Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Electronic body parts thieves coming soon?

Reading your palm, for security's sake
Biometric scans for identification are gaining popularity, amid worries their vulnerability to misuse

By Anne Eisenberg
Sunday, December 29, 2013
 The technology can be used at a public library for checking out a book without the need for a library card. (Fujitsu)
The new Celsius H730, a Fujitsu laptop, can be ordered with a palm vein sensor called Palm-Secure.

They aren’t taking any chances at Barclays Bank in Britain. Stating an account number and other bona fides isn’t enough to get to your money at the bank’s wealth and investment management service. As an additional safeguard, a program analyzes customers’ voices when they call in, to make sure they match a voice print on file.

At some ATM’s in Japan, getting cash isn’t simply a matter of entering a bank card and a password. The machine scans the vein pattern in a person’s palm before issuing money.

And, since September, people have been using fingerprint sensors on their iPhone 5s to unlock their devices, or to shop at the iTunes store.

These are three examples of biometrics systems, which have long been the province of border control, military surveillance and national intelligence. Now they are rapidly moving into the consumer mainstream to unlock laptops and smartphones, or as a supplement to passwords at banks, hospitals and libraries.

But the technology also comes with a host of troublesome issues about its vulnerability to hacking and misuse.

The stakes can be high when inherently personal biometric data is hijacked, said Bruce Schneier, a security expert and author of “Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust That Society Needs to Thrive.” “If someone steals your password, you can change it,” he said. “But if someone steals your thumbprint, you can’t get a new thumb. The failure modes are very different.”

Despite these concerns, the technology is making its way onto the office desktop — and the laptop, too. A new Fujitsu laptop, the Celsius H730, released recently in Japan, can be ordered with a choice of biometrics: a fingerprint sensor or, for an additional $116, a palm scanner instead. To unlock the computer, you hold your palm over the sensor and the software checks your vein pattern to make sure you’re the authorized user, said Joseph Dean, a Fujitsu spokesman.

Biometric devices can identify vein patterns in the finger, the back of the hand or the palm, said Anil K. Jain, a professor and expert in biometrics at Michigan State University. The technology works quite well, he said, adding that “it’s difficult to forge because the vascular patterns are inside the body.” The veins are revealed by a harmless infrared light.

Palm scans are gaining the most traction in the vein-reading market, Professor Jain said. Identifying features include the thickness of the veins, and the angles and locations where they intersect. Some systems combine fingerprints and finger vein patterns.

A different biometric, voice printing, is offered by Nuance Communications to many customers, including Barclays. The voice print is based on about 100 characteristics, including pitch and accent, said Brett Beranek, a manager at Nuance.

Voice prints, even if stolen, will not lead to identity theft, he said. “If someone did compromise the database, there’s nothing they could do with it,” he said. “We are not storing people’s voices, but characteristics of their voice.”

Consumers shouldn’t expect that biometric technologies will work flawlessly, Professor Jain said. They can be a good solution, balancing convenience with security. “But they are not foolproof,” he said. “There could and will be situations where a person may be rejected or confused with someone else.” For example, people could be barred by a fingerprint mismatch from access to their smartphones or bank accounts.

Fingerprint sensing will be the most popular biometric identifier for the next few years, said Alan Goode, author of a recent report on the mobile biometric security market and founder of Goode Intelligence in London. Apple’s introduction of fingerprint scanning, and many other manufacturers’ plans to offer similar services, “are going to make fingerprint sensors a common feature on mobile devices,” he said. A majority will be used to unlock phones, but they will also increasingly be linked to mobile payment services.

Ram Ravi, an analyst who studies the global use of biometrics for Frost & Sullivan, agreed that fingerprints would be the leading biometric system for the next few years. “But palm reading is also developing into a huge market,” he said. Iris- and facial-identification biometrics are growing rapidly as well.

Mr. Schneier, the security expert, said biometric solutions could be attractive in consumer goods so long as the processing occurs entirely on the device. (Apple has stated that all biometric processing on its iPhone occurs directly on the phone.)

When information is handled and stored on the chip, the only problem — certainly a maddening one — may be occasions when the device doesn’t recognize people and won’t let them in, he said.

But if the information is stored on a central server and unauthorized parties gain access to it, that is an entirely different problem.

“The centralized database is the scary part,” Mr. Schneier said. “That’s where the risk is. If it’s hacked into, suddenly everyone’s biometrics are stolen.”

Email: novelties@nytimes.com.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Dr. YouTube!

Meet Mike Evans, Toronto family doctor and YouTube sensation

Dr. Mike Evans's health education videos cover topics ranging from smoking to flatulence. His YouTube videos have attracted and international audience.

By Theresa Boyle
Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mike Evans is best known as the bespectacled, gap-toothed comic book character from YouTube whose health education videos have attracted more than eight million hits.

When his first video went viral two years ago, no one was more surprised than the Toronto doctor.

He sent the video — 23 and 1/2 Hours, about the health benefits of exercise — to his wife and hockey team. In less than a week, 17,000 people had viewed it.

To date, it has been viewed more than 3.7 million times around the world and translated into eight languages, including Arabic to Gaelic.

“I remember checking it every 15 minutes, watching it just sort of take off,” Evans says.

Since then he has gone on to make 14 more videos — on everything from inflammatory bowel disease to acne — and additional productions are in the works.

The 49-year-old family physician from St. Michael’s Hospital appears to have found a magic formula for sating a voracious public appetite for health information in a digestible, entertaining format.

Videos by Evans, who is also a University of Toronto medical school professor, are essentially visual lectures that provide patients with tools — often non-medical interventions — to help them treat, better understand and prevent common maladies.

He refers to them as “edutainment.”

Their comic book style makes them easily accessible. In black and red marker, they are drawn on whiteboards with Evans’ voice narrating.

In 23 and 1/2 Hours, Evans is shown as a detective — wearing a plaid cap and carrying a magnifying glass — on the hunt for “the single best thing we can do for our health.”

Before revealing the result of his investigation, he whets viewers’ appetite by telling them the staggering results of this special treatment. In certain doses and for certain populations, it can reduce pain and disability from knee arthritis by 47 per cent, progress to dementia by 50 per cent and death rates by 23 per cent.

The single intervention turns out to be a half-hour of daily exercise, even just walking.

“It worked for so many different health problems and that’s what I found so cool about it,” Evans exclaims in the video, giving the thumbs up.

He then goes on to highlight results of studies that show the health benefits of exercise, but he spares viewers from minutiae of scientific evidence. There’s no medical jargon; he uses simple language.

Despite their simplicity, the videos are highly professional, produced and directed by award-winning cinematographer Nicholas de Pencier. The producer of the acclaimed documentary Watermark, named one of the TIFF Top Ten for 2013, is Evans’ childhood friend.

The key to the videos’ success, says de Pencier, is the way they are shared.

“The peer-to-peer experience helps the credibility,” he says. “You are more likely to watch a video and get the benefit of its message when someone you know and trust sends it to you. It’s kind of a vetting process.”

de Pencier also credits “the warm hand” of illustrator Liisa Sorsa. On this day, in a film studio near Lansdowne and Bloor, Sorsa is drawing caricatures of “Doctor Mike” in a new production about lower back pain.

