A photo shared on Facebook of police involved in a hostage training scenario at buildings that are scheduled to be demolished at Ida Yarbourgh Apartments in Albany March 21, 2013. Albany police said they’re reviewing training procedures after complaints about the proximity of tear gas and the release of fake ammunition to apartments that are still occupied.
Police training exercise draws criticism
Residents of Ida Yarbrough describe explosions and gunfire; chief apologizes
By Lauren Stanforth
Police Chief Steven Krokoff says his department was “insensitive” when it conducted a training exercise that involved police firing blank ammunition and using flash grenades near occupied apartments at the Ida J. Yarbrough Homes.
The chief said the department will review how it conducts “neighborhood-based training” after Thursday’s operation drew criticism from residents who said they were frightened by a chaotic scene that seemed real to them.
Krokoff released a statement as photos of the incident spread on Facebook. The pictures showed armed officers in tactical gear as well as fake blood and spent shell casings that were left behind at part of the public housing complex that is now deserted and slated for demolition.
Police said they went door-to-door before the training to notify residents, but many were caught off guard when the teams descended Thursday morning reportedly shooting fake bullets and throwing flash grenades and tear gas into the vacant building during the exercise.
“We wake up to the sound the next morning of literally small bombs,” said an Ida Yarbrough resident and state worker, who spoke only on condition she not be identified. “All you could hear was ‘pop, pop, pop’ of an assault rifle, police screaming ‘clear!’ I really thought I was in the middle of a war zone — and I have a four-year-old.”
The empty apartments used for the training are in front of a parking lot and steps away from two other buildings that are still filled with tenants.
Bernie Bryan, president of the Albany chapter of the NAACP, visited the complex Sunday afternoon and found that the door at one of the units — No. 165 — was still open, with spent shell casings still littering the floor inside. A gooey substance that appeared to be fake blood stained the sidewalk outside.
A resident also approached a reporter Sunday and opened his hand to show two shell casings he said he found lying outside one of the apartments that morning.
Bryan wondered why the police couldn’t have chosen one of the vacant buildings that sits farther away across a muddy courtyard where heavy equipment is stationed awaiting the demolition project.
“The folks in this neighborhood might not have the financial means, but are entitled to the same respect,” Bryan said, adding, “Whoever made the decision to do this was asleep at the switch.”
Contacted Sunday about the incident, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings said “I don’t think it was necessary to do it the way it was done. The training is necessary, but obviously there should be information that should be shared.” When told about the open apartment with shell casings inside, Jennings said he would send someone over immediately to clean up the apartment and lock the door.
Police said the training consisted of hostage rescues and involved simulated ammunition and injuries. Similar training has been done before in other unoccupied facilities in the city, the chief said.
“I certainly did not mean to offend the very people that we are training to protect,” Krokoff said in a statement issued Saturday. “In retrospect, it was insensitive to conduct this type of training in the vicinity of occupied residences. We will review how we conduct our neighborhood-based training in the future and include the community in evaluating its appropriateness.” The chief couldn’t be reached for further comment Sunday.
Albany Common Council member Barbara Smith, who represents Ida Yarbrough in the Fourth Ward, said that she’s never heard of training occurring so close to a residential area. “What I have been made aware of I find disturbing,” said Smith. She said she will raise the matter for further discussion among the entire council.
The apartments are vacant because they are slated to be demolished as part of a $11.8 million project that will replace 129 low-rise units with 80 newer, more efficient apartments. The project is being paid for through the sale of federal low-income housing tax credits and the state’s Low-Income Housing Trust Fund.
A protest of the police’s training has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the corner of Livingston Avenue and North Pearl Street.
“You can’t just take poor people and say ‘You’re going to do this and do that with them,’ ” said Ira McKinley, a local documentary film maker who is orchestrating the event. “We’re organizing to formulate our own citizen action group. We’re going to educate our communities.”
“A small pocket knife is simply not going to result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft…”
Knives on planes controversy: John Pistole, TSA chief, defended decision Thursday on Capitol Hill
By Thom Patterson CNN
“It is the judgment of many security experts worldwide, which I agree with, that a small pocket knife is simply not going to result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft, and an improvised explosive device will,” Transportation Security Administration director John Pistole told lawmakers. “And we know, from internal covert testing, searching for these items which will not blow up an aircraft can distract our officers from focusing on the components of an improvised explosive device.”
After his testimony at the Homeland Security subcommittee hearing, Pistole was expected to face questions from lawmakers who are concerned about traveler safety in a post-9/11 era.
Supporters believe the rules should be more passenger-friendly and focus on larger threats. Critics believe even small knives pose too much of a risk for airline crews, arguing that box-cutter knives were used in the 9/11 attacks.
In the nine days since the TSA opened a can of worms by announcing it would ease the ban on small knives in airline cabins, the list of groups concerned or opposed to the idea has grown to include airlines, airport screeners, federal air marshals, flight attendants and pilots.
Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, is expected to join critics during the hearing. Swalwell co-authored a letter to Pistole saying he was “mystified” by the move, calling Pistole’s decision “another example of a questionable TSA policy.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, supports the rules change. Commercial aviation must be secure from threats as the highest priority, but Pistole also has a priority to make the TSA both “more passenger-friendly and threat-focused,” McCaul said in a recent statement.
Former TSA head Kip Hawley — who agrees with the change — said sharp objects can no longer bring down aircraft.
The TSA made its decision after a threat assessment determined that allowing small knives in cabins would not result in catastrophic damage to aircraft. But after consulting with Federal Air Marshal Service leaders, the agency opted to continue excluding knives that most closely resemble weapons, specifically knives with blades that lock in place, or have molded hand grips. Box cutters and razor blades also would remain on the prohibited items list. The rules are to go into effect on April 25.
The agency is aligning its knife policy with the International Civil Aviation Organization, which includes the United States and 190 other member nations. The group says each member exercises its own discretion about how to deal with the issue of knives in the cabins.
Under the new rules, knives with blades that are 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) or shorter and less than a half-inch wide will be allowed in airline cabins so long as the blade is not fixed or does not lock into place.
The rules also allow passengers to carry up to two golf clubs, certain toy bats or other sports sticks — such as ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and pool cues — aboard in carry-on luggage.
Airlines for America, the airline trade association, said Monday that “additional discussion is warranted” before small knives are allowed on planes.
Many critics of the new rules contend that in addition to adding an unnecessary threat to the safety of airline crews and passengers, the changes won’t make a difference in the TSA’s ability to concentrate on other threats.
Knives are probably the most common items surrendered by passengers at screening points, aside from liquids. Travelers surrender about 35 knives at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on an average day and about 47 per day at Los Angeles International Airport, officials say.
CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.
As the world waits for the Vatican’s conclave to select a new pope to lead 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, and the church’s sex abuse scandals dominate discourse on the incoming pontiff’s priorities, another decidedly worldly issue is also poised to take an immediate toll on the new Holy Father: money.
The public and private woes of the Vatican bank, long shrouded in secrets and whispers, might well prove to be just as challenging, if not as draining, as the lurid, faith-shaking damage of the clergy abuse scandal.
With a two-year probe by Italian authorities into money laundering, poor transparency, inadequate adherence to standards for guarding against criminal and terrorist financing, and questions over sudden changes in its leadership, the bank represents another crisis of morals, legalities and perception.
The importance of the Vatican bank in Pope Benedict XVI’s grand vision can be assumed from the urgency it held with the outgoing pontiff: among the last official acts before his shock retirement was overhauling financial leadership and church oversight.
On Feb. 15, Benedict XVI approved the appointment of Ernst von Freyberg as the new president of the supervisory board of the Institute for Works of Religion, the church agency widely known as the Vatican bank.
