Mojo - May 2013

America's 14 Most Pissed-Off Comments on the TSA's Airport Body Scanners

| Tue May 7, 2013 6:00 AM EDT

Image from a backscatter X-ray airport scanner.

Americans wishing to fly by plane have been subjected to full-body scanners, also known as "Advanced Imaging Technology" or "porno scanners," since the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rolled them out in airports in 2008. The goal of the scanners is to aid in the detection of illegal and dangerous items, but they've raised health concerns and peeved travelers who don't feel comfortable that the scanners broadcast semi-nude images of their bodies. Those passengers who wish to bypass the scanners face an equally unpopular alternative: a physical pat down by a TSA agent.

TSA is getting rid of the most controversial scanners by this summer because the company that made them wasn't adequately protecting passenger privacy. The replacement scanners are supposed to offer more privacy by only showing a generic outline of passengers.

Since late March, Americans have submitted over 3,000 comments to the TSA about the existing scanners and the planned change. Here are 14 of the most pissed off public comments submitted to TSA…and the one guy who loves them:

  1. "No to scanners. You want to see my junk? Fine. But first buy me a drink."—Jack A. Webber
  2. "You're really asking us if we want you to be checking out our genitals in the name of national security?"—Alec
  3. "I opted out once and I felt like crying because I'm not a touchy feel person and well, when you are using feminine hygiene products, NO ONE wants to be touched anywhere near there…So yeah, no more flying for me."—Anonymous
  4. "I sit in airports, and watch people get shuffled through these machines, raising their hands like criminals 'assuming the position,' and I think- 'How did we get so afraid?'—Curtis
  5. "A poem: Land of the screened./Home of the afraid./No porno scanners. Why?/4th Amendment./Health risks./Common sense./Liberty./No TSA./Why?/See above."—S. Private
  6. "STOP USING ADVANCED IMAGING TECHNOLOGY FOR SCREENING PASSENGERS ! YOU TYRANNICAL DEMONS. WE CAN ALL SEE IF YOU HAVE A GUN OR BOMB AND WE AIN'T SCARED OF KNIVES AND BOX CUTTERS"—Anonymous
  7. "Bunch of perverts! You are slowing down our economy."—Onederer
  8. "I am an 82 year old Jewish woman with an artificial hip. That makes me a prime terrorist suspect according to the TSA. I need to be frisked every time I fly. That is a disgusting procedure. I doubt that Janet Napolitano would want her mother or her grandmother to be subjected to it."—Joan B. Berkowitz
  9. "I have not flown in more than 2 years since being improperly touched and fondled by a TSA employee. I served in the military to defend the rights and freedoms of this country, only to come home to find the TSA taking both away."—Anonymous
  10. "I am a stroke survivor…I am a rape survivor…I take a train or drive, because I'm not willing to put myself in the hands of people who bully and try to railroad me through machines my doctor has strictly said to stay away from."—T.A. 
  11. "Go ahead. Screen me. Screen the crap out of me. Coming and going if you must. But don't let this be a doorway to more and more restrictions. I don't care if you want to make sure no explosives get on a flight. I do care if you'll look through my phone or computer files as well."—Jonathan
  12. "I spent over 36 years on active duty in the United States Navy. Had numerous very high security clearances and was a qualified Nuclear Weapons delivery pilot. Being 'frisked' or forced into an X-ray machine and treated as a common criminal [is] disgusting to someone who dedicated a large portion of his life to the defense of the united States."—Terry Farnell Carraway
  13. "Having 4 replaced joints, I am full of metal and have had numerous X-rays. I don't want to subject myself to more X-rays…My husband and I were a writer-photographer team and used to fly everywhere for our business. Since you have instituted these procedures, we have been forced to give up our business."—El Hilf
  14. "AS A PILOT AND FLYER IM AS CONCERNED AS ANY ABOUT SECURITY FOR ALL TRAVELERS AND I AND MY SIG OTHER ARE ALSO NATURIST [NUDIST, AS ARE A VERY MANY] HUMANS. TO EXPEDITE AIRPORT SCREENINGS A 'NUDIST' OR SIMILARLY WORDED LINE SHOULD OFFER VERY FAST SCREENING FOR THOSE OF US WHO ARE NOT SHAMED BY OUR BODIES. THIS WOULD BE A GREAT BOON TO TRAVELERS AND HELP UNCLOG SCREENING STATIONS"—Norm Al Man

BONUS, the one guy who loves them:

"I love the new body scan system. I have two artificial knee replacements, and was always put in the uncomfortable position of having to step out of line for an intrusive pat-down. Now, I stand in the machine like everyone else, and I guess they see the artificial knees and I go right through. I'm as happy as can be!"—Fred Joreskfly

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Here's Why the Syrian Electronic Army Targeted Justin Bieber With Homosexuality Rumors

| Tue May 7, 2013 6:00 AM EDT

The Syrian Electronic Army, a loosely defined collective of hackers supporting the mass-murdering regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, are known for disrupting the social-media operations of news outlets, activists, and human rights groups. Over the weekend, the army found itself a new target: pop icon Justin Bieber and his devout fanbase of "Beliebers."

