Nearly 7 in 10 Americans Have Less Than $1,000 in Savings,

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans Have Less Than $1,000 in Savings, New Study Shows America’s spend-first mentality is a genuine concern.

The U.S. is often referred to as the land of economic opportunity. Apparently it’s also the land of consumption and “spend everything you’ve got.”

We don’t have to look far for confirmation that Americans are generally poor savers. Every month the St. Louis Federal Reserve releases data on personal household savings rates. In July 2016, the personal savings rate was just 5.7%. Comparatively, personal savings rates in the U.S. 50 years ago were double where they are today, and nearly all developed countries have a higher personal savings rate than the United States. In other words, Americans are saving less of their income than they should be — the recommendation is to save between 10% and 15% of your annual income — and they’re being forced to do more with less in terms of investing.

America’s poor savings habits

However, new data emerged this week from personal-finance news website GoBankingRates that shows just how dire Americans’ savings habits really are.

Last year, GoBankingRates surveyed more than 5,000 Americans only to uncover that 62% of them had less than $1,000 in savings. Last month GoBankingRates again posed the question to Americans of how much they had in their savings account, only this time it asked 7,052 people. The result? Nearly seven in 10 Americans (69%) had less than $1,000 in their savings account.

Breaking the survey data down a bit further, we find that 34% of Americans don’t have a dime in their savings account, while another 35% have less than $1,000. Of the remaining survey-takers, 11% have between $1,000 and $4,999, 4% have between $5,000 and $9,999, and 15% have more than $10,000.

Furthermore, even though lower-income adults struggle with saving money more than middle- and upper-income folks, no income group did particularly well. Some 29% of adults earning more than $150,000 a year, and 44% making between $100,000 and $149,999, had less than $1,000 in savings. Comparatively, 73% of the lowest income adults (those earnings $24,999 or less annually) had less than $1,000 in their savings account.

There was even minimal difference between multiple generations of Americans. From seniors aged 65 and up to young millennials aged 18 to 24, between 62% and 72% of Americans had less than $1,000 in a savings account.

The sources of America’s poor saving habits

This data is particularly worrisome since the recommendation is for Americans to have six months in expenses saved in case of an emergency, such as a large medical expenses, car repair bill, or losing your job. Without this emergency fund to fall back on, millions of Americans could be risking financial disaster.

According to GoBankingRates’ report, two factors are to blame for Americans’ inability to save. First, some Americans are simply living beyond their means. With roughly 70% of U.S. GDP tied to consumption, and our society revolving around going out for entertainment, this isn’t too surprising.

The other issue is that credit cards and alternative payment platforms, such as Apple Pay, have made it easier than ever to spend money. It’s a lot easier to spend money when you’re not dealing with tangible cash. This out of sight, out of mind mentality could leave Americans out of money when they need it.

Six tips to a better budget

The obvious solution to fixing America’s savings woes is for Americans to adopt (and stick to) a detailed monthly budget. A 2013 survey from national pollster Gallup found that just 32% of American households were sticking to a monthly budget. Without a budget it can be practically impossible for consumers to understand their cash flow – and if they don’t understand their cash flow, they won’t be able to maximize their savings.

With this in mind, here are six tips that should help get you on the right track to growing your savings account and building a healthy emergency fund.

1. Use online budgeting tools

The first move to make is to use online budgeting software. The days of having to formulate a budget by hand are long gone, and they’ve been replaced by a plethora of online budgeting tools, some of which are free. In many instances online budgeting software will not only handle the grunt work of adding and subtracting, but it can also help you formulate a savings plan based on the dollar amount or percentage of earned income you want to save. In roughly 30 minutes you could have a working budget in place.

2. Surround yourself with like-minded people

The second key to a great budget is that you’ll want to surround yourself with like-minded people that share your goal of financial betterment. Your chances of sticking to your budget will be substantially higher if everyone in your household, including a significant other, kids, grandparents, or friends, are also sticking to a budget. If you live alone, consider meeting up with a group of people once or twice monthly who share the same mission as you (to save money).

3. Consider the use of separate accounts or cash

It’s no secret that Americans have a propensity to spend first and ask questions later, which is made easy with the use of credit cards and alternative payment options. One of the best ways to break the “spend first” habit is to consider the use of separate spending accounts. For example, if you’re budgeting $300 a month to entertainment, consider putting that $300 in a separate account or even a jar in the kitchen cupboard to create a degree of separation from your checking or savings account. This could cut down your desire to spend money if you see that it’s available.

