Not All Controls of Information Are Legal…All Are Bad.

It’s nice that the journalistic community is starting to speak with one voice about the insidious growth of non-legal forms of coercion being practiced with increasing impunity across the American landscape. Kudos to the New York Times for sounding the alarm about the growing boldness of PIOs and public relations “handlers” censoring the news.

It’s not just “quote checks,” however: PR handlers demanding that public officials route all incoming calls to them and forbidding governmental employees from even speaking to reporters unless they are “cleared” are at least as bad, and do untold damage daily to our knowledge of public affairs. SPJ is working with a group dedicated to fighting back against this development. More to come.

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New York Times Takes A Look at the FOIA Slow Road…

In case you missed it, The New York Times had a really interesting piece on FOIA the other day. The money graf:

On Jan. 4, The New York Times received a final response from the Defense Department to a FOIA request made on June 1, 1997. The department sent it by Federal Express, Priority Overnight.

Sheesh. Well, at least they Fedexed the response!

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FOI At Work: Metal Hip Implants Generate Massive Complaints

or try to do more than your surgeon says to do...

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Read this one carefully as the proud owner of an artificial hip (mine is NOT metal, thankfully!) in the New York Times:

The federal government has received a surge in complaints in recent months about failed hip replacements, suggesting that serious problems persist with some types of artificial hips even as researchers scramble to evaluate the health dangers.

An analysis of federal data by The New York Times indicates that the Food and Drug Administration has received more than 5,000 reports since January about several widely used devices known as metal-on-metal hips, more than the agency had received about those devices in the previous four years combined.

The vast majority of filings appear to reflect patients who have had an all-metal hip removed, or will soon undergo such a procedure because a device failed after only a few years; typically, replacement hips last 15 years or more.

The mounting complaints confirm what many experts have feared — that all-metal replacement hips are on a trajectory to become the biggest and most costly medical implant problem since Medtronic recalled a widely used heart device component in 2007. About 7,700 complaints have been filed in connection with that recall.

Though immediate problems with the hip implants are not life-threatening, some patients have suffered crippling injuries caused by tiny particles of cobalt and chromium that the metal devices shed as they wear.

Hip replacement is one of the most common procedures in the United States and, until a recent sharp decline, all-metal implants — one in which both the artificial ball and cup are made of metal — accounted for nearly one-third of the estimated 250,000 replacements performed each year. According to one estimate, some 500,000 patients have received an all-metal replacement hip.

One of the most problematic devices, the A.S.R., or Articular Surface Replacement, was recalled last year by Johnson & Johnson and accounted for 75 percent of the complaints reviewed by The Times. A precise count of failed implants reported to the F.D.A. is hard to come by because of the agency’s overlapping reporting system, though The Times sought to eliminate duplicate reports about the same incident. Some complaints came from outside the United States.

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Keeping Austin Weird…

Rainbow cup

Image by Näystin via Flickr

From a great NYT profile on Austin-based anarchist (can an anarchist really have a base?) Scott Crow…

Blogged here by Reason:

Mr. Crow, a lanky Texas native who works at a recycling center, is one of several Austin activists who asked the F.B.I. for their files, citing the Freedom of Information Act. The 440 heavily-redacted pages he received, many bearing the rubric “Domestic Terrorism,” provide a revealing window on the efforts of the bureau, backed by other federal, state and local police agencies, to keep an eye on people it deems dangerous.

In the case of Mr. Crow, who has been arrested a dozen times during demonstrations but has never been convicted of anything more serious than trespassing, the bureau wielded an impressive array of tools, the documents show.

It’s interesting reading…weird, even.

Speaking of weird, a poster on one of their blogs in a free-for-all blasting a column I wrote some years ago managed to attack me by means of a false racial assault. It was plenty racist, but directed at a white me.

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The New York Times with a great FOI-driven story on the expanding dragnet after the Bush administration eased up on rules about domestic intel:

Within months after the Bush administration relaxed limits on domestic-intelligence gathering in late 2008, theF.B.I. assessed thousands of people and groups in search of evidence that they might be criminals or terrorists, a newly disclosed Justice Department document shows.

In a vast majority of those cases, F.B.I. agents did not find suspicious information that could justify more intensive investigations. The New York Times obtained the data, which the F.B.I. had tried to keep secret, after filing a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.

The document, which covers the four months from December 2008 to March 2009, says the F.B.I. initiated 11,667 “assessments” of people and groups. Of those, 8,605 were completed. And based on the information developed in those low-level inquiries, agents opened 427 more intensive investigations, it says.

 

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The High Price of Transparency in India

Expertly documented by this New York Times story in yesterday’s paper:

Amit Jethwa had just left his lawyer’s office after discussing a lawsuit he had filed to stop an illicit limestone quarry with ties to powerful local politicians. That is when the assassins struck, speeding out of the darkness on a roaring motorbike, pistols blazing. He died on the spot, blood pouring from his mouth and nose. He was 38.

Mr. Jethwa was one of millions of Indians who had embraced the country’s five-year-old Right to Information Act, which allows citizens to demand almost any government information. People use the law to stop petty corruption and to solve their most basic problems, like getting access to subsidized food for the poor or a government pension without having to pay a bribe, or determining whether government doctors and teachers are actually showing up for work

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