Monday, March 31, 2014

U.S. States Most And Least Likely To Survive The Zombie Apocalypse

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zombie3 Given the growing frequency with which zombies appear in movies, TV shows, and your worst nightmares, it’s inevitable the zombie apocalypse will soon be upon us. When it comes to surviving this inevitable showdown with the undead, location is everything. Do you live in a state populated with zealous zombie fighters capable of beating back hordes of brain-hungry walking dead? Estately answered this question with its Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Rankings, which were determined using the 11 metrics below that measure fighting ability, knowledge of zombies, physical fitness, and access to weapons…

  1. Active Military Personnel:  States with more soldiers per capita means states with more people who are physically fit, trained to fight, and have access to weapons (source).
  2. Military Veterans: Percentage of veterans per capita is a solid way of measuring fighting experience (source).
  3. Physically Active:  States with residents who rarely get out of their Laz-E-Boy will not escape the zombie menace (source).
  4. Martial Arts Enthusiasts:  Hand-to-hand combat is an important skill when the ammo runs out (source—percentage of Facebook users who listed “martial arts” as an interest).
  5. People with Survival Skills: In the long run, knowing how to survive without modern conveniences in a collapsed society will be critical (source—percentage of Facebook users who listed “survival skills” as an interest).
  6. People with Knowledge of Zombies:  To know your enemy you must know their ways (source—percentage of Facebook users who listed “zombies, Resident Evil, Zombieland, and The Walking Dead” as interests).
  7. Laser Tag Enthusiasts:  Yes, laser tag. Few things prepare you for a zombie attack in enclosed space (source—percentage of Facebook users who listed “laser tag” as an interest).
  8. People with Guns:  Shooting a zombie in the head is really the best way to defeat a zombie, and to do that you need a gun (source).
  9. Obesity:  The obesity epidemic will yield to the zombie epidemic because the obese will struggle with running away from zombies. It’s really very simple (source).
  10. Paintball Enthusiasts:  Those who can slink around the woods unnoticed while splattering their enemies with paint will find success shooting zombies in nature (source—percentage of Facebook users who listed “paintball” as an interest).
  11. Triathletes:  When everything breaks down, running, swimming, and bicycling will be ideal ways to escape zombies  (source—percentage of Facebook users who listed  ”Ironman triathlon” as an interest).
Below is a complete ranking of the 50 states based on zombie apocalypse preparedness. Those at the top are the most likely to survive and those at the bottom are the least likely to. Scores are per capita rankings for each category.
From the rankings, we discovered these surprising truths…
  1. Delaware is an island of survivors in the zombie-strewn hellscape that will be the Mid-Atlantic.
  2. Florida, where the zombie apocalypse (like all serious problems) will no doubt begin, is oddly not in 51st place.
  3. Wisconsin can now make fun of Minnesota and Michigan about something other than the Green Bay Packers standing in the NFC North.
  4. New Jersey and Mississippi routinely end up on the bottom of lists. All lists.
  5. Rural states offer favorable survivability.
  6. Something’s wrong with Nebraska.
  7. Utah loves laser tag.
  8. The West Coast and the South will eventually agree on something—the delicious appeal of brains.
Profile of the 10 States Most Prepared To Survive Zombie Apocalypse
In a state where residents run from bears and moose, they will not be scared of slow-moving corpses. Alaska is packed with military personnel and veterans, and they’re only a fraction of the well-armed Alaskans prepared to shoot zombies from a moving snowmobile.
No other state has a shared love of zombie movies and guns like Wyoming. While New Yorkers are having their brains eaten in cafes and elevators, the fine people of Wyoming will be sitting on the front porch with a shotgun enjoying a prolonged zombie hunting season.
Coloradans are well known to be among the most physically fit in the country so when zombies start crawling out of their graves, most of the state’s residents will be miles away, easily jogging up a 10,000-foot mountain.
If a horde of zombies stumbles into Lewiston, Idaho they’re going to have their hands full. Idahoans are physically active, heavily armed, and are hard to catch because they’re oddly really into parkour.
This state knows its zombie facts (from movies and TV shows), but it’s also full of triathletes and martial enthusiasts. Not only can residents escape from zombies by running, swimming, or biking, but they can also turn around and dole out some beat downs like the ninja assassins they are.
The state’s residents previously prepared to face the zombie apocalypse, but that was because pranksters hacked into a TV station’s EAS and broadcasted a message that the zombie apocalypse had begun. Had that not been a test, those zombies would have experienced the full wrath of Montana’s arsenal because that state is heavily armed.
Home to both the Department of Zombie Defense and the Arizona Zombie Defense Force. The state of Arizona trains for the zombie apocalypse with zombie walks, a Zombie Night at an Arizona Diamondbacks game, and much more.
Las Vegas is home to the Zombie Apocalypse Store, so it’ll be easy to buy supplies to fend off the walking dead. Cities around the state are already prepping with zombie pub crawls, a state run zombie prevention site, and more.
New Yorkers fleeing a zombie apocalypse will drive up real estate prices when the move to the Granite State, the most prepared in the Northeast.
Should the zombies enter an office building in Wisconsin, they’ll face a large number of people prepared to shoot zombies in confined areas because Wisconsin is home to the most laser tag enthusiasts per capita in America. Wisconsin is awesome. Click HERE for proof.


