The Pope, Climate Change And VW

While Pope Francis shuttled around during his historic visit to the U.S. in a Fiat, he shared the news cycle with Volkswagen.

The pope made headlines with his calls for action on climate change. USA Today touted: “Obama, Pope Francis praise each other on climate change.” In his September 23 speech from the White House lawn, the Pope addressed President Obama, saying: “I find it encouraging that you are introducing an initiative for reducing air pollution.”

The core of the entire climate change agenda is the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, which proponents like to call “air pollution.”

The drive to cut CO2 emissions is at the root of Volkswagen’s unprecedented scandal.

With nonstop coverage of the papal activities, the Volkswagen story was likely overlooked by most Americans. But it is not going away.

On September 18, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disclosed the scandal: Europe’s biggest auto maker, with 600,000 employees world-wide and 300,000 in Germany, utilized software on some VW and Audi diesel-powered cars to manipulate the results of routine emissions tests—allowing them to pass strict emissions standards in Europe and the U.S. The “defeat devices” have reportedly been fitted to more than 11 million vehicles since 2008, and may cost Volkswagen up to $18 billion in fines in the U.S. alone. Owners of the impacted vehicles will need to have a heretofore unavailable “fix” installed and may have to provide a “proof of correction certificate” in order to renew their registration and will suffer “loss due to the diminished value of the cars.” As a result of the scandal, Volkswagen’s stock price and reputation have both fallen precipitously, and class-action lawsuits are already taking shape. Fund managers have been banned from buying VW’s stocks and bonds. Tens of thousands of new cars may remain unsold. US News stated: “Whoever is responsible could face criminal charges in Germany.”

The question no one seems to be asking is: what would drive Europe’s biggest auto maker to make such a costly decision, to take a risk from which it may be impossible to recover?

While the question isn’t asked, Reuters’ coverage of the story offers the answer: “Diesel engines use less fuel and emit less carbon—blamed for global warming—than standard gasoline engines. But they emit higher levels of toxic gases known as nitrogen oxides.”

In short, the answer is the drive to lower CO2 emissions and the policies that encourage reduction.

If anyone could solve the dilemma, one would expect it to be the Germans, who excel in engineering feats. The reality of achieving the goals, however, is far more difficult than passing the legislation calling for the energy transformation.

Addressing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s push for de-carbonization, Bloomberg Business points out: “Merkel has built a reputation as a climate crusader during a decade as Chancellor.” She “has straddled between pushing to reduce global warming while protecting her country’s auto industry.”

Merkel is apparently bumping up against reality. Those tighter emissions standards would have hurt Germany’s auto industry. At last week’s Frankfurt Auto Show, Merkel said: “We have to ensure politically that what’s doable can indeed be translated into law, but what’s not doable mustn’t become European law.”

The VW emissions scandal provides a lesson in the collision of economic and environmental policies that strive to reach goals which are presently technologically unachievable.

The fact that, while waving the flag of environmental virtue advocated by Pope Francis, those with the world’s best engineering at their fingertips used their expertise to develop a work-around should serve as a lesson to policymakers who pass legislation and regulation on ideology rather than reality.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

‘Minority Report’ Is 40 Years Ahead Of Schedule: The Fictional World Has Become Reality

“The Internet is watching us now. If they want to. They can see what sites you visit. In the future, television will be watching us, and customizing itself to what it knows about us. The thrilling thing is, that will make us feel we’re part of the medium. The scary thing is, we’ll lose our right to privacy. An ad will appear in the air around us, talking directly to us.”—Director Steven Spielberg, Minority Report

We are a scant 40 years away from the futuristic world that science fiction author Philip K. Dick envisioned for Minority Report, in which the government is all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful; and if you dare to step out of line, dark-clad police SWAT teams will crack a few skulls to bring the populace under control.

Unfortunately, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we may have already arrived at the year 2054.

Increasingly, the world around us resembles Dick’s dystopian police state in which the police combine widespread surveillance, behavior prediction technologies, data mining and precognitive technology to capture would-be criminals before they can do any damage. In other words, the government’s goal is to prevent crimes before they happen: precrime.

For John Anderton (played by Tom Cruise), Chief of the Department of Pre-Crime in Washington, DC, the technology that he relies on for his predictive policing proves to be fallible, identifying him as the next would-be criminal and targeting him for preemptive measures. Consequently, Anderton finds himself not only attempting to prove his innocence, but forced to take drastic measures in order to avoid capture in a surveillance state that uses biometric data and sophisticated computer networks to track its citizens.

