Posts Tagged United States Department of Justice

Government to Release Hundreds of Documents Related to NSA Surveillance | Threatpost


nsa_docs

GOVERNMENT TO RELEASE HUNDREDS OF DOCUMENTS RELATED TO NSA SURVEILLANCE

by Dennis Fisher   September 5, 2013

In response to a lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Department of Justice is preparing to release a trove of documents related to the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. The declassified documents will include previously secret opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The decision by the Justice Department to release the documents is the second legal victory in recent weeks for the EFF related to the National Security Agency’s intelligence collection programs. In August, the group won the release of a 2011 FISC opinion that revealed that the court ruled that some of the NSA’s collection programs were illegal and unconstitutional. The newest decision will result in the release of hundreds of pages of documents related to the way the government has been interpreting Section 215, which is the measure upon which some of the NSA’s surveillance programs are based.

In a status report released Wednesday regarding the EFF’s suit against the Department of Justice, attorneys for the government said that they will release the documents by Sept. 10.

“Orders and opinions of the FISC issued from January 1, 2004, to June 6, 2011, that contain a significant legal interpretation of the government’s authority or use of its authority under Section 215; and responsive ‘significant documents, procedures, or legal analyses incorporated into FISC opinions or orders and treated as binding by the Department of Justice or the National Security Agency’,” the status report says.

It’s not clear at this point exactly what the documents to be released will contain or how much of the information will be redacted. But the decision by the government to release the documents counts as a major milestone in the lawsuit against the Justice Department over the use of Section 215.

“While we applaud the government for finally releasing the opinions, it is not simply a case of magnanimity. The Justice Department is releasing this information because a court has ordered it to do so in response to EFF’s FOIA lawsuit, which was filed on the tenth anniversary of the enactment of the Patriot Act—nearly two years ago,” Trevor Timm of the EFF said.

“For most of the duration of the lawsuit, the government fought tooth and nail to keep every page of its interpretations secret, even once arguing it should not even be compelled to release the number of pages that their opinions consisted of. It was not until the start of the release of documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that the government’s position became untenable and the court ordered the government to begin the declassification review process.”

In another development related to the NSA’s intelligence-gathering capabilities and methods, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), the lead author of the PATRIOT Act, submitted an amicus brief in support of the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against the NSA over the agency’s methods.

“I stand by the Patriot Act and support the specific targeting of terrorists by our government, but the proper balance has not been struck between civil rights and American security,” said Sensenbrenner. “A large, intrusive government-however benevolent it claims to be-is not immune from the simple truth that centralized power threatens liberty. Americans are increasingly wary that Washington is violating the privacy rights guaranteed to us by the Fourth Amendment.”

 Government to Release Hundreds of Documents Related to NSA Surveillance | Threatpost.

 

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Kim Jong-un Defends Right to Obtain Journalists’ Phone Records : The New Yorker


MAY 14, 2013

KIM JONG-UN DEFENDS RIGHT TO OBTAIN JOURNALISTS’ PHONE RECORDS

POSTED BY ANDY BOROWITZ

boro-jong-un-ap-post.jpg

PYONGYANG (The Borowitz Report)—As controversy swirled around the Department of Justice’s move to obtain journalists’ phone records, the White House picked up a vote of support today from an unexpected source, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un of North Korea.

“I honestly don’t see what the fuss is all about,” Mr. Kim said in an official statement today. “Of course it’s the government’s right to know what people are doing at all times—and journalists would be right at the top of the list.”

Mr. Kim also offered a vigorous defense of the I.R.S. policy of auditing the tax returns of organizations that oppose the government: “Again, this is something I wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep over, and I know Dad felt the same way.”

In what was an otherwise laudatory statement about the activities of the U.S. government, Mr. Kim offered one small critique: “They could save themselves the work of conducting audits and obtaining phone records if they would just get rid of journalists and anti-government groups in the first place. But, you know, baby steps.”

All in all, news of the I.R.S. audits and phone-records scandals have given the mercurial dictator hope that North Korea and the United States might have warmer relations in the future: “We have a lot more in common than I thought.”

 Kim Jong-un Defends Right to Obtain Journalists’ Phone Records  : The New Yorker.

