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EXCLUSIVE: The PA State Police Has Purchased Controversial Cellphone Spying Technology And Would Prefer That You Didn’t Know About It

Monday, April 14th, 2014

 

BY DUSTIN SLAUGHTER A recent Pew poll indicates that more than 70% of Americans oppose the National Security Administation’s bulk collection of cellphone metadata. For Pennsylvanians, the threat to security and privacy of your cellphone communications just hit a little closer to home. Phawker has learned that Pennsylvania State Police has recently purchased a controversial type of cell phone surveillance technology, known as HailStorm. Hailstorm has the ability to “trick” cell phones into connecting to the device by posing as a cell tower, enabling it to scoop up phone serial data within a targeted radius and track the user’s location. The bad news is that it doesn’t just scoop up the cell phone data trail of the bad guys, it scoops up everyone’s cell phone data within its monitoring radius — without a warrant. The technology is very portable and could be mounted in the police cruiser that just passed your house.

USA Today recently did lengthy takeout on the alarming proliferation of this phone-tracking technology on a state and local level, reporting that more than 25 state and municipal police departments have currently deployed this technology while others have tech-sharing agreements with the FBI and other federal agencies. The Electronic Frontier Foundation calls the device “the biggest technological threat to cell phone privacy that you don’t know about, while the ACLU has roundly criticized the technology’s use as a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment’s “General Warrant” clause.

Four requests for the Pennsylvania State Police to confirm or deny our report have gone unanswered. However, we know for a fact that the State Police have purchased this technology because we have obtained a copy of the purchasing order through a PA Right-To-Know request filed in February.  The documents indicate that State Police purchased two of the devices in December of last year from the controversial Harris Corporation at a total cost of $232,772. HailStorm is an “upgrade” to original StingRay technology which, if combined with a software named Pen-Link, enables authorities to communicate directly with cell service carriers over an Internet connection to strengthen real-time location tracking. It is not clear at this time whether State Police have this capability, although a records request is pending seeking Pen-Link contracts.

In addition to PSP’s Hailstorm upgrade, the agency also bought Harpoon ‘amplifier’ antennae, which allows State Police to vastly expand reach of its cellphone data collection. Once a StingRay gathers a phone’s “International Mobile Subscriber Number” (IMSI) and serial data, the phone can be singled out for closer scrutiny, including real-time location tracking. This has drawn increasing scrutiny – and criticism – from legal advocacy groups such as the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The technology, originally introduced to state and local police departments through Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the US, has ‘mission-creeped’ from so-called terror investigations into ordinary criminal investigations. “They certainly are being pitched as a counter-terrorism tool and DHS funds have been used to help police departments buy these devices, but we know they are being used in garden variety criminal cases of all sorts,” says EFF staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury. “For example, the city of Oakland reported in 2009 a number of routine criminal cases involving StingRays.”

And it’s not just used for legitimate criminal investigations: In 2003, Miami-Dade police purchased similar devices to surreptitiously monitor activists protesting at a world trade conference, according to agency procurement records.Equally troubling is how law enforcement often uses it without obtaining legal permission from judges. And on the infrequent occasions when StingRay technology is even mentioned by investigators, its full capabilities are rarely disclosed to the judges from whom they are seeking warrants. “By withholding information about this technology from courts in applications for electronic surveillance orders, the federal government is essentially seeking to write its own search warrants,” says Linda Lye, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Northern California. Not all judges have rubberstamped the use of this cellphone tracking technology. Some have begun to ask pointed questions.

A federal magistrate judge in the Southern District of Texas became one of the few judges who denied a warrant on grounds that law enforcement wasn’t specific enough about their intended use of the device. Judge Brian L. Owsley cited the fact that the government provided no explanation regarding how they would handle captured cell data swept up from “seemingly innocent cell phone users” as grounds for denying the search warrant request. “Transparency is [crucial to] the use of these devices,” says the EFF’s Fakhoury. “Criminal defense attorneys need to start inquiring into whether these devices were used in cases they’re defending. State legislators can take steps to safeguard privacy by passing laws requiring police get a warrant to use these devices.” Some states, like Utah and Indiana, have already passed legislation that does precisely that. Pennsylvania is not among them.

