September 11, 2001 Attack Victims Remains Burnt And Tossed In Trash

February 29, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Some human remains recovered from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa., were incinerated and dumped in a landfill, the Defense Department said Tuesday in the latest revelation about mishandled body parts at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary.

A new Pentagon review of the troubled mortuary disclosed several other problems — including fresh allegations of fraud and misplaced remains — over the past decade despite previous assurances by Air Force officials that they had adequately investigated operations at the base.

The revelation that “several portions of remains” recovered from the Pentagon and Shanksville ended up in a landfill was mentioned briefly on the latter pages of a report released Tuesday after an investigation led by retired Army Gen. John P. Abizaid.

The report said that the Sept. 11 remains in question “could not be tested or identified,” apparently because they were too small or charred to allow for DNA analysis. The remains were cremated and then mixed with biomedical waste at the Dover mortuary, where they were given to a contractor who incinerated them and dumped the residue in a landfill.

The report cites Army and Air Force memos from July and August 2002 directing that an unspecified number of “remains from the Attack on the Pentagon” be incinerated.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Abizaid said he didn’t know many details on what happened to the remains of Sept. 11 victims.

“We did not spend a great deal of time and effort and energy looking into what you’re talking about,” he said in response to a reporter’s questions. “That was not our charge. Our charge was to look forward.”

Abizaid declined to release the memos or other documentation on the matter, saying, “I have no authority to release anything.”

Late Wednesday, the White House issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” about the landfill disposals and about “the unacceptable handling of remains at Dover.” The statement said President Obama had been briefed about Abizaid’s review and that he “strongly supports the Pentagon’s efforts to make needed systemic structural changes so that these types of incidents never happen again.”

The report indicates that unidentified remains from the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, were disposed of in a similar manner. But the Pennsylvania coroner who oversaw the handling of remains from that attack said no body parts from Shanksville were ever sent to Dover or taken to a landfill.

Wallace Miller, the Somerset, Pa., county coroner, said in news reports on Tuesday that all unidentified remains from Shanksville were buried in three caskets on Sept. 12 at a memorial site for Flight 93 as part of the 10th anniversary of the hijacking.

Seeking answers

Members of Congress pressed the Pentagon to offer a more detailed account of the handling of victims’ remains.

“The heroic passengers on United Flight 93 gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, and their families deserve to know the fate of their remains,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), wrote in a letter Tuesday to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. “It is critically important that we get to the bottom of this matter, clear up any remaining doubts, and ensure that those responsible for any mishandling of remains be held accountable.”

In November, The Washington Post reported that the Dover mortuary for years had disposed of incinerated portions of remains of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in a Virginia landfill. The practice involved unidentified or unclaimed body parts; it was not made known to troops’ family members.

The Air Force later acknowledged that it had dumped the incinerated partial remains of at least 274 service members in the landfill between 2003 and 2008, when the practice ended in favor of a new policy of burying ashes at sea.

At the time, Air Force officials said their mortuary records went back to only 2003 and that they did not know when the landfill dumping began.

On Feb. 6, however, in response to news reports about the landfill dumping, Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.) wrote a letter to Panetta asking: Could the Defense Department confirm that “no 9/11 victims’ remains were incinerated, mixed with medical waste and sent to a landfill?”

The Pentagon has not responded, according to Holt.

In an interview Tuesday, Holt accused the Pentagon of stonewalling. He said defense officials didn’t understand the importance of clearing up questions about the remains of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“They don’t even seem to understand the gravity of the scandal,” he said. “They don’t have the degree of chagrin or embarrassment they should have.”

The top civilian and military leaders of the Air Force — Secretary Michael B. Donley and Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the chief of staff — both said they did not know until Tuesday that some cremated partial remains of some Sept. 11 victims were ultimately taken to a landfill.

The Air Force leaders said they were focused on fixing the problems at Dover. They said they did not have any immediate plans to follow up on the disclosure about the Sept. 11 victims.

“There will be a decision, I suppose, at some point on what more time should be invested in this work,” Donley said.

George Little, a spokesman for Panetta, said the defense secretary has asked the Air Force leadership to review Abizaid’s report “and to take all steps necessary to improve operations at Dover.”

Panetta has previously told reporters that he wanted Abizaid to look into reports that troops’ body parts were cremated and sent to the landfill. But Little declined to say whether Panetta would order a further investigation into the fate of the remains of Sept. 11 victims.

“The secretary never would have supported a landfill policy,” said Little, noting that the practice ended in 2008, years before Panetta took office in 2011. “Our focus now is on ensuring that lapses that occurred in the past do not happen in the future.”

Family members of victims of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center have previously alleged that some remains of their relatives were taken to a Staten Island landfill. Family members filed a lawsuit in 2005 to force New York to search for the remains, but a federal judge ruled that the plaintiffs could not successfully prove that they had a claim to any remains.

Other incidents reported

In Abizaid’s report, an appendix lists several previously undisclosed incidents of mismanagement, mishandled body parts and other botched cases at the Dover mortuary.

In August 2009, the Air Force opened an investigation into allegations of fraud at the mortuary. The report did not disclose the nature of the alleged fraud but said the case remains open and that federal prosecutors are still deciding whether to file charges.

In January 2008, the report said, the Air Force paid a $25,000 settlement to the unidentified widow of a Marine “for mental anguish and medical costs due to loss of personal effects” that were “inadvertently destroyed” along with the Marine’s remains.

Separately, in July 2006, remains from four military personnel who died in an airplane crash were “cremated and disposed of as medical waste rather than being interred in group burial.” Abizaid’s report blamed “poor communication” among branches of the military but did not give details.

In September 2005, an Air Force investigation found that “human remains were mis-routed in a fashion constituting dereliction of duty,” according to the report, which again did not give details.

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US Has Secret Charges Against WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange After He Embarrassed US Goverment By Exposing Lies And Information

February 29, 2012

United States prosecutors have drawn up secret charges against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, according to a confidential email obtained from the private US intelligence company Stratfor. embarrassing

In an internal email to Stratfor analysts on January 26 last year, the vice-president of intelligence, Fred Burton, responded to a media report concerning US investigations targeting WikiLeaks with the comment: ”We have a sealed indictment on Assange.”
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Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks speaks at a press conference in London, Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. WikiLeaks said on Monday that it was publishing a massive trove of leaked emails from U.S. intelligence analysis firm Stratfor, shedding light on the inner workings of the Texas-based think tank. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

”If I thought I could switch this dickhead off without getting done I don’t think I’d have too much of a problem.” … Stratfor’s Chris Farnham on Assange. Photo: AP

He underlined the sensitivity of the information – apparently obtained from a US government source – with warnings to ”Pls [please] protect” and ”Not for pub[lication]”.

Mr Burton is well known as an expert on security and counterterrorism with close ties to the US intelligence and law enforcement agencies. He is the former deputy chief of the counter-terrorism division of the US State Department’s diplomatic security service.

Stratfor, whose headquarters are in Austin, Texas, provides intelligence and analysis to corporate and government subscribers.

On Monday, WikiLeaks began releasing more than 5 million Stratfor emails which it said showed ”how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients”.

The Herald has secured access to the emails through an investigative partnership with WikiLeaks.

The news that US prosecutors drew up a secret indictment against Mr Assange more than 12 months ago comes as the Australian awaits a British Supreme Court decision on his appeal against extradition to Sweden to be questioned in relation to sexual assault allegations.

Mr Assange, who has not been charged with any offence in Sweden, fears extradition to Stockholm will open the way for his extradition to the US on possible espionage or conspiracy charges in retaliation for WikiLeaks’s publication of thousands of leaked US classified military and diplomatic reports.

Last week the US Army Private Bradley Manning was committed to face court martial for 22 alleged offences, including ”aiding the enemy” by leaking classified government documents to WikiLeaks.

In December the Herald revealed Australian diplomatic cables, declassified under freedom of information, confirmed WikiLeaks was the target of a US Justice Department investigation ”unprecedented both in its scale and nature” and suggested that media reports that a secret grand jury had been convened in Alexandria, Virginia, were ”likely true”.

The Australian embassy in Washington reported in December 2010 that the Justice Department was pursuing an ”active and vigorous inquiry into whether Julian Assange can be charged under US law, most likely the 1917 Espionage Act”.

In recent answers to written parliamentary questions from the Greens senator Scott Ludlam, the former foreign affairs minister Kevin Rudd indicated Australia had sought confirmation that a secret grand jury inquiry directed against Mr Assange was under way.

Mr Rudd said ”no formal advice” had been received from US authorities but acknowledged the existence of a ”temporary surrender” mechanism that could allow Mr Assange to be extradited from Sweden to the US. He added that Swedish officials had said Mr Assange’s case would be afforded ”due process”.

The US government has repeatedly declined to confirm or deny any reported details of the WikiLeaks inquiry, beyond the fact that an investigation is being pursued.

The Stratfor emails show that the WikiLeaks publication of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables triggered intense discussion within the ”global intelligence” company.

In the emails, an Australian Stratfor ”senior watch officer”, Chris Farnham, advocated revoking Mr Assange’s Australian citizenship, adding: ”I don’t care about the other leaks but the ones he has made that potentially damage Australian interests upset me. If I thought I could switch this dickhead off without getting done I don’t think I’d have too much of a problem.”

But Mr Farnham also referred to a conversation with a close family friend who he said knew one of the Swedish women who had made allegations of sexual assault against Mr Assange, and added: ”There is absolutely nothing behind it other than prosecutors that are looking to make a name for themselves.”

While some Stratfor analysts decried what they saw as Mr Assange’s ”clear anti-Americanism”, others welcomed the leaks and debated WikiLeaks’s longer-term impact on secret diplomacy and intelligence.

Stratfor’s director of analysis, Reva Bhalla, observed: ”WikiLeaks itself may struggle to survive but the idea that’s put out there, that anyone with the bandwidth and servers to support such a system can act as a prime outlet of leaks. [People] are obsessed with this kind of stuff. The idea behind it won’t die.”

Stratfor says it will not comment on the emails obtained by WikiLeaks. The US embassy has also declined to comment.

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Paybacks Coming: Interpol Doing Everything Possible To Piss Off Anonymous Hacker Group

February 29, 2012

LYON, FRANCE – Interpol has arrested 25 suspected members of the Anonymous hackers group in a swoop covering more than a dozen cities in Europe and Latin America, the global police body said Tuesday.

“Operation Unmask was launched in mid-February following a series of coordinated cyber-attacks originating from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain,” Interpol said.

The statement cited attacks on the websites of the Colombian Ministry of Defense and the presidency, as well as on Chile’s Endesa electricity company and its National Library, among others.

The operation was carried out by police from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain, the statement said, with 250 items of computer equipment and cell phones seized in raids on 40 premises in 15 cities.

Police also seized credit cards and cash from the suspects, aged 17 to 40.

“This operation shows that crime in the virtual world does have real consequences for those involved, and that the Internet cannot be seen as a safe haven for criminal activity,” said Bernd Rossbach, acting director of police services at Interpol, which is in the French city of Lyon.

However, it was not clear what evidence there was to prove those arrested were part of Anonymous, an extremely loose-knit international movement of online activists, or “hacktivists.”

Spanish police said earlier they had arrested four suspected hackers accused of sabotaging websites and publishing confidential data on the internet.

They were accused of hacking the websites of political parties and companies and adding fangs to the faces of leaders in photographs online, and publishing data identifying top officials’ security guards, Spanish police said.

The operation, carried out after trawling through computer logs in order to trace IP addresses, also netted 10 suspects in Argentina, six in Chile and five in Colombia, Spanish police said.

Anonymous has in recent weeks targeted the websites of a series of police organizations, with subgroup Antisec vandalizing the website of a major US prison contractor last Friday.

Anonymous took credit Thursday for an online raid on the Los Angeles Police Canine Association and previously attacked websites of the CIA and FBI.

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Obama Sends US Tax Dollars To Pay For Indonesians To Get Masters Degrees – $16 To $20 Million Down The Drain In Third World Hellhole

February 28, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – A program providing training and scholarships to Indonesian professionals is about to be expanded by the Obama Administration, which hopes to increase the “number of Indonesian future leaders holding advanced degrees (Masters) from U.S. and in-country institutions of higher education.”

According to a Statement of Work (SOW) posted today to the FedBizOpps database, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is seeking contractors capable of carrying out Phase II of the “Program to Extend Scholarships and Training to Achieve Sustainable Impacts,” or PRESTASI.

The selected vendor will continue to assist existing Phase I participants while identifying and placing new candidates for the extended program—which will cost an additional $16-$20 million.

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US Taxpayers Pay $750,000 For New Soccer Field At US Torture Prison In Cuba

February 28, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – At a time of record deficits, a new soccer field for detainees at Camp 6 in Guantanamo Bay is just getting the finishing touches — at a cost of $750,000 to taxpayers.

The project was the highlight of a tour Tuesday of the detention camp for reporters at the facility covering the arraignment in a military court of Majid Khan, a former Baltimore resident and the the only legal U.S. resident on trial at Guantanamo.

The project began in April 2011 and is due to finish this spring. The detainees will now have three recreation facilities at Camp 6, which is home to “highly compliant” detainees who live in a communal setting.

In addition to an indoor recreation field and the existing outdoor recreation field, the new soccer field — selected because it is such a popular sport with detainees — is half the size of an American football field.

The new field has been specially constructed so that the detainees “have maximum access” — about 20 hours a day. Special passageways allow the detainees to pass into the new recreation yard without being escorted by the military.

On the tour, a military police representative who asked not to be identified by name said allowing high levels of activity outdoors helped reduce behavioral problems at the camps, and it also limited the amount of interaction between detainees and the guards.

Since the detention camps opened in 2002, some half dozen cases have been prosecuted — four ended in plea agreements with minimal jail time.

Khan, accused of being hand-selected by Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for a second wave of attacks inside the U.S., including a plot to blow up gas stations, is expected to cut a deal. He is also implicated in an assassination plot against former Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff and a car bombing at the Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2003.

His appearance will be the first time anyone outside the U.S. military or intelligence community has seen him since his capture after Sept. 11 and transfer to secret prisons formerly maintained by the CIA.

Even some of President Obama’s most ardent supporters suggest the administration seems eager to close the camps and reduce the detainee population, and plea agreements with minimal jail time are a sweetheart deal for all involved.

Detainees like Usama bin Laden’s personal cook and his driver are spending less time in prison than American citizens prosecuted in federal courts on lesser charges.

By example, Zachary Chesser of Charlottesville, Va., who was convicted for making threats against the creators of “South Park” and for supporting a Somali terror group, but who never fired a shot on the battlefield, is now serving a 25-year sentence.

By contrast, Omar Khadr, who killed an American soldier on the battlefield in Afghanistan is nearly half way through his eight-year sentence at Guantanamo, and may finish out his term in Canada.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder, testifying about the Justice Department budget on Capitol Hill, said the recidivism rate for Guantanamo detainees overall is in the mid-20s. But the recidivism rate for those transferred during the Obama administration is 7 percent. Holder acknowledged that part of that comparison may be because the former detainees have been out for a shorter period of time, but also because the determinations about each of their release had to be unanimously approved by a task force.

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Los Angeles California Deputy Sheriff Khajana Jones Connected To Burglary Ring – Raid Found Stole Items In Her Home

February 28, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was one of six people arrested recently during a multiagency probe of a burglary ring that hit at least 15 homes across Southern California, including seven in Ventura County, authorities said Tuesday.

Wearing collared shirts and using new rental cars to blend into their surroundings, a group composed largely of alleged Los Angeles gang members stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry, cash and other items, Ventura County sheriff’s officials said.

Khajana Jones, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, lived with one of the suspects, officials said. While she is not suspected of participating directly in the burglaries, authorities believe she knew her live-in boyfriend was obtaining cash and jewelry illegally and allowed him to keep the items at the residence, officials said. She has been relieved of duty pending the investigation.

The group targeted homes from Thousand Oaks and Oak Park to Pasadena and Tustin, said Sgt. Bill Schierman of the Ventura County sheriff’s gang unit.

Sometimes working with girlfriends, the suspects hit upscale homes across a wide area in an apparent attempt to avoid apprehension, then used the proceeds to support lavish lifestyles, officials allege. Investigators believe the suspects would knock on the front door, go around the back when no one answered and enter through open doors or force their way inside, Schierman said.

“This was a very sophisticated group,” Schierman said. “If you want to talk about a professional burglary crew, this was them.”

The break in the case came after the Jan. 20 burglary of an unoccupied home in the 1300 block of Doral Circle in Thousand Oaks, officials said.

Three men forced their way into the home, then fled when the residents returned home. A witness was able to describe the vehicle and give authorities a partial license plate number, officials said.

Investigators determined it was a sport utility vehicle rented by Merchuria Cooper, 31, of Los Angeles, officials said. That led detectives to identify another suspect, Kenneth Hall, 37, of Los Angeles, officials said.

Hall was Cooper’s boyfriend and had previously been stopped in a vehicle associated with her, officials said. He went to prison for a 1999 burglary attempt in Camarillo’s Spanish Hills, Schierman said. An alleged Los Angeles gang member, Hall was on parole for a 2005 residential burglary and was wanted for violating the terms of his release, officials said.

To find other suspects, authorities launched an investigation that included Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives. They later identified Los Angeles residents Dennis Coleman, 33, Miles Chaissions, 20, and Don Mosley, 32, as suspects, officials said.

Hall and Coleman appeared to be unemployed but owned or rented luxury vehicles, went on shopping sprees and spent thousands of dollars at nightclubs, officials said.

Investigators believe Coleman, Chaissions and Hall are responsible for burglarizing seven homes in Ventura County since the beginning of December. They and Mosley are suspected of committing eight more residential burglaries in Los Angeles and Orange counties during the same period, officials said.

Mosley was arrested Feb. 12 after he and two others allegedly burglarized two homes in Pacific Palisades, officials said.

Ventura County investigators learned about the burglary, and when Los Angeles police tried to pull over the suspects, they led police on a chase that reached 100 mph on the Pacific Coast Highway, officials said.

The suspects threw jewelry out of the vehicle during the chase before abandoning the vehicle in Santa Monica, officials said. Mosley was caught a short distance away. The other two escaped, officials said.

Mosley was booked into Los Angeles County jail, where he remained this week in lieu of $1 million bail.

Hall was arrested on a parole warrant in Las Vegas, where he remained in custody without bail this week, authorities said.

The other suspects were arrested around the time authorities served a series of search warrants in the Los Angeles area on Feb. 22, officials said.

Cooper was arrested at her residence and booked into Ventura County jail on suspicion of burglary and conspiracy, authorities said.

Investigators found large sums of cash and apparent stolen property at the home deputy Jones shared with Coleman, officials said. Jones was arrested on suspicion of burglary and being an accessory to commit burglary, Schierman said.

A 35-year-old Los Angeles resident, the deputy was booked into Ventura County jail Feb. 22 and released the next day, jail records show.

A six-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Jones was most recently assigned to its custody division, said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the department.

Jones has been relieved of duty with pay, Whitmore said. The department is monitoring the investigation, and if Jones is charged with a felony, she could be stripped of her pay, he said. If convicted, Jones could be fired.

Coleman and Chaissions pleaded not guilty Friday to charges related to the alleged thefts of more than $200,000 in cash, jewelry and other items.

The investigation is continuing, and authorities said they expect to uncover more burglaries and make more arrests.

Schierman said he wouldn’t be surprised if the value of goods stolen reaches $1 million.

“This is the largest burglary investigation I’ve seen,” said the sergeant, a 23-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

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Busted – PETA Killed More Than 95% Of Pets In Its Care

February 26, 2012

VIRGINIA – Documents published online this month show that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an organization known for its uncompromising animal-rights positions, killed more than 95 percent of the pets in its care in 2011.

The documents, obtained from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, were published online by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a non-profit organization that runs online campaigns targeting groups that antagonize food producers.

Fifteen years’ worth of similar records show that since 1998 PETA has killed more than 27,000 animals at its headquarters in Norfolk, VA.

In a February 16 statement, the Center said PETA killed 1,911 cats and dogs last year, finding homes for only 24 pets.

“PETA hasn’t slowed down its slaughterhouse operation,” said Rick Berman, CCF’s executive director. “It appears PETA is more concerned with funding its media and advertising antics than finding suitable homes for these dogs and cats.”

In a statement, Berman added that PETA has a $37 million dollar annual budget.

His organization runs PETAkillsAnimals.com, which reports that in 2010 a resident of Virginia called PETA and asked if there was an animal shelter at the group’s headquarters. PETA responded that there was not.

The Virginian, the website reports, then called his state’s agriculture department. Dr. Daniel Kovich investigated, and conducted an inspection of PETA’s headquarters.

“The facility does not contain sufficient animal enclosures to routinely house the number of animals annually reported as taken into custody,” Kovich concluded in his report.

Kovich also determined that PETA employees kill 84 percent of the animals in their custody within 24 hours of receiving them.

“[PETA’s] primary purpose,” Kovich wrote, “is not to find permanent adoptive homes for animals.”

PETA media liaison Jane Dollinger told The Daily Caller in an email that “most of the animals we take in are society’s rejects; aggressive, on death’s door, or somehow unadoptable.”

Dollinger did not dispute her organization’s sky-high euthanasia rate, but insisted PETA only kills dogs and cats because of “injury, illness, age, aggression, or because no good homes exist for them.”

PETA’s own history, however, shows that this has not always been the case.

In 2005, two PETA employees described as “adorable” and “perfect” some of the dogs and cats they killed in the back of a PETA-owned van. The two were arrested after police witnessed them tossing the animals’ dead bodies into a North Carolina dumpster.

PETA had no comment when the Daily Caller asked what sort of effort it routinely makes to find adoptive homes for animals in its care.

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New York City Police Efforts To Spy On Students In The Northeast Called “Disgusting”

February 26, 2012

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – At Columbia University and elsewhere, the fear that the New York Police Department might secretly be infiltrating Muslim students’ lives has spread beyond them to others who find the reported tactics “disgusting,” as one teenager put it.

The NYPD surveillance of Muslims on a dozen college campuses in the Northeast is a surprising and disappointing violation, students said Saturday in reaction to Associated Press reports that revealed the intelligence-gathering at Columbia and elsewhere.

“If this is happening to innocent Muslim students, who’s next?” asked freshman Dina Morris, 18, of Amherst, Mass. “I’m the child of an immigrant, and I was just blown away by the news; it’s disgusting.”

Documents obtained by the AP show that the NYPD used undercover officers and informants to infiltrate Muslim student groups. An officer even went whitewater rafting with students and reported on how many times they prayed and what they discussed. Police also trawled college websites and blogs, compiling daily reports on the activities of Muslim students and academics.

It was all part of the NYPD’s efforts to keep tabs on Muslims throughout the region as part of the department’s anti-terrorism efforts. Police built databases of where Muslims lived and worked, where they prayed, even where they watched sports.

In the past week, Muslims and non-Muslims alike held a town hall meeting on the Manhattan campus of the Ivy League college to discuss the police surveillance. Concerned members of many school groups attended.

On Friday, some of their counterparts at New York University choked up as they gathered to voice their outrage at the notion that even students’ religious habits were being tracked by the NYPD.

“Why is the number of times that we pray per day – whether or not I come in this space and put my forehead on the floor in worship of my Lord – why does that have anything to do with somebody trying to keep this country safe?” said Elizabeth Dann, 29, an NYU law student.

At first, when it was revealed last weekend that Muslim students were targets of police surveillance, “people were distressed and frazzled,” Mona Abdullah, a member of Columbia’s Muslim Students Association, told the AP.

But by Saturday, she said, a different mood descended on the campus.

“We’re now feeling a sense of unity, because this is not an issue that affects only Muslims,” said Abdullah, 20, who is majoring in political science and Middle Eastern studies. “We’re still worried, but there’s also a sense of solidarity over an issue that has to be taken seriously by everyone.”

Students are also feeling empathy for those outside the university community who are being subjected to the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” policy targeting anyone who seems suspicious, mainly blacks and Hispanics.

“We’re not the first and we’re definitely not going to be the last,” Abdullah said.

Police were interested in Muslim student groups because they attracted young men, a demographic that terrorist groups have tapped. The NYPD defended the effort, citing a dozen accused or convicted terrorists worldwide who had once been affiliated with Muslim student groups.

But students say that unfairly categorizes them all as potential terrorists.

The Muslim students “are just as American as anyone, and to make them feel unsafe and unwanted is really unfair!” said Morris, who attends Barnard College, which is affiliated with Columbia.

“There was a lot of police blowback after 9/11; they were not respecting civil liberties,” said Leo Schwartz, 19, a political science major and columnist for Columbia’s student newspaper, the Daily Spectator.

Anmol Gupta, 22, an engineering student, said that in a city like New York, which prides itself on ethnic diversity, “the idea of the surveillance of Muslims does surprise me, it’s disturbing.”

Sitting on a bench, he glanced across the university’s quad at the students of many races and faiths who were walking around on a chilly winter day.

Gupta said he didn’t feel students could do anything to stop the surveillance.

They certainly shouldn’t do anything to change how they live from day to day – even if they’re afraid they’re being watched, Abdullah said. “We’re saying, `Don’t change the way you act, don’t change anything you do, because we’re not doing anything wrong.'”

Still, many on the campus of more than 25,000 students craved reassurance.

University President Lee Bollinger plans to host a fireside chat on Monday evening to discuss the secret monitoring.

He said in a statement Friday: “We should all be able to appreciate the deeply personal concerns of the Muslim members of our community in learning that their activities were being monitored – and the chilling effect such governmental efforts have on any of us in a university devoted to the foundational values of free speech and association.”

On Saturday, the unanswered question among Columbia students remained: Is the NYPD still conducting surveillance on students?

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday: “We’re going to continue to do what we have to do to protect the city.”

He did not elaborate.

And Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his police department’s monitoring of Muslims – even outside the city at colleges in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and upstate New York – was “legal,” “appropriate” and “constitutional.”

Authorities left open what students most wanted answered – “if and when the surveillance ended,” Abdullah said.

“I don’t think it has ended.”

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Sacramento California Airport Terminal Shutdown After Dumbass TSA Agents Wander Off From Checkpoint

February 26, 2012

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport was shut down temporarily after five people got past an unattended security checkpoint.

The security breach happened Saturday when a walk-through metal detector was left unattended for less than a minute, officials said.

After noticing it was unattended, Transportation Security Administration officials closed the checkpoint and went to search for the five individuals that got by. Police were called to help.

“All five individuals were located and were brought back to the checkpoint and rescreened as a precaution,” according to a statement from the TSA.

According to TSA spokesperson Ann Davis, the terminal was closed for an hour starting at around 9 a.m.

As a result of the incident, officials said, two TSA officers have been removed from screening duties and are to undergo additional training.

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Former Columbus Georgia Police Officer Edward Pascucci Pleads Guilty To Robbing Bank – Didn’t Want To Be Homeless – Wanted Health Care At Taxpayer Expense In Federal Prison

February 26, 2012

COLUMBUS, GEORGIA – A former Columbus police officer admitted in court that he robbed a bank last year so he can get health benefits being in a federal prison.

Edward Pascucci told U.S. District Court Judge Clay D. Land Thursday that he was facing “severe health problems” and homelessness when he decided to rob the Citizens Trust Bank last August, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

“I didn’t want to be homeless,” Pascucci said, according to the paper. “I should not have manipulated the justice system, but I couldn’t think of any other way to get help.”

The FBI said Pascucci walked out of the bank with more than $1,000, according to WTVM-TV. He was jobless for more than a year when the crime occurred.

Pascucci – who served as a police officer for 15 years – was sentenced to five years and three months in prison.

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Man Beat Son Who Wouldn’t Watch Obama’s State Of The Union Address

February 24, 2012

STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT – A North Stamford father trying to make his pre-teenaged son listen to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech last month was arrested on a warrant Wednesday and accused of striking his son with a coffee mug when the youth would not pay attention.

Mohamed Shohan, 49, of 55 Mather Road, Stamford, was charged with third-degree assault, disorderly conduct and risk of injury to a child. He was released after posting $5,000 bond and will be arraigned on the charges at state Superior Court in Stamford Thursday.

Youth Bureau Sgt. Joseph Kennedy said police were made aware of the assault Jan. 27 when the youth was brought to Stamford Hospital for treatment of an injury to his face. When police interviewed the 11-year-old boy, he told them the two sat down at home to watch the address the day after his father recorded it, Kennedy said.

When the boy kept acting out, the father lost his temper and grabbed a coffee mug his son was holding and hit him in the face with it, causing a bruise to the bridge of his nose, it is alleged.

When interviewed, Shohan could not explain how his son was injured, police said. Police then obtained an arrest warrant for Shohan.

“The father ended up overreacting quite a bit,” Kennedy said.

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Utha Minors Will Need ID And Parental Permission For Tanning

February 22, 2012

UTAH – Minors who want to go to tanning salons would have to get parental permission on each visit under a bill passed Wednesday by the Utah Senate.

Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, said parents have a responsibility to learn about the risks posed by the ultraviolet light from tanning beds, which she warned is a known carcinogen and 15 times more dangerous than midday sunlight.

“If you think it’s inconvenient for parents to be warned about the dangers of tanning, how inconvenient is it to take your children to chemotherapy treatments?” Jones asked.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, opposed SB41, arguing that parents be presented information on the risks and allowed to give consent annually. Jones called his amendment an attempt to “gut the bill,” and his effort failed.

The Senate passed the bill 18-9. It now goes to the House.

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Family Stranded In Texas Because Of Crease In Back Cover Of Passport

February 22, 2012

DALLAS, TEXAS – A Denver family was supposed to be in Belize this week enjoying a beach getaway with their loved ones.

Instead, they’re in a hotel room in Dallas, TX because an American Airlines official there claimed they had a mutilated passport.

“We started at Denver International Airport, where we checked in and all our passports were checked very thoroughly,” said Kyle Gosnell.

Gosnell, his wife Dana, and their young son, Kye, received boarding passes all the way through to Belize City.

But in Dallas, they hit a roadblock. “They took a look at our passports and said that my passport was mutilated, therefore I wasn’t able to fly,” Gosnell said.

Little Kye’s passport has a crease on the back cover, which Gosnell says came from him accidentally sitting on the passport.

His passport was questioned, but not denied. It was Kyle Gosnell’s that was the real problem. It has a small crease on the back cover, and is overall weathered and worn.

While some travelers may consider that a badge of honor, of sorts, the government doesn’t.

Ray Priest, owner of International Passport Visas in Denver, said your passport isn’t actually yours at all; it belongs to the US government.

“To have a passport is privilege, it’s not entitled to you by citizenship,” Priest said. He said the issue may be with a microchip embedded in the back of all new passports. “They have no reason in the world to let you travel if it’s been damaged,” Priest said. “It’s like cutting your photo out or something if that chip doesn’t work.”

Kyle Gosnell has used this passport to travel to Belize before. The family just wants there to be more uniform policies.

“There was no protocol,” said Dana Gosnell. “They don’t have the same system of rules for the Denver airport that they do for the Dallas airport.”

But Priest called this a fair warning for other travelers. “This is done for national security, for whatever reason they can’t make an exception, period,” he said. American Airlines is paying for the family’s hotel.

A spokesperson for the airline didn’t give FOX31 an official statement, but said it is within the airline’s rights to refuse a traveler for a passport that might not be able to be scanned.

The family is going to the passport office Tuesday to hopefully get new documents and continue with their scheduled trip to Belize.

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Trigger Happy Scottsdale Arizona Police Officer Shoots And Kills Unarmed Man Holding A Baby Outside His Home

February 17, 2012

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA — An Arizona man was shot to death by police Tuesday while holding his grandson.

Police say 50-year-old John Loxas was holding his grandchild in his arms as he walked around his Scottsdale neighborhood Tuesday night threatening neighbors and police.

“There were at least three officers in position to engage the suspect. At least one of the officers thought he saw something in the suspect’s hands,” said Sgt. Mark Clark.

Loxas was standing outside of his home with his grandchild still in his arms when Officer James Peters fired one shot to the head, killing the suspect.

Police say the 9-month-old boy was not injured during the shooting.

Officers also escaped unharmed.

Some neighbors are now questioning the officers actions.

Investigators say the officers on the scene thought Loxas was holding a gun.

Detectives did not find a weapon on Loxas following the shooting, but did locate several firearms inside the home.

Officer Peters, who fired the fatal shot, has been involved in seven shootings over the past decade.
Six of those have been fatal, and all have been ruled justified.

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Lies: White House Website Still Advertising Broken Obama Promise To Cut Deficit In Half

February 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – When President Obama unveiled his budget on Monday, it became clear that he would break his pledge to cut the deficit in half in his first term in office. But the White House website is still prominently touting the promise.

When visitors to the White House website click on “Fiscal Responsibility” under the “Issues” section, they are directed to a page that includes the following:

Cut the deficit in half by the end of the President’s first term. On January 20, 2009, the President inherited a $1.3 trillion budget deficit. The President has put forth a budget that will halve this deficit by the end of his first term, bring non-defense discretionary spending to its lowest level as a share of GDP since 1962.

Though that would mean cutting the deficit to $650 billion, Obama’s budget projects deficits of $1.3 trillion in fiscal year 2012 (ending this September) and $901 billion for fiscal year 2013. Non-defense discretionary spending is not at the lowest level since 1962, either (more like 2008 or 2001, depending on whether you’re comparing it to this year or next).

This was brought to my attention by blogger Pundit Pete, who also notes that when pressed on this broken promise on Fox News Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew tried to chalk it up to the economic picture having deteriorated after Obama made the initial pledge, stating, “as the 2009 and 2010 went on, we all learned more about the deep of the recession we inherited, which we have very — worked very hard to dig out of.”

Of course, this doesn’t explain why the White House website continues to promote the pledge, knowing what we know now.

Ironically, the White House website also includes this vow:

Return to honest budgeting. Too often in the past several years, budget tricks were used to make the government’s books seem stronger than they actually were. The President put forward a budget that rejects many of these gimmicks, most notably, the exclusion of war costs.

But in reality, one of the biggest gimmicks in Obama’s budget is that it relies on phony “war savings,” which pretends that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan would be fought at full force in perpetuity and counts money that would have never been spent anyway as deficit reduction.

Looks like the White House website could use some updating.

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Pedophile Veteran Los Angeles County California Deputy Sheriff Oscar Rodriguez Arrested, Charged With Child Molestation

February 17, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – A veteran Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was arrested Thursday and booked on charges of committing lewd acts upon a child, police said.

Oscar Rodriguez, who was last stationed at Marina Del Ray station, allegedly committed the offenses while he was off duty, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement.

No further details of the alleged offenses were provided.

His bail has been set at $100,000, police said, adding that the sheriff’s department was conducting its own internal investigation.

The 10-year veteran deputy has been suspended by the sheriff’s department, pending the outcome of both the criminal and administrative investigations.

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Nutcase Seattle Washington Police Officer Brad Richardson Beat, Arrested, And Threatened To “Make Stuff Up” About 2 Innocent Men – Dash Camera Video Missing…

February 16, 2012

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – Two friends who had planned to visit a Seattle sports bar claim they ended up being kicked, arrested at gunpoint and held in jail for several hours by a cop who said he intended to “make stuff up.”

Part of the arrest of Josh Lawson, 23, and Christopher Franklin, 22, on Nov. 16, 2010 is caught on tape by the officer’s dashboard camera.

But key moments of the arrest that should have been captured on video are missing and it was unclear whether the officer intentionally neglected to turn on the dash cam. None of the released footage shows the officer in the moments he made the stop or kicked Lawson.

The accusations against Richardson are among many that have put a spotlight on the Seattle Police Department and it comes after the release of a Department of Justice report in December that said “serious concerns about practices that could have a disparate impact on minority communities” were raised by its review.

The recording of the arrest was released after ABC News affiliate KOMO began an investigation into missing police dashboard camera videos.

The recording of the arrest of Lawson and Franklin — who were picked up for allegedly assaulting and robbing a man a short time earlier — shows the suspects being helped from the ground and into the patrol car of Officer Brad Richardson.

The officer’s uniform microphone also records Richardson telling the suspects, “Yeah, I’m going to make stuff up.”

The Seattle Police Department called Richardson’s comment “banter” and the officer was exonerated of any wrongdoing after a use of force review was conducted, along with an investigation by the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability.

“Clearly if the officer had made stuff up he would have been in hot water,” Sgt. Sean Whitcomb of the Seattle Police Department told ABCNews.com.

Lawson and Richardson said the dash cam did not record crucial moments of the arrest that they said left them with facial bruises and swelling. They claimed they were manhandled and kicked in the face by Richardson, while the officer maintained that he only kicked Lawson in the chest to make him comply with an order to get on the ground.

“I don’t know who was recording what,” Whitcomb told ABCNews.com. “Officers should record, [but] it’s not a violation not to.”

Lawson and Franklin, who are African-American, were arrested after a 911 call came in from a few blocks away alleging a man had been the victim of an assult and robbery. The two suspects were described as black males in their late twenties, tall, skinny and wearing jeans.

Franklin is 5-foot-9. Lawson, who is six feet tall. Instead of jeans, he was wearing white sweat pants.

“The only thing they had to fit the description was black males,” said the pair’s attorney, Lizanne Padula. “This was like a meteor dropping down on them.”

When they found out why they were being arrested, the two men became alarmed.

“It felt like no one was going to believe us,” Franklin told ABCNews.com. “We were just going to be another statistic.”

Richardson’s written report described a different situation. The officer wrote in the police report that the men continued to approach his car even after he yelled at them to stop.

“The male wearing the hoodie continued to keep his hands in his hoodie pockets. With the strong possibility both of these males were the assault suspects and they were ignoring commands to stop, I again advised, ‘Stop, Police, show me your hands and get on the ground.'”

According to Richardson, the two men got closer, so he drew his weapon.

Lawson said they complied with the officer’s order.

“I got on the ground. I sat with my hands up frozen because I had a gun pointed at me,” Lawson said. “I had to come back into myself and understand there was a gun on me. I was in shock.”

Richardson said that Lawson stayed in a crouch position, not fully laying on the ground.

“I used a flat foot, front push kick to the center of the male chest knocking him backwards and flat to the ground,” he wrote.

The robbery victim positively identified the two men, while a witness said she was uncertain. No charges were filed at the victims’ request.

The two men want changes in the Seattle Police Department. They have also filed a complaint for damages, possibly the first step in a lawsuit.

“We’re terrified of hanging out in our own city,” Franklin said. “These officers have seen our faces. They know our names. We can’t trust people.”

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Douchebag Pierce County Washington Sheriff Paul Pastor Used Crimestoppers Funds To Buy Burial Sites To Keep Man From Being Burried Next To His Children

February 16, 2012

WASHINGTON – A sheriff and his sergeant in Washington state have bought burial plots next to Josh Powell’s boys in order to block family members from burying him next to them, according to a media report Wednesday.

“The bottom line is, Josh Powell will not be near those two boys,” Pierce County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ed Troyer said in an interview with a Seattle-area radio program called the Ron and Don Show.

Josh Powell’s surviving relatives wanted him to buried at the same cemetery as the two sons he killed, the city manager in Puyallup said earlier Wednesday.

But that does not look like it is going to happen.

Troyer and Sheriff Paul Pastor used their personal money and funds from Crimestoppers Tacoma-Pierce County to buy plots that are on either side of the boys, according to a report on the radio station’s website that was confirmed by Troyer on Twitter:

Crimestoppers is soliciting money on its website for the purchase of the plots.

“It’s disgusting that a murder suspect would be buried next to his victims,” Pastor said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Powell’s relatives visited the public Woodbine Cemetery and selected a plot about 25 feet from the boys, City Manager Ralph Dannenberg told The Associated Press earlier Wednesday. They haven’t paid for it yet, and any sale is being put on hold because the parents of Powell’s missing wife have promised legal action.

“We don’t have any rules or procedures regarding refusing plots to anyone,” Dannenberg said. “We’re going to wait to see what the outcome is in court.”

Powell was a suspect in Susan Powell’s 2009 disappearance from their home in West Valley City, Utah. He later moved with his sons to near Tacoma, Wash., to be close to his parents. On Feb. 5, he attacked his sons with a hatchet and set his rental house on fire, killing himself and his sons, Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5.

The boys were laid to rest at Woodbine on Saturday. Attorney Anne Bremner, who represents Susan Powell’s parents, Charles and Judy Cox, says she would seek a temporary restraining order to block Josh Powell from being buried there.

“For him to be buried near those kids is just unthinkable,” Bremner said. “For God’s sake, for them to lose Susan first, and then the boys, and now this? Just give these people a break.”

Powell’s sister Alina did not return an email from the AP seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Powell’s father, Steve Powell, who is awaiting trial in Pierce County, Wash., on voyeurism and child pornography charges, filed a motion with the court saying he does not wish to speak to the FBI or other law enforcement about his son’s case or the disappearance of his daughter-in-law.

Mark T. Quigley, Steve Powell’s attorney, told the Salt Lake City Tribune that the notice, filed Tuesday, was common in criminal trials to protect rights against self-incrimination. It was prompted by a visit last week in which Steve Powell reportedly rebuffed FBI agents.

“It’s simply a statement to law enforcement that says my client doesn’t want to talk,” Quigley told the paper. “That’s [Steve Powell’s] right. I don’t think belligerent has anything to do with it.”

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Obama “Change” Limited To Easing Access To Government Websites

February 15, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama talks to WFLA-TV, NBC’s local news affiliate in Tampa Bay, about his promise to “fundamentally change” Washington.

Obama says he hasn’t been able to change Washington the way he campaigned for, but he did say he has “made a lot of progress” with government websites.

Obama told the local affiliate that he has made using the internet more effective so if someone needs a government service, “they don’t have to navigate through 50 websites, they can go to one website. So on those fronts we’ve done a lot. We’ve made a lot of progress.”

“We’ve used the Internet more effectively to create more transparency so people know where their tax dollars are going. If they need a government service they don’t have to navigate through 50 websites, they can go to one website. So on those fronts we’ve done a lot, we’ve made a lot of progress,” Obama said.

“Where I have not been able to succeed so far, but I haven’t given up, is changing the tone in Congress,” Obama said. “And creating an attitude between Democrats and Republicans where we focus on where do we agree, where are common sense solutions, lets stop trying to score political points or play to the next election instead of playing the long game. We haven’t been able to do that yet, and I am the first one to acknowledge that there are times where it can be awfully frustrating. But what gives me confidence is that’s where the American people are, they’ve got common sense. They’re focused on trying to find solutions instead of just scoring political points and hopefully, over time, politicians who take that same attitude will be rewarded.”

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Obama’s Border Effort Stops “Unsafe Hair Dryers” But Not Illegal Immigrants – And They Don’t Deport Wetbacks They Accidentially Catch

February 15, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama’s border enforcement officials prevented over 13,000 dangerous hair dryers from entering the country, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) trumpeted today.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized thousands of hair dryers recently that were determined to constitute a “substantial product hazard” under U.S. law, for failing to have adequate immersion protection,” DHS announced. “The potentially dangerous hair dryers were identified through a nationwide targeting operation by the CBP Import Safety Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC).”

CBP seized the hair dryers at the ports of Los Angeles (9,768 hair dryers) and Miami (3,614) because they “lacked shock protection for consumers” in the event of the hair dryers’ immersion in water.

Allen Gina, CBP’s assistant commissioner for public trade, praised the CPB officers who helped seize the hair dryers. “The concerted targeting efforts of CTAC and the vigilance of CBP officers at our ports of entry will help ensure that products like hair dryers are safe for consumers and that substandard product from overseas does not reach store shelves,” he said.

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Orange County California Killed Marine Sergeant In School Parking Lot In Front Of His 2 Daughters

February 15, 2012

SAN CLEMENTE, CALIFORNIA – A veteran Orange County sheriff’s deputy feared for the safety of two young girls sitting in a parked car when he shot and killed a Marine sergeant in a dark parking lot near San Clemente High School, authorities said Friday.

Sgt. Manuel Loggins Jr. was shot early Tuesday as he started to get into the SUV where his two daughters — 9 and 14 — were sitting, authorities said. Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the department, said the deputy was fearful that Loggins — who he said appeared to be acting irrationally — was about to drive off with the girls.

“The deputy formed an opinion that he had a deep concern for the children, that he would not allow Mr. Loggins to drive away with the kids,” Amormino said. A former commanding officer said Loggins routinely went to the school with his daughters during the early-morning hours to walk the track and read the Bible.

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Disgraced US Attorney General Still Hiding Documents Detailing His Department’s Efforts That Armed Mexican Drug Cartels – Man Be Finally Held In Contempt Of Congress

February 15, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House committee on Oversight and Government Reform, took a major step toward holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to provide subpoenaed documents and other information about Operation Fast and Furious.

In a Jan. 31 letter, Issa had threatened Holder with such a move if he failed to provide all the subpoenaed documents relating to the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal by Feb. 9. That deadline has come and gone, and Holder’s Department of Justice still hasn’t provided most of those documents. Issa’s subpoena dates back to Oct. 12, 2011.

On Tuesday in a seven-page letter, Issa revealed that Deputy Attorney General James Cole begged Congress to extend the Feb. 9 deadline. Issa wrote that the request was “ironic” and “ignores the reality that the Department has unreasonably delayed producing these documents to the Committee.”

“On its face, the requested extension demonstrates a lack of good faith,” Issa wrote to Holder. “With one exception, the Department has only produced documents responsive to the subpoena on the eve of congressional hearings in which senior Department officials testified. The Department appears to be more concerned with protecting its image through spin control than actually cooperating with Congress.”

“We cannot wait any longer for the Department’s cooperation,” Issa continued. “As such, please specify a date by which you expect the Department to produce all documents responsive to the subpoena. In addition, please specify a Department representative who will interface with the Committee for production purposes.”

Issa added that whoever Holder designates as the go-to DOJ official for delivering subpoenaed documents “should also serve as the conduit for dealing with the contempt proceedings, should the Department continue to ignore the Committee’s subpoena.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Eric Holder)

The California Republican slammed Holder, too, for claiming the congressional investigation into Fast and Furious was a political game for Republicans.

“It is ironic that while the Department’s delay tactics have extended this investigation into a presidential election year, you have had the audacity to characterize it as an attempt at ‘headline-grabbing Washington ‘gotcha’ games and cynical political point scoring,’” Issa wrote to Holder on Tuesday. (RELATED: Read the full letter here)

Issa also attacked Holder for Justice’s failure to comply with Congressional subpoenas. “Had the Department demonstrated willingness to cooperate with this investigation from the outset — instead of attempting to cover up its own internal mismanagement — this investigation likely would have concluded well before the end of 2011. In reality, it is the Department that is playing political gotcha games, instead of allowing a co-equal branch of government to perform its constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch.”

Issa’s letter concluded by warning that Congress will continue to investigate Operation Fast and Furious until responsible parties are held accountable. He pointed to bipartisan support behind efforts to assign responsibility for Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder, for the murders of at least 300 Mexican civilians and, likely, for the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata.

“This is not an ‘election year political ‘gotcha’ game,’ but rather a bipartisan sentiment,” Issa wrote. “As Ranking Member [Democratic Rep. Elijah] Cummings promised the family of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, ‘we will not rest until every single person responsible for all of this, no matter where they are, are brought to justice.’ I applaud his resolve, and I want to make it clear that Congress will not give up until this accountability has been achieved.”

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Warrantless Searches Of Pedestrians Reaches All Time High In New York City

February 14, 2012

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – The number of so-called “stop and frisks” is rising.

City police officers stopped and questioned 684,330 people on the street last year, a record since the NYPD began yearly tallies of the tactic in 2002 and a 14 percent increase over 2010.

It couldn’t be determined how many people were patted down during the encounters, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Typically, half of the potential suspects who are stopped are frisked or searched.
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Of those stopped last year, about 12 percent were arrested or received summonses. The rest were not charged.

Civil-rights advocates claim the practice unfairly targets innocent blacks and other people of color, and that many stops are made without proper cause.

The department calls the tactic an essential crime-fighting tool.

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Man Jailed By Jefferson County Colorado Deputies For Not Buying License For Autistic Daughter’s Service Dog

February 14, 2012

JEFFERSON COUNTY, COLORADO – A Jefferson County man was held in jail after refusing to get a license for his dog. Now he and his wife are fighting the fine in court.

4 On Your Side Investigator Rick Sallinger wanted to know how many others don’t have licenses and face the possibility of arrest.

Matthew Townsend and his dog Wolfie fought with the law and got bit. In unincorporated Jefferson County all dogs must have a license — Wolfie did not.

“He’s a service animal for my autistic daughter,” Townsend explained. “So I didn’t feel it was necessary to pay fees; it’s a waste of my time and theirs.”

One day Wolfie and the family’s other dog got out and the Townsends were issued a $50 ticket for not having a license. The county’s animal control unit says it doesn’t actively go looking for violators, but in Townsend’s case deputies arrived to repossess some furniture and happened to discover Matthew missed his day in court, so they proceeded to arrest him.

“Did they handcuff you?” Sallinger asked. “Yes sir, they put me in incarceration … I was afraid they would shoot my dog. I spent 7 hours down there.” Townsend replied.

Seven hours in jail for not having a dog license?

Sallinger asked the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department how many other dog owners face this possibility. CBS4 found 495 summons were issued last year for failure to have a dog license — 50 of those face arrest for failure to appear.

Jacki Kelley, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office explained, “If they like to roll the dice and ignore the summons issued by animal control, their name is run it will show a warrant and they can be arrested.”

CBS4 asked various dog owners and many weren’t aware they needed a license, and didn’t seem too concerned about it. In fact only 28 percent of dog owners bother to license their dog in all of Jefferson County.

The county say the animal licenses are needed to fund the new $10 million Foothills Animal Shelter. The license is a little star or circle that the dog is supposed to wear and help get it returned if lost.

By CBS4′s figures, Jefferson County and other governments are missing out on a lot money for non-compliance on dog licenses. Jefferson County misses more than $2.5 million a year in uncollected license fees. Denver has 19 percent of its dog owners and 1 percent of its cat owners with licenses, missing out on nearly $3.5 million in money it could collect. In Aurora under 9 percent of dogs and only 1 percent of cats are licensed, missing out on $2.5 million in revenue.

By fighting the fee Townsend and his wife April Mearsha are now in a kind of double jeopardy as she got a ticket as well.

“After they arrested Townsend they came back and gave me a second ticket for a $100 this time,” Mearsha said.

Despite the arrest and risk of fines and court costs, they are not giving up, hoping the law’s bite is not as bad as its bark.

In most communities CBS4 checked, less than 20 percent of the dogs are licensed, meaning in some case they are missing out on millions of dollars a year in revenue.

In Jefferson County it’s $30 to license a dog, $15 if neutered. The Townsends’ fight continues.

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Walton County Georgia Deputy Sheriff Thaddeus Lloyd Suspended After Pictures Of Him, Patrol Car, And Nearly Nude Woman Surface On Cell Phone Confiscated In State Prison And On The Internet

February 14, 2012

WALTON COUNTY, GEORGIA – Thaddeus Lloyd, a deputy sheriff senior with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, was suspended with pay last week after pictures of him in front a patrol car with his hands on a woman nude from the waist down surfaced on a cell phone confiscated in a state prison.

Lloyd has worked at the sheriff’s office since Dec. 27, 2006, but was working with the Clarkston Police Department when the photo was reportedly taken 11 years ago.

“We were notified by the (Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police) about the incident and soon after the Peace Officers Standards and Training Council said they were beginning an investigation on it, so he was suspended pending the outcome of that,” Sheriff Joe Chapman said.

The photo, which Lloyd said was taken when he was off duty, has been posted on Myspace and Facebook and the law enforcement officer said the picture was never intended to be made public.

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Lewisville Texas Police Fall For Fake Call, Send SWAT Team To Home Of Child Who Pissed Off Someone On Gaming Network

February 14, 2012

LEWISVILLE, TEXAS – A gun battle on a video game turned into guns drawn in a Lewisville neighborhood Monday.

A family had to face down a police swat team for what police say was a hoax, delivered through a video game system.

The incident happened just after 5 p.m. Monday.

The teenage boy, whose parents asked he not be named, was playing Call of Duty: Black Ops. He had joined friends playing online on the Xbox 360.

In the game, players can talk to each other using headsets. In between games, in a chatroom, the boy said a voice suddenly chimed in that he says he didn’t recognize. “Some dude just popped out of nowhere, and basically said he’s going to hack me, he’s going to get my information, call the swat team over to my front yard.”

The teen ignored it, and kept playing.

About 20 minutes later, Lewisville received a call from an operator with the AT&T Instant Message Relay Service. The system is designed to allow hearing impaired users to reach someone with a standard telephone. The operator said they had received a message that a person was shot and that someone was still inside the house shooting.

The first responding officers saw no signs of shooting at the home. The video game was still on when police surrounded the house, with the entire family inside.

The teen said it was his parents who first noticed men outside with real guns, and someone with a bull horn, calling his name.

“We were all scared, out of our minds,” he said. “Didn’t understand why they were here. We thought there was some stranger some dude running around our house, hiding behind the boat. We didn’t know. We didn’t expect nothing.”

Captain Kevin Deaver with Lewisville Police said they started calling the family out because there were no signs of shooting. “At one point they did come out of the residence but then went back in the residence, which did cause us some alarm,” he said.

What officers had seen was the boys father, pulling his wife back inside to keep her safe. The family hid in a bedroom, and the boy’s mother called 9-1-1 herself. The operator connected her to police who convinced the mother, father, three children and grandparents to come out.

The teen said he has no idea who would want to pull the dangerous prank.

Police are investigating the crime as a false report or false alarm. They are working on a subpoena to try to get the information for the gamer who made the story up.

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Scottsboro Alabama Police Officer Tracey Law Goff Arrested For Public Intoxication – Underaged Girl He Was With Also Faces Same Charge, And Another Charged With Drunk Driving

February 14, 2012

SCOTTSBORO, ALABAMA – Scottsboro Police had one of their own arrested for public intoxication.

It happened over the weekend in the town of Stevenson.

The arrest came just two months after four officers were suspended for illegally using and distributing steroids.

Neither chief from Stevenson or Scottsboro would release any details about the incident. However, reports obtained by WAFF 48 News revealed the officer was arrested with an underage 19-year-old girl also charged with public intoxication and a 22-year-old woman who faces DUI charges.

Arrest reports show Scottsboro Police Officer Tracey Law Goff was arrested by Stevenson Police around 2:40 Sunday morning on Highway 72. The reports show the females were also arrested at the same location listing Highway 72. It’s not known if Officer Goff was in the 2005 Pontiac Bonneville that was stopped and the driver cited for driving under the influence.

Like two of the officers in the steroids situation, Mayor Potter said Goff was suspended Tuesday morning without pay for three shifts.

Goff is due in Stevenson Municipal Court on March 6th.

We’ll continue digging to bring you more details in the case as we learn them.

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Crazed Feds Shut Down Amish Farm For Selling Fresh Milk

February 13, 2012

PENNSYLVANIA – The FDA has won its two-year fight to shut down an Amish farmer who was selling fresh, raw milk to eager consumers in the Washington region, after a judge this month banned Daniel Allgyer from selling his milk across state lines, and he told his customers he’ll shut his farm down altogether.

The decision has enraged Mr. Allgyer’s supporters, some of whom have been buying from him for six years and who say the government is interfering with their parental rights to feed their children. But the Food and Drug Administration, which launched a full investigation complete with a 5 a.m. surprise inspection and a straw-purchase sting operation against Mr. Allgyer’s Rainbow Acres Farm, near Lancaster, said unpasteurized milk is unsafe and said it was exercising its due authority to stop its sale from one state to another.

Adding to Mr. Allgyer’s troubles, Judge Lawrence F. Stengel said if he is found to violate the law again he will have to pay the FDA’s costs for investigating and prosecuting him.

His customers are wary of talking publicly, fearing the FDA will come after them.

“I can’t believe in 2012 the federal government is raiding Amish farmers at gunpoint all over a basic human right to eat natural food,” said one, who asked not to be named but who got weekly shipments of eggs, milk, honey and butter from Rainbow Acres. “In Maryland, they force taxpayers to pay for abortions, but God forbid we want the same milk our grandparents drank.”

The FDA, though, said the judge made the right call in halting Mr. Allgyer’s cross-border sales.

“Intrastate sale of raw milk is allowed in Pennsylvania, and Mr. Allgyer had previously received a warning letter advising him that interstate sale of raw milk for human consumption is illegal,” said Siobhan DeLancey, spokeswoman for the agency.

Fans of fresh milk, which they also call “raw milk,” attribute all kinds of health benefits to it — from better teeth to stronger immune systems. It is particularly popular among parents who want it for their children, and, in a unique twist, the movement unites those on the left and the right who argue the federal government has no business controlling what people choose to eat.

They rallied outside of the Capitol last year, drinking fresh milk in a park across Constitution Avenue from the Senate.

But the FDA says that, after extensive study along with the Centers for Disease Control, it concluded there is no time when raw milk is safer. They dispute those who say that pasteurization — the process of heating food to kill harmful organisms — makes milk less healthy.

Many food safety researchers say pasteurization, which became widespread in the 1920s and 1930s, dramatically reduced instances of milk-transmitted diseases such as typhoid fever and diphtheria.

