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Police officer's visual estimate of speed is enough for a conviction, Ohio Supreme Court rules
By Reginald Fields, The Plain Dealer
June 02, 2010, 11:03AM

speeding.jpgPlain Dealer file photoA motorist is stopped by a state trooper at Ohio 3 and I-71.

Updated at 6:30 p.m.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A simple educated guess that a motorist is speeding is all the evidence a police officer needs to write an ironclad speeding ticket, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

In a 5-to-1 ruling, the court said an officer's "unaided visual estimation of a vehicle's speed" is strong enough to support a ticket and conviction. A radar speed detector, commonly used by patrolmen, is not needed, the court concluded.

"Independent verification of the vehicle's speed is not necessary to support a conviction for speeding," assuming the officer has been trained and certified by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy or similar organization, Justice Maureen O'Connor wrote for the court's majority.

The court's ruling, in a Summit County traffic case, leaves little chance for drivers to argue their way out of tickets when it is their word against the officers' and nothing more.

"In light of this ruling I guess we don't need radar guns anymore, we don't need laser. We might as well throw all that technology out the window," said attorney John Kim, who argued the case on behalf of motorist Mark Jenney.

"And now a police officer based on his own human biases can stand on the side of the road and write all the tickets he wants," Kim said. "So, we have taken Draconian steps backwards."
Also today:

Visual speed estimates by police are guesses with no formula, just practice, to guide them

Justice Terrence O'Donnell, who wrote a dissenting opinion, was also troubled by the majority's assertion that a trained police officer cannot possibly be wrong. O'Donnell said just because an officer says someone was speeding should not alone be good enough for a conviction.

"I would assert that a broad standard as postulated by the majority. . . eclipses the role" of a judge or jury to reject an officer's testimony, O'Donnell said, especially if the testimony is "found not to be credible (or) could in some instances be insufficient to support a conviction."

It is rare for officers to issue a ticket on observation alone, said Ted Hart, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General's office, which operates the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.

"Typically an officer would observe someone that appears to be speeding and then use radar or laser to confirm it," Hart said.

That is the policy of the Ohio Highway Patrol, whose primary duty is traffic enforcement. Troopers are not allowed to stop motorists for speeding based on a visual estimate.

"It works in conjunction with radar," said patrol spokeswoman Lindsay Komlanc. "And only after confirmation of radar clocked speed would they then pull a motorist over to issue a ticket."

Justices Paul Pfeifer, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Judith Ann Lanzinger and Robert Cupp joined O'Connor for the majority. O'Donnell disagreed. And Chief Justice Eric Brown, who joined the court in May, did not participate on this case.

The ruling resulted from Jenney challenging a speeding ticket he was given in 2008 by Copley police officer Christopher R. Santimarino.

Jenney appealed the ticket to the Ninth District Court of Appeals, which upheld the conviction. Jenney then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The circumstances of this case were not clear cut.

Santimarino said he observed Jenney speeding in a black SUV on Ohio 21 and later estimated he was driving at 73 mph. The speed limit on the highway was 60.

After making his visual estimate, the officer said he then checked his radar gun for confirmation. But the radar read 82 or 83 mph, Santimarino testified.

Santimarino said he decided to write Jenney a ticket for 79 mph -- closer to what the radar calculated instead of his own estimate.

But Kim, Jenney's attorney, argued that Santimarino was not qualified to operate the radar gun because the officer could not produce a certificate proving he was trained to use it or explain the two different readings.

The radar evidence was thrown out. Jenney's speeding conviction then hinged solely on the officer's estimate of 73 mph. The Barberton Municipal court ultimately decided to issue Jenney a ticket for driving 70 mph.

That was not good enough for Jenney, who insisted he was not exceeding the speed limit. Jenney also said he was driving in the right lane of the highway, not left lane as Santimarino indicated, and suggested the officer flagged the wrong vehicle.

Kim questioned the officer's ability to visually calculate speed. Santimarino, a Copley patrolman since 1995, said he was trained at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy where officers have to be able to visually calculate speed within a few miles per hour of the posted speed limit to be certified.

"I think this ruling stinks," Kim said. "The court agreed he was incompetent to use radar but said he is competent to stand on the highway and visually estimate speed. This is ridiculous."

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray praised the ruling. His office argued the case on behalf of the Barberton court. In a court brief, Cordray said the case should never have risen above the lower court.

"If a trial court finds a trained officer's visual estimate of a vehicle's speed to be credible based on the totality of the circumstances," Cordray argued, then "this court should defer to those fact-bound determinations."

Jenney paid a $50 fine plus court costs.


Lovely, I can just see now - "Your Honor I felt that he was doing 70 in a 30mpg zone, he just looked like he was going that fast.   Never mind that I was doing 50 going the other way..."

You - "But your honor I was only doing 20...."


Documents Show Early Worries About Safety of Rig

WASHINGTON — Internal documents from BP show that there were serious problems and safety concerns with the Deepwater Horizon rig far earlier than those the company described to Congress last week.

The problems involved the well casing and the blowout preventer, which are considered critical pieces in the chain of events that led to the disaster on the rig.

The documents show that in March, after several weeks of problems on the rig, BP was struggling with a loss of “well control.” And as far back as 11 months ago, it was concerned about the well casing and the blowout preventer.

On June 22, for example, BP engineers expressed concerns that the metal casing the company wanted to use might collapse under high pressure.

“This would certainly be a worst-case scenario,” Mark E. Hafle, a senior drilling engineer at BP, warned in an internal report. “However, I have seen it happen so know it can occur.”

The company went ahead with the casing, but only after getting special permission from BP colleagues because it violated the company’s safety policies and design standards. The internal reports do not explain why the company allowed for an exception. BP documents released last week to The Times revealed that company officials knew the casing was the riskier of two options.

Though his report indicates that the company was aware of certain risks and that it made the exception, Mr. Hafle, testifying before a panel on Friday in Louisiana about the cause of the rig disaster, rejected the notion that the company had taken risks.

“Nobody believed there was going to be a safety issue,” Mr. Hafle told a six-member panel of Coast Guard and Minerals Management Service officials.

“All the risks had been addressed, all the concerns had been addressed, and we had a model that suggested if executed properly we would have a successful job,” he said.

Mr. Hafle, asked for comment by a reporter after his testimony Friday about the internal report, declined to answer questions.

BP’s concerns about the casing did not go away after Mr. Hafle’s 2009 report.

In April of this year, BP engineers concluded that the casing was “unlikely to be a successful cement job,” according to a document, referring to how the casing would be sealed to prevent gases from escaping up the well.

The document also says that the plan for casing the well is “unable to fulfill M.M.S. regulations,” referring to the Minerals Management Service.

A second version of the same document says “It is possible to obtain a successful cement job” and “It is possible to fulfill M.M.S. regulations.”

Andrew Gowers, a BP spokesman, said the second document was produced after further testing had been done.

On Tuesday Congress released a memorandum with preliminary findings from BP’s internal investigation, which indicated that there were warning signs immediately before the explosion on April 20, including equipment readings suggesting that gas was bubbling into the well, a potential sign of an impending blowout.

A parade of witnesses at hearings last week told about bad decisions and cut corners in the days and hours before the explosion of the rig, but BP’s internal documents provide a clearer picture of when company and federal officials saw problems emerging.

In addition to focusing on the casing, investigators are also focusing on the blowout preventer, a fail-safe device that was supposed to slice through a drill pipe in a last-ditch effort to close off the well when the disaster struck. The blowout preventer did not work, which is one of the reasons oil has continued to spill into the gulf, though the reason it failed remains unclear.

Federal drilling records and well reports obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and BP’s internal documents, including more than 50,000 pages of company e-mail messages, inspection reports, engineering studies and other company records obtained by The Times from Congressional investigators, shed new light on the extent and timing of problems with the blowout preventer and the casing long before the explosion.

Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, declined to answer questions about the casings, the blowout preventer and regulators’ oversight of the rig because those matters are part of a continuing investigation.

The documents show that in March, after problems on the rig that included drilling mud falling into the formation, sudden gas releases known as “kicks” and a pipe falling into the well, BP officials informed federal regulators that they were struggling with a loss of “well control.”

