Tag Archives: cell phone

FCC to consider changing cellphone radiation standards

FCC to consider changing cellphone radiation standards
By Brendan Sasso –

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering whether to change its cellphone radiation standards.

Chairman Julius Genachowski circulated an order on Friday that would launch a formal inquiry into the levels of radiation that the commission allows devices to emit.

Recent studies have indicated that radiation from cellphones could increase the risk of cancer, lower bone density or alter brain activity. But numerous other studies have found no harm.

An FCC official said the commission’s decision to explore the issue was not triggered by any particular event or study. He noted that after the commission’s probe, it could choose to maintain its current standards, make them more lax or make them more stringent.

The official said the inquiry is a routine procedure to review the commission’s standards. The FCC last updated its radiation guidelines in 1996.

If the five-member commission votes to move forward with the inquiry, it will begin accepting comments from the cellphone industry, consumer groups and the public.

The wireless industry has long argued that regular levels of cellphone radiation pose no danger to consumers.

John Walls, vice president of public affairs for wireless trade group CTIA, said he welcomes the commission’s continued oversight of the issue.

“We fully expect that the FCC’s review will confirm, as it has in the past, that the scientific evidence establishes no reason for concern about the safety of cellphones,” he said in a statement.

He noted that an advisory group to the United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency recently found that cellphones are safe.

“Expert agencies and scientific advisory groups around the world have concluded that cellphones operating within government standards pose no known health effects and are safe for normal use,” he said.

CTIA sued San Francisco last year when the city tried to require warnings on cellphones about the risks of radiation. A federal court sided with CTIA, and blocked the warnings.

SOURCE

The REAL X-Ray spex: New ‘terahertz’ scanner lets mobile phones see through walls – and through clothes

The REAL X-Ray spex: New ‘terahertz’ scanner lets mobile phones see through walls – and through clothes

By Rob Waugh

Comic-book superpowers could become reality as scientists have designed a phone that works as ‘X-Ray spex’.

A hi-tech chip allows a phone to ‘see through’ walls, wood and plastics – and (although the researchers are coy about this) through fabrics such as clothing.

Doctors could also use the imagers to look inside the body for cancer tumours without damaging X-Rays or large, expensive MRI scanners.

The researchers claim it could allow DIYers to detect studs within walls, or allow businesses to detect counterfeit money.

At present, it’s designed to work over a short range – and works with a normal-sized microchip that could fit into phones or other handheld electronics.

The team’s research involves tapping into an unused range in the electromagnetic spectrum.

But the terahertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum, one of the wavelength ranges that falls between microwave and infrared, has not been accessible for most consumer devices.

‘We’ve created approaches that open a previously untapped portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for consumer use and life-saving medical applications,’ said Dr. Kenneth O, professor of electrical engineering at UT Dallas.

‘The terahertz range is full of unlimited potential that could benefit us all.’

X-ray spex? At present, it’s designed to work over a short range – and works with a normal-sized microchip that could fit into phones or other handheld electronics

Using the new approach, images can be created with signals operating in the terahertz (THz) range without having to use several lenses inside a device. This could reduce overall size and cost.

The second advance that makes the findings applicable for consumer devices is the technology used to create the microchip.

Chips manufactured using CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) technology form the basis of many consumer electronic devices used in daily life such as personal computers, smart phones, high definition TV and game consoles.

‘CMOS is affordable and can be used to make lots of chips,’ Dr. O said. ‘The combination of CMOS and terahertz means you could put this chip and receiver on the back of a cellphone, turning it into a device carried in your pocket that can see through objects.’

Due to privacy concerns, Dr. O and his team are focused on uses in the distance range of less than four inches.

Consumer applications of such technology could range from finding studs in walls to authentication of important documents. Businesses could use it to detect counterfeit money.

Manufacturing companies could apply it to process control.

There are also more communication channels available in terahertz than the range currently used for wireless communication, so information could be more rapidly shared at this frequency.

Terahertz can also be used for imaging to detect cancer tumors, diagnosing disease through breath analysis, and monitoring air toxicity.

‘There are all kinds of things you could be able to do that we just haven’t yet thought about,’ said Dr. O, holder of the Texas Instruments Distinguished Chair.

The research was presented at the most recent International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC). The team will work next to build an entire working imaging system based on the CMOS terahertz system.

Read more: SOURCE

25 Awesome iPhone tips and tricks

25 Awesome iPhone tips and tricks
By Marc Saltzman | Digital Crave

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Whether you’re a seasoned user or brand new to the iPhone world, chances are you’re probably not using your smartphone to its fullest.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone, as these pocket-sized computers boast many hundreds of features buried in the operating system.