Seemingly taking its cue from science fiction, technology has moved so fast in the short time since Minority Report premiered in 2002 that what once seemed futuristic no longer occupies the realm of science fiction. Incredibly, as the various nascent technologies employed and shared by the government and corporations alike—facial recognition, iris scanners, massive databases, behavior prediction software, and so on—are incorporated into a complex, interwoven cyber network aimed at tracking our movements, predicting our thoughts and controlling our behavior, Spielberg’s unnerving vision of the future is fast becoming our reality.

Examples abound.

FICTION: In Minority Report, police use holographic data screens, city-wide surveillance cameras, dimensional maps and database feeds to monitor the movements of its citizens.

REALITY CHECK: Microsoft, in a partnership with New York City, has developed a crime-fighting system that “will allow police to quickly collate and visualise vast amounts of data from cameras, licence plate readers, 911 calls, police databases and other sources. It will then display the information in real time, both visually and chronologically, allowing investigators to centralise information about crimes as they happen or are reported.”

FICTION: No matter where people go in the world of Minority Report, one’s biometric data precedes them, allowing corporations to tap into their government profile and target them for advertising based on their highly individual characteristics. So fine-tuned is the process that it goes way beyond gender and lifestyle to mood detection, so that while Anderton flees through a subway station and then later a mall, the stores and billboards call out to him with advertising geared at his interests and moods. Eventually, in an effort to outwit the identification scanners, Anderton opts for surgery to have his eyeballs replaced.

REALITY CHECK: Google is working on context-based advertising that will use environmental sensors in your cell phone, laptop, etc., to deliver “targeted ads tailored to fit with what you’re seeing and hearing in the real world.” However, long before Google set their sights on context advertising, facial and iris recognition machines were being employed, ostensibly to detect criminals, streamline security checkpoints processes, and facilitate everyday activities. For example, in preparing to introduce such technology in the United States, the American biometrics firm Global Rainmakers Inc. (GRI) turned the city of Leon, Mexico, into a virtual police state by installing iris scanners, which can scan the irises of 30-50 people per minute, throughout the city.

Police departments around the country have begun using the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System, or MORIS, a physical iPhone add-on that allows police officers patrolling the streets to scan the irises and faces of suspected criminals and match them against government databases. In fact, in 2014, the FBI launched a nationwide database of iris scans for use by law enforcement agencies in their efforts to track criminals.

Corporations, as well, are beginning to implement eye-tracking technology in their tablets, smartphones, and computers. It will allow companies to track which words and phrases the user tends to re-read, hover on, or avoid, which can give insight into what she is thinking. This will allow advertisers to expand on the information they glean from tracking users’ clicks, searches, and online purchases, expanding into the realm of trying to guess what a user is thinking based upon their eye movements, and advertise accordingly. This information as it is shared by the corporate elite with the police will come in handy for police agencies as well, some of which are working on developing predictive analysis of “blink rates, pupil dilation, and deception.”

In ideal conditions, facial-recognition software is accurate 99.7 percent of the time. We are right around the corner from billboards capable of identifying passersby, and IBM has already been working on creating real world advertisements that react to people based upon RFID chips embedded in licenses and credit cards.

FICTION: In Minority Report, John Anderton’s Pre-Crime division utilizes psychic mutant humans to determine when a crime will take place next.

REALITY CHECK: While no psychic mutants are powering the government’s predictive policing efforts, the end result remains the same: a world in which crimes are prevented through the use of sophisticated data mining, surveillance, community policing and precrime. For instance, police in major American cities have been test-driving a tool that allows them to identify individuals—or groups of individuals—most likely to commit a crime in a given community. Those individuals are then put on notice that their movements and activities will be closely monitored, and any criminal activity (by them or their associates) will result in harsh penalties.  In other words, you are guilty before you are given any chance to prove you are innocent.

The Department of Homeland Security is also working on its Future Attribute Screening Technology, or FAST, which will utilize a number of personal factors such as “ethnicity, gender, breathing, and heart rate to ‘detect cues indicative of mal-intent.’”

FICTION: In Minority Report, government agents use “sick sticks” to subdue criminal suspects using less-lethal methods.

REALITY CHECK: A variety of less-lethal weapons have been developed in the years since Minority Report hit theaters. In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security granted a contract to Intelligent Optical Systems, Inc., for an “LED Incapacitator,” a flashlight-like device that emits a dazzling array of pulsating lights, incapacitating its target by causing nausea and vomiting. Raytheon has created an “Assault Intervention Device” which is basically a heat ray that causes an unbearable burning sensation on its victim’s skin. The Long Range Acoustic Device, which emits painful noises in order to disperse crowds, has been seen at the London Olympics and G20 protests in Pittsburgh.

