Economy and social issues around the worldwww.cipec.org  is a collection of articles looking at economic, social and environmental issues. The contention of this website is that we live in an increasing interconnected world. It is by understanding these  connections that we are able to build better and better models of reality.

It is not always fruitful to look at things in isolation, even in purely scientific terms. Ever since schrodinger’s cat, it is has become apparent that context is vital. Even the fact that something is observed is enough to change the results of an experiment. When dealing with more complex things than possibly dead cats in a box it becomes more apparent that the way an experiment is set up, the way it is described, the bias of the observer are all condemning the results to subjectivity.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. The notion of immutable truth is a hang up from Platonic theory. Rather we have to look for correlations, versions of the truth, working truths, useful insights.

By looking at a range of issues from several stand points it is hoped that the reader will go away from www.cipec.org with food for thought and possibly new perspectives. Perhaps these new perspectives will nudge the reader to taking positive action about environmental issues, social problems, economic injustices.

If not then perhaps the reader would care to comment and by doing so make a valid contribution to the debates taking place on this site.

As said Anacharsis:

“Wise men argue cases, fools decide them.”

IP Cloaker – IP Address Questions

This article will cover the main reasons, that I personally have been using an IP cloaker for well over a decade now.   However I appreciate this is the internet and many  people get bored quickly  – I’m going to bullet point my top two reasons here.

  • I don’t like being spied on – what I do on the web is my business.
  • I don’t like being blocked – my IP address is used to block access to good stuff like the BBC iPlayer, Hulu, ITV and Netflix.

IP Cloaker software solves both of these – removing the region blocks and maintaining my privacy.

Anyway, back to the article – your IP address is nothing very exciting, it will be something like 192.168.1.23 – it looks boring too, doesn’t it?  When people look at these numbers they tend to glaze over, they’re impersonal almost random – they mean nothing.  Except that’s not true, the IP address questions are quite important if you learn to ask the right ones.

Ip cloaker

First of all, that boring, nondescript set of numbers is actually better thought of as an address.   Not a normal address of course, but a network one but which crucially points to you. Remember that it’s completely unique and is linked to whatever device you’re using to access the internet with.

So an update – your internet address is unique and can be traced back to that Dell Laptop you’re using to surf the web from your kitchen table. Well unless you use an IP address cloaker of course.

Got that?  Well let’s move on.

The fact that this number can identify you, or at least the address it’s being used at is crucial.  The next step to understand is that address is also logged in thousands of places across the internet whenever it’s used.  Every time you access a webpage, download a movie, upload a file or send an email – your address will be logged with whatever activity it has been used for.  Which is why we hear in crime stories about what the criminals have been doing online.  The information is all there, recorded, logged in a myriad of places leaving a little digital trail of what you do online.

To be honest it’s always worried me, and it’s why I always use an IP cloaker.  For a start, I’m not entirely keen that everything I do online can be checked by people in power. Privacy seems a small and unimportant thing until it’s taken away from you. If I look for information on a subject what business is it of my government?  If something’s illegal online, go and find the people who put it there and prosecute them.  Don’t spy on millions of ordinary people on the off chance you’ll come across the odd thick terrorist.

It’s worse though, my IP address is traceable to me, my name and my home address.   The reason it’s me is that I pay the phone bill and the ISP bill, so every bit of data is logged against my name.  Never mind I have a 17 year old son who spend every minute of the day surfing the web – what for I shudder to think, but it’s my name those websites will be logged against. Well they would do, except knowing my son I have already installed and activated an IP cloaker on my router.

Which of course, leads us to the reality that usually at your ISP a list is compiled which contains details of absolutely everything we do online.  Just being extra paranoid, my name is linked to every single web search that has taken place on my property just because I’m the poor sod who has to pay the internet bills.

Of course, we know that governments would be able to sort this out.  They’re good at that sort of stuff – you know looking after data and sorting it all out.  If I had an irony font, that last sentence would have used it just so you know.

No it’s bad, so much of our lives are online now it’s a huge intrusion for any sort of organisation to have access to it.  Even if the data was rarely used, you just know someone somewhere is going to download it all and accidently leave it on the train/bus/tube.   Let’s face it why should our government have access to all this personal information.
So be advised if you want any privacy whatsoever use something to hide your IP address and encrypt your connection. There are plenty of them about – just look for IP cloaker or VPN programs and you’ll find something to suit.

