"Any five-year old boy knows that if you put ten marbles into a tin can, you can only take ten marbles back out. Global bankers operate on the belief that they can put ten marbles (dollars) into a tin can (the world) and magically get 11 marbles back out. Thus, the bankers are dumber than five-year old boys! But unlike five-year old boys, the bankers will take your home, your business, and your nation when they don't get that eleventh marble! And after all that mayhem brought down on the occupants of the tin can there still will be no eleventh marble. It does not exist. It never did, and it never will. That is the ultimate doom of debt-based currency systems. In ages to come economists will look back at this failed experiment in debt-based currency and dump it into the same catagory of human stupidity as Tulipmania and the Great South Seas Company." -- Michael Rivero

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Nine days after a Russian-speaking ransomware syndicate took down the biggest US health care payment processor, pharmacies, health care providers, and patients were still scrambling to fill prescriptions for medicines, many of which are lifesaving.

On Thursday, UnitedHealth Group accused a notorious ransomware gang known both as AlphV and Black Cat of hacking its subsidiary Optum. Optum provides a nationwide network called Change Healthcare, which allows health care providers to manage customer payments and insurance claims. With no easy way for pharmacies to calculate what costs were covered by insurance companies, many had to turn to alternative services or offline methods.

The most serious incident of its kind

Optum first disclosed on February 21 that its services were down as a result of a “cyber security issue.” Its service has been hamstrung ever since. Shortly before this post went live on Ars, Optum said it had restored Change Healthcare services.

“Working with technology and business partners, we have successfully completed testing with vendors and multiple retail pharmacy partners for the impacted transaction types,” an update said. “As a result, we have enabled this service for all customers effective 1 pm CT, Friday, March 1, 2024.”

AlphV is one of many syndicates that operates under a ransomware-as-a-service model, meaning affiliates do the actual hacking of victims and then use the AlphV ransomware and infrastructure to encrypt files and negotiate a ransom. The parties then share the proceeds.

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Russia has expressed its gratitude to North Korea again for supporting its aggression against Ukraine in a show of solidarity as fresh claims of arms trading between the two authoritarian regimes emerged. 

“We are pleased that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is standing with us at the forefront of this struggle,” the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang said in a Facebook post on Feb. 29, to update developments in Ukraine.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is North Korea’s official name. 

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In a wide-ranging, three-hour interview with podcaster Lex Fridman this week, right-wing pundit and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson challenged the wisdom of US aid to Israel, assailed NATO as a violation of American sovereignty, and rejected what he called a “moralizing” approach to politics, reflecting on his recent interview with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

The conservative commentator became the first American to interview Putin since 2021 in February, in a two-hour-long sit-down that focused almost exclusively on the war in Ukraine, which entered its third year this week. 

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In the aftermath of the horrific Hamas attack on October 7, which resulted in the massacre of 1,200 Israelis and the abduction of 250 more, Congressman Ritchie Torres (D-NY) has become the second Democrat to withdraw from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

An anonymous House Democrat revealed to Axios, "I think he’s … had it with [the] Squad."

The Squad, a group of radical progressives, has been critical of Israel following the Hamas atrocities. In contrast, Torres has consistently stood as a staunch defender of the Jewish state. This follows Congresswoman Lois Frankel's (D-FL) departure from the caucus in November. According to Axios, Torres was removed from the caucus website sometime between December and January.

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US ambassador 'developed poor relationships' with Singapore ministries, threatened embassy staff: State Department audit

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Jonathan Kaplan (left), during a Senate confirmation hearing on Oct 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo: AFP)

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02 Mar 2024 12:14PM (Updated: 02 Mar 2024 01:26PM)


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SINGAPORE: A report by the US State Department's internal watchdog has revealed several shortcomings by the US ambassador to Singapore, including unauthorized spending and ineffective dealings with the Singapore government.

The audit by the Office of Inspector General found the Ambassador Jonathan Kaplan did not "model integrity, plan strategically, collaborate, or communicate" and recommended a review of his conduct and performance.

The report, dated February 2024 and released on Friday (Mar 1), also uncovered morale issues at the US embassy in Singapore, many of which the report directly attributed to Mr Kaplan.

Embassy staff cited by the report described fear and direct threats of reprisal from Mr Kaplan. Employees described his mannerisms as "belittling and intimidating" and also accused him of speaking "disparagingly about US government employees and the (State) Department".

On foreign policy, Mr Kaplan was said to have "developed poor relationships" with some Singapore government ministries to the extent that, in some cases, his actions "hurt progress" on State Department goals and objectives.

"Specifically, it was described that the Ambassador often was unprepared on issues and made statements that were counterproductive to a section’s work," said the report.

