Friday, July 12, 2019

Facial Recognition Invading Public Schools

WASHINGTON - The Lockport public school district in New York plans to implement a $1.4 million facial recognition security system in its schools as early as next year, even though facial recognition surveillance programs have been known to identify the wrong person up to 98% of the time.
Given that such programs most often misidentify women and people of color, this poses a particular threat to the district’s 1,282 students who are non-white and 2,219 students who are young women.

Lockport had planned to conduct a dry run of the security system early last month until the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) intervened. “The Department has directed the Lockport School District to cease the testing and utilization of facial recognition technology until further notice,” spokesperson J.P. O’Hare told the Buffalo News for a story that was reported on June 28.

Despite the injunction, the district has continued to install and position cameras, to train staff in the technology’s use, and to prepare for resulting collaborations with law enforcement. Its activities over the summer signal intent to implement the technology as soon as September.

Meanwhile Assemblymember Monica P. Wallace introduced a bill in the state legislature that seeks to bar the use of biometric identification technology in schools pending further study. Wallace claims her legislation is not in direct response to the situation in Lockport but rather aims to address a potential statewide menace. However the bill’s timing - it cleared the education committee in early June and passed the Assembly on June 20 - coincides with the installation and preparation of Lockport’s system. 

Ultimately it may not move quickly enough to prevent a facial recognition surveillance regime from taking hold in Lockport schools this coming academic year.

“We need an outright ban on facial recognition in schools yesterday. It’s wholly unacceptable to see the Lockport School District rushing to put in place a dangerous and racist technology. Facial recognition is invasive, vulnerable to misuse and has no place in schools of all places. Some technology is simply too dangerous to exist. We need to stop this technology before it’s too late. We need to ban facial recognition.” said Evan Greer (she/her), Director of campaigns at Fight for the Future.

The Self-Driving Car Is a Surveillance Tool

In the coming age of autonomous vehicles, users may have to pay extra to keep their whereabouts private

GM's Marketplace lets customers order their morning coffee with their car. It's the automotive industry’s first platform for on-demand reservations and purchases, and features brands such as Starbucks, Shell, Dunkin’, and TGI Fridays.
Most drivers today can still remember when GPS was provided by a portable device plugged into the car’s cigarette lighter and mounted on the windshield with a suction cup. But soon after the iPhone arrived, GPS (or Sat Nav for U.K. readers) became just another app.
Now, an American geography researcher is arguing that GPS’s transition from dedicated hardware to smartphone software was even more significant than we realize. He says mobile mapping apps also foreshadow the ultimate transformation of car companies from purely “hardware” manufacturers to hybrid hardware, software, and service providers.
With that tectonic shift, he says, will come another shift toward a transportation economy in which the prime commodity is not just the car, but also the driver (his example echoes a larger trend which the sociologist Shoshana Zuboff calls “Surveillance Capitalism”).
“What we have with smartphones is, now [GPS] data can be monetized in other ways,” says Luis Alvarez León, assistant professor of geography at Dartmouth College. “Information companies are providing the mapping service as an ancillary way of refining their search algorithms, of collecting more data about the consumers… [and] of repackaging it for other third parties.”
As cars become more automated, Alvarez León says, they also become more valuable platforms for information and tech companies. For example, digital dashboards no longer display only vehicle operating parameters such as speed, engine RPMs, and fuel levels. New dashboards like GM’s Marketplacealso show information about relevant products and nearby destinations.
“The entire dashboard of the car is an enormous screen that does not just display the map, but also [displays] promotions and media,” he says. “This a good illustration of the convergence of navigation and the platform economy.”
Moving forward, drivers who are shopping for a new car will probably face choices and trade-offs similar to those which today’s consumers face when shopping for smartphones. Companies including Apple charge a premium for phones that allegedly keep a user’s data away from governments and third-party vendors. (Some media outlets have investigated and arched an eyebrow at that premise, while others say privacy is Apple’s “best product.”) Other phones are cheaper but don’t promise to shield the user from surveillance.
In the future, if a driver wants a car that protects their privacy, “I think there might be a cost tradeoff,” Alvarez León says. “Which is how information companies operate. They provide services for free or at a very low cost, because they’re essentially being subsidized by the digital and personal information that they collect.”
He continues, “Consumers [could be] presented with a choice where they’re going to give up some data, but that saves them a few hundred or maybe thousands of dollars.”
The slow shift of cars from manufactured items to hardware, software, and service platforms traces back to at least the growth of financing divisions at traditional automakers, he says. 
“Car companies are now realizing that they’ve been sitting for years on troves of customer information that give them an edge on turning their product into a bundle of services,” Alvarez León says.
He points to a recent interview with Ford’s CEO Jim Hackett in which the executive said, “We know what people make. How do we know that? It’s because they borrow money from us. And when you ask somebody what they make, we know where they work, you know. We know if they’re married. We know how long they’ve lived in their house because these are all on the credit applications. We’ve never ever been challenged on how we use that. And that’s the leverage we got here with the data.”
As vehicles become increasingly autonomous, how they’re marketed—and the features that customers value most—may change dramatically. The surveillance that is already part of most consumers’ lives (at least those who own mobile and “smart home” devices) will change, too.
Alvarez León says he doesn’t think there’s any reason to become a luddite as a result of this shift in the transportation economy. Rather, transparency will be an important factor for consumers as cars change from machined hunks of metal to roving software and service platforms.
“The fundamental change would be to opt-in to these services,” he says. “And the default is that data are not collected. But you are aware of what you’re signing up for. This has to be a prominent design feature. For me, I’d be perfectly happy with a pay model. I pay for various digital services, for which there are free options. But I’d rather pay for them, because I have more agency and control over the product I’m getting, rather than the hidden cost of getting something for free but then subsidizing it with who-knows-what sort of information.”


