Unbebiebable! MSNBC cuts Congresswoman during NSA LIVE to report… Justin Bieber

breaking news.si Unbebiebable! MSNBC cuts Congresswoman during NSA LIVE to report... Justin Bieber

A US government privacy board dubs the NSA’s phone calls hoarding illegal and calls to shut… wait, it’s Justin Bieber. And so the Congresswoman being interviewed was dumped mid-sentence to report the “breaking news” of Bieber’s DUI arrest.

On Thursday, the MSNBC put out a report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) slamming NSA hoarding of phone data, calling it ‘illegal.’ The privacy watchdog, established by US Congress in 2004, also urged President Barack Obama to end the NSA surveillance program.

Congresswoman Jane Harman was called in to discuss the recommendation of the US government privacy watchdog. But as Harman got round to urging Congress to “seriously consider discontinuing section 215”, matters of national importance were put aside.

…We’ve got some breaking news out of Miami, stand by if you will. Right now in Miami Justin Bieber has been arrested on a number of charges,” announced Andrea Mitchell, the MSNBC news anchor, interrupting the congresswoman.

 
Matters of international importance were promptly shelved, in a brouhaha surrounding the pop star, who was said to have been charged with driving under the influence, driving with an expired license, resisting arrest with a possibility of facing up to six months in jail. If you were Congresswoman Harman, would you stand by?

Gunmakers Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger refuse to sell their products in California

rtr1uqt2.si Gunmakers Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger refuse to sell their products in California

Rather than comply with California’s new “microstamping” gun law, some companies have decided their best course of action is to simply stop selling their firearms in the state.

Both Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger have announced that they will halt the sales of numerous gun models in California that would be subject to a law which opponents believe is intended to infringe on gun rights.

Last year, California chose to enact Assembly Bill 1471, which mandates that manufacturers of semi-automatic weapons implement technology that engraves a gun’s serial number, along with other information, onto a bullet’s casing when it’s fired. This “stamp” would potentially allow law enforcement agencies to trace guns more easily in the event of a crime.
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As the Los Angeles Times reported, the law was originally passed in 2007, but delayed until the stamping technology required became easily available. Multiple police chiefs, public officials, and anti-violence groups came out in favor of the legislation, but gun makers and their advocates – such as the National Rifle Association – were strongly opposed.

“Smith & Wesson does not and will not include microstamping in its firearms,” the manufacturer said in a press release. “A number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes.”

“The microstamping mandate and the company’s unwillingness to adopt this so-called technology will result in a diminishing number of Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistols available for purchase by California residents.”

In a statement made on the website for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), Sturm Ruger also announced that its semi-automatic pistols would be pulled out of California due to the microstamping law.

“We are working hard to serve our customers in California and will do all we can to fight this draconian law,” the statement reads.

According to Fox News, many critics of the law argue that microstamping’s ability to aid criminal investigations is limited, since most cases typically involve stolen handguns. Supporters, meanwhile, believe that even if a gun is stolen, tracing it back to its original owner could lead to information that would help further an investigation.

In an attempt to prevent the law from remaining on the books, however, the NSSF and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute have filed a lawsuit against California, arguing that the legislation is unconstitutional.

In addition to California, other states such as Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts are also contemplating enacting microstamping requirements.

While Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger will stop providing new semi-automatic pistols in California, the two companies will continue to sell other handguns, such as revolvers and bolt action rifles.

Source: RT

Snowden can extend his asylum every year – lawyer

snowden extend asylum lawyer0.si Snowden can extend his asylum every year – lawyer

Though Edward Snowden’s temporary political asylum in Russia is set to expire in August, his lawyer says the NSA whistleblower has the right to extend his status every year until he is eligible for citizenship.

Snowden will make up his mind very soon, his legal representative in Russia, Anatoly Kucherena, told Kommersant newspaper.
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Meanwhile, a top Russian lawmaker has indicated that Russia will most likely extend Snowden’s asylum. “He will not be sent out of Russia,” Aleksey Pushkov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of Russia’s lower house of Parliament, said Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “It will be up to Snowden,” The New York Times quoted him as saying.

Kucherena did not rule out that Snowden will apply for an extension of his asylum and maybe even seek Russian citizenship in the future.

In an article published by The New Yorker earlier this week, Snowden dismissed as “absurd” accusations from US lawmakers that he might have spied on behalf of Russia when taking troves of classified US government documents. Snowden insisted that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.”

Snowden asked why he would have initially fled to Hong Kong and why was he “stuck in the airport forever” – in reference to the forty days he spent stranded in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport – if he was a spy. “Spies get treated better than that,” he said.

