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NYC Mayor Bloomberg unveils new for-profit mass surveillance system

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New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has unveiled a new crime-fighting system developed with Microsoft — and revealed that the city will take a cut of the profits if it is sold to other administrations.

The innovation, which bears a passing resemblance to the futuristic hologram data screens used by Tom Cruise in the science fiction film Minority Report, will allow police to quickly collate and visualise vast amounts of data from cameras, licence plate readers, 911 calls, police databases and other sources.

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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. “It is a one-stop shop for law enforcement,” Bloomberg said at a City Hall press conference unveiling the new technology.

But, though it has many screens, maps, and flashing visuals that make it look like science fiction, the new technology has a distinctly un-Hollywood name: the Domain Awareness System. Developed by Microsoft engineers working with New York police officers, DAS will allow a host of activities to be carried out, such as spotting a suspicious vehicle and being able to track its recent movements or use cameras to track back and see who left a suspicious package.

It features live video feeds, huge databases of recent crime patterns and can take input direct from the field in real time via things like 911 calls or police radios. “All the information is presented visually and geographically and in chronological context,” said police commissioner Ray Kelly.

But there is more to the new system than just fighting crime in a city that has in recent decades shed a once fearsome reputation to become one of the safest big metropolitan areas in America. Part of the deal with Microsoft will result in the city of New York taking a 30% cut on any profits that the computer firm gets from selling the technology to other cities in America or around the world.

“Maybe we can make a few bucks,” Bloomberg said. “It is a great example of what the public and private sector can do to improve people’s lives when we work together.”

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Such partnerships with the private sector, especially in sensitive areas like law enforcement, are not without their critics who are concerned about introducing a profit motive into the traditional domain of public social policy. But they are becoming a Bloomberg specialism.

He recently announced an agreement with investment bank Goldman Sachs to issue a loan, called a “social impact bond”, that will fund a scheme to cut re-offending rates among young people leaving New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail. If the scheme beats certain targets of youth behaviour Goldman could make several million dollars of profit.

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Former right-wing presidential candidate scamming Americans with toxic bleach cure

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Former diplomat and Reagan adviser Alan Keyes is a well-known gadfly who has run multiple times for president and for Senate, most famously against future President Barack Obama in 2004.

But lately, according to The Daily Beast, he has been involved in a different pursuit: the promotion of a dangerous pseudoscience scam known as the "Miracle Mineral Solution," or MMS.

The substance, which is actually just the powerful bleach chlorine dioxide, is supposedly a cure for everything from viral infections to infertility, and there was even a cultlike church known as the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, that promoted it as a gift from God. MMS has particularly taken root in developing countries like Uganda, but it also has a following in the United States, and many autistic children have been forced to drink it. Versions of this scam have even been promoted on Amazon.

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American exceptionalism is killing the planet

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Ever since 2007, when I first started writing for TomDispatch, I’ve been arguing against America’s forever wars, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere. Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that, despite my more than 60 articles, American blood is still being spilled in war after war across the Greater Middle East and Africa, even as foreign peoples pay a far higher price in lives lost and cities ruined. And I keep asking myself: Why, in this century, is the distinctive feature of America's wars that they never end? Why do our leaders persist in such repetitive folly and the seemingly eternal disasters that go with it?

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Joni Ernst accused of involvement in ‘dark money’ re-election scheme: report

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According to a report from the Associated Press, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) has been accused of illegally working with an outside group to help her re-election prospects in a tough 2020 fight with Donald Trump on the ballot.

According to AP: "An outside group founded by top political aides to Sen. Joni Ernst has worked closely with the Iowa Republican to raise money and boost her reelection prospects, a degree of overlap that potentially violates the law."

"Iowa Values, a political nonprofit that is supposed to be run independently, was co-founded in 2017 by Ernst’s longtime consultant, Jon Kohan. It shares a fundraiser, Claire Holloway Avella, with the Ernst campaign," the report continued. "And a condo owned by a former aide — who was recently hired to lead the group — was used as Iowa Values’ address at a time when he worked for her."

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