Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Update on the Death of Max Spiers

From Joe Mellor's 8-12-18 London Economic article entitled "Officers Investigating the Death of UFO Theorist Are Facing Disciplinary Proceedings, As Incident Continues To Be Unexplained":  

Police investigating the death of a conspiracy theorist are facing disciplinary proceedings it has emerged, as the incident continues to be unexplained.

Max Bates-Spiers, from Kent, died suddenly in a house in Poland in 2016 – days before he was due to speak at a conference about conspiracy theories and UFOs.

The 39-year-old is said to have vomited black fluid shortly before his death. But Polish authorities initially recorded he had died from natural causes.

A second post-mortem examination when his body was returned to east Kent proved inconclusive.

And now a coroner in Canterbury has now revealed that Polish police are facing disciplinary action for their handling of the case.

Max’s inquest was originally opened in December 2016 and adjourned until last November. But coroner Alan Blundson said at the time that he did not have enough information to proceed with the full inquest.

At a pre-inquest review held at The Guildhall in Sandwich this week, Mr Blundson also heard there were discrepancies in accounts given by the emergency services at the time of Max’s death....

To read the rest of Mellor's article, click HERE.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Alan Moore on the 50th Anniversary of THE PRISONER

From David Bushman's 8-10-18 Paley Matters piece entitled "Alan Moore Remembers Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner":
Arguably the most profound and influential writer in the history of comic books, Alan Moore has authored such seminal works as Watchmen (the sole graphic title on Time’s list of best novels since 1923), From Hell, V for Vendetta, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, as well as the novels Voice of the Fire and Jerusalem and the epic poem The Mirror of Love (and so much more). The Guardian’s Steve Rose once dubbed him “the undisputed high priest of the medium, whose every word is seized upon like a message from the ether” by comics fans. Comics historian George Khoury said that calling Moore the best writer in the history of comics is an understatement.
Upshot: Moore is a genius.
Plus, he’s an ardent admirer of The Prisoner, the Delphic, genre-bending seventeen-episode British TV series cocreated by Patrick McGoohan, who also starred, as a former secret agent (McGoohan had previously starred as John Drake in Danger Man, or Secret Agent, as it was known in the U.S.) who, following his resignation, is abducted and whisked away to a mysterious coastal-village resort where people are known by numbers rather than names and aspiring escapees are subdued by militaristic balloon-like devices called Rovers. The Prisoner debuted in the U.K. in 1967, and in the U.S. (on CBS) the following year — so, fifty years ago. My, how time flies.
Many writers, producers, and directors revere this show, like Moore, including Christopher Nolan, Twin Peak’s Mark Frost, and X-Files creator Chris Carter, and have cited as influences on their own work; it has been toasted in countless films, television shows, songs, comics, and novels.
In commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary, the Paley Center reached out recently to Moore, who graciously agreed to respond to a list of questions submitted (and answered) via email. The Q+A follows....

To read David Bushman's entire interview with Alan Moore, click HERE.


Friday, August 10, 2018

Homeland Security's Photography Alert

From Jonathan Peters' 7-12-18 Columbia Journalism Review article entitled "Homeland Security Photography Alert Is 'A Seed of Fear'":

Photojournalists, beware: The US Department of Homeland Security has its eyes on you. The agency tweeted Monday: "Know the signs! Did you know photography and surveillance could be a sign of terrorism-related suspicious activity? If you notice this, be sure to report it to local authorities.

Such expansive language is problematic under the First Amendment. “When you look at what DHS identifies as the signs [and objects] of suspicious photography—‘personnel, facilities, security features, or infrastructure’—it basically leaves squirrels as the only thing that’s safe to photograph,” says Frank LoMonte, executive director of the University of Florida’s Brechner Center for Freedom of Information. “That’s a pretty breathtakingly broad inventory.”

LoMonte says a chilling effect often occurs when police show up and question a photographer for simply making pictures, even if no arrest or charges follow. “Being forced to justify why you’re outside of a federal building with a camera is intimidating,” he says.

A DHS spokesperson told me the tweet is part of the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign, which is supposed to raise public awareness of terrorism indicators and the value of reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement. DHS launched the campaign in 2010, though its origins trace back to 9/11 [...].

Notably, the First Amendment prohibits government agents from taking any action intended to dissuade a person from exercising constitutionally protected rights, and generally that includes the taking of photos in public spaces for journalistic and other purposes.

“One of the real problems with this ongoing campaign,” says Mickey Osterreicher, the general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association, “is that by listing [photography] in a leading way as an example of suspicious activity, rather than just requesting citizens to report suspicious activities, [DHS is] planting a seed of fear and suspicion about otherwise innocuous behavior” [...].

“I’d be real curious to see the research telling us that terrorists are prone to stand on public sidewalks conspicuously filming their intended targets ‘in a prolonged manner,’” LoMonte says. “This just seems like an invitation for people who don’t like journalists to sic the cops on them.”

To read Peters' article in its entirety, click HERE

Cinema and Surveillance

From Nick Pinkerton's 7-2-18 Baffler article entitled "A Thousand Unblinking Eyes:  A History--Cinema and Surveillance from Fritz Lang to Michael Mann":

There is a moment in the 1960 Fritz Lang film The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse which, even though it has since been seen in countless subsequent variations, seems jarring in its newness. A couple, played by Peter van Eyck and Dawn Addams, sit talking at a table adjacent to the ballroom floor in Berlin’s swank Luxor Hotel. They’re filmed in a two-shot discussing her troubled mindset, her unhappy marriage, and the possibility of a divorce from her beastly husband. We may notice that the quality of the image in this setup is unusually murky before Lang’s camera pulls back to reveal that we are looking at a frame within a frame, and that our protagonists are being captured by a surveillance camera and observed by an unseen figure in a control room whose location is unknown. As soon as this sinister information has registered, we leave behind the monitor on a cut that returns to the Luxor Hotel itself. “You see,” says Addams’s character, referring to her date’s unsettled frame of mind but suggesting much else, “You can’t just switch off either.”

This sudden encroachment by an observer, underlining the voyeuristic nature of the cinematic illusion (by crossing through the media of observation), had appeared in films before: What is the Wicked Witch of the West’s crystal ball in The Wizard of Oz (1939) but a prototypical surveillance device? In how many Westerns and adventure movies has matte shot masking been used to create the illusion of the view from a pair of binoculars, traversing a vast distance? Film had been a consciously scopophilic medium since the days of keyhole spying in early cinema works such as Ferdinand Zecca’s What Happened to the Inquisitive Janitor (1901), but movies like Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) and its contemporary, The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse responded to a new eruption of technology-driven voyeurism in the real world—pornographic permissiveness in Powell’s film, and the state-sponsored surveillance apparatus in Lang’s.

Lang himself had shown the ownership caste using audiovisual oversight to keep tabs on the working classes in his Metropolis (1927), an idea that Chaplin would appropriate for comic fodder in his Modern Times (1936). These futuristic examples aside, the realistic, practically functional moving-image surveillance camera had appeared in several movies before The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse. Henry Hathaway, a director more than usually attentive to cutting-edge tech in his semi-documentary-style thrillers—he gives meaty supporting roles to the Linotype, lie detector, and wire photo transfer machine in his Call Northside 777 (1948)—shows the use of hidden microphones and motion picture cameras positioned behind two-way mirrors in his The House on 92nd Street (1945), here working to capture and eventually incriminate Nazis.

What is different about the spy setup at the Luxor, and what distinguishes it from any of these earlier examples, based either in speculative fantasy or fact, is that it is distinctly a then-still-new closed-circuit television (CCTV) device, or video surveillance system, a technological development that many worried would make real the possibility of the Orwellian security apparatus. If it is not the first appearance of an extensive CCTV system in a contemporary-set, non-science-fiction feature film, it is the first that I know of, though in subsequent years they would appear with increasing regularity—Joseph Losey’s These Are the Damned (1962) imagines an almost literal nanny state, in which a CCTV-type system is used to educate a new race of irradiated, A-bomb invulnerable children from afar....

To read the rest of Pinkerton's article, click HERE.

Neural Interfaces Connect Warfighters Directly to Computers

From John Keller's 3-26-18 Military & Aerospace Electronics article entitled "DARPA Eyes New Neural Interfaces to Connect Warfighters Hands-free to Advanced Military Systems":

U.S. military researchers are asking for industry's help in developing non-invasive or minimally invasive neural interfaces to connect warfighters directly to computers or other digital devices to enable fast, effective, and intuitive hands-free interaction with military systems.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., issued a presolicitation Friday (HR001118S0029) for the Next-Generation Non-Surgical Neurotechnology (N3) project to develop a nonsurgical neural interface system to broaden the applicability of neural interfaces to the able-bodied warfighter.

Until now, neural interfaces that connect human brains to computers and other digital equipment have been surgically invasive and used primarily to help restore functions and skills to injured warfighters. The N3 project, however, seeks to enable neural recording and stimulation with sub-millimeter spatial resolution in healthy warfighters.

Neural interfaces could enable warfighters to multitask more efficiently, and interact with autonomous and semi-autonomous systems -- particularly future systems equipped with artificial intelligence (AI), researchers say.

The problem with human-machine neural interfaces today is how surgically invasive they are. State-of-the-art high-resolution single-neuron or neural-ensemble neural interfaces are invasive, and require surgical implantation of metal or silicon-based electrodes into brain tissue or on the surface of the brain [...].

Non invasive interfaces will involve sensors and stimulators that do not breach the skin. Minutely invasive approaches, meanwhile, will permit nonsurgical delivery of a nanotransducer delivered to neurons of interest.

Transducers should be small enough so as not to cause tissue damage or impede the natural neuronal circuit, and will be external to the skull. Non invasive and minutely invasive approaches will be necessary to overcome issues with signal scattering, attenuation, and signal-to-noise ratio [...].

The N3 program will provide as long as four years of funding to deliver a nonsurgical neural interface system and is divided into three sequential phases: a one-year base effort, and two 18-month option periods.

Proposers must use approaches that ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability (also known as the CIA triad) to prevent spoofing, tampering, or denial of service. It will be necessary to secure connections among the integrated device, the processing unit, and the system user’s brain.

To read the entire article, click HERE.

The Nation's First Data Broker Regulation

From World Privacy Forum (5-24-18):

Historic Data Broker Regulation in the United States Welcomed by World Privacy Forum
  • Vermont: First state to adopt modern rules for unregulated data brokers
  • WPF call for data broker protections to be elevated to national level and provided for consumers in all states in the US
Oregon, United States: The state of Vermont has passed the nation’s first data broker regulation, H764, ‘An Act Relating to Data Brokers and Consumer Protection’. The news has been welcomed by privacy and data protection champions, The World Privacy Forum today.

The World Privacy Forum have campaigned tirelessly over the last seven years to bring attention to the vulnerabilities and gaps in consumer protection law in relation to data brokers. Pam Dixon, founder of the organisation, who has provided several testimonies to the US Congress, including the US Senate Commerce Committee, believes this overdue legislation will go a long way to protecting consumers from often unscrupulous practices.

“I’ve seen first-hand the profound harms data brokers can create in peoples’ lives, and this legislation is the first of its kind in the nation to respond to the problem,” said World Privacy Forum Executive Director Pam Dixon.

“The legislation provides new protections for consumers and is a historically important piece of privacy legislation.”

The new law provides important new consumer protections:
  • Data brokers will be required to register in the state of Vermont
  • The law expressly prohibits the acquisition of personal information with the intent to commit wrongful acts such as stalking, harassment, fraud, identity theft, or discrimination [emphasis added]
To read the report in its entirety, click HERE.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Pentagon Can't Account for 21 Trillion

From Lee Camp's 5-14-18 Truthdig article entitled "The Pentagon Can't Account for 21 Trillion (That's Not a Typo)":

A couple of years ago, Mark Skidmore, an economics professor, heard Catherine Austin Fitts, former assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, say that the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General had found $6.5 trillion worth of unaccounted-for spending in 2015. Skidmore, being an economics professor, thought something like, “She means $6.5 billion. Not trillion. Because trillion would mean the Pentagon couldn’t account for more money than the gross domestic product of the whole United Kingdom. But still, $6.5 billion of unaccounted-for money is a crazy amount.”

So he went and looked at the inspector general’s report, and he found something interesting: It was trillion [...].

Skidmore did a little more digging. As Forbes reported in December 2017, “[He] and Catherine Austin Fitts … conducted a search of government websites and found similar reports dating back to 1998. While the documents are incomplete, original government sources indicate $21 trillion in unsupported adjustments have been reported for the Department of Defense and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the years 1998-2015.”

To read the rest of Camp's article, click HERE.