Snowden’s statement follows accusations made by the chairs of both the House and Senate intelligence committees last Sunday, which insinuated that he might have collaborated with Russia’s special services.

Speaking to RT earlier this week, Kucherena dismissed any accusations against his client, stressing that he has spent a lot of time with Snowden since June of last year and would have been aware if he had cooperated with the Russian government.

But I assure everyone that all day-to-day issues, housing rental etc. – all these questions he resolves himself or with my help.”

The lawyer reminded that Snowden recently obtained a job after spending nearly all of his savings.

“So in this case I cannot say that there is any government involvement, because there is none. His life is modest.”

Source: RT

Republicans vote to end NSA bulk phone metadata surveillance program

rtxwkrc.si Republicans vote to end NSA bulk phone metadata surveillance program

The Republican National Committee has passed a resolution pushing conservative lawmakers to put an end to the National Security Agency’s blanket surveillance of American citizens’ phone records.

The resolution also calls for an investigation of the NSA’s metadata collection practices, which it labeled a “gross infringement” of the rights of US citizens. Under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the NSA has been authorized to collect and store the records of nearly all domestic phone calls – the phone numbers involved and duration of the calls, but not the content of the conversations themselves.

Specifically, the RNC will push Republican lawmakers to pass amendments to Section 215 stating that“blanket surveillance of the Internet activity, phone records and correspondence — electronic, physical, and otherwise — of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court.”

The resolution also adds that “the mass collection and retention of personal data is in itself contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

While Republicans have generally been split on their reaction to the NSA’s spying programs – libertarian-leaning lawmakers have been more critical of the NSA than national security “hawks” – Time reported that no RNC members spoke out against the new resolution when it came up for a voice vote. It reportedly passed with an “overwhelming majority.”

Exactly how lawmakers will receive this new resolution remains unclear. Despite the apparent widespread support within the RNC to reign in the NSA, the party’s Republican legislators are not obligated to vote according to these suggestions.

Still, the move reflects growing unease concerning the NSA’s practices within the conservative movement and will undoubtedly be embraced by civil liberties advocates who have called for an overhaul of the surveillance program ever since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began leaking details about the agency’s behavior to the press.

Last week, President Barack Obama announced reforms of his own regarding the surveillance efforts while simultaneously defending the program as necessary. He stated that going forward, government officials will need to obtain a court order to access the archive of data collected by the NSA. Though Obama did not say who would be in charge of overseeing the archive, he called on Congress, intelligence officials, and Attorney General Eric Holder to take the next steps.

“I believe we need a new approach,” Obama said. “I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata collection program as it currently exists, and establishes a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.”

While Obama’s proposals were welcomed, some civil liberties groups – such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch – stated that he did not go far enough, offering only “vague assurance” that the government would not abuse its powers.

Source: RT

Phillip Morris Introduces Marlboro Marijuana Cigarettes

marijuana cigarettes 300x177 Phillip Morris Introduces Marlboro Marijuana Cigarettes

Phillip Morris, the world’s biggest cigarette producer, announced today that they will join the marijuana legalization bandwagon and start producing marijuana cigarettes. Marketed under the brand “Marlboro M”, the cigarettes will be made available for sale through marijuana-licensed outlets in the state of Colorado, and the state of Washington when it becomes commercially legal there later this year.
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Serafin Norcik, Phillip Morris’ Sr. Vice President for Marketing said in an interview that the company has been high on the idea of marketing cannabis, and has been monitoring the market for some time. It was only when the recent legalization initiatives — winning in Colorado and Washington — that they finally made the decision to take a leap of faith.

Norcik added that they have begun contacting former drug lords in Mexico and Paraguay, currently the largest marijuana-producing countries in the world, for the possibility of setting up a distribution ring across the North and South American continents, to streamline the supply lines.

Since only tobacco products are currently banned in advertisements and promotions in the United States, Phillip Morris also has set aside a huge $15 billion advertising budget just to promote the new “Marlboro M” and are now negotiating with major networks and publishers, to start marketing the product to consumers in the beginning of 2015.

Norcik also revealed that a big initial push is planned around January next year, and have acquired most of the ad airtime for Superbowl XLIX. However, since marijuana will be legal only in Colorado and Washington during the 2015 Superbowl, all the ads will be blacked out in all other States and will only show a static “M” logo with smoke blowing in the background, for the duration of the ad.

Phillip Morris shares hit an all-time high on the marijuana news and shot up to $998.00 from $83.03 just a few hours after the announcement went public.

US judge says, IP address does not prove online piracy.

Code US judge says, IP address does not prove online piracy.

