Category Archives: Technology

At Typically Genial FOI/Privacy Task Force, a Rare Burst of Frustration

by Categorized: Ethics, First Amendment, Government, Law Enforcement, Legal Affairs, Media, Politics, Public Safety, Technology, Transparency/FOI, Uncategorized Date:

The 17-member Task Force on Victim Privacy and the Public’s Right to Know is typically a cordial bunch, despite having strong voices at polar opposites on the issues. Garvin G. Ambrose, the state’s victim advocate, for example, evaluates victim privacy and media rights through a completely different lens than, say, James H. Smith, a former newspaper editor and now executive director of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information. And Chief Public Defender Susan O. Storey sits right next to Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane, leading to frequent side-by-side disagreements, but also to occasional friendly banter.

But despite the normally civil tone, the task force, created in response to the Sandy Hook shootings, “can be a pressure cooker,” Smith said. And that below-the-surface tension made a rare and dramatic appearance during a marathon hearing Wednesday, when a frustrated DebraLee Hovey, a task force member and state representative from Newtown, laid into a transparency advocate who suggested that civil laws might already address the sort of harmful behavior members of the committee were looking to curtail.

Rosanna Cavanagh, a lawyer and executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, told task force members that relatives of the Newtown victims had seemed to indicate through their attorney that they were primarily concerned about graphic details of the crime being misused by those on the fringe who were intent on causing pain to the families. She said those actions could run afoul of laws already on the books that punish the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

That earned a sharp rebuke from Hovey, who assailed Cavanagh’s perspective – and lawyers in general. You can view the exchange below, and watch the entire hearing on, the website of the Connecticut Network.

The task force was established by the legislature to “consider and make recommendations regarding the balance between victim privacy under the Freedom of Information Act and the public’s right to know.” Those recommendations are due Jan. 1.

Courant/Frontline Investigation Continues: The Deep Divide Over Guns in America

by Categorized: Business, Law Enforcement, Politics, Public Safety, Technology Date:

Following the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, many called for a renewed discussion of gun violence in America, predicting that the tragedy would bring the nation closer to agreement on solutions to keep deadly weapons out of the wrong hands.

But the Courant, in collaboration with the PBS show “Frontline,” found that two months after the attack that killed 20 students and six educators, the cultural gulf over guns  – in America, in Connecticut, even in Newtown – is deeper than ever, with little common ground between those who see guns as a source of enjoyment and protection and those who see guns only as killing machines.

A Deeper Divide: The Gun Control Debate After Newtown” explores that divide, from a dispute in Newtown last year over unregulated outdoor shooting,  to the newly energized supporters of stricter gun-control, to the newly steadfast gun enthusiasts marshaling to defend rights they fear they will lose to what they see as emotional and ineffective legislative proposals.

The package of stories includes two sidebars. “A Deeper Divide: In Newtown and Caught in the Middle” focuses on a lifelong hunter in Newtown who feels heat from both sides of the debate. “A Deeper Divide: Two Views on One Gun” explores the difficulty of defining the term “assault weapon,” and illustrates how far apart the two camps are, with the industry describing military-style semi-automatic firearms as “modern sporting rifles,” and one gun-control advocate describing those same guns as “military-grade people killers.”

The stories on the gun debate follows the publication of “Raising Adam Lanza” an in-depth examination by the Courant and “Frontline” on the life of the Sandy Hook shooter and his relationship to his mother, Nancy Lanza.

At 10 p.m. tonight, “Frontline” will air a special report on both joint projects with the Courant.

How Accurate Are Those Hurricane Forecasts?

by Categorized: Data, Science, Technology Date:

Hurricane Sandy is four days – or maybe six days – from making U.S. landfall somewhere around New Jersey – or maybe northern Maine.

Hurricane forecasting has improved dramatically in the last half century – it wasn’t until 1988 that the National Hurricane Center even released 36-hour forecasts – but it’s still an inexact science confounded by the fickle ways of Mother Nature.

So how soon is too soon to start packing or panicking? The chart below shows the average accuracy of the Hurricane Center’s tracking of Atlantic storms over the last five years, from 12 hours to five days out. So for example, at five days out – the blue 120-hour line – the forecast was off by less than 200 nautical miles about the half the time and off by more than 200 miles about half the time.

Likewise, the green line shows that 48 hours out, the forecast track was off by no more than about 100 nautical miles 70 percent of the time. And the accuracy naturally gets better still as the time frame shrinks.

So where and when will Sandy hit? Who knows. But just in case, you might want to print out the chart so you have something to read by candlelight next week.

WWE Moves to Pull “Edgier” Clips From Digital Platforms

by Categorized: Media, Politics, Technology Date:

World Wrestling Entertainment has announced an effort to scrub “dated and edgier” footage from various digital platforms, including YouTube, saying the use of the racy clips damages its current reputation as a provider of PG- and G-rated entertainment.

In a brief announcement sent late Thursday, company spokesman Brian Flinn said older WWE footage has been “misused in political environments without any context or explanation as to when it was produced.”

Senate candidate Linda McMahon is WWE’s former CEO, and the company has been a popular target for opponents, who have distributed clips showing women in degrading positions during WWE shows.

The brief statement did not indicate how WWE planned to proceed, or which digital platforms in particular the company was referring to. But Flinn later clarified by email that YouTube is a focus of the effort. The company has in the past sought to remove certain clips from YouTube, but as of late Thursday, other clips showing women in compromising positions could still be found.

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Danbury Prosecutor Fired for Secretly Videotaping Women in the Courthouse

by Categorized: Employment, Law Enforcement, Legal Affairs, Technology, Transparency/FOI Date:

A veteran Danbury prosecutor accused of secretly photographing and videotaping women in the courthouse has been fired.

Senior Assistant State’s Attorney David M. Holzbach was terminated after an investigation found he had secretly recorded women, viewed pornography on his work computer during work hours and collected in his office “voluminous pictures of women, some pornographic in nature, while others depict women being bound or gagged or otherwise being subjected to degrading behavior,” according to documents released Tuesday.

Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, in a certified letter to Holzbach, said he gave consideration to Holzbach’s work record and expression of remorse. “However, your behavior is completely intolerable and is of such gravity that termination of your employment is required.”

The investigation that led to Holzbach’s firing began in mid-April, after a woman notified Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III that she had seen Holzbach secretly videotaping women with a special pen. It was at least the fifth time Holzbach had been accused of similar behavior, during his more than 20 years as a prosecutor. Less than two weeks later, Holzbach was seen using the pen again, and it was confiscated by Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Warren Murray, who was assigned to investigate the allegations.

Investigators subsequently found a user’s manual for a Brookstone Video Spy Pen “used to record females in courthouse and on grounds,” a hollow box with a one-way mirror in Holzbach’s office intended to be used to hide another camera, and four banker’s boxes filled with pictures of women, some apparently clipped from magazines and comic books. Continue reading

GlaxoSmithKline: From Pharmaceutical Powerhouse to Sophisticated Criminal Enterprise

by Categorized: Consumer Affairs, Health, Legal Affairs, Science, Technology Date:

News outlets across the country dutifully reported a week ago that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline had struck a deal with federal prosecutors, agreeing to pay $3 billion to settle criminal and civil charges related to its illegal promotion of various drugs.

Such deals have become sufficiently commonplace – Big Pharma has paid nearly $10 billion in the last 3 1/2 years to make federal authorities go away – that there may be a bit of fraud fatigue in reading such stories. But lawbreaking by pharmaceutical companies kills people and puts countless others at risk, so it’s worth revisiting the depth to which GlaxoSmithKline fell on its journey from respected pharmaceutical powerhouse to sophisticated criminal enterprise. And it’s equally worth noting that its crimes could not have been committed without the aiding and abetting of physicians and university scientists.

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Buyer Beware: Used-Car Scammers Still Rampant on Craigslist

by Categorized: Consumer Affairs, Finance, Legal Affairs, Public Safety, Technology Date:

The showroom-clean 2004 Toyota Avalon offered on Hartford’s craiglist site may seem like a steal at $2,135. But that stealing, sadly, will come at the expense of any overly eager car buyer willing to fork over the money.

The craigslist ad is a fake — one of scores of bogus car ads that continue to pop up every day on the popular classified-ad site. Last October, I wrote about the craigslist used-car scam, describing the clever methodology crime rings in Romania have perfected to steal nearly $50 million from more than 15,000 victims.

Six months later, the scammers show no sign of letting up, as illustrated by a spin through Hartford’s craigslist offerings. The 2005 Acura TL for $2,617? Fake. The 2007 Lexus IS 250 with air-conditioned seats for $2,350? Fake. The 2006 Nissan Altima “Janice Johnson” is willing to let go for the same $2,350? Fake, fake, fake. Continue reading