September 2008 Archives

What Financial Crisis?

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County Sheriffs Flush with War on Drugs Proceeds

WDEF-TV, Chattanooga, Tenn. reports

Local law enforcement agencies get a big payoff for a job well done.

Six agencies shared more than 300-thousand dollars from the property seized from the 2006 Joseph Swafford methamphetamine manufacturing case- including the Broadway Home and Garden Center.

The Department of Justice Equitable Sharing Program gave all the local and state agencies involved a percentage of the proceeds based on how much involvement they had in the case.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Department got the most- more than $209,000.

Sheriff Jim Hammond said Tuesday, "It's like many households. It's already spent. We have other operations and I think this is indicative of what we try to do in law enforcement by not putting more burden on the taxpayers but by getting the fruits of ill-gotten gains."

Chattanooga Police, East Ridge Police, T-B-I, Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the I-R-S each received a little more than $19,000.

School principals to pre-review and approve content of all High School publications after picture of lesbian couple appears in high school yearbook.

SantaFe New Mexican reports

The Clovis board of education will have final say on content in student publications under a new policy adopted about four months after the high school yearbook published pictures of lesbian couples.
code Tuesday. The code also gives school principals authority to review students' work before publication.

Clovis Municipal School District Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said the school district's previous publications code did not allow principals to review student publications.

She said the need for such a review surfaced after community groups criticized last years edition of the high school yearbook, the Plainsman, for photographs of lesbian couples in a segment about relationships.

Under the code, students can appeal a decision regarding content. The board of education will have the final say in the appeals process.

Board member Lora Harlan voted against the measure because she said she wanted to be sure the code did not conflict with state statutes.

Photos of two lesbian couples, along with narratives describing their relationships, were included in a features section titled "Do you want to go out?" Also pictured on the two-page spread were nine heterosexual couples.

Thanks to Jonathan turley

Your Thought-Dreams Can Be Seen (if DHS has its way)

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Meet MALINTENT, an R&D stage technology designed to screen passengers' bodies for non-verbal physical and emotional signs that indicate potential hostile intent. The ultimate purpose, according to the Human Factors division in Homeland Security's directorate for Science and Technology, is to "restore the sense of freedom".

Fox News reports

Baggage searches are SOOOOOO early-21st century. Homeland Security is now testing the next generation of security screening -- a body scanner that can read your mind.

Most preventive screening looks for explosives or metals that pose a threat. But a new system called MALINTENT turns the old school approach on its head. This Orwellian-sounding machine detects the person -- not the device -- set to wreak havoc and terror.

MALINTENT, the brainchild of the cutting-edge Human Factors division in Homeland Security's directorate for Science and Technology, searches your body for non-verbal cues that predict whether you mean harm to your fellow passengers.

It has a series of sensors and imagers that read your body temperature, heart rate and respiration for unconscious tells invisible to the naked eye -- signals terrorists and criminals may display in advance of an attack.

But this is no polygraph test. Subjects do not get hooked up or strapped down for a careful reading; those sensors do all the work without any actual physical contact. It's like an X-ray for bad intentions.

Currently, all the sensors and equipment are packaged inside a mobile screening laboratory about the size of a trailer or large truck bed, and just last week, Homeland Security put it to a field test in Maryland, scanning 144 mostly unwitting human subjects.

While I'd love to give you the full scoop on the unusual experiment, testing is ongoing and full disclosure would compromise future tests.

But what I can tell you is that the test subjects were average Joes living in the D.C. area who thought they were attending something like a technology expo; in order for the experiment to work effectively and to get the testing subjects to buy in, the cover story had to be convincing.

While the 144 test subjects thought they were merely passing through an entrance way, they actually passed through a series of sensors that screened them for bad intentions.

Homeland Security also selected a group of 23 attendees to be civilian "accomplices" in their test. They were each given a "disruptive device" to carry through the portal -- and, unlike the other attendees, were conscious that they were on a mission.

In order to conduct these tests on human subjects, DHS had to meet rigorous safety standards to ensure the screening would not cause any physical or emotional harm.

So here's how it works. When the sensors identify that something is off, they transmit warning data to analysts, who decide whether to flag passengers for further questioning. The next step involves micro-facial scanning, which involves measuring minute muscle movements in the face for clues to mood and intention.

Homeland Security has developed a system to recognize, define and measure seven primary emotions and emotional cues that are reflected in contractions of facial muscles. MALINTENT identifies these emotions and relays the information back to a security screener almost in real-time.

This whole security array -- the scanners and screeners who make up the mobile lab -- is called "Future Attribute Screening Technology" -- or FAST -- because it is designed to get passengers through security in two to four minutes, and often faster.

If you're rushed or stressed, you may send out signals of anxiety, but FAST isn't fooled. It's already good enough to tell the difference between a harried traveler and a terrorist. Even if you sweat heavily by nature, FAST won't mistake you for a baddie.

"If you focus on looking at the person, you don't have to worry about detecting the device itself," said Bob Burns, MALINTENT's project leader. And while there are devices out there that look at individual cues, a comprehensive screening device like this has never before been put together.

While FAST's batting average is classified, Undersecretary for Science and Technology Adm. Jay Cohen declared the experiment a "home run."

As cold and inhuman as the electric eye may be, DHS says scanners are unbiased and nonjudgmental. "It does not predict who you are and make a judgment, it only provides an assessment in situations," said Burns. "It analyzes you against baseline stats when you walk in the door, it measures reactions and variations when you approach and go through the portal."

But the testing -- and the device itself -- are not without their problems. This invasive scanner, which catalogues your vital signs for non-medical reasons, seems like an uninvited doctor's exam and raises many privacy issues.

But DHS says this is not Big Brother. Once you are through the FAST portal, your scrutiny is over and records aren't kept. "Your data is dumped," said Burns. "The information is not maintained -- it doesn't track who you are."

DHS is now planning an even wider array of screening technology, including an eye scanner next year and pheromone-reading technology by 2010.

The team will also be adding equipment that reads body movements, called "illustrative and emblem cues." According to Burns, this is achievable because people "move in reaction to what they are thinking, more or less based on the context of the situation."

Posse Comitatus Anyone?

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Bringing it (it being counterinsurgency forces) all back home.The 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team gets reassigned to the USA as part of Northern Command's on-call federal military response force.

Army News reports

The 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.

Now they're training for the same mission -- with a twist -- at home.

Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.

It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.

But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.

After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one.

"Right now, the response force requirement will be an enduring mission. How the [Defense Department] chooses to source that and whether or not they continue to assign them to NorthCom, that could change in the future," said Army Col. Louis Vogler, chief of NorthCom future operations. "Now, the plan is to assign a force every year."

The command is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., but the soldiers with 1st BCT, who returned in April after 15 months in Iraq, will operate out of their home post at Fort Stewart, Ga., where they'll be able to go to school, spend time with their families and train for their new homeland mission as well as the counterinsurgency mission in the war zones.

Stop-loss will not be in effect, so soldiers will be able to leave the Army or move to new assignments during the mission, and the operational tempo will be variable.