 

RELATED: Cellphone Data Spying — It’s Not Just The NSA

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BLAXSPLOITATION MAD MEN: Don-O-Mite!

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Is it wrong to want to watch this more than the real Mad Men? It is? Too effing bad.

PREVIOUSLY: Barack Obama IS Don Draper

PREVIOUSLY: 13 actual ads from the Mad Men era that would never fly today

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THE BOX TOPS: The Letter

Monday, April 14th, 2014

If you missed last week’s Q&A with Alex Chilton biographer Holly George-Warren, author of A MAN CALLED DESTRUCTION: The Life And Music Of Alex Chilton From Box Top To Big Star To Backdoor Man, check it out HERE.

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SIGUR ROS: The Rains Of Castamere

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Sigure Ros’ contribution to the Season Four Game Of Thrones soundtrack. They also make make a cameo this season. Somehow that makes perfect sense. Either way, this is one of Jonsi’s most beautiful vocals, which is really saying something if you’ve been paying attention.

PREVIOUSLY:
Live From Hopelandia

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CINEMA: Taste The Whip, In Love Not Given Lightly

Friday, April 11th, 2014

 

THE RAID 2 (2014, directed by Gareth Evans, 150 min., Indonesia)
NYMPHOMANIAC: VOLUME 2 (2013, directed by Lars Van Trier, 123 min., Denmark)

BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Director Gareth Evans’ 2012 film Raid: The Redemption was the freshest slab of action cinema to bloody-up the screen since the early ’90s heyday of John Woo. The film followed Rama (self-contained martial artist Iko Uwais) as a member of a SWAT team climbing the stairs of a high rise housing project in Jakarta to arrest the drug lord who living in the top floor suite. The team soon finds out it is a trap and they are being hunted for bounty by the residents. This ingeniously simple premise was just the framework for an unending series of gloriously inventive fight scenes that built to a frenzied finale. The Raid 2 can’t hope to top the original for freshness but it delivers the sort of joint-snapping gusto that action fans should find irresistible.

The Raid 2 brings the character of Rama back but inserts him into a more formulaic plot. Here Rama must leave his wife and child to go undercover in a hellish prison and befriend a mobster’s son Uco (Arifin Putra) in order to infiltrate his gang. After his release, Rama slowly earns the confidence of mob boss Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo) and draws the suspicions of Bangun’s wayward son Uco. The plotline is either classic or hackneyed but it is really just there to string together a large number of physical confrontations. The conflicts are settled with a martial arts discipline known as “silat,” which is a mixture of direct strikes and joint twisting that is sure to evoke empathic groans as we witness the pain. Some of these fights take on an epic scale, including a muddy battle in the prison yard where Rama is able to win Uco’s trust by saving his life. Yet some of the most thrilling are set in close quarters, like a battle in Rama’s tiny prison cell and a later tussle inside a moving car.

Villains rush at Rama with curved knives, aluminum baseball bats and whirling hammers (powered by Julie Estelle as the scene-stealing “Hammer Girl”) but running a full 49 minutes longer than the original, The Raid 2′s pummeling fists batter us into bored submission by the end. Still, while Raid 2 wastes a lot of its punches, what is on screen puts to shame the CGI kerfuffles that pass for action from Hollywood studios these days. Nonetheless, a little restraint and Raid 2 really could have kicked some ass.
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Thankfully, we only had a wait a couple of weeks before the second and final part of Lars Von Trier’s latest arrived in neighborhood theaters. Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2 picks up directly after Volume 1, with the bruised and bloodied Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) telling how she recovered groove after losing all sexual sensation. Where Vol. One reveled in the spectacle of a beautiful young woman (Joe as played by Stacy Martin) throwing all propriety and common sense to the wind in a fornicating frenzy, Vol. 2 gets into her self-hatred as Joe explores the darker side of sadomasochism.

Again, Stellan Skarsgard is there as Seligman to aid Joe’s recovery and add a scholar’s perspective with the allegories and metaphors that he teases out from her libidinal journey. There are many anecdotal asides in this shaggy dog tale, from a flashback to the child Joe masturbating till she levitates and later to the older Joe’s weekly beatings at the blithely professional hands of “K” (played by the lad who danced as Billy Elliot in the 1999 film, of all people.) As the story grows more grim, Seligman struggles to get at the root of Joe’s pain as we finally solve the mystery of who left Joe beaten in the street to begin with.

Although sprawling and prone to digressions, Nymphomaniac Vols 1 & 2 takes shape as a treatise on storytelling, not just the personal stories we define ourselves by but the myth, legend and history that is handed down to shape and mold us in society. Particularly interesting is the point Seligman makes saying that if Joe was a man, her story would not be viewed as pathological acting-out at all, just a horny boy being a horny boy.

With everything sorted out so rationally it is gratifying that Von Trier ends the Nymphomaniac saga with a bang, one that respectfully restores the mystery of Joe after prodding her to confess everything. Joe may have paid with a pound of flesh for being the modern Whore of Babylon but Von Trier generously lets her extract a price as well.

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Half Of NJ Voters Favor Legalization Of Recreational Marijuana Use; Half Admit To Getting Stoned

Friday, April 11th, 2014

 

STAR-LEDGER: A poll released today shows New Jersey voters are evenly divided in their support for legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use — although the results show wide gaps among different sexes, age groups, and political affiliations. The Quinnipiac University survey found that 48 percent of registered voters backed the idea, while the same number were opposed.But gaps emerged when the groups were broken down:

• Men back legalization 54 percent to 43 percent, while women are opposed 52 percent to 43 percent.

• Voters 18 to 29 support legalization 56 percent to 43 percent, while voters over 65 disapprove 63 percent to 33 percent.

• Democrats are for it 55 percent to 41 percent, Republicans are against it 61 percent to 34 percent, and independents are divided, 48 percent to 48 percent.

“There’s enormous interest in the proposal to legalize marijuana, but voters split down the middle,” Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said. “Republicans say no, Democrats say yes, and the highest support comes from younger voters.” Last month, state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) introduced legislation that would make the sale and possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use legal in New Jersey. But Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday that he would oppose any effort to legalize or decriminalize marijuana. Today’s poll shows 41 percent of New Jersey voters admit to having smoked marijuana — including 56 percent of voters younger than 30. MORE

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INCOMING: London Calling

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

 

In advance of her show at the Tower on Friday April, 25th in support of her latest album, Matangi, we got Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (aka M.I.A.) on the horn from her home in London — and given that she undoubtedly is on the NSA’s watch/listen list given her father’s well-publicized Tamil Tiger affiliation combined with the fact that any U.S. citizen who calls a foreigner on the NSA watch list is then also added to The List, well, that’s a pretty high price to pay for plugging a friggin’ rapper/EDM artist’s Tower Theater show. But we’ve never been coy about what side we are on in the Snowden & The Fourth Amendment Of The Constitution Of The United States of America vs The NSA Big Brother Industrial Complex debate. Now we have some skin in the game. DISCUSSED: Edward Snowden, NSA, the illusion of privacy in 21st Century corporate/imperialist/police states, how Philadelphia played a central role in her development as an artist and rise to international celebrity and how it feels to get thrown under the bus in the media by ex-boyfriend/Philly homeboy Diplo. TRIED TO DISCUSS: The jaw-dropping absurdity of the  NFL suing her for $16 million for flipping the bird during Superbowl halftime festivities and somehow damaging the good Christian kid-friendly brand of a ginormous corporation that has made BILLIONs of dollars selling stylized violence — and not simulated cinematic violence, but REAL violence — not to mention the gruesome spectacle of the infliction of traumatic brain injury on live television to the American family every Sunday…but her publicist cut us off and asked that we talk about the tour. “You know what I would have said, Jonathan,” said Maya as we exchanged farewells. Look for it next week, along with MIA ticket giveaways, on Phawker near you!

