NYC Council Votes on E-Cigarette Ban Today

Today the New York City Council
is
expected
to vote on an ordinance that would ban the use of
electronic cigarettes in bars, restaurants, office buildings,
parks, and other public places, despite the complete absence of
evidence that they pose a hazard to bystanders. Yesterday the
council’s Committee on Health unanimously approved the ban,
apparently swayed by arguments like this:

“Manufacturers of the devices are really in the addiction
business,” said City Councilman James Gennaro of Queens. “This is
what they’re selling. They’re selling addiction. They’re selling in
flavors like cotton candy, Cap’n Crunch, and all these flavors that
appeal to kids. This is what this is about.”

It’s a little hard to decipher exactly what the “this” is that
this is about. But I gather that Gennaro, the main sponsor of the
ban, worries that electronic cigarettes will be a gateway to
smoking for teenagers, even though there is no evidence that is
happening. In fact, the recent increase in e-cigarette use by
teenagers, which has been
concentrated
among smokers, has been accompanied by a
continued decline
in cigarette consumption.

Gennaro previously has
said
he worries that kids will mistake e-cigarettes for the
conventional kind, conclude that smoking must be cool again, and
proceed directly to a pack-a-day habit that will threaten their
health and shorten their lives. There is no evidence to support
that concern either, but who needs evidence when children’s lives
are at stake?

In seeking to protect hypothetical children from an utterly
speculative hazard, Gennaro punishes actual adults who have
switched from smoking to vaping, thereby dramatically reducing the
health risks they face. He also discourages others from following
their example by eliminating an important advantage that
e-cigarettes currently enjoy. The predictable result will be more,
not less, smoking-related disease and death.

Although Reuters
calls
the e-cigarette ban an “anti-tobacco” measure, that is an
odd way to describe it, since e-cigarettes contain no tobacco and
generate no combustion products. If anything, Gennaro’s bill is a
pro-tobacco measure that will encourage people to consume their
nicotine along with myriad toxins and carcinogens rather than
choosing a much cleaner method.

The general public seems to be much more sensible about such
matters than the members of the New York City Council. In the
latest Reason-Rupe Public
Opinion Survey
, 62 percent of respondents said the government
should let people use e-cigarettes in public. 

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/19/nyc-council-votes-on-e-cigarette-ban-tod
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Americans Think They Should Be Allowed to Buy Foods with Trans Fats and Caffeinated Energy Drinks

CNN
reports
that trans fat intake among American consumers has
decreased from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about 1 gram per day in
2012. Moreover, the Grocery Manufacturers Associations has stated
“Since 2005, food manufacturers have voluntarily lowered the
amounts of trans fats in their food products by over 73%.” Despite
voluntary action to reduce trans fat intake, the FDA still thinks
government intervention is needed.

However,
latest Reason-Rupe poll
finds 71 percent of Americans think the
government should allow people to buy foods with trans fats, if
they so choose. Less than a quarter, 24 percent, believe the
government should prohibit people from buying these types of
foods.

Independents who lean Republican are the most likely to say
trans fats should be allowed (82 percent) compared to 66 percent of
Democrats. Nevertheless, majorities of all political groups favor
allowing trans fats, also including 67 percent of non-partisan
independents, 76 percent of regular Republicans and 68 percent of
independents who lean Democratic.

Reason-Rupe finds public opinion is similar on the sale of
caffeinated energy drinks. Seventy-six percent of Americans say the
government should allow people to purchase so-called energy drinks
that also contain caffeine, while 21 percent want government to
prohibit people from buying them.

Additionally, the February 2013
Reason-Rupe poll
found that 71 percent of Americans think the
sale of soft drinks larger than 16 ounces in theaters, restaurants,
and other venues should be allowed. This survey also asked whether
caffeinated energy drinks should be allowed, but prefaced the
question with a statement about purported concerns over the drinks’
safety. In this instance, 59 percent of respondents said that
caffeinated energy drinks should be allowed, while 26 percent
disagreed.

Nationwide telephone poll conducted Dec 4-8 2013 interviewed
1011 adults on both mobile (506) and landline (505) phones, with a
margin of error +/- 3.7%. Princeton Survey Research Associates
International executed the nationwide Reason-Rupe survey. Columns
may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results,
detailed tables, and methodology found here. Sign
up for notifications of new releases of the Reason-Rupe
poll here.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/19/americans-think-they-should-be-allowed-t
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Video: LA County Jail Officers Charged with Federal Crimes; Jail Monitors Responds

“LA County Jail Officers Charged with Federal Crimes; Jail
Monitors Responds,” is the latest offering from Reason TV. Watch
above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting
links, downloadable versions, and more Reason TV clips.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/19/video-la-county-jail-officers-charged-wi
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Liberal Elites, PC Crowd, “Intolerants” Responsible for A&E Indefinitely Suspending “Duck Dynasty” Reality Show Star Over Anti-Gay Comments, Part of War on Christians, Religious Liberty, or Free Speech, Duck Dynasty Supporters Allege

they probably say merry christmasIf you haven’t heard of Duck
Dynasty
before, you probably have today. That’s because Phil
Robertson, the star of the A&E reality TV show that follows a
family in the duck hunting business, was suspended indefinitelyfor
making comment perceived to be anti-gay in a
GQ profile
that asked “ How in the world did a family of
squirrel-eating, Bible-thumping, catchphrase-spouting duck hunters
become the biggest TV stars in America?” Here is the original
relevant excerpt, where Robertson appears to be comparing
homosexuality to bestiality:

“We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on
television,” he [Phil Robertson] tells me. “You put in your article
that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the
human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be
better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s
get on with it, and everything will turn around.”

What does repentance entail? Well, in Robertson’s worldview,
America was a country founded upon Christian values (Thou shalt not
kill, etc.), and he believes that the gradual removal of Christian
symbolism from public spaces has diluted those founding principles.
(He and Si take turns going on about why the Ten Commandments ought
to be displayed outside courthouses.) He sees the popularity
of Duck Dynasty as a small corrective to all
that we have lost.

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says.
“Sin becomes fine.”

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from
there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman
and that woman and those men,” he says. Then heparaphrases
Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the
idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the
greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t
inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not
right.”

In the profile, Robertson complains that the more
“controversial” statements he makes in his religion-laden show
about hunting ducks get cut by A&E. He opines to GQ about how a
vagina should just be “more desirable” to a man than an anus.
“That’s just me.” It’s a show about a duck hunter operating in the
Louisiana backwoods, who says the kinds of things you might expect
a duck hunter from the Louisiana backwoods to say. In deciding to
suspend Robertson indefinitely, A&E sought to make sure people
understood “[h]is personal views in no way reflect those of A&E
Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of
the LGBT community.”  I don’t know who could confuse the
things said by a man who stars in a reality show about duck hunting
with things the executives at the network might believe.
Nevertheless, A&E made the decision the controversy stirred up
by Robertson was something they wanted to distance themselves from.
They haven’t pulled episodes of Duck Dynasty, and I expect
they’ll get a decent ratings bump because of all the people who’ve
never heard of Phil Robertson or Duck Dynasty before this
story broke.

Mediaite’s Andrew Kirrell rightly called A&E’s decision

“a gross misstep.”
After all, it should not have surprised
A&E that Phil Robertson would say the things he did. Engaging
and challenging Robertson’s ideas is a more effective response to
those ideas than trying to silence Robertson, which Kirrel notes,
only provides “culture warriors” more ammo.  

And has it. Todd Starnes, who Kirrell singled out as one of
those culture warriors,
claimed
A&E declared a war on Christian values. It hasn’t.
It decided to appear to penalize one of its stars for making a
comment it believes some of its viewers (though probably not of
Duck Dynasty itself) might take offense to in an effort to
limit its liabilities in an incident it had nothing to do with.

Sarah Palin
blamed
Robertson’s suspension on “intolerants” and called it an
“attack on free speech.” It’s not. A & E has the right to
choose to associate or not with Robertson, and should be able to
base that decision on anything it wants. Labor laws may prohibit
them from some forms of discrimination, but not for punishing
someone who says he’s just espousing his religion’s views. Ideally,
laws wouldn’t constrict A&E’s freedom of association at
all.

Bobby Jindal
blamed
“political correctness.” Maybe. He tried to frame it as
a first amendment issue too, claiming to “remember when TV networks
believed” in such a thing, going on to call it “a messed up
situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets
suspended.” I wouldn’t put it past Jindal to pull Cyrus and other
performers who say things offensive to him off the air if he
could.

Ted Cruz
tried
to channel his inner TV critic, suggesting Duck Dynasty
was popular “because it represents the America usually ignored or
mocked by liberal elites: a family that loves and cares for each
other, believes in God, and speaks openly about their faith.” Cruz
went on to pay lip service to the freedom to disagree in a free
society, but followed up by saying “the mainstream media should not
behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they
disagree.” A&E, though, writes the checks Phil Robertson
cashes, so it can certainly “censor” him for views they disagree
with. To borrow a framing beloved by statists, the mainstream media
is “just us,” a reflection of what Americans want to watch and
hear. People who disagree with Robertson want to tune in to hear
him condemned. People who agree with Robertson want to tune in to
hear him defended.

A&E’s suspension of Robertson is within their right. If
their aim, however, is actually to be “strong supporters and
champions of the LGBT community,” their application of the Streisand
effect
to Robertson’s views couldn’t possible have helped. In
this month’s issue of Reason, Jonathan Rauch
explains why
the argument for restricting speech to promote
tolerance is even weaker than it was twenty years ago, when his
book Kindly Inquisitors, a defense of free speech and the
public criticism necessary to build knowledge that it fosters, was
first published. An updated version for the twentieth anniversary
was
released this year
. Watch a Reason TV Q&A with Rauch
below:

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/19/liberal-elites-pc-crowd-intolerants-resp
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Liberal Elites, PC Crowd, “Intolerants” Responsible for A&E Indefinitely Suspending “Duck Dynasty” Reality Show Star Over Anti-Gay Comments, Part of War on Christians, Religious Liberty, or Free Speech, Duck Dynasty Supporters Allege

they probably say merry christmasIf you haven’t heard of Duck
Dynasty
before, you probably have today. That’s because Phil
Robertson, the star of the A&E reality TV show that follows a
family in the duck hunting business, was suspended indefinitelyfor
making comment perceived to be anti-gay in a
GQ profile
that asked “ How in the world did a family of
squirrel-eating, Bible-thumping, catchphrase-spouting duck hunters
become the biggest TV stars in America?” Here is the original
relevant excerpt, where Robertson appears to be comparing
homosexuality to bestiality:

“We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on
television,” he [Phil Robertson] tells me. “You put in your article
that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the
human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be
better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s
get on with it, and everything will turn around.”

What does repentance entail? Well, in Robertson’s worldview,
America was a country founded upon Christian values (Thou shalt not
kill, etc.), and he believes that the gradual removal of Christian
symbolism from public spaces has diluted those founding principles.
(He and Si take turns going on about why the Ten Commandments ought
to be displayed outside courthouses.) He sees the popularity
of Duck Dynasty as a small corrective to all
that we have lost.

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says.
“Sin becomes fine.”

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from
there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman
and that woman and those men,” he says. Then heparaphrases
Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the
idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the
greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t
inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not
right.”

In the profile, Robertson complains that the more
“controversial” statements he makes in his religion-laden show
about hunting ducks get cut by A&E. He opines to GQ about how a
vagina should just be “more desirable” to a man than an anus.
“That’s just me.” It’s a show about a duck hunter operating in the
Louisiana backwoods, who says the kinds of things you might expect
a duck hunter from the Louisiana backwoods to say. In deciding to
suspend Robertson indefinitely, A&E sought to make sure people
understood “[h]is personal views in no way reflect those of A&E
Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of
the LGBT community.”  I don’t know who could confuse the
things said by a man who stars in a reality show about duck hunting
with things the executives at the network might believe.
Nevertheless, A&E made the decision the controversy stirred up
by Robertson was something they wanted to distance themselves from.
They haven’t pulled episodes of Duck Dynasty, and I expect
they’ll get a decent ratings bump because of all the people who’ve
never heard of Phil Robertson or Duck Dynasty before this
story broke.

Mediaite’s Andrew Kirrell rightly called A&E’s decision

“a gross misstep.”
After all, it should not have surprised
A&E that Phil Robertson would say the things he did. Engaging
and challenging Robertson’s ideas is a more effective response to
those ideas than trying to silence Robertson, which Kirrel notes,
only provides “culture warriors” more ammo.  

And has it. Todd Starnes, who Kirrell singled out as one of
those culture warriors,
claimed
A&E declared a war on Christian values. It hasn’t.
It decided to appear to penalize one of its stars for making a
comment it believes some of its viewers (though probably not of
Duck Dynasty itself) might take offense to in an effort to
limit its liabilities in an incident it had nothing to do with.

Sarah Palin
blamed
Robertson’s suspension on “intolerants” and called it an
“attack on free speech.” It’s not. A & E has the right to
choose to associate or not with Robertson, and should be able to
base that decision on anything it wants. Labor laws may prohibit
them from some forms of discrimination, but not for punishing
someone who says he’s just espousing his religion’s views. Ideally,
laws wouldn’t constrict A&E’s freedom of association at
all.

Bobby Jindal
blamed
“political correctness.” Maybe. He tried to frame it as
a first amendment issue too, claiming to “remember when TV networks
believed” in such a thing, going on to call it “a messed up
situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets
suspended.” I wouldn’t put it past Jindal to pull Cyrus and other
performers who say things offensive to him off the air if he
could.

Ted Cruz
tried
to channel his inner TV critic, suggesting Duck Dynasty
was popular “because it represents the America usually ignored or
mocked by liberal elites: a family that loves and cares for each
other, believes in God, and speaks openly about their faith.” Cruz
went on to pay lip service to the freedom to disagree in a free
society, but followed up by saying “the mainstream media should not
behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they
disagree.” A&E, though, writes the checks Phil Robertson
cashes, so it can certainly “censor” him for views they disagree
with. To borrow a framing beloved by statists, the mainstream media
is “just us,” a reflection of what Americans want to watch and
hear. People who disagree with Robertson want to tune in to hear
him condemned. People who agree with Robertson want to tune in to
hear him defended.

A&E’s suspension of Robertson is within their right. If
their aim, however, is actually to be “strong supporters and
champions of the LGBT community,” their application of the Streisand
effect
to Robertson’s views couldn’t possible have helped. In
this month’s issue of Reason, Jonathan Rauch
explains why
the argument for restricting speech to promote
tolerance is even weaker than it was twenty years ago, when his
book Kindly Inquisitors, a defense of free speech and the
public criticism necessary to build knowledge that it fosters, was
first published. An updated version for the twentieth anniversary
was
released this year
. Watch a Reason TV Q&A with Rauch
below:

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/19/liberal-elites-pc-crowd-intolerants-resp
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Al Goldstein, R.I.P.

Al Goldstein, notorious publisher of the newsprint porn mag
Screw, designed to be a gleefully and proudly crude
Consumer Report of sex” from its 1968
founding, is dead.

While considered the most vile of pornographers by most, he was
well regarded by many independent cartoonists to whom he gave early
work (including Reason‘s own Peter Bagge) and briefly
dallied with the Libertarian Party as well–quite understandable
for an American who faced federal prosecution and arrest just for
publishing a magazine.


William F. Buckley found Goldstein’s presence
as a delegate to
the L.P.’s 1992 presidential nominating convention a sign of the
Party’s downfall. He got
press in 1991 for announcing a run
against Broward County,
Florida, Sheriff Nick Navarro, famous for prosecuting porn rappers
Two-Live Crew; he hoped to
run under the L.P. banner
but as near as I can tell that didn’t
actually happen


The NY Times obituary
. Details from it about his legal
troubles:

With renown came obscenity arrests and lawsuits, which Mr.
Goldstein in turn milked for maximum publicity. (He also wrote
countless scathing editorials accusing his accusers of hypocrisy,
often accompanied by crude photo collages showing them engaged in
humiliating sex acts.) Mr. Goldstein, claiming First Amendment
protection, beat most of the charges, occasionally paying nominal
fines.

In 1973, though, a United States Supreme Court
decision
 made it easier to prosecute pornographers. Before
then, one legal test for obscenity was whether a publication was
“utterly without redeeming social value.” The 1973 decision
broadened the definition to include material that lacked “serious
literary, artistic, political or scientific value,” and it
empowered communities to set local standards for whether such
material was obscene.

This led federal prosecutors to direct some postmasters in
Kansas to order copies of Screw. Upon delivery, Mr.
Goldstein was charged
 with 12 obscenity and conspiracy
counts and faced up to 60 years in prison.

His lawyers argued that the anticensorship diatribes in Screw
made the magazine sufficiently political, though Mr. Goldstein
himself ridiculed this defense, insisting that a reader’s erection
“is its own redeeming value.” After three years and two trials his
conviction in the first was overturned, and the second ended in a
hung jury. Mr. Goldstein’s company, Milky Way
Productions, paid
a $30,000 fine
 in return for the dropping of personal
charges against him and Mr. Buckley.

I find that line about an erection being its own redeeming value
admirably to the point.

My pal Ken Kurson at NY Observer
eulogizes him nicely
:

Al Goldstein was a much more complicated man than the “crude,
obese pornographer” character he himself helped create. He was a
passionate defender of the First Amendment, and not just out of
self-interest—he deeply understood how important it was to
America’s greatness and viewed its defense as the height of
patriotism. 

Al Goldstein was generous, both with his money and time. When I
was new to New York City, he took me under his prodigious wing and
introduced me to a crazy cast of first-rate cartoonists like Danny
Hellman and Sam Henderson, classic NYC has-been celebs like Al
Lewis, and a bunch of over-the-hill porn starlets who were still
something to behold. He was an extremely proud Jew and that made an
impression on me. I also was touched by how proud he was of his
son, and how he wrangled a mention that the boy went to Harvard
into every conversation….

New York City has lost a true character and a good guy.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/19/al-goldstein-rip
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Two Months After Debt Limit Suspension, Borrowing Grows and Grows

On October 17, Congress suspended the statutory debt limit and
let the U.S. government’s spendthrift freak flag fly. As I
wrote at the time
, public debt outstanding jumped overnight by
$328 billion. Woo hoo! Those credit card bonus miles are gonna be
through the roof!

Since then, borrowing has slowed, but certainly not stopped
(hey, we’re talking about the U.S. government, here). Between
October 17, 2013 and December 17, 2013, the total of public debt
outstanding rose from $17.076 trillion to
$17.269 trillion
.

That’s $17,268,587,651,056.23, if you’re a big fan of
commas.

Public debt

If it makes you feel any better, the Congressional Budget Office
expects, in its long-term budget
outlook
, public debt to start dropping a bit, soon, as a
percentage of Gross Domestic Product. Unfortunately, that’s just
before it begins a long, steady metastasis that will devour the
country’s economy.

Public debt

The consequences of that rising debt, the CBO says, aren’t
pretty:

How long the nation could sustain such growth in federal debt is
impossible to predict with any confidence. At some point, investors
would begin to doubt the government’s willingness or ability to pay
U.S. debt obligations, making it more difficult or more expensive
for the government to borrow money. Moreover, even before that
point was reached, the high and rising amount of debt that CBO
projects under the extended baseline would have significant
negative consequences for both the economy and the federal
budget:

  • Increased borrowing by the federal government would eventually
    reduce private investment in productive capital, because the
    portion of total savings used to buy government securities would
    not be available to finance private investment. The result would be
    a smaller stock of capital and lower output and income in the long
    run than would otherwise be the case. Despite those reductions,
    however, the continued growth of productivity would make real
    (inflation-adjusted) output and income per person higher in the
    future than they are now.
  • Federal spending on interest payments would rise, thus
    requiring larger changes in tax and spending policies to achieve
    any chosen targets for budget deficits and debt.
  • The government would have less flexibility to use tax and
    spending policies to respond to unexpected challenges, such as
    economic downturns or wars.
  • The risk of a fiscal crisis—in which investors demanded very
    high interest rates to finance the government’s borrowing
    needs—would increase.

It’s certainly reassuring that lawmakers are diligently
hammering out a budget package that actually causes the federal
government to spend more money
in the future than it
would absent the deal and totally ignores the very real fiscal
problems that beset the leviathan in D.C.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/19/two-months-after-debt-limit-suspension-b
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62 Percent Think E-Cigarette Use in Public Should be Allowed Despite Expected FDA Regulations

Time magazine
says
, “Regulations of electronic cigarettes are expected to be
a top priority for states and cities in 2014.” Indeed, many
districts have placed or are considering placing bans on the
tobacco-free nicotine delivery devices and the Food and Drug
Administration plans this month to issue guidelines regulating
e-cigarettes as a tobacco product. But Americans don’t want the
government interfering with people’s ability to use
e-cigarettes.

The
new Reason-Rupe poll
finds that 62 percent of Americans think
the government should allow people to use tobacco-free electronic
cigarettes in public places while 34 percent say the government
should prohibit this activity.

Non-partisan independents (66 percent) and independents who lean
Republican (68 percent) are more likely than Democrats (58 percent)
to think government should allow people to use e-cigarettes in
public places. Nevertheless, majorities of all political groups
think electronic cigarettes should be allowed, including 63 percent
of Republicans and 61 percent of Independents who lean
Democratic.

Self-identified libertarians are 22 points more likely than
self-identified liberals to say the government should allow this
activity (77 percent to 55 percent).

Older Americans are much more opposed than younger Americans to
e-cigarette use in public.  Forty-two percent of people ages
55 and over favor a government ban on the public use of
e-cigarettes while just 29 percent of Americans under age 35
agree.

Nationwide telephone poll conducted Dec 4-8 2013 interviewed
1011 adults on both mobile (506) and landline (505) phones, with a
margin of error +/- 3.7%. Princeton Survey Research Associates
International executed the nationwide Reason-Rupe survey. Columns
may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results,
detailed tables, and methodology found here. Sign
up for notifications of new releases of the Reason-Rupe
poll here.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/19/62-percent-think-e-cigarette-use-in-publ
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Drug Warriors Kidnap and Sexually Assault a Woman After Getting Permission From a Dog

In a case eerily similar to David Eckert’s

humiliating ordeal
at the hands of cops in Deming, New Mexico,
a federal lawsuit
charges
U.S. Border Patrol agents with subjecting a U.S.
citizen to six hours of degrading and fruitless body cavity
searches based on an alleged alert by a drug-sniffing dog. The

lawsuit
, filed yesterday by the ACLU chapters in Texas and New
Mexico, says the plaintiff, a 54-year-old New Mexico resident
identified in the complaint as Jane Doe, was crossing the bridge
between Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso after visiting a family
friend last December when she was chosen at random for “additional
screening.” This “secondary inspection” involved a pat-down during
which an agent “inserted her finger in the crevice of Ms. Doe’s
buttocks”—a rather startling incursion inasmuch as the agents at
this point had no basis to suspect that the woman was carrying
contraband. But they were just getting started.

The agents instructed the plaintiff to stand in line with other
people who had been selected for additional screening and walked a
dog past her. According to the lawsuit, the dog handler “hit the
ground by her feet, but did not hit the ground by any of the others
in the line,” and “the dog responded by lunging onto Ms. Doe and
landing its front paws on her torso.” Why did the dog do that?
“Because Ms. Doe did not possess any contraband,” says the
complaint, “the dog either did not alert or the response was not a
proper alert.” Yet this possibly manufactured and in any event
erroneous alert was the basis for all that followed.

First the agents strip-searched the plaintiff, examining her
anus and vagina with a flashlight. Finding nothing, they took her
to the University Medical Center of El Paso, where they forced her
to take a laxative and produce a bowel movement in their presence.
Again they found no evidence of contraband. At this point one of
their accomplices, a physician named Christopher Cabanillas,
ordered an X-ray, which likewise found nothing suspicious. Then the
plaintiff “endured a forced gynecological exam” and rectal probing
at the hands of another doctor, Michael Parsa. Still nothing.
Finally, Cabanillas ordered a CT scan of the
plaintiff’s abdomen and pelvis, which found no sign of illegal
drugs. “After the CT scan,” the complaint says, “a CBP [Customs and
Border Patrol] agent presented Ms. Doe with a choice: she could
either sign a medical consent form, despite the fact that she had
not consented, in which case CBP would pay for the cost of the
searches; or if she refused to sign the consent form, she would be
billed for the cost of the searches.” She refused, and later the
hospital sent her a bill for $5,000, apparently the going rate for
sexual assault and gratuitous radiological bombardment.

David Eckert, you may recall, also got a bill (in his case for
about $6,000) after undergoing a similar exploration of his
orifices and plumbing, which likewise continued, becoming
increasingly invasive, precisely because the cops were not finding
any evidence to substantiate their suspicions. And while the police
in his case did obtain a warrant, the main basis for it was a dog’s
purported alert, which in Jane Doe’s case seems to have been the
only evidence that she was smuggling drugs. Although such alerts
are
frequently wrong
and can easily be faked, the Supreme Court

has said
they qualify as probable cause for a search as long as
the dog is properly trained. The burden of showing a dog is not
properly trained lies with the person challenging the search.

Aside from the dangers of putting too much faith in
drug-detecting dogs, this case, like Eckert’s, illustrates the
appalling complicity of doctors in waging the war on drugs, even
when it involves utterly unethical participation in dehumanizing
pseudomedical procedures performed on involuntary and audibly
protesting “patients.” In addition to Border Patrol agents, the
lawsuit names the hospital, Cabanillas, and Parsa. Lest you
think the criminal malpractice described in this complaint is an
aberration, the ACLU offers evidence that it is in fact
commonplace:

During the car ride to the Medical Center, Ms. Doe asked if the
agents had awarrant. One of them responded that they did not need a
warrant….

Medical Center policy L-13 on searches by hospital personnel
does not permit an invasion of a person’s body for purposes of a
search without either consent or a search warrant. However, in
practice, the Medical Center staff and CBP agents routinely conduct
invasive cavity searches without a warrant, consent or sufficient
suspicion to justify the searches. When Ms. Doe expressed dismay
about the unreasonable searches she suffered, a Medical Center
employee responded that these procedures were routinely followed
when an individual is brought in by CBP agents. The employee also
told Ms. Doe that what happened to her was not invasive.

This kind of abuse tends to draw attention only when the victim
is “innocent,” meaning he or she is not in fact smuggling drugs.
But how can any society call itself civilized when it allows human
beings to be treated this way in the name of locating arbitrarily
proscribed substances? Having arrogated to itself the authority to
regulate what people put into their own bodies, the government ends
up forcibly delving into those bodies in search of the chemicals it
has anathematized. To enforce politicians’ pharmacological
prejudices, the government’s agents and their medical accomplices
become kidnappers and rapists. There is nothing noble or decent
about this immoral crusade, and anyone associated with it ought to
be ashamed of himself.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/19/drug-warriors-kidnap-and-sexually-assaul
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White House Announces $100+ Million in Largely Military Aid to Central African Republic

on the mapThe
French-led intervention in the Central
African Republic
isn’t something the United States wants to be
left out of. US military flights in support of the intervention
began
last week
, and now the White House has
pledged up to $116 million in mostly military aid
to the
country, in addition to the $24 million in aid the federal
government was planning on spending there this year.

From USA Today:

The United States plans to provide more than $100
million in security and humanitarian assistance to the war-torn
Central African Republic, the White House announced Thursday.

“The CAR faces extraordinary challenges to restore security and to
ensure protection of the civilian population,” the White House said
in a statement.

It added: “We are actively working to help end the violence,
protect civilians, prevent atrocities, provide humanitarian
assistance, and help create an environment that allows
constitutional and democratic governance to be
restored.”

See the White House’s  full  statement and “fact
sheet”
here
. Up to $60 million of the aid will be for “defense
services” and “defense articles” for the French forces that arrived
in the Central African Republic earlier this month as well as the
African-led mission deployed in the country. Another $40 million
will go to “Peacekeeping Operations funding” for the African-led
portion of the intervention in the Central African Republic.

No word from the White House if it’ll decide to spend money on
the crisis in nearby South
Sudan
, too. President Obama has also deployed military
personnel across the continent,
from the Niger to Uganda
, but today’s announcement did not
mention troops.

Follow these stories and more at Reason 24/7 and don’t forget you
can e-mail stories to us at 24_7@reason.com and tweet us
at @reason247.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/19/white-house-announces-100-million-in-lar
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