Welcome to Sott.net
Thu, 24 Jan 2019
The World for People who Think

Society's Child
Map

Boat

The secret yacht summit that realigned the Middle East

Riyadh summit Trump
© AFP
Last year in Riyadh, US President Donald Trump with many of the same Arab leaders who were on the yacht.
George Nader, the Lebanese-American businessman and convicted paedophile, who is co-operating with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Donald Trump's campaign funding, organised a secret summit of Arab leaders on a yacht in the Red Sea in late 2015, Middle East Eye can reveal.

Nader proposed to the leaders gathered on the yacht that they should set up an elite regional group of six countries, which would supplant both the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the moribund Arab League.

Nader said this group of states could become a force in the region "that the US government could depend on" to counter the influence of Turkey and Iran, according to two sources briefed on the meeting.

V

Assange will give evidence to UK Parliament on Cambridge Analytica scandal

assange
© Rodrigo Garrido / Reuters
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange may soon give evidence to a Parliamentary Committee about Cambridge Analytica, a voter-profiling company which accessed data of some 50mn Facebook users, triggering an international scandal.

"I have accepted a request by the select committee of the UK parliament @CommonsCMS to give evidence, via video link, about Cambridge Analytica, and other matters, later this month,"Assange, currently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, said on Twitter.

Just over half an hour later, the British Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee confirmed that Assange "has offered to appear" before the House of Commons body, explaining that "no formal invitation" has yet been issued to the whistleblower.

WikiLeaks rushed to clarify the matter, stating that the Australian was "approached" on a number of occasions to offer his expert opinion to British MPs. During the last attempt, on Monday, the investigative committee allegedly proposed holding the session with Assange on March 28 via video link, "to which Mr. Assange agreed."

Eye 1

Snowden docs reveal NSA targeted Bitcoin users around the world

bitcoin
© Borut Zivulovic / Reuters
The US National Security Agency targeted Bitcoin users around the world, according to classified documents released by Edward Snowden. The revelations strike a blow to the financial privacy of bitcoin users, academics warn.

The National Security Agency (NSA) managed to find ways to 'track down senders and receivers' of Bitcoins, according to an internal NSA report dated March 2013. The findings come from classified NSA documents, exposed by ex-CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden and first published by The Intercept.

Crucially, the tracking may also have involved amassing information from bitcoin users' computers. One NSA memo suggests that the NSA collected some Bitcoin users' password information, internet activity and MAC address, which is a type of unique device identification number.

Bitcoin is a digital currency which uses encryption to regulate its units of currency. From the outset, cryptocurrencies were designed to circumvent the control of banks and provide discretion for financial transactions. But they could not easily evade the attention of national governments, who take a keen interest in controlling flows of money.

Sheriff

Former FBI agent Fred Humphries calls McCabe firing 'fitting': 'Important for top officials to be held accountable'

Andrew McCabe
© Aaron Bernstein / Reuters
Andrew McCabe
Fred Humphries woke up Saturday morning and for the first time ever raised a blue and white Federal Bureau of Investigation flag on the pole in his front yard.

"I was encouraged and hopeful," said Humphries, 53, in an exclusive interview with the Tampa Bay Times, reacting to the news that former FBI director Andrew McCabe had been fired.

A day earlier, both men left the FBI after 21-year careers.

Humphries retired, a short while after serving a 60-day unpaid suspension for previously speaking to the Times without permission.

McCabe, fired after the Justice Department rejected an appeal that would have let him retire this weekend, is accused in a yet-to-be-released internal report of failing to be forthcoming about a conversation he authorized between FBI officials and a journalist.

Bullseye

Toxic nothing-burger: Cambridge Analytica "scandal" is a political attack posing as journalism

cambridge analytica
Seeing Donald Trump's media and political critics, who for years feted "big data," suddenly pretend it's a crime, is hard to stomach. And the feigned outrage is being used as a weapon of establishment control over social media.

Before being repackaged by two leading liberal-leaning outlets to produce a media firestorm that has wiped tens of billions off Facebook's valuation and could usher in a new wave of investigations and regulation, the actual facts of Cambridge Analytica's data collection had been known since 2015. What has changed is the language: what the Guardian called "psychological profiling" and "behavioral microtargeting" before Donald Trump was elected, in the latest reports from the same newspaper becomes "psyops," the sinister-sounding "harvesting," the alarming "data breach," and most gloriously "Steve Bannon's psychological warfare mindf**k tool."

Behind the grand claims, the germ of the story remains - by tech standards - almost disappointingly quotidian. In 2014, the upstart data analysis company Cambridge Analytica developed a psychological quiz app that over 270,000 users of the world's biggest social network downloaded and completed. As well as passing their own data to the UK-headquartered firm, the test-takers agreed to share limited information about their friends - age, location and likes - as in line with Facebook's policy at the time, producing the much-cited but unverified figure of 50 million users that were profiled.

