student RFID remains hot in Texas

We wrote about radio frequency tags used for high school student attendance tracking when the plan was announced for couple of Texas school districts. It’s a fairly simple solution where a custom id card fitted with radio transmitter allows for localizing card holder while on the campus or school bus.

The idea sparked some controversies upon announcement as well as during implementation. Concerns were mainly focused on civil liberty issues and the purpose of the program in general. While there are no objections that school attendance should improve the means leading to that goal don’t get such unanimous support.

Student attendance record is among the top factors when it comes to funds distribution from the state and federal governments. No wonder school district administration is looking into attendance boosting ideas. Parents and students have a different perspective on the topics. School is not all about attendance but education process which requires attendance but just student presence is not sufficient for success. Some students complain that schools districts should rather focus on classes quality and attractiveness rather than just dry records of who was present. Basically it’s not about bringing the horse to the water, it’s about making it drink. Subject is old and played to the bone yet getting anything useful from school during test taking strategies classes remains a concern for all involved, students, parents and teachers.

No story would be complete without media input. Tabloid media looking for drama are on constant hunt for anything than can be sold and person struggle against the system always sells well. This case is not different. We have a case of girl being expelled from the school for refusing to wear the id badge for religious reasons. She feels the tag is a “Mark of the Beast”. I admit I have not investigated the story by myself but it just sounds phony or blown out of proportion.

If the devil sign story is the only issue about RFID program then I see no issues but I feel it is not and any real debate is being overran with mediocre emotional spam.

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LA municipal ID card moves forward

12 to 1 was the outcome of the Los Angeles city council vote in favor of municipal id cards. We wrote about the idea couple of times as it was gaining momentum. While handful of other towns already implemented the idea LA is by far the biggest city to start issuing id cards regardless of immigration status.

Document is meant for residents who are unable obtain state of California identification documents. Those include transgender, foster youth, homeless but most definitely the biggest group waiting for the move was the undocumented immigrants community. Also the main lobbying came from mostly Latino organizations.

Many critics would say that the town supports illegal immigration by accommodating identification documents for aliens but city also benefits from that move. It’s been estimated that over 10% of LA adult population has no bank account. Certainly not all of these people are poor and therefore many members of minorities carry much higher than average amount of cash. As those people are targeted by gangs and thieves crime rate grows dangerously. Moreover undocumented immigrants are reluctant to cooperate with the authorities reducing solved criminal case rate.

There are other factors also addressed by the id card, such cashing check places charging hefty rates for the unbanked and kids being picked from schools by people who can’t prove their identity.

The card is expected to launch in 2013, should cost no more than $20 and double as preloaded debit card. No application details have been revealed yet and it matters how the identity of the person would established upon id card issuance.

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Swinging voter id law by state

For past 2 years we’ve covered voter id legislation changes in many states. On the election day it turned out that many states which hoped to pushed through their voter id legislation failed to make it law for this year presidential elections.

Let’s briefly go over the list
Mississippi is among the states which need US Department of Justice pre clearance in order to amend voting regulations. This is due to history of voter discrimination and applies to a number of Southern states. Mississippi passed its legislation back in 2011 but DOJ requested data in October this year which means lack of pre clearance for November elections. First time voters and unregistered voters still need photo ID to vote.

New Hampshire bill was vetoed by the governor which was overridden by the House making ID cards mandatory for election however affidavit vote is allowed without ID.

Pennsylvania, we wrote about yesterday, voter id is a no go as per judge ruling.

South Carolina needed DOJ preclearance which was denied twice, in December 2011 and June 2012. Then the DOJ was sued in the court which sustained the DOJ doubts in October ruling

Texas also needed DOJ pre clearance that was denied in March 2012. The decision was sued in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia which unanimously ruled the law might hurt minority and poor voters and therefore cannot be executed.

Wisconsin law was also suspended in court in July of 2012 and remains out of force for the presidential election.

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Pennsylvania voter id law just ahead of elections

Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes gets a lot of attention from both candidates for the president office. The state has observed a struggle between supporters and opponents of voter id legislation passed earlier in the year.

The highly partisan legislation was first appealed in the court by the Democrats and citizen liberty activists. First ruling by the judge back in the summer was to sustain the law but on October the 2nd ruling was not to enforce the regulation during upcoming presidential election as the progress of supplying id cards to those who lack them was considered insufficient.

Worth to note here that PennDOT has gone an extra mile and started to issue a custom id card, designed just for voting. It carried relaxed set of application requirements where it comes to supporting documents and was issued free of charge.
Interestingly the the Pennsylvania Department of State spent $5 million for an advertising campaign on the new law which wasn’t stopped even after the judge verdict. The campaign showed and ID card and the words ‘show it’ in large font while much smaller fonts said that photo ID is not mandatory for voting. The action picked up a lot criticism from civil rights unions.

One of the electric supply company also inserted a flyer with a bill sent to the customers advising on the new legislation.

Many of these alert effort might have been taken without any political bias yet only added to the confusion. It’s hard to blame someone for making people aware of the law but changing a law knowing it’s controversial and will spark court appeals less than a year ahead of major election is something that might be worth another thought.

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medicare id cards and Social Security number

Medicare id card using Social Security number as a part of identification number issue is not new and it comes and goes. Recently it surfaced again during the presidential campaign when someone waved the card at the election rally.
Everybody knows that carrying Social Security card in the wallet is a bad idea, not only because it’s paper based and therefore not very wear resistant but primarily because the Social Security number can be read out of it directly without even any decryption. Moreover there is no need to carry SS id card. Things are different when it comes to Medicare cards, these needs to be carried as patients need them to obtain medical services yet the id card contains the Social Security number which when stolen and combined with other personal data which can be found in a wallet makes powerful tool of stealing the money.medicare id card

Why is it there? Simply because the program is old. Medicare was founded by Congress in 1965, those were the days where there was no photo on the driver’s licenses and identity theft was a very rare crime.

Why it hasn’t been fixed? Simply because it’s too big to fix and therefore too expensive. The program covers 48 million people in the US and it’s estimated it would cost close to a billion dollars upgrade the cards. It’s not just the cards that cost so much but the computer infrastructure, training and upgrades at medical facilities to be compatible. You don’t have to be an expert in finance to know that such spending is a no go under current federal budget deficit conditions.

No hope? Not around the corner for sure. There is a solution already in the pipe, it plans to replace current cards with smart id cards (the ones containing chip with encrypted data), costs 1.3 billion to implement and promises to save 50-100 billion a year in cutting waste and fraud and has bipartisan support and was submitted to Congress little over a year ago and it’s still there. My gut is telling me that medical industry is not there yet and therefore the legislation lacks the necessary steam to push through.

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another voter custom id card in PA

Pennsylvania keeps making it to the headlines recently. We just wrote about the voter id bill complaint ruling making it back from Supreme Court to Commonwealth court for reconsideration and there is already another turn in the story.
Last Thursday afternoon Parkhouse, a Montgomery County nursing home was announced to start issuing voter id cards on October 1st. The decision was passed unanimously by the county commissioners. While allowed by the legislation county decision didn’t please governor Corbett.
His Spokesman, Ron Ruman, was cited saying that the governor administration wasn’t briefed about the county commission’s plan as well as that aw wasn’t intended to allow counties to issue voter ID cards to whomever they want. Naturally the county officials did not like the comment. It’s worth to mention here that while the governor administration didn’t like the move they also stated they would take no action against it.
Another factor to be considered in this situation is that the voter custom id card made by PennDOT is estimated to be issued only to under 10,000 voters while the number of state registered voters without the id valid for voting varies between 400,000 and 900,000 depending on source.
Unappealing voter id document statistics and the fact that the law was written one way but meant another causing frictions between state and county authorities make feel that the outlook for the voter id bill to be enforced law during the November presidential election is a bit grim.

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Iowa decides to go REAL ID compliant

Last week the Iowa Transportation Commission decided to start issuing REAL-ID compliant documents to state residents starting January 15th 2013. The REAL-ID act is a legislation passed by the Congress back in 2005 as a result of September 11 terrorist attacks. A lot of things has changed since 2005 though, terrorist attack threat is no longer making it to headlines and financial meltdown of 2008 resulted in shrinking of local government budgets. Real ID is costly due to computer infrastructure upgrades and staff training required.
No wonder many commentators regard the program implementation as failure. Even though it’s been almost 7 years since the regulations was passed and it’s only 2 years from the deadline after which a person without program compliant identification document won’t be able to access federal building such as airports there is only 11 states now issuing star id cards and driver’s licenses.
Making Iowa Department of Transportation issuing the new id badges was not a smooth ride either. In March 2011 the state House of Representatives blocked the implementation of the REAL-ID act; 25 other state done the same thing and some more tried.
Design wise there would be very little change to the existing documents, just a star in gold circle placed in the corner of the id badge. Applicants may still opt out and get old school documents but need to be aware of limitations such as airport access mentioned earlier.

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unexpected turn in Pennsylvania voter id law

A few weeks ago we wrote about the custom id card Penn DOT started to issued for Pennsylvania voters for free and under relaxed list of requirements. At that time I was under impression that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would uphold the Commonwealth Court decision on making the voter id bill a law in Pennsylvania (the law was sued in the court by civil liberties organizations and then when lower court ruled to dismiss the case the plaintiffs immediately appealed to the Supreme Court).
To my surprise the court decided otherwise, not that it rejected Commonwealth Court verdict, it returned to the lower instance for reconsideration instead. State highest court action seems to be putting a lot pressure for judge Robert Simpson who only has time until October 2nd to make and justify his decision. 4-2 court decision makes Simpson to check again if there would be no voter disfranchised by the law going into force. To make matters more complicated there was a significant change since judge Simpson original ruling, PennDOT started issuing custom id cards for voters which technically should help the law supporters but the fact the new document is only being issued since late August might be consider as an argument against the rule going into force for November elections.
Pennsylvania is considered to be among key swing states for November presidential election and development of rolling out voter id legislation is closely followed as many consider it to be crucial for the voting result.

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former Newark Airport security supervisor in the court

Bimbo Oyewole, 54 old immigrant from Nigeria managed to secure a 20 years old career as a airport security agent using a stolen identity. Last Friday he admitted in the court that he entered the country in 1989 on student visa and overstayed. In 1992 Jerry Thomas got shot in front of YMCA building in Queens, NY. Allegedly few months before that Oyewole bought Thomas birth certificate and Social Security card from a card driver. No evidence was found that would like Oyewole to Thomas murder.
Using new identity Oyewole obtained a driver’s license and high school equivalency diploma. He then found a job at one of the companies outsourcing security staff for Newark Liberty International airport worked there for 20 years, he even got a promotion to a manager’s position supervising the staff of 30 people. The authorities only find out about the suspect stolen identity after an anonymous letter received.
Oyewole guilty plea on September the 7th was a result of deal with the prosecutors who would recommend probation sentence. Sentencing date is set to October 19th, the man faces prison term and deportation.
The case must have been a hard hit for Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who maintains security at the metropolitan airports. After all actions taken to tighten up security around airline industry following the 9/11 terrorist attack a security manager on one of the country’s major airport sounds like a slap on the face. I think they already started deep screening of existing staff to make sure no more surprises are hiding. Also until this scandal I was under impression that airport security is exclusively TSA job while it looks like outsourcing is not uncommon in this field.
It seems that the suspect only used his fake identity to cover his immigration status in the US. While guilty verdict seems pretty sure I wonder on sentencing, especially after prosecutor guilty plea deal. Stay tuned,

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LA considers municipal id card for undocumented immigrants

Los Angeles City Council has introduced a motion to issue identification card to anyone who can prove LA residency. While idea isn’t that much new as multiple towns in areas widely populated by immigrants have done so it’s the fact that it would be library card in LA case, Universal City Services Card to mention its full, official name. The id card while wouldn’t replace California driver’s license or protect against deportation would allow for opening a bank account and obtaining a debit card.
Crime rate remains high in alien communities as people are know to carry more cash than usual due to the fact they can’t open a bank account. Also check cash places take a high toll on those who have to cash the checks outside of the banks.
Many might say that action such this supports illegal immigration, which is true to a certain degree. On the other hand we need to be aware that some immigrant communities, such LA are huge and many residents have been living there for decades, have kids, even run companies. While immigration matters are federal thing crime and violence is a as local as it could be and it’s hard to blame local authorities for trying to fix these issues.

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