Big Brother is watching: military surveillance drones in the land of the free

small unmanned drone (1)

(CCL Danny Choo)

Unmanned surveillance drones: They’re not just for war zones any more.

In fact, they’re coming soon to a city, town or sheriff’s office near you.

The FAA predicts 30,000 drones overhead by 2020 after Congress passed an FAA Reauthorization Act in February ordering the FAA to fast-track introduction of drones into American airspace.

They’ll have many good uses, of course: looking for lost kids, missing hikers and adults with Alzheimer’s, fighting forest fires, monitoring our borders, and so on.

But that’s not all.

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Big Brother wants to watch you more . . . and more

Four shots of a mounted surveillance camera in different positions, scanning a crowd

(CCL Brian Snelson)

This is how it begins: gently, innocuously. And, always, for a Good Reason.

The Oregonian reports that Portland, Oregon, Police Chief Mike Reese:

wants to put up video surveillance cameras on private buildings in Old Town and Chinatown that would help officers monitor drug deals on certain sidewalks, intersections or other public spaces.

Not that there aren’t already surveillance cameras in Portland. But until now, the police have merely been encouraging private property owners to put up cameras. Reese is going before the City Council tonight to request a fundamental change in policy: Now the police department will be installing–and monitoring–cameras.

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S. B. 1813: IRS to have power to confiscate your passport

U.S. passport

(CCL Crowbeak)

Senate Bill 1813, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) last November, has a title as soporific as they come: “AN ACT To reauthorize Federal-aid highway and highway construction programs, and for other purposes.”

And for other purposes.

Ay, there’s the rub.

Section 40304 gives the IRS the power to deny you a passport, or to revoke your passport, if you have:

 a seriously delinquent tax debt in an amount in excess of $50,000. . . .

But what harm is there, you ask, in keeping a few rich tax scofflaws from leaving the country?

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People with disabilities: our seething prejudice

Janet and Jeffrey Collins in wheelchairs

Jeffrey and Janet Collins

Annette Corriveau wants to kill her children. And she wants to do it legally.

Janet and Jeffrey Collins have Sanfilippo Syndrome, a heartbreaking metabolic disorder that causes loss of motor ability and severe developmental disability.

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“Wrongful birth” and Frodo’s hard quest

Fellowship of the Ring movie poster featuring head shots of Frodo and other characters

(New Line Cinema)

Should I (or my guardian) be able to sue someone for an action which saved my life?

That’s the rather metaphysical question at the center of Ariel and Deborah Levy’s wrongful birth suit against Legacy Health System. Last Friday, a jury awarded the Portland, Oregon-area couple $2.9 million (out of a requested $7 million) for the birth of their daughter, Kalanit, now 4.

The Levys had two sons when, in 2006, Deborah unexpectedly became pregnant. Because she was 34, the Levys were concerned that the baby might have a genetic disorder.

Thirteen weeks into Deborah’s pregnancy, according to The Oregonian’s article, she had a chorionic villus sampling (CVS). It came back negative for Down Syndrome. The Levys say the tissue sample was negligently taken from Deborah, rather than from the baby. Legacy contends the CVS was properly done and the results were negative because Kalanit has mosaic Down Syndrome, meaning that a significant number of her cells don’t have an extra copy of chromosome 21.

Two later ultrasounds indicated that the baby had traits characteristic of people with Down Syndrome. But, the Levys say, doctors assured them the baby didn’t have Down Syndrome, based on the CVS.

A week after Kalanit was born, Deborah took her to the pediatrician for a well-baby check. There she learned that Kalanit had Down Syndrome.

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Melinda Guido, Roe v. Wade and cognitive dissonance

Melinda Guido in NICU incubator with adult hand beside her

Over the weekend, the media covered the heartwarming story of Melinda Star Guido. Melinda was born August 30th at 24 weeks gestation. She weighed just 9 1/2 ounces–”less than a can of soda,” both ABC and HuffPo point out–and was the size of an adult hand. Awake, alert, and weighing over 4 1/2 pounds, she went home with her parents Friday, and slept for the first time in her own bed Friday night.

Here’s a video from ABC showing footage of her from both last summer and last Friday.

In other news this weekend, the President released a statement Sunday, on the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade:

 As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right. . . .

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Online piracy and the Church of Kopimism

Last Friday, I mentioned in passing Sweden’s new Church of Kopimism. The Missionary Church of Kopimism was founded by two baby-faced college students, philosophy major Isak Gerson, 20, and economics major Gustav Nipe (who, except for being tall, doesn’t look a day over 12). Their sacred symbols are the kopimi (pronounced “copy me”–wink, wink–get it?!) logo:

Letter K inside a triangle

and, in fact, any symbol that represents and encourages copying, e.g.:

Yin-yang symbol with Ctrl-C in the black portion and Ctrl-V in the white portion

Its 4,000 members hold information and the sharing of it (including illegal file-sharing) to be holy. (Here’s a link to the English page on the church’s official website, and an interview with the founder.)

A reader comment on last week’s post suggested that perhaps the whole thing was (gasp!) just a scam. I’m guessing my Dear Reader was operating under the suspicion that perhaps Messrs. Gerson and Nipe were just trying to get the protection of religious freedom for online piracy.

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