Medical Marijuana Business Attracts Hedge Funds, Venture Capitalists

Marijuana has been a cash crop for many years in this country. The only problem is that most of that crop had been grown illegally. Now, that medical marijuana is legal in 15 states and the District of Columbia, legalized marijuana has quickly become so popular it is attracting attention from hedge fund managers and venture capitalists, not to mention a whole new batch of entrepreneurs.

Doctors still can’t prescribe marijuana because it is categorized as a schedule one drug like LSD. But they can recommend it and that’s all anyone needs to get a medical marijuana license that allows them to buy marijuana legally in those 15 states, with three more states about join them.

Each license sells for around $130 and some clinics selling the licenses have brought in more than a million dollars in just their first year. The once illegal joint is selling like hot cakes throughout middle America to consumers who no longer have to worry about getting arrested for possession, at least by local or state authorities.

The federal government still outlaws marijuana possession but it’s unlikely someone with a medical marijuana license will be busted by an FBI or DEA agent if caught smoking in his or her own home. In fact, just last year U.S. enforcers promised to leave medical marijuana operations alone if they complied with state law.

That prompted a significant increase in interest among entrepreneurs. Today, there are an estimated 2,400 medical marijuana dispensaries from California to Maine. In Colorado, they outnumber Starbucks two to one.

 

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Iceland may ban MasterCard, Visa over WikiLeaks censorship

Credit card companies that prevented card-holders from donating money to the secrets outlet WikiLeaks could have their operating licenses taken away in Iceland, according to members of the Icelandic Parliamentary General Committee.

Representatives from Mastercard and Visa were called before the committee Sunday to discuss their refusal to process donations to the website, reports Reykjavik Grapevine.

“People wanted to know on what legal grounds the ban was taken, but no one could answer it,” Robert Marshall, the chairman of the committee, said. “They said this decision was taken by foreign sources.”

The committee is seeking additional information from the credit card companies for proof that there was legal grounds for blocking the donations.

Marshall said the committee would seriously review the operating licenses of Visa and Mastercard in Iceland.

WikiLeaks’s payment processor, the Icelandic company DataCell ehf, said it would take immediate legal action against the companies to make donations possible again.

“DataCell who facilitates those payments towards Wikileaks has decided to take up immediate legal actions to make donations possible again,” DataCell CEO Andreas Fink said last week. “We can not believe WikiLeaks would even create scratch at the brand name of Visa.”

“It will probably hurt their brand much much more to block payments towards WikiLeaks than to have them occur,” Fink added.

 

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Rep. Lewis passed over for powerful chairmanship

Republicans passed over  Rep. Jerry Lewis in favor of a veteran Kentucky lawmaker Wednesday to chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

The party’s steering committee rejected Lewis’s request to waive term limits that bar him from reclaiming the post he held when Republicans last held the majority.

The decision deprives Lewis of a position that would have given him control over the federal government’s purse strings and a heightened ability to direct millions of dollars to his home district, which includes some of the Pass area.

See also: CREW’s Most Corrupt: Rep. Jerry Lewis

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Banned marijuana dispensary reopens in Wildomar

A medical marijuana collective engaged in a legal battle against Wildomar re-opened its storefront location Monday in defiance of a citywide ban on dispensaries.

The move by the Wildomar Patients Compassionate Group comes a week after the collective filed a legal petition seeking to block the city from enforcing its ban.

General Manager William Sump said the group believes Wildomar’s ban violates state law, which allows medical marijuana patients access to medication.

“I will only operate until a judge tells us not to,” Sump said.

Wildomar City Manager Frank Oviedo said the city would likely seek a court order forcing the dispensary to shut down.

“We’re going to enforce the city’s ordinance,” Oviedo said. “There is no other option. We can’t ignore our own laws.”

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Startups Backed By The CIA

The spy agency has a venture capital arm that is funding an array of companies developing bleeding-edge technologies.

Tiny cameras. Hearing devices for the teeth. Wi-fi for refrigerators. These are some of the products made by companies that have caught the eye of In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency.

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US contacts allies about WikiLeaks move

The United States has briefed its key allies, including Britain, France, Germany and Saudi Arabia ahead of the mass release of classified documents by WikiLeaks.

Whistleblower website WikiLeaks plans to release around three million leaked documents, including cables sent to Washington from American embassies throughout the world.

The website had previously posted online secret details of US military operations in war-ravaged Iraq and Afghanistan.

