Friday, December 7, 2018

The Global Perspective on America - Part 1 - Donald Trump

Those of that live in North America get a very steady diet of anti-Trump sentiment, particularly from the hosts of American late night television and the liberal press.  The bias in this reportage begs the question; how does the global community feel about Donald Trump and the United States as a whole.  Thanks to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center we have a good sense of how the world feels about the Trump Presidency on the second anniversary of Trump's election, how his approval compares to the leaders of other influential nations and how the rest of the world feels about America in general.  In this two part posting, I will first examine how the world feels about Donald Trump's presidency and in part two, I will take a look at how the world feels about the United States in general and whether Washington takes the interests of the global community into account when making policy decisions. 

For the purposes of this assessment, Pew surveyed 26,112 respondents from 25 nations from all regions of the globe, asking them a series of questions about their perceptions of the Trump presidency.  Let's start this posting by looking at how the "confidence to do the right thing" for Donald Trump compares to both Barack Obama and George W. Bush and how the confidence level varies by nation:

In 2018, confidence in Donald Trump ranges from a low of 7 percent in Spain to a high of 78 percent in the Philippines.  In 17 out of 25 nations, confidence in Donald Trump rose on a year-over-year basis when compared to 2017.  The greatest year-over-year drop in confidence occurred in Russia where confidence in Mr. Trump dropped from 53 percent in 2017 (the highest confidence level for a president in at least 15 years) to 19 percent in 2018.  Confidence rose the most in Israel, jumping from 56 percent in 2017 to 69 percent in 2018.  Confidence in Donald Trump was particularly low in America's next-door neighbour Canada, however, it did rise slightly from 22 percent in 2017 to 25 percent in 2018.  If you compare the confidence level of key European allies in Donald Trump to that of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, here is what you will find:

As well, there is a relationship between Europe's right-wing populist party supporters and Trump's confidence levels:

That said, other than the United Kingdom, there is no European nation in which more than half of right-wing populist party supporters have confidence in Donald Trump.

Let's look at a brief comparison of the confidence levels for other influential world leaders:

Even the much maligned Vladimir Putin has better confidence ratings globally than Donald Trump with 62 percent having no confidence in his ability to "do the right thing" compared to 70 percent for Donald Trump.  The only major leader among the five surveyed with a positive confidence score is Germany's Angela Merkel who managed a 52 percent confidence rating.  Interestingly, in 2018, only 10 percent of Germans, 6 percent of Mexicans and 30 percent of Japanese rate Donald Trump positively, far lower than the confidence that they had in Barack Obama (ranging from 71 to 93 percent for Germans and 38 to 55 percent for Mexicans), roughly the same as the low point for George W. Bush (ranging from 14 to 51 percent for Germany, no rating for Mexico and ranging from 25 to 35 percent for Japan).

The one significant outlier is Israel.  Here is a graphic showing the confidence levels for Israelis in each of the last three presidents showing Russia for comparison:

Confidence in George W. Bush landed from 57 percent to 83 percent, confidence in Barack Obama rated from 49 percent to 71 percent and confidence in Donald Trump has risen from 56 percent in 2017 to 69 percent in 2018, substantially higher than Obama's 49 percent score just before he left office.

As you can see, while Donald Trump has not particularly scored well on an international level, the level of confidence in his presidency has actually risen in parts of the world.  Certainly, it is not surprising that the level of confidence expressed by Russians has plummeted on a year-over-year basis and it is just as unsurprising that the confidence expressed by Israelis has grown substantially, particularly in light of the U.S. abandonment of the Iranian nuclear deal and its announced embassy move to Jerusalem.

In part two of this posting, I will look at the global response to America's approach to the world and whether the global community feels that Washington considers their national interests.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Breaching Treaties - A Washington Pastime

Let's open this posting by looking at the definitions (according to the United Nations) of two words that are connected to treaties, signing, ratification and accession :  

"1.) Signature Subject to Ratification, Acceptance or Approval:

Where the signature is subject to ratification, acceptance or approval, the signature does not establish the consent to be bound. However, it is a means of authentication and expresses the willingness of the signatory state to continue the treaty-making process. The signature qualifies the signatory state to proceed to ratification, acceptance or approval. It also creates an obligation to refrain, in good faith, from acts that would defeat the object and the purpose of the treaty.

