Recently, we expressed concern about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) testing iris-scanning technology on immigrants detained at the border. Since posting that entry, the Center for Media and Democracy has obtained a copy of the DHS “Privacy Impact Assessment” for the technology’s test run, and we are now even more concerned that DHS has not adequately considered this technology's serious implications for privacy and civil liberties.
Last week, USA Today reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was to begin testing new iris-scanning technology that stores digital images of people's eyes in a database. The two-week test of the new technology is to be conducted on immigrants that officers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency encounter at the border. Iris-scanning technology conjures fears of Big Brother totalitarianism, brings to mind science-fiction films like Minority Report, and has drawn the ire of civil liberties groups. American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Christopher Calabrese tells USA Today that many fear that the iris-scanning cameras could be used covertly. "If you can identify any individual at a distance and without their knowledge, you literally allow the physical tracking of a person anywhere there's a camera and access to the Internet."
Originally published on September 22, 2010 in Health Care and Tennessee Voices.
As I sit beside my 92-year-old father in his hospital bed in Kingsport, Tennessee, there are reminders all around me of why I left my job in the insurance industry to become an advocate for health-care reform — and why all Americans have reasons to be grateful that many provisions of the reform bill that became law six months ago are taking effect now.
To begin with, there is my dad himself. He must take costly medications every day. This year he and millions of other older Americans fell into the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole." They have to spend thousands of dollars for medicines they need before their drug benefit will kick back in. The new law has already begun to reduce their pharmacy expenses.
David Whelan blogs about the health care business for Forbes.com, and he's published a review of Wendell Potter's forthcoming new tell-all book about the health insurance industry, Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans. After twenty years as head of corporate public relations for two of the country's biggest for-profit health insurers, Wendell gave up his six-figure salary and cushy life as an insurance executive and decided he had to start telling people how the for-profit insurance industry manipulates the government and sticks it to Americans.
In Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally last week, held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, Beck claimed that he and his Tea Party followers would "take back the civil rights movement." While King's speech led Congress to pass the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, Beck's movement could lead to that Act's abolishment. Although Beck has not publicly called for overturning the 20th century's greatest piece of equality-advancing legislation, the libertarian philosophy he espouses is at odds with the way the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination by private businesses. While Beck did not clearly state how he would reclaim the civil rights movement (he asserted that his rally was nonpolitical and aimed at "restoring America's traditional values") other leading libertarian right-wingers have called for abolishing some of the Act's most important elements, saying they constitute unnecessary government interference with the market. While undoing the Civil Rights Act through political channels would be almost impossible, the U.S. Supreme Court may have granted the right-wing a means to do so through the judiciary. The Court's reasoning in its January 2009 Citizens United decision could put some of the most important parts of the Civil Rights Act at risk.
Three former American soldiers who served in Iraq are going public about the realities of the U.S. military occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they claim routine acts of excessive violence upon local citizens stem from the U.S. chain of command. Former Army Specialists Josh Stieber, Ray Corcoles and Ethan McCord say that they thought they were going to Iraq to help the Iraqi people and advance freedom and democracy.
Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has, for the most part, been out of the spotlight for the past year since he wrote his book titled The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege...And How We Can Be Safe Again, which came out in September of 2009. In that book, Ridge confessed that, although unsurprising to anyone who understood the rampant fear-mongering and propaganda that took place in the post-9/11 Bush era, he was pressured by others in the Bush Administration to purposely manipulate the infamous color-coded National Security Alerts for political reasons, and in particular, during the run-up to former President George W. Bush's re-election in 2004.
Recently, the newest batch of Israel-related hasbara was released on a mass scale by the Israeli news website, Ynetnews, which is the online English language news website of Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's most-read news source. It is akin to the New York Times or the Washington Post of the United States, and one of Israel's news sources of prominent distinction.
"There Is No Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza"
The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel hasbara-extraordinaire, Felix Frankfurter, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Alan Dershowitz, are both on the record as saying that "there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza." They are not outliers in holding that opinion. Indeed, former neo-conservative Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, the current Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, as well as Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev, are all on the record sharing these sentiments.