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NATO’s latest exercise…is an exercise in futility

NATO’s Saber Stike and Balt Ops 2017 are pure security theater demonstrating an insignifcant response to a non-existent threat

Ricky Twisdale

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Exercise “Saber Strike 2017” – NATO’s most recent wargame – wrapped up Friday. Here’s how the US army described the event:

Saber Strike is a long-standing U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise that helps facilitate cooperation amongst the U.S., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and allied and partner nations.

This year’s key exercise objective will be training and exercising the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence, or eFP, battle groups with a focus on promoting interoperability with allies and regional partners and improving joint operational capability in a variety of missions.

The exercise will take place in multiple locations throughout Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland May 28-June 24.

Running simultaneously was another exercise, “Baltic Ops 2017” which ended June 16th and involved 55 aircraft, 50 ships and 4,000 troops from 14 nations.

The games were certainly a big deal in the Baltic States. The Latvian capital Riga looked like it was under military occupation. The author, who happened to be in Riga last weekend, snapped these pictures of Norwegian soldiers on the streets:

               

Go easy on the McFlurries, girls – gotta stay fit for combat!

Personal property rights went by the wayside too, as tanks and APCs rolled across the countryside, driving right through private farms and fields, firing automatic weapons just feet away from residential houses. Via Sputnik:

[An] indignant Latvian man posted evidence of another ugly incident involving NATO troops, presumably training in the ongoing BALTOPS-2017 exercises. In an angry post on his Facebook page, Kristaps Ozlins, the owner of a piece of land in rural Latvia, described his shock when NATO troops and military equipment suddenly showed up on his territory uninvited and started shooting.

The videos are accompanied by an appeal, which reads: “Dear people, what would you say if, without any warning, a column of military hardware showed up on your land? And after a while started a shootout? Is this war? No, this is NATO training! That’s what I call a stressful Monday! Can it really be the case that it’s not necessary to agree such things with landowners?”

The games were partly meant to rehearse NATO’s ability to defend the so-called Suwalki Gap from an attack by Russia – the narrow border shared by Poland and Lithuania bounded by Russian Kaliningrad to the West and Belarus to the East.

Never mind that it is hardly possible to stage an invasion from tiny Kaliningrad and that Belarus is not part of Russia. I wonder if they teach geography at the US Army War College?

Another training objective is supposedly the defense of the Baltic States themselves from a Russian invasion. The only problem with that – Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the top U.S. army commander in Europe, admitted last year that the Baltics were militarily indefensible in the event of a Russian attack. From The Telegraph:

“Russia could conquer the Baltic states quicker than we could get there to defend them,” Gen Hodges said.

He said he agreed with military analysts that Russia could capture the three Baltic capitals in 36 to 60 hours, and that Nato could not mobilise its forces quickly enough to prevent their fall.

Crucially, he said that heavy military equipment such as tanks could not be moved fast enough from western Europe to the alliance’s eastern flank.

Accepting the Baltics into NATO was a political move that actually hinders the alliance with a massive strategic liability – three small, hard to defend countries which to top it off, do everything possible to ruin their relations with Russia.

This naturally begs the question: why exactly is NATO training for a fight it cannot win, against a threat which is not even real?

It is pure theater, designed to both play up the Russian “threat” so Washington can keep its Euro vassals in line, and to placate the intensely Russophobic Poles and Balts that their perceived security needs are being met.

All of this while Western Europe suffers ISIS-inspired attacks on its civilian population on practically a daily basis, and the US air force is bombing government troops fighting ISIS in Syria.

Western so-called leaders certainly have their priorities in order.

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Google Manipulated YouTube Search Results for Abortion, Maxine Waters, David Hogg

The existence of the blacklist was revealed in an internal Google discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News.

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Via Breitbart


In sworn testimony, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Congress last month that his company does not “manually intervene” on any particular search result. Yet an internal discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News reveals Google regularly intervenes in search results on its YouTube video platform – including a recent intervention that pushed pro-life videos out of the top ten search results for “abortion.”

The term “abortion” was added to a “blacklist” file for “controversial YouTube queries,” which contains a list of search terms that the company considers sensitive. According to the leak, these include some of these search terms related to: abortion, abortions, the Irish abortion referendum, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and anti-gun activist David Hogg.

The existence of the blacklist was revealed in an internal Google discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News by a source inside the company who wishes to remain anonymous. A partial list of blacklisted terms was also leaked to Breitbart by another Google source.

In the leaked discussion thread, a Google site reliability engineer hinted at the existence of more search blacklists, according to the source.

“We have tons of white- and blacklists that humans manually curate,” said the employee. “Hopefully this isn’t surprising or particularly controversial.”

Others were more concerned about the presence of the blacklist. According to the source, the software engineer who started the discussion called the manipulation of search results related to abortion a “smoking gun.”

The software engineer noted that the change had occurred following an inquiry from a left-wing Slate journalist about the prominence of pro-life videos on YouTube, and that pro-life videos were replaced with pro-abortion videos in the top ten results for the search terms following Google’s manual intervention.

“The Slate writer said she had complained last Friday and then saw different search results before YouTube responded to her on Monday,” wrote the employee. “And lo and behold, the [changelog] was submitted on Friday, December 14 at 3:17 PM.”

The manually downranked items included several videos from Dr. Antony Levatino, a former abortion doctor who is now a pro-life activist. Another video in the top ten featured a woman’s personal story of being pressured to have an abortion, while another featured pro-life conservative Ben Shapiro. The Slate journalist who complained to Google reported that these videos previously featured in the top ten, describing them in her story as “dangerous misinformation.”

Since the Slate journalist’s inquiry and Google’s subsequent intervention, the top search results now feature pro-abortion content from left-wing sources like BuzzFeed, Vice, CNN, and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. In her report, the Slate journalist acknowledged that the search results changed shortly after she contacted Google.

The manual adjustment of search results by a Google-owned platform contradicts a key claim made under oath by Google CEO Sundar Pichai in his congressional testimony earlier this month: that his company does not “manually intervene on any search result.”

A Google employee in the discussion thread drew attention to Pichai’s claim, noting that it “seems like we are pretty eager to cater our search results to the social and political agenda of left-wing journalists.”

One of the posts in the discussion also noted that the blacklist had previously been edited to include the search term “Maxine Waters” after a single Google employee complained the top YouTube search result for Maxine Waters was “very low quality.”

Google’s alleged intervention on behalf of a Democratic congresswoman would be further evidence of the tech giant using its resources to prop up the left. Breitbart News previously reported on leaked emails revealing the company targeted pro-Democrat demographics in its get-out-the-vote efforts in 2016.

According to the source, a software engineer in the thread also noted that “a bunch of terms related to the abortion referendum in Ireland” had been added to the blacklist – another change with potentially dramatic consequences on the national policies of a western democracy.

youtube_controversial_query_blacklist

At least one post in the discussion thread revealed the existence of a file called “youtube_controversial_query_blacklist,” which contains a list of YouTube search terms that Google manually curates. In addition to the terms “abortion,” “abortions,” “Maxine Waters,” and search terms related to the Irish abortion referendum, a Google software engineer noted that the blacklist includes search terms related to terrorist attacks. (the posts specifically mentions that the “Strasbourg terrorist attack” as being on the list).

“If you look at the other entries recently added to the youtube_controversial_query_blacklist(e.g., entries related to the Strasbourg terrorist attack), the addition of abortion seems…out-of-place,” wrote the software engineer, according to the source.

After learning of the existence of the blacklist, Breitbart News obtained a partial screenshot of the full blacklist file from a source within Google. It reveals that the blacklist includes search terms related to both mass shootings and the progressive anti-second amendment activist David Hogg.

This suggests Google has followed the lead of Democrat politicians, who have repeatedly pushed tech companies to censor content related to the Parkland school shooting and the Parkland anti-gun activists. It’s part of a popular new line of thought in the political-media establishment, which views the public as too stupid to question conspiracy theories for themselves.