2.) Ratification:

Ratification defines the international act whereby a state indicates its consent to be bound to a treaty if the parties intended to show their consent by such an act. In the case of bilateral treaties, ratification is usually accomplished by exchanging the requisite instruments, while in the case of multilateral treaties the usual procedure is for the depositary to collect the ratifications of all states, keeping all parties informed of the situation. The institution of ratification grants states the necessary time-frame to seek the required approval for the treaty on the domestic level and to enact the necessary legislation to give domestic effect to that treaty.  

3.) Accession:

"Accession" is the act whereby a state accepts the offer or the opportunity to become a party to a treaty already negotiated and signed by other states. It has the same legal effect as ratification. Accession usually occurs after the treaty has entered into force. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his function as depositary, has also accepted accessions to some conventions before their entry into force. The conditions under which accession may occur and the procedure involved depend on the provisions of the treaty. A treaty might provide for the accession of all other states or for a limited and defined number of states. In the absence of such a provision, accession can only occur where the negotiating states were agreed or subsequently agree on it in the case of the state in question."   

In other words, signing a treaty indicates a nation's general willingness to the concept of the treaty but, until it is ratified or acceded to, it is not binding to a signing party/nation.  Signing a treaty does, however, signal to the world that a nation agrees with the intent of the treaty and is willing to work towards ratification/accession.

Now, let's look at some recent comments from United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a meeting held at NATO Headquarters in Brussels regarding Russia's alleged violations of the INF Treaty:

"Finally, and I want to be clear about this, America is upholding the rule of law. When we set forth our commitments, we agree to be bound by them. We expect the same of our treaty counterparts everywhere, and we will hold them accountable when their words prove untrustworthy. If we do not, we’ll get cheated by other nations, expose Americans to greater risk, and squander our credibility."

Let's examine the veracity of Mr. Pompeo's claims regarding Washington's trustworthiness when it comes to the signing and ratification of international treaties.

1.) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966):  This covenant built on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and expanded the notion of basic rights beyond political and civil provisions.  The agreement has been ratified or acceded to by 169 nations and was signed by the United States on October 5, 1977 but never ratified.

2.) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations Against Women (1979): This Convention sought to promote women's rights and reduce the extensive discrimination that existed against women. The agreement has been ratified or acceded to by 189 nations and was signed by the United States on July 17, 1980 but never ratified.

3.) Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989):  This Convention is a defining agreement which formally recognized that children require special care and assistance and that international cooperation was necessary to ensure that children's rights were protected.    The agreement was ratified or acceded to by 196 nations and was signed by the United States on February 16, 1995 but never ratified, making the United States the only nation to not ratify the Convention.

4.) Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (1996): This Treaty bans all nuclear explosions for both military and civilian purposes.  The Treaty was signed by 184 nations and ratified by 167 nations.  It was signed by the United States on September 24, 1996 but never ratified. Other nations that have signed but not ratified the Treaty include China, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

5.) Kyoto Protocol (1997): This Protocol was designed to limit carbon emissions in an attempt to reduce the threat of global climate change. The Protocol was signed by 83 nations and ratified or acceded to by 192 nations and was signed by the United States on November 12, 1998 but never ratified, making the United States the only nation to not fully adopt the Kyoto Protocol. 

6.) Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998): This Statute established an international criminal court to deal with genocide, war crimes, crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity.  The Statute was signed by 123 nations including the United States (on December 31, 2000) which played a key role in the creation of the Rome Statute.   Following the signature, then President Clinton did not submit the Rome Statute to the U.S. Senate for ratification stating that the U.S. still had concerns. On May 6, 2002, John Bolton, then Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security sent the following message to United Nations Secretary Kofi Annan:

"Dear Mr. Secretary-General:

This is to inform you, in connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on July 17, 1998, that the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature on December 31, 2000. The United States requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary's status lists relating to this treaty.

Sincerely, S/John R. Bolton"  

7.) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006): This Convention was designed to ensure that persons with disabilities had the same rights as all other persons and guaranteed their fundamental freedom.  This agreement was ratified or acceded to by 177 nations and was signed by the United States on July 30, 2009 but never ratified.  The United States joins 12 other nations including Bhutan, Cameroon, Chad, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Somalia and Tajikistan in not ratifying this Convention.

In addition, there are two other treaties of note:

1.) Paris Agreement: on June 1, 2017, the United States backed out of the Paris Agreement on mitigating climate change which it signed on April 22, 2016 and acceded to on September 3, 2016.  As the only nation to back out of the Paris Agreement, it now joins a small group of nations including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Oman, Russia and Yemen which have signed and not ratified the Agreement.

