Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday 08-31-12

Why passwords have never been weaker—and crackers have never been stronger

Thanks to real-world data, the keys to your digital kingdom are under assault.

In late 2010, Sean Brooks received three e-mails over a span of 30 hours warning that his accounts on LinkedIn,, and other popular websites were at risk. He was tempted to dismiss them as hoaxes—until he noticed they included specifics that weren't typical of mass-produced phishing scams. The e-mails said that his login credentials for various Gawker websites had been exposed by hackers who rooted the sites' servers, then bragged about it online; if Brooks used the same e-mail and password for other accounts, they would be compromised too.
The warnings Brooks and millions of other people received that December weren't fabrications. Within hours of anonymous hackers penetrating Gawker servers and exposing cryptographically protected passwords for 1.3 million of its users, botnets were cracking the passwords and using them to commandeer Twitter accounts and send spam. Over the next few days, the sites advising or requiring their users to change passwords expanded to include Twitter, Amazon, and Yahoo.
"The danger of weak password habits is becoming increasingly well-recognized," said Brooks, who at the time blogged about the warnings as the Program Associate for the Center for Democracy and Technology. The warnings, he told me, "show [that] these companies understand how a security breach outside their systems can create a vulnerability within their networks."
The ancient art of password cracking has advanced further in the past five years than it did in the previous several decades combined. At the same time, the dangerous practice of password reuse has surged. The result: security provided by the average password in 2012 has never been weaker.
A new world

The average Web user maintains 25 separate accounts but uses just 6.5 passwords to protect them, according to a landmark study (PDF) from 2007. As the Gawker breach demonstrated, such password reuse, combined with the frequent use of e-mail addresses as user names, means that once hackers have plucked login credentials from one site, they often have the means to compromise dozens of other accounts, too.
Newer hardware and modern techniques have also helped to contribute to the rise in password cracking. Now used increasingly for computing, graphics processors allow password-cracking programs to work thousands of times faster than they did just a decade ago on similarly priced PCs that used traditional CPUs alone. A PC running a single AMD Radeon HD7970 GPU, for instance, can try on average an astounding 8.2 billion password combinations each second, depending on the algorithm used to scramble them. Only a decade ago, such speeds were possible only when using pricey supercomputers.
The advances don't stop there. PCs equipped with two or more $500 GPUs can achieve speeds two, three, or more times faster, and free password cracking programs such as oclHashcat-plus will run on many of them with little or no tinkering. Hackers running such gear also work in tandem in online forums, which allow them to pool resources and know-how to crack lists of 100,000 or more passwords in just hours.
Most importantly, a series of leaks over the past few years containing more than 100 million real-world passwords have provided crackers with important new insights about how people in different walks of life choose passwords on different sites or in different settings. The ever-growing list of leaked passwords allows programmers to write rules that make cracking algorithms faster and more accurate; password attacks have become cut-and-paste exercises that even script kiddies can perform with ease.
"It has been night and day, the amount of improvement," said Rick Redman, a penetration tester for security consultants KoreLogic and organizer of the Crack Me If You Can password contest at the past three Defcon hacker conferences. "It's been an exciting year for password crackers because of the amount of data. Cracking 16-character passwords is something I could not do four or five years ago, and it's not because I have more computers now."

d3ad0neAt any given time, Redman is likely to be running thousands of cryptographically hashed passwords though a PC containing four of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 480 graphics cards. It's an "older machine," he conceded, but it still gives him the ability to cycle through as many as 6.2 billion combinations every second. He typically uses a dictionary file containing about 26 million words, combined with programming rules that greatly extend its effectiveness by adding numbers, punctuation, and other characters to each list entry. Depending on the job, he sometimes uses a 60 million-strong word list and something known as "rainbow tables," which are described later in this article.
As a penetration tester who gets paid to pierce the defenses of Fortune 500 companies, Redman tries to spot weaknesses before criminal hackers exploit them on his customers' networks. One of the key ways he stays ahead is by downloading hash lists that are dumped almost every day on and other sites to see if any belong to the organizations he is contracted to protect.
Recently, he recovered a 13-character password that he had spent several months trying to crack. To protect the account holder, he declined to reveal the precise combination of characters and instead made up the imaginary passphrase "Sup3rThinkers" (minus the quotation marks) to illustrate his breakthrough. "Sup3rThinkers" follows a number of patterns that have become common: it opens with a common, five-letter word that begins with a capitalized letter and substitutes a 3 for an E, followed by a common, seven-letter word that also begins with a capital letter. While the speed of his system didn't hurt, cracking the password was largely the result of the collective codebreaking expertise developed online over the past few years.

The most important single contribution to cracking knowledge came in late 2009, when an SQL injection attack against online games service exposed 32 million plaintext passwords used by its members to log in to their accounts. The passcodes, which came to 14.3 million once duplicates were removed, were posted online; almost overnight, the unprecedented corpus of real-world credentials changed the way whitehat and blackhat hackers alike cracked passwords.

(the rest of the article is at the link)
Drought effects a lot of things

Drought causes shortage in Wis. cow chip throw

SAUK CITY, Wis. (AP) - It's very seldom someone talks about the quality and amount of cow dung, but in one southern Wisconsin city that's all they've been talking about lately.
The drought has caused a shortage of flattened, dried cow manure _ or cow chips _ for the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival, which attracts about 300 throwers and 40,000 spectators to Prairie du Sac, Wis.
"This is my 24th throw, and it's never been this difficult to find chips," said Marietta Reuter, who helps organize the festival that runs Friday and Saturday.
They use the chips from a local beef cattle herd that mostly eats grass, because the diet helps keep the chips dense and strong.
The hot, dry summer _ which has caused crop, water level and other problems across the nation _ caused the grass to brown and cattle to stay near their barn for food and to keep cool. That means the manure in the pasture wasn't able to dry and flatten in the sun.
The committee that runs the festival usually goes out once in July to shovel the manure and let it dry in wagons in the sun. But this year they had to skip it because of the poor quality.
Instead, a few organizers went out sporadically and collected about a third of the usual amount _ 200 or 300. Every year they keep the good ones that don't break _ so they will dip into the 150 to 200 in reserve barrels for this year's competition.
When searching for chips, they look for them be about the size of a ping pong paddle.
"If it looks like it has air bubbles on the top, it's bad chip," Reuter said. "It won't be worth it because it will be light and airy. But if it's thick and solid and grassy, it's a good chip."
Once they dry, they don't really stink anymore.
"A lot of people are afraid to pick it up," said Terry Slotty, who runs the throw every year. "They look at it, and it looks like what it is but once they touch it they notice that it's very dry."
The men's record was set in 1991 at 248 feet. The woman's record is from 2005 at 157.5 feet, Reuter said. The festival will give the top finishers $200 each toward a trip to the World Championship Cow Chip Throw in Beaver, Okla., should they decide to go, Slotty said.
Reuter's brother, Russ Ballweg, who is the festival's grounds chair, said they are already planning on a backup plan for next year.
"We are probably going to have to go out more often and pick so we can get our reserve back up a little bit," he said.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday 08-30-12

School: Teacher Helps Students Cheat Because She Says They’re ‘Dumb As Hell’

ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – A former fifth-grade teacher implicated in a cheating scandal reportedly gave students the illegal assistance because she thought they were “dumb as hell.”

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, math teacher Shayla Smith was accused of offering students the answers to a test they were taking at the time. She had reportedly been responsible for supervising them while the tests were being completed.

Schajuan Jones, who taught a fourth-grade class across the hall from Smith’s former room, overheard her talking to another teacher about the test.

“The words were, ‘I had to give your kids, or your students, the answers because they’re dumb as hell,’” Jones was quoted as saying about the interaction between Smith and the unidentified third teacher.

A former student also allegedly accused Smith of cheating, adding that the educator offered the girl, now in eighth grade, the answers to a math test in 2010.

The tribunal deliberated for just one hour before handing down a guilty verdict. Smith had been charged with willful neglect and immorality, and she subsequently lost her job.

Smith’s case was part of a larger investigation that implicated approximately 180 public school teachers in the city, sparked by investigations performed by the newspaper.

All tests proctored by Smith were allegedly marked with suspicious erasure marks, amounting to what was termed a “practically impossible frequency of changes from wrong to right [answers].”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wednesday 08-29-12

What is the matter with these people?

What Happens If You Decline a Chat With the TSA? Get Ready for a Search

As a companion piece to yesterday's story of an ACLU attorney who was peppered with nosy questions at Burlington International Airport comes the tale of a Michigan journalist who took offense at this new approach to "security" and declined to play along. So, if you've been wondering just what would happen if you told TSA officers to take their 20 questions about your summer vacation and shove them where the sun doesn't shine, read on.
Steve Gunn, a former Muskegon Chronicle staff writer who now works for the Education Action Group, writes in the pages of his old paper:
At that point she asked me what my business would be in Grand Rapids.

"I'm headed home," I replied.
Then she wanted to know where home was. That's when the mental alarms went off and I realized I was being interrogated by Big Brother in drag.
I asked her why the federal government needed to know where I was going and what I would be doing. She explained that the questions were part of a new security "pilot program."
I then told her I am an American citizen, traveling within my own country, and I wasn't breaking any laws. That's all the federal government needed to know, and I wasn't going to share any more.
Not because I had anything to hide. It was because we live in a free country where innocent people are supposedly protected from unwarranted government intrusion and harassment.

