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Remy Martin puts NFC chip in its Cognac to prove they are genuine

by on Jul.04, 2015, under News Events

 


How do you tell a fine, authentic cognac from some knockoff in a fake bottle? Right now that requires a keen eye and an interest in cognac, but in the near future it might only require a smartphone with an NFC chip. Premiumalcohol maker Rémy Martin has started production of a new “connected” bottle with an NFC tag to guarantee freshness and authenticity. Truly this is the future.

For the unaware, cognac is a liquor produced from distilled wine. Most makers age cognac for about six years, though some less expensive versions are aged for much less time and infused with caramel coloring to fake the proper look. Rémy Martin prides itself on aging all its cognac for at least 10 years and as long as 37 years. You’re looking at over $100 for a regular bottle of Rémy Martin, and probably much more for the connected bottle.

The tag will be hidden inside the cap, but why the cap? Firstly, it’s easy to get your smartphone pressed up against it to read the tag, and second it allows the bottle to know whether or not it has been opened. When the seal is broken, a circuit is tripped that causes the NFC tag to label the bottle as “opened.” Thus, if you scan a “Rémy Martin CLUB” connected bottle, it will tell you if someone has previously opened it.

The company will also have a dedicated app that handles the identification of the bottles, but presumably it’s Android only, as the iPhone’s NFC chip is locked down right now. When you scan bottles, you’ll get points which can earn you rewards and prizes, but if you’re buying pricey booze, I don’t know that saving up loyalty points is high on your to-do list. The smart bottles will launch first in China this fall. Timing for other regions is still undecided.

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Google Joins Forces With NSA And DARPA As Military Contractor

by on Jan.14, 2014, under News Events

Google has spent the last decade building databases on everything, including each and every computer-using American citizen. Now it intends to join forces with the United States Military to put all that info to good use. The giant “swooshing sound” you are hearing right now is the major leap forward of the Mark of the Beast.

The DC: Google CEO Larry Page has rapidly positioned Google to become an indispensable U.S. military contractor. Google recently purchased Boston Dynamics, a robotics pioneer that produces amazing humanoid robots for the U.S. Defense Department.

This development invites attention to Google’s broader military contracting ambitions — especially since Boston Dynamics is the eighth robotics company that Google has bought in the last six months.

Google Joins Forces With NSA And DARPA As Military Contractor

Just like drones are the future of air warfare, humanoid robots and self-driving vehicles will be the future of ground warfare according to U.S. defense plans.

There are many other reasons why the U.S. military is on path to become Google’s single largest customer. Likewise these reasons indicate Google has a closer working relationship with the NSA than it acknowledges publicly.

First, consider the military value of Google’s research and development efforts and the military contracting pipeline revenue it could represent.

Page created Google X, which is Google’s secretive research and development lab tasked with pursuing “moon-shot” technology breakthroughs. So far, Google X is best known for its earth-bound self-driving cars and Google Glass.

Tellingly, the purpose of the original “moon-shots” by the Soviet Union and America was military. The two Cold War superpowers were in a “space race” to publicly showcase the technological and military supremacy of their rival ideologies.

Simply, America’s Cold War “moon-shot” was about winning the military space and arms race with the former Soviet Union.

Even more tellingly, the greatest application for most all of Google X’s “moon-shot” technological efforts — are military. Like drones, self-driving vehicles, and robot soldiers could enhance military surveillance and payload delivery while reducing risks to military personnel.

Google Glass’ advances in wearable augmented reality could offer American soldiers tactical advantages over enemy combatants. Google’s Project Loon could quickly provide a supplemental battlefield bandwidth advantage in remote areas.

Second, Google’s personnel hiring signals its aspirations for a closer Google-military relationship

In 2012, Google hired Regina Dugan, the head of DOD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA), DOD’s in-house “moon-shot” idea factory. At the time a Google spokesperson said: “Regina is a technical pioneer who brought the future of technology to the military during her time at DARPA.  She will be a real asset to Google.”

