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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