May 2008 Archives

An exercise in pedagogic sadism.

WAVE-Louisville reports

A kindergarten teacher from New Albany has been suspended after she was apparently caught on tape berating a 5-year-old student for several minutes in front of the class. The boy's parents sent him to school one day in April with the tape recorder in his pocket after the boy complained for months that his teacher was mean to him.

When they got the tape back, Gabriel Ross's parents were shocked when they heard S. Ellen Jones Elementary teacher Kristen Woodward apparently calling Gabriel Ross "pathetic." Now Woodward is suspended with pay and the boy's family is looking to find him another school.

According to school records, 5-year-old Gabriel doesn't appear to be a model kindergarten student. His daily behavior folder he and his parents showed us is filled with phrases like: "refused to listen," "talked nonstop interrupting the teachers," "terrible day" and "talked nonstop today." 

But Gabriel's mother and stepdad say the teacher's response wasn't discipline, it was downright cruelty.

Gabriel's parents say the voice on the tape is Kristen Woodward bad-mouthing Gabriel for several minutes. Among other things, she says: "You've punished everyone in this building with your behavior. Everyone has been affected by your nasty behavior. Everyone. Cafeteria workers, the monitors, the art teacher, music teacher ... ten people in this building you have tormented and tortured for 149 days. I'm done."

At another point she says: "You've been ignorant, selfish, self-absorbed, the whole thing. I'm done..."

Then Ms. Woodward addresses the class: "He has made every wrong choice possible and he has had more help to make right choices and he has chose not to. So you guys think, is that somebody you want to be with?"

"Noooo," says the kindergarten class in unison.

"See, your friend doesn't want to be with you," said Woodward.

Thanks to Fiona King for sending this over.

From the Criminal Justice Degree Guide

With over half of Americans not knowing what "due process" is, not to mention how it relates to civil liberties, it is apparent that despite Americans' love for our civil liberties, more than a few of us need to brush up on the basic laws which provide the foundation of our civil liberties.

While there are literally hundreds of laws, not to mention constitutional protections under the Bill of Rights which comprise our civil liberties, we have chosen 20 laws which every American should know because of their current political importance and relevance. Understanding the basics of these 20 laws is an important first step for every American to know the extent and limitations of the civil liberties he or she is afforded.

MyFox Tampa Bay reports

Kids love using their cell phones to send text messages. But now Manatee County has a new rule that say if teachers think the students are up to no good, those texts can be read.

"If we suspect kids are plotting together and we have that suspicion, we'll search that," said School Board attorney John Bowen.

It's not just what may have been written, but also what may have been photographed. Teachers now have the power to check cell phone pictures if they think test questions were photographed or inappropriate pictures were taken of unsuspecting students.

And legal experts agree. Kids can't argue it's an invasion of privacy because the rules are different on school grounds.

"The constitutional rights inside school are not the same as out in the street," Bowen reminded.

But other legal experts are disappointed in the new policy.

"Anytime you start talking about lowering the standard to get around Fourth Amendment protection against searches and seizures, you always have some concern," said Bradenton attorney Matt Whyte.

NYPD Launches Stealth Surveillance Copter

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$10 million reconnaissance copter can zoom in on any public location from up to 2 miles away.

AP reports:

On a cloudless spring day, the NYPD helicopter soars over the city, its sights set on the Statue of Liberty.

A dramatic close-up of Lady Liberty's frozen gaze fills one of three flat-screen computer monitors mounted on a console. Hundreds of sightseers below are oblivious to the fact that a helicopter is peering down on them from a mile and a half away.

"They don't even know we're here," said crew chief John Diaz, speaking into a headset over the din of the aircraft's engine.

The helicopter's unmarked paint job belies what's inside: an arsenal of sophisticated surveillance and tracking equipment powerful enough to read license plates -- or scan pedestrians' faces -- from high above the nation's largest metropolis.

Police say the chopper's sweeps of landmarks and other potential targets are invaluable in helping guard against another terrorist attack, providing a see-but-avoid-being-seen advantage against bad guys.

"It looks like just another helicopter in the sky," said Assistant Police Chief Charles Kammerdener, who oversees the department's aviation unit.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said that no other U.S. law enforcement agency "has anything that comes close" to the surveillance chopper, which was designed by engineers at Bell Helicopter and computer technicians based on NYPD specifications.

The chopper is named simply "23" -- for the number of police officers killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The $10 million helicopter is just part of the department's efforts to adopt cutting-edge technology for its counterterrorism operations.

The NYPD also plans to spend tens of millions of dollars strengthening security in the lower Manhattan business district with a network of closed-circuit television cameras and license-plate readers posted at bridges, tunnels and other entry points.

Police have also deployed hundreds of radiation monitors -- some worn on belts like pagers, others mounted on cars and in helicopters -- to detect dirty bombs.

Kelly even envisions someday using futuristic "stationary airborne devices" similar to blimps to conduct reconnaissance and guard against chemical, biological and radiological threats.

Civil rights advocates are skeptical about the push for more surveillance, arguing it reflects the NYPD's evolution into ad hoc spy agency.

"From a privacy perspective, there's always a concern that 'New York's Finest' are spending millions of dollars to engage in peeping tom activities," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Police insist that law-abiding New Yorkers have nothing to fear.

"Obviously, we're not looking into apartments," Diaz said during a recent flight. "We don't invade the privacy of individuals. We only want to observe anything that's going on in public."

Thanks to PuppetGov

The perfect gift for that budding police state that wants to be loved and trusted as well as just feared.

World Science reports:

Re­search­ers have iden­ti­fied brain cen­ters acti­vated by be­tray­al of trust--and a way to keep them quiet. 

A spray of a hor­mone, ox­y­to­cin, makes peo­ple keep trust­ing even some­one who has be­trayed them, the scientists ex­plained. They presented the findings not as a trick for, say, cheat­ing spouses to keep their part­ners coop­erative, but as an in­sight into the mind with possible cli­ni­cal value.

Thom­as Baum­gart­ner of the Uni­ver­s­ity of Zu­rich and col­leagues said their work could help re­veal the brain wir­ing be­hind trust and pos­sibly the ba­sis of so­cial dis­or­ders such as pho­bias and au­tism. The find­ings are re­ported in the May 22 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Neu­ron.

Amygdala activation, shown in red in a cross-sec­tion of the brain in an fMRI image. (Cou­rtesy NIMH Cli­n­i­cal Brain Dis­ord­ers Branch) 

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors asked vol­un­teers to play a "trust game" in which they con­tri­but­ed mon­ey to a hu­man trus­tee, who would ei­ther in­vest it and re­turn the prof­it­s--or be­tray them and keep it all. 

Some play­ers al­so re­ceived a na­sal spray con­tain­ing the brain chem­i­cal and hor­mon ox­y­to­cin, found in pre­vi­ous stud­ies to make peo­ple more trust­ing. 

The re­search­ers found that stiffed play­ers who had re­ceived ox­y­to­cin went on trust­ing their treach­er­ous part­ners. Play­ers who had re­ceived an in­ac­tive spray in­stead of ox­y­to­cin did not.

Thanks again to Eve Matelan
America may be lurching towards becoming a surveillance state (with the UK bumbling ahead of it), but pesky archaic notions like civil liberties, the constitution and tenaciously salutary  cultural habits like hedonism and distrust of authority still manage (sometimes) to trip it up. Not so much in Shentzen, China, the epicenter of what author Naomi Klein calls "Market Stalinism", an amalgamation combining hyper-consumerism and high-tech 24/7 surveillance, or what she calls Police State 2.0. In this interesting essay in Rolling Stone Klein ruminates on how the Chinese government, with the eager assistance of taxpayer subsidized US security tech firms is making cities like Shentzen the new prototype of a "Panopticonic"city Michel Foucault would have loved to hate, using the methods of Mao with an irony he may have appreciated. 

Naomi Klein reports:

American commentators like CNN's Jack Cafferty dismiss the Chinese as "the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years." But nobody told the people of Shenzhen, who are busily putting on a 24-hour-a-day show called "America" -- a pirated version of the original, only with flashier design, higher profits and less complaining. This has not happened by accident. China today, epitomized by Shenzhen's transition from mud to megacity in 30 years, represents a new way to organize society. Sometimes called "market Stalinism," it is a potent hybrid of the most powerful political tools of authoritarian communism -- central planning, merciless repression, constant surveillance -- harnessed to advance the goals of global capitalism.

Now, as China prepares to showcase its economic advances during the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, Shenzhen is once again serving as a laboratory, a testing ground for the next phase of this vast social experiment. Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts. The closed-circuit TV cameras will soon be connected to a single, nationwide network, an all-seeing system that will be capable of tracking and identifying anyone who comes within its range -- a project driven in part by U.S. technology and investment. Over the next three years, Chinese security executives predict they will install as many as 2 million CCTVs in Shenzhen, which would make it the most watched city in the world. (Security-crazy London boasts only half a million surveillance cameras.)

The security cameras are just one part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in China as "Golden Shield." The end goal is to use the latest people-tracking technology -- thoughtfully supplied by American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric -- to create an airtight consumer cocoon: a place where Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cellphones, McDonald's Happy Meals, Tsingtao beer and UPS delivery (to name just a few of the official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics) can be enjoyed under the unblinking eye of the state, without the threat of democracy breaking out. With political unrest on the rise across China, the government hopes to use the surveillance shield to identify and counteract dissent before it explodes into a mass movement like the one that grabbed the world's attention at Tiananmen Square.

Remember how we've always been told that free markets and free people go hand in hand? That was a lie. It turns out that the most efficient delivery system for capitalism is actually a communist-style police state, fortressed with American "homeland security" technologies, pumped up with "war on terror" rhetoric. And the global corporations currently earning superprofits from this social experiment are unlikely to be content if the lucrative new market remains confined to cities such as Shenzhen. Like everything else assembled in China with American parts, Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you.

Thanks for the tip from Eve Matelan

DA who busted Tommy Chong launches new crusade.

Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports:

Five years after taking the lead in "Operation Pipe Dreams," which prosecuted people who sold marijuana pipes around the country, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan is leading a similar investigation called "Operation True Test."

The newest project for Ms. Buchanan is looking into companies that sell "masking products" that are supposed to help drug-users pass employer drug tests.

Opponents of the products contend that they can put the public at risk if a person like an airline pilot were to use them to hide drugs in his system. The products are regulated on a state-by-state basis; there is no federal law covering them.

But critics, including comedian Tommy Chong, whom Ms. Buchanan prosecuted as part of Operation Pipe Dreams, say this is just another example of a frivolous prosecution and misplaced priorities.

"The terrorists crash into her area, and she's concentrating on porn and bongs," Mr. Chong said, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, crash of United Flight 93 in Somerset County. "That kind of tells you the direction she's headed."

Search warrants for Operation True Test were served Wednesday at nine locations in six states -- though none in Ms. Buchanan's Western District of Pennsylvania.

"We have no idea what the connection to Pittsburgh is," said Jennifer Kinsley, the attorney for Spectrum Labs, whose Newport, Ky., offices were searched.

Another target was the business in Signal Hill, Calif., that makes The Whizzinator, a prosthetic penis in which clean urine is stored to be used to beat drug tests monitored by an observer.

Spectrum Labs makes a number of masking products, including one known as Urine Luck, a liquid that is added to urine to purify it.

Thanks to The Agitator

Tall Grass Against the Law in Canton, Ohio

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Canton town council preparing to pass amendment making a property owner whose grass is over eight inches high criminally liable for up to 30 days in jail.

The Canton Repository reports

City Council wants to beef up its existing high-grass and weeds law by making a second offense a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $250 and up to 30 days in jail.

In the spring and summer, it's not uncommon for council members to field complaints from residents about overgrown lots owned by individuals or banks and corporations that ignore the law and notices in the mail.

More than 8 inches constitutes high grass or weeds, according to city law. First-time violators now face a minor misdemeanor, which carries up to a $150 fine and no jail time.

The proposed amendment passed second reading Monday night, and is up for passage at next Monday's council meeting.

From the "Transparent Government put on Double-Secret Probation" dept.

New designation of "controlled unclassified information enhanced with specified dissemination" gives government further discretion in limiting or blocking public access to information.

The Washington Post reports:

Sometime in the next few years, if a memorandum signed by President Bush this month ever goes into effect, one government official talking to another about information on terrorists will have to begin by saying: "What I am about to tell you is controlled unclassified information enhanced with specified dissemination."

That would mean, according to the memo, that the information requires safeguarding because "the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure would create risk of substantial harm."

Bush's memorandum, signed on the eve of his daughter Jenna's wedding, introduced "Controlled Unclassified Information" as a new government category that will replace "Sensitive but Unclassified."

Such information -- though it does not merit the well-known national security classifications "confidential," "secret" or "top secret" -- is nonetheless "pertinent" to U.S. "national interests" or to "important interests of entities outside the federal government," the memo says.

The information could be, for example, the steps taken to protect power plants from terrorists, or which pipelines are most vulnerable to attack.

Left undefined are which laws or policies generated the requirement for protecting such information, and which interests are pertinent. But Bush's memo does refer to the "global nature of the threats facing the United States" and to the need to ensure that the "entire network of defenders be able to share information more rapidly" while protecting "sensitive information, information privacy, and other legal rights of Americans."

The president declared that the purpose of the new classification is "to standardize practices and thereby improve the sharing of information, not to classify or declassify new or additional information." But some critics described it as continuing an expansion of secrecy in government and a potential bureaucratic nightmare.

Michael Clark, a contributing editor to the blog Daily Kos, who first wrote about the Bush memorandum, said the White House "seems to have used the crafting of new rules as an opportunity to expand the range of government secrecy." Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, described it as a "not even half-baked" exercise in policymaking.

The new classification, like the old one, was created because of the need for people who handle terrorism information to share it not just within the federal government but also outside it. "The changes will make labeling and sharing information more effective," said an administration official, and do away with other government designations such as "For Official Use Only" and "Law Enforcement Sensitive."

The tough job of implementing the new system was assigned to the National Archives and Records Administration. The Archives, which oversees the current security classification system, was given five years to implement the program throughout federal, state and local governments as well as in "tribal, private sector and foreign partner entities."

The Controlled Unclassified Information designation was the product of a year-long government study of how to replace the "sensitive but unclassified" category. "Among the 20 departments and agencies . . . surveyed, there are at least 107 unique markings and more than 131 different labeling or handling processes and procedures for SBU information," Ted McNamara of the office of the director of national intelligence told the House Homeland Security Committee in April 2007.

The Archives was asked to create a single set of policies and procedures on the way materials should be marked, stored safely and disseminated. There are to be three categories of dissemination -- standard, specified and enhanced specified. The latter two require measures to reduce possible disclosure.

Designating information as CUI is left to the "head of the originating department or agency," based on "mission requirements, business prudence, legal privilege, the protection of personal or commercial rights, safety, or security."

Apparently Miami-Dade county's Consumer Services division assigns operatives to go around supermarket parking lots pretending they're stranded and in need of a ride home. When some old man responds by offering a lift he's busted and fined 2 thousand dollars.

Channel 10 Miami News reports

A man who said he thought he was just helping a woman in need is accused of running an illegal taxi service.Miami-Dade County's Consumer Services Department has slapped Rosco O'Neil with $2,000 worth of fines, but O'Neil claims he is falsely accused."I ain't running nothing illegal," O'Neil said.

The 78-year-old said he was walking into a Winn-Dixie to get some groceries when he was approached by a woman who said she needed a ride."She asked me, 'Do I do a service?'" O'Neil said. "I told her no. She said, 'I need help getting home.'"O'Neil told the woman if she was still there when he finished his shopping, he would give her a ride. She was, so he did.As it turned out, the woman was an undercover employee with the consumer services department targeting people providing illegal taxi services.

"She said the reason she targeted him (is because) she saw him sitting in his car for a few minutes," said Ellen Novodeletsky, O'Neil's attorney.

After O'Neil dropped off the woman, police surrounded him, issued him two citations and impounded his minivan. On top of the fees, it cost O'Neil an additional $400 to retrieve his minivan from the impound lot.There are no prior complaints that O'Neil was providing illegal transportation for a fee.

Thanks to the Agitator
From the "With a Child Protective Services system like this who needs dangerous cults" dept.

Salt Lake City Tribune reports:

Children living in crowded quarters that led to upper respiratory illnesses. Youngsters plagued with diarrhea from unhealthy foods they usually did not eat. Distressed mothers enduring widespread rudeness - such as flashlights shined in their faces as they tried to sleep.
    Mental health professionals who helped care for FLDS women and children in the weeks after an April raid on the YFZ Ranch describe conditions and treatment they perceived as harsh and unnecessary.
    "Never in all my life, and I am one of the older ladies, have I been so ashamed of being a Texan and seeing what and how our government agencies treat people," wrote one employee of Hill Country Community Mental Health and Mental
"The floor was literally slick with tears..."
Texas contracts with Hill Country to provide mental health services during disasters. Staff members met with the center's board of trustees last week, leaving them "spellbound." The board has gathered nine written statements critical of Child Protective Services.
    Chairman John Kight said he wants state legislators and the governor to hear the employees' stories. "You have damaged these children for their lives," he said. "This is an agency that looks like it's gone out of control."
From the "Insult (To Civil Liberties) AND Injury (Bodily) Dept." Police investigating child porn suspect allegedly break into the wrong man's house, without a warrant, "toss" the place and then, for good measure, as the man was recovering from recent intestinal surgery, rip out his catheter, apparently still searching vainly for non-existent evidence.

The Boston Globe reports:

A 60-year-old New Britain man is accusing city police officers of breaking into his home without a search warrant and assaulting him by tearing out a catheter he was using while recovering from surgery.

more stories like this

Andrew Glover filed a notice with the city Thursday that he intends to pursue a federal civil rights lawsuit. He claims the officers inflicted severe injuries to his organs as he was recovering from intestinal surgery in February.

Glover's lawyer, Paul Spinella, said officers illegally entered his client's apartment twice, on Jan. 30 and Feb. 28, during a child pornography investigation that led to the arrest of Glover's neighbors. Spinella says Glover wasn't involved in those crimes, has not been charged and has no criminal record.

"The poor guy," Spinella said. "They ripped the catheter off his person. They assaulted the guy. He's got major problems as a result of this. He's a mess now."

Lt. James Wardwell, a police spokesman, said Friday that the department had not received the intent to sue notice. He said the department could not comment on the allegations, which were first reported Friday by the New Britain Herald, because of an ongoing criminal investigation of Glover. He declined to elaborate.

Spinella said the lawsuit would claim that the officers, whose names have not been released, violated Glover's constitutional and civil rights by harming him and conducting illegal search and seizures. He intends to file the lawsuit in U.S. District Court within the two-year statute of limitations.

Spinella also wrote in the legal notice that police inflicted "extreme emotional distress, harm to reputation, harm to employment and related financial loss, extensive physical injury ... to intestinal and body organs."

The notice says damage to Glover's urethra resulted in "substantial permanent physical disability."

Glover, a former English teacher, could not be reached. His home phone number is not listed.

Spinella said officers "tossed" Glover's apartment during a search on Jan. 30. In February, he said, Glover returned home from the hospital after his surgery to find officers searching his apartment again.

It was during the Feb. 28 incident, Spinella said, that the officers assaulted Glover and left him alone in the apartment without calling for an emergency medical response. The lawyer said the police didn't have search warrants in either alleged incident.

ICE Forced Drugs on Detainees

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From the "annals of the  Ice Age" dept. Deportees routinely treated  involuntarily with heavy doses of psychiatric drugs.

The Washington Post reports:

The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged.

The government's forced use of antipsychotic drugs, in people who have no history of mental illness, includes dozens of cases in which the "pre-flight cocktail," as a document calls it, had such a potent effect that federal guards needed a wheelchair to move the slumped deportee onto an airplane.

"Unsteady gait. Fell onto tarmac," says a medical note on the deportation of a 38-year-old woman to Costa Rica in late spring 2005. Another detainee was "dragged down the aisle in handcuffs, semi-comatose," according to an airline crew member's written account. Repeatedly, documents describe immigration guards "taking down" a reluctant deportee to be tranquilized before heading to an airport.

In a Chicago holding cell early one evening in February 2006, five guards piled on top of a 49-year-old man who was angry he was going back to Ecuador, according to a nurse's account in his deportation file. As they pinned him down so the nurse could punch a needle through his coveralls into his right buttock, one officer stood over him menacingly and taunted, "Nighty-night."

Such episodes are among more than 250 cases The Washington Post has identified in which the government has, without medical reason, given drugs meant to treat serious psychiatric disorders to people it has shipped out of the United States since 2003 -- the year the Bush administration handed the job of deportation to the Department of Homeland Security's new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE.

Involuntary chemical restraint of detainees, unless there is a medical justification, is a violation of some international human rights codes. The practice is banned by several countries where, confidential documents make clear, U.S. escorts have been unable to inject deportees with extra doses of drugs during layovers en route to faraway places.

Man goes to court to seek access to family possessions in a condemned home he's lived in all his life. While he's at court the city government demolishes house and destroys possessions.

Albany Times Union reports

The city proceeded this morning to tear down a partially collapsed 21st Street home as well as an adjacent house even though officials had failed to tell one of the occupants.
A demolition crew began about 10:30 a.m. this morning, razing two homes at 303 and 301 21st St.

Just after 1 p.m., Derrick Basle sped to the scene only to see the home he grew up in being chewed apart by a large demolition backhoe. Basle, who lived in the basement of 301 21st St., was told over the weekend that the city would hold a court hearing today at 1 on the fate of his and his parents' home.

"They must have decided this before the court hearing," said an emotional Basle after he talked to a city police officer on the scene.

Earlier in the day, after the order was announced, residents as well as Basle were allowed to remove items from the home. Basle thought he would have his day in court but arrived at the court to find the hearing had been cancelled.

"I'm really too upset to talk right now," he said, staring at the large pile of wood, bricks, furniture and appliances that was once his home.

A wall of 301 21st Street collapsed March 9 and the city was going to tear it down and try to save 303 21st Street, but city officials said the other building, because it stood only inches from the other, would be too severely damaged during demolition and had to come down as well.

Last week, the owner of 303, Richard Albagli, went to court to try and get permission to enter his home to retrieve valuable possessions.

A judge denied the man's request.

Albagli said he was willing to risk his life to preserve books, a box of musical instruments, videos and antique puzzles inside the three-story home, his residence of 30 years."Some of them are antiques and irreplaceable," Albagli testified in Albany County Court last week during an emergency hearing. "I'd like to get at least some of them out."

Thanks to Jonathan Turley

Pomona Police Go On DUI Binge

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From the "DUI as an excuse for GDOF (Gratuitous Display of Force) dept." Police stop 3000 drivers at random over 7 hours. Nab a grand total of two drivers under the influence but, since they're out there anyway, issue 125 non-DUI citations.

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports

A weekend checkpoint caused residents to express concern and accusations to fly at a City Council meeting on Monday.

Councilwoman Cristina Carrizosa said residents were frightened and that the behavior of officers reminded her of movie scenes depicting the Gestapo.

Several people spoke at the meeting about Saturday afternoon's DUI checkpoint at Mission Boulevard and San Antonio Avenue.

Police Chief Joe Romero said the remarks about the Gestapo were offensive to the officers at the checkpoint and that they were owed an apology.

Pomona businessman Francisco Espinoza said the checkpoints targeted Latinos and urged the council to "take control of the city."

"Take it back. You control the Police Department, and you work for us," he said.

Carrizosa said the city needs to be safe for residents without police using such an intense approach.

"The display of force was unequal to anything I have seen," Carrizosa said, referring to the number of officers involved.

"I certainly believe we need to put a stop to this," she said.

The department conducts checkpoints regularly around the city with the use of state and federal grants. This checkpoint was timed with the Cinco de Mayo weekend which, like other holidays, is linked with alcohol consumption, he said.

"It's a drinking weekend and has nothing to do with race," he said.

Councilwoman Paula Lantz, who said her views on checkpoints

often differ from Carrizosa's, said: "What I saw Saturday was extremely disturbing."

Lantz said she saw people driving to shops and offices in the area being stopped by police.

Police Sgt. Patrick O'Malley said Tuesday that officers did stop people.

These were "people that are contacted because they committed vehicle-code violations and there was probable cause" to stop them, O'Malley said.

A total of 2,925 drivers were contacted from 4 to 11 p.m. at the checkpoint.

A total of 125 drivers were cited for vehicle-code violations or driver's license issues. Two people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, police said.

Thanks to the Agitator

Though "Beach Bob" had been wearing his Speedo briefs at a local beach in collier County, Fla. for years with no complaints from  local beach goers his briefs offended a Deputy Sheriff, who banned him form the beach and gave him a ticket.

WINK News Reports:

A Bonita Springs man is taking steps to file a civil suit against the Lee County Sheriff's Office after getting kicked off the beach for wearing a skimpy suit.

Bob Hezzelwood, better known as "Beach Bob" says he has been sitting just South of Bonita Beach in Collier County for years.

Beach Bob says that routine was broken up when a Lee County Sheriff's Deputy issued him a citation for trespassing because the deputy felt Bob's Speedo swimsuit crossed the line.

Hezzelwood says, "he said you're going to have to find another beach and wrote a trespass notice."

Other local beach goers told WINK News that they've never had a problem with Bob's Speedo.

"He was ticketed for wearing a speedo, which was evidently too visual for the police officer," Chip Parfet said. "As far as I'm concerned, I've seen bikinis that show a lot more."

Judge issues court order mandating that the father of a 17 year old girl (now 18)  who'd been kicked out of high school for truancy guarantee that she gets her GED. Girl attends classes but fails her GED math. Man thrown in jail for six months.

WCPO TV, Cincinnati reports

A Fairfield man is in jail because his daughter hasn't gotten her General Equivalency Diploma (GED).

A judge ordered the father to stay on top of his daughter's education months ago and when that order wasn't followed, Brian Gegner was sentenced to 180-days in the Butler County jail.

The daughter, Brittany Gegner, says her father shouldn't be punished for her problems.

Especially, she says because she's now 18, an adult.

"It's ridiculously wrong," said Brittany Gegner.

"Of all the punishments they could have given him, to make him go to jail?," she asked. "I mean, probation - until I get my GED - would be reasonable, but to send him to jail? That's overboard."

Butler County Juvenile Court Judge David Niehaus ordered Gegner to jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor by not following a court order which required Gegner to be sure his daughter got her GED.

This comes after ongoing problems of Brittany skipping classes at Fairfield High School and then, Butler Tech.

While Brian Gegner had custody of her, Brittany says it was while she lived with her mother that she was truant.

"I'm about to be 19 and my Dad's being punished for something I did when I was 16," she said.

"It's like I should, if anybody should be punished for this," said Brittany. "I would way rather me go to jail than my Dad."

"They probably should have punished me if they were going to punish anybody," said Brittany's mother Shana Roach. "Because she did live with me at the time, but because he had the custody, that's why he's being punished."

"But I don't understand the punishment all together because she's going to school, she's been going for four months," said Roach. "The only thing that's holding her back is she can't pass her math test."

Brittany has a daughter who's about 18-months-old.

She says she's determined to pass the GED for her daughter - and her father.

The judge says if she passes the test, her father could get out of jail before his six-months sentence is up.

Brittany's step-mother worries the time in jail will ruin their family.

She says he could lose the job he's worked for 15-years.

"I never dreamed they would put him in jail for this - for six months - it's crazy," said Stephanie Gegner, Brittany's step-mother.

(Thanks to the Agitator)

Retailers subject to $500 fine for selling Pot Lickers and Kronic Kandy to anyone under 18.

WSBTV reports

Georgia retailers soon will be banned from selling candy flavored to taste like marijuana to children. Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed a measure into law Wednesday that bans the sale of "marijuana flavored products" to minors -- anyone under 18 -- and calls for a fine of up to $500 for each offense. The measure takes effect July 1st. It targets businesses that sell the candies with drug-inspired names such as "Kronic Kandy" and "Pot Suckers." The law says the candies promote drug use. Senator Doug Stoner pushed the bill in the senate. "I don't think that folks are aware this is going on," Stoner told Channel 2 in April. "It's mainly, from what I can tell, particularly targeted to minority communities."

From the "Nation Gone Madd" dept.

Lawrence Taylor at DUI Blog reports:

Jeff Brown was walking his bicycle -- across his own front yard -- when he was stopped by a police officer.  The cop began to cite him for not having a headlight on the bike, then said, ""I smell the presence of alcohol on your breath".  Jeff was stunned -- and refused to take a breath test.  Result: convicted of drunk driving -- with four days in jail, a 6-month driver's license suspension and a criminal record.

So Jeff decided to appeal...and started looking into why the Ohio Legislature in 2004 had changed the drunk driving laws from driving motor vehicles to include operating such "vehicles" as golf carts, lawn mowers, farm tractors and bicycles - and from driving on public roads to include driving on your own private property.  He found the reasons for the new laws were based on supposed fatality figures from MADD and the federal government....figures which are, to say the least, deceptive.  Jeff's film does an exceptional job of analyzing the fraudulent manipulation of these "statistics".

See Brown's YouTube film here

Also check out other DUI classics like "DUI on a Toy Bike"

From the "Because we've got a badge and you don't school of justice" dept.

Texas man with no prior record, or outstanding warrants, jailed for minor traffic infraction (and for failing to show proper deference i.e. asking questions). Police chief acknowledges he's never heard of an arrest for a turn signal infraction, but sides with arresting officer, simply saying state law gives him the power to arrest someone for many crimes, no matter how minor.

WFAA-Dallas reports:

Mark Robinson was driving through downtown Melissa last week when he was pulled over for failing the use his turn signal.

But instead of getting a ticket, the officer took the 24-year-old to jail.

He was booked, strip searched, and sat for 3 hours with criminals. "People talking about using drugs and shooting heroin. They asked me what I was in there for and I said a turn signal violation," said Robinson.

There aren't any warrants out for Robinson. In fact he says he's never been in jail. But he does admit to challenging the officer's questions during the stop.

"It's just unacceptable to me to have my son thrown in jail for such a minor offense," said Mark Robinson, the father.

His father thinks the officer assumed he had drugs because of his age, which he didn't.

"I think if they had stopped me in the same circumstances, I would have never gone to jail, or probably get a ticket," said the father.

In fact News 8 contacted various cities in Collin County, many of which have not made a single arrest this year for not using a turning signal. Even the police chief in Melissa acknowledges he's never seen this happen in his own city. "In the 6 years I've been the police chief, this is the first time," said Chief Duane Smith, Melissa PD.

But he stands behind his officer, saying state law gives him the power to arrest someone for many crimes, no matter how minor.

From the "Anything for an excuse to have a checkpoint, random searches and all that fun stuff" dept.

LA Times reports:

U.S. border authorities no longer apprehend illegal immigrants only as they enter the country. Now they're catching them on the way out.

At random times near the Tijuana-San Diego border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have been setting up checkpoints, boarding buses destined for Mexico and pulling off people who don't have proper documentation.

The operation appears to be an expansion of a broader federal crackdown targeting illegal immigrants in jails, airports and workplaces across the country.

The checkpoints, which are not announced in advance, are set up on southbound Interstate 5 about 100 yards north of the border. Vehicles in all lanes must stop.

Vincent Bond, an agency spokesman, said departing immigrants are fair targets.

"If our officers come upon people who are here illegally . . . regardless of whether they're leaving the country, we detain them, make a record of the fact they were here illegally and return them to Mexico," Bond said.
Really. From the truth is stranger than satire dept.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Priya Venkatesan taught English at Dartmouth College. She maintains that some of her students were so unreceptive of "French narrative theory" that it amounted to a hostile working environment. She is also readying lawsuits against her superiors, who she says papered over the harassment, as well as a confessional exposé, which she promises will "name names."

The trauma was so intense that in March Ms. Venkatesan quit Dartmouth and decamped for Northwestern. She declined to comment for this piece, pointing instead to the multiple interviews she conducted with the campus press.

Ms. Venkatesan lectured in freshman composition, intended to introduce undergraduates to the rigors of expository argument. "My students were very bully-ish, very aggressive, and very disrespectful," she told Tyler Brace of the Dartmouth Review. "They'd argue with your ideas." This caused "subversiveness," a principle English professors usually favor.

Ms. Venkatesan's scholarly specialty is "science studies," which, as she wrote in a journal article last year, "teaches that scientific knowledge has suspect access to truth." She continues: "Scientific facts do not correspond to a natural reality but conform to a social construct."

The agenda of Ms. Venkatesan's seminar, then, was to "problematize" technology and the life sciences. Students told me that most of the "problems" owed to her impenetrable lectures and various eruptions when students indicated skepticism of literary theory. She counters that such skepticism was "intolerant of ideas" and "questioned my knowledge in very inappropriate ways...."

After a winter of discontent, the snapping point came while Ms. Venkatesan was lecturing on "ecofeminism," which holds, in part, that scientific advancements benefit the patriarchy but leave women out. One student took issue, and reasonably so - actually, empirically so. But "these weren't thoughtful statements," Ms. Venkatesan protests. "They were irrational." The class thought otherwise. Following what she calls the student's "diatribe," several of his classmates applauded.

Ms. Venkatesan informed her pupils that their behavior was "fascist demagoguery." Then, after consulting a physician about "intellectual distress," she cancelled classes for a week. Thus the pending litigation.

The War on Metal

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No, not talking about the banning of old Overkill DVDs. But about how the State of Delaware's war on crime and terror has taken a detour on is now fixated on using its heavy-handed bureaucracy to make enterprise impossible for small scrap metal recyclers.

Delaware Online reports:

Carmen Micucio Jr. thinks state lawmakers may have dealt a death blow to the recycling business he's spent 26 years building in Glasgow.

And he's not alone. Scrap dealers across the state are protesting new regulations that go into effect June 1 requiring, among other things, licensing, detailed documentation on all items bought and sold and waiting periods that will slow the sale of scrap metal in a time of turbulent prices.

"The law puts Delaware dealers at a competitive disadvantage because there are dealers just over the line in Chester, Pa., who are not subject to that law," said Scott Sherr, president of Diamond State Recycling in Wilmington, the state's largest scrap metal processor.

The law, adopted a year ago, was designed to tighten regulation of scrap metal processors, pawnshops and secondhand dealers to help police stem the flow of stolen goods.

A second law passed in April further tightened regulations on the resale of copper after a slew of thefts this spring at homes, farms and construction sites fueled by the rapid jump in world copper prices.

Violations of the new law are misdemeanors punishable by $10,000 fines and the loss of the dealer's license.

Sherr and Micucio say legislators never visited them before writing the law to see how the business works and assess how the new regulations would hurt.

"They railroaded this through," Sherr said. "We're going back to Legislative Hall and tell them why it won't work."

Police and lawmakers contend the law was needed to make sure dealers keep better records so police would be able to track people who pawned or sold stolen property.

The law also requires that dealers keep metals they buy on hand for 18 days before reselling them, a step police say is needed so stolen materials can be tracked -- and the seller identified -- before they are crushed or melted down.

Every scrap metal processor must specifically state on a form how all copper, silver, gold or brass was acquired. The forms must be kept for a year and provided to police upon request.

Sgt. Joshua Bushweller, a Delaware State Police spokesman, said dealers and processors now must create a record of every transaction, identifying the seller and including a photocopy of a photo ID. The form also includes a line to indicate whether the property was stolen.

"If a criminal walks in and tries to pawn off stolen property, it's highly unlikely that it will be listed as stolen, but they are going to have to provide their information," Bushweller said. "It gives law enforcement a direction to follow. If people are selling property with no criminal intent, they have no need to be worried."

The dealers say the record-keeping burden and holding periods will devastate operations.

Micucio, who says he moves 12,000 tons of scrap metal a month, said complying with the law will keep him bogged down in paperwork and disrupt the flow of his operation.

"We have 300 people a day who come though our facility," he said. "We have traffic backed up to Old Baltimore Pike. Now, I have to take identification, buy a copier and the paper, and hire someone to handle all the paperwork. It's going to cost me another $50,000."

Speech code's broad definition of harassment includes all public utterances that might tend to incite, annoy or even "alarm" (as in inform and wake-up?). 

From FIRE:

The University of Louisville maintains such a repressive speech code it's hard to know where to begin. But since we have to dive in somewhere, let's start with the fact that Louisville "requires that public speech and discourse on campus shall be civil." For the sake of the legal profession, I'm hoping that Louisville's general counsel was out sick the day this crossed his or her desk, because there is just no way such a requirement could possibly be constitutional. As far as impermissible restrictions on speech at a public university go, this is a twofer: it's both vague (what counts as "civil," and who gets to define it?) and overbroad (uncivil speech is certainly protected by the Constitution).

But my favorite part (by which I mean the most hilariously unconstitutional part) of Louisville's code is their harassment section:

A person is guilty of harassment when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person, he or she:

(c) In a public place, makes an offensively coarse utterance, gesture, or display, or addresses abusive language to any person present.

The Ministry of Truth Sponsored by Taser International.
The Associated Press reports:

A medical examiner must change her autopsy findings to delete any reference that stun guns contributed to the deaths of three people involved in confrontations with law enforcement officers, a judge ruled.

Friday's decision was a victory for Taser International Inc., which had challenged rulings by Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler, including a case in which five sheriff's deputies are charged in the death a jail inmate who was restrained by the wrists and ankles and hit with pepper spray and a stun gun.

Kohler ruled that the 2006 death of Mark McCullaugh Jr., 28, was a homicide and that he died from asphyxiation due to the ``combined effects of chemical, mechanical and electrical restraint.''

Visiting Judge Ted Schneiderman said in his ruling that there was no expert evidence to indicate that Taser devices impaired McCullaugh's respiration. ``More likely, the death was due to a fatal cardiac arrhythmia brought on by severe heart disease,'' the judge wrote.

Schneiderman ordered Kohler to rule McCullaugh's death undetermined and to delete any references to homicide.

The judge also said references to stun guns contributing to the deaths of two other men must be deleted from autopsy findings. Dennis Hyde, 30, died in 2005 after a confrontation with Akron police, and Richard Holcomb, 18, died the same year after being hit with a stun by a police officer in suburban Springfield Township.

John Manley, a Summit County prosecutor who represented Kohler, said the judge's order went too far. The county is considering an appeal, he said.

``Taser is quite a force to be reckoned with and does everything to protect their golden egg, which is the Model X26,'' Manley said.

Teacher, who worked second job as a charter bikini boat waitress to supplement meager $30k a year income from teaching job sacked after school discovers boat promo pictures of her in a bikini on the internet.

Palm Beach Post reports:

Tiffany Shepherd, a biology teacher at Port St. Lucie High School, learned last week that she will not be asked to return when school starts next year, nor will she finish this school year.

Shepherd doesn't think it's her teaching skills that the St. Lucie County School District found objectionable but, rather, her after-school job as a bikini mate aboard Smokin' Em Charters fishing tours.

As such, Shepherd, a 30-year-old buxom blonde from Fort Pierce with an undergraduate degree in pre-med, performs the usual duties of a mate, but wears a bikini and fetches drinks and sandwiches for the men on board.

It's a job she took three weeks ago to help support her three young sons following a divorce, something she says is difficult to do on a teaching salary.

"I can make $600 in two days (fishing)," she said. "That's a week's pay for me in two days."

Smokin' Em Charters, a Port St. Lucie-based company, gained notoriety earlier this month when it was kicked out of the Fort Pierce city marina for violating the city's family-friendly atmosphere. The charter company's Web site has pictures of some of the bikini mates, many of them partially nude, and says the only job requirement is to look "hot in a bikini."

Shepherd, who said she does not go topless on the fishing boat, said she doesn't believe the job is inappropriate or at odds with her role as a teacher to high school students. Suggestive photographs of her are online, but with a disclaimer saying they should not be viewed by children under the age of 18, and her job on the boat requires her to wear no more or less than she might on any public beach, she said.

"You don't wear jeans or slacks to go fishing," she said. "I wasn't doing anything wrong."

Bottling plant worker with an interest in herbalism, altered states, and religion may become first prisoner of new war on salvia divinorum.

Alternet DrugReporter reports:

In what is likely the first arrest for possession of salvia divinorum anywhere in the nation -- and definitely a first in North Dakota -- a Bismarck man now faces years in prison after he bought a few ounces of leaves on eBay. Kenneth Rau, a bottling plant worker with an interest in herbalism, altered states, and religion and spirituality, was arrested by Bismarck police on April 9 when they searched his home looking for his adult son, who was on probation for drug charges.

Police found a marijuana pipe, eight ounces of salvia leaf, a quantity of amanita muscaria mushrooms, and a number of other herbal products. Rau now faces multiple charges, said Burleigh County States Attorney Cynthia Feland.

"He is being charged with possession of salvia with intent to deliver, as well as possession of psilocybin with intent, and possession of marijuana," she said. Although Rau told the Chronicle he thought he would be charged with a school zone violation as well, which would have made his intent offenses Class A felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison, that is not the case, said Feland. "He is not being charged with a school zone violation," she affirmed.

(The psilocybin charges could go up in smoke. The amanita muscaria mushrooms that he possessed are not controlled substances under federal law and, while hallucinogenic, do not contain psilocybin. The active ingredient in amanita muscaria mushrooms is muscimole.)

Rau was being charged with possession with intent because of the weight of the leaves, she said. "We look at the typical use quantity," she said, "and it is similar to marijuana, with a typical use dose of .25 grams to .5 grams, and he had significantly more than that," she said.

The DEA considers salvia a drug of interest, but has yet to move to place it under the Controlled Substances Act. A DEA spokesman told the Chronicle recently that the plant is being reviewed to see if it meets the criteria for inclusion on the list of controlled substances.

But driven by little more than the YouTube videos and the story of one Delaware youth whose parents blamed his suicide on salvia, state legislators have not waited for the DEA's measured considerations to act. Since Delaware became the first state to ban salvia, a handful of others, including North Dakota, followed suit. Moves are currently afoot in a number of other states to join the club.

Salvia became illegal in North Dakota on August 1, after a bill sponsored by three Republican lawmakers, state Sens. Dave Oelke and Randel Christmann and state Rep. Brenda Heller sailed through the legislature earlier this year.
From the 'Even Kafka Couldn't Have Thought This One' up Dept. How else to put it? A case of state sponsored kidnapping.

The Washington Examiner reports:

There's an empty highchair sitting in the kitchen of the Arlington home of Nancy Hey and Christopher Slitor. It's their daughter Sabrina's highchair. But it's been empty for  two years because thieves disguised as Arlington County social workers and judges took her from her parents. She was stolen with no public scrutiny or accountability. Arlington County social workers used unproven allegations of neglect in April 2005 to justify removing then-3-week-old Sabrina from her parent's home. Her parents were accused - anonymously - of starving Sabrina. And they were deemed unable to care properly for their daughter, even with the frequent help of Nancy Hey's mother and a full-time nanny. After more than two years of legal wrangling with the county's Child Protective Services (CPS), Arlington Circuit Court Judge James Almand terminated the couple's parental rights in June 2007.

But nine months earlier, Sabrina's parents were completely exonerated by Virginia CPS hearing officer George Walton, who noted in his official report that, despite the baby's worrisome 10-ounce weight loss soon after her birth by Caesarian section, nothing in the her medical record indicated she had ever been in danger. There was also no evidence, Walton added, that Sabrina's "failure to thrive" resulted from parental neglect.

In fact, the record showed the opposite: Nancy Hey - who suffers from a developmental disorder that makes it difficult for her to recognize non-verbal signals from others - and her husband fully cooperated with medical professionals and CPS workers throughout their ordeal. In any case, Sabrina was at her proper weight when she was taken away by county officials, two days after her parents told social worker Dana Zemke that they were retaining a lawyer. Arlington Judge Esther Wiggins Lyles signed the removal order with neither Hey nor Slitor even aware of the proceedings, much less being present to contest the decision. Sabrina went to a politically influential local professional couple with no training as foster parents, despite CPS requirements that foster couples be trained before being entrusted with children.

Judge Almand later used the baby's inappropriate removal to justify making the separation permanent, saying it would be too "traumatic" to return Sabrina to her natural parents. So, when Sabrina turned 3 April 3rd, she didn't blow out her birthday candles in the kitchen where her heart-broken parents still keep her empty highchair. Even after spending $350,000 in legal fees, they have not given up hope.
Thanks to the Agitator

If Andrew Cockburn's reporting today in Counterpunch is to be believed (and his track record on Iraq has put most of the Beltway mainstream media "insiders" to shame) the Bush administration already wrote its own Gulf of Tonkin style ticket, declaring war on Iran sometime in early to mid March in the form of a secret "finding" authorizing the expansion of covert actions of "an unprecedented scope." And what of Congress? Apparently they've provided seed funding for the new venture. Makes sense I guess in a world where the FBI can write its own warrants, why not skip the formalities of congressional approval altogether.

Counterpunch reports

Six weeks ago, President Bush signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime that, according to those familiar with its contents, "unprecedented in its scope."

Bush's secret directive covers actions across a huge geographic area - from Lebanon to Afghanistan - but is also far more sweeping in the type of actions permitted under its guidelines - up to and including the assassination of targeted officials.  This widened scope clears the way, for example, for full support for the military arm of Mujahedin-e Khalq, the cultish Iranian opposition group, despite its enduring position on the State Department's list of terrorist groups.

Similarly, covert funds can now flow without restriction to Jundullah, or "army of god," the militant Sunni group in Iranian Baluchistan - just across the Afghan border -- whose leader was featured not long ago on Dan Rather Reports cutting his brother in law's throat.
Other elements that will benefit from U.S. largesse and advice
include Iranian Kurdish nationalists, as well the Ahwazi arabs of south west Iran.  Further afield, operations against Iran's Hezbollah allies in Lebanon will be stepped up, along with efforts to destabilize the Syrian regime.
All this costs money, which in turn must be authorized by Congress, or at least a by few witting members of the intelligence committees.  That has not proved a problem.  An initial outlay of $300 million to finance implementation of the finding has been swiftly approved with bipartisan support, apparently regardless of the unpopularity of the current war and the perilous condition of the U.S. economy.

Just two months after firing math teacher Marianne Kearney-Brown, a religious pacifist, because she inserted the word "nonviolently" when she signed the state's loyalty oath, Cal State bars American Studies teacher for claiming free speech and religious freedom in refusing to sign.

LA Times reports:

When Wendy Gonaver was offered a job teaching American studies at Cal State Fullerton this academic year, she was pleased to be headed back to the classroom to talk about one of her favorite themes: protecting constitutional freedoms.

But the day before class was scheduled to begin, her appointment as a lecturer abruptly ended over just the kind of issue that might have figured in her course. She lost the job because she did not sign a loyalty oath swearing to "defend" the U.S. and California constitutions "against all enemies, foreign and domestic."
The loyalty oath was added to the state Constitution by voters in 1952 to root out communists in public jobs. Now, 16 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, its main effect is to weed out religious believers, particularly Quakers and Jehovah's Witnesses.

As a Quaker from Pennsylvania and a lifelong pacifist, Gonaver objected to the California oath as an infringement of her rights of free speech and religious freedom. She offered to sign the pledge if she could attach a brief statement expressing her views, a practice allowed by other state institutions. But Cal State Fullerton rejected her statement and insisted that she sign the oath if she wanted the job.

"I wanted it on record that I am a pacifist," said Gonaver, 38. "I was really upset. I didn't expect to be fired. I was so shocked that I had to do this."

Still think the concept of a watch list is a good idea? Nelson Mandela's resistance group, the ANC, was put onto the terrorism watch list in the 1970's and it's still there, despite having been, you know, the government of South Africa for a while now. The South African ambassador couldn't get a visa to visit a sick friend until after the friend had already died. So for the million people put onto the no-fly list in the last five years, well -- you may be able to fly by 2040, if they get around to it. But probably not, because you don't have as much pull as an ambassador.

At a loss for something non-moronic to say, Michael Chertoff says this "raises a troubling and difficult debate about what groups are considered terrorists and which are not." O yes, a troubling and difficult debate indeed. Remember when they could still find competent people to staff government positions?

Court backs constitutionality of law withholding college aids funds to drug offenders.

The School Law blog reports:

A federal appeals court has rejected a constitutional challenge to a federal law that restricts, and in some cases bars, students with drug convictions from participation in federal college aid programs.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, ruled in Students for Sensible Drug Policy Foundation v. Spellings that the controversial sanctions do not violate the double-jeopardy clause of the 5th Amendment.

The student group argued that the primary purpose of the law is deterrence of criminal action, so the secondary sanction on those convicted of drug crimes is form of double jeopardy.

But the court noted that, under the law, a student may restore his or her eligibility for federal student aid by completing a drug-rehabilitation program.

"And the section was enacted as part of the Higher Education Amendments of 1998, which were primarily designed to increase access to college and make it more affordable," the court said.

Education Week reported in this 2001 story that the Bush administration was taking a strict approach to the law, requiring all applicants for federal student aid to answer a question on aid forms about whether they have ever been convicted of the covered drug offenses.

The latest news in the makes-me-wanna-scream category for sheer idiocy in government: turns out the no-fly list, which now lists nearly a million names, similarity to any one of which can make it difficult or impossible to board a plane, also keeps federal air marshals from boarding planes.

Now, let's just assume that the whole no-fly setup wasn't a complete and utter cock-up to start with, and let's assume that there could be people of good will who believe a system of that nature could actually do anything to hinder terrorists. I think even those people would have to admit that when a plane takes off without federal air marshals on it because those marshals were denied boarding privileges because their names are similar to some alias of some suspected maybe-terrorist in East Outer Brazil in 1960, something is Very Wrong.

But of course the government says nothing is wrong. The system is working exactly as it is meant to work. And so the only alternative for any thinking individual is simply to tear out what hair you have left and hope the next president might not be a moron, and that it might help.

The government in question, you may recall, are the "freedom fighters" the US has partnered with as allies against the theocratic, fundamentalist Taliban.

AP reports:

Trafficked across the border from Pakistan with her 3-year-old son, Rukhma was handed to an Afghan who raped and abused her, then beat the toddler to death as she watched helplessly.

He was jailed for 20 years for murder, but Rukhma ended up in prison too.

Rukhma, who doesn't know her age but looks younger than 20, had put up with her mistreatment for three months last summer before seeking protection and justice from authorities. Instead she was given a four-year sentence on Dec. 5 for adultery and "escaping her house" in Pakistan, even though she says she was kidnapped and raped.

The fall of the Taliban six years ago heralded new rights for Afghan women: to go to school or get a job, and be protected under the law. Women's rights are now enshrined in the constitution.

Yet except for a small urban elite, a woman fleeing domestic violence or accusing a man of rape herself often ends up the guilty party in the eyes of judges and prosecutors.

"Why am I here? I'm innocent," Rukhma said, crying in a musty jail cell and cradling a baby daughter by her previous marriage whom she bore in prison. "It is cruel to have your son killed before your eyes and then to be imprisoned."

In parts of Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, where stern social codes prevail, a woman who runs away from home is typically suspected of having taken a lover and can be prosecuted for adultery. Simply leaving her house without her family's permission may be deemed an offense -- as in Rukhma's case -- although it is not classified as such under Afghanistan's penal code.

The chief prosecutor of eastern Nangarhar province who oversaw Rukhma's case suggested she got off lightly.

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