Simply, few people could have a better insider knowledge of the U.S. military’s future technology needs that Google could exploit than Ms. Dugan.

Third, Google has a long history of working for, and with, the NSA and the other U.S. intelligence services.

In 2004, Google purchased satellite mapping company Keyhole, which was strategically important enough to be funded by the CIA’s investment fund In-Q-Tel. Google turned the aptly-named “Keyhole” surveillance capability into the wildly popular Google Earth and Google Maps service used by over a billion people and over one million websites.

In 2008, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that U.S. spy agencies use “Google equipment as the backbone of Intellipedia, a network aimed at helping agents share intelligence.” The article also reported that Google had a support contract with the NSA.

In 2010, the Washington Post reported that Google worked with the NSA to figure out how Chinese hackers broke into Google. The New York Times later reported that those Chinese hackers stole Google’s entire password system called Gaia.

Fourth, Google has too many unique capabilities and metadata sets that are of strategic value to the NSA to believe Google’s denials that it does not work closely with the NSA

Snowden’s NSA revelations have underscored the high value the NSA puts on collecting the metadata of who is communicating with whom, when, where, and how much.

Remember Google is metadata central. It is veritable surveillance catnip for the NSA Think about it.Google’s cookies track the Internet behavior of nearly 2 billion people. Over a billion people regularly use Google Search, Maps, Android, and YouTube. And about a half billion people use Gmail and Google + social media.

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden has said “Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide.”

Thus Google has the unique capability to surveil for the NSA the online behavior of a targeted group of people by country, language, interests, keywords, names, communications, physical location, movements, time and more.

Simply put, Google’s world’s largest computer already can do what the NSA wants to do most.

Add to all this Google’s unique capability to instantaneously translate 80 different languages across applications, and why wouldn’t the NSA covet a close working relationship with Google?

Finally, the behavior of America’s greatest military rivals, Russia and China, speaks volumes about the likely extent of unreported close cooperation between Google and NSA/DOD.

Remember it was the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that invented the Internet in the early ‘70s. It is no coincidence that Russia and China have been the most hostile to allowing Google’s Internet dominance to extend into their countries.

In summation, the accumulating evidence indicates that the U.S. military is on path to become Google’s single largest customer.

Page’s strategic positioning of Google’s biggest investments to strongly align with future U.S. military needs is no coincidence. It is likely tacit confirmation of a much stronger relationship than Google has acknowledged to date.

Page’s creeping militarization of Google will increasingly become problematic for the privacy of Google’s foreign users, which generate over half of Google’s revenues. While U.S. law purportedly prevents the NSA from surveilling Americans without a warrant, the NSA’s official mandate is to surveil foreign signals intelligence.

In short, Google’s creeping militarization means Big Brother Inc. aspires to work more closely with Big Brother government. source – Daily Caller

Scott Cleland is President of Precursor LLC, a consultancy serving Fortune 500 clients, some of which are Google competitors. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc. Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.

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Middle-class Greeks to fork out over 40% of annual salary in tax

by on Jan.12, 2013, under News Events

Reuters / John Kolesidis

Reuters / John Kolesidis

Athens passed new tax increases to boost revenue by US$3 billion to keep in line with previous commitments to creditors. The new measures limit family benefits and force the middle class to pay over 40 per cent of their annual salary in taxes.

Greek’s Conservative-led coalition has passed the new tax increases to middle and high-income earners, self-employed and businesses.

The new law increases the amount of income tax paid by those earning more than US$26,000 a year, limits tax benefits for having children, revokes tax breaks for farmers and increases corporate tax to 26 per cent from 20 per cent.

It also increased top income tax rate to 42 per cent from 40 per cent for Greeks earning more than US$56,000 a year, which is the higher-end of middle class average in Greece.

The new law was part of an overall package approved past November in order to qualify Greece for more bailouts in the future. It aims to save Greece up to US$3 billion in 2013.

