Monday, August 23, 2010

TSA implements new palms down search

Once again, the TSA (as well as DHS) has implemented a major change to passenger searches with no indication of benefit. The palms-down searches (versus the current back of the hand searches) almost seem as a punishment for those who do not wish to be humiliated by a full body scan (now instead they get the privilege of being groped). Yes, I know the proper term is "searched" or perhaps "frisked" but imagine the typical TSA employee. Day in, day out patting down hundreds of passengers a day. They are going to get tired or bored and something is going to happen. Worse, some idiot screener will try to cop a feel of an attractive passenger. Passengers have already given up so much privacy in the name of a safer air travel. In reality, how many terrorist attempts involving domestic flights have there been since 9/11? Increasingly intrusive means of searches are being introduced in light of a glaring lack of increased threats. DHS and TSA may inadvertently help solve the energy crisis as passengers look for alternative means of airline travel. Unfortunately this may also spell the end for many US carries.

New Logan searches blasted -

Blogging without a license

The City of Brotherly Love has decided on a new means of increasing tax revenues; require bloggers to have a business license. Some bloggers do run a for-profit site but the majority of bloggers merely post their ideas and opinions. I unfortunately can see our elected leadership here in Losantiville wanting a piece of this action as well. The costof a business license could be enough to shut down some blogs (either they can't afford it or don't want to be bothered with getting a license). I see a dark side to all of this as well. By requiring a business license to operate a blog, it is an easy way to silence many bloggers without really telling people they can't blog.

Philly requiring bloggers to pay $300 for a business license | Washington Examiner

Friday, August 20, 2010

First, shoot all of the attorneys

Even our friends across the pond, who still refer to us as "Colonials", get what's going on over here.

"In that respect, Obama is absolutely right when he talks about ‘local laws and ordinances’. He is also perfectly justified in defending America’s constitutionally protected religious freedom.

But his reaction was characteristically legalistic, when it should have been empathetic. He concentrated on process, when he should have been focusing on politics and public reaction."

If Ground Zero mosque opens on 9/11 next year Obama can say goodbye | Mail Online

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Big Brother in Mexico

There were 4 billion security cameras in the United States as of 2009. The typical American is photographed 70-100 times a day by various security cameras. Many police departments and city managers have fallen in love with cameras set-up to catch drives going through red lights. The potential for abuse of all of this data is high since the proliferation of security cameras is spreading faster then their regulation.

Regular security cameras that only capture images can't always positively identify the person. If they are wearing a hat or clothing to obscure their face the security technician is usually unable to make an identification. Apparently we are about to make the next quantum leap from regular images to iris scanners.

Unlike facial recognition software or regular imagery, retinal scans can positively identify the subject. Movies and TVs have us thinking of retinal scanners as these small pads that one must stare into in order for the technology to work. Global Rainmakers Inc (GRI) have perfected the technology to where pedestrians walking past an overhead scanner can be identified. Even someone running through the scanner can be identified.

The potential for misuse of this data can range from increasing target marketing to increased government intrusion into our daily lives. Imagine if the government decides you are too unhealthy to eat at a fast food restaurant. The retinal scanners go off the minute you enter your favorite burger joint and your wages are immediately garnished. Far fetched? Perhaps but the trend of the government since 9/11 to make us "safer", along with more government regulation of what goes into our food, seems to point to some type of scenario using the iris scanners to better monitor people's behavior in the name of safety and security.

Iris Scanners Create the Most Secure City in the World. Welcome, Big Brother | Fast Company

Monday, August 16, 2010

Music formats and radio

Talking with a colleague last week led to conversation about 33 and 45 records. No one in class had ever seen a vinyl record nor understood the different formats.

Pretty much anyone under 40 has probably had no experience with either format (unless they are DJs or audiophiles). Before the compact disc or the cassette, music was pressed into black discs (originally a combination of shellac and cotton fiber but later the more familiar vinyl).

The first records pressed actually played at 78 rpm, the same speed as the cylindrical recordings of Edison’s gramophone. The quality of these early pressings initially suffered from the fragility of the materials. Early 78s could easily shatter. Later advents to create “indestructible” records increased the durability of the material but the sound fidelity suffered.

RCA and Columbia were in competition to produce a newer format that would achieve superior fidelity to the older 78 formats. The 12 inch long play 33 1/3 allowed longer jam sessions of early jazz musicians to be captured. The format would eventually allow up to 30 minutes of music to be recorded on one side. RCA Victor created the 7 inch 45 as a competitive format. The 45 was geared towards a single song (versus multiple tracks on the 33 LP) and the smaller diameter made it ideal for jukeboxes. You could hear your favorite single while at your favorite bar or dinner.

Early Elvis Presley records were originally issued on both 78 and 45 formats. The King set the tone for “pop” music to be issued on 45s and classical/jazz music would be issued on LPs. Along with jukeboxes, 45s would remain the dominated format of rock and other popular music.

The 45 format was well suited to the typical 3-4 minute duration of most pop songs. The format also indirectly drove the sound of AM radio stations. Disc jockeys could repeat the top 10 or 20 songs throughout the day and still get in the requisite commercials.

