Author Archive for Jeff Quinton

ACLU: Baltimore PD using “warrantless and deceptive” cellphone surveillance

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WBAL TV reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union is taking the Baltimore City Police Department to task for its “warrantless and deceptive use of cellphone surveillance devices.”

Local law enforcement is using methods to pinpoint a suspect’s location straight out of a spy agency’s playbook. It’s a cutting edge crime-fighting tool whose trade name is Stingray, which is made by the Harris Corp.

The ACLU calls the practice the invasion of the data snatchers. The problem is, according to the ACLU, Stingray scoops up the personal information contained in the cellphones of everyone in their range.

The ACLU filed a friend of the court brief, alleging the Baltimore City police misled a judge so they could use Stingray. The complaint claims the device violated the Fourth Amendment right of a suspect and allowed police to obtain personal information from other people’s phones.

The device impersonates cellphone towers, prompting all phones within its range to connect to it, picking up everyone’s information, not just the suspect’s personal information. There’s concern it’s being used unlawfully and the data kept in a file.

The city spent a lot of money on it:

Baltimore City police declined to comment, but the city Board of Estimates records indicate city police spent more than $250,000 on the technology.

According to Board of Estimates records and ACLU legal briefs, on Feb. 4, 2009, the city award $132,000 to Harris Corp. for its cellphone-tracking system. On June 9, 2010, the Board of Estimates gave $30,000 to Harris Corp. for a cellphone-tracking system extended warranty. On Jan. 23, 2013, the city paid $99,786 to Harris Corp. for a hailstorm cellphone tracker upgrade.

But it wasn’t until a criminal case made it an evidentiary issue that the public learned how police used Stingray without a warrant. Police said they wanted what’s called a pen register order to see what calls were going in and out from a suspect’s phone.

An ACLU attorney noted the device collects identifier information on phones along with calls and text message information; and could even be used to intercept calls. The attorney said the police used the Stingray to geo-locate a phone in a house, but that’s not what they told a judge they were using it for. The ACLU attorney also called that “insane” and said officials “were willing to put secrecy above public safety.”

The US Supreme Court has ruled a warrant is required to use it and state law now requires the same.

In addition to Baltimore City, other police departments in the area are using it, with almost all of them (like the city) refusing to talk about it:

Anne Arundel County police said they use the technology in a responsible and lawful way to find missing persons and wanted felons. Montgomery County police would not confirm they have it but budget documents indicate they spent $180,000 to upgrade their Stingray system. Other local police departments did not respond to the 11 News I-Team’s inquiry.

No, Budweiser is NOT getting rid of the Clydesdales

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I saw a headline Sunday that Anheuscher-Busch was not using their iconic Clydesdales in Christmas ads this year. I didn’t think much of it until a bunch of other stories said they were getting rid of them altogether. I did see a piece debunking that yesterday as well. Now that the story is well on the way to virality, I wanted to stand athwart the landslide of outraged comments and get it corrected (and I personally think most of the beers made by Anheuscher-Busch taste like I imagine Clydesdale urine must taste like, so don’t call me, a craft beer guy, a fanboy for writing this.)

Here’s what a Yahoo blog noted about the original report:

Rest easy, Budweiser Clydesdales — you aren’t being put out to pasture just yet.

Contrary to an earlier report, the iconic horses, who have been an essential part of the Budweiser brand for nearly a century, will in fact be appearing in the beer company’s holiday advertising this year.

Horse fans and beer drinkers alike were alarmed by a Wall Street Journal story published Sunday claiming that the magnificent beasts were being phased out of Bud’s 2014 holiday advertising in an effort to appeal to younger consumers.

“The company has decided that persuading 21- to 27-year-olds to grab a Bud is the best chance to stop the free-fall. After years of developing advertising and marketing that appeals to all ages, AB InBev plans to concentrate future Budweiser promotions exclusively on that age bracket,”
The Journal’s story claimed. “That means it won’t trot out the traditional Budweiser Clydesdales for this year’s holiday advertising. It means February’s Super Bowl ads will feature something more current than last year’s Fleetwood Mac. It means less baseball and more raves with DJ group Cash Cash.”

Here’s the truth:

However, a spokesman for the company told TheWrap on Monday that the horses will continue the tradition of appearing in the brewer’s holiday advertising.

“The story this morning may have left a wrong impression – the Budweiser Clydesdales will, in fact, be featured in next year’s Super Bowl advertising and are also a part of upcoming holiday responsible drinking advertising,” a spokesman for the company said in a statement. “The Clydesdales play a strong role for the brand, representing Budweiser quality and care for more than 80 years. As icons of the brand — and relevant symbols of integrity, perfection and team spirit for all generations — they are important to the brand and our campaigns.”

The revered horses will even be galloping into the digital age this year, with a piece of content that will run digitally, featuring real people along with the Clydesdales.

The moral of the story is a continued reminder to be wary of what you read on the internet. The secondary sources who picked up the WSJ piece had time to find out what the Wrap blog at Yahoo found out, but going for the clickbait headlines that get shared more ruled the day (some of this may fall on the people who shared them as well – especially if they didn’t read the actual articles.)

Report: Former DC Mayor Marion Barry Dies at 78

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WUSA reports:

Sources close to the family tell WUSA 9 reporter Bruce Johnson that former DC Mayor Marion Barry has passed away.

Family and very close associates are gathering at this hour at United Medical Center in Southeast, DC as word spreads.

The 78-year-old Barry was just released from Howard University Hospital this evening where he had been admitted on Thursday.

Tweets about the situation by Johnson and others were confusing the situation because of earlier reports on his release and the newer ones that he was dead. WUSA posted this story at 2 a.m. EST.

UN blasts parental consent laws for abortion

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Catholic World News reports that:

The United Nations Population Fund has issued its annual State of World Population report.

The report decried barriers to adolescent “reproductive health” care, including laws that require parental consent for contraception or abortion. The report also lamented the influence of religious organizations in opposing “comprehensive sexuality education” and criticized religious leaders and parents for regulating “access to information and services.”

Parental consent laws in the U.S. Vary by state and leads to a situation where some states, like Maryland, require parental consent for a minor to use a tanning bed but not to have an abortion.

This story comes on the heels of reports that two other UN bodies, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, sterilized Kenyan women without their knowledge.

Watch Justin Berk’s Mobbies Meltdown

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Congratulations would all you’d expect to be in order to Justin Berk for winning Best Twitter Account and Best Facebook Page at Wednesday night’s Mobbies, sponsored by The Baltimore Sun. However, reports by people in attendance indicated a Berk meltdown when he got on stage to accept an award. Berk talked about the good things, like fundraising, he had accomplished via social media. He then talked about an “impostor” account that he said had said petulant and immature things. He claimed the person behind this “impostor” (really a parody account despite his claim of imitation) was in the room. He made other comments that basically said he was taking the high road but that he was sitting on a big story and could cause problems for people with it if he wanted. He then quoted Taylor Swift and grabbed his crotch before leaving the stage.

That parody account he was referring to is @notjustinberk on Twitter. Since it’s clearly a parody account and not someone trying to imitate him I suspect Berk taking the high road is because his lawyer told him he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if he were to sue. (You can see videos including the full speech at various points below.) I’m not sure Berk is deserving of Best Twitter Account if he doesn’t understand parody accounts. He was able to get enough votes to win the award and talk about what a big deal he is, but he’s so thin-skinned he can’t handle a parody account – an account which wouldn’t exist if he wasn’t at least somewhat popular. Now, thanks to the same social media popularity that has made him since his abrupt departure from local television, he will be remembered for this meltdown more than for the awards.

One person who was there also had thoughts and comments – referring to Berk’s speech as “embarrassing”, “passive-aggressive”, and “ego-laced.” The comments there also included this:

Basically he went off on trolls who apparently upset him with a parody Twitter account. In the process he proclaimed that he “knew some of you here were helping them” and said he had evidence of that, and action by former employers, etc that he could use to “destroy careers” with if he hadn’t decided to “take the high road”. Then went on to laud himself for a bit longer. So… he had an opportunity to use this stage to discuss online abuse with a sympathetic audience, and instead melted down in his own self-aggrandizement. It was sort of sad, as much as it was somewhat entertaining in a slow-motion-train-wreck way. But it was a true downer in an otherwise upbeat evening.

Berk himself responded to one person’s criticism on Twitter and alcohol consumption was mentioned. Some other comments on Twitter are here.

City That Breeds posted this video – which clearly captures the audio of the entire speech


This video, posted Thursday morning, shows Berk quoting Taylor Swift and grabbing his crotch at the end of his speech:

 

ICYMI @justinweather just likes to shake shake shake it off #Mobbies

 

A video posted by Will C (@wheelsee) on

State official falls for urban legend, issues scam warning

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ABC News:

Authorities in Maryland have warned the public about a potential holiday scam that involves the temptation of a $100 bill left on a car windshield.

The simple scheme works like this: Drivers walk to their parked cars and, after they get in the vehicle, they notice a $100 bill in the windshield. The driver exits the car with the door open to retrieve it, only to have a thief steal the vehicle.

Karen Straughn, Maryland Assistant Attorney General – Consumer Protection, wants the public to be aware of it, as reported by ABC affiliate WJLA-TV in Washington. Straughn said an unknown resident, during a public information safety session in Baltimore County, informed her of one incident, but Straughn said she has not seen a police report about it.

Here’s what Snopes, who rates it “False” has to say:

In November 2014, Washington, D.C., television station WJLA ran a muddled news report about a new satellite office of the Maryland attorney general issuing a warning about “carjackers” or “scammers” (they couldn’t decide which) leaving $100 bills (or fakes that look like $100 bills, they weren’t clear which) under the windshield wipers of cars parked at malls and then taking off with those vehicles when their drivers exit them to snatch the money. But again, the whole news story was based on nothing more than someone at the attorney general’s office saying they had “gotten reports of scammers in Maryland leaving $100 bills on windshields” and provided no documented instance of such a crime actually having taken place. (The Maryland attorney general’s office has yet to respond to our request for verification that any such carjackings have occurred.) Quite possibly what’s being reported is yet another instance of unknown persons leaving realistic-looking fake money on cars as a prank or an advertising gimmick, with no intent to steal those vehicles.

Straughn isn’t letting the facts get in the way of her fear-mongering in the story:

Straughn said she is aware that the scam is touted online as an urban legend, but she wants to warn the public as a precautionary measure.

The story notes police in Prince George’s County and Baltimore County have not seen this and there is no record of it taking place. Thanks to the national coverage this story is going viral with the presumed authority of the office of outgoing Attorney General Doug Gansler attached to it (through an Assistant AG) to give it credibility. This isn’t even a new story as Snopes points out. It is irresponsible for the state of Maryland to spread a falsehood just to get media attention.

Baltimore Marxists plan #Ferguson protests

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WBAL.com reports:

Protests are being planned in Baltimore if a grand jury declines to return an indictment against the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown.

In downtown Baltimore, the Baltimore People’s Power Assembly is planning an “emergency response protest” in McKeldin Square, either the day of the grand jury decision or the day after.

The demonstrations are both planned in protest of Brown’s shooting, but also of other fatal officer-involved shootings involving Hispanic and black people.

As I noted before, the Baltimore People’s Power Assembly has an office they call their Solidarity Center:

The Solidarity Center has opened its doors to a variety of different groups who have met and planned activities including Occupy Baltimore, SCLC, UPP, WWP, the Green Party and the families and victims of police violence.

The WWP, a.k.a. The Workers World Party, split from the Socialist Workers Party in 1959. The split was partly because of the SWP’s support of Henry Wallace in the 1948 election and because the SWP was supporting Mao Zedong in China. Since then the WWP has supported Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, and Kim Jong-Il. They also supported the Chinese crackdown on democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square in China in 1989. Additionally, WWP supported domestic terrorists including the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground.

The name of Steven Ceci consistently comes up as it relates to the PPA. He even included a comment on my original post confirming that he is a “communist” and the PPA is affiliated with the Workers World Party.

The local media generally doesn’t even name the PPA, let alone detail their connections. As I noted on a story about their anti-Israeli protest, they usually have signs for every single issue in the smorgasbord of progressive coalition issues.

American Power blog had this to say about the anti-Israel event and Ceci:

These groups are vehicles for the most vile eliminationist anti-Semitism. Mainstream media outlets do significant harm in omitting any mention of the ideological, anti-Semitic background of organizers like Baltimore’s Steven Ceci and his ilk.

Pope Francis: Children have right to grow up with a father & mother

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Catholic News Agency

Children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father, Pope Francis said, emphasizing that “the family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.”

The Pope made these remarks on Nov. 17 at the opening of the three-day international, interfaith colloquium entitled The Complementarity of Man and Woman, currently underway in the Vatican.

More from the pontiff:

“The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation,” the Holy Father continued, stressing the importance of marriage in the raising of children.

“Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity,” he said.

The pope also seemingly criticized the gay “marriage” movement:

He also warned against being moved by political agendas. “Family is an anthropological fact, he said, which cannot be qualified “based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history.”

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, had the following to say:

“We have this very beautiful idea, an image that the relationship between man and woman is an image of God,” he said. “In this sense, in the Catholic Church, the marriage between husband and wife is a Sacrament. This Sacramental issue is very important for us.”

The pope’s comments don’t fit the narrative the secular media has crafted about him to fit their agenda. Like his recent comments on abortion, they will either ignore them or misreport them.

Illegal alien charged with kidnap, rape of Maryland girl

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WBAL.com:

Victor Arroyo made had a court appearance in Raleigh, North Carolina Monday after being arrested late Friday night.

The court kept his $1.5 million dollar bond intact and appointed a public defender to represent him.

Arroyo is charged with kidnapping and rape in the case of the 12-year-old who disappeared last Tuesday while on her way to Perry Hall Middle School.

A prosecutor with the Wake County District Attorney’s office says Arroyo’s next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 8.

Arroyo illegally re-entered the United States after previously being deported, so there is an immigration hold for 48 hours before he can make bail. He could still face charges from Maryland or the federal government in addition to the charges in North Carolina.

The News & Observer in Raleigh also reported that:

Arroyo also was charged with probation violation because the state had listed him as an absconder from probation that came with a suspended sentence for misdemeanor assault on a female in 2007.

Hogan: Tax Cuts in Maryland Could Be Delayed

Jayne Miller made the following tweet today
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From a lede of a story in The Daily Record by Bryan Sears:

Maryland’s incoming governor said Monday that a larger-than-expected budget gap will likely affect how quickly he can keep a campaign promise to roll back taxes.

Hogan also said, “The problem seems to be even greater than we expected it to be.”

More from the Sears article:

“I’ve been talking about these issues for three years. Much of the time I was the lone voice in the wilderness talking about the problems. Now people are starting to realize that what we were talking about is true,” Hogan said. “Quite frankly, even I am surprised at the magnitude of the problem. The task ahead of us is vast.”

Hogan getting in front of this issue before he even takes office is a good move to prevent Democrats from hitting him on it. Hogan pointing out the state’s budgetary woes were even worse than he thought before he is even inaugurated should insulate him from criticism on the issue.

Hogan blaming O’Malley at this point is a valid thing to do and a Democrats would look hypocritical to attack him over it. After all, Nationally, Democrats and the President blamed all of the nation’s woes on the Bush administration for several years and, here in Maryland, the hyper-partisan administration of Martin O’Malley was an active player in the Blame Bush cavalcade.

With that being said, the delay in tax relief should not be much of one or it might actually hurt Hogan politically, especially if the Democrats try to sabotage his administration on this issue.

UPDATE
NBC Washington reports:

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan says he remains committed to pursuing tax relief in his first year as governor, despite a projected budget shortfall of more than a half a billion dollars.

Hogan, a Republican, said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press that he would consider calling a special session next year to do more work on the state’s finances, if that’s necessary.