Your personal data just got permanently cached at the US border

Now that US customs agents have unfettered access to laptops and other electronic devices at borders, a coalition of travel groups, civil liberties advocates and technologists is calling on Congress to rein in the Department of Homeland Security’s search and seizure practices. They’re also providing practical advice on how to prevent trade secrets and other sensitive data from being breached.

In a letter dated Thursday, the group, which includes the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union and the Business Travel Coalition, called on the House Committee on Homeland Security to ensure searches aren’t arbitrary or overly invasive. They also urged the passage of legislation outlawing abusive searches.

The letter comes 10 days after a US appeals court ruled Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have the right to rummage through electronic devices even if they have no reason to suspect the hardware holds illegal contents. Not only are they free to view the files during passage; they are also permitted to copy the entire contents of a device. There are no stated policies about what can and can’t be done with the data.

Over the past few months, several news reports have raised eyebrows after detailing border searches that involved electronic devices. The best known of them is this story from The Washington Post, which recounted the experiences of individuals who were forced to reveal data on cell phones and laptop devices when passing through US borders. One individual even reported some of the call history on her cell phone had been deleted.

“The Fourth Amendment protects us all against unreasonable government intrusions,” the letter, which was also signed by the Center for Democracy and Technology and security expert Bruce Schneier, states. “But this guarantee means nothing if CBP can arbitrarily search and seize our digital information at the border and indefinitely store and reuse it.”

Several of the groups are also providing advice to US-bound travelers carrying electronic devices. The Association of Corporate Travel Executives is encouraging members to remove photos, financial information and other personal data before leaving home. This is good advice even if you’re not traveling to the US. There is no reason to store five years worth of email on a portable machine.

In this posting, the EFF agrees that laptops, cell phones, digital cameras and other gizmos should be cleaned of any sensitive information. Then, after passing through customs, travelers can download the data they need, work on it, transmit it back and then digitally destroy the files before returning.

The post also urges the use of strong encryption to scramble sensitive data, although it warns this approach is by no means perfect. For one thing, CBP agents are free to deny entry to travelers who refuse to divulge their passwords. They may also be able to seize the laptop.

If it sounds like a lot of work, consider this: so far, the federal government has refused to reveal any information about border searches, including what it does with the electronic data it seizes. Under the circumstances, there’s no way of knowing what will happen to, say, source code or company memos that may get confiscated. Or the email sent to your lawyer.

By Dan Goodin in San Francisco
Published Thursday 1st May 2008 21:11 GMT

Source: The Register

Scientists to capture DNA of trees worldwide for database

The New York Botanical Garden may be best known for its orchid shows and colorful blossoms, but its researchers are about to lead a global effort to capture DNA from thousands of tree species from around the world.

The Bronx garden is hosting a meeting this week where participants from various countries will lay the groundwork for how the two-year undertaking to catalog some of the Earth’s vast biodiversity will proceed.

The project is known as TreeBOL, or tree barcode of life. As in a similar project under way focusing on the world’s fish species, participants would gather genetic material from trees around the world.

A section of the DNA would be used as a barcode, similar to way a product at the grocery store is scanned to bring up its price. But with plants and animals, the scanners look at the specific order of the four basic building blocks of DNA to identify the species.

The resulting database will help identify many of the world’s existing plant species, where they are located and whether they are endangered. The results are crucial for conservation and protecting the environment as population and development increases, said Damon Little, assistant curator of bioinformatics at the Botanical Garden and coordinator of the project.

(No way that this is only about identifying the species and finding out weather they are endangered or not.
What could a scientist possibly do with DNA?
Why have massive, high level security ‘Doomsday’ Seed Vaults been built just recently?
Just in case you have missed these articles:

‘Doomsday’ seed vault opens in Arctic

Investors Behind Doomsday Seed Vault May Provide Clues to Its Purpose (Part 2)

Hungary to start the world’s first wild seed bank

African seed collection first to arrive in Norway on route to Arctic seed vault

Maybe, just maybe, could it be that this is more than a coincidence? …and there are no coincidences.
Maybe some of the – socially accepted – most powerful people in the world are expecting a catastrophe of epic proportions.
– The Infinite Unknown)

Read moreScientists to capture DNA of trees worldwide for database

Merck Plant Dumps Vaccine Waste and Chemicals Into Water Supply

(NaturalNews) Merck, the maker of the very controversial Gardasil vaccine, has a pharmaceutical plant located in West Point, Pennsylvania, that discards pollutants from this facility into the Upper Gwynedd Township Publicly Owned Treatment Works (UGT POTW), according to a press release by the U.S. Department of Justice. The treated wastewater is released into the Wissahickon Creek, a tributary of the Schuylkill River. A federal court complaint was filed alleging that Merck violated the Clean Water Act with various discharges that caused numerous pass through and interference violations at the UGT POTW.