The appointment of the German lawyer and businessman came after assessing “a number of candidates of professional and moral excellence,” the Vatican said in a statement.
“The Holy Father has closely followed the entire selection process … and he has expressed his full consent to the choice made by the Commission of Cardinals.”
While the appointment drew immediate criticism over the involvement of Mr. von Freyberg’s Blohm+Voss, an industrial group, in manufacturing German warships, including during the Nazi era, it also raised eyebrows for its timing. Putting money under the baton of a German is not out of step with European policy these days, but for an institution already rife with conspiracy theories the sudden shuffle could not go unnoticed.
“[Benedict’s] decision to retire was so unprecedented, you would think that he would have other things on his mind than replacing the head of the Vatican bank,” said Carlo Calvi, son of Roberto Calvi, who was known as “God’s Banker” because of his close ties to the Vatican before his outlandish death more than 30 years ago.
“However, I am more surprised by the sackings — the people who were let go — rather than the appointments,” he said.
Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was chairman of the Vatican bank until he was pushed out in May with a withering assessment of not being up for the job. He had been trying to get the Vatican onto the international banking “white list” of virtuous countries.
Then, on Feb. 22, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, a key church official pushing for better regulation and controls on the Vatican bank, was suddenly transferred from Rome to Colombia.
That transfer followed the moving of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was credited with turning a deficit for the Vatican into a large surplus through greater accountability and controls, from the Vatican to the United States.
One of the leaked documents in the “Vatileaks” scandal was a letter from Archbishop Vigano to Pope Benedict begging he remain in Rome to continue his financial crusade. The Pope was unmoved.
The transfers suggest change is not always welcome.
“Change under the new pope will be easier said than done because they make money on this, it is a source of income that has been used for a lot of purposes,” said Mr. Calvi. To address the problems, “They need, essentially, to do a very drastic reform that would almost certainly mean foregoing a considerable source of revenue.”
The Vatican bank has not always shown such virtuous strength, as Mr. Calvi knows better than most. Few outside the Vatican’s inner circle eye church finance as closely as Mr. Calvi, who now lives in Montreal.
Watching the Vatican bank has consumed Mr. Calvi’s adult life and the Calvi name almost consumed the Vatican bank.
His father was chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, an Italian Catholic bank closely linked to the Vatican.
The shadowy operations of Vatican finance forced its way into the public’s consciousness when Roberto Calvi was found dead, just as the scandalous operation of church finance was being revealed amid the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, Italy’s largest private bank, with $1-billion missing.
Since then, his unsolved death, first declared a suicide, then reclassified as a murder, and the cast of powerful figures and secretive organizations linked to it — from the Mafia and the Masonic lodge P2 to the powerful conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei and the Vatican itself — make it one of modern history’s enduring mysteries, Europe’s equal to the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance.
The case was also said to be linked to landmark Cold War politics, with claims Banco Ambrosiano was used by those close to John Paul II, the Polish pope, to fund the anti-Communist Solidarity movement in Poland and by those close to U.S. president Ronald Reagan to fund the Contra rebels of Central America.
The raw puzzle and quirks of Mr. Calvi’s death compel conspiracy theories and befuddlement, with small details that seem to mean much, but with no answer to exactly what.
The banker’s body was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge, his feet dangling in the River Thames in the heart of London, on June 18, 1982; he wore two pairs of underwear, had five bricks in his pockets, about $14,00-worth of three different currencies and the business card of a Mafia figure.
It was a death shouting in the symbolic language of Italy’s underworld.
“I am more of the idea that there are theatrical elements and not necessarily symbolic aspects to it,” said his son. “Hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars were involved — if that is not a motive for murder, I don’t know what is.”
After all, any Catholic cleric would know: Radix malorum est cupiditas, the Latin Biblical quotation meaning greed is the root of evil.
The very notion of a church bank speaks to the awkward interface between the spiritual and temporal, represented by the pope being both leader of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City state.
Unlike many Vatican institutions, the Vatican bank is not of antique origin, having been formed in 1942 by Pius XII, although it had older antecedents. Its purpose is to protect and administer the property and funds intended for the church’s works.
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Unlike true national central banks, it does not set monetary policy or involve itself in currency maintenance, as the Vatican uses the euro. Also unlike most banks, its surplus or profit is supposed to go toward religion or charity.
As it is not a true central bank, and with the Vatican not a full member of the European Union, its relationship with strict regulation has been more nebulous and its ends of religion or charity have, likewise, not always been clear.
“One would be surprised at the acceptance of risky relationships and risky behaviour for an organization like the Vatican. But, objectively, I’ve seen it. It is hard to understand, but it is true,” said Mr. Calvi.
“In many cases, they seem to have little judgment in terms of the arrangements they get themselves into.”
In the fallout of the Banco Ambrosiano scandal, though it claimed no wrongdoing, the Vatican bank paid $250-million to Ambrosiano’s creditors.
Since then, its regulatory framework has still not caught up to modern standards, especially in the post-9/11 world.
In 2010, Rome magistrates froze ¤23-million ($31-million) the Vatican bank held in an Italian bank. The Vatican said its bank was merely transferring its own funds between its own accounts in Italy and Germany. The money was released in June 2011, but an investigation continues.
In July, a European anti-money laundering committee said the Vatican bank failed to meet all its standards on fighting money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes.
The report by Moneyval, a monitoring committee of the 47-nation Council of Europe, found the Vatican passed nine of 16 “key and core” aspects of its financial dealings. The head of the Vatican delegation to the Moneyval committee was Msgr. Balestrero.
Msgr. Balestrero said the report was a call for the Vatican to push forward with “efforts to marry moral commitments to technical excellence” to prove “the Holy See’s and Vatican City state’s desire to be a reliable partner in the international community.”
Seven months later, he was reassigned to South America.
“The Moneyval report was one of the rare bits of good news for the Vatican last year. Balestrero was the one who dealt with Moneyval and they send him to Colombia. That doesn’t sound like the way to reward someone,” said Mr. Calvi.
This week, the widely read Italian Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana, which is distributed free in Italian parishes on Sundays, carried an article calling for the bank to be closed on the grounds the pontificate should not have direct links to the world of finance.
It argued there are plenty of ethically minded commercial banks in Italy and elsewhere that could be trusted to manage the Holy See’s assets.
In January, René Bruelhart, the new director of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, said the church was on the right track.
“Considering the particular nature of the Vatican City state, adequate measures have been adopted for vigilance, prevention, and fighting money laundering and financing terrorism,” he told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
How much further the Vatican bank will go and how quickly it can get there, under both the new chairman and a new pope, is being anxiously watched by the world’s financial community. And by Mr. Calvi.
National Post, with files from news services
By Scott Bomboy
Lost in the controversy over the federal government’s use of military drones is an issue that hits home: commercial drones that can videotape you in your backyard.
Under limited circumstances, the FAA has approved the use, starting in 2015, of drones owned and operated by citizens. Some will be used for commercial purposes; others will used for recreational purposes.
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was approved by Congress and the president. It tasks the Federal Aviation Administration with setting policies for the commercial drone business by September 2015.
The act is mostly focused on air safety issues, but the implications of drones, with photo and infrared cameras, flying over personal air spaces is fraught with privacy issues.
Then there are the implications for commercial drones, news gathering and the First Amendment. Television stations spend millions of dollars on helicopters, which can show live video from a distance. Drones are the fraction of a helicopter’s cost, but they can’t fly as high as a helicopter under normal circumstances.
So what happens if a drone is hovering over your house as journalists gather news? Or what if it is drone owned by a police department? Or a news entertainment show like TMZ?
