(TMU Opinion) — One of the unfortunate aspects of the human experience is our seeming inability to understand the importance of world events while we are living through them.
Hindsight is 20/20, we are told—a phrase meant to indicate “things are obvious that were not obvious from the outset; one is able to evaluate past choices more clearly than at the time of the choice.”
This is why some people look upon the time before their birth or previous generations as stories from a distant past with little relation to our current reality. Extremely impactful events from the last decade, let alone the last century, can appear both monumentally important, yet also detached from daily reality.
I fear that while many people understand the obvious magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are far less people who recognize the truly historic nature of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governments of the world and the official “authoritative” sources are doing what every experienced politician does best: never let a good crisis go to waste.
Understandably, the world has been focused on surviving a pandemic, social distancing, and quarantines. However, the proponents of mass surveillance and increased state power have been scoring major gains while we are occupied. Let’s take a brief look at some of what has transpired in recent months.
The roll out of the 5th Generation of telecommunications technology aka 5G progressed even further on the legislative side with President Trump recently signing two bills which are aimed at securing America’s 5G infrastructure. Although the two bills, the Secure 5G and Beyond Act and the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act, don’t explicitly speed up the 5G roll out, they are another step in the expansion of the technology. The promises of faster downloads and virtual reality gadgets should be dismissed and 5G should be seen for what it truly is: the backbone to the digital “smart” surveillance grid also known as the Internet of Things.
Another area where the surveillance state is expanding relates more directly to the fight against COVID-19. Specifically, the $2 trillion stimulus package that was signed by Donald Trump, and supported by both parties, includes billions of dollars to the criminal Federal Reserve, allocates funding for telehealth and telemedicine services which will surely be powered by a 5G Smart Grid, and creates a fund for development of vaccines. The stimulus package also expands the powers of the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Business Insider described the situation with the title, The CDC would set up a coronavirus ‘surveillance and data collection system’ as part of the Senate’s $2 trillion stimulus bill, an exploration of new surveillance powers to be granted to the CDC in the name of fighting the virus.
“Of the funding allocated to the CDC, the bill sets aside at least $500 million for public health data surveillance and modernizing the analytics infrastructure. The CDC must report on the development of a “surveillance and data collection system” within the next 30 days,” Business Insider reported on the CARES Act. “While it’s not clear what form that surveillance system will take, the federal government has reportedly expressed interest in aggregating data that can be gleaned from tech platforms and smartphone use to monitor movement patterns.”
The fight against COVID-19 has also lead to politicians and media pundits calling for the introduction or expansion of different forms of surveillance as weapons in the fight against coronavirus. Rolling Stone described a power grab by the Department of Justice with DOJ Wants to Suspend Certain Constitutional Rights During Coronavirus Emergency, while Forbes wrote Coronavirus Could Infect Privacy And Civil Liberties Forever. Even VICE called out the politricks with their blunt title COVID-19 Could Provide Cover for Domestic Surveillance Expansion.
Amidst these headlines discussing the calls for more surveillance and violations of civil liberties there have also been attempts to completely erode protections offered by encrypted messaging and email platforms. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the EARN IT Act of 2020 would “strip Section 230 protections away from any website that doesn’t follow a list of best practices,” meaning those sites can be sued into bankruptcy. The “best practices” list will be created by a government commission, headed by Attorney General Barr, who has made it very clear that he would like to ban encryption, and guarantee law enforcement “legal access” to every digital message. The bill was heavily debated in early March but has since stalled, however, we should remain vigilant and not allow ourselves to be distracted by the constant focus on COVID-19. It should be noted that the bill was introduced with bipartisan support from Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
The aforementioned topics are just the tip of the iceberg.
In the last 4 months since this pandemic has swept around the world we have seen the following:
- discussion of immunity passports, certificates, or badges in order to travel or go back to work
- door to door searches and checkpoints looking for the potentially infected
- discussion of vaccinations for 7 billion people before returning to “normal”
- QR Codes to determine an individuals rating and immunity
- contract tracing via smart phones and apps
- beating of citizens in India (and other civil rights abuses)
- mass spraying of people with disinfectant (and here)
- fever detecting surveillance drones, some which scold people for being outside
- implementation of biometrics or facial recognition
- increased censorship of information (1, 2) that conflicts with the official statements of the World Health Organization
- a consistent push in the media for a “new normal” which might include elements of all of the above
As noted above, it’s often difficult to understand the importance of a moment in time in the grand scheme of human history. Sure, we understand that this pandemic is carving a new path for our species, especially in regards to medicine and health, but what of the obvious attempts by authoritarian governments of the world to seize even more power? And when I say authoritarian, I am not speaking only of China or a distant far off nation in the “third world”, I am also speaking of the United States, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, etc.
We are witnessing another brick in the wall that will entrap the free people of the world in a Technocratic State where biometrics, facial recognition, immunity passports, drones flying overhead, and mass censorship are the new normal in the new world order. The tyrants of the world are making their move and they are using the cover of COVID-19 to implement their vision. The only way we will make it out of this precarious situation is to continue to educate our loves ones and community.
We cannot simply stay in our “woke” bubbles and preach to the choir. We appear to have an increasingly limited window of time to reach the masses and we must take the opportunity or risk failing to achieve a truly awakened humanity. Please make an honest effort to communicate with your friends, family, and other people you may be interacting with online.
Together we can change the story that is unfolding in front of our eyes. We can create a better world. However, it will not happen without an immense effort and cooperation the likes of which we have never seen. This is the greatest task of our generation—no matter what your age or date of birth—it’s our time to shift the path of humanity and do what is necessary to protect the coming generations.
The future of a free humanity depends on our actions today.
UN Says Trump Violated International Law With Pardons for Blackwater War Criminals
A United Nations panel has strongly denounced U.S. President Donald Trump’s pardons for several former Blackwater mercenaries and convicted war criminals that were found guilty of massacring over a dozen civilians in Baghdad.
The U.N. working group on the use of mercenaries released a statement Wednesday condemning the White House decision to pardon the four killers as an offense to basic justice and insult to the memory of over a dozen people killed in the 2007 massacre, reports Reuters. The panel also sharply condemned the move as a violation of U.S. obligations to international law.
“Pardoning the Blackwater contractors is an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families,” said panel chair Jelena Aparac.
“These pardons violate U.S. obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level,” she added.
The four men, all of whom were American, were involved in the indiscriminate killing of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians, when the mercenaries opened fire during busy traffic at the Baghdad square. Twenty additional civilians were injured. Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder while Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty and Paul Slough were each convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter.
The four men were employed by the private security firm Blackwater which was owned by security contractor Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Prince has reportedly served as an informal adviser to the White House while also helping to orchestrate spying efforts to infiltrate campaigns by political and labor groups considered hostile to Trump, the New York Times reported earlier this year.
The four mercenaries were included in a wave of controversial pre-Christmas pardons announced by the Trump administration that critics derided as corrupt and immoral.
“While U.S. Army contractors convicted of massacring civilians in Iraq are pardoned, the man who exposed such crimes against humanity, [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange, rots in Britain’s Guantanamo,” tweeted Greek economist and parliamentarian Yanis Varoufakis.
The pardons for the former Blackwater mercenaries, in particular, were sharply criticized by Gen. David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the two top American officials in charge of U.S. policy in Iraq at the time of the 2007 massacre, who called the move “hugely damaging, an action that tells the world that Americans abroad can commit the most heinous crimes with impunity” in a joint statement.
The U.N. working group’s chair also said that the pardons send the signal that private security contractors would essentially give them the green light to “operate with impunity in armed conflicts” as states increasingly rely on the firms to circumvent their obligations under humanitarian law.
In recent years, military contractors have increasingly been deployed in sensitive conflict zones by companies from the U.S., U.K., Russia, South Africa and other countries.
Blackwater, which has since been renamed as Academi, earned worldwide notoriety for the 2007 massacre, after which the company was stripped of its license to operate in Iraq by the country’s government.
Documents released by WikiLeaks have also highlighted major human rights abuses, including the murder of civilians, by private security services such as Blackwater throughout the Iraq War.
Trophy Hunters Killed 1.7 Million Animals Over the Past Decade – Including Endangered Species
The bloodthirsty “sport” of trophy hunting managed to kill one animal every three minutes over the past decades, according to a devastating new exposé of the industry.
Over 1.7 million animals – including elephants, lions, and rhinos – have been slaughtered by trophy hunters, with the wealthiest among them paying top dollar to kill rare and endangered creatures hovering at the brink of extinction.
The grim data underscores the ties between an industry that rakes in over $400 million per year and the global elites thirsty for a chance to kill the rare animals that conservationists have tirelessly worked to rescue.
The new book, entitled Trophy Leaks: Top Hunters and Industry Secrets, was written by Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH) founder Eduardo Gonçalves, and exposes the shocking scale of an industry that disingenuously claims that it is pursuing the aim of conservation.
Instead, the book reveals that trophy hunters have killed some “100 endangered animals” every day in 2018. The book, which also relies on analysis by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, shows that the life of an animal is taken for sport every three minutes in a blatantly irresponsible contribution to a loss of biodiversity that has seen the global rate of species extinction accelerate to unprecedented levels in recent decades.
For this reason, Gonçalves aptly characterizes the trophy hunting trade as an extinction industry that banks on the wholesale slaughter of creatures.
“An estimated 1.7 million animals were shot by trophy hunters over the past decade – the equivalent of almost 500 animals a day, or one every 3 minutes,” Gonçalves writes.
The book also reveals how shills for the game-hunting industry have run high-profile disinformation campaigns on social media to counter the efforts of the U.K. government to outlaw imports linked to trophy hunters. About £600,000 (USD $800,000) was used to prop up sock puppet accounts on Facebook and Twitter that purported to be Africans opposed to Boris Johnson’s pledge to ban trophy imports to Britain.
According to the book, nearly 800 hunters have won the “African Big 5” prize from the industry, which rewards those who have slain at least one buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and black or white rhino.
Hunting lobbyists with the Safari Club International (SCI) industry association have also awarded special prizes to hunters who have killed over 80 different African species.
Hunting advocates have also allegedly pledged over $2 million to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in hopes of seeing a generous return on investments under his administration.
While Trump has previously denounced trophy hunting as a “horror show,” his two sons are prominent trophy hunters and the Humane Society of the United States has denounced his administration for catering to wealthy trophy hunters and ignoring the pleas of conservationists to ban the import of slain animal “trophies.”
“Future generations will look back aghast at how we allowed the world’s most endangered species to be gunned down in their droves by adrenaline junkies in pursuit of grinning selfies and gruesome souvenirs,” Gonçalves told the Daily Mail.
“Trophy-hunting isn’t about a handful of sick individuals – it is about a huge global industry which wields extraordinary power and manipulates governments.”
Texas Dad Beaten, Maced, Taken to Jail for Filming Cops Arrest His Son for ‘Wide Right Turn’
As 2020 draws to a close, the year is likely to go down in history as a time when people across the United States finally decided to take a stand against systemic police brutality and widespread human rights abuses at the hands of law enforcement. Despite the protests, however, the widespread abuse of U.S. residents under color of authority is showing few signs of disappearing.
And in one especially egregious recent incident, a Texas police officer can be seen arresting a motorist for allegedly making too wide a right turn. The officer then proceeds to call for backup, after which the officers pepper-spray the driver and then beat the man’s father for lawfully filming the arrest.
The North Texas man is now suing two officers with the Keller Police Department for the disturbing incident, which occurred on Aug. 15 and has already led to the police chief disciplining the offending officer and apologizing to the family.
“It’s undeniable that their conduct was horrible,” Scott Palmer, one of the lawyers suing Keller PD, told New York Times. “They’re supposed to preserve and protect, and they caused havoc and mayhem.”
Dillon Puente, 22, was on his way to his grandmother’s home when he was pulled over for making a wide right turn. In police bodycam footage, Sergeant Blake Shimanek can be seen requesting that Dillon exit the car before he placed him in handcuffs.
In a police report reviewed by WFAA, Shimanek claimed that he arrested Puente for the mere traffic infraction out of fears for his own safety.
After Dillon was arrested, his father Marco Puente arrived at the scene to video record the arrest.
“He was ticketed and taken to jail for a wide right turn,” Marco later recounted.
Marco parked his truck in the lane adjacent to his son before Shimanek sharply warned him to move his vehicle, warning that he could be arrested for obstructing the roadway. Marco quickly complied before returning to record the arrest with his phone from the sidewalk across the road.
“The officer didn’t like me being there recording anything,” Marco said.
At that point, Shimanek ordered Officer Ankit Tomer to place Marco under arrest for filming the scene, which was well within his rights.
“Put your phone down,” Tomer said in footage captured by his bodycam. “Put your hands behind your head.”
“This guy is arresting me for just standing here,” Marco said.
It was at that point that Tomer escalated the situation by initiating force against Marco, an innocent civilian who was simply watching out for his son.
“They tried to take me down and pepper spray me, and it was a fiasco,” Marco said.
In the video, the officers can be seen tackling Marco to the ground and repeatedly spraying him with mace before placing him, too, in handcuffs. The father-son pair were then detained and hauled to the local jail.
However, Dillon Puente was ultimately only given a minor citation for the initial wide turn. Marco wasn’t charged with any crime, and he was quickly released.
Two days after the incident, the Keller police chief himself met with Marco to apologize for the conduct of his officers. Shimanek was also demoted from sergeant to officer for his role in the unnerving altercation.
In the lawsuit against the two officers, Keller PD leadership are quoted as calling the use of force and arrest of Marco Puente entirely “inappropriate.”
Regardless of the police department’s apologies, the lawsuit is being filed as a matter of ensuring basic accountability.
“Marco is not a criminal. This is a man, a concerned father, and if this can happen to him, it can happen to anyone,” Marco’s attorney Scott Palmer said. “These officers knew better. I believe they were trained better, but why did they not execute better? I don’t know.”
Shimanek also has a history of misconduct, including a 2016 incident where he unlawfully entered a home without a search warrant and other incidents.
“It’s disturbing to know that these are the people we are entrusting with providing safety in the community and they are abusing that power,” said James Roberts, an attorney who works with Palmer’s law firm. “I know that they knew better. I know that they knew what they were doing was wrong, yet they still did it.”
The Puente family is still disturbed by the incident, months after it transpired. And while Marco recognizes that the apology was a “nice” gesture, further accountability is required.
“This is going on everywhere,” Puente said about police brutality. “If people keep on brushing it under a rug, it’s going to keep happening.”
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