Monthly Archives: July 2008
July 18, 2008
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration will triple the number of devices at airports that can detect bombs under airline passengers’ clothing.
The purchase of 80 so-called Passenger Imager machines will bring the total in use next year to 120 at 21 airports, agency spokesman Christopher White said today.
The imagers are produced by L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., OSI Systems Inc.’s Rapiscan unit and American Science & Engineering Inc. The TSA hasn’t yet decided which vendors it will use or how much it will spend, White said in an interview.
Depending on the model, the devices rely on X-rays to show an outline of travelers’ bodies or electromagnetic waves to create an image that looks like a fuzzy photo negative. They are now used as a substitute for being scanned by TSA screeners with handheld detectors.
July 15, 2008
Nearly everyone carries a cell phone and it’s hard to find one without that camera feature. It’s convenient when you want to take that impromptu photo, but a Tri-Cities area man ended up behind bars after snapping a shot of a Johnson County sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop.
The cell phone photographer says the arrest was intimidation, but the deputy says he feared for his life.
“Here’s a guy who takes me out of the car and arrests me in front of my kids. For what? To take a picture of a police officer?” said Scott Conover.
A Johnson County sheriff’s deputy arrested Scott Conover for unlawful photography.
“He says you took a picture of me. It’s illegal to take a picture of a law enforcement officer,” said Conover.
Conover took a picture of a sheriff’s deputy on the side of the road on a traffic stop. Conover was stunned by the charge.
“This is a public highway,” said Conover.
And it was not a place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy as Tennessee code states. The deputy also asked Conover to delete the picture three times.
“He said if you don’t give it to me, you’re going to jail,” said Conover.
Under the advice of the Johnson County attorney, the sheriff would not comment and the arresting deputy said he didn’t want to incriminate himself by talking to us.
In an affidavit, the deputy said he saw something black with a red light which he thought was a threat. Conover was also arrested for pointing a laser at a law enforcement officer.
“At no time did I have a laser. I had an iPhone,” said Conover.
When you take a picture in the dark with Conover’s Apple iPhone, there is no flash or any light that comes from the phone that could be mistaken for a laser.
In a witness statement by a Mountain City officer, is says the deputy asked about the picture rather than looking for a laser.
“If you arrested me, wouldn’t you take the laser? If you arrested me, wouldn’t you take the camera?” said Conover.
He expects these charges to be dismissed.
“This guy maliciously arrested me, charging me with phony charges that he don’t even understand himself,” Conover said.
The American Civil Liberties Union would not comment on Conover’s case without fully reviewing the allegations, but told us there is no law that prohibits anyone from taking photographs in public areas, even of police. Taking photos is protected by the First Amendment. Conover is ordered to appear in a Johnson County court on August 6th.
Prism Webcast News
July 16, 2008
Mark Klein, the retired AT&T engineer who stepped forward with the technical documents at the heart of the anti-wiretapping case against AT&T, is furious at the Senate’s vote on Wednesday night to hold a vote on a bill intended to put an end to that lawsuit and more than 30 others.[Wednesday]’s vote by Congress effectively gives retroactive immunity to the telecom companies and endorses an all-powerful president. It’s a Congressional coup against the Constitution.
The Democratic leadership is touting the deal as a “compromise,” but in fact they have endorsed the infamous Nuremberg defense: “Just following orders.” The judge can only check their paperwork. This cynical deal is a Democratic exercise in deceit and cowardice.
Klein saw a network monitoring room being built in AT&T’s internet switching center that only NSA-approved techs had access to. He squirreled away documents and then presented them to the press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation after news of the government’s warrantless wiretapping program broke.
Wired.com independently acquired a copy of the documents (.pdf) — which were under court seal — and published the wiring documents in May 2006 so that they could be evaluated.
The lawsuit that resulted from his documents is now waiting on the 9th U.S. Appeals Court to rule on whether it can proceed despite the government saying the whole matter is a state secret. A lower court judge ruled that it could, because the government admitted the program existed and that the courts could handle evidence safely and in secret.