Don't look for any extra time off, though. The at-home mission does not take the place of scheduled combat-zone deployments and will take place during the so-called dwell time a unit gets to reset and regenerate after a deployment.

The 1st of the 3rd is still scheduled to deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan in early 2010, which means the soldiers will have been home a minimum of 20 months by the time they ship out.

In the meantime, they'll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it.

They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.

Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the "jaws of life" to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.

The 1st BCT's soldiers also will learn how to use "the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded," 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.

"It's a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they're fielding. They've been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we're undertaking we were the first to get it."

The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.

"I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered," said Cloutier, describing the experience as "your worst muscle cramp ever -- times 10 throughout your whole body.

"I'm not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds ... it put me on my knees in seconds."

The brigade will not change its name, but the force will be known for the next year as a CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF (pronounced "sea-smurf").

"I can't think of a more noble mission than this," said Cloutier, who took command in July. "We've been all over the world during this time of conflict, but now our mission is to take care of citizens at home ... and depending on where an event occurred, you're going home to take care of your home town, your loved ones."

While soldiers' combat training is applicable, he said, some nuances don't apply.

"If we go in, we're going in to help American citizens on American soil, to save lives, provide critical life support, help clear debris, restore normalcy and support whatever local agencies need us to do, so it's kind of a different role," said Cloutier, who, as the division operations officer on the last rotation, learned of the homeland mission a few months ago while they were still in Iraq.

Some brigade elements will be on call around the clock, during which time they'll do their regular marksmanship, gunnery and other deployment training. That's because the unit will continue to train and reset for the next deployment, even as it serves in its CCMRF mission.

Should personnel be needed at an earthquake in California, for example, all or part of the brigade could be scrambled there, depending on the extent of the need and the specialties involved.

Other branches included

The active Army's new dwell-time mission is part of a NorthCom and DOD response package.

Active-duty soldiers will be part of a force that includes elements from other military branches and dedicated National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams.

A final mission rehearsal exercise is scheduled for mid-September at Fort Stewart and will be run by Joint Task Force Civil Support, a unit based out of Fort Monroe, Va., that will coordinate and evaluate the interservice event.

In addition to 1st BCT, other Army units will take part in the two-week training exercise, including elements of the 1st Medical Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas, and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Bragg, N.C.

There also will be Air Force engineer and medical units, the Marine Corps Chemical, Biological Initial Reaction Force, a Navy weather team and members of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

One of the things Vogler said they'll be looking at is communications capabilities between the services.

"It is a concern, and we're trying to check that and one of the ways we do that is by having these sorts of exercises. Leading up to this, we are going to rehearse and set up some of the communications systems to make sure we have interoperability," he said.

"I don't know what America's overall plan is -- I just know that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are standing by to come and help if they're called," Cloutier said. "It makes me feel good as an American to know that my country has dedicated a force to come in and help the people at home."

Thanks to Chris Bray

Lifeway Christian Bookstores, a chain run by the Southern Baptist Convention, pulls issue of Gospel Today magazine from all its stores, deeming its topic of women pastors unacceptable.

Atlanta Journal Constitution reports

Smiling women on the cover of a slick magazine. Sold from under the counter. Must request it from store clerk.

That's not something a buyer would typically find in a Christian bookstore. Not unless it's one of the more than 100 Lifeway Christian Bookstores across the United States, including about six in metro Atlanta.

Gospel Today, the Fayetteville-published magazine, was pulled off the racks by the bookstores' owner, the Southern Baptist Convention. The problem? The five smiling women on the cover are women of the cloth -- church pastors.

Southern Baptist polity says that's a role reserved for men.

Teresa Hairston, owner of Gospel Today, whose glossy pages feature upbeat articles about health, living, music and ministry, said she discovered by e-mail that the September/October issue of the magazine had been demoted to the realm of the risque.

"It's really kind of sad when you have people like [Gov.] Sarah Palin and [Sen.] Hillary Clinton providing encouragement and being role models for women around the world that we have such a divergent opinion about women who are able to be leaders in the church," Hairston said. "I was pretty shocked."

Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores for the Southern Baptist Convention, said, "It is contrary to what we believe."

It bases those beliefs on their interpretation of New Testament Scriptures.

Southern Baptist representatives at national meetings have adopted statements saying women should not be pastors, but each church is independent. A few churches have selected women, such as Decatur First Baptist, where the Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell preaches each Sunday from the pulpit.

Pastor Tamara Bennett of California is one of the featured pastors on the magazine cover and talks in the article about the challenges of breaking through the stained-glass ceiling.

"God's assignment is that no souls are lost and all are saved," Bennett said. "Gender is not how God sees it. We are about winning souls, period."

Southern Baptists are not the only ones to frown on women preachers. Catholics, the largest Christian denomination in the nation, do not allow women priests. And some conservative evangelical groups, such as the Presbyterian Church in America, do not ordain women.

"We weren't trying to pick a fight," Hairston said. "We just did a story on an emerging trend in a lot of churches."

Thanks to Jonathan Turley

Though Salvia is legal in Nebraska Judge Invokes ambiguous state statute against selling any substances that might be used as an intoxicant.

Drug War Chronicle reports

Sometimes no publicity is good publicity, but it's too late for that for Lincoln, Nebraska shop-owner Christian Firoz. Firoz runs Exotica, a Lincoln boutique, and back in March, as the Nebraska legislature was pondering legislation that would ban salvia (it died without a vote), Firoz was quoted in a March Lincoln Journal-Star article about an up-tick in interest in the fast-acting, short-lived hallucinogen after the ban effort received local news coverage.
That resulted in a visit from undercover officers from the Lincoln police, who purchased salvia at the shop, then returned with arrest and search warrants. Firoz was charged not with selling salvia, but with violating a state law against selling substances "which will induce an intoxicated condition ...when the seller, offerer or deliverer knows or has reason to know that such compound is intended for use to induce such condition."

That prompted Firoz' attorney, Susan Kirchmann, to seek dismissal of the charges, arguing that the law is so vague ordinary people can't understand what is prohibited and must guess at its meaning. But the state countered that Firoz was not selling cleaning chemicals with no idea they were to be used to get high. Instead, he was knowingly selling salvia his purchasers would use to become intoxicated, they argued.

Last week, Lancaster County Judge Gale Pokorny sided with the prosecution. In a September 10 order, Pokorny ruled that Firoz must stand trial because he knew what he was selling.

"This judge is of the opinion that Mr. Christian Firoz knew precisely that the Salvia Divinorum he was selling was a 'substance' his purchasers were buying intended for human ingestion for the sole purpose of achieving mind altering intoxication," Pokorny wrote.

"While there may be others who potentially might be caught up in some confusing terminology contained in these two statutes, Mr. Christian Firoz does not appear to be one of them."

Firoz will go on trial for unlawfully selling a legal substance next month. He faces up to three months in jail and a $500 fine. Meanwhile, the first prosecution of anyone on salvia charges anywhere in the United States is set for next week in Bismarck, North Dakota, where at last word, Kenneth Rau was set to go to trial Monday on felony salvia possession charges.