If the new tax changes would not have been passed, then Greece would not qualify for more bailout money to be transferred and the nation would have fallen short of paying its own bills.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras stated in the parliament that he had no other options and that the bill needed to be approved.

“Otherwise, we would have had to have saved that 2.3 billion euro [US$3 billion] through salary and pension cuts,” he said. “But we are making the savings in a socially just fashion.”

The opposition argues that the changes would negatively impact Greek citizens by putting more pressure on an already-stricken middle class.

But the conservative-led government assures that the changes will lessen the burden for salary earners and pensioners making less than US$33,000 a year.

“We are not in favor of taxes,” Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Mavraganis stated. “But in the current situation we must lead the country out of its impasse. Once we achieve stability we will proceed to cut taxes and simplify the system.”

Greek’s financial crisis dilemma

Since 2009 when Greece’s economy began falling apart under its huge debt burden the country has become dependent on international rescue loans with a total of 240 billion euro provided to Athens. As of now, 149 billion euro has been distributed to Greece from the Troika of international lenders.

Just last month Greece has received another US$45.5 billion in frozen loans and now with the passage of the new tax bill it is on track to get another US$19.9 billion in the next few months.

Athens was forced to implemented harsh austerity measures to reduce deficit and bring down the debt level.

Trying to hold control of the economy at the end of 2012 Greece adopted a 2013 budget that involves 9.4 billion euro of spending cuts, mainly in state wages, pensions and benefits, all of which have already been significantly reduced over the past two years.

The decision resulted in strikes and protest across the country.

Tough austerity measures have also led to a drastic surge of unemployment – in September 2012 it reached a record 26 per cent, which is one of the lowest levels amongst the EU nations.

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Texas Judge Rules Schools Can Force RFID Chips on Students

by on Jan.10, 2013, under News Events

AP

In the fall of last year the San Antonio Northside School District in Texas announced that they would track students with RFID (radio frequency identification) chips in their student badges.

One student, sophomore Andrea Hernandez, was suspended for refusing to wear the tracking device and took the matter to court.

Texas Judge Rules Schools Can Force RFID Chips on Students

 

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled in favor of the school district claiming they have the right to expel Hernandez for refusing to abide by school requirements. By default the judge ruled that the school had the right to force children to be treated like cattle while on campus.

The program, called the “Student Locator Project,” is aimed at increasing student attendance rates presumably to boost in public funding for the district.

“There is something fundamentally disturbing about this school district’s insistence on steamrolling students into complying with programs that have nothing whatsoever to do with academic priorities and everything to do with fattening school coffers,” said John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute when he took the case.

As part of the pilot program, roughly 4,200 students at Jay High School and Jones Middle School are being required to wear “SmartID” card badges embedded with an RFID tracking chip which will make it possible for school officials to track students’ whereabouts on campus at all times. School officials hope that by expanding the program to the district’s 112 schools, they can secure up to $1.7 million in funding from the state government. (Source)

The Hernandez family argued that the RFID badges violated their daughter’s privacy rights and referred to them as the “Mark of the Beast“, a reference to a warning in the Book of Revelations.

The primary defense was not to challenge the obvious privacy issues involved with the badges, but to seek a religious exemption. The judge ruled that the badge is “not grounded in her religious beliefs” and is a “secular choice rather than a religious concern.”

“The Supreme Court has made clear that government officials may not scrutinize or question the validity of an individual’s religious beliefs,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, in a statement.

“By declaring Andrea Hernandez’s objections to be a secular choice and not grounded in her religious beliefs, the district court is placing itself as an arbiter of what is and is not religious. This is simply not permissible under our constitutional scheme, and we plan to appeal this immediately,” he added.

The court originally agreed to block the suspension to hear the case, but would not extend that request for the appeal process.

“In coming to Andrea’s defense, Rutherford attorneys have alleged that the school’s attempts to penalize, discriminate and retaliate against Andrea violate her rights under Texas’ Religious Freedom Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” said Rutherford’s lawyers.

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