But the appeals court ruling will likely never see the light of day, since the Senate is set to vote on July 8 on the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which also largely legalizes Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program by expanding how the government can wiretap from inside the United States without getting individualized court orders.
Congress has made the FISA law a dead letter–such a law is useless if the president can break it with impunity. Thus the Democrats have surreptitiously repudiated the main reform of the post-Watergate era and adopted Nixon’s line: “When the president does it that means that it is not illegal.” This is the judicial logic of a dictatorship.
The surveillance system now approved by Congress provides the physical apparatus for the government to collect and store a huge database on virtually the entire population, available for data mining whenever the government wants to target its political opponents at any given moment-all in the hands of an unrestrained executive power. It is the infrastructure for a police state.
Neither the House nor the Senate has had Klein testify, nor have telecom executives testified in open session about their participation.
The bill forces the district court judge handling the consolidated cases against telecoms to dismiss the suits if the Attorney General certifies that a government official sent a written request to a phone or internet provider, saying that the President approved the program and his lawyers deemed it legal. Judge Vaughn Walker of the California Northern District can ask to see the paperwork, but would not be given leeway to decide if the program was legal.
Mark Rauterkus & Running Mates ponder current events
July 21, 2008
Homeland Security claims far reaching power over your guns
Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania gun owners breathed a sigh of relief at the Heller vs. DC Supreme Court ruling, but the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania (LPPa) warns that major threats to gun rights still exist. One such threat is REAL ID, the federal mandate turning driver’s licenses into national ID cards.
The long-term plan for REAL ID is to force its biometric ID functions on federal, state, local and private entities for all transactions. Thus, ID confirmation by a distant bureaucracy becomes permission for essential daily activities including banking, doctor visits, transit, school attendance and purchases — including guns.
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) final rule handed down in January, DHS “will continue to consider additional ways in which a Real ID license can or should be used and will implement any changes to the definition of ‘official purpose’ or determinations regarding additional uses for Real ID consistent with applicable laws and regulatory requirements. DHS does not agree that it must seek the approval of Congress as a prerequisite to changing the definition in the future.”
Do you want to risk your gun rights on the appointment of someone opposed to our second amendment rights as Secretary of Homeland Security?
“The very thought that the sale of firearms and ammunition could be stopped based on some political agenda in Washington is frightening,” remarked LP Activist Mark Crowley. “We saw the disastrous consequences of such an agenda in New Orleans during Katrina when some police abandoned their posts leaving citizens defenseless and criminals armed. We must never put Pennsylvanians into a position where they can only hope that distant Washington bureaucrats will do the right thing.”
“The implementation of REAL ID presents a significant threat to gun ownership in the United States of America.” added Michael Robertson, LPPa Chair.
By participating in REAL ID, Pennsylvanians will be subjected to scrutiny by a host of federal agencies with every swipe of a REAL ID card. This is de facto gun registration, only worse. Once a gun buyer is identified, other information such as military service, purchases, rentals, travel, and medical history will be easily cross-referenced and subjected to interpretation. It’s inevitable that politicized standards will emerge that can be used to deny Pennsylvanians the right to keep and bear arms — everyone except violent criminals and politicians’ bodyguards.
LPPa Media Relations Chair, Doug Leard, added, “A few years ago when the NICS [National InstaCheck System] computer system crashed, no one could be validated for a gun purchase. A political agenda is one thing and bureaucratic incompetence is another. When a state submits to REAL ID, it submits its citizens to the possibility of being denied not just gun purchases, but ATM cash, credit card purchases and even a critical prescription pickup. Pennsylvania must emphatically reject REAL ID.”
The LPPa urges Pennsylvanians to contact their state legislators and instruct them to support state House Bill 1351 and state Senate Bill 1220. Be wary of other recently introduced legislation such as H.B. 2537 that claims to oppose REAL ID, but ignores the central issue of biometric data collection of Pennsylvanians.
Despite the Heller case, the anti-gun movement will continue to seek alternatives to eliminate our gun rights. REAL ID provides them an unguarded backdoor. Let’s nail it shut in Pennsylvania.
By JENNIFER C. YATES and SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press Writers
PITTSBURGH – The head of a prominent cancer research institute issued an unprecedented warning to his faculty and staff Wednesday: Limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer.
Herberman is basing his alarm on early unpublished data. He says it takes too long to get answers from science and he believes people should take action now — especially when it comes to children.
“Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn’t wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later,” Herberman said.
No other major academic cancer research institutions have sounded such an alarm about cell phone use. But Herberman’s advice is sure to raise concern among many cell phone users and especially parents.
In the memo he sent to about 3,000 faculty and staff Wednesday, he says children should use cell phones only for emergencies because their brains are still developing.
Adults should keep the phone away from the head and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset, he says. He even warns against using cell phones in public places like a bus because it exposes others to the phone’s electromagnetic fields.
The issue that concerns some scientists — though nowhere near a consensus — is electromagnetic radiation, especially its possible effects on children. It is not a major topic in conferences of brain specialists.
A 2008 University of Utah analysis looked at nine studies — including some Herberman cites — with thousands of brain tumor patients and concludes “we found no overall increased risk of among cellular phone users. The potential elevated risk of brain tumors after long-term cellular phone use awaits confirmation by future studies.”
Studies last year in France and Norway concluded the same thing.
“If there is a risk from these products — and at this point we do not know that there is — it is probably very small,” the Food and Drug Administration says on an agency Web site.
Still, Herberman cites a “growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to possible adverse health effects including cancer.”
“Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use,” he wrote in his memo.
A driving force behind the memo was Devra Lee Davis, the director of the university’s center for environmental.
“The question is do you want to play Russian roulette with your brain,” she said in an interview from her cell phone while using the hands-free speaker phone as recommended. “I don’t know that cell phones are dangerous. But I don’t know that they are safe.”
Of concern are the still unknown effects of more than a decade of cell phone use, with some studies raising alarms, said Davis, a former health adviser in the Clinton Administration.
She said 20 different groups have endorsed the advice the Pittsburgh cancer institute gave, and authorities in England, France and India have cautioned children’s use of cell phones.
Herberman and Davis point to a massive ongoing research project known as Interphone, involving scientists in 13 nations, mostly in Europe. Results already published in peer-reviewed journals from this project aren’t so alarming, but Herberman is citing work not yet published.
The published research focuses on more than 5,000 cases of brain tumors. The in the U.S., which isn’t participating in the Interphone project, reported in January that the brain tumor research had “selection bias.” That means it relied on people with cancer to remember how often they used cell phones. It is not considered the most accurate research approach.
The largest published study, which appeared in the Journal of thein 2006, tracked 420,000 Danish cell phone users, including thousands that had used the phones for more than 10 years. It found no increased risk of cancer among those using cell phones.
A French study based on Interphone research and published in 2007 concluded that regular cell phone users had “no significant increased risk” for three major types of nervous system tumors. It did note, however, that there was “the possibility of an increased risk among the heaviest users” for one type of brain tumor, but that needs to be verified in future research.
Earlier research also has found no connection.
Joshua E. Muscat of Penn State University, who has studied cancer and cell phones in other research projects partly funded by the cell phone industry, said there are at least a dozen studies that have found no cancer-cell phone link. He said a Swedish study cited by Herberman as support for his warning was biased and flawed.
“We certainly don’t know of any mechanism by which radiofrequency exposure would cause a cancerous effect in cells. We just don’t know this might possibly occur,” Muscat said.
Cell phones emit radiofrequency energy, a type of radiation that is a form of electromagnetic radiation, according to the National Cancer Institute. Though studies are being done to see if there is a link between it and tumors of the brain and central nervous system, there is no definitive link between the two, the institute says on its Web site.
