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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Time of Jacob's Trouble

When a Palm Reader Knows More Than Your Life Line

“PLEASE put your hand on the scanner,” a receptionist at a doctor’s office at New York University Langone Medical Center said to me recently, pointing to a small plastic device on the counter between us. “I need to take a palm scan for your file.”

I balked.

As a reporter who has been covering the growing business of data collection, I know the potential drawbacks — like customer profiling — of giving out my personal details. But the idea of submitting to an infrared scan at a medical center that would take a copy of the unique vein patterns in my palm seemed fraught.

The receptionist said it was for my own good. The medical center, she said, had recently instituted a biometric patient identification system to protect against identity theft.

I reluctantly stuck my hand on the machine. If I demurred, I thought, perhaps I’d be denied medical care.

Next, the receptionist said she needed to take my photo. After the palm scan, that seemed like data-collection overkill. Then an office manager appeared and explained that the scans and pictures were optional. Alas, my palm was already in the system.

No longer the province of security services and science-fiction films, biometric technology is on the march. Facebook uses facial-recognition software so its members can automatically put name tags on friends when they upload their photos. Apple uses voice recognition to power Siri. Some theme parks take digital fingerprints to help recognize season pass holders. Now some hospitals and school districts are using palm vein pattern recognition to identify and efficiently manage their patients or students — in effect, turning your palm into an E-ZPass.

But consumer advocates say that enterprises are increasingly employing biometric data to improve convenience — and that members of the public are paying for that convenience with their privacy.

Fingerprints, facial dimensions and vein patterns are unique, consumer advocates say, and should be treated as carefully as genetic samples. So collecting such information for expediency, they say, could increase the risks of serious identity theft. Yet companies and institutions that compile such data often fail to adequately explain the risks to consumers, they say.

“Let’s say someone makes a fake ID and goes in and has their photo and their palm print taken as you. What are you going to do when you go in?” said Pam Dixon, the executive director of the World Privacy Forum, an advocacy group in San Diego. “Hospitals that are doing this are leaping over profound security issues that they are actually introducing into their systems.”

THE N.Y.U. medical center started researching biometric systems a few years ago in an effort to address several problems, said Kathryn McClellan, its vice president who is in charge of implementing its new electronic health records system. More than a million people in the New York area have the same or similar names, she said, creating a risk that medical personnel might pull up the wrong health record for a patient. Another issue, she said, was that some patients had multiple records from being treated at different affiliates; N.Y.U. wanted an efficient way to consolidate them.

Last year, the medical center adopted photography and palm-scan technology so that each patient would have two unique identifying features. Now, Ms. McClellan said, each arriving patient has his or her palm scanned, allowing the system to automatically pull up the correct file.

“It’s a patient safety initiative,” Ms. McClellan said. “We felt like the value to the patient was huge.”

N.Y.U.’s system, called PatientSecure and marketed by HT Systems of Tampa, has already scanned more than 250,000 patients. In the United States, over five million patients have had the scans, said Charles Yanak, a spokesman for Fujitsu Frontech North America, a division of Fujitsu, the Japanese company that developed the vein palm identification technology.

Yet, unless patients at N.Y.U. seem uncomfortable with the process, Ms. McClellan said, medical registration staff members don’t inform them that they can opt out of photos and scans.

“We don’t have formal consent,” Ms. McClellan said in a phone interview last Tuesday.

That raises red flags for privacy advocates. “If they are not informing patients it is optional,” said Joel Reidenberg, a professor at Fordham University Law School with an expertise in data privacy, “then effectively it is coerced consent.”

He noted that N.Y.U. medical center has had recent incidents in which computers or USB drives containing unencrypted patient data have been lost or stolen, suggesting that the center’s collection of biometric data might increase patients’ risk of identity theft.

Ms. McClellan responded that there was little chance of identity theft because the palm scan system turned the vein measurements into encrypted strings of binary numbers and stored them on an N.Y.U. server that is separate from the one with patients’ health records. Even if there were a breach, she added, the data would be useless to hackers because a unique key is needed to decode the number strings. As for patients’ photos, she said, they are attached to their medical records.

