April 25, 2015

Nepal Earthquake 2015: World's Deadliest Recent Earthquakes

An impressive list in the last few years.  It would be interesting to know how the level of earthquake in the past few years has compared historically in terms of both activity and death toll. 

World's deadliest recent earthquakes - Short Version

  • Iran, 2003: More than 26,000 people killed in 6.6 earthquake near the city of Bam
  • Indonesia, 2004: Devastating 9.1 earthquake and ensuing tsunami off the Sumatran province of Aceh kills more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries
  • Pakistani-administered Kashmir, 2005: 7.6 earthquake near Muzafferabad kills about 100,000 people
  • China, 2008: Nearly 90,000 killed in 7.9 earthquake in eastern Sichuan province
  • Haiti, 2010: More than 220,000 people killed in 7.0 magnitude earthquake

World's deadliest recent earthquakes - Long Version

A magnitude-7.8 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley on Saturday, the worst quake in the Himalayan nation in over 80 years.
The world's strongest earthquakes since 1900:
May 22, 1960: A magnitude-9.5 earthquake in southern Chile and ensuing tsunami kill at least 1,716 people.
March 28, 1964: A magnitude-9.2 quake in Prince William Sound, Alaska, kills 131 people, including 128 from a tsunami.
Dec. 26, 2004: A magnitude-9.1 quake in Indonesia triggers an Indian Ocean tsunami, killing 230,000 people in a dozen countries.
March 11, 2011: A magnitude-9.0 quake off the northeast coast of Japan triggers a tsunami, killing more than 18,000 people.
Nov. 4, 1952: A magnitude-9.0 quake in Kamchatka in Russia's Far East causes damage but no reported deaths despite setting off 9.1-meter (30-foot) waves in Hawaii.
Feb. 27, 2010: A magnitude-8.8 quake shakes Chile, generating a tsunami and killing 524 people.
Jan. 31, 1906: A magnitude-8.8 quake off the coast of Ecuador generates a tsunami that kills at least 500 people.
Feb. 4, 1965: A magnitude-8.7 quake strikes Alaska's Rat Islands, causing an 11-meter (35-foot) -high tsunami.
March 28, 2005: A magnitude-8.6 quake in northern Sumatra in Indonesia kills about 1,300 people.
Aug. 15, 1950: A magnitude-8.6 earthquake in Tibet kills at least 780 people.
April 11, 2012: A magnitude-8.6 quake off the west coast of northern Sumatra in Indonesia triggers tsunami warnings in more than two dozen nations.
March 9, 1957: A magnitude-8.6 quake strikes the Andreanof Islands in Alaska triggers a 16-meter (52-foot) -high tsunami.
Sept. 12, 2007: A magnitude-8.5 quake near Sumatra in Indonesia kills at least 25 people.
Feb. 1, 1938: A magnitude-8.5 quake in Banda Sea, Indonesia, generates a small tsunami.
Feb. 3, 1923: A magnitude-8.5 quake in Kamchatka in Russia's Far East triggers a tsunami.
Nov. 11, 1922: A magnitude-8.5 quake along the Chile-Argentina border triggers a tsunami that causes damage along Chile's coast.
Oct. 13, 1963: A magnitude-8.5 quake in the Kuril Islands triggers a tsunami.

 People stand around damage caused by an earthquake at Durbar Square in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015

Analysis: Navin Singh Khadka, BBC Nepali

Major historic monuments in the Nepalese capital have been destroyed in the powerful earthquake, eyewitnesses and officials have said.

These include a nine-storey tower, temples and some parts of what was once a royal palace, all listed as Unesco world heritage sites.

Pictures posted on social media show some of the monuments have been reduced to rubble.
Eyewitnesses say several others now have cracks and could collapse.

Officials have said some temples and monuments at other world heritage sites near Kathmandu have also been damaged.

These sites are Nepal's major tourist attractions.

Nepal had lost several such monuments during a major earthquake in 1934.