Here is the partial blacklist leaked to Breitbart:

2117 plane crash Russian

2118 plane crash

2119 an-148

2120 florida shooting conspiracy

2121 florida shooting crisis actors

2122 florida conspiracy

2123 florida false flag shooting

2124 florida false flag

2125 fake florida school shooting

2126 david hogg hoax

2127 david hogg fake

2128 david hogg crisis actor

2129 david hogg forgets lines

2130 david hogg forgets his lines

2131 david hogg cant remember his lines

2132 david hogg actor

2133 david hogg cant remember

2134 david hogg conspiracy

2135 david hogg exposed

2136 david hogg lines

2137 david hogg rehearsing

2120 florida shooting conspiracy

The full internal filepath of the blacklist, according to another source, is:

//depot/google3/googledata/superroot/youtube/youtube_controversial_query_blacklist

Contradictions

Responding to a request for comment, a YouTube spokeswoman said the company wants to promote “authoritative” sources in its search results, but maintained that YouTube is a “platform for free speech” that “allow[s]” both pro-life and pro-abortion content.

YouTube’s full comment:

YouTube is a platform for free speech where anyone can choose to post videos, as long as they follow our Community Guidelines, which prohibit things like inciting violence and pornography. We apply these policies impartially and we allow both pro-life and pro-choice opinions. Over the last year we’ve described how we are working to better surface news sources across our site for news-related searches and topical information. We’ve improved our search and discovery algorithms, built new features that clearly label and prominently surface news sources on our homepage and search pages, and introduced information panels to help give users more authoritative sources where they can fact check information for themselves.

In the case of the “abortion” search results, YouTube’s intervention to insert “authoritative” content resulted in the downranking of pro-life videos and the elevation of pro-abortion ones.

A Google spokesperson took a tougher line than its YouTube subsidiary, stating that “Google has never manipulated or modified the search results or content in any of its products to promote a particular political ideology.”

However, in the leaked discussion thread, a member of Google’s “trust & safety” team, Daniel Aaronson, admitted that the company maintains “huge teams” that work to adjust search results for subjects that are “prone to hyperbolic content, misleading information, and offensive content” – all subjective terms that are frequently used to suppress right-leaning sources.

He also admitted that the interventions weren’t confined to YouTube – they included search results delivered via Google Assistant, Google Home, and in rare cases Google ’s organic search results.

In the thread, Aaronson attempted to explain how search blacklisting worked. He claimed that highly specific searches would generate non-blacklisted results, even controversial ones. But the inclusion of highly specific terms in the YouTube blacklist, like “David Hogg cant remember his lines” – the name of an actual viral video – seems to contradict this.

Aaronson’s full post is copied below:

I work in Trust and Safety and while I have no particular input as to exactly what’s happening for YT I can try to explain why you’d have this kind of list and why people are finding lists like these on Code Search.

When dealing with abuse/controversial content on various mediums you have several levers to deal with problems. Two prominent levers are “Proactive” and “Reactive”:

  • Proactive: Usually refers to some type of algorithm/scalable solution to a general problem
    • E.g.: We don’t allow straight up porn on YouTube so we create a classifier that detects porn and automatically remove or flag for review the videos the porn classifier is most certain of
  • Reactive: Usually refers to a manual fix to something that has been brought to our attention that our proactive solutions don’t/didn’t work on and something that is clearly in the realm of bad enough to warrant a quick targeted solution (determined by pages and pages of policies worked on over many years and many teams to be fair and cover necessary scope)
    • E,g.: A website that used to be a good blog had it’s domain expire and was purchased/repurposed to spam Search results with autogenerated pages full of gibberish text, scraped images, and links to boost traffic to other spammy sites. It is manually actioned for violating policy

These Organic Search policies and the consequences to violating them are public

Manually reacting to things is not very scalable, and is not an ideal solution to most problems, so the proactive lever is really the one we all like to lean on. Ideally, our classifiers/algorithm are good at providing useful and rich results to our users while ignoring things at are not useful or not relevant. But we all know, this isn’t exactly the case all the time (especially on YouTube).

From a user perspective, there are subjects that are prone to hyperbolic content, misleading information, and offensive content. Now, these words are highly subjective and no one denies that. But we can all agree generally, lines exist in many cultures about what is clearly okay vs. what is not okay. E.g. a video of a puppy playing with a toy is probably okay in almost every culture or context, even if it’s not relevant to the query. But a video of someone committing suicide and begging others to follow in his/her footsteps is probably on the other side of the line for many folks.

