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U.S. soldiers are revealing sensitive information by jogging



An interactive map posted on the Internet that shows the whereabouts of people who use fitness devices such as Fitbit also reveals highly sensitive information about the locations and activities of soldiers at U.S. military bases, in what appears to be a major security oversight.

The Global Heat Map, published by the GPS tracking company Strava, uses satellite information to map the locations and movements of subscribers to the company’s fitness service over a two-year period, by illuminating areas of activity.

Strava says it has 27 million users around the world, including people who own widely available fitness devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone, as well as people who directly subscribe to its mobile app. The map is not live — rather, it shows a pattern of accumulated activity between 2015 and September 2017.

Most parts of the United States and Europe, where millions of people use some type of fitness tracker, show up on the map as blazes of light because there is so much activity.

A portion of the Strava Labs heat map from Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, made by tracking activities. (Screen shot)

In war zones and deserts in countries such as Iraq and Syria, the heat map becomes almost entirely dark — except for scattered pinpricks of activity. Zooming in on those areas brings into focus the locations and outlines of known U.S. military bases, as well as of other unknown and potentially sensitive sites — presumably because American soldiers and other personnel are using fitness trackers as they move around.

The U.S.-led coalition said on Monday it is revising its guidelines on the use of all wireless and technological devices on military facilities as a result of the revelations.

The existing rules on the privacy settings to be applied to devices such as fitness trackers are being “refined” and commanders at bases are being urged to enforce existing rules governing their use, according to a statement from the Central Command press office in Kuwait.

“The rapid development of new and innovative information technologies enhances the quality of our lives but also poses potential challenges to operational security and force protection,” said the statement, which was issued in response to questions from The Washington Post.

“The Coalition is in the process of implementing refined guidance on privacy settings for wireless technologies and applications, and such technologies are forbidden at certain Coalition sites and during certain activities,” it added.

The Pentagon has encouraged the use of Fitbits among military personnel and in 2013 distributed 2,500 of them as part of a pilot program to battle obesity.

The Global Heat Map was posted online in November 2017, but the information it contains was publicized Saturday only after a 20-year-old Australian student stumbled across it.

Nathan Ruser, who is studying international security and the Middle East, found out about the map from a mapping blog and was inspired to look more closely, he said, after a throwaway comment by his father, who observed that the map offered a snapshot of “where rich white people are” in the world.

“I wondered, does it show U.S. soldiers?” Ruser said, and he immediately zoomed in on Syria. “It sort of lit up like a Christmas tree.”

He started tweeting about his discovery, and the Internet also lit up as data analysts, military experts and former soldiers began scouring the map for evidence of activity in their areas of interest.

Adam Rawnsley, a Daily Beast journalist, noticed a lot of jogging activity on the beach near a suspected CIA base in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Another Twitter user said he had located a Patriot missile system site in Yemen.

Ben Taub, a journalist with the New Yorker, homed in on the location of U.S. Special Operations bases in the Sahel region of Africa.

The site does not identify app users and shows many locations that may be connected to aid agencies, U.N. facilities and the military bases of other nations — or any group whose personnel are likely to use fitness trackers, said Tobias Schneider, an international security analyst based in Germany.

But it is not hard, he said, to map the activity to known, or roughly known, U.S. military sites and then glean further information.

The location of most of the sites is public knowledge — such as the vast Kandahar air base in Afghanistan. The Pentagon has publicly acknowledged that U.S. Special Operations troops maintain a small outpost at Tanf in the Syrian desert near the Iraqi border, which shows up on the map as a neatly illuminated oblong, probably because U.S. soldiers wearing Fitbits or similar devices either jog around or patrol the perimeter.

But the data also offers a mine of information to anyone who wants to attack or ambush U.S. troops in or around the bases, Schneider said, including patterns of activity inside the bases. Many people wear their fitness trackers all day to measure their total step counts, and soldiers appear to be no exception, meaning the maps reveal far more than just their exercise habits.

Lines of activity extending out of bases and back may indicate patrol routes. The map of Afghanistan appears as a spider web of lines connecting bases, showing supply routes, as does northeast Syria, where the United States maintains a network of mostly unpublicized bases. Concentrations of light inside a base may indicate where troops live, eat or work, suggesting possible targets for enemies.

At a site in northern Syria near a dam, where analysts have suspected the U.S. military is building a base, the map shows a small blob of activity accompanied by an intense line along the nearby dam, suggesting that the personnel at the site jog regularly along the dam, Schneider said.

“This is a clear security threat,” he said. “You can see a pattern of life. You can see where a person who lives on a compound runs down a street to exercise. In one of the U.S. bases at Tanf, you can see people running round in circles.”

