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      Kamala Harris Touts Homeland Security Program Encouraging High School Spying

      news.movim.eu / TheIntercept · Thursday, 28 March - 15:57 · 6 minutes

    When Vice President Kamala Harris toured the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this week, site of the infamous 2018 Parkland, Florida, mass shooting, she pushed for more gun control and called for communities to accept more federal help in stopping school shootings. “I will continue to advocate for what we must do in terms of universal background checks and assault weapons ban” Harris said.

    But in a land where gun control is politically impossible , the only tangible help the Biden administration offers schools are resources to conduct better behavioral profiling of students, doing so through a Secret Service center founded to study the psychology of presidential assassins. The push, supported by a bipartisan bill that would strengthen the role of the Department of Homeland Security in school violence, would turn America’s schools into another adjunct of the national security apparatus, a veritable school for spies.

    School shootings are indeed an epidemic in America, and Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 and injured 17 more in Parkland is a tragic example of yet another juvenile who fell through every social service safety net that American society had to offer. He is a poster child for the ease with which mentally ill Americans can acquire guns. But can the Secret Service really help to deal with the scourge, and is it the right agency to do so?

    The Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, or NTAC, was created in 1998 to examine threats to the president and security at complex public gatherings. Its focus was expanded a year later to the psychology of school shootings after the Columbine shooting resulted in 15 deaths and horrified the nation. Today, NTAC is “a multidisciplinary team of social science researchers” who assist “law enforcement, schools, government, and other public and private sector organizations to combat the ever-evolving threat of targeted violence,” according to its website .

    Over decades, the NTAC has created desks in over a half-dozen Secret Service field offices , staffed by domestic security strategists who conduct school visits and staff training that mostly focus on recognizing “behavioral” traits that its study associates with mass violence. Last year alone, the NTAC touted some 331 training sessions, and it brags that over the last five years, it has trained hundreds of thousands of school administrators and teachers. The demand for its assistance, the Secret Service says, is thanks in part to NTAC publications regarding threats to schools. In its most recent report , “Improving School Safety Through Bystander Reporting,” the NTAC suggests schools encourage programs for students to report suspicious behavior, removing barriers that might impede any such tattletale reporting.

    “For reporting programs to be a useful tool for intervention and prevention in K-12 schools, students and other members of a reporting community need to be aware of the importance of reporting, their role in reporting, what to report, and any resources that are available when it comes to reporting threats and other concerns,” the NTAC report says. “Research finds that the fear of being ostracized, or experiencing other forms of retaliation, is a significant barrier to reporting. When students view reporting as ‘snitching,’ they are discouraged from coming forward with their concerns.”

    Another NTAC study , “Averting Targeted School Violence: A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Plots Against Schools,” studied nearly 70 averted attacks against schools, using demographic information to identify school shooters. Attributes tracked by NTAC include history of school discipline, contact with law enforcement, experience being bullied, mental health issues, alcohol and drug use, and the broadly defined psychological trauma “impacted by adverse childhood experiences.”

    NTAC stresses that the goal of school monitoring of students and its suggested “see something, say something” practice is successful intervention. It is the same framework originally created to deal with international terrorism and now expanded to thwart domestic “ extremists ” and government “insider threats.”


    AI Tries (and Fails) to Detect Weapons in Schools

    But are such government programs created to deal with national security threats appropriate when applied to K-12 schools? Not only is NTAC’s list of behavioral threats just as applicable to skateboarders as they are to potential shooters, but lodging the school safety program in the Secret Service, and its Protective Intelligence Division (where NTAC is assigned), also questionably pushes school systems to adopt a national and homeland security curriculum.

    “One thing I learned is that threat assessment doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Bev Baligad, chair of Threat Team Hawaiʻi, said after the Hawaiʻi Threat Assessment Conference last year, where NTAC and the Department of Homeland Security’s National Threat Evaluation and Reporting office made presentations. NTER houses the national “see something, say something” campaign and its own behavioral threat assessment and management program office. “There is a statewide push to build threat assessment capacity on all islands,” Baligad told the conference.

    At an NTAC training in Arizona last month, Cochise County School Superintendent Jacqui Clay said , “As the county school superintendent, the reason that we’re doing this is that we have to become a learning community and not be in silos, especially when it comes to school safety.”

    “As we come together, the sheriff’s department, the police departments, the (Arizona) Rangers, Border Patrol, superintendents, the community, that’s a deterrent. It’s more of a deterrent because they see we’re working together,” Clay added. “If we all learn the words to the song, then we can sing the song together, better. This is part of the song.” Some of those singing the song are law enforcement agencies without a prior mandate in U.S. schools.

    “Messaging should demonstrate to students that there is a big difference between ‘snitching,’ ‘ratting,’ or ‘tattling,’ and seeking help,” a Secret Service guide says .

    Last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the EAGLES Act to prevent acts of mass violence, a bill that would bolster the NTAC by creating a national program on targeted school violence prevention, while expanding the NTAC’s “research and training on school violence and its dissemination of information on school violence prevention initiatives.”

