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Archive for July 8th, 2008

‘Zero’ chance lottery tickets stun some players

Posted by invizweb on July 8, 2008

Thanks to Mind Virus @ Disinfo

Jason Carroll and Susan Chun wrote for CNN American Morning:

NEW YORK (CNN)When Scott Hoover bought a $5 scratch-off ticket in Virginia called “Beginner’s Luck” last summer, he carefully studied the odds. Even though he figured his chances of winning were a long shot, he felt the odds were reasonable.

Hoover, a business professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, wasn’t surprised when his tickets didn’t bring him the $75,000 grand prize, but he was shocked to learn the top prize had been awarded before he bought the ticket.

“I felt duped into buying these things,” Hoover said.

He discovered the Virginia State Lottery was continuing to sell tickets for games in which the top prizes were no longer available. Public records showed that someone had already won the top prize one month before Hoover played. He is now suing the state of Virginia for breach of contract. Video Is this a scratch-off scandal? »

“It’s one thing to say it’s a long shot to win the $75,000, but it’s another thing to say you have no shot to win it,” said John Fishwick, Hoover’s attorney.

Through a request filed under the Freedom of Information Act, Fishwick’s firm was able to obtain records that showed the Virginia State Lottery sold $85 million in tickets for which no top prize was available. Fishwick says the state should pay $85 million in damages.

Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia State Lottery, said the state’s games are fair and the top prize money is actually a small percentage of the money given out to lottery players. Most of the players win through the second, third or fourth-place prizes, she said. Otto also said it’s no longer possible in the state of Virginia to purchase tickets with no top prizes available.

“We absolutely have always been very open and honest with our players about the way our scratch tickets are distributed,” Otto said. “Yes, there were times when there was a scratch game out there that might’ve said “zero” in terms of the number of top prizes, but our players knew that.”

Otto would not comment on the lawsuit, but said she stands by the integrity of the games in Virginia and looks forward to vigorously defending them.

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The Firefighters, Paramedics, and Utility Workers are Watching You

Posted by invizweb on July 8, 2008

Thanks to Jacob Sloan on Disinfo

Bruce Finley wrote for the Denver Post:

Privacy advocates worry that officers’ snooping will entangle innocent people.

Hundreds of police, firefighters, paramedics and even utility workers have been trained and recently dispatched as “Terrorism Liaison Officers” in Colorado and a handful of other states to hunt for “suspicious activity” — and are reporting their findings into secret government databases.

It’s a tactic intended to feed better data into terrorism early-warning systems and uncover intelligence that could help fight anti-U.S. forces. But the vague nature of the TLOs’ mission, and their focus on reporting both legal and illegal activity, has generated objections from privacy advocates and civil libertarians.

“Suspicious activity” is broadly defined in TLO training as behavior that could lead to terrorism: taking photos of no apparent aesthetic value, making measurements or notes, espousing extremist beliefs or conversing in code, according to a draft Department of Justice/Major Cities Chiefs Association document.

All this is anathema to opponents of domestic surveillance.

Yet U.S. intelligence and homeland security officials say they support the widening use of TLOs — state-run under federal agreements — as part of a necessary integrated network for preventing attacks.

“We’re simply providing information on crime-related issues or suspicious circumstances,” said Denver police Lt. Tony Lopez, commander of Denver’s intelligence unit and one of 181 individual TLOs deployed across Colorado.

“We don’t snoop into private citizens’ lives. We aren’t living in a communist state.”

Read more.

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Artificial DNA Molecules Synthesized — No Discernible Use for U.S. Economic Crisis

Posted by invizweb on July 8, 2008

Thanks to Ben @ Disinfo

Courtesy of Masahiko Inouye for Science Daily:

Chemists in Japan report development of the world’s first DNA molecule made almost entirely of artificial parts. The finding could lead to improvements in gene therapy, futuristic nano-sized computers, and other high-tech advances, they say.

In the new study, Masahiko Inouye and colleagues point out that scientists have tried for years to develop artificial versions of DNA in order to extend its amazing information storage capabilities.

Read more.

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Marvel at the 22-foot-tall polystyrene giant robot sculpture

Posted by invizweb on July 8, 2008

Thanks to Klintron at Technoccult.

Kevin Hall wrote for DVICE:

Michael Salter is something of a pack rat. Instead of letting all that clutter go to waste as some might, however, he puts it to good use — or into making robot sculptures.

You may remember these adorable Styrobots from a little while ago. His new creation is a little bigger; it stands over 22 feet high and needs a wooden, skeletal armature to keep it standing as well as moving vans to transport it. The smaller at its feet keep people from getting too close and accidentally knocking it over.

It took Salter all winter to cut the pieces into shapes that would glue together snugly. Why does he do it? His pieces aren’t sold — and are often destroyed at the end of the showing — though in packing materials and other odds and ends Salter finds an interesting comment on society’s mechanical made-for-waste industry.

Read more.

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DoJ Policy Would Sanction Racial Profiling, Let FBI Target Americans Without Cause

Posted by invizweb on July 8, 2008

For the Wired Blog Network, Kim Zetter reported:

The Justice Department is considering establishing a new policy that would allow the FBI to target Americans for investigation even in the absence of evidence or other compelling indications that the person was breaking a law, according to the Associated Press.

The policy, being considered as part of the attorney general’s guidelines to the FBI, would allow the agency to conduct racial profiling — potentially singling out Muslim- and Arab-Americans — and to open preliminary terrorism investigations against targets simply on the basis of patterns established through data mining public records and other information.

The agency would be allowed to profile targets based on their race and activities, such as travel to the Middle East or any other part of the world associated with terrorism. But race would be only one factor in the decision to open an investigation.

The changes would allow FBI agents to ask open-ended questions about activities of Muslim- or Arab-Americans, or investigate them if their jobs and backgrounds match trends that analysts deem suspect.

FBI agents would not be allowed to eavesdrop on phone calls or dig deeply into personal data — such as the content of phone or e-mail records or bank statements — until a full investigation was opened.

Read more.

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