Category Archives: Media

The deceptive engine

We are all in anticipation of the E3, the one place where the game makers get to take the stage and either entice us for almost a year, or get completely destroyed. As we are 5 weeks away from the event, the game changes. It is all about creating hype, or creating optional falsehood. The false hype allegedly shows that the brand might still care to be inflated in perception value and regard. That is what I see when I look at the Daily Star, who gave us: “Microsoft games news: Has Xbox dealt ANOTHER KILLER BLOW to Sony and PlayStation in 2018?” That notion was so ridiculous that I decided to drill down a little. I have no idea who Dom Peppiatt is, but let’s drill down a little on the article (at https://www.dailystar.co.uk/tech/gaming/696572/Microsoft-games-news-Has-Xbox-dealt-ANOTHER-KILLER-BLOW-to-Sony-and-PlayStation-in-2018). So we start with “The company behind Xbox has recruited Darrell Gallagher to work on the Microsoft Studios Executive Leadership Team. Gallagher has a pretty significant history in gaming: he started as Head of Creative at Sony in 1997, then moved to Rockstar Games in 2004 to work as a lead artist. His next step was to become art director at THQ, before he joined Crystal Dynamics as art director in 2005“. This is fair enough, if Microsoft has acquired a titan like that, there will be optional forward momentum for Microsoft. I state optional, because we have seen that Microsoft tends to ignore its customer base and not listen to actual gamers, which tends to be a much larger issue. Then we get the not so nice parts “NEW Xbox One Games rumoured to be in development“, so the operative word is ‘rumoured‘, that was a first mistake, because we have seen that before, rumoured does not make it true and waiting for 5 weeks gives hype, yet in the same space gives massive amounts of resentment. With Rumoured we see references to ‘Perfect Dark’ and ‘Fable’ with old artwork and no evidence of any kind that it is true. Merely the ‘as leaked by Resetera user Klobrille‘ is given, like that ads any value to it all. The only one that is a decent given is a new (upgraded) Forza Horizons, it is the parade horse of Microsoft and it makes sense to make sure that it is there in all 4K glory. The second one is Age of Empires, it has been bled dry on the PC and it coming to Xbox One was merely a time setting. It was originally one of the better games they had, and if the interface is decently improved upon, it might be a niche market winner. So with 2 out of the 5 games that are ‘optionally’ games to come, what kind of ‘killer blow’ is that? It is not even close to a killer blow, so far they have not had any killer blows against Sony, and the Release of God of War last Friday is Sony showing all others that their games are of a massively higher plane of gamer satisfaction than anything Microsoft exclusively has to offer (at present), and they have close to nothing on the exclusive titles front. When we see “Microsoft and Xbox has acquired marketing rights on some massive upcoming games, including Borderlands 3, Cyberpunk 2077, Splinter Cell, Battlefield V, and Anthem“, we need to understand that ‘marketing rights’ does not make it an exclusive title. Another source had given us two weeks earlier “Borderlands 3 hasn’t been confirmed as being actively in development quite yet, Gearbox has unsurprisingly not given it a release date either“, with in addition “It’s likely to be released on PS4, Xbox One and PC“, so why acquire the marketing rights for a non-exclusive title? Seems a waste of money as I personally see it. Second is (from another source) “Ghost Recon Wildlands Splinter Cell DLC is getting a big reveal today. The Ubisoft content for the PS4, Xbox One and PC“, yet there is also mention that this is merely the setting for a new Splinter Cell and in that regard, there is every notion that Ubisoft, the people behind it will not be making it an exclusive title. The same is a given for the makers of Witcher 3, now prepping for Cyberpunk 2077, which leaves two titles none of these exclusives either. So as the article gives us “it’s important to note these are only rumours at the time of writing” in the end, the entire article was a waste of space for all gamers except for the need of Microsoft getting hypes out. The news that they have acquired Darrell Gallagher, which would be good news for Microsoft, yet to surround it with rumours, nothing to show and the fact that marketing exclusives were tailored whilst the games are not confirmed to be is merely a setting for failure, which we saw with the death blow against Microsoft with the release of God of War and actual exclusive title. It will only get harder for Microsoft; the consoles are set to 2.5:1 so for every Xbox One there are 2.5 PS4’s. There is not a game maker in the world that will not make for both if possible. The only option there is what Microsoft had exclusive and keep on converting the PC games that never made it to console. For Sony, it has its own worries. Both The Last of Us 2 and Death Stranding are exclusive titles, but these two players will not go to bed with anything but perfection and for both no official release dates are known, now that God of War delivered all it promised the hunger for these other two titles seems to be growing exponentially. And a gamer that gets too hungry for new games makes weird leaps, that has been proven in the past. So were the two titles just fabs? I am not certain there has been a massive desire to get the Fable line remastered (one, two and three) and the anniversary edition on the 360 only grew the fans of Fable. So getting them all three on the Xbox One remastered, not merely backwards compatible would be a real win for Microsoft, there is no denying it. It is not as clear with Perfect Dark, the heralded game just wasn’t the stuff of legends on the 360, so were some other games. Yet the fans will bow towards the Fable setting in a large way, in equal measure the Mass Effect rumours seem to resurface again and again, also in light of the Andromeda failure, that trilogy would be equally a win on the Xbox, anyone denying that is just utterly stupid. There are a few others, but they are in essence mere remastered games, not actual new games and that is what Microsoft desperately needs and so far they have too little, too few titles and no push towards exclusive wins.

It is in that regard that we see Forbes, who gives us “Sony And PS4 Are Beginning A Massive 2018 With ‘God Of War,’ And Microsoft Should Be Worried“. Yes, we all agree and even as actual numbers are not seen at present, we see in the UK “In terms of purely boxed units, it outsold God of War III by 35 per cent“, that is in merely 3 days, which is almost unheard of. The only title to ever pull that off was GTA5 in 2013. More good news is not console set, but for Ubisoft, it does not matter, Far Cry 5 broke the 100K boundary (on PS4) in Japan which should make the people at Ubisoft proud and happy and rightfully so, the fact that this will also benefit the Xbox One players is merely icing on the cake for Ubisoft and that is what counts. You see, actual gaming is never about the console itself, it is about the game and gaming. Even as God of War is ruling, Ubisoft is getting a nice global boost and with other Ubisoft titles ready to be released it will be a good thing. When it is about the gaming, we will not care, we only care about ‘gaming the play’, or was that ‘playing the game’? We tend to all get together I tend to burn whomever is trying to hand us hypes that are ridiculous, in that regard we have absolutely no regard for any hype bringer.

In the end, will it help us the gamers? Hypes do not, it is an engine of deception to maximise the product, that is the focal point, in this in that regard that the moment the hype is proven wrong (in 5 weeks at the E3), when any of the Daily Star mentioned ‘rumoured to happen‘ it will lash out to the Microsoft community and they will hold Microsoft accountable. You see, when it suits Microsoft they are all over a publisher with falsehood, when it suits them, so either the rumours are true (and I will reports one it), or this was a false hype that has the potential to sway more XB1 owners to switch console, which is overall bad news for Microsoft when that happens. I they have only one advantage this month than it is the rare case where the Gold Live Free games in April are actually better than PS Plus offer for a change. With AC Syndicate and Dead Space 2 ruling the free games, they are giving a better value in an uncommon move.

When it comes to the deceptive engine, it will not stop, not for at least 4 weeks and it is not limited to the Xbox, there are plenty of ‘rumours’ on the PS4 and Switch field, which we find equally annoying, in addition, it is not just limited to some papers, even a site like Christian Today is all about those rumours, which is unsettling on a few levels.

When you consider that ‘Deception’ is act of propagating a belief that is not true, or is not the whole truth, you might understand why we despise it in gaming. So if we consider that the ‘pro’ Microsoft article was optionally propaganda, as well as distraction, or concealment. The gamer has to ask, what is Microsoft trying to conceal or distract from? We will know in 5 weeks when we get to see the E3 presentation.

 

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In awe of Ares

The independent is throwing its readers a curveball with ‘The survey comes after it was revealed that a new political party with access to up to £50m in funding has been secretly under development for more than a year‘, it is change, change of a kind that makes us wonder if politicians are getting there ‘inspiration’ form somewhere else. This is not about that, this is absolutely not about politics. This is about the curveball.

