There is a growing consciousness about the desire to keep one’s messages private. Some are concerned about hackers, or worry about foreign or domestic government surveillance, but most people just agree with the general principle that what you say in your chat conversations ought to stay between you and the people you chat with.
It’s not a pleasant idea to think that your messages could be archived for perpetuity on a large company’s server or analyzed by some algorithm. The quest for privacy has birthed a whole generation of apps that promise to give you exactly that. Services like Telegram and Signal have turned the phrase “end-to-end encryption” into a popular discussion. We’re here to help you figure out what this is all about and which apps to try.
A little background on encryption
Before we look at some specific apps, here’s a very brief explainer. Essentially, end-to-end encryption means that only the sender and the recipient can read the message. The message is encrypted on your phone, send to the recipient, and then decrypted. This prevents prying eyes from the telecom providers, government agencies, and even the company that hosts the service itself from being able to read your messages. This means they wouldn’t have the ability to hand over messages even if they were subpoenaed to by a government agency. And if a hacker broke into the messaging service’s servers, they couldn’t get at your conversations.
The desire for end-to-end (E2E) encryption isn’t just about those who don’t want the NSA to spy on them. In practice, it’s just about a basic sense that messages should be private. With that in mind, you have to be aware that just because something has the word “encrypted” doesn’t mean it is end-to-end encrypted. Some services will encrypt the message between the endpoints of transmission; your conversations are stored encrypted on the messaging service’s servers, but since they encrypted them, they can decrypt them.
The services we’re looking at here all feature end-to-end encryption.
One of the most popular apps in this space is Telegram. It’s been a pretty hot app for a couple of years, which is like 20 years in app time.
The most painstaking part is you need to invite all of your contacts into your new, secret chat world through the app’s navigation menu. It’s the biggest problem with using over-the-top services, as it doesn’t have the ubiquity of SMS messaging.
Once you’ve done this, you can message people individually or create group channels for talking with an unlimited number of other users. The upside here is you can escape the limitations of MMS messaging that usually caps you at a particular number of people. Your group can even be public, giving you a mini social network without all the trolls that plague the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
The interface is a little barren, but Telegram makes the list for its robust privacy and offering native apps for iOS, Mac, Windows, the web, and of course Android.
Signal’s claim to fame is that it’s the preferred messaging application of Edward Snowden. It’s among the easiest to set up, as it automatically authenticates your number and can even be used as your default SMS app.
As with Whisper, you can create a group for private banter with an unlimited number of other users. Signal also makes phone calls, which I found to be very clear when testing it out in a couple of different cases.
Signal isn’t optimized for tablets, but the company says that’s on the product roadmap. The design is no-frills with color variation for different contacts to help you from sending the wrong chat to an incorrect contact.
Another good option is Wire. It offers some fun messaging tricks, like the ability to doodle, share your location, send images, or record a video. The app also includes a chat bot, Anna, which offers somewhat useful answers to various questions about how to use the app.
You can optionally create an account with your phone number, which makes setup and account deletion easy. Wire is great for one-on-one chats if you would prefer conversations with someone be off the record. But it doesn’t have the same type of social or group features found with some of the other offerings here.
You also can’t forget about the uber-popular WhatsApp. Like the others on this list, it promises end-to-end encryption so your messages stay private. The biggest advantage is that the service, which is owned by Facebook, has over a billion users. There’s a very good chance you won’t have to convince all your friends and family to download the app.
That shouldn’t be discounted, as one of the pains of moving to a messaging service is convincing everybody to jump aboard. However, WhatsApp is now owned by Facebook, a connection that could make some wary, especially since the social network recently announced it’d be using some account information, including phone numbers, from WhatsApp. If your goal is a high threshold of privacy, then it’s worth keeping an eye on.
If you want to see messages disappear before your eyes, then Dust (formerly Cyber Dust) is the way to go. The brainchild of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, the messages can disappear in 24 hours or as soon as they’re read, based on your preferences.
The company spells out its encryption policy, and includes a couple other features to ease your mind like chats that don’t show usernames, so even if someone took a screenshot it couldn’t necessarily be attributed to you.
The best app for you is going to depend upon your needs. Secure messaging is a huge and growing area of consumer interest, but it’s worth the effort if staying secure is what you’re after.
Derek Walter is a freelance technology writer based in Northern California. He is the author of Learning MIT App Inventor, a hands-on guide to building your own Android apps.
A French appeals court ruled Thursday in favor of a farmer who has been in a decade-long fight with Monsanto since he fell ill after inhaling a now-banned weedkiller.
Paul Francois, 55, said he suffered neurological damage after inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso in 2004. He sued the company arguing that the labeling on the product had been inadequate. Courts ruled in his favor in 2012 and 2015, but France’s top court overturned those rulings and ordered a new hearing.
“We are all happy to have won but it came at a heavy price,” Francois told reporters, according to Reuters. “It’s a big sigh of relief. It’s been 12 years of fighting, 12 years during which I had to put my whole life on hold.”
Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018, told BBC News it was considering options including an appeal.
“We are currently reviewing the decision of the court,” a company spokesperson said.
Thursday’s decision follows a series of legal setbacks for the company since it acquired Monsanto. Two juries in the U.S. have now ruled in favor of plaintiffs claiming that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the company’s Roundup weedkiller, caused them to develop cancer. There are more than 10,000 similar lawsuits pending.
French farmer Paul Francois outside a courthouse before a 2015 appeal of his case against Monsanto. JEFF PACHOUD / AFP / Getty Images
Bayer’s chief executive said the company was “massively affected” by the lawsuits, Reuters reported, which are partly responsible for the loss of 30 billion euros (approximately $33.9 billion) of its market value since August 2018.
Lasso has a different active ingredient, monochlorobenzene, that was found in Fracois’ body after he inhaled the weedkiller. Francois said he suffered memory loss, headaches and difficulty speaking that forced him to stop working, BBC News reported.
