Daily Archives: January 6, 2013

Cops kicked out of Denny’s for having guns

Five plainclothes detectives were kicked out of a Denny’s restaurant for carrying their guns.

latimes.com | Jan 3, 2013

By Matt Pearce

Are you a cop? Do you carry a gun? Don’t go to the Denny’s in Belleville, Ill.

You are not allowed, the police chief says. Not after what happened Tuesday.

The flapjacks — sorry, the flap — began when several on-duty detectives with the Belleville Police Department dropped in to Denny’s for some on-duty noshing, according to local media.

They had their badges and their guns, but as detectives, not their uniforms, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This bothered a patron who then complained to a manager, David Rice, who then complained to one of the detectives: Please take your gun to your car or leave. No guns allowed.

“Upon further discussion, we became aware the individual was a plain-clothed police officer,” Denny’s spokeswoman Liz DiTrapano said in a statement, according to the News-Democrat. “Denny’s policy permits law enforcement officials to carry their firearms in the restaurant, and we regret any misunderstanding.”

Denny’s sure does, because despite the efforts of a general manager who tried (and failed) to clear up the misunderstanding before the detectives left, the department’s chief banned on-duty and off-duty police in uniform from returning to the restaurant.

“This was an insult, a slap in the face, to those detectives and to all of the men and women who proudly wear the uniform or badge and serve in law enforcement,” Police Chief William Clay said, according to the News-Democrat.

“This individual [Rice] was the manager of Denny’s. He therefore speaks for Denny’s, in my mind. This policy effectively prohibits on-duty sworn police officers from dining in a Denny’s Restaurant, but allows ‘registered sex offenders,’ ‘felons’ and or ‘pedophiles’ to enjoy a dining experience in Denny’s.”

N.Y. state, county officials revolt over publishing map of gun permit-holders

A map published by Lohud.com indicates the addresses of all handgun permit-holders in Westchester and Rockland counties in New York. (Lohud.com / Google maps)

latimes.com | Jan 3, 2013

By Matt Pearce

It’s getting hard to find a public official in Putnam County, N.Y., who thinks putting the names of gun permit-holders on a map does anybody good.

On Thursday, a flock of officials gathered at a news conference to announce their support for County Clerk Dennis Sant’s decision to refuse a public-records request by the White Plains-based Journal News for a list of licensed handgun permit-holders, whose names and addresses are public record under law.

The state’s top open-records official previously told the Los Angeles Times that county officials would be breaking the law by refusing the newspaper’s request.

On Dec. 22, the newspaper published online an interactive map that included the names and address of people who had pistol permits  licensed by Westchester and Rockland counties. The map led to so much outrage that the newspaper has hired armed guards to protect its newsroom. Reporting on one recent incident, the newspaper said it received a suspicious envelope containing white powder on Wednesday evening, which was deemed to be nontoxic.

The Journal News also wants to publish a similar map for Putnam County, but officials have resisted. On Thursday, there was no indication of the battle easing after Putnam County officials said they’re prepared to take the fight all the way to its conclusion, according to statements released by the office of state Sen. Greg Ball, a Republican who represents the area.

“We simply cannot stand by and allow this to happen,” Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said in a statement. “Safeguarding our citizens is of the utmost importance right now.”

Odell told The Times on Wednesday that the map had endangered residents with restraining orders as well as first responders, such as law enforcement personnel, whose addresses were now out in the open.

“Today you can take what The Journal News put into print, go on Google Earth and virtually be sitting on the front porch of a house reading the license plate of a car parked in the driveway,” Sant said in the statement. “This county clerk refuses to put law-abiding citizens in harm’s way.”

And the county officials charged with upholding the law — Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith and Putnam County Dist. Atty. Adam Levy — also appeared at the news conference to show their support.

“I am deeply troubled by the fact that releasing this information will provide the names and addresses of members of law enforcement, including members who may be working undercover,” Smith said. Levy said the newspaper’s publication was not “prudent.”

The statute on handgun permits in New York states, “The name and address of any person to whom an application for any license has been granted shall be a public record.” State law also says that officials can be docked for attorneys’ fees if a court finds they had “no reasonable basis for denying access.”

The Journal News cited the Newtown, Conn., massacre that left 28 dead, including the shooter, in publishing the data, saying some residents wanted to know more about people who held handgun permits in their area. The paper published an FAQ early Thursday morning explaining the map but not the reasons for its publication, which has been criticized by some (though not all) major media critics.

In a statement given to The Times on Wednesday, Journal News President and Publisher Janet Hasson said, “We believe the law is clear that this is public information and the residents of Putnam County are entitled to see it. We’re troubled that county officials have apparently switched their position since we first requested the information.”

In its story about Thursday’s Putnam County news conference on the publication of the data, the Journal News quoted a state assemblyman blasting the newspaper for its efforts.

“The Journal News has really come up with the perfect map for the perpetrators and for the stalkers and for the criminals,”  Assemblyman Steve Katz said. “They have yet to give us a cogent reason why, except for the reason that they can. I am sorry — that is not acceptable.”

The story did not quote any of its own personnel in response to their critics.

Hasson did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday and could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

New Jersey man busted for offering ‘Cannibal Cop’ $5,000 to kidnap woman so he could rape and murder her

Authorities charged last fall that Valle had undertaken surveillance of some of the women at their places of employment and their homes

Federal authorities arrested Michael Vanhise, 23, at his New Jersey home and charged him with conspiracy to commit kidnapping with ‘Cannibal Cop’ Gilberto Valle III

Vanhise offered to pay Valle $5,000 to kidnap a woman so he could rape and kill her, U.S. officials said

Valle was arrested in October and charged with plotting to kidnap, torture, cook and eat dozens of women

Both men face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted

Daily Mail | Jan 5, 2013

A New Jersey man offered to pay the ‘cannibal cop’ $5,000 to kidnap a woman so he could rape and kill her, U.S. officials alleged on Friday.

Federal authorities arrested Michael Vanhise, 23, at his home Friday morning and charged him with conspiracy to commit kidnapping with Gilberto Valle III, the former New York police officer who was arrested in October and charged with plotting to kidnap, torture, cook and eat dozens of women.

In a series of emails last year, Vanhise tried to bargain down the kidnapping fee and urged Valle to ‘just make sure she doesn’t die before I get her,’ according to a criminal complaint released on Friday.

‘No need to worry,’ Valle replied in an email, prosecutors allege. ‘She will be alive. It’s a short drive to you.’

Vanhise, of Hamilton, New Jersey, admitted to investigators that he sent the emails, prosecutors said

Valle, 28, nicknamed the ‘cannibal cop’ by New York media, was accused of targeting women whose names were discovered in a file on his computer. In November, he pleaded not guilty and said he was merely engaged in online fantasy role play.

Vanhise was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping. He was expected to appear in court Friday afternoon.

The Cannibal Cop!! NY Police Officer Planned to Kidnap 100 Women, then Rape, Kill, and Cook them

The emails between the two men ‘read like a script from a bad horror film,’ Manhattan federal prosecutor Preet Bharara said Friday in a statement.

Vanhise was also accused of emailing photos and the home address of a girl from his neighborhood to two unnamed people, according to a criminal complaint, which said Vanhise solicited the girl’s kidnapping.

Prosecutors said Vanhise tried to bargain down the price for the kidnapping to $4,000.

‘Could we do 4?’ Vanhise asked Valle in an email last February, according to the complaint.

‘I am putting my neck on the line here… $5,000 and you need to make sure that she is not found,’ Valle responded. ‘She will definitely make news.’

Valle’s estranged wife tipped off authorities after she discovered a disturbing file on his computer, a law enforcement official said at the time.

The file, called ‘Abducting and Cooking: A Blueprint,’ contained the names and pictures of at least 100 women, and the addresses and physical descriptions of some of them, according to court documents.

Authorities charged last fall that Valle had undertaken surveillance of some of the women at their places of employment and their homes.

Valle was denied bail by a judge who called the charges ‘profoundly disturbing.’

Both men face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. The case has disturbed even veteran criminal investigators.

‘No effort to characterize the defendant’s actions is necessary,’ said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos in a statement. ‘The factual allegations more than suffice to convey the depravity of the offense.’

Earlier this week it was reported that Valle has asked prosecutors to give him the names of 20 other suspected cannibals.

His lawyers insisted he needed to contact the alleged criminals to prepare his defense, since he was accused of being in league with them.

Gaza children haunted by nightmare of Israeli bombardments bear psychological scars

Young boys pick through the ruins of a bombed building in the Gaza Strip in November during the latest round of violence between Israel and Hamas. (Washington Post file)

In Gaza Strip, children bear psychological scars of conlifct

Washington Post | Jan 5, 2013

By Abigail Hauslohner

GAZA CITY — Fatima still dreams about Ahmed. Sometimes, they’re playing with toys as they used to do. But in other dreams, she’s looking over the edge of the balcony at her brother’s smashed and bloodied body, her father screaming through his tears.

Ahmed was 7 when he was killed by an Israeli airstrike during the 2008 Israeli invasion of Gaza. Fatima was 8 years old at the time — but “old enough to remember,” said her father, Osama Mohamed Qurtan.

Four years later, Fatima has been through therapy. She has taken what her father calls “strong” medications to manage the flashbacks. The new apartment is darker and more cramped than the old one, but the Qurtans needed to get away from the scene of the trauma, the doctors said.

Fatima’s listlessness and aggression had started to improve, Qurtan said — until war struck again in November.

Gaza’s Children Haunted by Nightmare of War

Besides killing our children in Gaza, a great number of Palestinian children in Occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank get arrested by Israel each year

This time, the explosions felt just as personal as they did the last, the possibility of death just as likely. When Israeli airstrikes rattled the buildings for a week during the Jewish state’s latest confrontation with Hamas, the eight surviving Qurtan children hid in the stairwell, as Gaza schools have taught children to do.

Gazans often talk about the inescapability of war and the symptoms of their suffering. They cast Gaza as a prison — one physical and psychological, where Israeli bombardment comes every so often, and there is little to do but bear it.

There are few places in the Arab world where psychology and trauma are as openly discussed as they are in Gaza. But health professionals here argue that there are few places in the region that contain a population so traumatized, a youth so obsessed with conflict.

Every day on his return home from school, Ahmed Qurtan’s cousin and best friend Zohair sees a banner bearing a portrait of himself, bloodied and bandaged. Hanging next to it, on a wall in the entryway to the family’s building, is a similar portrait of Ahmed in his funeral shroud. Zohair used to be much smarter and more active before suffering a head injury in the same airstrike, said his father, Alaa Mohamed Qurtan.

“He’s not normal now,” the man said.

Psychologists say that few in Gaza would qualify as “normal.” The cramped territory has operated under an Israeli-enforced blockade that has limited the flow of goods and people since the militant group Hamas won an election in 2006. The enclave’s 1.7 million people, half of whom are under the age of 18, have endured two wars in the span of four years. Nearly everyone in Gaza knows someone who has died a violent death.

No one in Gaza wants a return to occupation. But the absence of interaction between Gazans and Israelis has left the younger generation with a different perspective.

Issam Younis, director of the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza City, says he and his peers still have some Israeli friends. “We still speak Hebrew,” he said.

“But those young guys, they’re a little bit different from their parents. And the Israelis created them that way,” Younis said. “Those guys — the people under 20 — their only engagement with the Israelis is through the Apache and the F-16.”

Severe cold winter weather conditions bring snow and ice to Vietnam

Snow has covered O Quy Ho Mountain Pass in Sa Pa District of Lao Cai Province since the beginning of the year (Photo: SGGP)

Cold wave unrelenting in Northern Region

talkvietnam.com | Jan 4, 2013

by saigon-gpdaily

Severe cold wave conditions since the beginning of winter this year have caused much difficulty for people in the northern region with farm crops suffering and an increasing number of people being hospitalized with weather related ailments.

Temperatures plunged to below 10 degrees celsius in the northern region and to subzero level in Lao Cai Province, where snow and icy layers covered the Hoang Lien Mountain Range and O Quy Ho Mountain Pass for two consecutive days on December 31 and January 1.

People in Sa Pa District have moved their livestock to suburban areas in Lao Cai City and Bat Xat District to avoid the biting cold.

Farmers in the Red River Delta said that low temperatures and frost at night has affected vegetable and rice crops in the last month.

General hospitals in the mountainous provinces of Lang Son, Cao Bang, Lai Chau, Lao Cai and Yen Bai received hundreds of people in the last few days, causing overloading.

Nguyen Van Thuan, director of the General Hospital in Lao Cai Province said that they are operating at three times the capacity to treat nearly 500 patients at present. The numbers of children coming for health checks and treatment have surged to 200 a day. Several elderly people have also fallen sick.

Hospitals in Hanoi, like the National Hospital of Pediatrics, Bach Mai and Saint Paul, are also treating a large number of people with weather related ailments.

According to Can Phu Nhuan from the National Hospital of Pediatrics, they now receive an average of 1,800-2,000 children a day, an increase of 25 percent above normal. The respiratory ward at Saint Paul Hospital is also seeing more than 500 children a day.

Le Thanh Hai, deputy director of the National Hydro Meteorological Forecasting Center, said that from now until Tet Lunar New Year, the northern region will suffer another 4-5 extreme cold waves.

These cold waves will also affect the central region and bring strong northeasterly winds and cause rough seas with 4-5m high waves.

Shifting towards a Little Ice Age: Climate Change in the Arctic

Climate Change in the Arctic

Published Sep 10, 2012

Piers Corbyn of www.weatheraction.com discusses the facts and fictions surrounding Climate Change, and Ice in the Arctic.

…the world is in fact cooling…even though CO2 has been rising…By any measure, world temperature is declining…We are shifting towards a Little Ice Age. The claim that Arctic ice is shrinking is actually false.”

China shivers through coldest weather in almost three decades as 1000 ships freeze solid

Investigators inspected a port where ships are stuck in ice in Jinzhou, Liaoning Province, on Saturday. China Daily/Reuters

Thousands stuck in airport as China freezes

gulftoday.ae | Jan 6, 2013

BEIJING: Thousands of angry passengers were stranded after heavy fog delayed flights at a Chinese airport early on Saturday, as the country was shivered through its coldest weather in almost three decades.

Temperatures in China have plunged to their lowest in almost three decades, cold enough to freeze coastal waters and trap 1,000 ships in ice, official media said at the weekend.

Ten thousand passengers were stuck in Changshui International Airport in the southern Chinese city of Kunming on Saturday morning after thick fog grounded more than 280 flights, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Angry passengers stranded at the airport for more than a day struggled with airline staff, damaging computer equipment belonging to an airline, while police broke up scuffles, a photographer present at the scene late on Friday told the reporter.

China: cold hits 28-yr low, 1000 ships trapped in ice

“The passengers were really furious, they kept going to the service desk to ask for information, but didn’t get any answers,” the photographer said.

Flights at the airport resumed on Saturday afternoon after the fog lifted, Xinhua said.

China is suffering its coldest winter for 28 years, the news agency on Saturday quoted China’s Meteorological Administration as saying.

Temperatures recorded over the country since November have averaged minus 3.8°C, while northeast China saw average temperatures of minus 15.3°C, its coldest winter for 43 years.

Plunging temperatures trapped around 1,000 ships in sea ice off eastern China’s Shandong province this week, Xinhua reported, while snowfall delayed more than 140 flights in Beijing last month, the China Daily said.

An annual Ice and Snow Festival in the northeastern city of Harbin, famous for its enormous ice-sculptures, is scheduled to open today, as temperatures in the city fall below minus 24°C.

Temperatures in northern China are expected to pick up next week, although parts of south China will continue to experience snow, Xinhua reported.

Zheng Dong, chief meteorologist at the Yantai Marine Environment Monitoring Centre under the State Oceanic Administration, told the paper that the area under ice in Laizhou Bay was 291 square kilometres this week.

Transport around the country has been severely disrupted. One truck driver in southeastern Jiangxi province, caught in a 5-kilometre queue caused by a pileup that happened after heavy snowfall, told  China Daily the snow and extreme cold had caught him unawares.

“I didn’t expect such a situation, so I’ve brought no warm coats or food. All I can do now is wait,” trucker Yao Xuefeng told the paper.