Organised Crime Squad seize cash, drugs and poker machine following the arrest of two men



Two men will face court today charged following a joint agency investigation into a criminal syndicate supplying prohibited drugs across Sydney.

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Machine Gun Kelly Says He Wears Megan Fox’s Blood “Around My Neck” – E! Online


Machine Gun Kelly appears to be channeling his inner Angelina Jolie as he posted a heartfelt Valentine’s Day tribute to girlfriend Megan Fox.

The 30-year-old musician took to Instagram on Sunday, Feb. 14 to share a carousel of images and footage of the pair together.

In his caption, he claimed that he wears Megan’s blood around his neck. Sure enough, one of the pics featured a vial that appeared to contain a drop of blood and was hanging from a necklace. (See, we meant it literally when we called his post “heartfelt.”)

“i wear your blood around my neck,” he wrote, adding emojis that symbolize a knife, a drop of blood, a DNA symbol and a rose. “my bloody valentine.”

On the same day, Megan also shared a carousel to her Instagram of video and photos featuring the couple in honor of Valentine’s Day.

“there goes my heart,” she wrote, “manifest outside of my body draped in the towering silhouette of a most unusually handsome boy magical and haunted kinetic and tortured ethereal and dangerous cosmic lawless eternal creative genius.”





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America has ‘become an ATM machine’ with Biden’s mass stimulus plan



Director of The Finance Guru Scott Haywood says “America has become an ATM machine” after President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID relief package was announced.

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Brazilian goal machine Bobo seals Sydney FC return, sets sights on golden boot and third straight championship


Trent Buhagiar will get first crack at filling the strike vacancy left by Adam Le Fondre’s departure, but Bobo says he’s not in Sydney to play second fiddle to anyone.Credit:Getty

Bobo, who turns 36 next Saturday, is on day six of a stint in hotel quarantine with his family in Adelaide, where their flight landed, and is passing the time by watching movies, reading books, playing Resident Evil on his son’s PlayStation 4, and keeping fit by running on a treadmill provided by the club.

He is hopeful of being available for selection soon after his release and is embracing coach Steve Corica’s plans for him to play off the bench – at least initially – as the “best way” to manage his conditioning and to give Buhagiar a chance to prove he can become a regular goalscoring threat in the A-League.

Bobo believes he can assist the Olyroos frontman in his development but warned he has no plans to play second fiddle for the entire season, vowing to give Buhagiar and strike partner Kosta Barbarouses the sort of competition that will keep them on their toes.

“I’m sure I can help him,” Bobo said of Buhagiar.

“I can pass to him my experience in the box: things inside the box, the way to score goals. I’ve seen his games. He’s a very good player.

“I’m still hungry to win trophies, and to get the Golden Boot. My career is always like this, and I want to continue.

“I feel like normal, like when you get older a little bit. But I still feel like I can play a couple of years.”

Corica said: “His goalscoring record is phenomenal and it means we’ve now got excellent competition for places among our strikers. The experience he brings will also benefit our young forwards who we want to develop, and they will learn a huge amount from him.

“I’ve no doubt we’ll see plenty of goals when he plays as he is a proven scorer and will get plenty of service. It’s a real coup for us. He’ll bring a point of difference and an even sharper edge up front.”

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The former Besiktas frontman scored 36 goals in 37 games in all competitions in 2017-18 for Sydney under Graham Arnold, taking out the A-League’s Golden Boot award to go with his FFA Cup and premiership winners’ medals.

He is a cut-price replacement for the departed Adam Le Fondre, whose move to India left the Sky Blues with little room under a reduced salary cap, but Corica is banking on him being value for money and counting on his familiarity with the unique Australian conditions to bring out his lethal best, while the team won’t be as reliant on him as they were in his first stint.

Bobo has kept a close eye on the Sky Blues. He regularly caught A-League highlights from Brazil and watched last season’s grand final. Although some key personnel might have moved on, he still sees the same old Sydney FC.

“The mentality is the same,” he said. “We’ve changed the players but kept the mentality. It’s the most important thing. And also Bimbi has proved in the two past years that he’s a very good coach.

“We hope to continue doing what the club has done in the last four, five years. The challenge now is to win the third consecutive trophy.”

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Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine


The Doomsday Machine was never supposed to exist. It was meant to be a thought experiment that went like this: Imagine a device built with the sole purpose of destroying all human life. Now suppose that machine is buried deep underground, but connected to a computer, which is in turn hooked up to sensors in cities and towns across the United States.

The sensors are designed to sniff out signs of the impending apocalypse—not to prevent the end of the world, but to complete it. If radiation levels suggest nuclear explosions in, say, three American cities simultaneously, the sensors notify the Doomsday Machine, which is programmed to detonate several nuclear warheads in response. At that point, there is no going back. The fission chain reaction that produces an atomic explosion is initiated enough times over to extinguish all life on Earth. There is a terrible flash of light, a great booming sound, then a sustained roar. We have a word for the scale of destruction that the Doomsday Machine would unleash: megadeath.

Nobody is pining for megadeath. But megadeath is not the only thing that makes the Doomsday Machine petrifying. The real terror is in its autonomy, this idea that it would be programmed to detect a series of environmental inputs, then to act, without human interference. “There is no chance of human intervention, control, and final decision,” wrote the military strategist Herman Kahn in his 1960 book, On Thermonuclear War, which laid out the hypothetical for a Doomsday Machine. The concept was to render nuclear war unwinnable, and therefore unthinkable.

Kahn concluded that automating the extinction of all life on Earth would be immoral. Even an infinitesimal risk of error is too great to justify the Doomsday Machine’s existence. “And even if we give up the computer and make the Doomsday Machine reliably controllable by decision makers,” Kahn wrote, “it is still not controllable enough.” No machine should be that powerful by itself—but no one person should be either.

The Soviets really did make a version of the Doomsday Machine during the Cold War. They nicknamed it “Dead Hand.” But so far, somewhat miraculously, we have figured out how to live with the bomb. Now we need to learn how to survive the social web.

People tend to complain about Facebook as if something recently curdled. There’s a notion that the social web was once useful, or at least that it could have been good, if only we had pulled a few levers: some moderation and fact-checking here, a bit of regulation there, perhaps a federal antitrust lawsuit. But that’s far too sunny and shortsighted a view. Today’s social networks, Facebook chief among them, were built to encourage the things that make them so harmful. It is in their very architecture.

I’ve been thinking for years about what it would take to make the social web magical in all the right ways—less extreme, less toxic, more true—and I realized only recently that I’ve been thinking far too narrowly about the problem. I’ve long wanted Mark Zuckerberg to admit that Facebook is a media company, to take responsibility for the informational environment he created in the same way that the editor of a magazine would. (I pressed him on this once and he laughed.) In recent years, as Facebook’s mistakes have compounded and its reputation has tanked, it has become clear that negligence is only part of the problem. No one, not even Mark Zuckerberg, can control the product he made. I’ve come to realize that Facebook is not a media company. It’s a Doomsday Machine.

The social web is doing exactly what it was built for. Facebook does not exist to seek truth and report it, or to improve civic health, or to hold the powerful to account, or to represent the interests of its users, though these phenomena may be occasional by-products of its existence. The company’s early mission was to “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Instead, it took the concept of “community” and sapped it of all moral meaning. The rise of QAnon, for example, is one of the social web’s logical conclusions. That’s because Facebook—along with Google and YouTube—is perfect for amplifying and spreading disinformation at lightning speed to global audiences. Facebook is an agent of government propaganda, targeted harassment, terrorist recruitment, emotional manipulation, and genocide—a world-historic weapon that lives not underground, but in a Disneyland-inspired campus in Menlo Park, California.

The giants of the social web—Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram; Google and its subsidiary YouTube; and, to a lesser extent, Twitter—have achieved success by being dogmatically value-neutral in their pursuit of what I’ll call megascale. Somewhere along the way, Facebook decided that it needed not just a very large user base, but a tremendous one, unprecedented in size. That decision set Facebook on a path to escape velocity, to a tipping point where it can harm society just by existing.  

Limitations to the Doomsday Machine comparison are obvious: Facebook cannot in an instant reduce a city to ruins the way a nuclear bomb can. And whereas the Doomsday Machine was conceived of as a world-ending device so as to forestall the end of the world, Facebook started because a semi-inebriated Harvard undergrad was bored one night. But the stakes are still life-and-death. Megascale is nearly the existential threat that megadeath is. No single machine should be able to control the fate of the world’s population—and that’s what both the Doomsday Machine and Facebook are built to do.

The cycle of harm perpetuated by Facebook’s scale-at-any-cost business model is plain to see. Scale and engagement are valuable to Facebook because they’re valuable to advertisers. These incentives lead to design choices such as reaction buttons that encourage users to engage easily and often, which in turn encourage users to share ideas that will provoke a strong response. Every time you click a reaction button on Facebook, an algorithm records it, and sharpens its portrait of who you are. The hyper-targeting of users, made possible by reams of their personal data, creates the perfect environment for manipulation—by advertisers, by political campaigns, by emissaries of disinformation, and of course by Facebook itself, which ultimately controls what you see and what you don’t see on the site. Facebook has enlisted a corps of approximately 15,000 moderators, people paid to watch unspeakable things—murder, gang rape, and other depictions of graphic violence that wind up on the platform. Even as Facebook has insisted that it is a value-neutral vessel for the material its users choose to publish, moderation is a lever the company has tried to pull again and again. But there aren’t enough moderators speaking enough languages, working enough hours, to stop the biblical flood of shit that Facebook unleashes on the world, because 10 times out of 10, the algorithm is faster and more powerful than a person. At megascale, this algorithmically warped personalized informational environment is extraordinarily difficult to moderate in a meaningful way, and extraordinarily dangerous as a result.

These dangers are not theoretical, and they’re exacerbated by megascale, which makes the platform a tantalizing place to experiment on people. Facebook has conducted social-contagion experiments on its users without telling them. Facebook has acted as a force for digital colonialism, attempting to become the de facto (and only) experience of the internet for people all over the world. Facebook has bragged about its ability to influence the outcome of elections. Unlawful militant groups use Facebook to organize. Government officials use Facebook to mislead their own citizens, and to tamper with elections. Military officials have exploited Facebook’s complacency to carry out genocide. Facebook inadvertently auto-generated jaunty recruitment videos for the Islamic State featuring anti-Semitic messages and burning American flags.

Even after U.S. intelligence agencies identified Facebook as a main battleground for information warfare and foreign interference in the 2016 election, the company has failed to stop the spread of extremism, hate speech, propaganda, disinformation, and conspiracy theories on its site. Neo-Nazis stayed active on Facebook by taking out ads even after they were formally banned. And it wasn’t until October of this year, for instance, that Facebook announced it would remove groups, pages, and Instragram accounts devoted to QAnon, as well as any posts denying the Holocaust. (Previously Zuckerberg had defended Facebook’s decision not to remove disinformation about the Holocaust, saying of Holocaust deniers, “I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.” He later clarified that he didn’t mean to defend Holocaust deniers.) Even so, Facebook routinely sends emails to users recommending the newest QAnon groups. White supremacists and deplatformed MAGA trolls may flock to smaller social platforms such as Gab and Parler, but these platforms offer little aside from a narrative of martyrdom without megascale.

In the days after the 2020 presidential election, Zuckerberg authorized a tweak to the Facebook algorithm so that high-accuracy news sources such as NPR would receive preferential visibility in people’s feeds, and hyper-partisan pages such as Breitbart News’s and Occupy Democrats’ would be buried, according to The New York Times, offering proof that Facebook could, if it wanted to, turn a dial to reduce disinformation—and offering a reminder that Facebook has the power to flip a switch and change what billions of people see online.

The decision to touch the dial was highly unusual for Facebook. Think about it this way: The Doomsday Machine’s sensors detected something harmful in the environment and chose not to let its algorithms automatically blow it up across the web as usual. This time a human intervened to mitigate harm. The only problem is that reducing the prevalence of content that Facebook calls “bad for the world” also reduces people’s engagement with the site. In its experiments with human intervention, the Times reported, Facebook calibrated the dial so that just enough harmful content stayed in users’ news feeds to keep them coming back for more.

Facebook’s stated mission—to make the world more open and connected—has always seemed, to me, phony at best, and imperialist at worst. After all, today’s empires are born on the web. Facebook is a borderless nation-state, with a population of users nearly as big as China and India combined, and it is governed largely by secret algorithms. Hillary Clinton told me earlier this year that talking to Zuckerberg feels like negotiating with the authoritarian head of a foreign state. “This is a global company that has huge influence in ways that we’re only beginning to understand,” she said.

I recalled Clinton’s warning a few weeks ago, when Zuckerberg defended the decision not to suspend Steve Bannon from Facebook after he argued, in essence, for the beheading of two senior U.S. officials, the infectious-disease doctor Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray. The episode got me thinking about a question that’s unanswerable but that I keep asking people anyway: How much real-world violence would never have happened if Facebook didn’t exist? One of the people I’ve asked is Joshua Geltzer, a former White House counterterrorism official who is now teaching at Georgetown Law. In counterterrorism circles, he told me, people are fond of pointing out how good the United States has been at keeping terrorists out since 9/11. That’s wrong, he said. In fact, “terrorists are entering every single day, every single hour, every single minute” through Facebook.

The website that’s perhaps best known for encouraging mass violence is the image board 4chan—which was followed by 8chan, which then became 8kun. These boards are infamous for being the sites where multiple mass-shooting suspects have shared manifestos before homicide sprees. The few people who are willing to defend these sites unconditionally do so from a position of free-speech absolutism. That argument is worthy of consideration. But there’s something architectural about the site that merits attention, too: There are no algorithms on 8kun, only a community of users who post what they want. People use 8kun to publish abhorrent ideas, but at least the community isn’t pretending to be something it’s not. The biggest social platforms claim to be similarly neutral and pro–free speech when in fact no two people see the same feed. Algorithmically tweaked environments feed on user data and manipulate user experience, and not ultimately for the purpose of serving the user. Evidence of real-world violence can be easily traced back to both Facebook and 8kun. But 8kun doesn’t manipulate its users or the informational environment they’re in. Both sites are harmful. But Facebook might actually be worse for humanity.

“What a dreadful set of choices when you frame it that way,” Geltzer told me when I put this question to him in another conversation. “The idea of a free-for-all sounds really bad until you see what the purportedly moderated and curated set of platforms is yielding … It may not be blood onscreen, but it can really do a lot of damage.”

In previous eras, U.S. officials could at least study, say, Nazi propaganda during World War II, and fully grasp what the Nazis wanted people to believe. Today, “it’s not a filter bubble; it’s a filter shroud,” Geltzer said. “I don’t even know what others with personalized experiences are seeing.” Another expert in this realm, Mary McCord, the legal director at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law, told me that she thinks 8kun may be more blatant in terms of promoting violence but that Facebook is “in some ways way worse” because of its reach. “There’s no barrier to entry with Facebook,” she said. “In every situation of extremist violence we’ve looked into, we’ve found Facebook postings. And that reaches tons of people. The broad reach is what brings people into the fold and normalizes extremism and makes it mainstream.” In other words, it’s the megascale that makes Facebook so dangerous.

Looking back, it can seem like Zuckerberg’s path to world domination was inevitable. There’s the computerized version of Risk he coded in ninth grade; his long-standing interest in the Roman empire; his obsession with information flow and human psychology. There’s the story of his first bona fide internet scandal, when he hacked into Harvard’s directory and lifted photos of students without their permission to make the hot-or-not-style website FaceMash. (“Child’s play” was how Zuckerberg later described the ease with which he broke into Harvard’s system.) There’s the disconnect between his lip service to privacy and the way Facebook actually works. (Here’s Zuckerberg in a private chat with a friend years ago, on the mountain of data he’d obtained from Facebook’s early users: “I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses … People just submitted it. I don’t know why. They ‘trust me.’ Dumb fucks.”) At various points over the years, he’s listed the following interests in his Facebook profile: Eliminating Desire, Minimalism, Making Things, Breaking Things, Revolutions, Openness, Exponential Growth, Social Dynamics, Domination.

Facebook’s megascale gives Zuckerberg an unprecedented degree of influence over the global population. If he isn’t the most powerful person on the planet, he’s very near the top. “It’s insane to have that much speechifying, silencing, and permitting power, not to mention being the ultimate holder of algorithms that determine the virality of anything on the internet,” Geltzer told me. “The thing he oversees has such an effect on cognition and people’s beliefs, which can change what they do with their nuclear weapons or their dollars.”

Facebook’s new oversight board, formed in response to backlash against the platform and tasked with making decisions concerning moderation and free expression, is an extension of that power. “The first 10 decisions they make will have more effect on speech in the country and the world than the next 10 decisions rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Geltzer said. “That’s power. That’s real power.”

In 2005, the year I joined Facebook, the site still billed itself as an online directory to “Look up people at your school. See how people know each other. Find people in your classes and groups.” That summer, in Palo Alto, Zuckerberg gave an interview to a young filmmaker, who later posted the clip to YouTube. In it, you can see Zuckerberg still figuring out what Facebook is destined to be. The conversation is a reminder of the improbability of Zuckerberg’s youth when he launched Facebook. (It starts with him asking, “Should I put the beer down?” He’s holding a red Solo cup.) Yet, at 21 years old, Zuckerberg articulated something about his company that has held true, to dangerous effect: Facebook is not a single place on the web, but rather, “a lot of different individual communities.”

Today that includes QAnon and other extremist groups. Back then, it meant mostly juvenile expressions of identity in groups such as “I Went to a Public School … Bitch” and, at Harvard, referencing the neoclassical main library, “The We Need to Have Sex in Widener Before We Graduate Interest Group.” In that 2005 interview, Zuckerberg is asked about the future of Facebook, and his response feels, in retrospect, like a tragedy: “I mean, there doesn’t necessarily have to be more. Like, a lot of people are focused on taking over the world, or doing the biggest thing, getting the most users. I think, like, part of making a difference and doing something cool is focusing intensely … I mean, I really just want to see everyone focus on college and create a really cool college-directory product that just, like, is very relevant for students and has a lot of information that people care about when they’re in college.”

The funny thing is: This localized approach is part of what made megascale possible. Early constraints around membership—the requirement at first that users attended Harvard, and then that they attended any Ivy League school, and then that they had an email address ending in .edu—offered a sense of cohesiveness and community. It made people feel more comfortable sharing more of themselves. And more sharing among clearly defined demographics was good for business. In 2004, Zuckerberg said Facebook ran advertisements only to cover server costs. But over the next two years Facebook completely upended and redefined the entire advertising industry. The pre-social web destroyed classified ads, but the one-two punch of Facebook and Google decimated local news and most of the magazine industry—publications fought in earnest for digital pennies, which had replaced print dollars, and social giants scooped them all up anyway. No news organization can compete with the megascale of the social web. It’s just too massive.

The on-again, off-again Facebook executive Chris Cox once talked about the “magic number” for start-ups, and how after a company surpasses 150 employees, things go sideways. “I’ve talked to so many start-up CEOs that after they pass this number, weird stuff starts to happen,” he said at a conference in 2016. This idea comes from the anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who argued that 148 is the maximum number of stable social connections a person can maintain. If we were to apply that same logic to the stability of a social platform, what number would we find?

“I think the sweet spot is 20 to 20,000 people,” the writer and internet scholar Ethan Zuckerman, who has spent much of his adult life thinking about how to build a better web, told me. “It’s hard to have any degree of real connectivity after that.”

In other words, if the Dunbar number for running a company or maintaining a cohesive social life is 150 people; the magic number for a functional social platform is maybe 20,000 people. Facebook now has 2.7 billion monthly users.

On the precipice of Facebook’s exponential growth, in 2007, Zuckerberg said something in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that now takes on a much darker meaning: “The things that are most powerful aren’t the things that people would have done otherwise if they didn’t do them on Facebook. Instead, it’s the things that would never have happened otherwise.”

Of the many things humans are consistently terrible at doing, seeing the future is somewhere near the top of the list. This flaw became a preoccupation among Megadeath Intellectuals such as Herman Kahn and his fellow economists, mathematicians, and former military officers at the Rand Corporation in the 1960s.

Kahn and his colleagues helped invent modern futurism, which was born of the existential dread that the bomb ushered in, and hardened by the understanding that most innovation is horizontal in nature—a copy of what already exists, rather than wholly new. Real invention is extraordinarily rare, and far more disruptive.

The logician and philosopher Olaf Helmer-Hirschberg, who overlapped with Kahn at Rand and would later co-found the Institute for the Future, arrived in California after having fled the Nazis, an experience that gave his desire to peer into the future a particular kind of urgency. He argued that the acceleration of technological change had established the need for a new epistemological approach to fields such as engineering, medicine, the social sciences, and so on. “No longer does it take generations for a new pattern of living conditions to evolve,” he wrote, “but we are going through several major adjustments in our lives, and our children will have to adopt continual adaptation as a way of life.” In 1965, he wrote a book called Social Technology that aimed to create a scientific methodology for predicting the future.