Still, Arthur Caplan, the director of the division of medical ethics at the N.Y.U. center, recommended that hospitals do a better job of explaining biometric ID systems to patients. He himself recently had an appointment at the N.Y.U. center, he recounted, and didn’t learn that the palm scan was optional until he hesitated and asked questions.

“It gave me pause,” Dr. Caplan said. “It would be useful to put up a sign saying ‘We are going to take biometric information which will help us track you through the system. If you don’t want to do this, please see’ ” an office manager.

Other institutions that use PatientSecure, however, have instituted opt-in programs for patients.

At the Duke University Health System, patients receive brochures explaining their options, said Eliana Owens, the health system’s director of patient revenue. The center also trains staff members at registration desks to read patients a script about the opt-in process for the palm scans, she said. (Duke does not take patients’ photos.)

“They say: ‘The enrollment is optional. If you choose not to participate, we will continue to ask you for your photo ID on subsequent visits,’ ” Ms. Owens said.

Consent or not, some leading identity experts see little value in palm scans for patients right now. If medical centers are going to use patients’ biometric data for their own institutional convenience, they argue, the centers should also enhance patient privacy — by, say, permitting lower-echelon medical personnel to look at a person’s medical record only if that patient is present and approves access by having a palm scanned.

Otherwise, “you are enabling another level of danger,” said Joseph Atick, a pioneer in biometric identity systems who consults for governments, “instead of using the technology to enable another level of privacy.”

NY Times

Israel Under Fire: Media Holds Off Until Palestinians Die

Over the past 24 hours, Palestinian terrorists have fired some 70 rockets and mortars into Israel from Gaza, wounding three Israelis, causing damage to property and sending a million residents of the south into bomb shelters.

In fact, rockets have been fired at Israel on a regular basis. As of October 2012, over 800 rockets had been launched at Israel from Gaza since January 2012.

But what does it take for the media to sit up and take notice of the security situation emanating from Gaza?

Not the firing of an anti-tank missileat an IDF jeep on the Israeli side of the Gaza border on Saturday, which wounded four Israeli soldiers. This was picked up by wire services such as the AP, but not republished widely at all by other media outlets.

Not the blowing up of a massive tunnel from southern Gaza towards Israel by Palestinian terrorists on Thursday, also reported by AP but less so elsewhere.
And certainly not the aforementioned rocket barrages.

When it comes to the mainstream media, we see two trends at work:

1. If it bleeds, it leads: Unless Palestinians are killed or injured, it simply isn’t news. Of course, this skews the situation precisely because Israel has had to take measures to protect its civilians from rocket attacks. Bomb shelters, the Iron Dome anti-missile shield and the use of sirens to warn of attacks have all ensured that the civilian casualty figure remains mercifully low. But just because Israelis are not dying in tangible numbers, it does not diminish the seriousness of the situation and the suffering of the residents of Israel’s south.

In the latest example, several Palestinians have died and around 30 injured as a result of Israel’s actions against the terrorists. Only after this have the media bothered to report on the deteriorating situation.

2. It all started when Israel fired back: Thanks to the late pick-up of the story by the media, many headlines focus on the Israeli counter strikes and the Palestinian deaths rather than the Palestinian terrorism and rocket fire that have plagued Israel for such a considerable amount of time prior to this latest escalation in violence.

Typical of this is the Washington Post‘s headline:

The media does a disservice when they fail to report on Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza that disrupt Israelis’ daily life, yet do not cause mass casualties. If the media ignores violent attacks from Gaza, any Israeli operations to stem the terrorism will be devoid of vital context, contributing to the image of Israel as the provocateur and aggressor.

Take a look at your local media. How are they covering this story? Are they covering it at all?

Honest reporting

Our World is Unraveling

Powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake strikes Alaska

November 12, 2012 – ALASKA – A powerful, deep 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the Gulf of Alaska at a depth of about 55 km (34.3 miles). The epicenter of the earthquake was about 562 km (349 miles) SE (133°) from Anchorage, AK. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a tsunami warning was not issued for the earthquake, that was followed by at least twelve minor aftershocks. There have been no reports of damages or injuries. Today’s earthquake is the latest in a series of powerful quakes that has seen the planet reeling from increased seismicity activity, from Guatemala to Myanmar. Clearly, a season of planetary geological change is upon us

The Extinction Protocol


The calls for full audits, and in some cases, repatriation, of foreign gold reserves being held by the New York Federal Reserve are growing, as now Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Ecuador have joined Germany in those calls and in Ecuador’s case, repatriation, of its gold:

German Calls for Gold Repatriation Intensify As Fed Refuses to Allow Inspection

Obviously, the Fed’s refusal to comply “in the interest of security” is a complete fabrication and obfuscation, what what is Germany going to do? Rush out and tell the world the processes by which the Fed “operates”? Doubtful. As the article correctly observes, the real underlying concern is whether the gold is even there, or, to put it in different terms, has been stolen or re-hypothecated so many times that recovery – even if it is there – would be virtually impossible.

The real concern is expressed accurately and aptly in the final paragraph of the article:

“While Bundesbank officials likely understand the reality (much better than German politicians do) that a German repatriation of it’s entire 1,536 tons of gold reserves held at the NY Fed would likely cause a complete Western financial collapse if/when the Fed failed to promptly deliver said gold (tungsten free), confidence in the Fed and the BOE has clearly been shattered, and it is now only a matter of time for an absolute mad run on every last gram of physical metal underneath the NY Fed ensues.“(Emphasis in the original)

This view essentially confirms what I have previously maintained, namely, that Germany’s concerns are a signal of serious factional infighting and pressures within the Western financial oligarchy, and there is no denying that Germany is as fundamental an economy to that oligarchy as is the United Kingdom, Japan, or the USA.

The real question we must ask is what is the big secret that this oligarchy is hiding? The clue, I suggest, is contained in the Federal Reserve’s own words: “in the interests of security”. If one merely adds the adjective “national” to that phrase, “in the interests of national security”, we see the potential implications, which spill out into a reconsideration of the entire post-World War Two system of finance and the vast military-industrial-intelligence complex that was erected. We are, the phrase suggests, also dealing with threads that, if pulled, will reveal secrets from the Cold War period and even deeper secrets.

In short, for once, the Fed may not be lying, but in its own subtle, obfuscatory way, hinting at the truth.
- Giza Death Star Community

Six Gulf monarchies recognize rebel bloc as Syrian voice

Sukhoi to Build Strike, Recon Unmanned Planes

ZHUHAI, November 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi is to focus on creating reconnaissance and strike unmanned air vehicles (UAV) in the near future, United Aircraft Corporation President Mikhail Pogosyan said at the Zhuhai Airshow China exhibition on Tuesday.

Sukhoi, which has historically designed fighter and ground attack aircraft but now also builds some civil aircraft, is part of UAC, a holding covering most of Russia's aircraft industry.

"UAVs are a strategic avenue for development for UAC, and Sukhoi is focused on creating reconnaissance and strike UAVs. But our firm plans on this are in the future," he said.

Previous UAVs created for Russia's amed forces have been produced by Tranzas and Sokol, in addition to Sukhoi.

Sukhoi has designs on its website for a series of unmanned aircraft known as Zond, optimised for the carriage of surveillance and synthetic-aperture radars and electro-optical sensors.

In 2011, Sukhoi won a contract to develope a heavy strike UAV with a mass of around 20 tons, Fedutinov said. Another Russian fighter aircraft design bureau, RAC MiG, will also be involved in this program, MiG's CEO Sergei Korotkov told Russian media earlier this year.

MiG showed a demonstrator strike UAV design known as Skat at the MAKS airshow in Moscow in 2007.

St. Petersburg-based Tranzas and Kazan-based Sokol won a tender in October 2011 to create two UAV systems with a mass of one ton and five tons respectively.

RIA Novosti

Iran to test fire indigenously-produced Hog missile system in military drill

The massive seven-day joint maneuver, codenamed Modafe'an-e Aseman-e Velayat 4 (Defenders of the Velayat Skies 4) was launched on Monday in the country's South Khorasan Province located in the east of the country.

Brigadier General Shahrokh Shahram, the spokesperson for the massive maneuver, said that Iranian forces had successfully detected, identified and intercepted mock enemy aircraft on Tuesday.

The second day of the exercises will also entail a performance evaluation of other Iranian middle-range and low-altitude missile systems as well as artillery capability assessment, including the testing of Oerlikon 35 mm cannon equipped with laser rangefinder.
Meanwhile, Commander of Iran's Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili said that the country will unveil three other new indigenously-designed and -produced missile systems in the country’s ongoing military maneuver.

General Esmaili said on Tuesday the indigenous missile systems of Ya Zahra 3, Safat and Qader will be unveiled during the drill.

Iran has held several major defense drills in recent months amid threats against the country by the Israeli regime and the US.

Iran has repeatedly stated that its military might poses no threat to other countries, reiterating that its defense doctrine is based on deterrence.

Press TV

North Korea 'carries out fresh missile equipment tests'

North Korea has conducted motor tests to improve its long-range missiles after a failed launch in April, a US think tank has said after reviewing new satellite images.
Since the embarrassing flop in April, the communist regime appears to have carried out at least two tests of large motors needed for rockets and worked on a launch platform, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said.

The institute examined commercial images of the Sohae satellite launch station between April and September and found that 34 fuel tanks had been moved and vegetation appeared to be burned, next to a flame trench stained with an orange residue.

Such fuel tests would boost development of engines for the Unha-3, the rocket which North Korea unsuccessfully launched in April, or what seemed to be a new, longer-range missile displayed at a military parade the same month.

Some analysts believe that a North Korean rocket, if successfully developed, could eventually reach the range to hit the United States.

Nick Hansen, an expert on imagery analysis, said that North Korea may step up action after elections in both the United States and South Korea, the regime's two primary foes.

The Telegraph

Venice 'high water' floods 70% of city

People sit at a table in flooded St Mark's Square in Venice, Italy

Tourists attached plastic bags to their legs or stripped off to take a dip in St Mark's Square in Venice on Sunday as rising sea waters surged through the lagoon city. High water measuring 1.49 metres (5ft) above the normal level of the Adriatic sea came with bad weather that sweptItaly at the weekend, causing floods in historic cities including Vicenza as well in the region of Tuscany 250 miles further south.

Venice's high water, or "acqua alta", said to be the sixth highest since 1872, flooded 70% of the city and was high enough to make raised wooden platforms for pedestrians float away. The record high water in Venice – 1.94 metres in 1966 – prompted many residents to abandon the city for new lives on the mainland.

Venetians bombarded Facebook with moans about the city's weather forecasters, who had predicted just 1.2 metres of water on Saturday, before correcting their forecast at dawn on Sunday.

"How come the people from the council who put out the wooden platforms were predicting 150cm?" asked Matelda Bottoni, who manages a jewellery design shop off St Mark's Square, which floods when water reaches 105cm. "Many residents and shopkeepers had gone to the mountains for the day and did not have time to rush back."

Bottoni is so used to floods she has installed waterproof furniture and an angled floor. "I cannot keep the water out, but at least I can make sure it goes straight back out when it recedes," she said.

Matteo Secchi, a hotelier and head of a protest group, who grew up in ground floor flat in Venice and recalls splashing into water on getting out of bed, said his hotel was only safe up to 140cm. "This morning the lagoon came right into the hotel entrance, and this is not clean water – you need to mop with disinfectant twice after it goes down," he said. "The British tourists don't complain but the Americans can't understand how it's possible."

Secchi complained that a running event around the city had not been cancelled on Sunday. "As Venetians were trying to fix their homes and shops, people were running down the flooded streets splashing everyone with water," he said.

Alessandro Maggioni, the city's assessor for public works, defended the Venice weather centre, describing the high water as "exceptional and unpredictable". The Moses flood barrier system being built to protect the lagoon, due for completion in 2015, would have kept the city dry, he said. "Meanwhile, there is no rise in the incidence of high waters," he said.

Bottoni disagreed. "My shop now has some form of flooding 100 days a year, up from 30-40 days when I moved in just 10 years ago." But she does not plan to leave. "I was born and raised here and will stay here for the satisfaction of being in Venice."

The Guardian