MARK OF THE BEAST ALERT: Swedish city introduces payment by hand scanning/ GOOGLE CONTACT LENSES HAVE BUILT IN CAMERAS!/French scientists, We’ve lost 2,300 SARS virus vials and more signs of JESUS’ soon return

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Time for US to forsake peace efforts, New York Times says

An editorial in Tuesday’s New York Times called on the US government to abandon its mediation efforts between Israelis and Palestinians and focus on “other major international challenges,” asserting that no amount of American pushing and shoving could succeed when the two sides were reluctant to make peace themselves. In the opinion piece, titled “In the Middle East, Time to Move On,” the paper stated that US President Barack Obama “made the right decision to give (peacemaking) a second try last summer” but said it had now become clear that the sides “are still unwilling to move on the core issues of the borders of a Palestinian state, the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and guarantees for Israel’s security.” In the current climate, the editorial reasoned, continued efforts were futile. It suggested that Washington outline its principles for a viable, lasting peace agreement — a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps; an agreement that Jerusalem will be the capital of both nations — and then redirect its foreign policy efforts to other pressing global issues, such as the ongoing military tensions between Russia and Ukraine.  While a peace deal was “essential for the security of both peoples,” the paper concluded,
“To achieve one will require determined and courageous leaders and populations on both sides that demand an end to the occupation. Despite the commitment of the United States, there’s very little hope of that now.” US envoy Martin Indyk was set to return to Israel on Tuesday in a fresh bid to save the failing peace process. According to Palestinian sources another round of talks-about-talks was expected on Tuesday or Wednesday evening.  Peace efforts suffered a new blow last week when Israel said it would freeze the transfer of duties it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf, in retaliation for the Palestinian Authority’s applications to join 15 UN and other international treaties in breach of previous understandings. The monthly 80 million euros ($111 million) in taxes collected by Israel represents about two-thirds of the PA’s income. Israel also reportedly plans to suspend its participation with the Palestinians in developing a gas field off the Gaza Strip and to put a cap on Palestinian deposits in its banks. More

This Chart Shows Us How Bad The Economy Really Is: “Flashing Red Warning”

EPS Growth
Recent weeks have led to a fairly significant drop in stock valuations, with many expert analysts struggling to figure out exactly why it’s happening. You’ll hear them cite the weather, or market overreaction, or any number of reasons for why stocks have seen their share prices reduced and why they’ll be rebounding in the near-term. What they won’t show you on mainstream financial channels is what’s really happening behind the scenes. Forget about all the minute-by-minute noise for a moment and take a look at the following chart. It gives a very simple overview of earnings growth trends for stocks listed on the S&P 500 on a quarterly basis. Last year saw what analysts would call fairly robust growth, and they had no problem citing these numbers for evidence of economic recovery. We’re curious what they’d call it now, considering this chart shows a massive collapse in earnings per share growth across the board. Pay close attention to that yellow line, which indicates growth (or lack there of) for the first quarter of 2014. According to Zero Hedge this is a Flashing Red Warning as earnings growth plunges to its lowest levels since 2012:
While the so-called “experts” were adamant in repeating that one must ignore all Q1 economic data (because of harsh weather you know), one thing the same “experts” pounded the table on was the earnings growth in 2014 which confirmed that the Fed was correct in tapering and that the corporate sector was well on its way to achieving “escape velocity” and a stable recovery. And then this happened. Most people, when you ask them how the economy is doing, will point to the Dow Jones, NASDAQ and S&P 500 as evidence of a healthy recovery. What the majority of those people fail to look at is the underlying valuations for the stocks within those indexes. If you are an investor and hold stocks, or are thinking about jumping in because this latest “correction” is about to take a turn for the better, we direct your attention to this absolutely critical piece of information regarding price-per-earnings from Karl Denninger of Market TickerMore

A prestigious research institute in France said it had lost thousands of tubes of samples of the deadly Sars coronavirus. A routine inventory check at Paris’ Pasteur Institute revealed that 2,349 tubes containing fragments of the virus responsible for the deaths of 774 people in 2002 were missing, the centre named after French chemist Louis Pasteur said. The institute was quick to reassure the public and said that the contents of the missing vials had no infectious potential. They contained only part of the virus and had no ability to spread. ”Independent experts referred by health authorities have qualified such potential as ‘non-existing’ according to the available evidence and literature on the survival of the Sars virus,” the institute said. In 2002 more than 8,000 people were infected by a pandemic of Sars – severe acute respiratory syndrome. The virus spread from China through Hong Kong and on to other countries before it was eventually brought under control. It is not clear how the tubes disappeared from one of the institute’s safest laboratories.
Management were made aware of the loss in January, Le Monde newspaper reported. For weeks, staff at the institute tried to find the missing vials, general director Christian Bréchot said. ”We’ve looked for those boxes [containing the tubes] everywhere,” Bréchot explained. ”We went thought the lists of all the people who have worked here in the past year and a half, including trainees. We have scrutinised their profile to check if there was any conflict.” Bréchot said that foul play was “highly improbable” but had not been ruled out. The tubes were stored in a high-security laboratory dedicated to research into highly infective viruses. Access to the lab is limited to a restricted number of personnel, who have to go through a disinfection process before they can leave. Bréchot suggested that the tubes, which were moved from one freezer to another in March 2013, might have been destroyed by a member of staff who forgot to record the procedure. Sars is an airborne virus, which spreads in a similar way to flu and the common cold. The Agency for the Safety of Health Products has opened an investigation into the missing tubes. International Business Times

Feds Begin Fingerprinting Medicare Providers and Suppliers.

