Homeland Security Department Failing, US Courts Protect Government Surveillance, Mysterious Power of the Brain
Revealing News Articles
April 4, 2023
Explore below key excerpts of revealing news articles on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security failing to keep the country safe while burning through $1.4 trillion since its inception, government surveillance programs being protected by the US courts despite acts of mistreatment and overreach, the insidious sabotage of former President Jimmy Carter's re-election in 1980, and more.
Read also wonderfully inspiring articles on a teenage girl demonstrating the mysterious power of the brain to heal itself after major surgery, the deep evolutionary origins of our capacity for empathy, interesting results from scanning brains under the influence of ayahuasca, and more. You can also skip to this section now.
Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails, see this page. The most important sentences are highlighted. And don't miss the "What you can do" section below the summaries. By educating ourselves and spreading the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Special note: As the indictment of Donald Trump floods the media, read an incisive article by Chris Hedges who asserts how Trump's indictment has more to do with the fact that he challenged ruling political and economic establishment than the serious crimes he is accused of committing. Children's Health Defense has filed an antitrust lawsuit against mainstream media organizations who have colluded with Big Tech companies to establish control over what information the American public is exposed to. Read a compelling report on the case, along with an in-depth look at the censorship pervading US media systems.
Quote of the week: Facts never speak for themselves, but are at the mercy of their interpreters. ~~ Ashley Montagu
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After 20 Years, the Department of Homeland Security Is a Money-Guzzling Failure
March 13, 2023, Newsweek
In March 2003, the newly christened Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, opened its doors. The department took everything from immigration enforcement and counterterrorism to airport security and disaster response under one gargantuan bureaucracy. Despite these wide-ranging missions, the department's unifying logic in the post 9/11 era has been to wage the so-called war on terror at home. The result has been systemic abuse of minority communities, a dangerous militarization of American life, and a massive waste of money that sapped resources from addressing the real threats to our homeland. DHS agencies have militarized U.S. streets, sending officers in tactical gear to respond to civilian protests and conducting surveillance of U.S. citizens engaged in constitutionally protected activities. There are stories of DHS drones surveilling Indigenous water and land protectors and DHS forces spying on Black Lives Matter protesters. DHS even monitored journalists who reported on the department's tactics. None of these abuses have come cheap. Since its founding in 2003, the U.S. has spent $1.4 trillion on the agency. That's more than seven times what the government spent over the same period on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including the CDC's COVID-19 pandemic response—and more than five times more than on the Environmental Protection Agency. The [DHS] was supposed to be about making the U.S. safer. But it has failed.
Note: A thorough investigation reveals details on the DHS "Disinformation Governance Board," an unsuccessful effort in 2022 to police online speech it considers inaccurate and dangerous. Now, the DHS board and its key subcommittees are undergoing sweeping changes as public concern grows over social media censorship and government overreach.
US courts must stop shielding government surveillance programs from accountability
September 26, 2022, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
Under a post-9/11 surveillance program known as “Upstream”, the NSA is systematically searching Americans’ internet communications as they enter and leave the United States. The agency sifts through these streams of data looking for “identifiers” associated with its many thousands of foreign targets – identifiers like email addresses and phone numbers. The NSA does all of this without warrants, without any individual judicial approval, and without showing that any of the people it is surveilling – including countless Americans – have done anything wrong. This surveillance raises serious constitutional concerns, but no court has ever considered a legal challenge to it because the government has claimed that allowing a suit against Upstream surveillance to go forward would implicate “state secrets”. In 2007, for example, an appeals court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Khaled El-Masri claiming that, in a case of mistaken identity, he had been kidnapped and tortured by the CIA. The court acknowledged the public evidence of El-Masri’s mistreatment but held that state secrets were too central to the case to allow it to go forward. And in 2010, a different appeals court dismissed a lawsuit filed by five individuals who claimed that one of Boeing’s subsidiary companies had flown the planes carrying them to the black sites where they were tortured by the CIA. This use of the state secrets privilege – to dismiss cases – departs from the supreme court’s narrow framing of the privilege.
