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02/23/2004 Archived Entry: "US solider seeks asylum in Canada"

Lotsa Cartoons!: Dan Wasserman's "Campaign Platform"; Steve Sack's "This Man's a Monster"; Tom Toles' "Iraq's WMD Plan"; and a good animation from Mark Fiore "Attack of the Gay Agenda!"

Interesting item: an American soldier is seeking asylum in Canada on the grounds of being a conscientous objector. Paul Martin, the new PM, is such a lapdog of Bush's that I doubt Canada will reprise the honorable stand taken by Lester Pearson when he allowed draft dodgers sanctuary during the Vietnam War. On the other hand, the US seems to be purposefully playing down the story. The National Post story advises that the asylum seeker will "be listed on a national [US] database and could be arrested, but the army won't go looking for him, said Sgt. Pam Smith, a spokeswoman for the 82nd Airborne, based at Fort Bragg."

News updates on the Privacy front:
---Wired News reports on the findings of a Department of Homeland Security report released Friday. Amazingly, after extensive investigation, it discovered that "Homeland Security officials violated the spirit, but not the letter, of a federal privacy law when they asked JetBlue to turn over its customer database to a defense contractor." In short, no law was broken. What a relief!
---the RFID Journal advises, "Target, the fourth largest retailer in the United States, has told its top suppliers that they will be required to apply RFID tags on pallets and cases sent to 'select' regional distribution facilities beginning late spring 2005." Altho' this is a private business matter and, so, not directly a threat to privacy, I am keeping tabs on the spread of RFID because of its immense potential for privacy abuse. Is it possible to be too paranoid about government intrusion? No!...and why do you ask? Are you one of them?
---as an illustration of this danger, this item also comes from the RFID Journal. "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration .... report's recommendations include the use of RFID technology to create a 'pedigree' -- a secure record documenting that the drug was manufactured and distributed under safe and secure conditions. The report says it should be feasible to use RFID to track all drugs at the unit level by 2007." Only the criminally na´ve would doubt that this technology will be used in the "war against drugs" and to track the medical use of "legal" drugs by individuals.
---the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, "The government is still financing research to create powerful tools that could mine millions of public and private records for information about terrorists despite an uproar last year over fears it might ensnare innocent Americans." Altho' Congress appears to be responding to some privacy concerns, their appeasements may well be a shell game of shuffling programs without really dismantling them. For example, "Congress eliminated a Pentagon office developing the terrorist tracking technology because of the outcry over privacy implications. But some of those projects from retired Adm. John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness effort were transferred to U.S. intelligence offices."
---the Washington Times asks whether the U.S. no-fly list could have your name on it? "The U.S. master terror watch list, used to stop suspected terrorists from entering the country, includes not only suspected al Qaeda members but other suspects from a wide spectrum of organizations around the world, a top federal law enforcement official says. `[A]nybody could potentially be on it if there was a reason to want to prevent that person from getting on an aircraft,'" according to FBI assistant director Michael Mason. The list's secrecy and users' apparent inability to distinguish among individuals with identical or similar names is causing problems."
--meanwhile, if you are allowed to fly, the fines you may pay for contraband items have just increased. According to FOX News the TSA has unveiled a new fine structure. Forgetting that e.g. a pair of scissors isn't an acceptable excuse, they say; they list "aggravating factors" that will lead to larger fines as well as those who'll they'll "go easy" with. So far they seem willing to overlook items like cuticle cutters...at least, this was the experience of our friend Gordon P. two days ago when an officious bag-riffler merely confiscating a small scissors which he used to trim his beard.
---the UK Register reports that the EC is the latest governmental body to want biometrics on passports. "The European Commission today outlined how a coherent, pan-European approach to security will mean that all citizens will need two biometric identifiers in their passports. Current rules mean that only one, a photograph, is compulsory, but the new proposal makes fingerprints inclusion mandatory. It also leaves scope for governments to require further identifiers, such as iris scans, should they deem it necessary."

LIFE ON THE FARM:

We have finally started to furnish our bedroom with the Mennonite furniture after which I lust. And, lest blame fall on Brad, I should confess to being the tightwad in this family, the one who delays the purchase of fripperies -- a wonderful term used by H.L. Mencken. It is difficult to think of our solid, oak bed and new cedar chest as fripperies; they are so...well...so solid. It took the dogs all of five minutes, but they now routinely use the cedar chest at the foot of the bed as a launching point onto the mattress. The cats curl up on the quilt I throw over its surface to protect against scuffs and, if there is whining from the bedroom these days, it is because the cats have blocked a dog from prime launching position. (Both dogs treat our cats with a respect bordering on fear. The only time Brad severely shouted at either of them in their puppihoods was for being rough with the cats and that lesson stuck so well that the cats can literally eat with impunity from the dog bowls at the same time as Sam and Fiona. Knowing this, the cats stretch out on the cedar chest, almost daring Sam to jump on the surface and risk our wrath at hearing the yowl of a cat displaced.

The temperature hovers around freezing, with bright sunlight that melts snow from the roof and from where it is thin on the driveway. The sky is clear and, so, the nights are colder than they would be otherwise but warm enough to make it impractical for us to run the airtight stove. (I still marvel at such a small and controlled fire being able heat a large house so efficiently that it overheats when the outside temperature rises above freezing.) Sam is beginning to shed, the cats venture out for longer and longer periods, chickadees are being joined by the first of other birds at the feeder, a squirrel has returned to our gutters, a large family of wild turkeys has been delaying our trips to town by crossing in front of us on the sideroad. The wild geese have not returned, honking all the way, but other signs of an approaching Spring are progressing nicely. Last year, a family of wild turkeys made their home in the dense underbrush that stretches between the stream that runs in front of our house and the gravel road beyond. A good choice. The dogs hate getting wet, which accessing that patch would require since a fence blocks any approach from the road. We would see the wild turkeys strutting across our backyard with little ones trotting behind - the chicks look frantic and ready to tip over whenever they run. I expect the turkeys will return to "their" underbrush this year and Sam will sit mournfully on one side of the stream, cursing his fate but secretly content not to have his courage tested against a turkey-parent in full-winged furor.

Best to all,
mac

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