Obama’s Justice Department Claims To Be Investigating Large Police Departments For Harassing Minorities, False Arrests, And Beatings

May 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – In a marked shift from the Bush administration, President Obama’s Justice Department is aggressively investigating several big urban police departments for systematic civil rights abuses such as harassment of racial minorities, false arrests, and excessive use of force.

In interviews, activists and attorneys on the ground in several cities where the DOJ has dispatched civil rights investigators welcomed the shift. To progressives disappointed by Eric Holder’s Justice Department on key issues like the failure to investigate Bush-era torture and the prosecution of whistle-blowers, recent actions by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division are a bright spot.

In just the past few months, the Civil Rights Division has announced “pattern and practice” investigations in Newark, New Jersey and Seattle. It’s also conducting a preliminary investigation of the Denver Police Department, and all this is on top of a high-profile push to reform the notorious New Orleans Police Department — as well as criminal prosecutions of several New Orleans officers.

The “pattern and practice” authority comes from a 1994 law passed by Congress after the brutal beating of Rodney King by white Los Angeles police officers, who allegedly yelled racial slurs as they hit him. The law allows the DOJ to sue police departments if there is a pattern of violations of citizens’ constitutional rights — things like an excessive use of force, discrimination, and illegal searches. Often, after an investigation, the police department in question will enter into a voluntary reform agreement with the DOJ to avoid a lawsuit and the imposition of reforms.

“Under the Bush administration, the Justice Department disappeared here in terms of federal civil rights enforcement. You could see the shift to counterterrorism at the ground level after Sept. 11,” says Mary Howell , a New Orleans civil rights attorney who has been working on police misconduct cases for more than three decades. “Now they’re back doing criminal prosecutions of police and the civil rights investigation, which is huge.”

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Number Of Government Owned Limousines Jumps 73% In First 2 Years Of Obama Administration

May 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Limousines, the very symbol of wealth and excess, are usually the domain of corporate executives and the rich. But the number of limos owned by Uncle Sam increased by 73 percent during the first two years of the Obama administration, according to an analysis of records by iWatch News.

Most of the increase was recorded in Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

Obama administration officials said most of the increase reflects an enhanced effort to protect diplomats and other government officials in a dangerous world. But a watchdog group says the abundance of limos sends the wrong message in the midst of a budget crisis. The increase in limos comes to light on the heels of an executive order from President Obama last week that charges agencies to increase the fuel efficiency of their fleets.

According to General Services Administration data , the number of limousines in the federal fleet increased from 238 in fiscal 2008, the last year of the George W. Bush administration, to 412 in 2010. Much of the 73 percent increase—111 of the 174 additional limos—took place in fiscal 2009, more than eight months of which corresponded with Obama’s first year in office. However, some of those purchases could reflect requests made by the Bush administration during an appropriations process that would have begun in the spring of 2008.

The GSA said its limousine numbers are not reliable, even though the federal fleet numbers are officially recorded every year. In a statement, GSA spokeswoman Sara Merriam said, “The categories in the Fleet Report are overly broad, and the term ‘limousine’ is not defined,” adding that “vehicles represented as limousines can range from protective duty vehicles to sedans.” Asked whether the GSA actually knows how many limos it has in its fleet, Merriam responded that GSA “cannot say that its report accurately reflects the number of limousines.”

Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, was outraged that the GSA’s numbers may not be accurate. “They can’t figure out a way to define a limo? How hard can it be? If the government can’t track limos, I’m not sure we should trust the numbers they put out there on anything,” she said.

Although the overall limo numbers in the fleet report were up in 2010, federal agencies and departments did not benefit equally. The State Department, with 259, had more limos than any other agency in 2010 and has gained 194 limos just since fiscal 2008. Of those new limos, 98 were defined as “law enforcement,” which the GSA said means they are equipped with sirens or lights, high-performance drivetrains, or are used for surveillance or undercover operations.

The State Department in a statement said its limos are deployed by overseas diplomats and in the United States by Secretary of State Clinton and “distinguished foreign visitors.” Many of the limos in its fleet are armored to protect against attack. The department said its Obama-era increase in armored limos is “both in proportion to the increased threat to diplomats serving overseas and is in proportion to the increase number of diplomats we have serving in high threat environments.” Appropriations documents indicate the State Department was engaged in a longer-term effort to increase the number of armored vehicles that would have stretched back to at least 2007.

The department said it defines a limo as a vehicle that carries a VIP or “other protectee,” rather than by the type of car, but said most of its limos are Cadillac DTSs, which cost the taxpayer more than $60,000 for a 2011 base model and support the additional weight of armoring. The department said it also purchased a limited number of 7-Series BMWs for ambassadors in countries where vehicles are right-hand drive.

The Department of Homeland Security, which in 2010 had the second largest number of limos at 118, dropped four limos from 2008 to 2010. A spokesman for DHS said the majority of its limos are used by the Secret Service, which is part of the department, but declined to elaborate on exact numbers, citing security concerns.

Paige, of CAGW, called the new federal limos “one more reason why there is so much cynicism in the public about what goes on in Washington.” She said terrorism and security has become the catchall justification for increased federal spending.

The increase in limos comes at a time when the Obama administration is increasingly working to burnish its green energy credentials by targeting the federal fleet. On Tuesday, Obama released a presidential memorandum requiring agencies to purchase only alternative fuel vehicles by 2015. The memorandum limits executive fleets to mid-sized and smaller cars “except where larger sedans are essential to the agency mission.” It also exempts law enforcement and security vehicles, which could make up the majority of the federal limo fleet.

According to a March report by the GAO, the federal government spent $1.9 billion on new vehicles in fiscal 2009, and burned through 963,000 gallons of fuel a day with its fleet of 600,00 vehicles.

The number of limousines in the federal fleet has varied over the years. In 2007, the number dropped to 217 from 318 a year before. But due to the fuzzy GSA accounting, it’s unclear exactly how many federal limos have been on the road.

According to the GSA report, for example, the U.S. Agency for International Development, which had zero limos in 2008, added six limos to its fleet in 2009. But agency spokesman Lars Anderson said that’s because six standard overseas sedans, including a 1997 Ford Crown Victoria in Bangladesh, and a 2009 Mercury Grand Marquis in El Salvador, were incorrectly recorded as limos.

If the data is correct, some federal employees who once rode in style now face more proletarian transportation options. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, ran a fleet of 21 limousines in 2008 under George W. Bush, according to the fleet report. It now makes do with only one. The Government Printing Office also lost

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Terrorists On Every Corner: “Homeland Security” Vendors Still Thriving Due To Post 9/11 Hysteria

May 30, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – A decade after the 9/11 terror attacks, homeland security is still a growth business.

The niche—that includes James Bond-like tools such as infrared cameras, explosive detectors and body scanners—is expected to grow 12 percent annually through 2013, according to Morgan Keegan.

“Homeland security is reactive,” says Tim Quillen, a senior equity analyst at investment banking firm Stephens Inc. “The stocks are hedges against bad things happening.”

One example: the underwear bomber, who was thwarted in late 2009. After that a bell weather homeland security stock OSI Systems [OSIS 39.11 0.04 (+0.1%) ] rocketed 30 percent within a month. “The stock went on a tear,” says Brian Ruttenbur, a research analyst at Morgan Keegan. Why? OSI makes X-ray and metal detectors used to scan people, baggage and cargo that it sells worldwide. During the past 12 months ending yesterday, the stock has popped from $25 to $40, driven by border and port growth.

Much has changed, since the government spent over $20 billion beefing up airport baggage screening nationwide with X-ray devices.

Airline security is a small business: about $1 billion. There’s 2,100 airport security lanes in the U.S., and 90 percent use X-ray scanners.

“The scanners are ten plus years old now,” says Ruttenbur and “going through an upgrade cycle.” Recently, the government has ordered another 500 scanners though.

Screening cargo going on aircraft and boats at ports is also spiking. Now, only a small percentage of all cargo is scanned. Security screening will grow ten percent to 15 percent annually in coming years, says Ruttenbur in a recent report. This driver will help OSI Systems pump out strong security earnings.

Tiny Niche, Big Clout

There aren’t any pure plays within homeland security though—neither stocks or ETFs. Some players like OSI Systems sell their screening devices to healthcare companies too, so their homeland security earnings are diluted.

“You have to spread the net wide and separate reality from hype,” says Quillen

Both OSI Systems and Flir Systems [FLIR 35.52 0.28 (+0.79%) ] are undervalued right now, says Quillen.

Flir Systems is a well-managed market leader in infrared cameras used to protect critical buildings, he says. This fast-growing market is slated to expand 20 percent annually, though only half of Flir Systems’ revenue come from government business. The stock rose from $29 to $36 in the past year. And Quillen has a 12-month price target of $43 on it.

OSI Systems is another favorite. In the first quarter of the year, OSI’s security group revenues grew 27 percent over last year’s.

“The stock is a long-term play,” says Jonathan Richton, an analyst at Imperial Capital, citing OSI’s developing cargo scanning business. Analysts peg five-year earnings growth at 20 percent. Another plus driving earnings: OSI Systems is aggressively tightening operating margins.

A third player, American Science and Engineering [ASEI 86.07 -0.11 (-0.13%) ] makes cargo and parcel search systems. But the stock is expensive right now, say analysts, since the company missed first-quarter revenue targets.

In the past year, the stock has risen from $77 to $88. Ruttenbur expects only 4-percent earnings growth this year but 10 percent to 15 percent in the next few years, as orders pick up. His 12-month price target: $94.

For investors casting a wide net, L-3 Communications [LLL 81.60 0.30 (+0.37%) ] is a homeland security monolith. It’s also the sixth largest U.S. defense contractor.

The company makes surveillance equipment for airports and checkpoint scanners. “They’re playing a meaningful role,” says Quillen, “but security revenue is only about 5 percent.”

Its stock price has been flat over the last year.

These days, homeland security niche players are a safe bet though — even after the recent death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

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A-Hole Cordova Alabama Mayor Jack Scott Won’t Allow Single-Wide FEMA Trailers For Tornado Victims – But Of Course Exempts Its Police Department

May 30, 2011

CORDOVA, ALABAMA – A mayor in a small town devastated by a tornado has sparked outrage over his refusal to let homeless residents stay in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Jack Scott has been branded heartless after his decision not to waive a local law banning single-wide trailers in the town of Cordova, Alabama.

He said he fears the temporary accommodation could become permanent and says he doesn’t want run-down mobile homes parked all over town.

Angry residents met on Saturday night and called for Mr Sciott’s removal from office.

One resident, James Ruston, said his house was knocked off its foundation by the tornadoes that blasted through the town last month and is still uninhabitable.

He thought help had finally arrived when a truck pulled up to his property with a mobile home from FEMA.

Then he was informed of the ban on single-wide mobile homes.

Mr Ruston and many others see the city’s decision as a sign that leaders don’t care that some people are barely surviving in the rubble.

Felicia Boston, standing on a debris-strewn plot where a friend lost his home in the tornado, said: ‘People have to live somewhere. What’s it matter if it’s in a trailer?’

Mr Scott, however, has heard all the complaints but is unrepentant.

He said: ‘I don’t feel guilty. I can look anyone in the eye.’

Blue-collar Cordova has a population of about 2,000 and is 35 miles north west of Birmingham.

It was hit by a pair of powerful tornadoes on April 27, the day twisters killed more than 300 people across the South east.

Officials say 238 died in Alabama, the highest death toll for any state in a spring of violent weather, the Associated Press reports.

An EF-3 tornado with winds of at least 140mph walloped the town around 5.30am, knocking out power and damaging numerous buildings.

An EF-4 with winds around 170mph struck about 12 hours later, killing four people and cutting a path of destruction a half-mile wide through Cordova.

On Main Street, virtually every storefront was destroyed and is now deserted, blocked by a chain-link fence.

Scores of homes, businesses and city buildings were destroyed.

Residents assumed they would be living in hundreds of the skinny FEMA mobile homes like people in neighbouring towns hit by tornadoes.

The Cordova Police Department, a pharmacy, a bank and City Hall all have moved into similar trailers since the storm.

But the city enacted a law three years ago that bans single-wide trailers.

Mr Scott said that older single-wide mobile homes are allowed under the law as well as double-wide mobile homes.

The law is the law, he said, and a tornado isn’t any reason to change it.

The residents disgust and despair is exacerbated by the decisions of other towns with similar laws that have granted waivers.

At Saturday night’s meeting resident Harvey Hastings said: ‘There are trailers all over here but Scott wants to clean all the trash out. He doesn’t like lower-class people.’

The cotton mill, brick plant and coal mine that once made Cordova prosperous shut down years ago.

Resident Tony Tidwell said residents simply can’t afford to new houses to replace the homes that the twisters blew away.

He accused the city of double standards over it decision to the local authorities to use trailers but not residents.

‘Let the people have a place to live,’ he said.

Mr Scott defended that decision by saying the city can use small trailers because it is for the common good.

The mayor said: ‘It’s temporary and we know it’s temporary. We’re trying to provide services for everyone.’

Storm victims are supposed to live in FEMA accommodation for a maximum of 18 months after a disaster, yet about 260 campers are still occupied by survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast more than five years after those storms.

Mr Scott said the same thing could happen in Cordova if the city bends it rules to help tornado victims.

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San Antonio Texas Police Officer Daniel Alvarado Shot And Killed Unarmed 14 Year Old Boy – Troubled Past Includes 12 Warnings And 4 Suspensions – History Of Not Following Orders

May 28, 2011

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – Shortly after a supervisor told Daniel Alvarado to stay with the victim of a minor assault and not search for the suspect, the school district officer ran into the backyard of a Northwest Side home with his gun drawn.

Moments later, Alvarado fired his weapon, killing an unarmed 14-year-old boy.

The November incident was not the first time the officer had ignored an order, according to records recently obtained by the San Antonio Express-News.

Since 2006, Alvarado’s supervisors at the Northside Independent School District Police Department had reprimanded or counseled him on at least 12 occasions — six for not following orders. In other cases, Alvarado failed to show up for assignments, and his bosses appeared to suspect him of lying.

Alvarado was suspended at least four times, and his supervisors warned of impending termination four times — once even recommending it.

But Alvarado, 46, never was fired. Six months after the death of student Derek Lopez, as an investigation into the shooting continues, the 17-year veteran of the Police Department remains with the school district.

For Denys Lopez Moreno, the teen’s mother, such revelations about Alvarado’s employment have compounded her grief.

“They should’ve taken action a long time ago,” Moreno said through tears. “He never followed orders. What makes you think he can deal with children?”

At school, Lopez was troubled. Expelled from elementary school, he spent years rotating through alternative schools and the county’s juvenile justice academy. He’d been disciplined for possessing drugs, assault and theft, school officials said.

But at home, his family says he was a loving child who would cook for his younger brother and sister and help them with their homework.

Moreno hired an attorney in December to investigate the shooting.

The attorney, Wally Brylak, filed actions in court to force the school district to release records, including Alvarado’s disciplinary history and a dispatch recording. He also subpoenaed witnesses for depositions, some of which contradict Alvarado’s version of events.

Reached by phone, Alvarado declined to discuss the shooting. NISD spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said the officer has been placed on administrative duty since the incident.

The San Antonio Police Department has ruled the case a justified shooting. The Bexar County district attorney’s office still is investigating.

The question of whether the shooting was justified is unrelated to the officer’s history of disobeying orders, Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said. The former is a legal matter; the latter, administrative.

Gonzalez echoed the distinction in a prepared statement.

“We are aware of Officer Alvarado’s work history,” he said. “While there are some documented incidents, it’s important to note that they were administrative in nature, and had nothing to do with student safety.”

But David Klinger, a former police officer who’s now a professor of criminology and an expert in the use of deadly force, was surprised by Alvarado’s disciplinary history.

“It sounds like they knew this guy was a problem,” Klinger said. “If someone’s insubordinate in a bunch of circumstances, it’s logical to believe they’ll be insubordinate in an important circumstance.”

He added, “Mercifully, from what I know, these are rare. Most of the time when an officer has a problem following an order or doing their job, they get counseled so they learn how to do their job.

“If they don’t, at some point they’re terminated.”

‘Stay with the victim’

Recorded in depositions, witnesses’ recollections offer a closer look at the Nov. 12 incident.

About 4:30 p.m., at Vista West Drive and Hunt Lane, a 13-year-old student from the Bexar County Juvenile Justice Academy was talking on a cell phone at a bus stop when Lopez, one of his classmates, punched him in the face.

“He just hit me once,” the boy said in his deposition. “It wasn’t a fight. It was nothing.”

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Feds Tell Arizona They Obtained Death Penalty Drug Illegally

May 28, 2011

ARIZONA – Hours before the scheduled execution of an Arizona death row inmate, the Department of Justice informed the state that it should not use a controversial drug as part of the execution protocol because the state had illegally obtained the drug from a foreign source.

The last-minute move stunned lawyers for convicted murderer Donald Beaty who had argued for months that Arizona hadn’t been in compliance with federal law regarding the importation of sodium thiopental, one of the three drugs commonly used for lethal injection executions . The drug is no longer manufactured in the U.S.

The Arizona Supreme Court delayed Beaty’s scheduled execution by several hours and Beaty is now set to die at 7:30pm MST.

Arizona had consistently argued that it had properly obtained the drug.

In a filing with the Arizona’s Supreme Court the state’s Attorney General said that it in order to “avoid questions about the legality ” of the drug it had decided to comply with the request from United States Associate Deputy Attorney General Deborah A. Johnston.

In the filing it said it planned to substitute another fast-acting barbiturate?pentobarbital?for the sodium thiopental. Arizona law allows it to change its protocol without hearings and legislative review required by some other states?

Long before the surprise announcement from Arizona’s prison, Dale Baich, Beaty’s public defender, had contacted the Department of Justice seeking guidance why the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had seized the drug from five other states this year but not Arizona.

The DEA seized the imported drug from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee informing prison officials that it believed they had failed to follow federal importation laws. But the agency it did not seize the drug from Arizona and four other states who had also obtained the drug from abroad.

In his letters to Washington Baich had argued that he believed that Arizona had also failed to properly import the drug and that its supply should also have been seized.

“I sent three letters to the DOJ and made calls to the DEA that were not returned,” said Baich. He said that he was at a loss to understand why the agency hadn’t treated all the states uniformly.

After the announcement Baich said, “The question of whether Arizona legally imported the drug has now been answered.”

Sodium thiopental is used to induce a coma like unconsciousness. It is usually followed by another drug that paralyzes the inmate and a third that induces cardiac arrest. Should the first drug be ineffective, a prisoner could feel tremendous pain by the time the third drug is injected.

Beaty was sentenced to death in 1985 for the brutal rape and murder of Christy Ann Fornoff who was 13 years old and on her paper route when she disappeared.

Controversy about sodium thiopental began in 2009 after the lone US supplier stopped production. Several of the 35 states that allow lethal injection have found themselves in short supply, and some began to import the drug from overseas suppliers. Other states have changed their protocol to use pentobarbital.

Across the country, attorneys representing death row inmates began to file challenges questioning whether the drug should be imported from foreign sources at all and whether proper import guidelines had been met.

The ACLU of Northern California has been tracking the issue.

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New York City Police Officers Fixed Tickets For Famous Folks

May 28, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Star-struck cops have fixed tickets for big-time celebs, including Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez and former team owner George Steinbrenner, sources told the Daily News. Celebrities

Cops also made tickets disappear for three current City Council members, sources told The News. Two ofthe elected officials are from the Bronx and the third is from Manhattan.

Cops even showed Brooklyn love, letting rap superstar Jay-Z’s driver off the hook for a speeding ticket, sources said.

Two sources familiar with the A-Rod speeding ticket said he was driving on the West Side Highway near W.57th St. in 2009. A highway cop issued the ticket, but an NYPD sergeant later squashed it, the sources said.

Yankees officials refused to comment last night. Rodriguez’s spokesman declined to talk about the allegations.

Revelations of special treatment for bigwigs emerged as Bronx prosecutors and the Internal Affairs Bureau conduct separate investigations into suspected ticket-fixing.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the allegations about A-Rod, Steinbrenner or Jay-Z’s driver were part of the ongoing probe.

Three sources gave the Daily News names of celebrities who had tickets after Edward Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, called on members to give testimonials about the longstanding NYPD practice.

“It was very easy for a big name towalk away from a summons,” onepolice source said. “[Celebrities] have contacts everywhere. There’s aneagerness to help because of who theyare.”

About 40 cops could be indicted for improperly voiding tickets, losing paperwork or purposely missing court dates in order to squash summonses, sources said.

Sources say the practice was so rampant, representatives for celebrities or politicians would sometimes call Police Headquarters directly to get their clients off the hook.

Summonses were fixed for bold-faced names who committed a wide array of infractions, sources said.

In addition to A-Rod, they include:

– At least three Council members had tickets fixed after they phoned friends in the NYPD. The city legal department said it had no information on the matter.

– Ex-Knick and current Denver Nuggets star Raymond Felton was pulled over blocks from Madison Square Garden, but his summons for a moving violation never made it to court, two sources said. A team spokesman declined to comment.

– A driver for Jay-Z was hit with a ticket last year after cops caught him speeding on the West Side Highway. A friendly cop “lost” the paperwork, and the case was nixed. The rapper’s publicist declined to comment.

– Before his death, Steinbrenner used his clout with city officials to nix numerous tickets for family, friends and staffers. A Yankees spokesman did not return calls.

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Jacksonville Florida Police Shot Two Bail Agents, Killing One, Moments After Other Officers Helped Them

May 28, 2011

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – A mask, a shotgun and gloves — that’s what a Jacksonville police officer saw on a man early Tuesday behind a St. Nicholas apartment when officers responded to a home invasion call there.

What the officer didn’t realize was that the masked man was one of three bail bondsmen another group of officers had helped at the same Mayfair Village complex minutes earlier. In the confusion, two of the bondsmen were shot, with one dead and one critical.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office hasn’t announced many details of the shooting at the complex at 3539 Beach Blvd., so the bondsmen’s identities and company are unknown.

More: Updated information to this story

At a dawn briefing at the scene, Sheriff’s Office Director John Hartley said police got a call for help from the bondsmen just before 2 a.m. to serve a warrant for a driver’s license and motor vehicle tag issue. They got no answer to their knocks and officers left, although the bondsmen apparently stayed and at least one put on a ski mask and was armed with a shotgun.

Police dispatchers soon got a call from a woman in the apartment, saying she saw “armed individuals … dressed all in black” outside, according to Hartley. Different officers were sent as the woman told dispatchers someone was trying to kick in her door.

That upgraded the call to an armed home invasion, prompting officers to take a “tactical approach” with two carrying AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, Hartley said. Officer Jason Bailey saw the masked man with a shotgun behind one building and shot him, then fired multiple times at a second man who ran up, Hartley said.

He said the man who was killed didn’t look like a bail bondsman.

“As he [the officer] goes to the back, he encounters a black male with a mask on, with gloves, dressed in black and holding a shotgun,” Hartley said. “He immediately engages him. That suspect is fired upon and is deceased at the scene.”

Linda Braswell, president of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States, said the association’s 14,500 members nationwide guarantee that if they pay a premium up front to let someone out on bond, they will appear in court.

She said it looks like these bail agents were doing their job, but there seems to have been a lot of miscommunication.

“They [police] don’t know what the other officers are responding to,” Braswell said. “… The whole incident is unfortunate. I know bail agents have the right to pursue individuals that have not appeared in court. That is their God-given right.”

Ann Teague, president of the Jacksonville Bail Agents Association and owner of an agency on East Forsyth Street since 1982, said local bondsmen want to understand what happened.

“It is like there were two sets of good people trying to do their job … and something went terribly bad,” Teague said. “… Why didn’t someone not know those were agents out there, and where was the miscommunication?”

Wearing a ski mask isn’t common unless a bail agent’s sole job is to apprehend those who fail to appear in court, she said.

“He might wear a mask like an undercover officer might so people don’t recognize who he is,” Teague said. “I can see it. Do I wear a mask? No. But I am not necessarily out there chasing.”

Braswell said the bondsmen apparently followed proper procedure and notified police when they were going to make an apprehension. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Taintor vs. Taylor) gives a bail agent the right to “break and enter” if they are sure it is the bail-jumper’s legal residence, she said.

Residents of the complex said they awoke to the gunfire shortly after 2 a.m. One said he heard someone yell “freeze,” then almost instantly heard a boom but did not see who fired the shot. He said a family in that upstairs apartment had only lived there a short time and that a man who lived there was interviewed by police, then released.

The Sheriff’s Office will have a news conference on the shooting today.

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Department Of Justice Still Hiding Documents, Won’t Pay Claim, After FBI Agent Wrecked $750,000 Ferrari During Joyride

May 28, 2011

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – An FBI agent assigned to move a rare Ferrari wrecked it during a short drive in Kentucky, and its owner is now suing the U.S. Justice Department, which has refused to pay $750,000 for the car.

The Justice Department recently responded to the lawsuit by saying it’s not liable for certain goods when they’re in the hands of law enforcement. The government also has refused to release most documents related to the crash.

The Ferrari F50 was stolen in 2003 from a dealer in Rosemont, Pa., and discovered five years later. The FBI kept it in Lexington, Ky., as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

FBI agent Fred Kingston was to move the Ferrari from a garage in May 2009. Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Hamilton Thompson said Kingston invited him on a “short ride.”

“Just a few seconds after we left the parking lot, we went around a curve and the rear of the car began sliding,” Thompson said in an email released to Motors Insurance Co., the dealer’s insurer.

“The agent tried to regain control but the car fishtailed and slid sideways up onto the curb. The vehicle came to rest against a row of bushes and a small tree,” Thompson said.

He was not hurt, but Kingston needed a few stitches for a cut on his head.

Motors Insurance took ownership of the car after it paid the dealer for the theft. The company told the government that the 1995 Ferrari, one of only 50 in the U.S., suffered substantial damage in the Kentucky crash and is a “total loss.”

“At heart, it is a race vehicle” and is not built like a typical car, truck or SUV, the insurer said in a claim for payment, partly explaining why it sought $750,000.

The Southfield, Mich.-based company filed a lawsuit in March after the Justice Department refused to pay. Motors Insurance has also filed a lawsuit to try to get records about the incident through the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The government has been secretive, saying most records are exempt. It only released Thompson’s email.

“We don’t really know what happened. We’ve asked for a lot of information,” Motors Insurance attorney Richard Kraus said in an interview this week.

A judge has set a June 13 hearing in the case.

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Out Of Control TSA Agents Target 2 Injured US Military Veterans – Grabed One In The Crotch

May 28, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Two injured US military veterans traveling to a ceremony to honor the lives of fallen friends who gave their lives to protect the rights enshrined in the Constitution were harassed by TSA thugs, with one of them having his crotch grabbed, according to David Bellow, an Army National Guardsman and a State Republican Executive Committeeman.

**** Disclaimer: Article appeared On Alex Jones’ Prison Planet Website – Which Contains Some Questionable Material… ****

“One of the wounded warriors, a friend of mine who personally told me what happened, has bullet fragments in his leg. The other wounded warrior has shrapnel in his face,” wrote Bellow on the Texas GOP Vote website.

The TSA agents responded to the men having set off metal detectors by interrogating them about what they were hiding in their bodies. “What are you hiding in your face?” screamed one.

“My friend told me that one TSA agent came up to him and asked what he was hiding in his leg, but before my friend could answer he said that the TSA agent grabbed him, without notice, right in the crotch area as if trying to find something hidden,” writes Bellow.

When the TSA goon grabbed his crotch and didn’t let go, the veteran felt inclined to lash out violently but was somehow able to control his fury.

This story is just one of hundreds if not thousands of examples that underscores the fact that low-grade TSA morons who have proven themselves prone to predatory, perverted and criminal behavior have no place in a free society.

Airports need to act now by kicking out the TSA and replacing them with private security.

But it’s not just airports that are being manned by this cadre of cretins – sports stadiums, prom nights, highways, bus terminals and train stations are all being patrolled by this literal occupying army that is turning America into a checkpoint-festooned police state.

Efforts in Texas to pass a law that would have made TSA groping a felony, scuttled at the last minute by a threat of financial terrorism on behalf of the feds that would have imposed a no fly zone over the state, are now being replicated nationwide as the growing resistance movement against TSA tyranny accelerates.

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Crazed Charlotte North Carolina City Officials Charge Church $100 Per Tree Branch For “Excessive Pruning”

May 28, 2011

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – Every two to three years, Eddie Sales trims and prunes the crape myrtles at his church, Albemarle Road Presbyterian Church.

But this year, the city of Charlotte cited the church for improperly pruning its trees.

“We always keep our trees trimmed back because you don’t want to worry about them hanging down in the way,” said Sales, a church member.

The church was fined $100 per branch cut for excessive pruning, bringing the violation to $4,000.

“I just couldn’t believe it when I heard about it,” Sales said. “We trim our trees back every three years all over our property, and this is the first time we have been fined.”

The fine will be dropped if the church replaces each of the improperly pruned trees, said Tom Johnson, senior urban forester for city of Charlotte Land Development Division.

“When they are nonrepairable, when they have been pruned beyond repair, we will ask them to be replaced,” Johnson said. “We do that for a number of reasons but mainly because they are going to come back unhealthy and create a dangerous situation down the road.”

Charlotte has had a tree ordinance since 1978, and when trees are incorrectly pruned or topped, people can be subject to fines, Johnson said.

Trees planted as a result of the ordinance are subject to the fines if they are excessively trimmed or pruned. These include trees on commercial property or street trees. They do not include a private residence.

“The purpose of the tree ordinance is to protect trees,” Johnson said. “Charlotte has always been known as the city of trees. When we take down trees, we need to replace these trees.”

Individuals who would like to trim their trees should call the city foresters to receive a free permit to conduct the landscape work.

Foresters will then meet with the person receiving the permit and give instructions on how to properly trim their trees, Johnson said.

The state Division of Forestry recommends that anyone trimming trees should be certified by the National Horticulture Board, but certification is not required to receive a permit.

On private property, fine amounts are based on the size of the tree improperly pruned. For small trees such as cherry trees or crape myrtles, the fine is $75 per tree. Excessive cutting can increase that fine to $100 per branch.

For large trees such as oaks or maples, the fine is $150 per tree.

Because there is a widespread lack of understanding on how to prune crape myrtles in the Charlotte area, Johnson said, residents found in violation regarding these trees are asked to simply replace them, and the fine will be lifted.

Sales said trees found in violation at the church must be cut down and replaced with new trees by October, but the church plans to appeal. Sales doesn’t know how much it would cost to replace the trees.

“We trimmed back these trees in the interest of the church,” Sales said. “If we were in violation, we certainly did not know we were.”

Typically during the course of a year, Johnson said, about six private residents are found in violation of improper topping or pruning.

“We are trying to be pro-active and not trying to fine people excessively,” Johnson said.

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Crazed Italian Officals Accuse Seismologists Of Manslaughter For Not Predicting 2009 Earthquake

May 27, 2011

ITALY – Italian government officials have accused the country’s top seismologist of manslaughter, after failing to predict a natural disaster that struck Italy in 2009, a massive devastating earthquake that killed 308 people.

A shocked spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) likened the accusations to a witch hunt.

“It has a medieval flavor to it — like witches are being put on trial,” the stunned spokesman told FoxNews.com.

Enzo Boschi, the president of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), will face trial along with six other scientists and technicians, after failing to predict the future and the impending disaster.

Earthquakes are, of course, nearly impossible to predict, seismologists say. In fact, according to the website for the USGS, no major quake has ever been predicted successfully.

“Neither the USGS nor Caltech nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake,” reads a statement posted on the USGS website. “They do not know how, and they do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future.”

John Vidale, a Washington State seismologist and professor at the University of Washington, agreed that earthquake forecasting is simply impossible.

“We’re not able to predict earthquakes very well at all,” he told LiveScience.

“One problem is, we don’t know how much stress it takes to break a fault,” Vidale told the site. “Second we still don’t know how much stress is down there. All we can do is measure how the ground is deforming.”

Not knowing either of these factors makes it pretty tough to figure out when stresses will get to the point of a rupture, and an earth-shaking quake, LiveScience explained.

The seven scientists were placed under investigation almost a year ago, according to a news story on the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) — the world’s largest general-science society and a leading voice for the interests of scientists worldwide.

Alan Leschner, chief executive of AAAS, said his group wrote a letter to the Italian government last year — clearly, to no avail.

“Whoever made these accusations misunderstands the nature of science, the nature of the discipline and how difficult it is to predict anything with the surety they expect,” Leschner told FoxNews.com.

The case could have a “chilling effect” on scientists, he noted.

“It reflects a lack of understanding about what science can and can’t do,” he said. “And frankly, it will have an effect of intimidating scientists … This just feels like either scapegoating or an attempt to intimidate a community. This really seems inappropriate.”

Judge Giuseppe Romano Gargarella said that the seven defendants had supplied “imprecise, incomplete and contradictory information,” in a press conference following a meeting held by the committee 6 days before the quake, reported the Italian daily Corriere della Sera

In doing so, they “thwarted the activities designed to protect the public,” the judge said.

Boschi’s lawyer, Marcello Melandri, has been taking the news badly, reported the AAAS story. He was particularly stunned because — despite of the near impossibility of predicting earthquakes Boshi had been indicating that a large earthquake would be coming, though he did not say when.

Melandri told the AAAS that Boschi never sought to reassure the population of L’Aquila that there was no threat. On the contrary, the INGV head made it clear that “at some point it is probable that there will be a big earthquake.”

In addition to Boschi, those facing trial are:

* Franco Barberi, committee vice president;
* Bernardo De Bernardinis, at the time vice president of Italy’s Civil Protection Department and now president of the country’s Institute for Environmental Protection and Research;
* Giulio Selvaggi, director of the National Earthquake Center;
* Gian Michele Calvi, director of the European Center for Training and Research in Earthquake Engineering;
* Claudio Eva, an earth scientist at the University of Genoa; and
* Mauro Dolce, director of the office of seismic risk at the Civil Protection Department.

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Veteran Defending His Home Didn’t Shoot At Tucson Arizona Police, But Was Shot 60 Times By SWAT Team During “Drug Raid” – Nothing Illegal Found In His Home

May 27, 2011

TUCSON, ARIZONA – A U.S. Marine who died in a flurry of bullets during a drug raid near Tucson never fired on the SWAT team that stormed his house, a report by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department shows.

The revelation was contained in an internal investigation released by the department Thursday.

Jose Guerena died May 5 after a SWAT team descended on his home in a Tucson suburb with a search warrant. His home was one of four believed to be associated with a drug smuggling operation in the area.

A video released Thursday by the sheriff’s department shows the uniformed SWAT team pulling up outside his house, sounding their sirens, banging on the front door — before kicking it in — and opening fire shortly after entering the home.

Officers fired more than 70 shots, the investigation showed. Deputies said they opened fire after Guerena, 26, gestured at them with an AR-15 — a semiautomatic rifle.

Some of the officers said they believed that Guerena fired on them, but the investigation showed that no shots were fired from the weapon and it was never taken off the safety position.

Initial news reports indicated that he had been struck by more than 60 bullets. However, CNN has seen an initial report from the medical examiner that details 22 bullet wounds.

A lawyer representing the deputies defended their actions.

“They absolutely responded how they were trained. They responded within Arizona laws, within the law throughout the nation,” attorney Mike Storie said.

“If you are faced with that type of deadly threat, you’re allowed to respond.”

Guerena served in Iraq and was discharged from the Marines five years ago. He was working for a mining company in the Tucson area.

But authorities allege he also was involved in drug smuggling, strong-armed robberies and human smuggling.

A search of the home after the shooting revealed nothing illegal, although officers found weapons and body armor.

The five deputies involved in the shooting remain on active duty. No criminal charges have been filed and no disciplinary action taken.

The findings of the investigation are detailed in a five-inch thick report, including a 60-page statement from Guerena’s wife, Vanessa, who was in the home at the time of the shooting along with a young son.

In addition to the video, the sheriff’s department also released audio of Guerena calling 911 to get medical attention for her husband. Audio of the SWAT team’s radio conversations was also included.

She has retained a lawyer, but no legal action has been taken.

“We just learned that the sheriff’s department has released voluminous amounts of information in respect to this incident,” said Guerena attorney Chris Scileppi. “We will review the documents and CDs, and will make ourselves available for comment in the near future.”

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US Government Wants Black Boxes In All Vehicles By Year End

May 27, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Transportation Department said today it will propose making vehicle “black boxes” mandatory in all vehicles by the end of the year.

The department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has long considered whether to make black boxes, officially called event data recorders, or EDRs, mandatory. They collect data about the seconds leading up to a crash and can help investigators determine the cause.

Last year, Congress considered requiring EDRs in all vehicles. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland told Congress the agency was studying the issue.

The plan was included in a 197-page Transportation Department regulatory reform proposal released by the White House this morning.

“NHTSA plans to propose mandatory EDRs in all passenger vehicles in 2011,” the Transportation Department said in the report.

In a separate agency document posted on its website, NHTSA said it is also working on a proposal “for future enhancements to (EDRs) capabilities and applicability.”

But the agency said it hasn’t decided whether to require EDRs in heavy-duty vehicles.

Most automobiles already have the devices. NHTSA estimated that about 64 percent of 2005 model passenger vehicles had the devices. Many major automakers already include them all vehicles, including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Co.

In August 2006, NHTSA issued a rule setting standards for EDR data collection.

The rule, which takes effect in the 2013 model year, standardizes the information EDRs collect and makes retrieving the data easier. Devices must record 15 data elements, including vehicle deceleration, in specific formats.

Different automakers collect different data. In 2009, not all Toyota EDRs recorded both pre- and post-crash data. By the end of last year, all Toyota and Lexus vehicles included EDRs that can record both.

In May 2010, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade association GM, Ford, Chrysler Group LLC, Toyota and eight other automakers, endorsed making EDRs mandatory in all vehicles, but expressed concerns that some in Congress wanted more elaborate and expensive ones than are available.

The devices have been in use for about 20 years.

GM began widely installing the predecessor version of today’s event data recorders in vehicles in the 1990 model year, and they became standard equipment in light duty vehicles in the 1995 model year.

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California Prison System Software Errors Released 450 Prisoners At A High Risk For Violence By Mistake

May 27, 2011

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Computer errors prompted California prison officials to mistakenly release an estimated 450 inmates with “a high risk for violence” as unsupervised parolees in a program meant to ease overcrowding, according to the state’s inspector general.

More than 1,000 additional prisoners presenting a high risk of committing drug crimes, property crimes and other offenses were also let out, officials said.

No attempt was made to return any of the offenders to state lockups or place them on supervised parole, said inspector general spokeswoman Renee Hansen.

All of the prisoners were placed on “non-revocable parole,” whose participants are not required to report to parole officers and can be sent back to prison only if caught committing a crime. The program was started in January 2010 for inmates judged to be at very low risk of reoffending, leaving parole agents free to focus on supervising higher-risk parolees.

The revelations come two days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s prisons are dangerously overcrowded and upheld an earlier order that state officials find a way to reduce the 143,335-inmate population by roughly 33,000. The state has two years to comply.

State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), a former prosecutor who requested an investigation of the unsupervised-parole program, said the inspector general’s report “confirms my worst fears” about it.

Investigators reviewed case files for 200 of the 10,134 former inmates who were on non-revocable parole in July of last year. They found that 31 were not eligible, and nine of those were determined likely to commit violent crimes. The inspector general and corrections officials refused to identify the inmates who were released erroneously. They also would not specify what their original offenses had been.

Using the 15% error rate they found in their sample, investigators estimated that more than 450 violent inmates had been released during the first seven months of the program, the time period they reviewed. Prison officials have disputed the findings, saying they had corrected some of the computer problems discovered by the inspector general. The error rate is now 8%, the inspector general report says.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to address overcrowding would shift tens of thousands of low-level offenders from prison to county custody. Counties would also supervise most low-risk parolees, like those in the non-revocable program.

But if the state can’t properly identify which inmates qualify for an unsupervised parole program, Lieu said on Wednesday, “how can the public have confidence they can release 33,000 felons safely?”

Under the law that created non-revocable parole, inmates are excluded if they are gang members, have committed sex crimes or violent felonies or have been determined to pose a high risk to reoffend based on an assessment of their records behind bars.

That’s where the problems begin, according to the inspector general. The computer program prison officials used to make that assessment does not access an inmate’s disciplinary history.

The program also relies on a state Department of Justice system that records arrests but is missing conviction information for nearly half of the state’s 16.4 million arrest records, according to the inspector general report.

Lee Seale, a deputy chief of staff for the California prisons, acknowledged that the corrections department’s computer system can’t access an inmate’s disciplinary record. But that information is reviewed manually by a member of his staff before prisoners are released, said spokesman Luis Patino.

Seale agreed that the missing conviction information from the Department of Justice database is a problem. “That presents a serious issue for the entire criminal justice system, every judge, every probation officer, every cop on the street trying to decide whether to arrest someone,” Seale said.

In July, a parolee named Javier Joseph Rueda, who had been classified a low-level offender and placed in the non-revocable program, opened fire on two Los Angeles police officers, hitting one in the arm. The police returned fire, killing Rueda.

Prison spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said Rueda had been properly classified. At the time, Hidalgo pointed out that the attack could have taken place even if Rueda had been checking in periodically with a parole agent.

“Supervised parole is not incarceration,” Hidalgo said.

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Portland Oregon Postman Who Took A Dump In Yard Keeps His Job, Gets A New Route

May 27, 2011

PORTLAND, OREGON – A mail carrier who was caught using a yard as his personal toilet will not be fired.

The incident happened last month at a home in southeast Portland and a neighbor, Don Derfler, captured the man in the act with his camera.

Derfler had been waiting for his babysitter when he saw his mailman acting odd at his neighbor’s house across the street. The postal worker then pulled down his pants and that’s when Derfler began snapping pictures.

“We trust people like the postal service and meter readers and people of that nature,” Derfler told us when we interviewed him in April. “To come on to our property and to defecate – it’s just wrong.”

The incident was an embarrassment to the post office and the worker was immediately placed on unpaid leave. Now, a decision has been made to keep the worker but he will be transferred to a different route.

A spokesperson said the administrative action was taken based on a postal service investigation but he did not elaborate. He also did not say which route the mail carrier has been assigned to cover.

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Fort Worth Texas Police Shoot And Kill Woman Who Had Scissors In Her Own Home

May 27, 2011

FORT WORTH, TEXAS — A woman was shot and killed by police Monday afternoon after she came at an officer with scissors, officials said Tuesday.

Stacey Burris, 46, was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital where she was pronounced dead from multiple gunshot wounds at 8:32 p.m. Monday evening.

Sgt. Pedro Criado, a police spokesman, said officers were dispatched to a suicidal person call in the 1300 block of Country Manor shortly before 8 p.m.

There, a family member told the officer that Burris was making threats to harm herself and family members, Criado said.

An officer had entered the house and was walking along a short, narrow hallway toward the woman’s room when he encountered her standing in the doorway, threatening to stab herself in the throat with a large pair of scissors.

“He kept ordering her to drop them, obviously to no avail,” Criado said.

Criado said a second officer had arrived in the hallway when Burris “suddenly lowered the large pair of scissors toward the first officer and came toward the officer.”

Criado said the officer fired his duty weapon multiple times at the same time that the assist officer deployed his Taser at the woman.

The shooting is under investigation by the department’s major crimes unit, Criado said.

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Veteran New Orleans Louisiana Police Officer Emelda Blanco And Her Police Officer Son Arrested After Bar Fight

May 26, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – The New Orleans Police Department today suspended two officers: Emelda Blanco, a 25-year-veteran of the force, and her son, a 3-year member of the NOPD.

In a press release, the NOPD says both “were arrested and booked today with one count of Simple Battery.”

According to spokesman Officer Hilal Williams, the two cops were arrested for their involvement in a “disturbance” early Sunday at Robertson’s Vieux Carre Lounge on Basin Street.

The mother and son crime-fighters reportedly instigated a fight that involved a security guard at the lounge.

Both are on suspension without pay “pending an investigation by the Public Integrity Bureau,” according to the news release.

The arrests and suspensions of the Blancos come on the same day that the NOPD fired a senior officer implicated in the Henry Glover case.

NOPD Captain Jeffery Winn, a 25-year veteran of the force, was fired “due to neglect of duty,” the police department said in a statement.

Winn commanded the New Orleans Police SWAT team and supervised two officers charged with burning the body of Henry Glover, a man shot by another NOPD officer after Hurricane Katrina.

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Polk County Florida Deputy Sheriff Robin Leigh Pagoria Arrested, Charged With Strapping Naked Children To A Desk And Beating Them With Sex Toys

May 26, 2011

POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA – A Polk County sheriff’s deputy filmed herself strapping naked children to a desk and spanking them with sex toys, then sent the videos to a boyfriend she met on a fetish website, investigators said.

On Thursday, 45-year-old Robin Leigh Pagoria was charged with aggravated child abuse, production of child pornography, promotion of child pornography and possession of child pornography.

According to an arrest report, the two children, described only as girls between the ages of 10 and 18, described in graphic detail multiple spanking sessions.

Investigators say Pagoria cut the legs off one end of the desk she used for the spanking. To keep the girls from moving, she handcuffed their arms and tied their ankles to the desk, deputies said.

The girls told investigators that Pagoria beat them with a leather sex paddle. The victims believed they were being punished — one said she was hit 50 times for being “disrespectful”

Detectives say Pagoria recorded the beatings on her cell phone, uploading them to the Internet so her online boyfriend could watch.

On Thursday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd called Pagoria’s alleged behavior “outrageous.”

“There aren’t words to describe my anger with her,” he said. Judd, noted for his well-publicized focus on sexual predators, said no one should be more aware of that focus that his own employees.

“She’s seen us walk hundreds of them into the Polk County Jail,” Judd said.

Judd said the arrest came “out of nowhere.” Aside from a domestic violence incident and some minor disciplinary issues, he said Pagoria was considered a good worker.

Judd said Pagoria worked in housing at the jail, and was a 22-year veteran of the Marines. He said his office reviewed the psychological and polygraph tests from when she was hired, and they were clear.

“We do extensive background investigations on anyone we hire,” Judd said.

When interviewed by investigators, reports state that Pagoria explained that she used to spank the girls, but “the spankings had not improved their behavior.”

She switched to the table and handcuffs after “she decided she needed to do something that would embarrass them so they would learn not to break the rules again,” the report states.

Investigators say Pagoria claimed she videotaped the sessions so she could review and “‘fine tune’ her technique” — leading her to modify the table, and to put a delay between blows for “maximum burn.”

After the whippings, Pagoria explained that the girls were forced to stand naked in the corner “so that they could reflect on what they had done wrong,” according to the report.

Deputies say Pagoria later admitted to having a lifelong spanking fetish, and to meeting her boyfriend on SpankFinders.com. Officials said the boyfriend, who lives in another state, is also under investigation.

Investigators said they found evidence of two videos on Pagoria’s phone. In both, deputies said the victims’ genitals and buttocks were the clear “focal point.”

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the videos were about 10 minutes long, and showed the children suffered “substantial” wounds. They could be heard screaming in the videos, investigators said.

The victims names were redacted from arresting documents, it’s not clear how or why Pagoria had access to them. However, officials said it was not through her employment with the Sheriff’s Office.

Officials said Pagoria, a deputy for nearly six years, resigned Tuesday, in lieu of being fired.

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Police Dispatch Helicopter, Two Patrol Cars, And Riot Van To Find Child Who Accidentially Broke Window With Football

May 26, 2011

Tom Clarke, 15, was horrified when he miss-kicked the ball and it looped over a garden fence and smashed a greenhouse window pane.

Just 30 minutes later a police helicopter was spotted hovering above the house using thermal imaging cameras to search for him.

Two patrol cars and a riot van were also dispatched to search nearby gardens in Chalgrove, Oxon., on foot.

A pair of uniformed officers eventually tracked Tom down and he apologised to the greenhouse owner.

But days later Thames Valley Police sent a letter to Tom’s dad Darrin telling him his youngster had ”accepted responsibility for criminal damage”.

Police said the incident was not a conviction but would be ”recorded for future reference” and could count against him by future employers carrying out CRB checks.

Tom may now be considered unsuitable for jobs involving children and young people when he applies for work in the future.

The letter also warned Tom he could face an ASBO if his ”behaviour does not improve”.

Yesterday Tom’s furious dad, bus driver Darrin, 42, branded the police reaction ”extremely heavy-handed”.

He said: ”Tom is a good lad, he’s never been in trouble with the police or at school and he works hard.

”Now he’s been told his future work life is at risk because of a stupid accident playing football. It’s extremely heavy-handed.

”The police helicopter was about 20ft above the ground and I saw a riot van circling the area along with two patrol cars.

”It was like something out of the Keystone Cops.”

Tom was playing football with his cousin in the back garden of the Crown pub in Chalgrove on May 8 when he miss-kicked the ball.

At 5.40pm the owner of the greenhouse, Bobby Cellar, 67, called police and officers logged the complaint as ”criminal damage”.

At 6.10pm police chiefs directed the force helicopter to the scene while another two patrol cars joined the search on the ground.

A riot van was also dispatched to the village to deal with the incident.

Aston Villa fan Tom said: ”My cousin passed me the ball and I stuck my foot out, the ball spun off my ankle.

Police helicopter hunts schoolboy who accidentally smashed windows

”The ball flew over the fence and hit the greenhouse.

”I was really shocked and didn’t know what to do so walked into the pub to watch the football on TV.

”A few minutes later two police officers walked into the pub and got me by the arm and led me out the pub.

”They told me they ‘wanted a word’ with me and said I’d been accused of criminal damage.

”I apologised and my dad offered to pay for the damage.

”I’m gutted it’s going to be on my record, I had thought about being a teacher when I’m older but that might not happen now.”

Staff and customers at the pub branded the police response ”ridiculous”.

Manager Emma Arnold said: ”Since when did a youngster accidentally kicking a ball into a greenhouse become criminal damage? It is ridiculous.”

Villager Doug Coles, 65, added: ”It was one of the silliest things I have ever seen.

”The ball clipped his foot, looped over the fence and hit the greenhouse.

”He couldn’t do that if he tried. Accidents happen in life.”

Thames Valley Police defended the use of the helicopter, saying it was in the area at the time.

Spokeswoman Rebecca Webber said: ”Thames Valley Police would not deploy the force helicopter for low level crimes such as criminal damage.

”However if the helicopter is already airborne and in the area they may be asked to assist by officers on the ground, as happened in this case.”

But Mrs Cellar, 67, said she was happy to see ”justice done”.

She said: ”I’ve had enough. Someone could have been in the greenhouse at the time and got hurt.

”In my mind it’s criminal damage and that’s the law, I just wanted to see justice done.”

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Henderson Nevada City Attorney Elizabeth Quillin Arrested After Drunken Wreck And Leaving The Scene – “I Am F*cked Up”

May 26, 2011

HENDERSON, NEVADA – The city attorney of Henderson told police she had been drinking “bottles” of wine and acknowledged she was intoxicated after crashing her sport utility vehicle into landscaping and a fire hydrant in the middle of the afternoon, according to a police report made public Tuesday.

Elizabeth Quillin, 51, was arrested after witnesses told police that she crashed a second time trying to drive her damaged Lexus RX400 away and then trying to walk away from the 2:50 p.m. Monday crash across Paseo Verde from the Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa & Casino.

Henderson police said no one was hurt in the crashes, and bystanders stayed with an “unsteady” Quillin until police arrived.

“Quillin admitted to drinking ‘bottles’ of wine, and when I asked if she felt the effects, she stated, ‘Yes, I am (expletive) up,’” Henderson Police Officer Robert Honea wrote.

Quillin was arrested on driving under the influence of alcohol, leaving the scene of an accident and open container of alcohol in a vehicle charges.

She spent almost 12 hours in the Henderson city jail before being released pending a June 20 appearance in Henderson Justice Court. It wasn’t immediately clear if Quillin had a lawyer.

Because of her job, her case is expected to be handled by an outside judge and prosecutor.

Henderson spokesman Bud Cranor told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Quillin has been placed on paid leave from the city attorney job she held since June 2009, and officials were investigating whether she was on city business, on vacation or had been scheduled to work Monday.

Witnesses told police that Quillin was making a left turn onto Carnegie Street when the SUV went off the road. A witness told police the vehicle backed up and then nearly struck her as it lurched forward and sideswiped her parked car, ran up on a curb and hit a tree.

Quillin allegedly got out and started to walk away before police arrived.

Honea reported that a 1.5-liter bottle of chardonnay, open and nearly empty, was found in Quillin’s vehicle.

Quillin’s job entails providing legal representation to the mayor and the City Council of Nevada’s second-largest city, and supervising city criminal prosecutors and civil attorneys. Her base salary is $190,000 a year.

She previously worked as chief deputy attorney general for southern Nevada under then-state Attorney General Brian Sandoval and as assistant county Clark County manager. Sandoval is now governor.

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Maricopa County Arizona Deputy Sheriff And Two Jailers Among Arrests In Human Trafficking Bust

May 26, 2011

MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA – Authorities in Arizona have arrested three employees of a sheriff’s office known for its tough stand on illegal immigration, accusing them of aiding human traffickers and drug smugglers.

A sheriff’s deputy and two detention officers were among 12 people arrested in an operation Tuesday, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.

“That a deputy sheriff would provide information and associate with these drug and human traffickers is despicable,” Arpaio told reporters.

Deputy Alfredo Navarrette, who had been a member of a unit targeting human smuggling, faces felony charges connected to human smuggling, money laundering and participating in a crime syndicate, Arpaio said.

“He admitted actually going to our command centers to obtain information to pass on to the drug traffickers and the smugglers,” Arpaio said, noting that authorities found two illegal immigrants in Navarrette’s home when they served a search warrant Tuesday morning.
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The two detention officers who were arrested — Sylvia Najera and Marcella Hernandez — are accused of money laundering and having connections with drug-trafficking organizations. Hernandez had more than $16,000 in her purse when she was taken into custody, Arpaio said.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery praised the sheriff’s office for its handling of the matter and pledged to hold the officers accountable.

“This wasn’t swept under the rug. The cooperation that we received from the sheriff’s office was complete and forthright,” he told reporters.

“No one’s above the law, and apparently no one is beyond the reach of drug-trafficking organizations in Mexico,” he added.

Arpaio drew national attention and earned the nickname of “America’s toughest sheriff” for his stance on illegal immigration, among other things.

Many of his prisoners are housed in tents and forced to wear pink underwear, and he once boasted of feeding them on less than a dollar a day per prisoner.

He faces a U.S. Justice Department investigation into whether his policies cracking down on illegal immigrants discriminate against Hispanics.

Earlier this month critics called for his resignation after an audit found he used nearly $100 million designated for jail funds to pay deputies’ salaries.

Some activists said Tuesday’s arrests are part of a public-relations ploy to clean up the sheriff’s office image in the wake of such accusations.

“Now he’s saying that he’s cleaning out his department, but frankly, these problems have always existed inside the agency,” human rights activist Lydia Guzman told CNN affiliate KTVW.

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Washington DC Metro Transit Police Caught On Video Beating Man In Wheelchair – Police Say He “Fell”

May 23, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Thousands of people have already viewed the video on YouTube. It was taken by a passer-by on Thursday afternoon. It has people questioning whether Metro Transit Police were justified in subduing the man who was in a wheelchair.

The incident happened at around 3 p.m. outside the U Street-Cardozo Metro Station.

Metro Transit Police were on routine patrol at the station when they spotted the man in a wheelchair drinking an alcoholic beverage, according to Metro Spokesperson Steven Taubenkibel.

The officers asked him to leave the area but he refused, police say. The officers attempted to give him a citation.

When he refused to cooperate, they told him he would be arrested, according to a statement issued by Metro.

The statement goes on to say “the patron resisted arrest which resulted in him falling out of his wheelchair.”

Some say the man was thrown to the ground causing a gash over his eye that bled onto the sidewalk.

In the video, you can hear witnesses challenging the way police handled the incident.

The man was taken to the hospital. His injuries were minor, police say. He was arrested for assault on a police officer and drinking in public.

Metro says they are following up on this incident.

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Los Angeles California Parking Bureau Issued “Gold Card” To City Offices And Officials – A Thousand Parking Tickets Fixed Over Two Year Period As Part Of Gold Card Operation

May 21, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Los Angeles residents are up in arms over the existence of the “Gold Card,” a plastic parking bureau card distributed to city offices that includes a special phone number.

The obscure Gold Card Services Desk allowed the mayor and other elected officials to expedite citation reviews.

On the back, the card notes that the holder may have an “urgent need to resolve any parking citation matter which requires special attention.” It promises “you will be immediately connected to our Gold Card Specialist.”

A report released Thursday by City Controller Wendy Greuel found that about 1,000 Los Angeles city parking citations were dismissed over a two-year period — some without justification — as part of the Gold Card operation.

The program was started about 20 years ago to permit officials and their staff to expedite constituents’ appeals of parking tickets and possibly have fines reduced or eliminated.

“I wish they did let us know about it,” said Donny Legans, 55, who arrived at the city’s parking enforcement office Thursday to pay an $88 ticket. “The system is so unfair. Sometimes the meters aren’t even working and they give us tickets.”

Most of those interviewed said they were angry about the program’s existence — and will be even more upset if it turns out that elected officials used the program to get special treatment for themselves and their friends.

John Torres arrived at the parking enforcement office in a fury. He said he got his ticket after the enforcement officer accused him of spending 90 minutes at a meter in the 1400 block of West Washington Boulevard.

Torres said he put money in the meter, and had been there for 10 minutes. Since being cited, his fine doubled from $75 to $150 because he had been away on business and didn’t have the opportunity to pay it immediately.

Torres, who was surprised to hear about the “Gold Card Desk,” said he’d like access to the program himself so he could contest his fine.

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Miami Florida Police Officer Juan Aviles Otero Shot Dead In Puerto Rico – Found With “Little Baggies” Of White Powder

May 21, 2011

MIAMI, FLORIDA – A Miami-Dade police officer on vacation in Puerto Rico was shot and killed Thursday morning, as was his sister who was with him, authorities said.

Juan Aviles Otero, 34, a Miami-Dade police officer since 2006, and his sister, Jasmin Plaza Otero, 21, were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds about 3:10 a.m. in the Puerto Rican town of Villalba, according to Agent Angel Feliciano-Torres, director of homicide investigations for the municipality of Ponce, which includes Villalba.

“When the forensics team arrived at the scene, they verified that on the body of Juan Aviles they found three little bags with white powder,” Feliciano-Torres said. Investigators did not immediately determine what the powder was but the substance will be analyzed, he added.

Such “little baggies” are often used to distribute drugs, Feliciano-Torres said.

The two victims were driving a rental car from San Juan, about an hour away from where the bodies were found. Aviles was found inside the car and his sister was found dead just outside the car door.

The bodies were transferred to the medical examiner, Feliciano-Torres said.

Miami police confirmed the slaying of the officer, with police Director James K. Loftus saying in a statement that Aviles “was murdered in the early hours … from apparent gun shot wounds in Villalba, Puerto Rico.”

CNN Miami affiliate WSVN reported that Aviles’ wife, also a police officer, recently gave birth to twins.

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Los Angeles California Police Officer Jeff Stenroos Pleads Not Guilty After Shooting Himself Outside School, Claiming Car Burglar Did It

May 21, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – A Los Angeles police officer charged with staging a victimization hoax by shooting himself outside a public school pleaded not guilty Friday to a six-count indictment, prosecutors said.

Jeff Stenroos, 30, entered the plea before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg after an indictment was returned a day earlier by a grand jury, said spokeswoman Jane Robison of the Los Angeles district attorney’s office.

Stenroos is on paid administrative leave from the school district, Robison said in a written statement.

The indictment supersedes a felony complaint, which will be dismissed when Stenroos is scheduled to return to court on May 18 for a pretrial hearing, prosecutors said.

Stenroos allegedly faked his own shooting while on duty at El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, California, on January 19, Robinson said. His injury was discovered by a person who saw him lying on the ground near his open car door, she said.

Stenroos allegedly told other officers that a car burglary suspect shot him once in the chest as he was patrolling the campus perimeter, prosecutors said.

More than 550 law enforcement officers from throughout Southern California responded and conducted a 10-hour search, shutting down an eight-square-mile area in the San Fernando Valley and keeping students on lockdown in eight campuses, authorities said.

The indictment charges the school police officer with five felony counts, including insurance fraud, workers’ compensation fraud, preparing a false police report, preparing false documentary evidence and planting false evidence; and with one misdemeanor of falsely reporting an emergency, Deputy District Attorney Paul Nunez said in a statement.

The superseding indictment adds two new counts — insurance fraud and planting evidence — and drops a prior charge of perjury, prosecutors said.

The city is seeking $361,289 in restitution from Stenroos, and the Los Angeles Unified School District is seeking $58,000 in medical costs, prosecutors said.

If convicted, Stenroos would face up to five years and eight months in prison, Robison said.

Stenroos, who was treated and released from Northridge Medical Center the day he was shot, is accused of insurance fraud for seeking medical treatment for the injuries, prosecutors said.

The weekend after the shooting, Stenroos checked himself into Henry Mayo Hospital in Santa Clarita for ongoing complaints of pain, prosecutors said.

Police investigators found that Stenroos allegedly created false evidence when he claimed he was shot, authorities said.

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Crazed Louisiana Judge Sentenced Scared 14 Year Old Girl To 6 Months In Jail For Refusing To Testify

May 21, 2011

JEFFERSON PARISH, LOUISIANA – A 15-year-old Harvey girl who is Jefferson Parish prosecutors’ key witness in a second-degree murder case spent a night in jail after she refused to testify against the accused killer Wednesday, a silence apparently based in her fear of the defendant or his family.

Jessica Cheatteam was held in contempt of court Wednesday after she flatly refused to say in open court and in front of a jury that Michael Williams shot Terry Redmond on April 26, 2009, in Harvey’s Scotsdale neighborhood, a claim she shared with Sheriff’s Office detectives who were investigating the slaying two years ago.

Cheatteam, who was 13 years old when Redmond was shot several times, was sitting at the witness stand only feet from Williams, 18, while members of his family sat in the audience yards behind him.

Her refusal to testify led Judge June Darensburg of the 24th Judicial District Court to send the jury out of the courtroom and arrange for a public defender, Graham Bosworth, to provide legal advice to the teenager. But after conferring privately with Bosworth, Cheatteam again refused to testify.

“Are you refusing to testify and answer our questions?” asked Assistant District Attorney Sunny Funk, who is prosecuting Williams with David Hufft.

“That’s correct,” Cheatteam said.

Darensburg then found Cheatteam in contempt of court and sentenced her to six months in jail, the maximum for contempt. Cheatteam seemed unfazed as she was escorted out of court to the Rivarde Juvenile Detention Center in Harvey.

Cheatteam was back in Darensburg’s court Thursday, shortly after the judge declared a mistrial because of allegations that jurors improperly discussed the case among themselves, including the effect of Cheatteam’s refusal to testify.

Dressed in a navy blue jail outfit, her handcuffs chained to her waist and her ankles shackled together, Cheatteam sat alone while attorneys discussed her immediate fate with Darensburg at the bench. It was then that she saw members of Williams’ family in the hallway outside court, apparently looking at her through the windows flanking the courtroom’s doors.

“What they looking at?” she yelled, sending a jolt through the courtroom.

Darensburg ordered her bailiff to clear the hallway. Moments later, the judge vacated her contempt order and released Cheatteam from custody. However, Cheatteam was sent to a juvenile facility in another jurisdiction for reasons that were not discussed openly in court because of her age.

“Good luck to you, Miss Cheatteam,” Darensburg told the girl.

Hufft said in opening statements Wednesday that Cheatteam has been uncooperative. While the prosecutors have another witness who saw events that preceded the shooting, Cheatteam is the only witness alleged to have seen the shooting itself.

Detectives learned she witnessed the crime while interviewing people who called 911 to report gunfire, Detective Jeffrey Rodrigue testified. He described her as “very” young but “very calm” and “very cooperative” when he and Sgt. Kevin Decker questioned her at the Sheriff’s Office investigations bureau in Harvey until almost midnight.

Authorities allege Williams was thrown to the ground by Redmond, 42. Redmond then ran through an open field off Angus Drive, and crossed a concrete-lined drainage canal while Williams chased after him armed with a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol.

A deputy dispatched to investigate reports of gunfire, Eric Blandford, testified he found Redmond’s body on the grassy shoulder of Florence Street where it dead-ends at the canal near Esther Street. Witnesses claim Williams ran back toward an awaiting white sedan on Angus and fled. He was arrested days later at a friend’s home in Marrero by SWAT officers.

Williams denies being the shooter, and his public defender Joe Perez repeatedly called into question a Sheriff’s Office policy in which detectives “interrogate” witnesses and suspects in what they call “pre-interviews,” before recording the formal statements that juries later hear. Perez questioned several witnesses about the interviews, including Rodrigue about his contact with Cheatteam. Following about an hour of pre-interview, Cheatteam gave a 14-minute taped statement, according to testimony.

In opening statements, Perez told the jury Cheatteam has given “multiple renditions” of what she saw. As such, Perez alleged, prosecutors threatened “what would happen to her if she did not cooperate.”

Darensburg declared a mistrial Thursday after hearing a report from one juror that another juror had made derogatory comments about Perez’s case, alleging it was “smoke and mirrors,” Perez said. Judges routinely instruct juries not to discuss the case among themselves, because such discussions should be reserved for deliberations after all evidence is presented.

Darensburg opened a hearing in which several jurors were individually questioned, after which Perez asked for a mistrial. Darensburg granted the request.

Williams’ new trial is now set to begin July 25. Cheatteam has been subpoenaed to be there, court records show.

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Life Saver Crushed While In US Mail System Brings Iowa City Police And An Evacuation

May 21, 2011

IOWA CITY, IOWA – The man who opened the suspicious letter containing a white powder said he believes the sender was “just trying to sell him life insurance.”

Thomas Farnsworth, a criminal defense lawyer at the law office of J. Dean Keagan, 103 College Street, in Iowa City, said he opened the letter Thursday afternoon. Farnsworth said the letter was addressed to him.

“There was tape on it, and it was hand written,” Farnsworth said.

According to Farnsworth he found a white powder inside the envelope. Police later told him that there was a note inside the envelope that read, “Our meeting together could be a lifesaver.”

Police also told Farnsworth that they believe the powder was a crushed lifesaver.

“I don’t think it was malicious,” said Farnsworth. The life saver was likely crushed at the post office when the letter was in transit, Farnsworth said.

Police would not confirm that the white powder was a crushed lifesaver, and said the investigation is ongoing.

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Pima County Arizona SWAT Team Shoots Iraq War Veteran In His Home 60 Times – Lied Saying He Shot First – Delayed Medical Attention For 1 Hour – Details Hidden From The Public

May 21, 2011

TUCSON, ARIZONA – A Tucson, Ariz., SWAT team defends shooting an Iraq War veteran 60 times during a drug raid, although it declines to say whether it found any drugs in the house and has had to retract its claim that the veteran shot first.

And the Pima County sheriff scolded the media for “questioning the legality” of the shooting.

Jose Guerena, 26, died the morning of May 5. He was asleep in his Tucson home after working a night shift at the Asarco copper mine when his wife, Vanessa, saw the armed SWAT team outside her youngest son’s bedroom window.

“She saw a man pointing at her with a gun,” said Reyna Ortiz, 29, a relative who is caring for Vanessa and her children. Ortiz said Vanessa Guerena yelled, “Don’t shoot! I have a baby!”

Vanessa Guerena thought the gunman might be part of a home invasion — especially because two members of her sister-in-law’s family, Cynthia and Manny Orozco, were killed last year in their Tucson home, her lawyer, Chris Scileppi, said. She shouted for her husband in the next room, and he woke up and told his wife to hide in the closet with the child, Joel, 4.
PHOTO: SWAT officers fired at least 71 shots at suspect Jose Guerena, a former U.S. Marine.
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Guerena grabbed his assault rifle and was pointing it at the SWAT team, which was trying to serve a narcotics search warrant as part of a multi-house drug crackdown, when the team broke down the door. At first the Pima County Sheriff’s Office said that Guerena fired first, but on Wednesday officials backtracked and said he had not. “The safety was on and he could not fire,” according to the sheriff’s statement.

Tucson SWAT Team Shot Iraq War Vet 60 Times

SWAT team members fired 71 times and hit Guerena 60 times, police said.

In a frantic 911 call, Vanessa Guerena begged for medical help for her husband. “He’s on the floor!” she said, crying, to the 911 operator. “Can you please hurry up?”

Asked if law enforcement was inside or outside the house, she told the operator, according to a transcript of the call, that they were inside. “They were … going to shoot me. And I put my kid in front of me.”

A report by ABC News affiliate KGUN found that more than an hour had passed before the SWAT team let the paramedics work on Guerena. By then he was dead.

A spokesman for Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said he could not discuss whether any drugs had been found at the home or make any other comment. “We’re waiting for the investigation to be complete,” he said.

In a statement, the sheriff’s office criticized the media, saying that while questions will inevitably be raised, “It is unacceptable and irresponsible to couch those questions with implications of secrecy and a coverup, not to mention questioning the legality of actions that could not have been taken without the approval of an impartial judge.”

Mike Storie, a lawyer for the SWAT team, said at a press conference Thursday that weapons and body armor were found in the home as well as a photo of Jesus Malverde, who Storie called a “patron saint drug runner,” according to KGUN.

Storie defended the long delay in allowing paramedics to enter the home, saying of the SWAT team, “They still don’t know how many shooters are inside, how many guns are inside and they still have to assume that they will be ambushed if they walk in this house.”

But Scileppi, Vanessa Guerena’s lawyer, said officers were “circling their wagons.”

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IRS Screwups Delay Tax Refunds For Months…

May 20, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – It’s perhaps the very definition of Red Tape. Four years ago, Congress decided that the IRS should get into the banking business, authorizing it to give out no-interest loans to first-time homebuyers. That put the agency in the position of both collecting loan payments and issuing tax refunds to the roughly 1 million taxpayers who took advantage of the program.

This year, the odd arrangement overwhelmed IRS systems, and an unspecified number of taxpayers have been forced to wait four months or more for their tax refunds. In fact, many are still waiting.

“This is frustrating for taxpayers, and it’s frustrating for us,” said IRS spokesman Terry Lemons. “We deeply apologize.”

Making matters worse, taxpayers caught up in the vortex say they’ve been promised delivery dates for their refunds repeatedly, only to be disappointed or to discover their returns have been placed back into “error” status.

One of those taxpayers who’s been tantalized by repeated promises of a refund check is Tia Littlejohn, who lives in Maryland just outside Washington, D.C. She and her husband are planning to use their expected $6,800 refund to pay for in vitro fertilization. She’s had to postpone the procedure twice because promised tax refund dates have come and gone without payment.

“At this point, I may have to just cancel it,” she said. “It’s really affecting our household. It’s very stressful.”

Her litany of hope and disappointment is typical.

“Our return was processed February 19 with a refund date of March 4. Well, March 4 came and went. Since then we have been waiting, every other week we have a different error code and the date of a possible direct deposit,” she said. “On April 27 they told me they told me my return was done and ‘out of error.’ Last week they told me I should receive it May 20. Then (Wednesday) I looked and it’s gone back into error again.”

Lemons said the IRS has devoted a lot of extra labor toward solving the problem and began manually processing the returns after the problem was discovered in February. The number of victims has been whittled to “a few thousand taxpayers,” he said.

More on the First Time Homebuyer tax credit

That’s cold comfort to people who have been waiting months for thousands of dollars. A Facebook group devoted to taxpayers caught up in the mess now has more than 3,000 members; they write daily about their mind-numbing frustrations. Many are now being told their returns won’t arrive until mid-June.

“I had a date, and a second date … and now I’m back at 1201 (error). My advocate said that it’s just sitting there. WTF IRS?” Jannae Leonard Powell wrote Thursday.

The Facebook page has become a support group for some, a place where taxpayers share tips on the best time to call , the best number to call and how to reach the most helpful phone agents. Littlejohn said many in the group have received frequent rude treatment, so they just hang up repeatedly until a “nice” agent answers.

“Some are very nice, but some are very nasty and basically say, ‘I don’t know what else to tell you. You are just going have to wait,'” she said.

All the taxpayers involved in the glitch took advantage of a one-time, misnamed First Time Homebuyer tax “credit” offered during the 2008 tax year, a program that turned out to be a meager effort by Congress to prop up the then-imploding housing market. Homebuyers who took advantage didn’t actually receive a credit — they were granted what was essentially an interest-free loan of up to $7,500, to be paid back in $500 increments starting in 2010. Subsequent versions of the program granted homebuyers an outright tax credit, so the 2008 users already have something to moan about.

Lemons said IRS systems weren’t set up to handle the many variables that ultimately came from the program, such as how to calculate repayment of the loans if buyers got divorced, or ended up in foreclosure. One particularly vexing and unexpected problem: Many taxpayers are paying more than the minimum $500 annual payment in an effort to pay off the loan early.

“That has complicated matters,” he said. “These are well-intentioned homeowners, but our initial programming was that payments would be spread out equally over 15 years.” Programmers of complex systems will understand this as a typical problem of “unexpected input.”

Stephanie Vega used the tax break loan to buy a house in 2008 and accommodate her growing family shortly after she had twins. The family bought a foreclosure property that needed major cosmetic repair at the time — and still does. They planned to use this year’s refund to repair their master bathroom, which has been essentially unusable since the purchase.

“When I called at the end of March, they said they were going to get everyone who was affected by this their money by April 5th,” Vega said. “That came and went, and obviously no money. … They all contradict what the one before them say. You just don’t know who to believe.”

Vega, like many of the other taxpayers, has been assigned an agent in the IRS Taxpayer Advocate’s Office, but she said that hasn’t helped much.

“Normally, I am not a pushy person, and so usually I just sit back and wait. I don’t like to be a pain or a bother, but we are needing our money now,” Vega said. “I just feel like the complete lack of communication, along with the IRS seemingly just sweeping this problem under the rug, is so unfair and unjust.”

Amy Royer, 37, had to wait more than three months, but she just received her $4,700 refund last Friday. Even so, she still feels angry about her interactions with the IRS.

“The whole thing was a pretty bad experience,” she said. “Most of the frustration came because of the inconsistency, the different stories we got about the status of our refunds. It was a fiasco, really.”

Royer had also planned to use her refund to take care of a medical procedure. Because she was promised a refund on March 8, she went ahead with sinus surgery on March 1 and paid with credit, assuming the refund money would arrive and cover the bill. The refund’s tardiness caused her to pay high interest and set her blood boiling.

“The whole time, I was saying, ‘I would have a different feeling about things if we were getting real answers,'” she said. “It’s our money, not their money.”

With the problem having shrunk to a few thousand taxpayers, it might be hard to understand why the IRS hasn’t been able to manually overcome its computer issues and issue refunds. Lemons said that the agency is trying but that the problem arose at the worst possible time.

“This time of year, we have tens of millions of tax returns coming in. It’s all hitting at the busiest time of year,” he said. “Our people have been hustling for weeks to get this thing squared away, but the bottom line is there are people who have not gotten refunds yet, and we deeply apologize.”

RED TAPE WRESTLING TIPS

Many consumers enjoy the rush of a large tax refund check and use their regular payroll deductions as a kind of forced savings plan. That’s a bad idea.

This Red Tape tale is a good reminder to all that now is a good time to double-check your regular payroll deduction. There is no good reason to overpay federal taxes during the year in order to build up a large tax refund. That amounts to no-interest loan to the government, and you are better off keeping that money throughout the year and putting it in the bank yourself. Obviously, it’s better for you to receive the interest, rather than Uncle Sam. But perhaps more important, in an economy where even Standard & Poor’s is beginning to doubt Washington’s ability to pay its bills and where the federal government faces threatened work shutdowns annually, it’s bad to trust your money to the whim of Uncle Sam. In the past, state governments have delayed issuing refunds to help close budget gaps — it’s not unthinkable that Congress could try that someday.

If you received a large refund this year, that’s nothing to celebrate. You should adjust your payroll withholding accordingly, ASAP.

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New York Airport TSA Screener Sneaks On Board Flight To Dominican Republic – Caught Mid-Flight And Plane Returned To NY

May 20, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – A Dominican Republic-bound JetBlue flight made a U-turn and headed back to Kennedy Airport after the pilot discovered a scamming TSA screener had sneaked aboard, The Post has learned.

The bizarre incident last Saturday inconvenienced 150 legit passengers and wasted tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of fuel.

Carlos Rodriguez, 30, got an employee pass from a pal who works for JetBlue, but he was told at the gate that the flight was sold out, sources said.

Insisting that he was authorized to use a jump seat in the cabin, he caught the pilot’s attention 45 minutes into the flight.

Rodriguez was barred from the airport pending results of the probe.

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Dumbass TSA Officials Hold Training Drill At St. Paul Minnesota Airport, But Don’t Bother To Tell Police

May 19, 2011

ST PAUL, MINNESOTA – With their guns drawn, police surrounded a man who reportedly was trying to get through security at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport with a bomb in a carry-on bag.

It was a drill, but the trouble was no one had told the cops, who thought it was real.

“I think a lot of people were alarmed,” Patrick Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airport Commission, said of last week’s incident. “There is always a danger that someone could have gotten hurt. It was unfortunate.”

The routine drill conducted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began about 2:40 p.m. last Thursday, when a man with a fake bomb in his bag attempted to get through the security at checkpoint 2, which is near the United, American and U.S. Airways airlines ticketing counters, Hogan said. The screener identified what looked to be an explosive device and immediately notified authorities.

The police quickly evacuated the ticketing area and mall area, and with their guns drawn, confronted the man, Hogan said.

Within seconds, TSA officials notified police that the bomb was fake and the incident was merely a drill to test the response of screeners and the communication system. For security reasons, Hogan declined to say how many officers responded to the incident.

TSA spokeswoman Carrie Harmon said the agency routinely conducts thousands of covert tests each year at airports across the country. Last week’s test at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport ended up being a little too real because of “miscommunication” between the TSA and police, she said.

“TSA continues to review this incident but took immediate steps to ensure the correct procedures will be followed in the future,” Harmon said.

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Teens Who Spent Two Years In Jail On Bogus Murder Charges Released After Gwinnett County Georgia Prosecutors Decide They Didn’t Do It

May 18, 2011

GWINNETT COUNTY, GEORGIA – After spending two years in a youth detention center, two 16-year-old boys were freed on bond Monday when Gwinnett County prosecutors dropped murder charges against them.

Vino Wong, AJC Michael White, left, and Brandon Ennis were accused of killing a man in Gwinnett Tuesday, July 21, 2009. Murder charges have been dropped against both.
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Prosecutors said further investigation revealed Michael Anthony White and Brandon Ennis were not active participants in a shooting June 11, 2009, outside White’s home on Caboose Court in Lawrenceville. The teenagers will still be prosecuted in juvenile court, but their charges will be substantially downgraded.

White and Ennis did not take part in the shooting, but Gwinnett County Assistant District Attorney Mike McDaniel alleged that they did not tell police the truth about what happened.

McDaniel said he is not sure yet what charges they will face, but it won’t be murder or manslaughter. The charges will more likely be related to withholding information from police.

“We are still in a state of flux with regard to the juvenile case,” McDaniel said.

White and Ennis were 14-year-old students at Richards Middle School in Lawrenceville when they were arrested following a shooting that killed one man and wounded another.

The boys were asleep on a plane at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, having just returned from a trip to California, when they were arrested about a month after the shooting.

Their arrests prompted an outcry from their parents, who said the boys were not guilty but were taken as “hostages” by police in an effort to sort out what happened.

Ennis’ mother, Suzette Ennis, declined to discuss the case when reached at home Monday.

“We’re just getting home from court and waiting to see if we can go pick our children up,” Ennis said.

Defense attorney Stan Sunderland, who represents White, said both boys were released on signature bond Monday afternoon. He said White’s incarceration has been devastating for his family. Sunderland said White has kept up with his schoolwork the past few years and is “an excellent high school football prospect.”

“He missed two seasons being locked up, and that’s devastating to someone that’s a gifted athlete,” Sunderland said. “He’s not happy with what transpired, but I think he is looking forward to the future.”

Asked whether his client regrets not cooperating with police, Sunderland said White’s behavior stemmed from being raised in a low-income neighborhood where people are wary of police and believe “the only thing worse than being a police officer is being a snitch.”

Authorities say a man who had been staying with White’s family — Kevin Henderson, 22, of Oakland, Calif. — is responsible for firing gunshots into the victims’ car. Henderson pleaded guilty Friday to voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison followed by eight years of probation.

Carl Judson, 19, and Demitrius White, 21, were among eight people who drove in two cars to Michael Anthony White’s home on Caboose Court to fight someone they knew as “Greg.”

The group was angry at “Greg,” who allegedly knew White’s mother, because they believed he snitched on someone in an unrelated case, Sunderland said.

Authorities believe the group confronted Ennis and Michael Anthony White outside the house. The boys went inside and told Henderson that people outside were threatening to shoot up their home. McDaniel said Henderson then walked outside and fired a gun into the car. Judson was shot in the arm. Demitrius White was killed.

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Brooksville Florida Police Officer Marc Davidoff Fired After Trying To Kiss Female Inmate

May 18, 2011

BROOKSVILLE, FLORIDA — A Brooksville police officer has been fired after he was accused of trying to kiss a female inmate from the Hernando County Detention Center.

In a termination letter written Monday to Officer Marc Davidoff, Brooksville police Chief George Turner alluded to “inappropriate conduct and behavior” and outlined eight department standards Davidoff had allegedly violated.

“It’s obviously conduct that’s unbecoming of a police officer. It’s bad for her and it’s bad for us,” Turner said. “There was no way he was going to continue to be employed here.”

The female inmate, who was cleaning the department as part of her duties as a trusty, went into the patrol room putting tape away between 11 and 11:45 a.m. on May 5, an internal affairs investigation showed. When she turned around, the report said, Davidoff was standing behind her; he then grabbed her by the hand, wrapped his other hand around her neck and pulled her toward him trying to kiss her.

She pushed him away and quickly left the room, the report indicated.

Soon after, she reported it to Detective Bryan Drinkard, who then informed Turner and Capt. Rick Hankins. Within hours, they placed a concealed recording device on her to wear while Davidoff transported her back to the jail.

During the drive, Davidoff asked the woman what she thought about the incident, admitted several times that he had tried to kiss her and again asked what she thought about it.

Davidoff also told the inmate he would try to help her find a job “because he has faith in her and likes her,” according to a summary of the recording. He also asked her to call him when she was released.

“It’s cops like him that give you all a bad name,” the woman later told investigators.

The department has sent its findings to the State Attorney’s Office to determine if authorities will file criminal charges against Davidoff. Davidoff, Turner said, did not deny any of the allegations when he was confronted with them.

Davidoff, who was hired before Turner became chief, had worked at the department for about six years. Turner said he had never before been accused of anything like this.

Davidoff was injured about a month before the incident and had been working in the office since then. The day of the alleged misconduct was the day before he was returning to regular duty.

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Pedophile Police Officer Wannabe Arrested In San Diego California After Telling On Himself In Application

May 18, 2011

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA — A man who applied for a job as a San Diego police officer was arrested after answers on his application raised red flags.

On his questionnaire to work for the San Diego Police Department, Robert Williams had to answer questions about crimes he might have committed.

A search warrant affidavit lists question No. 172 from Williams’ applicant questionnaire as trouble.

The question, which asked applicants if they have ever had sexual contact with a child, had a yes answer.

Question No. 175, which asked applicants if they have ever viewed, purchased, sold or subscribed to child pornography, also received a yes response.

10News learned there were two more flagged questions and responses.

Police then searched Williams’ car and apartment, confiscated computers and hard drives and arrested him.

Williams had lived at an apartment in Chula Vista for about a week. A man who answered the door told 10News, “He was a guest and he’s no longer living here. He won’t live here anymore.”

In April, Williams had moved in with a woman and her son in east San Diego.

“I did a favor and brought him in because he had nowhere to go and he gave me a sob story,” said Rory Shipp.

She said one day she turned on her computer and found a strange file after Williams left his hard drive hooked up.

“And when I opened the file, it was a little girl in blue and she was coming out of her clothes, playing with a little thing in her mouth. Oh my God, tears came out of my eyes. It was a home video,” she said.

Shipp said she kicked him out that day.

“He goes, ‘There’s nothing wrong with downloading it, Rory, nothing at all. Looking at it and downloading it, that’s okay.’ I said, ‘Are you sick?'” said Shipp.

Williams’ wife, Sunem, called 10News to read a statement from him. It said, “The San Diego Police Department has problems with the integrity of their officers because telling the truth during the hiring process brings prosecution upon those seeking employment. Mr. Williams told the truth, revealing his secrets, his thoughts, and his past. But he remains innocent of all charges they have illegally obtained. He is seeking expert counsel, pro bono.”

Williams was booked at the George Bailey Detention Facility. His bail was set at $150,000.

He is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.

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State Of Georgia Sent Business Mail With Profane Word In Address Line

May 18, 2011

ROME, Ga. — The state launched an investigation after a government employee sent a package to a metro Atlanta cleaning company with a profane word in the address line.

“I looked at the envelope and my jaw dropped,” Rug Suckers manager Pepper Powell told Channel 2’s Eric Philips .

Rug Suckers is a family-owned carpet cleaning business based out of Rome. Last month, the business received official forms from the Georgia Department of Labor sent in an envelope with an official seal.

“Our company name is Rug Suckers and there was a foul word in place of the Suckers,” Powell said. “I’m upset. One, my kids saw it. Two, the state of Georgia is not going to issue a business license like that, and three, that she tried to blame it on me,” Powell said.

The Department of Labor employee who addressed the envelope left Powell a voicemail blaming the error on miscommunication.

“I understood you to say that the company’s name was rug *uckers,” the employee said. “I asked you twice and you replied, ‘yes it was.’ I don’t talk like that, but I am apologizing if I got that wrong.”

Powell disputes the employee’s story.

“I did not say it and even if I did, she should have gotten a second opinion from someone,” Powell said.

The Department of Labor is investigating this situation and has suspended the worker involved. An official said they take the issue very seriously.

“It went through post office people’s hands and others saw it. It was kind of an embarrassment,” Powell said.

Rug Suckers management told Philips they don’t necessarily want to see the state worker lose her job. Department of Labor officials said they’ll take whatever action they deem necessary at the end of their investigation. In the meantime, they’ve apologized to Rug Suckers at least twice.

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Illegal Immigrants Get Affirmative Action – Better Treatment Than US Citizens And Legal Immigrants

May 17, 2011

This week, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a bill to require the state’s public universities to give undocumented aliens — generally illegal — in-state tuition privileges.

The bill, known as the Dream Act, is already the law in ten other states, including California, New York, Texas and Illinois.

But critics argue that the bill will give illegal aliens better treatment than Americans and legal immigrants — thanks to existing diversity policies at universities.

University of Maryland (College Park) computer science Prof. James Purtilo told FoxNews.com that, during his time as an associate dean, he frequently saw admission officers favor students because of their “undocumented” status.

“They favor students with special circumstances. ‘Undocumented alien’ would be one of these special circumstances… They help fill out the diversity picture for the admissions office.”

“It was just the norm,” Purtillo added, “that obviously we need more of these students [undocumented aliens]… ‘this student has a real story to tell’ would be a common thing the admissions officers would say. Or that ‘they’re enriching the College Park experience.'”

University of Maryland spokesman Millree Williams said because admissions staff were either busy with commencement ceremonies or on vacation, he was unable to answer questions about the university’s affirmative action policies as of Tuesday morning.

Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa de Maryland, which pushed for the bill, said he thought the concern over affirmative action was a non-issue. He noted that in the current system, undocumented immigrants are discriminated against in many ways.

“I don’t see how [they could have an advantage.] Those kids don’t qualify for anything at this point – their only benefit right now is in-state tuition. They can’t get scholarships or anything.”
President Obama also renewed his push last week for a national Dream Act, which would go further and provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students.

“We should stop punishing innocent young people for the actions of their parents,” Obama said at the Mexico-Texas border on Tuesday. “We should stop denying them the chance to earn an education or serve in the military. And that’s why we need to pass the DREAM Act.”

Critics of the Dream acts say that affirmative action is simply built into the system for most illegal immigrants.

“Almost everyone who would benefit from the DREAM act would also benefit from affirmative action,” Steven Camarota, the research director for the think tank Center for Immigration Studies told FoxNews.com.

“A state school wouldn’t say, well, you’re a Dream Act kid, so you don’t get affirmative action,” he added. “I worked in admissions at a small college for a while (at Juniata, Pa.) and the affirmative action stuff just runs on auto pilot. If you check the box, you get put in the [affirmative action] applicant pool. That’s just how it works.

“We have to ask the question: Can you have mass immigration and affirmative action? Does that lead to a just social policy?”

Affirmative action benefits can be substantial. A study of selective universities by Princeton sociologists Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford found that listing one’s race as “Hispanic” instead of ‘White” increased the likelihood of being admitted by the same amount as scoring an extra 130 points on the SAT. Compared to Asians, the study found, Hispanics receive a 240-point advantage.

Has this played out in states that have already passed Dream Acts? California, which has had a Dream Act since 2001, would seem immune due to a state law forbidding universities from using race as a factor in admissions.

University of California spokesman Ricardo Vazquez told FoxNews.com that their policy is to treat “all students equally in the admissions process without regard to their race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.”

“Residency status is not taken into consideration at all in the admissions process,” he also noted.
However, the data show that Hispanic students admitted to the University of California system had lower GPAs and SAT scores than White or Asian students who came from families with similar incomes. For example, admitted Hispanic students whose parents made more than $120,000/year had an average SAT score of 1749, while Asian students with parents making that much had an average of 1890, 151 points higher. For Whites it was 1844.

A similar pattern holds for GPAs, and for individual schools within the University of California system. Scores are not separated by legal residency status.

Vazquez said the differences in scores were not due to race, but rather “the school context in which an applicant studied, a broad variety of both academic and nonacademic achievements and talents, and a range of family circumstances beyond income and parental education level.”

Back in Maryland, Purtilo said that one reason he is speaking out about his university’s practices is that he feels they are unfair to U.S. citizens.

“Too bad for the very well prepared student, a U.S. citizen and taxpayer in this state, whose parents might once have thought their kids should have a shot at the flagship campus,” he said.

Dream Act supporters question what is wrong with applying the same policies that apply to citizens – even if it’s affirmative action – to undocumented students. And Torres notes that many undocumented immigrants, despite being in the country illegally, do pay taxes.

“[Despite being undocumented] the parents are working anyway — and we actually help those parents have a tax ID number, so they can pay taxes.

“This is about opportunities for people. And we prefer those people to be professionals, because when you are a professional, you pay more taxes — you prosper and make more contributions to society.”

Maryland’s Dream Act differs from the other states’ acts by only granting in-state tuition if the parents of the undocumented student have paid state taxes for at least three years.

“We really have one of the most conservative Dream Acts,” Torres noted, adding that he places his biggest hopes in a national Dream act that includes a path to citizenship.

“We really, really hope it will happen. It is our dream that the state law will be the base for it.”

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Interrogation Of 7th Grader Without Parents Consent Included Secret Service And Tacoma Washington Police

May 17, 2011

TACOMA, WASHINGTON – A Tacoma seventh grader faced federal interrogation at school for what he posted on his Facebook page. His mom said it all happened without her knowledge or permission.

Timi Robertson said she had just finished lunch with a friend Friday when she got a phone call from her son’s school.

“I answered it, and it’s the school security guard who’s giving me a heads up that the Secret Service is here with the Tacoma Police Department and they have Vito and they’re talking to him,” Robertson said.

After Osama bin Laden was killed, 13-year-old Vito LaPinta posted an update to his Facebook status that got the Feds attention.

“I was saying how Osama was dead and for Obama to be careful because there could be suicide bombers,” says LaPinta.

A week later, while Vito was in his fourth period class, he was called in to the principal’s office.

“A man walked in with a suit and glasses and he said he was part of the Secret Service,” LaPinta said. “He told me it was because of a post I made that indicated I was a threat toward the President.”

The Tacoma school district acknowledged a Secret Service agent questioned Vito and that it was a security guard who called Vito’s mom because the principal was on another call. The school district said they didn’t wait for Vito’s mother to get there because they thought she didn’t take the phone call seriously.

“That’s a blatant lie,” Robertson said.

The teen’s mom says she rushed to Truman Middle School immediately and arrived to discover her son had already been questioned for half an hour.

“I just about lost it,” she said. “My 13 year-old son is supposed to be safe and secure in his classroom and he’s being interrogated without my knowledge or consent privately.”

The seventh grader said that once his mom showed up, the agent finished the interview and told him he was not in any trouble. Now he’s more careful about what he posts online.

His mother says she isn’t financially able to take legal action but hopes her family’s story raises awareness about the treatment she said her son endured.

The Seattle branch of the Secret Service did not respond to requests for comment.

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Stock Up On Conventional 10 Watt Light Bulbs – Federally Mandated Replacements May Cost $50 Each In January

May 17, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Two leading makers of lighting products are showcasing LED bulbs that are bright enough to replace energy-guzzling 100-watt light bulbs set to disappear from stores in January.

Their demonstrations at the LightFair trade show in Philadelphia this week mean that brighter LED bulbs will likely go on sale next year, but after a government ban takes effect.

The new bulbs will also be expensive — about $50 each — so the development may not prevent consumers from hoarding traditional bulbs.

The technology in traditional “incandescent” bulbs is more than a century old. Such bulbs waste most of the electricity that feeds them, turning it into heat. The 100-watt bulb, in particular, produces so much heat that it’s used in Hasbro’s Easy-Bake Oven.

To encourage energy efficiency, Congress passed a law in 2007 mandating that bulbs producing 100 watts worth of light meet certain efficiency goals, starting in 2012. Conventional light bulbs don’t meet those goals, so the law will prohibit making or importing them. The same rule will start apply to remaining bulbs 40 watts and above in 2014. Since January, California has already banned stores from restocking 100-watt incandescent bulbs.

Creating good alternatives to the light bulb has been more difficult than expected, especially for the very bright 100-watt bulbs. Part of the problem is that these new bulbs have to fit into lamps and ceiling fixtures designed for older technology.

Compact fluorescents are the most obvious replacement, but they have drawbacks. They contain a small amount of toxic mercury vapor, which is released if they break or are improperly thrown away. They last longer than traditional bulbs but not as long as LEDs. Brighter models are bulky and may not fit in existing fixtures.

Another new lighting technology, organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs, has had problems reaching mass production. OLEDs are glowing sheets or tiles, rather than pinprick light sources, as LEDs are. They’re used as vibrant color screens for smartphones, particularly from Samsung Electronics Co.

But making OLEDs that are big, bright, cheap and long-lasting enough for use as light sources has proved difficult, in part because they use chemicals that are sensitive to oxygen and spoil unless sealed very carefully.

Acuity Brands Inc., an Atlanta-based maker of light fixtures, will be showing some OLED panels at the show. They will go on sale next year, but the price will likely make them technology showpieces rather than candidates for everyday lighting.

LEDs are efficient, durable and produced in great quantities, but they’re still expensive. An LED bulb can contain a dozen light-emitting diodes, or tiny semiconductor chips, which cost about $1 each.

The big problem with LEDs is that although they don’t produce as much heat as incandescent bulbs, the heat they do create shortens the lifespan and reduces the efficiency of the chips. Cramming a dozen chips together in a tight bulb-shaped package that fits in today’s lamps and sockets makes the heat problem worse. The brighter the bulb, the bigger the problem is.

The most powerful pear-shaped LED bulbs in stores today — the kind that fits existing lamps — produce light equivalent to a 60-watt bulb, though there are more powerful ones for directional or flood lighting.

Osram Sylvania, a unit of Germany’s Siemens AG, said it has overcome the heat problem and will be showing a pear-shaped 100-watt-equivalent LED bulb this week. It doesn’t have a firm launch date, but it usually shows products about a year before they hit store shelves.

Lighting Sciences Group Corp., a Satellite Beach, Fla.-based company that specializes in LED lighting, will be showing several 100-watt-equivalent prototypes, including some that solve the problem of cooling the LEDs by using microscopic devices that move air over the chips, like miniature fans.

Before the 100-watters, there will be 75-watters on the shelves this year. Osram Sylvania will be selling them at Lowe’s starting in July. Royal Philips Electronics NV, the world’s biggest lighting maker, will have them in stores late this year for $40 to $45.

However, 60-watt bulbs are the big prize, since they’re the most common. There are 425 million incandescent light bulbs in the 60-watt range in use in the U.S. today, said Zia Eftekhar, the head of Philips’ North American lighting division. The energy savings that could be realized by replacing them with 10-watt LED bulbs is staggering.

To stimulate LED development, the federal government has instituted a $10 million “L Prize” for an energy-efficient replacement for the 60-watt bulb. Philips is so far the only entrant in testing, and Eftekhar expects the company to win it soon. But Lighting Sciences Group plans its own entry, which it will demonstrate at the trade show.

Philips has been selling a 60-watt-equivalent bulb at Home Depot since December that’s quite similar to the one submitted to the contest. But it’s slightly dimmer, consumes 2 watts too much power and costs $40, whereas the L Prize target is $22. Sylvania sells a similar LED bulb at Lowe’s, also for $40.

However, LED prices are coming down quickly. The DoE expects a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb to cost $10 by 2015, putting them within striking range of the price of a compact fluorescent bulb.

Bob Karlicek, the director of the Smart Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., thinks that price is achievable.

But, he said, “it’s not necessarily clear to people in the lighting industry that LED chips were ever meant to go into a bulb.”

What’s really needed, he said, is a new approach to lighting — new fixtures and lamps that spread out the LEDs, avoiding the heat problem.

Appeared Here


Crazed Philadelphia Pennsylvania Police Harass, Threaten To Shoot, And Falsely Charge Man Legally Carrying A Gun

May 17, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – A story in today’s Philadelphia Daily News shows why it’s so important that citizens be allowed to videotape cops – it can be citizens’ only way to fight back against police abuse of power.

This incident happened several weeks ago in Philadelphia to Mark Fiorino, a 25-year-old IT worker who carries a gun on his hip at all times for self defense. He got the gun after several friends were mugged.

But he didn’t count on attacks by police:

On a mild February afternoon, Fiorino, 25, decided to walk to an AutoZone on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Philly with the .40-caliber Glock he legally owns holstered in plain view on his left hip. His stroll ended when someone called out from behind: “Yo, Junior, what are you doing?”

Fiorino wheeled and saw Sgt. Michael Dougherty aiming a handgun at him.

What happened next would be hard to believe, except that Fiorino audio-recorded all of it: a tense, profanity-laced, 40-minute encounter with cops who told him that what he was doing – openly carrying a gun on the city’s streets – was against the law.

“Do you know you can’t openly carry here in Philadelphia?” Dougherty asked, according to the YouTube clip.

“Yes, you can, if you have a license to carry firearms,” Fiorino said. “It’s Directive 137. It’s your own internal directive.”

Fiorino was right. It was perfectly legal to carry the gun. But that didn’t matter to the cop:

Fiorino offered to show Dougherty his driver’s and firearms licenses. The cop told him to get on his knees.

“Excuse me?” Fiorino said.

“Get down on your knees. Just obey what I’m saying,” Dougherty said.

“Sir,” Fiorino replied, “I’m more than happy to stand here -“

“If you make a move, I’m going to f—— shoot you,” Dougherty snapped. “I’m telling you right now, you make a move, and you’re going down!”

“Is this necessary?” Fiorino said.

It went on like that for a little while, until other officers responded to Dougherty’s calls for backup.

Fiorino was forced to the ground and shouted at as he tried to explain that he had a firearms license and was legally allowed to openly carry his weapon.

“You f—— come here looking for f—— problems? Where do you live?” yelled one officer.

“I’m sorry, gentlemen,” Fiorino said. “If I’m under arrest, I have nothing left to say.”

“F—— a——, shut the f— up!” the cop hollered.

The cops discovered his recorder as they searched his pockets, and unleashed another string of expletives.

Fiorino said he sat handcuffed in a police wagon while the officers made numerous phone calls to supervisors, trying to find out if they could lock him up.

When they learned that they were in the wrong, they let him go.

But only temporarily. Fiorino posted the audio recordings on youtube, and now they are harassing him again:

A new investigation was launched, and last month the District Attorney’s Office decided to charge Fiorino with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct because, a spokeswoman said, he refused to cooperate with police… He’s scheduled for trial in July.

If one listens to the audiotapes, it’s hard to imagine how a reasonable person could charge Fiorino (and not the cops) for disorderly conduct.

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Scientists Dispute TSA Claims Over Safety Of Full Body X-Ray Scanners In Airport

May 16, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The Transportation Security Administration says its full-body X-ray scanners are safe and that radiation from a scan is equivalent to what’s received in about two minutes of flying. The company that makes them says it’s safer than eating a banana.

But some scientists with expertise in imaging and cancer say the evidence made public to support those claims is unreliable. And in a new letter sent to White House science adviser John Holdren, they question why the TSA won’t make the scanners available for independent testing by outside scientists.

The machines, which are designed to reveal objects hidden under clothing, have the potential to close a significant security gap for the TSA because metal detectors can’t find explosives or ceramic knives, which can be just as sharp as the box cutters that hijackers used on 9/11.

They are also important for TSA’s public relations battle over the alternative, the “enhanced pat-down,” which has bred an epidemic of viral videos: A 6-year-old girl is touched from head to toe. A former Miss USA says she was violated. A software programmer warns a screener, “If you touch my junk, I’m going to have you arrested.”

After the underwear bomber tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane on Christmas Day 2009, the TSA ramped up deployment of full-body scanners and plans to have them at nearly every security line by 2014.

There are two types of body scanners. Millimeter wave machines emit a radio frequency similar to cellphones. Backscatters work like a fast-moving X-ray. In the latter, the rays bounce off the skin and create a fuzzy white image of the passenger’s body. Because the beam doesn’t go through the body, most of its radiation is received by the skin.

The TSA says the backscatter technology has been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Survey teams are using radiation-detecting dosimeters to check the machines at airports. The TSA says the results have all confirmed that the scanners don’t pose a significant risk to public health.

According to the agency and many radiation experts, the dose is so low, even for children or cancer patients, that someone would have to pass through the machines more than a thousand times before approaching the annual limit set by radiation safety organizations.

But the letter to the White House science adviser, signed by five professors at University of California, San Francisco, and one at Arizona State University, points out several flaws in the tests. Studies published in scientific journals in the last few months have also cast doubt on the radiation dose and the machines’ ability to find explosives.

A number of scientists, including some who believe the radiation is trivial, say more testing should be done given the government’s plans to put millions of passengers through the machines. And they have been disturbed by the TSA’s reluctance to do so.

“There’s no real data on these machines, and in fact, the best guess of the dose is much, much higher than certainly what the public thinks,” said John Sedat, a professor emeritus in biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF and the primary author of the letter.

The same group stirred controversy last year when it sent a letter to Holdren arguing that while the overall dose to the body may be low, the TSA hadn’t quantified the dose to the skin. Last fall, FDA and TSA officials released a study that estimated the dose to the skin to be twice the dose to the body, though still extremely low.

In the most recent letter sent to Holdren on April 28, the professors note that the Johns Hopkins lab didn’t test an actual airport machine. Instead, the tests were done on a model built by the manufacturer, Rapiscan, and configured to resemble a system previously tested by the TSA.

The researchers’ names have been kept secret, and the report on the tests is so “heavily redacted” that “there is no way to repeat any of these measurements,” they wrote.

The physics and medical professors also took issue with the device used to measure the radiation. Although the device, known as an ion chamber, is commonly used to test medical equipment, they argue that the detector gets overwhelmed by the amount of radiation the backscatter deposits in a short time and might not provide accurate readings.

Helen Worth, a spokeswoman for the Johns Hopkins lab, referred questions to the TSA.

Part of the trouble is that there is no ideal device for measuring the radiation dose given by backscatter X-rays, said David Brenner, director of the Columbia University Center for Radiological Research. The machines emit a pencil beam that rapidly moves across and up and down the body, he said.

“We are one of the oldest and biggest radiological research centers in the country, and we find this to be a very hard technical problem,” said Brenner, who was not involved with the letter.

Another issue is that there is a lot of uncertainty with the model used to estimate cancer risk from radiation exposure to the skin, said Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a UCSF radiologist who also was not involved in the letter.

Smith-Bindman, who has testified before Congress about excessive radiation from medical scans, studied the TSA reports and said she wasn’t concerned about the airport X-rays.

The risks are “truly trivial,” she wrote in an article for the Archives of Internal Medicine. A passenger would have to undergo 50 airport scans to reach the level of a dental X-ray, 1,000 for a chest X-ray, and 4,000 for a mammogram.

Though imperfect, the available models predict that the backscatters would lead to only six cancers over the course of a lifetime among the approximately 100 million people who fly every year, Smith-Bindman concluded.

“There’s really unnecessary fear related to these scans,” she said. “What I’m not as comfortable with is that there has not been access to these machines. They are not being tested on the same regulatory basis that we see on medical equipment.”

After her article was published, Smith-Bindman was contacted by a TSA public affairs officer. During the conversation, she suggested that she or other outside scientists be allowed to test the machine. The official was shocked by the suggestion and said such access could tip off people who want to avoid detection, Smith-Bindman said.

“It was not appreciating that there’s legitimate scientific questions that have to be balanced against the security questions,” she said.

The TSA did not respond to ProPublica’s questions about why it wouldn’t allow outside testing. But at a congressional hearing in March, Robin Kane, assistant administrator for security technology, said doing so would expose a lot of sensitive information the agency wouldn’t normally share publicly. The machines had already been tested several times, he said, and if set up securely, the agency would allow more testing.

The available information leaves scientists with little to work with. Peter Rez, the Arizona State physics professor who signed the letter to Holdren, has tried to calculate the radiation by examining the handful of backscatter images that have been released publicly.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group, sued the Department of Homeland Security, TSA’s parent agency, in federal court seeking release of 2,000 backscatter images used in testing. But it has not been successful.

The few images that have been made public do not reveal faces or detailed private features. The TSA says the images Rez used are out of date, but Rez says the current image on TSA’s website is unusable.

Using the earlier images, Rez concluded in the Radiation Protection Dosimetry journal that it was highly unlikely the machines could have produced such high-quality images with doses of radiation as low as those described by TSA. He estimated the dose, while still very small, is 45 times higher than the results measured by Johns Hopkins.

Applying Rez’s numbers, Brenner wrote a paper for the journal Radiology, estimating that 100 additional cancers would develop for every 1 billion scans.

For Rez, the real danger occurs if the machine stops in the middle of a scan, allowing the beam to focus on a tiny area for several seconds. Given that the backscatter works with a wheel rotating at a high speed, and that the agency plans to use the scanners continuously 365 days a year, mechanical failures are likely, he said.

The TSA says that the scanners have safety systems, such as automatic shutoffs and emergency stop buttons, that will kill the beam in the event of any problem that could result in abnormal radiation. How those fail-safe systems work isn’t entirely clear.

When Johns Hopkins researchers visited the Rapiscan facility, the automatic termination appeared to work. But the full results of the shutoff tests are redacted.

What’s more, the test system didn’t have an emergency stop button.

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Two New York City Police Officers With Past Whore Hiring Issues Suspected In Long Island Serial Prostitute Killings

May 15, 2011

NEW, YORK, NEW YORK – Two NYPD cops are being eyed in the Long Island serial slayings after investigators learned they got into trouble for hiring prostitutes while working for the department, according to sources familiar with the probe.

One cop was forced out of the job in the 1990s when his supervisors learned he spent time pursuing hookers and paying street walkers and down-and-out women for sex while he was supposed to be on patrol.

An internal investigation led to his resigning under pressure, one source said.

The other officer still works for the NYPD but was stripped of his gun and badge years ago because he allegedly assaulted a prostitute and got arrested during a sting operation.
MYSTERY:One retired and one working NYPD cop — both with past troubles involving prostitutes — are being eyed in the ongoing investigation of the serial killings of call girls Maureen Brainard-Barnes (above), Megan Waterman, Amber Lynn Costello and Melissa Barthelemy.
MYSTERY:One retired and one working NYPD cop — both with past troubles involving prostitutes — are being eyed in the ongoing investigation of the serial killings of call girls Maureen Brainard-Barnes (above), Megan Waterman, Amber Lynn Costello and Melissa Barthelemy.

The woman complained to police supervisors about the officer but no criminal charges were filed and an internal probe went nowhere, sources said.

The patrolman was allowed to return to the force, they said, though he was placed on modified duty — transferred to a paper-pushing job in Manhattan where he’s not allowed to make arrests or respond to emergencies.

“They couldn’t prove anything, but they didn’t trust him,” said one source.

It’s unclear if the disgraced cops know each other or what evidence investigators might have against them in the serial murders.

The Suffolk County Police Department would not comment for this story, and prosecutors did not return messages.

Sources said Suffolk County detectives began looking at the NYPD cops last month after determining the killer likely worked in law enforcement or was familiar with police techniques.

They’ve focused on how the murderer abducted his victims and if he used insider knowledge to avoid being detected.

Investigators suspect the killer hired the hookers through Craigslist, using a disposable and untraceable cellphone to make appointments.

He also used the cellphone of one victim to call and taunt the woman’s teenage sister after he’d abducted her.

Cops traced two of those calls — to Midtown and Massapequa, LI, which is not far from where the killer ditched the bodies of four hookers just off sand-swept Ocean Parkway near Gilgo Beach.

He’d strangled them, removed all their clothing and wrapped the corpses in burlap sacks before leaving the bodies in thick brush off the desolate causeway.

The four call girls found last year have been identified as Amber Lynn Costello, 27, of North Babylon, LI; Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough, Maine; Melissa Barthelemy, 24, who went missing from The Bronx; and Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, of Norwich, Conn.

The cops are not the sole focus of the investigation, which has expanded over the last several weeks, sources said.

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Crazed Indiana Court Says Cops Can Illegally Invade Anyones Home At Any Time And Residents Have No Right To Resist

May 14, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.

In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer’s entry.

“We believe … a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence,” David said. “We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest.”

David said a person arrested following an unlawful entry by police still can be released on bail and has plenty of opportunities to protest the illegal entry through the court system.

The court’s decision stems from a Vanderburgh County case in which police were called to investigate a husband and wife arguing outside their apartment.

When the couple went back inside their apartment, the husband told police they were not needed and blocked the doorway so they could not enter. When an officer entered anyway, the husband shoved the officer against a wall. A second officer then used a stun gun on the husband and arrested him.

Professor Ivan Bodensteiner, of Valparaiso University School of Law, said the court’s decision is consistent with the idea of preventing violence.

“It’s not surprising that they would say there’s no right to beat the hell out of the officer,” Bodensteiner said. “(The court is saying) we would rather opt on the side of saying if the police act wrongfully in entering your house your remedy is under law, to bring a civil action against the officer.”

Justice Robert Rucker, a Gary native, and Justice Brent Dickson, a Hobart native, dissented from the ruling, saying the court’s decision runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally — that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances,” Rucker said. “I disagree.”

Rucker and Dickson suggested if the court had limited its permission for police entry to domestic violence situations they would have supported the ruling.

But Dickson said, “The wholesale abrogation of the historic right of a person to reasonably resist unlawful police entry into his dwelling is unwarranted and unnecessarily broad.”

This is the second major Indiana Supreme Court ruling this week involving police entry into a home.

On Tuesday, the court said police serving a warrant may enter a home without knocking if officers decide circumstances justify it. Prior to that ruling, police serving a warrant would have to obtain a judge’s permission to enter without knocking.

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Atlanta Fire Department Fell For Scam, Handed Out Free Defective Smoke Detectors With Bogus UL Labels

May 13, 2011

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – It turns out those smoke detectors had counterfeit Underwriters Laboratories labels affixed to them; and now, they’re being recalled by the Atlanta Fire Department.

Thousands of the detectors were handed out to citizens through a free program.

They were purchased five years ago from a California firm, and now, it’s the subject of an FBI investigation. Officials say the detectors will be replaced at no charge.

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Moron Daytona Beach Florida Beach Patrol Officer Russell St. John Makes A U-Turn On The Beach, Running Over A Female Tourist

May 13, 2011

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – Volusia County officials say an Ohio tourist was injured when a beach patrol officer ran over her hand and arm while she was sunbathing.

A county spokesman says Officer Russell St. John was making a U-turn with his beach vehicle Friday morning when he ran over 22-year-old Kelly McNichols, causing minor injuries. The woman was not lying in the designated traffic lanes.

McNichols initially declined transport to the hospital, but Florida Highway Patrol reports that she drove herself later.

FHP is continuing to investigate the incident, and county officials say they’ll take any necessary disciplinary action against St. John based on FHP’s findings.

St. John remains on duty.

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ATF Blamed For Starting Motley County Texas Wildfire – “That Bunch Has A Real Corner On Stupid…”

May 13, 2011

MOTLEY COUNTY, TEXAS – The fight between Texas and Washington, D.C., over wildfires in the Lone Star State just got nastier.

A county official in the Texas Panhandle is now blaming a federal agency for starting one of the fires through carelessness.

Tom Edwards, the county attorney in rural Motley County east of Lubbock, said on Friday that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives was responsible on Tuesday for sparking a fire that consumed 150 acres.

“You can quote me on it: That bunch has a real corner on stupid,” Edwards told Reuters.

Tom Crowley, a spokesman with the federal agency, said bureau officials were assisting four local bomb squads — at their request — to destroy some explosives. Firefighters were on hand, he said. The wind picked up, but the explosives were too dangerous to move, so the officials went ahead and destroyed the explosives.

“Unfortunately, a fragment ignited some grass,” Crowley said. “As far as the community, we’re working with them to let them know how to go about making a claim with the government.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry has publicly criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency for declining the state’s request for a major disaster declaration for wildfires that have scorched some 2.5 million acres since November.

FEMA has said it has awarded fire management grants to Texas but that the agency determined there was not a need for additional support.

“We’ve got the federal government that has refused to provide assistance to the state on the request of Governor Perry because of all our statewide fires, and then in waltzes federal agents and they start a fire,” Edwards said.

“We had high winds, we’re under a burn ban because of extensive prairie fires, brush fires, and in they rolled with the idea of blowing up things.”

Crowley said that the federal bureau and the local bomb squads were working as a team.

Fires covering some 203,000 acres were still burning as of Friday, according to the Texas Forest Service. The state remains dangerously dry, with 47 percent of Texas listed as in “exceptional drought” by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

This week’s episode shows how dangerous the conditions are, said Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed.

“It underscores why we need help,” she said. “It’s still a touch and go situation out there with drought and winds.”

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Dallas/Fort Worth TSA Agent Confiscated Juice Box And Baby Food That Tested Positive For “Exposive Materials”

May 13, 2011

DALLAS, TEXAS – At a Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport security checkpoint, the Tsa confiscates juice box and baby food due to the items allegedly testing positive for trace amounts of explosive materials.

FlyerTalk members are outraged not so much because the baby food and juice box were taken away from their rightful owners, but rather that if they indeed tested positive for trace amounts of explosive materials, why was further testing not performed by the Transportation Security Administration personnel — or, at least, treat the items as if they were indeed dangerous?

This incident leaves some FlyerTalk members wondering just how safe airport security really is in the United States…

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Fairfax County Virginia Police Waste Taxpayer Dollars Investigating School Food Fight

May 13, 2011

SPRINGFIELD, VIRGINIA – All senior activities were suspended at West Springfield High School Thursday afternoon, following a massive food fight.

The Burke Patch is reporting that Principal Paul A. Wardinski sent a letter to parents and guardians of the high school at 3:47 p.m.

The letter notes that a “major disturbance was initiated in our school’s cafeteria.”

A group of senior students apparently started a food fight that escalated. At the same time, someone also pulled a fire alarm.

The incident resulted in a few minor injuries.

The letter reads, “At this time, ALL senior activities including the senior picnic, senior trip to Hershey Park and the Senior Prom are on hold until we complete our investigation of the incidents today.”

Fairfax County Police are investigating and the responsible students could face criminal charges.

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Bill Passes Texas House Criminalizing Sexual Assault Style Seaches By TSA Agents

May 13, 2011

AUSTIN, TEXAS – The Texas House passed a bill that would make it a criminal offense for public servants to inappropriately touch travelers during airport security pat-downs.

Approved late Thursday night, the measure makes it illegal for anyone conducting searches to touch “the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person” including through clothing.

It also prohibits searches “that would be offensive to a reasonable person.”

The bill’s chief sponsor is Republican Rep. David Simpson, who said, “this has to do with dignity and travel, and prohibiting indecent, groping searches.”

He believes it will keep Transportation Security Administration officials from treating travelers like criminals, though the measure may be superseded by federal law.

After a brief but raucous debate, lawmakers approved the measure with little opposition — drawing applause from supporters.

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NJ State Police Panties Get All Twisted After Rapper Is Invited To White House

May 12, 2011

NEW JERSEY – The invitation of rapper Common to the White House this week is drawing the ire of the union representing New Jersey state police.

While even casual hip-hop fans wouldn’t characterize him as a controversial rapper, Common found himself under the microscope after First Lady Michelle Obama invited him to the White House for an arts event. In question: the lyrics to “A Song for Assata,” about convicted cop-killer and former Black Panther Assata Shakur.

The White House said Wednesday it stood by the decision to invite Common. Press Secretary Jay Carney said the conservative backlash distorts what Common stands for, and added that the president appreciates Common’s work with children in Chicago.

FOX News and Sarah Palin condemned the decision after the Daily Caller published some of Common’s lyrics, including some that criticize former President George W. Bush.

For New Jersey police, the outrage centers on “A Song for Assata” lyrics like “Your power and pride is beautiful. May God bless your soul.”
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Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard, was convicted for the 1973 slaying of Trooper Werner Foerster on the New Jersey Turnpike. She escaped prison in 1979, and is living in asylum in Cuba.

“The young people who read this stuff, hear this stuff, are getting a very dangerous and deadly message,” David Jones, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association union, said on Tuesday.

After the union made the case on Tuesday, the New Jersey State Police itself issued a statement on the controversy on Wednesday.

“We cannot dictate who is invited to the White House, but we will always view Joanne Chesimard as a fugitive who killed one of our own,” Major Gerald Lewis, spokesman for the state police said in a statement. “We will continue our pursuit of her until she is brought to justice.”

Known for being more of a brainy poet type than a thug or a gangster, Common seemed to be amused by the dust-up Tuesday, tweeting and retweeting the various news items, such as FOX News’ description of him as a “vile rapper.”

He also tweeted, “So apparently Sarah Palin and Fox News doesn’t like me.”

The White House appearance comes during the same week that lawmen from across the nation, including Jones, make their annual trek to Washington to honor their fallen comrades at the National Law Enforcement Memorial.

Sal Maggio, a retired troop commander with the state police, said his colleagues still talk about Shakur and the million dollar bounty the FBI has put on her capture.

“Hopefully someday she’ll be caught,” Maggio said in reaction to news of this invitation.

Common, who is also a successful actor, is known as one of the most lyrically poetic rappers. Last month he appeared in Chicago for a charity event for his foundation, honoring legendary author and poet Maya Angelou.

Neither Jones nor Maggio believe the president or first lady are fully aware of Common’s song about Shakur, though the rapper did appear at campaign events for Obama when he ran for president.

“I like the president and first lady,” said Maggio. “I think he’s doing a pretty good job lately.”

A representative for Common could not be reached.

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