The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission will release its long-awaited report Thursday, which will propose fundamental changes to military benefits including ending the 20-year retirement, according to the Military Times, citing sources familiar with the report.
The plan calls for Congress to create a hybrid system of smaller defined-benefit pension along with more cash-based benefits and lump-sum payments. A significant portion of retirement benefits would come in the form of government contributions to 401(k)-style investment accounts, those familiar with the report told Military Times.
In addition to the 401(k) for troops serving less than 20 years, the commission will suggest promising a pension to troops who serve a long-term career, but one that would be more modest than what military retirees receive today, a defense official briefed on the plan told the Times.[…]
According to the Times, the commission will also propose:
a change in health care benefits for current military families and retirees — Tricare customers could move into the health care coverage provided to federal employees;
a new health care allowance for troops designed to cover some expenses, such as doctor-visit co-pays and eyeglasses.
a new four-star medical command to oversee military health care, a significant break from the tradition of each service operating its own health care system.
keeping current commissary benefits, to include continuing to sell products at cost plus 5 percent surcharge. A separate DOD budget proposal is expected to call for increasing prices to operating costs.
consolidating the commissary and exchange systems. Initially, they would keep their separate branding — Navy Exchange, Defense Commissary Agency, etc. — but eventually would be combined.
building more child development centers on military bases.
These mysterious photos may haunt your dreams. The photos were shared by TheGhosDiary Looking at old vintage photos out of context is not only a recipe for creepiness, it’s also one of our favorite pastimes. What passed for everyday life 60+ years ago might send you running down the block screaming today. The following photos are downright eerie, anyway you spin it.
(N.Morgan) -- This is the time of year when ghost and goblins are on everyone minds, the time of year candy is passed out in the ritual of Halloween. When ghosts and spirits are to wonder the Earth. In the video below, we might just be witnessing an entity of some sort raising out of the ashes of a bonfire. The annual burning of the Mexican boogeyman, known as El Kookooee, draws crowds to Albuquerque’s South Valley. At this year’s event, the burning may have drawn more than just people. “All of us were just freaked out by this thing,” said Steve Vaughan. The figure was captured in a picture taken by a pair of local firefighters at the burning Sunday. A ghost enthusiast said it could be some sort of wizard or spirit.
“It’s either a real humanoid figure up there hovering in the sky or it’s an extremely good projection from either a slide or some kind of camera,” said Rick Walter. The image is getting a lot of attention. “I showed it to them and they were all, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s wild,’ ‘I want to see that, text it to me,’ and then they put it on Facebook and it kind of blew up from three,” said Josh Ellis. El Kookooee is a Hispanic ritual where people scribble their fears on paper then throw the scraps into a fiery effigy. Firefighters Ellis and Vaughan were working the event Sunday.
“They lit it up and we are just standing there observing it, you know, taking pictures like everyone else and that’s when Josh, one of my coworkers, got the photo of the spirit or whatever it is,” said Vaughan. After numerous doubletakes, the two realized the picture they had in front of them wasn’t of just people setting their worries on fire, it may have been something supernatural. “We showed it to the director of the event and he said, ‘Oh that’s El Kookooee. He’s coming to take all of the fears away,’ ” said Vaughan. Vaughn and Ellis said the photo is 100 percent authentic. The figure only showed up in a few pictures taken by the firefighters. It didn’t show up in any video. Ghost enthusiasts said it may have been a camera flare, but they can’t be sure.
(N.Morgan) -- There are legends that span over the centuries, folklore that leaves the mouth dry and the palms sweaty. Slenderman is such a character. They leaves us wondering, guessing, and hoping they aren’t real. Then there are those that have been brought to life by way of modern technologies reminding us of nightmares that should have been buried and forgotten. One such legend is known through internet popularity as Slender man. The creature known as Slender man is said to have the appearance of a tall, lanky man in a black suit. Not so scary, right? Just wait.
Slender man is a silent stalker that likes to hide in plain sight and is usually spotted in wooded areas where he could blend in amongst the trees and dark corners of the forest. When he finds his victim of choice, he follows them home and upon being seen through the window, can use a form of hypnosis that compels you to walk right into his spindly arms. Usually glimpsed at a distance, once he’s close enough to get a good look at, that’s when he slinks into your home appearing in dark hallways or blank t.v. screens. American legend says that he was once a man who was tortured viciously, first being beaten with a log, then impaled with a 2 foot stick and hung from a tree with his arms and legs pulled from their sockets.
When captured, you will wake to find Slender man standing above you. He will ask one question and if you’re lucky and get it right, he breaks both your arms and legs. But if you are wrong, then he slowly sticks his fingers down your throat pulling out the heart. In circles on the internet Slender man is claimed to be the creation of a website called Somethingawful.com. Many say that this alone debunks the mysterious legend and closes the case on the creature’s fictitious existence. Well, not quite. It appears that the Slender man myth goes back a lot farther than is claimed. He is based on something called Der Grossman, meaning “tall man”, which is the Germanic version. Legend says that children would site him in the Black Forest days before their disappearance. All that was left behind would be the mutilated remains of livestock and in a few cases, village inhabitants would be found several miles from their homes impaled on the higher branches of the trees.
