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Microsoft probes Israeli company re: application of facial recognition technology on Palestinians

Palestinians facial recog machines
© Emil Salman
Palestinians at biometric gate entering Israel, Qalandiyah Crossing
US technology company Microsoft says it is investigating whether the use of facial recognition technology developed by an Israeli startup it funded "complies with its ethics principles," following reports that Israel uses the company's facial recognition technology for surveillance on Palestinians.

Microsoft, which is based near Seattle, Washington, said in a statement Friday that former US Attorney General Eric Holder would lead a team from law firm Covington & Burling to conduct the probe. Holder, the top US legal and law endorsement official under former President Barack Obama, was hired by Uber Technologies in 2017 to review claims of sexual harassment.

M12, the venture fund of Microsoft, participated in a $74 million investment in June on AnyVision, an Israeli startup based outside Tel Aviv.

AnyVision has come under scrutiny following reports by NBC News and Israeli media that its technology is used to surveil Palestinians who live in the occupied territories. AnyVision has denied the reports, claiming its software was not used for surveillance and was deployed at border crossings for biometric identification.

Comment: Does Microsoft have scruples or could it be overwhelming criticism is bad for business?

More from Islamic Invitation Turkey, 5/8/2019:
Haaretz published a report in mid-July that said the Israeli army was using AnyVision's technology at checkpoints on the way into Israel and across a network of cameras within the West Bank.

Referring to Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Amos Toh, a senior researcher on artificial intelligence at New York-based Human Rights Watch, told the American magazine, Forbes, earlier this month that the use of such technology "in a very fraught political context" could be problematic.

"I think it's incumbent on Microsoft to really look at what that means for the human rights risk associated with the investment in a company that's providing this technology to an occupying power," Toh said, adding "It's not just privacy risk but a privacy risk associated with a minority group that has suffered repression and persecution for a long time. There are special considerations of discrimination there."

According to Forbes, Microsoft was also censured by cybersecurity entrepreneur Matt Suiche, who described the investment in AnyVision as "scandalous."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also condemned the investment.
Neema Singh Guliani, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill "falls woefully short of protecting people's privacy rights."

Shankar Narayan, the director of the Technology and Liberty Project at the ACLU, told Forbes he had met with Microsoft officials last year and at the time the company seemed to be open to the idea of holding back the spread of the facial recognition technology.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly bought $300 million worth of spy software from Israel to spy on its own people and track human rights advocates.

Forbes noted that AnyVision has ties to the Israeli spy agency and military, with former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo presiding the firm's advisory board and Amir Kain, former head of the so-called security department of Israel's ministry of military affairs, being its president.


Populism: It isn't for sale anymore

p op uli sm
© The South African/Adam Cruikshank/Flickr
There's something happening that the unelected oligarchs I like to call The Davos Crowd hate more than anything else. They can't seem to buy people off anymore.

When we look around the world today at the plethora of popular/populist uprisings both peaceful and unruly we see the same thread running through them at their core. The people simply don't believe that the system works for them anymore. Whatever the catalyst was that got them off their couches and into the streets was the proverbial last straw.

And they can't be bought.

We're coming up on the one year anniversary of the Gilet Jaunes protests in France. The original €0.25 tax on diesel fuel died a long time ago. President Macron of France thought he could just throw the unruly peasants some scraps, not take their final piece of bread from their tables and that would placate people bereft of not only their future but, more importantly, their dignity.

We're three and a half years from the Brexit vote and Nigel Farage is still fighting the establishment in the U.K. who are dead set against it. This week he stood down 317 candidates to stave off a Remainer-heavy hung parliament and the Tories responded by trying to buy off even more of his candidates.

The big scandal wasn't that the Tories tried to buy off Farage, they've been trying to do that for years and it hasn't worked. Now, they are brazenly trying to buy off the people around him to deny the Brexit Party any seats in Westminster to pave the way for the ultimate Brexit betrayal.


Russia's Gazprom offers Ukraine a gas contract extension for one year, conditions apply

© Gazprom
Russian energy major Gazprom wants to extend the existing agreement, which expires next year, or sign a new deal for one year on gas transit through Ukraine with the country's national oil and gas firm Naftogaz.

After considering the forecast for European consumers' gas demand for 2020, Gazprom sent its official proposal to Naftogaz, the Russian company told media on Monday.

However, Gazprom stressed that legal issues must be settled with Ukraine before extending or signing a deal. One of the necessary conditions of the agreement is mutual withdrawal of all claims filed with the international arbitrage, as well as ceasing all court proceedings.

Gazprom also demands the Anti-Monopoly Committee of Ukraine push back its decision to slap the Russian company with a fine over alleged economic competition breach and wants Naftogaz to call off its request for the European Commission to launch a probe against it.

Gazprom is also waiting for a response from Naftogaz on direct gas purchases from Russia. In 2015, Kiev announced that it has halted the purchases of Russian natural gas, and since then has been importing reverse supplies from European nations at a higher price.

Comment: See also:


Hog Heaven: Feral hogs find and destroy $22K worth of cocaine hidden in the woods

wild boar
© pinterest/www.maremmaguide.com
wild boar
A stash of cocaine worth $22,000 hidden in an Italian forest by a gang of suspected drug dealers was reportedly destroyed by wild boars.

Police dismantled the smuggling operation in Tuscany after placing a wiretap on members of the gang, which consisted of three Albanians and an Italian, The Local reported. While listening on a call, officials overheard a person complaining about the damage caused by the hogs.

Four suspects were arrested on drug charges after the bust, which left two members in jail and two under house arrest, Italian newspaper Il Tirreno reported.

The gang came to the attention of police during an investigation into the killing of a 21-year-old Albanian in May last year. The scheme allegedly funneled drugs from a supply channel in Perugia to various provinces, including Siena and Arezzo.

The drug stash was hidden in a forest area in the Valdichiana valley.


Body 'encased' in concrete found in basement of Colorado home, man arrested, sheriff says

The body of an adult male was found "encased" in concrete in the basement of a Colorado apartment on Friday.
Authorities in Colorado investigating a possible killing at an apartment in a Denver neighborhood made a grisly discovery on Friday when they located the body of an adult male encased in concrete in the basement, according to officials.

The Adams County Sheriff's Office said in a news release that detectives had obtained a search warrant for an apartment on York Street in unincorporated Adams County after receiving information from the Arvada Police Department regarding a possible shooting that took place at the location on Nov. 8.

A SWAT team served the search warrant at the apartment on Thursday afternoon and arrested 38-year-old Russell Montoya Jr. inside.

"A search of the residence and multiple interviews have confirmed that a shooting and homicide occurred inside the apartment," the sheriff's office said.


Three people dead in Walmart shooting in Duncan, Oklahoma

walmart shooting
© AP
The Duncan Police Department is beginning the investigation into what happened at the Duncan Walmart on Monday morning. Police were initially dispatched just before 10 a.m.

Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford tells us that three people were killed outside the store near a vehicle. One of the people killed is the shooter.

Ford says the gun used was a handgun.

All of Duncan Public Schools were placed on lock down but have since been given the all clear by police and have been taken off lock down.


Nearly 110,000 DACA applicants have an arrest record: USCIS

daca protest
© Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Pro-DACA supporters protest outside Capitol Hill on Jan. 21, 2018 in Washington.
Nearly 110,000 "Dreamers" approved under the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have an arrest record, according to a new report released by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The report, released on Saturday, found that of the nearly 889,000 illegal child immigrants who had applied for the DACA program, 12 percent had arrest records.

Of that figure, 85 percent (67,861) were arrested before their most recent DACA approval and 15,903 were arrested after their most recent approval.

More than 35 percent (24,898) have been arrested more than once, while 218 had been arrested on more than 10 separate occasions. Of these individuals, the report said that 54 have a DACA case status of "approved" as of October this year.

Offenses committed by these individuals according to their U.S. arrest records including assault, battery, rape, murder, and driving under the influence.

The largest number of DACA applicants were arrested on suspected driving-related offenses excluding DUIs (23,305) and immigration-related offenses (12,968).

Other offenses incurred by those who had been arrested before their most recently approval to the program include battery (3,421), assault (3,308), burglary, breaking and entering (1,471), and theft or larceny (7,926).

Relating to the most serious offenses, 62 arrests were for rape while 15 were for murder.

Oil Well

Six dead so far in Iranian fuel price protests

iran protest
Tensions remain high in Iran three days after a sharp hike in fuel prices sparked deadly protests in dozens of towns and cities across the country.

The situation on the streets was unclear on November 18, however, largely due to an Internet outage imposed by authorities that has stemmed the flow of videos and communications shared on social media.

Officials said six people had been killed in clashes -- including three protesters, two members of Iran's security forces, and one security guard -- but reports suggest the death toll could be much higher.

Iran's government on November 18 insisted that its decision to ration fuel and increase the price was the right one.

"The president [Hassan Rohani] has shown courage with the rationing of fuel and made the right economic decision, even if many disagree," said government spokesman Ali Rabiei on November 18, while warning that violence and vandalism would not be tolerated.

The AFP news agency quoted Rabiei as saying the situation was "calmer" though there were still "some minor issues."

Comment: Moscow doesn't rule out that external forces are contributing to the protests: "The current situation is already difficult and tense: the significant increase in gasoline prices, of course, added fuel to the fire, but external forces are also actively working," said Zamir Kabulov, director of the Second Asia Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

"The US's goal vis-à-vis Iran is nothing other than to disturb its security and set fire to the Iranian nation's interests," Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani told the Parliament's Monday session. This was in response to comments from US Secretary of State Pompeo:
Pompeo has voiced outright support for acts of violence staged across various Iranian cities under the guise of protests against fuel price hikes. The violence has seen anarchists destroying public property and setting ablaze banks and gas stations among other facilities.

Larijani said through the remarks, "He (Pompeo) openly supports immolation of the Iranian people's properties through foolish shamelessness and opportunism, while calling it defending the Iranian people."

Such comments, Larijani added, serve to openly manifest the US's destructive ambitions regarding the Islamic Republic.
See also:


Bloomberg gets blasted for apology & U-turn on NYC's 'stop & frisk' policy - ahead of his presidential nomination bid

People protest 'stop and frisk'
© Reuters / Andrew Kelly
FILE PHOTO: People protest 'stop and frisk' policy outside of the Federal Court in New York City, US, on November 1, 2013.
What better time than an election campaign start to repent sins? Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg probably thought so as he apologized at a black church for the controversial 'stop and frisk' policy, but few were buying it.

A billionaire media mogul and a former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg has suddenly backtracked on his longstanding support for the controversial 'stop and frisk' police policy he adamantly backed during his time as mayor.

The questionable practice involving police briefly detaining, questioning and sometimes searching random people on the streets for weapons or other illegal possessions was particularly robust during the times when Bloomberg was mayor. Between 2003 and 2013, over 100,000 stops were made each year on average, with that number peaking in 2011 up to more than 685,000.

The program was criticized over racial profiling as it predominantly targeted African Americans and Hispanic Americans while many of those stopped were later found to be innocent. Such practices have hardly earned Bloomberg many friends among those communities but the billionaire seemingly could not care less about this fact - until right now.

Arrow Down

Retired Indian general disgusts audience with calls for mass rape of Muslim women in Kashmir

Women in Verinag
© REUTERS / Danish Ismail
Women in Verinag in south Kashmir's Anantnag district.
A former Indian Army major general has 'gone dark' after his angry call during a TV debate for "death for death, rape for rape" in Kashmir caused a public outcry among civilians and the military.

A political talk show on the TV9 Bharatvarsh channel was about the exodus of non-Muslim families from Kashmir Valley. Since the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee, when they were targeted by a Muslim insurgency in a campaign of ethnic cleansing that involved kidnappings, assassinations, rapes, and other crimes.

The on-camera debate descended into a shouting match, and at one point S P Sinha, the retired major general screamed his vision of retaliation: "Death for death, rape for rape," the Print reported. The plan sounded like one from an age when women were considered to be a man's property under talionic justice, but would obviously be a war crime if there was a politician crazy enough to implement it today.