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from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/04/help-reason-fight-for-free-minds-and-fre
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Latest Snowden Revelation: NSA Gathers Billions of Records on Cellphone Locations Worldwide Every Day

The Washington
Post
 published a report this afternoon based on
information leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealing
that the NSA tracks the locations of “at least hundreds of millions
of devices” around the world, enabling the agency “to track the
movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways
that would have been previously unimaginable.”

From
The Washington Post
:

The records feed a vast database that stores information about
the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices,
according to the officials and the documents, which were provided
by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to
analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with
what amounts to a mass surveillance tool.

The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but
the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the
whereabouts of domestic cellphones “incidentally,” a legal term
that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result.

One senior collection manager, speaking on condition of
anonymity but with permission from the NSA, said “we are getting
vast volumes” of location data from around the world by tapping
into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that
serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones. Additionally, data
is often collected from the tens of millions of Americans who
travel abroad with their cellphones every year.

The news coming only a day after the editor of The
Guardian

said that
the London-based newspaper has only published 1
percent of the files leaked by Snowden.

More from Reason.com on the NSA here

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/04/latest-snowden-revelation-nsa-gathers-bi
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Michigan Libertarian Says He Was Roughed Up By Campus Cops For Trying to Document Election Irregularities

Perpetual Libertarian Party candidate and former chair of the
Michigan L.P. Scott Boman says he was roughed up by campus cops–on
a campus where he teaches!–just for photographing what he thinks
were election law violations.


Account from the Examiner
:

A popular Michigan math and physics professor will soon stand
trial in Detroit’s 36th District Court for trespassing in a public
space at his own place of employment…[Wayne County Community
College District]

Boman, Vice-Chairman of the Libertarian Party
of Michigan, recently rejected the prosecutor’s offer to drop the
trespassing charge if he would concede that his arrest was
justified….

The professor’s pre-trial hearing will be held on January 15,
and he will have a jury trial on January 29….

What Boman says happened:

….after teaching class on July 30, Boman stopped by an
absentee voting event being held at the WCCCD Northwest Campus.

…..Boman began taking pictures of signs that were posted by
the incumbent City Clerk Janet Winfrey. These signs were in
violation of election laws. For example, one sign was hanging over
the entrance of the voting location’s building entrance.

….WCCCD Security Officer Olivia Moss-Fort stormed out of the
polling place and shouted, “What do you think you’re doing?”

Boman responded that he was taking pictures, and continued to do
so since the officer would not tell him which law he was
violating…..

Boman then attempted to join other candidates and volunteers who
were handing out campaign literature in the area. While Boman was
passing out his cards, he says that Moss-Fort swatted his hand, and
two or three additional officers threw him to the ground, breaking
the skin on his right shoulder. He was then cuffed and led
away.

“I lost control of my right arm,” he said. “They kept me bound,
isolated and without water for 3.25 hours, to intimidate me from
attending a candidate forum.” He also said that the officers
laughed at him while he was stuck in handcuffs.

By the time his camera was returned, incriminating video he took
of the police was deleted.

The campus cops deny Boman’s account, and although there is
generally a 24 hour security camera covering the area, they claim
there is no video record of what really happened. They claim his
real crime was taking pictures with students in them when students
allegedly asked him not to take their picture.

Boman’s own full
account
of the incident, which has nothing about being told to
not photograph students, but has many details of being detained
initially without charges in a closet, cuffed painfully, and denied
water.

Boman has run
for some statewide office
every election year since 1994 in
Michigan.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/04/michigan-libertarian-says-he-was-roughed
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Big Labor's Misguided Attempt to Double Wages at Fast-Food Chains

My latest piece at The Daily
Beast takes aim at tomorrow’s union-backed labor action at
fast-food joints around the country.


Here’s the start of it
:

In what is probably the least inspired labor action since the
great Detroit Symphony Orchestra Picket Line of 2011, groups
such as the Service Employees International Union, Fast Food
Forward, and Fight for 15 are calling for nation-wide wage
strikestargeting McDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, and other
latter-day Dickensian workhouses. On Thursday, protesters in over
100 cities will stand outside of fast-food joints and call for
doubling the wages of burger flippers and fry-vat operators from
$7.25 an hour (the current federal minimum) to at least $15.

Regardless of how much solidarity or sympathy you might feel
about the people who assemble your Triple Steak Stack or
your Cheesy Gordita Crunch, this sort of demand is economic
fantasy at its most delusional and counterproductive. Doubling the
wages of low-skilled workers during a period of prolonged
joblessness is a surefire way not just to swell the ranks of the
reserve army of the unemployed but to increase automation at your
local Taco Bell….

