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Automation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 Automation  Comments Off on Automation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jun 192016
 

Automation or automatic control, is the use of various control systems for operating equipment such as machinery, processes in factories, boilers and heat treating ovens, switching on telephone networks, steering and stabilization of ships, aircraft and other applications with minimal or reduced human intervention. Some processes have been completely automated.

The biggest benefit of automation is that it saves labor; however, it is also used to save energy and materials and to improve quality, accuracy and precision.

The term automation, inspired by the earlier word automatic (coming from automaton), was not widely used before 1947, when General Motors established an automation department.[1] It was during this time that industry was rapidly adopting feedback controllers, which were introduced in the 1930s.[2]

Automation has been achieved by various means including mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical, electronic devices and computers, usually in combination. Complicated systems, such as modern factories, airplanes and ships typically use all these combined techniques.

One of the simplest types of control is on-off control. An example is the thermostats used on household appliances. Electromechanical thermostats used in HVAC may only have provision for on/off control of heating or cooling systems. Electronic controllers may add multiple stages of heating and variable fan speed control.

Sequence control, in which a programmed sequence of discrete operations is performed, often based on system logic that involves system states. An elevator control system is an example of sequence control.

The advanced type of automation that revolutionized manufacturing, aircraft, communications and other industries, is feedback control, which is usually continuous and involves taking measurements using a sensor and making calculated adjustments to keep the measured variable within a set range. Moreover, it can be understood as the relation of two variables, one for the “x” axis and a second for the “y” axis. If the value of “y” increases, then the value on the “x” axis will also increase, and vice versa.[3]

All the elements constituting the measurement and control of a single variable are called a control loop. Control that uses a measured signal, feeds the signal back and compares it to a set point, calculates and sends a return signal to make a correction, is called closed loop control. If the controller does not incorporate feedback to make a correction then it is open loop.

Loop control is normally accomplished with a controller. The theoretical basis of open and closed loop automation is control theory.

Sequential control may be either to a fixed sequence or to a logical one that will perform different actions depending on various system states. An example of an adjustable but otherwise fixed sequence is a timer on a lawn sprinkler.

States refer to the various conditions that can occur in a use or sequence scenario of the system. An example is an elevator, which uses logic based on the system state to perform certain actions in response to its state and operator input. For example, if the operator presses the floor n button, the system will respond depending on whether the elevator is stopped or moving, going up or down, or if the door is open or closed, and other conditions.[4]

An early development of sequential control was relay logic, by which electrical relays engage electrical contacts which either start or interrupt power to a device. Relays were first used in telegraph networks before being developed for controlling other devices, such as when starting and stopping industrial-sized electric motors or opening and closing solenoid valves. Using relays for control purposes allowed event-driven control, where actions could be triggered out of sequence, in response to external events. These were more flexible in their response than the rigid single-sequence cam timers. More complicated examples involved maintaining safe sequences for devices such as swing bridge controls, where a lock bolt needed to be disengaged before the bridge could be moved, and the lock bolt could not be released until the safety gates had already been closed.

The total number of relays, cam timers and drum sequencers can number into the hundreds or even thousands in some factories. Early programming techniques and languages were needed to make such systems manageable, one of the first being ladder logic, where diagrams of the interconnected relays resembled the rungs of a ladder. Special computers called programmable logic controllers were later designed to replace these collections of hardware with a single, more easily re-programmed unit.

In a typical hard wired motor start and stop circuit (called a control circuit) a motor is started by pushing a “Start” or “Run” button that activates a pair of electrical relays. The “lock-in” relay locks in contacts that keep the control circuit energized when the push button is released. (The start button is a normally open contact and the stop button is normally closed contact.) Another relay energizes a switch that powers the device that throws the motor starter switch (three sets of contacts for three phase industrial power) in the main power circuit. Large motors use high voltage and experience high in-rush current, making speed important in making and breaking contact. This can be dangerous for personnel and property with manual switches. The “lock in” contacts in the start circuit and the main power contacts for the motor are held engaged by their respective electromagnets until a “stop” or “off” button is pressed, which de-energizes the lock in relay.[5]

Commonly interlocks are added to a control circuit. Suppose that the motor in the example is powering machinery that has a critical need for lubrication. In this case an interlock could be added to insure that the oil pump is running before the motor starts. Timers, limit switches and electric eyes are other common elements in control circuits.

Solenoid valves are widely used on compressed air or hydraulic fluid for powering actuators on mechanical components. While motors are used to supply continuous rotary motion, actuators are typically a better choice for intermittently creating a limited range of movement for a mechanical component, such as moving various mechanical arms, opening or closing valves, raising heavy press rolls, applying pressure to presses.

Computers can perform both sequential control and feedback control, and typically a single computer will do both in an industrial application. Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are a type of special purpose microprocessor that replaced many hardware components such as timers and drum sequencers used in relay logic type systems. General purpose process control computers have increasingly replaced stand alone controllers, with a single computer able to perform the operations of hundreds of controllers. Process control computers can process data from a network of PLCs, instruments and controllers in order to implement typical (such as PID) control of many individual variables or, in some cases, to implement complex control algorithms using multiple inputs and mathematical manipulations. They can also analyze data and create real time graphical displays for operators and run reports for operators, engineers and management.

Control of an automated teller machine (ATM) is an example of an interactive process in which a computer will perform a logic derived response to a user selection based on information retrieved from a networked database. The ATM process has similarities with other online transaction processes. The different logical responses are called scenarios. Such processes are typically designed with the aid of use cases and flowcharts, which guide the writing of the software code.

The earliest feedback control mechanism was used to tent the sails of windmills. It was patented by Edmund Lee in 1745.[6]

The centrifugal governor, which dates to the last quarter of the 18th century, was used to adjust the gap between millstones.[7] The centrifugal governor was also used in the automatic flour mill developed by Oliver Evans in 1785, making it the first completely automated industrial process. The governor was adopted by James Watt for use on a steam engine in 1788 after Watts partner Boulton saw one at a flour mill Boulton & Watt were building.[6]

The governor could not actually hold a set speed; the engine would assume a new constant speed in response to load changes. The governor was able to handle smaller variations such as those caused by fluctuating heat load to the boiler. Also, there was a tendency for oscillation whenever there was a speed change. As a consequence, engines equipped with this governor were not suitable for operations requiring constant speed, such as cotton spinning.[6]

Several improvements to the governor, plus improvements to valve cut-off timing on the steam engine, made the engine suitable for most industrial uses before the end of the 19th century. Advances in the steam engine stayed well ahead of science, both thermodynamics and control theory.[6]

The governor received relatively little scientific attention until James Clerk Maxwell published a paper that established the beginning of a theoretical basis for understanding control theory. Development of the electronic amplifier during the 1920s, which was important for long distance telephony, required a higher signal to noise ratio, which was solved by negative feedback noise cancellation. This and other telephony applications contributed to control theory. Military applications during the Second World War that contributed to and benefited from control theory were fire-control systems and aircraft controls. The word “automation” itself was coined in the 1940s by General Electric.[8] The so-called classical theoretical treatment of control theory dates to the 1940s and 1950s.[3]

Relay logic was introduced with factory electrification, which underwent rapid adaption from 1900 though the 1920s. Central electric power stations were also undergoing rapid growth and operation of new high pressure boilers, steam turbines and electrical substations created a large demand for instruments and controls.

Central control rooms became common in the 1920s, but as late as the early 1930s, most process control was on-off. Operators typically monitored charts drawn by recorders that plotted data from instruments. To make corrections, operators manually opened or closed valves or turned switches on or off. Control rooms also used color coded lights to send signals to workers in the plant to manually make certain changes.[9]

Controllers, which were able to make calculated changes in response to deviations from a set point rather than on-off control, began being introduced the 1930s. Controllers allowed manufacturing to continue showing productivity gains to offset the declining influence of factory electrification.[10]

Factory productivity was greatly increased by electrification in the 1920s. Manufacturing productivity growth fell from 5.2%/yr 1919-29 to 2.76%/yr 1929-41. Field notes that spending on non-medical instruments increased significantly from 192933 and remained strong thereafter.

In 1959 Texacos Port Arthur refinery became the first chemical plant to use digital control.[11] Conversion of factories to digital control began to spread rapidly in the 1970s as the price of computer hardware fell.

The automatic telephone switchboard was introduced in 1892 along with dial telephones.[12] By 1929, 31.9% of the Bell system was automatic. Automatic telephone switching originally used vacuum tube amplifiers and electro-mechanical switches, which consumed a large amount of electricity. Call volume eventually grew so fast that it was feared the telephone system would consume all electricity production, prompting Bell Labs to begin research on the transistor.[13]

The logic performed by telephone switching relays was the inspiration for the digital computer.

The first commercially successful glass bottle blowing machine was an automatic model introduced in 1905.[14] The machine, operated by a two-man crew working 12-hour shifts, could produce 17,280 bottles in 24 hours, compared to 2,880 bottles made by a crew of six men and boys working in a shop for a day. The cost of making bottles by machine was 10 to 12 cents per gross compared to $1.80 per gross by the manual glassblowers and helpers.

Sectional electric drives were developed using control theory. Sectional electric drives are used on different sections of a machine where a precise differential must be maintained between the sections. In steel rolling, the metal elongates as it passes through pairs of rollers, which must run at successively faster speeds. In paper making the paper sheet shrinks as it passes around steam heated drying arranged in groups, which must run at successively slower speeds. The first application of a sectional electric drive was on a paper machine in 1919.[15] One of the most important developments in the steel industry during the 20th century was continuous wide strip rolling, developed by Armco in 1928.[16]

Before automation many chemicals were made in batches. In 1930, with the widespread use of instruments and the emerging use of controllers, the founder of Dow Chemical Co. was advocating continuous production.[17]

Self-acting machine tools that displaced hand dexterity so they could be operated by boys and unskilled laborers were developed by James Nasmyth in the 1840s.[18]Machine tools were automated with Numerical control (NC) using punched paper tape in the 1950s. This soon evolved into computerized numerical control (CNC).

Today extensive automation is practiced in practically every type of manufacturing and assembly process. Some of the larger processes include electrical power generation, oil refining, chemicals, steel mills, plastics, cement plants, fertilizer plants, pulp and paper mills, automobile and truck assembly, aircraft production, glass manufacturing, natural gas separation plants, food and beverage processing, canning and bottling and manufacture of various kinds of parts. Robots are especially useful in hazardous applications like automobile spray painting. Robots are also used to assemble electronic circuit boards. Automotive welding is done with robots and automatic welders are used in applications like pipelines.

The main advantages of automation are:

The following methods are often employed to improve productivity, quality, or robustness.

The main disadvantages of automation are:

In manufacturing, the purpose of automation has shifted to issues broader than productivity, cost, and time.

Lights out manufacturing is when a production system is 100% or near to 100% automated (not hiring any workers). In order to eliminate the need for labor costs all together.

The costs of automation to the environment are different depending on the technology, product or engine automated. There are automated engines that consume more energy resources from the Earth in comparison with previous engines and those that do the opposite[clarification needed] too.[citation needed] Hazardous operations, such as oil refining, the manufacturing of industrial chemicals, and all forms of metal working, were always early contenders for automation.[dubious discuss][citation needed]

Another major shift in automation is the increased demand for flexibility and convertibility in manufacturing processes. Manufacturers are increasingly demanding the ability to easily switch from manufacturing Product A to manufacturing Product B without having to completely rebuild the production lines. Flexibility and distributed processes have led to the introduction of Automated Guided Vehicles with Natural Features Navigation.

Digital electronics helped too. Former analogue-based instrumentation was replaced by digital equivalents which can be more accurate and flexible, and offer greater scope for more sophisticated configuration, parametrization and operation. This was accompanied by the fieldbus revolution which provided a networked (i.e. a single cable) means of communicating between control systems and field level instrumentation, eliminating hard-wiring.

Discrete manufacturing plants adopted these technologies fast. The more conservative process industries with their longer plant life cycles have been slower to adopt and analogue-based measurement and control still dominates. The growing use of Industrial Ethernet on the factory floor is pushing these trends still further, enabling manufacturing plants to be integrated more tightly within the enterprise, via the internet if necessary. Global competition has also increased demand for Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems.