Lasso was banned in France in 2007 and had been prohibited in Canada as early as 1985 and in Belgium and the UK in 1992, AFP reported. Francois is asking for 1 million euros (approximately $1.1 million) in damages, arguing that Monsanto was aware of the dangers of the product and should have done more to warn users of potential hazards.
The court in Lyon, France agreed, saying the label should have included “a notice on the specific dangers of using the product in vats and reservoirs,” AFP reported.
“The plaintiff’s assumed technical knowledge does not excuse the lack of information on the product and its harmful effects — a farmer is not a chemist,” the court ruled.
Bayer disagreed that Monsanto had done anything wrong.
“Plant protection products are among the products whose evaluation and authorisation are the most strictly regulated in the world,” a Bayer spokeswoman told BBC News. “They are safe when used as directed.”
The court Thursday ordered Monsanto to pay 50,000 euros (approximately $56,570) for Francois’ legal fees but did not rule on the overall compensation. That will be decided in a later ruling, AFP reported.
If ever there was a red flag story about Amazon’s Alexa then this is it.
If you watch the “Alexa for Medical Care Advice” video posted below, you will hear Alexa asking Peggy, to “tell me about the symptoms or problems that are troubling you the most.”
Divulging your health issues to a private corporation is extremely troubling as you will see.
Let’s start with the obvious concerns and talk about something you will not see in the video.
Like Peggy telling Alexa, it is none of Amazon’s business what her health concerns are and Alexa should stop listening to everything she says.
But many Americans do not have an issue with Alexa listening to their everyday conversations and have no problem asking Alexa health questions. Because, ‘they have nothing to hide’ — and therein lies the problem.
I challenge anyone to walk up to a stranger while recording the conversation and ask them about their health issues and see what happens. And if you really want to see what happens ask them about their kids’ health issues, etc. Would anyone like to guess what their response will be?
So if a stranger refuses to discuss their personal health issues with someone they do not know, why on earth would they trust Amazon?
Earlier this month, Amazon officially introduced “Alexa Healthcare Skills” which transmits and receives personal healthcare information.
But Alexa Healthcare does much more than just transmit and receive healthcare information.
Alexa can now call pharmacies, spy on kids and your blood sugar.
Express Scripts (a leading Pharmacy Services Organization): Members can check the status of a home delivery prescription and can request Alexa notifications when their prescription orders are shipped.
Cigna Health Today (by Cigna, the global health service company): Eligible employees with one of Cigna’s large national accounts can now manage their health improvement goals and increase opportunities for earning personalized wellness incentives.
My Children’s Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) (by Boston Children’s Hospital, a leading children’s hospital): Parents and caregivers of children in the ERAS program at Boston Children’s Hospital can provide their care teams updates on recovery progress and receive information regarding their post-op appointments.
Swedish Health Connect (by Providence St. Joseph Health, a healthcare system with 51 hospitals across 7 states and 829 clinics): Customers can find an urgent care center near them and schedule a same-day appointment.
Atrium Health (a healthcare system with more than 40 hospitals and 900 care locations throughout North and South Carolina and Georgia): Customers in North and South Carolina can find an urgent care location near them and schedule a same-day appointment.
Livongo (a leading consumer digital health company that creates new and different experiences for people with chronic conditions): Members can query their last blood sugar reading, blood sugar measurement trends, and receive insights and Health Nudges that are personalized to them.
A few reasons to be concerned about Amazon Healthcare:
1.) Amazon is a for-profit corporation that makes its money by putting listening devices inside people’s homes.
Bloomberg revealed that a global team of Amazon workers is listening to people’s conversations.
Amazon.com Inc. employs thousands of people around the world to help improve the Alexa digital assistant powering its line of Echo speakers. The team listens to voice recordings captured in Echo owners’ homes and offices.
An article at Medium warns: Amazon listens to everything.
Imagine your horror as you open the attachments and begin listening to the recordings: A discussion of what to have for dinner, two children arguing over a toy, a woman talking to her partner as she gets into the shower.
2.) Besides the obvious privacy concerns of putting Alexa in your home, Alexa can be easily hacked and turned into an eavesdropping device.
When the attack [succeeds], we can control Amazon Echo for eavesdropping and send the voice data through network to the attacker.
3.) Amazon’s Healthcare partners act as though listening to people’s conversations is an act of benevolence.
“We believe voice technology, like Alexa, can make it easy for people to stay on the right path by tracking the status of their mail order prescription,” said Mark Bini, Vice President of Innovation and Member Experience, Express Scripts.
Mark Bini got one thing right: helping “people stay on the right path” will mean an increase in corporate profits as they data mine everything said by you and your family.
Cigna’s claim that divulging your personal health issues to Alexa allows customers to receive ” personalized wellness incentives for meeting their health goals” is just another way of saying corporate spying.
“Personalized wellness incentives” is corporate jargon for sending you advertising or increasing a person’s health insurance premiums if they do not meet their health goals.
“The next major conflict may be won or lost in space,” Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Tuesday. “We must confront reality. Weapons are currently deployed by our competitors that can attack our assets in space.”
Shanahan said that the U.S. Military “is not moving fast enough to stay ahead” of its rivals China and Russia in the space race. He warned that both countries have already acquired weapon technologies with the intent to strike American spy satellites in the event of conflict.
“The PLA [Chinese People’s Liberation Army] is also deploying directed-energy weapons, and we expect them to field a ground-based laser system aimed at low-earth orbit space sensors by next year,” Shanahan told the audience. “They are also prepared to use cyber attacks against our space systems and have deployed an operational ground-based ASAT [anti-satellite] missile system.”
