A Question of Privacy: Subtle Threats we’ve permitted

It has already been three months since NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, stunned the whole world with information leakage regarding NSA phone and Internet surveillance programs. Since then, people have been arguing nonstop and contemplating on the issue but where have these put us, so far?

People must stop arguing about the issue of privacy v. security – which isn’t getting us anywhere – and instead focus on another, slightly overlooked, factor in this equation: ourselves.

The Trade-Off
In this ridiculously overwhelming information-ran world of today, information-trading is the name of the game. Francis Bacon was right. Knowledge is, indeed, power and whoever holds the most knowledge holds the most power. Surely, our intelligence agencies are at the heart of it. But maybe we played along ourselves.

The 9/11 tragedy was enough to put everyone in a state of paranoia which may have paved the way for these privacy-for-security trade-offs into our lives. Twelve years later, these little trade-offs have blown full scale right under our noses and have blinded us with promises of security. Little did we know that perhaps our “yes’s” to little things such as “this website would like to access your personal information” or “Facebook would like to access your profile”, or even a simple subscription to alarm monitoring services and such, etc. were already initiations into how our current world operates. Bit by bit, we were being molded to embrace information-trading as a normal part of our daily lives.

People nowadays have gotten used to giving off information to gain access to more information. It’s been deeply embedded in our society that everyone’s doing it, just not as large and impacting a scale as what NSA, CIA, etc. are doing. Maybe this is why we’ve neither gone silent nor aggressive on the matter. The truth is, as infuriating as this is, we’re still groping around something we’re not entirely sure about. Of course we’re enraged by the total invasion of our privacy but maybe, we’re partly to blame for it. Maybe we let it happen somehow.

We all know the probabilities of it happening. We’ve seen it in movies, in news articles, and so on. And now that we’re faced with actual evidence, we’re left dumbfounded and in a state of panic and pin-pointing.

Under the Lens
This is not to say we are letting the government or intelligence agencies working on these secretive privacy-invasion operations off the hook. They are supposedly the ones running this country, ensuring the safety of the public. Recently, however, we’re finding that perhaps the means by which we are protected may be the very thing we need protection from.

Recent events urge us to suspect that perhaps the intelligence agencies are the real shot-callers and the president, just a face of the government. What’s really being protected here are not the people’s interests, but the people behind the government and their interests at large.

The nation is being policed by a handful of people who are always on-guard for any possible naysayer. Everyone is put under the magnifying lens and is up for interrogation when the need arises. In truth, however, we are all guilty of the same thing. We’re already willingly divulging personal information every day, just not aware of up to what extent it is actually being used. We consume information, even others’ personal information, for our own purposes. In a way, we keep track of each other, putting everyone under our own lenses. The noteworthy difference between us and the higher-ups is the level of willingness and scale of impact each holds. Not to mention, the availability of actual consent.

Call for Action
The world has gone upside down. Everyone is presumed guilty until proven innocent. Who else can be trusted? Clearly the government is implying we cannot be trusted. If our own government cannot trust us, why must we trust them?
It’s time to take a stand. No more accepting this as simply a means to their proposed end. Otherwise, they will continue to sacrifice every ounce of our privacy for our supposed security.

Circumstances affect people’s perceptions. Due to how our world operates today, we’ve learned to engage in seemingly harmless trade-offs. Apparently, we’ve been giving up more than what we originally bargained for and we’ve been doing so ever since. Clearly, if there is one thing that must change first, it is our mindset. How we approach and handle this issue depends on our knowledge and ability to grasp what is really in question and what is at stake. Changing how we think will affect how we act later on.

Combating Paranoia: What we really need to protect ourselves from

You go online to check your twitter and your Facebook and to update yourself whether the person you’ve been stalking has done something different since the last time you checked on him 30 minutes ago. Hey, a lot can happen in 30 minutes right?  You enjoy the fact that he has no way of finding out that you’ve been stalking him. And yet you feel bad that the “Big brother era” is here and now. You worry that the government is trying to keep an eye on your activities online because you think your privacy is being put at stake.

