TBR News November 30, 2014

Nov 29 2014

Voice of the White House

November 29, 2014: “A coming, very serious international money crisis is looming dangerously. This concerns the gold reserves of various countries supposedly on deposit in the United States. Recently, the Germans requested the return of their gold holdings. Germany had deposited about half of its gold reserves in the USA. The Federal Reserve flatly refused to permit Germany to examine its own gold, stating “security” and “no room for visitors” as reasons.

When Germany finally was briefly permitted an audit, the auditors were admitted into the vault´s anté chamber where 5 or 6 gold bars were shown to them as “representative for Germany´s holdings”.

The German auditors then returned a second time, at which time the Federal Reserve granted them permission to “look into” 1 of 9 rooms without allowing them to enter or touch the gold, before the auditors were sent back home to Germany.

It is known in intelligence circles in the United States that a “significant amount of foreign gold holdings” have been sold off by the Federal Reserve, mostly to China and to finance American military activies abroad.

It is also known that Swiss gold holdings allegedly in Canadian banks and also not available, hence the fear and frenzy in certain governmental circles.”

 

 

European Nations Repatriate Gold Reserves From United States Vaults

Netherlands has already moved 122 tons of gold holdings back home, while Switzerland and France are considering the same move. Germany abandoned the plan to repatriate its gold despite pressure from Eurosceptics.

November 28, 2014

by Ekaterina Blinova 

Sputnik

             MOSCOW, Growing concerns over economic stagnation and unprecedented money printing have pushed European nations into repatriating their gold and as well as increasing their gold bullion national reserves.

“The 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath have revived interest in a monetary policy instrument of a bygone era: gold. This trend is especially pronounced in Europe, where central banks face public pressure to buy more gold or bring back home what they hold in vaults overseas,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the media source, the Swiss National Bank “could be forced to more than double its gold assets,” while selling gold would be restricted. The “Save Our Swiss Gold” campaign is preparing for a vote on November 30, which could require the SNB to repatriate all of its gold reserves from overseas vaults.

The Netherlands has already returned 122 tons of its gold holdings from the US, with the Dutch Central Bank announcing that the decision to repatriate the gold would obviously “have a positive effect on public confidence.” Remarkably, in 2012 the Dutch president stated that he didn’t consider repatriating gold due to the fact it was “absolutely safe in Manhattan.”

The National Front led by Marine Le Pen is urging the French government to return its gold from abroad. Le Pen wrote an open letter to Christian Noyer, governor of the Bank of France, calling for the  repatriation of France’s gold holdings and asking for an independent organization to be allowed “to audit the country’s current holdings of 2,435 metric tons,” Kitco News reports. The National Front leader has also recommended the Bank of France increase reserves by 20 percent and “never sell its gold reserves.”

Germany’s plan to bring its $635 billion worth of gold bullion reserves back was abandoned by the German authorities.  “The Americans are taking good care of our gold, we have no reasons for mistrust,” Nobert Barthle, the German Parliament Budget spokesman said as quoted by RT. However, this decision has met heavy criticism from Eurosceptics, who insist that German overseas holdings should be inspected annually, as the Bundesbank does with its reserves in Frankfurt, Hans Olaf Henkel, German member of the European Parliament stressed.

 

Fears that ‘dangerous’ Switzerland referendum could spark gold rush

Poll could force Swiss central bank to triple reserves, leading to price of gold soaring on international markets, experts say

November 25, 2014

by Kate Connolly in Berlin

The Guardian

          The Swiss like referendums: there were 11 last year and there have been nine more this year, on subjects ranging from who pays for abortions to whether the state should buy a certain type of new fighter aircraft.

This Sunday there are three more, but one has attracted more attention than most – because there are fears that if it wins majority support it could trigger a worldwide gold rush.

Five million Swiss voters are to decide on a proposal that would force the central bank to triple its gold reserves. The vote is being watched closely by financial markets and governments around the world.

Under the “Save Our Swiss Gold” initiative the Swiss National Bank (SNB) would be obliged to hold at least a fifth of its assets in gold within five years. The bank would be required to repatriate all Swiss gold held abroad and be banned from selling any of its holdings in future.

A fifth of Switzerland’s 1,040 tonnes of gold reserves are held with The Bank of England and nearly a third with the Canadian Central Bank.

The organisers say they are motivated by wanting “security and independence for Switzerland in times of uncertainty”. They argue a policy change is necessary because attempts to constrain the strength of the Swiss franc to boost national exports have meant the SNB has too many euros at a time when that currency is losing value.

The slogan for the initiative – which has gripped Switzerland and been displayed on posters showing hands holding a grinning piggy bank decorated with the Swiss flag – urges voters to “protect the people’s wealth” by voting yes.

Its supporters come from the populist right-wing Swiss People’s party (SVP), which says in its mission statement: “Most Swiss don’t even know that part of the nation’s gold is stored abroad and that the SNB has already sold over half of the gold reserves.”

Switzerland, a country with a strong tradition of refining and trading gold, has the highest gold reserves per inhabitant of any country, equivalent to four ounces a head. For many this remains insufficient.

If the Swiss vote yes on Monday, the SNB would be required to buy 1,500 tonnes of gold over the next five years, the equivalent of almost 70% of the global gold mined every year. Experts say the gold price would soar. “It would be an unforgettable day for the precious metal industry,” according to German business analyst Michael Schröder.

Ahead of the vote the Swiss franc has risen to a two-year high. But support in the referendum has been waning as it draws nearer, with a poll a week ago suggesting only 38% were in favour, down from 42% last month.

The debate has underlined the emotional and arguably romantic pull of the precious metal in an age where less tangible assets dominate.

“Gold continues to trigger impetuous and irrational reactions in many people,” Sergio Rossi, professor of macroeconomics and monetary economics at Fribourg University, told the Swiss news agency SDA.

Others say it has rather emphasised the flaws in the monetary system. “It has shown just how unsustainable the debt-based monetary system we have is,” said Koos Jansen, an Amsterdam-based gold analyst for the Singaporean precious-metal dealer BullionStar.

“The Swiss initiative is merely part of a increasing global scramble towards gold and away from the endless printing of money. Huge movements of gold are going on right now. Recently the Dutch repatriated 122 tons, Germany is bringing home its gold from the US, whilst the Bric countries are accumulating large quantities of it for their banks.

“While those behind the Swiss initiative have often been portrayed as crazy, they’re merely acting out of fear that their central bank is losing control of its monetary policy, and of the Swiss franc being sucked into this currency war and losing its value,” he said.

Switzerland left the gold standard only in 1999, the last country in the world to do so. “They regret what they did and want to get back to the safety of gold, especially in the current environment,” Jansen added.

The SNB chairman, Thomas Jordan, has warned of “dangerous” consequences if the vote goes through, arguing that if the bank were forced to boost its gold reserves, its costs would increase exponentially and its ability to move within the currency market would be severely hindered, putting its credibility at stake.

“The initiative is dangerous because it would weaken the SNB,” he told an audience near Zurich last week. “The connection between a minimum share and a ban on selling which it embraces would very severely impair our monetary policy room for manoeuvre.”

He added that the initiative was in danger of destabilising one of the SNB’s main policies of not letting the euro weaken below 1.20 Swiss francs, which was introduced in an attempt to protect exporters as the Swiss currency gained strength against the troubled euro.

Opponents of the initiative argue the bank would no longer be able to sell gold in the event of a crisis and so its gold reserves would no longer be considered a reserve in the traditional sense.

But others say if Switzerland were to hold 20% of its assets in gold it would be better protected from the volatility of the currency markets. “The central bank would lose flexibility but long term it would bring the country more stability,” said Jansen.

Sunday’s votes have also called into question Switzerland’s status as one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. The other two proposals to be voted on have sent jitters through the corporate world.

The most controversial, initiated by a leftist-Green group called Ecopop, would restrict immigration to 0.2% of the resident population.

A further proposal would abolish the flat tax system which benefits rich foreigners who choose to live in Switzerland

 

The Swiss Gold Referendum is Here, Central Banksters Beware

November 29, 2014

by The Silver Bug

the Daily Coin

This Sunday is a day that will have a massive impact on financial markets around the world. The Swiss, who are well known for their referendums, 11 last year and 9 this year, will take part in possibly their most important one to date.

Dubbed the “Save Our Swiss Gold” initiative, five million voters will decide on whether or not the Swiss National Bank will be forced to repatriate all of their gold abroad and increase their gold reserves to a mandatory one fifth of total reserves.

This is no minor increase, it would effectively mean a tripling of Swiss gold reserves, which currently rests at 1,040 tonnes, according to the World Gold Council.

Given the ongoing shortages due the recent price drop in precious metals and the continued accumulation by countries such as Russia and China, where is this additional demand going to come from? This is a question that surely has Western Central bankers sitting on the edge of their seats, anxiously awaiting the results of Sundays vote.

Currently, a fifth of Switzerlands gold reserves rest with the Bank of England and one third is kept at the Central Bank of Canada. These are two organizations that are going to be sent scrambling if the Swiss people demand their gold back. Do they have the gold they claim to have on their books? Many precious metals experts believe not.

The Swiss people are well known for their affinity for precious metals and for their history of refining gold. Traditionally the Swiss Franc has had the status symbol of being as good as gold, this is because, at one point it actually was backed by hard money. This is what supporters of the referendum want to return to.

The mere idea of this vote passing has propelled the Swiss Franc to a two year high, already it has brought additional purchasing power and strength to its citizens. If passed, the Swiss Franc will continue to gain in strength and value.

The Swiss people are just one of a growing trend, a trend to repatriate its citizens gold and bring its true wealth home. This move, which has already been adopted by the likes of Germany and The Netherlands, will bring stability and protection to those who take part in the times going ahead. The first movers will be the ones with the most to gain, and have the strongest likelihood of having their gold returned to them.

Difficult times lay ahead, another economic crisis, bigger than the one seen in 2008 is coming. Nothing has been fixed, the worlds problems have only been papered over with absurd quantities of fiat dollars.

When the next crisis hits, and it will, those who physically possess their gold in hand, will be the ones who are able to weather the storm and come out on the other end on top.

