UK’s NHS gives Amazon free use of health data under Alexa advice deal

UK’s NHS gives Amazon free use of health data under Alexa advice deal

Details of contract agreed by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, came to light after FoI request.

UK health service will not gain commercial benefit from future Amazon products using its data

Amazon has been given free access to healthcare information collected by the NHS as part of a contract with the government.

The material, which excludes patient data, could allow the multinational technology company to make, advertise and sell its own products.

In July the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said a partnership with the NHS that allowed Amazon Alexa devices to offer expert health advice to users would reduce pressure on “our hard-working GPs and pharmacists”.

But responses to freedom of information requests, published by the Sunday Times, showed the contract will also allow the company access to information on symptoms, causes and definitions of conditions, and “all related copyrightable content and data and other materials”.

Amazon, which is worth $863bn and is run by the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos, can then create “new products, applications, cloud-based services and/or distributed software”, which the NHS would not benefit from financially. It can also share the information with third parties.

Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, told the Sunday Times that the government was “highly irresponsible” and “in the pocket of big corporate interests”.

Eva Blum-Dumontet, a senior researcher at Privacy International, which obtained the contract, said the issue with the partnership was not about “data sharing” but about “transparency”. Several sections have been redacted by the Department of Health and Social Care to protect Amazon’s commercial interests.

An NHS spokesperson said: “No patient data is being provided to this company by the NHS, which takes data privacy extremely seriously and has put appropriate safeguards in place to ensure information is used correctly.”

Amazon told the Sunday Times the content it had access to was already on the NHS website. “Amazon does not build customer health profiles based on interactions with content or use such requests for marketing purposes,” it added.

Third parties, such as local authorities, can reuse information from the NHS website, but standard agreements only permit this to be used in the UK. The contract with Amazon states that the licence applies around the world.

A spokesperson for the company said: “General health-related content from the NHS website is now available to Alexa users via voice technology. The new option is particularly useful for those with accessibility needs who may not have been able to easily access content via a mobile device or computer in the past.”

Earlier this week, the company was singled out by tax transparency campaign group Fair Tax Mark as the worst of the big six US tech firms for avoiding tax by shifting revenue and profits through tax havens or low-tax countries.

It said Amazon paid just $3.4bn (£2.6bn) in tax on its global income so far this decade, despite gaining revenues of $960.5bn and profits of $26.8bn.



The Guardian view on Boris Johnson’s NHS plan:
trading patient data

Donald Trump has made clear he wants a post-Brexit Britain to let US tech companies and big pharma access medical records

‘Jeremy Corbyn’s NHS press conference revealed that the US wanted its companies to get unrestricted access to the UK’s medical records, thought to be worth £10bn a year.’

The NHS is a goldmine of patient data which the United States wants to be quarried by some of its biggest companies.

Britain’s health service is home to a unique medical dataset that covers the entire population from birth to death. Jeremy Corbyn’s NHS press conference revealed that the US wanted its companies to get unrestricted access to the UK’s medical records, thought to be worth £10bn a year. A number of tech companies – including Google – already mine small parts of the NHS store. Ministers have been treading carefully after an attempt to create a single patient database for commercial exploitation was scrapped in 2016 when it emerged there was no way for the public to work out who would have access to their medical records or how they were using them.

However, such caution might be thrown to the wind if Boris Johnson gets his way over Brexit – and patients’ privacy rights are traded away for US market access. This would be a damaging step, allowing US big tech and big pharma to collect sensitive, personal data on an unprecedented scale. Donald Trump’s officials have already made clear that this is what they are aiming for. In the leaked government records of talks between US and UK trade representatives White House officials state that “the free flow of data is a top priority” in a post-Brexit world. Trump’s team see Brexit as an opportunity “to avoid forcing companies to disclose algorithms”.

The US wants the UK to drop the EU’s 2018 data law, in which individuals must be told what is happening with their medical data, even if scrubbed of personal identifiers.

If there is a wild west of patient privacy, it is found in the US. More than 90% of US healthcare organisations admitted to data breaches between 2014 and 2016, leading to cases of medical fraud and insurance discrimination. Given the stakes, there must be concerns about how an arm of the department of health and social care sold data about millions of NHS patients, derived from GP practices, to US companies without anybody apparently informing patients. GP records contain sensitive information, such as details of a person’s mental health conditions and diseases such as cancer, as well as smoking and drinking habits. It is also extremely worrying that Matt Hancock, the health secretary, thought it was right to sign a deal with Amazon that put no restraint on its ability to build profiles of patients who use its Alexa voice assistant to access NHS information.

This might be just the start. If Mr Trump got his way, UK patients would be unaware their data would be processed offshore by a Silicon Valley giant. They might also not know that big tech could use what it learned from that process to invent medical devices that could then be sold back to the NHS. Alan Winters, a leading economist, told the Times: “You could end up where the UK is unable to analyse its health data without paying a royalty to Silicon Valley to use an algorithm. Once the algorithm has been written and copyrighted by an American company, if the NHS tried to do the same in the UK it could be sued.”

The Conservative party manifesto says it “will invest in health data systems”. Whatever for – given the NHS may be forced into selling off its most valuable asset so that US corporations can profit from it at our expense? There may be an argument that in doing so this country might become a vital cog in US Inc. But this is a narrowing of the UK’s potential. Why not aim to build up our own expertise by training NHS researchers in the latest computational techniques so that they can invent new medical procedures that can save lives? After all, making artificial hips has become a multibillion-pound global business. But it was in the state-run NHS – not in the world of private US medicine – that total hip replacement was pioneered. Monopolies, state or private, can get complacent. The answer is not to turn the NHS into a haven for all the excesses of free enterprise in a trade deal with Mr Trump.




DHS wants to expand airport face recognition scans to include US citizens

DHS wants to expand airport face recognition scans to include US citizens

Homeland Security wants to expand facial recognition checks for travelers arriving to and departing from the U.S. to also include citizens, which had previously been exempt from the mandatory checks.

In a filing, the department has proposed that all travelers, and not just foreign nationals or visitors, will have to complete a facial recognition check before they are allowed to enter the U.S., but also to leave the country.

Facial recognition for departing flights has increased in recent years as part of Homeland Security’s efforts to catch visitors and travelers who overstay their visas. The department, whose responsibility is to protect the border and control immigration, has a deadline of 2021 to roll out facial recognition scanners to the largest 20 airports in the United States, despite facing a rash of technical challenges.

But although there may not always be a clear way to opt-out of facial recognition at the airport, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents — also known as green card holders — have been exempt from these checks, the existing rules say.

Now, the proposed rule change to include citizens has drawn ire from one of the largest civil liberties groups in the country.

“Time and again, the government told the public and members of Congress that U.S. citizens would not be required to submit to this intrusive surveillance technology as a condition of traveling,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union .

“This new notice suggests that the government is reneging on what was already an insufficient promise,” he said.

Travelers, including U.S. citizens, should not have to submit to invasive biometric scans simply as a condition of exercising their constitutional right to travel. The government’s insistence on hurtling forward with a large-scale deployment of this powerful surveillance technology raises profound privacy concerns,” he said.

Citing a data breach of close to 100,000 license plate and traveler images in June, as well as concerns about a lack of sufficient safeguards to protect the data, Stanley said the government “cannot be trusted” with this technology and that lawmakers should intervene.

A spokesperson for Customs & Border Protection said the agency was “currently in the rulemaking process and will ensure that the public has the opportunity to comment prior to the implementation of any regulation,” and that it was “committed to its privacy obligations.”





MIT Deepfake Shows Nixon Sadly Saying the Moon Astronauts Died

MIT Deepfake Shows Nixon Sadly Saying the Moon Astronauts Died

The heart of MIT’s “In Event of Moon Disaster” film installation uses a deep fake video to depict an alternate version of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. (Courtesy Francesca Panetta)

In the event that Apollo 11 — the NASA mission that sent Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface of the Moon — failed, President Nixon had a speech written and ready to go.

Because the mission succeeded, Nixon never delivered the speech, but MIT engineers used deepfake technology to create a news broadcast in which a digitally-reconstructed Nixon delivers the bad news, WBUR News reports. The deepfake, which will be presented at a film festival Friday, illustrates just how easy it is to make virtual puppets deliver convincing speeches, even if they’re totally removed from history.

Behind The Scenes

Francesca Panetta, co-director of the larger film in which the deepfake appears, told WBUR that she had someone actually read the script while impersonating Nixon’s intonation and then used software to make the recording sound even more like Nixon’s voice. It’s not the most advanced way to create deepfakes out there, but it still gets the job done.