 

A US federal judge in Washington wrote that a suspected internet pirate should not be prosecuted solely because his computer’s IP address was identified by a film studio. The landmark opinion may tip the fortunes of defendants in similar situations.
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The Hollywood executives behind the movie ‘Elf Man’ filed a lawsuit against hundreds of people, alleging that they were guilty of copyright infringement because their internet protocol (IP) address was found to have illegally downloaded the film. An IP address can be likened to a computer’s online fingerprint; each is unique to the machine it originates from.

Copyright holders seeking to take offenders to court often put fake movie files online, record the hundreds or thousands of IP addresses that download it, and then provide that information to the courts in an attempt to identify and sue hapless users on the other side of the screen.

The studio argued that “the defendants either (a) downloaded the pirated film themselves, or (b) permitted, facilitated, or promoted the use of their Internet connections by others to download the film,” according to TorrentFreak.

Washington District Judge Robert Lasnik said this week that the rationale is insufficient, in part because it begins with the assumption of guilt. Ruling on a motion to dismiss the claim, Lasnik sided with the defendants because the conditions described in complaint section b were overly vague.

[The movie studio] has actually alleged no more than the named defendants purchased Internet access and failed to ensure that others did not use that access to download copyrighted material,” the judge wrote.

Lasnik also said that there was no proof that the person who could wind up facing a lawsuit was in fact the person who chose to download the copy of ‘Elf Man.’

Simply identifying the account holder associated with an IP address tells us very little about who actually downloaded ‘Elf Man’ using that IP address,” he wrote. “While it is possibly that the subscriber is the one who participated in the BitTorrent swarm, it is also possible that a family member, guest, or freeloader engaged in the infringing conduct.”

Other judges presiding over similar cases in the past have agreed with Lasnik, creating a precedent that has required copyright enforcers to narrow down their list of suspects before attempting to launch a case.

Last year, a Sydney-based law firm revealed that courts in both Australia and the US have refused to turn over personal details of internet users who downloaded content without permission.

For example, in an office or at home, where there is a WiFi connection, only one IP address will be allocated to that wireless connection. This means that every user of each device (computer, iPad, iPhone, etc) connected to that WiFi connection will use the same IP address. Even a random passerby accessing the WiFi network would be using the same IP address,” lawyers from Marque Lawyers wrote, as quoted by TorrentFreak.

This decision makes a lot of sense to us If it holds up, copyright owners will need to be a whole lot more savvy about how they identify and pursue copyright infringers and, perhaps, we’ve seen the end of the mass ‘John Doe’ litigation.”

 

Source: RT

How Private Probation Companies Make Money From the Those They Trap in the Justice System

private probation office How Private Probation Companies Make Money From the Those They Trap in the Justice SystemGovernments still award services to companies with moneyed interest in jailing ever more people.

Marietta Conner watched the judge expectantly. The 63-year-old assistant minister had just pled guilty to “fail[ing] to yield to a pedestrian”—a criminal misdemeanor in Georgia—and did not have enough money to pay her $140 fine. The judge ordered that she be put on probation. But instead of county probation, Conner was assigned a private probation company supposed to mimic normal court probabation: meet with her once a month through a probation officer, collect payments and confirm her work and address. In the end, the company sapped Conner of well over the original amount of the fine, and even dangled an arrest warrant over her head when it erroneously claimed she had missed a payment.

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Conner was lucky. She knew someone at the Southern Center for Human Rights who helped her escape the trap the correctional corporation tried to put her in. Yet for hundreds of thousands of others on probation through a private company, the experience routinely entails prolonged harassment, indebtedness and even imprisonment—and sometimes all with the blessing of a judge.

To be ensnared in America’s system of mass incarceration is to be in prison, on parole, or on probation. In 2012 1 in every 35 American adults was trapped in the criminal justice system. The surging number of people whose lives necessitate constant surveillance and management has exploded the coffers of state and federal budgets, and rather than reform heavy-handed laws to ease this burden on public funds, elected leaders have contracted incarceration services out to companies with a moneyed interest in jailing more Americans.

The private prison industry has stoked the outrage of progressives and civil libertarians for years, as has the practice of prosecutors pushing plea bargains with heavy parole, but an equally dangerous phenomenon is the rise of private probation businesses across the country.  Since the 1970s, the private probation industry has expanded into at least 20 states—most concentrated in the South—and nearly all of its companies are entirely supported by the fees paid to them by the probationers they “serve.” In the last few years, many of these businesses have been given more power to pursue and imprison probationers, playing a starring role in what one federal judge called a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket.”

When someone is convicted of a misdemeanor crime, he or she is often placed on probation by a judge either in lieu of minor prison time or as part of a payment plan to pay off court fines levied for his charge. Traditionally, the purpose of probation has been to facilitate the rehabilitation of the probationer through constant contact with a representative of the court (a probation officer), although this concept may be farcical in an age when an adult can be placed under “community supervision” for jaywalking. With privatized supervision, the offenders are required to report monthly to a contractor acting in the same capacity as a probation officer, and they must also pay a monthly fee to the company on top of the fines they owe the court.

The distinction between fee and fine is important because, as noted by the Economist, it is through fees that private probation companies can afford to pay the salaries of their staff. A report from the Criminal Justice Review explained that “Private agencies…rely on the probationer’s paying a supervision fee to remain solvent.” Solvency, however, is hardly a concern for many of these corporations, some of which have amassed tens of millions of dollars annually off the fees they charge probationers.

One such company is Sentinel Offender Services, whose combined operations in four different states brought in $30 million in 2009, according to an investigation by NBC. The company has faced many legal challenges on the grounds that its employees demand payment for fees from poor probationers and then issue arrest warrants when they cannot pay, without consideration for their financial situation. Marietta Conner, the impoverished pastor, was under the supervision of Sentinel.

Although a 1983 federal ruling said that probationers cannot be jailed for being indigent, Sentinel has regularly issued arrest warrants for probationers delinquent on their payments, and has even extended the probationary sentences of thousands—illegally—in order to wrest more money from them. Sentinel has terrorized so many lives a Georgia court recently ruled that the company might have to refund thousands of payments to former probationers who had the unfortunate luck to be supervised by a company that “links its probation officers’ performance evaluations to the amount of money collected from probationers,” according to a 2010 ACLU report.

Sentinel is just one in a vanguard of 34 probation corporations in Georgia pushing to have more power to hunt down delinquent probationers. A new bill up for a vote in the Georgia’s House of Representatives, greased for quick passage by funds from industry lobbyists would give private probation officers increased “immunity from liability” and grant them more discretion to extend a person’s probation—and by extension, prolong a probationer’s “payment period.”

Some courts have actually been complicit in the racket. A circuit court in Alabama ruled in 2012that the local municipal judiciary in Harpersville, Alabama had operated “debtor’s prisons” together with the private probation firm Judicial Correctional Services by turning over poor misdemeanor defendants to JCS and then allowing the company to fleece them for every cent they had.

In the event that the probationers couldn’t pay their monthly fees to the company—as was the case for many probationers in the nation’s fourth poorest state—they were thrown in jail without a trial at the behest of JCS and under the blessing of the Harpersville court, who would then doom already-indigent defendants to an inescapable pit of debt by piling even more fines and fees. The presiding judge who ruled against Harpersville was scandalized so deeply by the JCS-judiciary collusion that he accused the local court of “violating almost every safeguard afforded by the United States Constitution [and] the laws of the state of Alabama.” Meanwhile, JCS continues to operate in 69 cities throughout four different states.

Perhaps the most pernicious feature of these businesses is how they enable local municipalities to perpetuate debtor’s prisons across the country. In Florida, birthplace of modern privatized probation, courts permit correctional firms to tack on a 40% surcharge on top of the debt a delinquent probationer already owes, as detailed in an investigation by the Brennan Center for Justice. The investigation also found that courts in Missouri regularly condemn people to prison when they cannot pay off the fees imposed by probation companies, and in Illinois, corporations shakedown impoverished probationers for 30% more of their standing debt if they miss payments. In total, the report found that nine states charged probationers excessive fees “payable to private debt collection firms”—in other words, private probation companies.

Efforts to resist the abuses of the private probation system have been scattered and slow building. In addition to the class-action lawsuits filed against Sentinel in Georgia and JCS in Alabama, an Idaho-based probation company was sued in 2011 for perpetually increasing probationer’s sentences by manipulating the results of drug tests (testing positive for drugs is usually a violation of probation and can mean further penalties). That same year in Tennessee, a group of former probationer’s filed a successful lawsuit against the owner of a company called Ada County Misdemeanor Probation Services for having “forced them to overpay” and holding them on probation “longer than necessary.”

Yet despite a proliferation of lawsuits across the country, municipalities seem to show no less willingness to contract out probation services. In addition to the 20 or so states that now allow some form of privatized probation, a state senator in at least one other place—Nebraska—has inquired with policy experts about implementing the correctional model in his home state.

It does not take a legal expert to discern how for-profit correctional services threaten the freedom of Americans. Private probationary companies exist only as long as there is a steady supply of probationers from whom to extract payment, and these companies grow only if the number of people on probation grows. As evidenced further by the case of prison contractors, some of which have compelled state governors to keep prisons 90% full, a privatized correctional model maintains the American system of mass incarceration by further building it into an industry.

Source: Alternet

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