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A New Broadband Network is Pitching Surveillance Enhancements to Cops Across the Country

A Chicago police officer speaks on his radio at the scene where three people were shot, one fatally, in the 2500 block of West Lithuanian Plaza Court on Friday, July 28, 2017, in the Marquette Park neighborhood of Chicago, Ill. An 18-year-old man was shot in the head and pronounced dead at Advocate Christ Medical Center. A 34-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman were wounded. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Photo: Erin Hooley


THE LATEST TECHNOLOGIES promise cops the ability to whip out a smartphone, take a snapshot of a passerby, and instantly learn if that person is in an immigration or gang database.

A federal broadband program, designed after 9/11 to improve first responder communication during emergencies, will enhance this sort of capability and integrate it into an internet “super highway” built specifically for police and public safety. The program, called FirstNet, is already expanding the surveillance options available to law enforcement agencies across the country.

According to publicly available documents, as well as interviews with program participants, stakeholders, and government researchers, FirstNet will help agencies like U.S. Customs and Border Protection communicate with local police, deliver more information to officers’ hands, accelerate the nascent law enforcement app industry, and provide public safety agencies with new privileges and powers over AT&T’s commercial broadband network.

The program will also hasten these agencies’ migration from public radio frequencies to encrypted broadband networks, potentially eliminating one resource that local newsrooms and citizens have historically relied upon to monitor police and first responders.

FirstNet is a public-private partnership that creates a dedicated lane for public safety agencies within AT&T’s existing broadband network. As of January, all U.S. states had opted in to FirstNet, meaning that they agreed not to build their own competing broadband lanes for law enforcement and public safety. Then, in March, AT&T announced that FirstNet’s core — the infrastructure that isolates police traffic from the commercial network — had become operational at last.

“It’s like having a super highway that only public safety can use,” the company wrote in a press release.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Justice Department Helped Washington State Prosecutor Target Facebook Records of Anti-Pipeline Activists

Photo: Ty Campbell via The Red Line Salish Sea


NINE MONTHS AFTER pipeline opponents in Washington state staged a protest that blocked freeway traffic, Facebook ended a protracted legal standoff with a county prosecutor, turning over detailed records on the indigenous-led group behind the demonstration. Despite the fact that no criminal charges have been filed in connection with the February action, Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney David McEachran repeatedly sought a warrant for the group’s Facebook page, ultimately securing private information including messages to and from the page and a list of everyone “invited” to the protest event.

McEachran’s first two warrant applications were withdrawn after the American Civil Liberties Union and Facebook raised objections. On the third try, however, the warrant was granted thanks to Facebook’s suggestion that McEachran’s office seek formal guidance from the nation’s top law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice. A public records request filed by The Intercept shows that the local agency and its federal counterpart cooperated to draft the ultimately successful warrant using a DOJ template.

Activists affiliated with the climate justice group, Red Line Salish Sea, view the investigation as retaliation for their February protest, a march against local fossil fuel projects and President Donald Trump’s executive orders expediting construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. “Not only does this warrant attempt to scare people from organizing, this warrant attempts to scare people from even looking at information,” Tina McKim, an administrator of Red Line’s Facebook page, wrote in a declaration.

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Fossil Fuel Dollars Flow into Local Elections Threatening Development in the West

Fossil Fuel Dollars Flow into Local Elections Threatening Development in the West

A child holds a hand-drawn sign protesting fracking near his school in Colorado

In Colorado, the drilling boom that accompanied hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is coming under increasing scrutiny, especially in the wake of several lethal accidents in frontline communities. On November 7, Broomfield, a large town between Denver and Boulder, will vote on a charter amendment that would require oil and gas development to safeguard the environment and “not adversely impact the health, safety, and welfare of Broomfield’s residents.”

The citizen-initiated charter amendment, Question 301, reiterates a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling from earlier this year, which some say changes the mandate of the state regulatory commission in charge of oil and gas. Following a lawsuit by Colorado teen Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the court ruled in March that safeguarding public health and the environment was indeed “a condition that must be fulfilled” prior to oil and gas drilling.

This decision was a stark divergence from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s long-held stance that the commission only had to “balance” health and the environment, with its mandate to facilitate fossil fuel extraction.

A campaign to defeat Broomfield’s charter amendment has received over $344,000 in contributions from the industry. The Colorado Petroleum Council — a local chapter of the American Petroleum Institute — is involved with a suite of campaign activities against it, including phone outreach, direct mailing, polling, data, digital outreach, and online advertising.

Supporters of Question 301, meanwhile, have so far raised about $7,000.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ohio Court Overturns Law Preventing Cities From Voting on Anti-Fracking Measures

Ohio Court Overturns Law Preventing Cities From Voting on Anti-Fracking Measures

Building home to the Ohio Supreme Court

In a slight break with previous state policies that have encouraged fracking activity and new pipelines, the Ohio Supreme Court recently struck down a controversial provision restricting citizen efforts to vote locally on these and other issues through the ballot initiative process.

Getting Out (of) the Vote

The state Supreme Court ruling, which came on October 19, is a departure from earlier rulings that prevented the Ohio Community Rights Network from placing county charters and a city ordinance to ban fracking from appearing on ballots. In 2015 the network had expanded beyond municipal ballot initiatives to include new county charters to elevate rights of local residents and ecosystems. Fossil fuel-friendly Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted responded by claiming he possessed “unfettered authority” to remove the county charters from the ballot, regardless of whether they gathered enough signatures.

Central to Husted’s argument was an assertion that local residents do not have the power to vote on laws that challenge the state’s supremacy. Since 2015, Husted, Husted-appointed county boards of elections, and the Ohio Supreme Court have removed a total of 10 proposed fracking-related county charters from Ohio ballots.

To justify keeping the charters off the ballot, the Ohio Supreme Court developed a legal rationale that gave Husted and his boards of elections broad discretion to use what proved to be unpredictable technicalities to prevent all 10 from being voted on, despite petitioners gathering the needed signatures. However, that legal approach was not applied to municipal ballot initiatives, which continued to be proposed, voted on, and in some cases passed.

But at the end of 2016, HB463 passed in a lame duck legislative session and allowed unelected boards of elections to remove municipal initiatives from ballots as well. The bill also granted boards of elections similar unilateral power to strike proposed county charters, freeing them from having to rely on revolving technical arguments.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fossil Fuel Misinformation Helps Quash Community Effort to Ban Fracking in Youngstown, Ohio

Fossil Fuel Misinformation Helps Quash Community Effort to Ban Fracking in Youngstown, Ohio

Sign reading 'Don't frack Ohio - Stop injection wells'

For the first time since 2013, a group of activists in Youngstown, Ohio, has been told it cannot place an anti-fracking initiative on local ballots, due in part to a misinformation campaign from the fossil fuel industry.

On October 6, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that two proposed ballot initiatives — one to outlaw fracking and fracking waste injections and another to regulate political campaign contributions within city limits — would not be up for a vote this November. In previous years, voters weighed in on similar initiatives, which were ultimately defeated.

The recent ruling came despite both initiatives receiving the required number of signatures to get on the ballot.

“We’ve become experts at collecting signatures!” said Susie Beiersdorfer of the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee.

The initiatives were in large part a response to earthquakes caused by fracking waste injections, illegal dumping of fracking waste in a local river, and the expansion of fracking in this area of eastern Ohio.

Anti-fracking Initiatives in Youngstown

Starting in 2013, the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee has successfully placed a “Community Bills of Rights” to outlaw fracking and fracking waste injections on six separate ballots.

Each election, the group has been vastly outspent and its initiatives voted down. But it has made gains. In November 2016, its community bill of rights initiative lost by only 2,279 votes.

Citizens are realizing that our government system is fixed,” Beiersdorfer told DeSmog.

In response to being vastly outspent on past campaigns, this year the group also proposed a second initiative, the “People’s Bill of Rights for Fair Elections and Access to Local Government.” In addition to challenging corporations’ protections under the U.S.Constitution, the bill would ban outside private interests from contributing to local campaigns and limit campaign contributions to $100 for local elections.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ohio Communities Face ‘Voter Suppression’ in Push to Rein in Oil and Gas Development

Ohio Communities Face ‘Voter Suppression’ in Push to Rein in Oil and Gas Development

We’re losing our ability to legislate and be a check and balance on the government,” Tish O’Dell of the Ohio Community Rights Network told DeSmog on September 15.

O’Dell had just learned that yet another local ballot measure — this one in Bowling Green, Ohio — was facing a possible legal challenge. “The Bowling Green initiative is the only one that made it through all the administrative hurdles to get on [the ballot],” O’Dell said.

It is the latest in a flurry of anti-fossil fuel ballot initiatives across Ohio which have gained the required number of signatures but likely won’t appear on ballots come election day. This year, initiatives in Youngstown, Medina County, and Athens County have all been taken off the ballot.

Fracking Backlash

These ballot initiatives are a response to the surge in activity related to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and pipeline development in Ohio and would establish new county charters or amendments to city charters that elevate the communities’ governing authority over legal privileges enjoyed by the industry.

Since 2015, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, non-elected local boards of elections, and the Ohio Supreme Court have struck a total of 10 proposed county charters from Ohio ballots. Initiatives have been removed for Athens (2015, 2016, and 2017), Fulton (2015), Medina (2015, 2016, 2017), Meigs (2015, 2016), and Portage (2016) counties.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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