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How a NeoCon-Backed “Fact Checker” Plans to Wage War on Independent Media

It will soon become almost impossible to avoid Newsguard’s ranking systems on any technological device sold in the United States

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | January 9, 2019

Soon after the social media “purge” of independent media sites and pages this past October, a top neoconservative insider — Jamie Fly — was caught stating that the mass deletion of anti-establishment and anti-war pages on Facebook and Twitter was “just the beginning” of a concerted effort by the U.S. government and powerful corporations to silence online dissent within the United States and beyond.

While a few, relatively uneventful months in the online news sphere have come and gone since Fly made this ominous warning, it appears that the neoconservatives and other standard bearers of the military-industrial complex and the U.S. oligarchy are now poised to let loose their latest digital offensive against independent media outlets that seek to expose wrongdoing in both the private and public sectors.

As MintPress News Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh recently wrote, MintPress was informed that it was under review by an organization called Newsguard Technologies, which described itself to MintPress as simply a “news rating agency” and asked Muhawesh to comment on a series of allegations, several of which were blatantly untrue. However, further examination of this organization reveals that it is funded by and deeply connected to the U.S. government, neo-conservatives, and powerful monied interests, all of whom have been working overtime since the 2016 election to silence dissent to American forever-wars and corporate-led oligarchy.

More troubling still, Newsguard — by virtue of its deep connections to government and Silicon Valley — is lobbying to have its rankings of news sites installed by default on computers in U.S. public libraries, schools, and universities as well as on all smartphones and computers sold in the United States.

In other words, as Newsguard’s project advances, it will soon become almost impossible to avoid this neocon-approved news site’s ranking systems on any technological device sold in the United States. Worse still, if its efforts to quash dissenting voices in the U.S. are successful, Newsguard promises that its next move will be to take its system global.

Red light, green light . . .

Newsguard has received considerable attention in the mainstream media of late, having been the subject of a slew of articles in the Washington Post, the Hill, the Boston Globe, Politico, Bloomberg, Wired, and many others just over the past few months. Those articles portray Newsguard as using “old-school journalism” to fight “fake news” through its reliance on nine criteria allegedly intended to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to online news.

Newsguard separates sites it deems worthy and sites it considers unreliable by using a color-coded rating — green, yellow, or red — and more detailed “nutrition labels” regarding a site’s credibility or lack thereof. Rankings are created by Newsguard’s team of “trained analysts.” The color-coding system may remind some readers of the color-coded terror threat-level warning system that was created after 9/11, making it worth noting that Tom Ridge, the former secretary of Homeland Security who oversaw the implementation of that system under George W. Bush, is on Newsguard’s advisory board.

As Newsguard releases a new rating of a site, that rating automatically spreads to all computers that have installed its news ranking browser plug-in. That plug-in is currently available for free for the most commonly used internet browsers. NewsGuard directly markets the browser plug-in to libraries, schools and internet users in general.

According to its website, Newsguard has rated more than 2,000 news and information sites. However, it plans to take its ranking efforts much farther by eventually reviewing “the 7,500 most-read news and information websites in the U.S.—about 98 percent of news and information people read and share online” in the United States in English.

A recent Gallup study, which was supported and funded by Newsguard as well as the Knight Foundation (itself a major investor in Newsguard), stated that a green rating increased users likelihood to share and read content while a red rating decreased that likelihood. Specifically, it found 63 percent would be less likely to share news stories from red-rated websites, and 56 percent would be more likely to share news from green-rated websites, though the fact that Newsguard and one of its top investors funded the poll makes it necessary to take these findings with a grain of salt.

However, some of the rankings Newsguard itself has publicized show that it is manifestly uninterested in fighting “misinformation.” How else to explain the fact that the Washington Post and CNN both received high scores even though both have written stories or made statements that later proved to be entirely false? For example, CNN falsely claimed in 2016 that it was illegal for Americans to read WikiLeaks releases and illegally colluded with the DNC to craft presidential debate questions.

In addition, in 2017, CNN published a fake story that a Russian bank linked to a close ally of President Donald Trump was under Senate investigation. That same year, CNN was forced to retract a report that the Trump campaign had been tipped off early about WikiLeaks documents damaging to Hillary Clinton when it later learned the alert was about material already publicly available.

The Washington Post, whose $600 million conflict of interest with the CIA goes unnoted by Newsguard, has also published false stories since the 2016 election, including one article that falsely claimed that “Russian hackers” had tapped into Vermont’s electrical grid. It was later found that the grid itself was never breached and the “hack” was only an isolated laptop with a minor malware problem. Yet, such acts of journalistic malpractice are apparently of little concern to Newsguard when those committing such acts are big-name corporate media outlets.

Furthermore, Newsguard gives a high rating to Voice of America, the U.S. state-funded media outlet, even though its former acting associate director said that the outlet produces “fluff journalism” and despite the fact that it was recently reformed to “provide news that supports our [U.S.] national security objectives.” However, RT receives a low “red” rating for being funded by the Russian government and for “raising doubts about other countries and their institutions” (i.e., including reporting critical of the institutions and governments of the U.S. and its allies).

Keeping the conversation safe for the corporatocracy

Newsguard describes itself as an organization dedicated to “restoring trust and accountability” and using “journalism to fight false news, misinformation and disinformation.” While it repeatedly claims on its website that its employees “have no political axes to grind” and “care deeply about reliable journalism’s pivotal role in democracy,” a quick look at its co-founders, top funders and advisory board make it clear that Newsguard is aimed at curbing voices that hold the powerful — in both government and the private sector — to account.

Newsguard is the latest venture to result from the partnership between Steven Brill and Louis Gordon Crovitz, who currently serve as co-CEOs of the group. Brill is a long-time journalist —  published in TIME and The New Yorker, among others — who most recently founded the Yale Journalism Initiative, which aims to encourage Yale students who “aspire to contribute to democracy in the United States and around the world” to become journalists at top U.S. and international media organizations. He first teamed up with Crovitz in 2009 to create Journalism Online, which sought to make the online presence of top American newspapers and other publishers profitable, and was also the CEO of the company that partnered up with the TSA to offer “registered” travelers the ability to move more quickly through airport security — for a price, of course.

While Brill’s past does not in itself raise red flags, Crovitz — his partner in founding Journalism Online, then Press+, and now Newsguard — is the last person one would expect to find promoting any legitimate effort to “restore trust and accountability” in journalism. In the early 1980s. Crovitz held a number of positions at Dow Jones and at the Wall Street Journal, eventually becoming executive vice president of the former and the publisher of the latter before both were sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in 2007. He is also a board member of Business Insider, which has received over $30 million from Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos in recent years.

In addition to being a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Crovitz proudly notes in his bio, available on Newsguard’s website, that he has been an “editor or contributor to books published by the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation.” Though many MintPress readers are likely familiar with these two institutions, for those who are not, it is worth pointing out that the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is one of the most influential neoconservative think tanks in the country and its “scholars,” directors and fellows have included neoconservative figures like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton and Frederick Kagan.

During the George W. Bush administration, AEI was instrumental in promoting the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq and has since advocated for militaristic solutions to U.S. foreign policy objectives and the expansion of the U.S.’ military empire as well as the “War on Terror.” During the Bush years, AEI was also closely associated with the now defunct and controversial neoconservative organization known as the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which presciently called, four years before 9/11, for a “new Pearl Harbor” as needed to rally support behind American military adventurism.

The Heritage Foundation, like AEI, was also supportive of the war in Iraq and has pushed for the expansion of the War on Terror and U.S. missile defense and military empire. Its corporate donors over the years have included Procter & Gamble, Chase Manhattan Bank, Dow Chemical, and Exxon Mobil, among others.

Crovitz’s associations with AEI and the Heritage Foundation, as well as his ties to Wall Street and the upper echelons of corporate media, are enough to make any thinking person question his commitment to being a fair watchdog of “legitimate journalism.” Yet, beyond his innumerable connections to neoconservatives and powerful monied interest, Crovitz has repeatedly been accused of inserting misinformation into his Wall Street Journal columns, with groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation accusing him of “repeatedly getting his facts wrong” on NSA surveillance and other issues. Some of the blatant falsehoods that have appeared in Crovitz’s work have never been corrected, even when his own sources called him out for misinformation.

For example, in a WSJ opinion piece that was written by Crovitz in 2012, Crovitz was accused of making “fantastically false claims” about the history of the internet by the very people he had cited to support those claims.

As TechDirt wrote at the time:

Almost everyone he [Crovitz] sourced or credited to support his argument that the internet was invented entirely privately at Xerox PARC and when Vint Cerf helped create TCP/IP, has spoken out to say he’s wrong. And that list includes both Vint Cerf, himself, and Xerox. Other sources, including Robert Taylor (who was there when the internet was invented) and Michael Hiltzik, have rejected Crovitz’s spinning of their own stories.”

The oligarch team’s deep bench

While Brill and Crovitz’s connections alone should be enough cause for alarm, a cursory examination of Newsguard’s advisory board makes it clear that Newsguard was created to serve the interests of American oligarchy. Chief among Newsguard’s advisors are Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush and Ret. General Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, a former NSA director and principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy seeking to “advise corporate clients and governments, including foreign governments” on security matters that was co-founded by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who also currently serves as the board chairman of major weapons manufacturer BAE systems.