Think
about this way: Are you worth double your paycheck? And
while I’m sure you are, what about the other slobs you work with?
The wage strike – which follows up on earlier iterations held in
August and last November – showcases just how devoid of vision
organized labor is when it comes to the private sector. There’s
almost 4 million jobs open in trades such as construction, welding,
carprentry, and the like – and there are employers ready and
willing to train new workers for these positions. Groups such as
the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of tomorrow’s
organizers, would do better by workers if they figured out a way to
match unemployed and underemployed folks with jobs that pay well
and offer chance for long-term growth.


Read the whole article.

Near the end of the piece, I cite Mike Rowe, the host of the
cable show Dirty Jobs, whom we interviewed recently for Reason TV.
Look for that Q&A to go live sometime next week at this here
website.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/04/big-labors-misguided-attempt-to-double-w
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Big Labor’s Misguided Attempt to Double Wages at Fast-Food Chains

My latest piece at The Daily
Beast takes aim at tomorrow’s union-backed labor action at
fast-food joints around the country.


Here’s the start of it
:

In what is probably the least inspired labor action since the
great Detroit Symphony Orchestra Picket Line of 2011, groups
such as the Service Employees International Union, Fast Food
Forward, and Fight for 15 are calling for nation-wide wage
strikestargeting McDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, and other
latter-day Dickensian workhouses. On Thursday, protesters in over
100 cities will stand outside of fast-food joints and call for
doubling the wages of burger flippers and fry-vat operators from
$7.25 an hour (the current federal minimum) to at least $15.

Regardless of how much solidarity or sympathy you might feel
about the people who assemble your Triple Steak Stack or
your Cheesy Gordita Crunch, this sort of demand is economic
fantasy at its most delusional and counterproductive. Doubling the
wages of low-skilled workers during a period of prolonged
joblessness is a surefire way not just to swell the ranks of the
reserve army of the unemployed but to increase automation at your
local Taco Bell….

Think
about this way: Are you worth double your paycheck? And
while I’m sure you are, what about the other slobs you work with?
The wage strike – which follows up on earlier iterations held in
August and last November – showcases just how devoid of vision
organized labor is when it comes to the private sector. There’s
almost 4 million jobs open in trades such as construction, welding,
carprentry, and the like – and there are employers ready and
willing to train new workers for these positions. Groups such as
the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of tomorrow’s
organizers, would do better by workers if they figured out a way to
match unemployed and underemployed folks with jobs that pay well
and offer chance for long-term growth.


Read the whole article.

Near the end of the piece, I cite Mike Rowe, the host of the
cable show Dirty Jobs, whom we interviewed recently for Reason TV.
Look for that Q&A to go live sometime next week at this here
website.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/04/big-labors-misguided-attempt-to-double-w
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IRS Inspector General Says Obamacare Subsidies Susceptible to Fraud

The Internal Revenue Service
(IRS) doesn’t have a strategy to address fraud related to
Obamacare’s subsidies, according to a report by the tax agency’s
Inspector General (IG). 

Under the law, individuals with incomes between 133 and 400
percent of the poverty line, or roughly $90,000 a year for a family
of four, are eligible for tax credits and subsidies to offset the
cost of private health insurance. By 2022, those subsidies are
expected to cost taxpayers about $808 billion,
according
to a March 2012 projection by the Congressional
budget office.

But according to the IG
report
, dated September 2013 but released in a partially
redacted version to the public this week, the IRS hasn’t put in
place the necessary checks to ensure that the the information
technology systems that calculate and manage the subsidies aren’t
subject to fraud. “A fraud mitigation strategy is not in place to
guide Affordable Care Act systems development, testing, initial
deployment, and long-term operations,” the report says. The tax
agency’s current protocols “do not address management’s
responsibility for managing, monitoring, and mitigating fraud risk
with the development of new information systems for the ACA.
Further, the ACA Program has not yet completed a fraud mitigation
strategy to guide ongoing systems development.” 

“With the healthcare exchanges open for business, it is
imperative that the IRS ensure the accuracy and completeness of
Premium Tax Credit and Advanced Premium Tax Credit calculations,”
said Russell George, the tax administration inspector general,

according to The Hill
, “and ensure the security
of information provided by taxpayers to the IRS and subsequently
transmitted to other government entities.” 

If other high-cost government-run health programs are any
indication, there’s a significant risk of large-scale fraud, abuse,
and waste.

Medicare’s payment system is rife with bad payments, some of
which are billing errors and some of which are outright fraud. A
2011 review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), for
example, estimated that the system made some $48 billion in
improper payments each year. That’s about 10 percent of Medicare’s
budget. The problem has always been that there are very few checks
on who can bill the system. As I noted in a
2011 story
on fraud in government health systems, a 2008 GAO
report found that it’s possible to set up shop billing Medicare
with little more than a few forged documents and a dummy phone
number—one that went to an empty desk at GAO’s office. Medicaid,
the health program for the low-income and disabled, has been
similarly plagued by abuse and outright fraud.

This has been going on for years, and yet relatively little has
been done to stop it. Under the Obama administraiton, Medicare’s
managers have taken some steps to address fraud and abuse in the
system, but at best these efforts have succeeded only at marginally
reducing the problem, cutting out a few billion dollars in wasteful
or fraudulent spending each year. The magnitude of the problem is
still pretty enormous, and what the IRS IG report suggests is that
it may soon grow to encompass Obamacare as well. 

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/04/irs-inspector-general-says-obamacare-sub
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Former Reasoner Radley Balko Headed to Wash Post From HuffPost

Check it out: Former Reason Senior Editor Radley Balko is
leaving the Huffington Post
for the Washington Post, where he’ll head up a blog covering
criminal justice, the drug war, and civil liberties.

From the editors of the Opinions section, via
Poynter.org
:

We are delighted to announce that Radley Balko, one of the
country’s top criminal justice reporters, will be joining The
Washington Post’s Opinions section, where he will have his own blog
about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties.

Radley has made headlines for his groundbreaking stories and
investigations into the criminal justice system across America. His
work has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Mississippi
Supreme Court. Radley’s dogged reporting in the Cory Maye case
helped get Maye freed from death row and later released from
prison, and his investigations into the controversial methods of
Mississippi pathologist Steven Hayne led to Hayne’s dismissal as
the state’s top medical examiner. His first book, “Rise of the
Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces,” has
been praised across the political spectrum, and hailed as a “must
read” and a “searing exposé…of police brutality.”

He was named Journalist of the Year in 2011 by the Los Angeles
Press Club, which said “Radley Balko is one of those throw-back
journalists that understands the power of groundbreaking reporting
and how to make a significant impact through his work. Time and
time again, his stories cause readers to stop, think, and most
significantly, take action.”

Radley comes to The Post from The Huffington Post, where he was
a senior writer and investigative reporter. He also writes about
the music and culture of Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives. A
graduate of Indiana University, Radley was previously a senior
editor at Reason magazine, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute
and an opinion columnist for FoxNews.com.

Radley will be joining us in January. Please join us in
welcoming him to The Post.

Fred Hiatt and James Downie
December 4, 2013

Interesting side question: Does this have any implication re:
old versus new media? That is, is this Empire Striking Back by
signing up figures who have made their bones in the swashbuckling
world of online activity? Or does the venerable Wash Post, now
owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, count as the new new media?

So perhaps this move actually means that the Huffington Post,
which is owned by AOL, which merged with Time Warner (and helped
kill it) is now officially the old media. Related: Jack Shafer’s
General
Theory of Media Exodus
.”

In any case, it will be exciting to see Radley Balko on a new
platform and bringing his signature issues and investigative chops
to a new audience. Read his Reason archive
and buy his book,
Rise of the Warrior Cop
.

Here he is in August 2013, talking with Reason about the
militarization of police:

 

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/04/former-reasoner-radley-balko-headed-to-w
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Ban on All You Can Sex Deals in Germany Emerges From Coalition Talks

dealsWinners of Germany’s federal elections in
September spent more than a month hashing out the specifics of a
ruling coalition between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union
and the second place Social Democratic Party, whose membership must
still approve the agreement. Among the deals struck during
negotiations is a new restriction on prostitution in Germany.


From the Telegraph:

Germany’s biggest political parties have agreed to ban
so-called flat-rate sex offered by some brothels in the
country.

The move is part of a clampdown on Germany’s booming prostitution
industry that critics say has got out of hand since a 2002 law
legalised sex work.

They view as exploitative the special offers in some brothels where
men can have unlimited sex for 100 euros ($136).

h/t np complete

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/2013/12/04/ban-on-all-you-can-sex-deals-in-germany
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Denver Considers Unconstitutional Limit on Homegrown Marijuana

The Denver City Council, which on
Monday
thought better
of trying to stop people from smoking pot on
their own porches, is now
considering
 limits on home cultivation that go beyond
those imposed by Amendment 64, Colorado’s marijuana legalization
measure. A bill proposed by Jeanne Robb, the same councilwoman who
wanted to ban marijuana consumption in outdoor areas on private
property, would cap the number of cannabis plants at 12 per
household, regardless of how many adults live there.
Amendment 64
, by contrast, allows every resident who is 21 or
older to grow up to six plants, “notwithstanding any other
provision of law.” It says doing so “shall not be be an offense
under Colorado law or the law of any locality,” as long as “the
growing takes place in an enclosed, locked space, is not conducted
openly or publicly, and is not made available for sale.” Since
Amendment 64 is now part of the state constitution, it is hard to
see how Robb’s proposed ordinance could pass legal muster.

Leaving aside that rather significant point for the moment,
Robb’s justification for the 12-plant-per-dwelling limit, which
parrots the talking points of the anti-pot group Smart Colorado, seems pretty weak.
“The police are very worried about the homegrows and the problems
they could cause,” she
tells
 The Denver Post. Specifically, she claims
to be worried about “fires, pesticide use, the mold,
structural damage, children who might be living in these areas, and
THC on surface areas.” HomeGrow.CO, a site that covers home
cultivation under Amendment 64, debunks these
concerns one by one. Regarding “THC on surface areas,” for example,
it says:

I am not sure what Smart Colorado or the Council Woman thinks
happens when cannabis is grown.  THC IS NOT SPEWED OUT OF THE
PLANT, contaminating surfaces in the area….I checked, [and]
apparently dispensaries do NOT have a problem with THC
contamination on surfaces. I figured since they have 1000’s of
plants, SURELY they would have THC contamination issues.  But
no, they didn’t seem to know what the heck I was talking about. So
I explained it to them, [and they] still [have] no idea.

More to the point, any valid safety concerns would apply to
growing 12 plants as well as 13 (or 18), and they can be addressed
without arbitrarily denying Coloradans their constitutional rights.
According to the Post, “Robb said police have stories of
homes with dozens of plants, including an 80-year-old grandmother
with more than 100 plants in her home.” Robb’s bill has nothing to
do with a situation like that, since 100 plants is already 94 more
than any one person is allowed to grow under Amendment 64.

Granted, homes with three or more adults, all of whom want to
grow marijuana and at least two of him plan to do so up to their
personal limits, are fairly unusual. But HomeGrow.CO argues that
Robb’s restriction would disproportionately affect college
students, families of modest means, and people caring for elderly
parents who use marijuana as a medicine, all of whom are especially
likely to live in households that include more than two adults.

Robb and her friends in the police department may be offended by
the idea of three roommates growing a total of 18 plants and
sharing the produce with their friends (one ounce at a time).
Furthermore, it is in the city’s financial interest to keep a lid
on DIY production so as to maximize revenue from the taxes on sales
at state-licensed stores. But the informal, nonprofit distribution
of homegrown pot is perfectly legal under Amendment 64, and it can
serve as an important restraint on politicians’ urge to tax and
regulate.

[Thanks to Kris Kaiser for the tip.]

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/04/denver-considers-unconstitutional-limit
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French Boosting Military Presence in CAR Ahead of UN Security Council Vote

According to
Reuters
, armed men killed twelve civilians and wounded 30
others in the Central African Republic yesterday, one of the latest
signs of the worsening
situation
in the country since rebels ousted President François
Bozizé in March this year. (Bozizé seized power in
a 2003 coup
with the backing of Chad.) Rebels have said
that Bozizé did not comply with agreements made between
2007 and 2011
during the Central African Republic Bush War. A
deal
made in January
to form a unity government
failed
.

Tomorrow, the United Nations Security Council will vote on
whether to send an African Union force on a 12-month deployment to
CAR. Diplomats said today that the resolution is expected
to pass unanimously
. The United Nation’s deputy secretary
general
recently warned that the deteriorating situation
between the Muslim and Christian communities could develop into a
genocide.

In October, French President Francois Hollande warned of
religious conflict and potential spillover,
saying
, “There is also an emergency at a regional level because
there is a risk of spillover. We might witness religious
conflict.”

The French have recently boosted their military
presence
in their former colony amid the deteriorating
situation. In December last year,
Bozizé asked
for the U.S. and France to help halt rebel
advances. At the time Hollande said that the days of the French
intervening in “the internal affairs of a country” were gone. The
next month, the French launched Operation
Serval
, the intervention in Mali.

As Paul Melly, the BBC’s West Africa analyst has
explained
, the intervention in Mali has laid groundwork for a
mission in CAR:

The warm sub-Saharan welcome for the Malian intervention has
helped to create a climate in which France can more easily
intervene in the CAR. And that subject will surely have been on the
menu of Mr Hollande’s talks with President Jacob Zuma during a
recent visit to South Africa.

This time, as in Mali, the African political ground for a French
deployment has been carefully prepared.

Although the U.S. has not expressed its intention to contribute
troops to a peacekeeping mission in CAR, Secretary of State John
Kerry recently
said
that the U.S. is “planning to provide $40 million in
assistance to the African Union-led peacekeeping mission” there.
American forces
recently
 supported Ugandan troops in an operation
against Lord’s Resistance Army fighters in CAR. American Special
Forces have been assisting African troops in their fight against
the LRA since 2011.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/04/french-boosting-military-presence-in-car
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