M.I.A. PLAYS THE TOWER THEATER ON FRIDAY APRIL 25th

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When Bill Hader Does Star Wars It Stays Done

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

About to get on the horn with good ‘ol Bill to talk about Fred Armisen — still can’t talk about that, quit asking — and came across this and decided it’s just too effing funny not to share with you good people.

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WORTH REPEATING: Idiocalypse Now

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

 

NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS: In the past, if someone knew nothing and talked nonsense, no one paid any attention to him. No more. Now such people are courted and flattered by conservative politicians and ideologues as “Real Americans” defending their country against big government and educated liberal elites. The press interviews them and reports their opinions seriously without pointing out the imbecility of what they believe. The hucksters, who manipulate them for the powerful financial interests, know that they can be made to believe anything, because, to the ignorant and the bigoted, lies always sound better than truth:

Christians are persecuted in this country.
The government is coming to get your guns.
Obama is a Muslim.
Global Warming is a hoax.
The president is forcing open homosexuality on the military.
Schools push a left-wing agenda.
Social Security is an entitlement, no different from welfare.
Obama hates white people.
The life on earth is 10,000 years old and so is the universe.
The safety net contributes to poverty.
The government is taking money from you and giving it to sex-crazed college women to pay for their birth control.

One could easily list many more such commonplace delusions believed by Americans. They are kept in circulation by hundreds of right-wing political and religious media outlets whose function is to fabricate an alternate reality for their viewers and their listeners. “Stupidity is sometimes the greatest of historical forces,” Sidney Hook said once. No doubt. What we have in this country is the rebellion of dull minds against the intellect. That’s why they love politicians who rail against teachers indoctrinating children against their parents’ values and resent the ones who show ability to think seriously and independently. Despite their bravado, these fools can always be counted on to vote against their self-interest. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is why millions are being spent to keep my fellow citizens ignorant. MORE

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HOLLY GOLIGHTLY: Devil Do

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Holly Golightly and The Brokeoffs play The Fire on Tuesday April 15th, in support of their new album, All Her Fault.

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Nikki Allen Poe Kicks Off His Pro-Pot/Anti-PPA City Council Candidacy With Presser At The Rocky Statue

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Photo by LAUREN M. WAKSMAN

Comedian/marijuana activist Nikki Allen Poe announced his candidacy yesterday for the at-large seat on Philadelphia City Council during a press conference in front of the Rocky statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Given that Poe is running as an alternative to the corrupt Democratic party machine politics that have maintained a chokehold on city politics for far too long, Phawker is full on endorsing this dude. The event wasn’t very formal (the candidate was surrounded by supporters dressed up in cannabis-themed outfits), however after a few minutes of hearing the guy speak, it was clear that he’s serious about this run for City Council, even if some of his ideas do sound like jokes. His biggest issue is decriminalizing marijuana, which explains why his campaign slogan is “Spark a Change.” Poe also talked about how he would work to put video cameras on every police officer in the city to hold them accountable for their unconstitutional stop-and-frisk actions. He also vowed to re-name Broad Street “Allen Iverson Boulevard.” And if elected, Poe says he will donate half of his salary to charity. And that’s no joke. – LAUREN M. WAKSMAN

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CHILDREN BY THE MILLION: Talking Alex Chilton Blues With Rock Biographer Holly George-Warren

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

 