The Congressional Research Service prepared a detailed analysis of these conflicting issues in January 2013, and its conclusions were that until the civilian drones are tested and in service, the legal problems probably won’t be resolved.
“The legal issues discussed in this report will likely remain unresolved until the civilian use of drones becomes more widespread,” the Congressional Research Service said. “Once these regulations are tested and promulgated, the unique legal challenges that could arise based on the operational differences between drones and already ubiquitous fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters may come into sharper focus.”
In the end, the FAA will be the first government agency to set commercial drones use policies, under its powers to regulate national airspace. Congress will also get involved, at some point.
One immediate issue is the definition of a commercial drone, compared with a “model aircraft.” The operator of a commercial drone needs a special test certificate from the FAA to operate its flying vehicle. Larger models can’t fly near airports and over schools and churches.
Private, noncommercial drones are considered as recreational models.
The Congressional Research Service says smaller drones are exempt from FAA rules that apply to larger recreational drones.
“This prohibition [from FAA rules] applies if the model aircraft is less than 55 pounds, does not interfere with any manned aircraft, and is flown in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines,” says the report.
The novelty of commercial and recreation drones poses other legal issues. One Supreme Court case that set standards for ownership rights for the airspace over your house dates back in 1946.
In United States v. Causby, the Supreme Court dealt with a case where low-flying military planes flew over a chicken farm, causing chaos among the birds that resulted in damage to the property owner (i.e., lots of dead chickens).
Modern drones are silent (their noise won’t kill chickens), but they will most likely fly at lower altitudes, potentially putting them airspace that the courts may consider to be the controlled by the owner of the property below it.
Privacy concerns are even more problematic. As any journalist can tell you, the press has a right to photograph or videotape what can be seen from a public location, with some exceptions.
But what point in its flight is a drone above the airspace controlled by a homeowner? And can a drone operator use a thermal imaging camera to video record your house?
The Congressional Research Service rattles off other privacy scenarios: Can homeowners harm a drone if they deem it to be a trespassing threat? What about stalkers, Peeping Toms and wire tappers? Some drones can record sounds from 100 yards away from a source.
Part of the solution to these problems could come from Congress, which can pass laws to better define drone etiquette.
A lot depends on testing and recommendations that needs to come from the FAA in the next three years.
So far, the FAA is selecting six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test sites as mandated by Congress. The sites will function as test drone airports, with the purpose of figuring out how to safely manage flights.
But smaller, commercial drones are already being used for various purposes. A recent story from NBC News outlined how operators are widely using drones to capture video and images, by literally flying under the FAA’s radar.
One photographer interviewed by NBC said he has shot 60 hours of high-quality video using a 48-inch-sized drone, with no FAA issues.
Balancing the safety and privacy concerns over commercial and private drones is the useful news of drones for many purposes. They can help farmers manage their lands, realtors sell property, and they can be used to fight fires.
One estimate puts the global value of the commercial and private drone industry at $90 billion in the next 10 years, which will also create jobs.
The FAA also estimates that 10,000 commercial drones could be in use after September 2015, if the various problems are worked out with air traffic controls, licensing and logistics.
The legal matters could take much longer to resolve when it comes to privacy and other Constitutional issues. So you may need to encounter a drone flying over your backyard to claim damages and prove a legal point.
DARPA pushes ahead with 3-D electro-optical sensors for target identification and tracking
by John Keller
ARLINGTON, Va., 10 March 2013. Government electro-optical sensor researchers will brief industry this week on an advanced initiative to develop fundamentally new avionics and vetronics 3-D electro-optical sensors for target identification and tracking.
Scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., will host a technical overview and proposer’s day conference from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Friday, 15 March 2013, on the second phase of the Military Imaging and Surveillance Technology-Long Range (MIST-LR) program.
The MIST-IR program seeks to develop new kinds of electro-optic sensing for aircraft and ground vehicles to detect and track people and other targets. The program focus is on long-range geometric and 3-D imaging to characterize targets beyond the physical-aperture diffraction-limit of the receiver system.
Industry briefings will be at the DARPA Conference Center, 675 North Randolph St., in Arlington, Va., to provide information on the status and capabilities developed under the MIST program and promote additional discussion.
Those attending will receive details from the first phase of the MIST-LR program and related efforts; hear questions and answers from potential MIST-LR proposers; and have an opportunity to discuss their capabilities and teaming opportunities.
DARPA conducted an industry briefing and released a formal solicitation for the first phase of the MIST-IR program in February 2012. The agency has not publicized any contract awards that may have been made.
The MIST-IR program’s second phase will concentrate on new sensing methods and techniques based on computational imaging, synthetic-aperture imaging, digital holography, and multi-static laser radar (ladar).
Optical sensors available today can help identify targets, but their sizes and operational ranges can be limiting, DARPA officials say. The MIST-LR program seeks to develop new sensing methods that address physical aperture of the imaging receiver, the effects of atmospheric turbulence, performance of the receiver array, the power of the illumination source, and the image formation algorithms are the primary defining characteristics of active imaging systems.
The first phase of the MIST-IR program involved a formal preliminary design, at the system and subsystem level to establish the basis for a detailed design; experimental and simulation data validating the concept, approach, and link budget; demonstration of critical hardware and software subsystems; phenomenology measurements; evidence that the proposed designs can be manufactured affordably; and written descriptions of the architecture, design, and subsystems.
Phase 2, meanwhile, will complete the system and subsystems design, and integrate components into one laboratory system to emulate a small-scale imaging capability, as well as demonstrate processing and control software for final system designs. A future third phase will develop and demonstrate a prototype package on an aircraft or ground test range.
Those interested in attending the MIST-IR phase-two briefings should register no later than this Wednesday, 12 March 2013, by email to BAAfirstname.lastname@example.org. Put MIST Conference Registration in the subject line. A SECRET security clearance is required to attend.
Nixon: “People should not have handguns.”
Nixon never made his wish for a handgun ban public
Richard Nixon wanted a total handgun ban and refused to gave in to the powerful handgun lobby National Rifle Association, White House records show.
A collection of previously unreported Oval Office recordings and White House memos show Nixon as an otherwise conservative president who had one of the hardest stances for gun control of any American president. While in office Nixon banned the sale of Saturday night specials, a cheaply made type of handgun, and wanted to ban all handguns.
“I don’t know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house,” Nixon said in a taped conversation with aides. “The kids usually kill themselves with it and so forth.” He asked why “can’t we go after handguns, period?”
Even some of Nixon’s advisers were against the handgun ban.
“Let me ask you,” Nixon said to Attorney General John Mitchell in June 1971, “there is only one thing you are checking on, that’s the manufacture of those $20 guns? We should probably stop that.”
When Mitchell said that the gun lobby would stand in the way of such a ban, Nixon was ready to counter their attack.
“No hunters are going to use $20 guns,” Nixon countered.
“No, but the gun lobby’s against any incursion into the elimination of firearms,” said Mitchell.
Nixon never made his wish for a handgun ban public, but worked with Congress at various measures of gun control. On the recordings, Nixon said adding new gun control would have been difficult, but he stuck by his view that “people should not have handguns.”
“I know the rifle association will be against it, the gun makers will be against it,” Nixon said.
“It is a scam the motorist cannot win,” the judge wrote in invalidating the ordinance.
by Kimball Perry
ELMWOOD PLACE, Ohio — In a scathing ruling, a Hamilton County judge ruled that an ordinance allowing this village of 2,000 to install speed cameras is invalid and unenforceable.
Critics have said those cameras, which already have generated about $1.5 million in fines, have more to do with revenue enhancement than safety in this Cincinnati suburb nearly surrounded by the city.
“Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of Three-card Monty,” Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman wrote in his Thursday decision. “It is a scam the motorist cannot win.”