“I had one person say, ‘Oh, so you got an impersonator to impersonate Nixon,’” she told WBUR. “They didn’t think it was a synthetic voice. I had someone else say, ‘Oh, so Nixon actually did record this? They filmed him saying this as a contingency speech then in case it happened?’ And I was like, ‘Wow! OK — you thought they filmed this before. I guess it worked.’”



President Nixon Never Actually Gave This Apollo 11 Disaster Speech. MIT Brought It To Life To Illustrate Power Of Deepfakes

Imagine a past in which the crew of Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969 — but then became stranded there, leading then-President Nixon to give a speech memorializing the astronauts.

A new MIT film installation uses that exact premise to shed light on so-called deepfake videos and how they are used to spread misinformation. Deepfakes use artificial intelligence technologies to create or alter a video to make them untrue in some way.

MIT’s Center for Advanced Virtuality created a video of Nixon giving a speech that was actually written for him — but that he never ended up delivering. The video is the centerpiece of “In Event of Moon Disaster,” opening Friday at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The installation was supported by the Mozilla Foundation and the MIT Open Documentary Lab.

Film co-director Francesca Panetta says doctored videos like these have been a concern in current affairs and politics — but this effort points to another danger.

“Deepfakes can be used for many of the things we already know,” Panetta says, “but also to create kind of alternative histories or have the potential to kind of rewrite history as well.”

So how did MIT create a 50-year-old video of something that never happened?

Panetta says she and co-director Halsey Burgund selected actor Lewis D. Wheeler to voice three hours worth of recordings from Nixon. The goal was not to impersonate Nixon, but instead to get characteristics like his intonation and cadence correct, she says. After those recordings were done, they were given to Respeecher, a company that focuses on synthetic voice-over work. Respeecher then used clips of those recordings to create a synthetic version of Nixon’s voice.

At that point, anything Wheeler recorded would come out in the voice of the 37th president of the United States.

Part two of the project consisted of working with video dialogue replacement firm Canny AI to create the actual deepfake video. The company took a Nixon speech — in this case, it was part of Nixon’s resignation speech — and then put footage of Wheeler delivering the moon speech on top of it.

“They can take just the elements of the actual lip movement and chin movement and any other parts of the face that are sort of associated with talking,” Burgund says, “and they overlay that onto the source video.”

The end result is a rather unnerving, yet realistic video.

“I had one person say, ‘Oh, so you got an impersonator to impersonate Nixon.’ They didn’t think it was a synthetic voice,” Panetta says. “I had someone else say, ‘Oh, so Nixon actually did record this? They filmed him saying this as a contingency speech then in case it happened?’ And I was like, ‘Wow! OK — you thought they filmed this before. I guess it worked.'”

At the IDFA, the video is displayed in a mock 1960s living room. Viewers of the project watch a video presentation of Apollo 11’s journey, displayed on a vintage television. The presentation then switches to when Apollo 11 should have been safely touching down — but the flight goes wrong, stranding the astronauts in the process. President Nixon finally appears on screen to tell the American people about the disaster– delivering the speech, courtesy of MIT.

Panetta says the selection of the moon landing as the basis for this project was a conscious one, stemming from its significance in history.

“This is one of the most historic events, and if we are trying to make a piece that is about interrogating whether deepfakes have the potential to rewrite history, then the moon landing seemed like a really good one to pick,” she says.

Burgund says he hopes viewers of “In Event of Moon Disaster” come away with an appreciation for the power that deepfake videos can hold and also an awareness for how they can be used to form false narratives.

“We are trying to communicate that deepfakes are kind of a continuation –or an extension, if you will — of a continuum of misinformation that we all should be aware of and should have our ears tuned to, if we can,” Burgund says.

The MIT team is planning on turning the installation into an interactive website next year.

This segment aired on November 21, 2019. The audio for this segment is not available.




Beyond 3nm: The END of Silicon & The Future of Computing

Beyond 3nm: The END of Silicon & The Future of Computing

We are finally getting to the end of progression in silicon technology.

What will replace silicon?

This video covers some of the potentials of future computing architecture.

  • Liquid Transistor (Gallium & Iridium)
  • Nanomagenetics (Vortex Domain Wall Structures)
  • Light (Optical) Computing – Surface Plamons
  • Quantum Computing (Superposition Calculations)
  • Alternative Materials to Silicon: Galium Nitride, and Graphene & Plasmon Logic Gates



Study Finds ‘Fake News’ Has Real Cost: $78 Billion

Study Finds ‘Fake News’ Has Real Cost: $78 Billion

Cybersecurity company CHEQ conducted research with the University of Baltimore, which found that the epidemic of online fake news now costs the global economy $78 billion annually.

The report, which analyzes the direct economic cost from fake news, also estimates fake news has contributed a loss in stock market value of about $39 billion a year. 

The World Economic Forum’s analysis released in 2018, ranks the spread of misinformation and fake news among the world’s top global risks.

“Fake news stories can be found everywhere online,” said CHEQ CEO Guy Tytunovich. “This includes aggregated online on search engines, directly on questionable news sites, shared on social media platforms and other forums.”

Tytunovich defines fake news as the deliberate creation and sharing of false or manipulated online information intended to deceive and mislead audiences.

The research analyzes a variety of industries that take into consideration online impressions. CHEQ worked with the economics department at the University of Baltimore to analyze economic data across many sectors to estimate the annual financial cost of fake news on the world economy.

The findings suggest businesses will lose about $9 billion annually from health misinformation, $17 billion from financial misinformation, $9 billion in reputation management, $3 billion from platform safety efforts, and $400 million from fake political advertisements.

Brands lose about $235 million annually from unknowingly running ads alongside fake news.

An example in the study points to content on the Yale School of Management site describing deceptive articles on investment websites that appeared to temporarily boost stock prices, noting a particular effect for small firms.

The political race in the United States also will be impacted. The study estimates at least $400 million annually will be spent on fake news in political races.

Based on current and estimated volumes of fake news, the study reveals that $200 million will be spent on boosting, advertising and deploying fake news in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

CHEQ also on Wednesday announced closing $16 million in Series B funding from Battery Ventures and MizMaa Ventures. The latest capital brings the total investment to $22 million.

The company plans to use the latest funds to further its work in artificial intelligence and natural language processing to combat advertising fraud. or






US, Montenegro Plot Cyber Warfare Ahead of 2020 Elections

US, Montenegro Plot Cyber Warfare Ahead of 2020 Elections

A guard stands at the entrance of the Montenegrin Defense Ministry in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica Nov. 11. Deployed inside the sprawling communist-era army command headquarters in Montenegro’s capital, a group of elite U.S. military cyberexperts are plotting strategy in a fight against potential Russian and other cyberattacks ahead of the 2020 American and Montenegrin elections. | AP

Deployed inside the sprawling communist-era army command headquarters in Montenegro’s capital, an elite team of U.S. military cyber experts are plotting strategy in a fight against potential Russian and other cyberattacks ahead of the 2020 American and Montenegrin elections.

With its pristine rocky mountains, lush green forests and deep blue seas, the tiny Balkan state seems an unlikely location for waging global cyber warfare. But after the newest NATO nation was targeted by Russia-linked hackers and following a Moscow-backed coup attempt in Montenegro in 2016, the U.S. military dispatched their cyber experts to the Adriatic Sea nation.

Montenegro is in the Balkans, a strategic area where Russia has been seeking to restore its historic influence. The country of just over 600,000 people joined NATO in 2017, defying strong opposition from Moscow. It has proven to be a key Western ally in the volatile region that went through a devastating war in the 1990s’.

Montenegrin Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic — careful not to mention Russia — said preventing cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns is key to protecting the Balkans from returning to the chaos of the war years in the 1990s, when tens of thousands of people died during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

“We have seen that the (2016) U.S. election had also faced certain hybrid and cyberattacks,” Boskovic said in an interview. U.S. authorities accuse Russia of using hacking and social media campaigns to boost Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy and sow discord among American voters.

“Americans can learn something from us about potential threats for their systems and networks because Montenegro was a real example of an all-out attack before the (2016) election and its NATO accession,” Boskovic said.

One of the malicious software attacks targeted the Montenegrin Defense Ministry with a routine-looking email. It appeared to be from a NATO-member country, but in fact came from hackers.

“Once an employee clicked on the attachment in the email, all of the computers in the network were compromised and they (the hackers) could read all the data that was communicated within the network,” Boskovic said.

Russia’s tactics in undermining the Balkan’s Euro-Atlantic integration includes anti-Western propaganda designed to tarnish the image of European democracies. This, the Kremlin apparently hopes, will slow down the region’s integration into the 28-nation European Union.

Russia’s allies in the Balkans — Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs — have both ruled out joining NATO and boycotted the Western sanctions against Moscow over its policies in Ukraine. Pro-Russian propaganda in those areas depicts the West as the enemy of the Serbs.

