Former Massachusetts State Police Trooper Joseph Silva Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison After Raping Woman In Maine

October 31, 2011

ALFRED, MAINE – A former Massachusetts state trooper was sentenced Thursday for sexually assaulting a woman from Portsmouth.

Joseph Silva received a 10-year sentence on a gross assault charge and received seven years each for the two aggravated assault charges and 10 years probation.

Silva made a brief apology in court, and his sister spoke on his behalf. The victim wrote a letter and did not appear in court.

The state asked for a 25-year sentence for Silva.

Silva, who lived in Newburyport, Mass., arranged to have dinner with the woman.

Later, Silva lured the woman to the Roadway Inn, in Kittery, telling her they could watch a Patriots football game.

Prosecutors said Silva raped and assaulted the woman, who managed to get away the next morning.

Silva was arrested in 2009 and indicted earlier this year.

It only took the jury about an hour to reach its verdict during last month’s trial

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Wetback From Honduras Murdered Random Woman In Albion New York Walmart Parking Lot

October 31, 2011

ALBION, NEW YORK — An illegal alien from Honduras was charged with murder for the vicious stabbing death of a shopper in the Wal-Mart parking lot Sunday night, a murder that appeared to be a random act, Orleans County Sheriff Scott Hess said.

Luis A. Rodriguez-Flamenco was arrested after an all-night search by numerous police agencies. He was arraigned in Town Court and committed to Orleans County Jail without bail.

Flamenco, 24, is accused of repeatedly stabbing Kathleen I. Byham, 45.

Byham was shopping alone and had just left the store when she was approached by three men as she got to her car about 7 p.m.

‘‘She suffered multiple stab wounds to the torso,’’ Hess said. ‘‘She was shopping by herself and was not with any of the three men.’’

Byham, of Albion, was transported to Medina Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 7:40 p.m.

Several people witnessed the attack and were able to give police a description of the men, who took off running east toward the village of Albion.

Two of the men were caught in separate homes in the village, about 90 minutes after the attack, Hess said.

‘‘We were able to locate them based on information we received,’’ he said.

The two men who were with Flamenco did not actively participate in the murder have not been charged. Hess said the two are illegal immigrants from Mexico and both have been turned over to U.S. Border Patrol.

Hess said it was unclear what the motive was but investigators were looking at the possibility of an altercation inside the store or a robbery.

‘‘There is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that the defendant and the victim knew each other,’’ Hess said. ‘‘Sheriff’s investigators believe that the defendant specifically targeted the victim only after she exited the store and walked towards her car. This appears to be a random act of violence.’’

The woman parked almost directly beneath a light pole in the middle of the parking lot. The pole also contained surveillance cameras, two which are pointed directly where the woman was stabbed.

Police did review the video.

The stabbing happened on a fairly busy Sunday night at Wal-Mart, which is just west of the village of Albion at Route 31 and Gaines Basin Road.

During the hours after the stabbing shoppers came and went, some driving slowly past the site of the stabbing, which was cordoned off with yellow police tape.

To the east a state police helicopter hovered over the area, searching for the third suspect. A Niagara County Sheriff’s Department K-9 unit arrived to assisted deputies, along with village of Albion police, Orleans Major Felony Crime Task Force and state troopers.

Police on foot were concentrating on an area east of Wal-Mart.

Patrol cars and unmarked police cars combed the area and parked at several intersections.

Hess said the extra help was ‘‘invaluable’’ and the Wal-Mart officials were cooperative during the investigation.

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FCC Begins Pissing Away Tax Dollars Targeting Tiny Churches Who Broadcast TV Without Closed Captioning

October 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – If a church broadcasts the word of God on TV without closed captions, it risks incurring the wrath of the FCC.

Some 300 small- to medium-sized churches can expect letters from the commission within the next few days explaining why their closed captioning exemptions were lifted for TV shows like “Power in the Word” and “Producing Kingdom Citizens.”

The FCC has been mailing the letters for the past few days to churches from Maine to California, explaining that the hundreds of exemptions are now rescinded and giving the programmers 90 days to reapply.

The churches were granted FCC exemptions from the closed captioning requirement under a 2006 commission decision known as the “Anglers Order” for the Anglers for Christ Ministries program that had argued for exemption from the rules.

While the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau used the Anglers Order as the model to grant at least 298 other exemptions, the full commission overturned that decision Oct. 20 after objections were raised from a coalition of organizations for the deaf and hard of hearing.

The churches may still be eligible to win an exemption from the rules if they can prove they can’t afford closed captioning, but they now have to make their case individually.

“This was a process that went awry,” said Craig Parshall, senior vice president of the National Religious Broadcasters, an international association of Christian communicators. “Now, we are going back to Square One.”

Advocacy groups for the deaf contend that the bureau erred when it granted the exemptions en masse because that created a virtual blanket exemption for nonprofit organizations. Under the closed captioning law, programmers can win an exemption if they can prove that the cost of the captioning will cause an undue economic hardship.

The groups wrote to the FCC asking commissioners to overrule the bureau order arguing that the order “improperly and unilaterally established a new class of exempt programming.”

While the commission’s decision has an immediate impact on churches across the country, it isn’t directed at religious organizations in particular, Parshall said. Small- and medium-sized churches just happened to apply for exemptions under the closed captioning law’s exception for TV shows where paying for captioning is an undue economic burden, Parshall explained.

Advocates for the deaf said they were pleased the commission was taking action on the issue, and hoped that it would make more programming accessible to the deaf and hearing impaired.

“Now, we look forward to viewing more TV shows that were not captioned before,” said Jim House, spokesman for Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. “It is our hope that those producers affected by the decision would see the positive benefits of making their shows accessible to more and more viewers and find that it is the right thing to do.”

Religious broadcasters want to reach the deaf community, but requiring churches across the country to close caption their TV programs could force the programming off the air, Parshall said.

“We believe our message needs to get out to the deaf and disabled communities,” Parshall explained. “All we want is a sensible regulatory structure that recognizes the plight of the small Christian broadcaster.”

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Spartanburg County South Carolina Sheriff Urges Residents To Buy And Carry Firearms After Woman Attacked In Park – “Don’t Get Mace. Get A Firearm.”

October 31, 2011

PARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. — The Spartanburg County Sheriff is known for speaking his mind, and at a news conference on Monday, he didn’t hold back his anger and frustration after a woman was attacked in a park over the weekend.

Investigators said 46-year-old Walter Lance grabbed a woman who was walking her dog in Milliken Park on Sunday afternoon. They said Lance choked the woman, made her take off her clothing and tried to rape her. (Full Story)

Lance is in custody and was denied bond on Monday.

Sheriff Chuck Wright opened his news conference by saying, “Our form of justice is not making it.”

He said, “Carry a concealed weapon. That’ll fix it.”

Wright said Lance had been charged numerous times with crimes against women, and other crimes such as resisting arrest and escape. Wright said Lance had been on probation for a federal gun charge.

He referred to Lance repeatedly as an “animal,” and expressed his disgust about Lance’s long record and the attack.

Wright said Lance has had more than 20 charges dating back to 1983.

Wright said Lance has been in jail more often than he has, and he runs the jail, and he said Lance gets out easier. Wright punctuated it by saying, “And I’m aggravated.”

He said he doesn’t believe every person needs to be kept in jail, but he said, “I don’t think this animal deserves to be out in our society, walking alongside our women.”

Wright said,”Liberals call me and tell me the chain-gang form of justice isn’t working. Well, let me inform you, your form of justice isn’t working either.”

He said Lance should not have had the right or opportunity to “violate a good, upstanding woman.”

“This is a horrific crime,” Wright said. “Her life was threatened so many times.”

He said Lance “doesn’t fight police or men folk — he just goes after women.” He said Lance is not married because, “No woman can stay married to him because he beats them down too much.”

Wright said, “It’s too bad someone with a concealed weapons permit didn’t walk by. That would fix it.” He said people are tired of doing the right thing and criminals getting away with their actions.

He said several times, “I want you to get a concealed weapons permit.”

At one point, Wright held up a fanny pack and said, “They make this right here where you can conceal a small pistol in them. They got one called The Judge that shoots a .45 or a .410 shell. You ain’t got to be accurate; you just have to get close.”

Wright said, “I’m tired of looking at victims saying, ‘There’s life after this’ … I’m tired of saying, ‘We’re sorry, we can’t keep them in jail.'”

Wright said in his view, gun control is, “Is when you can get you barrel back on the target quick. That’s gun control.”

Wright said the attack is not the fault of Millken Park. He said, “It’s a nice place for families.”

He said officers patrol the area all the time and respond to various calls there. He said, “Don’t blame anyone for having an animal on their property … We can’t get it all.”

He encouraged women to walk in groups, and he ended by saying again, “I want you to get a concealed weapons permit. Don’t get Mace. Get a firearm.”

And then he said, “I think I better stop before I get sanctioned.”

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Slow, Difficult, Or Impossible To Get Visas For Foreign Visitors Has Cost United States 78 Million Overseas Visitors And $606 Billion In Spending And 500,000 Jobs

October 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – In the decade between 2000 and 2010, the number of foreign overseas tourists travelling the world grew by an astounding 60 million. You would think the numbers would grow in the United States as well, but they haven’t. Ten years ago 26 million overseas visitors visited the U.S. In 2010, 26.4 million, according to the U.S. Travel Association, a trade group. That’s hardly any growth at all.

Take a look at the numbers. The average Chinese tourist who visits America spends $6,243 while they’re here, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Visitors from India spend $6,131. Brazilian tourists coming to America spend $4,940.

“I want to go to New York and California, maybe Las Vegas — the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Park,” said one man waiting for a visa in Rio de Janiero.

But there is a catch, and it’s a big one. There is no guarantee he or any other foreign tourists will get to come and spend their money here.

In fact, last year, tourists from Brazil had to wait up to 145 days just to interview for the required piece of paper.

In China, there are 1.3 billion people and only five places where you can even get an American visa. This year, the wait time has been up to 120 days just to get an interview.

“You’re talking about visas simply to visit the U.S., not to stay here,” said Hal Sirkin, a senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group. “Yes, this is not about people staying here. This is people who come, may spend two weeks, may spend a lot of money, creating American jobs, and then go back to the countries they came from.”

Why, with tens of millions of travelers worldwide, have America’s numbers stayed the same?

“We don’t have the people to process them, and we don’t have the facilities and the locations to process them,” said Sirkin. “This could all be changed, and this could create literally millions of jobs in the United States.”

In New York City, the W Hotel is trying lure Chinese travelers by catering to Chinese culture.

The hotel has entire menus in Mandarin, as well as tea kettles and the customary slippers.

“The U.S. is the number-one outbound destination of choice for Chinese travelers today,” said Frits van Paasschen, CEO of Starwood Hotels.

But, because they can’t get here, he said, they go to Europe.

All around the world, in Brazil, India and China, the fast-growing middle classes look to travel to the U.S., but only 13 percent actually come here, according to the U.S. Travel Association – some say, because it’s so difficult to get a visa. Thirty-eight percent travel to Europe instead because it’s easier.

In the last decade, the U.S. lost out on 78 million overseas visitors — that’s $606 billion in spending — in stores, malls, tourist destinations right here in America. Enough to add nearly half a million jobs every year.

The State Department told ABC News that safety and security comes first, but acknowledged they’re working on the problem.

“We don’t want anyone to wait, but we believe that most of those who are waiting will be coming,” said David Donahue, deputy assistant secretary of state for visas, who added they are sending additional consular officers to both Brazil and China this year to increase processing capacity.

“It takes time to build new facilities, to grow,” Donahue said. “This is a rather new phenomenon in China, that this many people want to come to the United States, and we have to address that need, but it takes time to grow to meet the growth in China.”

In the meantime, those lines are growing and so, say economists, are the missed opportunities.

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Dumbass Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Police Officer Ticketed Fire Trucks Parked Outside City Hall

October 29, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – There’s fallout following a KDKA Investigation.

The mayor of Pittsburgh is outraged by the ticketing of fire trucks.

The trucks were tagged outside City Hall while firefighters were inside getting flu shots.

“We certainly have a lot more important things to worry about than a fire truck that’s parked for five minutes on a city street,” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, D-Pittsburgh, said.

The fire trucks were parked in spaces reserved for councilmembers.

Firefighters tell KDKA’s Marty Griffin that City Council President Darlene Harris asked one truck to move and the police officer followed with her ticket book. The council president says she had nothing to do with it.

“It’s really silly,” Ravenstahl said. “And when I was first briefed on it, I didn’t believe that it happened. I couldn’t believe that somebody would actually ticket a fire truck especially when we’re encouraging them to get a flu shot and stay healthy.”

The matter will end up in court with Fire Chief Darryl Jones testifying on behalf of his men.

“This one is on me,” Jones said. “I did send the ticket in for a court hearing date and I will ask the judge for some leniency on this.”

It’s not a criminal matter. It’s a parking ticket. The possible fine is under $100, but there will be a hearing and there will be possible testimony and if the judge rules in favor of the city against the city, someone will have to pay the fine.

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First Amnesty For Illegal Aliens, Now US Border Patrol Stops Checking Busses, Trains, And Airports On Northern Border With Canada

October 29, 2011

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – The U.S. Border Patrol has quietly stopped its controversial practice of routinely searching buses, trains and airports for illegal immigrants at transportation hubs along the northern border and in the nation’s interior, preventing agents from using what had long been an effective tool for tracking down people here illegally, The Associated Press has learned.

Current and former Border Patrol agents said field offices around the country began receiving the order last month – soon after the Obama administration announced that to ease an overburdened immigration system, it would allow many illegal immigrants to remain in the country while it focuses on deporting those who have committed crimes.

The routine bus, train and airport checks typically involved agents milling about and questioning people who appeared suspicious, and had long been criticized by immigrant rights groups. Critics said the tactic amounted to racial profiling and violated travelers’ civil liberties.

But agents said it was an effective way to catch unlawful immigrants, including smugglers and possible terrorists, who had evaded detection at the border, as well as people who had overstayed their visas. Often, those who evade initial detection head quickly for the nearest public transportation in hopes of reaching other parts of the country.

Halting the practice has baffled the agents, especially in some stations along the northern border – from Bellingham, Wash., to Houlton, Maine – where the so-called “transportation checks” have been the bulk of their everyday duties. The Border Patrol is authorized to check vehicles within 100 miles of the border.

The order has not been made public, but two agents described it to the AP on condition of because the government does not authorize them to speak to the media. The union that represents Border Patrol agents planned to issue a news release about the change Monday.

“Orders have been sent out from Border Patrol headquarters in Washington, D.C., to Border Patrol sectors nationwide that checks of transportation hubs and systems located away from the southwest border of the United States will only be conducted if there is intelligence indicating a threat,” the release says.

Those who have received the orders said agents may still go to train and bus stations and airports if they have specific “actionable intelligence” that there is an illegal immigrant there who recently entered the country. An agent in Washington state said it’s not clear how agents are supposed to glean such intelligence, and even if they did, under the new directive they still require clearance from Washington, D.C., headquarters before they can respond.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman, Bill Brooks, repeatedly insisted that any shift in enforcement tactics does not amount to a change in policy as local commanders still have authority to aggressively pursue illegal immigrants near the border and at transportation hubs.

“It’s up to the local commander to position his agents the way he wants to position them. What we’ve done is gone to a risk-based posture,” he said.

