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Member since: Fri Sep 8, 2006, 11:47 AM
Number of posts: 13,801

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It Took a FOIA Lawsuit to Uncover How the Obama Administration Killed FOIA Reform


By Jason Leopold
March 9, 2016 | 9:50 am

The Obama administration has long called itself the most transparent administration in history. But newly released Department of Justice (DOJ) documents show that the White House has actually worked aggressively behind the scenes to scuttle congressional reforms designed to give the public better access to information possessed by the federal government.

The documents were obtained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports journalism in the public interest, which in turn shared them exclusively with VICE News. They were obtained using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — the same law Congress was attempting to reform. The group sued the DOJ last December after its FOIA requests went unanswered for more than a year.

The documents confirm longstanding suspicions about the administration's meddling, and lay bare for the first time how it worked to undermine FOIA reform bills that received overwhelming bipartisan support and were unanimously passed by both the House and Senate in 2014 — yet were never put up for a final vote.

Moreover, a separate set of documents obtained by VICE News in response to a nearly two-year-old FOIA request provides new insight into how the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also tried to disrupt Congress's FOIA reform efforts, which would have required those agencies to be far more transparent when responding to records requests.

Those documents can be found at the following link (*.pdf files):

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sun Mar 13, 2016, 07:19 PM (8 replies)

"An A-to-Z Guide to Bullshit Alternative Medicine on YouTube"

A very, very funny piece with some truly jaw-droppingly stupid videos:

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sat Mar 5, 2016, 08:48 PM (2 replies)

Zika is expected to infect 1 in 5 Puerto Ricans, raising threat to rest of U.S.

Source: Washington Post

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Zika has landed forcefully in America, in one of its poorest and most vulnerable corners, a debt-ridden territory lacking a functioning health-care system, window screens and even a spray that works against the mosquitoes spreading the virus in homes, workplaces, schools and parks.

There are 117 confirmed cases of the virus in Puerto Rico, four times the number at the end of January. The island territory, which has a population of 3.5 million people, is “by far the most affected area” in the United States, Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Friday. The number will almost certainly rise sharply in coming weeks, making it ever more likely that the virus will spread to the continental United States...

The growing outbreak has laid bare how deeply Puerto Rico’s debt crisis has cut public programs, including basic health and environmental control services needed to fight the virus. Most homes and public schools — and even some medical facilities — don’t have window screens. A specialist in birth defects at Puerto Rico’s top hospital has trouble obtaining basic supplies, such as toner for his office printer. There are hundreds of abandoned houses — not only in low- and middle-income neighborhoods but also in gated communities — because owners have fled to the mainland as a result of the economic crisis.

...Experts say urgent action is needed before mosquitoes reach their peak with the start of the rainy season in April. Experts from the CDC estimate that 700,000 people — about 20 percent of the population — could be infected across the island by the end of the year, based on previous outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya, related viral diseases.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/zika-is-expected-to-infect-1-in-5-puerto-ricans-raising-threat-to-rest-of-us/2016/02/29/c1288e30-db62-11e5-891a-4ed04f4213e8_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_zikapuertorico_2pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

Scary stuff.

If this article is correct, expect the number of Zika cases to explode in Florida over the next year-
they've already had scattered outbreaks of dengue fever, which is spread by the same
mosquito species, Aedes aegypti
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Tue Mar 1, 2016, 12:29 AM (6 replies)

Sail (Far) Away: At Sea with America's Largest Floating Gathering of Conspiracy Theorists


Amongst the other ...colorful... characters, look who else showed up:

Most notably, there was Andrew Wakefield, the British gastroenterologist who authored the now-infamous 1998 study that suggested there might be a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Jenny McCarthy was breathed into being because of Andrew Wakefield.

The wider world hasn’t been kind to Wakefield, who lost his medical license in 2010 and is widely described as a one-man public health disaster. Here, though, he was treated as a battle-scarred hero. The room hung on his every word.

“One in two children will have autism by 2032,” he told us, to horrified gasps. “We are facing dark times. The government and the pharmaceutical industry own your bodies and the bodies of your children.”

“There are no exemptions anymore,” Sean David Morton piped in. “Not even if you’re Jewish. But I think Obama made an exception for Muslims.” He switched into what may have been an impression of someone with an Arabic accent: “Ay yi yi!”

Lots more of Wakefield's BS at the link. An interesting read, but your brain will hurt after you read it...
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sat Feb 27, 2016, 12:56 AM (4 replies)

Lawmakers Debate Ban on Firearms in Maine Subsidized Housing


Lawmakers Debate Ban on Firearms in Maine Subsidized Housing

Second amendment rights clashed with property owners' rights at the Maine State House Wednesday afternoon, with lawmakers considering a bill that prevents landlords from banning handguns in subsidized housing properties.

