The IRS is facing a lawsuit after stealing 60 million medical records from 10 million patients. Healthcare IT News reported:
The Internal Revenue Service is now facing a class action lawsuit over allegations that it improperly accessed and stole the health records of some 10 million Americans, including medical records of all California state judges.
According to a report by Courthousenews.com, an unnamed HIPAA-covered entity in California is suing the IRS, alleging that some 60 million medical records from 10 million patients were stolen by 15 IRS agents. The personal health information seized on March 11, 2011, included psychological counseling, gynecological counseling, sexual/drug treatment and other medical treatment data.
“This is an action involving the corruption and abuse of power by several Internal Revenue Service agents,” the complaint reads. “No search warrant authorized the seizure of these records; no subpoena authorized the seizure of these records; none of the 10,000,000 Americans were under any kind of known criminal or civil investigation and their medical records had no relevance whatsoever to the IRS search. IT personnel at the scene, a HIPPA facility warning on the building and the IT portion of the searched premises, and the company executives each warned the IRS agents of these privileged records,” it continued.
According to the case, the IRS agents had a search warrant for financial data pertaining to a former employee of the John Doe company, however, “it did not authorize any seizure of any healthcare or medical record of any persons, least of all third parties completely unrelated to the matter,” the complaint read.
The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages for constitutional violations, as well as $25,000 “per violation per individual” in compensatory damages. Those damages could start at a minimum total of $250 billion.
Anaheim small-business owner Tony Jalali fled Iran in 1978 for a better life in the land of liberty, but he soon may find his American Dream unconstitutionally taken from him by the city of Anaheim and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern California in a ploy that should leave most Americans shaking their heads in disgust. Jalali faces the loss of his well-maintained office building if the city and the federal government get away with an attempt to do an end-run around California laws.
An idea this phenomenally bad could only have come from the brilliant legal minds in California: jury duty…for non-US citizens.
California would allow noncitizens to serve on juries under a proposal being considered by state lawmakers, potentially expanding a fundamental obligation of American life to millions more people.
The measure, which would apply only to legal residents, would make California the only state to open the jury box to noncitizens who meet all other requirements of service, according to legal experts. The proposal raises the question of what it means to be judged by peers in a state where more than one in seven residents is not a citizen. One of the bill’s authors, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), said the proposal would help ensure an adequate pool of jurors, help immigrants integrate into American society and make juries more representative of California.
Juries “should reflect our community, and our community is always changing,” Wieckowski said. “It’s time for California to be a leader on this.” The Assembly passed the bill this week on a party-line vote, with most Democrats lining up in favor and Republicans standing in opposition.
California is setting itself up for legal disaster on this one. There is absolutely no way a law like this will stand up in Federal court. Can you imagine the havoc that will occur when hundreds of guilty verdicts begin to be overturned because members of the jury were non-citizens? The swing votes for crucial cases could be individuals who are not even citizens of the same country as the accused.
Note: The “Raid of the Day” features accounts of police raids I’ve found, researched, and reported while writing my forthcoming book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces. It’s due out in July, but you can pre-order it here.
In the mid-1980s, the federal government and the state of California stated the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, or CAMP. The program combined federal law enforcement and military resources with state law enforcement in an effort to eradicate marijuana cultivation in the northern part of the state.
It effectively turned parts of California into a military zone. CAMP sent U-2 spy planes over the skies to search for pot, then sent — literally — black helicopters full of armed National Guard troops, drug cops, and sometimes even volunteers to cut down the plants. Anyone who happened to be nearby could be detained, often at gunpoint.
Journalist Dan Baum writes in his book Smoke and Mirrors, that CAMP roadblocks started hauling whole families out of cars and holding them at gunpoint while searching their vehicles without warrants. CAMP troops … went house to house kicking in doors and ransacking homes, again without warrants.” California Attorney General John Van de Kamp also recruited LAPD cops to raid suspected pot grows in the northern part of the state. Baum reported that the the feeling within the department was that spending a couple weeks of raiding hippies in a place like Humboldt County was like “summer camp.”
Within a year, the CAMP program had extended to other states, and by 1985 was operating in all 50. The program is still operational today.
When police abuse their authority everyone loses. Victims may get hurt or even lose their life, police damage their credibility and taxpayers end up shouldering huge payouts to victims and their families.
Risking arrest isn’t the only obstacle for Northern California protesters — under a new rule about to go into effect, political demonstrators could lose their right to ride public transportation.
Starting next week, law enforcement officers policing the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland and other cities can issue bus and subway bans for unruly passengers — and according to one local news report, that power could be used to prevent political protesters from getting to demonstrations or essentially going anywhere.
Under the recently passed State Assembly Bill 716, BART can issue “prohibition” orders to any passenger cited or arrested for certain offenses, essentially blacklisting some people from boarding public transit vehicles if they’ve been charged with certain crimes.
BART Board President Tom Radulovich told Bay City News the law is “an important safety initiative to keep our employees and riders safe,” adding, “We’re very concerned that for the past few years folks have been assaulting our station agents.”
”We are really wanting to send the message that if you are going to come onto our system and be unruly or violent, there are going to be consequences,” BART spokesperson Alicia Trost told local ABC affiliate KGNO News.
But while the new bill will provide BART police the authority to immediately revoke riding privileges for persons arrested or convicted of acts involving violence, threats of violence, lewd or lascivious behavior or possession or sale of drugs on area transit, those charged with minor infractions could be targeted too. “AB 716 won’t only target violent behavior,” KGNO reported. “It can be applied to protestors who have been arrested during free-speech movements.”
The law will allow for prohibition orders to be issued on-the-spot if a person is just once arrested or convicted for a misdemeanor or felony involving lewd, violent or drug-related acts in a BART zone, but passengers cited three or more times for minor infractions in just as many months are subject to the ban as well.
Under the bill, a transit district may issue a prohibition order to any person charged with violating a number of local statutes, including Section 640 of state Penal Code — the law that goes after riders accused of “Willfully disturbing others on or in a system facility or vehicle by engaging in boisterous or unruly behavior” and those “Willfully blocking the free movement of another person in a system facility or vehicle.”
Although the official statute includes a note from the state declaring that Section 640 “shall not be interpreted to affect any lawful activities permitted or First Amendment rights protected under the laws of this state or applicable federal law,” allowing BART officers to ban users even accused by law enforcement of a misdemeanor could disenfranchise a huge percentage of their rider base and has critics already warning of potential authoritarian overreach.
”Certain instances have happened over the years that have caused some tragic things to happen, but you got to be careful who your profile,” BART passenger Kadmiel McCrory told KGNO.
Indeed, one doesn’t have to look too deep to divulge instances of arguable overreach in not just the Bay Area but on the BART system as well. On the morning of January 1, 2009, BART Officer Johannes Mehserle fatally shot an unarmed, 22-year-old passenger, Oscar Grant, on an Oakland train platform. The killing of Grant remains a highly contested issue among Bay Area residents, and has spawned a number of large protests impacting the BART system, including a November 2010 demonstration that led to 152 arrests. Then in July 2011, BART police shot and killed another passenger — a mentally ill homeless man name Charles Blair Hill — who is alleged to have thrown a knife at an officer. The response that occurred as a result can easily be considered a precursor to enacting AB 716.
Following the 2011 shooting death of Hill, BART passengers orchestrated a massive protest that made national headlines thanks in part to the involvement of Internet hacktivist group Anonymous. A rally for Hill days after his death began peacefully but ended in violence and at least three dozen arrests. When a second protest was planned the following month, BART officials responded by having cell phone service shut down in four separate train stations to prevent demonstrators from coordinating their actions.
”We’re going to take steps to make sure our customers are safe,” BART spokesman Jim Allison said in a statement that August. “The interruption of cell phone service was done Thursday to prevent what could have been a dangerous situation. It’s one of the tactics we have at our disposal. We may use it; we may not. And I’m not sure we would necessarily let anyone know in advance either way.”
Although that protest never materialized as planned, Anonymous responded byleakingthe names, passwords and other identifying information for more than 2,000 customers of a BART-affiliated website, announcing in a statement, “we will not tolerate censorship.”
“Anonymous demands that this activity revolving around censorship cease and desist and we know you are already planning to do this again,” the hacktivists wrote. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union opposed the decision to throttle cell service as well.
Now with AB 716 going into effect, protesters may once again find they are unwelcome to ride on the fifth-busiest heavy rail rapid transit system within the United States. Accumulating only three easy-to-obtain infractions in just 90 days can cause a prohibition order to be issues, and when the law goes into effect on Monday, BART officers will actually be provided with the names and photographs of prohibited individuals in order to keep them from riding mass transit, BART police Chief Kenton Rainey told the San Francisco Appeal. According to Rainey, officers’ computers will contain information about active orders, and any persons picked up or cited on the BART system for new crimes can be matched against the database to see their status.
Rainey added that BART officers will go through training to work with special-needs riders, including the homeless and mentally ill. Even if one of those passengers is cited with a prohibition order, though, it might take a lengthy appeal process to have their ban rescinded. Prohibition orders restrict passengers from riding for anywhere from 30 days up to one year.
California lawmakers are pushing a bill that would exempt the state from federal laws authorizing indefinite detention of citizens.
The California Public Safety Committee voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of the California Liberty Preservation Act, which was introduced by Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly.
The bill passed the Democrat-controlled committee 6-0 with the support of a wide-ranging coalition that included the American Civil Liberties Union, Tenth Amendment Center, San Francisco 99% Coalition, San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Libertarian Party of California.
The legislation is designed to free California from having to comply with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012, which does nothing to prevent the potential seizure and indefinite detention of U.S. citizens. The California bill declares such federal power unconstitutional, and mandates the state and its localities refuse adhering to or assisting with federal implementation.
Now, a medical doctor (Janette D. Sherman, M. D.) and epidemiologist (Joseph Mangano) have released a study showing a 28% increase in thyroid problems in babies born in Hawaii and America’s West Coast after the Fukushima nuclear accident.
Janette Sherman, M.D. worked for the Atomic Energy Commission (forerunner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) at the University of California in Berkeley, and for the U.S. Navy Radiation Defense Laboratory in San Francisco. She served on the EPA’s advisory board for 6 years, and has been an advisor to the National Cancer Institute on breast cancer. Dr. Sherman specializes in internal medicine and toxicology with an emphasis on chemicals and nuclear radiation.
Joseph J. Mangano is a public health administrator and researcher who has studied the connection between low-dose radiation exposure and subsequent risk of diseases such as cancer and damage to newborns. He has published numerous articles and letters in medical and other journals in addition to books, including Low Level Radiation and Immune System Disorders: An Atomic Era Legacy.
[The study found that] children born in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington between one week and 16 weeks after the meltdown began are 28 percent more likely to suffer from congenital hypothyroidism (CH) than were kids born in those states during the same period one year earlier.
CH results from a build up of radioactive iodine in our thyroids and can result in stunted growth, lowered intelligence, deafness, and neurological abnormalities—though can be treated if detected early.
According to researchers from the Radiation and Public Health Project who performed the study, “Fukushima fallout appeared to affect all areas of the US, and was especially large in some, mostly in the western part of the nation.” They add that CH can provide an early measure to “assess any potential changes in US fetal and infant health status after Fukushima because official data was available relatively promptly.”
Health researcher Joe Mangano similarly cautioned, “Reports of rising numbers of West Coast infants with under-active thyroid glands after Fukushima suggest that Americans may have been harmed by Fukushima fallout. Studies, especially of the youngest, must proceed immediately.”
Earlier this year, the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey found that more than 40 percent of the Japanese children studied showed evidence of thyroid abnormalities, which Wasserman says signifies a “horrifying plague.”
Sherman and Mangano published an essay in June 2011 claiming that the 35% spike in infant mortality in Northwest cities since the Fukushima meltdown might have been caused by radiation.
The Internet Tax Mandate also violates the original purpose of the Commerce Clause, which was to guarantee free trade among the states. Instead, the bill would allow states to levy taxes on goods crossing into their state, which is not what the Founding Fathers intended. Why should California be able to force a business in Texas to collect and pay California sales tax?
When considering any economic proposal, the unseen, potential ramifications must be examined. This mandate could discourage online commerce and stifle the growth of new businesses, exactly the opposite of what we need if we want to expand entrepreneurship and revive our economy. In addition, the long arm of Big Government would reach for companies operating in states currently lacking a sales tax.
Council members said they plan to investigate how the post office in Berkeley could increase its revenue stream, perhaps through leasing unused parts of the downtown building to local businesses. They also suggested taking a closer look at postage rates or even “a very tiny tax” on email as possible policy changes that could make a difference.
The council also resolved to reach out to more than 50 other cities nationally that are in similar positions, with pending historic post office buildings potentially on the chopping block, to try to form a coalition to attack the problem together.
Councilman Jesse Arreguín thanked his colleagues and members of the public for their efforts thus far, and said he’d like to see the building and post office services saved in the end.
“I want to commend the community and the City Council for slowing this down so far,” he said. “My hope is that we can stop this altogether.”
The tax you pay on a gallon of gas will rise by 3.5 cents in California come July 1.
The state Board of Equalization voted 3-2 on Thursday to increase the excise tax about 10 percent, from 36 cents per gallon to 39.5 cents per gallon.
The increase is partly due to a $157 million shortfall in gas-tax revenue in fiscal 2012, and also a projection of less consumption by California drivers.
The state legislature switched its gas taxation system in 2010 so it could re-appropriate some of the gas tax money from road maintenance to other areas. It reduced the sales tax from 8.25 percent to 2.25 percent, but roughly doubled the excise tax to 35.3 cents. The excise tax has increased multiple times since, but previous hikes were by fractions of cents.
800 Pound Disabled Men In Fuzzy Slippers Ask the Wrong Questions
Last week I posed this question: sure, bloggers are biased and sloppy and agenda-driven and more than a little nuts, but compared to what? What is the logical basis for reposing automatic trust in “professional” “mainstream” journalists, and given them the presumption of thoroughness, good faith, or neutrality?
You can sit with your Apple laptop and your fuzzy slippers, you can be an 800-pound disabled man that can’t get out of bed and be a journalist, because you can blog something. Does that give you the right—because you blog in your fuzzy slippers out of your bedroom and you don’t go out and you haven’t gotten that degree—should you be called a journalist?
Or should you be like Pauline [unclear] who graduated from journalism school and has been doing this a long time or JW or Dennis? Are you on the same par? In my estimation—and I’d like to hear from Darren and Michael on that—no. Because Pauline and JW and Matt and the others that have been doing this a long time and they know the questions to ask, as will you. But if you’re just sitting at home with your laptop blogging and you just want to get under my skin or you’re CityBeat—left to Lenin, oh my God—then, yeah. So I drop that out on you all: what do you all think of that?
That is no normal act of public relations. That is the behavior of a public relations professional.
Perhaps even more revealing, though, was this:
To start, spokeswoman Jan Caldwell explained to the room full of journalists why it is so important to be nice to her: “If you are rude, if you are obnoxious, if you are demanding, if you call me a liar, I will probably not talk to you anymore. And there’s only one sheriff’s department in town, and you can go talk to the deputies all you want but there’s one PIO.”
Here we have the heart of the matter. “Professional” journalists may, indeed, be brilliant, talented, well-trained, professional, with an abiding appetite for hard-hitting but neutral reporting. Yet professional journalists also depend on relationships. Ms. Caldwell calls that fact out, sending law enforcement’s core message to the press: if you want access, play the game.
This “professional” press approach to the criminal justice system serves police and prosecutors very well. They favor reporters who hew to it. Of course they don’t want to answer questions from the 800-pound bedridden guy in fuzzy slippers in his mother’s basement. But it’s not because an 800-pound bedridden guy can’t ask pertinent questions. It’s because he’s frankly more likely to ask tough questions, more likely to depart from the mutually accepted narrative about the system, less likely to be “respectful” in order to protect his access. (Of course, he might also be completely nuts, in a way that “mainstream” journalism screens out to some extent.)
Recently Radley Balko has been doing a “raid of the day” series for the Huffington Post, in which every day he profiles a brutal or incompetent or outrageous police raid, thus calling into question our system’s tolerance for lawless police tactics. This is the sort of reporting Radley has been doing for years. You will find very, very few “mainstream” reporters engaging in such relentless criticism and questioning of the criminal justice system. That’s not because there aren’t many talented reporters. There are. Rather, I submit that it’s because too many reporters find the price too high. Too many reporters would rather get that hot tip from a cop about a piece of evidence against a defendant than risk alienating their state sources.
Too many people would rather have the approval of the Jan Caldwells of the system than call the system out.
Last May I wrote a piece about Bluefin tuna caught off the coast of southern California that carried radiation from the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear plant that was damaged in the March 2011. The fish were caught in August 2011 as they migrated east 6,000 miles from their spawning grounds in Japan in search of prey.
In that piece I talked about how, perhaps counter-intuitively, the radiation—which scientists say do not harm the fish—could actually be a good thing for the fish population. Bluefin, found in the Atlantic and northern and southern Pacific, are among the most prized table fish in the world (a single 489-pound fish fetched $1.76 million at a Tokyo fish auction last month). Because of that, their stocks have plummeted to dangerously low levels. Scientists assert that the radiation levels found in these tuna are not high enough to harm humans. But it is safe to say that the general dining public does not like to hear about radiation in their food.
Last week one of the authors of the study from last year, Daniel J. Madigan from Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station—along with five other scientists— published a new follow-up study. The main question that this new study wanted to answer: Would the migratory Bluefin tuna show up again a year later off the coast of California carrying radiation from Fukushima?