Sorsa’s hand is shown throughout the videos, drawing characters on a whiteboard. The final products are shown in high speed.

“It is a very analogue approach to storytelling,” de Pencier explains. “In an age where the sky is the limit when it comes to graphics and fancy tricks, there is something about watching how Liisa’s creative process unfolds on screen. This is an intimate person-to-person thing.”

A video on smoking, released by the team in December, attracted 10,000 views in the first four days.

“We just released one, no pun intended, on flatulence as well,” Evans says. “That one had 5,000 or 6,000 views this week.”

So popular are the videos that acquaintances who don’t know any better occasionally advise Evans that he should watch them.

But one of the biggest measures of their success has been their entry into the popular culture. One episode of the award-winning television series Orange is the New Black is about the main character lobbying for the reopening of a jogging track at a women’s prison. She succeeds after telling prison officials about 23 and 1/2 Hours, rhyming off facts and figures from it in her arguments.

After seeing that video, Deb Kennedy, manager of rehabilitation for the Sunnybrook Holland musculoskeletal program, recruited Evans to make a video for patients getting hip and knee replacements.

The best thing about working with him is he doesn’t take himself too seriously, she says.

“He makes us laugh. Even when we are having a serious meeting, he has us in stitches.”

Affable and approachable, his personality comes out in his productions, she says, noting that the video about joint-replacement surgery was a stark contrast to another one she commissioned in 2006.

“That one is so boring and dry …. Patients may not catch all of it because it is so boring,” Kennedy says.

Evans’ video, on the other hand, is so good that other hospitals across Canada have asked to use it, she says.

“We love his user-friendly style. It’s animated and patients love watching it. It catches their attention and they stay tuned,” Kennedy says.

The Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation helped fund that video and for other productions, advocacy groups and charities affiliated with medical conditions have helped cover the costs.

The videos can cost up to $45,000 to make and Evans is now looking into the possibility of crowdfunding for causes that don’t have associated funding sources.

For a family doctor, his career has been unconventional. He never set out to become a doctor, completing an undergraduate degree in English literature from McGill.

After graduating, he spent a few years operating a drill on an ice island in the Arctic as part of a research program. He then travelled to India, where he worked with Mother Teresa in Kolkata, helping people with leprosy.

He ended up studying family medicine at McMaster.

Evans has now become something of a social entrepreneur, having established several private businesses that make videos and other health education tools.

Being open to failure is part of his success, he says. A venture to educate seniors about drugs by giving them hockey cards — explaining side effects and efficacy — when they picked up their prescriptions was a total flop, he admits.

The father of three, married to another family doctor, says he is “so lucky” and that his career has “spilled out in different ways that I wouldn’t have ever have imagined.”

Indeed, his YouTube audience continues to grow at an enviable pace.

“I used to joke that I used to see 20 patients a day,” he says, “and now (it’s) a couple hundred grand a month.”

"Ladies and gentlemen ..... Stephen Harper and The Herringtonbone"!

Yet another reason not to trust this man or his government ..... DRAP is CRAP!

Secret memo casts doubt on fed's claims for science library closures

Goal stated in 'culling' research, not preserving and sharing through digitization

Andrew Nikiforuk/TheTyee.ca
Monday, December 30, 2013
Prime Minister Stephen Harper: His government's zeal to reduce deficit is destroying vital research on fish and water systems, say scientists.

A federal document marked "secret" obtained by Postmedia News indicating the closure or destruction of more than half a dozen world famous science libraries has little if anything to do with digitizing books as claimed by the Harper government.

In fact, the document, a compendium of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, mentions only the "culling of materials" as the "main activities" involved as the science libraries are reduced from nine to two. Specifically, it details "culling materials in the closed libraries or shipping them to the two locations and culling materials in the two locations to make room for collections from closed libraries."

In contrast, a government website says the closures are all about digitizing the books and providing greater access to Canadians -- a claim federal and retired scientists interviewed by The Tyee say is not true.

An agency spokesperson did not answer a series of questions posed by The Tyee. Instead he referred The Tyee to the government website.

As reported by The Tyee earlier this month and again here, scientists are sounding alarms about libraries dismantled by the government, including the historic St. Andrews Biological Station (SABS) in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, where famed environmental scientist Rachel Carson did some of her research for her groundbreaking book on toxins, Silent Spring. Also shut down are the famous Freshwater Institute library in Winnipeg and one of the world's finest ocean collections at the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Scientists who use the libraries say priceless information -- essential for the legal and political security of Canada's waterways as well as the defence of the longest coastline in the world -- was thrown into dustbins, burned or scavenged by private consultants. In Winnipeg, a consultant's group operating for Manitoba Hydro backed up a truck to collect materials from the dismantled library.

An undetermined percentage of books were relocated to facilities in Sidney or Halifax. The federal government spokesperson would not tell The Tyee what percentage or how decisions about what to keep and what to lose were made.

A DFO scientist anonymously told The Tyee, "The cuts were carried out in great haste apparently in order to meet some unknown agenda. No records have been provided with regard to what material has been dumped or the value of this public property. No formal attempt was made to transfer material to libraries of existing academic institutions."


Scientists have variously condemned the dismantling of the one of the world's finest aquatic libraries as a natural tragedy, a series of criminal acts and information destruction unworthy of a democracy.

"The fact that many materials were thrown away or given away is heartbreaking to those of us who are dedicated to this field of research (marine science and fisheries) and the history of science in Canada," says Peter Wells, a prominent marine environmental scientist at Dalhousie University.

Wells, who is also an aquatic toxicologist, spent a career working as a public servant for Environment Canada (1974-2006) on a variety of environmental issues. "That we as a society are condoning information destruction and core library closures in Canada is unbelievable, and in my view, undemocratic and probably criminal," adds the scientist.

Library closures took place in such a chaotic fashion that individuals who had books out on loan from Winnipeg's Freshwater Institute library, for instance, were not even contacted or asked to return the books.

"I can confirm the Freshwater Institute library did not bother to retrieve any of the books I had out on loan -- I was never contacted to return them," emailed one prominent scientist, who asked to remain unnamed in this article for fear of federal government reprisals.

"Also, no attempt was made to ask what I wanted done with the books I had donated to the library, which I think should be normal library protocol. I think this behaviour indicates either the 'consolidation' effort was extremely short on staff, or that DFO didn't really care."

Small savings

The federal document, part of the Deficit Reduction Action Plan (DRAP), confirms another argument made by scientists critical of the cuts: the savings they deliver will be tiny compared to the value of the materials lost.

In fact the closure of libraries containing vital material nearly 100 years old on the state of Canada's fisheries, freshwater ecosystems and oceans will save taxpayers just $443,000 a year, according to the document.

In one case the government closed the climate-controlled library at the St. Andrews Biological Station in New Brunswick just after the government spent millions modernizing the famous facility.

The collections contained millions of dollars worth of irreplaceable books, reports, diaries and statistics.

Mike De Souza, the enterprising national political reporter covering energy and environment for Postmedia News, obtained the document under the Access to Information Act.