It described staff noting that Mr Kaplan ought to have held more meetings at Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to which the ambassador told the Office of Inspector General that such meetings were "unproductive with only an exchange of talking points and no real discussions".

The audit also found that Mr Kaplan had limited contacts with Singapore's traditional media. It said that at the time of inspection, he had held only two press events since arriving in Singapore in December 2021.

Mr Kaplan's response was that there was "no need" to deal with Singapore's traditional media and that he preferred to use social media. The report noted that his official Instagram account had 825 followers as of March 2023, a number that has since grown to 4,770.

Claire's Observations:  how, in the name of Heaven, did this guy get his job?!?  Is complete tone-deafness a requisite to deal with foreign dignitaries and your own staff?!?  Was he a major Biden contributor whose money exploits as a fund raiser landed him his position?

I found the answer this morning with a Google search:  "According to the Campaign Legal Centre, he (Kaplan) donated more than US$100,000 to Democratic campaigns in the 10 years before his appointment."  That's $10,000 per year.

Looks like money - wisely spent in campaign donations- can "earn" one an ambassadorship, in the US of A.  Forget any nuances in language, culture, or history of the country to which you are assigned; this is "pay for play", writ large.

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The United States government has just vetoed another resolution at the United Nations expressing concern about Israel’s genocidal actions in Gaza. They couldn’t even vote for a statement expressing “deep concern” over Israel murdering hungry Palestinians seeking food aid.

Here are some posts about it.

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New York Attorney General Letitia James, known for her recent triumphant tweets about the court decision against former President Donald Trump, has been accused of living a lavish lifestyle far beyond her six-figure salary.

This claim was made by Mel (@Villgecrazylady), a user of the social media platform X (formerly Twitter), who uses publicly available data to expose the extravagant lifestyle of James.

According to Mel, James has managed to stay within the legal boundaries, with the exception of an incident in the 2010s when she failed to disclose a Brooklyn brownstone she owns and rents out on her public financial disclosure forms. However, James has been accused of misusing public and campaign funds on questionable expenditures, seemingly unrelated to her official duties.

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“In food, prices are lower than a year ago in places like eggs, apples and deli snacks, but higher in other places like asparagus and blackberries,” said C. Douglas McMillon, president and chief executive officer, in a Feb. 20 earnings call. “Dry grocery and consumables categories, like paper goods and cleaning supplies, are up mid-single digits versus last year and high teens versus two years ago. Private brand penetration is up in many of the countries where we operate, including the United States.”

What does this mean for shoppers? Significant rollbacks on food pricing on items like eggs, bread, fruit and deli snacks, which are some of the most common items on families' grocery lists.

John R. Furner, CEO and president of Walmart US, added, “We took our french bread back to $1.00, which had been $1.00 for a long time and went up as inflation hit the market...Rotisserie chicken is another one. That price has come down by $1.00.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin used his annual State of the Nation address on Thursday to take aim at the West, threatening to use nuclear weapons against NATO countries if they send forces to help defend Ukraine from a Russian victory.

In a speech to Russia’s Federal Assembly that was predominantly dedicated to Russia’s domestic affairs, Putin delivered a tough warning, threatening retaliatory strikes against the West in the event of attacks on Russian territory.

“They must understand that we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory,” he said, warning of “tragic consequences” if NATO forces were ever deployed to Ukraine. “All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilization. Don’t they get that?”

Western leaders, he continued, thought that war “is a cartoon,” adding that Russia’s “strategic nuclear forces are in a state of full readiness.” He boasted that Russia’s most advanced hypersonic nuclear-capable weapons, such as the Kinzhal and Zircon missiles, had been used in Ukraine, while others were in the final stages of testing.

Putin has hinted before of Russia’s readiness to use its nuclear weapons, but Thursday’s warning was unusually sharp.

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There are several dimensions to the Mosquito Crisis. The Project is Funded by Bill Gates.

Inside a two-story brick building in Medellín, Colombia, scientists work in muggy labs breeding 30 million genetically modified mosquitoes weekly in labs. 

They tend to the insects’ every need as they grow from larvae to pupae to adults, keeping the temperature just right and feeding them generous helpings of fishmeal, sugar, and, of course, blood. They are then released into the wild in 11 countries.

Billionaire Bill Gates, who is funding the project, assures us it’s not a scene from a horror movie.

“The factory is real. And the mosquitoes that are released do not terrorize the locals. They help save and improve millions of lives.”

Just as his ‘covid vaccines’ have ‘saved’ millions of lives or his’ previous vaccination projects have left thousands of women sterile in India and Kenya. Or even his Polio vaccines have caused paralysis, seizure, and febrile convulsions in Sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, Congo, and the Philippines.