Although extended play formats were available for the 7 inch 45, pretty much the 45 was used to market early pop music to masses. Jukeboxes and AM stations were not capable of producing the hi-fidelity sound associated with the LP so music continued until the arrival the Beatles in the late 1960s.

The Beatles White Album changed everything in regards to how music would be heard. The White Album was issued in the LP format with extended tracks. This meant shorter playlists for the AM disc jockeys who were more used to the shorter 45 tracks. The White Album also proved to be the catalyst for FM rock stations. FM stations could take advantage of the superior sound quality of the LP records and unlike their AM counterparts, most early FM stations would play the extended versions of songs.

The seemingly unrelated events changed rock from primarily an AM venue to a FM venue. It started the trend towards album based music. The trend would continue through the 1980s when digital recording started the change from records to CDs. Album based music would continue despite the technology change through the mid-90s.

The 90s saw the advent of the mega conglomerates (such as Clear Channel) buy up local stations. Slowly local DJs were replaced by smooth talking personalities that were rebroadcast throughout the country. The casual listener might not even notice that the voice on the radio isn’t local but someone based in New York or Los Angeles.

At the same time, the MP3 and iPod formats allowed music lovers to produce the own playlist sans the local radio playlists. Basically the dominance of MP3/iPod has taken listeners away from the extended album format and back to an emphasis on singles from their favorite performer.

I know this was a cursory glance over music formats over the last 70 or so years. I am by no means an expert. My intent was merely to reminisce and expose some of the younger readers to formats they may have only heard about in passing. I also lament the loss of local radio programming. Increasingly music and talk formats are not the products of those that live in our neighborhoods but of a corporate marketing analysis.

To illustrate my point, let me just share my memories of a local rock station. WEBN (which still broadcasts but in my opinion is a far cry from its younger days) broadcast an eclectic mix of album rock, jazz and classical music. Yes, you read that right yardbirds. The disc jockeys pretty much played what they thought was good music without regard to genre. Frank Wood, who owned WEBN, would take the controls away from the younger staff on Sundays and play classical music. He would then turn it back over after his shift. On any given day, you might hear Pink Floyd, the Eagles, Van Morrison, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Chic Corea, or Etta James. I submit, where could you find such a varied playlist (outside your own iPod) today?

Obama's Mosque Remarks

Right now no subject generates more emotion and rhetoric on either side of the political as well as theological aisles as the New York City mosque. The President has magnificently step right into the fray with his comments focusing on Islam while seemingly ignoring Christianity. According the the 2008 US Census figures, over 173 million Americans identify themselves as Christian. No, this is not a religious discussion merely an acknowledgment of US demographics which makes the President's comments to seem especially ill time going into mid-term elections.

What I have not seen discussed is the severe strain building a mosque on the grounds of 9/11 would place on Muslim-Christian relations in the United States. The number of mosques in the United States has steadily been increasing as Muslim populations increase. Tensions have increased between Muslims and non-Muslims as they do whenever and new population arrives. I submit these tensions would be manageable except the discussion of the New York Mosque has gone national. Christian leaders and conservative politicians are going to make political hay over the issue as well as President Obama's pro-Islamic statements.

The concern from a national security perspective is this issue has the power to create outright hostilities between Christians and Muslims here in the United States. The President in his quest to make every speech a teaching moment has missed the real point of the issue. Americans suffered a horrible event on 9-11 committed by terrorists that also were Muslims. Building a mosque on the same grounds does nothing to help heal the wounds between Americans and Muslims and will lead to same climate that exists between Israelis and Palestinians. We truly would then see an increase in radical Islam in reaction to the increased tensions with American Christians.

Here is an opportunity for the Obama Administration to take a role in leading the country through a tumultuous issue to a better place.

Obama's Mosque Remarks Reverberate -

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Secret Assault on Terrorism

During the Vietnam war, the United States forces were engaged in the jungles of Laos and Cambodia conducting covert military operations. These operations were supposed to help defeat Communist forces but had the opposite effect in emboldening the Viet Cong. Now it appears the Obama Administration is running down a similar rabbit hole in Yemen. As US forces discovered chasing Communists in the jungles 40 years ago, it is difficult to identify members of Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is proving to be the 21st Century version of Communism, the group has a much larger reputation than its actual membership would indicate. Much like the Communists, instead of getting weaker Al Qaeda seems to be getting stronger and more far flung as we approach the tenth year of the war on terrorism. The New Your Times story is disturbing in how much is going on that isn't being reported. It is also disturbing to realize the Xe (formerly Blackwater) continues to receive contracts providing private military forces.

Secret Assault on Terrorism Widens on Two Continents -

Friday, August 13, 2010

Kennedy Airport security gaps

By now, you all have heard of Steven Slater who quit his job in a rather dramatic fashion. After cussing out a supposedly abusive passenger, he pulled the ejection slide, grabbed two beers and his carryon and leapt into infamy.

While the media focuses on whether or not his antics where driven by abuse, another story is going largely unnoticed. How did Mr. Slater jump from an airliner in a major airport and manage to get all the way back home (he was arrested by police at his residence)?

According to the New York Daily News, Slater managed to drag to carry on bags around security zones. He caught an AirTrain to his car and drove home. JetBlue waited 25 minutes to alert the Port Authority and the call was from corporate headquarters, not the aircrew.

The story emphasizes the glaring gaps in the TSA. Everything they do is focused on screening passengers. Very little is done to look at gaps in security along the flightline, maintenance facilities, and with service providers (such as food vendors and refueling vehicles). The greatest weakness is the aircraft itself, not the passengers. The TSA is a political answer to a very difficult problem.

As I type this, Secretay Napolitano is announcing a bill that will provide another 1,000 Border Patrol agents. The increase is to address illegal immigrants. The press secretary is standing right next to her correcting mistakes (is it me or does she look doped-up?). I don't see Secretary Clinton anywhere announcing any initiatives to create economic prosperity on the Southern side of the border.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Be careful what you eat!

Four people in Clark County became ill as part of an outbreak of typhoid fever, likely from eating contaminated food, the Southern Nevada Health District said today. The district said the four local cases of salmonella typhi, the bacterium that causes typhoid fever, are part of a two-state outbreak believed to be a result of consuming a frozen fruit product called mamey fruit pulp. All four patients in Clark County were under the age of 30 and have recovered, the district said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are working with local authorities to investigate the outbreak, which has also sickened five people in California, the district said. Mamey fruit pulp, also known as zapote or sapote, comes from a tropical fruit grown in Central and South American countries and is often used in shakes and smoothies. It is especially popular in Hispanic communities. The heath district and the CDC are recommending that people do not eat or drink food items that contain the frozen Goya brand of mamey fruit pulp, which has been voluntarily recalled. The heath district investigates more than 100 cases of salmonella each year, but these are the first typhoid fever cases in the area in more than a year. Typhoid fever is a serious bacterial infection that can last three or four weeks, officials said. While there are about 400 cases in the U.S. annually, 70 percent of them are acquired while traveling outside the country, the health district said. Symptoms include a sustained fever as high as 104 degrees, stomach pains, a headache, anorexia, a slow heart rate, malaise, constipation or diarrhea and coughing. The infection can be treated with antibiotics. People who believe they might be ill after consuming frozen mamey fruit pulp should consult their heath care providers, the district said.

RSOE EDIS - Epidemic Hazard in USA on 13.08.2010. EDIS CODE: EH-20100813-27394-USA

Friday, August 6, 2010

9-1-1, what's your emergency?

The college shut down last Thursday due to a water main break on Ludlow Ave. I was going in late for a meeting when I received two calls from co-workers plus one from our automated system notifying me of the closure.

I learned this week that none of the students in my program received notification and showed up for an evening class. The other faculty senators had similar experiences with their students.

Phone trees and automated notification systems are only as good as their information. Your company or agency’s notification system needs to be checked and validated even during the emergency.

The point was brought home again when on Wednesday a student came running into my office in a panic. A friend of hers was in one of the parking garages complaining of breathing problems.

The secretary called 911 while the student talked with the other student on her cell phone. The 911 dispatcher first informed my secretary that our address did not exist (remember, I work at a community college!).

Next, the dispatcher said she had to reroute the call to another dispatcher since we weren’t in her jurisdiction.

We did finally get the fire department and our campus police to respond. Later, I ran into one of the adjunct instructors for the fire program who is also a city firefighter. I shared with him the events from earlier and he just shook his head saying he wasn’t surprised. The city no longer has fire dispatchers, the 911 dispatchers are all now police dispatchers.

The dispatchers are burned out due to the abuses of the 911 system. Every call is an “emergency” so they dispatchers no longer have a sense of urgency. People have learned how to game the 911 system so they will claim “chest pains” every time they want a paramedic to run them to the ER.

We have these amazing tools and incredibly well trained and dedicated first responders but the community is allowing this to be abused. The results are now when an emergency happens, it is difficult to get help dispatched.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

No need for the X-ray specs anymore!

Now it turns out that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U.S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.

Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images | Privacy Inc. - CNET News

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Backdoor amnesty

Why is all of the Obama Administration's immigration efforts on this side of the border? I've not seen any pressure by the President or Secretary Clinton to get Mexico to do something. They are all too willing to pick fights with Iran and North Korea, how about getting a summit together with Mexico and Central American countries to improve the economic situations and create more jobs?

Memo outlines backdoor 'amnesty' plan - Washington Times

National Guard's Deployment to Southwest Border

The interesting point is that the President is deploying the National Guard which means the troops will be in federal status, they will not report directly to their respective governors. It also means these troops will be unavailable to support state mission (floods, disaster relief) while in federal status. It also appears these troops are being sent by DHS and the President with no inputs from the governors of the border states. In an attempt to appease the border states, the President is making more of a mess. - Timing of National Guard's Deployment to Southwest Border Stirs Confusion, Anger