LONDON, United Kingdom — (DMN/BBC) – The Ministry of Defence is considering placing surface-to-air missiles on residential flats during the Olympics. An east London estate, where 700 people live, has received leaflets saying a “Higher Velocity Missile system” could be placed on a water tower. A spokesman said the MoD had not yet decided whether to deploy ground based air defence systems during the event. But estate resident Brian Whelan said firing the missiles “would shower debris across the east end of London”.
The journalist said: “At first I thought it was a hoax. I can’t see what purpose high-velocity missiles could serve over a crowded area like Tower Hamlets. “They say they’ll only use them as a last resort, but… you’d shower debris across the east end of London by firing these missiles.” Mr Whelan, who claims to have seen soldiers carrying a crate into the building, said his property management company put up posters and gave out the leaflets on Saturday. He continued: “They are going to have a test run next week, putting high velocity missiles on the roof just above our apartment and on the back of it they’re stationing police and military in the tower of the building for two months. “It [the leaflet] says there will be 10 officers plus police present 24/7.”
Rushana Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said: “It looks like it’s been imposed without proper consultation. “I will be asking the government to explain why. The MoD does need to look at this again.” The leaflet states that members of the Armed Forces will be at the location for a military exercise between 2 and 7 May. It goes on to say there will be a “major national exercise” from 2 to 10 May to test the Armed Forces’ capabilities for providing security during the Olympics. The document added that if the government decides to use the missiles during the Games, the soldiers could be “operationally deployed for a period of up to two months this summer”.
The weapon being considered is a High Velocity Missile (HVM) system, which would be based on the Lexington Building Water Tower. The tower contains residential flats. The MoD says in the leaflet that the missiles will not pose a hazard to residents and “will only be authorised for active use following specific orders from the highest levels of government in response to a confirmed and extreme security threat”. The document states: “Having a 24/7 Armed Forces and police presence will improve your local security and will not make you a target for terrorists. “The location has been chosen as it is situated close to the Olympic Park and offers an excellent view of the surrounding area and the entire sky above the Olympic Park. “The top of the tower also offers a flat, uncluttered and safe area from which to operate.”
The Army website says the HVM system is “designed to counter threats from very high performance, low-flying aircraft”. It says the missile travels at more than three times the speed of sound, using “a system of three dart-like projectiles to allow multiple hits on the target”. The missiles can be fired from the shoulder, from a lightweight multiple launcher or from armoured vehicles. A MoD spokesman said: “As announced before Christmas, ground based air defence systems could be deployed as part of a multi-layered air security plan for the Olympics, including fast jets and helicopters, which will protect the skies over London during the Games. “Based on military advice we have identified a number of sites and, alongside colleagues from the Metropolitan Police, are talking to local authorities and relevant landowners to help minimise the impact of any temporary deployments. “As part of our ongoing planning, we can confirm site evaluations have taken place.” The MoD has previously said it was considering plans to install surface-to-air missiles in south-east London at Blackheath and Shooters Hill during the Olympics.
In Texas, you can kill your baby and be released from prison in just a few years. Kill a stranger and serve, maybe, 10-15 years in prison but possess child porn and go away for much longer. Are the sentences too much? The Associated Press reports that Their crimes are so loathsome that some hardened courtroom veterans recoil at viewing the evidence. Yet child-pornography offenders are now the focus of an intense debate within the legal community as to whether the federal sentences they face have become, in many cases, too severe. By the end of this year, after a review dating to 2009, the U.S. Sentencing Commissionplans to release a report that’s likely to propose changes to the sentencing guidelines that it oversees. It’s a daunting task, given the polarized viewpoints that the commission is weighing.
The issue “is highly charged, both emotionally and politically,” said one of the six commissioners, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell. On one side of the debate, many federal judges and public defenders say repeated moves by Congress to toughen the penalties over the past 25 years have badly skewed the guidelines, to the point where offenders who possess and distribute child pornography can go to prison for longer than those who actually rape or sexually abuse a child. In a 2010 survey of federal judges by the Sentencing Commission, about 70 percent said the proposed ranges of sentences for possession and receipt of child pornography were too high. Demonstrating their displeasure, federal judges issued child porn sentences below the guidelines 45 percent of the time in 2010, more than double the rate for all other crimes.
On the other hand, some prosecutors and members of Congress, as well as advocates for sexual-abuse victims, oppose any push for more leniency. At a public hearing in February, the Sentencing Commission received a victim’s statement lamenting that child pornography offenders “are being entertained by my shame and pain.” “They need to be taught how much pain they inflict and a greater term of imprisonment will teach them that, (and) will comfort victims seeking justice,” the victim said. “I don’t believe that short periods of imprisonment will accomplish these things.” Once completed, the Sentencing Commission report will be submitted to Congress, which could shelve it or incorporate its recommendations into new legislation.
In a recent article for the journal of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, former Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and former federal prosecutor Linda Dale Hoffa criticized the approach by Congress. “The fact that child pornography offenders can be given longer sentences than child abusers or violent offenders reflects a lack of care by Congress,” Specter and Hoffa wrote. “In the rush to prove itself hostile to individuals who possess or distribute child pornography, Congress has obscured the real distinctions between different offenders.” Hoffa doubts Congress will be eager to ease the guidelines. “If you vote against these harsher penalties, the sound bite is that you’re protecting child pornographers, and that could be the end of somebody’s career,” she said in a telephone interview. “It’s a political radioactive hot potato.” As a backdrop to the sentencing debate, Internet-based child pornography has proliferated, and the crime is an increasingly high priority for federal law enforcement agents.
According to the Justice Department, federal prosecutors obtained at least 2,713 indictments for sexual exploitation of minors in 2011, up from 1,901 in 2006. This month, the FBI announced that the latest addition to its “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” is a former elementary school teacher, Eric Justin Toth, who is accused of possessing and producing child pornography. In testimony to the Sentencing Commission in February, three Justice Department experts said the sentencing guidelines for child pornography should be revised — not with the overall aim of making them more lenient, but rather to help the courts do a better job of differentiating among offenders and determining appropriate punishment. “The guideline has not kept pace with technological advancements in both computer media and Internet and software technologies,” the DOJ experts said.
As opposed to focusing on the quantity of images collected by an offender, the experts said revised guidelines could take into account the length of time the offender has been involved with child porn, the degree of sophistication of measures taken to avoid detection, and the extent to which the offender communicates as part of a network. One such network, called Dreamboard, was unraveled by investigators last year. In all, 72 people were charged with participating in an international, members-only Internet club created to trade tens of thousands of images and videos of sexually abused children. There’s one point of agreement in the sentencing debate: All parties agree that penalties should remain severe — or be toughened — for those who produce and promote child pornography.
A key point of contention, by contrast, is the degree to which offenders charged with receipt and possession of child porn pose a risk of physically abusing children themselves, as opposed to looking at images of abuse. New York-based federal defender Deidre con Dornumtold the Sentencing Commission there’s insufficient evidence to prove a strong correlation. Child pornography offenders have a lower recidivism rate than child molesters, she said, and many could be safely monitored via supervised probation. “Many of these individuals have stable employment, family support, and no prior contact with the criminal justice system,” she said. “Punitive terms of imprisonment do nothing but weaken or destroy pro-social influences in their lives.”
The Justice Department experts were more skeptical, citing research suggesting that a substantial percentage of child-pornography offenders are pedophiles who either have sexually abused a child or might try to do so. Von Dornum challenged the premise that tough sentencing would dry up the market for child porn. “Because child pornography is free, widely available and easy to produce, it is not subject to the normal laws of supply and demand,” she said, noting that many countries do not even have laws against it. She also said the sentencing guidelines contribute to unjust disparities, depending on whether a prosecutor charged a defendant with receipt of child pornography, as well as possession. Under the guidelines, receipt carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, but possession has no mandatory minimum.
According to von Dornum, the average sentence for a federal child pornography offense in 2010 was higher than for all other offenses except murder and kidnapping. Indeed, the average was about six months higher than for sexual abuse offenders. “Yet there is significant political pressure to do nothing but continue to increase penalties for these offenders, the ‘modern-day untouchables,’” she testified. She urged the commission “to take the difficult step of rising above the politics and fear” and revise the sentencing framework. Another witness at the February hearing — testifying on behalf of her fellow federal judges in the Judicial Conference of the United States — was Casey Rogers, chief judge of the Northern District of Florida.
Rodgers stressed that child pornography entails “unspeakable acts by the offenders and unimaginable harm to the child victims.” Nonetheless, she said doubts are growing within the judiciary about the reasonableness of the sentencing guidelines, as demonstrated by the extent to which judges are refusing to follow them and issuing lower sentences. Rodgers urged the commission to propose repealing the mandatory minimum sentence for receipt of child porn. And she said the guidelines should be revised to help judges better identify which offenders are at greatest risk of committing future sexual abuse of children. “Lengthy terms of incarceration alone will not adequately address the harms of these offenders,” she testified. “Greater reliance on the use of supervised release should be considered.”
Troy Stabenow, an assistant federal public defender in Missouri, said the judges’ resistance to the sentencing guidelines was “pretty courageous,” “They’re doing it knowing they’re likely be lambasted in the media,” he said. “They wouldn’t be doing it unless they really believe a lot of typical offenders they see are not the menace that people assume they are.” In Congress, some Republicans have voiced dismay at the judges’ stance, as evidenced by a recent letter to the Sentencing Commission from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime. “I am concerned that the federal judiciary is failing to consider the severity of child pornography and its victims,” he wrote. “This departure rate is disturbing and threatens the most vulnerable among us, our children.”
Among Democrats in Congress, there are numerous critics of mandatory minimum sentences — for example, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. But members of Leahy’s staff doubt there will be any groundswell of support in Congress for easing child-pornography sentences. One of the few recent rollbacks of sentencing laws came in 2010 when Congress reduced the difference between sentences for crimes committed by crack cocaine and powder cocaine users. The disparity had been assailed by civil-rights advocates as a form of racial discrimination because most people convicted of crack crimes were black. There’s no equivalent advocacy campaign on behalf of child porn offenders, about 90 percent of whom are white. “You don’t have any built-in sympathy,” said Jelani Jefferson Exum, a professor at the University of Toledo College of Law. “Who’s going to stand up and say, ‘I’m fighting for child porn possessors.’”
Susan Howley, public policy director for the National Center for Victims of Crime, has been urging those involved in the debate to keep the victims in mind. She says they face higher risk of developing mental health disorders, sexual dysfunction and substance abuse problems. “While sentencing does not appear to be the perfect tool to reduce the market for child abuse images, it is one of the few tools available,” Howley told the public hearing in February. “Through sentencing we express to society, and to the individual victims and family members harmed, that we recognize the seriousness of this offense.”
I’m not sure that I can argue that people who possess child porn should receive lighter sentences but at the same time, several thoughts come to mind. The sentence must fit the crime. Society must decide whether an offender can be rehabilitated or is in need of warehousing. It really is that simple. We have to decide how we treat violent criminals vs non-violent criminals and this cannot and should not be done in a polarizing, emotional environment. Child porn is disgusting and we are disgusted by those who are caught possessing it but in reality, how are we going to deal with them? We have never been able to incarcerate our way out of any problem. Our bulging prisons are proof.
The most politically brazen feature of Obamacare has always been its looting of Medicare. About half of Obamacare’s costs are to be covered with money taken from an already nearly bankrupt program for seniors. And the most politically perilous aspect of this ploy is Obama-care’s cuts in Medicare Advantage funding, which would cause many seniors to lose their preferred health plans. Under the implementation schedule stipulated in Obamacare, many seniors would either lose their plans, or learn that they are going to lose them, before the election that will likely decide Obamacare’s—and Obama’s—fate.
Anticipating a senior revolt, the administration took action. It ran millions of dollars’ worth of taxpayer-funded TV ads featuring Andy Griffith saying things like, “That new health care law sure sounds good for all of us on Medicare!” It mailed out full-color, taxpayer-funded propaganda brochures singing the same tune. It repeatedly claimed (and continues to claim) that money taken out of Medicare to fund Obamacare would—magically—also stay in Medicare and be used to extend its solvency.
But the administration didn’t stop there. Instead, it launched an $8.35 billion “demonstration project” to postpone the vast majority of Obamacare’s Medicare Advantage cuts until after what Obama likes to call his “last election.” In truth, this isn’t really a demonstration project at all. It’s something closer to the opposite: an attempt to keep Obamacare’s effects from being demonstrated until it’s too late for voters to respond.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified this “demonstration project” as a sham. The GAO highlights the project’s myriad “design shortcomings,” including its excessive focus on 2012, its awarding “most” of its “quality bonuses” to average-performing plans, and its lack of a control group. The GAO, not known for its bluntness, concludes that the secretary of health and human services (HHS) “should cancel” the project and perhaps, sometime in the future, consider “conducting an appropriately designed demonstration.” The GAO also notes that the demonstration “does not . . . conform to the principles of budget neutrality.” The administration is running up the national debt by another $8.35 billion in order to boost Obama’s reelection prospects.
So how much is $8.35 billion, anyway? It’s more than 40 times the $197 million that Obama had raised for his reelection bid as of April 1. It’s more than 90 times the amount that he and Mitt Romney are each eligible to receive in general election matching funds. In health care terms, it’s more than the combined annual profits of the nation’s two largest and most profitable health insurance companies. In other words, $8.35 billion is real money—real taxpayer money.
Moreover, it’s real money that’s quite possibly being spent illegally. After all, a president isn’t generally thought to possess the power to reallocate Americans’ resources to shore up his political vulnerabilities. In defense of its actions, the administration is relying on a 1967 law that says the HHS secretary can spend money without specific congressional approval on “experiments” aimed at improving the execution of current law. Obama’s $8.35 billion allocation, however, isn’t aimed at improving the execution of current law. It’s aimed at delaying the execution of current law and thereby masking the effects of that law until after Obama’s reelection bid. The only “experiment” the administration is conducting is whether it can pull the wool over seniors’ eyes until the election is over.
Even for a president who has appointed numerous “czars” to circumvent the confirmation process, issued “recess” appointments when the Senate wasn’t in recess, and declared that it would be “unprecedented” for the Supreme Court to strike down a federal law, such a move is eye-opening. It raises the question: Have other presidents similarly exploited this law to promote their own self–interest? The GAO responds that of the 85 other Medicare demonstration projects conducted in the 17 years since 1995, none has cost even one-seventh as much as Obama’s. In fact, according to the GAO, Obama’s $8.35 billion gambit will cost more than all 85 other Medicare demonstration projects combined.
As Ben Sasse, HHS’s assistant secretary for planning and evaluation until early 2009 and now the president of Midland University, says, “If a presidential administration can simply make up the authority to make law and give itself the power of the purse to implement its new law—which not only isn’t designed to make existing law work but is actually against the purpose of existing law—why do we need a Congress?” Sasse adds, “In scope and intention, this is something completely new, and if it’s allowed to establish precedent, the only limit on what future administrations could spend money on, or how much they could unilaterally spend, would be their own electoral calculations about what they could get away with.”
Obama’s calculation appears to be that he can get away with a lot. But that may be wrong. Obamacare would be unpopular enough if it were simply a 2,700-page affront to Americans’ liberty and their country’s fiscal solvency. However, the overhaul’s reputation has been further sullied by the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, Gator Aid, and the rest of the shady backroom deals the Democrats struck to secure its passage. By now initiating the Senior Swindle, Obama risks tarnishing Obama-care’s reputation even further.
Given the president’s mindset—his singular desire to impose Obamacare coupled with his frequent disregard for legal forms—he presumably felt he had no choice. Seniors wouldn’t just sit quietly while their Medicare Advantage plans went away. You can’t siphon $204 billion (the amount projected by the Congressional Budget Office) out of a popular program in just eight years’ time (and far more in the years to follow), spend it on your unpopular health care overhaul, and have no one notice.
Roughly 12 million seniors have chosen to carry Medicare Advantage. Most like it and want to keep it. They surely don’t want the funding for their plan cut by an average of $17,000 per senior over the rest of this decade, as would happen under Obamacare. They similarly don’t want to see the Medicare chief actuary’s prediction come true: that by 2017, enrollment in Medicare Advantage will decrease by half from what it would have been without Obamacare.
But it’s not just Medicare Advantage beneficiaries who have cause for concern. Under Obamacare, other Medicare enrollees would struggle to find doctors, as (according to the Medicare chief actuary) Medicare reimbursement rates would drop below even Medicaid reimbursement rates by the end of this decade. Also by the end of the decade, the CBO suggests, Obama-care will cause 5 million people to lose their employer-sponsored insurance—almost certainly a lowball estimate. Joel Ario, Obama’s initial head of the Office of Health Insurance Exchanges, said that if Obama-care’s “exchanges work pretty well, then the employer can say, ‘This is a great thing. I can now dump my people into the exchange, and it would be good for them, good for me.’ ” This doesn’t quite have the same reassuring ring as, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” But it does have the benefit of sounding true.
The Senior Swindle provides a further reminder of the unseemliness of Obamacare, a preview of the politicizing of medicine that Obamacare would spawn, and an example of the unprincipled side of our politics. But mostly it offers a testament to the Founders’ wisdom in making our government leaders accountable to the people. The American people have now been living under the looming specter of Obamacare for more than two years. In the fall, they will finally get to issue their verdict on its architect. The bet here is that $8.35 billion in unscrupulously—and perhaps illegally—allocated diversionary funds won’t be enough to keep the citizenry from voting Obama out of office in November and insisting on the repeal of Obamacare in January. In fact, it might serve as a catalyst.
FARMERSBURG, Indiana — (DMN) – An former employee Terre Haute, Indiana television station WTWO was arrested yesterday for a shooting that took place outside the station’s Farmersburg studio and transmitter site early yesterday morning. Kenneth “Trey” Bolinger, 24, of Farmersburg, was arrested on a preliminary charge of criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon, a Class C felony, and three counts of criminal mischief, a Class D felony, less than 12 hours after shots were fired at WTWO, the NBC affiliate for the Terre Haute television market.
Bolinger, a former employee of the station, was taken into custody just before 3 p.m., Indiana State Police Sgt. Joe Watts said. “During the investigation, officers developed information that led them to investigate Bolinger as a possible suspect,” Watts said. “During the arrest and subsequent search of (a home Bolinger shares with his parents), evidence was recovered, which detectives believe is related to the … shooting incident.” Bolinger had recently been terminated from the station, police said, but they referred questions about him to TV station management.
An entry on Bolinger’s Google+ account suggests he was fired for carrying a gun at work. “I was recently released from my job at WTWO-TV for taking advantage of my 2nd amendment rights with a license to conceal, so now I am back to doing consulting and technology for my little business that I started in 2007 called KB Technologies & Multimedia,” a post on his Google+ account says. Troopers were called to WTWO just after 8:30 a.m. Investigators believe the shots were fired about 4 a.m. “Employees of the station believed they heard gunshots from outside of the building. A quick, cursory search at that time did not reveal the damage,” Watts said. ” As daylight arrived and employees were beginning and ending their respective shifts, the gunshot damage was discovered.”
Police said multiple rounds had been fired through the front door glass at the main entrance to the building and more shots were fired into a station vehicle on the north side the building. Multiple shots were also fired into a privately owned vehicle on the west side of the building, police said. Investigators declined to release information about how many rounds were fired and about the type of weapon that was used. There were no injuries. Bolinger was being held Saturday in the Sullivan County Jail on $39,000 bond.WTWO is owned by Nexstar Broadcasting. It also operates WAWV, an ABC affiliate. Farmersburg is 15 miles south of Terre Haute.