Snapshot 3:24:14 11:15 AM-2
Despite being physically fit, residents of Massachusetts are almost completely lacking in knowledge of zombies. Ignorance is not bliss, it’s very costly in a zombie apocalypse. 
The Tennessee Zombie Response Unit has its work cut out for it because the rest of state is ill prepared to battle the undead. Tennesseans should abandon their company softball teams and form paintball teams instead.
For Louisiana, the downside of letting the good times roll is it makes it very difficult outrun the living dead. Lack of physical fitness and limited knowledge of zombies dooms the great state of Louisiana… once it runs out of ammunition.
Here’s a plan—Alabama confronts its obesity by training for the Alabama Biathalon. It’s a variation of the winter sport, but instead of cross-country skiing you just run around the woods with a gun shooting at everything. It’s like hunting season, but you can’t bring a 24-pack of beer.
Residents of Connecticut should either begin playing laser tag or start seasoning themselves because if the zombie apocalypse started today they’d get eaten up as appetizers.
Even though The Walking Dead is set in Georgia, residents there have little interest in zombies. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, the undead will discover Georgia brains are as sweet as Georgia peaches.
If there were New York travel brochure for zombies it would tout the state’s lack of veterans, limited enthusiasm for survival skills, and scarcity of firearms.
Our nation’s capital has almost no knowledge of zombies, martial arts, or firearm ownership. It’s going to be an all-you-can-eat brain buffet for the zombies.
M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-Die. Everybody is going to die. From zombies.
51st—NEW JERSEY If the zombie apocalypse began today, and you live in New Jersey, the odds are 100% that you’ve already been bitten and have become a zombie, unless you took a course from New Jersey’s own Zombie Survival Course. It’s real, and it could definitely save your life… even though they criticized our article (video proof).

Check out these articles about our zombie list…

CNET:  When the zombie apocalypse hits, pray you’re in Alaska
Wall Street Journal:  If a Zombie Epidemic Hits, New Jersey Is Screwed (Map)

U.S. stock markets are rigged, says author Michael Lewis

Y u think the gov. needs ALL that com~pu~tin ..."space/power" U~tah ???  hummmmm  folks "they" ain't just "spy~in"  "they's"   ...'play~in' the :O  or how's 'bout'  "who's"   .... play~in ??? Oops  or better yet  .."their"     hidden off the books shit !  the ENTIRE U.S. fed.  gov. is an "front"   for the VAST ,HIDDEN,BLACK the shit that IS beyond the BLACK system !!! ..breakaway civ.  that is just HIDDEN in plain sight  ....u/we just don't wanna C it :o   yup!  just "spy~in"    folks ...just spy~in   ....but just where's ALL the fucking $$$    ...going HUH

NEW YORK Mon Mar 31, 2014
A Wall Street sign is pictured outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York, October 28, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A Wall Street sign is pictured outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York, October 28, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

(Reuters) - The U.S. stock market is rigged in favor of high-speed electronic trading firms, which use their advantages to extract billions from investors, according to Michael Lewis, author of a new book on the topic, "Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt."
High-frequency trading (HFT) is a practice carried out by many banks and proprietary trading firms using sophisticated computer programs to send gobs of orders into the market, executing a small portion of them when opportunities arise to capitalize on price imbalances, or to make markets. HFT makes up more than half of all U.S. trading volume.
The trading methods and technology that make HFT possible are all legal, and the stock exchanges HFT firms trade on are highly regulated. But Lewis said these firms are using their speed advantage to profit at the expense of other market participants to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.
"They are able to identify your desire to buy shares in Microsoft and buy them in front of you and sell them back to you at a higher price," Lewis, whose book is available on Monday, said on the television program "60 Minutes" on Sunday.
"This speed advantage that the faster traders have is milliseconds, some of it is fractions of milliseconds," said Lewis, whose books include "The Big Short" and "Moneyball."
Those milliseconds can be valuable, making it possible to send around 10,000 orders in the blink of an eye.
Darting in and out of trades, HFT firms make just fractions of a penny per trade, but the sheer speed and volume of their trading activity allows those that are successful to make significant profits.
Proponents of HFT argue that the presence of such firms makes it easier for all market participants to find buyers and sellers for their trades, and that the speed at which HFT firms can detect and take advantage of pricing imbalances between different markets and assets leads to smaller bid-ask spreads.
But Brad Katsuyama, former head trader in New York for the Royal Bank of Canada and a major figure in Lewis's book, said he was finding that when he would send a large stock order to the market, it would only be partially filled, and then he would have to pay a higher price for the rest of the order.
With the help of new hire Ronan Ryan, Katsuyama realized that his orders traveled along fiber optic lines and hit the closest exchange first, where high frequency traders would get a glimpse, and then use their speed advantage to beat him to the other 12 U.S. public exchanges and 45 private trading venues. HFT algorithms could then buy the shares Katsuyama wanted, and then sell them to him at a slightly higher price.
Katsuyama and Ryan created a system in which RBC would send its orders first to the exchange that was the furthest away, and last to the exchange that was closest, with the goal of arriving at all places nearly simultaneously, cutting out HFT.
"Essentially, our fill rates went to 100 percent. We couldn't believe it when we actually figured it out," Katsuyama told "60 Minutes."
Katsuyama said he decided to start a new trading platform, called IEX, for the Investors' Exchange, employing similar tactics to those he used at RBC.
"It almost felt like a sense of obligation to say we found a problem that is affecting millions and millions of people - people are blindly losing money they didn't even know they were entitled to. It's a hole in the bottom of the bucket," he said.
IEX has attracted the investment of David Einhorn, the billionaire owner of hedge fund Greenlight Capital, and an endorsement from Goldman Sachs. The investors in IEX are fund companies and individuals, not banks.
"We are selling trust, we are selling transparency, and to think that trust is actually a differentiator in a service business, is actually a crazy thought, right?" said Katsuyama.
Earlier this month, New York state's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he believes U.S. stock exchanges and other platforms provide HFT firms with unfair advantages.
Exchanges allow trading firms to place computer servers inside the exchange's data centers so that the firms can see the data as soon as possible. The practice, called co-location, is regulated and available to anyone who wants to pay for it.
Schneiderman has begun meeting with the U.S. exchanges, which include IntercontinentalExchange Group's New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq OMX Group's main bourse, and four platforms run by BATS Global Markets, on possible reforms, a source close to the situation told Reuters.
A ban on HFT is unlikely, as U.S. regulators would be loath to put policies in place that could lead to a less liquid market, Robert Greifeld, chief executive officer of Nasdaq, said on Thursday.
(Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Diane Craft)

