Archive: February, 2010
Lara Coleman here with your morning fix:
A NATO air strike on a convoy of three vehicles kills more than two dozen civilians in southern Afghanistan.We are winning hearts and minds.
Lufthansa pilots begin their four-day strike, canceling 800 flights, in an effort to negotiate pay and job security.
President Obama is proposing a new health care plan that would limit extreme health care increases or rollbacks. The proposal will be revealed later today. Republicans will oppose it, because that's what they do.
The United States hockey team scores another great Olympic upset, besting Canada on its home ice 5-3 on Sunday, and advancing the to the quarterfinals.
Three pit-bull attacks in Philadelphia have caused multiple severe injuries and death. The latest attack occurred after 11 a.m. yesterday and left a 10 year-old boy in critical condition.
A 2 year old girl is abandoned in a Newark gas station. The police found her yesterday, but have so far been unable to get any information about her identity.
Philly legendary recording studio, Gamble and Huff's, caught fire Sunday morning. The fire left extensive damage and the cause has not yet been determined.
The number of marijuana users over age 50 has increased from 1.9 percent to 2.9 percent, as the boomer generation ages.
The EPA plans to spend $2.2 billon over the next five years in order to clean up the pollution that has been marring the Great Lakes, and stop the invasive species, including the Asian carp, that have been causing problems for native plants and animals.
Trying to find a good place to go and start Yoga for the first time. Hopefully on the more affordable side if possible?
NBC 10 got an interview with the kid (and his lawyer) at the center of the Lower Merion School District scandal. According to their story, we now know the supposed inappropriate behavior that the School District snapped a photo of, via Blake's Web cam: The district thought they caught him popping pills. Blake Robbins says they were Mike-N-Ike's candies.
The 16-year-old from Penn Valley, Pa. claims Matsko showed him photos remotely taken with the built-in webcam on his MacBook, according to the suit.
In the photos, the teen was allegedly holding two pill-shaped objects, says Robbins' attorney Mark Haltzman. School officials believed they were drugs, while the family maintains they were simply Mike-N-Ike candy.
"They were trying to allege thatâ¦those were pills and somehow he was involved in selling drugs," Halzman said Friday.
Of course, the district told us yesterday, in so many words, that Blake's computer had to have been reported stolen, or else they wouldn't have activated the security contraption on his MacBook. The AP has reported that district officials have said that only two tech department folks had the authority to activate that security feature, which, of course, raises the question: How the hell did a Harriton High assistant principal get her hands on a photo of Blake eating candy, or whatever? Also, as Holly reported yesterday, the district has done this before, though how often remains unclear. From the NBC story:
If the allegations of spying prove to be true, Blake may not be the only victim. Other students claim they've seen their webcam go live while off school grounds and worry they've been spied on too.
âOccasionally a green light would go on, on your computer which would kind of give you the feeling that somebody's watching you,â Harriton High School student Drew Scheier told NBC Philadelphia Thursday.
The FBI is reportedly investigating, as is the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office; the Inky is reporting that federal prosecutors have issued subpoenas. Buckle yourselves in, folks: this thing's gonna get a whole lot weirder before it's over.
Editor's note: We heard that PETA was staging its "Naked women in public protesting the circus" thing yesterday, and dispatched intern Tom Tiballi and his camera down to cover it. He files this report:
âI think I see a nipple!â says one passerby at the sight of a PETA protest held Feb. 18 on the corner of Market and Ninth streets. The circus is coming to town next week, and predictably enough, PETA isn't happy. The animal rights group has already successfully pushed Ashton, Pa.'s Nuemann University into dropping its sponsorship of the Ringling Brothers' events at the Wachovia Center Feb. 24-28. Now, in an effort to convince you not to go, a young lady will freeze her naked ass off in the name of publicity.
It was billed as a strip-in, but from what I saw, there was no actual stripping. But, amid a group of about 10 girls helping out with all the signage, I did find a young woman, topless, painted bright orange with black tiger stripes and locked in a cage
âWe are trying to get people to realize that tigers and other animals used in these circuses are caged for most of their lives, because animals can't do it themselves,â Amanda Fortino tells me. Fortino wears a bright red toque to keep her from catching her death on this blustery Philadelphia afternoon, and, as a campaign coordinator for PETA, is overseeing the whole event.
A young lady hands me some âinformation," a series of glossy photos of sad elephants, and elephants batting sad puppy eyes at me has always been a big chink in my macho hombre armor. âShe's fine,â the same young lady replies to someone who has shown concern for the caged pussycat woman, shivering in a dog crate, âas long as you pass along the information, that's what she's there for.â
I am just one of many guys snapping photos of the scene, but am the only one who can bear the cold blowing up Market for more than a brief, passing moment. âIs she naked?!â asks one enthusiastic teenage boy, who presumably might have been able to tell for himself had he not been skipping Biology class at the time. âI say we let all the circus animals free to run through the city!â His friend chimes in, while a third whips out his camera phone to get proof of how much more awesome their afternoon was than whatever their bro's were doing in school.
âSome mastermind at PETA came up with the tiger in a cage and we have been doing this for years,â Fortino says of the caged-animal motif. âIt's an eye-catching visual that brings people over, so they can get the information.â
I just got off the phone with Doug Young, the spokesperson for Lower Merion School District. (If you haven't been keeping up on this totally insane story, get caught up here and here.) The gist is this: Lower Merion student Blake Robbins filed a class action-suit against the district for allegedly spying on him via a webcam, which was attached to one of the school's laptops that they allow students to take home. According to Robbins and his lawyers, they became aware of this when assistant principal Lindy Matsko "informed [Robbins] that the school district was of the belief that [Robbins] was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in [Robbins'] personal laptop issued by the school district."
Yesterday, the district issued a statement claiming that the laptops contain a security feature that is utilized only when a laptop is reported stolen or missing. Here's how it works, apparently: It takes a still image of the laptop's operator and the operator's screen, and, the district swears to God, that's it.
OK, so back to my interview with Young, in which he admits that the school district has used the webcam "security feature" more than once, and that they're not alone in doing so:
City Paper: Has the school district used this security feature before?
Doug Young: Yes, a handful of times. We only used it when a laptop was reported stolen, lost or missing.
CP: Did Blake Robbins steal the laptop?
DY: I can't refer to the specifics of the case, but I can say that the feature would not be activated unless it was reported stolen. A student or family member would have to report that it was stolen for us to use it.
CP: Why not just use an IP address to find the laptop?
DY: That's a good question, I don't know why. I'll have to get back to you about that. I can say that the software feature isn't just utilized in this school district. It's utilized by other school districts and organizations.
CP: Which school districts?
DY: I'll have to get back to you on that.
CP: Why use this feature, considering its potential for abuse?
DY: There's no question that the district had a responsibility to clearly indicate what the feature was and how it would be utilized to the students and parents. That wasn't done, and that was a mistake. We take the situation very seriously. The safety and privacy of students is our top priority. We recognize the concerns that are out there, and we need to conduct a full review of the policies, procedures and process that made this happen. That being said, we intend to defend ourselves vigorously and intend to win.
CP: Does the district plan to use the feature in the future?
DY: It's been disabled, and we wouldn't use the feature in the future unless parents and students were first made aware.
CP: Are the people who are responsible for using this feature being terminated?
DY: I can't speak to that.
Good readers of the Clogosphere,
Little story about the best-laid plans and whatnot.
I'll be out of the office next week on a sorely needed respite from the snow and drudgery that's become this Philadelphia winter. The girlfriend and I had been hoping to skip the country for a long getaway for, oh, a year or so now. We'd thought about New Zealand â¦ and Spain â¦ and Peru. All of which were enticing but, to varying degrees, beyond our budgets. So, on January 9, 2010, booked a week-long trip to â¦ The Dominican Republic. Of course, three days later, a massive earthquake struck the DR's Hispaniola neighbors Haiti, causing one of the great disasters of our time.
We were, of course, concerned about how to proceed. Would it be safe to go? Would we be able to help or volunteer? Should we cancel our plans?
What we found out was that life was continuing pretty much as usual in the largely un-affected DR and, despite our best efforts, no organization wanted volunteers of the "less-than-10-years-of-disaster-relief-experience" variety, let alone of the "no-disaster-relief-experience-at-all" variety.
So we're going on vacation. To the Dominican Republic. (We'll be sure to buckle our seatbelts.) At a time that could be conservatively considered "tenuous."
Not sure how much we'll be able to report from the trip (you can follow along on Twitter, provided my Android gets any data service), though you can expect a full account upon our return.
And if anyone's got any recommendations in the DR â we'll be splitting our time between Santo Domingo's Zona Colonial and the SamanÃ¡ peninsula town of Las Terrenas â please post them here, or Tweet 'em to @beegee73.
And if you haven't yet given any money to Haiti relief, or if you haven't since the quake but were wondering if you should, please consider donating. I suggest Doctors Without Borders, but there are plenty of other worthwhile causes out there as well.
Lara Coleman here with your (mid-) morning fix:
Iran has created a new missile destroyer that can carry 120 people and is equipped with surface-to-air missiles, torpedoes, and modern naval cannons. Commence panicking.
Evan Lysacek becomes the first American to win the gold for male figure skating in the Olympics since 1988. Also, U-S-A U-S-A!
A man stole an ambulance from the Albert Einstein Medical Center yesterday and proceeded to go for a joyride on the Schuylkill Expressway during morning rush hour, driving recklessly until he was arrested at gunpoint.
Joesph Stack crashed a small single-engine airplane into the side of an IRS field office in Austin yesterday because he was angered over tax issues. Nude centerfold/tea-bagger champion/US Sen. Scott Brown sympathizes, sort of.
In Uniontown, Pa., at about 3:30 a.m., a 57-year-old man jumped on to the hood of his girlfriend's car (while she was driving it) during an argument, wearing only underwear. The police found drug paraphernalia in the car.
Northern Illinois University was briefly shut down after a student was shot near a residence hall, the students were told to attend class shortly after.
A French court has convicted nearly a dozen people of exporting fake Pinot Noir from France to the United States in an organized fraud. So far, Claude Courset has received the harshest sentence of a six-month prison sentence and a $61,000 fine.
Two American missionaries, Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter, still face trial in Haiti for allegedly attempting to kidnap 33 children from Haiti. Coulter and Silsby maintain that they were only there to help the children. Eight others were released yesterday.
President Obama met with the Dalai Lama yesterday to have a private chat in order to show support for human rights without causing friction between the United States and China.
Snowpacalypse 4? Not gonna happen.
As a few of our astute Cloggers have pointed out, the Lower Merion School District issued a statement yesterday at 5:30 p.m. in response to allegations that the district had spied on a student via a webcam:
Dear LMSD Community,
Last year, our district became one of the first school systems in the United States to provide laptop computers to all high school students. This initiative has been well received and has provided educational benefits to our students.
The District is dedicated to protecting and promoting student privacy. The laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops. This feature has been deactivated effective today.
The following questions and answers help explain the background behind the initial decision to install the tracking-security feature, its limited use, and next steps.
â¢ Why are webcams installed on student laptops?
The Apple computers that the District provides to students come equipped with webcams and students are free to utilize this feature for educational purposes.
â¢ Why was the remote tracking-security feature installed?
Laptops are a frequent target for theft in schools and off school property. The security feature was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student.
â¢ How did the security feature work?
Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature was activated by the District's security and technology departments. The tracking-security feature was limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator's screen. This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever.
â¢ Do you anticipate reactivating the tracking-security feature?
Not without express written notification to all students and families.
We regret if this situation has caused any concern or inconvenience among our students and families. We are reviewing the matter and will provide an additional update as soon as information becomes available.
Dr. Christopher McGinley
The school district and Blake Robbins' lawyer have not returned our calls.
Snowmageddon: February 10th. Today: February 18th.
The streets are finally pretty much clear. (Think the specter of the next storm helped at all?)
Perhaps everything is best gauged by the final words of the venerable Vernon Odom's previous piece on Philly's Phase 2 snow removal: $12 million. Twelve Million Dollars. That's what Philadelphia's snow removal tab for this winter is reaching. That definitely paints a picture of the sheer scope of this situation/dilemma.
Is it possible, though, that the cost could have been kept down with better prevention?
I don't know. All I know is I have no place left to shovel the snow from my sidewalk. Please make it stop.
Personally I didn't see the full scope of some of today's efforts until I saw some shots from a friend. Here are some pictures of the snow removal effort at Webster Street. I had no idea backhoes were involved in the clearing of the small streets. Makes sense though.
More pics after the jump.
- Ask A Man-About-Town
- Award Tour
- Bad Idea Factory
- Below the Curve
- Brian Hickey
- Budget Fuss
- City Council
- City Hall
- CP Abroad
- CP in the Community
- Criminal Justice System
- Day Tripper
- Death and Taxes
- Delaware River
- Dubious Distinction
- End of Days
- Film Fest
- Financial Meltdown
- Free Library
- Gay Stuff
- Get Lit
- Hall Monitor
- Health Care
- Hello, Kitty
- Ice Cubes
- In Memoriam
- Marcellus Shale
- MUST READ
- Mysterious Mysteries
- Non Sequitur
- PA politics 2010
- Parking Wars
- Parks and Recreation
- People Send Us This Stuff
- Philadelphia Police
- Philadelphia Union
- Philly From Scratch
- philly madness
- President Obama
- Print Edition
- Readers Write
- Real Estate
- Rock Bottom
- Screwing Philly
- So Lush
- Sporting Life
- Sports Complex
- State Politicians
- State Politics
- Street Art
- Stuff We Like
- Taxi Drivers
- Tech Fetish
- The Budget Crisis
- The City Paper
- The CLOG
- The Human Condition
- The Mayor
- The Phightin Phils
- The World
- Things that make you go hm
- Tinfoil Hats Off
- Under the Table
- Under the Tables
- Urban Development
- Urban Planning
- urban wildlife
- Video Poker
- We Call Shenanigans
- Web Junk
- Weekend Omnibus
- White House
- What We've Found
- Women's Issues
- Flyered Up!
- How 'Bout That Weather?
- it's always sunny in philadelphia
- get out
- 10-track mind
- Bruce Being Bruce
- Gigantic Surprises
- Hello Canary
- Hello Puppy
- get lost
- Inside The Fishbowl
- Library Closings
- Local Support
- Night Moves
- Skeeze Police
- State Politicians Screwing Philly
- That's a cool stencil!
- Things We See
- This Week
- This Week in Oates
- University City
- What we don't heart
- what we heart
- Feeling Guilty
- Broke in Philly
- Dear Paper Doll
- Do A Good Thing
- Film Fest Schism
- G20-20 Vision
- Great American Heroes
- Pearl Jam Week
- Stars of the Photostream
- Lower Merion Webcam-Gate
- The Cycle
- Equality Forum
- Bureaucrat of the Week