In those same years, Kahn was dreaming up his own hypothetical machine to provide a philosophical framework for the new threats humanity faced. He called it the Doomsday Machine, and also the Doomsday-in-a-Hurry Machine, and also the Homicide Pact Machine. Stanley Kubrick famously borrowed the concept for the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, the cinematic apotheosis of the fatalism that came with living on hair-trigger alert for nuclear annihilation.

Today’s fatalism about the brokenness of the internet feels similar. We’re still in the infancy of this century’s triple digital revolution of the internet, smartphones, and the social web, and we find ourselves in a dangerous and unstable informational environment, powerless to resist forces of manipulation and exploitation that we know are exerted on us but remain mostly invisible. The Doomsday Machine offers a lesson: We should not accept this current arrangement. No single machine should be able to control so many people.

If the age of reason was, in part, a reaction to the existence of the printing press, and 1960s futurism was a reaction to the atomic bomb, we need a new philosophical and moral framework for living with the social web—a new Enlightenment for the information age, and one that will carry us back to shared reality and empiricism.

Andrew Bosworth, one of Facebook’s longtime executives, has compared Facebook to sugar—in that it is “delicious” but best enjoyed in moderation. In a memo originally posted to Facebook’s internal network last year, he argued for a philosophy of personal responsibility. “My grandfather took such a stance towards bacon and I admired him for it,” Bosworth wrote. “And social media is likely much less fatal than bacon.” But viewing Facebook merely as a vehicle for individual consumption ignores the fact of what it is—a network. Facebook is also a business, and a place where people spend time with one another. Put it this way: If you owned a store and someone walked in and started shouting Nazi propaganda or recruiting terrorists near the cash register, would you, as the shop owner, tell all of the other customers you couldn’t possibly intervene?

Anyone who is serious about mitigating the damage done to humankind by the social web should, of course, consider quitting Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and any other algorithmically distorted informational environments that manipulate people. But we need to adopt a broader view of what it will take to fix the brokenness of the social web. That will require challenging the logic of today’s platforms—and first and foremost challenging the very concept of megascale as a way that humans gather. If megascale is what gives Facebook its power, and what makes it dangerous, collective action against the web as it is today is necessary for change. The web’s existing logic tells us that social platforms are free in exchange for a feast of user data; that major networks are necessarily global and centralized; that moderators make the rules. None of that need be the case. We need people who dismantle these notions by building alternatives. And we need enough people to care about these other alternatives to break the spell of venture capital and mass attention that fuels megascale and creates fatalism about the web as it is now.

I still believe the internet is good for humanity, but that’s despite the social web, not because of it. We must also find ways to repair the aspects of our society and culture that the social web has badly damaged. This will require intellectual independence, respectful debate, and the same rebellious streak that helped establish Enlightenment values centuries ago.

We may not be able to predict the future, but we do know how it is made: through flashes of rare and genuine invention, sustained by people’s time and attention. Right now, too many people are allowing algorithms and tech giants to manipulate them, and reality is slipping from our grasp as a result. This century’s Doomsday Machine is here, and humming along.

It does not have to be this way.





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Voting machine group demands retractions from rightwing media


Lawyers for the voting machine company at the centre of Donald Trump’s election conspiracy theories have demanded that a string of rightwing news outlets retract claims they have made about the company in recent weeks.

A legal firm working for Dominion Voting Systems has written to Fox News, two other rightwing networks — One America News Network and Newsmax — and the Epoch Times newspaper, insisting they all retract allegations regarding the company’s role in last month’s election.

The lawyers also sent individual letters to some of America’s most well-known conservative presenters, including Rush Limbaugh, the rightwing radio presenter, and three Fox News hosts: Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo.

The 21 letters, seen by the Financial Times, form part of an aggressive pushback by Dominion, which the president and his allies have accused, without evidence, of being part of a vast conspiracy to steal the election from him and deliver victory to his opponent Joe Biden.

In the letter to Fox News, the lawyers wrote: “We demand that Fox issue a retraction to make clear that there is simply no evidence to support the conspiracy theories that continue to smear the company’s good name.”

John Poulos, Dominion’s chief executive, said on Wednesday that he expected to file legal action against some of the president’s allies in the future.

Mr Poulos told CNN on Thursday: “We did send a letter to several different people that have been spreading lies and defamatory remarks since election day on various different platforms.”

He added: “We fully expect that none of them will be retracting their statements, so it forces our hand to file action.”

Fox News, OANN, Newsmax, the Epoch Times and Mr Limbaugh did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Dominion’s lawyers have targeted their initial litigation at Sidney Powell, a lawyer who has helped spread accusations that Hugo Chávez, the late Venezuelan leader, was behind a scheme to plant faulty voting machines across the US. Mr Poulos on Thursday called her “the most egregious and prolific purveyor of these lies”.

The company’s lawyers have also written to Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, warning them to preserve any documents that could be relevant to a lawsuit.

The White House declined to comment. Neither Ms Powell nor Mr Giuliani responded to a request to do so.

Tom Clare, one of Dominion’s lawyers, told the Daily Beast earlier this week he expected to file “multiple litigation matters” in January.

Smartmatic, another voting machine company that has been the subject of accusations by Trump allies, has also threatened legal action against Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network. The company demanded the channels retract accusations that the company had conspired to fix the election for Mr Biden.

Following that threat, both Fox News and Newsmax aired segments debunking the claims. Fox broadcast an interview in which Eddie Perez, director of the Open Source Election Technology Institute, was questioned about the claims by a voice from off-camera. Mr Perez then explained in detail why the allegations were untrue.

