Daily Archives: February 18, 2007

Blair wants to give youths long prison sentences for firearm possession

BBC | Feb 18, 2007 

blair-devil

Tony Blair wants to lower the age to 17 at which young people can receive long prison sentences for possessing a gun.

US-style surveillance of the homes of people suspected of possessing guns will also be considered.

Announcing a firearms law review, he said he was considering lowering the age from 21 for a mandatory five-year jail term for carrying a gun.

He told the BBC he was also considering criminalising gang membership and how to protect people giving evidence.

But he insisted that gun crime was “a specific problem within a specific criminal culture”.

He was speaking after four fatal shootings in London this month.

Three of them were teenagers shot dead in south London – two of them in their own homes.

And on Saturday, a 28-year-old man was shot dead in Hackney, east London, while three men are still in hospital after being shot in two separate attacks in the Moss Side and Longsight areas of Manchester.

He said it was about looking at how to “clamp down” on those young people who get into gangs at an early age and use guns.

Mr Blair said US-style surveillance of the homes of people suspected of possessing guns or trading in them will also be considered.

Mr Blair denied the announcements were a “knee-jerk response” to the recent killings.

And he said it was important to highlight that overall there was some good news on crime and in particular gun crime.

Shadow home secretary David Davis welcomed the review, but warned: “Yet again we are seeing the prime minister reacting to a headline rather than dealing with the issues in the long-term.

“We now have to think what are they going to do for 16-year-olds and 15-year-olds because these gangs won’t stop at using younger kids to carry guns, drugs, whatever it may be.”

He told Sky News’s Sunday Live: “We have got to take some time. Think it through, do it properly.”

Implantable RFID May Be Easy, But That Doesn’t Mean It’s Ethical

Electronic Design | Feb 15, 2007  

“Monitoring children with RFID tags is a very bad idea. It treats children like livestock or shipment pallets, thereby breaching their right to dignity and privacy they have as human beings,” said Cédric Laurant, Policy Counsel with EPIC.

While researching this issue’s Technology Report on RFID, I recalled the first article I’d written about “chipping” humans with RFID tags back in 1996. Implantable RFID chips for pets were making news back then, and it seemed inevitable to consider chips for kids as well.

My article called for a discussion of the ethics of tagging people, and what a firestorm it started! I don’t think I’ve ever received so many letters to the editor. Of course, I fully recognized the Big Brother scenarios facilitated by RFID. Many readers even considered the implantable RFID chip to be the “mark of the beast,” as described in the Bible’s Book of Revelations.

It’s a decade later and three years since the Food and Drug Administration approved VeriChip’s implantable chips for human beings. In fact, more than 250 hospitals and more than 1000 doctors have adopted VeriMed tags. Some of these doctors have even been “chipped” themselves. When chipped people are brought to emergency rooms, the chip broadcasts their ID and provides access to their medical records.

In December, the National Stroke Association recognized implantable RFID’s potential to play “a critical role in assisting medical professionals” in responding to stroke-afflicted patients. But despite the FDA’s approval, the controversy remains, especially involving children. Beyond the philosophical and even theological concerns, many critics question whether chipping would really protect lost or kidnapped children.

A network of animal shelters can pick up and identify lost animals and make sure they return home safely. But implantable tags don’t have any GPS capability, so they only would work when chipped kids are brought into an emergency room. If readers are widely adopted at hospitals, then there is some logic to thinking that missing children could be recovered if they are brought in for medical care. But even so, the odds that chipped yet missing children would be brought into such hospitals are very slim.

IN THE SCHOOLYARD

For now, RFID tags are being used to track kids via wristbands or ID cards, not implants. They’re being used, sometimes in conjunction with GPS, at some theme parks, schools, and daycare centers. The tags also help keep track of infants, as a third of all U.S. hospitals and birthing centers now use VeriChip’s infant protection systems, according to the manufacturer.

But even RFID badges for kids are controversial. The school district in Sutter, Calif., cancelled a student RFID name badge program after the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the ACLU of Northern California, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation interceded to end the program.

“Monitoring children with RFID tags is a very bad idea. It treats children like livestock or shipment pallets, thereby breaching their right to dignity and privacy they have as human beings,” said Cédric Laurant, Policy Counsel with EPIC.

Those who fear the “slippery slope” of RFID as the tool of Big Brother are working to ensure that it can’t be mandated for tagging or tracking. Last year, Wisconsin passed a law making it a crime to require an individual to be implanted with a microchip.

