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EFF racks up another courtroom victory over the NSA: damning docs to follow


EFF racks up another courtroom victory over the NSA: damning docs to follow

Cory Doctorow at 9:00 am Sat, Sep 28, 2013

The Electronic Frontier Foundation continues to rack up victories in its Jewel v NSA suit, through which it has been suing the US spy agency over illegal mass-surveillance for nearly a decade (three successive administrations have stalled the suit by invoking official secrecy, a deadlock that was broken thanks to the leaks released by the whistleblower Edward Snowden). The latest news is that Judge Jeffrey White has ordered the government to unseal "any declassified material, like exhibits, declarations, and other ex parte submissions that the government had previously submitted to the court under seal" and refused to entertain the DoJ's appeal. EFF believes that the release will show that the DoJ lied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court).

In light of the declassifications inspired by the June leaks, Judge Jeffrey White ordered the government to unseal any declassified material, like exhibits, declarations, and other ex parte submissions that the government had previously submitted to the court under seal.

In response, the government asked that it only release a new declaration. The Department of Justice lawyers reasoned that reviewing the material submitted since the case began in 2008 would be a heavy burden. We objected, noting that recently declassified documents have shown that the government had submitted misleading material to the court overseeing the spying, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court).

Judge White denied the government's request, noting that the government had the resources to carry out such a review. He also noted that there should be a "fulsome" record for the court, the public, and the plaintiffs to draw from. The judge also set a briefing schedule on the procedural issues that it wanted resolved before turning to the critical question—whether the spying program is legal and constitutional.

More from the EFF here:

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sun Sep 29, 2013, 02:20 PM (8 replies)

The No-Fly List: Where the FBI Goes Fishing for Informants


The No-Fly List: Where the FBI Goes Fishing for Informants

By Nusrat Choudhury, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project at 10:21am

Over the last three years, the FBI has dramatically expanded its No-Fly List of suspected terrorists, including blacklisting innocent Americans who present no threat to security.

The Americans we represent in Latif v. Holder, the ACLU's challenge to the government's No-Fly List procedures, provide a prime example. They were each denied boarding on planes, deprived of their right to travel, and smeared as suspected terrorists. Yet the government continues to deny them any after-the-fact explanation for their blacklisting or any meaningful chance to clear their names...

...FBI agents put this pressure on ACLU clients Abe Mashal, a Marine veteran; Amir Meshal; and Nagib Ali Ghaleb. Each of these Americans spoke to FBI agents to learn why they were suddenly banned from flying and to clear up the errors that led to that decision. Instead of providing that explanation or opportunity, FBI agents offered to help them get off the No-Fly List—but only in exchange for serving as informants in their communities.Our clients refused.

The ACLU's report,Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI's Unchecked Abuse of Authority, explains what happened to Nagib Ali Ghaleb. Nagib was denied boarding when trying to fly home to San Francisco after a trip to visit family in Yemen. Stranded abroad and desperate to return home, Nagib sought help from the U.S. embassy in Yemen and was asked to submit to an FBI interview. FBI agents offered to arrange for Nagib to fly back immediately to the United States if he would agree to tell the agents who the "bad guys" were in Yemen and San Francisco. The agents insisted that Nagib could provide the names of people from his mosque and the San Francisco Yemeni community. The agents said they would have Nagib arrested and jailed in Yemen if he did not cooperate, and that Nagib should "think about it." Nagib, however, did not know any "bad guys" and therefore refused to spy on innocent people in exchange for a flight home.

The complete ACLU report is available as a *pdf file here:


Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sun Sep 29, 2013, 01:51 PM (8 replies)

How the Insurance Industry Is Dealing With Climate Change

Short answer: The reinsurance markets know it's real, and are acting accordingly.


How the Insurance Industry Is Dealing With Climate Change

September 24, 2013

When it comes to the calculating the likelihood of catastrophic weather, one group has an obvious and immediate financial stake in the game: the insurance industry. And in recent years, the industry researchers who attempt to determine the annual odds of catastrophic weather-related disasters—including floods and wind storms—say they’re seeing something new.

“Our business depends on us being neutral. We simply try to make the best possible assessment of risk today, with no vested interest,” says Robert Muir-Wood, the chief scientist of Risk Management Solutions (RMS), a company that creates software models to allow insurance companies to calculate risk. “In the past, when making these assessments, we looked to history. But in fact, we’ve now realized that that’s no longer a safe assumption—we can see, with certain phenomena in certain parts of the world, that the activity today is not simply the average of history.”

This pronounced shift can be seen in extreme rainfall events, heat waves and wind storms. The underlying reason, he says, is climate change, driven by rising greenhouse gas emissions. Muir-Wood’s company is responsible for figuring out just how much more risk the world’s insurance companies face as a result of climate change when homeowners buy
policies to protect their property...

...For his own part, Muir-Wood puts his money where his mouth is. “I personally wouldn’t invest in beachfront property anymore,” he says, noting the steady increase in sea level we’re expecting to see worldwide in the coming century, on top of more extreme storms. “And if you’re thinking about it, I’d calculate quite carefully how far back you’d have to be in the event of a hurricane.”

Hmm, looks like the teabaggers and RW media either don't know what they're talking about or
are consciously lying...

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sat Sep 28, 2013, 01:59 AM (0 replies)

Wall Street Firm Hasn't Sold Off AR-15 Maker Despite Newtown Promise


Wall Street Firm Hasn't Sold Off AR-15 Maker Despite Newtown Promise

The Huffington Post | By Jillian Berman Posted: 09/24/2013 3:49 pm EDT | Updated: 09/24/2013 4:16 pm EDT

A coalition of advocates are urging a private equity firm to make good on its now nine-month-old promise to stop investing in gun makers.

Amid a flurry of media attention in the wake of the Newtown massacre that killed 20 children and six adults, Cerberus Capital vowed to sell of its controlling stake in the Freedom Group, a holding company that owns some of the biggest American gun manufacturers -- including Bushmaster, a maker of the AR-15, which was the Newtown murderer's weapon of choice.

"Cerberus Capital Management has not sold a single penny of its investment in Freedom Group. This is inexcusable and these delays can no longer be tolerated,” reads a letter delivered to Cerberus on Tuesday by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), families of Newtown victims and other gun-control advocates who demand the company sell its stake in the Freedom Group in the next 30 days.

Many took Cerberus’ December announcement that it would stop investing in firearms as an indication that renewed vigor in the gun control debate made guns a riskier bet for Wall Street firms. Indeed, Cerberus initially had trouble finding potential buyers and the company’s CEO mulled putting up his own offer for the Freedom Group to ward off low bids. Ultimately, he dropped the plan as bids for the company started to roll in, the Wall Street Journal reported in July.

But as Quartz notes, Cerberus has likely been making money off of Freedom Group over the past nine months. As increased attention to gun control boosted sales, the Freedom Group reported a 51 percent increase in sales this year from second quarter 2012.

And thus Cereberus's limited partners discovered that doing what was promised cost money,
so it was not done.

In business, as in politics, 'tis better to watch what the hands do instead of
listening to what the mouth says...

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Fri Sep 27, 2013, 03:09 PM (0 replies)

Are you going to support universal background checks IF they come without registration?

I ask this after reading krispos42's excellent OP the other day:


A proposal for universal background checks and reducing arms trafficking

I certainly will, and no doubt others will as well. I suspect, as others allude to in that thread,
that many will not as they prefer an 'all or nothing' approach.

Let the replies (or lack thereof) show how many of those on the other side of the issue
from me really do want compromise...
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Mon Sep 23, 2013, 09:42 PM (28 replies)

W.B. Michaels pegged it a few years ago in his book "The Trouble With Diversity"



Let Them Eat Diversity: multiculturalism as an artifact of neoliberalism

...Major social changes have taken place in the past 40 years with remarkable rapidity, but not any in any sense inimical to capitalism. Capitalism has no problem with gay people getting married and people who self-identify as neoliberals understand this very well. So I think the main thing to say there is that, maybe in the book a lot of the examples tend to be academic examples, but I think you can find examples in American society everywhere of the extraordinary power, the hegemony of the model of anti-discrimination, accompanied by defense of property, as the guiding precepts of social justice. You can see this in the study that people have recently been making fun of—the one that shows that liberals are not as liberal as they think they are. What it showed was that when people were asked about the question of redistribution of wealth they turned out to be a lot less egalitarian than they thought they were. People who characterized themselves as “extremely liberal” nevertheless had real problems with the redistribution of wealth. And someone pointed out, I think he teaches at Stanford, that that’s the wrong way to think of this, because yes it’s true that especially as people get more wealthy they tend to become less committed to the redistribution of wealth but there are lots of ways in which they become “more liberal”—with respect to gay rights, antiracism, with respect to all the so-called “social issues,” as long as these social issues are defined in such a way that they have nothing to do with decreasing the increased inequalities brought about by capitalism, which is to say, taking away rich liberals’ money.

The truth is, it’s hard to find any political movement that’s really against neoliberalism today, the closest I can come is the Tea Party. The Tea Party represents in my view, not actually a serious, because it’s so inchoate and it’s so in a certain sense diluted, but nonetheless a real reaction against neoliberalism that is not simply a reaction against neoliberalism from the old racist Right. It’s a striking fact that what the American Left mainly wants to do is reduce the Tea Party to racists as quickly as humanly possible. They’re thrilled when some Nazis come out and say “Yeah, we support the Tea Party” or some member of the Tea Party says something racist, which is frequently enough. But you can’t understand the real politics of the Tea Party unless you understand how important their opposition to illegal immigration is. Because who’s for illegal immigration? As far as I know only one set of people is for illegal immigration, I mean you may be [as a Marxist], but as far as I know the only people who are openly for illegal immigration are neoliberal economists.

First of all, neoliberal economists are completely for open borders, in so far as that’s possible. Friedman said years ago that, “You can’t have a welfare state and open borders,” but of course the point of that was “open the borders, because that’ll kill the welfare state.” There’s a good paper you can get off the web by Gordon Hanson, commissioned by whoever runs Foreign Affairs, and the argument is that illegal immigration is better than legal immigration, because illegal immigration is extremely responsive to market conditions.

So it’s quite striking that you have all this protesting against illegal immigration, and especially at a time when it’s down. So why are people so upset about it? They are upset about it not because it has gotten worse, it hasn’t, but because they somehow recognize that one of the primary sort of marks of the triumph of neoliberalism in the U.S. is a very high tolerance of illegal immigration, and that illegal immigration is the kind of ne plus ultra of the labor mobility that neoliberalism requires. I mean that’s why for years—even though it’s a kind of contradiction in terms—as a policy it’s worked well. The Bush administration did everything it could to talk against illegal immigration but leave it alone and I’m sure the Obama administration would do the same thing except its hand’s being forced by the Tea Party. So you get these people who are saying illegal immigration sucks, and even Glenn Beck will say “immigration good, illegal immigration bad” and, what he’s reacting against is not, as he thinks, socialism but currently existing capitalism, but he has no clue....

Walter Benn Michaels is the author of The Trouble with Diversity.

This explains how uber-capitalist Michael Bloomberg has essentially bought the silence of parts of the
Democratic Party by his financial support for gun control. Bloomie may be evil, but he's certainly
not stupid...

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Wed Sep 18, 2013, 01:04 PM (0 replies)

A 3-Year-Old Girl with Eye Pain (Child endangerment via nutrition woo)


A 3-Year-Old Girl with Eye Pain

A 3-year-old girl presents with bilateral eye pain. The history of the complaint began 3 weeks earlier with headache, photophobia, and intermittent eye pain. During this time, no erythema or discharge from the eyes is noted and no other symptoms reported.

Her medical history is positive for multiple parental-diagnosed allergies and chemical sensitivities, resulting in behavioral problems, frequent loose stools, and abdominal pain. Her parents express concern that she may have gastroesophogeal reflux disease and irritable bowel syndrome...

...A detailed review of the patient’s dietary history reveals a severely restricted diet that is limited to chickpea milk, bison meat, and salicylate-free vegetables. The patient’s 10-year-old sister was placed on a similar diet at age 1 year that resulted in scurvy and rickets by age 3 years. These findings are suspicious for possible vitamin-A deficiency, and the patient is admitted to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment. The patient’s severely restricted diet has resulted in micronutrient malnutrition. Laboratory results show hemoglobin of 7.5 g/dL, iron of 35 mcg/dL, transferrin saturation of 12%, prealbumin of 6 mg/dL, and vitamins A and C below assay limits. The patient exhibits profound oral aversion as well as behavioral difficulties as a result of her long-standing dietary restrictions, which proved very problematic as an appropriate diet was reintroduced.


Vitamin-A Deficiency

This previously healthy, unimmunized child has severe vitamin-A deficiency with xerophthalmia, corneal ulcerations, follicular hyperkeratosis, scurvy, anemia, and malnutrition. During the hospitalization, the parents requested strict adherence to a “chemical-free” environment and avoidance of medications with preservatives and artificial coloring. However, upon further investigation, the mother, a health care provider, was unable to provide any supporting evidence for the chemical sensitivities; in fact, the patient was previously seen by more than a dozen providers without substantiation of these diagnoses. Against the parents’ wishes, vitamin-A supplementation was provided to correct the deficiency and decrease her risk of serious infections from damaged skin, mucous membrane barriers, and decreased cellular immunity. Immunizations were provided, particularly the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, because of the significant mortality risk associated with serious measles infection and vitamin-A deficiency. After restricting parental visits, the patient’s behavior gradually began to normalize, and she was ultimately discharged to the custody of child protective services.

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Fri Sep 13, 2013, 10:38 PM (7 replies)

Hundreds of Pages of NSA Spying Documents to be Released As Result of EFF Lawsuit


In a major victory in one of EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, the Justice Department conceded yesterday that it will release hundreds of pages of documents, including FISA court opinions, related to the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the law the NSA has relied upon for years to mass collect the phone records of millions of innocent Americans.

In a court filing, the Justice Department, responding to a judge’s order, said that they would make public a host of material that will “total hundreds of pages” by next week, including:

"...Orders and opinions of the FISC issued from January 1, 2004, to June 6, 2011, that contain a significant legal interpretation of the government’s authority or use of its authority under Section 215; and responsive “significant documents, procedures, or legal analyses incorporated into FISC opinions or orders and treated as binding by the Department of Justice or the National Security Agency.”

While the government finally released a white paper detailing its expansive (and unconstitutional) interpretation of Section 215 last month, more important FISA court opinions adopting at least part of that interpretation have remained secret. The results of EFF’s FOIA lawsuit will finally lift the veil on the dubious legal underpinnings of NSA’s domestic phone surveillance program.

This victory for EFF comes on the heels of another FOIA success two weeks ago, when the Justice Department was also forced to release a 2011 FISA court opinion ruling some NSA surveillance unconstitutional.
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Thu Sep 5, 2013, 02:09 PM (0 replies)
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