Mr Trump’s claims of a vast election fraud have been rejected by several organisations, including his own government’s cyber security agency, as well as in court. William Barr said just before stepping down as US attorney-general this week that there was no reason to seize voting machines or appoint a special counsel to look into voter fraud.

The president reportedly considered giving Ms Powell a role at the White House to investigate electoral malpractice but is said to have since gone cold on the idea.





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Vectolabs partners Bateriku.com to provide IoT and machine learning-based automotive maintenance device


  • Alerts users when breakdown symptom is identified through consistent analyses
  • Plug-and-play device enables Bateriku.com to know if it’s a battery problem

Vectolabs Technologies Sdn Bhd (Vectolabs), a Malaysian Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provider, recently announced a development contract with Bateriku.com with the purpose of developing a predictive car maintenance device aimed at eliminating the chances of sudden car breakdowns.

The plug-and-play device, designed to be user-friendly, is capable of better assessing vehicles and informing owners or their technicians when there is a need for maintenance check-ups. The tool can prompt and alert car owners immediately when a breakdown symptom is identified, as it consistently detects and analyses the voltage waveform of a car even when it is static.

Vectolabs partners Bateriku.com to provide IoT and machine learning-based automotive maintenance deviceThe device is expected to be compatible with any On Board Diagnostic (OBD) port available in any car, regardless of make and model.

“Our device is able to continuously detect and analyse battery voltage, car starter, alternator, odometer and even engine sensors.  The best part of our device is that car owners will be able to pin-point the root cause of an issue even without the expertise of a mechanic thus creating a more efficient and cost-savvy experience,” elaborates Vectolabs CEO and founder Faizal Ali (pic, left).

“The device will not only capture the vehicle status from the Controller Area Network (CANBUS) but it also has the ability to capture the vehicle waveform during starting. The waveform will enable Bateriku.com to know whether it is a battery problem (no towing needed), or some other failure modes (example: starter, alternator) that will require towing to a service centre.”

The partnership with Bateriku.com feels only natural, as – according to Bateriku.com founder and CEO Azazol Faizai (pic, right) – both companies “share the same mission of delivering awesome experiences to car owners, especially in areas related to vehicle maintenance and performance.”

“Driven to create sustainability for car owners, this collaboration will look to produce a revolutionary device that is set to disrupt the automotive industry,” Azazol predicts.

“This device will be able to increase the operational efficiency of our on-the-ground crowdsourced technicians by seamlessly pre-ampting them accurate information to assess and address car battery failuresVectolabs partners Bateriku.com to provide IoT and machine learning-based automotive maintenance device at one go.”

Bateriku.com uses cloud machine learning tools to help prevent users from stranding themselves due to a dead battery. They are also able to expand their service to not only battery but other automotive service needs. 

“It is cost free to the end-user and value-adds to Bateriku.com’s B2C model in terms of operation cost and efficiency. With that, Bateriku.com’s Mobile Technicians (MOTEC) will be able to provide the right product to a vehicle almost instantaneously upon retrieving data provided from our device,” adds Faizal.

In addition to vehicle information, Vectolab’s device is also able to gather drivers’ driving pattern and develop a risk profile. This data, the company notes, is valuable to insurance companies that are adopting usage based insurance. 



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Aircraft Carriers: Fearsome Military Machine Or Floating Casket?


Here’s What You Need to Remember: 

Since the 1950s, the supercarrier has been the most visible representation of U.S. military power and maritime hegemony. Although supercarriers have participated in nearly every military conflict since the commissioning of USS Forrestal in 1955, no carrier has come under determined attack from a capable opponent. In part, this is because supercarriers are very difficult to attack, but the symbolic grandeur of the massive ships also plays a role; no one wants to know what the United States might do if one of its carriers came under attack.

What would happen if a foe attacked a United States Navy (USN) aircraft carrier during a conflict? How would the United States react, and how would it respond?

Circumstances: 

Circumstances obviously matter for an attack on a U.S. aircraft carrier. An out-of-the-blue attack from a conventionally armed state actor would enjoy the highest levels of success, but would also have an impact on elite and public opinion in the United States that might drive calls for dire retribution. An attack as part of a crisis would seem less extraordinarily hostile, but would nevertheless incur demands for a severe response. Finally, an attack during active hostilities might well represent a significant escalation but would be least likely to elicit an enraged public response. Most devastating of all might be an attack by a non-state actor that resulted in significant casualties and/or the destruction of the carrier. This would undoubtedly inflame U.S. public opinion while leaving the United States without a clear path for response and retribution.

Escalatory Logic: 

As part of an ongoing military conflict, an attack against a USN carrier would not necessarily represent a legal challenge; aircraft carriers are weapons of war, after all, and they are just as vulnerable to attack as any other weapon. But as military theorists have pointed out for at least two centuries, states choose their levels of escalation very carefully. Most wars are limited wars, and in limited wars, generals, admirals, and politicians are aware of the political import of the targets they select. Consequently, some targets remain off-limits for states that want to keep a war limited, even if those targets make a material contribution to the conduct of the conflict.

The United States has enjoyed, for quite some time, a perception of untouchability around its most cherished, expensive, and effective military assets. Even with conventional naval and air forces, attacking a supercarrier is no mean task; the USSR tried to develop effective anti-carrier weapons and tactics for decades, a pursuit that China has now taken up. But aircraft carriers have an almost mythic symbolic importance, both in global opinion and in the self-conception of the U.S. Navy. No state has undertaken a determined attack against a USN carrier since World War II.

Authorizing an attack against a USN supercarrier would require a weighty political decision. Political and senior military authorities might prefer to simply damage a carrier, which would send America a message about vulnerability but that would not necessarily lead to the deaths of extensive numbers of U.S. personnel. However, it would be difficult for anyone to guarantee limitations on damage, as a “lucky shot” might destroy the carrier. Granting the authority to attack a carrier would necessarily run the risk of sinking the ship. The USS Nimitz carries almost 6000 American military personnel and represents a vast expenditure of American treasure. Attacking her, and thus endangering this blood and treasure, is a very risky prospect indeed. The sinking of a U.S. aircraft carrier might well result in casualties that would exceed the total losses of the Iraq War in no more than a few minutes. When capital ships sink, they sometimes take nearly every crew member with them; 1415 of a crew of 1418 went down with HMS Hood in 1941, for example.

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The targets of an attack against a carrier, in effect, would be U.S. military capabilities, public opinion, and elite opinion (defining elite as including military and civilian leadership). The political and military leadership of the foe would need to believe that attacking the carrier was militarily feasible, that it would further operational or strategic goals, and that the likely U.S. responses were manageable in military and political terms. On the operational and strategic levels, it’s not difficult to imagine a context in which damaging, destroying, or deterring a carrier would enable operational military success. Simply clearing the skies of F/A-18s and F-35s tends to make life easier for fielded military forces. On the strategic side, an attack would convey a seriousness of commitment, while creating fear of vulnerability in America. Damaging or sinking a carrier would make the costs of war starkly clear to Americans, and might dissuade them from further conflict. Finally, any decision to escalate must take the potential U.S. response seriously and including either that America would not escalate in response or that any U.S. response could be effectively managed.

Impact: 

Much would depend on the effectiveness of the attack. Even an unsuccessful attempt at attacking a supercarrier (an intercepted submarine sortie or a volley of ballistic missiles that failed to reach the target, for example) would carry escalatory risks, although it would also indicate seriousness of purpose to U.S. policymakers.

The military impact of a successful strike against a carrier would be straightforward. A missile volley that either sank a carrier or led to a “mission-kill” by damaging the flight deck of a carrier into inoperability would deeply affect U.S. military operations, both by removing the carrier from the fight and from deterring America from deploying other carriers to the region. The USN can deploy only a limited number of carriers at any given time. In a crisis, the USN could shift carriers around and stand up additional ships, but knocking out a carrier effectively eliminates around 10 percent of American naval aviation strike power. The United States has other options (land-based air, cruise missiles, assault carriers), but in many scenarios damaging or sinking a carrier could have a dramatic impact on the military balance.

However, a “mission-kill” would not necessarily inflame U.S. public opinion, and might even create a sense of vulnerability among the American people. Perhaps more importantly, such an attack might give U.S. policymakers (who have historically been more casualty-averse than the U.S. public) pause over the costs and benefits of the intervention. An attack that sank a carrier with significant casualties, on the other hand, might well result in demands for vengeance, the specific circumstances of the attack notwithstanding. This could put U.S. policymakers in the awkward position of needing to escalate, without being able to use some of the most lethal military options in their toolkit.

But again, the attacker would run severe risks. Damaging or sinking a carrier could result in a much stronger U.S. commitment to the conflict, as well as a U.S. decision to escalate either vertically (by using additional weapon systems) or horizontally (by widening the geographic scope of the fight). Sinking a carrier would be a great way to turn a limited war into a major war, and there are very few countries that would seriously contemplate major war against the United States.

Final Salvo: 

It is not likely that any foe will decide to attack a USN supercarrier by accident. Launching an attack against a carrier represents a profound political-military decision to escalate the stakes of a conflict, and it is unlikely that a tactical commander (a sub skipper, for example) would be allowed to make such a decision on his or her own. If such an attack ever takes place during a crisis or a conflict, the policymakers on either side (not to mention the rest of the world) will need to take very deep breaths and think hard about what the next steps might be.

Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI, is a Visiting Professor at the United States Army War College. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. This first appeared earlier in 2019.

Image: Flickr.





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Assassinated Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh killed with remote-controlled machine gun


The Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated on Friday east of Tehran was shot by a remote-controlled machine gun operating out of another car, the semi-official Fars News Agency said yesterday.

With top Iranian officials blaming Israel, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and others have promised revenge for the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was the country’s chief nuclear scientist.

There were conflicting accounts from Iranian news agencies about how the attack unfolded.

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh sits in a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 23, 2019 (AP)

One report published yesterday from Fars News said Mr Fakhrizadeh was traveling with his wife Friday in a bulletproof car, alongside three security personnel vehicles, when he heard what sounded like bullets hitting a vehicle, and he exited the car to determine what had happened.

When he exited the vehicle, a remote-controlled machine gun opened fire from a Nissan stopped about 150 metres from Mr Fakhrizadeh’s car, Fars News said.

Mr Fakhrizadeh was hit at least three times, according to Fars News. His bodyguard was also shot.

Following the gunfire, the Nissan exploded, Fars News reported, adding the attack lasted three minutes.

CNN cannot independently confirm the news agency’s version of events.

The semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) also reported Mr Fakhrizadeh’s car was hit by gunfire, followed by an explosion and more gunfire, citing Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami.