RF Shielding for Car Windows

commentary from Anne 

I was becoming ill when traveling anywhere along a freeway or busy road.  I would become ill with EHS symptoms long before I arrived at my destination.  Three years ago we came across a window film made for the FBI / CIA for anti eavesdropping, and sold by Safe Living Technologies.  (  My husband purchased a roll and had a local firm apply it to the windows of our vehicle.  The film is non stretchy, ...made for flat he chose a vehicle with flatter glass.  

This EMF window shielding has been a tremendous help and I am no longer ill by the time I arrive at my destination.  
Per SLT, "The Clear Window Film allows 72% of light through, so I do not believe the film will be able to shield much LIDAR because that is using light.  The Window Film has been tested to block up to 99.99% of RF between 30MHz – 18GHz, so if the RADAR is between those frequencies the film will shield from it. "

The window film has not been tested specifically with RADAR, and as I don't know the frequency of Radar they are using now, we'd have to ask Eric Windheim if it blocks Radar. 

Eric Windheim tested our vehicle and he said that it tested to 98.9% effectiveness, with no other modifications to the vehicle. It would also depend on the contstruction of the vehicle.  Our vehicle has grounded hood and doors. 

Thank you -  Anne Mills

Discount Code: WIND5  FOR A 5% DISCOUNT.

Don't fall asleep with the TV on

  • Compared with women who had no exposure to artificial light at night, sleeping with a television or light on in the room was associated with a greater risk of gaining about 11 pounds (5 kilograms) or more, a body mass index increase of 10% or more, incident overweight and incident obesity
  • Sleeping with a small nightlight was not associated with weight gain, but sleeping in a room with light coming from outside the room was associated with a modest weight increase
  • Women who slept with a light or television on were 17% more likely to have gained about 11 pounds or more during the study follow-up period
  • Exposure to artificial light at night could interfere with the sleep hormone melatonin, leading to a host of health effects even beyond weight gain

If you have a habit of falling asleep with the TV on, it could be playing a role in your ability to maintain a healthy weight. The link between sleep and obesity is strong, with those who sleep fewer hours having an increased risk of obesity.1

However, in recent research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, it wasn’t sleep duration and quality that appeared to influence weight gain and obesity, but rather exposure to artificial light that was the problem.2

You needn’t have significant light exposure to potentially affect your weight, either. In the study, the weight gain association was strongest for sleeping with a light or the television on in the room.

Exposure to artificial light at night increases obesity risk
The study involved a cohort of 43,722 women, between the ages of 35 and 74, who were not shift workers, daytime sleepers or pregnant at the beginning of the study.

Compared with women who had no exposure to artificial light at night, sleeping with a television or light on in the room was associated with a greater risk of gaining about 11 pounds (5 kilograms) or more, a body mass index increase of 10% or more, incident overweight and incident obesity over the course of the follow-up period.

“Exposure to artificial light at night while sleeping appears to be associated with increased weight, which suggests that artificial light exposure at night should be addressed in obesity prevention discussions,” the researchers noted.3

As noted, there were differences in weight gain depending on the type of light exposure. While sleeping with a small nightlight was not associated with weight gain, sleeping in a room with light coming from outside the room was associated with a modest weight increase. However, women who slept with a light or television on were 17% more likely to have gained about 11 pounds or more.

Study co-author Chandra Jackson, Ph.D., head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Social and Environmental Determinants of Health Equity Group, explained that the study could have implications for people living in urban areas, where source of artificial light like streetlights and neon signs could interfere with the sleep hormone melatonin.

"Humans are genetically adapted to a natural environment consisting of sunlight during the day and darkness at night," she said. "Exposure to artificial light at night may alter hormones and other biological processes in ways that raise the risk of health conditions like obesity.”4

Why light exposure at night is dangerous

Exposure to light at night, even if it’s dim, leads to disruptions in natural light and dark cycles that can have far-reaching effects on health.5 In a study by researchers at Ohio State university, light exposure at night was even linked to disruptions in immune and endocrine function.

The study involved hamsters, which normally sleep during the day. For nine weeks, one group was exposed to dim light at night while a control group was exposed to typical light during the day and darkness at night. Dim light at night not only led to increased body mass in the hamsters but also affected the hamsters’ offspring.

Although the offspring were raised in normal lighting conditions, with light during the day and darkness at night, parental history of light exposure prior to conception led to offspring with impaired immune response and decreased endocrine activity.

These health conditions were passed down through either parent’s genetic material, meaning it didn’t matter whether it was the mother or father that was exposed to dim light at night; the effect could be traced to either parent.

The impaired adaptive immune function noted in the hamster offspring illustrates a transgenerational effect of light at night, and while it didn’t influence DNA sequence, it did affect the DNA’s epigenetic expression.

“Together, these data suggest that exposure to dLAN [dim light at night] has transgenerational effects on endocrine-immune function that may be mediated by global alterations in the epigenetic landscape of immune tissues,” the researchers explained.6

Nighttime light exposure alters melatonin

Melatonin is an important hormone produced by your body’s pineal gland. One of its primary roles is regulating your body’s circadian rhythm. When it gets dark, your brain starts secreting melatonin (typically around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.), which makes you sleepy.

Levels typically stay elevated for about 12 hours, then, as the sun rises, your pineal gland reduces your production, and the levels in your blood decrease until they're hardly measurable at all. When your circadian rhythms are disrupted, such as from shift work, jet lag or nighttime light exposure, your body produces less melatonin.

“ … [R]oom light exerts a profound suppressive effect on melatonin levels and shortens the body's internal representation of night duration,” researchers wrote in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. “Hence, chronically exposing oneself to electrical lighting in the late evening disrupts melatonin signaling and could therefore potentially impact sleep, thermoregulation, blood pressure and glucose homeostasis.”7

Aside from helping you sleep, melatonin may help prevent cancer, acting as a “full-service anticancer agent,” inhibiting the initiation, progression and metastasis of cancer.8 In one clinical trial, patients with glioblastoma were given either radiation and melatonin, or radiation alone. While six of the 14 patients receiving melatonin were alive one year later, only one of the 16 who received radiation alone was still alive.9

Another study found that melatonin reduced the growth of prostate cancer,10 and it also has a strong correlation with breast cancer. For instance, women who live in neighborhoods with large amounts of nighttime illumination are more likely to get breast cancer than those who live in areas where it’s dark at night.11

In fact, there was a 30% to 50% higher risk of breast cancer in the countries with the highest levels of nighttime light compared to the countries with the lowest nighttime light exposure.

Light at night may even affect your brain health

Another reason to pay careful attention to the light in your bedroom at night is to protect the health of your brain and even your mood. Twenty men slept in a laboratory under varying lighting conditions — no light exposure for two nights, then a dim light of five or 10 lux on the third night (for comparison, twilight is measured at 10.8 lux12).

After the second and third nights, the participants performed working memory tests while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The goal was to evaluate the effects of dim light exposure during sleep on functional brain activation during a working memory task the next day.13

When sleeping under 10 lux light conditions, there was decreased activation in the right inferior frontal gyrus, an area of your brain involved in response inhibition, attentional control and the detection of relevant cues when performing a task.

Exposure to 5-lux light had no statistically significant effect on the participants' brain activity, which suggests that while your brain may tolerate the extremely dim 5 lux, at just 10 lux your cognition and working memory may suffer.

That being said, in a study on hamsters, exposure to even 5-lux light at night for four weeks led to symptoms of depression — and the symptoms disappeared after two weeks when the dim light at night was removed.14

Screens at night are a bad idea

Keep in mind that it’s not only the light from televisions that is problematic. Exposure to LED-backlit computer screens, tablets and cellphones at night also significantly suppresses melatonin production and feelings of sleepiness. When your brain “sees” blue light at night, the mixed message can add up to serious health issues.

 In 2011, for instance, researchers found that evening exposure to LED-backlit computer screens affect circadian physiology. Among 13 young men, exposure to five hours of an LED-lit screen at night significantly suppressed melatonin production along with sleepiness.15

The issue extends far beyond sleep, however. LEDs have virtually no beneficial infrared light and an excess of blue light that generates reactive oxygen species (ROS), harming your vision and possibly leading to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly in the U.S.
LED lights may also exacerbate mitochondrial dysfunction leading to chronic conditions ranging from metabolic disorders to cancer. If you view screens at night, it’s therefore essential to block your exposure to blue light while doing so. In the case of your computer, you can install a program to automatically lower the color temperature of your screen.

Many use f.lux to do this, but I prefer Iris software for this purpose. In addition, when watching TV or other screens, be sure to wear blue-blocking glasses after sundown, and turn them off well before you plan to go to sleep.

For optimal health, you need bright light during the day and darkness at night

Sleeping in a completely darkened room, without lights from alarm clocks, televisions or other sources will improve your sleep quality, help you maintain a healthy weight and improve your overall health. If you get up during the night to use the bathroom, it's important to keep the lights off so you don't shut off your production of melatonin.

Also, remove any light-producing alarm clocks and install blackout drapes to keep light from creeping in your windows. You can also wear an eye mask to keep out light pollution. Even before you go to bed, I recommend wearing blue light-blocking glasses after sunset to avoid blue-light exposure.

Equally important to sleeping in pitch darkness is getting sunshine in the morning. Melatonin is affected by your exposure to both light and dark. When it is light, production of melatonin naturally drops. Getting at least 15 minutes of sunlight in the morning hours helps to regulate the production of melatonin, dropping it to normal daytime levels, so you feel awake during the day and sleep better at night.

The good news is that if you’ve been sleeping with the TV on, this is a simple and straightforward fix that can significantly improve your health. If you have a tendency to fall asleep with the TV on, make a point to watch television somewhere other than your bed, then get up to go to sleep in your dark bedroom as soon as you feel tired.


Agriculture Department Suspends Critical Tracking Of Plunging Honey Bee Population

The U.S. Department of Agriculturehas announced that it’s suspending tracking the plunging honeybeepopulation because of a budget shortfall.

The department will suspend data collection for its Honey Bee Colonies report, and officials did not say when — or if — it would be restarted. It will release data already collected from January 2018 through April of this year.

The Agricultural Department has been a key source of data on the insects, which is critically important to scientists and farmers.

