Pasadena to explore possibility of citywide smoking ban

From the PasadenaStarNews:

PASADENA – City council members will consider next month the possibility of an outright ban on smoking in city limits.

On Monday, the council’s Public Safety Committee discussed a long-proposed ban on smoking in apartment buildings, and Councilman Steve Haderlein asked the staff to find out whether the city has the legal authority to put a full smoking ban into place.

Pasadena passed a ban on outdoor smoking in most public areas in 2008, and at the time pledged to consider the apartment restrictions within the next year.

Haderlein, who is the chair of the committee, said he wasn’t sure he would support an outright ban, but said he would like to know if it is an option.

“Something that broad and dramatic, we’d really have to go to our citizens and see if it is what they wanted,” said Haderlein.

The discussion on extending the restrictions beyond apartment and condo units stemmed from concerns by committee members that it would be unfair to target smokers there, while ignoring smokers who live in single-family homes.

Haderlein noted, for example, that his neighbor is a smoker, and that he can sometimes smell the smoke drifting in through his kitchen window.

Multiple members of the public showed up to the meeting to complain of their neighbors’ smoking. Many said they could no longer keep their windows open because smoke from other units frequently entered their apartment.

Nancy Sagatelian, who owns a condo on South Lake Avenue, spoke Monday and said in a later interview that she was evicted from her apartment for complaining about her neighbor’s smoking.

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Obama attorneys argue for warrantless cell phone tracking

From Raw Story:

This is not change that privacy advocates can believe in.

A US appeals court began weighing Friday whether police should be allowed to track citizens through their cellphones without first obtaining a warrant.

The case “could prove to be one of the most important privacy rights battles of the modern era,” The Legal Intelligencer noted.

Adopting a Bush-era argument, Obama administration attorneys asked the court to allow telecoms companies to hand over their subscribers’ location information, even without a probable cause warrant.

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Public to monitor CCTV from home

From The BBC:

Members of the public could earn cash by monitoring commercial CCTV cameras in their own home, in a scheme planned to begin next month.

The Internet Eyes website will offer up to £1,000 if viewers spot shoplifting or other crimes in progress.

The site’s owners say they want to combine crime prevention with the incentive of winning money.

But civil liberties campaigners say the idea is “distasteful” and asks private citizens to spy on each other.

The private company scheme – due to go live in Stratford-upon-Avon in November – aims to stream live footage to subscribers’ home computers from CCTV cameras installed in shops and other businesses.

If viewers see a crime in progress, they can press a button to alert store detectives and collect points worth up to £1,000.

Internet Eyes founder James Woodward said: “This is about crime prevention.

“CCTV isn’t watched, it isn’t monitored, and not enough cameras are watched at any one time.

“What we’re doing is we’re putting more eyes onto those cameras so that they are monitored”.

‘Snoopers’ paradise’

However civil liberty campaigners say they are horrified by what they say is the creation of a “snoopers’ paradise”.

Charles Farrier from No CCTV said: “It is a distasteful and a worrying development.

“This is a private company using private cameras and asking private citizens to spy on each other. It represents a privatisation of the surveillance state.”

Internet Eyes has defended its plans, saying viewers will not know exactly which camera they’re watching or where it is located.

Although the UK is the “world capital of CCTV” – with an estimated one camera per 14 people – viewing hours of mostly tedious and often poor quality images is a lengthy and unpopular job, said the BBC’s home affairs correspondent Andy Tighe.

In August, an internal report commissioned by London’s Metropolitan Police estimated that in 2008 just one crime was solved per thousand CCTV cameras in the capital.

The deficit was partly blamed on officers not being able to make the best use of the many thousands of hours of video generated by CCTV.

Novartis chip to help ensure bitter pills are swallowed

Pills that send text messages to the patient to remind them to take their meds. Makes you wonder who else it might be texting? Your doctor? The government? Pick your favorite paranoid delusion.

From FinancialTimes.com:

By Andrew Jack in London

Published: September 21 2009 23:06 | Last updated: September 21 2009 23:06

Patients who fail to pop pills on time could soon benefit from having a chip on their shoulder, under a ground-breaking electronic system being developed by Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceuticals group.

The company is testing technology that inserts a tiny microchip into each pill swallowed and sends a reminder to patients by text message if they fail to follow their doctors’ prescriptions.

Read the rest:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c1473442-a6f4-11de-bd14-00144feabdc0.html?nclick_check=1

The satellite link that keeps watch on your children

As with most things, it’s easier to get the people to go along with all the government intrusion into their lives if you sell it to them as something cool or useful or helpful. In this case, they’re getting parents to essentially tag their children, appealing to parents’ fears of child abductions. These kids will grow up with this technology and come to see it as something totally normal, and will have no problems tagging their children. Anyone who doesn’t go along will be seen as “old-fashioned” at best, and as a “dangerous extremist” at the worst.

From The Daily Mail (U.K.):

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 10:44 AM on 18th September 2009

Its vivid colour is clearly designed to appeal to youngsters. But this watch is really aimed at their parents.

For its key selling point is a satellite positioning system that locates the wearer to within ten feet.

The makers claim the GPS tracking device will offer anxious parents peace of mind and allow children the independence to go out to play on their own.

The num8 watch, pictured above, costs £149.99 and can be securely fastened to a child's wrist, triggering an alert if forcibly removed The num8 watch costs £149.99 and can be securely fastened to a child’s wrist, triggering an alert if forcibly removed

But critics have said the ‘tagging’ is a step too far in the climate of paranoia over child safety.

The num8 watch, pictured above, costs £149.99 and can be securely fastened to a child’s wrist, triggering an alert if forcibly removed.

Parents will be able to see their child’s location on Google maps by texting ‘wru’ to a special number, or clicking ‘where r you’ on the secure website linked to the device. The street address and postcode will be displayed.

Safe zones can also be set up in which children can play. An alert will be sent to the parents if the child strays out of that area.

Steve Salmon, of makers Lok8u, said: ‘Losing your child, if only for a brief moment, leads to a state of panic and makes parents feel powerless. The overriding aim of num8 is to give children their freedom and parents peace of mind.’

But Dr Michele Elliott, director of children’s charity Kidscape, said: ‘Is the world really that unsafe that parents need to track their children electronically? I don’t think so.’

HAND OVER THE KEYS WITH CONFIDENCE

Yes, let Big Brother ride along with your kids when they take the car for a spin.

From TeenSafeDriver.com:

The Teen Safe Driver Program helps parents identify risky driving and coach for improvement before dangerous behaviors lead to vehicle damage, personal injury or worse.

When parents are in the vehicle, teen drivers rarely crash. Take mom and dad out of the car and teens crash nine times more often than adults. Seatbelt use drops to less than 40% on average. The combination of inexperience and overconfidence leads to the death of thousands of teen drivers, their passengers and others on the roadways.

Do you think your teen won’t be the one who crashes? Research shows there is no way to predict which teens will crash and which will not – not grades, involvement in athletics, other extra-curricular activities or any other means.

The Teen Safe Driver Program uses a small device placed behind the rearview mirror of your teen’s vehicle. It captures the view out the front, and into the interior, of the vehicle but never saves any data UNLESS activated by an erratic vehicle movement – extreme braking, cornering, and acceleration or if there is a collision. When the device is activated, it saves an EVENT comprised of the previous ten seconds and the following ten seconds showing not only WHAT happened but WHY it happened.

The event is transferred wirelessly to DriveCam’s Event Analysis Center where the video is reviewed, scored and coaching tips are added. Parents and teens log in to a secure Web site to view the video and tips for safer driving. Teens are coached for improvement in problem areas, and also praised for good driving events.

In addition to the individual events captured, parents receive a weekly driver report card that shows their teen’s performance compared to their peers. With the report card, parents can take the proper action for the patterns of behaviors identified – praising their teen for safe driving or coaching them to improve specific problem areas.

