FOIA Documents Reveal Massive DEA Program to Record American’s Whereabouts With License Plate Readers Reply

01/26/2015

License Plate Scanners
By Bennett Stein, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project & Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 7:15pm
(Updated below)

The Drug Enforcement Administration has initiated a massive national license plate reader program with major civil liberties concerns but disclosed very few details, according to new DEA documents obtained by the ACLU through the Freedom of Information Act.

The DEA is currently operating a National License Plate Recognition initiative that connects DEA license plate readers with those of other law enforcement agencies around the country. A Washington Post headline proclaimed in February 2014 that the Department of Homeland Security had cancelled its “national license-plate tracking plan,” but all that was ended was one Immigrations and Customs Enforcement solicitation for proposals. In fact, a government-run national license plate tracking program already exists, housed within the DEA. (That’s in addition to the corporate license plate tracking database run by Vigilant Solutions, holding billions of records about our movements.) Since its inception in 2008, the DEA has provided limited information to the public on the program’s goals, capabilities and policies. Information has trickled out over the years, in testimony here or there. But far too little is still known about this program.

In 2012, the ACLU filed public records requests in 38 states and Washington, D.C. seeking information about the use of automatic license plate readers. Our July 2013 report, You Are Being Tracked, summarized our findings with regard to state and local law enforcement agencies, finding that the technology was being rapidly adopted, all too often with little attention paid to the privacy risks of this powerful technology. But in addition to filing public records requests with state agencies, the ACLU also filed FOIA requests with federal agencies, including the DEA.

The new DEA records that we received are heavily redacted and incomplete, but they provide the most complete documentation of the DEA’s database to date. For example, the DEA has previously testified that its license plate reader program began at the southwest border crossings, and that the agency planned to gradually increase its reach; we now know more about to where it has grown. The DEA had previously suggested that “other sources” would be able to feed data into the database; we now know about some of the types of agencies collaborating with the DEA. More…

New Greek Govt Arrives in Residence – Finds No Power, No Wifi password, No Soap Reply

 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Things in Greece are bad. So bad, that the outgoing government of Antonis Samaras decided to not only leave the new inhabitants of the official residence of the Greek prime minister, the Maximos Mansion, without power, and without the WiFi password, but they decided to “borrow” all the soap in the toilet as well.

“We sit in the dark. We have no internet, no email, no way to communicate with each other”, said an employee of the Office, who has worked for various government for years. “That’s never happened before.” It shows that Samaras’ team have “no manners and no decency.”

Because of blackouts in the Maximos Mansion the official website of the Greek Prime Minister still shows the image and the resume of Samaras – even though since Monday, the left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is the head of government in Athens. It was the first time that a government handover has been so bitter, said the office staff to SPIEGEL ONLINE.

More…

Does getting an ‘expensive’ drug affect how much patient benefits? Reply

Public Release: 28-Jan-2015

American Academy of Neurology

MINNEAPOLIS – People’s perceptions of the cost of a drug may affect how much they benefit from the drug, even when they are receiving only a placebo, according to a new study of people with Parkinson’s disease published in the January 28, 2015 online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Patients’ expectations play an important role in the effectiveness of their treatments, and the placebo effect has been well documented, especially in people with Parkinson’s disease,” said study author Alberto J. Espay, MD, MSc, of the University of Cincinnati in Ohio and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. “We wanted to see if the people’s perceptions of the cost of the drug they received would affect the placebo response.”

For the study, 12 people with Parkinson’s disease were told that they would receive shots of two formulations of the same drug, with the second shot given after the first shot wore off. They were told that the formulations were believed to be of similar effectiveness, but that they differed in manufacturing cost–$100 per dose versus $1,500 per dose. Participants were told that the study was intended to prove that the drugs, while priced differently, were equally effective.

In reality, the participants received only a saline solution for both injections, but were told they were receiving either the “cheap” or “expensive” drug first. Before and after each shot, participants took several tests to measure their motor skills and also had brain scans to measure brain activity.

When people received the “expensive” drug first, their motor skills improved by 28 percent compared to when they received the “cheap” drug. On one test of motor skills, people’s scores improved by seven points when taking the “expensive” drug first, but improved by only three points when taking the “cheap” drug. More…

When aid brings conflict, not relief Reply

Public Release: 28-Jan-2015

University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
URBANA, Ill. – Although you might expect that providing aid to impoverished villages in the Philippines could only bring them relief, a University of Illinois study found that the villages that qualified for some forms of aid actually saw an increase in violent conflict.

“Interestingly, those municipalities that were eligible to receive aid but didn’t accept it saw the largest increase in violence,” said U of I economist Ben Crost. “During what’s called the social preparation phase, it becomes known that the village is eligible for aid. Insurgent forces from the communist New People’s Army or a Muslim separatist group attack and then the village drops out of the program because they are intimidated. That’s why the places that didn’t participate saw the most violence.”

Between 2003 and 2008, more than 4,000 villages received aid through a flagship community-driven development program in the Philippines. The program used an arbitrary threshold of 25 percent to determine the poverty level at which communities qualified to receive aid.

“Only the 25 percent of the poorest municipalities qualified to receive aid,” Crost explained. “Those above the threshold are barely too rich to get it, and the others are just poor enough to get it. That means that these places should be comparable in all respects with the one exception that these slightly poorer places were much more likely to receive aid than the slightly richer places. So they were almost the same in poverty levels and in background levels of violence.” The same, until they became eligible for aid, that is.

“The way they targeted it with this arbitrary 25 percent cutoff allowed us to compare places that were just below the cutoff to places that were just above it,” Crost said. More…

Health insurers using drug coverage to discriminate Reply

Public Release: 28-Jan-2015

In some US health plans, HIV drugs cost nearly $3,000 more per year than in other plans. If left unchecked, this practice could partially undermine a central feature of the Affordable Care Act.

Harvard School of Public Health

Boston, MA — Some insurers offering health plans through the new federal marketplace may be using drug coverage decisions to discourage people with HIV from selecting their plans, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The researchers found that these insurers are placing all HIV drugs in the highest cost-sharing category in their formularies (lists of the plans’ covered drugs and costs), which ends up costing people with HIV several thousands more dollars per year than those enrolled in other plans.

The study appears online January 28, 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Eliminating discrimination on the basis of preexisting conditions is one of the central features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” said Doug Jacobs, MD/MPH candidate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the study. “However, the use of formularies to increase costs and dissuade those with preexisting conditions such as HIV from enrolling in the plan threatens to at least partially undermine this goal of the ACA.” More…

UCI, fellow chemists find a way to unboil eggs 1

Public Release: 26-Jan-2015

Ability to quickly restore molecular proteins could slash biotechnology costs

Irvine, Calif., Jan. 23, 2015 – UC Irvine and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites – an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to findings published today in the journal ChemBioChem.

“Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,” said Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry. “In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 minutes at 90 degrees Celsius and return a key protein in the egg to working order.”

Like many researchers, he has struggled to efficiently produce or recycle valuable molecular proteins that have a wide range of applications but which frequently “misfold” into structurally incorrect shapes when they are formed, rendering them useless.

“It’s not so much that we’re interested in processing the eggs; that’s just demonstrating how powerful this process is,” Weiss said. “The real problem is there are lots of cases of gummy proteins that you spend way too much time scraping off your test tubes, and you want some means of recovering that material.”

But older methods are expensive and time-consuming: The equivalent of dialysis at the molecular level must be done for about four days. “The new process takes minutes,” Weiss noted. “It speeds things up by a factor of thousands.”

To re-create a clear protein known as lysozyme once an egg has been boiled, he and his colleagues add a urea substance that chews away at the whites, liquefying the solid material. That’s half the process; at the molecular level, protein bits are still balled up into unusable masses. The scientists then employ a vortex fluid device, a high-powered machine designed by Professor Colin Raston’s laboratory at South Australia’s Flinders University. Shear stress within thin, microfluidic films is applied to those tiny pieces, forcing them back into untangled, proper form. More…

Anti-austerity Syriza storms to historic Greek victory Reply

Election victory puts the country on a collision course with the EU and international creditors

Radical left party Syriza swept to power in Greece on Sunday promising to end years of painful austerity policies, in an election victory that puts the country on a collision course with the EU and international creditors.

In a result that exceeded analysts’ expectations, Syriza and its 40-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras won 149 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament, just two short of an absolute majority, with most of the votes counted.

The New Democracy party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the former party of government, was routed and reduced to around 76 seats.

Syriza will become the first anti-austerity party to take power in Europe and Tsipras will be Greece’s youngest prime minister in 150 years.

S.Ramis/J.Jacobsen, jj/ (AFP)
S.Ramis/J.Jacobsen, jj/ (AFP)“Conflict and economic crisis: Greece in the post-war years”

He told thousands of flag-waving supporters in Athens: “Greece is leaving behind disastrous austerity.” More…

Rubella vaccination used to induce behavioral problems in children Reply


Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1998 May;23(4):337-51.
Influence of socioeconomic status on behavioral, emotional and cognitive effects of rubella vaccination: a prospective, double blind study.
– Effects of vaccination with live attenuated Rubella virus on psychological parameters measured in 12-year-old girls with low socioeconomic status before, and 10 weeks after, the vaccination. Compared to their own baseline and to the levels in girls who were already immune to Rubella before vaccination (control group), subjects who seroconverted following vaccination (experimental group) showed significantly increased levels of total and emotional depression, measured by the Children Depression Inventory, and significantly higher incidence of social and attention problems and delinquent behavior, assessed by the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist. (Adapted from Morag et al.13) More…

US Emergency Services to Depend On Russian Satellites? Reply

18:24 22.01.2015(updated 18:41 22.01.2015)

The US Federal Communications Commission is mulling routing 911 emergency location calls through Russia’s GLONASS satellite system.

MOSCOW, January 22 (Sputnik) — Russia’s GLONASS precision navigation and timing satellite system may be used in the US to locate people calling 911 from their mobile phones, the Washington Times newspaper reported.
Trey Forgety, director of government affairs for the National Emergency Number Association, explained that GLONASS would be required because US systems fail to cover enough territory.

“Our view is that we ought to be leveraging anything that is available to find someone in an emergency,” he said.

GLONASS is thought to be more accurate than its American counterpart GPS, which uses technology on cellphones that reportedly works well outdoors but badly indoors, according to the Washington Times. More…

American liberals and conservatives think as if from different cultures Reply

Public Release: 22-Jan-2015

University of Virginia
Political conservatives in the United States are somewhat like East Asians in the way they think, categorize and perceive. Liberals in the U.S. could be categorized as extreme Americans in thought, categorization and perception. That is the gist of a new University of Virginia cultural psychology study, published recently in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Additionally, the study indicates that thought styles – whether analytical or holistic – can be changed through training, enough so to temporarily change political thought and the way a person might vote.

“We found in our study that liberals and conservatives think as if they were from completely different cultures – almost as different as East and West,” said study leader Thomas Talhelm, a U.Va. doctoral candidate in cultural psychology. “Liberals and conservatives categorize and perceive things differently, just as East Asians and Westerners look differently at the world.”

According to Talhelm, political conservatives in the United States, generally, and East Asians, particularly, are intuitive or “holistic” thinkers, while Westerners, generally, and American liberals, in particular, are more analytical thinkers.

The so-called “culture war,” he said, is an accurate if dramatic way to state that there are clear cultural differences in the thought processes of liberals and conservatives.

“On psychological tests, Westerners tend to view scenes, explain behavior and categorize objects analytically,” Talhelm said. “But the vast majority of people around the world – about 85 percent – more often think intuitively – what psychologists call holistic thought, and we found that’s how conservative Americans tend to think.” More…