Puppet MastersS


A small sign of Virginia's eugenics sins

© Eugenics ArchiveDate on which each State inaugurated its eugenical sterilization law (view in Eugenics Archive)

There is no way to truly compensate tens of thousands of men and women who were declared "defective" and involuntarily sterilized under cruel programs operated by Virginia, North Carolina and dozens of other states.

But lawmakers, even after all these years, should still try to make amends.

In Richmond, the General Assembly is considering a measure that would offer $50,000 to people once deemed by the state to be unfit to have children. Between 1924 and 1979, more than 7,000 men and women were sterilized after being classified "insane, idiotic, imbecilic, feeble-minded or epileptic."

Among the victims was Lewis Reynolds, who was sterilized at age 13 because he was wrongly believed to have epilepsy. He ended up serving his country in two wars and retiring from the Marine Corps after 30 years.

As The Pilot's Bill Sizemore recounted in a story this week, Reynolds, now 85, didn't find out what had happened to him until after he had gotten married. He said his wife left him because they were unable to have a family.

Reynolds' second marriage lasted 47 years, ending with his wife's death five years ago. He said they'd always wished they could have had children.

Bad Guys

Henry Kissinger warns of Iran nuclear crisis in 'very foreseeable future'

Israeli officials said Thursday that military action against Iran needed to stay on the table, as former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger warned of a crisis over Tehran's nuclear ambitions in the "very foreseeable future".

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the threat of military action was vital to efforts against Iran's nuclear programme.

"There will be more attempts to try and negotiate, but there will always be in the horizon a military option, because if the Iranians think it's only economic and political, they won't pay attention," Peres told global political and business leaders at the annual gathering in the Swiss ski resort.

Israel and Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to acquire a weapons capability under the guise of its nuclear energy programme but Iran denies the charge, saying its work is for peaceful purposes only.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who emerged from an election Tuesday with a new term as Israel's leader, has frequently warned about the danger of Iran's nuclear programme.


New York Police Department testing out gun detection device

© Image via NYPD
The New York Police Department is testing a new device it says can detect firearms concealed beneath layers of clothing, a high-tech crime-fighting tool seemingly torn from the pages of science fiction.

The so-called T-Ray machine detects terahertz radiation, a high-frequency electromagnetic natural energy that is emitted by people and can penetrate many materials, including clothing.

"If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation, for example a weapon, the device will highlight that object," said Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who described the device Wednesday in a speech at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

News of the device prompted concerns from privacy advocates, though they also saw a potential benefit: It might render unnecessary the legally disputed police policy of stopping and frisking people who haven't been first identified as suspects in crimes.

In an image displayed by Mr. Kelly, the T-Ray scanner highlighted the body of a plainclothes officer in neon green - with a gun clearly visible as a black shape. The image was captured with the officer standing about 30 feet away.


Former CIA officer John Kiriakou: Justice Department is targeting whistleblowers

© Jacquelyn Martin/APFormer CIA officer John Kiriakou, right
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on waterboarding and exposed how CIA torture was policy, was convicted of a classified leak for sharing the name of an officer involved in the rendition program with a reporter. He is set to be sentenced to jail for thirty months on Friday.

Kiriakou appeared on an episode of "Citizen Radio" this morning. Interviewed by the show's co-host Allison Kilkenny, he revealed that his attorneys have a document showing that he clearly was the victim of a selective prosecution.

"While I confirmed the name of one CIA officer involved in the torture regime," Kiriakou stated, "There was a second CIA officer who provided the same reporter the names of ten undercover officers as well as information about counterterrorist operations and flight plans for the black flights going to CIA prisons but that CIA officer was not investigated and was not prosecuted."

The reporter is Matthew Cole, who at the time claimed to be writing a book on a CIA rendition operation in Italy.

Green Light

San Francisco streetlights will spy on passersby

© Reuters / Robert Galbraith
San Francisco, California is the second-most densely populated urban area in the US, but those nearly one million residents of the City by the Bay are about to lose what little amount of privacy they have.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has started work on a program that will update a number of the city's 18,000 streetlights during the next few years. Those new installations might do a whole lot more than just illuminate sidewalks and keep streets lit for cars, though. Through part of a pilot program, city officials can send data wirelessly between more than a dozen of those streetlights.

What kind of data can a lamppost collect, though? In San Francisco, the answer is a lot. According to a report in the SF Bay Guardian, Paradox Engineering of Switzerland has already started testing streetlamps in the city that have the ability to wirelessly transmit data from traffic signals and surveillance cameras from one device to another. Soon, though, there will be more than just 14 cameras with that kind of capability. Additionally, the city is currently searching five vendors to test even more advanced lampposts across the city.

During last year's Living Labs Global Award in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the LLGA gave Paradox the go-ahead to start testing lights in San Francisco. In a just-issued Request for Proposals, the city calls on others to pitch similar products. In the request, the City writes that as they begin replacing the 18,000 streetlights, the SFPUC "also plans to install an integrated wireless communication monitoring and control system" in order to manage the devices."


LAPD using controversial spy tool in routine crime cases

© Shutterstock
Police used a device intended to monitor terror suspects, which gathers phone data from nearby non-suspects too.

The LAPD used a cell phone monitoring device designed for counterterror purposes in routine criminal investigations 21 times in just four months last year, LA Weekly reported.

Using federal funds the police department obtained the Stingray technology, which allows police to track mobile phones in real time, with the purported intention of using the devise to monitor terror suspects. However, notes LA Weekly, the device was used in "13 percent of the 155 'cellular phone investigation cases' that Los Angeles police conducted between June and September last year" - including for burglary, drug and murder investigations.


New Oregon law might make cigarettes prescription only

© Reuters / Sergio Perez
Trying to quit smoking? You might want to move to Oregon. A new bill would classify cigarettes as a Schedule III controlled substance, making them illegal to purchase without a doctor's prescription.

Portland Rep. Mitch Greenlick introduced the bill in the Oregon State Legislature in an attempt to reduce the number of addicted people, but has received criticism from smokers and non-smokers alike who believe the initiative is not feasible.

Under Greenlick's proposal, smokers would be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to one year's imprisonment and a $6,250 fine for being caught with a cigarette or any of the other Schedule III controlled substances, including ketamine, lysergic acid and anabolic steroids.

The bill also prohibits the State Board of Pharmacy from adopting rules that exempt any nicotine products from the legislation, which would include chewing tobacco, nicotine patches and gums, among others. Law enforcement agencies would have the right to inspect all products that they believe might contain nicotine.

"A person commits the crime of unlawful possession of nicotine if the person knowingly possesses more than 0.1 milligram of nicotine," the legislation states. The law would not apply to anyone who was prescribed nicotine by a doctor in the course of professional practice.

Bizarro Earth

Biden tells doomsday preppers shotguns are better than assault rifle for defense

Vice President Joe Biden is trying to assure survivalists and those preparing for doomsday that they will still be able to protect themselves in case of disaster even if assault weapons are banned because shotguns are more effective weapons for defense.

During a Google Hangout discussion about gun control, YouTube video blogger Philip DeFranco asked the vice president why an assault weapons ban was necessary if the number of murders had gone down since the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act temporarily banning some military-style rifles expired in 2004.

"So what would you say to the people who say, yes, you are infringing on our rights, not for sporting or for hunting, but in California, everyone talks about the big earthquake or some terrible natural disaster as a last line of defense," DeFranco wondered. "What would you say to those people?"

"A shotgun will keep you a lot safer - a double-barreled shotgun - than the assault weapons in somebody's hands that doesn't know how to use it, even one that does know how to use it," Biden advised. "You know, it's hard to use an assault weapon and hit something than it is a shotgun."

Bizarro Earth

Venezuela's vice president says he's target of assassination plot

Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro
Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said unidentified groups had entered the country with the aim of assassinating him and the head of the National Assembly as President Hugo Chavez recovers from cancer in Cuba.

Maduro provided no proof of the claim, made at a rally on Wednesday to mark the end of a dictatorship in the OPEC nation 55 years ago, but he said action would be taken shortly.

"For several weeks we've been following groups that have infiltrated the country with the aim of making attempts on the life of (Assembly head) Diosdado Cabello and my own," Maduro told a crowd of red-shirted "Chavista" supporters. "They will not manage it against either of us."

Chavez named Maduro as his preferred successor before he went to Cuba in early December for surgery, his fourth operation in 18 months for an undisclosed form of cancer in his pelvis that was first diagnosed in mid-2011.

Chavez has not been seen in public nor heard from since then. Venezuela's government says his condition is improving after he suffered multiple complications caused by the December 11 surgery.

Officials say he is in "good spirits" but no date has been set for his return home. Maduro said he and the energy minister would travel to Havana on Wednesday to see Chavez.

Bad Guys

Russia to weed out gay soldiers with genital search for 'penis face' tattoos

The Russian Defense Ministry is attempting to clampdown on homosexuality with a new handbook that recommends recruits and contractors be checked for genital tattoos, like a the image of a "face" on the recruit's penis.

The Russian newspaper Izvestia on Thursday published details about how recruits would be given a thorough examination and face questioning about their sexual history.

Signs of "promiscuity" could indicate mental instability, addictive personality and suicidal tendencies, according to the documents.

"The reasons for tattooing may indicate a low cultural and educational level," according a machine translation of the handbook provided by Google. "If set to the impact of external incentives, such as persuasion, direct coercion, it will be evidence of compliance of young men, his tendency to obey the will of another."