Why You Should NEVER Buy an Amazon Echo or Even Get Near One

As the Philadelphia meetup, I got to chat at some length with a reader who had a considerable high end IT background, including at some cutting-edge firms, and now has a job in the Beltway where he hangs out with military-surveillance types. He gave me some distressing information on the state of snooping technology, and as we’ll get to shortly, is particularly alarmed about the new “home assistants” like Amazon Echo and Google Home.

He pointed out that surveillance technology is more advanced than most people realize, and that lots of money and “talent” continues to be thrown at it. For instance, some spooky technologies are already decades old. Forgive me if this is old hat to readers:

Edward Snowden has disabled the GPS, camera, and microphone on his cell phone to reduce his exposure. As most readers probably know, both the microphone and the camera can be turned on even when the phone has been turned off. He uses headphones to make calls. This makes the recent phone design trend away from headphone jacks look particularly nefarious.

“Laser microphones” can capture conversations by shining a laser on a window pane and interpreting the vibrations. However, this isn’t really a cause for worry since there are easier ways to spy on meetings.

With a voice recording (think a hostage tape), analysts can determine the room size, number of people in the room, and even make a stab at the size and placement of objects, particularly if they get more than one recording from the same site.

But what really got this reader worked up was Amazon’s Echo, the device that allows users to give voice instructions to a device that will tell your TV to stream video or audio. order from Amazon or other participating vendors, provide answers to simple search queries, like “Tell me the weather,” perform simple calculations, and allow you to order around smart devices in your home that are on the networks. like tell your coffee maker to make some coffee. He said, “I’d never take one of them out of the box.”

He was at a party recently with about 15-20 people when the host decided to show off her Echo. She called across the room, “Alexa, tell me the capital of Wisconsin,” and Alexa dutifully responded.

Based on his knowledge of other technologies, here is what he argues was happening:

The Echo was able to pick a voice out of a crowd engaged in conversation. That means it is capable of singling out individual voice. That means it has been identifying individual voices, tagging the as “Unidentified voice 1″, Unidentified voice 2” and so on. It has already associated the voices of its owners, and if they have set up profiles for other family members, for them as well, so it knows who goes with those voices.

Those voices may be unidentified now, but as more and more voice data is being collected or provided voluntarily, people will be able to be connected to their voice. And more and more recording is being done in public places.

So now think of that party I was at. At some time in the not too distant future, analysts will be able to make queries like, “Tell me who was within 15 feet of Person X at least eight times in the last six months.” That will produce a reliable list of their family, friends, lovers, and other close associates.

CNET claims that Amazon uploads and retains voice data from the Echo only when it has been activated by calling to it and stops recording when the request ends. But given the Snowden revelations that every camera and microphone in computers and mobile devices can be and are used as viewing and listening devices even when the owner thinks


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How to Fight the Global Wall Street Landlords


By Cat McShane, a journalist and filmmaker based in London, Yiannis Panagiotopoulos, a journalist in Athens and Pere Rusinol and Esperanza Escribano, journalists in Barcelona. Originally published at openDemocracy

Banks and vulture funds make money from ordinary people’s distress. The only way to fight back is to outsmart them.

Activists from PAH in Barcelona. Credit: Esperanza Escribano. All rights reserved.

Thank you, for making the impossible, possible,” a beaming Ada Colau told thousands of whooping supporters packed tight on the cobblestones of central St. James Square in Barcelona’s old town. It was June 13th 2015, and she had just been sworn-in as Mayor of Barcelona.

Colau won on a wave of support for the way she had fought the housing crisis as founder of Spain’s Platform for People Affected By Mortgages (PAH), an extraordinary movement that has mobilised thousands of ordinary citizens to take direct action against forced evictions and rising mortgage costs.

Its target are Wall Street giants—the so-called ‘vulture funds’—that have been on a house-buying spree across Europe and the United States since the 2008 financial crash. According to the New York TimesGoldman SachsCerberus Capital ManagementLone Star FundsBlackstone Group and other US companies have bought more than €223 billion worth of troubled real estate loans in Europe in the last four years.

The profits made by these institutions from ordinary people’s distress have made them the target of a backlash that has bought together homeowners, renters and housing activists across the world. Campaigners have one common fight—to protect the right to decent and affordable housing for everyone.

“Capital operates globally, as Blackstone does, and we must set up a global movement too. People have the same problems in Madrid, Dublin and New York and they face exactly the same actors,” said Santi Mas de Xaxàs in an interview with us, a PAH activist and speaker for its international network.

Blackstone and the others have quickly proved themselves to be ruthless landlords. Paquita Rivas, for example, is retired and is now a PAH activist. During the recession, her daughter was forced to sell the apartment she’d bought during the boom times but for a rock bottom price, leaving her owing €55,000 to the bank. When Blackstone took over the mortgage, they came after her parent’s home as payment.  “I spent day and night crying until a friend put me in contact with PAH. We were very afraid, but ultimately we decide to fight and we won. Yes, we can!”

The PAH has sought to create alliances with groups like Right to the City in the USA, a network of grassroots organisations from some of the poorest communities in America. Blackstone began buying up the homes that were vacated by people no longer able to pay their mortgages in the aftermath of the 2008 crash cheaply and in volume—up to a 1,000 homes a day—and then rented them back to the newly dispossessed. Almost overnight, Blackstone became the biggest landlord in the United States.

Tony Romano is Right to the City’s executive director. He told us that organising tenants is tough because Blackstone’s purchases were spread out across the country, but a visit to Spain proved transformative:

We went to learn about the movement and their model of organisation. There are few examples of activist led movements that have reached scale. We made a partnership, and put that into a manifesto of seven international demands against Blackstone.

This partnership turned into the first ever day of action against Blackstone in New York, Dublin and London, along with a drive to jam their phone lines and to speak to or email Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman with this message:

Mr. Schwarzman, I stand with Blackstone tenants and community organizations around the world. Stop buying up our foreclosed homes and public housing, stop all your unjust evictions and make your rents affordable. I support this important struggle and will not let up until you meet the tenants’ demands. Homes are NOT a commodity!

Since then, Right to the City has acted more aggressively in mobilising tenants across the US. “We’re moving into places that are not organised and starting from scratch,” Romano told us.

In September 2017 it held its first nationwide ‘Renters Week of Action,’ with groups across the country holding marches, staging sit-ins and confronting landlord lobbying associations with demands that included rent controls, the prevention of unjust eviction and the right of tenants to bargain collectively with landlords without fear of reprisals.

Romano and his army of grassroots activists can expect no support from the current US administration. Blackstone founder Schwarzman is a close ally of President Trump and donated $5.5 million to the Republicans in the 2016 election. In January 2017, Fannie Mae (the US government agency responsible for expanding homeownership) announced that it would underwrite Invitation Homes, the company Blackstone set up to purchase all of its new rental housing, so if Invitation goes bust, American taxpayers will bail it out.

Romano is honest about his chances: “We’ve won some victories but the reality is that our power to influence is limited.” Since the beginning of the last recession a decade ago, the number of poor families in the United States struggling to pay their monthly rents or living in “deplorable accommodations” has grown by 41 percent.

Across the Atlantic in Ireland, vulture funds now own 48,199 mortgage accounts, with one in ten homeowners behind with their repayments. Byron Jenkins is one of them, though he’s an unlikely hero—a construction boss who went bankrupt after the 2008 crash and faced eviction in 2013. He and his wife set up a non-profit organization called ‘The Hub’ above a shop in Dublin to

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Google escalates blacklisting of left-wing web sites and journalists


 By Andre Damon
20 October 2017

In a sweeping expansion of its moves to censor the Internet, Google has removed leading left-wing websites and journalists from its popular news aggregation platform, Google News.

At the time of publication, a search for “World Socialist Web Site” on news.google.com does not return a single article published on the WSWS. A search for the exact title of any of the articles published during that period likewise returns no results.

Over the past seven days, news.google.com has referred only 53 people to the World Socialist Web Site, a 92 percent decline from the weekly average of over 650 during the past year.

A Google News search for an article from Thursday’s edition of the WSWS returns no results

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges informed the WSWS Wednesday that his articles had ceased appearing on Google News. Hedges said the change occurred after

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Scores of important alternative media websites have been removed from the GoogleNews feed, including antiwar.com, beforeitsnews.com, nakedcapitalism.com, blackagendareport.com, ronpaulinstitute.com, World Socialist Website (wsws.org), corbettreport. com, defenddemocracy.com, davidstockmanscontracorner.com, and many others.  This is another brick in the wall being built by the 1% to disenfranchise the 99% and destroy the viability of our way of life. Their goal in military parlance is called Full Spectrum Dominance, and it is the rubric under which is occurring the brutality shown to millions of people in the Middle East and gradually being introduced into paramilitary law enforcement conflicts with conscientious protesters. The DAPL protesters bore very heavy attacks.  A woman named Sophia Wilansky may have lost her arm at the NoDAPL protests, due to a teargas grenade being fired directly at her, but a Google search won’t tell me and I’m having a hard time getting an alternative working in a short enough time to use it for this post.  I saw a video of a woman who was attacked with a cloud of gas with microfiberglass particles in it, and I don’t think she will be able to recover her ability to breathe normally.  We must resist it and turn it back wherever we find it.

Here is a petition you can sign against this attack on the crucial availability of alternative information on the internet.






Congress Works with Big Oil on Letter Suggesting Anti-Pipeline Activists Face Terrorism Charges


By Steve Horn, a freelance investigative journalist and past reporter and researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy. Originally published at DeSmogBlog

On October 23, 84 Congressional representatives made a splash when they published a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking if those engaged in activism disrupting or damaging pipeline operations should face criminal prosecution as an act of terrorism under the USA PATRIOT ACT.

Spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) and co-signed by dozens of other, primarily Republican, representatives, the letter pays homage to the First Amendment, while also noting that “violence toward individuals and destruction of property are both illegal and potentially fatal.” The letter, coveredbyseveralmediaoutlets, was championed by the industry lobbying and trade association, the American Petroleum Institute (API), which said it “welcomed” the letter.

But according to a DeSmog review, API and other industry groups were a key part of bolstering the letter itself. API, along with the Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL) and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), is listed as among the “supporting groups” on the website DearColleague.us, which tracks congressional letters and their backers.

The website is run by Clayton Hanson, formerly a reporter for Roll Call and the Charlotte Observer, which says it exists as the “largest publicly available archive of free Dear Colleague letters.”

“Dear Colleague letters are official correspondence between members of Congress that lawmakers use to gauge or build support or opposition for legislation or other causes,” explains the DearColleagues.us website. In the case of the October 23 letter to Sessions, its genesis was a “Dear Colleague” letter written to other congressional offices to gather signatories for the cause.


Credit: DearColleagues.us

Beyond API, the letter was also promoted by the oil and gas industry-funded Western Energy Alliance.

Cathy Landry, vice president of communications for INGAA, says the organization did not ghostwrite the letter.

INGAA is a supporting organization because we care about public safety, the environment, and the integrity of our pipelines and pipeline facilities,” Landry told DeSmog. “There are many ways to voice opinions about pipelines that do not involve putting the public, pipeline employees, or the perpetrators themselves in harm’s way — or threaten the environment — by trespassing and tampering with equipment. The Congressman and his staff wrote the letter and asked for our support.”

Hanson told DeSmog he sees this case as being a “chicken and the egg” situation, and that the process is often a collaborative one between congressional offices and industry.

“On many occasions, legislators work with industries to come up with the language for letters,” he said. “I think that the motivations are threefold. First is to say that they’re doing something to constituents, even if it doesn’t get anywhere. The second


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We, The Employees Of ClickHole.com, Have Voted Un…


We, The Employees Of ClickHole.com, Have Voted Unanimously To Debase Ourselves In The Most Humiliating Ways Possible To Please The Billionaires Who Could Destroy Our Website On A Whim

Yesterday the editorial staff of ClickHole.com held an important vote that will ultimately determine the future of our website and our mission to deliver the most clickable, shareable content that the internet has to offer. The results of this staff referendum have now been counted, and the outcome is clear: We, the employees of ClickHole.com, have voted unanimously to debase ourselves in the most humiliating ways possible to please the billionaires who could destroy our website on a whim.

This decision was made in a matter of minutes and with no dissent whatsoever from any member of our staff. We have come together and made a solemn commitment to take whatever insane and humiliating measures are necessary to remain in the good graces of the excessively wealthy individuals who could, should they so choose, wipe all traces of our website from the internet in the course of a few short hours.

Our collective decision to lick the mud off the boots of the outrageously wealthy in order to keep our jobs is final, and it is non-negotiable. Separate, we are weak. But unified, our voices combine into a full-throated chorus, chanting, “We have no dignity, and we hope we never make rich people mad.”

If you are a billionaire with the ability to terminate our employment, destroy our website and all of its archived content, or use your vast financial resources to sue us into oblivion, be aware that we shall henceforth endeavor to demean ourselves for your pleasure in any


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Not to be contrary or anything.

David Dilley: Definitive Dates for the Onset of Major Global Cooling

David Dilley of globalweathercycles.com and globalweatheroscillations.com provides the last piece of the puzzle to give definitive dates for the onset of major global cooling, where 2019-2020 will be the first really cold year, with another amplification in 2020-2021, bringing cold on a scale we have not seen in generations.

Mr. Dilley’s research is the foundation for GWO’s Natural Climate Pulse Technology and is utilized in atmospheric and climate/weather prediction models created by Mr. Dilley and Global Weather Oscillations. The Climate Pulse Technology Models are utilized to predict specific climate/weather events 4-years in advance.

Hurricane pre-season forecast from David Dilley called for major hurricanes in 2017, and was the most correct, not only this year but in the last ten years as well. Other agencies self-correct and go month by month during hurricane seasons.

The natural climate pulse of earth is governed by the PFM cycles. These cycles range from daily (ocean tides) and more importantly every 6 months, 4 years, 9 years, 18 years, 72 years, 230 years, 1200 years and 130 thousand years. Earth is currently coming off a 230 year global warming cycle and dipping into a 120 year global cooling cycle. They come approximately every 230 years and we have had 5 during the past 1000 years. The last one ended in the year 1800 and was followed by dramatic cooling and a year of no summer in 1816.

​This means look for delayed shipping into Great Lakes ports due to ice coverage, and over the next few years there will be ice in the Chesapeake Bay thick enough to require icebreakers to keep shipping lanes open. Europe will experience a nasty winter, cold and snowy eclipsing all expectations, including the UK.

Paleogeographic Reconstruction Of The Little Ice Age – Catastrophic Cosmic Ray Consequences

Little Ice Age (LIA), climate interval that occurred from the early 14th century through the mid-19th century, when mountain glaciers expanded at several locations, including the European Alps, New Zealand, Alaska, and the southern Andes, and mean annual temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere declined by 0.6 °C (1.1 °F) relative to the average temperature between 1000 and 2000 ce. The term Little Ice Age was introduced to the scientific literature by Dutch-born American geologist F.E. Matthes in 1939. Originally the phrase was used to refer to Earth’s most recent 4,000-year period of mountain-glacier expansion and retreat. Today some scientists use it to distinguish only the period 1500-1850, when mountain glaciers expanded to their greatest extent, but the phrase is more commonly applied to the broader period 1300-1850. The Little Ice Age followed the Medieval Warming Period (roughly 900-1300 ce) and preceded the present period of warming that began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Geographic Extent

Information obtained from “proxy records” (indirect records of ancient climatic conditions, such as


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