, and who should be held responsible for it,” Maxwell wrote in RFID Journal, an industry publication.

The recent growth of the RFID industry has been staggering: From 1955 to 2005, cumulative sales of radio tags totaled 2.4 billion; last year alone, 2.24 billion tags were sold worldwide, and analysts project that by 2017 cumulative sales will top 1 trillion — generating more than $25 billion in annual revenues for the industry.

Heady forecasts like these energize chip proponents, who insist that RFID will result in enormous savings for businesses. Each year, retailers lose $57 billion from administrative failures, supplier fraud and employee theft, according to a recent survey of 820 retailers by Checkpoint Systems, an RFID manufacturer that specializes in store security devices.

Privacy concerns, some RFID supporters say, are overblown. One, Mark Roberti, editor of RFID Journal, says the notion that businesses would conspire to create high-resolution portraits of people is “simply silly.”

Corporations know Americans are sensitive about their privacy, he says, and are careful not to alienate consumers by violating it. Besides, “All companies keep their customer data close to the vest … There’s absolutely no value in sharing it. Zero.”

Industry officials, too, insist that addressing privacy concerns is paramount. As American Express spokeswoman Judy Tenzer says, “Security and privacy are a top priority for American Express in everything we do.”

But industry documents suggest a different line of thinking, privacy experts say.

A 2005 patent application by American Express itself describes how RFID-embedded objects carried by shoppers could emit “identification signals” when queried by electronic “consumer trackers.” The system could identify people, record their movements, and send them video ads that might offer “incentives” or “even the emission of a scent.”

RFID readers could be placed in public venues, including “a common area of a school, shopping center, bus station or other place of public accommodation,” according to the application, which is still pending — and which is not alone.

In 2006, IBM received patent approval for an invention it called, “Identification and tracking of persons using RFID-tagged items.” One stated purpose: To collect information about people that could be “used to monitor the movement of the person through the store or other areas.”

Once somebody enters a store, a sniffer “scans all identifiable RFID tags carried on the person,” and correlates the tag information with sales records to determine the individual’s “exact identity.” A device known as a “person tracking unit” then assigns a tracking number to the shopper “to monitor the movement of the person through the store or other areas.”

But as the patent makes clear, IBM’s invention could work in other public places, “such as shopping malls, airports, train stations, bus stations, elevators, trains, airplanes, restrooms, sports arenas, libraries, theaters, museums, etc.” (RFID could even help “follow a particular crime suspect through public areas.”)

Another patent, obtained in 2003 by NCR Corp., details how camouflaged sensors and cameras would record customers’ wanderings through a store, film their facial expressions at displays, and time — to the second — how long shoppers hold and study items.

Why? Such monitoring “allows one to draw valuable inferences about the behavior of large numbers of shoppers,” the patent states.

Then there’s a 2001 patent application by Procter & Gamble, “Systems and methods for tracking consumers in a store environment.” This one lays out an idea to use heat sensors to track and record “where a consumer is looking, i.e., which way she is facing, whether she is bending over or crouching down to look at a lower shelf.”

The system could space sensors 8 feet apart, in ceilings, floors, shelving and displays, so they could capture signals transmitted every 1.5 seconds by microchipped shopping carts.

The documents “raise the hair on the back of your neck,” says Liz McIntyre, co-author of “Spychips,” a book that is critical of the industry. “The industry has long promised it would never use this technology to track people. But these patent records clearly suggest otherwise.”

Corporations take issue with that, saying that patent filings shouldn’t be used to predict a company’s actions.

“We file thousands of patents every year, which are designed to protect concepts or ideas,” Paul Fox, a spokesman for Procter & Gamble, says. “The reality is that many of those ideas and concepts never see the light of day.”

And what of his company’s 2001 patent application? “I’m not aware of any plans to use that,” Fox says.

Sandy Hughes, P&G’s global privacy executive, adds that Procter & Gamble has no intention of using any technologies — RFID or otherwise — to track individuals. The idea of the 2001 filing, she says, is to monitor how groups of people react to store displays, “not individual consumers.”

NCR and American Express echoed those statements. IBM declined to comment for this story.

“Not every element in a patent filing is necessarily something we would pursue….,” says Tenzer, the American Express spokeswoman. “Under no circumstances would we use this technology without a customer’s permission.”

McIntyre has her doubts.

In the marketing world of today, she says, “data on individual consumers is gold, and the only thing preventing these companies from abusing technologies like RFID to get at that gold is public scrutiny.”

RFID dates to World War II, when Britain put transponders in Allied aircraft to help radar crews distinguish them from German fighters. In the 1970s, the U.S. government tagged trucks entering and leaving secure facilities such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and a decade later, they were used to track livestock and railroad cars.

In 2003, the U.S. Department of Defense and Wal-Mart gave RFID a mammoth push, mandating that suppliers radio tag all crates and cartons. To that point, the cost of tags had simply been too high to make tagging pallets — let alone individual items — viable. In 1999, passive tags cost nearly $2 apiece.

Since then, rising demand and production of microchips — along with technological advances — have driven tag prices down to a range of 7 to 15 cents. At that price, the technology is “well-suited at a case and pallet level,” says Mullen, of the industry group AIM Global.

John Simley, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, says tracking products in real-time helps ensure product freshness and lowers the chances that items will be out of stock. By reducing loss and waste in the supply chain, RFID “allows us to keep our prices that much lower.”

Katherine Albrecht, founder of CASPIAN, an anti-RFID group, says, “Nobody cares about radio tags on crates and pallets. But if we don’t keep RFID off of individual consumer items, our stores will one day turn into retail ‘zoos’ where the customer is always on exhibit.”

So, how long will it be before you find an RFID tag in your underwear? The industry isn’t saying, but some analysts speculate that within a decade tag costs may dip below a penny, the threshold at which nearly everything could be chipped.

To businesses slammed by counterfeiters — pharmaceuticals, for one — that’s not a bad thing. Sales of fake drugs cost drug makers an estimated $46 billion a year. In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended that RFID be incorporated throughout the supply chain as a way of making sure consumers get authentic drugs.

In the United States, Pfizer has already begun chipping all 30- and 100-count bottles of Viagra, one of the most counterfeited drugs.

Chips could be embedded in other controlled or potentially dangerous items such as firearms and explosives, to make them easier to track. This was mentioned in IBM’s patent documents.

Still, the idea that tiny radio chips might be in their socks and shoes doesn’t sit well with Americans. At least, that’s what Fleishman-Hillard Inc., a public-relations firm in St. Louis, found in 2001 when it surveyed 317 consumers for the industry.

Seventy-eight percent of those queried reacted negatively to RFID when privacy was raised. “More than half claimed to be extremely or very concerned,” the report said, noting that the term “Big Brother” was “used in 15 separate cases to describe the technology.”

It also found that people bridled at the idea of having “Smart Tags” in their homes. One surveyed person remarked: “Where money is to be made the privacy of the individual will be compromised.”

In 2002, Fleishman-Hillard produced another report for the industry that counseled RFID makers to “convey (the) inevitability of technology,” and to develop a plan to “neutralize the opposition,” by adopting friendlier names for radio tags such as “Bar Code II” and “Green Tag.”

And in a 2003 report, Helen Duce, the industry’s trade group director in Europe, wrote that “the lack of clear benefits to consumers could present a problem in the ‘real world,'” particularly if privacy issues were stirred by “negative press coverage.”

(Though the reports were marked “Confidential,” they were later found archived on an industry trade group’s Web site.)

The Duce report’s recommendations: Tell consumers that RFID is regulated, that RFID is just a new and improved bar code, and that retailers will announce when an item is radio tagged, and deactivate the tags at check-out upon a customer’s request.

Actually, in the United States, RFID is not federally regulated. And while bar codes identify product categories, radio tags carry unique serial numbers that — when purchased with a credit card, frequent shopper card or contactless card — can be linked to specific shoppers.

And, unlike bar codes, RFID tags can be read through almost anything except metal and water, without the holder’s knowledge.

EPCglobal, the industry’s standard-setting body, has issued public policy guidelines that call for retailers to put a thumbnail-sized logo — “EPC,” for Electronic Product Code — on all radio tagged packaging. The group also suggests that merchants notify shoppers that RFID tags can be removed, discarded or disabled.

Critics say the guidelines are voluntary, vague and don’t penalize violators. They want federal and state oversight — something the industry has vigorously opposed — particularly after two RFID manufacturers, Checkpoint Systems and Sensormatic, announced last year that they are marketing tags designed to be embedded in such items as shoes.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says, “I don’t think there’s any basis … for consumers to have to think that their clothing is tracking them.”

Children for sale: UK’s new slave trade

 

This man says he makes up to £6,000 a week selling babies and children abroad

Telegraph | Jan 27, 2008

By David Harrison

Hundreds of young children are being sold and “trafficked” to Britain from Africa to be exploited as modern-day slaves, it can be revealed.

The illicit trade in children – sold by their parents, some while still babies, to criminal gangs and people traffickers – has been uncovered by a Sunday Telegraph investigation.

An undercover reporter was offered several children for sale by their parents in Nigeria: two boys aged three and five for £5,000, or £2,500 for one, and a 10-month-old baby for £2,000. Teenage girls – including some still pregnant – were willing to sell their babies for less than £1,000.

One international trafficker, tracked down in Lagos, claimed to be buying up to 500 children a year.

Impoverished African parents are being lured by the traffickers’ promises of “a better life” for their children, thousands of miles away in cities including London, Birmingham and Manchester.

But, once brought to Britain, the children are used as a fraudulent means to obtain illicit housing and other welfare benefits, totalling tens of thousands of pounds each a year.

From the age of seven, rather than being sent to school, they are exploited as domestic slaves, forced to work for up to 18 hours a day, cleaning, cooking and looking after other younger children, or put to work in restaurants and shops.

Some of the children are also subjected to physical and sexual abuse, while others even find themselves accused of being witches and become victims of exorcism rites in “traditional” African churches in Britain.

Campaigners called last night for the Government and the police to take “urgent action” to end this “21st century child slavery”.

“These children are being abused under our noses in our own country,” said Chris Beddoe, the director of End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, a British-based coalition of international charities.

“It is totally unacceptable. We need urgent action to identify these children as they enter the UK, find those who are being abused and offer proper protection to those who escape or are freed from their abusers.”

Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister responsible for the prevention of trafficking, described child traffickers as “evil” and said anybody who could buy and sell babies was “sick”.

But David Davis, the Conservative shadow home secretary, said: “The Government has utterly failed to take decisive action to tackle human trafficking.

“A Conservative government would take a range of practical measures – developed in detail over the last two years – to curb all aspects of this evil trade, which threatens Britain and the most vulnerable in our society.”

A recent survey by the Government’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre claimed that 330 children, including 14 aged under 12, many of them from Africa, had been trafficked to Britain over the past year.

The police and campaigners believe, however, that this is just the “tip of the iceberg” and that the true figure is likely to be in the thousands.

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal how the trade starts more than three thousand miles away in Africa where babies are sold to predatory traffickers, able to persuade desperately poor and often illiterate parents to hand over their children. The children are then sold, at high profit, as “home helps” to African families in Britain and in other European and North American cities.

The traffickers use a network of corrupt officials and co-traffickers to obtain passports and visas, often giving the children new names.

Many of the young victims are flown directly from Lagos in Nigeria to London’s airports. Others are taken, via other west African states such as Ghana and Benin, to “transit” cities, including Paris.

A growing number of the African slave children arrives in Britain unaccompanied, as asylum-seekers, or with “private foster parents”.

Debbie Ariyo, the executive director of the London-based charity Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, said: “This trade is a disgrace. These children are not going to loving homes.

“They are being cynically used by adults as slave labour and to defraud the state and then when they get older and have served their purpose and no longer attract entitled to benefits they are thrown out on to the streets with no papers even to prove who they are. These are damaged, traumatised children and we have to end this misery.”

Campaigners said that many of the slave children – psychologically and often physically damaged at 18 – were thrown out of the houses of their “owners”.

They are left to fend for themselves, usually with no papers or documents to prove who they are. With nowhere to turn, many fall into crime and the sex trade. Those that come to the attention of the authorities when they commit a crime or go to social services for help are usually brusquely deported as illegal immigrants.

The Government will unveil new measures next month aimed at giving more protection to victims of child trafficking.

Mr Coaker said: “We have tightened our visa requirements and our ports of entry and we are gathering intelligence to help us stop this horrific trade.”

A senior Scotland Yard officer said: “The traffickers and the people who buy the children and use them as domestic slaves have no regard for their wellbeing and we are determined to catch those involved in this vile business.