25 'tracks' for spending cuts

The document lists 25 "tracks" or changes within the Department of Fisheries being carried out to help reduce Canada's federal budget deficit. Very few of those tracks' descriptions make claims for bolstering or improving marine safety, contaminant research, protection of fish habitat or the efficacy of the Coast Guard.

Instead, the document details numerous actions which create reductions or total elimination of these environmental services.

They include:

The shrinkage of 20 Marine Communications and Traffic Service centres down to 11
The reduction of Inshore Rescue Boats
The reduction of Marine Search and Rescue services
The defunding of species at risk recovery oriented programs in the Maritimes
The closure of 21 Conservation and Protection offices, as "part of a broader departmental footprint reduction plan." Comox, Pender Harbour, Quesnel, Hazelton and Clearwater all lost offices
The closure of the Kitsilano Lifeboat Station in Vancouver
Closure of the Experimental Lakes Area
The killing of all biological effects contaminant research within the department

The document explains that ending the capacity to do public research on freshwater and ocean pollutants such as bitumen spills "involves eliminating the in-house research program aimed at biological effects of contaminants, pesticide and oil and gas, and establishing a small advisory group to oversee the outsourcing of priority research needs."

'High profile' controversies noted

The document reflects the Harper government's interest in gauging media and citizen awareness of its wide-ranging program of cutting environmental protections, changing related laws and eliminating federal jobs in various ridings. Among the "tracks" labeled "high profile" for the controversies they have generated are:

"Consolidation of Marine Communications and Traffic Services Functions" which shuts down nine of 20 marine distress call monitoring stations

"Conservation and Protection Office Closures" -- 21 closures in all, including five in B.C.

"Closure of Kitsilano Lifeboat Station in Vancouver," about which the document notes "since the announcement of the closure there has been intense local media and public reaction against the decision (concerns regarding boater/swimmer safety)"

"Closure of the Experimental Lakes Research Facility" -- "This track has been the subject of intense media attention," notes the document

"Outsourcing Research Capability of Contaminant Research" -- "Since the announcement, media focus has been on the capacity of the Department and its scientists to provide adequate and timely advice to the government on the potential effects of accidental spills of contaminants, especially oil, gas and diluted bitumen into the environment"

"Prioritization and Restructuring Habitat Management and Associated Ecosystems Management Activities" -- "This track has been the focus of much media attention -- concerns with this Government's commitment to protecting habitat areas"

Track number six, "Rationalization of Library Services" was not given the label of "High Profile."
Read more: Federal Politics, Environment

Calgary resident Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about the energy industry for two decades and is a contributing editor to The Tyee. Find his previous articles published in The Tyee here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

When the police don't know a law they're supposed to uphold .....

Hundreds searched while fully naked, officer admits

Strip -search method used by Toronto constable against police policy as set out by top court

Liam Casey
Staff Reporter
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Constables Sasa Sljivo, right, and Tim Lee, arrested Lerondo Smith on July 9, 2012 and asked him to remove his clothing until he was fully naked. (Metroland Media Toronto File Photo)

A Toronto police officer recently testified in court that he has stripped “hundreds” of people completely naked as part of routine searches, despite police policy stating that must not be done.

Constable Sasa Sljivo’s shocking admission came during a trial for Lerondo Smith, charged with drug trafficking and breaching conditions.

To strip someone completely naked is against rules laid out by the Supreme Court in 2001. Any evidence discovered during a fully naked search can be deemed a breach of charter rights and tossed from court, thereby jeopardizing a case.

The Star sent an extensive email to police with a dozen questions about Sljivo’s testimony. Police spokesman Mark Pugash told the Star that “investigators are looking into this case. We will take whatever action is necessary.”

Repeated attempts to reach Sljivo were unsuccessful.

On December 13, the Crown dropped the charges against Smith when the judge tossed the evidence — 6.5 grams of crack that Smith had allegedly stashed in his buttocks — on the grounds of unlawful arrest, stemming from “significant inconsistencies in police testimony.”

While the strip search didn’t weigh in her decision, Justice Bonnie Croll did voice concern about it.

Sljivo, a beat cop in 22 Division, told court on December 11 he had Smith strip naked after being arrested on July 9, 2012. He then said this was standard procedure.

“In the hundreds of (strip) searches, sir, it’s been your practice to have the prisoner be completely naked?” asked Smith’s lawyer, Erec Rolfe.

“Yes,” Sljivo replied.

The officer said he was unaware of the court case that laid out the proper procedure.

Under questioning by Crown attorney Maryse Nassar, Sljivo confirmed his strip-search method and the reasons for it.

“So that there’s never any concealment method,” he replied. “If somebody is wearing an extra-long shirt, per se, that might cover an area where we need to check and we might miss something.”

“You indicated you had done about 200 strip searches or did you say —”

“Hundreds,” Sljivo said, interrupting Nassar.

“I’m sorry, OK,” Nassar said. “Have you ever done it any other way in all the strip searches you’ve done?”

“No,” Sljivo said.

He told court he was trained by his coach officer, a police mentor, to strip-search people fully naked.

The Supreme Court put in place its rules so as to maintain a suspect’s dignity and to prevent a demeaning and humiliating experience in violation of charter rights.

Toronto police adopted those rules in its procedure information sheet regarding “searches of person.”

Its policy states exactly how “level 3” searches should be conducted: in a private room with closed doors, with officers of the same sex, and without videotaping. Once a piece of clothing is removed, the person is searched along with the clothing; then it must be replaced and the next piece removed, and so on.

In April, a judge threw out a case against a 12-year-old boy who brought a gun to an elementary school because he had been stripped naked after his arrest.

Sljivo and Constable Tim Lee arrested Smith for being too close to the intersection of Lake Shore Boulevard West and Islington Avenue in violation of conditions from a previous arrest.

The officers told court they recalled an image of Smith on the “bail board” at 22 Division. They arrested Smith, then took him into the station, where they received authorization from their boss to conduct a “level 3” strip search, which is normal for those joining the general population in jail.

“It’s for officer safety to make sure Mr. Smith isn’t carrying any further weapons or any other evidence,” Sljivo told court.

The officers asked Smith to remove clothing, which they searched, until he was completely naked. At that point Smith pulled 6.5 grams of crack from his buttocks, Sljivo testified. The officers then told Smith to spread his buttocks to make sure he wasn’t hiding anything else, Sljivo told court. Smith was charged with trafficking and breach of conditions.

Rolfe, Smith’s lawyer, called the officer’s testimony “very problematic.”

“It’s shameful that more than a decade after the Supreme Court ruling police are still doing this,” he told the Star. “It’s a humiliating procedure. I hope this case results in a change in police training.”

In an email, the Star asked Pugash whether Sljivo or Lee have ever been disciplined, whether the completely naked strip searches are pervasive, and what strip-search training is given to officers. It’s also not known if Sljivo’s “hundreds” of improper strip searches have jeopardized other cases.

Pugash did not answer those specific questions.

The force has come under fire this year about the sheer number of strip searches being conducted. The police board now requires the chief to report the number of “level 3” and “level 4” strip searches annually.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Air Harper

Harper government style 'Participaction'

Will taxpayers ever be rid of these freeloaders?

