NEWS of the Week
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...
We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
NOTE: To see full stories either click on the Daily links or on the URL provided below each article.
Nov 3, 2013
Security analysts: Nearly impossible to harden ‘soft belly' of airports
When a gunman opened fire Friday at a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport, many travelers wondered how it could happen at such a closely guarded facility. But many security consultants thought differently. They questioned why shooters don't enter airport public areas more often.
“When you have so many people concentrated in one place, you are going to have a high probability of an unlikely event,” said Harvey Molotch, a professor at New York University and author of “Against Security — How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger.”
“This was very mild compared to what happened in the past and what could happen. Anyone could mow people down in a shopping mall with a car, or put a bomb in a department store. There are so many ways of creating mayhem. It's all a testimony to how routinely safe and secure we are in the United States.”
LAX officials outlined plans Saturday to provide extra police presence, but experts questioned whether any security efforts could deter a lone gunman on a mission. So many elements of airport security, they say, are designed to ensure no one enters an airplane with a gun or a bomb. But on the other side of security screening, in ticketing lobbies and near checkpoints, airports are not much different from schools, movie theaters and nightclubs.
It is difficult to keep a shooter from firing the first rounds. The key, experts say, is to neutralize the intruder quickly. By most accounts, that happened Friday, with airport police locating the gunman within seconds and chasing him through the terminal. Officers eventually shot and wounded him.
Suits claim Love Canal still oozing 35 years later
Love Canal, the infamous polluted neighborhood of Niagara Falls, may be repeating history. New residents say toxic pollution is also making them ill.
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Thirty-five years after Love Canal's oozing toxic waste scared away a neighborhood and became a symbol of environmental catastrophe, history could be repeating itself.
New residents, attracted by promises of cleaned-up land and affordable homes, say in lawsuits that they are being sickened by the same buried chemicals from the disaster in the Niagara Falls neighborhood in the 1970s.
"We're stuck here. We want to get out," said 34-year-old Dan Reynolds, adding that he's been plagued by mysterious rashes and other ailments since he moved into the four-bedroom home purchased a decade ago for $39,900.
His wife, Teresa, said she's had two miscarriages and numerous unexplained cysts.
"We knew it was Love Canal, that chemicals were here," she said. But when she bought the house, she said she was swayed by assurances that the waste was contained and the area was safe.
Six families have sued over the past several months. Lawyers familiar with the case say notice has been given that an additional 1,100 claims could be coming.
Fugitive CA rapist caught after publicized search
A citizen who recognized Dennis Michael McKenzie, 58, from photos in the media tipped off deputies, and a SWAT team took him into custody.
LOS ANGELES — A publicized search for a paroled rapist who authorities say cut off his ankle monitor and harassed the family of his 80-year-old victim ended Wednesday after he was spotted on a Palm Springs street.
A citizen who recognized Dennis Michael McKenzie, 58, from photos in the media tipped off deputies, and a SWAT team took him into custody, San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Jodi Miller said.
Police had asked for the public's help to find McKenzie, who disappeared from a Long Beach halfway house after getting rid of his GPS tracking device.
McKenzie's parole agent received a tamper alert Oct. 1 and immediately requested a warrant for his arrest, said Luis Patino, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation.
Over the past month McKenzie made more than 50 threatening and obscene phone calls from the Long Beach area to the victim's family home in the San Bernardino Mountains, Miller said. She said the victim's family discovered the threats, which were "graphic, very harassing" on a voicemail machine last week and alerted sheriff's officials.
The calls amplified the push to find McKenzie.
Cops hailed for LAX takedown It could have been worse
The arrest of a crazed shooter authorities said killed one TSA agent and wounded three others at Los Angeles International Airport yesterday is being hailed as a somber victory for airport security officers who subdued the gunman before he could take more lives.
“It's tragic anytime anyone is killed, but it could have been a lot more tragic,” said Tom Nolan, a senior homeland security adviser, former veteran Boston police lieutenant and longtime Boston University criminal justice professor.