(N.Morgan) The authorities in the Ozarks have no clue what the huge booms residents heard. When the New Madrid had the huge earthquake of 1811-1812, it was reported that residents then heard strange, big booms, prior to the major quakes. This was such a major event, the Mississippi River ran backwards and it made some parts of land in the area into swamp lands.
There have been some earthquakes in the New Madrid Seismic Zone this week.
A Sequence of Three Main Shocks in 1811-1812
This sequence of three very large earthquakes is usually referred to as the New Madrid earthquakes, after the Missouri town that was the largest settlement on the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri and Natchez, Mississippi. On the basis of the large area of damage (600,000 square kilometers), the widespread area of perceptibility (5,000,000 square kilometers), and the complex physiographic changes that occurred, the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812 rank as some of the largest in the United States since its settlement by Europeans. They were by far the largest east of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. and Canada.
The area of strong shaking associated with these shocks is two to three times as large as that of the 1964 Alaska earthquake and 10 times as large as that of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Because there were no seismographs in North America at that time, and very few people in the New Madrid region, the estimated magnitudes of this series of earthquakes vary considerably and depend on modern researchers’ interpretations of journals, newspaper reports, and other accounts of the ground shaking and damage. The magnitudes of the three principal earthquakes of 1811-1812 described below are the preferred values taken from research involved with producing the 2008 USGS National Seismic Hazard Map .
(Free Beacon) -- The State Department hosted a delegation of Muslim Brotherhood-aligned leaders this week for a meeting about their ongoing efforts to oppose the current government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, who rose to power following the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, an ally of the Brotherhood, in 2013.
One member of the delegation, a Brotherhood-aligned judge in Egypt, posed for a picture while at Foggy Bottom in which he held up the Islamic group’s notorious four-finger Rabia symbol, according to his Facebook page.
That delegation member, Waleed Sharaby, is a secretary-general of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council and a spokesman for Judges for Egypt, a group reported to have close ties to the Brotherhood.
Sharaby, the Brotherhood-aligned judge, flashed the Islamist group’s popular symbol in his picture at the State Department and wrote in a caption: “Now in the U.S. State Department. Your steadfastness impresses everyone,” according to an independent translation of the Arabic.
(Michael Barrett, Natural Society) -- Ever wonder what makes up highly popular fast food, such as McDonald’s chicken nuggets or french fries? If the fast food giants recently launched ‘transparency campaign’ tells us anything, it’s that the public is increasingly demanding truth and change. But what McDonald’s ‘truth campaign’ isn’t telling us is that much of its food is lathered in questionable, health-compromising ingredients.
In the most recent transparency video from McDonald’s, Grant Imahara explains that there are 19 ingredients in America’s favorite fries, one of which is polydimethylsiloxane, which is used in the production of silly putty. This seemingly ‘essential’ french fry-Silly Putty ingredient has been making headlines, and I can tell you that it won’t be the last headline you see.
During his ‘investigation,’ he found that dimethylpolysiloxane is used in the making of McDonald’s fries along with a petrol-based chemical called tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ). While anyone might immediately suspect that these ingredients may pose a hazard (and you wouldn’t be wrong), Grant reassures viewers that these are both safe additives used for perfectly good reasons.
You can view the video below to see McDoanld’s segment on how its french fries are made, taking a tour through a McDonald’s factory.
Dimethylpolysiloxane is added for safety reasons to prevent cooking oil from foaming, while tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is applied as a food preservative. Can’t have fries that don’t last a few years, right?
Of course finding such ingredients in the fast food giant’s french fries isn’t so surprising – much of McDonald’s’ food is tainted in more than one way. For example, containing over 70 ingredients, the McDonald’s sought after McRib is full of surprises — including ‘restructured meat’ technology that includes traditionally-discarded animal parts brought together to create a rib-like substance. It also contains a little-known flour-bleaching agent known as azodicarbonamide.
What do you think? Are these the reasons why McDonald’s is facing recent public rejection? It seems the fast food giant is attempting to make some changes, though maybe not fast enough.
This post originally appeared at Natural Society
(by Mac Slavo, SHTFplan.com) -- The Davos World Economic Summit has long been a parade for the insider agenda, putting the power players’ plans for the world’s economies on display as a preview to their playing out for the rest of the year.
But so far, the 2015 elite retreat in the Swiss Alps has proven to be full of apprehension, and even horror… with many of its own members expressing regret at the world they have built.
The Guardian reported:
The billionaires and corporate oligarchs meeting in Davos this week are getting worried about inequality… even the architects of the crisis-ridden international economic order are starting to see the dangers. It’s not just the maverick hedge-funder George Soros, who likes to describe himself as a class traitor. Paul Polman, Unilever chief executive, frets about the “capitalist threat to capitalism”. Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, fears capitalism might indeed carry Marx’s “seeds of its own destruction” and warns that something needs to be done.