"Stop thieves!"

Good Day Readers:

And bear in mind that these untrustworthy spend thrifts will cost taxpayers even more once their suspensions are lifted in two years to re-open their offices unless, of course, they resign in the meantime - we should be so lucky!

Something to watch. The Auditor General of Canada and his staff are looking at the expenses of all remaining senators over the past two years and unlike his predecessor is prepared to name individual senators and amounts. He was scheduled to release three reports the first of which was to be this month. Don't you wish they'd quietly .... off into the dark one night? Besides, upon return who'll touch them they're now radioactive back to simply collect a Big, Fat, Juicy paycheque and benefits package!

What to look for? More impropriety especially among senators doing lucrative "part time" work such as giving speeches, corporate directorships, etc.

Clare L. Pieuk
Cost of closing Senator Patrick Brazeau's office tops $50,000
Jordan Press
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Ottawa November 5, 2013 - Senator Patrick Brazeau arrives on Parliament Hill as senators vote on a motion to suspend embattled Senators Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy for their inappropriate expenses in Ottawa. (Photo: Justin Tanng/National Post)

OTTAWA — It cost more than $50,000 to close up Senator Patrick Brazeau’s office, putting him at the top of office spending in the upper chamber for the most recent three months of expenses, according to new spending figures.

In all, Brazeau’s office expense claims for the last three months before being suspended without pay from the upper chamber totalled just over $53,000, the highest of any senator’s office spending during that period. Another suspended senator, Pamela Wallin, had office expenses of about $44,358, making her the fourth highest spender in that category between September 1 and November 30.

Senator Mike Duffy, the third senator under suspension, had office expenses of $34,527.88, an amount that is not out of line with what he has previously expensed, but less than double the almost $19,824.36 expensed for his office budget between June 1 and August 31.

The figures are all contained in quarterly expense reports posted to the Senate’s website this week.

The amounts give an idea of how much it cost the upper chamber to provide severance pay to the staffers in each office, who were laid off when their senators were suspended.

“The staff of these senators received their eligible salary and vacation pay after the Senate voted for their suspension, which are the main components of the expenditures reported in staff and office budget for these senators,” a Senate spokeswoman said in an email to Postmedia News.

The seven employees who worked in the offices of the three senators were dismissed from their jobs one day after the Senate voted on November 5 to suspend Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau without pay. The employees, who served as executive assistants and policy advisors, had their dental benefits, disability and life insurance cancelled.

The Senate offered affected employees help in finding new work. Medical benefits were extended until December 31.

There may still be more costs reported for the three suspended senators when the Senate releases its next batch of expense figures in about three months. The dollar figures in the quarterly expense reports are for those expenses that were reimbursed or repaid during that period and not necessarily for expenses made during that reporting period.

For instance, retired Liberal senator Rod Zimmer’s report shows just over $4,800 in office spending, and $5,339.95 in “regular” travel back to Manitoba, the province he represents. Zimmer retired on August 6, citing ill health.

The quarterly expense reports don’t provide details of how money was spent, but provide high-level totals for various spending categories: office and staff, hospitality, housing, and travel.

The Senate was to discuss a new way of reporting spending figures, but that debate has not yet taken place.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Alison Redford and the Big $31 Whopper ..... Jeezus it must have weighed a couple kilograms!

Canadian Taxpayers Federation puts Alison Redford at top of 'Naughty List' over $900 hotel stay

Tuesday, December 24, 2013
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has put Alberta Premier Alison Redford at the top of its provincial government "naughty" list for staying at a Washington hotel that charged $876 a night. (Canadian Press)

EDMONTON - The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has put Alberta Premier Alison Redford at the top of its provincial government “naughty” list for staying in a Washington hotel that charged $876 a night.

The federation says Redford’s posted expense claims also show she charged taxpayers for $22 coffees and a $31 hamburger while in the U.S. capital.

The CTF later said on its website that Redford's office had clarified that the $22 claimed for coffees was for pots of coffee.

Other Redford expenses in 2013 included an almost $8,000 airfare to New Brunswick and a $6,000 flight to Chicago.

The taxpayers group also singled out Thomas Lukaszuk (loo-KAH’-zuhk), who was Deputy Premier and Advanced Education Minister until a recent cabinet shuffle.

It points out he spent more than $9,000 on a trip to Europe and claimed 17 flights between Edmonton and Calgary.

Justice Minister Jonathan Denis heads the “nice” list for _ quote _ “having the most boring expense claim two years’ running.”
Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk makes the naughty list for being "... a ceaseless traveller, he doesn't like to stay at home and since he has to be deprived of staying at home, nothing but the very best hotel rooms and room service for Thomas Lukaszuk. You'll have a hard time looking through his expenses and finding him staying at a hotel room for less than $500 a night. I think between Dave Hancock and Thomas Lukaszuk, the government of Alberta is providing an unofficial subsidy to the Pallister Hotel in Calgary." The Calgary Sun
Human Services Minister Dave Hancock makes the naughty list:

"Charging taxpayers for his law society membership year after year. In two years alone, he dinged taxpayers $4,530 so he could remain a full active member. He's a big fan of staying at the Pallister in Calgary ($600 a night; also $600 a night at the Banff Springs Hotel). He doesn't seem to want to settle for much less than that. For these reasons he makes the naughty list very easily,"Derek Fildebrandt at the Canadian Taxypayers Federation office in Calgary told The Calgary Sun.
Don't let the picture fool you. Premier Alison Redford makes the naughty list this year for "her handling of the Olympic fiasco racking up to $23,000 in personal expenses during her Olympic junket. The Calgary Sun
Finance Minister Doug Horner "... is breaking the government's promise to return the budget to balance. Also, he refused to provide his expenses to me. Everyone else complied to (FOIP) requests except for him. That's a big lump of coal. He gets a very big lump of coal, " Derek Fildebrandtat the Canadian Taxpayers Federation office in Calgary told The Calgary Sun.
Tourist Minister Christine Cusanell "... gets two lumps of coal in her stocking this year. She was forced to pay $10,400 in inappropriate expenses (like using her government card to fly her mom and daughter to the Olympics. These have not only crossed the moral line, they have crossed the legal line. She also charged taxpayers through her ministerial budget for her living expenses, all the while she was pocketing her MLA living allowances. That' not good at all. But, Santa does like apologies; and she has apologized, unlike every other member of the cabinet for inappropriate expenses," Derek Fildebrandt at the Canadian Federation office in Calgary told us. The Calgary Sun

"Mike The Taxpayer Energizer Bunny" just keeps on spending, and spending and spending .....

Did you see that Corporal Greg Horton ..... well did you?

Good Day Readers:

At least Pamela Wallin had the brains to cool it with her travel expenses but not Mike Duffy it seems. Senator Mac Harb resigned so he could keep his pension otherwise if he's charged and convicted he would lose it. Will Senators Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau do the same. In the case of Patrick Brazeau that issue may take care of itself. He's facing two criminal charges in 2014 assault and sexual assault. If found guilty of one or both he's gone from the senate. Good riddance!

