| NEWS of the Day - March 7, 2012
|on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...
We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
From Los Angeles Times
Video allegedly shows shackled patients in Syrian hospital [Video]
Disturbing televised video allegedly showing shackled and bruised patients in a Syrian military hospital falls in line with evidence of torture gathered by the United Nations Human Rights Council, a council spokesman said Tuesday.
The video above was shot by an employee of the Military Hospital in the central Syrian city of Homs, who said he had witnessed electrocutions, whippings, operations without anesthetics and other brutal treatment of patients, according to a televised report by Channel 4 News in Britain.
Torture in Syrian military hospitals has been documented by United Nations commissions. One report found that regime security agents "chained seriously injured patients to their beds, electrocuted them, beat wounded parts of their body or denied them medical attention and water," Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Tuesday in a statement.
The stories echo those recounted by Doctors Without Borders, which has reported that Syrians wounded during the uprising face torture and arrest when they seek medical help.
An elderly Syrian patient told the humanitarian group he had seen a man crushing an injured patient with his feet. “Judging by his uniform, he was an officer," the patient told Doctors Without Borders, speaking anonymously for his safety. "At the end, the officer finished off the injured man.”
Human rights groups say doctors are persecuted if they try to treat people injured in protests. Some doctors have tried to resist, secretly treating the wounded in makeshift clinics with few supplies. One Syrian doctor said in an interview last month that he had struggled to treat a bullet wound to the chest.
"Usually you would have a chest X-ray, but we couldn't risk his life by transporting him to a hospital," the doctor said.
The Syrian regime has been condemned by the United Nations for widespread human rights abuses as it combats an uprising against President Bashar Assad. With restricted access for journalists, amateur videos have become an important testament of the violence.
The government says it is defending itself against terrorists and says many amateur videos are staged or misrepresented. It declined to comment on the allegations, Channel 4 News said.
From Google News
Female service members sue U.S. military for alleged rape, sexual assault
by Stacey Samuel
March 6, 2012
Washington (CNN) -- Eight current and former U.S. service members filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging they were raped, sexually assaulted or harassed while serving in the military and were retaliated against once they reported the abuse.
Among the defendants named in the suit are current and former Defense and Navy secretaries and Marine Corps commandants.
"Although defendants testified before Congress and elsewhere that they have 'zero tolerance' for rape and sexual assault, their conduct and the facts demonstrate the opposite: They have a high tolerance for sexual predators in their ranks, and 'zero tolerance' for those who report rape, sexual assault and harassment," according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington.
The suit outlines a pattern of abuse and portrays, in grim detail, the alleged experiences of the eight female service members -- two former Marine Corps officers, one active duty enlisted Marine, one former enlisted member of the Marine Corps and four former enlisted members of the Navy.
"At first it was easy to laugh it off," plaintiff Elle Helmer, one of the former officers, said about her superiors' advances.
"When you finally said, you know, I'm really not interested, I'd rather we be friends -- that's when you became the target. They hated you for standing up for yourself," she told HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell on Tuesday night.
The lawsuit alleges Helmer was raped by her superior at his office in March 2006 after a required pub crawl.
She told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington earlier in the day that she hoped by going public other victims would be encouraged to speak out.
"It's the first time I've had a voice in six years, so pardon if it's a little wobbly," said Helmer.
She was joined by Ariana Klay, another former Marine Corps officer and plaintiff, who served in Iraq in 2008 and 2009.
In August 2010, Klay was "gang-raped" by a senior officer and his civilian friend at her Washington home, the suit contends. The officer allegedly threatened to kill Klay.
She reported the rapes and the officer was eventually convicted in a military court of adultery and indecent language, and given 45 days in military confinement, Klay said.
"Their stance was there were two that said it (sex) was consensual, despite the death threat. That's two against one. So by that logic, the more people you're gang-raped by the less your case is," she told Velez-Mitchell.
The Marine Corps responded to Klay and Helmer's allegations in a written statement Tuesday that said their respective cases had been properly investigated and handled.
"Federal law and judicial rulings require commanders in all services, including the Marine Corps, to balance needs of alleged victims with the constitutional rights of service members accused of crimes," it read.
According to the most recent Defense Department study, more than 19,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact are estimated to have occurred in 2010, though less than 3,000 of those events were reported.
In 2010, less than 21% of reported cases went to trial. Of the 529 alleged perpetrators who were prosecuted, 53% were convicted, according to the 2011 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, which is part of the Defense Department.
"As leaders of this department we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure the safety, dignity and well being of our people. One sexual assault is one too many," Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said in response to the lawsuit.
As a result of the pending litigation, she was unable to comment directly on the allegations.
"Because sexual assault cases are some of the toughest cases to investigate and prosecute, the department has increased funding for investigators and judge advocates to receive specialized training," said Smith.
The lawsuit was filed less than two months after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta outlined new measures targeting sexual assaults against U.S military personnel.
In January, he promised increased funding to train military investigators and judge advocates about sexual assault cases, stressing the military has a "zero tolerance policy" for such crimes.
"Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to try to keep America safe," Panetta said then. "We have a moral duty to keep them safe from those who would attack their dignity and their honor."
Memphis police offer glimpse at new crime fighting plan
by Kontji Anthony
MEMPHIS, TN- (WMC-TV) - The Memphis Police Department has a new approach to fighting crime and while all the details haven't been revealed, officials say the rank and file has been heavily involved in developing the new plan.
Talks have begun to implement a community policing strategy and to realign neighborhood police precincts in Memphis.
The police department is not ready to release proposed maps of how the precincts would be realigned. But officials say the rank and file were heavily involved in mapping out the precinct assignments and new community policing strategies.
"Some precincts have a higher call load volume," said Memphis Police Association President Michael Williams, as he explained the focus of the new precinct realignment strategy. "Some precincts have a lesser call load volume. Some precincts have a greater distance mileage."
With that, he says the department is considering smaller patrol areas.
"Downsize the different wards and precincts that individuals work in, distribute the call load so that actually it will be better for the citizens," Williams said.
However, police have not yet released how the realignment may look.
"The response time would be a lot less," said Williams. "The area where officers patrol would be a lot smaller so they can concentrate on those areas a lot more as opposed to running all over the city."
Right now, there are nine precincts.
The coverage area ranges from 5 to 74 square miles. The population in each ward ranges from roughly 17,000 to 121,000 citizens.
Williams supports the community policing approach.
Last year, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong dissolved 16 COACT units and assigned one crime prevention officer to each of the nine precincts.
"They're going to come in and find out what the root of the problem is in that community, try to handle the blight issues, deal with social issues and anything else to help that community rebuild itself," Williams said.
He also said the plan will mean officers are no longer limited to responding to complaints.
It's unclear when the proposed maps will be released or if it will increase the number of precincts around town.
The realignment is up for another discussion at the next Memphis City Council meeting.
From the FBI
Help Us Bring Bob Levinson Home
$1 Million Reward Offered for Missing Retired FBI Agent
(Pictures and video on site)
This week marks the fifth anniversary of Robert Levinson's disappearance, and the FBI today announced a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the safe recovery and return of the retired special agent.
Levinson, who retired from the FBI in 1998 after 22 years of service, was working as a private investigator when he traveled to Kish Island, Iran on March 8, 2007. He has not been seen or heard from publicly since he disappeared the following day. In 2010, a video showing him in captivity was sent to the Levinson family by his captors.
The FBI is responsible for investigating crimes committed against U.S. citizens abroad. We have been working since 2007 to obtain information about Levinson's whereabouts and well-being.
“On the fifth anniversary of Bob's disappearance, the FBI continues to follow every lead into his abduction and captivity,” said James W. McJunkin, assistant director in charge of our Washington Field Office. “We are committed to bringing Bob home safely to his family. We hope this reward will encourage anyone with information, no matter how insignificant they may think it is, to come forward. It may be the clue that we need to locate Bob.”
“Though he is retired from the FBI, Bob remains a member of the FBI family to this day,” said Director Robert S. Mueller, “and his family is our family. Like all families, we stand together in good times and in times of adversity. Today, we stand together to reaffirm our commitment to Bob Levinson.”
“I am very grateful that the FBI has offered this reward,” said Levinson's wife Christine. “Our family believes the only way of resolving this issue successfully is with the FBI's help. It has been an extremely difficult time for my family,” she said. “We all thought Bob would be home by now. But five years have passed, and we still don't know why he's being held, who has him, or where he is.”
Levinson will celebrate his 64th birthday on March 10. In addition to his wife of 37 years, Levinson has seven children and two grandchildren. The family has been working tirelessly to bring Levinson home safely. “Our youngest son is about to graduate from high school,” Christine Levinson said. “He was in middle school when his father disappeared.”
In March 2011, the U.S. secretary of state issued a statement that the U.S. government had received indications that Levinson was being held by a group in southwest Asia. That region includes the border areas of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. A publicity campaign is being launched this week in southwest Asia to heighten awareness of Levinson's abduction, announce the $1,000,000 reward, and solicit information. Billboards, radio messages, and flyers will be used to publicize the reward and the investigation. A telephone tip line will be provided to listeners and viewers in that region so that they can confidentially provide information.
“We're never going to give up,” Christine Levinson said. “Our goal is to get Bob home. We miss him every single day.”
We need your help. If you have information about the Levinson case, contact your nearest FBI office or American Embassy, or submit a tip to https://tips.fbi.gov
From the Department of Homeland Security
Learn About Smoke Alarms
Why should I have a working smoke alarm?
A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the only thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you're awake or asleep, a working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.
What types of smoke alarms are available?
There are many different brands of smoke alarms available on the market, but they fall under two basic types: ionization and photoelectric .
It cannot be stated definitively that one is better than the other in every fire situation that could arise in a residence. Because both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting distinctly different, yet potentially fatal fires, and because no one can predict what type of fire might start in a home, the USFA recommends that every residence and place where people sleep be equipped with:
- Both ionization AND photoelectric smoke alarms, OR
- dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors
In addition to the basic types of alarms, there are alarms made to meet the needs of people with hearing disabilities. These alarms may use strobe lights that flash and/or vibrate to assist in alerting those who are unable to hear standard smoke alarms when they sound.
What powers a smoke alarm?
Smoke alarms are powered by battery or they are hardwired into the home's electrical system. If the smoke alarm is powered by battery, it runs on either a disposable 9-volt battery or a non-replaceable 10-year lithium (“long-life”) battery. A backup battery is usually present on hardwired alarms and may need to be replaced.
These batteries must be tested on a regular basis and, in most cases, should be replaced at least once each year (except for lithium batteries). See the Smoke Alarm Maintenance section for more information.
Are smoke alarms expensive?
Smoke alarms are not expensive and are worth the lives they can help save. Ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms cost between $6 and $20. Dual sensor smoke alarms cost between $24 and $40.
Some fire departments offer reduced price, or even free, smoke alarms. Contact your local fire department's non-emergency phone number for more information.
Install smoke alarms in key areas of your home
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Many fatal fires begin late at night or early in the morning, so the U.S. Fire Administration recommends installing smoke alarms both inside and outside of sleeping areas.
Since smoke and many deadly gases rise, installing your smoke alarms at the proper level will provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always follow the manufacturer's installation instructions.
Some fire departments will install battery-operated smoke alarms in your home at no cost. Contact your local fire department's non-emergency phone number for more information.
Hardwired smoke alarms should be installed by a qualified electrician.
Smoke alarm maintenance
Is your smoke alarm still working? Smoke alarms must be maintained! A smoke alarm with a dead or missing battery is the same as having no smoke alarm at all.
A smoke alarm only works when it is properly installed and maintained. Depending on how your smoke alarm is powered (9-volt, 10-year lithium, or hardwired), you'll have to maintain it according to manufacturer's instructions. General guidelines for smoke alarm maintenance:
Smoke alarm powered by a 9-volt battery
- Test the alarm monthly.
- Replace the batteries at least once per year.
- The entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.
Smoke alarm powered by a 10-year lithium (or “long life”) battery
- Test the alarm monthly.
- Since you cannot (and should not) replace the lithium battery, the entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced according to manufacturer's instructions.
Smoke alarm that is hardwired into the home's electrical system
- Test the alarm monthly.
- The backup battery should be replaced at least once per year.
- The entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.
Never disable a smoke alarm while cooking
A smoke alarm is just doing its job when it sounds while you're cooking or taking a shower with lots of steam.
- If a smoke alarm sounds while you're cooking or taking a shower with lots of steam, do not remove the battery. You should:
- Open a window or door and press the “hush” button,
- Wave a towel at the alarm to clear the air, or
- Move the entire alarm several feet away from the location.
Disabling a smoke alarm or removing the battery can be a deadly mistake.
State-by-State Residential Smoke Alarm Requirements
The USFA compiled state-by-state residential guidelines for smoke alarms. Families can find life-saving fire safety tips required or suggested by their very own state. The guidelines include instructions on the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms. The tips will help families do their part to protect themselves and the firefighters who protect their lives!
The “State-by-State Residential Smoke Alarm Requirements” is available for download from the Campaign Materials page and is also available on the free Toolkit disc. (English only)
Problem Drywall and Impact on Home Fire Protection
If you are a homeowner with problem drywall, please read this advisory from the Consumer Product Safety Commission related to potential replacement of smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms and fusible-type fire sprinkler heads.
Additional Smoke Alarm Resources
Last Reviewed: November 2, 2011
Fire death rates 2x as high in homes w/o working smoke alarms. Info on when to replace batteries http://t.co/9g5683bx #DST