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EyeSee You and the Internet of Things: Watching You While You Shop PDF Print E-mail
Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 08:53

Gifts have been bought. Presents wrapped. Now all that remains is the giving and receiving. Oh, and the tracking, of course. Little did you know that all the while you were searching out that perfect gift, you were unknowingly leaving a trail for others – namely, the government and its corporate cohorts – to follow.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, the indifference of the general public to the growing surveillance state, the inability of Congress to protect Americans’ privacy, and the profit-driven policies of the business sector, the corporate state could write a book about your holiday shopping habits: the Web sites you’ve visited when trying to decide what to buy, the storefronts you’ve browsed while wandering the mall, and the purchases you’ve made.

Even the store mannequins have gotten in on the gig. According to the Washington Post, mannequins in some high-end boutiques are now being outfitted with cameras that utilize facial-recognition technology. A small camera embedded in the eye of an otherwise normal-looking mannequin allows storekeepers to keep track of the age, sex, and race of all their customers. This information is then used to personally tailor the shopping experience to those coming in and out of their stores. As the Washington Post report notes: “A clothier introduced a children’s line after the dummy showed that kids made up more than half its mid-afternoon traffic. ... Another store found that a third of visitors using one of its doors after 4 p.m. were Asian, prompting it to place Chinese-speaking staff members by that entrance.”

 
Ruling, Mass Shooting Put State’s Gun Laws in the Spotlight PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 16 December 2012 05:40

Before Friday’s horrific school shooting in Connecticut, people on both sides of the concealed-carry debate were saying privately that they did not expect Attorney General Lisa Madigan to appeal her major loss at the hands of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

A Seventh Circuit panel in Chicago voted 2-1 on December 11 to declare Illinois’ strict laws on carrying guns unconstitutional and gave the General Assembly 180 days to come up with a new, much less restrictive law.

"A right to bear arms ... implies a right to carry a loaded gun outside the home," the majority opinion decreed, saying that Illinois had failed to show that restrictions on gun owners – including bans on concealed carry – had any positive effect.

Appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court could be harmful to the anti-gun cause, both sides admitted last week. New York’s wealthy, influential, and legendarily anti-gun mayor could oppose an appeal out of fear that the conservative Supremes wouldn’t preserve his own state’s laws, which allow him to keep most concealed weapons off the street. Other states that allow limited concealed carry, such as Maryland and California, will also probably oppose an appeal for the same reason. They just don’t trust the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold their restrictive laws.

 
Congressional Candidate Faces Long Odds with Weapons Charge PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Monday, 10 December 2012 09:44

One of the most fascinating things about the media frenzy surrounding state Senator Donne Trotter’s arrest last week was that not one of his Democratic Second Congressional District opponents immediately jumped in front of the cameras to comment publicly about the matter.

They stayed silent even when Trotter (D-Chicago) announced after he was bonded out of jail the next day that he wouldn’t drop out of the race to replace disgraced former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

Trotter was arrested Wednesday morning after allegedly attempting to bring an unloaded pistol through a security checkpoint at O’Hare airport. Reporters swarmed the courthouse after Trotter posted bond Thursday and then, when he refused comment, some descended on his home on Chicago’s South Side.

His arrest was one of the biggest news stories in the city, mainly because of his congressional bid, yet none of his dozen or so prospective Democratic opponents in the Second District special-election contest immediately issued a statement or responded on-the-record to questions about the case.

 
Who’s Watching the Food & Water Watchers? PDF Print E-mail
Editorials
Written by Todd McGreevy   
Thursday, 06 December 2012 05:11

We are what we eat is an age-old adage that has more implications than ever in the context of modern-day science and biotechnological experimentation with the genetic makeup of the food we eat. Whether it is the highly processed corn- and soy-based products that permeate nearly everything we consume or the animals we eat that are fed the same corn-based products, the long-term effects of consuming genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified organism (GMO) food are yet to be fully documented. (This does not include the cross-breeding of cows and goats with spiders, for instance.) Of course, mankind has been cross-breeding plants for millennia, so some ask: “What is the controversy about?”

The controversy emerges when mega-corporations (also known as big agra) such as Monsanto produce seeds that are injected with the DNA of other species to produce specific effects such as resistance to chemicals and herbicides. Beyond the self-perpetuating – some might say monopolistic – marketplace this creates (Monsanto sells the herbicide Roundup that the seeds it sells are resistant to), critics are concerned about the long-term effects to human health by tinkering with Mother Nature so much.There’s a Catch-22 at work here, too. The long-term studies that would allay consumer fears are not pursued by the purveyors of the GMO products, but those same purveyors fiercely defend their intellectual-property rights so that third parties cannot publish their own independent studies done with the GMO products. If the GMO products are so wonderful, then why not open the doors wide on independent research?

 
Latino Voting Power Could Soon Translate Into Legislation PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 02 December 2012 05:12

Five years ago, most Illinois House Republicans, including House GOP Leader Tom Cross, voted against a bill that would’ve allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses. The conservative rhetoric against the legislation was very harsh. Even so, it was approved by the House but never called for a floor vote in the state Senate.

Back then, the legislation was seen as political suicide by many Republicans fearful of a backlash within their own party. But because November’s election results showed that a heavy Latino turnout may have swayed several races in favor of the Democrats, Republicans have suddenly become far more interested. Cross, for instance, called the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights (ICIRR) the day after the election, offering to work with the group. The ICIRR now considers that the driver’s license bill will be a “down payment” on whether the parties want to make a “good-faith effort” to work with it in the future. And Cross is supporting it.

 
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