A Four-Decade Secret: One Man’s Story of Sabotaging Carter’s Re-election
March 18, 2023, New York Times
It has been more than four decades, but Ben Barnes said he remembers it vividly. His longtime political mentor invited him on a mission to the Middle East. What Mr. Barnes said he did not realize until later was the real purpose of the mission: to sabotage the re-election campaign of the president of the United States. It was 1980 and Jimmy Carter was in the White House, bedeviled by a hostage crisis in Iran that had paralyzed his presidency and hampered his effort to win a second term. Mr. Carter’s best chance for victory was to free the 52 Americans held captive before Election Day. That was something that Mr. Barnes said his mentor was determined to prevent. His mentor was John B. Connally Jr., a titan of American politics. Now Mr. Connally resolved to help Mr. Reagan beat Mr. Carter. What happened next Mr. Barnes has largely kept secret for nearly 43 years. Mr. Connally, he said, took him to one Middle Eastern capital after another that summer, meeting with a host of regional leaders to deliver a blunt message to be passed to Iran: Don’t release the hostages before the election. Mr. Reagan will win and give you a better deal. Mr. Connally’s files indicated that he did, in fact, leave Houston on July 18, 1980, for a trip that would take him to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel before returning to Houston on Aug. 11. Iran did hold the hostages until after the election, which Mr. Reagan won, and did not release them until minutes after noon on Jan. 20, 1981, when Mr. Carter left office.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on elections corruption from reliable major media sources.
Facial recognition bias frustrates Black asylum applicants to US, advocates say
February 8, 2023, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
The US government’s new mobile app for migrants to apply for asylum at the US-Mexico border is blocking many Black people from being able to file their claims because of facial recognition bias in the tech, immigration advocates say. The app, CBP One, is failing to register many people with darker skin tones, effectively barring them from their right to request entry into the US. People who have made their way to the south-west border from Haiti and African countries, in particular, are falling victim to apparent algorithm bias in the technology that the app relies on. The government announced in early January that the new CBP One mobile app would be the only way migrants arriving at the border can apply for asylum and exemption from Title 42 restrictions. Racial bias in face recognition technology has long been a problem. Increasingly used by law enforcement and government agencies to fill databases with biometric information including fingerprints and iris scans, a 2020 report by Harvard University called it the “least accurate” identifier, especially among darker-skinned women with whom the error rate is higher than 30%. Emmanuella Camille, a staff attorney with the Haitian Bridge Alliance ... said the CBP One app has helped “lighter-skin toned people from other nations” obtain their asylum appointments “but not Haitians” and other Black applicants. Besides the face recognition technology not registering them ... many asylum seekers have outdated cellphones – if they have cellphones at all – that don’t support the CBP One app.
U.S. Hardware Is Fueling Russia's Facial Recognition Crackdown on Anti-War Dissidents
March 28, 2023, Vice
Russia has been using cameras powered by facial recognition systems to crackdown on dissidents, according to reporting from Reuters. Several Russian companies are using algorithms trained and powered by chips made by U.S. firms Intel and Nvidia. Reuters said that one of the companies even received money from U.S. intelligence. On March 4, 20022—a week after it launched its full scale invasion of Ukraine—Russia made it illegal to publicly criticize the war. The report from Reuters details how facial recognition software has aided the Kremlin in its crackdown against dissidents. There are more than 160,000 cameras in Moscow and 3,000 of them are connected to facial recognition software. According to Moscow court records, the technology has aided in the arrest of hundreds of protestors. In one case, a man stood alone near a fountain in Pushkin Square with a home-made poster that said “Peace to Ukraine.” A week later he was boarding a subway when police ushered him into their station and explained that the computer system had recognized his face. The software powering the [system] was created by three companies: NtechLab, VisonLabs, and Tevian. Tevian and NtechLab are based in Moscow, while VisionLabs is based in the Netherlands. According to Reuters, the companies used chips designed by Intel and Nvidia to train their systems. It also reported that one of the firms joined a U.S. facial recognition test program and received $40,000 in prize money from “an arm of U.S. intelligence.”