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have speed cameras operating in at least one location, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Ohio has 13 other jurisdictions that use them, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says.
A dozen states have laws prohibiting them.
The village put the cameras in place in July to slow speeders — not to rake in revenue — officials there have said. About half of the fines go to the village as new revenue.
The village hired Maryland-based Optotraffic LLC to install the cameras and bill offenders, allowing the company to keep part of the fine money.
When motorists began receiving the $105 speeding tickets in the mail, they exploded in anger. Many have said they now go out of their way to avoid driving here, and many business owners say the cameras and the fallout are hurting business.
Many hired lawyer Mike Allen to fight the cameras.
“It is obvious that the village of Elmwood is motivated by financial considerations and not public safety,” Allen said. “This is a victory for the common man and woman who does not have $105 to give to the village of Elmwood.”
Allen added that Ruehlman’s ruling could be the nation’s first to address the specific constitutional challenge — whether a driver’s due-process rights were violated.
“I think the preliminary injunction is pretty much the whole case,” Allen said.
Village Solicitor Anita Vizedom couldn’t be reached for comment.
The judge was particularly biting in writing his decision, blasting the village for taking from its residents instead of providing services to those who pay for them.
“The entire case against the motorist is stacked because the speed monitoring device is calibrated and controlled by Optotraffic,” the judge wrote.
If motorists receiving tickets wanted to contest them, they had to request an administrative hearing that came with a $25 fee.
“The hearing is nothing more than a sham,” the judge wrote.
While Ohio law allows such cameras, Allen argued successfully that the village didn’t display the proper signage that must accompany them.
Allen expects Elmwood Place to appeal the judge’s ruling.
His employer says the charges against him were a reprisal and he was murdered, and the Kremlin’s own human rights council aired suspicions he was beaten to death.
By Alissa de Carbonnel
MOSCOW (Reuters) – A whistleblowing Russian lawyer whose death in custody became a symbol of rights abuses and strained relations with the United States will go on posthumous trial on Monday in what relatives say is revenge by the Kremlin.
Sergei Magnitsky, who died while in pre-trial custody in 2009, is being prosecuted for defrauding the state in what will be the first time Russia has ever tried a dead person, a development Amnesty International says sets a “dangerous precedent”.
Magnitsky had been jailed after accusing police and tax officials of multimillion dollar tax fraud. His employer says the charges against him were a reprisal and he was murdered, and the Kremlin’s own human rights council aired suspicions he was beaten to death.
The circumstances of his demise led the United States last year to bar entry to Russians accused of involvement in his case or in other rights abuses.
Critics say the trial – more than three years after he died and despite pleas by relatives to drop the case – is an attempt by President Vladimir Putin’s government to hit back at Washington and show the public Magnitsky was a crook not a hero.
“It’s inhuman to try a dead man. If I take part in this circus, I become an accomplice to this,” Magnitsky’s mother Natalya told Reuters. “I won’t take part in the hearings.”
Russia took the highly unusual step of reopening the investigation against Magnitsky in 2011, as international criticism of Russia over his death mounted.
“First they killed him, now they are dancing on his grave,” said a lawyer for Magnitsky’s family, Nikolai Gorokhov.
After Magnitsky’s lawyers boycotted pre-trial hearings, the court appointed a lawyer to defend him.
Contacted by Reuters, the court-appointed lawyer, Nikolai Guerasimov, declined to comment on the case. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov also declined to comment.
Magnitsky died at the age of 37 after he said he was denied medical care over 358 days in jail.
DEAD MAN IN THE DOCK
Putin said Magnitsky died of heart failure, but his former employer, London-based investment fund Hermitage Capital, says he was killed for testifying against officials he accused of a $230 million theft through fraudulent tax refunds.
Hermitage owner William Browder is being tried in absentia alongside his former employee. He also faces new fraud charges filed last week over dealings a decade ago in shares in state gas firm Gazprom.
Browder has said the charges are an “absurdity” meant as revenge for his campaigning for the U.S. rights legislations named after Magnitsky.
Pro-Kremlin television channel NTV showed a documentary alleging Browder exploited his late employee’s death for his own ends. Critics say NTV often airs such programs to influence public opinion before charges are filed against government foes.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International has called Russia’s first posthumous trial a “dangerous precedent.”
Authorities say recent legal changes make it possible. But Magnitsky’s family lawyers say the law allows such cases only at the request of the deceased’s relatives for the purpose of clearing their reputations.
No one has been held accountable for Magnitsky’s death. One prison official was tried last year but prosecutors asked the court to clear him.
“Something happened in that prison that no one wants to talk about,” Zoya Svetova, an investigator for the independent prison watchdog, the Public Oversight Commission, that probed his death.
“Magnitsky became a symbol of the fight against corruption, and the goal of this trial is to show he is no symbol but just a criminal who didn’t pay his taxes,” she said.
“It is pure state propaganda because there is no point in trying a dead man.”
The case has weighed heavily on U.S.-Russian relations.
Moscow retaliated against the U.S. Magnitsky Act with its own visa ban against Americans suspected of violating the rights of Russians abroad. It also banned U.S. families from adopting Russian children.
The pro-type is eerily similar to the powerful metal endoskeleton killing machines that feature in the Terminator movie franchise.
By David Mccormack
These are the latest chilling images of the LS3 Alpha Dog, the four-legged robot that DARPA, the U.S. defense agency responsible for the development of new technologies for use by the military, is developing.
Previous reports have described the prototype, part of the Big Dog project, as a robotic battlefield ‘pack mule’ capable of carrying 400lbs of equipment to help human solders in combat.
But this latest footage reveals that the Alpha Dog has developed a scary new skill – throwing cinder blocks around with relative ease.
Previous prototypes of the mechanical quadruped were headless, but now a claw has been added which as the video shows is very effective at picking up objects and flinging them around at great speed.
The footage was posted on YouTube by Boston Dynamics, the company being funded by DARPA and the Marine Corps to develop this sinister robot.
As well as the footage is a short message which reads: ‘The goal is to use the strength of the legs and torso to help power motions of the arm. This sort of dynamic, whole-body approach to manipulation is used routinely by human athletes and will enhance the performance of advanced robots.’
As technological advances improve the range of weapons and equipment at soldiers’ disposal, so their loads become heavier. The development of the Alpha Dog was supposedly being developed to help carry this heavy equipment into battle and improve the efficiency of human soldiers.
With each new prototype that is revealed, the Alpha Dog is making impressive progress. Where once it resembled ‘Bambi on ice’ and could be unsteadied by undulating ground due to its long thin legs, now the Alpha Dog’s thicker legs make it more powerful and stable.
It can now trot around on its own and is smart enough to take voice commands from its soldier masters. Soon it will be capable of traveling 20-miles in a 24-hour period without having to refuel.
These development are undoubtedly impressive from a technological advancement point of view, but what does it mean for the future of warfare?
It’s not unimaginable that it could also wear a camera and a rocket launcher and be re-purposed as an attack dog.
If the current prototype can throw heavy blocks around with comparative easy, what could it potentially throw in the near future – humans?
The pro-type is eerily similar to the powerful metal endoskeleton killing machines that feature in the Terminator movie franchise.
Fans of the films will recall that the human race is all but destroyed when an artificial intelligence network called Skynet becomes self-aware in the near future and the war machines turn on their masters.
Let’s hope the Alpha Dog isn’t a chilling premonition of what lies ahead for the human race.
By JACK NICAS
The Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday it would soon allow fliers to carry certain smaller knives onto airplanes, one of the biggest moves to scale back the stringent airport-security measures established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Beginning April 25, the TSA will allow fliers to bring knives aboard with blades no longer than 2.36 inches and no wider than half an inch. The permitted knives—which can’t have molded handles, fixed blades or blades that lock in place—are similar to Swiss Army-style pocket knives or wine openers with small blades.