This photo released by the semi-official Fars News Agency shows the scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran, Iran, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020
This photo released by the semi-official Fars News Agency shows the scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran, on November 27. (AP)

“Based on reports received from members of his security detail, Mr Fakhrizadeh’s vehicle was initially targeted by gunfire, after which a Nissan vehicle laden with explosives was set off in close proximity to them as gunfire, targeting their vehicle, was continuing,” Gen. Hatami said, according to ISNA.

IRIB, Iranian state television, said the explosion happened first, followed by gunfire from attackers.

Seyed Kamal Kharrazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, compared the assassination to the killing of Qasem Soleimani, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported yesterday.

Mr Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force, was killed in a US drone strike earlier this year in Iraq.

“Undoubtedly, the Islamic Republic of Iran will give a calculated and decisive answer to the criminals who took Martyr Fakhrizadeh,” Mr Kharrazi was quoted as saying.

Mr Fakhrizadeh was the head of the research centre of new technology in the elite Revolutionary Guards and was a leading figure in Iran’s nuclear program.

This photo released by the semi-official Fars News Agency shows the scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran, Iran, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020
The road where scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed. (AP)

Iranian leaders blame Israel

Supreme Leader Khameini wrote Saturday on a Twitter account that often carries his official statements, “Mr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed by the oppressive enemies. This rare scientific mind lost his life for his everlasting great scientific work. He lost his life for God and the supreme leader.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on the international community “to end their shameful double standards” and “condemn this act of state terror.”

He added that the attack showed “serious indications of Israeli role.”

Funeral for Mohsen Fakhrizadeh
In this picture released by the Iranian Defence Ministry and taken on November 28, caretakers from the Imam Reza holy shrine, carry the flag draped coffin of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist linked to the country’s disbanded military nuclear program, who was killed on Friday, during a funeral ceremony in the northeastern city of Mashhad, Iran. (AP)

Major General Hossein Dehghan, Mr Khamenei’s military adviser, tweeted Saturday that “Zionists” are seeking to create “all-out war” and vowed to “descend like lightning” on Mr Fakhrizadeh’s killers.

President Hassan Rouhani, also among the many Iranian leaders blaming Israel, promised retaliation as well, saying during a cabinet meeting Saturday, “The think tanks and the enemies of Iran must know that the Iranian nation and the officials in charge in the country are brave and determined to respond to the murder in time.”

The killing, he said, was carried out at “the filthy hands of oppressors, in concert with the illegitimate Zionist regime.”

Iran has provided no evidence of Israeli involvement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined to comment to CNN on Friday.

Funeral for Mohsen Fakhrizadeh
People pray over the flag draped coffin of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. (AP)

Israeli Settlement Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel’s Channel 12 news he had “no idea” who killed Mr Fakhrizadeh, but called it “very embarrassing for Iran.”

The US State Department and International Atomic Energy Agency have said in multiple reports that Mr Fakhrizadeh held deep insight into the Islamic Republic’s nuclear capabilities.

In 2018, Mr Netanyahu said Mr Fakhrizadeh was the head of Project Amad, which he and others describe as a secret nuclear weapons endeavour.

“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” the prime minister told reporters at the time.

The killing threatens to compound tensions in Tehran-Washington relations, which have deteriorated under US President Donald Trump.

In 2018, Mr Trump pulled out of a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, and Iran began withdrawing its commitments from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action last year.

A group of protesters burn pictures of the US President Donald Trump, top, and the President-elect Joe Biden in a gathering in front of Iranian Foreign Ministry. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Mr Trump has invoked crippling economic sanctions on the country.

The White House is closely monitoring Mr Fakhrizadeh’s killing, it said.

On Friday, Mr Trump retweeted Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, who wrote that Mr Fakhrizadeh “was head of Iran’s secret military program and wanted for many years by Mossad,” Israel’s foreign intelligence agency.

Students and young Iranians have converged on several government buildings in Tehran, and at one demonstration outside the Foreign Ministry on Saturday, protesters burned US and Israeli flags and posters depicting Mr Trump and President-elect Joe Biden.

Two protesters burn the representation of the US and Israeli flags as the others hold placards condemning inspections by the UN nuclear agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear activities and the country’s nuclear talks with world powers during a gathering in front of Iranian Foreign Ministry. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The European Union condemned the killing and called for “maximum restraint,” while the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office said it was “urgently trying to establish the facts.”

The funeral and burial of Mr Fakhrizadeh will be held today, Fars News reported.

Mr Fakhrizadeh’s remains were taken to the shrine of Imam Reza, one of the most important religious hubs for Shias, in Mashhad on Saturday.

Iran 40th anniversary of Islamic Revolution

Iranians celebrate 40th anniversary of Islamic Revolution

Following a Sunday service in Mashhad, his body was to be taken to Tehran to the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic republic’s founder.



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Rage Against the Voting Machine


President Trump has so far been unwilling to concede to Joe Biden, and his latest argument is that the voting machines must have been rigged. Where’s the evidence? Strong claims need strong proof, not rumors and innuendo on Twitter.

Chatter is swirling around Dominion Voting, a company that supplies equipment in some 28 states. What seems to have launched this theory was an early misreport of results in Antrim County, Mich. In 2016 Mr. Trump won 62% of its 13,600 ballots, so eyebrows rose this year when the initial tallies…



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