Note: Tools of centralized power continue to support warmongering agendas, with US-based tech companies controversially supplying facial recognition technology to Ukraine and now to Russia, despite the US deeming Russia as the enemy. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Big oil on campus: how US universities are ‘colonized’ by the fossil-fuel industry
March 27, 2023, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
Even as elite American universes such as Harvard have bowed to pressure to divest their multibillion-dollar endowments from fossil fuels, and student activists take recalcitrant holdouts to court, oil and gas companies continue to exert a grip upon campus life, through funded research and the physical presence of oil and gas industry employees in lectures and meetings with faculty. Fossil-fuel firms have purposely sought to “colonize” academia with industry-friendly science, rather than seed overt climate denial, according to Ben Franta, a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford who has studied industry’s influence over universities. Their research dollars, he said, had effectively discouraged academic endeavors that challenge the core business model of burning oil and gas, instead shifting the focus to favored topics such as capturing carbon emissions from polluting facilities, a still niche technology that would allow industry to continue business as usual. The reach of fossil fuels into academia “never ceases to amaze me”, said Robert Brulle, an environmental sociologist at Brown University. “You can barely study climate change at elite universities and not be funded by fossil-fuel companies,” he added. “They drive all this study into carbon capture, so that influences policy and becomes a part of the Biden administration’s agenda. The influence is profound, and the students are right to be wondering what kind of education they are getting here.”
Note: Read more on how fossil companies donated $700 million to US universities over 10 years. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption from reliable major media sources.
The links between pollution and miscarriage: ‘This is the stuff nightmares are made of’
March 28, 2023, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
The world we live in is slowly poisoning every single one of us. And the chemicals doing the most damage are byproducts of the fossil fuel industry, agribusiness and manufacturing. There doesn’t seem to be the appetite at a regulatory or governmental level to stop it. In Australia, 50,000 agricultural, industrial and veterinary chemicals are being used; 1,500 are suspected to interfere with endocrine function, which is essential to the healthy working of our reproductive and hormonal systems. Only a very small number have been tested. Microplastics, which can cause inflammation in the body, is being found in our blood streams and also in the placentas of unborn fetuses. Walking down a major intersection during rush hour can expose you to as much particulate matter as a major bushfire event. Even if chemicals are tested, the testing regimen means that chemicals are only being tested in isolation and not in conjunction with others to see how compounds react. Also, they might be tested for carcinogenic effects ... but the test subjects aren't monitored for other ill-effects, such as endocrine disruption. Some effects take place long after the research has concluded. Some of these chemicals can stay in the body forever. Or affect the way our DNA functions. There’s even an Australian website (not widely enough publicised) called yourfertility.org.au. It has an entire section on chemicals in our environment and what to avoid, stating that “avoiding these chemicals may increase the chance of having a baby”.
Note: The above was written by Isabelle Oderberg, author of Hard to Bear: Investigating the science and silence of miscarriage. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and health from reliable major media sources.
Key Articles From Independent Media
Federal Agencies Are Still Using Our Phones as Tracking Beacons
March 24, 2023, Reason
Recent reports about the Secret Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement playing fast and loose with rules regarding cellphone tracking and the FBI purchasing phone location data from commercial sources constitute an important wake-up call. They remind us that those handy mobile devices many people tote around are the most cost-effective surveillance system ever invented. "The United States Secret Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) did not always adhere to Federal statute and cellsite simulator (CSS) policies when using CSS during criminal investigations," the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General reported last month. "Separately, ICE HSI did not adhere to Department privacy policies and the applicable Federal privacy statute when using CSS." The OIG report referred to the use of what is commonly called "stingray" technology—devices that simulate cellphone towers and trick phones within range into connecting and revealing their location. "They also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby," the ACLU warns. Even the most precise phone company location data remains available with court approval. The courts are currently mulling multiple cases involving "geofence warrants" whereby law enforcement seeks data not on individuals, but on whoever was carrying a device in a designated area at a specified time.