The suspected gunman, Paul Ciancia, 23, of Pennsville, N.J., was wounded in the firefight with police, authorities said.Ciancia was found to be carrying a hand-written note that said he “wanted to kill TSA” and “pigs” when he was taken into custody, they said.
“Logan airport is maintaining an appropriate level of security and is monitoring the situation in Los Angeles with our law enforcement partners in the intelligence community,” Massport spokesman Matthew Brelis said. “Our security is multi-layered and we tend not to talk about it in any detail.”
Nolan said airports across the U.S. take quick action after an attack like this, but the response is rarely evident to passengers traveling through.
“What happened at LAX could have happened at any airport in the country,” Nolan said. “We can't blanket airports with security because it would completely immobilize travelers.”
Homeland Security workers routinely boost pay with unearned overtime, report says
Federal employees at the Department of Homeland Security call it the “candy bowl,” a pot of overtime money they have long dipped into to pad their pay even if they haven't earned it, whistleblowers say.
This practice, which can add up to 25 percent to a paycheck, has become so routine over the last generation that it's often held out as a perk when government managers try to recruit new employees, according to these accounts.
In a report submitted to the White House and Congress on Thursday, the federal Office of Special Counsel http://www.osc.gov/ (OSC) details what it calls a “profound and entrenched problem” at DHS and a “gross waste of government funds.” Based on the testimony of seven whistleblowers, the OSC concludes that the pervasive misuse of overtime pay in six DHS offices, including four within Customs and Border Protection (CBP), comes to $8.7 million a year.
At issue is Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime, known as AUO, which is meant only to compensate for urgent and unanticipated work like that often undertaken by law enforcement agents.
Nov 2, 2013
LAX shooting: Suspect Ciancia was suicidal, father says
A reportedly suicidal man carrying an assault rifle stormed into a Los Angeles International Airport terminal on Friday, killing a Transportation Safety Administration agent and wounding six other people until police officers critically wounded him.
Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, reportedly carried a handwritten rant about killing TSA workers, and carried dozens of rounds of ammunition.
“There were more than 100 rounds that literally could have killed everybody in that terminal,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
The TSA agent, identified late Friday as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39, was the first to die in the agency's history.
FBI and Los Angeles Airport police officials released few details about the gunman's intentions and did not confirm reports he was suicidal.
A law enforcement official, who was briefed at LAX on the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly, told The Associated Press that Ciancia was wearing fatigues and carrying a bag containing a note that said he “wanted to kill TSA and pigs.” The official requested anonymity.
The TSA Found 29 Firearms at Airports This Week, Before the LAX Shooting
Guns at airports, even loaded ones, are more common than you may think.
Shots broke out at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday morning, wounding multiple people including at least one Transportation Security Administration officer who reportedly has died. The scene is obviously horrific, and it's the exact sort of nightmare that every traveler dreads to face.
But, it turns out, loaded weapons get stopped at security checkpoints all the time. Over the last week, the TSA discovered 29 firearms—27 of which were loaded. the TSA, (The breakdown of what kinds of guns were found is on the site.)
All of this of course happened before an armed suspect made it into LAX on Friday. And the last week wasn't an outlier. The week before, 39 firearms were discovered. Between Sept. 27 and Oct. 15, the TSA collected 84 loaded arms.
Oh, and in 2012 as a whole, airport screeners found more than 1,500 guns at checkpoints. That was up from a total of 1,320 guns in 2011. Of course, not everyone who brought a gun to an airport intended to do harm. But the sheer number of firearms points to a potential for violence far greater than most people may think.
American airports have never been gun-free. They have only been largely violence-free because of the TSA.
Nov 1, 2013
FAA relaxes rules to allow use of smartphones, electronic devices on planes
The Federal Aviation Administration moved Thursday to considerably relax restrictions covering the use of electronic devices on airplanes, a shift that should allow passengers to tap away on smartphones and tablets during all phases of flight as soon as today.
Passengers still will not be permitted to transmit data below 10,000 feet, so devices such as iPhones and iPads will need to be placed on “airplane mode” at lower altitudes. Making phone calls remains banned at all times.
Carriers cannot make the policy change unilaterally, however, as they must prove to federal officials that the new electronic device policies will not impact flight operations. The FAA originally was expected to move relatively quickly on the airline applications, and JetBlue signaled it hoped to make the change as soon as Thursday afternoon. But the FAA was not prepared to approve proposals so fast.
“JetBlue is in the final stages of gaining FAA's approval on our implementation plan that will allow personal electronic devices through all stages of flight,” JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin said in an email. “We will implement the policy as soon as the FAA gives us their approval.”
All airlines are expected to alter policies soon, but some will move faster than others. Officials at Delta Air Lines also said a policy change could come also come as quickly as Friday. Officials with Southwest, American, US Airways and United said they also were seeking FAA approval, though their applications could take slightly longer than JetBlue and Delta, which both made quick policy changes a priority.
West Philadelphia Community-Police Partnership Recognized with $20,000 National Safety Award
MetLife Foundation honors University City alliance reducing crime and revitalizing neighborhood
University City District (UCD) and the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) will be honored by MetLife Foundation for their extraordinary partnership to improve community safety on Monday, November 4, 10am at the UCD office and Philadelphia Police 18th District substation located at 3940 Chestnut Street. MetLife Managing Director David Fleisher presented the partners with the award.
This partnership was selected from more than 540 applicants nationwide for a MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Award, a program administered by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). The partners' collaborative approach to revitalize the community through a place-based and data-driven approach caught the attention of the national selection committee comprised of police commanders, community development executives and LISC staff.
"Collaboration between community-based groups and police departments can reduce crime, stimulate housing and business activity, and improve the quality of life in lower-income neighborhoods," added Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. "The Philadelphia partnership is an exemplary model for groups nationwide facing similar challenges and opportunities."
The work of UCD and the PPD has grown significantly over the years and has sustained crime declines for their target area. This is the second time the partners are being honored by MetLife Foundation and LISC. In 2004, UCD and the PPD were recognized for their successful revitalization and safety work for the Baltimore Avenue Commercial Corridor Initiative. They are now being recognized with an award in Neighborhood Revitalization and Economic Vitality for the Multi-Institution and Police District Public Safety Partnership.
Violence by al-Qaida prompts Iraq to ask US for help 2 years after kicking us out
A bloody resurgence of al-Qaida in Iraq is prompting Baghdad to ask the U.S. for more weapons, training and manpower, two years after pushing American troops out of the country.
The request will be discussed during a White House meeting Friday between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Barack Obama in what Baghdad hopes will be a fresh start in a complicated relationship that has been marked both by victories and frustrations for each side.
Al-Maliki will discuss Iraq's plight in a public speech Thursday at the U.S. Institute for Peace in Washington.
“We know we have major challenges of our own capabilities being up to the standard. They currently are not,” Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday. “We need to gear up, to deal with that threat more seriously. We need support and we need help.”
He added, “We have said to the Americans we'd be more than happy to discuss all the options short of boots on the ground.”
“Boots on the ground” means military forces. The U.S. withdrew all but a few hundred of its troops from Iraq in December 2011 after Baghdad refused to renew a security agreement to extend legal immunity for Americans forces, which would have let more stay.
Oct 31, 2013
Analysis: NSA's data grab ought to boost privacy concerns
SEATTLE — The latest revelation of how government spies tap into the personal data that U.S. consumers so blithely place into the control of the Internet's advertising giants is the most profound yet.
The Washington Post today outed a National Security Agency data snooping program, code-named MUSCULAR, that copies all traffic flowing between two of the largest online advertising giants: Google and Yahoo.
In the latest installment of revelations from Edward Snowden, the Post is reporting that NSA partnered with its British counterpart, GCHQ, to carry out MUSCULAR.
"This is the first real evidence of deep intrusions by NSA and GCHQ into the internal networks of major Internet companies," says Dave Jevans, chief technology officer of mobile security firm Marble Security. "By essentially copying all traffic that flows through these networks, the intelligence agencies can see everything that happens at these companies."
MUSCULAR appears to give government snoops access to not just contact lists and address books — last week's Snowden revelation — but all e-mail and business documents, including Google docs which is used by hundreds of thousands of companies.
Bike share programs — a new public safety hazard?
The US bike-sharing fleet has doubled but helmet use is low, prompting concern among health care experts
The streets of big cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco have gotten a little more crowded lately — not with automobiles but with bicycles.
Since spring, all three have launched bike-sharing programs, joining a raft of other cities in the United States and around the world that allow people to rent bikes by the hour or day.
Thanks to the newcomers, the U.S. bike-sharing fleet has doubled since the beginning of 2013, and it is expected to double again by the end of 2014, according to the Earth Policy Institute .
Public-health officials see just one problem with this: Bike sharers, for the most part, are not wearing helmets when they ride. And officials are worried how many riders will show up in emergency rooms.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), cycling represented the highest number of head injuries requiring emergency room visits of any recreational sport in 2009, the latest year for which information is available. Cycling-related head injuries were almost twice those for football and dwarfed those for baseball and softball, basketball, water sports and motor-powered recreational vehicles such as go-carts and all-terrain vehicles.
Oct 30, 2013
From the White House
President Obama Welcomes James Comey as FBI Director
Today, President Obama welcomed James Comey to his new post as the seventh Director of the FBI. Comey previously worked as an attorney and later served as deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice. At the FBI Headquarters, the President praised Comey's dedication, judgment, and commitment to the ideals of the FBI.
“Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity: That's your motto,” the President told the men and women of the FBI. “And today, we're here to welcome a remarkable new leader for this remarkable institution, one who lives those principles out every single day: Mr. Jim Comey.”
President Obama reiterated Comey's qualifications for the job.. “It's just about impossible to find a matter of justice he has not tackled, and it's hard to imagine somebody who is not more uniquely qualified to lead a bureau that covers all of it -- traditional threats like violent and organized crime to the constantly changing threats like terrorism and cyber-security,” he said.
The President also said he'd keep fighting to restore FBI funding that was cut by the sequester.
The FBI joins forces with our intelligence, our military, and homeland security professionals to break up all manner of threats -- from taking down drug rings to stopping those who prey on children, to breaking up al Qaeda cells to disrupting their activities, thwarting their plots. And your mission keeps expanding because the nature of the threats are always changing.
From the FBI
The Risks to the Thin Blue Line
Latest Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted Report Released
A Florida detective was shot and killed while investigating a residence believed to house a meth lab. An Arizona deputy sheriff lost his life responding to a burglary alarm at a business. A Washington state park ranger was shot and killed after she attempted to conduct a traffic stop.
These three law enforcement officers were among the 48 officers around the nation who died in 2012 as a result of felonious incidents in the line of duty, according to the FBI's latest Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) report. All 48 officers would have undoubtedly considered their actions a part of the job. But the duties performed by these brave men and women—and others just like them—are far from routine, and this latest report continues to highlight the risks law enforcement officers face on a daily basis.
Our latest LEOKA report also provides information on another 47 officers who died during 2012 as a result of accidents sustained in the line of duty and on the 52,901 law enforcement officers assaulted in the line of duty.
LEOKA's overall goal is to reduce law enforcement deaths and assaults. By providing agencies with detailed descriptions of circumstances leading to officer fatalities and injuries every year, police training programs can be continuously enhanced to help officers stay safe during similar situations.
Beyond publishing the LEOKA report, the FBI has other initiatives that are designed to help protect law enforcement.
Oct 29, 2013
Ted Cruz Tells Trayvon Martin's Mom 'Stand Your Ground' Is Not About Race
During a Senate hearing on "stand your ground" laws and public safety, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tried to dismiss claims that such laws had racial implications. Because many black people are victims of violent crime and need to defend themselves, Cruz said, "the notion that 'stand your ground' laws are some form of veiled racism may be a convenient political attack, but it is not borne out by the fact remotely." The chair of the subcommittee, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, offered a quick and biting rebuttal. Sitting in front of the two was Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother.
The hearing stemmed from the 2012 shooting of Martin, the Florida teenager shot to death while walking back from the convenience store after being confronted by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. That case prompted new consideration of the type of self-defense law that, at first, allowed Zimmerman to go free without criminal charges.
Cruz, echoing a common line from conservatives, argued that the laws benefit African-Americans — slyly citing Barack Obama's statements 2004 in defense of his position.
Cruz: The chairman of this committee, a moment ago, made a remarkable statement that to the effect that no one could reasonably believe that "stand your ground" laws protect those in the African-American communities who are victims of violent crimes. I think that is a remarkable statement on many, many fronts, including the fact that a great many African-Americans find themselves victims of violent crime, and have asserted this defense to defend themselves, defend their families, defend their children.
Oct 28, 2013
Jackson's doctor released from jail after 2 years
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The doctor convicted of killing Michael Jackson was released from jail Monday after serving nearly two years of a four-year sentence.
Conrad Murray was released from a downtown Los Angeles jail at 12:01 a.m., according to the sheriff's office. A change in California law allowed his incarceration time to be significantly cut down.
The former cardiologist was convicted in 2011 of causing Jackson's death in June 2009 by providing the superstar with an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid. Jackson was in the midst of preparations for a series of comeback concerts and Murray was serving as his personal physician.
Murray's prospects are uncertain: At age 60 his license to practice medicine has been suspended or revoked in three states and his face and name are well known due to his association with Jackson and his highly publicized involuntary manslaughter trial.
The former doctor is appealing his conviction, although an appeals court has questioned whether it needs to hear the case. His attorney Valerie Wass has argued that the court shouldn't dismiss the appeal because it could alter his overall sentence and reduce some of the stigma his conviction has caused.
NY To Judge: Unseal Documents On '71 Attica Riot
New York's attorney general has asked a state judge to unseal documents about the 1971 riot and retaking of Attica state prison, the nation's bloodiest inmate rebellion.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wants the court in Wyoming County to open hundreds of detailed pages about the five September days when inmates took control of the maximum-security prison in rural western New York until state troopers and guards stormed the facility.
Schneiderman says it's time to bring transparency to what he referred to as one of state government's darkest chapters. The sealed documents are part of a 1975 report by a special commission that examined New York's efforts to investigate the riot and its aftermath.
In all, 11 staff and 32 inmates died — all but four shot by authorities.
Macy's joins Barneys in NYC 'shop-and-frisk' scandal
New York civil rights leaders on Saturday decried the city's brewing "shop-and-frisk" scandal, in which major retailers Barneys and Macy's are accused of profiling black shoppers who say they were detained by police after buying luxury items.
Also on Saturday, rap star Shawn "Jay Z" Carter defended his partnership with Barneys after coming under pressure to cut ties with the company.
"We've gone from stop-and-frisk to shop-and-frisk," said the Reverend Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network, alluding to a police crime-fighting tactic that critics say amounts to racial profiling.
A representative of Sharpton's group is set to meet next week with Mark Lee, the chief executive of Barneys New York, following allegations from two black shoppers that they were detained by New York police and accused of fraud after buying luxury items at Barneys.
In a third such allegation this week, actor Rob Brown of HBO's "Treme" told New York's Daily News on Friday he had been "paraded" through a Midtown Manhattan Macy's in handcuffs in June, and held for an hour, after purchasing a $1,350 gold Movado watch for his mother.