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Six US House of Representatives Democrats returned from an Israel trip accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “utter disregard for Palestinian lives” and fearing that he is moving toward Gaza’s “total destruction.”

The Democrats — including the most senior Democrat on the House  appropriations committee, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut — made the comments in a statement issued Friday. They represent the breadth of the party’s ideologies and include several with pro-Israel records.

The statement came as President Joe Biden said he would airdrop assistance into the Gaza Strip after more than 100 Gaza Palestinians died during a chaotic aid delivery under disputed circumstances on Thursday.

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British politician George Galloway who has registered a landslide victory in a parliamentary by-election advocating for Gaza said he has “arrived with a fresh mandate to stop the slaughter in Gaza.”

Galloway on Thursday claimed a stunning victory in the Rochdale by-election.

“The first thing I am going to do on Wednesday – Prime Minister’s Questions – is I’m going to tell the prime minister that I have arrived with a fresh mandate, the only member of the House to do so, with the fresh mandate to stop the slaughter in Gaza,” Galloway said in an exclusive interview with Press TV on Friday.

“A ceasefire is necessary but not sufficient. A temporary pause, a humanitarian pause, a simple ceasefire is not enough. We need to an end to the occupation. We need the total withdrawal of the siege of Gaza,” he said.

“And we need the recognition of the Palestinian right to self-determination enshrined in international law, enshrined in UN Security Council resolutions, enshrined in Oslo agreements, all ignored. And Oslo agreement is now dead and buried. It’s been ignored for so long,” he said.   

“Some 700 thousand illegal settlers are now living on the parts of Palestine that was supposed to be the Palestine state,” he noted.  

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For centuries, any sort of Russian success (particularly the military ones) has been attributed to factors such as the weather, terrain, allied countries and their technologies (or even the enemy's supposedly "stolen" knowledge), etc. The notorious Russian winter is allegedly the primary "culprit" for most of the Eurasian giant's battlefield successes, be it against the Teutonic Knights, Mongols, Napoleon, Hitler, etc. It supposedly "helped" Russia win the most important battles of the earlier years of WW2, including at Moscow (1941) and Stalingrad (1942-1943). On the other hand, when battles such as the one at Kursk happen (July-August 1943) and when a Russian victory cannot be attributed to the harsh winter, the political West usually resorts to simplistically racist propaganda, such as the idea that "the Germans ran out of bullets".

The start of Russia's special military operation (SMO) in Ukraine proved that such self-serving nonsense is anything but a thing of the past, as nearly a carbon copy of such fantasies persists to this very day. What's more, it could be worse in our times, as even Nazi Germany showed respect for Soviet/Russian military capabilities, while the modern-day political West not only keeps insisting that Moscow is allegedly "technologically backward", but is also basing its entire fighting doctrine on such false premises. In order to keep that narrative alive, the belligerent power pole needs to keep its populace under the illusion that Russia is supposedly "so weak" that it's impossible for it to win against the Neo-Nazi junta. And yet, the political West still somehow needs to explain the absolute debacle of the Kiev regime's much-touted counteroffensive.

Webmaster addition:  This kind of thinking led to the deployment of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

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Russophobia has always been present in the political West. Whether it’s simply the fear of a near-peer adversary or perhaps the age-old sea power (thalassocracy) vs. a land power (tellurocracy) competition, the fact is that the belligerent power pole really does not like Russia, to put it mildly. Moscow has been trying to find common ground with the political West for centuries. However, that seems all but impossible, as the latter stubbornly refuses to engage with the Eurasian giant. It can even be argued that this has been the defining characteristic of European and global geopolitics, pushing the “old continent” and the world into several destructive conflicts. Interestingly, the leading Western power, the United States, doesn’t really have a long history of Russophobia, unlike many European countries.

After WWII and the advent of the (First) Cold War, the enmity between America and Russia became the standard in the global geopolitical arena. And yet, even then, a level of mutual respect existed, while international treaties were largely respected and played a significant role in keeping the balance of power relatively intact. The unfortunate dismantling of the Soviet Union put an end to this, especially after neocons and Atlanticists took power in Washington DC. However, of all US allies, vassals and satellite states, there’s one that makes even such endemically Russophobic countries like Poland or the Baltic states seem “moderate enough” – the United Kingdom. London’s Russophobia is so deeply ingrained in its geopolitical strategy, even when it was officially allied to Moscow, both during the Napoleonic and World Wars.

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A selection of videos with the usual bombshells. What more do we need to know?

