Society's ChildS


Best of the Web: TSA Watch: Who's More Dangerous - Terrorists or the TSA?

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For an agency that claims to have "zero tolerance" for criminal behavior, TSA agents sure spend a lot of time declaring their guilt.

I was reminded of that unfortunate fact a few days ago after a screener reportedly faced accusations of stealing $5,000 from a passenger's jacket as he was going through security at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The agent, Alexandra Schmid, hasn't confessed yet even though officials have it all on videotape. But a closer look at the TSA's rap sheet reveals that often, employees accused of crimes simply roll over and play dead when someone points a finger at them.

Take Coumar Persad and Davon Webb, accused of swiping $40,000 from a piece of luggage in January 2011. They were charged with grand larceny, obstructing governmental administration and official misconduct. Last month, they pleaded guilty and were sentenced to six months in jail and five years' probation.

Speaking of theft, how about the TSA supervisor and screener accused of taking between $10,000 and $30,000 from luggage at Newark Liberty International Airport. A federal judge sentenced the supervisor, Michael Arato, to 2 1/2 years in prison and his subordinate, Al Raimi, to six months of home confinement, after both pleaded guilty.

Or Randy Pepper, the TSA supervisor who worked at Seattle-Tacoma, an airport with what many passengers would argue has the worst TSA workforce in the country?
Result of poll taken on the Christopher Elliott blog


US: TSA Has Several Unusual Incidents

Some people seem to leave their common sense at home when they head to the airport. Just use this past week as a perfect example.

The Transportation Safety Administration has had several unusual incidents at security checkpoints across the country.

According to the agency's blog , a man tried to take a spear gun onto a plane at Newark Liberty International Airport this week, thinking it was just fine since it wasn't a bullet-firing gun.

Another guy thought humor would help him get through security faster at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip. A passenger referring to his bag reportedly told the TSA officer: "Yeah, I got a bomb in it." It was not the best way for him to try to make his flight on-time.

Red Flag

The Criminalization Of The Localized Economy

self-sufficient house
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Richard Heinberg's recent Museletter 237, "The Fight of the Century," includes a curious point about criminalization: ". . . It will increasingly be up to households and communities to provide the basics. . . This is a strategy that will . . . in many cases be discouraged and even criminalized by national authorities." The question is whether such localization can survive our political leadership. Yet the localized economy is probably one of the few self-evident proposals for a future that seems to have a rather slim number of options.

The illegalities of the "localized" life begin with the fact that many of the changes that need to be made to house design, in our post-nearly-all-materials world, are in fact illegal, if not strictly criminal. Here in Canada, one cannot legally build or inhabit a house that does not have conventional plumbing and electricity, for example. And the insurance companies have their say: a house will not be insured if it is heated mainly by wood. To be respectable, one must use our declining fossil fuels, it seems. In fact, insurance companies now look for all sorts of certification, most of which cannot be considered related to alternative approaches, but all of which are expensive.

The same problem of illegality applies to many other activities, even if these are just common sense. Localized agriculture, as I learned first-hand a few years ago in Ontario, is increasingly plagued by pointless rules related to processing, packaging, labeling, and similar issues, to the extent that small-scale farmers are simply forced out of business. Much of this is done in the name of "health," but such farmers do not have the ability to set up the required laboratories and other equipment that would make their businesses compliant with these ever-expanding regulations.


US, California: Arrests in Oakland Protests Rise to More than 400

© Reuters/Stephen LamAn Occupy Oakland demonstrator waits for medical assistance during a mass arrest outside a YMCA after a day-long demonstration in Oakland, California.
Crews cleaned up Oakland's historic City Hall on Sunday from damage inflicted overnight during violent anti-Wall Street protests that resulted in about 400 arrests, marking one of the largest mass arrests since nationwide protests began last year.

At a press conference on Sunday, Oakland police and city officials said they did not have a final tally of arrests. Earlier in the day, the city's emergency operations office put the figure at around 400. The skirmishes injured three officers and at least one demonstrator.

Police said a group of protesters burned an American flag in front of City Hall, then entered the building and destroyed a vending machine, light fixtures and a historic scale model of the edifice. The city's 911 emergency system was overwhelmed during the disturbances.

"While City Hall sustained damage, we anticipate that all city offices will be open for regular business tomorrow," said Deanna Santana, Oakland city administrator.


The Takeover of Asfouriyeh: How Solidere Went Nuts

© Marwan Bu HaidarThe dismantling of the building continued during the civil war. Anyone who needed old building stones in the area would pay the 'Asfouriyeh' a visit.
Asfouriyeh was the first mental asylum in Lebanon. Today, the historic property is being converted into a residential development site by Hariri-founded Solidere.

There are no people in Asfouriyeh today. It has become a sanctuary for birds who find refuge among the pine trees and ruins of the old buildings.

Asfouriyeh was built by American missionaries in 1890 with permission from the Ottoman Sultanate. It stretches over 130,000m2 of green space and includes 46 buildings in the area of Hazmieh, east of Beirut.

At the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest mental hospital in the Middle East.

It may be the size of the asylum that made the word stick in the collective memory of the Lebanese, for whom Asfouriyeh became synonymous with any mental hospital.

Heart - Black

The Right-Wing Racism: Conservatives Hate Poor People, White and Black

The Right-Wing Propagandist Charles Murray Exposes the Truth About Conservatives -- They Hate Poor People, White and Black. As usual, Charles Murray twists and invents economic arguments to demonize poor people. But this time, his targets are white.

charles Murray
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Charles Murray, a leading right-wing polemicist, has spent three decades beating up on poor black people. His new book, however, is an act of more equal opportunity opprobrium, arguing that white working class America is in crisis because it has a fucked up and backward culture. And his main example is Philadelphia's Fishtown.

Murray published summaries of Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960 - 2010 in the Wall Street Journal and another in the right-wing New Criterion. His argument is a mean and vicious slander against the people of Fishtown and working class people everywhere, detailing the decline of what he calls the "Founding virtues" of industriousness, honesty, marriage, and religion amongst the rabble. It's based on the Philadelphia neighborhood, but Murray uses "Fishtown" as an exemplar to generalize about white Americans with "no academic degree higher than a high school diploma...[and unemployed or working in] a blue-collar, service, or low-level white-collar occupation."

Murray complains that Fishtown residents are increasingly less moral than people in Belmont, based on the wealthy white Boston suburb full of "successful people in managerial and professional occupations―the elites who are in positions of influence over the nation's economy, media, intellectual life, and politics." Which is where Mitt Romney lives―so I suppose he offers a lesson in hypocrisy, avarice and greed, huh? But beyond Murray's poisonous politics, the biggest problem is that his argument is wrong.

He says that the real Fishtown went from "a tightly knit, family oriented, hard-drinking, hard-working, hard-fighting blue-collar neighborhood" in the 1950s to a "a neighborhood that had experienced the decline of industriousness among males, the drop in marriage, rise in nonmarital births, rise in crime, and falling away from religion" today.


How Iran Changed The World

Imagine this scenario: A developing nation decides to selectively share its precious natural resource, selling only to "friendly" countries and not "hostile" ones. Now imagine this is oil we're talking about and the nation in question is the Islamic Republic of Iran...

Early news reports on Wednesday claimed that Iran pre-empted European Union sanctions by turning off the oil spigot to six member-states: the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Portugal.

The reports were premature. According to a highly-placed source in the country, Iran will only stop its oil supply to these nations if they fail to adopt new trading conditions: 1) signing 3 to 5-year contracts to import Iranian oil, with all agreements concluded prior to March 21, and 2) payment for the oil will no longer be accepted within 60-day cycles, as in the past, and must instead be honored immediately.

Negotiations are currently underway with all six nations. Iran, says the source, expects to cut oil supplies to at least two nations based on their current positions. These are likely to be Holland and France.


Japan's Nuclear Evacuees Denied Canadian Refuge

fukushima Radiation
© Toronto SunHigh levels of radiation around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant and ongoing leaks of radioactive material have caused Japanese nationals to seek refuge in Canada.
A Japanese woman who claimed exposure to radiation from damaged nuclear reactors has been denied refugee status in Canada almost one year after that nation was rocked by an earthquake and tsunami that left more than 100,000 people homeless.

The woman's identity has not been released by an Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) since she's seeking asylum in this country. She is among several dozen Japanese nationals who filed refugee claims to stay in Canada following the disaster and is one of the first decisions to be reached by the IRB.

"The claimant feared risks of exposure to radiation," an IRB member said in a ruling. "She was not convinced by the Japanese government's assurances of safety from radiation."

The woman was one of hundreds of Japanese citizens who sought refuge in other countries following the March 11, 2011 catastrophe caused by a magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami that left more than 15,000 dead and nearly 3300 missing.

The acts of nature crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant, leading to core meltdowns at three of its six reactors, and ongoing leaks of radioactive material.

A board member ruled the claimant "feared being a victim of hazards that emanated from a combined natural and man-made disaster."


Egypt trial on U.S. democracy activists set for February 26

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An Egyptian court will start the trial on February 26 of activists from mostly American civil society groups accused of working illegally in Egypt, in a case which has strained U.S.-Egyptian ties.

A judicial source told Reuters that the 43 accused, including around 20 Americans, would go on trial next Sunday, charged with working in the country without proper legal registration.

The state new agency MENA said the hearing would take place at North Cairo Criminal Court.

Investigators swooped down on the offices of civil society groups on December 29, confiscating computers and other equipment and seizing cash and documents.

The American defendants have been banned from leaving Egypt and some have taken refuge in the U.S. embassy. Among those accused is Sam LaHood, Egypt director of the International Republican Institute and the son of the U.S. transportation secretary.

Heart - Black

LAUSD Supt. John Deasy addresses Miramonte sex-abuse allegations

LAUSD Supt. John Deasy
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In the wake of teachers being charged with lewd acts with students, Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy has sought to reassure teachers and staff in a video address.

The two accused teachers at Miramonte Elementary School have been removed and face criminal charges.

In his four-minute address, Deasy said the rest of the staff at Miramonte, which had been temporarily relocated to the unopened Augustus Hawkins High School nearby, will have the opportunity to eventually return.
"The reason that I wanted to address you is because I know that the actions of the arrested teachers at Miramonte, and the other schools, do not reflect on you or your professionalism," Deasy said. "I want to say that again. Just because a few members have [allegedly] done terrible things, that are being dealt with appropriately by law enforcement officials, that does not reflect on the amazing teaching, leadership and classified staff that I see every day in LAUSD."