And so here we share a number of our favorite iPhone tips and tricks, some of which you may know already. Hopefully there’s a good number of ones you aren’t aware of yet. Most of these following 25 suggestions will work with all versions of the iPhone, but be sure to have the latest software installed (iOS 5.1).

OK, here we go:

Take a photo with your headphone cord:
Now that you can use the volume up or down buttons to snap a photo, steady your hand while framing up the photo and when you’re ready to take the picture, press the button on the cord so it won’t shake the iPhone. Voila!

Dry out a wet iPhone:
You’re not the first one to drop an iPhone in a toilet or sink. If this happens, don’t turn it on as you can damage the smartphone by short-circuiting it. Lightly towel dry the phone. Don’t use a hairdryer on the phone as it can further push moisture into areas that aren’t wet. Submerge the iPhone in a bowl or Ziploc bag of uncooked white rice and leave it overnight. If you have it, try using a desiccant packet you might find with a new pair of shoes or leather purse.

Dismiss suggested words:
If you’re typing an email or note and the virtual keyboard is suggesting the correct spelling of the word — and you don’t want to accept it — you don’t need to tap the tiny “X” at the end of the word in question. Simply tap anywhere on the screen to close the suggestion box.

Take photos faster:
Even if your iPhone is locked you can double-tap on the Home button and you’ll see a camera icon you can tap to open the camera immediately. Now you can use the volume up button to snap the photo, too. You can also use the volume up on the headphone cord to take a photo (if you want to) and pinch the screen to zoom instead of using the slider bar.

Use location-based reminders:
You probably know Siri can be used to set a reminder, like saying “Siri, remind me to call mom at 4pm today.” But did you know you can set location-based reminders on your iPhone 4S? Say “Remind me to call mom when I leave here” or “Remind me to call mom when I get home” and you’ll be notified accordingly.

Get word definitions:
Apple has recently added a built-in dictionary and you can access it in most apps that let you select a word. Simply press and hold on a word — such as in an email, reminder, iBooks, and so on — and you’ll see a pop-up option for “Define.”

Revive a frozen iPhone:
If your smartphone freezes on you and pressing the Sleep/Wake button on top of the device doesn’t do anything, don’t panic. Instead, press and hold the Home button and the Sleep/Wake button at the same time. You’ll be prompted to swipe the “Slide to Power Off” tab. This so-called “hard reset” resuscitates the frozen iPhone. You’ll first need to wait through a full shut down and restart.

Get more done in less time:
You can create shortcuts to words and phrases you use a lot, such as Northern California Association for Employment in Education. In Settings, go to General, then Keyboard, and select Add New Shortcut. Now you can add new words or phrases and assign shortcuts to them (such as “NCAEE,” in the above example, and it’ll type out the full word each time.

See a 6-day weather forecast:
If you’re one of the many weather junkies out there, you probably know you can swipe down the iOS device’s screen and you’ll see the Notifications center. Weather will be at the top, but did you know you can swipe to the left or right and you’ll toggle between current conditions and a 6-day forecast? Plus, jump to the Weather app by tapping anywhere on the weather bar inside Notifications screen.

Select URL domains faster:
When typing a website address in Safari, you don’t have to type the “.com.” For example, you can type “yahoo” in the URL box to get to yahoo.com. On a related note, you can press and hold down the .com button and you’ll see a list of alternatives to choose, such as .net, .org and .edu.

Make your own ringtone:
Don’t settle with the ringtones provided by Apple and you need not pay your carrier for more of them. As the name suggests, the free Ringtone Maker app lets you take a clip from your favorite songs and make ringtones out of them in seconds.

Feel and see when people call:
Apple has added a number of accessibility features to iOS 5, specifically designed to assist those with hearing, vision, mobility and other disabilities. For example, those who are hearing impaired might opt to have the LED flash when a call comes in. If you’re seeing impaired, you could set a unique vibration pattern for different people in your Contacts, so you know who’s calling.

Find your lost iPhone:
As long as you sign up in advance, the free Find My iPhone app will help you locate your device on a map (on your computer or other iOS device). You can display a message or initiate a loud ring (in case it’s under the cushions), or remotely lock or wipe its data.

Save photos in Safari:
You’re surfing the web in Safari and stumble upon a photo you’d like to save. Simply press and hold on a photo when on a website and you’ll be prompted with a menu asked if you’d like to “Save Image.” Once the photo is saved, you can view it offline, email it or set it as wallpaper.

Take an iPhone screen grab:
On a related note, if you want to take a screenshot of a website or application, press down on the Home button and tap the Sleep button. You’ll hear the camera click, see a white flash and the screenshot will be saved to your Camera Roll.

Get new sounds:
It’s been a long time coming, but Apple has added the ability to select custom tones for incoming text messages, new emails, voicemails, tweets, calendar alerts, reminders and more. You can select something you like from within the Sounds menu. You’ll also notice you can scroll to the top of this list of sounds and you’ll see a “Buy More Tones” option, which takes you to iTunes.

Zip to the top of the page:
In Mail, Safari, Contacts and other apps, simply tap the status bar at the top of the screen — the area that displays time, battery and cell bars — to jump back to the top quickly.

Prolong your battery:
Speaking of the battery, here’s how to squeeze more life out of your iPhone between charges. Turn down the brightness of your screen, turn off wireless radios you don’t use (such as GPS, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) and reduce the number of apps with info you have “pushed” to your phone. Also, make sure you lock it before putting in your pocket, purse or backpack or else it could turn on and drain the battery.

Spread out the keyboard for easier typing:
Here’s a tip for iPad users: If you like typing while holding the tablet, rather than stretch your fingers or thumbs for those middle letters like G, H, Y or B, you can drag the keyboard to each side of the screen to separate it into two, allowing you to easily type while holding it.

Learn some gestures:
Close any app ridiculously fast by putting your four fingers and thumb stretched on the screen and pinch inwards. Sweet! You can also magnify what’s on your iPhone screen with a three-finger tap. You’ll first need to go to Settings, General, Accessibility, and select the various gestures options here.

Create an “app” out of a website you visit often:
To add a website to your Home screen, just visit the webpage in Safari and at the top of the screen, tap the Go To icon and select “Add to Home Screen.”

Create a music playlist on the fly:
You no longer need a computer to create a playlist. In the Music app, tap Playlists, then select Add Playlist and give it a name (“Marc’s Workout Mix”). Now, tap any song (or video) to add it to the playlist. You can add individual songs, entire albums, or all songs by a particular artist.

Don’t waste your day deleting messages individually:
You can delete unwanted emails en masse rather than deleting one at a time. In your Inbox, simply click the Edit button and check off the emails you want to delete with your finger and then choose Delete.

Keep track of your texting limits:
If you don’t have the best texting plan and don’t want to unnecessarily pay to send more texts than you need, here’s a tip to turn on the character count in the Messages app. Enable this in the Settings>Message option to keep an eye on your word count. Usually, your one text becomes two after 160 characters.

Mirror your iPhone with your TV:
If you own an Apple TV, you can instantly and wirelessly share exactly what’s on your iPhone 4S or second- and third-generation iPad with your HDTV, connected to an Apple TV — such as games, apps or videos. Simply double-tap the Home button, swipe all the way to the right and select AirPlay Mirroring.

SOURCE

U.S. court approves warrantless searches of cell phones

U.S. court approves warrantless searches of cell phones

By Terry Baynes

– U.S. police can search a cell phone for its number without having a warrant, according to a federal appeals court ruling.

Officers in Indiana found a number of cell phones at the scene of a drug bust, and searched each phone for its telephone number. Having the numbers allowed the government to subpoena the owners’ call histories, linking them to the drug-selling scheme.

One of the suspects, Abel Flores-Lopez, who was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison, argued on appeal that the police had no right to search the phone’s contents without a warrant.

The U.S. Court of Appeal for the 7th Circuit rejected that argument on Wednesday, finding that the invasion of privacy was so slight that the police’s actions did not violate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches.

The case gave the court an occasion to examine just how far police can go when it comes to searching electronic gadgets.

“Lurking behind this issue is the question whether and when a laptop or desktop computer, tablet, or other type of computer (whether called a ‘computer’ or not) can be searched without a warrant,” Judge Richard Posner wrote for the three-judge panel.

He raised the example of the iCam, which allows someone to use a phone to connect to a home-computer web camera, enabling someone to search a house interior remotely.

“At the touch of a button, a cell phone search becomes a house search,” he wrote.

Posner compared the cell phone to a diary. Just as police are entitled to open a pocket diary to copy an owner’s address, they should be able to turn on a cell phone to learn its number, he wrote. But just as they’re forbidden from examining love letters tucked between the pages of an address book, so are they forbidden from exploring letters in the files of a phone.

Prosecutors argued that in an age when people can wipe their cell phones clean remotely, officers are under pressure to obtain data before it is destroyed.