At that point the agent yelled out, "We have another refusal." One of my bags was seized and I was momentarily detained and given a hand-swab, which I believe was to test for residue from bomb-making materials.

I passed the bomb test and was told I could move on, but I hung around a moment and told everyone within listening range what I thought about this terrifying experience.
Note the yelled "we have another refusal" which has also become characteristic of TSA reaction to anybody who declines a turn in the hey-it's-perfectly-safe-we-promise body scanners. It's a pretty obvious attampt to draw attention to the dissidents and use embarrassment as a weapon to induce cooperation.
Gunn, who I've never come across before but I like just from the content of this piece, thinks he might have been targeted for his "chat down" because he has Bell's Palsy, which prevents him from smiling and gives him a grumpy expression. There's no proof of that, but it makes as much sense as anything else, given that racial characteristics were used as reasons for chatting down travelers in Boston.
"I'm starting to wonder what separates us from Russia or Cuba," asks Gunn in his piece.
Well, our plumbing is still better.

School asks deaf preschooler to change his sign language name

Three-and-a-half year old Hunter Spanjer, who is deaf, signs his name by crossing his forefinger and index finger and moving his hand up and down.
To his family, friends and those who know the Signing Exact English (S.E.E.) language that the Grand Island, Neb., boy uses, that gesture uniquely means "Hunter Spanjer."
But to Hunter's school district, it might mean something else. The district claims that it violates a rule that forbids anything in the school that looks like a weapon, reports KOLN-TV.
And Hunter's parents claim that Grand Island Pubic Schools administrators have asked them to change their son's sign language name.
"Anybody that I have talked to thinks this is absolutely ridiculous," Hunter's grandmother Janet Logue told the TV station. "This is not threatening in any way."
Hunter's father Brian Spanjer said, "It's a symbol. It's an actual sign, a registered sign, through S.E.E."
The family told KOLN that lawyers from the National Association of the Deaf may push for Hunter's right to sign his name at the school.
Jack Sheard, Grand Island Public Schools spokesperson told KOLN, "We are working with the parents to come to the best solution we can for the child."

One Grand Island resident said she disagrees with the school.
"I find it very difficult to believe that the sign language that shows his name resembles a gun in any way would even enter a child's mind," Fredda Bartenbach said in the news report.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday 08-28-12

Sorry does not make a lot of sense to me.

Downtown Mpls. Becomes Black Hawk Helicopter Training Zone

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - If you see military helicopters flying low over Minneapolis, don’t be alarmed. They’re just training in an urban environment.

The U.S. Special Operations Command will be conducting exercises until the beginning of September. This week they’re using helicopters, including Black Hawks.

They’re not giving out their exact training locations because they don’t want crowds to gather.

But you may get a glimpse of the helicopters flying low between 7 p.m. and midnight.

Home school curriculum based on the Bible, an historical successful aproach

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday 08-27-12

Nothing new, the crack addicts need crack and politicians need more money because they can not control their own spending.  They need revenue and don't care where they get it.

FCC eyes tax on Internet service

The Federal Communications Commission is eyeing a proposal to tax broadband Internet service.

The move would funnel money to the Connect America Fund, a subsidy the agency created last year to expand Internet access.

The FCC issued a request for comments on the proposal in April. Dozens of companies and trade associations have weighed in, but the issue has largely flown under the public's radar.

"If members of Congress understood that the FCC is contemplating a broadband tax, they'd sit up and take notice," said Derek Turner, research director for Free Press, a consumer advocacy group that opposes the tax.

Numerous companies, including AT&T, Sprint and even Google have expressed support for the idea.

Consumers already pay a fee on their landline and cellular phone bills to support the FCC's Universal Service Fund. The fund was created to ensure that everyone in the country has access to telephone service, even if they live in remote areas.

Last year, the FCC overhauled a $4.5 billion portion of the Universal Service Fund and converted it into a broadband Internet subsidy, called the Connect America Fund. The new fund aims to subsidize the construction of high-speed Internet networks to the estimated 19 million Americans who currently lack access.

Julius Genachowski, the FCC's chairman, has made expanding broadband access his top priority. He argues that a high-speed Internet connection is critical for succeeding in the 21st century economy and that expanding Internet access is the country's next great infrastructure challenge.

But the money for the new Internet subsidy is still coming from the fees on phone bills.

And in recent years, with more people sending emails instead of making long-distance phone calls, the money flowing into the program has begun to dry up. The Universal Service fee has had to grow to a larger and larger portion of phone bills to compensate.

The FCC floated a number of ideas for reforming the fund's contribution system. In addition to the broadband fee, the commission also sought comments on taxing text messages, as well as levying a flat fee on each phone line, instead of the current system, which is based on a portion of the revenue from interstate phone calls.

The commission only sought input on the ideas and did not indicate whether it planned to move ahead with any of them, including the broadband fee.

When the FCC released its proposal, Genachowski issued a statement saying the current contribution system is outdated and full of loopholes.
"Today we propose three goals for contribution reform: efficiency, fairness, and sustainability," Genachowski said. "And we underscore that any reforms to the contribution system must safeguard core Commission objectives, including the promotion of broadband innovation, investment, and adoption."
In its filing, Google argued that the evidence "strongly supports expanding the [Universal Service Fund] contribution base to include broadband Internet access services."
According to Google, taxing broadband service is preferable to taxing the kinds of online services it offers, like email or Google Voice.

"Saddling these offerings with new, direct USF contribution obligations is likely to restrict innovative options for all communications consumers and cause immediate and lasting harm to the users, pioneers, and innovators of Internet-based services," Google argued.

But Turner argued that imposing a fee on broadband access, even if it is only a dollar or two, would discourage many people from buying the service—the exact opposite outcome of what the FCC is trying to achieve.

"For folks who are thinking about adopting broadband, who have much lower incomes or don't value broadband as much—that extra dollar on the margins will cause millions of people... to not adopt," Turner said.

The FCC could run into legal problems with the Internet Tax Freedom Act, a 1998 law that bans the government from taxing Internet access. But the FCC has long argued that Universal Service is a fee that the providers choose to pass on to consumers and not a tax.

Turner said it is unlikely that the FCC will make any controversial moves before November's election.

"I don't anticipate that the chairman would move to adopt a drastic overhaul ahead of the election," he said.

They still want to reserve the right to feel up and your kids up.  Sounds a lot like the Minorty Report

Is eye scan technology the future of airport security?

Will the airport of the future be able to verify the identity of passengers with a quick eye scan?Aoptix Technologies Inc., a Campbell-based high-tech company, has developed iris scan technology the company hopes can be used by the Transportation Security Administration to verify passenger identification in a matter of seconds.
To market, sell and develop such technology, Aoptix announced last week it had acquired $42 million in additional funding from investors, bringing the total amount it has raised to $123 million since it launched in 2000.
Aoptix’s scanning technology is already used to identify passengers coming in and out of the international departure lounge at London’s Gatwick Airport and for border control in Qatar. It has not been used in the U.S., said Aoptix spokeswoman Amanda North.
The advantage of the Aoptix technology, she said, is that the scanning device can confirm the identification of a passenger from up to six feet away in about two seconds.
The company is in talk with the TSA to bring the technology in the U.S., according to North.

“A lot of airports have seen this as an advantage and I think the U.S. is looking at this as well,” she said.

TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said he could not confirm whether his agency has met with Aoptix officials but said the TSA is interested in using biometric technology at the nation’s airports.,0,4993492.story

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday 08-25-12

Who knew? Curiosity photos show Mars teeming with UFOs

From flying saucers to fossilized human fingers, people takes some leaps of logic   According to the fringe sector of the Internet, Mars is practically teeming with aliens. Since NASA's Curiosity rover touched down on the Red Planet two weeks ago and powered up its cameras, it has already managed to photograph several alleged UFOs and other "anomalies" in the surrounding landscape.

From classic flying saucers to an absurdly out-of-place fossilized human finger, here's a rundown of what UFO believers claim to have found in Curiosity photos so far. [ Gallery of Mars 'UFO' Photos ]

Horizon anomaly (aka impact cloud)

Speculation about Martians in Curiosity's midst got off to a running start when the very first sequence of photos taken by the rover raised questions. A hazy, distant object mysteriously appeared and then disappeared in consecutive images of the Martian horizon, perplexing even NASA scientists at first.
But the much-discussed "anomaly" turned out not to be a sign of alien activity, but rather the plume of dust kicked up by the sky crane that delivered the rover close to the Martian surface, then veered off and struck the ground some 2,000 feet (600 meters) away.
"We believe we've caught what is the descent stage impact on the Martian surface," said NASA engineer Steven Sell, sky crane specialist on the Curiosity mission.

Flying saucers (aka dead pixels)

In footage posted to YouTube Aug. 18, user "StephenHannardADGUK" applies a series of filters to a Curiosity image of the nearby rim of Gale crater, revealing what he says are four flying saucer -like objects stationed in the sky. More than 700,000 people have since given the video a gander.