Indeed there is another bonus if you do start using IP Cloaker program to hide your location. You can bypass all the ridiculous region blocks that all the large media sites put up. Yes simply by hiding your real IP address you can watch BBC iPlayer abroad free. It took me 30 seconds to learn how to use Identity Cloaker several years ago and I’ve been using it ever since to provide privacy and bypass blocks on things like UK TV,  Hulu and HBO.  Last year there was an Identity Cloaker Netflix update which also introduced some special servers into their infrastructure, these were registered with residential IP addresses making them completely undetectable.

The software runs directly on your PC, laptop or MAC but you can configure a the identity cloaker vpn settings directly onto other devices like smart phones, tablets or onto your router if you wish,

Our recommendation for the best IP Cloaker is below.

How to Really Hide Your IP Address – Identity Cloaker

Try the 10 Day trial here.

Why Buy Selincro – an Alcohol Wonder Drug?

There is a perception among many clinical experts that there’s only one way to deal with addictive substances, simply aid people to fight off the urges and stop taking them. So methods like using a new drug like Selincro which helps alcohol dependency are often dismissed too easily.  Usually potential patients never even hear of them instead being routinely forced into the same old failing treatment plans.  Unfortunately even for those who can escape the addictive clutches often their lifestyle is formed around things like drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. Therefore abstinence is often only a temporary cure which becomes a life long battle for most.

Here’s another perspective from a very brave lady, called Claudia Christian who talks about how something called The Sinclair Method helped her. The little pill she discusses is something called Nalmefene sold in Europe under the trade name Selincro.

So why is Selincro different?   There’s certainly a lack of selincro reviews and it does seem to have difficulty making it’s way into mainstream treatments? Basically it is a pill which reduces the urge to drink which was formally approved in the UK by the National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE) in 2014. The drugs actual name is Nalmefene, Selincro is a trade name and it has produced some astounding results for treating alcoholics in clinical trials all over the world.  It can be prescribed in Europe and the UK, although I found that a selincro online pharmacy was able to help me.  You’ll find the link where I buy Selincro at the bottom of the page.

Most of the current alcohol guidance is directed at people who wish to reduce their drinking levels. The pill is supposed to reduce the cravings they have to drink and thus gradually reduce their alcohol consumption. It works by blocking part of the brain which produces pleasure from alcohol, reducing the attraction to carry on drinking.  There are some very impressive clinical trial results with around 78% success rate, and minimal selincro side effects.

So I Buy Selincro from an Online Pharmacy

Now those of us who are a little too attached to their drink, know that feeling very well. We can take or leave that first drink, but the next one becomes much more important and the rest often follow on with little thought. Selincro stops this behaviour, by reducing that desire.

There is no requirement to instantly try and avoid alcohol, in fact the Sinclair Method works by combining the physical effects of Selincro with the individual drinking.  Each time alcohol is taken with the drug, the brain is reconditioned slightly not to expect the release of endorphins which create the pleasure.

buy selincro

I’ve tried it and it works, you take the Nalmefene an hour before you expect to drink. When you do start drinking, it has a strange effect the pleasure simply isn’t there.

My initial experience was conducted with an expensive bottle of Argentinian Malbec. The drug made me slightly dizzy but nothing too bad, however the enjoyment from this stunning red was almost completely obliterated.

To try and describe the feeling is difficult, normally when I enjoy my first glass of red wine I get that warm, fuzzy relaxed feeling. However with Selincro this was different, my glass was pretty much transformed into tepid tap water. The taste didn’t change as much but my desire for it was completely different. Normally my first glass would last about 15-20 minutes, using the drug it took me over an hour – there was simply no urge to drink.

If you’re looking for information on this method, I’m going to put some of my experience up on this web site. However here’s some quick points to get you started as it can be quite confusing – researching this stuff.

  • Selincro is brand name for the drug which is actually called Nalmefene.
  • There is an alternative drug called Naltrexone which has a very similar effect.
  • Both drugs are designed to reduce the opiates released from your brain when you drink.
  • Most successful trials have occurred by using the drugs in tandem with – The Sinclair Method.
  • You will need a prescription – but there’s a link to Seclinco online pharmacy below

The Sinclair method is slightly controversial as a alcohol treatment method as it doesn’t discourage participants from drinking unlike traditional routes like the AA.   The idea is that abstinence will come from reducing the pleasure of alcohol, not by enforcing some artificial ban.

The drug does have some effects and you might see some Selincro side effects, which you’ll find listed on the medication.   Commonly reported effects are nausea, dizzyness and problems with sleeping.   I suffered all these to some extent and the effects lasted about 14 days but gradually reduced over that time, it’s a small price to pay for the end of my addiction.

At the time of writing I have taken 15 pills of Selincro on consecutive days.  The reduction in the desire for alcohol is very apparent although the drive from simple habit is still there.   Currently my alcohol consumption has dropped by about 50%, I have not made any real effort other than taking the pills.    It’s looking at a minimal downside, although if you do buy selincro online it’s not cheap!  I’ll update more on this blog.

Additional Information

Nalmefene/Selincro forum with lots of discussion on The Sinclair Method – http://optionssavelives.freeforums.net/

The Selincro Online Pharmacy I used from the UK is below, you have an online consultation with an NHS doctor.

Watch UK TV Online in USA

Every time’ I’m dragged over to the USA, I think I’m going to hate it.  I’m not sure why – the last time was Florida, the expectation of theme parks and fast food outlets and the horror of International Drive made me dread it.   The irrational fear that everyone I meet would have gun holster under their T-shirt or the practicality of ordering food which was vaguely healthy.

Watch UK TV Online in USA

But as always I was wrong, I absolutely loved it.  Florida is a wonderful place, sure it’s over commercialised and of course Harry Potter’s World doesn’t quite look right in 40 degree heat but everything is fun.  Americans are friendly and pretty kind apart from the grumpy ones in New York and I’m fairly certain the majority of people I met weren’t armed either.

Every time I go to the USA, the more I want to return yet there’s still certain things that drive me to distraction.  Firstly tipping in restaurants, yep ok I’ve just got to get over it! The other is US TV channels, and therefore the title of this posthow to watch UK TV online in USA.

There are many, many things which are done better in the USA, but unfortunately TV is not one of them.  Of course there are individual shows that are fantastic, yet there’s always something to spoil it – advertising it’s just so much more intrusive than when you watch British TV.   Perhaps you eventually get used to the non-stop noisy interruptions but as yet I can’t – commercial TV in the USA is hard work.

Of course in the world of the internet, you’d think this wouldn’t really matter.  After all most TV stations broadcast online so you can watch anytime and anyplace.  Yet if you fire up your laptop and proceed to the sublime BBC iPlayer application whilst in the US – you’ll be rather disappointed – ‘cos it won’t work.

Just like every media company on the planet, they restrict access based on their location. So all the UK TV stations are available online, just not if you’re outside the UK when you try and watch them.  Before any US readers start laughing, the same will happen to you when you try and access ABC, NBC or Hulu from outside the US too.

It’s slightly crazy, but true and becoming worse year by year.   Websites look up the location of your IP address when you connect and then decide what you can watch.  For the media companies this normally means blocking anyone outside their domestic market presumably due to copyright issues and the profit motive.  It matters not that I am a middle aged, license fee paying BBC junkie – I’m not in the UK so tough.

Now there are some sites which pretend to offer free internet tv streaming, or even simply selections of free tv show episodes.   Unfortunately these so called online Tv channels are very slow, and spend much of their time trying to install adware on your computer.  You’d be well advised to stay away from these sites, in reality there’s no safe method to watch uk tv abroad free online.

Fortunately of course, on the internet there’s always a workaround or a way to sidestep authority and here’s the video which demonstrates how you can actually watch UK Television from anywhere in the USA – here it is.

So that’s it, basically you bounce your internet connection off something called a VPN server based in the UK and you can watch British TV online.  The BBC or ITV site, will then just see the IP address of the server and think you’re actually in the UK and allow you full access.  The software in the video makes it incredibly simple and all you need to do is click on a UK server and it’s sorted.

It also works on other channels, you watch ITV player abroad or even watch Sky Go abroad if you have an active subscription.

The service can also be set up on your phone or tablet too so you can even watch UK TV on other devices whilst in the USA.   It takes a minute to setup but it’s not very difficult, and you only have to do it once.   The other great advantage is that you can use it for other media sites too, use it in Canada to access US TV stations or vice versa.  Try the Irish TV or perhaps brush up your French by watching some great TV stations like M6 Replay which broadcast from Paris.

