“In politics, if something doesn’t go the way you want, shoot someone. It works every time. Just like it did with the London Riots…Just like it’s working now. As long as there’s a patsy, no one cares who’s actually behind it all.”
Facebook is locked in a legal battle over a court ruling that forced the site to hand over data from almost 400 profiles to authorities. The social media site argues the decision is unconstitutional and violates the Fourth Amendment. Last summer, a New York court ordered Facebook to release data from the accounts of 381 people, who were suspected of being involved in a disability fraud case. The information included photos, private messages and other data. The social media platform had previously been unable to go public about their legal struggle against the “largest data request” by a government body because of a court gagging order. However, Chris Sonderby, Facebook Deputy General Counsel published a blog post on Thursday speaking out about the case after a New York judge granted permission to go public. “This unprecedented request is by far the largest we’ve ever received – by a magnitude of more than ten – and we have argued that it was unconstitutional from the start,” wrote Chris Sonderby, a legal adviser to Facebook. Sotherby goes on to say that of the 381 people whose account information was divulged, only 62 were actually charged. “This means that no charges will be brought against more than 300 people whose data was sought by the government without prior notice to the people affected,” said Sotherby. Facebook argues that such a request is unconstitutional as it violates the Fourth Amendment, which safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures. In their latest appeal, Facebook’s legal team filed an appellate to push to invalidate the sweeping search warrants and return the data of the other 300 people that is still being retained by authorities. “We recognize that law enforcement needs to investigate potential crimes, but we believe all government data requests must be narrowly tailored, proportionate to the case, and subject to strict judicial oversight,” said Sotherby. Prosecutors argue, however, that given the magnitude of the case authorities needed access to suspects’ Facebook accounts. “This was a massive scheme involving as many as 1,000 people who defrauded the federal government of more than $400 million in benefits,” says Joan Vollero, spokesperson for Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. “The defendants in this case repeatedly lied to the government about their mental, physical and social capabilities. Their Facebook accounts told a different story.” The data request eventually led to the charging of more than 130 New York civil servants, who had been cheating the system to obtain disability benefits.
Anthropologists uncovered a series of mass graves filled with the human remains of immigrants stuffed into shopping and garbage bags in a county-owned section of a cemetery in South Texas. Now, a local politician is calling for an inquiry. The group of anthropology researchers is made of professors and students from the University of Indianapolis and Baylor University, who are working on the Reuniting Families project. The multi-year project seeks to identify the bodies of the hundreds of undocumented immigrants who died (usually from exposure in the 100-degree-plus heat) while crossing the Texas-Mexico border over the last few years. They resumed work two weeks ago, exhuming 52 plots in a Brooks County-owned section of the Sacred Heart Burial Park in Falfurrias. In those plots, they found the remains of multiple people instead of just one. In one burial plot, bones of three bodies were inside one body bag. In another instance, there were at least five people in body bags and smaller plastic bags were piled on top of each other, Baylor University anthropologist Lori Baker said to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Skulls were found in biohazard bags — like the red plastic bags in receptacles at doctors’ offices — placed between coffins. “To me it’s just as shocking as the mass grave that you would picture in your head, and it’s just as disrespectful,” Krista Latham, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Indianapolis, said to the Caller-Times. Due to the commingling of remains, the researchers are unable to determine the total number of people buried in the 52 plots. County Judge Raul Ramirez told the Caller-Times that, for at least 16 years, Brooks County paid the local funeral home, Funeraria del Angel Howard-Williams, to bury the bodies after they were discovered in the remote areas of the county’s brush country. The funeral home currently charges $450 to handle each body, Brooks County Chief Deputy Benny Martinez said. The funeral home has “certain records related to these burials, but this does not amount to confirmation that Howard-Williams was involved in depositing the remains in the manner the researchers described” Houston-based Service Corporation International (the parent company of Howard-Williams since 1999) spokeswoman Jennifer McDunn told the Corpus newspaper in an e-mail. “Because of the sensitive nature of our business, it is not our general practice to share our records publicly, no matter the decedent or the family we serve.” McDunn said. After the discovery became known, Democratic state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa called for the district’s attorney general to open a criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers, the Caller-Times reported. “This is too serious of a wrongdoing,” he said. “It is horrible, and any human being deserves a burial of respect and dignity,” Hinojosa went on. “I’m appalled at the number of bodies just left in body bags and, in many instances, more than one body in one bag. That’s not right. We need to get to the bottom of the situation.” Various Texas laws and regulations require records be kept for burials, set minimum burial depths, require certain containers and prohibit mass burials in some instances, according to the Caller-Times. “When I see that more than likely this was done by a funeral home, well, they’re supposed to be aware of the regulations and what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do it,” 79th Judicial District Attorney Carlos Omar Garcia said to the Corpus paper.Chief Deputy County Clerk Elva Ray Silvas said the county courthouse held no records of burials except for an assessment of grave markers performed by a volunteer group in 2000.
Source: RT News
Thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells across the state of Pennsylvania could be leaking methane gas into the atmosphere, a new report states. If true, it could mean the same is happening in old wells all over the United States, potentially contributing to climate change in ways that are not effectively documented by government groups like the Environmental Protection Agency. The study was conducted by Princeton University scientist Mary Kang, and involved the inspection of 19 abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. According to a report by the Guardian, each well was confirmed to be leaking various amounts of methane – a greenhouse gas that, over the course of a century, is about 34 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Since Pennsylvania is home to anywhere between 280,000 and 970,000 abandoned oil and gas wells, the possibility that thousands of them are releasing methane is cause for concern.
What’s more, the EPA does not account for methane in its federal estimates for total US greenhouse gas emissions, and Kang’s study stated that Pennsylvania’s current regulations are insufficient for controlling the wells’ methane leaks. Wells are not routinely inspected by officials, and the state’s rules are geared towards liquids, not gases. Although Kang would not comment on the issue since her study is under review, Duke University’s Robert Jackson has also conducted research revealing methane leaks to be a problem in the US, and he said it was one worth seriously looking into.
“The emissions from single wells were relatively small, but there are hundreds of thousands of such wells in Pennsylvania alone,” he told the Guardian. “The total emissions could be as much as one eighth of all methane released by human activities in the state.” Concern over a link between methane and oil exploration also made headlines earlier this month, when scientists found a link between the high levels of the gas in Parker County, Texas, and neighboring fracking operations. As RT reported previously, the Texas Railroad Commission found the link to be “inconclusive” but closer inspection of the data by another earth scientist said it’s clear the methane in the water supply came from the fracking process. Separate tests by the University of Texas at Arlington, meanwhile, found methane levels in the water to be much higher than the Railroad Commission did. In Pennsylvania, though, it will likely be unclear just how much methane is being released until more studies are conducted encompassing more wells. Pennsylvania State University professor Terry Engelder said that although methane is obviously leaking from some wells, chances are that not all of them are, since some geologic formations release lots of gas early in the drilling operation and less later. Cornell University’s Lawrence Cathes, meanwhile, downplayed methane leakage’s present effect on the climate, but said if Kang’s study is accurate, it might help to reduce emissions going forward.
“I don’t think presently leaking wells will change our perspective on greenhouse warming because their leakage has already been accommodated by the climate system and methane is only 20 to 30 percent the total greenhouse forcing at present,” Cathles told the Guardian. “What matters is how methane leakage changes in the future. If the well leakage is significant, reducing it in historic wells might reduce greenhouse forcing somewhat (and thus present a remedial opportunity).”
– RT News
The realm of mobile internet is currently unaccounted for in the Federal Communication Commission’s most recent effort to rewrite the rules of net neutrality rules, but industry lobbyists in the United States say that could soon change. Critics have until September 10 to petition the FCC and weigh in on the proposal currently being considered by the agency that was written by Chairman Tom Wheeler and contains provisions that may allow Internet Service Providers to prioritize some web traffic over others. According to a report published by Reuters over the weekend, big tech firms and consumer advocates alike are asking the FCC to widen that proposal to include new rules for the mobile internet. “The distinction between wireless and wireline is certainly not the same as it was,” Michael Beckerman, the head of the Internet Association trade group, told Reuters. “The enforceable net neutrality rules should apply equally, whether you use the Internet on your mobile or home broadband.”
“There will be differences in terms of network management, but at the end of the day, the same fundamental principles…need to apply to the mobile world,” said Beckerman, whose group lobbies on behalf of web giants like Google, Facebook, AOL and Amazon.
Earlier this year in May, a coalition of Silicon Valley heavyweights including Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter and Yahoo echoed that call and said that “Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent. The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low.” “Those of us who believe that the principle of net neutrality is crucial to a truly open internet – the kind of web required to ensure innovation and free speech – need to recognize that in many places, including the United States, we’ve already lost the near-term battle when it comes to mobile,” added Guardian columnist Dan GIlmor in a recent op-ed.
A major point brought up by Gilmor at the time was that “mobile essentially is the internet” in much of the developing world, where phones are the only web-ready devices many people have. In Reuters this week, reporters Alina Selyukj and Marina Lopez wrote that a “growing number of US consumers, many of them low income, non-white and young, rely on such devices as their primary means of Internet access.”
“The FCC already acknowledged the unique nature of wireless, specifically the technical and operational challenges our industry faces, including the need to…actively manage networks to provide high quality service to a customer base that is constantly on the go,” Meredith Attwell Baker, CEO of the wireless trade group CTIA, added to Reuters. Chairman Wheeler’s proposal has attracted the ire of open internet advocates in recent month by including language that some say will open the door for a two-tiered payment system in which the delivery of content could be prioritized by ISPs. “To be very direct, the proposal would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted,” Wheeler has responded to critics.
– RT News
The US space agency has come up with a recipe that captures key flavors of Saturn’s moon Titan – out of a need to understand a previously unidentified chemical composition hidden beyond its orange haze.
When NASA’s Cassini spacecraft peered at the material gathered from Titan’s atmosphere at alternate wavelengths, beyond the infrared spectrum, in the far infrared region, it suggested a molecular mixture the scientists wanted to decipher.
“Now we can say that this material has a strong aromatic character, which helps us understand more about the complex mixture of molecules that makes up Titan’s haze,” Melissa Trainer of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, told the press. However, Trainer did not detail the smell, but it might be close to gas station.
Scientists arrived at this in much the same way a chef tastes a dish and ascertains its components. By experimenting with combining gases in various ways and under differing lab conditions, NASA was able to approximate the initial mixture spotted earlier by Cassini. It was a matter of matching it as close to the captured colors as possible.
The trouble was always that Titan’s atmosphere with its dark orange hue could be a result of a number of chemical mixtures, because what was visible from the outset is the sheer number of aromatic hydrocarbons in the moon’s atmosphere.
But when scientists exhausted all the nitrogen and methane combinations possible, it occurred to them to try adding a third gas – benzene. That’s when they got closer than anyone else at figuring out Titan’s taste and smell. It was then a matter of juggling it with some other possible options, all belonging to the subfamily of aromatics – a type of hydrocarbon.
Co-author of the study and Cassini scientist Carrie Anderson’s results were closely replicated when an aromatic containing nitrogen was combined with the first two gasses. And this is the first success science has ever had at “creating with lab experiments this particular feature seen in the Cassini data,” Joshua Sebree, who led the study, said.
Now that the resulting mixture has given scientists a much bigger chance at understanding the precise mixture of gases in the unseen areas of Titan’s atmosphere, the “veritable zoo of complex molecules”can only continue to give us a more expansive picture of “just how complex and wondrous this Earth-like moon really is,” Scott Edgington of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.
The project and accompanying study, published in Icarus, have been sanctioned by the space agency’s Planetary Atmospheres program, although the Cassini-Huygens mission has been carried out in concert with the European Space Agency (ESA).
– RT News
More than 750 cutouts of policemen have been bought by UK forces at a cost of more than $85,000. The 2D police constable cutouts are aimed at deterring shoplifters who would mistake them for real officers from afar…but no one knows if they really work.
Police forces across England have purchased a collective 782 cutouts. At the same time, some 10,000 jobs have been cut, according to a recent report released by Mail Online.
Twenty-one police forces have forked out £53,940 (more than US$85,000), meaning nearly half of all the UK’s police forces have “invested” in what a campaign group has termed a “gimmick.”
“Until it’s shown that these actually work, this seems to be a gimmick that will take money away from essential front-line services,” Andy Silvester, campaign manager for the Taxpayer’s Alliance, told the Daily Mail on Saturday.
“The public want the thin blue line to be made of police officers, not cardboard. No cut-out, to my knowledge, has ever slapped handcuffs on a criminal,” Silvester said.
Some of the pretend policemen have even fallen victim to the actions of criminals themselves, with several having been stolen by thieves and jokers, or destroyed by vandals.
Gwent Police in South Wales purchased 52 cutouts at a cost of £13,260 (nearly $22,500), meaning £255 ($432) was spent on each one.
Other police forces across the country spent between £2,745 ($4,657) and £11,280 ($19,137) on the figures.
The two-dimensional figures first caused a stir in 2009, prompting some forces to issue statements on their usage. Some £20,000 ($34,000) was spent.
Earlier in 2014, a man sized one of the cutouts from a petrol station, and was shown kicking it to smithereens on CCTV. He was issued a fine of £90 – more than the cost of each figure in some areas – after his license plate number was also recorded.
The incident took place in Essex, southeast England, and had shortly followed statements that the figures would be removed because of how ineffective they were. The cutouts were deployed in Essex with the intention of preventing drivers from speeding off without paying for fuel.
In November 2013, more than 50 cardboard cutouts of the same police officer were produced for Gwent, at a cost of £13,000 ($22,000).
South Yorkshire police released figures saying that the figures cut crime by 35 percent. However, no other police forces have cited such figures.
– RT News
Nearly 95 per cent of terrorist arrests have been the result of FBI foiling its own entrapment plots as a part of the so-called post-9/11 War on Terror, a new study revealed.
According to the report entitled ‘Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution’, the majority of arrests involved the unjust prosecution of targeted Muslim Americans.
The 175-page study by Muslim advocacy group SALAM analyzes 399 individuals in cases included on the list of the US Department of Justice from 2001 to 2010.
“According to this study’s classification, the number of preemptive prosecution cases is 289 out of 399, or 72.4 percent. The number of elements of preemptive prosecution cases is 87 out of 399, or 21.8 percent. Combining preemptive prosecution cases and elements of preemptive prosecution cases, the total number of such cases on the DOJ list is 376, or 94.2 percent,” the report concluded.
The authors define ‘preemptive prosecution’ as “a law enforcement strategy adopted after 9/11, to target and prosecute individuals or organizations whose beliefs, ideology, or religious affiliations raise security concerns for the government.”
Nearly 25 percent of cases (99 of 399) contained material support charges. Another almost 30 per cent of cases consisted of conspiracy charges. More than 17 per cent of the analyzed cases (71 of 399 cases) involved sting operations. Over 16 percent of cases (65 of 399 cases) included false statement or perjury charges, and around six percent of cases involved immigration-related charges.
According to the report, since 9/11 only 11 cases posed “potentially significant” threat to the United States.
“Only three were successful (the [Tamerlan and Dzhokhar] Tsarnaev brothers and Major Nidal Hasan), accounting for 17 deaths and several hundred injuries,” the paper says.
One of the FBI’s strategies involved “using agents provocateur to actively entrap targets in criminal plots manufactured and controlled by the government.”
“The government uses agents provocateur to target individuals who express dissident ideologies and then provides those provocateurs 25 with fake (harmless) missiles, bombs, guns, money, encouragement, friendship, and the technical and strategic planning necessary to see if the targeted individual can be manipulated into planning violent or criminal action,” the report concluded.
The government could also choose to use “minor ‘technical’ crimes,” such as errors on immigration forms, an alleged false statement to a government official, gun possession, tax or financial issues, etc., to go after someone for their “ideology.”
“What they were trying to do is to convince the American public that there is this large army of potential terrorists that they should all be very-very scared about. They are very much engaged in world-wide surveillance and this surveillance is very valuable to them. They can learn a lot about all sorts of things and in a sense control issues to their advantage,” Steven Downs, an attorney for Project SALAM, which issued the report, told RT. “And the entire legal justification for that depends on there being a war on terror. Without a war on terror they have no right to do this. So they have to keep this war on terror going, they have to keep finding people and arresting them and locking them up and scarring everybody.”
In the conclusion, authors of the report offered the US government several recommendations that the DOJ “should employ” to change the present unfair terrorism laws. A total seven recommendations call on the US government to accurately identify people who offer material support for terrorism, strengthening the “entrapment” defense in the courts; abolish “terror-enhanced sentencing” that triples or quadruples jail time in cases linked to terrorist acts; disallow secret court proceedings, and immediately notifying defendants if any evidence in their case is derived from secret surveillance.
– RT News
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law on Friday groundbreaking legislation that will freeze state rules on energy efficiency and renewable fuel standards that require electric utilities to sell more wind- and solar-generated power. Senate Bill 310 – passed by Republican majorities in the state Legislature and pushed by the state’s top industries – pauses annually-increasing energy mandates at 2014 levels until the year 2017. At that point, the automatic levels are to be restored.A provision that Kasich requested be part of the legislation, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The bill also requires a legislative study panel to recommend whether the Legislature should permanently halt or amend the standards passed unanimously in 2008. The measure makes Ohio the first state to reverse energy efficiency rules and renewable energy requirements. Earlier this
year, Indiana passed a law ending the state’s energy efficiency guidelines. Gov. Kasich did not comment upon signing the bill, but his press secretary has called the legislation a “balanced way to support renewable energy while helping Ohio’s economic recovery.” “Ohio needs more renewable and alternative energy sources and it needs a strong system to support them as they get started,” press secretary Rob Nichols said in a statement. “It’s naive, however, to think that government could create that system perfectly the first time and never have to check back to see if everything’s OK.” The 2008 law that established the standard demanded that electric utilities use more efficient power sources in reducing customer electricity use each year through 2024. Then by 2025, utilities had to show they cut power consumption of their customers by 22 percent, based on 2009 levels. Companies would also have to prove that 12.5 percent of the power they offered came from renewable sources.
The American Council on Renewable Energy has reported that Ohio’s 2008 standards have cut electricity rates by 1.4 percent, yielding over $230 million in overall savings. Ohio’s clean energy sector has created more than 25,000 jobs, according to researchers at Ohio State University. Many groups – including those representing consumer, health, environmental, and business interests – ripped the law, saying
the 2008 efficiency standards have saved more money than they have cost, while the renewable rules have garnered at least $1 billion in state investment, according to clean energy companies.
“By signing SB 310 into law today, Gov. Kasich sent the clear message that he is stepping away from his platform of a broad energy portfolio. As people of faith it’s our moral obligation to care for all of creation,” said Sara Ward, director of Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, according to the Plain Dealer. “The short-term thinking of this hypocrisy only serves a few special interests.”
Environmental groups criticized the policy shift in the face of increasingly polluted water and airways in Ohio, as well as the imminent impact of climate change.
“This reckless step backward gives Ohioans fewer energy choices, fewer jobs, and dirtier air,” said David Scott, board president of the National Sierra Club. “As even Lake Erie shows adverse impacts from climate disruption, as respected scientific bodies warn we must cut carbon pollution now, this is grossly irresponsible.” The American Lung Association said it was “extremely disappointed” by the “negative health effects” the freeze will have on Ohioans. Moms Clean Air Force in Ohio said the legislation will “jeopardize Ohio’s clean energy economy and increase consumer rates, but it is a complete dismissal of the children who struggle every day with asthma and other lung diseases.” Major utilities in the state claim the standards were enacted in the middle of a recession, hurting their profits. Top industrial power users, like Timken and Alcoa, supported the bill. FirstEnergy, a major backer of the effort, praised the new law.
“FirstEnergy is pleased that Ohio took a positive step toward reforming the state’s costly energy efficiency and renewable energy mandates,” the company said in a statement. “Senate Bill 310 will benefit consumers and support job growth in Ohio by holding the line on further bill increases to pay for energy efficiency programs.”
Ohio Energy Group, which represents top state industrial interests, said the 2008 law was more about politics than sensible policy to its groups.
“We think it is smart to stop the [annual] increases for a while, so we can take a look and make sure we are really going in the right direction,” said David Boehm, an attorney for the organization. Before the signing the law, Gov. Kasich and his proxies had hailed the state’s clean energy initiatives. “Ohio ranks No. 1 in the nation for renewable and advanced energy, bringing in more renewable energy facilities than any other state,” claimed JobsOhio, the governor’s privatized economic development agent, according to Dick Munson, director of Midwest Clean Energy with the Environmental Defense Fund. “Ohio is committed to leading the world to energy independence with advanced energy innovation, groundbreaking manufacturing processes and low-cost deployment of these assets to fulfill current and future demand for alternative energy solutions.” JobsOhio formerly stated.
– RT News
Electronic military exercises were to blame for the mysterious disappearance of dozens of planes from air-traffic control screens in the heart of Europe, Slovak authorities have said.
About 50 planes temporarily disappeared from radars in Austria, Germany, the
Czech Republic, and Slovakia between June 5 and June 10,
Austria’s flight safety monitor said.
German and Czech air traffic control also reported brief disappearances. Slovakia blamed the outages on planned military exercises.
“The disappearance of objects on radar screens was connected with a planned military exercise which took place in various parts of Europe…whose goal was the interruption of radio communication frequencies,” the Slovak air traffic services said in a statement “This activity also caused the temporary disappearance of several targets on the radar display, while in the meantime the planes were in radio contact with air traffic controllers and continued in their flight normally.”
Right after the problem with the radars was detected, the organizing party was made aware and the exercises were stopped, Slovakia’s air traffic services added. Slovakia did not mention a military force involved in the
exercises, but Austrian media pointed towards NATO. Austrian daily Kurier reported on June 7 that the first disappearance problems coincided with NATO conducting electronic warfare exercises in Hungary.
During the exercises NATO was reportedly using devices that can interfere with enemy radar, according to the Telegraph. German air traffic control stated that it is trying to identify the cause of the outages.
“Planes disappeared from screens for a matter of seconds, here and there. The outages were sporadic and not grave…It must have been an external source of disruption,” a spokesperson said.
Authorities stated the outages did not pose any serious threat.
– RT News