On Saturday, somebody claiming to be an SEA member hacked the Twitter account of the entertainment news outlet E! Online and sent out the following tweets:

Justin Bieber Syrian Electronic Army tweet gay
Justin Bieber E! Online tweet

Nearly an hour after that first tweet, the Assad-loyalist hacker sent this from the E! house account:

Justin Bieber gay Syrian Electronic Army Twitter hacking E Online

The phony tweets also contained links that reportedly directed followers to malware downloads or other damaging websites. As a result, the E! Online Twitter account was briefly suspended. "Eonline's breaking news twitter and sms accounts were compromised today," an NBCUniversal spokesperson said in a statement. "We're working to have this resolved as quickly as possible and are fully investigating the incident. We apologize for any confusion that the erroneous news alerts may have caused." (Justin Bieber and his publicist did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

So why did the SEA target Justin Bieber and his adoring fans? Or Spring Breakers star Selena Gomez or Angelina Jolie, for that matter?

Depressing Headline of the Day

| Mon May 6, 2013 6:13 PM EDT

Here it is:

US Air Force sexual assault headline

Here's an excerpt from the Stars and Stripes story:

The chief of the [US] Air Force's sexual assault prevention and response branch was arrested this weekend and charged with sexual battery.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, of Arlington, Va., was arrested Sunday morning, according to the Arlington police. He's accused of approaching a woman in a parking lot and grabbing her breasts and buttocks, according to the crime report. He has been removed from his position, an Air Force spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity.

Krusinski heads up the Air Force's sexual assault prevention and response branch, an Air Force spokeswoman confirmed.

Read the whole thing here.

Mark Follman on "Inside Story": The Power of the NRA

Mon May 6, 2013 5:40 PM EDT

Two weeks after Congress put an end to gun control legislation, the National Rifle Association declared victory in Houston at its annual national convention. In a speech, Wayne LaPierre extolled what he portrayed as a diverse crowd in attendance. But is the true source of the NRA's power grassroots or corporate? Mother Jones senior editor Mark Follman joined author Paul Barrett and former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman on Al Jazeera's "Inside Story" to debate how the famously secretive and fact-challenged gun group operates. Watch:

Bonus video: Behold the Texas governor's entrance at this year's NRA convention, dubbed by one YouTube poster as "Rick Perry's super bad ass NRA gun intro video." Come for the rocking soundtrack, stay for Perry's manly removal of an assault rifle magazine:

Read our full special report on gun laws and the rise of mass shootings in America.

Mark Follman is a senior editor at Mother Jones. Read more of his stories and follow him on Twitter.

Inside the Democracy Alliance, the Liberal Answer to the Koch Donor Network

| Mon May 6, 2013 3:46 PM EDT
Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes, who owns the New Republic magazine, is a member of the Democracy Alliance.

Once or twice a year, Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and one-half of the "Koch brothers" duo, invites several hundred donors, big-name politicians, and conservative thinkers to a posh resort somewhere classy like Palm Springs or Aspen or Vail. The Kochs and their allies discuss how best to elect their favored politicians and spread their free-market ideas, and they hear pitches from conservative activists trying to carry out that strategy on the ground. Then the attendees make a pledge to fund the groups fighting for their causes. The Koch donor retreats are, by now, well known in political circles, and a magnet for reporters and protesters.

What's often left unmentioned in coverage of the Kochs' gatherings is that Democrats and progressives do the same thing. The Democracy Alliance is an exclusive group of about 100 funders, founded in 2005 by Democratic strategist Rob Stein. Members include billionaire financier George Soros and Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes, who owns the New Republic magazine. Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times was recently given a rare glimpse inside the Alliance's operations, and she came away with a useful, fascinating story.

Since 2005, the Alliance has directed roughly $500 million to left-leaning organizations, including the Center for American Progress think tank, the watchdog Media Matters for America, and the political data firm Catalist. The Democracy Alliance, as an organization, does not make donations; instead, leaders of left-leaning organizations pitch the group's members, and the Alliance recommends which causes its wealthy members should support. Members must give at least $200,000 annually to Alliance-backed organizations, on top of a $30,000-a-year membership fee.

The Alliance recently met over five days at a hotel in Laguna Beach, Calif., not far from the Koch donor meeting at the Renaissance Esmeralda golf resort in Palm Springs. At the Laguna Beach retreat, Gold reports, Alliance members pledged $50 million to an array of organizations.

Two story lines emerged out of the latest Alliance event. One was an intense focus on immigration reform among Alliance members as Congress considers bipartisan legislation to overhaul the country's immigration system. The other big news was the Alliance's endorsement of Organizing for Action, the nonprofit devoted to enacting President Obama's second-term agenda. OFA has said it wants to raise $50 million this year, but it raked in less than $5 million in the first three months of 2013. The Alliance's decision to back OFA, then, couldn't have come at a better time:

Among those on hand to pitch to the donors was Jon Carson, executive director of Organizing for Action, who stressed the ways in which his group is partnering with other liberal advocacy organizations.

"One thing we've made very clear to everyone is we're going to work very collaboratively with everyone out there in the progressive infrastructure," Carson said. "We're going to focus on the pieces we bring to the table and not duplicate things."

[Alliance chairman (and former Mother Jones board member) Rob] McKay said Carson assuaged worries that Organizing for Action, run by former Obama campaign officials, would compete with other groups. "The biggest concern would be if OFA was just going to try to re-create the wheel in a bunch of areas where we felt significant investments have been made," he said.

The pro-Obama group, which had already received some donations from Democracy Alliance members, was recommended for funding for one year. It will be reconsidered next year but was not included in the three-year portfolio.

The hottest topic of the conference was immigration reform, as leaders of the Service Employees International Union and other advocates emphasized that comprehensive legislation could pass this year.

"The partners were really impressed with how close we are on this, and yet how tenuous it is, even at this stage," McKay said. "We've got to get this done."

The full story is one of the better detailed accounts I've seen of the Democracy Alliance, which will continue to play a crucial role on immigration, gun control, and other pressing issues on Congress' to-do list.

Study: 1 in 5 Youth at Risk for Suicide Have a Gun at Home

| Mon May 6, 2013 3:06 PM EDT

A new study by leading pediatricians has found that nearly 20 percent of young people between the ages of 10 and 21 who are considered to be at risk for suicide have guns in their homes. The study is being presented Monday at the annual Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Washington, following a symposium held Saturday that also addressed youth gun suicides, media violence, and gun violence prevention.

For the study, 524 patients were surveyed using a standard suicide assessment screening: 17 percent of the 151 patients determined to be suicide risks said they lived in a home with guns; 31 percent said they knew how to access the guns, and the same number said they knew how to access ammunition; 15 percent said they could get their hands on both.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death of people between the ages of 10 and 24. Among that age group, guns are the top method of suicide. Research elsewhere suggests that having access to guns increases the likelihood that suicidal people will actually kill themselves.

In 1996, the National Rifle Association successfully lobbied for an amendment to an appropriations bill that gutted the CDC's gun violence research budget. "None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control...may be used to advocate or promote gun control," the amendment read. Since its passage, the agency has been almost entirely absent from gun research, leaving such studies up to others. This January, President Obama announced plans to direct the CDC to resume studying the causes and prevention of gun violence.

Gun rights advocates and groups like the NRA have continued to argue that gun violence studies are politically motivated, and might build a case for greater gun control. After the Tucson shooting in 2011, for instance, NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox told the New York Times, "Our concern is not with legitimate medical science. Our concern is they were promoting the idea that gun ownership was a disease that needed to be eradicated." Some have even argued that Obama's move to restart the research is illegal.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for May 6, 2013

Mon May 6, 2013 1:41 PM EDT

Poolees with Recruiting Station Lansing participate in a morning motivational run at Fort Custer near Battle Creek, Mich. April 21. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kevin Maynard.

Ohio Tea Partiers Are Furious at the GOP, Threaten an "Insurrection" or a Third Party

| Mon May 6, 2013 12:28 PM EDT

On Monday morning, we published a story looking at what I called Ohio Gov. John Kasich's "remarkable renaissance." Two years ago, Kasich was Ohio's bête noire, one of the most unpopular governors in America. Today, his approval rating has rebounded to around 50 percent, his disapproval rating is in the low-30s, and he's faring better than his fellow governors in the Republican class of 2010.

All that being said, Kasich is still in a fragile place. A Monday story in the Columbus Dispatch says that Ohio tea partiers are so fed up with Kasich and the Republicans in the legislature that they're thinking about breaking away from the GOP and possibly forming a third party in time for the 2014 elections. Seth Morgan, policy director for the Ohio chapter of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity group, told the Dispatch that tea partiers' options range from "a third party, to an insurrection (within the Republican Party) and everything in between."

The Ohio tea party hit its boiling point when Tom Zawistowski, executive director of the Portage County Tea Party, got trounced in his bid for the chairman's seat of the Ohio Republican Party. Zawistowski lost to Matt Borges, the party establishment's pick, by a 48-7 vote. After losing this proxy battle to lead the Ohio GOP, conservative leaders apparently decided they needed to break off and consider alternatives to the party.

Here's from the Dispatch:

After the chairmanship vote, Zawistowski said he made it clear that if the state GOP did not focus on enacting conservative policies, "we would either find a political party to join or we would start one of our own," saying his meeting with Shrader “is the first step in that process."

It remains uncertain, however, just how much the Ohio GOP and its candidates could be hurt by an insurrection because it is difficult to assess the true strength of tea party groups. A 2012 poll by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about 28 percent of Republicans identified themselves as tea party supporters.

Although loosely organized in 2009 around ideals of fiscal conservatism and smaller government, the tea party largely has been fractionalized with no single acknowledged leader.

"There are potential splits within the tea party itself," said John Green, a University of Akron political scientist. "It's hard to judge how strong they are because their popularity fluctuates. It’s not a cohesive group, but it does have some resources and some talented people who are quite effective."

If the tea party "insurrection" turns out to be real, it is bad news for Kasich. A third party or GOP insurrection could divide the conservative base that Kasich needs to get reelected in 2014. He defeated Democrat Ted Strickland by just two percentage points in 2010—and that was when the tea party was at full strength. Today, as the Dispatch story makes clear, Kasich's relationship with hard-line conservatives is fragile, with tea partiers furious over his proposal to expand Medicaid using Obamacare dollars.

Whether conservatives can mount a serious third-party challenge in 2014 remains to be seen. But if they do, it's last thing Kasich needs.  

Pot Breathalyzer Is Still a Police Pipe Dream

| Mon May 6, 2013 6:00 AM EDT
The SensAbues marijuana breath test.

As 4:20 threatens to become as popular as happy hour, police are scrambling to figure out a reliable way to make sure that the dude who's zoning out in the Taco Bell drive-thru isn't too stoned to drive. The problem is, roadside breathalyzer tests administered to drunks don't work for pot smokers, forcing cops to take suspected stoners into the station for a blood test. Now the Swedish company SensAbues is offering something of a fix. A study published in the Journal of Breath Research last week found that its proprietary breath-testing device can detect recent use of a wide range of drugs, including prescription meds, cocaine, and marijuana.

Gitmo Detainee Explains Why He's on Hunger Strike

| Sat May 4, 2013 10:00 AM EDT

Obaydullah, a detainee at Gitmo who was first captured in Afghanistan in 2002, filed a declaration in federal court in March that was unsealed and posted by the national security blog Lawfare on Friday. The declaration goes into striking detail about the circumstances that Obaydullah (who goes by one name) says provoked the hunger strike at the detention camp, which began in February and now involves 100 out of the 166 remaining detainees, according to the Pentagon's count.

"In response to the dehumanizing searches, the confiscation of our personal items, and the desecration of the holy Quran, I and the men at Camp 6 and some at Camp 5, waged a hunger strike on Feburary 6 2013," the declaration reads. "But our strike continues because conditions have gotten worse, not better, and there is no hope that we will ever leave here."

The declaration corroborates the descriptions of Gitmo defense attorneys who have said that although the hunger strike began as a response to what the detainees saw as desecration of their holy books, it has now grown into a protest of the Obama administration's policy of indefinite detention. According to Obaydullah, conditions had improved until the February "shake down" that he says provoked the strike. In response, Obaydullah says, the guards began to interrupt detainees' prayers and moved detainees to more restrictive conditions. Access to recreational facilities was limited and, according to Obaydullah, camp authorities deliberately began to lower the temperature in Camp 6 to the point of "freezing." "All of these actions showed me and the other prisoners that camp authorities were treating us the way we were treated in the years under President Bush," Obaydullah writes.

In his declaration, Obaydullah hints at what the detainees would require to end the three-month protest. "We plan to remain on strike until we are treated with dignity, the guards stop trying to enforce old rules, our prayer and religion are respected, and our Qurans are handled with the care and sanctity required."

Obaydullah has been challenging his detention for years with little success. Although he maintains he was never a fighter for Al Qaeda or the Taliban, a federal judge concluded in 2010 that the evidence against him "unmistakably supports the conclusion that it is more likely than not that petitioner Obaydullah was in fact a member of an al Qaeda bomb cell committed to the destruction of U.S. and Allied forces," and was therefore lawfully detainable.

"I am losing all hope because I have been imprisoned at Guantanamo for almost 11 years now and I still do not know my fate," Obaydullah concludes.

Here's the full declaration: