From the L.A. Daily News
Military families to get free national parks pass
by The Associated Press Associated Press
NORFOLK, Va. - Active-duty military personnel and their dependents will soon be able to enter every national park for free as part of an effort to thank service members and their families for the sacrifices they make, the Interior Department announced Tuesday.
An annual pass will be made available to members of the military free of charge beginning Saturday, which is Armed Forces Day. The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass ordinarily costs $80. It provides access to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands.
The initiative is being marked with a Tuesday ceremony at Colonial National Historical Park in Yorktown, Va., the site of the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War. The park is nestled in a region of Virginia that plays host to all five branches of the military, including the world's largest naval base.
"I think when one goes into Virginia and you see all the sites, the Yorktown battlefield and the whole history of the country, it's important that those who have fought in the tradition of making sure the nation's democracy and freedom are protected also have access to these wonderful sites there," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a conference call with reporters in advance of the announcement.
The National Park Service estimates that giving away the passes to service members and their families will result in a revenue loss between $2 million and $6 million. The passes allow the owner and passengers in a single private vehicle access to sites that charge per vehicle. At sites where entrance fees are charged per-person, it covers the pass owner and three adults age 16 and older.
"We collect about $150 million in fees nationwide, so we don't think that this amount of decrease will be significant to the overall operations of the service," said Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service.
Military personnel can get the passes at any national park or wildlife refuge that charges an entrance fee by showing their military ID. Each family member will also be able to obtain their own pass even if the service member is deployed or if they are traveling separately.
The pass will be accepted at National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees.
The free pass will be made available for activated members of the National Guard and Reserves, but not for military veterans or retirees.
The effort compliments the Joining Forces initiative being spearheaded by first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to support military families.
"Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to our servicemen and women who make great sacrifices to protect our country and preserve our freedom," Jill Biden said. "In recognition of their service, we are so pleased to be putting out a welcome mat for our military families at America's most beautiful and storied sites."
Online: America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass: http://store.usgs.gov/pass/index.html
From the Washington Times
Leahy wants investigation into Arizona sheriff's tactics
by Jerry Seper
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee wants Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to investigate whether the office of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio used federal grant money to illegally detain Hispanics, whom the government alleges were the victims of racial profiling.
If so, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, wants the Justice Department to consider ways of getting the money back - a total that could exceed $25 million.
“I urge the department to take all appropriate steps to determine whether taxpayer dollars have been used in connection with the detention of individuals whose civil rights have been violated,” wrote Mr. Leahy in a letter Tuesday to Mr. Holder .
Mr. Leahy said the Justice Department has estimated that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in Phoenix has received more than $25 million since 2000 under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) as reimbursement for the costs related to the detention of illegal immigrants.
Last week the Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Arpaio alleging, among other things, that the sheriff and his deputies abused Hispanic inmates and engaged in ethnic profiling.
The lawsuit charges discriminatory and unconstitutional law enforcement actions against Hispanics who are frequently detained and arrested on the basis of race, color or national origin; discriminatory jail practices against Hispanic inmates with limited English skills; and illegal retaliation against critics.
The charges against America's self-described “toughest sheriff” came in the wake of a breakdown of negotiations between the Justice Department and the sheriff's office over the appointment of a court monitor, who would have overseen the office 's handling of those it arrests and detains, and directed operations regarding its enforcement programs and actions.
Sheriff Arpaio has refused to relinquish control of the office, saying it would nullify the authority of the elected sheriff, “eviscerating the will of the citizens of Maricopa County.” He also has denied the allegations and said the breakdown in negotiations was the fault of the Justice Department .
On Tuesday, Mr. Leahy said in a statement that he was “troubled” by the allegations, which came after a lengthy investigation by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and were announced by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez.
“Until the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has demonstrated to the department that it has addressed and corrected the misconduct found by your investigation, I ask what steps the department is taking with respect to current requests for SCAAP funding,” the Vermont Democrat wrote.
The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance administers SCAAP in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security. It provides federal payments to states and localities that incurred correctional officer salary costs for incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens with at least one felony or two misdemeanor convictions for violations of state or local law.
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office has said that 22 percent of felonies in the county are committed by illegal immigrants.
Evacuations and drills pared near nuke plants
by Jeff Donn
Without fanfare, the nation's nuclear power regulators have overhauled community emergency planning for the first time in more than three decades, requiring fewer exercises for major accidents and recommending that fewer people be evacuated right away.
The revamp, the first since the program began after Three Mile Island in 1979, also eliminates a requirement that local responders always practice for a release of radiation.
At least four years in the works, the changes appear to clash with more recent lessons of last year's reactor crisis in Japan.
Under the new rules, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency , which run the program together, have added one new exercise: More than a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, state and community police will now take part in exercises that prepare for a possible assault on their local plant.
Still, some emergency officials say this new exercise doesn't go far enough.
And some view as downright bizarre the idea that communities will now periodically run emergency scenarios without practicing for any significant release of radiation.
These changes, while documented in obscure federal publications, went into effect in December with hardly any notice by the general public.
An Associated Press investigative series in June exposed weaknesses in the U.S. emergency planning program. The stories detailed how many nuclear reactors are now operating beyond their design life under rules that have been relaxed to account for deteriorating safety margins. The series also documented considerable population growth around nuclear power plants and limitations in the scope of exercises. For example, local authorities assemble at command centers where they test communications, but they do not deploy around the community, reroute traffic or evacuate anyone as in a real emergency.
The latest changes, especially relaxed exercise plans for 50-mile emergency zones, are being flayed by some local planners and activists who say the widespread contamination in Japan from last year's Fukushima nuclear accident screams out for stronger planning in the United States, not weaker rules.
FEMA officials say the revised standards introduce more variability into planning exercises and will help keep responders on their toes. The nuclear power industry has praised the changes on similar grounds.
Onsite security forces at nuclear power plants have practiced defending against make-believe assaults since 1991 and increased the frequency of these drills after the 2001 terrorism attacks. The new exercises for community responders took years to consider and adopt with prolonged industry and government consultations that led to repeated drafts. The NRC made many changes requested by the industry in copious comments.
Federal personnel will now evaluate if state and local authorities have enough resources to handle a simultaneous security threat and radiation release. Their ability to communicate with onsite security officials during an attack also will be evaluated during exercises.
But community planners wonder why local forces won't have to practice repelling an attack along with plant security guards — something federal emergency planners acknowledge could be necessary in a real assault.
The FEMA instruction manual for the preparedness program says the agency won't evaluate defense capability of community forces because of “confidentiality of sensitive security information” — an apparent reference to the risk of exposing vulnerabilities during a public exercise.
When pressed, though, federal emergency planners gave other explanations. They said state and local police are more likely to be needed for tasks like escorting damage control teams rather than confronting attackers.
“We're assuming these guys don't want to escape, or else they wouldn't have showed up,” said Randy Sullivan , a health physicist who works on emergency preparedness at the NRC. “A dragnet and security sweep is less important than saving equipment that is important to core damage.”
None of the revisions has been questioned more than the new requirement that some planning exercises incorporate a reassuring premise: that no harmful radiation is released. Federal regulators say that conducting a wider variety of accident scenarios makes the exercises less predictable.
However, many state and local emergency officials say such exercises make no sense in a program designed to protect the population from radiation released by a nuclear accident.
“We have the real business of protecting public health to do if we're not needed at an exercise,” Texas radiation-monitoring specialist Robert Free wrote bluntly to federal regulators when they broached the idea. “Not to mention the waste of public monies.”
Environmental and anti-nuclear activists also scoffed. “You need to be practicing for a worst case, rather than a nonevent,” said nuclear policy analyst Jim Riccio of the group Greenpeace.
A FEMA representative declined multiple requests for an interview and instead released a statement. The agency acknowledged that a simulated problem during a no-release exercise is handled on plant grounds. Federal planners say this exercise still requires community decision makers to mobilize and set up communication lines with officials on the site, practicing critical capabilities, even though they won't need to measure and respond to radiation.
While officials stress the importance of limiting radioactive releases, the revisions also favor limiting initial evacuations, even in a severe accident. Under the previous standard, people within two miles would be immediately evacuated, along with everyone five miles downwind. Now, in a large quick release of radioactivity, emergency personnel would concentrate first on evacuating people only within two miles. Others would be told to stay put and wait for a possible evacuation order later.
Timothy Greten, who administers the community readiness program at FEMA, said it wouldn't be necessary to tell people to stay put “if you could evacuate everybody within 10 or 15 minutes.” But he said hunkering down can be safer in some locations and circumstances, “especially for a short-term solution.”
Federal officials say people could risk worse exposure in an evacuation impeded by overcrowded roadways or bad weather.
This change, however, raises the likely severity of a panicked exodus outside the official evacuation area. Even a federal study used to shape the new program warns that up to 20 percent of people near official evacuation areas might also leave and potentially slow things down for everyone — and that's assuming clear instructions.
“If it were me, I would evacuate” even without an official go-ahead, said Cheryl L. Chubb, a nuclear emergency planner with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, who is critical of the changes.
At Fukushima, more than 150,000 people evacuated, including about 50,000 who left on their own, according to Japan's Education Ministry. At Three Mile Island, 195,000 people are estimated to have fled, though officials urged evacuation only for pregnant women and young children within five miles. About 135,000 people lived within 10 miles of the site at the time.
In its series, the AP reported that populations within 10 miles of U.S. nuclear sites have ballooned by as much as 4 1/2 times since 1980. Nuclear sites were originally picked in less populated areas to minimize the impact of accidents. Now, about 120 million Americans — almost 40 percent — live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, according to the AP's analysis of 2010 Census data. The Indian Point plant in Buchanan, N.Y., is at the center of the largest such zone, with 17.3 million people, including almost all of New York City.
“They're saying, ‘If there's no way to evacuate, then we won't,'” Phillip Musegaas, a lawyer with the environmental group Riverkeeper, said of the stronger emphasis on taking shelter at home. The group is challenging relicensing of Indian Point.
In February, a national coalition of environmental and anti-nuclear groups asked the NRC to expand evacuation planning from 10 miles to 25 miles and to broaden separate 50-mile readiness zones to 100 miles. The groups also pressed for some exercises that simulate a nuclear accident accompanied by a natural disaster like an earthquake or hurricane — akin to the combination of tsunami, blackout and meltdowns at Fukushima.
The new U.S. program has kept the 10- and 50-mile planning zones in place, as well as the requirement for one full exercise for a 10-mile evacuation every two years. However, required 50-mile planning exercises will now be held less often: every eight years, instead of every six years.
Exercises are full-blown tests, with FEMA evaluation, of the entire range of community capabilities needed in an accident. Smaller drills of specific skills are run more frequently.
In the state-led 50-mile exercises, emergency personnel practice the logistics of dealing with contaminated food and milk over a large region. They also prepare the mechanisms to relocate people, clean up contamination and later return evacuees to their communities.
Gary Lima, who manages the nuclear readiness program at the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said 50-mile exercises should be run more frequently than once every eight years. “Recovery is really your hardest work,” he said.
Even when the program mandated a six-year timetable, federal authors of the 2002 program manual acknowledged that “many (first responders) have indicated a desire” for even more frequent exercises in the 50-mile zone.
The Japanese disaster reinforced such worries when officials told some towns beyond 12 miles from the disabled plant to evacuate. The U.S. government recommended that Americans stay at least 50 miles from the plant. Soil and crops were contaminated for scores of miles around. At one point, health authorities in Tokyo, 140 miles away, advised families not to give children the local water, which was contaminated by fallout to twice the government limit for infants.
Officials for FEMA and the NRC said they are still studying whether Japan 's experience points to the need for further changes in the United States.
Pressed on the reduced frequency of 50-mile exercises, federal planners said community personnel can practice skills as often as they like, without needing a full-blown federal evaluation each time.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's main advocate, strongly backed the eight-year timetable to reduce the burden of adding the attack exercises. Asked about the other changes, NEI spokesman Steven Kerekes said they bring more federal oversight, formalizing practices already begun at many sites.
However, no nuclear plant has ever been shut down for deficiencies in the emergency response plan of surrounding communities.
From Google News
Boston boosting community policing efforts
More officers walking the streets
by Brian R. Ballou
The shooting of five young men on Washington Street two years ago sent a wave of fear throughout Egleston Square, a largely Hispanic enclave with small family businesses, senior housing, and dense multifamily residences.
Days after the incident, Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis announced he would increase community policing efforts there by assigning a walking beat officer. Carlos Martinez, who grew up in the neighborhood, was put on the job.
“I think I'm made for it: I like to talk; I can talk about anything,'' Martinez said Tuesday. He appears to be a natural for the job, spending hours chatting in English and Spanish and sometimes walking as far as 15 miles.
“It's kind of ironic,'' he said. “When I became a police officer, I never wanted to come to Jamaica Plain, because I knew too many people here. . . . But for the most part, they have that respect for you, because they want you to succeed. Being from here helps out, because it's not like they're saying: ‘Who are you? You just come here when something bad happens.' ''
Martinez moved with his family from Puerto Rico to Jamaica Plain in 1972, when he was 2.
‘Not as many people hanging out around here now causing problems.'
Davis, counting more than 140,000 walking beats in the city last year, wants to add at least 60,000 more in 2012. He also wants to add social media to the beat, with an initiative dubbed “Tweet from the Beat.''
That effort currently involves only command staff, and there are at least a dozen deputies and superintendents with Twitter handles.
There are numerous objectives the department wants to accomplish with the social media tool, primarily reaching the community at large with unfiltered information, networking with the community on problem solving, and sending out advisories on police-sponsored events aimed at community building.
On Tuesday, Martinez's supervisor, Deputy Nora Baston, tweeted as she accompanied him on the beat on Washington Street. She snapped a photograph with high school students on their lunch break, after talking with them about summer job prospects. Seconds later, she downloaded the photo on her Twitter account, @DeputyBaston, and included the phrase “Talking to a group of youth about summer jobs.''
Baston posted another tweet, “It's all about building great relationships'' and added a photograph of Martinez, a wide smile on his face, with customers inside a hair salon.
“Tweeting is a valuable tool,'' Baston said. “We have a lot of events that we invite the community to.''
Baston is one of the main supervisors of the walking beat program across the city, instilling in those officers the department's expectations on how to best interact with merchants and residents.
With Martinez, the Boston Police Department has a prototypical community beat officer, a patrolman familiar with his territory who can easily forge relationships that dissolve barriers and, in effect, lessen crime, Baston said.
“We'd like to duplicate what he's been able to accomplish here throughout the city,'' she said.
Baston said Martinez, who walks the beat daily, is often missed by the community on his days off.
“It's a whole different vibe, a certain element comes out in his absence, and I get calls from some businesses,'' she said.
Betsy Cowan - executive director of the Egleston Square Main Street, a nonprofit agency with a mission to “promote, preserve, and revitalize Egleston Square'' - called Martinez an “economic generator.''
“In these times, everyone is looking at how to do more with less,'' Cowan said.
“One walking officer has helped to generate so much more economic activity in the neighborhood, without a doubt.''
Several business owners agreed, saying Martinez's presence has had an impact.
“He's walking the beat and keeping a lot of the trouble down, noise down, keeping things clear around here, so it's been a big difference since he's been around,'' said Robert Lawson, owner of Lawson's Barber Shop, which opened in 1966.
Sandy Tran, who owns several businesses on Washington Street, said community policing is important because residents and business owners get to know the officer and are encouraged to call him if they have problems.
“Not as many people hanging out around here now causing problems,'' she said.
Dorset Reports Spike In Burglaries, Turns To Community Policing
May 15, 2012
With the economy stagnant and drugs rampant, a number of Vermont communities are reporting an increase in burglaries.
In Dorset, residents are taking action by launching a community policing program to help track crime.
Like many rural towns that have small, seasonal populations, Dorset contracts its police work to the state.
Town Manager Rob Giotti says since the end of April, there's been a spike in break-ins in Dorset and surrounding towns. There have been more than a dozen incidents so far this year compared to just a handful in 2011.
"The information that we're getting from the State Police is that they've predominantly been second homes," Giotti said. " It's been jewelry and silver items that have been taken. The transfer station in East Dorset had a report of some scrap metal that was taken."
Giotti says the Vermont State Police have told him the rise in burglaries appears to be drug-related.
Dorset town officials say they'll hire state police for more patrol hours, and the town is holding a meeting Wednesday about community policing, urging people to lock down their valuables and their homes.
The State Police will be there as well to answer questions and tell residents how they might help with resolving the problem.
You can find more information on the town's Website or Facebook page.
From the White House
President Obama Pays Tribute to Fallen Police Officers
President Obama was at the U.S Capitol today for a ceremony where he paid tribute to law enforcement officials who were killed in the line of duty in the previous year. The serive is part of the annual Peace Officers Memorial Day and National Police Week.
In his remarks, the President acknowledged and thanked the families of those who have fallen, and highlighted the courageous acts of those we lost. He also praised the bravery of all those who serve as law enforcement officers across our country:
Every American who wears the badge knows the burdens that come with it -- the long hours and the stress; the knowledge that just about any moment could be a matter of life or death. You carry these burdens so the rest of us don't have to.
And this shared sense of purpose brings you together, and it brings you to our nation's capital today. You come from different states and different backgrounds and different walks of life, but I know that you come here as a community: one family, united by a quiet strength and a willingness to sacrifice on behalf of others.
The rest of us can never fully understand what you go through. But please know that we hold you in our hearts -- not just today, but always. We are forever in your debt. And it is on behalf of all of us, the entire American people, that I offer my thoughts, my prayers, and my thanks.
From the FBI
Police Week --
FBI Honors Law Enforcement's Sacrifices
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which it falls as National Police Week. This year, as thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world gather in Washington, D.C. to honor colleagues who have made the ultimate sacrifice, the FBI joins with the rest of the country in paying tribute as well.
The week's events began Sunday evening with a candlelight vigil held at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The names of 362 fallen officers were read aloud, to be added to the nearly 20,000 other names permanently etched into the memorial's walls. The event was underscored by a preliminary report issued today that showed 72 law enforcement officers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2011 and 50 were killed accidentally. The FBI will release final statistics this fall in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program's publication, Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2011 .
“These men and women place the safety and security of others above their own,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in remarks delivered at Sunday's ceremony. “When facing uncertain dangers and confronting unpredictable threats, they consistently respond with courage, selflessness, and strength. And every day—in communities nationwide—their contributions are felt and deeply appreciated.”
Today, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller issued a video message (below) recognizing officers for putting their lives on the line every day. “The FBI is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our law enforcement colleagues as we continue our work together to protect our families and our communities,” he said.
Also today, Director Mueller presided over a memorial service at FBI Headquarters to honor those lost from the FBI family, including two agents who passed away last year. Among the attendees were former FBI Directors Louis Freeh, William Sessions, and William Webster. Mueller said fallen officers and agents leave behind an enduring legacy and through their sacrifice set a standard for which we are forever grateful. “Though their stories are different, they shared much in common, ” Mueller said. “They shared a devotion to service—service to the FBI, service to their communities, and service to our country. They shared a commitment to justice and to the rule of law. And they shared remarkable bravery.”