Documenting the Tragedy of Newtown

TributeOnHillPA

Saturday the 14th of December marked the anniversary of the latest massacre that took place in a school of the United States. The tragedy that occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School was one of the many that have shocked America, and the whole world, in the last years. Tragic events such as these leave you speechless and it is up to the people that govern that must act decisively. Mass murders, and especially when they are conducted by children, is something despicable and dreadful. It is almost inconceivable and surely not comprehensible or worth deserving any comprehension, but only outrage and condemnation.

Twenty six people, twenty children among them, were the tragic result of the shooting in Newtown. Just right after the moment of the tragedy, the long debate concerning gun ownership started, for yet one more time, in the U.S. President Obama seems determined to change the gun law. However, one year after the massacre, the situation seems largely the same. It goes without a saying: this is going to be a long fight, as both sides  –  the ones that believe that it’s their right to own a gun and the ones that think that the gun law actually fuels mass murders – seem to be determined and strong opinionated.

Credit: Robert Carley "Love Star" Newtown memorial..

Credit: Robert Carley
“Love Star” Newtown memorial..

Before we see any change in America’s law, let’s take a look at another more hopeful initiative that takes place as we speak regarding the horrible events in Newtown.  A group of volunteers is eager to document all of the gifts that were sent after the shooting in memory of the ones that lost their lives because of the despicable tragedy. A huge body of material had been concentrated at the municipality’s buildings before it was moved to a large warehouse. Then, Xerox offered to help the volunteers by launching a website, while people started to take photographs of all of the material gathered in the warehouse.

Municipal_Center_w_letters_-_RMD_2

Credit Ross: MacDonald
Letters to be sent to the town by the Newtown municipal center.

Part of this noble effort is to attract our peers’ will and energy into putting some of the ‘good’ pieces together and understand that there is still hope left for a better world. The young volunteer Dylan Jones is participating in this joint effort as well; he is currently scanning the large body of letters that have been sent in the aftermath of the dreadful event. He has scanned 800 of them till now, but there is still much more to be done.  Volunteers do not act randomly, though. They are being assisted by professional archivists and librarians in their noble effort. The help has been provided by professionals that conducted material recovery activities as a consequence of the tragedy that took place at Virginia tech in 2007.

Credit Ross MacDonald A child's letter to Newtown.

Credit: Ross MacDonald
A child’s letter to Newtown.

The project has been named Condolence Archive and it is supervised by the Connecticut Library and Iron Mountain, the latter being one of the world’s leading experts in archiving and information management. Iron Mountain’s software escrow services and disaster recovery solutions also add to the company’s excellent reputation. Regarding the Condolence Archive project, Iron Mountain executive Samantha Joseph stresses out the importance of preserving the heritage, as “we don’t know how important this material will be in the future”.  This statement actually holds truth, since it is only accurate to assume that this material might be just as valuable to future generations as it is to those living today; it for sure provides with an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and try to build a better, less violent and more peaceful future.

Along with the currently documented material, there is also a book available about the Newtown tragedy. Local resident Sharon Cohen included in the book everything related to initiatives, projects and tributes to the Newtown massacre – the book itself being one of these initiatives. In this book, Cohen successfully supports the argument that these collaborative efforts strengthen communities at times when it’s needed the most.

To sum it up, tragedies like the one that occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown cannot be predicted. Nonetheless, societies and communities must always try hard to prevent and avoid such incidents. As it concerns the heated debate about gun law, according to the Boston Globe, one year after the tragedy in Newtown it might be even easier to buy a gun than before. That means that despite President Obama’s early (and healthy) reaction after the massacre, things haven’t changed. But we can still hope for better…

Advertisements

Preserving Digitally the World’s Historical Sites

Non-profit organization CyArk has launched a very ambitious and essential project. The group aims to digitally preserve the world’s most spectacular historical sites. It will create 3D backups of historical sites in a project that aims to… eternity!

Read More..

Edward Snowden: revealing the ongoing war on data that no one wants to know

report-nicaragua-willing-to-give-asylum-to-edward-snowden

It all started with a young man called Edward Joseph Snowden. A former CIA employee and NSA contractor who publicized many top – secret US and British government mass surveillance programs such as the PRISM, Tempora and Xkeystore.

Some call him a hero, others call him a traitor. The undeniable truth is that he is responsible for the most significant leak in US history.

According to his own words his sole motive was “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them”. Edward Snowden didn’t want the story to be about him. He wanted it to be: “about what the US government is doing… about what kind of world we want to live in”.

The world in shock

Now, the whole world is in shock. Leaders of great nations also expressed their shock. As if this somehow makes them innocent. Angela Merkel puts a sad face and shows her mobile phone. Now look at me, she might had said, I am just like you: “bad spies tapped my phone too”.  “This should not be done among allies”, she complains. She just didn’t expect it. It was such s shock.

I suppose she didn’t know that when a leader of one of the greatest nations of the world uses an unsecured cellphone, there is a high probability that the NSA or any other agency of any country might try to intercept it.

But if Angela Merkel showing her mobile phone with a sad face raises questions, it all becomes quite preposterous when French political leaders express their “deep shock” about the extent of monitoring taking place in their country by US intelligence services.

“France is the evil empire”

France, according to the CEO of a top German satellite manufacturer “is the evil empire, stealing technology and Germany knows this”.

French secret agencies don’t need the US to spy on their citizens. They can do it on their own without help from “outsiders”. According to a revealing article by “Le Monde” the French foreign intelligence service DGSE “systematically collects the electromagnetic signals from computers and phones in France, as well as the exchange [of data] between France and abroad.” The newspaper notes that: “Politicians are perfectly aware of it, but secrecy is the rule”.  I am deeply shocked.

The fact is that French intelligence budget was increased by 9 percent for 1992 — and this was the period just after the end of the Cold War.

The Germans do it. As Hans – Georg Wieck, the former CEO of the German foreign intelligence service BND stated, there was no surprise at the extent of internet surveillance by British and US intelligence agencies. These are “the natural, daily bread of the secret services”—including the BND.

Everyone spies

China, South Korea, Japan, also do it.

Even Canada does it; The Canadian Secret Agency spied on the Brazilian mining and energy ministry. Then they met in Ottawa with corporations that have interests in Brazil and briefed them on everything they had learnt. You see, there are more than 40 Canadian companies involved in Brazil’s mining sector. The stakes are high.

It is not even about terrorism or security anymore. It is about economy and corporations.

After the end of the Cold War it was clear that international rivalry would be economic rather than political – military. Consequently, in the US, the Clinton administration decided to establish the National Economic Council. From that moment after economic issues where of the same importance as national security issues. Even a “war room” was established by the Commerce Department.

This change had an effect on US intelligence agencies. International trade and competitiveness was the new battlefield. CIA’s director-designate R. James Woolsey said in 1993 that economic intelligence has become “the hottest current topic in intelligence policy”.

Economic security similar to military security

Other great nations followed similar paths. For all of them economic security is similar to military security. If many things were permitted towards achieving traditional security the same applied to economic security.

Pierre Marion, the former director of DGSE, the French equivalent of the CIA described France as a notorious economic spy: “We are really allied. But in the economic competition, in the technological competition, we are competitors; we are not allied.” For him, it was natural that the US will receive the most attention from intelligence services: “America has the most technical information of relevance. It is easily accessible.”

Stansfield Turned, intelligence director during the Carter administration had a similar view: “If economic strength should be now recognized as a vital component of national security, parallel with military power, why should America be concerned about stealing and employing economic secrets?”

Nobody knows anything

The entire world is doing it and yet no one seems to know anything about it.

Some say that all this is too obviously hypocritical, statements meant for public opinion. Noone really wants the spying “monster” killed because they raised it.

And it is true, if the French and German governments cared so much about their citizens learning that their privacy and data are being systematically assaulted and used without their consent wouldn’t it make sense that their government would be the first to offer asylum to the person who made everything visible? Instead, they denied him of any support; they didn’t listen to his pleas for protection of his basic political rights. They were even hostile. It was like they tried to stop him from leaking more secrets.

Edward Snowden as a villain

Many believe that the open outrage expressed by nations against NSA practices was really an outrage towards the person who revealed all their secrets and the media who made them public. Something larger was in stake..

Governments already knew, citizens didn’t; They “didn’t have to know”.

Edward Snowden made evident that there is a whole system based on economic espionage and data collection. It takes place in unprecedented levels. And this is “business as usual”.

Revising the 1995 data protection law

From this point of view the discussion opened by the revelations about the NSA surveillance programs around the necessity of a revision of the 1995 data protection law in the European Union reflecting the changing nature of internet usage should be seen as part of an ongoing economic war that has become central for the security of nations after the end of the Cold War. And it is more than clear that in our times of crisis data is more important than ever. It can be decisive.

“We have to accept that apparently, the NSA is monitoring the entire global telecommunications goings-on. We have to achieve a political, international agreement that this is unacceptable and has to be limited,” said Alexander Dix, Berlin Commissioner for Data Protection. “This applies to other intelligence [bureaus] as well, not only the American ones”.

http://rt.com/news/data-protection-rules-eu-491/

100 million euro fines for breaching data protection

This measure if approved will force companies outside the EU such as Facebook, Yahoo and Google to comply with European data protection laws when they operate in Europe. Fines for breaching data protection rules could reach up to 100 million euros. In the new legislation prepared there is also a “right to erasure” clause that limits the access of internet companies to the private data of users.

The draft approved on October 21st – with a record-breaking 4,000 amendments – has elements that aim at winning over skeptical business interests with requirements for small and midsize organizations and businesses – as long as their central focus is not information processing – being much less than larger companies.

Complying with new requirements

With changes of such great scale taking place organizations of any size trust well – established companies on the sector of data protection to help them cope with new requirements.

Iron mountain is a company with a long history of high quality data protection services that are designed to mitigate risks in compliance with regulations that demand uniform processes and accountability.

It is not just a requirement of the law, it is a necessity. In a world where securing data is linked to the survival of businesses, institutions, even nations, no one has the right to pretend being shocked. It just won’t do it.

Trust: It’s the Bottom Line of Life

Emmanuel Sumithran Gnanamanickam, a community leader and manager of an NGO in South India, is an inspiring young man. He and his small group of people have dedicated their lives to provide basic health care, education and support to tribal groups in the region. He said that his experience with the tribes taught him a very important lesson:

unless you are willing to trust, and be trusted by people, life cannot go on, because a lot of what happens in life is based on trust. It’s the bottom line of life”.

There are quite a few things that have happened recently that made me also think about trust, how important it is for our lives. There is an unprecedented crisis that affects us all. Companies close, people are left unemployed; there is a lot of insecurity and uncertainty out there. Many seem to have lost their confidence in their government or even towards society as a whole. Others feel betrayed as if somehow a contract has been broken. I have heard too many speak of their lost faith in the human kind; they are our friends, our neighbors, our family.

Our lives are woven together as in a fabric, but the connections that used to make society strong now seem to make us vulnerable. What we seem to be lacking of is trust and somehow this seems to have a negative effect on everyone’s life.  It is proven for example that where trust is low, crime and corruption are high.

From a business perspective, IBM boss Thomas J. Watson notes that: “The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy.”

2313121248_433da57c57_z

Trust is valuable and needs to be fostered. Trust is the key. When you are in a relationship, if you can’t trust the person you are with, the relationship will fail. Trust involves a degree of vulnerability; People feel safe in the hands of another therefore share personal information, feelings, thoughts. It is necessary in a romantic relationship, in a relationship of a patient with a doctor, in a relationship between a customer and a company, between a citizen and his government. Trust is a silent contract; people have confidence that the other part will not act or use information shared against their interests and will fulfill a certain role.

Almost everything evolves a relationship of trust. A trivial thing like driving a car is based on trust. If I didn’t trust that the drivers of the cars coming against me would stay on their own side of the road, driving would become a very difficult and dangerous experience. A law is valid only when people trust that it is on their interest and act accordingly.

To give another example, if I was lost in a country I‘ve never been and I didn’t trust the people, I would be quite stressed and full of anxiety when asking directions or any kind of request. I would personally spend a lot of time and energy to evaluate the correctness of the information handed to me in fear of being tricked into an unknown and unpleasant situation. You’ve seen horror movies. You know how it all starts and how it ends. Can you really trust these strange people?

Yes, you guessed correctly, low trust makes you paranoid…

The simple fact is that you don’t have to get lost in a strange country with strange people to become paranoid. Just ask all those who don’t trust their government. Maybe they have a real reason.  According to recent researches, fewer Americans than ever trust their government to solve their problems. The same goes for British and Greeks  to give but a few examples of a growing global tendency.

And what happens when citizens don’t trust politicians? They seem to get drawn towards conspiracy theories. In Greece, more and more people believe in the theory of chemtrails. Paranoia, is a sign of low trust and signifies a severely damaged relationship; in the case of Greece between citizens and government.

We live in times of a crisis. These are difficult times for many that test the strength of our relationships. This is true for individuals, as it is for companies and governments. My recent observations would suggest that nowadays more than ever progression in business demands uncommon levels of trust. Buyers are more nervous than ever before. And it makes sense.

The only way to turn this situation around is by really caring for your customer. You see, the thing about trust is that you can’t fake it. And this is where actions speak louder than words. Action is the only language of trust.

In the field of business, an example of such an action that helps foster a relationship of trust is a software escrow agreement http://www.ironmountain.co.uk/services/software-escrow.

. It is signed between developers and users of software to ensure that despite what happens, in case of an uncontrolled catastrophe, due to a bankruptcy or a merger with another company, the user of the product will not be left without access to the source code that might be required for maintenance, disaster recovery or upgrades. And this can make the difference.

As Emmanuel Sumithran Gnanamanickam said, trust is vital; without it “life cannot go on, because a lot of what happens in life is based on trust. It’s the bottom line of life”. In our difficult times (which will unfortunately be with us for quite a long) this is truer than ever. In the end, “to be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved” (George MacDonald, The Marquis of Lossie, 1877). Just think about it.