Friday, March 30, 2007

NRA: The Untold Story of Gun Confiscation After Katrina

Click on the UTUBE Link in the bottom right corner to watch video

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Rosie O'Donnell speaks out on Iran and 9/11 (3/29/07)

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Credit checks: A civil-rights issue?

Studies haven't found a link between poor credit and job performance, but more employers are checking, and minorities are getting squeezed. Insurers are slammed for checking, too.

By Christian Science Monitor

Lisa Bailey worked for five months at Harvard University as a temp entering donations into a database. When the university made the job a salaried position, Bailey, who is black, saw a chance to lift herself out of dead-end jobs.

Bailey's superiors encouraged her to apply, she says, but turned her down after discovering her bad credit history.

Bailey, with her lawyer, has lodged a complaint against Harvard charging racial discrimination. The reason: Studies indicate that minorities are more likely to have bad credit, but credit problems have not been shown to negatively affect job performance.

Some privacy and minority advocates are now seeing credit as a civil-rights issue as minorities start to fight employers and insurers who base decisions on credit histories. Their effort could slow the near doubling in credit checks by employers in the past decade, which affects millions of Americans who are struggling with debt.

"It's definitely a civil-rights issue because of the growing use of credit reports and credit scores for hiring, renting an apartment, insurance and the fact that people of color have not been integrated into the credit-scoring system as much as traditional white middle-class America," says Evan Hendricks, the author of "Credit Scores & Credit Reports: How the System Really Works, What You Can Do."

In a 2004 study involving 2 million people, the Texas Department of Insurance said blacks had an average credit score roughly 10% to 35% worse than whites; Hispanics had scores 5% to 25% worse than whites.

Credit checks are a growing factor in hiring, with 35% of employers checking applicants' credit in 2003, up from 19% in 1996, according to the Society of Human Resource Management, an association for human-resource managers. Typically, credit reports are done if a person is going to deal with money, says John Dooney, a manager of strategic research for the association.

A case for considering credit
Employers should look at credit only for jobs in which the information is relevant, says Lester Rosen, the president of Employment Screening Resources, a national background-screening firm in California. He cites a few examples:

For jobs handling money, people may have a motive to steal if their debts surpass their salaries.
For jobs requiring travel, bad credit could bar applicants from renting cars or buying tickets.
For jobs managing money, a credit report can offer clues on how applicants manage their own.
Particularly in that last scenario, Rosen cautions employers to be circumspect because blemishes might be errors or beyond an applicant's control, such as sudden medical expenses. Legally, employers must receive written permission from applicants to do a credit check and must give those denied because of credit a chance to respond.

Rosen defends the careful consideration of credit in the hiring process. "If Harvard hired a person and did not use a credit report and the person embezzled, what would the headline be?" he asks.

So far, there's a lack of data supporting a relationship between bad credit and theft by employees. In perhaps the only study published on the subject, Jerry Palmer and Laura Koppes of Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond in 2003 found no correlation between employee credit reports and negative performance or termination for dishonesty.

Anti-discrimination laws bar hiring practices that disadvantage minorities, even inadvertently, unless a company can prove the practices are related to measuring a person's capability to do a job. Bailey's lawyer, Piper Hoffman, has taken on several cases in which companies used credit as a factor in the hiring process. In one 2004 case, she says, an employee's lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson resulted in a settlement that changed the way the company used credit in its hiring practices.

"In the larger picture, we're hoping to get Harvard and other employers to stop using credit as a criterion in hiring," Hoffman says.

Bailey lodged her complaint in November with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, which reviews all such cases before any lawsuits can be filed. Agency officials say there's anecdotal evidence these cases are on the rise.

"Employers seem to be assuming that somebody with a poor credit history is more likely to steal, and I don't think there's any kind of evidence that supports that," says Dianna Johnston, an assistant legal counsel with the EEOC. "To the extent that the employer has done an in-depth look and found other indices of dishonesty, they would be on more solid ground."

In a statement, Harvard notes that a "relatively small percentage" of jobs at the university require a credit check.

"The university conducts credit history reviews for employment purposes as required by credit card issuers, as well as to fulfill our fiduciary and data privacy responsibilities," the statement says. "Those responsibilities include protecting the private credit card data of our students, faculty, parents and alumni."

Bailey says that if Harvard was concerned she might steal, the university should have looked at criminal records instead. "I was a cashier for many years, and I've never been rich, and I've never stolen money," she says.

She ran into credit card debt she couldn't pay back when she spent some time unemployed. Harvard, she says, offered to reconsider if she could clear up her report in one week.

"The only way I can get it cleaned up in seven days is if I have money, so there was no way," Bailey says.

Catch-22 for poor people
Ernest Haffner, a legal adviser with the EEOC, notes that employers who screen for credit are setting up a Catch-22 for poor people: They need jobs to get good credit, but employers won't hire them because they don't have it.

The racial component to credit histories has been challenged in the insurance arena, too. The Texas Department of Insurance study found a relationship between credit scores and claims filed.

However, a class-action lawsuit against Allstate has just been settled, which resulted in the company changing the way they evaluate credit reports, says Wendy Harrison, a Phoenix lawyer who brought the case.

"What we've argued in our (insurance) cases is that you can adjust for (racial bias)," Harrison says, who has also handled cases of credit screening by employers.

Employers, however, are probably not relying on a number rating that can be adjusted because, according to Rosen, agencies give them only specialty reports that don't include a score. Harvard says their report had no score.

As for Bailey, she still wants the Harvard job and says there would be "no hard feelings." But first she wants to change the system for herself and others. "I hope I win. It might be beneficial to other people, too," she says.

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Cities set limits on serving food to homeless people

By Emily Bazar, USA TODAY

Cities are cracking down on charities that feed the homeless, adopting rules that restrict food giveaways to certain locations, require charities to get permits or limit the number of free meals they can provide.
Orlando, Dallas, Las Vegas and Wilmington, N.C.,
began enforcing such laws last year. Some are being challenged.

Last November, a federal judge blocked the Las Vegas law banning food giveaways to the poor in city parks. In Dallas, two ministries are suing, arguing that the law violates religious freedom.

"Going after the volunteers is new," says Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless. "They think that by not feeding people, it will make the homeless people leave."

City officials say the rules were prompted by complaints about crime and food safety. Some say they want control over locations so homeless people can also get services such as addiction counseling and job training.

"The feedings were happening several times a week" in parking lots and sidewalks downtown, says Dewey Harris, director of Wilmington's Community Services Department. "A lot of the merchants said, 'We feel uncomfortable when you have all these homeless being fed downtown when we're trying to attract tourists.' "

Last March, the city restricted meals on public property to designated locations and required a permit. One spot has been approved: a city park parking lot.

