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IBM thinks about the next 100 years

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A hundred years from now, will we be assimilated by the machines? Or will we assimilate them? These are the kinds of issues facing International Business Machines as the company begins its second 100 years.

Right now, most folks are thinking about the past 100 years at IBM, which is celebrating the centennial of its founding on Thursday. But for Bernard Meyerson, the company’s vice president of innovation, it’s all about the next century.

“That’s pretty much what we think about,” Meyerson told me today.

Meyerson has plenty to look back on, including his own not-so-small part in IBM’s past innovations. When his cell phone dropped the connection during our telephone conversation, he called back and casually mentioned that he had a hand in creating the transistors built into that cell phone. And when I asked him to explain, he said, “I actually invented the technology known as silicon-germanium.”

It turns out that IBM has played a behind-the-scenes role in all sorts of technologies, ranging from semiconductor development to barcodes to Wi-Fi. “IBM is a funny company,” Meyerson said. “We don’t force you to put a little sticker on anything that says, ‘We’re the smart guys.'”

But enough about the past: What about the future? “Going forward, you have tremendous opportunities,” particularly when it comes to making sense of the huge databases that are being built up in all sorts of fields, Meyerson said. For example, imagine a system that can take medical records from the 285 million people around the world with diabetes, anonymize those records and analyze them, looking for potential new treatments or preventive measures.

“The fact is, there is no mechanism today that could do that, and the reason is that medical data is unstructured,” he said. There’s little consistency in how the records are kept, and medical conditions might be described in different ways by different doctors.

When you put together the volumes of data and the numbers of people that have to be covered in these massive, unstructured data sets, the figures mount up to quintillions of bytes. That’s the challenge facing new types of computing tools — for example, the Watson supercomputer, which won a highly publicized “Jeopardy” quiz-show match earlier this year. Now Watson is being put to work on a tougher task: making sense of medical records, which is just the kind of job Meyerson has in mind.

Still other challenges await. Watson-style computers could digest the millions of data points involved in tracking the flow of highway traffic, then develop models to predict where the tie-ups could arise before they actually happen. The computers of the next century will have to handle a wide range of “big data” challenges, ranging from climate modeling to natural-language search engines for multimedia.

Meyerson doesn’t expect Watson to answer that challenge completely. A hundred years from now, Watson will almost certainly be considered a quaint antique, much like the tabulating machines that were made back in 1911.

“Watson specifically is not the issue, as much as the combination of Watson’s ability to interpret natural language, the capacity to store ‘big data’ and apply data analytics to come up with solutions for society,” he said. “In the absence of natural language, you’re going to have a short, unhappy life attempting this work. Without that key ingredient, how are you going to take the interaction of humans and machines to the next level and make it easy?”

What will the next level be in the year 2111? “Honestly, at 100 years I’m genuinely unsure,” Meyerson said. The past century has shown that the pace of technological advancement can be highly variable, depending on what kinds of breakthroughs come to the fore. But if Meyerson had to bet on one particular game-changing technology, it would be coming up with a direct interface between computing circuits and the human brain.

“If it turns out that there is a very natural way to communicate data back and forth without being obtrusive, then the whole world changes,” he told me. This wouldn’t be a Borg-like assimilation, in which humans look increasingly like machines. Rather, the machines would blend into the human body.

Does that sound like a grand dream for the next century? Or a nightmare? Feel free to chime in with your comments below.

 

 

Via MSNBC

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Bilderberg 2011: Full Official Attendee List

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Thanks to the fantastic work of Bilderberg activists, journalists and the Swiss media, we have now been able to obtain the full official list of 2011 Bilderberg attendees. Routinely, some members request that their names be kept off the roster so there will be additional Bilderbergers in attendance.

Belgium

  • Coene, Luc, Governor, National Bank of Belgium
  • Davignon, Etienne, Minister of State
  • Leysen, Thomas, Chairman, Umicore 

China

  • Fu, Ying, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Huang, Yiping, Professor of Economics, China Center for Economic Research, Peking University 

Denmark

  • Eldrup, Anders, CEO, DONG Energy
  • Federspiel, Ulrik, Vice President, Global Affairs, Haldor Topsøe A/S
  • Schütze, Peter, Member of the Executive Management, Nordea Bank AB 

Germany

  • Ackermann, Josef, Chairman of the Management Board and the Group Executive Committee, Deutsche Bank
  • Enders, Thomas, CEO, Airbus SAS
  • Löscher, Peter, President and CEO, Siemens AG
  • Nass, Matthias, Chief International Correspondent, Die Zeit
  • Steinbrück, Peer, Member of the Bundestag; Former Minister of Finance 