“By all means, if a person feels compelled that they should take precautions in reducing the amount of electromagnetic radio waves through their bodies, by all means they should do so,” said Dan Catena, a spokesman for the brain tumors or other forms of cancer.”. “But at the same time, we have to remember there’s no conclusive evidence that links cell phones to cancer, whether it’s
Joe Farren, a spokesman for the CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group for the wireless industry, said the group believes there is a risk of misinforming the public if science isn’t used as the ultimate guide on the issue.
“When you look at the overwhelming majority of studies that have been peer reviewed and published in scientific journals around the world, you’ll find no relationship between wireless usage and adverse health affects,” Farren said.
Frank Barnes, who chaired the January report from the National Research Council, said Wednesday that “the jury is out” on how hazardous long-term cell phone use might be.
Speaking from his cell phone, the professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder said he takes no special precautions in his own phone use. And he offered no specific advice to people worried about the matter.
It’s up to each individual to decide what if anything to do. If people use a cell phone instead of having a land line, “that may very well be reasonable for them,” he said.
Susan Juffe, a 58-year-old Pittsburgh special education teacher, heard about Herberman’s cell phone advice on the radio earlier in the day.
“Now, I’m worried. It’s scary,” she said.
She says she’ll think twice about allowing her 10-year-old daughter Jayne to use the cell phone.
“I don’t want to get it (brain cancer) and I certainly don’t want you to get it,” she explained to her daughter.
Sara Loughran, a 24-year-old doctoral student at the, sat in a bus stop Wednesday chatting on her cell phone with her mother. She also had heard the news earlier in the day, but was not as concerned.
“I think if they gave me specific numbers and specific information and it was scary enough, I would be concerned,” Loughran said, planning to call her mother again in a matter of minutes. “Without specific numbers, it’s too vague to get me worked up.”
Jennifer Yates reported from Pittsburgh. Science Writer Seth Borenstein reported from Washington. Reporter Ramit Plushnick-Masti contributed from Pittsburgh and Science Writer Malcolm Ritter contributed from New York.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – While the Metro police had banned the use of Tasers for a time, they still used a controversial method to subdue unruly people, according to an I-Team report.
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The city’s policy to use the method, which calls for the injection of a drug into a person, came as a “total surprise” to people most would expect to know all about it.
For almost two years, Metro police have had the option of calling for a needle loaded with a strong sedative to control the most unruly people they encounter on the street.
One of the doctors who came up with the protocol said it’s the safest option out there and that it is used all over the country.
But many people said that the injection was news to them, and a top medical ethicist said it’s a troubling precedent.
The drug is called Midazolam, which is better known as Versed. People who have had a colonoscopy have probably had a shot of the drug for the procedure.
“The drug has an amnesia effect, and we use that therapeutically because one of the nice ways to take care of the discomfort is to make people forget that they’ve had it,” said biomedical ethics and law enforcement expert Dr. Steven Miles.
But the shots have also been used on the streets on people police said were out of control.
One of the first to get the shot administered to them was Dameon Beasley.
“Well, that night, I hadn’t been properly taking my meds, you know, like I’m supposed to. I got so depressed that when I was up on the bridge running into traffic back and forth, cars dodging me, swerving, I ended up with two sharp objects in my hands. By that time, the police had arrived. I was charging them with these sharp objects trying to make them shoot me, actually yelling at them to shoot me,” he said.
When a Taser didn’t work on Beasley, police turned to a brand new protocol — an injection of Versed. Officers called emergency medical personnel for the injection.
“I remember they were holding me down. There was maybe four or five on each side, and I remember they were calling for something, you know. Some guy came up on the left side and hit me with it,” he said.
“I do know that whatever it was works immediately. I mean, you ain’t got a chance if you are 300 pounds. It’s like a horse tranquilizer. I don’t care. You’re gone. It’s a wrap,” he said.
Beasley said he had no idea what happened after he was injected.
“I woke up — I don’t know how much time had passed — with a sergeant standing over me telling me to sign here. I didn’t know what I was signing Ms. (Channel 4 I-Team reporter Demetria) Kalodimos. I just signed a piece of paper and was immediately right back out,” he said.