He said that current U.S missile defense shields are “not capable of tracking” Chinese and Russian hypersonic missiles. “Because of their actions, space is no longer a sanctuary — it is now a war-fighting domain. This is not a future or theoretical threat; this is today’s threat,” Shanahan said.
The acting defense secretary endorsed President Trump’s Space Force, will allow the military to combat hypersonic attacks more effectively.
“By creating the new service inside the Air Force, the additional cost is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the DoD budget. Or put another way, the Space Force will cost about $1.50 per American per year,” Shanahan said, claiming that cost of the new service is relatively small compared to America’s $19 trillion economy.
The Pentagon currently spends more on defense than any other country.
“We are starting now because we refuse to fall behind. We can outpace our competitors and make it impossible for them to contest our dominance in space,” Shanahan concluded
There are 34,000 golf courses in the world. They make beautiful pictures. But what keeps the grass of the fairways and greens so uniform and undisturbed by weeds?
Chemical herbicides. One of the herbicide is Roundup, manufactured by Monsanto, the giant corporation owned by Bayer.
It’s now common knowledge that a link has been drawn between Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer…decided in 2015 that glyphosate is ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’.” (Mother Jones, March 14, 2019)
The research on the Monsanto pesticide Roundup is far from a finished product. Is it possible that Roundup causes other forms of cancer—brain, colon, and blood, for example? It will be hard to prove, in part because Monsanto can produced a hundred studies that contradict each lone study that says Yes.
But where are the golfers who have cancer? Nowhere, correct? Let’s find out.
“After the death of his [golf-playing] father, from the blood cancer Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, filmmaker Andrew Nisker starts hunting for answers to his many questions about why this particular cancer, and where it came from. His search, to his surprise, takes him into the manicured world of golf. In this world of pearl white bunkers, and putting greens that look and feel like velvet, Andrew discovers that these ‘greenspaces’ are anything but. There’s a lot more than nature at work creating these perfect carpets. At a golf industry trade show he sees the array of chemicals on offer to achieve that championship perfection. To his surprise, he hears at the show that golfers have consistently shown resistance to caring about any health or environmental impacts of their sport.”
“Andrew forms a bond with a sportscaster in Pittsburgh who is blaming golf course pesticides for the cancer death of his own father, a golf course superintendent.”
“As he follows up on his hunt to find out more about pesticide use on golf courses, Andrew asks can golfers themselves learn to kick the chemical habit? He’s convinced that if golfers knew what goes into maintaining the artificial beauty they play on, they’d learn to love dandelions a little more.” (Dad and the Dandelions, CBC TV, March 2, 2017)
A recent lawsuit involved Roundup as a cause of lymphoma: “The groundskeeper who won a massive civil suit against Bayer’s Monsanto claiming that the weedkiller Roundup caused his cancer has agreed to accept $78 million, after a judge substantially reduced the jury’s original $289 million award.”
“Dewayne ‘Lee’ Johnson, a Northern Californian groundskeeper and pest-control manager, was 42 when he developed a strange rash that would lead to a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in August 2014.”
“His groundskeeper duties included mixing and spraying hundreds of gallons of Roundup, the company’s glyphosate-containing weedkiller product, court records say.” (NPR, November 1, 2018)
Australian professional golfer Jarrod Lyle has died after a long battle with cancer [leukemia], his wife announced Wednesday. He was 36…Last week, Lyle and his family announced that he had decided to end his treatment for acute myeloid leukemia and would undergo palliative care at his home.” (Fox News, 8/8/18)
“Fifty-one female professional golfers and 142 female amateur golfers were evaluated for skin cancer and skin cancer risk…Four of the professionals had already developed basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Their average age was 25.5 years. Eleven amateurs also developed BCC…” (Skin Cancer in Professional and Amateur Female Golfers, Phys Sportsmed. 1985 Aug) Was the cause sun exposure? Herbicides?
“In 2008, not long after playing in his first Champions Tour tournament, [Seve] Ballesteros fell ill in Spain. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and eventually underwent four surgeries to try to remove the cancer. Ballesteros died on May 7, 2011, at the age of 54.” (ThoughtCo, 9/18/18)
[Heather] Farr was a terrific amateur golfer who never really got the chance to become a great LPGA Tour player. She died of breast cancer (that widely metastasized) at the age of 28 in 1993.” (ThoughtCo, 9/18/18)
“Once dubbed one of the world’s sexiest men by People magazine, Adam Scott looked a bit more garish after a procedure in 2011 to remove a Basil Cell Carcinoma, a form of non-melanoma skin cancer, from his face…A number of players have had varying degrees of battles with skin cancer…Rory Sabbatini, Brian Davis, Aron Price, among others, have all battled the disease…” (PGATour.com, 6/17/14) Sun exposure? Herbicides?