Dallas also limits outdoor food giveaways to approved locations. Those distributing food must take a food-handling course and get a city permit, says Karen Rayzer, director of environmental and health services. A violator can be fined $2,000.

Orlando adopted an ordinance in July that requires a permit to serve more than 25 people in a park within 2 miles of City Hall,
where most food giveaways were taking place. An applicant may serve twice a year in each park.

"This ordinance wasn't established to ban feeding," says city spokeswoman Heather Allebaugh. She acknowledges that some groups ignore the law.

City Commissioner Robert Stuart voted against it. He is executive director of the Christian Service Center for Central Florida, which feeds 325 homeless people a day but, as private property, is not affected.

"It's not fair to take a population without a home and make them criminals," he says. "And I don't think we ought to be limiting the opportunity to help others."

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Florida: City to Seize Homes Over a $5 Parking Ticket

Brooksville, Florida proposes to foreclose homes and seize cars over less than $20 in parking tickets!!!!

The city council in Brooksville, Florida voted this week to advance a proposal granting city officials the authority to place liens and foreclose on the homes of motorists accused of failing to pay a single $5 parking ticket. Non-homeowners face having their vehicles seized if accused of not paying three parking offenses.
According to the proposed ordinance, a vehicle owner must pay a parking fine within 72 hours if a meter maid claims his automobile was improperly parked, incurring tickets worth between $5 and $250. Failure to pay this amount results in the assessment of a fifty-percent "late fee." After seven days, the city will place a lien on the car owner's home for the amount of the ticket plus late fees, attorney fees and an extra $15 fine. The fees quickly turn a $5 ticket into a debt worth several hundred dollars, growing at a one-percent per month interest rate. The ordinance does not require the city to provide notice to the homeowner at any point so that after ninety days elapse, the city will foreclose. If the motorist does not own a home, it will seize his vehicle after the failure to pay three parking tickets.

Any motorist who believes a parking ticket may have been improperly issued must first pay a $250 "appeal fee" within seven days to have the case heard by a contract employee of the city. This employee will determine whether the city should keep the appeal fee, plus the cost of the ticket and late fees, or find the motorist not guilty. Council members postponed a decision on whether to reduce this appeal fee until final adoption of the measure which is expected in the first week of April.

The full text of the ordinance is available in a 605k PDF file at the source link below.
Ordinance No. 743

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Monday, March 26, 2007

What's in a Flu Shot?

Before you get your next (bird) flu shot, watch this short vid and make sure it's something you really think you need.

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Cash Machine Scam

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The Ultimate Con 911 Documentary Trailer 1

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US Atty Fired Because He 'Wouldn't Play Ball'

See Video
Katie Couric talks with David Iglesias, the former U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico, about the circumstances surrounding his firing

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Astronauts gone Wild U MUST SEE THIS!!!

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Colmes and Marshall Get It Right

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TIMZ - Iraq (www.myspace.com/timz)

A video from TIMZ, an Iraqi-American, posted on Youtube. It’s worth your time to check out.

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In The Future, Mandatory Implants: For Now, High Schools Issue Contactless Microchip Student ID

Added: Mar 18th, 2007 11:13 AM

Students at Philadelphia's sixty high schools issued contactless campus ID cards

Access, attendance tracking, lunch programs drive the implementation provided by Scholarchip

Andy Williams, Contributing Editor

Colleges have been using campus card ID systems for years. But with increasing security concerns, similar products are moving into public schools. One example: Philadelphia, Penn.’s school system where high school students at 60 schools have been provided a contactless ID card needed to gain admission to school property, track attendance, and, in some cases, buy lunch in the cafeteria.

"We have 56,000 high school students and we wanted a better handle on (them)," said Patricia DiLella, senior project manager for Philadelphia School District’s Office of Information Technology. "Before, everyone was assumed present until marked absent. We needed something to track students. With this new system, everyone is assumed absent until they tap (their card) and have physically been seen by school personnel."

Via a request for proposal process, the district selected ScholarChip Card LLC, a seven-year-old organization whose origins date to higher education and has since incorporated K-12 schools in its lineup. While ScholarChip had been conducting a pilot program in two of Philadelphia’s middle schools, it landed the five-year contract because it had "better technology, ease of implementation and cost," said Ms. DiLella. "It was state of the art and they had experience with smart cards in universities."

"We spent a year and half doing evaluations in the pilot program (with the middle schools)," said Dr. Maged Atiya, ScholarChip’s founder and chief technology officer. "We’ve provided a contactless card (using NXP’s MiFARE technology) to every high school student in the district.”

Ms. DiLella added that the district, Pennsylvania's largest, was "in the process of implementing the system in three large middle schools. We concentrated on high schools first because they needed it."

Students are encouraged to wear the lanyard-attached badge around their necks, OBM: "Scripture calls this a YOKE" however, many are still simply carrying them on their persons, said Ms. DiLella. "We want them to get used to wearing the cards because they’re going to be used (eventually) for classroom attendance."

The smart ID badge is tapped when a student enters school grounds. Attendance is taken in a classroom in the normal fashion and the results are compared with the records generated when the students first enter the school. In addition, the badges can be read by portable, PDA-style readers. So, if a student is in the hallway, the badge can be read by an administrator to determine where the student should be.

To accomplish this, the card contains the student’s picture and also his class schedule. Other information can be added, such as any special health needs and whether he’s on free or reduced lunch, which can be read by a POS device in the cafeteria.

The next step is implementing electronic attendance at the classroom level. She said some schools would like to put readers in classrooms so students can walk by, thus registering their physical attendance in the class. But that’s not something the district is looking at as a whole because it’s expensive and would require readers in each classroom.

"The (first) challenge is making sure teachers have computers," she said. "If a child is marked as tapping in (when he first enters the school) when the teacher gets to her class for the day, it shows he's present." She then manually identifies that the student is in the classroom. If he’s not, a notation is made on the computer.

"We opted right now not to have devices hanging on the door," she said. Inevitably, they would be subject to vandalism. "So the teacher will be doing it. This system does help tremendously in finding kids and keeping track of them."

Eventually, the POS system in the cafeteria will be able to have the foodservice portion on the card and ultimately an e-purse. OBM: "Can you say cashless society" But right now it just notifies cafeteria personnel that the child is eligible for free and reduced lunch, said Ms. DiLella. OBM: the poor & minorities are being tracked....hmmmm....if you have money you still have/can buy some freedoms.....hmmmm......I wonder.....the government woundn't like to try this for america would they????

In, the technology-savvy Microsoft School of the Future in Philadelphia, the cards are also used to open lockers. "I don't think it will be implemented at our other schools anytime soon," she said. It would require either upgrading the lockers or, more likely, installing new ones, which is an expense the district isn’t willing to undertake at this point. OBM: Lockers have always been seen as a students privete property that requires a warrent to open.....I guess they found the way around that.