The court acknowledged that the actual risk that one of the suspects would have been able to destroy the phone’s contents was minimal in this case. But so was the invasion of privacy, limited to telephone numbers.

The court left the question of just how far police can go in searching a phone’s contents for another day.

A lawyer for Flores-Lopez was not immediately available for comment.

SOURCE

What Does Your Cell Know About You?

What Your Cell Knows About You

By Hilary Hylton

From crucial tracking evidence in the Scott Peterson murder trial to exculpatory call records in the Duke alleged rape case, cell phones have emerged as an important resource for both criminal investigators and defense lawyers. Now a small group of international forensic code breakers is working to go beyond the obvious and familiar — the call logs and address books — and tap deeper into our phones, into a hidden gold mine of personal information. Their work is prompting kudos from crime busters while raising concern among civil libertarians.

“Cell phones are ubiquitous in today’s world and nearly all crimes have a digital component to them,” says Rick Mislan, an assistant professor of computer and information technology at Purdue University. Mislan, a former U.S. Army electronic warfare officer, is one of a handful of experts working on forensic methods to access the inner secrets in cell phones. Twenty years ago it would have taken a police agency months of shoe leather and paper hunting to assemble the kind of information that is available on a cell phone’s internal memory and which can be extracted by a deep probe. Says Chris Calabrese of the American Civil Liberties Union technology and liberty program: “They contain a great amount of information that essentially is a subjective picture of our habits, our friends, our interests and activities, and now some even have location tracking.”

Most cell phone owners think simply removing a phone’s SIM card removes personal information, but the phone’s internal memory, even communication exchanged between the phone and its server, remain. Phone manuals detail how to perform multiple reset commands to erase personal information and some online recycling phone services offer command sets for specific phones, but most people never bother to go through the tedious process, Mislan says. For example, child predators who stalk “moblogs” — the cell phone equivalent of web blogs that are popular with young phone users — may believe they have deleted text messages and postings, but the evidence may still exist within the phone’s memory. Mislan recently examined the cell phone of an alleged child pornography ringleader and pulled off 250 “deleted” contacts from its memory.

However, few U.S. law enforcement agencies have the forensic tools at hand and criminals often exploit that advantage, stymieing investigators with simple if crude methods. Drug dealers, Mislan says, will buy throwaway phones, assign distinctive rings to customers or suppliers, and then destroy the screen, leading an arresting officer to believe the phone is broken or the phone’s information is inaccessible. (Old-style forensics often means laboriously photographing cell phone screen after cell phone screen to record evidence.)

Typically, law enforcement agencies rely on simply “thumbing through” a cell phone to retrieve data, says Sgt. Michael Harrington, a detective with the Michigan State police. Another tool, as anyone who has watched the nightly cable crime news shows knows, is “pinging” a phone to search for its location, helpful in missing-persons cases and in tracking suspects. A more complex forensic approach now available utilizes a command system developed in the late 1970s to initialize modems to ask the phone specific questions about the information it may be storing. Those commands, known as AT, were one of the tools 17-year-old hacker George Hotz used to unlock his iPhone from the AT&T network. “Coming into this project I didn’t know that cell phones used AT commands,” Hotz wrote on his blog last week, as he thanked his fellow hackers for their help.

But not all cell phones respond to modem-style commands and some cell phone developers are often loath to share their proprietary technology. Nokia phones are particularly hard to crack, Harrington says. In the U.S. alone there are over 2,000 models of phones — and even within one model line there may be a dozen phones using different codes for each function. “We are in a constant state of catch-up — a company rolls out new models every three to six months,” Mislan says. The Holy Grail for the cell phone code breakers is to develop a forensics tool — a “Swiss Army knife” as Harrington calls it —that can be used easily in the field.

Europe’s single, standardized GSM network, as opposed to the multi networks — GSM, CDMA and iDEN found in the U.S. — gave European forensics investigators an edge as they began to develop ways of accessing a phone’s internal memory. Two of the leading cell phone forensics experts are British — West Yorkshire Detective Constables Steve Hirst and Steve Miller. Like their American colleagues — “tinkerers” as Mislan calls them — the two spend their evenings buying up old cell phones on eBay, deconstructing and decoding them, and then sharing their research online with colleagues around the world.

In Europe, Constable Miller says, so-called “flasher boxes” are used to hold a cell phone’s memory while repairs are under way. The boxes are the size of a deck of cards and come with about 100 cables that can be connected to specific data points on different phones and offer direct access to memory. Flasher technology allows the investigator to do a “hex dump” of the cell phone’s memory — a large amount of hexadecimal code — and then write software to decode the information. It is not the 30-second process seen on the popular CSI television shows, but can take hours of downloading, followed by days and weeks of software development, but the results can be revealing. “You get a fingerprint of who the person is,” says Harrington. Recently, Dutch forensics experts were able to extract vital information via hex dump from the remains of a phone, shattered and soaked in blood and water. “Let’s talk about hex!” is the slogan on phone-forensics.com, a popular online forum where the code breakers chat.

Meanwhile, the demands on the code breakers exceed their ranks, despite a growing number of computer and cell phone forensics programs at U.S. universities. Recently, an Indiana state prison official handed Mislan a bag of smuggled phones confiscated from inmates who are suspected of using them to conduct criminal activities from behind bars, but Mislan says that because of other investigative work, it will be six to 12 months before he has the time to take a look at them.

The legal system also is not keeping pace with forensic investigation methods. There have been several conflicting appellate opinions on warrantless cell phone searches and the law is not “settled” at this point, ACLU’s Calabrese says. Just as emerging fingerprint and DNA technologies were challenged, cell phone evidence is under scrutiny. In the meantime, all of us — innocent citizen and criminals alike — continue to pump ever more data into cell phones and PDAs, those indispensable companions that have so much to say about us.

Read more: SOURCE

1 in 6 Cell Phones Contaminated With Fecal Matter

Study: 1 in 6 Cell Phones Contaminated With Fecal Matter

By Sora Song

What’s on your smartphone? Probably fecal matter, according to new research by London scientists.

That’s right, poop — on your phone. If it’s on your phone, it’s very likely on your hands too, say researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London.

Researchers analyzed 780 swab samples — 390 from mobile phones and 390 from the hands that used them — in 12 U.K. cities. They found that 16% of both hands and phones were contaminated with E. coli, potentially illness-causing bacteria that is fecal in origin. The likely reason: because people don’t wash their hands after using the toilet.

That means people are spreading fecal bacteria not just to their phones, but to everything else they touch around them. E. coli can survive on hands and other surfaces for hours, especially in warm conditions (like on a smartphone screen), and is easily transferred to door handles, computer keyboards, food, other people — and back to you. If you contaminate your iPhone with fecal bacteria, then wash your hands, then handle your phone again, you’ve just re-soiled your clean hands.

Overall, the researchers found that 92% of hands and 82% of phones showed some type of bacterial contamination. About a third of hands and a quarter of phones contained Staphylococcus aureus, common bacteria that live on skin but can cause illness if they enter the bloodstream.

When surveyed, however, 95% of people said they washed their hands with soap. “People may claim they wash their hands regularly, but the science shows otherwise,” said study co-author Dr. Ron Cutler of Queen Mary, University of London in a statement.

Two guesses who the nastier gender is. “In previous studies, we found that men’s hands were more contaminated than women’s, and also that men wash hands less often than women in public restrooms,” says Dr. Val Curtis of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

People in the current study who had bacteria on their hands were three times more likely to have contaminated phones as well. The findings don’t mean that your cell phone is necessarily a hotbed of disease, but that it could be. “The bugs we found are more or less harmless,” says Curtis, but notes that the presence of fecal bacteria like E. coli means that if “someone was ill, then they would be likely to transmit pathogens to others.” Other bugs like campylobacter, norovirus and salmonella, which are more likely to cause illness, can also be passed through feces.

The current study was conducted in Brits, but there’s not much reason to think Americans are any more hygienic. And mobile phones are hardly the only objects teeming with bugs around you. Stop and think about every place scientists have ever turned up fecal bacteria — grocery store carts, swimming pools, fast-food restaurant soda fountains and kids’ play areas, ATM keypads, your purse, your washing machine, prewashed salad greens, food court trays, and pretty much everything in a hotel room — and it makes it hard to lay your hands on anything again.

But before you swaddle yourself in a hazmat suit, remember there’s actually an easy way to avoid infection: wash your hands, especially after you use the bathroom. (If you think your hands haven’t been contaminated after using the toilet because you didn’t touch anything in there, think again.) Need a primer on hand washing? Use soap and water to clean all surfaces of your hands, including between your fingers and under your nails. Wash for 20 seconds. Don’t touch anything in public bathrooms, if you can help it. Use paper towels to turn the faucets and to open the door. If you don’t have access to soap and water, then at least use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

The authors of the new study say they will submit their paper for publication, following further analysis of the types of phones and users sampled and more detailed bacterial and viral profiling.

Read more: SOURCE

California Governor Overrules The Constitution

Calif. Governor Veto Allows Warrantless Cellphone Searches

By David Kravets

California Gov. Jerry Brown is vetoing legislation requiring police to obtain a court warrant to search the mobile phones of suspects at the time of any arrest.

The Sunday veto means that when police arrest anybody in the Golden State, they may search that person’s mobile phone — which in the digital age likely means the contents of persons’ e-mail, call records, text messages, photos, banking activity, cloud-storage services, and even where the phone has traveled.

Police across the country are given wide latitude to search persons incident to an arrest based on the premise of officer safety. Now the nation’s states are beginning to grapple with the warrantless searches of mobile phones done at the time of an arrest.

Brown’s veto message abdicated responsibility for protecting the rights of Californians and ignored calls from civil liberties groups and this publication to sign the bill — saying only that the issue is too complicated for him to make a decision about. He cites a recent California Supreme Court decision upholding the warrantless searches of people incident to an arrest. In his brief message, he also doesn’t say whether it’s a good idea or not.

Instead, he says the state Supreme Court’s decision is good enough, a decision the U.S. Supreme Court let stand last week.

“The courts are better suited to resolve the complex and case-specific issues relating to constitutional search-and-seizure protections,” the governor wrote.

Because of that January ruling from the state’s high court, the California Legislature passed legislation to undo it — meaning Brown is taking the side of the Supreme Court’s seven justices instead of the state Legislature. The Assembly approved the bill 70-0 and the state Senate, 32-4.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), was flummoxed by Brown’s action. “It was a curious veto message suggesting that the courts could resolve this more effectively than the state Legislature,” he said in a telephone interview.

Under California statehouse rules, neither Leno nor any other lawmaker may introduce the legislation for at least a year.

Orin Kerr, one of the nation’s leading Fourth Amendment experts, said Brown should have backed the state’s Legislature. “I think Governor Brown has it exactly backwards. It is very difficult for courts to decide Fourth Amendment cases involving developing technologies like cellphones,” he said.

In 2007, there were 332,000 felony arrests in California alone — a third of which did not result in conviction.

Brown’s veto also shores up support with police unions and the Peace Officers Research Association of California, a police union that opposed the legislation and recently donated $38,900 to Brown’s campaign coffers. “Restricting the authority of a peace officer to search an arrestee unduly restricts their ability to apply the law, fight crime, discover evidence valuable to an investigation and protect the citizens of California,” the association said in a message.

That support would be key if Brown decides to seek a second term.

In the last year alone, at least seven police unions donated more than $12,900 each to Brown. Those unions, including the California Association of Highway Patrolmen and the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, had given Brown more than $160,000 in combined contributions.

SOURCE

How corporations award themselves legal immunity



How corporations award themselves legal immunity

Laura Flanders

guardian.co.uk, Monday 27 June 2011 23.20 BST

Worried about the influence of money in American politics, the huge cash payouts that the US supreme court waved through by its Citizens United decision – the decision that lifted most limits on election campaign spending? Corporations are having their way with American elections just as they’ve already had their way with our media.

But at least we have the courts, right?

Wrong. The third branch of government’s in trouble, too. In fact, access to justice – like access to elected office, let alone a pundit’s perch – is becoming a perk just for the rich and powerful.

Take the young woman now testifying in court in Texas. Jamie Leigh Jones claims she was drugged and gang-raped while working for military contractor KBR in Iraq (at the time, a division of Halliburton). Jones, now 26, was on her fourth day in post in Baghdad in 2005 when she says she was assaulted by seven contractors and held captive, under armed guard by two KBR police, in a shipping container.

When the criminal courts failed to act, her lawyers filed a civil suit, only to be met with Halliburton’s response that all her claims were to be decided in arbitration – because she’d signed away her rights to bring the company to court when she signed her employment contract. As Leigh testified before Congress, in October 2009, “I had signed away my right to a jury trial at the age of 20 and without the advice of counsel.” It was a matter of sign or resign. “I had no idea that the clause was part of the contract, what the clause actually meant,” testified Jones.

You’ve probably done the very same thing without even knowing it. When it comes to consumer claims, mandatory arbitration is the new normal. According to research by Public Citizen and others, corporations are inserting “forced arbitration” clauses into the fine print of contracts for work, for cell phone service, for credit cards, even nursing home contracts, requiring clients to give up their right to sue if they are harmed. Arbitration is a no-judge, no-jury, no-appeal world, where arbitrators are (often by contract) selected by the company and all decisions are private – and final.

