Daily Archives: March 28, 2012

TSA Manager Arrested for Running Prostitution Ring

Agency had gotten earlier complaint

myfoxdc | Mar 28, 2012

BY JOHN HENREHAN

SILVER SPRING, Md. – A manager at the Transportation Security Administration has lost his job after being arrested on prostitution-related charges. According to court documents, the agency had received a complaint of “very similar” activities back in 2009.

Bryant Jermaine Livingston, 39, was arrested while on the job as a supervisor of TSA agents at Dulles International Airport. The Manassas, Virginia resident, said by phone he is innocent of the charges, but declined to discuss the details of the case.

According to charging documents, on February 15th, Livingston used cash to rent a room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring, Md. The hotel manager recognized Livingston as a previous customer who, on earlier occasions had “groups of males and females frequently entering and exiting Livingston’s room,” according to a court document.

Similar activity was happening on February 15, so the manager called Montgomery County Police to report likely prostitution. Responding officers offered to accompany the manager as she went to evict the people from the room.

At the doorway, Livingston denied prostitution was occurring, and invited the manager and police into the room.

Responding officers say they saw, “11 people inside the room [including] three naked females and four males attempting to get dressed. Multiple people were laying on the two beds and other people were sitting in chairs and standing in the room.”

In a hallway interview, Bryant Livingston told the police officers he “runs the airport security at Dulles,” according to the charging document.

A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration confirmed that Livingston had worked for the agency since Oct. 29, 2002, but he is now “no longer employed by TSA.”

In a subsequent interview, one of the men in the room told Montgomery County police that, “he paid Livingston $100 to enter the hotel room to engage in sexual activities.” Charging documents also say a TSA investigator told police that, “in 2009, a very similar complaint concerning Livingston was on record. The complaint alleged that Livingston was operating a prostitution ring and charging individuals $25. for sexual acts.”

The TSA spokesman had no immediate explanation as to what, if anything, the agency did about the earlier complaint.

Bryant Livingston is facing five prostitution-related charges. His attorney, Jason Cleckner, declined to comment on the case. Livingston has been released on his own recognizance, and faces trial on May 8th.

In Maryland, a person convicted of prostitution can face up to a year in jail.

‘Sand Flea’ robot can jump 30 feet into the air onto rooftops

Mar 27, 2012

by BostonDynamics

Sand Flea is an 11-lb robot with one trick up its sleeve: Normally it drives like an RC car, but when it needs to it can jump 30 feet into the air. An onboard stabilization system keeps it oriented during flight to improve the view from the video uplink and to control landings. Current development of Sand Flea is funded by the The US Army’s Rapid Equipping Force. For more information visit www.BostonDynamics.com.

Eye-Tracking Computers Will Read Your Thoughts

And when they do, the privacy debate will become even more important.

slate.com | Mar 27, 2012

By John Villasenor

In the future, will we be served online ads based on the thoughts reflected in our eye movements? Photograph by ThinkStock.

Consider, for a moment, the following list: Republican. Abortion. Democrat. Future. Afghanistan. Health care. Same-sex marriage.

There is an enormous amount of information reflected in the way you just read that list. Did your eyes pause for a fraction of a second on certain words? Did your pupils dilate, ever so slightly, at any point while you were reading the list? For some words did your eyes blink at a different rate? Did you backtrack to reread any words, and if so, which ones, when, and for how long?

Eye-tracking, which uses images from one or more cameras to capture changes in the movements and structure of our eyes, can measure all of these things with pinpoint accuracy. There are many benevolent applications for eye-tracking, most notably in providing disabled people with a way to interact with objects on a screen. But recent advances are taking the technology into the mainstream, with the biggest initial applications likely to be in user interfaces and gaming. Apple, for example, has filed a patent application for a three-dimensional, eye-tracking user interface, and European company Sensye aims to have its eye-tracking software built into smartphones next year. As eye-tracking becomes increasingly deployed in laptops, tablets, and smartphones in the coming years, it will open a new front in the fractious digital privacy debate.

Today, eye-tracking isn’t quite ready for mass-market adoption. The computations required tax even the advanced computer chips found in many current-generation consumer devices. In addition, not all of these devices have “front-facing” cameras that can capture images of a user’s eyes. But these obstacles are vanishing as mobile phones and other devices become increasingly powerful. While today’s laptops and tablets might have trouble performing eye-tracking computations, those of 2015 will be able to do so with ease. And, they will almost all have front-facing cameras.