Finland

  • Apunen, Matti, Director, Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA
  • Johansson, Ole, Chairman, Confederation of the Finnish Industries EK
  • Ollila, Jorma, Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell
  • Pentikäinen, Mikael, Publisher and Senior Editor-in-Chief, Helsingin Sanomat 

France

  • Baverez, Nicolas, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
  • Bazire, Nicolas, Managing Director, Groupe Arnault /LVMH
  • Castries, Henri de, Chairman and CEO, AXA
  • Lévy, Maurice, Chairman and CEO, Publicis Groupe S.A.
  • Montbrial, Thierry de, President, French Institute for International Relations
  • Roy, Olivier, Professor of Social and Political Theory, European University Institute 

Great Britain

  • Agius, Marcus, Chairman, Barclays PLC
  • Flint, Douglas J., Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings
  • Kerr, John, Member, House of Lords; Deputy Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell
  • Lambert, Richard, Independent Non-Executive Director, Ernst & Young
  • Mandelson, Peter, Member, House of Lords; Chairman, Global Counsel
  • Micklethwait, John, Editor-in-Chief, The Economist
  • Osborne, George, Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Stewart, Rory, Member of Parliament
  • Taylor, J. Martin, Chairman, Syngenta International AG 

Greece

  • David, George A., Chairman, Coca-Cola H.B.C. S.A.
  • Hardouvelis, Gikas A., Chief Economist and Head of Research, Eurobank EFG
  • Papaconstantinou, George, Minister of Finance
  • Tsoukalis, Loukas, President, ELIAMEP Grisons 

International Organizations

  • Almunia, Joaquín, Vice President, European Commission
  • Daele, Frans van, Chief of Staff to the President of the European Council
  • Kroes, Neelie, Vice President, European Commission; Commissioner for Digital Agenda
  • Lamy, Pascal, Director General, World Trade Organization
  • Rompuy, Herman van, President, European Council
  • Sheeran, Josette, Executive Director, United Nations World Food Programme
  • Solana Madariaga, Javier, President, ESADEgeo Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics
  • Trichet, Jean-Claude, President, European Central Bank
  • Zoellick, Robert B., President, The World Bank Group

 Ireland

  • Gallagher, Paul, Senior Counsel; Former Attorney General
  • McDowell, Michael, Senior Counsel, Law Library; Former Deputy Prime Minister
  • Sutherland, Peter D., Chairman, Goldman Sachs International 

Italy

  • Bernabè, Franco, CEO, Telecom Italia SpA
  • Elkann, John, Chairman, Fiat S.p.A.
  • Monti, Mario, President, Univers Commerciale Luigi Bocconi
  • Scaroni, Paolo, CEO, Eni S.p.A.
  • Tremonti, Giulio, Minister of Economy and Finance 

Canada

  • Carney, Mark J., Governor, Bank of Canada
  • Clark, Edmund, President and CEO, TD Bank Financial Group
  • McKenna, Frank, Deputy Chair, TD Bank Financial Group
  • Orbinksi, James, Professor of Medicine and Political Science, University of Toronto
  • Prichard, J. Robert S., Chair, Torys LLP
  • Reisman, Heather, Chair and CEO, Indigo Books & Music Inc. Center, Brookings Institution 

Netherlands

  • Bolland, Marc J., Chief Executive, Marks and Spencer Group plc
  • Chavannes, Marc E., Political Columnist, NRC Handelsblad; Professor of Journalism
  • Halberstadt, Victor, Professor of Economics, Leiden University; Former Honorary Secretary General of Bilderberg Meetings
  • H.M. the Queen of the Netherlands
  • Rosenthal, Uri, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Winter, Jaap W., Partner, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek

 Norway

  • Myklebust, Egil, Former Chairman of the Board of Directors SAS, sk Hydro ASA
  • H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon of Norway
  • Ottersen, Ole Petter, Rector, University of Oslo
  • Solberg, Erna, Leader of the Conservative Party 

Austria

  • Bronner, Oscar, CEO and Publisher, Standard Medien AG
  • Faymann, Werner, Federal Chancellor
  • Rothensteiner, Walter, Chairman of the Board, Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG
  • Scholten, Rudolf, Member of the Board of Executive Directors, Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG 

Portugal

  • Balsemão, Francisco Pinto, Chairman and CEO, IMPRESA, S.G.P.S.; Former Prime Minister
  • Ferreira Alves, Clara, CEO, Claref LDA; writer
  • Nogueira Leite, António, Member of the Board, José de Mello Investimentos, SGPS, SA 

Sweden

Mordashov, Alexey A., CEO, Severstal

Schweden

  • Bildt, Carl, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Björling, Ewa, Minister for Trade
  • Wallenberg, Jacob, Chairman, Investor AB 

Switzerland

  • Brabeck-Letmathe, Peter, Chairman, Nestlé S.A.
  • Groth, Hans, Senior Director, Healthcare Policy & Market Access, Oncology Business Unit, Pfizer Europe
  • Janom Steiner, Barbara, Head of the Department of Justice, Security and Health, Canton
  • Kudelski, André, Chairman and CEO, Kudelski Group SA
  • Leuthard, Doris, Federal Councillor
  • Schmid, Martin, President, Government of the Canton Grisons
  • Schweiger, Rolf, Ständerat
  • Soiron, Rolf, Chairman of the Board, Holcim Ltd., Lonza Ltd.
  • Vasella, Daniel L., Chairman, Novartis AG
  • Witmer, Jürg, Chairman, Givaudan SA and Clariant AG 

Spain

  • Cebrián, Juan Luis, CEO, PRISA
  • Cospedal, María Dolores de, Secretary General, Partido Popular
  • León Gross, Bernardino, Secretary General of the Spanish Presidency
  • Nin Génova, Juan María, President and CEO, La Caixa
  • H.M. Queen Sofia of Spain

Turkey

  • Ciliv, Süreyya, CEO, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S.
  • Gülek Domac, Tayyibe, Former Minister of State
  • Koç, Mustafa V., Chairman, Koç Holding A.S.
  • Pekin, Sefika, Founding Partner, Pekin & Bayar Law Firm 

USA

  • Alexander, Keith B., Commander, USCYBERCOM; Director, National Security Agency
  • Altman, Roger C., Chairman, Evercore Partners Inc.
  • Bezos, Jeff, Founder and CEO, Amazon.com
  • Collins, Timothy C., CEO, Ripplewood Holdings, LLC
  • Feldstein, Martin S., George F. Baker Professor of Economics, Harvard University
  • Hoffman, Reid, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn
  • Hughes, Chris R., Co-founder, Facebook
  • Jacobs, Kenneth M., Chairman & CEO, Lazard
  • Johnson, James A., Vice Chairman, Perseus, LLC
  • Jordan, Jr., Vernon E., Senior Managing Director, Lazard Frères & Co. LLC
  • Keane, John M., Senior Partner, SCP Partners; General, US Army, Retired
  • Kissinger, Henry A., Chairman, Kissinger Associates, Inc.
  • Kleinfeld, Klaus, Chairman and CEO, Alcoa
  • Kravis, Henry R., Co-Chairman and co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis, Roberts & Co.
  • Kravis, Marie-Josée, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, Inc.
  • Li, Cheng, Senior Fellow and Director of Research, John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution
  • Mundie, Craig J., Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Microsoft Corporation
  • Orszag, Peter R., Vice Chairman, Citigroup Global Markets, Inc.
  • Perle, Richard N., Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Rockefeller, David, Former Chairman, Chase Manhattan Bank
  • Rose, Charlie, Executive Editor and Anchor, Charlie Rose
  • Rubin, Robert E., Co-Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Secretary of the Treasury
  • Schmidt, Eric, Executive Chairman, Google Inc.
  • Steinberg, James B., Deputy Secretary of State
  • Thiel, Peter A., President, Clarium Capital Management, LLC
  • Varney, Christine A., Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust
  • Vaupel, James W., Founding Director, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
  • Warsh, Kevin, Former Governor, Federal Reserve Board
  • Wolfensohn, James D., Chairman, Wolfensohn & Company, LLC

 

This is interesting nonetheless. I’m not one to follow Bilderberg coverage but given the  article I posted earlier, ‘Bilderberg mystery: Why do people believe in cabals?‘, I thought I would post this in-case anyone is interested in seeing who will be attending the event.

 

Via Infowars

Bilderberg mystery: Why do people believe in cabals?

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Ordinary people can only guess at the goings-on at the meetings of the secretive Bilderberg Group, which is bringing together the world’s financial and political elite this week. Conspiracy theories abound as to what is discussed and who is there. Why, asks Tom de Castella?

The belief in secret cabals running the world is a hardy perennial. And on Thursday perhaps the most controversial clandestine organisation of our times – the Bilderberg Group – is meeting behind closed doors.

In the manner of a James Bond plot, up to 150 leading politicians and business people are to gather in a ski resort in Switzerland for four days of discussion about the future of the world.

Previous attendees of the group, which meets once a year in a five-star hotel, are said to have included Bill Clinton, Prince Charles and Peter Mandelson, as well as dozens of company CEOs.

First meeting in 1954, the aim was to shore up US-European relations and prevent another world war. Now under the group’s leadership of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and one-time EU vice president, Viscount Davignon, the aim is purportedly to allow Western elites to share ideas.

But conspiracy theorists have accused it of everything from deliberately engineering the credit crunch to planning to kill 80% of the world population. Longtime opponent and US radio host Alex Jones, heckled one meeting through a megaphone: “We know you are ruthless. We know you are evil. We respect your dark power.”

Part of the reason for alarm is the group’s secretive working methods. Names of attendees are not usually released before the conference, meetings are closed to the public and the media, and no press releases are issued.

The gnashing of teeth over Bilderberg is ridiculous, says Times columnist David Aaronovitch. “It’s really an occasional supper club for the rich and powerful,” he argues.

Denis Healey, co-founder of the group, told the journalist Jon Ronson in his book Them that people overlook the practical benefits of informal networking. “Bilderberg is the most useful international group I ever attended,” he told him. “The confidentiality enabled people to speak honestly without fear of repercussions.”

So why do groups like this cause so much alarm? Aaronovitch, who wrote the 2009 book Voodoo Histories, says plots to install a new world order have traditionally been a conspiracy fantasy. “They tend to believe that everything true, local and national is under threat from cosmopolitan, international forces often linked to financial capitalism and therefore, also often, to Jewish interests.”

Bilderberg chairman Viscount DavignonSecret cabals extend beyond the Bilderberg Group. The Illuminati, which derives from a 16th Century Bavarian secret society, is alleged to be an all powerful secret society, including US presidents, that has controlled major world events. The Freemasons – famous for their peculiar handshakes – is a secret fraternity society that has become more open in recent years after extensive criticism.

The charter of Hamas – the Islamist party governing Gaza – asserts that the Freemasons are in league with the Jews and those unlikely bully boys – the Rotary Club – to undermine Palestine.

John Hamill, spokesman for freemasonry’s governing body in England and Wales says the organisation is aware of Hamas’s allegation.

“There’s no truth in it, freemasonry is apolitical. It probably arises because one of our ceremonies is about the story of King Solomon’s Temple. For some reason Islamic governments translate that into Zionism.”

In fact, many conspiracy theories surrounding cabals hint at an anti-Semitic worldview. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a forged document, probably created by agents of Tsarist Russia, which appeared to show a Jewish plot to take over the world.

Despite being proved to be a fraud, the idea has been kept alive by anti-Semites and has spawned later versions. One of those, the Zionist Occupational Government, argues that countries have puppet governments but that the real power is held by Jewish interests.

More recently, former sports journalist David Icke has proclaimed that the world is governed by alien, reptilian shape shifters. In other words, giant lizards.

There is obviously no right-wing monopoly on conspiracy theories. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Hilary Clinton blamed a “vast right-wing conspiracy” for her husband’s predicament. And more recently, some on the left have argued that the 9/11 attacks were organised by President Bush’s inner circle in order to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

The politics of cabals has always been pretty muddled, says James McConnachie, co-author of the Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories. These groups allow protesters to project their own fears onto them.

In the US, the most extreme fear over Bilderberg is of a hidden cabal run by the European Union and threatening American freedoms. In Europe, the view is often of a free market elite trying to push through a right-wing agenda.

“Conspiracy theories are quite blind to conventional notions of left and right,” says McConnachie. “The left is organising an international government. Meanwhile, global capitalism on the right may be doing the same thing by different means.”

For Aaronovitch what often triggers widespread cabal theories are moments of great upheaval.

“It happens a lot when times are changing significantly. Whether, oddly, they are changing for better as well as for the worse. Why did McCarthyism happen at the time when US economy was growing faster than at any time in history?”

Society was in flux, the economy expanding rapidly and millions of servicemen were coming back from the war.

It’s not just the about social context. Some people are more susceptible than others to believing in wacky cabals, says Prof Chris French, of Goldsmith College’s psychology department. “It’s people who tend to be alienated by the mainstream, who feel powerless. They have a need to have a sense of control.”

Not only do they not trust the government, they tend not to trust their neighbours either. And in the need for control, there may be links to the roots of religious belief, he says.

The conspiracy theorists may get overexcited but they have a point, says Prof Andrew Kakabadse, co-author of new book Bilderberg People.

Secret talks

  • Bilderberg is named after the Dutch hotel where the first meeting took place in 1954
  • The initial focus was the state of the trans-Atlantic alliance and the problems facing Europe and the US
  • British Labour politician Denis Healey was a founding member
  • An invitation list is compiled each year by a steering committee
  • About 120 people from North America and Europe are invited. About one-third are from government and politics, and two-thirds from finance, industry, labour, education and communications
  • Meetings often feature future political leaders shortly before they become household names. Bill Clinton went in 1991 while still governor of Arkansas, Tony Blair was there two years later while an opposition MP

The group has genuine power that far outranks the World Economic Forum, which meets in Davos, he argues. And with no transparency, it is easy to see why people are worried about its influence.

“It’s much smarter than conspiracy,” says Prof Kakabadse. “This is moulding the way people think so that it seems like there’s no alternative to what is happening.”

The agenda the group has is to bring together the political elites on both right and left, let them mix in relaxed, luxurious surroundings with business leaders, and let the ideas fizz.

It may seem like a glorified dinner party but that is to miss the point. “When you’ve been to enough dinner parties you see a theme emerging,” he says. The theme at Bilderberg is to bolster a consensus around free market Western capitalism and its interests around the globe, he says.

“Is this all leading to the start of the ruling the world idea? In one sense yes. There’s a very strong move to have a One World government in the mould of free market Western capitalism.”

Degree of nefariousness

Conventional critiques of alienated people seeking order in a chaotic world may well be true. But there’s more to it than that, McConnachie argues.

“The other explanation is more dangerous. That they are precisely right – they just over-egg the way they articulate it.”

The Bilderberg Group matches up to how a global conspiracy would work – a secretive body attempting to shape the direction of the world, he suggests.

“The only difference is the degree of nefariousness,” he says. “They tend to see this cabal as outright evil. When things are more nuanced than that.”

For all the tales of lizards running the world, we all owe a debt to conspiracy theorists, McConnachie argues.

“Occasionally you have to give credit to conspiracy theorists who raise issues that the mainstream press has ignored. It’s only recently that the media has picked up on the Bilderbergers. Would the media be running stories if there weren’t these wild allegations flying around?”

But Aaronovitch disagrees. Believing in cabals leads to certain groups being victimised and obstructs a rational view of the world.

“To have a strong belief in the Bilderberg Group means believing in a fantasy,” he says. “It suggests that there are people – like God – acting as a higher power. And it replaces the intolerable thought that there’s nothing at work at all, that the world is chaotic. It may be a form of therapy but it has people believing in an anti-scientific message.”

Via BBC

Facebook face recognition technology is here

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Facebook is at the centre of another privacy row after bringing in facial recognition technology to automatically identify users in pictures.

The world’s leading social network has begun rolling out new technology that automatically identifies and ‘tags’ people in photos uploaded to the website.

The feature has been expanded from a test run in the United States to ‘most countries’, Facebook said on its official blog yesterday – and, by default, it’s turned on.

Tag your friends: Facebook's new facial recognition technology has raised the hackles of privacy campaigners

Tag your friends: Facebook’s new facial recognition technology has raised the hackles of privacy campaigners

But the sudden implementation of the feature, without warning, has sparked concerns among privacy campaigners.

Daniel Hamilton, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘Facebook users will rightly be alarmed to hear that their private information will be used in this way. This is yet another nail in the coffin for online privacy.

‘Websites like Facebook owe it to their users to respect their privacy, not to scan their photo albums with facial recognition software.’

Internet security consultant firm Sophos first reported the change yesterday, after Facebook users reported that the site had enabled the facial recognition option in the last few days without giving users any notice.

‘Yet again, it feels like Facebook is eroding the online privacy of its users by stealth,’ wrote Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, in a blog post.

HOW TO SWITCH OFF FACIAL RECOGNITION

  • Sign into your Facebook account.
  • Click on Account on the top right of the page and then Privacy Settings on the drop-down menu.
  • Click on Customise settings.
  • Scroll down to ‘Suggest photos of me to friends’ and click Edit.
  • Change setting from Enabled to Disabled and save.

Facebook, which announced in December that it planned to introduce the service in the United States, acknowledged that the feature was in fact now more widely available.

When asked about the Sophos blog post, a spokesman for the company conceded that they ‘should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process’.

They made clear that tag suggestions would only be made to friends of those pictured, and that the users can switch off the feature to stop their names being but forward.

But Marc Rotenberg, President of the non-profit privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center, noted that other companies had offered more users more control when implementing facial recognition features.

He highlighted Apple’s iPhoto software, which let users decide whether or not to use the technology with their personal photo collections.

Facebook’s technology, by contrast, operates independently, analysing faces across a broad swathe of newly uploaded photos.

Mr Rotenberg said such a system raised questions about which personally identifiable information, such as email addresses, would become associated with the photos in Facebook’s database.

He also criticised Facebook’s decision to automatically enable the facial-recognition technology for Facebook users.

‘I’m not sure that’s the setting that people would want to choose. A better option would be to let people opt-in,’ he said.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in April, argued last year that privacy is no longer a 'social norm'

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in April, argued last year that privacy is no longer a ‘social norm’

Facebook’s ‘Tag Suggestions’ feature is designed to speed up the process of labeling friends in photos posted on Facebook.

If a friend ‘tags’ you in one photo, the technology will automatically scan your face and then try and find matches among all their pictures.

It will then suggest that they ‘tag’ these photos of you as well.

A serious concern intially expressed over Facebook and other social networks is the ability to publish photographs online without any express permission from those pictured.

Although it is possible for users to ‘de-tag’ themselves, those pictured cannot demand photographs removed.

The new feature will raise fears among those who have photographs they would prefer do not come to light.

A spokesman from Facebook said: ‘We launched Tag Suggestions to help people add tags of their friends in photos; something that’s currently done more than 100 million times a day.

‘Tag Suggestions are only made to people when they add new photos to the site, and only friends are suggested.’

It emerged last week that Google recently decided to hold back similar application that would have let someone snap a picture of a person’s face using a smartphone, then use the internet to find out who that person is.

Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt told a conference he believed it was the first time his company’s engineers had completed a project and shelved it for privacy reasons, CNN reported.

Last year the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint about Facebook’s privacy practices with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which Mr Rotenberg said was still pending.

Via DailyMail

U.S. fines BAE $79 million over arms-control breaches

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Britain’s BAE Systems Plc agreed to pay up to $79 million in U.S. government fines for more than 2,500 alleged breaches of rules governing military exports, the State Department said on Tuesday.

The civil settlement is the biggest in the department’s history. It ends long-running corruption investigations into the company, Europe’s biggest arms maker by sales, on both sides of the Atlantic.

The department cleared BAE’s fast-growing U.S. unit and its subsidiaries of all charges against the parent company, based in Farnborough, outside London.

But it said a lack of full cooperation from the parent had left it “unable to assess fully the potential harm to U.S. national security” from the unauthorized resale of U.S. weapons and technology know-how to more than a dozen countries.

The U.S. subsidiary, BAE Systems Inc, accounts for about 52 percent of the company’s worldwide sales and is among the Pentagon’s top 10 suppliers. It operates a separate export compliance program under a special security pact that governs its dealings inside and outside the United States.

The State Department said it found a total of 2,591 BAE arms-control breaches after the parent company’s criminal conviction last year for violations of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which frame U.S. arms-control laws.

For instance, the department said, BAE failed to get a required U.S. nod to engage in “brokering activities” involving U.S. systems or sub-systems incorporated on the EF-2000 Eurofighter Typhoon. Since 1998, BAE has marketed or exported the fighter to Australia, Czech Republic, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Austria, Denmark, Japan and Switzerland, the department said.

Beside unauthorized brokering of U.S.-supplied arms and services, the alleged breaches of U.S. law included failure to register as a broker; failure to file mandated annual reports; causing unauthorized brokering; failure to report the payment of fees or commissions associated with arms deals; and failure to maintain records involving controlled transactions.

The State Department, in a “proposed charging letter” made public on its web site, described the violations as “systemic, widespread and sustained for more than 10 years.”

BAE also failed to cooperate fully for the 14 months since the criminal pleadings set the stage for the parallel civil investigation, the department said. It followed the global settlement announced in February 2010 of criminal cases brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and Britain’s Serious Fraud Office.

Under its agreement last year with the Justice Department, the company pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiring to make false statements to the U.S. government and paid a fine of $400 million. In London, BAE pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to keep records of payments made to a marketing advisor in Tanzania and paid about $50 million.

The cases grew from criminal investigations into arms deals in Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

The State Department said it is releasing an administrative hold it imposed, after the criminal conviction, on license applications by the parent company to export U.S.-origin arms and services.

But it declared a policy of presumptive denial on three BAE subsidiaries “because of their substantial involvement in activities related to the conviction.” The units’ export license requests would be approved only if they were determined to be in the U.S. national interest.

The department identified these as BAE Systems CS&S International, Red Diamond Trading Ltd and Poseidon Trading Investments Ltd.

BAE, apparently referring to this, said a limited number of its UK-originating exports would be subject to “enhanced administrative review.” This was not expected to hurt current or future exports, it said.

The parent company’s settlement with the State Department will have “zero impact” on the U.S. unit’s ability to carry out its business plan, John Suttle, a company spokesman, said in a teleconference.

Phil Finnegan, director of corporate analysis at the Teal Group aerospace consultancy, said BAE needed to make such an agreement because it is heavily reliant on the U.S. arms market, the world’s most lucrative.

“BAE must continue to be in a strong position with the U.S. government so it can win new contracts and expand through its continuing stream of U.S. acquisitions,” he said.

Under the four-year term of its consent deal with BAE, the State Department agreed to consider suspending $10 million of the new fines to offset the cost of improved export control compliance measures.

Shares in BAE, which have risen 3 percent in 2011, closed down 0.6 percent at 337.2 pence on the London Stock Exchange.

Via NewsDaily

Written by Nokgiir

May 18, 2011 at 12:08 am

Between us, we’re worth $1 trillion: The world’s richest dinner party

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Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

It’s difficult to imagine a wealthier set of guests than those invited to the home of Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr earlier this year, in the mega-wealthy enclave of Woodside, California. Together they represent companies worth nearly $1 trillion.

By all accounts, Obama didn’t have an easy ride – many of the diners are generous political donors and the President was criticised for slow progress on policy promises. The dinner lasted two hours, and is expected to be the first in a series that Obama holds with Silicon Valley’s leaders.

So what was on the menu? Chef Yigit Pura would only reveal that Obama said, ‘Banana cream pie was solid,’ as he kissed his fingers.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to ditch his hoodie for more formal attire – normally, the only suits he’s acquainted with are of the legal variety…

ERIC SCHMIDT

Title Chairman, Google

Worth $7 billion

Google market valuation $171.8 billion

In his ten-year tenure, Schmidt oversaw Google’s transformation into the global internet giant that it is today. He stepped down as CEO last month and is now a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

ARTHUR D LEVINSON 

Title Chairman, Genentech

Worth Earned $850,000 in 2010

Genentech market valuation $46.8bn

Founded in 1976, Genentech (now owned by Roche) pioneered using human genetic information to develop medicines, including cancer treatments. Levinson stepped down as CEO in 2009, and now sits on Apple’s board of directors.

JOHN T CHAMBERS 

Title CEO, Cisco Systems

Worth $1 billion

Cisco market valuation $96 billion Chambers raises his glass extra-high to Obama, showing that there are no hard feelings on the part of this co-chair of John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid. He earns his seat as chairman of Cisco, the dotcom boom’s most valuable company.

JOHN DOERR

Title Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Worth $2.2 billion

The host for the evening, Doerr is a tech investor with a knack for backing a winning idea. Back in 1999, KPCB led a $25 million investment in upstart Google. KPCB has participated in over $2.3 billion of investments since May 2010.

LARRY ELLISON 

Title CEO, Oracle

Worth $39.5 billion

Oracle market valuation $177.6 billion

Currently the fifth wealthiest human being on the planet, Ellison co-founded Oracle in 1977. In true billionaire fashion, he splashed out over $100 million to ensure that his BMW Oracle sailing team won the America’s Cup last year.

REED HASTINGS

Title Co-founder and CEO, Netflix

Worth Earned $5.5 million in 2010

Netflix market valuation $12 billion

In 1997 Hastings co-founded Netflix, an online subscription service for movies and TV which now has over 20 million members across North America. He once taught maths in Swaziland during a two-year stint in the US Peace Corps.

JOHN L HENNESSY

Title President, Stanford University

Worth $31.4 million

Stanford endowment $15.9 billion

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford has a long association with the area’s tech companies, many of whose founders  –  including those of Google, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo!  –  passed through the university.

CAROL BARTZ 

Title CEO, Yahoo!

Worth Earned $47.2 million in 2009

Yahoo! market valuation $23.7 billion

Bartz, who joined Yahoo! in 2009, holds the honour of having topped a 2010 list of executives paid too much for running underperforming companies. Although Yahoo! remains a global internet brand, it’s still considered to be in decline.

DICK COSTOLO 

Title CEO, Twitter

Worth $120 million

Twitter market valuation $3.7 billion

A computer science graduate and former improvisational comedian, Costolo sold FeedBurner  –  a provider of management tools for website owners  –  to Google in 2007 for a rumoured $100 million. Last year he took over as CEO of Twitter.

MARK ZUCKERBERG 

Title CEO, Facebook

Worth $13.5 billion

Facebook market valuation $50 billion

The Social Network’s complex antihero, Zuckerberg is ‘trying to make the world a more open place by helping people connect and share’, according to his own Facebook profile. Luckily for him, he’s becoming filthy rich in the process.

STEVE WESTLY

Title Managing partner and founder, The Westly Group

Worth $500 million

A Democratic Party supporter, venture capitalist Westly served as a California co-chair for Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign. The Westly Group has participated in over $178 million of investments since April 2010.

BARACK OBAMA 

Title President, USA

Worth $10.5 million

USA $14.7 trillion (GDP)

Obama is noted for his love of technology: he embraced social media in his election campaign, and was reportedly gifted an iPad 2 a month before they went on sale. His aide Valerie Jarrett also attended the dinner (seated to Zuckerberg’s right).

ANN DOERR 

Title Philanthropist

The hostess, as the wife of John Doerr, is no stranger to technology herself, holding bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering. An environmental activist and trustee of the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund, she works alongside her husband in his philanthropic endeavours.

STEVE JOBS 

Title Co-founder and CEO, Apple

Worth $8.3 billion

Apple market valuation $323.3 billion

Jobs has transformed the tech industry several times. After his pioneering early years at Apple, he left the firm to set up NeXT (which created the machine on which the Web was developed), before returning to spearhead the ‘iRevolution’.

Via DailyMail

Blackwater founder builds foreign force in UAE

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The crown prince of Abu Dhabi has hired the founder of private security firm Blackwater Worldwide to set up an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the United Arab Emirates, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

The Times said it obtained documents that showed the unit being formed by Erik Prince’s new company Reflex Responses with $529 million from the UAE would be used to thwart internal revolt, conduct special operations and defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from attack.

The newspaper said the decision to hire the contingent of foreign troops was taken before a wave of popular unrest spread across the Arab world in recent months, including to the UAE’s Gulf neighbors Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

The UAE itself has seen no serious unrest. Most of its population is made up of foreign workers.

Blackwater, which once had lucrative contracts to protect U.S. officials in Iraq, became notorious in the region in 2007 when its guards opened fire in Baghdad traffic, killing at least 14 people in what the Iraqi government called a “massacre.”

One former Blackwater guard pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in those killings, and a U.S. court reinstated charges against five others last month. Prince has since sold the firm, which changed its name to Xe. The firm denies wrongdoing.

The newspaper said the Emirates, a close ally of the United States, had some support in Washington for Prince’s new project, although it was not clear if it had official U.S. approval.

Two UAE government officials contacted by Reuters declined immediate comment on the New York Times report, and the U.S. embassy in the UAE also had no immediate comment. It was not possible to locate Prince for comment.

The Times quoted a U.S. official who was aware of the programme as saying: “The Gulf countries, and the U.A.E. in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help.”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner told The Times the department was investigating to see if the project broke any U.S. laws. U.S. law requires a license for American citizens to train foreign troops.

Toner also pointed out that Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, had paid $42 million in fines in 2010 for training foreign forces in Jordan without a license, the Times said.

According to former employees of the project and U.S. officials cited by the Times, the troops were brought to a training camp in the UAE from Colombia, South Africa and other countries, starting in the summer of 2010.

They were being trained by retired U.S. military, and former members of German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, the Times said.

Prince had insisted the force hire no Muslims, because they “could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims,” the paper said.

Former employees also told the newspaper the Emirates hoped the force could be used to counter any threat from Iran, which the Arab states in the Gulf consider a foe.

Although The Times said the documents it obtained did not mention Erik Prince, former employees had told the newspaper he had negotiated the contract with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Emiriati officials had proposed expanding the force to a brigade of several thousand if the first battalion was successful, the newspaper said.

Via Blackwater founder builds foreign force in UAE