Seattle spends five years failing to come up with a privacy policy for its $3.6m surveillance network, then spends $150k ripping it out

Five years after activists forced Seattle's mayor to return the city's surveillance drones to their manufacturer, the city has announced that it is terminating its warrantless mass-surveillance program altogether. Read the rest

How to ban porn

"Let's Ban Porn," writes Ross Douthat in the Op-Ed pages of the NY Times. Good luck with that, writes Peter Suderman of Reason, who says "Douthat's core worry is effectively the same fear that drove socially conservative criticisms of video games, action movies, and Dungeons & Dragons — that teenagers will be unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and will reenact what they see on screen in real life."

Here's what would have to happen to ban porn, says Suderman: Stop the porn industry from producing porn, "forcing, at minimum, every person who has ever attended the Adult Video News Awards in a professional capacity to immediately find a new line of work." Stop websites from distributing porn. Stop everyday people who videotape themselves having sex.

To be at all effective, you would also need to enforce criminal penalties against former professionals who continued to produce porn for the black market. And you'd need to penalize thrill-seeking amateurs as well, which would mean going after, and perhaps locking up, a wide array of sympathetic and otherwise law-abiding individuals from all walks of life whose only crime was to record and distribute consensual sexual activity. You'd also need to punish illicit viewers, whose numbers could easily reach into the tens of millions.

This project would be difficult, unpopular, and there would be no guarantee that it would work at all. Many of the most popular domestic hubs for porn would probably move to protected locations overseas. But it is at least plausible that if you devoted sufficient public resources and effort on the part of law-enforcement, you might—might—be able to reduce, if not eliminate, porn consumption.

Read the rest

Chinese transit cops deploy face-recognition glasses to spot indebted people, oppressed ethnic/religious minorities and criminals

Chinese transit cops are wearing glasses with heads-up displays and cameras tied into the country's facial recognition to spot criminals, people smugglers, and riders who are using high-speed trains in defiance of rules that prohibit indebted people and people from ethnic and religious minorities from traveling. Read the rest

Tennessee sheriff who ordered deputies to kill driver of slow-moving car and gloated over his corpse faces excessive force lawsuit

Robyn Dial is suing White County, Tennessee Sheriff Oddie Shoupe for excessive force in the killing of her husband Michael Dial, who was shot in the head after he drove away at low speed from a traffic stop while towing a heavy trailer behind his 40-year-old pickup truck; Sheriff Shoupe was captured on bodycam mics ordering his officers to gun down Dial rather than run him off the road and risk cosmetic damage to their cruisers; after he arrived on the scene and observed Dial's corpse, he was recorded saying "They said 'we’re ramming him.' I said, 'Don’t ram him, shoot him.' Fuck that shit. Ain't gonna tear up my cars. I love this shit. God, I tell you what, I thrive on it. If they don’t think I’ll give the damn order to kill that motherfucker they’re full of shit. Take him out. I’m here on the damn wrong end of the county." Read the rest

Wichita cop who pulled the trigger in the first fatal swatting is being sued by the victim's family

When a serial bomb-report hoaxer reported a fake hostage-taking on behalf of a gamer upset at a $1.50 wager, he set in motion a string of events that ended with a Wichita police officer murdering an innocent bystander on his own doorstep, without warning. Read the rest

What living in a dictatorship feels like, and why it may be too late by the time you notice it

Comics writer G. Willow Wilson, who previously lived in Egypt and wrote for the opposition weekly Cairo Magazine, writes movingly and hauntingly on Twitter about the experience of a living in a state that is transitioning into dictatorship, which does not feel "intrinsically different on a day-to-day basis than a democracy does," but rather is marked by "the steady disappearance of dissent from the public sphere. Anti-regime bloggers disappear. Dissident political parties are declared 'illegal.' Certain books vanish from the libraries." Read the rest

Police Get Out of Jail cards are just the tip of the iceberg: no perp gets a sweeter deal than a cop

If you're lucky enough to be friends with a cop, they may give you one of their get out of jail cards, which you can flash to other cops along with a request for favorable treatment. Read the rest

Racist authoritarians insisted that ending stop-and-frisk would increase violent crime, but the opposite just happened

For years, racist authoritarians in New York City defended the stop-and-frisk program in which primarily black and brown people were repeatedly stopped without any particularized suspicion and forced to turn out their pockets, empty their bags, even strip naked in public on frozen-street corners. Read the rest

The DHS has illegally stuffed America's airports full of $1B worth shitty, malfing facial-recognition tech

More than a dozen major US airports are now covered in facial-recognition cameras, installed by the DHS to scan people departing on international flights without the legally mandated federal review process. Read the rest

Hoaxer with a history of fake bomb threats SWATs and murders a random bystander over a $1.50 Call of Duty bet

Swatting is the practice of tricking police SWAT teams into storming your victim's home by phoning in fake hostage situations; it's especially prominent among cybercriminals, gamers and was a favored tactic of Gamergater trolls. Read the rest

A proposed Australian leaker law will put journalists and whistleblowers in jail for 20 years

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a plan to bring down anti-leaker legislation that provides for 20 year prison sentences for whistelblowers who leak in order to prove government wrongdoing, and for the journalists who publish those leaks. Read the rest

"Less lethal" is a deceptive term to describe the weapons that routinely kill and maim peaceful protesters

This short interview with Homer Venters from Physicians for Human Rights, recorded in May at the the Right to Protest conference in Buenas Aires, is a succinct and important summary of the lie of "less-lethal" crowd-control weapons that kill and maim protesters, from tear-gas burns on lung-tissue to lethal, point-blank rubber bullet usage. Read the rest

The DoJ's top crypto warrior wants "strong" encryption that he can break at will

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has made a name for himself as a crypto warrior who promotes a murky idea called "responsible encryption," through which software would somehow be designed so that its security worked 100% of the time when criminals and foreign governments were trying to break it, but fail 100% of the time when the US government was trying to break it. Read the rest

On-duty NYPD officers admit handcuffing teenage girl, putting her in van, and having sex with her, but say it wasn't rape

Two NYPD plainclothes detectives and their supervisor have been placed on "modified duty" pending an Internal Affairs Bureau investigation into claims that they handcuffed and raped a teenager in a police department van.

In their defense, Brooklyn South Narcotics Detectives Edward Martins and Richard Hall are claiming the girl happily consented to having sex with them after she'd been handcuffed, kidnapped, thrown in a van, and taken to a deserted spot.

From The New York Times:

The detectives searched the occupants of the car for drugs, [the woman’s lawyer, Michael David] said, and demanded that the woman lift her shirt. “They said, ‘We want to make sure there is nothing under there, so show it,’” Mr. David said, recounting his client’s account. “She was petrified, so she showed it. She said, ‘See, I’m not hiding anything.’”

Immediately after, the woman was ordered out of the car, placed in handcuffs and put into the back seat of the detectives’ black Dodge van, Mr. David said. She was told she would be driven to the 60th Precinct, about a mile and a half from the park.

Instead, the lawyer said, the detectives drove to a parking lot of a nearby Chipotle restaurant, where she said they raped her.

The woman remained handcuffed during the entire ordeal, her lawyer said.

About 45 minutes after she was handcuffed, the woman said she was shoved out of the van not far from the 60th Precinct, Mr. David said. The woman contacted her mother, who took her to Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park, Brooklyn.

Read the rest

Thomas the Tank Engine, Fascist

Jia Tolentino describes The Repressive, Authoritarian Soul of “Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends”, that most cosy and all-conquering example of English bullshit for children.

through the dedicated and comprehensive Thomas the Tank Engine Wikia, as well as asmattering of critical assessments and message-board threads from dedicated viewers, I have become a little obsessed with the show’s repressive, authoritarian soul.

It is clear from his work that Awdry disliked change, venerated order, and craved the administration of punishment. Henry wasn’t the only train to receive a death sentence. In one episode, a manager tells a showoff engine named Smudger that he’s going to “make him useful at last,” and then turns Smudger into a generator, never to move again. (There are several “R.I.P. Smudger” tribute videos on YouTube.) In another episode, a double-decker bus named Bulgy comes to the station and talks about revolution—“Free the roads from railway tyranny!” he cries. He is quickly labelled a “scarlet deceiver,” trapped under a bridge, and turned into a henhouse. A recurring storyline involves the “troublesome trucks,” which are disciplined into fearful obedience through public, symbolic punishments. Their leader, S. C. Ruffey, is pulled in two different directions until he breaks into pieces—“I guess the lesson is that if someone is bullying you, kill them?” a YouTube commenter writes—and, in another episode, a “spiteful” brake van is crushed into bits.

By the time Awdry wrote “The Railway Series,” the railway industry had shifted away from steam and toward diesel and electric.

Read the rest

Cop roughs up and arrests Utah nurse for not obeying his illegal order to draw blood from unconscious man

Salt Lake City police detective Jeff Payne didn't have a warrant to draw blood from an injured patient at the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit. He also didn't have the patient's consent to draw blood. And the patient was not under arrest. That means none of three conditions that would allow the hospital to draw blood from the patient had been met, so Nurse Alex Wubbels calmly refused the Detective Payne's order. But Detective Payne apparently thought his violent, bullying demeanor would suffice in lieu of a warrant. As Nurse Wubbels was talking to her supervisor on her mobile speakerphone in front of Detective Payne, her supervisor told her not to draw the blood and warned the detective not to threaten the nurse. This triggered Detective Payne and he suddenly lurched forward and grabbed the nurse. Things got worse from there.

From The Washington Post:

Nurse Alex Wubbels politely stood her ground. She got her supervisor on the phone so Payne could hear the decision loud and clear. “Sir,” said the supervisor, “you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.”

Payne snapped. He seized hold of the nurse, shoved her out of the building and cuffed her hands behind her back. A bewildered Wubbels screamed “help me” and “you’re assaulting me” as the detective forced her into an unmarked car and accused her of interfering with an investigation.

The explosive July 26 encounter was captured on officers’ body cameras and is now the subject of an internal investigation by the police department, as the Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday.

Read the rest

Australian police seek the right to install malware on home devices during "emergencies"

The Queensland Police have asked the Australian Parliament to give them the right to covertly install malicious software on your home devices in order to conduct mass surveillance during times of "national emergency" Read the rest

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