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The Government Has It Bass-Ackwards: Failing To Prosecute Criminal Fraud by the Big Banks Is Killing – NOT Saving – the Economy « naked capitalism


The Government Has It Bass-Ackwards: Failing To Prosecute Criminal Fraud by the Big Banks Is Killing – NOT Saving – the Economy

Cross posted from Washington’s Blo

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said today:

I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions [banks] becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy

As we’ve repeatedly noted, this is wholly untrue.

If the big banks were important to the economy, would so many  prominent economists, financial experts and bankers be calling for them to be broken up?

If the big banks generated prosperity for the economy, would they have to be virtually 100% subsidized to keep them afloat?

If the big banks were helpful for an economic recovery, would they be prolonging our economic instability?

In fact, failing to prosecute criminal fraud has been destabilizing the economy since at least 2007 … and will cause huge crashes in the future.

After all, the main driver of economic growth is a strong rule of law.

Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that we have to prosecute fraud or else the economy won’t recover:

The legal system is supposed to be the codification of our norms and beliefs, things that we need to make our system work. If the legal system is seen as exploitative, then confidence in our whole system starts eroding. And that’s really the problem that’s going on.

***

I think we ought to go do what we did in the S&L [crisis] and actually put many of these guys in prison. Absolutely. These are not just white-collar crimes or little accidents. There were victims. That’s the point. There were victims all over the world.

***

Economists focus on the whole notion of incentives. People have an incentive sometimes to behave badly, because they can make more money if they can cheat. If our economic system is going to work then we have to make sure that what they gain when they cheat is offset by a system of penalties.

Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof has demonstrated that failure to punish white collar criminals – and instead bailing them out- creates incentives for more economic crimes and further destruction of the economy in the future.

Indeed, professor of law and economics (and chief S&L prosecutor) William Black notes that we’ve known of this dynamic for “hundreds of years”. And see thisthisthis and this.

(Review of the data on accounting fraud confirms that fraud goes up as criminal prosecutions go down.)

The Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division told Congress:

Recovery from the fallout of the financial crisis requires important efforts on various fronts, and vigorous enforcement is an essential component, as aggressive and even-handed enforcement will meet the public’s fair expectation that those whose violations of the law caused severe loss and hardship will be held accountable. And vigorous law enforcement efforts will help vindicate the principles that are fundamental to the fair and proper functioning of our markets: that no one should have an unjust advantage in our markets; that investors have a right to disclosure that complies with the federal securities laws; and that there is a level playing field for all investors.

Paul Zak (Professor of Economics and Department Chair, as well as the founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, Professor of Neurology at Loma Linda University Medical Center, and a senior researcher at UCLA) and Stephen Knack (a Lead Economist in the World Bank’s Research Department and Public Sector Governance Department) wrote a paper called Trust and Growth, showing that enforcing the rule of law – i.e. prosecuting white collar fraud – is necessary for a healthy economy.

One of the leading business schools in America – the Wharton School of Business – published an essay by a psychologist on the causes and solutions to the economic crisis. Wharton points out that restoring trust is the key to recovery, and that trust cannot be restored until wrongdoers are held accountable:

According to David M. Sachs, a training and supervision analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, the crisis today is not one of confidence, but one of trust. “Abusive financial practices were unchecked by personal moral controls that prohibit individual criminal behavior, as in the case of [Bernard] Madoff, and by complex financial manipulations, as in the case of AIG.” The public, expecting to be protected from such abuse, has suffered a trauma of loss similar to that after 9/11. “Normal expectations of what is safe and dependable were abruptly shattered,” Sachs noted. “As is typical of post-traumatic states, planning for the future could not be based on old assumptions about what is safe and what is dangerous. A radical reversal of how to be gratified occurred.”

People now feel more gratified saving money than spending it, Sachs suggested. They have trouble trusting promises from the government because they feel the government has let them down.

He framed his argument with a fictional patient named Betty Q. Public, a librarian with two teenage children and a husband, John, who had recently lost his job. “She felt betrayed because she and her husband had invested conservatively and were double-crossed by dishonest, greedy businessmen, and now she distrusted the government that had failed to protect them from corporate dishonesty. Not only that, but she had little trust in things turning around soon enough to enable her and her husband to accomplish their previous goals.