The change is intended to streamline security by reducing “the time spent rescreening and searching bags for these prohibited items,” TSA spokesman David Castelveter said.
The TSA said that, on average, passengers leave about 850 pounds a month of prohibited items at a typical large airport, with knives accounting for half that weight.
Flight-attendants unions blasted the move, saying that it will make TSA agents’ jobs easier while endangering attendants.
“This is a step back in time by allowing weapons on-board aircraft,” said Veda Shook, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. In addition to being a potential weapon for terrorists, she said, “if someone gets inebriated on board, then these knives can be wielded as a weapon.”
Ms. Shook also said the change could add more confusion to the airport-security screening process by encouraging some passengers to bring knives, even though not all are permitted.
Razor blades and box cutters, used to hijack planes during the Sept. 11 attacks, remain banned. Mr. Castelveter of the TSA said there is too much “emotion” associated with those items to remove them from the prohibited list.
Mr. Castelveter said fliers “are bringing [knives] today anyway and they’re being surrendered. Now they’ll be able to keep them.” He said the change is in line with the related standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization, which sets aviation-safety protocols that are followed around the world.
The move is part of the TSA’s strategy to shift toward a more targeted, risk-based approach to security, relying more on data and intelligence than on blanket bans. The TSA has recently introduced a pre-check program that allows select frequent fliers to go through faster, easier airport screenings.
The agency also now allows some children to leave their shoes on during screenings, and in recent years, the TSA removed cigarette lighters and nail clippers from the prohibited-items list.
On April 25, the TSA also will begin allowing fliers to carry ski poles, pool cues, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, Wiffle Ball bats and up to two golf clubs through security checkpoints. The TSA will also allow bats that are shorter than two feet and lighter than 24 ounces, such as souvenir or novelty bats.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the TSA has required hardened cockpit doors, added federal air marshals to more flights and authorized some pilots to carry weapons.
By IVAN MORENO and KRISTEN WYATT
DENVER — A series of sweeping gun-control measures in Colorado is on track to hit the governor’s desk by the end of the month, with Democratic committees in the Legislature advancing all the bills despite a Capitol packed with hundreds of opponents and surrounded by cars circling the Capitol blaring their horns.
Gun limits including expanded background checks and ammunition magazine limits were helped Monday by testimony from the husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and victims of mass shootings in Connecticut and suburban Denver.
Colorado has become a focus point in the national debate over what new laws, if any, are needed to prevent gun violence after recent mass shootings, including an attack at an Aurora movie theater last summer – a massacre that brought to mind the Columbine High School shooting of 1999 for many in the state and across the nation.
The seven gun-control measures cleared their committees on 3-2 party-line votes and are planned for debate by the full Senate by Friday. Four of the seven have already cleared the House, making it possible some of them will land on the desk of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper within weeks.
“I think they’ll all pass. I really do,” said Democratic Senate President John Morse. “And I think they all should pass. I think any of them failing doesn’t make Colorado as safe as we could make Colorado.”
A biplane flying above the Capitol Monday warned the governor, “HICK: DO NOT TAKE OUR GUNS!” Hickenlooper backs expanded background checks and has said he’s considering a bill to limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. He hasn’t indicated where he stands on other measures, including whether he supports a proposal that would hold sellers and owners of assault weapons liable for shootings by such firearms.
Gun rights supporters walked the Capitol halls wearing stickers that read, “I Vote Pro-Gun.” Several dozen people outside the Capitol waved American flags as light snow fell.
Inside, retired astronaut and Navy captain Mark Kelly told lawmakers that he and his wife, Giffords, support the Second Amendment, but he said the right to bear arms shouldn’t extend to criminals and the mentally ill.
Kelly compared the different background check requirements for private and retail sales with having two different lines at the airport, one with security and one without.
“Which one do you think the terrorist is going to choose?” he asked.
Giffords, a former Democratic congresswoman from Tucson, Ariz., was severely wounded in a mass shooting in January 2011 while meeting with constituents.
Gun control opponents say the proposals will not reduce violence. They say lawmakers should focus on strengthening access to mental health services for people who could be dangerous to communities.
The bill hearings were at times testy, and included some outbursts from the audience. After one bill passed, someone leaving the committee yelled “That sucks!” to lawmakers.
“I’ve never seen such unprofessional behavior,” Democratic Sen. Irene Aguilar told the audience at one point.
The commotion at the Capitol underscored the attention the debate has generated nationally from gun rights groups, such as the National Rifle Association, to victims’ families and White House officials.
One of the nation’s largest producers of ammunition magazines, Colorado-based Magpul, has threatened to leave the state if lawmakers restrict the size of its products. Its founder said smaller magazines can be easily connected to each other and the company fears it would be legally liable if people were to do that.
Victims who have lost relatives to gun violence say it’s time for legislators to take action.
Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was among the 12 killed in the Aurora theater shooting, was among the people urging lawmakers to pass magazine restrictions.
“He was enjoying the movie one second, and then the next second he was dead,” Tom Sullivan said.
Jane Dougherty, whose sister, Mary Sherlach, was a psychologist killed in the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has been lobbying Colorado lawmakers to pass new gun laws. She said she doesn’t understand gun owners who worry the bills are putting a burden on their rights.
She said the Connecticut shooter used “the same type of weapon that we use in war” to “slaughter these babies” and asked lawmakers for stricter gun laws.
“We cannot wait for yet another massacre to transpire,” Dougherty said.
by Catherine Poe
WASHINGTON, March 5, 2013 — Spurred by the Newtown massacre, Maryland is poised to pass one of the strictest gun control laws in the country.
If Maryland does pass the legislation and Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley does sign the bill, as is expected, one of the largest gun manufacturers in the country Beretta USA is considering a move elsewhere, taking with it approximately 400 jobs. Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has already put out the welcome mat for any gun manufacturers looking to move.
Berettaclaims that the law that would forbid 10-bullet magazines would make the manufacture of their 9mm 13-bullet magazine illegal in Maryland. Beretta says it moved one of its factories to Virginia the last time Maryland tightened its laws.
Such talk, however, doesn’t faze the people supporting the new legislation. They see the new law as long overdue. Even before the bill passes, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence had ranked Maryland’s gun laws as the seventh strictest in the nation.
The new law, which will probably be passed this week, would also ban 45 assault-type weapons, set up licensing and fingerprinting of gun buyers, and ban sales to anyone who has been committed to a mental hospital.
Passions run high on both sides as was evident at the gun control rally last Friday in historic Annapolis. The 2,000 people at the anti-gun rally, who came to hear the governor and other pro gun-control advocates speak before heading off to lobby their delegates afterwards, chanted “Save Lives Now.”
One woman, a wife of an Eastern Shore hunter, Joyce Scharch explained her support for the bill saying, “Assault weapons are the wrong weapons in the wrong hands.”
Quaker Mosie Harrington of Hyattsville, Md. said that more people had been killed with guns in the U.S. than in all the wars since the Revolutionary War.
Art Cizek, Easton, Md., said he was at the rally for all the Newtowners. “Every life is important. We believe we now have a legacy to transform the country.”
His sentiments were echoed by a pastor who said, “If not now, when? If not here, where? If not us, who?”
Others waved signs that read “The only thing this teacher packs is lunch,” “Arms are for hugging, not death,” and “If driving requires a license, then so does owning a gun.”
A recent poll of Marylanders found that 62% are in favor of stricter gun laws in Maryland and that 85% support the tough licensing and fingerprinting of gun buyers.
Pro-gun Advocates Look to Supreme Court
Meanwhile down the block, behind police lines, about 60 people showed up to protest the gun control rally. A quiet group, they tried to engage people on the way to the rally in a discussion about their pro-gun stance.
In conversations with them, it became apparent that there are degrees of passion about owning guns from the young man who strongly insisted that guns were necessary for citizens to protect themselves from the government taking over like Hitler did in Germany to the man who had a written statement arguing against the new legislation point by point, using the Constitution to make his case.
Ray Givens of Hancock, Md. said the passage of the law will be good in one sense since it will “wake up the Second Amendment Democrats to what is going on in the state.” He also saw it as the beginning of the end of Gov. O’Malley’s plans to run for president in 2016 and will end the chances of Attorney General Doug Gansler to be the next Maryland governor.
Gary T. Raynor, Federalsburg, Md., believed the law will pass, but the battle is far from over and will end up before the Supreme Court where it will, like the other laws, both federal and state, be struck down. He explained, “The gun control people may end up being sorry they ever started this fight.” And, yes, he knows that it will take years before the Justices will hear the case, but he is patient, believing his side will ultimately prevail in the courts.
As for the question of assault weapons being so easily available, they all defended owning them to protect their families. And they questioned whether it was an assault weapon that the Newtown shooter used, except on his mother, insisting it was an automatic handgun. They are waiting for the final police report to be released, vindicating their theory.
Even if Maryland passes its new, stricter gun laws, it is still adjacent to states that have no such laws, making guns easy to acquire across state lines and still being located on the I-95 corridor or what New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls the Iron Highway to the Northeast.
By Michael Isikoff
The Obama administration has no intention of carrying out drone strikes against suspected terrorists in the United States, but could use them in response to “an extraordinary circumstance” such as the 9/11 terror attacks, according to a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder obtained by NBC News.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who received the March 4 letter from Holder, called the attorney general’s refusal to rule out drone strikes in the U.S. “more than frightening.”
The letter from Holder surfaced just as the Senate Intelligence Committee was voting 12-3 to approve White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to be CIA director. The vote came after the White House agreed to share additional classified memos on targeted drone strikes against U.S. citizens overseas.
Paul had threatened to hold up Brennan’s confirmation on the floor of the Senate if the administration did not clarify whether targeted drone strikes could be used inside the U.S.
In his letter, Holder called the question of drone strikes inside the U.S. “entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur and we hope no president will ever have to confront. … As a policy matter, moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat.”
But Holder then appeared to leave the door open to such strikes in extreme circumstances.
“It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on Dec. 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001.”
In a statement, Paul said, “The U.S. attorney general’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening – it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”
Paul told NBC News that the response by Holder could lead to a situation where “an Arab-American in Dearborn (Mich.) is walking down the street emailing with a friend in the Mideast and all of a sudden we drop a drone” on him. He said it was “really shocking” that President Barack Obama, a former constitutional law professor, would leave the door open to such a possibility.
Paul said he will filibuster Brennan’s confirmation over the issue but acknowledged “we probably can’t stop him.” He did say, however, he intends to co-sponsor a bill with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, to be introduced in the next few days, that would bar the president from using drone strikes in the U.S.
A Draganflyer X6, six-rotor remote controlled helicopter, which can fly up to 20 mph and travel a quarter mile, is pictured at the Grand Valley Model Airfield in Mesa County, Colo. The Draganflyer X6 is a property of Mesa County Sheriff’s Department. Chris Francescani / Reuters
By Chris Francescani
NEW YORK — They hover over Hollywood film sets and professional sports events. They track wildfires in Colorado, survey Kansas farm crops and vineyards in California. They inspect miles of industrial pipeline and monitor wildlife, river temperatures and volcanic activity.
They also locate marijuana fields, reconstruct crime scenes and spot illegal immigrants breaching U.S. borders.
Tens of thousands of domestic drones are zipping through U.S. skies, often flouting tight federal restrictions on drone use that require even the police and the military to get special permits.
Armed with streaming video, swivel cameras and infrared sensors, a new breed of high-tech domestic drones is beginning to change the way Americans see the world — and one another.
Powered by the latest microtechnology and driven by billions in defense industry and commercial research dollars, domestic drones are poised for widespread expansion into U.S. airspace once regulation catches up with reality.
That is scheduled to begin in late 2015, when the U.S. government starts issuing commercial drone permits.
Veteran aerial photographer Mark Bateson, a consultant to the film and television industry and some police departments, said one reality show producer asked him last year whether his custom-made drone could hover over a desert and use its thermal imaging sensors to spot ghosts for a ghost-hunter reality series.
Bateson rejected that request. “But I heard they eventually found someone to do it,” he said.
“Commercially, the culture already exists,” said Ben Miller, a Mesa County, Colorado, sheriff’s deputy who has been flying drones with special authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration since 2009.
“Turn on your TV and pay close attention to major sports events. You’ll see that in many cases they are getting aerial shots using a UAS (unmanned aerial system). I would venture to say that if you’ve seen an action movie in the last five years, chances are that a UAS was used.”
Federal legislation enacted last year requires the FAA to prepare a plan to open U.S. skies in 2015 to widespread use of unmanned aircraft by public agencies and private industry.
Potential markets include agriculture, shipping, oil exploration, commercial fishing, major league sports, film and television production, environmental monitoring, meteorological studies, law enforcement and the news media.
The aviation and aerospace industry research firm Teal Group estimated last year that global spending on unmanned aircraft will double over the next 10 years, to nearly $90 billion, with the U.S. accounting for 62 percent of research and development spending and 55 percent of procurement spending.
For decades, model airplane hobbyists have been allowed to fly small, remote-controlled aircraft up to 400 feet and at least a quarter mile from any airport. While public agencies can get permission to use unarmed drones, all commercial use remains banned.
“As a hobbyist – I can do whatever I want right now, within remote-control guidelines,” said Bateson, the aerial photographer. “But as soon as you turn it into a business … the FAA says you are violating the national airspace.”
Bateson said that whether his drone shoots video for fun or for profit, “There is no greater danger to the national airspace.”
Last year the National Football League petitioned the FAA to speed the licensing of commercial drones, joining Hollywood’s Motion Picture Association of America, which has been lobbying the agency for several years, an MPAA spokesman told the drone news website UAS Vision.
The FAA has issued 1,428 drone permits to universities, law enforcement and other public agencies since 2007, when the agency formally banned commercial drone use. Of those, 327 permits remain active, said FAA spokesman Les Dorr.
Tough to enforce
Bateson flies a customized 48-inch-wide Styrofoam fixed-wing remote-controlled aircraft that cost about $20,000 – compared with up to $1 million for a helicopter. He said his aircraft has logged 1,800 miles and has recorded 60 hours of high-resolution video. He said he has never run into trouble with the FAA.
Patrick Egan, an unmanned aircraft consultant to the U.S. military and editor of sUAS News, a drone news website, said the FAA’s commercial ban on drones is unenforceable.
“How do you possibly enforce these regulations?” he said.
Earlier this year, Connecticut marketing firm ImageMark Strategy and Design launched a drone-powered aerial photo and video service to offer to its existing clients, which include universities, golf resorts and real estate firms.
Partner Scott Benton said his company invested about $20,000 in remote-controlled multi-rotor copters equipped to carry camcorders or SLR digital cameras with swivel tilts. Benton said he wasn’t even aware of FAA restrictions on commercial drone use until after he purchased all the equipment.
He said his company plans to charge clients for editing and post-production work, not the drone flights.
Many commercial drone operators offer similar arguments. Some say they operate only on private land. Others say they are selling data, not drone flight time.
Still others say they will simply take their chances.