Clare L. Pieuk
Mike Duffy claimed more than $23,000 in travel expenses amid senate scandal

Senator made claims for journeys between Ottawa and Prince Edward Island
By Jordan Press
Wednesday, December 25, 2013

OTTAWA — In the six months after the Senate determined his primary residence was in Ottawa, Senator Mike Duffy claimed expenses of more than $23,000 for travel to and from the province he represents in the red chamber.

During the same time period, from June 1 to November 30, Duffy made no expense claims for his home in the nation’s capital, according to the most recent quarterly spending figures posted to the Senate’s website Monday.

According to the Senate, claiming for what’s called “regular” travel isn’t related to where a senator’s main residence is.  It is simply meant to cover travel between the capital and the province or territory a senator represents. Duffy appears not to have broken any rules when he claimed costs for travelling between Ottawa and Prince Edward Island.

It’s unclear when the expenses were actually incurred; The expenses could have been incurred anytime between July and November; the quarterly expense reports only show the total amounts processed by the Senate during that time.

Between September 1 and November 30, Duffy expensed about $6,616 for “regular” travel. In the prior three months, Duffy’s expense claims totalled more than $16,000, according to the quarterly expense reports.

During the same six-month period in 2012, Duffy claimed about $33,000 in regular travel.

On Tuesday, the Senate said regular travel encompasses “all trips between a senator’s province/territory and the NCR (National Capital Region).” That’s a separate issue from the “provincial residence” that a senator identifies “for administrative purposes as his or her principal home within the province or territory for which he or she is appointed” to become eligible for a $22,000-a-year housing allowance to pay for accommodations while on Senate business in Ottawa.

A spokesman for government Senate leader Claude Carignan declined to comment on the newly posted spending figures, saying they couldn’t comment on numbers they haven’t seen.

Duffy stopped claiming a living expense after the Senate determined he had run afoul of housing rules, even though auditors found the rules about claiming expenses for a secondary residence in Ottawa to be ambiguous. In the most recent expense figures, neither he nor Senator Patrick Brazeau, who was also found in violation of Senate rules, expensed a dollar for housing in the capital region.

On November 5, Duffy, Brazeau and Senator Pamela Wallin were stripped of all but their titles over charges of “gross negligence” in the use of their expense accounts. They were suspended without pay and lost their offices, their staff and the ability to file expense claims with the Senate.

Wallin made deep cuts to her travel spending in the three months after her travel expenses chastised in an audit made public in mid-August.

Wallin’s regular travel spending — for trips between Ottawa and Saskatchewan — declined to just under $6,300 between September 1 and November 30 from the $20,925 noted in the prior quarter, a decrease of about 70 per cent. Her other travel spending declined to $872.04 — a drop of about 93 per cent from the almost $12,500 claimed between June 1 and August 31.

One year ago, Wallin claimed $7,312.36 in regular spending and almost $43,500 in other travel between September 1 and November 30, 2012.

The recent change in Wallin’s spending came after a critical audit of her travel spending, that included recommendations that she be grounded from travelling without the Senate’s consent. Those recommendations weren’t formally adopted before the Senate voted for her suspension.

Wallin, Brazeau and Duffy are under investigation by the RCMP, along with former Liberal senator Mac Harb over allegations of breach of trust and fraud. (Harb was not reimbursed for any claims during the quarter; he resigned in late August after repaying about $231,000 in housing claims).

Duffy faces separate allegations related to a $90,000 payment from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright that covered the repayment of his questionable housing claims, and tens of thousands in contracts awarded through his office to an old friend for what the Mounties allege was little or no work.

None of the allegations has been tested in court, nor have any charges been laid.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Dumb and dumber versus sleazy and sleazier!

Text Message Received: "R U OK? I can get you $$$. I sue ppl 4 U!"

Reply: "WTF? I'm writhing in pain about to expire in 10 minutes writing my last will and testament you Big A-Hole!" .... off you vulture!

Good Day Readers:

Can you imagine if this service came to Canada? Laugh as you will but some judges here also display a beyond woeful lack of internet related knowledge. Case in point The Douglas Inquiry I (Douglas II - The Second Season, hopefully, will resume sometime this decade). The learned Judges thought just because the pictures had not appeared on the pornographic site Dark Cavern for a couple years plus complainant Alex Chapman and his lawyer had been paid $25,000 in shut the .... up money the coast was clear to proceed with the appointment. Man oh man did they ever .... up - majorly!
They failed to realize once an image, or in this case images, are posted to the internet they're potentially there for ever, and ever and ever and ever or until you expire whichever comes first. Any 15-year-old knows that - such a lack of understanding was truly shocking!

An Aside

Prior to Douglas Inquiry I being formally announced, a lawyer friend with an anonymous blog sent CyberSmokeBlog a copy of e-mail they had received bearing a Shaw address but meaningless identifier claiming it contained the 30 or so unredacted nude photographs of Lori Douglas. Said solicitor claimed they had not followed the instructions to activate the three links it contained. CSB is neither a prude nor pervert but it did to satisfy itself this was not a hoax. It wasn't. There they were completely unredacted. Later during Inquiry I CyberSmokeBlog was asked by a Winnipeg reporter for a national network for a copy of the electronic message it had received.

Going through CSB's archives it was located but by then the aforementioned three links had been deactivated. At the time the e-mail was received could the pictures have been downloaded? But of course. Were they? No. What's amusing is at the Inquiry the Committee made a Big Deal out of the fact it was seeing the photographs for the first time and how the public would be shielded from seeing them. Much, much too late boys and girls of Douglas I. As a matter of fact, Above the Law had even posted them with a red maple leaf covering Ms Douglas' private parts. Bear in mind ATL is one of the most popular American legal blogs.

Clare L. Pieuk
The Ohio Supreme Court does not know what a text message is
By Elie Mystal
Tuesday, December 24, 2013

When I find myself pontificating on lawyer propriety, you know things are bad. But a new ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court leaves me with no choice. Ohio has decided that it’s okay for lawyers to text message accident victims to advertise their services.

Can you imagine sitting in a hospital, recovering from injuries, and then getting a text message from an unknown number: “R U OK? I can get U $$$. I sue ppl 4 U!”

We live in a world where the Ohio Supreme Court said that such solicitations are “helpful.” In other news, we live in a world where old judges who don’t know what the f**k they’re talking about get to make the rules about technology they don’t understand ….

The Ohio Supreme Court approved an advisory position from its Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline. From the Columbus Dispatch:
[L]awyers are permitted to use text messages to solicit business, assuming they comply with other rules that regulate attorney advertising. Lawyers sending the messages are required to pick up all the costs of the texting.
“The opinion tries to set out the parameters so that everyone plays by the same rules,” said Rick Dove, the Board’s secretary.
Dove said the opinion reflects changing technology that gives lawyers another way to communicate with prospective clients.
Some people argue that there shouldn’t be any restrictions at all on lawyer advertising. I find that these people tend to be social Darwinists who think that stupid people exist for the profit and merriment of smarter people, but the pro-advertising faction acts like lawyer advertising is a way to protect and inform people of their rights.

There are people — especially the weakest and dumbest among us — who are actually ignorant of their rights after accidents. I could argue that that’s the fault of a public education system that doesn’t teach basic civics to citizens. But whatever, the Ohio Supreme Court is not about to reform American high school education.