    “Accurate behavioral threat assessments and early interventions are essential to maintaining a safe environment in our schools and communities and preventing another tragedy from taking place,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said, in reintroducing the legislation. “The U.S. Secret Service is uniquely equipped to help evaluate these threats, and our bill would enable them to share their tools and expertise with school safety partners across the country.”

    Not everyone horrified at the rise of gun violence inside schools has signed on to the mission of reauthorizing and expanding the NTAC as proposed in the EAGLES Act.

    The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote of the bill that “Threat assessment, including as proposed in this legislation, poses major risks for and to students, including increased and early contact with law enforcement, overidentification of students … for ‘threatening’ behavior, distraction from the role of easy access to guns in enabling mass shootings in schools and elsewhere, and undermining of students’ rights under civil rights laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504. School safety belongs in the hands of educators, and those trained in child/adolescent development — not law enforcement, and we should never start from a place of viewing some children as threats.”

    The Consortium for Constituents With Disabilities followed suit, adding, “The U.S. Secret Service is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — a border security and counterterrorism agency. This agency has no expertise in student behavior or child development. Nonetheless, they would develop best practices and train school staff on threat assessment, treating children as potential terrorists.”

    The post Kamala Harris Touts Homeland Security Program Encouraging High School Spying appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Biden’s EPA proposes water rule to finally ditch lead pipes within 10 years

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 30 November, 2023 - 19:31 · 1 minute

    City workers unload a truck containing pallets of bottled water to distribute during a water filter distribution event on October 26, 2021 in Hamtramck, Michigan. The state Department of Health and Human Services has begun distributing water filters and bottled water to residents due to elevated levels of lead found in the drinking water due to old and un-maintained water pipes in the city.

    Enlarge / City workers unload a truck containing pallets of bottled water to distribute during a water filter distribution event on October 26, 2021 in Hamtramck, Michigan. The state Department of Health and Human Services has begun distributing water filters and bottled water to residents due to elevated levels of lead found in the drinking water due to old and un-maintained water pipes in the city. (credit: Getty | Matthew Hatcher )

    The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed a stricter rule on lead in drinking water that would require that all lead service lines in the country be replaced within 10 years, and would lower the current lead action level in drinking water from 15 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.

    More than 9.2 million American households have water connections that include lead piping, according to the White House. Lead moves from the pipes into the water when the plumbing experiences corrosion, which is most severe when the water is acidic or has low mineral content. There is no safe level of lead, which is a toxic metal with wide-ranging health effects, including neurotoxic effects. In children, lead exposure can damage the brain and nervous system, slow development, lower IQ, and cause learning, behavioral, speech, and hearing problems. In adults, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, and kidney damage.

    The EPA estimates that the rule will generate between $9.8 billion to $34.8 billion in economic benefits each year based on health improvement, including higher IQs in children, healthier newborns, lower cardiovascular risks in adults, and a reduction in care for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

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      Car dealers say they can’t sell EVs, tell Biden to slow their rollout

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 28 November, 2023 - 20:42 · 1 minute

    Car dealers say they can’t sell EVs, tell Biden to slow their rollout

    Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

    Pity the poor car dealers. After making record profits in the wake of the pandemic and the collapse of just-in-time inventory chains, they're now complaining that selling electric vehicles is too hard. Almost 4,000 dealers from around the United States have sent an open letter to President Joe Biden calling for the government to slow down its plan to increase EV adoption between now and 2032 .

    Despite our robust economy, the US trails both Europe and China in terms of EV adoption. More and more car buyers are opting to go fully electric each year, although even a record 2023 will fail to see EV uptake reach double-digit percentages.

    Mindful of the fact that transportation accounts for the largest segment of US carbon emissions and that our car-centric society encourages driving, the US Department of Energy published a proposed rule in April that would alter the way the government calculates each automaker's corporate average fuel efficiency. If adopted, the new rule would require OEMs to sell many more EVs to avoid large fines. This is in addition to an earlier goal from the White House that calls for one in two new cars sold in 2030 to be EVs.

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      Senate confirms Biden FCC pick as 5 Republicans join Democrats in 55-43 vote

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 7 September, 2023 - 19:11

    The Federal Communications Commission meeting room, with an empty chair in front of the FCC seal and two United States flags.

    Enlarge / The Federal Communications Commission seal hangs inside a meeting room at the headquarters ahead of an open commission meeting in Washington, DC, on Thursday, December 14, 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

    The US Senate today confirmed nominee Anna Gomez to the Federal Communications Commission, finally giving President Biden a Democratic majority on the telecom regulator more than two and a half years into his presidency. The vote to confirm Gomez was 55-43 and went mostly along party lines.

    Biden's first nominee was Gigi Sohn, a longtime consumer advocate who drew united opposition from Republicans and doubts from more conservative Democrats. Sohn withdrew her nomination in March 2023, blaming the cable lobby and "unlimited dark money" for scuttling her appointment. The Senate never scheduled a floor vote on Sohn.

    Biden tried again in May with the nomination of Gomez , a State Department digital policy official who was previously deputy assistant secretary at the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) from 2009 to 2023. A lawyer, Gomez was vice president of government affairs at Sprint Nextel from 2006 to 2009 and before that spent about 12 years at the FCC in several roles.

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      Biden FCC nominee advances to Senate floor despite Ted Cruz’s protests

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 12 July, 2023 - 17:40

    In the FCC hearing room, an empty chair sits in front of the FCC seal and two US flags.

    Enlarge / Federal Communications Commission hearing room on February 26, 2015, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Mark Wilson)

    Democrats are one step closer to having a majority on the Federal Communications Commission for the first time in Joe Biden's presidency.

    Biden nominee Anna Gomez was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee today, advancing her nomination to the Senate floor. A vote of the full Senate on Gomez's nomination has not been scheduled yet.

    Democrats hold a 14-13 majority on the Senate Commerce Committee. Gomez's nomination was passed without a full roll call, but nine Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), asked to be recorded as a "no" on Gomez's nomination.

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      State Dept. cancels election meetings with Facebook after “free speech” ruling

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 6 July, 2023 - 18:21 · 1 minute

    Joe Biden walking outside the White House, wearing sunglasses and holding a stack of index cards in his right hand.

    Enlarge / US President Joe Biden exits the White House before boarding Marine One on Thursday, July 6, 2023. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

    The Biden administration is appealing a federal judge's ruling that ordered the government to halt a wide range of communications with social media companies. President Biden and the other federal defendants in the case "hereby appeal" the ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, according to a notice filed in US District Court yesterday. The US will submit a longer filing with arguments to the 5th Circuit appeals court.

    On Tuesday, Judge Terry Doughty of US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction that prohibits White House officials and numerous federal agencies from communicating "with social-media companies for the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech posted on social-media platforms."

    Doughty found that defendants "significantly encouraged" and in some cases coerced "the social-media companies to such extent that the decision [to modify or suppress content] should be deemed to be the decisions of the Government." The Biden administration has argued that its communications with tech companies are permissible under the First Amendment and vital to counter misinformation about elections, COVID-19, and vaccines.

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      Biden picks new FCC nominee to fill seat that’s been empty for over two years

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 22 May, 2023 - 20:17

    Joe Biden speaking into a microphone

    Enlarge / US President Joe Biden on March 13, 2023, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. (credit: Getty Images | Saul Loeb)

    President Biden today announced his new choice to fill the empty seat on the Federal Communications Commission, which has been deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans for his entire presidency.

    Biden nominated Democrat Anna Gomez, who has worked in both government and the telecom industry. Gomez has been at the US State Department since January 2023 as senior adviser for International Information and Communications Policy and was a deputy assistant secretary at the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) from 2009 to 2023.

    A lawyer, Gomez was also vice president of government affairs at Sprint Nextel from 2006 to 2009. Before working for Sprint, she spent about 12 years in several roles at the FCC, including deputy chief of the International Bureau and senior legal adviser to then-Chairman William Kennard.

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      Biden sued by Air Force officers who compare vaccine rule to death sentence

      Jon Brodkin · news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 1 October, 2021 - 19:51 · 1 minute

    President Joe Biden rolls up his sleeve before receiving a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

    Enlarge / President Joe Biden receiving a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the White House September 27, 2021. (credit: Getty Images | Anna Moneymaker )

    President Biden's vaccine mandate is being challenged in a lawsuit filed by four active-duty US Air Force officers, a Secret Service agent, a Border Patrol agent, and four other federal employees or contractors. The lawsuit claimed that "convicted serial killers who have been sentenced to death receive more respect" than citizens who are required to take vaccines.

    The lawsuit alleges that the vaccine mandate forces service members, federal employees, and federal employees to "inject themselves with: (1) a non-FDA approved product; (2) against their will; and (3) without informed consent." Plaintiffs seek a ruling that the vaccine mandates issued by Biden and the Department of Defense "violate the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of substantive due process" and "the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment."

    Plaintiffs also claim the mandate violates the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and other US laws including "Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against Plaintiffs and service members, federal employees, and federal contractors on the basis of their religion or disability." Biden's order does allow exceptions for medical or religious reasons but exemptions reportedly may be difficult to obtain .

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      Biden pledges to share 20 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with the world

      Beth Mole · news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 17 May, 2021 - 22:03

    An older man in a suit speaks casually from behind a podium.

    Enlarge / President Joe Biden speaks to a member of the media after delivering remarks in the East Room of the White House with Vice President Kamala Harris, left, in Washington, DC, on Monday, May 17, 2021. Biden plans to send an additional 20 million doses of vaccines abroad by the end of June. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg )

    President Joe Biden announced on Monday that the United States will share at least 20 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines with other countries over the next six weeks.

    The pledged doses will be in addition to 60 million stockpiled doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine the administration has previously said it will donate after they’re cleared by the Food and Drug Administration.

    The announcement comes amid mounting pressure for the US and other rich nations to share doses with low- and middle-income countries, some of which are struggling with COVID-19 surges amid a dearth of doses. It also comes as the US has a glut of vaccine doses and is now struggling to convince a vaccine-hesitant portion of the population to take the available shots.

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