Each school issues its own cards. "The school can queue a card and print it or we can print it at our data center," sats Dr. Atiya. "It’s all up to what the school wants to do. (It is a major) implementation of distributed smart card issuance and printing. We have almost 70 printers in the field.”

The printers from Evolis are customized to encode the contactless chip during the print cycle. According to Dr. Atiya, as the blank card is physically printed, a unique digital ID is added to the card that contains the student’s schedule data, emergency information, cafeteria e-purse, etc.

“Our approach is ideal … for large urban school districts,” adds Dr. Atiya. OBM: she means minorities....“We installed 300 devices in Philadelphia inside of five weeks. That’s because of the architecture of our system. Everything is self-configurable."

It seems that the Philadelphia experience supports his claim. "The technology is unbelievable," Ms. DiLella said in rating the overall system. “We implemented in 59 schools in six weeks. That’s unprecedented. ScholarChip was out here helping them with training and helping us get more accurate data. Now we're able to assist schools manage and keep accurate attendance records."

SOURCE: Avisian publications

OBM: That away corporations....train the kids for the fashism...I mean freedoms they are going to have!!!! People wake up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Freedom in a Surveillance State

Brian Trent
American Chronicle
Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A gladiator match between freedom, technology, and government is on the horizon, and there’s no guarantee the America we know will survive it.

Consider Radio Frequency Identification tags, or RFIDs. A long-standing practice of biologists is to tag animals with tracking devices so their locations and behaviors can be monitored. In a few short years this technology will be coming to a human near you.

In recent months U.S. manufacturers announced plans to utilize RFIDs in a staggering array of products. Making use of the same technology that allows cars to sail through EZ Pass tolls, RFIDs are slated to appear on clothing, sneakers, razors, books, boots, and just about everything else that a tiny tracking device can be stitched onto or into. The initial incentive is a highly practical one: "tagged" products can be readily tracked through the distribution gauntlet from factory to store shelf. Concealed like many extant antitheft devices, they will do nothing unless touched by a "reader signal," which makes the RFID "reply" with its own unique signal – an electronic dialogue invisible to the person wearing it.

There are other uses for this remarkable invention. The shoppers of 2015 will be able to walk into a store and have their clothes "tell" the salespeople their entire purchasing history and preferences. As more and more businesses merge into megacorporations, future consumers will find themselves at the heart of an elaborate web-work in which their entire financial histories can be traded wherever they go.

This isn't science fiction. Since 1997 Mobil has been spectacularly successful with its Speedpass program while convenience-store juggernaut Wal-Mart already mandated its largest suppliers equip all products with RFID tags by January 2005. This has understandably raised the hackles of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the World Privacy Forum. It's one thing to install an anti-theft tag on a Liz Claiborne sweater; such devices are removed before you exit the store. It's quite another when your apparel can theoretically announce your location wherever you go, broadcasting your sales information. If you think identity-theft is a concern today... just wait.

Then there are the cameras that will study your every move. In Greek mythology, the hundred-eyed god Argus was the world's greatest watchdog; today Argus has become a reality in the form of thousands of surveillance cameras in such key cities worldwide as London, Sydney, and most recently Washington, D.C. After the terrorism of 9-11-01, the U.S. capital was quick to embrace the cameras, which now keep watchful eyes trained on federal buildings, mass-transit stations, and shopping areas. According to a statement by D.C. Chief of Police Charles Ramsey, America's capital "must and will expand its use of surveillance cameras, much like London, which uses 150,000 cameras to monitor its population."

The use of technology by police to enforce the law is quite different from using technology to “monitor a population.” Arresting lawbreakers isn't the same as tracking every citizen in a given prefecture. Setting up radar speed traps for lead-footed drivers doesn't mean that surveillance should be used on everyone who drives, walks, shops, and has conversations they think are private. The development of TIA, a database originally called Total Information Awareness but recently changed to Terrorist Information Awareness (for political purposes which keep the acronym, and purpose, identical) is already laying the brickwork for your data to be kept in one absolute database by one absolute police force.

Consider this: In a not-too-distant year an ordinary American – whom we'll call Eric Blair – gets up each day to go to work. Cameras mounted on every traffic light monitor his route. Computers at his workplace door register his arrival and departure. Each time he visits a store, dines out, or attends a movie, cameras controlled by such programs as TIA watch and record him and every purchase he makes.

Blair isn't even a blip in America's surveillance system so long as he sticks to his expected route like Jim Carey's creepy predicament in The Truman Show. But one day Blair deviates from his schedule. He calls in sick to work but cameras show him tooling around the city in his car. Perhaps he goes to the library to check out a "politically questionable publication." Perhaps he drives to a girlfriend's house for some "illicit premarital intimacy." Maybe he just wants to find a private place where he can hike -- a behavior that suggests "socially deviant tendencies."

This all sounds absurd but the point is that, when everyone can be tracked, anything is possible. The policies and philosophies of a given administration, no matter how seemingly preposterous, can be imposed when the infrastructure for universal surveillance exists. What you eat, discuss, watch, read, suddenly becomes digitized into maps of cold equations. Earlier this year, thousands of peaceful protestors in New York were fingerprinted by the NYPD, resulting in a neat little record of "dissidents" exercising their American rights...

Blair's world may have had its roots in 2001 when a terrorist attack in the United States triggered off new homeland security policies. But the surveillance systems originally designed to “look for terrorist behavior” were expanded to "look for deviant behavior.”

And this is where the apathetic crowd, the ones who say, “Who cares? As long as you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you fret?” reveal how one-dimensional their argument is. Were the men under Taliban rule doing something wrong when they didn’t grow their beards a specific length? Were Jewish families wrong for being Jewish under Nazi rule? Or perhaps the pro-democracy students at Tianamen Square? Or witches under Torqamada’s administration?

In our own age, we have seen a White House administration which equates dissent with being a terrorist. We’ve heard George H. Bush state that he didn’t think atheists should be considered American citizens – an opinion so laughably absurd it makes me wonder if either of the Bushes bothered reading the Constitution they both swore to defend, preserve, and protect.

“A despot always has his good moments” wrote Voltaire in addressing the issue of tyranny. "But an assembly of despots? Never. If a tyrant does me an injustice, I can disarm him through his mistress, his confessor, or his page ... but a company of tyrants is inaccessible to all seductions." In a world of invisible and warrantless searches, omnipresent cameras, and tracking devices, American life may well be thrust under the microscope of a legion of would-be tyrants as inaccessible to "seductions" as they are to public accountability.

The only solution that suggests itself is to monitor the would-be monitors. If the United States is to remain the bastion of liberty, personal freedom cannot be subject to some giant counting system as every move and thought are monitored. The same cozy web we've created could transform itself into a prison with one large, all-seeing spider at the center.

In such a society a future Jefferson might just be inspired to draft a future declaration. After all, there'll be a lot more at stake than highly taxed tea.

(Author’s Note: A lengthier version of this article was originally published as a main feature in The Humanist magazine Nov/Dec 04, and featured in the 2005/2006 National Debate on civil liberties.)

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The War on Drugs’ War on Minorities

Democratic presidential candidates crave the Latino and black vote, but ignore the Drug War’s unfair toll on people of color.

by Arianna Huffington
THERE IS A subject being forgotten in the 2008 Democratic race for the White House.

While all the major candidates are vying for the black and Latino vote, they are completely ignoring one of the most pressing issues affecting those constituencies: the failed “war on drugs” — a war that has morphed into a war on people of color.

Consider this: According to a 2006 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, African Americans make up an estimated 15% of drug users, but they account for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. Or consider this: The U.S. has 260,000 people in state prisons on nonviolent drug charges; 183,200 (more than 70%) of them are black or Latino.

Such facts have been bandied about for years. But our politicians have consistently failed to take action on what has become yet another third rail of American politics, a subject to be avoided at all costs by elected officials who fear being incinerated on contact for being soft on crime.

Perhaps you hoped this would change during a spirited Democratic presidential primary? Unfortunately, a quick search of the top Democratic hopefuls’ websites reveals that not one of them — not Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, not John Edwards, not Joe Biden, not Chris Dodd, not Bill Richardson — even mentions the drug war, let alone offers any solutions.

The silence coming from Clinton and Obama is particularly deafening.

Obama has written eloquently about his own struggle with drugs but has not addressed the tragic effect the war on drugs is having on African American communities.

As for Clinton, she flew into Selma, Ala., to reinforce her image as the wife of the black community’s most beloved politician and has made much of her plan to attract female voters, but she has ignored the suffering of poor, black women right in her own backyard.

Located down the road from her Chappaqua, N.Y., home are two prisons housing female inmates, Taconic and Bedford. Forty-eight percent of the women in Taconic are there for nonviolent drug offenses; 78% of those in the prison are African American or Latino.

And Bedford, the state’s only maximum-security prison for women, is home to some of the worst victims of New York’s draconian Rockefeller-era drug laws — mothers and grandmothers whose first brush with the law resulted in their being locked away for 15 years or more on nonviolent drug charges.

Yet even though these prisons are so nearby, Clinton has turned a blind eye to the plight of the women locked away there, notably refusing to speak out on their behalf.

Avoidance of this issue comes at a very stiff price (and not just the more than $50 billion a year we’re spending on the failed drug war). The toll is paid in shattered families, devastated inner cities and wasted lives (with no apologies for using that term).

During the 10 years I’ve been writing about the injustice of the drug war, I’ve repeatedly watched as politicians paid lip service to the problem but then ducked as the sickening status quo claimed more victims. Here in California, of the 171,000 inmates jamming our wildly overcrowded prisons, 36,000 are nonviolent drug offenders.

I remember in 1999 asking Dan Bartlett, then the campaign spokesman for candidate George W. Bush, about Bush’s position on the outrageous disparity between the sentences meted out for possession of crack cocaine and those given for possession of powder cocaine — a disparity that has helped fill U.S. prisons with black low-level drug users (80% of sentenced crack defendants are black). Federal sentencing guidelines dictate that judges impose the same five-year prison sentence for possession of five grams of crack or 500 grams of powder cocaine.

“The different sentencing for crack cocaine and powder cocaine is something that there’s no doubt needs to be addressed,” Bartlett told me. But in the more than six years since Bush and Bartlett moved into the White House, the problem has gone unaddressed. No doubt about it.

Maybe the president will suddenly wake up and decide to take on the issue five days before he leaves office. That’s what Bill Clinton did, writing a 2001 New York Times Op-Ed article in which he trumpeted the need to “immediately reduce the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences” — conveniently ignoring the fact that he had the power to solve it for eight years and did nothing.

When it mattered, he maintained an imperial silence. Then, when it didn’t, he became Captain Courageous. And he lamented the failures of our drug policy as though he had been an innocent bystander rather than the chief executive (indeed, the prison population doubled on his watch).

The injustice is so egregious that a conservative senator, Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), is now leading the charge in Congress to ease crack sentences. “I believe that as a matter of law enforcement and good public policy, crack cocaine sentences are too heavy and can’t be justified,” he said. “People don’t want us to be soft on crime, but I think we ought to make the law more rational.”

There’s a talking point Hillary and Obama should adopt. It’s both the right thing and the smart thing. Because of disenfranchisement statutes, large numbers of black men who were convicted of drug crimes are ineligible to vote, even those who have fully paid their debt to society.

A 2000 study found that 1.4 million African American men — 13% of the total black male population — were unable to vote in the 2000 election because of state laws barring felons access to the polls. In Florida, one in three black men is permanently disqualified from voting. Think that might have made a difference in the 2000 race? Our shortsighted drug laws have become the 21st century manifestation of Jim Crow.

Shouldn’t this be an issue Democratic presidential candidates deem worthy of their attention?

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African Americans will bear the brunt of the collapsing subprime mortgage market

Institutionalized racism could lead to the greatest plunder of African American wealth in US history
Richard Mellor
AFSCME Local 444 retired

For any attentive observer, the crisis in the subrime mortgage market must be well understood by now. I pointed out in earlier commentaries, (1) the concern the speculators have that this will spread to the wider housing market which is an $8 trillion monster, much of it, like US society in general, held up through debt. The consequences of this are dire as better-paid workers, the middle class and small business will be hit.

The subrime market is mostly poor people, senior citizens, and the disabled; people with weak credit histories. But a major section of this market is African American and other people of color. The effect of this crisis will be devastating for them. In these communities, “…something very nasty is going down.” writes John Gapper in the Financial Times. (2) We should remember that these comments come from a leading commentator of one of the world’s leading journals of big business.

Gapper continues, “Some 52 percent of loans made to black people in 2005 were subprime and 80 percent of these subprime loans were exploding Arms.” (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) Martin Eakes, a credit union CEO claims estimates that 2.2 million families could lose their homes to foreclosure. This catastrophe, claims Eakes, could become “the largest loss of African-American wealth in American history.” (3)

We should shed no tears for the moneylenders and speculators. They earned their fees, took their interest. And in the end they’ll own the asset, someone’s former home. I am compelled to remind folks of how this frenzy was received by Gertrude Johnson, an 89-year-old still working as a health aide. Her mortgage, at more than $3000 was more than she could handle:

"I just wanted to be able to eat and sleep in my house and have a roof over my head", says 89 year old Gertrude Robertson, "Every day at midnight when I go to sleep, I think maybe when I wake in the morning they'll tell me to get out."

(4)The victims of this speculative frenzy are victims because they are poor and unorganized. Most of the poor people in the US are white women and children. This is because they are more numerous, a higher percentage of the population. But due to the legacy of racism in society, a staggering number of poor people are people of color when taken as a percentage of their population. Racism is used to divide us, prevent us from uniting against those who are responsible for this economic crisis. They send their kids to Harvard while they send ours to Iraq.

A social commentator said some time ago that if the conditions that existed in the black community existed in US society as a whole, we would consider ourselves to be in a major social crisis. The same applies today except more and more Americans are being driven in to poverty as wages, pensions, benefits and other protections are being stripped away with the open support of the trade Union Leaders at the highest levels.

If Eakes is anywhere near correct, and over two million black families lose their homes, the effect of this will hit the family hard, especially the aged and the young; possibly as many as 5 million people.

But the market will sort it out say the economists. And indeed it will. The market already provides housing for a huge percentage of the US black population; the prison system. The US has over two million people in prisons, bested only by China.

“…in a world awash with liquidity it has been difficult to make reasonable returns buying anything mainstream.” writes Gillian Tett of the Financial Times (5) As they flee the lending business with the money they sucked out of the likes of Gertrude Robinson and low waged workers, the money men may well invest in something “mainstream” cell space for the likes of her grandchildren and those workers without homes who just couldn’t take any more.

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From the Mirage of a Middle-Class Life to the Slavery of Debt

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on March 24, 2007, Printed on March 26, 2007

America is very wealthy country, but one has to wonder how much of our wealth is in fact a chimera, spun of a consumerist ideal and given the appearance of solidity by a flood of easy credit? How much poverty and real economic pain is covered up by an endless succession of pay-day loans and EZ-finance rip-offs that eventually just bury people under mountains of debt from which they have little chance of digging themselves out.

Today's bankruptcy rate is ten times what it was during the Great Depression, foreclosures are at a 37-year high and the United States has a negative savings rate, yet we're told every day that the economy is going gangbusters.

George W. Bush often points out that more Americans own their own homes today than ever before. He doesn't mention that they also have less equity in those homes than ever before. Every day brings news of the potential scope of the emerging "sub-prime" loan scandal -- what Robert Kuttner called "deregulation's latest gift" -- and new indicators that the housing market that's driven so much of the economy for the past five years is a bubble that's begun to burst right before our eyes.

Compounding our personal debt problems are our representatives, equally profligate spenders who are just as happy to run up enormous budget deficits and who reflexively guarantee and subsidize trillions of dollars of new loans to already strapped American businesses and consumers.

It's a pretty good time to ask ourselves just how we got here.

Writer and film director James Scurlock does just that in the documentary, and now book, Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders. The film is a sprawling look at the seamy underside of the American credit industry -- an industry whose practices have changed dramatically since deregulation, and not for the better -- and at those who end up caught in a trap of their own creation.

The film is not perfect. Its view is broad but lacks depth; while it makes its point with some really effective storytelling, the documentary acts on an emotional level but lacks the kind of narrative power that makes Michael Moore's films, for example, such controversial cultural touchstones.

What Scurlock's camera does brilliantly is lay bare an issue that affects millions of working Americans but is usually buried under layers of shame and taboo. The film tells the individual human stories that lie behind the bankruptcy statistics, behind the foreclosure numbers. The book, released this week, follows up with much of the narrative power and depth that the film missed.

AlterNet caught up with Scurlock by phone this week to talk about his project and the country's emerging debt crisis more generally.

Joshua Holland: You really tapped into something at the right moment -- people have become aware of the issue of debt, and we're now hearing about it described as an emerging crisis.

James Scurlock : When I started the project a lot of people didn't even know what bankruptcy reform was, but most do now. A few weeks ago, nobody knew what "subprime" meant and now because of this whole mortgage fiasco I think everyone knows what that means. So here we are, two years after the start of the project and everything discussed in the film and the book has gotten worse. As we talked to people for the film, it became pretty obvious that things were just totally out of control and there was this sense that at some point the chickens are coming home to roost and that's largely what's been happening. I'm not gloating about that -- it's really tragic.

But my sense -- and I've talked to a lot of people since the project's been done -- is that the really big system hits are yet to come. There are a lot of bad mortgages out there; there are a lot of these "liar loan" mortgages out there; there are a lot of credit cards and people used to paying off their bills by refinancing their houses every year.

Holland: Debt -- or credit -- has always been an important part of the economy; it allows people to invest and it encourages entrepreneurship -- all the standard things we learn about in Econ 101. But one thing I came away with is that we're looking at a very different credit industry in the last couple of decades than what we experienced earlier. What's different between the credit industry today compared to, for example, the industry during my parents' generation?

Scurlock: The biggest change, by far, is how the financial industry sells debt -- how it sells credit cards and mortgages and all these different products. A generation ago, you'd go to the bank for a personal loan and that was a very rigorous process. You had to provide them with proof of earnings -- your tax returns -- and you gave them references and really had to work for it. The flip side of that was that if they gave you a loan, you got it at a reasonable interest rate. Now we're in a situation where we're getting 17 billion hits of direct mail encouraging us to borrow at often very high interest rates; we're getting e-mails every day encouraging us to refinance our homes; we get offers of credit for every conceivable thing from plastic surgery to automobiles -- there's a credit card now for gambling and one to pay off your taxes. Everything. Small businesses never used to use credit cards at all. They'd go to the bank and get a small business loan with a fixed payment. Now they're primarily using credit cards.

At the same time, the way the credit industry behaves has just completely transformed itself. Its underwriting standards have gone way down and that's a big part of the reason we're seeing so many problems now.

Holland: That's a good transition point. I read somewhere that you were voted the most conservative person in your class at Wharton Business School …

Scurlock: Actually, in my high school …

Holland: OK, in high school. The reason I found that interesting is that you give very short shrift to the traditional conservative narrative around these issues. You don't focus a lot on "personal responsibility" -- on the often really bad choices people make on the way to getting into problems with debt. You focus on these unbelievably predatory situations -- scenes like the mentally handicapped guy with the low-interest government loan who you show getting hoodwinked into this high-interest loan. Respond to that.

Scurlock: You know, everybody in the film and everyone in the book will readily admit that they screwed up. They made a mistake: they bought to many commemorative plates from Franklin Mint or they took out cash advances to pay their mortgage or they bought one of those Ab-tronic belts that are supposed to give you perfect abs in five minutes or they built a 10,000 square-foot McMansion which they knew they wouldn't be able to afford if interest rates were to go up -- which they did -- and on and on.

So that's all there, but what surprised me -- and what got a lot of these people into such deep trouble -- is that lenders weren't asking for their money back along with a reasonable return and maybe a fee or two. They were asking for multiples of what these people had originally borrowed. The line between a loan-shark and a reputable bank has now become so blurred with these banks all writing high-risk, high-interest loans and slapping on all these fees and coming up with all these schemes like double-cycle billing and universal default and on and on.

It's getting to the point now where people actually have a hard time figuring out just exactly what they owe. There was one woman in the film who had a gambling problem -- someone who was very irresponsible, and no one would argue otherwise. But in one year her $12,000 debt went to $50,000 and she didn't make any new charges. There was a guy who testified before Congress recently and he had borrowed $3,200 and had paid Chase back $5,000 or $6,000 and they were still demanding another $5,000 from him.

And if you look at every study done or if you look at what New Year's resolutions people make it becomes clear: people want to pay their debts off. But they're increasingly getting into situations where their $1,000 debts are becoming $4,000, or their mortgage payments are doubling and they don't understand how that happened and in many cases it's just devastating.

Now, there are two parties to these contracts -- that's absolutely true. But the banks have the ability to change the terms and conditions, at will, and these contracts have become so complex that even the Harvard Law professor in the film has a hard time making sense of them. Sometimes bankers can't make sense of the mortgages they're selling. So, caveat emptor, yes, but you should be able to walk into a major banking institution without worrying that you're going to get loan-sharked.

Holland: Maybe you can explain something that I think would be fairly counterintuitive for most people. You say in the book that the common view many people have about bankers is that they're this conservative breed who make their money by being cautious, by writing smart loans, but in fact the real money is made by lending on the margins -- by giving loans to people who are most likely to have problems paying them back.

Scurlock: That's right, it is counter-intuitive. It's because it's gone from a business based on a conservative business model where you were loaning to people who could safely pay you back and you weren't making a ton of money -- just a bit on the spread -- so you had to look at all your risks very, very carefully in order to make money. That model is now history, and the new one is that you charge a huge amount of fees, and a very high rate of interest. So the trick is actually getting people who will pay the most interest and the highest fees.

Credit card fees went from $1.7 billion dollars per year in 1996 to almost $18 billion last year -- an increase of more than a 1000%, and that's where the money is. Now you take someone who pays their bills on time, who has savings and pays their credit cards down each month, well they're not going to pay those fees. They don't have to. And you want someone who really needs the credit, who will be willing to pay a very high price for it.

One thing you've got to understand is that we have a negative savings rate in this country. Two out of three people can't pay their credit cards off each month. At the same time, last year we cashed $800 billion dollars out of home equity. Trillions of dollars in the last few years have been cashed out of people's homes and much of that went to paying off credit card bills. And the cycle continues. So it's a bit like Enron -- you've got some wishful thinkers, and then there are these bankers making enormous fees and at the end nobody's stepping in to stop the party.

Holland: To what degree do you see this as a kind of cultural manifestation -- a reflection of how much value we as Americans tend to put on material wealth, or how much we see material wealth as a proxy for self-worth?

Scurlock: I think that has a lot to do with the taboo nature of the problem -- a lot of people just don't want to about it. Until Katrina, I don't think many people had really seen images of poor Americans. There's this scene in the film where Robin leach of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous says nobody would watch a show called "lifestyles of the poor and unknown." We just make poor people invisible in this country and there's a sense that if you can't afford something, you've failed.

And the truth is, there are a lot of people in this country who look like they're middle class but in fact if you took away their credit cards you'd see that they're actually quite poor.

Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer.

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Credit Card Tricks


[posted online on March 16, 2007]

In the old days banks lent money to people they were confident would pay them back. No more. These days banks search for people who cannot pay them back and lend them money anyhow.

These unsecured loans come in the form of credit cards. And the banks cannot find enough young people, students, sick people and old people on small fixed incomes to give credit cards to.
Once they've got them signed up for a card the tricks and traps begin. From then on their victims will spend their money and their lives paying on a debt which they will never discharge. It's as though they had been thrown into a new form of indenture to Citigroup or J. P. Morgan Chase.

An example of what credit card-issuing banks do to people was given to the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, where Alys Cohen of the National Consumer Law Center, testified about "a young Navy sailor who opened a credit card account with First Premier Bank on November 21, 2006. The credit card had a $250 credit limit and a 9.9% APR for purchases. The same day that the sailor opened the account, he was assessed two fees--a "Program Fee" of $95 and an "Account Set-Up Fee" of $29. The next day (November 22), he was assessed a participation fee of $6. Three days later (November 24), he was assessed an annual fee of $48. When this young sailor received his first month bill, which had a closing date of November 24, 2006, he had already accrued a balance of $178, without making a single purchase.

"The next week, the young sailor used the credit card for four transactions totaling $84.85.On December 22, 2006, he was assessed a participation fee of $6. With all these fees, the young sailor was already over his credit limit, despite making less than $85 in purchases on a card with a $250 limit. He was assessed an over-limit fee of $25 and a late fee of $25, plus a finance charge of $1.96, on December 26. He now owed a balance of $320.81."*

The Wall Street Journal, covering the same Senate hearing, recounted the story of "an Ohio credit-card holder named Wesley Wannemacher, who recounted for the committee how he wound up paying $6,300 on a $3,200 debt on a credit card issued by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and still owed $4,400. He was charged $4,900 in interest, $1,100 in late fees and $1,500 in over-the-limit fees. Chase eventually forgave the remainder of what Mr. Wannemacher owed, but Mr. Wannemacher said Chase only told him that after he was called to testify before the subcommittee."

It used to be that, if a person were caught in the credit card web, all else failing, he or she could get out of debt servitude by declaring bankruptcy. The new bankruptcy law, lobbied through Congress with help from the credit card interest, makes bankruptcy painful, expensive and hard to get.

With the Democrats in control--they are somewhat less tainted with bank money than the Republicans--some kind of a new credit card law is a possibility. It might make the tricks and traps used by the banks on their credit card customers illegal.

But that approach is slow, cumbersome and ineffective. A simpler law would make credit card debt arising from tricks and traps uncollectible in the courts. Take away the banks' power to force payment.

In the meantime if you need money to pay your medical bills or get your car fixed, get a loan from the mafia. You'll get a lower interest rate and better terms.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Kids Being Brainwashed to Report Their Parents


The surveillance state has long been one reason for paranoid souls to always worry about when the government is watching them and what they’re doing. They’ve got money and technology, and the rumors that they can read email and phone calls have been going for years. It’s unclear how true those rumors may be, but there is at least a sense of understanding that the government probably isn’t big enough to actually keep an eye on all those communications.

So that’s why they have to deputize snitches to rat you out if you stray outside the lines. From Operation TIPS, to DARE officers encouraging children to rat on their parents for drugs, and actually giving 5th-graders little books on how to snitch on their neighbors for zoning violations. The government is not only trying to make sure that adults are willing to snitch on fellow citizens, they’re actively advocating for this to our children.

OBM: Kids should only report on someone trying to hurt or harm them. A society full of tattle-tales is a society full of beat-downs. Parents protect your kids from this brainwashing by any means nessesary.

Now the IRS has expanded it’s whistleblowing snitching program by offering bigger rewards to those who snitch on tax “cheats” [Hat Tip: autoDogmatic]:

Under a newly amended rule from the Internal Revenue Service, ordinary citizens can help the tax man cometh, or at least collect. The new Whistleblower Office is the IRS’s attempt to give incentives for you to rat out the tax cheats you know.

That’s right. If your employer, co-worker, landlord, neighbor or father-in-law is raking in fistfuls of cash and bypassing Uncle Sam, you can anonymously report the abuse to the IRS and snag a windfall from their dishonesty.

As long as the total amount of tax fraud comes out to at least $2 million (including penalties, interest, and whatever else the government ultimately collects based on your report), you can get a 15 to 30 percent cut.

You got that? If you know of someone that is cheating on their taxes, and you report them, you can pull a nice big chunk of change.

Understand how insidious this is. It is bad enough that you cannot trust your government to protect your rights, and you can generally count on them to violate them. The government is now working to make sure you can’t trust your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors either.

This is purely an attempt to create fear, and by doing so, extend the government’s reach into your behavior. I choose to follow laws which I believe to be legitimate or laws which, though illegitimate, cannot be broken without being caught. When I live under the assumption that everyone is watching me, though, I cannot even break illegitimate laws.

What will happen when someone in an area of restrictive gun laws owns an illegal firearm to protect his family, and his shady brother-in-law rats him out to get the feds to overlook the illegal home poker game he’s running? What about the child with a grandmother like Angel Raich, who is illegally using medical marijuana, who reports this to the school principal because she’s been brainwashed by the public schools into thinking her grandmother is doing something wrong? What would happen if one of my neighbors decided to rat me out to the Georgia excise authorities for homebrewing more than the allowed 50 gallons of beer per year?

Is this a society in which we want to live?

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Got Milk? You're Under Arrest

Alan Scholl
Friday, March 16, 2007

In many states, you can possess it, but the law prohibits its sale. It is a violation of federal law to transport the substance across state lines with the intent to sell it. In many states, undercover investigators are at work trying to uncover the furtive networks that produce and distribute the stuff. Dealers have been pulled over and spectacular quantities of the contraband substance have been seized by triumphant investigators. Is this a tale from the War on Drugs?

Not exactly. But it is a tale from the war many states are conducting on those who sell raw milk.

That's right, there is a dangerous underground of dairy devotees who prefer to drink their milk straight from the cow, sans pasteurization and homogenization – and government is increasingly out to stop them. Some states, in fact, equate the sale of raw milk with the sale of drugs. Consider this from Washington Post reporter Thomas Bartlett:

The issue of selling raw milk is, legally speaking, dicey. To determine exactly how dicey, I call Ted Elkin, deputy director of the Office of Food Protection and Consumer Health Services at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Elkin is in charge of making sure the state's dairy laws are enforced.

"So," I begin carefully, "Maryland's position on raw milk is . . .?"

"Raw milk is illegal for sale," Elkin says. "Period."

"Huh," I reply.

To help drive this point home, he compares selling raw milk to selling pot.

"Interesting," I say. At that moment, I am standing in my kitchen with the fridge door open, staring at my gallon of possible contraband.

This seems positively surreal, like some parody of the war on drugs aired on Saturday Night Live.

Proof that the war on contraband milk is taken all too seriously by some state officials, Bartlett's conversation with Elkin next turned frighteningly serious. Noting that Maryland lacks the resources to track down all users of raw milk, Elkin suggested that the state might eventually catch them. "Using an analogy, Elkin explains that a small-time heroin dealer in Baltimore might be able to elude the authorities for quite a while," Bartlett wrote of his interview with Elkin. "So, during our conversation, raw milk was compared to marijuana and heroin. What's more, Hitler's secret police were mentioned – in passing, sure, but still."

Just like the War on Drugs, the War on Raw Milk is serious business. Just ask farmer Richard Hebron. According to Time magazine, in October of last year the Michigan man was pulled over by police near Ann Arbor. According to Time, when police pulled him over, they "ordered him to put his hands on the hood of his mud-splattered truck and seized its contents: 453 gal. of milk." Hebron had already been the subject of a large sting operation conducted by state Ag officials.

As Time reported, "An undercover agricultural investigator had infiltrated the co-op as part of a sting operation that resulted in the seizure of $7,000 worth of fresh-food items, including 35 lbs. of raw butter, 29 qt. of cream and all those gallons of the suspicious white liquid. Although Hebron's home office was searched and his computer seized, no charges have been filed. 'When they tested the milk, they couldn't find any problems with it,' says Hebron. 'It seems like they're just looking for some way to shut us down.'" Similar sting operations have been conducted in other states, including in Wisconsin, America's erstwhile "Dairy State," where one might expect officials to have a slightly more generous attitude toward the state's beleaguered dairy farmers.

Why the fuss over raw milk? Before the advent of pasteurization, raw milk was widely consumed and was implicated in disease outbreaks in during the 19th century that caused many deaths in American cities. But that milk, according to some, was often contaminated in ways that would be inconceivable today.

"Milk was commonly mixed with additives to gain profit," wrote author Laurie Winn Carlson in her book Cattle, a history of the cow. "Then, to make it look whole, additives were mixed in, such as carbonized carrots, grilled onions, caramel, marigold petals, chalk, plaster, white clay and starch. To replace the cream that had been removed, emulsions of almonds and animal brains were dissolved in the liquid to thicken it."

Today, raw milk supporters say, the product is safe. In California where the sale of raw milk is legal, Organic Pastures Dairy says it has sold more than 40 million servings of raw milk without complaint. Moreover, raw milk advocates say the product is part of a healthy diet. Pasteurization, they say, destroys important enzymes and beneficial bacteria that exist in milk. Drink raw milk, they say, and your arthritis pain will cease, your asthma will go away and you'll lose weight. Give it to young children and they will be less likely to get sick and suffer from allergies.

Are all such claims true? Who knows. But one thing is true: Selling raw milk should not be illegal.

"There are 65,000 child-porn websites," Nancy Sanders, a raw milk supporter, mother and pediatric nurse told Time. "Why doesn't the government go after those?"

With dangerous criminals like dairy farmer Richard Hebron on the loose peddling such dangerous stuff, those state governments don't have time.

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The Big Brother State

Excellent and well produced animation video montage exposing the subtle criminality of the surveillance state.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Inhumane New Bedford Immigration Raid

New Bedford

A roundup of illegal workers in New Bedford, Mass., last week continues to spark criticism about the federal government's handling of the raid. Nursing infants were separated from their mothers, and older children were left in inappropriate care when immigration officials took their parents.