FICTION: A hacker captures visions from the “precog” Agatha’s mind and plays them for John Anderton.

REALITY CHECK: While still in its infancy, technology that seeks to translate human thoughts into computer actions is slowly becoming a reality. Jack Gallant, a neuroscientist at UC Berkeley, and his research team have created primitive software capable of translating the thoughts of viewers into reconstructed visual images. A company named Emotiv is developing technology which will be capable of reading a user’s thoughts and using them as inputs for operating machinery, like voice recognition but with brain signals. Similar devices are being created to translate thoughts into speech.

FICTION: In Minority Report, tiny sensory-guided spider robots converge on John Anderton, scan his biometric data and feed it into a central government database.

REALITY CHECK: An agency with the Department of Defense is working on turning insects into living UAVs, or “cybugs.” By expanding upon the insects’ natural abilities (e.g., bees’ olfactory abilities being utilized for bomb detection, etc.), government agents hope to use these spy bugs to surreptitiously gather vast quantities of information. Researchers eventually hope to outfit June beetles with tiny backpacks complete with various detection devices, microphones, and cameras. These devices could be powered by the very energy produced by the bugs beating their wings, or the heat they give off while in flight. There have already been reported sightings of dragonfly-like robotic drones monitoring protesters aerially in Washington, DC, as early as 2007.

FICTION: In Minority Report, Anderton flees his pursuers in a car whose movements are tracked by the police through the use of onboard computers. All around him, autonomous, driver-less vehicles zip through the city, moving people to their destinations based upon simple voice commands.

REALITY CHECK: Congress is now requiring that all new cars come equipped with event data recorders that can record and transmit data from onboard computers. Similarly, insurance companies are offering discounts to drivers who agree to have tracking bugs installed. Google has also created self-driving cars which have already surpassed 300,000 miles of road testing. It is anticipated that self-driving cars could be on American roads within the next 20 years, if not sooner.

These are but a few of the technological devices now in the hands of those who control the corporate police state. Fiction, in essence, has become fact—albeit, a rather frightening one.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

Flying Is About To Become Much More Of A Hassle For Residents Of These 4 States

Image for representational purposes only.

Residents of four states and one American territory may find getting through security checkpoints at US airports more challenging if the Department of Homeland Security goes forward with its plan to enforce REAL ID requirements in 2016.

Under the provisions of the REAL ID Act passed in 2005 in response to the 9/11 Commission’s findings, states are required to meet certain federal standards with their driver’s licenses in order for them to be a valid form of identification for airline travel. If drivers licenses do not meet those standards, travelers must provide a second form of ID: passport, birth certificate, etc. to verify their identify.

So far, 46 states have implemented the requirements of the REAL ID Act; however, New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Louisiana, and American Samoa have not. 

States that have refused to implement the REAL ID Act requirements cite privacy and sovereignty concerns.

New Hampshire’s Concord-Monitor reports: “Under REAL ID, states must share all license data including digital photos, into a single database, raising concerns that the licenses would effectively become a national ID card.” A bill to implement the law’s requirements was killed in committee last year. 

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal veto a bill to implement REAL ID last year, as well. “The Eagle Form, the Louisiana Family Forum and the Tea Party of Louisiana have asked for a veto due to concerns about whether it will compromise Louisiana’s sovereignty over what is fundamentally a state method of identification,” the governor said in his veto message.

According to the Times-Picayune, “Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU and ACLU Foundation of Louisiana, joined forces with the Tea Party and other groups to oppose the 2014 legislation to implement the Real ID law in Louisiana.”

“‘REAL ID creates a national ID card that has nothing to do with the ability to drive and everything to do with government snooping on innocent people,’ Esman said in an email… ‘We don’t need that, and never have. If it were so essential to national security, it would have been enforced years ago.’”

Some of the requirements for a REAL ID card include:

  • Full legal name
  • Signature
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Unique, identifying number
  • Principal residence address
  • Front-facing photograph of the applicant.

The cards must also include specific security features intended to prevent fraud or duplication, and must present data in a common, machine-readable format (bar codes, smart card technology, etc.).

h/t: Time

Obama’s Legacy Will Not Be One of Peace

The Financial Times recently reported that Nobel Peace Prize recipient Barack Obama has conducted ten times more drone strikes than his predecessor, George W. Bush. As far as we can tell, that number is somewhere in the ballpark of 500 strikes and spans a wide array of countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. We can’t know for sure exactly how many drone attacks have taken place, who is conducting them, how many people have been killed by them, or how many other countries have been victim.