2.) Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (2015): The JCPOA was reached between Iran and P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) in an effort to eliminate Iran's ability to build nuclear weapons.  The JCPOA was signed by the United States on July 14, 2015 and was adopted by the United Nations on July 20, 2015.  The United States withdrew from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018.

Here is a full listing of the international treaties that have been submitted to the Senate but not received Senate advice and consent to ratification:

According to international law, when a nation signs a treaty, it does not bind the signatory to the terms of the treaty, however, it does signal that the nation believes that there are merits to the treaty as a whole. When Washington signs a treaty, it signals to the world that it wishes to proceed with the intents of the treaty; when Washington fails to ratify or accede to the terms of a treat, it signals to the world that its word is essentially worthless.  Mike Pompeo's recent comments regarding America's commitments to the treaties that it has signed prove that he is quite capable of rewriting history in favour of Washington's narrative.  Despite his criticisms of Russia and Iran and their breaching of international treaties, it is quite apparent that Washington's signature on many key treaties is not worth the ink used to sign those documents.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The USS John C. Stennis - Ramping Up the Rhetoric in the Persian Gulf

According to the Wall Street Journal, a United States aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS John C. Stennis departed from Singapore on November 28, 2018 and is currently sailing in the Indian Ocean south of Sri Lanka towards the Persian Gulf where should arrive by the end of the week as shown here:

Here is a graphic from the United States Naval Institute showing the location of all of America's deployed carrier strike and amphibious ready groups:

Here is a photo of the John C. Stennis from the carrier's Facebook page:

The John C. Stennis (CVN 74)was commissioned in December 1995 and is the fifth of ten Nimitz-class aircraft carriers built.  It is a nuclear powered carrier equipped with two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors capable of reaching a surface speed of 30 knots or 35 miles per hour and an unlimited range.  It is 1092 feet long, has a beam of 252 feet and a draught of 41 feet.  It has 5680 crew members.

It has the following armament:

1.) 2 x Mk 57 Mod3 NATO RIM-7 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile launchers

2.) 2 x RIM-116 RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) short-range surface-to-air missile launchers

3.) 3 x 20mm Mk 15 Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon System)

The John C. Stennis is equipped with a straight flight deck to the bow of the ship and has four steam-powered catapults which power air from the two forward straight flight decks and two from the angled decks.  It has 90 aircraft of various makes and types including the following:

1.) F/A-18 Hornet

2.) EA-6B Prowler

3.) MH-60R

4.) MH-60S

5.) E-2C Hawkeye

Interestingly, the Stennis received her first deployment in 1998 when she sailed to the Persian Gulf to enforce the no-fly zone over Iraq.  

Here is a video that will provide you with more background on the John C. Stennis:

Here is what the Wall Street Journal had to say about the reasons for the John C. Stennis' appearance in the Persian Gulf:

"The USS John C. Stennis and accompanying ships will arrive by this week’s end, the first such military presence in the region in eight months, the officials said, to exhibit a show of force against Iran. Tensions between Washington and Tehran are growing over renewed Trump administration sanctions on the country, Iranian-backed groups in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen and Iran’s latest ballistic missile tests.

The naval deployment also will support the continuing war against remnants of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and the U.S. war in Afghanistan, where the U.S. and Afghan militaries have ramped up airstrikes in an effort to press the Taliban into peace talks and rid the country of what they consider irreconcilable fighters, the officials said.

The Stennis is scheduled to remain in the region for about two months, the officials said, spending most of that time in the Persian Gulf. Its presence “certainly provides a deterrence” against any potentially hostile Iranian activity in the region’s waters, one of the officials said. (my bold)

Let's now look at what Iran has to say about this development, particularly given that the appearance of an aircraft carrier fleet could be the first stage the formation of a naval blockade to prevent the passage of Iranian oil through the Persian Gulf.  Here are some quotes from an address that Iran's President Rohani gave on December 4, 2018:

The United States said it would stop Iran’s oil export and business relations, making Iran isolated, but it could not do it and it won’t be able to sever our relations with the peoples of the region”.

“Today, is the day of the historic test of the Iranian nation,” Dr Rouhani added, “After 40 years of fighting a cruel enemy like the US, we have achieved great victories”.

“The United States was after a coup in this country, separating Iran and Khuzestan, and putting the country under pressure through sanctions, but it was never successful in pursuing its goals,” he added.

The President also said, “A powerful Iran is intolerable for the Americans and Zionists and the great Iranian nation have never yielded to them and won’t do so”.

We will sell our oil and they can’t stop us from doing this, said Rouhani adding, “If the US wants to stop our oil sales, no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf”
Stating that, “The US won’t be able to sever our relations with peoples of the region,” he continued, “We will develop our relations with our neighbouring and Islamic countries and the world”.

“America is not able to sever our business relations in the world and the region and they must understand that this land will keep its cultural, political and economic relations with the countries of the region and the world,” he added.

Dr Rouhani also went on to state that Iran will develop its relations with its neighbouring and Islamic countries and the world, saying, “The US is trying to separate Iran from its neighbours, Europe, China and India, promoting Iranophobia, while we won’t be enemy to our neighbours”.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s relations with the world will develop day by day,” continued the president.

Stating that the United States has been unsuccessful against the Iranian nation, he continued, “In US’ animosity towards the people of Iran, world countries and politicians have not supported them except for a few small countries and the Zionist Regime”. (my bolds) 

Let's close with two quotes regarding the deployment of the John C. Stennis:

1.) PressTV (Iranian news network) - 

"Iran has repeatedly warned foreign military forces in the Persian Gulf that any act of transgression into Iran’s territorial waters would be met with an immediate and befitting response."

2.) A United States Department of Defense official:

 "The Stennis will provide a lot of great flexibility. " 

Read into both of those comments whatever you wish but to me, it looks like the drums of another war in the Middle East are beating.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Punishing Gaza - The Economic Repercussions

While the Gaza/Israel conflict rears its ugly head on a fairly regular basis, those of us who live in the West where news of the Middle East is filtered through a pro-Israel sieve rarely actually learn anything of significance about the Gaza Strip other than Hamas' ability to manufacture and deploy rockets.  Thanks to a recent study by the World Bank, we can now get an insider's viewpoint on one of the most significant problems facing residents of the Gaza; its economy which has been strangled by years of Israeli pressures which began in 2007 when Hamas took over leadership of Gaza.

Let's open by looking at a map showing Gaza, the main crossing points into Israel (the majority of which are closed) and the 6 nautical mile fishing limits (which were reduced to 3 nautical miles as you will see later in this posting):

Thanks to restrictions on movement, access and trade, investment levels in Gaza have resulted in deindustrialization.  Compared to its peer group in the West Bank which saw real GDP growth of almost 5 percent in Q1 2018, the Gaza saw its economy shrink by 6 percent over the same quarter on a year-over-year basis  Here is a graphic showing a historical comparison of real economic growth rates of the West Bank, Gaza (in red) and the Palestinian Territories as a whole:

In large part, Gaza's economy shrank because of severe cuts in aid for reconstruction and transfers from the Palestinian Authority.  As well, Gaza's economic isolation has led to further degradation of its economy.

Here is a graphic which shows a historical comparison of the unemployment rates of the West Bank, Gaza (in red) and Palestinian Territories as a whole:

The overall unemployment rate in the Palestinian Territories hit a two-decade high of 32.4 percent in Q2 2018, five percentage points up from its average in 2017.  This increase in unemployment is due to a growing unemployment problem in Gaza where 53.7 percent of the labor force was unemployed in Q2 2018.  Unemployment among Gaza's youth exceeded 70 percent and hit 78 percent for females.  Is it any wonder that Gaza's youth are protesting against Israel? 

One of the biggest problems facing Gaza's economy is the full blockade that was enforced by Israel after Hamas was elected in 2007.  This factor, along with wars in 2008, 2012 and 2014 have taken a significant toll on Gaza's economy despite international aid for reconstruction.  The blockade has restyled in a deindustrialization of its economy with manufacturing now accounting for only 8 percent of GDP compared to 16 percent in 1994.  Thanks to the ongoing conflict, the size of Gaza's agricultural sector has also declined, now comprising less than 5 percent of its economy compared to 11 percent two decades ago.  The only sector showing growth is the public sector whose share of the economy rose from 12 percent in 1994 to 29 percent in 2018.  This, however, is likely unsustainable; public spending was reduced by 7 percent during the first half of 2018 as the Palestinian Authority.was forced to cut its total wage bill by 17 percent on a year-over-year basis through the cutting of salaries and the imposition of early retirements.  This has led the number of Palestinian Authority employees in Gaza to drop by more than 22000 since the beginning of 2017 compared to a drop of only 4000 in the West Bank.  Additionally, the Palestinian Authority has cut wages to its employees in the Gaza; salary reductions of 30 percent took place in 2017 followed by further cuts of 50 percent in 2018.  This has resulted in a drop in Palestinian Authority monthly total spending in the Gaza from $125 million per month in 2016 to $96 million currently.

Here is a graphic showing how the sectoral contributions to Gaza's GDP have evolved over the past two decades:

In the first half of 2018, the Palestinian Authority's financing deficit hit $400 million.  Aid totalled $240 million ($183 million in budget support and $57 million in development financing) which is one-third lower than the same period in 2017.  This has forced the Palestinian Authority to fill the fiscal gap through arrears to its pension plan which have already reached $1.6 billion and the private sector which now exceeds $600 million.  If the economy continues as it has for the first half of 2018, the projected deficit for the Palestinian Authority is expected to reach $1.24 billion or 8.2 percent of GDP.

One of Gaza's biggest problems hinges on recent decisions by the Government of Israel (GoI).  The Israeli government closed the Karm Abu Salem crossing in July 2018; this crossing was the only operational commercial crossing into Gaza.  Since the crossing was closed, only food and medicine have been allowed into Gaza but on a case by case basis.  The crossing of much-needed fuel and construction materials has been fully banned.  As well, in mid-October 2018, the GoI also reduced Gaza's fishing zone in the Mediterranean Sea from 6 nautical miles to 3 nautical miles, much lower than the internationally mandated 20 nautical mile limit.  This was done to prevent Palestinian attempts to infiltrate Israeli territory and harm its forces and has made it much more difficult for Palestinian fishermen to make a living from fishing.

All of this has had a significant impact on poverty levels in Gaza.  The current poverty rate is 53 percent, a 14 percentage point jump since 2011 as shown on this graphic which compares the poverty levels of Gaza and the West Bank in both 2011 and 2017:

Currently, poverty in Gaza account for 71 percent of poverty in the Palestinian Territories, up from 51 percent in 2011.  

Let's close with a final quote from the World Bank report.:

"The economic and social situation in Gaza that has been declining for over a decade, has deteriorated exponentially in recent months as transfers from outside the territory are squeezed. The impact this is having on people can be seen in the significant increase in poverty and reduced opportunities since 2011 – which has worsened further in 2018. The situation has reached a critical point with increased frustration, feeding into downward cycle....

To prevent an immediate collapse, the recent corrosion in the livelihood of Gazans needs to be reversed. The quick deterioration in conditions in Gaza in recent months has been driven by a severe weakening in purchasing power and economic activity, accompanied by a decline in service delivery. This situation needs to be addressed to avoid further blows to wellbeing, health, and stability. The quickest response mechanism would be to reverse the decline in transfers that have maintained services and economic activity in the past decade....

The Israeli constraints on movement, access and trade continue to be the main impediment to economic growth in the Palestinian territories. In particular, restrictions related to Area C (West Bank) and the blockade on Gaza represent the biggest challenges to growth, and their removal can generate momentous economic benefits. Nonetheless, progress in easing these constraints has not yet materialized." (my bolds)

Unless Israel backs down on its relentless program of punishment, Gaza residents are facing an extremely grim future.  With Washington fully backing Israel on just about every key Middle East geopolitical issue and punishing the Palestinian Authority by cutting aid in August 2018 as shown in this statement from the State Department:

"Earlier this year...the President directed an overall review of U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and also in Gaza....

The decision was then made, and we sent out a statement to this effect [on August 24], that that money at this time is not in the best interests of the U.S. national interest and also at this time does not provide value to the U.S. taxpayer."

...and this statement in September 2018 from Donald Trump in the Rosh Hashanah National Press Call:

"I stopped massive amounts of money that we were paying to the Palestinians and the Palestinian leaders. [The] United States was paying them tremendous amounts of money. And I’d say, you’ll get money, but we’re not paying you until we make a deal. If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying. And that’s going to have a little impact."

...the future of Gaza looks grim at the very best.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Google and the End of Your Private Homelife

For people that are too lazy to write out a shopping list, actually check their calendar, call to book a restaurant table, get out of bed or wait until they get home to turn on the coffee maker or turn on an oven, we have this:

...and this:

As if this amount of so-called smart technology weren't invasive enough and just in case you wanted to stay ahead of your neighbours, Google has recently patented a smart-home automated system that has the capability to eavesdrop on your entire life at home.

Patent Number US 10,114,351 B2 dated October 30, 2018 is for a "Smart-Home Automation System That Suggests or Automatically Implements Selected Household Policies Based on Sensed Observations" or, as Google puts it "Privacy-Aware personalized content for the smart home".

Here is the abstract and rather technical description of the system:

Here is the schematic of the system:

Here is a schematic showing how audio can be monitored throughout a house and a potential application (i.e. front door will be locked if the system detects that "Sydney" is home alone)

Here is another schematic and flow diagram showing how the system can track and monitor television usage in a household:

Here is a schematic (28) showing how the system can monitor activities taking place in the household's kitchen area:

It will even go so far as to detect what occurs in the household bathrooms as shown here: 

In the patent document, it states that the system can preserve personal privacy while an occupant is using the bathroom however, it can be used to monitor electrical and water consumption and attribute water consumption to a particular water-based application (i.e. sink, toilet, bathtub, shower etcetera).  It can also be used to track the time spent brushing one's teeth through the use of both audio and video signatures.

It will also detect behaviours which are classified as "inferred activities":

According to this figure, child mischief can be detected using audio, video or infrared monitoring.  In some cases, low-level audio signatures (whispering or silence) during active periods can be used to infer that mischief is occurring.  Here is a quote from the patent document:

The system can be used to track the activities of children in the household.  It can track all of a child's activities and display them in a pie chart as shown here:

It can also track what activities that involve the use of "undesirable substances" as shown here:

...and reward desired behaviour:

The system will also be able to monitor the emotional state of the occupants of a household as shown in this flow diagram:

Using both audio signatures and optical indicators as well as infrared information such as body temperature, the system will be able to infer whether the occupants are happy or sad.

Keeping in mind that Google's business model/ecosystem is built on advertising and if all that I have shown you in this posting weren't intrusive enough, here is a description of one of the capabilities of its system that you may find a bit alarming:

For example, the smart video camera may use OCR to ascertain that the book on the user's bedside table is titled “The Godfather.” The smart video camera may send this object data to the client device, which, in the depicted embodiment, may be a portable electronic device, such as a tablet, smartphone, laptop, etc.

Based at least on the received object data related to the book, scores assigned by the servers  to each piece of content provided in the set of content, or both, the portable computing device may rescore each piece of content to provide higher scores to content more relevant to the user's preferences. As a result, the portable computing device may select a TV/movie recommendation that received a high score in view of the information related to the book. For example, the following recommendation may be displayed, “I noticed you have a copy of ‘The Godfather’ by your bed. The movie based on this novel is showing tonight at 9:30 PM on channel 5.”

As may be appreciated, the sensing devices may be any other suitable smart device previously discussed that includes one or more sensors and is enabled to discern a property of people and/or data. For example, another sensing device may include a home robot. The robot may be equipped with at least one sensor (e.g., camera), processor, memory, and network interface, as discussed above. While performing its house chores, the robot may recognize objects (e.g., guitars, basketballs, books, food, etc.) and/or people. For example, the robot may recognize a guitar in the user's home and the client device may use this data to display a guitar-related advertisement. Further, the robot may recognize the people in the house (e.g., using facial recognition software) and send their ID and/or properties (gender, age, appearance, voice) to the client device. Such data may be available, for example, to robots that serve meals to family members according to their preferences because these robots may recognize specific family members based on their appearance and voice.

In another example, a sensing device and/or client device may recognize a tee-shirt on a floor of the user's closet and recognize the face on the tee-shirt to be that of Will Smith. In addition, the client device may determine from browser search history that the user has searched for Will Smith recently. Accordingly, the client device may use the object data and the search history in combination to provide a movie recommendation that displays, “You seem to like Will Smith. His new movie is playing in a theater near you.”

Thanks to this proposed technology by Google, it is extremely clear that George Orwell was one of the most prescient men of the twentieth century.  Since most of us have willingly surrendered our private lives to the snooping minds who control technology and are quite enchanted with the idea of turning lights on and off and locking and unlocking our doors with smart technology, it is not a huge leap to think that Google's all-encompassing smart home will be a reality at some point in the near future and that we will be leaving the thinking up to a machine in the hands of someone that cannot be trusted given this: