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San Francisco Police Want To Use Robots to Kill Criminal Suspects




In a draft addressing the use of military weaponry, The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) has struck out a line stating, “Robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person,” according to the independent investigative news outlet Mission Local.

The line had initially been added to the draft by the city board of supervisor member Aaron Peskin. However, this newly revised draft may be voted on by the full board as early as November 29, the publication reported.

It would be the first such policy to allow extrajudicial killings by a police-operated robot or drone. Critics worry that the tech would allow police officers to use lethal force even though they can only view what’s happening on a TV monitor.

The SFPD currently has 12 functional, remote-controlled robots in its arsenal, though none have been used to attack anyone. They’re typically used to defuse bombs or provide surveillance in dangerous or inaccessible areas. However, tech experts worry that they could easily be weaponized and misused against marginalized communities.

SFPD spokesperson Office Robert Rueca said that the department “does not have any sort of specific plan in place” for lethal robots, and added, “The unusually dangerous or spontaneous operations where SFPD’s need to deliver deadly force via robot would be a rare and exceptional circumstance.”

However, Tifanei Moyer, a senior staff attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, criticized the revised bill.

“We are living in a dystopian future, where we debate whether the police may use robots to execute citizens without a trial, jury, or judge,” she wrote in an email to the aforementioned publication. “This is not normal. No legal professional or ordinary resident should carry on as if it is normal.”

The international civil rights group Human Rights Watch, the robot creators of Boston Dynamics, and other civil rights groups have written pleas asking the government not to approve the development or deployment of lethal robots.

At a United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons last year, the U.S, the UK, and Russia — three countries developing lethal robot tech — objected to a consensus governing the use of such bots.

The SFPD’s draft has also been criticized for allegedly excluding military-style assault rifles from a state audit requiring police departments to report their arsenal and its use against civilians.

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Louisiana Adults Must Now Show Drivers’ Licenses to Access Porn Online



Louisiana residents who want to access adult web content and pornography online must now enter information from a valid driver’s license or state ID into a program called LA Wallet in order to prove they are 18 or older, according to Mashable.

This is thanks to House Bill 142, a new law that went into effect on January 1. The law says that any commercial website that contains 33.3 percent or more pornographic material must “perform reasonable age verification methods to verify the age of individuals attempting to access the material.”

While porn websites claim that they won’t collect any users’ personal information while conducting the age check, the bill requiring the check is a disturbing view of similar legislation to come.

“Pornography is creating a public health crisis and having a corroding influence on minors,” the bill states, blaming adult content for “the hypersexualization of teens and prepubescent children… low self-esteem, body image disorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages, and increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior.”

“Pornography may also impact brain development and functioning, contribute to emotional and medical illnesses, shape deviant sexual arousal, and lead to difficulty in forming or maintaining positive, intimate relationships, as well as promoting problematic or harmful sexual behaviors and addiction,” the bill states.

The bill was introduced by anti-LGBTQ+ state Rep. Laurie Schlegel, a woman who has introduced legislation banning transgender youth from playing on school sports teams matching their gender identity. She also opposed legislation that would have banned so-called conversion therapy, a widely disavowed form of psychological torture that purports to change people’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

Louisiana’s law bears resemblance to similar legislation introduced last month by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). Lee’s bill would essentially criminalize any web users who view or share “obscene” images online.

While Lee’s bill has little chance of clearing the Democratically-controlled Senate, it’s just one of numerous bills seeking to restrict adult content and online sex work in the name of protecting children from porn and “sex trafficking.”

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Police Are Convicting People for Murder Based on “Guilty Sounding” 911 Calls



Prosecutors are imprisoning people using their 911 emergency calls as evidence thanks to junk science that claims to detect murderers through their speech patterns.

Even scarier: Prosecutors continue to rely on this method even though there’s no scientific evidence backing it up, ProPublica reports.

This method has been pushed by Tracy Harpster, a deputy police chief from suburban Dayton, Ohio who has “no scientific background and next to no previous homicide investigation experience,” the publication wrote.

Harpster claims his training can teach 911 phone operators, investigators, and prosecutors how to detect if the caller is a murderer. His methods have been used in court cases to wrongly convict innocent people.

“I documented more than 100 cases in 26 states where Harpster’s methods played a pivotal role in arrests, prosecutions and convictions — likely a fraction of the actual figure,” investigative reporter Brett Murphy wrote. Some of these convictions have been overturned.

Harpster based his method on research he did for his graduate thesis in criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati. He analyzed 100 recordings of 911 calls, half of which were made by callers who were later found guilty of a crime, and listened for speech patterns that he thought indicated guilt.

Guilt, Harpster says, can be induced by people repeating “extraneous information,” being too polite, interrupting one’s self, or being confusing.

“Almost two-thirds of the calls came from Ohio and two-thirds of the callers were white,” the reporter noted. “Experts told me that’s nowhere near enough data to draw conclusions from because that sample fails to account for who a 911 caller is and how that might affect the way they speak: their race, upbringing, geography, dialect, education.”

The FBI promoted his research to police departments around the nation without labeling it as “exploratory,” meaning that it needed further inquiry.

Harpster and the FBI continued to push his method for 12 years until a 2020 study from the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit finally found that his methods resulted in “inconsistent” outcomes. The unit recommended against using his methods. A fall 2022 study by a separate group in the same FBI unit and three other studies from Villanova and James Madison universities have all found his methods to be unreliable, Murphy reported.

Nonetheless, his methods have been used to wrongly convict numerous people of murder, even when the victims died accidentally or through suicide. Some of these non-murderers have had their convictions overturned, but some become suicidal and experience PTSD after having their lives ruined.

Harpster offers his training to investigators and prosecutors who now push his methods in trials. Investigators, prosecutors, judges, and jury members increasingly consider his methods as “expert testimony” and meeting “law enforcement standards,”  despite having no basis in peer-reviewed scientific research. Public defenders who may have never heard of Harpster’s technique can be caught unaware and find themselves unable to disprove its official-sounding methods, especially when police officers testify about its usefulness in getting convictions.

“[Harpster] claims that 1 in 3 people who call 911 to report a death are actually murderers,” Murphy wrote. “No law enforcement officials in the records I’ve seen have questioned this figure, and many departments repeat it when promoting the training internally.”

Harpster’s Facebook page expresses openly “misogynistic, transphobic, Islamophobic and anti-immigrant views” including posts flagged as false information and another post calling peaceful protesters “filthy scum,” Murphy reported.

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DeSantis Promotes Judge Who Blocked Teen’s Abortion Over Bad Grades



In November, Florida voters kicked out a judge who issued a controversial ruling denying an abortion to a 17-year-old girl because she had C-average grades in school.

Now, Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed him to an even higher court, the Sixth District Court of Appeals.

In January, Judge Jared Smith ruled that the unnamed teen couldn’t get an abortion because he doubted her “overall intelligence.” Florida law requires minors to get parental consent before getting an abortion, and the teen sought an exemption for that requirement.

“(While) she claimed that her grades were ‘Bs’ during her testimony,” Smith wrote in his ruling, “her GPA is currently 2.0. Clearly, a ‘B’ average would not equate to a 2.0 GPA.”

He denied her request, and an appeals court later overturned his ruling, finding that he abused his judicial discretion. In response to his ruling, several local conservatives retracted their endorsements of him. Then, in June, local voters kicked him off of the bench, preferring lawyer Nancy Jacobs by a 3.7-point margin.

However, DeSantis just appointed him to the Sixth District Court of Appeals. Now, he and eight other judges will hear appeals cases from several central Florida counties.

Smith and three other candidates for the court had their appointments challenged because they don’t live in the 6th District’s jurisdiction. However, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled last week that a residency requirement “attaches at the time of appointment,” meaning that judges can simply relocate to be in the jurisdiction whenever DeSantis appoints them.

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