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US looks to become major oil exporter – report

RT | July 13, 2017

The US may transform into one of the world’s top oil exporters in only a few short years due to its production increase of shale oil, an energy consulting group says.

The consultancy PIRA energy group has released a new forecast relating to the current boom of US shale oil production. The group has estimated that by 2020, US crude exports will rise to 2.25 million barrels a day. This means the production would grow to four times the amount of what was produced last year. The recent uptick of crude production in the US looks to weaken the strength of OPEC exporting countries, according to CNN Money.

This boom would put the US almost on the same level as giant oil exporters such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Jenna Delaney, an analyst at PIRA, said that “in the years ahead, these developments position the US to potentially be one of the largest exporters of crude oil in the world,” CNN reported.

Various American cities may play a big role in the success of the US export market. One city in Texas was named specifically. Delaney commented that “PIRA believes Corpus Christi is positioned to become an increasingly prominent area for US exports.”

She continued, “Corpus Christi’s proximity to the Eagle Ford formation and projected pipeline expansions connecting it to the Permian offer it access to cheap supplies, infrastructure projects, both private and public, will allow for greater export scale,” according to the Oil and Gas Journal.

There are rival countries keeping an eye on the situation in the US. OPEC, which encompasses 14 countries, was exporting an average of 25 million barrels a day in 2016. These countries stand to lose a lot due to the rise of American oil crude exports.

The US will look to rise in the ranks and start to diminish the influence of the organization in the next few years. Saudi Arabia, a top ranking member, was a top exporter last year. They sent 7.5 million barrels into other countries last year, according to CNN.

The uptick in US production of crude oil is very surprising considering the country had banned the exports way back in 1975 and only lifted the ban in 2015, according to the Economist.

An increase in the production of shale is the main reason for the surge, Delaney said. In 2014, “the industry was hit hard by a collapse in oil prices. Major producers of oil were forced to reduce investment and production declined overall,” CNN reported.

After the collapse, operators started to be more efficient in the industry. The production of US crude began to slowly grow to reach 9 million barrels a day in February 2017, the US Energy Information Administration reported, according to CNN.

As the US is supposed to ascend to the top of the ranks in crude exports, allegations have arisen that Russia is working with environmentalists in America in order to undermine the shale oil industry.

Representative Lamar Smith, (R-Texas), along with Randy Weber (R-Texas), have sent a letter, dated June 29, to US Treasury Secretary Steven Munchin, alleging that Russia is funding environmentalist groups who spoke out against health concerns related to shale drilling, in order to protect the independence of Russian gas imports. However, the letter states that there is “no paper trail” leading to any strategy set forth by Russia, The Daily Signal reported.

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Economics | | Leave a comment

Israeli documents on USS Liberty: ‘Americans have findings showing our pilots were aware the ship was American’

If Americans Knew | July 12, 2017

Recently discovered documents show Israeli leaders were worried that evidence would come out that Israel’s 1967 attack on the USS Liberty was intentional.

The Liberty was a Navy electronics surveillance ship operating in international waters during the Six-Day War. Israeli forces perpetrated an extended air and sea assault on the ship that killed 34 Americans, injured 175, and damaged the ship beyond repair. Afterward, Israel claimed the assault was an accident and provided $6 million in compensation for the loss of the $40 million ship. (More information here.)

According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Israeli historian Adam Raz recently examined hundreds of documents related to the Liberty that had been posted by Israeli State Archives.

(Raz is author of The Battle Over the Bomb,” available only in Hebrew. He also is reported to have written “a fascinating article about Israel’s nuclear secrets in last week’s Hebrew Haaretz supplement.”)

Ha’aretz reports that Raz is “fully aware of the fact that the ‘smoking gun’ won’t be found in the papers in the State Archives, because if Israel really had intended to hit the ship, that would have been known only to a handful of people.”

One of the documents Raz did find is an Israeli Foreign Ministry communication sent from New York to Jerusalem. Ha’aretz quotes the document:

“Menashe [apparently an Israeli official] informed us we had better be very careful… The reason is apparently that the Americans have findings that show our pilots were in fact aware the ship was American.”

And later: “Menashe believes there is a recording on the ship of the conversations between the ship and our pilots, in which the ship’s crew said the ship is American. Menashe says that, in his opinion, our only chance of getting out of the crisis is to punish someone for negligence.”