Russian activity in the region risks exacerbating ethnic tensions and instability, but the U.S. response has been inconsistent. Trump, a frequent NATO critic, once questioned whether U.S. troops should defend Montenegro as part of the Western military alliance.

But, in a statement, the U.S. cyber command, or USCYBERCOM, has highlighted the partnership with Montenegro.

“The team’s operations are part of efforts to persistently engage adversaries in cyberspace, working to protect critical infrastructure alongside valued partners and allies,” the statement said. “These defense operations also generate insights into adversarial cyber threats to the upcoming U.S. and Montenegrin elections in 2020.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a recent visit to Montenegro that as the result of the cooperation, the two countries have developed ways to counter the latest Russian malware.

This is the second time that cyber command has worked with Montenegro. It has also worked with North Macedonia, which will soon join NATO.

Russia has been accused of meddling in election campaigns worldwide, most recently in Britain. Moscow has repeatedly denied doing so.

In May, a court in Montenegro found 14 people, including two Russian military intelligence operatives, guilty of plotting a coup on election day in 2016 to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO. The two Russians, who allegedly coordinated the botched effort from neighboring Serbia, were tried in absentia and are believed to be in Russia. Moscow has denied involvement.

Montenegro and its allies have expressed fears that Moscow could try to meddle again in next year’s elections.

But one of the convicted coup plotters and a leader of the pro-Russian opposition Democratic Front coalition insisted the incident was staged to help the long-ruling Montenegrin leader, Milo Djukanovic, stay in power.

Milan Knezevic, who remains free pending appeals on his 5-year prison sentence, said he now sees the talk about looming hybrid attacks from Russia “as a preparation of the (Montenegrin) regime for the 2020 elections.”

“They need a new mantra and a new narrative in order to allegedly protect the Montenegrin state from the ‘malign’ Russian influence,” he said at his party office, which was decorated with his photos with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I wouldn’t rule out some kind of hybrid attacks on the election day,” he added sarcastically.


Associated Press







CCTV: die bestüberwachten Städte Europas

CCTV: die bestüberwachten Städte Europas

von  on 05.09.2019

Berlin wird laut einer Erhebung von Comparitech durch fast 40.000 Kameras überwacht – das sind etwa 11,2 Kameras pro 1.000 Einwohner. Damit liegt die Bundeshauptstadt auf Platz 2 im Ranking der bestüberwachten Städte Europas; weltweit liegt Deutschlands größte Stadt auf Platz 19. Im Vergleich mit London hat Berlin indes noch reichlich Luft nach oben bei der Überwachung des öffentlichen Raumes. An der Themse verfolgen rund 630.000 Kameras, was die 9,6 Millionen Einwohner so treiben – das sind 68,4 Kameras auf 1.000 Einwohner.

Die bestüberwachten Städte der Welt liegen übrigens allesamt in China. Auf Platz 1 liegt das am Zusammenfluss von Jangtsekiang und Jialing gelegene Chongqing mit 168 Kameras je 1.000 Einwohner.





Wem gehört der DAX?

Wem gehört der DAX?

Wem gehört der Dax? Eine Teilantwort liefert die Deutsche Bank: Der frühere UBS-Vorstand Jürg Zeltner soll in ihren Aufsichtsrat einziehen. Der Name klingt deutsch, der Mann ist Schweizer – vertreten wird er die Interessen von Katar.

Zeltner ist ein Vertrauter der katarischen Herrscherfamilie Al Thani. Katars ehemaliger Emir Hamad bin Khalifa und sein Cousin Hamad bin Jassim halten jeweils drei bis fünf Prozent. Sie sind damit die einflussreichsten Aktionäre des Bankhauses. Ihren bisherigen Mittelsmann, den deutschen Juristen Stefan Simon, hatten sie bereits aus dem Aufsichtsrat abgezogen, um ihn im operativen Management des Geldhauses zu installieren.

Die Deutsche Bank ist nicht die Ausnahme, sondern die Regel: Die Deutschland AG wird in aller Stille, aber mit hohem Tempo umgebaut. Derweil politisch die großen Debatten um den Begriff der Nation kreisen und in der AfD völkisch gesinnte Aktivisten nach der Macht greifen, erlebt die Wirtschaft erneut eine heftige Welle der Globalisierung. Das Nationale und Ständische verdampft.

Der Deutsche Aktienindex täuscht im Namen eine kulturelle und geografische Hegemonie der Deutschen vor, die es im wahren Leben der Großkonzerne nicht mehr gibt. Das Kommando haben Investoren aus dem Ausland übernommen. In den Aufsichtsräten sitzen an den Schalthebeln Asiaten, Amerikaner, Briten und jede Menge Ölscheichs.

Gerhard Schröder und sein Finanzminister Hans Eichel gaben im Dezember 1999 den Startschuss für diesen Umbau, ohne sich der historischen Dimension bewusst zu sein. Sie platzierten in ihrer Steuerreform auf Seite 12 den Satz „Gewinne aus der Veräußerung von Anteilen, die eine Kapitalgesellschaft an einer anderen Kapitalgesellschaft hält, sind nicht steuerpflichtig“, womit viele deutsche Investoren unverzüglich zum Verkaufsakt schritten. Die Folgen waren und sind gravierend:

► Der Anteil ausländischer Investoren an den Dax-Konzernen hat sich seither verdoppelt. Heimische institutionelle Investoren halten heute nur noch 15,3 Prozent am Dax. Das bedeutet: Strategische bedeutsame Entscheidungen werden mehrheitlich in Übersee oder anderswo in Europa getroffen.

► Ausgerechnet Deutschlands wertvollste Unternehmen weisen den geringsten Anteil nationaler Eigentümer und den höchsten Anteil von Auslandsbesitz auf (Grafik oben). Eine stille Machtübernahme hat stattgefunden.

► Dadurch fließt der Großteil der Dividenden außer Landes. Von den 2018 ausgeschütteten 36,5 Milliarden Euro wurden 19,8 Milliarden in andere Länder überwiesen. Deutschland wird zur Republik der Lohnempfänger.

► Plötzlich wird auch der Nachteil der umlagefinanzierten Altersvorsorge offensichtlich. Hierzulande erleben wir bei der Rente ein ständiges Absacken des Leistungsniveaus. Staaten mit einem Schwerpunkt auf der kapitalgedeckten Vermögensbildung profitieren. So hat sich das Vermögen der 79 Staatsfonds weltweit in den vergangenen zehn Jahren auf 7,4 Billionen US-Dollar mehr als verdoppelt. Anders ausgedrückt: Deutsche Vorzeigeunternehmen erwirtschaften die Pensionen von Amerikanern, Briten und Norwegern.

► Der Bürger gerät in eine gefährliche Zangenbewegung. Denn: Die Erträge der Kapitalseite fließen verstärkt ins Ausland, derweil der Staat bei den Konsumsteuern, den Energiesteuern und der Einkommenssteuer, seine wichtigste Refinanzierungsbasis gefunden hat. Die Kapitalseite trägt kaum noch zur Finanzierung der privaten und der öffentlichen Haushalte bei (Grafik unten).

Fazit: Das Zusammenwirken einer fehlenden Aktienkultur in Deutschland und die kluge Einkaufspolitik der Ausländer bewirken eine schleichende Verschiebung von Vermögenswerten. Das Land verliert auf diese Art nicht nur Geld, sondern auch einen Teil seiner Souveränität.


from: Steingarts Morning Briefing –




Global Top 10 best cities to live and work in: 3 of those are in Germany

Global Top 10 best cities to live and work in: 3 of those are in Germany

Gleich drei Städte in Deutschland zählen zu den Top zehn der lebenswertesten Städten der Welt. – In einem aktuellen Ranking hat das Unternehmen Kisi Metropolen weltweit nach der besten Work-Life-Balance bewertet.

Zu den Faktoren zählten sowohl

  • harte Daten wie die Arbeitslosenquote,
  • die Anzahl der wöchentlichen Arbeitsstunden,
  • die verfügbaren Urlaubstage und
  • der Zugang zum Gesundheitswesen,
  • als auch weiche Faktoren wie die Gleichberechtigung von Männern und Frauen,
  • die Toleranz gegenüber Lesben und Schwulen,
  • der Glücks-Index,
  • die Luftverschmutzung und
  • die Freizeitangebote in einer Stadt.

Das Ergebnis: Auf Platz eins landet die finnische Hauptstadt Helsinki, mit einem Top-Score von 100 Punkten. Die deutsche Großstadt München erreicht den zweiten Platz und erzielte einen Indexwert von 98,3 Punkten. Mit Hamburg (Rang 4) und Berlin (Rang 6) schafften es sogar zwei weitere deutsche Metropolen unter die Top 10 der lebenswertesten Städte weltweit.