Engineers can now have numerical control over automated devices. The result has been a rapidly expanding range of applications and human activities. Computer-aided technologies (or CAx) now serve as the basis for mathematical and organizational tools used to create complex systems. Notable examples of CAx include Computer-aided design (CAD software) and Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM software). The improved design, analysis, and manufacture of products enabled by CAx has been beneficial for industry.[20]

Information technology, together with industrial machinery and processes, can assist in the design, implementation, and monitoring of control systems. One example of an industrial control system is a programmable logic controller (PLC). PLCs are specialized hardened computers which are frequently used to synchronize the flow of inputs from (physical) sensors and events with the flow of outputs to actuators and events.[21]

Human-machine interfaces (HMI) or computer human interfaces (CHI), formerly known as man-machine interfaces, are usually employed to communicate with PLCs and other computers. Service personnel who monitor and control through HMIs can be called by different names. In industrial process and manufacturing environments, they are called operators or something similar. In boiler houses and central utilities departments they are called stationary engineers.[22]

Different types of automation tools exist:

When it comes to Factory Automation, Host Simulation Software (HSS) is a commonly used testing tool that is used to test the equipment software. HSS is used to test equipment performance with respect to Factory Automation standards (timeouts, response time, processing time).[23]

Many roles for humans in industrial processes presently lie beyond the scope of automation. Human-level pattern recognition, language comprehension, and language production ability are well beyond the capabilities of modern mechanical and computer systems (but see Watson (computer)). Tasks requiring subjective assessment or synthesis of complex sensory data, such as scents and sounds, as well as high-level tasks such as strategic planning, currently require human expertise. In many cases, the use of humans is more cost-effective than mechanical approaches even where automation of industrial tasks is possible. Overcoming these obstacles is a theorized path to post-scarcity economics.

The Paradox of Automation says that the more efficient the automated system, the more crucial the human contribution of the operators. Humans are less involved, but their involvement becomes more critical.

If an automated system has an error, it will multiply that error until its fixed or shut down. This is where human operators come in.[24]

A fatal example of this was Air France Flight 447, where a failure of automation put the pilots into a manual situation they were not prepared for.[25]

Food and drink

The food retail industry has started to apply automation to the ordering process; McDonald’s has introduced touch screen ordering and payment systems in many of its restaurants, reducing the need for as many cashier employees.[26]The University of Texas at Austin has introduced fully automated cafe retail locations.[27] Some Cafes and restaurants have utilized mobile and tablet “apps” to make the ordering process more efficient by customers ordering and paying on their device.[28][spamlink?][29] Some restaurants have automated food delivery to customers tables using a Conveyor belt system. The use of robots is sometimes employed to replace waiting staff.[30]

Stores

Many Supermarkets and even smaller stores are rapidly introducing Self checkout systems reducing the need for employing checkout workers.

Online shopping could be considered a form of automated retail as the payment and checkout are through an automated Online transaction processing system. Other forms of automation can also be an integral part of online shopping, for example the deployment of automated warehouse robotics such as that applied by Amazon using Kiva Systems.

Involves the removal of human labor from the mining process.[31] The mining industry is currently in the transition towards Automation. Currently it can still require a large amount of human capital, particularly in the third world where labor costs are low so there is less incentive for increasing efficiency through automation.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) started the research and development of automated visual surveillance and monitoring (VSAM) program, between 1997 and 1999, and airborne video surveillance (AVS) programs, from 1998 to 2002. Currently, there is a major effort underway in the vision community to develop a fully automated tracking surveillance system. Automated video surveillance monitors people and vehicles in real time within a busy environment. Existing automated surveillance systems are based on the environment they are primarily designed to observe, i.e., indoor, outdoor or airborne, the amount of sensors that the automated system can handle and the mobility of sensor, i.e., stationary camera vs. mobile camera. The purpose of a surveillance system is to record properties and trajectories of objects in a given area, generate warnings or notify designated authority in case of occurrence of particular events.[32]

As demands for safety and mobility have grown and technological possibilities have multiplied, interest in automation has grown. Seeking to accelerate the development and introduction of fully automated vehicles and highways, the United States Congress authorized more than $650 million over six years for intelligent transport systems (ITS) and demonstration projects in the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). Congress legislated in ISTEA that “the Secretary of Transportation shall develop an automated highway and vehicle prototype from which future fully automated intelligent vehicle-highway systems can be developed. Such development shall include research in human factors to ensure the success of the man-machine relationship. The goal of this program is to have the first fully automated highway roadway or an automated test track in operation by 1997. This system shall accommodate installation of equipment in new and existing motor vehicles.” [ISTEA 1991, part B, Section 6054(b)].

Full automation commonly defined as requiring no control or very limited control by the driver; such automation would be accomplished through a combination of sensor, computer, and communications systems in vehicles and along the roadway. Fully automated driving would, in theory, allow closer vehicle spacing and higher speeds, which could enhance traffic capacity in places where additional road building is physically impossible, politically unacceptable, or prohibitively expensive. Automated controls also might enhance road safety by reducing the opportunity for driver error, which causes a large share of motor vehicle crashes. Other potential benefits include improved air quality (as a result of more-efficient traffic flows), increased fuel economy, and spin-off technologies generated during research and development related to automated highway systems.[33]

Automated waste collection trucks prevent the need for as many workers as well as easing the level of labor required to provide the service.[34]

Home automation (also called domotics) designates an emerging practice of increased automation of household appliances and features in residential dwellings, particularly through electronic means that allow for things impracticable, overly expensive or simply not possible in recent past decades.

Automation is essential for many scientific and clinical applications. Therefore, automation has been extensively employed in laboratories. From as early as 1980 fully automated laboratories have already been working.[35] However, automation has not become widespread in laboratories due to its high cost. This may change with the ability of integrating low-cost devices with standard laboratory equipment.[36][37]Autosamplers are common devices used in laboratory automation.

Industrial automation deals primarily with the automation of manufacturing, quality control and material handling processes. General purpose controllers for industrial processes include Programmable logic controllers, stand-alone I/O modules, and computers. Industrial automation is to replace the decision making of humans and manual command-response activities with the use of mechanized equipment and logical programming commands. One trend is increased use of Machine vision to provide automatic inspection and robot guidance functions, another is a continuing increase in the use of robots. Industrial automation is simply done at the industrial level.

Energy efficiency in industrial processes has become a higher priority. Semiconductor companies like Infineon Technologies are offering 8-bit micro-controller applications for example found in motor controls, general purpose pumps, fans, and ebikes to reduce energy consumption and thus increase efficiency.

Industrial robotics is a sub-branch in the industrial automation that aids in various manufacturing processes. Such manufacturing processes include; machining, welding, painting, assembling and material handling to name a few.[40] Industrial robots utilizes various mechanical, electrical as well as software systems to allow for high precision, accuracy and speed that far exceeds any human performance. The birth of industrial robot came shortly after World War II as United States saw the need for a quicker way to produce industrial and consumer goods.[41] Servos, digital logic and solid state electronics allowed engineers to build better and faster systems and overtime these systems were improved and revised to the point where a single robot is capable of running 24 hours a day with little or no maintenance.

Industrial automation incorporates programmable logic controllers in the manufacturing process. Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) use a processing system which allows for variation of controls of inputs and outputs using simple programming. PLCs make use of programmable memory, storing instructions and functions like logic, sequencing, timing, counting, etc. Using a logic based language, a PLC can receive a variety of inputs and return a variety of logical outputs, the input devices being sensors and output devices being motors, valves, etc. PLCs are similar to computers, however, while computers are optimized for calculations, PLCs are optimized for control task and use in industrial environments. They are built so that only basic logic-based programming knowledge is needed and to handle vibrations, high temperatures, humidity and noise. The greatest advantage PLCs offer is their flexibility. With the same basic controllers, a PLC can operate a range of different control systems. PLCs make it unnecessary to rewire a system to change the control system. This flexibility leads to a cost-effective system for complex and varied control systems.[42]

Agent-assisted automation refers to automation used by call center agents to handle customer inquiries. There are two basic types: desktop automation and automated voice solutions. Desktop automation refers to software programming that makes it easier for the call center agent to work across multiple desktop tools. The automation would take the information entered into one tool and populate it across the others so it did not have to be entered more than once, for example. Automated voice solutions allow the agents to remain on the line while disclosures and other important information is provided to customers in the form of pre-recorded audio files. Specialized applications of these automated voice solutions enable the agents to process credit cards without ever seeing or hearing the credit card numbers or CVV codes[43]

The key benefit of agent-assisted automation is compliance and error-proofing. Agents are sometimes not fully trained or they forget or ignore key steps in the process. The use of automation ensures that what is supposed to happen on the call actually does, every time.

Research by the Oxford Martin School showed that employees engaged in “tasks following well-defined procedures that can easily be performed by sophisticated algorithms” are at risk of displacement. The study, published in 2013, shows that automation can affect both skilled and unskilled work and both high and low-paying occupations; however, low-paid physical occupations are most at risk.[44] However, according to a study published in McKinsey Quarterly[45] in 2015 the impact of computerization in most cases is not replacement of employees but automation of portions of the tasks they perform.[46]

Based on a formula by Gilles Saint-Paul, an economist at Toulouse 1 University, the demand for unskilled human capital declines at a slower rate than the demand for skilled human capital increases.[47] In the long run and for society as a whole it has led to cheaper products, lower average work hours, and new industries forming (I.e, robotics industries, computer industries, design industries). These new industries provide many high salary skill based jobs to the economy.

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Automation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Bahamas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 Bahamas  Comments Off on The Bahamas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jun 122016
 

Coordinates: 2415N 7600W / 24.250N 76.000W / 24.250; -76.000

The Bahamas i, officially the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is an archipelagic state of the Lucayan Archipelago consisting of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean; north of Cuba and Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic); northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands; southeast of the US state of Florida and east of the Florida Keys. Its capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. The designation of “Bahamas” can refer to either the country or the larger island chain that it shares with the Turks and Caicos Islands. As stated in the mandate/manifesto of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Bahamas territory encompasses 470,000km2 (180,000sqmi) of ocean space.

The Bahamas were the site of Columbus’ first landfall in the New World in 1492. At that time, the islands were inhabited by the Lucayan, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taino people. Although the Spanish never colonised the Bahamas, they shipped the native Lucayans to slavery in Hispaniola. The islands were mostly deserted from 1513 until 1648, when English colonists from Bermuda settled on the island of Eleuthera.

The Bahamas became a British Crown colony in 1718, when the British clamped down on piracy. After the American War of Independence, the Crown resettled thousands of American Loyalists in the Bahamas; they brought their slaves with them and established plantations on land grants. Africans constituted the majority of the population from this period. The Bahamas became a haven for freed African slaves: the Royal Navy resettled Africans here liberated from illegal slave ships; American slaves and Seminoles escaped here from Florida; and the government freed American slaves carried on United States domestic ships that had reached the Bahamas due to weather. Slavery in the Bahamas was abolished in 1834. Today the descendants of slaves and free Africans make up nearly 90% of the population; issues related to the slavery years are part of society.

The Bahamas became an independent Commonwealth realm in 1973, retaining Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch. In terms of gross domestic product per capita, the Bahamas is one of the richest countries in the Americas (following the United States and Canada). Its economy is based on tourism and finance.[9]

The name Bahamas is derived from either the Taino ba ha ma (“big upper middle land”), which was a term for the region used by the indigenous Amerindians,[10] while other theories suggest it derives from the Spanish baja mar (“shallow water or sea” or “low tide”) reflecting the shallow waters of the area. Alternatively it may originate from Guanahani, a local name of unclear meaning.[11] In English, the Bahamas is one of only two countries whose self-standing short name begins with the word “the”, along with the Gambia.[12]

Taino people moved into the uninhabited southern Bahamas from Hispaniola and Cuba around the 11th century, having migrated there from South America. They came to be known as the Lucayan people. An estimated 30,000 Lucayan inhabited the Bahamas at the time of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in 1492.