Geofencing Warrants Are a Threat to Privacy
December 5, 2022, Reason
The House committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021, is nearly finished. Nearly 900 ... criminal prosecutions of alleged rioters remain underway, and one case has shed troubling new light on how the FBI investigated these defendants. The suspect's name is David Rhine. His lawyer is the first to present a potentially successful challenge to the geofencing warrant the FBI used to place some defendants inside the Capitol building during the attack. A previous Wired report last year found 45 federal criminal cases citing the warrant, which required Google to provide the FBI with data on devices using its location services inside a set geographic area. Rhine's case has revealed just how expansive the FBI's request to Google really was. Google initially listed 5,723 devices in response to the warrant, then whittled the tally to exclude likely Capitol staff and police as well as anyone who wasn't "entirely within the geofence, to about a 70 percent probability." The final list of identifying details handed over to the FBI had 1,535 names. It included people whose phones had been turned off or put in airplane mode, and "people who attempted to delete their location data following the attacks were singled out by the FBI for greater scrutiny." It's ... easy to envision geofencing warrants undergoing the usual surveillance mission creep. Left unchecked, law enforcement could decide geofence data would come in handy while looking for a journalist's whistleblowing source, or perhaps at political protests.
Key Articles From Years Past
Air Force paid $1,280 apiece for coffee cups
October 30, 2018, CNN News
The US Air Force is facing more questions as to why it spent tens of thousands of dollars over the last three years on large cups that can reheat beverages, like coffee or tea, on refueling tankers and cargo aircraft during flight. Despite being assured by Air Force Secretary Dr. Heather Wilson earlier this month that the service has “suspended its purchasing of the exorbitantly priced cups,” Sen. Chuck Grassley sent a follow-up letter last week asking for further explanation as to why they were purchased in the first place. Grassley raised the issue of the cups in an October 2 letter to Wilson after reports surfaced this summer that the 60th Ariel Port Squadron at Travis Air Force Base had spent $1,280 on each cup in 2018 – a dramatic increase from the $693 per-cup price in 2016. In her response to that letter, Wilson said the Air Force has spent $326,785 on nearly 400 cups since 2016 – an average of $817. “You are right to be concerned about the high costs of spare parts, and I remain thankful to have your support in addressing this problem,” Wilson told the senator in a letter dated October 17. The increasing cost of the cups was first reported ... in July as part of a report on how airmen at Travis Air Force Base are attempting to use 3D printing to develop a cost-effective way to replace the cups’ plastic handles, which have a tendency to break. “Unfortunately, when dropped, the handle breaks easily leading to the expenditure of several thousand dollars to replace the cup as replacement parts are not available,” the Air Force said.
Note: Read this eye-opening article to learn the many ways the government wastes your tax dollars. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on military corruption from reliable major media sources.
US plans to fight the net revealed
January 27, 2006, BBC News
A newly declassified document gives a fascinating glimpse into the US military's plans for "information operations". The declassified document is called "Information Operations Roadmap". It was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University using the Freedom of Information Act. Officials in the Pentagon wrote it in 2003. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, signed it. The operations described in the document include a surprising range of military activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists, psychological operations troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of an enemy, computer network attack specialists who seek to destroy enemy networks. The military's psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans. "Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public. Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will 'fight the net' as it would an enemy weapons system," it reads. The document recommends that the United States should seek the ability to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum". US forces should be able to "disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum". The fact that the "Information Operations Roadmap" is approved by the Secretary of Defense suggests that these plans are taken very seriously indeed in the Pentagon.
Meet the 'glass-half-full girl' whose brain rewired after losing a hemisphere
March 22, 2023, NPR
In most people, speech and language live in the brain's left hemisphere. Mora Leeb is not most people. When she was 9 months old, surgeons removed the left side of her brain. Yet at 15, Mora plays soccer, tells jokes, gets her nails done, and, in many ways, lives the life of a typical teenager. "I can be described as a glass-half-full girl," she says, pronouncing each word carefully and without inflection. Her slow, cadence-free speech is one sign of a brain that has had to reorganize its language circuits. Yet to a remarkable degree, Mora's right hemisphere has taken on jobs usually done on the left side. It's an extreme version of brain plasticity, the process that allows a brain to modify its connections to adapt to new circumstances. People like Mora represent the upper bounds of human brain plasticity because their brains were radically altered very early in life — a period when the wiring is still a work in progress. During an interview with Mora, both her abilities and deficits were apparent. So was her outgoing personality and curiosity about the world. Mora began by telling me a joke: "How do you make a hot dog stand?" she asks. "You take away its chair." What scientists still want to know is precisely what allowed Mora's brain to rewire so extensively. One thing is clear: Understanding the basis of this sort of extreme plasticity, they say, could help millions of people whose brains are still trying to recover from a stroke, tumor, or traumatic injury. And Mora is helping scientists deepen their understanding, simply by being herself.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring disabled persons news articles.
A fish can sense another’s fear, a study shows
March 23, 2023, Associated Press
Our capacity to care about others may have very, very ancient origins, a new study suggests. It might have been deep-rooted in prehistoric animals that lived millions of years ago, before fish and mammals like us diverged on the tree of life, according to researchers who published their study Thursday in the journal Science. Scientists are usually reluctant to attribute humanlike feelings to animals. But it’s generally accepted that many animals have moods, including fish. The new study shows that fish can detect fear in other fish, and then become afraid too – and that this ability is regulated by oxytocin, the same brain chemical that underlies the capacity for empathy in humans. The researchers demonstrated this by deleting genes linked to producing and absorbing oxytocin in the brains of zebrafish. Those fish were then essentially antisocial – they failed to detect or change their behavior when other fish were anxious. But when some of the altered fish received oxytocin injections, their ability to sense and mirror the feelings of other fish was restored — what scientists call “emotional contagion.” “They respond to other individuals being frightened. In that regard, they behave just like us,” said ... neuroscientist Ibukun Akinrinade, a co-author of the study. The study also showed that zebrafish will pay more attention to fish that have previously been stressed out – a behavior the researchers likened to consoling them. Previous research has shown that oxytocin plays a similar role in transmitting fear in mice.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Psychedelic brew ayahuasca’s profound impact revealed in brain scans
March 20, 2023, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
The brew is so potent that practitioners report not only powerful hallucinations, but near-death experiences, contact with higher-dimensional beings, and life-transforming voyages through alternative realities. Often before throwing up, or having trouble at the other end. Now, scientists have gleaned deep insights of their own by monitoring the brain on DMT, or dimethyltryptamine, the psychedelic compound found in Psychotria viridis, the flowering shrub that is mashed up and boiled in the Amazonian drink, ayahuasca. The recordings reveal a profound impact across the brain, particularly in areas that are highly evolved in humans and instrumental in planning, language, memory, complex decision-making and imagination. The regions from which we conjure reality become hyperconnected, with communication more chaotic, fluid and flexible. “It is incredibly potent,” said Robin Carhart-Harris, a professor of neurology and psychiatry. “People describe leaving this world and breaking through into another that is incredibly immersive and richly complex, sometimes being populated by other beings that they feel might hold special power over them, like gods.” He added: “DMT breaks down the basic networks of the brain, causing them to become less distinct from each other. The major rhythms of the brain – that serve a largely inhibitory, constraining function – break down, and in concert, brain activity becomes more entropic or information-rich.”
It's Official: Solar Is the Cheapest Electricity in History
October 22, 2020, Popular Mechanics
In a new report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says solar is now the cheapest form of electricity for utility companies to build. That's thanks to risk-reducing financial policies around the world, the agency says, and it applies to locations with both the most favorable policies and the easiest access to financing. The report underlines how important these policies are to encouraging development of renewables and other environmentally forward technologies. Carbon Brief (CB) summarizes the annual report with a lot of key details. The World Energy Outlook 2020 "offers four 'pathways' to 2040, all of which see a major rise in renewables," CB says. "The IEA's main scenario has 43 [percent] more solar output by 2040 than it expected in 2018, partly due to detailed new analysis showing that solar power is 20 [to] 50 [percent] cheaper than thought." The calculation depends on financing figures compared with the amount of output for solar projects. That means that at the same time panel technology gets more efficient and prices for basic panels continue to fall, investors are getting better and better financing deals. So the statistic "20 to 50 percent cheaper" is based on a calculus of companies building solar projects, not something that has throughput for consumers or even solar homeowners. But it's still a big deal, because the cost to build power plants is a major part of why so much of the world has stuck with coal and gas power.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
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