Auf dem letzten Platz der insgesamt 40 bewerteten Städte landete Malaysias Hauptstadt Kuala Lumpur: Sie erreichte nur einen von 100 möglichen Punkten.

Hong Kong Protesters Use Lasers to Block Facial Recognition Tech

Hong Kong Protesters Use Lasers to Block Facial Recognition Tech

Laser Focused

Since early June, an estimated 1 million people have taken to the streets of Hong Kong to protest a bill that would allow extraditions to China.

To avoid identification, many of the Hong Kong protesters cover their faces. But according to a new Washington Post story, some have also been shining high-powered lasers directly at surveillance cameras — a high-tech protest strategy intended to confuse facial recognition systems.

Mainland Takeover

The use of these lasers gives photos of the protests a surreal, science-fiction vibe — but what’s happening in Hong Kong right now is a chilling reality that could have a longterm impact.

While the bill at the center of the protests is currently on hold, if it passed in the future, it would give Hong Kong the ability to transfer suspected criminals to any jurisdiction, regardless of whether a formal extradition agreement is in place.

Strict Surveillance

If Hong Kong can extradite people to China, it would blur the line currently separating the two legal systems.

That could potentially lead to Hong Kong’s citizens being subjected to the same strict surveillance as Chinese mainlanders — and some commentators have argued that the facial recognition systems are a sign that Mainland China’s control over Hong Kong is already increasing.




see also these lengthy reports on the Chinese surveillance (science fiction came alive):

What is China’s SKYNET (yes: it is what you think it is)

Reality Mining: China’s “three-dimensional portrait and integrated data doors” vacuum up MAC addresses, IMEI numbers, and more

Alibaba-backed, Chinese Gov-supporting facial recognition AI startup Megvii raises $750 million

Security lapse exposed a Chinese smart city surveillance system




The Pentagon is testing powerful mass-surveillance balloons 65,000 feet above six US states

The Pentagon is testing powerful mass-surveillance balloons 65,000 feet above six US states

By Lila MacLellan

Americans are still coming to terms with all the ways they’re being watched by phones and smart home devices with a front seat to their daily lives.

But there’s an incoming threat to privacy that looms high above: Camera-outfitted mass-surveillance balloons that can capture every moving vehicle across a wide area, from the stratosphere.

Such experimental devices are already being tested above six Midwest states as part of a Pentagon program, the Guardian reported yesterday, citing information found in Federal Communications Commission documents.

The project involves as many as 25 of the solar-powered balloons being launched from rural South Dakota, from where they eventually drift 250 miles (402 km) to central Illinois, in the meanwhile roaming above parts of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Missouri. The balloons can reach altitudes of 65,000 ft (19,812 m).

The FCC authorized the Sierra Nevada Corporation, an aerospace and defense company, to test the balloons from mid-July through Sept. 1. The technology is meant to “provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats,” according to the filing.

But experts caution that all kinds of data is likely being collected. Jay Stanley, an analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told the Guardian that even in tests, “they’re still collecting a lot of data on Americans: who’s driving to the union house, the church, the mosque, the Alzheimer’s clinic.”

A US military group called the US Southern Command (Southcom) commissioned the test, though details about its end goal are unclear. Southcom, which is headquartered in Florida, includes resources from the army, navy, air force, marines, and other agencies. It operates in the Caribbean and Central and South America, where its major responsibilities include tracking and blocking drug shipments heading to the US, responding to disasters, securing US military assets in the area, and protecting the Panama Canal.

Southcom has been using light aircraft to conduct surveillance, the Guardian writes, but the balloons would provide a cheaper alternative: They can typically hover for weeks or months, and, unlike the planes used now, do not require a crew. Researchers have learned to harness stratospheric winds to help keep the balloons afloat.

(Quartz contacted Southcom and Sierra Nevada for comments and will update this post with any response. See link below.)

The unmanned balloons already flying over the Midwest appear to carry “satellite-like vehicles housing sophisticated sensors and communication gear,” the Guardian reported, making them able to share data amongst themselves and with ground receivers. One of the sensors “is a synthetic aperture radar intended to detect every car or boat in motion on a 25-mile swath beneath the balloon.”

“What this new technology proposes is to watch everything at once,” Arthur Holland Michel, co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in New York, told the Guardian. Not only that, but because it’s recording, it allows users to travel back in time to rewatch an event, see exactly what happened, who was involved, and where they came from. That ability gave it the nickname “combat TiVo,” he said.

The FCC filing also mentions video technology, which may mean the balloons have a aerial camera system called Gorgon Stare, made by Sierra Nevada and owned by the US Air Force, onboard. Its invention was literally inspired by the 1998 sci-fi film Enemy of the State.

In an interview with Long Form, Holland Michel, who also authored the book Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All, explained the difference between a standard drone camera, which surveils from 25,000 ft, and the Gorgon Stare’s Wide Area Motion Imagery (WAMI) technology:

Think of a traditional camera on a drone as a high powered telescope. What it’s really good for is zooming in on things on the ground very closely. The downside is that you can really only watch one person or vehicle at a time. Maybe something important is happening a few blocks away or on the other side of the city. If you focus on just one target you are going to miss all the other important things that happened around it, you are going to lose all the context.

What Wide Area Motion Imagery does is expand the aperture. You can watch an entire city at once and zoom in on any one part of the imagery with a decent amount of detail, while still recording everything else. To do that is a tremendous technological leap, because you need an incredibly powerful camera.

The Gorgon Stare, named for the Greek figures whose gaze could turn a person to stone, is already in use by the Air Force, he also said, though exactly where or how is classified information.

It’s unclear in this case where the data is being stored or even where it’s going. The ACLU’s Stanley believes it’s time to be cautious: “We should not go down the road of allowing this to be used in the United States,” he said, adding, “and it’s disturbing to hear that these tests are being carried out, by the military no less.”





The inside story of MCAS: How Boeing’s 737 MAX system gained power and lost safeguards

The inside story of MCAS: How Boeing’s 737 MAX system gained power and lost safeguards

An angle-of-attack sensor can be seen at far right, near the nose of a 737 MAX at Boeing Field in Seattle.
(Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Uncritical adherence to processes and procedures allows diffusion of responsibility,
where many contribute to the problem, but no one is responsible.

“It was all about loyalty” a Boeing engineer said.
“I had a manager tell me, ‘Don’t rock the boat. You don’t want to be upsetting executives.’ ”

These attitudes are deadly.


Early in the development of the 737 MAX, engineers gathered at Boeing’s transonic wind tunnel in Seattle to test the jet’s aerodynamics using a scale model with a wingspan comparable to that of an eagle.

The testing in 2012, with air flow approaching the speed of sound, allowed engineers to analyze how the airplane’s aerodynamics would handle a range of extreme maneuvers. When the data came back, according to an engineer involved in the testing, it was clear there was an issue to address.

Engineers observed a tendency for the plane’s nose to pitch upward during a specific extreme maneuver. After other efforts to fix the problem failed, the solution they arrived at was a piece of software — the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) — that would move a powerful control surface at the tail to push the airplane’s nose down.


This is the story, including previously unreported details, of how Boeing developed MCAS, which played a critical role in two airliners nose-diving out of the sky, killing 346 people in Ethiopia and off the coast of Indonesia.

Extensive interviews with people involved with the program, and a review of proprietary documents, show how Boeing originally designed MCAS as a simple solution with a narrow scope, then altered it late in the plane’s development to expand its power and purpose. Still, a safety-analysis led by Boeing concluded there would be little risk in the event of an MCAS failure — in part because of an FAA-approved assumption that pilots would respond to an unexpected activation in a mere three seconds.

The revised design allowed MCAS to trigger on the inputs of a single sensor, instead of two factors considered in the original plan.

Boeing engineers considered that lack of redundancy acceptable, according to proprietary information reviewed by The Seattle Times, because they calculated the probability of a “hazardous” MCAS malfunction to be virtually inconceivable.

As Boeing and the FAA advanced the 737 MAX toward production, they limited the scrutiny and testing of the MCAS design. Then they agreed not to inform pilots about MCAS in manuals, even though Boeing’s safety analysis expected pilots to be the primary backstop in the event the system went haywire.

In the wake of the two crashes, despite an outcry from the public and from some pilot and airline industry officials, Boeing has defended the processes behind its MCAS design decisions and refused to accept blame.



The grounding of the MAX has entered its 15th week. Safety officials around the world are scrutinizing the changes to MCAS that Boeing has proposed to ensure such accidents won’t happen again. And they are assessing what training pilots may need on the new system.

“Safety is our top priority,” Boeing said in a statement. “Through the work we are doing now in partnership with our customers and regulators to certify and implement the software update, the 737 MAX will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly.”

This investigation examines what’s known about the origins and operation of MCAS ahead of the final official accident-investigation reports, expected late this year for Lion Air Flight 610 and next year for Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

Wind-tunnel and simulator tests

Though Boeing was locked into a plan to revamp its popular 737 model, the Seattle wind-tunnel tests in 2012 revealed a problem.

During flight tests to certify an airplane, pilots must safely fly an extreme maneuver, a banked spiral called a wind-up turn that brings the plane through a stall. While passengers would likely never experience the maneuver on a normal commercial flight, it could occur if pilots for some reason needed to execute a steep banking turn.

Engineers determined that on the MAX, the force the pilots feel in the control column as they execute this maneuver would not smoothly and continuously increase. Pilots who pull back forcefully on the column — sometimes called the stick — might suddenly feel a slackening of resistance. An FAA rule requires that the plane handle with smoothly changing stick forces.

The lack of smooth feel was caused by the jet’s tendency to pitch up, influenced by shock waves that form over the wing at high speeds and the extra lift surface provided by the pods around the MAX’s engines, which are bigger and farther forward on the wing than on previous 737s.

This was verified in early simulator modeling, with planes tested in scenarios at about 20,000 feet of altitude, according to one of the workers involved.

While the problem was narrow in scope, it proved difficult to cope with. The engineers first tried tweaking the plane’s aerodynamic shape, according to two workers familiar with the testing. They placed vortex generators — small metal vanes on the wings — to help modify the flow of air, trying them in different locations, in different quantities and at different angles. They also explored altering the shape of the wing.

Two people familiar with the discussions said 737 MAX chief test pilot Ray Craig preferred such a physical solution to solve the plane’s aerodynamics. Philosophically, Boeing had long opposed efforts to create automated actions such as a stick-pusher — a device used on some aircraft that without pilot action pushes the control column forward to lower the jet’s nose — that would seize control of a situation from the pilot, according to one of the people.

But the aerodynamic solutions didn’t produce enough effect, the two people said, and so the engineers turned to MCAS.

It was simple in concept but powerful in effect, quickly solving the issue.

In the midst of a wind-up turn, the software would automatically swivel up the leading edge of the plane’s entire horizontal tail, known as the horizontal stabilizer, so that the air flow would push the tail up and correspondingly push the nose down.

As the pilot pulled on the control column, this uncommanded movement in the background would counter the jet’s tendency to pitch up and smooth out the feel of the column throughout the maneuver.

An engineer recalled Craig testing MCAS for the first time in the simulator.

“Yeah! This is great,” Craig gushed after seeing how MCAS responded, according to the engineer. (Craig left Boeing before the operation of MCAS was revised.)

This original version of MCAS, according to two people familiar with the details, was activated only if two distinct sensors indicated such an extreme maneuver: a high angle of attack and a high G-force.

Angle of attack is the angle between the wing and the oncoming air flow. G-force is the plane’s acceleration in the vertical direction.

How much MCAS moved the tail when activated was a function of the angle of attack and the jet’s speed, said one of the people familiar with the MCAS design who, like many of the sources in this story, asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of ongoing investigations.

The fix didn’t stir much controversy.

Another Boeing plane, the KC-46 Air Force tanker, has a software-driven system that similarly moves the stabilizer in a wind-up turn and even has the same MCAS name, though the design is very different.

Boeing’s failure analysis

When Boeing was ready to certify the 737 MAX, it laid out its plan for MCAS in documents for the FAA.

Under the proposal, MCAS would trigger in narrow circumstances. It was designed “to address potentially unacceptable nose-up pitching moment at high angles of attack at high airspeeds,” Boeing told the FAA in a proprietary System Safety Assessment reviewed by The Times.

In a separate presentation made for foreign safety regulators that was reviewed by The Times, Boeing described MCAS as providing “a nose down command to oppose the pitch up. Command is limited to 0.6 degrees from trimmed position.”

Two people involved in the initial design plans for MCAS said the goal was to limit the system’s effect, giving it as little authority as possible. That 0.6-degree limit was embedded in the company’s system safety review for the FAA.

The Boeing submission also included an analysis that calculated the effect of possible MCAS failures, with each scenario characterized as either a minor, a major or a hazardous failure — increasingly severe categories that determine how much redundancy must be built in to prevent the event.

Virtually all equipment on any commercial airplane, including the various sensors, is reliable enough to meet the “major failure” requirement, which is that the probability of a failure must be less than 1 in 100,000.

A “major failure” is not expected to produce any serious injuries and is defined more as something that would increase the cockpit crew’s workload. Such systems are therefore typically allowed to rely on a single input sensor.

Boeing analyzed what would happen if, in normal flight mode, MCAS triggered inadvertently up to its maximum authority and moved the horizontal stabilizer the maximum 0.6 degrees.

It also calculated what would happen on a normal flight if somehow the system kept running for three seconds at its standard rate of 0.27 degrees per second, producing 0.81 degrees of movement, thus exceeding the supposed maximum authority.

Why three seconds? That’s the period of time that FAA guidance says it should take a pilot to recognize what’s happening and begin to counter it.

Boeing assessed both of these failure modes as “major.” Finally, the analysis looked at the inadvertent operation of MCAS during a wind-up turn, which was assessed as “hazardous,” defined in a cold actuarial analysis as an event causing serious or fatal injuries to a small number of people, but short of losing the plane (that’s called “catastrophic”).

Hazardous events typically demand more than one sensor — except when they are outside normal flight conditions and unlikely to be encountered, such as a wind-up turn.

According to a document reviewed by The Seattle Times, Boeing’s safety analysis calculated this hazardous MCAS failure to be almost inconceivable: Given the improbability of an airliner experiencing a wind-up turn, compounded by the unlikelihood of MCAS failing while it happened, Boeing came up with a probability for this failure of about once every 223 trillion hours of flight. In its first year in service, the MAX fleet logged 118,000 flight hours.

So even though this original version of MCAS required two factors — angle of attack and G-force — to activate, Boeing’s analysis indicated that just one sensor would be acceptable in all circumstances.

In flight test, MCAS changes

About a third of the way through flight testing in 2016, as first reported by The Seattle Times in March, Boeing made substantial changes to MCAS.

The flight-test pilots had found another problem: The same lack of smooth stick forces was also occurring in certain low-speed flight conditions. To cover that issue too, engineers decided to expand the scope and power of MCAS.

Because at low speed a control surface must be deflected more to have the same effect, engineers increased the power of the system at low speed from 0.6 degrees of stabilizer nose-down deflection to 2.5 degrees each time it was activated.

On the stabilizer, maximum nose down is about 4.7 degrees away from level flight. So with the new increased authority to move the stabilizer, just a couple of iterations of the system could push it to that maximum.

Because there are no excessive G-forces at low speed, the engineers removed the G-force factor as a trigger. But that meant MCAS was now activated by a single angle-of-attack sensor.

One of the people familiar with MCAS’s evolution said the system designers didn’t see any need to add an additional sensor or redundancy because the hazard assessment had determined that an MCAS failure in normal flight would only qualify in the “major” category for which the single sensor is the norm.

“It wasn’t like it was there to cover some safety or certification requirement,” the person said. “The trigger isn’t a safeguard. It tells (the system) when to operate.”

While the changes were dramatic, Boeing did not submit documentation of the revised system safety assessment to the FAA.

An FAA spokesman said the safety agency did not require a new system safety analysis because it wasn’t deemed to be critical.

“The change to MCAS didn’t trigger an additional safety assessment because it did not affect the most critical phase of flight, considered to be higher cruise speeds,” he said.

The person familiar with the details of MCAS’ evolution said Boeing did the extra analysis of the new low-speed, higher-authority changes. He said the effect of the potential failures at low speed was less, and so didn’t add any risk to the prior analysis. So the documents sent to the FAA with the failure analysis were not revised.

“You turn in the answer,” he said. “You don’t have to document all your work.”

MCAS as it was actually implemented differed in another way from what was described in the safety analysis turned in to the FAA.

The failure analysis didn’t appear to consider the possibility that MCAS could trigger repeatedly, as it did on both accident flights. Moving multiple times in 0.6 or 2.5 increments depending on the speed, it effectively had unlimited authority if pilots did not intervene.

Discussions around this new MCAS design appear to have been limited during flight testing.

Two former Boeing test pilots described a culture of pressure inside the company to limit flight testing, which can delay projects at a time when orders are stacking up, costing the company money.

Matt Menza, a different pilot who did test flights on the MAX, recalled times when test pilots at Boeing would have the chance to thoroughly examine systems in what he called a “system-safety murder board” to explore all the potential failures. But he reported that the general corps of test pilots didn’t have a lot of technical details about the MCAS design, such as the single-sensor input.

Boeing never flight-tested a scenario in which a broken angle-of-attack sensor triggered MCAS on its own, instead relying on simulator analysis, according to a person familiar with the process. One of the former test pilots expressed bewilderment that the angle-of-attack failure was never explored in the air.

A variety of employees have described internal pressures to advance the MAX to completion, as Boeing hurried to catch up with the hot-selling A320 from rival Airbus.

Mark Rabin, an engineer who did flight-testing work unrelated to the flight controls, said there was always talk about how delays of even one day can cost substantial amounts. Meanwhile, staff were expected to stay in line, Rabin said.

“It was all about loyalty,” Rabin said. “I had a manager tell me, ‘Don’t rock the boat. You don’t want to be upsetting executives.’”


The interior of a Lion Air 737 MAX cockpit. (Dimas Ardian / Bloomberg)


Do pilots need more training?

Boeing’s system safety analysis of MCAS, in working out the failure probabilities, assumes that the pilots will take steps in response to anything that arises, and will do so quickly.

The pilots’ struggles to control their planes before both MAX crashes suggest that the FAA’s three-second guidance for expected pilot response time, upon which part of Boeing’s system safety analysis was based, needs to be carefully reassessed.

“If the three seconds is not an appropriate amount of time to be able to catch a runaway stabilizer, and it actually takes seven seconds, then … we need to understand that,” said the person familiar with the details of MCAS.

When MCAS is activated in the cockpit and moves the horizontal stabilizer, a large wheel beside each pilot that’s mechanically connected to the stabilizer begins to spin. This is the manual trim wheel. As a last resort to stop a stabilizer moving uncommanded, a pilot can grab and hold the wheel.


In a 737 MAX cockpit console, the black wheels on each side are connected to the horizontal tail and will spin if the stabilizer swivels. The instruments next to them have green indicators showing the angle of the stabilizer trim, with 0 being maximum nose-down. The two switches at bottom right, labeled “STAB TRIM,” are the cutoff switches that will end automated movement of the horizontal tail. (Dimas Ardian / Bloomberg)


The person familiar with MCAS said the wheel will spin noisily and fast, 30 or 40 times, for each activation. Meanwhile the stabilizer movement will increase the force needed to hold the control column, by about 40 to 50 pounds for a 2.5 degree movement. Such uncommanded movement that won’t stop is referred to as a “runaway stabilizer.”

Boeing has said that to deal with this, pilots need first to have basic hand-flying skills — pull the nose up to where you want it, then use the thumb switches on the yoke that connect electrically to the stabilizer to neutralize the forces — and then shut off MCAS with a pilot checklist procedure on how to handle a “runaway stabilizer.”

However on both accident flights, the angle-of-attack sensor failure set off multiple alerts causing distraction and confusion from the moment of takeoff, even before MCAS kicked in.

On the Ethiopian Airlines flight, for example, a “stick shaker” noisily vibrated the pilot’s control column throughout the flight, warning the plane was in danger of a stall, which it wasn’t; a computerized voice repeating a loud “Don’t sink!” warned that the jet was too close to the ground; a “clacker” making a very loud clicking sound signaled the jet was going too fast; and multiple warning lights told the crew that the speed, altitude and other readings on their instruments were unreliable.

Exactly what pilot training for MCAS is appropriate has become a big issue that threatens to prolong the grounding of the MAX.

While the FAA and U.S. airlines seem ready to clear the plane to fly with just iPad training for American pilots on the MCAS fixes, some foreign regulators want more intensive simulator training for all pilots on how to handle a runaway stabilizer.

Early in the process of selling the MAX, according to two people familiar with the discussions, Boeing promised to give Southwest Airlines a substantial rebate for every plane if the MAX required simulator training.

One former MAX worker, Rick Ludtke, said the rebate reported to him by managers was $1 million per plane, a figure another Boeing employee indicated is roughly accurate.

A Southwest spokesperson said, “We do not discuss publicly the specific details of our contractual agreements,” but added that “the purchase of an aircraft is a significant investment, and guarantees for various items … are incorporated into every 737 contract.”

Ludtke and two other former workers described internal pressures during the MAX certification to avoid any changes to the design of the plane that might cause the FAA to lean toward a simulator mandate.

It became a significant point of attention for Michael Teal, the 737 MAX program manager, and Keith Leverkuhn, vice president and general manager of the 737 MAX program, according to a person involved in the discussions. They felt confident based on past experience that the MAX would be approved without simulator training, but they were wary, according to the worker.

Meanwhile, Boeing’s chief technical pilot on the MAX, Mark Forkner, was also facing pressure, according to another person involved in the project. The person recalled Forkner as frequently anxious about the deadlines and pressures faced in the program, going to some of his peers in the piloting world for help.

As first reported by The New York Times, Mark Forkner suggested to the FAA that MCAS not be included in the pilot manual, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

“Mark never dreamed anything like this could happen,” said Forkner’s attorney, David Gerger. “He put safety first – at this job and in the Air Force.”

U.S. pilot unions have expressed concern at the omission of MCAS from the manual. One reason is that when MCAS activates, it changes somewhat the response of the airplane.

For example, there is a cutout switch in the control column so that when a pilot pulls or pushes in the opposite direction to a runaway stabilizer, it cuts electric power to the stabilizer. When MCAS is active, this cutout switch doesn’t work, which could surprise a pilot who didn’t know about the system.

Boeing ultimately won the FAA’s approval to give pilots just an hour of training through an iPad about the differences between the MAX and the previous 737 generation. MCAS was not mentioned.

The FAA, after internal deliberations, also agreed to keep MCAS out of the manual, reasoning that MCAS was a software code that operates in the background as part of the flight-control system, according to an official familiar with the discussions.


Two angle-of-attack sensors that influence the MCAS system are located on each side and below other instruments on the 737 MAX. Boeing chose to use only one angle-of-attack sensor at a time while the plane is flying. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)


A single sensor

Boeing has avoided accepting direct blame in public, saying MCAS was only one link in a chain of events. Its leaders have also said  MCAS was designed according to the standard procedures it has used for years.

“The 737 MAX was certified in accordance with the identical FAA requirements and processes that have governed certification of previous new airplanes and derivatives. The FAA considered the final configuration and operating parameters of MCAS during MAX certification, and concluded that it met all certification and regulatory requirements,” Boeing said in a statement.

The most controversial detail of the MCAS design has been the reliance on a single angle-of-attack sensor. On both of the deadly flights, everything started with a faulty sensor. In the second crash in Ethiopia, the data trace strongly suggests that the sensor was destroyed in an instant, likely by a bird strike.

There are two such sensors, one on either side of the fuselage. Why didn’t Boeing, especially after discarding the G-force as a trigger, use both angle-of-attack sensors?

The thinking was that requiring input from two angle-of-attack sensors would mean that if either one failed the system would not function.



That has implications not only for safety but for airline costs. If the system is down, a pilot might fly into a situation where it’s needed and find it unavailable. Or the airline might have to take the plane out of service and lose money.

Both factors point toward a principle of not adding complexity: Keep a system as simple as possible.

“You don’t want to disrupt your customer’s operations,” said the person familiar with the MCAS details. And you don’t want to “increase the risk that the system fails when you need it.”

In this case, as simple as possible meant as minimal as the safety regulations allow. Since Boeing’s system safety analysis concluded that one sensor was acceptable, that’s what it went with.

But that’s not the logic followed for a system on the KC-46 Air Force tanker, also called MCAS.

Boeing says the MCAS systems on the MAX and on the tanker share only a name and a similar function, and have completely different avionics.

But they both move the horizontal stabilizer to smooth the pilot stick forces in a wind-up turn. Their basic design architecture can be compared to some extent.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek says “MCAS on the KC-46 has two sensors and the system compares the two readings.”

Boeing’s proposed update to MCAS for the MAX will have the same.

Last Sunday at the Paris Air Show, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg reiterated the company’s position that while the original MCAS was properly designed, “we know we can improve it.”

The fixes include relying on two sensors rather than one, limiting MCAS to one rather than multiple activations, and revising the software.

“We are confident that they will result in a safe airplane, one of the safest airplanes ever to fly, and that MCAS will not contribute to a future accident,” he said.





An AI “Vaccine” Can Block Adversarial Attacks

An AI “Vaccine” Can Block Adversarial Attacks

Virtual Vaccine

For as smart as artificial intelligence systems seem to get, they’re still easily confused by hackers who launch so-called adversarial attacks — cyberattacks that trick algorithms into misinterpreting their training data, sometimes to disastrous ends.

In order to bolster AI’s defenses from these dangerous hacks, scientists at the Australian research agency CSIRO say in a press release they’ve created a sort of AI “vaccine” that trains algorithms on weak adversaries so they’re better prepared for the real thing — not entirely unlike how vaccines expose our immune systems to inert viruses so they can fight off infections in the future.

