Autonomous car actually has driver dressed as a car seat — WTF?

❝ A gray van was recently seen cruising the streets of suburban, Washington, D.C. — without a driver.

But this wasn’t one of those self-driving cars that Google and car companies have been testing. This was … something else.

❝ The unmarked van first appeared in a video on ARLnow.com, an Arlington, Virginia, news site. In the video pedestrians comment on the van, clearly realizing something is up.

That’s when a local reporter decided to dig deeper. WRC TV’s Adam Tuss and his photographer followed the van for 20 minutes, even after he says the van tried to lose them.

❝ Tuss finally caught up with the 2017 Ford Transit Connect and peered through its windows, only to find a person inside…But instead of sitting in the car’s seat, the person was the seat. The driver was dressed in a car-seat costume.

RTFA for [contradictory] explanations.

Women’s March on Washington more than double predicted size — more than showed for inauguration


Support demonstration in BerlinAP/Michael Sohn

9:40AM EST

A city official in Washington says the turnout estimate for the Women’s March on the National Mall now stands at 500,000 people. That’s more than double the initial predictions.

Kevin Donahue is Washington’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice. He says on Twitter that organizers of the march are increasing the turnout estimate to half a million.

There were early signs across Washington that Saturday’s crowds could top those that gathered on Friday to watch President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Keep on rocking in the Free World!

Pot/DC: Conservatives hate democracy like they hate change – UPDATED

image

Marijuana advocates’ hopes that the U.S. capital would easily follow in the footsteps of Denver or Seattle in clearing the way for lawful pot use are set to go up in smoke this week.

Voters in the District of Columbia last year passed a measure clearing the way for pot possession, but members of Congress have used their power over the city to prevent local officials from coming up with any plan to let the drug be sold legally for recreational purposes.

With the congressional review period for the new measure set to expire on Wednesday, District of Columbia pot users will be left in a murkier position than those in Colorado and Washington state, which fully legalized marijuana last year…

The uncertainty stems from Initiative 71, a referendum approved by 65 percent of District voters in November. A key argument by supporters was that marijuana laws unfairly victimized black people in Washington, who represent about half the city’s population…

Initiative 71 ran into opposition in Congress, which has oversight over the heavily Democratic District of Columbia. Republicans inserted a provision in a spending bill in December that barred the District from using any funds to legalize pot.

Representative Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has vowed to block legalization

OK, maybe Congressional Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats, don’t hate change, progress, democracy, Black folks and women as much as the bigots in the Tea Party caucus. The end result is the same when questions come down to civil rights, to an individual’s right to make a choice from a range of options outside the 19th Century.

Want to decide if you will have an abortion, use birth control, get married to someone unapproved, smoke a little weed instead of chugging a 12-pack of lite beer, spend your vacation in Cuba? Not if the clown show masquerading as conservatism gets its fear-ridden way. Nothing new about cowardice and ignorance pretending to have an ideology. It still stinks on ice when ordinary citizens have no alternative except to go even further backwards.

UPDATE: Made it past Congressional curmudgeons!

DC is on a fast track to decriminalizing pot possession

It took nearly 15 years after voters approved medical marijuana for it to become available in the District of Columbia, but the next major change to pot laws in the nation’s capital is on the fast track.

The D.C. Council is poised to approve a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot, and Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray announced last month that he supports it. He could sign the bill into law as early as January.

Some activists want the city to go further by legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana as Colorado and Washington state do, and they’re considering a ballot initiative if the council doesn’t take that step.

It’s a big change from a year ago, when there was no medical marijuana in the capital and elected officials weren’t talking about relaxing recreational pot laws. Now, there are three tightly regulated marijuana dispensaries in the city, although there aren’t many patients yet.

City leaders have long been cautious about pot, in part because Congress has the final say on what’s legal in the district. But with 17 states having some form of decriminalization and the Justice Department taking a hands-off approach to legalization in Colorado and Washington state, city leaders think Congress won’t be interested in fighting that battle…

Anyone want to place any bets about Congressional Republicans tolerating a progressive step in their own backyard?

The new sense of urgency has been fueled in part by two studies released this year that found large racial disparities in marijuana arrests in the city. Blacks were eight times more likely to be arrested than whites in the district in 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union found, and 91 percent of those arrested that year were black. About half of the city’s 632,000 residents are African-American.

And that’s the rest of the reason I wouldn’t be surprised if Congressional Republicans decide to get in the way.

Most Americans don’t realize or recall that the District of Columbia is a Southern city. That means the neo-Confederates in Congress feel they have every right in the world to supervise the lives of Black folks.

I hope I’m wrong. I would love to be wrong. Since Obama’s election, you can’t miss very often by assuming whatever decision would be racist or reactionary, that’s the Republican choice.

Republicans hidebound as ever on DC court filibuster threat

Apparently Republicans are holding firm on their threat to filibuster every single nominee ever to the DC Circuit Court. Every single Democratic nominee, that is. Not because they have any particular objections to them, but just because they don’t want to lose the current Republican majority on the DC Court.

In any case, Ed Kilgore wonders if this will ignite any summer recess passion among progressives:

The question is whether […] Democratic senators leery of a general position opposing filibusters of life-time judicial nominations might make an exception if the filibusters are being advanced on this type of specious ground rather than objections to the qualifications of individual judges.

The timing, with three DC Circuit nominations heading towards the Senate floor immediately after the August recess, is interesting. Will senators hear about this relatively obscure issue when they are back home? That’s hard to say….

