Archive for April 19, 2012
CONROE, Texas — (DMN) – A vocational-nurse who recently suffered a miscarriage appeared before a Montgomery County judge on Thursday after being accused of killing a mother and stealing her 3-day-old infant son Tuesday from outside a suburban Houston pediatric clinic. Verna McClain, 30, appeared before a Conroe judge in a pink and white striped jumpsuit. When asked if she understood the capital murder charge against her, she replied: “Yes, sir.” McClain is accused of fatally shooting Kala Golden SchuchardtTuesday evening in the parking lot of Northwoods Pediatric Centerin Spring, north of Houston, before placing the woman’s 3-day-old infant Keegan Schuchardtin her car and speeding off.
Deputies tracked down McClain that night, and she confessed to the shooting and abduction of Schuchardt, officials said. Deputies found the boy unharmed around 8 p.m. Tuesday at a home in northwest Harris County where McClain told detectives she had taken him, the arrest record states. The infant is now with family members. McClain, a nurse and mother of at least two other children, had suffered a miscarriage but did not tell her fiance, who she planned to marry in May. Authorities said she told the man that she had given birth to their baby, and detectives said she was looking for a baby to pass off as their child. Police said they do not believe anyone else was involved in the attack.
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Detective John Schmitt said McClain, who authorities say has admitted shooting Golden and stealing the baby, does “appear remorseful for what happened.” In court on Thursday, Judge Fred Edwards appointed E. Tay BOnd as McClain’s attorney. Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon asked for a motion to deny bail, saying he was ready to present evidence to support his request. The judge decided not to change her bond status but agreed to delay the case until Monday so that McClain’s attorney would have time to review the case. After the court appearance, Bond said he expects McClain will plead not guilty in the case.
KTRK-TV reported on Thursday that McClain was placed under suicide watch. “She’s being held in what they call 24-hour holding, which is suicide watch. She is being tended to. I looked at the records and at this point I have no complaint about her treatment in the Montgomery County Jail,” Bond told KTRK. McClain’s estranged husband said he was shocked at the events of recent days. “She’s not a violent person, so for her to shoot someone, it was shocking,” said Theo McClain, 34. “This is all crazy to me. ” Verna McClain allegedly told her sister that “she now had the child and would be needing to do the adoption,” according to her arrest record. Theo McClain, who lives in San Diego, said she had told him nothing of any plan to adopt a child. He described her as someone who loved people, children and the elderly. He said there never has been an indication of mental illness.
Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said McClain’s statements appear to indicate the shooting was part of a plan: “There were statements as indicated in the arrest record that were made by Ms. McClain that led us to believe that, in fact, this was an intentional act on her part. Not that Ms. Golden was targeted specifically, but that this was part of a plan to kidnap a child.” McClain was engaged and planned to marry in May, said Lt. Dan Norrisof the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. She had told her fiance that she had given birth to their baby, but detectives said she had a miscarriage. Authorities said that McClain was looking for a baby to pass off as their child.
McClain’s sister, Corina Jackson, lived at the apartment complex where the 2007 Lexussedan believed to have been used in the killing and kidnapping was found, detectives said. The car’s registered owner is Jackson, according to Department of Motor Vehiclesrecords. When police showed up at the complex, Verna McClainapproached them and appeared willing to help. During questioning, however, her story began to unravel. She finally began to disclose her role and revealed the whereabouts of the baby, officers say. Previous reports of an accomplice in the kidnapping and shooting appear to be unfounded, detectives said, though the incident remains under investigation.
Police found the boy unharmed at about 8 p.m. Tuesday at a home in northwest Harris County where McClain told detective she had taken him, the arrest record stated. Ligon said the boy was placed briefly in the care of Child Protective Services. CPS spokeswoman Gwen Cartersaid the boy has since been reunited with some family members. She said CPS workers assisted police to make sure the family’s home environment was safe for the boy. He and his two siblings are with the same relatives, she added. Verna McClain’s mother was distraught upon learning of the killing and kidnapping. “I don’t know what’s going on – that’s not my kid,” McClain’s sobbing mother told KHOU-TV on Wednesday. “But I’m sorry for the family.”
Iron Mike Tyson says he impregnated an Indiana prison official while locked up at the Indiana Youth Center now known as the Plainfield Correctional Facility, west of Indianapolis, during his incarceration between 1992 and 1995. The heavyweight champion has gone from a wild hoodlum from Brooklyn (or “the Devil’s bedroom,” as he calls it) to a controversy-addled, multimillionaire boxer to an actor to a peace-and-pigeon-loving TV personality.
“I didn’t talk about getting a prison official pregnant,” he told ESPN’s Rick Reillyof topics he left out of his one-man Las Vegas stage show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth.” “Oh yeah. In prison, stuff happens. But she had no baby.” Though he doesn’t specify when the incident occurred, Tyson served three of his 10-year sentence behind bars for the alleged rape of an 18-year-old woman. He was released in 1995. Tyson, 45, is the father of eight children, including two with current wife Kiki.In addition to his jail time romp, Tyson also discussed his former drug use, running down a laundry list of his drugs of choice. “I just liked morphine,” he told Reilly, “but I had to take a lot of it because it didn’t stay in your system for a long time. … And I’d have my cocaine, and I had my marijuana, and I had my Cialis and Viagra and my little friends all sitting there. “That’s just how I lived my life.” Tyson’s Vegas tell-all ran from Friday to Wednesday.
No comment yet from Indiana prison officials.
