Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 2016

Robert Reich explains why he endorses Bernie Sanders despite Clinton ties

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Interesting article.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 February 2016 at 8:14 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

As News Media Changes, Bernie Sanders’s Critique Remains Constant

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Jason Horowitz has a good report in the NY Times:

More than three decades before he became a familiar face on Sunday morning shows, cable television news and the late-night comedy circuit,Bernie Sanders made no secret of his contempt for commercial TV.

It was not just a profit-making enterprise, he wrote in a 1979 issue of The Vanguard Press, an alternative weekly, but an opiatelike vehicle to subjugate the masses with “lies and distortions.”

And that was just the news programs. Commercials, he went on, employed “Hitlerian” tactics in which the public is “bombarded” with short, simple messages in keeping with the owners’ mission to “create a nation of morons who will faithfully go out and buy this or that product, vote for this or that candidate.”

He may have softened his language, but Mr. Sanders’s critique of the news media, as in nearly everything else, has remained constant as he has risen over the last 40 years from radical protester and protest candidate to mayor, congressman, senator and now a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. Despite the advent of the Internet, the diminishing of traditional news media companies and the emergence of new media Goliaths like Facebook that have helped fuel his rise, Mr. Sanders remains orthodox in his mass media doctrine.

Antagonism toward the news media is, of course, the standard posture for politicians, especially insurgent candidates. Republicans frequently try to prove their conservative bona fides by bashing the “liberal media,” and Barack Obama tried to circumvent the press filter with his own website. But Mr. Sanders’s dim view of the “corporate media,” as he refers to it, is much more than a campaign tactic; it is a pillar of his anti-establishment, socialist worldview.

On the night of the New Hampshire primary, Mr. Sanders proclaimed that his victory would send “a profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment and, by the way, to the media establishment.”

With that, the crowd at his victory party roared “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie” as it turned to jeer the assembled news media.

As Mr. Sanders sees it, the profit-hungry billionaire owners of news media companies serve up lowest-common-denominator coverage, purposefully avoid the income-inequality issues he prioritizes and mute alternative voices as they take over more and more outlets.

It is a view that imbues the candidate’s interactions with reporters covering his presidential campaign. Ask him how much time he has for an interview, and he responds, “If you are a typical media idiot, hmm, 12 seconds.” Inquire about the sword hanging on the wall of his Senate office, and he responds: “When media gives you a problem, take it out! Threaten them!”

In Dubuque, Iowa, in August, he answered a reporter asking about his tacit criticism of Hillary Clinton’s benefiting from “super PACs” by saying: “The corporate media talks about all kinds of issues except the most important issues. O.K.?” In December, his campaign demanded that the “corporate network news” grant him as much coverage as it does Mrs. Clinton (the “Bernie blackout,” they called it). And in his speech on the night of the Iowa caucuses, he directed familiar contempt to “all of my critics out there in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post and in corporate America, wherever you may be.” . . .

Continue reading.

I blogged earlier today about this highly relevant incident.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 February 2016 at 2:46 pm

The New EU-US Data Sharing Pact Still Allows Mass Surveillance

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A somewhat depressing article by Joseph Cox in Motherboard.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 February 2016 at 2:39 pm

Summoned to Capitol Hill, Apple Comes Armed With Questions for Congress

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Jenna McLaughlin has a good report in The Intercept:

Apple, summoned to Capitol Hill to explain why it is refusing to help the government access a terrorist’s phone by developing malware to hack in, says Congress should be the one answering questions.

Bruce Sewell, Apple’s top lawyer and senior vice president, will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. In the prepared text of his opening statement, Sewell calls for public debate around three questions in particular.

“The American people deserve an honest conversation around the important questions stemming from the FBI’s current demand,” Sewell wrote.

“Do we want to put a limit on the technology that protects our data, and therefore our privacy and our safety, in the face of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks?”

“Should the FBI be allowed to stop Apple, or any company, from offering the American people the safest and most secure product it can make?”

And: “Should the FBI have the right to compel a company to produce a product it doesn’t already make, to the FBI’s exact specifications and for the FBI’s use?”

A California federal magistrate judge . . .

Continue reading.

And, BTW, isn’t this sort of thing exactly what we pay NSA to do?

Written by LeisureGuy

29 February 2016 at 2:36 pm

California courts demand total access to email and social media accounts

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We’re starting to see a lot of government overreach, often justified by vague references to terrorist threats (in general, not specific threats: the idea seems to be “terrorists are really bad, so we should be able to take any steps we want if we chant, ‘Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists’), even though all our recent terrorist attacks are almost all lone-wolf right-wing militia types. (The attack in San Bernardino was an exception: almost all mass shootings in America are Americans shooting other Americans.)

Kelly Davis reports in The Intercept:

As the FBI and Apple fight a media war over whether the federal government can force the computer company to hack an iPhone, in California a new privacy law is raising questions over how deeply government should be allowed to peer into a convicted criminal’s digital life.

That new law, the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act(CalECPA), requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching a person’s cellphone, laptop, or any digital storage device. At issue is whether the law covers people on probation, parole, and other forms of supervised release who’ve agreed to what’s known as a “Fourth waiver,” a condition that allows law enforcement to search their person and property at any time.

CalECPA took effect on January 1, 2016. Three days later, San Diego County prosecutors and Superior Court judges began asking defendants who were eligible for probation to sign a form giving “specific consent” to county probation officers “and/or a law enforcement government entity” to collect information that would be otherwise protected under CalECPA.

The consent form described everything that could be searched and seized:

Call logs, text and voicemail messages, photographs, emails, and social media account contents contained on any device or cloud or internet connected storage owned, operated, or controlled by the defendant, including but not limited to mobile phones, computers, computer hard drives, laptops, gaming consoles, mobile devices, tablets, storage media devices, thumb drives, Micro SD cards, external hard drives, or any other electronic storage devices, by probation and/or a law enforcement entity seeking the information.

The defendant shall also disclose any and all passwords, passcodes, password patterns, fingerprints, or other information required to gain access into any of the aforementioned devices or social media accounts.

Defense attorneys immediately protested, arguing that the form had been drawn up without input from the defense bar and that the language was vague and overly broad.

“Folks on parole, probation, even supervised release, they have a reduced expectation of privacy while they’re under supervision,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, criminal justice and drug policy director for the ACLU of California, “but that’s not the same as no right to privacy online or offline.”

Dooley-Sammuli said she was surprised by the expansiveness of the consent waiver. “Anything, anytime, from the beginning of time until after your death is what it suggests in that language.”

