SOMERS, Connecticut | DMN – Convicted killer Steven Hayes was found unresponsive in his death row cell on Monday, Connecticut authorities said. Awaiting his date with a state execution, Hayes, 50, was found in his cell at the Northern Correctional Institute around 9:35 a.m. by officers on their “routine tour,” who revived the killer. A spokesman would not reveal whether Hayes attempted suicide or suffered a medical emergency, saying instead that the incident is under investigation. Hayes was the only inmate in his cell at the time, and is now reportedly in stable condition at a local hospital, the Connecticut Department of Corrections said.
Hayes and his accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 33, followed Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, to their Cheshire home on July 23, 2007, as a planned robbery. The scheme ended with both men raping Michaela and Hawke-Petit, whom Hayes strangled. The men covered the home in gasoline and left the girls tied up before lighting the residence on fire. Both girls died of smoke inhalation. The lone survivor was husband and father Dr. William Petit Jr., who escaped his basement prison before the fire was lit. Both Komisarjevsky and Hayes were convicted and sentenced to death.
The death penalty was repealed in Connecticut in 2012, but those convicted of the death penalty prior will still be executed. Both Komisarjevsky and Hayes were convicted and sentenced to death. The death penalty was repealed in Connecticut in 2012, but those convicted of the death penalty prior will still be executed. “It’s in my head all day and all night,” he told the newspaper last September. “I’ll never forgive myself for that.” “I don’t deserve to live,” he added. “I don’t want to live.” William Petit has since remarried and recently welcomed a baby with his new wife.
Forgive my penchant for drama with the ‘Iron Curtain’ reference but it seems as if we have been down this road before. Russian troops are laying landmines and stretching barbed wire creating a new border between the Ukraine and Crimea. One moment Monday morning, a Ukrainian flag still was flying over a military base in Ukraine’s Crimea region — the base’s commander reportedly kidnapped by pro-Russian troops the day before. Later Monday, masked troops were at the base, and the Ukrainian flag was gone.
The bloodless incursion by apparently pro-Russian forces onto the Ukrainian base in the city of Bakhchisaray — amid disputed accounts over whether the base commander had switched sides — was one of the latest encounters between pro-Moscow troops who are consolidating their hold on the Black Sea peninsula and Ukrainian forces who still are there. The incident at the base came a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel bluntly told Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone the Moscow-backed referendum on whether Crimea should join Russia is illegal and would violate Ukraine’s constitution if it goes ahead on March 16.
Putin has defended breakaway moves by pro-Russian leaders in Crimea, where Russian forces have been tightening their grip on a region that has been the epicenter of a battle for influence among Moscow, Kiev and the West since Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster last month. Pro-Russian forces last week pushed into the autonomous region in a bloodless siege, prompting criticism from Western nations and Ukraine’s interim government. Moscow has denounced the events that led to Yanukovych’s ouster as an illegitimate coup and has refused to recognize the new Ukrainian authorities, putting the two countries on a collision course over control of Crimea, which has longstanding ties to Russia and has thousands of Russian troops stationed there.
Putin has said Russia has the right to protect Russians living in the former Soviet republic. As tensions mount, Ukraine’s armed forces carried out training exercises to test their readiness, the country’s Defense Ministry said. Citing televised comments made by Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh on Sunday, it said the army was not calling for full mobilization, as diplomacy was still the preferred method to resolve the crisis. Prime Minister of the autonomous region, Sergey Aksenev, was recently appointed commander-in-chief by the region’s parliament, giving him the power to form an army, government spokeswoman Ekaterina Polonchuk told CNN.
Aksenev told the Interfax news agency that the decision to form a military stems from “the presence of illegal armed groups in the territory of Crimea,” comments confirmed to CNN by Polonchuk. So far, it appears a small number of men have joined the new army. Monday’s appearance of masked troops at the Bakhchisaray base came a day after a pro-Russian group appeared to have kidnapped base commander Vladimir Sadovnik at a checkpoint, according to the Ukrainian military. When a CNN crew visited the base Monday morning, the Ukrainian military was in charge, but Sadovnik still was missing. The deputy commander said that if “they to try blackmail us into giving up the base, it won’t happen.”