Eye 1

Israel needs to kick out 450 elderly people to make room for Jerusalem's new US embassy

US embassy in Tel Aviv
© Ack Guez / AFP
US embassy in Tel Aviv
Israeli authorities would need to relocate some 450 USSR immigrants, many of whom are in their 80s, from a plot of land to facilitate the construction of a new US embassy. And there is no solution in sight.

The plot in Jerusalem's predominantly Jewish Arnona neighborhood is owned by the United States and currently accommodates an American consulate, which will soon be promoted to embassy status. This is scheduled to happen on May 14, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of Israel's declaration of independence, although red tape may force a postponement, according to local media.

While the consular compound, which opened in 2010, is among the most secure American diplomatic facilities in Israel, it's far too small to serve as the full-fledged fortified embassy that the US wants it to be. Construction work required to change this would involve the relocation of 450 residents of the decades-old Diplomat Hotel, which was purchased by the US in 2014 and leased out to house elderly immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

According to the Israeli parliament's website, authorities have no plans on how to do this, with a heated debate taking place about the fate of those residents at a recent Immigration Committee meeting. "We cannot leave them in suspense, worry and fear of what their future will be and where they will be transferred," said Committee Chairman Avraham Neguise.

Comment: See also:


Red Flag

EU court finds men subjected to CIA-style '5 techniques' by British Army were not tortured

European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
© Vincent Kessler / Reuters
European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
A European court has rejected a request to find that a group of 14 men detained during internment in Northern Ireland suffered torture. The prisoners were subjected to white noise, sleep and food deprivation as well as beatings.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rejected the Irish government petition to revise a 1978 judgement against the UK and find that the prisoners, known as the 'hooded men' were subjected to torture.

The men were exposed to methods known as the "five techniques" - hooding, white noise, stress positions, sleep deprivation, and food deprivation. The practice was applied over an unknown period of four to seven days for an unspecified number of hours at a time. Similar interrogation techniques have since been deployed by the CIA and outlined in a 2014 Senate Torture report.

Red Flag

Sweden will criminalize sex without first getting explicit consent

rapes
© Mark Makela / Reuters
Sex without first getting explicit consent is to be criminalized in Sweden. The new bill was sent to lawmakers Tuesday, despite some deeming the law unnecessary.

Sweden already has extensive sexual assault laws, but country's lawmakers want to further cement the need for consent in the hope that the new law will see more sexual assault cases being prosecuted. The government describes the bill as being "based on the obvious: sex must be voluntary."

"Sex should be voluntary. Everything else is abuse," Justice Minister Morgan Johansson tweeted.

"I think it's important to reach that clarity in legislation," Johansson later added, Omni reports. "I think the number of crimes solved will increase. Particularly through the combination of stronger and broader legislation together with increased support for victims."

USA

Crisis of meaning in America: Youth suicide skyrocketed over 70% in the last decade

flowers on headstone
© Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post/Getty Images
According to the Centers for Disease Control, youth suicide is in the midst of a precipitous and frightening rise. Between 2006 and 2016, suicides by white children between ages 10 and 17 skyrocketed 70%; while black children are less likely than white children to kill themselves, their suicide rate also jumped 77%. And as The Blaze points out, CNN reported last year that "the suicide rate among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 rose to a 40-year high in 2015."

It's not just young people. According to Tom Simon, a CDC report author, "We know that overall in the US, we're seeing increases in suicide rates across all age groups." As of 2016, suicide levels were at 30-year highs.

So, what in hell is going on?

A few years back, the trendy explanation was economic volatility - the market crash of 2007-2008 had supposedly created a culture of despair, cured only by suicide. But the economy is booming, and has been growing steadily since 2009. There are those who blame the rise in drugs as well, particularly opioids - but according to a study from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, drinking, smoking and drug use may be at the lowest levels "seen in decades," as the Los Angeles Times reports.

Comment: Jordan Peterson discusses the need for meaning in his books and lectures and offers a message of hope to despairing youth who need it most. See:


Eye 2

Woman accused of killing mother with glass shards - Removes eyes and leaves them on top of cardboard box

Camille Balla

Camille Balla
A blood trail along a living room floor grew heavier in the kitchen and led to the garage of a Royal Palm Beach home. There, detectives say, was the body of Francisca Monteiro-Balla, 55, who had been slashed in her head, arms, chest and stomach.

Placed on top of a cardboard box: Monteiro-Balla's eyes, which had been removed from their sockets.

Detectives say Monteiro-Balla's daughter Camille Balla, 32, killed her using glass shards.

Deputies were called to the 100 block of Country Club Way around 1:40 a.m. Friday. A colleague of Camille Balla had called authorities after finding her covered in blood in front of the house.