United States Department of State Spokesman Philip Crowley says the United States is “gearing up for the worst-case scenario.”

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Britain illegally harvests organs for test

An inquiry has found that organs and bones from the bodies of dead British nuclear industry workers at Sellafield were illegally harvested without their consent over a period of 30 years.

The inquiry’s findings revealed that the relatives of 64 staff discovered their loved ones had been stripped of livers, tongues and even legs decades after they were buried, the daily Belfast Telegraph reported.
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Cops & Firemen

Former DA investigator sentenced to probation

A former investigator in the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office was sentenced to probation Thursday for accessing criminal rap sheets in a law enforcement database for his personal benefit and that of his friends and colleagues.

Christopher Cardoza, 46, was sentenced to three years probation and 420 hours of community service by Judge Kyle Brodie in San Bernardino Superior Court. He is also responsible for $7,762 in restitution.

Defense lawyer James Vincent Reiss said the case brought against Cardoza had political overtones and that prosecutors sought to make an example out of his client.

“I think it’s an appropriate resolution for a case that in our mind is being brought out of spite,” Reiss said.

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Maryland Citizens Face Felony Charges for Recording Cops

In Maryland, it is a felony to record thuggish cops as they push around skateboarding teenagers, beat sports patrons, and pull guns on motorists for speeding.

“Several Marylanders face felony charges for recording their arrests on camera, and others have been intimidated to shut their cameras off,” reports WJZ 23 in Baltimore.

Maryland cops are using a Maryland law that states conversations in private cannot be recorded without the consent of both people involved in order to go about their business of harassing, intimidating, and assaulting citizens.

It is legal according to Maryland’s attorney general for cops to videotape citizens with dashcams but illegal for citizens to do the same.

State authorities are upset after a video appeared on the internet showing the merciless beating of a university student by thug cops at the University of Maryland in April.

In 2009, a video surfaced showing a Baltimore cop pushing around and verbally assaulting a teenager. Numerous videos in other states show cops beating and even murdering citizens.

Click “read more” for videos.

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Radley Balko on the Militarization of Police

Congress Coaxes States to Collect DNA

Federal lawmakers are using the purse strings to coax more states into adopting rules that require suspects who are arrested for various crimes — but not charged — to submit to DNA sampling for inclusion into a nationwide database.

It doesn’t matter if the suspect was charged or even acquitted.

Sponsored by Harry Teague (D-New Mexico), the measure provides $75 million to the nation’s financially broken states — all in a bid to coax the 11 states with such DNA-testing laws to keep them on the books, and to entice others to follow suit. The United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary received the package Wednesday, a day after the House passed the bill on a 357 to 32 vote.

All Democrats voting approved the bill, CNET’s Declan McCullagh points out. And it’s likely to sail through the Senate. President Barack Obama, who supports DNA collection upon arrest, is expected to sign it.

The House’s passage of the so-called “Katie’s Law,” or HR 4614, comes as the states and federal government are slashing budgets in response to record-setting financial shortfalls.

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Stupid Drug Story of the Week: The Associated Press on the arrival of “deadly, ultra-pure heroin.”

Yesterday, the Associated Press moved a story completely devoid of historical context. The piece, titled “Deadly, Ultra-Pure Heroin Arrives in U.S.,” claims that in “recent years”—a time frame that goes undefined—Mexican dealers have started peddling “ultra-potent” black tar heroin and are selling it for as little as $10 a bag.

In alarmist prose, the article asserts that the ultra-smack’s purity ranges from 50 percent to 80 percent heroin, up from the 5 percent purity of the 1970s, and this potency is “contributing to a spike in overdose deaths across the nation.” But reports of high-potency heroin being sold in the United States are anything but “recent.” My source? The AP itself. Over the decades, the wire service has repeatedly reported on the sale of high-potency heroin on the streets. Here are a few examples of AP coverage culled from Nexis.

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2010 National Drug Control Strategy

President Obama’s 2010 National Drug Control Strategy uses a multifaceted approach to combat drug abuse and drug use in America’s communities.

This Strategy “provides a collaborative and balanced approach that emphasizes community-based prevention, integration of evidence-based treatment into the health care system, innovations in the criminal justice system, and international partnerships to disrupt drug trafficking organizations. Because nearly all Americans are impacted by the consequences of drug use, the Strategy is designed to be relevant at the local level. Whether you are a parent looking for information, a community member interested in treatment resources, a police officer or local elected official searching for new approaches to drug-related crimes, or someone who wants to know more about the Administration’s drug policy, the National Drug Control Strategy will serve as a useful resource.”