The FDA began looking into Mr. Allgyer in late 2009, when an investigator in the agency’s Baltimore office used aliases to sign up for a Yahoo user group made up of Rainbow Acres’ customers.

The investigator placed orders for fresh milk and had it delivered to private residences in Maryland where it was picked up and documented as evidence in the case. By crossing state lines it became part of interstate commerce, and thus subject to the FDA’s ban.

At one point the FDA made a 5 a.m. visit to Mr. Allgyer’s farm but he turned them away, though not before they observed milk containers labeled for shipment to Maryland.

After the FDA first took action Mr. Allgyer changed his business model. He arranged to sell shares in the cows themselves to his customers, arguing that they owned the milk and he was only transferring it to them.

But Judge Stengel called that deal “merely a subterfuge.”

“The practical result of the arrangement is that consumers pay money to Mr. Allgyer and receive raw milk,” the judge wrote in a 13-page opinion.

The “Grassfed On the Hill Buying Club” has about 500 active members.

Liz Reitzig, a mom who has become a raw-milk activist and is an organizer of the group, said the lawyers who pursued the case against Mr. Allgyer ought to “be ashamed.”

“Many families are dependent on the milk for health reasons or nutritional needs, so a lot of people will be desperately trying to find another source now,” she said.

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Airports Secure 10+ Years After 9/11 And Billions Of Dollars Latter? Of Course Not…

February 11, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – There is now an investigation underway after sources indicate a security breakdown led to an ordinary driver making his way onto a main taxiway, which is right near a runway.

It’s supposed to be a secure perimeter around Philadelphia International Airport.

You might think only a skilled individual could get access to a taxiway planes use, but you would be wrong.

According to sources, a driver who was lost near the airport managed to drive right through a checkpoint, past a Philadelphia police officer in a patrol car, as well as two department of aviation employees.

The driver, along with a passenger, sources say, drove hundreds of yards down Taxiway J, at one point they even got out of the car completely undetected. It was about 5 minutes before they were even spotted.

“It’s a frightening prospect no doubt about it.” said John Gagliano, a licensed pilot and an aviation attorney, who also flew combat missions for the navy in Afghanistan.

It was about 3:45 a.m. Sunday morning when the driver headed down what’s known the taxiway.

Gagliano showed Eyewitness News the significance of that specific taxiway and why he contends the mishap demonstrates a dangerous breakdown in security.

“It’s a long taxiway that not only gets you close to all the terminals, but also pretty close to [one] runway. It puts lives in danger. It’s someone who is not communicating with any of the pilots,” Gagliano said.

Sources indicate the Philadelphia police officer who didn’t stop the driver will face disciplinary action, and that the gate near cargo city, has since been reconfigured.

The driver and the passenger, Eyewitness News is told were eventually cleared and not charged with any crime. As it appears, the driver was just confused and got lost.

A spokesperson at the airport had no comment citing an ongoing investigation which now involves the TSA.

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Tax Dollars Paid Pedophile Los Angeles California Teacher To Quit

February 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – The Los Angeles Unified School District paid Mark Berndt, the teacher at the center of the Miramonte Elementary child abuse scandal, $40,000 to drop the challenge to his dismissal last year.

The payout consisted of four months of back salary plus reimbursement for the cost of health benefits. Berndt was fired by the Board of Education in February 2011 after officials learned that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was investigating him for alleged lewd acts against students. He was arrested last week.

The firing took Berndt off the district payroll. But he fought to keep his job through an appeal process that lasted until he settled with the school system and resigned in June.

The settlement with Berndt came in the face of a dilemma, said L.A. Unified general counsel David Holmquist. A hearing on the dismissal was pending and the district didn’t have evidence to justify the firing because the Sheriff’s Department investigation was ongoing.

“We were told we could not do any investigation” to avoid interfering with a law enforcement probe, said Holmquist. “We didn’t have any evidence, and we couldn’t put on any witnesses. We didn’t have anything to successfully defend a challenge.”

Berndt was charged last week with 23 counts of lewd conduct against children; another teacher, Martin Springer, was charged this week with three counts of lewd conduct. Berndt is alleged to have taken photographs of blindfolded children being spoon-fed his semen. Springer is accused of fondling a girl in his class. The Berndt and Springer cases are believed to be unrelated.

At the school Thursday, tensions flared openly for the first time between the teachers union and L.A. Unified over the handling of the crisis. United Teachers Los Angeles criticized the district’s wholesale removal of the Miramonte faculty. The campus, in unincorporated Florence-Firestone south of downtown L.A., had been closed Tuesday and Wednesday to allow for the transition.

“When teachers were told that they were being transferred, dozens of teachers were in tears,” union President Warren Fletcher said. “They are part of the fabric of this community.”

The union accepted the transfers, Fletcher said, on the understanding that the move was temporary and that no innocent teacher’s employment record would be marred. L.A. Unified, he said, broke both promises, by categorizing the teachers’ relocation as an administrative transfer. Such paperwork frequently results from a disciplinary action.

The 85 affected instructors began filing grievances at union headquarters, Fletcher said.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy contested the union’s assertions.

“When the investigations are complete and nothing emerges with a particular teacher, that teacher’s assignment is to be Miramonte Elementary School,” Deasy said in statement.

Multiple inquiries are ongoing.

Meanwhile, sources close to the investigation say the Sheriff’s Department is conducting inquiries into a child-abuse allegation against a male teacher who once worked at Miramonte. The incident occurred in the 1980s and was the subject of a law enforcement investigation at the time, according to records that have surfaced at L.A. Unified.

The allegation is too old to result in charges, sources said, but officials still want to learn as much as possible about what happened. In the interim, the teacher, who is working at another school, has been removed from his classroom.

The union and Deasy have issued statements saying that their paramount interest is providing a stable and secure environment for Miramonte students.

That premise was sorely tested Thursday morning with the deluge of news media, the phalanx of armed school police officers and more than 200 parents and students protesting the staff’s replacement.

With standardized testing and parent-teacher conferences coming up, the timing could not have been worse, said Betty Fuentes, 18, whose brother is a fifth-grader.

First-grade teacher Martha Cedeno learned from her predecessor in the last couple of days about which children needed extra support and who seemed to be gifted — and also about two boys who usually needed to be separated.

Cedeno led her new students through writing a farewell letter or drawing a picture for their former teacher.

Only one student alluded to the teacher arrests. “You had to go because of somebody evil,” said counselor Gina Adelman paraphrasing what the student wrote. The district assigned 45 counselors, one per classroom, to the school, where they are expected to remain until year’s end.

At one point, Cedeno needed the students’ help. They directed her to the physical education schedule. “Volleyball 71,” she read. Then she paused: “What does 71 mean? Boys and girls, do you know? Is that the area you play?”

Some parents, including some who had observed classes, were reassured about their children’s education after a meeting with new Principal Dolores Palacio.

A retired administrator who has trained principals, Palacio had left a message offering help to then-Principal Martin Sandoval. She received a return call asking her to run Miramonte.

“I really want to help the school get back into a semblance of normalcy,” she said. “We know what we are here for. We know it’s about the children and the parents.”

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Interpol Now A Tool Police Use To Harass People Around The World

February 11, 2012

SAUDI ARABIA – Interpol has been accused of abusing its powers after Saudi Arabia used the organisation’s red notice system to get a journalist arrested in Malaysia for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained at the airport “following a request made to us by Interpol” the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities.

Kashgari, a newspaper columnist, fled Saudi Arabia after posting a tweet on the prophet’s birthday that sparked more than 30,000 responses and several death threats. The posting, which was later deleted, read: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you … I will not pray for you.”

More than 13,000 people joined a Facebook page titled “The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari”.

Clerics in Saudi Arabia called for him to be charged with apostasy, a religious offence punishable by death. Reports suggest that the Malaysian authorities intend to return him to his native country.

Kashgari’s detention has triggered criticism by human rights groups of Malaysia’s decision to arrest the journalist and of Interpol’s cooperation in the process.

Jago Russell, the chief executive of the British charity Fair Trials International, which has campaigned against the blanket enforcement of Interpol red notices, said: “Interpol should be playing no part in Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of Hamza Kashgari, however unwise his comments on Twitter.

“If an Interpol red notice is the reason for his arrest and detention it would be a serious abuse of this powerful international body that is supposed to respect basic human rights (including to peaceful free speech) and to be barred from any involvement in religious or political cases.”

He called on Interpol to stand by its obligations to fundamental human rights and “to comply with its obligation not to play any part in this case, which is clearly of a religious nature”.

Interpol, which has 190 member countries, has a series of coloured notice systems that police forces around the world use to pass on requests for help. Contacted at its headquarters in Lyon, France, the organisation did not immediately reply to requests for comment on the Kashgari case.

In response to past criticisms of the red notice system, it has said: “There are safeguards in place. The subject of a red notice can challenge it through an independent body, the commission for the control of Interpol’s files (CCF).”

Last year Interpol was accused by Fair Trials International of allowing the system to be abused for political purposes when it issued a red notice for the arrest of the Oxford-based leader of an Asian separatist movement, Benny Wenda, who has been granted asylum and has lived in the UK since 2003.

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Bored London UK Court Clerk Busted Surfing Porn Sites During Rape Trial Pleads Guilty

February 8, 2012

LONDON, UK – A veteran London court clerk caught surfing porn sites during a rape trial said he did so “because he was bored.”

Debasish Majumder, 54, pleaded guilty to a charge of misconduct in public office and five counts of possession of indecent images, the U.K. Daily Mail newspaper reported.

The prosecution alleged Majumder viewed about 30 images between Dec. 9 and 10 during a rape trial. The judge sitting behind him said he noticed the filthy photos as the victim in the case was testifying.

“He said that he watched a lot of internet porn, he said that at work there were moments in his day that were boring and he would surf the net not to get access to sites but to get the titles of sites to use on his home computer and normally sites were blocked,” the paper quoted prosecutor Annabel Darlow as saying.

Police later found evidence of child porn at Majumder’s home, the Mail reported.

He will be sentenced later this month once his medical reports are in.

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Another Black Hole In Which To Throw Taxpayer Dollars: FAA Sees 30,000 Drones In US Airspace Spying On US Citizens By 2020

February 8, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s … a drone, and it’s watching you. That’s what privacy advocates fear from a bill Congress passed this week to make it easier for the government to fly unmanned spy planes in U.S. airspace.

The FAA Reauthorization Act, which President Obama is expected to sign, also orders the Federal Aviation Administration to develop regulations for the testing and licensing of commercial drones by 2015.

Privacy advocates say the measure will lead to widespread use of drones for electronic surveillance by police agencies across the country and eventually by private companies as well.

“There are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance, by both government agencies and commercial entities,” said Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also is “concerned about the implications for surveillance by government agencies,” said attorney Jennifer Lynch.

The provision in the legislation is the fruit of “a huge push by lawmakers and the defense sector to expand the use of drones” in American airspace, she added.

According to some estimates, the commercial drone market in the United States could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars once the FAA clears their use.

The agency projects that 30,000 drones could be in the nation’s skies by 2020.

The highest-profile use of drones by the United States has been in the CIA’s armed Predator-drone program, which targets al Qaeda terrorist leaders. But the vast majority of U.S. drone missions, even in war zones, are flown for surveillance. Some drones are as small as model aircraft, while others have the wingspan of a full-size jet.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. use of drone surveillance has grown so rapidly that it has created a glut of video material to be analyzed.

The legislation would order the FAA, before the end of the year, to expedite the process through which it authorizes the use of drones by federal, state and local police and other agencies. The FAA currently issues certificates, which can cover multiple flights by more than one aircraft in a particular area, on a case-by-case basis.

The Department of Homeland Security is the only federal agency to discuss openly its use of drones in domestic airspace.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency within the department, operates nine drones, variants of the CIA’s feared Predator. The aircraft, which are flown remotely by a team of 80 fully qualified pilots, are used principally for border and counternarcotics surveillance under four long-term FAA certificates.

Officials say they can be used on a short-term basis for a variety of other public-safety and emergency-management missions if a separate certificate is issued for that mission.

“It’s not all about surveillance,” Mr. Aftergood said.

Homeland Security has deployed drones to support disaster relief operations. Unmanned aircraft also could be useful for fighting fires or finding missing climbers or hikers, he added.

The FAA has issued hundreds of certificates to police and other government agencies, and a handful to research institutions to allow them to fly drones of various kinds over the United States for particular missions.

The agency said it issued 313 certificates in 2011 and 295 of them were still active at the end of the year, but the FAA refuses to disclose which agencies have the certificates and what their purposes are.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the FAA to obtain records of the certifications.

“We need a list so we can ask [each agency], ‘What are your policies on drone use? How do you protect privacy? How do you ensure compliance with the Fourth Amendment?’ ” Ms. Lynch said.

“Currently, the only barrier to the routine use of drones for persistent surveillance are the procedural requirements imposed by the FAA for the issuance of certificates,” said Amie Stepanovich, national security counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a research center in Washington.

The Department of Transportation, the parent agency of the FAA, has announced plans to streamline the certification process for government drone flights this year, she said.

“We are looking at our options” to oppose that, she added.

Section 332 of the new FAA legislation also orders the agency to develop a system for licensing commercial drone flights as part of the nation’s air traffic control system by 2015.

The agency must establish six flight ranges across the country where drones can be test-flown to determine whether they are safe for travel in congested skies.

Representatives of the fast-growing unmanned aircraft systems industry say they worked hard to get the provisions into law.

“It sets deadlines for the integration of [the drones] into the national airspace,” said Gretchen West, executive vice president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry group.

She said drone technology is new to the FAA.

The legislation, which provides several deadlines for the FAA to report progress to Congress, “will move the [drones] issue up their list of priorities,” Ms. West said.

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Huge Demand For Painting Of Obama Trampling U.S. Constitution Crashes Source’s Website

February 8, 2012

PROVO, UTAH – Sales soared for a painting depicting Obama trampling on the Constitution after a story CBS Las Vegas produced last weekend went viral.

John McNaughton’s “The Forgotten Man” sold in one day “what we would sell in three months.”

The amount of traffic the story generated even crashed his website.

“I hate to think of the sales I lost with the site being down, but I’m pleased that the message got out,” he told CBS Las Vegas.

His webmaster needed to increase the amount of bandwidth for the site four times before it went back up Saturday night.

While sales of the painting went up, McNaughton said he got reactions from a “mixed bag of people” over the story.

“People really loved the painting and some were really angry,” he told CBS Las Vegas. “Our country is really divided and emotions run high on both sides of the aisle.”

Because of the delicate subject matter raised in his art, McNaughton was often accused of racism.

“I think racism is a legitimate issue. But I think if you want to speak out against Obama and his policies is one thing, but being called a racist gets tiresome when it has nothing to do with the painting.”

McNaughton was hesitant to paint “The Forgotten Man” before it was released in 2010, but “pushed to do it” despite his friends’ reservations.

Since “The Forgotten Man” was released, McNaughton painted what he described as “a sequel.”

The painting is called “Wake Up America” and it features “The Forgotten Man” trying to saw himself out of the chains of debt.

Throughout the tableau there are faces of sadness, blame, and desperation. President Obama is also prominently featured as a ring leader to the madness.

McNaughton also did another painting called “Via Dolorosa” in which historical figures bear witness to Jesus’ crucifixion.

“A lot of it has to do with modern day Christians and where they stand in history,” McNaughton said about the painting.

As for his next work, McNaughton is keeping the details under wraps.

“It’s called ‘One Nation Under Socialism.’ It’s political, but I want to keep it under my hat. I want to surprise people so there are no misconceptions.”

“One Nation Under Socialism” will be released in about a month.

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Port Of Los Angeles California Spend Half Million Dollars In Stimulus Money On Luxury Yacht Engines

February 8, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – House investigators wrote the Port of Los Angeles yesterday to review the decision to spend almost half a million dollars in stimulus money on retrofitting a luxury yacht with environmentally-friendly engines.

“The Port of Los Angeles owes the public greater transparency about this project and a full accounting of the cost-benefit analysis used to justify spending on this type of project,” House Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote in a letter to the executive director of the port, Dr. Geraldine Knatz.

The Port of Los Angeles spent $489,000 of a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Energy to retrofit a city-owned yacht with “hydro-electric propulsion system,” according to Issa’s letter, rather than the diesel engines it already had in operation. The yacht is used to conduct tours of the port.

“This is the American people’s money that was borrowed in stimulus,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Chair Darrell Issa in a local CBS broadcast. “It was supposed to create net new jobs. Could that half a million dollars have been used better? Was this really just show without substance?”

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American Public’s Dependence On Government Handouts Jumps 23 Percent In 2 Years Under Obama Administration!!!!

February 8, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The American public’s dependence on the federal government shot up 23% in just two years under President Obama, with 67 million now relying on some federal program, according to a newly released study by the Heritage Foundation.

The conservative think tank’s annual Index of Dependence on Government tracks money spent on housing, health, welfare, education subsidies and other federal programs that were “traditionally provided to needy people by local organizations and families.”

The increase under Obama is the biggest two-year jump since Jimmy Carter was president, the data show.

The rise was driven mainly by increases in housing subsidies, an expansion in Medicaid and changes to the welfare system, along with a sharp rise in food stamps, the study found.

“You can’t get around the fact that policy decisions made over the past two years, on top of those made over the past several decades, are having a large effect on the pace of growth of the index,” said William Beach, who authored the Heritage study.

Dependence on the government has climbed steadily since 1962, when the index stood at 19. By 1980, the index had risen to 100. It stood at 294 in 2010, the last year for which the data are available. The D.C.-based Heritage Foundation has produced the index for nine years.

The report also found that spending on “dependence programs” accounts for more than 70% of the federal budget. That, too, is up dramatically. In 1990, for example, the figure stood at 48.5%, and in 1962 just over a quarter of federal spending went to dependence programs.

At the same time, fewer Americans pay income taxes, the report notes. Almost half (49.5%) didn’t pay income taxes in 2009, the latest year for which the researchers have data. Back in the late 1960s, only 12% of Americans escaped the income tax burden.

Other findings:

The number of people dependent on the federal government shot up 7.5% over the past two years.

In 2010, for the first time ever, average spending on dependence programs per recipient exceeded the country’s per-capita disposable income.

The dependency index has dipped only seven times in the past 49 years, three of which were under President Reagan and two under President Clinton.

Some observers say the rise in dependence under Obama is merely a reflection of the deep and long recession.

But Beach says his team’s research shows that economic effects account for only one-fifth of the change in the index.

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Chicago Illinois Police Piss Away Taxpayer Dollars Investigating Upcoming City Vehicle Sticker For “Gang Signs”

February 8, 2012

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Chicago’s city clerk on Tuesday said she would mull over what to do about the upcoming vehicle sticker design that purportedly contains symbolism tied to the Maniac Latin Disciples.

“My office is investigating the facts and will look further into the allegations before I determine what action to take regarding the 2012 – 2013 city sticker design,” said Susana Mendoza.

More than 18,000 people voted for the 2012-2013 design, which pays homage to police officers, paramedics and firefighters, and features the Chicago skyline, the city flag and a series of outstretched hands.

But within those outstretched hands are gestures that police sources and police blogs say resemble the hand signs often flashed by Maniac Latin Disciples, along with other iconography, including a heart and pitchforks.

“I am concerned about the recent developments regarding the city vehicle sticker design,” Mendoza said in a written statement. “… the artwork on Chicago’s city stickers should not be controversial. In a design that is meant to honor the city’s first responders, I am very sensitive to this issue. I grew up in a neighborhood filled with crime and gang violence and I come from a law enforcement family.”

The Chicago Police Department late Tuesday evening said the “matter has been brought to our attention” and is being investigated.
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The upcoming design is the first sticker approved by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration.

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Iowa City Police Seek Help Solving “Fuck Me Silly” Sex Doll Robbery Case – $1000 To Anyone Who Will Snitch About Theft Of $250 Doll

February 8, 2012

IOWA CITY, IOWA – In a bid to capture the armed robber who last month stole a $250 sex doll from an Iowa City adult store, police today released a surveillance photo showing the suspect making off with the item.

Seen above, the image shows the ski mask-clad man carrying the sex doll inside the Romantix Pleasure Palace shop at around 3 AM on January 12.

Before releasing the store surveillance photo, cops pixelated it to obscure explicit images on the box of the “Fuck Me Silly #1” model “mega masturbator.” As previously reported, the stolen 20-pound sex doll is described by its manufacturer as “the most realistic piece of ass you ever fucked…Slap that big round ass and listen to the whack…it sounds and feels just like a real ass!”

According to police, the robber displayed a large hunting knife to a Romantix employee before leaving with the sex doll (the box for which is seen above). Cops described the suspect as a “white male, approximately 5’8″ – 5’10”, 165 lbs.”

In return for information leading to the man’s arrest, Iowa City Area CrimeStoppers is offering an award of up to $1000.

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Henderson Nevada Police Officers Caught On Video Brutally Beating Unresisting Man In A Diabetic Shock – Attackers Names Hidden From The Public

February 8, 2012

HENDERSON, NEVADA – Adam Greene is on his stomach as a pack of police officers pile on him, driving their knees into his back and wrenching his arms and legs. One officer knees him in the ribs; another kicks him in the face.

“Stop resisting,” officers on the video yell, but Greene, his face pushed into the pavement, hasn’t resisted. He doesn’t even move — maybe can’t move — because he’s gone into diabetic shock caused by low blood sugar.

The video, recorded more than a year ago by a police car dashboard camera, was released Tuesday by Greene’s lawyers. The same night, the Henderson City Council approved a settlement of $158,500 for Greene. His wife received $99,000 from Henderson, which is just under the minimum amount that requires council approval.

Nevada Highway Patrol troopers also participated in the traffic stop but do not appear to kick or knee Greene on the video. The state has agreed to pay $35,000 to Greene for a total of $292,500 between the two agencies.

It was a Highway Patrol vehicle camera that captured the incident.

CAUGHT ON TAPE

A Highway Patrol trooper enters the scene first, gun drawn, and kicks the driver’s window of Greene’s four-door sedan. After several moments, the trooper opens the door.

The trooper, his gun still raised, then gives Greene conflicting commands. He first tells him not to move, then tells him to come forward.

A second trooper quickly cuffs Greene’s wrist and pulls him from the car, which rolls forward until an officer stops it.

Greene flops to the ground, clearly dazed as five officers rush him. A sixth officer, with Henderson police, enters the frame late and delivers five well-placed kicks to Greene’s face.

“Stop resisting mother (expletive)!” one officer yells.

Greene doesn’t scream until a second Henderson officer knees him in the midsection — and then does it three more times. Greene was later treated for fractured ribs.

Police suspected Greene was intoxicated as he weaved among lanes about 4 a.m. on Oct. 29, 2010, and finally stopped his car near Lake Mead Parkway and Boulder Highway in Henderson.

But that wasn’t the case, which they soon discovered after they searched Greene.

“Call in medical,” one officer says in the video. “We found some insulin in his pocket. … He’s semiconscious.”

“Let’s get medical out here. He’s a diabetic, he’s probably in shock,” the officer later tells dispatch.

Greene’s lawsuit said officers then forced him to stand by a patrol car in handcuffs and blow into a Breathalyzer, despite being injured. Paramedics later arrived and treated him for low blood sugar.

Greene was released without a citation, and officers apologized to him for “beating him up,” the lawsuit said.

He immediately went to a hospital, where he was treated for the broken ribs and the bruises to his hands, neck, face and scalp, the lawsuit said.

One of the harsher moments in the video comes near the end of the clip, when one officer can be heard laughing loudly.

One officer notes that Greene “was not a small guy.” An officer laughs and says, “I couldn’t take him by myself.”

OFFICERS NOT IDENTIFIED

None of the officers was named in the lawsuit, and authorities have not released their names.

Henderson police said a sergeant involved was disciplined. The sergeant remains employed with the department.

Greene’s lawyers were planning to hold a news conference today about the incident.

Greene’s case, while shocking, is not unique.

Alan Yatvin, a legal advocate for the American Diabetes Association and a Philadelphia attorney, said police across the country frequently mistake low blood sugar — called hypoglycemia when blood sugar is exceptionally low — for intoxication in people with diabetes.

A Web search on the issue returns dozens of video clips and stories similar to Greene’s.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include shakiness, dizziness, hunger, pale skin, moodiness, aggressive behavior, loss of consciousness and even seizures.

“You need police to be trained in what to look for,” Yatvin said. “The problem is, there’s no authority over all police departments. Every department has its own procedures, and states have different rules and training regimens.”

Henderson police said in a statement that the department’s use-of-force methods were modified after the Greene incident. The statement noted a 30 percent reduction in use-of-force incidents from 2010 to 2011. The specific policy changes were not detailed.

William Sousa, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said training for crisis issues is not consistent through departments. Some departments train every officer, and some departments train just a few.

And it is unknown how effective crisis training is, Sousa said.

“Anecdotal evidence is that even officers trained for this will come upon situations they have to diagnose quickly, and act quickly, and those result in cases where you have something (like Greene’s case),” he said.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes wear a bracelet indicating their condition, but “police still have to look,” Yatvin said.

It is unknown whether Greene was wearing a medical bracelet, but it wasn’t mentioned in the lawsuit.

Yatvin, who specializes in police misconduct cases, added that it is “very troubling” for the average citizen to think police could arrest or assault them because of a medical condition.

“I have a hard time imagining a scenario where it’s necessary to kick an unarmed man and break his ribs,” he said.

The scenario likely would not have been seen at all had the Highway Patrol camera not been rolling.

At the time of the incident, Henderson police did not have dashboard cameras. Those were added to Henderson police vehicles in June, more than eight months after the incident with Greene.

Such an event would not have been captured on video in Las Vegas because the Metropolitan Police Department doesn’t have cameras in cars.

Sousa said the trend with agencies has been moving toward dashboard cameras.

“It works both ways,” he said. “There’s usually resistance from officers at first, but as years go by it may become no big deal, because you get an objective recording that often helps the officers.”

This wasn’t the first high-profile incident involving a medical episode in Clark County. In both cases, the Highway Patrol was involved.

Las Vegas doctor Ryan Rich, 33, died in January 2008 after trooper Loren Lazoff used a Taser on him five times.

Rich’s vehicle had crashed into two vehicles and then the center median on Interstate 15.

Lazoff said Rich appeared intoxicated, dazed and was combative, but an autopsy later revealed he only had seizure medication in his system. Rich had been diagnosed with the seizure disorder shortly before he died.

The Clark County Coroner’s inquest jury ruled the death excusable.

Rich’s family sued Taser International last year. The Highway Patrol was not named in the lawsuit.

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Broward County Florida Judge John Hurley Orders Man To Take Wife On A Day With Bowling And Meal At Red Lobster

February 8, 2012

MIAMI, FLORIDA – Judge John Hurley ruled that a man involved in a dispute with his wife must take her out to dinner and bowling and then get counseling.

Judge John Hurley ruled that a man involved in a dispute with his wife must take her out to dinner and bowling and then get counseling.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a Florida judge ruled on Tuesday that a man involved in a scuffle with his wife treat her to an evening at a local bowling alley and a romantic meal at Red Lobster.

Judge John Hurley ordered that Joseph Bray, 47 and his wife Sonja, 39, also visit a marriage counselor.

Hurley handed down this ruling instead of setting bond or slapping Bray with a prison sentence after he deemed domestic violence charges leveled by Bray’s wife to be “very, very minor.”

According to Bray’s arrest affidavit, Bray and his wife got embroiled in a spat after he failed to wish her a happy birthday. Bray’s wife claims that her husband shoved her against a sofa and grabbed her neck.

The judge, citing Bray’s otherwise clean record and the incident’s apparent lack of serious violence, did not consider Bray’s behavior a major offense. However, Bray must follow the stipulations of Hurley’s ruling very closely if he wants to avoid potential jail time.

“He’s going to stop by somewhere and he’s going to get some flowers,” Hurley said at a hearing, according to Florida newspaper Sun Sentinel. “And then he’s going to go home, pick up his wife, get dressed, take her to Red Lobster. And then after they have Red Lobster, they’re going to go bowling.”

Hurley noted that he would not typically treat a domestic violence charge in a similarly jocular or light-hearted manner.

“The court would not normally [make this ruling] if the court felt there was some violence but this is very, very minor and the court felt that that was a better resolution than the other alternatives,” Hurley said.

According to Google Maps, there is a Red Lobster conveniently located in Plantation, Florida—Bray’s city of residence—adjacent to a Kohl’s and nearby the Broward Mall.

Fortunately for Bray and his wife, the Plantation Red Lobster receives high marks in Google Maps’ Review section.

Google user Georgia Valente writes that “of all the Red Lobsters in South Florida,” the couple’s dinner destination is “quite possibly the best.”

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FBI Sees Threats To Local Law Enforcement On Every Corner….

February 7, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Anti-government extremists opposed to taxes and regulations pose a growing threat to local law enforcement officers in the United States, the FBI warned on Monday.

These extremists, sometimes known as “sovereign citizens,” believe they can live outside any type of government authority, FBI agents said at a news conference.

The extremists may refuse to pay taxes, defy government environmental regulations and believe the United States went bankrupt by going off the gold standard.

Routine encounters with police can turn violent “at the drop of a hat,” said Stuart McArthur, deputy assistant director in the FBI’s counterterrorism division.

“We thought it was important to increase the visibility of the threat with state and local law enforcement,” he said.

In May 2010, two West Memphis, Arkansas, police officers were shot and killed in an argument that developed after they pulled over a “sovereign citizen” in traffic.

Last year, an extremist in Texas opened fire on a police officer during a traffic stop. The officer was not hit.

Legal convictions of such extremists, mostly for white-collar crimes such as fraud, have increased from 10 in 2009 to 18 each in 2010 and 2011, FBI agents said.

“We are being inundated right now with requests for training from state and local law enforcement on sovereign-related matters,” said Casey Carty, an FBI supervisory special agent.

FBI agents said they do not have a tally of people who consider themselves “sovereign citizens.”

J.J. MacNab, a former tax and insurance expert who is an analyst covering the sovereign movement, has estimated that it has about 100,000 members.

Sovereign members often express particular outrage at tax collection, putting Internal Revenue Service employees at risk.

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Slight Of Hand Gives Washington DC Police Access To Cameras On Private Property That Aren’t Subject To Current Rules, Regulations, And Privacy Issues

February 7, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – “Once the camera is there it’s very tempting to say ‘Let’s look at it for other reasons,’ ” said Arthur Spitzer, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital.

As an example, Mr. Spitzer said, a divorce lawyer might try to subpoena surveillance footage that could show evidence of a spouse’s affair by recording the person’s travels through the neighborhood.

“Once something exists, it can often be hard to protect it from being used in other ways,” he said.

Before installing the first of what is now 83 crime cameras monitoring D.C. neighborhoods after a 2006 crime wave, the Metropolitan Police Department adopted regulations governing their use, including the dictate that signs must be posted around their locations and that residents be informed of their implementation. Rules also governed who was allowed to view feeds from the cameras, how often the recordings were deleted and the viewpoint the cameras could have.

But no such rules are in place governing private cameras or the guarantee that citizens installing cameras will be versed in privacy issues, said Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel with the D.C.-based Constitution Project.

“When you have such routine and regularized recording by a private group that is not covered by those regulations, it raises concerns,” she said. “They could be subject to various abuses through ignorance of the kind of concerns they should have.”

The neighborhood crime cameras are separate from the more than 5,000 cameras placed at traffic intersections, in schools and other government-run facilities that are monitored by the D.C. government.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat who oversees the District’s public safety committee, said the placement of Georgetown cameras is analogous to property owners who put cameras in private parking lots or banks which may capture footage of the surrounding areas.

“They don’t run into trouble unless the tape is misused,” Mr. Mendelson said.

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US Senate Passes Bill That Would Allow Airports To Give TSA The Boot

February 7, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate has passed legislation that includes a provision allowing airports to replace TSA screeners with private security, opening the door for the widely loathed federal agency to be marginalized from aviation security altogether.

The bill was primarily concerned with how the Federal Aviation Authority would be funded for the next four years, but also included measures that would force the TSA to reconsider applications from airports to replace TSA workers with their own privately hired screeners.

“Security companies would have an easier time winning contracts to operate airport checkpoints,” reports Businessweek.

Following a massive nationwide backlash against the TSA’s invasive groping policies and its use of radiation-firing naked body scanners, linked by many prestigious health bodies to cancer, an increasing number of airports attempted to take responsibility for their own screening procedures by replacing TSA workers with privately hired personnel.

However, in January 2011, when the number of airports attempting to opt-out of the TSA had risen to 16, TSA head John Pistole put a freeze on the process, refusing to consider new applications from airports.

The newly approved legislation “would require the TSA to reconsider applications for private screeners that it had rejected.”

Should airports choose to replace TSA screeners with their own private security, it would not only mean the screeners were better trained and more responsible for their actions, alleviating the problems of thefts and abuse by TSA workers, but it would also create tens of thousands of much needed jobs for the private sector.

“Some airport executives have argued that contract security personnel are more courteous than government workers,” reports CNN. “It was felt that a private contractor would provide friendlier customer service to the traveling public,” the head of a Roswell, New Mexico, airport wrote to Congress.”

A November 2010 poll found that the TSA’s “enhanced pat downs,” some of which include touching genitalia, angered 57% of regular adult fliers.

West Yellowstone Airport in Montana has already replaced its TSA screeners with private security. Bert Mooney Airport, also in Montana, and Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida will also be able to have their rejected applications to evict the TSA reconsidered under the new law.

Resentment towards the TSA has raged over the last two years amongst Americans, primarily as a result of the rampant criminality in which TSA workers habitually engage. The latest example concerns TSA agent Alexandra Schmid, who stole $5,000 in cash from a passenger’s jacket as he was going through security at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The TSA’s habit of never admitting wrongdoing even when caught has also riled the traveling public. Even when the agency was forced to apologize for strip-searching two women in their 80′s just before Christmas, the TSA claimed its agents had merely violated protocol, when in fact they had sexually molested the women by forcing them to undress.

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UK Police State’s U.S. Talking Video Cameras Warned Everyone Everywhere They Were Installed That They Were In A Restricted Area And To Leave

February 7, 2012

UK – Pressure group Big Brother Watch had said that the cameras, which automatically warn everyone they see to leave, were only acceptable in a ‘in a police state’.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Camden Council claimed that the camera’s pre-recorded American message should never have been turned on in the first place.

“All flash cameras have the capacity to deliver voice messages when activated but in this instance it appears that voice messages were inadvertently activated when the camera batteries were replaced four to five weeks ago. We do not want to stop residents from enjoying their open spaces and communal areas and under no circumstances would we want voice messages to be used in areas where they may be disturbed. The voice messages will be deactivated as soon as possible,” the council said.

The cameras, in the Walker House estate near London’s St Pancras, were installed in September. An American voice warned users to leave, including residents and legitimate visitors. The pre-recorded message says: “Stop, this is a restricted area and your photograph is being taken. It will be sent for processing if you don’t leave the area now.”

Nick Pickles, of pressure group Big Brother Watch, condemned the installation. “This kind of technology may be acceptable in a police state or a science fiction film, but it is absolutely not in modern Britain”, he said.

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On Duty Santa Maria California Police Officer Alberto Covarrubias Jr., Shot And Killed By Fellow Officers, Was A Pedophile – Won’t Get A Police Funeral…

February 7, 2012

SANTA MARIA, CALIFORNIA – When a police officer dies on the job, a department and a community mourn together. But not this week in Santa Maria, where they are too stunned and outraged.

Officer Alberto Covarrubias Jr. was shot and killed early Saturday at the end of his shift working a DUI checkpoint. The shooter was his best friend on the force and best man at his wedding just three weeks earlier.

More shocking still was that the shooting occurred as detectives moved in to arrest Covarrubias, 29, on charges of having sex with a 17-year-old girl.

Now, as Covarrubias’ family prepares to bury him without a police funeral, two retired officers who spoke to police at the scene of the shooting offered new details of the case:

— The girl was a member of the department’s Police Explorer program for young people interested in law enforcement careers.

— A lieutenant at the checkpoint had alerted the officers assembled, including Covarrubias, that the girl was part of an investigation and that she was going to be pulled off checkpoint duty.

The former officers disclosed the details to The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity. Police officials have not returned repeated calls seeking comment.

Since the shooting, a memorial of candles and flowers has risen where Covarrubias was killed. The death of an officer on duty is rare, though the city came close in December when two were wounded by “friendly fire” during a botched SWAT team raid.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Davinder Singh, who manages the 7-11 store 50 yards from the memorial. “It’s not supposed to happen that way.”

Santa Maria, nestled between oak-studded hills and cooled by the Pacific 10 miles away, is a mixture of 1950s California and the kind of stucco-clad, cookie-cutter development seen elsewhere. Over the years, Latinos have increasingly moved in to the city about 170 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

It’s easy to see their influence — they now comprise 70 percent of the city’s 100,000 residents. A new Rite-Aid drug store sits around the corner from a Mexican herbal medicine shop, Clinica Naturista. And a throw-back hamburger stand on the main drag serves menudo, a Mexican stew, on weekends.

Killings are uncommon; the city averages less than a half-dozen homicides a year, mostly gang-related. But the recent spate of violence has some city officials worried.

“We’re in tough times trying to get business and people to settle here,” said Mike Cordero, a City Council member who served 30 years on the Santa Maria police force.

Police have disclosed few details about the Covarrubias case, leaving residents to wonder why police felt compelled to make the arrest while the four-year veteran was on duty and how it could have ended with a bullet in the officer’s chest.

Covarrubias’ family wants answers, too.

“What happened to procedure?” asked his father, Alberto Covarrubias Sr. “Why did they go to arrest him in the field? If it was so urgent why didn’t they just say there was a family emergency and he had to come to the station?”

Chief Danny R. Macagni did not respond to repeated requests for an interview, nor did City Manager Rick Hayden or City Attorney Gilbert Trujillo.

At a news conference the day after the shooting, neither Macagni nor his top deputies were wearing the black bands across their badges that are customary after an officer is killed.

“Events unfolded very rapidly,” he said. “It was very clear to the investigators that he knew what was going to happen. I cannot divulge why we know that. The information that we had we knew we could not let him get in the car and drive somewhere.

“But we did not expect him to react the way he did,” he added.

Covarrubias, a 2000 graduate of Santa Maria High School, always wanted to be a cop. His classmates said he was a funny and charming guy. He had recently remarried — a woman with whom his father said “he just clicked” — 13 months after his first wife committed suicide during their divorce proceedings.

He once was heralded as employee of the month in the department of 105 for nabbing an ATM robber, his father said. Last fall, he was named to the motorcycle unit. “My son was proud to be a cop,” he said. “He was a good cop. Now they’re dragging his name through the mud.”

Everyone has the same question: Why did police try to arrest Covarrubias while he was armed with his service pistol and aware of the investigation?

“I’m concerned about what’s happening and it goes beyond the shooting of an officer. It reflects on the management of the police department,” said Toru Miyoshi, who formerly served on both the city council and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

“They could have waited for a more controlled situation. A DUI checkpoint does not just put the accused at risk but it puts the public at risk as well,” Miyoshi said.

It’s unclear for how long Covarrubias and the girl carried on a sexual relationship, but she confided to an adult described as a “mother figure” on Thursday — Covarrubias’ birthday — that the two “were dating.” The woman called police, the retired officers said.

Police decided to set up a sting to arrest Covarrubias on sexual misconduct charges. In California, the age of consent is 18 unless the two people are within three years of each other in age.

Before the DUI checkpoint started, the lieutenant in charge was told that the Explorer Scout was going to be called away to do a “pretext call,” the name for setup calls designed to get suspects to confess with investigators listening in, both retired officers said.

For reasons unknown, the commanding officer told all of the officers at the checkpoint, including Covarrubias, that the girl would be called away for an investigation, they said.

The officers, who have more than six decades of experience between them, independently described what happened that night.

Covarrubias panicked when he heard the commanding officer’s announcement about the pretext call, the officers said. He texted the girl, asking if she had spoken to investigators.

Investigators proceeded with their plan, sending the “mother figure” to fetch the girl and tell her there was a family emergency. Covarrubias saw the girl leave and became frantic.

“As soon as she gets pulled out he starts texting her again,” said one of the retired officers. “He started texting stuff like ‘I’m not going to jail’ and ‘I’d rather kill myself’ and that type of stuff.”

Soon the girl called Covarrubias’ cell phone and, though he knew she was part of an investigation, he acknowledged their sexual relationship, the former officers said. After hanging up he sent a text saying that he hoped the call wasn’t set up by the department.

Sometime around 1 a.m., two sergeants — one of them the officer’s cousin — arrived to take Covarrubias into custody.

Covarrubias backed up and, according to police, tried to draw his gun as the sergeants wrestled him to the ground. Police at the scene told the retired officers that Covarrubias fired four times, but not at anything or anyone.

Then, he pointed his pistol at his best man, Officer Matt Kline, the retired officers said. Kline fired his weapon, fatally wounding his friend.

The department denied Covarrubias a police funeral, said his father, who then opted not to bury his son in the uniform he loved.

“What happened to the brotherhood?” the father asked. “This is all stewing inside of me. I should have my son here, not be planning his funeral.”

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Fraud: 130 Washington DC Employees Claimed Unemployment Benefits

February 6, 2012

The D.C. government has accused 90 of its employees of pilfering from the city’s unemployment-insurance system as part of a three-year habit of deliberate fraud totaling $840,000.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced Monday that an investigation spearheaded by the Department of Employment Services identified at least 130 current and former city employees who are suspected of obtaining unlawful payouts since 2009 and could face criminal prosecution.

Many of the accused employees were notified on Monday and placed on administrative leave with pay. Each almost certainly will be terminated if there is sufficient evidence of fraud, officials said.

DOES Director Lisa Mallory said Monday that her agency uncovered the cases after a cash injection into their overpayment-detection systems from the federal government. The agency found a number of D.C. employees among those who had received illegitimate unemployment benefits.

“Were we surprised? Yes we were,” Ms. Mallory said.

Ms. Mallory said there is no evidence of collusion among the suspected employees, who should have known they were obtaining checks unlawfully.

“It’s their responsibility every week to certify they don’t have any other income,” Ms. Mallory said. “I just think it’s gross misconduct.”

Employees caught up in the probe work for about 20 agencies across the city, including D.C. Public Schools, the Office of the State Superintendent for Education, the District Department of Transportation and a staff member of the D.C. Council, according to Ms. Mallory.

A spokeswoman for council Chairman Kwame R. Brown said the council staffer worked for former council member Harry Thomas Jr. before joining the chairman’s staff when Thomas resigned in disgrace for theft and tax fraud. The staff member, who was not identified, has been placed on leave, the spokeswoman said.

One of the accused employees worked for DOES, agency officials said.

Each of the people suspected of fraud received checks of $50 to $359 per week, depending on their prior contributions and position before they became unemployed, officials said. The fraud did not skew the District’s unemployment rate — which stands at 10.4 percent as of December but reaches more than 20 percent in parts of the city — because it is tabulated with sampling instruments that do not include payouts, Ms. Mallory said.

Ms. Mallory said her agency reported about 60 of the cases to the D.C. Office of the Inspector General late last year and plans to send more cases by Tuesday.

She also has alerted the city’s attorney general, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Labor of the agency’s findings. Her efforts “send a strong and clear message that we will not tolerate fraud in this government, but will root it out and hold people accountable,” Mr. Gray said.

Federal prosecutors will handle cases of criminal wrongdoing, and D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan may launch civil actions to reclaim any money that was disbursed through improper means, city officials said.

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US Military Treating Cuban Dissidents (Including 2 Journalists) At Guantanamo Naval Base (Home Of US Torture Prison) Like Terrorists

February 6, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Ten Cuban dissidents are seeking asylum at the US naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba, but “are being treated like terrorists,” a blogger close to the Cuban government charged Monday.

The 10 including dissident journalists Olienny Valladares Capote and Adolfo Pablo Borraza Chaple, have been at the US base on Cuba’s southeastern tip, for three months and started a hunger strike February 3, blogger Yohandry wrote.

The blogger did not say how the group arrived at the tightly secured US base, which Cuba says the United States operates on its territory against its will. The United States claims it has a valid lease.

“Both journalists have said that at the Guantanamo Bay naval base refugees are treated like terrorists,” the blogger added, alluding to the US holding terror suspects there.

Referring to their reported hunger strike, Yohandry said it was not clear if US authorities were force-feeding the group “as Americans usually do in such cases.”

After the 1959 revolution that brought ex-president Fidel Castro to power in Havana many Cubans tried to make it to the base, which is surrounded by mine fields, in a bid to emigrate to the United States.

Cuba — the Americas’ only one-party Communist regime — does not have full diplomatic relations with the United States.

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California – Most Expensive Red Light Camera Tickets In The World – Individual Cameras Earning Millions For Cities And State

February 6, 2012

CALIFORNIA – California has the most expensive red-light camera tickets in the world – the fine is so steep that one camera in Oakland generates more than $3 million a year – and a Fremont man is launching a protest group to do something about that.

If Roger Jones has his way, that freezing dread that knifes through a driver the moment he sees the overhead flash of a traffic camera will become a thing of the past.

But he’s facing quite an uphill fight against officials hungry for the cash the cameras sweep in and police who are convinced they make the roads safer.

Anyone in California snapped violating a red light pays a fine of $480, and according to the traffic-watch site TheNewspaper.com, no other jurisdiction anywhere has a tab that high. The second-highest fine in the United States is $250, and it is usually more like $100.

The Legislature passed two bills in the past two years that would have reduced the fine or limited the cameras’ use, but both were vetoed. When he killed the most recent measure, Gov. Jerry Brown said the matter should be left to local jurisdictions.

The state Department of Finance has estimated that red-light cameras bring in more than $80 million annually to the state and $50 million to cities and counties – and that, Jones and his supporters say, is the real reason they continue to snap away at motorists.

Not all $480 from each ticket goes to the cities or counties that authorize the cameras – more than half goes to the state or to the companies that run the devices. And not all tickets result in convictions.

But the haul is still out of proportion to the overall set of offenses, critics say. And so even though the fine for running a red light is the same whether a camera or a live police officer generates it, the cameras draw the fire because they can issue far more tickets than a single cop sitting at an intersection.
‘Gotcha’

“Is there a limit to how much ‘gotcha government’ we have to put up with?” asked Jones, 62, a retired distribution manager who began crusading against red-light cameras after he got a ticket from one in 2009. “Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.”

His newly formed organization, the Red Light Camera Protest Group, picketed at Mowry Avenue and Fremont Boulevard in Fremont on Saturday, waving signs to approving honks from several motorists. It was their first protest, and the two dozen who participated plan more in the coming months – all calling for the elimination of red-light cameras and a reduction in the fine.

“I think we’d all be better off without them,” Jones said. “There are better ways to address the problem.”
Longer yellows

His foremost suggestion is to increase yellow-light durations, giving people more time to stop safely – and to avoid tickets.

After he pushed the city of Fremont in 2010 to tack 0.7 of a second onto the yellow light at Mission Boulevard and Mojave Drive, pushing it to five seconds, the city noted a 62 percent drop in red-light camera tickets there.

Jones and other camera foes also insist that rolling a red light on a right turn, also known as making a “Hollywood stop,” is not as dangerous as other violations – even though the vast majority of tickets given by most red-light cameras are for that violation.

One recent study in South San Francisco, cited in the Legislature during a 2010 debate over the issue, found that 98 percent of its tickets at one red-light camera were for rolling right turns.

Few oppose the usefulness of any device, including cameras, for reducing the number of people who blow straight through red lights. But that’s not the main issue, camera foes say.

A study last year by Safer Streets L.A., a community group opposed to traffic cameras, found that of the 56,000 annual accidents in Los Angeles, fewer than 100 are caused by rolling right turns.
Cops disagree

Law enforcement officers have a sharply different view of the topic.

City of Newark studies found that collisions at the intersections overseen by its five cameras since 2006 dropped by half – from 46 in the four years before the installations to 23 in the four years afterward.

And in Fremont, where Jones lives, police studies concluded that the city’s 10 cameras contributed significantly to a 40 percent drop in intersection accidents between 1995 and 2009. The cameras were installed in 2000.

“This is not a big moneymaker for us,” said Fremont police Sgt. Mark Riggs, who helps oversee the red-light camera program. The annual take for the city is about $250,000, after all the other parties get their cut, he said.

“It’s about safety,” Riggs said. “The big thing for us is aiming for a reduction in accidents.

“As far as the price is concerned,” he added, “we have nothing to do with that. We are simply about safety.”

As for “Hollywood stops” – he insisted they are vehicular dynamite.

“The right turn on a red is a very dangerous move, especially when the driver is looking to the left and the pedestrian is on the right,” Riggs said. “We investigate a lot of accidents like that, and they are bad.”
Lots of bucks

Despite the safety question, the price of the ticket, and the money it drags in, sticks most in the craw of those who hate red-light cameras.

Opponents consider it a form of regressive tax. The $480 tab consists of a base fine of $100, with extra fees tacked on by the Legislature to help pay for maintaining courthouses, jails, courts and emergency services.

Unlike most taxes and fees, it takes only a majority vote of the Legislature to add such charges. Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, authored a bill that would have cut the ticket in half for rolling a red light, but then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it, saying reducing the fine would send the wrong message to drivers about traffic safety.

State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, took a cut at the issue last year, writing a bill to prohibit use of the camera tickets merely to raise revenue, and to make it easier to fight them in court. That’s the bill Brown vetoed in October.

“There are accuracy issues, privacy issues and due process issues with these tickets,” Simitian said. “The trouble is that more and more cities depend on this for revenue.”

He stops short of saying red-light cameras should be eliminated, saying they do have a safety value. “I just don’t think the current system gives the public a fair shake,” he said.

Brown’s press secretary, Gil Duran, said the veto was not about money.

“Running a red light can cost lives,” he said in an e-mail. “The fine is cheap by comparison.”
Pricey corner

The sums hauled in by some of the red-light cameras in the 14 Bay Area cities that use them are anything but paltry.

The highest, apparently, is in Oakland at the on-ramp to Interstate 980 at 27th Street and Northgate Avenue.

In 2010, the most recent year for which city figures were available, 9,273 tickets were issued there through violation pictures – worth a gross of $4.2 million, based on the 2010 red-light ticket fine of $450. Figures available for much of 2011 put the gross worth at more than $3 million.

Ken Germann, a 65-year-old teacher who lives in Oakland, knew he was in trouble, and probably out a few bucks, the second he saw the dreaded red-light camera light flash at that intersection one day in December. But then he pulled over, watched two other cars get flashed right after him – and he got mad.

He got even madder when he found out how much the ticket fine is.

“I stopped full, and so did the others, and the camera snapped me anyway,” he said last week as he stood in line at the Alameda County courthouse to book a trial date, traffic ticket in hand. “These things must just be there to make money.”

Ticketing the family

Halfway down the block on 27th from the light, Phuong Nguyen works at MP Flowers and sees the camera light flicker all day. She shook her fist in its direction.

“Three members of my family got tickets at that light in the past month while driving to work,” she said. “Lot of money for the government, not such a good idea for the rest of us.”

Jessica Lubnieski, 27, lives a few blocks north of the light, though, and says she is grateful for it.

“I walk my dog this route all the time, and people go flying through that light when they turn,” she said as she strolled by the intersection with Cooper, her mutt. “They so often don’t even see us.

“I just have to think that camera makes people more careful.”

$480 Current fine for violating a red light in California.

$80 million Paid annually to state.

$50 million Fines paid annually to cities and counties.

$4.2 million Amount generated in 2010 by one camera near the on-ramp to Interstate 980 at 27th Street and Northgate Avenue in Oakland.

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Cumberland County North Carolina Deputy Sheriffs Repeatedly Uses Taser Weapon On Woman In Front Of Her Child – For Blocking McDonalds Drive-Thru

February 6, 2012

NORTH CAROLINA – Deputies used a Taser on a woman who wouldn’t surrender to them after she cut into a McDonald’s drive-through line and then refused to move her car without being served, according to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

Evangeline Marrero Lucca, 37, of the 100 block of Snow Hill Church Road, pulled up to the window of the McDonald’s on Legion Road, near Black and Decker Road, on Friday afternoon and held up the line for about 20 minutes before deputies arrived, said Debbie Tanna, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

Staff at the restaurant reported that Lucca drove her Ford Taurus to the pickup window, bypassing the order screen and payment window, and tried to order her food there, she said.

“She did not want to wait in line,” Tanna said. “They told her she had to go around and wait like everybody else did and place her order that way, that they weren’t set up at that window to take her order or take her money. … She wasn’t having any of that.”

The woman refused to move her vehicle and became confrontational with the employees, she said.

“When we arrived, she really got mad,” Tanna said.

Attempts to reach Lucca for comment were unsuccessful Friday.

Customer Anthony Rich said he pulled into the parking lot to order lunch and found a long line of cars at the drive-through. He said he got in line and waited, eventually getting up to the first window, where he commented about the long line.

An employee told him the woman was refusing to move, Rich said.

The employee told him the woman frequently comes to the restaurant and cuts in line, and that, “We’re not having it anymore, so we called the cops,” Rich said.

Lisa Powell, who owns the franchise for that McDonald’s location, said in a prepared statement that employees called deputies “after lengthy conversation with the customer” about why her actions were unsafe.

Rich said deputies soon arrived at the scene and ordered Lucca to get out of the car, but she refused. The deputies continued their orders for about 20 minutes, until they finally removed a young girl, he said.

“Two or three officers entered the car with her and started trying to forcibly drag her out of the car, and that’s when you could hear the clicking sound of the Taser one time,” Rich said. “They pulled on her a couple of times, and then they Tased (stunned) her again, and when they Tased (stunned) her the second time, she just flopped out of the car like a fish.”

Lucca was charged with second-degree trespassing. Social workers took custody of her 3-year-old child who was in the car, Tanna said.

Tanna said deputies are not allowed to use Tasers on a person who simply refuses to comply with orders without danger involved, but in this case Lucca was engaging in “threatening behavior.”

“Our top priority was making sure people weren’t hurt because we didn’t know if she was going to drive the car off and run over somebody,” Tanna said. “Then there was the baby in the car we were concerned about.”

The deputies performed a “drive stun” on Lucca, a technique that does not involve firing probes into the target’s skin, she said.

A drive stun involves removing the Taser cartridge and touching the weapon directly on the skin to create a “pain compliance effect,” according to the Fayetteville Police Department’s use of force policy. A drive stun is applied to pressure points on the surface of the skin and allows officers to restrain a suspect without full incapacitation.

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Fags Sue After Being Attacked By Off-Duty Cleveland Ohio Police Officer, Beaten Again A Week Latter By On-Duty SWAT Officers, And Tossed In Jail On Bogus Charges – Without Pants

February 5, 2012

CLEVELAND, OHIO –  Two gay men who say they were punched and pinned to the ground by an off-duty police officer before being called offensive names and jailed without their trousers have sued the city and its police over what they call anti-gay bias.

Steven Ondo and Jonathan Simcox said the off-duty officer, who was a neighbor, complained about a noisy argument on the street and attacked them last April and had them arrested. A week later, they said, they were arrested by SWAT officers and were punched again at their home while lounging in T-shirts and underpants. They said they were denied a chance to get their pants and weren’t provided with any in jail for a day.

The men were charged with assaulting the officer but were acquitted Oct. 20 in a non-jury trial.

Ondo, 22, and Simcox, 25, filed the U.S. District Court lawsuit against the city and its police last month and asked for unspecified damages. They said their goal was to deter biased treatment by police.

During the second arrest, the lawsuit says, the officers repeatedly referred to Ondo and Simcox as “faggots” and said “faggots don’t get to wear pants to jail” when they were transported to the city lockup. Simcox’s brother was at the house and asked if he could get the pants for them, but police refused, although he was allowed to get their shoes, the lawsuit says.

Police usually allow cooperative arrested people to retrieve their clothing.

A top city official said Friday the city wouldn’t discuss details of the litigation.

“The city of Cleveland is aware that the lawsuit has been filed and will appropriately address this legal matter in court,” interim Law Director Barbara Langhenry said in an email.

Ondo and Simcox could not be reached Friday. No phone was listed for Ondo in court records, and a phone number for Simcox provided by his attorney wasn’t accepting calls.

Attorney Dan Chaplin, who represented Ondo in the criminal case, said each man weighs about 120 to 130 pounds and they were tossed around like rag dolls by their 225-pound neighbor.

About a week later, he said, a SWAT team calling them “fags” and “queer” arrested them at their home at about 5:30 a.m. on a warrant accusing them of assaulting a police officer. The team then put them in a police van and drove around for a couple of hours making other arrests, he said.

“They were humiliated and embarrassed. They were shackled to strangers while they were in their underwear and they couldn’t leave,” Chaplin said. “And the other guys that were arrested were allowed to get clothes on.”

At the jail, he said, police mocked them, telling them “fags don’t deserve to wear pants” and asked them questions about their sex lives.

“It was just real old-fashioned gay bashing by the Cleveland police department,” he said.

Cleveland police and the city’s Office of Professional Standards said no complaint had been filed in the case, mayoral spokeswoman Andrea Taylor said.

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