So if you’re in the US or anywhere abroad and want access to watch UK TV online in USA or anywhere else then it’s a sensible investment.  Make sure you test out the 10 day trial first to see if it works ok for you.

10 Day Trial of Identity Cloaker.

How to Watch UK TV Online in the USA.

 

Anyone for Tennis?

There is no doubt in my mind that the right sports coverage is essential to the enjoyment of an event.  Of course, actually attending and watching live is the best way to watch sport but there are often practical reasons that is not possible.   If you’ve ever tried to buy a ticket and arrange accommodation for a Champions League Final you’ll know what I mean, in fact even the hotel room can cost a King’s ransom.

Even without the cost, there are other reasons for avoiding the live event.  An important one for me is ‘hay fever’ – one of my favourite sports is tennis however after years of sitting in itchy eye, sneezy purgatory on center court I gave up that activity.  I never knew quite why my allergy was so bad in Wimbledon, after all there’s surely not that much pollen there.  The courts aren’t exactly fields of long grass, yet for me there is something in Wimbledon Tennis Courts which sets off my hay fever with a vengeance.

So it’s one sport I have to watch at a distance, which is unfortunate really as Wimbledon tickets are usually easier to get than many sports.  The reason is that most clubs get an allocation and they are normally distributed to members, Wimbledon also retains some tickets to sell on the gate which I think is a great gesture to allow normal tennis fans in.

The advantage is you can watch all the best matches without the crowds and hassle by watching the wonderful BBC Wimbledon coverage.  Now I’ve only ever seen Wimbledon coverage once from another broadcaster and it was truly awful.  Of course the matches were fine, but the background, the commentary and the dreadful adverts crammed in whenever there was a minutes gap completely spoilt it for me.  The beauty of the BBC coverage is that’s it is so relaxed, drifting effortlessly across the courts with idle musings from tennis legends like John McEnroe to fill in the gaps.

The problem is that although the coverage is all streamed live on the BBC website and through the BBC iPlayer application none of this works from outside the UK.  It’s because of the standard geo-restrictions that most of the world’s best media site now employ which restrict access to specific countries.  So if you try and connect from anywhere outside the UK you won’t be able to watch the BBC and that includes Wimbledon!  But fear not there is a solution, where you can be saved from endless adverts at changeovers and watch the BBC Wimbledon coverage abroad.  It’s cheating ever so slightly, but basically hiding your IP address from nosey websites by using a VPN connection is actually a very good idea in this day and age.  If that VPN server happens to be in the UK so I can watch the BBC iPlayer online is entirely coincidental !!

 

An Undemocratic Democracy

The United Kingdom, is one of the oldest continuously functioning democracies in the world.   There are other contenders but many countries have dipped in and out of democracy over the years. Greece was almost certainly the first to embrace democracy but have dipped in and out over the centuries.  Now the title probably rests with somewhere like Iceland, Faroes Islands, Isle of Man or possibly the UK depending on your particular definition.

Whoever the winner, the point is that the UK has been democratic for a centuries and you’d expect them to be pretty good at it.  However sometimes a UK citizen can look at the political system and see there’s something very wrong.

Firstly there’s the voting system, it is perfectly possible to get millions of votes without a single representative elected into Parliament.   Sometimes there’s a sigh of relief where some extreme party can effectively be ignored despite garnering a sizeable following of voters.  Other times it just looks profoundly unfair, consider the Green Part getting over 1/2 million votes and one member of parliament against the SNP (Scottish National Party) who got less than a million and have 31 members.  It’s enough to drive you to drink, if you do then you might enjoy this article about the drug Selincro.

There’s lots more examples and outside the two main parties, there’s few political parties who consider the current situation fair.   However even within the elected representatives strange undemocratic situations seems to occur with remarkable regularity.  Take for example the Brexit situation that currently is causing utter chaos within the United Kingdom.   The current Prime Minister Theresa May decided she didn’t have a big enough majority for her preferred version of Brexit so called  an election to increase it.   Unfortunately this didn’t go quite to plan and now there is complete disarray, with her majority disappearing.

In fact now within the British Parliament, no-one has a majority for anything.  The ‘hard Brexit’ people have lost supporters because of a backlash against those who wanted to remain, the ‘remainers’ have lost supporters from a switch of voting from UKIP.  The people who sit in the middle are perhaps the only hope, with maybe a drift from both sides reluctantly recognising the futility of the situation.   The situation changes daily though, and political students would be advised to invest in a solution like this to watch the changes on the BBC News.

