Racism in the USA, update

This 9 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Trump REFUSES To Investigate Right-Wing Extremists

Trump has no desire to go after right-wing extremists. Cenk Uygur, Mark Thompson, and John Iadarola, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

MORE SPONSORS BAIL ON TUCKER Earlier this week, Tucker Carlson claimed on his show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that there is no white supremacy problem in the United States. Long John Silver’s has since said it will no longer advertise on Fox News, and Nestlé and HelloFresh told The Hollywood Reporter they were no longer running ads on the show. [HuffPost]

TRUMP FOLLOWS CALL FOR UNITY WITH WEEK OF ATTACKS After calling for “love” and unity following two deadly mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, President Donald Trump did what he knows best: throw bombs on Twitter. From Democrats to the media to the tech world, just about everyone this week felt the president’s wrath. [HuffPost]

INTERRACIAL COUPLE’S HOME TORCHED A massive explosion that leveled the home of an interracial couple in Sterling, Ohio, this week is being investigated as a possible hate crime after officials found a crude swastika and misspelled anti-Black slur spray-painted next to the scene. [HuffPost]

COP SHOOTS UNARMED KID IN BED An Illinois mother filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing police officers of “terrorizing” innocent children after her [African American] unarmed, 12-year-old son was shot in his bed with an assault rifle during a pre-dawn raid on their home.  [The Daily Beast]

U.S. DEFENDS MIGRANT SWEEP LEAVING CHILDREN ABANDONED American officials staunchly defended a controversial raid arresting hundreds of immigrant workers at several Mississippi food processing plants as local authorities scrambled Thursday to address concerns about children left behind abandoned. [HuffPost]

Photographs taken at a Mississippi gym on Wednesday night show children of immigrant detainees, some as young as four years old, huddled together, many of them crying or visibly traumatized by the arrest of their father, their mother, or both. The raids were timed for maximum cruelty to the families of the migrant workers who provide much of the labor force for Mississippi’s poultry-processing industry, hot and grueling work for meager pay. According to local officials, school started on Tuesday or Wednesday in five of the six towns targeted for the raids, in which hundreds of heavily armed ICE agents set up cordons around plants and arrested a total of 680 workers: here.


Travelers to USA, be careful, Amnesty says

This 8 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Death by Police is Now the 6th Leading Cause of Death Among Young Men

It was once believed that police killings were the 14th leading cause of death among young people. However, a new Rutgers University study by Frank Edwards, which used federal statistics and journalistic investigation found that the death rate is far higher now. We discuss the research with Frank Edwards.

From Amnesty International in the USA today:

Travel Advisory: United States of America

The Amnesty International travel advisory for the country of the United States of America calls on people worldwide to exercise caution and have an emergency contingency plan when traveling throughout the USA. This Travel Advisory is being issued in light of ongoing high levels of gun violence in the country.

Amnesty on the USA

Racist words and acts, like the El Paso shooting, harm children’s health. U.S. pediatricians are tackling racism as a public health issue that can take a lifelong toll. By Aimee Cunningham, 3:37pm, August 6, 2019.

FBI, ICE dodgy facial recognition technology

This 8 July 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Some of the top law enforcement agencies in the United States, including the FBI and ICE, have been using the DMV’s database of driver license photos for facial recognition. This is being done without the knowledge or consent of those who have had their pictures taken, and represents a major violation of privacy for American citizens. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins explains what’s happening.

By Kevin Reed in the USA:

A mounting attack on democratic rights

FBI and ICE scanning driver’s license photos with facial recognition technology

10 July 2019

A report in the Washington Post this week revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been using facial recognition software to secretly scan databases of millions of driver’s license photos—a violation of basic democratic rights. The federal agencies have been engaged in the program for at least eight years.

According to documents made available to the Post by the Georgetown Law Center for Privacy and Technology, the FBI alone has logged more than 390,000 facial recognition searches of federal and state databases since 2011, including the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) digital catalog of driver’s license photos in at least 21 states.

In Utah, according to the article, the “DMV database was the subject of nearly 2,000 facial-recognition searches from outside law enforcement agencies between 2015 and 2017—sometimes dozens of searches a day,” with dozens having returned a “possible match.”

The Post report says that many of the searches are part of the push to find and deport undocumented immigrants, and “that federal investigators have forged daily working relationships with DMV officials.” In states such as Utah, Vermont and Washington, where undocumented immigrants are permitted to obtain full driver’s licenses or limited driving privilege cards, “ICE agents have run facial-recognition searches on those DMV databases.”

According to Jake Laperruque, a senior counsel at the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, “People think this is something coming way off in the future, but these [facial recognition] searches are happening very frequently today. The FBI alone does 4,000 searches every month, and a lot of them go through state DMVs.”

The latest exposure of widespread use of facial recognition software by federal police agencies is further evidence that the state apparatus is systematically violating basic democratic rights with high-tech surveillance tools. Behind the backs of the public, integrated networks, databases and artificial intelligence technologies are being used to build up a mass of information in the form of digital profiles or dossiers on every citizen. Other recent examples of the increased use of biometric surveillance of the public include:

• A March 9 report by NBC 7 San Diego based on a leaked Customs and Border Protection document showed that dossiers on 59 individuals who were involved in political activity opposed to the Trump administration’s immigration policy were gathered from social media accounts and used by the Department of Homeland Security to put a travel ban on the passports of US citizens.

• A June 17 report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called “The Dawn of Robot Intelligence” said that the merger of the security camera infrastructure built up over decades with state surveillance “deep learning” and “neural networks” of artificial intelligence are being used to monitor the public 24/7 across the country.

• A hack and subsequent publication on June 14 of the corporate data of DHS contractor Perceptics revealed that facial recognition technology is being utilized by the US government on roadways and border crossings to monitor the traveling public.

• A Georgetown Law Center for Privacy and Technology report called “America Under Watch” revealed that major US cities such as Detroit have secretly built up a facial recognition infrastructure that is monitoring the public in “parks, schools, immigration centers, gas stations, churches, abortion clinics, hotels, apartments, fast-food restaurants, and addiction treatment centers,” and is connected with “databases containing hundreds of thousands of photos, including mugshots, driver’s licenses, and images scraped from social media.”

Facial recognition technology is the marriage of high-resolution video and photographic images with artificial intelligence software. The images on photo IDs or those captured by security cameras in public places such as airports, parks, roadways or businesses—are scanned by the software to assemble a map of key facial geometric relationships.

Among these relationships are the distance between the eyes, the distance from the forehead to the chin or from the nose to the chin. These “facial landmarks”—some systems measure as many as 97 landmarks—are then assembled into a profile known as the “facial signature.” These facial signatures, which are being collected and stored by the millions in government databases, are unique to each individual and a form of biometric data comparable to fingerprints and human DNA.

However, fingerprints and DNA are ostensibly collected by law enforcement according to procedures based on long-established legal principles of “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause.” In the mass processing and storage of facial signatures by the FBI and ICE derived from state-issued ID photo databases, all such formalities have been dropped. In many cases, requests for searches are made with nothing more than an email from the police agency to a DMV official. Among the providers of advanced facial recognition systems for the law enforcement agencies is Amazon. According to earlier media reports , Amazon’s Rekognition artificial intelligence software is used by the state of Oregon for the purpose of scanning photo databases and matching facial identities, including locating individuals through photos on their social media accounts.

Other reports said that Amazon met with ICE officials and promised to help “target or identify immigrants.” Also, in one of its facial recognition patent applications, Amazon proposed to develop a “database of suspicious persons” that could be integrated with home security technologies and create a “neighborhood-wide surveillance system.”

That these truly Orwellian biometric data gathering techniques are being developed by the tech giants and utilized increasingly by the state intelligence apparatus is a warning to the working class. These revelations represent an escalation of the surveillance of the public that was exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked documents showing that the US government is electronically storing every phone call and email of the entire population.

The House Homeland Security Committee heard testimony on Wednesday regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s use of facial recognition and biometric technology after numerous recent media reports exposed the use of these tools for secret police surveillance of the public. The hearing was chaired by Representative Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, who set the tone for the two-hour exercise in obfuscation and defense of mass public surveillance with his opening remarks, saying, “I am not opposed to biometric technology, and recognize it can be valuable to homeland security and facilitation”: here.

Massive photo databases secretly gathered in US and Europe to develop facial recognition: here.

Woodland restoration helps North American birds

This 2018 video from Maryland in the USA says about itself:

Red-headed Woodpeckers call and drum in the loblolly pines at Blackwater NWR.

From the University of Missouri-Columbia in the USA:

Pine woodland restoration creates haven for birds in Midwest

June 25, 2019

Millions of acres of pine woodlands once covered a large portion of the Midwest. But as humans logged these trees and suppressed natural fires, the woodlands gave way to dense forests with thick leaf litter and tree species that were less fire-resistant, leading to more intense and unpredictable fires as well as the loss of native bird habitats.

Now, researchers from the University of Missouri have shown in a new study that restoration of pine woodlands, through the combined use of intentional, managed fires and strategic thinning of tree density, has a strikingly beneficial effect on a diverse array of birds, some of which are facing sharp declines from human-driven impacts like climate change and habitat loss.

“Some people might hear the words ‘fire’ and ‘thinning’ and immediately imagine charred, flattened wastelands, but that isn’t the reality,” said Melissa Roach, now a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Lab who carried out the study while completing her master’s degree at MU. “Researchers are using these management techniques to restore beautiful open woodlands. In this study, we found that birds that have been struggling elsewhere are positively thriving in these restored areas.”

Frank Thompson, a wildlife biologist with the USDA Forest Service and cooperative professor at MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources with more than two decades of experience studying Midwestern bird populations, worked with Roach to survey 16 bird species in varying degrees of pine woodland density. These woodlands were located in parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma in the Ozark-Ouachita Mountain Complex. Unlike most studies, Roach returned to the same locations three years in a row to monitor the bird populations over time.

The researchers found that the restored pine woodland created an open canopy and a lush ground layer, and was ideal for allowing a balance between species that prefer less tree density and canopy cover with those that prefer more. Several of the birds that were observed thriving in this habitat are in decline elsewhere, including the Red-headed Woodpecker and the Prairie Warbler. Only five species were impacted negatively by restoration, but these remain abundant in the untreated forests that still dominate the Midwest.

Researchers also isolated two management practices–controlled fires and tree thinning–to determine their individual effects on bird abundance. Eight of the 16 species of birds, including the Red-headed Woodpecker, were more numerous in areas with a history of fires, while four species benefitted from thinning. Taken together, Thompson said the results suggest that restoring pine woodlands in conjunction with prescribed fires and tree thinning can create suitable habitats for a wide range of birds.

“Our study shows that restoration using fire and tree-thinning leaves large, widely-spaced trees for canopy-nesting species while allowing the development of grasses and shrubs for ground or shrub-nesting species,” Thompson said. “Given that we took care to survey birds with diverse breeding requirements, we can see that restored pine woodlands can support many different birds with different needs, whether they nest on the ground, in shrubs or high in the canopies of mature trees. This is a powerful testament to the need to continue restoring these woodlands, which are also rich in plant diversity and likely more sustainable in many cases than closed forests under climate change.”