The Wino Mysteries Part I

Long time readers of this blog are no doubt aware that Recluse is a big fan of a musical genre typically referred to as "stoner rock", a catchall term that can refer to a host of different styles including doom and sludge metal, desert rock, drone, post-metal, heavy psych and retro occult rock, among others. As noted before here and here, I've found this genre to be incredibly synchro-mystical, with a host of occult, conspiracy theories and general high weirdness trappings appearing throughout the works of various groups associated with stoner rock. What's more, this little acknowledged element of stoner rock has only grown more and more prominent in recent years.

Heavy metal has of course long been associated with the occult, but by the 1980s such trappings were dominated by Satanism, both the faux and LaVey-ian variety. When the stoner rock scene began to emerge in earnest in the 1990s this new genre gradually started taking heavy metal occult elements back to the 1970s when mythological gods and heroes, wizards and Wicca were as common as odes to Lucifer. One of the chief figures in this movement was legendary frontman Scott "Wino" Weinrich.

Wino started his first band, War Horse, in 1976 at the age of 16 and never looked back. By the early 1980s War Horse had been transformed into The Obsessed and had begun to gain a devoted fan base from a curious source: the legendary Washington D.C. hardcore scene. Wino's music has always been steeped in the sound of the Heavy 70s (especially Black Sabbath and Pentagram) and by the early 1980s such a sound was decidedly unhip amongst metal heads. Punk rockers in the D.C. area dug Wino's sound, however, and he cut his teeth playing in the D.C. hardcore scene with the likes of Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and so forth.

Wino first started to gain nation recognition in the mid-1980s when he relocated to California and became the frontman for doom pioneers Saint Vitus. Wino cut three studio albums --Born to Late, Mournful Crisis and V in addition to the E.P. Thirsty and Miserable (the title track is a cover of the Black Flag song) with Vitus from 1986 till 1990. Saint Vitus did not experience much success (especially in the United States) during this run, but two of those albums (Born to Late and V) are now considered classics in many circles. By the early 00s Saint Vitus had gained a rather large underground following internationally and it is from this group that many fans know Wino from.

Wino with Saint Vitus during the 1980s
Wino departed Saint Vitus in 1990 and would continue to record for the next two and a half decades with a host of different groups including a reconstructed The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, Place of Skulls, the Hidden Hand, Shrinebuilder, Premonition 13, David Grohl's Probot, and also as a solo artist. Needless to say, his discography is rather massive and I will not attempt to tackle all of it in this series.

As this piece is chiefly concerned with Wino I will not be covering Saint Vitus in depth. While Wino was certainly a key part of the group during some of their best years, Vitus has always been guitarist Dave Chandler's band. Chandler has written the overwhelming majority of the group's work (including the lyrics) and it would thus not be far to contribute much of the group's artist vision to Wino.

Dave Chandler
I will also not be covering the supergroup Shrinebuilder, despite the fact that their sole album is steeped in esoterica. All four members (including drummer Dale Crover of the Melvins, Neurosis' guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly and Sleep/Om bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros) contributed to the songwriting and general concept of the group and therefore it is not strictly speaking a "Wino band."

Groups that I would apply this label to are: The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, the Hidden Hand, Premonition 13, and Wino's backing band for his first solo album (solo albums that came out after that one have not featured a full band and have largely consisted of Wino and his acoustic guitar). In the case of all five projects, Wino was the chief visionary and songwriter (though other members contributed more than they are generally given credit for).  All of these projects, save for Premonition 13, also featured another Wino trademark as well: they were/are all power trios. Outside of Premonition 13 Wino hasn't done much with a two guitar setup in projects in which he is the man songwriter.

So, it is with these five groups that I shall chiefly concern myself with over the course of this series. With the mission statement out of the way, let us now focus in on The Obsessed. Wino originally recorded an album with The Obsessed for Metal Blade Records in 1985, but the album was shelved after Wino was offered the Saint Vitus vocal spot shortly thereafter. In 1990 Saint Vitus' then-record label, Hellhound Records, released The Obsessed' self-titled debut from 1985.

Encouraged by the favorable reception the album received, Wino opted to leave Saint Vitus and reformed The Obsessed in Los Angeles with a different rhythm section. Greg Rogers was brought in on drums while the bass spot went to Palm Desert scene (of which I've written much more on here) staple Scott Reeder. In 1991 the revamped The Obsessed released the classic Lunar Womb on Hellhound Records. Scott Reeder left shortly thereafter to play bass for Kyuss and was replaced by Guy Pinhas on bass. After the favorable reviews Lunar Womb received, The Obsessed signed to Columbia Records and released The Church Within in 1994. Apparently Wino was warned against this move before hand and found Columbia's office space to be an ill omen. In an interview with L.A. Record he noted:
"I promised myself I was gonna get signed to a major label and I did, although the signing at that time was actually a little bittersweet because of circumstances. Of course I did retreat with my tail between my legs back East once or twice before that happened, but … You wanna hear a really fucking weird story? [The Obsessed] got signed to Columbia Records, and that’s Sony, and at that time they had a big black building on Madison Avenue—a black fucking building—and the address was 666. I swear to God, man! It’s so cliché that it’s almost fucking cheesy, but it’s the truth. A lot of people warned me—like people from doing zines and stuff—they told me this was risky, but at that time, I looked upon it as a license to fly. To me it was artistic freedom because they were paying to rent us a rehearsal room, paying us a salary, giving us a budget to record a record—I thought that was where it’s at..."

Regardless, things quickly went downhill after The Obsessed signed with Columbia. The Church Within was a commercial flop and Columbia dropped The Obsessed post haste. The group dissolved shortly thereafter with Pinhas and Rogers departing to co-found the great Goatsnake. Wino, meanwhile, became severely addicted to methamphetamines in addition to his long time problem with alcoholism. Wino spent much of the rest of the 1990s homeless and lost in a fog of booze and speed in L.A. At one point he nearly had to have a foot amputated due to an old injury that had grown worse due to years of neglect. It goes without saying this was the absolute nadir of both Wino's life and career.

Wino's work with The Obsessed, while being the most overtly metal of his overture, also established a formula that he would largely stick to for the rest of his career: songwriting that is aggressive and to-the-point, but not mired in the anger and sorrow as much of heavy metal is. In point of fact, the sense of optimism and hope that much of Wino's discography displays is one of its most distinct features. That's not to say that Wino's work, and especially that with The Obsessed, does not feature its fair share of anger, however. But Wino tends to come off as more of fire-breathing vigilante biker out to right the evils of the world, than a suburbanite mope a la the entire genre of nu metal.

Wino's songwriting with The Obsessed and every other band in which he is the main guy is concise and never self-indulgent. His songs rarely go over five minutes, and while Wino is a very underrated guitar player, his solos and leads are never excessively flashy or drawn out. Even when Wino's work became more progressive and psychedelic in the late 1990s and 00s he's never been one to indulge in extended flights into inner space. In the case of The Obsessed, the band's sound is firmly within the Black Sabbath-inspired traditional doom framework. Still, Wino keeps things relatively uptempo and even throws in a few hardcore bursts. The group also incorporates a slight hint of desert rock into their doom, a potent combination that former Obsessed members Greg Rogers, Guy Pinhas and later Scott Reeder would take much further with Goatsnake. This style invokes the feeling of cruising through the desert on a bike just as the sun begins to set on some lonesome highway.

Given the meat-and-potatoes nature of The Obsessed's sound, its fitting (especially considering Wino's lifestyle choices during this era) that the lyrics of Lunar Womb and The Church Within (Recluse has not heard The Obsessed, unfortunately) seem to largely revolve around alcoholism and drug addiction. This is especially true of The Church Within, the second half of which being quite harrowing considering the downward spiral Wino's life would descend into shortly after the album was released. There are some hints at the later direction his lyrics and imagery would take, however. Both "Brother Blue Steel" and "To Protect and Serve" (the openers of Lunar Womb and The Church Within, respectively) hint at the conspiracy theory-oriented bent his lyrics with the Hidden Hand would take, while Lunar Womb's title track makes for fine metaphysical musings:

Looked out this mortal window, beheld a dry mirage. 
A black wind was blowin' - pierced the warm facade. 
At the very moment my blackened foot touched the earth. 
Gonna grab me a tunnel, and command me a berth. 
Prometheus bound - suffering on the hour. 
Stole a flame, burnt his game- Discord's golden apple gone sour. 
In this glowing casket there's solace from your gloom- 
My spirit's strength is master inside my Lunar Womb... 
Come beside me - twilight fades and night is soon. 
What flows inside me is the lifeblood of the waning moon

the album cover employed Francisco de Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son
This song can be read as a description of an alchemical transformation. The reoccurring references to blackness ("black wind", "blackened foot") and death ("...the lifeblood of the waning moon") invoke one of the crucial stages of an alchemical transformation, namely putrefaction
"In alchemy is found again the perpetuation of the Universal Mystery; for surely as Jesus died upon the cross, Hiram... at the west gate of the Temple, Orpheus on the banks of the river Hebros, Christna on the banks of the Ganges, and Osiris in the coffin prepared by Typhon, so in alchemy, unless the elements first die, the Great Work cannot be achieved. The stages of the alchemical process can be traced in the lives and activities of nearly all the world Saviors and teachers, and also among the mythologies of several nations. It is said in the Bible that 'except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' In alchemy it is declared that without purification the Great Work cannot be accomplished. What is it that dies on the cross, is buried in the tomb of the Mysteries, and that dies also in the retort and becomes black with putrefaction? Also, what is it that does this same thing in the nature of man, that he may rise again, phoenix-like, from his own ashes..?"
(The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Manly P. Hal, pg. 506)

Some type of forbidden knowledge is at times the result of an alchemical process and both Prometheus and golden apples are associated with such knowledge, but here the narrator is seemingly being torn apart by these things. The moon, meanwhile, is associated with both death and knowledge.
"The moon was also the first thing to die since, every lunar month, for three days and nights, it vanishes as if it has died. Similarly the dead were believed to acquire a new form of existence. To humans the Moon became the symbol of this passage from life to death and from death to life and was even regarded by some peoples as the place where this transition took place, in parallel with a location below the ground. This is why so many lunar deities are at the same time chthonian death-deities like Men, Persephone and, probably, Hermes. Some, however, believe that the journey to the moon or even life for ever on it was confined to such privileged classes as rulers, heroes, initiates or sorcerers...
"The Moon is a symbol of knowledge acquired coldly, logically and in graduated stages. While the Moon, as the star of night, may conjure up metaphorical visions of beauty shining against the vast black background of Heaven, this light is merely a reflection of the light of the Sun, and hence the Moon is the symbol of knowledge acquired through reflection, that is, theoretical, conceptual and rational knowledge... In this respect Moon and Owl are linked symbolically together. This is also the reason why the Moon is yen, being passive and receptive, relative to the Sun's yang. The Moon is Water relative to the Sun's Fire, cold relative to heat, and symbolically north and Winter in opposition to south and Summer."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pgs. 669-670)

The womb is associated with spiritual regeneration at times, and this seems to be the case in this instance. The knowledge the narrator has acquired in the song seems to have derived from pain and reflection upon it. Perhaps this pain was caused by something previously learned, and the "lunar womb" state the follows is the reflection upon these actions, and a purer knowledge that comes with it. But I digress.
At this point I shall wrap things up for now. In the next installment we shall consider the magic mushroom trip in our nation's capital that forever changed Wino's life and the groovy, Sabbathian spirituality that resulted in the form of Spirit Caravan. Stay tuned.

The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?

Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million – mostly Black and Hispanic – are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.
There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.
What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?
“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”
The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.”
According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.
According to reports by human rights organizations, these are the factors that increase the profit potential for those who invest in the prison industry complex:
. Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.
. The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.
. Longer sentences.
. The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.
. A large expansion of work by prisoners creating profits that motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time.
. More punishment of prisoners, so as to lengthen their sentences.
Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery – which were almost never proven – and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.
During the post-Civil War period, Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools, housing, marriages and many other aspects of daily life. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” comments the Left Business Observer.
Who is investing? At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month.
Thanks to prison labor, the United States is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for Third World labor markets. A company that operated a maquiladora (assembly plant in Mexico near the border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers from the private Lockhart Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq.
[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that “there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here).”
The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in 1990 under William Clinton, when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes. Clinton’s program for cutting the federal workforce resulted in the Justice Departments contracting of private prison corporations for the incarceration of undocumented workers and high-security inmates.
Private prisons are the biggest business in the prison industry complex. About 18 corporations guard 10,000 prisoners in 27 states. The two largest are Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut, which together control 75%. Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one. According to Russell Boraas, a private prison administrator in Virginia, “the secret to low operating costs is having a minimal number of guards for the maximum number of prisoners.” The CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.
Profits are so good that now there is a new business: importing inmates with long sentences, meaning the worst criminals. When a federal judge ruled that overcrowding in Texas prisons was cruel and unusual punishment, the CCA signed contracts with sheriffs in poor counties to build and run new jails and share the profits. According to a December 1998 Atlantic Monthly magazine article, this program was backed by investors from Merrill-Lynch, Shearson-Lehman, American Express and Allstate, and the operation was scattered all over rural Texas. That state’s governor, Ann Richards, followed the example of Mario Cuomo in New York and built so many state prisons that the market became flooded, cutting into private prison profits.
After a law signed by Clinton in 1996 – ending court supervision and decisions – caused overcrowding and violent, unsafe conditions in federal prisons, private prison corporations in Texas began to contact other states whose prisons were overcrowded, offering “rent-a-cell” services in the CCA prisons located in small towns in Texas. The commission for a rent-a-cell salesman is $2.50 to $5.50 per day per bed. The county gets $1.50 for each prisoner.
Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.

Google Glass Might Change The Way We Live & Connect To One Another

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Walking outside, it doesn’t take long before we see someone with their head down and ear phones in while zoning-out to their smartphone. It is apparent to most that a large sense of disconnect exists in our world today due to peoples’ insistent habit of being lost in their hand-held reality. Whether we are walking, on a bus, plane, subway, or car ride, you can almost always bet someone is going to be looking at their phone rather than engaging in common social etiquette. This was part of the motive behind Google’s newest tech development, states Sergey Brin in a Ted Talk video titled “Why Google Glass?”
Sergey Brin in one of his Ted Talk videos revealing Google Glass to the world.
Sergey Brin in one of his Ted Talk videos revealing Google Glass to the world.
In the Ted Talk, Brin pulls out his phone and makes a joke about answering a text from the Prince of Nigeria.  Brin discusses with the audience the technological crisis that has come as a subsequent of the newest generation of smart phone consumerism,
“In all seriousness, this position that you just saw me in, looking down at my phone, is one of the reasons behind this project, Project Glass. We question whether this is the ultimate future of how you want to connect to other people in your life, or connecting to information, should it by walking around and looking down? That was the vision behind Glass.”
Brin goes on to pull out a pair of sleek clear glasses.
“That was the vision behind this form. In addition to potentially socially isolating yourself when you’re out and about looking at your phone, [the question also begs] is this what you are meant to do with your body?”
Brin elaborates on the idea of our phone being a “nervous habit,” a means to bypass moments of social discomfort. Often time, rather than engaging in eye contact with someone, it is a common habit for many to look down at their phone instead.
“In this case, I sit there and look like I have something important to attend to, but it really opened my eyes to how much of my life I spent secluding [myself] away in emails or a social post, even though they weren’t that important.”
In short, Google Glass is a portable computer, moulded into an eyewear form, which by voice command allows its user to record videos, chat, snap pictures, and much more. Basically you ask a question, Google Glass answers, projecting it onto the glass prism directly in front of your eyes. If you are wondering if this distracts the user from their front-sighted view, videos and projections show up to the top-right of the screen.
googleglass1 googleglass2 googleglass3googleglass4 googleglass5
Interestingly, and perhaps creepy to some, is the audio feature. If you aren’t using an accessory, Google Glass’s audio feedback happens through a bone conduction transducer that sits above (and a little behind) your right ear. That little transducer sends vibrations through your skull, a sensation similar to having a little speaker sitting near your right ear. The only difference is that other people nearby won’t hear much out of it.
Like most of the early smartwatches, Glass isn’t a smartphone replacement. It’s more of a smartphone accessory, requiring a phone’s Bluetooth connection for on-the-go-data (it can also connect directly to a Wi-Fi network). Right now Android phones work better with Glass than iPhones, as Apple’s restrictions prevent the MyGlass companion app from letting you send or receive SMS through Glass.
Google Glass is still a Beta product, which means that it will most likely undergo many changes before it is released commercially this year. Although the product has some kinks to work out, many have marked it as one to keep a close eye on in 2014.

Sergey Brin: Why Google Glass?

How far will the Supreme Court go to stop patent trolls?

Today's case: An Australian patent holder's idea boils down to 7 lines of code.

What kinds of software—if any—deserve a patent?
It's a basic question, and one that many thought would be resolved by now, especially since the issue came up in the US Supreme Court's 2010 Bilski decision. But Bilski left the legal landscape more confusing and fractured. This was illustrated in dramatic fashion last year, when the nation's top patent court, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, practically split apart at the seams trying to decide if four patents on financial software held up. The Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank case resulted in ten judges writing seven different opinions and resolving nothing.
Seven months later, the Supreme Court agreed to take up the controversial case, setting off the most intense round of legal positioning over patents and software yet seen. In the four years since Bilski, the spread of "patent trolls"—that is, companies that do nothing but sue over patents—has gone from a tech-sector talking point to a white-hot, Main Street controversy. Dramatic examples like Wi-Fi trolls suing coffee shops and "scanner trolls" threatening thousands of businesses for the use of everyday technology have spurred debate in Congress. Several proposals were combined to become the anti-patent-troll Innovation Act, which passed the House on a rare bipartisan vote and is scheduled to be debated shortly in the Senate. 
Whatever happens in Congress, the Supreme Court's decision in this case—or indecision—matters. The court is aware of patent trolls, and it seems to genuinely dislike them. The justices also seem aware that Bilski did not do the job, and they want to devise some legal means of executing patents they don't like. The question then becomes "how?"
"How" matters a lot here. Practically no observers expect Alice Corp. to keep its four patents, but the question of how many other patents get lassoed into today's decision will resonate for years to come. Some would like to see the Supreme Court end Alice's patents with sniper-like precision, touching no other patent; others are eager for a pronouncement that would deal some broader harm to the patent troll business model.
In theory, the Court could go so far as to simply say software is not patentable. That's a very unlikely outcome, but it can't be ruled out entirely. The tiny possibility of such an outcome has spurred companies that favor software patents—including Microsoft, Adobe, and IBM—to file briefs focused on their importance. (While these companies extoll software patents as a general category, no one defends Alice's patents.) 
Internet companies, meanwhile, are trying to steer the court's attention to the harm caused by vague software patents. A pointed, 12-page brief filed by LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, Newegg, Netflix, Rackspace, and several smaller software companies does not go so far as to call for the abolition of patents on software, but it makes the signors' distaste for them crystal clear. "Innovation happens despite software patents, not because of them," states that brief, written by Stanford professor and patent litigator Mark Lemley.

Seven lines of code, $5 trillion of trades

While many of the lawyers briefing the case, including CLS Bank's attorneys, are too polite to say it, Alice Corporation fits the classic model of a "patent troll." Despite a website with language about wanting to launch "an innovative form of derivatives market," the company appears to have never created any product. By its own admission, it has been focused on its lawsuit since 2007. The inventor of the patents and founder of Alice is Ian Shepherd, previously managing partner at the Melbourne branch of McKinsey & Company, a financial consultancy. National Australia Bank, one of Shepherd's former clients and the fourth largest bank in Australia, became a 50 percent owner of Alice in 2000.
Alice stands out from most patent trolls in that its litigation strategy is focused on a single company. Sometimes one is enough, though, and CLS is no ordinary defendant. The Economist called CLS Bank "the most important bit of the financial infrastructure you have never heard of." CLS is a membership organization, composed of a who's who list of more than 60 of the world's biggest banks, including the three largest US banks, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup. Each day, CLS settles accounts worth $5 trillion in various currencies. A major patent win against CLS could have raised the cost of international money-exchange worldwide.
Alice's brief spends seven pages describing Shepherd's inventions, dividing them between "system" claims, "method" claims, and "media" claims. It describes a complicated system of "shadow accounts," updated on a "real-time basis," which mitigates risk in "exchange institutions."
But other than Alice's lawyers and several Federal Circuit judges, nobody who has delved deep into the patents has been too impressed. Underneath bloated language, critics say, Alice's patents describe how anyone performing an exchange of goods with an unknown party would proceed: find a trusted third party.
"That's what people have looked for when they've needed to exchange things since the beginning of time," says Charles Duan, an attorney at Public Knowledge who has analyzed Alice's patent claims. "If you and I want to exchange some money—dollars for euros—there's some risk that you will give the money and then I don't give you the money."
The world's banking regulators were well aware of that risk, and CLS Bank was custom-designed to address it. The systems used by CLS, which stands for "continuous linked settlement," are undoubtedly complex, but the bank itself is a classic example of an idea whose time had come—it was "decades in the making," as CLS' lawyers explain in their brief. In a 2002 article, The Economist explained that banking regulators had a name for the risk that one party in a foreign-currency trade wouldn't pay up: Herstatt risk, named after a German bank that closed halfway through a trading day in 1974.  
The Alice patents are covered in complicated-sounding language about computers, but critics like Duan see the complex language as little more than smoke and mirrors. The bloated nature of the patents is cleverly addressed in the amicus brief filed by Public Knowledge and the Application Developers Alliance, written by Duan, which distills the "very simple, basic idea" that Alice hid "beneath a veneer of technical language." Duan took the most broadly accepted claim in Alice's batch of patents, claim 26 of US Patent No. 7,725,375, and wrote a computer program that satisfies all the instructions of the 200-word claim. It is seven lines long:
10 LET account1 = 200.00
20 LET account3 = 300.00
30 INPUT "Value to exchange for transaction"; exchange
40 IF account1 < exchange THEN PRINT "Inadequate value" : STOP
50 account1 = account1 - exchange
60 account3 = account3 + exchange
70 PRINT "Instruction to 1st institution: adjust 2nd account by "; - exchange
It doesn't require any programming experience to interpret what's going on in the above code. Check everyone's account to make sure there's enough money; if there is, do the trade. "This is basically a bank transfer," said Duan. But it's also the claim that split the patent appeals court down the middle. 
Alice describes the claim this way:
The computer in claim 26 is configured to receive transactions from the parties to an exchange, to make adjustments electronically to the shadow accounts independently maintained by the computer after ensuring that those accounts reflect “adequate value,” and to generate instructions to the exchange institutions to implement the exchange in the separate real-world accounts maintained by those institutions.
The company goes on to note that the specification "contains flowcharts that provide algorithm support for the specific programming required." That seems to have been effective. In the Public Knowledge brief, Duan posits an explanation of how four Federal Circuit judges came to embrace the claim:
Certain judges below were misled by the language of the claims and the patent. Judge Rader believed that Claim 26 involved “a complex problem” that could only be solved with a specialized system with “at least four separate structural components.” He reviewed the “at least thirty two figures which provide detailed algorithms” to conclude that “[l]abeling this system claim as an ‘abstract concept’ wrenches all meaning from those words.” Judge Moore likewise found a similarly worded claim “limited to one that is configured to perform certain functions in a particular fashion” and, based on one of the flowcharts, suggested that the claims demanded a dizzyingly long and complex algorithm. And Judge Linn concluded that, while they may be based on an abstract idea, “the claims here are directed to very specific ways of doing that.”
The common thread among all of these opinions is an assumption that, given the heavy use of technical language in the specification and claims, only a specific, complex, technical computer program could infringe the patents. As the seven-line computer program on the previous page demonstrates, this assumption was in error.
The brief goes on to suggest that the Supreme Court bar courts from repeating some of the Federal Circuit's mistakes. Judges shouldn't get lost in "obfuscatory language" from patent specifications and should instead decide based on claim language alone if a patent should be allowed, the brief says. As for the idea that Alice's "system claims" survived whereas its "method" claims could not, such differences are a "drafting formality," particularly for software, and shouldn't be relied on to decide patentability.

How to kill a patent made easy: The importance of Section 101

Four years after Bilski, the Supreme Court again seems poised to limit patentable subject matter, and it has again chosen to hear a case regarding financial patents. Dozens of companies have filed their input on the issue in the form of amicus briefs. There are two key themes: the harm caused by "patent trolls," and perhaps more importantly, what legal tool is most appropriate for eliminating bad patents.
Several briefs delve into the importance of Section 101 of patent law, which bars "abstract ideas" and "laws of nature" from being granted patents. It's not the only way to kill a bad patent; Section 102 dictates that patents must be new (novel), Section 103 states they must be non-obvious, and Section 112 requires that they be claimed in a specific way. But amicus briefs from companies that find themselves constantly facing patent troll lawsuits—including Internet companies large and small, retailers, restaurants, and supermarkets—want a Section 101 test for patents that requires them to be tough and come early.
Having a tough Section 101 test up front would undoubtedly be a boon to patent defendants. A retailers' brief notes that treating the basic patentability question of Section 101 first "is not a distinction without a difference." From the brief:
[A]nticipation, obviousness, and the other invalidity defenses found in Sections 102, 103, and 112 generally require extensive, expensive discovery, prior art, searching invalidity analysis, claim construction, expert reports and depositions, and the other accoutrements of patent litigation before the district court can address them, either on summary judgment or at trial. In contrast, patentability under Section 101 can—and should—be addressed as a legal issue at the outset of the lawsuit on a motion to dismiss.
High-stakes patent cases, considered those with more than $25 million at issue, typically cost $3 million through discovery and $5 million through trial. Compare those costs to recent cases where defendants have won on Section 101 grounds, such as FindTheBest's win against Lumen View Technology, a patent troll wielding a patent on "multilateral decision-making." That patent was found to be abstract, and FindTheBest didn't have to go through discovery or hire expensive experts. (FindTheBest still paid about $200,000 in legal fees.)
Conversely, a well-known case last year in which a defendant failed to win on Section 101 grounds meant that a patent holder was able to push forward with a lawsuit over watching ads online. (The Electronic Frontier Foundation, dismayed by that outcome, wanted the Supreme Court to take up that case rather than Alice v. CLS.)
A brief filed by larger Internet companies, including Google, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, and Rackspace, also pushes Section 101 vigorously and quickly. Making Section 101 analysis wait for formal claim construction is a "novel procedural barrier," inappropriately championed by the Federal Circuit, the companies argue. 
Other parties want to see Section 101 used less, not more. The American Intellectual Property Law Association, an IP lawyers' group, bemoans the "current undefined rubric of Section 101" being "repeatedly invoked to deny patent claims." And IBM, the nation's largest patent-holder, argues that many of the court's concerns would be better addressed under Section 103, which bars non-obvious patents. 
Several briefs also emphasize that abstract patent language that simply adds a general-purpose computer to a claim—no matter how detailed—is still abstract. The Microsoft-Adobe-HP brief goes so far as to suggest that the Alice patents are scarcely computer technology at all. The technology at issue is simply "Bilski on a computer," those companies suggest.
Oral arguments today may signal which of these arguments are gaining traction with the Supreme Court justices. The court is clearly dismayed that such patents, many wielded by patent trolls, are proliferating. The question remaining is how aggressive they will be in treating the problem. A decision in the case is expected by June.

New Leaks Show NSA, GCHQ Infiltrating Private German Companies

from the tapping-the-world dept

Der Spiegel and The Intercept have just released more leaked NSA documents, this time covering the surveillance of foreign officials. This is the sort of thing we expect the NSA to be doing, although perhaps without targeting our allies. (Germany's Angela Merkel is on the list, something that will come as no surprise to anyone.)

Here's Der Spiegel's screencap of part of the list, showing Merkel's name along with several others. (122 officials are targeted altogether.)

Perhaps the most notable thing about the list is that it's sorted alphabetically by first name, which seems to fly in the face of logical filing systems. It's also not solely limited to intercepted phone calls. Der Spiegel notes that the information gathered also includes faxes and computer-to-computer communications.

While some may steer away criticism by nothing this is the expected behavior of a national intelligence agency (or paint it as worthless "espionage porn"), it's worth noting that those in affected, "friendly" countries aren't going to find the "public interest" angle of these revelations quite limited as the NSA's defenders will. There's a lot of subjective territory out there once you get past the "US only" mindset.

What's more troubling is the remainder of the Der Spiegel report, which details the NSA's and GCHQ's infiltration of German private companies in order to turn their products into surveillance tools.
One top-secret GCHQ paper claims the agency sought "development of in-depth knowledge of key satellite IP service providers in Germany."

The document, which is undated, states that the goal of the effort was developing wider knowledge of Internet traffic flowing through Germany. The 26-page document explicitly names three of the German companies targeted for surveillance: Stellar, Cetel and IABG…

Intelligence workers in Bude also appear to have succeeded in infiltrating competitor Cetel. The document states that workers came across four "servers of interest" and were able to create a comprehensive list of customers…

The firm IABG in Ottobrunn appears to have been of particular interest to the intelligence service -- at least going by a short notation that only appears next to the Bavarian company's name. It notes, "this may have already been looked at by NSA NAC," a reference to the NSA's network analysis center.
IABG is a private company that performs contract work for the German government, including the military. GCHQ apparently hacked one of its ground satellite stations in order to gain access to communications. The British spy agency has delivered its usual "strict legal and policy framework" response to the leaked documents, which appear to show more corporate espionage being performed under the color of "national security."

That the NSA and GCHQ would subvert foreign companies in order to access communications is also, sadly, unsurprising. Whether or not this can truly be considered economic espionage remains to be seen, although one German federal prosecutor seems willing to examine that angle.
"I am currently reviewing whether reasonable suspicion even exists for an actionable criminal offense," [Harald Range] told the newspaper. "Only if I can affirm that can I then address the question of whether a judiciary inquiry would run contrary to the general public interest -- a review required for any espionage-related crime" in Germany.
What can be gleaned from this is fact that not buying American means nothing when it comes to NSA/GCHQ-proofing your network. Combined with the recent revelations about the NSA's infiltration of Huawei, it appears there are few communications companies these two agencies haven't subverted. Not buying US tech may keep the NSA away momentarily, but the ongoing cooperation of various national intelligence services means it's only a matter of time.

Putin Flushes the US Dollar: Russia’s Gold Ruble Payments System Delinked from Dollar

A New Financial System independent from Wall Street & city begins to take shape concretely in Russia?

the BRICS push back ...begins !
Russia “forced” by the sanctions to create a system independent from the Dollar.  
Russia announces that it will sell (and buy) his products and commodities – including oil – in rubles; not anymore in dollars
Putin has been preparing this move — the creation of a payment system in rubles completely independent and protected from the Dollar and the killer speculations of the big Western financial institutions — for a long time.
After sanctioning several Russian banks to punish Russia for Crimea, the Washington politicians were told by the financial power-to-be to step back because obviously, the Wall Street vampires understand that putting Russian banks outside the reach of their blood sucking teeth is never a good idea.
For Wall Street and the city’s financial services, countries like Russia should always have an open financial door through which their real economy can be periodically looted. So Washington announced that it was a mistake to enforce sanctions on all those Russian banks; only one, the Rossiya bank shall be hit by sanctions, just for propaganda reasons and to make an example out of it.
It is what Putin needed. Since at least 2007, he was trying to launch an independent Ruble System, a financial system that would be based on Russia’s real economy and resources and guaranteed by its gold reserves. No  tolerance for looting and financial speculation: A peaceful move, but at the same time a declaration of independence that Wall Street will consider as a “declaration of war”.
According to the Judo strategy, the sanction attack created the ideal situation for a “defensive” move that would redirect the brute force of the adversary against him.  And now it’s happening. Bank Rossiya will be the first Russian bank to use exclusively the Russian ruble.
The move has not been done in secret. On the contrary. A huge golden ruble symbol will be set up in front of bank Rossiya headquarters in Perevedensky Pereulok in Moscow “to symbolize the rouble’s stability and its backing by the country’s gold reserves,” the official agency Itar-Tass explains quoting the bank officials.  
In fact, the officials  are very clear on their intention to punish the western speculators that have been looting their country for a long time: 
“Russia, at its present stage of development, should not be dependent on foreign currencies; its internal resources will make its own economy invulnerable to political wheeler dealers.”
This is only the first step, declared Andrei Kostin, the president of VTB, another bank previously sanctioned: 
“We have been moving towards wider use of the Russian rouble as the currency of settlement for a long time. The ruble became fully convertible quite a long time ago. Unfortunately, we have seen predominantly negative consequences of this step so far revealed in the outflow of capital from this country. The influx of foreign investments into Russia has been speculative and considerably destabilizing to our stock markets.”
According to Itar-Tass, Kostin was very precise and concrete:
“Russia should sell domestic products – from weapons to gas and oil – abroad for roubles and buy foreign goods also for rubles….Only then are we going to use the advantages of the rouble being a foreign currency in full measure.”
Putin himself lobbied for the new siystem in meetings with members of the Upper House of the Duma, the parliament, on March 28, overcoming the last doubts and indecisions: “
“Why do we not do this? This definitely should be done, we need to protect our interests, and we will do it. These systems work, and work very successfully in such countries as Japan and China. They originally started as exclusively national [systems] confined to their own market and territory and their own population, but have gradually become more and more popular…”
Alea Iacta Est!