Another Newsguard advisor of note is Richard Stengel, former editor of Time magazine, a “distinguished fellow” at the Atlantic Council and Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy under President Barack Obama. At a panel discussion hosted last May by the Council on Foreign Relations, Stengel described his past position at the State Department as “chief propagandist” and also stated that he is “not against propaganda. Every country does it and they have to do it to their own population and I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.”

Other Newsguard advisors include Don Baer, former White House communications director and advisor to Bill Clinton and current chairman of both PBS and the influential PR firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe as well as Elise Jordan, former communications director for the National Security Council and former speech-writer for Condoleezza Rice, as well as the widow of slain journalist Michael Hastings — who was writing an exposé on former CIA director John Brennan at the time of his suspicious death.

A look at Newguard’s investors further illustrates the multifarious connections between this organization and the American political and corporate elite. While Brill and Crovitz themselves are the company’s top investors, one of Newsguard’s most important investors is the Publicis Groupe. Publicis is the third largest global communications company in the world, with more than 80,000 employees in over 100 countries and an annual revenue of over €9.6 billion ($10.98 billion) in 2017. It is no stranger to controversy, as one of its subsidiaries, Qorvis, recently came under fire for exploiting U.S. veterans at the behest of the Saudi government and also helped the Saudi government to “whitewash” its human rights record and its genocidal war in Yemen after receiving $6 million from the Gulf Kingdom in 2017.

Furthermore, given its size and influence, it is unsurprising that the Publicis Groupe counts many powerful corporations and governments among its clientele. Some of its top clients in 2018 included pharmaceutical giants Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer and Bayer/Monsanto as well as Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, McDonalds, Kraft Heinz, Burger King, and the governments of Australia and Saudi Arabia. Given its influential role in funding Newsguard, it is reasonable to point out the potential conflict of interest posed by the fact that sites that accurately report on Publicis’ powerful clients — but generate bad publicity — could be targeted for such reports in Newsguard’s ranking.

In addition to the Publicis Groupe, another major investor in Newsguard is the Blue Haven Initiative, which is the venture capital “impact investment” fund of the wealthy Pritzker family — one of the top 10 wealthiest families in the U.S., best known as the owners of the Hyatt Hotel chain and for being the second largest financial contributors to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Other top investors include John McCarter, a long-time executive at U.S. government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, as well as Thomas Glocer, former CEO of Reuters and a member of the boards of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., financial behemoth Morgan Stanley, and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as a member of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board.

Through these investors, Newsguard managed to raise $6 million to begin its ranking efforts in March of 2018. Newsguard’s actual revenues and financing, however, have not been disclosed despite the fact that it requires the sites it ranks to disclose their funding. In a display of pure hypocrisy, Newsguard’s United States Securities and Exchange Commission Form D — which was filed March 5, 2018 — states that the company “declined to disclose” the size of its total revenue.

Why give folks a choice?

While even a quick glance at its advisory board alone would be enough for many Americans to decline to install Newsguard’s browser extension on their devices, the danger of Newsguard is the fact that it is diligently working to make the adoption of its app involuntary. Indeed, if voluntary adoption of Newsguard’s app were the case, there would likely be little cause for concern, given that its website attracts barely more than 300 visits per month and its social-media following is relatively small, with just over 2,000 Twitter followers and barely 500 Facebook likes at the time of this article’s publication.

To illustrate its slip-it-under-the-radar strategy, Newsguard has gone directly to state governments to push its browser extension onto entire state public library systems, even though its website suggests that individual public libraries are welcome to install the extension if they so choose. The first state to install Newsguard on all of its public library computers across its 51 branches was the state of Hawaii — which was the first to partner with Newsguard’s “news literacy initiative,” just last month.

According to local media, Newsguard “now works with library systems representing public libraries across the country, and is also partnering with middle schools, high schools, universities, and educational organizations to support their news literacy efforts,” suggesting that these Newsguard services targeting libraries and schools are soon to become a compulsory component of the American library and education system, despite Newsguard’s glaring conflicts of interest with massive multinational corporations and powerful government power-brokers.

Notably, Newsguard has a powerful partner that has allowed it to start finding its way into public library and school computers throughout the country. As part of its new “Defending Democracy” initiative, Microsoft announced last August that it would be partnering with Newsguard to actively market the company’s ranking app and other services to libraries and schools throughout the country. Microsoft’s press release regarding the partnership states that Newsguard “will empower voters by providing them with high-quality information about the integrity and transparency of online news sites.”

Since then, Microsoft has now added the Newsguard app as a built-in feature of Microsoft Edge, its browser for iOS and Android mobile devices, and is unlikely to stop there. Indeed, as a recent report in favor of Microsoft’s partnership with Newsguard noted, “we could hope that this new partnership will allow Microsoft to add NewsGuard to Edge on Windows 10 [operating system for computers] as well.”

Newsguard, for its part, seems confident that its app will soon be added by default to all mobile devices. On its website, the organization notes that “NewsGuard will be available on mobile devices when the digital platforms such as social media sites and search engines or mobile operating systems add our ratings and Nutrition Labels directly.” This shows that Newsguard isn’t expecting its rating systems to be offered as a downloadable application for mobile devices but something that social media sites like Facebook, search engines like Google, and mobile device operating systems that are dominated by Apple and Google will “directly” integrate into nearly every smartphone and tablet sold in the United States.

A Boston Globe article on Newsguard from this past October makes this plan even more clear. The Globe wrote at the time:

Microsoft has already agreed to make NewsGuard a built-in feature in future products, and [Newsguard co-CEO] Brill said he’s in talks with other online titans. The goal is to have NewsGuard running by default on our computers and phones whenever we scan the Web for news.”

This eventuality is made all the more likely given the fact that, in addition to Microsoft, Newsguard is also closely connected to Google, as Google has been a partner of the Publicis Groupe since 2014, when the two massive companies joined Condé Nast to create a new marketing service called La Maison that is “focused on producing engaging content for marketers in the luxury space.” Given Google’s power in the digital sphere as the dominant search engine, the creator of the Android mobile operating system, and the owner of YouTube, its partnership with Publicis means that Newsguard’s rating system will soon see itself being promoted by yet another of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies.

Furthermore, there is an effort underway to integrate Newsguard into social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Indeed, as Newsguard was launched, co-CEO Brill stated that he planned to sell the company’s ratings of news sites to Facebook and Twitter. Last March, Brill told CNN that “We’re asking them [Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google] to pay a fraction of what they pay their P.R. people and their lobbyists to talk about the problem.”

On Wednesday, Gallup released a poll that will likely be used as a major selling point to social media giants. The poll — funded by Newsguard and the Knight Foundation, which is a top investor in Newsguard and has recently funded a series of Gallup polls relating to online news — seems to have been created with the intention of manufacturing consent for the integration of Newsguard with top social media sites.

This is because the promoted findings from the study are as follows:“89% of users of social media sites and 83% overall want social media sites and search engines to integrate NewsGuard ratings and reviews into their news feeds and search results” and “69% would trust social media and search companies more if they took the simple step of including NewsGuard in their products.” However, a disclaimer at the end of the poll states that the results, which were based on the responses of 706 people each of whom received $2 to participate, “may not be reflective of attitudes of the broader U.S adult population.”

With trust at Facebook nose-diving and Facebook’s censorship of independent media already well underway, the findings of this poll could well be used to justify its integration into Facebook’s platform. The connections of both Newsguard and Facebook to the Atlantic Council make this seem a given.

Financial censorship

Another Newsguard service shows that this organization is also seeking to harm independent media financially by targeting online revenue. Through a service called “Brandguard,” which it describes as a “brand safety tool aimed at helping advertisers keep their brands off of unreliable news and information sites while giving them the assurance they need to support thousands of Green-rated [i.e., Newsguard-approved] news and information sites, big and small.”

At the time the service was announced last November, Newsguard co-CEO Brill stated that the company was “in discussions with the ad tech firms, leading agencies, and major advertisers” eager to adopt a blacklist of news sites deemed “unreliable” by Newsguard. This is unsurprising given the leading role of the Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s largest advertising and PR firms, has in funding Newsguard. As a consequence, it seems likely that many, if not all, of Publicis’ client companies will choose to adopt this blacklist to help crush many of the news sites that are unafraid to hold them accountable.

It is also important to note here that Google’s connection to Publicis and thus Newsguard could spell trouble for independent news pages that rely on Google Adsense for some or all of their ad-based revenue. Google Adsense has long been targeting sites like MintPress by demonetizing articles for information or photographs it deemed controversial, including demonetizing one article for including a photo showing U.S. soldiers involved in torturing Iraqi detainees at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

Since then, Google — a U.S. military contractor — has repeatedly tried to shutter ad access to MintPress articles that involve reporting that is critical of U.S. empire and military expansion. One article that has been repeatedly flagged by Google details how many African-Americans have questioned whether the Women’s March has aided or harmed the advancement of African-Americans in the United States. Google has repeatedly claimed that the article, which was written by African-American author and former Washington Post bureau chief Jon Jeter, contains “dangerous content.”

