Joshua Blakeney has pointed out that Adrienne Arsenault of CBC reported last night that in the weeks leading up to the two so-called ‘terror’ incidents that took place this week in Quebec and Ottawa Canadian authorities had been running war games exercises depicting such attacks.
The relevant commentary starts at 1:52 of the video below:
According to Arsenault,
They [Canadian authorities] may have been surprised by the actual incidents but not by the concepts of them. Within the last month we know that the CSIS, the RCMP and the National Security Task Force … ran a scenario that’s akin to a war games exercise if you will where they actually imagined literally an attack in Quebec, followed by an attack in another city, followed by a tip that that ‘hey some foreign fighters are coming back from Syria.’ So they were imagining a worst case scenario. We’re seeing elements of that happening right now. … [Canadian authorities] may talk today in terms of being surprised but we know that this precise scenario has been keeping them up at night for awhile.
What an amazing coincidence that Canadian intelligence ran a drill envisioning an attack first in Quebec, then another city. On Monday October 20 a man identified as Martin Rouleau supposedly ran over two Canadian soldiers with his car in a mall parking lot in the city of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec. And yesterday, as we know, one soldier was gunned down in Ottawa followed by a siege on the parliament itself. Authorities and media are claiming that both suspects were converts to Islam who had become “radicalized.”
What are the chances that these mock terror drills are just a coincidence? In nearly every instance of a major terrorist occurrence in the West, it has been revealed that intelligence services were conducting war games exercises mimicking the very events that later come to pass. On the day of the London subway bombings in 2005 British authorities ran drills depicting the exact attack scenario that transpired later in the day. On 9/11 multiple US agencies were running drills simulating jet hijackings. And now we have confirmation that Canada’s intelligence services were doing the same thing.
It has also been revealed that both suspects in the two incidents this week were being monitored by both US and Canadian intelligence for some time prior to their alleged attacks.
I’m not one to hastily jump to conclusions about events like these, but the alleged shooting at the Canadian parliament and a nearby war memorial that took place today smells like a false-flag operation designed to expedite the Harper regime’s militarist agenda.
The mainstream media is in a furor over the incident. Non-stop wall-to-wall coverage has commenced. Even American and British outlets have picked up the story.
One very noticeable clue as to the fraudulent nature of this event is the immediate calls from establishment propagandists for a crack down on free speech (what they call “hate speech”) and the bolstering of Orwellian “anti-terrorism” laws which will in effect hand the state unlimited powers to spy on the citizenry of Canada and snuff out dissidents.
For example, the former CSIS Assistant Director Ray Boisvert said this on CBC:
“We need to get at those who are the purveyors of hate. So those who proselytize, those who are radicalizing, we need to find ways to go after them with respect to hate speech or perhaps its time for new legislation under the anti-terrorism act as we’re seeing in the UK.”
The former Canadian spy boss essentially echoed what British PM David Cameron said in a UN speech last month wherein he called for “non-violent extremists” to be criminalized. The traitorous British statesman specifically named 9/11 and 7/7 skeptics as falling within his dubious definition of “non-violent extremists.”
Another suspicious guest on the aforementioned CBC program used innuendo to try to link the Ottawa shooting to ISIS and Islamism, conveniently at a time when Stephen Harper is looking to justify his decision to whore out our military in the US-led bombing initiative in Iraq.
Shortly after the false-flag attacks of 9/11, the Canadian government mimicked its US counterpart by passing anti-terror laws which included the infamous “Section 13″ provision in the Human Rights Act that was consequently used by Zionists and their agents to silence critics on the internet.
Look for more of the same from the Zionist regime in Ottawa in the coming days. The mainstream media’s job is to whip up hysteria in order to scare the populace into accepting draconian laws that will eliminate our freedoms. Unfortunately most of the population are lemmings who will believe anything the government or media tells them and willingly forfeit their freedoms to the deceptive miscreants who currently occupy our government.
In any case, one cannot discount the very real possibility that the Canadian state had a hand in this.
Click here to listen to Joshua Blakeney’s commentary on the matter.
In honor of Free Speech Week, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the obvious. Free speech is incredibly, almost unbelievably important, especially in a democracy.
It can also be unpleasant, uncomfortable and even downright offensive. Which can make defending it rather awkward at times.