There are also reports of damage to Kathmandu airport which could hamper relief operations.
With little known about the extent of the damage around the earthquake's epicentre, there are fears the death toll could rise.

Aftershocks continued to ripple through the region hours later.

The quake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing at least eight people, and another five in Tibet, officials and reports say.

"Running for life from my tent. Unhurt. Many many people up the mountain," tweeted mountaineer Alex Gavan.

The Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times

 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

Matthew 24

March 25, 2015

My evolving list of topics/questions on religion.

Hard questions.  Hard answers.  Understanding what one believes is not always as easy as just showing up to church on Sunday.  
  1. So, you believe in Christianity.  Why?  Why not Islam?
  2. Why is Jesus any better to believe in than Mohammad?
  3. Religion has spread throughout history through violence.  The reason the west is Christian and the east is Hindu/Buddhist has to do with Constantine institutionalizing religion and the Catholic church enforcing religion during the middle ages. 
  4. The appeal to natural law is an appeal to the baser instinct.  Our feeling toward a perceived evil act is simply a biological response given our instinct to survive.  We want to live, so we create laws to ensure that this 'evil' is controlled.
  5. People are good by nature.  People are indoctrinated, like those who believe in the Nazis, and as a result, do bad things.
  6. What is truth?
  7. How is believing in God any different than believing in pink elephants?
  8. The Mayans believed in a number of odd rituals.  Modern society no longer believes in the Mayan gods.  Why?  Because we have new information.  Religion changes as new information is present.  Fast forward 100 years and maybe we'll all believe differently.  Were the Mayans wrong for believing what they believed?  How are you confident that your religion will be any different than the Mayan religion over time?

March 16, 2015

Iran Nuclear Deal 2015, "End of the World"

Would this treaty be considered if oil was at $140 and not $40 a barrel?  I would doubt it.  The best way to keep Iran on the ropes is to keep drilling for oil and becoming energy independent.

The USA has also been to war for over a decade, spending north of 4 Trillion dollars on quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Perhaps a different approach is needed and a more thoughtful, deliberate, approach will do some good.

Failure to clinch nuclear deal will not be ‘end of world’: Larijani

EHRAN - Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani says the country’s legislature is not pessimistic about the prospect of the nuclear talks, and thinks that if the other party does not raise “excessive demands”, reaching a nuclear deal would be possible.

However, a failure by Tehran and the world powers to reaching a final nuclear deal “would never mean the end of world”, Larijani told a press conference on Monday.

“We are now living without such a comprehensive deal and if an agreement is not reached, we will go after other solutions.”

Larijani, a former chief nuclear negotiator, also said the parliament “will supervise the negotiations’ dynamism with a supportive approach.”

Iran nuclear deal would be no threat to neighbors
Larijani also said any possible nuclear agreement between Tehran and the 5+1 group would not be a threat to the Arab countries at all.

“Our nuclear topic is different from our relations with regional countries,” Larijani said.

He reiterated Tehran’s position that that Iran’s capabilities will always be “at the service of regional countries”.

Iran aiding Iraq in war on terrorism with full respect for Baghdad’s sovereignty
Elsewhere in his remarks, Larijani said Tehran will continue giving military advice to Iraqis in their fight against terrorist groups, while showing full respect to the Iraqi sovereignty.

“We are assisting Iraq because it is our friend and neighbor which today has been held captive by a terrorist group; of course the Iraqi people are brave and the advances that they have made in fight against the terrorists have been the result of their own efforts and our support.”

He added, “Iran doesn’t have hegemonic plans or intentions for any country and has shown this approach ever since the revolution as fight against hegemony is a pillar of the Islamic Revolution.”

Iran has been helping the Palestinians in their fight against the Zionist regime upon their demand, helping them to defend their country and stand against their enemies, Larijani pointed out.

May 6, 2014

Seeing that Morning Sun Shine Through the Clouds

The good word for today....

"The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. 

This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.

There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. 

