Hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the US have started using a new facial recognition system from Clearview AI, a new investigation by The New York Times has revealed. The database is made up of billions of images scraped from millions of sites including Facebook, YouTube, and Venmo. The Times says that Clearview AI's work could "end privacy as we know it," and the piece is well worth a read in its entirety.
The use of facial recognition systems by police is already a growing concern, but the scale of Clearview AI's database, not to mention the methods it used to assemble it, is particularly troubling. The Clearview system is built upon a database of over three billion images scraped from the internet, a process which may have violated websites' terms of service. Law enforcement agencies can upload photos of any persons of interest from their cases, and the system returns matching pictures from the internet, along with links to where these images are hosted, such as social media profiles.
The NYT says the company's work could "end privacy as we know it"
When local police arrived on the day of the fire, the first thing they asked Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, one of Highlander's two co-directors, was "Are you beefing?"
"It was very clear to us that that there was some feeling that we might have done something to instigate this, versus white supremacy instigated this," said Henderson, the first black woman to lead the center. "At that point, I didn't even know what the symbol was or meant, but even when we did realize that it was a symbol of the white power movement, it's not like we're out there doing a tit for tat with them. I'm literally in a position where my very existence as a human is the antithesis of what they believe in."
André Canty, who works in development and communications at Highlander, compared the line of questioning from police after the fire to that following the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012 — or that often applied to black victims of police violence. "What did he do to cause his own death?" said Canty. "You're asking me, why did your abuser abuse you? Why are racists doing racist things?"
(Part 5 of 8)
firstname.lastname@example.org for business inquiries.
In this episode, my auditor and I talk about Xenu, The new purification program I am starting with the other members of the church, and joining the sea organization.
2020-01-20, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Clearly scientology is worried that Mark Bunker is proving to be a viable candidate for the Clearwater City Council. They are now resorting to one of their tried and true tactics against those who worry them the most (see below in this blogpost for earlier examples of the same playbook).
Following is a series of short videos of a recent candidates forum. Scientology sent along a gaggle of hecklers to disrupt Mark's statements — pursuant to the policies of L. Ron Hubbard. Unfortunately, there is no video showing their faces — perhaps next time when both Aaron Smith-Levin and I are not out of town we will be able to identify the perpetrators and let the world know who they are. In these clips we can only hear them.
Here is the start of their antics, trying to shout down Mark:
We're premiering another video by the "Reckless Ben" team today, their fifth installment of short films about the infiltration of Scientology they recently pulled off.
This time, they're trolling their Scientology auditor by asking her about Xenu (the galactic overlord Scientologists are told about in the advanced auditing level of Operating Thetan Level Three, OT 3), and it's fun to watch her do the "I never heard that word before" routine.
They also tell her they're doing their own version of a Purification Rundown at Planet Fitness. These guys are such cards. Later they get the hard sell about signing up for a lifetime of commitment working for the church.
St. Paul police are investigating the death of a man who was found Monday night in a downtown parking ramp.
Police said on their Twitter account that officers responded about 7 p.m. to the 500 block of Wabasha Street, which is near the Church of Scientology, for a report of an unconscious man. Medics took the man, whose age and identity haven't been released, to nearby Regions Hospital, where he died, police said.
They didn't release any other details about the death, but emergency radio transmissions posted online show that the initial 911 call directed officers to the ramp's "C" level for a possible assault. When they arrived, they found the victim lying on the ground, unresponsive.
2019-01-20, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
The weekly show where I answer viewer questions left in the comment section of my Q&A videos or sent to me by email at AskChrisShelton@gmail.com. This week, the questions I answer are:
(1) Who ACTUALLY has the power in the "church" to declare someone an SP? Do they all come direct from Miscavige? If they don't, does he need to approve all of them? Or is it something lower ranking executives at Org levels have the power to issue without higher approval?
(2) I'm interested in the beaching policy. Could you explain the offenses that would result in beaching and does beaching automatically declare you or does it mean you go public or make amends? I would love to hear an interview of a former Sea Org member who was beached.