On June 13, 2006, Merck released potassium thiocyanate (KSCN) into the water that reacted with the chlorination at UGT POTW which resulted in extensive fish kills in the Wissahickon Creek on June 14th and 15th. The Philadelphia Water Department had to shut down its Schuylkill River drinking water intake for several days, and a health advisory was issued stating that all recreational uses on the Wissahickon Creek were prohibited from June 14th – July 10th. Then, on August 8th and 9th, Merck released a batch of spend substrate used in vaccine production which caused large-scale foam discharge into the creek. Later, on the 16th, Merck released a massive amount of cleaning agents that when treated at UGT POTW caused another major foam discharge.

Merck has agreed to settle the violations of federal and state water pollution regulations. Merck will pay $10 million to institute a system that will prevent future hazardous discharges from their plant. They will also spend approximately $9 million for environmental projects and will pay $1,575,000 in penalties and civil damages for past violations. “Merck’s actions led to an extensive fish-kill and caused the Philadelphia Water Department to temporarily shut down its drinking water operations,” stated Acting Assistant Attorney General Tenpas. “This settlement ensures that Merck will take steps to prevent future illegal discharges including installing an early warning system to protect drinking water.”

Read moreMerck Plant Dumps Vaccine Waste and Chemicals Into Water Supply

Fed joins with European banks to battle credit crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve announced Friday that it will expand a series of efforts to deal with the global credit crisis, in coordination with European central banks.The Fed said it was boosting the amount of emergency reserves it supplies to U.S. banks to $150 billion in May, from the $100 billion it supplied in April. The Fed took this action and several other moves to boost credit in coordination with the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank.

The latest moves are part of a series of actions the Fed has made since the credit crisis struck in August.

The efforts are designed to increase reserves so that banks don’t become hesitant about lending to consumers and businesses, which would make the current economic slowdown even more severe.

(The continuing bailouts are destroying the dollar and will create a total crash very soon. – The Infinite Unknown)

Read moreFed joins with European banks to battle credit crisis

Fed `Rogue Operation’ Spurs Further Bailout Calls


Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, arrives at the Federal Reserve building for a Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting in Washington, April 29, 2008. Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/Bloomberg News

May 2 (Bloomberg) — A month after the Federal Reserve rescued Bear Stearns Cos. from bankruptcy, Chairman Ben S. Bernanke got an S.O.S. from Congress.

There is “a potential crisis in the student-loan market” requiring “similar bold action,” Chairman Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and six other Democrats wrote Bernanke. They want the Fed to swap Treasury notes for bonds backed by student loans. In a separate letter, Pennsylvania Democratic Representative Paul Kanjorski and 31 House members said they want Bernanke to channel money directly to education-finance firms.

Student loans are just the start. Former Fed officials and other Fed-watchers say that Bernanke’s actions in saving Bear Stearns will expose the central bank to continuing pressure to use its $889 billion balance sheet to prop up companies or entire industries deemed important by politicians. The Fed satisfied Dodd’s request today, expanding the swaps to include securities backed by student debt.

“It is appalling where we are right now,” former St. Louis Fed President William Poole, who retired in March, said in an interview. The Fed has introduced “a backstop for the entire financial system.”

Critics argue that the result will be to foster greater risk-taking among investors emboldened by the belief that the government will bail them out of bad decisions.

The Fed’s loans to Bear Stearns were “a rogue operation,” said Anna Schwartz, who co-wrote “A Monetary History of the United States” with the late Nobel laureate Milton Friedman.

`No Business’

“To me, it is an open and shut case,” she said in an interview from her office in New York. “The Fed had no business intervening there.”

Read moreFed `Rogue Operation’ Spurs Further Bailout Calls

Spy Grid Part Of Consumer Technology

Tech savy proponents might think it’s great, meanwhile skeptics and naysayers still deny its existence, but microphones and internal listening devices are being installed in hi-tech hardware, and have been for several years.

Motorola released a fact sheet concerning their next generation HD cable boxes and broadband devices and admitted that:

This innovative plug-and-play technology enables broadband operators to offer consumers a way to control their digital services by voice commands with no complicated set-up or the need for training. Consumers can “talk” to their TV through a remote which incorporates a microphone. By just spoken commands, they can navigate digital programming, the IPG and on-demand services using phrases like “scan sports” or “find movies with Julia Roberts”. From a consumer’s perspective, the solution only requires a small receiver which attaches to the cable set-top to receive signals from the enhanced remote. The technology, which recognizes over 100,000 phrases and deciphers multiple languages, has been field tested in an alpha deployment on the Motorola DCT2000 digital set-top platform.”

The next generation equipment is being fused by Motorola into their ‘AgileTv‘ program, which will allow customers to use voice commands to search and choose programs, listen to music, order movies, etc etc. The program is called ‘PromptU’ and promises to allow seamless voice recognition in order to remove tedious typing and scanning by customers to find what they want. The PromptU spoken search is described as:

“Phones can support more content than ever, and subscribers want it all: ringtones, games, wallpapers, songs and videos. There are hundreds of thousands of titles, and the selection grows daily. Yet subscribers don’t buy as much as they could, because looking for content with text searches, or endless scrolling and clicking, is frustrating. Too many searches are abandoned or not even attempted. Promptu Spoken Search™ changes everything. With Promptu finding content as easy as asking for it. For example, requesting “Tiger Woods,” “Coldplay,” “Spiderman,” or any other favorite from a mobile handset returns on-target search results instantly, from across all types of content. So subscribers find everything they want, and discover all kinds of related titles to buy in the process.”

Last year Microsoft also acquired its own listening technology in the Tellme Networks which will allow consumers to choose and interact with multimedia via voice recognition software over their own systems. Of course what they won’t tell you is how these voice recognition commands will be interpreted, which of course will be done by internal audio devices called microphones – implemented into the hardware via remotes, boxes, or even ones as small as mobiles and pdas.

Bill Gates has been championing this next generation, interactive technology, and in his Strategic Account Summit speech last year, he glowed over the introduction and acceptance of this new technology by customers. Apparently, the industry is ecstatic that the privacy concerns aren’t presenting any kind of hurdle for consumers who are only intent on getting things that are bigger, faster, and in higher resolution. As long as it blinks and lets them veg out, all the better.

Web 2.0 should actually be called World 2.0 and will incorporate technology into every aspect of our lives, even more so than it is now. The next generation of cable boxes, internet, IPTV, VOIP, iphones, PDAs, and mobiles are all being absorbed into the control grid; and the cameras, microphones and other spy technology is just being pitched to the public as a product feature, rather than the all-invasive big brother hardware that it is. Private companies don’t mind it because it allows more focused marketing strategies, ie more profits for the bottom line; and of course governments love it because it allows them to circumvent privacy rights by integrating with companies in order to use this technology grid to spy on its own people.

But to simplify it all, yes, microphones exist in our cable boxes and computers, and will continue to be used, whether we accept it or not. The corporations are listening, the governments are listening; are you?

05-02-2008
Ethan Allen

Source: Rogue Government

America’s Chemically Modified 21st Century Soldiers

Armed with potent drugs and new technology, a dangerous breed of soldiers are being trained to fight America’s future wars.

Amphetamines and the military first met somewhere in the fog of WWII, when axis and allied forces alike were issued speed tablets to head off fatigue on the battlefield.

More than 60 years later, the U.S. Air Force still doles out dextro-amphetamine to pilots whose duties do not afford them the luxury of sleep.

Through it all, it seems, the human body and its fleshy weaknesses keep getting in the way of warfare. Just as in the health clinics of the nation, the first waypoint in the military effort to redress these foibles is a pharmaceutical one. The catch is, we’re really not that great at it. In the case of speed, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency itself notes a few unwanted snags like addiction, anxiety, aggression, paranoia and hallucinations. For side-effects like insomnia, the Air Force issues “no-go” pills like temazepam alongside its “go” pills. Psychosis, though, is a wee bit trickier.

Far from getting discouraged, the working consensus appears to be that we just haven’t gotten the drugs right yet. In recent years, the U.S., the UK and France — among others — have reportedly been funding investigations into a new line-up of military performance enhancers. The bulk of these drugs are already familiar to us from the lists of substances banned by international sporting bodies, including the stimulant ephedrine, non-stimulant “wakefulness promoting agents” like modafinil (aka Provigil) and erythropoietin, used to improve endurance by boosting the production of red blood cells.

Read moreAmerica’s Chemically Modified 21st Century Soldiers

Sheriff Candidate Says Campaign Signs Being Defaced, Stolen

A campaign slogan may have sparked a string of vandalism aimed at a candidate for Orange County sheriff.

The vandalism was first spotted on sheriff candidate Malone Stewart’s campaign sign in Winter Park. Someone had circled the slogan “crime is terrorism.” Later, the sign was stolen. Stewart’s campaign manager said the trouble started when a website posted a commentary bashing the “crime is terrorism” slogan.

“These are like $600, $700 signs,” said Franklin Cordona, campaign manager for Malone Stewart.

“No, they cost too much,” Cordona said when asked if the vandalism was a publicity stunt.

In addition to the vandalism, the campaign says they have also received threatening phone calls.

POSTED: 7:39 am EDT May 2, 2008
UPDATED: 8:41 am EDT May 2, 2008

Source: wftv.com

CIA Chief Sees Unrest Rising With Population

Swelling populations and a global tide of immigration will present new security challenges for the United States by straining resources and stoking extremism and civil unrest in distant corners of the globe, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said in a speech yesterday.

The population surge could undermine the stability of some of the world’s most fragile states, especially in Africa, while in the West, governments will be forced to grapple with ever larger immigrant communities and deepening divisions over ethnicity and race, Hayden said.

Hayden, speaking at Kansas State University, described the projected 33 percent growth in global population over the next 40 years as one of three significant trends that will alter the security landscape in the current century. By 2050, the number of humans on Earth is expected to rise from 6.7 billion to more than 9 billion, he said.

“Most of that growth will occur in countries least able to sustain it, a situation that will likely fuel instability and extremism, both in those countries and beyond,” Hayden said.

With the population of countries such as Niger and Liberia projected to triple in size in 40 years, regional governments will be forced to rapidly find food, shelter and jobs for millions, or deal with restive populations that “could be easily attracted to violence, civil unrest, or extremism,” he said.

Read moreCIA Chief Sees Unrest Rising With Population