Awhile back, I shared with you an opinion/editorial piece about the way “we” communicate with each other. In essence, I took all of us to task for expressing opinions…saying things…behind the anonymity of a computer keyboard that we would likely not say in public. I told you the story about my Great-Grandfather who called Franklin Roosevelt “old dog face.” Papaw didn’t like democrats and from what I have learned through the years he did not hesitate to let everyone know. I didn’t know my papaw, he died when I was a baby but I learn about him from my 92 year old grandmother. I suppose calling our elected officials names has gone on forever but I don’t recall it being this bad. I don’t recall our national dialogue being this nasty.
I came across another opinion piece today by Andrew Keen who is a British-American entrepreneur and professional skeptic. He is the author of “The Cult of the Amateur,” and the upcoming (June 2012) “Digital Vertigo.” This is the latest in a series of commentaries for CNN looking at how internet trends are influencing social culture. Read on…
The comment on the Facebook page of the Norwegian tabloid newspaper Verdens Gang last July was unequivocal. “The death penalty is the only just sentence in this case!!!!!!” it said. Written by Thomas Indrebo, the “case” to which the message referred was the meticulously planned mass murder of 77 people in Oslo on July 22, 2011by Anders Behring Breivik. This week, the Breivik case has finally come to Oslo central criminal court. But Indrebo, who, as it happens, had been selected as a “lay” judge (the Norwegian version of the U.S. and UK jury system), wasn’t in court. He had been dismissed for his Facebook comment which the case’s presiding judge, Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, suggested could “weaken trust in his impartiality.”
Strangely enough, even Breivik, who posted his murderous intentions on his own Facebook page just before the July rampage, might have agreed with Indrebo’s Facebook comment. Speaking in court yesterday, Breivik admitted: “There are only two just and fair outcomes of this case. One is an acquittal, the other is capital punishment.” Breivik’s bizarre comment captures the baffling nature of a case that has so far lurched from the grotesque public confessional of a mass murderer to the equally tasteless spectacle of a hatemonger whose racist delusions seem to have been fed, in part at least, by the Internet. Indeed, virtual networks like Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and the World of Warcraft seem to offer as good clues as any to why this 32 year-old man should decide one day to blow up and shoot as many fellow Norwegians as he could.
Anders Behring Breivik may or may not be found to be clinically insane. But beneath or beside his madness, there’s something about Breivik which captures, in extremis, the increasingly delusional, violent and narcissistic nature of our digital culture. It would, of course, be crass to blame something as tragic as the mass murder of 77 innocent Norwegians on social media. And yet it would be equally irresponsible to simply ignore these signs and refuse to draw any connection at all between Breivik’s troubled personality and the broader culture forces in our electronically networked world. Firstly, there’s his self-evidently narcissistic personality which has enabled him to stand in an Oslo court this week and unselfconsciously boast about what he called “the most sophisticated and spectacular political attack in Europe since World War II.” It was this same narcissism, of course, that also generated his 1,500 page “2083 Manifesto“ as well as his prolific postings on social media sites like Facebook and YouTube.
Narcissism, of course, wasn’t invented by the Internet and it would be absurd to establish a causal connection between self-love and mass murder. That said, however, today’s digital media culture — which shatters the 20th century mass audience into billions of 21st century authors and enables them all to broadcast their most intimate thoughts to the world — seems to be making narcissism the default mode of contemporary existence. As Stephen Marche notes in an excellent Atlantic cover story this month about Facebook: “Rising narcissism isn’t so much a trend as the trend behind all other trends.” Social networks like Facebook are making us lonely, Marche concludes. The more connected we think we are on social media “communities,” he argues, the more isolated and atomized we really are becoming. And if there’s one self-evident thing on show this week in Oslo’s central court, it is the loneliness of being Anders Behring Breivik.
“July 22 wasn’t about me. July 22 was a suicide attack. I wasn’t expecting to survive that day. A narcissist would never have given his life for anyone or anything,” Breivik said this week in court. But the crime, this me-terrorism, was all about him. He can talk all he likes about his association with obscure racist groups like the Knights Templar, but the truth is that Breivik is totally alone. No friends, no fellow conspirators, no girlfriend, no loved ones. Even his father hadn’t spoken to him for years. Then there’s Breivik’s reliance on the Internet to learn about the world — a world that he sees in the stark Manichean terms of evil Moslems and communists versus good Norwegian Christians. When asked this week about the greatest influence on his ideology, Breivik’s answer was simple. “Wikipedia“, he said. That’s what most informed his bizarre worldview.
Perhaps part of the narcissist’s affection for Wikipedia lies in its over 10,000 word article about him, an entry that describes him as a “terrorist,” includes 200 footnotes and is almost as detailed as the Wikipedia entries on Martin Luther or Karl Marx. Indeed, given the “open” nature of the Wikipedia editorial system, who is to say that the self-obsessed Breivik himself hasn’t been contributing to his own entry? Most troubling of all is Breivik’s obsession with the multiplayer role-playing World of Warcraft, a violent online game that he played “full-time“ between 2006 and 2007. Indeed, one of the few times that he smiled this week was when the image of his World of Warcraft character was displayed in court.
Some apologists for video games have suggested that Breivik’s addiction to World of Warcraft “means nothing at all.” But they are wrong. Given his absolute absence of remorse over the murders, it’s not hard to imagine that this obsession with violent online games has enabled him to somehow virtualize the killing of real people, transforming them from flesh and blood characters into abstractions. I have to agree with Thomas Indrebo. The death penalty is, indeed, the only just sentence in the Breivik case. That said, however, this case isn’t just about a single delusional character. Breivik’s obsession with violent online games, his narcissism, his reliance on Wikipedia and Facebook are warnings about how digital media can corrupt our grasp of reality. Breivik may be a worst case scenario, but I fear that there will be more young men like him in future if virtual reality becomes our only reality.
Here in the United States we are embarking on a Presidential campaign that has not stopped since Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009. You can tell a lot about people who can effectively debate and argue our national policies and the record of his administration, good or bad, without resorting to name-calling and non-sense. Enter Ted Nugent. “If Barack Obama is elected, I’ll either be dead or in jail this time next year,” Nugent says. When you see that statement next to Nugent comparing Obama and his colleagues to coyotes that needed to be shot, as well as the need to “ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November,” you aren’t seeing any discussion, at all, of policies or facts only rabble-rousing nonsense geared to do what? Incite violence? And then there is Walter Bagdasarian who back in 2008 posted “Re: Obama fk the n****r, he will a .50 cal in the head soon” on a Yahoo message board. He also posted “Shoot the n*g.”
Again, no discussion of politics, facts, policies or platforms just insane ramblings of violence. It’s not all this extreme. Some of the trash talk is nt violent but just stupid like the birthers who continue to assert that Barack Obama is not an American citizen despite tons of evidence to the contrary. You know where this nonsense comes from…right wing fanatical loons, many on the radio, who are the “shock-jocks”of the 21st century. Many talk show hosts, not able to discuss the issues for whatever reason have taken to name calling and veiled threats of violence to get their “sky is falling,” “Obama is a Marxist” rants across to the electorate and why? Americans are apparently easily led by sound bytes and photo ops of conspiracy theories that have absolutely no basis in fact but don’t need any. If they are repeated enough…they take on a life of there own. I’m not foolish enough to think that the trash talk is going to stop, it’s an unfortunate part of adversarial and contentious political system made worse by the anonymity of the keyboard commandos who are bitter, scared and alone. God help America.
Houston, Texas this afternoon.
NEW YORK, New York — (DMN/CBS News) – FBI agents and New York City police officers were in a downtown New York City basement Thursday, searching for clues in the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz. Authorities have previously searched the building at Prince and Wooster streets where Patz lived. Patz vanished without a trace in May 1979 after leaving his family’s Manhattan apartment for a short walk to catch a school bus. It was the first time his parents had let him go off to school alone.
The building they searched on Thursday is about a block and a half away and on the same route Patz would have walked to the school bus. Police spokesman Paul Browne said a forensic team was looking for blood, clothing or human remains. They are expected to be at the site for as many as five days. He wouldn’t say what evidence led investigators to the property. “The FBI and the NYPD are looking for evidence in the Etan Patz investigation. It’s one of many leads that we’re pursuing. It is a joint matter between the FBI and NYPD and no conclusions should be made about specifically why we’re here or what we’re looking for,” FBI spokesman Tim Flannley.
Investigators will also be taking down dry wall, possibly a brick wall, excavating the concrete floor and sifting through it. Sources in New York say that a new search warrant was issued in the last week, allowing this search to begin Thursday. Reports say handyman, who worked in the building where police are searching, knew Patz and occasionally gave him $1 to help him do some work. Around the time of Patz’s disappearance, that handyman put down a new concrete floor in the basement of the building. That floor has allegedly never been broken up until now.
District Attorney Cy Vance confirmed in May, 2010 that his office would reopen the case. “This was a shocking case at the time and it hasn’t been resolved,” Browne said. Patz’s disappearance caused a frenzy in New York City. It also prompted huge changes in the way missing child cases were handled. Patz was the first missing child to appear on the back of a milk carton. “We obviously are looking to bring closure to the investigation and to the family but that’ll be determined throughout the course of this case,” Flannley said. “We are obviously optimistic that we might find evidence but again people shouldn’t draw conclusions from this. We’re doing the best we can to bring closure in this matter.”
No one has ever been prosecuted for the crime but the boy’s parents sued an incarcerated drifter and admitted child-molester, Jose Ramos, who had been dating Etan’s babysitter around the time he disappeared. However, Ramos denied killing the child, but in 2004 a Manhattan judge ruled him to be responsible for the death. Ramos is scheduled to be released from prison in Pennsylvania this year, when he finishes serving a 20-year-sentence for abusing an 8-year-old boy.
The New York Post is reporting that investigators armed with police dogs “got a hit” and began digging up the basement of a SoHo building today as part of the ongoing probe into the 1979 disappearance of six-year-old Etan Patz, authorities said. The 13-by-62-foot area where the dogs were sniffing is part of a building where about 40 cops and FBI agents swarmed on Prince Street, between West Broadway and Wooster Street, this morning after getting a tip. The FBI recently interviewed Patz’s mother Julie, who told them they should talk to Othneil Miller, 75, of Brooklyn, a handman who used the space for a shop when Patz disappeared.
Miller, sources told The Post, had befriended the boy and wold pay him a dollar or two for helping out around the shop. After talking to Miller, the feds put “scent pads” — which absorb odors — in the basement and then brought them to a cadaver dog and “got a hit,” sources told The Post. The feds brought the dog to the basement and got another hit, the sources said. Agents subsequently questioned Miller, who blurted out: “What if the body was moved?” the sources said. “We are conducting a search in connection with the Etan Patz case,” according to FBI spokesman Jim Margolin, confirming that feds were looking for new evidence in the case. A source told The Post that three dozen FBI personnel and NYPD cops are doing “a preliminary mapping out” of the location at the northwest corner of Prince and Wooster looking for remains.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said a forensic team was looking for clothing or human remains and expected to be at the site for the next few days. The search is the result of FBI agents still assigned to this case having developed information that led them to the location, the source said. Sources stressed it was not a random tip that led to the new line of inquiry, it’s a lead developed by the FBI, as the case has remained active since the boy went missing. Some sources told WABC/Channel 7 that prosecutors are now skeptical whether convicted child sex abuser Jose Antonio Ramos, considered Patz’s abductor and killer since 1991, did in fact commit any crime, however, in a 2004 civil suit, Ramos was found “responsible” for the boys death.