The scale of the crisis has been laid out for them by the charity Oxfam. Just 80 individuals now have the same net wealth as 3.5 billion people – half the entire global population. Last year, the best-off 1% owned 48% of the world’s wealth, up from 44% five years ago. On current trends, the richest 1% will have pocketed more than the other 99% put together next year. The 0.1% have been doing even better, quadrupling their share of US income since the 1980s.
These billionaires are not concerned with a fair or truly equitable world, of course. But they may well be concerned about having pushed the system beyond the brink, and triggering global collapse or unrest as a result of things gone way too far.
On top of a bloated super-surveillance police state that is still expanding in the age of Big Data and continuing terrorism, it is a “wealth grab on a grotesque scale” that has stood out the most in 2015.
In 2015, it has become obvious that inequality has become just plain cynical, unsettling and, perhaps, downright revolutionary… and even the insulated, egocentric billionaires have taken notice.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph compiled a set of compelling reasons to think the world has fallen back into crisis, with a global economic meltdown perhaps looming overhead.
Charts compiled from 2014 data showed gloomy numbers in everything from stunted growth, mounting deflation, collapsing oil prices (and with it a collapsing Russian economy), conspicuously low central bank interest rates, mounting debt in Europe and the UK, new waves of the Euro-crises in Greece, Italy and Spain, and shortcomings in previous forecasts for growth by the IMF.
In short… well, things are not looking so great.
Along with the other factors mentioned above, this chart, published by the London Telegraph, shows what has happened to Americans as they struggled to tread water and keep afloat after 2008. For the United States, there have been some signs of improvement, but mostly for those already on top. And the general decline in the global rankings of economic freedom and civil liberties does not complement the widening inequality, either.
It illustrates the dramatic shift from the post World War II years of economic expansion to where we stand now…
As Neil Irwin reported for the NY Times:
Who benefits from rising incomes in an expansion has changed drastically over the last 60 years. Pavlina R. Tcherneva, an economist at Bard College, created a chart that vividly shows how.
Back in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, most of the income gains experienced during expansions — the periods from the trough of one recession until the onset of another — accrued to most of the people. That is to say, the bottom 90 percent of earners captured at least a majority of the rise in income.
With each expansion in sequence, however, the bottom 90 percent captured a smaller share of income gains and the top 10 percent captured more.
Post-WWII and the Burgeoning Middle Class
It’s not that things were ever perfect, but… here’s a glimpse into how most Americans – the “average” American in the middle or lower class was doing, overall, half a century or so ago. With a strong manufacturing and industrial sector, many had the opportunity for a good paying job, a home and some semblance of upward mobility. Not all was rosy, but by the numbers, things were on an even enough keel.
In short, the chart begins in 1949, when the income growth for most Americans outweighed that of the top 10% by a factor of four to one.
The trend gradually declined, moving from 80% of income growth in the bottom 90% in 1949-1953 to just 55% in the years 1975-79.
During those years, most Americans steadily enjoyed relatively high wages and general prosperity.
Energy Crisis and Stagflation of the 1970s
The 1970s represented a turning point, however, with several stages of the oil crisis hitting in 1973 and 1979. Foreign policy led to OPEC hiking energy prices; Americans in turn saw rationing and a rise in the cost of living; middle class wealth and job opportunity took a dive.
The beginning of deindustrialization meant that, more and more, Americans weren’t producing actual goods; manufacturing was in decline, and many good jobs were soon shipped over seas.
Meanwhile, wealth on a global stage flowed through the petrodollar, which was, in turn, recycled on Wall Street, making speculators and banking houses – not good and production – the center of the economic universe.
Deregulation and Unfettered Speculation in the 1980s and 1990s
Thus, the increases in income as wealth changed dramatically in the following decades, starting in the year 1982 and continuing to 2000 and the end of the century.
During the presidencies of Republicans Ronald Reagan and George Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton, income growth patterns flipped from their post-war patterns, with the top 10% suddenly outpacing everyone nearly 3-to-1, and regular folks seeing a noticeable decrease in their earnings.
In short, the middle class in decline. And things were getting even worse for those at the bottom.
The deregulation atmosphere of the 80s represented a complete upheaval of the post-war middle class boom.
As Wall Street’s predatory capitalism became the law of the land, a full 80% of income growth went to those at the top, while middle and lower class wealth suddenly staggered to a 29% share.
The 90s continued this trend, with income growth for the bottom 90% dropping to 27%.
This fast-paced era of “free market” (crony) capitalism – as defined and enhanced by Wall Street – only set the stage for what was to come, however.
The Walls Come Down: End of Glass Steagall and Rise of Derivatives Intro 21st Century
For those looking back after the 2008 financial collapse, these are the years in which the Glass Steagall Act, which had separated commercial and investment banking since the 1930s, was repealed with the handiwork of Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, Rubin’s deputy and successor.
Meanwhile, since the mid-90s, the derivatives market was opened up for big business, despite the warnings of such regulators as Brooksley Born, then head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Under these important developments, the cynical years of the George W. Bush presidency – initiated by a Supreme Court decision, and not by the electoral process – became even worse.