Santa Monica Studio, they awed us two years ago at the E3, where we were treated to a teaser, one that made our jaws drop and we were nowhere near ready to see the real deal. That happened 48 hours ago, 48 hours since we woke up, in optionally the most overwhelming way. If you missed it all, you missed a lot. For those not entirely aware, let me explain, let’s take you back to 2013, when the people on the PS3 were treated to ‘the Last of Us‘. It was a game that surpassed whatever came before, the end of a console treated to the diamond of diamonds. Now take that feeling, multiply that by 3 and that is what you will feel with the normal God of War 4 edition on a normal PS4, I haven’t even seen it on a Pro with 4K yet. The beginning is simple yet still overwhelming, the graphics are beyond awesome and the music and sound effects give it an entirely new dimension.

So here we are he who took the powers of Ares, god of war. Now we are in the setting of Norse mythology. The initial intro to the game, the movement, the draughr, Balder and a few others are just overwhelming. When we dig deeper into the game we get to certain points that this is still very much a God of War game, yet there is also evolution. even as button mashing got you most of the way previously, this time around you need to be a little clever, button mashing gets you killed again and again (and again). It has the chests and it has health parts, slightly different, but still in spirit basically the same. Some chests now come with puzzles and a few are a little trying. It is all a step forward. The graphics throughout the game remain overwhelming and are beyond awesome. The tactics are a little more essential, yet it remains a God of War game. Christopher Judge, the (in)famous Teal’c from Stargate takes the axe from the predecessors and gives Kratos soul in a way that is amazing, the deepness of voice and the entire embodiment of Kratos slayer of gods comes to life with Christopher Judge, a stellar performance.

There will always be issues with any videogame, so has this game its little snippets of frustration, but the overall impact of the game is what I would regard it a 97% game, Metacritic gave it a 95% rating, what means that it should be regarded as a must for any PS4 owner. Even as you play the game, you feel a little lost at times, wondering where to go next. It is not a bad feeling, you get a clear view of your surrounding and it is close to breathtaking. The people at Santa Monica really outdid themselves, and not just them. In equal measure Bear McCreary, famous for his soundtrack work on Battlestar Gallactica truly shines. His music adds to the game in several ways. I wonder if anyone would be able to play the game on a TV with a sound bar, the music is that amazing. I am actually listening to it on YouTube whilst writing this. I hope that it will be a download option soon enough (or a soundtrack for sale). So in nearly all matters the game shines. So why am I using ‘nearly’? Well in the beginning as you have the options to better your character with outfits and upgrades, you are a little in the dark and in the beginning of the game optionally accidently wasting resources on the wrong parts and it is a merely a small loss, yet it makes for a great replay. This is perhaps the only small flaw in all this and it is so small a flaw that not heeding my words in this is just fine. Yet as you play the game you are almost overwhelmed by what you see and when you think that you’ve seen it all, you get introduced to Alfheim. If you consider that Midgard is the forest in midwinter, then Alfheim is the forest in spring and everything is in full bloom, a second whiff over being overwhelmed and I haven’t even seen the subsequent parts yet. Whilst I have been upgrading my skills and my weapon, the monsters have been becoming a lot stronger too, so the opposition is not getting easier and you the player are forced to thinking a little more tactics and no mash buttons, it is essential to making it through. It is almost like Santa Monica Studio saw the setting of Dark Souls and borrowed an idea or two, which is not a bad thing at all. In this, I found that the avoidance by Kratos is not completely flawless and it makes for a more challenging fight, all defence and no offence being pointless in the end. It makes a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things and God of War is more than the jackpot. If the next Last of Us is anything to go by, we are witness to a new level of gameplay, one that the Xbox cannot match, because Ubisoft will not be able to match it. That is not an attack on Ubisoft, it truly is not! They have shown with AC Origin to up their game by a fair bit. Microsoft was just not ready (read: awake enough) to up the game for gamers other than their ‘most powerful consolestatement. Now with the God of War first released, and the Last of Us 2 teasers making us desire more and that is whilst we know that there is every chance that Death Stranding will surpass them both, a Kojima special that does not ill to the other two titles, but we know that Sony is about to up the game for gamers a fair bit and that is merely the top of the 2018 iceberg.We have no idea what we will see in 7 weeks at the E3 2018.

That whilst Windows central ‘treats’ us to: “Ever since the Xbox One launched in 2013, Microsoft has revealed clothing items and other merchandise which were either E3 exclusives, competition rewards, or simply gifts for employees. Luckily, it seems like that’s about to change because a merchandise store is coming soon“, perhaps with a lack of exclusive games that is all they can offer?

Even as Bethesda has been giving us heaps of amazing options, the bulk of the gamer’s desires are set to Elder Scrolls 6 and an optional Fallout 5, and/or Fallout 4b. Bethesda is like Monica Studios and for the longest time they have delivered, even today Skyrim is still played, 6.5 year later, that is the trademark of the truly great and satisfying game and God of War 4 is a welcome addition. It is behind GTA5 the highest Metacritic rating ever and the people of Santa Monica Studio have all the rights, the reason and the ability to feel pride, be proud and enjoy the reverence they will receive for the rest of the year. In this they are sharing the warmth of reverence this year (optionally) with the makers of Spiderman for PS4, another exclusive title, which is now sold out on amazon. So the pre-orders of a game released in September 2018 are already sold out, so in that part Santa Monica Studios is just one player driving the Sony gaming force forward and the competitors have nothing even close to matching that.

Even as I am drawn to return to play God of War, I know that Santa Monica is likely to have a few interesting twists on their bow of confusion. So it will be essential to meet up with Morrighan, Crone of War. She can enlighten me to the opponents that Kratos may face. The Celts were always masters of the skull cleaver and I need to be alert and ready to whatever Santa Monica Studio will throw at me next. The life of a gamer, always trying to remain in synch with the game and with life to get the best results, only the truly great game makers allow us to do that.

When we consider the path that this game series has taken, the path seems obvious, but it is not, the upgrade and evolution of your weapon have options so it can enhance your strength or give power to the weaker side of you that in itself is also brilliant. If you are a range fighter of up close and personal, both have options to give you a much better chance of survival and in the end, you cannot really afford all the upgrades all the time, so choices must be made which makes the game even more challenging and rewarding when you get to the next point. That in itself is also a new victory for the series. The map reveals even more new sides, but I will steer away from that so you can experience that for yourself, making the impact even better.

In the end the God of War treated us to something special two years ago and now we are overwhelmed with what they have actually achieved, no small feat for any development studio, laurels well earned. Even if you are not into the hack and slash games, this game brings a new game, that overwhelms nearly all your senses that alone will be worth buying it for.

That is the curveball, the delivery of something special and again Santa Monica Studio surpassed our expectations, an art that politicians have been lacking for decades, perhaps they should actively listen to Kratos, Ares and Morrighan, nothing less will do at present.

There is one part that politicians can take away from all this. It is not the expected that makes you shine, it is the ability to exceed our expectations that truly matter, isn’t it funny that the one article that they looked down on for three decades (video games) have been able to deliver just that? I see it as the combination of art and imagination and God of War got it right on all counts.

 

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Waking up 5 years late

I have had something like this, I swear it’s true. It was after I came back from the Middle East, I was more of a ‘party person’ in those days and I would party all weekend non-stop. It would start on Friday evening and I would get home Sunday afternoon. So one weekend, I had gone through the nightclub, day club, bars and Shoarma pit stops after which I went home. I went to bed and I get woken up by the telephone. It is my boss, asking me whether I would be coming to work that day. I noticed it was 09:30, I had overslept. I apologised and rushed to the office. I told him I was sorry that I had overslept and I did not expect too much nose as it was the first time that I had overslept. So the follow up question became “and where were you yesterday?” My puzzled look from my eyes told him something was wrong. It was Tuesday! I had actually slept from Sunday afternoon until Tuesday morning. It would be the weirdest week in a lifetime. I had lost an entire day and I had no idea how I lost a day. I still think back to that moment every now and then, the sensation of the perception of a week being different, I never got over it, now 31 years ago, and it still gets to me every now and then.

A similar sensation is optionally hitting Christine Lagarde I reckon, although if she is still hitting the party scene, my initial response will be “You go girl!

You see with “Market power wielded by US tech giants concerns IMF chief” (at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/apr/19/market-power-wielded-by-us-tech-giants-concerns-imf-chief-christine-lagarde) we see the issues on a very different level. So even as we all accept “Christine Lagarde, has expressed concern about the market power wielded by the US technology giants and called for more competition to protect economies and individuals”, we see not the message, but the exclusion. So as we consider “Pressure has been building in the US for antitrust laws to be used to break up some of the biggest companies, with Google, Facebook and Amazon all targeted by critics“, I see a very different landscape. You see as we see Microsoft, IBM and Apple missing in that group, it is my personal consideration that this is about something else. You see Microsoft, IBM and Apple have one thing in common. They are Patent Powerhouses and no one messes with those. This is about power consolidation and the fact that Christine Lagarde is speaking out in such a way is an absolute hypocrite setting for the IMF to have.

You see, to get that you need to be aware of two elements. The first is the American economy. Now in my personal (highly opposed) vision, the US has been bankrupt; it has been for some time and just like the entire Moody debacle in 2008. People might have seen in in ‘the Big Short‘, a movie that showed part of it and whilst the Guardian reported ““Moody’s failed to adhere to its own credit-rating standards and fell short on its pledge of transparency in the run-up to the ‘great recession’,” principal deputy associate attorney general Bill Baer said in the statement“, it is merely one version of betrayal to the people of the US by giving protection to special people in excess of billions and they merely had to pay a $864m penalty. I am certain that those billionaires have split that penalty amongst them. So, as I stated, the US should be seen as bankrupt. It is not the only part in this. The Sydney Morning Herald (at https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/how-trump-s-hair-raising-level-of-debt-could-bring-us-all-crashing-down-20180420-p4zank.html) gives us “Twin reports by the International Monetary Fund sketch a chain reaction of dangerous consequences for world finance. The policy – if you can call it that – puts the US on an untenable debt trajectory. It smacks of Latin American caudillo populism, a Peronist contagion that threatens to destroy the moral foundations of the Great Republic. The IMF’s Fiscal Monitor estimates that the US budget deficit will spike to 5.3 per cent of GDP this year and 5.9 per cent in 2019. This is happening at a stage of the economic cycle when swelling tax revenues should be reducing net borrowing to zero“. I am actually decently certain that this will happen. Now we need to look back to my earlier statement.

You see, if the US borrowing power is nullified, the US is left without any options, unless (you saw that coming didn’t you). The underwriting power of debt becomes patent power. Patents have been set to IP support. I attended a few of those events (being a Master of Intellectual Property Law) and even as my heart is in Trademarks, I do have a fine appreciation of Patents. In this the econometrics of the world are seeing the national values and the value of any GDP supported by the economic value of patents.

In this, in 2016 we got “Innovation and creative endeavors are indispensable elements that drive economic growth and sustain the competitive edge of the U.S. economy. The last century recorded unprecedented improvements in the health, economic well-being, and overall quality of life for the entire U.S. population. As the world leader in innovation, U.S. companies have relied on intellectual property (IP) as one of the leading tools with which such advances were promoted and realized. Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are the principal means for establishing ownership rights to the creations, inventions, and brands that can be used to generate tangible economic benefits to their owner“, as such the cookie has crumbled into where the value is set (see attached), one of the key findings is “IP-intensive industries continue to be a major, integral and growing part of the U.S. economy“, as such we see the tech giants that I mentioned as missing and not being mentioned by Christine Lagarde. It is merely one setting and there are optionally a lot more, but in light of certain elements I believe that patents are a driving force and those three have a bundle, Apple has so many that it can use those patents too buy several European nations. IBM with their (what I personally believe to be) an overvalued Watson, we have seen the entire mess moving forward, presenting itself and pushing ‘boundaries’ as we are set into a stage of ‘look what’s coming’! It is all about research, MIT and Think 2018. It is almost like Think 2018 is about the point of concept, the moment of awareness and the professional use of AI. In that IBM, in its own blog accidently gave away the goods as I see it with: “As we get closer to Think, we’re looking forward to unveiling more sessions, speakers and demos“, I think they are close, they are getting to certain levels, but they are not there yet. In my personal view they need to keep the momentum going, even if they need to throw in three more high exposed events, free plane tickets and all kinds of swag to flim flam the audience. I think that they are prepping for the events that will not be complete in an alpha stage until 2020. Yet that momentum is growing, and it needs to remain growing. Two quotes give us that essential ‘need’.

  1. The US Army signed a 33-month, $135 million contract with IBM for cloud services including Watson IoT, predictive analytics and AI for better visibility into equipment readiness.
  2. In 2017, IBM inventors received more than 1,900 patents for new cloud technologies to help solve critical business challenges.

The second is the money shot. An early estimate is outside of the realm of most, you see the IP Watchdog gave us: “IBM Inventors received a record 9043 US patents in 2017, patenting in such areas as AI, Cloud, Blockchain, Cybersecurity and Quantum Computing technology“, the low estimate is a value of $11.8 trillion dollars. That is what IBM is sitting on. That is the power of just ONE tech giant, and how come that Christine Lagarde missed out on mentioning IBM? I’ll let you decide, or perhaps it was Larry Elliott from the Guardian who missed out? I doubt it, because Larry Elliott is many things, stupid ain’t one. I might not agree with him, or at times with his point of view, but he is the clever one and his views are valid ones.

So in all this we see that there is a push, but is it the one the IMF is giving or is there another play? The fact that banks have a much larger influence in what happens is not mentioned, yet that is not the play and I accept that, it is not what is at stake. There is a push on many levels and even as we agree that some tech giants have a larger piece of the cake (Facebook, Google and Amazon), a lot could have been prevented by proper corporate taxation, but that gets to most of the EU and the American Donald Duck, or was that Trump are all about not walking that road? The fact that Christine has failed (one amongst many) to introduce proper tax accountability on tech giants is a much larger issue and it is not all on her plate in all honesty, so there are a few issues with all this and the supporting views on all this is not given with “Lagarde expressed concern at the growing threat of a trade war between the US and China, saying that protectionism posed a threat to the upswing in the global economy and to an international system that had served countries well“, it is seen in several fields, one field, was given by The Hill, in an opinion piece. The information is accurate it is merely important to see that it has the views of the writer (just like any blog).

So with “Last December, the United States and 76 other WTO members agreed at the Buenos Aires WTO Ministerial to start exploring WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of e-commerce. Those WTO members are now beginning their work by identifying the objectives of such an agreement. The U.S. paper is an important contribution because it comprehensively addresses the digital trade barriers faced by many companies“, which now underlines “A recent United States paper submitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a notable step toward establishing rules to remove digital trade barriers. The paper is significant for identifying the objectives of an international agreement on digital trade“. This now directly gives rise to “the American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law also requested that the new NAFTA require increased protections in trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights, and patents“, which we get from ‘Ambassador Lighthizer Urged to Include Intellectual Property Protections in New NAFTA‘ (at https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/ambassador-lighthizer-urged-to-include-52674/) less than 10 hours ago. So when we link that to the quote “The proposals included: that Canada and Mexico establish criminal penalties for trade secrets violations similar to those in the U.S. Economic Espionage Act, an agreement that Mexico eliminate its requirement that trademarks be visible, a prohibition on the lowering of minimum standards of patent protection“. So when we now look back towards the statement of Christine Lagarde and her exclusion of IBM, Microsoft and Apple, how is she not directly being a protectionist of some tech giants?

I think that the IMF is also feeling the waters what happens when the US economy takes a dip, because at the current debt levels that impact is a hell of a lot more intense and the games like Moody’s have been played and cannot be played again. Getting caught on that level means that the US would have to be removed from several world economic executive decisions, not a place anyone in Wall Street is willing to accept, so that that point Pandora’s Box gets opened and no one will be able to close it at that point. So after waking up 5 years late we see that the plays have been again and again about keeping the status quo and as such the digital rights is the one card left to play, which gives the three tech giants an amount of power they have never had before, so as everyone’s favourite slapping donkey (Facebook) is mentioned next to a few others, it is the issue of those not mentioned that will be having the cake and quality venison that we all desire. In this we are in a dangerous place, even more the small developers who come up with the interesting IP’s they envisioned. As their value becomes overstated from day one, they will be pushed to sell their IP way too early, more important, that point comes before their value comes to fruition and as such those tech giants (Apple, IBM, and Microsoft) will get an even more overbearing value. Let’s be clear they are not alone, the larger players like Samsung, Canon, Qualcomm, LG Electronics, Sony and Fujitsu are also on that list. The list of top players has around 300 members, including 6 universities (all American). So that part of the entire economy is massively in American hands and we see no clear second place, not for a long time. Even as the singled out tech giants are on that list, it is the value that they have that sets them a little more apart. Perhaps when you consider having a go at three of them, whilst one is already under heavy emotional scrutiny is perhaps a small price to pay.

