The Daily Visionary: Thursday, November 8, 2018

Photo Credit: Fossbytes

Photo Credit: Fossbytes

‘Creepy’ Facebook feature knows who you stand next to


Facebook has invented a system that suggests new friends based on who you've stood near to, for example, who you stood with on the train, in your office, or at a nightclub, even after you've left. The feature was revealed in a patent won by Facebook in the U.S. and works by using existing technology inside your smartphone.


Though Facebook has said they file patents all the time for technology they won’t necessarily use, this is a discomforting development in Facebook's ongoing saga of cybersecurity and privacy. In March 2018, Facebook was forced to reveal a major gap in its cybersecurity that allowed app makers to steal data on millions of users without their permission, and by late September, Facebook admitted that hackers had gained complete access to tens of millions of accounts. This month, hackers posted private messages from 81,000 hacked Facebook accounts and promised to sell info for 120 million accounts.


The patent application reads: "Under conventional approaches, a first user who desires to connect with a second user usually knows the second user's name, contact information, or at least has some level of mutual connection with the second user." Facebook says that if a user forgets to obtain another person's contact information when they meet, or don’t have mutual connections then it "can be challenging or inefficient" to find that person on the app later.


 U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions Resigns


Attorney General Jeff Sessions Resigns has resigned from his position in the Department of Justice the day after the midterm election. In a letter addressed to President Trump, Sessions wrote, “At your request, I am submitting my resignation.”


Sessions’ Chief of Staff, Matthew Whitaker, will become the acting Attorney General and a permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date. The resignation should not be considered a surprise, as President Trump previously signaled there would be changes to his administration after the midterms. Sessions, initially among the President’s most loyal supporters lost favour after his recusal from the Russia investigation. For more than a year, President Trump repeatedly criticized Sessions, saying he wouldn’t have selected Sessions as Attorney General had he known Sessions would ultimately recuse himself as Special Counsel in Robert Mueller's investigation.


Canadian veterans shortchanged $165 million by government accounting error


Canada's Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent has uncovered an estimated CAD$165 million accounting error which has shorted approximately 270,000 Veterans, former members of the Canadian Forces or Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Survivors, and their estates who are receiving a disability pension.


Ombudsman Parent released information this week on the accounting indexation error by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), which estimates that this error could total around CAD$165 million for the period of 2003 and 2010. The error has deprived thousands of Veterans of indexation increases to their monthly disability pension.  The Office of the Veterans Ombudsman (OVO) uncovered the error when they analyzed the math behind the implementation of a change to the Disability Award. The provincial basic tax credit was not factored into the calculation of provincial income tax as it was supposed to be, resulting in lower payments for Veterans.


Ombudsman Parent has also released his 2018 report card detailing the government's response to recommendations made by the ombudsman's office over the past ten years. He said progress has been made on the veterans file since his update last year, adding that the government has addressed 72 per cent of his recommendations, or 46 out of 64. However, he also noted the most important recommendations out of the remaining 18 left untouched include ensuring that veterans are being reimbursed for treatment expenses under the Veterans Well-being Act, and that reimbursement is retroactive to the date of the original application. This means that some veterans are going without treatment because they're not likely to pay for their medical expenses out of pocket when faced with lengthy delays getting reimbursed.


The report follows a review by House of Commons defence and veterans committees over the past several years of hundreds of applications for assistance by former service members. Fourteen different studies were conducted on how to improve services, benefits and the lives of ex-soldiers, sailors and aircrew. Collectively, the all-party MPs committees made a jaw-dropping 190 recommendations for improvements to those systems and services at both National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada.


Madagascar voters choose a president


Madagascar’s ten million registered voters have thirty-six candidates to choose from in their Presidential election, the top three of whom have been the country’s most recent leaders: former President Marc Ravalomanana, who ruled between 2002 and 2009, former President Andry Rajoelina, during the transitional period of 2009 to 2013, and former President Hery Rajaonarimampianina, from 2013 to 2018.


All candidates have all promised to improve the country's economy, create new jobs and end graft, which is unlikely if any of the top three leaders win. With an estimated seventy-six percent of its twenty-five million people in extreme poverty, Madagascar is one of the world's poorest countries.


Preliminary results are expected by November 14 and officials have until November 28 to declare the final results. The winner must take more than fifty percent of the votes cast and with so many candidates, it is likely the race will go to a second round, scheduled for December 19.


Update on the migrant caravan from Central America to the U.S.


Starting in Honduras last month, four caravans are currently traveling inside Mexico of approximately 12,000 Central American migrants. This week, hundreds of migrants began arriving in Mexico City, which is seven hundred miles from the U.S. border. The leading migrant caravan of 4,500 migrants pushing its way to the U.S. border appears to be at a crossroads Wednesday, as members weigh offers to stay in Mexico or continue their journey northward.


Mexico has been denying requests by the migrants to send organized buses to ferry the caravan to the U.S. border. Instead, Mexico has offered work visas or the granting of status as a refugee or asylum seeker. The government says 2,697 temporary visas so far had been issued to individuals and families to cover them while they waited for the 45-day application process for a more permanent status.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has said there is intelligence indicating the caravan of migrants making their way through Mexico includes a limited number of people from outside the region, including the Middle East. "We absolutely see people from the Middle East, from southeast Asia, from other parts of the world -- not just from Central America," Nielsen said in a recent interview, “We are hearing from our partners in the region -- in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, in Mexico -- that they have some concern with respect to the timing and the particular organization of these caravans. They're not organic if you will. They're definitely organized or financed."


Nielsen said DHS “very seriously” is attempting to determine the origins of these caravans and stated mass migrations aren’t safe for the migrants and allow criminal elements to prey on vulnerable people who may otherwise have a legitimate asylum claim. She also echoed warnings from Guatemala’s intelligence chief that the most vulnerable are pushed ahead in an apparent effort to frustrate border police and the military. "They don't want to get into a confrontation with a child, more women and so they're almost being used as barriers at the front of some of these caravans, but what I will say is the other caravans coming up are mostly single males," she said.


The Obama administration had tweaked U.S. asylum rules to allow for claims of domestic and gang violence. The Trump administration, through Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has returned to the original statutory language, which only allows non-citizens to remain in the U.S. if they can establish a credible fear of persecution at home based on race, religion, political thought, nationality or social class, which appears to be a small minority among the current migrants.