Based on a research by the University of Southern California, an increasing number of internet users are concerned about what seems to be internet spies of the government. In addition to their opinions on confidentiality, the latest report also found that 86 percent of Americans are online, from 82 percent in 2010. This is the highest level in the study’s history and auxiliary proof of how fundamental the Internet has become in American’s lives, especially in the age of mobile devices. Who doesn’t have a phone nowadays? Everybody is online. Even those who we thought despised technology are now embracing it fully.  One of the reasons the typical American is worried about their online activity being spied on is the fact they do not feel comfortable knowing that some agencies are collecting their information. Online activity is one way of understanding the behavior and interests of people. However, the government has for so many times reassured that what they do is to protect ad not invade our privacy.

 

Allow me to make sense of what this is about. This isn’t also about me telling you that it’s acceptable that the government wants to spy on you online because who are you anyway? What harm could you cause America?  I would probably feel the same if I find out that some CIA emissaries are lurking online to see what emails I have been sending another person or what YouTube videos I’ve been watching. For all we know it could be and mean something else. However, I’d like you to take yourself out of the misery of worrying about your online freedom because certain statistics show that there are way more serious problems that you should worry about other than wasting your time fretting over unseen enemies.

Have you ever thought about how safe your house is from burglars? Do you get to sleep peacefully at night not worrying that some people just might force themselves in? These and more are the things that most of us fail to mull simply because we are too busy fighting for online freedom. I don’t want to sound so slack but you can worry about your online freedom later. For now, let’s analyze the one fear which should be of your immediate concern.

With the fast paced world and the pile of things we need to do we very seldom get to check how our own household is going. It is but weird that we have the time to check our social networking accounts but we rarely have time to check our home security. Of course we make assumptions that our home is our safe place. While this may be true, we have to be reminded of how tricky and smart home burglars can get and how they could actually get in our house in 5 minutes and steal away everything we’ve worked hard for.

According to studies by a number of home security companies, 88% of Americans worry about their homes getting burglarized, yet only 22% have a home alarm system. This is due to the awareness of most Americans that a home security system may easily be paralyzed by cutting the phone line. It is for this reason that companies came up with wireless alarm systems that cannot easily be defeated by burglars. This home security basic may just save you from losing everything that you have. What’s more interesting is that this security system is meant for non-experts. They are simple and may be assembled at the comfort of your own home.

Want another interesting idea to protect your home from burglars? How about trying to burglarize your own home? This may sound ridiculous but the only way to finds out the strengths and weaknesses of your home security is by trying to think and act like a burglar. Consider locking your home even when you’re going out for just a short while. Many burglars can just walk inside a house and do their jobs spot on. Change all your locks if you just moved in to your new home. I know that you have to leave home almost every day but you don’t have to announce it to the world. It’s better if you leave it looking occupied all the time. We can go on with a longer list of home security basics but if you do not keep it in your head and act haphazardly all the time all these things will just be put to waste. What I’m trying to say really, more than these no nonsense tips is that you have to worry where it counts. You can worry about your online freedom, but worry about your home and family safety first.

US Shutdown: Would Crimes Be Rampant?

The US government is on a shutdown. Following the end of the financial year on September 20, a new budget for the 2014 financial year could not be established. The Congress, meaning the House of Representatives and the Senate could not agree on an approved budget. Without such a proposed and approved budget, the US government is left with no choice but to close non-essential offices and put on leave non-essential staff.

The contention lies in the divisive Obamacare issue. Obama’s Affordable Care Act aims at reforming America’s healthcare industry, a move not completely supported by the Republican-heavy House of Representatives. Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, have continuously proposed cuts to Obamacare which thereby delayed its legislation. The Senate, on the other hand, is controlled by Obama’s Democrats and have been resilient in their support of Obamacare. The opposing stance on the Act have caused dispute in the budget formation and has now lead to the shutdown.

In the shutdown, non-essential offices and staff are put on hold. This means that government operated offices that do not play a significant role in the progression of the function of the government and the country are shut down for a while. This will include national museums and national parks such as the Statue of Liberty, Alcatraz and the Yosemite National Park. At the same time, federal employees working in such offices are temporarily put on an unpaid leave. Since their offices are closed, they will not work for the time until the shutdown is resolved. Surprisingly, they are expected to take the full blow of the shutdown by losing income for a significant (and uncertain) amount of time. The shutdown, however, does not affect essential offices. Social security and the US military service are to continue with their work.

Would crimes be rampant? The direct effects of the shutdown (closing of non-essential offices, unpaid leave for staff) will manifest in the US’ economy; the possibility of an increase in crime incidents may be an externality of this nationwide economic disorder. First, tourism is greatly affected. The closing of parks and museums may seem trivial, but the adverse effects it has on tourists who were locked out of parks and museums may be catastrophic. Revenues are lost in the shutdown, possible money flowing into the country through people from all over the world wanting to visit tourists spots are put on hold. Second, the staff and employees who were put on unpaid leave lose a portion of their purchasing power for the time that they do not earn anything. As they are on unpaid leave, they will obviously not earn money and will thereby have lower (or no) income to spend. Aside from its microeconomic effects: people not being able to afford what they need, macroeconomic consequences of this unpaid leave may occur. A portion of the GDP is composed of the population’s expenses; meaning, the goods consumed by the entire country. With a significant portion of the country having lower purchasing power, the goods consumed nationwide may decrease which will advertently affect the GDP. The US economy, unstable as it is, may experience more hits with this shutdown. So where is the possibility of increased crime incidents in this scenario?

Crimes (such as theft and robbery) are propelled by scarcity of goods and the incapability to afford them. With the onset of the shutdown and the genesis of another US economic tragedy, there will be an increase in people not being able to afford the things they need. In a nation where competition for such goods may grow stronger, citizens may be more aggressive when it comes to attaining their needs. Theft and robbery may be the only measure available to some who may lose their entire purchasing capability. However, the shutdown does not equate with anarchy. Increased in theft and robbery incidents may be a possibility but the idea that they are to be an acceptable act is still farfetched. Thieves and robbers will still be held accountable for their crimes; they won’t necessarily be free of the consequences of their action. So in general, people may have in increased propensity to commit crimes since to some, these may only be the option left to attain the goods they need. But, that does not mean that these acts are to be acceptable. They are still punishable. The government is on a shutdown, but the laws do not cease to take effect. Crimes are still crimes and are still punishable in the eyes of man.

Exciting Content for “Dull” Industries

They say that beauty is now acquired, not innate, and that no one else could be faulted for being “ugly” but yourself, given the many ways by which you can now take care of yourself and improve your appearance. We have anti-aging products, whitening creams as well as tanning potions, a long line of hair care, a wide assortment of moisturizers, conditioners, oils and many other products to help improve what you already have in the looks department.
In that respect, we can say the same for online marketing. With the recent innovations we have especially in the field of internet technology, no trade or industry may now be considered a minor player, because there are now endless ways and means by which you could promote and advertise your business—whether big businesses or startups—through marketing strategies made available on the web.

sleepy-tired-boring

As with appearance and personality, and the many wonderful opportunities and chances out there to beautify and improve oneself, web designers and online marketers can now be considered gravely at fault for any failure to make design and content as exciting, dynamic and awesome as it should be.

Consider the following tips in making content creative, even for the most boring industries out there:
Think dynamism, color and animation. The World Wide Web abounds with so many tools, techniques and even tutorials to make sure you will not actually end up with boring textbook-like pages in your website. Jazz up your web design with dynamic graphics that you should update as to compatibility with the newest platforms and most especially, with the mobile platform which millions now use on a daily basis. Learn more about animation and graphic design from available resources online.

Consider your target audience when you develop content. No content will turn out boring if you seriously consider the “language” of your target clientele. Even humdrum subjects like customized awnings and verandas can be presented with grandeur and in a trendy fashion, provided you know how to reach out to your target market, with design, content and features that you understand to be most appealing to them.

Integrate multimedia features. No boring content should remain as such. There are many tutorials to find online, which would allow you to combine a good mix of animated pics, engaging sounds, as well as informative videos that will ensure you a comprehensive approach to marketing and advertising your products and services to your target clientele. One thing to consider when you do this is its compatibility likewise with today’s most used platforms and gadgets, so they can be easily accessed without hassle on the part of your prospective customers.

Include social media buttons. It would be safe to assume that a good percentage of your target clients are social media savvy. By adding social media buttons to your website for what may be treated as the most boring, dullest industries, you are allowing your clients to see that your company is updated, trendy and reachable. Think about what that will do for your company, and start learning the ropes of social media to make your content more exciting and dynamic, if you haven’t already.

