Lawyers press to revive suits on government surveillance

Lawyers for civil liberties groups asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to revive two groups of lawsuits claiming the government has monitored the communications of millions of Americans without warrants since 9/11.

The cases involve the federal government’s widely expanded efforts to track down terrorists following the attack a decade ago — efforts that included, at minimum, the interception of international communications that could include members of al-Qaida or other extremist groups.

The San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics allege that the surveillance was much broader than that. They cite among other things a declaration from a longtime AT&T worker that the company had allowed the National Security Agency to build a room in one of the company’s buildings and route copies of customers’ communications there.

The government has never confirmed or denied collecting communications from millions of U.S. citizens without warrants.


Coalition to push for limits on availability of soda

Half of Americans drink a soda or sugary beverage each day — and some are downing a lot.

One in 20 people drinks the equivalent of more than four cans of soda each day, even though health officials say sweetened beverages should be limited to less than half a can.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the figures Wednesday in a report said to be the government’s first to offer national statistics for both adults and kids.

On Wednesday a coalition of 100 organizations announced a new push. The effort includes the American Heart Association and the some city health departments who plan to prod companies to stop the sale of sugary drinks on their property or providing them at business meetings.

There will also be new media campaigns, like one starting soon in Los Angeles that will ask “If you wouldn’t eat 22 packs of sugar, why are you drinking it?’


Logger cuts off toes to free foot pinned by 6-ton trailer

Jon Hutt was doing logging work all alone in a remote Colorado forest when his six-ton trailer fell onto his right foot.

The pain was excruciating, no one was around to hear his cries for help and he couldn’t free himself from the big piece of equipment. So he pulled out his 3-inch pocket knife and cut off his toes to get free.

“It hurt so bad,” the 61-year-old Hutt said, “I would cut for a while and then I had to rest.”

Hutt, who runs a crane business and does logging “for fun,” had gone into the woods by himself on Aug. 19 to retrieve a pile of fallen aspen trees to cut for winter firewood. A trailer that was attached to his truck slipped and landed on his foot.

The wiry, 180-pound man said he began cutting off his toes about 30 minutes later when he realized no one could hear his cries.

Hutt said he couldn’t reach his cell phone, which was in his truck and out of range anyway.


Man’s garden has unusual harvest – two bags of cash

A McHenry County, Ill., man who lost his house but found $150,000 in his garden may have a shot at keeping the money.

Wayne Sabaj said he went to his garden for some broccoli and came across two bagfuls of $20 bills.

The 49-year-old unemployed carpenter, who lost his home to foreclosure in 2005, decided to turn the money in to the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office.

Police said they are investigating where the money came from.

If investigators can prove the money is stolen, it would go back to the victim. If the cash can be traced to particular drug deals, police could confiscate it. And if any rightful owners can show the money was theirs, they can claim it.

On the off chance none of those situations arises, Tarlock said, Sabaj could file a claim for the money in circuit court. Under an Illinois law — originally written to cover stray cattle — the county would advertise the discovery, and if no owner came forward within one year, Sabaj would get the money. 

— From news service reports