Four years after Obamacare became law, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is notifying Medicare providers and suppliers of new fingerprint-based background checks. Eventually, all individuals who hold a five percent or greater stake in a Medicare supplier or provider that is categorized as “high risk” will be subject to the requirement. The provision is part of the Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP Program Integrity Provisions (Title E) of the Affordable Care Act, and gives the HHS secretary broad discretion in applying the background check requirements depending on the potential for abuse, fraud, and/or waste. The new requirements are spelled out in a document posted online on the website of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last Friday. The new rules will apply to both current and future enrollees who are classified as “high risk,” the stated purpose being to weed out “bad actors” in the Medicare program and prevent any more from enrolling.  This particular document is a “News Flash” from CMS’s Medicare Learning Network and is addressed to suppliers and providers who submit claims for “Durable Medical Equipment Medicare Administrative Contractors (DME MACs) and Home Health and Hospice (HH&H) MACs for services provided to Medicare beneficiaries.”
There is no effective date or implementation date listed on the document; rather, the document states that “fingerprint-based background check implementation will be phased in beginning in 2014,” and that those affected will receive letters after which the individuals will have thirty days to comply with the finger-printing requirement.  The fingerprints will be submitted to the FBI for a background check and will be stored by the government in accordance with federal requirements and FBI guidelines. Although initially the new regulations will only be applied to providers and suppliers of “Durable Medicare Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) suppliers or Home Health Agencies (HHA),” the “high risk” category is defined at the discretion of the HHS secretary and may be expanded in the future. The Weekly Standard

China’s President Xi urges greater military use of space.

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the air force to adopt an integrated air and space defence capability, in what state media on Tuesday called a response to the increasing military use of space by the United States and others. While Beijing insists its space program is for peaceful purposes, a Pentagon report last year highlighted China’s increasing space capabilities and said Beijing was pursuing a variety of activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis. Fears of a space arms race with the United States and other powers mounted after China blew up one of its own weather satellites with a ground-based missile in January 2007. A detailed analysis of satellite imagery published in March provided additional evidence that a Chinese rocket launch in May 2013, billed as a research mission, was actually a test of a new anti-satellite weapon. Visiting air force headquarters in Beijing, Xi, who is also head of the military, told officers “to speed up air and space integration and sharpen their offensive and defensive capabilities”, Xinhua news agency said late on Monday. It gave no details of how China expects to do this. China has to pay more attention to its defensive capabilities in space, the official China Daily said on Tuesday.

“The idea of combining air and space capability is not new to the Chinese air force, as a host of experts have underscored the importance of space,” it said. Wang Ya’nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine in Beijing, said Xi’s call for integrated air and space capability is to answer the need of the times. ”The United States has paid considerable attention and resources to the integration of capabilities in both air and space, and other powers have also moved progressively toward space militarization,” Wang Ya’nan was quoted as saying. ”Though China has stated that it sticks to the peaceful use of space, we must make sure that we have the ability to cope with others’ operations in space.” The United States was the first country to develop anti-satellite weapons in the 1950s, but currently has no known weapons dedicated to that mission. China has been increasingly ambitious in developing its space programs for military, commercial and scientific purposes. Xi has said he wants China to establish itself as a space superpower. But it is still playing catch-up to established space superpowers the United States and Russia. China’s Jade Rabbit moon rover has been beset by technical difficulties since landing to great domestic fanfare in mid-December. Yahoo News

DAYS OF LOT – First openly gay Episcopal Bishop delivers closing Easter prayer

President Obama tapped the first openly gay Episcopal Bishop to lead the closing Easter Prayer, Monday. According to Talking Points Memo, Obama unexpectedly called on Gene Robinson to lead the closing prayer. Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, tweeted about the honor, ironically taking the Lord’s name in vain in the process. “POTUS ‘preaches’ at the Easter prayer breakfast. Then, out of the blue, asks ME to close with prayer. OMG!” he tweeted with a picture. Daily Caller

 

 

BREAKING NEWS: Kiev launches military operation in eastern Ukraine


BREAKING NEWS
: Ukraine’s coup-appointed acting President Aleksandr Turchinov has announced a crackdown on anti-government protesters in the north of the Donetsk Region, eastern Ukraine.  According to Turchinov, this ‘anti-terrorist operation’ also aims to prevent “attempts to break Ukraine apart.” The anti-government protesters in south-eastern Ukraine have recently been protesting against coup-appointed Kiev authorities. They demand constitutional reform that would take into consideration the interests of all Ukrainian regions. They also propose the federalization of the country and to make Russian the second official language in the regions. Earlier, a clip posted to YouTube showed local people in the town of Rodinskoye, Donetsk Region, who stopped a tank allegedly on its way from Kiev to take part in the crackdown against south-eastern Ukrainian cities. Andrey Parubiy, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, announced the first battalion of a National Guard “comprised of volunteers from Maidan self-defense troops”, has left Kiev for the south-east.  According to Parubiy, the “battalion is comprised of volunteers from the Maidan self-defense troops”. On Monday, Turchinov signed a decree to officially begin a “special anti-terrorist operation” in the east of the country.
He ordered “that the National Security and Defense Council’s decision of April 13, 2014, ‘On urgent measures to overcome the territorial threat and to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine’ be put into effect.”  Russia has warned that if Kiev uses force against anti-Maidan protests in eastern Ukraine, this would undermine the effort to convene a four-party conference on resolving the crisis in the country, which would include the US, the EU, Russia and Ukraine. Turchinov also proposed conducting a joint operation with UN peacekeeping forces, a decision that was strongly condemned by Russian FM Sergey Lavrov at a Beijing press conference on Tuesday as “totally unacceptable.” The Kiev authorities have already tried to launch a so-called “anti-terrorist operation” in the eastern city of Slavyansk, Donetsk Region, after anti-government protesters seized several buildings in the city.  Gunfire broke out on Sunday, after troops in black uniforms supported by armored vehicles and several helicopters approached the roadblock set up by the locals. One person was killed and two others injured during the crackdown. There were rumors that among the troops were the members of the radical ultranationalist Right Sector movement, who were mobilized to take decisive steps to “defend Ukraine’s sovereignty.” RT

DAYS OF LOT – India court recognises transgender people as third gender

India’s Supreme Court has recognised transgender people as a third gender, in a landmark ruling. ”It is the right of every human being to choose their gender,” it said in granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female. It ordered the government to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities, as well as key amenities. According to one estimate, India has about two million transgender people. In India, a common term used to describe transgender people, transsexuals, cross-dressers, eunuchs and transvestites is hijra. Campaigners say they live on the fringes of society, often in poverty, ostracised because of their gender identity. Most make a living by singing and dancing or by begging and prostitution. They have been forced to choose either male or female as their gender in most public spheres.  ”Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue,” Justice KS Radhakrishnan, who headed the two-judge Supreme Court bench, said in his ruling on Tuesday. ”Transgenders are also citizens of India” and they must be “provided equal opportunity to grow”, the court said. ”The spirit of the Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender.”
The judges asked the government to treat them in line with other minorities officially categorised as “socially and economically backward”, to enable them to get quotas in jobs and education. ”We are quite thrilled by the judgement,” Anita Shenoy, lawyer for the petitioner National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa), told the BBC. ”The court order gives legal sanctity to the third gender. The judges said the government must make sure that they have access to medical care and other facilities like separate wards in hospitals and separate toilets,” she said. Prominent transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, who was among the petitioners in the case, welcomed the judgement, saying the community had long suffered from discrimination and ignorance in the traditionally conservative country, reports the Agence France-Presse news agency. ”Today, for the first time I feel very proud to be an Indian,” Ms Tripathi told reporters outside the court in Delhi. In 2009, India’s Election Commission took a first step by allowing transgenders to choose their gender as “other” on ballot forms. But India is not the first country to recognize a third gender. Nepal recognized a third gender as early as in 2007 when the Supreme Court ordered the government to scrap all laws that discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And last year, Bangladesh also recognized a third gender. BBC News

After a taste of spring to end this past week, the Rockies and Midwest are flipping to a wintry feel as colder temperatures dive south the next couple of days. In fact, there will be just enough cold air in place to result in wet snow accumulations in parts of these regions. Below are the forecast summaries for the regions affected by this wintry weather. The maps show where snow is falling right now, and our latest snowfall forecast.. More

 

 

IMF gives U.S. Congress year-end deadline for passing reforms

The 188 members of the International Monetary Fund over the weekend gave the U.S. Congress until the end of the year to pass reforms giving large emerging countries like Russia and China a greater say in the Bretton Woods Institution, after which the global financial body may make plans to reform the IMF without waiting for Washington. A communique from the IMF’s finance committee urged Congress to use the coming months to enact the reforms, which would also double the IMF’s permanent lending authority. Top IMF officials continued to say they expect the IMF reform legislation to pass this year because of growing support in Congress for modernizing the institution to reflect the evolving world economic pecking order. Nearly all the IMF’s other members have approved the reform legislation. But the U.S. is the IMF’s largest voting member and has blocked it from taking effect so far. The communique made clear that the IMF will not tolerate a delay of the reforms, first negotiated in 2010, for much longer. “If the 2010 reforms are not ratified by year-end, we will call on the IMF to build on its existing work and develop options for next steps and we will schedule a discussion of these options,” said the communique, which was issued after the IMF’s annual meeting in Washington concluded over the weekend. “We are committed to maintaining a strong and adequately resourced IMF.” Some prominent international experts and IMF sympathizers are urging the Fund to go on without the U.S., including C. Fred Bergsten and Edwin M. Truman of the D.C.-based Peterson Institute on International Economic. They say there are various ways the IMF can get around the U.S.’s veto-wielding power over most major activities and decisions which require a supermajority vote of 85 percent. Although the largest single shareholder, the U.S. holds only a 17 percent voting share.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said last week the IMF is considering a “Plan B” for proceeding without the U.S., although she still hopes the U.S. Congress will act in time. “It is entirely possible that the United States is going to ratify the 2010 reforms in the course of the year,” said Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, noting that he sees a consensus building in Congress for “a strong IMF in the face of what are very obvious challenges in the global economy and to the whole global order.” The White House and most Democrats in Congress support the IMF reforms, but the bill has divided Republicans on Capitol Hill, where some conservatives have balked at giving the IMF more funding and power. GOP leaders want major concessions from the White House in exchange for approving the reforms.  Mr. Shanmugaratnam warned that U.S. failure to ratify the reforms could undermine the IMF and the whole system of economic governance set up by the U.S. and its allies after World War II. China and some other big emerging countries have explored setting up a fund that would compete with the IMF to provide aid for developing countries during economic emergencies. “If for some reason … the 2010 reforms are not completed, then we are more likely over time to see disruptive change,” Mr. Shanmugaratnam said. “We are more likely over time to see a weakening of multilateralism, the emergence of regionalism, bilateralism and other ways of dealing with global problems, and that will not be a better world for all of us, for the U.S., for members of the IMF. It is really a world that will be less safe.” Washington Times

French police begin mass DNA test in hunt for school rapist

French police began collecting DNA samples from hundreds of students and staff at a school in western France on Monday in an attempt to identify the assailant who raped a teenage girl last year. Police in La Rochelle began testing more than 500 male pupils and staff in their hunt for the perpetrator of the assault on a 16-year-old girl in the toilets of Fenelon-Notre-Dame high school last September. Two police officers were deployed at the Catholic school to take saliva samples from the 475 students, 31 teachers and 21 other staff members believed to have been present at the time of the attack. The victim was raped in the dark and unable to identify her attacker but police managed to retrieve a DNA imprint — the equivalent of a unique genetic barcode — from her clothing. The DNA tests, ordered by public prosecutor Isabelle Pagenelle, are due to be completed by mid-week, with results expected in a month. ’Looking for the match’ “The choice is simple for me,” Pagenelle told reporters.
“Either I wait for a match in what could be several years, or I go looking for the match myself.” “We must have the consent both both the parents and the minor,” she added, “but those who say no will become potential suspects who could be taken into custody.” Authorities said samples that do not match the DNA found on the victim will be destroyed. “The operation began calmly at 8 a.m.,” Anne-Sophie Guilbot, a spokeswoman for the Fenelon-Notre-Dame school, told Reuters. Many of the students said they were willing to give samples in the hope of tracking down the rapist. ”Everyone is participating without too much hassle because we stand by the girl who was raped and want to find whoever was responsible,” said Lucas, a 17-year-old student. Concerned about their own security, some students asked why the authorities had waited so long after the attack before carrying out the tests. “I don’t know why it took so long, it’s not normal. The rapist may have been in the school for the past seven months,” said 16-year-old Margaux. Others have condemned the mass test as a violation of civil rights. “Refusing to give a DNA sample when not in custody is a right,” prominent lawyer Joseph Cohen-Sabban told Le Figaro newspaper. French courts rarely order mass DNA tests, and when they do they generally target specific categories of people. The only example of blanket sampling was in Pleine-Fougères (Brittany), where British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson was murdered in 1996 and police tested more than 400 inhabitants the following year. Francisco Arce Montes, a Spanish national, was not among those tested but he was arrested in the US in 2001 and convicted of the murder through an individual DNA match.France 24

Swedish city introduces payment by hand scanning

Vein scanning terminals have been installed in 15 shops and restaurants in Lund thanks to an engineering student who came up with the idea two years ago while waiting in line to pay. Some 1,600 people have signed up already for the system, which its creator says is not only faster but also safer than traditional payment methods. ”Every individual’s  is completely unique, so there really is no way of committing fraud with this system,” researcher Fredrik Leifland said in a statement. ”You always need your hand scanned for a payment to go through.” While vein scanning technology existed previously, it has not been used as a form of payment before. ”We had to connect all the players ourselves, which was quite complex: the vein scanning terminals, the banks, the stores and the customers,” Leifland added. The creators have plans to further expand the business and other companies around the world are already starting to implement the new  method. To sign up users have to visit a shop or restaurant with a terminal, where they scan their palm three times and enter their social security and telephone numbers. A  is then sent to their mobile phone with an activation link to a website, with payments taken directly from customers bank accounts twice a month. Phys.Org

Computer hacking expert says more bad news to come from Heartbleed

The fallout from the Heartbleed bug could go far beyond just 900 social insurance numbers compromised at the Canada Revenue agency. Alberta computer security expert John Zabiuk suspects there’s a wave of problems coming. ”Right now, we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “This is probably the largest flaw that’s hit the Internet in history.” Zabiuk is with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, where, as an ethical hacker, he teaches students to protect computer systems by approaching the problem from a hacker’s perspective. The revenue agency says it’s analyzing data to determine what else might have been siphoned out. Zabiuk says officials are likely to discover a much bigger cache of information has been compromised. ”Realistically, with over two thirds of all servers compromised online with this vulnerability, we’re going to be seeing a lot more fallout from this,” he said. The revenue agency said it suffered “a malicious breach of taxpayer data that occurred over a six-hour period.”
The problem is that the bug has been loose for two years, said Zabiuk. ”So what we’re seeing with the 900 users that they say have been affected or compromised — that’s just in the last two weeks that they’ve been keeping track of what’s going on with this,” he said. ”Prior to this, again it’s been out for over two years, so what’s gone on in that span of time?” He said the government did the right thing when it learned of the security problem. ”I think the response is appropriate in taking down the servers that they knew were vulnerable,” he said. “It’s really the only way to protect the citizens and the people using those servers.” The Heartbleed bug is caused by a flaw in OpenSSL software, which is commonly used on the Internet to provide security and privacy. The bug is affecting many global IT systems in both private and public sector organizations and has the potential to expose private data. Zabiuk said the fix is simple. The problem is applying the patch to all of the hundreds or thousands of servers that may have been affected. CRA said it will notify everyone involved in the security breach by registered letter and will offer access to credit protection services. The Canadian government on the weekend restored service to all its publicly accessible websites as well the tax-filing systems E-file and Netfile. The revenue agency said because the outage with its website lasted five days, it will effectively extend the tax filing deadline by that length of time. Returns filed by May 5 will not incur interest or penalties. Andrew Treusch, commissioner of the agency, said he shares the concerns of those whose privacy has been violated. The Privacy Commissioner has been notified of the security breach and the Mounties are investigating. Calgary Herald

 

 

Add the U.S. Postal Service to the list of federal agencies seeking to purchase what some Second Amendment activists say are alarmingly large quantities of ammunition. Earlier this year, the USPS posted a notice on its website, under the heading “Assorted Small Arms Ammunition,” that says: “The United States Postal Service intends to solicit proposals for assorted small arms ammunition. If your organization wishes to participate, you must pre-register. This message is only a notification of our intent to solicit proposals.” Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Washington-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said: “We’re seeing a highly unusual amount of ammunition being bought by the federal agencies over a fairly short period of time. To be honest, I don’t understand why the federal government is buying so much at this time.” Jake McGuigan, director of state affairs and government relations for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said widely reported federal ammunition purchases have sparked conspiracy-type fears among gun owners, who worry that the federal government is trying to crack down on Second Amendment rights via the back door by limiting the ammo available to owners. It’s not just the USPS that is stocking up on ammo. A little more than a year ago, the Social Security Administration put in a request for 174,000 rounds of “.357 Sig 125 grain bonded jacketed hollow-point” bullets.

Before that, it was the Department of Agriculture requesting 320,000 rounds. More recently, the Department of Homeland Security raised eyebrows with its request for 450 million rounds — at about the same time the FBI separately sought 100 million hollow-point rounds. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also requested 46,000 rounds. Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, asked: why exactly does a weather service need ammunition? ”NOAA — really? They have a need? One just doesn’t know why they’re doing this,” he said. “The problem is, all these agencies have their own SWAT teams, their own police departments, which is crazy. In theory, it was supposed to be the U.S. marshals that was the armed branch for the federal government.” Armed federal employees are often assigned to offices of investigative services, the offices of inspectors general, or other equally bureaucratic agencies.  For instance, regular Internal Revenue Service agents aren’t equipped with on-the-job guns — but those affiliated with the agency’s Criminal Investigations Division are.  The same goes for workers with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, and with the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General. The Energy Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Commerce Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development are a few of the federal entities that boast an armed division, tasked with investigating fraud and suspected criminal activities. As such, the agents get to carry guns.
“Most of these agencies do have their own police forces,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Gun Owners’ Action League. That, perhaps more than federal ammunition purchases, is the larger issue, he suggested, and Van Cleave agreed. ”What’s the need for that? Do we really need this? That was something our Founding Fathers did not like and we should all be concerned about,” Van Cleave said, speaking of the expansion of police forces throughout all levels of government. The Department of Homeland Security employs in its various law enforcement entities — from the Coast Guard to the Secret Service to Customs and Border Protection — more than 200,000 workers, an estimated 135,000 of whom are authorized to carry weapons. When the agency makes its ammo buys, it often does so over the course of several years.
“We realize that the House is still investigating the ammo purchases by the administration, but from what we’ve seen so far, most representatives don’t seem alarmed,” said Erich Pratt, communications director for Gun Owners of America. More

Google buys drone maker Titan Aerospace

Google confirmed Monday that it has bought drone-maker Titan Aerospace, in a bid to supplement its efforts to connect parts of the world that do not have Internet access. The tech giant will be developing the drones alongside its work on “Project Loon,” which aims to use giant helium balloons attached to networking equipment to bring connectivity to remote places. Google is not the only tech giant looking into how to get users in parts of the world currently off the network connected to the Web; Facebook has also said it will employ drones to fix that problem. Apart from the altruistic motives, connecting new parts of the world also means new customers for Internet firms. Google confirmed the deal in a statement that outlined ways that the company could use the drones in the future, but declined to disclose an acquisition price. “Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world. It’s still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring Internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation,” the company said in a statement that was also posted to the Titan Aerospace Web site.
“It’s why we’re so excited to welcome Titan Aerospace to the Google family.” Some of the drones produced by Titan Aerospace are capable of staying in the air for up to five years without having to refuel or land, according to the company’s Web site. Media reports had previously indicated that Titan Aerospace, which is based in New Mexico, was being courted by Facebook. Instead Facebook announced last month that it had bought a British drone-maker, Ascenta. The social network plans to use the drones to provide Web access to “the next 5 billion” people. Currently, about two-thirds of the world’s population is not connected to the Internet. Amazon.com has also expressed an interest in developing drones, though those would fly closer to home, as delivery drones. Washington Post

An expansion to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation’s existing fingerprint database to include facial recognition has raised concerns among privacy advocates, due to its ability to contain images of innocents as well as criminals. The FBI’s next generation identification (NGI) biometric database contains over a hundred million individual records of people’s fingerprints. It being expanded to feature much more biometric information such as palm prints, voice signatures, iris scans and facial recognition, the agency said, in order to more quickly and accurately identify individuals. Controversially, the NGI database will contain facial recognition data of millions of non-criminal citizens, documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation under the US Freedom of Information Act reveal.
Some 4.3 million images for non-criminal purposes will be in the database by next year as part of employers’ background checks, which represents a threat to privacy, the EFF said. The introduction of the NGI means the FBI would link its criminal and non-criminal databases for the first time. Every record would have searches running against them, the EFF said, meaning non-criminal citizen’s facial images could end up being searched as part of criminal investigations. It said this raises the risk of innocent people being implicated as criminal suspects simply because their images are in the system. The FBI is yet to identify what a further one million images in the “special population cognisant” and “new repositories” categories will be used for, according to the documents. The recommended 0.75 megapixel resolution of the images addes to EFF’s concerns, which it said is too low for accurate recognition. Some 13.6 million images are already in the NGI, representing between seven and eight million people. Around half of US states are currently participating in the FBI’s NGI program. IT NEWS

WAR DRUMS: Obama confronts Putin in call as crisis escalates

Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin confronted one another in telephone talks Monday as a standoff over Ukraine escalated after the CIA chief visited Kiev and a Russian war plane “buzzed” a US destroyer. Washington said it was consulting European allies and hinted that more sanctions on Russia’s economy could be coming, to punish what it sees as Moscow’s sponsorship of pro-Russia violence in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin said that Putin used the latest in a string of tense phone calls with Obama to brand US charges of meddling in eastern Ukraine as “unfounded.” There were no immediate readouts of the call from the White House, which earlier was the first to say it would take place. Unusually though, the White House did offer some details of CIA chief John Brennan’s travel, confirming Russian media reports that the top US spy had flown into Kiev over the weekend. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had demanded an explanation over Brennan’s visit.

 

Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified source as saying Brennan recommended Kiev use force against pro-Russian militants in eastern districts. But White House spokesman Jay Carney blasted claims that Brennan’s travel was anything but routine — and said he was revealing it to rebut “false claims” laid by Russia. ”Senior-level visits of intelligence officials are a standard means of fostering mutually beneficial security cooperation, including US-Russian intelligence collaboration going back to the beginnings of the post-Cold War era,” he said. ”To imply that US officials meeting with their counterparts (in Kiev) is anything other than in the same spirit is absurd.” Carney also denied that a new Cold War was brewing between Russia and the United States, but an incident involving a Russian jet over the Black Sea and a US cruise missile destroyer did hark back to the tensions of that earlier era. More

An adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry stoked the crisis in Ukraine on Monday by saying the United States may send weapons to the junta in Kyiv.  “Obviously we are looking at that as an option,” said Thomas Shannon said in response to a question about providing military aid to the coup government. Speaking from Berlin, Shannon said the separatist effort in eastern Ukraine is a Russian destabilization effort. Shannon’s remarks arrive as new tensions ignited following an announcement by the junta to move militarily against separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the country. “When it comes to military assistance, we’re looking at it,” Obama’s Deputy national security adviser, Tony Blinken, said in late March. On Sunday, Republican Senator John McCain called for arming the junta. “We ought to at least, for God’s sake, give them some light weapons with which to defend themselves.
So far, this administration’s not only not done that, but they won’t even share some intelligence with the Ukrainian government,” McCain said on “Face the Nation” Sunday. McCain also said the United States should wage economic war on Russia. “Severe penalties of sanctions can have an effect on their economy… Shouldn’t the president of the United States be speaking forcefully and strongly? And didn’t the president say if they carried out further actions, there would be further sanctions? So far, we haven’t heard anything,” McCain said. In March, Republicans in Congress called for arming the junta. “You can do non-combatant military aid in a way that allows them (Ukraine) to defend themselves,” House Intelligence Committee boss Mike Rogers said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Some Democrats also support arming the junta. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking senior Democrat in the Senate, told CBS that sending weapons to Ukraine is a possibility. “Keep it on the table,” Durbin said. INFO WARS

 

Martial law: Obama confiscates National Guard helicopters from all 50 states

As if the Obama administration’s purchase of more than 2 billion rounds of ammunition, and nearly 3,000 urban tanks, along with their unprecedented (and highly illegal) domestic spying program was not enough to convince you that the federal government is about to suspend the Constitution once and for all, the man who once vowed to run “the most transparent administration in history” has just rather inexplicably, ordered the U.S. Army to seize every Apache attack helicopter currently in use by the National Guard. In all, the Defense Department will confiscate 192 Apaches from National Guard units around the country and give them to the active duty Army. In exchange for the heavily armed and highly maneuverable choppers, Guard units will receive 111 UH-60 Blackhawk transport helicopters from the Army,Defense One reports. Last week, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, claiming that the measure will save taxpayers $12 billion, over the next three years. Of course, when one considers that this ‘cost saving’ move comes from an administration which regularly runs trillion-dollar deficits and, to date, has proposed no less than 442 tax increases since taking office in January 2009, the idea of saving money for the American taxpayer is a bit hard to swallow. So, what could be another, more reasonable explanation?
The Apache, which began service in 1986, is armed with a 30 mm M230E1 Chain Gun (with 1,200 rounds), Hellfire anti-tank missiles, and 70 general-purpose 70 mm rockets. In short, it is capable of fending-off any enemy, foreign or domestic. Obviously, these helicopters could pose a substantial obstacle to say, a tyrant drunk on his own power, with an army at his disposal. With the recent, attempted seizure of the Bundy family ranch in Nevada by more than 200 armed federal officers, including many snipers, we know that the Obama administration is not afraid to use force against the American people.  Furthermore, considering the unprovoked attacks and murders of U.S. citizens on their own property by federal agents, such as the Ruby Ridge and Waco massacres, we also know that the federal government has no problem suspending due process and using lethal force on its own citizens. Couple that with the as yet, unexplained, massive arms buildup by the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Defense Authorization Act which allows the feds to arrest and detain any U.S. citizen indefinitely without charges, and even the most establishment-minded American should be able to see what is coming. There are a few governors around the country who would not stand for martial-law being arbitrarily declared by this or any president, but without any teeth (i.e. Apache attack helicopters) what could they use to stop Obama’s tyranny? Examiner.com

U.S. TAXPAYERS PAY TO TEACH ISLAM

U.S. taxpayers are supporting a new government program overseas to teach students about Islam that, according to critics, attempts to convert the impressionable into becoming Muslim.  According to the Gatestone Institute, a non-partisan nonprofit that works on international policy issues and reports to the public, the new program is being run by the Czech Republic but is funded by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Prague. A descriptive page found on the website for the project, called “Muslims in the Eyes of Czech Schoolchildren,” attests that the funding is from a U.S. Embassy grant, the Anna Lindh Foundation, the European Commission Representation and the Prague library. The program, according to coordinator and lecturer Klara Popovova, has the “patronage,” or support, of the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. The Obama administration has taken criticism for the president’s bowing repeatedly to foreign dignitaries, including the king of Saudi Arabia, and statements such as the U.S. “no longer” is a Christian nation.
He’s also boasted of Muslim contributions to American history while forcing employers and employees to fund abortion, even if it violates their faith. The report from Soeren Kern at Gatestone notes that critics are blasting the program for having as its underlying objective the conversion of non-Muslim students to Islam.  It happens, they charge, by bringing proselytizing messages into public schools “under the guise of promoting multiculturalism and fighting ‘Islamophobia.’” The report notes that the funders even ran an ad recently promising to pay $13 to students ages 15 to 18  if they attend a two-hour presentation “about Islam.” On the website, one of the students, Agnes, age 6, wrote: “I learned that veiling [in Islam] is often voluntary.” A theology professor noted, “It’s not just a summary of relevant information, but also to promote the development of critical reflection on information.” More

Syria army gains more ground near Damascus

The Syrian army has taken more ground from foreign-backed Takfiri militants near the capital Damascus amid ongoing heavy clashes between the two sides across the country, Press TV reports. On Monday, Syrian army units killed many terrorists and destroyed their hideouts in the towns of al-Sarkha, Bakha’a and al-Jibbeh in the mountainous al-Qalamoun region in the countryside of Damascus. The militants who were not killed escaped out to Housh Arab suburbs of the capital or to the Lebanese border and the army continues to chase them down. Army units also recaptured the historic town of Ma’loula, located about 60 kilometers northeast of Damascus.
“We regained control of Ma’loula just an hour ago. Just before that, we secured al-Sarkha after a series of difficult and complicated military operations because of the nature of the mountainous terrain. After taking the high grounds, we entered the town in a matter of hours and eliminated the militants,” said a Syrian army colonel. The Syrian army has been making more gains in its battle against foreign-backed militants. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday that the Takfiri war in his country has strongly shifted in favor of the government forces as they have made continuous gains in their battle against terrorists. On Sunday, Syrian troops regained the control of eastern heights overlooking Rankous plain, cutting off the militants’ supply routes between the Lebanese border and the area. Syria has been the scene of a deadly crisis since March 2011. Reports say more than 150,000 people have so far been killed and millions displaced in the foreign-backed violence. Press TV

WAR DRUMS: Ukraine Asks UN for Troops.


KIEV, Ukraine
 — Ukraine’s failure to enforce its own ultimatums and its appeal on Monday to the United Nations to send peacekeepers laid bare a grim reality for the shaky government in Kiev, where political leaders and security forces have few reliable ways to confront Russian-backed separatists in the restive east. A deadline set by Ukraine’s acting president for the start of a “large-scale antiterrorist operation” in the east passed without any clear police or military intervention. Meanwhile, pro-Russian militants seized yet another government building in the Donetsk region, bringing to at least nine the number of eastern towns now swept up in an insurgency. The country’s acting president, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, asked the United Nations to send peacekeepers. But the move was widely viewed as an act of desperation, given that Russia holds a veto at the United Nations Security Council and is unlikely to assent to a such a request. The confused and passive response underscored Kiev’s limited options in challenging pro-Russian militants and their backers in Moscow.

Too assertive a response could cause heavy civilian casualties and play into Moscow’s narrative that Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine are threatened and need protection. Too timid a response risks inviting more meddling from Moscow or giving free rein to local armed militants.  Ukraine’s armed forces, demoralized and underequipped, are so short of funds that when the government ordered them on high alert last month as Russian forces seized Crimea, a Ukrainian billionaire had to buy the military fuel. The businessman, Ihor Kolomoysky, now the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region next to Donetsk, said he put up around $5 million of his own money to pay for gasoline and batteries so that Ukrainian military vehicles could leave their garages and helicopters could get off the ground. Ukraine’s intelligence agency, the State Security Service, known as the SBU, is so riddled with Russian informers that when John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, visited Kiev over the weekend on a supposedly secret trip, Russian state news media swiftly revealed his visit and declared it evidence that Washington was calling the shots in Ukraine and pushing for a crackdown in the east. More

Japan Fukushima Radiation Reaching West Coast?

Concerns are being raised about the plumes of radiation released from the meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear reactor during the tsunami that rocked the area in 2011. The radiation from Fukushima is floating through the Pacific Ocean from Japan and beginning to reach the west coast of America. Ken Buesseler, a research scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has constructed a program of citizen-scientists to test the waters for radiation along the west coast. The program encourages citizens with or without a science background to raise funds for a sample collection unit and to collect sea water from their area to send back to Woods Hole for testing. The collection unit is a 19-litre plastic jug and a shipping container to protect the sample. So far, 22 sites from Costa Rica to Washington have raised funds to collect samples and another 27 are in the process. Buesseler expects the levels of radiation from Cesium-134 and Cesium-137, the main radioactive isotopes reaching the west coast from Fukushima, to be far below the acceptable levels for safe drinking water, but fears without measurement the level of radiation coming from Japan would be impossible to confirm. One concern in the Pacific is for large mammals, like Orca whales, which eat massive amounts of fish throughout the day that may be contaminated with radiation.
Buesseler maintains, however, that danger to humans from contaminated fish should not be a concern as cesium is water-soluble and will disperse from the fish as they swim through the ocean. US Federal agencies are not taking place in the ocean testing, either because the levels are expected to be so low it is not considered a priority, or because the responsibility falls between agencies. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is responsible for monitoring oceans and atmospheric changes, but do not test for radiation. The Department of Energy monitors radiation levels but not in the oceans. Many reports have surfaced since the nuclear radiation was released from Fukushima that high levels of radiation were affecting sea life off the shores of America, but health officials have denied that radiation from Japan has caused any serious incursion across the Pacific. Buesseler said that people are going to be afraid of any reports of radiation because it is something they cannot see, smell or taste, but they know it can cause cancer. As of yet, no evidence has been shown to suspect dangerous levels of cesium in the waters off of the US. Levels of radiation from Fukushima are actually lower and less dangerous than that sill lurking around the ocean from nuclear testing in the fifties, according to reports. The most dangerous aspect still surrounding the Fukushima disaster is the makeshift tanks at the nuclear facility that were used to draw highly contaminated water out of the ocean. Evidence shows that some of the more hastily crafted holding tanks, containing about 300,000 tons of contaminated water, may be leaking back out into the ocean. Scientists will continue to monitor the levels of radiation from the Fukushima disaster floating across the Pacific Ocean from Japan reaching the west coast of Central and Northern America, but for now health officials maintain that there is no imminent threat. Liberty Voice

 

GOOGLE CONTACT LENSES HAVE BUILT IN CAMERAS!

Google has patented a smart contact lens that could see its Glass wearable computer fit inside a smart lens. The firm has already developed a contact lens for diabetics analyses their tears, warning them if their glucose levels are low. Now it has revealed plans for a lens with a camera built in – opening the possibility of its Glass system being shrunk down significantly, offering features such as ‘superzoom’ to wearers and even helping the blind see.  According to Patent Bolt, the system could even be used to help the blind see. ’For example, a blind person wearing Google’s contact lens with a built-in camera may be walking on a sidewalk and approaching an intersection,’ it says. ’The analysis component of the contact lens can process the raw image data of the camera to determine processed image data indicating that the blind person is approaching intersection with a crosswalk and establish that there is a car approaching the intersection.’  The lens also has wireless capabilities allowing it to link to a smartphone, which can be used to process data and give the user audio commands. Google also says the system will be able to detect faces, potentially allowing the blind to recognise people. The firm has already developed a smart lens capable of measuring the glucose level of diabetics.  ’You’ve probably heard that diabetes is a huge and growing problem—affecting one in every 19 people on the planet,’ Google said in a blog post announcing the research.
‘But you may not be familiar with the daily struggle that many people with diabetes face as they try to keep their blood sugar levels under control.  ’Uncontrolled blood sugar puts people at risk for a range of dangerous complications, some short-term and others longer term, including damage to the eyes, kidneys and heart.  ’A friend of ours told us she worries about her mom, who once passed out from low blood sugar and drove her car off the road’  The project’s co-founders,  Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, say they hope the technology could eventually become commonplace.  ’We’re now testing a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material,’ they said. ’We’re testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second.   ’We’re also investigating the potential for this to serve as an early warning for the wearer, so we’re exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds. ’It’s still early days for this technology, but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype.  ’We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease.’ The firm is in discussions with the FDA, but says ‘there’s still a lot more work to do to turn this technology into a system that people can use. It hopes to work with other

 

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Alert: French scientists, We’ve lost 2,300 SARS virus vials

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