"Four objects caught by Mars Curiosity, very difficult to make out on original image so I have used a few filters to highlight," he said in the video description. "What are these four objects? UFOs, Dust particles, or something else? As always you decide."
Experts say the four "objects" are actually just dead pixels in the rover's CCD camera — single points in the camera's imager that have lost functionality and register as white. Marc D'Antonio, a photo and video analyst for MUFON [Mutual UFO Network], told Huffington Post, "I fully concur at this point that these are dead pixels on the imager. All CCD (cameras) have them, and in a bland atmosphere like that at Mars, they would be very obvious as opposed to an active atmosphere like Earth, where they could end up hidden for a long time before anyone noticed them."
Photoshop filtering processes often blend, color-correct or contrast-heighten images in ways that turn single dead pixels into larger, more prominent shapes. In other words, "using a few filters" is exactly what the YouTube user should not have done in trying to clarify the contents of the Curiosity photo.

White dot UFOs (aka Photoshopped)

In a YouTube video that has racked up more than 400,000 views since it was posted by "ParanormalCollection" on Aug. 7, two small white dots trek across the Martian sky in a time-lapse sequence supposedly shot by one of Curiosity's hazard avoidance cameras and then accidentally "leaked" by NASA. The footage would be very curious indeed, and deserving of the widespread media attention it has accrued — if it were real, that is.
The images that appear in the footage are in fact the very first ones released by NASA, on Aug. 5, in which the impact cloud from the sky crane can be seen rising like a plume near the horizon. The difference is that no white dots appear in the original images.
This leaves viewers to contemplate which is more likely: that Curiosity happened to capture UFOs in the very first photos it took of Mars, that NASA removed the UFOs and released the scrubbed photos, then accidentally leaked the originals to "ParanormalCollection" — or that this YouTube user simply took the photos released by NASA, added a sequence of white dots to them in Photoshop, and posted the creation to YouTube? [7 Huge Misconceptions about Aliens]
YouTube / StephenHannardADGUK

"Possible ancient finger" spotted in Curiosity photos. Ancient finger, shoe, animal (aka rocks)

StephenHannardADGUK, he of dead pixel fame, also stumbled upon a few items that may or may not be leftover props from a David Lynch film miraculously transported to the floor of Mars' Gale Crater. "Mars Curiosty(sp) captures a possible ancient finger, a dome shaped object, a shoe or sandal and a possible Martian creature," Hannard wrote in the video description. "Are these anomalies real, tricks of the light or something else, as always you decide."
When Hannard zooms in on the rocks — which is what we have decided they are — one sees that the finger rock does indeed have a faint, shadowy outline at one end that looks somewhat like a fingernail, and the shoe rock does bear a resemblance to a carelessly overturned sandal. Likewise, a roughly round rock could be described as a dome-shaped object, and a crevice on another boulder does give it the vague look of a grinning Martian animal.
It's the logical leap of deciding that the rocks might actually be these things that most people don't take.  

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday 08-24-12

Government tun amok, they are too big,

Va. veteran detained after strident Facebook posts

By GOPUSA  (AP) - A former Marine involuntarily detained for psychiatric evaluation for posting strident anti-government messages on Facebook has received an outpouring of support from people who say authorities are trampling on his First Amendment rights.
Brandon J. Raub, 26, has been in custody since FBI, Secret Service agents and police in Virginia's Chesterfield County questioned him Thursday evening about what they said were ominous posts talking about a coming revolution. In one message earlier this month according to authorities, Raub wrote: "Sharpen my axe; I'm here to sever heads."
Police — acting under a state law that allows emergency, temporary psychiatric commitments upon the recommendation of a mental health professional — took Raub to the John Randolph Medical Center in Hopewell. He was not charged with any crime.
A Virginia-based civil liberties group, The Rutherford Institute, dispatched one of its attorneys to the hospital to represent Raub at a hearing Monday. A judge ordered Raub detained for another month, Rutherford executive director John Whitehead said.
"For government officials to not only arrest Brandon Raub for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights but to actually force him to undergo psychological evaluations and detain him against his will goes against every constitutional principle this country was founded upon," Whitehead said.
Raub's mother, Cathleen Thomas, said by telephone that the government had overstepped its bounds.
"The bottom line is his freedom of speech has been violated," she said.
Thomas said her son, who served tours as a combat engineer in Iraq and Afghanistan, is "concerned about all the wars we've experienced" and believes the U.S. government was complicit in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. One of his Facebook posts, she said, pictured the gaping hole in the Pentagon and asked "where's the plane?"
Whitehead said he found nothing alarming in Raub's social media commentaries. "The posts I read that supposedly were of concern were libertarian-type posts I see all the time," he said.
The big concern, Whitehead said, is whether government officials are monitoring citizens' private Facebook pages and detaining people with whom they disagree.
Dee Rybiski, an FBI spokeswoman in Richmond, said there was no Facebook snooping by her agency.
"We received quite a few complaints about what were perceived as threatening posts," she said. "Given the circumstances with the things that have gone on in the country with some of these mass shootings, it would be horrible for law enforcement not to pay attention to complaints."
Whitehead said some of the posts in question were made on a closed Facebook page that Raub had recently created so he questioned whether anyone from the public would have complained about them.
"Support Brandon Raub" Facebook pages have drawn significant interest, and other Internet sites had numerous comments from people outraged by the veteran's detention.
Raub's supporters characterized the detention as an arrest, complaining he was handcuffed and whisked away in a police cruiser without being served a warrant or read his rights. But authorities say it wasn't an arrest because Raub doesn't face criminal charges.
Col. Thierry Dupuis, the county police chief, said Raub was taken into custody upon the recommendation of mental health crisis intervention workers. He said the action was taken under the state's emergency custody statute, which allows a magistrate to order the civil detention and psychiatric evaluation of a person who is considered potentially dangerous.
He said Raub was handcuffed because he resisted officers' attempts to take him into custody.   Then i saw on Survival Blog this morning a follow up   VICTORY: Circuit Court Orders Brandon Raub Released, Dismisses Case Against Marine Arrested, Detained in Veterans Admin. Psych Ward over Political Views, Song Lyrics Posted on FacebookAugust 23, 2012
CHESTERFIELD, VA— In an unexpected ruling handed down today by Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett, the judge dismissed the government’s case against Brandon Raub, the Marine who was arrested by local police and FBI agents, detained in a psychiatric ward and forced to undergo psychological evaluations based solely on the controversial nature of lines from song lyrics, political messages and virtual card games which he posted to his private Facebook page. Judge Sharrett dismissed the petition for involuntary commitment on the grounds that the petition “is so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.” Raub is expected to be released immediately.
“This is a great victory for the First Amendment and the rule of law,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “Brandon Raub was arrested with no warning, targeted for doing nothing more than speaking out against the government, detained against his will, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys. These are the kinds of things that take place in totalitarian societies. Today, at least, Judge Allan Sharrett proved that justice can still prevail in America.”
Brandon Raub, a former Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was detained by FBI agents and police officers at his home in Chesterfield County based upon the nature of content posted to his Facebook page in recent months. Like many Facebook users, Raub uses his Facebook page to post song lyrics and air his political opinions, as well as engage in virtual online games with other users. On Thursday, August 16, 2012, police and FBI agents arrived at Raub’s home, asking to speak with him about his Facebook posts. They did not provide Raub with a search warrant. Raub was cooperative and agreed to speak with them. Without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, law enforcement officials then handcuffed Raub and transported him first to the police headquarters, then to John Randolph Medical Center, where he was held against his will due to alleged concerns that his Facebook posts were “terrorist in nature.” Outraged onlookers filmed the arrest and posted the footage to YouTube.
In a hearing before Special Justice Walter Douglas Stokes on August 20, government officials again pointed to Raub’s Facebook posts as the sole reason for their concern and for his continued incarceration. Ignoring Raub’s explanations about the fact that the FB posts were being read out of context and his attorney’s First Amendment defense, Stokes sentenced the former Marine to up to 30 days’ further confinement in a psychiatric ward and signed a court order for Raub’s involuntary admission to the Veterans Hospital in Salem. In coming to Raub’s defense, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute challenged the actions of Chesterfield County, Va. as procedurally improper, legally unjustified, and in violation of Raub’s First Amendment rights. Institute attorneys appeared before the Circuit Court on August 23 to request that Raub be transferred back to John Randolph Medical Center while Institute attorneys attempted to secure his release. However, Judge Allan Sharrett declared the government’s case to be lacking in factual allegations and ordered Raub immediately released.
Anthony Troy and Brian Fowler, attorneys with Troutman Sanders LLP, were instrumental in assisting The Rutherford Institute to secure Raub’s release.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wednesday 08-22-12

It is amazing it has been 20 years, the lady that Sara Weaver has become is amazing.

20 years after Ruby Ridge, there's forgiveness

In this photo taken Aug. 7, 2012, Sara Weaver stands outside her horse ranch near Kalispell, Mont. Weaver has finally forgiven the federal agents who 20 years ago shot her mother and younger brother to death …

..KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — When Sara Weaver saw her father Randy struck in the shoulder by a government sniper's bullet in the Idaho wilderness in August 1992, she began to sprint back to the family's cabin on a mountaintop called Ruby Ridge.
As the 16-year-old closed in, her mother, Vicki, opened the cabin door and stood behind it, holding Sara Weaver's 10-month-old sister in her arms. Just then, a sniper's bullet struck her mother in the head, killing her.
For the next nine days, the surviving Weavers holed up in the cabin while hundreds of federal agents laid siege in a standoff that helped spark an anti-government patriot movement that grew to include the Oklahoma City bombing.

Today, 20 years later, Sara Weaver has left the anger behind, finding religion — and forgiveness.
"I went 10 years without understanding how to heal" until becoming a born-again Christian, she said. "All bitterness and anger had to go," she said. "I forgave those that pulled the trigger."
These days, the Weavers live near Kalispell, Mont., a city in the northwestern part of the state that is the gateway to Glacier National Park and more than 100 miles east of Ruby Ridge.
Patriarch Randy Weaver, 63, is a doting grandfather, his daughter said. Her two sisters, including the one who was in Vicki Weaver's arms, are working.
For a time, it seemed doubtful that any family members would survive the siege.
Randy Weaver moved his family to northern Idaho in the 1980s to escape what he saw as a corrupt world. Over time, federal agents began investigating the Army veteran for possible ties to white supremacist and anti-government groups. Weaver was eventually suspected of selling a government informant two illegal sawed-off shotguns.

To avoid arrest, Weaver holed up on his land.
On Aug. 21, 1992, a team of U.S. marshals scouting the forest to find suitable places to ambush and arrest Weaver came across his friend, Kevin Harris, and Weaver's 14-year-old son Samuel in the woods. A gunfight broke out. Samuel Weaver and Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan were killed.
The next day, an FBI sniper shot and wounded Randy Weaver. As Weaver, Harris and Sara ran back toward the house, the sniper fired a second bullet, which passed through Vicki Weaver's head and wounded Harris in the chest.
During the siege, Sara Weaver crawled around her mother's blanket-covered body to get food and water for the survivors, including the infant, until the family surrendered on Aug. 31, 1992.
Harris and Randy Weaver were arrested, and Weaver's daughters went to live with their mother's family in Iowa. Randy Weaver was acquitted of the most serious charges and Harris was acquitted of all charges.

The surviving members of the Weaver family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The federal government awarded Randy Weaver a $100,000 settlement and his three daughters $1 million each in 1995.
"Ruby Ridge was the opening shot of a new era of anti-government hatred not seen since the Civil War," said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps tabs on hate groups.
After Ruby Ridge, federal agents laid siege to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. It ended violently after 51 days on April 19, 1993, when a fire destroyed the compound after an assault was launched, killing 76 people.
Timothy McVeigh cited both Ruby Ridge and Waco as motivators when he bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Ruby Ridge has been cited often by militia and patriot groups since.
"What Ruby Ridge did was energize the radical right in a way it had not been in years," Potok said.
Sara Weaver said she is devastated each time someone commits a violent act in the name of Ruby Ridge. "It killed me inside," she said of the Oklahoma City bombing. "I knew what it was like to lose a family member in violence. I wouldn't wish that on anyone."
In the years after Ruby Ridge, Sara Weaver, now 36, struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as what she called a "toxic bondage" of bitterness and anger at the government.
"After losing mom and Sam, I almost felt guilty even thinking about being happy after they were gone," she said. "But that's a lie. Your family members don't want you to grieve them. They want you to move on."
After graduating from high school in Iowa, Sara Weaver moved to the Kalispell area in 1996. Her sisters and father followed shortly after. In 2003, a meeting with a childhood friend from Ruby Ridge helped her turn things around.
The friend mentioned her positive relationship with Jesus Christ, and something clicked for Sara Weaver. "I was shocked at that," she said. "I had a fear-based relationship with God."
"I decided I was broken and needed to be fixed," she said.
Weaver began reading the Bible, where she learned that "Jesus commands us to forgive," and embarked on a journey that, by 2011, found her speaking to religious groups across the nation. Her journey is described in her recently released book, "From Ruby Ridge to Freedom."
Weaver has not spoken to any of the agents involved in the siege, and doesn't plan to unless they want to meet her
Not everything has been smooth sailing.
Weaver endured a painful divorce a few years ago, and is now married for a second time. She and her husband, Marc, operate a quarter horse breeding ranch just outside of Kalispell. She has an 11-year-old son from her first marriage.
Sara Weaver said Randy Weaver does not do interviews and would not release a statement on the anniversary.
She has been back to Ruby Ridge, to the land her family still owns. All that remains of the family's modest home is the foundation, she said. She recalled with affection her unconventional childhood there, and her mother. "It's hard to live without her to turn to," she said. "I want to turn to my mother for advice."

"We miss her terribly. It never goes away," she said.

Survivalist congressman is ready for doomsday

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) is one of the the country premiere proponents of preparedness against doom.

Deep in the West Virginia woods, in a small cabin powered by the sun and the wind, a bespectacled, white-haired man is giving a video tour of his basement, describing techniques for the long-term preservation of food in case of “an emergency.”“We don’t really think of those today, because it’s so convenient to go to the supermarket,” he cautions. “But you know, you’re planning because the supermarket may not always be there.”
The electrical grid could fail tomorrow, he frequently warns. Food would disappear from the shelves. Water would no longer flow from the pipes. Money might become worthless. People could turn on each other, and millions would die.
Such concerns are typical among “survivalists,” a loose national movement of individuals who advocate self-sufficiency in the face of natural or man-made disasters, gathering online or in person to discuss the best ways to prepare for the worst.
What is atypical is that the owner of this cabin is Roscoe Bartlett, the longtime Republican congressman from Maryland. Over the past two decades, he has developed a following as one of the country’s premier proponents of preparedness against impending doom, even urging the more than 80 percent of Americans who live in urban areas to relocate.
“There are a number of events that could create a situation in the cities where civil unrest would be a very high probability,” Bartlett predicts in “Urban Danger,” a documentary that features the cabin tour. “And I think that those who can and those who understand need to take advantage of the opportunity when these winds of strife are not blowing, to move their families.”
Bartlett, 86, is a patent-holding scientist, an engineer and a farmer. He has also become one of the country’s most endangered Republicans.
Maryland Democrats redrew his reliably red congressional district this year to include a swath of blue-leaning Montgomery County, leading analysts to call the second-oldest member of the House an underdog in his November reelection bid against financier John Delaney (D).
But the possibility of electoral defeat does not appear to have changed Bartlett’s focus — to alert Americans to a future fraught with danger. On Sept. 30, barely a month before Election Day, he will be in Spokane, Wash., more than 2,000 miles away from his district, serving as the keynote speaker at the second annual Sustainable Preparedness Expo.
Bartlett, who declined a one-on-one interview, recently sat around a Capitol Hill conference room table with a group of like-minded experts to unveil legislation that calls for “every citizen to develop an individual emergency plan to prepare for the absence of government assistance for extended periods” and for communities to become capable of providing 20 percent of their own power, food and water if necessary.
The electric grid, everyone agreed, is vulnerable to natural disasters and terrorist attacks. “This is possibly the most serious threat the United States faces right now, because we are so utterly unprepared for it,” said Richard Andres, a senior fellow at National Defense University.
The grid could be crippled at least four different ways, Bartlett says: terrorist assaults on power substations, a cyberattack, a massive solar storm and an electromagnetic pulse attack.
Bartlett has for decades warned of the harm of an EMP attack — a nuclear detonation in the atmosphere that could fry computers and anything with an electric circuit — in his writings, in legislation and in late-night speeches on the House floor, though experts differ on the seriousness of the threat. Some agree the dangers are real, while others say such an attack is unlikely and the potential effects remain uncertain.
At a Go Green Energy Expo organized by his office in Frederick last month, Bartlett mentioned “One Second After” and asked, “How many of you have read the book?” He asked the same question at the recent Capitol Hill event.
The 2009 novel imagines an EMP attack on the United States, focusing on efforts to survive by residents of a North Carolina mountain town. “One Second After” was written by William R. Forstchen, who is also known for co-writing counterfactual historical novels with former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
Forstchen paid tribute to Bartlett as “a true public servant” in the book’s acknowledgments, and Bartlett returned the praise, inserting a statement into the Congressional Record in 2009 advising Americans to read it.
Bartlett became interested in preparedness during the Cold War, when people and businesses commonly built bunkers in case of a nuclear attack. Yet, it seemed that no one was thinking about the next step.
“When you came out of the fallout shelter, what then?” Bartlett wondered.

Bartlett’s warnings aren’t necessarily tinged with fear; the scientist seems to view self-reliance as a puzzle to be solved, just as he appears to take a special pride in showing off the efficiencies of his “off-grid” West Virginia cabin.
“It’s just plain fun, when you’re looking at the challenge: What do I have to do so I’m independent of the system?” Bartlett asks in “Urban Danger.”