It’s important to Obama that the extent of his drone wars remain secret. His peaceful veneer would quickly disintegrate if we had an accurate Obama-death-toll. Drone wars have been kept so secret, in fact, that Obama’s former Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, revealed that he was instructed not to acknowledge or discuss their existence. A handful of investigative journalist groups like The Long War Journal have been left conducting important but difficult guess work about Obama’s drone wars, as if putting together a large puzzle one small piece at a time.

All the while, the American public is left clueless as to the activities being conducted in their name. Obama proclaims that “a decade of war is over,” while behind the scenes he expands the scope of the War on Terror. As a result of our being kept largely ignorant of our government’s actions, we are all the more astounded when the consequences of such wars come to fruition.

The phenomenon of blowback results from the American government’s actions abroad which cause tremendous resentment within local populations. When retaliation for these actions arrives at our shores or against Americans abroad, as it inevitably does, the American public is shocked and appalled, wondering what could possibly prompt such heinous actions. Hungry for answers, Americans are then fed simple explanations by politicians, such as, “they hate our way of life,” or “their religion commands them to commit such acts.” Never are we provided the context in which such reprisals occur. And because so many Americans willingly accept the state’s spoon-fed version of events, they largely tolerate a domestic police and surveillance state that is said to keep them safe from such “terrorists.”

Tribal areas of Afghanistan surveyed about the psychological effects of drones reveal a people living in terror, unable to sleep, with children often kept home from school for fear they’ll be targeted. Though generally out of sight, drones can constantly be heard buzzing overhead, creating a persistent state of fear. Despite our being told of the precision of drone strikes, subject populations have described massive civilian casualties and widespread destruction of property.

Consequently, large swaths of these foreign populations living under drones view the United States in a negative light. One Pew Research Center study found that three quarters of Pakistanis now view Americans as the enemy. One would expect similar numbers from the many other countries across the Middle East and Africa in which America now conducts drone strikes. Blowback is not limited to those directly terrorized by drones either. General Stanley McChrystal stated “resentment created by [drones] … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

Though it’s shrouded in secrecy, this new form of American warfare will be Obama’s legacy. The “sanitization” of war offered by drones (introduced on a grand scale by Obama) all but ensures America will never again be without foreign conflict at the hands of crazed politicians. As drone technology continues to improve, the rest of the world will be more at risk of attack by the American war machine, and Americans less safe as a result. As Obama’s time in the White House winds down, let’s remember that he escalated the War on Terror. He’s offered his successors the safety of precedent to fall back on and opened new frontiers for American military demolition. Barack Obama had the opportunity to curtail America’s destructiveness around the world; and instead, he amplified it.

This commentary originally appeared on the Center for a Stateless Society‘s website. 

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

Watch: Couple Was Listening To Their Baby Monitor When They Hear This CHILLING Message

An Indianapolis couple is unnerved after a video monitoring system in their daughter’s room was hacked into Wednesday.

The Denman’s two-year-old daughter was playing with her mother in her room when suddenly music began to play through the device, WTTV reported.

“Our privacy was just invaded,” said Jared Denman. “Someone was playing ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police.”

Denman’s wife first believed it was a joke, but it soon became apparent the baby monitor was hacked.

“He started doing sexual noises on the camera,” Denman said.

It agitated me a lot because who is to know if those people are even aware that the videos have been posted online. We kind of felt violated and we didn’t feel secure in our own home.

While it is not exactly known who committed the hack, the family has a suspect in mind. WTTV pointed to a Twitter account notorious for showing off its hacking performances. The account’s bio is simply, “Every breath you take, every move you make…,” a key refrain in “Every Breath You Take.” The alleged hackers have reportedly played the song in other hacks before.

“It tends to be quite easy, especially when there is a hole found in a particular device and somebody publishes some method online,” David Szpunar, vice president of technical services at PC Help Services in Indianapolis, told WTTV.

“You can make sure you have a strong wireless network password in case someone is nearby and wants to bypass your firewall completely,” added Szpunar. 

WTTV notes the one key thing which left the Denmans vulnerable.

The Denmans forgot to change the factory pre-set username and password that came on the camera. As a result, the hacker was able to access the camera with relative ease.

“The biggest advice I have for other parents is to change the username and password,” said Denman.

h/t: The Sun

Are your devices secure? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth