Court Finds North Carolina ‘Choose Life’ License Plates UnConstitutional

A Federal judge has ruled that it is unConstitutional for the State of North Carolina to issue pro-life license plates unless it also offers pro-abortion license plates.

In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Court Judge James C. Fox said that the lack of a pro-abortion choice means that the State should no longer issue its “Choose Life” plates to motorists who wish to advertise their anti-abortion views.

He concluded, “The State’s offering of a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice plate constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.”

The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed against the State by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of residents seeking specialty license plates that supported the right to choose to have an abortion.

The “Choose Life” license plates were approved by the State’s legislature in 2011, but lawmakers rejected proposals for plates stating “Trust Women. Respect Choice” or “Respect Choice.”

“This is a great victory for the free speech rights of all North Carolinians, regardless of their point of view on reproductive freedom,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU-NCLF. “The government cannot create an avenue of expression for one side of a contentious political issue while denying an equal opportunity to citizens with the opposite view. We are very pleased that the court agrees that such a one-sided scheme constituted viewpoint discrimination and violated the First Amendment.”

Brook also said that the ACLU would have taken the same position had the situation been reversed.

U.N. Doubles Down On Internet Control Mission

Governments meeting in Dubai to discuss the future of global Internet regulation reportedly butted heads on Monday as some countries called for more government control, while U.S. officials warned that overregulation in cyberspace posed threats to freedom.

At a U.N. conference that will end later this week, officials from Russia, China and some Arab states have argued that governments need greater control over Internet content. But a U.S. delegation to the conference, which includes representatives from tech giants like Google and Microsoft, says that countries that already use heavy Internet controls would abuse the power.

Members at the conference have already agreed to work on implementing Internet standards that would essentially allow global eavesdropping. International Telecommunications Union officials said they would adopt a proposal from Chinese officials that would allow telecom companies across the world to more easily dig through data passed across the Web.

Part of the proposal would allow governments to use a process called deep packet inspection, which has been used by repressive regimes, many of which are members of the ITU, to conduct surveillance against their own citizens.

“The telecommunications standards arm of the U.N. has quietly endorsed the standardization of technologies that could give governments and companies the ability to sift through all of an Internet user’s traffic – including emails, banking transactions, and voice calls – without adequate privacy safeguards.  The move suggests that some governments hope for a world where even encrypted communications may not be safe from prying eyes,” the Center For Democracy and Technology said of the measures in a recent blog post.

Report: U.S. Will Lose Superpower Status By 2030

By the year 2030, the United States will no longer be considered a world superpower, but it isn’t expected to be replaced by another nation gaining superpower status, according to a National Intelligence Council report.

Power will shift, rather, to “networks and coalitions in a multipolar world,” according to the “Global Trends 2030” report.

The world of 2030 will be radically different from the world today in terms of power structure. By 2030, no country will be a hegemonic power.

The new divisions of power, according to the report, will lead to a reversal in the historic rise in Western power since 1750. This will be integral in “restoring Asia’s weight in the global economy and ushering in a new era of ‘democratization’ at the international and domestic level.”

The report says:

The diffusion of power among countries will have a dramatic impact by 2030. Asia will have surpassed North America and Europe combined in terms of global power, based upon GDP, population size, military spending, and technological investment. China alone will probably have the largest economy, surpassing that of the United States a few years before 2030. In a tectonic shift, the health of the global economy increasingly will be linked to how well the developing world does—more so than the traditional West. In addition to China, India, and Brazil, regional players such as Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Turkey will become especially important to the global economy.

The report says that a best case scenario as global power shifts would be the United States and China becoming strong economic allies who collaborate on a range of issues. Less desirable outcomes, according to the report, would be that global shifts in power lead to conflict as nations seek to gather more resources.

Monday Morning News Roundup 12-10-2012

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

 

  • This month has seen a worldwide explosion in purchases of doomsday prepping gear in as Dec. 21, the much-hyped end of the Mayan calendar, approaches.

 

 

  • Two boys, ages 7 and 11, pulled a gun on a woman in Oregon outside of church parking lot demanding her wallet, phone and car.

 

  • The President is still on the campaign trail, more than a month after the election. This time, he’s in Michigan asking for people to support his tax hikes.

 

 

  • A new proposal is out for global regulation of the Web. It would require countries around the world to explicitly regulate Internet companies.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

Federal Government Expected To Attack State Pot Laws

The Administration of Barack Obama is likely prepared to unleash the Department of Justice on States that opted last month to legalize recreational marijuana use despite national public opinion that leans to the side of the pot-friendly initiatives.

Senior White House and Justice Department officials are considering plans to sue Colorado and Washington to undermine the will of voters in the States where recreational marijuana was legalized by popular vote.

Some Federal law enforcement officials are pushing for Obama to come down hard on the States, arguing that allowing State legality of a Federally illegal drug will lead to other challenges against Federal authority.

The DOJ is reportedly preparing to sue on the grounds that because marijuana is already illegal under Federal law, State officials cannot legally make laws to regulate the drug. If the DOJ prevails, it would strike down the initiatives on the theory that voters wouldn’t have supported marijuana legalization without the promise of heavy government regulation.

There is also the possibility that the Federal government will begin to arrest and prosecute low-threat recreational marijuana users that it would not have otherwise pursued.

Despite the Federal government’s urge to exert its power and let voters and State governments know that its will is final, polling results show that a majority of Americans wish the Feds would butt out. According to a new poll from YouGov, 51 percent of respondents said that the Federal government should allow the States to make their own laws regarding the drug, while only 31 percent said that Federal law should be upheld.

Iranian Official: Sanctions Make Us Stronger

A senior Iranian commander in the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said last week that sanctions from the West are not hurting the nation, but actually making it more self-reliant and resilient.

General Mohammad Reza Naqdi told worshippers at Tehran University that Iran should welcome Western sanctions because they are helping Iranians make their country more self-sufficient, according to The Associated Press.

His remarks are similar to other conservative Iranians who believe that, despite U.N. sanctioned embargos on Western oil, banking and trade with the country, Iran is making technological and industrial advances.

Naqdi said a man who runs 100 meters in 20 seconds can finish it in 7 seconds if a wolf is chasing him, explaining why he believes the country will persevere in missile, drone, satellite and uranium enrichment advancements.

“What we could not achieve in about two decades was achieved in one and a half years,” Naqdi said.

The sanctions have cut Iran off from the Western world and severely damaged its oil trade, which previously accounted for about 80 percent of economic revenue. The Nation’s currency has been severely weakened, most heavily affecting small-business owners and wage earners in the country.

But Iran has made advancements under its “resistance economy,” most notably by constructing facilities to become self-sufficient in producing its own gasoline. The country had worked to do this since 1991 but wasn’t successful until 2010, two years after sanctions began.

Government Borrows Nearly Half Of What It Spends

Nearly half of every dollar the Federal government has spent since the beginning of the 2013 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, has been borrowed, according to the latest data from the Congressional Budget Office released on Friday.

In just the first two months of the fiscal year, the Federal government racked up a deficit of $292 billion, borrowing 46 cents on every dollar it has spent. The government has spent $638 since October and managed to bring in only $346 billion in revenues despite tax revenues being up $30 billion, about 10 percent higher than they were last year.

Spending is up even more. The government has spent an outstanding $87 billion more than it had at this time last year, according to the CBO report; that’s 14 percent higher than it was in fiscal 2012. The budget watchers contend, however, that the higher spending is a result of timing of month-to-month payments.

Taking that into account, the government said that the overall deficit is actually $8 billion lower this year.

The biggest budgetary problem spots, not surprisingly, are related to mandatory expenditures on Social Security, Medicare and interest on already accumulated government debt. These also continue to be major points of contention among Republican and Democratic lawmakers as the fiscal cliff negotiations trudge on.

The CBO says the following about those increases:

  • Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—Expenditures for each of the three largest entitlement programs were higher, with outlays for Social Security benefits increasing the most—by $8 billion (or 7 percent). Spending for Medicare rose by $6 billion (or 8 percent) and outlays for Medicaid rose by $4 billion (or 9 percent).
  • Other Activities—Expenditures in this broad category increased by $7 billion (or 4 percent). Spending increased for the Departments of Agriculture and Justice and for several other programs.
  • Net interest—Outlays for net interest on the public debt were $2 billion (or 5 percent) higher, reflecting both the growing debt held by the public and higher payments for inflation-indexed securities.

Meanwhile, the CBO reported a decrease in government spending on unemployment benefits (down by $4 billion) and defense spending (down by $2 billion) from the same period last year.

Happy Friday! Morning News Roundup 12-7-2012

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has a good idea about how Republicans should handle tax negotiations: “Why don’t we let the Democrats pass whatever they want? If they are the party of higher taxes, all the Republicans vote present and let the Democrats raise taxes as high as they want to raise them, let Democrats in the Senate raise taxes, let the president sign it and then make them own the tax increase.”

 

  • Meanwhile, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is working on the really important stuff. He is working on getting a waiver so that lawmakers are allowed to eat popcorn in the Capitol building while watching a special screening of Steven Spielberg’s ode to the father of Federal superpowers, Lincoln.

 

 

  • President Barack Obama is currently enjoying an approval rating of 57 percent. That’s the highest it has been since he took credit for the Navy SEALS’ purported killing of Osama bin Laden.

 

  • George Zimmerman filed a suit today against NBC Universal over a well-publicized editing error that portrayed him in racist terms in his pursuit of Trayvon Martin.

 

 

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Verizon Files Creepy Spying Television Patent

The telecom giant Verizon has filed a patent for a cable television box that would use sensors to monitor what costumers are doing in their homes and how they are behaving as they view television programing in order to target audiences with more specific advertisements.

In a patent filing, Verizon outlines a set-top box that would use a depth sensor, an image sensor, an audio sensor and a thermal sensor to determine what people are doing while they watch television.

“If detection facility detects one or more words spoken by a user (e.g. while talking to another user within the same room or on the telephone), advertising facility may utilize the one or more words spoken by the user to search for and/or select an advertisement associated with the one or more words,” Verizon wrote in its application.

The technology would also allow the company to know how the inhabitants of the home were interacting with one another. For instance, a couple watching a romantic program while cuddling on the couch could be recognized by the set and targeted for ads for contraceptives or romantic getaways.

The company would also be able to find out whether a user is “eating, exercising, laughing, reading, sleeping, talking, singing, humming, cleaning, playing a musical instrument, performing any other suitable action, and/or engaging in any other physical activity during the presentation of the media content,” according to the patent.

While the technology raises major privacy concerns and brings to mind notions of the all-seeing telescreens in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, Verizon said its customers have no need to worry.

“Verizon has a well-established track record of respecting its customers’ privacy and protecting their personal information. As a company that prizes innovation, Verizon takes pride in its innovators whose work is represented in our patents and patent applications. While we do not comment on pending patent applications, such futuristic patent filings by innovators are routine, and whatever we might do in the future would be in line with our well-established track record of respecting our customers’ privacy and protecting their personal information,” it said in a statement.

Political Correctness Busybodies Attack Senior Citizens’ Christmas Tree

Residents at a senior housing complex in California are outraged that management of the building has ordered them to remove their Christmas tree from a communal area because “it’s a religious symbol.”

On Tuesday, JB Partners Group Inc. sent a memo to staff at The Willows senior apartment building in Newhall, Calif., demanding they take down Christmas trees and menorahs in communal areas, according to Los Angeles Daily News.

“We’re all angry. We want that tree,” Fern Scheel, a resident of the complex told the news outlet. “Where’s our freedom? This is ridiculous.”

JB Partners did not reply to media requests for comment on the matter. The company owns apartments in California, Oklahoma and Colorado.

“I’ve got grandkids and they come here and now they’ll ask, `Grandpa, where’s the Christmas tree?’ Then I’ll have to explain that someone said we couldn’t have one. What kind of message is that sending to the kids?” resident Max Greenis said of the demand.

The political correctness assault on the California group of seniors comes as ongoing controversy brews in Rhode Island, where Governor Lincoln Chafee refuses to utter the words “Christmas tree.”

“I did what the previous governor did, called it a Holiday Tree. So this goes back to the 90s,” said Chafee, to the dismay of Rhode Islanders who have pointed out that changing the name does not change the symbol.