How nice for them to wake up, I merely lost one day once, they have been playing the sleeping game for years and we will get that invoice at the expense of the futures we were not allowed to have, if you wonder how weird that statement is, then take a look at the current retirees, the devaluation they face, the amount they are still about to lose and wonder what you will be left with when you consider that the social jar will be empty long before you retire. The one part we hoped to have at the very least is the one we will never have because governments decided that budgeting was just too hard a task, so they preferred to squander it all away. The gap of those who have and those who have not will become a lot wider over the next 5 years, so those who retire before 2028 will see hardships they never bargained for. So how exactly are you served with addressing “‘too much concentration in hands of the few’ does not help economy“, they aren’t and you weren’t. It is merely the setting for what comes next, because in all this it was never about that. It is the first fear of America that counts. With ‘US ponders how it can stem China’s technology march‘ (at http://www.afr.com/news/world/us-ponders-how-it-can-stem-chinas-technology-march-20180418-h0yyaw), we start seeing that shift, so as we see “The New York Times reported on April 7 that “at the heart” of the trade dispute is a contest over which country plays “a leading role in high-tech industries”. The Wall Street Journal reported on April 12 that the US was preparing rules to block Chinese technology investment in the US, while continuing to negotiate over trade penalties“, we see the shifted theatre of trade war. It will be about the national economic value with the weight of patents smack in the middle. In that regard, the more you depreciate other parts, the more important the value of patents becomes. It is not a simple or easy picture, but we will see loads of econometrics giving their view on all that within the next 2-3 weeks.

Have a great weekend and please do not bother to wake up, it seems that Christine Lagarde didn’t bother waking up for years.

 

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Physical vs Virtual (part2)

In part 2 we look at the virtual aspect in all this and for that we need to take a look at the other part of the equation, and see where the interaction ended up, because that is also a matter that truly counts.

Virtually

It started way before now, but the now gives us ‘Facebook moves 1.5bn users out of reach of new European privacy law‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/apr/19/facebook-moves-15bn-users-out-of-reach-of-new-european-privacy-law). You see the law is one thing, yet in all this, when we see “Facebook has moved more than 1.5 billion users out of reach of European privacy law, despite a promise from Mark Zuckerberg to apply the “spirit” of the legislation globally“, was anything illegal done? When we see: “when asked whether his company would promise GDPR protections to its users worldwide, Zuckerberg demurred. “We’re still nailing down details on this, but it should directionally be, in spirit, the whole thing,” he said“, did he lie?

Those are the immediate questions. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU in this gives us “replaces the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC and was designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens data privacy and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy“, so the people created their account long before these privacy issues were there. They never cared for the longest time, as long as the US government didn’t get any data and when we respond to pornographic images and videos on social media, oh no, that was not us, that was merely Gavin Barwell (see part 1), in a time when his mind should have been all other kinds of matters. Ah well, we all have an itch now and then. Yes, it is that itch, because we are all on social media for some reason, to share, to look, to listen and to judge. Some of them actually communicate, and that has also been proven so communication on social media is not a fab. So when we see the EU site on the GDPR: “the biggest change to the regulatory landscape of data privacy comes with the extended jurisdiction of the GDPR, as it applies to all companies processing the personal data of data subjects residing in the Union, regardless of the company’s location. Previously, territorial applicability of the directive was ambiguous and referred to data process ‘in context of an establishment’. This topic has arisen in a number of high profile court cases. GPDR makes its applicability very clear – it will apply to the processing of personal data by controllers and processors in the EU, regardless of whether the processing takes place in the EU or not“, the first thing we see is that social media has no business having offices or processing data in the EU, that basically is the signal for Facebook to vacate using the ASAP protocol and they did just that. And Mark Zuckerberg did it all in the spirit of it all, it is just not what was expected and the Senate hearing just gave themselves (allegedly) access to de data to nearly all the European users. the second part gives us “The GDPR will also apply to the processing of personal data of data subjects in the EU by a controller or processor not established in the EU, where the activities relate to: offering goods or services to EU citizens (irrespective of whether payment is required) and the monitoring of behaviour that takes place within the EU. Non-Eu businesses processing the data of EU citizens will also have to appoint a representative in the EU“, so with ‘monitoring of behaviour that takes place within the EU‘, is a much larger issue and Alex Hern makes no mention of this anywhere in the article (that is not an accusation), merely that Facebook has moved the data and that the people in the EU have less rights under US law. Was that not always the case? Was that not the initial setting when Facebook started? So when we read “This is a major and unprecedented change in the data privacy landscape. The change will amount to the reduction of privacy guarantees and the rights of users, with a number of ramifications, notably for consent requirements“, which we get from Privacy researcher Lukasz Olejnik, we actually do not get anything new, because the GDPR would not have been enforced until next month, so there! (OK, not an entirely justified outcry, but I am feeling batty)

In all this the missed issue of monitoring is actually a lot larger for some and those boasting on what they bought on the dark net (some people remain simple on every level) will have a few repercussions, yet in all this when it regards Cambridge Analytica, we see all kinds of media exploitations, rumours, alleged actions, yet no arrests, no one in the dock and still the entire mess is merely focussed on Facebook. We have seen news on a massive amount of apps collecting data, smart toys, and with the upcoming 5G, the RFID and mobile tag as well as device tags will be an exponentially growing data market with the entire Fortune 500 chomping at the bits to get their fingers on that data, yet at present the legislation has been faulty at best and nominally missing completely. All that because the people give it all away willingly, that is what the next fridge with a £250 discount will warrant, as did the 2016 Sony Smart TV as just about all following models. that is not a joke, you agreed to this when you bought the TV,

it is in the end users license agreement and they are not alone, it is a massive list of corporation that are doing this and the media was, yet they were largely silent about it and the Sony issue in 2012, where the media is what I would personally label as: ‘whoring for advertisement options‘ instead of informing 30 million consumers on the change and its impact, is what still has my nostrils flaring 6 years later and I am an actual Sony fan.

So as we see how we are singularly focussed on where our personal data is and not what we allowed it to be used for, especially as it came with the free use of Facebook, we all need to accept that nothing is for free and the corporation requires its return of investment, well in the case of Facebook merely 60 billion. Where did you think that value came from? Watching advertisement? In that Facebook and google are largely alike. So in these issues in the physical and virtual side, we are short on memory, too large on emotions and unclear on how to make the houses of Lords and Commons more accountable for the matters at hand. Even as they cannot prevent you from staying with Facebook, we all have been failed by legislation that was too slow and MP’s that are showing to be lacking the necessary skills to do something successfully. It would be so lovely if Sir Martin Moore-Bick would be kind enough to show both matters, because it would have a much larger impact. Even as we see, (what I would personally call) the failed false promises of Jeremy Corbyn regarding housing, with: “One million new “genuinely affordable homes” over a decade, mostly for social rent. That’s not quite 1m new council houses – a chunk of these would be delivered by housing associations – but it gets very close” is also a Porky Pie of the largest order. You merely have to look at google Maps to see that there is no place for even 30% of that in London, so will they mostly be in Wales, Penzance, Brighton and Scarborough? In addition, none of the sides of the houses
(Lords or Commons) have successfully done anything to make a change, regarding leasehold which will drive the entire social housing matter further and 1,000,000 houses will not nearly be enough. So, back to the Virtual part, because that is still central in this. In that part I have to thank the realtor Harcourts for bringing the juice.

You see, with: “NPP1 – Collection of Information; Agencies are prohibited from collecting personal information unless it is necessary for one or more of its functions. Personal data should only be collected in a lawful, fair, and not unreasonably obtrusive way. The agency must disclose certain information at the point of collection“, yet in all this the terms: ‘unless it is necessary for one or more of its functions‘ gives a much wider scope, does it not? In addition, with ‘only be collected in a lawful, fair, and not unreasonably obtrusive way‘. So when they (the real estate in general) offer a £199 rebate for registering you as the leasehold owner, how many people do you think that will consider it necessary and not unreasonable? It merely needs to satisfy one function and the deed is covered with the mantle of opportunity. In addition we see “Personal and sometimes sensitive information may be collected and stored on standard real estate industry forms, such as tenancy applications, listing forms, etc. These need to be secured and available for inspection by customers“, so when did you look at what some call the RP Database? In Australia there is a firm CoreLogic and it has a product called RP Data Professional. In all this we see: “RP Data Professional is the leading property data solution used by property professionals in Australia. Prepare reports for prospects and clients, generate value estimates, verify information and conduct valuable research and highly targeted marketing. Packages starting from $150 / month“. It is widely used by debt collecting agencies as well as realtors. You would be surprised to see all that data and what every address offers. Do you think that they are the only ones? Data is gold, it is the printer that allows you to print your own money and for the most it is massively unchecked. Now, I know that RP Data is merely a facilitator in all this, all perfectly valid, and nothing illegal. Yet when we consider ABC in 2016 with “The Reserve Bank has taken the highly unusual step of switching its preferred home value data, arguing that CoreLogic’s figures overstated price growth in April and May due to a methodology change“, so as you see the data goes a lot further and for the most the people, the tenants and Real Estate seekers are totally unaware of such parts and in all this do you think that the UK does not have its own options. In all this, with the explosive cladding issues, did you not think that the clad dealers were not tailoring to ‘property value increase at minimum costs’? This goes a lot wider in several lanes and the sudden much larger issue of cladding is almost not looked at (I did say almost).

So when we see “CoreLogic’s head of research Tim Lawless acknowledged that the changes to the index may have temporarily bumped up the figures for a couple of months. However, he said other data indicate that those two months were still relatively strong for Sydney and Melbourne housing sales” we forget to look at the aligned indications and what else is setting the pass in all this. Even as the last parts were the Australian side of this, CoreLogic is also active in the UK. In this no one seems to have talked to CoreLogic to see if the cladding industry has been given (through subscription) access to the UK RP Database. Is that not interesting too? You see, when we accept the January setting of “Just three tower blocks out of almost 300 with the same “dangerous” and “flammable” cladding as Grenfell Tower have had panels taken down and replaced“, how come the number of buildings is so high? Are all cladding providers so very bad, or was there a very intelligent salesperson selling cladding to the right people, when the timing was just right? I am fairly certain that this part of the conversations has not been showing up anywhere.

The virtual side to the Grenfell disaster was not seen, perhaps that part was immaterial at that time, yet when we see 297 tower blocks in a serious setting of harm, with the initial setting of finding the proper candidates, have we considered that corporate social media (like LinkedIn) could be used to get the goods (in alleged Cambridge Analytica style) to create fear in other ways? A lack of value versus a larger valuation set against a minimal investment. You show me a person who turns that down and I will introduce you to a person who is very aware of the concept of dishonesty.

You see, we have seen for the better part of 5 years the notion of taking fear from the workplace, usually in the style of ‘Corporate Leaders Must Remove Fear Factor from the Workplace‘, which we get from the Huffington Post (at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-prefontaine/corporate-leaders-must-re_1_b_1437445.html) as early as 2012, so when we see “As reported in the Harvard Business Review, employees faced with incivility are likely to narrow their focus to avoid risks, and lose opportunities to learn in the process. Obviously this impacts their level of personal success and the success of the organization“, yet in equal measure, those actors never considered to take the fear factor out of the boardrooms, which are forever ruled by the bottom line and in that respect there is very little difference between a corporate boardroom, or places like the Kensington and Chelsea TMO, which has one bottom line, which is the value of housing and the rise of values of upcoming new housing. So now, the entire Metro section we saw in part one with ‘Cladding added to Grenfell Tower to ‘improve view for nearby luxury flats‘ it makes a whole lot more sense does it not? It is my personal view and opinion, yet in all that data was at the very Core and Logic of it all (pun intended). So when you think the Facebook data is an issue, guess again. The issue is a lot bigger, wider and more exploitable at the expense of yourself of course) than you would have thought.

All within the considerate view of those not looking at any of this, and you think I went deep here? I merely touched the surface and I will be very surprised if the public inquiry touches on any of those matters, not because they do not want to, but because the legal scope is unlikely to be there, as it would have been in the emotional seeking justice side. I guess that it is one of the questions that certain councils do not want to answer, so making sure that the question is not asked will be a first priority for all of them, because if it does get to the table, those who want to stiff Leaseholders with a £40,000 bill might optionally end up being not so successful and there is every indication that a fair chunk of those 297 tower blocks are currently facing a similar dilemma.

That is just my thought on the matter, and in all this, when you start realising the issues at hand and the time that this has taken, in addition that I saw some in minutes a few more in hours and one or two through my decades of data experience, are you not surprised that the elected officials remained in the dark? I know I am one of the better ones on the planet, but I know close to a dozen equal or better than me, many living in London. Do you actually think that some were in the dark or are they allegedly keeping themselves ignorant? In that case, if more happens, how many lives was the price of that ignorance? Can we afford to find out?

I’ll leave you with those questions, have a great Friday and do try to enjoy the weekend!

 

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Physical vs Virtual (part1)

The Guardian has two elements today; they are not connected, not in any way. Yet they are both important and they do connect in other ways and that part is actually a lot more important than you think, let’s take a look at part 1.

Physicality

To upset the reader, I will start with ‘On 14th June 2017 there was a clambake in North Kensington!‘ 71 people lost their lives and an almost equal number of people were seriously injured. I have written about it in previous blogs in both June and September 2017. It was renovated and that job was completed in 2016. Now, I can give you all the names, but the names actually do not matter at present, the issue of renovation was however more important. An interesting and slightly more important part is ‘the then housing Minister Gavin Barwell, refused requests for meetings‘, we will look at him later. You see there is an even larger issue, not the obvious ones, the ones I gave in June 2017 showing that there was published evidence that the entire choice of purchase was already a hazard by the selling company. No, it gets worse ‘Cladding added to Grenfell Tower to ‘improve view for nearby luxury flats’‘, this is what the Metro gave on June 14th 2017. Charles White had the scoop. We can also take the view “Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 and housed low-income families in Latimer Road, North Kensington“, so the cladding was added to make their presence less sickening to those around them. Well, as Roman candles go, those rich neighbours really had one ready for the victims of Grenfell didn’t they? In all this, and all the fuck ups that were saw, witnessed and in equal measure saw the media partially avoid, did no one see the brochure where we saw “It’s perfect for new and retrofit projects less than 40 feet (three stories) high“, the mere setting in the brochure and these highly paid individuals never bothered to ask the question and get on paper the certification for a 24 storey building? So how about the extension of 21 floors? It would be on top of my mind, but then I am not a graduated civil engineer. I merely don’t trust anyone trying to sell me ‘a great deal‘, not without proper investigation. So when I read ‘Leaseholders of flats face £40,000 bills over Grenfell type cladding‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/19/leaseholders-of-flats-face-40000-bills-over-grenfell-type-cladding). I wonder who should pay for all this, the luxury flat neighbours (implied that they pushed for a ‘better view’, they certainly got that whilst the fire brigades required 60 hours to fully stop the fires and close to 48 hours to remove the charcoal cadavers that used to be tenants in that building. Is this description upsetting you and making you angry? Good! I want you to be angry, because there is a systemic failure in the London boroughs when it comes to housing and it is still there. So whilst we see that Gavin might be all about ‘How to Win a Marginal Seat: My Year Fighting For My Political Life‘ and less about meeting with people who have genuine concerns on the safety of their lives, a person who was Minister for London as well as Minister of State for Housing and Planning seemed to have been in the middle of it all AFTER the renovation. So, even as his reign was flawed by not acting, we equally need to put Brandon Lewis, now the Chairman of the Conservative Party, as well as Kris Hopkins, who is now Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Northern Ireland Office in the spotlight. Even as Gavin has the gavel of dumbness, he was not there when it started and that has to be acknowledged in equal measure. The entire cladding issue is a mess from a civil, an engineering a political and a legal aspect. It is rare for something like that to fail on pretty much every level. That and a few other matters give rise to a much larger investigation, because if I can get angry and demand investigations into the EU gravy train, my anger on this mess needs to be even greater. And there is a growing number of pieces of evidence. With the ‘2009 Lakanal House fire, in Camberwell, South London, six died and at least twenty injured‘, the Guardian reported (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/feb/24/southwark-council-admits-safety-failings-tower-block-lakanal-house-blaze), in February 2017, LONG BEFORE THE GRENFELL FIRE, reported ‘Southwark council pleads guilty over worst ever tower block fire‘, that alone should have pushed Gavin Barwell into action, yet there we see ehhh… nothing. There was a big nothing done, even a blogger who got told “The council had threatened the Grenfell Action Group with legal action in 2013 in a bid to prevent the group criticising the council, saying that such criticism amounted to “defamation and harassment”.” Again it is the Metro who gives us “The letter, which was allegedly sent in 2013, was sent by a solicitor working for Kensington Town Hall“, so can we please see the name of that solicitor published as well as the people he was representing? You see, that letter was in response from someone and we should be told who that someone was. In addition, me, myself, I and a whole range of people, including family members of the charcoaled tenants will have some loud questions for that person. In this we end up with even more questions as ‘Robert Black, the Chief Executive of KCTMO, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation responsible for managing Grenfell Tower on behalf of the council‘, which the Independent gave us is according to the Coventry Telegraph. You see, when we consider the mess already in place, and we accept that Retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick is the appointed legal person to lead the public inquiry. How can anyone accept “The board wishes to ensure that KCTMO remains best positioned to fully co-operate and assist with the inquiry and so it has agreed with its chief executive, Robert Black, that Mr Black should step aside from his role as chief executive of KCTMO in order that he can concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry“, in this the quote “The welfare of the residents of KCTMO remains the primary concern of the board” reads like a joke, 4 years of inaction, 4 years to miss what I saw in 5 minutes and three more facts of endangering the people living in Grenfell, which I found within the 30 minutes after that. In all this there is every chance that Robert Black is all about making sure that some questions are not asked and that some pieces of evidence are ‘not to be shown to the prosecution‘, the last part is merely speculation on my side, yet I wonder if anyone will be able to prove me wrong in the end.

So as we now get back to the other building where: “Residents of 80 flats whose freeholds are managed by a company owned by David Cameron’s half brother-in-law are each facing bills of up to £40,000 because the building is clad with flammable panels similar to those used on Grenfell Tower, in London“, I am less concerned who is a family member of who. I am more interested in the entire timeline on how cladding was chosen and how it was approved. If there is one clear timeline in evidence than it is the one where it is more and more clear that those connected to Grenfell were utterly incompetent, or they just didn’t know what they were doing. So even as all these boroughs will carry the weight of the Grenfell victims, we need to see the clear timeline for each building separately and in that Dominic Raab, the now Minister of State for Housing and Planning, is handed the nightmare scenario of a lifetime. Yet in all this, if he can pull through and improve the mess we are facing now, he won’t just meet with happy tears of joy from those around him, he could show that when true justice is found and that the matters are strong set in both legislation and borough procedure, there is every chance that his ascension as a future Prime Minister is not out of the question. For one man to show the failure of years of predecessors (with Alok Sharma being optionally acquitted to some extent in all this) there will be shouts of joy. I intentionally set Alok Sharma in that light because even as the surviving tenants of Grenfell have been failed in several ways, we need to be honest and fair and assess what resources Alok Sharma had available. I actually do not have those details or access to that data. As such I refuse to paint him in the same colours that his predecessors deserve. And the mess is still not over, that is seen (at https://www.lgcplus.com/services/housing/kensington-and-chelsea-too-slow-to-rehouse-grenfell-survivors/7023801.article) where we get the following parts all together making the mess even more severe.

  • Mr Raab said: “[There are] 208 households that require housing – of which, 59 have accepted temporary accommodation and 60 are in permanent accommodation.” That is up 16 since 25 January.
  • Ms Dent Coad said: “In November, we were told there were 209 displaced households, but I was given the true figures from the council’s housing department which was 376. “There’s just a total mismatch, originally we were told displaced people made homeless was 863 so these figures have been washed, let’s just put it like that.”
  • “There’s just a total mismatch, originally we were told displaced people made homeless was 863 so these figures have been washed, let’s just put it like that.” Housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid responded saying Ms Dent Coad’s statistics referred to the wider estate and not the Grenfell tower and walkway alone.

So we have Emma Dent Coad, the MP for Kensington, Dominic Raab, now Minister of State for Housing and Planning and Housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid needing to explain in the Local Government Chronicle that on one matter Emma Dent Coad and Dominic Raab cannot communicate in the same version of English, it merely is an exercise in miscommunication, and there is an issue of mistrust from the tenants? I am not at all surprised, merely surprised that a gang with pitchforks and torches have not moved in to deal with black magic and witchcraft, for such levels of miscommunication pretty much warrants that, especially if Robert Black ends up being related to the other Black family, something JK Rowling mentioned in some way in the recent past (that was a funny, for those who cannot read between the lines).

It is an almost intolerable mess and it seems that other buildings, especially the overreacting and not properly investigating management firms are now crying fowl (in the end someone has to be the Turkey in all this) and lashing the bills on anyone’s desk (allegedly) where they could possible pass the buck (read: £40,000). All this in a setting of physicality of events, paper trails that are either so murky that a team of barristers cannot decipher it and half-baked agreements where it is unclear if the tenants were ever properly informed. Finally in this matter there is Sir Martin Moore-Bick. That side is important when we see (at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40491449), you see, I disagree. There is absolutely no case for “Labour’s Emma Dent Coad said Sir Martin Moore-Bick was “a technocrat” who lacked “credibility” with victims“, this is about the law. And someone like Emma Dent Coad, who got elected with a 0.05% margin (20 votes) with merely a degree from the Royal College of Art with an MA in History of Design has no real setting to judge on law does she? At least I myself do have two law degrees, one of them a master degree (they are Australian though) as well as a graduate degree in Internet working, so I am at least also technologically savvy. In addition the BBC piece gives us nothing more than the focus on one overturned case. I think that ignoring the 20 years as a judge of the Commercial Court and Court of Appeal warrants his appointment. The entire labour arsenal is all shouting to ‘connect’ to people, yet to properly investigate all matters; it is a step of legislation and logic, not emotion. Is there a better person to head the inquiry? I do not know, but in equal measure there is no evidence that he is the wrong person. In all as it comes to law and optional lack thereof, there is absolutely no evidence that Emma Dent Coad is qualified to be an MP; she was merely elected as Member of Parliament for Kensington. Sir Martin Moore-Bick is overly qualified as a judge, it is the distinction that makes the setting, and her ‘miscommunication‘ quoted earlier should give additional doubt to her point of view in all this.

 

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Chickie Chickie Bang Bang

Jason Burke is bringing the Guardian goods (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/18/arms-race-criminal-gangs-helping-terrorists-get-weapons-report-warns). You see, I am a gun lover. I loved ‘using’ guns since 1978. I love the design; I most definitely admire and love the tradecraft that the maker had which allows a mere metal object to be placed with 9mm precision over a range of 600 meters. The need and the skill for any person to get the bullet placed EXACTLY there where it needs to be, allowing your brain to correct all needed parameters, like for example wind to make sure that you aim for that point that allows the bullet to hit the bulls-eye dead centre. It is almost a fluidic interaction of skill and art, a balance between the machine, the environment and the shooter. Once you realise that part in this, the admiration for the skill that you get to hone, that passion will stay with you, probably for a lifetime. It was never about looking like the main player in Call of Duty, when I started my passion for guns, there was merely the Atari 2600, and there was no shooting game at that point, there was Pong, there was Pac-Man and there were the Space Invaders.

Even in those days, guns were expensive, so I was limited to the gun that the club had and my granny would not tolerate guns in the house and I personally had no issues with that. In addition to not having the dough to own a rifle, I also never had the initial drive to own one, so that was all fine to me, I just wanted to be on the range and shoot (and hit the mark dead centre). Of course I was a little bit blessed; the club had Feinwerkbau rifles as well as a few .22 LR’s, as well as a collection of pistols so we had all the good goods. It would be another two years until I got introduced to the 7.62 FN FAL, the UZI, the 9mm pistol and another two years until my first Remington.