“By no means a sophisticated economist, she knew … that some people had become fantastically wealthy by misusing other people’s money — hers included,” Sachs said. “In short, John and Betty had done everything right and were being punished, while the dishonest people were going unpunished.”

Helping an individual recover from a traumatic experience provides a useful analogy for understanding how to help the economy recover from its own traumatic experience, Sachs pointed out. The public will need to “hold the perpetrators of the economic disaster responsible and take what actions they can to prevent them from harming the economy again.” In addition, the public will have to see proof that government and business leaders can behave responsibly before they will trust them again, he argued.

Note that Sachs urges “hold[ing] the perpetrators of the economic disaster responsible.” In other words, just “looking forward” and promising to do things differently isn’t enough.

Robert Shiller – one of the top housing experts in the United States – says that the mortgage fraud is a lot like the fraud which occurred during the Great Depression. As Fortune notes:

Shiller said the danger of foreclosuregate — the scandal in which it has come to light that the biggest banks have routinely mishandled homeownership documents, putting the legality of foreclosures and related sales in doubt — is a replay of the 1930s, when Americans lost faith that institutions such as business and government were dealing fairly.

Indeed, it is beyond dispute that bank fraud was one of the main causes of the Great Depression.

Economist James K. Galbraith wrote in the introduction to his father, John Kenneth Galbraith’s, definitive study of the Great Depression, The Great Crash, 1929:

The main relevance of The Great Crash, 1929 to the great crisis of 2008 is surely here. In both cases, the government knew what it should do. Both times, it declined to do it. In the summer of 1929 a few stern words from on high, a rise in the discount rate, a tough investigation into the pyramid schemes of the day, and the house of cards on Wall Street would have tumbled before its fall destroyed the whole economy.

In 2004, the FBI warned publicly of “an epidemic of mortgage fraud.” But the government did nothing, and less than nothing, delivering instead low interest rates, deregulation and clear signals that laws would not be enforced. The signals were not subtle: on one occasion the director of the Office of Thrift Supervision came to a conference with copies of the Federal Register and a chainsaw. There followed every manner of scheme to fleece the unsuspecting ….

This was fraud, perpetrated in the first instance by the government on the population, and by the rich on the poor.

***

The government that permits this to happen is complicit in a vast crime.

Galbraith also says:

There will have to be full-scale investigation and cleaning up of the residue of that, before you can have, I think, a return of confidence in the financial sector. And that’s a process which needs to get underway.

Galbraith recently said that “at the root of the crisis we find the largest financial swindle in world history”, where “counterfeit” mortgages were “laundered” by the banks.

As he has repeatedly noted, the economy will not recover until the perpetrators of the frauds which caused our current economic crisis are held accountable, so that trust can be restored. See thisthis and this.

No wonder Galbraith has said economists should move into the background, and “criminologists to the forefront.”

The bottom line is that the government has it exactly backwards.   By failing to prosecute criminal fraud, the government  is destabilizing the economy … and ensuring future crashes.

Postscript:  Unfortunately, the government made it official policy not to prosecute fraud, even though criminal fraud is the main business model adopted by the giant banks.

Indeed, the government has done everything it can to cover up fraud, and has been actively encouraging criminal fraud and attacking those trying to blow the whistle.

The Government Has It Bass-Ackwards: Failing To Prosecute Criminal Fraud by the Big Banks Is Killing – NOT Saving – the Economy « naked capitalism.

 

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Justice Department sues Arizona, Utah polygamous towns – BostonHerald.com


Justice Department sues Arizona, Utah polygamous towns

By Associated Press
Thursday, June 21, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday sued two polygamous towns along the Utah-Arizona border, claiming religious discrimination against non-sect members.

The federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against the towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where most residents are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, run by the group’s jailed leader Warren Jeffs.

Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas after convictions on child sex and bigamy charges, but he is said to still maintain control of the communities.

The lawsuit comes after Legislatures in Utah and Arizona failed this year to pass bills aimed at abolishing the local police department that monitors the communities.

The Arizona bill was being pushed by state Attorney General Tom Horne, who said Colorado City police officers who are FLDS members flout the law and instead pay allegiance first to Jeffs.

A similar bill failed in the Utah Legislature. Colorado City officers also police neighboring Hildale.

The FLDS practices polygamy, a legacy of early Mormon church teachings that held plural marriage brought exaltation in heaven.

However, the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice in 1890 as a condition of Utah’s statehood and ex-communicates members who engage in the practice.

 Justice Department sues Arizona, Utah polygamous towns – BostonHerald.com.

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Justice Department Sues 2 Polygamous Communities | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source | American Voices


Justice Department Sues 2 Polygamous Communities

JUNE 22, 2012

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the communities of Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT, alleging a pattern of discrimination against residents who do not belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. What do you think?

As a resident of Hildale and a nonmember of this overbearing church, the real question is, what the fuck am I doing here?” 

Jennifer Roeder
Systems Analyst

The people in those towns just need to lie in job interviews and say they have a few more wives than they do.

Jason Janosch
Systems Analyst

It’s about time. Now when are we going after those people who won’t use zippers?

Joe Garden
Features Editor

 Justice Department Sues 2 Polygamous Communities | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source | American Voices.

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Apple to DOJ: Bite me – Apple 2.0 – Fortune Tech


Apple to DOJ: Bite me

  May 26, 2012: 7:57 AM ET


The Justice Department may regret trying to make its e-book antitrust suit stick to Apple

FORTUNE — I haven’t had so much fun reading legal documents since the Watergate trials.

I loved U.S. v. Apple et al. for the juicy details: the 56 phone calls, the clandestine meetings in swank Manhattan eateries, the secret e-mails “double erased” to ensure they couldn’t be traced.

But what makes Apple’s (AAPL) response, filed Tuesday, such a great read is the clarity and precision with which it cuts the government’s case to shreds.

At least as it applies to Apple.

In the space of six paragraphs the document characterizes the Justice Department’s assertions as “absurd” and “fundamentally flawed,” accuses the government of “ignoring inconvenient facts” and of siding with monopoly rather than competition.

The key paragraph:

The Government starts from the false premise that an eBooks “market” was characterized by “robust price competition” prior to Apple’s entry. This ignores a simple and incontrovertible fact: before 2010, there was no real competition, there was only Amazon. At the time Apple entered the market, Amazon sold nearly nine out of every ten eBooks, and its power over price and product selection was nearly absolute. Apple’s entry spurred tremendous growth in eBook titles, range and variety of offerings, sales, and improved quality of the eBook reading experience. This is evidence of a dynamic, competitive market. These inconvenient facts are ignored in the Complaint. Instead, the Government focuses on increased prices for a handful of titles. The Complaint does not allege that all eBook prices, or even most eBook prices, increased after Apple entered the market.

Apple’s filing doesn’t try to defend the five publishers the DOJ has accused of colluding to fix prices. In fact, it basically throws them under the bus, pointing out that if there was a price-fixing conspiracy among its co-defendants — as alleged — they kept it secret from Apple.

Meanwhile, the government’s lawyers are going to have a hard time proving that Apple violated antitrust laws because the company’s market share in the e-book business before the launch of the iPad was essentially zero.

They can’t make a case against Apple for collusion because whatever the publishers may have said to one another, there’s no evidence that Apple conspired with its competitors.

They can’t even use as evidence the blunt quotes taken from the Steve Jobs biography because they are hearsay.

The one element of the government’s case that seemed to give Apple’s lawyers a hard time was the charge that the most-favored-nation provision Steve Jobs added at the last minute was “designed to protect Apple from having to compete on price at all, while still maintaining Apple’s 30% margin.”

In its response, Apple’s legal team can’t even bring itself to name the provision, referring to it repeatedly as MFN. But they manage to shoot some holes in the government’s argument, pointing out, among other things, that the 30% cut Apple takes is hardly pure profit margin. It costs money to run the iBookstore, and while Apple doesn’t claim to lose money on e-book sales, that’s not where it gets the big bucks.

You can get the gist of Apple’s filing in those first six introductory paragraphs. The rest is an item-by-item refutation of the government’s case and a summary of Apple defenses, should it come to that.

The full document is available as a pdf here.

 Apple to DOJ: Bite me – Apple 2.0 – Fortune Tech.

