The LA Times reports that Greg Schiller, a popular high school science teacher, was suspended because two of his students made projects that "appeared dangerous to administrators."
One project used compressed air to propel a small object but it was not connected to a source of air pressure, so it could not have been fired. (In 2012, President Obama tried out a more powerful air-pressure device at a White House Science Fair that could launch a marshmallow 175 feet.)
Another project used the power from an AA battery to charge a tube surrounded by a coil. When the ninth-grader proposed it, Schiller told him to be more scientific, to construct and test different coils and to draw graphs and conduct additional analysis, said his parents, who also are Los Angeles teachers.
A school employee saw the air-pressure project and raised concerns about what looked to her like a weapon, according to the teachers union and supporters. Schiller, who said he never saw the completed projects except in photos, was summoned and sent home. Both projects were confiscated as "evidence," said Susan Ferguson, whose son did the coil project.
One of the most important lessons kids learn in public schools is that school administrators are usually autocratic imbeciles.
Science teacher's suspension spurs petition drive (Thanks, John!)
Here's the latest episode of Don't Cops Have Better Things to Do?!, produced by Ted Balaker.
San Diego's police chief has recently resigned amid a variety of sex-crime scandals involving his officers, including Christopher Hays, who faces felony charges for groping and illegally detaining women, and Anthony Arevalos who is serving time for his habit of demanding sexual favors from women he pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving.
So it seems like an especially stupid time for SDPD to send ten armed officers to raid a local strip club and take photos of the dancers. Yet that's what the vice squad did earlier this month.
San Diego Police Department officers raided a Cheetahs strip club to bust any dancers who weren’t properly permitted.
"I didn't know if it was a bank robbery or serial killer on the loose the way they had come in like that," said manager Rich Buonantony. "The show of force, show of power was incredible."
The officers spent hours meticulously documenting all 30 dancers’ paperwork and bodies (with cameras, of course!).
"They made me feel like I was a gang member pretty much and they wanted to document every single one of my tattoos," said stripper Katelynn Delorie.
Sarah Harrison, a British journalist who's worked with Wikileaks and the Snowden papers, writes that she will not enter the UK any longer because the nation's overbroad anti-terror laws, combined with the court decision that validates using them to detain journalists who are not suspected of terrorism under any reasonable definition of the term, means that she fears begin detained at the airport and then jailed as a terrorist when she refuses to decrypt her files and grant police access to her online accounts. Under the UK's Terrorism Act of 2000, journalists who write because they hope to expose and halt corruption are liable to being jailed as terrorists because they report on leaks in a way that is "designed to influence the government." And "the government," according to the Act, is any government, anywhere in the world -- meaning that journalists who report on leaks that embarrass any government in the world can be treated as terrorists in the UK.
Nor is this an idle risk: Glenn Greenwald's partner, David Miranda, was detained under terrorism rules when he transited through the UK, and a UK judge subsequently found that the detention was justified on these grounds, even though no one suggests that Miranda is involved in terrorism in any way. As Harrison writes, "Britain is turning into a country that can't tell its terrorists from its journalists."
The final paragraphs of Harrison's editorial sum it up neatly:
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Christopher E Smith is the white father of a black, biracial son, and it is through his son's experience of being black in America that he has learned just how pervasive and humiliating and violent officialdom is to black Americans, a fact embodied perfectly through New York City's notorious, racist stop-and-frisk program. Smith describes how his son, interning on Wall Street, has been repeatedly stopped by police, once made to lie face down on the filthy sidewalk in his best suit while police went through his pockets (former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg was a staunch supporter of this program). He describes the experience of his black in-laws, who are stopped by police-cars en route to family gatherings, who have guns aimed at their heads, and who are then released with a shrug and a nonsensical excuse. He describes how driving over the US/Canadian border with his son is totally different from driving on his own, and how the customs guards routinely stop the two of them, and make them wait out of sight of their car while it is searched.
As an aside, I've experienced this myself. I've driven across the US/Canadian border literally dozens of times and the only time I was stopped was when I gave Nalo Hopkinson and David Findlay -- who happen to be black -- a ride to a Clarion reunion at Michigan State University. At both border crossings, the car was searched from top to bottom, with officers taking out books and shaking the pages to look for contraband. It's never happened since. The only difference between that drive and all the others was that there were some brown-skinned people in evidence.
Smith proposes a thought experiment in which stop-and-frisk searches were mandatorily applied in keeping with overall demographics, so for every three black people that the NYPD pull over and humiliate without warrant or suspicion or probable cause, they would have to do the same to ten white people -- and suggests that this would end the program of stop-and-frisk in a heartbeat.
I think he's right.
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A disturbing new turn in the North Korean Official Haircut Story:
men male students can no longer choose from 18 approved haircuts and must henceforth all sport the same haircut as Kim Jong Un. This haircut is locally known as the "Chinese smuggler haircut."
Update: The BBC has since updated its story: the haircut mandate applies only to students, not all men.
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The Electronic Frontier Foundation is trying to figure out what the LAPD is doing with the mountains (and mountains) of license-plate data that they're harvesting in the city's streets without a warrant or judicial oversight. As part of the process, they've asked the LAPD for a week's worth of the data they're collecting, and in their reply brief, the LAPD argues that it can't turn over any license-plate data because all the license-plates they collect are part of an "ongoing investigation," because every car in Los Angeles is part of an ongoing criminal investigation, because some day, someone driving that car may commit a crime.
As EFF's Jennifer Lynch says, "This argument is completely counter to our criminal justice system, in which we assume law enforcement will not conduct an investigation unless there are some indicia of criminal activity."
This reminds me of the NSA's argument that they're collecting "pieces of a puzzle" and Will Potter's rebuttal: "The reality is that the NSA isn't working with a mosaic or a puzzle. What the NSA is really advocating is the collection of millions of pieces from different, undefined puzzles in the hopes that sometime, someday, the government will be working on a puzzle and one of those pieces will fit." The same thing could be said of the LAPD.
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Just a few days after Turkey's scandal-rocked government banned Twitter by tweaking national DNS settings, the state has doubled down by ordering ISPs to block Twitter's IP addresses, in response to the widespread dissemination of alternative DNS servers, especially Google's 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199 (these numbers were even graffitied on walls).
Following the ban, Turkey's Twitter usage grew by 138 percent. Now that Twitter's IP range is blocked, more Turkish Internet users are making use of Tor and VPNs, and they continue to use SMS for access to the service.
It's interesting that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has singled out Twitter for his attacks ("Twitter, schmitter! We will wipe out Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says.") Why not Facebook or Google Plus? I'm not certain, but my hypothesis is that Facebook and Google's "real names" policy -- which make you liable to disconnection from the service if you're caught using an alias -- make them less useful for political dissidents operating in an environment in which they fear reprisals.
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Bill Moyers spoke with investigative reporter Julia Angwin, author of the new book Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance. The full episode is above.
BILL MOYERS: What has happened to the Fourth Amendment? That's supposed to protect “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures” such as you have just described?
JULIA ANGWIN: Right. Well, the thing is, the Fourth Amendment protects the actual physical walls of your home. And so in fact, the police still need a search warrant to knock on the door and come in. But the problem is, technology has reached into our homes in other ways and essentially there's an exception to the Fourth Amendment for that.
There's something called the Third Party Doctrine. Which is a Supreme Court precedent that basically says once you give your data to a third party, whether it's a bank, a telephone company, then you have lost your privacy interest in it. And so the police can get it there. Well, nowadays, our papers and effects that we used to store at home, we basically store outside the home at these digital places - Google, even our online banking. And so then there's a much lower standard for the government to get this information.
Moyers' website is a good resource for news about government surveillance, lobbyist interference, the rise of the US plutocracy, and unpunished banking industry crimes. It's like Infowars for sane people.
The FBI has turned over a redacted set of documents from its investigative archives related to Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious strong-man whose antics have cost the taxpayers millions in civil suit settlements for actions ranging from racial profiling to stealing a defendant's paperwork in open court to arresting newspaper owners who refused to turn over readers' identities to torching a house and killing a puppy in the process of investigating traffic citations.
The FBI archives, which go back to 2008, reveal that the Bureau recommended that some or all of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Arpaio and his officers be indicted for felony counts of "obstructing criminal investigations of prosecutions, theft by threats, tampering with witnesses, perjury and theft by extortion." This recommendation was ignored by federal prosecutors, who concluded that there was not enough evidence to proceed.
County officials who tried to rein in Arpaio have had their offices swept for bugs, believing that Arpaio's regime engages in dirty tricks and illegal wiretapping against local politicians that are hostile to his tactics. Arpaio's office filed several charges against hostile local politicians, none of which led to convictions (by contrast, Arpaio's friendly county attorney Andrew Thomas was unable to get reelected and was eventually barred from practicing law altogether).
Arpaio's bid to quash the FBI investigation and his campaign against local politicians have cost Arizona taxpayers over $44M to date.
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The service will allow British security officials to censor videos "at scale"
-- but not illegal videos, just material that "certainly is unsavoury and may not be the sort of material that people would want to see or receive." The new "super flaggers" will target jihadi radicalisation videos and, basically, anything they don't like. But what could go wrong? Thanks, Google!
Turns out the British spies who made these claims were lying.
The Public Prosecutor of Rome has unilaterally ordered Italy's ISPs to censor 46 sites, and it appears the ISPs are complying, even though no complaint had been lodged against the sites, nor had any judge issued any order related to them. This doesn't bode well for the governance style of the new Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, a young politician who is trying to set himself apart from the autocratic Berlusconi regime, which used tight media control as part of its corrupt governance strategy.
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Molly Crabapple sez, "I wrote this piece about a program in Phoenix called Project ROSE
arrests sex workers in massive raids and brings them to a church,
where they are held extra-judicially and offered alternative sentences
without lawyers, judges, or due process."
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Members of Pussy Riot, including the recently freed women Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were brutally whipped, sprayed and beaten by cossacks representing Russian authorities at the Sochi Olympic Games. The women call the Olympics a political event, and report that they have been harrassed and detained continuously since arriving in Sochi to protest them.
Some other members of Pussy Riot have repudiated Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina and do not consider them to be representatives of Pussy Riot any longer.
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A group of steampunk cosplayers arranged to meet up at Westfield Plaza Camino Real near San Diego to ride the mall's Victorian carousel. But Westfield's mall cops were terrified of the cosplayers and evicted them all, escorting them to the door, calling the cops, and making them wait until the police arrived (the police basically shrugged and said, "Look, it's stupid, but it's their mall").
The mall cops -- and their corporate overlords -- cited a variety of dumb policies in support of the action, including a ban on wearing costumes that obscured the wearer's face (which didn't describe the cosplayers' outfits), a ban on gathering in groups larger than three (ORLY), a ban on photography without the subjects' permission (the steampunks, having gathered to have their photos taken, can be presumed to have consented to the pictures). Basically, it's a case of mall cop authoritarianism followed by the usual bland corporate doubling-down.
Of course, kids -- especially kids who happen to be brown -- already know that malls are capricious and fraught replacements for the public square. Mall cops basically hate anything that doesn't accord with their view of what a shopper should be and relentlessly discriminate against anyone they don't like. Back when I was in high school, more than half of my school had been banned from College Park, the mall in Toronto that was across the street from the school, by sneering jerks from Intercon security, who had the full backing of their management and the mall management.
The irony of ejecting people for wearing steampunk clothes in rich: malls are full of steampunk-inflected clothing, as the commodification mills of the fashion industry relentlessly mine subculture for new looks to put under glass. And here, too, is another parallel to the much more widespread discrimination against brown kids, who are often ejected on the pretense of wearing "gang" clothes -- clothes whose styles have been snaffled up, denatured, and repackaged for sale in the stores whose rent keeps the mall in business.
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Protesters in Kiev's #Euromaidan camp report that yesterday's horrific violence -- which saw at least 25 protesters killed by police -- has continued to escalate. The #IT_Namet tent -- a fixture in Euromaidan, offering nonviolent IT support to protesters and journalists -- was targeted by government security forces who burned it to the ground, beating Alexei Lymarenko, one of the tent's volunteers to a state of near death. A journalist, Veremei Vyacheslav, was killed by police.
Here is a statement released by IT_Namet, asking the international technology community to support their efforts:
“From the very beginning #IT_Namet was built with the aim of a peaceful protest. Members of the IT-community never had weapons, except for tablets and smartphones connected to the Internet. So, the real purpose of security forces actions was not anti-terrorism, as it was claimed, but the destruction of unarmed people. We regret that tonight IT professional Lymarenko Alexei suffered. He was together with Ukrainian journalist Vyacheslav Veremei. Vyacheslav was killed, and Alex, who was beaten nearly to death, has serious traumas of his face. Although # IT_Namet was destroyed tonight, our beliefs and our support for peaceful protest remained unchanged. The “IT spіlnota” (IT community), which united people representing the IT industry, is expanding its activity beyond # IT_Namet. “IT spіlnota” will set out to spot the violence of authorities, to save people’s lives. Now every member of the IT-community can itself make his/her choice on the tools to protect their rights and the rights of people who yesterday were violated by their summary execution. We highly appreciate any actual support of IT-community abroad.”
Tech Protester in Kiev Badly Beaten, Journalist Killed, As ‘IT Tent’ Is Burned By Police [Mike Butcher/Tech Crunch]
EuroMaidan: a Facebook revolution in the streets of Kiev