It would be nice if Democratic senators known to be wobbly on filibuster reform–ranging from outright opponents like Carl Levin to more questionable cases like Mark Pryor and Reid himself–heard from progressives on this issue in August. I see no particular merit in the counter-argument that countenancing filibusters to preserve the overall ideological character of this or that federal panel is a weapon Democrats might want to use in the future. The kind of judges a Republican president is likely to nominate any time in the near future are going to have the track records and associations that make them debatable on their individual merits; our conservative friends will make damn sure of that.

OK, then. You have your marching orders. Go raise some hell.

Couldn’t agree more.

DC schoolkids + Michelle Obama = jumping jack record attempt

Jumping with excitement, First Lady Michelle Obama and hundreds of local school children attempted to make their way into the next edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

Mrs. Obama, also known as the “Jumper-in-Chief”, led 400 kids from schools in the DC area ages 8-14, to break the record for the most people doing jumping jacks in a 24-hour period. She kicked the challenge off at 3:00pm, Tuesday, on the South Lawn of the White House with one minute of continuous jumping jacks. The attempt will continue with groups of children around the country jumping until Wednesday afternoon. More than 20,425 jumpers are needed to break the record.

The event was witnessed by officials from the Guinness Book of World records, along with former Olympic skater Michelle Kwan who served as an independent judge…

Ms. Obama used the event as a way to promote her initiative “Let’s Move!” which promotes healthy eating and exercise for America’s children.

What we’re going to show people today is that moving is fun, right?,” she said. “You can do it just dancing around in your backyard. You can get moving if you’re walking your dog. Or you can get moving doing some jumping jacks, right? There are so many ways to keep moving. ”

And keep moving is what they did. Once the one-minute of jumping jacks was over, Mrs. Obama was mobbed by children wanting to meet her…

My kind of First Lady.

Terror checks at Heathrow were racist – phonied up to look busy

Heathrow counter-terrorism officers regularly put passengers with Arabic names on a security database to make it appear as though they had been busy, a tribunal was told.

Former Det Con Kevin Maxwell said Metropolitan Police detectives would routinely sift through landing cards of foreign nationals and randomly type their details into a police database, without ever seeing the passengers.

The former officer, who is black and homosexual, was giving evidence at an employment tribunal, where he is suing the force for homophobic attitudes and racial discrimination. The case is expected to last six weeks.

He said colleagues working with him in the counter-terrorism unit at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 would take the landing cards, filled in by visitors, from an unmanned Border Agency desk. They copied the details into the police’s database. It was claimed that the practice was widespread throughout the counter terrorism unit at Heathrow, to keep up the Metropolitan Police stop figures…

He said counter-terrorism officers would target black and Asian people for random stops in a queue at the airport.

To avoid being seen as racist another officer would also talk to a white person directly in front of them. However, the white person’s details would not be entered into the police database, Det Con Maxwell said.

Cripes, I hope this tale hasn’t made it to TSA here in the States. All they need is a suggestion for yet another way to game the system.

Warrantless GPS bug on cars ruled illegal

Giving privacy-rights advocates and civil libertarians an important victory, a federal appeals court ruled that police conducted an illegal warrant-less search by planting a GPS device in a drug-case suspect’s car and tracking him for a month.

In ruling that the police violated the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said that by almost any measure, planting a GPS device, then following a person for several weeks conflicted with an individual’s reasonable expectations for privacy.

The court rejected the government’s argument that the behavior of police was permissible because the suspect, Antoine Jones, had no reasonable expectation of privacy since his travels over the weeks he was being monitored could’ve been viewed by any member of the public.

The court also rejected the government’s assertion that the use of the GPS device in this case was simply a variation on another practice federal courts have ruled to be constitutional, the use of beepers placed by police on car bumpers to track a suspect.

But the appeals court said the precedents the government pointed to failed to make their case since beepers were used for more limited time periods and to follow a suspect from one place to another. They weren’t used for weeks on end to track a suspect going to dozens of locations.

“… We hold the whole of a person‘s movements [.pdf] over the course of a month is not actually exposed to the public because the likelihood a stranger would observe all those movements is not just remote, it is essentially nil. It is one thing for a passerby to observe or even to follow someone during a single journey as he goes to the market or returns home from work. It is another thing entirely for that stranger to pick up the scent again the next day and the day after that, week in and week out, dogging his prey until he has identified all the places, people, amusements, and chores that make up that person‘s hitherto private routine.”

Because the GPS evidence played a significant role in the prosecution’s case which resulted in the jury’s guilty, the court overturned Jones’ conviction.

Should I wax nostalgic? I remember the “good old days” when you could expect an FBI agent – or a local Red Squad copper – to hammer a crack or a hole in one of your car’s taillights with his gun butt to make following you in traffic easier at night.

They didn’t ask for warrants then, either.

DC copper pulls his gun on snowball fight

A plainclothes police detective allegedly pulled his gun out and waved it at a large group of people in a snowball fight at the corner of 14th and U Streets NW Saturday afternoon.

An off-duty member of the Metropolitan Police Dept. was reportedly driving his car in the area when the car was suddenly pelted with a barrage of snowballs, according to a statement from the MPD.

The detective stopped his car, got out and approached a crowd of people that might have thrown the snowballs. He then got into a verbal fight with members of the crowd, according to police.

At some point, the detective called for assistance. According to witnesses, one of the uniformed officers that responded pulled out his weapon as he approached the plainclothes detective. As soon as the detective identified himself, the uniformed officer put his gun back in the holster, police said.

MPD claims the footage does not show the detective drawing his weapon, but they have since received additional images and statements that would seem to support that allegation.

According to 3D Commander George Kusik, the uniformed officer conducted himself appropriately.

Uh, OK. There wasn’t anything more demanding of his attention? Like going home, having supper, leaving people alone?