How To Help The Victims Of Hurricane Sandy
by Adam Rose
The Red Cross
: In the United States, the Red Cross has released an app that allows users to track the storm, receive weather alerts, obtain directions to the nearest shelter and use a one-touch "I'm Safe" button that lets family and friends know you're safe.
The New York Blood Center
is calling for donations to prevent any shortages after the storm hits. The organization is working with local hospitals to make sure they have an adequate supply. The center needs at least 2,000 donations a day to maintain its blood inventory.
is preparing to deliver relief supplies like medicine, first aid kits, cleaning products and flashlights to susceptible communities along the East Coast. It has reached out to 100 health clinics, food banks and other agencies and also seeks aid workers ready to help.
The Feeding America
network of food banks and agencies is prepared to deliver truckloads of food, water and supplies to communities in need. Its food banks will also set up additional emergency distribution sites, as needed.
Did US go too far in its secret surveillance of citizens?
Critics say the Bush-era law designed to collect foreign intelligence intrudes on the constitutionally protected privacy and free speech rights of US citizens. The US Supreme Court hears the case Monday.
by Warren Richey
The US Supreme Court on Monday is set to hear oral argument in a case examining whether Americans have legal standing to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a US surveillance program designed to vacuum up millions of international telephone and email messages to mine for critical intelligence.
The secret program, begun under the Bush administration, uses bottlenecks in the telecommunications system to collect telephone conversations and emails that might help the government collect “foreign intelligence.”
The problem, according to privacy experts, is that the massive electronic collection effort is not limited by individualized warrants issued and overseen by federal judges. The new surveillance program is more general. It can sweep up the international phone calls and emails of Americans, particularly those who communicate with potential targets of US intelligence who are overseas.
It is that prospect that led a group of lawyers, human rights advocates, and journalists to file a lawsuit in 2008, asking a federal judge to declare the surveillance program unconstitutional.
They argued that their work requires them to engage in sensitive phone conversations and emails with colleagues, clients, journalistic sources, witnesses, experts, and victims of human rights abuses overseas.
They say they have a reasonable belief that the US program will record, retain, and facilitate analysis of their private, privileged communications. In some instances, they say, they decided to forego the use of the phone and email, and instead traveled overseas – at considerable expense – to undertake sensitive conversations in person to insure they would remain privileged and private.
Justice Department lawyers counter that the plaintiffs' claims are merely speculative, since they have offered no proof that any of their communications have been intercepted or would be intercepted in the future. In addition, the government says it is under no obligation to disclose whether such surveillance has taken place. The secrecy of the program is justified as necessary to protect US national security.
The central issue at this stage of the litigation isn't whether the broad surveillance program violates privacy, free speech, or other constitutional principles. At this stage, the issue is whether the plaintiffs have suffered a concrete injury that a judicial decision can remedy.
Without such an injury, the plaintiffs are not entitled to use the courts to resolve their dispute.
The doctrine of standing is designed to prevent lawyers from using the courts to air mere disagreements over policy.
The plaintiffs say their injuries are substantial and more than justify the court's involvement.
A federal judge disagreed and dismissed the lawsuit. A federal appeals court panel reversed that decision, ruling that the plaintiffs faced a real and immediate threat that their communications would be intercepted by the government.
The appeals court, the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City, said the additional burdens and expenses of traveling overseas to preserve the confidentiality of their communications amounted to an actual injury that conferred standing to file the lawsuit.
It is that appeals court decision that is now before the Supreme Court.
The case is James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence v. Amnesty International, USA, (11-1025).
“This law clearly intrudes on constitutionally protected privacy and free speech rights, and the courts have not just the authority but the obligation to intervene,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union , said in a written statement.
Mr. Jaffer, who is set to argue the case on behalf of the plaintiffs, said he is hopeful the justices will agree with the appeals court that the constitutionality of the surveillance program can be tested in court.
“The court of appeals rightly held that our clients have the right to challenge the law, because the substantial risk that their communications will be monitored under it has compelled them to take costly measures to protect sensitive and privileged information,” he said.
US Solicitor General Donald Verrilli counters that those seeking to challenge surveillance laws must offer more than just a fear of being monitored.
“Respondents' case for standing depends entirely upon speculation,” he said in his brief to the court.
“Lacking any evidence of concrete government action that has, or will, harm them, respondents offer conjecture about the nature and scope of potential surveillance,” he wrote.
Such conjecture cannot establish standing, he added.
If the Supreme Court agrees with the government, the case would end there. On the other hand, if a majority of justices uphold the appeals court, the case will return to federal court for a trial examining the constitutionality of the surveillance law.
At issue in the underlying dispute, is a substantial shift in the way the US government justifies its surveillance operations. Prior to the new law, both law enforcement and intelligence agencies seeking to conduct electronic surveillance within the US had to justify the effort by revealing the potential target and proving to a neutral judge that the government had probable cause to believe the targeted individual was involved in activities justifying the surveillance.
After the 911 attacks, with the US government on high alert for a potential second wave of Al-Qaeda terrorism, President Bush authorized a secret electronic surveillance program that collected massive amounts of communications data while by-passing well-established judicial oversight procedures.
The secret effort continued for years without congressional authorization. After press reports exposed the effort, Congress and the Bush administration passed a statute in July 2008 authorizing a version of the surveillance program.
Critics said it would subvert constitutional safeguards and allow dragnet surveillance of wide swaths of electronic communications without meaningful oversight.
A decision in the case is expected by the end of the court's term in June.
How to keep your child safe on Halloween
by Julie Revelant
Your children are all decked out in their Halloween costumes and raring to go trick or treating, but have you really prepared them for a safe night out? Here, read on for four ways to keep your children out of harm's way this Halloween.
1. Trick or treat together
You wouldn't let your young child walk anywhere alone, and Halloween should be no exception. Since children under the age of 12 don't have the cognitive skills to judge distance and speed, it's best to go with them, according to Kate Carr, President and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. If your child is older than 12, he should go with a group and choose a familiar, well-lit route.
2. Talk street smarts
More than twice as many children are killed on Halloween than on other days of the year, according to study released last week by State Farm. And although the number of fatalities is declining, teaching your children the rules of the road is key, something only one-third of parents talk about every Halloween, according to a recent Safe Kids Worldwide study. So make sure your child understands some basic rules: Always cross the street at corners and use crosswalks and traffic signals; look left, right, and left again and walk, don't run; and always use sidewalks and paths but if they're not available, walk facing traffic.
3. Dress up simply
Choose costumes that fit well, are light colored and don't drag, and make sure your child wears comfortable, sturdy shoes to prevent falls. Leave costume accessories like swords or sticks at home and instead, bring a flashlight or use glow sticks or reflective tape on costumes and trick or treat bags so drivers can see your child. Masks can inhibit peripheral vision, so use face paint or make up instead.
4. Inspect candy
All of those sweets are tempting, but be sure your children know they can't dip in until they get home. Look through each piece for signs of tampering and discard any candy that is unwrapped or has a wrapper that is faded or torn.
Boy to stand trial in shooting death of white supremacist father in California
by Associated Press
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Nearly two years after a neo-Nazi leader was gunned down at point-blank while sleeping on his sofa, his son — who was 10 at the time of the killing — is going on trial for murder.
Prosecutors want a judge hearing opening statements Tuesday to rule after the proceedings that the boy, now 12, murdered Jeff Hall, an out-of-work plumber who as regional leader of the National Socialist Movement headed rallies at a synagogue and a day labor site.
The boy told police he pulled a .357-Magnum from a closet and aimed it at Hall's ear and pulled the trigger before running upstairs and hiding the weapon, according to court papers.
“He decided, as he put it, it was time to end the father-son thing,” said Michael Soccio, chief deputy district attorney. “This child started at five years old being expelled from school for violence. ... His violence started way before his dad ever joined any Nazi party.”
Soccio, citing a history of violent behavior including choking a teacher with a telephone cord, wants to keep him locked up as long as possible. If held responsible, the boy would become the youngest person currently in the custody of the state's corrections department.
The boy's public defender, Matthew Hardy, did not immediately return calls for comment.
Hardy told the New York Times his client has neurological and psychological problems and was exposed to neo-Nazi “conditioning” at home.
“He's been conditioned to violence,” Hardy told the newspaper. “You have to ask yourself: Did this kid really know that this act was wrong based on all those things?”
The Associated Press is not identifying the boy — who is not charged as an adult — because of his age.
Hall, 32, who said he believed in a white breakaway nation, ran for a seat on the local water board in 2010 in a move that disturbed many residents in the recession-battered suburbs southeast of Los Angeles. The day before his death, he held a meeting of the neo-Nazi group at his home.
Hall had previously taken the boy — his oldest of five children — on a U.S.-Mexico border patrol trip and showed him how to use a gun, according to papers filed by police against the boy's stepmother alleging child endangerment and criminal storage of a gun.
Last year, the boy told investigators he went downstairs and shot his father before returning upstairs and hiding the gun under his bed, according to court documents. He told authorities he thought his father was going to leave his stepmother, and he didn't want the family to split up, Soccio said.
The boy's stepmother told authorities that Hall had hit, kicked and yelled at his son for being too loud or getting in the way. Hall and the boy's biological mother had previously slugged through a divorce and custody dispute in which each had accused the other of child abuse.
Kathleen M. Heide, a professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa who wrote “Why Kids Kill Parents,” said children 10 and under rarely kill their parents and that only 16 such cases were documented between 1996 and 2007. Heide also said parenting and home life would undoubtedly play a role in the case.
“It would be inaccurate to say who the child's parents are is superfluous,” she said. “That is going to have an effect on how the child grows up, on the values that child learns, on problem solving abilities, so all of that is relevant.”
If a judge finds the boy murdered Hall, he could be held in state custody until he is 23 years old, said Bill Sessa, spokesman for California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The state currently houses fewer than 900 juveniles.
“We don't have anybody that young,” Sessa said. “We have had 12-year-olds in the past, but it's rare.”