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Cambridge Analytics: The frim that stole your data to cahnge the world

Cambridge Analytica (CA) is a firm that was known to marketing companies around the world. It was known to the political elite, now, they’re known to the world as the company that swung an election.

The Observer, in a joint investigation with The New York Times, has uncovered how the company harvested, and then used, the data of around 50 million Facebook users in order to change their votes for the 2016 Presidential election.

All of these shadow tactics and tools were brought to light by whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who has been working with the Observer for over a year.

The decision was made that by targeting users data as a personality, it would be easier to change the minds of the electorate.

After connecting with Cambridge professor Dr Aleksandr Kogan, and discovering apps that had special permissions on Facebook, there was now a way to harvest the data of thousands.

This would mean that not only could CA see the data of the user but the user’s entire friends network. Wylie explained: “We would only need to touch a couple hundred thousand people to expand into their entire social network which would then scale us to most of America”.

This data included “almost everything that would be on a Facebook profile so things like status updates, in some cases private messages….this is what the app could do”.

A “unit of personality” would be harvested and then targeted using information and media that the user was susceptible to and how many times it was needed to change the users mind. This information would then be used to create websites, blogs that CA deemed the user would be receptive to and be “placed on the internet for them to find”.

Channel 4 used undercover reporters, looking to use CA to help win an election. They set up meetings with executives of CA, including Alexander Nix. Nix confirmed in one meeting that tactics could be used to convey opposition candidates taking campaign donations in return for political favours.

Wylie also confirmed that in an interview with the Parliamentary enquiry into fake news, Nix lied when he said that CA never used Facebook data. Wylie said CA spent “The company itself was founded on using Facebook data”. Since the articles were printed and the investigation aired, consequences have come thick and fast.

Alexander Nix has been suspended as CEO of Cambridge Analytica, however it is worth explaining their own statement: “CA has no employees and very few assets save for a large amount of goodwill, some limited datasets and the rights”. This means that Nix has been suspended from a shell company but remains CEO of CA parent company SCL.

Mark Zuckerberg has been called to give evidence before MP’s. Zuckerberg has since released a statement saying his company had “made mistakes” over the alleged misuse of users’ data. The social media giant also saw £26bn wiped off its stock market value.

It is said that CA worked on targeting Brexit voters that could of changed the referendum. Vote Leave, chose to spend £3.9m with AggregateIQ, a company based in Canada which was created by CA.

Time will tell if Robert Mercer, Alexander Nix, Mark Turnbull and Mark Zuckerberg will be held accountable for their actions. The wider public will now know that what they see on social media, could have been put there to influence their democratic right to vote.

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Britains biggest anti-hero

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,we shall fight on the beaches,we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

On the 4 June 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave the above speech to the House of Commons. It evokes an emotional spirit that the generation who fought in the war did so knowing that they were outnumbered. Over the next year, London was bombed by the German air force. The Blitz killed over 40,000 civilians in eight months.

But with that speech in the forefront of minds, British grit prevailed and freedom shone through. Churchill is remembered for picking Britain up by the bootstraps, dusting her down and sending her off to fight with everything she had.

When she came back victorious, draped in the Union Jack, Churchill became a British icon. He has his own statue in London, a full state funeral, watched by a television audience of 350 million people in 1953 and was named Greatest Briton by the BBC in 2002.

On the surface of it, Sir Winston saved us from tyranny and deserves all the accolades he receives. But many forget about the darker side to Churchill and some of his actions that should be better known but are instead swept under the carpet.

Toward the end of World War II Churchill communicated with the head of the RAF about trying to cut enemy exit routes from East to West Germany. The cultural city of Dresden was one of the main targets settled upon by Churchill and his officers as a location known all around Europe and its destruction would dampen morale.

The bombing carried out by the British and American air forces, with Britain in command, last for two days. In those 48 hours, between 22,000 and 25,000 people lost their lives. Many of them were refugees and civilians fleeing the eastern front.

Dresden had no tactical worth and was not a key military objective. The city was bombed with incendiary devices which are dropped specifically to start fires.

His biggest transgression, however, came in 1943. With the war raging on all fronts and D-Day still a year away, the British rule in India was under threat. The likes of Mahatma Gandhi were speaking out against the colonial rule and causing more issues for a government already under pressure. It has been noted that Churchill announced that he “hated Indians, they are beastly people with a beastly religion”. The Prime Minister diverted vital food supplies from the region of Bengal, which was then on the brink of famine. He said that the famine was their own fault for “breeding like rabbits”.

Up to three million people starved to death as no aid or help from the Empire came.

Churchill should go down in history as someone who brought the country back from the brink but should be widely condemned for his heinous crimes.

Winston Churchill, to me, was what the country needed in a war that could have ended all others. He was resilient, brutal and a leader the people could get behind. He was also a war criminal and genocidaire. He allowed tens of thousands of civilians to die needlessly and made sure millions starved to death under the rule of the murderous empire.

 

The reasons Remain lost

Since last year, change has come thick and fast in the UK. Prime Minister David Cameron resigned after saying he wouldn’t, Theresa May took over at number 10 and installed bumbling Boris as her foreign secretary. It all seemed to be changing far quicker than anyone could have expected.

The referendum has meant so much to so many over the past year and a half. Many feel they have reclaimed their sovereignty from the EU whereas many see it as, now, a much harder process to visit other countries that are on the UK’s doorstep.

Russian involvement?

Many questions have arisen since the vote however. Why didn’t as many people vote? What will happen to the UK in regards to the single market? What role did the media play? And most importantly, did the Russian government try and influence the British electorate through the use of social media?

The final question is one that is being worked on by journalists at the top of their game. They have received threats and ridicule in the public sphere, mainly by those who were donors to the Leave campaign like Arron Banks.

There is strong evidence that the right-wing, Tory backing, media launched strong and competitive campaigns to leave the EU. Editor of the Daily Mail Paul Dacre, a well-known eurosceptic, was joined by News Corp owner, and frequenter to number 10 via the back gate, Rupert Murdoch. Between the two, they drummed up the masses who staunchly opposed any decision that resulted in the UK remaining within the EU.

Malicious lies

Both the Daily Mail and the Sun ran stories filled with malicious lies which, it has been proven, swung the minds of those that were not sure which way they would end up voting come referendum day. It also reiterated points that stirred up emotional, and sometimes racial, hate amongst voters that were sure they wanted to leave.

The Daily Mail, which supported David Cameron for years and subsequently ravished the Labour Party over two elections, threw ‘dodgy Dave’ under the bus when it came to Brexit. With over a million readers daily, the Mail had one message- If you believe in Britain, vote leave.

It was reported on Newsnight, at the start of the year Dacre had been told by a close source that Cameron was trying to have him relieved from his position as editor. This started the wheels which would see Cameron lose a nailed-on referendum and therefore find his own position untenable.

Anti-European agenda

The Mail were not alone as the Sun also filled their front pages, editorials and column inches with a brash anti-European agenda. The propaganda that was released by Britain’s biggest circulated paper ran headlines like ‘Independence Day’, ‘Up Yours Senors’, and ‘Draw A Red Line On Immigration Or Else’.

These types of headlines shook and unearthed forgotten Britain. The section of the public who were scared of immigrants ‘flooding’ into Britain with their boats landing in swarms like those on D-Day, but this time just below the white cliffs.

The fear employed by more than the media outlets mentioned above, but mainly by these two, has given a platform for prejudice, bigotry and a false sense of self-worth to take centre stage.

Britain has seen more terror attacks on domestic soil than it had in the previous decade. Unfortunately, the notion that terrorism divides and segregates us into higher insecurity and fear is true. The attacks, even after the vote, have been used by the media and therefore ‘Brexiteers’ to re-establish its position, no matter the consequences.

The pro-leave side also pumped up British ego. Taking back control meant that we could reinvigorate our industries in the North. As if, as soon as Britain was officially no more in the EU, the PM would turn the keys, the engine would combust into life and the empire would finally strike back.

All these points of view, which are believed to be independently curated, examined and justified, have actually come from the stories they read in their papers.

Obviously, these papers do not reach the kind of audiences that social media does. The likes of Facebook and Twitter reach tens of millions of British citizens daily. They are very powerful marketing tools which advertisers paying through the nose to get a piece of.

Many will not have heard of Cambridge Analytica. CA, as it is known. It combines data mining and data analysis with strategic information. What this means in layman’s terms is that this is a company that takes users data from websites like Facebook and ‘strategically’ analyses it to change the minds of voters.

It has worked extensively with the Donald Trump Presidential campaign as well as the Vote Leave campaign. Although nothing has been proven yet, CA is under criminal investigation in both the UK and US for its part in the above election and referendum.

The investigations will, hopefully, find out if the methods used and the party who hired them, deliberately broke election rules. Julian Assange confirmed in late October that CA had contacted Wikileaks and had requested the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails which some political commentators say, swung the election away from her.

It seemed that when facts were blurred and lies were pushed to the front pages, there was still space for a data mining company to make an appearance and carry the baton across the line to win the battle.

The average person in the UK found themselves with an uphill task. Learning all possible about the EU and Britain’s position within it in such a short amount of time all while Rupert Murdoch, Paul Dacre and Cambridge Analytica stood above them as puppet masters pulling the strings.

The unknowing public didn’t stand a chance of making an informed decision and, consequently, didn’t.

 

 

Another typical week inside the Trump administration

Another Rally

Many would forgive Trump for actually doing some Presidential work after taking enough vacations to hit the cap for Secret Service staff but once again the ‘leader of the free world’ has surprised everyone.

This week Donald gave yet another campaign style rally, drumming up support for a so far failed Presidency. This rally took him to Phoenix, Arizona where Trump took issue with “fake news” and other issues that have seemed to piss him off this week.5440392565_4634fb9d24_b-810x540

The President took aim at the media saying that they had once again misquoted him before picking up his script and reading 90% of what he said. The last 10%, the tiny bit that everyone took issue with in the first place, was left out of his repetition of the matter. It seems that if history shows you in a bad light, just rewrite it and someone will believe it.

Failing to repeat that he said “on both sides” when blaming those for violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville which left one protester dead, was like water of a ducks back for someone who has lied continuously to his supporters, not just on his campaign, but also since he took office.

Pointing the finger

On Thursday Trump once again took to twitter to release his political frustrations aiming a, named, tirade again the two most powerful Republicans – Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.

His anger revolved around that the Republicans not being able to pass a new debt ceiling bill which could result in the country defaulting on its’ loans and shutting down altogether. Trump has formerly aimed his frustrations at McConnell after his revolutionary healthcare bill failed.

Another rash decision

It has been said many times that if, as a leader, your polling is low, start a war. Trump may not be starting a war like George W did but he is happy to stoke higher tensions in the region. With Obama reducing the number of American troops in Afghanistan from roughly 100,00 down to around 8,400 personnel.

Donald would like to reverse this by sending another 4,000 to help those that are already there. This has been met with public outcry and political opposition, on both sides of the Atlantic, as the President tries to garner support from NATO countries to get more involved.
Trump could call on Britain’s ‘special relationship’ to increase support within the EU but for now it seems as if he’s on his own.

Another one bites the dust

There was talk, for a long time, about how long the President would last in office, let alone his staff. Well with top advisors, press secretaries and head of communications all leaving it has fallen to Sebastian Gorka to take his bow.

