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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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2020 Election

‘So, so cruel’: Rights advocates sound alarm about immigration agenda Stephen Miller is crafting for Trump’s 2nd term

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Immigrant rights advocates along with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his supporters responded with alarm to reporting this week that Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, is plotting how to "rev up Trump's restrictive immigration agenda" and is ready to "unleash executive orders deemed too extreme for a president seeking reelection" in the event of a Biden loss next week.

NBC News reported Friday that Miller, speaking as an adviser to the president's campaign, laid out four top priorities in a 30-minute call Thursday: "limiting asylum grants, punishing and outlawing 'sanctuary cities,' expanding the so-called travel ban with tougher screening for visa applicants, and slapping new limits on work visas." Implementing these policies would require a mix of legislation and executive action.

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2020 Election

REVEALED: Far-right extremists are circulating plans to lock down Arizona streets if Trump is re-elected

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On Saturday, The Arizona Republic reported that far-right paramilitary groups are circulating plans to lock down neighborhoods in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area in the event that President Donald Trump is re-elected, supposedly to police left-wing protesters.

"In Arizona, the head of the Prescott-area chapter of the Oath Keepers group, which recruits military and law enforcement officers, has warned residents to be prepared to protect their neighborhoods from feared extreme left-wing protesters who would be upset should President Donald Trump be re-elected," reported Richard Ruelas. "Part of that the pro-Trump group'splan involved closing streets and assigning monitors to control access, according to a planning document shared with The Republic."

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2020 Election

America’s crimes against humanity aren’t on the ballot this year — but they should be

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The 2020 presidential election is a life-and-death decision for thousands of people vulnerable to COVID-19, for a globe under the assault from the climate crisis, and for the future of American democracy. And yet for all the urgency, the political campaign still suffers under the weight and stench of bullshit.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Philosopher Harry Frankfurt warns in his bestselling pamphlet "On Bullshit" that "bullshit" is more injurious than the blatant lie. One reason among many is that bullshit blurs the line between reality and fiction, offering a manipulative incorporation of truth to strengthen its own capacity to persuade. Absolute falsity, in contrast, is obvious to anyone with minimal awareness of the facts. When the Trump administration recently declared that one of its grand achievements was "ending the pandemic," most people laughed in disbelief. This is a lie fit for consumption only from inhabitants of a collective similar to the Rev. Jim Jones' notorious People's Temple settlement in Guyana.

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