In a separate statement, the agency said, “Conducting intelligence-based transportation checks allows the Border Patrol to use their technology and personnel resources more effectively, especially in areas with limited resources.”

Shawn Moran, vice president of the union that represents agents, was outraged at the changes.

“Stated plainly, Border Patrol managers are increasing the layers of bureaucracy and making it as difficult as possible for Border Patrol agents to conduct their core duties,” the National Border Patrol Council’s statement said. “The only risks being managed by this move are too many apprehensions, negative media attention and complaints generated by immigrant rights groups.”

The Border Patrol, which patrols outside the official ports of entry handled by customs officers, has dramatically beefed up its staffing since 9/11, doubling to more than 20,000 agents nationally. Along the northern border, the number has jumped from about 300 in the late 1990s to more than 2,200.

At the same time, the number of Border Patrol arrests nationwide has been falling – from nearly 1.2 million in 2005 to 463,000 in 2010, and 97 percent of them at the southern border, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics. The office cited the recession as a likely factor in the drop.

Along the northern border last fiscal year, the agency made 7,431 arrests. It was not immediately clear how many stemmed from routine transportation checks. The public affairs office for the Border Patrol’s Blaine sector said it doesn’t break down the data that way.

But of 673 arrests in the sector, roughly 200 were from routine transportation checks, according to a Washington state-based Border Patrol agent who has been with the agency for more than 20 years and spoke to the AP.

Until receiving the new directive, the Bellingham office, about 25 miles from the Canadian border, kept agents at the bus and train station, and at the local airport 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now, the agents have little work to do, the agent said.

The situation is similar in upstate New York, where an agent told the AP – also on the condition of anonymity – that a senior manager relayed the new directive during a morning roll call last month. Since then, instead of checking buses or trains, agents have spent shifts sitting in their vehicles gazing out at Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, where few illegal immigrants cross.

“They’re already bored,” the agent said. “You grab the paper every day and you go do the crossword.”

In the Buffalo sector, where there were more than 2,400 arrests in fiscal 2010, as many as half were from routine transportation checks, the agent estimated.

The change was immediately obvious to Jack Barker, who manages the Greyhound and Trailways bus station in Rochester, N.Y. For the past six years, he said, Border Patrol agents boarded nearly every bus in and out of the station looking for illegal immigrants.

Last month – one day after the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and all of the hype that surrounded it – the agents stopped coming. They haven’t been back since, Barker said.

“What’s changed that they’re no longer needed here?” Barker asked. “I haven’t been able to get an answer from anybody.”

Doug Honig, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, welcomed the news.

“If the Border Patrol is indeed not boarding buses and trains and engaging in the random questioning of people, that’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “People shouldn’t be questioned by government officials when there’s no reason to believe they’ve done anything wrong.”

Kent Lundgren, chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, said the transportation checks have been a staple of the agency for 60 years. His organization has heard from agents around the country complaining of the change, he said.

Gene Davis, a retired deputy chief in the Border Patrol’s sector in Blaine, Wash., emphasized how effective the checks can be. He noted that a check of the Bellingham bus station in 1997 yielded an arrest of Palestinian Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer. Abu Mezer skipped out on a $5,000 bond – only to turn up later in Brooklyn, where New York police shot him as he prepared to bomb the city’s subway system. Davis also noted that would-be millennium bomb suspect Ahmed Ressam was arrested at the border in late 1999 when he left a ferry from British Columbia to Washington in a rented car full of explosives.

“We’ve had two terrorists who have come through the northern border here. To put these restraints on agents being able to talk to people is just ridiculous,” Davis said. “Abu Mezer got out, but that just shows you the potential that’s there with the transportation checks.”

The Border Patrol informed officials at the Bellingham airport on Thursday that from now on they would only be allowed to come to the airport “if there’s an action that needs their assistance,” said airport manager Daniel Zenk.

“I’m shocked,” Zenk said. “We welcome the security presence the Border Patrol provides.”

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Mayor Apologizes After Oakland California Police Attack Peaceful Protesters – Marine Veteran In Intensive Care Unit With Fractured Skull

October 29, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – As “Occupy” demonstrations continue largely unabated, officials in cities across the country appear to be pressing for more strict control of the loosely defined group, raising the stakes for the movement as it stretches into its second month.

“These police actions only serve to galvanize the movement,” said Michael Heaney, a University of Michigan professor who studies social movements. “It actually makes a lot more sense (for police) to just wait.”

On Friday, authorities in lower Manhattan removed propane tanks and generators in Zuccotti Park — an Occupy Wall Street home base in the city’s financial district — leaving demonstrators to battle the cold seeping through their blankets and sleeping bags.

“These are fire hazards (and) against the law,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during his weekly WOR-AM radio show, adding “our first concern is safety.”

Bloomberg said that up to 40 firefighters had removed six generators and several gasoline cans.

Demonstrators described the removal as an attempt to restrict Internet use and make their lives more difficult as a cold front moves into the region.

The action in New York comes one day after a California mayor apologized for violence against demonstrators that saw them tear gassed and resulted in the hospitalization of an Iraq war veteran.

Marine veteran Scott Olsen suffered a skull fracture Tuesday night after allegedly being struck by a tear gas canister in Oakland, according to witnesses.

“There is this new dynamic that goes on,” said Susan Olzak, a Stanford University professor of sociology professor. “Both sides are losing patience and both sides can become entrenched.”

Olsen, meanwhile, has become another rallying cry for the “Occupy” movement spreading across the country.

He has been listed in fair condition in the intensive care unit at Highland Hospital, according to a hospital spokesman.

Also Friday, hundreds of demonstrators in New York marched on the offices of five major banks and financial services firms, including Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.

They railed against what the group describes as corporate greed, arrogance and power, as well as their assertion that the nation’s wealthiest 1% hold inordinate sway over the remaining 99% of the population.

iReport: Meet the 99%

“In one sense (the demonstrators) are right, the system is broken,” Heaney said. “On the other hand, if you want to affect change, you can’t be completely beyond the traditional institutions of American democracy. “

He said that large percentages of protesters appear averse to such staples of the government as congressional lobbying and the use of the courts.

“If you look at the civil rights movement — how much more could the system be broken against African-Americans?” Heaney said. “But they engaged a whole repertoire to change the system.

“You have to have some sort of inside-outside strategy,” he said.

Earlier Friday, police said 51 demonstrators in San Diego, California, were arrested for various charges of encroachment, unlawful assembly, illegal lodging and/or some form of obstruction of officers.

Three others were arrested on similar charges in Tampa, Florida, according to a police statement.

In Nashville, Tennessee, meanwhile, authorities said Occupy Nashville participants are now required to have permits. They also restricted the times they are allowed to gather.

In Atlanta, police arrested demonstrators at a downtown park overnight Tuesday. The arrests came after Mayor Kasim Reed said he sent ministers to the park “to see if we can find a way to resolve this amicably.”

Reed told CNN affiliate WSB that concerns were increased when a man in the park was seen with an assault rifle. “We could not determine whether the weapon was loaded and could not get additional information on the weapon,” he said.

Authorities ordered people to leave the park about midnight Tuesday, WSB said, going from tent to tent with flashlights. Arrests began taking place about 12:45 a.m.

Civil rights leader Joe Beasley later spoke to the demonstrators, telling them that he fears the work of Martin Luther King Jr. is being threatened.

“We see now a world that is more polarized than ever,” Beasley said in a video posted online. “The rich is getting richer, and the poor is getting poorer.”

Despite the crackdown, the movement does not appear to be losing steam.

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Disgraced Attorney General Eric Holder To Testify About His Department’s Efforts That Supplied Guns To Mexican Drug Cartels

October 28, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – CBS News has learned Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee regarding “Fast and Furious.” The hearing will take place Dec. 8th.

Judiciary Committee member and head of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) had requested that Holder appear, in part to dig deeper into when-he-knew-what about ATF’s so-called “gunwalking” operation Fast and Furious.

In May, Holder testified that he only first heard about Fast and Furious a few weeks before. However, as CBS News reported, documents and memos indicate he had been sent multiple briefings mentioning Fast and Furious in 2010.

Holder later explained in a letter to Congress that he didn’t read those memos, and that in any event, nobody at the Justice Department who knew of Fast and Furious was aware of the specific “gunwalking” tactics used.

More Fast and Furious coverage
Memos contradict Holder on Fast and Furious
Agent: I was ordered to let guns “walk” into Mexico
Gunwalking scandal uncovered at ATF

Also today, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) requested a public hearing with the former Director of ATF: Kenneth Melson.

“A hearing with Mr. Melson would help the Committee and the American people better understand what mistakes were made in Operation Fast and Furious, how these tactics originated, who did and did not authorize them, and what steps are being taken to ensure that they are not used again,” wrote Cummings in a letter today to Rep. Issa.

Rep. Cummings says Melson’s attorney has indicated Melson would be “pleased to cooperate.”

Below is a copy of the Cummings letter.

October 28, 2011

The Honorable Darrell E. Issa

Chairman

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

As I have stated repeatedly, I believe Operation Fast and Furious was a terrible mistake with tragic consequences. As I have also stated, I support a fair and responsible investigation that follows the facts where they lead, rather than drawing conclusions before evidence is gathered or ignoring information that does not fit into a preconceived narrative.

On several occasions over the past month, you have called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about when he first became aware of the controversial tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious. The Attorney General has now agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on December 8, 2011, when you will have another opportunity to question him directly.

With respect to our own Committee’s investigation, I do not believe it will be viewed as legitimate or credible-and I do not believe the public record will be complete-without public testimony from Kenneth Melson, who served as the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

A hearing with Mr. Melson would help the Committee and the American people better understand what mistakes were made in Operation Fast and Furious, how these tactics originated, who did and did not authorize them, and what steps are being taken to ensure that they are not used again.

Our staffs have already conducted transcribed interviews with Mr. Melson and the former Deputy Director of ATF, William Hoover. During those interviews, these officials expressed serious concerns about the controversial tactics employed by the Phoenix Field Division of ATF as part of this operation. They also raised concerns about the manner in which the Department of Justice responded to congressional inquiries. Both officials also stated that they had not been aware of the controversial tactics being used in Operation Fast and Furious, had not authorized those tactics, and had not informed anyone at the Department of Justice headquarters about them. They stated that Operation Fast and Furious originated within the Phoenix Field Division, and that ATF headquarters failed to properly supervise it.

Since the Attorney General has now agreed to appear before Congress in December, I believe Members also deserve an opportunity to question Mr. Melson directly, especially since he headed the agency responsible for

Operation Fast and Furious. My staff has been in touch with Mr. Melson’s attorney, who reports that Mr. Melson would be pleased to cooperate with the Committee.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Elijah E. Cummings

Ranking Member

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Department Of Homeland Security Not Helping Alabama Enforce Immigration Law

October 27, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC — The government hasn’t offered to help Alabama put in place a strict immigration law that the Obama administration is challenging in court, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.

The administration has sued to block the law, which is considered the toughest state immigration measure in the country.

“We have been working with the Department of Justice in its challenge to that law,” Napolitano told the House Judiciary Committee.

A federal appeals court in Atlanta this month temporarily blocked a part of the law that required public schools to check the immigration status of students. But the court did not bar law enforcement officials from detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally.

A final ruling in the case is not expected for several months.

Alabama Republicans have argued that the law, passed this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Robert Bentley, was necessary to protect the jobs of legal residents.

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said he’s not surprised by Napolitano’s comments.

“I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the federal government won’t help us enforce our laws considering it hasn’t been enforcing its own law for years. That’s why we’re in this mess to begin with. In Alabama, we’re trying to turn off the magnet drawing illegal aliens across the border. The Obama Administration is trying to make the magnet stronger,” said Hubbard.

The Obama administration, which also is challenging a similar law in Arizona, has argued that enforcing immigration law is a federal responsibility.

Advocates against the strict state law have argued that giving immigration enforcement power to local authorities will lead to racial profiling of immigrants, both legal and illegal.

“Common sense law enforcement is about prioritizing resources,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “The Department of Homeland Security should work with the Department of Justice to hold Alabama accountable, and prioritize valuable enforcement resources carefully to make sure the most dangerous individuals are detained and deported.”

Napolitano said that while it is too soon to know what impact the new law will have, such worries “should be a real a real concern.”

Similar laws have been passed in Utah, Georgia, South Carolina and Indiana. Civil rights groups have sued to block them.

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Newark New Jersey TSA Agent Removed – Left Lewd Message In Woman’s Luggage After Finding Sex Toy

October 26, 2011

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – The handwritten note was highly inappropriate and unprofessional, and TSA has zero tolerance for this type of behavior” TSA said.

A Transportation Security Administration airport security worker has been removed from checking baggage because of a note with sexual implications he left for a passenger at Newark’s Liberty International Airport.

Jill Filipovic, a New York blogger who is also a lawyer, tweeted Monday that a note was left in her bag — which contained a sex toy, according to reports — that said “get your freak on.” The note was written on a TSA notice of inspection form, leading Filipovic to believe it was written by someone at airport security.

TSA said on its blog Tuesday that it had conducted an investigation into the incident and removed the employee that was responsible from duty.

“That individual was immediately removed from screening operations and appropriate disciplinary action has been initiated,” the agency wrote.

“The handwritten note was highly inappropriate and unprofessional, and TSA has zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”

The TSA blog Tuesday also said the agency had issued an apology to Filipovic, who tweeted a picture of the note.

For her part, Filipovic joked in subsequent tweets about the notoriety the incident had brought her.

“Lesson learned: Don’t tweet anything you don’t want to appear on The View. #FML,” she wrote Monday.

“Also, this twitter feed is now reverting to its usual content of wine, cheese, bacon and feminism. Unfollow away,” she followed up in a second tweet.

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Pittsfield Massachusetts Police Charge Sex Offender With Kissing And Fondling Cardboard Cutout Of A Woman

October 26, 2011

PITTSFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS – A convicted sex offender admitted he kissed and fondled a cardboard cutout of a woman, which was part of a North Street pharmacy’s advertising display. Charlie J. Price, 57, of Pittsfield, pleaded guilty to a single count of disturbing the peace, subsequent offense, and was ordered to pay a $200 fine by Central Berkshire District Court Judge Fredric D. Rutberg.

Saturday around 5 p.m., Price, who was allegedly intoxicated, walked into the Rite Aid pharmacy, “grabbed hold of the sunglass display, hugged it tightly and then began to lick and kiss the face of the female party on the display,” according to a Pittsfield Police report.

This behavior lasted about a minute, according to police, and ended when Price fell to the floor. He eventually got back on his feet and began yelling and screaming, according to the police report. Meanwhile, Price’s behavior apparently scared customers who “actively” tried to get away from the area. Price was arrested by the Pittsfield Police.

Price is a Level 3 sex offender, and therefore is considered to be at a high risk for reoffending. In 1991, he was convicted of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. Last year, he was convicted of open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, according to the Sex Offender Registry Board.

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Former UN Weapons Inspector Convicted After Seeking Sex With 15 Year Old Girl

October 26, 2011

STROUDSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA – A former U.N. weapons inspector convicted in an online sex sting lost his bid for a new trial Wednesday and was expected to learn his sentence later in the day.

Scott Ritter, 50, of Delmar, N.Y., exchanged explicit messages with a detective posing as a 15-year-old girl, then performed a sex act on himself in front of a webcam. He testified in his own defense at his April trial that he believed the person he met in a Yahoo chat room in 2009 was an adult acting out her own fantasy.

A Monroe County jury convicted Ritter on six counts, including unlawful contact with a minor.

Ritter asked for a new trial Wednesday, basing his request on an appeals court ruling in New York that records from two previous incidents in that state in 2001 should not have been unsealed and given to prosecutors in Pennsylvania to be used at his trial. Defense attorney Gary Kohlman argued the New York ruling entitled Ritter to a new trial because prosecutors based much of their strategy on the argument that Ritter had a history of illicit online sex.

“It became, as I feared, the tail that was wagging the dog at trial,” Kohlman said in court.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Rakaczewski argued the New York ruling had no bearing on Ritter’s conviction and sentence in Pennsylvania.

Monroe County Judge Jennifer Sibum rejected the defense request for a new trial, saying Kohlman could bring up the New York case on appeal, and ordered Ritter’s sentencing hearing to begin.

Paula Brust, a member of the Pennsylvania’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, testified for the prosecution that based on Ritter’s history, he is at risk to offend again.

“He is not able to manage his offending in the community despite sex offender treatment,” she said.

Kohlman indicated he plans to call his own expert who will testify that Ritter is doing well in treatment and presents a low risk of re-offending.

Ritter was one of the U.N.’s chief weapons inspectors in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He resigned after accusing the United States and the U.N. of failing to get tough with Saddam Hussein. Later, he said Iraq had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction, and he became a vocal critic of the U.S. invasion.

In 2001, Ritter twice arranged to meet people who claimed online to be underage girls but who turned out to be undercover police in Colonie, N.Y. The charges were eventually dismissed and the case was sealed, but Pennsylvania prosecutors obtained the records and used them to try to show Ritter has a predilection for underage girls.

Ritter told jurors he knew he was chatting with undercover police and set up the meetings so he would be arrested. Kohlman has said Ritter used sexually explicit chats on the Internet as a way to handle his depression over being called unpatriotic for his criticism of American policy on Iraq.

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Oakland California Police Attack Peaceful Protesters With Tear Gas

October 26, 2011

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Authorities made a series of arrests at Occupy Wall Street protests in California and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday, with clashes in one city that involved tear gas being used on demonstrators.

Police said they fired the tear gas on protesters in Oakland, California, after the crowd threw paint and other objects at officers.

Plumes of smoke could be seen in the city as about 500 people defied calls to leave an area of downtown Oakland on Tuesday, according to police. Protesters had camped for weeks in several areas in the city, including near City Hall, police said.

“The city remains committed to respecting free speech as well as maintaining the city’s responsibility to protect public health and safety,” Oakland police said in a statement.

Oakland resident Andrew Johnson said he decided to leave when police threatened arrests, soon after hearing explosions as tear gas canisters were fired into the air.

“I think at first it was a pretty inspiring sight,” he said of the protesters. “It was inspiring to see people so impassioned. But when the police action began, it was a pretty unnerving sight. Just to see that energy turn into panic and anger was unsettling.”
Moore: No one will remember the tea party

In Atlanta, police arrested demonstrators at a downtown park overnight. The arrests came after Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he sent ministers to the park “to see if we can find a way to resolve this amicably.”

Reed told CNN affiliate WSB that concerns were increased when a man in the park was seen with an assault rifle. “We could not determine whether the weapon was loaded and could not get additional information on the weapon,” he said.

Authorities ordered people to leave the park around midnight Tuesday, WSB said, going from tent to tent with flashlights. Arrests began taking place about 12:45 a.m.

Organizers had asked protesters to be peaceful if police took action, and most were, WSB said. Many gathered in the center of the park, locked arms and sang “We Shall Overcome,” as police led them one by one to waiting buses.

A protester at the park said he was scared. “It’s very intimidating,” said Malcolm McKenzie. “I believe what we’re doing is right, but we’re going to jail. It hurts to see America do this to people who want change.”

It was unclear how many people were arrested in the two cities. CNN affiliate KGO reported that at least 85 people were arrested during an early morning raid in one part of Oakland and there were other arrests throughout the day. In Atlanta, WSB reported 53 were arrested.

In Oakland early Tuesday, police dismantled a tent camp set up by protesters in a city park.

The overnight camping had to end because of health and safety concerns, Oakland police said in a statement.

“There were a series of safety conditions, including numerous reports of fighting, assault and threatening/intimidating behavior” at the camp, police said in a statement. Medical responders could not get to the scene to provide medical care on at least two occasions, and fire and police also could not get through.

“Sanitation conditions worsened with frequent instances of public urination and defecation, as well as improper food storage,” the police statement said. “The existing rodent problem in the park was exacerbated, and authorities were unable to control it because of the campers’ presence. Graffiti, litter and vandalism also posed problems, police said.

After the camp was dispersed, the protesters reconvened for demonstrations later in the day, the affiliates said, prompting the new clashes.

Video from the Oakland clashes showed a chaotic scene, with protesters running from clouds of tear gas.

Oakland and Atlanta are two of many cities worldwide dealing with the Occupy Wall Street protests, the leaderless movement that started in New York in September.

Demonstrators have typically railed against what they describe as corporate greed, arrogance and power, as well as repeatedly stated their assertion that the nation’s wealthiest 1% hold inordinate sway over the remaining 99% of the population.

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Yearly “Gangs Infiltrating US Military” Propaganda From FBI…

October 26, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Gang members have been signing up with the United States Armed Forces, posing a “significant criminal threat” to law enforcement, according to a report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“Gang infiltration of the military continues to pose a significant criminal threat, as members of at least 53 gangs have been identified on both domestic and international military installations,” the report says, resulting in American gang graffiti in Iraq, among other things.

Every branch of the military contains some gang members, the FBI reported, but most gang members join the Army, the Army Reserves, and the U.S. National Guard. And gang member enlistment doesn’t require a sinister intention. “Many street gang members join the military to escape the gang lifestyle,” says the FBI, while others join at the behest of a court “as an alternative to incarceration.”

But the military sometimes proves a bad environment for gang members, who “often revert back to their gang associations once they encounter other gang members in the military.”

Numerous U.S. gangs, according to the report, “advise members without criminal records to join the military for necessary weapons and combat training.” Military deployments, in the event, end up placing gang members alongside other members of the armed forces on active duty.

Gang membership in the U.S. military has resulted in “incidents of weapons theft and trafficking,” the FBI warns, which “may have a negative impact on public safety or pose a threat to law enforcement officials.”

You can see a list of gangs affiliated with branches of the military below. For reference, OMG stands for “Outlaw Motorcycle Gang.”

Gang Name

Type

Military Branch(s)

18th Street Gang

Street

Army, Marines, Navy

Aryan Brotherhood

Prison

Army, Marines, Navy

Asian Boyz

Street

Army

Asian Crips

Street

Army

Avenues Gang

Street

Marines

Bandidos

OMG

Army, Marines

Barrio Azteca

Prison

Marines

Black Disciples

Street

Army, Marines, Navy

Black Guerilla Family*

Prison

Army

Bloods

Street

Army, Army Reserves, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy

Brotherhood

OMG

Marines

Crips

Street

Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy

Devils Disciples

OMG

Unknown

East Side Longos

Street

Army, Special Forces

Florencia 13

Street

Army, Marines

Fresno Bulldogs

Street

National Guard, Marines

Gangster Disciples

Street

Army, Marines, Navy, National Guard

Georgia Boys (Folk Nation)

Street

Army

Haitian Mob

Street

Army

Hells Angels

OMG

All branches

Iron Horsemen

OMG

Army

Juggalos/ICP

Street

Army, Air Force

Korean Dragon Family

Street

Marines

Latin Kings

Street

Army, Army Reserves, Marines, Navy

Legion of Doom

OMG

Air Force

Life is War

Street

Army

Los Zetas

Street

Army

Maniac Latin Disciples

Street

Marines

Mexican Posse 13

Street

Army

Military Misfits

OMG

Marines, Navy

Molochs

OMG

Marines

Mongols

OMG

Marines, Navy

Moorish Nation

Separatist

Army

MS-13

Street

Army, Marines, Navy

Norteños

Street

Army, Marines, National Guard, Navy

Outlaws

OMG

All branches

Peckerwoods

Street

Marines, Navy, National Guard, Reserves

Red Devils

OMG

Army/ Coast Guard

Simon City Royals

Street

Navy

Sons of Hell

OMG

Marines

Sons of Samoa

Street

Army

Southside Locos

Street

Army

Sureños

Street

Army, Marines, Navy

Tango Blast

Prison

Army*

Texas Syndicate

Prison

Army, Marines

Tiny Rascal Gangsters

Street

Army

United Blood Nation

Street

Army

Vagos

OMG

Army, Marines, Navy

Vatos Locos

Street

Army

Vice Lords

Street

Army

Wah Ching Gang

Street

Army

Warlocks

OMG

Air Force, Marines

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Couple Not Guilty After New Jersey Officals Pursue Obviously Bogus “Abuse” Allegations – State Didn’t Like Childrens Names

October 26, 2011

NEW JERSEY – Heath and Deborah Campbell, who named two of their children Adolf Hitler and JoyceLynn Aryan Nation, are claiming that a court vindicated them of all abuse allegations last month. But after 33 months in foster care, the children are still not home.

New Jersey Family Court officials had no comment Tuesday.

“Actually, the judge and DYFS told us that there was no evidence of abuse and that it was the names! They were taken over the children’s names,” Heath Campbell told NBC 10 Tuesday.

Court records last year stated that the children were not removed from the home because of their names, but because of tangible evidence of abuse or neglect.

Protesting the fact that they still don’t have their kids, the Campbells picketed with three other people outside of child services offices in Flemington, N.J. Tuesday. The couple spoke exclusively to NBC 10, saying that the state has no right to keep their children away from them now that the court allegedly ruled that the kids were taken away without cause.

“I don’t sleep, I don’t eat much. I miss my kids. Miss their pitter patters on the floor,” Heath Campbell told NBC 10’s Doug Shimell. “It’s hard. I fall asleep with their pictures.”

The Campbell’s three small children were removed from their Holland Township home by the state in January 2009 after they asked a grocery store in Greenwich, N.J., to write “Adolf Hitler” on their son’s birthday cake.

Though a local Wal-Mart honored the birthday cake request, Adolf Hitler Campbell and siblings JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell were put into foster care.

“They beg to come home all of the time,” Deborah told NBC 10 Tuesday. “They beg to see their dad, they want to see their dad all the time.”

While the Campbells maintained from the beginning that the only reason their children were taken away is because of their given names, New Jersey court documents stated last year that there was alleged abuse and parental incompetence.

A New Jersey appeals court ruled in August 2010 that there was sufficient evidence of abuse or neglect because of domestic violence in the home, and though there was a gag order for both parties in the case (which the Campbells have broken multiple times to deny the allegations), authorities have stated in the past that putting the children into the foster system had nothing to do with their names.

Court records stated last year that both parents were victims of childhood abuse and both were unemployed and suffering from unspecified physical and psychological disabilities.

The Campbells say that a judge will decide by early December if the kids will come home.

“Can’t wait for the decision,” Heath Campbell said Tuesday. “Can’t wait for them to come home.”

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US Government Web Site Exposed Students Personal Financial Data

October 26, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The personal financial details of as many as 5,000 college students were temporarily laid bare for other students to view on the Education Department’s direct loan website earlier this month, an education official testified Tuesday.

The students’ information was available during a six or seven minute window as officials were making a reconfiguration involving 11.5 million borrowers, said James Runcie, the Education Department’s federal student aid chief operating officer. The change was designed to improve the website’s performance times.

Runcie said students who logged on during the trouble period saw the personal details of other students.

Those whose information was exposed have been notified and offered credit monitoring services, Runcie said. The department shut down the website while the problem was resolved. “We responded as quickly as we could,” he said.

Runcie’s testimony came before a House Education and the Workforce subcommittee, which has been reviewing the Education Department’s transition to directly issuing all student loans.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the subcommittee chairwoman, said the transition has meant more customer service problems and mistakes, including the recent security problem with the website.

“The implications of this kind of website malfunction are severe, particularly when it affects millions of borrows nationwide,” Foxx said.

In a statement released after the hearing, Justin Hamilton, an Education Department spokesman, said the problem occurred on Oct. 12 and the department has no reason to believe students’ information was misused or accessed by anyone with “malicious intent.”

Congress changed the way student loans are issued last year as part of the law overhauling the nation’s health care system. It essentially stripped banks of their role as middlemen in issuing the loans. All loans are now directly issued by the government. The expectation at the time was that the measure would result in $61 billion in savings over a decade. The billions saved are to pay for Pell Grants, provide resources to community and historically black colleges, help reduce the deficit and offset expenses from the health care legislation.

Runcie said the department uses rigorous security standards but is looking to soon roll out an additional safeguard. He also said the department appreciates suggestions on ways to make its website more user friendly, and plans to make changes.

Overall, Runcie said the transition to the direct loan program has been a success.

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San Jose California Police Trash Innocent Woman’s Home, Threw Her Daughter Against Police Car Before Jailing Her

October 25, 2011

STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA — The San Jose Police Department stormed into a Stockton home searching for an accused killer, but they left without him, and left behind a complete mess.

“I feel like a war was taken on here, and we lost,” homeowner Joann Rice told CBS13.

Almost all of the windows are smashed in, there are holes in the wall, and there’s a layer of tear gas in the air so thick breathing it in makes you cough.

That is the home Rice came back to after the San Jose police held a fruitless 12-hour search on Saturday for Steve Ruiz, the man accused of killing a Hells Angels member at a funeral.

“He wasn’t here, he was never here and he wasn’t in the house,” she said.

Rice said her daughter was an acquaintance of Ruiz, nothing more.

“When she opened the house at 7 in the morning she asked them to come in, all they kept saying is, ‘Are you in danger? Are you in danger for your life?’ She kept saying, ‘No, my kids are in here, you can come in here if you like,’” Rice said.

Rice says police didn’t listen. They grabbed her daughter and threw her in a police car for four hours and then into a jail cell.

While police shot tear gas into the home, a mother dog and her three puppies were still inside the house.

“They told her if there was anything left in that house, it’s dead,” she said. “We were hysterical and thought the puppies were dead, the other dog was dead.”

The dogs, fortunately, are in good condition. The house isn’t.

CBS13 made several calls to the San Jose Police Department, but didn’t get a call back.

“We want it fixed,” Rice said. “Of course I’m calling my insurance, but San Jose has to pay for this, there is no reason why they shouldn’t.”

Rice said the family doesn’t know if they’ll ever be able to live in the house again.

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Five New York City Police Officers Arrested, Charged After Smugging Guns, Slot Machines, And Stealing Cigarettes

October 25, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Five New York Police Department officers smuggled firearms and slot machines they thought were stolen and some even used bolt cutters to pilfer hundreds of boxes of cigarettes from tractor-trailers as part of a 12-person theft ring that was under federal surveillance the entire time, authorities said Tuesday.

Three retired NYPD officers and a New Jersey correction officer are among the other defendants named in a federal criminal complaint alleging an undercover agent paid them more than $100,000 to moonlight as gun runners while under FBI surveillance. Three current officers also participated in a brazen theft of cigarettes they were told were worth $500,000, the complaint says.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long targeted illegal smuggling of guns into the city and said that, if the accusations are true, the officials engaged in “a disgraceful and deplorable betrayal of the public trust.”

The men were eager and willing to smuggle the weapons and commit other crimes “so long as the price was right,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a news conference announcing the arrests.

Arresting fellow law enforcers in a corruption case “is a heartbreaking thing,” Bharara added. “But it is our duty to enforce the law and to uphold the rule of law – and to do so perhaps most unflinchingly when we come across people who have chosen to breach that sacred duty, because an officer who betrays his badge betrays every honorable officer as well as every member of the public.”

The arrests come amid speculation that other NYPD officers could be facing less-serious criminal charges in a separate investigation of ticket fixing in the Bronx.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the new case, involving officers assigned in Brooklyn, has no connection to the Bronx probe. He also defended the reputation of the nation’s largest police department.

“The vast majority of police officers do outstanding work to protect the city,” Kelly said. “A case like this is disheartening to the entire department.”

The defendants were to appear in court later Tuesday to face conspiracy and firearms charges. The names of their attorneys were not immediately available.

The arrests stem from an FBI-NYPD internal affairs investigation that began in 2009 when a paid FBI informant tipped off authorities that an 18-year NYPD veteran, William Masso, was interested in making money by transporting stolen goods. In the months that followed, the informant and an undercover investigator posing as the ringleader began supplying the defendants and others cigarettes – purportedly stolen out of state – for resale in New York, the criminal complaint says.

Court papers described the informant as a non-U.S. citizen who “has been assisting the FBI in exchange for payment and aid in remaining in the United States.”

Masso, 47, recruited younger officers from his Brooklyn precinct to join the smuggling ring, authorities said. He instructed the men to carry their badges while transporting the stolen goods and, if they were stopped by police, to say they were doing legitimate off-duty work, they added.

According to the complaint, Masso complained in a taped conversation that the officers weren’t getting paid enough.

“They’re risking a lot for a little. … They know what’s going and how much trouble they could get in,” he said, according to the complaint.

In May, three of the officers and other defendants traveled to Virginia, where they received instructions from the informant and undercover on where to find $500,000 worth of cigarettes in trucks parked outside a warehouse, the complaint says. Using a bolt cutter, they broke into the rigs and stole 200 boxes they later delivered to a location on Long Island, it says.

Masso and other defendants also agreed last month to transport 20 weapons from New Jersey to New York using rented mini-vans, the complaint says. The cache was composed of three assault rifles, a shotgun and 16 handguns with serial numbers that had been “obliterated or altered” so they couldn’t be traced, it says.

Prosecutors say the officers were unaware that the weapons also had “been rendered inoperable by the FBI,” the complaint says. The undercover gave four of the police officers about $5,000 each to help transport the guns, it says.

Bloomberg has inserted himself into the national debate over gun control and heads a national coalition of mayors advocating stricter enforcement.

“Our administration is taking every possible step to crack down on illegal guns and continue making the safest big city in the country even safer,” Bloomberg said in a statement Tuesday.

In the Bronx case, a dozen or more officers, including union representatives, are facing allegations they abused their authority by helping friends and family avoid paying traffic tickets.

The gun-smuggling complaint describes the confidential informant being introduced to Masso “as a person who could `fix’ the CI’s traffic tickets.” The officer, it adds, “discussed his willingness to `fix’ tickets.”

Despite the chatter, “This is not a ticket-fixing case,” Bharara said Tuesday.

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US Border Patrol Agent Jesus E. Diaz Jr. Sentenced To 2 Years In Federal Prison After Assaulting Handcuffed Teen

October 25, 2011

TEXAS – A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been sentenced to two years in prison for improperly lifting the arms of a suspected 15-year-old drug smuggler while handcuffed — in what the Justice Department called a deprivation of the teenager’s constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force.

Agent Jesus E. Diaz Jr. was named in a November 2009 federal grand jury indictment with deprivation of rights under color of law during an October 2008 arrest near the Rio Grande River in Eagle Pass, Texas, where he and other agents had responded to a report that illegal immigrants had crossed the river with bundles of drugs.

In a prosecution sought by the Mexican government and obtained after the suspected smuggler was given immunity to testify against the agent, Diaz, a seven-year Border Patrol veteran, was sentenced last week by U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludlum in San Antonio. The Mexican consulate in Eagle Pass had filed a formal written complaint just hours after the arrest, alleging that the teenager had been beaten.

Defense lawyers argued there were no injuries or bruising to the suspected smuggler’s lower arms where the handcuffs had been placed nor any bruising resulting from an alleged knee on his back. Photos showed the only marks on his body came from the straps of the pack he carried containing the suspected drugs, they said.

Border Patrol agents found more than 150 pounds of marijuana at the arrest site.
**FILE** An unidentified man in Mexico walks near a footbridge across the Rio Grande connecting the United States and Mexico near Acala, Texas, on Aug. 4, 2010. The bridge is one of two structures at opposite ends of a towering $2.4 billion west Texas stretch of steel border fence designed to block illegal entry. Though the International Boundary and Water Commission owns the bridges, which it calls grade control structures, both are unguarded paths into the United States from Mexico. (Associated Press)**FILE** An unidentified man in Mexico walks near a footbridge across the Rio Grande connecting the United States and Mexico near Acala, Texas, on Aug. 4, 2010. The bridge is one of two structures at opposite ends of a towering $2.4 billion west Texas stretch of steel border fence designed to block illegal entry. Though the International Boundary and Water Commission owns the bridges, which it calls grade control structures, both are unguarded paths into the United States from Mexico. (Associated Press)

The defense claimed the suspected smuggler was handcuffed because he was uncooperative and resisted arrest, and that the agent had lifted his arms to force him to the ground while the other agents looked for the drugs.

The allegations against Diaz, 31, initially were investigated by Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility, which cleared the agent of any wrongdoing.

But the Internal Affairs Division at U.S. Customs and Border Protection ruled differently nearly a year later and, ultimately, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas brought charges.

Meanwhile, the Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council, which seeks to educate the public concerning the duties, responsibilities and effectiveness of federal law enforcement officers and operations in national security, said the government’s case was “based on false testimony that is contradicted by the facts.”

In a statement, the Council said that given that the Oct.16, 2008, incident took place at about 2 a.m., a lack of lighting would have made it impossible to have seen whether the alleged crimes actually took place. It said Marcos Ramos, the Border Patrol agent who stood next to Diaz, testified he did not see any mistreatment of the suspected smuggler.

The Council said other witnesses made contradictory claims and some later admitted to having perjured themselves. Such admissions, the council said, were ignored by the court and the government. It also said that probationary agents who claimed to have witnessed the assault raised no objections during the alleged incident and failed to notify an on-duty supervisor until hours later.

“Instead they went off-duty to a local ‘Whataburger’ restaurant, got their stories straight and reported it hours later to an off-duty supervisor at his home,” the council said. “Then the ‘witnesses’ went back to the station and reported their allegations.”

The Council also offered an explanation for the suspected smuggler’s admission in court that he suffered no injuries other than sore shoulders: “That was due to the weight of the drug load, approximately 75 pounds he carried across the border.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, which brought the charges, is the same office that in February 2006 — under U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton — prosecuted Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean after they shot a drug-smuggling suspect, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, in the buttocks as he tried to flee back into Mexico after abandoning a van filled with 800 pounds of marijuana. Aldrete-Davila also was given immunity in the case and testified against the agents.

Agents Ramos and Compean were convicted and sentenced to, respectively, 11 and 12 years in prison. President George W. Bush commuted the sentences in 2009 after they had served two years

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US State Dept. Spent $70K Of Our Tax Dollars On Obama’s Book

October 25, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of State has bought more than $70,000 worth of books authored by President Obama, sending out copies as Christmas gratuities and stocking “key libraries” around the world with “Dreams from My Father” more than a decade after its release.

The U.S. embassy in Egypt, for instance, spent $28,636 in August 2009 for copies of Mr. Obama’s bestselling 1995 memoir. Six weeks earlier, the embassy had placed another order with the same book seller, Kalemat Arabia, for more than $9,000 for copies of the same book, federal purchasing records show.

Around the same time, halfway around the world, the U.S. embassy in South Korea had the same idea, spending more than $6,000 for copies of “Dreams from My Father”.

One month later, the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, spent more than $3,800 for hardcover copies of the Indonesian version of Mr. Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope,” records show.

A review of the expenditures in a federal purchasing database did not reveal any examples of past purchases by the State Department of books by President Bush or President Clinton. The purchases of Mr. Obama’s literary work mostly, but not always, took place in the months after Mr. Obama captured the White House.

Leslie Paige, spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group, said if the federal government is looking to cut costs, eliminating purchases of Mr. Obama’s books is a good place to start.

“It’s inappropriate for U.S. taxpayer dollars to be spent on this,” she said. “This sounds like propaganda.”

But State Department spokesman Noel Clay said the book purchases followed regular government procurement rules. He said diplomats have long used books as a way to help broker talks on important foreign policy matters.

“The structure and the presidency of the United States is an integral component of representing the United States overseas,” Mr. Clay said. “We often use books to engage key audiences in discussions of foreign policy.”

He also said books are purchased to stock the State Department’s “information resource centers,” which he said are located around the world and provide books about the U.S. covering issues such as culture, history and values.

“We also provide key library collections with books about the United States,” he said.

There’s no indication the White House knew about the purchases, which overall represent just a fraction of the nearly quarter million dollars Mr. Obama donated to charities last year and his more than $1.7 million in overall income. Mr. Clay said book orders are normally made directly by embassies based on “their experience and knowledge on the ground of the intended audience …”

A White House spokesman did not respond to email messages.

The records show a mix of English and foreign language purchases of Mr. Obama’s books.

The U.S. embassy in Indonesia spent more than $4,800 in September 2009 for copies of both “Dreams of My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope,” though the title of the latter book is spelled “Authority of Hope” in the federal spending database. The embassy spent $3,885 for additional Indonesian copies of “The Audacity of Hope”, records show.

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Sonoma County California Begins Accepting Mexican Issued ID Cards As Valid Identification

October 24, 2011

SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA – In Sonoma County, a California driver’s license is accepted as valid identification — but so is a card issued by the Mexican consulate.

Mexican nationals will be able to give their country’s state-issued identification cards as valid ID to Santa Rosa police officers and Sonoma County sheriffs, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

The idea is to reduce the immigration-related duties of local cops, the newspaper reported. Accepting Mexican consulate-issued cards will reduce the number of people booked into jail for lacking ID, and ergo, will reduce deportations from Santa Rosa County Jail, the newspaper reported.

“Today is a great day,” Sonoma County Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Dueñas said. “We’re now going to accept the matriculár consular ID.”

Advocates for immigrants point out that almost half of the 921 immigrants turned over to ICE authorities by the jails had not committed a crime, and another third had committed minor offenses, the newspaper reported.
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Mexican nationals will need to apply to the consulate for such a card. The consulate will likely set up shop in the area to both issue cards and instruct people how to do so, the newspaper reported.

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Feds Armed Raid Over Tiny Speck Of Moon Dust Terrorized Innocent Elderly Woman

October 24, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – The elaborate mission to recover a moon rock led NASA agents to one of the most down-to-earth places: a Denny’s restaurant in Riverside County.

But at the end of the sting operation, agents were left holding a speck of lunar dust smaller than a grain of rice and a 74-year-old suspect who was terrified by armed officials.

Five months after NASA investigators and local agents swooped into the restaurant and hailed their operation as a cautionary tale for anyone trying to sell national treasure, no charges have been filed, NASA isn’t talking and the case appears stalled.

The target, Joann Davis, a grandmother who says she was trying to raise money for her sick son, asserts the lunar material was rightfully hers, having been given to her space-engineer husband by Neil Armstrong in the 1970s.

“It’s a very upsetting thing,” Davis told The Associated Press. “It’s very detrimental, very humiliating, all of it a lie.”

The strange case centers on a speck of authenticated moon rock encased in an acrylic-looking dome that appears to be a paperweight. For years, NASA has gone after anyone selling lunar material gathered on the Apollo missions because it is considered government property, so cannot be sold for profit.

Still, NASA has given hundreds of lunar samples to nations, states and high-profile individuals but only on the understanding they remain government property. NASA’s inspector general works to arrest anyone trying to sell them.

The case was triggered by Davis herself, according to a search warrant affidavit written by Norman Conley, an agent for the inspector general.

She emailed a NASA contractor May 10 trying to find a buyer for the rock, as well as a nickel-sized piece of the heat shield that protected the Apollo 11 space capsule as it returned to earth from the first successful manned mission to the moon in 1969.

“I’ve been searching the internet for months attempting to find a buyer,” Davis wrote. “If you have any thoughts as to how I can proceed with the sale of these two items, please call.”

Davis told AP the items were among many of the space-related heirlooms her husband left her when he died in 1986. She said she had worked as a lexicographer and he had worked as an engineer for North American Rockwell, which contracted for NASA during the Apollo era.

Davis claims Armstrong gave the items to her husband, though the affidavit says the first man on the moon has previously told investigators he never gave or sold lunar material to anyone.

In follow-up phone conversations with a NASA agent, Davis acknowledged the rock was not sellable on the open market and fretted about an agent knocking on her door and taking the material, which she was willing to sell for “big money underground.”

“She must know that this is a questionable transaction because she used the term `black market,'” Agent Conley states in the search warrant.

Curiously, though, Davis agreed to sell the sample to NASA for a stellar $1.7 million. She said she wanted to leave her three children an inheritance and take care of her sick son.

NASA investigators then arranged the sting, where Conley met with Davis and her current husband at the Denny’s at Lake Elsinore in Riverside County.

Soon after settling into a booth, Davis said, she pulled out the moon sample and about half a dozen sheriff’s deputies and NASA investigators rushed into the eatery.

When officers in flack vests took a hold of her, the 4-foot-11 woman said she was so scared she lost control of her bladder and was taken outside to a parking lot, where she was questioned and detained for about two hours.

“They grabbed me and pulled me out of the booth,” Davis claimed. “I had very, very deep bruises on my left side.”

Conley declined to comment and NASA Office of the Inspector General spokeswoman Renee Juhans said she could not talk about an ongoing investigation.

Davis was eventually allowed home, without the moon rock, and was never booked into a police station or charged.

The affidavit states authorities believed Davis was in possession of stolen government property but so far they have not publicly revealed any proof.

“This (is) abhorrent behavior by the federal government to steal something from a retiree that was given to her,” said Davis’s attorney, Peter Schlueter, who is planning legal action.

Joseph Gutheinz, a University of Phoenix instructor and former NASA investigator who has spent years tracking down missing moon rocks, said prosecuting Davis could prove tricky.

Gutheinz said he recently learned that NASA did not always take good care of lunar materials. In some instances, space suits were simply hosed off and any moon dust on them lost forever.

While bigger rocks, such as those given to various countries and museums were carefully inventoried and tracked, it now appears there are unknown numbers of much smaller pieces circulating in the public. Some of these may have been turned into paperweights and informally given away by NASA engineers.

“I have a real moral problem with what’s happened here in California,” Gutheinz said. “I’ve always taken the position that no one should own an Apollo-era moon rock. They belong to the people. But if we did such a poor job of safeguarding (lunar samples,) I cannot fault that person.”

About 2,200 samples of lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust – weighing about 840 pounds – were brought to Earth by NASA’s Apollo lunar landing missions from 1969 to 1972. A recent count showed 10 states and more than 90 countries could not account for their shares of the gray rocks.

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Violence Against Police Officers Up In Past Year

October 24, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The number of law enforcement officers who were killed nationwide have jumped nearly 17 percent.

Newly released statistics from the FBI show that 56 officers were murdered in the line of duty last year. That a jump from 48 in the previous year.

15 of the officers who were killed had been ambushed. 14 officers died as they attempted to make arrests. One was killed while transporting a prisoner.

All but one of the officers was killed with a gun. The other was killed with the attacker using a vehicle as a weapon.

The South saw the greatest number of killed officers with 22 of the felonious deaths.

Accidental deaths were also much higher last year. The 72 officers who were killed in accidents is a 50 percent increase over the previous year. The majority of the deaths involved automobile accidents.

The report also says that more than 53,000 officers were assaulted in the line of duty last year. The report did not cite prior assault statistics.

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TSA Officer Left Lewd Message In Woman’s Luggage After Finding Sex Toy, But Miss Gun In Luggage

October 24, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Not satisfied with fumbling through Americans’ private possessions, one TSA screener saw fit to make a humiliating joke about the contents, writing a personal message on a TSA inspection note after finding a sex toy in writer Jill Filipovic’s luggage.

After arriving at her hotel, Filipovic was unpacking when she discovered her bag had been individually searched by a TSA screener who, having seen the “personal item,” saw fit to comment, writing “GET YOUR FREAK ON GIRL” on the reverse side of an inspection notice.

“Total violation of privacy, wildly inappropriate and clearly not ok, but I also just died laughing in my hotel room,” wrote Filipovic.

While proving themselves adept at identifying women’s vibrators, TSA screeners are notoriously less skilled at actually doing what they’re paid to do – find dangerous items.

TSA screeners missed a loaded gun inside a checked bag at Los Angeles International Airport yesterday.

“The .38-caliber handgun fell out of a duffel bag as a luggage ramp crew was loading it onto an Alaska Airlines flight to Portland, Ore,” reports USA Today.

Perhaps Filipovic should be relieved that the TSA goon didn’t just steal the item, but they only tend to do that when it’s something really valuable like a laptop, jewelry, precious metals, or cash.

67,000 passenger loss claims have been filed against the TSA since 2003, a figure the federal agency finds completely acceptable.

As we reported earlier, TSA screeners are also now routinely interrogating Americans with questions about their personal income and the value of items they carry through airport security.

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Federal Class Action Lawsuit Filed On Behalf Of Women Sexually Assaulted While In Custody Of Texas Based US Immigration And Customs Enforcement (ICE) – 200 Reported In Custody Assaults In US Since 2007

October 24, 2011

TEXAS – A class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of three immigrant women who were allegedly sexually assaulted while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union said this week.

The ACLU, citing documents it said it had obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, said in a news release that there have been nearly 200 allegations of sexual abuse of immigration detainees jailed at detention facilities across the United States since 2007.

The ACLU release did not give dates of any of the alleged assaults, including those involving the three women who are plaintiffs in the class-action suit. The plaintiffs were identified only as Sarah Doe, Kimberly Doe and Raquel Doe “to protect them from further harm,” the ACLU said.

The alleged attacks occurred while the plaintiffs were being transported from the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, to the airport or bus station in nearby Austin, the ACLU said.

Its release did not say where the class-action suit was filed Wednesday, but it said defendants include three ICE officials; Williamson County, Texas, where the Hutto facility is; the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private prison company that manages the Hutto facility; the former facility administrator for Hutto; and a guard at the facility.

The lawsuit alleges that ICE along with Williamson County and the Corrections Corporation of America were “deliberately indifferent and willfully blind to the fact that (the guard named as a defendant) and other employees regularly violated the rule that detainees are not be transported without another escort officer of the same gender present,” the ACLU said.

ICE did not comment specifically on the ACLU’s announcement of the lawsuit, but an agency spokeswoman said ICE “maintains a strict zero tolerance policy for any kind of abusive or inappropriate behavior and requires all contractors working with the agency to adhere to this policy.”

ICE Public Affairs Officer Gillian Christensen added that the agency requires regular criminal backgrounds checks for its workforce.

“The (Department of Homeland Security) Office of the Inspector General and ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigate ALL allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct and the agency takes appropriate action — whether it is pursuing criminal charges or administrative action — when those allegations are substantiated,” Christensen said in the ICE statement.

The Corrections Corporation of America did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ACLU announcement.

The ACLU said it was basing its claim that there have been 185 allegations of sexual abuse in federal detention centers against female immigration detainees on various federal documents.

The documents — obtained from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and ICE, according to the ACLU — showed that Texas had more alleged abuse cases, 56, than any other state, the organization’s news release said.

“While the information gleaned from the documents likely does not represent the full scope of the problem given that sexual abuse is notoriously underreported, the documents nonetheless make clear that the sexual abuse of immigration detainees is not an isolated problem limited to a few rogue facilities or to a handful of bad-apple government contractors who staff some of the nation’s immigration jails,” the ACLU said.

“Unfortunately, we believe these complaints are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Mark Whitburn, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas.

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Innocent Man Released After 4 1/2 Years Of Life Sentence In Alabama State Prison

October 24, 2011

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Antonio Williams walked out of prison this summer with a proclamation of innocence.

He had not, a judge ruled, raped a little girl, a crime for which he had served four years, six months and 26 days in prison.

Williams walked out of prison with that proclamation, with the feeling of redemption it brought.

But he walked into the world without much else. The family he left behind was broken, the jobs he could perform had disappeared.

The life he knew was gone.

“You cannot give back five years of my life for something I didn’t do,” Williams said. “Right now, I want justice.”

Williams, 43, says he is able to forgive. But as he tries to restart his life, he cannot promise to forget.

He can’t forget the time he spent in prison, nor the stigma of being convicted — even wrongly — of child rape.

He can’t forget that it’s been almost six years since he has seen or talked to his own little girl, who now is almost a teenager.

And he can’t forget the system that found a way to convict him in the first place.

“I haven’t got no sorry or thank you from these folks.” he said.

‘Tried to be fair’

Williams grew up in Birmingham, according to court documents. He attended Wenonah High School and graduated there in 1986.

After graduation, Williams worked a variety of jobs including as a cook at Burger King and McDonald’s, and a dietary assistant at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

In 2000, he became a father. The relationship with the little girl’s mother had ended before Williams knew she was pregnant.

“I wasn’t denying her,” Williams said of his infant daughter. “She was the spitting image of me.”

The mother told him about the baby, but later tried to claim it wasn’t his.

A paternity test proved otherwise, and he vowed to stay in his daughter’s life, despite the mother’s objections.

Williams spent time with his daughter at her grandfather’s house where she lived. Her mother had four children, and all lived with her father who had custody of them.

Williams said the other girls would get upset if he paid attention only to his daughter, so he did for all what he did for his. “I tried to be fair,” he said.

That included giving the girls baths, a fatherly task that would come back to haunt him.

In 2005, Williams learned that he was accused of rape and sexual abuse of his daughter’s 9-year-old half sister, one of the girls he had helped to bathe and take care of.

The allegations surfaced in interviews at the Prescott House after it was discovered that the little girl had sexually transmitted diseases.

“She said I touched her on her private parts, three times,” Williams said. “She said that I told her if she told everybody what I did, I would kill her.”

The girl’s father was trying to get custody of her. Williams was trying to get custody of his own daughter.

Someone, Williams said, concocted lies to stop that from happening. Lies that wouldn’t go away.

“I was mad as hell,” Williams said. “They were playing with an innocent man’s life.”

Williams was arrested on April 27, 2005, after being indicted by a grand jury.

“I didn’t think it would go that far,” Williams said. “The detective had told me I had nothing to worry about, that a grand jury would never indict me.”

Prosecutors claimed that Williams had sexual intercourse with the alleged victim, and improperly touched her, several times when the girl was between the ages of 3 and 6.

A year later, Williams said he went to trial before an all-white jury, where various family members of the girl — relatives both by blood and by marriage — testified. There were no eyewitnesses, and no physical evidence, such as DNA. Just the word of an abused little girl mired in a dysfunctional family.

A jury on April 5, 2007, unanimously convicted Williams of two counts of rape.

“I cried,” Williams said. “I never was, and never will, be a child rapist.”

Williams waited for jurors outside of the courthouse. He screamed at them as they left, something former Circuit Court Judge Gloria Bahakel noted in Williams’ sentencing hearing three weeks later.

Williams’ pastor, the Rev. Thomas Moon who has since retired from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Titusville, pleaded with the judge not to hold that against Williams. Williams was a member of the church before his arrest, and was in the choir.

“When I went through instruction classes with him, I was aware of the temper problems in the past,” Moon told Judge Bahakel. “I have counseled him on being more respectful of the process and not letting his personal emotions burst out. He has a very strong feeling that he is innocent in this matter.”

At the May 2007 hearing, Bahakel asked Williams if he had anything to say.

“Nothing I can say,” a weary Williams said. “I am still not guilty.”

Prosecutor Jim Neill argued for the maximum sentence.

“This man raped and sexually abused not just once or twice, but several times, according to evidence, a 5 to 6-year-old girl. He deserves the maximum penalty in this case.”

Bahakel sentenced Williams to life in prison. His only previous convictions were for driving without a license, and third-degree trespassing. He was also ordered to enter the prison’s sex offender program.

“I thought it was unbelievably harsh,” Moon said.

Williams went to prison on May 18, 2007.

Prison is not an easy place for convicted child rapists, but Williams said he kept a low profile. Prison records show no infractions, and Williams said he dodged questions from fellow inmates about why he was in prison.

“It was real scary,” he said. “I was nervous at first, but after that I got the hang of it. It taught me a lot.”

Williams repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, and filed appeals to that end, but no one other than his close circle of friends believed him.

That changed in April of this year when the alleged victim, now 15, changed her story.

Drastically.

Problems with the case

On April 14, 2011, the girl was interviewed again at the Prescott House on an unrelated issue. It was then that she admitted Williams had never abused or raped her. In fact, she named someone else as the rapist, and her older half-sister corroborated that with tales of her own abuse.

Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls said his office moved quickly to correct the wrong.

“The victim lied, and she maintained that lie through the investigation and trial,” Falls said. “As soon as we knew that, we contacted the defense attorney and the judge.”

Williams was appointed an attorney and a hearing was set before Circuit Judge Stephen Wallace.

Wallace, in a ruling issued in May 2011, outlined problems with the initial case: From the outset, the alleged victim was reluctant and gave contradictory testimony.

“She merely indicated that the defendant had touched her while giving her a bath. She did not say it was inappropriate,” Wallace wrote. “She was unable to discuss or recall the allegations that she made to the social worker at the Prescott House, even denying at one point that she had made any allegations against defendant. Only in her testimony, and only after being prompted, did she fully implicate Williams.”

In this year’s hearing, the girl was asked repeatedly if he had ever touched her inappropriately or raped her. Each time she categorically denied it. She named the person who raped her and said he threatened her with harm if she ever told, which is why, she said, she wrongly named Williams the culprit.

“The court took exhaustive measures to examine and re-examine,” Wallace wrote. “She was asked every conceivable way whether any touching or abuse occurred, and she repeatedly and unequivocally denied that any such contact or rape ever took place.”

The judge’s order also noted that the girl told her stepmother after trial that she had not been sexually abused or raped by the defendant, but the stepmother never relayed that to authorities. Also, the victim’s half sister testified that she had been similarly abused by the person the victim is now claiming abused her.

Wallace called some of the testimony admitted into the original trial “appalling.”

He also lashed out at William’s original defense attorney, saying he had never requested to look at the victim’s 2003 interview at the Prescott House. “If he had, he would have discovered that she gave no disclosure that anyone had touched her, let alone Williams,” Wallace wrote.

In his findings, Wallace said based on the newly discovered evidence and testimony, “there is a great likelihood that had this information been known, the defendant would not have been convicted.”

There was evidence the alleged victim had had sexual contact, primarily by contracting an STD at age 6, and the judge said he is convinced she was raped by one person, or multiple people.

“The court is hopeful the true perpetrator will be brought to justice,” Wallace wrote. “Regardless, it is the court’s duty to correct the injustice committed here.”

Wallace set aside and reversed the convictions, and ordered a new trial.

Falls said he can’t recall a time in his 14 years at the district attorney’s office that a conviction was secured only to find out the victim was lying.

“I’m not sure there’s anything I can say to rectify the situation. This is a rare circumstance, and it is what everyone in this office works to prevent,” Falls said. “Our job is not to just prosecute, but to honestly seek the truth in every case. We have to rely on witnesses to prosecute those cases. This is a terrible situation where that reliance was betrayed.”

Prosecutors declined to go forward with a new trial against Williams. The person now being named as the suspect has not been charged. “We would have to make sure we had extensive corroborating, independent evidence,” besides the girl’s testimony, Falls said.

Starting over

Williams walked out of the Jefferson County Jail at 6:23 p.m. on Aug. 23.

“First of all, I said, ‘Thank God I am free,'” Williams said.

Wearing his only pair of jeans, a T-shirt and boots, Williams carried with him a partial transcript of his case, and nothing else.

He walked the several miles to the Cotton Avenue apartment of one of his best friends, where he had his first home-cooked meal in years and the support of his good friend Andre Savannah.

“I believe he was done wrong. He lost five years of his life for something he didn’t do,” Savannah said. “It was dirty, and it was wrong.”

Williams came back to virtually nothing.

His apartment, and all of his furnishings, were gone. His daughter’s aunt had kept for him one suitcase of his belongings, such as photos of Williams and his daughter, and his high school diploma.

He recently moved into his own apartment near his best friend, but the efficiency unit is all but empty. He was diagnosed with a learning disability as a child, so he gets a disability check and use it to pay for his apartment. He has a few items of clothing, a pallet on the floor, and a phone with an answering machine. There is no furniture, and no food in the refrigerator which, two weeks after moving in, was still unplugged.

The only decor is a 4 x 6 plaque on the wall that he received from his church before his arrest and conviction. “It was for me being a role model,” he said proudly.

“I don’t like starting over like this,” he said. “It’s very hard.”

In fact, he and his friends aren’t sure where to even start.

“You have to wonder what does a guy do that has been in jail for all these years,” the pastor said. “For him to get back on his feet in this type of economy, with his skill level, is going to be a tough road to go.”

Moon is trying to help guide Williams in this transition.

“I am trying to do what I can to help him out. The state of Alabama just let him out and sent him home, with nothing,” he said. “I would not want to be in his shoes right now. It is an overwhelming task for anyone.”

Though Williams wrote his daughter from prison, he never heard back from her. He has no way of knowing if she ever got his letters. He has not seen her since 2005, when she was 6.

He hasn’t yet tried to see her, he said, because he is afraid of angering her family.

“The hurting part is not seeing my child. It’s very hard,” Williams said. “It’s like a child crying at night, that’s how hard it is.”

“And,” he said, “I don’t know how she’s going to react to me when she sees me.”

“He has every right to see her,” Moon said.

“And is there any way for him to be compensated for the time he was wrongly incarcerated?” Moon said. “Where can he find work? What options does he have? Are they going to ask him where he has been for the past four years? Employers don’t want to mess with that.”

Williams said he has talked to six lawyers since his release, but none would help him. He thinks he finally has found one interested in taking him on as a client.

He wants justice, he said, whatever that may be.

“This part of my life is always going to be forever damaged, and that’s something I’ll never get over,” he said. “Only God knows how frustrated and angry I am.”

He wants his name publicly cleared.

“I ain’t no child molester,” he said. “I don’t just believe in God and his son Jesus Christ, I live it.”

Still, he said he is ready to move forward, somehow.

“I am going to live my life. I am going to get back on my feet,” Williams said. “It’s not by the grace of man, it’s by the grace of God. He done blessed me once; he’s going to bless me again.”

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EPIC FAILURE: $1.1+ Trillion Obama Spent To Kill Gaddafi In Libya Ends With Radical Islamic Laws For Its Citizens

October 23, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council and de fact president, had already declared that Libyan laws in future would have Sharia, the Islamic code, as its “basic source”.

But that formulation can be interpreted in many ways – it was also the basis of Egypt’s largely secular constitution under President Hosni Mubarak, and remains so after his fall.

Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi’s era that he said was in conflict with Sharia – that banning polygamy.

In a blow to those who hoped to see Libya’s economy integrate further into the western world, he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia. “Interest creates disease and hatred among people,” he said.

Gulf states like the United Arab Emirates, and other Muslim countries, have pioneered the development of Sharia-compliant banks which charge fees rather than interest for loans but they normally run alongside western-style banks.
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In the first instance, interest on low-value loans would be waived altogether, he said.

Libya is already the most conservative state in north Africa, banning the sale of alcohol. Mr Abdul-Jalil’s decision – made in advance of the introduction of any democratic process – will please the Islamists who have played a strong role in opposition to Col Gaddafi’s rule and in the uprising but worry the many young liberal Libyans who, while usually observant Muslims, take their political cues from the West.

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Richmond County Georgia Deputy Sheriff James D. Paugh Loses After Taking On Man With Assault Rifle – Both Dead

October 23, 2011

RICHMOND COUNTY, GEORGIA – A sheriff’s deputy in Georgia was shot and killed Sunday morning while investigating a domestic dispute, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in Augusta said.

At about 1:18 a.m., Deputy James D. Paugh approached a vehicle in a grassy area, Sheriff Ronnie Strength said in a statement.

“It appears, at this point, that Paugh had stopped his motorcycle and was shot several times with an M4 assault rifle by the suspect,” Strength said. “Evidence at the scene indicates that Paugh fired his weapon at least two times.”

Both Paugh and the suspect were found dead at the scene, Strength said.

Richmond County is in northeastern Georgia, near the South Carolina border.

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Arizona Cops Go Way Overboard – Streaker Faces Felony For “Criminal Impersonation” – Dressed Like A Referee At Football Game

October 22, 2011

ARIZONA – Jace Lankow, an undergraduate at the University of Arizona could face up to one and half years in jail after being charged with a class six felony for criminal impersonation.

Lankow dressed up as a referee and ran onto the field at Arizona Stadium on Thursday night during a football game featuring the Wildcats and UCLA Bruins.

While he was streaking, a brawl ensued between the two Pac-12 South schools, resulting in 10 players being suspended by the conference.

“The Conference is extremely disappointed in the actions of the student-athletes involved in this incident,” Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “It is unacceptable behavior and violated Conference rules, as well as NCAA fighting rules.

“I have taken these actions today because it is imperative that we hold our student-athletes and coaches to the highest standards of sportsmanship.”

Bruins wide receiver Taylor Embree and Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson were penalized by game officials for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected from the contest for fighting with 4 seconds left in the first half. They both will have to sit out an additional game.

UCLA defensive tackle Cassius Marsh was given a two-game ban while receivers Randall Carroll, Shaq Evans, and Ricky Marvray each received a game. Guard Alberto Cid will have to sit for a half.

Arizona nickleback Jourdan Grandon will miss a game while cornerback Lyle Brown and safety Mark Watley each will sit a half.

The suspensions will occur during each school’s next scheduled game. UCLA plays Saturday, Oct. 29 against California, while Arizona’s next game is at Washington that day.

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Broke: Texas Cuts Back On Inmate Meals In Jails

October 22, 2011

TEXAS – Prisoners in Texas jails have been tightening their belts as the state cuts back on weekend lunches to save money.

Since April, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has scaled back on weekend meals to two per day, eliminating lunch.

Department spokesman Jason Clark said that prisoners in certain institutions — including jails where inmates are serving two years or less and transfer facilities — are now getting only “brunch” and dinner. However, he insisted that the nutritional value remains the same.

“The brunch and dinner meals provide the same number of servings of each food group as is served during the week, but those servings are distributed over two meals instead of three,” wrote Clark, in an e-mail to CNNMoney.

He said this two-meal rule does not apply to inmates who are “prescribed a therapeutic diet by a physician.”

The elimination of lunch is part of the state’s effort to save $2.8 million during the current fiscal year.

“The decision to serve two meals on the weekend was prompted by the statewide budgetary challenges and consistent with funding decisions made by the Texas Legislature,” Clark said.

Brunch is served from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., he said, and dinner is served from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Lisa Graybill, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Texas, said that depriving prisoners of meals is less “impactful,” in terms of saving money, compared to releasing some of the low-level offenders in the “overincarcerated” jail system.

“I think it’s a poor substitute for some of the policy making that could really dial down the number [of prisoners,]” she said.

The average cost of feeding an inmate was $3.37 per day in fiscal 2010, said Clark, who did not have an estimate for savings.

He said this cost-saving measure is unrelated to a recent suspension of customized last meals for death row inmates. Prisoners facing execution have traditionally been allowed to choose their last meal.

But Clark said that practice ended Sept. 22, after a Texas state senator, John Whitmore, expressed indignation over the appetite of convicted murderer Lawrence Brewer.

Brewer, a white supremacist, was executed for last month for killing a black man in 1998 by dragging him from a truck. When Brewer faced imminent execution, this is what he ordered for his last meal, according to the department:

— Two chicken-fried steaks “smothered in gravy” with sliced onions

— Triple-patty bacon cheeseburger

— Cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and jalapeños

— Bowl of fried okra with ketchup

— One pound of barbecue with a half loaf of white bread

— Three fajitas

— One pint of Blue Bell ice cream

— Meat lover’s pizza

— Slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts

— Three root beers

“The last meal was made for him and brought to him, and he didn’t eat it,” said Clark, noting that Brewer was the last and final inmate to receive a special last meal.

Clark said the next inmate scheduled for execution in Texas is convicted murderer Frank Garcia, who faces lethal injection on Oct. 27.

Garcia can blame Brewer for his lack of a special last meal.

“He’ll be served whatever the other inmates are eating that day,” said Clark

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Crazed Genesee County Michigan Sheriff Robert Pickell Sets Up Illegal Checkpoints On Interstate And State Highways

October 21, 2011

GENESEE COUNTY, MICHIGAN – Motorists driving on expressways around Flint are getting surprised by a stunning tactic that the Genesee County sheriff has been using to fight the flow of illegal drugs — one that legal experts said will not withstand a court challenge.

At least seven times this month, including Tuesday, motorists have said they have seen a pickup towing a large sign on I-69 or U.S.-23 that depicts the sheriff’s badge and warns: “Sheriff narcotics check point, 1 mile ahead — drug dog in use.”

The checkpoints are part of a broad sweep for drugs that Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell and his self-titled Sheriff’s Posse said are needed, calling Flint a crossroads of drug dealing because nearly a half-dozen major roads and expressways pass in and around the city. Pickell said he decided to try checkpoints when he learned that drug shipments might be passing through Flint in tractor-trailers with false compartments.

“We’re doing everything by the book,” Genesee County Undersheriff Christopher Swanson said. “We think there’s major loads (of drugs) coming through here from all over, every day. And this is one of the tools we use — narcotics checkpoints.”

He said the dogs are used to sniff around the vehicles to check for drugs.

The practice has legal experts on searches and seizures at two law schools in Michigan, a constitutional law expert in Lansing and the American Civil Liberties Union calling the practice out of bounds and out of touch with state and U.S. Supreme Court rulings that ban such practices.

Based on a case out of Indianapolis, the U.S. Supreme Court held in 2000 that narcotics checkpoints where everyone gets stopped on a public road are not legal and violate Fourth Amendment protections against illegal searches and seizures, professor David Moran at the University of Michigan Law School said.

Wayne State University Law School professor Peter Henning said police can set up roadblocks to search all who pass by, but only if a crime has just been committed.

And Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, who said he was not consulted by Pickell about the checkpoints, said that after a court challenge, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that so-called “sobriety check lanes,” put in place to nab drunken drivers, were illegal.

The new practice of narcotics checkpoints “certainly brings up probable-cause issues,” Leyton said Thursday.

Leyton said he has no power to stop the practice, however. That, he said, would require someone arrested at a checkpoint to contest the evidence in court.

The checkpoints have caused an uproar, officials said. And, as a result, the sheriff’s office has altered its methods: Instead of using the checkpoints daily — even Sundays when they started at the beginning of the month — they are used sporadically. And instead of stopping everyone, law enforcement has been putting the signs out and waiting for a motorist to make an illegal U-turn in the freeway median to try to avoid the checkpoint, thus giving them cause to pull the driver over and search the vehicle.

But even that method raises question, U-M professor Moran said. The technique has not been tested in Michigan courts, he said. But judges would take a dim view of it because “it’s perilously close to entrapment,” he said.

“It’s just the kind of shabby treatment that the Fourth Amendment was designed to prevent,” Moran said.

Among the groups of motorists most stunned by the checkpoints are state-registered medical marijuana users and caregivers. Pickell and Swanson said the checkpoints weren’t meant to target medical-marijuana users, but word of the new tactic spread quickly through that community.

Many registered users and caregivers told the Free Press they now fear driving near Flint, even when they possess their medical-marijuana registry cards.

At a checkpoint Tuesday afternoon just west of Flint on I-69, officers pulled over only those who saw the checkpoint sign, then made an illegal U-turn on the freeway, Jamie Fricke, 31, of Lapeer said.

“But my buddy went through this on Monday and he said they were pulling over all enclosed trailers. They had drug-sniffing dogs out that day,” on I-69 east of Flint, in Burton, she said.

Fricke, a state registered medical-marijuana user, said she had a small amount of the drug with her, but her car was not searched.

Larry and Diane Foster, both of Muskegon, said they saw a checkpoint Oct. 5 in which officers were stopping every motorist on eastbound I-69.

“We were going in the opposite direction or we would’ve been stopped,” said Diane Foster, 55, a state-registered medical-marijuana user and caregiver. “I had medication (marijuana) on me, so I don’t know what the outcome would’ve been.”

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$1.1 Trillion U.S. Tax Dollars Spent Killing Muammar El-Qaddafi In Libya

October 21, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Call him the billion-dollar man. One billion for one dictator.

According to the Pentagon, that was the cost to U.S. taxpayers for Muammar el-Qaddafi’s head: $1.1 billion through September, the latest figure just out of the Defense Department.

And that’s just for the Americans.

The final totals will take some time to add up, and still do not include the State Department, CIA, and other agencies involved or other NATO and participating countries. Vice President Joe Biden said that the U.S. “spent $2 billion total and didn’t lose a single life.” NATO does not track the operational costs to each member country, but the funds directly taken from a common NATO account for Libya operations have totaled about $7.4 million per month for electronic warfare capabilities and $1.1 million per month for headquarters and command staff, a NATO spokesman said.

From the beginning of Operation Unified Protector in March, critics have questioned whether the U.S. could afford to open a third front. The Congressional Research Services estimate the Afghanistan war has cost nearly $500 billion so far. With Iraq, the figure easily tops $1 trillion.

In the first week of Libya operations, bombs were dropped from B-2 stealth planes flown from Missouri and roughly 200 missiles launched from submarines in the Mediterranean, causing alarm that any extended campaign would quickly cost billions more.

But after the U.S. military ramped up the operation, other NATO countries shouldered most of the air burden. Americans took a supporting role: aerial refueling tankers, electronic jamming, and surveillance.

The behind-the-scenes role was something President Obama celebrated in remarks in the Rose Garden on Thursday.

“Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives and our NATO mission will soon come to an end,” Obama said.

As to when that mission would end, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement NATO issued from Brussels, “We will terminate our mission in coordination with the United Nations and the National Transitional Council.”

U.S. and NATO officials steadily maintained their mission was never to hunt, capture or kill the Libyan leader. The mission, they said, was to enforce the arms embargo, establish and hold a no-fly zone, and take actions to protect civilians from attack or the threat of attack.

That last directive seemed to give plenty of reason to target Libya’s top commander. But Pentagon officials said for months that if Qaddafi should happen to be at one of those locations when NATO missiles strike, so be it.

Since the operation began on March 31, getting to Qaddafi’s final stand required 7,725 air sorties and 1,845 strike sorties, 397 of which dropped ordnance, and 145 Predator drone strikes.

NATO aircraft, including those supplied by the U.S., totaled 26,089 sorties and 9,618 strike sorties through Wednesday.

More than 70 U.S. aircraft have supported the operation, including Predator drones.

NATO flew 67 sorties and 16 strikes sorties over Libya one day before Qaddafi was killed.

The NATO mission also employed submarines, aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers, frigates, and supply ships—as many as 21 vessels at one time.

Additionally, as of one week ago, the U.S. had sold participating countries in the operation roughly $250 million in ammunition, parts, fuel, technical assistance, and other support, according to the Pentagon.

Several members of Congress put out statements celebrating Qaddafi’s downfall but did not comment on the cost. Several offices contacted did not provide additional reaction to the monetary figures.

But presidential candidate Ambassador Jon Huntsman did question the cost of the Libya operation. His statement on Thursday said, “I remain firm in my belief that America can best serve our interests and that transition through non-military assistance and rebuilding our own economic core here at home.”

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Department Of Homeland Security To Being Amnesty Hearings For Illegal Aliens

October 20, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC –  The Obama administration soon will begin its systematic review of the approximately 300,000 pending deportation cases, separating “high priority” cases involving criminals it wants to deport from “low priority” cases it will drop, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress Wednesday.

The effort marks another point in an evolution of immigration enforcement away from the worksite raids of the Bush administration and towards deportations of illegal immigrants in prisons and jails.

Napolitano said a group of Homeland Security and Justice Department officials will begin a small “pilot” review of immigration cases in “two or three” weeks, and hopes to rapidly expand its efforts.

Under the policy announced last year, federal immigration officials will place the highest priority on deporting illegal immigrants who pose a danger to public safety and national security, while “administratively closing” other cases, taking into consideration a list of factors. Those factors include the person’s length of time in the United States, whether the immigrant arrived as a child, served in the military and has a spouse, child or parent who is a U.S. citizen.

DHS officials say the new policy, which gives immigration officials “prosecutorial discretion,” is similar to policies of previous administrations, and is a “common sense” approach to immigration enforcement.

But critics have blasted the policy, say that by “administratively closing” cases, the Obama administration is giving “amnesty” to illegal immigrants.

The policy is “alarming, especially for those of us who firmly believe in the rule of law,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday.

Grassley said much is unknown about the policy, including whether illegal immigrants with criminal convictions will be eligible to stay in the country, and what will happen to undocumented immigrants whose cases are closed.

“We want answers. We want transparency and accountability. We want to be part of the process,” Grassley said.

In a recent speech, Napolitano said critics ignore the fact the number of deportations has increased during the Obama administration, and that the composition of that number has “fundamentally changed.” The ranks of deported people “consist of more convicted criminals, recent border crossers, egregious immigration law violators and immigration fugitives than ever before,” she said.

Of the 396,906 individuals removed from the U.S. in fiscal 2011, nearly 55 percent had been convicted of felonies or misdemeanors. That’s an 89 percent increase of criminals from three years ago, DHS said.

Napolitano said DHS has eliminated worksite raids, saying they “did nothing to enhance public safety.” Instead, the Obama administration has focused on prosecuting employers who violate employment laws, she said.

Napolitano said the department’s focus on criminal illegal immigrants is better than “the ad hoc approach where non-criminal aliens are more likely to be removed than criminals.”

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Tennessee Police To Begin Routinely Stopping And Searching Vehicles Without Probable Cause

October 20, 2011

PORTLAND, TENNESSEE – You’re probably used to seeing TSA’s signature blue uniforms at the airport, but now agents are hitting the interstates to fight terrorism with Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR).

“Where is a terrorist more apt to be found? Not these days on an airplane more likely on the interstate,” said Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons.

Tuesday Tennessee was first to deploy VIPR simultaneously at five weigh stations and two bus stations across the state.

Agents are recruiting truck drivers, like Rudy Gonzales, into the First Observer Highway Security Program to say something if they see something.

“Not only truck drivers, but cars, everybody should be aware of what’s going on, on the road,” said Gonzales.

It’s all meant to urge every driver to call authorities if they see something suspicious.

“Somebody sees something somewhere and we want them to be responsible citizens, report that and let us work it through our processes to abet the concern that they had when they saw something suspicious,” said Paul Armes, TSA Federal Security Director for Nashville International Airport.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol checked trucks with drug and bomb sniffing dogs during random inspections.

“The bottom line is this: if you see something suspicious say something about it,” Gibbons said Tuesday.

The random inspections really aren’t any more thorough normal, according to Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott who says paying attention to details can make a difference. Trott pointed out it was an Oklahoma state trooper who stopped Timothy McVeigh for not having a license plate after the Oklahoma City bombing in the early 1990s.

Tuesday’s statewide “VIPR” operation isn’t in response to any particular threat, according to officials.

Armes said intelligence indicates law enforcement should focus on the highways as well as the airports.

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Crazed Norfolk Virginia School Security Guard Assaulted At Least 37 Children Using Pepper Spray

October 20, 2011

NORFOLK, VIRGINIA – A middle school security guard used pepper spray on children after a food fight broke out in the cafeteria.

Schools officials are investigating after the unnamed female guard used the powerful weapon to break up a fight during lunch at Lafayette-Winona Middle School in Norfolk, Virginia.

Parents were horrified by the heavy- handed approach, which caused some children who suffer from asthma to get sick.

Violent: A security guard at Lafayette-Winona Middle School in Norfolk, Virginia used pepper spray to regain control after a food fight broke out in the cafeteria

Violent: A security guard at Lafayette-Winona Middle School in Norfolk, Virginia used pepper spray to regain control after a food fight broke out in the cafeteria

37 students complained of physical symptoms following the pepper spray.

They were examined by the school nurse, and their parents were contacted. Five parents contacted the school after the incident.

‘It was just terrible in there,’ 12-year-old Derrell Hairston told Wavy.com

Derrell’s mother Tyheshia Hairston said: ‘He stayed up all night coughing and gagging.

‘I just feel like you can’t treat these kids like animals … they’re going to act like animals.’

Norfolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard Bentley said. ‘I’d be upset absolutely I don’t blame the parents for being upset I understand that.’

He added: ‘We’re still investigating the facts, we don’t have all the facts yet okay and it would be inappropriate for me to speak about that until we completed the investigation.’

According to school policy, the security officer only use the pepper spray when less forceful methods don’t work. They must also warn pupils.

Derrell Hairston said: ‘She just started spraying pepper spray. She didn’t warn nobody or nothing.’

The principal Tracey Flemings yesterday sent a letter to parents, which read: ‘Yesterday during your child’s lunch period, one of our school security officers determined that it was necessary to use pepper spray to end a food fight.

‘Children who were in the vicinity of the incident, or any who complained of physical symptoms, were examined by the school nurse. We contacted their parents.

‘Please be assured that Norfolk Public Schools has specific policy and procedures regarding the use of pepper spray by our school security officers, and all officers are thoroughly trained.

‘I am working in partnership with the Norfolk Public Schools Department of Pupil Personnel Services to determine whether yesterday’s use of the pepper spray met our policy and procedures.

‘If we find that the protocols were not followed, appropriate steps will be taken to ensure that it does not happen again.’

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Brooklyn New York Police Remove “Racist” Halloween Decoration From Private Property

October 20, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – A Halloween display at a home in Brooklyn has been taken down after some called it a symbol of racism.

A scarecrow painted to have dark skin was hanging by a rope from a tree in front of a home in Kensington.

Some neighbors say the homeowner gets in the spirit of Halloween every year and believe he meant no harm by the display.

But one councilman argued it was reminiscent of a lynching.

“It’s unacceptable,” said Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn). “You ain’t speaking for this whole community because some people on this block came by and said it was offensive. They came and said it was offensive. It’s not a cool decoration.”

Police settled the dispute by removing the scarecrow figure from the tree.

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Massachusetts Police Assault Unarmed Naked Man Using Taser Weapon

October 20, 2011

DEERFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS – A quiet morning at the summit of Mount Sugarloaf was disrupted this Sunday after a naked man caused a scene which ended after police used a stun gun, twice, to subdue him.

According to a report in The Recorder, the unnamed man was running around the mountain, as nearby onlookers were preparing for a wedding.

Deerfield Police Chief Michael Wozniakewicz said that his officers along with Massachusetts State Police and Sunderland police responded to the incident.

Officers apparently approached the man and unclear circumstances led one of them to fire a stun gun at him. The naked man reportedly fell to the ground and rolled around, causing one of the electrical leads to fall out.

Police said he became combative and a second Taser cartridge was deployed, striking the naked man. As officers struggled to subdue the man, a state trooper was allegedly struck in the face, getting him a bloody nose for his efforts.

When the naked man was finally taken into custody, he apparently apologized to officers as he was placed on a gurney and loaded into a Deerfield Ambulance.

The Recorder reported that Wozniakewicz said the man may have been suffering from a medical issue which led to the naked scuffle on top of the mountain.

The man, who has not been formally charged, was taken to the Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield for treatment.

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Gunshots And 5 Stabbed At Inmate’s Welcome Home Party After Being Released From Jail

October 19, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – A welcome home party for a teen released from juvenile detention resulted in gunshots and stab wounds for five people at the party.

The congratulations-for-getting-out-of-juvenile-detention party occurred on the 500 block of Hess Street in Bethlehem Saturday night, police told the Morning Call.

Reports of gunshots in that area brought police to find two people with stab wounds from a huge brawl that erupted on the street during the party. Police brought the two wounded to St. Luke’s Hospital and later discovered that three more people were stabbed and had gone to the hospital on their own.

Four adults and one 17-year-old juvenile were among the wounded, reports the Morning Call.

Five people were detained, including a woman suspected of firing a gun, but all were released, police say. There have been no charges filed in the case but the investigation is ongoing.

Police told the Morning Call that the cause for the fight was unknown and the guest of honor was not among the wounded or detained.

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Crazed Louisiana Lawmakers Ban Cash When Buying Other People’s Trash

October 19, 2011

LOUISIANA – Cold hard cash. It’s good everywhere you go, right? You can use it to pay for anything.

But that’s not the case here in Louisiana now. It’s a law that was passed during this year’s busy legislative session.

House bill 195 basically says those who buy and sell second hand goods cannot use cash to make those transactions, and it flew so far under the radar most businesses don’t even know about it.

“We’re gonna lose a lot of business,” says Danny Guidry, who owns the Pioneer Trading Post in Lafayette. He deals in buying and selling unique second hand items.

“We don’t want this cash transaction to be taken away from us. It’s an everyday transaction,” Guidry explains.

Guidry says, “I think everyone in this business once they find out about it. They’re will definitely be a lot of uproar.”

The law states those who buy or sell second hand goods are prohibited from using cash. State representative Rickey Hardy co-authored the bill.

Hardy says, “they give a check or a cashiers money order, or electronic one of those three mechanisms is used.”

Hardy says the bill is targeted at criminals who steal anything from copper to televisions, and sell them for a quick buck. Having a paper trail will make it easier for law enforcement.

“It’s a mechanism to be used so the police department has something to go on and have a lead,” explains Hardy.

Guidry feels his store shouldn’t have to change it’s ways of doing business, because he may possibly buy or sell stolen goods. Something he says has happened once in his eight years.

“We are being targeted for something we shouldn’t be.”

Besides non-profit resellers like Goodwill, and garage sales, the language of the bill encompasses stores like the Pioneer Trading Post and flea markets.

Lawyer Thad Ackel Jr. feels the passage of this bill begins a slippery slope for economic freedom in the state.

“The government is placing a significant restriction on individuals transacting in their own private property,” says Ackel.

Pawn shops have been forced to keep records of their clients for years. However under this bill they are still allowed to deal in cash.

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Los Angeles California Police Lose Twenty-One 600 Round Per Minute Machine Guns And Twelve Colt 45 Pistols From A “Secure” Building

October 18, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Two separate investigations are underway Monday after multiple submachine guns and pistols used for SWAT training by the LAPD were found missing.

KNX 1070′s Pete Demetriou reports the weapons were stolen from a building owned and used specifically for training by the LAPD.

The 21 MP-5 submachine guns and a dozen Colt 45 automatic pistols were taken from a locked container inside the Kennedy Building on San Pedro Street, police officials said.

The location — which formerly housed clothing firms before it was donated to the LAPD several years ago — is considered a secure site, Deputy Chief Michael Downing told the Associated Press.

While the weapons had been modified to fire training ammunition, the concern is that they could easily be converted back to fire live rounds.

“These guns can’t be used with regular ammunition unless they’re significantly modified back,” said LAPD Commander Andy Smith.

With the proper fittings, the MP-5 can fire live ammo at 600 rounds minute — potentially putting heavy firepower into criminal hands.

A second administrative investigation is also underway as to why the weapons were stored in a location with no alarms or security cameras.

“We always do an internal investigation whenever anything like this occurs, and we’ll have our investigators look at it from top to bottom,” said Smith.

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Thieves Drive Off With Truck Containing $200K Worth Of Audio Equipment Used For Obama Speaches

October 18, 2011

HENRICO, VIRGINIA – NBC12 has uncovered one of those stories that makes you think: “How in the world does that happen?!” A truck filled with President Obama’s podiums and audio equipment was stolen in Henrico just days before his visit to Chesterfield.

We confirmed an investigation with the U.S. Defense Department. There are still a lot of questions. The biggest one being did the thieves intentionally target the President’s truck or did they take advantage of a crime of opportunity and give a big “uh-oh” when they saw what was inside.

When you see President Obama speak, there is a pretty typical setup including the presidential seal on a podium, the see-thru Teleprompter and a portable sound system.

Thieves saw the truck carrying that equipment and couldn’t resist the target.

We’re told the truck was parked at the Virginia Center Commons Courtyard Marriott in advance on Wednesday’s presidential visit to Chesterfield.

Sources said inside that vehicle was about $200,000 worth of sound equipment, several podiums and presidential seals, behind which only the President himself can stand.

They told NBC12 around 12:30 Monday afternoon that truck was recovered in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express near the airport and hotel staff confirm police activity. One guest we spoke with said he saw various law enforcement agencies examining a white box truck parked there.

According to him, the entire back parking lot was blocked off as Henrico Police along with “lots of guys in suits” investigated. He said the truck had no markings and no indication anything special was inside. That leads to another big question of whether or not any of that was actually stolen.

Late Monday evening we found a truck with US government tags still parked in the Marriott’s lot. We are waiting to find out if that is the original truck returned to the staff or a second vehicle.

We were able to get this statement from a Defense Information Systems Agency spokesperson: “No classified or sensitive information was in the vehicle. We take incidents such as this very seriously and a formal investigation is continuing.”

We are waiting to find out if surveillance cameras on the building captured the crooks on tape.

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TSA Agent Dianna Perez Accepted Bribe From Former Los Angeles California Fire Chief’s Son To Allow Pot On Airliner

October 18, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA –  The son of Los Angeles’ former fire chief, Millage Peaks, has been arrested for allegedly bribing a TSA agent to help him smuggle marijuana on board a flight.

Authorities arrested Millage Peaks Jr., 23, Sunday morning on charges of smuggling 10-15 pounds of pot on a flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Boston.

“It’s a fair amount. I think it was purchased for about $38,000 and was gonna be resold for some amount greater than that,” said Robert Little, Peaks’ attorney.

Peaks Jr. admitted he bribed a TSA agent, Dianna Perez, to let his suitcase go through security screening for an American Airlines flight. He and Perez also said that they had worked together before and that several thousands of dollars had exchanged hands.

Perez, 28, was also arrested. She was charged with accepting the alleged bribe.

Peaks Jr. has been charged with bribing a public official, according to the FBI.

The arrest came when the suitcase was searched after other baggage handlers smelled marijuana.

According to the FBI affidavit, “Peaks had arranged for Perez to help him move bags containing marijuana through airport security for a fee. He intended to pay Perez $500 for each bag that she helped bypass security.”

The FBI affidavit said Peaks claimed Perez had helped him “circumvent security nine previous times.”

Officials said Perez had denied everything at first, but later admitted to taking “big tips” for helping bags bypass security in the past.

Peaks’ father, as well as his sister, who is an LAX officer, said they did not know he was selling drugs.

“I can’t say he’s been very cooperative with law enforcement, with me, and with the process and it’s part of the reason he’s bonding out within the next few hours,” said Little.

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All Of A Sudden Privacy Is A Concern When Its Time For Police Officers DNA To Be Sampled And Stored

October 17, 2011

HARTFORD, CONNECTICT — When police in southern Louisiana were investigating the deaths of eight women in 2009, the sophistication of the crimes set off rumors that the serial killer was a police officer – speculation that became so pervasive that officials ordered DNA testing of law enforcement personnel to rule it out.

All local officers agreed to the testing and were eliminated as suspects, but the killer remains at large, said Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff Ricky Edwards.

Having officers’ DNA samples on file is important for saving time in investigations and fending off doubt about evidence at trials because it allows authorities to identify unknown genetic material found at crime scenes, Edwards and other police and crime lab officials say.

Police in other parts of the country, however, are not as willing to hand over their DNA. Rank-and-file police from Connecticut to Chicago to Los Angeles have opposed what some experts say is a slowly emerging trend in the U.S. to collect officers’ DNA.

“From a civil liberties standpoint, there are a lot of red flags,” said Connecticut Trooper Steven Rief, former president of the state police union.

“It’s not that the law enforcement officers are opposed to giving up their DNA,” he said. “You need to have safeguards in place. Something that can tell you … something intimate about someone needs to be treated with the utmost care.”

Rief and officers in other states say their concerns include management using the DNA information to see if employees are predisposed to diseases and to predict workers’ future health problems. The rank-and-file also don’t want their DNA placed onto a national database that holds criminals’ genetic data.

Connecticut state police officials tried to get the legislature to approve a law requiring officers to provide DNA samples in 2009, but the bill died during the session after Rief and others spoke out against it at a public hearing at the Capitol.

In Chicago, police officers rebelled with a work slowdown in 2008 because of resentment toward their new chief over several issues, including a new policy to collect DNA from officers working at crime scenes.

In a still-unresolved dispute in Los Angeles, the police union and top brass have traded salvos over a requirement that officers give DNA samples in shootings involving police and other use-of-force incidents. Union leaders say management won’t restrict how the DNA information is used and stored, and the union cautioned officers in 2009 about potential privacy and misuse problems.

The union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, has been waiting for the department to force an officer to provide his or her DNA, which it hasn’t done yet, so it can challenge the policy in court, a union spokesman said.

A small number of police departments across the country have limited policies on collecting officers’ DNA. New York and Las Vegas, for example, require samples from crime scene investigators.

Louisiana appears to be the only state with a law requiring officers to provide genetic samples. The law was enacted in 2003 and applies only to officers hired on or after Aug. 15 of that year.

During the investigation of the serial killings in Jefferson Davis Parish, about 70 miles east of the Texas line, Edwards said officers in his agency and the Jennings Police Department who were hired before the DNA law took effect voluntarily gave samples of their DNA.

“I think it’s a good tool that we’re utilizing,” Edwards said. “I see it as potentially going all the way across the country.

“I realize that there may be some privacy concerns,” he said. “We should be leaders in saying we don’t have a problem doing it.”

Police in other parts of the world, including the United Kingdom and Australia, have been keeping officers’ DNA on file for several years. The U.K. is also known for starting the world’s first government DNA database of criminal suspects in 1995. The U.S. followed suit and now has the world’s largest DNA database of criminals with 10 million profiles.

Some experts say policies requiring police officers’ to give samples of their DNA have been slower to catch on in the U.S. because police unions have more power here.

Lisa Hurst, a senior consultant with the lobbying firm of Gordon Thomas Honeywell, said that as DNA technology advances, it’s more important that officers’ DNA is on file to eliminate unknown samples found at crime scenes.

“Today’s tests pick up a high amount of samples,” said Hurst, whose firm lobbies for the DNA industry and advises governments on DNA legislation. “They need to make sure that this unknown (DNA) profile isn’t from a detective or patrol guy who accidentally sneezed while walking through the room.”

It’s especially important, she said, for eliminating reasonable doubt at criminal trials.

“If there’s one unknown sample at the scene, the jury may give the defendant the benefit of the doubt,” Hurst said.

Unknown DNA samples have caused problems in some criminal investigations, especially in the case of the so-called “phantom killer” in Europe. DNA from that woman was found at the scenes of about 40 crimes in Germany, Austria and France in recent years, ranging from burglaries to the shooting of a policewoman.

But the search for the woman ended with an embarrassing discovery in 2009: the DNA came from an innocent worker at a company that made the cotton swabs used to collect evidence.

Rief, the Connecticut trooper, said that while collecting DNA can be a good thing for criminal investigations, it also presents a host of problems.

“If we’re just having a philosophical discussion about solving crimes and collecting DNA, why not collect DNA from everybody when they’re born?” he said. “But I don’t think we’re ready to have that discussion as a society.”

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Dennis Ritchie 1941 – 2011

October 16, 2011

Software pioneer Dennis Ritchie, the inventor of the C programming language and key figure in the establishment of the founding principles of modern computer operating systems, died Wednesday after a long illness at the age of 70.

The son of Bell Labs scientist and switching circuit pioneer Alistair E. Ritchie, Ritchie joined Bell Labs in 1967, several years after graduating from Harvard with degrees in physics and applied mathematics. He also earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1968. It was at the Bell Labs Computing Sciences Research Center that Ritchie forged a career that included the creation of C, still perhaps the strongest pillar of application and operating system development today, and with Ken Thompson, the development of the UNIX operating system.

Ritchie’s partnerships with Ken Thompson and Brian Kernighan defined the most productive and influential part of his groundbreaking career. With Kerrighan, Ritchie co-authored The C Programming Language, considered the Bible of C. The book is commonly referred to simply as K&R, in reference to its authors.

But it was the collaboration with Thompson on the design of UNIX as a portable, multi-tasking, multi-user—and ultimately wildly influential—operating system that earned Ritchie perhaps his most lasting fame in the world of computing.

UNIX, originally a “programmer’s workbench” that was re-coded in C in the early 1970s, became a widely used operating system in devices and computers ranging from cell phones to enterprise servers as the architecture’s flexibility, openness, and the ease of adding new software tools to the base UNIX kernel attracted users in academia and industry. The UNIX client-server model was also instrumental in the evolution of computing from stand-alone machines to massively networked computing environments, and Ritchie’s work was essential to the development of the biggest computer network of them all, the Internet.

Today, many widely used operating systems and programming languages—including Google’s Android, Apple’s Mac OS and iOS, Linux, C++, and JavaScript—owe their existence to Ritchie’s pioneering work on C and UNIX.

Ritchie and Thompson were together honored with numerous awards for their work on UNIX and the C programming language, including the Turing Award in 1983, the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal in 1990, the U.S. National Medal of Technology in 1999, and the Japan Prize for Information and Communications in 2011.

Ritchie also cultivated a lifestyle that broke sharply from the 9-to-5, button-down look associated with the 1950s-era computer industry. Long-haired and bearded, Ritchie was “famously more owl than lark,” according to ZDNet, “start[ing] work at midday in his industry-standard chaotic office, emerging late in the evening to go home and carry on working through to the small hours at the end of a leased line connected to the Bell Labs computers.”

Bell Labs was of course spun off by AT&T to form Lucent Technologies, where Ritchie worked as the head of Lucent Technology Systems’ software research department through the company’s merger with Alcatel in 2006, finally retiring from Alcatel-Lucent in 2007.

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White House Hides Obama’s Involvement And/Or Ties To Bankrupt Solyndra Company – $535 Million Loan From Feds

October 15, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Congress isn’t getting a glimpse of what’s on President Barack Obama’s Blackberry – or any more internal White House communications related to the bankrupt solar company Solyndra, which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government.

House Republicans investigating the loan controversy had requested all internal White House documents about the issue. House Energy and Commerce subcommittee chair Rep. Cliff Stearns said that includes emails on the President’s Blackberry.

On Friday the White House Counsel sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee explaining they won’t comply with the request because it “implicates longstanding and significant institutional Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”

The response is hardly a surprise given past administrations’ refusal to comply with similar congressional requests. The difference here? President Obama is the first Chief Executive to carry a Blackberry, so it’s the first time a White House counsel has – even indirectly – turned down an attempt to peek at his email. Neither the Blackberry nor his personal email is explicitly mentioned in the letter.

On October 5, Republican Chairmen Fred Upton and Cliff Stearns requested “all communications among White House staff and officials related to the $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra” because they believed “the White House was closely involved in the monitoring of the Solyndra loan guarantee after it was issued.”

They said these documents are necessary “to better understand the involvement of the White house in the review of the Solyndra loan guarantee and the Administration’s support of this guarantee.’

In her letter Friday, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said, “the three federal agencies most directly involved in the Solyndra loan guarantee, the Department of Energy, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Treasury, are all cooperating with the Committee’s investigation into the Solyndra loan guarantee.”

Together she says the three agencies have turned over 70,000 pages of documents and are continuing to do so “on a rolling basis.” The letter states the White House has turned over another 900 pages related to communications between the White House and Solyndra, its representatives and investors. She offers to cooperate further with the investigators.

CNN has attempted to reach the Chairs of the Energy and Commerce Committee for comment. Expect some kind of political fallout.

Solyndra is a California solar panel manufacturer that had received $535 million in federal loan guarantees before it was forced to halt operations and file for bankruptcy at the end of August, putting more than 1,000 workers out of work.

Before its failure, the company had been touted as an example of the benefits of creating green jobs by the Obama administration. But since then, it has become the center of congressional criticism and a probe by the FBI.

Brian Harrison, the CEO of Solyndra, resigned Wednesday amidst the scandal.

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Northbridge Massachusetts Police Officer Joshua A. Nadeau And Girlfriend Arrested After His Drunken Wreck

October 13, 2011

UXBRIDGE — The passenger in a car driven by a Northbridge police officer that was in an accident that injured three people Thursday night was arraigned yesterday in Uxbridge District Court on a charge of misleading a police investigation.

Elizabeth J. Hubert, 28, of 9 West St., Northbridge, is scheduled to appear in court Nov.4 for a pretrial conference along with veteran Northbridge police Officer Joshua A. Nadeau of Millbury. He was arraigned Friday on charges of drunken driving, drunken driving while causing serious bodily injury and failure to keep right for an oncoming vehicle.

The charges stem from a crash on Douglas road in Northbridge that caused serious injuries to Dennis E. Guertin, 54, of Douglas. Mr. Guertin was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to UMass Memorial Medical Center — University Campus in Worcester for serious injuries to his left leg and hip. A UMass spokesman said the hospital had no record of a patient with that name.

Ms. Hubert suffered head and facial injuries, police said. Officer Nadeau suffered minor injuries.

Police said Officer Nadeau was driving a Ford F250 pickup truck east on Douglas Road when it crossed the centerline and struck a Volkswagen Passat driven by Mr. Guertin about 11:25 p.m.

Northbridge Police Lt. Timothy Labrie said in a report that when police arrived at the crash scene, Ms. Hubert was sitting in the driver’s seat of the Ford F250 with a large amount of blood on her face and head while Officer Nadeau, who had a small amount of blood around his mouth, was on the passenger side.

Officer Nadeau allegedly told police that Ms. Hubert had been driving.

However, Lt. Labrie and Sgt. Brian Patrinelli said they saw a large round indentation in the passenger side of the windshield.

“The window was shattered in this area of identification and officers observed there to be several pieces of what appeared to be long brown/blond hair stuck in the broken windshield in the indentation. This indentation was directly in front of the passenger side seat of the truck,” Lt. Labrie’s report said.

A booking photo of Officer Nadeau attached to the report indicates he had very short, close-cropped hair.

The report also said a man and a woman who came upon the accident scene told police they saw Officer Nadeau and Ms. Hubert switch seats before the police arrived.

Ms. Hubert was arrested about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday at her house, police said.

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FAA Pisses Away Tax Dollars Investigating Skydiving Sex Stunt

October 13, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The Federal Aviation Administration says it will look into a videotaped skydiving sex stunt to determine if the pilot might have been distracted during the incident over Kern County.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor says any activity that could distract the pilot while he’s flying could be a violation of federal regulations.

Skydive Taft owner David Chrouch says he fired part-time skydiving instructor and porn star Alex Torres and hasn’t decided whether to fire the company’s receptionist, Torres’ partner in the video.

The video shows the two having sex in a plane before jumping out in tandem and continuing the act midair.

Authorities say Torres had posted the video on his blog but removed it on Monday.

Taft police Lt. Ed Whiting told KGET-TV in Bakersfield that no criminal charges are pending.

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Subpoena Issued As Congress Investigates US Justice Department Efforts That Armed Mexican Drug Cartels With High Power Assault Weapons

October 13, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressional investigators issued a subpoena Wednesday for communications from several top Justice Department officials — including Attorney General Eric Holder — relating to the discredited “Fast and Furious” federal gunrunning operation.

The subpoena, issued by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also covers communications from Holder’s chief of staff, Gary Grindler, and from Lanny Breuer, head of the department’s criminal division.

Among other things, the subpoena includes a request for information regarding relevant Justice Department communications with the White House, as well as details about the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent last December, the source added.

“Top Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, know more about Operation Fast and Furious than they have publicly acknowledged,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“The documents this subpoena demands will provide answers to questions that Justice officials have tried to avoid since this investigation began eight months ago. It’s time we know the whole truth.”

Holder has promised to comply with any Capitol Hill subpoena, though a Justice Department spokeswoman appeared to dismiss the development as a political exercise.

“We’ve made clear from the beginning that the department intends to work with the committee to answer legitimate questions,” Tracy Schmaler said. “However, this subpoena shows that Chairman Issa is more interested in generating headlines than in real oversight important to the American people.”

Operation Fast and Furious involved agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowing illegal sales of guns, believed to be destined for Mexican drug cartels, to “walk” from Phoenix gun stores into Mexico.

The idea was to track the sellers and purchasers of guns to Mexican cartels. But the program became mired in controversy after weapons found at Mexican and American murder scenes were traced back to the program. Mexican officials and critics in the United States called the operation a failure, saying it exacerbated the longstanding problem of U.S. weapons getting into the hands of the violent Mexican cartels.

A GOP-led congressional investigation into the matter has become politically contentious, with administration and Capitol Hill leaders accusing each other of acting irresponsibly.

In a letter to Holder released Monday, Issa, a California congressman, accused the attorney general of actively obstructing Congress’ oversight function and damaging his own credibility as a top national law enforcement officer.

“Numerous statements” made by Holder about Operation Fast and Furious have “been proven to be untrue,” Issa said.

“The time for deflecting blame and obstructing our investigation is over,” Issa wrote in the letter, which was dated Sunday. “The time has come for you to come clean to the American public about what you knew about Fast and Furious, when you knew it, and who is going to be held accountable for failing to shut down a program that has already had deadly consequences, and will likely cause more casualties for years to come.”

Issa blasted Holder for “negligence and incompetence” on the issue, and for offering a “roving set of ever-changing explanations” designed primarily to “circle the wagons around (the Justice Department) and its political appointees.”

The operation was the Justice Department’s “most significant gun trafficking case,” Issa said. “On your watch, it went spectacularly wrong. Whether you realize yet or not, you own Fast and Furious. It is your responsibility.”

Holder testified before the Judiciary Committee in May that he had known about the Fast and Furious program for just a few weeks. Republicans insist that recently released Justice Department documents show the attorney general actually knew about the program much earlier.

Holder and his aides continue to vehemently deny that charge.

The attorney general responded angrily Friday to GOP critics of his handling of the operation, charging them with using “irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric.”

“I simply cannot sit idly by as a (Republican) member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform suggests, as happened this week, that law enforcement and government employees who devote their lives to protecting our citizens be considered ‘accessories to murder,'” Holder said in a letter to members of Congress.

Such rhetoric, Holder declared, “must be repudiated in the strongest possible terms.”

On Sunday, Issa said the Judiciary Committee has invited Holder to “come and clear the record.”

“Clearly, he knew when he said he didn’t know,” Issa said. “Now the question is, what did he know and how is he going to explain why he gave that answer?”

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Los Angeles California Police Make Wearing A Hat Or Hoodie In A Business Illegal With Bogus “Trespassing” Charges

October 13, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA –  The next time you visit a store in the San Fernando Valley, you may have to check your hat at the door or take your business elsewhere.

KNX 1070′s Vytas Safronikas reports it’s part of a new anti-crime effort announced by the Los Angeles Police Department Wednesday to deter criminals from targeting businesses in Studio City and North Hollywood.

The “Hats Off!” pilot program will post signs at nearly two dozen local businesses requesting that patrons remove their hats and helmets and pull sweatshirt “hoodies” from their heads before entering.

Under the program, a “warning notice” will be placed in the window of a business that caters to walk-in customers “to allow the customer time to remove their hat, hoodie or helmet” before entering, LAPD officials said.

If they refuse to comply, “they’d be in violation of penal code 602, which is essentially trespassing within that business,” said LAPD Capt. Justin Eisenberg.

The effort is aimed at suspects who hide their faces during crimes, Eisenberg said.

Headgear is often worn by criminals to shield their faces from security cameras during a break-in or robbery.

“If you think about schools where there are dress codes, or nightclubs or many establishments that have restraints as to what people can wear in their establishments, that’s a right that store owners have,” said Eisenberg. “This is just an additional tool that we’re giving store owners.”

Studio City and other neighboring communities have been hit by a string of robberies in recent months, including a $2 million diamond heist in North Hollywood.

If successful, the voluntary “Hats Off!” effort could soon be expanded citywide.

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