“Professional golfer Tom Lehman understands the importance of detecting cancer early. At 35, he was diagnosed with stage I colon cancer…* (USA Today, 6/26/18)
“Bruce Lietzke, a pro golfer who won 13 Professional Golfer’s Association Tour events, died on Saturday after a year-long battle with brain cancer.” (AJC, 7/28/18)
“[Pro golfer Randy Jones’ 2011] punch biopsy turned out to be melanoma.” (mdanderson.org, 9/13/16)
“A former LPGA Tour member, Shelley Hamlin died on October 15  at the age of 69 after a long and courageous battle with [breast] cancer.” (golfweek.com, 12/19/18)
“Phil Rodgers, a five-time PGA Tour winner and noted golf instructor, died on June 26 age 80 after a 15-year battle with leukemia.” (golfweek.com, 12/19/18)
“Charismatic Australian golfer Ian Stanley, who was a prolific winner on his home tour before making his mark on the European seniors circuit, died in July at age 69. He had battled cancer for some time.” (golfweek.com, 12/19/18)
“…professional golfer Boo Weekley went public on Thursday in revealing the cause of his prolonged absence from the PGA Tour…discomfort in his right shoulder was revealed to be cancer…” (Pensacola News Journal, 2/15/19)
“Forrest Fezler’s career path in golf included 12 years on the PGA Tour…Fezler, a Californian by birth who settled in Tallahassee, died Friday after battling brain cancer. He was 69.” (Tallahassee Democrat, (12/21/18)
“[In July of 2006], it was discovered that famous pro golfer, Billy Mayfair, “had testicular cancer.” (Coping with Cancer, undated)
A PGA player [Joel Dahmen] who battled [testicular] cancer and lost his mom to the disease is moving into his dream home in Scottsdale…” (azfamily.com, 5/29/18)
Before you jump to the conclusion that exposure to the sun is responsible for the majority of golf-cancers, think about this statistic: “…the New York State Attorney General’s office published a report entitled Toxic Fairways, a widely cited study of pesticide use on 52 Long Island, New York golf courses. The report, which was particularly concerned with the potential for groundwater contamination, concluded that these golf courses applied about 50,000 pounds of pesticides in one year, or four to seven times the average amount of pesticides used in agriculture, on a pound per acre basis.” (beyondpesticides.org)
A variety of products are employed on golf courses. They create virtual lakes of chemical poison.
Or should I say rivers instead of lakes? Underground toxic rivers that affect bordering communities surrounding 34,000 golf courses across the world. If a groundskeeper with cancer can win $78 million in a lawsuit, how many billions of dollars should be awarded in a comprehensive legal action that correctly assigns criminal responsibility to giant chemical corporations?
(To read about Jon’s mega-collection, The Matrix Revealed, click here.)
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free OutsideTheRealityMachine emails here.
The FBI is abusing ancestry genealogy websites by tapping into their DNA data. What’s worse, these companies are giving up users’ data under presumed consent that is buried in their terms and conditions, according to several reports.
FamilyTreeDNA is the first company known to be cooperating directly with the FBI to give its agents access to its genealogy database, according to a BuzzFeedreport.
A Family Tree DNA spokesperson told BuzzFeed that FamilyTree DNA’s agreement with the FBI gives the agency the ability to search more than a million genetic profiles — the majority of which were given by their customers without knowledge of the company’s relationship with the FBI. As part of the arrangement, Family Tree DNA has further agreed to test DNA evidence and identify the remains of deceased individuals in violent crimes for the FBI in its own laboratory.
In a statement, FamilyTreeDNA said that customers have the ability to opt out of matching features in their account settings. Doing so would prevent law enforcement from accessing their genetic information, but it also means a user would be unable to find potential family members through the service. According to Gizmodo, the company also seems to admonish those who choose to opt out by suggesting that it could be a “moral responsibility” to give up their private health information to the FBI.
However, the fact of genealogy companies are being subpoenaed by law enforcement isn’t a secret. In fact, it’s in the disclosures on their websites — FamilyTreeDNA, AncestryDNA, and 23andMe.
Forensic magazine reports that the FBI had previously had access to FamilyTreeDNA’s database before the partnership with the FBI.
After news broke that the FBI was accessing user data, FamilyTreeDNA announced that it would allow its customers to bar law enforcement from accessing their data, Engadget reported.
As an interesting corporate connection to make, one of the co-founders of 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki, is married to Google’s Sergey Brin. Unsurprisingly, Google Inc. also backs the DNA analysis company.
Last year, Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline invested US$300 million in the DNA-testing company in a deal that should raise eyebrows. A drug company working together with a DNA database company … what could possibly go wrong?
Under the deal, GSK has exclusive rights for four years to use 23andMe’s DNA database to develop new medicines using human genetics.
Activist Postreported last year Houston police launched a pilot program with the company ANDE to test a machine called Rapid DNA that runs DNA tests in under two hours.
“This rapid DNA is the future. It comes down to when mathematicians stopped using abacuses and started using calculators. It’s that important to criminal justice,” said Lt. Warren Meeler, Houston Police Department, Homicide Division.
As part of the test program, proper protocol for using the technology has been to swab each piece of evidence twice. First, the Houston Forensic Science Center (HFSC) takes an official sample for the lab, then Houston police take a second sample for the trial machine.
Rapid DNA results can’t be used in court, and the technology is only used for investigations in Houston, according to the news outlet.
The technology has some forensic scientists worried about whether it should be used at crime scenes, warning about the accuracy of the technology.
“I think everybody is comfortable that if there is a high concentration of DNA from a single source, so an oral swab from an individual, we’re confident the instruments produce good data. The questions start to come in circumstances where we’ve got touch DNA — smaller quantities of DNA, more mixtures, there’s more people on that doorknob that I’m swabbing – there I’m not sure anybody knows yet,” said Dr. Peter Stout, President and CEO of the Houston Forensic Science Center.
However, further research shows that Houston isn’t the only city using rapid DNA, police departments across the country—have rolled out their own pilot programs to test these miniature portable DNA lab machines that originate from the DHS.
“Rapid DNA, a newly commercialized technology developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), addresses these challenges by greatly expediting the testing of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that is the only biometric that can accurately verify family relationships. This technology can be used on the scene of mass fatality events, in refugee camps around the world, or at immigration office,” the DHS’s website reads.
An article in ProPublica warns that “over the last decade, collecting DNA from people who are not charged with — or even suspected of — any particular crime has become an increasingly routine practice for police.”
Congress enacted the “DNA Identification Act of 1994” authorizing the FBI to maintain a centralized, national DNA database and to develop a software system to allow for the sharing of information within and between states for law enforcement. By 2004, the resulting system – the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) – connected the databases of all fifty states, which at that time were limited to profiles from those convicted of serious, violent crimes. Signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 30, 2004, the “Justice For All Act” greatly expanded the CODIS system, allowing collection of DNA from all federal felons and further enabling states to upload to CODIS profiles from anyone convicted of a crime according to a secret congressional WikiLeaks document entitled: “DNA Evidence: Legislative Initiatives in the 106th Congress.”
On January 5, 2006, a barely noticed piece of legislation entitled the “DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005” was also signed into law by President George W. Bush, that severely expanded the government’s authority to collect and permanently retain DNA samples. The bill slipped through virtually unnoticed because the law was, buried in the back of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization bill.
Unbeknownst to the public, the bill granted the government authority to obtain and permanently store DNA from anyone who is arrested as well as non-U.S. citizens detained under federal authorities like Border Control and DHS.
In December of 2015 nearly 10 years later, results from a rapid DNA device were submitted as evidence in a successful murder prosecution for the first time attempted murder case in Richland County, South Carolina. (That article now has been curiously deleted from Reuters and is only available on archive.org)
A bill before Congress, introduced on December 2015 by Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, called for profiles collected by Rapid DNA devices to be connected to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, the software and national database that stores DNA profiles from federal, state and local forensic laboratories.
During a Senate committee hearing on the Rapid DNA Act of 2015, disgraced former FBI Director James Comey said that passage of the bill “would help us change the world in a very, very exciting way. It will allow us, in booking stations around the country, if someone’s arrested, to know instantly—or near instantly—whether that person is the rapist who’s been on the loose in a particular community before they’re released on bail and get away or to clear somebody, to show that they’re not the person.”
In 2017, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced “the SECURE Act” (S. 2192) on December 5th. The bill largely borrows from two other federal bills—H.R. 3548 and S. 1757
The Rapid DNA Act of 2017, S.139 and HR.510 passed last year, amended the DNA Identification Act of 1994, allowing previous hurdles to be surpassed by the new technology.
The bill was sponsored by U.S. Senate sponsor Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and lead co-sponsor Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as well as House sponsor Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and lead co-sponsor Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA), along with 12 Senate and 24 House co-sponsors for their support, Business Wirereported.
“Today marks a landmark day in more efficiently fighting crime and supporting law enforcement,” stated Robert Schueren, President and CEO of IntegenX. “IntegenX products have already enabled numerous DNA profile uploads to our nation’s DNA database (CODIS). We look forward to the updated FBI guidelines, and subsequent CODIS uploads from the booking environment.”
“Rapid DNA is a promising new technology and an effective tool for law enforcement – I’m thrilled to be seeing it signed into law. This technology will help quickly identify arrestees and offenders, reduce the overwhelming backlog in forensic DNA analysis, and make crime fighting more efficient while helping to prevent future crimes from occurring. It will also save time and taxpayer dollars,” commented Congressman Sensenbrenner, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Oversight.
“This bill will help law enforcement agencies solve crimes faster and help those wrongfully accused to be exonerated from crimes they did not commit—almost instantly. The Rapid DNA Act updates the statutory framework in how DNA samples are entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System by allowing the use of this remarkable Rapid DNA technology,” stated Senator Hatch.
In 2017, President Trump signed into law the Rapid DNA Act, which, enables police booking stations in several states to connect their Rapid DNA machines to CODIS, the national DNA database.
But CODIS isn’t only shared by the states. We learn from a Plus D WikiLeaks release, that the DNA information processing and telecommunications system was gifted to Argentina in 2009 by U.S. Ambassador Earl Wayne, according to a cable. The system was gifted to “help the province solve crimes and exonerate innocent suspects.”
“On the very topical issue of crime and personal security, the Ambassador helped launch the province’s participation in the Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS). CODIS, an automated DNA information processing and telecommunications system, was donated by the FBI,” the cable reads.
Meanwhile, another WikiLeaks Plus D cable talks about “specialized training and state of the art equipment donations enabling Colombian forensic labs to investigate human rights violations more effectively. These donations included the enhancement of DNA analyzers and the CODIS database; upgrading of the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS); updating of forensic imaging and document analysis systems; upgrading of the automated fingerprint identification system; and the design and installation of a wireless network providing inter-agency connectivity and information sharing,” according to the cable, entitled: “SUPPORTING HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY: THE U.S. RECORD IN COLOMBIA 2004-2005.”
This leads us to several questions. First, how many more countries were given access to the CODIS system; is this DNA database shared amongst countries in an agreement similar to the Five Eyes spying arrangement, or did the U.S. sell the software similar to the infamous PROMIS software? And, like PROMIS (Inslaw scandal), does this software have a backdoor for U.S. intel agencies to access other countries’ DNA data?
These are all questions we should find ourselves asking.
Even the DHS is looking into using the Rapid DNA technology for immigration purposes to stop adults fleeing with kids and ensure that they are their actual relatives. But later the DHS postponed the technology in 2015 to develop a stricter protocol for its use, Nextgov reported.
“The implementation of the program has been postponed until new voluntary consent forms are developed as well as operational protocols for translation,” Department of Homeland Security spokesman John Verrico told Nextgov in an email.
DHS documents obtained by the EFF state that the military may be interested in using rapid DNA in the future to reveal information about individuals such as their sex, race, health, and age.
In a 2013 privacy impact assessment for Rapid DNA pilot testing, the DHS stated that the portion of DNA analyzed by the devices does not reveal any “sensitive information about an individual, and will not, under any circumstances, be used for decisions based on those criteria.”
The EFF disagrees with Comey and the DHS, and has previously stated that the test pilot DNA program “may create controversy,” according to internal documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation civil liberties group. In a high priority e-mail from 2011, a DHS officer wrote to colleagues that “if DHS fails to provide an adequate response to media inquiries regarding RapidDNA quickly, civil rights/civil liberties organizations may attempt to shut down the test program.”
There are already numerous issues with keeping a DNA data bank. Privacy and civil rights advocates and watchdog groups have argued against the practice in California of retaining DNA from legally innocent people, thereby violating constitutional privacy rights, Mercury Newsreported.
Further, forensic labs (including the FBI) have shown flaws over the last few years exposing shoddy laboratory procedures including – grossly inaccurate testimony by law enforcement, and, in a few cases, outright false documentation or mixing up of results. DNA has been constantly linked to the wrong person similar to facial recognition biometric data.
If that’s not all reason enough for us to be skeptical about these systems, in 2015, the FBI found DNA data errors within its own national CODIS database, The Washington Post reported.
In another case, familial DNA was the culprit responsible for a false positive on a murder in Idaho. This resulted in Michael Usry in a police station with an FBI agent cotton swabbing him as he was completely confused by what was happening, Wired reported in 2015.
While genetics might be able to identify a felon, forensic scientists and lawyers agree that the information gathered can’t be able to gather more than that. As the Supreme Court wrote in its Maryland v King decision to allow DNA collection, this issue is “open to dispute.”
Forensic magazine notes the dangers of a DNA database, stating its a threat to “medical privacy.”
These genetic databases are an absolute gold mine for law enforcement. I am not sure anyone can argue that catching serial killers and rapists, or using CODIS for tracking missing children is bad; however, problems start to arise when these genetic databases are used to target people for deportation or sweep up the completely innocent in its dragnet.
Along with facial recognition, DNA databases are the first step towards an Orwellian society where the government knows your whereabouts, at all times. It’s a nightmarish outlook for our future; but what’s worse in some instances, like in the form of DNA, we are being tricked to give up our freedoms and privacy. As a CRS Congressional “think tank” report warned: “future DNA collection cases might raise graver Fourth Amendment privacy concerns than previous cases.”
The FBI plans to begin rolling out Rapid DNA to more police departments slowly in 2019, according to a Washington Postreport.
“Our goal in 2019 is to be able to have a pilot project done where we actually develop a DNA profile in a booking station, with no human review, and have it electronically enrolled and searched in the national database,” Thomas Callaghan, chief biometric scientist for the FBI Laboratory, told the news outlet. “We have to ensure that the quality that’s done in a lab can be done in a booking station.
Civil liberties organizations and activists are pushing back against new laws which criminalize protests and free speech related to pipeline projects.
In late March, a coalition of Native activists, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of South Dakota filed suit against the State of South Dakota in an effort to repeal recently passed state laws aimed at curbing “rioters” during the upcoming construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. South Dakota Senate Bill 189 and SB 190 have created controversy due to the potential to prevent peaceful and legal protest of environmental projects.
Senate Bill 189, also known as the Riot Boosting Act, grants the state the authority to sue any individual or organization for what they call “riot-boosting,” or encouraging and/or participating in acts of force or violence. SB 190 sets up funding to pay for state, county, and local police to combat potential pipeline protesters. This means that any individual who is attending a protest or rally against the Keystone Pipeline (or other future pipeline) could become subject to civil or criminal penalties, whether they engage in violence or not. The plaintiffs in the suit argue that the language of the bill is vague and does not clearly define what type of conduct or speech is considered “riot-boosting” or encouraging a riot.
The Washington Times reports that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has stated that the legislation will help shut down protests of the Keystone XL Pipeline and prevent a battle between protesters and police as was seen during the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota in 2016. The Times notes that Noem believes protesters were funded by “out-of-state liberal donors, such as George Soros.” South Dakota State Sen. John Wiik said the introduction of the new laws “stems from what happened up at Cannonball, North Dakota.”
Plaintiffs on the lawsuit include the NDN Collective, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Sierra Club, Dakota Rural Action, Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, and Nick Tilsen, President and CEO of the NDN Collective.
“Gov. Kristi Noem’s legislation is yet another way to promote Big Oil interests and prevent dissent by making protesters subject to legal action,” says Kim Pate, Vice President of NDN Collective.
The NDN Collective recently wrote that the broad language in SB 189 means that “anyone that contributes to a protest, whether through monetary donations, donations of supplies, or even through organizing a page on social media, can be held liable, and have civil and criminal penalties for supporting a protest that the state deems ‘violent‘.” Further, the law states that individuals or organizations can be held liable even if they are not on the ground in South Dakota. The NDN Collective also states that the law would allow TransCanada to redirect money seized from protesters and organization towards pipeline construction.
The ACLU of South Dakota has also condemned the new laws, stating, “We’re prepared to stand on the front lines and defend your right to peacefully protest and express your opinions freely.”
It’s hard to think of a more fundamental right than the right to determine what happens to one’s own body. Forcing someone to undergo medical treatment against their will violates this most basic of rights—the right to be free from physical assault. Yet even somelibertarians have jumped on the mandatory vaccination bandwagon, arguing that one person not taking every possible precaution against contracting a disease constitutes an assault against another. But this line of thinking requires some very tortured logic
begin with, nobody has a “right” to a germ-free environment outside of
their own property (and good luck establishing one there). Proponents of
vaccine mandates assert this “right” as if it is a long-standing social
or legal norm, but it is not. Human beings have been living among each
other for millennia, and there has never been a widely asserted right to
freedom from any and all pathogens at others’ expense.
historically, been a widely held and asserted expectation of quarantine
in the case of exceptionally dangerous illnesses. However, this is not
at all what the proponents of mandated vaccines are calling for.
Quarantine is simply the demand that those who are already infected with
a disease remain isolated in their homes or elsewhere until they are no
longer able to infect others.
This is profoundly different from what the pro-mandate crowd demands: that those who are not infected undergo a medical procedure to minimize their chances of becoming infected. This is a much more intrusive demand and a potentially dangerous one.
Furthermore, measles—the scariest thing the mandate pushers can come up with—is not even on the list of federally quarantinable diseases. And rightly so, as it hardly qualifies as an exceptionally dangerous disease in the developed world.
Long before the vaccine was available, the mortality rate had fallen to around 1 in 10,000 cases, and it was widely considered to be a benign childhood illness that nearly everyone contracted.
what has changed in the last few years? How is it that all of a sudden,
measles has gone from a disease not even worthy of mandatory quarantine
for the infected to one that has generated near-mass hysteria and
demands for the far more intrusive forced medical intervention against
those who are not infected?
What About Herd Immunity?
In 2016, then-Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson announced that he had reversed his position on vaccine mandates and now supported them. The reason? Someone told him about herd immunity:
come to find out that without mandatory vaccines, the vaccines that
would in fact be issued would not be effective. So … it’s dependent that
you have mandatory vaccines so that every child is immune. Otherwise,
not all children will be immune even though they receive a vaccine.
Had Johnson looked just a little more deeply, he would have learned that the theory of vaccine-induced herd immunity is not as solid as its proponents would have us believe. The idea was first put forward by A.W. Hedrich in 1933, based on his observation that
measles outbreaks were suppressed when 68 percent of children had
contracted the measles virus. This observation had nothing to do with
vaccination, as the measles vaccine had not even been developed yet.
is an important distinction for a few reasons. Perhaps most
importantly: While the immunity conferred by contracting measles lasts a
lifetime, that conferred by vaccination does not. What this means is
that a 90 percent vaccination rate does not equate to 90 percent of the population having immunity. As Dr. Russell Blaylock says:
It was not until relatively recently that it was discovered that most of these vaccines lost their effectiveness 2 to 10 years after being given. What this means is that at least half the population, that is the baby boomers, have had no vaccine-induced immunity against any of these diseases for which they had been vaccinated very early in life. In essence, at least 50% or more of the population was unprotected for decades.F
we listen to present-day wisdom, we are all at risk of resurgent
massive epidemics should the vaccination rate fall below 95%. Yet, we
have all lived for at least 30 to 40 years with 50% or less of the
population having vaccine protection. That is, herd immunity has not
existed in this country for many decades and no resurgent epidemics have
occurred. Vaccine-induced herd immunity is a lie used to frighten
doctors, public-health officials, other medical personnel, and the
public into accepting vaccinations.
The larger point, though, is that even if the idea of vaccine-induced herd immunity did hold
up to scrutiny, it would at best be a positive externality—not
something that anyone has the right to demand from others at gunpoint.
But What about Those Who Cannot Be Vaccinated?
Others have written more comprehensively on the fallacy of using
medically fragile people as an excuse for forcing everyone to be
vaccinated. So I’ll just say this: Nobody has an obligation to vaccinate
themselves or their children in order to protect the most medically
vulnerable among us.
My own daughter is intellectually disabled
and suffers from seizures. Much of the outside world is a dangerous and
scary place where she could easily be badly hurt or worse. Yet I would
never dream of using force to compel those around me to make the world
safe for my daughter. Keeping her safe is my job and my husband’s job—not everyone else’s.
doubt that those who promote this line of thinking have really thought
through the implications of what they are asking for: requiring everyone to
alter their lives and actions in order to accommodate the most
medically fragile, at all times and in all spaces. What they are
demanding has implications far beyond vaccines.
if they really do believe that not being vaccinated constitutes a form
of aggression against others, then why confine their demands to
children?You do not have the right to force a medical procedure on another person.
should you and I and the vast majority of all adults in the US be
exempt from the requirement to be completely up to date on all of the vaccines the CDC and its pharmaceuticalindustrycronies have
decided we should have? Are we not also committing aggression every day
we go out in public, exposing others to diseases we do not yet have but
might possibly contract?Of course, if disease transmission is really
what the proponents of vaccine mandates are worried about, then they
should also demand that those recently vaccinated with live-virus vaccines not be allowed in schools or any public spaces. And if they aren’t demanding this, then one has to wonder whether the transmission of disease really is their primary concern.
bottom line, though, has nothing to do with the science behind
vaccines, nor with herd immunity, nor competing claims about vaccine
safety and vaccine harm. Nor does it have to do with how serious
diseases like measles are or are not. It is simply this: You do not have
the right to force a medical procedure on another person.
libertarian thinking 101. You are free to do whatever you wish with
what is yours—and other people are not yours. You do not own them, and
you do not get to make decisions over their bodies and their lives. You
may exclude them from your property if you wish, but you may not force
them to undergo medical (or non-medical) procedures against their will.
You don’t even have to be a libertarian to understand this. The right to
bodily integrity, to be free from assault, is the most fundamental of
all human rights. If it is not protected, then no other rights even
In recent years we’ve seen a number of credible scientific reports indicating that electromagnetic radiation from cell phones and other wireless devices is linked to the development of cancers, including brain and heart cancer. And as the world’s wireless network is upgraded to 5G, we may soon see a dramatic spike in cases of cancer, and people in high places are speaking out to warn the public.
Additionally, warnings about the safety of emerging 5G technology are everywhere, and even the California Brain Tumor Association issued a public warning. But, we’re already living in a world that has grown dependent on wireless and bluetooth technology, with an array of consumer products like Apple’s AirPods which act as wireless transmitters/receivers sitting right next to the brain, nestled among the most sensitive parts of the ear.
This is a recipe for a public health disaster, and to emphasize this, a group of 250 scientists from over 40 countries have signed a petition to the WHO and the UN to warn them about the documented dangers of radio wave radiation from WiFi, cell phones and bluetooth.
“Apple’s wireless AirPods, for example, ‘communicate with one another using a magnetic induction field, a variable magnetic field [one] sends through your brain to communicate with the other,’ explains Dr Joel Moskowitz.
Dr Moskowitz, a University of California, Berkeley community health professor who focuses on cell phone exposures, says there isn’t even research on what this could do to the brain yet, let alone regulations to limit the potential effects.” [Source]
The opening statement of the petition lists a litany of current technological products that are all linked to physiological disorders, disease and even cancer.
“We are scientists engaged in the study of biological and health effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF). Based upon peer-reviewed, published research, we have serious concerns regarding the ubiquitous and increasing exposure to EMF generated by electric and wireless devices. These include–but are not limited to–radiofrequency radiation (RFR) emitting devices, such as cellular and cordless phones and their base stations, Wi-Fi, broadcast antennas, smart meters, and baby monitors as well as electric devices and infra-structures used in the delivery of electricity that generate extremely-low frequency electromagnetic field (ELF EMF).” [Source]
Read the full petition, here. And for more information on the potential harm of 5G and wireless technologies, please review the following links:
Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer forWakingTimes.com. Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life.
For centuries bank deposits have come with a comforting guarantee. Depositors have always been able to quickly convert them at par into cash.
But this guarantee is slowly being eroded. Banks in Canada, Ireland, Australia, Denmark, and Sweden are closing full-service branches and adopting a less-staffed “cashless bank” model. In a cashless branch, customers can no longer deposit or withdraw cash over the counter.
The next step will be when banks remove their external ATM machines too. Once this happens, we’ll have entered a strange new world where bank deposits are permanently inconvertible.
But if we don’t want a world with cashless banks, here’s a potential solution. Maybe banks should be allowed to issue their own unique brand of banknotes. By doing so, bankers may have more of an incentive to promote cash availability.
Bankers have been steadily introducing cashless banks over the last few years in response to falling customer demand for cash. With fewer people wanting to withdraw or deposit cash, the cost of offering these services gets harder to justify to shareholders.
Some commentators worry that banks are not simply reacting to customer preferences but are taking an active role in reducing cash usage. In a recent opinion piece, Brett Scott accuses banks of nudging customers away from cash by re-designing the withdrawal and deposit processes to be less accommodating.
As Scott points out, banks have an incentive to move customers into cards and other digital channels because that way they can make more profit off of transactions and suck up more data. Furthermore, deposits compete with central bank-issued banknotes as a form of saving. Banks prefer that consumers lodge cash at the bank because deposits are a low-cost source of funding for banks.
That banks are sole distributors of a third-party product that they directly compete with represents a major conflict of interest. This arrangement is unfortunate given cash’s many benefits. To begin with, it makes for a great back-up payments system — unlike card-based systems, cash can’t crash. It is also used by many people for budgeting purposes. And finally, banknotes allow people to regulate how much personal information they must give up in transactions. I’ve talked about many of these advantages before.
Given that cash is important to society, but banks have a perverse incentive to prevent its circulation, what is the solution? Perhaps the answer is to get banks on side by allowing them to issue their own banknotes. If they have a direct financial stake in the fate of cash, then banks will be less conflicted in the role they play as society’s main distributors of coins and banknotes.
Ireland is an interesting case study. The Bank of Ireland is the largest private bank in both the Republic of Ireland (a separate country) and Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK). Oddly enough, even as the Bank of Ireland threatens to make most of its branches in the Republic of Ireland cash-free, the northern arm of the bank is rolling out new polymer banknotes in 2019.
Banks in Northern Ireland and Scotland enjoy a long tradition of issuing their own banknotes. Of the four note-issuing banks in Northern Ireland, the Bank of Ireland is the largest issuer followed by Ulster Bank, Danske, and First Trust. As of the end of 2018, the big four had issued £2.9 billion worth of banknotes. These banks aren’t obligated to provide Northern Ireland with cash. They print it because their customers want it.
The Bank of England, UK’s central bank, requires Northern Ireland’s private note issuers to “back” each pound they issue with at least 60 cents in Bank of England notes or coins. The other 40 cents in backing can be held in an interest-yielding account at the Bank of England.
Northern Ireland’s cash-issuing banks thus enjoy two advantages relative to banks that cannot issue cash. Since they needn’t pay any interest to their banknote customers, but enjoy interest on the backing assets held in their account at Bank of England, they earn a recurring flow of income on each note that they put into circulation. Secondly, the circulation of their particular brand of banknotes serves as a form of free advertisement. The more of its notes that a bank can get the public to use, the more visibility it steals from competitors.
Thus, the Bank of Ireland’s northern operations have an incentive to ensure that cash is always available to depositors. But the bank’s southern arm, which distributes euro banknotes, does not have the same incentive, since it doesn’t directly share in the financial advantages of promoting cash usage.
The benefits of issuing cash can be sizable. For instance, at the end of 2017 Ulster Bank has issued £803 million in banknotes. This accounts for 7% of the bank’s total £11,501 million in liabilities. Given that Ulster Bank currently pays as much as 0.85% on its other liabilities, including savings accounts, the ability to issue notes at 0% significantly reduces its funding costs. I doubt that Ulster Bank would want to sabotage this gift.
Critics will point out that allowing banks to issue cash comes at the expense of the tax payer. That’s true. All of the profits that the Bank of England earns are paid back to the state, and ultimately the taxpaying citizens. By directing a bit of interest to the Bank of Ireland and other private issuers, that leaves less for the state.
But notice that Bank of England strikes a careful balance. It only allows the Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, and other private issuers to keep 40% of their backing assets in an interest-yielding account, the other 60% being lodged in no-yield Bank of England banknotes. So the current Northern Irish arrangement illustrates how it is possible to accommodate both taxpayers, banks, and their customers.
Alternatively, banks could invest the 40% in a higher yielding loan portfolio. Although some people might have financial stability concerns, we know from Selgin and White’s explorations of free banking that private banknote systems can be quite sound.
Allowing private banks to issue banknotes may seem like a radical solution. But by fixing the dysfunctional relationship between banks and cash, this option may help prevent an equally radical scenario from emerging; a world with only cashless banks.