On at least three occasions, BP records indicate, the blowout preventer was leaking fluid, which the manufacturer of the device has said limits its ability to operate properly.

“The most important thing at a time like this is to stop everything and get the operation under control,” said Greg McCormack, director of the Petroleum Extension Service at the University of Texas, Austin, offering his assessment about the documents.

He added that he was surprised that regulators and company officials did not commence a review of whether drilling should continue after the well was brought under control.

After informing regulators of their struggles, company officials asked for permission to delay their federally mandated test of the blowout preventer, which is supposed to occur every two weeks, until the problems were resolved, BP documents say.

At first, the minerals agency declined.

“Sorry, we cannot grant a departure on the B.O.P. test further than when you get the well under control,” wrote Frank Patton, a minerals agency official. But BP officials pressed harder, citing “major concerns” about doing the test the next day. And by 10:58 p.m., David Trocquet, another M.M.S. official, acquiesced.

“After further consideration,” Mr. Trocquet wrote, “an extension is approved to delay the B.O.P. test until the lower cement plug is set.”

When the blowout preventer was eventually tested again, it was tested at a lower pressure — 6,500 pounds per square inch — than the 10,000-pounds-per-square-inch tests used on the device before the delay. It tested at this lower pressure until the explosion.

A review of Minerals Management Service’s data of all B.O.P. tests done in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico for five years shows B.O.P. tests rarely dropped so sharply, and, in general, either continued at the same threshold or were done at increasing levels.

The manufacturer of the blowout preventer, Cameron, declined to say what the appropriate testing pressure was for the device.

In an e-mail message, Mr. Gowers of BP wrote that until their investigation was complete, it was premature to answer questions about the casings or the blowout preventer.

Even though the documents asking regulators about testing the blowout preventer are from BP, Mr. Gowers said that any questions regarding the device should be directed to Transocean, which owns the rig and, he said, was responsible for maintenance and testing of the device. Transocean officials declined to comment.

Bob Sherrill, an expert on blowout preventers and the owner of Blackwater Subsea, an engineering consulting firm, said the conditions on the rig in February and March and the language used by the operator referring to a loss of well control “sounds like they were facing a blowout scenario.”

Mr. Sherrill said federal regulators made the right call in delaying the blowout test, because doing a test before the well is stable risks gas kicks. But once the well was stable, he added, it would have made sense for regulators to investigate the problems further.

In April, the month the rig exploded, workers encountered obstructions in the well. Most of the problems were conveyed to federal regulators, according to federal records. Many of the incidents required that BP get a permit for a new tactic for dealing with the problem.

One of the final indications of such problems was an April 15 request for a permit to revise its plan to deal with a blockage, according to federal documents obtained from Congress by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group.

In the documents, company officials apologized to federal regulators for not having mentioned the type of casing they were using earlier, adding that they had “inadvertently” failed to include it. In the permit request, they did not disclose BP’s own internal concerns about the design of the casing.

Less than 10 minutes after the request was submitted, federal regulators approved the permit.

General Discussion / BP's Photo Blockade of the Gulf Oil Spill
« on: May 28, 2010, 10:26:04 AM »
BP's Photo Blockade of the Gulf Oil Spill

Photographers say BP and government officials are preventing them from documenting the impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

As BP makes its latest attempt to plug its gushing oil well, news photographers are complaining that their efforts to document the slow-motion disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are being thwarted by local and federal officials—working with BP—who are blocking access to the sites where the effects of the spill are most visible. More than a month into the disaster, a host of anecdotal evidence is emerging from reporters, photographers, and TV crews in which BP and Coast Guard officials explicitly target members of the media, restricting and denying them access to oil-covered beaches, staging areas for clean-up efforts, and even flyovers.

Last week, a CBS TV crew was threatened with arrest when attempting to film an oil-covered beach. On Monday, Mother Jones published this firsthand account of one reporter’s repeated attempts to gain access to clean-up operations on oil-soaked beaches, and the telling response of local law enforcement. The latest instance of denied press access comes from Belle Chasse, La.-based Southern Seaplane Inc., which was scheduled to take a New Orleans Times-Picayune photographer for a flyover on Tuesday afternoon, and says it was denied permission once BP officials learned that a member of the press would be on board.

“We are not at liberty to fly media, journalists, photographers, or scientists,” the company said in a letter it sent on Tuesday to Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). “We strongly feel that the reason for this massive [temporary flight restriction] is that BP wants to control their exposure to the press.”

The ability to document a disaster, particularly through images, is key to focusing the nation’s attention on it, and the resulting clean-up efforts. Within days of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, pictures of dead otters, fish, and birds, as well as oil-covered shorelines, ignited nationwide outrage and led to a backlash against Exxon. Consumers returned some 10,000 of Exxon’s 7 million credit cards. Forty days after the spill, protestors organized a national boycott of Exxon. So far, no national boycott of BP is in the works, despite growing frustration over the company’s inability to cap the leaking well. Obviously, pictures are emerging from this spill, but much of the images are coming from BP and government sources.

The U.S. Coast Guard insists that they and BP have gone to great lengths to accommodate journalists and “roughly 400 members of the media have been given tours of the spill on either BP-contracted aircraft or Coast Guard helicopters,” says U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer David Mosley, who is based at the BP command center in Houma, La. (BP referred all questions to the command center). “I understand there may be some frustration [among the press], but there is a constant ongoing effort to fulfill media requests.” Mosley defended flight restrictions as a necessary safety precaution. Since the flight restrictions were expanded on May 11, private aircraft must get permission from BP’s command center to fly over a huge portion of the Gulf of Mexico encompassing not just the growing slick in the Gulf, but the entire Louisiana coastline, where oil is washing ashore. If a request is denied, aircraft must stay 3,000 feet above the restricted area, where visibility is minimal.

Photographers who have traveled to the Gulf commonly say they believe that BP has exerted more control over coverage of the spill with the cooperation of the federal government and local law enforcement. “It’s a running joke among the journalists covering the story that the words ‘Coast Guard’ affixed to any vehicle, vessel, or plane should be prefixed with ‘BP,’ ” says Charlie Varley, a Louisiana-based photographer. “It would be funny if it were not so serious.”

The problem, as many members of the press see it, is that even when access is granted, it’s done so under the strict oversight of BP and Coast Guard personnel. Reporters and photographers are escorted by BP officials on BP-contracted boats and aircraft. So the company is able to determine what reporters see and when they see it. AP photographer Gerald Herbert has been covering the disaster since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20. He says that access has been hit or miss, and that there have been instances when it’s obvious members of the press are being targeted. “There are times when the Coast Guard has been great, and others where it seems like they’re interfering with our ability to have access,” says Herbert. One of those instances occurred early last week, when Herbert accompanied local officials from Plaquemines Parish in a police boat on a trip to Breton Island, a national wildlife refuge off the barrier islands of Louisiana. With them was Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of Jacques, who wanted to study the impact of the oil below the surface of the water. Upon approaching the island, a Coast Guard boat stopped them. “The first question was, ‘Is there any press with you?’ ” says Herbert. They answered yes, and the Coast Guard said they couldn’t be there. “I had to bite my tongue. That should have no bearing.”

Local fishermen and charter boat captains are also being pressured by BP not to work with the press. Left without a source of income, most have decided to work with BP to help spread booms and ferry officials around. Their passengers used to include members of the press, but not anymore. “You could tell BP was starting to close their grip, telling the fishermen not to talk to us,” says Jared Moossy, a Dallas-based photographer who was covering the spill along the Gulf Coast earlier this month. “They would say that BP had told them not to talk to us or cooperate with us or that they’d get fired.”

Some Gulf Coast watermen find BP’s desire to limit press access obvious. “If there was a major fire in a warehouse, would you let reporters go inside and start taking pictures?” asks Peace Marvel, a charter-boat captain in Venice, La. Job one, he says, is to clean up the spill, and running members of the press around only gets in the way and makes things worse. “Nobody wants this marsh saved as much as we do.” Since the spill, Marvel has turned his 15 years of experience into helping coordinate the logistics of ferrying BP officials around the Gulf Coast to deal with the spreading disaster. His current contract with BP lasts for 30 more days, and he says he’s making more money working for BP than he did as a charter-boat captain. “I’m hustling for business,” he says.