Deadly small print is not only for subprime mortgage-seekers – and neither are the costly repercussions. When corporations evade the bills for harm, no matter how huge (for medical malpractice, say, or pension fund collapse), the liability is passed on to individuals, and then to taxpayers. A new documentary, Hot Coffee, premiering 27 June, on HBO, lays out the whole picture – and it’s devastating.

First-time filmmaker Susan Saladoff starts where for many Americans, the term “tort reform” first appeared. Stella Liebeck, an 81-year-old woman, sued McDonald’s over coffee that was “too hot” – and became the “welfare queen” of tort reform. Pilloried in corporate-funded PR and in the media after a jury imposed an initial $2.7m in punitive damages, lobbyists used Liebeck’s case to deride “frivolous” lawsuits and bludgeon congressional and state legislators into passing laws that set maximum “caps” on damages. (Politicians all the way up to President George W Bush needed no bludgeoning: “frivolous suits” became a campaign trail hit.)

But look at the pictures Saladoff shows in Hot Coffee and you’ll see Liebeck’s legs seared by savage, third-degree burns, which covered over 16% of her body. As any reporter could have discovered at the time, McDonalds‘ protocols kept its coffee at 82-87ºC (180-190ºF). Over 700 people had been burned by it. Ten years of suits and claims had forced no change. Liebeck’s suit was anything but “frivolous”.

Likewise, Jones’s suit. Or the big-business funded effort to unseat justices opposed to “tort reform” – also profiled in Hot Coffee. It’s taken Jones nearly six years and a hearing in the US Senate to force her employer, Halliburton into open court, at last, in Houston this week. Jones tells Saladoff she’s driven by concern for other young women in her position – in no position, that is, thanks to mandatory arbitration, to know the truth about past claims and what they may be getting into when they sign an employment contract.

Saladoff, a plaintiff’s attorney for 25 years, is driven, too – by a belief in the seventh amendment right to a jury trial. “Tort” is a complicated word for a simple thing – “harm,” she explains. The courts are supposed to be the branch of government where citizens and corporations have an equal shot. The US supreme court in Dukes v Walmart recently rejected 1.6 million workers’ attempt to bring a class action case – making it a whole lot harder for Americans to band together to hold corporations accountable. Go it alone and the deck is stacked, thanks to decades of effort by corporations and the politicians they pay for.

They don’t pay fair wages; they don’t pay their fare share of taxes. They evade liability. What gives? Says Saladoff: “When corporations harm, there should be some way to hold them accountable.”

SOURCE

Cell phones and radiation: The 10 highest- and lowest-emitting models

Cell phones and radiation: The 10 highest- and lowest-emitting models

By Brandon Griggs, CNN

When it comes to radiation levels emitted by cell phones, all phone models aren’t created equal.

(CNN) — Cell phone users — a group that, these days, means practically everybody — are no doubt concerned about Tuesday’s news that the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

The phones themselves aren’t necessarily harmful. It’s the radiation emitted by the phones — and absorbed by the human body — that troubles some doctors.

But when it comes to radiation levels, all phones aren’t equal. Below are lists of the models available from major carriers that emit the highest and lowest levels of radiofrequency energy.

12 basic life-saving cell-phone use precautions.

How much radiation does your phone emit?

A quick explanation of the numbers: They refer to the “specific absorption rate” or SAR, a common benchmark that measures the rate of radiofrequency energy your body gets from the phone. The lower the number, the lower the radiation exposure. For a phone to be certified by the FCC and sold in the U.S., for example, its maximum SAR level must be less than 1.6 watts per kilogram.

But keep in mind that these are only ballpark figures. Your actual exposure will depend on how you use your phone, your carrier and network-specific conditions. For example, when your connection is weak, your cell phone needs to send out more radiation to reach the cellular tower.

Can cell phones cause cancer?

How to use your cell phone safely

And there’s still no conclusive evidence that a phone with a higher SAR level poses a greater health risk — or any health risk at all — than a model that emits less radiation.

(These lists were compiled by the Environmental Working Group, a lobbying group that advocates on behalf of public health and the environment, based on data provided by the phone manufacturers. The data are up to date as of December, which means some newer models aren’t listed. For the group’s full list of phone models, CLICK HERE.)

Lowest radiation levels:

1. LG Quantum (AT&T): 0.35 watts per kilogram

2. Casio EXILIM (Verizon Wireless): 0.53 W/kg

3. Pantech Breeze II (AT&T, AT&T GoPhone): 0.55 W/kg

4. Sanyo Katana II (Kajeet): 0.55 W/kg

5. Samsung Fascinate (Verizon Wireless): 0.57 W/kg

6. Samsung Mesmerize (CellularONE, U.S. Cellular): 0.57 W/kg

7. Samsung SGH-a197 (AT&T GoPhone): 0.59 W/kg

8. Samsung Contour (MetroPCS): 0.60 W/kg

9. Samsung Gravity T (T-Mobile): 0.62 W/kg

10. (tie) Motorola i890 (Sprint); Samsung SGH-T249 (T-Mobile): 0.63 W/kg

Highest radiation levels:

1. Motorola Bravo (AT&T): 1.59 W/kg

2. Motorola Droid 2 (Verizon Wireless): 1.58 W/kg

3. Palm Pixi (Sprint): 1.56 W/kg

4. Motorola Boost (Boost Mobile): 1.55 W/kg

5. Blackberry Bold (AT&T, T-Mobile): 1.55 W/kg

6. Motorola i335 (Sprint): 1.55 W/kg

7. HTC Magic (T-Mobile): 1.55 W/kg

8. Motorola W385 (Boost Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless): 1.54 W/kg

9. Motorola Boost i290 (Boost Mobile): 1.54 W/kg

10. (tie) Motorola DEFY (T-Mobile); Motorola Quantico (U.S. Cellular, MetroPCS); Motorola Charm (T-Mobile): 1.53 W/kg

Some other high-profile phones fared somewhere in the middle on the rankings. The SAR level of the Apple iPhone 4 was 1.17 W/kg (for the AT&T model; the Verizon model wasn’t listed). Exposure levels for the dozens of BlackBerry models varied widely.

SOURCE

WHO: Cell phone use can increase possible cancer risk

WHO: Cell phone use can increase possible cancer risk

By Danielle Dellorto, CNN
May 31, 2011 1:49 p.m. EDT

Cell phone use ‘possibly carcinogenic’

It’s in the same “hazard” category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform. Until now, WHO has said no adverse health effects have been established. The cell phone industry maintains that there is no conclusive evidence of danger

(CNN) — Radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization. The agency now lists mobile phone use in the same “carcinogenic hazard” category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.

Before its announcement Tuesday, WHO had assured consumers that no adverse health effects had been established.

A team of 31 scientists from 14 countries, including the United States, made the decision after reviewing peer-reviewed studies on cell phone safety. The team found enough evidence to categorize personal exposure as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

What that means is they found some evidence of increase in glioma and acoustic neuroma brain cancer for mobile phone users, but have not been able to draw conclusions for other types of cancers

“The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences,” said Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Is your cell phone safe?

Dr. Gupta explores cell phone safety
Cell phone use ‘possibly carcinogenic’

The type of radiation coming out of a cell phone is called non-ionizing. It is not like an X-ray, but more like a very low-powered microwave oven.

“What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain,” Black said. “So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones.

Wireless industry responded to Tuesday’s announcement saying it “does not mean cell phones cause cancer.” CTIA-The Wireless Association added that WHO researchers “did not conduct any new research, but rather reviewed published studies.”

The European Environmental Agency has pushed for more studies, saying cell phones could be as big a public health risk as smoking, asbestos and leaded gasoline. The head of a prominent cancer-research institute at the University of Pittsburgh sent a memo to all employees urging them to limit cell phone use because of a possible risk of cancer.

“When you look at cancer development — particularly brain cancer — it takes a long time to develop. I think it is a good idea to give the public some sort of warning that long-term exposure to radiation from your cell phone could possibly cause cancer,” said Dr. Henry Lai, research professor in bioengineering at University of Washington who has studied radiation for more than 30 years.

Results from the largest international study on cell phones and cancer was released in 2010. It showed participants in the study who used a cell phone for 10 years or more had doubled the rate of brain glioma, a type of tumor. To date, there have been no long-term studies on the effects of cell phone usage among children.

“Children’s skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are at a dividing faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger.” said Black of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

In February, a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, revealed radiation emitted after just 50 minutes on a mobile phone increases the activity in brain cells. The effects of brain activity being artificially stimulated are still unknown.

Neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta says Tuesday’s announcement, “dealt a blow to those who have long said, ‘There is no possible mechanism for cell phones to cause cancer.’ By classifying cell phones as a possible carcinogen, they also seem to be tacitly admitting a mechanism could exist.”


Manufacturers of many popular cell phones already warn consumers to keep their device away from their body.

The Apple iPhone 4 safety manual says users’ radiation exposure should not exceed FCC guidelines: “When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 millimeters (5/8 inch) away from the body.”

BlackBerry Bold advises users to, “keep the BlackBerry device at least 0.98 inch (25 millimeters) from your body when the BlackBerry device is transmitting.”

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