Bartlett bought his property in the Monongahela National Forest in 1980. It cost about $1,000 to build the cabin, he says in the documentary, with much of the materials brought in by cart because the road was so rough.
The main attraction in the kitchen is a wood-burning cookstove, which also heats the house and its water. There is also a small propane stove, for use “as long as propane is available,” and a hand-operated pump that brings water up from an underground spring.
“Whatever level you’re concentrating on, being as self-sufficient as you can, as quickly as you can, is going to be the right thing to do,” he says.
In “America’s Cities,” a separate documentary with similar themes, Bartlett approvingly cites the financial adviser and author Howard Ruff — an influential figure among survivalists — who counseled that “the most important investment you can make” is to have a year’s supply of food for your family, and “the second-most important investment” is a thousand-dollar stash of silver coins and jewelry to bargain with in an emergency.

“This is great advice for anybody,” Bartlett says. “And maybe you can’t buy a year’s supply of food. All the Lord expects you to do is what you can do.”

Bartlett is a devout Seventh-day Adventist and an active member of his congregation in Frederick. When he enrolled at Columbia Union College, he planned to become a minister. He chose to become a scientist instead but earned an undergraduate degree in theology.
Like Bartlett, many of the people in the two documentaries are Adventists. Bartlett’s office confirmed that the films’ producers connected with the lawmaker because of their shared faith. (The producer of “Urban Danger” declined to comment on his relationship with Bartlett, and the director of “America’s Cities” did not respond to requests for comment.)
The idea that the end of the world is near, and that people will be judged, is a key tenet of Adventist beliefs. “It’s right at the core,” said Ronald Numbers, a University of Wisconsin professor who has written books on the faith’s history.
But Numbers estimated that only a small percentage of Adventists prepare for end times by moving to remote locations and storing food.
For Bartlett, the lifestyle his cabin affords him is ideal, regardless of whether disaster strikes.
“I have no television, and you can’t really get radio there very well. . . . We just don’t turn it on,” Bartlett says of his cabin in “America’s Cities.” “I enjoy being isolated. And I ask myself, you know, if the world fell apart I wouldn’t know it here, would I?”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday 08-21-12

Not surpirsing to me al least

Study: Less religious states give less to charity

BOSTON (AP) - A new study on the generosity of Americans suggests that states with the least religious residents are also the stingiest about giving money to charity.

The study released Monday by the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that residents in states where religious participation is higher than the rest of the nation, particularly in the South, gave the greatest percentage of their discretionary income to charity.

The Northeast, with lower religious participation, was the least generous to charities, with the six New England states filling the last six slots among the 50 states.

The study also found that patterns of charitable giving are colored in political reds and blues.

Of the 10 least generous states, nine voted for Democrat Barack Obama for president in the last election. By contrast, of the 10 most generous states, eight voted for Republican John McCain.

But Peter Panepento, the Chronicle's assistant managing editor, said that political breakdown likely speaks to a state's religious makeup, not its prevailing political views. He noted the lowest-ranked Democrat states were also among the least religious, while the top-ranked Republican states were among the more religious.

"I don't know if I could go out and say it's a complete Republican-Democrat difference as much as it is different religious attitudes and culture in these states," he said.

The study was based on Internal Revenue Service records of people who itemized deductions in 2008, the most recent year statistics were available.

By focusing on the percentage given to charity from discretionary income _ the money left over after necessities are paid for _ the study aimed to remove variables such as the differing costs of living around the country, Panepento said. The data allowed researchers to detail charitable giving down to the ZIP code, he said.

The most generous state was Utah, where residents gave 10.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity. Next were Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina. The least generous was New Hampshire, at 2.5 percent, followed by Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

In Boston, semi-retired carpenter Stephen Cremins said the traditional New England ideal of self-sufficiency might explain the lower giving, particularly during tight times when people have less to spare.

"Charity begins at home. I'm a big believer of that, you know, you have to take care of yourself before you can help others," Cremins said.

The study found that in the Northeast region, including New England, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, people gave 4.1 percent of their discretionary income to charity. The percentage was 5.2 percent in the Southern states, a region from Texas east to Delaware and Florida, and including most of the so-called Bible Belt.

The Bible mandates a 10 percent annual donation, or tithe, to the church, and the donation is commonly preached as a way to thank God, care for others and show faith in God's provision. But it has a greater emphasis in some faiths.

In Mormon teachings, for instance, Latter Day Saints are required to pay a 10 percent tithe to remain church members in good standing, which helps explain the high giving rate in heavily-Mormon Utah.

Any LDS member who is faithful does that," said Valerie Mason, 70, of Mesa, Ariz., during an interview in Salt Lake City. "Some struggle with it. Some leave the church because of it. But we believe in the blessing. ... Tithing does bring the blessing of God's promise."

Alan Wolfe, a political science professor at Boston College, said it's wrong to link a state's religious makeup with its generosity. People in less religious states are giving in a different way by being more willing to pay higher taxes so the government can equitably distribute superior benefits, Wolfe said. And the distribution is based purely on need, rather than religious affiliation or other variables, said Wolfe, also head of the college's Boisi Center for Religion and Public Life.

Wolfe said people in less religious states "view the tax money they're paying not as something that's forced upon them, but as a recognition that they belong with everyone else, that they're citizens in the common good. ... I think people here believe that when they pay their taxes, they're being altruistic."

Among other notable findings of the study:
_ People who earn $200,000 per year give a greater percentage to charity when they live in ZIP codes with fewer people who are as wealthy as they are.

_ People who earn between $50,000 and $75,000 annually give a higher percentage of their income to charity (7.6 percent) than those who make $100,000 or more (4.2 percent).

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday 08-20-12

I'm sorry i will wait for the final results and more information to come out before i make up my mind.  The government does not seem to have a very good tract record on these types of things.  It is a shame  when innocent people get caught up in it though.

Suspects in Lousiana Cop Killings Linked to Sovereign Citizens Movement

At least several of the seven suspects arrested in connection with the ambushing and killing of two Louisana deputies and the wounding of two others have been linked to the sovereign citizen movement, officials said today.
The suspects were arrested after a shootout early Thursday morning at a trailer park outside New Orleans, where the two deputies were killed. The two had gone to the trailer park in pursuit of suspects from an earlier incident in which two other deputies were shot and wounded.
The gunmen first opened fire on deputies patrolling a parking lot near a steel plant and oil refinery in LaPlace, La., around 5 a.m. CT., according to St. John the Baptist Sheriff Mike Tregre.
Deputies Brandon Brandon Neilsen, 34, and Jeremy Triche, 28, were "ambushed" by at least three men inside a trailer home, one of whom exited the back of the home with an assault-style weapon.
That gunman "ambushed my two officers," Tregre said.
More than 20 shots were fired between the two locations, from multiple weapons, suggesting a large-scale and sustained shootout.
Sovereign citizens believe any form of government is illegitimate and the only law is the one they create, said Brad Garrett, former FBI agent and ABC News consultant.

"Because they believe in particular law enforcement is not legitimate, they can be quite violent. Since 2000, they have linked at [least] six law enforcement deaths to sovereign citizens," Garrett said.

The seven were all charged in connection with the shooting of one of the deputies who was wounded, as investigators attempt to determine exactly what happened Thursday.

Brian Lyn Smith, 24, was charged with attempted first-degree murder.

Terry Smith, 44; Derrick Smith, 22; Kyle David Joekel, 28; and Teniecha Bright 21, face charges of principal to attempted first-degree murder. Terry Smith is the father of Brian and Derrick Smith, police said.

Arrested as accessories after the fact were 37-year-old Chanel Skains and 23-year-old Britney Keith. Authorities listed all as being from LaPlace, about 25 miles west of New Orleans.

Joekel and Brian Smith are in a hospital with gunshot wounds and will be put in jail when they are released. The others were in jail with bonds ranging from $350,000 to $750,000

The sovereign citizens movement has been labeled a domestic terrorism organization by the FBI.

"The FBI are very concerned about them, both from a violent standpoint and also from a white collar crime standpoint," Garrett said.

The sovereign citizen movement has its roots in right-wing anarchist ideology that originated with a group called the Posse Comitatus in the 1970s, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Along with violence, the ADL said members of the sovereign citizen movement have been known to enage in "paper terrorism," using "fraudulent legal documents and filings, as well as the misuse of legitimate documents and filings, in order to intimidate, harass and coerce public officials, law enforcement officers and private citizens."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday 08-18-12

Got to love the public when they speak and the free market economy works

Secret Service bought cupcakes to thank baker for turning down Biden

Secret Service officers associated with Vice President Joe Biden bought a pile of cupcakes from the baker who refused to host Biden at his shop — and they did so out of gratitude.

It’s a startling news nugget at the bottom of a local report. “[S]hortly after Crumb and Get It told Biden’s advance people ‘no’ — the secret service walked in and told [owner] Chris McMurray ”Thanks for standing up and saying ‘no’ — then they bought a whole bunch of cookies and cupcakes,” according to the Valley Reporter (Va.).

McMurray refused to host the Biden entourage as a protest of Obama’s comment, made in the nearby town of Roanoke, that “if you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.”

The Secret Service’s purchase proved to be a herald of things to come, as Virginia locals rewarded McMurray with a rush of business this morning. The bakery ran out of food by 1:15 pm.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday 08-17-12

Federal court rules cops can warrantlessly track suspects via cellphone

Geo-data received based on "reasonable grounds" phone was connected to a crime.

In a 2-1 ruling, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled (PDF) that law enforcement has the right to obtain location data from a cellphone in order to track a suspect without a warrant. The case involves a man named Melvin Skinner, a newly convicted drug trafficker, who was part of a cross-country, large-scale drug operation organized by another man, James Michael West.
Skinner had appealed his many convictions: conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, conspiracy to commit money laundering, aiding and abetting the attempt to distribute in excess of 100 kilograms of marijuana. His attorneys argued that the government’s use of his GPS location information from his phone, which led to his arrest, constituted a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
"There is no Fourth Amendment violation because Skinner did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the data given off by his voluntarily procured pay-as-you-go cell phone," wrote Judge John Rogers, in the majority opinion. "If a tool used to transport contraband gives off a signal that can be tracked for location, certainly the police can track the signal."
The Stored Communications Act strikes again

In January 2006, Christopher S. Shearer, another participant in the West marijuana operation, was stopped with $362,000 in cash. Shearer was on his way to deliver money on behalf of West to his marijuana supplier, Philip Apodaca, in Tucson, Arizona. Under questioning, DEA agents learned from Shearer how the West group conducted the drug trafficking operation. The agents found out that Apodaca would purchase prepaid cellphones under fictitious names and used pre-programmed contact information to orchestrate drug trafficking. Those phones were then discarded after a period of time.
However, by May and June 2006, law enforcement agents received authorization to intercept the communications of two phones established in West’s name. In an order written by a Tennessee federal magistrate judge, the prosecuting United States attorney received authorization to install a pen register, a trap and trace device, and to receive location data from the call’s origination and termination points, in addition to GPS and ping data from those phones.
Among other rationales, the judge cited the Stored Communications Act (also known as a 2703(d) order) as grounds to provide this order. Under that federal statute, authorities can’t receive the contents of electronic communication (what was said), but can find out where and to whom it was said. In contemporary cases within the last decade, law enforcement and judges have increasingly used this reasoning to obtain extensive location data that can effectively turn the phone into a tracking device. Such information previously would have required a much higher legal threshold—a probable cause-driven warrant.
Thanks to the intercepted calls between Shearer and West, law enforcement learned of the existence of a truck driver courier, known by the codename "Big Foot," who turned out to be Melvin Skinner. Based on the location data acquired from both phones, law enforcement agents were able to learn of Skinner’s location en route during his drug delivery from Arizona to Tennessee. Not surprisingly, he was promptly arrested at a rest stop near Abilene, Texas while driving a "motorhome filled with over 1,100 pounds of marijuana."
Different than Jones

In the court’s majority opinion, Judge Rogers specifically referred to the Jones v. United States case, which was decided by the United States Supreme Court in January 2012. In that unanimous decision, the Supreme Court found that law enforcement does not have the authority to warrantlessly place a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s vehicle.

However, in this case, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that "no such physical intrusion occurred."
"Here, the monitoring of the location of the contraband-carrying vehicle as it crossed the country is no more of a comprehensively invasive search than if instead the car was identified in Arizona and then tracked visually and the search handed off from one local authority to another as the vehicles progressed," Judge Rogers added in the decision.

"That the officers were able to use less expensive and more efficient means to track the vehicles is only to their credit."
In the wake of the Skinner decision, some privacy law experts disputed the court’s reasoning.

"In fact, the government's use of a pen register and a trap trace device (called a 'hybrid order') to obtain the info is something that has been extensively litigated and disputed," wrote Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an e-mail sent to Ars.

"This ‘hybrid' theory has been challenged both as a matter of statutory interpretation (i.e., the government's statutory analysis is wrong; you can't use the statutes in that way) and as a matter of constitutional law (i.e., even if you could use a d-order to get this info, 2703(d) is unconstitutional because this information requires a search warrant). The fact the Sixth Circuit didn't mention that or go through any of the legal analysis or even note that this is a hotly contested legal issue is simply (to borrow a term I saw on Twitter) ‘lazy.'"

Creatively Simple: How to Make Homemade Tortillas

August 16th, 2012


Today we are offering up another of Penny Raine’s great “Creatively Simple” ebooks – normally $4.95, but an exclusive freebie today just for our readers!

Tortillas are the main bread in a Mexican meal. They are used in many different dishes and even great on their own. But homemade tortillas are different than store bought, they taste fresher and heartier and I dare you to eat just one. This step-by-step, heavily illustrated tutorial ebook by Penny Raine will teach you how to make both flour and corn tortillas.

34 pages with lots of pictures. Yum!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday 08-16-12

Use an Old Gift Card to Keep a Bit of Duct Tape With You at All Times

Whitson Gordon View ProfileEmailFacebookTwitterAIMGoogle PlusRSSDuct tape is one of the most useful DIY tools on the planet, but it isn't the most portable one. Redditor fkinglag shares a clever way to keep a bit of duct tape with you at all times.

You've probably seen people walking around with duct tape around their water bottles, and it isn't because their water bottles are broken—that's an old trick for keeping a few feet of duct tape nearby for healing blisters and warts, making a floating compass, or performing other survival tricks. However, Redditor Saphiric notes that there's a similar trick for us non-campers:

Wrap a few feet of duct tape around an old credit card and put it in your wallet. You'll always have some if you need it.

It might add a bit more thickness to your wallet, but it'll sure come in handy if you need to clear a clogged drain, improve your posture, remove a stuck light bulb, and more.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wednesday 08-15-12

I live in Maryland and i resent this, might be one of the very few times i agree with the ACLU, lol

Is Your Car Being Tracked by a License-Plate Scanner?

The government can now track your movements when you drive and, over time, put together a profile of how you lead your life

f you drive through Maryland, the state may be using an automated reader to photograph your license plate — and storing your movements away for future use. Maryland is not alone. ACLU offices in 38 states are looking into how the government is using license-plate readers across the country — and what it is doing with the data. The ACLU is already calling the license-plate readers “the next big thing in government tracking.”

There are some uses of automatic license-plate readers that most people would agree are relatively unobjectionable — looking for cars that fled crime scenes or have been stolen, for example. The real problem is that when the government stores that information, it is not trying to solve an ongoing crime — it is building a database. These databases can quickly fill up with all sorts of details about how people lead their lives. By piecing together the locations of a particular license plate over time, the government may be able to determine if someone goes to church, synagogue or mosque regularly; whether they go to meetings of a particular political group; whether they participate in protests; or even if they are having an affair.
It’s hard to know how widespread the technology is, but to give one example, Los Angeles County alone is using hundreds of license-plate readers. According to LA Weekly, which got its numbers in part through public-records requests, Los Angeles police have recorded more than 160 million data points about the movements of millions of drivers.

It would be troubling enough if the license-plate data stayed instate, but it doesn’t. Maryland, for example, shares its records with a “fusion center” — an antiterrorism office that is run jointly by federal, state and local governments. That means that the federal government can combine data from different states and track people’s movements across the entire country.

The federal government is also using license-plate readers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which has been trying to get permission to use the readers in Utah, stated publicly that it is already operating scanners along drug-trafficking corridors in Texas and California. The federal government is also making money available to states to acquire license-plate readers. The ACLU of Massachusetts has filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request to learn more about how the federal government is using and funding license-plate readers.

But are scanners a violation of privacy? There used to be general agreement that activities like driving, which occur on public streets, are not private — and that people have no right to complain when their movements are being tracked. But the rise of highly invasive technology and databases is changing that. As one federal appeals court put it in an influential ruling involving the police planting GPS devices on people’s cars, these high-tech instruments allow the government to put together a “mosaic” of how people live their lives — a massive privacy violation.
Bottom line: license-plate reading should not be done in secret. The public has a right to know what kind of monitoring the government is doing, and there should be a public discussion of the appropriate trade-offs between law enforcement and privacy rights. If the ACLU offices get the information they want about how the federal and state governments are using license-plate readers, that discussion can begin.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday 08-14-12

Wal-Mart Radio Tags to Track Clothing

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT - News) plans to roll out sophisticated electronic ID tags to track individual pairs of jeans and underwear, the first step in a system that advocates say better controls inventory but some critics say raises privacy concerns.

Starting next month, the retailer will place removable "smart tags" on individual garments that can be read by a hand-held scanner. Wal-Mart workers will be able to quickly learn, for instance, which size of Wrangler jeans is missing, with the aim of ensuring shelves are optimally stocked and inventory tightly watched. If successful, the radio-frequency ID tags will be rolled out on other products at Wal-Mart's more than 3,750 U.S. stores.

"This ability to wave the wand and have a sense of all the products that are on the floor or in the back room in seconds is something that we feel can really transform our business," said Raul Vazquez, the executive in charge of Wal-Mart stores in the western U.S.

Before now, retailers including Wal-Mart have primarily used RFID tags, which store unique numerical identification codes that can be scanned from a distance, to track pallets of merchandise traveling through their supply chains.

Wal-Mart's broad adoption would be the largest in the world, and proponents predict it would lead other retailers to start using the electronic product codes, which remain costly. Wal-Mart has climbed to the top of the retailing world by continuously squeezing costs out of its operations and then passing on the savings to shoppers at the checkout counter. Its methods are widely adopted by its suppliers and in turn become standard practice at other retail chains.
But the company's latest attempt to use its influence—executives call it the start of a "next-generation Wal-Mart"—has privacy advocates raising questions.
While the tags can be removed from clothing and packages, they can't be turned off, and they are trackable. Some privacy advocates hypothesize that unscrupulous marketers or criminals will be able to drive by consumers' homes and scan their garbage to discover what they have recently bought.
They also worry that retailers will be able to scan customers who carry new types of personal ID cards as they walk through a store, without their knowledge. Several states, including Washington and New York, have begun issuing enhanced driver's licenses that contain radio- frequency tags with unique ID numbers, to make border crossings easier for frequent travelers. Some privacy advocates contend that retailers could theoretically scan people with such licenses as they make purchases, combine the info with their credit card data, and then know the person's identity the next time they stepped into the store.

"There are two things you really don't want to tag, clothing and identity documents, and ironically that's where we are seeing adoption," said Katherine Albrecht, founder of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering and author of a book called "Spychips" that argues against RFID technology. "The inventory guys may be in the dark about this, but there are a lot of corporate marketers who are interested in tracking people as they walk sales floors."
Smart-tag experts dismiss Big Brother concerns as breathless conjecture, but activists have pressured companies. Ms. Albrecht and others launched a boycott of Benetton Group SpA last decade after an RFID maker announced it was planning to supply the company with 15 million RFID chips.
Benetton later clarified that it was just evaluating the technology and never embedded a single sensor in clothing.
Wal-Mart is demanding that suppliers add the tags to removable labels or packaging instead of embedding them in clothes, to minimize fears that they could be used to track people's movements. It also is posting signs informing customers about the tags.
"Concerns about privacy are valid, but in this instance, the benefits far outweigh any concerns," says Sanjay Sarma, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "The tags don't have any personal information. They are essentially barcodes with serial numbers attached. And you can easily remove them."
In Europe some retailers put the smart labels on hang tags, which are then removed at checkout. That still provides the inventory-control benefit of RFID, but it takes away other important potential uses that retailers and suppliers like, such as being able to track the item all the way back to the point of manufacture in case of a recall, or making sure it isn't counterfeit.
Wal-Mart won't say how much it expects to benefit from the endeavor. But a similar pilot program at American Apparel Inc. in 2007 found that stores with the technology saw sales rise 14.3% compared to stores without the technology, according to Avery Dennison Corp., a maker of RFID equipment.
And while the tags wouldn't replace bulkier shoplifting sensors, Wal-Mart expects they'll cut down on employee theft because it will be easier to see if something's gone missing from the back room.
Several other U.S. retailers, including J.C. Penney and Bloomingdale's, have begun experimenting with smart ID tags on clothing to better ensure shelves remain stocked with sizes and colors customers want, and numerous European retailers, notably Germany's Metro AG, have already embraced the technology.
Robert Carpenter, chief executive of GS1 U.S., a nonprofit group that helped develop universal product-code standards four decades ago and is now doing the same for electronic product codes, said the sensors have dropped to as little as seven to 10 cents from 50 cents just a few years ago. He predicts that Wal-Mart's "tipping point" will drive prices lower.

"There are definitely costs. Some labels had to be modified," said Mark Gatehouse, director of replenishment for Wrangler jeans maker VF Corp., adding that while Wal-Mart is subsidizing the costs of the actual sensors, suppliers have had to invest in new equipment. "But we view this as an investment in where things are going. Everyone is watching closely because no one wants to be at a competitive disadvantage, and this could really lift sales."
Wal-Mart won't disclose what it's spending on the effort, but it confirms that it is subsidizing some of the costs for suppliers.
Proponents, meanwhile, have high hopes for expanded use in the future. Beyond more-efficient recalls and loss prevention, RFID tags could get rid of checkout lines.
"We are going to see contactless checkouts with mobile phones or kiosks, and we will see new ways to interact, such as being able to find out whether other sizes and colors are available while trying something on in a dressing room," said Bill Hardgrave, head of the RFID Research Center at the University of Arkansas, which is funded in part by Wal-Mart. "That is where the magic is going to happen. But that's all years away."

Former FDA Reviewer Speaks Out About Intimidation, Retaliation and Marginalizing of Safety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is often accused of serving industry at the expense of consumers. But even FDA defenders are shocked by reports this week of an institutionalized FDA spying program on its own scientists, lawmakers, reporters and academics that included an enemies list of "actors" and collaborators.
The paranoid and retaliatory email monitoring program, which sought to suppress the safety opinions of those hired to give their safety opinions, has provoked swift action from Capitol Hill. "I am writing to express my disappointment and disbelief with the way the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has retaliated against whistleblowers who expressed concern to Members of Congress and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) regarding safety concerns about medical products," wrote Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, the day after the breadth of the surveillance was reported in The New York Times.
Government agencies cannot discourage whistleblowing and reporting of wrongdoing by monitoring employees, echoed a White House memo sent to all government agencies about the FDA spy program.
"Devicegate" dates back at least to January 2009 when scientists in the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health wrote President Obama that top FDA managers "committed the most outrageous misconduct by ordering, coercing and intimidating FDA physicians and scientists to recommend approval, and then retaliating when the physicians and scientists refused to go along." Review procedures at the agency (which approves stents, breast implants, MRIs, and other devices and machinery) were so faulty that unsafe devices - including those that emit excessive radiation - were approved, charged the scientists, provoking an OSC investigation.
For reporting the safety risks, the scientists became targets of the now-disclosed spy program and some lost their jobs. "It has been brought to our attention that FDA management may have just recently ordered the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) to investigate us, rather than the managers who have engaged in wrongdoing!" wrote the FDA scientists in a follow-up letter a few weeks later to President Obama. "It is an outrage that our own Agency would step up the retaliation to such a level because we have reported their wrongdoing to the United States Congress."
During the same time period, Ronald Kavanagh B.S.Pharm., Pharm.D, Ph.D., an FDA drug reviewer in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, encountered similar intimidation and suppression of safety research. Truthout met with Dr. Kavanagh on several occasions to learn about his FDA whistleblowing experiences.
Martha Rosenberg for Truthout: You were an FDA drug reviewer from 1998 to 2008, working on well-known drugs like Cymbalta, Zyprexa, Concerta, Invega, Provigil and Saphris, and encountered the same kind of coercive working environment as the device reviewers.
Ronald Kavanagh: That's correct. In the Center for Drugs [Center for Drug Evaluation and Research or CDER], as in the Center for Devices, the honest employee fears the dishonest employee. There is also irrefutable evidence that managers at CDER have placed the nation at risk by corrupting the evaluation of drugs and by interfering with our ability to ensure the safety and efficacy of drugs. While I was at FDA, drug reviewers were clearly told not to question drug companies and that our job was to approve drugs. We were prevented, except in rare instances, from presenting findings at advisory committees. In 2007, formal policies were instituted so that speaking in any way that could reflect poorly on the agency could result in termination. If we asked questions that could delay or prevent a drug's approval - which of course was our job as drug reviewers - management would reprimand us, reassign us, hold secret meetings about us, and worse. Obviously in such an environment, people will self-censor.
MR: What are some of the ways in which safety risks were minimized in drug evaluation and review?
RK: Well, first of all I think most people would be shocked at how malleable safety data is. Human studies are usually too short and the number of subjects in them too small to adequately characterize the most dangerous risks. That's why even a single case has to be taken seriously. A safety signal from any study - and not just safety data from short term efficacy and safety studies (used for labeling) - needs to be evaluated. This means data from long term safety studies needs to be evaluated as well as the data from even longer, ongoing safety studies and from clinical pharmacology studies. Some of this information also needs to be examined during development of a drug. Yet I have seen new drug reviews where none of this was done by the medical safety reviewer.

MR: Would you give an example?
RK: For example, human clinical pharmacology trials are typically done in Europe, yet clinical pharmacology reviewers at FDA have been barred from analyzing this information prior to studies being conducted in the US. Without being able to do this, we are unable to detect evidence of risks early and cannot provide guidance that would help with the development of the drug in terms not only of safety and proving efficacy, but also with the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the drug's development. New labeling policies can also mask risks as they exclude the labeling of adverse events if they are under a certain percentage and/or not double the rate found with a placebo. By this rule, certain serious and potentially lethal adverse events that eventually resulted in a drug being withdrawn from the market would not have had any mention of the adverse events made in the labeling at all. On top of that, I frequently found companies submitting certain data to one place and other data to another place and safety information elsewhere so it could not all be pulled together and then coming in for a meeting to obtain an agreement and proposing that the safety issue is negligible and does not need further evaluation.
MR: Like they are trying to pull the wool over the FDA's eyes?
RK: During development, if reviewers say things that companies don't like, they will complain about the reviewer or they will call upper management and have the reviewer removed or overruled. On one occasion, the company even told me they were going to call upper management to get a clear requirement for approval that they did not want to fulfill eliminated, which I then saw happen. On another occasion a company clearly stated in a meeting that they had "paid for an approval."
MR: That is shocking. Wouldn't the FDA managers want safety risks investigated?
RK: Just the opposite. Sometimes we were literally instructed to only read a 100-150 page summary and to accept drug company claims without examining the actual data, which on multiple occasions I found directly contradicted the summary document. Other times I was ordered not to review certain sections of the submission, but invariably that's where the safety issues would be. This could only occur if FDA management was told about issues in the submission before it had even been reviewed. In addition, management would overload us with huge amounts of material that could not possibly be read by a given deadline and would withhold assistance. When you are able to dig in, if you found issues that would make you turn down a drug, you could be pressured to reverse your decision or the review would then be handed off to someone who would simply copy and paste whatever claims the company made in the summary document.
MR: You have recounted that this is what happened to you with the nerve gas drug pyridostigmine.
RK: Yes, pyridostigmine is intended to be given preventatively in case of a nerve gas attack with the nerve agent Soman and it was used experimentally on Gulf War troops. After the first Gulf War, there were concerns it was linked to Gulf War Illness. Then, prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Defense Department (DoD) tried to have President Bush waive informed consent for pyridostigmine, even though it was still an investigational drug.
MR: Why?
RK: Possibly because there is less hassle medicating troops if no informed consent is required. When President Bush refused to waive informed consent, the FDA approved pyridostigmine using the "Animal Rule" which allows the approval of drugs for human use based on animal data. It was employed because it was unethical to dose humans with the nerve agent Soman to see if pyridostigmine would actually prevent death. However, the way the drugs were used in the animal studies didn't reflect how they would be used in humans and resulted in misleading conclusions.
MR: Another FDA reviewer turned down pyridostigmine before you?
RK: Yes. I was assigned to re-review his conclusions regarding pyridostigmine and even before I began my review I was pressured to approve it and this pressure continued through nearly two dozen meetings with FDA management. After it became clear that I would not be pressured into an approval and it became apparent that it would be approved according to the animal rule in spite of the science, I raised an even stronger objection: not only did it not work against nerve agents other than Soman, but pyridostigmine actually increased lethality in the presence of other nerve agents and we knew that Saddam Hussein was not using Soman and was instead using these other nerve agents.
MR: So, you were just stating what should have been obvious?
RK: This information was not secret - both FDA and DoD public documents acknowledge increased lethality with other nerve agents such as Sarin, and DoD and other government documents that are public also document that Saddam Hussein was not using Soman and was instead using these other nerve agents exclusively. Yet because I raised this as an objection, I was immediately replaced as the primary reviewer so that I could not document my concerns and so that pyridostigmine could be approved. It's since been proposed that if we ever face the prospect of nerve agents in the future, that this approval will be used as a justification to convince the President at that time to waive informed consent without presenting a full picture. Even though using pyridostigmine would likely only invite the use of nerve agents.
MR: Why would the FDA and DoD allow troops to be put in this kind of harm's way?
RK: I don't know and don't want to speculate. However senior managers made statements indicating knowledge that the approval was illegal. In any case, it was clear and known that use of pyridostigmine would interfere with the operation of our troops.
MR: Your training as a pediatric clinical pharmacologist has made you especially sensitive to drug risks for children. What are some of the unique drug risks children face?
RK: Pediatric approvals are based on the assumption that children will respond similarly to similar exposures. Yet dosages that are used for studies in children are often based on approved adult dosages rather than a scientific determination of whether children achieve the same or higher exposures than adults. This is because companies don't want to develop lower dosages for children if they don't have to. Thus exposure studies in children are done after the efficacy studies have been begun instead of before when it's needed. The exposure studies then may also use overweight children as well as too few children. Since no allowance is made for race, age, puberty, or actual weight and since there are differences in children's clearance of drugs, there are often higher exposures to active and toxic metabolites in children compared to adults. Thus there are often unnecessary risks with the doses that are approved.
MR: Are there other risks with one-size-fits-all doses?
RK: There are racial differences in drug metabolism that are not taken into consideration. For example, one anticancer drug breaks down faster in African Americans, so patients don't get sufficient exposure to the drug to kill tumors. Yet African Americans were not included in the safety and efficacy studies. When drugs break down faster by one particular pathway, the patients will also sustain greater toxicity and even death from the toxic metabolite that is formed. This is especially true when the company subsequently recommends higher doses to overcome the lower exposure due to faster metabolism. In one case, this occurred with a drug used in pregnant women, where hormonal changes during pregnancy cause a greater breakdown to a metabolite that is suspected to cause mental retardation in children exposed during the pregnancy. Not only does the labeling suggest possible use during pregnancy, the labeling recommends a higher dose during pregnancy. All the while, it appears that the company was aware of the formation of a metabolite that likely affects brain development from well before the drug was ever submitted to the FDA.
MR: Are the risks just ignored?
RK: FDA's response to most expected risks is to deny them and wait until there is irrefutable evidence postmarketing, and then simply add a watered down warning in the labeling. In fact, when patients exhibit drug toxicity, it is usually attributed to an underlying condition which we know is likely to make the drug toxicity worse. This also allows the toxicity to be dismissed as being unrelated to the drug in any way. Consequently, toxicities are only attributed to the drug when the evidence is irrefutable. Thus the majority of cases where there is a contributing factor are simply dismissed. When you do raise potential safety issues, the refrain that I heard repeatedly from upper management was‚"where are the dead bodies in the street?" Which I took to mean that we only do something if the press is making an issue of it.
MR: You have also spoken about the dangers of certain ADHD drugs and presented some damning data about Cephalon's stimulant Provigil.
RK: In 2006, a medical reviewer found several cases of what he thought might be Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) in children who took Provigil or modafinil. SJS and the related conditions erythema multiforme and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) are life-threatening skin conditions where huge swathes of skin covering large sections of the body die and slough off and the mucus membranes are also affected. The diseases are incredibly painful and kill 10 and 40 percent respectively of the people who develop them. The reviewer believed he was going to be overruled and asked me for help. We were able to get an advisory committee meeting in which I was allowed to present slides of the data that supported a diagnosis of SJS in a child in the study. I also showed that a metabolite of modafinil was 16 times higher in children than in adults and similar to the worst drug that exists for causing SJS, Blephamide. The drug company doctors were unprepared for my presentation and claimed they had no information on the child, including no photos and that they had lost contact.

MR: One of the pharma doctors actually tried to downplay SJS with modafinil, saying a child was hospitalized, but was not in the "burn unit," according to the transcript.

RK: Yes. Largely because of my presentation, the advisory committee voted 12-1 against approval, but Cephalon claimed in the press that the rash was viral and was not from the drug. The next year, armodafinil, a related drug, was approved with a contraindication for children with a contraindication following three months later for modafinil. Contemporaneously, Cephalon agreed to pay $425 million for off-label marketing of modafinil. That means that for 18 months, the FDA kept quiet about the issue of SJS in children, while Cephalon continued off-label marketing at full steam. Later, I found that the FDA had internal documents that had the same conclusion as my analysis but they had been withheld from the advisory committee.
All drugs have dangers including death, and psychiatric drugs tend to be particularly dangerous, but as long as we make reasonable attempts to minimize risks, and provide adequate information for prescribers and patients, I am not opposed to them. On multiple occasions I have stood up for smaller drug companies against FDA management.
MR: The recent revelations of reprisals against FDA device reviewers must not have surprised you at all.
RK: No they didn't. After FDA management learned I had gone to Congress about certain issues, I found my office had been entered and my computer physically tampered with. I saw strange cursor movements on my computer when I was just sitting at my desk reading that I suspected was evidence of spying. After I gave Representative Waxman's (D-CA) office a USB drive with evidence, FDA staff was admonished that it was prohibited to download information to USB drives. Then, after I openly reported irregularities in an antipsychotic drug review and FDA financial collusion with outsiders to Senator Grassley’s office and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I was threatened with prison if I should release trade secret information to Congress.
MR: That is similar to the FDA's claim with the device reviewers. Why do efforts to silence free speech always seem to be couched as "trade secrets"?
RK: Because much of the information we receive are trade secrets and companies explicitly label everything they provide the FDA as such and explicitly prohibit their dissemination. In spite of this, the Food Drug and Cosmetics Act explicitly allows communication of trade secrets by FDA employees to Congress, but since most people are unaware of this, FDA management can use the threat of jail for violation of the Trade Secrets Act, not only to discourage reviewers, but in my case they got Senator Grassley's staff to destroy the evidence I provided them. The threats, however, can be much worse than prison. One manager threatened my children - who had just turned 4 and 7 years old - and in one large staff meeting, I was referred to as a "saboteur." Based on other things that happened and were said, I was afraid that I could be killed for talking to Congress and criminal investigators.
MR: Still, the FDA transparency meeting transcripts indicate you not only went to members of Congress, you appealed to the Health and Human Services inspector general.
RK: Congress did put me in contact with the Justice Department, however, I don't believe my complaints were taken seriously by the FBI or investigated. I believe that actual felonies may well have occurred. For example, I found evidence of insider trading of drug company stocks reflecting knowledge that likely only FDA management would have known. I believe I also have documentation of falsification of documents, fraud, perjury, and widespread racketeering, including witnesses tampering and witness retaliation.
MR: And in addition to this alleged wrongdoing, the public is at risk from unsafe drugs that were approved?

RK: Yes. In fact, thanks in part to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, [in which drug companies pay for expedited reviews] thalidomide could not be stopped today.