In another document, the Israeli Embassy in Washington writes to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem under the heading “Urgent.”

“We must change the above mentioned letter [to the U.S.], because we certainly won’t be able to say there is no basis for the accusation that the identity of the ship was determined by Israeli planes prior to the attack.”

Other documents show Israeli preparations for the U.S. investigation and the American demands for compensation that were to follow. A telegram from the Israeli Embassy in Washington to the Foreign Ministry said:

“The issue has turned into a malignant wound, which involves serious dangers for all of our relationships on all levels here, whose friendship was ours until now and which are crucial to our status in the United States. In other words, the president, the Pentagon, public opinion and the intelligence community.”

An Israeli Foreign Ministry letter warned:

“In the grave situation that has been created, the only way to soften the result is for us to be able to announce to the U.S. government already today that we intend to prosecute people for this disaster. We have to publicize that in Israel already tonight. This activity is the only way to create the impression, both to the U.S. government and the public here, that the attack on the ship was not the result of malicious intent by the Israeli government – I repeat, the Israeli government – or authorized groups in the IDF. For obvious reasons, it is crucial that our announcement about prosecuting those who are to blame be publicized before – I repeat, before – the publication of the American report here.”

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 3 Comments

Democrats Gone Mad: The Year of Living Stupidly

By Glen Ford | Black Agenda Report | July 12, 2017

For more than a year now, the collective U.S. ruling class, with Democratic Party and corporate media operatives in the vanguard, has frozen the national political discourse in a McCarthyite time warp. A random visit to a July 26, 2016, issue of the New York Times reveals the same obsession as that which consumes the newspaper today: “Following the Links from Russian Hackers to the U.S. Election,” “Spy Agency Consensus Grows That Russia Hacked D.N.C.” A year later, the allegations persist, piled ever higher with innuendo and outright nonsense. However, proof of the predicate act — that Russia, not Wikileaks, penetrated the DNC — remains totally absent.

What is the purpose of this torture-by-media? Clearly, the Trump White House has been crippled by the tsunami that never ebbs, but the Democrats have not been strengthened in the process, and the corporate media’s standing among the public erodes by the day. A poll conducted last month showed majorities of voters want Congress to ease up on Russia investigations and get to work on healthcare, terrorism, national security, the economy and jobs. Almost three out of four respondents to the Harvard-Harris poll said lawmakers aren’t paying attention to the issues that are important to them — including 68 percent of Democrats. Sixty-two percent of voters say there is no hard evidence of White House “collusion” with Russia, and 64 percent think the investigations are hurting the country.

The non-stop vilification of Russia and Trump has seriously backfired on the corporate media. Another poll by Harvard-Harris, conducted back in May, showed that two out of three Americans believe the so-called “mainstream” press is full of “fake news” — including a majority of Democrats. The Russiagate blitzkrieg, designed to delegitimize Trump and demonize Vladimir Putin, has exacerbated an already existing crisis of legitimacy for the entire U.S. political system. “Every major institution from the presidency to the courts is now seen as operating in a partisan fashion in one direction or the other,” said poll co-director Mark Penn.

The only unequivocal winner is the bipartisan War Party, which has used the manufactured crisis to drench the nation in anti-Russian hysteria – worse than back in the bad old days of the Red Scares. By March, Black Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) was using much the same language as Dick Cheney to describe the Kremlin. “I think this attack that we’ve experienced is a form of war, a form of war on our fundamental democratic principles,” said the hopelessly brainwashed representative of the Black Misleadership Class. “Liberal” Democratic Maryland Rep. Ben Cardin called the nonexistent “attack” a “political Pearl Harbor.”

If the U.S. Congress actually took seriously its Constitutional powers to declare war, the human race would already have been exterminated.

So insane have the Democrats become, that we are probably better off with war powers effectively in the hands of Donald Trump, than with California’s Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress that voted against the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. She was in her “right mind” then, but no longer. Trump’s willingness to talk with the leader of Russia, in Hamburg, infuriated Rep. Lee, who tweeted: “Outraged by President Trump’s 2 hr meeting w/Putin, the man who orchestrated attacks on our democracy. Where do his loyalties lie?” A better question is: When and where did Lee join the War Party?

