Archive for February 2010
February 21, 2010: Steve Watson and Paul Joseph Watson / Prison Planet.com – February 21, 2010
The scandal surrounding kids being spied on at home via webcams in laptops provided by schools extends further than just schoolchildren – four years ago Google admitted that it was implementing similar invasive surveillance technologies that would target all Americans.
A school district in Philadelphia faces a class action lawsuit after it allegedly issued laptop computers to 1,800 students across two high schools and then used concealed cameras within the machines to spy on students and their parents without their knowledge or consent.
Lower Merion School District in the suburbs of Philadelphia faces charges of invasion of privacy, theft of private information, and unlawful interception for providing computers with webcams that were remotely and covertly turned on by administrators. The suit was brought on behalf of all the students and their parents after it was revealed that the computers had been used to monitor students both at school and at home.
The story harks back to revelations of how private industry and eventually government are implementing plans to use microphones in the computers of hundreds of millions of Internet active Americans to spy on their lifestyle choices and build psychological profiles which will be used for surveillance and minority report style invasive advertising and data mining.
In 2006, Google announced that they would use in-built microphones to listen in on user’s background noise, be it television, music or radio – and then direct advertising at them based on their preferences.
“The idea is to use the existing PC microphone to listen to whatever is heard in the background, be it music, your phone going off or the TV turned down. The PC then identifies it, using fingerprinting, and then shows you relevant content, whether that’s adverts or search results, or a chat room on the subject,” reported the Register.
Hundreds of millions of Internet-active Americans will all be potential targets for secret surveillance and the subsequent sell-off of all their information to unscrupulous data mining corporations and government agencies.
The report cites the inevitability that the use and abuse of this technology will eventually be taken over by the state. “Pretty soon the security industry is going to find a way to hijack the Google feed and use it for full on espionage,” states the article.
Google’s recent announcement that it will work with America’s most well-known spy agency, the NSA, which was embroiled in the warrantless surveillance scandal during the Bush administration, only heightens concerns that big brother will have a virtual wiretap in every home that has a computer.
The laptop spying case, Blake J. Robbins v. Lower Merion School District (PDF), was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, February 16, 2010.
According to the filing, the actions of the school district were exposed when one of the school’s vice principals disciplined Mr Robbins’ son for “improper behavior in his home,” and used a photo taken from the computer camera as evidence.
“Michael Robbins thereafter verified, through Ms. Matsko, (an assistant principal) that the school district in fact has the ability to remotely activate the webcam contained in a student’s personal laptop computer issued by the school district at any time it chose and to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam, all without the knowledge, permission or authorization of any persons then and there using the laptop computer.” the complaint states.
“Additionally, by virtue of the fact that the webcam can be remotely activated at any time by the school district, the webcam will capture anything happening in the room in which the laptop computer is located, regardless of whether the student is sitting at the computer and using it.” it continues.
Nowhere in any “written documentation accompanying the laptop,” or in any “documentation appearing on any Web site or handed out to students or parents concerning the use of the laptop,” was any reference made “to the fact that the school district has the ability to remotely activate the embedded webcam at any time the school district wished to intercept images from that webcam of anyone or anything appearing in front of the camera,” the complaint also states.
The computers were provided via an initiative funded by state and federal grants to the students at Harriton High School in Rosemont, PA and Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, PA.
According to comments by the district’s Superintendent, Christopher McGinley, the initiative “enhances opportunities for ongoing collaboration, and ensures that all students have 24/7 access to school based resources and the ability to seamlessly work on projects and research at school and at home.”
What McGinley failed to add was that it also provided the school with 24/7 access to the students and their families.
The plaintiffs also note in their complaint that “the laptops at issue were routinely used by students and family members while at home,” and that “many of the images captured and intercepted may consist of images of minors and their parents or friends in compromising or embarrassing positions, including, but not limited to, in various stage of dress or undress.”
The plaintiffs are seeking damages in respect of not only a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, but also a host of other federal and state privacy laws, including the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act, and Pennsylvania common law.
The laptop spying case is just another example of how surveillance technologies have been used for methods that amount to child abuse for years. We have reported on numerous cases of school officials installing cameras in school bathrooms which allow perverts to spy on children in various stages of undress.
The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: And thus it’s no wonder why only 21% say the completely rogue and corrupt U.S. government has the consent of the governed… – SJH
Link to original article below…
February 20, 2010: Sam Ryan / The Philadelphia Inquirer – February 10, 2010
As the mid-Atlantic region faces yet another massive blizzard, the problem of unregulated snow can no longer be ignored. It’s time for Congress to set limits on the crystalline mayhem descending through the atmosphere and disrupting the lives of hardworking Americans.
Certainly, snow-control legislation would require political will and bipartisan support. But if today’s policymakers don’t put an end to snowstorms, these boom-and-bust blizzards will continue to undermine our nation’s growth and prosperity.
Consider the facts: Local governments such as Philadelphia’s are struggling to deal effectively with the amount of snow we’re getting. With Washington in the path of a major storm again, essential federal services will be shut down. And weatherpersons “predict” snow, but they don’t do anything about it.
Snow is also costly for taxpayers. Salt, plows, and workers on overtime gobble up revenue and break strained budgets. Philadelphia’s cleanup of the season’s first major storm cost $3.4 million.
And those costs are insignificant compared with the billions in lost economic activity. Traffic comes to a standstill, public transit seizes up, and airports close. Snowbound businesses shut their doors, and consumers don’t shop.
Because snow is a global phenomenon, banning it will require international cooperation. But the first step is regulating it in the United States. Worldwide initiatives invariably require U.S. leadership and support.
Even regulating domestic snowfall won’t be easy. There are several constitutional and practical challenges, but none of them is insurmountable.
The most obvious question is whether the federal government actually has the authority to ban snow. Die-hard federalists, who claim that virtually any Washington regulation intrudes on states’ rights, would no doubt challenge the ban, citing the 10th Amendment.
But a Supreme Court challenge predicated on states’ rights is unlikely to succeed for one obvious reason: Snow is not confined to individual states. The Constitution’s commerce clause empowers the federal government to regulate matters that extend – or, in this case, drift – across state lines.
The bigger problem, of course, is practical. Regulating precipitation – or even banning it entirely – won’t actually stop snow from falling. Virtually all meteorologists agree that, given certain atmospheric conditions, snow will continue to fall from the sky regardless of federal law.
To address this, Congress should appoint a blue-ribbon panel of experts (with at least one labor representative) to study the problem and submit recommendations in four years, at which time a more effective law would be passed.
The committee would be funded by a penny-per-shovel tax. Some might argue that this tax would exacerbate the snow problem by discouraging Americans from buying shovels, but that can also be fixed with legislation. Congress should simply mandate that all Americans purchase shovels.
Yes, there would have to be a Medicaid-style program for those who cannot afford shovels, and perhaps a carve-out for Nebraskans who already own shovels to get Ben Nelson’s vote. But those minor details could be worked out in conference committee.
The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: Albeit satire, it’s no less outrageous than to ban carbon dioxide (CO2). Shall we ban dihydrogen monoxide as well? (Ahem)…- SJH
Link to original article below…
February 20, 2010: Deborah Blum / Slate – February 19, 2010
It was Christmas Eve 1926, the streets aglitter with snow and lights, when the man afraid of Santa Claus stumbled into the emergency room at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital. He was flushed, gasping with fear: Santa Claus, he kept telling the nurses, was just behind him, wielding a baseball bat. Before hospital staff realized how sick he was—the alcohol-induced hallucination was just a symptom—the man died. So did another holiday partygoer. And another. As dusk fell on Christmas, the hospital staff tallied up more than 60 people made desperately ill by alcohol and eight dead from it. Within the next two days, yet another 23 people died in the city from celebrating the season.
Doctors were accustomed to alcohol poisoning by then, the routine of life in the Prohibition era. The bootlegged whiskies and so-called gins often made people sick. The liquor produced in hidden stills frequently came tainted with metals and other impurities. But this outbreak was bizarrely different. The deaths, as investigators would shortly realize, came courtesy of the U.S. government.
Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.
Although mostly forgotten today, the “chemist’s war of Prohibition” remains one of the strangest and most deadly decisions in American law-enforcement history. As one of its most outspoken opponents, Charles Norris, the chief medical examiner of New York City during the 1920s, liked to say, it was “our national experiment in extermination.” Poisonous alcohol still kills—16 people died just this month after drinking lethal booze in Indonesia, where bootleggers make their own brews to avoid steep taxes—but that’s due to unscrupulous businessmen rather than government order.
I learned of the federal poisoning program while researching my new book, The Poisoner’s Handbook, which is set in jazz-age New York. My first reaction was that I must have gotten it wrong. “I never heard that the government poisoned people during Prohibition, did you?” I kept saying to friends, family members, colleagues.
I did, however, remember the U.S. government’s controversial decision in the 1970s to spray Mexican marijuana fields with Paraquat, an herbicide. Its use was primarily intended to destroy crops, but government officials also insisted that awareness of the toxin would deter marijuana smokers. They echoed the official position of the 1920s—if some citizens ended up poisoned, well, they’d brought it upon themselves. Although Paraquat wasn’t really all that toxic, the outcry forced the government to drop the plan. Still, the incident created an unsurprising lack of trust in government motives, which reveals itself in the occasional rumors circulating today that federal agencies, such as the CIA, mix poison into the illegal drug supply.
During Prohibition, however, an official sense of higher purpose kept the poisoning program in place. As the Chicago Tribune editorialized in 1927: “Normally, no American government would engage in such business. … It is only in the curious fanaticism of Prohibition that any means, however barbarous, are considered justified.” Others, however, accused lawmakers opposed to the poisoning plan of being in cahoots with criminals and argued that bootleggers and their law-breaking alcoholic customers deserved no sympathy. “Must Uncle Sam guarantee safety first for souses?” asked Nebraska’s Omaha Bee.