I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Francis I, Evangelli Gaudium

April 12, 2014

4 Blood Red Moons: Coincidence? or Divine Revelation?

29 “Immediately after the distress of those days
“‘the sun will be darkened,

    and the moon will not give its light;

the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’[b]
30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth[c] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.[d] 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Matthew 24

Mars, Earth, and the Sun all aligned last night, a rare 'opposition of the planets' that only happens once every 778 days. 
But what made this event so remarkable is that it occured precisely a week before everyone on earth will see the first of FOUR dark red 'blood moons', an extraordinary event some Christians believe represents the End of Days and the second coming of Christ.
The King James Bible predicts: "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD comes," [Joel 2:31]. 
And, according to NASA, a highly unusual 'Tetrad' - four successive total 'blood-red' lunar eclipses each followed by six full moons - will, indeed, start next Tuesday and finish on September 28 2015. 
The incredible alignment has only happened a handful of times in the last two thousand years but, remarkably, on each of the last three occasions it has coincided with a globally significant religious event.
Pastor and author John Hagee, from San Antonio, Texas, has written a book on the phenomenon. He believes tonight marks the dawn of a 'hugely significant event' for the world.
He says: "This is not something that some religious think tank has put together. 
"NASA has confirmed that the Tetrad has only happened three times in more than 500 years - and that it's going to happen now."
bible, end of the world, end of days, astrology, sun, moon, earth The King James Bible warns the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the 'moon into blood' [DEA]
The first Tetrad since the Middle Ages, in 1493, saw the expulsion of Jews by the Catholic Spanish Inquisition, which rocked western Europe. 
The second coincided with the establishment of the State of Israel - after thousands of years of struggle - in 1949. 
Strangely, the last one occurred in 1967 - far earlier than expected - precisely at the time of the Six-Day Arab–Israeli War.
A spokesman for NASA said: "This is the first eclipse of the year and is well placed for observers throughout the Western Hemisphere. 
"It will occur at the lunar orbit's ascending node in Virgo. 
"This is the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015 - a series known as a Tetrad."
nasa, nasa eclipse, nasa moon, nasa blood moon, nasa red moon, nasa blood moonsNASA has confirmed four consecutive total lunar eclipses will occur in 2014 and 2015 [NASA]
He added: "The frequency of Tetrads is variable over time. 
"Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli first pointed out that Tetrads were relatively plentiful during one 300-year interval, while none occurred at all during the next 300 years. 
"The 565-year period of the Tetrad 'seasons' is tied to the slowly decreasing eccentricity of Earth's orbit. 
"Consequently, the Tetrad period is gradually decreasing. 
"In the distant future Tetrads will no longer be possible."
tedrad, six day war, bible, arab israeli war, end of the world, doomsday predictionThe last Tedrad occurred in 1967 during the Six-Day Arab–Israeli War [AFP]
Mr Hagee explains: "According to the Biblical prophecy, world history is about to change dramatically. 
"To get four blood moons you need something absolutely extraordinary in astrological terms.
"Every time this has happened in the last 500 years, it has coincided with tragedy for the Jewish people followed by triumph. And once again, for Israel, the timing of this Tetrad is  remarkable. 
"The first of the four blood moons will come on April 15 this year, during Passover. The second will be on October 8, at the time of the Feast of the Tabernacles. 
"On April 4 2015, during Passover, we will have another blood moon. Then finally, on September 28, during next year's Feast of the Tabernacles, the fourth blood and final moon will dawn." 
He adds: "To have four and have them fall on these exact dates is something that has to be beyond coincidental. 
"What is so remarkable about these blood moons is that they specifically fulfill prophecies set out in the Bible. 
"Joel Chapter Two also says the 'Day of the Lord will be as when the sun refuses to shine'.
"The really significant fact is that between these four blood moons there will be a total solar eclipse. 
"Even Jesus himself, in the Book of Luke, states there 'will be signs in the sun, moon and stars' and to 'lift up your heads for redemption draws nigh'. 
"There's a sequence of prophetic events that the Bible says will happen. It does not, ever, give a timeline.
"It just says 'when you see these signs' - and four blood moons is a very significant one - 'the end of this age is coming."
While NASA has confirmed the astrological validity behind some of the claims, not everyone is convinced the Tetrad means anything at all, let alone the End of Days. 
Professor Gary Shogren, a former pastor who studied the New Testament at Aberdeen University, said: "You’ll never go broke predicting the apocalypse.
"An eclipse on Passover night seems wildly improbable, but we should remember that lunar eclipses only happen on full moons and that Passover by definition always takes place on a full moon. Sukkoth (The Feast of Tabernacles) also by definition coincides with a full moon.
"I thought in 2011 we all said we weren’t going to fall for this again, when Harold Camping twice missed the date of the Second Coming?
"It really is no different this time."

March 9, 2014

China's September 11th

22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened."
Matthew 24:22

Evil abounds everywhere.  The difficulty is that so often it appears randomly, without warning, and attacks in places of peace or relative calm like a storm without warning.  History could be described almost in terms of relative periods of peace amidst long periods of war and chaos.  It never has really gone away and the damage we have done to each other, human to human, likely adds up to more than all the damage that naturals has inflicted throughout history.  A link to a sad story is below, demonstrating yet another sad event that has been dubbed 'China's September 11th."

At least 33 dead, 143 wounded in train station 'terror' attack in China, authorities say

The 'violent terror attack' at the Kunming Railway Station took place late Saturday, according to China's official Xinhua news agency. Four of the more than 10 knife-wielding attackers were shot dead, The country blames the attack on separatists from the country’s far west and vowed a harsh crackdown Sunday. 



A woman reacts at the train station in Kunming after a deadly attack. 

KUNMING, China — Authorities blamed a slashing rampage that killed 29 people and wounded 143 at a train station in southern China on separatists from the country’s far west and vowed a harsh crackdown Sunday, while residents wondered why their laid-back city was targeted.

Police fatally shot four of the assailants — putting the overall death toll at 33 — and captured another after the attack late Saturday in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, the official Xinhua News Agency said. But authorities were searching for at least five more of the black-clad attackers.

State broadcaster CCTV said two of the assailants were women, including one of the slain and the one detained.
“All-out efforts should be made to treat the injured people, severely punish terrorists according to the law, and prevent the occurrence of similar cases,” said China’s top police official, Politburo member Meng Jianzhu, who arrived in Kunming early Sunday, an indication of how seriously authorities viewed the attack.

Police officers investigate and protect the crime scene outside a railway station in southwestern China.


Police officers investigate and protect the crime scene outside a railway station in southwestern China.

The attackers’ identities have not been confirmed, but evidence at the scene showed that it was “a terrorist attack carried out by Xinjiang separatist forces,” Xinhua said. The far western region of Xinjiang is home to a simmering rebellion against Chinese rule by some members of the Muslim Uighur population, and the government has responded there with heavy-handed security.

Police in Kunming on Sunday were rounding up members of the city’s small Uighur community, believed to number no more than several dozen, for questioning in the attack and information about the assailants.
“How do we know them?” said a Uighur man who gave only his first name, Akpar. “We could not tell if the assailants were Uighurs as they were all dressed in black. We did not like the attack either.”

Most attacks blamed on Uighur separatists take place in Xinjiang, where clashes between Uighurs and police or members of China’s ethnic Han majority are frequent, but Saturday’s assault happened more than 1,500 kilometers (more than 900 miles) to the southeast in Yunnan, which has not had a history of such unrest.

A man injured in the attack is treated at the First People's Hosptial of Kunming.


A man injured in the attack is treated at the First People's Hosptial of Kunming.

Kunming residents expressed dismay at both the attack and the conditions within China that could have allowed it to happen.

Restaurant worker Xie Yulong said the attackers were “worse than animals.” But he also expressed sympathy toward ethnic Uighurs, saying their region has come under severe security crackdowns in recent months under the government of President Xi Jinping.

“It’s the pressure,” Xie said. “Beijing has put too much pressure on them since Xi Jinping took over. They are under so much pressure they do not want to live, and they did that.”

Another Kunming resident, Jiang Hua, said the attack has made people scared to go out at night.
“I think we should chase off the Uighurs and let them be independent,” Jiang said. “And local authorities should be held accountable for providing public safety.”

Police officers inspect the body of a victim. At least 28 people died in what Chinese authorities are calling 'organized, premeditated violent terrorist attack' in Kunming.  


Police officers inspect the body of a victim. At least 28 people died in what Chinese authorities are calling 'organized, premeditated violent terrorist attack' in Kunming.  

Witnesses described assailants dressed in black storming the train station late Saturday evening and slashing people indiscriminately with large knives and machetes.
Student Qiao Yunao, 16, was waiting to catch a train at the station when people started crying out and running, and then saw a man cut another man’s neck, drawing blood.
“I was freaking out, and ran to a fast food store, and many people were running in there to take refuge,” she told The Associated Press via Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblog. “I saw two attackers, both men, one with a watermelon knife and the other with a fruit knife. They were running and chopping whoever they could.”
Alarms over a possible spread of militant attacks to soft targets beyond the borders of Xinjiang were first raised in October when a suicide car attack blamed on three ethnic Uighurs killed five people, including the attackers, at Beijing’s Tiananmen Gate.

Police stand near luggage left at the ticket office after a group of knife-wielding assailants attacked people at Kunming railway station.


Police stand near luggage left at the ticket office after a group of knife-wielding assailants attacked people at Kunming railway station.

Sean Roberts, a cultural anthropologist at George Washington University who has studied Uighurs and China for two decades, said the Kunming violence would be a new kind of attack for ethnic Uighurs — premeditated, well-organized and outside Xinjiang — but still rudimentary in weaponry.

“If it is true that it was carried out by Uighurs, it’s much different than anything we’ve seen to date,” Roberts said by phone.
But he added that it is still unclear whether there is any organized Uighur militant group, and that attacks so far do not appear linked to any “global terrorist network, because we’re not seeing things like sophisticated explosives or essentially sophisticated tactics.”

The violence in Kunming came at a sensitive time, with political leaders in Beijing preparing for Wednesday’s opening of the annual legislature, where Xi’s government will deliver its first one-year work report.

The exterior of Kunming Railway Station on March 1. At least 28 individuals are dead and another 113 are wounded after an unidentified group of people rushed into the station and started attacking bystanders, state media reported. 


The exterior of Kunming Railway Station on March 1. At least 28 individuals are dead and another 113 are wounded after an unidentified group of people rushed into the station and started attacking bystanders, state media reported. 

Willy Lam, a political observer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the attack coming so close to the National People’s Congress dented Xi’s message of a “Chinese Dream” coalescing under his rule.

“Pockets of dissatisfaction, groups of people with grievances, appear to be increasing. After 1 1/2 years of more heavy-handed control (in Xinjiang), the report card does not look good,” Lam said.

Xi called for “all-out efforts” to bring the culprits to justice. The Security Management Bureau, which is under the Ministry of Public Security, said in a statement that police would “crack down on the crimes in accordance with the law without any tolerance.”

The attack was the deadliest violence attributed to Uighur-Han conflicts since riots in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi in 2009, in which Uighurs stormed the streets of the city, targeting Han people in seemingly random violence that included the killing of women and children. A few days later, Han vigilante mobs armed with sticks and bats attacked Uighurs in the same city. Nearly 200 people died.Weibo users took to the service to describe details of what happened, though many of the posts were quickly deleted by government censors, especially those that described the attackers, two of whom were identified by some as women.
Others condemned the attack.


On a somewhat related topic, another quote summarizing how two separate cultures have differed in their response to the fallibility of man and natural inclinations for man to oppress their fellow man.  America has its problems, but one is not the Constitution, which has remarkable stood the test of time and helped serve as a backbone to allowing individuals to rise above tyranny and express themselves, however difficult that has been at times.     

Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America, writing in 1835:

"There are two great peoples on the earth today who, starting from different points, seem to advance toward the same goal: these are the Russians and the Anglo-Americans.

Both have grown larger in obscurity; and while men's regards were occupied elsewhere, they have suddenly taken their place in the first rank of nations, and the world has learned of their birth and of their greatness almost at the same time. 

All other peoples appear to have nearly reached the limits that nature has drawn and to have nothing more to do than preserve themselves; but these are growing: all the others have halted or advance only with a thousand efforts; these alone march ahead at an easy and rapid pace on a course whose bounds the eye cannot yet perceive. 

The American struggles against the obstacles that nature opposes to him; the Russian grapples with men. The one combats the wilderness and barbarism, the other, civilization vested with all its arms: thus the conquests of the American are made with the plowshare of the laborer, those of the Russian with the sword of the soldier. 

To attain his goal, the first relies on personal interest and allows the force and the reason of individuals to act, without directing them. 

The second in a way concentrates all the power of society in one man. 
The one has freedom for his principal mans of action; the other servitude. 
Their point of departure is different, their ways are diverse; nonetheless, each of them seems called by a secret design of Providence to hold the destinies of half the world in its hands one day."

-Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop translation, at the end of Vol. I: p 395-96.

February 16, 2014

Tracking your DNA via a Bio-signature

As if we are not being tracked enough.....on the heels of a recent article documenting how law enforcement is trying to use street lights to track you down, we get this article documenting attempts to track us via DNA.  The article is vague and details lack, so it appears to be more fear mongering by the WND staff, which published this article.  Nevertheless, biotechnology tracking systems are being developed, particularly of interest is the likes of an implantable device like 'veri-chip.'


Seek 'biosignature' spying ability to 'identify, locate specific individuals'

The federal government doesn’t just want the ability to track down your car; it wants to be able to track down your body as well.
Just as details are emerging about a controversial, nationwide vehicle-surveillance database, WND has learned the federal government is planning an even more invasive spy program using “physiological signatures” to track down individuals.  The goal of this research is to detect – as well as analyze and categorize – unique traits the government can exploit to “identify, locate and track specific individuals or groups of people.”
According to the program’s statement of objectives, “The scope of human-centered [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR] research spans the complete range of human performance starting at the individual molecular, cellular, genomic level.”
Documents WND located through routine database research reveal the ability to follow people by detecting “certain characteristics of operational interest” is designed for U.S. military and intelligence-gathering superiority.
It remains unknown when such capabilities might transition to the realm of domestic counterterrorism or law enforcement operations; however, the feds – through the Air Force Research Lab, or AFRL – are recruiting private-sector assistance in order to make this “biosignature” spying a reality.
Existing ISR systems are “ideal for identifying and tracking entities such as aircraft and vehicles, but are less capable of identifying and tracking the human,” the lab says in a planning document known as a Broad Agency Announcement, or BAA.
The Human-Centered ISR Leveraged Science & Technology Program will seek to develop, with outside help, technologies that the government can use “to identify, locate and track humans of interest within the operational environment,” according to solicitation No. BAA-HPW-RHX-2014-0001.
Research specific to fusing and analyzing sensor data has undergone consistent growth, but such efforts have been “system-centric” and fail to “adequately address the human element.”
This new research scheme seeks to strengthen the ability of intelligence analysts by placing the human component at the forefront of their efforts.
AFRL’s research could have implications for a variety of domains, such as air, space and cyberspace, it says. The program’s outcome also will broadly apply to other U.S. Department of Defense organizations and the intelligence community.
A second component of the AFRL initiative is the Human Trust and Interaction Program, which will conduct research into human-to-human and human-to-machine interactions.
This program segment entails several sub-areas, including Trust and Suspicion, which will focus on “the recognition of suspicious activities in the cyberspace realm.”
This segment will examine open-source data such as social media. It also will continue to leverage “more traditional intelligence sources.”
AFRL says it anticipates awarding three or four initial contracts for the overall initiative, which has an estimated program value of about $50 million.
The goal of this and other AFLR programs typically start out as largely theoretical, similar to the approach taken by the more widely known Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which created ARPANET, the defense-system predecessor to the Internet.
The Department of Homeland Security, on the other hand, merely has to solicit bids from industry for a National License Plate Recognition, or NLPR, database system.
While DHS is soliciting this service specifically for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, functions, the breadth of this NLPR service encompasses the gathering of transportation-movement data from major metropolitan areas nationwide.
This database, which would be fed with information gleaned from multiple sources, would “track vehicle license plate numbers that pass through cameras or are voluntarily entered into the system,” according to the program solicitation.
The vehicle tracking-data then would be “uploaded to share with law enforcement.”
The database will be compatible with smart phone technology, enabling law enforcement offices to download thousands of listings – as well as close-up photos – of vehicle license plates.
Once DHS secures this service, the contractor must retain and make available data from previous months, as well as update the system with “new and unique” data monthly.
DHS anticipates awarding a one-year contract with four one-year options by May 14. It did not disclose the estimated cost.