 

 

 

Banking culture breeds dishonesty, scientific study finds

November 21, 2014

by Kate Kelland

Reuters

           LONDON – – A banking culture that implicitly puts financial gain above all else fuels greed and dishonesty and makes bankers more likely to cheat, according to the findings of a scientific study.

Researchers in Switzerland studied bank workers and other professionals in experiments in which they won more money if they cheated, and found that bankers were more dishonest when they were made particularly aware of their professional role.

When bank employees were primed to think less about their profession and more about normal life, however, they were less inclined to dishonesty.

“Many scandals… have plagued the financial industry in the last decade,” Ernst Fehr, a researcher at the University of Zurich who co-led the study, told reporters in a telephone briefing. “These scandals raise the question whether the business culture in the banking industry is favoring, or at least tolerating, fraudulent or unethical behaviors.”

Fehr’s team conducted a laboratory game with bankers, then repeated it with other types of workers as comparisons.

The first study involved 128 employees all levels of a large international bank – the researchers were sworn to secrecy about which one – and 80 staff from a range of other banks.

Participants were divided into a treatment group that answered questions about their profession, such as “what is your function at this bank;” or a control group that answered questions unrelated to work, such as “how many hours of TV do you watch each week?”

They were then asked to toss a coin 10 times, unobserved, and report the results. For each toss they knew whether heads or tails would yield a $20 reward. They were told they could keep their winnings if they were more than or equal to those of a randomly selected subject from a pilot study.

Given maximum winnings of $200, there was “a considerable incentive to cheat,” Fehr’s team wrote in the journal Nature, online November 19.

The results showed the control group reported 51.6% winning tosses and the treatment group – whose banking identity had been emphasized to them – reported 58.2% as wins, giving a misrepresentation rate of 16%. The proportion of subjects cheating was 26%.

The same experiments with employees in other sectors – including manufacturing, telecoms and pharmaceuticals – showed they don’t become more dishonest when their professional identity or banking-related information is emphasized.

 

How the Pentagon’s Skynet Would Automate War

November 24, 2014

by Nafeez Ahmed

           Pentagon officials are worried that the US military is losing its edge compared to competitors like China, and are willing to explore almost anything to stay on top—including creating watered-down versions of the Terminator.

Due to technological revolutions outside its control, the Department of Defense (DoD) anticipates the dawn of a bold new era of automated war within just 15 years. By then, they believe, wars could be fought entirely using intelligent robotic systems armed with advanced weapons.

Last week, US defense secretary Chuck Hagel ann​ounced the ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’—a sweeping plan to identify and develop cutting edge technology breakthroughs “over the next three to five years and beyond” to maintain global US “mili​tary-technological superiority.” Areas to be covered by the DoD programme include robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, Big Data and advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing.

But just how far down the rabbit hole Hagel’s initiative could go—whether driven by desperation, fantasy or hubris—is revealed by an overlooked Pentagon-funded study, published quietly in mid-September by the DoD National Defense University’s (NDU) Center for Technology and National Security Policy in Washington DC.

The Pentagon plans to monopolize imminent “transformational advances” in nanotechnology, robotics, and energyThe 72-page d​ocument throws detailed light on the far-reaching implications of the Pentagon’s plan to monopolize imminent “transformational advances” in biotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence, information technology, nanotechnology, and energy.

Hagel’s initiative is being overseen by deputy defense secretary Robert O. Work, lead author of a r​eport released last January by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), “20YY: Preparing for War in the Robotic Age.”

Work’s report is also cited heavily in the new study published by the NDU, a Pentagon-funded higher education institution that trains US military officials and develops government national security strategy and defense policies.

The NDU study warns that while accelerating technological change will “flatten the world economically, socially, politically, and militarily, it could also increase wealth inequality and social stress,” and argues that the Pentagon must take drastic action to avoid the potential decline of US military power: “For DoD to remain the world’s preeminent military force, it must redefine its culture and organizational processes to become more networked, nimble, and knowledge-based.”

The authors of the NDU paper, Dr James Kadtke and Dr Linton Wells, are seasoned long-term Pentagon advisers, both affiliated with the NDU’s technology center which produces research “supporting the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Services, and Congress.”

Kadtke was previously a senior official at the White House’s National Nanotechnology Coordinating Office, while Wells—who served under Paul Wolfowitz as DoD chief information officer and deputy assistant defense secretary—was until this June NDU’s Force Transformation Chair.

Wells also chairs a little-known group known as the ‘Highlands Forum,’ which is run by former Pentagon staffer Richard O’Neill on behalf of the DoD. The Fo​rum brings together military and information technology experts to explore the defense policy issues arising from the impact of the internet and globalization.

Explaining the Highlands Forum process in 2006 to Gover​nment Executive magazine, Wells described the Forum as a DoD-sponsored “idea engine” that “generates ideas in the minds of government people who have the ability to act through other processes… What happens out of Highlands is you get people who come back with an idea and say, ‘Now how can I cause this to happen?’”

 

Big Data’s Big Brother

A key area emphasized by the Wells and Kadtke study is improving the US intelligence community’s ability to automatically analyze vast data sets without the need for human involvement.

