Surveillance State: Biometrics Coming To A Bank Near You Very Soon

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The banking password may be about to expire — forever.

Some of the nation’s largest banks, acknowledging that traditional passwords are either too cumbersome or no longer secure, are increasingly using fingerprints, facial scans and other types of biometrics to safeguard accounts.

Millions of customers at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo routinely use fingerprints to log into their bank accounts through their mobile phones. This feature, which some of the largest banks have introduced in the last few months, is enabling a huge share of American banking customers to verify their identities with biometrics. And millions more are expected to opt in as more phones incorporate fingerprint scans.

Other uses of biometrics are also coming online. Wells Fargo lets some customers scan their eyes with their mobile phones to log into corporate accounts and wire millions of dollars. Citigroup can help verify 800,000 of its credit card customers by their voices. USAA, which provides insurance and banking services to members of the military and their families, identifies some of its customers through their facial contours.

Some of the moves reflect concern that so many hundreds of millions of email addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers and other personal identifiers have fallen into the hands of criminals, rendering those identifiers increasingly ineffective at protecting accounts. And while thieves could eventually find ways to steal biometric data, banks are convinced they offer more protection.

“We believe the password is dying,” said Tom Shaw, vice president for enterprise financial crimes management at USAA, which is based in San Antonio. “We realized we have to get away from personal identification information because of the growing number of data breaches.”

Long regarded as the stuff of science fiction, biometrics have been tested by big banks for decades, but have only recently become sufficiently accurate and cost effective to use in a big way. It has taken a great deal of trial and error: With many of the early prototypes, a facial scan could be foiled by bad lighting, and voice recognition could be scuttled by background noise or laryngitis.

Before smartphones became ubiquitous, there was an even bigger obstacle: To capture a finger image or scan an eyeball, a bank would have to pay to distribute the necessary technology to tens of millions of customers. A few tried, but their efforts were costly and short-lived.

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Prepping Lessons: Venezuela Ransack Stores as Hunger Grips Nation

It is downright Apocalyptic in Venezuela folks. Send your prayers and anything else you can. We also need to LEARN from this, as a Nation that thinks it is too big to fail, this could just as easily be the United State in no time. -SF

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CUMANÁ, Venezuela — With delivery trucks under constant attack, the nation’s food is now transported under armed guard. Soldiers stand watch over bakeries. The police fire rubber bullets at desperate mobs storming grocery stores, pharmacies and butcher shops. A 4-year-old girl was shot to death as street gangs fought over food.

Venezuela is convulsing from hunger.

Hundreds of people here in the city of Cumaná, home to one of the region’s independence heroes, marched on a supermarket in recent days, screaming for food. They forced open a large metal gate and poured inside. They snatched water, flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, potatoes, anything they could find, leaving behind only broken freezers and overturned shelves.

And they showed that even in a country with the largest oil reserves in the world, it is possible for people to riot because there is not enough food.

In the last two weeks alone, more than 50 food riots, protests and mass looting have erupted around the country. Scores of businesses have been stripped bare or destroyed. At least five people have been killed.

This is precisely the Venezuela its leaders vowed to prevent.

In one of the nation’s worst moments, riots spread from Caracas, the capital, in 1989, leaving hundreds dead at the hands of security forces. Known as the “Caracazo,” or the “Caracas clash,” they were set off by low oil prices, cuts in subsidies and a population that was suddenly impoverished.

The event seared the memory of a future president, Hugo Chávez, who said the country’s inability to provide for its people, and the state’s repression of the uprising, were the reasons Venezuela needed a socialist revolution.

Now his successors find themselves in a similar bind — or maybe even worse.

The nation is anxiously searching for ways to feed itself.

The economic collapse of recent years has left it unable to produce enough food on its own or import what it needs from abroad. Cities have been militarized under an emergency decree from President Nicolás Maduro, the man Mr. Chávez picked to carry on with his revolution before he died three years ago.

“If there is no food, there will be more riots,” said Raibelis Henriquez, 19, who waited all day for bread in Cumaná, where at least 22 businesses were attacked in a single day last week.

But while the riots and clashes punctuate the country with alarm, it is the hunger that remains the constant source of unease.

A staggering 87 percent of Venezuelans say they do not have money to buy enough food, the most recent assessment of living standards by Simón Bolívar University found.

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World War II History: Could Long-Lost Amber Room Be Stashed in a Nazi Bunker in Poland?

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There is perhaps no lost-treasure mystery more seductive than that of the priceless Amber Room of Peter the Great, which disappeared in the chaotic closing hours of World War II. Now Bartlomiej Plebanczyk, an unassuming historian and museum director in northeastern Poland, believes he has found it.

Elderly villagers told Mr. Plebanczyk that they had seen a German convoy unloading big crates into a secret chamber in a stark, moss-covered Nazi bunker near the Russian border in early 1945. So the Mamerki Museum, whichhe leads, recently completed a ground-penetrating radar scan of the derelict bunker that he said confirmed the existence of a hidden chamber.

“This is the perfect place to hide something if you have to move it quickly out of eastern Prussia,” Mr. Plebanczyk said.

Poles are used to hearing extravagant tales of lost war loot, and also to hearing the tales debunked. Last year, two men claimed to have found a buried train containing Nazi gold, but an investigation found no such thing. Despite that, war-treasure hunting is such a popular pastime in Poland that enthusiasts have their own web forum.

The Amber Room is a singular treasure. It was originally completed in the 18th century in a palace near St. Petersburg, Russia, paneled with six tons of precious amber, elaborately carved and decorated with gold. After advancing German troops captured the palace in 1941, the 600-square-foot room was dismantled and carted off to Königsberg Castle in East Prussia, where it was later exposed to British bombs and Soviet shells. Berlin sent orders in January 1945 to evacuate high-value cultural items from the castle, but what happened after has never been clear.

The Soviets declared that the Amber Room was destroyed in April 1945, as Königsberg was falling to the Red Army, and in the 1970s they built a replica. Others said the precious amber panels had been aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German military ship, when a Soviet torpedo sank it in the Baltic. Further theories abound.

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Crusader Corner: U.S. Attorneys Office Files Suit To Seize Payments on San Bernardino Terrorist Life Insurance Policies

Hooray!!!  I Hope they take every red friggin cent from these Life Insurance Policies and send them Directly to the victims families…. I only wish they were for Millions of Dollars. -SF

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LOS ANGELES — Federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit Tuesday to seize payments on life insurance policies taken out by Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife killed 14 people in December in San Bernardino, Calif.

The United States attorney’s office in Los Angeles filed the civil asset forfeiture lawsuit for two policies worth a total of $275,000.

Mr. Farook took out a policy worth $25,000 in 2012 and one worth $250,000 in 2013, prosecutors said. His mother was named as the beneficiary of both policies. Mr. Farook’s wife, Tashfeen Malik, died with him in a shootout with the authorities after the Dec. 2 terrorist attack.

The United States attorney’s office said that under federal law, assets derived from terrorism against the United States were subject to forfeiture. The lawsuit seeks to seize the proceeds and the policies themselves.

“Terrorists must not be permitted to provide for their designated beneficiaries through their crimes,” the United States attorney for the region, Eileen M. Decker, said. “My office intends to explore every legal option available to us to ensure these funds are made available to the victims of this horrific crime.”

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Crusader Corner: After Bus Bomb Wounds 21 in Jerusalem, Biden Slams Israel’s “Harsh Tactics??”

As a Bus Bomb detonates and Wounds 20 Israeli’s in Jerusalem, BHO’s loyal but retarded lapdog, Joe Biden makes a “courtesy” stop in Jerusalem and slams Netanyahu for taking Israel in the “Wrong Direction” against the Palestinians. You have to be kidding me Joe! I think your master in Washington needs to muzzle you for good….because every time you open your mouth, stupid sh*t comes out and you make yourself and this country look more ignorant than we already are. -SF

JERUSALEM — A bomb exploded on a bus in Jerusalem on Monday, wounding about 21 people and feeding a sense of vulnerability among many Israelis after months of simmering violence.

The sights and sounds were familiar: Television images of a burned-out hulk of a bus and wailing sirens, immediately reminding many Israelis of the second Palestinian uprising, which erupted in 2000, when suicide bombers blew up buses in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities, killing scores. Attacks on buses have been rare in recent years.

Describing the blast as a terrorist attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose image as Israel’s security czar has been dented in recent months, vowed to track down those responsible.

“We will find whoever prepared that explosive device, we will get to those who sent it and we will also get to those who stand behind them,” he said, adding, “We will settle accounts with those terrorists.”

The bombing came as many Israelis were already on edge after a six-month wave of stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks by Palestinians that have killed about 30 people. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during that period, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Israeli officials say that most of the Palestinians were killed while carrying out, or attempting, attacks, and that others were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces.

Read the Remainder at NY Times