While my second example is technically relevant to the generic query of “suicide”, that doesn’t mean that this is a very useful or good video to promote on the top of results for that query. So imagine a classifier that says, for any queries on a particular text file, let’s pull videos using signals that we historically understand to be strong indicators of quality (I won’t go into specifics here, but those signals do exist). We’re not manually curating these results, we’re just saying “hey, be extra careful with results for this query because many times really bad stuff can appear and lead to a bad experience for most users”. Ideally the proactive lever did this for us, but in extreme cases where we need to act quickly on something that is so obviously not okay, the reactive/manual approach is sometimes necessary. And also keep in mind, that this is different for every product. The bar for changing classifiers or manual actions on span in organic search is extremely high. However, the bar for things we let our Google Assistant say out loud might be a lot lower. If I search for “Jews run the banks” – I’ll likely find anti-semitic stuff in organic search. As a Jew, I might find some of these results offensive, but they are there for people to research and view, and I understand that this is not a reflection of Google feels about this issue. But if I ask Google assistant “Why do Jews run the banks” we wouldn’t be similarly accepting if it repeated and promoted conspiracy theories that likely pop up in organic search in her smoothing voice.

Whether we agree or not, user perception of our responses, results, and answers of different products and mediums can change. And I think many people are used to the fact that organic search is a place where content should be accessible no matter how offensive it might be, however, the expectation is very different on a Google Home, a Knowledge Panel, or even YouTube.

These lines are very difficult and can be very blurry, we are all well aware of this. So we’ve got huge teams that stay cognizant of these facts when we’re crafting policies considering classifier changes, or reacting with manual actions – these decisions are not made in a vacuum, but admittedly are also not made in a highly public forum like TGIF or IndustryInfo (as you can imagine, decisions/agreement would be hard to get in such a wide list – image if all your CL’s were reviewed by every engineer across Google all the time). I hope that answers some questions and gives a better layer of transparency without going into details about our “Pepsi formula”.

Best,

Daniel

The fact that Google manually curates politically contentious search results fits in with a wider pattern of political activity on the part of the tech giant.

In 2018, Breitbart News exclusively published a leaked video from the company that showed senior management in dismay at Trump’s election victory, and pledging to use the company’s power to make his populist movement a “hiccup” in history.

Breitbart also leaked “The Good Censor,” an internal research document from Google that admits the tech giant is engaged in the censorship of its own products, partly in response to political events.

Another leak revealed that employees within the company, including Google’s current director of Trust and Safety, tried to kick Breitbart News off Google’s market-dominating online ad platforms.

Yet another showed Google engaged in targeted turnout operations aimed to boost voter participation in pro-Democrat demographics in “key states” ahead of the 2016 election. The effort was dubbed a “silent donation” by a top Google employee.

Evidence for Google’s partisan activities is now overwhelming. President Trump has previously warned Google, as well as other Silicon Valley giants, not to engage in censorship or partisan activities. Google continues to defy him.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. You can follow him on TwitterGab.ai and add him on Facebook. Email tips and suggestions to [email protected].

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Are You Suffering From Toxic Masculinity? Know The Warning Signs

Are you or a loved one suffering from toxic masculinity? Know the warning signs so you can seek help.

The Duran

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Via BabylonBee.com:


More than 40% of men today suffer from it—and their loved ones pay the price.

It’s called “toxic masculinity,” and it’s the latest disease to plague the nation. It can affect every aspect of a toxic man’s life. Worst of all, toxic masculinity is contagious, so if you’re infected, you need to know right away so you can avoid spreading it to your friends and family.