Another possible suggestion involves using cash instead of credit. Cash is tangible, and having to open your wallet and part with your cash to purchase a good or service can make a person think twice about whether a good or service is necessary.

4. Set up automatic withdrawals

Fourth, it’s important to set up automatic withdrawals to hold yourself accountable for your spending and saving habits. It doesn’t matter whether you have withdrawals made directly from your paycheck or you set up automatic transfers from a checking account to a savings account; the point being simply that you have withdrawals made automatically to keep yourself on track to save. This also removes the need to remember to make withdrawals weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, and eliminates a prime excuse for not saving.

5. Be S.M.A.R.T.

Fifth, it’s important to set S.M.A.R.T. goals with your budget. The acronym “SMART” stands for:
• Specific
• Measurable
• Achievable
• Realistic
• Time-based

One of the reasons so many Americans probably fail in their efforts to save more is their goals are too vague or lofty. Simply saying that you’ll “save more” is far too vague and doesn’t allow for an individual to measure their progress or adjust their spending and saving habits. However, setting specific, yet achievable, savings goals allows you to regularly measure your progress and make adjustments on an as-needed basis. Remember, this is your budget, and you can make changes to it as you see fit.

6. Analyze your data monthly

Finally, make sure you’re analyzing your budget regularly (which is where the “measurable” aspect of SMART goal-setting comes into play). Though you may choose to analyze your spending habits more or less frequently, setting aside 15 to 30 minutes each month to measure your progress and make adjustments is often sufficient.

America’s saving habits may be poor now, but it really wouldn’t take much to right the ship.

Sean Williams

Face recognition nabs fake passport user at US airport

Facial recognition technology was credited
with the arrest this week of a man attempting
to use a fake passport to enter the United
States at Washington’s Dulles airport,
officials said.

Officials said that on the third day of
deployment of the new technology, border
agents were able to determine that the man
was using a fake French passport.

US Customs and Border Protection, part of the
Department of Homeland Security, said Dulles
is one of 14 “early adopter airports” using
facial recognition technology for the entry
process, and began deploying it early October.

Recently, a 26-year-old man traveling from
Sao Paulo, Brazil sought to enter with a
French passport but the facial comparison
bio-metric system determined he was not a
match to the passport he presented.

A search revealed the man’s authentic
Republic of Congo identification card
concealed in his shoe. His name was not
released.

The use of facial recognition has been
growing for law enforcement, border control
and other uses, even as concerns have risen
on privacy.

Privacy activists say there are few
safeguards on the databases used and that the
technology evokes fears of a “Big Brother”
surveillance state.

Heightening those concerns are studies
showing facial recognition may not always be
accurate, especially for people of color.

The technology is being adopted around the
world, with China a heavy user of facial
recognition for law enforcement.

The airport border agents use the bio metric
system to determine if the person is using a
real passport, claiming it speeds the entry
and exit process.

The agency is also assessing the use of
bio-metric technology as part of a process
from check-in to departure in which travelers
use bio-metrics instead of their boarding pass.

The agency said in a release it is “committed
to its privacy obligations” and has published
several privacy impact assessments.

Facial recognition came into play earlier
this year when a suspect arrested for a
shooting at a newsroom in Annapolis,
Maryland, refused to cooperate with police
and could not immediately be identified using
fingerprints.

The 20 most expensive cities in the world to live in revealed

The 20 most expensive cities in the world to
live in revealed (and it’s Bermuda and
Switzerland where you need the deepest
pockets to survive)
• The study ranked cities around the world
based on the cost of living in them
• Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda, was found
to be the most expensive place
• Six of most expensive cities in the top 10
are in Switzerland, including Zurich

The world’s most expensive city to live in
has been revealed, and it’s not the tourist
hot spots of London or New York.

New research has revealed that Hamilton, the
capital of the tiny Atlantic island of
Bermuda, is the most costly in the world to
live in – for the fourth year in a row.

The study found that Hamilton has the highest
prices for living costs such as transport,
food and utilities. It is also ranked as
having the most expensive restaurants in the
world.