Republican State Sen. Andre Cushing sponsored the bill after an incident in Rockland last fall.

Harvey Lembo, an elderly and disabled man, was the victim of several home invasions and robberies. He bought a gun to defend himself, and days later, used it on an intruder. The property management company told Lembo to surrender the gun or be evicted. It was against the policy in the subsidized housing to have firearms...

..."Tenants routinely give up rights when they move into an apartment building," said Bill Harwood, founder of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition.

What other rights do they give up, Mr. Harwood? The rights to:

Free practice of religion?
The right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures?

Lembo is suing his landlord, and I hope he wins big time.
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Thu Feb 25, 2016, 02:34 PM (4 replies)

In honor of packman's "I'll be there - Grapes of Wrath" video post...

packman's post, with Henry Fonda in John Ford's magnificent film version:

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Thu Feb 25, 2016, 02:19 PM (3 replies)

Boston Police use of cell phone trackers kept private

Source: Boston Globe

By Eric Levenson @ejleven
Boston.com Staff | 02.24.16 | 1:59 PM

The Boston Police Department is staying quiet on how it uses cellphone tracker technology, causing concerns among civil liberties advocates, according to a report from the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.

Boston Police and the Suffolk County district attorney’s office have agreements with the Federal Bureau of Investigation not to release information about the trackers, according to documents obtained by NECIR through a public records request.

The devices, known as “StingRays,” are capable of identifying all phones in a given area and logging their movements over time, NECIR reports. In New York, the technology has been used in more than 1,000 cases to investigate rapes, murders, and missing people, as well as lower-priority crimes like identity theft and money laundering, The New York Times reports.

But in Boston, police spokesman Lt. Michael McCarthy told NECIR it has no list of cases that used trackers and declined to provide examples of their use.

Read more: https://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2016/02/24/boston-police-use-cell-phone-trackers-kept-private/mhICsYrsOpj4wEHBUbKxcN/story.html

From a prior article:

Under the pacts, police and prosecutors agreed not to provide information about the devices, even in court proceedings, without prior approval of the FBI. They also agreed to seek dismissal of a case, at the FBI’s request, rather than disclose sensitive information about them in court.

The US public defender’s office in Boston, which represents indigent defendants in federal prosecutions, says that prior to a New England Center for Investigative Reporting story in November, it was unaware that any such agreement existed. The center revealed the Boston Police Department’s use of the devices.

“The danger is that nondisclosure agreements foster mischief,” said William Fick, an assistant US public defender. He said such agreements “create perverse incentives” for law enforcement and prosecutors to omit or misrepresent how they obtained information.


How many defense attorneys are going to start researching old court records to see
if someone was convicted with fudged or perjured court representations?

It's happened elsewhere:


"2,000 cases may be overturned because police used secret Stingray surveillance"

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Wed Feb 24, 2016, 09:30 PM (5 replies)

On Apple v. the FBI: "(Y)ou can't make a backdoor that only good guys can fit through"

X-post from GD:

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Wed Feb 24, 2016, 02:56 PM (0 replies)

On Apple v. the FBI: "(Y)ou can't make a backdoor that only good guys can fit through"

An astute observation from Cory Doctorow, here:


in regard to his Guardian op-ed...


The FBI’s demand that Apple create a defeat device for decrypting a phone that belonged to a mass murderer has all the ingredients for a disastrous public conversation.

Combine a highly technical debate about information security with an emotionally charged subject matter, then confuse the whole issue with a 24-hour news cycle tick-tock about who did what, when, and you end up bogged down in questions like, “Does it matter if the FBI directed the local cops to try to change the phone’s password, inadvertently creating the lockout?”

The questions raised by this court order are deliberately the wrong ones: questions whose answers don’t get us any closer to a lasting peace in the crypto wars. After all, the order emanates from a lowly magistrate judge, meaning that no matter how the ruling comes down, it will be appealed, possibly all the way to the supreme court, given the seriousness of the issue. It could be years before we even get a final ruling...

...The thing about this controversy is that it isn’t one. Independent cryptographers are virtually unanimous in their view that you can’t properly secure a system while simultaneously ensuring that it ships with a pre-broken mode that police can exploit.

X-posted in Civil Liberties:


Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Wed Feb 24, 2016, 02:55 PM (0 replies)

Eleven years and counting: EFF scores a major victory in its NSA mass surveillance suit

X-post from LBN:

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sat Feb 20, 2016, 12:33 AM (0 replies)
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