Monthly Archives: March 2013

Militarized police assault weapons and grenades terrorize residents during urban warfare training

assualt terror
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

timesunion.com | Mar 25, 2013

By Lauren Stanforth

Albany

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.”

TSA chief: ‘Small knives can’t bring down a plane’ […of course]

“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

wptv.com | Mar 14, 2012

By Thom Patterson CNN

knives-allowed(CNN) — As the airline industry piles on against him, the man who ordered knives to be allowed on U.S. commercial airliners defended his decision Thursday on Capitol Hill.

“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.”

“We’re unaware of a single incident involving these knives”

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.

Popes and demons: Mysterious Vatican bank poses problem for new pontiff

The massive round tower, left, is the headquarters of the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican’s secretive bank.

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images FilesThe massive round tower, left, is the headquarters of the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican’s secretive bank.
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National Post | Mar 8, 2013by Adrian Humphreys
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CLICK TO ENLARGE

CLICK TO ENLARGE

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.

Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg Files

Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg FilesThe city of Rome, in Italy, is seen beyond St. Peter’s Square from the roof of the Basilica in Vatican City.
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Ernst von Freyberg. The Canadian Press Files.

Ernst von Freyberg. The Canadian Press Files.

“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.

Graham Hughes for National Post

Few outside the Vatican’s inner circle eye church finance as closely as Carlo Calvi, who now lives in Montreal. Graham Hughes for National Post
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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.

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg Files

Blackfriars Bridge in London, U.K. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg Files
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“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.

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.

Courtesy Carlo Calvi

“God’s Banker” Roberto Calvi, whose body was found hanging from a London bridge in 1982, meets Paul VI in an undated photo. Courtesy Carlo Calvi
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“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.

Tiziana Fabi/AFP/GettyImages Files

The former head of the Vatican bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was forced to resign from his post on May 24, 2012 “for failing to carry out duties of primary importance,” the Holy See said in a statement. Tiziana Fabi/AFP/GettyImages Files
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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.

Pier Paolo Cito / The Associated Press Files

Then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, left, now former Pope Benedict XVI, looks on as late Pope John Paul II celebrates Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in 2002. Pier Paolo Cito / The Associated Press Files
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National Post, with files from news services

Why a drone can hover over your home, and you can’t stop it

800px-AR_Drones
Private drones. Source: Creative Commons

National Constitution Center | Mar 8, 2013

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 developing electro-optics to detect and track human targets with 3-D imaging

MIST-IR 10 March 2013

DARPA pushes ahead with 3-D electro-optical sensors for target identification and tracking

militaryaerospace.com | Mar 10, 2013

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 BAA-13-27@darpa.mil. Put MIST Conference Registration in the subject line. A SECRET security clearance is required to attend.

Nixon Wanted Total Handgun Ban, White House Records Show

nixon mao
Nixon shaking hands with his friend, mass-murdering anti-gun communist dictator Mao Zedong who stated that “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Nixon: “People should not have handguns.”

Nixon never made his wish for a handgun ban public

inquisitr.com | Mar 9, 2013

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.

Judge slams speed camera scam

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Judge Robert Ruehlman of Hamilton County Common Pleas Court said Elmwood Place’s speed cameras are unfair to motorists.(Photo: Amie Dworecki, The Cincinnnati Enquirer)

“It is a scam the motorist cannot win,” the judge wrote in invalidating the ordinance.

Cincinnati Enquirer | Mar 8, 2013

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.

STORY: Speed cameras a flash point in Slovenia

STORY: States split over traffic cameras

“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.