In January, I attended dozens of probation and sentencing hearings in San Diego’s main courthouse. The majority of defendants were told that there would be broad monitoring of their online lives, despite objections from defense attorneys. In one case, a judge told a pair of young co-defendants — a boyfriend and girlfriend who pleaded guilty to robbery — that their emails, cellphones, and social media accounts would be monitored to make sure they weren’t in contact with each other during their five years’ probation. A young woman convicted of felony DUI was told . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 February 2016 at 2:29 pm

Lawsuit takes aim at asset forfeiture in Indiana

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Radley Balko points out the casual way Indiana law enforcement and prosecutors simply ignore the law in asset forfeiture, and the Indiana Attorney General doesn’t care. Somehow our various governments—municipal, county, state, and Federal have become, like unmaintained buildings and bridges, dilapidated and unsafe. We need some serious rebuilding of our governing institutions.

I attribute the shoddy state of those institutions to two causes: first, too few people are voting. We have a mechanism to remove non-performing government officials: elections. Those offices filled through elections can appoint better people and pressure current people to get better performance, but only if the elected officials do their job, and it’s up to voters to remove those who do not. (We have term limits; they’ called “elections.”)

The second cause is that the news media—press, cable, television, on-line—has mostly been taken over by corporations, who see their media empire as supporting their various profit-making ventures, and they are loathe to report stories that might impact their own profits. Thus MSNBC cut away from the Bernie Sanders press conference as soon as Sanders was about to talk about how bad the TPP is for the public. The reason is simple: Comcast owns MSNBC, and Comcast favors TPP because it will increase Comcast profits. Here are some reports.

So lacking good voter turnout (and I favor the Australian idea: heavy fines for those who fail to vote) and without good investigative journalism, we are living now in the governmental equivalent of a slum.

Balko writes in the Washington Post:

The Institute for Justice, a libertarian advocacy law firm, is suing the state of Indiana over its civil asset forfeiture practices. Under state law, the proceeds from forfeiture are supposed to go to a schools fund. But that isn’t happening.

For far too long, police and prosecutors in Indianapolis have been keeping 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds for themselves. The constitution couldn’t be clearer—“all forfeitures” belong to the schools—yet the Indiana school fund hasn’t seen a penny of forfeiture money from Indiana’s capital since before some current students were even born. Meanwhile, police and prosecutors are siphoning off millions of dollars in civil forfeiture proceeds, violating both the Indiana Constitution and the state’s Civil Forfeiture Statute and fueling an increasingly aggressive forfeiture machine.

Now a group of Indiana citizens—two of whom were once unjustly targeted in a forfeiture case—have teamed up with the Institute for Justice to right the ship in Indianapolis. They are asking the courts to compel Indy’s police and prosecutors to follow the law and stop profiting from their forfeiture program. Victory will set a precedent to bind every police department and prosecutor’s office in Indiana. Equally important, it will have a nationwide impact by driving home that police and prosecutors—like everybody else—must follow the law.

More here. Under the law, law enforcement agencies can use forfeiture funds to reimburse themselves only for the cost of the investigation that led to the property seizure. The counties get around the requirement by wildly overestimating the cost of those investigations. Or they simply don’t try to justify their actions at all. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has expressed little interest in enforcing the requirement that the forfeiture proceeds go to the schools fund.

The problem with the money going back to law enforcement agencies is of course that it creates a perverse incentive to “find” connections between money or property and illegal activity, even where none exists. A 2010 investigation by the Indianapolis Star found sheriffs and police chiefs essentially operating slush funds with forfeiture proceeds.

But this is a problem in many states. In Indiana, not only is the money not getting to the schools fund, in many counties prosecutors have contracted forfeiture cases out to private attorneys and law firms, who then get a cut of what they win in court. (I know this is also done in Kansas, and possibly in other states.) Back in 2008, one attorney who specializes in these forfeiture contracts made more than $113,000 on a single case. That’s more than all 92 Indiana counties contributed to the state’s schools fund from 2008 through 2009.

It gets better. For 10 years, one Indiana prosecutor simultaneously prosecuted criminal drug cases while referring the civil forfeitures in those cases to his own private law firm, from which he’d then get a portion of the proceeds. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 February 2016 at 1:53 pm

NY Times seems to be rethinking their Hillary Clinton endorsement

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They’ve had an editorial calling for her to release the transcripts of her (highly) paid speeches to Wall Street firms, and now they are running a series on the the failed policies she supported for Libya (The Libya Gamble Part 1, Part 2; Libya quotes)—and of course her support for the Iraq War (which Bernie Sanders opposed and voted against) is well known.

Ms. Clinton’s refusal to let us know what she was telling Wall Street is revealing: it means that she figures that hiding her statements is less damaging than revealing them, and that tells us quite a bit.

Pam Martens and Russ Martens have a column in Wall Street on Parade commenting on the conflicted nature of the Times’ support for Clinton. It’s worth reading. From the column:

. . . When Bill Clinton began his first term as President in 1993, the national debt stood at $4.4 trillion. The country was 217 years old. It had paid for the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, clawed back economically from the 1929 Wall Street crash and Great Depression, paid for World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War. Today, the national debt stands at $19 trillion. It has more than quadrupled in just 23 years. Much of that debt stems from attempting to resuscitate the U.S. economy from the catastrophic 2008 financial crash that resulted from the deregulation of Wall Street under Bill Clinton. Exactly how much of that debt results from ill-advised wars in the Middle East we don’t know because the Department of Defense is a black hole of accounting. But we know it’s in the trillions of dollars.

Curiously, the New York Times video that follows the video of Clinton’s ill-fated adventurism in Libya is a clip of President Obama visiting a batteries plant in Jacksonville, Florida last Friday. In the clip, the President makes a reference to the rhetoric coming from the campaign trail, saying:

“They’re spending all their time talking down America. I don’t know when it became fashionable to do that.”

This is a deceptive ploy from the President – an attempt to silence critics of the status quo on the false narrative that it’s unpatriotic. Hillary Clinton has jumped right in to this ploy, with her new refrain that ‘America never stopped being great.’

Establishment candidates want to avoid the tough questions on how America fell this far this fast because the answers are an indictment of the status quo they hope to perpetuate on behalf of the one percent who pay their way into office and line their pockets when they’re out of office. The answers are also an indictment of the toothless regulators the one percent handpick to oversee their interests in Washington in exchange for campaign financing.

According to the most recent Census Bureau report, 46.7 Americans live in poverty. As Bernie Sanders is alerting Americans on the campaign trail, “There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. There is something profoundly wrong when 58 percent of all new income since the Wall Street crash has gone to the top one percent.”

As we wrote in 2013, we used to be a country with a rich heart. Now we’re the land of the heartless rich. As billionaires’ wealth grows exponentially and hedge fund owners pay a lower tax rate than plumbers and nurses, the number of homeless children in public schools in the U.S. continues to set records, now at 1.36 million – a doubling of the number since before the recession according to Federal statistics. . .

 

Written by LeisureGuy

29 February 2016 at 9:08 am

A Tiny Town shave: Wee Scot, Meißner Tremonia, and Chiseled Face with iKon X3

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SOTD 2016-02-29

The tiny tub is a sample of Meißner Tremonia’s Lavender de Luxe shaving paste, somewhat firmer than a shaving cream. Given the tub size, it seemed appropriate to use Simpson’s Wee Scot as the brush, and I had no trouble in loading the brush and working up a fine lather.

The X3 is a marvel, seen here on a UFO handle: three very easy passes to perfect baby smoothness without even a hint of a problem. As before, the razor feels on the face as though it has no blade, but the stubble nevertheless is removed efficiently and completely. It’s a wonderful razor, and is due to be available in March.

A tiny splash from the little sample of Chiseled Face Trade Winds aftershave, and I’m ready for another good week. March has traditionally come in like a lion and gone out like a lamb, but the weather here is more lamb-like than leonine.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 February 2016 at 8:25 am

Posted in Shaving

Just how safe is our drinking water? Hoosick Falls NY learns of its tainted drinking water.

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Jesse McKinley reports in the NY Times:

One resident called 911 asking whether the village’s water would burn his skin off. Families have lined up to have their blood drawn and their wells tested. Banks stopped giving out mortgages, and some local residents stopped washing their dishes, their clothes and themselves. Erin Brockovich has been to town.

Such are the unpleasant contours of a public health emergency that is playing out in Hoosick Falls, a quiet river-bend village near the New York-Vermont border that has been upended by disclosures that the public water supply was tainted with high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a toxic chemical linked in some studies to an increased risk for cancer, thyroid disease and serious complications during pregnancy.

Last week, a federal class-action lawsuit was filed against Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International, the current and former owners of the plant that, according to the state, was the source of the PFOA contamination. The toxic chemical is associated with the making of Teflon, which was used in products manufactured at the plant.

After the revelation of lead contamination in Flint, Mich., where Gov. Rick Snyder’s response was widely criticized, the situation in Hoosick Falls has provoked both deep concern about water quality and a heightened scrutiny of how public officials have responded.

In New York, elements of the state’s response have been repeatedly questioned. Nearly a year and a half passed, for instance, from the time the chemical was discovered in the water — by a concerned resident — to the warning from state health officials that residents avoid drinking it.

In the interim, state and local officials assured the public on several occasions that the water was safe — most recently in December, even after the federal Environmental Protection Agency had recommended to the village’s mayor that residents avoid using Hoosick’s well water. Gov.Andrew M. Cuomo and other officials have defended their response, saying they have acted as aggressively as possible with the information they have — noting shifting federal standards on the contaminant, which is as yet unregulated.

But many residents here believe the damage has already been done in Hoosick Falls, a village of 3,500 about 30 miles northeast of the State Capitol in Albany, whose previous claim to fame was being the resting place of Grandma Moses, whose bucolic, childlike images still adorn walls around town.

Now, however, the village’s very name — pronounced who-sick — seems to be a cruel joke.

“I feel like we’re a stigma,” said Cindy Sprague, 67, a retired waitress who has lived here for more than 40 years. “And I feel like we’re going to become a ghost town.”

The situation in Hoosick Falls has led to heightened and some frightened awareness of PFOA and other potentially hazardous chemicals, with worries rippling out to neighboring towns, over state lines and across the nation. On Feb. 20, state officials announced that PFOA had also been found in the water in Petersburgh, N.Y., 10 miles south of Hoosick Falls. On Thursday, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont announced that wells in North Bennington — just east of Hoosick Falls — had also tested positive for the chemical.

Across the nation, concern over contamination has risen in places like Seattle, where the city recently sued the agribusiness giant Monsanto over chemical pollution in the Duwamish River, and in Minnesota, where a state report issued last week found that up to 60 percent of groundwater samples from wells in the central part of the state had unsafe levels of nitrates. Polls show that nearly half of Americans are concerned about their water supply. . .

Continue reading.

Even if residents show high rates of cancer from the polluted water, the pattern has been that no company employee is charged with any crime or pays any fine, though the company itself will likely have to pay fines and settlements—but not the people responsible for the pollution. And the public officials who took no action and lied about the safety of the water? No action there at all. At least that’s been the pattern to date. Accountability seems to be increasingly absent in the US.

Later in the story, note how the government officials responsible for ensuring the public’s drinking water responded to the crisis:

. . . “We’ve been very active in Hoosick Falls from Day 1,” Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said on Thursday.

According to documents and accounts posted on the village’s website, state health officials were informed of possible contamination as far back as August 2014, but did not raise an alarm.

In January 2015 — shortly after samples from a village well came back showing levels of PFOA that exceeded a federal advisory — the state health agency told village officials the tainted water “does not constitute an immediate health hazard,” referring to state standards for contaminants.

Testing of wells near the plant in the summer and fall of 2015 showed more troubling signs, including a sample at 45 times the recommended short-term exposure. Those tests helped prompt an E.P.A. warning.

State officials still seemed cautious; in early December, the Department of Health put out a fact sheet saying “health effects are not expected to occur from normal use of the water,” though it recommended that residents limit their exposure to PFOA.

Finally, after a public warning from the E.P.A. in mid-December, a state health department spokesman said residents should rely on bottled water. In late January, Mr. Cuomo announced the state Superfund designation and ordered the classification of PFOA as hazardous. . .

This seems very like the way GM at first ignored and then concealed the defect in the ignition switches that led to so many deaths, and then when the facts were revealed by a lawsuit, use the bankruptcy to avoid paying any settlements. In that case, no one responsible was held accountable, and the company itself escaped accountability, for what was clearly wrong-doing (concealing a defect that was killing people).

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2016 at 10:10 pm

Emails Show Michigan Aides Worried About Flint’s Water a Year Before Acting

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They knew they were poisoning Flint residents and they did nothing. Why is this not leading to criminal prosecutions? Monica Davey and Julia Bosman report in the NY Times:

A full year before the state took significant action, some top aides to Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan were alarmed at the quality of Flint’s water, with a lawyer for the governor calling the notion of drinking it “downright scary,” newly released emails show.

By the time state authorities did act to protect Flint’s residents in October, the water supply was so contaminated — and lead levels so high — that residents are still being advised not to drink from their taps.

The concerns of Mr. Snyder’s aides are evident in thousands of internal emails made public on Friday, adding to a volume of correspondence that Mr. Snyder, state agencies and others have released in the aftermath of the Flint crisis. The new emails offer the clearest sense yet of what those who work for Governor Snyder knew about Flint’s water crisis as it unfolded since the city switched water supplies in 2014, in part to save money.

They also raise new questions about why it took Mr. Snyder’s administration so long to act, despite a high level of alarm among officials — though no evidence that they passed their concerns onto the governor.

Also evident is the officials’ tendency to focus more on avoiding bad publicity over the issue than on mounting questions about the water itself.

In talking points that aides prepared for the governor in early 2015, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2016 at 8:58 am

5 Frightening Myths about Lead in Drinking Water—and it’s not just Flint

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Yanna Lambrinidou is an adjunct assistant professor in the department of science and technology in society at Virginia Tech, and Marc Edwards is the Charles Lunsford professor of civil engineering at Virginia Tech. Their report is in the Washington Post:

For months, the citizens of Flint, Mich., were on their own in trying to bring attention to their city’s polluted water. In August, one of us, Marc, brought his research team to Flint at the request of Flint resident LeeAnne Walters, who couldn’t get the government’s help in dealing with the orange dreck coming from her tap. The team found that Flint’s water supply contained very high levels of lead, a toxin linked to health problems ranging from tooth decay to neurological disorders. It took decades, but Americans eventually got smart andbanned lead paint. Yet when it comes to lead in water, even with the political and media spotlight on Flint, misconceptions persist.

1. Flint is an isolated case.

Flint has attracted national attention because the situation there seems so singularly outrageous. Editorial boards have called to mind the Hurricane Katrina disaster, accusing state and federal officials of turning a “blind eye” to a crisis “beyond measure.” Steve Via, regulatory affairs manager for the American Water Works Association, which represents utilities, insists, “In general, lead is pretty well managed across the country.”

That’s wrong. It’s not unusual for cities to have lead in their water supplies. In 2004, The Washington Post reported that 274 water utilities serving 11.5 million consumers had exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s lead standard in the previous four years and that several cities (including Boston, New York and Philadelphia) were out of compliance with EPA reporting requirements. As Erik Olson of the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council said at the time, “The problems we know about are just the tip of the iceberg.”

More than a decade ago, it was found that Washington, D.C.’s tap water exposed two-thirds of over 6,000 tested homes to lead doses that exceeded the EPA’s limit of 15 parts per billion. Exposure was associated with a 37 percent increase in fetal deaths and hundreds of cases of elevated blood lead levels in young children.

One problem is that health authorities don’t appreciate that the threat from lead-contaminated water can be just as dire as that from other sources. The CDC, for instance, declares lead-based paint to be “the most common high-dose source of lead exposure for children” and states that, “in general, lead in drinking water is not the predominant source for poisoned children.” Even in direct response to concerns about Flint’s crisis, state health officials in Pennsylvania said, in part, that “the primary source of childhood lead poisoning in Pennsylvania continues to be exposure to aging, deteriorating lead-based paint (chips and dust), and not drinking water.”

But lead in water is a significant cause of elevated blood lead levels in children. In Flint, those levels doubled. What’s more, the Flint water lead levels are similar to those encountered elsewhere.

2. If water meets EPA standards, it is safe.

The EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule, promulgated in 1991 under the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, calls for municipalities to issue detailed annual reports about water quality. Flint’s 2014 report says that 90 out of 100 samples of water collected in the second half of that year contained six parts per billion of lead or less — well within the permitted threshold of 15 parts per billion. Technically, this meant that Flint was in compliance with national standards.

This is misleading. Flint was using water from the Flint River, which corroded city pipes and released lead into the water supply. But the evening before officials took their samples, they flushed water from the lines. It’s a practice that’s discouraged but not banned by the EPA. Flint residents found contamination by sampling from unflushed lines — the same way consumers drink water.

Even this method isn’t perfect. It requires sampling the first liter of water that flows out of a tap after a stagnation period — in other words, the fluid near the faucet. But according to a new study, the results look much different when the sample comes from water sitting in a lead service line . Using this approach, 50 to 70 percent of utilities with lead service lines would exceed the EPA’s standard, and nationwide, up to 96 million consumers currently being told that their tap water is safe would need to be informed about potential contamination, according to figures from the American Water Works Association. No wonder that even Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder now says the Lead and Copper Rule is “geared to allow utilities to comply.”

3. Testing proves that your water is safe. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2016 at 9:02 pm

Why I avoid imported olive oil and buy California extra-virgin olive oil bottled by the producers

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I learned from reading Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, by Tom Mueller, that imported extra-virgin olive oils are frequently not extra-virgin nor, indeed, even olive oil. It’s an entertaining if somewhat depressing book, which made me change my olive-oil-buying habits: now I buy only EVOO produced in California and bottled by the producer.

And the situation will soon get worse. Elisabetta Povoledo reports in the NY Times:

For some of the 300 olive growers who toil here in the rolling hills of the Lazio region, making olive oil is a year-round labor of love.

The olives are hand-harvested early in the fall, when they are still green, and are whisked to a cooperative-run mill so they can be cold-pressed within 12 hours.

Nothing is added in the process, following precise standards that produce the extra-virgin olive oil that Italy vaunts as one of its most prized products, and most successful global exports.

“We want people to buy the oil because it is a Colli Etruschi oil,” which is famed for its quality, said Nicola Fazzi, the director of the Colli Etruschi cooperative, founded in 1965.

That is why Mr. Fazzi, like producers elsewhere in Italy, is troubled by a draft legislative decree under review in Parliament — with a decision expected on Tuesday — that would tinker with the penalties for passing off counterfeit olive oil and its origin.

If the decree passes, critics say, commercial fraud and counterfeiting would no longer be considered a criminal offense. Instead, it would be punished by a relatively light fine, effectively incentivizing the wrongdoing, the producers say.

“Much is said about promoting ‘made in Italy,’ but then they try to decriminalize adulterated oil,” Mr. Fazzi lamented, joining a chorus of critics, including trade associations and farm lobbies, who fear for the reputation of Italian extra-virgin olive oil if the decree passes. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article she does quote Tom Mueller:

. . . If the decree passes, “the whole notion of ‘made in Italy’ is at risk,” said Tom Mueller, an American journalist based in Liguria who has written extensively about olive oil fraud.

In particular, the decree benefits industrial olive oil bottlers, as the light fines legitimize the notion of “product of Italy” over “made in Italy,” he said, “opening the floodgates so that the generic product of Italy becomes the new normal.”

“If it works for olive oil, it will work for other products, too,” he predicted. “Indication of any geographic provenance is bad for big business,” Mr. Mueller explained.

The decree “is ultimately a shield for dishonesty, and that could become the way of the future,” he said. “It’s free trade über alles, not protecting the quality of foods made from the soil.” . . .

She lists several large-scale counterfeiting operations, passing off second-tier olive oil as extra-virgin.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2016 at 8:26 pm

Did Flint’s contaminated water cause deadly Legionnaires’ outbreaks?

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No one knows because no government agency has tested the water. (Michigan apparently has a terrible government that simply is not up to doing its job.) Lenny Bernstein and Brady Dennis report in the Washington Post:

Frustrated and desperate, Genesee County health official Jim Henry did not mince words as he demanded information from the city of Flint on a 2014 outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that had sickened 45 people in Michigan, killing five of them.

In his March 2015 email, Henry noted his previous efforts, which included a Freedom of Information Act request, and warned that another outbreak could be coming as the warm summer months approached.

“The increase of the illnesses closely corresponds with the time frame of the switch to Flint River water,” he wrote. “The majority of the cases reside or have an association with the city. . . . This is rather glaring information and it needs to be looked into now.”

Yet a year later, despite a second outbreak and a total of 87 illnesses and nine deaths, no government agency has tested the water supply for the legionella bacteria that cause the infection, which flourished as the beleaguered city’s tap water was being poisoned by lead.

legionnairesCHART-v3

Without a scientifically proven match between the bacteria in the water and strains cultured from victims, it is impossible to determine whether the tainted water supply caused the deadly infections, officials have told the public.

That could complicate a special counsel’s efforts to assess criminal culpability for the fatalities and at least one lawsuit seeking damages — as well as efforts to protect the public from future outbreaks, experts said.

The county health department, two state agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have offered a variety of reasons why Flint’s water has not been tested, at times pointing fingers at one another. A state health department spokeswoman noted that chlorine is being added to the water to kill bacteria, including legionella.

But three experts in the control of Legionnaires’ disease expressed varying degrees of surprise and dismay that testing still has not been done.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2016 at 6:53 pm

Bee Extinction Is Threatening the World’s Food Supply, UN Warns

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Not to mention climate change. Daniel Oberhaus reports at Motherboard:

Last Monday, members of nearly 100 national governments met in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur for a weeklong conference to discuss the threats facing animal pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and birds. According to delegates of the conference, these pollinators are increasingly threatened with extinction, a bleak reality that could have devastating consequences for human food supply in the near future.

The meeting was held at the behest of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an independent working group comprised of 124 UN member nations. It marks the first time world leaders have convened on this scale to discuss the threat to the bees, birds, bats, beetles, butterflies, and other animals which transport the pollen necessary for the reproduction of over 75 percent of the world’s leading food crops and 90 percent of wild flowering plant species.

“Without pollinators, many of us would not be able to enjoy chocolate, coffee and vanilla ice cream, or healthy foods like blueberries and brazil nuts,” Lynn Dicks, a research fellow at Cambridge University’s Department of Zoology and one of the 77 scientists to contribute to the report, said in press release. “The value of pollinators goes way beyond this. People’s livelihoods and culture are intimately linked with pollinators around the world. All the major world religions have sacred passages that mention bees.”

The meeting precedes the release of a “mega-report” two years in the making which details the extent of the threat of pollinator extinction. It is the first assessment issued by the IPBES (which was formed in 2012) and although it will contain no new research, the report will offer an exhaustive overview of relevant scientific studies in tandem with indigenous and local knowledge.

The report, to be released to the public on February 29, was adopted by the IPBES delegates on Friday.

As detailed in the forthcoming report, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2016 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Business, Food

Secrets, lies, and the iPhone

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I’ve often mentioned Obama’s crusade against transparency in government (his actions, not his words) and his vindictive persecution of whistleblowers (despite his promises to protect them), which offer a strange contrast to his extremely—even excessively—gentle treatment of Wall Street criminals. Andrew O’Hehir has a very interesting column in Salon on this topic:

It’s one of the enduring mysteries of Barack Obama’s presidency, as it sinks toward the sunset: How did this suave and intelligent guy, with the cosmopolitan demeanor, the sardonic sense of humor and the instinct for an irresistible photo-op, end up running the most hidden, most clandestine and most secrecy-obsessed administration in American history? And what does the fact that nobody in the 2016 campaign — not Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton, not anybody — ever talks about this mean for the future? The answer to the second question is easy: Nothing good. The answer to the first one might be that those things are unrelated: Personality doesn’t tell us anything about policy, and our superficial judgments about political leaders are often meaningless.

Bill Moyers warned me about this some years ago, when I asked him how he evaluated George W. Bush as a person. He wasn’t much interested in character or personality in politics, he said. Lyndon Johnson had been one of the most difficult people he’d ever known, and Moyers had never liked him, but Johnson was an extraordinarily effective politician. I wasn’t sharp enough to ask the obvious follow-up question, which was whether Johnson’s personal flaws had fed into his disastrous policy errors in Vietnam.

Bill Moyers has forgotten more about politics than I will ever know, but the thing is, Ido perceive a relationship between surface and substance, and I believe we learn something important about people almost right away. George W. Bush was profoundly incurious about the world, and insulated by layers of smarter people and money. Richard Nixon was always a creep. Bill Clinton wanted to make you cry and get your panties off. Ronald Reagan never had any idea what day it was. Barack Obama seems like a smart, funny, cool guy, and maybe he’s too much of all those things for his own good. Maybe we will look back decades from now and perceive the Obama paradox — the baffling relationship between his appealing persona and his abysmal record on surveillance, government secrecy and national security — in a different light. For one thing, whatever they told him between November of 2008 and January of 2009 must have been really scary.

I called up John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent who spent 23 months in federal prison thinking this stuff over, to see if he could help. Kiriakou is one of the nine government leakers or whistleblowers that the Obama White House and/or the Justice Department has sought to prosecute under the Espionage Act, a law passed under Woodrow Wilson during World War I that was meant to target double agents working for foreign governments. (Among the other eight actual or prospective defendants are Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.) Under all previous presidents, incurious George included, the Espionage Act was used for that purpose exactly three times. If you’re keeping score, that’s nine attempted prosecutions in seven years, versus three in 91 years.

Kiriakou had a whole lot to say, especially about former Attorney General Eric Holder and current CIA director John Brennan, whom he sees as the prime movers behind the administration’s secrets-and-lies agenda — and also as the guys who railroaded him over what he describes as a minor indiscretion. Kiriakou spent 15 years in the CIA, first as an analyst and then as a covert operative. He was involved in the capture of Abu Zubaydah, and apparently knew that the alleged senior al-Qaida operative was waterboarded by CIA interrogators, although he was not directly involved.

Kiriakou’s decision to talk about CIA torture in a 2007 interview ultimately landed him in prison. But it’s an arcane and suggestive tale and, at least officially, his crime had nothing to do with what he said about Zubaydah and waterboarding. Kiriakou revealed the last name of a covert agent — inadvertently and in passing, he says — to an ABC News journalist named Matthew Cole, who said he was planning to write a book but was actually gathering information for defense lawyers working with detainees at Guantánamo Bay. Later, Kiriakou believes, Cole became a government informant. The whole thing would puzzle John le Carré and Immanuel Kant put together.

Even though Kiriakou’s purported offense occurred when George W. Bush was in the White House, it was Obama’s Justice Department that decided to investigate and prosecute him, a three-year process that left him bankrupt, unemployed and more than a million dollars in debt. In the end, he would up spending nearly two years in prison because he mentioned one person’s last name in one email. When it comes to why the Obama administration has repeatedly taken that approach, Kiriakou sounds just about as puzzled as the rest of us.

I laid out my limited understanding of the Obama paradox, pretty much the way I did a few paragraphs ago, and Kiriakou sighed. “If this had not happened to me, I would be looking at the Obama presidency as one of the most successful and most progressive presidencies in my lifetime, on everything from gay rights to the economy,” he said. “His foreign policy has been largely successful, if you don’t necessarily focus on the Middle East. But I just can’t get past these whistleblower prosecutions, most especially my own.

“People ask me all the time if I blame Obama for this, and I tell them I don’t think Obama has any idea who I am,” he went on. Holder and Brennan had the president’s ear, Kiriakou believes, and for reasons of their own they were devoted to punishing all leakers who made the administration look bad. “I still have friends in the White House. I still have friends in the CIA. They tell me that it was John Brennan who was the real impetus behind these prosecutions, when he was assistant national security advisor for counterterrorism. Brennan was obsessed with leaks just like Holder was obsessed with leaks, and it was Brennan who pushed these prosecutions forward.”

What we see now, at the tail end of Obama’s presidency, is the FBI (which is under the authority of the Justice Department and hence the White House) trying to force Apple to hack open the world’s most popular and beloved handheld device, one of whose principal selling points is its unbreakable encryption. Although the president has taken no visible role in the iPhone struggle, it exemplifies what you might call the Obama line: I’m a reasonable guy and this is a special case. Don’t you trust me with your secrets?

“People just don’t seem to understand that this case has very broad civil liberties connotations,” Kiriakou says. “This is not a fight between Apple and the FBI. If Apple allows the FBI in this one time, what’s gonna stop them from asking another time? Indeed, the FBI has now asked for access to nine different phones in nine different cases. All the other cases are drug cases. So that has started already. Then, if such a back door exists, repressive regimes are going to use it and hackers are going to use it and the next thing you know everybody’s got access to your phone. I mean, haven’t we given up enough of our civil liberties already? All these incremental losses of our civil liberties over the years, that people either don’t sense or don’t care about, are bad enough. Now we have to worry about the FBI going into our phones anytime they want.”

Obama came into office promising to run the most transparent and open White House in history and has done precisely the opposite. His administration has kept entire areas of national security, intelligence and anti-terrorism policy under the cloak of executive privilege. That includes the drone war that has killed several thousand people in at least six different countries. Despite the best efforts of international watchdog groups, we will probably never know its full scale and scope, or how many civilians have died in drone strikes.

It also includes the infamous “kill list” of individuals whom the president has personally determined are subject to summary execution without trial. If one person has Obama’s ear on this question, it would seem to be John Brennan, who during his tenure at the CIA has transformed the agency into a clandestine military force with no uniforms, no systems of accountability and no obligation to respect the ordinary rules of war.

At least two known individuals on the kill list have been United States citizens, including the influential al-Qaida imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico. (Awlaki’s teenage son, also an American citizen, was himself killed by a drone a few weeks after his father. His death is believed to have been collateral damage.) It was a year and a half after Awlaki’s death before the legal framework that supposedly authorized the president to kill him was discussed in public, and that only happened after a non-classified Justice Department memo was leaked to the press, perhaps with permission from above.

That all sounds like old news in the middle of an increasingly unhinged election year whose sole foreign policy issue is the national panic over ISIS, a group that, if we stretch the point, might plausibly be held responsible for the deaths of a few dozen Americans. But just because none of this is a campaign issue does not mean it has gone away. Drone pilots are beginning to speak out about the video-game deaths they inflict on strangers thousands of miles away. A group of Air Force veterans recently published a letter to Obama in the Guardian describing the drone war as a “fundamental recruitment tool” for groups like ISIS and a driving force of terrorism. The wife of another imprisoned CIA leaker, Jeffrey Sterling (who has consistently denied any wrongdoing), has mounted a campaign aimed at convincing Obama to pardon her husband before he leaves office, which is one reason I had John Kiriakou’s phone number.

On the other end of the spectrum, . . .

Continue reading. It’s important.

The conclusion:

. . . So what’s the deal with Barack Obama? How did our coolest-ever president also turn out to be the one who pursued leakers and whistleblowers with a vengefulness and vigor without precedent in American history? To paraphrase what one of Stalin’s defeated rivals wrote in a letter to the dictator on the eve of his execution, why was John Kiriakou’s destruction useful or necessary to Obama? “I’m not sure that I can answer that question,” Kiriakou said, “and, believe me, I’ve thought about this a lot over the last four years.”

Then he pretty much did answer it, and the answer is depressing. “When you’ve got four shiny stars on your shoulder and you’re described as the ‘president’s favorite general’ and you say something that makes the president look good, you’re not going to get an espionage charge.” He is talking there about retired Gen. James Cartwright, who is suspected of leaking info about Stuxnet, the CIA computer virus that targeted Iran’s nuclear program, but was never prosecuted. “Or when you have those four shiny stars on your shoulder and you leak to your freaking girlfriend the names of 10 covert operatives, you get a pass.” That would be Gen. David Petraeus, the former CIA head who revealed far more information than Kiriakou did, and served no jail time.

