Domestic surveillance the old-fashioned way: cameras installed on utility poles, watching your home

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Rocky Houston was a felon in possession of a gun, and is headed to jail for years for that crime. How did they catch him? They installed a video camera on a utility pole near a family-owned property until useful footage was captured.

A federal appeals court upheld his conviction this week, with Judge John Rogers writing that "no reasonable expectation of privacy [exists] in video footage recorded by a camera that was located on top of a public utility pole and that captured the same views enjoyed by passersby on public roads," even if there was no warrant.

David Kravets:

"John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, said the ruling is bad news for privacy.

"Obviously, the new era of technology, one that was completely unimaginable to the men who drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, requires an updated legal code to enshrine the right to privacy. New technologies which enable the radical expansion of police surveillance operations require correspondingly robust legal frameworks in order to maintain the scope of freedom from authoritarian oversight envisioned by the Framers," he said.

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A home, a murder, a mystery (or two)

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Up in the manicured hills of Los Feliz, a neighborhood that boasts at least three famous murder houses, the one with the weirdest history may be the Perelson house... where, deep in the night of December 6, 1959, a husband and father of three lost his fragile grip and went terribly, shockingly crazy. But the story only starts there.

Why did Harold Perelson snap? What does it mean when, without warning, the safety of a family home is shattered from within? And how do you explain what's happened to the house since? 

This week on HOME: Stories From L.A., a mystery that's endured for almost 60 years, and the crime that set it in motion. 

Thanks for listening. And if you like what you hear, please subscribeRead the rest

Superb investigative report on the fake locksmith scam

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If you've ever locked yourself out of your home and googled for a locksmith, you've seen that it's virtually impossible to reach a real local locksmith. Read the rest

DeRay Mckesson running for mayor: "I am a son of Baltimore"

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Civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson is running for mayor of Baltimore. He would get my vote if I lived there.

I have come to realize that the traditional pathway to politics, and the traditional politicians who follow these well-worn paths, will not lead us to the transformational change our city needs. Many have accepted that our current political reality is fixed and irreversible — that we must resign ourselves to accept the way that City Hall functions, or the role of money and connections in dictating who runs and wins elections. They have bought into the notion that there is only one road that leads to serve as an elected leader.

A member of the Black Lives Matter movement, Mckesson has done much to draw the public's eye to America's lingering problems of race and power, especially when it comes to policing. The Baltimore Sun says his jump into politics, though, is a surprise.

He said he planned to release a platform within a week. He said it would include a call for internal school system audits to be made public.

Mckesson was the 13th and final candidate to jump into the primary race. In deep-blue Baltimore, the Democratic primary has long determined the winner of the general election.

Watch for this narrative in the media: that he's just a protest candidate. Then, if he does too well for their comfort, watch for this one: that by seeking to win, he's becoming like all the other politicians, i.e. betraying the role they prefer him to play. Read the rest

Elizabeth Warren's new 1%: the percentage of fraudulent profits companies pay in fines

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In Rigged Justice: 2016 How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy, a 12-page booklet, Senator Elizabeth Warren documents corporations that were caught undertaking grossly fraudulent, highly profitable actions, and were made to pay a trivial fraction of those profits in fines -- fines become a part of the cost of doing business, not a deterrent to criminal behavior. Read the rest

Man gasps dying words into officer's bodycam: "They're killing me right now... I can't breathe."

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In 2013, Ana Biocini called the Oakland police because she'd heard a noise and thought there might be an intruder in the house. When the police arrived, they handcuffed her brother, Hernan Jaramillo, "without any lawful reason or justification," dragged him 20 feet down the sidewalk, threw him facedown into the ground, and three officers knelt on him while he begged for breath. The 51 year old man died at the scene.

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Barack Obama ends solitary confinement for juveniles in federal custody

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Obama wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post (bio: "Barack Obama is president of the United States") explaining his suite of penal reform policies, which begin with ending the barbaric practice of putting children into solitary confinement, deemed a form of torture, "an affront to our common humanity." Read the rest

Snowshoeing: small-batch spam that's less targeted than spear-phishing

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Snowshoe spam has a "small footprint" -- it is sent is small, semi-targeted batches intended to sit below the trigger threshold for cloud-email spam filters, which treat floods of identical (or near-identical) messages as a solid indicator of spam. Read the rest

How an obsessive jailhouse lawyer revealed the existence of Stingray surveillance devices

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Daniel Rigmaiden was a prolific and talented fraudster who made more than a million dollars filing tax-returns for dead people, using ninja forgery skills and super-tight operational security to avoid arrest for years. Read the rest

US Treasury Dept wants to know which offshore crimelords are buying all those NYC and Miami penthouses

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It's an open secret that the world's luxury property boom is being driven by crooked rich people in the former Soviet Union, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa who have looted their homelands and want to stash the money out of reach of any new dictators who might come along and change which oligarchs are favored and which are not. Read the rest

Internal documents from breathalyzer company Lifesaver dumped online

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The company makes ignition interlock breathalyzers that are mandated by courts as a condition of driving after DUI convictions. Read the rest

How fraudsters' call centers work

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Say you've just scammed someone out of all their financial details using an online fraud, but now you need to call up their bank and impersonate them, and you don't speak their language, have the wrong accent, or are of a different gender -- what do you do? Read the rest

DC TV news crew's car broken into while they covered anti-robbery press conference

An officer speaks with ABC7  crew after robbery Jan. 6, 2015. (Stephen Tschida/ABC7 News)

Glad to see that our nation's capital hasn't been completely gentrified, and retains some of the utlraviolent grit I remember from the streets in the 1980s.

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A fan's animated homage to HBO's 'The Wire'

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“I designed and animated this piece as an homage to my favorite show of all time, HBO’s The Wire,” says animator Elliot Lim.

What an absolutely stunning piece this is. One of my new year's resolutions is to watch the entire series, start to finish, in one big binge.

[Laughing Squid, animation stills via elliot-lim.com]

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London: the urban explorer/jewel thief's guide

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In April, Geoff "BLDGBLOG" Manaugh will publish A Burglar's Guide to the City, a new book about London's rich history of heists and the network of tunnels, catacombs, sewers, and caves that London such a paradise for would-be superthieves. Read the rest

Paypal rolls out the welcome mat for hackers

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It's not bad enough that Paypal is prone to shutting down your account and seizing your dough if you have a particularly successful fundraiser -- they also have virtually no capacity to prevent hackers from changing the email address, password and phone numbers associated with your account, even if you're using their two-factor authentication fob. Read the rest

Crazy stuff captured on home security camera in Chilliwack BC

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This street corner in Chilliwack, British Columbia is a real hotspot for petty crime. In this video you can what was captured by a home security camera system in 2015: cars going backwards, arrests, attempted break-ins, drivers doing stupid things, pedestrians making weird noises, trespassers, car chases, beatdowns, muggings, brawls, burglary, and fire hydrant vandalism. [via] Read the rest

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