There are, however, lots of ways to ameliorate the problem of uninformed victims without encouraging desperate attorneys to circle like buzzards over accident victims. One might want to regulate all the tricks insurance companies use to bully unrepresented victims into settlements. Hell, one might even relax statues of limitations to give victims every opportunity to learn their rights post accident and (hopefully) recovery. If I wanted to get real liberal, I would even suggest hiring public employees whose job it is to educate victims about their rights and options. There are lots of ways to solve this problem. Lawyer text advertising is the laziest and probably most ineffective.

Victoria Nowarah, a 20-year-old accident victim interviewed by the Columbus Dispatch, explained the problem with lawyer advertising quite nicely:
“The only thing I worry about is the lawyer being genuine,” she said. “Do they really want to help you win your case or do they just want money? Do they want to help you the best way possible or rip you off? I could see a situation happening where the victim really doesn’t need a lawyer, but the lawyer won’t tell them that, because they want to get paid.”
Ah, from the mouths of babes. Every lawyer who will send you a text message solicitation “just want[s] money.” EVERY ONE. If helping you with your case happens to make them money, they’re down for that too. But there is no such thing as a lawyer who text-messages you after your accident who doesn’t think you need a lawyer.

Allowing lawyers to text victims is so obviously bad, you have to really ask why Ohio did this. From Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice:
This raises an issue that may be more troubling than sleazy lawyers who would engage in such offensive conduct. So the court says it’s cool. Does that suggest that the Ohio Supreme Court has no clue what it’s approving, that it has bought into the dulcet tones of marketing lawyers who just want to help people? Or does it suggest that the need for lawyers to make money trumps all considerations of decency and dignity?
My guess is that the Ohio Supreme Court is just so hopelessly out of touch and ignorant of technology that they approved this without even a passing understanding of what they were really doing. I’m accusing them of gross stupidity as opposed to active malice.

Think about this: Ohio still prohibits lawyers from calling victims on the phone. Nothing says “I have no clue how people use this technology” than a person who thinks receiving a robo-call is substantially less invasive than a text message. When was the last time you answered the phone from a number that you didn’t recognize? My mother does that. She’s old. When I get a phone call (not a text, not an email, but an actual ring-ring telephone call) from a number or a person I don’t recognize, I NEVER answer it.

But I can’t help reading my texts. If you get my number and text me, I have to read it, even as I am in the process of deleting it.

Moreover, do you remember the part where Ohio said lawyers could advertise via text as long as all of the advertising disclosures are made? Well, how do you do that in texts that are limited as to characters? You guessed it, MULTIPLE texts. So now, a lawyer can’t call me, but he can send eight freaking text messages directly to my phone.

Oh, and Ohio also says lawyers have to pick up any data charges for their solicitations … so there’s a rule that is IMPOSSIBLE to enforce. Who’s going to send a lawyer they’ve never met before a bill for 12 cents? And then there’s this:
The Board said that lawyers are not allowed to solicit business from prospective clients in Internet chat rooms, saying that chats would fall under the prohibition against “real-time or live conversation.”

Is it possible that nobody on the Ohio Supreme Court has ever sent or received a text message? Is it possible that the Ohio Supreme Court thinks of a cell phone as a “portable telephone” instead of a HUD display for your life? Is it possible that the Ohio Supreme Court doesn’t even know what a HUD is?

This is what happens when you have old people making rulings regulating technology they can’t be bothered to understand. Being against texted lawyer solicitations isn’t a “conservative” position, it’s a position based on a modern understanding to the technology involved.

I really hope somebody posts this on the Facebook page of one of the Ohio justices. Maybe they’ll send me a “letter to the editor” in the mail and I can post their response in 16 weeks.

Personal-injury lawyers can now pitch accident victims services via text messages [Columbus Dispatch]

The Future of Law: Now Even Sleazier

CyberSmokeBlog: Elie Mystal is a Harvard educated lawyer.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Thank God the Supreme Court of Canada is there to protect us from the Harper government!

Good Day Readers:

First we had the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling ordering the fundamentalist Harper government to bring the country's prostitution laws into the twenty-first century. Before that it was downtown eastside Vancouver's Insite the only legal supervised drug injection site in North America brought to you by a Liberal administration. It seems Stephen Harper would rather see drug addicts shooting up in filthy back alleys with dirty needles instead of providing a safer environment with medical staff to supervise injections. Insite does not provide drugs.

So what did "the forward thinking" Stephen Harper say at the time? " We as a government will not use taxpayers' money to fund drug use ....." to which CyberSmokeBlog would add, "They'd prefer to p..s it away on a useless Senate. Then federal Health Minister Tony Clement withdrew Insite's funding by revoking its exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It took a subsequent Charter based- challenge before the country's Supreme Court which Messrs Clement and Harper were dealt a richly deserved smack on the side of the head when it unanimously declared, in part, cancellation of Insite's CDSA exemption was:

"... arbitrary, undermining the very purposes of the Act which include public health and safety."

Can you imagine what the fundamentalist, puritanical, holier-than-thou Harperites would say of a scheme to pay workers in beer or especially pot? OMG, please save us again Supreme Court.

Clare L. Pieuk
Amsterdam has a deal for alcoholics: Work paid in beer
By Andrew Higgins
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A group of alcoholics in Amsterdam are given beer during breaks from their street cleaning job. (Jasper Juinen for The New York Times).
Fred Schiphorst 60, at left, making his rounds last week. "I'm not proud of being an alcoholic, but I am proud to have a job again." Mr. Schiphorst used to be a construction worker. (Jasper Juinen for The New York Times)

AMSTERDAM — After more than a decade out of work because of a back injury and chronic alcoholism, Fred Schiphorst finally landed a job last year and is determined to keep it. He gets up at 5:30 a.m., walks his dog and then puts on a red tie, ready to clean litter from the streets of eastern Amsterdam.

“You have to look sharp,” said Mr. Schiphorst, 60, a former construction worker.

His workday begins unfailingly at 9 a.m. — with two cans of beer, a down payment on a salary paid mostly in alcohol. He gets two more cans at lunch and then another can or, if all goes smoothly, two to round off a productive day.

“I’m not proud of being an alcoholic, but I am proud to have a job again,” said Mr. Schiphorst, the grateful beneficiary of an unusual government-funded program to lure alcoholics off the streets by paying them in beer to pick up trash.

In addition to beer — the brand varies depending on which brewery offers the best price — each member of the cleaning team gets half a packet of rolling tobacco, free lunch and 10 euros a day, or about $13.55.

The program, started last year by the Rainbow Foundation, a private but mostly government-funded organization that helps the homeless, drug addicts and alcoholics get back on their feet, is so popular that there is a long waiting list of chronic alcoholics eager to join the beer-fueled cleaning teams.

One of the project’s most enthusiastic supporters is Fatima Elatik, District Mayor of eastern Amsterdam. As a practicing Muslim who wears a head scarf, Ms. Elatik personally disapproves of alcohol but says she believes that alcoholics “cannot be just ostracized” and told to shape up. It is better, she said, to give them something to do and restrict their drinking to a limited amount of beer with no hard alcohol.

Conservative members of the Amsterdam City Council have derided what they call the “beer project” as a waste of government money and a misguided extension of a culture of tolerance that has already made the city a mecca for marijuana users and spawned Europe’s best-known red-light district.

Hans Wijnands, the Director of the Rainbow Foundation, dismissed such complaints as political grandstanding at a time when, even in the Netherlands, “it is becoming more fashionable to support repressive measures.” Alarmed by what it said was a rise in crime caused by liberal drug laws, the Dutch government announced a plan in 2010 to bar foreigners from buying cannabis in so-called coffee shops, which sell marijuana and hashish legally. Amsterdam’s mayor ordered city police to ignore the ban, which was supposed to go into effect nationwide this year.

The idea of providing alcoholics with beer in return for work, he said, was first tried in Canada. It took off in the Netherlands in part because the country has traditionally shunned “zero tolerance” in response to addiction. Amsterdam now has three districts running beer-for-work street cleaning programs, and a fourth discussing whether to follow suit. Other Dutch cities are looking into the idea, too.

The basic idea is to extend to alcoholics an approach first developed to help heroin addicts, who have for years been provided with free methadone, a less dangerous substitute, in a controlled environment that provides access to health workers and counselors.

“If you just say, ‘Stop drinking and we will help you,’ it doesn’t work,” said Mr. Wijnands, whose foundation gets 80 percent of its financing from the state and runs four drug consumption rooms with free needles for hardened addicts. “But if you say, ‘I will give you work for a few cans of beer during the day,’ they like it.”

To shield the government from criticism that it is subsidizing drinking, the Rainbow Foundation insists that it pays for the beer given to Mr. Schiphorst and his fellow alcoholics out of its own funds. “For the government, it is hard to say, ‘We buy beer for a particular group of people,’ because other people will say, ‘I would like some beer, too,’ ” Mr. Wijnands said.

Page 2 of 2

“It would be beautiful if they all stopped drinking, but that is not our main goal,” he added. “You have to give people an alternative, to show them a path other than just sitting in the park and drinking themselves to death.”

The cleaning teams are forbidden from drinking while out on the street, but Mr. Schiphorst and his work mates say they get enough beer before they set out in the morning and during their lunch break to keep them going. “This is my medicine; I need it to survive,” said Mr. Schiphorst, his hands shaking as he gulped his first beer of the day at a morning meeting with Rainbow Foundation supervisors.

Ramon Smits, a member of Mr. Schiphorst’s team, said he used to knock back a bottle and more of whiskey or rum each day but now sticks to beer, consuming five cans a day at work and then another five or so in his free time. An immigrant from the former Dutch colony of Suriname, Mr. Smits said the project had not only helped him cut down his daily alcohol intake but also raised his self-esteem. “It keeps me away from trouble, and I’m doing something useful,” he said. “I help myself, and I help my community.”

Locals in the heavily immigrant eastern district who used to curse alcoholics for turning the area’s main park, Oosterpark, into an unruly outdoor bar now greet them with smiles as they do their cleaning rounds, dressed in orange jackets and carrying bright yellow garbage bags.

“This is not a beer project — it is a cleaning project,” said the District Mayor, Ms. Elatik, adding that it had proved far more successful in keeping drunks out of Oosterpark than previous government initiatives. On a recent afternoon, there were just three people drinking in the park, instead of the dozens who used to gather there, she said.

Until the beer-for-work program started, the authorities had tried to purge the park of drunks by banning alcohol there and stepping up patrols by security guards. But this only forced alcoholics to move to other parks in the area and led to fights with the guards. Mr. Schiphorst himself was detained after one such brawl.

“It is easy to say, ‘Get rid of them and punish them,’ ” Ms. Elatik said. “But that does not solve the problem.

“Maybe I’m a softy, but I am happy to be soft if it helps people. They are human beings with problems, not just a problem to be swept away.”

Mr. Schiphorst said he started drinking heavily in the 1970s after he found his wife, who was pregnant with twins, dead in their home from a drug overdose. He has since spent time in a clinic and tried other ways to quit but has never managed to entirely break his addiction.

“Every day is a struggle,” he said during a lunch break with his work mates. “You may see these guys hanging around here, chatting, making jokes. But I can assure you, every man you see here carries a little backpack with their own misery in it.”

Did you see that Canadian Members of Parliament and Senators ..... well did you? Don't forget to pack a suitcase .....

..... and you Corporal Greg Horton?

Denis MacShane says 'Quelle surprise' as he is jailed for expenses fraud

Denis MacShane, a former Labour MP, has been jailed for 6 months for making fake expenses claims

By Agencies
Monday, December 23, 2013

Denis MacShane said "Quelle surprise" as he was led from the dock after being sentenced to six months in prison for making bogus expense claims amounting to nearly £13,000.

The ex-MP previously pleaded guilty to false accounting by filing 19 fake receipts for "research and translation" services.

MacShane, 65, used the money to fund a series of trips to Europe, including one to judge a literary competition in Paris.

His guilty plea followed more than four years of scrutiny into his use of Commons allowances.
During this time the former Labour MP continued to receive a parliamentary salary and expenses - and was re-elected as an MP - despite the Commons authorities and the police being aware that he had admitted the fraud.

As he was led away from the dock, MacShane said "cheers" and then added "Quelle surprise."

Mr Justice Sweeney told MacShane his dishonesty had been "considerable and repeated many times over a long period."

"You have no one to blame but yourself," the judge said.

The judge said MacShane had shown "a flagrant breach of trust" in "our priceless democratic system."

"The deception used was calculated and designed," he said.

He told MacShane he must serve half his sentence in prison and was ordered to pay costs of £1,500 within two months.

Parliamentary authorities began looking at his claims in 2009 when the wider scandal engulfed Westminster, and referred him to Scotland Yard within months.

But the principle of parliamentary privilege meant detectives were not given access to damning correspondence with the Standards Commissioner in which MacShane detailed how signatures on receipts from the European Policy Institute (EPI) had been faked.

The body was controlled by MacShane and the General Manager's signature was not genuine. One message, dated October 2009, said he drew funds from the EPI so he could serve on a book judging panel in Paris.

It was not until after police dropped the case last year that the cross-party Standards Committee published the evidence in a report that recommended an unprecedented 12-month suspension from the House.

MacShane, who served as Europe Minister under Tony Blair, resigned as MP for Rotherham last November before the punishment could be imposed.

Police then reopened their inquiry in the light of the fresh information and he was charged in May - even though the letters are still not thought to be admissible in court.

The offence of false accounting covered 19 "knowingly misleading" receipts that MacShane filed between January 2005 and January 2008.

The court heard that MacShane incurred "genuine expenses" for similar amounts which he chose to recoup by dishonest false accounting rather than through legitimate claims.

Mr Sweeney said: "However chaotic your general paperwork was, there was deliberate, oft repeated and prolonged dishonesty over a period of years - involving a flagrant breach of trust and consequent damage to Parliament, with correspondingly reduced confidence in our priceless democratic system and the process by which it is implemented and we are governed."

