Massachusetts TSA Agent Busted With Child Pornography Pleads Guilty

December 23, 2011

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – A former employee of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has pleaded guilty to having thousands of child pornography images and videos on his home computers.

Federal prosecutors said Andrew Cheever, 34, of Lowell entered his plea on Monday and faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 22.

Authorities said Cheever made the images available on the Internet using peer-to-peer file sharing software.

Cheever had worked for the TSA since 2007 and was a security checkpoint screener at Logan International Airport until he was taken into custody in September.

He no longer works for the TSA.

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TSA Now Targeting Cupcakes – Frosting Now A “Security Risk”

December 23, 2011

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS — A Peabody woman says a cupcake she tried to take on a flight with her sparked a potential security threat this week.

Rebecca Hains says she was going through security at the airport in Las Vegas when a TSA agent pulled her aside and said the cupcake frosting was “gel-like” enough to constitute a security risk.

She said she was able to pass through Logan International Airport security with two cupcakes, but she was stopped on the way back when she tried to return with one of them.

“In general, cakes and pies are allowed in carry on luggage,” said TSA spokesperson James Fotenos, adding they were looking into why this cupcake was confiscated.

Hains said she had received the cupcakes as a gift and after eating one on the trip out west, decided to save the other for the flight back.

She contacted the cupcake company, Wicked Good Cupcakes of Cohasset, which said it will ship her a new batch free of charge.

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TSA Now Targeting Travelers Cakes

December 23, 2011

NEW YORK – Joe Maltese visited his in-laws in upstate New York this month.

And when the Tequesta man was preparing to fly back home, his mother-in-law put a boxed chocolate cake along with some boxes of Christmas ornaments inside his suitcase.

“I didn’t even know the cake was in there until I got home,” said Maltese, who is the marketing manager for Home Safe, a Lake Worth-based charity for abused and neglected children.

It was a chocolate cake made by Hannaford, the supermarket chain. But what Maltese noticed most of all was that about a third of the cake was missing.

“It was a clean cut,” he said. “And my wife asked me, ‘Did you already have a piece of the cake?’ “

He didn’t. He just figured that his mother-in-law must have sent him part of a cake.

Except that when his wife called her mother, she said she hadn’t cut into the store-bought cake before putting it in the suitcase.

That’s when Maltese began wondering.

There was also a “Notice of Bag Inspection” form in his suitcase from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to inform him that the contents of his bag had been checked before his flight from Albany.

“Are times that tough where TSA inspectors have to eat travelers’ food?” he asked. “Or did the inspector conduct a taste test to make certain it wasn’t contraband or a bomb?”

Maltese went online to see if there was any guidance on the TSA website.

He found a holiday travel advisory that advised passengers not to carry-on snow globes or gift baskets if they have salsa, jams or salad dressings in them.

“You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint,” the site said, “but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.”

Additional screening for cakes? So maybe his chocolate cake in his checked bag was really seen as a potential terrorist threat, he thought.

(Note to air travelers: If you plan on transporting TooJay’s most popular chocolate cake, you might consider wiping out the words “The Killer” spelled on top of its killer cake.)

Then again, this might not have had anything to do with terrorism.

Two months ago, TSA fired a screener at the Newark, N.J., airport for scribbling a bit of commentary on the inspection form after discovering a sex toy among the belongings inside the luggage of a female traveler.

“Get your freak on girl,” the note said.

And last weekend, hip-hop performer Freddie Gibbs, who is known as Gangsta Gibbs, was amused to discover that a TSA screener had written “C’mon son” inside his suitcase, which contained a bag of marijuana.

“The TSA found my weed and let me keep it,” Gibbs told his Twitter followers after he landed in Denver.

After I informed TSA about the mystery of Maltese’s chocolate cake, an agency official told me that a video record is kept of the screening areas, and the tapes would be reviewed to see if a TSA screener had removed part of the man’s cake.

A day later, I received an email back:

“We reviewed the videotape for the entire period of time that the passenger’s bag would have gone through the screening process. At no time did we see anything resembling a cake removed from any suitcase. There was a suitcase with boxes, and those boxes were not opened. I can’t guarantee that was the passenger’s cake, but I want to stress that nobody opened a box with a cake or anything resembling a cake.”

I broke the news to Maltese.

“I swear there was a piece missing from that cake,” he said.

Does this qualify as a Christmas miracle?

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Westerly Rhode Island Police Go Door To Door With Locksmiths Entering Homes Without Warrant

December 23, 2011

WESTERLY, RHODE ISLAND – National Grid says technicians are continuing to work on a natural gas outage in Westerly and that some restorations will be made overnight Thursday into Friday morning.

70 technicians will be working through the overnight hours to turn gas back on, and starting at 5 a.m. Friday 200 technicians will again be going door to door to continue making restorations.

Main Street and Canal Street are among the areas affected. Not only are those streets filled with homeowners, but businesses are also impacted by the issue.

“It’s going to be devastating to be without heat or power for this holiday season. It’s our crunch, time,” said Molly Silva, a business owner.

If no one is home at the time, police officers along with a locksmith have been entering homes to shut the valves off.

“Thank God no snow, no frost, no freezing temperatures yet. We just hope for the best. Hopefully we can get some things going for Christmas. I have a meal to prepare, hopefully we are good to go by then,” said Westerly resident Mallory Carpenter.

Graves said the company hopes to relight pilots for all customers over the course of Friday and Saturday. Customers have been without gas since Wednesday when the company detected air in the distribution system.

Officials said this is not an easy fix, and expect the process at least a day or so. Right now, no homes are in danger.

National Grid is asking that anyone in that area who does not have natural gas to please call 1-800-640-1595.

Emergency shelter available for affected families

Due to the natural gas service interruption in parts of Westerly, the Westerly Police Department and the American Red Cross opened an emergency overnight shelter at 6:00 p.m. Thursday.

The Shelter, at the Westerly Senior Center, 39 State Street, will provide a meal and overnight accommodations for those families affected by the gas service interruption.

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Savage Beast Andre Curry Charged After Binding His 1 Year Old Daughter With Tape – “This Is Wut Happens Wen My Baby Hits Me Back”

December 21, 2011

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – A 21-year-old Chicago man was charged Tuesday with aggravated domestic battery after he posted a photo of his 1-year-old daughter bound in duct tape on Facebook.

Andre Curry, 21, of the 6100 block of South Racine Avenue, was charged with aggravated domestic battery, officials said.

The photo Curry allegedly posted to his profile showed little girl with her hands bound by blue tape. Another strip of tape covered her mouth.

A caption with the photo read, “This is wut happens wen my baby hits me back.”

The photo has since been removed, but it’s not known if the man took it down or if it was reported as abusive to the social networking site. A post on Facebook about its website security says content that is “hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence” is not allowed on the site.

Chicago police and DCFS have been investigating since being notified of the photo on Dec. 14, said police spokesman Michael Sullivan.

DCFS spokesman Jimmie Whitelow confirmed the agency is investigating allegations of abuse in the case. DCFS has had no prior contact with the family. Whitelow would not comment on whether there were other children in the family

Curry is expected Wednesday in bond court.

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Billions Of Our Tax Dollars Spent Arming Local Cops For War – Only Obvious Targets Are Us…

December 21, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Nestled amid plains so flat the locals joke you can watch your dog run away for miles, Fargo treasures its placid lifestyle, seldom pierced by the mayhem and violence common in other urban communities. North Dakota’s largest city has averaged fewer than two homicides a year since 2005, and there’s not been a single international terrorism prosecution in the last decade.

But that hasn’t stopped authorities in Fargo and its surrounding county from going on an $8 million buying spree to arm police officers with the sort of gear once reserved only for soldiers fighting foreign wars.

Every city squad car is equipped today with a military-style assault rifle, and officers can don Kevlar helmets able to withstand incoming fire from battlefield-grade ammunition. And for that epic confrontation—if it ever occurs—officers can now summon a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. For now, though, the menacing truck is used mostly for training and appearances at the annual city picnic, where it’s been parked near the children’s bounce house.

“Most people are so fascinated by it, because nothing happens here,” says Carol Archbold, a Fargo resident and criminal justice professor at North Dakota State University. “There’s no terrorism here.”

Like Fargo, thousands of other local police departments nationwide have been amassing stockpiles of military-style equipment in the name of homeland security, aided by more than $34 billion in federal grants since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a Daily Beast investigation conducted by the Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

The buying spree has transformed local police departments into small, army-like forces, and put intimidating equipment into the hands of civilian officers. And that is raising questions about whether the strategy has gone too far, creating a culture and capability that jeopardizes public safety and civil rights while creating an expensive false sense of security.

“The argument for up-armoring is always based on the least likely of terrorist scenarios,” says Mark Randol, a former terrorism expert at the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan research arm of Congress. “Anyone can get a gun and shoot up stuff. No amount of SWAT equipment can stop that.”

Local police bristle at the suggestion that they’ve become “militarized,” arguing the upgrade in firepower and other equipment is necessary to combat criminals with more lethal capabilities. They point to the 1997 Los Angeles-area bank robbers who pinned police for hours with assault weapons, the gun-wielding student who perpetrated the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, and the terrorists who waged a bloody rampage in Mumbai, India, that left 164 people dead and 300 wounded in 2008.

The new weaponry and battle gear, they insist, helps save lives in the face of such threats. “I don’t see us as militarizing police; I see us as keeping abreast with society,” former Los Angeles Police chief William Bratton says. “And we are a gun-crazy society.”

“I don’t see us as militarizing police; I see us as keeping abreast with society.”

Adds Fargo Police Lt. Ross Renner, who commands the regional SWAT team: “It’s foolish to not be cognizant of the threats out there, whether it’s New York, Los Angeles, or Fargo. Our residents have the right to be protected. We don’t have everyday threats here when it comes to terrorism, but we are asked to be prepared.”

The skepticism about the Homeland spending spree is less severe for Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and New York, which are presumed to be likelier targets. But questions persist about whether money was handed out elsewhere with any regard for risk assessment or need. And the gap in accounting for the decade-long spending spree is undeniable. The U.S. Homeland Security Department says it doesn’t closely track what’s been bought with its tax dollars or how the equipment is used. State and local governments don’t maintain uniform records either.

To assess the changes in law enforcement for The Daily Beast, the Center for Investigative Reporting conducted interviews and reviewed grant spending records obtained through open records requests in 41 states. The probe found stockpiles of weaponry and military-style protective equipment worthy of a defense contractor’s sales catalog.

In Montgomery County, Texas, the sheriff’s department owns a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone, like those used to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists in the remote tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Augusta, Maine, with fewer than 20,000 people and where an officer hasn’t died from gunfire in the line of duty in more than 125 years, police bought eight $1,500 tactical vests. Police in Des Moines, Iowa, bought two $180,000 bomb-disarming robots, while an Arizona sheriff is now the proud owner of a surplus Army tank.

The flood of money opened to local police after 9/11, but slowed slightly in recent years. Still, the Department of Homeland Security awarded more than $2 billion in grants to local police in 2011, and President Obama’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contributed an additional half-billion dollars.

Law enforcement officials say the armored vehicles, assault weapons, and combat uniforms used by their officers provide a public safety benefit beyond their advertised capabilities, creating a sort of “shock and awe” experience they hope will encourage suspects to surrender more quickly.

“The only time I hear the complaint of ‘God, you guys look scary’ is if the incident turns out to be nothing,” says West Hartford, Conn., Police Lt. Jeremy Clark, who organizes an annual SWAT competition.

A grainy YouTube video from one of Clark’s recent competitions shows just how far the police transformation has come, displaying officers in battle fatigues, helmets, and multi-pocketed vests storming a hostile scene. One with a pistol strapped to his hip swings a battering ram into a door. A colleague lobs a flash-bang grenade into a field. Another officer, holding a pistol and wearing a rifle strapped to his back, peeks cautiously inside a bus.

The images unfold to the pulsing, ominous soundtrack of a popular videogame, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Though resembling soldiers in a far-flung war zone, the stars of this video are Massachusetts State Police troopers.

The number of SWAT teams participating in Clark’s event doubled to 40 between 2004 and 2009 as Homeland’s police funding swelled. The competition provides real-life scenarios for training, and Clark believes it is essential, because he fears many SWAT teams are falling below the 16 hours of minimum monthly training recommended by the National Tactical Officers Association.

“Luck is not for cops. Luck is for drunks and fools,” Clark said, explaining his devotion to training.

One beneficiary of Homeland’s largesse are military contractors, who have found a new market for their wares and sponsor training events like the one Clark oversees in Connecticut or a similar Urban Shield event held in California.

Special ops supplier Blackhawk Industries, founded by a former Navy SEAL, was among several Urban Shield sponsors this year. Other sponsors for such training peddle wares like ThunderSledge breaching tools for smashing open locked or chained doors, Lenco Armored Vehicles bulletproof box trucks, and KDH Defense Systems’s body armor.

“As criminal organizations are increasingly armed with military-style weapons, law enforcement operations require the same level of field-tested and combat-proven protection used by soldiers and Marines in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other high-risk locations,” boasts an Oshkosh Corp. brochure at a recent police seminar, where the company pitched its “tactical protector vehicle.”

The trend shows no sign of abating. The homeland security market for state and local agencies is projected to reach $19.2 billion by 2014, up from an estimated $15.8 billion in fiscal 2009, according to the Homeland Security Research Corp.

The rise of equipment purchases has paralleled an apparent increase in local SWAT teams, but reliable numbers are hard to come by. The National Tactical Officers Association, which provides training and develops SWAT standards, says it currently has about 1,650 team memberships, up from 1,026 in 2000.

Many of America’s newly armed officers are ex-military veterans from the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. Charles Ramsey, who was police chief in Washington, D.C., on 9/11, upgraded the weaponry when he moved to Philadelphia in 2008. Today, some 1,500 Philly beat cops are trained to use AR-15 assault rifles.

“We have a lot of people here, like most departments, who are ex-military,” Ramsey says. “Some people are very much into guns and so forth. So it wasn’t hard to find volunteers.”

Some real-life episodes, however, are sparking a debate about whether all that gear also creates a more militarized mind-set for local police that exceeds their mission or risks public safety.

In one case, dozens of officers in combat-style gear raided a youth rave in Utah as a police helicopter buzzed overhead. An online video shows the battle-ready team wearing masks and brandishing rifles as they holler for the music to be shut off and pin partygoers to the ground.

And Arizona tactical officers this year sprayed the home of ex-Marine Jose Guerena with gunfire as he stood in a hallway with a rifle that he did not fire. He was hit 22 times and died. Police had targeted the man’s older brother in a narcotics-trafficking probe, but nothing illegal was found in the younger Guerena’s home, and no related arrests had been made months after the raid.

In Maryland, officials finally began collecting data on tactical raids after police in 2008 burst into the home of a local mayor and killed his two dogs in a case in which the mayor’s home was used as a dropoff for drug deal. The mayor’s family had nothing to do with criminal activity.

Such episodes and the sheer magnitude of the expenditures over the last decade raise legitimate questions about whether taxpayers have gotten their money’s worth and whether police might have assumed more might and capability than is necessary for civilian forces.

“With local law enforcement, their mission is to solve crimes after they’ve happened, and to ensure that people’s constitutional rights are protected in the process,” says Jesselyn McCurdy, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “The military obviously has a mission where they are fighting an enemy. When you use military tactics in the context of law enforcement, the missions don’t match, and that’s when you see trouble with the overmilitarization of police.”

The upgrading of local police nonetheless continues. Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio now claims to operate his own air armada of private pilots—dubbed Operation Desert Sky—to monitor illegal border crossings, and he recently added a full-size surplus Army tank. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly boasted this fall he had a secret capability to shoot down an airliner if one threatened the city again. And the city of Ogden, Utah, is launching a 54-foot, remote-controlled “crime-fighting blimp” with a powerful surveillance camera.

Back in Fargo, nearby corn and soybean farmer Tim Kozojed supports the local police but questions whether the Homeland grants have been spent wisely. ”I’m very reluctant to get anxious about a terrorist attack in North Dakota,” Kozojed, 31, said. “Why would they bother?”

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US Tax Dollars Pissed Away – For Example: $175,587 Spent To See If japanese Quail Engage In Sexually Risky Behavior When High On Cocaine

December 21, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – A million dollars is nothing nowadays. Just ask the Pentagon, which spent $20 billion a year on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which spent more than $240 million on erection-enhancing penis pumps over the same time period. But the government does even stupider things with smaller amounts of money. Like dumping $800,000 into an IHOP franchise for D.C. residents.

Such frivolity but might not spell the death of the republic, but it’s nevertheless a sign of government self-indulgence. In Wastebook: A Guide to Some of the Most Wasteful and Low Priority Government Spending of 2011, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) lists some of the cheaper but no less wasteful projects currently being funded by the federal government. “As you look at these examples,” writes Coburn, “regardless of your personal political persuasion, ask yourself: Would you agree with Washington these represent national priorities or would you agree these reflect the wasteful spending habits that threaten to bankrupt the future of the American Dream?”

Let’s run down the list, shall we?

Republican and Democratic Party conventions: $17.7 million (each)
A mango-production program for Pakistani farmers that was abandoned after one year and caused many farmers to default on loans taken out in anticipation of increased productivity: $30 million
A project to convert three Air Force radar stations from diesel to wind energy that has since been abandoned: $14 million
The construction of an IHOP in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Columbia Heights (which Coburn refers to as “pancakes for yuppies”): $800,000
A promotional video for an Alaskan bridge that very well might not get built, titled ‘The Knik Arm Crossing, Bridge to Our Future”: $57,390 (out of $15.3 million spent this year on the bridge)
Pension payments to dead federal employees: $120 million
A fourth visitors center on the 54-mile Talimena Scenic Drive that runs between Talihina, Oklahoma (Pop. 2,522) to Mena, Arkansas (Pop. 5,637): $529,689
Funding for video game preservation at the International Center for the History of Electronic Games: $100,000
Aid to China, the U.S.’s biggest lender, for social and environmental programs: $17.8 million
Seed money for the “drug-themed” Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakery in Austin: $484,000
“Celebrity Chef Fruit Promotion Road Show in Indonesia”: $100,000
Funding for Pakistan’s Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop to create “130 episodes of an indigenously produced Sesame Street”: $10 million
Research funding for the American Museum of Magic to “better understand its various audiences and their potential interest in the history of magic entertainment”: $147,138
Energy efficient home improvement tax credits for children, prisoners, and other people who do not own homes: $1 billion
Research funding for a study to determine if cocaine makes Japanese quail engage in sexually risky behavior: $175,587

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Anonymous Posts Thousands Of Police Officers Personal Information On Web After Occupy Movement Camp Evictions

December 20, 2011

US – Computer hackers are avenging the Occupy movement by exposing the personal information of police officers who evicted protesters and threatening family-values advocates who led a boycott of an American Muslim television show.

In three Internet postings last week, hackers from the loose online coalition called Anonymous published the email and physical addresses, phone numbers and, in some cases, salary details of thousands of law enforcement officers all over the country.

The hackers said they were retaliating for police violence during evictions of Occupy protest camps in cities around the country, but law enforcement advocates slammed the disclosures as dangerous.

“I hope the individuals behind these cyberattacks understand the consequences of what they are doing,” said John Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “There are very dangerous criminals out there who might seek retribution” against any of these police officers.

Another hacker calling himself ihazcAnNONz struck the website of the Florida Family Association. The group opposes gay marriage and has promoted a successful but highly controversial boycott of advertisers on the reality TV show “All-American Muslim.”
Occupy D.C. protesters stand off with police as they block 14th and K streets NW in Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/The Washington Times)Occupy D.C. protesters stand off with police as they block 14th and K streets NW in Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/The Washington Times)

The group says the show is “propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Shariah law.”

Supporters of the show say it depicts ordinary Muslim-American families living their normal lives, and they accuse its critics bigotry.

The hacker, ihazcAnNONz, warned the Florida family group, “Your hatred, bigotry and fear mongering towards Gays, Lesbians and most recently Muslim Americans has not gone unnoticed!”

In an Internet posting, he told the family association he was reading its email, and he provided email addresses and partial credit-card information of two dozen or so of the group’s supporters. He referred to the Occupy Wall Street movement’s slogan about the “1 percent” and the “99 percent.”

“I am going to assume most of the people who receive your newsletter, email you and make donations are potentially part of the 99 percent … who have been mislead by all of your [expletive] and god talk,” he wrote, adding that he therefore would not post confidential information on them.

The family association did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Last week, a hacker calling himself Exphin1ty posted the email and physical addresses, phone numbers and encrypted passwords of more than 2,400 police officers and corporate security executives.

“We have seen our fellow brothers and sisters being teargassed for exercising their fundamental liberal rights,” he wrote.

He urged fellow hackers with access to greater computing power to crack the encryption on passwords and see if the victims had used the same password for any other accounts.

Websites that require users to register typically store data such as names, email addresses and passwords on their servers.

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Veteran Bay County Florida Deputy Sheriff David “Chris” Eaves Suspended Amid Sexual Battery Investigation

December 20, 2011

LYNN HAVEN, FLORIDA — A decorated Bay County Sheriff’s deputy has been suspended as authorities investigate allegations he attempted to force himself on a female acquaintance.

Deputy David “Chris” Eaves was suspended with pay Thursday night after the Lynn Haven Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement began to investigate allegations of attempted sexual battery against him, said Maj. Tommy Ford with the BCSO.

Eaves, who was not on duty at the time of the alleged incident, has not been arrested or charged and “there is no allegation that a sexual battery took place,” Ford said.

“Due to the seriousness of the allegations, the sheriff has suspended him,” Ford said. Eaves’ suspension is open-ended, pending the results of the LHPD and FDLE investigations, Ford said.

The details of the allegations are unclear. The LHPD had not finalized its report on the initial incident, and investigators with the department declined to comment on the ongoing investigation except to say the report should be available Tuesday.

In addition to the criminal investigation, Eaves is the subject of an internal investigation to determine if he violated any BCSO policies, Ford said. Ford said the internal investigation will be conducted in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with the criminal investigation.

Eaves, a sergeant in the BCSO warrants division, has been with the BCSO since 2007 and had been assigned to SWAT and the Repeat Offender Gang (ROGUE) Unit. Prior to joining the sheriff’s office, he worked for the Panama City Beach Police Department for six years, from which he resigned in 2006. Before that he was with the Memphis (Tenn.) Police Department for about two years.

He received a commendation from Sheriff Frank McKeithen for his work with the ROGUE Unit in May and was awarded a Medal of Distinction in May 2009 for his role in the apprehension of armed suspects who fired shots from a vehicle as they fled police after a bank robbery in Panama City Beach.

In that incident, Eaves was behind the wheel of the primary pursuit vehicle. He rammed the suspects’ vehicle and brought the pursuit to a conclusion.

Eaves could not be reached to comment for this report.

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Investigation By Feds Finds That Beatings At The Hands Of Seattle Washington Police Officers Are Routine And Widespread

December 16, 2011

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – A federal civil-rights investigation into the Seattle Police Department has found routine and widespread use of excessive force by officers, and city and police officials were told at a stormy Thursday night meeting that they must fix the problems or face a federal lawsuit, according to two sources.

The meeting, attended by Mayor Mike McGinn, Police Chief John Diaz, members of his command staff and others, ended in raised voices and bitter accusations by city and police officials, upset at the Justice Department’s findings, the sources said. One source said the language in the agency’s report, to be officially released Friday, is “astoundingly critical” of the department.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who heads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, flew to Seattle from Phoenix on Thursday and will address a 9:30 a.m. Friday news conference alongside U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan.

The sources confirmed the city will get a chance to work with the Justice Department to address the issues, or it will face a federal lawsuit that could result in fines, penalties and even the appointment of an outside special master to oversee the Police Department.

McGinn, reached Thursday night, declined to discuss the report until its official release. He disputed that the meeting was contentious.

Thomas Bates, the executive assistant U.S. attorney in Durkan’s office, confirmed the meeting but declined to characterize it or discuss the contents of the report.

Friday’s announcement comes 11 months after the Justice Department launched a preliminary review of Seattle police at the request of Durkan and others. Evidence uncovered in that review led to a full-scale civil-rights investigation, announced March 31, to examine whether Seattle police engaged in “systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law.”

The investigation focused on the use of force and allegations of biased policing against minorities.

Three weeks ago, the Justice Department issued a sharply worded letter urging the Police Department to immediately address a policy that allows officers to invoke their protections against self-incrimination in even the most routine use-of-force issues. Justice officials said the policy made prosecutions of errant officers difficult and undermined public confidence.

Last week, in response to the letter, Diaz ordered sweeping changes in how the Police Department develops standards and expectations of officers, and created new panels to monitor and oversee the use of force by police.

Diaz has invited the Department of Justice to participate in a top-down rewrite of his department’s policies and procedures.

The Department of Justice investigation is civil, not criminal. Its goal is to bring the Police Department in compliance with the Constitution and federal law if police practices are determined to be in violation. That could be done through a variety of means, ranging from a negotiated consent decree to a lawsuit.

The downtown King County Jail underwent a similar investigation in 2007 and the Justice Department required it to make significant changes in its care and treatment of inmates, under threat of a federal lawsuit.

Such investigations often take years to complete. The jail investigation lasted nearly two years.

Justice’s most recently announced findings, released Thursday and detailing widespread racial profiling by the Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff’s Office, took more than three years.

Perez announced the findings of the Arizona investigation via a conference call with reporters. He will announce the Seattle findings in person.

The FBI and Department of Justice investigators interviewed police officers, their commanders and citizens. Assistant Chief Jim Pugel, who was a liaison between Seattle Police and Justice, said the department turned over tens of thousands of documents.

Records show the Department of Justice also obtained dash-cam videos in connection with a number of use-of-force complaints.

The federal agency initiated its review in the wake of several highly publicized confrontations between officers and minority citizens, including the fatal shooting of First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams in August 2010 by Officer Ian Birk. The shooting was found to be unjustified and Birk resigned.

The shooting prompted a letter calling for the investigation, authored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and endorsed by 34 community groups.

The Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into the Williams shooting. No charges have been filed.

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Bad Cops: Petition Calls For Chattanooga Tennessee Housing Authority Police Officer James Avery, Harriet White, And Pete Gillen Be Fired For Harassing Residents

December 14, 2011

CHATANOOGA, TENNESSEE – Sixty East Lake Courts residents have signed a petition calling for three Chattanooga Housing Authority police officers to be fired.

Hector Martinez and his fiancee, Beaneit Seagrove, have gathered 140 signatures requesting that officers James Avery, Harriet White and Pete Gillen be fired from the CHA police force for harassing residents.

Sixty East Lake Courts residents signed the petition, CHA officials said. Seagrove said the other 80 signatures were from visitors to the site, including their friends and family.

“We are tired of the inappropriate actions that these officers take and are coming together as a community to ensure the safety of our residence,” the petition states.

CHA officials said training will be provided to “all of the CHA police officers on communication with residents during encounters that are stressful to both the police and residents,” according to a letter dated Nov. 1 and signed by Charles T. Barnett, Nashville Program Center director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees CHA.

In his letter, Barnett wrote that, “We feel CHA is in compliance with programmatic requirements for administration of the public housing program and enforcing security for the safety of all families living on their properties.”

Martinez said he wants Avery to be fired because Avery is training other officers to treat residents the same as he does.

“If we cussed at him like he cusses at us, we would go to jail,” Martinez said.

Attempts to reach the three officers through the CHA police headquarters were unsuccessful Monday.

The petition and harassment accusations concerning Avery come about four months after CHA settled with public housing resident Crystal Ramsey after she filed a lawsuit stating that Avery “slapped her on the side of her face.”

Ramsey asked for $200,000 in the suit. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed by either party.

Martinez and Seagrove claim Avery harassed them on five or six occasions from April 2010 until November 2011 when the couple moved out of East Lake Courts. Seagrove said Avery stopped the couple while they were driving and claimed it was in retaliation to complaints they had made about him to CHA officials.

She also said he stopped her without reason when she was driving alone, then slammed her driver’s license on her car’s dashboard so hard the dashboard cracked.

“I’ve never had somebody do something like that to me,” Seagrove said. “I just froze. I started crying. I was just so upset because I had not experienced that before.”

CHA Chief of Public Safety Felix Vess recently attended a meeting with Seagrove, Martinez and CHA Executive Director Betsy McCright. Vess noted that Martinez was on the CHA’s trespassing list, which has the names of people who don’t live in public housing but are seen on site without identification, which is against CHA rules.

Martinez also admitted during the meeting that he drove without a driver’s license, but he claimed other officers stopped him because Avery said to do it.

Martinez has had long visits with Seagrove for nearly three years but wasn’t on her lease until June 2011, about five months before they moved to another apartment that is not on public housing property.

Vess also noted that all five officers on CHA’s staff, including Avery, said Martinez wasn’t causing any problems on the site.

“Sometimes it’s hard to ignore when people call you this or that or the other,” said Vess.

“You have to know everybody is a person,” he said. “You’ve got to treat that person like you’d like your mother to be treated.”

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Dumbass Miami Florida Police Officer J. Brutius Drove Patrol Car UP Utility Pole

December 13, 2011

MIAMI, FLORIDA –  This is something you don’t see everyday.

Miami police officer J. Brutus is OK, but possibly feeling a bit sheepish Tuesday morning, after getting distracted while driving and running his patrol car up a pole. Not into it, but up it.

“I heard boom, boom, boom!” Pamela Green said. “Then all the lights went out. I look out, I see he’s up the pole.”

The accident happened before rush hour Tuesday morning, near the intersection of NW 6th Avenue and 67th street in Miami.

Miami police spokesperson Detective Willie Moreno said Brutus, a 4 year veteran, was driving when he was momentarily distracted, as he reached for a fallen pen. His patrol car left the road and headed for a utility pole, but before it struck the pole, the car rode up along a guide wire.

“His vehicle rode on to the tension cord of this pole,” said Moreno.

The officer was briefly trapped inside the patrol car, but was helped to freedom by Miami Fire Rescue.

The officer was not hurt, and after the door was opened from the outside, the officer was able to walk away while laughing.

“For us to look and see him come out of the car, not a scratch on him,” said Yvonne Sorellis, “He didn’t even look shook up because he was just laughing.”

Yvonne grabbed a lawn chair to wait and watch because she said the ‘police car up a pole’ is better than any movie.

“Just been very interesting; I hadn’t seen nothing this good since ‘Bad Boys’ with Will Smith,” Sorellis said.

Sorellis took pictures and had a quick plan on what to do with them, “I’m going to put them on Facebook.”

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Harris County Texas Court Sentenced Man To Life In Prison For Of Robbery That Occured While He Was In Jail

December 13, 2011

HOUSTON, TX – LaDondrell Montgomery had his conviction for armed robbery and a life sentence overturned thanks to his attorney discovering he was in jail at the time of the crime.

But he’s still not a free man. The Houston, Texas, felon remains in jail faced with five more robbery charges.

“He learned from his trouble. But he did have a record and I believe that is what kind of got him into trouble now, ” Larry Montgomery, 58, told ABCNews.com. “Some of the people involved [in the cases] knew him from the past, from the neighborhood, and I believe had personal vendettas against him.”

LaDondrell Montgomery, 36, has had several stints behind bars, starting in his twenties, which made it difficult for him to remember whether he was in jail or out on a particular date.

His life sentence for armed robbery, which he received in November, was overturned last Thursday after his attorney realized he had an air tight alibi. He was in jail at the time of the crime.

“My son had previously been in and out of incarceration before and had trouble remembering the dates,” the elder Montgomery said.

LaDondrell Montgomery might not have known where he was on Dec. 13, 2009, but he knew one place where he was not- the check cashing store that was held up by an armed robber.

He insisted throughout the trial that he was not the man in the surveillance footage that was used to convict him and sentence him to life in prison.

Montgomery’s life sentence was thrown out after his attorney, Ronald Ray, scoured his rap sheet and realized he had been in jail at the time on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge and hadn’t been released until nine hours after the crime.

State District Judge Mark Kent Ellis chided Ray and Assistant Harris County District Attorney Alison Baimbridge for being “spectacularly incompetent,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

Baimbridge was unavailable for comment, but told the newspaper that prosecutors are typically barred from questioning suspects.

“That information, everyone would assume, would come from the person in custody,” she said.

Ray told the newspaper the barb didn’t bother him.

“I have freed a man from a life sentence, so if you want to say I’m incompetent for doing that, I’ll accept that with a smile,” he said.

For now, Larry Montgomery, who is a bishop with the Nation of God Ministries, said he hopes his son will be exonerated of the other counts and will return to being a productive member of society, something his father said he trying to do.

“He got married and he had a child,” Montgomery said. “He went to work for the Harris County Flood Control. Every day, all the time. He was trying to turn his life around as a family man.”

It’s unclear whether Montgomery has discovered five more iron-clad alibis to get him out of trouble this time.

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Crazed FDA Officials Piss Away Tax Dollars Targeting Man’s Private Sperm Donations

December 10, 2011

FREMONT, CALIFORNIA – The Food and Drug Administration is trying to crack down on a Fremont sperm donor who has fathered more than a dozen children.

Trent Arsenault has fathered 14 children as a sperm donor. Arsenault said he is just helping people who cannot have a baby on their own.

“It is helping people in need,” Arsenault said. “I don’t make any money, I don’t charge people anything. And it is just helping childless couples have children.”

But the FDA does not see it that way. In a legal dispute that has gone on for more than a year, the agency said Arsenault must cease his donations because he is violating the law.

An excerpt of the letter said, “Your firm or establishment located in Fremont recovers and distributes semen and therefore is a manufacturer of human cells…”

Arsenault said the only thing he is doing is entering into mutually desired partnerships with childless couples. So he is a bit puzzled as to why the FDA is holding him to the same standards to which it holds for-profit sperm banks.

“I think inspectors typically go to clinics and hospitals and that sort of thing. So it was probably unusual for them to come to a house,” he said.

Arsenault said he started donating sperm in 2004 when he read about a neighborhood teacher who wanted to have a baby.

He attended the United States Naval Academy and works in Silicon Valley as a computer security expert.

The Fremont man has now set up a website with all of his relevant personal and medical history, saying he had about 20,000 email inquires in all.

“Yeah I would like to continue helping the families in the community who have asked me to be their donor,” Arsenault said.

Arsenault continues to donate while he awaits a formal hearing by the FDA.

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Nevada Drivers License Clerk Pleads Guilty After Selling 214 Licenses To Illegal Immigrants

December 9, 2011

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – A former Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles clerk has pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge for accepting thousands of dollars to provide driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

The 28-year-old Nancy Brown of Las Vegas entered the plea Tuesday to one count of federal program bribery. She faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at sentencing March 6.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Nevada say Brown was a front-line clerk at the DMV office on Sahara Avenue in Las Vegas.

Authorities say she used third parties to recruit customers who didn’t have identifying documents, and typically charged $1,500 to $3,000 for each license. A plea agreement says she issued about 214 licenses illegally between February 2010 and April 2011.

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House Legislation Would Strip TSA Thugs Of Law Enforcement “Officer” Status

December 9, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – More than two dozen House Republicans introduced legislation on Thursday that would prevent the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) from calling airport screeners “officer” unless they have gone through federal law enforcement training or are otherwise eligible for federal law enforcement benefits.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the lead sponsor of the Stop TSA’s Reach in Policy (STRIP) Act, said that TSA has essentially allowed its airport screeners to play dress-up by giving them metal badges and police-like uniforms in recent years. But she said many airport screeners have no “officer” qualifications, and should have this title removed.

She also said giving airport screeners police-like uniforms has led to problems. She said in New Jersey, a screener was arrested for impersonating an officer, and a Virginia woman was raped by a screener after he approached her showing his TSA badge.

“It is outrageous that in a post-9/11 world … the American people should have to live in fear of those whose job it is to keep us safe,” Blackburn said. “Congress has sat idly by as the TSA strip-searches 85-year-old grandmothers in New York, pats down 3-year-olds in Chattanooga and checks colostomy bags for explosives in Orlando.

“Enough is enough!” she added. “The least we can do is end this impersonation, which is an insult to real cops.”

The bill, H.R. 3608, has 25 Republican co-sponsors, including House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.).

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Lynn Massachusetts Police And City Officals Target 83 Year Old Woman Who Has Fed Birds For 45 Years – She Now Faces Prison Time

December 8, 2011

LYNN, MASSACHUSETTS – A woman known as “the bird lady” is facing criminal charges for feeding the ducks, geese, and pigeons at a local pond.

Eighty-year-old Claire Butcher has been feeding the birds for 45 years at Flax, Sluice, and Goldfish Ponds in Lynn.

But the controversy really began to simmer back in 2009.

At the time, Lynn officials were fed up with Butcher. They had been complaining for several years, asking her to stop bringing shopping carts full of food to the pond.

The city contended Butcher’s feeding the birds was causing a problem with animal feces as well as attracting rats.

“You can see how filthy it is over there and how many animals reside there. It’s because of the constant feeding by Ms. Butcher,” Lynn’s Attorney Vincent Phelan told WBZ-TV on Wednesday.

The city sought an injunction and eventually made a deal with Claire. She agreed not to feed the ducks anymore.

But officials say she repeatedly ignored the deal, which included a No Trespass Order. She was fined several times, but never paid up.

Her reasoning, she felt, was simple.

“The animals in the park do not belong to the city of Lynn — they belong to God,” Butcher said.

So, the city upped the ante and launched a criminal complaint. And on Wednesday, a court ruled that Butcher had violated the No Trespass Order and a city ban on feeding wildlife and should face criminal charges.

Butcher claims she’s just feeding a few domesticated ducks, and is disgusted by the city’s response to her actions.

“I guess Lynn has nothing else to do besides chase an 80 year old woman down the street for feeding ducks,” Butcher said.

The city says they realize how the situation looks, but their major concern is public safety.

“The only thing we wish to do is have her stop,” Phelan said. “It is a clear public safety issue at this time and the city has had enough.”

Neighbors have also had it with Butcher.

“She’s flaunting this and the neighbors are fed up with it,” said Allissa Kummel, who lives near Flax Pond. “She’s a nice old woman and that’s her joy in life. But it’s a big problem for the city, as well… It’s piles and piles of bird poop.”

After the court hearing, when asked if she was going to stop feeding the birds, she responded, “I don’t know. I’m going to think about it.”

Butcher could spend up to 30 days in prison if it’s found that she violated the ordinances.

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New York City Police Officers Get Beat Up By Teens – Had To Be Rescued By Firefighters

December 7, 2011

STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK – Firefighters came to the rescue of two police officers outnumbered in Mariners Harbor today, in a scene so chaotic that New York’s Bravest employed a truck-mounted deluge gun — a water cannon — to fend off the marauding group of teens.

The scene unfolded at about 3:30 p.m. in front of 83 Harbor Rd., where a large group of teenagers had amassed to confront a teenage girl who lives in the residence.

By the time it was over, two officers were sent to Richmond University Medical Center, West Brighton, for treatment, and nine teens ended up under arrest, said Inspector John Denesopolis, the 120th Precinct’s commanding officer. Police also recovered a starter pistol, he said.

The officers were OK, but “banged up,” Denesopolis said.

“It was chaos,” said one neighbor, who lives across the street but declined to give his name, stating that he feared retaliation. “The yelling got louder and louder and louder… There was probably 50 to 55 kids out here, and they were challenging one girl.”

The group was threatening the girl, yelling at her to come out and fight, witnesses told the Advance. That sparked calls to 911, and two officers, one male, the other female, arrived at the scene.

The male officer attempted to arrest a member of the crowd, and the teens turned on him, knocking him to the ground.

“The kids were on top of the cop while the cop was arresting the first person,” the neighbor said.

When his female partner tried to intervene, witnesses said, she was knocked down as well. As she was being attacked, she shouted for assistance on her police radio.

9 arrests in wild Staten Island incident, as crowd overruns cops, police say 9 arrests in wild Staten Island incident, as crowd overruns cops, police say Firefighters used a water cannon to break up a wild scene on Harbor Road, blasting a marauding group of teens that were attacking two police officers who had been knocked to the ground, according to witnesses and police. Watch video
“Both police officers were on the ground,” said another neighbor, who also requested anonymity. “The kids were attacking them.”

The scene happened just a few houses down from the FDNY’s Mariners Harbor-based Engine Co. 158. The truck got to the street within moments, witnesses said, and blasted the teens with the engine’s cannon-shaped deluge gun to disperse the crowd, according to witnesses. A large police presence, including an NYPD helicopter, soon followed, chasing the teens down to make several arrests.

Denesopolis praised the quick response of the firefighters, saying that he thanked the firehouse brass personally.

“They were very helpful,” he said. “They were the closest emergency unit on the scene.”
The crowd went to the girl’s house because her mother had kept her home from Port Richmond High School for the past five days because of a bullying situation, according to Denesopolis.

“It escalated today when they came to her,” he said.

The girl, who identified herself as a sophomore at the school, said the incident escalated from a “he-said, she-said” over picking sides in a gang dispute at school.

“They were waiting for me since Thursday. They wanted to get me for a he-said, she-said. They kept on calling,” she said, and when the group arrived at her doorstep, they were carrying “guns, blades and knives.”

The girl has a heart condition, relatives said, and at one point, one of the teens taunted her by saying, “We’re gonna punch you in the chest. We’re gonna fix your heart condition.”

As of this afternoon, police had not released the names of the nine arrested, though they’ll likely face weapon and felony assault charges, police said.

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$240,000,000.00 In Taxpayer Funds Spent On Penis Pumps For Seniors

December 7, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – According to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare has spent more than $240 million of taxpayer money on penis pumps for elderly men over the past decade, and will surpass a quarter of a billion dollars this year for costs since 2001.

The cost to taxpayers for the pumps more than quadrupled during that period, from a low of $11 million in 2001 to a high of more than $47 million in 2010. And these represent only the costs for external devices, technically classified as “Male Vacuum Erection Systems,” not implantable devices or oral drugs such as Viagra.

Easy to Qualify

In order to obtain a pump, according to CMS’s Local Coverage Determination (LCD) revised in October this year, the “patient’s medical record must contain sufficient documentation of the patient’s medical condition to substantiate the necessity for the type and quantity of items ordered,” noting erectile dysfunction (ED) can “commonly occur in men in the Medicare age group.”
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The National Institutes of Health previously estimated between 15 percent and 25 percent of 65-year-old men experience ED on a long-term basis, which the LCD notes may be caused by “diabetes, other endocrine abnormalities, vascular abnormalities, trauma, neurogenic, psychogenic, side effects of many medications, and other causes.” The Cleveland Clinic also points to “psychological factors, such as stress, depression, and performance anxiety” as possible causes.

If a medical exam and history shows a senior on Medicare meets the relevant threshold—a diagnosis of ED—he becomes eligible for a wide range of options under the Medicare Prosthetic benefit. Treatment Options covered by Medicare include “oral medications, pharmacological injections, intra-urethral suppositories, vacuum erection devices, and implantable penile pumps.”

But are these devices really “medically necessary”? Health Care News contacted CMS to ask whether they have audited the medical files to determine medical necessity. CMS has not provided a response at the time of publication.

Rising Incidence of Fraud

One area of concern for CMS is the rise in fraud in relation to the pump devices. Earlier this year an Illinois man pled guilty to collecting more than $2 million from Medicare in a fraudulent operation where he repackaged $26 items from adult websites and sold them to seniors as medical devices, charging Medicare $284 apiece.

Device fraud has become an increasingly common way for criminals bilk the taxpayers. Durable medical equipment (DME) is widely perceived as a “high risk” area for fraud, according to a spokesman for the HHS Office of the Inspector General. And a report released last month by CMS found the error and improper payment rate for DME was above 60 percent, whereas no other area even entered double digits.

Questionable Medical Need

Given the questionable medical need for this technology’s utilization and the significant percentage of improper DME payments, John Nothdurft, director of government relations for The Heartland Institute, questions whether it is prudent for Medicare to continue to pay for penis pumps.

“At a time when the federal government borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends, do we really need to be spending money on this? I doubt you need a ‘Super Committee’ to realize that this is the epitome of wasteful spending,” Nothdurft said.

In prior reports of Medicare’s trustees, the program’s actuary projected Medicare has $36.8 trillion in unfunded liabilities. And according to their 2011 report, Medicare spending is expected to grow from 3.6 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 to roughly 10.7 percent of GDP in 2085.

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Broke: Detroit Stops Police Escorts For Funeral Processions

December 7, 2011

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – Getting a police escort for a funeral procession was a common service at one time. But as WWJ’s Rob Sanford reports, budget concerns have forced Detroit to join other major cities in ending the practice.

Budget deficits and declining personnel are the major forces behind the Detroit Police Department’s decision to end free funeral escorts. Police Chief Ralph Godbee said it’s a drain on resources and is unfair for officers to accompany some processions and not others.

Godbee said he plans to talk with funeral homes about offering police escorts for customers who chose it as part of the cost of a funeral. It’s not clear how much the service costs and there are no rules to cover who gets a police escort and who doesn’t.

The Motor City is one of the last major cities to offer the free service, but it’s been determined it’s just too expensive to continue. Other cities that have recently made the same decision include Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Atlanta, some citing traffic safety issues.

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FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt Quits After Drunk Driving Arrest While Driving On Wrong Side Of Road

December 6, 2011

WASHINGTON. DC — Randy Babbitt resigned as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday after being charged over the weekend with driving while intoxicated.

“Today I submitted my resignation to Secretary Ray LaHood and it has been accepted,” he said in a written statement. “Serving as FAA Administrator has been an absolute honor and the highlight of my professional career. But I am unwilling to let anything cast a shadow on the outstanding work done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by my colleagues at the FAA.”

Police in Fairfax, Va., a suburb of Washington, said Babbitt, 65, was driving on the wrong side of the road when he was stopped at 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday. Babbitt, who was alone in the vehicle, was found to be intoxicated, police said, and was held at a detention center, where he was charged and released on a personal recognizance bond.

Police said that Babbitt wasn’t involved in an accident and that he cooperated with police.

Babbitt was appointed to lead the FAA in 2009. LaHood praised Babbitt on Tuesday for being an “outstanding leader.”

Reuters

Federal Aviation Administration head Randy Babbitt is seen in this Fairfax County Sheriff’s booking photograph released to Reuters on Dec. 5, 2011.

“I’m proud to say that we have the safest aviation system in the world, and thanks to Randy’s stewardship, it became safer and stronger,” he said in a written statement.

Babbitt apparently delayed telling administration officials about the arrest. White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama and Transportation Department officials learned of the arrest Monday afternoon, about an hour before a 1:30 p.m. statement was released saying Babbitt had been placed on leave at his request.

Separately, Fairfax City police issued a statement on the arrest to the media at about noon Monday, which their policies require in cases where a public official has been arrested. Police refused to disclose the results of Babbitt’s blood alcohol test. The legal limit is .08.

LaHood has aggressively campaigned against drunken driving, and is working with police agencies and safety advocates on an annual holiday crackdown on drinking and driving later this month. Safety advocates credit LaHood with doing more to raise the visibility of human factors in highway safety — including drunken driving, drivers distracted by cell phone use, and parents who fail to buckle in their children — than any previous transportation secretary.

Deputy FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will serve as acting administrator, the Transportation Department statement said. In recent months Huerta has been leading the FAA’s troubled NextGen effort to transition from an air traffic control system based on World War II-era radar technology to one based on satellite technology.

Babbitt was a former airline captain and internationally recognized expert in aviation and labor relations when Obama tapped him in 2009 to head the FAA. He was a pilot for the now-defunct Eastern Airlines for 25 years, and had served as president of the Air Line Pilots Association. As head of ALPA, he championed the “one level of safety” initiative implemented in 1995 to improve safety standards across the airline industry.

Babbitt’s nomination in 2009 was warmly received by both industry officials and airline unions. His easy manner and insider’s knowledge of the airline industry generated respect in Congress, where he regularly testified on safety issues and in support of NextGen.

Babbitt took over at the FAA when the agency was still reeling from the exposure of widespread safety gaps in the regional airline industry. The problems were revealed by a National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the February 2009 crash of a regional airliner near Buffalo, N.Y., that killed 50 people.

Babbitt and LaHood promised to immediately implement a series of safety initiatives. At Babbitt’s urging airlines adopted a series of voluntary safety measures, although safety advocates say voluntary measures aren’t enough. The FAA under Babbitt has also initiated several efforts to craft major new safety regulations, ranging from preventing pilot fatigue to boosting experience levels and training of airline pilots.

But Babbitt has struggled to realize several of those safety proposals. Some proposals have stalled as industry opponents lobbied White House officials against the proposed regulations, saying they would cost too much or be too burdensome.

The biggest crisis of Babbitt’s FAA tenure occurred last spring over a period of several weeks when nine air traffic controllers were allegedly caught sleeping on the job or were unresponsive to radio calls while on duty. The head of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization was forced to resign during the ensuing uproar.

As the FAA’s top official, Babbitt has the final say in disciplinary proceedings involving controllers who violate the agency’s drug and alcohol regulations.

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Three Elderly Woman Strip Searched By TSA Agents

December 6, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – With age come such things as catheters, colostomy bags and adult diapers. Now add another indignity to getting old — having to drop your pants and show these things to a complete stranger.

Two women in their 80s put the Transportation Security Administration on the defensive this week by going public about their embarrassment during screenings in a private room at John F. Kennedy International Airport. One claimed she was forced to lower her pants and underwear in front of an agent so that her back brace could be inspected. Another said agents made her pull down her waistband to show her colostomy bag.

While not confirming some of the details, the TSA said a preliminary review shows officers followed the agency’s procedures in both cases. But experts said the potential for such searches will increase as the U.S. population ages and receives prosthetics and other medical devices, some of which cannot go through screening machines.
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“You have pacemakers, you have artificial hips, you have artificial knees,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “As we get older and we keep ourselves together, it’s going to take more and more surgery. There’s going to be more and more medical improvements, but that can create what appears to be a security issue.”

Prosthetic devices can set off metal detectors, and certain devices such as catheters and bags are visible on body scanners, making those passengers candidates for more thorough inspections. Metal detectors and wands can disrupt some devices such as implanted defibrillators, so those passengers must ask for pat-downs instead.

Ruth Sherman, 88, of Sunrise, Fla., said she was mortified when inspectors pulled her aside and asked about the bulge in her pants as she arrived for a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Nov. 28.

“I said, ‘I have a bag here,'” she said on Monday, pointing to the bulge, which is bigger or smaller depending on what she eats. “They didn’t understand.”

She said they escorted her to another room where two female agents “made me lower my sweatpants, and I was really very humiliated.” She said she stood with her arms and legs outstretched, warning the agents not to touch her colostomy bag. Touching the bag can cause pain, she said.

“It’s degrading. It’s like someone raped you,” Sherman said. “They didn’t know how to handle a human being.”

The next day, agents took 85-year-old Lenore Zimmerman, of Long Beach, N.Y., into a private room to remove her back brace for screening after she decided against going through a scanning machine because of her heart defibrillator. Zimmerman said she had to raise her blouse and lower her pants and underwear for a female TSA agent.

Bruce Zimmerman, her son, said the agents “should’ve patted her down.”

“To have her pants and underpants pulled down is just beyond humiliating,” he said Monday. “This is my mother we are talking about.”

The TSA released a statement Tuesday morning, saying, “TSA screens nearly 1.8 million passengers each day to ensure the safety of the traveling public. We do not conduct “strip searches” as part of passenger screening. Our officers are committed to treating every passenger with dignity and respect and we take complaints seriously. TSA is currently reviewing recent allegations of passengers who flew out of JFK. Our preliminary review of each of these claims indicates all screening procedures were followed.”

The agency insists that security concerns come first, even if it means getting into passengers’ drawers. In 2009, a Nigerian man tried to blow up a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day with explosives in his underpants.

“Terrorists and their targets may also range in age,” the agency argued in a blog post after Zimmerman went public. It cited the November arrest of four Georgia men, ages 65 to 73, on charges of plotting an attack with the poison ricin. Prosecutors said the men were part of a fringe militia group.

Last June, the daughter of a 95-year-old woman said TSA agents wouldn’t let her mother board a flight from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., to Detroit because her wet adult diaper set off alarms.

A TSA screener said Lena Reppert had a suspicious spot on her adult diaper, according to her daughter, Jean Weber. Weber ultimately took off the wet diaper so Reppert could be cleared in time for their flight.

The TSA said its inspectors handled the situation correctly and didn’t ask Reppert to remove her diaper.

Such cases raise serious privacy questions, said Chris Calabrese, a legislative expert with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It’s a pretty fundamental invasion of privacy when you have to take your clothes off,” Calabrese said.

Even lawmakers have complained about their treatment. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who has an artificial knee, told fellow members of a congressional committee that she dreads running into a certain TSA agent when it comes time for a pat-down at the St. Louis airport.

“I see her coming … I like, you know, just tense up, because I know it’s going to be ugly in terms of the way she conducts her pat-downs,” McCaskill said.

The TSA says it has been trying to tailor its screening procedures for different types of passengers. In September it eliminated pat-downs for most children under 12 because of complaints from parents. In October it began testing an express screening program for frequent fliers at four airports.

The agency has formed an advisory committee of 70 disability groups to help adapt its screening techniques.

TSA chief John Pistole has said the agency is trying to train screeners to more quickly identify medical devices, such as catheters, to save passengers from embarrassment. He also said the agency might give preference to senior citizens going through the screening lines.

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Department Of Homeland Security Funds Pissed Away On Snow Cone Machines

December 6, 2011

STANTON, MICHIGAN – The United States is fighting terrorism – one snow cone at a time.

Montcalm County recently received a $900 Arctic Blast Sno-Cone machine.

The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission (WMSRDC) is a federal- and state-designated agency responsible for managing and administrating the homeland security program in Montcalm County and 12 other counties.

The WMSRDC recently purchased and transferred homeland security equipment to these counties – including 13 snow cone machines at a total cost of $11,700.

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Disabled 85 Year Old Grandmother Strip Searched By TSA Agents At New York JFK Airport

December 3, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – An 85-year-old Long Island grandmother says she plans to sue the TSA after a humiliating strip search on Tuesday by agents at JFK Airport.

Lenore Zimmerman, who lives in Long Beach, says she was on her way to a 1 p.m. flight to Fort Lauderdale when security whisked her to a private room and took off her clothes.

“I walk with a walker — I really look like a terrorist,” she said sarcastically. “I’m tiny. I weigh 110 pounds, 107 without clothes, and I was strip-searched.”

TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said a review of closed circuit TV footage from the airport shows “proper procedures were followed.”

But Zimmerman, whose hunched back puts her at 4-foot-11, said her ordeal began after her son, Bruce, drove her to the JetBlue terminal for the Florida flight. She lives in warm Coconut Creek during the winter.

She checked her bags, waited for a wheelchair and parted ways with her doting son — her only immediate relative.

When Zimmerman reached a security checkpoint, she asked if she could forgo the advanced image technology screening equipment, fearing it might interfere with her defibrillator.

She said she normally gets patted down. But this time, she says that two female agents escorted her to a private room and began to remove her clothes.

“I was outraged,” said Zimmerman, a retired receptionist.

As she tried to lift a lightweight walker off her lap, she says, the metal bars banged against her leg and blood trickled from a gash.

“My sock was soaked with blood,” she said. “I was bleeding like a pig.”

She says the TSA agents showed no sympathy, instead pulling down her pants and asking her to raise her arms.

“Why are you doing this?” she said she asked the agents, who did not respond.

The TSA claims the footage does not show any sign of the injury.

“Our screening procedures are conducted in a manner designed to treat all passengers with dignity, respect and courtesy,” Farbstein said.

Zimmerman says a medic arrived to treat her injury. The process took so long that she missed her 1 p.m. flight and had to catch a later one.

Her son said he was shocked when his mom called around 9 p.m. that night and described what happened.

“She was put through a hell of a day,” he said.

Zimmerman, who takes blood thinners, later had a tetanus shot for fear of infection from the walker wound.

Bruce Zimmerman, 53, said he can’t understand why the agents targeted his mom.

“She looks like a sweet, little old lady,” he said. “She’s not a disruptive person or uncooperative.”

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Crazed Virginia TSA Agents Targeted Teen Girl With Gun Design On Purse

December 2, 2011

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – A teenage girl’s sense of style got her in trouble at the airport.

Vanessa Gibbs, 17, claims the Transportation Security Administration stopped her at the security gate because of the design of a gun on her handbag.

Gibbs said she had no problem going through security at Jacksonville International Airport, but rather, when she headed home from Virginia.

“It’s my style, it’s camouflage, it has an old western gun on it,” Gibbs said.

But her preference for the pistol style didn’t sit well with TSA agents at the Norfolk airport.

Gibbs said she was headed back home to Jacksonville from a holiday trip when an agent flagged her purse as a security risk.

“She was like, ‘This is a federal offense because it’s in the shape of a gun,'” Gibbs said. “I’m like, ‘But it’s a design on a purse. How is it a federal offense?'”

After agents figured out the gun was a fake, Gibbs said, TSA told her to check the bag or turn it over.

By the time security wrapped up the inspection, the pregnant teen missed her flight, and Southwest Airlines sent her to Orlando instead, worrying her mother, who was already waiting for her to arrive at JIA.

“Oh, it’s terrifying. I was so upset,” said Tami Gibbs, the teen’s mom. “I was on the phone all the way to Orlando trying to figure out what was going on with her. It was terrifying. I don’t ever want to go through it again.”

Vanessa and her mom said it’s hard to believe anyone could mistake the design on the purse for a real gun because it’s just a few inches in size and it’s hollow, not to mention Vanessa has taken it on planes before.

“I carried this from Jacksonville to Norfolk, and I’ve carried it from Norfolk to Jacksonville,” Vanessa said. “Never once has anyone said anything about it until now.”

TSA isn’t budging on the handbag, arguing the phony gun could be considered a “replica weapon.” The TSA says “replica weapons have prohibited since 2002.”

It’s a rule that Vanessa feels can’t be applied to a purse.

“Common sense,” she said. “It’s a purse, not a weapon.”

A TSA official at JIA said it’s not that uncommon for passengers to wear something that could be considered a gun replica, but the official encourages everyone to check the prohibited items list, which can be found online or at the airport before going through security.

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Alabama Postal Worker Went Postal In Montgomery Post Officer – Two Guns

December 2, 2011

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA– A 29-year-old postal employee was charged with two counts of attempted murder Friday after authorities said he used two guns to fire shots inside the main post office in Alabama’s capital city.

No one was injured in the shootings Thursday night. Officials weren’t disclosing a motive or whether the employee was targeting any specific employee.

Officials said the employee, Arthur Lee Darby Jr., was in the Montgomery County Jail with bond set at $1 million.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Clark Morris, said the man showed up for work in the mail sorting area and began firing shots about 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Witnesses said a supervisor yelled that a man had a gun, and employees scurried outside.

Police took the man into custody within 10 minutes of getting a 911 call from the post office.

Police Chief Kevin Murphy said many officers were able to respond quickly because they were on holiday patrols at a nearby mall and shopping centers and many had special training on how to handle such incidents.

“The best news is that nobody was hurt and the local police responded quickly,” Postal Service spokesman Tony Robinson said Friday. “Management quickly had the building evacuated, which helped minimize the potential threat to the people.”

The post office, located on the city’s east side one block away from Auburn University Montgomery, reopened Friday morning with counselors available to talk to employees, Robinson said.

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9/11 Hysteria: San Jose California Police And Post Office Overreact When Jogger Mails Package Of Calendars

December 1, 2011

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – Word to the wise: Maybe it’s not the smartest thing to jog in what looks like a gas mask and body armor, and then jam a package in a post office box.

It could touch off what happened Tuesday at the busy San Jose post office on Lundy Avenue: a full-scale police response, complete with the bomb squad and a robot.

But San Jose police said the suspicious-looking jogger seen fidgeting with a package at a drop-off box was only working out in hard-core, albeit odd-looking, exercise gear.

“The guy said he was wearing a cardio mask,” said Sgt. Jason Dwyer. “It was his cardio day, and he was trying to lose weight.”

That’s not what a post office customer thought when the man in the weird mask and vest was stuffing a package in a blue mail box about 12:30 p.m. The customer called police, and in a flash, the post office was on lockdown until 4:30 p.m., with 150 employees and customers tucked away in the back. The San Jose police bomb squad, the Fire Department’s hazardous materials unit and the postal inspector descended on a normally quiet strip of North San Jose. A robot detonated the package, which turned out, police said, to be a bunch of calendars.

“My friends kept messaging me, Is this you? Is this you?” recounted Long Hoang, who lives near the post office and is a student at Cal State East Bay in Hayward.

It was.

About 12 weeks ago, Hoang became an avid follower of the CrossFit exercise regimen, which he said, exuberantly, combines “this really creative combination of weight lifting, gymnastics and rowing.” He wears the mask to simulate high-altitude training. Hoang, who is 5 feet 4 inches, said he’s lost at least 20 pounds, and is now 142 pounds.

Many neighbors in the area frequently spot him running in his gear, doing squats and lunges at corners while he waits for the light to turn green.

As Hoang tells the story, he mistakenly received a package of calendars at his home, and thought he’d mail them back to the proper recipient while on an exercise run. The package didn’t fit the first time in the mail box, he said, so he had to fold it up and try a second time.

When Hoang later realized his actions had caused such a commotion, captured by this newspaper and many other media organizations, he called police Tuesday evening to say the suspicious man was him: a nursing student trying to get into shape.

Police said Hoang’s story checked out.

Hoang said he can’t really see what all the fuss was about.

“It was like straight out of a movie,” he said. “Some of my friends are telling me, ‘Hello? 9/11? Anthrax? Blah. Blah. Blah.’ And I’m just thinking about my finals and staying in my own little zone.”

Still, Hoang says he won’t be jogging to the post office any time soon.

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Hero To Zero: Former Arapahoe County Colorado Sheriff Patrick Sullivan Locked Up In Jail Named For Him After Offering Meth In Exchange For Gay Sex

December 1, 2011

CENTENNIAL, COLORADO – A former Colorado lawman with a record so distinguished he was once honored as the nation’s sheriff of the year now finds himself in a jail that was named for him, accused of offering methamphetamine in exchange for sex from a male acquaintance.

Patrick Sullivan, 68 — handcuffed, dressed in an orange jail uniform and walking with a cane — watched Wednesday as a judge raised his bail amount to a half-million dollars and sent him to the Patrick J. Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility.

The current sheriff, Grayson Robinson, who worked as undersheriff for Sullivan from 1997 until he took over the job in 2002, said the department was shocked and saddened at his arrest.

Robinson said the case is still under investigation, including where and how Sullivan might have gotten the drugs. He declined to say if authorities suspect Sullivan of using drugs, or if others might be charged.

The Post reported court documents in several other cases show that Sullivan in recent months had been associating with young men fighting an addiction to meth. When the former sheriff was questioned about it, he said he was working in a state drug-treatment program.

Sullivan later told detectives he was on a meth drug task force and helps recovering addicts get clean, according to another report.

The Colorado attorney general’s office said there was no record of Sullivan working on a meth task force.

Sullivan’s arrest has many in suburban Denver’s Arapahoe County where he held sway for nearly two decades wondering what happened to the tough-as-nails lawman they once knew — a law officer known for his heroism in saving two deputies and for his concern about teenage drug use.

“This isn’t the Pat I know,” said Peg Ackerman, a lobbyist for the County Sheriffs of Colorado who often worked with him on legislation. She said he was concerned about drug use in schools and was a chief of security at a school district.

At the brief hearing, Judge William Sylvester told Sullivan not to contact anyone involved in the case.

Sullivan’s attorney, Kevin McGreevy, did not return calls seeking comment.

Sullivan came to the attention of law enforcement after an Oct. 4 call to authorities from a home in Centennial, according to an arrest affidavit. The deputy who responded had worked for Sullivan and knew who he was.

After investigating further, the deputy learned from two confidential informants that Sullivan was dealing meth but would sell it only if they had sex with him, the document stated. He was arrested after police set up a sting at a home.

Deputies found that Sullivan had handed someone a bag of meth and had another bag on him when he was searched, according to the affidavit. Both bags weighed less than a gram.

Sullivan served as sheriff from 1984 until his retirement in 2002.

In 2002, then-U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo praised him on his retirement, citing Sullivan for promoting homeland security and for being named Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriff’s Association.

In 1989, Sullivan was hailed as a hero. During a gunman’s rampage, he rescued two deputies after crashing his truck through a fence and protecting them while they were loaded into the vehicle.

While those who know Sullivan were puzzled by the news, some said they weren’t surprised that a person of his stature could get involved. They said meth users will do almost anything to feed their habit and often hurt others in the process.

“This drug knows no economic, social, professional or occupational boundaries,” said state Rep. Ken Summers, who served on a legislative meth task force.

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