Results are dramatic and immediate. On average, teens reduce the frequency and severity of high risk driving events by more than 70% in the first six weeks.  Driver seatbelt use improves from less than 40% to an unprecedented 100%–and passenger seatbelt rates increase dramatically, too.

Teen Safe Driver helps make the transition to a safer, more mature driver an enjoyable experience for both the young drivers and their parents.

Think tank: Be warned, Big Brother, I’ve got my eye on you

From The Times Online:

In June, Stewart Smith, who suffers from arthritis, was handed a £50 fixed penalty notice after dropping a £10 note in the street. Last year Gareth Corkhill, a father of four, had to pay £225 and got a criminal record when magistrates found him guilty of leaving the lid of his wheelie bin open by a mere four inches. Last month Stephen White’s sister Helen was rung several times and visited at her house by police officers wanting to know the whereabouts of her trainspotter brother, who had been using her car while taking pictures of trains in Pembrokeshire.

What is going on? Over the past 10 years our government has become increasingly overbearing, creating a nation of criminals out of good British citizens. We are subject to ever more officious laws and intrusive means of surveillance. Britain has 1% of the world’s population but about 20% of its CCTV cameras; it has one camera for every 14 people in the country. Last year local authorities, the police and the intelligence services made 504,073 requests to access private e-mail and telephone data — that is nearly 10,000 requests every week.

Documents leaked earlier this year revealed that GCHQ, the government’s spy centre, had already awarded £200m to suppliers as part of Mastering the Internet, a mass surveillance project designed to enable the monitoring of all internet use and phone calls in Britain.

An Englishman’s home is no longer his castle: some 266 laws now grant the state the right to enter private homes. And if they can’t get you on tape, online or in your home, in recent months a slew of websites has appeared encouraging citizens to shop people dropping litter or acting suspiciously. Just as in Orwell’s dystopia, Britain is being turned into a nation of narks.

It is time to fight back. The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has already led the field in exposing the outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money and malpractice throughout all levels of government. Our campaigns on MPs’ expenses, the growth of the quango state and the rise of public sector fat cats have helped to shape public opinion and the policies of both the government and opposition. Now we are launching Big Brother Watch as a check on the surveillance state.

The campaign will be headed by Alex Deane, a barrister and David Cameron’s first chief of staff, supported by Dylan Sharpe, Boris Johnson’s press officer for his London mayoral campaign.

Big Brother Watch plans to produce regular investigative research papers on the erosion of civil liberties in the UK, beginning with a detailed investigation of the ways in which individual local authorities have encroached upon the lives of the ordinary British citizen, whether it be placing microchips in rubbish bins or snooping on your private telephone records. We will name and shame the local authorities most prone to authoritarian abuses.

We will also champion individual cases. We want to use the legal system to help the man in the street fight injustice and regain his personal freedom. We are building up a legal fund to back cases in which we feel a key principle is at stake.

Not many people realise they can use the Freedom of Information Act to demand to see data held about themselves by the authorities. The Human Rights Act, which came into force in 2000, makes it unlawful for any public body to act in a way that is incompatible with the European convention on human rights. The convention includes the right of access to documents and we want to help people to use this and other provisions to extend our right to government information.

In the same way that the TPA has pioneered the use of the Freedom of Information Act to bring transparency to government spending and expose the full horrors of the wastage, wages and expenses of our public representatives, we intend to unearth the reality of the Big Brother state.

Last year the TPA produced a report that put the total cost of Big Brother government at about £20 billion — or almost £800 per household. We want Big Brother Watch to become the central hub for the latest on personal freedom and civil liberty — a forum for information and discussion on something that directly affects British citizens in their everyday lives.

Big Brother Watch also aims to expose the extent to which the web has become the first line in state surveillance. Recent examples of web companies being leant on to release personal data have opened the floodgates for the co-opting of internet activity into the state’s control. Safeguards are needed before it’s too late.

We hope Big Brother Watch will become the gadfly of the ruling class, a champion for civil liberties and personal freedom — and a force to help a future government roll back a decade of state interference in our lives.

Matthew Elliott is chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance and founder of Big Brother Watch (www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk)