Data Secrecy Company Accused of Sharing Information with Media and Military
Makers of the Whisper application, which was launched in March 2012, claim that anyone that posts thoughts or secrets on their web site will remain anonymous. In the last 30 months, the company has exploded in popularity with over 2.6 million posts a day, notably by college students, who use the application to put up a picture and a line of text for anyone to read.
But Whisper also secretly mines the posts to send out hundreds of pitches a week to over 75 media organizations ranging from serious newspapers like the Guardian and the Washington Post to blog sites like Mashable and low brow entertainment web sites like Total Frat Move. The media can also request information on a certain topic or help finding sources.
The Guardian revelations were made after newspaper executives met with the company to discuss deepening their collaboration. The newspaper says it was astonished to discover that the company was secretly storing users posts as well as rough location data in an in-house searchable database.
The application data can also be provided to governments. “Whisper is also sharing information with the U.S. Department of Defense gleaned from smartphones it knows are used from military bases, and developing a version of its app to conform with Chinese censorship laws,” wrote Paul Lewis and Dominic Rushe in a Guardian article published Thursday.
Pipeline Leaks in Caspian Sea Oil Project To Cost $4 Billion
The project is a joint venture between China National Petroleum Corporation, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil from the U.S, Eni of Italy, Inpex of Japan, KazMunaiGas of Kazakhstan, Royal Dutch Shell from the Netherlands/UK and Total of France. Originally estimated to be a $10 billion project that would started to produce oil in 2003, Kashagan fell ten years behind schedule and has cost over $50 billion to date.
Extreme weather conditions of 45 degrees Celsius in summer and minus 40 Celsius in winter posed major challenges to drilling for oil in the Caspian Sea from the very beginning. In order to overcome these challenges the companies built an artificial island 50 miles from shore by dumping four milllion tons of rock into the sea and enclosing it with artificial reefs to protect it against the elements.
The effort was not easy. “We’ve had experience with hydrogen sulfide, low temperatures and high pressure — but never all together,” Paolo Campelli, Eni’s head of operations in Kazakhstan, told the Wall Street Journal in 2007….
“Unfortunately, oil leaks are not rare in Kazakhstan,” a consultant named Abdulla Amin told the magazine. “Around 600,000 hectares of land in the Kazakhstani part of the Caspian Sea region is covered by a thick layer of oil, which is polluting soil and ground water. Should there be an oil disaster in the Caspian Sea, the existence of this fragile ecosystem will face a serious threat, especially because Kazakhstan has not decided yet on a plan to deal with oil leaks.”
One month after oil production began in September 2013, leaks were discovered and the project was shut down. The Kakazh government estimated that 2.8 million cubic metres of toxic “sour gas” had been flared off causing the local air and water to turn acidic.
Fashion District Businesses Accused of Laundering Mexican Drug Money
One thousand law enforcement officers staged an early morning raid on dozens of businesses in Los Angeles fashion district to seize $65 million allegedly derived from drug trafficking. QT Fashion, a company that imports wholesale maternity wear from China to Mexico, provided a key to the money laundering scheme.
“Unscrupulous companies that help cartels cover their financial tracks by laundering their illicit funds are contributing to the devastation wrought by the international drug trade,” Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, said in a press statement.
The U.S. State department estimates that between $19 billion and $29 billion in cash is sent each by drug dealers to Mexico to buy drugs like cocaine.
Essentially the way the system works is as follows: U.S. drug dealers who need to launder large quantities of hard cash they make in clandestine sale give the money to fashion businesses in Los Angeles. The fashion traders accept the money in exchange for exporting clothing to Mexico. The clothing is sold on the Mexican market, generating legal local currency that traders then pay out to Mexican peso brokers who are working for drug cartels.
“Los Angeles has become the epicenter of narco-dollar money laundering with couriers regularly bringing duffel bags and suitcases full of cash to many businesses,” Robert Dugdale, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, said in a press statement.
The target of the raid was the Sinaloa drug cartel – allegedly the most powerful in the world – which deals in Colombian cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine from Mexico as well as heroin from Southeast Asia.
Federal Regulators Failed to Police Goldman Sachs, Says Whistleblower
Carmen Segarra, a former senior examiner with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, has revealed how government regulators failed to adequately police Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment bank. (The Federal Reserve is the central banking system of the U.S. chartered by Congress to supervise private banks)
Goldman Sachs has been ranked as the top bank in the world for mergers and acquisitions by Bloomberg. It makes a profit of roughly $8 billion a year on revenues of $34 billion but has been widely criticized for how it makes its money. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone once descibed Goldman Sachs thus: “The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”
Segerra was hired by the Federal Reserve in 2011 in order to monitor major banks after the 2008 economic crisis. Seven months after she started work, she was fired. But before that, and unbeknownest to her employers, she recorded a number of internal conversations which she then turned over to ProPublica, an investigative website, and “This American Life” – a U.S. radio show.
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