Daily Archives: February 14, 2013

World’s richest men aid GMO-promoting ‘Green Revolution’ center

gates
Associated Press/Eduardo Verdugo – From left, Chair of the International Center for Improvement of Corn and Wheat (CIMMYT) Sara Boettiger, Mexico state Gov. Eruviel Avila, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, Mexican Secretary of Agriculture Enrique Martinez, Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim and CIMMYT Director General Thomas Lumpkin cut the ribbon at inauguration of the new research center for the CIMMYT in Texcoco, Mexico, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. Gates and Slim teamed up to to fund new seed breeding research which the CIMMYT says aims to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat systems to ensure global food security and reduce poverty. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

By MARK STEVENSON

Associated Press | Feb 13

TEXCOCO, Mexico (AP) — The research center largely responsible for launching the “green revolution” of the 1960s that dramatically raised crop yields is getting support from the world’s richest men to develop genetically-modified seeds to help farmers in the developing world grow more grain in the face of a changing climatic conditions and increased demand.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim donated a total of $25 million to build a new cluster of biotechnology labs at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico.

The facilities include hothouses “with high-efficiency air particle filters and a water treatment plant to prevent pollen and genetically modified material from escaping to the outdoors,” according to a statement by the billionaires’ foundations.

Both of the philanthropists were on hand for Wednesday’s inauguration of the new labs at the research center, known as CIMMYT, located just east of Mexico City.

Bill Gates is Funding GMO Food – giving billions to the biotech industry

Bill Gates Dodges Questions on Why He Owns 500,000 Shares of Monsanto

Bill Gates, Monsanto, and eugenics: How one of the world’s wealthiest men is actively promoting a corporate takeover of global agriculture

Bill Gates added $7billion to his wealth in 2012 alone (and that’s AFTER he gave away $28million)

Billionaires Try to Shrink World’s Population

The Meat Industry Now Consumes Four-Fifths of All Antibiotics

It was yet another coming of age moment for GM crops, because the nonprofit CIMMYT has become known over the last 50 years for providing low-cost, improved seeds through hybridization efforts, using its vast stockpiles of native corn and wheat genes from across the world to cross-breed the best attributes, like drought-resistance.

But increasingly, genetic splicing is joining the older technique of cross-pollination as “one of the tools in the toolbox,” said CIMMYT Director Thomas Lumpkin.

While Lumpkin claimed that even hybridization represents a sort of genetic modification by selective planting and breeding, he noted that CIMMYT hasn’t shipped any true GM seeds yet, and acknowledged that some countries might have concerns.

“We want to facilitate the movement of those (genetic) traits to the countries of the developing world that request them, that want them,” Lumpkin said. “Nothing is being pushed, nothing is being forced, and CIMMYT will not profit.”

Gates noted there are “legitimate issues, but solvable issues” around wider GM crop use, and that solutions could include distributing GM crops that are patented but require no royalty payments.

That alone would be a big change in the spread of GM crops, which up to now have been largely controlled by a few big biotechnology and agricultural companies that charge steep rates for GM seed and sue any farmer who uses, even accidentally, their patented GM traits, like pest resistance.

CIMMYT, with its ties to farm agencies throughout the world, could be a conduit to deliver GM benefits to the developing world, which has largely been locked out of them.

GM traits could be developed by the center and donated, or they could be bought cheaply. That’s where Gates and his foundation could come in. With his help CIMMYT, which is known for charging farmers as little as possible, could pick up some of the older traits for low prices.

“Some of these traits are getting near the end of their patent life or are available from multiple entities, so that there’s even some competition there,” Gates noted.

Lumpkin said farmers may be scared by the legal risks of GM crops, noting “you can have a law suit of a million dollars” for unauthorized use of patented crops.

“So CIMMYT is primarily focusing on getting tried and true GMO traits that are widely used around the world and bring them to the poor farmers of the developing world, so that the women of the developing world don’t have to spend the entire cropping system pulling weeds in the field … when there is such a simple modification used by all of the farmers in the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, South Africa.”

“Why can’t these poor farmers have these same traits that have been used for 15 years in the developed world?” he asked.

Still national sensitivities in Mexico, where the CIMMYT was founded in 1963, are still strong. Mexico is the birthplace of corn, and concern that GM crops might displace or contaminate genetically-valuable native strains have so far held up large-scale planting of GM corn in Mexico, even as the country has been forced to import about half of its basic grain consumption.

“Under the guise of philanthropy, what they are doing is promoting the use of transgenetic crops, with rhetoric about ending hunger in the world,” said Aleira Lara, of Greenpeace Mexico. “Those things are myths.”

“These (GM) seeds are not any kind of magic wand for increasing production, and they bring new problems to the countryside,” like developing resistance among pests and weeds, Lara said.

Lumpkin noted that CIMMYT is already doing some GM corn research in Africa, but not in Mexico.

“We are doing some research here with wheat, which is not such a sensitive issue in Mexico,” he said.

Lumpkin warned that the world could face a recurrence of the kind of crisis that CIMMYT was able to stave off 50 years ago, this time brought about by new plant diseases, climate change, water shortages and increasing consumption of grain-intensive foods, like meat.

“On one hand, there is rapidly increasing demand … on the other hand, conditions for producing this food are deteriorating rapidly,” he said.

Without new research avenues, he warned, “we have all of the ingredients for a new global food crisis.”

 

Military contractor Raytheon’s disturbing Big Brother software trolls social networks to find out where you are and what you are doing

i-am-totally-aware-that-i-dont

It’s a disturbing vision, summoning up George Orwell’s “Big Brother.”

sfgate.com | Feb 12, 2013

by Caleb Garling and Benny Evangelista

Raytheon, a Massachusetts defense contractor, has built tracking software that pulls information from social networks, according to a video obtained by the Guardian newspaper in London.

The gist of the Guardian article:

“The Massachusetts-based company has acknowledged the technology was shared with U.S. government and industry as part of a joint research and development effort, in 2010, to help build a national security system capable of analyzing ‘trillions of entities’ from cyberspace.”

Using public data from Facebook, Twitter, Gowalla and Foursquare, the software – called RIOT, or Rapid Information Overlay Technology – apparently gathers uploaded information and forms a profile of a person’s every move that was registered with one of the websites.

The video obtained by the newspaper starts with a demonstration by Raytheon’s “principal investigator,” Brian Urch, showing how easy it is to track an employee named Nick – a real person – based on all the places he has checked in using his smartphone.

Raytheon Riot: Defense spying is coming to social networks

Raytheon Riot Software Predicts Behavior Based on Social Media

“When people take pictures and post them on the Internet using their smartphones, the phone will actually embed the latitude and longitude in the header data – so we’re going to take advantage of that,” Urch says. “So now we know where Nick’s gone … and now we’ll predict where he’ll be in the future.”

Urch goes on to analyze – using graphs and calendars – where Nick likes to spend his personal time and make predictions about his behavior.

“If you ever wanted to get a hold of his laptop, you might want to visit the gym at 6 a.m. on Monday,” Urch says with alarming casualness.

It’s a disturbing vision, summoning up George Orwell’s “Big Brother.”

But it’s also a reminder that advertisers are not the only ones with interest in the reams of data that social networks collect about regular people. Consider: Had the CIA built a tool like Facebook, we’d probably all be terrified.

And all the tracking data this tool analyzes is provided voluntarily, by us. The satirical news site the Onion, always on point, once joked that the CIA’s “Facebook Program” had drastically cut its spying costs.

Users who enjoy posting their lives on computers they don’t control – i.e. those of Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al – should not be surprised when that data get out of their control. Some governments, like France, are doing what they can to keep an eye on how social-networking data are used, but at the end of the day, if we don’t want Facebook and Twitter using our data, we shouldn’t give that to them.

A final note: The Raytheon video features technology from 2010 – three years ago. No doubt the tracking software has come a long way since then.

TSA finding new homes for nude scanners in federal buildings

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A traveler undergoes a full body scan performed by Transportation Security Administration agents as she and others pass through the security checkpoint at the Denver International Airport on November 22, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.(AFP Photo / John Moore)

RT | Feb 12, 2013

The TSA is retiring 250 of their high-tech “backscatter” screening machines in the coming weeks, easing both healthcare and privacy woes from frequent travelers that don’t trust the devices. Are they really going away for good though?

Backscatter makers Rapiscan and the Transportation Security Administration announced the ending of a partnership just last month, and by June 1 the TSA will have removed the space-age body screeners from around 200 airports across the country. In a recent interview with Federal Times, though, TSA spokesperson David Castelveter says that the roughly $40 million worth of machinery could be moved elsewhere to provide airport-style security outside of departure terminals.

“We are working with other government agencies to find homes for them,” Castelveter tells reporter Andy Medici. “There is an interest clearly by DoD and the State Department to use them — and other agencies as well.”

According to Medici, those machines may soon be coming to federal buildings to be used in routine, day-to-day security screenings for both visitors and employees.

Removed TSA Scanners May End Up in Gov’t Office Buildings

Last February, lawmakers in Washington responded to opponents of the machines by demanding that the TSA only implement devices that produce “generic passenger images,” a maneuver they hoped would bring change substantial enough to alleviate the privacy concerns from travelers made uncomfortable by the X-ray-like machines that have earned them the moniker “pornoscanners.” With a deadline looming and Congress’ challenge left unanswered, though, the TSA confirmed last month that their $5 million contract with Rapiscan would be coming to a close and the company’s Secure 1000SP Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) systems and Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software would be shelved.

“It became clear to TSA they would be unable to meet our timeline,” Karen Shelton Waters, an assistant administer for acquisitions at the agency, told Bloomberg at the time. “As a result of that, we terminated the contract for the convenience of the government.”

Now just weeks after that announcement, Medici’s report suggests that Americans won’t be saying goodbye to the backscatters anytime soon. Although the TSA has removed at least 76 of the machines from airports already and intends on having the other 174 gone by the June 1 deadline, Castelveter wants them elsewhere.

“Hopefully we will be able to deploy them within other government agencies,” he says.

In the January 17 press release from Rapiscan that announces the end of their backscatter deal with the TSA, the company hints at what could be to come regarding other deals.

“As the Secure 1000SP has been operated by TSA as an effective imaging system, TSA plans to deploy these systems, with Rapiscan’s assistance, to U.S. government agencies that already rely on the Secure 1000 product line or can enhance their security programs with the Secure 1000SP,” the presser reads.

Late last year in November, Rapiscan announced on its website that it had been awarded a $15 million contract from an unnamed, “critical US government agency” in order to provide people and baggage scanning technology. Although that write-up declined to name the entity that will work with Rapiscan or what kind of technology will be implemented, it does little to calm the fears of those who worried that invasive airport pat-downs were just the beginning of a bigger trend — a problematic one where Americans are forced to sacrifice privacy for protection.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) made a statement last month condemning the use of the devices and insisted “The American public must be assured that these machines will not be used in any other public federal facility.” Bob Burns of the TSA Blog says the units will be “stored until they can be redeployed to other mission priorities within the government.”

Rare media articles expose how the mass media manipulate public opinion

tv_gallery_dees

Media manipulation currently shapes everything you read, hear and watch online. Everything.”

Forbes magazine article on mass media influence, 7/16/2012
examiner.com | Feb 12, 2013

By Fred Burks

The influence of the mass media on public perception is widely acknowledged, yet few know the incredible degree to which this occurs. Key excerpts from the rare, revealing mass media news articles below show how blatantly the media sometimes distort critical facts, omit vital stories, and work hand in hand with the military-industrial complex to keep their secrets safe and promote greedy and manipulative corporate agendas.

Once acclaimed as the watchdog of democracy and the political process, these riveting articles clearly show that the major media can no longer be trusted to side with the people over business and military interests. For ideas on how you can further educate yourself and what you can do to change all this, see the “What you can do” section below the article summaries. Together, we can make a difference.

obeyU.S. Suppressed Footage of Hiroshima for Decades
2005-08-03, New York Times/Reuters
http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/news/news-media-anniversary.html

In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, U.S. authorities seized and suppressed film shot in the bombed cities by U.S. military crews and Japanese newsreel teams to prevent Americans from seeing the full extent of devastation wrought by the new weapons. It remained hidden until the early 1980s and has never been fully aired. “Although there are clearly huge differences with Iraq, there are also some similarities,” said Mitchell, co-author of “Hiroshima in America” and editor of Editor & Publisher. “The chief similarity is that Americans are still being kept at a distance from images of death, whether of their own soldiers or Iraqi civilians.” The Los Angeles Times released a survey of six months of media coverage of the Iraq war in six prominent U.S. newspapers and two news magazines — a period during which 559 coalition forces, the vast majority American, were killed. It found they had run almost no photographs of Americans killed in action. “So much of the media is owned by big corporations and they would much rather focus on making money than setting themselves up for criticism from the White House and Congress,” said Ralph Begleiter, a former CNN correspondent. In 1945, U.S. policymakers wanted to be able to continue to develop and test atomic and eventually nuclear weapons without an outcry of public opinion. “They succeeded but the subject is still a raw nerve.”

Note: As this highly revealing Reuters article was removed from both the New York Times and the Reuters websites, click here to view it in its entirely on one of the few alternative news websites to report it. And to go much deeper into how the devastating effects of the bomb were covered up by various entities within government, click here.

Misinformation campaign targets USA TODAY reporter, editor
2012-04-19, USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2012-04-19/vanden-brook-locker-…

A USA TODAY reporter and editor investigating Pentagon propaganda contractors have themselves been subjected to a propaganda campaign of sorts, waged on the Internet through a series of bogus websites. Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created in their names, along with a Wikipedia entry and dozens of message board postings and blog comments. Websites were registered in their names. The timeline of the activity tracks USA TODAY’s reporting on the military’s “information operations” program, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan — campaigns that have been criticized even within the Pentagon as ineffective and poorly monitored. For example, Internet domain registries show the website TomVandenBrook.com was created Jan. 7 — just days after Pentagon reporter Tom Vanden Brook first contacted Pentagon contractors involved in the program. Two weeks after his editor Ray Locker’s byline appeared on a story, someone created a similar site, RayLocker.com, through the same company. If the websites were created using federal funds, it could violate federal law prohibiting the production of propaganda for domestic consumption. Some postings … accused them of being sponsored by the Taliban. “They disputed nothing factual in the story about information operations,” Vanden Brook said.

Note: For more on a proposed amendment to a U.S. bill which would make it legal to use propaganda and lie to the American public, click here.

Read More

Cyber, drone operators now eligible for ‘Distinguished Warfare’ medal

global hawk drone
The Global Hawk, built by Northrop Grumman, features a bulging forehead. What you can’t see is all the high-tech gear it’s packing.
(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)

The Pentagon is expected to announce today the creation of a medal that can be awarded to drone operators as well as to individuals fighting in the cyberwar trenches.

The first new medal out of the Defense Department since the 1944 creation of the Bronze Star recognizes the growing importance of cyberwarfare and drone strikes.

cnet.com | Feb 13, 2013

by Charles Cooper

Distinguished_Warfare_Medal_120x243This would be a first. The Distinguished Warfare Medal, a nearly two-inch-tall brass pendant below a ribbon with blue, red and white stripes, will be handed out to people judged to have racked up “extraordinary achievement” directly tied to a combat operation but at a far remove from the actual battlefield, according to the Associated Press, which first reported the news. This is said to be the first new combat-related award since the 1944 creation of the Bronze Star.

In taking this step, the Pentagon is explicitly recognizing the increasing importance of cyberwar and drone activities to the nation’s defense complex. Indeed, the U.S. Air Force is on record predicting that by 2023 one-third of its attack and fighter planes will be drones.

Update 1:36 p.m. PT: The Defense Department has just announced the Distinguished Warfare Medal. In a statement, it gave two examples of the kinds of exceptional achievements that might merit the new medal:

“The most immediate example is the work of an unmanned aerial vehicle operator who could be operating a system over Afghanistan while based at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The unmanned aerial vehicle would directly affect operations on the ground. Another example is that of a soldier at Fort Meade, Md., who detects and thwarts a cyberattack on a DOD computer system.”

Intel’s creepy face-scanning camera watches you while you watch TV

 

telescreen

One day we’re gonna watch you like it’s 1984

Intel’s new TV box to point creepy spy camera at YOUR FACE

theregister.co.uk | Feb  13, 2013

By Bill Ray

Intel has confirmed it will be selling a set-top box direct to the public later this year, along with a streaming TV service designed to watch you while you’re watching it.

The device will come from Intel Media, a new group populated with staff nicked from Netflix/Apple/Google and so forth. Subscribers will get live and catch-up TV as well as on-demand content – all delivered direct from Intel over their broadband connections. It’s a move which will put Chipzilla firmly into US living room, and no doubt ignite a host of privacy concerns from those who want to watch without being watched.

The announcement, made during an interview at the AllThingsD conference in California, isn’t a great surprise; rumours of an Intel play have been swirling around for the last year and sure enough Erik Huggers (VP at Intel Media) admitted that the company has been working on the device, and associated service, for the last 12 months. He didn’t say what the service will be called, but did say that the US isn’t ready for entirely à la carte options and that Intel will be selling bundles of content – though we’ll have to wait to see what they comprise.

Intel’s television set top box will include a built-in camera that watches you in your living room

Intel Developing Box That Watches You Watch TV

Intel Jumps Into Living Room with Internet TV Device

It’s true: Intel is building an internet TV platform that also watches you

More controversial is the plan to use a camera on the box to look outward, to identify the faces staring at the goggle box… telescreen-stylie. Intel will use that to present personalised options and targeted advertising, in a process which seems immediately creepy but might make sense to anyone who has tuned in to NetFlix to be told “Because you watched Power Rangers Ninja Storm…” We’re used to being watched while we’re web surfing, and those using Google Docs know the composition process contributes to their profile, but being watched on camera might be a step too far for some.

Huggers points out that the camera will have a physical shutter on the front, which can be closed, and that having the box recognise the viewers is simply easier than maintaining separate accounts, but Intel accepts that there’s a public-relations challenge ahead.

Intel will be embracing the H.265 codec, recently developed and just approved by the ITU, which should provide better video over less bandwidth, but will make getting support across devices a challenge.

Huggers made much of his experience at the BBC: “I built this thing called iPlayer in the UK, and we made that service available to more than 650 devices”, citing the broad platform support as essential to the success of iPlayer (which he describes as “catch-up TV done properly”) and promising that Intel’s service will also get broad support.

Whether the Android and iOS clients will feature the watching-you-watching-them tech, patented by Intel last year, we don’t know, but the entry of Intel into the market is significant not only to shake up on-demand TV but also to ensure a future for the chip manufacturer as a provider of on-demand television – a business safe from the ARM-based competitors.