Rod Keller discovers that Scientology is launching yet another front group, and this one is really infuriating...
Scientology is launching a new front group to join their fight against the treatment of mental health issues — Heroes for Human Rights. The call has gone out for Scientologists who are veterans to join the group, and the project is being run out of the Los Angeles office of Scientology's Caribbean-based private cruise ship, the Freewinds.
We have obtained a copy of the call-in patter being used to urge Scientologists to attend a briefing on the group at AOLA, the Advanced Org Los Angeles, part of the "Big Blue" complex of buildings. Unless non-veterans are recruited it will be a very small group. In recent years new Scientology members are usually second generation, and those of military age are more likely to join the Sea Org than the armed forces. The group has established a skeleton website at heroesforhumanrights.org.
2019-01-20, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
My good friend Amy Scobee tweeted about this article and I thought it worth sharing here. It is from Healthline. This is an excerpt.
What is so interesting is how many of these antisocial traits are actually TAUGHT by scientology to be positive things (or at least justified where it's the "greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics" which always equates to what is good for scientology)...
Recognizing Antisocial Behavior in Adults and Children
The show where I answer your questions. Please leave any comments or feedback in the comments section here below. I see everything and want to hear from you.
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In October, Luis Garcia went on Facebook to declare that the Scientology "arbitration" he'd been forced to endure turned out to be an utter joke. But now, with a new court filing, we're learning just what a farce the procedure was as the Garcias ask the federal court, once again, to restore their fraud lawsuit against the church.
We've been following this case now for five years, and our readers have seen it go through quite a few ups and downs. The Garcias donated huge sums to the church while they were members, and sued in January 2013 saying that they had been lied to and defrauded when they were pressured to give those donations.
But rather than hear their fraud claim in a civil trial, Tampa Federal Judge James Whittemore agreed with the church that because the Garcias had signed draconian membership contracts, they were obliged to take their grievances to an internal arbitration procedure, and he stayed the lawsuit.
Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe was released in 2016 to thunderous applause of a very small but growing group around the world: Anti-Vaxxers. It is the crowning achievement of disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield after he was stripped of his license and ejected from Academia. The film itself is a mess of conspiracy and barely obfuscated defense of Wakefield. Like many films of this type, it uses every trick in the book to sell the same dangerous idea that vaccines cause autism. They don't. This video series will examine everything about the movie, surrounding the movie and who was involved with it.
Part 1 delves into the top three key players after Wakefield.
Resources for Del Bigtree:
Palm Beach Post staff writer Jane Musgrave just released a story stating that Luis and Rocio Garcia's attorney Ted Babbitt has asked Federal judge James Whittemore to declare the Church of Scientology's arbitration process to be a fraud upon the court. This move on the part of the Garcia's is electrifying as it goes to the very core of Scientology's notorious bad faith financial dealings with its own parishioners and former parishioners. Musgrave writes in her article:
In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa, attorney Theodore Babbitt contends the church made no pretense of conducting a fair and impartial hearing on his clients' claims that it defrauded them out of $465,000 before they became disillusioned with its tactics. He is asking U.S. District Judge James Whittemore to reverse his decision to allow the Garcias' lawsuit to be decided by Scientologists in arbitration and instead order that it be decided in a court of law.
"The arbitration was a mockery that no judge should countenance," Babbitt wrote.
2018-01-20, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
"Schadenfreude" is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another (Wikipedia). I know it's wrong but I love this word—it just sounds cool—and as much as I try, I can't seem to feel sympathetic and not gloat at the misfortunes of Scientology. I can't seem to rise above and turn away from watching the demise of the church and seeing those old friends still trapped inside get their comeuppance. Apparently, I'm not as "great" or as big as Ron would have liked.
Don't get me wrong; I'm great sometimes. Just not all the time. I'm not a mean guy. I like to help others. Unless they're attached to my leg, I don't kick cats and dogs. I wait for pedestrians to get most of the way through crosswalks before speeding through intersections. I donate regularly to a handful of charities. I love the great outdoors. I always bring something to potlucks. I frequently "like" Facebook posts. But damn me if I don't enjoy sitting on the couch with my spouse after dinner watching Aftermath or listening to YouTube videos of Scientology's latest misstep.
Let's be honest. Nattering about others makes us feel better—at least some of us, some of the time. According to a number of scientific studies cited in Wikipedia (I know; using the Wik for research is almost cheating), schadenfreude is common to the human psyche—at least for some us, some of the time. For anyone reading this blog, though…nah.
$6.875 million, Safety Harbor
The basics: 9,365 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 6 full baths
On 10 gated acres overlooking Old Tampa Bay, this contemporary estate sold in October to Pers and Svetlana Wickstrom. He is CEO of several drug and alcohol rehabilitation in programs in Michigan. The price was the most paid for a single-family bay area home since 2013.
In 2007, the Church of Scientology bought Pitmaston House in Moseley for £4,200,000.
Despite the city council granting planning permission to the controversial church in 2013, no work seems to have been completed on the property - although, an application for planning permission in December suggests that the church is still seeking to renovate Pitmaston House.
After initial planning permission was granted back in 2013, the church promised a "complete and sensitive" restoration worth £6,000,000 of the historic building, which was supposed to transform the building from office use into a place of worship and religious education, bringing it "back to its former glory".
L. Ron Hubbard warned us that he was a garden-variety crackpot right from the start. Go ahead, take a look at the very first words in Hubbard's 1950 manifesto, Dianetics. Here's what it says:
"The creation of dianetics is a milestone for Man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions of the wheel and arch."
How that didn't prevent anyone from taking the rest of this book seriously is truly a mystery.
In July of last year, the Philadelphia Church of Scientology, property owners of the PMC Group Building, came into compliance with a fire code regulation after they were cited with a violation issued by the Department of Licenses and Inspections in 2014. Currently, there are no open citations on the building. Yet, it remains vacant.
L&I officials said Tuesday that a lawsuit stemming from a "doors and windows" violation from 2013 – a crackdown issued to battle blight in neighborhoods – was discontinued. While the suit was pending, the property owner brought the building into compliance. (When there is no longer a violation, the property owner can't be prosecuted.)
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour is Jane Mayer, staff writer for The New Yorker, author of the new book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. If you think about what's happening in this country, the rise of inequality, why climate change action doesn't happen in a more systemic way—many different issues—Jane Mayer talks about some of the reasons, the power blocs behind the major obstacles—the bloc. Start with where you're getting your information.
JANE MAYER: Well, I interviewed hundreds of people for this. And there—I have many new documents also. I mean, one of the things that was interesting to me, I mean, I went into this kind of wondering why does the government seem so dysfunctional. As you said, why can't something be done about global warming in Congress? All of the scientific community is going one way, Congress is going the other. American public opinion supports doing something about global warming, the Congress won't do anything. What's holding it up? Money, the fossil fuel interests and others. And you can see it in here.
There's a—and it begins long ago. In about 1976, there was a plan laid by Charles Koch to build what he called a radical movement to change the way that America voted and thought. And he said we need to, quote-unquote, "destroy" the statist paradigm and start a movement. And he modeled it on the John Birch Society. He loved the secrecy of the John Birch Society. And there's a paper that is quoted in here that he wrote in 1976 about how he was going to found a movement and launch it. So, this has been a long, long-running project. And he's built it up. He's an engineer. He's extraordinarily wealthy. And he has worked with a number of very smart people to build this network that tries to sort of push, push, push the country in his direction.
(Note: This article was originally published on Tony Ortega's Underground Bunker and is reprinted here for archival reasons)
Recently, we wrote about a police chief in a small Minnesota town who found himself being flown to WashingtonDC to be feted by the Church of Scientology and one of its celebrities, actress Erika Christensen. Why did he deserve this treatment? He was being celebrated because he had purchased anti-drug pamphlets from a Scientology front group, the Foundation for a Drug-Free World. After we wrote a couple of stories about how the police chief was being used in Scientology public relations, he had a change of heart and is no longer teaching the Foundation's classes in his town. Now, contributor Jeffrey Augustine looks a little more closely at how Scientology uses the Foundation to lure in unsuspecting public officials.
How does the chief of police of a small town in Minnesota find himself in Washington DC unwittingly promoting a Scientology "drug prevention" front group? It was the result of a well-designed Scientology program that is intended to lure unwary educators, law enforcement figures, and other overworked public officials tasked with drug education. This machine has ten parts:
For a few years, we've been telling you that Scientology is in a poorly way. Many different sources of evidence suggest that the 65-year-old movement has been suffering from a mass exodus of longtime, loyal members. Many others remain in the group but hold back from participating as they react to leader David Miscavige's ever-increasing desperation in the form of hard-sell begging for donations.
We hear constantly about empty facilities, dwindling attendance at events, and withering stats. Meanwhile, the desperation is so palpable, Scientology has reached out to another struggling group, the Nation of Islam, for a bizarre partnership that seems little more than a last-ditch effort to count a few more bodies in the shop.
But how does that weird mashup work in practice? Recently, an advertisement for a Nation of Islam/Scientology event caught our eye. "Give Birth to a God," it said, and promoted a joint presentation by Nation of Islam member (and Scientology Super Power graduate) Sister Nayyirah Muhammad and midwife and Scientology ClearHeather Moll.
2016-01-20, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
The evidence is all around.
Direct observation: drive past the place any time of the day or night and it is like a ghost-town. A lone security guard and PI at the front door of the Ft Harrison hotel. Otherwise no sign of life. The Potemkin Village up Ft. Harrison is even sadder — 6 storefront with their doors open and a lonely receptionist waiting for the visitor that never comes. Otherwise, one after the other, they are always completely empty but their lights are on and the windows are not covered (like every other building). Sandcastle parking lot half full at best. Parking lot behind the Osceola, empty. Westcoast parking lot empty. Oak Cove empty.
They cannot even fill Ruth Eckerd Hall for the New Year's event, so they hold it in the auditorium (while frantically regging people to build the "L. Ron Hubbard Hall.") Flag is a wasteland.
2015-01-20, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
I was sent a copy of this report by Mike Laws and I thought it worth making more broadly known. It has NOTHING to do with giving money to scientology which is about the only form of commendation one usually hears about these days.
Mike makes some important points, not the least of which is how Mike Ellis could be sent to the doctor (Megan Shields) who diagnosed him with congestive problems and an ear infection, but then just a few days later he is taken to another doctor who discovers he is overweight and has what is apparently a serious heart condition — bad enough to prevent him from traveling. That wasn't obvious when he saw (presumably — maybe she didn't even see him as it is hard to imagine missing his condition) Dr. Shields?
It also raises the question: how is Mike Ellis on post? By scientology policy he is not qualified to hold his position as he is PTS. Pretty seriously and chronically with all sorts of physical problems.
2015-01-20, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
There are many wonderful quotes from this truly inspirational man who had the courage to stand for what he thought was right and good and just.
I had intended this post to come earlier in the day, where in the US we are celebrating Martin Luther King Jnr Day today. But things got away from me, so it is a little tardy.
Someone pointed out this quote to me the other day, and it stuck with me. It was written by Dr. King from a jail cell in BirminghamAlabama on 16 April, 1963, and this is the paragraph from which the quote above is lifted:
John McMaster We have more fascinating documents recently unearthed by a researcher who is a friend to the Underground Bunker as well as a mainstay at WhyWeProtest.net. As we said on Friday, her Freedom of Information Act request with the Food and Drug Administration (made with the help of the MuckRock website) is yielding some interesting new insights into Scientology's early history.
The FDA intensively researched Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, because it was concerned about the health claims Hubbard was making about the "e-meter," the crude electronic device used in Scientology "auditing." Hubbard claimed that nearly all human ailments were psychosomatic in nature, and so his auditing with e-meters could rid a person of virtually any illness.
On January 3, 1963, the FDA, with the help of 14 federal marshals, raided Scientology's "Founding Church" in WashingtonDC, and confiscated about a hundred of the e-meters. The ensuing legal battle eventually resulted in a settlement requiring Scientology to put a disclaimer on each e-meter about how it was not to be used in the diagnosis of illness.
Kevin promised to get a divorce, and he and Dorow tied the knot in November 2007, having dated for six years. She says their prenup obligated her to reach a certain level in Scientology, which Trudeau has dabbled in over the years.
2014-01-20, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
The OT Committee of a Scientology Church represents the most active and committed of the local Scientologists. Until they have completed OT VIII, they are easy to pressure and control because they have to pass detailed "OT Eligibility" Checks and they get grilled as to their contributions to their local Church. If they fail the check, they can't move on.
To see the statistics of an OT Committee is thus a somewhat rare and very revealing glimpse behind the curtain.
Scientology church staffers go to extreme lengths to hide the actual statistics of their organizations. This is because these statistics reflect the dismal situation within Scientology Churches around the world and their complete failure to make any progress towards their stated goal of lifting people up the Scientology Bridge through auditing and training. Even worse are the statistics of new people started on their first basic Scientology services. The number of new people started in Scientology was miniscule BEFORE the truth about David Miscavige's depraved conduct became international news headlines starting in 2009. I have heard that it is close to flatlined now and these emails seem to bear that out.
We have two very different reports for you today that share one thing in common — Scientology's HollywoodCelebrity Centre.
Steven Mango spent four years in Scientology, hoping that his involvement with the Celebrity Centre would help his acting career. A year ago, he left Scientology after he'd had enough of the church's constant requests for money.
Most people who leave Scientology keep quiet. Steven had a different idea — he made a two and a half hour movie about it. He's debuting his film this Sunday at the ACME Theater in Hollywood (go here for tickets).
2013-01-20, Marty Rathbun, Moving On Up a Little Higher
To true-believer Scientologists, Lawrence Wright's book Going Clear will be an extreme test of faith. To independent-minded Scientologists the book will be a test of how well they understand Scientology and correspondingly how well they differentiate the technology of Scientology from personage of its original author.
This is so because the majority of the book is little more than a compendium of greatest shots by L. Ron Hubbard's many erstwhile enemies. There is no balance, but for the occasional gratuitous, condescending nods to L. Ron Hubbard's power of imagination.
Having read a number of Wright's previous works, I anticipated much more from the Pulitzer prize winning author. I never wrote a review of Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology because I considered it a rather dry, overly academic history of Scientology. While it was more comprehensive and balanced than any previous outsider look at the subject, I found it to be rather turgid, impersonal and careful. It, like all books by outsiders who haven't experienced that which they write about, lacked the vital subjective component that truth requires. Note, some level of subjective experience is essence in covering a subject (religion/philosophy/spirituality) that is by academic and scientific standards wholly subjective. Having seen how Wright made the entire Middle East vs. Western culture divide personal, and understandable in his The Looming Tower – from both the Middle Eastern and Western perspective – I believed he might do the same for the sorely misunderstood subjects of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology.
On Sundays, we bring to you the latest fliers and mailers and e-mails that Scientologists have received as the church encourages them to donate to one campaign after another. It's dizzying to keep up with all the requests for cash that church members get hit up for, and this week we received a lot of interesting things to choose from. We call our weekly feature Sunday Funnies. So let's dig in!
UPDATE 8:05 PM — The "Knowledge" Ad just ran during the AFC game, as promised. See our update below.
Our tipsters really came through this week. We were just sent this first flier, which claims that not only will Scientology's "Knowledge" ad run during tonight's AFC Championship game, but it also says that the church has bought an ad for Super Bowl XLVII on February 3!