Columbia, Missouri Police Chief on Board With Legalizing Marijuana?

Los Angeles teacher call for Mexican revolution in the US

A Tutorial on the Classified Information Procedures Act

Last week, prosecutors in the case of Thomas A. Drake, the former National Security Agency official who is charged with unlawfully retaining classified information that he allegedly disclosed to a reporter, asked the court to hold a pre-trial conference on the use of the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) in that case.

CIPA was passed by Congress in 1980 to regulate the disclosure of classified information in criminal prosecutions, such as espionage cases, and to prevent so-called “graymail,” in which a defendant threatens to release classified information in the hope of forcing the government to abandon the case.

In a nutshell, CIPA requires the defense to notify prosecutors and the court of any classified evidence it intends to introduce.  Courts must then determine if the classified evidence is admissible. If so, the government may propose an unclassified substitution that does not involve classified information.  But if the court finds that the unclassified substitution is inadequate to preserve the defendant’s right to a fair trial, and if the Attorney General objects to disclosure of the classified version, then the indictment may be dismissed.

Perhaps assuming that the judge (or the defense) was unfamiliar with the law, prosecutors in the Thomas Drake case filed a motion (pdf) explaining the meaning of each section of CIPA.

The purpose of their CIPA tutorial was “to inform the Court of the applicability of CIPA and its procedures to issues involving classified information that will arise before and during the trial of this case,” they wrote. See “Government’s Motion for Pretrial Conference Under Section 2 of the Classified Information Procedures Act,” May 5, 2010.

The development and early history of CIPA were reviewed by the Congressional Research Service in a March 2, 1989 report entitled “Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA): An Overview.”

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National Foundation for American Policy reports on immigration

Death at the Border

Family Immigration: The Long Wait to Immigrate

The National Foundation for American Policy recently issued these two reports that discuss difficulties faced by individuals seeking to become citizens of the United States.

The first report claims that “the absence of a way to enter the United States legally to work has contributed to more than 4,000 men, women, and children dying while attempting to cross to America since 1998.” Immigrant deaths increased in 2009 though overall illegal immigration decreased, indicating a significant increase in the level of danger and violence on U.S. borders.

The second report discusses the waiting time involved with becoming a U.S. citizen. The United States is missing out on many benefits due to the excessive time needed for immigrants to enter the country, which for many is over 20 years. According to the report: “Research shows legal immigrants experience faster wage growth than natives, are more likely to start businesses and have higher median years of schooling.” Overall the report finds that “raising family immigration quotas would serve both the humanitarian and economic interests of the United States.”

Another fascist pig home invasion

Brain-Scan Lie Detection Rejected By Brooklyn Court

A judge in Brooklyn has excluded Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) lie-detector evidence from a trial there. However, the decision will not set a precedent, as it was made without even conducting a hearing on the method’s validity, but on the principle, argued by the defense, that ‘juries are supposed to decide the credibility of the witness, and fMRI lie detection, even if it could be proven completely accurate, infringes on that right.’ That principle can be tested in later hearings, such as one scheduled for May 13, 2010, in Tennessee; in this case, the defense wants to use fMRI evidence it has already collected to prove its client is innocent. fMRI has been shown to be 76-90% accurate. That number seems significantly larger than the rate of false convictions.

TSA worker assaults colleague who made crack at genitalia after walk through machine

Perhaps the new airport body scanners are a bit too revealing.

A Transportation Security Administration worker in Miami was arrested for aggravated battery after police say he attacked a colleague who’d made fun of his small genitalia after he walked through one of the new high-tech security scanners during a recent training session.

Rolando Negrin, 44, was busted for assault after things got ugly at Miami International Airport between Negrin and some of his fellow Transportation Security Administration workers on Tuesday.

Sources say Negrin stepped into the machine during the training session and became embarrassed and angry when a supervisor started cracking jokes about his manhood, made visible by the new machine.

According to the police report, Negron confronted one of his co-workers in an employee parking lot, where he hit him with a police baton on the arm and back.

“[Negron] then told victim to kneel down and say ‘your sorry,’” the report reads. “Victim stated he was in fear and complied with [Negron].”

Negron was arrested the next day when he arrived for work. He told police he had been made fun of by coworkers on a daily basis.

“[Negron] stated he could not take the jokes anymore and lost his mind,” the report reads.

Negrin was arrested and booked into Miami-Dade County Jail. His arrest photo (above) shows him wearing his blue TSA shirt at the time of the arrest.

The attack may be the first piece of proof that the new scanners may be leaving too little to the imagination.

The $170,000 machines, which were introduced last year, took some heat from fliers who weren’t quite ready to show their bod to government employees.

But if this latest incident is any indication, the scanners sound like good news for anti-terrorism and bad news for less-than-average men.

Groups Call ‘Privacy’ Legislation Orwellian

Privacy groups gave an overwhelming thumbs down Tuesday to proposed legislation by Rep. Frederick Carlyle “Rick” Boucher (D-Virginia) that for the first time would mandate the length of time online consumer information could be kept.

The proposal would require websites to discard data collected from their users after 18 months. Some suggested the retention limit for consumer data should be shorter, perhaps just days, to allow a company enough time to mine it before deleting it.

“It’s very Orwellian to call this a privacy bill,” said Evan Hendricks, editor and publisher of Privacy Times.

Boucher said in a statement the bill’s goal “is to encourage greater levels of electronic commerce by providing to internet users the assurance that their experience online will be more secure.”

The legislation, which Boucher released Tuesday as a “discussion” draft, also largely keeps intact the status quo of the so-called “opt-in” or “opt-out” paradigms. The measure is likely to remain in draft for months, privacy groups said.

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Escapades of former sheriff Gary Penrod’s Wife

See also:  Escapades of former sheriff Gary Penrod

Witnesses who have been lined up to testify that the woman who has provided psychological care to members of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department for more than two decades engaged in multiple sexual affairs with the deputies she was hired to treat should be excluded from testifying in a libel suit she has brought against a newspaper publisher, her attorney has told the court.

Nancy K. Bohl is the proprietor of the Counseling Team International (also see her at “Spirit of the Law“). With the Counseling Team, Bohl has provided several forms of psychological services to the sheriff’s department since 1986. Bohl and her company sued Valley Wide Newspapers in 2000, alleging that a series of articles published in papers owned by Valley Wide publisher Raymond S. G. Pryke libeled her. Valley Wide Newspapers publishes four newspapers in the High Desert portion of San Bernardino County.

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Superior Court Judge candidate Ed Montgomery endorses Paul Schrader for sheriff of San Bernardino County

It is my privilege and honor to endorse candidate Paul Schrader for the office of Sheriff in San Bernardino County.

Our community will be well served by many of Paul’s proposals and recommendations once he takes office. San Bernardino has suffered too long without an election for sheriff. It is time to move forward in the 21st century and address new technology and systems to better protect our citizens. There needs to be cooperation and understanding between our law enforcement officials and the citizens they are protecting.

Paul and his family have been out in the neighborhoods attending events and knocking on doors to get the word out about his commitment to San Bernardino County. Paul’s door will remain open to our community once he is in office. His commitment to a fresh start in San Bernardino County through public accountability and cooperation is the real deal.

I hope you will join me in voting for change for San Bernardino County on June 8, 2010.

Putting our Families and Children First,

Ed Montgomery
Candidate for Superior Court Judge, Seat #29

Wildomar moves to allow medical marijuana in its city

Once drafted, and if passed by council member vote, the new ordinance would establish Wildomar as the only Southwest Riverside city to allow medical marijuana within its borders.

In front of a standing-room-only audience, and after more than two hours of discussion and heated debate, the Wildomar City Council passed a motion during its council meeting Wednesday night that paves the way for medical marijuana in its city.

In a 4-1 vote, council members passed a motion to draft a new zoning ordinance to allow medical marijuana collectives to legally operate in Wildomar.

Mayor Bridgette Moore cast the lone dissenting vote.

Existing city zoning ordinances currently prohibit marijuana businesses of any kind to operate in Wildomar.

Once drafted, and if passed by council member vote, the new ordinance would establish Wildomar as the only Southwest Riverside County city to allow medical marijuana operations within its borders.

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FBI Adds Electronic Form for FOIA Requests

The FBI has a new electronic form designed to make requesting information easier. In addition, the bureau has retooled it records website, including a guide for research in FBI Records.

Of course, filing a request has always been the easiest part of making a FOIA request of the FBI. George Washington University’s National Security Archive has criticized the bureau for its high percentage of “no records exist” responses in 2008, and the low percentage of requests granted by the FBIA.

For more, click here.

Oklahoma Passes Bill Outlawing Militia Recruitment

Last week the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill that equates recruiting militia members to recruiting gang members.

“Recruiting membership in an unauthorized militia or the Ku Klux Klan would be a crime if legislation approved Thursday by the House of Representatives becomes law. ‘This is making unauthorized militias illegal,’ said Rep. Mike Shelton, the amendment’s author,” News OK reported on Thursday.

Shelton wants to send people to prison who do not ask the state for permission to form a militia. If the bill becomes law, it will likely be challenged as unconstitutional. However, the bill and its passage in the Oklahoma House reveals there is support on the part of lawmakers to deny citizens their rights under the First Amendment (specifically, the right to peaceably assemble).

A news report video on the law can be viewed here.

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YouTube Didn’t Delete M.I.A. Video, But Did Bury It

See the story here.

Bluebear: Exploring Privacy Threats in BitTorrent

BitTorrent is arguably the most efficient peer-to-peer protocol for content replication. However, BitTorrent has not been designed with privacy in mind and its popularity could threaten the privacy of millions of users. Surprisingly, privacy threats due to BitTorrent have been overlooked because BitTorrent popularity gives its users the illusion that finding them is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The goal of this project is to explore the severity of the privacy threats faced by BitTorrent users.

We argue that it is possible to continuously monitor from a single machine most BitTorrent users and to identify the content providers (also called initial seeds) [LLL_LEET10, LLL_TR10]. This is a major privacy threat as it is possible for anybody in the Internet to reconstruct all the download and upload history of most BitTorrent users.

To circumvent this kind of monitoring, BitTorrent users are increasingly using anonymizing networks such as Tor to hide their IP address from the tracker and, possibly, from other peers. However, we showed that it is possible to retrieve the IP address for more than 70% of BitTorrent users on top of Tor [LMC_POST10]. Moreover, once the IP address of a peer is retrieved, it is possible to link to the IP address other applications used by this peer on top of Tor.

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San Francisco City workers banned from official travel to Arizona

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced today a moratorium on official city travel to Arizona after the state enacted a controversial new immigration law that directs local police to arrest those suspected of being in the country illegally.

The ban on city employee travel to Arizona takes effect immediately, although there are some exceptions, including for law enforcement officials investigating a crime, officials said. It’s unclear how many planned trips by city workers will be curtailed.

The move comes amid a cascade of criticism of Arizona’s law, which has been denounced by civil rights groups, some police officials and President Obama, who said it threatens to “undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.” Legal challenges are being weighed to overturn it.

San Francisco’s move comes as the Board of Supervisors introduced non-binding resolutions calling for comprehensive immigration reform and a boycott of Arizona because of the new law, which requires police to try to determine the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect of being in the country illegally. There are also online boycott campaigns calling for everything from a boycott of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team to the Grand Canyon.

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Pima County, Arizon, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik objects to new immigration law

An Arizona sheriff says he has “no intention of complying” with the state’s “abominable” new immigration law, which he describes as a “national embarrassment.”

Last week, Arizona Governor Janice Kay “Jan” Brewer signed a controversial bill that authorizes state police to stop people they suspect may be illegal immigrants and demand identification.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik said he would like Brewer to know “what she and the legislature has accomplished is morally wrong and a national embarrassment,” ABC News reported.

The sheriff called the law abominable and said he did not intend to comply with it, because it was “racist.”

Mexico warns citizens in Arizona

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The Mexican government warned its citizens Tuesday to use extreme caution if visiting Arizona because of a tough new law that requires all immigrants and visitors to carry U.S.-issued documents or risk arrest.

And a government-affiliated agency that supports Mexicans living and working in the United States called for boycotts of Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns until those organizations rebuke the law.

“We are making a strong call to the Arizona government to retract this regressive and racist law that’s impacting not only residents of Arizona, but people in all 50 states and in Mexico as well,” said Raul Murillo, who works with the Institute for Mexicans Abroad, an autonomous agency of Mexico’s Foreign Ministry.

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Sarkozy proposes total ban on the burqa in France

F

At the April 21 meeting of the French cabinet, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that a bill banning the wearing of the burqa or niqab full-face veil in public would be put before the cabinet in May. The bill is a blatant attack on democratic rights, moving France towards extra-legal rule.

Prime Minister François Fillon stated that the government would fast-track this legislation, even though such a law could be ruled unconstitutional and contrary to the European Convention of Human Rights. “We are ready to take legal risks because we think that the stakes are worth it”, he said, adding. “We cannot encumber ourselves with prudence in relation to legislation that is unsuited to today’s society…. If we have to shift the jurisprudence of the [French] Constitutional Council and that of the European Court of Human Rights, we think that it is our public duty to do so”.

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TSA applesauce “assault” case thrown out

A 58-year-old woman who was arrested, strip-searched, and handcuffed last year for grabbing her cooler (filled with applesauce and yogurt for her 93-year-old mother) from a Burbank airport Transportation Security Administration employee finally had her case thrown out.

Source

Army Wants Sensors to Nab Sweaty, Smelly Security Threats

No matter how well a terrorist covers their tracks, or how cool they are under pressure, the Pentagon wants to be able to detect, track, and even positively identify them from a distance. And they want to do it using nothing more than the heat and sweat that emanate from a person’s pores.

The military’s been after scent-based detection systems for years now. In 2007, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) solicited proposals for sensors to sniff out terrorists using unique genetic markers found in human emanations. The idea was based on research showing that mice each carried a unique “odortype” that was consistent despite variables like stress, hydration or diet. And odortypes are so powerful, they stick around for around a month after their host body has fled the premises.

But the most state-of-the-art tech, known as E-Nose, has only succeeded in distinguishing between two different people, and relies on “detecting human odor from the armpit region.” Now, the Army is launching Identification Based on Individual Scent (IBIS), and wants proposals for a more sophisticated detection system, that could “uniquely identify an individual based on scent,” at a geographical distance or after several hours or even days.

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Argument transcript released in Ontario v. Quon U.S. Supreme Court case

A 70-page transcript of Monday’s argument in the U.S. Supreme Court case involving Ontario Police Department has been posted to the court’s website.

Click here for background on the case.

Court takes up Ontario employees’ privacy case
By MARK SHERMAN (AP)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court appears likely to rule against public employees who claimed a local government violated their privacy by reading racy text messages they sent on their employers’ account.

Several justices said today that the employer, the Ontario, California., police department, acted reasonably in monitoring the text messages in view of its written policy warning employees they have no guarantee of privacy in the use of office computer and electronics equipment.

Justice Stephen Gerald Breyer said he didn’t see “anything, quite honestly, unreasonable about that.”

While the case involves government workers, the decision could have broader privacy implications as courts continue to sort out privacy issues in the digital age. Many employers, including Ontario, tell workers there is no guarantee of privacy in anything sent over their company- or government-provided computers, cell phones or pagers.

The case arose when the Ontario department decided to audit text message usage to see whether its SWAT team officers were using them too often for personal reasons. Three police officers and another employee complained that the department improperly snooped on their electronic exchanges, including many that were said to be sexually explicit.

Researchers hijack Google’s personalized search suggestions to reconstruct users’ search histories.

See also: Private Information Disclosure from Web Searches

Personalization is a key part of Internet search, providing more relevant results and gaining loyal customers in the process. But new research highlights the privacy risks that this kind of personalization can bring. A team of European researchers, working with a researcher from the University of California, Irvine, found that they were able to hijack Google‘s personalized search suggestions to reconstruct users’ Web search histories.

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Three More Domestic Spying Programs Revealed

The Department of Homeland Security is acknowledging the existence of three more government programs charged with spying on American citizens in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The programs — Pantheon, Pathfinder and Organizational Shared Space — used a variety of software tools to gather and analyze information about Americans, according to documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting. The DHS turned over the papers in response to a December 2008 Freedom of Information Act request. The documents shed new light on the proliferation of domestic intelligence and surveillance efforts after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to the CIR:

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Amazon files lawsuit to block North Carolina’s data request

Online retailer Amazon.com has filed a lawsuit in a federal court to block the North Carolina state government’s demand it disclose all transaction details, including names and addresses, involving state residents, court documents show.

In the complaint, Amazon said that North Carolina Department of Revenue (DOR) is demanding that the retailer turn over the name and address of virtually every North Carolina resident who has purchased anything from Amazon since 2003.

Amazon also said in the court filing that DOR also demanded the company furnish records of what each customer purchased and how much they paid.

The company said the disclosure of such information will invade privacy of its customers.

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Jury finds LA police violated victim’s rights by using false “snitch” label

Last week, a federal jury decided that two  officers violated a young woman’s constitutional rights by falsely labeling her a snitch–a label that led to her death–and then failing to protect her. L.A. Times stories here and here. In an effort to get gang member Jose Ledesma to confess to a murder, police told him that Puebla had identified him as the shooter, even forging her signature on a fake photo array, although Puebla never identified Ledesma. At the same time, the jury found that Puebla and her parents also contributed to her death, and awarded no money to the family.

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Anti-Facial Recognition Makeup

Now that facial recognition software is being implemented in more and more security systems worldwide, in such places as airport security lines, law enforcement agencies, and the Superbowl, it’s obviously time for the average forward thinking person to consider when and where this technology will be used to create an Orwellian police state.

Or, when it will inevitably be used to target advertising, keep tabs on consumers, and otherwise just be really annoying.  Graduate student Adam Harvey has devoted his master’s thesis to finding ways to trick facial recognition into false negatives as stylishly as possible, using makeup and hair.

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Britain: Details of hundreds of students handed to CIA

The details of up to one thousand Muslim students at University College London (UCL) have been made available to the Central Intelligence Agency jointly by the university and the Students Union. The move represents a grave attack on democratic rights and another step towards tighter controls over academic institutions in the UK.

An article appeared in the Independent on April 1 confirming that the Metropolitan Police Service had, on behalf of the CIA, approached UCL’s Islamic Society for details of its members between 2005 and 2008. The request was in connection with the investigations into the failed Detroit bomb plot on Christmas day last year. After being told by police that the data of the entire membership would be kept on file for at least seven years, the Islamic Society president Mojeed Adams-Mogaji refused to disclose the information.

The police then approached the Students Union, which provided names and email addresses of all members of the Islamic Society at the university between September 2005 and summer 2009. Subsequently after discussions, the university’s registry divulged the home addresses and telephone numbers of these individuals to the police, which were then passed to the CIA.

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Trial postponed in libel lawsuit filed by former sheriff’s wife

A civil trial in a multi-million dollar libel lawsuit filed by the wife of former Sheriff Gary Penrod against a High Desert newspaper publisher and has been postponed until August.

Lawyer John David Rowell, who represents Penrod’s wife Nancy K. Bohl, appeared for a hearing via telephone Thursday in San Bernardino Superior Court and requested a continuance, according to court records. The trial that was set to begin Monday was re-scheduled for Aug. 9 with a trial readiness hearing set for Aug. 5.

Rowell indicated health issues at the hearing held before Judge Frank Gafkowski, court records state.

Bohl filed a libel suit against Valley Wide Newspapers, a collection of newspapers owned by Raymond Pryke that includes the Hesperia Resorter, in June 2000.

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Deportation’s Harmful Effect on Children

This brief from the International Human Rights Law Clinic University of California, Berkeley School of Law , In the Child’s Best Interest? The Consequences of Losing a Lawful Immigrant Parent to Deportation states “Congress is considering a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws more than a decade after the enactment of strict immigration measures. Lawmakers should take this opportunity to reaffirm the nation’s historic commitment to family unity by addressing the discrete provisions that currently undermine it. Current U.S. immigration laws mandate deportation of lawful permanent resident (LPR) parents of thousands of U.S. citizen children, without providing these parents an opportunity to challenge their forced separations. Through a multi-disciplinary analysis, this policy brief examines the experiences of U.S. citizen children impacted by the forced deportation of their LPR parents and proposes ways to reform U.S. law consistent with domestic and international standards aimed to improve the lives of children.”

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Google Reveals Number Of Goverment Censorship Requests Around The World

Google has done something pretty cool: it has released information on the number of government requests received to remove content, and the percentage of those requests Google complied with:

Like other technology and communications companies, we regularly receive requests from government agencies around the world to remove content from our services, or provide information about users of our services and products. The map shows the number of requests that we received between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009, with certain limitations.

We know these numbers are imperfect and may not provide a complete picture of these government requests. For example, a single request may ask for the removal of more than one URL or for the disclosure of information for multiple users.

Sheriff Hopeful Schrader Pushing Department Reform

Paul Schrader says he is running for San Bernardino County sheriff because he believes “I can do a better job than what is being done now.”

In expanding on that point, Schrader said, “I am more qualified because I have a diverse background in law enforcement. I’ve worked as a supervisor in specialty positions in law enforcement including supervisor of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s legal unit, audit unit, risk analysis unit, as supervisor of operations, in the sheriff’s headquarters in Los Angeles and as a street deputy. I have a widely diverse background. I am from someplace else and have a perspective that can be utilized here. I am able to look at a department, do the basic jobs of an auditor and risk analysis teams to see what needs to be cut, where we need to reallocate funding and if we need to move manpower I can tell where we need to do that. Because I come from outside of the San Bernardino County sheriff’s department, I have a fresh pair of eyes to look at the overall structure of the department and bring a fresh start to the department.”