So when I saw ‘Military grade firearms increasingly available to terrorists in Europe – report‘, I was not at all surprised. It is not merely the ““arms race” between criminal groups in Europe risks making it easier for terrorists to obtain high-powered, military grade firearms“, the fact remains that the image shows the Kalashnikov and the mention ‘Part of a haul of £100,000 worth of eastern European guns smuggled into the UK‘, we are missing that even those with a legal permit are willing to get their fingers on a genuine Kalashnikov. They are willing and eager to part with well over £850, making that part an easy £8500, so not only is it about the ‘arms race‘ it is a very lucrative business as well. If the movie ‘Lord of War‘ is true to some extent and the ‘entrepreneurial’ spirit can buy it per kilo, with a discount per container, making the profit even sweeter. The decently low risk and the huge returns are only going to make it worse for the foreseeable future in Europe. The stream of refugees and the Schengen open borders policies allow for transport from ‘who-gives-a-damn‘ somewhere near the Russian border to the shoreline of the Pass de Calais. That alone should be the nightmare of France (Germany has its own HK market). Even as I admit that I would still love to get my fingers on a full stock AK-47 with silencer as well as the Druganov SVD with its optional noise reduction system. We see that this market is for the collectors that have the cash (and the storage) as well as the criminal elements, so there is a larger stream of customers available. This changes the plot by a large amount. Even as one side will never be a threat to human life, it remains a larger issue. I for one would not have them in an unprotected setting, so the fact that someone (read: trigger happy doped up junk) steals it from my house is a larger worry for me than I care for, so I do not have either of them. Weirdly enough, that issue had been on my mind a lot more lately, because every shooter (or at least all I know) always had a reverence for the Remington. The fact that they went belly up means that if I would not be able to get one soon, the era of the Remington passes me by and that makes me sad, as it would any dedicated range shooter.

There is a part of debate with “The survey says long-standing barriers to obtaining firearms have broken down in recent years owing to the emergence of the internet, cross-border smuggling of military-grade assault rifles into the EU, the conversion of large numbers of blank-firing guns and the widespread reactivation of weapons previously rendered unusable to be sold to collectors“, in the first, the internet was never an issue, the darknet is a much larger issue as people can actively seek out what they need, a window shopping experience with almost complete anonymity. Smuggling operations are indeed an issue, but that is what the open border policy brought, if the government officials are in denial, they should never have been elected in the first place, so the entire matter is not new, it has been there since 1985, it was not until the 1998 Russian financial crisis that the Russian situation ‘exploded’ with container loads of Russian goods (read: military hardware) becoming readily available. So in that, this entire situation has been around for almost 2 decades, OK, 15 years is a lot more accurate. So when we see ‘a criminal gang in 2016‘, we seem to forget that these are either new player, or that the authorities remained in denial for well over 5 years. They aren’t but they seem to be. That evidence is also shown by the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/oct/05/steven-greenoe-gun-smuggling-trial). Here even the American entrepreneurs try to participate by getting a few slices of profit cake. So as the clever minded amateur goes with “Steven Greenoe, 37, bought weapons from American gun shops, broke them down to their component parts, and smuggled them into the UK in his luggage, Liverpool crown court heard on Wednesday“, I reckon that he needed to inflate his US Marine pension, it is not valued the way it ever was. You see the lesser amateur gets them ‘attached’ to the inside of the fuel tank of a truck. The Diesel nicely lubes and cleans the weapon whilst the trucker drives his trip and up to 4 AK-47’s giving him an easy £1,000 on the side per trip, a little more if the driver takes a double load of Makarov’s. What a luxury those open borders make, don’t they?

Yet the important part is that there is an issue. It is not merely the terrorists. These people become the go to guys for the Lone Wolves in the UK. With the danger rising of the dealers out for cash and not knowing who their clientele is, making it an almost ironic sense of justice for them to deal to a lone wolf only to come home and learn that the wife and kiddies were gunned down by a crazed extremists who hated all those who did not take him/her seriously, it ended up being all in a day’s work.

The previous part is more important than you think; you see the lone wolf is often in emotional turmoil. Unlike the actual terrorist who has a clear agenda, this person merely needs fame (read: infamy) and recognition, as such, emotion takes over and he/she is most likely to fail, yet not before they kill the innocent bystanders that were never part of any equation. That is what worries the intelligence community the most because there is no defence that would work and that is the ball game at present. You see the article ends with “arms races between criminal groups across the EU“, that is not the scary part. It is for ‘government officials‘ but those criminal elements remain all about exploitation and profit, so in the end they either slaughter each other (not the biggest issue of any week) or keep each other at bay, in most cases the innocent bystanders are less and less likely to get hit, merely because it makes for bad business (remember their profit based mindset). Yet another article partially opposes it with “Converted and reactivated weapons in Europe are seen as having posed an acute problem in recent years. Amedy Coulibaly, who carried out shootings in Paris in January 2015, used two reactivated automatic rifles and six handguns. The firearms had been sold in Slovakia before being reactivated and eventually smuggled into Coulibaly’s hands” which is merely one part in a setting of several. So the weapon smuggle is not merely the one part, you see the ‘reactivated‘ weapons are seemingly a much larger problem in the scheme of things and here we see the larger flaw. There is a legion of articles and papers that talk about reactivated weapons, meaning that the deactivation was improper, incomplete and actually not very inactive. The fact that the NABIS (National Ballistics Intelligence Service) gives us “The process of reactivation in respect of certain types of weapons may not require a sophisticated workshop and can be done with tools available from a DIY store. In one case, for example, reactivation was carried out in the kitchen of a one bedroom sheltered housing bedsit” (see attached) gives additional evidence that the entire ‘deactivation process‘ is as flawed as it is likely ever to get and fixing that one part will make the issue smaller, but will not make it go away. In this we have evidence for almost 7 years and the fact that they European commission is all about reports and as far as I can tell not about actual action makes the EU again merely a gravy train of income opportunity and not a resolving entity of any degree.

So when we have seen the events and the evidence, the article remains true to some point, the factual issue that works to the advantage of the police is that the real terrorist is not screaming its presence and neither is the arms dealer, so they are both in a dark room playing ‘Marco‘  (wait for it)  ‘Polo‘ hoping that the police or the intelligence workers don’t hear either of them, which works out well for the police (for now), the lone wolf is a much harder issue. that person might shout ‘I need a gun‘ and if no flags are raised on that person the police will miss the opportunity, yet the arms dealer will never miss up on a golden opportunity and will go with a go between. So the most likely part is that the wrong person ends up with the gun that is the true danger to every innocent bystander.

The availability remains, yet with open borders the goods can safely travel through Europe, making yet another case that Brexit has the option to solve issues, although in this particular instance it is not really a Brexit matter, yet the borders have been for a much longer time. Yet valid question remains: ‘Should a £12 million smuggle issue stop £200 billion in trade value‘, I think that anyone who states that it is true is absolutely loony tunes. The Brexit issue is a lot larger, and on that entire scale smuggling is almost quite literally the smallest issue of them all.

 

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Media rigging

We have had issues, massive issues for the longest of times. Now we can focus on the blatant transgressors, we can focus on the exclusion examples of good journalism like the guardian, the Independent, the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Times and the Financial Times (the Australian and non-Australian editions), yet the founding flaw is actually larger.

You see, journalism has become an issue in itself. Whatever people and participators thought it was in the 70’s is no longer the case. Perhaps it never was. In my view, journalism is no longer merely about ‘exposing’, it is about partially revealing, whilst mediating the needs of the shareholder, the stake holders and the advertisers making it a very different issue. It is there where I did not just have my issue with Microsoft, in that same setting the hands of Sony are equally tainted. They are the two visible ones; but that list is distinguished and very long. So as we see overcompensation we see it on both sides of the equation, not giving it a level of equilibrium, but an exaggerated level of grossly unsettling.