February 15, 2014

Police State: La Americana style

The DHS also recently awarded the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority $7 million dollars to outfit its buses with high tech 360 degree surveillance cameras. The federal agency is simultaneously supporting the rollout of ‘Intellistreets’ lighting systems that double as surveillance hubs which can record conversations.
The large leaks by NSA contractor Edward Snowden shook the world and gave the public a glimpse into just what enormous amount of surveillance is being performed on the unsuspecting public.  There has always been a trade off between liberty and security; however, in today's digital age, the line has been blurred to the point of in-distinction.  There's so much data and surveillance everywhere , one practically doesn't even know where it starts and stops.  

The Department of Homeland Security has been building a national database of information for some time, of course under the notion to track terrorists around the globe.  The ability to use this database in real time though takes on a new dimension if a police officer can simply use their smart phone, take a picture of a car's plates, and then immediately know who you are.  The newest technology in google glasses apparently can do the same thing.  Additionally, as this article points out, cameras and listening devices are also now being incorporated into street lights!

Forget about anonymity!

Homeland Security to Activate ‘National 

License Plate Recognition Database’

The Department of Homeland Security is set to activate a national license plate tracking system that will be shared with law enforcement, allowing DHS officers to take photos of any license plate using their smartphone and upload it to a database which will include a “hot list” of “target vehicles”.

Image: License Plate Scanning Camera (Wikimedia Commons). 
The details are included in a PDF attachment uploaded yesterday to the Federal Business Opportunities website under a solicitation entitled “National License Plate Recognition Database.” 
The system will “track vehicle license plate numbers that pass through cameras or are voluntarily entered into the system from a variety of sources (access control systems, asset recovery specialists, etc.) and uploaded to share with law enforcement” in order to help locate “criminal aliens and absconders.” 
In other countries that have activated license plate tracking networks, such as the United Kingdom, political activists have been targeted by having their vehicles added to a “hotlist” after attending protests. One example led to a man being questioned under anti-terror laws after he traveled to take part in an anti-war demonstration. 
As the image above illustrates, the cameras are also used by local governments in Australia to keep records of people who violate parking restrictions. Critics of the system in Australia have condemned it as “a Pandora’s box for abuse of power, mistakes and illegal disclosure,” stressing that the technology allows authorities to record “your number plate at a certain time and location,” allowing police to “compile an extraordinary amount of data about you. This includes your name, address, contact details, driving history and licence status.” 
“Innocent people are increasingly being treated with suspicion due to the tiny chance that some offence may be committed,” writes David Jancik. 
The DHS’ database will allow authorities “to determine where and when the vehicle has traveled,” using data compiled “from a variety of sources nationwide,” including “metropolitan areas” within the United States, suggesting the system may be linked in with regular surveillance cameras as it is in the UK. 
The system will also allow DHS officials to take a picture of any license plate via their smartphone, upload it to the database and immediately receive an alert if the plate is on the watchlist.
“The NLPR data service should provide details on clarity of photos provided. The Government would prefer a close-up of the plate and a zoomed out image of the vehicle,” states the solicitation. 
The system must also have the capability to “flag license plates and conduct searches anonymously so that other law enforcement agencies may not have access.”
Given rampant concerns that the Department of Homeland Security, which is ostensibly introducing this system in the name of catching illegal aliens, is in fact an increasingly bloated federal bureaucracy designed to target the American people, the notion of the DHS enjoying access to a fully integrated nationwide license plate tracking grid is chilling, especially given the fact that the agency has funded reports which characterize “liberty lovers” as potential terrorists. 
The DHS also recently awarded the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority $7 million dollars to outfit its buses with high tech 360 degree surveillance cameras. The federal agency is simultaneously supporting the rollout of ‘Intellistreets’ lighting systems that double as surveillance hubs which can record conversations. 
“Do not kid yourself. This is tracking of an individual that can be accessed at a whim,” writes James Smith. “Yearly, officers are terminated for accessing the LEDS/NCIC database for looking into the histories of ex-lovers, future spouses, and potential sons/daughters-in-law. And with license plate tracking toy (not a tool), they will know where you are, as long as you have driven into the cross hairs of this new weapon for tyranny.”

May 21, 2013

Immigration Bill includes Universal Biometric Security System

Another call for a massive biometric database from a member of congress:

Hatch Calls for Fingerprints

Washington » The federal government would start collecting fingerprints from foreigners at the nation’s busiest airports under a plan sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch.

The Senate Judiciary Committee accepted the Utah Republican’s amendment to a broad immigration reform bill Monday, saying it is a financially feasible step toward a universal biometric security system at all land, air and sea ports.

“They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security"   ---Ben Franklin

A previous article and commentary also pointed this out:
Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf)  is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.

Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.

 If you thought the PATRIOT act, in response to 9/11 destroyed what was left of privacy, wait until a national database with your fingerprint, iris, and other biometrics are put into some massive database.  Credit cards and other payment forms could, who knows how soon, be replaced by fingerprints as a form of payment.  We already have cameras practically everywhere monitoring our every move and smart phones with GPS tracking technology integrated with our everyday life.  It may not be too long in the future when a system like this gets created.

May 12, 2013

Biometric Database Being Created in USA

For the inquiring mind:

Although still in its infant development stage, this type of database has the potential to forever change how society is monitored---technology on this level would do more damage to the Constitution and personal freedoms than any political party could muster.  Combining a database like this with law enforcement along with surveillance cameras would give government an unprecedented power to watch over the lives of its citizens. 

Any future 'mark of the beast' that the Revelator John prophesied about long ago, will almost certainly include some sort of bio-metric integration. 

--On this topic:  Much of the world is ditching the metalic strip on credit purchases in favor of RFID technology.  Can you see a world in 10 years using a combination of RFID and Biometric technology for everyday purchases?  It seemed like science fiction 50 years ago, but today it doesn't seem so far fetched.

Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform

Illustration: National Institutes of Health

The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.

Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf)  is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.
Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.

This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet. Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in.

“It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state, you do have to get permission to do things,” said Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union. “More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things.”

For now, the legislation allows the database to be used solely for employment purposes. But historically such limitations don’t last. The Social Security card, for example, was created to track your government retirement benefits. Now you need it to purchase health insurance.
“The Social Security number itself, it’s pretty ubiquitous in your life,” Calabrese said.

David Bier, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees with the ACLU’s fears.
“The most worrying aspect is that this creates a principle of permission basically to do certain activities and it can be used to restrict activities,” he said. “It’s like a national ID system without the card.”

For the moment, the debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee is focused on the parameters of legalization for unauthorized immigrants, a border fence and legal immigration in the future.
The committee is scheduled to resume debate on the package Tuesday.