EPIC Endorses “Shadow Report” on Maine Fusion Center

A group of activists in Maine released a shadow report on the Maine Information Analysis Center (MIAC), and called for a meaningful independent audit of the center. Last year Maine’s legislature nearly voted to close the MIAC and opted instead to require a privacy audit, though critics argue that an audit by the MIAC’s advisory board will be biased and is inadequate to address a series of scandals at the fusion center over the last two years. 

The shadow report “documents a series of problems and concerns posed by the MIAC:  organizational dysfunction, a hyper-focus on property and drug crimes, bias and disinformation in intelligence bulletins, conflicts of interest in its oversight, violations of individual privacy, civil rights and civil liberties, questions about MIAC’s information systems and analytic capabilities, and concerns about its impact on vulnerable populations.” EPIC endorsed the report. In recent years, EPIC has urged the Department of Homeland security to investigate fusion centers.

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Get to Know the Soil Through Your Stomach

Matthew Evans, The Gourmet Farmer, was once Australia’s “most feared restaurant critic.” What he savours most down under nowadays is the soil that grows the food on his family’s Fat Pig Farm. You might think a connoisseur of cuisine turned farmer would be a soil snob. But the Gourmet Farmer speaks with true wonder about soil, pondering the many ways it is the very source of life and food that sustains us. He treats the earth beneath our feet as an ongoing discovery, offering down-to-earth advice on getting to know where food comes from – finding the natural connection of what he calls “soil to stomach.”

A chef by trade, Matthew sees dinner in the paddock. He wants other people to have the same experience of knowing their food – from growing to eating it. But he also knows many people have trouble enough just tracking down dinner in the fridge, much less reading labels. Still, even he doesn’t feel the need to be perfect in the messy quest for the right food. For him, it starts with the sheer joy of using your senses to discover the flavour of real food that comes from good soil. And the sense to pass over the kind of fare that’s been bred to be bland. His advice: if you can’t smell the fragrance of a strawberry, don’t buy it! Whatever food you pick, pick as close to the original source as you can.

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Handling Trash and Garbage at a Remote Home, by Mrs. Alaska

Editor’s Introductory Note:  This article will prove to be instructive for anyone preparing for a grid-down societal collapse,  where public services are disrupted.

Living off-grid, a 20-minute flight from the nearest road means not only that we receive no electricity, but also no municipal services at all, including those for disposal of garbage, trash, sewage, and gray water. So we have become very intentional about what we buy, make, and use, because we have to figure out how to dispose of or repurpose what remains.

The following are some examples of what we do with wood ash, packaging, vegetable and meat leftovers (including bones), animal and human waste, and construction debris. Some ideas are pertinent to suburban and urban homes, too.

Wood ash:
As a fertilizer, wood ash reads 0-1-3 and softens acidic soil, which is exactly what our property needs. Hardwoods are higher in the desired nutrients than softwoods, according to the U of Oregon extension office. Do not use wood ash on potatoes or the related families of blueberries/azaleas/rhododendrons, which like acidic soil. I also toss it with the chicken straw in the coop
as a deodorizer. The hens seem to like to dust their feathers with it to discourage mites.

Vegetable waste:
Kitchen and garden scraps can be fed to any of the animals (except citrus, potatoes, and onions) or trenched directly into gardens to enrich the soil. Some items work well in a compost tea or insect repellent. For example, sprays made from onion, garlic, red pepper, rhubarb, and tomato leaves repel many pests. Coffee and coffee grounds are best for acid-loving plants. In fact, the Botanical Garden in Anchorage plants its potatoes in pots filled only with coffee grounds scrounged from local coffee bars. Banana and orange peels deter aphids, deliver potassium, phosphorous, and some nitrogen. Great around roses. I also dry all citrus peels (orange, lemon, and lime) for use in cooking. Do you like Chinese orange chicken? It is prepared with dried orange or tangerine peel. Marmalades, anyone? My husband adds orange peel to his beer recipe. When I press berries through the food mill, I save the seedly pulp as a winter treat for the hens. They love it!

Eggshells deliver calcium – particularly important to tomatoes and squash and the poultry themselves (pulverized) and they deter slugs (but are safe for red wigglers in vermiculture). One winter, when we have fewer animals and frozen gardens, we kept red wigglers in the cabin and fed the excess vegetable matter to them, but now I have all these alternatives. I have not been successful with a compost pile.

Meat leftovers:
All bones are made into soup stock, then offered to the poultry. After they have picked them clean, the bones are tossed into the fire box of the wood fired hot tub to burn to ash for the gardens (0-12-0 nutrients). (Burning bones smells bad, so I do not do so in our woodstove.) I cut up meat fat and chicken skin…

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Best Way to Whiten Teeth Naturally Recipe

Activated charcoal is used in products like supplements, soaps, shampoos, face masks, and even toothpastes. A black toothpaste may seem strange, but manufacturers claim that it can lead to brighter teeth. ‌

Nothing brightens or whitens teeth like Activated Charcoal.

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is very similar to the regular charcoal you can fire up your barbeque with, however it is specifically used for medical applications. It’s created by heating up charcoal using a gas that creates large pores in the mineral which trap chemicals.

Activated charcoal is more traditionally used to treat intestinal gas, cholestasis during pregnancy, and lower cholesterol levels. It is odourless, tasteless, and can be purchased from health food stores and pharmacies in the form of tablets.

How to use Activated Charcoal while brushing your teeth:

  1. Place a small amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush and dip it in some Activated Charcoal.
  2. Next just add just a little bit of water and begin to brush like normal.
  3. Don’t be frightened by the black messy substance in your mouth, it will not stain your teeth or skin.
  4. Rinse well… then rinse again.
  5. Do warned that Activated Charcoal can stain clothing, so be careful.
  6. This process will result in clean and bright teeth is beneficial  for the body not toxic.

Charred Willow Bark that has been subjected to an oxidizing gas at elevated temperatures.

Charcoal teeth whitening DIY

If you’d like to try activated charcoal to whiten your teeth, you can purchase it as a powder or in capsules that you open. Mix with water to make a paste. You can also try sprinkling the charcoal onto your wet finger or toothbrush.

Keep in mind that this technique may be hard to finesse. Activated charcoal can also stain fabrics and countertops.

  • Activated charcoal may damage any fillings, crowns, or other dental work. If you’ve had damaged or broken teeth repaired, talk to your dentist before trying activated charcoal toothpaste or tablets.

  • Do not attempt to use activated charcoal to whiten your teeth if you have gum disease, or if your gums typically bleed when you brush your teeth normally.

  • Consult your dentist before trying any at-home whitening methods to be sure that the method is safe for your teeth.

Image source: https://www.wikihow.com/Use-Activated-Charcoal-for-Teeth-Whitening

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7 Ways to Prep for a Wartime Economy

Prep for a Wartime Economy - 7 Ways to Prepare for Supply Chain Shortages

By the end of 2021, we experienced two new variants of the COVID pandemic (Delta & Omicron). There has been a decrease in housing inventory, causing home prices to soar to a 19.9% in value. The United States has experienced a 7% increase in inflation, a shortage of microchips affecting the supply of home appliances and electronic gear, favorite food items randomly going missing from stores periodically, coin shortages at local retailers, and emergency preparedness gear out of stock.   

In 2022, We see photos of destruction in Ukraine and war stories filtered through our news feeds. Our fuel prices are soaring, and food prices continue to climb. It can have a frightening effect! The U.S. has placed “severe sanctions” against Russia for attacking Ukraine. We can only speculate how Russia will respond and how these sanctions will affect the U.S. economy. Russia’s top exports are wheat, crude oilnatural gas, precious metals, fertilizer, and metals (iron, steel, copper, aluminum). 

It brings to mind questions like, is there a way to prep for a wartime economy? Am I prepared for higher food prices, grain shortages, stock market fluctuations, and a sense of peace despite economic changes? 

Peace comes from having a plan! If you have been gathering extra food and stocking away other essential survival gear, then the answer is YES! Being prepared takes planning. Will there be some inconveniences – SURE – but that is life! It is important not to get caught up in doomsday headlines. Below are seven ways to prep for a wartime economy and feel some measure of control during uncertain times.

 

7 Ways to Prep a Wartime Economy

 

1. Consider Ways to Use Less Gas

With sanctions on Russia, it is widely believed that we will continue to see fuel prices race upwards. We use gas in our cars, trucks, RVs, generators, and lawnmowers. A hefty increase in prices can devastate a household’s budget. Make simple changes now before you feel the hurt in your pocketbook. Meal plan and try consolidating all of your errands to fewer trips to the supermarket per month. Teardrop Trailers are in high demand. Gas-guzzling RVs are being traded for smaller, gas economic trailers. Electric bikes are another way you can minimize fuel costs. 

 

 

2. Stock Up On Grains

Russia is the #1 international exporter of wheat. Common food staples such as pasta, bread, and cereal are made of wheat. It was hard to find these food items during the start of the pandemic; most grocery stores couldn’t get these items on the shelves fast enough. Grains were sold out! Currently, most have restocked their inventory. So now is a good time to stock up on grains your family eats on a regular basis. Living…

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Playing Both Sides: Impact of Tech Industry on Early Federal AI Policy

By Ben Winters, EPIC Counsel

This week, Politico’s Alex Thompson detailed the close relationship between the Biden administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and Schmidt Futures, the philanthropic initiative of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The links between Schmidt Futures and Biden’s OSTP add to the already significant influence of Schmidt, who is heavily invested in AI companies, in crafting AI policy for the United States.

Politico’s piece explained how the organization indirectly paid the salaries of now-OSTP Chief of Staff Marc Aidinoff while he was working for the agency and had a similar arrangement for other OSTP staffers. Another OSTP staff member was urged by OSTP’s legal team to withdraw from a Schmidt Futures-funded fellowship. Politico also reported that “Twoother OSTP officials continued to work part-time at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT in Cambridge, Mass., a leading biotech facility that had been headed by [former OSTP Director Eric] Lander and where Schmidt chairs the board.”

The U.S. Government has not yet enacted legislation or dedicated substantial funding to protecting individuals from the threats that automated decision-making systems and AI pose to privacy rights or the discriminatory impacts they encode and exacerbate. Despite some agency steps toward protecting individuals—such as actions taken by the Federal Trade Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—a pair of largely unfulfilled Executive Orders and piecemeal enforcement has ensured that federal policy prioritizes AI development over the protection of rights. EPIC detailed this funding disparity in recent comments to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. EPIC advocates for building oversight, testing, and regulatory capacity to prevent, control and remediate AI harm.

The federal government has, however, created several influential advisory boards to help inform policy and funding decisions. One of these bodies was the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, or NSCAI. The NSCAI was charged with “review[ing] advances in artificial intelligence, related machine learning developments, and associated technologies” and making policy recommendations to Congress and the President. The NSCAI, like the Defense Innovation Board, was chaired by Eric Schmidt and included executives of large tech companies that regularly vie for defense contracts such as Google, Oracle, and Amazon. These companies stand to profit from the recommendations the Commission made.

Although squarely covered by the Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires advisory committees to hold open public meetings, the NSCAI initially refused to comply with its transparency obligations. EPIC filed suit after the Commission failed to act on EPIC’s open government requests throughout its first year of operation. As a result of EPIC’s case, the Commission was ordered by a court to open its meetings and records to the public. As part of the Commission’s compliance with EPIC’s FOIA request, EPIC received several presentations from outside groups that informed some of the NSCAI’s report: one which framed U.S. AI policy in terms of direct competition with China and argued that the U.S. was lacking…

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Prepping Your Home for a Wartime Economy

Prepping Your Home for a Wartime Economy

By the end of 2021, we experienced two new variants of the COVID pandemic (Delta & Omicron); home prices have soared to a 19.9% increase in value, and there has been a decrease in housing inventory. We experienced a 7% increase in inflation, a shortage of microchips affecting the supply of home appliances and electronic gear, favorite food items randomly going missing from stores periodically, coin shortages at local retailers, and emergency preparedness gear out of stock.   

We see photos of destruction in Ukraine and war stories filtered through our news feeds. Our fuel prices are soaring, and food prices continue to climb. It can have a frightening effect! The U.S. has placed “severe sanctions” against Russia for attacking Ukraine. We can only speculate how Russia will respond and how these sanctions will affect the U.S. economy. Russia’s top exports are wheat, crude oilnatural gas, precious metals, fertilizer, and metals (iron, steel, copper, aluminum). 

It brings to mind questions like: am I prepared for higher prices, grain shortages, stock market fluctuations, or a host of other things. 

If you have been prepping (gathering food storage and stocking away other essential survival gear), then it’s possible that YES, you are prepared for whatever the future holds. Will there be some inconveniences – SURE – but that is life! It is important not to get caught up in doomsday headlines. Here are several ways to prep your home for a wartime economy and feel some measure of control during uncertain times.

 

Prepping Your Home for a Wartime Economy

 

1. Consider Ways to Use Less Gas

With sanctions on Russia, it is widely believed that we will continue to see fuel prices race upwards. We use gas in our cars, trucks, RVs, generators, and lawnmowers. A hefty increase in prices can devastate a household’s budget. Make simple changes now before you feel the hurt in your pocketbook. Meal plan and take one trip to the store a month instead of going once a week. Many preppers are trading in their gas-guzzling RVs for small Teardrop Trailers. Electric bikes are another way you can minimize fuel costs. Last year my household gas budget was $180 (I know that is much lower than most US households). I’m making budget adjustments now as prices continue to climb.

 

 

2. Stock Up On Grains

Did you know that Macaroni and Cheese were very popular during WWII? When dairy was rationed and in short supply during the war, a box of Mac & Cheese satisfied people’s cravings for the taste of cheese. Are you into sweet, spicy, crunchy, cheesy, chocolatey, or salty? Make sure you have some basic food staples stocked away, plus some foods that will curb a craving. I’ve been stashing a few boxes of brownies.

Russia is…

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EPIC Recommends CFPB Strengthen Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) Market Inquiry on Customer Acquisition and Data Practices

EPIC has submitted comments applauding the Bureau’s inquiry into the growing Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) alternative credit market, but urging the Bureau to inquire further into customer acquisition and data governance practices. Rohit Chopra, Director of the CFPB, described BNPL as “the new version of the old layaway plan, but with modern, faster twists where the consumer gets the product immediately but gets the debt immediately too.” BNPL consumers are typically lower-income, younger, and experience greater income volatility. Successfully paying off BNPL credit does not strengthen the consumer’s credit because BNPL is an alternative form of credit, however failure to pay can negatively impact a consumer’s traditional credit rating. EPIC explained that “business models predicated on using alternative data present a substantial risk for predatory practices.” EPIC’s recommendations included that the CFPB request more granular detail about BNPL providers’: customer targeting and acquisition programs; acquisition and use of consumer data; data minimization, retention, and deletion practices; and policies regarding consumer and third-party access to data and to provider decisions. EPIC regularly files comments and amicus briefs on matters related to consumer privacy, big data, and algorithmic accountability, especially in the context of determinations of creditworthiness.

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The National Law Review: Federal Court Dismisses Litigation Challenging U.S. Postal Service’s Use of Facial Recognition and Related Technologies

A federal court the end of last week dismissed a litigation challenging the U.S. Postal Service’s (“USPS”) use of facial recognition and related technologies to collect personal data, finding that the group which filed the claims lacked standing.  Electronic Privacy Information Center v. United States Postal Service et al., Case No. 1:21-cv-02156 (D.D.C.).  As it is anticipated the use of facial recognition and AI will continue to be challenged by plaintiffs and other parties in privacy litigations going forward, the resolution in this particular dispute is relevant for other cases, particularly insofar as government activity in this space is concerned.  Read on to learn more.

In August of last year the Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”) filed on behalf of itself and its members alleging that the USPS failed to comply with the E-Government Act.  This law, which was enacted in 2002, was designed to improve the Government’s use of information technology “in a manner consistent with laws regarding protection of personal privacy, national security . . . and other relevant laws.”  116 Stat. 2899, 2901 (2002) (Act), codified at 44 U.S.C. § 3501.

Read more here.

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Crop Plot Rotation In Very Small Spaces (Infographic)

In previous articles, we covered the concept of growing in guilds, or growing crops together that share common requirements. We also looked at the maximum efficiency of grouping three guilds or beds together to grow in what I call triads.

But we also know about the proven importance of plot rotation to soil health and crop resilience. In this application, too, the guild concept has notable advantages, especially for backyard gardeners who grow in very small spaces.

In the text and infographic below, let’s look at how growers can execute crop plot rotation in very small spaces.

Read more: Index guilds can help you learn about your soil and crops. Establish one this year for permaculture success.

1. Crop Rotation Schedule (below)

The crop rotation schedule for very small-scale growers will be the same as for other growers. The difference is the limited plot size.

For very small growers, this means most of the rotation groups are held in reserve over the years. These crops are only planted when it is their turn to occupy the very small garden space.

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crop rotation plot infographiccourtesy of Zach Loeks

2. Very Small Plot Crop Rotation (above)

A very small-scale backyard gardener may only grow a guild of one triad as their entire plot. Or maybe they grow up to three triads as their entire plot.

This limits the number of rotation groups that can actually practically grow in any one year.

As such the guild crop rotation is managed over the years by growing only one to three rotation groups each year. In this way the grower can also focus on a limited number of varieties each year for best management practices.

For instance managing disease on very small property becomes problematic if all crops are grown in a small plot at the same time each year. Why? Because there is always an adjacency issue.

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