BY JONATHAN VALANIA Alex Chilton remains a forbidding totem of American music with a formidable pedigree: white soul prodigy, progenitor of power-pop purity, pill-addled punk, swampy garage blooze and, in the final decades of his life, indie’s aging princeling of noble white failure. He was a musician’s musician, and each entry on his resume has spun off countless imitators and innovators. Forever to be known as the guiding light in Big Star’s twinkling constellation of pure pop, Alex Chilton would probably have it any other way. Even during the reunion/reactivation of Big Star in the last two decades of his life, Chilton seemed reluctant to give power-pop fetishists what they craved so hungrily: more of the same. The irascible, iconoclastic singer/songwriter cipher, who died from a heart attack in 2010, spent nearly the entirety of his 45-year career confounding people’s expectations, including his own. Nobody figured a 16-year-old white kid could sing with the swampy frogman growl he wielded during his tenure with the Box Tops in the ’60s. Big Star’s feathery weave of the Beatles and the Byrds was hardly par for the course in the shaggy dog days of the early ’70s, which, in part, explains why the band never really sold any records before disbanding. And from the late ’70s onward, his solo career zigged, sometimes brilliantly, when his audience seemed to zag. In the ’90s he pretty much dispensed with songwriting altogether, settling into the role of semi-ironic interpreter of obscure soul, R&B, jazz and Italian rock ‘n’ roll nuggets.

It has been said that the genre of power pop -– frail, white man-boys with cherry guitars reinvigorating the harmonic convergence of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Byrds with the caffeinated rush of youth –- is the revenge of the nerds. Big Star pretty much invented the form, which explains the worshipful altars erected to the band in the bedrooms of lonely, disenfranchised melody-makers from Los Angeles to London and points in between. Though they never came close to fame or fortune in their time, the band continues to hold a sacred place in the cosmology of pure pop, a glittering constellation that remains invisible to the naked mainstream eye. Succeeding generations of pop philosophers and aspiring rock Mozarts pore over the group’s music like biblical scholars hunched over the Dead Sea Scrolls, plumbing the depths of the band’s shadowy history, searching for meaning in Big Star’s immaculate conception and stillborn death. Big Star was the sound of four Memphis boys caught in the vortex of a time warp, reinterpreting the jangling, three-minute Brit-pop odes to love, youth and the loss of both that framed their formative years, the mid-’60s. Just one problem: It was the early ’70s. They were out of fashion and out of time. Within the band, this disconnect with the pop marketplace would lead to bitter disillusionment, self-destruction and death. But that same damning obscurity would nurture their mythology and become Big Star’s greatest ally, an amber that would preserve the band’s three full-length albums -– #1 RecordRadio City and Sister Lovers/Third –- as perfect specimens of neo-classic guitar pop. That Big Star’s recorded legacy would go on to inspire countless alternative acts is one of pop history’s cruelest ironies –- everyone from R.E.M. to the Replacements to Elliott Smith to Wilco would come to see Big Star as the great missing link between the ’60s and the ’70s and beyond.

All of which makes veteran music journalist Holly George-Warren [PICTURED, BELOW RIGHT]‘s comprehensive, just-published Chilton biography, A Man Called Destruction, essential reading for anyone hungering for knowledge of the secret history of unpopular music. George-Warren’s bibliography is impressive: Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry (Oxford University Press, 2007), The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: The First 25 Years (HarperCollins, Sept. 2009), Bonnaroo: What, Which, This, That, the Other (Abrams Image, 2012), Cowboy! How Hollywood Invented the Wild West (Readers Digest Books, 2002), Punk 365 (Abrams, 2007), Grateful Dead 365 (Abrams, 2008); and the children’s books Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country & Western Music (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll (Houghton Mifflin, 2001), and The Cowgirl Way (Houghton Mifflin, July 2010). Recently, we got her on the horn to talk about all things Alex Chilton. Full disclosure: George-Warren used interviews I conducted with Chilton back in 2000 as source material for her book.
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JIMMY FALLON & ANNE HATHAWAY: Perform Broadway Versions Of West Coast Gangsta Rap

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Basically what this means is everyone who has ever talked shit about Anne Hathaway on Twitter needs to sit down and shut the fuck up. NEXT!

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