Sunday, April 29, 2012

Victory Is Ours: Introduction

In Land of the Blacks, Part 1, we very briefly reviewed Sudanese history, and provided the background leading up to the referendum that led to South Sudan's independence. Reviewing this post today, I discovered that the links to embed an audio and a video no longer function. There is now a link to take you to the video, and I am looking for a replacement for the embedded audio.

In Land of the Blacks, Part 2, we reviewed expert testimony before Congress to get an idea of how Bashir's regime in Khartoum operates. In particular, we saw how Bashir lets militias do his dirty work, supporting them by airstrikes which serve little military purpose, but which terrorize the civilian villages and refugee camps. We also saw how International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Bashir invents conflict to create a better negotiating position, and heard of allegations that Bashir was embezzling billions of dollars of oil money.

In Land of the Blacks, Part 3 we heard of violence leading up to the January, 2011, plebiscite on independence, considered how oil would become a key issue, and noticed that 20% of Sudan's civil service were southerners.

These first three parts were published on January 8, 2011. Land of the Blacks, Part 4 came out on June 6, 2011, and in it we considered the oil from Abyei and the Unity oilfield, and saw how hostilities were already breaking out around Abyei. Governor Taban Deng Gai of Unity State was quoted as stating that there already existed a de facto state of war. And, we put it together: Bashir was using proxy militias backed by his airpower to drive tribes hostile to his rule out of disputed areas, with the goal of moving his own people in. He obviously sought de facto control of disputed areas, which could later be legitimized through votes for "self-determination".

By Land of the Blacks, Part 5, we were considering the mechanics of the hostilities, especially the background of Ahmad Muhammad Harun, and ICC-indicted war criminal whom Bashir had named governor of Southern Kordofan. We came to the conclusion that Bashir had been planning this fight for more than two years, and had been getting his assets (people, militias, military units) in place. And, we saw how, in testimony before Congress, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, pointed out that President Obama was following the same flawed policy relative to Sudan and Bashir that Obama had criticized in 2008.

By this point, it was obvious to me a war was breaking out, so I began the next series on Sudan, entitled The Inter-Sudan War, in June; the title was chosen because the war was obviously beginning along the poorly-defined border between the Republic of Sudan ("rump" Sudan, the north) and the other Sudanese daughter country, the Republic of South Sudan. In The Inter-Sudan War, Part 1, we considered how easy it would be for Bashir to attain his goals in the absence of an effective international response, and we also saw how easy an effective international response could be, given the political will to confront this indicted war criminal.

The Inter-Sudan War, Part 2 outlined Bashir's emerging ethnic cleansing of his border areas, and drew parallels with the genocide in Rwanda. We also pointed out a general regional trend of secular dictators and infidels being targeted by Islamic militants, and how Obama was always either doing nothing, or supporting the Islamic militants.

The Inter-Sudan War, Part 3 provided more information to support the contention that it was not merely a question of ethnic cleansing, but of Islamic militants doing exactly what Bashir had promised would happen in the event the South seceded: turn the North into an Islamic state governed by sharia law.

It was only this month that The Inter-Sudan War, Part 4 pointed out the conflict was really beginning to heat up, not just with militias terrorizing civilians, but with troops from North and South fighting it out, and in The Inter-Sudan War, Part 5 we considered the political and economic aspects of this fight, and saw how the heavier fighting was sparked by an incursion by Northern troops, which was met by Southern forces pursuing them northward in "hot pursuit" - a "hot pursuit" denounced by the international community, resulting in South Sudan's President Kiir withdrawing those troops, but then facing some domestic pressure as a result.

So, we saw how a war was developing while the rest of the world hoped for peace. Then, we saw how the war was breaking out, while the rest of the world thought it was merely a possibility.

Now, we will begin a new series, entitled Victory Is Ours, in which we will examine how Bashir is winning, while the rest of the world is beginning to realize a war is actually being fought.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Inter-Sudan War, Part 5

In Part 4 we began an overview of recent events in Sudan. We now go more into depth. In this post, we start by examining some aspects of China's concerns regarding the situation along the inter-Sudan Border. From Sudan tensions imperil China's investments, April 7, 2012, we have a report by Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri:

Mentioned in the report is South Sudan's expulsion of Liu Yingcai, head of South Sudan's biggest oil company, the Chinese and Malaysian-owned Petrodar. Liu was accused of helping the government in Khartoum steal $815 million worth of oil; we examine excerpts of South Sudan expels Chinese oil firm boss from February 22, 2012:

South Sudan has stopped production after Sudan seized oil - Khartoum says this is because of unpaid transit fees.


Oil makes up 98% of Juba's budget - but its only export route is through its northern neighbour.

Before the shutdown, China was the biggest buyer of Sudanese oil, relying on it for nearly 5% of its needs.

It has good relations with the Khartoum government - and was a key player in trying to get the two sides to come to an agreement over the oil crisis.

In Part 4 we heard about this, and we heard, in an interview with South Sudan's Minister of Information Dr. Marial Benjamin, that Khartoum ("North" Sudan) was charging Juba (the Republic of South Sudan) exhorbitant transit fees, until Khartoum just started stealing the oil altogether - allegedly, nearly $1 billion worth. It was at this point that South Sudan cut off the flow of oil through the north.

This situation regarding oil was one of four causes identified by Professor Alex de Wall as combining to generate the current crisis.

From Alex de Waal: Currently, it’s war for North and South Sudan, April 24, 2012:

Economic Factors

Pre-secession oil revenues for North Sudan constituted 55 percent of its national budget. North Sudan has experienced a 40 percent drop in oil revenues since secession, a decrease in budget which would require mitigation either by austerity, international assistance or transitional financial assistance from the South. None of these three has taken place. In December, as a result of the dire economic situation in the North, the Khartoum government started taking oil that rightly belonged to the South. This prompted the South's oil shutdown – de Waal states that the South "didn't really do their sums" with regard to the financial implications of this this decision. At some point, in the near future, the South Sudanese government will simply run out of money. If the government has no money then quite rapidly the South may become ungovernable.

It is with the greatest of hesitation that I dispute the conclusions of Professor de Waal, who is very well-versed on the situation in Sudan.

However, I think that perhaps the South did "do their sums" - at first, they paid exhorbitant transit fees, as indicated by Dr. Benjamin, in order to keep the oil flowing and their own money coming in from the proceeds of its sale.

But, then, when Khartoum just started stealing the South's oil outright, Juba was in a position where, instead of getting an income at an exhorbitant fee, Juba was simply pumping oil and essentially giving it away to Khartoum which, in turn, was using the money not to build agricultural infrastructure, which the North desperately needs, but to prosecute a war against rebels which the North claimed were being supported by the South.

Why give something - oil - and get nothing in return? Worse, why give resources for free to a country which is essentially committing aggression against you, and which is run by internationally-indicted war criminals with a history of committing similar aggressions elsewhere? I think Juba did their sums, and came a conclusion: the loss of revenue for the South, which, as we have seen, is 98% of their income, is painful, but had already occurred. The South merely interdicted the theft and subsequent misuse of Juba's own resources to prosecute war against Juba.

Not only is this both a cause and a result of the ongoing hostilities, but this also ties back in to China. China buys 67% of Sudan's exported oil. From A Q&A on oil in Sudan, March 16, 2012:

Q.Who are currently the largest buyers of Sudanese/South Sudanese oil?

EIU: The major customers of Sudanese and South Sudanese oil is/will be China. In 2010, China acquired 67% of Sudan's oil exports, followed by Malaysia, Japan and India.

In 2010, Sudan produced 470,000 b/d, of which 100,000 b/d was used for domestic consumption, leaving about 370,000 b/d left for export. Of this latter total, about 67% was exported to China.

With Sudan now broken up, South Sudan now produces about 345,000 b/d and Sudan about 150,000 b/d. These ar estimates.

As we saw above, this accounts for 5% of China's oil needs - a volume that could be covered by increases in production by other suppliers. But, the economic impact for Khartoum and Juba is more significant. Skipping down:

Q.Does South Sudan have any other industry aside from oil, or are they wholly dependent on energy exports for their income?

EIU: South Sudan is virtually entirely dependent on oil exports for its national revenue, 98% in fact. Half of Sudan's government revenue and 90% of Sudan's export revenue is dependent on oil sales.

With most oil produced in the South, and with all Southern oil having to transit the North for export, and with both governments heavily reliant on oil revenues, it is not surprising that oil revenues top the list of disputed issues.

(Source for last two images.)

As I have explained in previous posts, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has stated that (North) Sudan's Bashir invents conflict to create a better negotiating position.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir

Given that the North is only heavily reliant on revenues from oil exports, but that the South is almost totally reliant on such revenues, Bashir may have figured he could provoke a fight over this matter, knowing that time is likely on his side - especially if international opinion is divided regarding the war, rather than being firmly against Khartoum.

And, that is exactly what has happened.

South Sudan's armed forces moved into disputed territory - Heglig - generally recognized by the world as belonging to the North, until such time as a settlement is negotiated. But, it is worth recalling South Sudan's Minister of Information Dr. Marial Benjamin's words in an interview, the audio of which was presented in Part 4: that the South's forces moved into Heglig in "hot pursuit" of forces from the North. Under pressure from the international community, President Kiir withdrew these troops, and this move has met with some dissatisfaction among leaders from the South.

I can't help but wonder if Bashir didn't provoke this deliberately, knowing he was in a better position to weather the economic storm that would result from shutting off the flow of the South's oil and heating up the war, and knowing that his opposite number, President Kiir, was perhaps a little more sensitive to the political fallout from any result or response than Bashir himself was?

Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Inter-Sudan War, Part 4

In Part 1, we considered the initial spark that ignited open hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan, recalling that:

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has stated that Bashir invents conflict to create a better negotiating position, according to March, 2009 Wikileaked cable. Consequently, we could expect Bashir to generate some kind of crisis, through a false-flag operation if necessary; however, given the tensions, he really only needs to wait for an inevitable incident, then blow it out of proportion.


If the goal is not a thorough military defeat of the south, but rather a conflict to improve his negotiating position, and in particular a conflict under somewhat ambiguous circumstances so as to not galvanize any kind of international response, Bashir could pull this off quite easily. Such a scenario would be consistent with what we have seen in Sudan, it would be consistent with what we know of Bashir, and it would be consistent with Lt. Gen. Moi's observations. This might be leveraged by Bashir into more control over Sudan's oil exports which, coupled with a growing gold-mining industry in the north, would seem to secure Khartoum's position for the foreseeable future.

And, I think this is what is happening. As Governor Taban Deng said back in May, South Sudan is already at war.

In Part 2, we reviewed information from previous posts and various articles, coming to the conclusion that Sudan's President Bashir had been planning and preparing for contingencies to leverage incidents with South Sudan into more control of Sudanese oil (pumped in the South, but piped for export through the North), and into a more ethnically-cleansed Sudan. We also considered that such incidents could be fabricated, though this was not necessary, as, given the tension along the border with the south, a suitable incident would inevitably arise. We finished by asking some questions:

This is shaping up as a fight between 1) bad guys like Bashir and jihadists and 2) infidels and takfir like Gaddafi.

So, why is Obama supporting the rebels against Gaddafi who, by extension, may very well find themselves allied to Bashir?

And, why is Obama doing essentially nothing about Bashir's ethnic cleansing in Abyei and Southern Kordofan?