The dogs of war at U.S. intelligence agencies have led the charge against Trump since they encamped at Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters, last year. The spoiled oligarch was not trusted to maintain the momentum of the U.S. military offensive begun by Barack Obama in 2011, with the unprovoked war against Libya. The state of war must be preserved, whatever the cost to the empire’s domestic institutions. Skilled in the arts of regime change, the spooks joined with their longtime partners in corporate media propaganda, to foment a “color revolution” at home. Barbara Lee is a recent recruit.

Although the Democrats will ultimately harm themselves with the electorate by folding into the War Party, it suits the purposes of party leadership and the fat cats that finance them. The ruling class has nothing to offer the people except the total insecurity of gig-jobs and austerity. The Lords of Capital effectively shut the Democrats down decades ago. They can campaign as if there really is a clash of ideas about the organization of society, but they must propose nothing that fundamentally conflicts with the steady consolidation of wealth and power by the oligarchy (the American one, not the Russians). That goes for Bernie Sanders, too. Heard anything about single payer from him, lately?

The “all Russiagate, all the time” information regime — which also prepares the public for a wider war scenario – provides the illusion of motion that passes for “resistance” to the rule of the rich, as personified by Donald Trump. But there has been no Democratic program to reorder society for at least a generation. And now, under the New McCarthyism, the only politics that is allowed is war politics, consisting of denunciations of those who threaten “our fundamental democratic principles” – which need not be defined or even proven to exist.

That’s why it has been an empty year, albeit a very loud one. As Gil Scott-Heron sang in “Winter in America,” “Nobody’s fighting, ‘cause nobody knows what to save.”

Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Netanyahu slams Ireland’s pro-Palestine stance

Press TV – July 12, 2017

Enraged by Dublin’s financial aid to anti-Israel Palestinian rights groups, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at visiting Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney over his country’s pro-Palestine policy.

Netanyahu’s office made the criticism in a statement issued on Tuesday after the premier’s meeting with Coveney in Jerusalem al-Quds.

The premier “expressed his dissatisfaction over Ireland’s traditional stance” on Palestine and urged Coveney to condemn what he called Palestinian “incitement,” the statement read.

He also challenged the top Irish diplomat over Dublin’s assistance to the “NGOs that call for the destruction of Israel,” it added.

Coveney, for his part, said in a news briefing that his discussions with Netanyahu touched on a range of issues, including Israeli settlements, the humanitarian and political situation in the blockaded Gaza Strip and the so-called peace process.

“Of course, we have clear differences on some issues, but these differences are honestly held and openly expressed,” he noted.

Ireland runs Irish Aid, an official overseas development program for overseas development.

A number of Palestinian rights groups, such as Al-Haq, Addameer and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, are funded by the program.

During his three-day trip, which began on Monday, Coveney is scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, United Nations officials and representatives from the NGOs funded by Irish Aid.

Speaking prior to his departure for the occupied territories, Coveney said he was “looking forward to hearing a diverse range of views from” the Palestinians, Israelis and NGOs.

“Of course, I will also use the opportunity to make clear Ireland’s concerns about the impact of the continuing occupation and the fact that, as things stand, the prospects of a comprehensive peace agreement remain dim,” he pointed out.

The meeting took place on the same day that Ireland’s South Dublin County Council voted unanimously to fly the Palestinian flag over the County Hall in Tallaght for a month in solidarity with the “oppressed people of Palestine.”

It has become the fourth Irish local authority to make such a move in recent months.

“I am delighted with [the] vote in solidarity with the people of Palestine. It might seem like a very small gesture but I know from the reaction to similar decisions made by other councils that today’s vote will be applauded across Palestine and elsewhere,” said Councilor Enda Fanning.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Palestinian officials say they want the resolution of the conflict with Tel Aviv based on the so-called two-state solution along pre-1967 boundaries.

However, Netanyahu has on several occasions said Israel should maintain its military occupation of the West Bank under any agreement with the Palestinians.

In recent months, the Tel Aviv regime has stepped up its illegal settlement construction activities in the occupied lands and oppressive measures against the Palestinians, leading to an increase in global anti-Israel sentiment.