In this we have two articles. The first is directly linked to what I have been writing about so let’s start with that. The Washington Post (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2018/04/16/thousands-of-android-apps-may-be-illegally-tracking-children-study-finds) gives us ‘Thousands of Android apps may be illegally tracking children, study finds’. Now, I am not convinced that this is all limited to Android, but that is a personal feeling that has not been met with in-depth investigation, so I could most certainly be wrong on that count. What is the issue is seen with “Seven researchers analyzed nearly 6,000 apps for children and found that the majority of them may be in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Thousands of the tested apps collected the personal data of children under age 13 without a parent’s permission, the study found“,as this had been going on for years and i reported on it years ago, I am not at all surprised, yet the way that this now reaches the limelight is an issue to some degree. I am unaware what Serge Egelman has been doing with their life, but “The rampant potential violations that we have uncovered points out basic enforcement work that needs to be done” was not a consideration in 2010, or 2009, so why is it an issue now? Is it because Osama Bin Laden is dead now (intentionally utterly unrelated)? There has been a freedom of actions, a blatant setting of non-investigation for close to a decade and even as it is now more and more clear that the issue was never ‘not there’. In February 2016 we saw (unfortunately through the Telegraph) “The security flaw in Fisher-Price’s Smart Toy Bear meant access to a child’s name, date of birth and gender could have been easily accessed. The researchers at Rapid7, a Boston-based security company that spotted the defect, said the toy could also be hijacked to give a malicious actor control over account data and in-built functions“, so this is not new. The fact that it was the Telegraph who brought it does not make it false. And yes, I did bite my tongue to prevent the addition of ‘in this case‘ to the previous line. In addition we see (at http://www.dickinson-wright.com/news-alerts/legal-and-privacy-issues-with-connected-toys) that law firm Dickinson Wright has been on the ball since 2015, so how come that the media is lagging to such an extent? Like me, they saw the rain come and in their case it is profitable to be aware of the issues. So with “Since 2015 the technology and legal implications regarding these types of toys has only grown as the market now includes smart toys, such as Talk-to-Me Mikey, SmartToy Monkey, and Kidizoon Smartwatch DX; connected toys, such as SelfieMic and Grush; and other connected smart toys such as Cognitoys’ DINO, and My Friend Cayla“, they again show to be ahead of the curve and most of the media lagging to a much larger degree. Did you think that this was going to go away by keeping quiet? I think that the answer is clearly shown in the Post article. The most powerful statement is seen with “The researchers note that Google has worked to enforce COPPA by requiring child app developers to certify that they comply with the law. “However, as our results show, there appears to not be any (or only limited) enforcement,” the researchers said. They added that it would not be difficult for Google to augment their research to detect the apps and the developers that may be violating child privacy laws“, in this we see two parts, and the first is that the call of data value tends to nullify ethics to a much larger degree. The second is that I do not disagree with ‘it would not be difficult for Google to augment their research‘, I merely think that the people have not given Google the rights to police systems. Can we hold Microsoft responsible for every NBA gave that collects the abilities of users on that game? Should Microsoft police Electronic Arts, or 2K for that matter? The ability does not imply ‘to have the right’. Although it is a hard stance to make, we cannot go from the fact that all software developers are guilty by default, it is counterproductive. Yet in that same light, those transgressors should face multi-million dollar fines to say the least.

The final quote is a good one, but also a loaded one. With “Critics of Google’s app platform say the company and other players in the digital-advertising business, such as Facebook, have profited greatly from advances in data-tracking technology, even as regulators have failed to keep up with the resulting privacy intrusions” there is a hidden truth that also applies to Facebook. You see, they merely facilitate to give the advertiser the best value of their advertisement (like AdWords), yet the agency of advertiser only benefits from using the system. Their ad does get exposed to the best possible audience, yet the results they get back in AdWords is totally devoid of any personal data. So the advertiser sees Gender, age group location and other data, but nothing that personally identifies a person. In addition, if the ad is shown to an anonymous browser, there will be no data at all for that case.

So yes, data-tracking gives the advantage, but the privacy intrusions were not instigated by either Google or Facebook and as far as I know AdWords does not allow for such intrusions, should I be wrong than I will correct this at the earliest opportunity. Yet in all this, whilst everyone is having a go at Facebook, the media is very much avoiding Cambridge Analytica (minus one whistle-blower), other than to include them in speculations like ‘Cambridge Analytica appears to have an open contract‘, ‘Was it Cambridge Analytica that carried the day for Kenyatta‘ and ‘could have been shared with Cambridge Analytica‘. It almost reads like ‘Daily Mail reporter Sarah Vine might possibly have a vagina‘, which brings us to the second part in all this.

Invisibly linked

For the first time (I think ever) did I feel for a reporter! It was not what she said or how she said it, it was ‘Daily Mail fires reporter who inadvertently published obscenity‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/apr/16/daily-mail-removes-obscene-language-attack-on-reality-tv-stars). Now it is important that we consider two parts. the first is the blatant abuse of ‘political correctness‘ which has been putting the people at large on their rear hooves for way too long, which might also be the reason why comedians like Jimmy Carr are rising in popularity in a way we have not seen since Aristophanes wrote The Frogs in 435BC. My issue starts with “Daily Mail Australia has fired a reporter who accidentally uploaded her own “musings” about reality television contestants being “vapid cunts” on to the news website on Sunday“, so the Daily Mail does not have a draft setting that needs to be approved by the editor, no, it gets uploaded directly and even as that might be commendable. The fact that we also see “Sources at the Daily Mail earlier said the young reporter was “mortified” by the mistake“, whilst the lovers of the TV-Series Newsroom saw a similar event happen in 2014, so the fact that reality catches up with comedy and TV-Series is not merely fun, the fact that this happened in the heralded ‘Newsroom‘ should be seen as a signal. As we see “The Daily Mail reporter was writing in a Google document because of problems with the content management system and she inadvertently cut and pasted a paragraph about Bachelor in Paradise contestant Florence Alexandra which she says was written for her own eyes only, Guardian Australia understands” it is not merely about the fact on who wrote it, the mere part that the content manager part was flawed, we also see “The reporter had filed no fewer than five stories on Sunday and four on Monday, which is a normal workload for a Daily Mail journalist. It is customary for Mail reporters to upload their own copy into the system unless the story is legally contentious“. So even as we accept that the pressure is on, the system was flawed and that there was a lot of truth in her writing, and all this about a Dutch model whose fame seems to be limited to being ‘not ugly‘. So as the Daily Mail was happy to get her bum-shot and label it ‘wardrobe malfunction’ (9th September 2017), whilst in addition there has been no other transgressions, she was quite literally thrown to the wolves and out of a job. So when we do see the term ‘vapid cunts‘ (with the clever application of ‘vapid’, did the editorial consider that the term might have meant ‘a bland covering of the green envious setting of finding love and overcoming rejection‘, which we get from ‘vapid=bland‘ and ‘vagina = a sheath formed round a stem by the base of a leaf‘.

You see, in the end, this is a paper covering a reality show, a fake event created to entice an audience from living a life and wasting an hour on seeing something fake whilst they could have sought it out for real. In all this the overworked journalist gets the axe. So even if I feel a little for the journalist in this case and whilst we see that the audience replied with ‘Refreshing honesty from the Daily Mail this morning‘, which should be a real signal for the editor in change, no he threw it all out to hopefully avoid whatever would come next.

You see, even if it is not now, there are enough issues around which means that Leveson 2 might be delayed, but will still most likely happen. So even as the Telegraph is already on the ‘would be a threat to a free press‘, whilst trying to drown the reader with ‘The first Leveson inquiry cost taxpayers £5.4 million, yet the legal bill for the newspaper industry to comply with the process was far more than that‘, some journalists were up to their old tricks even before the Leveson ink dried. So in this the moment that Leveson 2 does happen, their clean desks will not be because some journalists tried to keep it clean, it will be because they were told to leave. The fact that some see Leveson 2 in relation to ‘undermining high quality journalism‘ seems to forget that high quality journalism is a thing of the past. It perhaps ended long before John Simm decided to portray a journalist in the excellent ‘State of Play‘. In all this there will be a massive blowback for the media at large, the moment it does happen, I will have every intention to get part of it set as an investigation of news that would have been considered as ‘mishandled’. There is at large enough evidence that the Sony event of 2012, the Microsoft events of 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, as well as IBM 2015 and 2017. There have been too many of events that were somehow ‘filtered’. In addition to that there are not merely the data breaches, the fact that there are strong indications that the media at times, merely reported through the act of copy and paste, whilst not looking deeper into the matter. Tesco, the North Korean Sony ‘Hack’ and a few other matters that should be dug into as there are enough indications that events had faltered and faltered might be seen as the most positive way to define an event that should be seen as utterly negative.

In my view, as some editors and shareholders will try to navigate the term journalist, I would be on the horse of removing that word altogether and have those papers be subject to the full 20% VAT. I wonder how they will suddenly offer to (again) monitor themselves. Like that was a raging success the first time around. It is as I see it the price of not being held to any standards, apart from the overreacting from two unintended words, which is in my view a massive overreaction on several levels. I wonder why that was and who made the call to the editor on that, because I don’t think it was merely an overreacting Dutch model. In that I am decently convinced that she has been called a hell of a lot worse, the side effect of trying to be a ‘social media selfie darling’. Yet that is merely my point of view and I have not always been correct.

 

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