Caesareans timed to win school placement

Times Online | Feb 18, 2007 

While the vast majority of women who have caesareans need it for medical reasons, more than 10,000 operations a year are carried out at the request of mothers — and some are conducted for reasons of lifestyle.

COMPETITION for places at the most exclusive prep schools has reached such a frenzy that some mothers are engineering a place at the front of the queue by carefully timing their caesarean births.

The head teacher at one of London’s most sought-after prepreps (for the youngest prep school pupils) has advised those parents who are likely to have their child by caesarean section to opt for a date in the first week of the month.

At some schools serving affluent hotspots in London and the home counties, the date of birth is the deciding factor in getting a place, with those born in the first few days of the month having the highest chance of being accepted.

At Wetherby, the boys’ school in London for four to eight-year-olds, favoured by the Notting Hill set and once attended by Princes William and Harry, parents must apply as soon as their child is born.

The offspring of Liz Hurley, the actress, Viscount Linley, son of Princess Margaret, and Elle Macpherson, the model, are also among past and present pupils.

While wealth is a necessary precondition for admission — fees are £11,400 a year — it is not sufficient to guarantee a place. Wetherby and its sister school for girls, Pembridge Hall, allot five places a month on a first-come-first-served basis. In some months all the places have gone in the first week.

Venezuela Now Under One-Man Rule

Huliq.com | Feb 16, 2007
 

Venezuela is now under one-man rule. Christopher Sabatini, a policy director at the New York-based Council of the Americas, says Venezuela’s democratic institutions have been eroded since Hugo Chavez came to power in 1998 – and his ability to rule by decree vastly accelerates that process.

“This is the most sweeping power that has ever been given an elected president in Venezuela’s history,” he said. “This is the dismantling of a democracy from within.”

In late January, Venezuela’s national assembly voted to allow President Hugo Chavez to rule by decree for an 18-month period. Since then, Mr. Chavez has moved quickly to nationalize the country’s electricity and telecommunications sectors, confirmed plans to strip foreign companies of majority stakes in oil projects, and threatened to seize control of supermarkets and other retail outlets.

In a unanimous vote, Venezuela’s national assembly, in effect, temporarily disbanded itself. Assembly President Cilia Flores was jubilant afterwards.

“Long live the sovereign nation of Venezuela,” she said. “Long live Hugo Chavez. Long live socialism. Fatherland, socialism or death!”

Venezuela is now under one-man rule. Christopher Sabatini, a policy director at the New York-based Council of the Americas, says Venezuela’s democratic institutions have been eroded since Hugo Chavez came to power in 1998 – and his ability to rule by decree vastly accelerates that process.

“This is the most sweeping power that has ever been given an elected president in Venezuela’s history,” he said. “This is the dismantling of a democracy from within.”

Venezuelan legal scholars say the country’s constitution, like those of many democracies, does permit the president to rule by decree.

Is Mr. Chavez a de facto dictator? Not yet, according to Venezuelan opposition leader and magazine editor Teodoro Petkoff, who nonetheless says he is profoundly troubled by the president’s expanded power.

“It opens the door to consolidate what is already a feature of the regime: autocracy,” he said. “In practical terms, this is an autocratic regime. All public power is concentrated in the executive, in Chavez. It eliminates whatever vestiges may have existed of a counterweight to executive power.”

VeriChip IPO Focuses Attention on Human Implants

RFID Journal | Feb 16, 2007
 

I’m not a big fan of implanting people with radio frequency identification transponders. It’s unnecessary and a little creepy. There certainly could be some benefits to doing so. After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people saw their medical records wiped out because the physical documents were destroyed. And many people left their homes in the middle of the night wearing only their pajamas, so they had no way to prove who they were when seeking medical treatment.

By linking electronic medical records stored securely in a remote location and backed up properly to a chip inside a person, that person could be sure he or she would always be able to be identified and have access to medical records. But not everyone likes the idea of getting implanted. It’s the stuff of TV dramas, and it scares people. My view is that a pendant with an RFID transponder in it could work just as well.

I don’t know if VeriChip is a good or a bad investment. I don’t know if getting a chip under your skin is a good or bad idea. But I do know that the undue media attention focused on this one company offering a niche application of RFID is having a negative impact on the public perception of RFID. That’s unfortunate, because so few people, so far, have chosen to “get chipped.”

Chavez threatens grocers with prison

UPI | Feb 17, 2007 

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened to throw grocers and business owners in the slammer for violating price controls, Globovision reported Saturday.

The president’s leftist government has accused some food sellers of hoarding goods to inflate prices artificially.

Chavez announced earlier this year he was nationalizing several sectors of the economy, including electric power and other parts of the energy industry.

At the time, he did not mention nationalizing food supplies.

Houston cold shattered record lows set in 1951

Click2houston.com | Feb 16, 2007 

Temperatures began climbing after they fell below freezing across southeast Texas on Friday, breaking record lows in some areas, KPRC Local 2 reported.

Brenham and Houston shattered record lows that were set in 1951. Brenham hit a low temperature of 19 degrees, and the mercury reached 27 degrees at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

“This is the coldest start we’ve had in the last five years,” KPRC Local 2 meteorologist Yanez said.

The below-freezing temperatures did not stay around too long.

“It really looks like it’s going to be a beautiful afternoon,” Yanez said. “We are warming to a cool 52 degrees this afternoon.”

The Houston Independent School District prepared for the cold weather by starting the boilers at the schools early. They also had extra mechanics on hand to make sure all buses were working normally and were warm enough for students.

Record low temperatures put chill in S. Dakota Hills

Rapid City Journal | Feb 15, 2007 

This week Regional broke the Feb. 14 record of minus 3 degrees, set in 1973

Rapid City Regional Airport registered record low temperatures two consecutive nights this week, with lows of minus 20 Wednesday and minus 21 Thursday.

That may be cold, but it doesn’t impress weather buffs much. After all, the airport’s records don’t go back far enough to include February 1936.

“That was a cold, cold, cold, cold, cold month. I think it’s the coldest month in the U.S.,” meteorologist Lee Czepyha of the National Weather Service said. “It’s just a very impressive month, February of 1936.”

Rapid City Regional Airport’s records date back to 1942, but other sites in the area have records going back to the late 1800s. This week Regional broke the Feb. 14 record of minus 3 degrees, set in 1973, and the Feb. 15 record of minus 14 degrees, set in 1979.

Record cold weather in Austin last night and this morning

Statesman | Feb 16, 2007 

The National Weather Service reports that Austin has broken February records over the last two days with record low temperatures in the 20s, according to a meteorologist.

It was a chilly morning — and a record cold one, depending on where the temperature was measured. But don’t fret — Central Texas is in for a much warmer weekend.

The National Weather Service reports that Austin has broken February records over the last two days with record low temperatures in the 20s, according to a meteorologist.

Last night, temperatures plummeted to 23 degrees at Austin Bergstrom-International Airport right before midnight, setting a record that was previously set on Feb. 15, 2004, meteorologist Joe Baskin said.

We’re expected to reach a high in the mid 50s this afternoon. Baskin said that lows tonight will be in the mid-30s, but we’ll see daytime highs in the 60s over the weekend. Check the forecast here.

On this day in 1958, Bergstrom reported a previous record of 27 degrees. Early this morning, temperatures reached a record 20 degrees, Baskin said.

Blair decrees new police powers, 5-years prison for gun possession, surveillance on private homes

Times Online | Feb 18, 2007 

blair-devil

No 10 plans a New York-style crackdown, with powers for the police to mount surveillance on the private homes of people suspected of carrying and using firearms.

TONY BLAIR is to announce urgent measures to break up teenage gangs amid the continuing wave of gun violence in British cities.

As another man was shot dead in London yesterday and three others were injured in two shooting incidents in Manchester, the prime minister called an urgent summit and ordered a review of gun laws, promising to root out youths who are terrorising housing estates.

Downing Street announced an immediate review of legislation relating to the possession and use of firearms and pledged to rush through new powers for the police.

A minimum five-year jail sentence for the possession of firearms, which at present applies to those aged 21 and over, will soon be imposed on over18s.

No 10 also announced an emergency meeting of ministers, police and community leaders to discuss how to respond to the gang killings.

Three teenagers, James Smarrt-Ford, Michael Dosunmu and Billy Cox, have been killed in London this month alone. A man aged 28 became the latest victim early on Saturday morning when he was gunned down in Hackney, east London.

No 10 plans a New York-style crackdown, with powers for the police to mount surveillance on the private homes of people suspected of carrying and using firearms.