Columbus’s first landfall in the New World was on an island he named San Salvador (known to the Lucayan as Guanahani). Some researchers believe this site to be present-day San Salvador Island (formerly known as Watling’s Island), situated in the southeastern Bahamas. An alternative theory holds that Columbus landed to the southeast on Samana Cay, according to calculations made in 1986 by National Geographic writer and editor Joseph Judge, based on Columbus’s log. Evidence in support of this remains inconclusive. On the landfall island, Columbus made first contact with the Lucayan and exchanged goods with them.

The Spanish forced much of the Lucayan population to Hispaniola for use as forced labour. The slaves suffered from harsh conditions and most died from contracting diseases to which they had no immunity; half of the Taino died from smallpox alone.[14] The population of the Bahamas was severely diminished.[15]

In 1648, the Eleutherian Adventurers, led by William Sayle, migrated from Bermuda. These English Puritans established the first permanent European settlement on an island which they named Eleutherathe name derives from the Greek word for freedom. They later settled New Providence, naming it Sayle’s Island after one of their leaders. To survive, the settlers salvaged goods from wrecks.

In 1670 King Charles II granted the islands to the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas in North America. They rented the islands from the king with rights of trading, tax, appointing governors, and administering the country.[16] In 1684 Spanish corsair Juan de Alcon raided the capital, Charles Town (later renamed Nassau). In 1703 a joint Franco-Spanish expedition briefly occupied the Bahamian capital during the War of the Spanish Succession.

During proprietary rule, the Bahamas became a haven for pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard (c.16801718). To put an end to the ‘Pirates’ republic’ and restore orderly government, Britain made the Bahamas a crown colony in 1718 under the royal governorship of Woodes Rogers. After a difficult struggle, he succeeded in suppressing piracy.[17] In 1720, Rogers led local militia to drive off a Spanish attack.

During the American War of Independence in the late 18th century, the islands became a target for American naval forces under the command of Commodore Esek Hopkins. US Marines occupied the capital of Nassau for a fortnight.

In 1782, following the British defeat at Yorktown, a Spanish fleet appeared off the coast of Nassau. The city surrendered without a fight. Spain returned possession of the Bahamas to Britain the following year, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris. Before the news was received, however, the islands were recaptured by a small British force led by Andrew Deveaux.

After American independence, the British resettled some 7,300 Loyalists with their slaves in the Bahamas, and granted land to the planters to help compensate for losses on the continent. These Loyalists, who included Deveaux, established plantations on several islands and became a political force in the capital. European Americans were outnumbered by the African-American slaves they brought with them, and ethnic Europeans remained a minority in the territory.

In 1807, the British abolished the slave trade, followed by the United States the next year. During the following decades, the Royal Navy intercepted the trade; they resettled in the Bahamas thousands of Africans liberated from slave ships.

In the 1820s during the period of the Seminole Wars in Florida, hundreds of American slaves and African Seminoles escaped from Cape Florida to the Bahamas. They settled mostly on northwest Andros Island, where they developed the village of Red Bays. From eyewitness accounts, 300 escaped in a mass flight in 1823, aided by Bahamians in 27 sloops, with others using canoes for the journey. This was commemorated in 2004 by a large sign at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.[18][19] Some of their descendants in Red Bays continue African Seminole traditions in basket making and grave marking.[20]

The United States’ National Park Service, which administers the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, is working with the African Bahamian Museum and Research Center (ABAC) in Nassau on development to identify Red Bays as a site related to American slaves’ search for freedom. The museum has researched and documented the African Seminoles’ escape from southern Florida. It plans to develop interpretive programs at historical sites in Red Bay associated with the period of their settlement in the Bahamas.[21]

In 1818,[22] the Home Office in London had ruled that “any slave brought to the Bahamas from outside the British West Indies would be manumitted.” This led to a total of nearly 300 slaves owned by US nationals being freed from 1830 to 1835.[23] The American slave ships Comet and Encomium used in the United States domestic coastwise slave trade, were wrecked off Abaco Island in December 1830 and February 1834, respectively. When wreckers took the masters, passengers and slaves into Nassau, customs officers seized the slaves and British colonial officials freed them, over the protests of the Americans. There were 165 slaves on the Comet and 48 on the Encomium. Britain finally paid an indemnity to the United States in those two cases in 1855, under the Treaty of Claims of 1853, which settled several compensation cases between the two nations.[24][25]

Slavery was abolished in the British Empire on 1 August 1834. After that British colonial officials freed 78 American slaves from the Enterprise, which went into Bermuda in 1835; and 38 from the Hermosa, which wrecked off Abaco Island in 1840.[26] The most notable case was that of the Creole in 1841: as a result of a slave revolt on board, the leaders ordered the American brig to Nassau. It was carrying 135 slaves from Virginia destined for sale in New Orleans. The Bahamian officials freed the 128 slaves who chose to stay in the islands. The Creole case has been described as the “most successful slave revolt in U.S. history”.[27]

These incidents, in which a total of 447 slaves belonging to US nationals were freed from 1830 to 1842, increased tension between the United States and Great Britain. They had been co-operating in patrols to suppress the international slave trade. But, worried about the stability of its large domestic slave trade and its value, the United States argued that Britain should not treat its domestic ships that came to its colonial ports under duress, as part of the international trade. The United States worried that the success of the Creole slaves in gaining freedom would encourage more slave revolts on merchant ships.

In August 1940, after his abdication of the British throne, the Duke of Windsor was installed as Governor of the Bahamas, arriving with his wife, the Duchess. Although disheartened at the condition of Government House, they “tried to make the best of a bad situation”.[28] He did not enjoy the position, and referred to the islands as “a third-class British colony”.[29]

He opened the small local parliament on 29 October 1940. The couple visited the “Out Islands” that November, on Axel Wenner-Gren’s yacht, which caused controversy;[30] the British Foreign Office strenuously objected because they had been advised (mistakenly) by United States intelligence that Wenner-Gren was a close friend of the Luftwaffe commander Hermann Gring of Nazi Germany.[30][31]

The Duke was praised at the time for his efforts to combat poverty on the islands. A 1991 biography by Philip Ziegler, however, described him as contemptuous of the Bahamians and other non-white peoples of the Empire. He was praised for his resolution of civil unrest over low wages in Nassau in June 1942, when there was a “full-scale riot.”[32] Ziegler said that the Duke blamed the trouble on “mischief makers communists” and “men of Central European Jewish descent, who had secured jobs as a pretext for obtaining a deferment of draft”.[33]

The Duke resigned the post on 16 March 1945.[34][35]

Modern political development began after the Second World War. The first political parties were formed in the 1950s. The British Parliament authorised the islands as internally self-governing in 1964, with Sir Roland Symonette, of the United Bahamian Party, as the first Premier.

A new constitution granting the Bahamas internal autonomy went into effect on 7 January 1964.[36] In 1967, Lynden Pindling of the Progressive Liberal Party, became the first black Premier of the majority-black colony; in 1968 the title of the position was changed to Prime Minister. In 1968, Pindling announced that the Bahamas would seek full independence.[37] A new constitution giving the Bahamas increased control over its own affairs was adopted in 1968.[38]

The British House of Lords voted to give the Bahamas its independence on 22 June 1973.[39]Prince Charles delivered the official documents to Prime Minister Lynden Pindling, officially declaring the Bahamas a fully independent nation on 10 July 1973.[40] It joined the Commonwealth of Nations on the same day.[41]Sir Milo Butler was appointed the first Governor-General of the Bahamas (the official representative of Queen Elizabeth II) shortly after independence. The Bahamas joined the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on 22 August 1973,[42] and it joined the United Nations on 18 September 1973.[43]

Based on the twin pillars of tourism and offshore finance, the Bahamian economy has prospered since the 1950s. Significant challenges in areas such as education, health care, housing, international narcotics trafficking and illegal immigration from Haiti continue to be issues.

The College of the Bahamas is the national higher education/tertiary system. Offering baccalaureate, masters and associate degrees, COB has three campuses, and teaching and research centres throughout the Bahamas. COB is on track to become the national “University of The Bahamas” (UOB) in 2015.

The country lies between latitudes 20 and 28N, and longitudes 72 and 80W.

In 1864, the Governor of the Bahamas reported that there were 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 rocks in the colony.[44]

The closest island to the United States is Bimini, which is also known as the gateway to the Bahamas. The island of Abaco is to the east of Grand Bahama. The southeasternmost island is Inagua. The largest island is Andros Island. Other inhabited islands include Eleuthera, Cat Island, Long Island, San Salvador Island, Acklins, Crooked Island, Exuma and Mayaguana. Nassau, capital city of the Bahamas, lies on the island of New Providence.

All the islands are low and flat, with ridges that usually rise no more than 15 to 20m (49 to 66ft). The highest point in the country is Mount Alvernia (formerly Como Hill) on Cat Island. It has an elevation of 63 metres (207ft).

To the southeast, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and three more extensive submarine features called Mouchoir Bank, Silver Bank and Navidad Bank, are geographically a continuation of the Bahamas.

The climate of the Bahamas is tropical savannah climate or Aw according to Kppen climate classification. As such, there has never been a frost or freeze reported in the Bahamas, although every few decades low temperatures can fall into the 35C (3741F) range for a few hours when a severe cold outbreak comes off the North American landmass. Otherwise, the low latitude, warm tropical Gulf Stream, and low elevation give the Bahamas a warm and winterless climate. There is only an 8C difference between the warmest month and coolest month in most of the Bahama islands. As with most tropical climates, seasonal rainfall follows the sun, and summer is the wettest season. The Bahamas are often sunny and dry for long periods of time, and average more than 3,000 hours or 340 days[45] of sunlight annually.

Tropical storms and hurricanes affect the Bahamas. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew passed over the northern portions of the islands, and Hurricane Floyd passed near the eastern portions of the islands in 1999.

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The Bahamas is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy headed by Queen Elizabeth II in her role as Queen of the Bahamas. Political and legal traditions closely follow those of the United Kingdom and the Westminster system. The Bahamas is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations as a Commonwealth realm, retaining the Queen as head of state (represented by a Governor-General).

Legislative power is vested in a bicameral parliament, which consists of a 38-member House of Assembly (the lower house), with members elected from single-member districts, and a 16-member Senate, with members appointed by the Governor-General, including nine on the advice of the Prime Minister, four on the advice of the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, and three on the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. The House of Assembly carries out all major legislative functions. As under the Westminster system, the Prime Minister may dissolve Parliament and call a general election at any time within a five-year term.[48]

The Prime Minister is the head of government and is the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Assembly. Executive power is exercised by the Cabinet, selected by the Prime Minister and drawn from his supporters in the House of Assembly. The current Governor-General is Dame Marguerite Pindling, and the current Prime Minister is The Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, P.C., M.P..

Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, movement and association. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Jurisprudence is based on English law.

The Bahamas has a two-party system dominated by the centre-left Progressive Liberal Party and the centre-right Free National Movement. A handful of splinter parties have been unable to win election to parliament. These parties have included the Bahamas Democratic Movement, the Coalition for Democratic Reform, Bahamian Nationalist Party and the Democratic National Alliance.

The Bahamas has strong bilateral relationships with the United States and the United Kingdom, represented by an ambassador in Washington and High Commissioner in London. The Bahamas also associates closely with other nations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Its military is the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (the RBDF), the navy of the Bahamas which includes a land unit called Commando Squadron (Regiment) and an Air Wing (Air Force). Under the Defence Act, the RBDF has been mandated, in the name of the Queen, to defend the Bahamas, protect its territorial integrity, patrol its waters, provide assistance and relief in times of disaster, maintain order in conjunction with the law enforcement agencies of the Bahamas, and carry out any such duties as determined by the National Security Council. The Defence Force is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)’s Regional Security Task Force.

The RBDF came into existence on 31 March 1980. Their duties include defending the Bahamas, stopping drug smuggling, illegal immigration and poaching, and providing assistance to mariners. The Defence Force has a fleet of 26 coastal and inshore patrol craft along with 3 aircraft and over 1,100 personnel including 65 officers and 74 women.

The districts of the Bahamas provide a system of local government everywhere except New Providence (which holds 70% of the national population), whose affairs are handled directly by the central government. In 1996, the Bahamian Parliament passed the “Local Government Act” to facilitate the establishment of Family Island Administrators, Local Government Districts, Local District Councillors and Local Town Committees for the various island communities. The overall goal of this act is to allow the various elected leaders to govern and oversee the affairs of their respective districts without the interference of Central Government. In total, there are 32 districts, with elections being held every five years. There are 110 Councillors and 281 Town Committee members are elected to represent the various districts.[49]

Each Councillor or Town Committee member is responsible for the proper use of public funds for the maintenance and development of their constituency.

The Bahamas uses drive-on-the-Left traffic rules throughout the Commonwealth.

The districts other than New Providence are:

The colours embodied in the design of the Bahamian flag symbolise the image and aspirations of the people of the Bahamas; the design reflects aspects of the natural environment (sun, sand and sea) and the economic and social development. The flag is a black equilateral triangle against the mast, superimposed on a horizontal background made up of two colours on three equal stripes of aquamarine, gold and aquamarine.

The symbolism of the flag is as follows: Black, a strong colour, represents the vigour and force of a united people, the triangle pointing towards the body of the flag represents the enterprise and determination of the Bahamian people to develop and possess the rich resources of sun and sea symbolised by gold and aquamarine respectively. In reference to the representation of the people with the colour black, some white Bahamians have joked that they are represented in the thread which “holds it all together.”[50]

There are rules on how to use the flag for certain events. For a funeral the national flag should be draped over the coffin covering the top completely but not covering the bearers. The black triangle on the flag should be placed over the head of the deceased in the coffin. The flag will remain on the coffin throughout the whole service and removed right before lowered into the grave. Upon removal of the flag it should be folded with dignity and put away. The black triangle should never be displayed pointing upwards or from the viewer’s right. This would be a sign of distress.[51]

The coat of arms is like a theme statement that describes the Bahamian people. The coat of arms of the Bahamas contains a shield with the national symbols as its focal point. The shield is supported by a marlin and a flamingo, which are the national animals of the Bahamas. The flamingo is located on the land, and the marlin on the sea, indicating the geography of the islands.

On top of the shield is a conch shell, which represents the varied marine life of the island chain. The conch shell rests on a helmet. Below this is the actual shield, the main symbol of which is a ship representing the Santa Mara of Christopher Columbus, shown sailing beneath the sun. Along the bottom, below the shield appears a banner upon which is scripted the national motto:[52]

“Forward, Upward, Onward Together.”

The yellow elder was chosen as the national flower of the Bahamas because it is native to the Bahama islands, and it blooms throughout the year.

Selection of the yellow elder over many other flowers was made through the combined popular vote of members of all four of New Providence’s garden clubs of the 1970sthe Nassau Garden Club, the Carver Garden Club, the International Garden Club and the Y.W.C.A. Garden Club.

They reasoned that other flowers grown theresuch as the bougainvillea, hibiscus and poincianahad already been chosen as the national flowers of other countries. The yellow elder, on the other hand, was unclaimed by other countries (although it is now also the national flower of the United States Virgin Islands) and also the yellow elder is native to the family islands.[53]

By the terms of GDP per capita, the Bahamas is one of the richest countries in the Americas.[54]

The Bahamas relies on tourism to generate most of its economic activity. Tourism as an industry not only accounts for over 60% of the Bahamian GDP, but provides jobs for more than half the country’s workforce.[55] The Bahamas attracted 5.8 million visitors in 2012, more than 70% of which were cruise visitors.

After tourism, the next most important economic sector is banking and international financial services, accounting for some 15% of GDP.

The government has adopted incentives to encourage foreign financial business, and further banking and finance reforms are in progress. The government plans to merge the regulatory functions of key financial institutions, including the Central Bank of the Bahamas (CBB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission.[citation needed] The Central Bank administers restrictions and controls on capital and money market instruments. The Bahamas International Securities Exchange consists of 19 listed public companies. Reflecting the relative soundness of the banking system (mostly populated by Canadian banks), the impact of the global financial crisis on the financial sector has been limited.[citation needed]

The economy has a very competitive tax regime. The government derives its revenue from import tariffs, VAT, licence fees, property and stamp taxes, but there is no income tax, corporate tax, capital gains tax, or wealth tax. Payroll taxes fund social insurance benefits and amount to 3.9% paid by the employee and 5.9% paid by the employer.[56] In 2010, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 17.2%.[5]

Agriculture is the third largest sector of the Bahamian economy, representing 57% of total GDP. An estimated 80% of the Bahamian food supply is imported. Major crops include onions, okra, and tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, cucumbers, sugar cane, lemons, limes and sweet potatoes.

The Bahamas has an estimated population of 382,825, of which 25.9% are under 14, 67.2% 15 to 64 and 6.9% over 65. It has a population growth rate of 0.925% (2010), with a birth rate of 17.81/1,000 population, death rate of 9.35/1,000, and net migration rate of 2.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population.[57] The infant mortality rate is 23.21 deaths/1,000 live births. Residents have a life expectancy at birth of 69.87 years: 73.49 years for females, 66.32 years for males. The total fertility rate is 2.0 children born/woman (2010).[5]

The most populous islands are New Providence, where Nassau, the capital and largest city, is located;[58] and Grand Bahama, home to the second largest city of Freeport.[59]

According to the 99% response rate obtained from the race question on the 2010 Census questionnaire, 91% of the population identified themselves as being Africans or afro-Bahamian, five percent (5% Europeans or Euro-Bahamian and two percent (2%) of a mixed race (African and European). Three centuries prior, in 1722 when the first official census of The Bahamas was taken, 74% of the population was African and 26% European.[60]

Afro-Bahamians are Bahamian nationals whose primary ancestry was based in West Africa. The first Africans to arrive to the Bahamas were freed slaves from Bermuda; they arrived with the Eleutheran Adventurers looking for new lives.

Since the colonial era of plantations, Africans or Afro-Bahamians have been the largest ethnic group in the Bahamas; in the 21st century, they account for some 91% of the country’s population.[60] The Haitian community is also largely of African descent and numbers about 80,000. Because of an extremely high immigration of Haitians to the Bahamas, the Bahamian government started deporting illegal Haitian immigrants to their homeland in late 2014.[61]

There were 16,598 (5%) of the total population are descendants of Europeans or European Bahamians at the 2010 census.[1]European Bahamians, or Bahamians of European and mixed European descent and form the largest minority, are mainly the descendants of the English Puritans and American Loyalists who arrived in 1649 and 1783, respectively.[62] Many Southern Loyalists went to Abaco, which is about 50% European.[63] A small portion of the Euro Bahamian population is descended from Greek labourers who came to help develop the sponging industry in the 1900s. They make up less than 1% of the nation’s population, and have preserved their distinct Greek Bahamian culture.

The official language of the Bahamas is English. Many residents speak the Bahamian dialect.[64] According to 1995 estimates 98.2% of the adult population is literate.

The islands’ population is predominantly Christian, with Baptists representing 35.4% of the population, Anglican 15.1%, Roman Catholic 13.5%, Pentecostal 8.1%, Church of God 4.8%, Methodist 4.2%, other Christian 15.2%,[5] other Protestant 12%, none or unknown 3%, other 2%[65] The “other” category includes Jews, Muslims, Baha’is, Hindus, Rastafarians and practitioners of Obeah.[66]

In the less developed outer islands (or Family Islands), handicrafts include basketry made from palm fronds. This material, commonly called “straw”, is plaited into hats and bags that are popular tourist items. Another use is for so-called “Voodoo dolls”, even though such dolls are the result of the American imagination and not based on historic fact.[67]

A form of folk magic (obeah) is practiced by some Bahamians, mainly in the Family Islands (out-islands) of the Bahamas.[68] The practice of obeah is illegal in the Bahamas and punishable by law.[69]

Junkanoo is a traditional Afro-Bahamian street parade of ‘rushing’, music, dance and art held in Nassau (and a few other settlements) every Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Junkanoo is also used to celebrate other holidays and events such as Emancipation Day.

Regattas are important social events in many family island settlements. They usually feature one or more days of sailing by old-fashioned work boats, as well as an onshore festival.

Many dishes are associated with Bahamian cuisine, which reflects Caribbean, African and European influences. Some settlements have festivals associated with the traditional crop or food of that area, such as the “Pineapple Fest” in Gregory Town, Eleuthera or the “Crab Fest” on Andros. Other significant traditions include story telling.

Bahamians have created a rich literature of poetry, short stories, plays and short fictional works. Common themes in these works are (1) an awareness of change, (2) a striving for sophistication, (3) a search for identity, (4) nostalgia for the old ways and (5) an appreciation of beauty. Some contributing writers are Susan Wallace, Percival Miller, Robert Johnson, Raymond Brown, O.M. Smith, William Johnson, Eddie Minnis and Winston Saunders.[70][71]

Bahamas culture is rich with beliefs, traditions, folklore and legend. The most well-known folklore and legends in the Bahamas includes Lusca in Andros Bahamas, Pretty Molly on Exuma Bahamas, the Chickcharnies of Andro Bahamas, and the Lost City of Atlantis on Bimini Bahamas.

Sport is a significant part of Bahamian culture. The national sport is Cricket. Cricket has been played in the Bahamas from 1846.[72] It is the oldest sport being played in the country today. The Bahamas Cricket Association was formed in 1936 as an organised body. From the 1940s to the 1970s, cricket was played amongst many Bahamians. Bahamas is not a part of the West Indies Board, so players are not eligible to play for the West Indies cricket team. The late 1970s saw the game begin to decline in the country as teachers, who had previously come from the United Kingdom with a passion for cricket were replaced by teachers who had been trained in the United States. The Bahamian Physical education teachers had no knowledge of the game and instead taught track & field, basketball, baseball, softball,[73]volleyball[74] and football[75] where primary and high schools compete against each other. Today cricket is still enjoyed by a few locals and immigrants in the country usually from Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti and Barbados. Cricket is played on Saturdays and Sundays at Windsor Park and Haynes Oval.

The only other sporting event that began before cricket was horse racing, which started in 1796. The most popular spectator sports are those imported from United States such as basketball,[76]American football[77] and baseball[78] rather than Great Britain due to the country’s close proximity to the United States. Unlike their other Caribbean counterparts, cricket has proven to be more popular.

Dexter Cambridge, Rick Fox and Ian Lockhart are a few Bahamians who joined Bahamian Mychal Thompson of the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA ranks.[79] Over the years American football has become much more popular than association football, though not implemented in the high school system yet. Leagues for teens and adults have been developed by the Bahamas American Football Federation.[80] However association football, commonly known as ‘soccer’ in the country, is still a very popular sport amongst high school pupils. Leagues are governed by the Bahamas Football Association. Recently the Bahamian government has been working closely with Tottenham Hotspur of London to promote the sport in the country as well as promoting the Bahamas in the European market. In 2013 ‘Spurs’ became the first Premier League club to play an exhibition match in the Bahamas to face the Jamaica national football team. Joe Lewis the owner of the Tottenham Hotspur club is based in the Bahamas.[81]

Other popular sports are swimming,[82]tennis[83] and boxing[84] where Bahamians have enjoyed some level of success at the international level. Other sports such as golf,[85]rugby league,[86]rugby union[87] and beach soccer[88] are considered growing sports. Athletics commonly known as track and field in the country is the most successful sport by far amongst Bahamians. Bahamians have a strong tradition in the sprints and jumps. Track and field is probably the most popular spectator sport in the country next to basketball due to their success over the years. Triathlons are gaining popularity in Nassau and the Family Islands.

Bahamians have gone on to win numerous track and field medals at the Olympic Games, IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Commonwealth Games and Pan American Games. Frank Rutherford is the first athletics olympic medalist for the country. He won a bronze medal for triple jump during the 1992 Summer Olympics.[89]Pauline Davis-Thompson, Debbie Ferguson, Chandra Sturrup, Savatheda Fynes and Eldece Clarke-Lewis teamed up for the first athletics Olympic Gold medal for the country when they won the 4 100 m relay at the 2000 Summer Olympics. They are affectionately known as the “Golden Girls”.[90]Tonique Williams-Darling became the first athletics individual Olympic gold medalist when she won the 400m sprint in 2004 Summer Olympics.[91]

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The Vindicator: The oldest continuously printing news source …

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Feb 072016
 

Senator Robert Nichols Senate District 3 http://www.senate.state.tx.us 512-463-0103 First elected to the Texas Senate in 2006, Robert Nichols represents 19 counties including the greater part of East Texas and Montgomery County. In the Texas Senate, Nichols serves as Chairman for the Transportation Committee. He also serves on the Senate Finance, Natural Resources and Economic Development, and Intergovernmental Relations Committees. He is a member of the Legislative Audit Committee and a former Vice Chairman of the Sunset Advisory Committee. During his five sessions as a state senator, Nichols authored and passed legislation to protect landowners rights, increase educational opportunities in East Texas and reform transportation policies. He has worked to reduce Medicaid fraud, and promote free-market principles. During his time with the Sunset Advisory Committee, he was able to help eliminate six state agencies which saved the tax payers $161.9 million. He has been named a Champion for Children by the Equity Center, a Courageous Conservative by the Texas Conservative Coalition, a Friend of County Government by the Texas Association of Counties and a Champion of Free Enterprise by the Texas Association of Business. Before running for Senate, Nichols served as transportation commissioner for eight years where he established a reputation for increasing efficiency without compromising quality. Nichols is a businessman from Jacksonville, Texas. In his hometown he served on city council, was elected mayor, built four successful manufacturing facilities, earned 32 U.S. patents, 128 foreign patents and created more than 900 jobs for East Texas families. Working his way through college by selling fireworks and ironing clothes for other students, Nichols earned a bachelors degree from Lamar University in 1968. He married his high school sweetheart, Donna, and they are the proud parents of three children: Brittney, Joshua and Collynnrae. Nichols is a member of First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville. Senator Robert Nichols was introduced by Rotary Club of Liberty Sergeant at Arms Charles Grabein Tues., Nov. 3, 2015 at Liberty Center.

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Dec 202015
 

I have been working on my submission to the state prosecutor here in Larisa for the past few days. And driving my Greek translator crazy by my frequent changes. But the effort is paying off, I think. The key evidencethat Greeces Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Billionaire George Soros both have direct knowledge of my blog, and evencopy from my blog (spelling mistakes and all!), now appears in aclearer order and is laid out in a better visual way. Its the best I can do, anyway,given my lack of skills with the Paint programme. What do you think?

TSIPRAS SOROS EVID

The evidence that Tsipras and Soros read my blog and copy from my blog reinforces the notion that they believemy blogis credible, factual and accurate. By extension, it is reasonable to say they believe my accusations against them are credible, factual and accurate. And that they believeothers also findthese credible. At any rate, with such illustrious readers as Soros and Tsipras, I can no longer be dismissed as a conspiracy theorist.

As for the progress of my case, the police in Ajia questioned two key witnesses at the beginning of November. The file is now back in Larisa. Due to the Christmas breakI will not be able to view it until the New Year, indeed from 10th January onwards. Painful experience in Austria has taught me this is the stage where key evidence disappears from the file or the file disappears altogether. This time, I am going to watch overthe filelike a hawk. Its time for somejustice!

It seems, the state prosecutor should take about amonth to determine whether the case goes to trial. If, given the overwhelming evidence of a crime, he or she does not decide to let it go to trial, I will take legal action because it will be a clear case of corruption.

The whole process may, however,be delayed if Tsipras calls yet another election in the New Year as he and banksters like Soros bring Greece evercloser to total financial and social collapse. After all, strong evidence thatTsipras is one of my readers implicates him directlyin the attempt to silence me in April 2015, and gives him a motive to suppress the case by various means.

Anyway, this is the latest, and hopefully, the final draft of my submission on the involvement of Tsipras and Soros. Information concerning individuals who have been stalked and harassed by Theodekti Vallianatou is omitted for the sake of privacy. It is staggering that the Bishop of Volos and Archbishop of Athens have held their protective hand over Theodekti Vallianatou. But then again, the Archbishop of Athens has had numerous meeting with Tsipras and seems to have good relations with him. Tsiprasabandoned plans for more church taxes.

Most of the rest of the information in this reportis already in the public domain.

SUMMARY

You dont write on your blog what everyone else does. Ive called the police. They are coming to confine you.

These were the words of Theodekti Vallianatou after I escaped from an attempt to lock me in an office. It happened just as I was about to leave a monastery in Anatoli, Greece, in April 2015. I thought my end had come.

Meanwhile, new facts in my case, which emerged in September and in October, establish that both Greeces Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Billionaire George Soros have direct and personal knowledge of my blog, birdflu666. That underlines that even if I do not write what anyone else does as Theodekti Vallianatou, my blog is, nevertheless, factual, accurate and credible. Powerful people like Soros and Tsipras do not waste time on reading the blogs of minor conspiracy theorists.

In this report, I will demonstrate Soros and Tsipras had

* knowledge of my blog as proved (Section A.I ) by the reproduction by Alexis Tsipras in his Greek language tweets of a rare spelling mistake I make in my blog post reporting on Tsipras meeting with Austrian Chancellor Werner Fay(n)mann and as proved (Section A.II) by a linguistic analysis of a text written by George Soros.

* a motive for silencing me for disclosing information about their wrongful activities in relation to finance, epidemics and vaccines which pose a significant danger to the public health (Section B).

Proof that Soros and Tsipras not only read my blog, but copy my blog, even a spelling mistake, underlines that they consider the information on my blog to be credible. By extension, they also consider my accusations against them both as credible. Threatened by the exposure of their wrongdoing on my blog, I allege they looked for ways to silence me.

* a means to do it in the form of networks in Greece, which could improperly influence Theodekti Vallianatou, particularly her brother Grigories Vallianatos, by offering financial or other benefits (Section C).

Vallianatos is a graduate of the London School of Economics as is George Soros and Soros close associate former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. Vallianatos is also a long timer former advisor of Papandreou.

* an opportunity in the form of the isolated location of the monastery under the control of Theodekti Vallianatou, the sister of Grigoris Valliantos, as the Abbess of St John the Forerunner monastery, Anatoli, in Greece (Section D).

Ordering native English speaker and Oxford graduate Theoktisti to leave the office (Theoktisti would have testified that my blog met the criteria of investigative journalism), Theodekti tried to use a special law that allows a person to be forcibly confined for one month on the basis of the testimony of only two people. Her plan was to lock me into the office and have me escorted by police and pyschiatric nurses straight from there to a waiting ambulance. I would have been taken to a pyschiatric unit within a collapsing country, whose medical institutions are rife with corruption, an easy picking for any international medical mafia flush with cash to offer bribes, kickbacks and other inducements to staff entrusted with treatign me.

Only after one month of forced medication does Greek law requires that the victim is presented to a judge to assess their state. My lawyer is of the view I would never have come out alive. Indeed, it is likely that forced medication would have made me so incoherent that any judge would have ordered me to continued to be detained. Even if I had been discharged, something which likely would have happened only after forced medication, I would have been left on the streets of Greece with no money, no ID, no phone and no language. Either way my fate would have been sealed.

Theodekti Vallianatou could reasonably have expected that her actions would have set in motion a chain of events that would have resulted in my death. That is why her actions can be called a murder attempt. Her use of physical violence as she attempted to lock me into her office and on other occasions that day and the next underlines the malevolence of her motivation.

I was a victim of the trend of using pyschiatry to silence whistleblowers. Four tax inspectors in Hessen, Germany, have been awarded compensation after they were classified as paranoid and suspended from their jobs and an investigation into a CDU party donation scandal.

http://www.welt.de/debatte/kolumnen/deutsch-sued-west/article149957266/Hessen-schickt-seine-Steuerfahnder-zum-Psychiater.html

A government official who warned about the deficiences in the G36 gun had to take legal action to avoid being sent to a pyschiatrist and declared mad by his employer, the German army.

http://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article141784634/Bundeswehr-soll-Waffenexperten-drangsaliert-haben.html

And in April, 2015, just as the snow was beginning to thaw on top of the mountain where the monastery, it was my turn. Yet again.

I was an investigative journalist performing a public watchdog function and about to disappear under the pretext of being mentally ill. There would have been no immediate dead body to have to explain away. Yes, there is even a possibility that the readers of this blog would not have noticed I was no longer writing it. My blog has been hacked before. It could have been continued by an unseen hand, albeit without the punch or even coherence of my usual posts to discredit me in a new, more subtle way. That is a possibility.

You dont speak Greek. No one will believe you. Everyone will believe me. The sisters will say whatever I want them to, Theodekti had said, confident that her plan would work.

Your blog posts show you are mentally ill, she continued, mocking me.

Fast forward eight months later and I can present two new separate pieces of evidence proving that both Tsipras and Soros read my blog. These separate proofs emerged within ten days of each other, implying that Tsipras and Soros have a close working relationship when it comes to me.

According to the Wirtschafts Woche, Soros sponsored Alexis Tsipras as early as 2012. I have reported on the links between Soros and Tsipras on my blog as early as January and February 2015.I have accused Tsipras of being a puppet of the banks injuring the Greek people.

The new proof that both Tsipras and Soros have knowledge of my blog also corroborates claims I made in my police report in July that they were the ones who had the motive, networks and opportunity to silence me. I allege, it makes them, in fact, the prime suspects as the ultimate orchestrators in a premedidated, carefully planned attempt to murder me in April, 2015 by Theodekti Vallianatou.

I allege Soros and Tsipras are at the top of the chain of command and Theodekti Vallianatou at the bottom. The brother of Theodekti, Grigoris Vallianatos is a journalist, and a mayoral candidate for Athens, Grigoris Vallianatos is interested in obtaining high political office and is dependent on donations.

http://www.taz.de/!5048278/

In addition, Grigories Vallianatos, Soros and Papandreou as well as Maurice Saatchi are all graduates of the London School of Economics, creating a particularly close network.

On my blog, I have presented evidence that Soros is at the centre of a shadowy network of Billionaires with mulitple links to key scientists and organizations and media at the centre of the engineered Ebola outbreak. The Billionaires call themselves the Good Club and met in New York in 2009. They discussed ways of curbing overpopulation according to the Sunday Times, including infectious diseases.

Bill Gates and David Rockefeller are other members. I note that David Rockefeller has close links to David Petraeus, the head of KKR, a company which benefits from the policies of Tsipras. A sub company of KKR is Singular Logic, which is in control of every aspect of Greeces elections, and apparently with independent few controls.

Presenting their activities as philanthropy, my blog has presented evidence that they were, in fact, violating laws, funding shady scientists and a complex network of media, NGOs and organizations hiding vital information from the publc. Indeed, their enterprise are dangerous to the public and their success depends entirely on their ability to keep their activities out of the public eye.

As a journalist and a blogger, who had credibility because of my accurate reporting of the swine flu scandal of 2009, I allege I represented an obstacle to their plans for mass epidemic vaccination campaigns with risky vaccines.

I have also explained how the creation of money in the hands of private banks and the resultant interest is crushing countries like Greece. As a science journalist who has some knowledge of economics (my father had a doctorate in economics) I was able to connect the global plans for mass vaccination with the financial crisis. Martial law to control a financial collapse due to debt can be declared under the pretext of having to stop an epidemic.

Knowing the legal avenue of defamation was closed to them because my reports were factual, I allege they chose an illegal avenue.

Threatened by my exposure of their wrong doing on a truly vast scale, I suggest they have considering ways and means to silence me for a long while.

I allege that their desire to silence me took on a new urgency after an Open Letter I wrote to the Chair of the health committee of the UK Parliament in February 2015 warning about Lord Maurice Saatchis Medical Innovation Bill seemed to produce a result. I also called for an investigation into the activities of Soros and Bill Gates in relation to the Ebola epidemic.

At the end of my Open Letter in February, I wrote that I lived in fear of my life because of my investigative journalism activities, which exposed the crimes of a powerful elite. Within two months carefully premeditated attempt was to deprive me of my civil liberties without due process and silence me was made.

The evidence I present in this report suggests a plausible chain of events is that Lord Maurice Saatchi contacted fellow LSE graduate George Soros about my role in blocking his legislation. Soros, in turn contacted his friend in Greece, Papandreou, also an LSE graduate. Papandreou, in turn, contacted his friend and long time advisor Grigoris Vallianatos, also an LSE graduate. He rang Theodekti Vallianatou in the monastery, and told her to come to Athens immediately to flesh out the details of a plan they already had to remove me.

At ay rate, the fact is Theodekti Vallianatou made what she called a spontaneous visit to Athens immediately Lord Saatchis Medical Innovation Bill was unexpectedly blocked by the Liberal Democrats in February. There she stayed for six weeks giving her plenty of time to plan my removal in secrecy together with her brother, a lawyer. Although she is an Abbess and although Easter is a special time, and although the second in command, Theoktisti was away much of the time giving a pre scheduled talk in the USA, Theodekti did not return to the monastery until just before Easter Sunday. Shortly afterwards, Theodekti seized her first and also, as she thought, her last opportunity. She put into effect a coldly, premeditated plan to deprive me of my civil liberties without due process and silence me.

She was thwarted when the local police realized the law was being abused and refused to come, something Theodekti Vallianatou had not reckoned with.

Since then, Theodekti Vallianatou has made every effort to cover up her crime. She actively seeks out information about where I am in Larissa and seizes opportunities to harrass, intimidate and threaten people around me. I note that the Bishop of Volos has held his protective hand over her and empowered her to engage in stalking and harassment against me and another person in Germany involved in a civil defamation case with Theodekti.

A. I) PROOF OF KNOWLEDGE OF MY BLOG ALEXIS TSIPRAS

i. Evidence

Documents

1) A screenshot of tweet by Alexis Tsipras with the incorrect spelling Faynmann from October 6th 2015.

2) A screenshot of tweet Alexis Tsipras sent with the correct spelling of Faymann on 9th February 2015.

3) A screenshot of Google search page of the date of my report with the incorrect spelling Faynmann from 9th February 2015.

4) A screenshot of my report on the meeting between Tsipras and Faymann in Vienna on 9th February, 2015.

5) A screenshot of my cartoon on the meeting between Tsipras and Faymann in Lesbos in October 2015.

6) A screenshot of Google search page of Werner Faynmann showing only 620 results for the incorrect spelling Faynmann in in an English and or German language language Google.

7) A screenshot of Google search page of Werner Faymann showing 482,000 results for the correct spelling Faymann in an English and or German language Google.

8) A screenshot of Greek language Google search page of Werner Faynmann showing 11,800 results for the incorrect spelling Faynmann in Greek letters.

9) A screenshot of Greek language Google search page of Werner Faymann showing 89,000 results for the correct spelling Faymann in Greek letters.

10) A screenshot of Alexis Tsipras Greek language twitter account.

11) A screenshot of the Google search date of publication 10th February 2015 of my report on the funding of Tsipras by Soros.

12) A screenshot of the beginning of my report on the funding of Tsipras by Soros.

13) A screenshot of my report on the choice of the bank Lazard by Tsipras and of the Google search date of publication 29th January 2015.

14) A screenshot of the beginning of above report.

15) A report on the links between Tsipras, Yannis Vaourfakis and Soros I published on 30th January 2015.

ii. Discussion

The proof that Alexis Tsipras has knowledge of my blog comes in the form of tweets that Tsipras sent on 6th October, 2015, reproducing in the Greek language exactly the same spelling mistake of the surname of Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann that I also made on my blog posts in the English language reporting on 9th February 2015 on their meeting in Vienna. [1]

Tsipras writes Faynmann in Greek letters. That is, he adds an extra n in Greek language tweets he sent during his visit with Faymann to the island of Lesbos. [1]

In a cartoon, I drew attention to the meeting between Tsipras and Faymann on Lesbos. The cartoon illustrates Tsipras and Faymann discussing an orchestrated cholera or Ebola outbreak in Greece. [5]

The Tsipras character jokes that any such plans will be published all over my blog, and notes that even Soros reads it as a textual analysis in the next part of the report will demonstrate.

Tsipras started to add the extra n in his tweets in Greek after his personal meeting with Faymann in Vienna on 9th February 2015.

http://diepresse.com/home/politik/aussenpolitik/4658551/Tsipras-bei-Faymann_Konnte-einen-neuen-Freund-gewinnen

In his first tweet in the Greek language on arriving in Vienna, and apparently before his personal meeting of Faymann, Tsipras spelled Faymanns name correctly, that is, he did not add an n in his tweet. [2]

The fact that Tsipras spelled Faymann in Greek letters correctly in his first tweet raises the question of how he came to introduce a spelling mistake and exactly the same one I make.

S

ince Tsipras first spelled Faymann correctly, it means that any Google searches he may have made would have used the correct spelling Faymann in Roman or Greek letters. Where exactly did Tsipras get the idea that the correct spelling was, in fact, Faynmann? I believe the most plausible explanation is that Tsipras read my post about the meeting between him and Faymann in February, saw my incorrect spelling in Roman letters and reproduced it exactly using Greek letters.

I misspelled Faymann by adding an extra n, in my report about the meeting between Tsipras and Faymann in Vienna on 9th February, 2015. [3] [4]

http://diepresse.com/home/politik/aussenpolitik/4658551/Tsipras-bei-Faymann_Konnte-einen-neuen-Freund-gewinnen

I corrected the spelling mistake on my blog. For the purposes of this case I put back the original spelling mistake, which can also be seen on the Google search page showing the date of my report.

My misspelling is very rate. There are only 620 cases of Faymann mispelled as Faynmann on non Greek language Google search engines as of 15th December 2015. [6]

This compares to 482,000 correct spellings of Faymann. [7]

In Greek letters, the incorrect spelling Faynmann appears in 11, 800 Google searches. [8]

Werner Faymann is spelled correctly in 89,000 Google searches in Greek letters. [9]

Tsipras has 325 000 followers on Twitter as of today, about two months after his visit to Lesbos. [10]

The most likely explanation for the unusually large number of cases of the misspelling of Faynmann in the Greek speaking world is, therefore, that Greek speakers reproduced Tsipras spelling mistake after reading it on his twitter account.

Searching in the Greek language Google with Werner Faynmann in quotation marks in Roman letters produces results similar to 620 in the German and English language. But a search in Greek language Google with Werner Faynmann without quotation marks and in Roman letters produced about 480,000 results. It is not clear why so many cases of Faynmann appear in the Greek language Google when there are so few cases in the non Greek language Google. It is not clear what factor has skewered the result. However, the fact is established tha Tsipras spelled Faymann correctly in his first ever tweet in February 2015 in Greek letters. It can, therefore, be ruled out that he picked up the spelling by doing a Google search with Faynmann in Roman letters.

The date when Tsipras picked up the spelling mistake establishes the basis for believing that Tsipras may have became familiar with my blog in February 2015 through Faymann, althougth it is also possible he became familiar with it through George Soros himself given the evidence that Soros reads my blog.

More plausible I believe, is that Tsipras read my blog post on his meeting between him and Faymann on 9th February 2015, saw my wrong spelling of Faynmann and reproduced it. The date of the first correct spelling forms the basis of believing that Faymann himself showed Tsipras my blog. In the light of subsequent events, I believe Faymann suggested to Tsipras the need to remove me as well as the use of the method.

I note the same method as Theodekti Vallianatou used was used by Austrian government officials, including Professor Lukas Kenner, a member of the government bioethics committee. Kenner twice twice attempted to deprive me of my civil liberty without due process when I was performing a public watchdog function on the internet as a journalist. He offered inducements to a pyschiatrist Dr Verena Strausz to confine me illegally. She twice refused, recognizing it was illegal.

I reported alleged links between Tsipras and Soros in my blog posts on 29th January 2014. [11]

I argued that Tsipras and Yannis Varoufakis were working for the banks and were injuring the interests of the Greek people. I said they performed a function of a puppet or controlled opposition in my blog posts in January and February 2015. [12] [13] [14] [15]

According to the Wirtschafts Woche, Soros sponsored Alexis Tsipras as early as 2012.

http://www.wiwo.de/politik/europa/portraet-rettungsplaene-fuer-den-euro/7751122-4.html

With respect to these searches, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Google uses server location as one of the factors determining the location and targeting of the site. Google also uses Page Rank algorithms to rank sites based on each sites so called truth factor score. After I published evidence on my blog that Tsipras reads my blog, the search results I obtained for Werner Faynmann were significantly different depending on whether I used a wifi connection in a familiar location (hacked?) or an Wifi connection in an unfamiliar one. Using familiar and possibly hacked wifi connections, the results for the wrong spelling Faynmann were suddenly much higher at about 1,700 compared to 620 in may be be a bid to skew the evidence by filtering results.

A. II) PROOF OF KNOWLEDGE OF MY BLOG GEORGE SOROS

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Daily SEO Blog – 44 Must Have Content Marketing Tools For …

 SEO  Comments Off on Daily SEO Blog – 44 Must Have Content Marketing Tools For …
Sep 232015
 

The new age marketer is one of a kind. In many roles he plays, he’s an SEO, a blogger, a designer, a data scientist among many other things that makes him successful. With content marketing taking the center stage of today’s marketing efforts, here are 44 amazing power tools, every inbound marketer must have in hi/her arsenal. 1. Percolate :An integrated suite for content marketing. Everything from managing inspirations to planning, planning, curation and publishing, Percolate is a integrated Read full article […] These days, everyone is looking to find out the ultimate Secret of ruling the rankings. For this reason, people are attempting every approach to be on the #1 spot and are adopting every method that may influence their SEO campaigns in any positive way. It can be associated to aspects related to HTTPs, going mobile, page load speed or yielding natural niche targeted links etc. Moz recently published the 2015 ranking survey report in which 150 top marketing experts weighed Read full article […] Starting a blog requires a lot more than meets the eye, especially the novices eye. All the interesting stuff you read on the web isnt something bloggers just dream up and start going tapity-tap on the keyboard. Good blogging requires a great deal of trial and error, as well as patience and the ability to really get in touch with your inner-intellect and the audiences needs. Its also a great learning experience for budding writers who have a thing or two to share with everybody Read full article […] It doesnt seem like it would be all that difficult, to rank for your name in Google or any of the other search engines, but it can be a lot harder than you think. You and your business could pop upbut it might not. Ranking highly in Google is difficult, even when its your own name. You might think your name is pretty special, but with over 7 billion people in the world — it’s verylikely a few other people share your name as well. For this reason and many others, you will want Read full article […] Your site may no longer be at the top of Googles search results thanks to Googles latest algorithm update, which now favors responsive, mobile-ready sites in mobile web searches. This means anyone who is searching for a website on a mobile device could potentially get different results than when searching on a desktop computer. Websites will now be ranked higher in mobile search results if theyre responsive. This means that non-responsive sites could fall to the bottom of the list. Read full article […] There is a sea full of different brands in the market but the content marketing research tells that still majority of these brands does not have a documented marketing strategy. Developing a content marketing strategy for your brand is as essential as keeping the quality of your content top-notch. A quality content is worth only when it reaches the targeted audience and can turn your readers into your brands prospects. And this is possible only when you have a string content marketing strategy Read full article […] The Internet has dramatically altered the ways information is shared, having had a substantial impact on online marketing. There has been more of a shift towards inbound marketing over the past few years, which has made outbound marketing become rather antiqued. Many companies nowadays are implementing inbound marketing strategies that include using social media to reach more of their targeted audience and also to increase brand awareness. But online marketing trends are changing in 2015, and marketers Read full article […] Nowadays a good website means not only a great web design, effective marketing strategies and a good conversion rate, but also profitable keywords that increase your chances to get high rankings in search engines. While some websites are stuffed with keywords, other sites get too little. Keyword stuffing and too little keywords can both harm a website that can be one of the main obstacles not to be highly ranked in search engines, like Google, Bing and Yahoo. As you know, websites with low Read full article […] Change is constant and especially so on the Web. Flash animations were all the ragein websites five years ago but have quickly gone out of favor as Flash didn’t supporttouch interfaces, lower power devices, and open protocols in the mobile era. The pace ofchange can create frustrations as websites need to be updated frequently to staycontemporary and competitive. While you can’t stop change, there are things you can do to keep your website aheadof the curve, gain more traffic, and even Read full article […] So, it’s 2015 and it’s time for another SEO Expert poll. This time, we’re asking about your favorite SEO tools. All of us use different SEO tools and some of us, even multiple ones. So, let’s share the knowledge and help each other. We’re all set to find out the best software in five categories. Category 1 – Best Enterprise SEO Software Category 2 – Best SEO Backlinks Software Category 3 – Best SEO Software for Site Audit Category 4 – Best SEO Software for Keyword Research Category Read full article […] In this digital world, where we are bombarded with a wealth of information constantly, infographics can cut through unnecessary detail to deliver your businesss message clearly and succinctly. What Is an Infographic? An infographic is a visually appealing method of conveying a wealth of information in easy to understand, accessible chunks. They are usually made up mostly of images although there can also be text, which draws attention to the most important points. Text based infographics work Read full article […]

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Cryptocurrency-Stealing Malware Landscape – Dell SecureWorks

 Cryptocurrency  Comments Off on Cryptocurrency-Stealing Malware Landscape – Dell SecureWorks
Sep 072015
 

Introduction

Bitcoin, a digital currency and payment system introduced in 2009, has been subject to an increasing amount of attention from thieves. Although the system itself is protected by strong cryptography, thieves have stolen millions of dollars of bitcoin[i] from victims by exploiting weaknesses in Bitcoin private key storage systems.

Since Bitcoin’s introduction, an increasing number of alternative digital currencies (altcoins) have been created, based on the original Bitcoin client’s source code. Even though none of these altcoins have approached the per-coin value of Bitcoin, some have achieved total market caps measuring in the millions of dollars. As a result, these altcoins have also been targeted for theft.

Mass theft of cryptocurrency is usually accomplished through the hacking of exchanges or marketplaces. These thefts are typically well-publicized, and the total number of stolen coins is known. However, another category of Bitcoin theft targets individual users’ wallets or exchange accounts via malware such as general-purpose remote access trojans (RATs) or specialized cryptocurrency-stealing malware (CCSM). Due to the skyrocketing value of cryptocurrencies since the beginning of 2013 and the relative simplicity of coding malware and tools to steal cryptocurrency, the Dell SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit(TM) (CTU) research team predicts that CCSM will become one of the fastest-growing categories of malware.

CCSM classification project

To understand the scope of this new threat, CTU researchers embarked on a project to obtain and classify as many CCSM samples as possible. Researchers scanned incoming malware streams with YARA rules, searching for samples that refer to known cryptocurrency software wallet filenames and locations. These samples were classified into families based on similarity. As of this publication, there are more than 100 unique families of malware on the Internet with functionality to steal wallet files or to steal cryptocurrency using other means.

Overall trends

Figure 1 shows the increase in the Windows-compatible CCSM over time. This chart tracks only Windows malware because the Windows portable executable format includes a timestamp in the file headers showing exactly when the malware was compiled. Most malware authors do not bother to alter this timestamp post-release, so it a reasonable and reliable indicator of when a particular sample was created. This chart shows the relationships between average monthly Bitcoin price, new family emergence, and overall total number of families. These variables show a correlation between malware emergence and the price (acceptance) of the currency.

Figure 1. The correlation between Bitcoin price, new malware emergence, and total threat of cryptocurrency-stealing malware. (Source: Dell SecureWorks)

The trend shown in Figure 1 closely follows the overall price trend of Bitcoin. As Bitcoin has become more valuable, more malware authors are targeting it. The record-breaking highs in Bitcoin value from the end of 2013 into 2014 have been accompanied by record-breaking numbers of new CCSM families.

Popularity of coins in CCSM

All CCSM analyzed by CTU researchers targeted Bitcoin. Figure 2 shows the distribution of CCSM-targeted altcoins between January 2009 and the middle of February, 2014.

Figure 2. The distribution of altcoins targeted by CCSM between January 2009 and mid-February, 2014. (Source: Dell SecureWorks)

Figure 3 shows the overall ratio of samples belonging to each malware family. A few malware families seem to be in widespread distribution, while others may have only one or two variants. The “Unclassified” group represents cryptocurrency malware that CTU researchers have not classified as of this publication. The “Miscellaneous” group includes the cryptocurrency malware families the CTU research team has discovered that would not fit into the chart.

Figure 3. The overall ratio of discovered samples belonging to each malware family. (Source: Dell SecureWorks)

CCSM categories

Wallet stealer

The most common type of CCSM is the wallet stealer, a category that includes nearly every family of CTU-analyzed CCSM. This type of malware searches for “wallet.dat” or other well-known wallet software key storage locations, either by checking known file locations or by searching all hard drives for matching filenames. Typically, the file is uploaded to a remote FTP, HTTP, or SMTP server where the thief can extract the keys and steal the coins by signing a transaction, transferring the coins to the thief’s Bitcoin/altcoin address.

Most cryptocurrency security guides recommend protecting the wallet with a strong passphrase, preventing the thief from decrypting and using the private keys if the file is stolen. To counter this protection, many of the analyzed wallet-stealer malware families use a keylogger or clipboard monitor to obtain the wallet file’s passphrase and send it to the thief.

Credential stealer

Many wallet-stealer families also steal credentials for various web-based wallets, such as Bitcoin exchanges. Some individuals keep a significant amount of bitcoin or other currency in exchanges to trade on price movements. Malware authors are aware of this activity, and many victims have reported that their exchange wallets were emptied without their authorization. In most cases, it is impossible to know exactly what malware was used in the theft, because a full forensic analysis of the victim’s hard drive is rarely performed.

Many exchanges have implemented two-factor authentication (2FA) using one-time PINs (OTP) to combat unauthorized account logins. However, advanced malware can easily bypass OTP-based 2FA by intercepting the OTP as it is used and creating a second hidden browser window to log the thief into the account from the victim’s computer. Simultaneously, the malware displays a fake “authentication failed” message and blocks the victim’s access to the website while the thief empties the account. CTU researchers have not observed a verified example of this type of attack against cryptocurrency exchanges. However, this technique has been successfully used against online banking sites for several years, and it is only a matter of time before CCSM uses this approach.

Man in the middle

CTU researchers have observed at least one family of CCSM that does not exfiltrate wallet files or private keys. Instead, it acts as a “man in the middle,” altering the recipient address of a transaction before it is signed. The observed sample runs in the background, monitoring the contents of the clipboard. The malware checks new data in the clipboard for a valid Bitcoin address. If the data is a valid address, the malware replaces it with the thief’s Bitcoin address. Victims who do not notice the replacement send the bitcoins to the thief.

RPC automation

Bitcoin and altcoin “reference client” software includes remote procedure call (RPC) functionality, which allows another program to interact with the wallet software. In many cases, a thief with access to this functionality could connect to a running client on a local TCP port and steal the balance of an unencrypted wallet using only two commands (three if the wallet is encrypted and the malware has obtained the passphrase). CTU researchers have not witnessed any CCSM malware taking advantage of this technique as of this publication. It would be difficult to detect this type of theft from a network standpoint, as the transaction would look like any authorized transaction. Another advantage to this technique is that it requires no external command and control (C2) or exfiltration server that can be shut down or blocked.

Detection rates

Across the CCSM samples analyzed by CTU researchers, the average unweighted detection rate across all major antivirus (AV) vendors was 48.9%. Figure 4 lists the major CCSM families classified by the CTU research team and their respective detection rates averaged across all major AV vendors.

Figure 4. Top CCSM families and their detection rate across AV vendors as of February 20, 2014. (Source: Dell SecureWorks)

Wallet protection

Client software choices

When the private keys for a cryptocurrency are stored on a computer connected to the Internet, the potential for theft exists. For Bitcoin there are alternative wallets, such as Armory and Electrum, which can protect against theft-by-malware by using a split arrangement for key storage. One computer, disconnected from any network, runs a copy of the software and holds the private key that can sign transactions. A second computer connected to the Internet holds only a master public key of which addresses belong to the offline wallet. This computer can generate transactions, but it cannot sign them because it does not have the private key. A user wishing to transfer coins generates an unsigned transaction on the online computer, carries the transaction to the offline computer, signs the transaction, and then carries it to the online computer to broadcast the transaction to the Bitcoin network.

Using a split Armory or Electrum wallet can make processing transactions much safer, although the user must still verify the transaction details to ensure malware on the online computer has not altered the transaction before it is signed. Unfortunately, no such clients currently exist for altcoins, although the need for them is recognized and bounties have been offered for their development.

Hardware wallets

Using two computers in a split arrangement where transactions are carried via “sneakernet” is relatively secure, but the logistics are complicated. A much more convenient method would be to use a dedicated hardware device to store the private keys and verify transactions without the possibility of theft. These devices are already in development, with one (the “Trezor” wallet) due to be shipped within the first quarter of 2014.

Transaction integrity verification

Hardware wallets work well for local transactions but not for safely interacting with a remote website on a potentially infected computer. Securely verifying a transaction that has transited a potentially compromised waypoint requires an offline device that can display the details of the transaction before it is processed. Public-key cryptography signs the transaction data on the bank’s server before the data is sent to the user. The offline device can verify the signature of the transaction and determine if any changes occurred in transit. If the transaction shows no tampering, the offline device generates a one-time code that authenticates the transaction. This transaction integrity verification (TIV) should become standard for all financial entities, including institutions and sites that accept cryptocurrencies.

Conclusion

After observing CCSM, CTU researchers drew the following conclusions:

As discussed in Enterprise Best Practices for Cryptocurrency Adoption, wallet security is the most pivotal aspect to keeping funds secure. Implementing the practices outlined in that publication will mitigate most, if not all, of the current threats to cryptocurrency wallets.

Appendix

Table 1 lists the most commonly observed malicious filenames in the CTU research team’s sample set.

Table 1. Common filenames in malware samples.

Endnotes

[i] Bitcoin (capitalized) refers to the protocol, software, and community, while bitcoins (lowercase) are currency units.

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Cryptocurrency-Stealing Malware Landscape – Dell SecureWorks

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Comment: A tax haven crackdown would help the developing world

 Tax Havens  Comments Off on Comment: A tax haven crackdown would help the developing world
Mar 252015
 

By Anas Sarwar MP

As part of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill which Parliament is expected to approve today, the government is attempting to implement a public register showing who really owns companies. The bill is a good example of how UK legislation can affect countries around the world, especially those in the process of development.

The developing world loses around three times as much through tax avoidance and evasion as it gains through aid. Ending secrecy around who really owns companies is a vital part of fixing this, because many companies dodge taxes by hiding their identities using complex and secretive ownership structures.

The new register of who owns companies is an important reform which will make it harder for criminals to use companies as what Global Witness calls ‘get-away cars’ vehicles for corruption, money laundering, tax evasion, terrorist financing and so on – safe in the knowledge that there are no links to them personally.

Unfortunately, Mr Cameron has had far less success with the UKs Overseas Territories (OTs) and Crown Dependencies(CDs). Between $21 – $32 trillion in private financial assets is held in tax havens and of this, an estimated 25-30% is from developing countries.

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) in particular is known for creating firms whose real owners are untraceable so no surprise that BVI firms have turned up in the HSBC Swiss tax scandal, in the theft by Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha of hundreds of thousands of dollars and in a mining deal which cost the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) some $1.3 billion (twice their annual health and education budget). The BVI alone is thought to host at least 400,000 shell companies dwarfing their tiny population of 33,000 people.

The UK should be preventing the illicit financial flows from these countries, not protecting those responsible. This isnt just the right and moral thing to do, its the smart, business thing to do.

The Department for International Development (DFID) currently gives DRC around 163 million a year and Nigeria 271 million a year – the third largest recipient in 2014/15. Nigeria has enjoyed a 50-year oil boom but at the same time has lost $400billion in oil revenues, whilst 84% of the population live on less than $2 a day.

This equates to around two thirds of the health budget or provision of education to 1.7million of the 5.5million girls out of school. It is in our interest to tighten UK legislation and support them in implementing a robust tax system, given their commodity wealth.

Back in London, Mr Cameron has repeatedly requested the OTs and CDs create public registers of who is really behind their myriad shell companies. At first they claimed they were holding public consultations on the matter but over a year since the first consultation was launched, it is clear that the islands leaders plan to stick to business-as-usual.