Kalodimos reported that Beasley ended up at Metro General Hospital and was then put in psychiatric care. He was not charged in the incident on the bridge.
But Beasley’s lawyer, a public defender, had no idea that Versed had been used to subdue him until Kalodimos told him about it.
Very few people seem to know about the almost 2-year-old policy, Kalodimos said.
The state’s largest mental health advocacy group, Nashville’s mental health judge, the Nashville Rescue Mission, the American Civil Liberties Union all said they had no knowledge of the use of the drug by police.
“I’ve talked to my colleagues around the country, and none of the people from the south to the north to the east to the west have ever heard about this kind of program, this kind of use where they basically force an injection upon an individual knowing nothing about his or her medical condition,” said ACLU Director Hedy Weinberg.
“I can’t tell you why those individuals don’t know about it,” said Dr. Corey Slovis, Nashville?s emergency medical director.
Along with medical examiner Dr. Bruce Levy, Slovis customized a Versed policy for Nashville that is endorsed by a group of emergency medical experts called the Eagles.
“It’s something that in the medical community and in the EMS medical community is very common. It’s a given. When I surveyed the major metropolitan areas around the country, I think only two cities were not actively using it,” Slovis said.
Some have asked the question about potential problems.
Miles said he also had never heard of Versed being used in this way.
“There is no research guideline. There is no validated protocol for this. There’s not even a clear set of indications for when this is to be used except when people are agitated. By saying that it’s done by the emergency medical personnel, they basically are trying to have it both ways. That is, they?re trying to use a medical protocol that is not validated, not for a police function, arrest and detention,” Miles said.
“The decision to administer Versed is based purely on a paramedic decision, not a police decision,” Slovis said.
It’s up to the officer to call an ambulance and determine if a person is in a condition called excited delirium.
“I don’t know if I would use the word diagnosing, but they are assessing the situation and saying, ‘This person is not acting rationally. This is something I’ve been trained to recognize, this seems like excited delirium.’ I don’t view delirium in the field as a police function. It is a medical emergency. We’re giving the drug Versed that’s routinely used in thousands of health care settings across the country in the field by trained paramedics. I view what we’re doing as the best possible medical practice to a medical emergency,” Slovis said.
Metro Government would not release the names of the eight other people who got Versed injections after police calls. A representative from Metro said that the information was protected in the way a medical record would be.
The representative said that only one person out of the nine had shown no improvement after the injection.
Versed was most recently used on a female in early June.
Three women of child bearing age have apparently gotten shots without consent, even though the package insert for Versed suggests that, “the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to the fetus.”
“A single administration to calm a wildly delirious patient down even if she’s pregnant is much safer to the woman and her unborn child than being allowed to be delirious, hypothermic, hyperventilating and perhaps hypoxic,” Slovis said.
“I would think that with enough people being able to tackle the person to inject them, there should be another way to try to subdue someone without putting an injection in their vein,” Weinberg said.
The biggest side effect that is seen in more than 80 percent of those who are injected with Versed is amnesia.
The side effect raises the question of a person being able to defend themselves in court if they can’t remember what happened.
“If they would’ve said I’d done anything after that shot, hey, I couldn’t have argued that fact. I don’t remember,” Beasley said.
Kalodimos reported that while doing research for this report, she found a post on a paramedics Internet chat site that said, “One good thing about Versed is that the patient won’t remember how he got that footprint on his chest.”
“We’re very careful in Nashville,” Slovis said. “Every instance of Versed use is reviewed by the both medical director, myself, our head of EMS quality assurance. We make sure that our paramedics treat patients right.”
Miles said it would have been appropriate to put the idea of using Versed before what’s called an Institutional Review Board for study to anticipate problems before they pop up.
“It may well be that a protocol could be designed to test the use of Versed in handling agitated persons at the time of detention. I’m not going to say that’s not possible, but at any rate, you do it under a condition where you collect data rather than simply just going ahead and doing the drug and waiting to see if problems to develop,” he said.
Miles added that, “Doing medicine by the seat of your pants is not the way to develop new therapies.”
Slovis said the shots are given as a medical treatment, not a police function, even though ultimately they aid in an arrest.
July 13, 2008
Frequent users of cellular phones develop tumors of the parotid gland 50 percent more often than less frequent users, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
|Researchers found that people who used mobile phones for more than 22 hours each month had a 50 percent higher risk of developing parotid gland tumors.|
Researchers at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Israel examined data that included 402 cases of benign and 58 cases of malignant tumors of the parotid gland, the largest of the salivary glands. They found that people who used mobile phones for more than 22 hours each month had a 50 percent higher risk of developing parotid gland tumors. This risk increased among users who always held the phone to the same ear, who did not use handheld devices and who lived in rural areas.
“Analysis restricted to regular users or to conditions that may yield higher levels of exposure (e.g., heavy use in rural areas) showed consistently elevated risks,” the researchers wrote.
Tumors formed more frequently on the side of the head that patients most frequently held their phones to.
The study adds to emerging evidence that long-term cellular phone use increases the risk of cancers and tumors. Because many cancers do not appear for 10 years after initial exposure to a carcinogen, many of the early industry-sponsored studies finding mobile phones to be safe have been criticized for their lack of scope and failure to examine long-term use.
Two studies have found increased risk of a highly dangerous type of brain cancer known as glioma from long-term cell phone use. In an English study, people who used cell phones for more than 10 years were found to have a 20 percent higher risk of glioma, while a similar German study found the risk to be elevated by 100 percent.
A 2004 Swedish study found that frequent users of mobile phones had a higher risk of developing noncancerous brain tumors known as acoustic neuroma.
WASHINGTON (Xinhua) — Nearly 70 percent of U.S. residents who get water from community water systems now receive fluoridated water, according to a report published Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The proportion of the U.S. population receiving fluoridated water, about 184 million people, increased from 65.8 percent in 1992 to 69.2 percent in 2006, said the report.
The percentage of people served by community water systems with optimal levels (which are defined by the state and vary based on such things as the climate) of fluoridated water ranged from 8.4 percent in Hawaii to 100 percent in the District of Columbia, according to the report.
“Community water fluoridation is an equitable, cost-effective, and cost-saving method of delivering fluoride to most people,” said William Maas, director of CDC’s Division of Oral Health. “We’ve seen some marked improvements; however, there are still too many states that have not met the national goal. The national goal is that 75 percent of U.S. residents who are on community water systems be receiving fluoridated water by 2010.”
Fluoride, a naturally occurring compound in the environment, can reduce or prevent tooth decay. Adding or maintaining tiny levels of fluoride in drinking water is a safe and effective public health measure to prevent and control tooth decay (dental caries). The second half of the 20th century saw a major decline in the prevalence and severity of dental caries, attributed in part to the increasing use of fluoride.
Based upon studies and a systematic review, the new report suggests that fluoridation resulted in a median 29.1 percent relative decrease in tooth decay in the United States.
July 20, 2008
The FDIC is looking for ways to shore up its depleted deposit fund, including charging higher premiums on riskier brokered deposits, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said Friday.
However, that fund is “a myth,” according to longtime banking consultant Bert Ely, and consumers may end up paying the price of what is expected to be a growing wave of bank failures.
NYU Economics Professor Nouriel Roubini predicts that Congress will have to intervene in order to bail out the deposit fund.
“They’re going to run out of money, with certainty,” he predicted. “Congress is going to have to recapitalize the FDIC, those $50 billion plus is not going to be enough, by no means.”
Indeed, on Friday afternoon FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said in an interview on C-SPAN television that banks holding brokered deposits may be charged higher premiums in order to bring back the reserve to an acceptable size.
“I think that is something we need to factor into our premiums and charge higher premiums to banks that fit that profile,” she said in the interview, noting that the IndyMac failure was a big factor in the need for additional funds in the deposit insurance fund.
This means higher premiums for FDIC insured banks, analyst Ely noted, further complicating an already tenuous situation for the U.S. banking system. Banks will most likely pass the increased costs onto their customers, he said.