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Cell Phone & GPS Jammer FCC News

October 16th, 2012 by Paul Hutchinson

Jamming devices are not only illegal they put others at risk, e.g. jammers can prevent timely response to a medical emergency. In its never ending battle to keep the radio spectrum functional for all of us the FCC has taken the following actions.




Warns Consumers to Immediately Remove Online Jammer Ads; Issues Consumer Alerts in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.



The Enforcement Bureau Releases Chinese and Spanish Language Versions of an Enforcement Advisory Warning that Signal Jamming Devices May Not Be Advertised or Sold in the United States.


Official Citation to Scott Sandlin Word DOC, PDF, TXT

Official Citation to Keith Grabowsky Word DOC, PDF, TXT

Official Citation to Joseph Hundley Word DOC, PDF, TXT

Official Citation to George Conde Word DOC, PDF, TXT

Official Citation to John Bering Word DOC, PDF, TXT

Official Citation to Dancing Bear Technologies Word DOC, PDF, TXT

Posted in Compliance, Safety, Tech | Comments Off on Cell Phone & GPS Jammer FCC News

Quack Miranda Warning

January 1st, 2011 by Paul Hutchinson

In case you aren’t aware, the Quack Miranda Warning takes the form of:

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease.

This statement is required on health products when the manufacturer and seller either are unable or unwilling to show the product is useful the way normal health products show their usefulness. It provides the manufacturer/seller some immunity from legal liability. So to protect your health and/or prevent wasting money on useless products all you have to do is avoid buying any product that bears this warning. Be aware that, like all fine print meant to protect undeserved profits, this warning will be in a tiny font in the most obscure location of a page.

It used to be that you’d only see this warning on diet pills, weird vitamins and other things you’d ingest. This warning has worked so well at limiting liability that pretty much all useless products relating to health in any way shape or form now include the warning. Case in point, xZubi, the warning is in the smallest font at the bottom of the home page.

I find the easiest way to check for the warning is to search any suspect page for the phrase “evaluated by the FDA” (Firefox & Internet Explorer, press Control+F to search a page) .  I hope this information helps you avoid wasting money or damaging your health, Happy New Year 2011.

Posted in Frauds, Pseudoscience, Safety | Comments Off on Quack Miranda Warning

Why You Should Clean the Air Filter in a Dehumidifier

August 22nd, 2010 by Paul Hutchinson

A Sunbeam DHC-20M Dehumidifier in the basement started acting up recently, first the side cover was getting hot then there was water leaking on the floor! Checking the owners manual I saw that it has a washable air filter that they recommend be cleaned monthly. In two years of use I’d never cleaned the filter, oops!

Disassembling the dehumidifier I found that the blocked filter had caused a refrigerant line to overheat melting the insulation installed over the copper tubing. The melted insulation allowed the plastic pipe for the optional house drain connection to melt causing the water leak.


I removed the damaged insulation and carefully scraped off the melted plastic from the soft copper tubing. Next I took off the drain pipe and cut down the rubber stopper from the back panel so that it worked to stop the outlet of the water collection tray (I don’t use the optional external drain). After reassembly the dehumidifier works perfectly and now that I’ll remember to clean the air filter it should use a little less electricity too.

Posted in Safety, Tech | Comments Off on Why You Should Clean the Air Filter in a Dehumidifier

Warning about Green Laser Pointers

August 3rd, 2010 by Paul Hutchinson

The NIST has just released a report and warning about a serious safety issue with some green laser pointers.

Late last year, the research team purchased three low-cost green laser pointers advertised to have a power output of 10 milliwatts (mW). Measurements showed that one unit emitted dim green light but delivered infrared levels of nearly 20 mW—powerful enough to cause retinal damage to an individual before he or she is aware of the invisible light.

NIST’s researchers have devised a simple test that you can do yourself to make sure your green laser pointer is safe (see the full report).

Posted in Engineering, Safety, Tech | Comments Off on Warning about Green Laser Pointers

Thank You Army Corp of Engineers

March 30th, 2010 by Paul Hutchinson

If you’ve been following the news from New England you are aware that a major flood event is in progress. This morning the NECN weatherman Matt Noyes said that this was the worst flooding we’ve had since the floods of August 1955. This got me thinking about the West Hill Dam in Uxbridge and how we southern New Englanders should all thank the Army Corps of Engineers. They built the dam specifically to prevent the devastation and loss of life that happened in 1955. Looking at the records since then I feel that this dam has been a resounding success. Since its completion in 1961 the floods on the Blackstone have been controlled to less than 16 feet at Woonsocket as opposed to the nearly 22 foot record from 1955. Predictions from the NWS are for 18 feet in Woonsocket for this current flood, well below the extremely dangerous 22 feet that caused so much loss of life. UPDATE 3/30 22:30 Forecast has been lowered to 14 feet @ Woonsocket

The main reason we are so much safer now is the Army CoE’s excellent design and operation of the West Hill Dam. As you can see in this graph, yesterday afternoon they closed the gates of the dam stopping the entire West River from adding to the Blackstone’s flood level.


This activation of the dam is going to change the look of the dam area from what we usually see in this Google Maps satellite view.

View Larger Map

To what is in this photo from the West Hill Dam web site.


More information:

USGS WaterWatch — Maps and graphs of current water resources conditions

Worcester Telegram & Gazette’s Weather notebook – Rivers rise as rain falls

Posted in Blackstone Valley, Boston, History, Nature, Safety | Comments Off on Thank You Army Corp of Engineers

Vaccine Pink Book Graphs

March 10th, 2010 by Paul Hutchinson

In a comment by DrKnow over at Orac’s place I learned about the CDC’s book “Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases” aka “The Pink Book: Course Textbook”. It isn’t written for the layman but the graphs in it are very informative. I’ve clipped some of the graphs from some of the chapters and made them into a single picture so you don’t have to find each one separately. (Click picture to enlarge)


Some of the graphs show when the vaccines where introduced, on the graphs without the labels can you figure out roughly when the vaccine was introduced?

Check your answers in the Pink Book, I’m guessing most of my readers will be able to get the answers right within +/- 5 years or so.

Posted in Safety, Science | Comments Off on Vaccine Pink Book Graphs

Why did it take so long? FDA Orders Zicam Nasal Off the Market

June 17th, 2009 by Paul Hutchinson

You’ve probably seen this story at many blogs recently.

FDA Advises Consumers Not To Use Certain Zicam Cold Remedies

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today advised consumers to stop using three products marketed over-the-counter as cold remedies because they are associated with the loss of sense of smell (anosmia). Anosmia may be long-lasting or permanent.

The products are:
    –Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel
    –Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs
    –Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids Size (a discontinued product)

While this is good news, what took so long for the FDA to act on this? As pointed out at What’s The Harm? What’s the harm in homeopathy? (Lisa Weatherington & 339 others) Zicam settled a lawsuit over this issue nearly 3 1/2 years ago.

By Sandra G. Boodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The manufacturer of Zicam Cold Remedy has agreed to pay $12 million to settle 340 lawsuits brought by consumers who claim the popular over-the-counter zinc nasal gel damaged or destroyed their sense of smell.

Full article: Paying Through the Nose – washingtonpost.com.

Did the FDA really need over three years to act on this problem? Are the 130 injured mentioned in the FDA notice in addition to the 340 from the 2006 lawsuit?

Lets see, the science has shown a potential problem since 2004 and further documented in 2006, the manufacturer settles a lawsuit in 2006, then finally the FDA acts in 2009. The FDA should have acted much sooner!

For some interesting additional information info on the men behind the company see: The Men Behind Zicam – washingtonpost.com.

FDA links:

Posted in Compliance, Safety | Comments Off on Why did it take so long? FDA Orders Zicam Nasal Off the Market

Parents please watch this video

May 29th, 2009 by Paul Hutchinson


Tip O’ the Hat to Phil Plait for pointing me to this very well done video.

Posted in Safety, Science | Comments Off on Parents please watch this video

Cell Phone Jammer News

January 13th, 2009 by Paul Hutchinson

The District of Columbia Department of Corrections received special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC to conduct a demonstration of a directional cell phone jammer designed for prisons. The STA allowed a test on January 8th for 30 minutes sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. However the DC DoC cancelled the demonstration on 1/7 with no official statement why the test was cancelled.

My hope is that the DC DoC realized that using technology to render a smuggled item useless is stupid compared to preventing the smuggling in the first place. Whatever route is being used to smuggle cell phones into prisons also allows weapons to enter a prison. Even if the DC DoC hadn’t stopped the test on their own, the test would likely have been stopped by the courts.

CTIA seeks to block cell phone jamming demo at DC jail

“Operation of such ‘jamming technology’ is flatly illegal under Section 333 of the Communications Act, and the commission lacks the statutory to authorize violations of this congressional directive protecting the rights of authorized users of the wireless spectrum,” stated CTIA in a petition filed at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. “Moreover, the decision to authorize the demonstration — made without notice to the public or affected parties, without opportunity for comment, without consideration of any evidence regarding the potential consequences to legitimate transmission of operating the contemplated technology, and with no exigent public-safety need — is the very essence of arbitrary and capricious decision-making.”

CTIA went to court after failing to get regulatory relief from the FCC.

“While we believe that prisoners should not have access to wireless phones while incarcerated, there are other, non-interfering and legal ways to find and take the phones out of their hands,” said Christopher Guttman-McCabe, VP of regulatory Affairs at CTIA. “There are several companies that provide wireless detection systems that can be used by jails to identify and confiscate phones, and that do not interfere with wireless communications. As the FCC previously acknowledged, Congress has been clear in prohibiting the use of jammers in state prisons.”

For the manufacturers spin on this story read this article, they don’t think that prison officials should stop the cell phones from being smuggled into the prison or find and confiscate the phones that are there. Instead the prisons should buy their equipment to make the cell phones not work, vested interest much. My feeling is that if prison officials can’t stop the smuggling of cell phones into a prison they also can’t stop the smuggling of weapons, money and other banned items into prisons. What kind of insanity does it take to think that prison officials don’t need to stop weapon sized items from being smuggled into prisons. The public will be vastly safer if all smuggling of contraband into prisons is stopped.

Assuming prison officials aren’t going to stop the phones getting into the prisons, why don’t they take advantage of the situation. They should use the currently available legal gear to monitor cell communication of prisoners, trace the call to the recipient and then have the recipient arrested for the crime being done. The recordings of the calls would be great evidence in a court to prosecute the criminals that are helping prisoners intimidate witnesses or perform other illegal activities. Nah, they’ll never do that since it would require actual work rather than flipping a magic switch like a commenter on a previous post wanted.

Posted in Compliance, Safety, Tech | Comments Off on Cell Phone Jammer News

A professional chemist doing for profit chemistry is not a hobbyist

August 17th, 2008 by Paul Hutchinson

Earlier this week Greg Laden posted an intriguing article, Home Chemistry Hobbyist Shut Down in Massachusetts. He had picked up on this story via a post at the MAKE magazine Blog, Home science under attack. Both of the blogs where basing their commentary on this one article from the August 9th edition of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Let me start by summarizing the story as reported by two local newspapers, see the links below for the full text of the seven newspaper articles I found.

On the afternoon of August 5th 2008 the Marlborough Massachusetts Fire Department responded to a call of a fire in a two story house on Fremont Street. When they arrived they found a fire in a window air conditioner of a second floor bedroom and the lone occupant of the house at the time, homeowner Victor Deeb, had safely gotten out. The firemen put the fire out in about a minute but by that time there was more than a thousand dollars worth of smoke damage to the bedroom.  [updated 8/18 with information from Mr. Deeb’s comment] If this had happened to me I would have turned off the power to the air conditioner and put the fire out with a fire extinguisher avoiding the major smoke damage from waiting for the fire department to arrive. Since Mr. Deeb is a 71 year old who uses a cane to get around it is perfectly understandable why he called the fire department instead. [Mr. Deeb was trying to use a fire extinguisher on the fire when a passing Policeman saw the smoke and called the fire department.] (Photo of Mr. Deeb speaking to Police after the fire was put out, from The MetroWest Daily News)

The firefighters then followed standard procedures and checked that all the spaces in the house had been ventilated to remove the smoke and prevent further damage. When they went down into the basement they discovered a chemical R&D laboratory containing more than 100 unlabeled containers of chemicals [Mr. Deeb seems to dispute this]. The chemicals where in assorted containers from quart size up to 20 gallon drums some on shelves and some just sitting on the basement floor. Fire department officials attempted to find permits issued to Mr. Deeb for the storage of large quantities of chemicals but where unable to find any permits. The fire department then contacted the state fire marshal’s office who in turn called in the state bomb squad. If Mr. Deeb had obtained permits for possessing large quantities of chemicals they could have avoided the bomb squad but without the permits they had to take the safe approach and treat this as a potentially dangerous situation in a residential neighborhood. At no time did the authorities claim that Mr. Deeb was making weapons or drugs they simply had no way to know what was in the containers and without permits they could not simply take Mr. Deeb’s word for it that these unlabeled chemicals were not dangerous.

The Fire Department advised Mr. Deeb that this situation would take many hours to clear up so he should find a place to stay for a while. Mr. Deeb took the advise of the fire department and left with his family. Over the next two days the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and local authorities, with the cooperation of Mr. Deeb, removed over 1,500 containers of chemicals none of which turned out to be a biological or radioactive risk. Mr. Deeb and his family were allowed to return to their home on August 8th after the laboratory was safely dismantled and taken away. A hazardous materials cleanup company was contracted by MA DEP to test and then properly dispose of the chemicals. The Marlborough Department of Public Works is running tests to make sure none of the chemicals seeped into the town sewer system. While Mr. Deeb has likely violated numerous state and local safety regulations and laws, as of Saturday the 9th no citations had yet been issued.

This Saturday’s (8/16) Worcester Telegram & Gazette article has more details about the incident. The FBI showed up to take a look and there were thirty-five 20 gallon drums of chemicals that the hazmat contractor had to take for analysis and disposal. His laboratory was a mess with flammable chemicals stored next to the home’s furnace. By his own admission Mr. Deeb is a retired chemist who was very clearly running a for profit chemical R&D laboratory out of his basement in a residential neighborhood. He is considering suing the city for taking down his lab because he thinks his civil rights have been violated.

IMO, the fire department and other city and state officials did absolutely nothing wrong. They certainly did not violate Mr. Deeb’s civil rights because there is no civil right to possess and improperly store large quantities of regulated chemicals in your home. The officials had every right to enter his lab without a search warrant because they were called to the home by him [there] to put out a fire.

Mr. Deeb may be a very good chemist in fact judging by the number of patents he appears on it is almost a certainty. He has clearly been running a business from his home at least since 11/1/98. However he clearly does not understand laboratory safety rules, you must always properly label and store chemicals. Flammable chemicals like the acetone he had must be stored in fire proof cabinets not sitting on the floor or shelf and/or near a furnace. Mr. Deeb could not handle a small fire without the assistance of the fire department so obviously he couldn’t be trusted to handle a laboratory fire. He appears to not understand the need for permits and zoning clearance for commercial chemical research laboratories.

The reaction on the Internet is so far over the top I’m astounded. It seems that most of the people commenting on this story have made no effort to read the articles and are simply jumping to totally absurd conclusions based on preconceived notions. Here’s a list of my responses to the wild commentary and claims that are spreading across the Internet.

  1. Mr. Deebs was not a hobbyist, he freely admits this was a for profit R&D laboratory. Even without his admission the fact that he had hundreds of containers of chemicals including 35 twenty gallon drums puts him way beyond the hobbyist level.
  2. The government did not target Mr. Deeb in any way, they came to his aid when he called [put out a fire] and found him violating safety and zoning regulations.
  3. No government agency is going to come to your house because you gave your child a home chemistry set for Christmas.
  4. Having retail containers of household chemicals is not equivalent to having large quantities of industrial chemicals.
  5. The City Government of Marlborough Massachusetts is in no way comparable to the Nazi’s. Oh and it’s spelled Marlborough not Marlboro, that’s a brand of cigarettes.
  6. Thomas Edison did not set up laboratories in residential neighborhoods, he knew what he was doing could be hazardous so his laboratories where in private compounds and/or industrial districts.
  7. The police did not raid Mr. Deeb’s home, they did not kick down his door.
  8. Doing scientific research on a home computer is in no way even remotely equivalent to running an R&D laboratory with large quantities of chemicals.
  9. There was no fourth amendment violation, see number two above.
  10. That he has not yet been charged is not proof he didn’t break laws.
  11. This incident will not lead to the government burning our books.
  12. Mr. Deeb is not even remotely like a terrorist, any mention of 9/11 is absolutely ridiculous.
  13. Football is in no danger of being banned.
  14. Marlborough Massachusetts is not a police state.
  15. This is not equivalent to the two Steve’s founding Apple Computer in a garage, Woz is far too intelligent to improperly label and store large quantities of industrial chemicals.
  16. Ditto for Hewlett and Packard.
  17. Practicing putting in your living room, baking cookies for church, scrap booking and doing transcriptions are not even remotely similar to what Mr. Deeb did.
  18. The citizens of Massachusetts have rights, in fact we have some rights most other states do not grant to their citizens. e.g. Marrying the person you want to.
  19. This is not like outlawing innovation.
  20. Mr. Deeb did NOT take proper laboratory safety precautions, unlabeled and improperly stored containers is very bad.
  21. Building your own PC and running Linux on it are not going to get you into the trouble Mr. Deeb is in.
  22. The safety of Mr. Deeb’s neighbors IS the responsibility of the government.
  23. Mr. Deeb was not picked on because he was racially profiled as being of Middle Eastern descent.
  24. A hobbyist darkroom in your home is not equivalent to a R&D laboratory. A commercial darkroom on the other hand is regulated in similar ways to a R&D chemical lab.
  25. There were dangerous chemicals in Mr. Deeb’s laboratory by his own admission there was acetone. What the government officials have said is there where no biological or radiological hazards and no exceptionally explosive chemicals.
  26. Mr. Deeb did not give the fire fighters an inventory of the chemicals in his laboratory. Either he did not have an inventory or he wanted them to have to call in the bomb squad and hazmat teams, I’m guessing he didn’t have an inventory list.
  27. Making beer in your basement for personal use is not like a commercial research chemical laboratory.

I know it’s hard to research stories but that doesn’t excuse people from the obligation to examine the evidence. I’m most disappointed that so many people jump right to parroting the poorly researched and quote mined work of others to justify their preconceived notions. Any of these people who have integrity should take the time to read the articles, Google Victor M. Deeb and then post updates to correct their bogus reporting.

I have found one well researched response on the net, Mike O’Risal’s post is a very good read. Having read a number of excellent posts and comments by Mike over the past year, today I’ve added his blog to my reader and blogroll. On top of his good writing I need to start reading him regularly because he lives in my county, Worcester (pronounced Woostah in my native Yankee accent).

I’m sorry that Mr. Deeb has lost his R&D laboratory and likely will close his business. However, he should have followed the rules for running a commercial laboratory and gotten the proper permits and zoning variances. He may be ignorant of the law but that is not a valid excuse especially when you are running a for profit business.

The MetroWest Daily News articles:

Worcester Telegram & Gazette articles:

Victor Deeb’s business:

Posted in Boston, Compliance, Conspiracy Theory, Politics, Safety | 11 Comments »

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