“Honestly?” said one commercial operator, who requested anonymity to protect his business. “My hope is that I’m far afield enough and small enough potatoes to the FAA that I can fly under the radar on this one.”
In 2011, News Corp’s tablet news site, the Daily, sent a Microdrone MD4-1000 into the skies over Alabama, Missouri and North Dakota to capture dramatic aerial footage of flood damage. A subsequent FAA investigation resulted in a warning, an FAA spokesman told Reuters. A News Corp spokesman declined to comment.
Last fall, a collective shudder rose up from Hollywood when false reports surfaced that the aggressive tabloid news website TMZ was seeking permission to fly its own drone.
The report was false, but it raised concerns.
“I’m less worried about the police getting a fleet of drones than I am about the news media,” said Egan.
“Imagine what it will be like when the paparazzi can send a fleet of drones into the Hollywood hills.”
The boom in drone use, both private and public, is also raising privacy concerns.
Civil liberties groups are urging federal and state legislators to place immediate restrictions on drone use by U.S. law enforcement agencies, which have historically been quick to capitalize on emerging technology like cell phone tracking.
At least 15 states have drafted legislation that would restrict drone use. In Seattle last month, a public outcry prompted the mayor to order the police chief to return the department’s two new drones to their manufacturer.
An even bigger concern for many is security. The activities of some drone operators are fueling fears about the potential for terrorism or that drones could interfere with manned air traffic and cause an accident.
A group of skilled drone operators using “first person view,” or FPV, technology, has sent Ritewing Zephyr drones that capture high-quality video of visual thrill rides around some of the world’s most famous landmarks.
The group, known as Team Blacksheep, has made a series of videos using drones circling the torch on New York City’s Statue of Liberty and London’s Big Ben clock tower. Team Blacksheep’s FPV drones have darted through the arches of the Golden Gate Bridge and buzzed the peak of the Matterhorn.
The videos, captured at dizzying angles, are wildly popular online, but hobbyists and other drone enthusiasts worry that such videos give the industry a bad name.
“Those are the people the FAA should be going after,” Bateson said.
A Team Blacksheep founder did not respond to requests for comment on security concerns.
Would-be attackers have already tried to exploit drones. Last fall, a Massachusetts man was sentenced to 17 years in prison for plotting to attack Washington, D.C., with three remote-controlled airplanes carrying C-4 explosives.
Last summer, Department of Homeland Security officials challenged Texas aerospace engineering professor Todd Humphreys and his class to try to “spoof” a DHS drone’s GPS system.
GPS “spoofing” is a technique by which a vehicle’s GPS receiver can be tricked and taken over by a slightly more powerful signal that mimics the attributes of the original signal – essentially an airborne hack.
Humphreys and his students succeeded in hacking the drone and took control of its flight path.
If a college class “can spoof the GPS, what can other nation states or terrorist groups do?” Representative Paul Broun (R-Ga.) asked at a recent congressional hearing on domestic drones.
Some U.S. drone designers worry about the consequences of what they see as a slow U.S. response to a rapidly evolving technology.
“The Chinese are going to kill us,” said Texas pilot Gene Robinson, who spent $20,000 designing an innovative fixed-wing drone for search-and-rescue missions. “They have copied every single design, including mine, that they can get their hands on.”
Robinson said he installed Web-tracking software on his drone design Web page and then watched last spring as a Chinese design company “spent a month on my Web page … reverse-engineered my design” and began selling mass-produced copies in December – for $169.
Side-by-side pictures of Robinson’s model and the Chinese model that he showed a reporter look virtually identical.
Robinson went online and ordered one of Chinese models – to see if he could attach his equipment to the cheaper version.
“It was a dog, a pig,” he said. “It didn’t fly worth a damn.”
By M. Alex Johnson
A 7-year-old boy Baltimore boy was suspended from school after his teacher complained that the boy chewed a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun, the boy’s father says.
In a note that was sent to parents Friday, Park Elementary School officials told parents only that “a student used food to make an inappropriate gesture,” WBFF-TV of Baltimore reported.
The boy, Josh Welch, a second-grader, told the station he was actually trying to shape a mountain, “but it didn’t look like a mountain really, and it turned out to be a gun, kinda.”
Josh’s father, B.J. Welch, called Josh’s two-day suspension “insanity.”
“With all the potential issues that could be dealt with at school — real threats, bullies, whatever — the real issue is, it’s a pastry,” he told WBFF. “You know?”
Educators have been extra sensitive to representations of weapons in the wake of the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six educators were killed.
In January, a 5-year-old girl was suspended for making a “terroristic threat” at a kindergarten in the Mount Carmel Area, Pa., School District for saying she was going to shoot classmates and herself with her pink “Hello Kitty” bubble gun.
NBC Philadelphia: Kindergartner suspended for pink bubble gun threat
“This is a good-natured little girl,” said Robin Ficker, an attorney for the girl, who hasn’t been identified because of privacy laws. “And this shows how hysterical people who work at schools have become since Sandy Hook.”
By Le Li
BEIJING — The call came late on Monday night.
“More than 70 police raided our (guest house),” said former policeman He Zuhua. “Police are everywhere.”
His voice shook and he soon hung up, fearing that authorities would trace the call to the public telephone on the capital’s ragged outskirts. NBC News has been unable to reach him since.
He says he and a handful of former police officers are being pursued and detained by authorities after traveling to the capital to help shine a light on corruption within their ranks. The officers have joined droves of unhappy citizens who annually converge on Beijing in the hopes of petitioning their leaders for help during the annual National People’s Congress which started Monday. Each spring scores of petitioners are pulled from buses, trains, sidewalks, and simple hotels and locked up in secret locations, known as “black jails.”
The police stand out because all were once part of the justice system they seek to reform. According to two members of the group of 14 hoping to press for change, all of them are former police officers claiming to be themselves victims of pervasive corruption.
Their plight underscores how hard it is to combat patronage and graft in China, and how easy it was for insiders to fall from grace, said Hu Xingdou, a professor at Beijing Institute of Technology.
“In a country that lacks legal protection, it is not safe for anyone,” he said. “In China the judiciary, which is the base of anti-corruption, is not just.”
“Anyone can fall into a disadvantaged group from an advantaged group,” he added.
The crackdown on police petitioners came after China’s new leader Xi Jinping declared war on corruption, staking his name to promises that he would root out graft that infests everything from kindergarten admissions to the highest levels of government. He has called for anti-corruption campaigns ranging from banning luxury banquets to prohibiting floral displays and red carpet treatment for the official delegations.
According to He, he and the other former police officers from around the country were first rounded up on Feb. 24 as they ate together in a restaurant in Beijing. After 24 hours, three of the petitioners were taken from the detention facility with officials from their home provinces, He said. The rest “escaped,” he said.
“Corruption in the judicial system is the cause of all corruption,” he said before the Feb. 24 incident. “If we cannot change this, then China will collapse.”
Police officials contacted by NBC News denied any knowledge of a raid involving former officers.
He says he had worked in a county investigation unit in China’s central Henan province until 2002 when he refused to give false evidence in a trial involving local officials. He was sentenced to a year in prison on charges of corruption, He says.
Senior officials in Henan told him that his case lacked the proper evidence and promised a new investigation, He says. A decade after He lost his job and nothing had been done about the case.
Both of the police officers NBC News interviewed said they had traveled to Beijing to protest corruption within the judicial system, and hoped to present an open letter asking the delegates of the NPC to address the issue.
The NPC, made up of nearly 3,000 candidates is vested with lawmaking powers. In reality, it has acted mainly as a rubber stamp for the ruling Communist Party decisions. Over time, however, votes on measures or candidates nominated by the party have stopped being unanimous, signaling growing diversity if not the emergence of an opposition. Petitioners come from all over the country seeking redress for wrongs.