Income growth for most people ground to a halt, with the total income growth for the lower and middle classes reaching only 2% (meaning most had no meaningful rise in income at all).
Meanwhile, income growth for the top 10% soared to 98% of all increases. America’s richest took it straight to the bank, in an era of massive speculation during a huge housing bubble that would soon come crashing down.
Much has been said about the 2008 financial crisis, but the “too big to fail” banks were signposts for an opportunistic class of Americans who had profited by their own rules when opportunity was dwindling for most people.
After the brink, when taxpayers bailed out the banks, things became even worse for average Americans who found themselves in the so-called “bottom 90%.”
During the Obama years, when many Americans perceived America’s first black president as redistributing vast amounts of wealth to the lower classes, income dropped sharply, with negative growth for 90% of Americans for the first time since World War II.
There was no such leveling out, but a sharpening of the growing disparity nationwide. Obama is a corporatist, not a socialist.
During the period since 2009, when most Americans saw an average drop of 16% in income, the top 10% increased their wealth by a mind-boggling 116%. Their earnings more than doubled, while the average population struggled with less and less. Things reached a point of total us vs. them…
The Occupy Wall Street crowd called it the 1%, but it is much worse than that. The issue is a tiny, tiny few (numbering only a few thousand) who now effectively own it all.
They make the rules, they break the rules, and, well, they just rule. Period.
Could the picture be any clearer?
This video shows how America’s perception of the wealth gap underplays the reality, and compounds the problems, and further reveals that in reality, the bottom 40% in the United States have, well, next to nothing to show for themselves in terms of economic wealth:
As for the Middle Class – currently dead, in limbo or alternately M.I.A., columnist Harold Meyerson argues:
The extinction of a large and vibrant American middle class isn’t ordained by the laws of either economics or physics. Many of the impediments to creating anew a broadly prosperous America are ultimately political creations that are susceptible to political remedy. Amassing the power to secure those remedies will require an extraordinary, sustained, and heroic political mobilization. Americans will have to transform their anxiety into indignation and direct that indignation to the task of reclaiming their stake in the nation’s future.
Perhaps that means the Middle Class could be once again revived, if ever sanity reentered the picture, if the bums were kicked out and those guilty of outright treason in the financial and political arenas were finally rounded up and held accountable.
But don’t hold your breath… just hold onto what you’ve got, if you can.
(Michael Snyder, End of American Dream) -- A lot of ultra-rich people are quietly preparing to “bug out” when the time comes. They are buying survival properties, they are buying farms in far away countries and they are buying deep underground bunkers. In fact, a prominent insider at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland says that “very powerful people are telling us they’re scared” and he shocked his audience when he revealed that he knows “hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand”. So what do they know? Why are so many of the super wealthy suddenly preparing bug out locations? When the elite of the world start preparing for doomsday, that is a very troubling sign. And right now the elite appear to be quietly preparing for disaster like never before.
The insider that I mentioned above is named Robert Johnson. He is the president of the Institute of New Economic Thinking, and what he recently told a packed audience in Davos is making headlines all over the planet…
With growing inequality and the civil unrest from Ferguson and the Occupy protests fresh in people’s mind, the world’s super rich are already preparing for the consequences. At a packed session in Davos, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. “I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,” he said.
But he didn’t stop there.
In a separate interview, Johnson admitted that “very powerful people are telling us they’re scared” and that the elite “see increasing evidence of social instability and violence”. You can watch video of the entire interview below…
And Johnson is not the only one saying these things.
The following quote comes from the Mirror…
His comments were backed up by Stewart Wallis, executive director of the New Economics Foundation, who when asked about the comments told CNBC Africa: “Getaway cars the airstrips in New Zealand and all that sort of thing, so basically a way to get off. If they can get off, onto another planet, some of them would.”
Of course not all elitists are planning to jet off to the other side of the globe.
Some are planning to go deep underground when things hit the fan.
For example, there is an underground decommissioned missile silo in Kansas that has been transformed into luxury survival condos by a real estate developer. The following is from a Wall Street Journal article about those condos…
The so-called Survival Condo complex boasts full and half-floor units that cost $1.5 million to $3 million each. The building can accommodate up to 75 people, and buyers include doctors, scientists and entrepreneurs, says developer Larry Hall.
Mr. Hall, who lives in a Denver suburb, bought his first missile-silo site in Kansas in 2008 and completed construction in December 2012. A year later, he says, the development had sold out. Work on the second security compound—the one where Mr. Allen bought a unit—is under way, and Mr. Hall says he is considering additional sites in Texas and elsewhere.
As former nuclear missile sites built under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers, the structures were originally designed to withstand a direct hit by a nuclear bomb. At ground level, they can be sealed up by two armored doors weighing 16,000 pounds each. Mr. Hall added sophisticated water and air-treatment facilities, state-of-the-art computer network technology and several alternate power generation capabilities.
Other wealthy individuals are turning their current homes into high tech security fortresses.
Those that are involved in providing these kinds of services have seen business absolutely soar in recent years…
Wealthy families across the country are shelling out millions to protect their loved ones from intruders, natural disasters or the apocalypse as home security goes increasingly sci-fi.
Companies that provide concerned homeowners with futuristic gadgets – and a priceless peace of mind – have revealed the growing demand of costly bunkers, passageways, panic rooms and recognition software.
Chris Pollack – president of Pollack+Partners, a design and construction adviser in Purchase, New York – told Forbesthat, while security has always been important for the wealthiest clients, the spending on home security has noticeably grown in the past five years.
And the options available on the market are like something from a Bond film.
For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Why Are So Many Wealthy People Building Futuristic High Tech Security Bunkers?”
So why are all of these wealthy people so alarmed?
Well, the truth is that they can see what is happening.
They can see that millions of people are falling out of the middle class. They can see that society is breaking down in thousands of different ways. They can see that anger and frustration are rising to unprecedented levels. And they can see that things are likely to boil over once the next major economic crisis strikes.
Even though the economy is still fairly stable for the moment, signs of increasing economic suffering are everywhere. For example, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that homeless encampments are rapidly spreading throughout the Los Angeles area…
Over the last two years, street encampments have jumped their historic boundaries in downtown Los Angeles, lining freeways and filling underpasses from Echo Park to South Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a city-county agency, received 767 calls about street encampments in 2014, up 60% from the 479 in 2013.
We live at a time when almost everyone is getting poorer except for the elite. The top 1 percent now have close to 50 percent of the wealth in the entire world, and each year wealth becomes even more concentrated in their hands.
The elite know that eventually a breaking point is going to come. Those that are smart don’t want to be around when that happens.
And we got a few clues about what things might look like what that time comes from the recent “snow scare” in New York. Frightened consumers wiped out supplies of bread, milk and eggs within just a few hours. People started to take advantage of one another, even the journalists seemed like they were on the verge of panic, and virtually the entire city shut down.
All of this over just a few snowflakes.
So what is going to happen when we have a real crisis?
If the elite are preparing to bug out, it is hard to blame them.
I wouldn’t want to be right in the middle of a volcano when it erupts either.
Life is about to dramatically change, and signs of the coming storm are everywhere.
I hope that you are getting prepared for what is about to hit us while you still can.
(Curtis Kalin, CNS News) -- In an attempt to shame residents of their city, a new Seattle law will levy a fine on homes that do not properly sort food out of their garbage.
Emblazoned with a red citation tag, violators will start to be fined anywhere from $1-$50 in July. For now, Seattle residents will be publicly shamed by the ‘Scarlet Letter’-like tags.
"I'm sure neighbors are going to see these on their other neighbors' cans," says Rodney Watkins, a lead driver for Recology CleanScapes, a waste contractor for the city. He's on the front lines of enforcing these rules.
The tags are part of, what the city calls, a “public education campaign.”
In an interview with NPR, Watkins details how he goes about enforcing the draconian statute:
"You can see all the oranges and coffee grounds," he says, raising one lid.” All that makes great compost. You can put that in your compost bin and buy it back next year in a bag and put it in your garden."
The ultimate goal of the law is to boost composting while reducing greenhouse gasses:
Food waste is both an economic and environmental burden. Transporting the waste, especially for distances as far as Seattle does, is costly. So too is allowing it to sit out in the open, where it produces methane, one of the most harmful greenhouses gases, as it rots. The second largest component of landfills in the United States is organic waste, and landfills are the single largest source of methane gas.
The EPA has already begun a campaign to achieve laws similar to Seattle’s.
The outstanding question remains: what purview is it of government to act as people’s trash nanny?
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — For first lady Michelle Obama, just a few hours in Saudi Arabia were enough to illustrate the stark limitations under which Saudi women live.
Joining President Barack Obama for a condolence visit after the death of the King Abdullah, Mrs. Obama stepped off of Air Force One wearing long pants and a long, brightly colored jacket — but no headscarf.
Under the kingdom's strict dress code for women, Saudi females are required to wear a headscarf and loose, black robes in public. Most women in Saudi Arabia cover their hair and face with a veil known as the niqab. But covering one's head is not required for foreigners, and some Western women choose to forego the headscarf while in Saudi Arabia.
As a delegation of dozens of Saudi officials — all men — greeted the Obamas in Riyadh, some shook hands with Mrs. Obama. Others avoided a handshake but acknowledged the first lady with a nod as they passed by.
Saudi Arabia imposes many restrictions on women on the strict interpretation of Islamic Shariah (shah-REE'-yuh) law known as Wahhabism. Genders are strictly segregated. Women are banned from driving, although there have been campaigns in recent years to lift that ban. Guardianship laws also require women to get permission from a male relative to travel, get married, enroll in higher education or undergo certain surgical procedures.
If enough people flag a post, it’s not deleted but it’s algorithm is set so it appears far less frequently in people’s feeds, effectively killing any chance of the post going viral.
But here’s what they’re not telling you; This isn’t just about flagging fake news stories.
When utilizing the new flagging feature, users are presented with a series of options which also allow them to flag posts or memes which “annoy” them, posts which they find “distasteful”, posts which go against their religious or political views, or make fun of their beliefs.
This of course means Facebook can now be completely gamed by agenda-driven political sub-groups, governments or corporations to unfairly suppress information which challenges their position.
Note how this new system will allow Facebook to totally escape the backlash it would have otherwise received for censoring free speech by deleting posts. The posts are not deleted, they are merely relegated so that hardly anyone sees them. This negates the ‘Streisand effect’ – where the act of removing or censoring content only makes it more likely to receive attention elsewhere. Now you won’t even know if your post has been targeted for censorship, so you won’t be able to do anything about it.
Governments and large corporations already hire people to sway online opinion, now Facebook is handing them the power to all but silence dissent.
New scientific studies or documentary films which bash leading brands could be actively suppressed. Groups attempting to draw attention to the horrors of war or the expanding police state or government surveillance could be gagged and muted by powerful interests.
Radical feminist groups, who already get people’s Twitter accounts deleted by creating hoax campaigns to flag all their posts as spam, will also be rubbing their hands together at the chance to artificially censor content with nobody finding out.
No matter what your political persuasion, this is a chilling development for Internet free speech. Facebook is essentially moving to crowdsource censorship. Whoever can rally the largest amount of people to drown out voices of dissent can control the narrative on any issue.
The flagging of so-called fake news stories, or what some call “conspiracy theories,” is also completely subjective and rife for abuse. The media considers any information that differs from the official narrative on any issue a “conspiracy theory,” so this will only serve to nullify criticism of the state, corporations and alternative viewpoints on current events.
As CNN reports, “Putting power in the hands of the people has the potential to backfire. Facebook users could band together and report true stories that they disagree with as false.” Even Snopes founder David Mikkelson is against the idea.
By implementing this alarming new feature, Facebook, whose CEO once called its users “dumb fucks,” has once again communicated its total disdain for freedom of speech.
Two days after the Charlie Hebdo shootings, Mark Zuckerberg promised that Facebook would continue to be “a service where you can speak freely”.
But by allowing “professionally offended” social justice warriors who plague the Internet, as well as governments and corporations, to artificially censor content with which they disagree – Zuckerberg has once again illustrated that Facebook is increasingly proving itself to be a platform which actively discourages and censors freedom of speech and healthy political debate in the name of political correctness and ideological cronyism.
(by Norvell Rose, WCJ) -- This is one of those odd Obama moments the mainstream media is almost certain to ignore — a moment that some in the Obama-supporting press will see as trivial, while others might consider it too hot to touch.
The Washington Times reports that during a speech in New Delhi, India, President Obama himself — without any questioning or prompting — raised the issue of whether he is secretly a Muslim and not a Christian.
Obama was speaking on the subject of religious inclusion and equality: “…the president said India must learn to treat both women and religious minorities equally. India is nearly 80 percent Hindu but also has significant Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and Christian populations.”
To make his message more personal, the Times article notes that Obama cited for his audience examples from his own life: “There have been times where my faith has at times been questioned by people who don’t know me, or they’ve said that I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing.”
One should note that, interestingly, Obama did not deny that he adheres “to a different religion” — in other words, not Christianity — he only suggested that, if he were not a Christian, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.
The subject of Barack Obama’s ties to the Muslim faith and the tenets of Islam has long been a topic of both hushed discussion as well as howling debate.
An August 2014 post by Garth Kant at wnd.com highlights the revelations of a former CIA official, Clare Lopez, about the significant changes in policy toward radical Islam and jihad during the Obama administration.
…Lopez believed the Muslim Brotherhood has thoroughly infiltrated the Obama administration and other branches of the federal government.
She also came to the conclusion Obama had essentially the same goals in the Mideast as the late Osama bin Laden: “to remove American power and influence, including military forces, from Islamic lands.”
This former government intelligence expert who spent two decades as a CIA field operations officer went on to tell WND that the Muslim Brotherhood has made significant inroads into the federal government, thanks to Barack Obama.
…Lopez described the stunning extent of infiltration of the administration and other branches of the federal government by the jihadist group the Muslim Brotherhood.
She said the infiltration began under former President Bill Clinton but really took hold under the Obama administration, which, she said, “includes various levels of understanding and misunderstanding of Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
It is this sort of warning from Clare Lopez and others who were, or still are, in the federal government that raises doubts in the minds of many Americans about President Obama’s religious faith.
According to a 2012 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, as reported by The Huffington Post: “Three and a half years into the presidency of Barack Obama, 17 percent of registered voters still believe that he is a Muslim…31 percent of respondents said they did not know.”
(TELEGRAPH) — As the 1989 Tiananmen protests shook Beijing, top Communist Party leaders approached Swiss diplomats about sending “very significant amounts of money” to bank accounts in their country, it has been claimed.
The claim appears in a trove of confidential diplomatic cables from the Canadian embassy in Beijing that has been published nearly 26 years after the deadly crackdown on protesters on June 4 1989.
The messages were obtained from Canada’s national archives by Tom Korski, a former Beijing correspondent for the South China Morning Post newspaper.
(THE DAILY CALLER) -- Virtual reality technology has been advancing and expanding across multiple media industries in recent years, including video games, film and the Internet. Now it’s coming to an all-new category you can probably guess with, ironically, little imagination.
In a video recently uploaded to YouTube, Complex gave a group of “inexperienced” VR testers a taste of their first triple-X point-of-view pornographic experience on an Oculus Gear VR headset, and their reactions are equal parts hilarious and insightful.
All of the participants were noticeably stunned by the supposedly immersive quality of the experience, which prompted one to say she “forgot” she was “at work” and another to suggest it “might eliminate the need for human interaction altogether.”
Virtual reality and Oculus especially made a strong presence at the Sundance Film Festival this week, where the Facebook-owned company unveiled its first VR film and in-house movie studio.
(Jim Hoft, Gateway Pundit) -- Australian Libertarian Senator David Leyonjhelm had some harsh words for an abusive anti-free speech constituent.
Via Liberty Viral:
Far left activist Gary Burns wrote this abusive email to the senator.
Senator Leonjhelm kept his response brief.
(NEW YORK TIMES) -- The usually grim-faced media mogul practically swooned in his seat. Moments after Jeb Bush delivered what many in the audience described as an unremarkable talk at a conference in Washington, Rupert Murdoch turned to his seatmate, Valerie Jarrett, the White House adviser, to gush over its content and tone.
Mr. Murdoch was pleased that Mr. Bush, the former governor of Florida, had listed the economic benefits of overhauling the nation’s immigration system, confiding in Ms. Jarrett that Mr. Bush, a likely Republican presidential candidate, had said all the right things on the fraught issue, according to three people with firsthand knowledge of the conversation.
It was the kind of warm embrace, from the powerful and widely courted owner of The Wall Street Journal and Fox News Channel, that Mr. Murdoch denied Mitt Romney during his 2012 bid for the White House — a snub that Mr. Murdoch is already signaling he will repeat if Mr. Romney runs in 2016.
NYC, Boston ban road travel...
New Yorkers told to stay off sidewalks?
De Blasio Orders Indefinite Street Closure...
'You're committing a crime' if you violate ban...
Directs employers not to be 'cheapskates'...
WIRE: Storm fails predictions...
Six inches in NYC?
LIVE: TIMES SQUARE CAM...
6,000+ flights canceled...
Grocery stores cleaned out...
CHRISTIE: Be Home By 9...
'BLIZZARD 2015' LIVE...
RADAR...SATELLITE...WINTER STORM STATEMENTS...CRISIS MAP...
LATEST: NYC... BOSTON... PHILLY...
Mayor Thanks Sharpton for 'Climate Change' Work...
MEANWHILE: Denver 70 Degrees!
NEW YORK (AP) -- Tens of millions of people along the East Coast hunkered down for a storm that for most failed to live up to predictions that it would be one of the worst they'd ever seen.
Forecasters originally said the storm could bring 1 to 3 feet of snow and punishing hurricane-force winds. But early Tuesday, they downgraded most of those numbers, saying New England would fare the worst, but even then not as bad as expected.
Bruce Sullivan of the National Weather Service said Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, could get the most snow, about 2 feet. New York could see 10 inches to 20 inches, Hartford, Connecticut, 1 to 2 feet, and Philadelphia and central New Jersey about 6 inches.
The National Weather Service over the weekend had issued a blizzard warning for a 250-mile swath of the region, meaning heavy, blowing snow and potential whiteout conditions.
On Monday, life abruptly stopped across the region as officials ordered workers to go home early, banned travel, closed bridges and tunnels, and assembled their biggest plowing crews.
"When you wake up in the morning, it is going to look like a blizzard," said Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, echoing the concern of many government leaders.
Light snow fell steadily early Tuesday in midtown Manhattan as a few municipal trucks rumbled down empty streets. The city had an almost eerie, post 9/11 feel to it: No airplanes in the sky. An unexpected quiet.
More than 7,700 flights in and out of the Northeast were canceled, and many of them may not take off again until Wednesday. Schools and businesses let out early. Government offices closed. Shoppers stocking up on food jammed supermarkets and elbowed one another for what was left. Broadway stages went dark.
Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers to go home and stay there, adding: "People have to make smart decisions from this point on."
Commuters like Sameer Navi, 27, of Long Island, were following the advice.
Navi, who works for Citigroup in Manhattan, said he takes the Long Island Rail Road every day and left work early Monday after warnings by local officials to get home before the brunt of the storm. "I did leave earlier than usual," he said.
In New Jersey, plows and salt spreaders remained at work on the roads Monday night in Ocean County, one of the coastal areas that was expected to be among the hardest hit. There was a coating of snow on the roads but hardly any vehicles were traveling on them, as residents seemed content to stay indoors and monitor the storm in comfort.
Most businesses in the area had gone dark, including some convenience stores and gas stations.
Earlier in the day, Nicole Coelho, a nanny from Lyndhurst, New Jersey, stocked up on macaroni and cheese, frozen pizzas and milk at a supermarket.
"I'm going to make sure to charge up my cellphone, and I have a good book I haven't gotten around to reading yet," she said.
Ben Shickel went grocery shopping in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and found shelves had been cleaned out.
"We're used to these big snowstorms in New England, but 2 to 3 feet all at once and 50 to 60 mph winds? That's a different story," he said.
Last minute shoppers filed into the Jersey City ShopRite Monday evening, looking to stock up before the brunt of the storm hit. "I heard it's supposed to be snowing for two days straight, so we plan on staying inside and munching," said 18-year old Christian Waiters, who serves in the military.
On Wall Street, however, the New York Stock Exchange stayed open and said it would operate normally Tuesday as well.
Coastal residents braced for a powerful storm surge and the possibility of damaging flooding and beach erosion, particularly in New Jersey and on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Officials in New Jersey shore towns warned people to move their cars off the streets and away from the water.
Utility companies across the region put additional crews on standby to deal with anticipated power outages.
(by Dennis Prager via National Review) -- In the 1997 comedy Liar Liar, actor Jim Carrey plays a lawyer who, as a result of his young son’s birthday wish being magically fulfilled, cannot tell a lie — he can only tell the truth — for 24 hours. Let’s imagine that such a wish forced President Obama to do the same — not for 24 hours, just during his State of the Union address.
Here’s what he said, followed by what he would have said if he could only tell the truth.
President Obama (PO): “Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 generation who has served to keep us safe.”
Honest President Obama (HPO): “While I salute the courage of all the Americans who served there, my withdrawal has rendered their sacrifices meaningless. I made it possible for the Islamic State to rise and to control Mosul and other areas of Iraq, and enabled Iran, the most dangerous country in the world, to fill the void we left.”
PO: “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the state of the union is strong.”
HPO: “The shadow of my crisis has passed. I was reelected, my approval ratings are stable, and the 2014 elections that held me back from doing whatever I want to do are done with. As regards America and the world, however, the shadow of crisis is probably darker than at any time since World War II. And what I really meant when I said the state of the union is strong is that the state of the government is strong. The government controls more of Americans’ lives than ever before.”
PO: “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?”
HPO: “I know that in every country in the world only a few do spectacularly well. And as long as some human beings have more ability, work harder, and/or have more luck than others, that will always be the case. So why did I ask this pointless question? Because it foments class anger.”
PO: “Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another?”
HPO: “In my six years as president it is we Democrats who have sorted Americans into factions — blacks against whites, women against men, and the poor and middle class against those who are richer — more than at any time in American history. How else can a Democrat win an election? If blacks don’t resent whites, women don’t think they’re being suppressed by male sexism, and the 99 percent don’t resent the 1 percent, Democrats will never win an election.”
PO: “In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan.”
HPO: “Only Republicans’ ideas are partisan, not Democrats’.”
PO: “So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.”
HPO: “Actually almost my entire speech is a checklist of proposals.”
PO: “America is No. 1 in oil and gas. . . . And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.”
HPO: “Fracking — which my administration has worked against — has made all this possible.”
PO: “These policies will continue to work as long as politics don’t get in the way. . . . And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it. It will have earned my veto.”
HPO: “When Republicans pass bills, I call it ‘politics.’ But when I veto those bills, that’s not politics. Once again, thank you, mainstream media!”
PO: “We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the Internet . . . ”
HPO: “That’s what we on the left believe: Whatever you have, the government gave you.”
PO: “Too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need.”
HPO: “Of course, the real problem is the extortionate tuition rates charged by four-year colleges — which we make possible through government-backed student loans.”
PO: “Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program. . . . I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.”
HPO: “Everyone knows that Iran intends to build a nuclear weapon. Nevertheless, I will do everything I can to postpone confronting Iran and to postpone an Israeli attack on Iran. Then my successor can deal with it.”
PO: “No challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”
HPO: “In this case, I actually said something I believe. I really am more preoccupied with what computer models tell us might happen to ocean levels in 50 years than I am with the Islamist threat to the world today.”
— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His most recent book is Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.
(Associated Press) -- A senior Democratic senator’s complaints Tuesday, and noisy protesters, underscored the Obama administration’s challenge in seeking congressional approval for enhanced powers to cut trade deals with Japan, India and many other countries.
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said he worries that new trade deals will not help middle class incomes. He also said the United States must do more to prevent China from keeping its currency’s value artificially low, which enhances Chinese exports and dampens imports.
Schumer addressed his remarks to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who made the administration’s pitch to the Senate Finance Committee.
Froman said Congress must return “trade promotion authority” to the White House in order to cut important trade deals with Pacific-rim nations and others. That power, sometimes called “fast-track” authority, allows presidents to send proposed trade agreements to Congress for yes or no votes, with no amendments.
Congress has sometimes granted such powers before. But many Democrats, liberals and labor unions have grown increasingly hostile to trade deals, saying they reduce U.S. jobs.