The number of honey bee hives, vital to pollinating crops for the agricultural industry and other plants for wildlife, plummeted from 6 million in 1947 to 2.4 millionin 2008. The worst honeybee hive loss on record occurred last winter as beekeepers reported a 40% loss of their colonies over the year. 

Critics say the USDA’s move is the latest evidence of the Trump administration’s war on science, and its goal of suppressing information about serious environmental harms increasing under Donald Trump’s presidency.

“This is yet another example of the Trump administration systematically undermining federal research on food safety, farm productivity and the public interest writ large,” Rebecca Boehm, an economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told CNN.

Ironically, Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen, gushed last month about National Pollinators Week and bragged about hives at the Pence residence.

The USDA survey was begun in 2015. It collected data on the number of honeybees by state each quarter. It also counted those lost to colony collapse disorder, which is decimating honeybee populations.

Bees help pollinate a third of all the crops Americans eat. A single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day.
Just two years ago, the USDA touted its work on honeybees, pointing out that managed colonies were responsible for increasing crop yield and quality by $15 billion. “Honey bees may be some of the hardest workers you’ll ever see, but they need our help,” the USDA said in a statement then. “At USDA, we are making sure that they get it.”

The Obama administration in 2014 launched a program to addressdeclining bee populations— but Trump has been working to reverse those directives. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency lifted restrictions on a toxic insecticide known to be particularly lethal to bees on some 16 million acres in the U.S.

The USDA statement on cutting the program referred to fiscal restraints, but did not detail budget shortfalls nor did it reveal the cost of the program. The USDA is currently arranging to pay farmers an extra $27 billion in subsidies since 2018 to mitigate the effects of Trump’s trade war.

“The decision to suspend data collection was not made lightly but was necessary given available fiscal and program resources,” said a department statement.

Another annual survey is conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership, which relies on some funding from the USDA. But the USDA survey is considered to be more accurate because it has access to data from all registered beekeepers.

Two other USDA surveys — which tracked how farmers pay for honeybees to pollinate their crops and information on honey production — have also been cut back in the Trump administration, CNN reported.

Madonna says giving her children mobile phones ‘ended their relationship’

The singer says her children’s lives became dominated by the technology

Madonna said ‘I made a mistake when I gave my children phones when they were 13.’ 
Photograph: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Mdna Skin

It’s a daily bane of modern parenting that even Madonna appears to have got hung up on: how to keep a child’s attention once you give them a mobile phone.
Madonna has complained of losing a link to her children after giving them mobile phones at a relatively young age, to the extent that she has prevented her 13-year-old son from having one.
“I made a mistake when I gave my older children phones when they were 13,” said the mother of six, who has previously talked about feeling like “Billy-no-mates” while living in Lisbon in Portugal, where she said she spent most of her time doing the school run or driving her youngest son to football matches.
In an interview with Vogue magazine, she said: “It ended my relationship with [my children], really. Not completely, but it became a very, very big part of their lives. They became too inundated with imagery and started to compare themselves to other people, and that’s really bad for self-growth.”
Her adopted son, David, has been deprived of a phone. She said he was most similar to her out of any of her children.
“He’s the one I have the most in common with. I feel like he gets me,” Madonna said of the teenager, who is part of the youth academy at Benfica football club in Lisbon.
She was somewhat more critical of her 22-year-old daughter, Lourdes; social media was an issue, she said.
“She doesn’t have the same drive [as me] – and again, I feel social media plagues her and makes her feel like: ‘People are going to give me things because I’m [Madonna’s] daughter.’ I try to give her examples of other children of celebrities who have to work through that ‘Oh yeah, you’re the daughter of … ’ and then eventually you are taken seriously for what you do.”
The singer, who turned 60 last year, also attacked ageism in the music industry, claiming people had tried to silence her in the past for reasons such as supposedly being “not pretty enough” or not talented enough.
“Now it’s that I’m not young enough,” she said.
Madonna, who was recently named the most successful solo artist in the 60-year history of the US Billboard Hot 100 songs chart, gave the interview to promote her new single, Medellín.
The song has been released as part of her latest reinvention under the alter ego of Madame X. That is also the title of her forthcoming 14th album, which follows a number of commercially underwhelming records.