Vermont Man Uses Tractor To Flatten 8 Police Cars After Marijuana Arrest


Police report that a man drove a tractor over eight police vehicles on Thursday. They estimate the damage at about $250,000.

The man was allegedly driving a farm tractor that he used to run over eight vehicles in the parking lot of a Vermont police station. Police officials claim that this was in an apparent revenge scheme.  Continue reading

Witness Says Paris Attackers Were Clean Shaven White Men In A New Mercedes-Benz


According to witness testimony that has been mostly overlooked by the international media, the attackers were described as clean-shaven white men who were driving a brand-new black Mercedes-Benz.

According to the UK’s Mirror, an eyewitness by the name of Mahoud Admo said that he witnessed the initial drive by shooting, and saw the attackers without masks as they passed by in Mercedes-Benz calmly firing machine guns into the crowd.

Continue reading

Uhhh… What? Former Tenn. Politician Arrested For Masturbating Out Car Window While Going 90 MPH

( And… this happened.

A former Tennessee politician was arrested and charged with indecent exposure after he allegedly masturbated out his car window while driving 90 mph on Interstate 26 earlier this year. Apparently this is not a new multi-tasking endeavor for the former Mount Carmel vice mayor — the charges mirror complaints made him against him several years ago that were never fully investigated. And now he’s facing up to all of them.

William Lee Blakely was charged with one count of indecent exposure after a female motorist alleged that he “fondled himself” and made obscene gestures while they drove next to one another on the highway.

Now that he’s been arrested for the charges, several women have come out to testify about similar stories in the past. “It seems that every victim would tell the same story. But I knew all the victims did not know each other,” Kingsport Police Detective Terry Christian told WJHL.

According to each of the women testifying, Blakely’s high-speed masturbation super fun time started out the same: he’d wave to get the drivers’ attention, escalating to a honk, and then partially crossing over into their lanes.

“After the waving, it turned into a lot of beeping, him grabbing his chest area, and asking me going ‘please, please’ with his hands, may I… show me yours,” witness Kelly Street said.

“He was taking his hand, wetting his mouth, and masturbating,” another witness said.

“At over 90 miles per hour, he had his penis out … he was masturbating… and that’s when it got really, really bad. I wouldn’t look over any more,” Street added.

Detective Christian lamented how Blakely’s indecent acts “went on for so long and nobody’s addressed it.” Apparently the department received dozens of phone calls reporting similar behavior over the last three to four years, all from victims ranging between ages 16-65.



Watch the report via WJHL


Feds Set To Mandate “Black Box” Data Recorders In Every Car And Truck


Accident investigators will soon have black-box data from all crashes, because of a new rule set to be finalized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

WASHINGTON – Many motorists don’t know it, but it’s likely that every time they get behind the wheel, there’s a snitch along for the ride.
This week ended the public comment period on a proposed law that would put so-called black boxes in every new car sold by September 1, 2014. The thing is, most cars already have them unbeknownst to many drivers.
Automakers have been quietly tucking the devices, which automatically record the actions of drivers and the responses of their vehicles in a continuous information loop, into most new cars for years.
When a car is involved in a crash or when its airbags deploy, inputs from the vehicle’s sensors during the 5 to 10 seconds before impact are automatically preserved. That’s usually enough to record things like how fast the car was traveling and whether the driver applied the brake, was steering erratically or had a seat belt on. This data has been used recently, for example, to determine what was happening in cars before accidents when some Toyota owners were claiming their cars were accelerating out of control as they were driving.
The idea behind mandating black box data recorders is to gather information that can help investigators determine the causes of accidents and lead to safer vehicles. But privacy advocates say government regulators and automakers are spreading an intrusive technology without first putting in place policies to prevent misuse of the information collected.
Data collected by the recorders is increasingly showing up in lawsuits, criminal cases and high-profile accidents. Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray initially said that he wasn’t speeding and that he was wearing his seat belt when he crashed a government-owned car last year. But the Ford Crown Victoria’s data recorder told a different story: It showed the car was traveling more than 100 mph and Murray wasn’t belted in.
In 2007, then-New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine was seriously injured in the crash of an SUV driven by a state trooper. Corzine was a passenger. The SUV’s recorder showed the vehicle was traveling 91 mph on a parkway where the speed limit was 65 mph, and Corzine didn’t have his seat belt on.
In this way, the black boxes can nail liars trying to blame their cars for bad driving.
There’s no opt-out. It’s extremely difficult for car owners to disable the recorders. Although some vehicle models have had recorders since the early 1990s, a federal requirement that automakers disclose their existence in owner’s manuals didn’t go into effect until three months ago. Automakers that voluntarily put recorders in vehicles are also now required to gather a minimum of 15 types of data.
Besides the upcoming proposal to put recorders in all new vehicles, the traffic safety administration is also considering expanding the data requirement to include as many as 30 additional types of data such as whether the vehicle’s electronic stability control was engaged, the driver’s seat position or whether the front-seat passenger was belted in. Some manufacturers already are collecting the information. Engineers have identified more than 80 data points that might be useful.
Privacy complaints have gone unheeded so far. The traffic safety administration says it doesn’t have the authority to impose limits on how the information can be used and other privacy protections. About a dozen states have some law regarding data recorders, but the rest do not.
“Right now we’re in an environment where there are no rules, there are no limits, there are no consequences and there is no transparency,” said Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy advocacy group. “Most people who are operating a motor vehicle have no idea this technology is integrated into their vehicle.”
Part of the concern is that the increasing computerization of cars and the growing communications to and from vehicles like GPS navigation and General Motors‘ OnStar system could lead to unintended uses of recorder data.
“Basically your car is a computer now, so it can record all kinds of information,” said Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers. “It’s a lot of the same issues you have about your computer or your smartphone and whether Google or someone else has access to the data.”
The alliance opposes the government requiring recorders in all vehicles.
Data recorders “help our engineers understand how cars perform in the real world, and we already have put them on over 90 percent of (new) vehicles without any mandate being necessary,” Bergquist said.
The National Transportation Safety Board has been pushing for recorders in all passenger vehicles since the board’s investigation of a 2003 accident in which an elderly driver plowed through an open-air market in Santa Monica, Calif. Ten people were killed and 63 were injured. The driver refused to be interviewed and his 1992 Buick LeSabre didn’t have a recorder. After ruling out other possibilities, investigators ultimately guessed that he had either mistakenly stepped on the gas pedal or had stepped on the gas and the brake pedals at the same time.
Some automakers began installing the recorders at a time when there were complaints that air bags might be causing deaths and injuries, partly to protect themselves against liability and partly to improve air bag technology. Most recorders are black boxes about the size of a deck of cards with circuit boards inside. After an accident, information is downloaded to a laptop computer using a tool unique to the vehicle’s manufacturer. As electronics in cars have increased, the kinds of data that can be recorded have grown as well. Some more recent recorders are part of the vehicle’s computers rather than a separate device.

Police State: Unconstitutional “Vehicle Inspection” Checkpoints To Terrorize Florida Residence

Florida Highway Patrol cruiser helicopter generic crime FHP


TAMPA BAY - The Florida Highway Patrol Troop C (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk,  Pasco, Hernando, Sumter and Citrus counties) has announced the roads it plans to  target with driver license and/or vehicle inspection checkpoints in February.  FHP says the checkpoints will be conducted during daytime hours, and generally  cause delays of five minutes or less. Scroll down for a list of all affected  roads.

Here are your questions (submitted via Facebook and Twitter  @TampaBayTraffic  ) about the checkpoints:

Q: Is this legal?

A: There is a policy established by the Florida Highway Patrol that specifies  the legal guidelines that must be undertaken by the agency to conduct driver  license and vehicle safety inspection checkpoints. The information provided  below comes directly from that policy, which was provided by FHP.

Q: How will this impact my drive?  Won’t these checkpoints  cause big traffic jams?

A: Initially, every third vehicle will be stopped, however the Checkpoint  Supervisor will monitor traffic to ensure a backup doesn’t occur. If delays of  more than three to five minutes occur, the Checkpoint Supervisor may order an  alternate vehicle count (i.e. every fifth vehicle). If the traffic conditions  cause a back up that cannot be easily alleviated by the alternate vehicle count,  the Checkpoint Supervisor may temporarily suspend the checkpoint until the  back-up has been cleared. Once cleared, the checkpoint can be reactivated using  the last vehicle count method that was in place. Per the policy, the degree of  intrusion to motorists and the length of detention to each driver should be kept  to a minimum.

Q: Do these checkpoints affect trucks and buses too?

A: All vehicles and drivers, including commercial vehicles, buses and large  trucks, that enter the checkpoint are subject to screening. The only exception  is emergency vehicles.

Q: Isn’t this profiling?

A: The FHP police states “vehicles and drivers shall not be stopped on a  discretionary basis (i.e., due to the ‘looks’ of the vehicle or it  occupant(s).”

Q: What’s a “driver license checkpoint”?

A: Troopers will request the driver license and vehicle registration from  each driver detained. If a driver is also the owner or registrant of the  vehicle, the Trooper also may request proof of personal injury protection (PIP)  insurance. FHP says violations will be enforced pursuant to Florida law and  Division policy.

Q: What are” vehicle inspection checkpoints”? Troopers aren’t  mechanics, so why are they checking my car?

A: Per FHP, defective vehicle equipment, such as bad brakes, worn tires and  defective lighting equipment, poses dangers to the public.

Q: What will officers inspect on my vehicle if I’m  stopped?

A: Troopers may inspect the following equipment on vehicles:

  • Horn
  • Windshield wipers
  • Brakes
  • Tail lamps
  • Directional signals (required on all vehicles manufactured after January 1,  1972)
  • Stop lamps
  • License plate lamp
  • Headlamps
  • Steering mechanism
  • Tires
  • Exhaust system
  • Other readily visible equipment (windshield, bumpers, etc.)

Q: Am I going to get a ticket? How much do they cost?

A: During the vehicle inspection checkpoints, Troopers may issue a Faulty  Equipment Violations, which are non-moving violations and do not carry points  for the driver’s record. Fees for non-moving violations vary by county. In  Hillsborough County, a non-moving violation fee is $103, however if a citation  is issued, drivers may have the faulty equipment replaced or repaired, provide  proof of those repairs, and have the fine reduced to $83. The non-moving  violation fees for other counties included in the checkpoints are: Citrus $116;  Hernando $114; Pasco $114; Polk $114; Sumter $11

During the driver license or vehicle inspection checkpoints, citations may be  issued for seat belt violations ($103-$116 fine). Drivers that appear to be  impaired may be arrested, and their vehicles may be towed.

Q: What times will the checkpoints occur?
A: Any time between sunrise and sunset, according to FHP.
Q: Are these actually DUI checkpoints?
A: No. However if an officer suspects a driver is impaired, the vehicle  will be moved off of the roadway and standard procedure for DUI investigation  will be conducted. When probable cause exists to believe that the driver has  committed DUI, the driver will be held/processed per Florida law and local  procedures for DUI offenders. If there’s probable cause to believe that the  driver or any passenger in the vehicle has committed an offense involving the  possession or use of any contraband drug, the driver or passenger will be  secured and processed in accordance with Florida law and local procedures for  contraband drug offenders. Additionally, when reasonable suspicion exists to  believe that the driver or any passenger in the vehicle has committed an offense  involving the possession or use of any contraband drug, a K-9 officer may be  requested to conduct a K-9 sniff of the vehicle in order to detect and locate  contraband drugs.
Here are
the roads impacted by the checkpoints, as determined by local  supervisors.
Pinellas County
No Pinellas County checkpoint locations have been scheduled at this  time.

Hillsborough County

US Highways: US-92, US-41, Bus 41, US-301

State Roads: 60/Adamo/Brandon Blvd; 582, 597, 678, 580, 45, 600, 573, 599,  676, Alt 676, 39, 674, 43, 601, 583, and 685

County Roads: 587, 576, 579, 581, 672, 640, 574, 574A, 39B, 582A, and 584

Local Roads:

  • South Mobley Highway
  • Lutz Lake Fern Road
  • Wilsky Avenue
  • Linebaugh Avenue
  • Van Dyke Road
  • Barry Road
  • Livingston Avenue
  • Crenshaw Lake Road
  • 127    th Avenue
  • Skipper Road
  • County Line Road
  • Davis Road
  • Trapnell Road
  • Jap Tucker Road
  • Lithia Pinecrest Road
  • Williams Road
  • Harney Road
  • Symmes Road
  • Balm Road
  • Magnolia Lane
  • North Taylor Road
  • Pruett Road
  • Rhodine Road
  • McIntosh Road
  • Turkey Creek Road
  • Balm Riverview Road

Pasco County

US Highways:  US-41, US-301

State Roads: 54, 52

County Roads: 1, 41, 52A, 77, 518, 575 577, 578, 579, 579A, 587, 587A,  595

Local Roads:

  • Key Lime Drive
  • Hudson Avenue
  • Shady Hills Road
  • County Line Road (Pasco/Hernando)
  • County Line Road (Hillsborough/Pasco)
  • Thys Road
  • Hays Road
  • Hicks Road
  • Lock Street
  • Moog Road
  • Mile Stretch Drive
  • Jasmine Boulevard
  • Madison Street
  • Old Dixie Highway
  • Moon Lake Road
  • Denton Avenue
  • Old Pasco Road
  • Foam Flower Boulevard
  • Dayflower Boulevard
  • Quail Hollow Boulevard
  • Boyette Road
  • Monteverde Drive.

Hernando County

County Roads:  476, 480, 481, 484, 491, 493, 495, 541, 580, 572, 576,  581, and 597

Local Roads:

  • LaRose Road
  • WPA Road
  • Yontz Road
  • Kettering Road
  • Reynolds Road
  • Daly Road
  • Ridge Manor Boulevard
  • Grove Road
  • Horse Lake Road
  • Osowaw Road
  • Barrett Road

Polk County

State Roads:  600, 700

County Roads:  35A, 540, 542, 546 557, 17A, 659, 655, 54, 542A, 580

Local Roads:

  • Pine Chase Avenue
  • Wabash Avenue
  • Thompson Nursery Road

Citrus County

County Roads:  39, 470, 480, 486, 488, 490, 490A, 491, 494

Local Roads:

  • Highlands Street
  • West Cardinal Street
  • Century Boulevard
  • Elkcam Boulevard
  • West Pine Ridge Boulevard
  • Dunkenfield Road
  • Rock Crusher Road
  • North Croft Avenue
  • West Seven Rivers Drive
  • West Venable Street
  • Pleasant Grove Road
  • Green Acres Boulevard
  • Fort Island Trail
  • West Riverbend Road
  • Fishbowl Drive
  • Miss Maggie Drive
  • Gobbler Drive
  • North Citrus Avenue
  • Turkey Oak Drive
  • Dunklin Avenue
  • Yulee Drive West
  • North Citrus Springs Boulevard
  • Grover Cleveland
  • Turner Camp Road
  • Istachatta Road
  • West Highland Street
  • Halls River Road
  • Old Floral City Highway

Sumter County

State Roads:  35 and 471

County Roads:  44A, 48, 209, 229, 400, 412, 416, 437, 462, 466, 466A,  468, 469, 470, 471, 472, 475, 476A, 476B, 478, 478A, 501, 575, 647, 673, 696,  721, 723, and 747

Local Roads:

  • Buena Vista Blvd
  • Morse Blvd

Manatee, Sarasota counties

These counties operate outside of Troop C. Information about checkpoints in  those areas has not been announced at this time.


Iranian Oops: US may have broken own sanctions by buying Tehran’s oil

(RT) -There is a high probability that US sanctions against Iran have been violated by its own army. Part of the $1.55 billion in fuel the US bought from Turkmenistan for the Afghan army in the last five years may have originated in Iran.

A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) suggested that “despite actions taken by DOD to prevent the purchase of Iranian fuel with US funds, risks remain that US economic sanctions could [have been] violated” from 2007 to 2012.

Most of the fuel for domestic Afghan consumption comes from neighboring Iran. Because of the US sanctions on Tehran restricting the trade of Iranian oil and petroleum products, the ISAF has been required to abide by the regulations and buy petrol from eight Afghan-owned companies that deliver petroleum from Turkmenistan, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan.

The SIGAR report also acknowledged there are no plausible oversight mechanisms to make sure Iranian petroleum products are not included in future fuel purchases.

Turkmenistan is a major regional oil producer, which also trades for petroleum products made in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia and Iran. Petrol vendors in Turkmenistan use flexible supply schemes, meaning that fuel of various origins could potentially be blended together.

In response to a draft of SIGAR report, the US Embassy in Kabul stated that “it is possible that if blending is taking place in Turkmenistan it could contain some Iranian fuel,” but refused to admit that fuel imported from Russia could also be blended with Iranian fuel prior to its import into Afghanistan.

All fuel imports carry a ‘verified Fuel Passport’ from the refinery, which provides information on the origin, quantity, quality, and specifications of the fuel,” the embassy explained.

“Suppliers are unlikely to blend Iranian fuel, or any other product, with other sourced fuel because of the potential that blending could cause product deviation from specification standards and potentially cause a rejection of the entire shipment,” the embassy said.

In 2012, the Pentagon reportedly spent over $800 million on imports from Turkmenistan, most likely for fuel purchases.

Iran escaping sanctions

Western sanctions have taken their toll on Iran: Tehran was formerly OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, exporting 2.2 million barrels of oil daily. The sanctions more than halved that figure, to 890,000 barrels of oil exported a day by September 2012.

The Iranian economy has lost billions of dollars in revenue, plunging to decades-low figures. The value of the national currency, the rial, has taken a kamikaze dive; the Iranian leadership, including incendiary President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was forced to publicly admit the sanctions were having an effect.

But Tehran has quickly recovered from the US-EU sanctions imposed on its oil trade. By the end of last year, Iranian crude oil exports rose again to 1.4 million barrels per day. Most of the Iranian oil is sold to Asian countries such as China, India and Japan, where demand for energy is growing. The expansion of Iran’s tanker fleet also helped the Islamic Republic circumvent the sanctions.

The US believes that the most common trick Iran uses to dodge sanctions is ship-to-ship transfers (STS), in which large tankers leaving Iran’s ports offload Iranian oil to smaller vessels. Then, the Iranian oil is blended with that of another country to disguise it. After that, new shipping documents are issued, giving the blended oil shipment a new identity, Reuters reported.

The US has scrambled to enact countermeasures on the news that its sanctions are being skirted. Reuters reported on Thursday that the US State Department is planning to target companies that deliberately disguise Iranian oil shipments to evade Western sanctions.

Also, an unnamed US official said that the US authorities are “increasingly aware of this STS issue,” and that companies involved in covert deals for Iranian oil will be punished. Sanctions violators could be prohibited from trading with the US companies, for example.

US taxpayers are set to lose $27 billion from financial bailout: Report

American taxpayers are expected to lose USD 27 billion from the 2008 financial bailout.

American taxpayers are expected to lose USD 27 billion from the 2008 financial bailout.
(PressTV)American taxpayers are expected to lose USD 27 billion from the 2008 financial bailout, as a report reveals further losses attributed to the US Treasury Department.

US taxpayers can expect to lose even more than the estimated USD 22 billion made in the fall last year, due to increased losses for the Treasury Department on sales of shares in bailed-out companies, according to a report released on Wednesday by the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

The report said taxpayers could lose USD 5.5 billion specifically on Ally Financial - formerly called GMAC under a partnership with General Motors - in losses based on unsafe mortgages given right before the financial crisis. Ally owes USD 14.6 billion of the USD 17.2 billion in assistance it received.

The US government would also need to sell all General Motors shares it holds at USD 71.86 per share, more than double the current price of USD 28. GM still owes USD 21.6 billion of the USD 49.5 billion bailout it received.

“Taxpayers saved GMAC, and they should not be put in the position of needing to save the company again,” said Special Inspector General Christy Romero, adding that both Ally and General Motors owe more than half of the USD 67.3 billion still owed to taxpayers by companies that were bailed out during the financial crisis.

The government watchdog went on to reveal fraud related to TARP during investigations that subsequently led to criminal charges against 119 people, including 82 senior company executives.

This comes as Romero accused the Treasury Department for providing “excessive” pay for executives tied to the bailed-out corporations rescued from the financial crisis including General Motors, Ally Financial and AIG - the largest bailout recipient at USD 182 billion.

After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress authorized USD 700 billion for the bailout of some of America’s largest companies. About USD 413 billion was eventually issued.

Obama to Shut Down Southern Air Defense Systems: “It Will Be Open Season for Terrorists Flying In With Nukes, Low Altitude Missiles, Or Even Full Scale Invasion of America”

(SHTFPlan) -As the U.S. government continues to expand surveillance and monitoring systems to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars within the borders of the United States, a recent announcement regarding the country’s southern air defense systems is raising eyebrows.

Our southern border is, in part, protected by the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS), which utilizes moored balloons hovering at about 15,000 feet to identify low flying aircraft and missiles that may penetrate the border and cross into U.S. airspace.

The system is utilized by the U.S. Air Force, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for a number of missions including detection of drug smuggling and preservation of the air sovereignty of the continental United States.

According to Exelis Systems Corporation, the company that built and jointly maintains TARS with the U.S. Air Force, the government has ordered a complete shutdown of Aerostat flight operations:

The government also indicated its intent that aerostat flight operations will cease on March 15, 2013, and that the remainder of the fiscal year will be used to deflate aerostats, disposition equipment, and prepare sites for permanent closure. We are currently reviewing all the details of the RfP and evaluating the possible impacts on the program and our workforce. We continue to communicate with the government on this matter, and we will have more information in the coming days and weeks.

An Exelis employee close to the TARS project had this to say about the closure of the sites:

“Not only will this closure mean hundreds of people will be out of jobs, but it also means our borders will not be safe, especially along the remote U.S. Mexico Border like in Texas.

These defense radars detect low flying aircraft infiltrating our borders.

Without these defense radars, low flying aircraft will go undetected.

It will be open season for any drug/gun/slave smugglers, terrorists flying in with nukes, low altitude missiles, or even a full scale low elevation invasion/attack against America.”

With China actively and openly deploying Russian-made low altitude strategic bombers, designing EMP weapons capable of disabling the country’s power grid infrastructure, and establishing economic zones within the United States, it’s difficult to imagine the motivation behind the move to further weaken U.S. air defenses on the southern border.

If September 11, 2001 was any indication of our air defense capabilities, and considering that any ground invasion of the United States would originate on our southern border, then wouldn’t we want as many early warning systems as possible to be actively protecting our country in these specific areas?

The U.S. government has chosen to shutdown this outward facing surveillance system, and has instead turned the surveillance inward, on the American people.

New Service Allows People To Text Strangers Using License Plate Number

(Elizabeth Harrington) Don’t like the way that car is parked? A new service allows individuals in San Francisco to anonymously send text messages to strangers through their license tag numbers.

“Helping neighbors avoid the pitfalls of parking in San Francisco,” saysCurbTXT, which allows people who sign up for the service to avoid receiving nasty notes on their vehicles.

“A lot of things can go wrong when parking a car in the city,” the company explains. “We think instant, direct, and anonymous communication can alleviate a lot of the parking issues people have with their vehicles and the vehicles of others.”

“Before CurbTXT, no one could reach you if you left your car’s lights on, for instance, unless they knew you and your car,” the company’s website says.  “Now with CurbTXT, anybody with a cell phone can be a good Samaritan.”

Anyone with a cell phone can send an anonymous text message to CurbTXT subscribers, by texting the license plate of the vehicle and the state abbreviation.

The company provides this example: “CA3214567 you’re blocking my driveway – pls move.”

If the vehicle isn’t registered with CurbTXT, the company will let you know that your message was not received. Registered vehicles are supposed to display CurbTXT stickers.

“Anyone with a mobile phone capable of sending text messages can help our community avoid frustrating parking situations which result in nasty notes, expensive parking tickets, or towing,” the company says. “Like the adage goes, ‘If you see something, say something.’”

If individuals receive messages they believe are inappropriate, however, they can block the messenger and CurbTXT says it will investigate that user.

CurbTXT says you will never have to worry about your car again. “Why call the city and tow a car if you can reach the driver? It’s easier than ever to be a good neighbor, so spread the word about CurbTXT.”

“If we can work together and communicate in San Francisco, we can do it anywhere,” they said.

Money falling from the sky: Airlines Losing Millions as 787 Battery Investigation Continues

As the airplane maker tries to find a fix, its customers are trying to figure out how to juggle schedules and routes to fly passengers with 50 Dreamliners grounded around the world. And at least one of those airlines is already saying it expects to be compensated by Boeing.

Today the Japanese Transport Safety Board released photos of the charred 787 battery that prompted pilots to make an emergency landing on Wednesday after they smelled smoke and cockpit indicators signaled a problem. Like the battery that caught fire on a 787 in Boston last week, the lithium-ion battery from the All Nippon Airways airplane showed a melted mass inside the battery case. There appears to be less damage on the outside of the battery box, indicating there was no fire outside the box, unlike the Boston incident.

GS Yuasa, the Japanese company that makes the lithium-ion batteries for the 787, is working with investigators.

It remains unclear whether the problem is with the batteries themselves, the power source or charging system, or the Dreamliner’s electrical system as a whole. The 787 is the most electric airliner ever built and relies far more on electricity to power on-board systems than any other airliner.

The Boeing 787 uses two 63-pound lithium-ion batteries primarily as backup power sources. The battery that caught fire in Boston is located in the tail of the airplane, and can also be used to start the nearby auxiliary power unit. The battery involved in Wednesday’s emergency landing in Japan is located under the cockpit in the front of the airplane.

The two airplanes involved were delivered almost a year apart. But according to the Seattle Times, the batteries may have been built in a much closer timeframe. The paper cites a source saying the serial numbers on the batteries were about 30 digits apart, indicating they may be from a single production run. If it turns out to be a battery manufacturing problem, it could show there is no widespread problem with the design and manufacturing of the Dreamliner itself. And flights could resume sooner than if the problem is traced to an inherent design problem with the airplane.

Boeing is already suggesting an interim fix could be a thorough inspection of the lithium-ion batteries and changes to pilot procedures for a more thorough check of any potential battery problems before flying according to the Seattle newspaper.

Ultimately Boeing is responsible for finding a fix to its new airplane whether the problem is traced to a bad batch of batteries or not. And already airlines are talking about being compensated as their $200 million airliners sit idle. Polish airline LOT says it will seek compensation from Boeing for its grounded airplanes according to Reuters. LOT’s 787 was left stranded in Chicago after making its first trans-Atlantic flight from Poland this week.

Several airlines, including Indian Airlines, are already receiving compensation from Boeing due to delays in the delivery of the 787 Dreamliner. With 50 airplanes grounded, the carriers are losing many millions of dollars. All Nippon Airways operates the largest fleet of 787s right now, with a total of 17 Dreamliners flying primarily domestic routes in Japan. The airline could be losing more than $1 million a day with its 787s parked according to Reuters.

Lance Armstrong to lose Olympic medal after Oprah confession airs

(Digital Journal) -Thirteen years after Lance Armstrong won a Olympic bronze medal in Sydney, Australia, news is breaking that once his confession of doping airs, the shamed icon will be asked to give it back.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) communications director Mark Adams toldThe Independent if Armstrong, who for more than a decade vehemently denied doping, does make a full confession in his interview, the IOC will ask for the medal to be returned.


“From our side - clearly if he admits he cheated then we will be asking for the medal back as we would with any athlete,” Adams said.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had said it could strip Armstrong of his road time trial bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s report of widespread doping by Armstrong and some teammates during his seven Tour de France victories from 1999-2005.


In December, the IOC postponed a decision on whether to strip Armstrong of his Olympic bronze medal because it had to wait until the International Cycling Federation, or UCI, had declared all his results ineligible, the Irish Independent Online writes.


The IOC can retroactively strip Olympic medals if proof of doping emerges later or an athlete admits to cheating, ESPN writes.


In August 2012, the IOC stripped Tyler Hamilton, a former Armstrong teammate, of his time-trial gold medal from the 2004 Athens Olympics after he admitted to doping.


And the IOC took away Marion Jones’ five medals from the 2000 Sydney Games after she admitted using performance-enhancing drugs.


Two months after winning his second Tour de France title in 2000, Armstrong took bronze in Sydney behind winner and U.S. Postal Service teammate Vyacheslav Ekimov of Russia and Jan Ullrich of Germany.


The IOC has no plans to reallocate Armstrong’s bronze medal to any other rider, just as the UCI decided not to pick winners for the Tour de France titles once held by the American. That means Spanish rider Abraham Olano Manzano, who finished fourth in Sydney, would not be upgraded and the third-place spot would be left vacant in the Olympic records.


Armstrong ‘met the moment’


The bleak news mounted up for Armstrong last night when the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said the TV mea culpa would not be enough to overturn his lifetime ban, The Daily Mail reported.


“Only when Mr Armstrong makes a full confession under oath - and tells the anti-doping authorities all he knows about doping activities - can any legal and proper process for him to seek any reopening or reconsideration of his lifetime ban commence,” WADA director general David Howman said in a statement.


Armstrong was banned for life after the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) found he had been at the heart of “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”


Appearing on CBS This Morning Tuesday, Winfrey confirmed that the 41-year-old Texan finally admitted to cheating. But she also hinted at an unexpected twist. “He did not come clean in the manner I expected. It was surprising to me,” Winfrey teased.


Asked if Armstrong was contrite, Winfrey said: “I choose not to characterize. I would rather people make their own decisions. I thought he was serious. I thought he certainly prepared himself for this moment. He met the moment.”


Winfrey’s OWN network airs the first part of her interview with Armstrong at 9 p.m. New York time. OWN planned to air one episode with Armstrong but expanded the program to air in primetime on two nights after the cyclist talked with Winfrey for more than two hours. The second half airs at 9 p.m. New York time on Jan. 18.

5 chilling new ways police violate your rights

(Salon) -One of the most disturbing trends in law enforcement in recent years is the hyper-paramilitarization of local police forces. Much of the funding for tanks for Fargo’s hometown cop shop comes from the Department of Homeland Security. The feds have a lot of money to throw around in the name of preventing terrorism, and municipalities want to get that money. As anyone who has done budgeting knows, the best way to ensure your funding stays high is to request a lot of money and spend it all.

As a result, every year the police get more tools, gadgets, weapons, and surveillance technologies that, whatever their stated purpose, serve to give cops greater capabilities to curtail the rights of anyone unlucky enough to be standing in their path.

We were going to list these in order from least to most creepy, but that proved far too challenging. So here are some cop tools you may not be familiar with, in no particular order.

1. Shock-cuffs.These made a splash in late 2012 when it was reported that Scottsdale Inventions had submitted a patent for metal handcuffs capable of delivering “high-voltage, low amperage shocks to disrupt a person’s voluntary nervous system,” much like Tasers. Depending on the model used, the handcuffs could shock a detainee at the will of his captor, or if the detainee wanders past a certain border – like an invisible fence for dogs.

Even more disturbing is the potential to arm the handcuffs with needles capable of injecting medications, sedatives or any number of liquid or gas substances into the detainee. But don’t worry – some models may include a flashing light or sound-alert to warn the person that a shock is about to happen.

2. Rapid DNA analysis. One of the main stories of the future of policing will be cops’ ability to collect biometric data in the field, instead of at the downtown precinct. EFF reported earlier this month on a potentially troubling technology called Rapid DNA analysis, being developed by contractors with the federal government. The machine, which is about the size of a laser printer, has the ability to collect, analyze and catalog your DNA onsite in about 90 minutes.

The stated purpose of the technology is to help identify family relationships between refugees, which could be beneficial if used in limited ways. According to EFF, however, the US Citizenship and Immigration agency suggests “that DNA should be collected from all immigration applicants—possibly even infants—and then stored in the FBI’s criminal DNA database.” As with all data collection in the US, the wrench only goes one way, and once local police forces obtain this technology the potential for abuse is huge.

3. Mobile fingerprinting. Police forces across the country have become enamored of smart phone-sized fingerprint scanners. The police use the devices to scan two fingers of the suspect and transmit the data via Bluetooth to the officer’s laptop in his cruiser. The laptop then checks the image against criminal databases for a match.

The ACLU of Washington is concerned that the devices could be used to collect fingerprints, not simply scan them, though Seattle police insist they don’t keep the scanned fingerprints.

4. Iris scans.When I was arrested covering Occupy in December 2011, a livestreamer who was an old hat at political arrests warned me about the iris scan. Beginning in 2010, the NYPD started scanning arrestees’ irises on intake and immediately prior to arraignment. The stated purpose of these scans is to ensure that the person brought before the judge is the right one (there were some instances of mistaken identity), but in practice the scope of the iris scan is much broader. It’s plainly an example of collecting biometric data of people who haven’t been convicted of a crime, as well as a mechanism to punish those who refuse the scan.

The scan isn’t mandatory, but as I wrote about my own experience, “if you don’t submit to it, you will be punished.” In my case, I refused the scan on intake, but was told I would be held in jail for an extra night if I didn’t allow my eyes to be scanned before I saw the arraignment judge, despite the fact that there was no initial scan to compare it with.

This technology, like DNA analysis and fingerprinting, can now be used in the field. BI2 Technologies has developed a device that slides over an iPhone and allows officers to scan a suspect’s face and eyes, and then check that scan against a criminal database. Critics say the tool is problematic because it can scan a person’s face from up to four feet away, possibly without their awareness. Beyond that, there is a disturbing partnership emerging between BI2 Technologies, the FBI and local police forces, with reports that the FBI plans to launch an iris national database in 2014.

5. License plate recognition.It’s not just your eyeballs and fingertips that law enforcement wants to scan. Relatively new technology called license plate recognition allows police to run thousands of tags a day, all while just driving around. Cameras mounted on cop cars constantly scan the area and check plates against databases, and alert the officer if there’s a match.

A Long Beach police officer describes the scope of LPR this way:

In our case we are running multiple databases — we have “wanted felony vehicles,” “be on the lookout,” “24 hour hotsheet,” “wanted by detectives,” “LA County warrants,” and our gang unit. In addition to this we have “stolen vehicles,” which are available to everybody in the state. Currently in our database we have 24,000,000 plus reads.

Just like the other surveillance tools, police departments expect use of LPR to increase in the coming years. According to a Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) survey, “71 percent of responding agencies already have LPRs,” though often just on a handful of cruisers. Tellingly, “almost every police agency expects to acquire or increase their use of LPRs in coming years, and that five years from now, on average they expect to have 25 percent of their cars equipped with LPRs.”

As Kevin Goztola notes, this kind of technology isn’t inherently inappropriate, but without strict regulation many innocent people could be surveilled unconstitutionally. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a US person who discovered through requests for public records that his daily routine had been monitored automatically. The WSJ concludes, “The rise of license-plate tracking is a case study in how storing and studying people’s everyday activities, even the seemingly mundane, has become the default rather than the exception.”

When it comes to drones, the future is wide open. From proposed surveillance in Seattle to assisting arrests in North Dakota, police drones are here and they aren’t going anywhere. NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly recently told a crowd that his department was “looking into” using drones to surveil political protests, though “a drones program is not being actively pursued at this time.” Recently obtained FOIA documents, however, show that the NYPD counter-terrorism unit may be in the early stages of developing the use of drones.

As drones get smaller, more versatile and increasingly capable of behaving “autonomously,” it’s not difficult to imagine a time in the future when drone surveillance is integrated with LPR technology, all in the name of increased security.

Hackers claim new air traffic system can be hijacked

(RT) -The Federal Aviation Administration is in the midst of upgrading its air traffic control system at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. A big price might not fix an even bigger problem, though, as hackers suggest that system could be compromised.

The FAA is already in the process of rolling out its Next Generation Air Transportation System, of NextGen, a state-of-the-art program that will keep tabs on every plane in US airspace using GPS technology in lieu of relying on traditional radar. In the wake of a series of incidents where GPS signals were spoofed, though, serious problems could emerge in the coming years.

“If I can inject 50 extra flights onto an air traffic controller’s screen, they are not going to know what is going on,” Canadian computer consultant Brad Haines told NPR last year. Because Haines and others can emulate unencrypted and unauthenticated GPS signals sent from imaginary planes, he says NextGen stands to warrant some upgrades before it’s ready for the rest of the world.

“If you could introduce enough chaos into the system – for even an hour – that hour will ripple though the entire world’s air traffic control,” Haines told NPR.

Haines’ ideas are outrageous, but not exactly out of this world. Just last year, a Texas college professor spoofed, or faked, GPS signals in order to hijack an unmanned aerial vehicle right in front of the US Department of Homeland Security. The United States stands to have as many as 30,000 UAVs, or drones, flying overhead by the end of the decade. When Todd Humphreys of the University of Texas at Austin spoke with RT though, he said those aircraft could come down if hackers have their way.

“The navigations systems of these drones have a variety of sensors,” Humphreys told RT, “…but at the very bottom is a GPS unit — and most of these drones that will be used in the civilian airspace have a civilian GPS unit which is wide open and vulnerable to this kind of attack. So if you can commander the GPS unit, then you can basically spoon feed false navigation information to the navigation center of these drones.”

“Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,” the professor added in an interview with Fox News.

Indeed, the system implemented by the FAA under NextGen will rely on similar technology. With the deep pockets of the government involved in NextGen, though, the GPS signals sent by planes flying overheard are likely to be encrypted. What damage could still be done remains a mystery for now, though, since the FAA is unwilling to let hackers perform any testing to see what could be carried out.

“I still wonder if it would be possible to fool the system on the edges,” Nick Foster, a colleague of Haines, told NPR. “I think the FAA should open it up and let us test it.”

The FAA isn’t all that willing for the time being, though, and perhaps with good reason: a 2009 report filed by the Wall Street Journal found that civilian air-traffic computer networks have been penetrated multiple times in only a few short years. At the time, the Journal cited a federal report issued by the US Department of Transportation that they said “warned that the Federal Aviation Administration’s modernization efforts are introducing new vulnerabilities that could increase the risk of cyberattacks on air-traffic control systems.”

Meanwhile, a report released just last month by the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that America’s critical infrastructures, including the transportation sector, were subject to unprecedented cyberattacks in 2012.

“The threat of hackers interfering with our air-traffic control systems is not just theoretical; it has already happened,” Rep. Tom Petri (R- Wisconsin) told the Journal for their 2009 report. “We must regard the strengthening of our air-traffic control security as an urgent matter.”

Taylor Amerding of CSO says the NextGen system will cost taxpayers $27 billion, plus an additional $10 billion from the commercial aviation industry, in order to implement in full. Once it is rolled out, the FAA will still use radar to track flights, but only in addition to relying on GPS signals.

“Don’t for a moment believe there won’t be radar anymore,” aviation specialist Martin Fisher tells CSO. “Commercial aircraft will still have anti-collision radar and proximity alarms.”

The Expansion Of The Seaway Oil Pipeline Is One Of Several Factors Ushering In An Era Of Cheaper Gasoline

(IbiTimes) -Good news, car drivers: The pump price for gasoline is headed south. And the trip appears to be one-way.

The Expansion Of The Seaway Oil Pipeline Is One Of Several Factors Ushering In An Era Of Cheaper Gasoline


Keystone XL: Welcome to the Proxy Energy War

There are several reasons why it is getting cheaper to drive. One has to do with West Africa, another with China, a third with Saudi Arabia and a fourth with Europe. But the main reason has to do with a 30-inch crude oil pipeline between Oklahoma and the Gulf of Mexico.

Known as the Seaway pipeline, it carries crude oil, known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), from a huge terminal complex at Cushing, Okla., to the Texas Gulf Coast. Earlier this week the pipeline’s owners completed expanding the pipeline’s capacity from 150,000 barrels per day to 400,000 barrels per day. That increase in WTI supplies gave gasoline refiners on the Gulf coast an alternative to a much more expensive crude oil, known as Brent blend, that they have been importing from Europe. Refiners have been forced to pay for Brent because there has not — until this week — been adequate pipeline capacity to transport less-expensive WTI from Cushing to the Texas Gulf Coast.



The effect of Seaway’s expansion on Brent prices Thursday was quick and dramatic. Brent tumbled $1.48 or 1.3 percent to $110.41 per barrel, below its critical 100-day moving average of $111.05.

That price decline will be passed on to U.S. drivers who buy gasoline refined from the less-expensive crude oil. Gasoline for February delivery fell Thursday by 5.77 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $2.7356 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices touched $2.7266, the lowest intraday level since Dec. 24, 2012. That’s down from the national average price of regular gasoline a year ago, which was $3.382 per gallon.

The lower prices U.S. drivers will get from Seaway’s expansion will be supported by several other factors. One is fuel demand in West Africa, which is declining for seasonal reasons. Another factor is an unusually large number of European tankers — as many as 21 — carrying gasoline and other petroleum products, which are set to reach New York Harbor soon.

Both developments increase the supply of gasoline available in the U.S., which in turn lowers the pump price of gasoline.

Further, developments in Saudi Arabia augur cheaper gasoline. The world’s top crude oil exporter said this week it cut production in the last two months of 2012, cutting supply over worries about the commodity’s price declines.

“Although the sharp Saudi production cuts last month toward 9 million barrels a day were widely mentioned as a bullish consideration, we viewed the reduction as further evidence of global demand weakening and consequently deserving of a bearish checkmark,” Jefferies Bache said in a note.

Look for more cuts in the pump price of gasoline.

“This is taking the pressure off Brent crude and could translate into lower product prices across the board,” Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago, said. “You’re alleviating the glut, getting it out to the refiners who can actually buy the stuff, and they can put more products out into the global marketplace.”

Taken together, the increased North American crude oil production and better delivery of crude to Gulf Coast refiners — in addition to less-expensive imports of gasoline from European refiners and moderating growth in China’s economy — are expected to put a long-term cap on costly driving.

“It’s all going to create a more competitive market and signal the end of an era of high gasoline prices,” Flynn said

FAA Orders Review of All Boeing 787 Dreamliners

(Atlantic Wire) -The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered a safety review of Boeing’s flagship plane after two more dangerous incidents raised troubling concerns about their integrity. The latest problems came on Friday, when a Japanese flight crew found a crack in a cockpit window of a 787 Dreamliner and different 787 on the same airline suffered an oil leak inside an engine. That makes five separate incidents this week alone for a plane that has received numerous and varied complaints since being launched in late 2011.

The order may not require the planes in service to be grounded, but will include a review of “critical systems,” including “the design, manufacture and assembly of the aircraft.” Boeing has put 50 787 Dreamliners into service around the world, but has orders to deliver 800 more in the next few years.

The 787 was meant to be a revolution in aircraft design utilizing several new techniques and materials and ushering in a new era of commercial aircraft construction. However, the plane’s launch was delayed by several years and the planes have seen a host of glitches since going into service. Perhaps the most troubling problem for Boeing is that there is not one single flaw being discovered across the fleet, but a variety of different issues, from electrical problems to battery fires to cracks in the lightweight fiberglass structure.

Boeing’s stock was hit hard earlier this week after reports of a fire on a plane at Logan Airport in Boston, and will be watched carefully once the market opens later this morning. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta, and Boeing president Ray Conner will discuss the review at 9:30 a.m. press conference.

German company demonstrates laser weapon capable of shooting down drones from over a mile away


(Image credit: Rheinmetall logo and laser by Rheinmetall Defense/End the Lie compilation)

(Image credit: Rheinmetall logo and HEL weapon by Rheinmetall Defense/End the Lie compilation)

(EndTheLie) -With the rise of drones it seems counter-drone technology is a logical next step for countries who would like to continue to pour endless amounts of money into so-called defense technologies. A German company has demonstrated a product which very well might interest many countries: a laser weapon capable of shooting down drones from over a mile away.

The rapid development of drone technology, including the realistic possibility of perpetual flight along with increasingly common use of drones here in the United States (also confirmed by numerous documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act), has pushed the drone issue into the spotlight.

While privacy concerns and the legal implications the use of drones for assassinations of Americans are commonly dealt with, the future of international drone war isn’t quite as frequently brought up.

Thanks to Germany’s Rheinmetall Defense and their 50 kW high energy laser (HEL) weapon, it seems that countries may have at least some way to defend themselves against drone attacks.

The HEL was recently successfully tested in Switzerland and proved capable of cutting a large 15mm-thick steel girder from 1,000 meters away and “the HEL shot down several nose-diving target drones at a range of two kilometers,” according to Homeland Security News Wire.

Keep in mind, 50kW is just the beginning since, according to Rheinmetall, “from the technical stand-point, nothing stands in the way of a future HEL weapon system with a 100kW output.”

The system utilized both optical and radar systems to detect and track the two drones each flying at 50 meters per second, or 111.8 miles per hour.

The system also demonstrated the ability to “shoot out of the air a steel ball designed to mimic a mortar round,” according to the BBC.

The ball designed to mimic a mortar round measured only 82 mm in diameter and was traveling at around 50 meters per second, according to Rheinmetall.

Rheinmetall, based out of Düsseldorf, says that the system can “neutralize targets even under the most difficult weather conditions, including snow, dazzling sunlight, ice and rain.”

However, the company isn’t stopping there. They plan to build a 60kW technology demonstrator this year with an even more powerful laser.

In addition they plan to integrate “35mm Ahead Revolver Guns into the system,” according to the company.

“This will enable Rheinmetall engineers to identify and study possible synergies between laser weapons and automatic cannon,” they said in a press release.

Perhaps most staggering of all, Rheinmetall said they are pursuing a mobile HEL weapon, the concept for which “was successfully implemented with 1kW functional model mounted on a special TM170 vehicle.”

The TM170 is Rheinmetall Landsysteme’s armored personnel carrier used by Austria, Germany, Indonesia, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Macedonia, South Korea and Spain.

The sheer amount of progress Rheinmetall has made over the past year with this technology is astounding.

“A five-fold increase in laser power [over last year’s model] was thus available for the individual scenarios, which included Air Defense, Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar/C-RAM, and Asymmetric Warfare operations,” according to Homeland Security News Wire.

Companies around the world are developing laser-based weapons including Raytheon, which is developing an anti-aircraft laser (which you can see being tested here), and the U.S. military (of course), which is developing the “Laser-Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) cannon” capable of using a laser to create and target a lightning bolt.

All of this technology makes one wonder how exactly it will be used and what the future of an increasingly drone-based battlefield will really look like. Throw fully automated weapons systems, or “killer robots,” into the mix and the picture gets even harder to imagine.

Carmaker Sues Obama Administration Over Clean-Energy Loans

(MoneyNews) -A failed carmaker and a related technology company accused President Barack Obama’s administration of playing favorites on clean-energy loans while improperly blocking them from receiving millions in aid.

XP Vehicles Inc. and Limnia Inc. sued the U.S. Energy Department in federal court in Washington, seeking damages for what they say were abuses of the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program. XP Vehicles, which has dissolved, and Limnia are asking a judge for more than $225 million.

“Defendants used the ATVM loan program as nothing more than a veil to steer hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to government cronies,” Daniel Epstein, a lawyer for the companies, said in the complaint.

Damien Lavera, an Energy Department spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is the latest challenge to clean-energy loan programs administered by the Energy Department, which has come under scrutiny over a $535 million loan guarantee to now-bankrupt solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC.

The case is XP Vehicles Inc. v. U.S. Department of Energy, 13-cv-00037, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

Appeals court: Motorist cannot be stopped for giving police the middle finger

Woman in car showing middle finger via Shutterstock

(TheRawStory) -A motorist cannot be stopped for “giving the finger” to a police officer, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

In a lawsuit against two police officers, the court held the insulting gesture did not constitute “reasonable suspicion that criminal activity or a traffic violation was afoot.”

The lawsuit was sparked by an incident that occurred in 2006 while John Swartz and his wife Judy Mayton-Swartz were driving to their son’s house.

The couple saw a police officer using a radar gun to catch speeding motorists at an intersection. John, who was a passenger in the car, stuck his arm outside the side window and “flipped the bird” over the car’s roof. The police officer then followed the couple to their son’s home and stopped them. John was arrested for disorderly conduct after other officers arrived as backup.

The officer who initially followed and stopped the couple said he did so because John appeared to be trying to get his attention by waving his middle finger. However, the court didn’t buy that argument.

“[T]he nearly universal recognition that this gesture is an insult deprives such an interpretation of reasonableness,” Circuit Judge Jon O. Newman wrote in the ruling (PDF). “This ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity. Surely no passenger planning some wrongful conduct toward another occupant of an automobile would call attention to himself by giving the finger to a police officer.”

The United States District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed the lawsuit in 2011. The U.S. Court of Appeals vacated that ruling and ordered the case to be reviewed by the lower court again.


The Rudest Airline Employees Work For These Carriers

In an age where sharing our opinions of companies online is par for the course, it should come as no surprise that plenty of Americans were eager to comment on which airlines have the rudest employees.

The Rudest Airline Employees Work For These Carriers
(IBITimes) -A recent “admittedly unscientific” poll of more than 1,000 visitors found that legacy carriers like American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines tend to have the rudest personnel. Roughly a quarter of all respondents found American to be the absolute worst, followed by United (21 percent) and Delta (18 percent). US Airways fared better, with just 12 percent of people believing its employees are unfriendly.

By contrast, passengers on the newer and more “boutique” airlines like JetBlue and Virgin America, along with other smaller carriers like Alaska Airlines and Frontier Airlines, appear well taken care of. Less than 2 percent of respondents found these airlines to be the rudest in the nation, a testament to their much-touted “superior” customer service.

“Personally, I rarely find airline staff to be rude, and I mostly fly the larger legacy carriers,” noted founder George Hobica. “If you treat crews with kindness and respect — a simple hello and good morning upon entering the aircraft, leaving the tank tops and gym shorts at home, that sort of thing — they usually respond.”

As “unscientific” as Hobica’s poll may be, the results do match up with customer satisfaction surveys from J.D. Power and Associates and Condé Nast Traveler’s most recent Reader’s Choice Awards.

Condé Nast Traveler readers voted American Airlines their least favorite carrier, followed by United Airlines, AirTran Airways and Delta Air Lines. J.D. Power, meanwhile, found passengers on United Airlines were the least satisfied, followed by US Airways and Delta Air Lines.

American Airlines and United Airlines both had a rough year in 2012 as American dealt with a bankruptcy filing and recent labor strife, while United worked out the kinks of its recent merger with Continental. Perhaps travelers in 2013 will find friendlier skies aboard two of the nation’s oldest carriers.

‘Black Box’ or ‘Spy Box’? US regulators want to make car data recorders mandatory

An EDR. There for your own benefit? (image from

(RT) - US regulators want to make event data recorders (EDRs), similar to “black boxes” used on planes, mandatory on all cars produced from September 2014. The move has sparked a tense debate between safety advocates and those worried about loss of privacy.

The National Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA), which is in charge of setting motoring regulation, has submitted a proposal for public comment in the Federal Register. Currently, standard EDRs automatically collect data on a car’s speed, the use of brakes, the number and seating of passengers, seat belt deployment and dozens of other parameters to help reconstruct how a car was behaving in the seconds before a crash. The data is continuously recorded and overwritten onto an electronic carrier inside the car, but when certain triggers are set off – say, an airbag is deployed – the data is saved and can be downloaded.

The recording, which is usually the last 30 seconds before any accident, is then passed onto the NHTSA for analysis, currently with the owner’s consent.

“By understanding how drivers respond in a crash and whether key safety systems operate properly, NHTSA and automakers can make our vehicles and our roadways even safer,” claimed Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This proposal will give us the critical insight and information we need to save more lives.”

Supporters state that the measure merely legislates a device that has already been endorsed by car makers and drivers alike. First commercialized around two decades ago, NHTSA believes EDRs will be installed on more than 95 per cent of all vehicles manufactured next year.

Few of the opponents of the new measure disagree with EDRs as they are currently, but most say that the new law will pave way for a multitude of uses beyond the original remit.

Problematically, few legal limits on them exist as of now. Only thirteen states have any legislation on EDRs at all. If the new regulations are passed, they need to establish just what data can be recorded, for how long, who owns it, and if there will be any sanctions for a driver who blocks his device, or refuses to hand over his data.

Some say the worst-case scenarios are only a few years away.

“While the initial motivation for auto black boxes was sensible and positive they are now likely going to become yet another surveillance device,” Steven Rambam, a private security expert, told RT.

Rambam believes that under the banner of safety, police can turn EDRs into their primary monitoring tool, collecting data on whether motorists are speeding, wearing seatbelts and following safety rules. Precedents have already begun to appear when EDR readings are made the basis for fines and court judgements about traffic accidents.

Since technology already exists to transfer any data collected by an EDR to an outside monitoring center in real time, Rambam reckons law enforcement agencies would be foolish not to save resources by simply monitoring driving behaviour from a distant location, as opposed to trying to catch lawbreakers with old-fashioned speed guns and patrols.

And Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says it’s not just the cops who would like to know how you are driving.

“You should not think of this as being an opportunity to sell data to auto-insurance companies for risk evaluation. That’s a real possibility. Data is valuable,” she warned NHTSA in an interview with

Coney and others are painting a future where all your car behaviour will be accessible to someone outside (whether or not you know that they are watching), from police who will remove driving licenses from consistently bad drivers, to insurance companies giving you a higher premium for being involved in potentially dangerous situations.

In the right hands the new capabilities could save thousands of lives, but complying with them involves handing a lot of power to the authorities. Just how much, will become subject of ever-louder public debate. But one thing is clear already – as technology advances (and all of the data collection devices for the above possibilities already exist) your car is no longer your own private space, and driving it is no longer just a personal activity.

North Carolina: Driving While Nervous is Not a Crime

(TheNewsPaper) -The second-highest court in North Carolina last week ruled police had no business stopping a car because its occupants appeared to be driving while nervous. On April 15, 2011, a pair of Sampson County sheriff’s deputies were running a speed trap on Interstate 40 when they noticed a green minivan. Corporal Bass and Pope each testified the vehicle slowed from 73 MPH to 65 MPH in the 70 MPH zone and that the driver and passenger stared straight ahead and “appeared nervous” as they passed.

Judge Cheri Beasley


The officers pulled out and caught up to the minivan. When the patrol car pulled along side, the minivan occupants did not make eye contact. The deputies claimed they saw the vehicle cross the fog line and was driving slowly, so they pulled it over for “unsafe movement.” A dashcam video of the incident shows no crossing of the fog line or other evidence of unsafe driving.

Gina Canty, the driver, was given a warning. She also consented to a search that uncovered a revolver and a rifle in a suitcase belonging to the passenger, her ex-husband Nathaniel Canty. A Sampson County Superior Court judge found Nathaniel Canty guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. On appeal, a three-judge panel began poking holes in the police account of events.

“We find it hard to believe that these officers could tell Ms. Canty and defendant were ‘nervous’ as they passed by the officers on the highway and as the officers momentarily rode alongside them,” Judge Cheri Beasley wrote for the court.

The judges also dismissed the idea that the minivan’s slowing after seeing a patrol car running a speed trap.

“The reduction in speed standing alone could be explained a number of different ways, including normal apprehension many people feel when approaching a law enforcement officer,” Judge Beasley wrote. “Nervousness, failure to make eye contact with law enforcement, and a relatively small reduction in speed is ‘conduct falling within the broad range of what can be described as normal driving behavior… Based on the totality of the circumstances, these officers lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate the traffic stop that resulted in the search and seizure of the weapons in this case.”

The judges declared the lawyer in this case should have filed a motion to suppress the evidence gathered during the traffic stop. Because the defense counsel was “ineffective,” the three-judge panel ordered a new trial in which the motion to suppress would likely succeed.

New York State sells failed $70 million trains to scrap dealers for just $420,000

NYDailyNews — It’s the last stop for the train to nowhere — the scrap heap.

The state announced that it has sold four sets of rusting trains to scrap dealers — an embarrassing end for a once-grand plan to create high-speed rail service between Manhattan and Albany.

The sale of the trains and spare parts netted a mere $420,000, a far cry from the tens of millions of dollars taxpayers sank into the doomed project.

The trains were among seven retired Turboliners former Gov. George Pataki’s administration acquired from Amtrak in 1998.

Each of the trains consisted of two engines and three passenger cars — and were supposed to be refurbished for high-speed use.

But after spending $70 million on the project, the state could only get three of the seven to run — and then only sporadically.

They were plagued with problems, from fires to poor air conditioning.

By 2002 the project was halted and Amtrak towed the three barely working trains to a rail yard in Delaware.

The remaining four have been rusting away in a rail yard outside of Schenectady, costing taxpayers $150,000 a year just in storage costs.

In June, a frustrated Gov. Cuomo announced the state would finally rid itself of the trains, even auctioning them off for scrap if necessary.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Metro Metal Recycling, of upstate Watervliet, purchased the 12 passenger cars.

The company’s founder, Charlie Van Hall, said crews will cut the cars into sections, truck them to his facility, and then “sell every single part that is usable.”

An Albany-area scrap firm, NH Kelman Scrap, bought the eight locomotives for $16,000 each.

A company official, Lawrence Schillinger, said he plans to melt down the locomotives.

Empire strikes: White House to respond to Death Star petition

(CNET) -Isn’t it about time the White House had a distraction from the fiscal cliff (whatever that is)? How about the feasibility of building a real-world Death Star?

As of today, a petition calling for the government of the United States to begin construction on a Death Star by 2016 has more than 25,000 signatures on the administration’s official public suggestion page, surpassing the threshold that triggers a required response from the White House.

The petition hit the mark today, just a day before reaching its 30-day expiration date. Conveniently, petition creator “John D.” of Longmont, Colo., even provided some politician-friendly talking points to promote the idea:

By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.

Indeed, and since it would take 800,000 years to produce the amount of steel needed for a Death Star, we won’t have to worry about unemployment rates for the next several epochs.


But despite all the common sense arguments in favor of building a moon-size mega-weapon, the petition is about as likely to gain political traction as some of the other popular suggestions on the White House site, which include allowing Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina to secede; impeaching the president; and deporting “everyone who signed a petition to withdraw their state from the United States of America.”

Wow, one of those might actually be even more awesome than the Death Star petition.

Baltimore Speed Camera Issues Ticket To Motionless Car

(Baltimore Sun) -The camera that wrongly ticketed Doty on April 24 is in Northeast Baltimore in the 1700 block of E. Cold Spring Lane, at the intersection with Hillen Road. It is the seventh city speed camera that The Baltimore Sun has shown to have produced inaccurate citations bearing erroneous speed readings.

Doty’s is the first case in which the vehicle was clearly stationary. City officials gave no explanation for how it happened.

Doty, a lawyer who lives in Lauraville, said he and his wife were amazed that the ticket was issued, calling it “shockingly obvious” from the images that the car was stopped. He has challenged the ticket and is scheduled to appear in District Court on Friday.

“It was like someone was so obviously asleep at the switch,” he said Wednesday. “I thought that was not supposed to happen.”

The city’s speed camera contractor, Xerox State and Local Solutions, says each potential citation goes through two layers of review to weed out any that have a deficiency, such as an illegible license plate.

Then a Baltimore police officer must review the citation before approving it for issuance to the vehicle owner. Each citation says the officer swears or affirms that the car was going at least 12 mph over the speed limit “based on inspection of the recorded images.” The officer’s signature is also printed.

The Sun asked city officials why Doty’s ticket was issued. Transportation Department spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes offered no explanation but said the agency would have more to say at Friday’s meeting of a task force set up by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to study the city’s entire speed and red light camera program. The city has 83 speed cameras and 81 red light cameras.

It isn’t clear from the signature on the citation which police officer reviewed Doty’s ticket, and police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi didn’t say when asked, but added, “The department finds any error unacceptable.” The department has said that a single officer can review up to 1,200 citations in a given day.

Xerox spokesman Chris Gilligan did not address Doty’s citation. He noted in a statement that a “system-wide audit of the Baltimore photo enforcement program is ongoing and has resulted in implementing an additional manual review of citations at all camera locations.”

The Sun recently published an investigation focusing on the city’s speed camera program, which has generated more than $48 million since it began three years ago. The investigation found that citations can be inaccurate and that judges routinely throw out tickets for a range of problems.

The Sun has also shown that it is impossible for motorists to verify the alleged speeds with the information printed on tickets issued by Baltimore County, Howard County and the State Highway Administration.

Since the articles’ publication, several lawmakers have called for changes to the state law that governs the way the city and other jurisdictions operate speed camera programs. Gov. Martin O’Malley said Tuesday that state law bars contractors from being paid based on the number of citations issued or paid — an approach used by Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County and elsewhere.

“The law says you’re not supposed to charge by volume. I don’t think we should charge by volume,” O’Malley said. “If any county is, they need to change their program.”

TSA Seeks Permission to Conduct “Security Assessments” on Highways

Paul Joseph Watson
December 4, 2012

The TSA is seeking permission from the Office of Management and Budget to conduct “security assessments” on highways as well as at 140 other public transportation hubs, including bus depots and train stations.

The request was buried amidst a deluge of jargon and published in the Federal Register on November 30.

If approved, it would allow the TSA to to “conduct transportation security-related assessments during site visits with security and operating officials of surface transportation entities.”

“Similarly, TSA wants to conduct on-site assessments with public agencies that run buses, rail transit, long-distance rail and less common types of service, such as cable cars, inclined planes, funiculars and automated guide way systems,” reports Government Security News.

On the face of it, the “security assessments” involve TSA officials telling transportation organizations what security measures they should adopt as part of the Highway Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement (BASE) Program. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what measures the TSA is likely to recommend – more “security assessments” that require more TSA agents and more funding for the federal agency.

“TSA’s Highway BASE program seeks to establish the current state of security gaps and implemented countermeasures throughout the highway mode of transportation by posing questions to major transportation asset owners and operators. Data and results collected through the Highway BASE program will inform TSA’s policy and program initiatives and allow TSA to provide focused resources and tools to enhance the overall security posture within the surface transportation community,” states the federal filing.

In other words, get ready for TSA agents to be groping Grandma on the interstate.

Critics of the TSA will undoubtedly see this as another example of the federal agency extending its tentacles into forms of transportation other than airports and greasing the skids for airport-style security at highway checkpoints. Such measures have already been put in place at numerous train and bus stations across the country.

The TSA has already conducted checkpoint-style programs on highways before, notably in Tennessee last yearwhere Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams checked trucks at at five weigh stations and two bus stations in the state, as well as making trucks pass through x-ray scanners. TSA officials also used the checkpoint to try and recruit truck drivers to become citizen snitches under the First Observer Highway Security Program.

Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons justified the highway checkpoints by stating, “Where is a terrorist more apt to be found? Not these days on an airplane more likely on the interstate.”

After the presence of TSA screeners on the highway made the newsthe TSA responded by claiming concerns were overblown, and that TSA workers were only, “supporting state and local personnel as they inspected vehicles to identify potential security threats.”

Now it seems the TSA is looking to run its own “security-related assessments” on highways without the involvement of law enforcement.

Last year, the TSA was responsible for over 9,000 checkpoints across the United States, a number set to increase thanks to the agency’s bloated budget and its expansion beyond anything vaguely related to transportation. Since its inception in the US after 9/11, the TSA has grown in size exponentially. The agency was slammed in a recent congressional report for wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on security theater.

As Infowars has repeatedly stressed, any attempt to protest against the practices of the TSA by simply refusing to fly is largely pointless given the fact that the federal agency is expanding to cover virtually all forms of transport, as well as events that have nothing to do with transportation such as political functionsmusic concerts, and even high school prom nights.

This is the definition for having a “bad day.”

( -What could make a person’s day worse than getting hit by a truck?

How about said person being hit by his or her own truck…and then receiving a citation for it.

According to an item in the Salem police department’s daily log for Monday, multiple units responded to Tremont Street in the area of Churchill Street at 1:42 p.m. after receiving a report of a motor vehicle accident in the area. Officers arrived to find a man later identified as Brian Reynolds, 40, of Lynn, lying face down in the road.

Reynolds told police that as he was driving down the street, the brakes stopped working on his 1987 Chevy. In response, he tried to stop the moving vehicle the old-fashioned, Fred Flintstone way.

“The brakes to his pickup truck failed on the decline of the roadway just before the entrance to Mack Park,” one of the responding officers wrote in the log. “As a result he opened his drivers door and put his left foot out trying to stop his truck.”

When that didn’t work, Reynolds reportedly attempted to turn his truck up a hill to the right side of the road, but police say it caused him to fall out of his open door.

The truck drove over his left leg, rolled further down the street - luckily without involving any other vehicles - and crossed the road before hitting a fire hydrant and coming to a stop.

He was transported to Salem Hospital with what police describe as a case of road rash and possibly a minor leg injury, but according to the report, his accident expenses won’t end at auto repairs and medical bills.

He was issued a $35 citation for driving with defective equipment.

Minnesota Caught Developing A GPS Vehicle Tracking System To Tax Your Driving Movements

After a long wait, on Nov 28 2012, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) released ~2.97 gigabytes of data from inside the development of a GPS-based vehicle tracking system intended to introduce a vehicle tax – which would entail a great deal of data constantly collected by the government on the whereabouts and everyday patterns of the taxed vehicles. The source URL posted yesterday is .

My friend Nathan Hansen made the request, pursuing a long-running story of the buildout of these taxation-tracking highway techs. (Disclosure: I did some design work for Hansen previously) The 2008 story I did: Now Searchable: The MnDOT NASCO NAFTA Superhighway Document Stash && Index of /June 2008 MN DOT Request/NASCO – Hansen Request && Index of /June 2008 MN DOT Request/June 2008 Request && Index of /DOT.

A lot of these plans fell by the wayside – and a special Minnesota Intellidrive project and MBUF is the new plan. Related: Melissa Hill’s new blog allows you to “Track the Police” using public data && Private company hoarding license-plate data on US drivers. In May 2011 I did this story: Contracts for IntelliDrive MnDOT Military-Industrial/U of M plan to GPS-track all cars. This data dump continues the story.

There are a few important angles: comprehensive vehicle tracking data would be great for law enforcement, lawyers and big corporations to investigate everything in one’s life, including ‘retroactive surveillance’ of previous activities. However, the “fees” that would be imposed on rural Minnesotans who have to drive around a lot would be quite burdensome.

From a quick look at the PDFs we find internal discussion points about such impending scams as ‘carbon credit’ trading (a greenwashing Goldman Sachs sponsored futures bubble, as Matt Taibbi reported). Additionally Raytheon and SAIC have both been involved in this “Intellidrive” national-scale super-project. Also, just because the user data is processed behind Battelle’s firewall in no way signifies any level of security of personal information.

The main block of data posted is in huge Acrobat Reader X sized PDF files (1.1 and 1.6GB) . We have mirrored around the files and checked with md5hash in case the govt pulls any later. Acrobat Reader X is kinda bogging on these giant files — it loads all the emails in a slow email reader-like interface). Plenty of items like “concept of operations” or “MBUF CONOPS” is in there, a lot of stuff about consultants. We are just starting to peer at it, but Adobe is difficult to work with (a svelte 400MB app yay).

To get this batch of files yourself, if you have UNIX wget for mirroring:

$ wget -mb

I definitely recommend installing wget for things like this, where the files are listed in a directory for quick scraping.

DATA EXTRACTION BONUS CHALLENGE: To open the attachments on these emails, for OSX you have to use a program such as the free MailRaider: Download MailRaider for Mac – Read Outlook .msg files on your Mac. This is what you gotta do – in Acrobat, hit the paperclip on the side:


After first picking out the individual PDF attachments in Acrobat (the paperclip icon) you can get it to open in MailRaider. Hit the ‘Open’ button in that side panel. Hopefully this will launch MailRaider. In MailRaider, flip open the sidebar you can get it to work like so:


Here is the first PDF I was able to extract - Intell~1.pdf (2MB) – it is a “business sensitive” presentation by military-industrial contractor Battelle to MnDOT. Let’s have some choice excerpts including particularly how they use taxing people driving around rural-ish places like Wright County as a target for the mileage tax.

mndotcake000.png mndotcake001.png mndotcake002.png mndotcake003.png mndotcake004.png mndotcake005.png mndotcake006.png mndotcake007.png mndotcake008.png mndotcake009.png mndotcake010.png mndotcake011.png mndotcake012.png mndotcake013.png mndotcake014.png mndotcake015.png mndotcake016.png mndotcake017.png mndotcake018.png mndotcake019.png mndotcake020.png

What could possibly go wrong?!


It is always sad to see fine open source techs like GnuPG used to encrypt tracking data. Damn you Technocratic Capitalism!

mndotcake022.png mndotcake023.png

This is pretty alarming. Sterns, Wright, etc are counties full of peopl that can’t afford to pay more.

mndotcake025.png mndotcake026.png


mndotcake027.png mndotcake028.png

So this is just one extracted PDF from a single email. If Battelle was actually a front for malicious space aliens who want all the inhabitants of this planet tagged and tracked, I would not be surprised!

MIRROR ADDRESSES: Here is the first mirror of it. These files are big enough to crash your browser – maybe rightclick & Save As link so the PDF plugin doesn’t keel over... I don’t think we’ll need tons of mirrors for this, but it’s good to have a couple around.

the big ones are at:…… & also:

dfc0fd1d4d6bdbcaf0498a50ee0f5fec Public CommVault.pdf 1.22 GB on disk (1,216,990,533 bytes)

cec386cc20000b7fe10297fc3ca0cdab Public QAM.pdf 1.7 GB on disk (1,698,431,132 bytes)

If you find gems tweet em with hashtag #mndotcake. If you find an open source way to work with files this big let us know. It will take some people to work on this. We invite people to group infocake for looking at PDFs – this has group writing pads available (very easy, much like googledocs). Info on occupythecomms:

On the indymedia mirror the directoryIndex isn’t cooperating yet (no folders list) but the files are here. The big ones are in bold, not too much in the others so far found.

Obama’s EPA to Farmers: No Ethanol Waiver, If You Go Out of Business, Tough

(DailyTech) -Battered by a drought, and hit a second time by the U.S. government’s artificial inflation of corn prices, many small livestock farmers were desperately hoping that the Obama administration’s and its appointed leadership at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would agree to a temporary waiver on blending requirements of ethanol in vehicles.

I. Big Corn Gets a Helping Hand from the Obama Admin.

The EPA on Friday echoed the sentiments of big corn special interests saying it found no evidence that “significant harm” would be caused by not granting a waiver.

The decision came as somewhat of a surprise. Many sources had expected the Obama administration to instead punt on the issue; the decision to side with the well-heeled special interests to push a program that is unpopular and likely will now cost American jobs was unexpected.

The auto industry has also vigorously opposed the EPA’s decision to bump ethanol blending requirements to 15 percent. They argue that the higher blend will ruin the engines of older vehicles, increasing emissions and forcing consumers to pay for expensive repairs or abandon their vehicles.

Obama bribery wide
Obama and Bush both backed big corn special interests. [Image Source: Politically Incorrect]

The EPA has alleged that it knows the science behind fuel blending better than the engineers who make cars, essentially calling the automakers liars.

The decision will also impact consumers, as ethanol provides less gas mileage in traditional engines that gasoline. In other words, unless gas stations start charging less at the pump (which seems rather unlikely) consumers will be paying the same amount per gallon, for less equivalent fuel.

Even environmentalists are outraged at the Obama administration, given that ethanol has been shown to not only waste energy, but also increase carbon emissions. Comments, Michal Rosenoer, biofuels policy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, to The Detroit News:

If the worst U.S. drought in more than 50 years and skyrocketing food prices are not enough to make EPA act, it falls to Congress to provide relief from our senseless federal support for corn ethanol. The RFS is a broken policy — rather than giving us clean energy, it’s incentivizing biofuels like corn ethanol that are exacerbating our economic and environmental problems.

Congress needs to cut corn ethanol from the RFS entirely to protect the economy and the environment from this destructive and dirty fuel.

But despite the united opposition, the Obama administration appears resolute in following its predecessor, the Republican Bush administration, in choosing to side with the big corn special interest groups.

II. EPA to Small Farmers: “Deal With It”

Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation fires back at the critics, commenting, “We recognize that this year’s drought has created hardship in some sectors of the economy, particularly for livestock producers. But our extensive analysis makes clear that congressional requirements for a waiver have not been met and that waiving the RFS will have little, if any, impact.”

In other words, the EPA admits it recognizes that farmers are struggling, resorting to desperate measures like feeding their livestock candy waste; but when it comes to bucking a key special interest’s agenda the EPA’s answer to farmers is basically “tough luck”.

Farm drought
EPA claimed to be sympathetic to farmers, but refused to help them with a waiver.
[Image Source: US News]

Over 200 members of Congress, eight state governors, and numerous college professors sign a letter arguing that the blending targets would indeed have a dire impact on farmers.

So who wins? The biggest winners are the corn and ethanol industry, particularly the growers, who benefit the most from the artificial inflation of corn prices. Many of these growers are not even family owned, but rather are large corporate farms run by deep-pocketed entities like Archer Daniels Midland Comp. (ADM) and ConAgra Foods, Inc. (CAG). Indeed, both companies saw a rise in share prices following the EPA’s decision.

corn profits
Big corn donates deeply to federal politicians, who in turn reward it with billions in subsidies.
[Image Source:]

So the word is official — the U.S. will continue to manipulate prices in the fuel department, despite the cost to consumers, the environment, automakers, livestock farmers, and U.S. jobs. That’s bad news for most — unless you happen to be an Archer Daniels Midland shareholder.

Ex-employees reveal ripoffs at Budget Rent a Car

(CBC) -Three former Budget Rent a Car employees have contacted Go Public to allege the Vancouver-area operation systematically and intentionally rips off customers, by grossly overcharging for minor repairs that sometimes aren’t even done.

“They did it on purpose — charging the customer like way too much,” said a former lot attendant, who worked at Budget’s Vancouver airport location for a year, checking cars for damage. He agreed to speak to CBC News only if he was not identified.

“The system is run like that … the small charges, they make them big charges. Especially the windshield. They can make more money from the windshield,” he said.

“All of the inspectors have to look at the windshield first.”

He said staff members were told to inspect vehicles from top to bottom, even after customers were gone, and report any damage to managers no matter how minuscule.

“I remember one time there was a senior couple. The other [employee] found out there was a tire cut. But from our standards, they should not charge them, honestly,” he said.

“The other [employee] asked for the manager to come out and take a look. And then the manager charged them, just charged them.”

Some repairs not done

“If there was a scratch on the car, we charged their credit card immediately … and that scratch would never even be fixed,” said another former employee.

She worked at the Budget counter at the Abbotsford airport, and also spoke on condition she would not be named.

Greg Harrison, Budget's general manager in Vancouver, said he is looking into the allegations made by ex-employees.Greg Harrison, Budget’s general manager in Vancouver, said he is looking into the allegations made by ex-employees. (CBC)

“For the three months that I was there, I saw only one car go to the repair shop, and it was rear-ended.”

She said several renters would be charged for rock chip damage on the same vehicle, but no repairs would be done until later when the vehicle needed a new windshield.

“Once the windshield has three rock chips in it, it would get replaced, and then at that point that customer would get charged for a whole windshield,” she said.She also claimed she was trained to push people to buy Budget’s insurance coverage — using a memorized script — even when they were covered by their credit card or other insurance.

“We were there to sell insurance. We were there to convince customers that were renting cars that they had no insurance.”

She said many customers who bought insurance were later charged the $300 deductible.

“Every time there was a scratch, I would always get a manager, because I didn’t want to be the person getting screamed at [by the customer] for the fact it wasn’t their responsibility,” she said.

“The manager would decide how much to charge [the customer account].”

She also claimed three or four times a week people were billed for damage they didn’t cause.

“If [earlier renters] didn’t notice it and we didn’t notice it, then we would just charge the next person,” she said.

Upset customers

“I saw customers that cried. They really cried. They were shocked,” said the lot attendant.

He claims some people were made to pay for damage caused by Budget employees after vehicles were checked in.

“Sometimes it’s the employees that make the damage, but everyone doesn’t want to be responsible for that. The manager will make a decision ‘Hey, call the customer — he’s your damage.’”

A former manager from the repair facility said customers were overbilled for repairs on every vehicle Budget sent there.A former manager from the repair facility said customers were overbilled for repairs on every vehicle Budget sent there. (CBC)

“There were a lot of [customer] complaints when I was there,” said an ex-manager, who worked at Budget’s repair facility at the Vancouver airport several years ago. Go Public agreed not to name him, because he fears repercussions.

He estimated 25 customers a day were overcharged for repairs.

“Every car that came from Budget that needed repair all had inflated costs on them, frivolous charges on them. Every repair that went through the system — the customer got overbilled.”

Budget’s repair facility is owned by Inland Transportation, a company owned by wealthy Vancouver businessman Syd Belzberg. He also owns Budget Rent a Car of B.C., which runs the car rental outlets in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

Profits shared

“The way [Belzberg] got around it is he would write a cheque from Budget to Inland Transportation [for inflated repair costs], as if it was an outside firm, and he wasn’t making profit.”

In reality, he said, Budget and Inland Transportation are the same Belzberg operation.

“He was there every day,” said the former manager. “Everything that was going on, he knew about.”

Go Public reporter Kathy Tomlinson tried to connect with Syd Belzberg at his Vancouver mansion, but didn't hear back.Go Public reporter Kathy Tomlinson tried to connect with Syd Belzberg at his Vancouver mansion, but didn’t hear back. (CBC)

The ex-manager said he purchased windshields in bulk, for less than $100 each. Inland would then bill Budget approximately $800 for each installation and that cost would be passed on to customers.

Go Public heard from several recent renters, whose accounts were billed in excess of $1,000 for a new windshield.

The former manager also claimed customers were billed for windshield replacements, when in reality only a chip was repaired, at nominal cost.

“Different customers would be billed … on a windshield before it got replaced,” he said.

“We repair the chip. The customer gets billed for a new [windshield]. It doesn’t get replaced. Another customer takes the car, chips the windshield again. He gets billed for a new one again. And it could have happened on numerous occasions — especially in ski season.”

Manager promises action

Belzberg didn’t return calls, but general manager for Budget Rent a Car of B.C. Greg Harrison told Go Public he is looking into all of the ex-employees’ claims.

“I wasn’t aware of these allegations, but we take them very seriously and will look into each one of them,” said Harrison. “It’s our commitment to offer a high level of service with everything we do, so we take it seriously. We’ll look into it.”

Syd Belzberg, pictured with his daughter, owns Budget's repair facility in Vancouver and oversees Budget's operations in the Lower Mainland.  Syd Belzberg, pictured with his daughter, owns Budget’s repair facility in Vancouver and oversees Budget’s operations in the Lower Mainland. (CBC)

He said sometimes windshield chips are repaired, but “to the best of my knowledge” those customers had not been charged for a new windshield.

“All our windshield repairs are determined, whether we repair or replace, by an independent company, Speedy Auto Glass, which comes on site and does all our glass work for us.”

When asked how Budget can charge 10 times what it costs to do windshield repairs, Harrison said the repair facility is “accredited” by B.C.’s public insurance provider.

“We offer the rates that are based on ICBC standards for our shop which is an accredited ICBC shop and that’s how we continue to offer the high standards we set for ourselves in the rental industry,” he said.

However, Go Public discovered the repair facility is not accredited by ICBC, a contradiction Harrison couldn’t explain.

“To the best of my knowledge, we’re an accredited shop. You’re giving me information I have no knowledge of prior to this moment,” Harrison said. He later sent an email saying he was misinformed by another manager.

Under investigation

As a result of our stories on Budget, Harrison confirmed the corporate head office in the U.S. has put Belzberg’s operation under investigation.

“We’ve been in contact with them and we’re providing them information as need be,” said Harrison. “We are contacting customers, anyone who contacts us we are responding to them.

“If in a customer’s mind they feel we have done something wrong, we want to make it right.”

In some U.S. states, courts have ruled it’s illegal for rental car companies to charge more for repairs than what they cost.

Several years ago, Hertz was made to pay almost $7 million in fines, after New York’s attorney general went after the company for overcharging customers $13 million for repairs.

There is no specific consumer legislation in B.C. prohibiting the practice, though. The car rental industry is largely unregulated in Canada.

Bailed Out Chrysler To Move U.S. JEEP Production To Italy

‘Obama’s first new car was a Jeep.’

Clinton speaks too soon.

Bill Clinton speaks in Youngstown, Ohio on Sunday, and attempts to deny the rumors that Jeep would be moving production overseas.  Then yesterday Fiat-Chrysler CEO admitted the truth in the quarterly conference call.

All About Saving Fiat.

The Cerebrus-Chrysler bailout was a complete nightmare, and now we reap the rewards of Obama and Steven Rattner’s stewardship all the way to Italy, and beyond.

Read these two links for the full story:

Fiat Will Outsource Chrysler Jeep – For $1 In Savings

BOMBSHELL: Fiat Says Chrysler, Jeep Production Will Move To Italy

This is an absolute, unmitigated outrage.

Here’s the new Romney Ad in question:

Here’s more on the story:

All About Protecting Italian Jobs (Detroit Free Press)

Chrysler Fiat CEO Tries to Reassure Jeep Employees

Fiat urged to buy all of Chrysler, but that means selling prized Ferrari