“Or when you’re Hillary Clinton and you’ve got whatever it is now, 83 top-secret documents on your private server, you’re gonna get a pass,” Kiriakou continued. “It’s when you report on waste, fraud, abuse or illegality, or you embarrass the government or contradict a policy, that’s when the whole weight of the government is gonna crash down on your head.”

So the wealthy and well-connected are above the law. This is far from the American ideal.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2016 at 1:39 pm

The Scalia Myth

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Laurence H. Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School and the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard University, writes in the NY Review of Books about the Scalia myth:

Justice Antonin Scalia used to say, only partly in jest, that he preferred a “dead” to a “living” Constitution: for him, the whole purpose of any constitution worth having was to nail things down so they would last—to “curtail judicial caprice” by preventing judges, himself included, from manipulating the law to advance their own visions of good policy rather than faithfully doing the people’s bidding as expressed in binding rules. Yet Scalia managed to bring our Constitution to life more deeply than have many proponents of a “living” Constitution. His love of vigorous debate consistently pushed his colleagues and legal advocates to improve their interpretive craft, even if he didn’t care for the content of their interpretations; Justice Ginsburg evoked this quality in her touching tribute to Scalia, recalling a duet aria from Derrick Wang’s comic operaScalia/Ginsburg in which the two justices sing “we are different, we are one.”

Scalia’s ability to bring the Constitution’s text, structure, and history to the very center of the nation’s conversation through elegant and colorful prose should never be confused with the idea that his “originalist” methods actually served the disciplining and constraining functions he attributed to them. Nor should we permit his captivating rhetoric to seduce us into accepting the judgments he claimed those methods required him to reach. I see him, with great respect, as a worthy adversary—but an adversary all the same—of the just and inclusive society that our Constitution and laws should be interpreted to advance rather than impede. Method is insufficient to determine, much less eclipse, outcome when the Court confronts the most significant and difficult questions that the Constitution and federal statutes leave open.

Because ours is a constitutional democracy and not a purely majoritarian system, I have never been convinced that constraining the judiciary is a constitutional end in itself—much less an end to be valued above all others. But even if it were, depicting Scalia’s interpretive methods as more rigorous than others—in the sense that they better restrict judges by rendering their substantive visions of justice and decency less relevant—is an exercise in self-delusion: even in Scalia’s own opinions, text, context, and history were often far less determinate than he liked to assert.

Consider last year’s Supreme Court decision upholding the extension of federal tax subsidies to everyone who needs financial assistance to purchase the insurance required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), rather than limiting such subsidies to those living in states that had set up their own insurance exchanges. The dueling interpretations of the same language in the ACA, by Chief Justice Roberts for the Court’s majority and by Justice Scalia for the dissent, both took the statute’s text seriously and dissected it meticulously. But only one—that of the majority—read the relevant text with an eye to making the law work as intended. Scalia’s dissent manifested an unseemly eagerness to give Congress a failing grade for its sloppy drafting (it referred to exchanges “established by the state” even when some of the exchanges were established by the federal government for the state). And it displayed an ungenerous willingness to penalize the citizens of the thirty-four states that, at the time of the decision, had accepted the federal government’s offer to set up their exchanges, making them suffer for how their state governments had responded. To blame the sheer perversity of Scalia’s approach to the ACA on a supposed obligation to follow the law’s text to the letter—or on an imagined duty to lift isolated statutory words (like “by the state” rather than “for the state”) out of their context—simply made no sense.

The same inability to pin readers of legal texts down to a single conclusion, however problematic, and to wring from the process all room for disagreement and potentially subjective concern for fairness, haunts Justice Scalia’s ostensibly constraining methods of interpreting the Constitution. In the Supreme Court’s gun-rights decisions, District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, for example, both Justice Scalia, who wrote for the Heller majority (joined by the Chief Justice and by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito) and who concurred in McDonald, and Justice Stevens, who wrote dissents in both cases (joined by Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer), sought to interpret the text and fathom the original meaning of the Second Amendment. But they reached opposite conclusions about the reach of the “right to bear arms.” Many historians find Justice Stevens’s account of the origin and history of this right, which noted how narrowly it was understood in 1791, more persuasive than Scalia’s, especially in light of the amendment’s preamble about the necessity of a “well-regulated Militia…to the security of a free State.”

The irony is that, in this pair of ostensible triumphs for Justice Scalia’s methods, the most persuasive argument in favor of the Court’s conclusions came not from the original language or understanding of the eighteenth-century provision in question, but from a much later, nineteenth-century effort to create protections for freed slaves. It was the Court’s reading of the text proposed in 1789 and ratified in 1791 through the prism of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, ratified in 1865 and 1868, respectively—and in light of those amendments’ more contemporary concern with securing the liberties and rights to self-defense of recently freed slaves—that provided the only solid support for the majority’s ultimate conclusion that a limited right to individual self-defense, subject to reasonable state and federal regulation, is now constitutionally protected through the Second Amendment. In other words, Heller andMcDonald, far from demonstrating originalism, were actually examples of living constitutionalism, inasmuch as they used the future to shed light on the past rather than the other way around.

Similar questions arise concerning President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA)—the executive order now before the Court on whose legality most observers assume the justices are divided 4-4. The Constitution offers no direct guidance on how one should evaluate that executive order, which allows undocumented immigrants whose children are American citizens to seek permission to remain in the country and obtain temporary work permits and drivers licenses. The framers were conspicuously silent on whether presidents must exercise their indisputable enforcement discretion on a case-by-case basis—or whether they may instead make rules to bring order to congressionally-enacted immigration policies that cannot possibly be enforced fully without expending vast resources and adopting police-state tactics.

Justice Scalia’s famous insistence that “the rule of law is the law of rules,” and his almost as famous respect for presidential authority, should have led him to join a majority to uphold DAPA. But most knowledgeable observers predicted that he would have voted the other way. Why? Not because his interpretive methods required it, but because his instincts leaned against a law that granted any form of amnesty on a categorical basis to undocumented immigrants. Consider, as evidence, what happened when Arizona, through its infamous “show-me-your-papers” law, adopted the policy of detaining anyone suspected of being in the country unlawfully unless and until the federal executive either verified that the person was here legally or forcibly removed that person. In the 2012 Supreme Court decision invalidating that law, Arizona v. United States, Chief Justice Roberts joined Justice Kennedy in rejecting Justice Scalia’s angry insistence that the states be permitted to step in whenever they are dissatisfied with the executive’s way of exercising of federal deportation power. Scalia’s dissent reasoned that the states’ very decision to enter the Union presupposed a right to override the federal government on issues bearing on their sovereignty – an argument he evidently divined from his understanding of, well, the nature of things. What differentiated Scalia’s view from that of the Court’s majority—a view that Kennedy, in his opinion for the majority, wrote that he found frankly inhumane—wasn’t that the text, history, or structure of the Constitution actually mandated such a conclusion. Rather, Scalia’s reasoning seemed to arise from his palpable frustration with the Obama administration’s substantive approach to immigration.

To say that Justice Scalia’s methods gave him as much wiggle room as his more liberal counterparts to come out either way in particular cases isn’t to accuse him of anything nefarious. It does, however, undermine his claim that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2016 at 11:59 am

Posted in Law

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio Join the Latest GOP Attack on Net Neutrality

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The GOP hates net neutrality, presumably because the big telecoms hate it: it deprives them of a potential revenue stream by charging more for efficient delivery (cf. how airlines deliberately make their economy seating as uncomfortable as possible so they can charge more for comfortable seating; the telecoms will degrade internet service and speeds as much as possible so they can charge more for good delivery). As it is, broadband in the US in general is not all that fast, and when muncipalities try to install gigabit fiber networks for their public and business use, the telecoms fight it tooth and nail.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2016 at 11:51 am

When government officials, including police officers, are not held accountable for misdeeds and misconduct, things get worse

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Radley Balko notes the continuing trend of refusing to hold police officers accountable for their conduct:

Another day, another regrettable decision from a federal court. This one comes from a panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit granting summary judgment to the police officers who shot and killed Marcus Cass, a resident of Abilene, Tex.

Cass and Charles Camp were owners of the Abilene Gold Exchange, a business that bought jewelry and other precious gems and metals and paid the owners in cash. Like pawn shops, these are businesses where thieves often try to unload stolen merchandise, but the opinion itself points out that the two men had cooperated with police investigations in the past. Neither man had much of a criminal past. The only charge between them was a 30-year-old felony conviction against Camp for possession of marijuana.

The trouble started in early 2012, when the Abilene Police Department began pushing for a city ordinance mandating that businesses like Cass and Camp’s hold all purchases of precious metals for 12 days before reselling, thus giving police more time to track down stolen property. At a city council meeting in December 2012, Cass testified against the proposed law, arguing that given the volatility of precious metal markets, a 12-day wait would be harmful to his business. He also claimed that Abilene police had previously told him that the still-proposed law was already in effect, which he found disturbing. Abilene law enforcement officers would later testify that they found Cass’s testimony at the meeting to be “anti-police.”

Five days later, a detective newly assigned to APD’s property crimes unit named Chris Smith called Cass about a recent theft. Smith later said that Cass became combative with him on the phone and hung up. Smith testified that he had discussed the call with other officers, then checked an online site where businesses like the one Cass and Camp operated were supposed to report recent purchases, so police could check to see if they matched descriptions given by recent victims of theft or robbery. Smith noticed that the businesses hadn’t uploaded any purchases in three weeks. He testified that the businesses hadn’t uploaded some of the prior purchases listed on the site within the required 48 hour window. Based on that, he began investigating the business for fencing stolen property, and obtained a warrant to search the business.

So far, so good. The problem comes with how they decided to execute the search warrant. Smith, who again was new to the unit, wanted to simply walk in to the business, show the search warrant, and execute the search. Given that Cass and Camp had cooperated with police in the past and had no violent criminal histories, that seems like a reasonable and responsible way to serve the warrant. But after consulting with the cops who were still angry about Cass’s testimony at the city council hearing, the plan changed. The other officers told Smith that Cass and Camp were “anti-police” and noted that the two had a number of guns at the store (which isn’t uncommon in that sort of business). They also cited Camp’s three-decades-old felony conviction for pot. So instead of walking in, in uniform, and giving the two men the opportunity to peacefully comply with a search warrant, “a team in body armor led by a uniformed officer would enter the business quickly with guns drawn to secure the premises and execute the warrant” — for “the safety of the officers.”

Charles Camp was at the front of the store. The first officer who entered the store was wearing a uniform that clearly indicated he was a police officer. Camp immediately raised his hands and cooperated. Smith, who followed the first officer in, was wearing street clothes, sunglasses, and a black bulletproof vest. As the opinion points out, the only indication that he was a police officer was a badge affixed to the right side of his belt. (The other officers who entered were wearing bulletproof vests with “POLICE” in big letters on the front.) Smith continued to the back of the business, to the office where Cass was working. Here’s how the opinion describes the fatal encounter: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2016 at 11:47 am

Why Is Going to School Early Still a Thing?

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We know that it’s bad for kids and for their education. Why do we persist? Clinton Nguyen reports in Motherboard:

It’s the early 2000s and I’m feeling like garbage. It’s 11 PM. SAT prep book in one hand, Adderall in the other, I’m about to dive into the worst few nights of my life.

Or maybe it was 1995. Or 2012. Point is, the times have not changed. Literally. And former high school students may count those few bleary-eyed years as the most sleepless ones in their lives outside of college.

Despite recent waves of research concluding the obvious—teens are often sleep deprived and perform much better when not—why do most school districts in the US insist on bussing all their students to class at the crack of dawn?

Many American students still crawl into bed past midnight only to get up a few hours later to head to classes. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, the average start time for a high school is 7:59 AM, which means students need to mold their sleep schedules to a bedtime as early as 10 PM to get their recommended 8 hours.

And while these hours might be fine for younger students and a subset of working adults who get to bed earlier, there’s a body of research that shows that sleep cyclesactually shift out much later once you’re an adolescent, meaning they’d largely benefit from a later start. Given this fact, asking everyone to get up early and at the same time makes no sense.

And later school start times have already been tested and proven successful in the past. In 1996, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2016 at 10:49 am

Eight Memorable Passages From Apple’s Fiery Response to the FBI

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Jenna McLaughlin points out some memorable passages in Apple’s response to the FBI. Some of them:

  1. When Apple called the government out for trying to make Apple compromise on its security when the government itself has terrible cyber hygiene:
    first quote
  2. When Apple said the government was stoking fear but was too afraid to make its case before Congress:
    second quote
  3. When Apple said the Department of Justice and the FBI were lying because they knew full well this case isn’t about just one phone:
    third quote
  4. When Apple pointed out . . .

Continue reading. They are more.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2016 at 10:46 am

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