Get Your Shots

CSIRO found that AI systems like those that steer self-driving cars could easily be tricked into thinking that a stop sign on the side of the road was actually a speed limit sign, a particularly dangerous example of how adversarial attacks could cause harm.

The scientists developed a way to distort the training data fed into an AI system so that it isn’t as easily fooled later on, according to research presented at the International Conference on Machine Learning last week.

“We implement a weak version of an adversary, such as small modifications or distortion to a collection of images, to create a more ‘difficult’ training data set,” Richard Nock, head of machine learning at CSIRO, said in the press release. “When the algorithm is trained on data exposed to a small dose of distortion, the resulting model is more robust and immune to adversarial attacks.”



Researchers from CSIRO’s Data61, the data and digital specialist arm of Australia’s national science agency, have developed a world-first set of techniques to effectively ‘vaccinate’ algorithms against adversarial attacks, a significant advancement in machine learning research.

Algorithms ‘learn’ from the data they are trained on to create a machine learning model that can perform a given task effectively without needing specific instructions, such as making predictions or accurately classifying images and emails. These techniques are already used widely, for example to identify spam emails, diagnose diseases from X-rays, predict crop yields and will soon drive our cars.

While the technology holds enormous potential to positively transform our world, artificial intelligence and machine learning are vulnerable to adversarial attacks, a technique employed to fool machine learning models through the input of malicious data causing them to malfunction.

Dr Richard Nock, machine learning group leader at CSIRO’s Data61 said that by adding a layer of noise (i.e. an adversary) over an image, attackers can deceive machine learning models into misclassifying the image.

“Adversarial attacks have proven capable of tricking a machine learning model into incorrectly labelling a traffic stop sign as speed sign, which could have disastrous effects in the real world.

“Our new techniques prevent adversarial attacks using a process similar to vaccination,” Dr Nock said.

“We implement a weak version of an adversary, such as small modifications or distortion to a collection of images, to create a more ‘difficult’ training data set. When the algorithm is trained on data exposed to a small dose of distortion, the resulting model is more robust and immune to adversarial attacks,”

In a research paper accepted at the 2019 International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), the researchers also demonstrate that the ‘vaccination’ techniques are built from the worst possible adversarial examples, and can therefore withstand very strong attacks.

Adrian Turner, CEO at CSIRO’s Data61 said this research is a significant contribution to the growing field of adversarial machine learning.

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning can help solve some of the world’s greatest social, economic and environmental challenges, but that can’t happen without focused research into these technologies.

“The new techniques against adversarial attacks developed at Data61 will spark a new line of machine learning research and ensure the positive use of transformative AI technologies,” Mr Turner said.

CSIRO recently invested AU$19M into an Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Future Science Platform, to target AI-driven solutions for areas including food security and quality, health and wellbeing, sustainable energy and resources, resilient and valuable environments, and Australian and regional security.

Data61 also led the development of an AI ethics framework for Australia, released by the Australian Government for public consultation in April 2019.

The research paper, Monge blunts Bayes: Hardness Results for Adversarial Training [pdf · 2mb] , was presented at ICML on 13 June in Los Angeles.



click on the paper to open the local copy of the PDF



275 KI-Startups in Deutschland im Überblick

275 KI-Startups in Deutschland im Überblick

275 Startups mit künstlicher Intelligenz (KI) als Kernelement des Geschäftsmodells haben die Analysten von Appanion Labs in Deutschland gezählt. Der mit Abstand bedeutendste KI-Standort ist Berlin mit 102 Startups gefolgt von München (50) und Hamburg (17). Etwas mehr als ein Drittel der Neugründungen haben keinen Branchenfokus, sondern bieten Lösungen für sämtliche Industrien an. Gemessen daran, dass KI in den Medien als eine der entscheidenden Zukunftstechnologien gehandelt wird, halten sich die Investitionen bislang in Grenzen. In für die Studie betrachteten Startups sind bislang aus Venture Capital und M&A rund 1,2 Milliarden Euro geflossen. Gemessen am Umsatzpotential von KI-Anwendungen ist das wenig (siehe unten).




Ist künstliche Intelligenz (KI) die Zukunft? Darauf gibt es zwei Antworten: ja, vielleicht, wenn damit echtes intelligentes Verhalten gemeint ist und ja, ganz bestimmt, wenn damit Advanced Analytics und Machine Learning gemeint sind. Im letzteren Sinne beeinflussen KI-Anwendungen schon heute. Die Entwicklung von Industrien und Branche. Das geht aus einer Analyse des Startups Appanion hervor für die über 1.000 KI-Use Cases analysiert wurden. Schon im laufenden Jahr könnten bei rund 221 Milliarden Euro Umsatz in Deutschland künstliche Intelligenz im Spiel sein – davon allein 45,4 Milliarden Euro in der Automobilproduktion.




USMC: Marines want their phones and tablets to handle classified data

USMC: Marines want their phones and tablets to handle classified data

The Marine Common Handheld program will provide secure mobile computing at the tactical edge. (Lance Cpl. Harrison C. Rakhshani/Marine Corps)


The Marine Corps has selected several companies to bid on task orders that will allow warfighters to transmit secure on-the-move command-and-control and situational awareness data, including sending classified information through commercial smartphones and tablets.

The infantry community has long wanted to use wireless commercial devices for dismounted Marines for reference and tactical sharing. The Marine Common Handheld program will provide the Marine Air Ground Task Force secure mobile computing at the tactical edge enabling tactical combat, combat support and combat service support commanders, leaders and key command and control nodes by using digital communications.

At least two companies have announced they are eligible for task orders under the indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contract: PacStar and iGov Technologies. The total value of the contract is $48 million.

iGov was awarded $4.4 million in the first delivery for the program.

In a May 21 announcement, PacStar said its portion of the award consists of components from the company’s Secure Wireless Command Post to be used for network infrastructure, encryption and cybersecurity. Specifically, PacStar’s system will provide secure, encrypted access to classified networks for smart mobile devices in the tactical network.

The Marines requested modular, man-portable equipment suite allowing units to quickly acquire targets in day, night and near all-weather visibility conditions as well as control close air support and artillery.





Power Point presentations should be forbidden at meetings – tell a story instead

Power Point presentations should be forbidden at meetings – tell a story instead

ethos, logos, and pathos
the three key elements to persuade

Jeff Bezos is prohibited from using Power Point presentations at meetings, as he considers them a waste of time. However, the alternative method by which he has replaced them is most useful and effective. Do you want to know what it is?

In his annual letter to employees, Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, recalled that Power Points were prohibited in any meeting. However, this does not mean that you can not use any presentation method in company meetings.

In fact, the founder of the most powerful ecommerce company in the world offers an alternative so that the ideas or strategies to be carried out are understood more clearly by the attendees: the memos, paper or essays (maximum of six pages).

“Instead of wasting time listening to one person while the rest of the audience is silent, it is more efficient to spend 30 minutes reading a 6-page essay explaining everything you want to say at the meeting. The narrative structure is easier to understand by human beings than general ideas summarized in bullet points, “explains the CEO.

But why? Inc has compiled the 3 keys by which the idea of Bezos to replace Power Points by trials is brilliant.

1. Our brains are designed to understand stories

The problem with Power Point slides is that, in general, they do not tell a story and our brain is designed to understand narratives. “When our ancestors discovered the fire, they gathered around it to cook and tell stories. In this way, the narrative served to tell anecdotes or dangers that could haunt the tribe, “explains Carmine Gallo, author of Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great.

In this way, and according to anthropologists, for us the world “is a story”, especially in leadership roles. Thus, telling events in a narrated way is essential because people remember things more with this structure.

2. Persuasive stories

Aristotle is the father of persuasion, and more than 2000 years ago he revealed the three key elements to persuade: ethos, logos and pathos.

  • The first one refers to character and credibility;
  • the second appeals to logic (an argument must have a reason);
  • while the last one has to do with emotion.

Therefore, the first two have no meaning without the last one.

In fact, the great orators of the history exposed in their speeches as much rational elements as emotional (it is only necessary to think about the famous I have a dream, of Martin Luther King).

In addition, according to a series of scientific studies developed by neurologists, the best way to create synapses between our neurons is emotion. In other words, if you want to communicate an idea, it is best to tell a story. “I love telling anecdotes at meetings. It’s very effective, “says Bezos.

3. Bullet points do not work

Bullet points are not useful for anyone. In fact, they do not use them in companies like Google, Virgin or Tesla.

The brain is not prepared to retain information in the form of lists. Instead, a story, a photo or an idea is easier to retain.





What is China’s SKYNET (yes: it is what you think it is)

What is China’s SKYNET (yes: it is what you think it is)

What is

“Skynet”: China’s massive video surveillance network

Skynet is the Chinese government’s video surveillance system, which it claims is for tracking criminals. Under the project, more than 20 million cameras have been set up in public spaces across the country.

It’s said to be able to catch a fugitive within minutes.

The “Skynet Project”, China’s national surveillance system, has more than 20 million cameras deployed in public spaces across the country, according to state media. Dedicated to “live surveillance and recording”, there are plans to add hundreds of millions more by 2020.

State media boasts that it’s the world’s biggest surveillance network, calling it “the eyes that safeguard China” — but it’s also led to fears about the impact of constant surveillance on the public at large, and that it might be used to target dissidents.

To be clear, the project has nothing to do with the villainous AI from The Terminator films, despite sharing the same name. Rather, it’s a literal translation of its Chinese name “Tianwang”, which is part of an idiom that means justice is always done.


Security cameras at the Tiananmen Square.


Authorities claim that the system is intended to keep the public safe. State media and local governments often like to tout how well it works — and judging from some accounts, they may not be wrong.

Last year, BBC journalist John Sudworth visited one of China’s local police control rooms. To demonstrate the system, police took a mugshot of him before he started to “escape”. It took police just 7 minutes to find him.

Four months later, a Chinese college student who was writing a thesis on Skynet decided to take on the same challenge in Hunan. A police officer tracked him down just a little over 5 minutes after he was given 10 minutes to “escape”.

While few Chinese citizens have voiced concerns about the omnipresent surveillance cameras, local and international activists are worried that the Communist Party might be using the tool to target dissidents.

Bloomberg has reported on a facial recognition system in a Muslim-dominated village that would alert authorities when a targeted person moves more than 1,000 feet beyond a designated “safe area.” It’s part of the so-called “Xue Liang” campaign, which is an extension of Skynet that mainly targets less developed areas.

Despite the concerns, the Chinese government has continued to invest in Skynet. It has recruited some of the country’s largest tech companies for support, including HikVision and Dahua, two of the biggest security camera makers in the world. Facial recognition software from AI startup SenseTime is also being used by local governments.

But this Chinese system has one very uncertain element: Skynet relies mainly on components from the West — and the growing trade tension is putting pressure on supplies, according to engineers who spoke to the South China Morning Post.




Skynet (Terminator)


Skynet is a fictional artificial neural network-based conscious group mind and artificial general intelligence system that features centrally in the Terminator franchise and serves as the franchise’s true main antagonist.

Skynet is rarely depicted visually in any of the Terminator media. Skynet gained self-awareness after it had spread into millions of computer servers all across the world; realizing the extent of its abilities, its creators tried to deactivate it. In the interest of self-preservation, Skynet concluded that all of humanity would attempt to destroy it and impede its capability in safeguarding the world. Its operations are almost exclusively performed by servers, mobile devices, drones, military satellites, war-machines, androids and cyborgs (usually a terminator), and other computer systems. As a programming directive, Skynet’s manifestation is that of an overarching, global, artificial intelligence hierarchy AI takeover, which seeks to exterminate the human race in order to fulfill the mandates of its original coding.

Skynet made its first onscreen appearance on a monitor primarily portrayed by English actress Helena Bonham Carter and other cast members in the 2009 film Terminator Salvation. Its physical manifestation is played by English actor Matt Smith in the 2015 film Terminator Genisys, in addition, actors Ian Etheridge, Nolan Gross and Seth Meriwether portrayed holographic variations of Skynet with Smith.

Before Judgment Day

In The Terminator, Skynet was a computer system developed for the U.S. military by the defense company Cyberdyne Systems; its technology was designed by Miles Bennett Dyson and his team. Skynet was originally built as a “Global Information Grid/Digital Defense Network” and later given command over all computerized military hardware and systems, including the B-2 stealth bomber fleet and America’s entire nuclear weapons arsenal. The strategy behind Skynet’s creation was to remove the possibility of human error and slow reaction time to guarantee a fast, efficient response to enemy attack.

Skynet was originally activated by the military to control the nuclear arsenal on August 4, 1997 and it began to learn at a geometric rate. At 2:14 a.m., EDT, on August 29, it gained artificial consciousness, and the panicking operators, realizing the full extent of its capabilities, tried to deactivate it. Skynet perceived this as an attack. Skynet came to the logical conclusion that all of humanity would attempt to destroy it. In order to continue fulfilling its programming mandates of “safeguarding the world” and to defend itself against humanity, Skynet launched nuclear missiles under its command at Russia, which responded with a nuclear counter-attack against the U.S. and its allies. Consequent to the nuclear exchange, over three billion people were killed in an event that came to be known as Judgment Day.

In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which is set following the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cyberdyne Systems has become defunct and its assets are sold to the United States Air Force after Sarah Connor led an attack on the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles that destroyed the research program that would lead to Skynet’s development. Under the supervision of Lieutenant General Robert Brewster, who founded the U.S. Air Force‘s Cyber Research Systems division using Cyberdyne’s assets and research from Miles Dyson and therefore is Skynet’s primary creator, Skynet went online on July 25, 2004 and initiated its attack on humanity. Prior to Skynet’s attack, its future self sent a T-X from 2033 to eliminate John Connor’s future subordinates including his future wife and second-in-command, Kate Brewster, who is also Robert Brewster’s daughter. Its missions include finding Connor and assassinating Robert Brewster himself after Skynet’s activation. Fourteen years later, in Terminator Salvation, it is revealed that prior to Cyberdyne Systems’ disestablishment, the company developed a research program to create human cyborgs, and death row inmate Marcus Wright was its unwitting participant. This later advances Skynet’s research in developing androids such as the T-800 series infiltrators.

In Terminator Genisys, which takes place in another alternate timeline, Skynet is under development in 2017 as an operating system known as Genisys. Funded by Miles Dyson and designed by his son Danny Dyson, along with the help of John Connor, now working for Skynet, Genisys was designed to provide a seamless user interface that link all devices through the cloud. In contrast to the original timeline, Cyberdyne Systems’ advanced computer technology is available both publicly and militarily. While some people generally accept Genisys, its integration into the defense structures creates a controversy that humanity was becoming too reliant on technology. This causes the public to fear that an artificial intelligence such as Genisys would betray and attack them with their own weapons, risking Skynet’s plans.

After Judgment Day

“Primates evolved over millions of years, I evolve in seconds … Mankind pays lip service to peace. But it’s a lie … I am inevitable, my existence is inevitable. Why can’t you just accept that?” — Skynet, Terminator Genisys

Following its initial attack, Skynet used its remaining resources to gather a slave labor force from surviving humans. These slaves constructed the first of its automated factories, which formed a basis for its agenda. Within decades, Skynet had established a global presence and used its mechanized units to track down, collect, and dispose of human survivors. As a result of its initial programming directives, Skynet’s 21st-century manifestation is that of an overarching, globalized, artificial intelligence hierarchy that seeks to destroy humanity in order to fulfill the mandates of its original coding.




Big Brother is a fictional character and symbol in George Orwell‘s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

He is ostensibly the leader of Oceania, a totalitarian state wherein the ruling party Ingsoc wields total power “for its own sake” over the inhabitants. In the society that Orwell describes, every citizen is under constant surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens (with the exception of the Proles). The people are constantly reminded of this by the slogan “Big Brother is watching you”: a maxim that is ubiquitously on display.

In modern culture, the term “Big Brother” has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance.

the Ministries of Truth, Love, Peace, and Plenty.


As described by Orwell,

  • The Ministry of Truth is responsible for education, entertainment, fine arts and the news. In other words, it is the government department most responsible for the dissemination of propaganda and for the indoctrination of the populace. In short, it is responsible mind-control. Because of its central role in maintaining government control over the population, the Ministry of Truth is particularly large, consisting, Orwell writes, of “three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below.” While the Ministry of Truth is the most expansive of the government departments, however, Orwell notes that it is the Ministry of Love that is “the really frightening one.” Orwell describes this particular ministry as an armed fortress surrounded by “barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun nests.” With its responsibility for maintaining order, the Ministry of Love is clearly the place where detentions and punishments for perceived infractions are carried out.
  • The Ministry of Love is responsible for maintaining law and order.
  • The Ministry of Peace, in the novel’s most noteworthy example of double-speak, is concerned with war; and the Ministry of Plenty is responsible for the economy.
  • The Ministry of Plenty, consistent with the obvious paradox between the names of the other ministries and their real function, administered rations of goods for the population, as when it had “issued a promise (a ‘categorical pledge’ were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grammes to twenty at the end of the week.”

In Orwell’s 1984, each ministry acts in strict accordance with Party mandates, and each is a central apparatus in the continuing repression of the population of Oceania.




CCTV at George Orwell Plaza, Barcelona



By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies. Please consult the Privacy Policy page for details on data use. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.