Ambrose Bierce via Michael A. Simpson
Are Cameras the New Guns? [via Nina Reznick]
In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.
Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.
The legal justification for arresting the "shooter" rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where "no expectation of privacy exists" (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.
Massachusetts attorney June Jensen represented Simon Glik who was arrested for such a recording. She explained, "[T]he statute has been misconstrued by Boston police. You could go to the Boston Common and snap pictures and record if you want." Legal scholar and professor Jonathan Turley agrees, "The police are basing this claim on a ridiculous reading of the two-party consent surveillance law - requiring all parties to consent to being taped. I have written in the area of surveillance law and can say that this is utter nonsense."
The courts, however, disagree. A few weeks ago, an Illinois judge rejected a motion to dismiss an eavesdropping charge against Christopher Drew, who recorded his own arrest for selling one-dollar artwork on the streets of Chicago. Although the misdemeanor charges of not having a peddler's license and peddling in a prohibited area were dropped, Drew is being prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.
In 2001, when Michael Hyde was arrested for criminally violating the state's electronic surveillance law - aka recording a police encounter - the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld his conviction 4-2. In dissent, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall stated, "Citizens have a particularly important role to play when the official conduct at issue is that of the police. Their role cannot be performed if citizens must fear criminal reprisals…." (Note: In some states it is the audio alone that makes the recording illegal.)
The selection of "shooters" targeted for prosecution do, indeed, suggest a pattern of either reprisal or an attempt to intimidate.
Glik captured a police action on his cellphone to document what he considered to be excessive force. He was not only arrested, his phone was also seized.
On his website Drew wrote, "Myself and three other artists who documented my actions tried for two months to get the police to arrest me for selling art downtown so we could test the Chicago peddlers license law. The police hesitated for two months because they knew it would mean a federal court case. With this felony charge they are trying to avoid this test and ruin me financially and stain my credibility."
Hyde used his recording to file a harassment complaint against the police. After doing so, he was criminally charged.
In short, recordings that are flattering to the police - an officer kissing a baby or rescuing a dog - will almost certainly not result in prosecution even if they are done without all-party consent. The only people who seem prone to prosecution are those who embarrass or confront the police, or who somehow challenge the law. If true, then the prosecutions are a form of social control to discourage criticism of the police or simple dissent.
A recent arrest in Maryland is both typical and disturbing.
On March 5, 24-year-old Anthony John Graber III's motorcycle was pulled over for speeding. He is currently facing criminal charges for a video he recorded on his helmet-mounted camera during the traffic stop.
The case is disturbing because:
1) Graber was not arrested immediately. Ten days after the encounter, he posted some of he material to YouTube, and it embarrassed Trooper J. D. Uhler. The trooper, who was in plainclothes and an unmarked car, jumped out waving a gun and screaming. Only later did Uhler identify himself as a police officer. When the YouTube video was discovered the police got a warrant against Graber, searched his parents' house (where he presumably lives), seized equipment, and charged him with a violation of wiretapping law.
2) Baltimore criminal defense attorney Steven D. Silverman said he had never heard of the Maryland wiretap law being used in this manner. In other words, Maryland has joined the expanding trend of criminalizing the act of recording police abuse. Silverman surmises, "It's more [about] ‘contempt of cop' than the violation of the wiretapping law."
3) Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley is defending the pursuit of charges against Graber, denying that it is "some capricious retribution" and citing as justification the particularly egregious nature of Graber's traffic offenses. Oddly, however, the offenses were not so egregious as to cause his arrest before the video appeared.
Almost without exception, police officials have staunchly supported the arresting officers. This argues strongly against the idea that some rogue officers are overreacting or that a few cops have something to hide. "Arrest those who record the police" appears to be official policy, and it's backed by the courts.
Carlos Miller at the Photography Is Not A Crime website offers an explanation: "For the second time in less than a month, a police officer was convicted from evidence obtained from a videotape. The first officer to be convicted was New York City Police Officer Patrick Pogan, who would never have stood trial had it not been for a video posted on Youtube showing him body slamming a bicyclist before charging him with assault on an officer. The second officer to be convicted was Ottawa Hills (Ohio) Police Officer Thomas White, who shot a motorcyclist in the back after a traffic stop, permanently paralyzing the 24-year-old man."When the police act as though cameras were the equivalent of guns pointed at them, there is a sense in which they are correct. Cameras have become the most effective weapon that ordinary people have to protect against and to expose police abuse. And the police want it to stop.
Happily, even as the practice of arresting "shooters" expands, there are signs of effective backlash. At least one Pennsylvania jurisdiction has reaffirmed the right to video in public places. As part of a settlement with ACLU attorneys who represented an arrested "shooter," the police in Spring City and East Vincent Township adopted a written policy allowing the recording of on-duty policemen.
As journalist Radley Balko declares, "State legislatures should consider passing laws explicitly making it legal to record on-duty law enforcement officials."
Wendy McElroy is the author of several books on anarchism and feminism. She maintains the iconoclastic website ifeminists.net as well as an active blog at wendymcelroy.com.
DALLAS SCREENWRITERS ASSOCIATION Proudly Welcomes Ken Atchity Friday, June 18 at 7:00 PM - KD Studio Dallas
Members are FREE, Non-members Pay $10 at the Door
With more than forty years experience in the publishing world, and over fifteen years in entertainment, Dr. Ken Atchity is a self-defined "story merchant" - writer, producer, teacher, and literary manager, responsible for launching dozens of books and films. His life's passion is finding great storytellers and turning them into bestselling authors and screenwriters.
Ken has produced 28 films, including "Joe Somebody" (Tim Allen; Fox), "Life or Something Like It" (Angelina Jolie; Fox), "The Amityville Horror" (NBC), "Shadow of Obsession" (NBC), "The Madam's Family" (CBS), "Gospel Hill" (Fox), and "Hitting the Bricks." Films in development include "Meg," "3 Men Seeking Monsters" (Universal), "Demonkeeper" (Fox), "The Last Valentine" (Hallmark Hall of Fame), "Sex in the South" (Lifetime), and Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not (starring Jim Carrey; Paramount).
His 14 books include books for writers at every stage of their careers.
Based on his own teaching and writing experience, Ken has successfully built bestselling careers for novelists, nonfiction writers, and screenwriters from the ground up. Clients include bestsellers Jamise Dames, Noire, Shirley Palmer, Tracy Price-Thompson, Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not!, Cheryl Saban, and Governor Jesse Ventura. Now, as chairman and CEO of Atchity Entertainment International, Inc., Ken's Story Merchant companies, www.aeionline.com and www.thewriterslifeline.com, provide a one-stop full-service development and management machine for commercial and literary writers who wish to launch their storytelling in all media - from publishing and film and television production, to Web presence and merchandising & licensing.
After undergraduate work at Georgetown (A.B., English/Classics, winner Virgilian Medal), he pursued graduate work at Yale (M.Phil. Theater History, Ph.D. Comparative Literature).
He served as professor and chairman of comparative literature and creative writing at Occidental College (Faculty Achievement Award; published articles, reviews, short stories, and poems in major journals and magazines throughout the world). He has also received awards and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation.
Atchity also served as Fulbright Professor of American Studies at the University of Bologna and distinguished instructor, UCLA Writers Program
Join us Friday Night, June 18 at 7:00 PM
at KD Studio
2600 Stemmons Freeway (the Medical District Exit)
Members are FREE, Non-Members are $10 at the Door
HAS MAN CREATED LIFE, OR NOT? [via Nina Reznick]
Immaculate creation: birth of the first synthetic cell
17:55 20 May 2010 by Ewen Callaway
For similar stories, visit the Genetics Topic Guide
For the first time, scientists have created life from scratch – well, sort of. Craig Venter's team at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, and San Diego, California, has made a bacterial genome from smaller DNA subunits and then transplanted the whole thing into another cell. So what exactly is the science behind the first synthetic cell, and what is its broader significance?
What did Venter's team do?
The cell was created by stitching together the genome of a goat pathogen called Mycoplasma mycoides from smaller stretches of DNA synthesised in the lab, and inserting the genome into the empty cytoplasm of a related bacterium. The transplanted genome booted up in its host cell, and then divided over and over to make billions of M. mycoides cells.
Venter and his team has previously accomplished both feats – creating a synthetic genome and transplanting a genome from one bacterium into another – but this time they have combined the two.
"It's the first self-replicating cell on the planet that's parent is a computer," says Venter, referring to the fact that his team converted a cell's genome that existed as data on a computer into a living organism.
How can they be sure that the new bacteria are what they intended?
Venter's team introduced several distinctive markers into their synthesised genome. All of them were found in the synthetic cell when it was sequenced.
These markers do not make any proteins, but they contain the names of all the scientists on the project and several philosophical quotations written out in a secret code. The markers also contain the key to the code. Crack the code and you can read the messages.
Does this mean they created life?
It depends on how you define "created" and "life". Venter's team made the new genome out of DNA sequences that had initially been made by a machine, but bacteria and yeast cells were used to stitch together and duplicate the million base pairs that it contains. The cell into which the synthetic genome was then transplanted contained its own proteins, lipids and other molecules.