The first video — Clayton Morris interviews Sasha Latypova about the timeline of the DOD planning the release of Covid. They issued $50 billion and instructed their selected companies to go into action when there were only 11 cases. Thse companies were working with the DOD in 2017. Do you remember the Covid tests bought by countries in 2017 and 2018?

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Another scandal is gaining momentum in Europe. NATO warmongers reveal their own secrets, confirming all Moscow’s statements from the very beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, which NATO leaders used to call “Russian propaganda.” The war of NATO against Russia in Ukraine is based on lies and brainwashing, but sometimes these lies can no longer be hidden. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently confirmed one of the main claims of “Russian propaganda”, which NATO has denied for years.

Scholz explained that he would not to supply Ukraine with German long-range Taurus missiles, because he did not want to send German troops to Ukraine as Britain and France do. Berlin is allegedly not willing to become a “participant in the war.”

Thus, Scholz officially confirmed that Storm Shadow missiles are aimed at their targets with the help of the British and French military deployed in Ukraine. These missiles are mainly used for the attacks in the Russian rear areas, including in Crimea.

The deployment of NATO military in Ukraine was confirmed by numerous reports and different evidences from the frontlines as well as by the official claims by the Russian military and intelligence services; but Kiev’s Western partners and the MSM continued to assure their public that there are no Western military in Ukraine, not even mercenaries.

London was outraged by the claims of the German leader but did not deny them. Following this statement, the German Chancellor was criticized for disclosing classified information that could “endanger British personnel on the ground and help the Russians.”

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A published conversation between German Bundeswehr officers is astonishing but Russia has been completely certain about NATO military activities in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum.

"You know, of course, on the one hand, it is astonishing, yet it is not on the other. I have already mentioned in my previous answers that we are completely certain of the participation of NATO servicemen, sometimes disguised as mercenaries, or otherwise as some people who do not belong to the armed forces of NATO countries," he said.

"Our NATO colleagues have been absolutely caught red-handed. I don’t know how they will explain this to their people," the top Russian diplomat added.

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US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, by saying that NATO and Russia could end up fighting each other if Ukraine is defeated, proved that the US has a plan for it, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a diplomatic conference in Antalya.

"The meaning of this statement is that if Ukraine loses, NATO will have to go against Russia. In a Freudian slip he blurted out what they had in mind. Before that, everyone was saying: We can't let Ukraine lose, because [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will not stop at this and will take over the Baltics, Poland, Finland. But it turns out, according to Mr. Austin's open, unambiguous statement, it's the other way round. We do not have such plans and cannot have them, but the Americans do," the minister said.

According to Lavrov, Europe is currently the main victim of the US policy of "dragging Ukraine into NATO."

"All major expenses have been shifted to Europe. People are living increasingly worse, energy resouces have rocketed in price manyfold, compared with what it could have been if the Americans had not blown up the Nord Stream gas pipelines," the minister said.

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All Ukrainian allies sent their intelligence officers to this country, where they help in testing new weapons, among other things, Le Monde reported, citing a Ukrainian diplomatic source.

"All allied states are present in Ukraine. These are not combat units, but representatives of all intelligence agencies, for example, are present there," the source said.

He stated his satisfaction that the reinforcement of the allied military presence has been "in the air" since December.

"If there are arms shipments, there must also be people who give information on how to use this equipment on the ground," he added. "Ukraine is also being used as a proving ground for new vehicles. Drones are being tested there. Such specialists, of course, are on their posts."

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During a speech to the U.S. Air Force, transgender Space Force Col. Bree Fram demanded everyone use pronouns in their emails as a way to enhance “winning war fighting strategies”.

Yes, really.

“All too often, I hear leaders talk about providing everyone with dignity and respect like it’s an aspirational goal, that ‘s not good enough,” said Fram.

“Dignity and respect is the bare minimum, it’s the floor of where we can be, we must set our sights higher and focus on intentional inclusivity, because there are still far too many people out there, not just LGBTQ individuals, that feel marginalized, shut out or discriminated against,” he added.

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A far-right Israeli minister has hailed the regime’s soldiers who killed more than 100 Palestinians waiting for humanitarian aid in the besieged Gaza Strip.

“We must give complete support to our heroic fighters operating in Gaza, who acted excellently against a Gazan mob that tried to harm them,” Itamar Ben-Gvir, the so-called “national security” minister, said in a statement on Thursday.

Itamar Ben-Gvir. Click to enlarge

He also reiterated his demand to prevent the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza, claiming that it “endangers” Israeli soldiers.

Earlier on Thursday, Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinians waiting for humanitarian aid near al-Nabulsi roundabout in Gaza City, killing at least 112 people and injuring hundreds of others.