Trumps deputy assistant said upon leaving that policies to “make America great again” had been undermined in recent months and supposedly expressed in his resignation letter his dissatisfaction with the current administration.

It is said, as the same with others that have left, that he was fired but publicly resigned to save face.

 

First Available on Kettlemag : https://www.kettlemag.co.uk/another-typical-week-inside-the-trump-administration/

 

Labours Brexit shift

Jeremy-Corbyn-Chatham-House-810x524Sir Keir Starmer, the party’s shadow Brexit secretary, has also not ruled out the possibility of a negotiation to create a new single market and customs arrangement similar to the one in place now.

A Labour government would try to keep the UK inside an economic zone that would benefit many countries, including Britain, but outside of a political one.

Writing in The Observer, Mr Starmer said that if his party were to get into office that they would stick to the terms that we adhere to at the moment while the transition takes place.

With a good amount of Conservative MP’s agreeing with the new stance, Theresa May could find it hard to win a vote on the matter in the Commons.

Mr Starmer continued that “Labour would seek a transitional deal that maintains the same basic terms that we currently enjoy with the EU.”

If the UK were to stay in the single market beyond the Brexit date in Match 2019 then it would have to abide by EU rules that include free movement and jurisdiction from the European Court of Justice. This would also come with payments to Brussels.

Brexit negotiations have so far been futile with the Brexit negotiators trying to make Britain look strong while the EU hold all of the cards. The third round of formal talks will begin tomorrow in Brussels, but with David Davis wanting more flexibility on a post-Brexit position and EU representative Michel Barnier refusing to budge, it could be a long process that leaves Britain weaker the longer it goes on.

Trump’s Korea threat

President Trump has threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” when he broached the subject at a meeting. This has prompted an equally strong response from Pyongyang who have said that they are “carefully examining” a plan to hit Guam with missiles.

Guam, being the small US territory in the South Pacific, was under Japanese occupation for over two years during World War II. Sat just over 1700 miles south of North Korea the small island, which is around the size of Chicago and has a population of 162,000, holds around 6,000 US troops with bases covering around 30 per cent of the entire island.

With a naval and air force base on the island, Guam gives the US a major launching pad to stay relevant inside of Asia. Even though there are other military strongholds in Asian countries like Japan and neighbours South Korea, Guam is the nearest major outpost both militarily and in terms of civilians.

In 2013, the US Army installed a missile defence system which allows them to defend themselves from, primarily, North Korean, ballistic missiles.
Reacting to the threats made by the North Korean government, Guam governor Eddie Calvo reminded Americans that the island is “not just a military installation.”north-korea-2131334_960_720-810x608The new tensions have heightened since North Korea reacted angrily after new UN Security Council sanctions. The new restriction is aimed at reducing the countries annual export income by a third (£767m). Kim Jong Un’s government will be banned from selling coal, iron, lead and sea food.

This resulted in a threat of a “thousand-fold” revenge against the US after new tests of intercontinental missiles. Pyongyang has said that the sanctions are a “heinous US plot to isolate and stifle” North Korea. The statement, which was made by the country’s official Korea Central News Agency, said that these new moves would not force the country to negotiate over its nuclear programme.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has backed the President’s call but was also keen to dampen any imminent threat by saying that “Americans should sleep well at night.”

 

As seen first on Kettlemag: https://www.kettlemag.co.uk/trumps-korea-threat/

 

Donald Trump’s personnel problems

Since Donald Trump became US president over six months ago, there are few that thought one of his biggest problems would be personnel. The White House has seen top employees come and go with some only staying for a matter of days.

So, who has gone, and who has come in?

Sean Spicer

The bungling and regularly confused White House Press Secretary found himself on the front line of defending what the President had done and said every day. He was caught out when trying to explain the differences between Bashar al-Assad and Adolf Hitler using chemical weapons on their civilians before coining the terms ‘holocaust centres.’

The secretary also never seemed to be able to pronounce the names of foreign diplomats or leaders, pronouncing the for mentioned Syrian leaders name wrong several times in one press conference.

Spicer resigned on 21st of July straight after President Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director. He supposedly was seeking a more strategic communications role but Trump was dissatisfied with his performances on the podium.

Spicer’s role was taken by his deputy and daughter of previous Arkansas governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sanders has responded to much of the media’s questions by referring to it as ‘fake news’ and, like her predecessor, being more closed when answering questions.

Anthony Scaramucci

The Mooch, as he is known, was the White House Communications Director for a total of 10 days. The former financier took the job and within a just a few days, provoked controversy, after an on the record interview with The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza.

Scaramucci said he would fire the entirety of the White House communications staff if a source was not revealed and also said that Reince Priebus was a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.”

The Mooch was fired when John Kelly became the new Chief of Staff making his tenure the shortest in the history of that position.

Reince Priebus

Reince Priebus was chair of the Republican National Committee for six years before agreeing to become Donald Trump’s chief of staff. He went on to hold that position for just over six months before being relieved from the position.

Priebus held a near absolute power over who was and was not allowed into the Oval Office. He was criticised for the way he managed during his tenure but was a staunch defendant of his President after allegations of Russian interference in the election came to light.

Priebus resigned on 27th July making him the shortest, permanent, Chief of Staff in history. He had been accused by the new Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, of leaks within the White House.

He was replaced by former Secretary of Homeland Security and Marine General John Kelly. Kelly took office on the 31st and quickly gave his advice to the President, recommending he fire Anthony Scaramucci who is the last on this list.

It is safe to say that Donald Trump has many more problems heading his way. With a very ill-experienced team behind him, his revolving door doesn’t look like it will be slowing down any time soon.

The DUP

The DUP are a Protestant party in Northern Ireland. Founded in 1971, by fundamentalist leader Ian Paisley, they were staunchly opposed to any agreement, including the Good Friday Agreement, that brought unison between them and the republican opposition.

They created Militia and were endorsed by terror organisations during the Troubles. Since then they have become Northern Irelands largest unionist party and urged people to vote Leave in the Brexit referendum.

Abortion

Abortion in Northern Ireland remains illegal unless a woman’s life is in danger or there is a permanent risk to her mental or physical health. Unfortunately, as it stands, rape and incest are not grounds for a termination. The DUP support this law and have a strong anti-abortion stance.

LGBT rights

The DUP has had a history with LGBT issues. In instances, members have described people within the community as “disgusting” and an “abomination”. They also oppose gay marriage.

Leader Arlene Foster has said that the party has many gay voters in a sort of shallow response that runs the same lines as ‘I can’t be racist, I have a friend who’s black’.

In 2015 Health minister, Jim Wells, made anti-gay remarks stating that children should not be brought up in a homosexual relationship and those that do, face an increased chance of being “abused” and “neglected.”

Climate change

The party’s manifesto was seemingly a little light when it came to the topic of climate change and the environment. It was so light that it actually did not mention either subjects at all.

In the past, they appointed a climate change denier as the Northern Ireland environmental minister and recognise a number of creationists among their senior members. This leaves them with an awkward footing on the subject in the political community. Not one that seems to bother the PM.

Hard Brexit

Arlene Foster has spoken at considerable length about avoiding a hard Brexit which could lead to a hard border with the Republic of Ireland. She said that:

“no one wants to see a hard Brexit, what we want to see is a workable plan to leave the European Union.”

This does leave Theresa May bent over a barrel when it comes to her “no deal is better than a bad deal” approach but with the Tories already bowing to major financial commitments, it’s unlikely that the DUP will have a major input on this matter.

Finally

The DUP are a right-wing party that have been supported by terror organisations, opposed more than two different peace resolutions in their own country, oppose LBGT rights and don’t seem to believe or at the very least care about, climate change.

They are a party for the history books, not one for a coalition. The lack of integrity an understanding in this situation is one that will shape Theresa May’s premiership.

The £1 billion handout

Instead of calling another election the Conservative’s decided to open talks with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to prop themselves up. Using their 10 MP’s they can fall over the line, gaining the minimum number of seats needed.

The DUP have not underestimated their importance in this situation. Theresa May needs them much more than they need her, and they know it. Negotiations started with deadlines pushed back after talks faltered and slowed.

Eventually, terms were reached and it turns out that a massive financial incentive was presented to the DUP to get them on board.

To remove themselves from over a barrel, the Tories agreed to fund Northern Ireland with an extra £1bn over the next two years, much to the dismay of the other UK assemblies.

This deal bypasses the Barnett formula which is in place to make sure that all governments get their fair share of funding from the UK. This bypass means that the Scottish government will miss out of £2.9 billion in funding.
Nicola Sturgeon said that “this is the price to Scottish taxpayers for Tories to stay in power.” The Welsh assembly is also having a hard time swallowing the amount meaning the matter will not be allowed a quick death.

Each MP of the DUP that was elected has effectively secured £100m each for their party, something that will play out well to voters for years. James O’Brien on LBC made the point, when interviewing former Secretary of State for NI Theresa Villiers MP, as part of the Good Friday Agreement, (GFA) Westminster would observe rigorous impartiality when it came to the matter of Irish politics.

Giving the DUP a financial sweetener will mean at the next election, when they stand side by side with their Sinn Fein opponents, they will be able to campaign to the tune of securing massive investment as well as holding the upper hand over Westminster. This would lead many to believe this would then influence voters/the result and equate to an infringement of the GFA.

Many have called the move ‘cash for votes’ and denounced the action. Ironically, Theresa May continuously talked about Jeremy Corbyn’s infamous money tree when costings of the manifestos were released with the argument that the type of money Labour wanted to spend did not exist.

She’s staying, come what May

The Conservatives started to lose seats while Labours support started to grow. SNP and UKIP stock started to drop with the latter’s number ending at a lonely zero.

Corbyn struck a charismatic, popular, vote with the younger people. This meant that over 70% from the 18-24 demographic turned up and added an extra three million votes to their overall tally.

By the end of the night it was clear for all to see just how bad an election it had been for the PM. The Conservative’s ended up with 318 seats which is 13 less than they had originally, equating to the loss of a majority.

Labour, with their now extra youth support, gained 30 seats pushing them to a celebratory 262, SNP lost 21 seats ending on 35 and the Lib Dems were up four to 12.

As a hung Parliament was called many stoked the fires under Theresa. The women that was so confident of adding to her slim majority, and eradicating her opposition altogether, was on the receiving end of an electorate U-turn.

Tim Farron and Jeremy Corbyn called for her resignation after the embarrassing showing, and sources from inside the party showed there were some voicing very negative views towards their leader.

Leaders of the opposition parties had already, publicly, said that they would not be entering into a coalition with the Tories, especially Mr Farron after what happened to his party in the 2015 election.

There was no obvious choice with many commentators predicting a second election as there would be no major party stepping forward to fill a coalition void. Unfortunately for those commentators they were technically right.

The Northern Irish Unionist Party or DUP, received ten seats and announced that they would be open to discussions with the leadership to prop them up and to result in a two-seat majority.

At 12:30, May left Downing Street on her way to Buckingham Palace. She did not speak to the press prior to leaving, and upon arrival back at the residence, announced that she had received permission from Her Majesty the Queen to form a government with the DUP officially propping up the Conservatives.

The failure to secure a majority on this election has left Theresa May’s future on a knife edge. Today her top aides have started to resign and the tabloids have turned their backs. Tomorrow, cabinet ministers could leave and the day after there could be a coo from within.

We do not know what will happen as of it yet, but what we do know, is the term coalition of chaos as well as weak and wobbly will be thrown in her direction or the foreseeable future.