Let’s take a trip back to Boston during this week in 1923:
Beantown’s Democratic machine boss and chief executive is the flamboyant Mayor James Michael Curley, a felon, rake, and hometown hero. As the Boston Globe put it, he “served four terms as mayor, four terms in Congress, one term as governor, and two terms in jail.”
Another popular political force in those days was the Ku Klux Klan. At its height in the 1920s, it effectively ran several states and would stage rallies seeking support in the rapidly urbanizing northern cities, including Boston, where racial and religious tensions were taut.
Mayor Curley—a hero among the city’s Irish-American working class—saw a campaign issue. On October 23, 1923, while calling himself a “stout stickler for freedom of meeting, speech and press,” he banned peaceful Klan meetings in Boston. In response to a letter from the local ACLU condemning the KKK but strongly defending the group’s right to speak and gather, Curley said, “The Klan cannot expect to shelter itself behind the rights it denies and the guaranties it repudiates.”
The argument has some appeal. Why should we tolerate intolerance, especially by a group as objectionable as the Klan? Consider, however, another move against unpopular speech by the good mayor. In 1925, Mayor Curley banned Margaret Sanger—the birth control activist and founder of Planned Parenthood—from speaking in Boston. In doing so, he lashed out against the ACLU and explicitly linked the Sanger ban to his moves against the KKK.
Having banned the Klan, silencing Sanger was just another step down that road. When you put some lawful speech outside the protection of the First Amendment because it is unpopular or even offensive, speech you like will invariably be lumped in as well. The KKK of the 1920s was a horrific thing. But Mayor Curley proved that progressive social reformers could be painted as equally horrific and their speech just as deserving of suppression.
Fortunately, despite the efforts of Curley and many like him, free speech protections grew muscle in the decades to follow. And support for contraception and similar social reforms started to win in the marketplace of ideas, while the Klan ate dust in the bin of history.
The ACLU continues to support free speech for all precisely because of these historical experiences. We understand that our position will allow some speech that is not just unpopular, but possibly deplorable. But our defense of speech regardless of speaker comes down to a simple truth: once you give the government the ability to silence unpopular speech, no one is safe. Once you start playing favorites with the protections of the First Amendment, you put yourself at the mercy of shifting political whims.
Free speech only for some translates directly into free speech for none.
The French government has prosecuted a pro-Palestinian activist for disregarding the official ban on anti-Israel rallies during its recent offensive on the Gaza Strip, Press TV reports.
France has put the spokesperson of the New Anti-Capitalist Party on trial for his attempts to organize an “illegal demonstration” against the Israeli regime.
Meanwhile, several demonstrators held a rally on Wednesday to protest against the government’s prosecution of the pro-Palestinian campaigner.
“To incriminate the spokesman of a political party who is also a strong supporter of unions… is totally unjustified and unacceptable. We would like to know why the government singled him out,” said Patrick Picard, a member of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT).
France was heavily criticized by rights groups after it officially banned demonstrations against the Israeli regime’s deadly attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip in summer. Thousands of people defied the French government’s decision, saying it was a glaring breach of their constitutional basic right to demonstrate.
“This government made two decisions this summer: to support the extreme-right regime of Benjamin Netanyahu, which was in the process of massacring people in Gaza and then, … it tried to weaken the Palestinian solidarity movement here in France by claiming it was anti-Semitic and violent which we totally reject,” stated the national secretary of Left Front Party (PG), Eric Coquerel.
The French government has recently intensified the trend of prosecuting social activists who disagree with the unpopular policies of President Francois Hollande.
Basketball fans joined with human rights supporters in several U.S. towns to call for a boycott of Israeli sports teams, and to challenge what they call a ‘public relations tour’ by Israeli teams in the U.S. They gathered outside and inside the exhibition games to try to bring attention to the ongoing Israeli military occupation of Palestine.
In Cleveland, Ohio, dozens of protesters chanted and held signs outside the exhibition game last week, and a similar protest took place on Friday in Portland, Oregon.
According to organizers, “These teams represent the injustice and occupation of Palestine. While this team travels freely, Palestinian athletes are denied that same right.
“The Israeli basketball tour is a PR campaign to cover up the horrific massacre of the past summer that killed over 2,100 people in Gaza, including over 500 children. In some cities the games are being used as a fundraiser for the Israeli military. That is the same military that continues to occupy Palestine, kill indiscriminately, and deny Palestinian citizens the right to live freely and with justice.