Schrader is challenging the incumbent, Rod Hoops, who was appointed to the post in 2009 after former sheriff Gary Penrod resigned. There is another candidate in the race, San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy Mark Averbeck.

Already, Schrader said, he has come to some conclusions about the need for reform and reorganization in the department.

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LA cardinal raps ‘Nazi’ migrant bill

The head of the largest Catholic archdiocese in the US has denounced anti-migration policies in the state of Arizona, saying it promotes Nazi-style repression.

“The Arizona legislature just passed the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law,” Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote in his blog on Sunday.

Mahony was referring to a new Arizona legislation, which created a new state offense of ‘willful failure to carry or complete an alien registration form’. The legislation was passed on Monday.

The bill would also require the police to determine people’s immigration status if there is reason to suspect the legality of the individuals’ stay in the country.

A provision of the law also allows citizens to sue government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws.

“I can’t imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation,” the cardinal who is a staunch supporter of immigrants’ rights said.

“Are children supposed to call 911 because one parent does not have proper papers?” he asked.

The top churchman further added that the “tragedy” of the measure lies in its reasoning, which implies that US immigrants “rob, plunder, and consume public resources.”

The new measure is considered as the latest crackdown in Arizona, which has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants.

CNN poll confirms: Most Americans believe their government is a threat to their welfare

A majority of Americans think the federal government poses a threat to rights of Americans, according to a new national poll.

Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they think the federal government’s become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. Forty-four percent of those polled disagree.

The survey indicates a partisan divide on the question: only 37 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Independents and nearly 7 in 10 Republicans say the federal government poses a threat to the rights of Americans.

According to CNN poll numbers released Sunday, Americans overwhelmingly think that the U.S. government is broken – though the public overwhelmingly holds out hope that what’s broken can be fixed.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted February 12-15, with 1,023 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey’s sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the overall survey.

Major Drug Conference in Mexican Drug War Says Prohibition Has Failed, Calls for New Policy

Coming as Mexico‘s war on drugs turns bloodier by the day, the conference concluded that current prohibitionist policies are a disaster.

Editor’s Note: With 137 people killled last week in the Mexican drug war, a conference on this topic couldn’t come at a more opportune time.

On Monday and Tuesday in Mexico City, political figures, academics, social scientists, security experts, and activists from at least six countries came together for the Winds of Change: Drug Policy in the World conference sponsored by the Mexico City-based Collective for an Integrated Drug Policy (CUPHID). Coming as Mexico’s war on drugs turns bloodier by the day, the conference unsurprisingly concluded that current prohibitionist policies are a disaster.

“The principal conclusion is that we need a more integrated drug policy based on prevention, scientific evidence, and full respect for human rights,” summarized CUPHID president Jorge Hernandez Tinajero. “It remains clear that, yes, there exist alternatives to the current strategy.”

In a press release after the conference, CUPHID emphasized the following points:

  • The so-called war on drugs has failed and, without doubt, we need “winds of change” to advance toward alternative policies to address the problematic of drugs across the globe.
  • The prohibitionist paradigm has been ineffective, and furthermore, for the majority of countries it has implied grave violations of human rights and individual guarantees, discrimination, and social exclusion, as well as an escalation of violence that grows day by day, ever broadening the scope of impunity for organized crime.
  • Drugs are never going to disappear. Thus, a more realistic drug policy should focus on minimizing the harms associated with drug use – overdoses, blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS, and violence. This concept is known as “harm reduction,” and must be the backbone of any drug policy.

Google, NSA alliance posing security threats to users

A deal between internet giant Google and the US National Security Agency on cyber-attacks may pose serious threats to other countries’ national security and internet users.

Analysts worry the collaboration would allow Google’s data to flow to the spy agency. Journalists and experts have announced their concern over the deal as the National Security Agency (NSA) is known for intercepting private data.

During the Cold War, NSA worked with companies like Western Union to intercept and read millions of telegrams.

During the so-called US war on terror, the NSA has teamed up with telecommunications companies to eavesdrop on phone calls and internet traffic.

Google, founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998, has become the world’s largest internet search engine.

It runs more than 1 million servers in data centers around the world, processes more than 1 billion search requests and 20 petabytes of user-generated data every day.

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