New Facebook app another backdoor for government snooping


Facebook’s new mobile spy app which listens to a user’s background noise by utilizing the device’s microphone is merely another backdoor via which the NSA and other government agencies will be able to spy on conversations in real time, a technique that we warned about eight years ago.

“Each time I think they’ve become as creepy as possible, somehow they find a way to be even creepier than that,” joked comedian Jimmy Kimmel in response to the announcement, before a skit about how Facebook would soon automatically post your thoughts as a status update.

“Facebook is to release a new feature on its mobile app that “listens” to your music and TV shows,” reports BBC News. “The feature, which will be available in a few weeks’ time, uses the microphones inside users’ smartphones to detect nearby music or TV shows.”

Although Facebook claims the app cannot record conversations, the user agreement for Facebook’s messenger service includes a term that necessitates users to agree to allow their audio to be recorded without permission. Given that microphones on cellphones exist for the sole reason of sending audio of speech, Facebook’s claim that its new app cannot also do so is dubious to say the least.

Such technology was already being mooted eight years ago, when we published an article entitled, Government, Industry To Use Computer Microphones To Spy On 150 Million Americans, in which we explained how, “Private industry and eventually government is planning to use microphones in the computers of an estimated 150 million-plus Internet active Americans to spy on their lifestyle choices and build psychological profiles which will be used for surveillance and minority report style invasive advertising and data mining.”

Given new reports based on the latest Edward Snowden documents which show that the NSA is recording nearly every phone call in entire countries, to think that the federal agency isn’t already utilizing or at least planning to use open microphones on cellphones to spy on Americans would be incredibly naive.

Back in March it was revealed that the NSA is masquerading as Facebook in order to infect millions of computers around the world with malware as part of its mass surveillance program.

“We are sure this will not be abused or hacked by the NSA… and we are sure there will be plenty of small digital print that users will understand… One wonders though, is there any way for non-Facebook users to know that they are being eavesdropped upon?” asks Zero Hedge.

The answer is that every virtually single user of smartphones has given their permission to have their conversations listened to via the device’s microphone. As we have previously highlighted, terms of agreement for both Android and iPhone apps now require users to agree to allow their microphone to be activated at any time without confirmation before they can download the app.

Earlier this year we also reported on how a computer programmer discovered that Google’s Chrome browser had the ability to record conversations without the user’s knowledge.

Californians gripe about Obamacare enrollment snags, lack of doctors

Californians gripe about Obamacare enrollment snags, lack of doctors

New data reveal the biggest category of complaints centers on getting confirmation of health plan enrollment and basic issues such as getting an identification card to obtain care.

Many consumers have also encountered difficulty finding a doctor who accepts their new coverage, as well as frustration with inaccurate provider lists, according to the California Department of Managed Health Care.

“If you have a medical condition and can’t get care that is a very serious issue,” said Marta Green, spokeswoman for the managed healthcare agency. “We are still working to resolve many of these cases.”

Health insurers and officials at the Covered California exchange say they are working hard too to address consumers’ gripes. They say some problems are inevitable from such a massive overhaul and that the number of complaints is a small fraction of the more than 1 million Californians who signed up under the Affordable Care Act.

Consumer frustration with smaller physician networks has drawn the most attention statewide.

About 12% of the 1,459 exchange customers who complained to the state cited an access to care problem, according to state figures. The data cover complaints received from Jan. 1 to April 30.

Not surprisingly, Green said, the two largest health plans in Covered California accounted for the most complaints overall and in the category of access to providers.

Covered California allows people on COBRA to sign up till July 15
Covered California’s executive director, Peter Lee, announced a special enrollment period Thursday for an estimated 300,000 people with COBRA health coverage. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Anthem Blue Cross, a unit of industry giant WellPoint Inc., received 658 complaints through April and nearly 13% dealt with provider issues, state data show.

Blue Shield of California was next with 461 complaints and 17% focused on finding an in-network doctor.

Peter Lee, the exchange’s executive director, said, “[T]hese complaints are one indicator we are looking at for the scale and scope of the problem …. We want to ensure the networks are adequate.”

At an exchange meeting Thursday, Covered California credited some insurers for expanding their networks to better serve higher-than-expected enrollment.

There are doctors who take cash payments with no waiting… Google ” concierge” medicine. The rest get Obamacare
For instance, Health Net Inc. said it boosted the number of doctors in its exchange HMO plan by 68% since Jan. 1 to 11,600.

Anthem said it has added more than 3,800 medical providers to its statewide exchange network since January, including well-known hospitals such as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Blue Shield said its PPO network for individual coverage has grown to include 62% of physicians and more than 80% of hospitals on its standard PPO roster.

Industry officials point out that many consumers welcome the lower premiums a narrower network can offer.

“Some networks are very broad and others are more selective — giving consumers the option of choosing a plan that may have fewer providers but costs less in monthly premiums,” said Charles Bacchi, executive vice president at the California Assn. of Health Plans.

Covered California said health plans will submit proposed rates for 2015 in the next week. The state expects to announce the new premiums in late July after negotiating with insurers.

The exchange estimates that its enrollment from the recently completed six-month sign-up period will be about 1.2 million, assuming 85% of consumers pay their premiums.

A new forecast predicts Covered California enrollment will reach 1.7 million after 2015 open enrollment and hit 2 million by 2016.

USDA warns of sticker shock on U.S. beef as grilling season starts

USDA warns of sticker shock on U.S. beef as grilling season starts

By Ros Krasny

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Department of Agriculture has warned of sticker shock facing home chefs on the eve of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the unofficial start of the U.S. summer grilling season.

The agency said conditions in California could have “large and lasting effects on U.S. fruit, vegetable, dairy and egg prices,” as the most populous U.S. state struggles through what officials are calling a catastrophic drought.

The consumer price index (CPI) for U.S. beef and veal is up almost 10 percent so far in 2014, reflecting the fastest increase in retail beef prices since the end of 2003. Prices, even after adjusting for inflation, are at record highs.

“The drought in Texas and Oklahoma has worsened somewhat in the last month, providing further complications to the beef production industry,” USDA said.

Beef and veal prices for the whole of 2014 are now forecast to increase by 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent, a sharp advance from last month’s forecast for a 3 to 4 percent rise. Pork prices are set to rise by 3 percent to 4 percent, up from a 2 to 3 percent advance expected a month ago.

The USDA said overall U.S. food price inflation for 2014, including food bought at grocery stores and food bought at restaurants, would rise by 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent in 2014.

That is up from 2013, when retail food prices were almost flat, but in line with historical norms and unchanged from April’s forecast.

“The food-at-home CPI has already increased more in the first four months of 2014 then it did in all of 2013,” USDA noted. At-home spending accounts for about 60 percent of the U.S. food CPI.

A major factor for rising pork prices is the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv), responsible for more than 7 million U.S. piglet deaths in the past year.

Egg prices are also climbing – up 15 percent in April alone – and are expected to rise by 5 to 6 percent on the year, and higher milk prices are feeding through to other products in the dairy case, particularly cheese.

Sweet lovers and caffeine addicts will see some relief, however, since global prices for sugar and coffee remain low, USDA said.

The agency forecast prices of sugar and sweets to rise by 1 percent to 2 percent in 2014 and prices for non-alcoholic beverages to rise by 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent. Both forecasts were lowered this month.

“It appears supermarkets are maintaining minimal price inflation on packaged food products, possibly in an effort to keep prices competitive in light of rising cost pressures for most perishable items,” USDA said.

So far the severe California drought has not had a discernible impact on national fruits or vegetable prices, USDA said, while warning that the effects are still to come.

Veterangate: VA admits healthcare delays caused 23 deaths

Veterangate: VA admits healthcare delays caused 23 deaths

Although President Obama said investigators at the Department of Veteran Affairs have not connected veteran deaths in Phoenix, Ariz., to long waiting times at the VA hospital, an agency report linked 23 deaths in multiple states to delayed treatment.

While speaking to the press on Wednesday, Obama was asked how it could be possible, as recent allegations assert, for up to 40 veterans to die while waiting for medical treatment at a VA facility in Phoenix. Obama did not go into much detail, saying action couldn’t be taken until all the facts were in.

He also stated that, so far, the inspector general [IG] assigned to the VA has not made the connection between death and waiting times, and that he’s waiting for the conclusion of other investigations.

“I think it is important to recognize that the wait times generally — what the IG indicated so far, at least, is the wait times were folks who may have had chronic conditions, were seeking their next appointment, but may have already received service,” Obama said. “It was not necessarily a situation where they were calling for emergency services. And the IG indicated that he did not see a link between the wait and them actually dying.

“That does not excuse the fact that the wait times in general are too long in some facilities. And so what we have to do is find out what exactly happened.”

As noted by the Weekly Standard, though, an internal review at the VA has found nearly two dozen veterans passed away in numerous states while waiting for treatment. The review found deaths linked to waiting times occurred in states such as Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Iowa, and Arizona – though at a different facility in Prescott, not Phoenix.

“Delays in endoscopy screenings for potential gastrointestinal cancer in 76 veterans treated at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals are linked to 23 deaths, most of them three to four years ago,” a USA Today report on the review reads.

“The delays occurred at 27 VA hospitals with deaths at 13 of the facilities. The worst record was at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn veterans hospital in Columbia, S.C., where there were 20 cases of delays and six deaths, according to a VA report.”

It has become clear that issue of long veteran waiting times is not confined to a single facility, but it exploded recently when an employee came forward and made the allegations against the Phoenix VA hospital. As RT reported previously, whistleblowers have stated that thousands of patients across the US were listed on secret waiting lists as a way to disguise exactly how long they had gone without an appointment. If a veteran happened to pass away, their name would be deleted from the list.

Regarding the case in Phoenix specifically, the VA’s inspector general told Congress on Thursday that his team has reviewed 17 instances so far, though none have revealed a connection between waiting time and death.

“We didn’t conclude, so far, that the delay caused the death,” Richard Griffin said to lawmakers. “It’s one thing to be on a waiting list, it’s another for that to be the cause of death.”

Still, he said it’s possible that “part of this review could lead to criminal charges being brought.”

The White House also came under fire this week for reports that stated President Obama only learned of the VA scandal when he saw reports on television. Despite the claim, briefing documents released through a Freedom of Information Act request showed that, in the weeks after Obama’s election in 2008, officials from George W. Bush’s administration had warned the incoming transition team about inaccurate reports regarding waiting times.

While the documents did not explicitly mention employee manipulation of waiting times as a concern, it did state that reports from various VA facilities were not accurate, and that the problems are “systematic.”

During Bush’s second term in office, an inspector general report offered nine recommendations to improve the VA’s situation, but none of them had been implemented by the time Obama assumed the presidency. It’s unclear if the new administration did anything to address the problem.

Joke of the Day: Kerry Says Obama Administration Most Transparent in History

Joke of the Day: Kerry Says Obama Administration Most Transparent in History

Barack Obama has stonewalled, blocked investigations, and written off serious, controversial, and questionable practices by his administration as ‘phony scandals.’ In regards to the failed gunrunning program Fast and Furious, he denied any knowledge of it and even lied saying that it began under the Bush presidency. This was said just shortly after Eric Holder admitted that it began under Obama. With the IRS scandal, he proclaimed for all the world to hear that there was a not a ‘smidgen of corruption.’ This proclamation was made despite the fact that no investigation had been conducted.

The list goes on including new revelations that prove Obama knowingly lied about the Benghazi attacks being not linked to terrorism, but rather occurring in response to an obscure YouTube video. In addition, emails discovered show Obama and his team communicating with YouTube officials DURING the attack, which begs the question, “Were they looking for an escape mechanism in order to protect the president’s reelection chances?”

The list continues including the most recent VA scandal.

Each of these has two thing in common – Obama’s failure to be honest and forthright, as well as no one being held accountable for their actions. In fact, the paid liars have been rewarded with cushy jobs or early retirement and the whistleblowers have been punished.

Despite the reality, Secretary of State John Kerry appears to continue the Obama norm of lying to make his administration look good. At a press conference in Mexico, alongside the Mexican foreign secretary Jose Antonio Meade, Kerry praised Obama’s supposed transparency and lied braggadociously about believing “very, very powerfully in the right of people to privacy”

In response to a question by a reporter, Kerry said, “Well, I believe President Obama will go down in history as the president who has held himself and his Administration accountable to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.”

This would be laughable if the lies told weren’t so dangerous. But, what more should we expect in regards to a man [Barack Obama] who accepted a transparency award behind closed doors with no reporters allowed.

New Emails Reveal Obama White House Worked on Concocting Benghazi Lie DURING the Attacks

New Emails Reveal Obama White House Worked on Concocting Benghazi Lie DURING the Attacks

May 23, 2014 By Matthew Burke

Obama Hillary

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said on Thursday that the Obama White House was contacting YouTube owner Google during the Benghazi terrorist attacks, working on the false narrative even before Americans were out of harm’s way and before the intelligence community examined available evidence.

The still classified Obama State Department email, according to Issa, shows that the Obama White House rushed to settle on the false narrative of the anti-Islamic YouTube video instigating the attacks, which was completely at odds with the conclusions reached by reports from the ground.

This new evidence destroys the Obama White House claims, communicated by Obama spokesman Jay Carney, that the White House obtained the false narrative from CIA talking points, since, according to Congressman Issa, the communication with YouTube was conducted by the Obama White House before any CIA talking points were concocted.

The subject line of the email, ironically sent at 9:11 p.m. (the attacks took place on 9/11/12) on the night of the attack, was “Update on Response to actions – Libya,” hours before the attack had ended.

“The e-mail shows the White House had hurried to settle on a false narrative — one at odds with the conclusions reached by those on the ground — before Americans were even out of harm’s way or the intelligence community had made an impartial examination of available evidence,” Issa said.

Issa has called for the Obama White House to declassify the email.

According to Issa, one of the items noted in the email stated, “White House is reaching out to U-Tube [sic] to advise ramifications of the posting of the Pastor Jon video.”

Issa scolded current Secretary of State, Democrat John Kerry, for just now turning over a classified version of the email, some 20 months after the attack, while calling on the regime to release a unclassified copy.
“Unfortunately, Secretary Kerry and the State Department continue to try to keep this information from the public, only turning this document over to Congress last month. While the information I have cited from this email is clearly unclassified, the State Department has attempted to obstruct its disclosure by not providing Congress with an unclassified copy of this document that redacted only classified portions outlining what the Department of Defense and the Secretary of State were doing in response to the attack in Benghazi that night.”
“This tactic prevents the release of the email itself,” said Issa.