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The Zionist occupation forces send food into the northern Gaza strip to then kill starving Palestinians who try to collect it.

Food aid reaches north Gaza for first time in weeks, Israeli officials sayAP, Feb 28 2024

Aid convoys carrying food reached northern Gaza this week, Israeli officials said on Wednesday, the first major delivery in a month to the devastated, isolated area, where the UN has warned of worsening starvation among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians amid Israel’s offensive.

Across Gaza, more than 576,000 people, a quarter of the population, are a step away from famine, the UN says.

But northern Gaza in particular has been gutted by hunger. The north has largely been cut off and much of it has been levelled since Israeli ground troops invaded in late October.

Several hundred thousand Palestinians are believed to remain there, and many have been reduced to eating animal fodder to survive.

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The majority of Palestinians in Rafah live in an area that is roughly the size of Heathrow Airport. The city is cramped and unsanitary. It is surrounded on three sides by Israeli ground forces and on the fourth side by the 20 ft high Egyptian border wall. For all practical purposes, Rafah is a prison, the only difference being that, in a prison, the inmates are fed. In Rafah, no one is fed even though there are nearly 2,000 humanitarian trucks lined up beyond the Rafah Crossing waiting to deliver food to the starving population. The humanitarian convoy is being blocked by Israeli forces that are acting on orders from top military leaders. Ostensibly, Israel is depriving the Palestinians of food to create a strong incentive for them to flee the country when the Egyptian border is breached. When that happens, the western media will characterize the exodus as a “voluntary migration”, a designation that downplays the reality of ethnic cleansing.

On Thursday, Israel launched a surprise attack on Palestinians who had gathered at food trucks in Gaza City. According to numerous reports, more than 100 people were gunned down while trying to get desperately needed food. Here’s a short recap of what took place:

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There are all of these different explanations for censorship.

When this first started, with me, in 2017, they said that saying mean things on the internet would cause people to kill themselves. Seriously, that was the argument. You can look it up.

Then you got the “election meddling” and “Covid disinformation.” We always hear about “hate speech,” but frankly, that hasn’t ever really been the main driver of censorship. It is all of these other weird things, which are much more vague and confusing. This is partially because if the rules were “just don’t say nigger,” you wouldn’t really be able to censor all that much.

The current explanations for censorship allow wide swaths of speech to be censored without specific explanation.

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Under cover of fear for MPs’ safety, Labour leader Keir Starmer has helped the ruling Tories paint as villains anyone opposed to Israel’s slaughter of children

For the best part of a decade now, the British establishment has been weaponising antisemitism against critics of Israel, claiming as its biggest scalp the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He lost the 2019 general election – and stepped down as leader – amid a barrage of smears that he had indulged, if not stoked, antisemitism in the party’s wider ranks.

Corbyn is the only major British party leader to have prioritised the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s oppression of them. He was finally drummed out of the parliamentary party by his successor, Keir Starmer, in 2020 for pointing out that antisemitism in Labour had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.

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On the surface, it was funny.

Google’s “Gemini” AI was supposed to make images after users gave it a prompt. The images essentially purged whites from their own history and seemingly from all positive representation.

Did you know that all the popes were apparently non-white and some were female? There were no white men among the Founding Fathers, who were not really “Fathers” at all but proud women of color along with some American Indians. The Vikings were black too — but then again, pop culture has already moved in that direction. Perhaps AI is merely catching up. Users on X had great fun challenging others to “try to make Gemini make an image of a white man.” Some just could not do it.

None of this is surprising. When ChatGPT and other Large Language Models (LLMs) hit the business world, “civil rights leaders” immediately demanded that the models be changed to accommodate their ideology. Their media allies dutifully echoed and amplified the demands, with the New York Times memorably asking, “Who is making sure the AI machines aren’t racist?” Someone must, because if AI is fed pure data, it will generate “disparate impact,” which is unacceptable and arguably illegal.

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) called taming bias in AI the “civil rights issue of our time.” This is true on two levels. First, there must always be a “civil rights issue” to justify government intervention, redistribution of wealth, and media panic. Second, reality is typically seen to have a “racist” bias, and there must always be efforts by government to cripple emerging technologies lest people speak forbidden truths too openly. The Biden administration duly decreed that “irresponsible uses of AI can lead to and deepen discrimination, bias, and other abuses in justice, healthcare, and housing.” Thus, landlords, contractors, and other professions were banned from using AI algorithms to “exacerbate discrimination,” and the Department of Justice is training people to prosecute these new civil rights crimes.

Webmaster addition:  Computer scientists call this the GIGO law. Garbage in, garbage out!

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