Bush administration's prosecuting attorney in Idaho pursuing federal charges against woman over a can of Diet Coke.

The Idaho Statesman reports

The U.S. attorney's office is making a federal case out of a spilt soda.

The Bush administration's top attorney in Idaho is bringing charges against a North Idaho woman for refusing to pay for a Diet Coke and then pouring it out on a counter at a cafeteria at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Boise.

Natalie Walters, now facing two counts that each carry a maximum sentence of six months in federal prison, thinks the case is a waste of taxpayer money and plans to fight the charges.

U.S. Attorney Tom Moss's office wouldn't comment on the case until after Walters' arraignment, set for Oct. 8.

Roger Banks, listed on the court record as the investigating agent with the Department of Veterans Affairs, did not return the Statesman's phone call Wednesday.

Walters, though, told her side of the story:

The 39-year-old North Idaho resident periodically drives her father, a disabled Vietnam veteran, to Boise's VA Medical Center for doctor visits. She brings her own mug and fills it with soda in the hospital's cafeteria. The cafeteria does not have a posted price for refills, and typically the cashier charges her $1 or $1.50, Walters said.

But on Aug. 20, when Walters filled her mug with Diet Coke, the clerk charged $3.80.

"I told her that cannot be right and asked to talk to the manager," Walters said.

The manager told Walters the price is correct.

Walters decided she didn't want to pay that much and offered to return the soda, she said. But the manager told her there was no way to accept the returned soda and Walters had to pay. Walters refused, and she said she was angry by this point, and she poured the soda onto the counter.

The manager banned Walters from the cafeteria. Walters left but remained in the hospital for a couple of hours waiting for her father to finish his appointments. No one came to talk to her, so she assumed the soda ordeal was over.

What happened the next day upsets Walters most.

"They did not know who I was. But they had the whole thing on videotape," she said.

The tapes also showed her with her father in other areas of the hospital.

The next day, while her father was at a dental appointment at the VA, an official came in, told him about the incident and asked him to have his daughter contact the hospital.

"They accessed my father's medical records to find out his next appointment to try and find me," she said. "I think that is a (federal health privacy law) violation. Medical records are private," she said. "They should not have used a veteran's medical records to find me. ... My dad was upset. He could not believe it."

Walters never contacted the VA, and that was the last she heard about the incident until a Statesman reporter contacted her Wednesday and informed her of the federal charges and her Oct. 8 arraignment.

She was shocked.

"My father is a veteran. It is a federal facility for veterans. This should have been handled differently," she said. "This is extreme. This is totally extreme. Well, if they have that much time on their hands go for it."

Thanks to Jonathan Turley

A new rite of passage in the age of hyper- surveillance.

The Yale Daily News reports

Never mind the rush to rent tuxedos and pick out the perfect dress -- local high-schoolers now have yet another thing to worry about before attending prom: passing the new breathalyzer test.

The nearby towns of Milford and Trumbull are among 12 state school districts -- out of a total 166 across Connecticut -- that have begun administering breathalyzer tests to all high-school students before social gatherings such as dances or sporting events. Area school officials have defended the tests as an effective way to reduce underage drinking, but some, such as the local executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, have questioned their constitutionality by asserting that the tests violate the students' rights to privacy.

Several New Haven Public Schools officials did not return calls Tuesday inquiring about whether the city plans to implement similar tests. A spokesman for the state Department of Education said implementing breathalyzer tests is a local prerogative that should be decided by individual school boards.

Earlier this month, the Milford Public Schools district introduced the tests as a preemptive step to combat the increasing frequency of teenage drinking, Milford Superintendent Harvey Polansky said.

"[The occurence of alcohol-related incidents] is a national epidemic," he wrote in an e-mail. "We did not recommend the policy due to a specific event."

Polansky said that seeing the same program being used successfully in the nearby Trumbull Public Schools district, which implemented the tests about two years before Milford, showed that the tests have favorably deterred the amount of underage drinking in high school.

But not everyone in the community is convinced of the wisdom of the new regime. In last Sunday's New Haven Register, ACLU of Connecticut Chief Executive Officer Andrew Schneider said the ACLU is asking school districts to stop testing students without suspicion, which the ACLU believes violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition against "unreasonable" searches and seizures.

Schneider could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Trumbull High School Principal Robert Tremaglio, however, had a different take.

"Not testing everyone could be said [to be] a bias and prejudice against those vulnerable to danger," Tremaglio said, "and this would be against constitutional rights."

Thomas Murphy, public-information officer of the stae Department of Education, said implementation of breathalyzer tests is a local policy that can only be regulated by a specific district's administrators and school boards.

"The Department of Education thinks it is permissible to institute this device," he said, "but the state department does not regulate or provide any direction."

Responding to the ACLU's recent objections to the program, Murphy said the legal grounds for testing students before extracurricular activities and before normal school days are entirely separate, and schools are not violating constitutional rights by using the tests only for after-school events.

"Participating in an extracurricular is a privilege," he said. "It is not part of the school program or the school day, so to speak, so the students have an option of attending. So if they opt to attend and understand in advance that they may be subject to drug testing, then the fact that they're participating in the activity indicates their acceptance of those rules.
Union protesters turned away from McCain-Palin event by Sheriff's office on instructions of Secret Service.

RawStory reports

When John McCain and Sarah Palin spoke before an audience of 7,000 in the economically depressed city of Youngstown, Ohio on Tuesday, slightly over a dozen protesters stood across the street with signs saying "The fundamentals of my economy are not strong" and "Country club first."

Leaders of the protest, which had been arranged and publicized by local unions and the Ohio Democratic Party, said that as many as several hundred people had been expected to attend, but police were not letting them through roadblocks surrounding the area.

"I had about a dozen folks call me trying to get out here, but they have the roads closed and I guess they just don't want the folks out here demonstrating peacefully for Obama," said one union representative.

Trumbull County Sheriff Tom Altiere said that his deputies were just following orders from the Secret Service to only allow through those with tickets for the McCain event.

According to a story which ran in the local paper prior to the abortive protest, "The Ohio Democratic Party, the Ohio AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union and local Democratic officials will carry signs in opposition to McCain and Palin as well as speak out against the pair's policies. ... Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams and labor leaders will 'discuss the devastating impact that four more years of Bush-McCain-Palin policies would have on the Mahoning Valley.'"

Further truncating academic free speech rights, Pa. judge rules schools can punish "vulgar or lewd" speech by students off-campus. reports

An eighth-grade student who was suspended for 10 days after she created a fake page on that depicted her principal as a pedophile and a sex addict has lost her civil rights suit now that a federal judge has ruled that the discipline was proper and didn't violate her free speech rights.

"A school can validly restrict speech that is vulgar and lewd and also it can restrict speech that promotes unlawful behavior," U.S. District Judge James M. Munley wrote in his 20-page opinion in J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District.

In the suit, attorneys Mary Catherine Roper of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Mary E. Kohart and Meredith W. Nissen of Drinker Biddle & Reath argued that the suspension was unconstitutional because the speech took place outside of school and because it violated the parental rights of the student's parents to determine how best to raise, nurture, discipline and educate their child.

According to court papers, J.S. and another student, identified as K.L., posted a profile on MySpace in March 2007 that showed a photo of principal James S. McGonigle they had taken from the district's Web site.

The profile did not use McGonigle's name, but identified the person pictured as a "principal," and described him as a 40-year-old married, bisexual man whose interests included "being a tight ass," "fucking in my office" and "hitting on students and their parents," according to Munley's opinion.

Although the two students created the profile at J.S.'s home, it was discussed at school and another student gave a copy to McGonigle. Both students were suspended for 10 days, but only J.S. and her parents filed suit.

In court papers, the plaintiffs' team argued that the suspension ran afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic 1969 decision in Tinker v. Des Moines, which held that student speech may not be punished unless it caused a "substantial and material disruption at the school."

Munley disagreed, finding that while Tinker is the leading case on the free speech rights of students, its standard "is not a good fit for every school speech situation."

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided three school free speech cases since Tinker, Munley found, and has never applied the Tinker test, instead announcing new tests in each case.

In Tinker, the justices famously held that students and teachers do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate" and prohibited suspensions of students for wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War.

But Munley found the more appropriate Supreme Court decision to apply was the 1986 decision in Bethel School District v. Fraser, in which the justices upheld a suspension imposed on a student who used "an elaborate, graphic, and explicit sexual metaphor" during a speech at a school assembly.

In Fraser, Munley said, the justices held that "it is a highly appropriate function of public school education to prohibit the use of vulgar and offensive terms in public discourse," and that limits on sexually explicit, indecent or lewd speech can be appropriate where the audience includes children.

In its most recent school free speech case, the 2007 decision in Morse v. Frederick, Munley found that the justices upheld a suspension of a student who had unfurled a banner that read "BONG HiTS 4JESUS" during a school-sponsored trip to view the Olympic torch relay.

The Morse court held that school officials may restrict student speech at a school event when that speech is "reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use."

Reading all the cases together, Munley concluded the Tinker test was the wrong test to apply because the vulgar speech posted on MySpace was not political, and that Fraser and Morse offered stronger insights by addressing restrictions on speech that is vulgar and lewd and promotes illegal behavior.

"There can be no doubt that the speech used is vulgar and lewd," Munley wrote, noting that the fake profile contained words such as "fucking," "bitch," "fagass," "dick," "tight ass" and "dick head."

"The speech does not make any type of political statement. It is merely an attack on the school's principal. It makes him out to be a pedophile and sex addict," Munley wrote.

"This speech is not the Tinker silent political protest. It is more akin to the lewd and vulgar speech addressed in Fraser. It is also akin to the speech that promoted illegal actions in the Morse case. The speech at issue here could have been the basis for criminal charges against J.S.," Munley wrote.

As a result, Munley found that the school did not violate J.S.'s rights in punishing her speech "even though it arguably did not cause a substantial disruption of the school."


Rejecting the plaintiffs' argument that students may never be punished for speech that occurs off campus, Munley said the evidence showed "a connection between the off-campus action and on-campus effect."

The MySpace site, Munley said, focused on the principal, and its intended audience was students at the school. A paper copy of the site was brought into school, and the site was discussed in school, he noted, and the picture on the profile was appropriated from the school district's Web site.

Munley also noted that "J.S. lied in school to the principal about the creation of the imposter profile."

Roper, in an interview, said she was disappointed by the ruling and that Munley erred by failing to recognize that school officials cannot restrict the speech of students "anywhere it is uttered" merely because it is vulgar and discusses school officials.

872,721 Americans Arrested for Pot in 2007

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89% for possession. Last year's total 5% higher than 2006. There's been a 195 percent increase in marijuana arrests in the last 15 years. Two other alarming factoids: nearly 9 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges in the past ten years and, on Oct. 10, 2008, if current trend lines hold,the unlucky 20 millionth cannabis consumer arrested under cannabis prohibition, circa 1937 will be busted.

NORML reports

Police arrested a record 872,721 persons for marijuana violations in 2007, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report, released today. This is the largest total number of annual arrests for cannabis ever recorded by the FBI.

Cannabis arrests now comprise nearly 47.5 percent of all drug arrests in the United States.

"These numbers belie the myth that police do not target and arrest minor cannabis offenders," said NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre, who noted that at current rates, a cannabis consumer is arrested every 37 seconds in America. "This effort is a tremendous waste of criminal justice resources that diverts law enforcement personnel away from focusing on serious and violent crime, including the war on terrorism."

Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 89 percent, 775,138 Americans were charged with possession only. The remaining 97,583 individuals were charged with "sale/manufacture," a category that includes all cultivation offenses, even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use. Nearly three in four of those arrested are under age 30.

"Present policies have done little if anything to decrease marijuana's availability or dissuade youth from trying it," St. Pierre said, noting young people in the U.S. now frequently report that they have easier access to pot than alcohol or tobacco.

"Two other major points standout from today's record marijuana arrests: Overall, there has been a dramatic 195 percent increase in marijuana arrests in the last 15 years -- yet the public's access to pot remains largely unfettered and the self-reported use of cannabis remains largely unchanged. Second, America's Midwest is decidedly the hotbed for cannabis arrests with over 60 percent of all cannabis-related arrests. The region of America with the least amount of cannabis arrests is the West with 29 percent. This latter result is arguably a testament to the passage of various state and local decriminalization efforts over the past several years."

"Of further note, this year the Midwest saw a 13.3% increase in cannabis sales/cultivation-related arrests, while the West saw a 14% increase in possession-related cannabis arrests."

The total number of marijuana arrests in the U.S. for 2007 far exceeded the total number of arrests in the U.S. for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Annual marijuana arrests have nearly tripled since the early 1990s.

"Arresting hundreds of thousands of Americans who smoke marijuana responsibly needlessly destroys the lives of otherwise law abiding citizens," St. Pierre said, adding that nearly 9 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges in the past ten years. During this same time, arrests for cocaine and heroin have declined sharply, implying that increased enforcement of marijuana laws is being achieved at the expense of enforcing laws against the possession and trafficking of more dangerous drugs.In fact, October 10, 2008 will mark the arrest of the 20 millionth cannabis consumer arrested under cannabis prohibition, circa 1937.

St. Pierre concluded: "Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers between $10 billion and $12 billion annually and has led to the arrest of nearly 20 million Americans. Nevertheless, nearly 100 million Americans acknowledge having used marijuana during their lives. It makes no sense to continue to treat nearly half of all Americans as criminals for their use of a substance that poses far fewer health risks than alcohol or tobacco. A better and more sensible solution would be to tax and regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco."

Thanks to Jacob Sullum, Reason Hit and Run

Broken Pencil Sharpener Gets Fourth Grader Suspended

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South Carolina boy whose plastic pencil sharpener broke in his bookbag disciplined  and brought to sheriff's office for carrying a potentially dangerous weapon. He had no criminal intent in having the blade at school, the sheriff's report stated, but was suspended for at least two days and could face further disciplinary action.District spokesman Randy Wall acknowledged school administrators are stuck in the precarious position between the district's zero tolerance policy against having weapons at school and common sense.

The Hilton Head IslandPacket reports

A 10-year-old Hilton Head Island boy has been suspended from school for having something most students carry in their supply boxes: a pencil sharpener.

The problem was his sharpener had broken, but he decided to use it anyway.

A teacher at Hilton Head Island International Baccalaureate Elementary School noticed the boy had what appeared to be a small razor blade during class on Tuesday, according to a Beaufort County sheriff's report.

It was obvious that the blade was the metal insert commonly found in a child's small, plastic pencil sharpener, the deputy noted.

The boy -- a fourth-grader described as a well-behaved and good student -- cried during the meeting with his mom, the deputy and the school's assistant principal.

He had no criminal intent in having the blade at school, the sheriff's report stated, but was suspended for at least two days and could face further disciplinary action.

District spokesman Randy Wall said school administrators are stuck in the precarious position between the district's zero tolerance policy against having weapons at school and common sense.

"We're always going to do something to make sure the child understands the seriousness of having something that could potentially harm another student, but we're going to be reasonable," he said.

Thanks to Jonathan Turley

Dress Codes for Fans at Alabama Sports Events

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The Cramton Bowl, site of Montgomery, Alabama high school football games, is imposing a dress code on all fans- no no oversized clothing, flip flops, short skirts or low-cut blouses, no shirts with beer or marijuana icons or logos.And, of course, no baggy pants.

FirstAmendment Center reports:

Fans can no longer wear whatever they want to Montgomery public school football games.

Students and spectators -- from the home school and the visiting school -- are now required to abide by the dress code for Montgomery's public school students.

That means no oversized clothing, flip flops, short skirts or low-cut blouses. It also prohibits insignia and clothing that promotes illegal activities and violence.

Mona Davis, spokeswoman for the Montgomery public schools, said on Sept. 5 that the policy had already been in effect for athletic events on the school campuses.

But Montgomery police asked to have the school dress code enforced for everyone attending football games in the city's main venue, Cramton Bowl, because some people were showing up in shirts promoting liquor and marijuana and also because baggy pants can pose a security problem.

"You don't know if someone has something in their pants," she said.

Montgomery's three big public high schools -- Lee, Lanier and Jeff Davis -- play their football games at Cramton Bowl in downtown Montgomery. Some Montgomery schools play basketball games at the city's community centers, which are also now covered by the dress code.

Officials with the Alabama Association of School Boards said they did not have any information on whether other school systems in the state had a similar policy.

Police enforced the dress code on Sept. 4 when Benjamin Russell High School of Alexander City played Sidney Lanier at Cramton Bowl. Fans who arrived at the gate with inappropriate attire were given an opportunity to return to their cars and change.

Hillary Tucker, a student from Benjamin Russell, didn't like the policy.

"Why should folks tell us how to dress to a football game?" she said.

Another Benjamin Russell student, Brooke Harrelson, said, "I think it's a good idea because some people dress a little too inappropriate for football games."

Louann Wagoner, superintendent of education in Alexander City, told the Montgomery Advertiser she supports the move and has spoken to school officials about adopting it.

Police Lt. Mark Drinkard says enforcing the dress code at basketball games on campus has cut down on problems, and he expects it to have the same effect at Cramton Bowl.

"We've had some fights and we want to improve accordingly," he told the Advertiser.

Adding new meaning to the term fashion police. Student's new belt is deemed a possible assault weapon he winds up not only expelled, but in county jail on felony charges. reports:

Mark Wells believes he has a good sense of fashion.

"I try to make different things that don't normally go together, work," said the 18-year-old.

So, he thought a belt buckle he purchased would work well for his back-to-school ensemble. On the first day of classes at South Houston High, however, the junior found out from an assistant principal that it wasn't welcomed at school.

There was more to it than that.

"I was searched and took to jail," said Wells.

Not only jailed, he was also suspended from school and charged with a third degree felony for bringing a weapon to school. The weapon, as it turns out, was the belt buckle that was shaped like a set of brass knuckles that he and his mother had purchased just a few days prior at a store in Almeda Mall.

"We never thought it was brass knuckles. Of course not. If we thought it was brass knuckles, I would have taken it back to the store," said Wells' mother Crystal Batiste.

Now she wonders if the store should be held accountable and she blames the Pasadena school district for overreacting.

The storeowner insists he did nothing wrong and said it's up to the parent to judge what is proper for a child to wear at school. A Pasadena school district spokesperson said the district's hands were tied.

"The district and students operate under rules set by the state. These rules are provided to students in the Student Code of Conduct," the district said in a statement. "For the safety of other students and staff, if a student commits certain offenses, a school district is required by the state to expel that student from school."

That explanation doesn't satisfy community activist Quannel X.

"In fact, the officer I believe used poor judgment and saw an opportunity to put a kid in jail," said Quannel X.

A kid with worried family members who think fashion and felonies don't mix.

"To know that the first day of school, he's in county jail. Is not acceptable," said Wells' aunt Shanedria Ridley.


With the rationale that they are protecting and promoting "sportsmanship and creating a positive game-day environment for all fans" school athletic department bans all signs, banners and flags in stadium. Not "obscene" or "offensive" signs, all signs of any kind. Apparently mulling ban on T-shirts with messages too. 

Shenandoah News Leader reports:

A little girl held a hand-printed sign at FedEx Field a couple of weeks ago at the Washington Redskins' final preseason home game.

It was innocent enough. Filled with red hearts and crudely drawn, it simply said, "We Love Our New Ball Coach".

Since NBC was televising the game, the network naturally picked up on the "NBC" in New Ball Coach, and that was all it needed to make the airwaves.

Whether it is a sign like that one or others, signs of every kind and nature have always been part of the game. They praise the players, belittle the opponent, show support for the team and energize the fans. Some are funny, and others serious. They are a natural fixture of the basic culture of any athletic event.

But if you happen to have gone to the University of Virginia's football season opener at Scott Stadium against Southern Cal, or Saturday's contest with Richmond, you would have found no signs, no banners, no flags.

And it's not because fans didn't want to bring them. It's now a new university policy that all signs, banners and flags are banned at all athletic events.

Granted, Virginia is not alone. Virginia Tech and James Madison also have somewhat similar policies and theirs have been in effect for several years. At other universities and colleges around the state, it's still fine to have them.

Virginia always had a policy permitting the removal of signs that had derogatory comments or profanity, or ones that blocked another's view. But the new policy now covers all signs, even the positive ones.

And that's sad. As one fan said to me the other day when she heard of the policy, "It sort of makes things bland when we can't express our feelings."

And if you think about it, signs have been with us since our school days. When the Stuarts Draft High School football team ran through a banner held by the cheerleaders as they entered the field in their season opener against Broadway three weeks ago, they were doing something that's gone on for decades.