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F.B.I. Begins Preliminary Inquiry Into JPMorgan – NYTimes.com


MAY 15, 2012

F.B.I. Begins Preliminary Inquiry Into JPMorgan

BEN PROTESS

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is examining potential wrongdoing surroundingJPMorgan Chase‘s $2 billion trading loss, people briefed on the matter said Tuesday.

The investigation, which is at an early stage, will focus on several possible lines of inquiry, the people briefed on the matter said. Among other things, investigators will examine JPMorgan’s accounting practices and public disclosures about the trades that prompted the loss.

These people cautioned that the inquiry was preliminary and that it was routine for the Justice Department to open a case after a big bank disclosed a huge blunder. The case is being led out of the F.B.I.’s New York office.

No one at JPMorgan has been accused of wrongdoing. A JPMorgan spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

News of an F.B.I. investigation comes at an awkward time for JPMorgan. On Tuesday, the bank’s top executives gathered in Tampa, Fla., for the annual shareholder meeting, where the trading loss took center stage.

The revelation also follows a similar acknowledgement last week that civil regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission had opened an inquiry into JPMorgan’s disclosures and accounting practices. Another potential avenue for the S.E.C. to explore is whether the bank’s risk controls broke down. The commission has a lower bar to bring a case than federal prosecutors.

Both inquires are likely to examine JPMorgan’s regulatory filings that mention the internal unit that placed the trades, as well as recent statements from the firm’s top executives.

As media reports surfaced about the chief investment office in early April, Jamie Dimon, the bank’s chief executive, publicly played down the concerns, calling them a “complete tempest in a teapot.”

After Mr. Dimon and other senior executive learned more, he sounded a more contrite tone. On Thursday, when disclosing the loss in a conference call with analysts, Mr. Dimon acknowledged that the bank had made “egregious mistakes.

Investigators are also examining an accounting measure known as value-at-risk. JPMorgan disclosed earlier this year that it changed the calculation for the metric, which may have masked some of the risks surrounding this trade.

The Financial Times reported earlier that the F.B.I. had opened an inquiry into JPMorgan.

 F.B.I. Begins Preliminary Inquiry Into JPMorgan – NYTimes.com.

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GSA waste goes much deeper than the Las Vegas junket – latimes.com


GSA waste goes much deeper than the Las Vegas junket

Inspector general reports indicate that fraud involving the federal agency’s employers and contractors costs millions of dollars every year.

General Services Administration scandal

Brian Miller, inspector general for the General Services Administration, testifies at a Senate hearing. His reports indicate that fraud among employees and contractors costs the agency millions each year. (Alex Wong, Getty Images / April 22, 2012)

 

By Ian Duncan

April 23, 2012, 1:31 a.m.

 

 

WASHINGTON — It was a simple scam: Coleen Newton-White, a government contractor, and her husband would take General Services Administration credit cards from the motor pool at Ft. Monroe, Va., and use them to sell fuel at a discount to cash customers who pulled up to service stations five at a time.

Between 2008 and 2010, the scheme netted the couple almost $300,000, according to court records.

Although the gas scheme is a world away from the nearly $823,000 spent on a lavish Las Vegas-area conference put on by GSA official Jeff Neely — including a mind reader, sushi and in-room parties — it is an example of the fraud that the procurement and property management agency faces regularly.

GSA employees and contractors — including at least one employee with responsibility for the White House — line their pockets to the tune of millions of dollars a year, according to reports by the agency’s inspector general.

With the GSA thrust into the congressional spotlight over the 2010 Vegas conference and travel spending, lawmakers have demanded to know how deep the agency’s problems run. Is there, they asked repeatedly in hearings last week, a culture of corruption?

“GSA handles a lot of money,” Brian Miller, the agency’s inspector general, told a Senate committee Wednesday. “Millions, maybe billions, of dollars flow through GSA. There’s a lot of temptation.”

And from Miller’s most recent report to Congress, it seems more than a few employees and contractors give in to that temptation. The Newton-White case was just one of 64 prosecutions between October 2010 and September 2011 of people who bilked the GSA by inflating costs, or just flat out stole from it.

In October, Miller’s office and the Justice Department wrapped up a five-year investigation that found seven GSA employees had conspired to award government contracts in return for kickbacks.

One employee, James Fisher, had responsibility for White House facilities. In exchange for cash and the installation of new kitchen cabinets and other work at his Suitland, Md., home, Fisher steered work in the direction of a favored contractor, according to court filings. In February 2008, Fisher pleaded guilty to bribery. He was jailed and ordered to pay back $40,000.

Lawyers for Fisher, Newton-White and her ex-husband, Lanaire White, could not be reached for comment. White and Newton-White also went to jail.

The largest cases involve inflated information technology contracts that end up costing the government tens of millions of dollars.

Through convictions and settlements, the inspector general’s office clawed back $376 million in the last fiscal year, but Miller said it was impossible to know for sure how much money the GSA wasted or lost each year.

“Fraud, by its very nature, is hidden,” he told the Senate panel.

The answer to the waste, acting GSA chief Dan Tangherlini told the lawmakers, is to give Washington more power over regional offices and to simplify the GSA’s structure.

But a former senior GSA official, who requested anonymity to discuss the agency’s inner workings, said centralization had already begun under the Obama administration — and it left nobody “watching the store” in the regional offices, causing more abuse.

“I hate to see it all go down the drain because these politicians who’ve never run a candy store say they want to centralize everything,” the former official said.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said his panel would ask Miller to investigate all of the GSA’s 11 regions, not just Region 9, which organized the Vegas conference.

“I want to know if there’s abuse in the other regions, particularly when it comes to conferences,” he toldCBS’”Face the Nation” on Sunday.

President Obama’s senior campaign official, David Axelrod, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Obama was “apoplectic” to learn of the GSA spending “because we made a big effort to cut waste, inefficiency, fraud against the government.”

Still, Miller told senators last week, the attention paid to the Las Vegas conference has had at least one upside. With more and more tips coming into the agency’s hot line, “We have more work than ever,” he said.

 GSA waste goes much deeper than the Las Vegas junket – latimes.com.

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Trayvon Martin’s death has put spotlight on perceptions about hoodies – The Washington Post


Trayvon Martin’s death has put spotlight on perceptions about hoodies

By Katherine Boyle, Published: March 25

“Did you see what he was wearing?” asked the voice.

“A dark hoodie, like a gray hoodie,” George Zimmerman told the 911 operator moments before he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, whom he described as “real suspicious.”

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Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tells Norah O'Donnell on "Face the Nation" he will ask the Justice Department to increase its investigation of the fatal shooting of a Florida teenager, and calls for Congress to examine "Stand Your Ground" laws.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tells Norah O’Donnell on “Face the Nation” he will ask the Justice Department to increase its investigation of the fatal shooting of a Florida teenager, and calls for Congress to examine “Stand Your Ground” laws.

 

President Obama spoke on the Trayvon Martin shooting briefly while announcing his nomination for the new head of the World Bank.

President Obama spoke on the Trayvon Martin shooting briefly while announcing his nomination for the new head of the World Bank.

 


Out of tragedy, the utilitarian hooded sweatshirt, which first gained popularity in the 1930s as a practical pullover for workingmen, has emerged as a Rorschach test of racial perceptions. 

 

On Sunday, many preachers and their congregations attended services wearing hoodies in a show of solidarity with the slain teen.

On Friday, LeBron James of the Miami Heat tweeted a photo of the basketball team, wearing hoodies and with heads bowed, alongside the hashtag “WeWantJustice.”

The same day, Fox News commentatorGeraldo Rivera ignited widespread criticismfor saying on the “Fox & Friends” morning show that “The hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.” He continued his assault on “The O’Reilly Factor,” warning parents of black and Hispanic youths not to allow their sons to wear hooded sweatshirts.

“Who else wears hoodies?” he asked. “Everybody that ever stuck up a convenience store; D.B. Cooper, the guy that hijacked a plane; Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber.”

And Daniel Maree, 24, who spearheaded Wednesday’s“Million Hoodie March” in New York — which was followed by rallies in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Detroit and Washington — said he wanted to draw attention not just to Martin’s death, but to the hoodie and all it represents.

“I’ve had experiences where I’ve been walking down the street in New York, and as an African American man in a hoodie, I can tell you it’s seen as in­cred­ibly suspicious,” said Maree, a digital strategist in New York. “Some people hold their purses a little tighter. When I heard Trayvon was wearing a hoodie, I thought, ‘I’ve felt this before.’ ”

So how did this ubiquitous garment — worn by college students and soccer moms, skateboarders and kids on the street — come to be associated with sinister activity?

“Most pieces of material culture have symbolic qualities associated with them,” said Darnell Hunt, professor of sociology and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. “The hoodie is a pretty generic piece of clothing, but because of the contexts and the groups it’s associated with, it took on different meanings. Just like sagging pants, it was a macho, street-swagger symbol of hip-hop culture, even though it originated in medieval Europe.”

A history of the hoodie

Hoods were worn by monks and scholars in the Middle Ages. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a child’s hooded tunic that dates back to the seventh century. Dante Alighieri, the 14th-century Florentine poet who wrote “The Divine Comedy,” is rarely depicted without his hood. In some climates, the hood was used to contain body heat, while in Northern Africa’s Maghreb region, the unisex djellaba, a long robe with a pointed hood, is still worn to protect the wearer from the sand and sun. And it could always be used to conceal the identity of the wearer.

The hooded sweatshirt was commercialized in the 1930s by Champion, the American sportswear company, to protect workingmen from the elements. And Daniel James Cole, professor of fashion history at the Fashion Institute of Technology, says that later in that decade, American high fashion adopted the hood: “The American designer Claire McCardell popularized it for women in the early 1940s. One really popular coat style was an A-line swing coat with the hood on it, and there were hooded playsuits and even hooded wedding dresses.”

It wasn’t until the mid-1970s, when Rocky Balboa wore a hooded sweatshirt while running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in “Rocky,”that the hooded sweatshirt with its convenient front pocket became a hallmark of unisex sportswear. In the 1990s, hip-hop artists and street culture adopted it as the street-wear uniform of choice — and the term “hoodie” became commonplace, according to Merriam Webster, in 1992.

 

 “Hip-hop culture took it from general vernacular clothing and certainly increased. . . its popularity,” Cole said. “It became cool, and fashion adopted it soon after. You have sleeveless hoodies, which takes away the idea of wearing a hood for warmth. It’s become vernacular.”

Since designers such as Tommy Hilfiger popularized them in the mid-1990s, hoodies sell at all price points, at both Neiman Marcus and Wal-Mart. A hooded jacket by Altuzarra will cost you $2,495. They know no class or cultural borders. Some schools, including several in D.C., have banned the garment for its sloppiness or because it’s a convenient way to hide contraband items or test answers. They’re worn by gangsters, rappers, surfers, skaters and athletes; indie rock fans wear hoodies almost as often as they wear Chuck Taylors; and hoodies have been preppified by brands such as Hollister, a popular teen label Martin wore in a photo released by his parents.

In parts of New Zealand and Australia, there are “Hoodie Free Zones” enforced by store owners and malls to thwart shoplifters. They became a political symbol in the summer during the United Kingdom riots, and in 2006, Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech claiming, “For young people, hoodies are often more defensive than offensive.” The speech has since been dubbed Cameron’s “hug-a-hoodie” speech.

Cozy and casual, hoodies are called “bunny hugs” in parts of Canada.

Its changing meaning

Still the garment’s meaning remains mixed. Even the word “hoodie” has echoes of racial overtones, differentiated only by prepositions and suffixes. In the hood. From the hood. Hoodlum, derived from “hudelum,” found in a 19th-century German dialect, meaning ruffian.

By concealing the wearer’s identity, a hood can seem sinister: Hooded white men killed black men long before Martin died.

“I think that’s one of the reasons it acquired a sinister connotation,” Hunt said. “It has inherent qualities of mystery and anxiety. You put a hood on and you’re anonymous. The KKK, for example, wore hoods for all those reasons.”

But the shift from Rocky’s triumph to what some see as a threat was recent. Hunt believes that films such as “Menace II Society” and “South Central,” which followed the 1992 Los Angeles riots, propagated the image of the hoodie as a symbol of urban rebellion.

