Reality Check
Mar 27th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

The Number of People Who Died at Three Mile Island and Other Scares from Days Gone By.

Arguably, the favorite hobby of Americans is scaring themselves to death over phantom risks. (“America’s Only Humor & Video Site”) is featuring a great list of some oldies but goodies in this category. Take a walk down memory lane with “The 5 Most Ridiculously Over-Hyped Health Scares of All Time,” including, cranberries, Three Mile Island, cyclamates, schoolhouse asbestos, and of course, DDT.



Bonus quote: “In 1979, Three Mile Island killed fewer people than … robot attacks.”

Enjoy all the thrills and chills of yesteryear’s bogus scares here.

[Hit and Run]

A well-written look at some of the past sources of mass hysteria, the bad policy they’ve created, and the reality behind them.

More Big Brother technology
Mar 17th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

Camera that Sees Under Clothes.


A British company has developed a camera that can detect weapons, drugs or explosives hidden under people’s clothes from up to 25 meters away in what could be a breakthrough for the security industry.

The T5000 camera, created by a company called ThruVision, uses what it calls “passive imaging technology” to identify objects by the natural electromagnetic rays — known as Terahertz or T-rays — that they emit.

The high-powered camera can detect hidden objects from up to 80 feet away and is effective even when people are moving. It does not reveal physical body details and the screening is harmless, the company says.

If this is real, it seems much less invasive than backscatter X ray.

[Schneier on Security]

I really don’t think “less invasive” is the right way to describe a camera specifically designed to allow governments to easily conduct illegal searches on a massive scale.

Houston: 16,000 armed home invasions in the past four years.
Mar 10th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

Houston Drug Raid Stats.

A couple of weeks ago, I started sending off open records requests related to drug raids to various cities across the country. My initial goal was to review the warrants and return sheets for these raids, for several reasons.


What I did learn was that over the last seven years, there have been 43,456 complaints filed in Houston in response to the service of a warrant.  I’m guessing that includes all warrants, not just drug warrants.  Still, it’s a really high figure (17 per day?).  In fact, I thought perhaps they’d misunderstood, and run a search for all police complaints in that time.  But the records officer specifically said that those were the complaints related to warrant service.  Make of that what you will.  I’m sure a large percentage of them were frivolous.  It’s just too bad there’s no way of figuring out how many complaints are related to a wrong-door raid without shelling out $55,000.

Second, and more disturbing, I learned that HPD has served about 16,000 forced-entry narcotics warrants in the last four years. The number is an estimate because the warrants are packed up in boxes, and the compliance officer guessed by multiplying the average number of warrants per box by the number of boxes.  But it’s not likely off by too much either way.

[The Agitator]

Personally, I think the number of complaints might actually be low. Some number of victims wouldn’t bother filing a complaint, because they would know that the best possible outcome is that it would do no good whatsoever, and at worst it might very well mark them for further “special attention” from the cops. I have no idea how many such victims there might be, though.

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