Maybe democracy will triumph in the end but at the moment it’s difficult to see.  Many complain that the UK democratic system was sidestepped by using a simplistic referendum in the first place.  The issue was a complicated decision with a myriad of options was reduced to a yes/no vote which was completely inadequate.   Which is why we find the shambolic situation now with a divided country run by an unpopular leader with similar views.

Further Information: Bypassing region Locks – Video Proxy

Just ‘Lost’ without a Netflix IP Address

Would it be fair to say, that people become more relaxed and accepting of life’s little obstacles as you get older?   I think maybe it is, the angry young man turns into something a little bit calmer and relaxed.  After all if you’ve survived a few decades you’ve inevitably learn a thing or two – never buy anything from your doorstep or if something’s free then there’s inevitably a catch somewhere.

Lost on a Netflix IP Address

For me personally, I can accept most little setbacks relatively easily – after all I know they don’t just happen to me and there isn’t much I can do about them.  Yet again, utter annoyance and frustration is always there bubbling under the surface.   It arose the other week when I and my good lady settled down for an evening’s TV watching , our chosen series the Science Fiction show Lost.  Now every body else seems to have watched this about ten years ago, but we’ve only just found it.

Finding the Right Netflix IP Address

However when we signed on to Netflix to watch episode 54 out of 70 something, I couldn’t find it.  It had completely disappeared from the Netflix subscription, not a word or a warning for those of us who had spent the last few weeks ploughing through this confusing box set.   After some internet sleuthing I discovered that it had been removed but only from certain regional variations of Netflix including the UK one I was using.   It seemed I had the wrong Netflix IP address, typical.

However it still remained on others including the US version which seems to have much more than the UK version of Netflix.  Anyway the cross part soon receded and problem solving was the order of the day – here’s the solution I found in this video, how to spoof ip address to watch Netflix.

It’s actually quite straight forward, to switch between the different versions of Netflix you just need to change your IP address to match the country you need. So for the Canadian version you need a Canadian IP address, for the US one you need a US based address and so on. You can’t actually change your own IP address but you can bounce your connection off something called a VPN server and have a Netflix IP address which obscures your real address from view.

I suppose you could call it Netflix by proxy watching with the help of a third party.   So in the video they make a connection to a US based VPN server, which then routes you to the US version of Netflix. It works just as promised and ‘Lost’ is there happily sitting in the US Netflix movie list!

However before you go looking for a super cheap VPN, there’s something you should know about the specific netflix addresses.  Unfortunately although many people switch netflix domains it’s not something the company like and they take a lot of effort in blocking these VPN servers.  In reality only about 5% VPN companies have a valid netflix ip address list, because the company also blocks ‘commercial’ ip addresses.  These are addresses which are tagged from a commercial source which most VPN services are from.

The solution, which you should check with the provider, is to have a ‘residential IP address’ assigned to the VPNs, without this your netflix ip address change will be pointless – it won’t work.   It’s the reason why Netflix won’t be accessible from most corporate networks either,  a relief for many network administrators who were learning how to block netflix on firewall or external routers.   Of course, many administrators have already installed rules to block netflix IP range too and most content filters have an updated black list of Netflix servers.  They are the only company who have done this and it’s been extremely effective,  fully expect others to follow suit.

It’s a developing situation though, digital products like Netflix subscription change depending on where you are. Netflix is better than most though because at least your subscription is normally accessible – if you pay for a UK TV license you’ll lose access to all their channels the moment you step outside the UK. Unless of course you invest in a British address  of course that allows you access from anywhere!

Anyway here’s the VPN service which I use – it includes residential IP address ranges that work and are on the approved netflix ip address list.

Try the trial first to see for yourself – 10 Day Trial of Identity Cloaker.

Who’s Been Snooping at Your Email?

There’s been loads in  the news recently about countries snooping on each other, it appears we’re all at it.  The UK Intelligence services at GCHQ hoovering up all the internet data that crosses the UK, Russians, Chinese and Israeli Intelligence all investing heavily in internet surveillance and the NSA in the US well spying on everyone including their own via Prism.

Many of us now feel that we have to use technology to protect ourselves,  a simple VPN can go a long way to blocking those who are spying on us.  They have other uses, for example to access region locked sites – watch this video – BBC News Streaming , for an example.

So it’s obviously quite understandable to start thinking about how much of our communications is so easily monitored. Our web traffic at least the majority of it, is I’m afraid very easily accessible by just about anyone in any position of power.  At every ISP a detailed list of the majority of your communication traffic is easily picked up.  The web’s favorite protocol – HTTP is unfortunately rather lacking in security features and as such web traffic is mostly transmitted in the clear.

So what about email? It’s still one of the most used messaging systems in the world, but how secure is email – read this report?  There are two main issues regarding the security of your average email –

1) It’s transported in clear text so everyone can read it.

2) The email is transmitted across the shared infrastructure of the internet.

It means that email is not private at all. Not only is is transmitted in a completely readable format with no encryption at all but this ’open letter’ is delivered by using a network of shared routers, servers and cabling.   Anyone at any point can tap into this data a little like GCHQ have tapped into the major fiber connections in the UK.

There are solutions that can make Outlook or Thunderbird a little more secure – one of the major improvements is to encrypt your messages.  This means that if done properly only the sender and the recipient would be able to decipher the contents.  Look for applications like Hushmail and programs like PGP to offer different solutions to this issue

James Williams

Author of RAI Streaming Estero

Morality in the Digital World

I was talking to a lay preacher the other day, I’ll leave out the particular denomination as that’s not the point of the story.   Anyway we were talking about football and related stuff in particular the cost of actually watching out favorite Premiership teams on the TV.

It’s something I have given up the escalating costs of being able to watch football on the TV had started to become a little bit hard to justify for me.  My subscription costs to various TV and satellite services was getting close to £100 ($80) a month which is an awful lot of money to pay just for watching a few games of football on the TV.  So I bit the bullet and cancelled the lot which was surprisingly less painful than I thought.

It turns out you can listen on the radio for free and watch highlights after the game on TV too, for those ‘must see’ matches there’s always a bar somewhere you can go and watch it on.    So for me, it wasn’t a big deal and certainly not worth all the money I was paying out every month.  However my preacher friend had a similar thought but ended up taking a different, slightly surprising route than I did.

What he did was buy a media streamer pre-installed with something called Kodi, which is an open source video player which started it’s life on the Xbox.   The interesting thing about Kodi however is that supports hundreds of add-ons which can effectively stream copyrighted material directly from the internet.  So you can buy a box with Kodi pre-installed and configured which allows access to all of Sky, Virgin and BT’s subscription channels absolutely free.

I have to say I was shocked, a very religious and moral man was effectively stealing these channels without paying for them.  It was hardly crime of the century but I wondered if he had considered that it even was theft?   It turns out that he didn’t, or at least conveniently pretended he didn’t understand it was theft.    After all he’d bought the media box and was simply using it’s facilities to download the programmes that he used to pay for.

This is our world, the digital world where perhaps our morales can be a little more elastic than in the real world.  After all would my friend break in to an electronics shop and steal a Sky box, or mug a passer by for money to pay the subscription?   Of course he never would even consider doing this.   Yet literally millions of law abiding people are using this and similar methods everywhere to download things that they haven’t bought.  It doesn’t stop here of course, if there’s a line where is it drawn – is the ex-pat using a VPN to watch iPlayer in Australia a criminal too?   It’s much too simple to just consider that theft just involves physical objects – my preacher friend was effectively defrauding SKY of hundreds of pounds a year.

I guess it’s a very subjective issue, copyright infringement could be thought of as a criminal offence or just blurring the rules slightly.  It would be harsh to consider all those people who miss British TV and want to watch BBC iPlayer in Ireland or use a Proxy for Netflix access as hard core criminals but it’s easier perhaps to convince yourself no crime is being committed.   I think though it’s worth considering the legal and practical implications of finding yourself in court for ‘digital fraud’ or ‘obtaining goods and services by deception’ before using these extremely tempting technical options!

Troubles in Mozambique

The trouble with being an economist who writes about Africa is that it has a habit of making you look stupid very quickly indeed.  Even when you try and keep up, I use a VPN like this to regularly connect when I can’t visit,  I’m sure I’m not alone having written a piece full of optimism and economic good news on an African country only to see it all start to fall a part only a couple of years later.  Africa has a habit of doing this, turning the positive around very quickly usually it has to be said as a result of some pretty incompetent leadership.

Mozambique is the latest African country to seem to snatch economic disasters whilst heading for seeming prosperity.   The economy was growing, almost 7% a year for nearly a decade, there was gas discovered off the coast of the country and investors were flocking to the country to help exploit it.   Investment was heading for other areas too, attracted by the political stability,  $850 million of state sponsored bonds in the Tuna fishing industry was eagerly purchased at exceptionally high yields.

Ironically it looks like the ‘tuna bonds’ were the first mistake leading to a growing scandal that looks like destroying the growth of the last few years.  Indeed on January 16th, Mozambique announced to the chagrin of the rest of the world that it would default on it’s international debts.

So why has the government fell into such economic chaos so quickly?   There are some mitigating factors, the global fall in commodity prices have played a part and caused a slowdown in growth to a still respectable 3.4% in 2016.  However as usual the main reason is the economic mismanagement by the government, if you weren’t a citizen of Mozambique it could almost be seen as laughable.

Take the huge investment in the Tuna fishing industry, the state funded industry unfortunately never caught many fish certainly nowhere near enough to repay the generous yields owed on the supporting investment bonds.   This is not actually that surprising because the majority of the investment raised was not spent on fishing boats but rather the sort of boats with guns on the front.    The bonds were hastily swapped for government ones when it became clear they were unsupportable yet almost immediately the Government also admitted that it had hidden further loans of $1.4 billion guaranteed.  This is a huge amount for a country the size of Mozambique and represents almost 11% of their GDP.

Not surprising this sleight of hand dismayed international organisations with the IMF and other donors freezing their existing support.   This is a disaster for a country that despite it’s economic progress still relies heavily on international aid to provide even basic functions and services.   Mozambique’s debt now represents over 110% of it’s GDP and some experts thing even this is optimistic,  however the country is now engaging in a phase of ‘restructuring’.

This is of course merely another way of saying our debts are out of control and we need to bailed out quickly something that the IMF are probably reluctant to do. Missing payments on existing debts is not the way to attract additional funding for obvious reasons.   Few of the existing bondholders are likely to trust the government  after recent events and even the IMF has now insisted on a full of audit of all it’s debts.   There is also the question of where all the original loans and investments have disappeared to as well.

John Williams

Spoof my IP

The Dangers of Digital Law

Laws are in general supposed to make us safer and more secure, I think most of us would agree.  However there are areas where this is not the primary concern and even some where the opposite is true.  This is almost certainly the case in one of the older digital based laws created in the US called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998) better known as the DCMA Act.

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It sounds safe enough at first glance but there’s a huge flaw at the very heart of this legislation which could seriously undermine the safety of the internet.  It sounds rather dramatic but it’s certainly a possibility with the increasing reach of devices connected to the internet – particularly the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) .  The problem is that all of these devices from smart phones through TVs to toasters and fridges all contain software embedded in them in order to communicate across the internet.  Software of course often contains bugs and flaws which can constitute a security risk, in fact there have been many reports of these ‘smart devices’ being used in DDoS attacks.

That’s where the problem lies with the DCMA Act, which contains a law stating that flaws in these devices cannot be disclosed without express permission from the manufacturer of the device.  Consider the issue, a security researcher or ethical hacker discovers a security flaw in a device, they cannot release this information legally and the manufacturer is unlikely to want to publish it’s own security problems.  What happens is that the flaws remain and don’t get fixed, and almost certainly then get exploited by computer hackers.

In fact there are situations where DCMA makes it not only illegal to disclose a software fault but also to fix it.   There have been test cases, most famously brought by John Deere tractors where it has been stated that it is illegal for owners to attempt to fix their tractors instead being forced to return them to dealers instead.  This is because the tractors like most equipment now contain a certain amount of software which control the devices bringing them into the remit of the act.

It’s of considerable concern to all of us, the devices we have bought are not really our property and the issue is extending to all sorts of situations.  We can’t use third party disks or cartridges in printers and game consoles because the manufacturer controls the software and access to that device even after we’ve bought it.  With digital services it’s even more extreme with media giants like Netflix enforcing blocks on proxies and VPNs as described in this article – The Great Netflix VPN Ban.

It’s a dream come to true for the manufacturers who are able to implement specific profit maximizing business models which are extremely restrictive to the end owners.  Control of the device is effectively kept with people who created it not with the people who bought it. Don’t think you can do what you like with that HP printer, because you can’t the law says so!

Further Reading:

Using Residential VPN services: http://www.theninjaproxy.org/technology/is-a-residential-vpn-service-essential-now/