Pointing out that “sensitive personal information” can now be easily mined from online sources and social media, they call for policies on “Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to determine the Department’s ability to make use of information from social media in domestic contingencies”—in other words, to determine under what conditions the Pentagon can use private information on American citizens obtained via data-mining of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and so on.

Their study argues that DoD can leverage “large-scale data collection” for medicine and society, through “monitoring of individuals and populations using sensors, wearable devices, and IoT [the ‘Internet of Things’]” which together “will provide detection and predictive analytics.” The Pentagon can build capacity for this “in partnership with large private sector providers, where the most innovative solutions are currently developing.”

In particular, the Pentagon must improve its capacity to analyze data sets quickly, by investing in “automated analysis techniques, text analytics, and user interface techniques to reduce the cycle time and manpower requirements required for analysis of large data sets.”

Kadtke and Wells want the US military to take advantage of the increasing interconnection of people and devices via the new ‘Internet of Things’ through the use of “embedded systems” in “automobiles, factories, infrastructure, appliances and homes, pets, and potentially, inside human beings.” Due to the advent of “cloud robotics… the line between conventional robotics and intelligent everyday devices will become increasingly blurred.”

Cloud robotics, a term coined by Google’s new robotics chief, James Kuffner, allows individual robots to augment their capabilities by connecting through the internet to share online resources and collaborate with other machines. By 2030, nearly every aspect of global society could become, in their words, “instrumented, networked, and potentially available for control via the Internet, in a hierarchy of cyber-physical systems.”

Yet the most direct military application of such technologies, the Pentagon study concludes, will be in “Command-Control-Communications, Computers and Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (C4ISR)”—a field led by “world-class organizations such as the National Security Agency (NSA).”

 

Clever Kill Bots in the Cloud

Within this context of Big Data and cloud robotics, Kadtke and Wells enthuse that as unmanned robotic systems become more intelligent, the cheap manufacture of “armies of Kill Bots that can autonomously wage war” will soon be a reality. Robots could also become embedded in civilian life to perform “surveillance, infrastructure monitoring, police telepresence, and homeland security applications.”

The main challenge to such robot institutionalization will come from a “political backlash” to robots being able to determine by themselves when to kill.

To counter public objections, they advocate that the Pentagon should be “highly proactive” in ensuring “it is not perceived as creating weapons systems without a ‘human in the loop.’ It may be that DoD should publicly self-limit its operational doctrine on the use of such systems to head off public or international backlash to its development of autonomous systems.”

Despite this PR move, they recommend that DoD should still “remain ahead of the curve” by developing “operational doctrine for forces made up significantly or even entirely of unmanned or autonomous elements.” [emphasis added]

The rationale is to “augment or substitute for human operators” as much as possible, especially for missions that are “hazardous,” “impractical,” or “impossible” for humans (like, perhaps, all wars?). In just five years, the study reports, Pentagon research to improve robot intelligence will bear “significant advances.”

 

Skynet by 2020s?

Perhaps the most disturbing dimension among the NDU study’s insights is the prospect that within the next decade, artificial intelligence (AI) research could spawn “strong AI”—or at least a form of “weak AI” that approximates some features of the former.

Strong AI should be able to simulate a wide range of human cognition, and include traits like consciousness, sentience, sapience, or self-awareness. Many now believe, Kadtke and Wells, observe, that “strong AI may be achieved sometime in the 2020s.”

They report that a range of technological advances support “this optimism,” especially that “computer processors will likely reach the computational power of the human brain sometime in the 2020s”—Intel aims to reach this milestone by 201​8. Other relevant advances in development include “full brain simulations, neuro-synaptic computers, and general knowledge representation systems such as IBM Watson.”

As the costs of robotics manufacturing and cloud computing plummet, the NDU paper says, AI advances could even allow for automation of high-level military functions like “problem solving,” “strategy development” or “operational planning.”

“In the longer term, fully robotic soldiers may be developed and deployed, particularly by wealthier countries.”“In the longer term, fully robotic soldiers may be developed and deployed, particularly by wealthier countries,” the paper says (thankfully, no plans to add ‘living tissue’ on the outside are mentioned).

The study thus foresees the Pentagon playing a largely supervisory role over autonomous machines as increasingly central to all dimensions of warfare—from operational planning to identifying threats via surveillance and social media data-mining; from determining enemy targets to actually pursuing and executing them.

There is no soul-searching, though, about the obvious risks of using AI to automate such core elements of military planning and operations, beyond the following oblique sentence: “One negative aspect of these trends, however, lies in the risks that are possible due to unforeseen vulnerabilities that may arise from the large scale deployment of smart automated systems, for which there is little practical experience.”

But if the reservations of billionaire tech entrepreneur Ellon Musk are anything to go by, the Pentagon’s hubris is deeply amiss. Musk, an early investor in the AI company DeepMind now owned by Google, has warned of “something dangerous” happening in five years due to “close to exponential” growth of AI at the firm—and some AI experts agr​ee.

 

Synthetic Genetically Enhanced Laser-Armed Prosthetic People

As if this wasn’t disturbing enough, Kadtke and Wells go on to chart significant developments across a wide range of other significant technologies. They point to the development of Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) that project electromagnetic radiation as laser light, and which are already being deployed in test form.

This August, USS Ponce deployed with an operational laser—a matter that was only rep​orted in the last few days. DEWs, the NDU authors predict, “will be a very disruptive military technology” due to “unique characteristics, such as near-zero flight time, high accuracy, and an effectively infinite magazine.” The Pentagon plans to widely deploy DEWs aboard ships in a few years.

The Pentagon also wants to harvest technologies that could ‘upgrade’ human physical, psychological, and cognitive makeup. The NDU paper catalogues a range of relevant fields, including “personalized (genetic) medicine, tissue and organ regeneration via stem cells, implants such as computer chips and communication devices, robotic prosthetics, direct brain-machine interfaces, and potentially direct brain-brain communications.”

Another area experiencing breakthrough develop​ments is synthetic biology (SynBio). Scientists have recently created cells with DNA composed of non-natural amino acids, opening the door to create entirely new “designer life forms,” the Pentagon report enthuses, and to engineer them with “specialized and exotic properties.”

Kadtke and Wells flag up a recent Pentagon assessment of current SynBio research suggesting “great promise for the engineering of synthetic organisms” useful for a range of “defense relevant applications.”

It is already possible to replace organs with artificial electro-mechanical devices for a wide range of body parts. Citing ongoing US Army research on “cognition and neuro-ergonomics,” Kadtke and Wells forecast that: “Reliable artificial lungs, ear and eye implants, and muscles will all likely be commercially available within 5 to 10 years.” Even more radically, they note the emerging possibility of using stem cells to regenerate every human body part.

Meshing such developments with robotics has further radical implications. The authors highlight successful demonstrations of implantation of silicon memory and processors into the brain, as well as “purely thought controlled devices.” In the long-term, these breakthroughts could make ‘wearable devices’ like Google Glass look like ancient fossils, superceded by “distributed human-machine systems employing brain-machine interfaces and analog physiomimetic processors, as well as hybrid cybernetic systems, which could provide seamless and artificially enhanced human data exploration and analysis.”

 

We’re all terror suspects

Taken together, the “scientific revolutions” catalogued by the NDU report—if militarized—would grant the Department of Defense (DoD) “disruptive new capabilities” of a virtually totalitarian quality.

As I was told by former NSA senior executive Thomas D​rake, the whistleblower who inspired Edward Snowden, ongoing Pentagon-funded research on data-mining feeds directly into fine-tuning the algorithms used by the US intelligence community to identify not just ‘terror suspects’, but also targets for the CIA’s drone-strike kill lists.

Nearly​ half the people on the US government’s terrorism watch list of “known or suspected terrorists” have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation,” and more th​an half the victims of CIA drone-strikes over a single year were “assessed” as “Afghan, Pakistani and unknown extremists”—among others who were merely “suspected, associated with, or who probably” belonged to unidentified militant groups. Multiple stu​dies show that a substantive number of drone strike victims are civilians—and a secret Obama administration me​mo released this summer under Freedom of Information reveals that the drone programme authorizes the killing of civilians as inevitable collateral damage.

Indeed, flawed assumptions in the Pentagon’s classification systems for threat assessment mean that even “nonviolent political activists” might be conflated with pote​ntial ‘extremists’, who “support political violence” and thus pose a threat to US interests.

It is far from clear that the Pentagon’s Skynet-esque vision of future warfare will actually reach fruition. That the aspiration is being pursued so fervently in the name of ‘national security,’ in the age of austerity no less, certainly raises questions about whether the most powerful military in the world is not so much losing its edge, as it is losing the plot.

 

 

 

In Northern Ireland, a Wave of Immigrants Is Met With Fists

November. 28, 2014

by Douglas Dalby

New York Times

           BELFAST, Northern Ireland — More than 16 years after the Good Friday peace deal brought real hope that Protestants and Roman Catholics could live together in relative harmony, Northern Ireland is being racked by another wave of violence.

But this time it is not driven by the sectarian divide, but by animosity toward a fast-growing population of immigrants — adding one more challenge as Europe struggles to cope with the combination of intense economic strain and rapid demographic change.

“This is a society that always prides itself on being very friendly, but it is becoming less and less welcoming, particularly to certain types of people,” said Jayne Olorunda, 36, whose father was Nigerian, and though she grew up in Northern Ireland said her color has always marked her as an outsider.

The expanding problem appears to be partly racial and partly directed at immigrants of all backgrounds at a time when open borders in the European Union have led more legal migrants to Britain and Ireland in search of work. At the same time, war and economic deprivation have driven waves of legal and illegal migrants toward Europe from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The more recent immigrants from Eastern Europe and parts of Africa tell stories similar to those of people from China, India and Pakistan who have lived here for decades.

Mohammed Khattack, a 24-year-old Pakistani who arrived in Belfast last year hoping to study humanities after three years in London, got a first warning one night in June when an empty wine bottle shattered the front window of his rented house in north Belfast. When he and his housemate, who is also from Pakistan, began cleaning up the next morning, small groups of neighbors had formed. But they had not come to help — they had come to gloat.

Then one of them began raining blows down on Mr. Khattack amid a tirade of racist slurs.

“He was a big guy and he approached me, and at this point I called the police to report trespass as he was inside the gate,” Mr. Khattack said. “But he grabbed me in a headlock and began punching me and jumping on my legs. I managed to get into the house, but he followed me through the door until I got to the bathroom and there he continued to beat me.”

          Mr. Khattack was treated for severe bruising and spent months on crutches. He still walks with a limp.

The police arrested a 57-year-old man, who was later released on bail. The police told Mr. Khattack that the man had since fled the area.

The official figures and anecdotal evidence indicate that the severity and frequency of attacks in Northern Ireland have increased in recent years.

On average, almost three racial hate crimes a day are reported to the police. Between 2013 and 2014 there was a 43 percent increase in racially motivated offenses, 70 percent of them in Belfast. Immigrant groups assert — and the police concede — that the real figure is much higher, with many attacks going unrecorded because of fear of reprisals or a lack of faith in the justice system.

According to a recent report by the Northern Ireland Commission for Ethnic Minorities, just 12 of 14,000 race-related crimes reported over the past five years ended in a successful prosecution.

The police say paramilitary groups are cynically manipulating xenophobia to gain support in their communities by targeting migrants. In April, a senior police officer, Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr, said the rise in the number and severity of racial hate crimes in Protestant loyalist areas left “the unpleasant taste of a bit of ethnic cleansing.”

But Patrick Yu, the executive director of the Northern Ireland Commission for Ethnic Minorities, said it is simplistic to brand certain communities intrinsically racist.

“Most of the available housing stock for private rental just happens to be in loyalist areas where there is already a wariness of outsiders and a feeling of being left behind by Catholics who they believe have benefited disproportionately from the Good Friday Agreement,” he said. “There is still huge deprivation in these areas, and I believe sectarianism and racism are two sides of the same coin — both need to be tackled.”

Although less prevalent, attacks have also taken place in Catholic west Belfast. In June, hundreds of people marched in the area in support of a Nigerian man who was hospitalized after a racist assault. His attackers had also threatened to run over his 2-year-old daughter and burn down his home.

There is also concern that casual racism and willful ignorance are pervasive, evident in the flying of a Ku Klux Klan flag in loyalist east Belfast in July. Also that month, the Ulster Rugby team apologized for a picture in which three of its players were wearing black makeup and one had chains around his neck as if he were a slave.

This summer, a fundamentalist Protestant preacher, James McConnell, drew widespread condemnation after telling his congregation that “Islam is heathen; Islam is satanic; Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell.”

Anna Lo, the only ethnic minority representative in the Northern Ireland Assembly, recalls the night she heard the province’s first minister, Peter Robinson, speak in support of Mr. McConnell, saying “there wasn’t an ounce of hatred in his bones.”

“I was screaming at the television,” she said in an interview. “I couldn’t believe these views.”

Mr. Robinson’s remarks prompted Ms. Lo to make an emotional appearance on a popular talk show in which she said she was considering leaving the country. Ms. Lo, who was born in Hong Kong, has lived in Northern Ireland since 1984. “What kind of place are we now living in?” she said. “I feel vulnerable that when I walk on the street I might be attacked.”

Both men eventually apologized for their remarks.

In Britain, immigrants make up roughly 12.4 percent of the population, compared with 1.8 percent in Northern Ireland. Still, the rate here is higher than the 0.8 percent in 2001, with the bulk of the immigrants coming from Poland after it joined the European Union in 2004.

Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story Many immigrants say the abuse is tolerated for economic reasons: Workers here can expect to earn far more than in their home countries.

Others cannot go back even if they wanted to. “I acknowledge that it is somewhat ironic that I seem to have swapped fear in my own country for another kind here,” said Suleiman Abdulahi, who fled Somalia after the outbreak of civil war there in 1991.

The new wave of immigrants has certainly not brought safety in numbers.

“It’s my home, but I don’t feel like a very welcome resident,” said Ms. Olorunda, whose broad accent is pure Northern Ireland.

“When more people began to arrive I was excited at first,” she said, “but then the attacks began to move from verbal to physical and I began to think this isn’t a good thing, after all.”

Ms. Olorunda said she has endured a lifetime of racism and stays in Northern Ireland mainly to look after her mother, who she said never recovered from the loss of her husband. He died in 1980 when an Irish Republican Army bomb exploded on a train.

In a twist that shows just how small this society can be, Ms. Olorunda’s mother, a nurse, met the badly disfigured man responsible for her husband’s death in a hospital some years later. She accepted his apology, even though she had been left alone to bring up three young daughters.

Although born and raised here, Ms. Olorunda said she and her sister were thinking of joining their other sibling in London.

“I love the people, the humor, the sense of space,” she said. “But my sister and I have always said we wouldn’t end up as two old ladies in Northern Ireland.”

 

 

How to stop NSA from snooping on you

November 28, 2014

by Cory Bennett

The Hill

The first thing to know about securing your phone is that you can’t secure your phone.

“If [National Security Agency officials want] to get into your phone, they’re going to get into your phone,” said Chris Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

 “Spying on the content of cell phone communications is trivially easy,” added Eva Galperin, global policy analyst with the digital rights advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).That said, the last year has seen a booming desire to make spying more difficult. Since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the government was collecting data on Americans’ phone records and Internet activity, average people now ask: How can I keep the NSA from snooping on my phone?

The market has responded.

Major tech companies like Apple and Google promoted their new phones by highlighting the encryption methods they claim will lock out the government. A slew of apps to encrypt text messages and voice calls have popped up. Previously obscure Internet encryption methods are being adopted by non-technophiles.

And though hacking teams at the NSA and FBI will almost always win-out when sufficiently motivated, the rise of widespread encryption has worried law enforcement officials.

FBI Director James Comey calls it the “going dark problem.”

It’s set up a standoff. Law enforcement on one side, privacy advocates and major tech companies on the other.

If you’re looking to go dark, here are a few easy steps you can take to avoid government snooping.

1. Get an encrypted phone.

In September, Apple and Google claimed their new phones would lock down all pictures, contacts and messages, keeping them off limits to anyone — including government officials with a warrant.

The encryption behind this claim is solid enough that the Justice Department (DOJ) met with Apple. According to The Wall Street Journal, the second-ranking DOJ official even told Apple officials children would die as a result of the police’s inability to search a suspect’s iPhone.

While both Apple and Google have made similar security claims about their devices, Soghoian favors Apple.

“I think Apple is probably doing a better job on the security of their smartphones than any other electronics company,” he said.

However, “security of Apple’s encryption is only as good as the password you use on the device,” he added.

And even well-encrypted phones with strong passwords are made fallible through cloud backups. For many users, Apple phones automatically back up data to the iCloud. Google’s Android phones have similar features.

“Much of the data that law enforcement cannot get from the device, they can still get from the cloud,” Soghoian said.

It’s possible to disable cloud backup, but be warned, Soghoian said. “With no backup, a lost phone or forgotten password means the phone “basically self destructs.”

2. Secure your text messages.

WhatsApp, the world’s most popular messaging service with over 600 million users, recently introduced end-to-end encryption, meaning only the sender and receiver can read a message.

The company behind the encryption software, Whisper Systems, called it “the largest deployment of end-to-end encrypted communication in history.”

Whisper Systems has its own secure messaging app, TextSecure. It’s the free app privacy advocates and technologists most often recommend, as does Snowden himself.

Soghoian likes to point out the initial technology underlying TextSecure was subsidized by the U.S. government. As a taxpayer, you might as well get some value for your money, he said.

For now, Android users are better positioned to secure their messages than Apple devotees. WhatsApp doesn’t yet have end-to-end encryption for iPhone users and TextSecure is Android only.

That won’t last long, Soghoian said. “It’s a matter of weeks, not months.”

3. Secure your phone calls.

Both Android and Google boast highly-recommended apps to make encrypted phone calls.

Privacy advocate favorite Whisper Systems has RedPhone for Android users and Signal for iPhone users.

Unfortunately the two apps are not yet interoperable — RedPhone users can only call other RedPhone users.

If you’re willing to spring for a paid app, Silent Circle offers encrypted calling plans that will allow you to encrypt your end of a call to anyone around the world, Silent Circle member or not.

For member-to-member calls, the apps from Whisper and Silent Circle all got perfect scores on EFF’s Secure Messaging Scorecard.

4. Secure your Internet browsing.

Public Wi-Fi networks and normal web browsers leave mobile devices vulnerable.

“These are often the kinds of hot spots that are compromised by a potential attacker,” Galperin said. 

For roaming Wi-Fi connections, Galperin recommends a virtual public network (VPN), which gives users Internet access while bypassing local Wi-Fi networks.

A VPN “takes all of your communications and basically tunnels it via an encrypted tunnel to wherever the VPN is being run from,” Galperin explained. Any outside eavesdroppers “only see the tunnel and not the contents of your communications.”

Galperin uses Freedom for her VPN, but doesn’t have a preferred smartphone VPN.

However, using a VPN will not erase the link between your Internet browsing record and your phone’s IP address, the number assigned to a device while connected to a computer network.

Tor, an online anonymity software, will eliminate that link, Galperin said. Tor’s mobile version Orbot “allows you to browse a website on your phone without giving away your ip address,” she said. “It decouples your identity from your IP address.”

It’s “the best thing we have” to enable anonymous Internet browsing, Soghoian said, but it’s not perfect.

Tor will not give you “magical protection and anonymity on the Internet,” Galperin said.

And Tor works much better through a single Wi-Fi network than it does for mobile users in transit.

Tor functions by routing your Internet traffic through three servers to anonymize online movements, Soghoian explained.

If you’re moving with your phone — walking, driving, riding the train — Tor is constantly having to find three new servers through a different network.

“Every 30 seconds your Internet connection is interrupted,”  Soghoian said. “That can make Tor more difficult.”

5. Understand you’ll never go completely dark.

Despite security experts’ best efforts at encryption, the government still has nearly unfettered access to location data and metadata — the “to and from” and timestamp of any communication.

“Your phone is a tracking device,” Galperin said. “There’s actually nothing you can do about that.”

For cell phones to function, they regularly ping cell towers.

“That cell tower has a pretty good idea of where you are,” Soghoian said.

And even the top encryption methods still expose some metadata, especially with voice calls.

“It’s really difficult to hide metadata,” Soghoian said. “The technologies that computer security people know how to build to protect metadata by their very nature add delays that are intolerable in a voice call.”

Combining location and metadata, “reveals a huge amount of information about what you’re doing,” he added.

Don’t expect that to change any time soon. It would take a huge jump in technology to create security software that hides metadata and “we don’t know how to build cell phones that don’t reveal location,” Soghoian explained.

“It might never happen.”

 

 

Europe feels sting in the tail of Russia sanctions

November 26, 2014

by Robin Emmott

Reuters

           BRUSSELS – At a technology fair in Moscow last month, European executives faced the new reality of doing business in Russia since the West imposed sanctions: the number of companies at the international showcase had shrunk by half from a year ago.

“The impact on business couldn’t be clearer. Fewer stands, fewer companies,” said Mark Bultinck, a sales executive for Belgian digital screen maker Barco, which had a booth at the annual expo for the audiovisual industry.

The impact of the sanctions was already clear to Barco.

The company lost Russia’s biggest shipbuilder as a client when the United States and the European Union blacklisted United Shipbuilding Corporation in July, meaning Barco could no longer sell screens to the company for its vessel training simulators.

Barco’s experience shows how sanctions are having a broad impact not just on Russian companies but on European ones too and at a time when Europe’s weak economy can ill afford it.

The European Union and the United States imposed economic sanctions on Russia in late July, targeting the Russian energy, banking and defense sectors to punish Moscow’s support for rebels in eastern Ukraine, the West’s toughest steps yet.

As EU governments consider blacklisting more Ukrainian separatists and potentially more Russians and companies over the crisis in Ukraine, anecdotal evidence and new EU data show the economic costs for Europe of pressuring the Kremlin.

In August, the month after sanctions were imposed, EU exports to Russia fell 19 percent to 7.9 billion euros ($9.91 billion) compared to July, a loss of almost 2 billion euros, according to the EU’s statistics office Eurostat.

Although the data is not adjusted for seasonal swings, exports were also down 18 percent compared to August 2013 at a time of year that is traditionally busy for exporters.

The drop partly reflects the food ban Moscow imposed on the European Union in August in response to the West’s sanctions. But it goes well beyond that. Total EU exports fell 12 percent in the first eight months of this year compared to a year ago.

In August, EU exports of machinery and transport equipment such as cars and tractors fell 23 percent compared to July. Compared to a year ago, those exports fell 21 percent.

Manufactured exports fell 16 percent across the 28-nation bloc in August. Germany, which accounts for one-third of sales to Russia, saw a sharp drop in sales of those goods, while Italy’s manufactured exports tumbled by almost half.

 

          “DUAL USE” LICENSE

 

The sanctions are having such an impact because EU companies can no longer sell civilian goods that could also have a military use, no matter how small, without a license.

Tractors, cranes, excavators and mechanical parts that are needed to repair cars and trucks all fall under the so-called dual use category and need a permit.

Failure to obtain a license can bring a fine of up to 10 percent of the total value of the exported goods, officials say.

But obtaining such licenses can delay exports by two to three months because so many more products need licenses and customs are suffering a big administrative burden.

“There are delays caused by the increased flow for individual licenses,” said Tristan Grimmer, a lawyer at Baker & McKenzie in London, who helps companies navigate the process.

“With the oil and gas sector, much of what is being addressed previously did not require export licenses, so you have an entirely new sector that is asking for license authorizations to supply the Russian market.”

 

           LOSING OUT TO CHINA?

 

One official at the Strategic Goods Control service for Belgium’s Flanders region said the number of applications for licenses had jumped by almost 40 percent since August and officials were flooded by emails from companies seeking advice.

“Everyone wants their file to be urgent. But it is not only in our hands. Sometimes we need certification by the Belgian embassy in Russia,” said the official, who declined to be named.

In Germany, lawyer Baerbel Sachs at Noerr said that it was difficult to even get customs officials on the phone to discuss progress on a permit because so many people were calling.

Efforts are being made to hire more staff and speed up the process, governments say. Britain’s Export Control Organisation says almost all licenses are issued within 60 working days.

But even in that time, companies are at risk of losing contracts to competitors from China and elsewhere, according to Frank Schauff, chief executive office at the Association of European Businesses in Russia.

“Countries that have not imposed sanctions are able to jump in where the EU has left a gap,” said Schauff. “The economic position that the European Union has in Russia is at risk and it is very difficult to gain that back if it is lost.”

Beijing’s envoy to Berlin said in October that China would seize business opportunities in Russia.

At Belgium’s Barco, the company says it can still do business in Russia, but only up to a point.

“You know that certain deals are no longer possible,” said Carl Vanden Bussche, the company’s director of investor relations. “It is a reality that we need to take into account.”

 

           (Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Sophie Walker)

 

 

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