Tian Lan says she was once an award-winning senior police officer. After exposing a corruption scandal among local police in Northern Hebei province in 2002, Tian says she was jailed and tortured for a year. A Guangping court in Hebei charged Tian with six crimes including passing on states secrets, but the court failed to present evidence.
Since then Tian says she has been a petitioner. She says that to prevent her from petitioning, the local government has refused to renew her national identity card, which she needs to apply for a new job. Sometimes Tian has had to beg for food, she says.
“If people like me, who are inside the system, are mistreated like this, can you imagine how average citizens are treated?” Tian asked in tears.
Tian and He are not unique.
In the vast central city of Chonqqing, over 1,000 policemen, were recently given back their jobs as redress for mistreatment suffered at the hands of notoriously heavy-handed deposed police chief Wang Lijun. Wang has since been charged with crimes of abuse power for his role in a scandal that brought down charismatic Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai.
Before their arrest Tian and He told NBC they knew they might be detained before their demonstration.
“We are not here out of personal interest, but to fight against this nation’s corruption,” said He. “This country must change.”
By Meghan Keneally
Hillary Clinton has wasted no time cashing in on the lecture circuit as it was revealed today that she will be charging $200,000 per speech.
The massive fee means that she will be making more from a two-hour lecture than she did in a year as Secretary of State.
The announcement that Mrs Clinton has hired a top talent agency to represent her as she begins to give paid speeches following her departure from the State Department came earlier this week, but her $200,000 asking price was only reported on Wednesday.
According to Buzzfeed, that puts her in the same league as her husband former President Bill Clinton who is so in-demand that he can command the six-figure fee.
The volume of the sum is made clear when looked at in comparison to her salary for a year as Secretary of State, which was $186,000.
The venture is her first formal decision about what she is going to do now that she is no longer working, though she is widely considered to be the Democratic front runner should she decide to run for the presidency in 2016.
Her decision to attach her name to his particular New York-based agency comes as little surprise since her husband former President Bill Clinton has long been represented by the group since he left office in 2000.
The move was clearly a lucrative one, as he made $75.6million from 2001 to 2010 from speaking engagements, making $10.7million in just 2010 alone.
President Clinton is not the only big name with the agency, as his former Vice President Al Gore has been booking $175,000 gigs through their connections, and former New York City mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani regularly brings in $100,000 per event.
Former vice president Dick Cheney, former Senators Olympia Snowe and Joe Lieberman, Obama campaign strategist Jim Messina and former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan are all represented by The Harry Walker Agency as well.
Her exact asking price has not been reported, but Politico asserts that she ‘will likely do some speeches for no fee for causes she champions, and expects to occasionally donate her fees for charitable purposes’.
While keeping mum about any future presidential plans, Mrs Clinton has said that she plans to write another book, this time about her work as Secretary of State.
Publishing house Simon & Schuster reportedly paid the former first lady an $8million advance on her first book, Living History, which she published in December 2000.
With any and all positions that she decides to take, she will have to weigh the optics of if it would look appropriate for a presidential candidate.
That said, another concern is shoring up a steady income, because it doesn’t come cheap to live like the Clintons and six-figure speaking fees will certainly help.
Though there were early reports that they might buy a house in the Hamptons area of Long Island, it appears now that they will hustle between their current residences in Washington, D.C. and Chappaqua, a quiet town in the suburbs of New York City.
She is also expected to either work with her husband’s Clinton Foundation or start her own, though no decisions about that have been made at this point.
The only thing that Mrs Clinton has publicly confirmed is that she plans to rest after a very taxing four years of traveling to 112 different countries.
As Mrs Clinton remains coy about her political prospects, her potential competitors are being very blatant in their fundraising attempts.
On the Republican side, both New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Florida Senator Marco Rubio have raised significant sums for their campaign war chests in recent weeks.
Mr Christie attended a fundraiser in his honor at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s California home, and Mr Rubio raised $100,000 by selling water bottles with his name on them, playing on his thirst-quenching gaffe during the State of the Union rebuttal.
They claim that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners would promote healthy eating and is good for school children.
According to the FDA notice issued this week:
IDFA and NMPF state that the proposed amendments would promote more healthful eating practices and reduce childhood obesity by providing for lower-calorie flavored milk products. They state that lower-calorie flavored milk would particularly benefit school children who, according to IDFA and NMPF, are more inclined to drink flavored milk than unflavored milk at school.
(NaturalNews) Milk from dairy cows contains the protein s-lactoglobulin (BLG) which is not present in human milk. As it is a major milk allergen, an attempt at decreasing BLG by genetically modifying cows has gained much attention recently. According to researchers in a recent study, “analysis of hormonally induced milk from [these calves] demonstrated absence of BLG and a concurrent increase of all casein milk proteins.” It is believed that if bred in sufficient numbers, this type of genetically modified cow could one day provide milk for allergic infants and adults.
When will the madness stop?
In what seems like an attempt to distract us from the true dangers of milk, popular media and scientific sources like the one above are focusing our attention on the rare condition of milk allergies in an attempt to justify genetically modifying cows. Yet, only four percent of people are allergic to cow’s milk and doctors claim that most babies eventually outgrow this allergy. It remains clear; however, that the complications of milk consumption continue well into adulthood. It is reported that nearly 50 percent of the world’s population is lactose intolerant after childhood and that symptoms include bloating, pain or cramps, gas, diarrhea, and vomiting. If someone feels ill after consuming a dairy product once, they probably do not have lactose intolerance. However, if symptoms persist after continued dairy consumption, then the likelihood toward lactose intolerance is much higher. Humans do not have the enzymes to properly digest milk proteins like BLG and casein, it is no wonder why most people suffer after drinking milk.
In addition to these deleterious effects of drinking cow’s milk, it is important to note that all of American milk is genetically contaminated by bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase production unless it is clearly labelled “NO rBGH.” Monsanto Co., the manufacturer of rBGH, has influenced U.S. product safety laws permitting the sale of unlabeled rBGH milk. rBGH increases the rates of 16 different harmful medical conditions in cows, and there is substantial scientific evidence that it may increase antibiotic resistance and cancer rates in humans. The product is already prohibited in Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and in the 27 countries of the European Union and the Codex Alimentarius, the U.N.’s main food safety body, concluded there was no consensus that it’s safe for human health.
Whether considering GMOs or undigestible proteins, the risks associated with drinking processed cow’s milk far outweigh any benefits that may be gained from consuming it. Years and billions of dollars have been spent to indoctrinate our nation into thinking that “milk does a body good” and that our main source of calcium should come from it. Yet, it is commonly recognized that the best sources of calcium are green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, okra, and collards. Culinarily speaking, cow’s milk can easily be substituted with coconut or almond milk; both of which provide a creamy texture and are usually quite tasty depending on the brand.
Sources for this article include:
About the author:
Eric is a peer-reviewed, published researcher. His work on heart disease and autism has been accepted internationally at various scientific conferences through organizations like the American Public Health Association and Australian-based Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute. Visit his blog. Track his work on facebook. Read Eric’s other naturalnews.com articles.
The mother of the child shot video that caused a stir in social media after it was posted online.
The incident happened Feb. 8. The girl and her family were about to fly to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. A TSA agent asked to pat down the 3-year-old and screen her wheelchair. The agent initially told the girl’s mother, Annie Schulte, it was illegal to tape the activity.
On the video, the little girl, Lucy, who has spina bifida, is seen crying.
Agents eventually decided against a pat-down.
The TSA says it regrets the incident and will address concerns with its workers.
TSA Wants to Touch Your Kids