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Comment: A tax haven crackdown would help the developing world

SEO That Works | seoWorks – Sydney Melbourne Brisbane …

 SEO  Comments Off on SEO That Works | seoWorks – Sydney Melbourne Brisbane …
Feb 242015
 

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Vogogo offers free fraud and risk service to cryptocurrency firms

 Cryptocurrency  Comments Off on Vogogo offers free fraud and risk service to cryptocurrency firms
Jan 192015
 

Summary:Vogogo services are being offering for free following a year of cyberattacks against the cryptocurrency industry.

Vogogo’s fraud and risk mitigation service is being released as a stand-alone system to help cryptocurrency companies protect themselves against rising rates of cyberattack.

Announced on Monday, the cryptocurrency payment processing and fraud mitigation company said that high demand prompted the release of the service for free, in both use and integration. In the current threat landscape, it is more important than ever that the enterprise invest in cybersecurity measures — and the crypto industry is no exception.

In recent times, to name but a few, Mt. Gox, Bitfloor and Bitstamp have all been reportedly the victims of cyberattacks. Hackers are able to hijack mining pools or break into a virtual currency exchange’s hot wallet system to steal funds, and unfortunately, many exchanges either close or do not have enough funds left in cold storage to compensate traders.

See also: Police suspect Mt. Gox Bitcoin theft was an inside job

Vogogo, which works with companies including CoinTrader, ANXPro, Rock Trading, QuadrigaCX and BitMEX, offers a fraud and risk mitigation service which validates large volumes of high-risk payment transactions. Each separate individual or business involved in a transaction is verified — as well as each individual transaction itself — before being processed.

Vogogo CEO Geoff Gordon commented:

It’s also frustrating as we believe these types of sophisticated fraud events can be effectively prevented with the right systems in place. Therefore, we have elected to open up our fraud and risk mitigation services to crypto-based businesses, worldwide, free of cost.”

Vogogo’s chief revenue officer Rodney Thompson said that the decision to open up Vogogo’s service was not only to help combat fraud, but to educate players within the fledgling industry on how to manage overall fraud levels and risk.

The offer allows any crypto-based firm free integration and use of the platform for a minimum of three months for free.

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NSA releases report on privacy violations — on Christmas Eve

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Dec 262014
 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 26 (UPI) — The National Security Administration released a report on a decade’s worth of privacy violations — on Christmas Eve.

The agency posted the report to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union. It includes redacted reports to the president’s Intelligence Oversight Board from the fourth quarter of 2001, when surveillance increased because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, to the second quarter of 2013.

The breaches include deliberate misuse of NSA surveillance capabilities by staffers who wanted to spy on spouses or lovers. But the agency said most violations of privacy were the result of unintentional mistakes.

In a statement, the NSA said the dozen or so cases of deliberate violations had been reported to the board and the Justice Department. There are also instances of data on U.S. citizens being stored on unsecured computers and of data that was supposed to be destroyed being kept.

“These materials show, over a sustained period of time, the depth and rigor of NSA’s commitment to compliance,” the statement said. “By emphasizing accountability across all levels of the enterprise, and transparently reporting errors and violations to outside oversight authorities, NSA protects privacy and civil liberties while safeguarding the nation and our allies.”

Patrick Toomey, a lawyer with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said the reports show “an urgent need for greater oversight by all three branches of government.”

Related UPI Stories

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Photos: The Year in Review

Notable deaths of 2014

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NSA Opens Up Data Automation Software For Public Use

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Dec 012014
 

The Apache Apache Software Foundation (ASF) has worked with theNationalSecurityAgency (NSA) on the release of Niagarafiles (or Nifi, to the initiated) technology designed to automate data flows among multiple computer networks. The software is free and open source (so is available to the public) through the Apache Software Foundation. But why is automating data flows important?

Automation for the people

Data flow automation is important because it brings together data streams that need to be aggregated for analysis and yes, think big data analytics here if you wish. This can be hard work when data formats and data transmission protocols differ between different sources. But Niagarafiles handles this exact cross-format challenge.

Data flow automation is important to commercial enterprises because they can us it to control, manage and analyze the flow of information from geographically dispersed sites such as international office headquarters and/or customers and partners. If you need to ask why the NSA is good at complex data flow automation and aggregation, then go back to the start of the first paragraph and start reading again.

Situational awareness

So far so good, but why perform data flow automation anyway?

The NSA explains that coalescing information from multiple sources can help create comprehensive situational awareness and that this is as relevant to the NSAs wider work as it is to business. Lead Developer of Nifi Joseph L. Witt explains that this technology, Provides a way to prioritize data flows more effectively and get rid of artificial delays in identifying and transmitting critical information.

So is the NSA about to start sharing more of its software with the enterprise business sector? The organization confirms that this release is first in a series of releases of in-house software products the NSA Technology Transfer Program (TTP). Posting the code to open source forums allows the private sector and others to examine the agencys research up close, and potentially benefit from it through additional enhancements and applications.

The agency says it often uses open source offerings to confront todays complex foreign-intelligence challenges with creativity and agility.

But heres the point i.e. open source is all about community contributions and shared knowledge, so the at the same time the government can gain from related research advances that occur in the wider world of enterprise software.

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NSA Opens Up Data Automation Software For Public Use

2005 Jeep Liberty Renegade 4WD 4dr SUV for sale in Brooklyn, – Video

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Oct 272014
 



2005 Jeep Liberty Renegade 4WD 4dr SUV for sale in Brooklyn,
This 2005 Jeep Liberty Renegade 4WD 4dr SUV is for sale in Brooklyn, NY 11214 at Ultra Auto Enterprise. Contact Ultra Auto Enterprise at http://www.ultraautoenterprise.com or http://www.carsfors…

By: Ultra Auto Enterprise Inc

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2005 Jeep Liberty Renegade 4WD 4dr SUV for sale in Brooklyn, – Video

Taulia's Bhaji Illuminati Presents at Inaugural Conference

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Oct 042014
 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(Marketwired – October 03, 2014) – Taulia, the market-leading platform for supplier financing, presented this week at the inaugural 2014 Vidyard Ignite conference. The conference was called “the world’s first B2B marketing summit.”

Senior Marketing Manager Bhaji Illuminati represented Taulia on a panel that included executives from Square, Salesforce, and Deltek. All four companies were recognized by Vidyard as “video marketing trailblazers.”

“Taulia has become an innovative marketing leader in the business-to-business space, in part because of our work with Vidyard,” said Illuminati. “We’ve worked with the Vidyard team to make our videos humorous, entertaining, and informative, and these video campaigns have helped contribute to Taulia tripling our revenue for two consecutive years.”

The panel was titled “Mastering the Science of Video and Content Marketing” and reviewed the latest trends in video marketing and how to improve content marketing.The discussion, which was moderated by Vidyard Chief Marketing Officer Tyler Lessard, touched on video marketing best practices and how to utilize data and insights from video content to increase ROI.

Illuminati also presented two Taulia videos, “The Creator of the Most Remarkable Software in AP,” as well as “Treasury Tim,” which is part of Taulia’s P2P Superheroes campaign, to the audience of nearly 200. One executive in attendance noted that Taulia’s humorous videos have set the standard in the enterprise marketing world.

“When we create a video, we strive to make it on the level of Taulia’s marketing content,” she said. “It’s Taulia or bust.”

Vidyard also honored Taulia, which provides the most flexible form of supplier financing, via cloud-based invoice, payment, and dynamic discounting solutions, with a video marketing award at the conference.

To see more Taulia videos, please visit itswebsite.

About TauliaTaulia is the fastest growing SaaS platform and network for Supplier Financing, eInvoicing, and Supplier Portals. Through turning every invoice into a revenue opportunity, Taulia enables organizations to strengthen supplier relationships while adding millions to the bottom line. Some of the most innovative brands in the world rely on Taulia, including Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, Pfizer, Pacific Gas & Electric, Hallmark, and many other Fortune 500 companies. For more information, visithttp://www.taulia.com.

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Your freedom of speech on campus is under attack – Video

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Oct 012014
 



Your freedom of speech on campus is under attack
Are America's institutions of higher learning are becoming hostile environments for freedom of speech? Do students lose their freedom of expression when they enter a public institution of…

By: American Enterprise Institute

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Free Speech or a Hostile Work Environment? – Video

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Sep 112014
 



Free Speech or a Hostile Work Environment?
Thom Hartmann debates Justin Danhof, General Counsel Director-Free Enterprise Project-National Center for Public Policy Research Website: http://www.nationalcenter.org, over the case of a North…

By: thomhartmann

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Microsoft openly offered cloud data to the NSA

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May 172014
 

Microsofts cooperation with the NSA and FBI on the controversial Prism program has been laid bare in a new book written by an American journalist who brought it to public attention in the first place.

Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist who worked extensively with Edward Snowden, wrote in a new book that Microsofts cloud services allowed the National Security Agency [NSA] to collect data from a range of its different cloud options.

“Beginning on 7 March 2013, Prism now collects Microsoft SkyDrive data as part of Prism’s standard Store Communications collection package for a tasked FISA Amendments Act Section 702 [FAA702] selector, stated a slide released by Greenwald, according to Cloud Pro.

It is detailed in Greenwalds new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State, and goes on to hint that Microsoft was implicit in the NSA data collecting process.

“This success is the result of the FBI working for many months with Microsoft to get this tasking and collection solution established,” the document stated.

Part of the reason that it was able to do this was down to the FISA Amendment Act of 2008 that legalized NSA Internet surveillance and allowed warrantless wiretapping by the NSA and related agencies.

“This means that analysts will no longer have to make a special request to SSO for this. This new capability will result in a much more complete and timely collection response from SSO for our enterprise customers,” the documents added.

Other sabotage methods employed by the NSA and outlined in Greenwalds book include the supply-chain interdiction, which meant intercepting various communications products in order to carry out covert surveillance. This included routers and servers made by Cisco and involved implanting beacons before the products were repackaged and shipped out to customers across the world.

“While American companies were being warned away from supposedly untrustworthy Chinese routers, foreign organizations would have been well advised to beware of American-made ones,” Greenwald said.

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Enterprise SEO Audits Go Beyond The Desktop Crawl

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Apr 242014
 

Digital technology and the way consumers are using it is evolving at a pace never seen before, and the platforms and tools used by digital marketers are trying to keep up with it all.

We all know content is still king. In order to win the battle for the consumers attention, or Google rankings, you need to provide quality content and lots of it. (See my article, 3 Tips To Beat The Volume Game, forin-depth discussion on massive internet contentgrowth.)

To satisfy this insatiable demand, content management systems and platforms have had to evolve and allow for the agile and dynamic creation and deployment of content. As you take any SEO recommendation and distill it down, a single message appears: Build more pages.

This brings me to the root of this article performing SEO audits in the enterprise-level world where the number of website pages has become limitless.

Simply put, websites are getting increasingly larger and search marketers have to work with dynamically generated pages, master-detail sets, online directories, e-commerce pages, product reviews, shopping carts, dynamic comparison pages, mobile-only content, tags and read-more links, making the average number of pages skyrocket.

Along comes the search marketer who used to have to optimize 50 pages and thought that was challenging; now we are looking at thousands of pages, which creates huge technological and resource challenges when performing technical audits.

Our crawling tool of choice for technical audits is Screaming Frog. Its an amazing program that will perform any technical SEO audit in the blink of an eye with an incredible level of detail and flexibility. However, like any desktop audit tool, it has four major limitations caused by the simple fact that it is a desktop application.

Note: This is not intended to be a comparison between DeepCrawl (described below) and Screaming Frog; they both have their own unique strengths and applications, and we utilize both of them heavily.

We set out to evaluate a number of different solutions that would allow us to perform technical audits on a larger scale. We excluded any of the Suite providers, as we had very specific needs and wanted a partner that focuses purely on auditing, instead a ranking tool that also does XYZ.

We came across DeepCrawl. DeepCrawl is a server-based solution, so it removes all the limitations you experience with a desktop audit tool it can run at any time, and the size of your computers memory doesnt matter.

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Pierre Teilhard De Chardin | Designer Children | Prometheism | Euvolution