DeMint Joins Heritage To Broaden Conservative Message

Influential conservative Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is exiting his final term in the Senate four years early to take over as president of the Heritage Foundation, a GOP-affiliated think tank in Washington with a budget of about $80 million.

DeMint is Tea Party favorite and a strong social and fiscal conservative who has said in the past that “you can’t be a fiscal conservative unless you’re also a social conservative.” The Senator said he is taking the job at Heritage with the goal of popularizing conservative ideals that could appeal to a broader public.

“This is an urgent time,” he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, “because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections.”

DeMint will take over the role of the foundation’s president from Edwin J. Feulner, the man who first envisioned the think tank in 1973 and has led it as president for the past 36 years.

Despite hard leanings to the right on social issues in the past, DeMint has taken a stance more recently saying the Republican Party must adopt more Libertarian values.

“The new debate in the Republican party needs to be between conservatives and libertarians,” he said in an interview with Reason. “A lot of the libertarian ideas that Ron Paul is talking about…should not be alien to any Republican.”

The Senator may also push for the GOP as a whole to back off its traditional aversion to any kind of military spending cuts in his new position.

“I’m not sure what that number is. But I do know there’s waste in Pentagon spending. We’ve identified waste not only in the Pentagon but all across the board….But we have to have a vision for what we want our military to do,” DeMint said in a recent interview.

Thursday Morning News Roundup 12-6-2012

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • If President Barack Obama and Congress fail to come to agreement over the fiscal cliff, high-income Californians would end up paying the Nation’s highest tax rate of nearly 52 percent because of the passage of Proposition 30.

 

  • More bad news about the National Defense Authorization Act. Lawmakers have proposed an amendment that would add a national online sales tax.

 

 

  • The CIA scrubbed and abandoned the United States’ diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, within eight hours of the fatal Sept. 11 attacks, according to a report.

 

  • Pot smokers in Washington State are jubilant as they spark up joints under Seattle’s Space Needle.

 

 

 

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

DHS Grants Not Making Anyone Safer

In a new report, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) points out that America’s burgeoning homeland security apparatus is undermining the safety of the Nation with wasteful spending while robbing citizens of precious individual liberty.

Coburn’s report “Safety At Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities” takes a look at some of the ways that taxpayer dollars have been spent with the supposed purpose of making American cities safer.

The Senator singles out the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) which provides government grants for the militarization of local police forces and other localized homeland security initiatives. But Coburn argues that the Federal government’s careless handouts are leading to gross misspending on unnecessary equipment.

DHS has spent an estimated $35 billion on grant programs over the past decade, $7.144 billion of which was directed to UASI grants. Coburn argues that it is unclear whether the many billions in spending has actually served to make American cities any safer from potential terror threats, pointing out some questionable uses of the grant funding throughout the Nation.

  • Michigan officials used DHS grant funding to purchase 13 sno-cone machines.
  • Officials in Cook County, Ill., spent $45 million in DHS funds on a failed video surveillance network.
  • City officials in Columbus, Ohio, were given $98,000 to purchase an underwater robot.
  • The tiny New Hampshire town of Keene (pop. 23,000) bought an armored military vehicle for its 40 cops to use during patrols of the local pumpkin festival.

Coburn also outlines a number of more mundane expenses in the report such as purchases of office equipment for local police forces or security upgrades to sports complexes. The biggest concern, the Senator argues, is that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is unable to define how, specifically, the billions of dollars in spending directly improves homeland security or disaster preparations.

From the report:

Given our nearly $16 trillion national debt, and the federal government’s many competing responsibilities, it is important that Congress carefully consider what we can afford and what investments on anti-terrorism programs will yield the best return on investment in terms of improved security. Before Congress embraces a consolidation plan, and allocates another $35 billion in homeland security grants, it is essential that DHS’s address the difficulties it has had to this point implementing the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) and other DHS grant programs.

The report also pointed out that DHA allowed cities to use grant funds to pay for officials’ attendance at the HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit in San Diego in late October. “The marquee event over the summit, however, was its highly promoted ‘zombie apocalypse’ demonstration,” the report said.

