When you bring your computer to a Best Buy for repairs, the Geek Squad first makes you sign an agreement that states: "I am on notice that any product containing child pornography will be turned over to the authorities." If that seems cut and dry, a case wending through federal court in California has revealed some wrinkles, and a federal judge has ordered FBI agents, Geek Squad employees, and a federal prosecutor to testify starting Wednesday to examine how cozy a relationship the FBI has with the Geek Squad and whether it violates any laws.
The case in question involves Dr. Mark Rettenmaier, a gynecological oncologist in Orange County, California, who brought his desktop in to a Best Buy for repairs in November 2011. A technician at Best Buy's repair facility in Kentucky found an image of a naked prepubescent girl on a bed in a choke collar, then informed his boss, who told the FBI. Both Best Buy employees received some payment from the FBI, as did at least six others over four years, court records show.
The FBI got a warrant and searched Rettenmaier's home and computers in February 2012; federal prosecutors indicted him in November 2014. Rettenmaier's lawyer, James D. Riddet, argues that the relationship between the FBI and the Geek Squad is "so cozy" and extensive "it turns searches by Best Buy into government searches." Court records show the "FBI and Best Buy made sure that during the period from 2007 to the present, there was always at least one supervisor who was an active informant," Riddet told OC Weekly.
Riddet argues that this relationship violates the Fourth Amendment ban on warrantless searches, and U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney is letting him pursue that theory. Federal prosecutors say that if a technician "stumbles across images of child pornography" without the knowledge of the government, it can't be intentionally "assisting law enforcement efforts." Best Buy spokesman Jeff Shelman said Monday that "Best Buy and Geek Squad have no relationship with the FBI" but that "from time to time, our repair agents discover material that may be child pornography and we have a legal and moral obligation to turn that material over to law enforcement." If those employees are paid by the FBI, he added, that shows "extremely poor individual judgment" and violates company policy. You can read more about the thorny case at The Washington Post and OC Weekly. Peter Weber
Sepsis is the number 1 killer of patients in hospitals. A doctor might have just stumbled on the cure.
Sepsis is the number one disease that kills people in hospitals, and there is no known effective cure. But thanks to the quick thinking of Dr. Paul Marik of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, there soon could be, NPR reports.
When a 48-year-old woman suffering from severe sepsis came into his intensive care unit in January 2015, Marik decided to respond by administering intravenous vitamin C, mixed with a low dose of corticosteroids and thiamine, another vitamin. "I was expecting the next morning when I came to work she would be dead," Marik told NPR. "But when I walked in the next morning, I got the shock of my life." The woman was alive, Marik found — and recovering.
Marik has adopted the approach with all of his sepsis patients. He said that of 150 sepsis patients he has treated since the woman in January 2015, only one has died of the disease. The results are especially stunning given of the million Americans who get sepsis every year, 300,000 are expected to die. "That's the equivalent of three jumbo jets crashing every single day," Marik told NPR.
But as NPR notes: "This is not the standard way to evaluate a potential new treatment. Ordinarily, the potential treatment would be tested head to head with a placebo or standard treatment, and neither the doctors nor the patients would know who in the study was getting the new therapy." Other doctors have urged expectations to remain tempered: "[A result] can look really exciting when you do it on a group in one hospital with one set of clinicians, and then when you try to validate with a larger group in multiple centers — thus far we've been unsuccessful with anything," said top sepsis researcher Craig Coopersmith.
Marik's treatment is being explored through the traditional trial methods now, and could yield conclusions by the end of the year. Jeva Lange
The Senate voted 50-48 along party lines Thursday to repeal an Obama-era law that requires internet service providers to obtain permission before tracking what customers look at online and selling that information to other companies. The repeal is supported by major internet companies like Facebook and Google as well as internet providers like Verizon and AT&T, Vanity Fair reports, adding that there would likely be an option for consumers to opt-out.
"There are two sides to this," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who is opposed to repealing consumers' privacy protections. "You want the entrepreneurial spirit to thrive, but you have to be able to say no, I don't want you in my living room. Yes, we're capitalists, but we're capitalists with a conscience."
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) spearheaded the effort to repeal the FCC's rules. "[The FCC's privacy order] is unnecessary, confusing, and adds yet another innovation-stifling regulation to the internet,” Flake told Wired. "My legislation is the first step toward restoring the [Federal Trade Commission's] light-touch, consumer-friendly approach."
Today in tweets that have not aged particularly well:
It’s Thursday. How many people have lost their healthcare today?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2014
The Congressional Budget Office expects 24 million more Americans will be uninsured by 2026 under the Republican health-care bill, the American Health Care Act. The House is expected to vote on the bill tonight. Jeva Lange
Israeli police arrested a 19-year-old Israeli-American dual citizen Thursday on the belief that he is responsible for a wave of threats made to Jewish community centers and institutions in the U.S. over the past several months, The Washington Post reports. Earlier, the FBI arrested journalist Juan Thompson for at least eight threats against Jewish centers, but the threats continued even after Thompson was discovered.
Israeli cyberattack police worked with the FBI to track down the suspect. The 19-year-old is allegedly responsible for a bulk of the threats, including possibly the evacuations of dozens of Jewish daycares, schools, and workplaces. The suspect is also believed to be responsible for threatening a Delta Airlines flight, resulting in the plane executing an emergency landing.
"The investigation began in several countries simultaneously after dozens of threatening calls were received at public places, events, synagogues, and community buildings that caused panic and disrupted events and activities in various organizations," Israeli police said. Jeva Lange
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) apologized to the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), on Thursday after sharing with the White House claims that members of President Trump's transition team were monitored legally and apparently incidentally before the inauguration. On Wednesday, Schiff called it "deeply troubling" that Nunes shared his information with Trump, a subject of the investigation, rather than the committee doing the investigation.
A committee aide told Politico that Nunes apologized "for not sharing information about the documents he saw with the minority before going public." Nunes additionally "pledged to work with them on this issue."
On Monday, FBI Director James Comey said publicly for the first time that the FBI is investigating possible Trump campaign participation in Russian attempts to sway the election away from Hillary Clinton and toward Trump. Jeva Lange
The Trump administration has gone to the dogs in the best possible way. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Thursday that his department will be the first to allow employees to bring their pups to the office. The policy, called "Doggy Days at Interior," will "launch with test runs at the agency's Washington headquarters on two Fridays in May and September," The Washington Post writes.
— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) March 23, 2017
In a letter to the Interior Department's staff, Zinke wrote about how much his own 18-month-old Havanese, Ragnar, means to him. "Opening the door each evening and seeing him running at me is one of the highlights of my day," Zinke said. "I can't even count how many miles I've driven across Montana with [him] riding shotgun, or how many hikes and river floats [my wife] Lola and I went on with the little guy. But I can tell you it was always better to have him."
The Interior Department has 70,000 employees across the country, resulting in an unknown number of eligible dogs. Employees who might be uncomfortable with a dog-filled office, though, will have "other flexibilities" on the days when dogs are allowed, including the possibility of telework, Zinke said.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) officially confirmed Thursday that he will vote no on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, The Hill reports. Schumer indicated his intentions Tuesday, calling it "the height of irony" that Republicans held the seat open during President Obama's last term but "are now rushing to fill the seat for a president whose campaign is under investigation by the FBI."
Schumer confirmed Thursday that the Democrats will filibuster Gorsuch. "He will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation. My vote will be 'no' and I urge my colleagues to do the same," Schumer said, adding that Gorsuch is "not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology."
Gorsuch's final day of Senate hearings is Thursday. Jeva Lange