From the L.A. Daily News
Audit: Los Angeles still needs to work on emergency preparation
by Rick Orlov
Four years after an audit exposed the city of Los Angeles' outdated emergency plans, a report released Thursday said L.A. still has more work to do to prepare for a major disaster.
The new audit of emergency preparation planning by Controller Wendy Greuel found the city has not enacted nearly half of the recommendations in the 2008 report.
In particular, there is still poor cooperation between agencies that would be involved in disaster response, including the Emergency Management Department, and the Airport, Port, Transportation, Recreation and Parks, and Convention Center departments, Greuel said.
"As the second largest city in the United States, Los Angeles is vulnerable to a multitude of disasters, from earthquakes, mudslides and fires to terrorist and other man-made threats," Greuel said in a letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other city officials.
"Los Angeles needs a world-class response to fulfill our most important obligations of ensuring the safety of all Angelenos."
In response to Greuel's audit, Villaraigosa issued an executive directive to all departments, instructing them to comply with Greuel's recommendations, particularly in planning to help the disabled.
"Disasters frequently create new physical and communication barriers and eliminate and/or lessen services available to everyone," Villaraigosa said. "For individuals with disabilities and access and functional needs, this creates the potential that their ability to perform functions ... will be impaired."
In April, the City Council approved a $2.1 million payout to settle a lawsuit brought by disabled rights advocates seeking to have plans for earthquakes, fires, flooding and other emergencies reflect the special needs of the community.
The mayor said he wants each department to develop programs for early warning notifications, emergency alerts and evacuation plans.
He said he also wants to see an inventory of shelters that are available and that city workers are trained in an annual program to ensure emergency information is made available to the public.
Greuel said the city has made some progress since the 2008 audit, such as creating the new Emergency Operations Center to serve as a focal point for coordination and entering into an agreement with the American Red Cross to increase preparedness.
However, she said, other steps to improve the city's emergency response are lagging. Specifically, Greuel said, the city needs to develop a comprehensive plan to shelter people and identify those most vulnerable in the population, and adopt a measure to spell out the Emergency Management Department's authority, which would allow the department to assess other city agencies for preparedness.
Greuel acknowledged that part of the problem was due to the economy and the lack of money to hire the staff needed for all the work.
Chris Ipsen, spokesman for the Emergency Management Department, said officials have been successful in implementing 61 percent of the previous audit recommendations. The department has plans to deal with the disability issues and it is one of the agency's priorities as it moves ahead, Ipsen said.
From the Washington Times
House orders solid base line on border
Seeks new measurement for illegal immigration control
When the Obama administration scrapped the old definition for measuring border security two years ago, it left the government without any way of measuring how much of the U.S.- Mexico border is under operational control.
On Wednesday, the House pushed back, approving a bill demanding that the Homeland Security Department come up with a good yardstick for measuring border security and produce a concrete plan to get the country closer to that goal.
The bill passed by voice vote and had the support of both Republican and Democratic leaders on homeland security issues, signaling a bipartisan desire for real data on whether the border is secure — a precondition both sides say is necessary before they can talk about legalizing illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
“We just can't change the rules if we don't like the results,” said Rep. Candice S. Miller, the Michigan Republican who sponsored Wednesday's legislation prodding the administration.
Her bill orders Homeland Security to submit a plan within 180 days that would detail how to achieve control of the borders within five years.
Under the Bush administration, the government used a measure called “operational control,” which was defined as areas where the government could adequately detect and respond to illegal crossings.
At last check in 2011, Congress‘ auditors said the administration had just 44 percent of the border with Mexico under operational control, and just 2 percent of the Canadian border met that standard.
Lawmakers said the Obama administration stopped releasing operational control data in 2010. A year ago, Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano announced that her department was working to come up with a new yardstick instead.
In the interim, it has been using apprehensions of illegal immigrants along the border as a measure, but all sides agree that has limitations. For example, nobody knows exactly how many people avoided capture and made it into the U.S., and it doesn't account for those crossing only to drop off drugs.
A secure Southern border has become a key hurdle for President Obama's push to legalize the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
The administration argues that it has made dramatic strides in security, but opponents point to the lack of total operational control as evidence that the situation is not resolved.
“Given that the Obama administration has given up reporting the level of operational control on the border, it's no wonder Congress has to force them to come up with an approved plan to achieve it,” said Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who used to call for legalization but now says it must be put off while the country focuses on border security first.