Once the technology for eye-tracking is in place, it will glean information conveying not only what we read online, but also how we read it. Did our eyes linger for a few seconds on an advertisement that, in the end, we decided not to click on? How do our eyes move as they take in the contents of a page? Are there certain words, phrases, or topics that we appear to prefer or avoid? In the future, will we be served online ads based not only on what we’ve shopped for, but also on the thoughts reflected in our eye movements?

This information will be collected, analyzed and resold to hundreds of companies—advertisers, data analytics providers, and others—across the digital ecosystem in what the industry calls the “mobile marketing value chain.” In theory, they will be anonymous, “nonpersonal” data. But in practice, the anonymity will be easy to penetrate. For example, eye-tracking data collected from tablets and smartphones will be tied to a “unique device identifier” associated with one specific device. These data will also be correlated to accurate location-tracking information, often to the precision of a specific home or commercial building.

If we have learned anything from the steady drumbeat of revelations about data collected without our consent—think Carrier IQ in November, Android in December, and Google, Twitter, Apple, and Android last month—it is that these stories tend to follow a predictable pattern: After a few days of headlines, calls for congressional or FTC investigations, and damage-control statements from company representatives, attention shifts elsewhere. For each data collection leak that gets identified and plugged, there are probably dozens more waiting to be discovered. It is an environment in which asking forgiveness, not permission, has proven to be a highly successful business strategy.

The overwhelming majority of the time, no one will be interested in putting all of this information together. But if someone does want to identify us by name, study our eye movements, and try to gauge what we, as individuals, were thinking as we viewed digital content, all of the necessary data will be readily available.

We also have to recognize the law-enforcement and security applications for eye-tracking. Researchers in the United States and the United Kingdom have mapped the correlation between blink rates, pupil dilation, and deception. The Department of Homeland Security has been developing a “pre-crime” program aimed at identifying criminals before they act. The DHS program, known as Future Attribute Screening Technology, is designed to analyze images acquired at airport security checkpoints to measure eye movement, position, and gaze (as well as heart rate, respiration, and facial expression) to identify behavior deemed suspicious.

Of course, it’s tempting to think that there’s a very low-tech solution to unwanted eye-tracking performed by our personal electronics devices: put a piece of masking tape over the camera. For today’s devices, that would do the trick. But that may not be an option in the future. As evidenced by an Apple patent application, future display screens could include thousands of tiny imaging sensors built into the screen itself.

Today, when we read something online, our thoughts are still our own. We should enjoy it while it lasts.

New World Order? Emerging Giants Set to Meet for Fourth BRICS Summit


India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, China’s President Hu Jintao, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma (top L-R) attend a joint news conference during the BRICS summit in 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

Peter Schiff — who oversees around $1 billion in assets as head of Euro Pacific Capital in Connecticut — said: “I think you are going to see real growth in emerging markets as they are the fruits of their hard work and production. I think you have better prospects for growth and earnings than you do here in the U.S.”

ibtimes.com | Mar 28, 2012

By Oliver Tree

Leaders from the five emerging nations known collectively as BRICS have gathered for their annual meeting in India, which begins Thursday, amid growing tensions and competing interests among the rising economic giants.

The fourth meeting of the heads of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in New Delhi is set to focus on global food and energy security, international terrorism and establishing a global development bank that would rival  the Western-dominated International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

But while the event, a diplomatic forum akin to the Group of Eight and G-20 gatherings, is seen as another example of the growing economic and political confidence of so-called emerging markets, the BRICS continue to show little cohesion beyond their collective name.

“There is little sign of action from BRIC governments with regards to actually seeking collective economic stances on trade, investment, or other economic issues,” said Victoria Lai of the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Politically the group remains stuck in a two-tier hierarchy: Russia and China are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, while Brazil, India and South Africa are not.

They are also divided when it comes to addressing multilateral issues.

“On most fronts, they present vastly divergent — and at times competing — strategic and economic interests,” Dr. Alexandra A. Arkhangelskaya, head of the Center for Information and International Relations at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Al Jazeera. “Beyond Russia and China, the five countries rarely vote together at the UN.”

In political terms, the BRICS have also failed to convert their collective sway to the level of U.S. or European clout.

Current tensions in Iran, the escalating violence in Syria and a potential showdown over nuclear weapons with North Korea are issues on which the group could take the lead, and these will be discussed during the two-day summit in India.

But while the BRICS wield varying degrees of international influence and remain fierce economic rivals, they all share one common goal: the need to show the West they can make their own decisions.

Up For Discussion

Despite the political differences, the New Delhi summit is set to produce a number of key accords further marking the group as an alternative power bloc.

Two agreements on intra-BRICS trading are expected to be signed, in an effort to promote growth in a market already valued at $230 billion and growing at 28 percent annually.

Discussions will also include the formation of a BRICS development bank, modeled on the World Bank, that would prioritize emerging-market projects in infrastructure and other areas. That could reduce the members’ dependence on U.S. and Western European institutions for financing.

“The ability of BRICS to make intra-BRICS lending in their own currencies is a sign that they are breaking away from a dollar-denominated system,” said Cary Leahey, a U.S.-based economist with Decision Economics. “But it’s a glacial change; it’s not going to be a big change soon.”

Other commentators also regard the establishment of a development bank as a clear shot across the bow for Western global financial institutions.

“It is a way the emerging nations are trying to pull out of the Western-dominated World Bank and the IMF,” said John Mashaka, financial analyst at Wells Fargo Capital Markets, according to Al Jazeera. “Basically, India, China and perhaps Russia are trying to show off their economic clout; they are trying to demonstrate to the West that they can do without them. Above all they need freedom from Western financial influence.”

Bilateral deals may also be negotiated on the sidelines of the event, at which cooperation on renewable-energy projects will be discussed. Some observers expect news of a possible gas deal between Russia and China that could be worth up to $1 trillion and involve as much as 70 billion cubic feet of natural gas to be piped from Siberia to China each year.

At last year’s BRICS summit, in South Africa, seven stock exchanges in the bloc agreed to cross-list their traded securities, creating an intraregional market of more than 9,400 publicly traded companies worth a combined $9 trillion.

The initiative will be advanced this week with the launch of a benchmark equity derivatives index shared by the five major BRICS exchanges that can be bought in the local currencies of each investor nation.

Crouching Dragon

Hanging over delegates at the meeting however will be the issue of alleged Chinese currency manipulation.

At present, China is the U.S. government’s biggest lender, as it swaps dollar-denominated trade receipts (which pay no interest) for interest-paying U.S. Treasury securities. In March, China held roughly $1.11 trillion in Treasurys.

Critics have long maintained that China’s use of U.S. debt is a back-door strategy that artificially devalues its own currency, the yuan, giving it an unfair advantage in the export market.

While the U.S. and other Western nations often criticize what they call blatant currency manipulation, BRICS members such as Brazil are also unhappy with the practice.

Brazil’s powerful manufacturing lobby has voiced irritation about the undervalued yuan, and Brazilian delegates at this week’s summit are expected to raise the matter with their Chinese counterparts.

Lastly, the China Development Bank is expected to extend renminbi loans to the other BRIC countries, escalating its bid to oust the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of choice.

Rising Stars

Despite their political differences, uneven economic clout and undefined association, the meeting is set to further highlight the group’s growing independence.

With the value of the BRICS economies expected to overtake that of the United States within three years, Peter Schiff — who oversees around $1 billion in assets as head of Euro Pacific Capital in Connecticut — said: “I think you are going to see real growth in emerging markets as they are the fruits of their hard work and production.”

“I think you have better prospects for growth and earnings than you do here in the U.S. We’ve got some serious, serious problems over here.”

9-year-old who skipped school is Tasered: Chief to resign

Mount Sterling police chief to resign

Taser incident wasn’t reason, he says

Columbus Dispatch | Mar 13, 2012

By  Holly Zachariah

MOUNT STERLING, Ohio – Embattled police Chief Mike McCoy announced last night that he will soon resign from his village post, though he insisted it has nothing to do with the fact that one of his officers shocked a 9-year-old boy twice with a Taser last week.

McCoy, who was placed on paid leave late last week after he did not tell Mount Sterling Mayor Charlie Neff of the incident, said he wasn’t pressured to resign.

Instead, after an hour-long, closed-door meeting between his personal attorney and village officials, McCoy read a statement that said the village’s declining budget keeps him from doing his job.

He said he did nothing wrong by not immediately telling Neff what had happened because, as chief, he felt he needed to check into the incident himself first.

“I did what I was supposed to do to maintain the integrity of the incident,” McCoy said.

Neff said McCoy wasn’t asked to quit, but he added that the past few days “have been tough.” He said that lawyers are drafting a separation agreement and the council is expected to accept McCoy’s formal resignation at its meeting in two weeks. McCoy will not be reporting back to his $49,900-a-year job, though.

In the meantime, the entire part-time police force remains disbanded and the Madison County sheriff’s office will patrol the village. There was no discussion of hiring a new chief or bringing back officers, and last week’s incident is being reviewed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Among the 70 or so people at the meeting was Michelle Perry, whose son Jared was shocked by Mount Sterling police Officer Scott O’Neil last Tuesday morning.

Mrs. Perry didn’t comment, but her attorney, Tracy Comisford, said after the meeting that when O’Neil came to arrest her son for truancy, Mrs. Perry never expected that he would be subdued with a Taser. “She certainly never wanted this to happen,” Comisford said.

Village officials released the police report yesterday. According to O’Neil’s written account:

He went to the boy’s S. Market Street home about 8:30 a.m. to serve a complaint filed against Jared for truancy.

Jared — listed on the report as between 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-8 inches tall and between 200 and 250 pounds — refused to cooperate. He begged his mother to let him go to school rather than with the officer, but Perry told her son it was too late.

O’Neil wrote that after repeated warnings, he pulled Jared from the couch, but he “dropped to the floor and became dead weight … flailing around,” and the boy lay on his hands to prevent being handcuffed.

O’Neil demonstrated the electrical current from the Taser into the air “as a show of force.” Then, he wrote, Perry told her son to do as O’Neil said or he would be shocked.

The report indicates that after being shocked once, Jared still didn’t cooperate and was shocked a second time. An ambulance was called, but Jared had no sign of injury; Perry signed a waiver for medical treatment. Jared was taken to the sheriff’s office, and a delinquency count of resisting arrest was added to his truancy charge.

As people left the meeting last night, many offered McCoy support and said they stand behind the police department. Resident Heather Rice said all the facts about what happened last week aren’t yet known, and McCoy has simply become a scapegoat.

“This isn’t about a Taser,” she said. “This is about forcing this village to lose its police force.”

Cops smash student’s face into sidewalk for taking pictures


Photo taken on South 17th Street, near Dickenson, in Point Breeze on March 14, 2012. The face of the man being frisked has been digitally blurred to obscure his identity. Photo by Ian Van Kuyk.

philly.com | Mar 26, 2012

BY WENDY RUDERMAN

IAN VAN KUYK, a Temple University junior studying photojournalism, emerged from class earlier this month with a straightforward assignment: Take pictures at night.

Van Kuyk’s professor had armed him with a Nikon D40 digital camera and the knowledge that he had the legal right to snap photos anywhere within the public domain.

Van Kuyk, 24, ended up getting a crash course on what happens when police don’t want to be photographed, he said.

He and two of his Point Breeze neighbors say a police officer forced Van Kuyk to the ground, jamming his face into the sidewalk, and handcuffed and arrested him after he began photographing a March 14 traffic stop on his block.

“I was within my rights. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. The officer began pushing and shoving me,” Van Kuyk told the Daily News. “I told him, ‘I’m just taking a photo. I’m a photojournalism student.’ He got angry. And he just grabbed me and took me to the ground. He kept saying, ‘Shut up. Stop resisting.’ ”

Police say Van Kuyk’s arrest had nothing to do with his picture-taking. “The officers are fully aware of the First Amendment right to take photographs,” Lt. Ray Evers said Monday.

The incident has incited the 7,000-member National Press Photographers Association and raised questions about whether all Philly cops are adhering to a memorandum, issued by Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, saying that civilians have a right to record or photograph cops in a public space.

His memo followed a Daily News story in September about incidents in which cops wrongly arrested bystanders for using cellphones to record arrests.

“The only intent Ian [Van Kuyk] had was to take a picture,” said former photojournalist Mickey Osterreicher, an attorney representing the photographers’ association. “Did this officer miss the memo or something?”

According to Van Kuyk and two neighbors, here’s what happened about 7:45 p.m. March 14:

Van Kuyk and his girlfriend, Meghan Feighan, 22, were sitting on their front stoop, on 17th Street near Dickinson, when two officers stopped a neighbor who had just parked in front of his house. Van Kuyk grabbed the Nikon and began taking photos. The cops ordered him out of the street, and he moved to the sidewalk. A cop pushed him to the ground, prompting a neighbor to call 9-1-1.

Feighan, fearing that the camera would break, took it from Van Kuyk. Then the cops arrested her on misdemeanor charges.

Police confiscated the camera and held Van Kuyk and Feighan in jail overnight, detaining Van Kuyk for nearly 24 hours. Upon release, Van Kuyk learned he was charged with hindering apprehension – a felony – and four misdemeanors. The felony charge later was dropped.

Evers said police supervisors have trained all officers on the law surrounding photos and film.

“The issue was not the student taking pictures,” Evers said. “Other things happened . . . that caused the officers to make an arrest.” But Evers declined to elaborate, citing an open Internal Affairs investigation.

Van Kuyk has a preliminary hearing scheduled for April 16.