The saga began with ratification of the 18th Amendment, which banned sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in the United States. High-minded crusaders and anti-alcohol organizations had helped push the amendment through in 1919, playing on fears of moral decay in a country just emerging from war. The Volstead Act, spelling out the rules for enforcement, passed shortly later, and Prohibition itself went into effect on Jan. 1, 1920.
But people continued to drink—and in large quantities. Alcoholism rates soared during the 1920s; insurance companies charted the increase at more than 300 more percent. Speakeasies promptly opened for business. By the decade’s end, some 30,000 existed in New York City alone. Street gangs grew into bootlegging empires built on smuggling, stealing, and manufacturing illegal alcohol. The country’s defiant response to the new laws shocked those who sincerely (and naively) believed that the amendment would usher in a new era of upright behavior.
Rigorous enforcement had managed to slow the smuggling of alcohol from Canada and other countries. But crime syndicates responded by stealing massive quantities of industrial alcohol—used in paints and solvents, fuels and medical supplies—and redistilling it to make it potable.
Well, sort of. Industrial alcohol is basically grain alcohol with some unpleasant chemicals mixed in to render it undrinkable. The U.S. government started requiring this “denaturing” process in 1906 for manufacturers who wanted to avoid the taxes levied on potable spirits. The U.S. Treasury Department, charged with overseeing alcohol enforcement, estimated that by the mid-1920s, some 60 million gallons of industrial alcohol were stolen annually to supply the country’s drinkers. In response, in 1926, President Calvin Coolidge’s government decided to turn to chemistry as an enforcement tool. Some 70 denaturing formulas existed by the 1920s. Most simply added poisonous methyl alcohol into the mix. Others used bitter-tasting compounds that were less lethal, designed to make the alcohol taste so awful that it became undrinkable.
To sell the stolen industrial alcohol, the liquor syndicates employed chemists to “renature” the products, returning them to a drinkable state. The bootleggers paid their chemists a lot more than the government did, and they excelled at their job. Stolen and redistilled alcohol became the primary source of liquor in the country. So federal officials ordered manufacturers to make their products far more deadly.
By mid-1927, the new denaturing formulas included some notable poisons—kerosene and brucine (a plant alkaloid closely related to strychnine), gasoline, benzene, cadmium, iodine, zinc, mercury salts, nicotine, ether, formaldehyde, chloroform, camphor, carbolic acid, quinine, and acetone. The Treasury Department also demanded more methyl alcohol be added—up to 10 percent of total product. It was the last that proved most deadly.
The results were immediate, starting with that horrific holiday body count in the closing days of 1926. Public health officials responded with shock. “The government knows it is not stopping drinking by putting poison in alcohol,” New York City medical examiner Charles Norris said at a hastily organized press conference. “[Y]et it continues its poisoning processes, heedless of the fact that people determined to drink are daily absorbing that poison. Knowing this to be true, the United States government must be charged with the moral responsibility for the deaths that poisoned liquor causes, although it cannot be held legally responsible.”
His department issued warnings to citizens, detailing the dangers in whiskey circulating in the city: “[P]ractically all the liquor that is sold in New York today is toxic,” read one 1928 alert. He publicized every death by alcohol poisoning. He assigned his toxicologist, Alexander Gettler, to analyze confiscated whiskey for poisons—that long list of toxic materials I cited came in part from studies done by the New York City medical examiner’s office.
Norris also condemned the federal program for its disproportionate effect on the country’s poorest residents. Wealthy people, he pointed out, could afford the best whiskey available. Most of those sickened and dying were those “who cannot afford expensive protection and deal in low grade stuff.”
And the numbers were not trivial. In 1926, in New York City, 1,200 were sickened by poisonous alcohol; 400 died. The following year, deaths climbed to 700. These numbers were repeated in cities around the country as public-health officials nationwide joined in the angry clamor. Furious anti-Prohibition legislators pushed for a halt in the use of lethal chemistry. “Only one possessing the instincts of a wild beast would desire to kill or make blind the man who takes a drink of liquor, even if he purchased it from one violating the Prohibition statutes,” proclaimed Sen. James Reed of Missouri.
Officially, the special denaturing program ended only once the 18th Amendment was repealed in December 1933. But the chemist’s war itself faded away before then. Slowly, government officials quit talking about it. And when Prohibition ended and good grain whiskey reappeared, it was almost as if the craziness of Prohibition—and the poisonous measures taken to enforce it—had never quite happened.
The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: At virtually every turn, the U.S. government is involved in one atrocity after another against both it’s own citizens and humanity at large. I was in high school during the Mexican Paraquat scare back in the 1970’s and quite frankly, that’s when Hawaiian, Jamaican, and Colombian really hit the market, as well as did mainland hydroponic growing begin to gain in popularity. Apparently, the Mexican druglords were not paying their cut to the CIA… – SJH
Link to original article below…