So are the reporters and photographers trying to cover the worst environmental disaster in the history of the U.S. waters. They’ll have to do it without the help of people like Peace Marvel, and against the will of BP.

General Discussion / Feds Push For Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking
« on: February 11, 2010, 02:50:45 PM »
Feds push for tracking cell phones

Two years ago, when the FBI was stymied by a band of armed robbers known as the "Scarecrow Bandits" that had robbed more than 20 Texas banks, it came up with a novel method of locating the thieves.

FBI agents obtained logs from mobile phone companies corresponding to what their cellular towers had recorded at the time of a dozen different bank robberies in the Dallas area. The voluminous records showed that two phones had made calls around the time of all 12 heists, and that those phones belonged to men named Tony Hewitt and Corey Duffey. A jury eventually convicted the duo of multiple bank robbery and weapons charges.

Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.

In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

Those claims have alarmed the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, which have opposed the Justice Department's request and plan to tell the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that Americans' privacy deserves more protection and judicial oversight than what the administration has proposed.

"This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century," says Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who will be arguing on Friday. "If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment."

Not long ago, the concept of tracking cell phones would have been the stuff of spy movies. In 1998's "Enemy of the State," Gene Hackman warned that the National Security Agency has "been in bed with the entire telecommunications industry since the '40s--they've infected everything." After a decade of appearances in "24" and "Live Free or Die Hard," location-tracking has become such a trope that it was satirized in a scene with Seth Rogen from "Pineapple Express" (2008).

Once a Hollywood plot, now 'commonplace'
Whether state and federal police have been paying attention to Hollywood, or whether it was the other way around, cell phone tracking has become a regular feature in criminal investigations. It comes in two forms: police obtaining retrospective data kept by mobile providers for their own billing purposes that may not be very detailed, or prospective data that reveals the minute-by-minute location of a handset or mobile device.

Obtaining location details is now "commonplace," says Al Gidari, a partner in the Seattle offices of Perkins Coie who represents wireless carriers. "It's in every pen register order these days."

Gidari says that the Third Circuit case could have a significant impact on police investigations within the court's jurisdiction, namely Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; it could be persuasive beyond those states. But, he cautions, "if the privacy groups win, the case won't be over. It will certainly be appealed."

CNET was the first to report on prospective tracking in a 2005 news article. In a subsequent Arizona case, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration tracked a tractor trailer with a drug shipment through a GPS-equipped Nextel phone owned by the suspect. Texas DEA agents have used cell site information in real time to locate a Chrysler 300M driving from Rio Grande City to a ranch about 50 miles away. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile logs showing the location of mobile phones at the time calls became evidence in a Los Angeles murder trial.

And a mobile phone's fleeting connection with a remote cell tower operated by Edge Wireless is what led searchers to the family of the late James Kim, a CNET employee who died in the Oregon wilderness in 2006 after leaving a snowbound car to seek help.

"This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century. If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment."
--Kevin Bankston, attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation

The way tracking works is simple: mobile phones are miniature radio transmitters and receivers. A cellular tower knows the general direction of a mobile phone (many cell sites have three antennas pointing in different directions), and if the phone is talking to multiple towers, triangulation yields a rough location fix. With this method, accuracy depends in part on the density of cell sites.

The Federal Communications Commission's "Enhanced 911" (E911) requirements allowed rough estimates to be transformed into precise coordinates. Wireless carriers using CDMA networks, such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, tend to use embedded GPS technology to fulfill E911 requirements. AT&T and T-Mobile comply with E911 regulations using network-based technology that computes a phone's location using signal analysis and triangulation between towers.

T-Mobile, for instance, uses a GSM technology called Uplink Time Difference of Arrival, or U-TDOA, which calculates a position based on precisely how long it takes signals to reach towers. A company called TruePosition, which provides U-TDOA services to T-Mobile, boasts of "accuracy to under 50 meters" that's available "for start-of-call, midcall, or when idle."

A 2008 court order to T-Mobile in a criminal investigation of a marriage fraud scheme, which was originally sealed and later made public, says: "T-Mobile shall disclose at such intervals and times as directed by (the Department of Homeland Security), latitude and longitude data that establishes the approximate positions of the Subject Wireless Telephone, by unobtrusively initiating a signal on its network that will enable it to determine the locations of the Subject Wireless Telephone."

'No reasonable expectation of privacy'
In the case that's before the Third Circuit on Friday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, said it needed historical (meaning stored, not future) phone location information because a set of suspects "use their wireless telephones to arrange meetings and transactions in furtherance of their drug trafficking activities."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Lenihan in Pennsylvania denied the Justice Department's attempt to obtain stored location data without a search warrant; prosecutors had invoked a different legal procedure. Lenihan's ruling, in effect, would require police to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause--a more privacy-protective standard.

Lenihan's opinion (PDF)--which, in an unusual show of solidarity, was signed by four other magistrate judges--noted that location information can reveal sensitive information such as health treatments, financial difficulties, marital counseling, and extra-marital affairs.

In its appeal to the Third Circuit, the Justice Department claims that Lenihan's opinion "contains, and relies upon, numerous errors" and should be overruled. In addition to a search warrant not being necessary, prosecutors said, because location "records provide only a very general indication of a user's whereabouts at certain times in the past, the requested cell-site records do not implicate a Fourth Amendment privacy interest."

The Obama administration is not alone in making this argument. U.S. District Judge William Pauley, a Clinton appointee in New York, wrote in a 2009 opinion that a defendant in a drug trafficking case, Jose Navas, "did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the cell phone" location. That's because Navas only used the cell phone "on public thoroughfares en route from California to New York" and "if Navas intended to keep the cell phone's location private, he simply could have turned it off."

(Most cases have involved the ground rules for tracking cell phone users prospectively, and judges have disagreed over what legal rules apply. Only a minority has sided with the Justice Department, however.)

Cellular providers tend not to retain moment-by-moment logs of when each mobile device contacts the tower, in part because there's no business reason to store the data, and in part because the storage costs would be prohibitive. They do, however, keep records of what tower is in use when a call is initiated or answered--and those records are generally stored for six months to a year, depending on the company.

Verizon Wireless keeps "phone records including cell site location for 12 months," Drew Arena, Verizon's vice president and associate general counsel for law enforcement compliance, said at a federal task force meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. Arena said the company keeps "phone bills without cell site location for seven years," and stores SMS text messages for only a very brief time.

Gidari, the Seattle attorney, said that wireless carriers have recently extended how long they store this information. "Prior to a year or two ago when location-based services became more common, if it were 30 days it would be surprising," he said.

The ACLU, EFF, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and University of San Francisco law professor Susan Freiwald argue that the wording of the federal privacy law in question allows judges to require the level of proof required for a search warrant "before authorizing the disclosure of particularly novel or invasive types of information." In addition, they say, Americans do not "knowingly expose their location information and thereby surrender Fourth Amendment protection whenever they turn on or use their cell phones."

"The biggest issue at stake is whether or not courts are going to accept the government's minimal view of what is protected by the Fourth Amendment," says EFF's Bankston. "The government is arguing that based on precedents from the 1970s, any record held by a third party about us, no matter how invasively collected, is not protected by the Fourth Amendment."


Welcome to the Obama administration, a kinder, greener, raper of civil liberties.

Nice to see nothing has really changed, just a better front man.

Some of you might remember the original story:

S.F. officials locked out of computer network

Looked like a clear cut case of computer crime, *at first*:

Seems that it wasn't so clear cut as SF would have one believe:

Accused rogue admin Terry Childs makes his case

Judge drops 3 of 4 charges against accused city hacker

Sounds like we still don't have all the story, but 5 million bail in this case definitely seems excessive.

What you guys think?  Especially considering just about everything that the City claimed was certainly in line with the job of Network engineer.   It seems like Child's mistake was not getting everything in writing then coughing up the passwords.  But even so refusing to give out the passwords while a fire-able offense is not a crime (unless he uses those passwords).   Sounds like he is being made an example of.

General Discussion / [POLL] Should the US release the torture photos?
« on: June 17, 2009, 09:33:27 PM »
With all the infighting about the recent war spending bill and whether or not it will include a provision amending the FOIA to allow Obama to not release the torture photos.

GOP: no trust for Barack Obama on torture photos

U.S. Lawmakers Feud Over Legislation Banning Release of 'Torture' Photos

Abuse Photos Part of Agreement on Military Spending

Really should we even release them?

Tech Heads / Web Cam Recommendations (2009 version)?
« on: June 11, 2009, 10:07:04 AM »
Looking at getting a web-cam.  Seems like the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 is a clear favorite.

Also saw this thread on TZT:

Any recommendations of Web Cams or links to 2009 type reviews (saw a lot from back in 2007/2008).  Hoping to keep price below $100.00, just looking for a good way to remote video chat with friends.  Wide angle would be nice as would resolution above 1280x1024.  DSL/Cable level connection and AIM compatibility would be nice.

General Discussion / Pretty cool music video
« on: May 12, 2009, 08:38:53 PM »
Very cool  :ok:

If this video doesn't bring a tear to your eyes and makes you smile for the rest of the day, you are a cold hearted bastard. Watch it from beginning to end—you won't regret it.

This cover of Stand By Me was recorded by completely unknown artists in a street virtual studio all around the world. It all started with a base track—vocals and guitar—recorded on the streets of Santa Monica, California, by a street musician called Roger Ridley. The base track was then taken to New Orleans, Louisiana, where Grandpa Elliott—a blind singer from the French Quarter—added vocals and harmonica while listening to Ridley's base track on headphones. In the same city, Washboard Chaz's added some metal percussion to it.

And from there, it just gets rock 'n' rolling bananas: The producers took the resulting mix all through Europe, Africa, and South America, adding new tracks with multiple instruments and vocals that were assembled in the final version you are seeing in this video. All done with a simple laptop and some microphones.

I don't know about you, but it blew me away. Best version of Ben E. King's classic I've ever heard in my life. And I've probably heard between five and two billion of them.

General Discussion / Badger Car Salesman
« on: May 12, 2009, 09:05:10 AM »


Al-Qaida used Hotmail, simple codes in planning
By PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writer Pamela Hess, Associated Press Writer Sat May 2, 2:21 am ET

WASHINGTON – In the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, alleged al-Qaida operations mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed intended to use his free Hotmail account to direct a U.S.-based operative to carry out an attack, according to a guilty plea agreement filed by Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri in federal court.

The document shows how al-Qaida, at least in 2001, embraced prosaic technologies like pre-paid calling cards, public phones, computer search engines and simplistic codes to communicate, plan and carry out its operations.

Al-Marri also surfed the Internet to research cyanide gas, using software to cover his tracks, according to the document filed Thursday in federal court in Peoria, Ill. He marked the locations of dams, waterways and tunnels in the United States in an almanac. The government claims this reflects intelligence that al-Qaida was planning to use cyanide gas to attack those sites.

As a result of his guilty plea, al-Marri could be sentenced up to a maximum 15-year term in federal prison.

In a stipulation of facts filed as part of the plea agreement, al-Marri admitted that he trained in al-Qaida camps and stayed in terrorist safe houses in Pakistan between 1998 and 2001. There, he learned how to handle weapons and how to communicate by phone and e-mail using a code.

After arriving in the U.S. on Sept. 10, 2001 — a day before al-Qaida's long-plotted terror strikes in New York and Washington — Al-Marri stored phone numbers of al-Qaida associates in a personal electronic device.

He used a "10-code" to protect the numbers — subtracting the actual digits in the phone numbers from 10 to arrive at a coded number, according to a person close to the investigation.

In a 10-code, eight becomes a two, for example. Other al-Qaida members used the same code, according to the plea agreement.

Al-Marri sent e-mails to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's hotmail account — — addressed to "Muk" and signed "Abdo." The details of that code were included in an address book found in an al-Qaida safehouse in Pakistan.

An attempt by The Associated Press to reach that address did not indicate the account had been closed, but it went unanswered.

Al-Marri initially tried to use a Yahoo e-mail account to contact Mohammed, but it failed to go through. So he switched to Hotmail as well. When al-Marri arrived in the United States, he created five new e-mail accounts to communicate with Mohammed, using the 10-code to send him his cell phone number in Peoria.

From September to November, al-Marri tried and failed to contact members of al-Qaida in Pakistan using prepaid calling cards and public phones, sometimes traveling 160 miles to use a different phone.

Al-Marri was arrested in December 2001, three months after entering the U.S. on a student visa. He was shortly thereafter declared an "enemy combatant" and taken into military custody.

The "enemy combatant" designation was dropped when he was indicted by a federal grand jury in Illinois.

Suspected as an al-Qaida sleeper agent, he was held without charge for more than five years. His attorneys say he was tortured while in military custody. There is no indication in the plea agreement that al-Marri ever made contact with other alleged al-Qaida agents inside the United States.

Al-Marri admitted that before entering the U.S., he met and had regular contact with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and with Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, who allegedly helped the Sept. 11 hijackers with money and Western-style clothing.


Kind of puts the entire "wiretap" the entire US in an entirely new light...    If they can't find shit like this right under their nose you know drowning in all the traffic of the US just made detecting stuff nearly impossible, well unless you just want to harass political rivals or those that badmouth you...

General Discussion / Now that is a model rocket!
« on: April 29, 2009, 11:28:57 AM »

...The 10 foot...Rocket shoots to 30000ft at 1100mph in 7 seconds...

General Discussion / Personal Finance software - Quicken alternatives?
« on: April 26, 2009, 11:03:06 PM »
Quicken, what a %$% piece of shit software, I'm done with its forced upgrade cycles where the basic functionality doesn't work.   Tried of reconciling by hand since it misses transaction or does odd things.  I could care less what extra crap bells and whistles they put in each year, if they can't make the basic stuff work and be stable.

Anyone know of any other alternative (other than MS Money)?

It needs to have:
Multiple accounts
Online banking
Online bill-pay
Reports (spending, income, cash flow etc, nothing fancy)

I could even live with forced upgrade cycles as long as the damn thing works.   I know MS Money has most of this stuff but looking for other alternatives before I buy.

General Discussion / Memo: Two al Qaeda leaders waterboarded 266 times
« on: April 20, 2009, 12:22:30 PM »

Memo: Two al Qaeda leaders waterboarded 266 times

    * Story Highlights
    * Memo: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed waterboarded 183 times in one month
    * Former CIA officer said in 2007 that Mohammed waterboarded for 30-35 seconds
    * Obama: Memos released because methods were reported, are now banned
    * CIA's ex-chief denounces decision to release memos

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- CIA interrogators used waterboarding at least 266 times on two top al Qaeda suspects, according to a Bush-era Justice Department memo released by the Obama administration.

The controversial technique that simulates drowning -- and which President Obama calls torture -- was used at least 83 times in August 2002 on suspected al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, according to the memo.

Interrogators also waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in March 2003. Mohammed is believed to be the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Obama released the memo Thursday, saying that "exceptional circumstances surround these memos and require their release." VideoWatch other tactics outlined in memos »

The memo, dated May 30, 2005, was from then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven G. Bradbury to John Rizzo, who was acting general counsel for the CIA.

It paints a different picture from the one described by former CIA officer John Kiriakou. In a December 2007 interview with CNN, Kiriakou said Zubaydah had been waterboarded for "about 30 seconds, 35 seconds" and agreed to cooperate with interrogators the following day.

In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Michael Hayden, who directed the CIA from 2006 to 2009, was asked about the number of times Mohammed was waterboarded.

Hayden denounced the release of the memos and did not comment on the number, saying it was his understanding that the frequency of waterboarding was among the operational details that had not been declassified. VideoWatch one expert say tactics 'worse than Abu Ghraib' »

The 2005 memo refers to a letter that had contained the numbers as well. Part of the reference to the letter was redacted in the released memo.

Waterboarding is among the interrogation tactics that Obama has prohibited through an executive order.

The CIA also has admitted waterboarding Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the first person charged in the United States for the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Obama said last week he felt comfortable releasing the classified memos because the Bush administration acknowledged using some of the practices associated with the memos, and the interrogation techniques were widely reported and have since been banned.

"Withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in the public domain for some time," Obama said in a statement. "This could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States."

The president applauded the work of the U.S. intelligence community and said no one who "carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice" would be prosecuted.


Glad to see the tactic was so effective that it had to be used 266 times.   Morons.   They should all be in jail for War Crimes.


US trade office releases information on secret piracy pact

US trade office releases information on secret piracy pact

by Grant Gross

April 7, 2009 —

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has released some new details about an anticounterfeiting trade agreement that has been discussed in secret among the U.S., Japan, the European Union and other countries since 2006.

The six-page summary of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations provides little specific detail about the current state of negotiations, but the release represents a change in policy at the USTR, which had argued in the past that information on the trade pact was "properly classified in the interest of national security."

The summary of the negotiations, released Monday, says that the countries involved have been discussing how to deal with criminal enforcement of each others' copyright laws. The countries involved have discussed the "scale of infringement necessary to quality for criminal sanctions," as well as the authority of countries to order searches and seizures of goods suspected of infringing intellectual-property laws. The summary does not detail the current state of negotiations in those areas.

The trade pact negotiations have also talked about border measures that countries should take against infringing products and about how to enforce intellectual-property rights over the Internet.

Public Knowledge, a consumer rights group and one of three organizations suing USTR over its refusal to release information on ACTA, praised USTR for releasing the summary, but said more information is needed.

"The dissemination of the six-page summary will help to some degree to clarify what is being discussed," Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge's president, said in a statement. "At the same time, however, this release can only be seen as a first step forward. It would have been helpful had the USTR elaborated more clearly the goals the United States wants to pursue in the treaty and what proposals our government has made, particularly in the area of intellectual property rights in a digital environment."

Since last June, Public Knowledge, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for information about ACTA. USTR had argued that most of the information about the trade pact was classified while releasing just 159 pages of information on the agreement in January. Public Knowledge and EFF said then that USTR was withholding more than 1,300 pages of information.

When President Barack Obama took office in January, he directed U.S. agencies to be more transparent to the public. In early March, USTR denied an FOIA request from KEI, an intellectual-property research and advocacy group, citing national security concerns. But later that month, the agency pledged to undertake a long-term review of its transparency.

The release of the summary "reflects the Obama administration's commitment to transparency," USTR said in a statement. Other countries helped USTR draft the summary, the agency said.

"We look forward to taking more steps to engage with the public in our efforts to make trade work for American families," newly appointed U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement.

The goal of ACTA is to negotiate a "state-of-the art agreement to combat counterfeiting and piracy," according to USTR. Among the nations participating in negotiations are Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland.

The U.S. and Japan began discussing an intellectual-property trade agreement in 2006, with other countries joining discussions later that year, according to the ACTA summary. Formal negotiations began in June 2008.


Why is public money being spent to police what is a Civil matter?  I can understand large scale profit copyright violations but this is getting ridiculous.  Which is exactly why a veil of "national security" was put up in the first place to hide all this crap.

General Discussion / Microsoft asks feds for a bailout
« on: April 02, 2009, 12:43:18 AM »

Microsoft asks feds for a bailout

Microsoft requested on Tuesday some $20 billion in bailout funds from the federal government, claiming that as the company controlling an overwhelming share of the OS market, it is too big to fail. The company said low adoption rates for Windows Vista, the ensuing ad campaign trying to convince people that they really do like Vista, and the increased need for development resources to rush Windows 7 to market to make people forget about Vista have necessitated the bailout.

"We want to make it absolutely clear that this is not a crisis of mismanagement," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a prepared statement. "This is simply a crisis of dollars -- a crisis of not having enough dollars coming our way. And if Microsoft collapses, better than 80 percent of the OS market collapses with us. We are requesting these bailout funds to avoid that undesirable outcome by bridging the gap between now and Windows 7."

[ Learn more about how the financial crisis is affecting IT and the high-tech industry, plus what IT can do to help, in InfoWorld's special report. ]

Ballmer didn't say if Microsoft executives would still receive bonuses if the company succeeded in getting bailout funds. He also did not indicate how the company intended to spend any bailout money it might receive, merely explaining that it would be used to "fund operations."

Microsoft's earnings over the past several quarters have been either flat or falling. Revenue has grown, but the company has increased expenditures, causing net income to decrease. Ballmer said that the company's current trajectory is "unsustainable in the long term" and that a government bailout would put the company back on the right track.

Irvin Pepper, an analyst with Freamon & Moreland, called the bailout request a "shrewd move" by Microsoft. "It may be unpopular, but Microsoft is so large that it doesn't have to worry about popularity. And the company would be foolish to leave all that money on the table if it can, in fact, get a bailout." Pepper postulated that Microsoft's odds of getting bailout funds are around 3 to 1.

Are you ready for event-driven business? - watch this webcast.

Pepper also said that his sources within Microsoft were indicating that the money might be used for a surprising purpose: suing Apple, Google, open source companies, and other entities Microsoft has labeled "revenue stealers" in internal communications. Microsoft has antagonized the companies in the past and most recently sued Linux vendor TomTom over alleged patent violations.

According to Pepper, Microsoft sees litigation as a possible revenue stream, although he believes such a strategy would be for the short term only. "I don't see Microsoft getting into the business of suing everybody willy-nilly," he said. "But as a stopgap measure while it struggles with the economic climate, Microsoft believes litigation can be a revenue-positive undertaking."


Damn will it never end  :cry:


New bill would tighten rules for National Security Letters

National Security Letters, a controversial tool that lets investigators obtain records without a court order, has come under fire from civil libertarians, courts, and the government's own watchdogs. Now lawmakers have revived a proposal to rein in NSLs, the use of which has exploded under the PATRIOT Act.
By Julian Sanchez | Last updated March 31, 2009 1:10 PM CT

Of all the expanded investigative powers authorized by Congress since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, few have proved as controversial—or as consistent a source of embarrassment to federal law enforcement—as National Security Letters. Though audits by the Inspector General have uncovered widespread improprieties in the use of the investigative tool which allows the FBI to demand certain telecommunications and financial records without the need for a court order, a 2007 effort to further constrain NSLs stalled in committee.

Now, with a new administration and a sturdier Democratic majority in place, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Monday reintroduced the National Security Letters Reform Act. The bill would significantly tighten the rules for NSLs—which can currently be used to obtain records "relevant" to an investigation, whether or not they pertain to someone even suspected of wrongdoing—and the gag orders that typically accompany them.

NSLs are not new, but their scope and prevalence were greatly expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act of 2007. In 2000, investigators issued some 8,500 NSL, according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General. In 2006—the last year for which figures were available, the number had risen to at least 49,425, down from a peak of at least 56,507—though no estimates are available for 2001 or 2002, and sloppy record-keeping found by the OIG means all figures are lowbound. The "overwhelming majority" of those are for phone or telecommunications records, and by 2006, the bulk of those for which a target's nationality was specified were issued in connection with investigations of US persons.

The FBI hasn't coped terribly well with the increased volume: those OIG reports found an NSL process riddled with errors and policy violations—some of which appeared to have been flatly illegal. Agents sent "exigent letters" claiming an emergency when none existed, claimed grand jury subpoenas were pending when they weren't, and in some instances obtained information to which the statute did not entitle them. At hearings in 2007, a visibly angry Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), who had supported expanding NSL authority, said the OIG's findings sounded more appropriate to "a report about a first- or second-grade class" than college-educated FBI agents. Thus far, however FBI officials have successfully argued that they are aware of the problems and have already begun implementing reforms to prevent future errors.

Since Nadler and Flake last sought to supplement those internal efforts with more robust statutory checks, federal appellate courts have added to the list of rationales for congressional action. Civil libertarians have attacked not only NSLs themselves, but the broad gag provisions typically attached to them, which prevent parties served with them from discussing the requests. Congress sought to mollify critics by modifying the PATRIOT Act in 2006 to permit NSL recipients to retain attorneys and challenge orders they regard as unreasonable. But late last year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law still gave FBI officials too much power to silence speech, with court oversight too anemic to satisfy the First Amendment. The court was prepared to allow a mix of court reinterpretation and FBI policy to bring the review procedures up to constitutional muster, but also invited Congress to fix the defective provision.

The National Security Letters Reform Act would do that, and a good deal more. While it would still permit high-ranking FBI officials to issue NSLs with temporary gag orders attached, the Bureau would have to petition a judge in order to extend that order beyond an initial 30 days. Instead of requiring NSL recipients to challenge such orders, showing there was "no reason" to think disclosure might harm public safety or the integrity of an investigation, the agency would have the burden of showing a court specific facts justifying each six-month extension of the gag.

Perhaps most significantly, however, the law would radically narrow the scope of National Security Letters, which can currently be used to obtain financial or telecommunications transaction records that an FBI agent asserts are "relevant" to an ongoing investigation. Under the Nadler-Flake bill, NSLs would have to certify that the target to whom the information sought pertained was believed, on the basis of "specific and articulable facts," to be a "foreign power or agent of a foreign power."

The bill also establishes strict "minimization" requirements, mandating the destruction of any wrongly obtained information. While intelligence agencies often rely on "minimization" to protect the privacy of US persons, this often means only that innocent information will be retained without being indexed in a log or database for the relevant case. Anyone whose records are obtained via an NSL without adequate factual basis, or in violation of the statutory restrictions, is entitled to sue the person responsible for issuing the letter, to the tune of $50,000.


There is hope yet  :troll:

General Discussion / Amazing Sheep Art
« on: March 28, 2009, 06:30:10 PM »

General Discussion / Reverse prank call
« on: March 28, 2009, 01:32:59 AM »

pretty funny  :2funny:

General Discussion / Strip-Search of Girl Tests Limit of School Policy
« on: March 24, 2009, 11:16:32 PM »

March 24, 2009
Strip-Search of Girl Tests Limit of School Policy

SAFFORD, Ariz. — Savana Redding still remembers the clothes she had on — black stretch pants with butterfly patches and a pink T-shirt — the day school officials here forced her to strip six years ago. She was 13 and in eighth grade.

An assistant principal, enforcing the school’s antidrug policies, suspected her of having brought prescription-strength ibuprofen pills to school. One of the pills is as strong as two Advils.

The search by two female school employees was methodical and humiliating, Ms. Redding said. After she had stripped to her underwear, “they asked me to pull out my bra and move it from side to side,” she said. “They made me open my legs and pull out my underwear.”

Ms. Redding, an honors student, had no pills. But she had a furious mother and a lawyer, and now her case has reached the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on April 21.

The case will require the justices to consider the thorny question of just how much leeway school officials should have in policing zero-tolerance policies for drugs and violence, and the court is likely to provide important guidance to schools around the nation.

In Ms. Redding’s case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled that school officials had violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches. Writing for the majority, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw said, “It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights.”

“More than that,” Judge Wardlaw added, “it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity.”

Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, dissenting, said the case was in some ways “a close call,” given the “humiliation and degradation” involved. But, Judge Hawkins concluded, “I do not think it was unreasonable for school officials, acting in good faith, to conduct the search in an effort to obviate a potential threat to the health and safety of their students.”

Richard Arum, who teaches sociology and education at New York University, said he would have handled the incident differently. But Professor Arum said the Supreme Court should proceed cautiously.

“Do we really want to encourage cases,” Professor Arum asked, “where students and parents are seeking monetary damages against educators in such school-specific matters where reasonable people can disagree about what is appropriate under the circumstances?”

The Supreme Court’s last major decision on school searches based on individual suspicion — as opposed to systematic drug testing programs — was in 1985, when it allowed school officials to search a student’s purse without a warrant or probable cause as long their suspicions were reasonable. It did not address intimate searches.

In a friend-of-the-court brief in Ms. Redding’s case, the federal government said the search of her was unreasonable because officials had no reason to believe she was “carrying the pills inside her undergarments, attached to her nude body, or anywhere else that a strip search would reveal.”

The government added, though, that the scope of the 1985 case was not well established at the time of the 2003 search, so the assistant principal should not be subject to a lawsuit.

Sitting in her aunt’s house in this bedraggled mining town a two-hour drive northeast of Tucson, Ms. Redding, now 19, described the middle-school cliques and jealousies that she said had led to the search. “There are preppy kids, gothic kids, nerdy types,” she said. “I was in between nerdy and preppy.”

One of her friends since early childhood had moved in another direction. “She started acting weird and wearing black,” Ms. Redding said. “She started being embarrassed by me because I was nerdy.”

When the friend was found with ibuprofen pills, she blamed Ms. Redding, according to court papers.

Kerry Wilson, the assistant principal, ordered the two school employees to search both students. The searches turned up no more pills.

Mr. Wilson declined a request for an interview and referred a reporter to the superintendent of schools, Mark R. Tregaskes. Mr. Tregaskes did not respond to a message left with his assistant.

Lawyers for the school district said in a brief that it was “on the front lines of a decades-long struggle against drug abuse among students.” Abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications is on the rise among 12- and 13-year-olds, the brief said, citing data from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Given that, the school district said, the search was “not excessively intrusive in light of Redding’s age and sex and the nature of her suspected infraction.”

Adam B. Wolf, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Ms. Redding, said her experience was “the worst nightmare for any parent.”

“When you send your child off to school every day, you expect them to be in math class or in the choir,” Mr. Wolf said. “You never imagine their being forced to strip naked and expose their genitalia and breasts to their school officials.”

In a sworn statement submitted in the case, Safford Unified School District v. Redding, No. 08-479, Mr. Wilson said he had good reason to suspect Ms. Redding. She and other students had been unusually rowdy at a school dance a couple of months before, and members of the school staff thought they had smelled alcohol. A student also accused Ms. Redding of having served alcohol at a party before the dance, Mr. Wilson said.

Ms. Redding said she had served only soda at the party, adding that her accuser was not there. At the dance, she said, school administrators had confused adolescent rambunctiousness with inebriation. “We’re kids,” she said. “We’re goofy.”

The search was conducted by Peggy Schwallier, the school nurse, and Helen Romero, a secretary. Ms. Redding “never appeared apprehensive or embarrassed,” Ms. Schwallier said in a sworn statement. Ms. Redding said she had kept her head down so the women could not see that she was about to cry.

Ms. Redding said she was never asked if she had pills with her before she was searched. Mr. Wolf, her lawyer, said that was unsurprising.

“They strip-search first and ask questions later,” Mr. Wolf said of school officials here.

Ms. Redding did not return to school for months after the search, studying at home. “I never wanted to see the secretary or the nurse ever again,” she said.

In the end, she transferred to another school. The experience left her wary, nervous and distrustful, she said, and she developed stomach ulcers. She is now studying psychology at Eastern Arizona College and hopes to become a counselor.

Ms. Redding said school officials should have taken her background into account before searching her.

“They didn’t even look at my records,” she said. “They didn’t even know I was a good kid.”

The school district does not contest that Ms. Redding had no disciplinary record, but says that is irrelevant.

“Her assertion should not be misread to infer that she never broke school rules,” the district said of Ms. Redding in a brief, “only that she was never caught.”

Ms. Redding grew emotional as she reflected on what she would have done if she had been told as an adult to strip-search a student. Dabbing her eyes with a tissue, she said she would have refused.

“Why would I want to do that to a little girl and ruin her life like that?” Ms. Redding asked.


Pretty scary.  I know I would be looking for heads to roll if it happened to my kids w/o my consent.

I wonder soon where the Constitution will apply since it doesn't:
If you are on school grounds
If we think you might be a terrorist
If you are a member of an organization whose existence on a list is classified
If the Treasury Secretary thinks you might contribute to the collapse of the Economy

Maybe it only now applies some magical happy land?


DOJ Drops Use of 'Enemy Combatant' Language
Government Reiterates Its Power to Detain as Needed

March 13, 2009—

The Justice Department today told a federal court that it has the power to detain those who "substantially" supported Taliban or al Qaeda forces after Sept. 11 but is dropping the legal use of the phrase "enemy combatant" to describe such detainees.

In the court filing, lawyers for the Obama administration wrote that the president based his detention authority on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by Congress in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The administration also advised the judge that it is involved in a "forward-looking multi-agency effort" to develop a comprehensive detention policy and that its views may "evolve" as a result.

"The Obama administration is trying to distance itself from the Bush administration's legal positions while still preserving broad detention authority," said Columbia Law School professor Matthew Waxman. "The new definitions and language, as well as the emphasis on congressional authorization, are smart steps. But on the core issue, the position remains that the executive currently has broad authority to detain enemy fighters in an ongoing, global war against al Qaeda."

In a statement issued today, Attorney General Eric Holder said, "As we work toward developing a new policy to govern detainees, it is essential that we operate in a manner that strengthens our national security, is consistent with our values, and is governed by law. The change we've made today meets each of those standards and will make our nation stronger."

But critics of the Bush administration's detention policy said that the Obama administration has not done enough to change the policy.

"It's not a redefinition at all," Stephen Abraham, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, told ABC News. "It's nothing less than a restatement of the old Bush definition with a plea that the judge let the Department of Justice engage in a case-by-case analysis of each detainees' specific case."

Holder Had Dropped a Hint

Holder is overseeing the multi-agency review, which includes the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the homeland security secretary, the director of national intelligence, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the FBI and CIA directors. The review committee held its first Cabinet-level meeting Monday.

After swearing in Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli this morning, Holder hinted at the upcoming change, saying, "There is an awful lot of work that we have to do. There are things, quite frankly, that we have to reverse; policy changes that we have to make."


So much for change.   I welcome George Bush JR JR.

repost sorry  look here for original thread:


Obama Sides With Bush in Spy Case

The Obama administration fell in line with the Bush administration Thursday when it urged a federal judge to set aside a ruling in a closely watched spy case weighing whether a U.S. president may bypass Congress and establish a program of eavesdropping on Americans without warrants.

In a filing in San Francisco federal court, President Barack Obama adopted the same position as his predecessor. With just hours left in office, President George W. Bush late Monday asked U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to stay enforcement of an important Jan. 5 ruling admitting key evidence into the case.

Thursday's filing by the Obama administration marked the first time it officially lodged a court document in the lawsuit asking the courts to rule on the constitutionality of the Bush administration's warrantless-eavesdropping program. The former president approved the wiretaps in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

"The Government's position remains that this case should be stayed," the Obama administration wrote (.pdf) in a filing that for the first time made clear the new president was on board with the Bush administration's reasoning in this case.

The government wants to appeal Walker's decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, a legal maneuver requiring Judge Walker's approval. A hearing in Walker's courtroom is set for Friday.

The legal brouhaha concerns Walker's decision to admit as evidence a classified document allegedly showing that two American lawyers for a now-defunct Saudi charity were electronically eavesdropped on without warrants by the Bush administration in 2004.

The lawyers — Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoo — sued the Bush administration after the U.S. Treasury Department accidentally released the Top Secret memo to them. At one point, the courts had ordered the document, which has never been made public, returned and removed from the case.


The document's admission to the case is central for the two former lawyers of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation charity to acquire legal standing so they may challenge the constitutionality of the warrantless-eavesdropping program Bush publicly acknowledged in 2005.

The Friday hearing is needed, because disputes with pretrial decisions generally require the trial judge to permit an appeal.

The Obama administration is also siding with the former administration in its legal defense of July legislation that immunizes the nation's telecommunications companies from lawsuits accusing them of complicity in Bush's eavesdropping program, according to testimony last week by incoming Attorney General Eric Holder.

That immunity legislation, which Obama voted for when he was a U.S. senator from Illinois, was included in a broader spy package that granted the government wide-ranging, warrantless eavesdropping powers on Americans' electronic communications.

A decision on the constitutionality of the immunity legislation is pending before Judge Walker in a separate case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.


Well even I had some hopes that he would reverse course on such Anti-freedom stand of the Bush admin.  But I guess absolute unchecked power does corrupt and Obama can't resist it either.

So much for getting rid of warrantless wire-tapping, transparency and checks and balances.

I had hoped that Bush's stand that it is better to keep 100 innocents in jail than let one criminal go would have gone back to our beloved Constitutional let 100 criminals go than risk having one innocent jailed days.

General Discussion / My Crazy last two days
« on: January 15, 2009, 09:26:51 PM »
Last two days have just been crazy.  I'll should have read my horiscope and just been a hermit for the last two days.

Yesterday, I was having my Camaro towed back into the shop so I could put my new tranny in.   I have a steep driveway that ends in a busy street.   The stupid tow truck driver loses control of my car and dumps it into my planter.  About 6 more inches and it would have dropped 6' into my neighbors front yard right off the ledge between our properties (on a hilly street).   Really no damage other than a sub-frame got scratched up a bit on the bottom.

This morning I am test fitting my torque converter onto my flex-plate (with the car on a lift in the air), and I am trying to line up the converter bolt holes to the flex-plate and a little atf on the T/C makes me slip my grip and drop the sucker, which proceeds to bounce off the side of my head into my arms which I catch.  I guess my head is replaceable but the Muscle-Drive torque converter isn't :D   Least I didn't drop it on my foot, lol.

Come home from the shop and find out my wife is losing her job.   Then my wife convinces me to see a doctor after I show her the huge monkey bump on the side of my head (Doctor says I should be fine, long as I don't start vomitting or blacking out the next 24 hours) and on the way home we are rear ended (no one is hurt just the bump and drivers side quarter panel all screwed up).

Should have stayed in bed for the last two days :willy:    Well least no one is really injured, and I found out my head is useful for bouncing torque converters off of to catch. ;)

General Discussion / Cars and the Women They Attract
« on: December 30, 2008, 11:52:09 PM »

Old school hot-rod sure made out better than ricer  :cheesy:

Jacked 4x4 was pretty funny.

Tech Heads / Car audio wizards
« on: December 22, 2008, 10:03:10 PM »
Trying to figure out my sound system for my 69 Camaro.

At first I was thinking of trying to find a stereo that looked stock, but those reproduction stereos are very expensive and sound quite crappy.  So for about the same price you can get a very good Alpine head unit.   Only thing is a 69 Camaro only really fits a shaft radio.  A DIN style radio requires cutting up the original dash :(

Having done more research this is what I think I might go with:

So Retrosound model one seems to be another alternative if I don't want to cut my dash:

But it seems that in order to not cut the dash, I'm paying a lot of money for not much of a receiver.  Thinking of maybe just biting the bullet and somehow fitting a good Alpine CDA-9887 in the dash for about the same amount of money.

$325.00 -

Which gives a lot more bang for the buck (built in CD, EQ, 6 4v pre-amps etc) and should sound a lot better too.

Thinking of going with an Alpine 5 channel amp PDX-5 (nice and small should be easy to hide).  Run some Polk Audio 5-1/4" speakers in the kickpanels and some 6-1/2" speakers in the rear deck lid.   Along with a small Polk Audion 8" sub-woofer in a sealed enclosure (~ .35cu feet) in the trunk (hopefully hidden way back).  All connected to the Alpine amp.   Then run some tweeters in the front dash driven by the receiver.   

Going to limit the frequencies to the rear deck 6-1/2" speakers to 100-250 and the 5-1/4" to 250-3k, subwoofer to under 100hz and the tweeters over 3000hz.


Any car audiophiles care to comment?  What are the good headunits, amps and speakers these days?

General Discussion / New Shotgun video
« on: November 21, 2008, 09:36:25 PM »

General Discussion / The Stink in Farts Controls Blood Pressure
« on: October 27, 2008, 04:13:25 PM »;_ylt=AjMLgXz2VN6TdDhnnO4D31.s0NUE

The Stink in Farts Controls Blood Pressure
Amelia Tomas
LiveScience Staff amelia Tomas
livescience Staff Thu Oct 23, 3:21 pm ET

A smelly rotten-egg gas in farts controls blood pressure in mice, a new study finds.

The unpleasant aroma of the gas, called hydrogen sulfide (H2S), can be a little too familiar, as it is expelled by bacteria living in the human colon and eventually makes its way, well, out.

The new research found that cells lining mice's blood vessels naturally make the gas and this action can help keep the rodents' blood pressure low by relaxing the blood vessels to prevent hypertension (high blood pressure). This gas is "no doubt" produced in cells lining human blood vessels too, the researchers said.

"Now that we know hydrogen sulfide's role in regulating blood pressure, it may be possible to design drug therapies that enhance its formation as an alternative to the current methods of treatment for hypertension," said Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Solomon H. Snyder, M.D., a co-author of the study detailed in the Oct. 24th issue of the journal Science.

Snyder and his colleagues compared normal mice to mice that were missing a gene for an enzyme known as CSE, long suspected as being responsible for making hydrogen sulfide. As they measured hydrogen sulfide levels taken from tissues of the CSE-deficient mice, the scientists found that the gas was depleted in the cardiovascular systems of the altered mice. By contrast, normal mice had higher levels of the gas, thereby showing that hydrogen sulfide is naturally made by mammalian tissues using CSE.

Next, the mice were subjected to higher blood pressures comparable to serious hypertension in humans. Scientists had them respond to a chemical called methacholine that relaxes normal blood vessels. The blood vessels of the CSE-lacking mice hardly relaxed, indicating that hydrogen sulfide is a huge contender for regulating blood pressure.

Hydrogen sulfide is the most recently discovered member of a family of gasotransmitters, small molecules inside our bodies with important physiological functions.

This study is the first to reveal that the CSE enzyme that triggers hydrogen sulfide is activated itself in the same way as other enzymes when they trigger their respective gasotransmitter, such as a nitric oxide-forming enzyme that also regulates blood pressure, Dr. Snyder said.

Because gasotransmitters are common in mammals all over the evolutionary tree, these findings on the importance of hydrogen sulfide are thought to have broad applications to human diseases, such as diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.

The research was supported by grants from the U.S. Public Health Service and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research as well as a Research Scientist Award.

General Discussion / The beginnings of SkyNet
« on: October 24, 2008, 09:39:24 PM »
Packs of robots will hunt down uncooperative humans

  Packs of robots will hunt down uncooperative humans
robots.jpgThe latest request from the Pentagon jars the senses. At least, it did mine. They are looking for contractors to provide a "Multi-Robot Pursuit System" that will let packs of robots "search for and detect a non-cooperative human".

One thing that really bugs defence chiefs is having their troops diverted from other duties to control robots. So having a pack of them controlled by one person makes logistical sense. But I'm concerned about where this technology will end up.

Given that iRobot last year struck a deal with Taser International to mount stun weapons on its military robots, how long before we see packs of droids hunting down pesky demonstrators with paralysing weapons? Or could the packs even be lethally armed? I asked two experts on automated weapons what they thought - click the continue reading link to read what they said.
Both were concerned that packs of robots would be entrusted with tasks - and weapons - they were not up to handling without making wrong decisions.

Steve Wright of Leeds Metropolitan University is an expert on police and military technologies, and last year correctly predicted this pack-hunting mode of operation would happen. "The giveaway here is the phrase 'a non-cooperative human subject'," he told me:

    "What we have here are the beginnings of something designed to enable robots to hunt down humans like a pack of dogs. Once the software is perfected we can reasonably anticipate that they will become autonomous and become armed.

    We can also expect such systems to be equipped with human detection and tracking devices including sensors which detect human breath and the radio waves associated with a human heart beat. These are technologies already developed."

Another commentator often in the news for his views on military robot autonomy is Noel Sharkey, an AI and robotics engineer at the University of Sheffield. He says he can understand why the military want such technology, but also worries it will be used irresponsibly.

    "This is a clear step towards one of the main goals of the US Army's Future Combat Systems project, which aims to make a single soldier the nexus for a large scale robot attack. Independently, ground and aerial robots have been tested together and once the bits are joined, there will be a robot force under command of a single soldier with potentially dire consequences for innocents around the corner."

What do you make of this? Are we letting our militaries run technologically amok with our tax dollars? Or can robot soldiers be programmed to be even more ethical than human ones, as some researchers claim?

Multi-Robot Pursuit System



General Discussion / Constitution Free Zone
« on: October 24, 2008, 06:16:42 PM »

Fact Sheet on U.S. "Constitution Free Zone"

The problem

    * Normally under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the American people are not generally subject to random and arbitrary stops and searches.
    * The border, however, has always been an exception.  There, the longstanding view is that the normal rules do not apply.  For example the authorities do not need a warrant or probable cause to conduct a “routine search.”
    * But what is “the border”?  According to the government, it  is a 100-mile wide strip that wraps around the “external boundary” of the United States.
    * As a result of this claimed authority, individuals who are far away from the border, American citizens traveling from one place in America to another, are being stopped and harassed in ways that our Constitution does not permit.
    * Border Patrol has been setting up checkpoints inland — on highways in states such as California, Texas and Arizona, and at ferry terminals in Washington State. Typically, the agents ask drivers and passengers about their citizenship.  Unfortunately, our courts so far have permitted these kinds of checkpoints – legally speaking, they are “administrative” stops that are permitted only for the specific purpose of protecting the nation’s borders.  They cannot become general drug-search or other law enforcement efforts.
    * However, these stops by Border Patrol agents are not remaining confined to that border security purpose.  On the roads of California and elsewhere in the nation – places far removed from the actual border – agents are stopping, interrogating, and searching Americans on an everyday basis with absolutely no suspicion of wrongdoing.
    * The bottom line is that the extraordinary authorities that the government possesses at the border are spilling into regular American streets. 

Much of U.S. population affected

    * Many Americans and Washington policymakers believe that this is a problem confined to the San Diego-Tijuana border or the dusty sands of Arizona or Texas, but these powers stretch far inland across the United States.
    * To calculate what proportion of the U.S. population is affected by these powers, the ACLU created a map and spreadsheet showing the population and population centers that lie within 100 miles of any “external boundary” of the United States.
    * The population estimates were calculated by examining the most recent US census numbers for all counties within 100 miles of these borders.  Using numbers from the Population Distribution Branch of the US Census Bureau, we were able to estimate both the total number and a state-by-state population breakdown.  The custom map was created with help from a map expert at World Sites Atlas.
    * What we found is that fully TWO-THIRDS of the United States’ population lives within this Constitution-free or Constitution-lite Zone.   That’s 197.4 million people who live within 100 miles of the US land and coastal borders.
    * Nine of the top 10 largest metropolitan areas as determined by the 2000 census, fall within the Constitution-free Zone.  (The only exception is #9, Dallas-Fort Worth. )  Some states are considered to lie completely within the zone:  Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Part of a broader problem

    * The spread of border-search powers inland is part of a broad expansion of border powers with the potential to affect the lives of ordinary Americans who have never left their own country.
    * It coincides with the development of numerous border technologies, including watch list and database systems such as the Automated Targeting System (ATS) traveler risk assessment program, identity and tracking systems such as electronic (RFID) passports, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), and intrusive technological schemes such as the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBINet) or “virtual border fence” and unmanned aerial vehicles (aka “drone aircraft”).
    * This illegitimate expansion of the extraordinary powers of agents at the border is also part of a general trend we have seen over the past 8 years of an untrammeled, heedless expansion of police and national security powers without regard to the effect on innocent Americans.
    * This trend is also typical of the Bush Administration’s dragnet approach to law enforcement and national security.  Instead of intelligent, competent, targeted efforts to stop terrorism, illegal immigration, and other crimes, what we have been seeing in area after area is an approach that turns us all into suspects. This approach seeks to sift through the entire U.S. population in the hopes of encountering the rare individual whom the authorities have a legitimate interest in. 

If the current generation of Americans does not challenge this creeping (and sometimes galloping) expansion of federal powers over the individual through the rationale of “border protection,” we are not doing our part to keep alive the rights and freedoms that we inherited, and will soon find that we have lost some or all of their right to go about their business, and travel around inside their own country, without interference from the authorities.

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