However, I was intrigued to read of Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis alleging the organisation had employed private detectives to rake through his bins. I used to fancy being a private detective, but think I'll give it a miss now. Paul claims they're raking his rubbish to find material that could discredit him after he left the loopy outfit. How does that work then?
2012-01-20, Tony Ortega, Runnin' Scared, Village Voice
In November we started a new feature here on Fridays: the Voice has obtained hundreds of copies of L. Ron Hubbard's previously unpublished "Orders of the Day," which he gave to crew members as he sailed the Mediterranean. Our documents cover the period from late 1968 through 1971, and this time we're looking at what was happening the week of January 15 through 21 during those years.
After the jump, LRH explains his feelings about child labor...
[Confused? Go here for our primer, "What is Scientology?" For recent controversies in the church, check out our stories on Debbie Cook, secrets of the Super Power Building, and spying on Tom Cruise. We know these 40-year-old ship's documents aren't for everyone, but they've been giving us some interesting insights into the mind of Hubbard as he ran Scientology from a yacht in the Mediterranean. Check back here often for more breaking news about the church.]
2011-01-20, Marty Rathbun, Moving On Up a Little Higher
by Mike Rinder
Here is the latest twist on sucking blood out of stones.
Once you have turned over any available money and have borrowed to your credit card limit and taken out your second or third mortgage, cashed in your life insurance policy and sold your future rights to an inheritance, there is something more EVERYONE can give in order to raise their status.
You could call it Déjà Vu. Unfulfilled promises surrounding a master planned community prompted three Front Sight members to file a class-action lawsuit. Front Sight settled but has yet to satisfy the terms of the agreement. It owes millions, as it again seeks approval to build the "homes on the range" it touted more than a decade ago.
AnonymousBerlin delivered! We planned it and as usual it worked out.
Yes, I had the honor to mindrape tom cruise. At 00:19 he says "no masks". Then I lovebombed him - as good as I could.
Afterwards he not only got me my Fawkes-mask back from that security-guy you see in the vid. He happened to sign the Mask of a "terrorist"(at least if you ask his "church") who suppresses Toms "Religion" on a regular basis.
POLICE officers across the country have been used by the Church of Scientology to promote its antidrugs campaign in schools.
Officers have been handing out booklets that praise the science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, the church's founder, and describe both prescription and illegal drugs as "poison".
Police are investigating the Setsuri cult and searched the Yokohama home of the former president of a defunct printing firm Thursday and Friday on suspicion of abetting immigration law violations.
Chiba Prefectural Police searched eight locations, including the cult's facilities in the city of Chiba on suspicion that a senior cultist — a South Korean woman — illegally obtained her residency status in Japan for missionary work.
Setsuri (Providence) was established in South Korea and has been active in Japan since around 1987. Its founder, Jung Myung Seok, 61, is alleged to have sexually assaulted several female members.
There are reportedly more than 2,000 followers of the cult in Japan. South Korea, where the cult is known as JMS, has put Jung on an international wanted list on charges of raping female followers.
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ France backed Germany today in its acrimonious dispute with the Church of Scientology.
"I share the apprehension of the Germans regarding these sects," said Herve de Charette, the French foreign minister.
De Charette joined his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, in denouncing an advertisement signed by Hollywood celebrities that likened German treatment of Scientologists to the Nazi persecution of Jews.
A federal judge ruled yesterday that an Arlington, Va., man violated copyright laws when he dumped sacred texts of the Church of Scientology onto the Internet, saying words enjoy legal protection even in cyberspace.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said there was such compelling evidence of copyright violation that she found no need to send the case involving Arnaldo Lerma, 45, to a jury.
ALEXANDRIA (AP) _ A critic of the church of Scientology violated copyright law when he posted sacred church texts on the Internet, a federal judge ruled Friday.
In a case closely watched by computer users, the church sued Arnaldo Lerma for placing the documents on the Internet as part of his long-running criticism of church practices he says are abusive.
U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema put aside questions of whether the church harassed the critic or abused a search warrant she granted and narrowed the complex case to a few issues of copyright law.