Neither the Homeland Security Department nor Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the border strategy, replied to requests for comment Wednesday on either the legislation or on progress toward a new measure of security.
But in testimony to the House this month, Border Patrol Chief Michael J. Fisher said the old measures were part of the earlier strategy for a giant boost in manpower and infrastructure as the Border Patrol tried to build its capabilities.
Now with twice the personnel and armed with drones and other new technology, the Border Patrol says it's ready to start looking at better measures — which it will call the Border Conditions Index — though what those are is still under development.
“The Border Conditions Index is a tool CBP created in response to requests by Congress for metrics to track and communicate conditions at the border,” Mr. Fisher said in a March letter to Rep. Darrell E. Issa, chairman of the House oversight committee. “In particular, the Border Conditions Index will be a measurement that attempts to combine various statistics and effects.”
He said the index was “currently undergoing peer review” but said it will try to measure the number of people who got away, as a key component.
Ms. Napolitano has also suggested it should measure border violence and the number of people deterred from trying to cross in the first place.
The index is supposed to be ready for use in fiscal year 2013, which begins in four months.
Frustration at the lack of a good measure spans both parties in Congress.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, approved of Wednesday's bill, saying it was time to ask for a broad security strategy so Congress could see what kind of financial commitment it will take to get control of the borders.
The House bill also would require the administration to run its new Border Conditions Index by specialists at one of the government's national laboratories to make sure the measures it chooses are acceptable.
Mrs. Miller said she is open to a new yardstick but that the administration needs to be upfront about what it will measure.
“What does a secure border look like to them? Of course I would think that an accountability matrix would use the miles of fence that have been built, all the various technologies, some of the aerial things — UAVs,” she said in an interview. “If that is what they're going to be utilizing, then they need to explain it to the Congress.”
Sponsored Link: Three dollars doesn't get you much these days. But did you know, there's a unique type of silver coin – issued by the U.S. government – that's available for only $3 right now? It's the cheapest way we know of to buy real silver. Click here to learn more.
From Google News
Toledo girl takes a shine to helping families in need
by ROBERTA REDFERN
Angelica Dowiak had an idea.
The 9-year-old's fund-raising plan -- sketched on a sheet of paper with a red marker and complete with an illustration of a penny-filled jar -- was simple: "Look for pennies all around. Help raise money … by asking for pennies. After you fill [the jar] up, take it to the office."
Her target for the money was children in need at Beach House Family Shelter on Erie Street.
For five days, the precocious, blond-haired, blue-eyed child solicited pennies from those around her: neighbors, friends, family members, someone walking by on the sidewalk. People pulled pennies from their pockets, from the depths of their couch cushions, and from the crevices of their car consoles.
"People don't really give up their other money, so if they just give up one cent, pretty soon you come up with a dollar," the little girl explained.
A dollar, yes. But when she was done, young Angelica had not the $30 or $40 her family and teachers expected, but just short of $388. That's almost 38,800 copper coins.
On Thursday, Angelica presented the money to Tammy Holder, Beach House executive director, to use toward feeding and clothing some of the hundreds of homeless kids who come through the agency's doors every year with their families, seeking food, shelter, and hope.
"Never did I imagine she would get this much money," said Laura Golbinec, intervention specialist at Imagine Madison Avenue School of Arts on Madison Avenue, which the girl attends as a third grader. "I was amazed."
The charter school stresses community service every year in individual classrooms to help develop character, Ms. Golbinec said. However, this year the school decided to coordinate efforts and have all the classes do the various service projects they came up with during one week, May 14-18. They titled their efforts, "The best community service week ever."
The 557 students in kindergarten through fifth grade cleaned the playground on the school's newly expanded grounds. They created and sent cards to Heartland of Perrysburg nursing home residents and to those serving overseas. They planted flowers at local businesses, raised money for the Toledo Area Humane Society, held a professional attire drive, and brought in cans of food for local food-bank donations.
Each year, Ms. Golbinec said, one or two students want to break out on their own and raise funds through an idea they have. Angelica came up with "Pennies for Possibilities." Two other students, Maniya Pickett, 11, and Raeonna Walker, 10, both fourth graders at Imagine, raised about $200 for the Ronald McDonald House.
Angelica's idea developed from the mind of a child, a child who sees her family struggling financially. Her father, Walter Dowiak, is unable to work for the last half dozen years after suffering a disability. The family, which also includes mother Crystal Dowiak and 5-year-old Quintavious, rents a house on Sixth Street in East Toledo, and gets help from other family members to make ends meet.
"Every month we are on the verge of 'how are we going to pay our bills?' But Angelica knows she has a home to lay her head every night, food on the table. We make it work, but some others can't, and she knows that," her dad said.
Mr. Dowiak said about three years ago, his daughter saw a family going into a boarded-up vacant building in Toledo at dusk, seeking a place to sleep. They carried an infant with them. His daughter verbally expressed her concern over how the child was going to get the things he needed; just as she did a few months later when she witnessed the devastation of Hurricane Ike on television and became anxious about all the children, though only a child herself.
It snowballed from there. Angelica -- appropriately nicknamed Angel by some -- started giving her birthday and Christmas money to disaster relief, shelters, children's hospitals -- "even if it's a dollar, she wants to help someone," her dad said. Her summer project is a lemonade stand to raise money for Toledo Children's Hospital.
Over the weekend, Ms. Golbinec and school business manager Kay McClain, spent more than a day counting out the pennies Angelica raised into groups of $10.
One thousand pennies per pile. Just shy of 39 piles of pennies.
All scooped up and sealed in plastic bags for the bank, where the pennies were exchanged for a check that the shelter will use for clothing, food, and toys.
At Beach House, 50 percent of the occupants at the shelter, which has been serving single women and homeless families for 91 years, are children, Ms. Holder said.
The efforts of young Angelica, Maniya, and Raeonna follow that of other children whose creative little minds conjure up ways to help the shelter, Ms. Holder said.
During the holidays, 7-year-old Evan Wolaver sat diligently drawing and coloring. He created 25 pictures, handing them to his father, and asking him if he would sell them at work. The youngster gave the shelter a $40 gift at Christmas.
Another little girl rushed home to her parents, asking how they could help her new friend at school who was staying at Beach House and "in between houses," Ms. Holder said.
"[The adults] are the reason we exist, but it's great to see the kids, especially when we are in a time when it is all about what we have -- what do the Joneses have? -- look outside of themselves and reach out to those in need," Ms. Holder said. "And it's amazing for us to be a part of that."
Robbery suspect arrested thanks to "community policing"
HUNTSVILLE Ala. (WAAY) - Huntsville Police say a recent robbery arrest is a good example of how the community can help solve crimes.
Vantella Malone, 34, was arrested Thursday morning after allegedly attacking a man outside a Governors Drive gas station.
Police say the quick arrest came because the victim cooperated and gave them a great description of the suspect.
Police spokesman Dr. Harry Hobbs said with a high number of robberies in the area recently, community policing is of extreme importance.
"We want our community to know that when we get tips from you or folks within the business or victims, that helps us and we're trying to galvanize our community to work together with us,” Hobbs said.
Dr. Hobbs says the Citizens Advisory Council and community watch programs will be working with different housing networks to help make the city safer.
ICE launches inaugural citizens' academy
They visited York County Detention Facility, perused the Forensic Document Lab and spent time at a firing range, honing their marksmanship skills. They also hit the books, learning firsthand about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from some of the agency's leaders. They're the inaugural class of the ICE Citizens' Academy.
ICE's Office of Public Affairs began the ICE Citizens' Academy to provide members of the general public with an inside look at ICE and how the agency enforces immigration and customs laws. Over the course of nine weeks, a total of 19 individuals met once a week in one of two locations – Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
For Blaine Young, president of Frederick County Commissioners in Frederick, Md., attending the Baltimore-based academy was an enlightening experience. Since Frederick County participates in the 287(g) program, Young is personally vested in learning about the agency and how its laws affect his community.
"I wanted to see if I could learn anything about ICE's immigration and enforcement program," said Young. "I learned that ICE has a budget to deport 400,000 people per year, and they try to deport the ones that are the biggest threat to us, the citizens, and national security."
Participants also learned a significant amount about Homeland Security Investigations, ICE's investigative arm. ICE's special agents conduct a variety of investigations ranging from drug trafficking to human smuggling to child exploitation.
The Baltimore and Washington, D.C. academies were part of a pilot program. After an initial assessment, the agency plans to roll out citizens' academies throughout the country.
"I would highly recommend to people on both sides of the spectrum – whether they think the government should be doing more or not be involved at all," said Young.