Of course, Gaddafi is dead and jihadist power in Libya (and Egypt) grows daily - and Syria is in turmoil... the jihadists are winning.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir

In Part 3 we reviewed what is going in Kordofan, and saw how it is clearly an effort to eliminate a main opposition group from Sudan. One source cited took pains to claim this was not a Muslim/infidel sort of thing, but of course, I disagree: Bashir is very much into Islamic imperialism which, typical of such imperialistic ideologies, will be a springboard for Bashir himself to consolidate his own power. Bashir's jihad is being conducted via his tested formula of aerial attacks on civilians, followed by brutal assaults by jihadists on the ground. The aerial attacks are so bad, there is a website devoted to documenting them: Sudan Bombing. That some of the victims are Muslims is irrelevant; they can conveniently be labeled as takfir.

The current situation is summarized in CSIS's The Two Sudans on the Brink, from April 19, by Richard Downie:

There are fears that Sudan and South Sudan are edging closer to all-out war. The latest crisis has been precipitated by a dispute over oil, which propels the economies of both countries. South Sudan broke away from Sudan to become an independent nation in July 2011 but has been unable to agree on terms for using the North's oil pipeline, its only route to selling its oil. The dispute escalated in January, when South Sudan shut off production entirely rather than pay what it said were exorbitant fees to transport its oil through Sudan. A military confrontation quickly ensued, which culminated in the seizure by South Sudan's army of the main oil field controlled by the North, Heglig, on April 10. In a speech to party supporters, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan said that efforts to retake Heglig would "not be the end, but the beginning." He pledged to "liberate" South Sudan from its government.

We can listen to the situation explained by South Sudan's Minister of Information Dr. Marial Benjamin in a nearly hour-long interview on Sudanese talk radio. From South Sudan condemns 'wanton' attacks on its territory, March 29, 2012:

At the Sahel Blog, Alex Thurston, a blogger whose commentary is often featured in the Christian Science Monitor, gives some background to the politics in the north in a post entitled Glimpses of (North) Sudanese Politics in a Time of Conflict from April 23. Three days before, he wrote a post entitled Sudan and South Sudan Flirting with Full-Blown War. Thurston consistently points to factors that may result in de-escalation and an avoidance of all-out-war. However, even if war between the two Sudans is technically avoided, do we not still have an ongoing war among Sudanese, considering Bashir's activities within the Republic of Sudan (the north)?

Some de-escalation between North and South has indeed occurred. From Governor Bakasoro 'unhappy' with South Sudan pullout from Panthou, hits out at 'biased' International Community, April 23, we have another audio clip:

For now, the African Union is reaffirming that border disputes should not be settled by force (see AU pushing roadmap for resolution of conflict between Khartoum and Juba), even as President Kiir faces domestic pressure in South Sudan for withdrawing troops from Heglig (known as Panthou in the South - see Governor Bakasoro 'unhappy' with South Sudan pullout from Panthou, hits out at 'biased' International Community).

Meanwhile, what has been happening in South Kordofan (see Peter Moszynski on the Nuba Mountains and South Sudan, April 6) will likely continue to happen, since the international community seems determined to let Sudan's indicted war criminals be war criminals.

How is this not already a war?

And, as I pointed out in a previos post, American media is letting this happen on Obama's watch, without so much as a whimper to call attention to it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

License to Intrude, Part 3

In Part 1, we saw how federal agents were taking shortcuts around the Bill of Rights to collect and retain information on innocent, lawful (and legally-protected) activities of American citizens, and share that with other government agencies. The FBI was the subject of much of the discussion - but don't think it ends (or begins) with them. We also examined the connections between Facebook's senior leadership and national Democrats, and asked the question about what would happen if government agents, following orders from unscrupulous superiors, sought information from a social networking corporation whose executives helped put those unscrupulous superiors into power.

In Part 2 we saw how Facebook inadvertently collected large amounts of information from the computers of its users, even after those users had logged out of Facebook. This was significant, because the information deliberately collected was quite extensive:

Thus, in addition to being populated by traditional Facebook activities — "likes," comments, wall posts, picture posts, and so on—Ticker will soon be filled with detailed information about users' media consumption and lifestyle habits—the TV shows they watch, the books they read, the websites they visit, and the routes they jog, most likely without users affirmatively setting their preferences to share such information.

We also saw an example of how the government of Iran was using Facebook information to persecute activists in the United States! And, we heard about Facebook's policy regarding government requests: "32. Facebook currently grants government access to user information on merely a "good faith belief" that the disclosure is required by law[.]"

Well, it is getting better.

An excerpt from Four Unanswered Questions About the Cybersecurity Bills by Eva Galperin, March 27, 2012, gives a little more insight into the questions being considered in legislating current technology:

What does "information sharing" mean?

All of the proposed cybersecurity bills mandate some kind of "information sharing" or "government assistance" between the U.S. government and the private companies that have access to so much of our personal data, including email, web searches, GPS data, and our social graphs. Companies are encouraged to share information about "cyber threats" or incidents with the government, and to that end it provides them with immunity when sharing information about threats.

Some of the proposals balance this information-sharing with privacy oversight, to make sure that shared information does not impinge on individual privacy or civil liberties, but proposals such as the Rogers bill contain no such protective language. The Rogers bill gives companies a free pass to monitor and collect communications and share that data with the government and other companies, so long as they do so for "cybersecurity purposes." Just invoking "cybersecurity threats" is enough to grant companies immunity from nearly all civil and criminal liability, effectively creating an exemption from all existing law. Additionally, the Rogers bill places almost no restrictions on what kinds of information can be collected and how it can be used, so long as the companies can claim it was motivated by "cybersecurity purposes." S. 2105 (Lieberman) and S. 2151 (McCain) contain similarly dangerous provisions.

As if that wasn't bad enough, "information sharing" is often just a euphemism for surveillance and countermeasures, including monitoring email, filtering content, or blocking access to websites.

The link in the above excerpt goes into more detail on the Rogers bill. From Rogers' "Cybersecurity" Bill Is Broad Enough to Use Against WikiLeaks and The Pirate Bay, March 8, 2012, by Rainey Reitman and Lee Tien:

Under the proposed legislation, a company that protects itself or other companies against "cybersecurity threats" can "use cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property" of the company under threat. But because "us[ing] cybersecurity systems" is incredibly vague, it could be interpreted to mean monitoring email, filtering content, or even blocking access to sites. A company acting on a "cybersecurity threat" would be able to bypass all existing laws, including laws prohibiting telcos from routinely monitoring communications, so long as it acted in "good faith."

The broad language around what constitutes a cybersecurity threat leaves the door wide open for abuse. For example, the bill defines "cyber threat intelligence" and "cybersecurity purpose" to include "theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information."

Yes, intellectual property. It's a little piece of SOPA wrapped up in a bill that's supposedly designed to facilitate detection of and defense against cybersecurity threats. The language is so vague that an ISP could use it to monitor communications of subscribers for potential infringement of intellectual property. An ISP could even interpret this bill as allowing them to block accounts believed to be infringing, block access to websites like The Pirate Bay believed to carry infringing content, or take other measures provided they claimed it was motivated by cybersecurity concerns.

The language of "theft or misappropriation of private or government information" is equally concerning. Regardless of the intent of this language, the end result is that the government and Internet companies could use this language to block sites like WikiLeaks and, both of which have published classified information. Online publishers like WikiLeaks are currently afforded protection under the First Amendment; receiving and publishing classified documents from a whistleblower is a common journalistic practice. While there's uncertainty about whether the Espionage Act could be brought to bear against WikiLeaks, it is difficult to imagine a situation where the Espionage Act would apply to WikiLeaks without equally applying to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and in fact everyone who reads about the cablegate releases. But under Rogers' cybersecurity proposal, the government would have new, powerful tools to go after WikiLeaks. By claiming that WikiLeaks constituted "cyber threat intelligence" (aka "theft or misappropriation of private or government information"), the government may be empowering itself and other companies to monitor and block the site. This means that the previous tactics used to silence WikiLeaks—including a financial blockade and shutting down their accounts with online service providers—could be supplemented by very direct means. The government could proclaim that WikiLeaks constitutes a cybersecurity threat and have new, broad powers to filter and block communication with the journalistic website.

I am wondering if it doesn't go far beyond that. What about if someone had serious concerns that a social networking company were spying on its customers and passing that information to someone else in deliberate violation of the law? If that someone tried to collect evidence to determine if this was indeed happening, could that attempt be construed as a cybersecurity threat? Of course criminals will cover their tracks by breaking more laws, but this could make it perfectly legal for criminals to cover up criminal activities.

Read some of the rest of the posts at my blog, and tell me if that is not a serious concern.

Facebook's "Timeline" feature has been alleged to go out of bounds. From a December 27, 2011, EPIC letter to the FTC we learn about the threats posed by "Timeline":

Dear Mr. Chairman and Members of the Commission:

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission announced a landmark settlement with the social network company, Facebook. According to the Commission, "The social networking service Facebook has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public."1 We write now to urge the Commission to determine whether Facebook's deployment of "Timeline" complies with the Commission's recent order In the Matter of Facebook, Inc. (Nov 29, 2011).

Having just reached a settlement with the Commission in which the company is required "to take several steps to make sure it lives up to its promises in the future, including giving consumers clear and prominent notice and obtaining consumers' express consent before their information is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established,"2 Facebook is changing the privacy settings of its users in a way that gives the company far greater ability to disclose their personal information than in the past. With Timeline, Facebook has once again taken control over the user's data from the user and has now made information that was essentially archived and inaccessible widely available without the consent of the user.


Timeline acts as a user's profile page and automatically summarizes the user's life, from birth to the present day.8 Facebook selectively takes user information to display the Timeline summaries from every piece of information that has ever been shared with Facebook.


This level of exposure is vastly different from the old Facebook Profile.


Nor is Timeline limited to the types of information shared in the past. As users connect to social apps, Timeline will contain new categories of information regarding media consumption and lifestyle habits. Timeline's new "Health and Wellness" item, for example, encourages users to disclose medical data, turning Facebook into "an actuarial goldmine."11

In fact, Facebook is already used by the leading pharmaceutical companies to market drugs and medical treatments.12 The use of Facebook by health advertising companies led the Center for Digital Democracy to file a complaint with the Commission last year.13 The complain discussed Facebook applications such as Healthseeker, which was designed to help people with diabetes make informed lifestyle choices, but which neglected to mention "how users are tracked and monitored or what kinds of data are collected."14


One government has already warned consumers about the dangers presented by Timeline. Australia's Privacy Commission warned consumers to be careful what information they share with Facebook, stating that the company is "trying to change how people think and encourage them to normalize over-sharing and abandon any restraing on storage and use and exposure of private information."20


What kind of data is at stake, though? You might be surprised. From COMMENTS OF THE ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER To THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION / Face Facts: A Forum on Facial Recognition / Project Number P115406, January 31, 2012:

At a minimum, EPIC recommends that the Commission enforce Fair Information Practices ("FIP") against commercial actors when collecting, using, or storing facial recognition data. We further believe that businesses should never use facial recognitions techniques to obtain the actual identity of consumers without the consumer's actual knowledge and informed consent. Consumers today enjoy enormous freedom and personal safety because they are able to interact with so many merchants, who are essentially strangers, without concern that they will be secretly tracked and profiled. It is critical that the Federal Trade Commission take affirmative steps to ensure the protection of the consumers' right to safeguard their identity. In the absence of guidelines and legal standards, EPIC recommends a moratorium on the commercial deployment of facial recognition techniques.


EPIC's 2010 complaint concerning Google Buzz provided the basis for the Commission's investigation and subsequent settlement concerning the social networking service.2 In that case, the Commission found that Google "used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers when it launched [Buzz]."3 The Commission's recent settlement with Facebook was based on complaints filed by EPIC and other privacy and civil liberties organizations.4 The Commission found that Facebook had "deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public."5 EPIC has also worked to bring the Commission's attention to the issues raised by facial recognition technology. In 2011, EPIC Senior Counsel John Verdi spoke at the Face Facts Workshop,6 and EPIC filed a complaint with the Commission regarding Facebook's use of facial recognition technology.7

But, wait! There's more!

Did you notice how Facebook now tells everyone where you are when you post a status update? Facebook is not just tracking your location; it is making your location public knowledge. To be sure, this is only an approximate location, but do you really want the world to know when you are hundreds of miles from home, away on a vacation or a business trip?

And, it does not stop with location. The potential is for far, far more.

From Are you ready for a 'quantified life'?, by Mike Elgan, April 14, 2012:

Computerworld - That smartphone you carry around is a box full of sensors.

Those sensors are just sitting there doing nothing, or performing mundane tasks like giving you turn-by-turn directions or turning off your screen when you're yakking on the phone.

But what if you could use phone sensors to their full potential?


Smart software with access to all the data gathered by these sensors, combined with an Internet full of information, could figure out all kinds of things about you.

Everybody knows that big companies like Google, Apple and Facebook want to harvest cellphone-generated data and use it to serve up virtual personal assistants with a side order of contextual advertising.

This vision of the future puts your phone's sensor data in the hands of megacorporations.


Alohar's Mobile Behavior Analytics Engine squeezes meaning out of user sensor data and offers libraries of data analysis to developers.

For example, based on the speed at which you're moving and the pattern of your phone's motion sensor, Alohar's software can tell if you're walking, skateboarding, biking, driving or flying. The GPS can tell where this is taking place. The clock tells when.

It can also auto-categorize locations as "home," "work," "restaurant," "gym" and other groupings, and provide you with statistics about, for example, how many hours you spend at work each month.

By combining GPS, light sensor and temperature data, the software can tell if you're inside or outside.

Some people with brains are rightly concerned about having chips implanted in them, without their knowledge or consent.

But, how many of us have already bought such an item, and carry it with us everywhere we go?

1984 is here, and we're paying top dollar to have the latest upgrades to the surveillance system.

And, at least one social networking company whose executives supported Obama's and Clinton's candidacies in 2008 is collecting that information, giving it away to the government and selling it to the highest bidders.

From Are you ready for a 'quantified life'?:

There's another "ambient awareness" app called Highlight that tells you when someone you know -- or someone who knows someone you know -- is nearby.

A combination of a system like Alohar's and an app like Highlight could tell you how you're connected to the strangers around you (those who also use the same app). Here's a guy who goes to the same gym you do. There's a woman whose kids go to the same school as your kids. One of your neighbors works in a building next to your workplace -- maybe you should carpool.

It's impossible to predict what creative developers could do with this service.

I wonder just how seamlessly that might connect with Facebook? :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Among the Sons of Togarmah, Part 5

In Part 1 we considered how the boundaries of Soviet Republics were drawn so that, should the USSR dissolve, these would be international borders, the demarcation of which would cause unrest; and, we saw how this was especially true in the Caucasus. We also examined how oil increasingly moves through pipelines in the Caucasus, skirting Russian borders, and we keyed in on Dagestan and Chechnya as examples of militant Islamic activity, what it may bring, and how difficult it is to effectively fight it.

In Part 2 we saw how Islamic terrorists sought to destabilize Kabardino-Balkaria, countering a Russian strategy of investment to improve the tourist industry in the region, which, in turn, was hoped to remove potential recruits from the jihadists by giving them jobs.

In Part 3, we saw how Moscow's strategy of "Chechenization" of the conflict in Chechnya might actually be more appropriately named "Kadyrovization" since Moscow seems to pin its hopes on a Chechen leader named Kadyrov. I summarized this situation thusly:

It should be noted that Chechens have developed a reputation for involvement in organized crime, throughout the Russian Federation and even on a global scale. Consequently, what Putin did was put one organized crime faction in charge of running Chechnya; other groups could either be friends or enemies of the most powerful organized crime group, which was powerful due to its ties to Moscow, and which was held in check by Moscow through the availability of other clans that could be placed in charge, should Kadyrov betray the Kremlin.

Basically, Moscow pays off, via support and federal money, one organized crime family to run Chechnya. This delegimitizes both federal and local authorities, creating a niche for the expansion of Islamic militant authority, and thus creating an atmosphere conducive to further Islamic insurgent activities. One immediate effect was that as violence initially died down in Chechnya, it increased in neighboring parts of the Caucasus.

In Part 4 we considered how the same dynamic that was at work creating problems in Dagestan was also at work in the northwest Caucasus, in Kabardino-Balkaria. We also saw how Dagestan was becoming the center of jihadism in the Caucasus. A recurring theme through this series has been how jihad is funded through criminal activities, including trafficking of Afghan heroin to Russia and Europe (and America).

Now, we have reports that Russian troops are moving from Chechnya to Dagestan.

In Russia Deploying Troops for Temporary Dagestan Reinforcement, dated March 19, we hear about troops being moved in to fight the separatist insurgency, and in Dagestan's President Promises a Decisive Crackdown on the Insurgency, from April 9, we hear about increased fighting between government forces and insurgents, and an increased resentment of Moscow-backed forces by the local Dagestanis.

Confusion Surrounds Reported Troop Deployment To Daghestan, from April 11, points out discrepancies between some observers, who claim a movement of about 1000 troops, and claims by Kavkaz Center of tens of thousands of troops; for example, 25.000 troops and more than 300 armored vehicles deployed in Dagestan from Chechnya from March 17 places the troop movement at the equivalent of two divisions.

Interesting analysis can be found in Chechen Troops in Dagestan: A Step Toward "Kadyrovization" of the North Caucasus?, which gives excellent background about ethnic disputes between Chechens and Dagestanis. The article goes on to question the ethnic composition of the troop movement, and point out the potential for trouble should too many Chechens be allowed too free a hand in Dagestan. So far, this has been a jihadist/infidel thing, but it could easily have an added Dagestani/Chechen dimension, from which the Islamic jihadists, whose ideology claims to transcend ethnicity, could be positioned to benefit.

But then there is the question of Kadyrovization, beyond battling insurgents. As I pointed out, this can be viewed in the light of organized crime, as corrupt officials in Moscow allow their local affiliates a free hand to organize crime in the Caucasus under the control of "their" guy, Kadyrov.

Kavkaz Center certainly views the world through its own prism; occasionally, this skews the view, but sometimes they come up with some very good information. In its entirety, with any edits from me, Russian-occupied Georgian provinces are transit corridors for Putin's KGB drug trafficking:

Publication time: 9 March 2012, 15:06

Two Russian occupied Georgian provinces are a transit corridor for Putin's KGB drug shipment from Asia to Europe, reports say.

As is known, drug trafficking is the main source of income for Putin's KGB generals and officers.

"Many observers believe that Georgia's separatist regions are main corridor for drug smuggling. Georgia's legislation is not again executed in the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. There are concerns that the drugs pass through this territory. It is impossible to re-verify this information, as the Russian occupation forces or de facto government of the regions do not exchange information on movement of drugs with the Georgian side," a report says.

The document's authors also note that the trucks moving on long-distance routes, sometimes carry drugs, and these goods must be checked at the points of departure and prior to shipment must be sealed.

The report's items on Georgia say that the country does not produce drugs, except a small volume of amphetamine-type stimulants.

The so called "crocodile", which is an alternative to morphine and is becoming popular, is often mentioned as a drug shipped by the KGB. It also says that heroin, subutex, methadone and marijuana are available on the Russian and international markets.

In turn, the CIA and US Army generals and officers actively control the drug production by their puppets in the American-occupied Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Other information I have implicates certain US officials, both military and civilian, in trafficking Afghan heroin, including on board US military aircraft, thus confirming some of these jihadist allegations.

Could this jihadist report be accurate?

If so, could one reason for the troop movement be to secure marketshare in the trafficking of narcotics through the Caucasus?