Posts Tagged ‘law enforcement’
Austin, Texas (AP) – Agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided a gun store in the downtown area of the Texas capital today, where they found a sizable stash of weapons, said an agency spokesman.
“The team entered the shop and found literally hundreds of guns lying there in plain sight,” said Walther Remington, the spokesman. “The proprietor clearly had no compunctions about displaying his extensive inventory of deadly weapons.” The shop owner was taken into custody but has not yet been formally charged.
Neighbors expressed little surprise at the turn of events. “The guy has been running the shop for almost twenty years,” said Mark Smann, who runs a nearby dry cleaning business. “People go in and out of there all the time, and everyone knows why. It’s not like you can hide a high-powered hunting rifle in your purse.”
“What gets me is not that the guy has been selling guns basically out in the open for years and years,” said Sharpe Schuter, a retail manager at a clothing store down the street. “It took the Bureau this long to notice? That’s the surprising thing.”
It is not clear when the BATF became aware of the gun shop’s stash of weapons, or what prompted them to raid the establishment when they did. Remington claimed only basic knowledge of the case, but called the procedure routine.
“The Bureau’s mission is to prevent dangerous firearms from reaching the wrong hands. Anyone walking by the store could see the racks of deadly weaponry, and it would only be a matter of time before someone acquired one or more of those guns. The Bureau felt compelled to act, and discovered that the inventory of guns was even more extensive than we’d suspected.”
The episode comes on the heels of a similar incident last week in Florida, when the Drug Enforcement Administration seized thousands of pills, syringes and dangerous powders from a Miami Beach pharmacy. In that case, the pharmacy’s owner publicly admitted trafficking in the substances, and that doing so provided a comfortable livelihood. The DEA subsequently discovered hundreds of other such establishments in Florida, and the director voiced his suspicion that thousands more are active across the country.
Also last week, New York State authorities opened an investigation into the presence of large quantities of dihydrogen monoxide in its plumbing and sewage systems.
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New Delhi, India (Reuters) – Following the death of a woman who was gang-raped on a bus earlier this month in the Indian capital, rapists across the Indian societal spectrum are voicing concern that the incident will harm their reputations.
“Most of us are normal, hardworking guys, and something like this gets us really worried,” said Whatshewants Dusinmatta, 40, of Bangalore. “The vast majority of times we do what we do, it doesn’t result in riots, so we’re naturally a bit nervous that people might not treat us the same way anymore.”
The Indian umbrella organization of sexual assailants, All Sheilas Know It’s Natural and Good For Overpowering Romeos to Impale Them (ASKINGFORIT), advised its members this week not to couple their violation of women’s bodies with violations of murder statues, at least until the current episode of negative publicity subsides. Spokesman Theyall Wantitt said the group was preparing a public relations campaign to attenuate the effects of the December 16 gang-rape on the reputations of rapists in India.
“Most Indians realize that these thugs do not represent us as a whole,” he said, “and our campaign will emphasize that we rapists are not these supervillains who drive around on buses picking women up. We are your fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, neighbours, classmates, and coworkers. That alone should tell everyone that public safety in India has not appreciably changed as a result of this unusual incident.” He said the organization would work with police so that the public’s confidence in its law enforcement institutions would not be affected. An estimated 1% of sexual assault and harassment are currently reported to the authorities.
A similar concern plagued rapists in Pakistan and Afghanistan earlier this year, when a twelve-year-old who was gang-raped managed to escape and reach Westerners who provided her with treatment and protection. Her male relatives and the leaders of her tribal village spent weeks trying to reassure their clansmen and the wider public that the escape did not represent a shift in policy away from killing the victim to maintain the family’s honor. Purveyors of sulfuric acid had also been worried about a drop in sales if jealous husbands would stop throwing their product in the faces of wives and daughters suspected of entertaining such radical feminist ideas as leaving the family hovel for a few minutes.
Eventually the media attention and related disturbances petered out. ASKINGFORIT clearly hopes that a similar phenomenon will characterize the New Delhi case, although currently the city is seeing vehement protests that continue to worry rapists. “Our way of life is threatened,” said Shova Nistpig, mayor of the southern town of Sekslaiveree who has been raping women for upwards of four decades. “The invasion of foreign values has given people all the wrong ideas about people’s proper places in society.”
“It’s one thing to attack the caste system, which has its problems,” he conceded, “and I say that as a Brahmin,” a member of the elite caste. “But the focus on one extraordinarily violent rape in New Delhi is making it harder and harder for the traditional rapists to go about their activities unmolested.”
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Newtown, Connecticut (AP) – In the aftermath of the shooting deaths of dozens of Connecticut schoolchildren and teachers in a murder-suicide, the Republican National Committee issued a statement today touting the death penalty as an important measure in preventing massacres of this nature. Republican Congressional leaders also spoke out in favor of tougher penalties against the perpetrators of murder-suicides.
“Some very disturbed people can only be deterred by harsh consequences,” said House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). “It is imperative that American states adopt capital punishment for brutal crimes such as this. For some criminals, only by making them pay the ultimate price can we prevent other would-be mass murderers from committing mass murder and then suicide.” He noted that Connecticut abolished its death penalty in April of this year.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) echoed the theme. “The vast majority of Americans are law-abiding people, respectful of the law and of others,” he said at a press conference. “The overwhelming majority of us do not need penalties of any sort to get us to do the right thing. But a few individuals lack, unfortunately, that respect, and the only thing that can deter them from killing other people and themselves is the knowledge that they face the death penalty if they act on those brutal impulses.”
The Connecticut legislature passed the repeal of the state’s death penalty on April 11, and Governor Dannel Malloy signed the bill into law two weeks later. The law does not apply retroactively to the ten people currently on Connecticut’s death row.
Former Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell lamented the repeal of the death penalty. “My administration specifically vetoed the abolition of capital punishment in Connecticut,” she said, referring to her action of May 2009, after the legislature passed a similar measure. “It was exactly this kind of horror I had in mind when I did so. I share the pain and anger of the people of Newtown,” she continued. “We now know all too well what happens when governments refuse to use the death penalty as a deterrent to murder-suicides.”
Rell cited statistics to support her argument, noting that not a single murder-suicide criminal in any state with the death penalty has ever murdered again. Moreover, she pointed out, the criminals in question never again committed any crime at all. “I don’t see how anyone can argue that the death penalty would not be effective under these circumstances, when the facts speak for themselves,” she said. “Life in prison – even without parole – still leaves a criminal with the opportunity to commit more crimes, especially in the event of an escape. These are some of the most dangerous people on the planet, with a reputation to prove it.”
“It’s too late to save the children of Newtown,” said Rell, “but I pray that Connecticut, along with the other sixteen states without a death penalty, reexamines its coddling of the perpetrators of murder-suicides. Then maybe, once again, these monsters can be prevented from taking others’ lives – and their own.”
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Washington, DC, October 31 – The Federal Communications Commission has begun to crack down on ringtones that drive people crazy. It will also seek to reduce cringe-inducing and distasteful mobile phone usage.
The Silencing Harmful, Uncouth Telephone Users Program (SHUTUP), a new FCC initiative, will enforce an array of measures designed to cut down on ringtones that pervert otherwise decent tunes; that have no discernible aesthetic value; that grate on the ears of anyone with an ounce of good sense; or that attempt to reproduce a particular sound or association, only to succeed in producing in bystanders a desire to murder the phone user.
The first category is by far the broadest, said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. “I don’t think there’s anyone out there who hasn’t heard some digital-sounding rendition of Mozart or Beethoven coming from a phone, and thought, ‘Oh, God, poor Wolfgang must be rolling in his grave, wherever that is.’ And most of us can’t walk down the street without our ears being assaulted by techno garbage,” he explained.
The FCC’s solution is straightforward: SHUTUP. SHUTUP has already formulated a set of guidelines for mobile device manufacturers and distributors that lay out the criteria for acceptable ringtones. Perhaps more importantly, the guidelines delineate what constitutes a violation of those criteria and what penalties apply to violators.
Both the customer and the retailer of the offending tone or tones will face fines. Those fines will follow a sliding scale, the severity of which will correspond to the magnitude of annoyance that type of violation produces. At the low end of the scale lies the misuse of famous tunes, for example a hold-music-worthy digital adaptation of the “Axel F” theme from the 1984 film Beverly Hills Cop. Such a minor violation, corrupting as it does a tune already primarily orchestrated electronically, would incur a $50 fine for the phone user and a $2,000 fine for the supplier of the tune.
Slightly higher on the scale, melodies massacred by techno or MIDI orchestration would incur fines of $350 for the user, with the creator or marketer of the ringtone liable for $5,000 per ringtone sale.
At the high end of the scale lies any tune by Barry Manilow, New Kids on the Block, Lady Gaga or William Shatner, among others. Those selections will incur a fine of $10,000 and confiscation of the mobile device that played the tune. The entity that provided the sound file would be fined $150,000, and the individuals responsible would face up to five years in prison. The internet provider that enabled the download would be similarly fined, and its Board of Directors forced to perform 100 hours of community service.
In terms of other heinous misuses of mobile phones, SHUTUP will target jerks, such as people who talk loudly in quiet environments such as commuter train cars and doctors’ waiting rooms; who let a phone ring until voice mail is activated or the caller hangs up, instead of actually answering or disconnecting the call; who neglect to turn off the ringer at venues such as movies or concerts; or who pretend to be on the phone or otherwise absorbed by its use so they can ignore panhandlers or avoid having to engage another human in actual face-to-face conversation.
That set of violations will incur fines of up to $300 and confiscation of the device. For pretending to use the device, the penalty will also include two hours in a closed room with the panhandler in question, or be forced to endure fifteen uncomfortable questions from the person ignored.
In a pilot conducted in the Virginia area during August and September, SHUTUP reduced breaches of mobile device etiquette by 85%, and cut annoying ringtones by 98%. The program ran into legal trouble when the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued the government on behalf of a violator, contending that SHUTUP constituted a breach of the First Amendment right to freedom of expression – which has long been taken to refer especially to unpopular content. The judge dismissed the suit when the counsel for the government played the offending ringtone – an electronic rendition of Beethoven’s “Für Elise” that repeated over and over – and ruled the plaintiff in contempt.
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Macon, Georgia (AP) – Eleven residents of the Macon Metropolitan Area convicted earlier this month of possessing illegal drugs were ordered to report to the Booker T. Washington Community Center this morning to undergo diction counseling. The residents, who each have histories of substance abuse, expression confusion as they were shepherded into a room with Connie Stern, M.A., a vocal coach and diction consultant.
“Let’s start with vowels. Repeat after me, everyone: ah, ee, ay, oh, oo,” she began. “Now ee-NUN-ci-ate, please.”
The convicts, clearly not expecting this environment, initially resisted. “Ma’am, how is this supposed to help us?” asked Ward O’thestate, 26, of neighboring Dry Branch.
“Please, pronounce the ‘w’ in ‘how’,” admonished Stern, “or I shall be forced to report to the court that you are not cooperating.”
Several other attendees managed to express their consternation at the turn of events, telling the Associated Press they had been led to believe they would be enrolled in a drug abuse counseling program. But Stern engaged their cooperation throughout the one-hour session, the first of ten scheduled classes on proper vocalization and pronunciation.
“The court clearly sees the need for these citizens to transform the way they communicate as the key to turning their lives around,” Stern said after the session. “I’ve never done anything like this before, but the county clerk called me up saying she had a court order that some convicts undergo diction counseling, and there was my name, right in the phone book. She seemed as surprised as I was, but I’m more than happy to count Bibb County among my clients.”
The participants’ reactions were mixed. “That was, uh, different,” reported Meth Labb, 30, of Warner Robins. “It wasn’t like that the last time I went for counseling, that’s for sure. But it says right here on this form I’m supposed to be here, and I don’t want no more trouble from the court over this. I already got fined for missing a session last time around. Maybe this is the one I missed,” he said, scratching his head.
The participants’ bodies had developed a chemical dependency on certain controlled substances, among them crystal meth, heroin and alcohol. As first- and second-time offenders, their plea-bargain arrangements called for them to undergo counseling to help them overcome that dependency.
The process includes meetings with the families of the participants to engage their cooperation and support, and Stern has already met with the relatives of those enrolled. “I didn’t quite understand what we’re supposed to accomplish here,” said Bee Wildered, the mother of one of the convicts. “But I know the system – you just do like you’re supposed to and they more or less leave you alone when it’s done.”
“Do as you’re supposed to, Mrs. Wildered,” corrected Stern. “And make sure your ‘to’ and ‘you’ rhyme with ‘blue’.”
The participants generally agreed that the first session, at least, featured little of the hostility, browbeating and criticism that they thought they would encounter. “I guess I’ll come back – she’s a nice lady,” said Coe Caine, 19, of Fort Valley. “Man, I’m itching to get back home. Mom, can I have my phone back? I need to call Julie. She said she’d hook me up with some – uh, with some – with some books.”
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Pottsville, IA (AP) – Edwin Metcalfe, 62, was arrested yesterday on charges of sexual assault after allegedly groping eleven teenage girls during a high school beauty pageant. Metcalfe is legally blind.
Sergeant Dwayne Frake of the Pottsville Police Department told reporters that Metcalfe had been serving on a panel of judges for the pageant, but, unable to judge the contestants’ appearance by visual means, sought another way of assessing their appearances. He was arrested after the parent of one of the students complained.
Metcalfe’s lawyer, Emily Edwards, insisted her client had acted entirely properly, given his disability and his commitment to fulfilling his task as judge, a position, she noted, that was entirely voluntary. “Edwin Metcalfe’s firm adherence to the rules of fair play and to the community are really what’s being challenged here. My client has been wronged by a system set up to entrap well-meaning people who fondle young women for completely innocent reasons.” She predicted the case would be dismissed without trial.
Melissa Boone, professor of anthropological studies at Iowa State University, said that this incident was hardly the first of its kind, though perhaps the first in decades in the Hawkeye state. “Everyone automatically assumes that someone who runs his hands along the soft, supple parts of a teenage girl’s body, lingering on the most curvaceous portions, is doing so because it titillates him,” she said, but that is not necessarily the case. This incident is more complicated, noted Boone, in that, “the girls in question willingly offered their bodies to the defendant so that he could perform his service to the community.”
“The big question is, have anyone’s rights been violated? It’s hard to say. The community has certain standards enshrined in law, but the very same community specifically agreed to appoint a blind man to judge the pageant. They couldn’t expect anything else.”
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Police say turncoat may have gone underground
Mahwah, NJ, June 19 (AP) – Joseph Piscatelli, a longtime Mafia operative who turned state’s witness seven years ago in a prominent case, was laid to rest Monday after being killed in a drive-by shooting near his home, and has not been seen since.
“Lynch-man” Piscatelli testified in a 2005 conspiracy, racketeering and murder case against his former Mafia boss Giovanni “Blue-Boy” Messi, who led the Rizzuto crime family. Messi is now serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Upstate New York.
FBI and Mahwah police say they are not surprised at Picscatelli’s disappearance. “After being fatally shot two days before, I’d also want to keep a low profile,” said Mahwah PD Detective George Laverty. “You never know what kind of dangers are still lurking out there for someone with quite a few enemies.”
The list of suspects in Piscatelli’s murder is said to be quite lengthy, as the Messi trial also resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of six Messi associates, all of whom are still incarcerated, but some of whom have loyal followers of their own, said FBI spokesman Donna Nobis. “Piscatelli’s testimony against his former accomplices was particularly troubling to the Rizzuto members. Piscatelli and his former boss were very close – Joe Piscatelli even served as a witness when “Blue-Boy” separated from his wife in 2002. Everyone in the Rizzuto circle was pretty sure of Piscatelli’s position of trust, considering the role he played in the Messi divorce.”
Police officers and FBI agents have gone door-to-door in the vicinity of the St. Vincent Cemetery where Piscatelli was last seen, but have not reported any developments in the case. But they are sure to face criticism over apparently lax security measures for the slain informant, even though Piscatelli repeatedly refused to relocate or assume a new identity. He had no known relatives.
Mahwah police are no strangers to unresolved cases. During 2010, the last complete year for which statistics are available, the Mahwah Police Department opened has closed only one case file related to excessive donut purchases by department members. Department spokesman Will B. O’beese dismissed the donut files as irrelevant. “That section of the department is completely unrelated to Missing Persons, specifically the Missing Homicide Victim division.”
Professor N. Cogg Nito of Rutgers University, an expert on organized crime, holds slim hopes for the resolution of the Piscatelli case – both his murder and his subsequent disappearance. “No witnesses have stepped forward in his shooting, and Lynch-man has no relatives that might agitate for the police to pursue the case aggressively. They’re probably just going to wait for the media attention to die, then relegate the story to the cold case file, where it’s basically six feet under.”
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