Three hours later, the crew returned to the base, and the Ukrainian flag was no longer flying there. Masked gunmen were on the property, looking at the crew from the other side of a fence. The deputy commander told CNN said 15 gunmen came to the base with Sadovnik, and that the gunmen were planning to take vehicles from the base. CNN was not allowed inside. What Sadovnik did upon his return is disputed. Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said Sadovnik had switched allegiance and persuaded some of the Ukrainian troops there to join him. Sadovnik and the men who joined him loaded trucks with fuel, radios and other goods to take away from the base, according to Seleznyov. But Sadovnik, talking later to CNN by phone, denied Seleznyov’s account. He said his kidnappers allowed him to return to the base, and that he still was loyal to Ukraine. He said pro-Russian forces did ask Ukrainian troops at the base to change sides Monday, but that he did no such thing. He said he still was at the base; CNN couldn’t immediately verify his location.
The control of base wasn’t immediately clear Monday. Seleznyov said both Ukrainian and Russian flags were flying at the base late Monday afternoon. Putin earlier this month secured permission from his parliament to use military force to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine. The move came days after Yanukovych’s flight from the country. Yanukovych was ousted after three months of protests against his decision to spurn a free trade deal with the European Union and turn toward closer ties with Moscow. At the United Nations, French Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters the situation in Crimea “is worsening by the day.” Russian troops are being reinforced and Moscow appears ready to annex the region, he said after a Security Council session Monday afternoon.
“(The session) was a call to the Russians: We want to negotiate. We want a political settlement. Please don’t worsen this crisis,” Araud said. But he added, “The Russians are not showing any signal that they are listening to us — not only to the Security Council, but to all the heads of state and government.” And British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said no “free and fair” vote could be held “while Crimea is under the illegal control of Russian troops and armed militias who are denying access to international monitors.” ”In the light of these concerns, if the referendum goes ahead on the 16th of March, its results must be considered illegal and illegitimate by all nations,” Grant said.
Earlier, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said a group of about 20 pro-Russian activists from the so-called Crimea self-defense squads had broken into the military hospital in the region’s main administrative city, Simferopol, and thrown out its chief. In a later statement, it said the hospital chief was back at work after negotiations but added the premises were being blockaded by the activists. However a CNN team that traveled to the hospital found it very quiet, with no one around. A guard on duty said he had not heard or seen anything unusual and that there was no senior official to speak with as Monday was a public holiday. In the course of the rapidly changing events of the past week, a propaganda war over Ukraine has quickly developed as each side seeks to strengthen its stance.
Scenes of balaclava-wearing men without insignia patrolling streets or other premises have now become a familiar sight in the region. Reports of confrontations weren’t limited to Crimea. In the eastern mainland Ukrainian city of Lugansk, just a few kilometers west of the Russian border, 50 to 60 pro-Russian activists burst into an IRTA TV station building on Monday, editor-in-chief Katerina Rakova said. The intruders initially threatened to burn the building if they weren’t allowed to broadcast. But they eventually left, warning that they would return if they are dissatisfied with the station’s news broadcasts about pro-Russian demonstrations in Lugansk, Rakova said.
Russia, meanwhile, accused far-right groups Monday of “conniving” with the new authorities in Ukraine. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned “lawlessness” in eastern Ukraine and accused the West of being silent over violence and detentions taking place against Russian citizens, such as one incident last week when it said masked gunmen fired on and injured peaceful protesters. On Monday afternoon, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “increasingly alarmed” by developments in Ukraine. ”Recent events in Crimea in particular have only served to deepen the crisis. As tensions and mistrust are growing, I urge all sides to refrain from hasty actions and provocative rhetoric,” he said.
NATO jets to monitor Ukraine border
NATO is to deploy reconnaissance planes in Poland and Romania to monitor the Ukrainian crisis. It gave the go-ahead for the flights on Monday, a NATO spokesman said. ”All AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control System] reconnaissance flights will take place solely over alliance territory,” the official said. It comes as Russia cements its control of Ukraine’s Crimea ahead of Sunday’s referendum to join Russia. Ukraine and the West say this is illegal. In the latest move on Monday, armed men – said to be Russian troops and local militias – seized a military hospital in Crimea. The attackers marched into the hospital in the regional capital Simferopol, threatening staff and some 30 patients.
Pro-Russian troops are also blockading Ukrainian troops across Crimea, which is an autonomous region. Moscow has officially denied that its troops are taking part in the blockades, describing the armed men with no insignia as Crimea’s “self-defense” forces. The government in Kiev – as well as the US and EU – accuse Russia of invading Ukraine, in violation of international law. NATO said the surveillance flights would “enhance the alliance’s situational awareness”. Last week, the organisation said it was reviewing all co-operation with Russia and stepping up its engagement with the government in Kiev. NATO’s announcement on Monday came hours after men in military uniforms broke into the Simferopol hospital, where Ukrainian soldiers and veterans were being treated. Some of the patients were reported to be seriously ill.
The hospital director said he was forced onto a bus and kept there for half-an-hour. The attackers also herded staff into a reception to apparently meet “the new directors”, Ukraine’s Interfax-Ukraina news agency reports. Separately, pro-Russian troops tried to capture a military transport base in Bahkchysarai, a town between Simferopol and the city of Sevastopol. The gunmen fired warning shots into the air, but Ukrainian soldiers repelled the attack. Step-by-step, and meeting very little resistance, the pro-Russian troops are dismantling Ukraine’s ability to resist in Crimea, says the BBC’s Christian Fraser, who is in the region.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of people in Ukraine held rival pro-unity and pro-Russian rallies. Moscow supporters beat up their opponents in Sevastopol. Some of the attackers were Russian Cossacks with whips. Pro-Russian activists also seized regional offices in the eastern city of Luhansk, forcing the governor to resign. Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier defended Crimea’s decision to stage a referendum on 16 March. Mr Putin said “the steps taken by Crimea’s legitimate authorities are based on international law”. However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told him in a phone call that she considered the vote illegal. Both EU leaders and the US have warned Moscow they would slap even tougher sanctions if Russian troops remained in Crimea.
Unrest in Ukraine erupted in November after former President Viktor Yanukovych’s last-minute rejection of a landmark EU deal in favour of a bailout from Russia. Mr Yanukovych was ousted last month, and a new government has been voted in by the Ukrainian parliament which Russia says was a “coup”.
BEIJING, China | DMN – China has urged Malaysia to “step up its efforts” in the search for the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane that disappeared on Saturday. Malaysia said it was widening the hunt, after days of searching found no trace of the plane or the 239 people on board – most of whom were Chinese. Rescue teams from nine countries will now scour areas stretching from the Malacca Strait to the South China Sea. Beijing-bound flight MH370 vanished shortly after it left Kuala Lumpur. Relatives of the missing passengers have been told to prepare for the worst.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang had earlier urged the Malaysian authorities to sharpen its search efforts. ”We have a responsibility to demand and urge the Malaysian side to step up search efforts, start an investigation as soon as possible and provide relevant information to China correctly and in a timely manner,” he said. Patience appears to be wearing thin in the search for the missing airplane, says the BBC’s Celia Hatton in Beijing. The Malaysian authorities are attempting to address Chinese concerns – they have reissued a pledge to fly worried family members to Kuala Lumpur so they can be closer to the search efforts, our correspondent adds. But one victim’s relative – Guo Qishun, whose son-in-law was on the plane – said he did not see the point of flying to Malaysia.
Richard Westcott BBC Transport Correspondent
This sudden disappearance is baffling experts. Pilots and investigators have described it as “weird” and “bizarre”. Most problems leave some kind of trace. If an aircraft’s engines fail, it can still potentially glide for around 80 or 90 miles, giving the pilot time to radio a mayday call. If the cabin depressurises, maybe because it loses a window, the crew will rush to lose altitude, but the aircraft would not break up. Even if the pilots fell unconscious through lack of oxygen, the aircraft would keep flying and someone on the ground would notice it had gone quiet.
There are emergency codes pilots can enter if a hijacker’s trying to break into the flight deck. And other aircraft flying around normally listen across to the emergency channel so they’re likely to have heard any distress call. It all points to a sudden, catastrophic break-up in mid-air. But until they find the aircraft they will struggle to work out why.
“If we go to Malaysia, we can do nothing but wait, just like we are doing in Beijing now. If we go to Malaysia, who can we rely on? Most of us don’t speak English,” he told the Associated Press news agency. Earlier, the Malaysian authorities said they had identified one of the two men travelling on the missing plane on stolen passports. Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said they could not reveal his identity, but confirmed the man was not Malaysian. International police agency Interpol has confirmed the passengers were travelling with Italian and Austrian passports stolen in Thailand years ago. At a news conference on Monday, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the two men were “not Asian-looking men”. He insisted that all security protocols had been complied with before the plane took off.
Experts say the presence of two passengers with stolen passports is a breach of security, but is relatively common in the region and could relate to illegal migration. Some 40 ships and 34 aircraft from nine different nations are taking part in the search in the seas off Vietnam and Malaysia. Commander William Marks from the US Seventh Fleet, which is taking part in the search, said he expected the plane’s flight recorders to be floating in the water. He said the recorders, also known as “black boxes”, were fitted with radio beacons that can be picked up by radar. Despite a wide search, radar had not so far picked up any signals, he said. None of the debris and oil slicks spotted in the water so far have proven to be linked to the disappearance.
Frank Gardner BBC security correspondent
According to Interpol, it takes just two-tenths of a second to scan a passenger’s passport against Interpol’s database of missing travel documents. Yet somehow, at least two of the passengers on board the missing Malaysian Airline flight had stolen passports that were not spotted. There has long been a flourishing trade in lost and stolen passports in South East Asia, mostly involving crime, drug trafficking and people smuggling. The two stolen passports used to board flight MH370 on Saturday were both lost in Thailand in 2012 and 2013.
“The database system is there, it is available and we would encourage people to use it,” said an Interpol official. The agency says about four out of 10 air passenger journeys undertaken do not include a check against its database, something it says is a security loophole.
Officials say they still have no idea what went wrong. Malaysian military officials said on Sunday they were widening the search area because of indications the plane, a Boeing 777-200ER, may have turned back from its scheduled route shortly before vanishing from radar screens. Investigators are looking at all angles, including a possible terrorist attack. Counter-terrorism agencies and the FBI are involved in the operation. The passengers on the flight were of 14 different nationalities. Two-thirds were from China, while others were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.
Malaysia Airlines is the country’s national carrier, flying nearly 37,000 passengers daily to some 80 destinations worldwide. On Monday, shares in Malaysia Airlines fell 18% to a record low. It is regarded as one of the world’s safest and most popular jets, which comes complete with a range of technologies designed to keep it in touch with air traffic controllers on the ground. Fitted with an ASD-B flight transponder which, unlike the GPS in a car, broadcasts its location by sending information back to air traffic controllers every second, the Boeing 777 would appear to have the necessary technology to prevent it disappearing completely without a trace. Yet early Saturday morning, this is precisely what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, as it made its way, 35,000 ft in the air, from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The transponder on the plane, which is also fitted with an indestructible black box recorder and a beacon to continue transmitting its location should the aircraft land in water, should provide air traffic controllers on the ground with the aircraft’s speed, altitude and direction, according to Tom Clarke, of Britain’s Channel 4 News. But the signal from the transponder was lost at 1.20am, without a change in altitude or course, which has suggested to some a sudden event caused the plane to crash.
Crews however are also able to speak to their airline through ‘discrete radio channels’, according to aviation expert John Goglia, writing on the Forbes website. Again, he argues the sudden end to all communication, without a distress signal, suggests a ‘catastrophic failure of the aircraft’. He says: ‘A complete electrical failure is extremely unlikely because of redundancies in the system, especially the ram air turbine which uses the power of the wind generated by the aircraft’s motion in flight to generate electricity which would power critical navigation and communication systems, as well as flight controls. ’But even if the aircraft had a complete electrical failure, the aircraft could have continued to fly.’ He goes on to argue the plane could have eventually flown to an area where it would have been picked up again by radar, concluding it was ‘too early to speculate’ on what has caused the disappearance.
The long-range jumbo jet has helped connect cities at the far ends of the globe, with flights as long as 16 hours. But more impressive is its safety record: The first fatal crash in its 19-year history only came last July when an Asiana Airlines jet landed short of the runway in San Francisco. Three of the 307 people aboard died. Airlines like the plane because it is capable of flying extremely long distances thanks to two giant engines. Each engine is so massive that a row of at least five coach seats could fit inside it. By having just two engines, the plane burns through less fuel than four-engine jets, like the Boeing 747, which it has essentially replaced. ’It has provided a new standard in both efficiency and safety,’ said Richard Aboulafia, an aviation consultant with the Teal Group. ’The 777 has enjoyed one of the safest records of any jetliner built.’
Besides last year’s Asiana crash, the only other serious incident with the 777 came in January 2008 when a British Airways jet landed about 1,000 feet short of the runway at London’s Heathrow Airport. Malaysia Airlines did have an incident in August 2005 with a 777 flying from Perth, Australia, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s largest city. While flying 38,000 feet above the Indian Ocean, the plane’s software incorrectly measured speed and acceleration, causing the plane to suddenly shoot up 3,000 feet. The pilot disengaged the autopilot and descended and landed safely back in Perth. A software update was quickly made on planes around the world. Malaysia Airlines has 15 Boeing 777-200ER jets in its fleet of about 100 planes. The first was delivered on April 23, 1997, and the most recent on December 13, 2004, according to Boeing. The 200ER is one of four versions of the 777.
GREENCASTLE, Indiana | DMN — A Sheriff’s Deputy in Indiana’s Putnam County, who also serves on the Greencastle city council, is facing four federal criminal charges of using excessive force during the arrests of four citizens. U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett announced the charges Monday against Terry Joe “TJ” Smith. Hogsett said the alleged actions of Smith hurt all police officers, eroding the public’s trust in the men and women of law enforcement. Hogsett said the criminal probe also was part of a concerted effort on the part of the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office to root out public corruption. It is at least the 30th public corruption case prosecuted by Hogsett’s office in the past two years.
Smith, who has been a deputy since 2010, pleaded not guilty to the civil rights violation charges Monday afternoon in federal court at Terre Haute. If convicted, Smith faces up to 10 years on each of the four counts. Indianapolis attorney John L. Tompkins, who is representing Smith, said his client will remain in federal custody until a bond hearing Thursday. He said Smith has been the subject of just one prior disciplinary action, cursing in public, which landed him a one-day suspension. Tompkins said he does not know what prompted the probe of Smith. “We found out about this case due to the fact the FBI was serving grand jury subpoenas on deputies,” he said. “We contacted the U.S. attorney’s office and offered to cooperate, but they declined our offer.”
Tompkins said he is in the process now of obtaining police and medical records from the arrests in question. Smith, 37, also is a member of the Greencastle Common Council, but none of the federal charges is related to his role in city government. Smith was a deputy in good standing with the Sheriff’s Department when he was arrested this morning, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley A. Blankington. He said only the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office were involved in the probe that grew out of complaint to federal authorities. Blankington said he did not know if the Putnam County sheriff was aware of the allegations or had conducted any type of investigation. No additional charges are expected against Smith or other sheriff’s department officers in connection with the four incidents, he said.
Putnam County Sheriff Steve Fenwick issued a statement saying he has suspended Smith pending further action by the Sheriff’s Merit Board. “The Putnam County Sheriff had no communication with federal law enforcement authorities during the course of their investigation,” Fenwick’s statement said, “and has had no communications as to what charges were filed against Deputy Smith.” Smith was indicted by a federal grand jury on four counts following an investigation conducted over several months. Blankington said other law enforcement officers and civilians witnessed the incidents cited in the indictment.
The allegations against Smith state:
• On Nov. 6, 2010, Smith used a Taser on a person who already was secured, resulting in bodily injury.
• On Sept. 7, 2012, Smith punched an individual who already was secured, resulting in bodily injury.
• On June 26, 2013, Smith threw a person to the ground while that person was handcuffed and drove his knee into the individual’s back, resulting in bodily injury.
• On Dec. 28, 2013, Smith threw a female to the floor of a truck stop, then took her outside and placed her face-down on lava rock and held her down for an extended period of time.
Charging documents do not identify the victims by name nor do they reveal what prompted Smith’s interaction with them. Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter said his office had not received any complaints regarding the conduct of Smith. How the charges against Smith may impact pending criminal cases in which the officer was involved will have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, Bookwalter said. Robert A. Jones, the agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis division, said civil rights violations under the color of law are among the agency’s highest criminal priorities because they erode the public’s trust in law enforcement. “There is no acceptable level of corruption or abuse of power,” Jones said.
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana | DMN — Despite a springlike start to the week, winter and substantial snow will make a comeback across the Midwest and Northeast at midweek. A winter storm will take shape across the lower Midwest states Tuesday night and then track into the Northeast and Atlantic Canada Wednesday through Thursday. The storm will drop a swath of substantial snow along the cold side of its path, threatening to cause yet another round of disruptions to travel and daily routines. Parents should prepare for a day or two of school cancellations in the areas hit the hardest.
The corridor from northern and central Indiana to northern New England has the greatest potential of being targeted by the substantial snow. While a plowable snowstorm is anticipated across parts of the Midwest and Ohio Valley, the heaviest snow will target interior New England. Totals can exceed 1 foot in northern New England, where near-blizzard conditions may evolve. Along the northern New England coast, the snow may first mix with or fall as rain. Motorists can anticipate difficult driving conditions on lengthy stretches of highways and interstates. The snow could come down heavily for a time, quickly clogging roads and making travel treacherous.
Numerous flight delays and cancellations can be expected throughout the lower Midwest and Northeast with potential ripple-effect delays elsewhere in the United States. The storm will initially spread mainly rain across communities around the Ohio River and along the I-95 corridor from Providence, R.I., to New York City to Washington, D.C. However, colder air plunging southward on the back side of the storm may set the stage for the rain to end as a period of snow and/or cause any wet spots on untreated roads and sidewalks to turn icy.
Such danger will unfold across the Ohio Valley on Wednesday, then will shift to the corridor of I-95 that is mentioned above Wednesday night and Thursday morning. The impending winter storm will come despite a taste of spring across the eastern half of the nation early this week. As the warmth begins to build throughout the Midwest and East on Monday, the storm — in its beginning stages — will focus its snow on the northern Rockies with amounts topping 6 inches across central Idaho. The snow will streak southeastward to Iowa through Tuesday evening with amounts lessening to a couple inches. A separate band of snow with similar totals will also drop along the I-25 corridor of southern Wyoming and Colorado during this time. Tuesday night is when moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will be tapped into and the winter storm will begin to ramp up.
Emails obtained by NBC News reveal that officials at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission — the government agency that oversees reactor safety and security — purposely misled the media after the Fukushima, Japan disaster in 2011. On Monday this week — one day shy of the third anniversary of the Fukushima meltdown — NBC published emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act that for the first time exposes on a major scale the efforts that NRC officials undertook in order to diminish the severity of the event in the hours and days after it began to unfold. “In the tense days after a powerful earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan on March 11, 2011, staff at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission made a concerted effort to play down the risk of earthquakes and tsunamis to America’s aging nuclear plants,” Bill Dedman wrote for NBC.
Through the course of analyzing thousands of internal NRC emails, Dedman and company unearthed evidence that proves nuclear regulators went to great lengths to keep the scary facts about the Fukushima meltdown from being brought into the public eye. Even when the international media was eager to learn the facts about the Fukushima tragedy while the matter was still developing, emails suggest that the NRC’s public relations wing worked hard to have employees stick to talking points that ignored the actual severity of the meltdown. ”While we know more than these say,” a PR manager wrote in one email to his colleagues, ”we’re sticking to this story for now.”
That story, Dedman wrote, was filled with “numerous examples…of apparent misdirection or concealment” waged by the NRC in an attempt to keep the true nature of the meltdown hidden, especially as concerns grew that a similar event could occur on American soil. “The talking points written during the emergency for NRC commissioners and other officials were divided into two sections: ‘public answer’ and ‘additional technical, non-public information,’” Dedman wrote. “Often the two parts didn’t quite match.” According to NBC, emails indicate that the NRC insisted on sticking to talking points that painted a much different picture than what was really happening three years ago this week. Japanese engineers employed by the NRC at American facilities were effectively barred from making any comments to the media, some emails suggest, and at other times those regulators rallied employees at the NRC to keep from making any comment that could be used to disclose the detrimental safety standards in place at American facilities.
In one instance cited by Dedman, spokespeople for the NRC were told not to disclose the fact that American scientists were uncertain if any US facilities could sustain an earthquake like the one that ravaged Fukushima . ”We’re not so sure about, but again we are not talking about that,” reads one email cited by NBC. At other times, the report added, NRC officials were left in the dark about what was actually unfolding on the other side of the Pacific because access to social media sites had been blocked on their work computers, causing some regulators to only hear about information pertaining to Fukushima once it trickled down to a point where they could access it.
In one email, for example, NRC public affairs official David McIntrye wrote in apparent disbelief to his colleagues that scientist and actor Bill Nye was participating in “an incoherent discussion on CNN” about a potential hydrogen explosion at Fukushima. “I’m not buying it,” McIntyre wrote. Five minutes after that email was sent, a colleague responded by writing, “There is a good chance it was a hydrogen explosion that took the roof off that building, though we are not saying that publicly.” Days later, McIntyre blasted his supervisor for hesitating during a CNN interview in which he was asked if US plants could withstand an earthquake on par with the one suffered by residents of Fukushima. “He should just say ‘Yes, it can.’” McIntyre wrote, instead of hesitating. “Worry about being wrong when it doesn’t. Sorry if I sound cynical.”
NBC News did not respond specifically to emails published in Dedman’s report, but the agency’s public affairs director emails a statement ensuring that ”The NRC Office of Public Affairs strives to be as open and transparent as possible, providing the public accurate information in the proper context.” “We take our communication mission seriously. We did then and we do now. The frustration displayed in the chosen emails reflects more on the extreme stress our team was under at the time to assure accuracy in a context in which information from Japan was scarce to non-existent. These emails fall well short of an accurate picture of our communications with the American public immediately after the event and during the past three years,” NRC Public Affairs Director Eliot Brenner wrote in the email.
Arguably more disheartening than the NRC officials’ attempt to whitewash the disaster, however, are the facts of the matter addressed in secret by the agency but not disclosed publically. More than 30 of the nuclear power reactors in the US are of the same brand used in Fukushima, NBC reported, and some of the oldest facilities in operation have been in use since the 1970s. Despite this, though, the NRC instructed employees to not mention how any of those structures would be able to stand up against a hypothetical disaster. On Monday, Fukushima expert and author Susan Q. Stranhan published an op-ed carried by the Philadelphia Inquirer which called into question the safety of the several nuclear facilities within the state of Pennsylvania, where a disaster in 1979 at Three Mile Island refocused national attention on the issue of nuclear safety.
“During Fukushima, the NRC recommended that Americans living within 50 miles of the plant evacuate, a wise call based on a dangerous radiation plume that spread about 30 miles northwest of the reactors. Despite that experience, the NRC today remains steadfast in its belief that the existing 10-mile emergency evacuation zone around US nuclear plants is adequate and that there would be plenty of time to expand that zone if conditions warranted,” Stranahan wrote. “Three years after Fukushima Daiichi, the NRC and the nuclear industry continue to repeat a familiar mantra: The likelihood of a severe accident is so low there is no need to plan for it. That was what the Japanese said, too.” Meanwhile, DMN reported last month that a new lawsuit has been filed by crewmembers who sailed on the USS Ronald Reagan three years ago to assist with relief efforts off of the coast of Fukushima but now say they were poisoned by nuclear fallout. When filed, Attorneys said that “up to 70,000 US citizens [were] potentially affected by the radiation” and might be able to join in their suit.
CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson has reached an agreement to resign from CBS News ahead of contract, bringing an end to months of hard-fought negotiations, Politico reported on Monday. Attkisson, who has been with CBS News for two decades, had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network’s liberal bias, an outsized influence by the network’s corporate partners and a lack of dedication to investigative reporting, several sources said. She increasingly felt like her work was no longer supported and that it was a struggle to get her reporting on air.
At the same time, Attkisson’s own reporting on the Obama administration, which some staffers characterized as agenda-driven, had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting. She is currently at work on a book — tentatively titled “Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth in Obama’s Washington” — which addresses the challenges of reporting critically on the Obama administration. Feeling increasingly stymied and marginalized at the network, Attkisson began talking to CBS News President David Rhodes as early as last April about getting out of her contract. Those negotiations intensified in recent weeks, and her request was finally honored on Monday.
Reached by phone, Attkisson described her resignation as “amicable.” She said she will now turn her attention to the book, which is being published by HarperCollins, a division of NewsCorp (and not by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS Corporation.) Sonya McNair, the senior vice president for communications for CBS News, said in a statement: “CBS News veteran Sharyl Attkisson is leaving the news division to pursue other endeavors. We appreciate her many contributions and we wish her well.” But Attkisson had become a polarizing figure at the network, sources there said. While some championed her relentless dedication to investigations — ranging from defective Firestone Tires to the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal — others saw evidence of a political agenda, particularly against President Obama. (The bulk of Attkisson’s work since 2009 has focused on the failures or perceived failures of the Obama administration, including the administration’s failed green energy investments and the attack in Benghazi, though she has reported on several Republican failures as well.)
Others have suggested that CBS News itself was politically biased: “It’s no secret that Sharyl has been unhappy about CBS’s lack of interest in investigative reporting, especially when it comes to stories about the Obama administration,” a source close to Attkisson said. Attkisson’s frustrations aside, the network maintains a dedicated investigative unit, which produces packages that appear across CBS News programming. Attkisson joined CBS News from CNN in 1993. She served as an overnight anchor for two years before becoming a Washington-based correspondent, a position she held until this week. She has won five Emmy awards for her reporting on Fast and Furious, the Red Cross, Republican fundraising, TARP and border patrol.
Is there bias at CBS News? Of course there is but the reality is that it probably lies more with individual producers, editors and some reporters as opposed to some corporate mantra that says ‘thou shall be liberal.’ The reality is probably closer to the fact that her bosses simply did not think much of her ‘facts’ which is, admittedly, a problem anytime you work in corporate journalism. The reality is that unless a network skewers the current office-holder, they are labeled as ‘liberal’ while the FOX News Channel is labeled as the ‘G.O.P. mouthpiece.’ Both descriptions are true or not true depending on the story and on any given day.
WASHINGTON, D.C. | DMN — US intelligence plans to introduce a massive system of internal surveillance by electronically monitoring the behavior of up to 5 million federal employees with secret clearances, current and former officials told the Associated Press. The computerized system would provide continuous monitoring of financial and other databases of government employees, according to officials and documents reviewed by the AP. Speaking before Congress in February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the proposed system would extend “across the government,” drawing on “six or seven data streams.”
While the Defense Department has had such a system in the works for more than decade, revelations made by NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden have likely expedited its implementation. Monitoring of employees at some agencies could begin as early as September and be fully operational across the government by September 2016. The price tag, Clapper conceded, ”is going to be costly.” An administration review of the government’s security clearance process, due later this month, is expected to support continuous monitoring along with a raft of other substantive changes. Workers with secret clearances are already required to undergo background checks before being hired and may be subject to future re-investigations if necessary, though Clapper told Congress last month that intermittent checks were insufficient. ”What we need is a system of continuous evaluation where when someone is in the system and they’re cleared initially, then we have a way of monitoring their behavior, both their electronic behavior on the job as well as off the job,” Clapper said.
The system is expected to cull through multiple sources of information, including private credit agencies, law enforcement databases and threat lists, military and other government records, licenses, data services and public record repositories to spot unusual behavior patterns. Investigators would then analyze the data along with information gathered from social media and even polygraph tests, officials said on condition of anonymity. Although the system draws parallels between monitoring systems already in place within the airline and banking industries, it most clearly mirrors the Pentagon’s Automated Continuous Evaluation System (ACES).
The ACES program, designed by researchers from the California-based Defense Personnel and Security Research Center and defense contractor Northrop Grumman, has passed several pilot tests but is not fully operational. According to project documents, ACES links to up to 40 databases, including previously available government documents, but also information from three major credit agencies. One former official familiar with ACES said researchers had considered adding records from medical and mental health files, but decided to defer to policy makers as a result of privacy concerns. Research into ACES has so far cost $84 million.
The internal monitoring system would provide a technological component to President Barack Obama’s much maligned Insider Threat Program proposed in July. As part of the initiative, Obama ordered millions of federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues based on suspect behavioral profiling techniques. Federal employees and contractors were asked to monitor co-workers for key ‘indicators’ that include stress, divorce, financial problems, odd working hours and unexplained travel as means of predicting whether thy might do “harm to the United States.”
Last week, outgoing NSA Director Keith Alexander said intelligence, Defense and Cyber Command officials are collaborating on “insider threat” planning, with the Pentagon requesting nearly $9 million next year for its insider threat-related research. The NSA, meanwhile, is already conducting electronic monitoring of agency staffers involved in surveillance operations. Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor, last year exposed dragnet global surveillance programs. The leaks exposed the agencies’ practices of tapping the internet networks, emails, and phone calls of millions of ordinary citizens at home and abroad.
WARSAW, Poland | DMN – The US is sending a dozen F-16 fighter jets and nearly 300 service personnel to Poland by Thursday as part of a training exercise in response to the crisis in neighboring Ukraine, the Polish defense ministry confirmed. The agreement to deploy US military forces in Poland was made between US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Poland’s Minister of National Defense Tomasz Siemoniak during a telephone conversation on Sunday, March 9, 2014, according to a statement on the official website of the Polish Ministry of National Defense. ”The squadron will number twelve F-16 planes and will transport 300 soldiers,” Polish Defense Ministry spokesman, Jacek Sonta, confirmed to AFP.
Initially, the training exercise was planned to be smaller but was increased and pushed forward because of the “tense political situation” in neighboring Ukraine, added Sonta. The ministry also said that the aim of sending the units is to “strengthen Polish – American cooperation.”Part of the preparation team of US Air Force has already arrived on Polish territory. The fighters were sent on the initiative of the Polish government, an initiative immediately accepted by Washington. Poland is a western neighbor of crisis-torn Ukraine – between the countries’ capitals, Warsaw and Kiev, there is less than 700 km. Earlier, the Polish media reported that US fighter jets would be stationed at the Lask air force base in central Poland.
Washington is also sending four F-15 planes to Lithuania in response to “Russian aggression in Ukraine and increased military activity in Kaliningrad,” according to the Lithuanian Defense Ministry. On Saturday, US Navy destroyer, the USS Truxtun, crossed Turkey’s Bosphorus and entered the Black Sea. The ship, with around 300 crew, was heading to “previously planned” training exercises with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies. When the vessel appeared in the Black Sea, Fox News declared that NATO’s bolstering presence in the Black Sea is a “defensive” measure to counter “Russian military aggression” in Ukraine.
USS Truxton, one of the largest destroyers ever built for the US navy, will reportedly stay in the Black Sea till mid-March as the Montreux Convention allows a warship of any non-Black Sea country to stay in the region for 21 day only. The situation in Ukraine is close to financial and humanitarian catastrophe after the armed coup which took place in February. There are mass protests in eastern and southern parts of the country against the self-proclaimed authorities in Kiev. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea has scheduled a referendum for March 16 on whether it wants to remain part of Ukraine, or join Russia.