New research has revealed that Hamilton,
pictured, the capital of the tiny Atlantic
island of Bermuda, is the most costly in the
world to live in

New research has revealed that Hamilton,
pictured, the capital of the tiny Atlantic
island of Bermuda, is the most costly in the
world to live in

The Bermudan capital is one of the smallest
cities in the world and attracts both
residents and tourists thanks to its status
as a tax haven and having spectacular scenery.

The research was released in Numbeo’s
mid-year Cost of Living Index, which ranks
cities using New York City as standard.

Following Bermuda are five cities in
Switzerland – Zurich, Basel, Lausanne, Bern
and Geneva.

The Icelandic capital Reykjavik is seventh in
the ranking followed by Lugano in Switzerland.

Following Bermuda are five cities in
Switzerland – Zurich (pictured), Basel,
Lausanne, Bern and Geneva

Following Bermuda are five cities in
Switzerland – Zurich (pictured), Basel,
Lausanne, Bern and Geneva

THE WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE CITIES TO LIVE IN
1. Hamilton, Bermuda
2. Zurich, Switzerland
3. Basel, Switzerland
4. Lausanne, Switzerland
5. Bern, Switzerland
6. Geneva, Switzerland
7. Reykjavik, Iceland
8. Lugano, Switzerland
9. Stavanger, Norway
10. Oslo, Norway
11. Bergen, Norway
12. New York, United States
13. Trondheim, Norway
14. San Francisco, United States
15. Honolulu, United States
16. Anchorage, United States
17. Brooklyn, United States
18. Washington DC, United States
19. Santa Rosa, United States
20. Copenhagen, Denmark
Source: Numbeo’s mid-year cost of living index

The top ten is rounded off by the Norwegian
cities of Stavanger and Oslo.

The first US city on the list is New York
City and coming in the top ten are San
Francisco (14th), Honolulu (15th), Anchorage
(16th), Brooklyn (17th), Washington DC (18th)
and Santa Rosa in California (19th).

Surprisingly there were no British or
Australian cities in the top 20. The highest
ranked in the UK is London in 34th place and
in Australia it is Sydney in 40th place.

At the other end of the rankings,
Thiruvananthapuram in India was found to be
the least expensive with fellow Indian cities
Vadodara, Kochi, Visakhapatnam and Navi
Mumbai also at the bottom of the rankings.

Payment due: Pacific islands in the red as debts to China mount

Just over a decade ago, deadly riots in the
capital of Tonga, Nuku’alofa, destroyed much
of the small Pacific nation’s central
business and government districts.

Out of the rubble, the government hatched a
plan to rebuild the city, including
constructing a new cruise ship wharf and
renovating the Royal Palace – all bankrolled
by a new lender, China.

The initial roughly $65 million in Chinese
lending now exceeds $115 million – almost
one-third of Tonga’s annual gross domestic
product – as interest mounted and the
government took out a second loan for road
development across the country.

An onerous principal repayment schedule
starts in September that will double Tonga’s
debt financing bill has left the government
scrambling.

Tonga’s precarious position is indicative of
a wider debt-fueled hangover hitting small
Pacific economies, stoking fears the region
risks falling into financial distress and
becoming more susceptible to diplomatic
pressure from Beijing.

In particular, the loans give Beijing a lever
in one of the most contested areas in the
world over recognition of Taiwan, which has
strong diplomatic ties to the region.

Reuters’ analysis of the financial books of
11 South Pacific island nations shows China’s
lending programs have gone from almost zero
to over $1.3 billion currently outstanding in
a decade.

The documents show China is now the region’s
biggest bilateral lender, although
Australia’s significant aid programs mean it
remains the largest financial backer in the
South Pacific.

Chinese loans accounts for more than 60
percent of Tonga’s total external debt
burden, and almost half the external debt of
Vanuatu. In dollar figures, Papua New Guinea
has the biggest debt to China, at almost $590
million, representing about one-quarter of
its total external debt.

“Given the vulnerabilities of their
economies, given the very few sources of
revenues they have, they tend to be in many
cases at high risk of debt distress,” World
Bank director for the Pacific, Michel Kerf,
told Reuters in a phone interview.

“Their debt is reaching the limit of what
would be considered sustainable.”

Most experts believe China’s lending in the
Pacific, which picked up from 2006, stemmed
from Beijing’s broader push to increase
overseas ties as its economy and global clout
rose. Financing packages also provided
opportunities for state-owned enterprises to
take part in infrastructure projects.

Chinese firms have built facilities
throughout the Pacific, from Vanuatu’s
Luganville Wharf – built by Shanghai
Construction Group – to a water network in
the Cook Islands’ Rarotonga, which is being
built by state-owned China Civil Engineering
Construction Co.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua
Chunying said there was no evidence China was
responsible for creating unsustainable debt.

“We have, according to the relevant
countries’ wishes, given financing support to
the best of our ability, which has provided
assistance in the hour of need in promoting
relevant countries’ social and economic
development, and received the affirmation and
welcome of each country,” Hua said at a news
briefing in Beijing in response to Reuters
questions.

She said China’s relationship with Tonga was
“very good”.

Yet experts say China’s recent possession of
the strategically important Sri Lankan port
at Hambantota as Colombo struggled with a
spiraling debt crisis demonstrated the Asian
giant’s awareness its loans are also a
powerful strategic tool.

Last year, a Chinese state-owned firm took
over a 99-year lease of the port, part of a
plan to convert $6 billion of loans that Sri
Lanka owes China into equity.

The deal raised concerns from the United
States, India and Japan that Beijing might
use the port as an Indian Ocean naval base,
which both the Sri Lankan government and
Chinese embassy in Colombo have denied.

Sam Parker, the co-author of a Harvard
analysis of China’s offshore financing and
diplomacy, said Hambantota was a “wake up
call” and identified the Pacific as being
similarly vulnerable.

“We don’t think there was some huge Chinese
plot to lure countries into debt,” Parker
said in a phone interview. “But now that they
have it, we think they’d be willing to use
it. They’ve started to be a lot more
aggressive in geo-economics.”

Indeed, a recent U.S. National Defence
Strategy paper warned China was using
“predatory economics” to achieve its
strategic ends in particular by coercing
neighbors to reorder the Indo-Pacific region
to China’s advantage. And New Zealand’s
defense policy statement released last month
highlighted growing disruption in the Pacific
from the rise of China.

“Steep debt burdens associated with
infrastructure projects have potential
implications for influence, access and
governance,” New Zealand noted, drawing a
rebuke from China.

The issue ignited recently over media reports
China wanted to establish a military base in
Vanuatu after funding a wharf big enough to
handle warships. Both China and Vanuatu
denied the reports.

Despite Beijing’s growing clout in the
region, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
said last week he was confident South Pacific
nations would choose the United States as an
ally over China.

“I think the South Pacific, like most places
in the world, understands the enormity of
having an American ally – a country that
consistently over decades projects the
democratic values,” Pompeo said after
meetings with Australian Foreign Minister
Julie Bishop.

The Taiwan Question

While the loans are relatively small on a
global scale and the Pacific islands are less
obviously of strategic significance, the
region has attractions for the ascending power.

Washington and its allies have warned Beijing
against any attempt to establish military
bases in an area that proved pivotal in the
Pacific battles of World War II.

Each Pacific state represents a vote at
international forums such as the United
Nations, and they control vast swathes of
resource-rich ocean.

What’s more, one-third of countries which
have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan
are in the South Pacific. China views the
island as a wayward province, to be taken
back by force if necessary.

Both Taiwan and China have used lending and
aid packages to help keep their supporters
loyal, after decades of several Pacific
nations switching allegiances.

In February, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said
China had forced Papua New Guinea to change
the name of Taipei’s representative office in
the country and remove diplomatic license
plates from diplomats’ cars.

“Recent moves suggest a return to heightened
cross-Strait competition in Pacific islands,”
said a June report from the U.S. Congress’s
U.S.-China Economic and Security Review
Commission.

Terms And Conditions

Much of the criticism around Chinese lending
in the Pacific has focused on the projects
debts have been used for, and conditions tied
to loans.

The Cook Islands has been critical of some of
its China-led projects after accepting grants
for public buildings including a courthouse
and a police station, and a concessional loan
for a stadium that used imported labor and
materials.

“A lot of the buildings are so substandard
that they are starting to fall apart,” said
Mark Short, former secretary of justice for
the Cook Islands.

Short said the stadium was rusted and unsafe
less than a decade after being built. A
make-shift pen was built outside the
courthouse because the cells beneath it ran
out of oxygen if occupied for more than two
hours.

Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown
acknowledged there had been some issues with
the selection of materials and quality of
workmanship in parts of the buildings.

“To their credit, China has recognized the
shortcomings…by undertaking to carry out
renovations work on all three buildings,”
Brown said in an email. “Chinese assistance
was available to meet urgent infrastructure
needs in the Cook Islands and we took
advantage of those opportunities.”

The majority of China’s financial support
comes in the form of concessional loans,
while traditional regional players like
Australia, New Zealand and the United States
tend to provide gifts and leave lending to
multilateral institutions such as the World
Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Australia and New Zealand have both recently
diverted more funding to the region after
years of apparent indifference.

Vanuatu’s recently retired Sydney consul,
William Longwah, told Reuters China was an
easier financier to deal with than Australia.

“And Australia, when they do something they
take so long to process, so long to send the
funds,” Longwah said in a phone interview.

Now, debt pressure is mounting on several
Pacific island governments.

China has showed no signs it will forgive
debt, refusing Tonga’s request to do so in
2013, although it did suspend principal
repayments for five years.

Tonga plans to repay principal of about $5.7
million of its China loans in 2018-19; almost
doubling the country’s annual external debt
service bill and representing about 4 percent
of its overall budget of $135 million.

Tonga’s financial challenges have already
prompted the government to withdraw from
hosting the 2019 Pacific Games, an Olympic
Games-style event held every four years,
sparking anger and legal action from the
council responsible for organizing the games
in the sports-mad nation.

Lopeti Senituli, political and media advisor
to Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva told
Reuters Tonga is still negotiating with
Beijing to see if it can get its debts
forgiven, but is preparing to start payments.

“Of course it would put any government under
major financial stress and we are doing the
best we can.”

He acknowledged Pacific islands experienced
pressure from Beijing but denied it was
different to any other country with an
economic relationship with China, which is
asserting “massive” pressure globally.

“You cannot simply say it’s only happening in
the Pacific islands. No, it’s happening to
all of us regardless of the size of your
economy, regardless of the political status

India’s Supreme Court imposes curbs on use of biometric identity system

India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the validity of a massive biometric identity system. However, it flagged privacy concerns and curbed a government push to make it mandatory for activities such as opening bank accounts and securing cell phone connections, Reuters reported.

The ruling was cheered by detractors of the system, known as Aadhaar, which has already provided biometric identities to more than a billion people, making it the world’s biggest such project. Critics fear it could spawn a surveillance state and pave the way for companies to profile clients.

A majority ruling by a panel of five judges cleared the use of Aadhaar for welfare schemes, saying it empowered the poor.

– RT

Europe working on payment system alternative to SWIFT & IMF to attain financial independence from US

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says Europe has started work on creating a system for money transfers that will be autonomous from the currently prevailing Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).

“That won’t be easy, but we have already started to do that,” Maas said at the annual Ambassadors Conference in Berlin on Monday, as quoted by RIA Novosti. “We are studying proposals for payment channels and systems, more independent from SWIFT, and for creating European monetary fund.”

Maas also announced plans to reveal a new foreign policy strategy towards the US.

Russian Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina © Grigory DukorRussian central bank boasts of alternative to SWIFT as ready-made defense against US sanctions
“It’s high time to recalibrate the Transatlantic Partnership – rationally, critically, and even self-critically,” the FM said as cited by the agency.

Last week, Maas called for European autonomy to be strengthened by creating payment channels that are independent of the United States, establishing a ‘European Monetary Fund’.

The intention to create its own system is reportedly connected to Washington’s recent withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, and the re-imposition economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic. As Brussels stays committed to the pact signed in 2015 between Tehran and the world powers, the EU had to enforce the ‘Blocking Statute’ in order to safeguard European businesses operating in Iran from US sanctions against the country. However, the measure failed to keep European majors like Total, Maersk, Mercedes in Iran, as they cannot function independently of the US-dominated international banking system and international financial markets.

SWIFT, which is short for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is the financial network that provides high-value cross-border transfers for members across the world. It is based in Belgium, but its board includes executives from US banks with US federal law allowing the administration to act against banks and regulators across the globe. It supports most interbank messages, connecting over 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries and territories.

In May, the Russian Central Bank’s governor, Elvira Nabiullina, said that the country had created a national system for money transfers that could protect its banking from a potential cut off from SWIFT transfer services. The step was triggered by the seemingly endless anti-Russia penalties introduced by Washington since 2014 for various reasons, including the reunification with Crimea, alleged involvement in the military conflict in eastern Ukraine, alleged US election meddling, and the alleged poisoning of former double-agent Sergei Skripal in the UK.

– RT

How to erase everything you ever searched for on Google

Intrusions into one’s privacy today, are becoming ever more draconian and invasive.

Following are some tips that will help you regain your privacy.

Does the idea of Google knowing your every move creep you out?

Think about it, the tech giant knows every car that you’ve thought of purchasing. It also knows more personal details, like what medical conditions you are ailing from, which coworkers you’ve tried finding information on, and where you’re thinking about taking your next trip.

Google knows all of these things from your many internet searches. It’s understandable if you consider this is a terrible privacy risk — because it is.

That’s why I’m going to tell you how to erase everything you have ever searched for on Google.

Google’s My Activity tool

First, let’s talk about Google’s account settings tool, My Activity. Here you will see all of your search activity across multiple platforms. This is also where you can edit or delete the information that you find.

To find My Activity, head to Google’s home page and log in to your account. Tap the circle in the upper corner with your initial inside and a menu will open, click My Account.

Google 2

Click on the My Activity section listed as an option in the preview tiles.

Google 3

From there, you’ll be asked to confirm your password before any of your information will be shown.

Google My Activity

Next, I’ll show you how to erase your search history.

How to erase your Google search history

The process of erasing your Google search history is actually quite simple. Your first move is to go to Google’s My Activity page. Follow the steps I gave you earlier to get there.

Then, use these steps to delete your entire search history:

* Tap Delete activity by – On the left side of your My Activity page, you will see a menu of actions. Tap Delete activity by.

This will bring up a selection box where you choose a delete date and product.

* Select All Time – Under Delete by date in the selection box, change Today to All Time. This will erase every Google search under your account from its archive. (Note: There is also an option to select a date range to delete searches from, but it’s easier and more secure to delete them all.)
* Select Search – In the drop down menu, change All Products to Search. This means you’ll only be deleting your search history. There are more options to choose from such as All Products, Ads, Chrome, Maps, Video Search and YouTube. If you’re only looking to erase your Google search history, select Search.
* Tap Delete – A pop-up will appear, warning you that your activity can make Google services more useful to you, like better commute options in Maps and quicker results in Search.
* Click OK – Another pop-up will appear asking you to confirm that you want to delete your Search activity from all time and warns you these items will be permanently deleted from your Google Account.
* Tap Delete.

That’s it, you’ve successfully erased your Google search history. You should follow this procedure every few months so future searches are not archived like the ones that you just deleted. It’s that simple.

The above by Mark Jones.

US airport security’s ‘Quiet Skies’ program tracks passengers

The TSA was founded in response to the 9/11
terror attacks with the mission of preventing
similar attacks

The US Transportation Security Administration
(TSA) is facing criticism for secretly
tracking Americans on flights, US media report.

The “Quiet Skies” program reportedly uses an
unknown algorithm to flag flyers without any
criminal record for surveillance on domestic
flights.

Air marshals tasked with carrying out
surveillance have pushed back against the
program, according to US media.

TSA denies any racial profiling and says it
is a “practical” method.

“With routine reviews and active management
via legal, privacy and civil rights and
liberties offices, the program is a practical
method of keeping another act of terrorism
from occurring at 30,000 feet,”

the agency said to the BBC in a statement.

What is the program?

Under “Quiet Skies”, federal air marshals
have been shadowing travelers on their
flights and reporting any suspicious behavior
to TSA, the Boston Globe first reported on
Sunday.

These travelers – who are in some cases
American citizens – are not part of terrorist
screening databases nor are they suspected of
any wrongdoings, according to the newspaper.
* Has the airport experience become horrible?
* New US cargo checks for Mid-East flights
* Does profiling make sense – or is it unfair?

Travelers are not notified when they have
been added to the “Quiet Skies” list, which
US media report contains fewer than 50 people.

The program had been a previously undisclosed
TSA operation, but has been in place since 2010.

Air marshals have a checklist of behaviors
they use while monitoring a “Quiet Skies”
passenger.

What are officials looking for?

The program first uses an algorithm to
analysis a passenger’s travel pattern and any
potential affiliations, according to US media.

Officials then look at the data and determine
whether the passenger should be observed by
air marshals.

“The purpose of this program is to ensure
passengers and flight crew are protected
during air travel,”

TSA said in a statement to the BBC.

“The program doesn’t take into account race
and religion, and it is not intended to
surveil ordinary Americans.”

According to TSA internal documents published
by the Boston Globe, air marshals observe
passengers for a number of behaviors including:
* Excessive fidgeting
* Excessive sweating
* Cold penetrating stare
* Wide open, staring eyes
* Face touching
* How much they sleep during a flight
* Using a smartphone

A spokesman for the agency said that if a
passenger’s behavior is uneventful and the
flight goes smoothly, they will not be
approached or arrested.

TSA maintains that it does not look at race
or religion.

However, the criteria for choosing “Quiet
Skies” passengers appear to be unclear in
internal documents, according to the Globe
report.

Sources told the newspaper that in the past,
air marshals have shadowed a businesswoman, a
Southwest Airlines flight attendant and even
a fellow law enforcement officer.

The TSA likened “Quiet Skies” to a beat cop
on a neighborhood street corner in an emailed
statement to the BBC.

“This programs core design is no different
than putting a police officer on a beat where
intelligence and other information presents
the need for watch and deterrence.”

TSA has not offered information regarding the
success rate of this program in foiling
criminal plots.

What is TSA*

TSA was founded in 2001, shortly after the
9/11 terrorist attacks on New York,
Washington and Pennsylvania that left nearly
3,000 people dead.

The agency falls under the Department of
Homeland Security, and lists its mission as
protecting US transportation systems “to
prevent similar attacks in the future”.

In 2018, TSA set a screening record –
scanning 72 million passengers from 15 March
to 15 April. On an average day, TSA screens
2.1 million passengers and crew. Air
marshals, who are armed federal law
enforcement officers, are also a part of TSA.
The Federal Air Marshal Service is tasked
with investigative work to “detect”, “deter”
and “defeat” terrorist acts.

TSA has been repeatedly criticized over
complaints of improper and intrusive screenings.

Media caption’ We trust President Trump on
travel ban’

What’s the reaction?

US media report several sources have said
“Quiet Skies” has sparked criticism within TSA.

John Casaretti, president of the Air Marshal
Association, said in a statement that the
program “does not meet the criteria” of
“acceptable” missions.

“The American public would be better served
if [air marshals] were instead assigned to
airport screening and check in areas so that
active shooter events can be swiftly ended,
and violations of federal crimes can be
properly and consistently addressed,” he told
the Globe.

Hugh Handeyside, a lawyer with the American
Civil Liberties Union’s National Security
Project, said the surveillance was “a big
waste of taxpayer money and raises a number
of constitutional questions”.

“These concerns and the need for transparency
are all the more acute because of TSA’s track
record of using unreliable and unscientific
techniques to screen and monitor travelers
who have done nothing wrong,” he said.

.

Surveillance

Julian Assange warns this generation is the
last to be free of surveillance and says
‘idiotic parents plastering photos all over
Facebook’ are partly to blame

* Julian Assange said children are known to
‘world powers’ within a year of birth

* e blamed passport applications and parents
posting photos on Facebook

* Wikileaks founder said this means global
surveillance of citizens is ‘unavoidable’

* Also warned that global cyber war is
inevitable as internet has no borders

Julian Assange has warned that global
surveillance of citizens will soon be
‘unavoidable’ thanks to social media and
online applications of official documents
such as passports.

The Wikileaks founder said that within a year
of being born, children are now known to ‘all
major world powers’ because their ‘idiotic
parents’ post their names and pictures on
Facebook.

Assange, who is into his seventh year living
at the at the Ecuadorian embassy in London,
gave an interview during the World Ethical
Data Forum in Barcelona.

Warning: The Wikileaks founder said that
within a year of being born, children are now
known to ‘all major world powers’ thanks to
their parents posting on social media

‘This generation being born now… is the last
free generation,’ he told Russian
state-funded network Ruptly. ‘You are born
and either immediately or within say a year
you are known globally.

‘Your identity in one form or another –coming
as a result of your idiotic parents
plastering your name and photos all over
Facebook or as a result of insurance
applications or passport applications– is
known to all major world powers.’

Assange also predicted a global cyber war in
the near future, as the internet has no
distance or borders, and hackers can attack
anyone anywhere on the planet.

‘There is no border [online]. It’s 220
milliseconds from New York to Nairobi. Why
would there ever be peace in such a
scenario?’ he said.

Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian
embassy in London since 2012, fearing he will
be extradited to the United States for
questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks
if he leaves.

Overstaying his welcome: Assange has been
living at the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012,
but the government has now cut off his phone
and internet access

Overstaying his welcome: Assange has been
living at the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012,
but the government has now cut off his phone
and internet access

He initially moved into the embassy after he
was accused of rape and sexual assault in
Sweden, but the investigation was dropped in
2017.

As he breached his bail conditions by seeking
Ecuadorian asylum, he could potentially be
arrested by UK authorities, and so he remains
at the embassy.

Despite an initial warm welcome, the
Ecuadorians have reportedly grown
increasingly tired of their live-in guest.

The Ecuador government cut off Assange’s
phone and internet access earlier this year
and banned people visiting him.

Weekly vigils are still held outside the
embassy and in cities in other countries
including his native Australia.

A member of Assange’s legal team also spoke
at the at the World Ethical Data Forum this week.

Jennifer Robinson claimed the world’s major
credit card companies and payment transfer
services had banned WikiLeaks, cutting it off
from the donations the organisation depends
on to operate and to fight its legal battles.

Ms Robinson, of Doughty Street Chambers,
added that she believed any prosecution of
Assange will be used as a precedent against
other media organisations.

‘The attacks on WikiLeaks have not just been
legal attacks – there has also been a
vilification campaign of the WikiLeaks
project and of Julian personally by prominent
politicians and the mainstream media, and a
counter-intelligence operation, openly stated
by the director of the CIA last year.’

The above courtesy of Sara Malm, Mailonline

CashPoints

Cashpoints are disappearing from UK streets
with more than 500 ATMs closed every month,
regulator reports

Free cash machines are vanishing at a record
rate due to funding cuts 200 are being
removed – or switched to withdrawal charges –
every month The elderly and small traders
such as cafes are said to be most affected
By James Burton

Free cash machines are vanishing at a record
rate amid cuts to their funding. More than
200 are being removed – or switched to
charging for withdrawals – every month.
Remote areas are among the hardest hit. The
figures from Link, which oversees the ATM
network, show that the number of free
machines fell from 54,500 to 53,200 in the
first six months of the year. The shutdowns
follow a cut to the fees that banks pay when
a customer uses an independent operator’s ATM.

Free cash machines are vanishing at a record
rate amid cuts to their funding. More than
200 are being removed – or switched to
charging for withdrawals – every month. Most
affected are the elderly, who are more likely
to use cash, and small traders such as cafes.

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said: ‘The
simple truth is that for most people, Britain
remains a cash economy and we can’t pretend
that the vast majority of people are using
credit or debit cards for everything.’

Mike Cherry of the Federation of Small
Businesses said: ‘Access to cash for small
firms is vital, particularly to those in
rural or hard-to-reach areas, but these
figures highlight that more and more of these
firms are losing that crucial access.

A reduced access to cash via ATMs and bank
branches is only giving card payment
companies free rein to increase the charges
they place on to small firms.’ The fee cut
was pushed through after intense lobbying by
Lloyds and other banks. Campaigners warned at
the time that it would make thousands of ATMs
unprofitable and force them to shut.

Link pledged to protect 2,365 ATMs in remote
and rural areas which are more than a
kilometre (0.6 miles) from another machine.
But in a blow to the organisation’s
credibility, 76 of these isolated machines
vanished between January and June.

The shutdowns follow a cut to the fees that
banks pay when a customer uses an independent
operator’s ATM. The fee cut, which was
announced in January, came into effect in
July. Wes Streeting, a Labour member of the
Commons Treasury committee, said: ‘I’m
concerned that what we’re seeing are
money-saving decisions to remove ATMs with
little concern for the impact on customers,
particularly in isolated areas, and a failure
by regulators to act quickly enough to
protect the public interest.’

The Payments Systems Regulator says it will
now seek to stem the closure of isolated
machines, after initially refusing to get
involved.

Hannah Nixon, the watchdog’s managing
director, said: ‘The requirements we intend
to place on Link will help ensure that Link
achieves their commitment to protecting the
geographic spread of free-to-use ATMs across
the UK. Link should be in no doubt about the
importance of this work.’

Link’s chief executive, John Howells, said:
‘ATM volumes are falling 6 per cent year on
year. Given this backdrop, it’s critical we
protect cash access.’