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February 2006

February 17, 2006

Iraq economy falls below pre-war levels
"Ms Rice initially asserted that 'many more Iraqis' were now getting potable water and sewerage services. However, under intense questioning from Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, she conceded that although 'capacity' had increased, fewer Iraqis were actually receiving those services."

Britain gives up smoking
"Smoking will be banned in all pubs, clubs and workplaces from next year after historic votes in the Commons last night.

After last-minute appeals from health campaigners, MPs opted for a blanket prohibition which will start in summer 2007, ending months of argument over whether smoking should be barred in pubs and restaurants only. They voted to ban smoking in all pubs and clubs by 384 to 184, a surprisingly large majority of 200.

Smoking will still be allowed in the home and in places considered to be homes, such as prisons, care homes and hotels."

China denies Internet controls lead to arrests
"Chinese people can freely access the Internet and the government has never arrested anyone for expressing an opinion on the Web, an official state newspaper said on Wednesday. Chinese regulations were also in line with international practices and no different from rules in other countries like the United States which seek to block sites with harmful content, the China Daily said, quoting a senior Internet watchdog official.

'No one in China has been arrested simply because he or she said something on the Internet,' Liu Zhengrong, vice head of the Internet Affairs Bureau of the State Council Information Office, was quoted as saying."
Reminds me... wonder how Sherman Austin is doing?

325,000 Names on Terrorism List
The government has been trying to streamline what counterterrorism officials say are more than 26 terrorism-related databases compiled by agencies throughout the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Names from the NCTC list are provided to the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which in turn provides names for watch lists maintained by the Transportation Security Administration and other agencies.
The TSC consolidates NCTC data on individuals associated with foreign terrorism with the FBI's purely domestic terrorism data to create a unified, unclassified terrorist watch list. The TSC, in turn, provides, for official use only, a version giving each person's name, country, date of birth, photos and other data to the Transportation Security Agency for its no-fly list, the State Department for its visa program, the Department of Homeland Security for border crossings, and the National Crime Information Center for distribution to police."

US plans massive data sweep

Patriot Act e-mail spying approved
"As part of a grand jury investigation that's still secret, the Justice Department asked a federal magistrate judge to approve monitoring of an unnamed person's e-mail correspondents.

The request had a twist: Instead of asking to eavesdrop on the contents of the e-mail messages, which would require some evidence of wrongdoing, prosecutors instead requested the identities of the correspondents. Also included in the request was header information like date and time and Internet address--but not subject lines."

US group implants electronic tags in workers
"An Ohio company has embedded silicon chips in two of its employees - the first known case in which US workers have been 'tagged' electronically as a way of identifying them., a private video surveillance company, said it was testing the technology as a way of controlling access to a room where it holds security video footage for government agencies and the police."

Drug Smuggling Air Marshals?
"On Thursday, two of the agency's several thousand highly trained traveling armed guards were taken into custody in Houston. Although the US Attorney's office would not comment beyond acknowledging that the Air Marshals were arrested by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General's office, Government sources tell TIME that the two Air Marshals, are allegedly involved with the possession or transportation of cocaine, and may have been paid several thousand dollars to move the drugs."

Legislation to remove firearms in domestic violence cases passes Senate unopposed   (CA)
"Specifically, Senate Bill 585:

1.) Adds additional provisions to the Family Code to allow law enforcement to consider seeking the immediate surrender of a firearm from a person served with a protective order.

2.) Reduces from 72 hours to 48 hours the time frame by which a person served with a protective order must show proof to a court that they either sold or surrendered their firearms.

3.) Requires that application forms for protective orders include a question and space regarding what types of firearms are in the possession of the respondent."

City seeks safeguards on sale of bullets
"With firearm violence in Boston continuing to surge, police and city officials are looking for new anticrime tools, potentially including limiting ammunition sales, recording who buys ammunition, and using a new technology that transfers a gun's serial number onto a bullet's shell casing any time the gun is fired, said two officials who know about the plans."

VA nurse's letter to newspaper prompts sedition probe

Security breach fallout reaches 200,000 debit card holders
"As first reported in my Thursday column, an unspecified number of Bank of America customers have received letters warning that accounts may have been compromised 'at a third-party location unrelated to Bank of America.'

BofA has said only that the unnamed company is not a bank affiliate.

But well-placed sources within the banking and credit card industries now tell me that the company in question is a leading retailer in the office-supply business.

Those sources also place the total number of consumers affected by the security breach at nearly 200,000."

Bill calls for Mexican border wall paid for by tax on foreign money transfers   (AZ)
"Mexican immigrants and nationals working in the U.S. sent $20 billion back to Mexico in 2005, according to the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas. The proposed ballot question would assess a new 8 percent tax on international money transfers from Arizona. Those funds would be used construct the wall and pay for other border security efforts."

Police chief wants surveillance cameras in Houston apartments
"Houston's police chief is suggesting putting surveillance cameras in apartment complexes, downtown streets and even private homes.
The Houston City Council is considering a public safety tax to pay for more officers.

Scott Henson with the American Civil Liberties Union calls Hurtt's proposal to require surveillance cameras as part of some building permits -- 'radical and extreme'."

Outlaw Willie gets Rangers riled
"In fact, Nelson's public association with the fundraising activities of the Former Texas Rangers Foundation of Kerrville has triggered a Ranger family feud.

'We just have a real problem with Willie Nelson for a lot of reasons,' said Capt. Barry Caver of Midland, one of nine top-ranking Rangers to complain.

'Knowing Willie's past, we would be violating department policy by being around someone like that, whether it was Willie Nelson or my next-door neighbor,' he said."
And in Texas, the talk turned to outlaws - like Kinky, Jesse, and me!

February 4, 2006

Gold Reaches 25-Year High as Oil Gains Renew Inflation Concerns
"Gold for immediate delivery rose as much as $3.85, or 0.7 percent, to $573.20 an ounce, the highest since January 1981. It traded at $572.99 at 10:09 a.m. London time."

Face and fingerprints swiped in Dutch biometric passport crack
"Dutch TV programme Nieuwslicht (Newslight) is claiming that the security of the Dutch biometric passport has already been cracked. As the programme reports here, the passport was read remotely and then the security cracked using flaws built into the system, whereupon all of the biometric data could be read.

The crack is attributed to Delft smartcard security specialist Riscure, which here explains that an attack can be executed from around 10 metres and the security broken, revealing date of birth, facial image and fingerprint, in around two hours. Riscure notes that that the speed of the crack is aided by the Dutch passport numbering scheme being sequential."

Man fined for giving camera the finger   (UK)
"Simon Thompson, 41, gave the middle finger when he spotted the mobile camera as he drove home from work within the speed limit.

Half an hour later two policemen who had been operating the device knocked on his door - and handed him a fixed penalty notice for making offensive gestures under the Public Order Act."

Senate intelligence chair endorses domestic spying
"Roberts said he believes Bush's use of warrantless surveillance is legal, necessary, reasonable and within the president's powers.

'I am confident the president retains the constitutional authority to conduct "warrantless" electronic surveillance,' he said in the 19-page letter addressed to the judiciary panel's Republican chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and its senior Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont."

Pentagon Now Prepares to Fight Long War
"Administration officials seem to refer to the 'long war' more frequently these days. President Bush mentioned it during his State of the Union address this week. On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the term is a way of telling people the truth about the fight against terrorism.

'Just as the Cold War lasted a long time, this war is something that is not going to go away,' Rumsfeld said.

He said this does not mean U.S. troops will be in Iraq indefinitely, but rather that the U.S. will be fighting violent extremists for many years to come."

Gilmore Loses, but Court Reveals TSA Lie: You CAN Fly Without ID

EFF Sues AT&T to Stop Illegal Surveillance
"The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T Tuesday, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications."

Army teaches troops how to pick a spouse
"They are the Pentagon's new 'rules of engagement' - the diamond ring kind. U.S. Army chaplains are trying to teach troops how to pick the right spouse, through a program called 'How To Avoid Marrying a Jerk.'

The matchmaking advice comes as military family life is being stressed by two tough wars. Defense Department records show more than 56,000 in the Army - active, National Guard and Reserve - have divorced since the campaign in Afghanistan started in 2001."

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