Given Google’s already established practice of targeting factual reporting it deemed controversial through Adsense, Brandguard will likely offer the tech giant just the excuse it needs to cut off sites like MintPress, and other pages equally critical of empire, altogether.

An action plan for the genuine protection of journalism

Though it is just getting started, Newsguard’s plan to insert its app into every device and major social-media network is a threat to any news site that regularly publishes information that rubs any of Newsguard’s investors, partners or advisors the wrong way. Given its plan to rank the English-language U.S. news sites that account for 98 percent of U.S. digital news consumption, Newsguard’s agenda is of the utmost concern to every independent media page active in the United States and beyond — given Newsguard’s promise to take its project global.

By linking up with former CIA and NSA directors, Silicon Valley Giants, and massive PR firms working for some of the most controversial governments and corporations in the world, Newsguard has betrayed the fact that it is not actually seeking to “restore trust and accountability” in journalism, but to “restore trust and accountability” in news outlets that protect the existing power structure and help shield the corporate-led oligarchy and military-industrial complex from criticism.

Not only is it trying to tank the reputations of independent media through its biased ranking system, Newsguard is also seeking to attack these alternative voices financially and by slipping its ranking system by default onto all computers and phones sold in the U.S.

However, Newsguard and it agenda of guarding the establishment from criticism can be stopped. By supporting independent media and unplugging from social media sites committed to censorship, like Facebook and Twitter, we can strengthen the independent media community and keep it afloat despite the unprecedented nature of these attacks on free speech and watchdog journalism.

Beyond that, a key way to keep Newsguard and those behind it on their toes is to hold them to account by pointing out their clear conflicts of interest and hypocrisy and by derailing the narrative they are carefully crafting that Newsguard is “non-partisan,” “trustworthy,” and true guardians against the scourge of “fake news.”

While this report has sought to be a starting point for such work, anyone concerned about Newsguard and its connections to the war machine and corrupt corporations should feel encouraged to point out the organization’s own conflicts of interests and shady connections via its Twitter and Facebook pages and the feedback section on Newsguard’s website. The best way to defeat this new tool of the neocons is to put them on notice and to continue to expose Newsguard as a guardian of empire, not a guardian of journalism.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

January 10, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russophobia digest part 6: Evidence is optional as alleged anti-vaxx Russian bots go phishing

RT | August 24, 2018

Alleged Russian bots have been at the forefront of another week of Russophobia, with a new but familiar pattern emerging. Scare stories and accusations are made, before a later admission that no actual evidence is available.

RT takes a look at the last seven days or so of Russophobia.

Democrats’ security chief missed the memo

One of the real values of Russophobia is that it means thought and proof are rarely, if ever, needed anymore. Why find out what really happened when there is a decent conclusion to jump to?

For example, this week Bob Lord, the Democratic National Committee’s chief security officer, claimed that the organization’s US voter database had been hacked. Only, he later had to admit it was actually a ‘phishing test.’

Yep, nobody told the security chief about the security test, and he didn’t bother asking either, because it’s much easier to simply insinuate that Russians did it. To be fair to Lord, he didn’t appear to overtly use the ‘R’ word, but almost every media report on the non-incident seasoned its coverage liberally with accusations against Russia.

Microsoft’s marketing dept jumps on Russophobia bandwagon

Staying in the murky world of unsubstantiated cyber-claims, Microsoft said it has also thwarted phishing attacks on political targets by a group “widely associated” with Russia (Fancy Bear, in case you’re interested). It backed up its claims in the now-time-honored fashion of admitting there is “no evidence” that the dodgy domains detected were used in any successful attacks — and there’s no evidence “to indicate the identity of the ultimate targets.”

So, why is Microsoft getting involved? Because it’s got a brand new product maybe? Bill Gates’ boys have come up with anti-hacking software ‘AccountGuard’ as part of its ‘Defending Democracy Program.’

It provides “state-of-the-art cybersecurity protection at no extra cost to all candidates and campaign offices at the federal, state and local level, as well as think tanks and political organizations we now believe are under attack.”

And they claim the Russians are dangerous!?

Pro-pox bots

Those busy little alleged Russian bots are also driving the online anti-vaccine debate in the US, apparently, according to research in the US. No surprise there really, Russian bots real or imagined are accused of driving every online debate these days.

David Broniatowski from the George Washington School of Engineering and Applied Science said: “… many anti-vaccine tweets come from accounts whose provenance is unclear. These might be bots, human users or ‘cyborgs’ – hacked accounts that are sometimes taken over by bots. Although it’s impossible to know exactly how many tweets were generated by bots and trolls …”

“Impossible to know,” “provenance unclear.” So again, no real evidence, so it must be the Russians, mustn’t it?

Someone better check whether Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey are Russian bots too, because they’re not too keen on vaccinations either. Apparently neither is Donald Trump, but you can hardly accuse him of… Oh.

Manafort: Conviction without collusion

Russophobes were jumping for joy at the conviction of Trump’s former election chief Paul Manafort this week. He was sent down for tax fraud, and bank fraud, and hiding bank accounts. What he definitely wasn’t sent down for was colluding with Russia, which is really a little strange considering the man responsible for sending him to court was Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was only appointed to investigate exactly that. As we’ve seen, though, evidence is optional when Russians are the target.

In the wise words of America’s commander-in-chief: “This has nothing to do with Russian collusion. This started as Russian collusion. This has absolutely nothing to do [with it].” Say what you want about Donald Trump…

Read more:

Proof that Manafort & Cohen are criminals adds no weight to Mueller’s Russia collusion probe

Russian hackers not found… again: DNC retracts claim voter database targeted by cyber-attack

‘No evidence’, but Russian Fancy Bears are doing it again (p.s. here’s our new product) – Microsoft

August 24, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Wow effect’: Microsoft’s claims on alleged Russian hacking are a political stunt – Moscow

RT | August 21, 2018

Microsoft’s claims that Moscow-backed hackers are attacking US websites is simply a case of the tech giant joining the Washington-led ‘witch hunt’ on Russia, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The company’s claims that the hacking group Fancy Bears is linked to the Russian government and is creating a number of “spear-phishing” websites lacks any substance as the company has offered no evidence to support this allegation, the Russian ministry said in a statement. Instead, Microsoft’s words were “clearly aimed at having a maximum political and public wow effect,” it added.

So-called “spear-phishing” sites are designed to mimic the pages of the US political institutions and think tanks, in an attempt to gather information from those who visit them.

The ministry denied Russia’s involvement in any hacking attacks on the US soil, including those which are allegedly aimed at disrupting any elections and the US congressional midterm vote in particular. “We do not know what Microsoft is even talking about,” the statement reads.

The tech giant’s move is apparently nothing but a “display of loyalty” to the US establishment, the ministry said, expressing regret that a major company, which has operated on the Russian market for years, eventually decided to “join the witch hunt,” which has “gripped Washington.”

The ministry went on to say that the reason US officials are unwilling to present any evidence of “Russian electronic interference” into American politics is simply because “this evidence does not and could not possibly exist.”

At the same time, the foreign ministry once again said that Moscow is ready to establish a bilateral working group on cybersecurity with the US to resolve any emerging issues in a timely and professional manner. Such proposals have been repeatedly made by Russia earlier but the US has been reluctant to support this initiative so far.

On Monday, Microsoft said in its blog post that it managed to thwart a number of hacking attempts by “a group known variously as Strontium, Fancy Bear and APT28”, which has been “widely associated” with Russia. It admitted, however, that it has “no evidence” that the domains were used in any successful attacks — and no evidence “to indicate the identity of the ultimate targets.”

In response, the Russian president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, denounced the tech giant’s claims as “groundless”. He added that the Russian government does not know what kind of hackers Microsoft were referring to, and that there was “no basis” for the accusations.

A number of experts, whom RT reached out to, also questioned Microsoft’s ability to effectively establish the identity of the alleged hackers. They described the company’s statement as a “faith-based attribution.”

August 21, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , | 2 Comments

The Age of No Privacy: The Surveillance State Shifts Into High Gear

By John W. Whitehead | The Rutherford Institute | June 26, 2017

“We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government.” ― William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice, dissenting in Osborn v. United States, 385 U.S. 341 (1966)

The government has become an expert in finding ways to sidestep what it considers “inconvenient laws” aimed at ensuring accountability and thereby bringing about government transparency and protecting citizen privacy.

Indeed, it has mastered the art of stealth maneuvers and end-runs around the Constitution.

It knows all too well how to hide its nefarious, covert, clandestine activities behind the classified language of national security and terrorism. And when that doesn’t suffice, it obfuscates, complicates, stymies or just plain bamboozles the public into remaining in the dark.

Case in point: the National Security Agency (NSA) has been diverting “internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans.”

It’s extraordinary rendition all over again, only this time it’s surveillance instead of torture being outsourced.

In much the same way that the government moved its torture programs overseas in order to bypass legal prohibitions against doing so on American soil, it is doing the same thing for its surveillance programs.

By shifting its data storage, collection and surveillance activities outside of the country—a tactic referred to as “traffic shaping” —the government is able to bypass constitutional protections against unwarranted searches of Americans’ emails, documents, social networking data, and other cloud-stored data.

The government, however, doesn’t even need to move its programs overseas. It just has to push the data over the border in order to “[circumvent] constitutional and statutory safeguards seeking to protect the privacy of Americans.”

Credit for this particular brainchild goes to the Obama administration, which issued Executive Order 12333 authorizing the collection of Americans’ data from surveillance conducted on foreign soil.

Using this rationale, the government has justified hacking into and collecting an estimated 180 million user records from Google and Yahoo data centers every month because the data travels over international fiber-optic cables. The NSA program, dubbed MUSCULAR, is carried out in concert with British intelligence.

No wonder the NSA appeared so unfazed about the USA Freedom Act, which was supposed to put an end to the NSA’s controversial collection of metadata from Americans’ phone calls.

The NSA had already figured out a way to accomplish the same results (illegally spying on Americans’ communications) without being shackled by the legislative or judicial branches of the government.

The USA Freedom Act was just a placebo pill intended to make the citizenry feel better and let the politicians take credit for reforming mass surveillance. In other words, it was a sham, a sleight-of-hand political gag pulled on a gullible public desperate to believe that we still live in a constitutional republic rather than a down-and-out, out-of-control, corporate-controlled, economically impoverished, corrupt, warring, militarized banana republic.

In fact, more than a year before politicians attempted to patch up our mortally wounded privacy rights with the legislative band-aid fix that is the USA Freedom Act, researchers at Harvard and Boston University documented secret loopholes that allow government agents to bypass Fourth Amendment protections to conduct massive domestic surveillance on U.S. citizens.

Mind you, this metadata collection now being carried out overseas is just a small piece of the surveillance pie.

The government and its corporate partners have a veritable arsenal of surveillance programs that will continue to operate largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the like, beyond the scrutiny of most of Congress and the taxpayers who are forced to fund its multi-billion dollar secret black ops budget.

In other words, the surveillance state is alive and well and kicking privacy to shreds in America.

On any given day, the average American going about his daily business is monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

Whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

We have now moved into a full-blown police state that is rapidly shifting into high-gear under the auspices of the surveillance state.

Not content to merely transform local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are working to turn the nation’s police officers into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.

Add in the fusion centers, city-wide surveillance networks, data clouds conveniently hosted overseas by Amazon and Microsoft, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras, and biometric databases, and you’ve got the makings of a world in which “privacy” is reserved exclusively for government agencies.

Thus, the NSA’s “technotyranny”  is the least of our worries.

A government that lies, cheats, steals, sidesteps the law, and then absolves itself of wrongdoing cannot be reformed from the inside out.

Presidents, politicians, and court rulings have come and gone over the course of the NSA’s 60-year history, but none of them have managed to shut down the government’s secret surveillance of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages, transactions, communications and activities.

Even with restrictions on its ability to collect mass quantities of telephone metadata, the government and its various spy agencies, from the NSA to the FBI, can still employ an endless number of methods for carrying out warrantless surveillance on Americans, all of which are far more invasive than the bulk collection program.

Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people.

And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine. Indeed, Facebook, Amazon and Google are among the government’s closest competitors when it comes to carrying out surveillance on Americans, monitoring the content of your emails, tracking your purchases, exploiting your social media posts and turning that information over to the government.

“Few consumers understand what data are being shared, with whom, or how the information is being used,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Most Americans emit a stream of personal digital exhaust — what they search for, what they buy, who they communicate with, where they are — that is captured and exploited in a largely unregulated fashion.”

It’s not just what we say, where we go and what we buy that is being tracked.

We’re being surveilled right down to our genes, thanks to a potent combination of hardware, software and data collection that scans our biometrics—our faces, irises, voices, genetics, even our gait—runs them through computer programs that can break the data down into unique “identifiers,” and then offers them up to the government and its corporate allies for their respective uses.

All of those internet-connected gadgets we just have to have (Forbes refers to them as “(data) pipelines to our intimate bodily processes”)—the smart watches that can monitor our blood pressure and the smart phones that let us pay for purchases with our fingerprints and iris scans—are setting us up for a brave new world where there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

For instance, imagine what the NSA could do (and is likely already doing) with voiceprint technology, which has been likened to a fingerprint. Described as “the next frontline in the battle against overweening public surveillance,” the collection of voiceprints is a booming industry for governments and businesses alike.

As The Guardian reports, “voice biometrics could be used to pinpoint the location of individuals. There is already discussion about placing voice sensors in public spaces… multiple sensors could be triangulated to identify individuals and specify their location within very small areas.”

Suddenly the NSA’s telephone metadata program seems like child’s play compared to what’s coming down the pike.

That, of course, is the point.

The NSA is merely one small part of the shadowy Deep State comprised of unelected bureaucrats who march in lockstep with profit-driven corporations that actually runs Washington, DC, and works to keep us under surveillance and, thus, under control.

For example, Google openly works with the NSA, Amazon has built a massive $600 million intelligence database for CIA, and the telecommunications industry is making a fat profit by spying on us for the government.

In other words, Corporate America is making a hefty profit by aiding and abetting the government in its domestic surveillance efforts.

At every turn, we have been handicapped in our quest for transparency, accountability and a representative government by an establishment culture of secrecy: secret agencies, secret experiments, secret military bases, secret surveillance, secret budgets, and secret court rulings, all of which exist beyond our reach, operate outside our knowledge, and do not answer to “we the people.”

Incredibly, there are still individuals who insist that they have nothing to fear from the police state and nothing to hide from the surveillance state, because they have done nothing wrong.

To those sanctimonious few, secure in their delusions, let this be a warning.

There is no safe place and no watertight alibi.

The danger posed by the American police/surveillance state applies equally to all of us: lawbreaker and law-abider alike, black and white, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, blue collar and white collar, and any other distinction you’d care to trot out.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, in an age of too many laws, too many prisons, too many government spies, and too many corporations eager to make a fast buck at the expense of the American taxpayer, we are all guilty of some transgression or other.

Eventually, we will all be made to suffer the same consequences in the electronic concentration camp that surrounds us.

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Windows 10 Devices Continue to ‘Collect Everything You Do, Say and Write’

Sputnik – 21.02.2017

European Union data protection authorities have expressed fresh concerns about the privacy of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, despite tweaks being made to the OS after questions were raised about its treatment of personal data last year.

In a letter, the Article 29 Working Group said it still has “significant concerns” about how Microsoft collects and processes users’ personal data, and whether it obtains fully informed consent from users to do so.

“There is an apparent lack of control for users to prevent collection or further processing of such data. As a result, the Working Party specifically requests further explanatory information from Microsoft, as to how the opt-outs, default settings and other available control mechanisms presented during the installation of Windows 10 operating system provide a valid legal basis for the processing of personal data under the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. This is especially of concern where Microsoft would rely on consent as a legal basis for the processing of personal data,” the statement said.

Windows 10 launched in July 2015, and almost immediately garnered criticism for the use of default settings to harvest voluminous amounts of user data, such as web browsing history, WIFI network names and passwords, in order to display personalized adverts as users browse the web or play games. User data is also fed in to train Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant.

While users were given the ability to opt-out of data collection, the process for doing so was criticized for being complex and opaque, comprising 45 pages of privacy policy documents, with opt-out settings spread across 13 different screens and housed on an external website.

In response, the Article 29 Working Party instigated an investigation, as did several national data protection authorities, including France’s CNIL. Their independent conclusions were much the same; the company must stop excessive data collection.

Among the breaches CNIL accused Microsoft of were failing to obtain notice for data transfers, breaking cookie law requirements, having inadequate security protections for personal data, failure to file an authorization request for processing personal data for fraud prevention purposes, and breach of cross-border data transfer restrictions.

CNIL set a deadline of January 31 for Microsoft to comply with their recommendations, although the Working Group’s warning suggests the tech giant is yet to fulfil their obligations, meaning it can be fined. In all, Microsoft could face fines of up to US$3.2 million for breaches of domestic privacy laws.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation, due to come into force May 2018, increases the potential penalties for companies breaching EU data protection law, with fines of up to four percent of annual turnover for enterprises found to be non-compliant.

The issue of informed consent in respect of data sharing has also seen Facebook and WhatsApp fall foul of European regulators; the companies were forced to suspend data sharing after making a change to WhatsApp’s privacy policy that pushed users to consent to sharing information such as their mobile phone number with the messaging app’s parent company.

In a statement, European Digital Rights said Microsoft “grants itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say and write” on Windows 10-equipped devices in order to sell more targeted advertising or to sell your data to third parties.

“The company appears to be granting itself the right to share your data either with your consent “or as necessary.” Microsoft’s updated privacy policy is not only bad news for privacy. Your free speech rights can also be violated on an ad hoc basis,” the statement said.

February 23, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter Become the Gatekeepers

By Phil Butler – New Eastern Outlook – 08.12.2016

News that Google, Microsoft, and Facebook will collaborate to censor their definition of terrorism on their collective networks signals Orwellian times to come. New EU legislation, hints at McCarthyism in America and Europe, and the proven collusion in between Silicon Valley and governments should signal a counter-revolution. Here’s a look at why.

A couple of years ago my colleagues and I helped uncovered a Ukraine “kill list” supported by NATO, the British Embassy in Ukraine, and by neo-Nazis bent on condemning pro-Russians in the Ukraine civil war. The so-called “Peacekeeper” movement was traced to NATO servers in 2015. Since that time we have all witnessed a dizzying barrage of lies, propaganda, and a controlled message of unprecedented scale. WikiLeaks revelations from the Clinton and Podesta files showed the world the depth of collusion, graft, and draconian measures on behalf of the elites in control of western society. Google and the others as tools of the security machine cannot be controverted. And now the same people who tried to buy the presidency of the United States, who fueled the Arab Spring, ISIL, the refugee crisis, the economic crisis, and endless war, they’re out to close the gates on a billion free people. Twitter’s blog post from yesterday gives us the underpublicized announcement.

“Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube are coming together to help curb the spread of terrorist content online. There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services. When alerted, we take swift action against this kind of content in accordance with our respective policies.”

For those users of these networks who are not so aware, this disguised censoring apparatus probably seems as harmless and positively idealistic as Google’s “Do no evil” dogma from bygone years. Disguised as an anti-terror collaboration, this latest Orwellian move by the establishment is nothing of the kind. WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange explains the extraordinary role of Google, Google Ideas, and other contravening evidence here, on the WikiLeaks site. For those who may remain unconvinced, Assange laid out how Google’s Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas Director Jared Cohen, helped plan for just such collaborations as we see today:

“Democratic states that have built coalitions of their militaries have the capacity to do the same with their connection technologies. . . . They offer a new way to exercise the duty to protect citizens around the world.”

Normally I would lay out all the evidence and analysis on these points here, but there is no necessity for this now. All the reader needs to understand is the underlying warning, some main characters in this power play, and the immediacy with which we should address this situation. Now I shall enumerate.

US President Barack Obama and German Chanellor Angela Merkel’s last meeting in Berlin opened several dark corridors. Advising President-elect Donald Trump to “adhere” was one provocative note, the forthcoming “Fake News” business another. But the most telling rhetoric came in the form of Obama revealing the ultimate misinformation and strategy. This segment tells us Merkel and Obama were in war mode with Russia all along:

“We work very closely together on the issue of annexation of Crimea and Russia’s attempt to actually conquer Ukraine.  And actually they did so — conquered part of the territory.  We tried to come to a peaceful settlement here on this.” (WH)

Some days after the Berlin meetup, the European Parliament passed two controversial pieces of legislation. First, the MEPs in Strassbourg paved the way for creating an EU Army. Second, the same parliamentarians voted in a so-called collective anti-propaganda legislation that would essentially allow these same leaders to track down and silence anyone with a view outside their definitions of normal. The fast forwarded strategy to control news and messaging is in fever pitch now, as Germany’s chancellor and America’s president warning of “Fake News”, and CNN along with other owned media repeat the propaganda. CBS Interactive chimed in to bolster the mainstream’s sagging credibility, and to foster the social media corporation cooperation we see today.

The danger is clear. The players are known. Ignorance of the facts will end in dire repressions of freedom and heightened crisis. I contribute to a dozen or more of the independent media sites already targeted. Sputnik, RT, NEO, Global Research, and some others feature my analysis or reports, and I am not nearly alone. Those of us with some prowess on Facebook and the other social media networks will also become targets, I have no doubt. For my part, I am not so concerned. I helped in a meaningful way to evangelize and to develop much of the social and tech landscape you see. I am horrified for the greater implications of these moves though. Facebook’s stockholders, Microsoft’s, Twitter’s, should weigh carefully the audience here. I want to end this report on a meaningful note. So here is my best plea for you to understand the lie before you.

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube  are pretending, and here is the perfect evidence. While these social corporations contend the coming moves against “extremism” are based in altruism and correctness, the truth is revealed in their past actions. The best example I can give is the case of one Nedā Āghā-Soltān. Some will recall the outrage over a YouTube video showing a young Iranian woman dying in front of the camera. Shot by a sniper, the beautiful young philosophy student bled to death before our eyes. The video depicted death in its horrific finality, injustice in its banal cruelty, and more importantly the indecency the Internet has come to represent. For my part the nightmarish and soul darkening vision of life draining from this woman troubled my sleep. Make no mistake, I have seen death many times before, but never catalogued so intrusively. In the end, despite a fairly vast outcry to remove the video, Google refused. The political aspects of Neda’s death took over, the viral nature of the death on Twitter and YouTube was actually promoted, for many robbing her of her last moments was a sin. Now few raise a voice at even the most horrific scenes, and this was by design.

We are desensitized to nearly everything now. Few even know what to believe, so most believe whatever is shown them, at least on some passive level. The life draining from a young student, a man holding his child, the baby’s skull blown apart – it’s just one more dead child – heaped onto a mountain of dead children in far off places. Gaza running red with blood, the Donbass children riddled with shrapnel, dethroned leaders hung, make believe villains with bayonets stabbed into their rectums in Libya, laughing hyena presidential candidates bragging about murdering – and right now the Silicon Valley stock market is going to protect us? No, my friends, the gatekeepers are shutting down democracy, or at least trying to. When the purpose serves them, the next step will finally stun the world into recognition. I only hope we can stop them before.

December 8, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

European Commission’s Hate Speech Deal With Companies Will Chill Speech

By Jillian York | EFF | June 3, 2016

A new agreement between the European Commission and four major U.S. companies—Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft—went into effect yesterday. The agreement will require companies to “review the majority of valid notifications for removal of hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content,” as well as “educate and raise awareness” with their users about the companies’ guidelines.

The deal was made under the Commission’s “EU Internet Forum,” launched last year as a means to counter what EDRi calls “vaguely-defined ‘terrorist activity and hate speech online.’” While some members of civil society were able to participate in discussions, they were excluded from the negotiations that led to the agreement, says EDRi.

The agreement has been met with opposition by a number of groups, including EDRi (of which we’re a member), Access Now, and Index on Censorship, all of which have expressed concerns that the deal with stifle freedom of expression. The decision has also sparked debate on social media, with a wide variety of individuals and groups opposing the decision under the hashtag #IStandWithHateSpeech.

But you don’t have to stand with hate speech to stand against this decision. There are several reasons to oppose this Orwellian agreement. First, while Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allows states to limit freedom of expression under select circumstances, such limitations are intended to be the exception, and are permitted only to protect the following:

  1. The rights or reputations of others,

  2. national security,

  3. public order,

  4. public health, or

  5. morals.

These limits must also meet a three-part test as defined by the ICCPR: be defined by law; have legitimate aim; and be truly necessary. While some of the speech that concerns the Commission may very well qualify as illegal under some countries’ laws, the method by which they’ve sought to limit it will surely have a chilling effect on free speech.

In addition, as EDRi points out, despite a lengthy negotiation between companies and the Commission, “hate speech” remains vaguely-defined. Companies have been tasked with taking the lead on determining what constitutes hate speech, with potentially disastrous results.

In fact, social media companies have an abysmal track record when it comes to regulating any kind of speech. As Onlinecensorship.org’s research shows, speech that is permitted by companies’ terms of service is often removed, with users given few paths to recourse. Users report experiencing bans from Facebook for 24 hours to up to 30 days if the company determines they’ve violated the Community Standards—which, in many cases, the user has not. Requiring companies to review complaints within 24 hours will almost surely result in the removal of speech that would be legal in Europe.

By taking decision-making outside of the democratic system and into backrooms, and granting corporations even greater control, the European Commission is ensuring a chill on online speech.

June 3, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Luxembourg NSA dragnet hauls in Skype for investigation – report

RT | October 12, 2013

Once heralded as a communication tool free from eavesdropping, Skype is now reportedly under scrutiny for secretly and voluntarily handing over personal data on users to government agencies.

The Microsoft-owned instant-messaging site, used by some 600 million people worldwide, is being probed by Luxembourg’s data protection commissioner over concerns about its secret cooperation with the US National Security Agency’s Prism spying program, according to a report in the Guardian, the UK newspaper that first broke the story on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Skype, believed to be the first Internet company among many to be brought within the NSA program, could potentially face criminal and administrative charges, as well as hefty fines if it is found to be in violation of Luxembourg’s data protection laws.

If found guilty, Skype [could] be banned from passing along user data to the US spy agency, the newspaper reported.

The Luxembourg commissioner initiated an investigation into Skype’s privacy policies following revelations in June about its ties to the NSA, the Guardian said. No additional comments were immediately available.

Microsoft’s purchase of Skype for $8.5 billion in 2011 “tripled some types of data flow to the NSA,” the Guardian said, citing secret documents in its possession.

But even before the Microsoft buyout, Skype had initiated its own secret program, dubbed Project Chess, which sought ways of making customer communications “readily available to intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials,” The New York Times reported.

According to the NSA files shown by Snowden to the Guardian, Skype was served with a directive to comply with an NSA surveillance request signed by US Attorney General Eric Holder in February 2011. Several days later, the NSA had successfully monitored its first Skype transmission.

Skype, founded in Estonia in 2003 and now headquartered in Luxembourg, is facing a public backlash in the wake of the Prism disclosures.

“The only people who lose are users,” Eric King, head of research at human rights group Privacy International, said in comments to the Guardian. “Skype promoted itself as a fantastic tool for secure communications around the world, but quickly caved to government pressure and can no longer be trusted to protect user privacy.”

October 12, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Microsoft helped the NSA bypass encryption, new Snowden leak reveals

RT | July 11, 2013

Microsoft worked hand-in-hand with the United States government in order to allow federal investigators to bypass encryption mechanisms meant to protect the privacy of millions of users, Edward Snowden told The Guardian.

According to an article published on Thursday by the British newspaper, internal National Security Agency memos show that Microsoft actually helped the federal government find a way to decrypt messages sent over select platforms, including Outlook.com Web chat, Hotmail email service, and Skype.

The Guardian wrote that Snowden, the 30-year-old former systems administrator for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, provided the paper with files detailing a sophisticated relationship between America’s intelligence sector and Silicon Valley.

The documents, which are reportedly marked top-secret, come in the wake of other high-profile disclosures attributed to Snowden since he first started collaborating with the paper for articles published beginning June 6. The United States government has since indicted Snowden under the Espionage Act, and he has requested asylum from no fewer than 20 foreign nations.

Thursday’s article is authored by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, two journalists who interviewed Snowden at length before he publicly revealed himself to be the source of the NSA leaks. They are joined by co-authors Ewen MacAskill, Spencer Ackerman and Dominic Rushe, who wrote that the classified documents not only reveal the degree in which Microsoft worked with the feds, but also detail the PRISM internet surveillance program. The US government’s relationships with tech companies are also included in the documents, according to the journalists.

“The latest NSA revelations further expose the tensions between Silicon Valley and the Obama administration,” the journalists wrote. “All the major tech firms are lobbying the government to allow them to disclose more fully the extent and nature of their cooperation with the NSA to meet their customers’ privacy concerns. Privately, tech executives are at pains to distance themselves from claims of collaboration and teamwork given by the NSA documents, and insist the process is driven by legal compulsion.”

In the case of Microsoft, however, it appears as if the Bill Gates-founded tech company went out of its way to assist federal investigators.

Among the discoveries made by the latest Snowden leaks, Guardian journalists say that Microsoft specifically aided the NSA in circumventing encrypted chat messages sent over the Outlook.com portal before the product was even launched to the public.

“The files show that the NSA became concerned about the interception of encrypted chats on Microsoft’s Outlook.com portal from the moment the company began testing the service in July last year,” they wrote. “Within five months, the documents explain, Microsoft and the FBI had come up with a solution that allowed the NSA to circumvent encryption on Outlook.com chats.”

According to internal documents cited by the journalists, Microsoft “developed a surveillance capability” that was launched “to deal” with the feds’ concerns that they’d be unable to wiretap encrypted communications conducted over the Web in real time.

“These solutions were successfully tested and went live 12 Dec 2012,” the memo claims, two months before the Outlook.com portal was officially launched.

In a tweet, Greenwald wrote that “the ‘document’ for the Microsoft story is an internal, ongoing NSA bulletin over 3 years,” and that The Guardian “quoted all relevant parts.” The document is not included in the article.

The Guardian revealed that Microsoft worked with intelligence agencies in order to let administrators of the PRISM data collection program easily access user intelligence submitted through its cloud storage service SkyDrive, as well as Skype.

“Skype, which was bought by Microsoft in October 2011, worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video of conversations as well as audio,” the journalists wrote.

That allegation comes in stark contrast to claims made previously by Skype, in which it swore to protect the privacy of its users. RT reported previously that earlier documentation supplied by Snowden showed that the government possesses the ability to listen in or watch Skype chats “when one end of the call is a conventional telephone and for any combination of ‘audio, video, chat and file transfers’ when Skype users connect by computer alone.”

RT earlier acknowledged that Microsoft obtained a patent last summer that provides for “legal intercept” technology. The technology allows agents to “silently copy communication transmitted via the communication session” without asking for user authorization. In recent weeks, however, Microsoft has attacked the government over its secretive spy powers and even asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court if it could be more transparent in discussing the details of FISA requests compiling tech companies for data.

“We continue to believe that what we are permitted to publish continues to fall short of what is needed to help the community understand and debate these issues,” Microsoft Vice President John Frank wrote last month.

“In the past, Skype made affirmative promises to users about their inability to perform wiretaps,” Chris Soghoian of the American Civil Liberties Union told The Guardian. “It’s hard to square Microsoft’s secret collaboration with the NSA with its high-profile efforts to compete on privacy with Google.”

Earlier this week, Yahoo requested that the FISA court unseal documents from its own FISA battle. The court ruling in 2008 compelled Yahoo – and later other Silicon Valley entities – to supply the government with user data without requiring a warrant.

“Blanket orders from the secret surveillance court allow these communications to be collected without an individual warrant if the NSA operative has a 51 percent belief that the target is not a US citizen and is not on US soil at the time,” The Guardian reporters wrote. “Targeting US citizens does require an individual warrant, but the NSA is able to collect Americans’ communications without a warrant if the target is a foreign national located overseas.”

During a March press conference, FBI general counsel Andrew Weissman said that federal investigators plan on being able to wiretap any real-time Internet conversation by the end of 2014.

“You do have laws that say you need to keep things for a certain amount of time, but in the cyber realm you can have companies that keep things for five minutes,” he said. “You can imagine totally legitimate reasons for that, but you can also imagine how enticing that ability is for people who are up to no good because the evidence comes and it goes.”

Former CIA officer Ray McGovern expanded further on the subject to RT, remembering the Bush presidency and how unsurprising it is that this sort of breach of rights continues to exist.

“If you look at what happened when Bush, Cheney and General Hayden – who was head of the NSA at the time – deliberately violated the law to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant, did the telecommunications companies cooperate? Verizon, AT&T…All the giants did…the one that didn’t was Quest. And what happened to Quest? Well, the CEO ended up in jail – and he still might be in jail – on some unrelated charges.”

Later the Congress voted to hold everyone in an innocent light, including the companies who were complicit in the spying. So there is absolutely no disincentive not to engage in violating people’s rights, McGovern warns.

July 12, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh, And One More Thing: NSA Directly Accessing Information From Google, Facebook, Skype, Apple And More

By Mike Masnick | TechDirt | June 6th 2013

Obviously, the Verizon/NSA situation was merely a small view into just how much spying the NSA is doing on everyone. And it seems to be spurring further leaks and disclosures. The latest, from the Washington Post, is that the NSA has direct data mining capabilities into the data held by nine of the biggest internet/tech companies:

The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Dropbox , the cloud storage and synchronization service, is described as “coming soon.”

This program, like the constant surveillance of phone records, began in 2007, though other programs predated it. They claim that they’re not collecting all data, but it’s not clear that makes a real difference:

The PRISM program is not a dragnet, exactly. From inside a company’s data stream the NSA is capable of pulling out anything it likes, but under current rules the agency does not try to collect it all.

Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by the Post instruct new analysts to submit accidentally collected U.S. content for a quarterly report, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”

Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content.

I expect we’ll be seeing more such revelations before long.

June 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Another missionary in Africa: the Bill Gates myth

By Clairmont Chung* | PAMBAZUKA NEWS | 2012-05-24

This scathing indictment tracks the predatory career of Bill Gates and paints his high-profile philanthropy as capitalist adventurism that further impoverishes Africa.

WHO IS THE MAN?

Bill Gates is a walking talking Bill Gates commercial. It matters not that he retired from Microsoft. The Bill Gates image is still very serious business. Arguably his most famous quote is “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.” He dresses the part: very casual with the preppy uniform of khakis and blue. His prepiness and nerdiness follow from his prep school background. But not too many nerds drop out of college, as Gates did. College is the place to find nerds; that’s where nerds get their revenge. Gates constructed the Microsoft company environment like a college campus. It’s part of the myth of that gentle, coed, carefree, nurturing, professorial and now the giving, philanthropist Bill Gates. It’s all very disarming.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) leads the push to bring nutrition and health to Africa. But this move requires some scrutiny and a determination as to whether this is another image builder or worse: an attack by a modern day missionary on another unsuspecting indigenous population. Yes, some Africans are an indigenous population too.

Gates’ retirement [1] from Microsoft allows him time to focus more intently on his image, his sales pitch and Africa. By contrast, the ‘Red’ campaign of Gap, Apple and a few other retailers, requires you buy the product to contribute to fighting AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa. The emphasis is always on buying and selling, not on the disease. So, if you buy a pair of Gap jeans with the red label, a portion of that money goes to the fund. The project, founded by U2’s Bono, is intended to capitalize on what we do anyway – buy stuff. Generally, no one argues against helping Africa, right? But with all the riches these corporations and individuals earn, why do we still have to buy something before they give something? Much of these earnings were as a result of raw materials sourced in Africa: even its music. Unlike Red, Gates requires no purchase from Microsoft, at least not directly. But we can’t separate Gates from Microsoft and its products. Moreover, Microsoft’s operating system is still the most popular, and for good reason, so we don’t have as much choice as we think. We are locked into buying MS DOS. It’s like English in the business world: the official language. Bill Gates knows this. He ‘engineered’ it.

In Africa, there is no need to buy raw material. You simply dig it up, add value, and sell it. This was once done to its indigenous inhabitants. As Arundhati Roy assessed foundations,

“Their enthralling history, which has faded from contemporary memory, began in the US in the early 20th century when, kitted out legally in the form of endowed foundations, corporate philanthropy began to replace missionary activity as Capitalism’s (and Imperialism’s) road opening and systems maintenance patrol.” [2]

Of note, Gap, like Apple, has been under scrutiny for its use of sweatshop labour. However, it has been reported that the clothing used in Gap’s Red promotion is now made in Lesotho (Africa) and not the cheaper China. Gates seems to want to distance his image from the carnage of capital greed by insightfully focusing on software. Perhaps his reasoning was that he would not be responsible for the slave-like exploitation of mostly women and sometimes children, who build hardware for Apple and others in China, or those children digging for gold and coltan in central Africa. The latter two are essential metals used in circuit boards for hardware. This is misguided. Neither a focus on software nor resignation from his baby, Microsoft, could cover the trail. Like banks and insurance companies that financed the flow of human cargo from Africa and claim they did nothing wrong, the builder of operating system software that drives the machines that use our exploited resources and now track our movements and speeches of dissent should not be allowed to claim innocence.

Bill Gates should not be allowed to say he only builds operating systems. In a racist criminal justice system, the legislators who passed the laws, the police who make the arrest, the prosecutors who make the charges stick and even the defense attorneys who seem not to care, need to acknowledge culpability in a system out of control. All actors mentioned purport to do good, as Bill Gates now promises. They all claim to fight evil: crime on one hand, starvation and disease on the other.

Africa does not need this kind of charity. It needs equality in trade and the exchange of leading technology. Instead, Gates, the world’s foremost technologist, brings experts on seeds and vaccines.

Contrary to popular belief, Bill Gates never invented anything. The real invention is the public belief in Bill Gates as the self-made mogul. He started with a ‘gift’ from IBM of the DOS platform. For that platform he adapted the MS-DOS system that operates all personal computers (PCs). Even the term personal computer really means operated by Microsoft DOS. This is so even if your ‘personal’ computer happens to be an Apple or using another operating system like Linux. Unless it’s Microsoft, it is not personal. To be a personal computer, a PC, it has to have a Microsoft DOS operating system. It’s not only the most widely used system, its personal.

It’s important to understand how these systems work before we look at what he is doing in Africa. Of course, Bill Gates is not alone. It’s a scorched earth policy, from the business culture that dominates the US landscape. It’s like the use of napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam, when the intent was mass defoliation of all flora, including food crops, Microsoft used all kinds of tactics, some unlawful, to grab its market share at the expense of any other competitor irrespective of any benefit to the consumer. In Vietnam, Agent Orange led to deforestation; the loss of crops led to losses in wildlife and livestock and an environmental disaster. Eventually, a literally scorched earth would result and starvation, death; victory would follow. Naturally, if you destroyed everything, survivors would need you to rebuild. This is the plan of an empire.

COMING TO A COURTROOM NEAR YOU, THE WAR FOR THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION

Gates’ victories were not a war of nerds but one of lawyers. Gates in a 1994 Playboy [3] interview explained,

“Our restricting IBM’s ability to compete with us in licensing MS-DOS to other computer makers was the key point of the negotiation. We wanted to make sure only we could license it. We did the deal with them at a fairly low price, hoping that would help popularize it. Then we could make our move because we insisted that all other business stay with us. We knew that good IBM products are usually cloned, so it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that eventually we could license DOS to others. We knew that if we were ever going to make a lot of money on DOS it was going to come from the compatible guys, not from IBM. They paid us a fixed fee for DOS. We didn’t get a royalty, even though we did make some money on the deal. Other people paid a royalty. So it was always advantageous to us, the market grew and other hardware guys were able to sell units.”

Part of this revelation is the importance of hardware ‘guys’ to the operation. It is not a separate exercise. What he neglected to explain was the enormous amount of litigation that accompanied and solidified this position and the almost continuous war that has followed this policy.

The Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation into Microsoft’s antitrust violations, only to seemingly lose steam and give up. Antitrust claims are simply claims that one company is attempting to kill off the competition. The Department of Justice, no less, then took up the fight and eventually settled for several hundred million dollars in fines. All during this time there were numerous lawsuits from wronged developers to burned competitors and even employees. This was some potent napalm. In Vizcaino v. Microsoft, 97 F.3d 1187 (9th Cir.1996), the court ruled against Microsoft and ordered it to pay benefits to workers who were denied benefits on account of their incorrect classification as independent contractors as opposed to employees. Welcome to our world.

i4i, of all the names, a software developer, filed a patent infringement suit and won against Microsoft. Microsoft refused to pay. Meanwhile, based on the stolen patents, Microsoft developed a replacement. Microsoft appealed to the highest court in the land. The United States Supreme Court ruled against Microsoft and ordered it pay the developer. Uniloc, Alcatel, and The Commonwealth of Massachusetts are just some of winners against Microsoft and its intent on domination. But they are still too few. Meanwhile, numerous claims have been buried under the costs of litigation and never came to light. I could go on forever listing claims against Microsoft for patent and business infringement, but you can use its search engine to find more. Of note the European Union (EU) fined Microsoft $1.4 billion for its anti-competitive practices. But these fines amounted to slaps on the wrist, as Microsoft continues in its scorched earth policy and more suits are being filed as well as patents being bought as we write.

In a practice known as defensive patenting [4], large companies like Microsoft are buying-up existing patents and seeking new ones to use as a basis to defend or attack in the event of war against their competitors. These patents serve no other useful purpose. The design is rarely manufactured. These patents, some ancient, are bought or brought with the idea that something in their intended use might resemble that of a new patent or one in the future and therefore form a basis to make a claim that it is stolen from Microsoft. If you develop a computer related patent, it is very likely that Microsoft owns one just like it, or partially like it, and can mount an attack against you based on that patent.

COMING TO AFRICA IN A TEST TUBE

It is with this background to his rise in wealth that Bill Gates launched the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with its focus on Africa. Like a good missionary, he does not come empty-handed. He has brought experts and seeds. It’s worth noting that the man Gates hired to help oversee his Africa sojourn is former Monsanto Vice President, Robert Horsch. Gates has invested heavily in Monsanto [5]. It would be an irony, except it is so serious that Monsanto was the company that developed Agent Orange. The effect of that deadly chemical is still affecting Vietnamese people and American soldiers forty years later. It is the progeny of that science that led to Roundup [6], Monsanto’s world-renowned weed killer and killer of several other things. Horsch was a leading figure in developing Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds that were resistant to its own herbicide and pesticides and are now earning Monsanto billions in royalties. They have patented these seeds, which can cross pollinate and colonize existing seed and farms. In America’s Midwest, farmers find their fields filled with a corn they did not plant. […]

We know what happened in Vietnam. The people resisted imperialism and drove the French, first, and then the full might of the US military out of their country. So it is in this context that you must view Gates’ approach to spreading his software and now his seed money in Africa. Like Monsanto’s plan to use genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides to become the dominant if not the sole producer of seed and food, Gates routinely violated antitrust and patent and other laws to achieve the goal of destroying all weeds (all rival software). His new hire, Horsch, will serve as senior program officer and will apply the GMO technology toward improving crop yields in regions including sub-Saharan Africa, where the foundation recently launched a major drive in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation.

Equally misguided is the Foundation’s approach to disease. Malaria and HIV appear to be its focus in the development of vaccines. A cursory look at the history of vaccines will reveal its inherent volatility and high rates of failure. Many of these health issues are really wealth issues. By wealth I mean the means to eat a balanced diet. I maintain that Africa’s problem is one of poverty: its inability to provide regular balanced meals to all of its people. Its greatest epidemic is poverty. Find a vaccine for that. How is it that the near richest man, and the smartest nerd, on the planet cannot see the need for an infrastructure that would lead to adequate supplies of food and water? Instead, he focuses on experimenting with dangerous chemicals and more dangerous genes, purportedly to increase yield.

Out of the other side of his mouth he’s decreasing population. F. William Engdahl quotes Gates’ 2010 TED speech where Gates declares, “First we got population. The world today has 6.8 billion people. That’s headed up to about 9 billion. Now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we lower that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent” [7]. Engdahl asserts that studies show that the chemicals used in the plan reflect reduction birth rates and that the Rockefeller Foundation has been involved with eugenics for some time. Its partnership with Gates and AGRA [8] is precisely for that stated purpose.

Gates sees the need, but the way he wants to fill it is in the mistaken belief that GMOs will provide the high yields to feed Africa and in the meantime he would vaccinate against diseases. Simultaneously, corporations like Monsanto and investors like Gates would reap billions in royalties from the use of its seed. The same GMOs banned by the European Union are acceptable in Africa. The result would be a monoculture that would eliminate centuries of farm practices and seed diversity that date back before the Bible and was partially disrupted by that other foreign intervention: the slave trade. Moreover, the colonialism that followed wanted cocoa, coffee, and cotton. These are not products that find their ways onto the plates of Africans. Stolen human resources along with forced agriculture for the European market set the stage for the shortages we find today.

Jonas Salk, credited with developing the Polio vaccine, when asked who owned the patent, is said to have responded, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” [9] Gates and Monsanto have succeeded where others have failed. If you agree that the seed requires light to grow, preferably sunlight, likewise GMO seed, requires Monsanto’s permission and conditions for use; therefore, they control seed. They are the sun. They may not have patented the sun, but they patented the next best thing: control of the rights to whom, and in what conditions, their seed will access the energy of sun in order to grow. Vandana Shiva [10] refers to Monsanto’s actions as the colonization of seed.

I am no defender of patents and copyright. It’s just another tool to consolidate creativity in the hands of a few. But that is another blog. These empires, like Microsoft and Monsanto, are built on patents: on ownership, including ownership of the means of production. They no longer need to own factories. They only need to own the rights to what the factories produce. Observers like F. William Engdahl have noted that vaccinated children who drink water contaminated by feces are no healthier than they were before the vaccine. Providing that these untested vaccines are safe. Instead of cleaning up the water and sewage systems, they seek to compromise them even more by the use of pesticides and fertilizer needed for their push in agriculture.

“Life is not fair; get used to it.” Bill gates

As if Gates and Monsanto are not sufficient adversaries, President Obama recently appointed a former Monsanto CEO as senior advisor to the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Michael Taylor’s addition is in the context of the US governments plan Via AGRA (two words) to push its policies in Africa. Of course the FDA has refused to ban GMOs in the US and has refused to require foods be labeled, if containing GMOs. Gates is indeed visionary. He has singlehandedly determined the importance of food. It matters not that he could have asked any African child.

But this is a warning to the rest of us. The only other land and space available for full colonization is the Amazon rainforest. It won’t be around for long. But that is another blog. There is the Canadian Tundra and Mars, but first things first. Given the bad press and attention directed at the Amazon, Africa seemed the place with the most land lying seemingly unused. Governments have launched a campaign of terror to remove residents from lands they have occupied since before Columbus was conceived, let alone Microsoft. Though I do not hold Gates responsible for every peasant chased off land farmed for countless moons, I do blame him for adding to the hysteria of the land grab. His mere presence forces up the price of land. What one once farmed for free, soon one will not be able to farm for any money. But if you desire, there will be jobs on the new farm.

AN ALTERNATE CHEMICAL SOLUTION

Guyanese author Harry Narain wrote about high yield imported paddy rice in his collection of short stories, “Grass Roots People” [11], set in 1970s Guyana. The yield was so high that it bent the stalks lower to the ground than normal and ripened faster. The paddy was too heavy. Any rain would mean the end. It ripened so fast that there was not enough time to wait for the government loaned combines to get to his farm. Without money to hire a private combine, the rice crop would die in the field along with the farmer’s dreams of a pair of track shoes for his boy to play sports, earrings his little girl begged for, and a fridge for his wife. The yield was never so high again.

Despite and in spite of all the history and facts on Gates, there are still people who are going to say that Africa is in need and if Gates wants to contribute he should be allowed to do so. They will add that it’s people like this writer who have no money to contribute who are always trying to stop well-meaning people; and finally, Africa is on the rise as a result and here comes another no gooder, a crab, to pull the beneficiaries back down. It’s always the same arguments, on both sides. But facts are difficult to controvert. Denial is a sweet space to reside. No one comes to kick you out of there.

Under the cover of the foundation, Gates moved from paying little tax to paying no tax. That notwithstanding, there are a few things he can do for me. He must relinquish all his shares in Microsoft and donate half to Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement. He must remove his two executives from AGRA’s board. He must distribute the rest of the shares among those families in China whose children jumped to their deaths from the Foxconn [12] factory dorm while employed in making things for us that included his friend Steve Jobs’, ‘I’ stuff. He must denounce child labour. He must lobby Microsoft to withhold software from companies who use slave-like and sweatshop labor for their products. He must divest from Monsanto. Oh! And endorse the Buffet Plan to pay more taxes for himself and Microsoft before he divests his shares and Buffet transfers all his shares to the BMGF. Even Buffet has said that 30 percent is not enough. I’ll stop there for now. I shouldn’t have to tell him everything. He should be thinking for his damn self.

On Buffet, the New York Times [13] recently reported Buffet’s increased stake in Wal-Mart and that it came just before the same paper published detailed allegations that Wal-Mart executives bribed retailers in Mexico to facilitate its expansion there. Was this mission Wal-Mart’s or Buffett’s or Berkshire Hathaway’s? In 2011, he gave $1.5 billion of his BerkshireHathaway [14] stock to the BMGF as part of a plan to transfer the majority his wealth to the foundation. This means little or no taxes.

Oh, Bill! When you talk to Buffet tell him that giving his wealth to your Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will not absolve him, either. Tell him he would not be able to hide behind Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., the hedge fund he presides over. Smaller investors pool resources in a hedge fund for larger and more lucrative investments. However, as its name suggest, the Hedge fund is simply a hedge, a fence, between the money and the exploitation. Capitalism has not yet found a way to increase earnings without exploiting free or near free labour [15]. Wal-Mart’s record on wages and union busting is notorious. [16] It does not matter how prestigious sounding the name of the high and growing hedge between money and poverty. What Africa needs, finally, Brother Bill, is for you to get us some agent orange from your friends at Monsanto. So we can take care of the hedges ourselves.

* Clairmont Chung is a lawyer, consultant, filmmaker and arts critic. His latest film is a documentary, ‘W.A.R. Stories: Walter Anthony Rodney’. He edited a book of the interviews done in making the film, which is due out in October 2012 from Monthly Review Press entitled, ‘Walter Rodney: A Promise of Revolution’. Chung tours with his film and maintains a small practice in New York and New Jersey. He is writing a book on the legal history of Africans in the ‘New’ World up until the Wars on Drugs and Terror.

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

END NOTES

[1] Gates retired as CEO in 2008. He has not sold his shares in the company and until that happens he has more than a nominal interest in Microsoft. The continued association with him and the brand is as strong as ever. When you see him, you don’t think foundation. You think Microsoft. His transition from Microsoft to the Foundation may seem as a sudden change to some. But if you understand Gates, and the really wealthy, nothing is sudden and rarely anything changes except the increase in wealth. It’s always about the sales plan which is to get it for free, or close, and sell high.

[2] Arundhati Roy, “Capitalism: A Ghost Story: (Rockefeller to Mandela, Vedanta to Anna Hazare…. How long can the cardinals of corporate gospel buy up our protests?)” Outlook India, March 26, 2012

[3] The Bill Gates Interview, 1994, Playboy reprinted on About.com

[4] Defensive patenting is not a practice limited to Microsoft. But they have been one of the most ardent collectors. The Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Jacob in a 2006, UK Court of Appeal, case, Aerotel v. Telco, likened defensive patenting to an arms race that has spread worldwide.

[5] Maureen O’Hagan and Kristi Heim of The Seattle Times, Gates Foundation ties with Monsanto Under Fire from Activists, lists the investment as $US27.6 million.Though a small fraction of the BMGF’s $33 Billion endowment, it’s part of a plan to eventually transfer close to $US40 billion to the BMGF.

[6] Roundup is a widely distributed weedicide and herbicide against which Monsanto has developed GMO seeds that would resist Roundup and grow while weeds and non-Monsanto seed die. They went further and developed seed that would not grow unless sprayed with roundup. No one knows to what extent these seeds are distributed but Africa is being primed.

[7] F. William Engdahl ‘Bill Gates talks about ‘vaccines to reduce population” March 4,2010 Geopolitics and Geonomics

[8] Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) describes itself as working on “integrated programs in seeds, soils, market access, policy and partnerships and innovative finance work to trigger comprehensive changes across the agricultural system” its Board includes two executives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and two from the Rockefeller Foundation as well as an assortment of dignitaries from the continent. It has a reputed budget of over US$400 million and has been operational since 2009.

[9] Johnson, George (November 25, 1990). “Once Again, A Man With A Mission”. The New York Times. Retrieved August 5, 2011

[10] Vandana Shiva has equated the colonization of the seed with the colonization of the future. She does not mean future colonization. She means your future is being colonized now.

[11] Narain, Harry, Grass Roots People, “A letter to the Prime Minister” (Casa de las Américas, Cuba 1981)

[12] The UK Guardian reported employees jumping from their dorm windows to their deaths rather than continue under the conditions in the Foxconn factories. Foxconn assembled goods for Apple and other prominent US companies. The owners placed nets around the building and had employees sign no-suicide clauses that absolved the company from suits filed by family members if anyone managed to succeed in killing themselves.

[13] David Barstow, The New York Times, April 12, 2012, Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle

[14] The Christian Science Monitor, July 8, 2011, Warren Buffett gives $1.5B in stock to Gates Foundation. The report described the gift as a plan to transfer the majority of his wealth to the BMGF. Buffet serves as trustee on the Board of the BMGF. Gates serves on the Board of Berkshire Hathaway. A real love affair has developed between the two.

[15] To be fair, neither has socialism found a way around cheap labor. Socialist governments have been as confrontational with unions as have capitalist, corporate, dominant governments. However, The basic needs of citizens appear best met through a socialist approach, while a market approach drives-up the cost of everything after forcing consolidation.

[16] See Huffington Post-Chicago Wal-Mart’s Union-Busting, ‘Preference For Poverty’ Described In Reader Interview, Updated May 25, 2011.

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Another missionary in Africa: the Bill Gates myth