One hit wonder and right wing political genius Ted Nugent is going to be interviewed by the Secret Service for comments he made about President Obama. The interview, scheduled for Thursday, comes amid outcry over comments Nugent made at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association, which took place in St. Louis this past weekend. “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year,” Nugent said, according to a video posted on YouTube by the NRA. “If you can’t go home and get everybody in your lives to clean house in this vile, evil, America-hating administration, I don’t even know what you’re made out of.”
Many have questioned whether Nugent was alluding to violence against the president in his remarks. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, solicited donations from supporters using the comments, calling them “despicable, deplorable and completely beyond the pale.” In a radio interview Wednesday, Nugent said he was looking forward to meeting with the agents. “We actually have heard from the Secret Service, and they have a duty, and I salute them, I support them,” Nugent said on Glenn Beck’s radio show. “I’m looking forward to our meeting tomorrow. I’m sure it’ll be a fine gathering backstage in Oklahoma.”
The U.S. official said the Secret Service would not issue a statement, nor publicly provide details of what transpires during the interview, after the meeting with Nugent. The official said Secret Service policy is to acknowledge every American’s right to free speech while still determining an individual’s intent. Nugent, like any interviewee, is allowed to bring a lawyer. Nugent’s comments sparked particular furor because the musician and activist has endorsed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded to comments from Nugent on Tuesday, saying “divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from.” “Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be civil,” she added.
Civility and the far right are an oxymoron. Ted Nugent should be arrested. Not because he hates President Obama but because he advocates violence against the President. Nugent’s words were: “If Barack Obama is elected, I’ll either be dead or in jail this time next year,” which sounds to me like he’s open to directing his disapproval of Obama in a way that is violent and unlawful. When you see that statement next to Nugent comparing Obama and his colleagues to coyotes that needed to be shot, as well as the need to “ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November,” I don’t see how that rant cannot be looked upon as a threat on the president’s life.
People are still free to organize boycotts and express disapproval. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech but it cannot insulate folks against the social and cultural repercussions that come from saying something offensive. Right wing radio talk show loons push the limits everyday but Nugent, a has-been who never was is trying to become relevant. We already know he’s a wild man who makes inflammatory remarks to stay relevant. We also know he’s not the only media figure who shocks for a living. The bigger question is why is it OK to say you’re going to kill the president, and by OK, I mean legal?
LZ Grbecause opined that: Because President Obama is black he has attracted a unique breed of critics, such as Walter Bagdasarian, who in 2008 was arrested but later released after posting “Re: Obama fk the n****r, he will a .50 cal in the head soon” on a Yahoo message board. He also posted “Shoot the n*g.” Obama is hardly the only president to have a U.S. citizen publicly threaten his life. And yet, like Bagdasarian, the people issuing the threats are protected under a law that yanks the teeth out of another law one that makes it a felony to threaten a president or major presidential candidate, with death or bodily harm. In order to get a jail sentence to stick, prosecutors must prove the individual has made plans to carry out such a threat. So even though law enforcement found a .50 caliber muzzle-loading rifle in Bagdasarian’s home — the kind of bullet he said would soon be in Obama’s head — that wasn’t enough to keep him in jail.
I don’t know about you, but I find that to be a bit unsettling, especially nowadays, when we have almost as many guns in the U.S. as we do people — the highest rate of any country in the world of civilian gun ownership. Forty-nine states allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons outside of their home for protection, including in some cases, bars. Who needs a plan when you can be ticked off, get liquored up and then go attend a rally? I’m not anti-gun. I’m pro- America.
Allowing people to threaten the life of a president, particularly during time of war, is not protecting free speech as much as it is dangerously close to treason as it is defined in Article III of the Constitution. We have an agreed-upon system to replace elected officials we don’t like. It’s called democracy. If people don’t like the president, they can say that. They can vote against them. They can run. They can leave. But they shouldn’t be allowed to go on the Internet or radio and threaten his or her life. I felt that way about George W. Bush, I feel that way about President Obama, and I will feel that way if Mitt Romney gets elected.
That’s because this conversation isn’t about them or the parties they represent. It’s about maintaining some level of respect for the office. How can we begin to talk seriously about “restoring America”– whatever that means — when we openly threaten the life of our chief ambassador? U.S. Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy were all assassinated. Six U.S. presidents survived assassination attempts. I’m not surprised to hear such comments from Nugent. But I am surprised that in a country with 106 million handguns, 105 million rifles, 83 million shotguns and four assassinated presidents, we don’t take such talk more seriously. Agreed!
Having served on board the National Emergency Airborne Command Post decades ago in the Air Force, I understand the importance of national security. I worked it and saw it first hand. As a Security Police Team Chief in the military, my job assignment included protection and security of the National Command Authority to include the President of The United States. I was chatting about the Secret Service fiasco in Colombia with an old colleague of mine who opined, “something doesn’t pass the smell test.” “Have you ever known a Secret Service agent to talk about their job?” No, I haven’t. In my experience, these folks are the best of the best. They perform their duties with precision and perfection day in and day out. That being said, the allegations in Colombia are serious. Someone dropped the ball.
More Secret Service resignations are expected this week in the wake of an alleged prostitution scandal in Colombia, according to a congressional staff member who participated in briefings with the agency. Three Secret Service members already are leaving the agency, but the fallout continued Thursday with congressional demands for more details about what happened in Cartagena before last week’s Summit of the Americas. A total of 11 members of the special security agency that protects the president and other top officials have been linked by the agency to the controversy, including the three who are leaving. One of those is a supervisory employee who is being allowed to retire, and another employee has resigned, the agency said.
A third agent, another supervisory employee, is being pushed out, with the agency proposing he be removed. A U.S. official said on condition of not being identified that the agent plans to fight his ouster. Another eight members allegedly involved in the scandal are on administrative leave with their security clearances suspended, according to the agency. The employees are accused of bringing prostitutes to a hotel in Colombia ahead of last week’s visit by U.S. President Barack Obama, who was there to attend the pan-American summit. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Georgia, told CNN that Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan told him Wednesday that a culture of pride at the agency would likely cause implicated agents to resign. “I said, ‘Is it possible that these men would resign?’ He said he had no doubt that they would, that they probably would,” Cummings said of his conversation with Sullivan that occurred before the first three departures were announced. “Why? Because of the culture. They have this pride, they don’t want any bad apples and so it probably would be so uncomfortable to them that they would leave. So, yesterday’s actions with regard to folks leaving and being fired did not surprise me one bit.”
According to sources, the alleged prostitutes, the youngest of whom were in their early 20s, had all signed in at Cartagena’s Hotel El Caribe, where the Secret Service members apparently stayed, flashing their local ID cards. But one of the women was involved in a dispute about how much she was allegedly to be paid for the night. That dispute brought the incident to light and sparked controversy in both countries. A review board is expected to be created to determine whether the alleged scandal is an isolated incident or emblematic of a broader agency culture. In addition, the House Oversight Committee leaders sent a letter to the Secret Service requesting specifics about what happened before, during and after the incident. As many as 10 U.S. military personnel from all branches of the armed forces also are being questioned about potential misconduct, including five members of America’s elite Army Special Forces.
The military members being investigated are not likely to deploy until the matter is resolved, military officials said Thursday. While no formal order bars their deployment, it’s unlikely while investigators seek answers about what happened in Cartagena, the officials said. The five Army Special Forces soldiers being questioned are from the 7th Special Forces Group based at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the officials said. The group operates mostly in South America, the officials said. Its mission includes aiding foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation and unconventional warfare, according to information on the 7th Special Forces’ website. Obama has said he expects a “rigorous” investigation. “The only way they will prevent this from happening again in the future is to find out if this is one particular case or if it’s a pattern,” said U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
“We’re working and doing our own investigation and whatever we need from the Secret Service we’ve been getting,” King said Wednesday. “We want a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour account of what happened, how it happened, what went on, who knew what was happening. And I have no doubt the Secret Service will give us that.” At least one congressman, U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia, has called for Sullivan to be replaced. “There’s only so many strikes you get, in baseball it’s three,” said Forbes, a senior member of the House Armed Serves Committee, referencing a 2009 security breach in which a Virginia couple crashed Obama’s first White House state dinner, as well as apparent agency overspending in that same year. “I think he’s had three,” Forbes added. “I think it’s time to put somebody else in there to make sure we’re getting a different culture in the Secret Service.” However, King and others came to the defense of Sullivan, who has directed the Secret Service since May 2006 and been with the agency since 1983.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said he was in close touch with Sullivan and believes the agency director is taking “serious action” to investigate the incident, while House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, said he has a high level of confidence in Sullivan. Sullivan has told subordinates to use “all tools available” to conduct the investigation, one source said. The scandal is sure to come up when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifies next week at a previously scheduled Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Department of Homeland Security. The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. ET Wednesday.
The Secret Service agents and officers being investigated range in experience from relative newcomers to nearly 20-year veterans, two government officials with knowledge of the investigation said Monday. Each agent was offered an opportunity to take a polygraph test, according to a U.S. official. Some of the agents and military personnel maintain they didn’t know the women were prostitutes, the official said. Even so, King said, “it was totally wrong to take a foreign national back to a hotel when the president is about to arrive.” While soliciting prostitution is in most cases legal for adults in Colombia, it is considered a breach of the Secret Service’s conduct code, government sources said. Military law also bars service members from patronizing prostitutes, engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer or, for enlisted personnel, conduct “prejudicial to good order and discipline.” The military personnel allegedly involved were sent to Colombia to support the Secret Service. A military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation told CNN that two of those being questioned are Marines and that Air Force and Navy personnel also are being questioned.
The stress these agents operate under is hard to describe. The stress of being on alert during the Cold War waiting for the world to end was stressful for the Air Force alert crews I worked with in the 1980′s. We worked hard and played hard but I cannot recall anything that approached this kind of behavior. That being said, this is hardly the first time the concerns of United States national security and spies have come up. Tim Lister reports for CNN:
Call it the flip-side to torture: using seduction to extract valuable information. It’s as old as the Old Testament – literally. Delilah used deception and seduction to find out the secret of Samson’s strength. His hair was never to be cut. So off she went to tell the Philistines – and his precious braids were shaved as he slept. The lure of sex has been the stuff of both spy fiction and real-life scandals ever since. “Let’s face it, historically women — and prostitutes in particularly — have been used to infiltrate or get information,” Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said Tuesday, referring to the unfolding scandal over the conduct of Secret Service agents in Colombia. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) chimed in: “Who were these women? Could they have been members of groups hostile to the United States? Could they have planted bugs, disabled weapons or in any other (ways) jeopardized security of the president or our country?”
Nothing has been made public to suggest information about President Barack Obama’s visit to Colombia was sought or given during the encounters between Secret Service personnel and the Colombian women they met – either in the Play Club or subsequently at the agents’ hotel. But whether from conviction or for profit, women – and men – have traded sex for secrets for centuries. The most (in)famous case of the modern era involved Mata Hari, the Dutch-born exotic dancer who took up residence in Paris after a failed marriage. She appeared virtually nude on stage in a jewelled bra and little else – and was soon the talk of the town, becoming the mistress of a wealthy industrialist and involved in many more liaisons, some with military officers.
But she was also – allegedly – a German spy, code-named H-21. There are as many differing accounts of her spying as of her dancing – with some suggesting that she had an arrangement with the German consul in the Hague to pass on information about enemy war plans. British intelligence supposedly got wind of the arrangement and she was arrested in February 1917. Part of the otherwise flimsy evidence against her was secret ink found in her hotel room, which she said was make-up. Protesting her innocence to the end, Mata Hari was executed by firing squad. But her name has since become a byword for the seductress seeking secrets.
The Cold War provided plenty of opportunities for so-called “honey-pot” scandals. A Marine Sergeant – Clayton J. Lonetree – posted at the U.S. embassy in Moscow in the 1980s was convicted of espionage after giving secrets to a 26-year old translator who worked at the embassy. At his trial it emerged that the woman had introduced him to a man she described as “Uncle Sasha,” who inevitably was a KGB operative. Lonetree’s sentence was later reduced when it emerged that some of the secrets he was alleged to have passed on were in fact betrayed by CIA agent Aldrich Ames, And in Lonetree’s defense, the commandant of the Marine Corps said his motivation “was not treason or greed, but rather the lovesick response of a naive, young, immature and lonely troop in a lonely and hostile environment.”
Using sex for secrets goes “both ways.” John Vassall was a British official posted to Moscow in the 1950s as a clerk to the Naval Attache. Plied with alcohol at a party, he was photographed by the KGB in a compromising situation with several men. He was blackmailed – and passed thousands of classified documents to the Russians in the following decade. A British journalist in Moscow, Jeremy Wolfenden, got into similar trouble in the 1960s. But he told the British embassy that he’d been caught in flagrante, and was asked to become a double agent. The stress of having both MI6 and the KGB breathing down his neck is said to have led to heavy drinking and his premature death at the age of 31. Wolfenden’s short life became the subject of a book by Sebastian Faulks, “The Fatal Englishman.”
The East Germans may have been the best at using the lure of sex to gather intelligence, but in a unique way. The long-time head of the Stasi (East German intelligence service), Markus Wolf, deployed “Romeos” to West Germany and later wrote in his autobiography: “If I go down in espionage history it may well be for perfecting the use of sex in spying.” In the 1950s, Wolf dispatched an agent called Felix to Bonn, who befriended a woman called Norma employed in the office of the German Chancellor – by waiting at her bus-stop. They even married, and he got to know many of her colleagues. Then one day, she came home and he was gone – pulled back to the East after Wolf got wind of an investigation by West German intelligence services.
Marianne Quoirin, author of “The Spies Who Did It For Love,” tells the story of another West German woman who as a former nun refused to have sex with her “Romeo” until they were married. So the Stasi staged a wedding, providing both priest and mother-in-law. The Stasi would do detailed research on targets, examining their previous relationships and hobbies. One Stasi agent, Gerhard Beier, worked in West Germany for nearly 20 years before the Berlin Wall came down. “I was fulfilling my patriotic duty, and it wasn’t unpleasant,” he said later in an interview. Altogether some 40 German women were prosecuted for passing secrets to East German Romeos.
Perhaps the most dramatic case of seduction in recent times involved Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu. In 1986 he visited London and provided the Sunday Times with dozens of photographs of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program. But Mossad was on his trail and a female agent – Cheryl Ben Tov – befriended him (reportedly bumping into him at a cigarette kiosk in London’s Leicester Square.) She lured him to Rome for a weekend, where he was drugged and spirited to Israel. Vanunu was convicted of betraying his country’s secrets and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Ben Tov later became a realtor in Florida. Using sex for information or as blackmail doesn’t always work. When Indonesian President Sukarno visited Moscow in the 1960s, the KGB sought to take advantage of his renowned sexual appetite, sending a batch of glamorous young women posing as air hostesses to his hotel. When the Russians later confronted him with a film of the lurid encounter, Sukarno was apparently delighted. Legend has it he even asked for extra copies.
As far as the agents in Colombia, they made some mistakes but the biggest is that they showed a lack of discipline that is their trademark. The reality is that had they paid for the services of the prostitutes, none of this would have been known about but because of stupidity, the agency is under fire and this is big news.
The battle in Houston between Southwest Airlines and Chicago based United Airlines is heating up around Houston City Hall. Could Southwest Airlines really fly people from Houston to South America for $133? It’s a worthwhile question since a trip from Houston to Colombia on United would cost $897.00 non-stop. That’s just one of the questions flying around Houston City Hall from elected officials poring over the numbers in what’s become a controversial economic impact study. The report commissioned by the Houston Airport System at a cost of $110,000 analyzed the economic consequences of international flights out of Hobby Airport.
The study forecasts 10,000 new jobs, lower air fares and an annual economic impact of $1.6-billion, if airlines are allowed to fly internationally out of Hobby. But city council members have reacted to the report with everything from chuckles to outright anger. “Where are these numbers coming from?” asked C.O. Bradford, a city councilmember. “I really want to throw this proposal out of the window,” said Andrew Burks, another council member, “because right now, when I see numbers that can’t match, it just don’t work for me.” KHOU-TV asked a couple of independent experts to read the report and offer their assessments. They concluded some of the predictions were probably optimistic, but as one of them said, that’s “typical of the genre” of economic impact studies.
Southwest Airlines wants to fly out internationally out of Hobby, mostly to Mexico, but United Airlines is waging an intense lobbying effort against it. Airline executives, including Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, sat in the crowded audience this week as Houston’s aviation director formally presented his report recommending foreign flights from Hobby. Aviation Director Mario Diaz endured more than three hours of intense questioning from sometimes hostile council members, many of whom caustically sniped at the report’s credibility. They particularly ridiculed a line item in the study predicting Southwest Airlines could fly Houstonians one way to Bogota, Colombia, for $133. “Now, you can’t even fly from Houston to Lubbock for $133,” Burks told Diaz.
That number also caught the eye of Darren Bush, a University of Houston law professor who’s testified before Congress on airline issues. “I can’t wait to take that $130 airfare to Bogota!” Bush said. “And I’m really hoping that fuel costs are low enough to allow that to happen. I don’t necessarily believe that to be what’s actually going to happen.” Economists point out there’s no way to precisely predict the future financial impact of international flights into Hobby. Fuel costs are just one of many volatile factors that could throw off any financial forecast involving the airline industry. Studies like this make assumptions and projections that produce the precise numbers the public reads in headlines, but the results are actually ballpark estimates. “If I was a city council person, I’d be much more worried about the signs: Are they positive or negative?” said Steven Craig, a professor of economics at the University of Houston. “And the exact numbers I guess I wouldn’t worry so much about.”
Craig, who’s conducted economic impact studies for many clients including Houston’s aviation department, said “you have to take them with a grain of salt.” Another number raising skeptical questions at City Hall is the prediction that the Hobby plan will create 10,000 new jobs. Critics question how adding just five additional airport gates could create such a hiring binge. “I’ll say that it’s on the higher end, but typical of the genre,” Craig said. “When you stimulate air traffic, all kind of things happen. And so all the jobs are not even at the airport.”
The methodology of the report seems solid, Craig said. Nonetheless, some of the council critics question not only its veracity, but also whether it was tailored to take Southwest’s side. So some of them are suggesting an alternative. They want to wait for United to produce yet another economic impact study. The Hosuton Airline battle is Goliath v. Goliath. Southwest says that twenty-five years ago, in April, they opened the Houston in-flight base going from zero in 1987 to over 1,000 Houston-based flight attendants today. Also 25 years ago, Southwest opened a Houston based call center. Today, the Customer Support & Service Center, with more than 455 caring People, has expanded its role to offer the best Customers service handling your questions and concerns about any aspect of travel. When you call Southwest Airlines, you do not get a recording, you get a caring person, who wants to talk to you, without routing you through a maze of frustrating, recorded, auditory options that end up dropping your call.
We have continued to make good choices and become the most profitable airline in the industry. We have shared our success by creating good jobs. We want to continue doing that. We have shared our success with the Houston community. Our charitable donations, our community support, and civic engagement in Houston surpass investments of all other Southwest cities. We don’t just hand out blank checks willy nilly. Instead, we are proud to champion causes that matter most in the daily lives of Houstonians. Our people get involved creating a wonderful pool of time, talent and treasure that adds to the quality of life in Houston. Check out the Southwest Community Impact tab on www.freehobbyairport.com to see some of those meaningful community partnerships in the Houston area.
This journalist is a Southwest Rapid Rewards member and flies the airline several times a year. I love Southwest and will admit an overwhelming bias for the Fort Worth based airline. I don’t know whether Southwest can fly to South America for $133.00 or not but I do know this, if Houston’s Hobby is opened up for Southwest to fly international flights, United won’t be charging almost $900.00 for a ticket to Bogota.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has a perception problem. It is perceived as corrupt, incompetent and in disarray. The public is expressing concern, disgust, outrage and disappointment over the departments handling of an investigation into one of it’s own which has been a comedy of errors since Officer David Bisard, who was alleged to have blown a .19 BAC crashed his patrol car into a group of motorcycles killing one person and seriously injuring several others in the fall of 2010.
It’s arguable that everyone is sick of hearing about Bisard and the horribly flawed investigation that has allowed him to avoid the most serious of criminal charges. But there are issues that are not going away. Rank in file IMPD cops blame the media for piling on in news stories about the Bisard case but the reality is that the case won’t go away because it is being mishandled…again. The Indianapolis Star reports that people from all corners of the city expressed a range of emotions Wednesday — one day after the announcement that the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had, for the second time, mishandled evidence in the case of a suspended police officer who crashed his squad car into a group of motorcyclists while he may have been drunk.
But everyone seemed to have the same message for the city: They want the police department and its leaders to be held accountable. “This is just over-the-top disgusting,” said Indianapolis resident Wilson Allen, 70, who has lived Downtown for 40 years. “We need the police. We need them to be good. We need them to be competent. But if they can’t even keep track of critical evidence like that, that’s pitiful.” On Tuesday, Paul Ciesielski resigned as chief of police. But others are calling for the resignation of his boss, Public Safety Director Frank Straub. Coincidentally, Straub appeared before a City-County Council committee Wednesday night — at a previously scheduled hearing — to essentially prove he deserves to keep the job Mayor Greg Ballard appointed him to.
Mary Mills, who along with her husband, Kurt Weekly, was severely injured in the crash, said the city and the police are not taking responsibility for the botched investigation. The couple’s friend, 30-year-old Eric Wells, was killed in the crash. “Every single one of (the people involved),” she said during a news conference Wednesday, “they have some sort of responsibility.” Prosecutors discovered last week that one of two tubes containing the blood of suspended police officer David Bisard was moved to an unrefrigerated storage area despite a judge’s order to preserve it. The other vial, which was tested and indicated that Bisard was drunk the day of the crash, is still preserved.
Straub and Ballard announced the mistake Tuesday and said Ciesielski had stepped down from his post but will stay on as a captain. Three others have been placed on paid leave. The FBI will investigate what led to the mishandling of Bisard’s blood, and the people involved could face criminal charges. But many in the community, including former public safety leaders, want more. “IMPD must undergo critical operational changes and stop the game of musical chairs with the chain of command,” said the Rev. Stephen J. Clay of the Messiah Missionary Baptist Church.
Clay, who also runs the Indiana chapter of the civil rights organization National Action Network, said he was “deeply troubled over the failure to protect a key piece of evidence in this case.” At Wednesday night’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee meeting, several City-Council members peppered Straub with questions about the mishandling of Bisard’s blood. Straub is up for a one-year reappointment, and the committee and the City-County Council can weigh in on whether he keeps his job. Their recommendations, however, are nonbinding.
Democratic Councilman Frank Mascari asked, to applause from some in attendance: “Why is it that everybody at IMPD is accountable for their actions but you?” He added: “Every time something goes wrong, it seems like you throw somebody under the bus.” Straub responded by saying that reform of IMPD is a long process. It’s been a struggle for decades, he said, citing police corruption faced by former Mayor Richard Lugar in the 1970s and repeated incidents of officer misconduct up to recent years. But if Straub’s intent is to illustrate how deep-seated problems within the department are — and thus reinforce the need for his reforms — they also have rankled former public safety leaders. In particular, they are upset with Straub’s comments Tuesday that the department has been a hotbed for corruption for decades.
Some are calling for his resignation. “How can somebody come to our city and in two years label us corrupt?” former Indianapolis Police Department Chief Jerry Barker asked. Straub, a New Yorker, was hired in January 2010. Former Sheriff Jack Cottey said Straub’s comments “made me sick.” “He should move on,” Cottey said. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.” The Fraternal Order of Police, which also has butted heads with Straub, claimed that at least eight other former chiefs and deputy chiefs felt the same way. Current FOP President Bill Owensby also was critical of Ciesielski, who he said was a weak leader. “Our internal surveys have shown for two straight years that confidence in the executive leadership, from the chief on up, has nose-dived,” Owensby said. “Our men and women are screaming, begging, for someone to take a leadership role.”
Owensby said the perception was that Ciesielski was cowed into a subservient role by the demanding Straub and that Straub ran the day-to-day operations of the department. Ciesielski, who has not spoken publicly since his resignation, did not respond to a request for an interview. At her news conference Wednesday afternoon, Mills displayed anger toward the department but mostly just wants to see that the officer who started this chain of events is punished. Bisard has been charged with several crimes, including reckless homicide. Prosecutor Terry Curry said Tuesday that he was “furious” that the blood was moved, but he doesn’t think it will hurt the case.
Marion Superior Court Judge Grant Hawkins already had ruled the blood could not be used to support drunken-driving charges against Bisard because the blood was drawn by someone who was not authorized to do so under the state’s drunken-driving laws. But prosecutors wanted to test the second vial of blood to verify the results of the first test. They plan to use the blood to support the other charges. Mills and Weekly also have filed lawsuits against Bisard, the city and police. The couple’s attorneys, Mark Ladendorf and Bruce Kehoe, said they’ve asked the city and its attorney in the matter to discuss the case and compensation for the victims several times but the city has refused or hasn’t responded. “They need to sit down and they need to put this issue behind them, not just for Kurt and Mary but for the city of Indianapolis,” Kehoe said. “They told us for the last six months that it’s just not the right time. It’s the right time.”
Attorney Larry Mackey, who’s representing the city in the suits, said in an email statement that the city has tried to resolve the matter. “The city actively explored settlement prior to the filing of lawsuits, but our offers were rejected,” Mackey said. “We stand ready, as always, to work towards a fair resolution for the plaintiffs and the city.” Mills said she has a hard time trusting police. Every time she sees a police car, she said, she gives it “the New Jersey salute.” Mills said she would like to believe that the errors were mistakes. “But I can’t feel that way,” she said. “Not with everything that has happened. . . . It’s hard to say, ‘Oh, just another mistake on this case, OK,’ and then press on.” Allen, the Indianapolis man who described the situation as “disgusting,” said he thinks the police department needs more than a simple fix. “It’s such a big problem that there’s no easy answer,” he said. “I don’t know how to solve the problem, but it has to be solved.”
Frank Straub was brought in to Indianapolis to help reform the IMPD. It has not been an easy task. Many rank in file officers loathe Straub. He is loathed by the FOP and many police supporters. Morale among rank in file officers is said to be low but is it low because of institutional problems like the ones that have plagued the Bisard investigation or is it low because of Straub. Is the resistance to Straub because the cops don’t want change and are fighting it tooth and nail or is Straub really the centerpiece of IMPD’s problems? The 1,600 members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department are not corrupt. They are not incompetent. They are not drinking on duty and driving their patrol cars but make no mistake, the IMPD has a public perception problem.
This perception was not created by the media or the public. The perception is caused by rogue cops and Bisard himself. Everything else is a response to one or both of those issues. Cops complain that the media reports only on the bad things that cops do. Not true. The media reports on police actions everyday and often, the heroic actions of police officers save lives and make our streets safe but herein lies the problem. When a cop is accused a blowing a .19 BAC and the investigation is so botched to make criminal prosecution difficult at best…well…yeah, we have a problem. Part of the problem is the perception that there is a thin blue line that protects cops. Reality or not, this is how it seems and why? The FOP police union has rallied around Bisard and outrage about this horrible accident has been limited to command staff officers and Indianapolis elected leaders.
Many of us would just like to know that the rank in file officers are as outraged as we are. We want to know that Bisard has made your job more difficult not hear that we have made it more difficult by asking serious questions that deserve serious consideration. Contrary to what cops may think, they have the support of the people, most of the people, who put our faith in the men and women who put the badge on with honor everyday to do a most difficult job that we ask but I have to be honest, even this case makes me wonder just what is going on inside the IMPD.
Atlanta, Georgia this morning.