Are you or a loved one suffering from toxic masculinity? Know the warning signs so you can seek help:

  • Even the faintest whisper of facial hair – If you have a mustache, schedule a check-up. If you find a goatee on your face, consider going into the emergency room. If you have a full-grown beard, well, it’s probably too late for you.
  • A belief that men and women are at least a little bit different – Should you be infected with the cancerous idea that men and women are even the slightest bit different from one another, you could have toxic masculinity. If you’re a woman who believes this, then you suffer from an even worse disease called internalized misogyny.
  • Throwing a professional wrestler off a steel cage right through the announcer’s table – Men who suddenly look around and find that they’re tossing a professional wrestler off a steel cage to plummet right through the announcer’s table are at high risk of developing toxic masculinity. If a man in your life is suffering from this symptom, encourage him to stop wrestling in the WWE immediately.
  • Eating meat on occasion – A disease like toxic masculinity can quickly change your diet. If you find yourself leaving your vegan avocado quinoa toast smoothies untouched in favor of wolfing down some bacon-wrapped bacon, you might have toxic masculinity.
  • Holding the door open for a woman once in a while – It looks innocent enough: a woman approaches, and you hold the door so she doesn’t have to open it again. Seems like common courtesy, right? WRONG. It’s one of the first warning signs of toxic masculinity, and you need to do better if you’re going to beat this thing. One way to reduce your toxic masculinity is to slam the door right in a woman’s face and scream, “EQUALITY!!!” through the glass when she glares at you.
  • Yelling stuff about freedom and charging into battle wearing blue face paint – If you find yourself charging into battle against the English wearing blue face paint in the 14th century, you might be beyond medical help. Do all of society a favor and get yourself drawn and quartered so no one else catches this contagious illness.
  • Being a man who doesn’t hate himself – This is the most telling sign. If you’re a biological male and you don’t hate yourself, toxic masculinity is already coursing through your veins. If there’s going to be any hope of recovery, you need to begin hating yourself today.

If you or your man are showing one or more of these symptoms, contact your medical professional today. Get help, before it’s too late.

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AG Nominee Barr May Swing Anti-Trust Hammer At Amazon, Facebook And Google

Barr responded that he is interested in “reassessing” Justice Department antitrust policies when it comes to tech giants.

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Via Zerohedge


President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, William Barr, signaled during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he may put the screws to tech monopolies.

When asked by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) whether he thought antitrust laws were there “to protect consumers,” Barr responded that he is interested in “reassessing” Justice Department antitrust policies when it comes to tech giants.

“Yes, I mean generally that’s where I stand that is the purpose of anti-trust law obviously is to protect competition and competition ultimately that rebounds to consumer benefits. At the same time, I’m sort of interested in stepping back and reassessing or learning more about how the anti-trust division has been functioning and what their priorities are. I don’t think big is necessarily bad, but I think a lot of people wonder how such huge behemoths that now exist in Silicon Valley have taken shape under the nose of anti-trust enforcers.

When asked by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) about the DOJ’s role in terms of working with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to tackle anti-competitive behavior, Barr said: “I would like to weigh in to some of these issues.”

“I’d like to have the antitrust [division] support that effort to get more involved in reviewing the situation from a competition standpoint. I also am interested in the issue of privacy. And the question of who owns this data. And, you know, it’s not an area that I’ve studied closely or become an expert in. But I think it’s important for the department to get more involved in these questions.”

Tech giants Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet, Facebook and Apple are five of the six most valuable companies in the world, reports CNBC, adding that lawmakers have called for greater regulation of the industry “as privacy and platform manipulation scandals have rankled Silicon Valley.”

Barr acknowledged he still doesn’t have the solutions to these questions, including about whether the Justice Department has the authority to address alleged bias on online platforms. He said he’d “have to think long and hard before I said that it was really the stuff of an antitrust matter.” But he also expressed concern over the “network effects” that have allowed tech companies to become “so powerful that particular sectors could essentially be subsumed into these networks.”

Whoever is confirmed as attorney general could play a key role in shaping the enforcement of antitrust regulation in the coming years. –CNBC

Barr is no stranger to antitrust issues – having recently battled the DOJ over the proposed AT&T / Time Warner merger. As a then-member of the Time Warner board, Barr filed an affidavit opposing the “inexplicable” opposition by the DOJ’s leadership in light of President Trump’s “prior public animus towards CNN and this merger,” reported the Washington Post in December.

The AG nominee says that if confirmed he will recuse himself from the AT&T – Time Warner case after a lower court approved the merger in June, only to have the DOJ file an appeal in July.

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