The judge said he had considered a number of mitigating features, including MacShane's guilty plea, and that the offences were "not committed out of greed or for personal profit."

MacShane had suffered "a long period of public humiliation" and carried out the offences "at a time of turmoil" in his personal life, Mr Sweeney said.

The court heard MacShane and his wife divorced in 2003, his daughter Clare was killed in an accident in March 2004, his mother died in 2006 and his former partner, newsreader Carol Barnes - Clare's mother - died in 2008. 

The big mug shot shakedown! Coming to Canada soon?

Police Mug Shots Can Haunt the Innocent
By David Segal
Sunday 22, 2013
On a terrifying night in July 2011, Dr. Janese Trimaldi, a physician in Florida, locked herself in her bedroom to hide from a drunken boyfriend. He went into the kitchen, retrieved a knife and jimmied open the door.

She said he was more than double her size. "So when he got in," Dr. Trimaldi said, "he lifted me by my arms, the way you lift a child, and threw me six feet backward."

A neighbour called the police.

The boyfriend contended a scratch on his chest had been inflicted by Dr. Trimaldi with the knife. She was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The state dropped the charges, but a few months later, her arrest photograph turned up on a Florida mug-shot website and with it another mug shot from a 1996 arrest on an accusation of possession of marijuana and steroids. Records show that she was not prosecuted for either charge.

She paid $30 to have the images taken down from the site, but they appeared on others, one of which wanted $400 to pull the picture.

"I've read accounts of people paying and not having the photos removed," Dr. Trimaldi, 40 said. "Or they pay and appear on other sites." It's all a scheme, she added.

She is now gearing up for a job search and worries that two photographs could wreck years of hard work to practice medicine.

To Dr. Trimaldi and millions of other people now captured on these sites, this sounds like extortion.

The sites are legal in the United States. Some states are looking for ways to curb them. Utah, for example, prohibits county sheriffs from giving out booking photographs to a site that will charge to delete them.

But legislators are finding plenty of resistance, much of it from journalists who assert that public records should be just that: public. the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argues that any restriction on booking photographs impinges on editors' rights to determine what is newsworthy.

"What we have is a situation where people are doing controversial things with public records," said Mark Caramanica, a Director at the Committee, a nonprofit organization in Virginia. "But should we shutdown the entire data base because there are presumable bad actors out there?"

Paying hundreds to take a ;photo down feels like extortion.

Today there are more than 80 mug-shot sites in the United States. They get most of their images from police websites, where policies about whose mug shot is posted and for how long can vary form state to state.

Just Mugshots, started in 2012 by Arthur D'Antonio III, now has five employees, two of whom spend all their time dredging up images from 300 sources. The site has nearly 16.8 million such photos, Mr. D'Antonio said. He would not discuss profit, except to say, "We're seeing some growth."

JustMugshots has a "courtesy removal service," allowing people who have been exonerated, or never charged, to get their image taken down free. Mr. D'Antonio declined  to say how many people had been granted deletions.

People eager to vanish from mug-shot sites can try a mug-shot removal service, a mini-industry that has sprung up in the last two years, and is nearly as opaque as the one it is intended to counter. "I'm not going to go into what we do," said Tyronne Jacques, founder of RemoveSlander.com. "Whatever works."

Removal services aren't cheap - RemoveMyMug charges $899 for its "multiple mug shot package" - and owners of large reputation-management companies contend that they are a waste of money.

"Their business model is to find someone willing to pay to take down their image, which marks them as a target who is willing to pay more," says Mike Zammuto, President of the reputation company Brand.com.

Mug shots seem to attract big online crowds. Google's results are supposed to reflect both relevance and popularity, and mug-shot sites appear to rank exceptionally well, according to Doug Pierce, Founder of Cogney, a search engine optimization company based in Hong Kong.

"When others search your name, that link to Mugshots.com is way more attention-grabbing than your LinkedIn profile," Mr. Pierce said.

He added: "Once they click, they stare in disbelief and look around a bit, which means they stay on the page, rather than returning immediately to the search results. Google takes that as a sign that the site is relevant, and that boosts it even more."

CyberSmokeBlog: Recently an attractive, young Florida woman appeared on one of these sites. She was besieged with requests for dates.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt Santa is Canadian so relax children!

Good Day Boys and Girls:

Don't listen to all that malarkey you see and hear in the House of Commons. Paul "Liar, Liar Toaster's On Fire" Calandra, Stephen Harper's Parliamentary Secretary, doesn't know what he's talking about.
Santa is definitely a Canuck because he's chronically obese, only works one day a year and drinks just half the sherry left out for him on Christmas then obviously doesn't think twice about drinking and driving.

So you see boys and girls Santa is really "Senator" Mike Duffy shown here enjoying a little post Christmas taxpayer sherry.
Santa Mike doesn't have to work very hard, makes lots of taxpayer money and can live anywhere he wants.

Clare L. Pieuk
Buddeh, he's obviously a Brit
Tim Stanley
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Something I feel the need to draw the world's attention to: Canada's politicians are currently locked in a heated debate over whether or not Santa Claus is Canadian. They're wasting their time, he's obviously British. But we'll come to that later.

It started during a parliamentary discussion about Russian attempts to militarise the Arctic. The Government says that it will resist the Russkies at all costs; the Liberal Party, led by heartthrob Justin Trudeau, says that sovereignty ought to be something for oceanographers to decide. Trudeau's wimpishness led Conservative MP and parliamentary secretary Paul Calandra to argue, "All of a sudden the Liberals are suggesting that Santa Claus is no longer Canadian and that they would abandon the North Pole and abandon Santa Claus." To which Mr Trudeau replied in an interview, "Everyone knows that Santa Claus is Canadian … His postal code is H0H 0H0 … But the real issue is what do the cartographers say?" The New Democratic Party – Canada's Kraft-dinner eating surrender elks – said that Santa is a "citizen of the world". Yawn. I guess every country has its hippies.

As the National Post points out, this could spark a rift with other countries. Many think that Santa is Finnish. Closer to Canada, Alaskans feel they have a pretty good claim, too. From the Post:
“Santa Claus lives here,” says Nicole Blizinski, from Santa Claus House, located at 101 St. Nicholas Drive, North Pole, Alaska. “There are a variety of St. Nicks all over the world, and they all carry with them the embodiment of Christmas, but Santa Claus lives here — in the North Pole of Alaska.”
It gets weirder. During Senate confirmation hearings over the appointment of Bruce Heyman as the next US ambassador to Canada on Wednesday, Mr Hayman asserted that Santa was in fact a global citizen and was protected from Russian aggression by NORAD, the joint Canadian-American air defence initiative. Which is a relief to hear…

Okay, so everyone's obviously talking tongue-in-cheek but if we're going down this surreal path then it's time to assert the actual, 100 per cent, total, inviolable truth: Santa is not only British but he's decent, down-to-Earth British trash. Why? Because he's chronically obese, only works one day a year, and if he drinks just half the sherry left out for him on a Christmas Eve then he obviously doesn't think twice about drinking and driving. And if he is British then he probably lives in the Shetlands and comes under the protection of NATO and the Royal Navy's last remaining armoured pedalo. Debate over. The world's children can relax.