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Fox Attacks: Black America

Fox Attacks: Black America


OBM: I can't say what I'm think of this...it would be incriminating!!!!
"if you don't know...now you know ***** " Notorius B. I. G.

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Hard Drives In Copiers can be Hacked by Anyone including ID theives, the Police, and the Dept. of Homeland Security.

Hard Drives In Copiers May Keep Your Papers
Photocopiers Use Hard Drives To Store Scans

POSTED: 8:37 am EDT March 14, 2007

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Consumers are bombarded with warnings about identity theft. Publicized threats range from mailbox thieves and lost laptops to the higher-tech methods of e-mail scams and corporate data invasions.

Now, experts are warning that photocopiers could be a culprit as well.

That's because most digital copiers manufactured in the past five years have disk drives -- the same kind of data-storage mechanism found in computers -- to reproduce documents. As a result, the seemingly innocuous machines that are commonly used to spit out copies of tax returns for millions of Americans can retain the data being scanned.

If the data on the copier's disk aren't protected with encryption or an overwrite mechanism, and if someone with malicious motives gets access to the machine, industry experts say sensitive information from original documents could get into the wrong hands.

OBM: Thieves, the police, or the government can get private information from our computers, cell phones, printers, and now copiers. Can anyone say "Big Brother".....I foresee a growing valuable future for older computer equipment if you want to keep your information private. Companies adding security features only keep the owners & regular uasers locked out, but make it easier for those with the know how.

Some copier makers are now adding security features, but many of the digital machines already found in public venues or business offices are likely still open targets, said Ed McLaughlin, president of Sharp Document Solutions Company of America.

"You actually have a better chance at winning 10 straight rolls of roulette than getting those hard drives on copiers rewritten," he said.

Sharp plans to issue a warning about photocopier vulnerabilities Wednesday -- just ahead of tax time.

The company, one of the leading makers of photocopiers, commissioned a consumer survey that indicated more than half of Americans did not know copiers carried this data security risk. The telephone survey of 1,005 adults, conducted in January, also showed that 55 percent of Americans plan to make photocopies and printouts of their tax returns and related documents.

Of that segment, half planned to make the copies outside their homes -- at offices, libraries and copy shops. An additional 13 percent said they plan to have their tax preparers make copies.

Although industry and security experts were unable to point to any known incidents of identity thieves using copiers to steal information, they said the potential was very real.

"It is a valid concern and most people don't know about it," said Keith Kmetz, analyst at market researcher IDC. "Copying wasn't like this before."

Added Paul DeMatteis, a security consultant and teacher at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York: "We know there are bad people out there. Just because this is difficult to detect doesn't mean it isn't being exploited."

Daniel Katz-Braunschweig, a chief consultant at DataIXL, a business consulting firm, includes digital copiers among his list of data holes corporations should try to protect. He couldn't specify names but said a few of his company clients did learn about the vulnerability after their copiers were resold and the new owners -- in good faith -- notified them of the data residing on the disks.

Sharp was among the first to begin offering, a few years ago, a security kit for its machines to encrypt and overwrite the images being scanned, so that data aren't stored on the hard disks indefinitely. Xerox Corp. said in October it would start making a similar security feature standard across all of its digital copiers.

Randy Cusick, a technical marketing manager at Xerox, said many entities dealing with sensitive information, such as government agencies, financial institutions, and defense contractors, already have policies to make sure copier disks themselves or the data stored on them are secured or not unwittingly passed along in a machine resale.

Smaller businesses and everyday consumers are less likely to know about the risk, but should, he said.

Sharp recommends that consumers take precautions, such as asking their tax preparers or the copy shops they are using about whether their copier machines have data security.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Where There is a Will...There Will Be a Living Wage

WATCH HERE - must have Realplayer

The documentary Where There is a Will… There Will be a Living Wage captures the real life stories of full-time employees at one of our nation’s wealthiest universities, Texas A&M University, located in College Station, Texas. It is where 27% of its citizens live below the poverty guideline and where officials pay starting wages equal to poverty level and below. These are the people who perform labor essential to American’s finest universities and colleges. They are black and white, Latino and Asian. They pick up after us, maintain the grounds, prepare our food, wax our floors, empty our wastebaskets, scrub our toilets, and clean our classrooms. They are the ones we pass everyday in the hallways and on the sidewalks, not realizing that many of them have been at work since 4:00 a.m. to finish one full-time job before going on to a second, just so they can afford the basics.

Where There is a Will...There Will Be a Living Wage
Producer: Patrick Phillips
Length: 27m 31s

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VIDEO: Legacy of Torture - Black Panthers Tortured

WATCH HERE - must have RealPlayer

In 2005 several former members of the Black Panther were held in contempt and jailed for refusing to testify before a San Francisco Grand Jury investigating a police shooting that took place in 1971. The government alleged that Black radical groups were involved in the 34-year old case in which two men armed with shotguns attacked the Ingleside Police Station resulting in the death of a police sergeant and the injuring of a civilian clerk. In 1973, thirteen alleged "Black militants" were arrested in New Orleans, purportedly in connection with the San Francisco events. Some of them were tortured for several days by law enforcement authorities, in striking similarity to the horrors visited upon detainees in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. In 1975, a Federal Court in San Francisco threw out all of the evidence obtained in New Orleans. The two lead San Francisco Police Department investigators from over 30 years ago, along with FBI agents, have re-opened the case. Rather than submit to proceedings they felt were abusive of the law and the Constitution, five men chose to stand in contempt of court and were sent to jail. They were released when the Grand Jury term expired, but have been told by prosecutors that "it isn't over yet."

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CNBC "Big Brother, Big Business" Recorded Nov 1, 2006

I think it's important that people look at the technology and start to sense the fact that information is being collected. I don't think that a good news report leads to immediate conclusions. I'll let you be the judge of that. But! I will say that this is news in 2007, and everyone knows that sensations sell. So, should we be worried? What price are you paying for being well connected digitally in the post-information age? Who do you trust?

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TeenScreen - A National Fraud

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

911 - The Israeli Connection

Since this report was first aired, AIPAC has found itself embroiled in yet another espionage case, this time involving an operative inside the very Pentagon office, from which many of the now discredited claims abut Iraq's WMD emerged.

So here it is again for those of you unaware, that on 9-11, the largest foreign spy ring ever uncovered in the US was in the process of being rounded up, and that evidence linking these arrested Israeli spies to 911 has been classified by the US Government!

Part I - Evidence linking Israelis to 9/11 is classified.

Part II - Israeli phone company in U.S.

Part III - Israeli wiretapping potential - back door.

Part IV - Conclusion of series and info on some illegal activities of Israelis.

All 4 parts are joined in one file.

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