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April 2018
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More Drug Lab Misconduct Results In Massachusetts Court Tossing Nearly 12,000 Convictions

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If everything keeps falling apart in Massachusetts, there won't be a drug conviction left in the state. The eventual fallout from the 2012 conviction of drug lab technician Annie Dookhan was the reversal of nearly 21,000 drug convictions. Dookhan was an efficient drug lab worker -- so efficient she often never performed the tests she was required to. The state moved much slower, dragging its feet notifying those possibly affected by Dookhan's lab misconduct until a judge told it to stop screwing around. There still could be more reversed convictions on the way as the state continues to make its way through a 40,000-case backlog.Those numbers alone are breathtaking. But there are even more conviction dismissals on the way. Another drug lab technician convicted for stealing samples to feed her own drug habit has tainted thousands of additional drug prosecutions. A judicial order related to her questionable drug tests is erasing a whole bunch of prosecutorial wins.

The Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Massachusetts said Thursday an estimated 11,162 convictions in 7,690 cases tainted by former state drug lab chemist Sonja Farak were ordered for dismissal by Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Frank Gaziano.
Farak apparently used whatever drugs she came across during her decade-plus with the Amherst, MA drug lab. This lab was inspected in 2012 by state police, shortly after the Boston lab was shut down following the discovery of Annie Dookhan's misconduct. This apparently cursory inspection turned up nothing, and the police who can smell drugs the moment they pull over a car apparently couldn't tell Farak had smoked crack just prior to her interview with state police inspectors. Her misconduct wasn't discovered until 2013 -- nearly eight years after Farak began using drug lab drugs regularly.
By 2010, Farak was snorting, smoking and swallowing not only the lab “standards” but also the police-submitted evidence, frequently siphoning from the powder cocaine. In one case in 2012, where police in Chicopee, Mass., had seized a kilo of cocaine, Farak “took approximately 100 grams from the same and used it to manufacture base cocaine” — crack — “at the Amherst Lab.” She also began seeking treatment for her addictions, the report states, creating another source of records about her drug use. Soon she began stealing from her co-workers’ samples as well, and manipulating the computer databases so that wasn’t noticed. Finally, a colleague looking for some of Farak’s lab samples found they had been tampered with, and she happened to get caught in January 2013.
Once this was uncovered, the state attorney general's office released a regrettable statement claiming Farak's eight years of drug use wouldn't "undermine any cases. Three years later, a full report showed Farak's abuse of her position affected nearly 8,000 cases. It also uncovered a complete lack of standards in the Amherst lab. According to the AG report [PDF], lab security was almost nonexistent. The running of "blanks" through testing equipment (to clear residue from previous drug tests) was supposed to happen after every test to avoid tainting new tests with previously-tested substances. In reality, this only happened "every 5 to 10" tests and was wholly at the tester's discretion.The exposure of additional drug lab misconduct is more than concerning. It's terrifying. Based on results from labs subject to minimal standards, security precautions, and state oversight, people were being incarcerated. Drug sentences are notoriously harsh. Stealing from people is treated as a less severe violation than selling someone drugs they want to purchase. So is rape, assault, and a number of other crimes where no consensual transaction takes place. And yet, the evidence in these cases -- the ones capable of delivering 25-year-minimums and life sentence-equivalents -- is treated carelessly by the labs testing substances and the government overseeing them.

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posted at: 12:00am on 11-Apr-2018
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Ted Cruz Gets Section 230 All Wrong, While Zuck Claims He's Not Familiar With It

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There's plenty to say about Mark Zuckerberg's first congressional hearing this week (like Senator Thune's thinly-veiled threat of more SESTA-like laws, or Senator Cantwell's strange, unfocused tangent about Palantir and WhatsApp) but one exchange stands out as so utterly ridiculous that it bears special note.Senator Cruz used his time in an attempt to shift the focus onto Republican fears that Facebook is a liberal propaganda machine, and specifically tried to box Zuckerberg into declaring whether Facebook was "a first amendment speaker expressing your views", or a "neutral public forum" — and then explicitly claimed that being the latter is a prerequisite of CDA Section 230 protections.This is blatantly untrue, as that language appears nowhere in the law, and Section 230 is (as we've reiterated many times during the SESTA debate) designed to encourage moderation. But Zuckerberg's reply was, well, absurd:

"I'm not that familiar with the specific legal language of the law that you speak to, so I would need to follow up with you on that."
That's the CEO of Facebook — a service that not only relies on Section 230 to a staggering degree, but just played a major role in developing and supporting a law that drastically alters it — professing ignorance on the letter of the law, as though it were some obscure statute that only his legal department would be fully familiar with.Uh-huh.Now, to be fair, Cruz was trying to box him in with a loaded and ultimately meaningless question — and when you're being grilled by a panel of Senators, you've got to be pretty choosy about if and when you're actually going to say "you are incorrect, that's not true" in response to one of their questions. But... could anyone in that room possibly believe him? Or any of the rest of us? SESTA — which, again, Facebook played a major role in — had already been mentioned several times during the hearing, even alongside expressions of appreciation that Facebook helped refine and ultimately supported the bill. Even if we somehow contorted our brains to believe he is genuinely unfamiliar with the language (again: uh-huh...) that would just paint an equally terrible picture in which Zuck has been only vaguely aware of his company's policy positions all year.So, that was weird. Senate hearings like this are, of course, mostly theatrical — but that clunky bit of dialogue certainly eviscerated any remaining suspension of disbelief.

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The Facebook Fallout: How Will Ads + Advertising Be Affected?

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Anyone who hasn't been living in a cave on a remote island with absolutely no cellular signal has heard that Facebook is in trouble right now. The Cambridge Analytica data security scandal and closely-related, election-related activities and allegations have shone a spotlight on the data collection and usage practices of the social media giant. Facebook's […]The post The Facebook Fallout: How Will Ads + Advertising Be Affected? appeared first on Adotas.

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