“Big OPSEC [operations security] and PERSEC [personal security] fail,” tweeted Nick Waters, a former British army officer who pinpointed the location of his former base in Afghanistan using the map. “Patrol routes, isolated patrol bases, lots of stuff that could be turned into actionable intelligence.”

By no means is all the activity discovered related to U.S. forces, Schneider said. The perimeter of the main Russian base in Syria, Hmeimim, is clearly visible — as are several routes out of the base that are presumably taken by patrols, he said.

Other Russian bases also show up, but Iranians either don’t use fitness trackers or prudently turn them off, he noted.


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A New CAA Tell-All




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One of the most fascinating categories of novels to read would definitely have to be the oral history genre. In general, people tend to enjoy reading books that include interviews with real celebrities and famous figures.

It is always fascinating to hear stories from other people, but there is an extra level of intrigue provided when the people are famous. (It’s why podcasts like WTF with Marc Maron are so popular.)

In the past, the writing duo of James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales have provided the general reading public with a slew of comprehensive oral histories about some of the most fascinating subjects in the entertainment business.

They published These Guys Have All the Fun and Live from New York, behemoth novels that compiled an oral history about both ESPN and Saturday Night Live, respectively. Now, they have ventured into an interesting, albeit unexpected oral history that tackles the history of one of the top talent agencies in the world.

The book is entitled, Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Arts Agency. Regarding the book’s unexpected foray into CAA, Miller says that casting and talent agencies are such a part of our daily lives and we do not always realize it, so it allows for an interesting glimpse into something that is so prevalent in the behind the scenes world of our lives.

From talk show hosts like Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, and Stephen Colbert to huge Hollywood actors like Cate Blanchett, Chris Hemsworth, and Brad Pitt, the book will chronicle the ins and outs of many back door Hollywood deals that have shaped the future of our culture, our media, and our entertainment for years upon years and decades upon decades. And after the quality of the stories presented in the oral histories of ESPN and Saturday Night Live, the book will be a must read for all those who adore those types of novels.


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2017’s Big Talent Battle




In the past, the success of talent agencies were defined by the amount of qualities that agencies could boast. Perhaps, also, the quality of the talent that these agencies acquired was also hugely beneficial for marking the level of success that talent agencies procured.

For example, the film industry used to be largely based around various studios that had certain stars attached to them. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, for one, were tied to RKO Radio Pictures for many years.

Now, however, the model for successful talent agencies is shifting, as is the entire landscape for the entertainment industry. For one, talent agencies are increasingly more dependent on their own internal growth as well as generating revenue from outside sources. They cannot afford to be completely reliant on the star power of their celebrities.

One reason for this is because with the increase in popularity for services like Hulu and Netflix, actors are working for fewer episodes of television every year. Additionally, stars do not get people into movie theaters as effectively as they used to, with many considering Leonardo DiCaprio the last actor that could pull an audience based on name recognition alone.

WME-IMG is pursuing the option of owning their own content in 2017, while CAA is looking to making deals overseas. Both of these seem like viable options as the foreign market for films and television has only gotten larger over recent years (after all, it rescued Universal’s Dark Universe by buoying most of the profits made by 2017’s The Mummy) and the idea of producing your own content has come to be one of the most lucrative ones with every company getting into the game, from Apple to Netflix to even Amazon.

Time will tell which talent agency truly proved to be the victorious one this year.

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Fionn Whitehead Joins UTA




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When Christopher Nolan began work on his tenth feature film, the true story of the evacuation after the Battle of Dunkirk during World War II, Dunkirk, he made it quite clear that despite hiring the likes of Kenneth Branagh and Tom Hardy to star in his film, he wanted the true lead of his movie to be an unknown.

Once filming and production on Dunkirk was complete, it became obvious to the moviegoing audience that Nolan was true to his word. The lead for Dunkirk was a young man named Fionn Whitehead.

With such star power in his film electing to serve in supporting roles, Nolan allowed for Whitehead to become the focal point of what was one of the most successful original films of the summer, becoming quite the box office juggernaut. Because of the large amounts of exposure that Whitehead received in the summer of 2017, it would only make sense that one of the top talent agencies in the world would make a move to scoop up his talent and that’s just what happened.

The United Talent Agency inked a deal to represent the rising star recently. Talk about a slew of major developments for an actor after starring in his first big movie.

Dunkirk is considered a major awards player going forward for the Warner Brothers studio, as there has been much buzz about the potential for Nolan to sneak into the category for Best Director, the film to be nominated for Best Picture, and many other aspects to be nominated for the technical categories of the awards ceremony. If any actor were to make a splash in the Oscars, it would likely be Mark Rylance, but I do not think we should rule out the potential for Whitehead, the newcomer, to surprise everybody.

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