Venter himself maintains that he has not created life . "We've created the first synthetic cell," he says. "We definitely have not created life from scratch because we used a recipient cell to boot up the synthetic chromosome." Whether you agree or not is a philosophical question, not a scientific one as there is no biological difference between synthetic bacteria and the real thing, says Andy Ellington, a synthetic biologist at the University of Texas in Austin. "The bacteria didn't have a soul, and there wasn't some animistic property of the bacteria that changed," he says.
What can you do with a synthetic cell?
Venter's work was a proof of principle, but future synthetic cells could be used to create drugs, biofuels and other useful products. He is collaborating with Exxon-Mobile to produce biofuels from algae and with Novartis to create vaccines.
"As soon as next year, the flu vaccine you get could be made synthetically," Venter says.
Ellington also sees synthetic bacteria as having potential as a scientific tool. It would be interesting, he says, to create bacteria that produce a new amino acid – the chemical units that make up proteins – and see how these bacteria evolve, compared with bacteria that produce the usual suite of amino acids. "We can ask these questions about cyborg cells in ways we never could before."
What was the cost of creating life?
About $20 million. Cheap for a deity, expensive if you are a lab scientist looking to create your own synthetic bacterium. "This does not look like the sort of thing that's going to be doable by your average lab in the near future," Ellington says.
This reminds me of Frankenstein's monster! Are synthetic cells safe?
Yes. Venter's team took out the genes that allow M. mycoides to cause disease in goats. They also crippled the bacteria so it is unlikely to grow outside of the lab. However, some scientists are concerned that synthetic organisms could potentially escape into the environment or be used by bioterrorists.
Ellington brushes aside those concerns, noting that the difficulty of engineering cells is beyond the scope of all would-be bioterrorists. "It's not a real threat," he says. "Unless you are Craig Venter with a crew of 20 postdocs you're not going to do this."
However, George Church, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School, is calling for increased surveillance, licensing and added measures to prevent the accidental release of synthetic life. "Everybody in the synthetic biology ecosystem should be licensed like everybody in the aviation system is licensed."
THIS IS WHAT WE’RE DEALING WITH IN THE MEXICAN DRUG WAR [via David Angsten]
Mexican Feds Seize Druglord's Golden Guns
Gangster's name spelled in diamonds on one weapon
By TIM PERSINKO
A Mexican drug lord's treasure trove of gold and diamond encrusted firearms has been plundered by the Mexican army.
Soldiers discovered an arsenal of small arms inside a western Guadalajara home belonging to drug heavy Oscar Nava Valencia, according to The Associated Press. The Mexican Attorney General says Valencia heads his own smuggling gang and associates with the Sinaloa Cartel, a drug syndicate caught last week moving 40,000 pounds of marijuana into Arizona.
The glitzy cache of guns included half a dozen assault rifles plated in gold and silver. Thirty-eight pistols were seized, many of which were gilded and studded with precious stones. One pistol has a gold-plated Ferrari crest on the handle, another is inlaid with diamonds spelling "Lobo Valencia." A grenade launcher was also found.
Weapons were not the only gaudy goods seized in the raid. A stash of Rolex, Mido, and Cartier watches, a Cadillac Escalade, and over a thousand U.S. dollars were also taken, wrote the Guadalajara Reporter.
In addition, authorities found a portrait of crime boss Valencia in the house, riding a black horse and decked out in cowboy gear. Cowboy outfits are a favored uniform of Sinaloa gang members.
Oscar Valencia is currently being held in Altiplano prison, one of the highest security penitentiaries in Mexico.
Saudi woman beats up virtue cop [via Nina Reznick]
By BENJAMIN JOFFE-WALT
Photo by: Ruth Eglash
It was a scene Saudi women’s rights activists have dreamt of for years.
When a Saudi religious policeman sauntered about an amusement park in the eastern Saudi Arabian city of Al-Mubarraz looking for unmarried couples illegally socializing, he probably wasn’t expecting much opposition.
But when he approached a young, 20-something couple meandering through the park together, he received an unprecedented whooping.
A member of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Saudi religious police known locally as the Hai’a, asked the couple to confirm their identities and relationship to one another, as it is a crime in Saudi Arabia for unmarried men and women to mix.
For unknown reasons, the young man collapsed upon being questioned by the cop.
According to the Saudi daily Okaz, the woman then allegedly laid into the religious policeman, punching him repeatedly, and leaving him to be taken to the hospital with bruises across his body and face.
“To see resistance from a woman means a lot,” Wajiha Al-Huwaidar, a Saudi women’s rights activist, told The Media Line news agency. “People are fed up with these religious police, and now they have to pay the price for the humiliation they put people through for years and years. This is just the beginning and there will be more resistance.”
“The media and the Internet have given people a lot of power and the freedom to express their anger,” she said. “The Hai’a are like a militia, but now whenever they do something it’s all over the Internet. This gives them a horrible reputation and gives people power to react.”
Neither the religious police nor the Eastern Province police has made a statement on the incident, and both the names of the couple and the date of the incident have not been made public, but on Monday the incident was all over the Saudi media.
Should the woman be charged, she could face a lengthy prison term and lashings for assaulting a representative of a government institution.
Saudi law does not permit women to be in public spaces without a male guardian. Women are not allowed to drive, inherit, divorce or gain custody of children, and cannot socialize with unrelated men.
Officers of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice are tasked with enforcing such laws, but it hasn’t been an easy year for Saudi Arabia’s religious police.
The decision last year by Saudi King Abdullah to open the kingdom’s first co-educational institution, with no religious police on campus, led to a national crises for Saudi Arabia’s conservative religious authorities, with the new university becoming a cultural proxy war for whether or not women and men should be allowed to mix publicly.
A senior Saudi cleric publicly criticized the gender mixing at the university and was summarily fired by the king.
That was followed in December by a surprise announcement from Sheikh Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, head of the Saudi religious police commission in Mecca, who published an article against gender segregation, leading to threats on his life and rumors that he had been or would be fired.
Meanwhile, the Saudi government has gone to great efforts recently to improve the image of the religious police, most notably by firing the national director of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice earlier this year. The new director Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Humain then announced a series of training programs and a special unit to handle complaints against the religious police.
Last month, however, members of the religious police in the northern province of Tabuk were charged with assaulting a young woman as she attempted to visit her son, in a move that marked an unprecedented challenge to the religious police’s authority.
"There is some sort of change taking place," Nadya Khalife, the Middle East women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, told The Media Line. "There is clearly a shifting mentality regarding to the male guardianship law and similar issues. More women are speaking out, there are changes within the government, there is a mixed university, the king was photographed with women, they want to allow women to work in the courts and there are changes within the justice ministry. So you can witness some kind of change unfolding but it’s not quite clear what’s happening and it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight."
Yoga Gives Back NY ambassador Elena Brower
If you’ve been living under your yoga mat, you might have missed the big yoga news announced last week. On the evening of the summer solstice—Tuesday, June 22, at 6 pm—Flavorpill, an online concierge of arts and culture, and top NYC yoga teacher Elena Brower, will host the “world’s largest documented yoga event ever as 10,000 people of all backgrounds, sizes, and skill levels will simultaneously practice on the Great Lawn in Central Park, NYC.” And you thought your studio was crowded.
Headliner Brower, founder of Virayoga, is no stranger to a packed class—or to Flavorpill’s public yoga events. The acclaimed Anusara teacher and Adidas ambassador led the YoGa at MoMA event with Flavorpill in January (pictured). If the Great Lawn event is a success, Flavorpill founder Sascha Lewis may find himself in the Guinness Book of World Records for yoga—or for pulling off the world’s most brilliant coup of a subscriber drive ever. But Brower’s not in it for the fame and fortune. “For me, it’s an honor and a privilege to bring all the yoga traditions together to enjoy the solstice and celebrate our city,” said Brower in an email to Well + Good, who we expect will have to be seriously mic-ed for this event.
Six reasons we’re going to Yoga at the Great Lawn and you should, too:
1. The scene: World peace and universal health care are still works in progress. The least we can do is model good behavior at what’s going to be a United Nations of yoga. Make nice with Bikrams on this one day.
2. Because you missed the Dalai Lama at Carnegie Hall.
3. The yoga celebrities. The following invitees and their bodyguards could be practicing right next you: Gwyneth Paltrow, Russell Simmons, Christy Turlington Burns, Parker Posey, and Nick Denton, you know, the big yogi.
4. The swag: Jet Blue is providing 10,000 yoga mats, and Smart Water is providing, um, 10,000 plastic water bottles?!
5. Your asana will be documented. A 150-foot crane will capture aerial views of the swarm of yogis. Inevitably this will all be on the internet so you can one day prove to your grandchildren that Nana had a wicked chaturanga.
6. Because in all seriousness, usually when 10,000 New Yorkers are together it’s on the subway practicing don’t-fuck-with-me pose instead of heart-opening poses.
To sign up, visit www.flavorpill.com/yoga
Post by http://wellandgoodnyc.com/
NOW THAT’S THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY! [via Nina Reznick]
Albert Einstein via Michael A. Simpson