“But this is a hidden crime, going on largely in Britain’s African communities and we would urge people in those communities to contact us if they suspect that any child in their area is being abused. We need their co-operation. They must not turn a blind eye.”

Godwin Morka, the executive director of Lagos’s anti-trafficking unit, Nathip, admitted that child trafficking was “rampant” in many Nigerian states. “We know these children are not going to happy homes and we are doing what we can on limited resources.”

Wireless contact lenses transmit computer images and data directly into the eyes

High-tech Terminator vision may be possible with the bionic lens

Telegraph | Jan 27, 2008

Contact lenses with Terminator vision

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent

An electronic contact lens has been developed that will enable maps and videos to be beamed before the wearer’s eyes.

The bionic lens has microscopic circuits fixed to a flexible plastic. The scientists who created the device say the lenses could eventually provide computer-aided vision similar to that of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s robotic character in the Terminator films.

Drivers and pilots would have essential information – their speed and direction, for example – superimposed in front of their eyes, in a massive advance on the kind of “wearable displays” now available, which are spectacles that have images displayed on the lenses.

A prototype of the lens has been built, with light-emitting diodes – LEDs – embedded in it to flash up information. Its built-in antenna will use wireless technology, similar to that used in the home, to beam information to the lens, allowing wearers to surf the internet without taking their eyes off the world around them.

Babak Parviz, the electrical engineer behind the project at the University of Washington, said: “We have demonstrated some of the key technologies required to make a sophisticated functional contact lens. We hope to hook up a wireless link… for updating images and reporting the state of the lens.”

Microscopic electrical circuits link up the LEDs and the antenna harvests energy from radio waves to power the lens. Holes which are each 1,000 times thinner than a human hair are etched on to the lens.
advertisement

Electronic components are attached by floating them across the lens surface, where capillary forces suck each one into the right-sized hole. The eye relies on only a small amount of light entering the pupil at a time, so wearers will still be able to see through the lens, while the circuitry is built around the edge.

Mr Parviz plans more sophisticated components to show detailed pictures, and it is possible to include a zoom function. The lenses have been tried on animals but there will be tough safety tests before the technology is developed for people.

Dr Chris Baber, a reader in interactive technology at Birmingham University, said: “The key is how they fit on to a person and ensuring they provide the right information at the right time.”

. . .

Related

Contact Lenses to Display Mobile Phone Caller ID

Hidden surveillance camera microphones to be outlawed

Telegraph | Jan 26, 2008

By Patrick Hennessy, Political Editor

Hidden microphones mounted on CCTV cameras which can eavesdrop on private conversations in the street are set to be outlawed, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, believes that the cameras are a serious breach of civil liberties.

Britain has 4.5million CCTV cameras which capture the average person around 300 times a day.

This week Mr Thomas will launch a new code of practice and declare that no organisation should be able to monitor or store private conversations, claiming that such activities are “highly intrusive”.

Whitehall sources said last night that he has the strong backing of ministers. The ruling is also likely to be hailed by civil liberties campaigners.

A spokesman for Mr Thomas said that the use of cameras to record voices would be allowed only in “extremely special circumstances” such as the detection of crime.

Earlier this month, a court heard how a microphone mounted on a CCTV device recorded the groans of father-of-three Mark Witherall, 47, as he was beaten and left to die by raiders after catching them at his house in Whitstable, Kent.

In another case, a microphone on a CCTV camera picked up the screams of a woman and her child who were attacked and abused last year by a would-be arsonist at their home in Lancashire.

Some councils, including Westminster in London, began testing the new cameras last year and more are reported to be keen on using them in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics. Many are fitted with microphones which can “bug” conversations up to 100 yards away.

Mr Thomas’s ruling will also affect employers who seek to eavesdrop on private conversations between staff. David Blunkett, the former home secretary, attacked CCTV microphones last year, saying: “I don’t want microphones recording me.”

The concession from ministers comes as they face a Commons rebellion on a separate civil liberties issue over plans to increase from 28 to 42 the number of days police can hold terror suspects without charge.

Some Labour MPs are expected to back opposition parties in voting against the increase, which was unveiled in the Counter Terrorism Bill last week.

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, has vowed to fight it but in what some MPs see as a step towards a compromise, he offered to help ministers with “technical problems” on the operation of the Civil Contingencies Act, under which suspects could be held for 30 extra days in a state of emergency.