“Things preexist the meanings they acquire,” Hunt said. “Black people have endured the perception that people have about criminality. There’s certain beliefs that some people have about young black men that often lead them to fear them, unjustified. It stands to reason that the hoodie as a style and symbol changed when young black men chose to wear it . . .White youths and older folks in hoodies have relatively benign meanings.”

Denis Wilson noticed the hoodie’s symbolic evolution in 2006. The Philadelphia-based journalist wrote a piece on the hoodie for the New York Times after a friend asked him, “Are you trying to be a gangster?” when he went to a nightclub wearing one.

“Because I’m white, I thought the hoodie was skater,” Wilson said. “But I went back through the history, and I saw the shift when graffiti artists used it to shroud themselves when tagging trains. There’s a connection to the more violent overtones of hip-hop. To ignore the violence in NWA and 50 Cent is silly, but it’s absolutely stupid to think of the hoodie as dangerous. There are hoodies made for nursing mothers.”

In light of Martin’s death, Maree hopes the hoodie — whoever is wearing it — will become a symbol of progress, reminding us of the power of perception and the symbolism we assign to everyday objects.

“I’ll never think of a hoodie the same way I used to,” Maree said. “While I didn’t think about this on the outset, it’s become a way to confront our initial or subliminal reactions to race. It’s subconscious, but when people start to confront their initial reactions, we’ll see progress.”

 Trayvon Martin’s death has put spotlight on perceptions about hoodies – The Washington Post.

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FCC finds AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile not in the public interest | ITworld


FCC finds AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile not in the public interest

The proposed $39 billion deal now goes to a hearing before an administrative law judge at the FCC

By Grant Gross, IDG News Service |  Networking, AT&T, FCC 1 comment

November 22, 2011, 4:16 PM —

AT&T billboard

flickr/rick

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s staff has found AT&T’s proposed $39 billion acquisition of rival T-Mobile USA to be contrary to the public interest, with officials there saying the deal would result in the largest single concentration in the U.S. mobile market in history.

The FCC, in a draft order released Tuesday, found the merger to be anticompetitive, echoing a similar conclusion in August by the U.S. Department of Justice. The FCC is now required to send the merger request to a hearing before an administrative law judge, where AT&T and T-Mobile USA will have the opportunity to argue against the FCC’s conclusion, FCC officials said.

The merger would result in unprecedented concentration of market power in the mobile market, FCC officials said in a press briefing in which they spoke under the condition they not be named.

At the same time, the FCC approved, with conditions, AT&T’s application to purchase $1.9 billion worth of spectrum in the lower 700MHz band from Qualcomm. The 12MHz of Qualcomm spectrum would cover 300 million U.S. residents, including 70 million people in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

AT&T said it was disappointed with the FCC’s decision. “It is yet another example of a government agency acting to prevent billions in new investment and the creation of many thousands of new jobs at a time when the U.S. economy desperately needs both,” Larry Solomon, AT&T’s senior vice president of corporate communications, said in a statement. “At this time, we are reviewing all options.”

FCC officials said they found no evidence that AT&T would roll out its 4G mobile broadband service faster if it was allowed to buy T-Mobile, as the company has suggested. The FCC’s staff also rejected AT&T promises saying the merger would lead to tens of thousands of new jobs. FCC officials instead said it would be likely to lead to “massive” layoffs as the two companies cut duplicative jobs.

Public Knowledge, a digital rights group opposed to the merger, praised the FCC’s decision. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski “is to be applauded for standing up to AT&T’s lobbying machine and moving forward to a hearing designation,” said Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge’s president.

An administrative hearing will allow AT&T to present additional evidence showing how it believes the merger will create jobs, Sohn said. That result “would run contrary to every other takeover AT&T has engineered,” she said. “There is ample evidence in the record that this deal would destroy jobs.”

The FCC’s decision to refer the merger to a hearing means that the agency has “substantial and material” questions about the deal, added Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president and policy director of Media Access Project, a nonprofit law firm focused on digital rights.

The hearing “means the FCC has found merit in our arguments that a combined AT&T/T-Mobile will create a duopoly in the wireless market which will increase prices for service and for handsets,” he said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant’s e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

 FCC finds AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile not in the public interest | ITworld.

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