America In Danger Of Downward Mobile Status

Due to a growing number of Americans opting to forgo advanced education degrees because of skyrocketing college costs and diminishing job markets, some education experts say the Nation is in danger of becoming a place where downward mobility is the social norm.

Andreas Schleicher, special adviser on education at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said in a recent BBC interview that there is a growing trend of younger Americans being less educated than their parents. At the current rate, he said, the United States will soon be the only major economy on Earth where most members of younger generations are less educated than their parents.

This could lead to the Nation falling behind significantly in its ability to compete in an international economy.

“It’s something of great significance because much of today’s economic power of the United States rests on a very high degree of adult skills — and that is now at risk,” Schleicher said. “These skills are the engine of the US economy and the engine is stuttering.”

The education expert’s remarks come on the heels of OECD reports that show the balance of global economic dominance shifting heavily in the next half century. The report shows the United States dropping from 23 percent of total global gross domestic product to just 16 percent by the year 2060. Conversely, China is expected to make gains from 17 percent to 28 percent in the same timeframe.

IMF: Spending Cuts Slow Growth More Than Tax Hikes

A new study conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) takes into account decades of economic data about the world’s industrialized nations to examine how changes in government spending affects economic output.

According to the report, which researchers say is the first of its kind, fiscal negotiators in the United States would do well to tread lightly in coming weeks as they work to flesh out an agreement over the Nation’s economic problems. The IMF paper says that in its current state of recovery from the 2008 recession, cutting too much government spending could stall growth in the overall economy. The researchers predict that for every dollar the government cuts, it is possible that $1.80 in economic output will disappear having a “statistically significant…and sizeable” negative economic impact.

The paper goes on to indicate that raising taxes on Americans by one percent would only knock 0.1 percent out of the overall economy.

The paper indicates that however the fiscal negotiators tackle the economic recovery process, IMF suggests slower is better.

“When feasible a more gradual fiscal…consolidation is likely to prove preferable to an approach that aims at ‘getting it over quickly,’” the paper says.

Wednesday Morning News Roundup 12-5-2012

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Budget hawk Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is at it again. This time he has pointed out how snow cone machines are being bought to protect the homeland.

 

  • Motorists in New York City are suing the city government, alleging that red light cameras have been rigged to catch more drivers and write more tickets to provide revenue.

 

  • President Barack Obama is seeking help with American tax policy from… MSNBC hosts.

 

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

Disability Insurance Overwhelmed, Increasingly Scammed

Politicians use one word endlessly throughout campaign seasons: jobs. But they don’t often talk about the millions of Americans who seemingly don’t want them, including the millions opting to go on disability.

Social Security’s disability insurance program has long been a godsend for Americans injured or unable to work because of physical impairments. Evidence shows, however, that a growing number of people are opting for disabled to be their career of choice by defrauding the system.

An aging Nation and tough economic times have seen disability claims skyrocket so much that the Social Security Administration can’t keep up. This is creating a backlog of applicants and making it hard for many who are legitimately disabled to get disability benefits.

Meanwhile, the opportunity to make an average of $1,100 a month without having to work has become increasingly popular with scammers. The system is being defrauded by recipients who often claim to have ailments that are both chronic and nearly impossible for healthcare professionals to refute.

Despite increasing quality of healthcare in the United States over the past several decades along with special provisions put in place in the 1990s via the Americans With Disabilities Act (both of which make it easier for those with disabilities to lead normal lives), more and more people are claiming to be too disabled to work.

Conservative columnist Michael Barone points out in a recent piece that about half as many people entered the disability rolls (4.1 million) as did the workforce (8.8 million) in the years between 1996 and 2011. He also notes that the age of the average disability recipient is dropping, with more than 15 percent of those on disability younger than 50 in 2011.

Since 2009, the disability program has paid out more than it collects. In 2011, total outlays were $128 billion, while the program’s revenues totaled only about $94 billion. Disability insurance is expected to be the first portion of the larger Social Security system to reach total insolvency.

TSA On The Highway

If you thought you could avoid intrusive encounters with the Transportation Security Administration by simply avoiding the airport, you’re wrong. The agency is seeking permission to expand its reach to highways and other transportation hubs throughout the Nation.

The TSA is currently seeking permission from the Office of Management and Budget to conduct “security-related assessments” of about 750 long-haul trucking operators as well as 140 public transportation agencies.

Under an initiative dubbed the Highway Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement (BASE) program, the TSA will work to find ways to “fill security gaps” related to transportation on American highways and interstates.

The agency states in a Federal notice:

TSA’s Highway BASE program seeks to establish the current state of security gaps and implemented countermeasures throughout the highway mode of transportation by posing questions to major transportation asset owners and operators. Data and results collected through the Highway BASE program will inform TSA’s policy and program initiatives and allow TSA to provide focused resources and tools to enhance the overall security posture within the surface transportation community.

The TSA has already taken measures to set up airport-style checkpoints at a number of rail stations and last year examined trucks and buses on Tennessee highways.

 

The Government Has Your Emails, All Of Them

A National Security Administration whistle-blower said in a recent interview that the U.S. government collects massive troves of data about American citizens, which it could use against anyone it chooses.

Speaking with RT, William Binney, a former NSA mathematician and code breaker, said that the Federal government uses a powerful data collection tool to store the contents of virtually every email sent by anyone in the Nation.

“[T]he FBI has access to the data collected, which is basically the e-mails of virtually everybody in the country. And the FBI has access to it. All the congressional members are on the surveillance too, no one is excluded. They are all included. So, yes, this can happen to anyone. If they become a target for whatever reason — they are targeted by the government, the government can go in, or the FBI, or other agencies of the government, they can go into their database, pull all that data collected on them over the years, and we analyze it all. So, we have to actively analyze everything they’ve done for the last 10 years at least,” he said.

Binney said the government is collecting the information in bulk without any regard to whether the individuals whose information is being stored is subject to criminal investigation at this time or is considered a threat to national security. According to the former NSA agent, the data is collected with a powerful information technology device called Naris which is capable of collecting all information being sent over fiber optic cables in the United States. The information is then stored in vast data collection centers where it can be searched later by Federal agents.

This sort of vast data snooping by the Federal government was first brought to light when it was discovered that the NSA was working with AT&T to monitor customer phone and Internet activity via a secret office at the company’s headquarters. The discovery led to a lawsuit and much stonewalling by the Federal government.

Binney says government surveillance of data over fiber optic networks has increased since the first lawsuit was filed against AT&T for allowing Fed snoops to mine its data networks. He claims that under the Administration of Barack Obama the government has even had to build larger facilities to store all of the data it is collecting from Americans’ inboxes.

“They are doing more. He is supporting the building of the Buffdale facility, which is over two billion dollars they are spending on storage room for data. That means that they are collecting a lot more now and need more storage for it,” he said. “That facility by my calculations that I submitted to the court for the electronic frontiers foundation against NSA would hold on the order of 5 zettabytes of data. Just that current storage capacity is being advertised on the web that you can buy. And that’s not talking about what they have in the near future.”

Good Doctors Listen Carefully

New research suggests that a doctor can better the health of a patient simply by ensuring that a relationship is built upon trust and empathy.

Researchers from Michigan State University have shown that doctors who listen carefully have happier patients with better health outcomes not only because they make better treatment decisions, but also because empathy actually changes the brain’s response to stress and increases pain tolerance.

“This is the first study that has looked at the patient-centered relationship from a neurobiological point of view,” said Issidoros  Sarinopoulos, the lead researcher. “It’s important for doctors and others who advocate this type of relationship with the patient to show that there is a biological basis.”

In the study patients were randomly assigned to one of two types of interview with a doctor before undergoing an MRI scan. One set was asked only specific questions about clinical information such as their medical history and what drugs they were taking. The other patients were assigned doctors who addressed any concerns participants had about the procedure and asked open-ended questions, allowing them to talk freely about their jobs, home life and other psychological and social factors affecting health.

The patients were then given a series of electric shocks while looking at a photo of a doctor who they were told was supervising the procedure. Using the MRI, researchers measured activity in the anterior insula — the part of the brain that makes people aware of pain.

Individuals who had a previous patient-centered interview showed less activity in the anterior insula when they were looking at a photo of the interviewing doctor than when the doctor in the photo was unknown. They participants also self-reported less pain when the photos showed the known doctor.

“Medicine has for too long focused just on the physical dimensions of the patient,” said MSU professor of medicine Robert Smith, who co-authored the paper. “Those clinical questions are important and necessary, but we’re trying to demonstrate that when you let patients tell their story in an unfettered way, you get more satisfied patients who end up healthier.”

Tuesday Morning News Roundup 12-4-2012

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Law enforcement officers are lobbying wireless phone providers to keep detailed logs of Americans’ text messages for two years in case they’re needed for future criminal investigations. Welcome to 1984.
  • A National Security Administration whistle-blower says that every person in the United States is under virtual government surveillance.
  • Iran said that it has captured a U.S. intelligence drone in its airspace over the Gulf in the past few days, but the U.S. military quickly denied having lost any unmanned aircraft.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

No, The Indefinite Detention Fight Isn’t Over

Headlines last week declaring a civil liberties victory in a Senate vote to do away with indefinite detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act are misleading, say critics of military detention of American citizens.

The amendment to NDAA filed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and backed by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) was approved 67-23 last Thursday.

The amendment reads:

Nothing in the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) or the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (Public Law 112-81) shall be construed to deny the availability of the writ of habeas corpus or to deny any Constitutional rights in a court ordained or established by or under Article III of the Constitution for any person who is lawfully in the United States when detained pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) and who is otherwise entitled to the availability of such writ or such rights,” reads Sec 1033 (a) of the proposed Pentagon spending bill.

While the lawmakers claimed a victory in reigning in the military’s detention powers, the American Civil Liberties Union argued that that the Feinstein Amendment is far from a fix to eliminate indefinite detention and, in fact, expands the government’s power to hold Americans prisoner.

The ACLU argues the following points are problems with the amendment:

  • It would NOT make America off-limits to the military being used to imprison civilians without charge or trial. That’s because its focus on protections for citizens and green-card holders implies that non-citizens could be militarily detained. The goal should be to prohibit domestic use of the military entirely. That’s the protection provided to everyone in the United States by the Posse Comitatus Act. That principle would be broken if the military can find an opening to operate against civilians here at home, maybe under the guise of going after non-citizens. This is truly an instance where, when some lose their rights, all lose rights — even those who look like they are being protected.
  • It is inconsistent with the Constitution, which makes clear that basic due process rights apply to everyone in the United States. No group of immigrants should be denied the most basic due process right of all — the right to be charged and tried before being imprisoned.
  • It would set some dangerous precedents for Congress: that the military may have a role in America itself, that indefinite detention without charge or trial can be contemplated in the United States, and that some immigrants can be easily carved out of the most basic due process protections.

The bottom line, according to critics of the amendment, is that it still leaves open the possibility for the U.S. military to detain citizens and persons on U.S. soil in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, which limits the use of military to enforce domestic law.

GMO Giants To Send Retired Cops To Farms

Genetically modified food giant DuPont has hired dozens of retired law enforcement professionals to sic on farmers it expects of saving seeds from harvests of its patented soybeans for use in the next planting year.

The company has contracted Canadian-based Agro Protection International, a company that contracts retired police officers to patrol potential violations of intellectual property law. The former cops, who already patrol Canadian farms for signs of double planting, will head out to American soybean farms that have seed contracts with DuPont next year. The company plans to sue farmers who use seeds from harvest for contract violations.

“Farmers are never going to get cheap access to these genetically engineered varieties,” said Charles Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The biotech industry has trumped the legitimate economic interests of the farmer again by raising the ante on intellectual property.”

DuPont currently controls 36 percent of the soybean market in the United States — more than GMO giant Monsanto, from which it licenses the rights to sell U.S. farmers Roundup Ready soybeans that can withstand heavy doses of pesticides and herbicides. DuPont generated $1.37 billion in sales last year from soybean seeds, while Monsanto made $1.77 billion on the seeds and licenses.

The company has sued 145 farmers since 1997, according to Bloomberg, and won all of the 11 cases related to the suits that went to court. The Supreme Court said last month that it will soon consider whether the GMO planting restrictions are legal.