Daily Archives: April 20th, 2017

Companies Start Implanting Microchips Into Workers’ Bodies

The Associated Press reports:

Image result for Companies Start Implanting Microchips Into Workers' BodiesThe syringe slides in between the thumb and index finger. Then, with a click, a microchip is injected in the employee’s hand. Another “cyborg” is created.

What could pass for a dystopian vision of the workplace is almost routine at the Swedish start-up hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and start-up members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.

“The biggest benefit, I think, is convenience,” said Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and chief executive of Epicenter. As a demonstration, he unlocks a door merely by waving near it. “It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.”

The technology itself is not new: Such chips are used as virtual collar plates for pets, and companies use them to track deliveries. But never before has the technology been used to tag employees on a broad scale. Epicenter and a handful of other companies are the first to make chip implants broadly available.

And as with most new technologies, it raises security and privacy issues. Although the chips are biologically safe, the data they generate can show how often employees come to work or what they buy. Unlike company swipe cards or smartphones, which can generate the same data, people cannot easily separate themselves from the chips.

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The Cashless Future Will Be A Surveillance Nightmare

Jesse Hicks reports for Vocativ:

Money[…] When we think about the decreasing importance of cash, if we do, it’s mostly in terms of convenience. It’s just easier to not carry cash; cash can get lost or stolen, and because it’s not tied to our identities, it’s hard to get back. It’s informal and off the information grid, representing only itself and saying nothing about its bearer (putting aside those stories about the vast amount of cash allegedly containing cocaine residue). It’s anonymous in ways that often make it inconvenient for we the consumers.

Conceived of that way—primarily as an inconvenient medium of information exchange—cash’s obsolescence seems an inevitability. But what will replace it? If history is any guide, the next stage in the evolution of money will be completely intangible, existing as ledger marks in digital databases around the world. Bitcoin notwithstanding, it will likely not be decentralized and transparent; it seems much more likely that governments and bankers will maintain their control of currency, creating an opaque system in which we will all be enmeshed, and from which the financiers will take their cut. Money will be tied to identity, its routes traced and monitored. It’ll be a surveillance dystopia, but not of the clumsy, grubby Phildickian variety. It’ll be an ultra-functional, shiny and minimalist nightmare, the kind where you’re not supposed to care how it works, as long as it works for you. Kind of like an iPhone.

That may sound cranky, but it’s worth stepping back for a second to consider how we’re persuaded about the color and contour the future will take. Cash has already begun to be replaced. That’s progress: all that is solid melts into air, software eats the world, cash becomes digits. The sense of inevitability is baked into much of our thinking about (and proselytizing for) new technology. The disrupters and the techno-utopians have a vested interest in presenting their just-over-the-horizon view not as a future, but as the future. The subtle but forceful underlying message goes something like, “A future of infinite convenience is bearing down on you; it is not to be interrogated, and you have no recourse but acquiescence.” Thus the arrival of particular systems—methods for allocating and distributing power—is presented as a law of nature, even a fait accompli. 

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First Roger Ailes, Now Bill O’Reilly: Sexual Harassment Scandal Ousts Top Men at Fox News

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speak with civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom who represents three women who have accused Bill O’Reilly of unwanted sexual advances. (Democracy Now!)

 

Jeff Sessions’ Reefer Madness

Paul Jay speaks with Nina Turner, a former Democratic Senator for Ohio’s 25th district, to discuss the renewed war on drugs, including marijuana, planned by Trump’s Attorney General and Head of Homeland Security. (The Real News)

‘Biggest Humanitarian Catastrophe Since 2003 Invasion’: Anand Gopal on Battle for Mosul

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speak with Anand Gopal, a journalist and a fellow at The Nation Institute, who recently returned from the Middle East and has reported extensively from the region. (Democracy Now!)

Markets Worry More About Political Turmoil Than Encroaching Autocracy

The Economist reports:

Image result for Markets worry more about political turmoil than autocracy[…] In Turkey investors may have feared turmoil if Mr Erdogan’s proposal had been defeated. It is an old, but fairly reliable, rule that investors dislike uncertainty. And the early years of Mr Erdogan’s tenure, when he was seen as a liberalising democrat, saw rapid economic growth; his transformation into an emerging autocrat has not put investors off. Since he took office, the Istanbul market has gained 760% (see chart).

An authoritarian government can provide certainty, at least in the short term. In 1922, when Mussolini took power in Italy, its equity market returned 29% and its government bonds 18%, according to Mike Staunton of the London Business School. Hitler’s accession in 1933 saw German shares return 14% and bonds 15%. True, Wall Street did even better that year under Franklin Roosevelt but still—even then, Hitler was clearly a dangerous extremist.

The world’s most developed economies tend to be democracies, and to be more open to trade and foreign investment. But as China has demonstrated, it is certainly possible to generate rapid economic growth without a democratic system. China’s stockmarket (along with Hong Kong’s) has been among the best-performing bourses this millennium.

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How France’s Hotly Contested Election Could Shake Markets

Sara Sjolin reports for Market Watch:

[…] Usually a French general election doesn’t present a make-it or break-it moment for the entire eurozone, but this time its different. After a race full of surprises, a surge in the polls by far-left, euroskeptic Jean-Luc Melenchon has again reminded investors of the sweeping antiestablishment sentiment grabbing Europe and the U.S. at the moment.

Far-right, anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen is also doing well in the polls and currently looks like she’ll get one of the two spots in the runoff. The big question is who she’ll face in the second round.

Will it be centrist Emmanuel Macron, who pollsters and analysts see as the favorite to emerge as president in May? Will it be scandal-ridden, dark horse candidate François Fillon who’s enjoyed an 11th hour rebound in support? Or will it be Melenchon, who has promised to rework the treaties that set the framework for the EU and then hold a referendum on whether to remain in the bloc.

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UK Elections Called Before Full Impact of Austerity Kicks In

Sharmini Peries speaks with Professor Leo Panitch, author of The Making of Global Capitalism, who says Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election is an opportunistic move, she also has an eye on the electoral arenas in France and Germany. (The Real News)

How the Mirror Uncovered Election Fraud Claims Which Could Come Back to Haunt Theresa May’s Tories Before Polling Day

Nick Sommerlad reports for Press Gazette:

This is billed as the Brexit election – the opportunity to refight the battles of a year ago over the biggest political question in a generation.

But it could yet turn into an election fraud election – with a cunning plan hatched by David Cameron’s Remainer CCHQ more than two years ago coming back to haunt Theresa May and her merry band of Brexiteers.

The date everyone is watching is 8 June – polling day. But 20 May could be when this election is turned on its head, the deadline for the first of at least 14 current Tory MPs to find out if they are to be prosecuted for election fraud. The others, it might be up to 20, or even more, must learn their fate by early June.

They won’t be MPs by then of course. Parliament will have been dissolved by 12 May at the latest. But they could be forced to file their nomination papers by 3 May with an unresolved year-long police investigation hanging over their heads.

So we could see a string of what were once considered marginal Tory seats being defended by candidates who face being put on trial during the next parliament accused of being fraudulently elected to the current one.

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How Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Personally Profit from Their Roles in the White House

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speak with Vicky Ward, New York Times best-selling author, investigative journalist and contributor to Esquire and Huffington Post Highline magazine, about whether Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are personally profiting from their official roles in the White House. (Democracy Now!)