“The image of the 4 young boys killed by Israeli bombs while playing soccer on the beach is Gaza is forever engraved in our hearts. We won’t let this tour be a smokescreen over the ongoing horror of the occupation of Palestine.
The groups protesting the games say that they are calling for a boycott of Israeli sports teams and events to call for freedom, justice and human dignity for the Palestinian people, who are living under an Israeli military occupation.
In Cleveland, the exhibition game was accompanied by a fundraiser for the Israeli military – the only foreign military that is allowed to hold fundraisers in the U.S., and accept direct contributions from U.S. citizens.
The Cleveland basketball team, the Cavaliers, recently hired as its head coach David Blatt, who came to the job after serving as head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv (the team featured in the exhibition game). Blatt called the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza that killed over 2,100 people, including 500 children, “Israel’s most justified war”.
The Ohio basketball boycott action follows an ongoing controversy at the University of Illinois, in which a professor who expressed support for Palestinian equal rights on Twitter was denied employment. Recent releases of documents related to the case show a close relationship that could constitute a conflict of interest between members of the university and Zionist leaders in the community. The documents also revealed that the University President lied about the sequence of events in the case.
Bil’in, Occupied Palestine – On October 21st, Human Rights Defender Abdallah Abu Rahma was found guilty by an Israeli military court of “disturbing a soldier”.
“Demonstrating against the occupation cannot be a criminal offence. Finding Abdallah guilty only shows that the [Israeli] military force is a tool to perpetuate the occupation.” Stated Gabi Lasky, lawyer of Abdallah Abu Rahma, to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
Abdallah spoke to the ISM about his recent conviction. “Yesterday the military court ruled that I was guilty, showing once again that they stand on the side of the occupation, and not that of truth and justice.
I was arrested on the 13th of May 2012 in front of Ofer Military prison at a demonstration commemorating the Nakba and in solidarity with the prisoners, many of whom were on hunger strike. I was imprisoned in Ofer for 16 months a year earlier, for my role in the non-violent demonstrations in my village, Bil’in, against the Apartheid wall and settlements built on our land.
This time when I was arrested I was held for a few hours and released on bail, I was not summoned to court until the beginning of 2013, following the success of the popular committees in the construction of the Palestinians villages Bab Al Shams and Bab Al Manatir.”
Abdallah Abu Rahmah is the coordinator of the Bil’in popular committee, which began popular demonstrations against the Apartheid wall and settlements in January 2005. The route of the Apartheid wall originally planned to separate the village form 50% of its agricultural land. As a result of the village’s continued popular struggle, the route was changed and 25% of the village land was effectively annexed by the wall to the illegal settlement of Modiin Elite.
Hundreds of protesters have been arrested and injured by Israeli forces in Bil’in since the popular struggle in the village began. In 2009 during a demonstration, Bassam Abu Rahmah was shot directly in the chest with a high velocity tear-gas projectile, dying of his wounds minutes later. On Januray 1st 2011, Jawaher Abu Rahmah died of poisoning after inhaling excessive amounts of tear gas during the weekly demonstration the previous day.
We’ve filed our reply brief in the appeal of Smith v. Obama, our case challenging the NSA’s mass telephone records collection on behalf of Idaho nurse Anna Smith. The case will be argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal on December 8, 2014 in Seattle, and the public is welcome to attend.
Another case challenging the telephone records program, Klayman v. Obama, will be argued on November 4 in Washington DC before the DC Circuit and EFF will be participating as an amicus.
The Smith v. Obama case records are all here: but we thought we’d highlight three of the more outrageous arguments the government made, and our responses debunking them.
Mrs. Smith doesn’t think her phone records are any of the government’s business. That’s why, only a few days after the Guardian published a secret order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court revealing the government’s bulk collection of the telephone records of millions of innocent Americans, she sued. Smith v. Obama challenges the government’s collection of call detail records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Mrs. Smith is represented by her husband, attorney Peter Smith, along with the ACLU, EFF, and Idaho State Rep. Luke Malek.
The district court said it felt bound to dismiss her claims because of a 1979 Supreme Court case, Smith v. Maryland. That case involved the collection of the phone numbers dialed by a criminal suspect over the course of three days. It’s one of the cornerstones of the so-called “third party doctrine,” the idea that people have no expectation of privacy in information they entrust to others—and it’s outdated to say the least.
The centerpiece of Mrs. Smith’s case is the issue of whether the government’s collection of our telephone records in bulk, and retention of those records for five years, triggers the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. The warrant requirement applies if there is a legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy in those records. And if the warrant requirement applies, the collection is unconstitutional, since there is no warrant (everyone agrees that the secret FISA Court rulings allowing the bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act are NOT warrants).
We argue that there is a legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy violated by the bulk collection of telephone records, because unlike the narrow situation the Supreme Court considered in 1979, they can reveal an incredible amount of sensitive information. For example, in one short-term study of only a few months of telephony metadata from 546 people, researchers at Stanford were able to identify one plausible inference of a subject obtaining an abortion; one subject with a heart condition; one with multiple sclerosis; and the owner of a specific brand of firearm.The government wants the court to simply ignore these differences. Alternately, the government argues that even if there is an expectation of privacy, it is so small compared to the government’s interest that the warrant requirement can be ignored, under something called the “special needs” test (more on that below).
But, as we emphasize our reply brief, this is wrong, in part because we are living in what member of the President’s Review Group Professor Peter Swire calls the “Golden Age of Surveillance.” As we argue: “technological advances have vastly augmented the government’s surveillance power and exposed much more personal information to government inspection and intrusive analysis. If courts ignored this reality, the essential privacy long preserved by the Fourth Amendment would be eliminated.”
The Government’s Arguments
So with that background, let’s look at three of the most troubling claims the government makes.
Call Detail Records Don’t Actually Identify People
The government still claims with a straight face that call detail records don’t reveal private information, because they “do not include information about the identities of individuals,” including “the name, address, [or] financial information” of any telephone subscribers.
That’s technically true, of course, but who cares? It’s not like this prevents the government from identifying you in less than a millisecond after it gets your telephone number. Last time we checked, the government did have access to, say, telephone books and the many public online services that can do reverse number lookup. That’s why we point out that: “phone numbers are every bit as identifying as names. Indeed, they are more so: while many people in the country may share the same name, no two phone subscribers share the same number.”
It’s pretty ridiculous for the government to continue to try to convince the court that the absence of the names in calling records represents any real privacy protection for the millions of Americans whose records are collected. It plainly does not.
We Have to Collect Everything for the Program to Work. But We’re Not Collecting Everything.
The government tries to challenge Mrs. Smith’s standing to sue by repeatedly alleging that the call detail records “program has never encompassed all, or even virtually all, call records and does not do so today.” It claims that the case should be dismissed because Mrs. Smith cannot immediately “prove” that her records were included. Of course, that’s not how litigation works. Mrs. Smith has good reason to believe that her records have been included—the government’s own public statements give her good reason. The district court properly rejected this argument, but the government continues to press it on appeal.
The government also seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth here, since, as we note in our brief:“In explaining the program to Congress and the public…the government has emphasized not only that the program is comprehensive, but that this comprehensiveness is the key to its utility.”
In fact, Robert Litt, General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told Congress: “In order to find the needle that matched up against that number, we needed the haystack, right. That’s what the premise is in this case.” And NSA Deputy Director John Inglis defended the program by saying: “If you’re looking for a needle in the haystack you need the haystack. So you wouldn’t want to check a database that only has one third of the data, and say there’s a one third chance that I know about a terrorist plot, there’s a two thirds chance I missed it because I don’t have that data.”
So to get the case dismissed they want to convince the court that they aren’t really collecting “virtually all” of the telephone records, but their public justifications rely on the fact that they are. So either they are collecting Mrs. Smith’s records, along with every other Verizon Wireless customer—Verizon is the second largest wireless service in the U.S. after all—or they are not very good at meeting their own stated goals. Which is it, government?
And that goes right to the heart of the government’s next argument:
Bulk Telephone Records Collection Isn’t Necessary to Protect Us—But Is Still Allowed Under the “Special-Needs Doctrine”
The government’s fallback argument is that even if the call detail records triggered the Fourth Amendment, a warrant is still not required under a narrow legal precedent called the “special-needs doctrine.” It allows warrantless searches of a few small categories of people who have a reduced privacy expectation, like students in schools or employees who handle dangerous equipment. It also only applies when compliance with probable-cause and warrant requirements would be “impracticable” and the government’s primary goals are not law enforcement.
The first problem here is that the millions of ordinary Americans affected by the government’s bulk collection do not have a reduced expectation of privacy in the records of their telephone calls. The privacy interests here are great, since with a trail of telephone records, the government can learn extremely sensitive information.
The second problem is that no less than the White House itself has said that the government can accomplish its goals without bulk telephone records collection. This has been confirmed by the President’s two hand-picked panels as well as several Congressmembers who have seen the intelligence information. As we point out in our reply brief, the best the government can say about the program is that it “enhances and expedites” certain techniques it uses in its investigations. So getting a warrant isn’t impracticable, it’s just, at most, inconvenient. But as we point out: “If efficiency alone were determinative, the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement would have no force at all.”
The special-needs argument is especially concerning because if the courts were to accept it, the special-needs doctrine could become an exception that swallows the Fourth Amendment’s rule against general searches. It could, de facto, create a national security exception to the Constitutional rights enjoyed by ordinary, nonsuspect Americans, something the founders plainly did not do when they created this country in the midst of a national security crisis.
We expect an interesting argument on December 8.
More Police Departments than Previously Thought Use Portable Surveillance Systems to Spy on almost Everyone
More U.S. police departments are employing electronic surveillance technology that can collect information from cell phones and laptop computers belonging not just to criminal suspects but also law abiding citizens.
The Charlotte Observer found the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have for eight years used such equipment, which goes by many names: Stingray, Hailstorm, AmberJack and TriggerFish.
But the technology, which mimics cell towers, is also used by other law enforcement around the country. It’s just not clear which departments, the newspaper says, because the federal government has helped to shield police from disclosing their owning and operating the spy hardware. In fact, the Obama administration “has ordered cities not to disclose information about the equipment,” the Observer’s Fred Classen-Kelly reported.
However, members of the administration might also be among those spied upon. Through an open records request, VICE News has learned that Washington, D.C., is another city whose police department is using the technology. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) there purchased the Stingray system in 2003, purportedly to use for anti-terrorism efforts.
In 2008, however, the system was brought out of storage and is now used in regular criminal cases. But the system doesn’t discriminate between calls made by those suspected of wrongdoing and those of ordinary citizens, which means anyone’s whereabouts can be tracked.
Nathan Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, told VICE News “If the MPD is driving around D.C. with Stingray devices, it is likely capturing information about the locations and movements of members of Congress, cabinet members, federal law enforcement agents, and Homeland Security personnel, consular staff, and foreign dignitaries, and all of the other people who congregate in the District…. If cell phone calls of congressional staff, White House aides, or even members of Congress are being disconnected, dropped, or blocked by MPD Stingrays, that’s a particularly sensitive and troublesome problem.”
Some in Charlotte have those concerns as well. “The thought of police or another agency collecting data on communications devices is troubling,” Charlotte City Councilman John Autry told the Observer. “I understand the balance between security and privacy, but I think we should honor the privacy protection in the Constitution. … What happens to the data? Who sees it? Who has access to it?”
The ACLU estimates that at least 46 local law enforcement agencies nationwide have cell phone tracking systems.
To Learn More:
Charlotte Police Investigators Secretly Track Cellphones (by Fred Classen-Kelly, Charlotte Observer)
Police in Washington, D.C. Are Using the Secretive ‘Stingray’ Cell Phone Tracking Tool (by Jason Leopold, VICE News)
After Months of Denial, Sacramento Sheriff Admits Using Stingray Cellphone Surveillance (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)
Local Police Departments Use Non-Disclosure Agreements to Hide Cellphone Tracking (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
The White House is reportedly wrestling over how to interpret a ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” ahead of a meeting in Geneva next month concerning the United Nations charter on torture.
According to the New York Times, the Obama administration remains divided over what stance a Washington delegation will officially take at the UN-sponsored Committee Against Torture panel early next month in the Swiss city.
Although Barack Obama said before and after being elected to the White House that United States officials should never engage in torturous activity, Times national security journalist Charlie Savage reported on Sunday this week that administration officials might formally adopt another stance — one on par with the policies of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush — when the panel convenes in a couple of weeks.
The Times reported that the attorneys who answer to the president are conflicted over whether or not the White House should revisit the Bush administration’s interpretation of a UN treaty, the likes of which authorized the use of enhanced interrogation tactics, like waterboarding and sleep deprivation, on individuals detained by military and intelligence agencies in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at facilities such as the Guantanamo Bay detention center and CIA so-called “black sites.”
The upcoming meeting will be the first one of Obama’s presidency, Savage acknowledged, presenting the commander-in-chief with a rare opportunity to speak of the UN Convention Against Torture, a treaty that since the 1980s has aimed to ensure prisoners the world over aren’t subjected to inhumane conditions.
In Sunday’s report, Savage wrote that Obama, then a US senator, spoke out adamantly against Pres. Bush when it was revealed in 2005 that his administration had been interpreting the UN treaty in a manner that they argued made it acceptable for CIA and Pentagon officials to disregard the prohibitions against torture if they weren’t on American soil.
Obama the president later condemned that reasoning with an executive order “ensuring lawful interrogations,” Savage added, although next month’s meeting may change that.
“But the Obama administration has never officially declared its position on the treaty, and now, President Obama’s legal team is debating whether to back away from his earlier view,” Savage wrote. “It is considering reaffirming the Bush administration’s position that the treaty imposes no legal obligation on the United States to bar cruelty outside its borders, according to officials who discussed the deliberations on the condition of anonymity.”
“State Department lawyers are said to be pushing to officially abandon the Bush-era interpretation,” Savage added, which would simply continue to let the 2009 Obama-signed executive order stand as Washington’s official word and further ensure that American officials are obligated to adhere to the torture treaty regardless of where in the world they are located.
Other attorneys, he added, have a different idea of what to do at next month’s meeting, however. “But military and intelligence lawyers are said to oppose accepting that the treaty imposes legal obligations on the United States’ actions abroad,” Savage wrote. “They say they need more time to study whether it would have operational impacts. They have also raised concerns that current or future wartime detainees abroad might invoke the treaty to sue American officials with claims of torture, although courts have repeatedly thrown out lawsuits brought by detainees held as terrorism suspects.”
Should those arguing on the latter side provoke, then the current administration could soon find itself agreeing with past policies that continue to be controversial nearly a decade after the Bush White House’s use of torture started to surface.
“Many foreign political leaders and non-governmental organizations have called for members of the Bush administration, including Bush himself, to face prosecution for allowing the abuse of detainees in US custody during the course of the US campaign against Islamic militant groups spurred by the 9/11 attacks,” Mark Hanrahan wrote for the International Business Times on Sunday. “The Bush administration, which launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had to contend with a number of allegations it allowed US officials to use torture against detainees during the course of its campaigns,” including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq.
If the Pentagon and CIA attorneys prevail, then Washington could once again interpret the UN treaty in a manner that allows those same torturous practices to be performed on detainees once against, as long as any such instances occur abroad.
Last week, McClatchy news service reported that a classified $40 million probe launched by the Senate to investigate the CIA’s Bush-era detention and interrogation program concludes without holding any administration officials responsible for the scandals at Abu Ghraib and other facilities that to this day remain a major scar on the presidency.
“This report is not about the White House. It’s not about the president. It’s not about criminal liability. It’s about the CIA’s actions or inactions,” a person familiar with the report told McClatchy. “It does not look at the Bush administration’s lawyers to see if they were trying to literally do an end run around justice and the law.”
The data mining company inBloom died, killed off by parent opposition, but the data mining industry is not dead. Far from it. It is growing and metastasizing as investors see new opportunities to profit from the data surreptitiously collected while children are using computers, taking tests online, chatting online, and practicing for state tests online.
According to this article in Model View Culture, investors have poured billions of dollars into new technologies to track students’ movements.
Designed for the “21st century” classroom, these tools promise to remedy the many, many societal ills facing public education with artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining, and other technological advancements.
They are also being used to track and record every move students make in the classroom, grooming students for a lifetime of surveillance and turning education into one of the most data-intensive industries on the face of the earth. The NSA has nothing on the monitoring tools that education technologists have developed in to “personalize” and “adapt” learning for students in public school districts across the United States.
The federal government and the law called FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, passed in 1974) were supposed to prevent invasions of privacy, but the U.S. Department of Education loosened the FERPA regulations in 2011 to make it easier for vendors to data mine. Make no mistake, this is big business. It will not easily be stopped.
“Adaptive”, “personalized” learning platforms are one of the most heavily-funded verticals in education technology. By breaking down learning into a series of tasks, and further distilling those tasks down to a series of clicks that can be measured and analyzed, companies like Knewton (which has raised $105 million in venture capital), or the recently shuttered inBloom (which raised over $100 million from the Gates Foundation) gather immense amounts of information about students into a lengthy profile containing personal information, socioeconomic status and other data that is mined for patterns and insights to improve performance. For students, these clickstreams and data trails begin when they are 5 years old, barely able to read much less type in usernames and passwords required to access their online learning portals.
These developments are alarming. Why should commercial vendors have the right to monitor our every move? Why should the government? This must be stopped, and the successful fight against inBloom proved that it can be stopped. Parents will have to inform themselves and protect their children by demanding legislation that puts an end to the surveillance of their children at school and at home, whenever they are online.
The department store chain Macy’s has stopped carrying Israeli settlement products of SodaStream, according to the Wall Street Journal. Macy’s has been targeted the past year by pro-Palestinian activists, who have called on it and other major chains to stop carrying the SodaStream home carbonation system and soda flavourings due to the company’s role in the military occupation of Palestine.
This news comes amidst sinking share prices of the company, which earlier this month announced preliminary results for the fourth quarter. It projected $125 million in revenue in the quarter and operating income of $8.5 million. That’s well short of the $154.4 million of revenue and $17.6 million in operating income expected by analysts. In the third quarter of last year, the revenue was about the same, but operating income of $18 million was more than double what it expects this year. Its shares have dropped by 45% so far this year.
Jim Charnier, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt, told the Wall Street Journal that he had been expecting a poor quarter when he learned early in September that Macy’s had stopped carrying SodaStream and saw other negative figures from the market.
Macy’s did not respond to questions by North American activists concerning SodaStream.
For more than a year, religious and human rights organizations throughout the United States have urged Macy’s, Target and other corporations to de-shelve SodaStream products because of the company’s complicity with Israel’s occupation and settlements. SodaStream products are largely manufactured in the West Bank Mishor Adumim settlement industrial zone.
“We are very disappointed in our recent performance,” said Daniel Birnbaum, Chief Executive Officer of SodaStream. “Our U.S. business underperformed due to lower than expected demand for our soda makers and flavors which was the primary driver of the overall shortfall in the third quarter. While we were successful over the last few years in establishing a solid base of repeat users in the U.S., we have not succeeded in attracting new consumers to our home carbonation system at the rate we believe should be achieved. The third quarter results are a clear indication that we must alter our course and improve our execution across the board. We have already begun a strategic shift of the SodaStream brand towards health & wellness, primarily in the U.S., where we believe this message will resonate more strongly with consumers….”
SodaStream states that calls for boycott are indeed a “risk factor” and a cause for “rising political tensions and negative publicity”, although this official notice makes no mention of boycott. However, the company has declared in the past that moving its factory out Mishor Adumim would require the expenditure of resources and, more importantly, “limit certain of the tax benefits for which we are currently eligible.” These benefits stem from the fact that the Israeli government provides economic incentives, including tax deductions, for businesses operating in West Bank settlements.
John Lewis in the UK had been the latest retailer to stop stocking SodaStream products and protests forced a SodaStream store in Brighton, UK, to close recently. SodaStream also had to deal with a public relations headache early this year when the U.K. charity Oxfam criticized its brand ambassador Scarlett Johansson for working with the settlement company. Johansson stepped down from her role with Oxfam and defended the company.
Soros Fund Management, the family office of the billionaire investor George Soros, also sold its stake in SodaStream this past August.
“Soros Fund Management does not own shares of SodaStream,” Michael Vachon, a spokesman for the fund, told The National, declining to comment further on when and why it sold the shares.
In a May filing with the US markets regulator, the fund said it had bought 550,000 shares of SodaStream during the first quarter. Bloomberg reported that the fund acquired the shares for $24.3 million, with the new holding making up 0.3 per cent of the fund’s $9.3 billion stock portfolio.
“After pressure from Soros partners in the region and the world, they dropped SodaStream and promised, in private letters so far, to issue guidelines similar to those adopted by the EU to prevent any investment into companies that sustain the Israeli occupation and settlements in particular,” said Omar Barghouti, the Palestinian activist and co-founder of the BDS movement.
The activist group Adalah-NY continues its campaign against SodaStream following the decision by Macy’s, and at the end of October will visit New York stores that stock and sell SodaStream, letting owners and managers know why they should stop. Adalah-NY notes that this planned week of visits will be used to develop its future NYC-based campaign against SodaStream.