And in high school gyms, signs and banners touting the members of basketball or volleyball teams usually decorate the wall. Others have been held by cheerleaders. There are colorful signs, plain signs -- signs and banners everywhere. I've seen imaginative signs, such as Styrofoam cups stuck in wire fences spelling out slogans, and not so imaginative ones, too.

At Virginia, what might have sparked the banning of all signs, banners and flags may have been a Scott Stadium sign held by a student last year that expressed the desire to remove head football coach Al Groh.

This year, students were notified by e-mail of the new policy. And for many, it hasn't gone over very well.

"There have been some folks who necessarily don't agree with the policy," said U.Va. associate director of athletics for public relations Rich Murray. "Its intent is to promote and support sportsmanship and create a positive game-day environment for all fans."

Some who oppose the ban point to free speech first amendment rights. And while the policy deals with signs, banners and flags, Murray wouldn't comment on slogans on T-shirts, which at times have been even more raucous. That remains a gray area.

Personally, I think trying to regulate tasteful signs, banners and flags is the first move in stepping on freedoms outlined in the first amendment. And that's now come to a university built by one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson. I wonder what he would have said if he were around today?

Don't get me wrong. There's no place for signs of profanity. But tasteful signs, banners and flags? You really begin to wonder if some of the guarantees of the first amendment aren't being trampled on.

If signs at athletic events are taboo, what about slogans on T-shirts? If that goes, will freedom of vocal expression be next?

The UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) gives local authorities the power to place residents and businesses under surveillance, trace telephone and email accounts and even send staff on undercover missions. See how judiciously it's been used. 

The Sunday Telegraph reports

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph found that three quarters of local authorities have used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 over the past year.

The Act gives councils the right to place residents and businesses under surveillance, trace telephone and email accounts and even send staff on undercover missions.

The findings alarmed civil liberties campaigners. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: "Councils do a grave disservice to professional policing by using serious surveillance against litterbugs instead of terrorists."

The RIPA was introduced to help fight terrorism and crime. But a series of extensions, first authorised by David Blunkett in 2003, mean that Britain's 474 councils can use the law to tackle minor misdemeanours.

Councils are using the Act to tackle dog fouling, the unauthorised sale of pizzas and the abuse of the blue badge scheme for disabled drivers.

Among 115 councils that responded to a Freedom of Information request, 89 admitted that they had instigated investigations under the Act. The 82 councils that provided figures said that they authorised or carried out a total of 867 RIPA investigations during the year to August

Durham county council emerged as the biggest user, with just over 100 surveillance operations launched during the period. Newcastle city council used the powers 82 times, and Middlesbrough council 70 times.

Derby council made sound recordings of a property after a complaint about noisy children.

Surveillance operations aimed at individual homes and businesses can last for months. Calderdale council in West Yorkshire began "direct covert surveillance" targeting one business in May that is still going on.

Local authorities including Bassetlaw, Easington, Bolsover and Darlington have placed houses under video or photographic surveillance to tackle problems such as anti-social behaviour, unauthorised entry into gardens and benefit fraud. Others admitted using council staff to follow residents to determine whether they were working while claiming benefits.

Northampton council, which did not implement the Act during the past 12 months, said that it had used the legislation on five previous occasions to tackle dog fouling. Councils have used the RIPA to recruit children for surveillance operations. Dudley and County Durham exploited the Act to send children into shops with secret video and audio equipment to see whether they could buy cigarettes and alcohol. Officials in Durham have mounted 60 RIPA investigations against these kinds of businesses in the past 12 months.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, the acting chairman of the Local Government Association, which represents councils, said last night: "Councils are tuned into people's fears about the potential overzealous use of these crime- fighting powers. They know that they're only to be used to tackle residents' complaints about serious offences, like when benefit cheats are robbing hard-working taxpayers or fly-by-night traders are ripping off vulnerable pensioners."

He added: "Councils do not use these powers to mount fishing expeditions. First and foremost it is about protecting the public, not intruding on privacy. Crime-busting powers are targeted at suspected criminals and used only when absolutely necessary."

Smokers, drivers and even emails are being monitored

* Newcastle City Council used the Act to monitor noise levels from smoking shelters at two different licensed premises. The council has twice used the legislation to monitor noise from a vet's practice following a complaint about barking.

* Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council used it to deal with 16 complaints about barking dogs.

* Derby Council made sound recordings at a property following a complaint about noisy children.

* Peterborough Council investigated the operation of the blue badge scheme for disabled drivers.

* Poole Council used it to detect illegal fishing in Poole Harbour.

* Basingstoke Council used photographic surveillance against one of its own refuse collectors after allegations he was charging residents for a service that should be free. The operation was dropped when it was decided the allegation was false.

* Aberdeenshire Council admitted using the Scottish version of the Act to request the name and address of a mobile phone user as part of an investigation into offences under the Weights and Measures Act.

* Easington council put a resident's garden under camera surveillance after a complaint from neighbours about noise.

* Canterbury City Council used CCTV surveillance and an officer's observations to monitor illegal street trading.

* Brighton and Hove council launched four operations against graffiti artists

* Torbay Council accessed an employee's emails after an allegation that suspect material had been sent. A second employee was investigated over the "use of council vehicle for personal gain".

* Westminster City Council covertly filmed a locksmith following allegations of fraud.

* Durham County Council obtained authorisation to monitor car boot sales during an investigation into the sale of counterfeit goods.

Power in the hands of local authorities

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act allows for the interception of communications, acquisition and disclosure of data relating to communications, carrying-out of surveillance, use of covert intelligence sources and access to encrypted or password-protected data.

It can be evoked by public servants on the grounds of national security, and for the purposes of preventing or detecting crime, preventing disorder, public safety, protecting public health, or in the interests of the UK's economic well-being. Councils were first granted use of the legislation in 2003.

Banned in Boston

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Cigar Bars to become Illegal, along with sale of tobacco on college campuses.

The Boston Globe reports

Cigarette sales at Boston drugstores and on college campuses would be banned under sweeping new tobacco control rules likely to win initial approval today from health regulators.

The restrictions, which would give Boston among the toughest antismoking laws in the nation, could go into effect early next year. The rules would also stamp out smoking on the patios of restaurants and bars with outside service; tobacco use has been banned inside since 2003. And, after a five-year grace period, the city would shutter cigar bars, swank salons catering to tobacco connoisseurs, which were exempt from the earlier regulation.

The measures - opposed by drugstore chains and tobacco companies, which argue that the rules unfairly limit businesses' right to sell a legal product - place Boston at the vanguard of a campaign to further reduce cigarette smoking, especially among young people and the poor.

Starting later this month, smokers in San Francisco will no longer be able to buy cigarettes in pharmacies.

Concern about the health of restaurant and bar workers exposed to secondhand smoke prompted the push to prohibit cigarettes from those establishments' patios, among the last remaining public haunts of smokers, said Barbara Ferrer, the city's top health official.

And the city decided to target sales at the 74 pharmacies in Boston, she said in a telephone interview, because stocking tobacco, the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, is incompatible with the mission of a drugstore.

"Why, in a place where people go to get healthy and get information about staying healthy, would you want to sell something that has absolutely no redeeming value and ends up killing a lot of people?" said Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission.

"We know that about 10 percent of Boston high school students are still taking up tobacco smoking. Is there something else we can do here to stop that?" she said.

But Dr. Michael Siegel, a tobacco control specialist at Boston University School of Public Health, predicted that making sales illegal at pharmacies and college convenience stores will do little to dissuade the determined smoker.

"What it's going to do is simply shift the places where people get cigarettes," Siegel said.

Using public health law to bar pharmacies from selling cigarettes amounts to overreaching, he added.

"I just don't see the government's role in regulating the consistency of the mission of a store," Siegel said. "Just to extend this, should the public health mission also ban the sale of candy bars in pharmacies? If we're going to get rid of cigarettes, why don't we also get rid of soda? We know soda causes obesity."

Thanks to
Wendy McElroy

From the Dept.of Homeland Insanity- Canadian jet skier accidentally gets tossed into the swirling water, nearly drowns, washes up in the Land of liberty, where he's thrown into a detention center  as an illegal immigrant. He's still there nearly three weeks after the accident.

The Toronto Star Reports

Jason Haist's arrival in the U.S. was a complete accident. After nearly drowning in rapids on the Niagara River, he washed ashore on American soil, where he was promptly informed he faced charges for entering the country illegally and could be detained for up to three weeks while officials try to determine his intentions.

Before departing Queenston on a Sea-Doo around 10 a.m. Saturday, Haist, 28, called the U.S. Coast Guard to ask whether he was free to roam the water around the Queenston-Lewiston bridge near Niagara-on-the-Lake, one of the busiest points of entry between Canada and the U.S. He said officials told him as long as he didn't dock on U.S. land, it wouldn't be anything illegal.

"There were no signs indicating that we weren't allowed to go upstream," Haist told the Star in a phone interview from New York state, where he remains at an immigration detention facility.

Tour boats, departing from Niagara-on-the-Lake, regularly cruise the same waters, but do not dock on U.S. territory.

Haist said he and a group of friends departed from a dock on Princess St. in Queenston. Still traumatized from his near-drowning, Haist said he doesn't remember exactly what happened after that but thinks he travelled south to the Whirlpool Rapids, where he was tossed into the swirling water.

"All he remembered was he went under with the Jet Ski, then the Jet Ski took off and he went down with the current," his partner, Catherine Kerr, said at their Toronto home.

Haist's lungs filled with water and he was knocked unconscious. His cousin, Edward Haist, 21, tried to save Jason, but couldn't get to him, Kerr said. Boaters in the area called for help. "That's when the Coast Guard got involved," Kerr said.

Jason was taken to hospital and Edward was arrested by Border Patrol officials, supervisory U.S. Border Patrol agent Jason Ciliberti confirmed yesterday.

Jason was taken to Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston, NY, a hospital spokesperson confirmed.

Jason Haist, who was put on an IV drip after having fluid pumped from his lungs, said he could hear a border official using a walkie-talkie outside his hospital room.

"He was on machines all night," Kerr said. Haist was discharged from the hospital around 3 a.m. and arrested shortly after.

"He told them, 'I almost died. I didn't plan on washing up on your land,' " Kerr said.

The men will remain in custody at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility until they can appear before an immigration judge.

"They're here illegally," Ciliberti said, because they turned up at an unauthorized point of entry, a U.S. customs violation. It doesn't help Haist's case that he didn't have any identification in his wetsuit. All he had was his boater's card, Kerr said.

Ciliberti said the pair received notices to appear before a judge and explain their circumstances. If they choose to cancel the notice to appear and return to Canada voluntarily, Ciliberti said, "you're admitting you're in the States illegally." And if they don't appear, they will be deported and denied entry to the U.S. for at least five years.

Ciliberti said the circumstances surrounding Haist's case are "extremely rare," but added he could not comment on specifics due to privacy legislation.

He added that if they did not intend to enter the country illegally, it may make a difference in their case.

Ciliberti said the wait times for cases vary, but said he didn't believe this case would take three weeks.

A spokesperson with Canadian Foreign Affairs could not be reached yesterday for comment.

"They said he could be there as long as three weeks, we don't know how busy they are," Kerr said.

Yesterday, Kerr received a call from the wife of another detainee of the facility where Haist is being held. . "She told me he was under distress," she said. "She said they're gonna take their time, no matter how much you push."

Kerr is taking time off her job at Swiss Chalet, work she needs more than ever to pay for hospital and lawyers' bills, to drive to Buffalo and deliver money, I.D. and fresh clothes to her partner, who she says suffers from severe anxiety.

"I can't sleep, I'm so worried about his safety and health ... I keep telling him to relax and calm down so he doesn't stress himself."

Haist said his doctor told him, "I can't believe they're doing that. You had water in your lungs and you almost died."
Thanks to Jonathan Turley
Under Minnesota version of Patriot Act Ramsey County prosecutors on basis of information gained from paid informants and infiltrators charge 8 organizers of RNC protests with planning and "advocating" terrorist violence.

The LA Times reports

As clashes between police and protesters subsided outside the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, county prosecutors charged eight people with conspiring to cause a riot as part of a terrorist act.

The eight suspects were arrested in connection with raids of homes in the Twin Cities that were conducted by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department before the convention began.

The charges are highly unusual because of the terrorism aspect. Ramsey County Atty. Susan Gaertner said she could recall no such case in her 24 years with the prosecutor's office.

"This was the most serious charge that we found that was supported by the evidence," she said. "The terrorism aspect is appropriate. This is not your average criminal charge, but this was not your average crime."

If convicted, the suspects could each face up to five years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both.

Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which is representing several of the suspects, called the charges ridiculous.

The accusations are "an effort to equate publicly stated plans to blockade traffic and disrupt the RNC as being the same as acts of terrorism," Nestor said in a statement.

Seven of the eight arrested are being held at Ramsey County Jail on $75,000 bond: Max Jacob Specktor, 19; Erik Charles Oseland, 21; Eryn Chase Trimmer, 23; Luce Guillen-Givins, 24; Nathanael David Secor, 26; Robert Joseph Czernik, 32; and Garrett Scott Fitzgerald, 25. Fitzgerald is from Kasota, Minn.; the others are from Minneapolis.

Monica Rachel Bicking, 23, also of Minneapolis, was released earlier in the week, pending further investigation. A warrant was issued Wednesday for her arrest.

According to the complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court, the eight suspects are leading members of the RNC Welcoming Committee, a self-described anarchist coalition. For at least two years, the group mapped out violent methods to disrupt the convention and prevent delegates from entering the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, according to the filing. The group allegedly had considered barricading bridges, spraying delegates with urine and possibly kidnapping delegates.

Speedy Trial?

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Missouri man arrested on drug charges waits in prison two years without a trail, forgotten by prosecutors, judges, even his own defense lawyer.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports

Joseph A. Shepard Sr. sat in local jails for almost two years, assuming that his lawyer was making progress on his case and that drug-related charges against him would soon be resolved in federal court.

His family says lawyer Michael P. Kelly told them Shepard had pleaded guilty and would return home soon with credit for time already served behind bars.

Shepard never came home.

Shepard, 53, is a man the system forgot, apparently ignored by his own attorney -- and the prosecutor and judge -- as days ticked by in a municipal lockup where he was confined to a cell 23 hours a day.
Shepard was surprised when a reporter broke the news at the Jennings jail Wednesday night that his case had been forgotten. It was more than a month after prosecutors took steps to move the case forward, though he still had not been told about it by his lawyer.

"Good. That's what I've been hoping for -- something like that," he said. "I kind of figured that, after two years of nothing happening."

Shepard, in a short-sleeve orange jail top, blue shorts, flip-flops and a Rip Van Winkle-esque seven-month growth of beard, almost missed the news. He balked when guards said he had an unexpected visitor. "I argued with them and told them no, you got the wrong person," he said.

Long ago, he told his family not to drive four hours round trip from home in Potosi to Jennings for just a 20-minute visit.

Shepard has been locked up in Jennings for 20 months while other federal detainees came and went. "Everybody but me," he said. Jennings holds federal prisoners under contract. He was in a different jail for six months before that.

He is charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, conspiracy and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

Shepard said he persevered "day by day" thanks to reading, praying and the patience he developed fishing and working on cars and motorcycles. He figured, "If I just sit here long enough, something's going to happen."

Shepard has mainly communicated with Kelly, his lawyer, through family. He said Kelly visited him July 17 to tell of a potential plea deal for a four-year sentence. Shepard said he wanted to take the deal.

But prosecutors said Kelly turned it down the next day.

All the while, it appears Kelly did nothing to try to secure his client's release on bond.

Kelly, who has a private practice and also is a municipal court judge in Potosi, has not responded to repeated phone calls and e-mails from a Post-Dispatch reporter over more than two weeks. While at the U.S. attorney's office Friday, he told a prosecutor that he would not speak with a reporter who was on the way to talk to him.

Shepard's family members say Kelly has been very difficult to reach and has given them information directly contradicted by court files.

Shepard's daughter-in-law, Amy Shepard, complained that Kelly didn't help when she asked him to get Shepard medicine for diabetes and hypertension. She also said Kelly told family members that Shepard had pleaded guilty and was about to get out.

They said the lawyer also told family members not to bother attending the plea hearing because such proceedings are held privately in the judge's chambers.

Kelly has not filed a single document on behalf of Shepard in all of 2007 and 2008, court records show. The last was Sept. 29, 2006. And he failed to file documents that could have allowed Shepard to be released on bond more than two years ago, according to court documents and prosecutors.
Thanks to Cato @Liberty

Under Arrest for Wearing Baggy Pants

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Riviera Beach, Fla. police investigating possible drug sales did not locate any drug dealers. They did, however, notice a 29 year old black man in baggy pants, violating the town's new anti-baggy pants ordinance. They promptly placed him under arrest, making him perhaps the first US citizen actually arrested for wearing baggy pants. For his first offense faces a fine of up to $150. Second offense carries a penalty of 30 days in jail.

The Smoking Gun reports

Meet Kenneth Smith. The Florida man, 29, was arrested yesterday for wearing baggy pants. Smith was busted by Riviera Beach cops for violating a city ordinance governing low-slung trousers (or, legally speaking, "exposure of undergarment in public"). According to a Riviera Beach Police Department affidavit, cops were investigating a report of a man selling drugs from a parked Chevy Impala when they spotted Smith standing beside the vehicle. As Officer B. Jackson noted in the report, Smith's brown and white plaid shorts "were so low that it exposed his blue and white boxer shorts approximately two inches below his waist." Smith, who was also charged with disorderly conduct, could be fined up to $150 on the pants charge. In a bid to criminalize a fashion style popularized by urban youth and hip-hop fans, Riviera Beach voters approved the new ordinance earlier this year. While first offenders like Smith only face a monetary hit, if a baggy pants devotee gets nabbed more than once, he/she could face up to 30 days in jail.

Thanks to Jonathan Turley
On the basis of suspicions that threatening emails may have originated from a community media center used by thousands over decades FBI, local police and county sheriffs, guns drawn, ransack shop, rifling though mail and library logs and seizing computers of several local groups including East Bay Prisoners' Support Group, The Needle Exchange, Food Not Bombs,radical  newspaper and Berkeley Liberation radio.

IndyBay reports

At 10:30 am on Wednesday, August 27th, the UC Berkeley police, plainclothes FBI agents, and an Alameda County sheriff raided at gunpoint the Long Haul, a long-standing community library and info shop. Police spent at least an hour and a half searching the premises without allowing Long Haul members entry to their building. More than a dozen computers and other equipment were seized in the morning raid. Having made no attempt to contact Long Haul members, agents forced their way into the building by entering a neighboring non-profit office with guns drawn. Police refused to provide a search warrant until after the raid was over and property was seized.

"This is an outrageous abuse of authority by the federal government," said TKTK, a member of the Long Haul. "What cause could the police have to come into a community center like the Long Haul and seize information belonging to the people of Berkeley? They must return our property immediately." The police went through every room, both public and locked - cutting or unscrewing the locks - and removed every computer from the building. Most of the computers taken were removed from an un-monitored public space where people come to use the computers just as they would at a public library. The remaining computers were taken from closed offices where they are needed for the day-to-day operation of the work done by members. Offices were rifled through, and a list of people who had borrowed books from the library was checked, as was the sales log. The warrant, which was produced after the raid, had little relevant information (claiming the officers were searching for 1 - Property or things used as a means of committing a felony; 2 - Property or things that are evidence that tends to show a felony has been committed, or tends to show that a particular person has committed a felony).

The Long Haul has been a community resource for 25 years, offering accessible space to radical groups, selling t-shirts, buttons, stickers, and the well-known slingshot organizer pocket calendar.

Goodman arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfuly detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman's crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

Also known as "probable cause of riot" by the nefarious Ramsey County, Minnesota sheriff Bob Fletcher.

Alternet reports

ST. PAUL, MN -- Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was unlawfully arrested in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota at approximately 5 p.m. local time.

Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfuly detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman's crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul.

Democracy Now! is calling on all journalists and concerned citizens to call the office of Mayor Chris Coleman and the Ramsey County Jail and demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar. These calls can be directed to: Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman's office at 651-266-8535 and the Ramsey County Jail at 651-266-9350 (press extension 0).

Democracy Now! stands by Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and condemns this action by Twin Cities law enforcement as a clear violation of the freedom of the press and the First Amenmdent rights of these journalists.

During the demonstration in which they were arrested law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force. Several dozen others were also arrested during this action.

Amy Goodman is one of the most well-known and well-respected journalists in the United States. She has received journalism's top honors for her reporting and has a distinguished reputation of bravery and courage. The arrest of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar is a transparent attempt to intimidate journalists from the nation's leading independent news outlet.

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