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 5 Comments

BDS gains support from US Mennonite churches

MEMO | July 12, 2017

The Mennonite Church of America has voted to sell its holdings in companies that profit from the Israeli occupation, according to the Washington Post.

The church, which has over 75,000 members voted by a majority of 98 per cent to support the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign last week in Orlando.

The resolution voted upon, called on “individuals and congregations to avoid the purchase of products associated with acts of violence or policies of military occupation, including items produced in [Israeli] settlements.”

In a statement, the Mennonite Church explained its decision: “The Palestinian people have suffered injustices, violence, and humiliation, including … life under Israeli military occupation and in refugee camps throughout the Middle East.”

The church has also turned to their own $3 billion fund and asked investment managers to review all investment practices that may benefit the ongoing Israeli occupation.

Numerous churches in the US have also committed to a divestment campaign of Israeli goods, including the Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ, the Quakers, the Unitarian Universalists and the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Whilst the 12.8 million-member United Methodist church did not move to support BDS outright, they have barred investment in five Israeli banks citing human rights concerns.

Read also: BDS campaign supported by African churches

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saudi’s Qatif in Mourning after Regime Killed Four Political Detainees

Father of Saudi martyr Yousef Ali Abdullah al-Mishaikhesh, after being informed of his son’s execution.
Al-Manar | July 12, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s Qatif region is in mourning on Wednesday after the ruling regime announced a day earlier it had executed four people over allegations of “conducting terror activities”.

The Saudi Interior Ministry claims that the four, who were executed in Qatif Governorate in Eastern Province, had attacked police stations and petrol officers.

The ministry identified the four men as Zaher Abdulraheem Hussein al-Basri, Yousef Ali Abdullah al-Mishaikhesh, Mahdi Mohammed Hasan al-Sayegh, and Amjad Naji Hasan Al Moaibed.

The Shia-dominated Eastern Province, particularly the Qatif region, has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters, complaining of marginalization in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

However, the government has responded to the protests with a heavy-handed crackdown, but the rallies have intensified since January 2016 when Saudi Arabia executed respected Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an outspoken critic of the policies of the Riyadh regime.

Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s highest rates of execution. Rights groups last month expressed concern that 14 Saudi Shia individuals face execution for protest-related crimes.

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , | 1 Comment

Condemnation as govt bans report into who funds Britain’s extremists

RT | July 12, 2017

UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has confirmed an already much-delayed report into the foreign funding and support of extremist groups in the UK will be banned from publication for “national security” reasons.

Rudd instead released a parliamentary written answer outlining the details of the report, which was commissioned by former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.

“Having taken advice, I have decided against publishing the classified report produced during the review in full,” she said.

“This is because of the volume of personal information it contains and for national security reasons.”

“We will be inviting privy counselors from the opposition parties to the Home Office to have access to the classified report on privy council terms.”

According to the Home Secretary’s summary, some key findings include that UK-based individual donors primarily fund extremist organizations in the UK, while some donations also came from overseas.

The report was finished six months ago, and it is thought its publication had been further delayed over government fears diplomatic links with principal Middle East ally Saudi Arabia would be at stake if had been implicated in the foreign financing of UK radical groups.

The summary said foreign aid helped individuals enter institutions that “teach deeply conservative forms of Islam and provide highly socially conservative literature and preachers to the UK’s Islamic institutions.”

Some of those individuals have since become of “extremist concern,” the report added.

The decision to permanently shelve the report has caused an outcry among opposition parties, with Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron arguing that extremism can only be tackled if full information is released, regardless of what consequences there may be for the UK’s diplomatic ties abroad.

“We cannot tackle the root causes of terrorism in the UK without full disclosure of the states and institutions that fund extremism in our country.”

“Instead of supporting the perpetrators of these vile ideologies, the government should be naming and shaming them – including so-called allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar if need be,” he said, according to Business Insider.

“It seems like the government, yet again, is putting our so-called friendship with Saudi Arabia above our values. This shoddy decision is the latest in a long line where we have put profit over principle.”

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas also blasted the “unacceptable decision” not to publish the report, warning that it fuels speculation the government wants to cover up Saudi Arabia’s terrorist funding.

“The statement gives absolutely no clue as to which countries foreign funding for extremism originates from – leaving the government open to further allegations of refusing to expose the role of Saudi Arabian money in terrorism in the UK,” Lucas said.

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Read the CIA’s 1951 listicle comparing U.S and Soviet Propaganda

Agency memo found 33 similarities between Voice of America and its USSR counterparts

By Alec Shea | Muckrock | June 30, 2017

In 1951, as the Cold War was intensifying, the CIA decided to see how Voice of America radio broadcasts into Eastern Europe compared with Soviet efforts. In a remarkably candid document, the Agency critically assessed the similarities and differences between U.S. and Soviet propaganda.

Today, VOA claims that it was founded during the Second World War to provide “Unbiased and accurate information.” The CIA officers assessing VOA in 1951, though, saw the service as essentially similar to Soviet propaganda, going so far as saying that most Americans would be surprised by the similarities between the two.

The document proposes that similarities could be the result of opposing countries imitating the propaganda put out by their rivals, and even posits the existence of an “international propagandists culture” that tended to produce similar techniques

The document includes a list of 33 main similarities between Soviet and American propaganda, including the “impression of objectivity,” “avoiding obvious lying on tangible facts,” blurring distinctions within enemy camp,” and “not dignifying opponent’s position by quoting it.”

However, it was in identifying where the two styles differed that the Agency saw the most strategic value.

Some of the differences that the CIA identified included “Soviet Conflict-Mindedness” …

which was directly opposed to “Greater American Fact-Mindedness”

Changes in the National Defense Authorization Act this year ignited fears that VOA could be marketing itself to an American audience. If it does, the American public may get a direct demonstration of exactly what the “international propagandists culture” looks like today.

Read the complete report.

Edited by JPat Brown

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

For Google, the Pixels Just Hit the Fan

Sputnik – July 12, 2017

Distinguished research psychologist Robert Epstein explains why Google was recently fined $2.7 billion for one of its search-engine manipulations. This is just the beginning, he says, of bad news for a company that tracks and manipulates people on a massive scale.

Dr. Robert Epstein — The pixels have hit the fan. The EU just fined Google $2.7 billion for favoring its online comparative shopping service in its search results.

Google officials knew this fine was coming and that much worse is possible, so in August 2015, they reorganized the company so that it is now part of a holding company called Alphabet. This was not done, as Larry Page, one of the company’s co-founders, rapped at the time, to make the company “cleaner and more accountable” (what on earth does that mean?). It was likely done to try to protect the value of the stock held by the company’s major stockholders.  The EU’s antitrust action against Google had been filed in April, 2015, and that got Google officials thinking. When the US Department of Justice broke up AT&T in the 1980s, the stock value dropped by 70 percent.

Google officials are nervous because they know exactly how many questionable practices they engage in every day, along with how many have been uncovered so far and how many are still unknown to authorities. My associates and I have discovered some of these practices, and we study them every day.  They are brilliant, mind-blowing, and largely invisible new ways of both tracking and manipulating human behavior on an unprecedented scale, all serving a singular purpose: to make Google richer.  Before I give you a few examples of the practices we are examining these days, let me put the big EU fine into a broader context.

First of all, Google can handle it. The company will likely have revenues of over $100 billion this year, so they can pay the fine painlessly, and they also have unlimited legal resources. In court, they will claim, as they always do, that they haven’t done anything wrong, that it’s just the algorithm, and that the algorithm — in its objective purity, driven by its deep digital desire to serve human needs — just happens to rank Google products above inferior ones.

This is complete nonsense. As I explain in detail in my US News essay, “The New Censorship,” Google employees have complete control over where items occur in search results. The search algorithm is just a set of computer instructions written by Google software engineers, and they manually adjust the algorithm daily to remove items from the search results it generates about — 100,000 items per year under Europe’s “right to be forgotten” law alone — or to demote companies that piss Google off.

Second, this hefty fine is just the tip of a very large digital iceberg. Bear in mind that it is based on merely one instance of search bias: putting Google’s own comparative shopping service ahead of others. A US Federal Trade Commission investigation in 2012 found that Google’s search results are generally skewed to favor its own products and services. When was the last time you Googled a movie without seeing YouTube — owned by Google — in the top search result? Both India and Russia have levied fines against the company for rigging search results, with a much larger fine still looming in India. Bear in mind also that the EU’s search-related action against Google is just one of three antitrust cases they have initiated so far; the other two concern Google’s dominance in mobile computing and advertising. Europe’s concerns about Google are so deep that in late 2014 the European Parliament voted (in a non-binding proceeding) to break Google up into pieces, reminiscent of the DOJ’s dismantling of AT&T.

These and other legal actions are all about new techniques Google has developed for tracking and manipulating people. The search engine may have started out as a simple index of web pages, but it was soon refined and repurposed. Its main purpose became to track user behavior, yielding a vast amount of information about people that Google still leverages to send out the targeted advertisements that account for most of the company’s income. The public still thinks of the Google search engine, Google Maps, Google Wallet, YouTube, Chrome, Android and a hundred other Google platforms as cool services the company provides free of charge. In fact, they are all just gussied-up surveillance platforms, and authorities around the world are finally figuring that out.

As the EU’s recent antitrust decision shows, authorities are also beginning to figure out how extensively Google is using its platforms to suppress competition and manipulate user behavior. The EU’s investigation found, for example, that when Google officials realized in 2007 that their comparative shopping service was failing, they elevated their own service in their search results while demoting competing services. This increased traffic to its service “45-fold in the United Kingdom, 35-fold in Germany, 19-fold in France, 29-fold in the Netherlands, 17-fold in Spain and 14-fold in Italy” while reducing traffic to its competitors by “85% in the United Kingdom, up to 92% in Germany and 80% in France.”

Does position in search results really affect user behavior that much? You bet. My own research has shown, for example, that favoring one political candidate in search results can shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by up to 80 percent in some demographic groups.  Search results that favor one perspective over another on abortion, fracking, homosexuality, you name it also dramatically shift the opinions of people who haven’t yet made up their minds. The research also shows, unfortunately, that this type of manipulation is virtually invisible to people and, worse still, that the few people who can spot favoritism in search results shift even farther in the direction of the bias, perhaps because they see the bias as a kind of social proof.

What if authorities were examining not just the dominance of Google’s comparison shopping service in the company’s search results but the dominance of, say, anything, in those results: certain brands of mobile phones or computers; political candidates who serve or interfere with the company’s needs; attitudes toward Oracle, Microsoft, Yahoo, and other companies that compete with or are in conflict with Google; news stories that are “fake” or anti-Trump or pro-Google; and on and on. Do you see how big this problem really is? And no one — at least not yet — is tracking any of this. The trillions of pieces of information Google is showing people every day are all ephemeral. They hit your eyeballs and then disappear, leaving no trace, and much or most of them favor one perspective or another. Do we really want a single company, which handles 90 percent of search in most countries, to have the power to manipulate our opinions about anything? How, over the years, has Google been exercising this power?

My newest research is showing that it is not just the order of search results we need to worry about.  Here are three examples of manipulations we are currently studying which, once again, no authorities are tracking — at least not yet:

  1. Search suggestions: Before you even see those search results, Google typically flashes search suggestions at you. When Google introduced this feature in 2004, they showed you a long list of suggestions — usually 10 — that indicated what other people were searching for; Bing and Yahoo still do this. Google, however, now typically shows you just four suggestions that are often unrelated to what others are searching for. Instead, they show you terms they believe you are likely to click, which gives them a great deal of control over your search. One way they now manipulate searches is by strategically including or withholding negative search terms. Negative terms (like “suicide” or “crimes”) attract far more clicks than neutral or positive ones do-10-to-15 times as many in some demographic groups. By withholding negative suggestions for a perspective or person the company supports while allowing negatives to appear for a person or perspective the company dislikes, they drive millions of people to view material that shifts opinions in ways that serve the company’s needs.  Four, it turns out, is the magical number of suggestions that maximize their control. It maximizes the power of the negative search term to draw clicks while also minimizing the likelihood that people will type their own search term.
  2. I’m feeling lucky: When you mouse over a Google search suggestion, you see a small “I’m feeling lucky” link. With this feature, Google gets people to skip seeing search results altogether; it gives the company complete control over the actual web page you see. By limiting the number of suggestions you see and then attracting you to the “lucky” link, they exert a high degree of control over what opinion you will form on issues you’re uncertain about. All of this occurs without users having any awareness of how they are being manipulated.
  3. The featured snippet: Google is rapidly moving away from the search engine model of tracking and manipulation toward much more powerful means. (To view a satire I wrote about Google donating its search engine to the American public, click here.) The “featured snippet” — the answer box we see more and more frequently above the search results — is one such tool we are studying. Google officials have long known that people don’t really want to see a list of 10,000 search results when they ask a question; they just want the answer. That’s what the snippet is now giving people — the answer, wrong or right, and it’s often wrong. In one of our newest experiments, the voting preferences of undecided voters shifted by 36.2 percent when they saw biased search rankings without an answer box, but when a biased answer box appeared above the search results, the shift was an astounding 56.5 percent. In other words, when you give people the answer, you have an even larger impact on their opinions, purchases, and voting preferences. Google is rapidly shifting to this new model of influence not just on its search engine, but with its new audio Home device (“Okay Google, what’s the best Italian restaurant around here?”), as well as with its new Android-based Google Assistant.

It took years for the EU to collect and analyze the terabytes of data it needed to make a case against Google in the shopping services action. Meanwhile, Google is moving light years ahead. This might always be a problem when it comes to the machinations of high-tech companies. Laws and regulations will necessarily lag way behind, unless-unless, that is, we change the game.

As The Washington Post and other media outlets reported in March 2017, about six months before the November 2016 election in the US, my associates and I deployed a Nielsen-type system for tracking search results in real time. Using custom software and a nationwide network of anonymous field agents, we were able to look over the shoulders of people as they conducted a wide range of election-related searches using Google, Bing, and Yahoo, ultimately preserving the first page of results from 13,207 searches and the 98,044 web pages to which the search results linked. We found that these searches, especially the ones conducted on Google, generally favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in all ten search positions on the first page of search results. Perhaps more important, we learned that our monitoring system could be used to track any of the ephemeral stimuli that Google and other tech companies are showing us every day: news feeds, advertisements, you name it.

I am now working will colleagues from Stanford, Princeton, King’s College London and a dozen other institutions to create an organization that will monitor the online behavior of Big Tech companies worldwide on a real-time basis. If we do this right, it will take only seconds, not years, to spot illegal or unethical behavior, and we might even be able to anticipate manipulations before they occur, providing evidence on an ongoing basis to journalists, regulators, legislators, law enforcement officials, and antitrust investigators.  Such a system will force Big Tech companies, both now and in the future, to be more accountable to the public, and it will also help preserve the free and fair election.

In the meantime, my advice to consumers is:  be wary of the information you obtain online and, more important, be cautious about the information you reveal. Learn how to increase your online privacy; it’s not that hard.

And my advice to Google officials is: cut down on the greed and arrogance. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn.

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A Ph.D. of Harvard University, Robert Epstein is senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, the author of 15 books, and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today magazine. Follow him on Twitter @DrREpstein.

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | Leave a comment

‘Politicized’ Move: Kremlin Regrets US Limit on Use of Kaspersky Lab Products

Sputnik – July 12, 2017

MOSCOW – The Kremlin regrets the United States government’s limit on the use of Russia-based global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab products, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday as he vowed to protect its interests.

The decision was reportedly made earlier this week over company’s alleged ties with Russian intelligence services.

“We regret such decisions, but on the other hand the company has the necessary legal arsenal to defend its interests,” Peskov told reporters. “But Russia as a state will also continue to do everything possible to protect the interests of our companies.”

Commenting on the General Service Administration’s reported removal of Kaspersky Lab products from the list of approved vendors for government agencies to purchase technology, he said “we certainly know that this is a politicized decision.”

“This is a commercial company, it provides commercial services and not only competitive commercial services, but competitive commercial services around the world.”

On July 11, the Bloomberg news agency published an article which said that emails obtained by the agency’s Bloomberg Businessweek revealed that the Kaspersky Lab allegedly developed products for Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and supported its agents during raids. Kaspersky Lab has denied these media allegations and reiterated its status as a private company without political ties to any country. The firm also noted its CEO Eugene Kaspersky’s repeated offer to testify before the US Congress and turn over its source code for official verification.

Russian Minister of Communications and Mass Media Nikolai Nikiforov said earlier that response measures cannot be ruled out if the United States banned the use of Kaspersky Lab products.

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | | Leave a comment