June 2008 Archives

From flooded Iowa, the story of a man nearly run down in the crosswalk by a housing inspector, who yelled at him, "I don't have to slow down, I'm with FEMA!" and proceeded to beat him with a golf club.

Remember when we were a nation of laws, not men?  When your position didn't entitle you to run the peons down in the street?

Well -- the FEMA man's in jail now, it's true.  But the attitude -- well, that's probably here to stay.

New police chief orders strict enforcement of ordinance making show of ass crack punishable by up to three months in jail.

Michigan Live.com reports

FLINT, Michigan -- The city's new police chief is saying no to crack.
Acting Flint Police Chief David R. Dicks announced Thursday that officers will begin arresting people wearing pants or shorts that sag too low exposing rear ends.

"This immoral self expression goes beyond free speech," said Dicks in a statement released Thursday. "It rises to the crime of indecent exposure/disorderly persons."

It's a style that irks many -- a few cities nationwide have banned the rear-revealing pants -- but the order also raises serious questions about how it would be enforced, if it disproportionately targets young black men and if ultra-low riders should be considered Constitutionally protected.

So, is Dicks going too far?

Greg Gibbs, an ACLU attorney in Flint, said how people wear their clothing is a form of expression but cautions that not all of those forms are protected by the Constitution.

"The issue is: Does it violate the First Amendment?" said Gibbs, adding he plans to research the issue further.

Some Flint residents are all for busting those who go bottoms out.

"It's overdue," said Sam Berry, 73, of Flint.

Gwendolyn R. Allen, 72, of Flint agreed.

"It's so disgusting ... It's disgraceful."

Claude Carter, 49, of Flint sees the issue differently though. He said wearing pants in that manner is a fad -- not a crime.

"I see young and old wearing their pants that way," said Carter. "It doesn't annoy me."

The crackdown on buttocks is an apparent response to "significant" complaints from citizens, according to Dicks.

Under the chief's orders, any sworn officer who sees "sagging/exposing buttocks" will have probable cause to make an arrest under the city's disorderly person ordinance -- a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and three months in jail.

Thanks to Wendy McElroy

Child from Russian immigrant family held for a week in foster care without communication with parents. The reason? A baseless accusation of sexual abuse. The boy was witnessed kissing his cousin on the lips, a common custom in his parent's culture.

The Denver Post reports

Josh Raykin had never spent even a night away from his parents.

That is, until Arapahoe County snatched the 8-year-old from his home after an abuse allegation that social workers dragged their feet investigating.

The ordeal began while Josh was playing outside one day before dinner in April. A neighbor knocked on the door to tell his dad that police had come to take Josh away.

The strawberry-blond kid with pale blue eyes was born in 1999 after Michael and Melanie Raykin tried for 15 years to conceive. Michael, a courier, and Melanie, a hairstylist, work extra hours to send Josh to Denver's Montclair Academy and give their boy advantages they never had as kids in the former U.S.S.R.

"He means everything to us," Michael says.

But on the sidewalk late that day in April, deputies wouldn't let him go near the son whom the county suspected Raykin of molesting in ways too intimate to be described in these pages. Deputies said the allegations came from Michael's young nieces -- girls the couple hadn't seen since they went into foster care months earlier because of abuse allegations in their immediate family. The girls also had pointed the finger at their grandfather, but charges were dropped.

"They blew my mind. I didn't know what to say," says Michael, whose most serious brushes with the law had come with a few speeding tickets.

Mother, father and son were forced to sit on their curb as neighbors watched and whispered, and deputies waited for a case worker to arrive. Josh, complaining he was hungry and cold, started hyperventilating.

Once the social worker came two hours later, he wouldn't release the boy to his aunt nearby, nor tell the Raykins where he was taking Josh. Instead, he told Melanie to pack a bag for the boy she had never once left once with a sitter.

Josh screamed, "Leave them alone. They're the best parents in the world," as the case worker prodded him into his car.

He spent a week with an Aurora foster family that required the Jewish kid to pray to Jehovah at each meal. They took away the Pokemon toothbrush and stuffed toys that his mom had packed for him. They shut off his shower after five minutes. And most days, he says, they made him wash toilets with a washcloth.

For one sleepless week, the Raykins made phone calls, met with lawyers and sat in Josh's room "taking turns breaking down." Human Services refused to allow them even one phone call to tell their only child they loved him, were fighting for him and would come for him soon.

Melanie says social workers kept pushing her to say her husband molested their son, insinuating that such an admission would set Josh free. They suggested that Josh having once kissed his cousins on the lips -- as is the norm in his parents' culture -- was a sign that he had been molested. As social workers saw it, Michael's habit of buying his son toys and taking him to the movies was "grooming" to cover up sexual abuse.

Though counties normally interview kids before yanking them from their homes, it took Arapahoe County a week after removing Josh for that interview to take place.

Brandishing gun and pretending to shoot cops not protected by first amendment says Philly attorney general.

Philadelphia Inquirer reports

A Philadelphia man seen waving a handgun on an online video and telling viewers how to shoot police officers was arrested yesterday on felony charges.

Andre Moore, 44, of the 4800 block of Walnut Street, is accused of posting the video called "Dissin Philly Cops" on YouTube.com.

Moore was charged yesterday with aggravated assault, terroristic threats and other crimes. Arrest documents said he works as a security guard at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.

The video allegedly shows a man brandishing a large, silver semiautomatic pistol and calling Philadelphia police "nothing but a bunch of liars, especially the 18th District. . . . That's why I rejoice whenever they shoot a cop in Philadelphia 'cause I hate them."

According to a probable-cause affidavit, the man then removes the ammunition magazine from the gun, racks the slide, points the pistol at the camera, and pulls the trigger as he speaks.

"Look, it's easy. . . . Get one in the chamber," the affidavit quotes him as saying. "Boom. . . . When you shoot the cops you shoot them dead. OK? Anywhere in the head or heart."

The video, which is one minute, 18 seconds long, was posted June 7 on YouTube, the affidavit says.

It quickly came to the attention of local police and the Attorney General's Gun Violence Task Force, said Kevin Harley, communications director for Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett.

"We believe these were terroristic threats that are not protected by the First Amendment," Harley said, "particularly when he encourages people to promote violence in Philadelphia and when he shows people how to use a gun to shoot a cop."

Investigators identified Moore by speaking to employees at Einstein and by comparing the video to his driver's license photo, the affidavit said.

Drinking Raindrops Against the Law

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Colorado Declares Rain is State Property.

Groovy Green reports

Yesterday, after I vented a bit on the lack of rain barrel options at Big Box stores, a reader tipped us off to a very interesting issue in her state of Colorado. Rain barrels there, you see, are outlawed. Colorado state law mandates that any water falling from the air is not yours. In fact, according to their site, its already been "legally allocated" -- so, you don't actually have any rights when it comes to using precipitation that falls on your property. Here's the exact wording:

Colorado Water Law requires that precipitation fall to the ground, run off and into the river of the watershed where it fell. Because rights to water are legally allocated in this state, an individual may not capture and use water to which he/she does not have a right. We must remember also that rain barrels don't help much in a drought because a drought by its very nature supplies little in the way of snow or rain.

Additionally, any and all water that comes from tap may only be used once. "Denver water customers are not permitted to take their bath or laundry water (commonly referred to as gray water) and dump it on their outdoor plants or garden." Even if that said water is ecologically-friendly?

Thanks to The Agitator

US News and World Report (via Yahoo!) brings us the story of Bill Hogan, a journalist who just happened to be singled out by DHS upon reentry to the United States for confiscation of his laptop and all memory cards from his camera. Yeah, he's been critical of the Iraq War. Why do you ask?
From "the fourth amendment is (if not necessarily well) still alive dept.

The Indianapolis Star reports

A federal court in Indianapolis ruled Tuesday that a major portion of the revised Indiana sex offender law cannot be enforced.

The ruling came one week before the new law would have gone into effect.

The modified law would have required that convicted sex offenders, after they served their sentences and probation and parole time, agree to have their personal computers searched at any time and to allow their Internet access to be monitored.

Tuesday, U.S. District Court in Indianapolis ruled that requirement of the new law went too far.

"These plaintiffs have rights under the Fourth Amendment," District Judge David F. Hamilton wrote in his ruling. "The state may not force them to waive those rights under threat of criminal prosecution for failing to do so."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit as a class action on behalf of convicted sex offenders a few days after this year's session of the General Assembly expanded the requirements of the sex offender registration law.

If your house had an inspection violation could police just on that basis decide to search your whole house? When it comes to vehicles those niceties about reasonable search are irrelevant, says NC court.

Fourth amendment blog reports

NC: Expired tag justifies a search incident

Defendant was arrested for driving on an expired license of a vehicle after a stop for a worn and tattered paper tag. That permitted a complete search of the interior. The rule as to vehicles is different that dwellings. State v. Carter, 2008 N.C. App. LEXIS 1159 (June 17, 2008):

Defendant relies on a series of cases that state an arresting officer may lawfully search only for property connected to the crime with which he is charged. However, none of the cases relate to the search of a defendant within an automobile, and as such are irrelevant. Defendant attempts to graft on to the above-stated rule not only a requirement that the search be only for evidence of the crime for which the defendant was arrested, but also a requirement that the illegal nature of that evidence be immediately apparent. In none of the many cases cited above (Brooks, et al.) in which our Courts have considered this type of search has either been made a requirement.

Comment: So--what about an arrest for speeding? Does that justify a search incident in N.C.?

From the "In loco parentis redux" dept.

The Tennessean reports

State colleges and universities will have to notify parents of students who are disciplined for alcohol or drug violations.

Gov. Phil Bredesen signed the measure last week. It applies to students who are younger than 21 years old.

Sen. Roy Herron, a Dresden Democrat, has said Tennessee is the first state in the country to adopt such a law.

Thanks to Rational Review News


SCOTUS refuses to hear appeal challenging law giving DHS right to exempting itself from environmental or other laws in the name of fighting immigration.

Reuters reports:

The Supreme Court rejected on Monday a legal challenge by two environmental groups to the U.S. Homeland Security secretary's decision to waive 19 federal laws so a fence could be built on the Arizona-Mexico border.

The high court refused to hear an appeal by Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club challenging a 2005 law that Secretary Michael Chertoff invoked on the grounds that it violated the constitutional separation of powers principles.

The Republican-led Congress in 2005 gave Chertoff the power to waive environmental and other laws to build fences and other border barriers in an effort to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.

Chertoff has issued a number of waivers for the planned barrier fence along the Mexican border. In April, he issued waivers for various projects across nearly 500 miles in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The two environmental groups argued that Chertoff's waiver in their case represented an unconstitutional repeal of federal laws. The waiver provision amounted to an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to Chertoff, with only limited judicial review of his decision, they said.

In the Arizona case, Chertoff issued the waiver in October after a federal judge ruled for the environmental groups by temporarily blocking further construction of the fence in a natural conservation area.

The fence was being built in southeastern Arizona in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, which the environmental groups describe as unique and biologically diverse, with more than 250 species of migratory birds.

Under the law, Chertoff has the sole discretion to waive all legal requirements when he decides it is necessary to speed up construction of barriers along the border.
University insists on right to fire faculty members who dare stand up for controversial student journalists.

Inside Higher Ed reports

Student newspaper advisers are something of an endangered species these days. They often get caught in the middle when administrators and student journalists clash over content, and in more than a few cases on college campuses in recent years, advisers -- sometimes faculty members with tenure or tenurelike protections, but often vulnerable staff members -- have found themselves losing their jobs. (High school newspaper advisers are even more vulnerable.)

"All you have to do is look around the country to see how many conflicts there are," said Mark Goodman, the Knight Chair of Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University and former executive director of the Student Press Law Center. "This has really gained steam."

It was with several recent such controversies in mind, and numerous instances of censorship at high schools in California, that the state's Legislature overwhelmingly approved legislation this month that would prohibit a college or school district from firing, suspending or otherwise retaliating against an employee for acting to protect a student's free speech. Last week, with the measure, SB 1370, sailing for passage and a trip to the governor's office for Arnold Schwarzenegger's hoped-for signature, the University of California quietly revealed its opposition to the bill.

In a letter to State Sen. Leland Yee, the legislation's sponsor, a lobbyist for the university system "respectfully" warned Yee that the university did not expect to abide by the requirement if it was enacted. "The University of California must maintain its ability to correct situations in which a member of its teaching corps or a University employee has failed to comply with academic teaching standards, violated UC policies, broken rules or laws, or misused University resources." wrote Happy Chastain, senior legislative director for state government relations in the UC president's office. "Under the provisions of SB 1370, UC is concerned that its ability to act in such circumstances would be restricted and expose the University to frivolous and unwarranted litigation."

The last-minute opposition from UC officials infuriated Yee and other supporters of the bill. Not only did they challenge the university's logic for fighting the measure, disputing the suggestion that it would restrict its institutions' ability to punish faculty members who teach inappropriate material in the classroom; more broadly, they also expressed surprise that the university could assert the right not to abide by the law. "We think their interpretation is wrong," said Adam Keigwin, a spokesman for Senator Yee.

SB 1370 is only the latest piece of legislation aimed at ensuring the speech rights of student journalists. At the core of the effort is 1992's California Education Code Section 66301, broadly protected the right of college students not to be punished solely "on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside a campus of those institutions, is protected from governmental restriction by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution" or California's own Constitution.

WMCTV Memphis reports

Video obtained by Action News 5 shows a Memphis police officer beating a suspect at 201 Poplar in an apparent case of police brutality.

The video, recorded February 12th, shows Duanna Johnson in the booking area at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center after an arrest for prostitution.   The tape clearly shows a Memphis police officer walk over to Johnson - a transsexual - and hit her in the face several times.

"Actually he was trying to get me to come over to where he was, and I responded by telling him that wasn't my name - that my mother didn't name me a 'faggot' or a 'he-she,' so he got upset and approached me. And that's when it started," Johnson said.

Johnson said the officer was attempting to call her over to be fingerprinted.  She said she chose not respond to the derogatory name the officer called her.

"He said, 'I'm telling you, I'm giving you one more chance to get up.' So I'm looking at him, and he started putting his gloves on, and seen him take out a pair of handcuffs," Johnson said.

Video here

Thanks to Jonathan Turley

School administration claims Karen Salazar is too enthusiastic and "advocate" for radical activism, but students, parents and community protest her firing.

Students and fellow educators are rallying behind a fired Jordan High School teacher they say was sacked for encouraging political activism among her students.

About 60 students rallied Wednesday at the Watts campus, while a colleague of the fired teacher said he and 15 other instructors planned to resign or transfer to other schools to protest the dismissal of Karen Salazar, a second-year English teacher.

The dust-up has gone digital as well. Salazar backers have posted videos on the website YouTube. The postings, which have attracted thousands of hits, intersperse music, outraged protesters and interviews, as well as statements from the outspoken educator.

"You embody what it means to be a warrior-scholar, a freedom-fighting intellectual," she told students through a bullhorn in one video. "You are part of the long legacy, the strong history, of fighting back."

In another instance, Salazar rips the Los Angeles Unified School District, saying, "This school system for too long has been not only denying them human rights, basic human rights, but doing it on purpose in order to keep them subservient, to subjugate them in society."

A union official said the critique against Salazar included a statement that her teaching was too "Afro-centric." An assistant principal, in his evaluation of a particular lesson, accused Salazar of brainwashing students, according to Salazar and others.

Her course materials include "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," which is approved for students. Salazar, 25, also sprinkles in lyrics of slain rapper Tupac Shakur and the poetry of Langston Hughes.

Salazar's political science degree from UCLA includes minors in African American studies and Chicano studies. She recently completed a master's in education at UCLA.

A veteran teacher assigned to mentor Salazar took issue with the negative characterization of Salazar's teaching.

"I did not see the same things that the administrator said he saw," said Miranda Manners, who observed the same lesson during a different class period. "I saw a new, young teacher teaching her lesson according to the objectives she stated on the board. I saw her engage with her students and interacting with them in a very positive way."

As for Salazar's overall campus profile, "she is definitely a teacher who wants kids to wake up and look around them and ask questions and be motivated and be engaged."

Thanks to Bill Ayers blogspot

Four decades in jail for a school boy stunt?
Orange County, CA prosecutors trying 18 year old on 69 counts.

UK Times reports

It could be a long time before Omar Khan goes to college: as long as 38 years, according to Orange County prosecutors, who have arrested and charged the 18-year-old student with breaking into his prestigious high school and hacking into computers to change his test grades from Fs to As.

If convicted on all 69 counts, including altering and stealing public records, computer fraud, burglary, identity theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy, Mr Khan could spend almost four decades in prison.

He is currently being held on $50,000 (£25,500) bail and is scheduled to appear in court today.

Mr Khan's defence lawyer, Carol Lavacol, described her client as "a really nice kid" and said: "There's a lot more going on than meets the eye."

Prosecutors claim that between January and May, Mr Khan, who lives in Coto de Caza, one of Orange County's oldest and most expensive gated communities, repeatedly broke into Tesoro High School, which was made famous by the reality TV series Real Housewives of Orange County.

n an alleged plot that resembles the script to the 1986 high school comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off, prosecutors claim that he then used teachers' passwords to hack into computers and change his test scores. In at least one test, an English exam, Mr Khan had been given an F grade because he was caught cheating.

Prosecutors claim that the teenager, who is alleged to have broken into the school late at night with a stolen master key, also changed the grades of 12 other students, and that he installed spyware on school hard drives that allowed him to access the computers from remote locations.

Tesoro High has 2,800 pupils and often appears in Newsweek magazine's annual list of best high schools.

No Warrant, No Problem

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Democratic Congress, in fear of being labeled soft on surveillance in election year, grants retroactive immunity on lawless wireless taps.

The NY Times reports

After months of wrangling, Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress struck a deal on Thursday to overhaul the rules on the government's wiretapping powers and provide what amounts to legal immunity to the phone companies that took part in President Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The deal, expanding the government's powers in some key respects, would allow intelligence officials to use broad warrants to eavesdrop on foreign targets and conduct emergency wiretaps without court orders on American targets for a week if it is determined important national security information would be lost otherwise. If approved, as appears likely, it would be the most significant revision of surveillance law in 30 years.

The agreement would settle one of the thorniest issues in dispute by providing immunity to the phone companies in the Sept. 11 program as long as a federal district court determines that they received legitimate requests from the government directing their participation in the warrantless wiretapping operation.

With some AT&T and other telecommunications companies now facing some 40 lawsuits over their reported participation in the wiretapping program, Republican leaders described this narrow court review on the immunity question as a mere "formality."

"The lawsuits will be dismissed," Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 2 Republican in the House, predicted with confidence.

The proposal -- particularly the immunity provision -- represents a major victory for the White House after months of dispute. "I think the White House got a better deal than they even they had hoped to get," said Senator Christopher Bond, the Missouri Republican who led the negotiations.

From Wikileaks:  release of "a sensitive 219 page US military counterinsurgency manual. The manual, Foreign Internal Defense Tactics Techniques and Procedures for Special Forces (1994, 2004), may be critically described as "what we learned about running death squads and propping up corrupt government in Latin America and how to apply it to other places". Its contents are both history defining for Latin America and, given the continued role of US Special Forces in the suppression of insurgencies, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, history making."

Wikileaks claims "The leaked manual, which has been verified with military sources, is the official US Special Forces doctrine for Foreign Internal Defense or FID."

And have nothing whatsoever to do with planned protests at the upcoming Democratic convention at the Pepsi Center. So says Special Operations Command.Neither apparently too do the stockpiles of pepper spray being built up by the Denver police.

The Raw Story reports

A half-dozen military helicopters flew low over parts of Denver Monday night as part of a security drill organized by the U.S. Department of Justice. Denver police said they were aware of the operation, but could provide no details.

The secret drills coincided with preparations for the Democratic National Convention, which will take place in Denver in late August. The Denver Post reported that the military aircraft "buzzed above the Pepsi Center," the site of the convention.

And, though the charges have ultimately been dropped after proof his computer was attacked by viruses, Mike Fiola can't even get an apology from the employer who fingered him for child porn or the state which prosecuted him.

The Boston Herald reports

A child porn possession charge lodged against a Department of Industrial Accidents investigator fired for having smut on his state-issued laptop has been dismissed because experts concluded he was unwittingly spammed.

"The overall forensics of the laptop suggest that it had been compromised by a virus," said Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley.

Nationally recognized computer forensic analyst Tami Loehrs told the Herald Michael Fiola's ordeal was "one of the most horrific cases I've seen."

"As soon as you mention child pornography, everybody's senses go out the window," she said.

Loehrs, who spent a month dissecting the computer for the defense, explained in a 30-page report that the laptop was running corrupted virus-protection software, and Fiola was hit by spammers and crackers bombarding its memory with images of incest and pre-teen porn not visible to the naked eye.

Two forensic examinations conducted by the state Attorney General's Office for the prosecution concurred with that conclusion, Wark said.

Still, Fiola, 53, whose wife, Robin, described as "computer-illiterate," wants his day in court. He intends to sue the DIA for "destroying our lives."

"Our lives have been hell," said Fiola, a former state park ranger now living in Rhode Island. "I hope to recover my reputation, but our friends all ran."

DIA spokeswoman Linnea Walsh confirmed Fiola "was terminated," but declined to say if any internal discipline has been meted out as a result of his name being cleared in court.

"We stand by our decision," she said.

Fiola's attorney Timothy Bradl is at a loss to understand why.

"Imagine this scenario: Your employer gives you a ticking time bomb full of child porn, and then you get fired, and then you get prosecuted as some kind of freak," he railed.

"Anybody who has a work laptop, this could happen to," he said. "Mike Fiola is a hunt-and-peck kind of computer guy. He can barely get on the Internet."

Thanks to the Agitator

4th Graders Suspended for Sharing lip Cream

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From the "Zero Tolerance, and even less common sense" dept.
NWCN.com Oregon News reports

An Oregon City fourth grader missed her last day of school Friday because she shared a lip cream with two classmates.

Madison McFadden attends Redland elementary. She said she didn't know she was breaking school rules.

Madison says it all began the day before school got out when students were cleaning out their desks.

She found a medicated, over the counter, lip cream called "abreva" in her desk. It's a cold sore medication and can numb up an area.

A classmate asked her what it was and wanted Madison to share. She did and the classmate put some on her lips then passed it to a friend. Madison says a short time later the two classmates didn't feel well and told the teacher.

When the teacher investigated, Madison and the classmates ended up in the principal's office. All three were suspended and missed the last day of class.

"I was really sad," she said. "I was crying my eyes out when it happened."

District Superintendent Roger Rada defends the move.

"We're there to protect the kids," said Rada.

"I just cant believe that parents would want their students or other students sharing medications, whether they're prescription or over the counter, with other students," said Rada.

Madison's parents understand the rationale behind the policy. They just feel the school and district went way overboard in punishing the girls.

"I think there's a big lack of common sense," said Tricia Dorney, Madison's mother.

Thanks to Wendy McElroy

Guantanamo? An Immigration detention center? Close,but no. A Texas girl's juvenile detention center, devoted, of course, to rehabilitation.

From an ACLU press release

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas filed a class action lawsuit today on behalf of five girls - all of whom have histories of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse - held in the Brownwood State School. Brownwood is a "high security" youth prison located in central Texas and operated by the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), the state's juvenile corrections agency. The ACLU charges that TYC subjects the girls to unwarranted solitary confinement, routine strip searches and brutal physical force.

The ACLU charges that the treatment the girls have suffered violates their constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments as well as international standards protecting children from abuse and prohibiting torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Brownwood State School serves as the reception site for all girls committed to TYC custody and nearly all girls in custody in Texas are held there. Brownwood holds approximately 150 girls who have been sent there for offenses ranging from school-related disciplinary infractions to minor property offenses and more serious offenses.

Girls at Brownwood are regularly placed in punitive solitary confinement in oppressively cold, concrete cells, empty except for a metal slab intended to be used as a bed. Solitary confinement is imposed for minor misbehavior, for self-harm or for expressing a desire to commit self-harm. Terms of solitary confinement can be brief or can last for days, weeks and even months.

Upon entering or exiting solitary confinement and on other occasions when they have not left the facility - for example, when they finish a work assignment within the prison - girls are subject to invasive strip searches. When girls resist, guards regularly use physical force, pepper spray, handcuffs and leather straps to force them to comply. These tactics are also used on girls already in solitary confinement in response to self-harm, shouting, and banging on the wall. Girls subjected to this treatment report suffering flashbacks to childhood rapes and feeling degraded, humiliated and afraid.

Highway Robbery

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Texas County authorities get flush shaking down motorists in the name of the war on drugs.

NPR reports

The law states that authorities can confiscate your money without ever charging you with a crime, as long as they can prove it's tied to illegal activity -- but sometimes it happens even when they can't.

Jim Wells County in the southern tip of Texas, named for a 19th century political boss, has one of the most successful and aggressive highway interdiction programs in the state.

In the past four years, authorities have seized more than $1.5 million, primarily off of U.S. Highway 281 -- a prime smuggling route for drugs going north and money coming south.

"We've been working southbounders for the money and weapons that are going back to Mexico," says Capt. Ray Escamilla of the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Office. His office wall is covered with pictures -- not of dope busts, but of piles of confiscated cash. He recalls some of the big ones: "October 2001, $105,000. November 2003, $99,000. October 2004, $668,000."

By seizing money from drug cartel couriers, the sheriff's department -- once underfunded and poorly equipped -- now can rely on drug assets for a third of its budget.

"We've helped the schools [with] cops in school [and] vehicles," Escamilla says. "I think every year we've bought three to four vehicles, all of our equipment, guns, high-powered rifles, all bought with forfeiture funds."

But has Jim Wells County become so reliant on seizing drug money that it's shaking down innocent motorists?

"You don't want to take the money from any John Doe," Escamilla says. "If you can't prove that it's been a criminal activity, reasonably suspicious, probable cause, you don't want to take it, 'cause it'll look bad in court."

And that's what happened in the case of Javier Gonzalez -- it looked bad in court.

'Did I Just Get Robbed?'

On Oct. 20, 2005, Gonzalez says he was driving south on U.S. Highway 281 from Austin to Brownsville to look at a car and buy a gravestone for his dying aunt. Gonzalez, who owns a car lot, was carrying $10,032 in a briefcase.

"As I was driving south, I noticed a dark bluish unmarked car that was taking radar. He basically got behind me, followed me for a while," he says.

About 90 miles north of the Mexican border, two sheriff's deputies of the Jim Wells County Task Force pulled him over for driving without a front license plate.

"He asked me to get out of the car. I did," Gonzalez says. "He asked me for my driver's license and insurance. I gave it to him. He asked me if I had weapons, drugs or large amounts of money. I told him I did."

The police video shows Gonzalez with a shaved head, wearing baggy shorts, standing beside a Mazda. The incident report states the deputies grew suspicious when Gonzalez and his passenger both appeared nervous, and a drug-sniffing dog signaled the presence of drugs. The deputies took them in for questioning and searched the car. They found no drugs or weapons. Though Gonzalez said he was a businessman and showed them a credit card printed with the name of his car lot, the officers didn't believe him.

"He suspected we were using the money to go south and buy drugs," he says.

The deputies handed Gonzalez a waiver: If he signed over the money and did not claim the currency, he could walk away free. If he did not sign the waiver, he would be arrested for money-laundering. Gonzalez signed the waiver and gave up rights to his money.

Thanks to J Godsey

Town on binge to expand police power to seize property.

Wisconsin News reports

A Beaver Dam operations committee discussion about whether to strengthen an ordinance allowing police to seize private property unveiled a little-known ordinance that at best seems ill-advised and at worst seems unconstitutional.

The Beaver Dam Police Department asked the committee to consider allowing officers to confiscate motorized scooters, or any other self or manually propelled vehicle such as skateboards,  for five to 30 days.

The request was surprising enough, but even more shocking was the revelation that city ordinances already allow police to seize bicycles for up to 10 days.

Yet another story of routinized torture and cynical violation of the Geneva Convention. Which will doubtless barely rate a beep on the US media radar, so jaded have we become.

McClatchy  Newspapers via UK Guardian reports  

American soldiers herded the detainees into holding pens of razor-sharp wire, the kind that's used to corral livestock.

The guards kicked, kneed and punched many of the men until they collapsed in pain. US troops shackled and dragged other detainees to small isolation rooms, then hung them by their wrists from chains dangling from the wire mesh ceiling.

Former guards and detainees whom McClatchy interviewed said Bagram was a centre of systematic brutality for at least 20 months, starting in late 2001. Yet the soldiers responsible have escaped serious punishment.

The public outcry in the United States and abroad has focused on detainee abuse at the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but sadistic violence first appeared at Bagram, north of Kabul, and at a similar US internment camp at Kandahar airfield in southern Afghanistan.

The eight-month McClatchy investigation found a pattern of abuse that continued for years. The abuse of detainees at Bagram has been reported by US media organisations, in particular the New York Times, which broke several developments in the story.

But the extent of the mistreatment, and that it eclipsed the alleged abuse at Guantánamo, hasn't previously been revealed.

Guards said they routinely beat their prisoners to retaliate for al-Qaida's 9/11 attacks, unaware that the vast majority of the detainees had little or no connection to al-Qaida.

Former detainees at Bagram and Kandahar said they were beaten regularly. Of the 41 former Bagram detainees whom McClatchy interviewed, 28 said that guards or interrogators had assaulted them. Only eight of those men said they were beaten at Guantánamo Bay.

Because President Bush loosened or eliminated the rules governing the treatment of so-called enemy combatants, however, few US troops have been disciplined under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and no serious punishments have been administered, even in the cases of two detainees who died after American guards beat them.

In an effort to assemble as complete a picture as possible of US detention practices, McClatchy reporters interviewed 66 former detainees, double-checked key elements of their accounts, spoke with US soldiers who'd served as detention camp guards and reviewed thousands of pages of records from US army courts-martial and human rights reports.

The Bush administration refuses to release full records of detainee treatment in the war on terrorism, and no senior Bush administration official would agree to an on-the-record interview to discuss McClatchy's findings.

The brutality at Bagram peaked in December 2002, when US soldiers beat two Afghan detainees, Habibullah and Dilawar, to death as they hung by their wrists. Habibullah and Dilawar, like many Afghans, have only one name.

Dilawar died on December 10, seven days after Habibullah died.

He'd been hit in his leg so many times that the tissue was "falling apart" and had "basically been pulpified," said then-Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Rouse, the US air force medical examiner who performed the autopsy on him.

Bloggers in Jail

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Report from Univ. of Washington says number of bloggers imprisoned worldwide tripled in 2007 and will increase dramatically this year. Burma, Egypt, China and Iran top list of governments targeting bloggers, but US, UK, France and Canada have also arrested bloggers. 

BBC NEWS reports

Since 2003, 64 people have been arrested for publishing their views on a blog, says the University of Washington annual report.

In 2007 three times as many people were arrested for blogging about political issues than in 2006, it revealed.

More than half of all the arrests since 2003 have been made in China, Egypt and Iran, said the report.

Jail sentence

Citizens have faced arrest and jail for blogging about many different topics, said the World Information Access (WIA) report.

Arrested bloggers exposed corruption in government, abuse of human rights or suppression of protests. They criticised public policies and took political figures to task.

The report said the rising number of arrests was testament to the "growing" political importance of blogging. It noted that arrests tended to increase during times of "political uncertainty", such as around general elections or during large scale protests.

Jail time followed arrest for many bloggers, said the report, which found that the average prison sentence for blogging was 15 months. The longest sentence found by the WIA was eight years.

Thanks to Mitchell Herse for tip

From the "Annals of the Ice Age" dept.

The Jersey Journal reports:

Maria Argueta, who has maintained valid Temporary Protection Status since 2001, was awakened Jan. 29 around 4:30 a.m. by ICE agents banging loudly on the doors and windows of her ground-floor North Bergen apartment, the lawsuit claims.

"She was really afraid and didn't want to let anyone in," said Bassina Farbenblum of the Seton Hall Center for Social Justice, which filed the lawsuit.

Argueta's basement neighbors opened the door for the agents, and called their landlord, who is Argueta's brother, the lawsuit claims. The agents were looking for a male criminal, so Argueta let them inside her apartment.

Once inside, the agents asked Argueta about her immigration status, and when Argueta presented her Temporary Protection Status documents, they tossed them aside without looking at them, the suit alleges.

According to the lawsuit, Argueta was taken to a detention center in Elizabeth, where agents mocked her with a popular Latino song "Maria Has Gone," and was later transferred to a Newark facility, where she was held for nearly 36 hours. Argueta was held without food or water for the first 24 hours after her arrest, the lawsuit claims.

Harold Ort, a spokesman for ICE's Newark office, said he could not comment on pending litigation, but said ICE agents are "very, very professional."

"Contrary to what you may hear and contrary to what you may read, our officers are extremely good at what they do," Ort said. "We are charged with upholding the law, and I think we do that in a stellar fashion."

From the 'Not the Onion' Dept.

Single mother of five jailed for her teenage son's truancy from school and for poor parenting.

KY3 News reports

A woman convicted of state truancy laws for her child's poor school attendance received a sentence of two days in the county jail. A jury convicted Kathleen Casteel in April and she was sentenced on Tuesday morning.

Associate Circuit Judge Mark Fitzsimmons also ordered Casteel to serve two years of probation and to attend a parenting life skills class by Sept. 10, and said her son should attend a public school, not home schooling, in the next school year. Fitzsimmons said Casteel's shock time in the county jail should start June 27 at 8 p.m. and end 48 hours later.

The jury recommended a seven-day jail sentence for Casteel, who was convicted for having her son in school only 51 percent of the time, as opposed to the required 90 percent under state law. The judge's sentence wasn't quite as harsh but is still one with which prosecutors say they are happy -- and one that will send a message to all parents to keep their kids in school.

"It's unfortunate that it had to get to this point as far as sentencing," said Becky Morgan, the truancy coordinator for the Springfield School District.

Morgan sat and listened as Casteel heard her sentence

"I thought the sentence was fair. Our whole goal is to improve attendance," said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Joe Knipp.

The district believes this punishment will do just that. They say they weren't looking for jail time or anything else besides Casteel's children in class everyday.

"I really hope that (her son) does get back in school and that this helps the two younger siblings see the importance of working with their mom and abiding by mother's wishes and seeing the importance of coming to education," said Morgan.

"The responsibility lies with the parents to get the child in school," said Knipp.

Defense attorneys would not do formal interviews. Some points of their defense in court were that Casteel is a single mother of five. They say the father is not around. Also, they say, putting Casteel in jail doesn't really further the cause of the 13-year-old boy being in school. Defense attorneys say they plan to appeal the conviction and sentence.

Prosecutors say it's been four years since a parent has received jail time in Greene County for truancy problems. Casteel is one of five parents charged last fall with breaking state attendance laws.

SC police patrol HS and college graduation ceremonies, arresting anyone who cheers too loudly.

Fox News reports:

Six people at Fort Mill High School's graduation were charged Saturday and a seventh at the graduation for York Comprehensive High School was charged Friday with disorderly conduct, authorities said. Police said the seven yelled after students' names were called.

"I just thought they were going to escort me out," Jonathan Orr told The Herald of Rock Hill. "I had no idea they were going to put andcuffs on me and take me to jail."

Orr, 21, spent two hours in jail after he was arrested when he yelled for his cousin at York's commencement at the Winthrop University Coliseum.

Rock Hill police began patrolling commencements several years ago at the request of school districts who complained of increasing disruption. Those attending graduations are told they can be prosecuted for bad behavior and letters are sent home with students, said Rock Hill police spokesman Lt. Jerry Waldrop.All the cases, except for one that includes a resisting arrest charge, will be handled in city court and are punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

"For some people, it might be the only member of their family to graduate high school, and it was like a funeral in there," Orr said.

William Massey, 19, was arrested but said he plans to fight the charge. He said he simply "clapped and gave a little whoop" when his fiancee's name was called. Massey said there were warnings before the ceremony but none that said he could be arrested.

School administration says journalism forbidden. No more school newspaper in Redding, Calif. after editor in chief writes editorial about flag burning.

FoxNews reports

Shasta High School Principal Milan Woollard said the school year's final issue of the student-run Shasta High Volcano was embarrassing.

"The paper's done," Woollard told the Record Searchlight newspaper of Redding. "There is not going to be a school newspaper next year."

The school newspaper also ran in its June 3 edition an editorial written by editor-in-chief Connor Kennedy that defended flag burning as speech protected by the First Amendment.

Kennedy graduated last week from the high school in Redding, about 160 miles north of the state capital. He told The Associated Press he chose the topic because he had just studied flag burning in a class on government.

"I'm deeply saddened, and I find it terribly ironic a high school newspaper would be shut down for exercising free speech -- particularly when the curriculum being taught was that this was free speech," Kennedy said in a phone interview Tuesday.

A press-freedom advocate said the student journalists were within their legal rights to publish the photo and editorial.

"I don't think any newspaper should ever be discontinued as punishment for things students have written, especially when what they've written about is the defense of free speech and what they have said is absolutely correct," said Terry Francke, general counsel of the nonprofit Californians Aware, which advocates for First Amendment issues.

Nevertheless, state law does not require schools to spend money on student newspapers or elective journalism classes, Francke said.

The school principal said eliminating the paper had been an option before it published the flag photo because the school expects to get less state funding next year and needs to save money.

The students' decision to showcase flag burning "cements the decision" to pull funding from the newspaper, he said.

The newspaper's cover was a collage of photographs, some of which showed students in what appeared to be prom attire. Prominently displayed at the top of the collage was a photograph of a student holding a flag pole, with the American flag burning at its edge.

Chain store practicing eternal vigilance

The Telegraph reports, from the UK:

Claire Birchell, 25, was told she could not buy the Jack Daniel's barbecue sauce which has an alcohol content of 2 per cent.

Staff at the store in in Flitwick, near Bedford also refused to sell the bottle to her brother-in-law, Philip Dover, 27, who did have ID, because they believed he would just give the bottle to Miss Birchell.

She was visiting her parents in Flitwick at the time and wanted to buy the sauce because shops near her home in Liverpool didn't stock it.

Mr Dover said: 'We just could not believe it. It's not as if we were going to go and sit down the park drinking it.

"Claire lives in Liverpool and she can't buy the sauce up there so she was really disappointed she couldn't get it in Flitwick. It just seems crazy over a sauce."

A spokesman for Tesco said "Our staff are incredibly vigilant when it comes to the sale of alcohol.

"However in this case it appears that there has been an error of judgement. We apologise for any upset caused."

Last month Tesco stopped selling alcohol to parents with their children in case they passed it on to the youngsters.

The supermarket chain defended the policy, saying it wanted staff to "err on the side of caution."

Thanks again to J Godsey for tip

No Hats Allowed Anymore in Yorkshire Pubs

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Reason: CCTV security cams need a clear view of patrons while they drink.

Personal liberty and civil liberties are slipping badly in the US, as cited on this blog all the time. But lest anyone think for a moment things aren't horrendous in other bastions of the free world, one need only look at how deftly the Brits put a Lewis Carroll worthy absurdist spin on the police state concept.

The Telegraph reports

The Park Hotel in Wadsley, Sheffield, is the latest to be asked to impose the rule by senior police officers.

Mark Kelly, the landlord said: "Police asked us to ensure that everyone removes headgear.

"With pensioners, by the time they sit down their hats always come off anyway because they were brought up with manners so usually take their hats off indoors."

The Park Hotel in Wadsley, Sheffield, is the latest to be asked to impose the rule by senior police officers.

Mark Kelly, the landlord said: "Police asked us to ensure that everyone removes headgear.

"With pensioners, by the time they sit down their hats always come off anyway because they were brought up with manners so usually take their hats off indoors."

The measure, designed to prevent people from obscuring their faces from CCTV cameras, has been questioned by Barnsley's former Test umpire Dickie Bird, 75, well-known for his favoured white flat cap.

He said: "Asking a Yorkshireman to take off his flat cap -- whoever heard of anything so silly.

"It's a Yorkshire tradition, men wearing flat caps. Although youngsters don't bother these days, older men still wear them and should be allowed to continue.

"I still wear a flat cap when I go out shopping and often leave it on when I get home and end up sitting watching TV with my cap on They look smart and they keep your head nice and warm."

A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said bans on people wearing headgear in public premises had been operated in banks and post offices for years.

She added: "There have been incidents both in pubs and other establishments when it has not been possible to identify offenders captured on CCTV because hats were hiding their faces."

Thanks to the Agitator

Prohibition of use of word by victims seen as national trend.

Kansas City Star reports

It's the only way Tory Bowen knows to honestly describe what happened to her.

She was raped.

But a judge prohibited her from uttering the word "rape" in front of a jury. The term "sexual assault" also was taboo, and Bowen could not refer to herself as a victim or use the word "assailant" to describe the man who allegedly raped her.

The defendant's presumption of innocence and right to a fair trial trumps Bowen's right of free speech, said the Lincoln, Neb., judge who issued the order.

"It shouldn't be up to a judge to tell me whether or not I was raped," Bowen said. "I should be able to tell the jury in my own words what happened to me."

Bowen's case is part of what some prosecutors and victim advocates see as a national trend in sexual assault cases.

"It's a topic that's coming up more and more," said Joshua Marquis, an Oregon prosecutor and a vice president of the National District Attorneys Association. "You're moving away from what a criminal trial is really about."

In Jackson County, Mo., Senior Judge Gene Martin recently issued a similar order for the trial of a Kansas City man charged with raping a teenager in 2000. Despite the semantic restrictions, the Jackson County jury last week found Ray Slaughter guilty of forcible rape and two counts of forcible sodomy.

Slaughter's attorney, who requested the pretrial order, declined to comment because she is preparing a motion for new trial. The judge also declined to comment.

Bowen's case gained national notoriety and drew the attention of free-speech proponents after she filed a lawsuit challenging the judge's actions as a First Amendment violation. A federal appeals court dismissed the suit, but Bowen's attorney plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although he dismissed her suit, a federal judge said he doubted a jury would be swayed by a woman using the word "rape" instead of some "tortured equivalent."

"For the life of me, I do not understand why a judge would tell an alleged rape victim that she cannot say she was raped when she testifies in a trial about rape," wrote U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf....


"There's no law anywhere that allows courts to issue these kinds of orders against private citizens," Murphy said. "That doesn't mean judges aren't doing it."

Prosecutors may object, but rarely do they have the time and resources to stop a trial midstream to appeal, she said.

But in cases where the defendant's version of events is pitted against that of the alleged victim, "words are really important," Marquis said.

"To force a victim to say, `when the defendant and I had sexual intercourse' is just absurd," he said.

After forcing gallery goers, who were there for a party, to the floor cops found no drugs, no weapons, no people with outstanding warrants but handed out 130 tickets for loitering in a place where alcohol was being sold illegally and impounded 44 cars, which cost $900 to get back.

Detroit Free Press reports

The DJ was spinning old records by James Brown, Aretha Franklin and the Meters during Funk Night last weekend, when the heavily armed cops dressed in commando-style uniforms burst into the west-side Detroit art gallery.

The cops yelled at the patrons to hit the floor. Witnesses said some officers used their feet to force down a couple of people who failed to move fast enough or asked too many questions.

Detroit police conduct raids frequently for all sorts of illegal activity, and the public never hears a thing. But cops almost never raid art galleries filled with young hipsters, students and at least one lawyer. So this May 30 raid, not unexpectedly, is turning out to have an afterlife: The gallery and patrons have decided to fight back, and the American Civil Liberties Union has become involved.

The site of the raid, the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit -- CAID -- on Rosa Parks Boulevard, is a nonprofit that, for 29 years, has promoted art and art education in Detroit. Aaron Timlin, CAID's executive director and a Detroit booster, notes that CAID's current exhibit, architectural designs to improve neighborhoods, is cosponsored by the City of Detroit.

To patrons, Funk Night, which lasts from midnight to 5 a.m., is a popular monthly dance party that is the laid-back essence of a sophisticated city.

"Most of the people are young, instead of a bunch of young girls and old men, like at a dance club," said Brittany Dallas, 19, a Wayne State University student who was ticketed at the raid. "Since it is an art gallery, there are really cool, cultured people ... instead of at a dance club, where there are people that are trying to get you drunk and take you home."

To the police, CAID was a blind pig, where people were buying beer after hours. They handed out 130 tickets for loitering in a place where alcohol was being sold illegally and impounded 44 cars, which cost $900 to get back.

Cops found no drugs, no weapons, no people with outstanding warrants.

Police spokesman James Tate said officers warned Timlin about violations during a visit several weeks ago. "We don't often do that," Tate said. "He was advised of the issues he needed to clarify."

Timlin confirmed the visit, but said he believed he had made the necessary changes. He said the police told club officials May 30 that they also need a permit to allow dancing.

"Everyone thinks it's ridiculous we have to have a permit for dancing," Timlin said late last week.

Timlin, 37, is an art promoter and provocateur who once stood in boxer shorts at East Warren and I-75 to promote an exhibit, and another time walked from Detroit to New York wearing a cardboard box.

He asked why CAID can't get a break on laws about dancing, for instance, when the city, as he puts it, "bends the rules" on taxes and other issues to convince large companies to locate downtown.

As a response to the raid, Timlin has launched a week-long arts festival that started at midnight Friday and will end with a concert Saturday.

Timlin is lining up bands, artists, lecturers, filmmakers and others to keep the CAID going 24 hours a day for 8 days.

"We're going to dance without a permit," he said. "If we get a ticket, we'll fight the ticket and change the law. People should be able to dance where they want."

A number of patrons and their parents said that they can understand getting a ticket, but they are livid about having cars impounded and having to pay $900 to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.

The payment is based on a state law that allows police to impound cars for drivers accused of involvement in drinking, gambling, drug and prostitution violations.

Patrons have court dates starting today. Many plan to plead not guilty and ask for a trial. An ACLU-affiliated lawyer will be there.

Thanks to Lew Rockwell.com

In case you had hopes that a Democratic congress would lead a fight against excessive secrecy in government, this may be a useful reality check. In case you savor Orwellian ironies in governmental language the bill's title "The Improving Public Access to Documents Act" is also classic.

Secrecy News reports

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) and several colleagues last week introduced a bill that endorses and builds upon the recent White House policy statement on "controlled unclassified information" (CUI), which is information that though not classified is subject to restricted access.

Although entitled "The Improving Public Access to Documents Act," it is far from clear that the new bill would serve that purpose. Rather, it would "require the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and administer policies, procedures, and programs to promote the implementation of the Controlled Unclassified Information Framework."

While well-intentioned, the bill seems premature at best.

From Secrecy News' perspective, it is tactically unwise to lock into statute an executive branch "framework" that still remains largely undefined and that may be subject to significant modification in the course of its projected five-year implementation period. The CUI Office at the National Archives that is supposed to develop the implementing regulations referenced in the bill does not even have its own funding this year, and has also missed the funding cycle for next year.

Among other questionable features (and some positive ones), the bill regrettably endorses the executive branch view of the Freedom of Information Act as the proper channel for public access to agency information on homeland security and related topics.

Thus, the bill says, "The Department [of Homeland Security] should start with the presumption that all homeland security information that is not properly classified, or marked as controlled unclassified information and otherwise exempt from disclosure, should be shared with the public pursuant to section 552 of title 5, United States Code (commonly referred to as the `Freedom of Information Act')."

This is not a "presumption" -- disclosure of non-exempt information pursuant to FOIA is already required by law -- and it would not "improve public access." To the contrary, by presenting disclosure under FOIA as the primary alternative to classification or control, the bill would place an impossible burden on the FOIA process, and would diminish agency responsibility to unilaterally disclose homeland security information that has not been formally requested.

From Houston, Texas, the story of a 17-year-old kid who called a rival school from a school bus and threatened to open fire (isn't that a right granted in the Texas constitution anyway?), only to be sentenced to 8 years in prison for terrorism. No word on the boy's skin color, but I've got my private theory.

The school is fine with it, saying, "We now live in a time where safety is of paramount concern." Apparently civil rights, common sense, and just plain human decency aren't.

US quits Human Rights Council

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The Human Rights Tribune informs us today that the United States has quit the UN Human Rights Council.

I'm trying to come up with some snarky comment on this, but you know? The headline just says everything that needs to be said.

School Administrators Cite Song on MySpace as reason to prevent senior Mike Egloff from attending ceremony.

The St. Petersburg Times reports

High school administrators ought to have their hands full keeping order on campus. Not at Braden River High School in Manatee County, where school officials have added regulating free speech on the Internet to their domain.

It's another example of the long-running turf war between administrators, civil liberties activists and rebellious teenagers.

Braden senior Mike Egloff, 18, was not allowed to attend his graduation ceremony scheduled for today after administrators came across a rap song he helped record and upload to MySpace.com.

School officials cited profanity, sexual innuendo and threats of violence in the recording, which did not involve any public property. They said they had jurisdiction because some students had listened to the song at school on iPods.

The Manatee County school system seems to have forgotten that the constitutional rights of students don't end at schoolhouse doors. School officials need a remedial course on the First Amendment if they think they can punish teenagers for off-campus activity.

Since 1969 in Tinker vs. Des Moines, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of First Amendment rights for students. The only caveat is that administrators can restrict on-campus speech that would disrupt normal school activity. This case does not meet that standard. Even Web sites that profanely criticize school officials have been protected.

These particular song lyrics are not egregiously offensive. Lyrics cited include "Lakewood boys is going bleed" and "Lakewood Ranch, I'm your No. 1 problem." That's Sesame Street material compared to some songs playing on the radio.

It's a shame that graduation day will have passed before the punishment could be inevitably overturned by the courts.

Egloff's out-of-town relatives had already made plans to attend the ceremony. It seems as though it's the school, not the students, who have done the disrupting.

Main Street USA, Police State

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From the "Norman Rockwell Meets George Orwell" dept.

Columbia, Illinois, population nine thousand, has had crime rates below the national average for over 10 years running. The biggest criminal case of last year one was two high school athletes being busted for underage drinking. But why should that stop it from deploying a wall to wall video surveillance network throughout the town. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:

A network of surveillance cameras watches residents and passersby in this small town, from high in the sky next to the water tower, in parks and schools, and even in some residential neighborhoods.

Columbia is a bedroom community of about 9,000 residents that takes a big-city approach to fighting crime. The city has at least 11 cameras trained over the town's nine square miles. Many of the cameras resemble small, round street lights and can zoom from a mile away.

Columbia police have turned to the cameras as a basic element of law enforcement. However, no written policy governs their use.

Crime is not a big issue in Columbia, where one of the most memorable criminal events last year was two high school athletes being busted for underage drinking. Hot issues in this town range from mandating brick home construction to debating how to develop a large swath of land along Interstate 255 near the Jefferson Barracks Bridge.

From 1996 to 2006, the city's crime rate has remained well below national averages, according to data compiled by the Illinois State Police.

Columbia began buying surveillance equipment a few years ago, according to budget documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch.

The city appropriated $2,250 for a park security camera in 2005. Police said they wanted to crack down on vandalism.

In 2006, officials budgeted $8,400 for two more surveillance cameras. Last year, the budget included $18,000 for wireless surveillance cameras.

Other money is spent on monitors and staffing.

The total amount spent on the program is unclear.
"The plan was to expand the program through the years," said Lester Schneider, Columbia's former mayor. "It makes sense to protect the town from crime or terrorism or whatever."

The cameras beam video to a control room at police headquarters. The city's most recent budget allocates $394,532 to the control room, which includes equipment and salaries for dispatchers who work there.

Last fall, police say, the cameras helped them arrest a sex offender who was loitering in a park, near a school. And, they say, it has rid the parks of vandalism.

But some of the cameras, with their powerful lenses, can see into residential areas.

Police confirmed that they sometimes placed cameras in residential neighborhoods to investigate reports of crime, and acknowledged the cameras have produced few results.

Jail Time for Sex-Ed teachers?

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That's what they're talking about in the state legislature in Utah. Oh yeah and creating a special sex offender registry for teachers talking openly or positively about sexuality.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

A group of Herriman parents who claim a middle school health teacher gave students information about sex that isn't allowed under state law are working with a lawmaker to seek criminal penalties for such behavior.
    Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, opened a bill file this week and said he will introduce legislation in January that would enforce criminal penalties on teachers who deviate from state law governing sex education, which requires that it focus on physical and emotional development of adolescents, healthy relationships and the threat and prevention of diseases. The law prohibits promoting or encouraging sexual behavior. His bill also would create a registry to record the names of teachers who violate the law.
    "Right now what a teacher is allowed to teach regarding sex education is very clearly defined in statute. The problem is that if a teacher violates that law or if an administrator allows that law to be violated, the only repercussion is administrative," Wimmer said.
    Wimmer said he decided to act after hearing this week from parents about an incident at Fort Herriman Middle School. The Jordan School District is investigating allegations that a seventh- and eighth-grade health teacher violated the sex education statute by responding to questions from students about topics beyond the core curriculum, including homosexual sex, oral sex and masturbation.

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Wish TV-Indianapolis reports

The birth of a baby should be one of the most exciting moments a couple will ever experience. But an aggressive campaign by the state to screen newborn infants turned that moment into a nightmare for one couple.

Little Kate Ellis is healthy and normal but her birth was traumatic for her parents. It started just minutes after Kate was born.

Kate's father, Mike Ellis, said a doctor walked in and told Kate's mother that he was going to have to administer methadone.

Ellis said he was shocked and worried about giving such a powerful drug to his daughter.

"And I knew methadone...I've heard in the past that is for people that have a heroin habit. That threw up red flags immediately. I said, 'We're not doing that,' immediately," said Ellis.

Ellis was in a panic. His baby had just been born at Methodist Towers. He wanted to talk with a pediatrician.

His wife, Shannon Ellis, was in a panic too. But her medical history is what triggered the methadone suggestion.

Shannon said her doctor had prescribed hydrocodone for her after she suffered injures in a February car accident. She and Mike trusted that the prescribed drug would not affect the baby. 

"Why would you prescribe this to her if this was going to be an issue?...He didn't have an answer for any time I asked that. I said, 'I'm very upset'," said Mike.

"If I had to do it all over again I would have dealt with the pain," said Shannon.

It turns out that anytime a mother is on a drug, prescription or not, a doctor can order a newborn to be screened. If a parent questions or protests, which Mike Ellis did, the red flags go up and the state takes action.

Back at the hospital a urine drug screen result on Kate was negative. But it was already too late. Child Protective Services was in the process of taking custody of her away from Mike and Shannon.

Thanks to Puppetgov

An Epidemic Of School Censorship

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Chicago Tribune report documents pattern of increasing court support for curtailing of student free speech by public school administrators

Amid the rush at the end of the school year, Linda Kane's reassignment at Naperville Central High School looks like little more than a routine staff shuffle.

After serving as student newspaper adviser for 19 years, when she moved the Central Times from life support to national prominence, Kane is leaving that role.

But it isn't voluntary. She was fired as adviser effective Thursday, the last day of school, although she will continue to teach.

Experts are adamant that losses like hers reverberate and are much more foreboding. The disagreement that led to Kane's dismissal stemmed from some controversial articles on drug use among students, and experts say her firing is part of a growing trend toward censorship in high schools, a trend that erodes citizenship, even chips away at democracy in important--if almost imperceptible--ways.

"I think anybody who's been involved in this issue for any length of time can tell you that there are more censorship conflicts today than at any other time," said Mark Goodman of Kent State University.

No one is keeping score, but Goodman and other 1st Amendment advocates say anecdotal evidence, court rulings and surveys of high school students clearly show a constricting of the students' free speech.

Police Officer pummels local TV news photographer for filming police scene.

Jonathan Turley blogs

On Thursday, an abusive arrest of a journalist was recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The video is below. In the clip, APD Officer Daniel Guzman appears to pummel KOB-TV cameraman Rick Foley after telling him to move to a different location. Not only is Foley arrested without cause but $50,000 in camera equipment is reportedly ruined.

Foley is a 25-year veteran of the news business but that experience hardly prepared him for the likes of Officer Guzman. This video seems pretty damning for Guzman. The sudden attack seems to come from no where. It is clearly unnecessary and excessive under these circumstances.

Once again, the question is what would have happened if this were not caught on tape. Most such abusive arrests only have the suspects words against the officer and are routinely dismissed. The fact that this abuse would target a journalist covering a police scene only magnifies the problem.

see video at Breibart TV

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