Ahead of new rules for fixed-odds betting machines, four people outline the pros and cons.
China is building a monitoring system that will help it predict earthquakes up to three weeks in advance, according to a story in the Global Times, a mouthpiece for China’s Communist Party. The machinery will monitor for upcoming quakes by measuring “X-ray” or “CT scanners” which create an image of seismic activity.
“The real-time image generated from sensors will help the public forecast earthquake of magnitude above 5.0 as easily as reading a meteorological cloud image,” the Global Times said.
The technology will first be implemented in China’s Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in the country’s southwest, where some of China’s most devastating earthquakes have taken place. After that, it will then be rolled out across the country. Eventually, the sensors will be placed at 2,000 monitoring stations across the earthquake-prone region.
The equipment will monitor for “stress and energy dynamics” between eight and 20 kilometers underground, according to Dr Wang Tun. Typically, the most destructive quakes originate more than 8 kilometers below the earth’s surface. While China already has an early earthquake warning system, it only covers 650 million people – about half the country’s population – and can only detect quakes seconds before they occur by measuring so-called “P-waves”. During one recent quake in Chengdu, the capitol of Sichuan province, citizens received messages on their mobile phones some 71 seconds beforehand.
Schools received the warnings some five to 38 seconds before the quake struck.
Eventually, the current EEW system and the new more advanced system will work in tandem, because the new monitoring system can’t predict the exact timing of a quake, according to Wang.
“And it only can tell a rough location instead of an exact site where the earthquake will occur.”
The first station for the new system was unveiled in Wenchuan, Sichuan this past week. The town was the epicenter of a 7.9 magnitude quake that killed 80,000 people back in 2008.
Erik Prince is the modern architect of private military firms
His latest venture is in training security personnel in China
But he’s been all over the world, outsourcing militaries to cheap labor markets
Al Bawaba has provided a partial map to track Erik Prince’s activities over the years
Erik Prince, the brain behind the infamous private military firm Blackwater, is now in China training security forces.
Prince is partially responsible for modernizing the private army for the post 9/11 world, outsourcing militaries to cheap, specialized labor pools and skirting traditional regulations meant to ensure accountability for armed forces.
His journey from hiring mercenaries to help bolster the U.S. occupation in Iraq to China is long, dizzying and includes stops around the world to train Colombian mercenaries to help make a private army for the U.A.E. and outfitting crop duster planes with missiles to be fired at Armenians.
He has become a global figure, roaming between conflicts zones to sell various governments his expertise on private armies.
To document his journey thus far, Al Bawaba has compiled a partial list of countries/regions in or for which he has done business.
Prince’s trip around the world starts in the United States.
Born in an affluent Michigan family, his family maintained deep ties to the Republican establishment and several conservative, religious organizations like American Values. His sister, Betsy DeVos, married into one of the most influence political families in the Midwest, the DeVos’s, and began helping to run the Republican party machine in Michigan.
That marriage, which tied the Prince and DeVos family together, has given Erik unprecedented political access into the federal government. His list of close allies including Steve Bannon, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist. His sister gives him a direct line of access to Trump himself.
Erik became a Navy SEAL and then established his own private military firm in 1997, Blackwater.
Once the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, Blackwater received billions in contracts from the U.S. government to help supplement the official mission with private boots on the ground, relatively free from accountability or laws from any particular government.
Damaged and bloodied car in Nissour Square, Iraq, 2007 after the Blackwater massacre (AFP/FILE)
Blackwater’s activities in Iraq are infamous and account for Prince’s self-imposed exile from the United States.
Apart from harassing Iraqi civilians and running them off of roads with their armored personnel carriers, they also indiscriminately gunned down 14 innocent people in Baghdad in 2007, drawing an investigation and heavy criticism from media outlets around the world.
The incident stands as a cautionary tale for when mercenary groups such as Blackwater are able to operate without sufficient legal or logistical oversight. Facing a wave of scrutiny, Prince left Blackwater and the firm changed its name twice (to Xe and then Academi) to escape the heat.
Many thought they had seen the end of Erik Prince, but he resurfaced later at the helm of a different private military company.
A satellite image of the camp in the U.A.E. built to train Prince’s 800-member mercenary battalion (Google Earth/New York Times)
In 2011, Erik Prince was appointed by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to make a secret, private army. For this, he was paid $529 million.
In documents obtained by the New York Times, the mission of this privately commissioned battalion included “intelligence gathering, urban combat, the securing of nuclear and radioactive materials, humanitarian missions and special operations ‘to destroy enemy personnel and equipment,’ and crown-control.
Prince hired Colombians and nationals of other countries thousands of miles away to fill his ranks from two reasons. First, Prince was looking to pay them as little as possible. Second, they weren’t Muslims. Prince surmised that Muslims could not be trusted to kill other Muslims.
A few years later in 2015, Saudi Arabia began its military intervention in Yemen and recruited a host of other Arab nations to join its coalition. Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, business partner to Erik Prince, Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, signed up for the cause in order to destroy any creeping Iranian influence in the war-torn nation.
Erik Prince and his U.A.E. private military firm helped recruit and train over 1,000 soldiers from Latin American countries. Then, their bodies started appearing on battlefields in Yemen.
A single missile reportedly killed 45 mercenaries from the U.A.E.
Prince’s initial battalion of 800 soldiers had blossomed into almost 2,000 specialized troops hired mostly from Latin America to do the U.A.E.’s business.
Although officials say Erik Prince’s formal business role with the U.A.E. had ended several years before the intervention into Yemen, his corporate blueprint to partially outsource the U.A.E.’s military is doubtlessly still in use.
The U.A.E. keeping and even expanding Prince’s blueprint for a private, outsourced army demonstrates just how influencial he and his mercenary business model has become.
A militarily-modified crop duster, called the T-Bird (LASA Engineering)
After his stint in the U.A.E., Prince began doing more business with Chinese executives at the Frontier Services Group (FSG), which he heads.
On this new enterprise, Prince said it “is not a patriotic endeavor,” rather, it is intended “to build a great business and make some money doing it.”
Interestingly enough, Prince’s business with FSG took him to Azerbaijan, where he was paid by the government to help it deal with its Armenian problem. Armenians are concentrated into Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region, which seceded from Azerbaijan and formed a semi-recognized, de facto state.
Azerbaijan called on Erik Prince and FSG to help it keep watch on the Nagorno-Karabakh region, also called the Republic of Artsakh. In response. Prince wanted to show the government two crop duster planes meant for agricultural use but refitted for military purposes. The planes were meant to be outfitted with state-of-the-art surveillance technology and were supposedly able to fire missiles.
They never made it to Azerbaijan after an investigation shut the sale down.
This is because the deal may have broken several laws. The Washington Post found that “executives were concerned that the company might be skirting U.S. law — known as International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) — requiring Americans to obtain special permits before defense-related technology can be transferred to foreign countries.”
In response to this controversial arms trade, all but two Americans on the FSG executive board quit due to concerns that he was not serving U.S. interests. This has freed Prince to deal more closely with the Chinese.
FSG’s ‘focus region’ (Frontier Services Group)
FSG’s public focus is on providing security and logistical help to eastern African countries such as South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and the DRC.
“When you want logistics done in Africa, you call DHL,” said Sean McFate, a former military contractor in Africa and current expert on mercenaries at the Atlantic Council. “When you want muscle, you call Erik Prince.”
One of FSG’s ventures appears to help oust the extremist militant group, Al Shabaab, from southwest Somalia—an area it has largely controlled for years. “We have brought together strong international business leaders to team-up with talented Somali entrepreneurs to make development in South West Somalia a reality,” an FSG statement reads.
“The project will include an integrated solution of air-land-sea logistics capabilities and advanced security management.”
FSG’s headquarters is in Hong Kong, and though it publicly states that its focus is on eastern Africa, FSG is now reported to be doing domestic work on behalf of the Chinese government.
FSG is partially owned by CITIC, a Chinese-government own investment firm. CITIC is slowly taking more and more control of FSG and is reportedly already the dominant shareholder, meaning it has greater power than Prince to determine the company’s vision and business deals.
“The Chinese are gradually taking more control” of the company. CITIC is now playing a larger role as Frontier’s dominant shareholder, said Xin who heads the International Security Defense College that trains security personnel and is overseen by FSG.
“Prince’s share is decreasing. The Chinese are in charge, so it won’t matter.”
One of FSG’s most recent missions has been to train thousands of security personnel in China’s northwest Xinjiang province, where millions of ethnically Turkic Muslims called Uyghurs live.
Uyghurs are routinely targeted by the state due to continuous attempts by some to break away from China and form an independent state.
Thousands of Uyghurs are part of an extremist group called the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), whose leaders are hiding in Pakistan and whose members have a heavy presence in Syria fighting against the Syrian regime.
Human Rights Watch accused the Chinese government of “deploying a predictive policing program,” using massive surveillance technology and a web of high-tech surveillance cameras and compulsory data collection.
They’ve also reportedly sent thousands of Uyghurs to Chinese ‘re-education’ camps.
The Mercenary Prince
Erik Prince (AFP/FILE)
This list only details a few of Erik Prince’s ventures, and does not include an attempt by Prince to send thousands of mercenaries into Afghanistan and reform the political structure of the entire country to essentially be a colony for the United States.
However, Prince has transformed battlefields everywhere and fundamentally altered the way governments construct security apparatuses.
Iran is heavily reliant on outsourced Afghani mercenaries to be cannon fodder in the war in Syria. Russia is supplementing its own intervention into Syria with mercenaries hired by the state-backed Wagner Group who also sends troops to Ukraine. To beat back the nascent extremist group Boko Haram, Nigeria hired private, Apartheid-era security forces from South Africa to do the job.
Thanks to Erik Prince, outsourcing military and intelligence labor is now the norm.
Currently Prince appears to be under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, thanks to meetings he had arranged with a close aide to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Kirill Dmitriev in the Seychelles Islands, a place its own government explains is “the kind of place where you can have a good time away from the media.” The meeting was allegedley to set up a backchannel between Trump and Russia in order to facilitate clandestine communications.
McFate told Al Bawaba that Prince’s use of mercenaries allows countries to enter into and escalate conflicts without having to report it to their citizens; his tactic gives governments “plausible deniability” to anything that the mercenaries do.
According to Dr. P.J. Brendese, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and expert on democratic accountability, private military firms “have greater independence to exercise their own prerogatives and ‘we the people’ don’t get a say. That’s the most dangerous thing, because they’re profiting–their motivation is not God and country; their motive is money.”
The robot uprising is right on schedule as evidenced by Boston Dynamics’ latest “nightmare inducing” videos of their autonomous creations. In one, their humanoid robot Atlas can be seen running through a field as if in hot pursuit of John Connor, while another video shows “spot mini” prancing around – going up and down stairs, ominously.
“During the autonomous run, SpotMini uses data from the cameras to localize itself in the map and to detect and avoid obstacles,” reads the video description.
“Once the operator presses ‘GO’ at the beginning of the video, the robot is on its own.”
This can’t be good…
And after suffering years of abuse at the hands of Boston Dynamics engineers, one wonders exactly what sentient future robots will think when they see this:
Anyway Boston dynamics is terrifying and we’re all gonna die pic.twitter.com/I33Comdi54
— Sally Kuchar📚📬☕️👩🏻💻💋 (@sallykuchar) May 11, 2018
This is nothing. In a few years, that bot will move so fast you’ll need a strobe light to see it. Sweet dreams… https://t.co/0MYNixQXMw
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 26, 2017
Even Boston Dynamics founder, Marc Raibert, admitted that the robots are creepy in a February 2017 demonstration of a wheeled robot, saying “This is the debut presentation of what I think will be a nightmare-inducing robot if you’re anything like me.“
The company was sold by Google to Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank for an undisclosed sum last year, and has not revealed its plans. Needless to say, Japan is now making robots that may or may not be able to be equipped with shoulder-mounted lasers and miniguns, and are most definitely kamikaze.
Dear Boston Dynamics – do you want the Matrix? Because this is how you get the Matrix.
Wrapping up all the latest news, notes and observations from the first day of the New York Giants rookie minicamp.
Rover to carry tiny Martian helicopter for test run on the Red planet.
We have no real property rights.
Think about it.
That house you live in, the car you drive, the small (or not so small) acreage of land that has been passed down through your family or that you scrimped and saved to acquire, whatever money you manage to keep in your bank account after the government and its cronies have taken their first and second and third cut…none of it is safe from the government’s greedy grasp.
At no point do you ever have any real ownership in anything other than the clothes on your back.
Everything else can be seized by the government under one pretext or another (civil asset forfeiture, unpaid taxes, eminent domain, public interest, etc.).
The American Dream has been reduced to a lease arrangement in which we are granted the privilege of endlessly paying out the nose for assets that are only ours so long as it suits the government’s purposes.
And when it doesn’t suit the government’s purposes? Watch out.
This is not a government that respects the rights of its citizenry or the law. Rather, this is a government that sells its citizens to the highest bidder and speaks to them in a language of force.
Under such a fascist regime, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which declares that no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation,” has become yet another broken shield, incapable of rendering any protection against corporate greed while allowing the government to justify all manner of “takings” in the name of the public good.
Practically anything goes now.
Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, entire neighborhoods have been seized and bulldozed to make way for shopping malls, sports complexes and corporate offices.
Indeed, little has prevented the government from bulldozing its way through the Fifth Amendment in an effort to take from the middle and lower classes and fatten the coffers of the corporate elite.
For instance, consider the government’s pipeline projects.
All across the country, power companies have been given the green light to build massive gas and oil pipelines that crisscross the country, cutting through private and public lands, as well as unspoiled wilderness.
“Yet despite oft-repeated claims by politicians and oil executives about the danger of relying on foreign oil, this U.S. petroleum renaissance never was designed to make America energy self-sufficient,” points out journalist Sandy Tolan. “A growing amount of that oil will end up in China, Japan, the Netherlands, even Venezuela.”
So much for the public use, huh?
These pipeline projects which are getting underway in a dozen states have stirred up a hornet’s nest of protests. Not all of the protests that have arisen in response to these pipeline projects hinge on environmental concerns.
Some of the protesters are landowners, simple farmers and homeowners who merely want the government and its corporate partners-in-crime to keep their grubby paws off their personal property.
In Virginia, for instance, activists have taken to tree sitting—living for weeks on end in platforms suspended above the ground in trees—as a form of protest over the devastation that is being wrought by these pipelines.
These acts of civil disobedience come at a costly price.
Pipeline and forestry officials have been working hard to make life as difficult as possible for the protesters, allegedly blocking their access to food and water and medical supplies, shining floodlights into the trees at all hours of the night, creating ground disturbances to dislodge their nests, and urging the courts to levy heavy fines for each day that the work to clear the forests for the pipeline is delayed.
Here’s what one resident of Roanoke, Va., wrote to me about the manner in which the Mountain Valley Pipeline is being inflicted on his community:
Our small community has been invaded by private security and a fully militarized local police department. Mountain Valley Pipeline has begun cutting trees and has brought in private military contractors similar to what was used in North Dakota. They are basically using the power of government to steal this land for private profit. The residents and land owners of Bent Mountain now find themselves subject to arrest for walking in their own driveway, taking pictures of the pipeline companies ever-changing survey lines and path of destruction, or in more than one case, for confronting MASKED ARMED MEN ON THEIR PROPERTY IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT. One of my neighbors was accosted on his own back porch by police for photographing the MVP surveyors continually moving the corridor of their easement. I have even had armed private security trespassing on my property miles away in neighboring Floyd County.
It takes a lot of gall to trespass onto someone’s private property, tear up their land, cut down their trees, pollute their air and water, prevent them from moving freely on their own property, threaten them with fines and arrests for challenging the intrusion, and then force them to pay (by way of taxes) to retain ownership of the property or sell it cheaply or at a loss so it can be torn down and used for some purpose that the government deems more beneficial to its bottom line.
That’s how little respect the government has for our rights.
Unfortunately, American taxpayers have become trespassers on their own property thanks to the government’s ongoing land grabs and utter disregard for property rights.
More than 200 years after early Americans went to war over their right to life, liberty and property, “we the people” have been reduced to little more than serfs in bondage, indentured servants, and sharecroppers. And the lines between private and public property have been so blurred that private property is reduced to little more than something the government can use to control, manipulate and harass you to suit its own purposes, and you the homeowner and citizen have been reduced to little more than a tenant in bondage to an inflexible landlord.
So where does that leave us?
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the battle to protect our private property has become the final constitutional frontier, the last holdout against our freedoms being usurped.
After all, the American dream is about gaining sovereignty over one’s life and property. Without this sovereignty – this unshakeable guarantee of ownership and dominion, even over one’s own life – there can be no true liberty or freedom.
Childish Gambino – This Is America (Official Video) You can hide in plain sight. Donald Glover was on “Community,” is in the second season of his own highly-lauded series “Atlanta” and has one of the longest running hits on the chart with “Redbone,” a cut from his THIRD Glassnote album and still… Most people…
Another (legacy deal) bites the dust…