Sleepwalkers and Heavy Snores: How To Be Safe?

SleepingSleep. You become most vulnerable when you lack sleep.  But how do you keep yourself safe when the cause of sleep problems could be you? Off the bat, there are two types of people who need to be safe from themselves when sleeping, those who suffer from sleepwalking and sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea, as defined by Expertmedicine.com, is a common sleep disorder that affects both children and adults, and that could result to critical cardiac events such as stroke, cardiac arrest, heart arrhythmia, and chest pains.  Research associates sleep apnea as a serious disorder that needs treatment immediately. Apnea or “want of breath” in Greek tally in an estimated 18 million sufferers in America, or at least 1 in every four households (family of 4), that’s 6.62% of the American population.  It’s not gender specific or age specific.  As a result, 263,000 kids have their tonsils removed to help remove the obstruction in their breathing.

Indirectly, the bed mate of the person who has sleep apnea is most likely to lose sleep since the sufferer may experience a nightly average of 400 apneas per night.  The joke is that since almost one in two hypertension patients have sleep apnea, the other half hypertension victims are their bed mates.   It is recommended that you see a doctor if you feel you have sleep apnea but you can also try this self treatment tips:

  1. Lose weight. Some people find that even moderate to severe sleep apnea can be completely corrected by losing excess weight. For others, even a small amount of weight loss can open up the throat and improve sleep apnea symptoms.
  2. Quit smoking. Smoking is believed to contribute to sleep apnea by increasing inflammation and fluid retention in your throat and upper airway.
  3. Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, and sedatives, especially before bedtime, because they relax the muscles in the throat and interfere with breathing.
  4. Avoid caffeine and heavy meals within two hours of going to bed.
  5. Maintain regular sleep hours. Sticking to a steady sleep schedule will help you relax and sleep better. Apnea episodes decrease when you get plenty of sleep.

Bedtime tips

  1. Sleep on your side. Avoid sleeping on your back, as gravity makes it more likely for your tongue and soft tissues to drop and obstruct your airway.
  2. Try the tennis ball trick. In order to keep yourself from rolling onto your back while you sleep, sew a tennis ball into a pocket on the back of your pajama top. Or wedge a pillow stuffed with tennis balls behind your back.
  3. Prop your head up. Elevate the head of your bed by 4 to 6 inches or elevate your body from the waist up by using a foam wedge. You can also use a special cervical pillow.
  4. Open your nasal passages. Try to keep your nasal passages open at night using a nasal dilator, saline sprays, breathing strips, or a neti pot.

Somnambulism
It’s been defined that there are 5 stages of sleep and sleep walking happens during stage 3 and 4 or the stage before Rapid Eye Movement or the sleep cycle associated with dreaming. So does this mean that sleepwalkers have at least an amount of consciousness when it happens?

Somnambulism

Somnambulism, a disorder that occurs when people walk or do another activity while they are still asleep.

No, sleep walkers have no recollection of what they did upon waking up. It is also most prevalent during middle-childhood to early adolescence.  The prime causes could be genetic, sleep deprivation, alcohol intoxication and sometimes medical conditions brought about by high fever and sleep apnea. A sleepwalker has symptoms that range to quietly walking about to agitated running of trying to escape. They can be responsive but incoherent and slow. They do not do what is depicted in movies with the arms raised.  In kids, it is suggested that restless sleepers are most likely sleepwalkers. If it’s not that alarming, a simple self care can be done to correct sleep walking or keep the house safe for a sleep walker. Here are some tips:

  1. Get a good amount of sleep.
  2. Avoid any kind of stimuli (auditory or visual) prior to bedtime.
  3. Keep a safe sleeping environment free of harmful or sharp objects.
  4. Sleep in a bedroom on the ground floor if possible. This will prevent falls, avoid bunk beds.
  5. Lock the doors and windows, add an extra bolt if you must.
  6. Remove obstacles in the room like toys and objects of potential hazard.
  7. Cover windows with heavy curtains.
  8. Place an alarm or bell on the bedroom door and if necessary, on any windows.

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