All posts by Joe Scarborough

Chilling World War III ‘wargames’ show US forces crushed by Russia and China

RAND Senior Defense Analyst David Ochmanek discussed the simulations at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington D.C. last week. “In our games, where we fight China or Russia … blue gets its a** handed to it, not to put too fine a point on it,” he said, during a panel discussion. Blue denotes U.S. forces in the simulations.

Russia and China have amassed large inventories of precision-guided cruise missiles and ballistic missiles that can reach hundreds of miles and strike military targets, the researcher said. Set against this backdrop, U.S. military outposts and aircraft carriers in the contested regions could face a potential devastating barrage of missiles.


‘They’re in our heads’: TV series tackles big-tech nightmare

Cannes (France) (AFP) – Channing Powell, the creator of the hit horror television series “The Walking Dead”, is not someone who is easily spooked.

But Powell is scared, “terrified actually” of what big tech might be up to.

And critics were too after watching her spine-chilling new series, “The Feed”, premiere in Cannes this week.

The Amazon show is set in the near future when we can share emotions, thoughts and what we see with our eyes on a social network embedded in our brains.

If that sounds as far fetched as the post-apocalyptic zombies of “The Walking Dead”, Powell has news for you.

“Elon Musk and Facebook are already trying to develop the technology portrayed in the show,” she told AFP at the Canneseries festival in the French Riviera resort.

The Tesla boss and sometime Twitter warrior “is developing a neuro lace (computer) that covers the entire brain that you would control with thought,” Powell said.

“Facebook has been working on something similar in some place called ‘Building 8’ where it has all its secret projects.”

Both are very quiet about what precisely they are doing, said Powell.

– Chips controlled by thought –

However, “people at MIT have already created something you can attach to your ear that is controlled by thought.

“It can tell you the time and how much groceries are when you walk through the aisles of a supermarket,” she added.

“The Feed” — which will screen later this year — is based on Nick Clark Windo’s 2018 novel of the same name.

Told from inside the fabulously wealthy family who invented “The Feed” and now effectively control the world, the story doesn’t end well.

Given what we have learned about the harvesting and misuse of personal data from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and how Google can seem to predict our needs before we search for it on our smartphone, that should not be too surprising.

“We have seen dystopian shows before but never like this,” Powell insisted, who cast British actor David Thewlis as the tech guru patriarch of the seemingly well-meaning clan.

“It was a very realistic portrayal of what happens when we let technology control us — and we are heading in that direction.

“We cannot let go of our iPhones, we need to check Instagram every hour or minute. The notion that you would put something inside your head is really frightening to me,” the 39-year-old said.

– ‘Terrifying’ –

But it is where tech companies are going, she insisted, the next logical step from Google’s smart glasses.

Powell said workers in some companies in Belgium and Sweden already have chips implanted in their bodies.

“What is happening around us right now is so scary. When somebody like Elon Musk (a radical libertarian) — who is inside this — is telling the government, ‘You need to regulate us, and stop us from doing what we are doing’, that is terrifying. Because he knows way more than we know,” she said.

Paranoia about new technology is nothing new, Powell admitted, dating back beyond the Industrial Revolution.

But what we are living through now, and with little or no regulation to hold tech companies back, is of a different order, she argued.

“Technology has brought us so much…. but there are also these negative undertones to it. Facebook is watching you and selling your information. They own Instagram and WhatsApp, and (Amazon’s) Alexa is in every room of your house. Siri can pop up on your phone when you didn’t even call her. You cannot ignore that side of it.”

Set in England, “The Feed” has British actor Guy Burnet play Thewlis’ psychologist son and Nina Toussaint-White his daughter-in-law.

Burnet told AFP that the series’ vision of the near future “was far from crazy… and it is amazing it hasn’t been done before” when you see Beijing’s plans for its social credit system.

From next year all Chinese citizens will be ranked and either punished or rewarded according to their “social credit” score.

“I think we’re not on the precipice, we may have already passed it,” the actor warned.

In “The Feed”, a handful of people control the code on which the world relies, and it is they, said Powell, who get to decide what the public need to know.

“Which is effectively where we are now” in the real world too, the writer warned.

Original Article

New York’s new budget is all about bleeding the public

New York woke Sunday to learn that state lawmakers had agreed to a budget that aims to spend a whopping $175 billion in the next fiscal year, while imposing a boatload of new taxes and fees in the name of funding the MTA.

More hits to your pocket, and more spending, are still to come: The budget also sets up “independent” commissions to settle the details of both public funding of state political campaigns and “congestion” tolls in Manhattan. Plus, lawmakers this year may yet legalize online sports betting and the sale of pot, each of which will come with a hefty cut of the profits for state government.

The only good news: Lawmakers agreed to make permanent the law capping property-tax hikes (which doesn’t apply in the city). It will no longer be linked to renewal of the rent-control laws.
But the rent laws are being tightened, and some city real-estate taxes are headed up: The budget adds new “mansion” taxes on the sale of multimillion-dollar homes — while reserving the revenue for state priorities, even though property taxes traditionally fund local government.

Mansion-tax supporters usually point to billionaire hedge-funder Ken Griffin’s $238 million January purchase of a penthouse off Central Park, the most expensive home in America, as evidence of excess that deserves special taxation — especially since Griffin’s Citadel fund is Chicago-based. What they don’t mention is that Citadel was expanding operations in the city, and even considering a move to the Big Apple — which would have added lots of high-paying (and so big-tax-generating) jobs to the local economy.

Except that Griffin publicly called off those plans more recently, citing New York politicians’ clear intent to “soak the rich” no matter how many jobs it destroys.

‘Congestion pricing” is another state grab of fees generated in New York City, from a city resource (its roads). Yes, the funds are supposed to go to the MTA, but suburban lawmakers have won guarantees that some of the windfall will go to the commuter railroads rather than the subways and buses. And, significantly, the money will count as part of the state’s share of MTA funding, with the city forced to cough up still more cash for its contribution. (Mayor de Blasio, his eyes on his future job prospects rather than the city’s interests, went along happily with this naked cash grab.)

The same gimmick applies to revenue raised from “improved” (that is, harder-hitting) taxes on Internet sales: Money raised from the city will go toward the state’s share of MTA funding. In the rest of the state, that cash goes to the local government — though the budget also cuts other state payments to local government on the grounds that Internet taxes will replace it.

Gov. Cuomo claims that the congestion, Internet and “mansion” revenue will fund up to $25 billion in MTA capital spending. But that means bonding out the income for 30 or 40 years — and leaves the MTA at risk of having to make bond payments if the revenue streams prove less lucrative than expected. So this gimmick adds new risks of even steeper fare hikes down the line, even as it means the state will have to look at yet new income sources (most likely, yet more tax hikes) to fund future five-year MTA capital plans.

Meanwhile, the budget’s supposed MTA reforms are thin gruel (other than a sensible requirement for outside vetting of major-project proposals, which might prevent future white elephants like the East Side Access project). Nearly all the “reforms” are to start in future years, and are left to the MTA itself to accomplish.

Utterly absent is any effort to reform the agency’s labor relations, even though pay and benefits are by far the largest, and fastest-rising, part of the MTA budget.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie calls this “a budget where we were scrimping and saving, trying to find pennies in the couch.” In truth, all the ingenuity went into picking the pockets of the public, and of local governments, to spend nearly $9,000 for every man, woman and child in the state.

All this, without setting aside anything like a prudent amount of rainy-day funds. Which means Cuomo, Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins also just laid the groundwork for far broader tax hikes when a recession inevitably hits.

And possibly even without a recession: Ken Griffin’s decision not to bring his business here follows Amazon’s abandonment of its NYC expansion plan, which the company likewise blamed on New York politicians’ greed and hostility to business.

In the long run, bleeding the golden goose can only lead to doom.

Original article link

Democrats Introduce Equality Act to Cement a Perverse world view and Ideology into Federal Law and your children and future generations

House Democrats introduced the Equality Act last week, a measure that would ensure gender ideology — i.e., transgender bathrooms, forced preferred pronoun use, and biological men playing women’s sports, etc. — is cemented into federal law.

H.R. 5, which was introduced with 239 co-sponsors, states its purpose is to “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes.”

…In fact, the measure would likely force American women throughout the country to relinquish their rights to privacy, safety, and the ability to compete in sports “equally.”

…“it actually would promote inequality by elevating the ideologies of special-interest groups to the level of protected groups in civil rights law.”

…“if the Equality Act passes, gender identity ideology will be taught via the law, and its punitive power will ensure your compliance”:

The Equality Act has the support of at least 161 major corporations, all of which are listed on the website of Hands Across the Aisle.

Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted his support for the Equality Act:

Hands Across the Aisle responded the Equality Act is a “direct attack on women and girls”:

In the era of #MeToo, it’s hard to understand why these companies are willing to endanger women and girls by acting so deliberately to undermine the nation’s indecent exposure and voyeurism restrictions, in what are supposed to be single-sex accommodations. Is it any wonder that many of them have recently faced significant sexual harassment allegations, or had large bias or sexual harassment claims brought against them?

…a forced gender ideology at the federal level would be a nightmare for American women, many who, at this point in time, now take for granted the equal educational opportunities they regularly enjoy.

“If gender-identity ideology becomes the law of the land, women in all walks of life will suffer the consequences of the blatantly sexist notion that a man who adopts stereotypical feminine roles, behaviors or clothing must be treated in all respects as a woman,” Waggoner warned in an op-ed at the Hill. “Contrary to the gender identity advocates who are pushing the act, being female is not about wearing dresses, adopting other feminine stereotypes, or ‘feeling female.’”


Life under ISIS led these Muslims to Christianity

“If heaven is made for ISIS and their belief,” said one convert, “I would choose hell for myself instead of being again with them in the same place, even if it’s paradise.”

“If ISIS represents Islam, I don’t want to be a Muslim anymore,” Farhad Jasim, 23, who attends the Church of the Brethren, told NBC News. “Their God is not my God.”

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The richest people in the world live in this city (it’s not Hong Kong or London)

More millionaires call the Big Apple home than any other city in the world.

New York had the largest population of high-net-worth individuals, whose net worth in assets totals between $1 million and $30 million, according to a report released Wednesday by global wealth consultancy Wealth-X. Some 978,810 high-net-worth, or HNW, individuals reside in New York. That’s nearly double the HNW population of Tokyo (593,025 individuals), which came in at No. 2 on Wealth-X’s ranking.

New York has more high-net-worth individuals than any other city in the world, and it also has the largest population of ultrawealthy people. The latter group comprises those with assets exceeding $30 million.
Not only does New York have more HNW individuals than any other city in the world, but it also has the largest population of ultrawealthy people, defined as those who have assets worth more than $30 million. It regains this distinction after losing the title to Hong Kong in 2017. However, the tenuous relationship between the U.S. and China roiled the wealthy elite in Hong Kong, causing the HNW population there to drop by more than 11% last year.

Wealth-X’s findings were based on its proprietary database of HNW individuals, which includes information such as the individuals’ financial assets, career histories, family backgrounds and philanthropic endeavors, among other data points.

Read more: Some of the wealthiest people on the planet got a financial wake-up call in 2018

Overall, America had six of the top 10 HNW cities, per Wealth-X’s list. Dallas–Fort Worth, which has seen its wealth grow thanks in part to the strong energy sector, entered the list for the first time this year.

Here is how the full rankings shook out:

• New York (978,810 HNW individuals, down 0.6% from 2017)
• Tokyo (593,025 HNW individuals, down 3.3% from 2017)
• Los Angeles (576,255 HNW individuals, down 0.7% from 2017)
• Hong Kong (391,595 HNW individuals, down 11.1% from 2017)
• London (372,270 HNW individuals, up 2.7% from 2017)
• Chicago (353,775 HNW individuals, down 0.8% from 2017)
• Paris (345,175 HNW individuals, up 4.5% from 2017)
• San Francisco (314,055 HNW individuals, down 0.4% from 2017)
• Washington, D.C. (301,495 HNW individuals, down 1.3% from 2017)
• Dallas (298,220 HNW individuals, up 0.1% from 2017)

While the list of cities with the wealthiest populations may not appear diverse today, that could soon change. China boasts 32 of 40 fastest-growing HNW cities in the world currently, according to Wealth-X. “There is still no representation in the top 10 from China, whose largest city for UHNW and HNW is Shanghai, with 123,000 HNW individuals,” the report noted. “But this belies the meteoric growth.”

Nigeria has the fastest-growing high-net-worth population in the world, with the number of residents there worth $1 million to $30 million expected to increase 16.3% by 2023.
Moreover, the concentration of extremely wealthy individuals in certain cities could be simply a reflection of different cultural approaches to wealth. “London and Paris are the European representatives in the top 10, with nucleated concentrations of HNW in their capital cities, in contrast to a more distributed pattern of wealth, for example, in German cities,” the report’s authors wrote.

Indeed, while the U.S. does have the world’s largest HNW population, China ranks second, followed by a wide assortment of countries including Japan, Germany, South Korea and Australia. And Nigeria has the fastest-growing high-net-worth population in the world, with the number of residents there worth $1 million to $30 million expected to increase 16.3% by 2023.