Bill would give licenses to those in US illegally
by Laura Olson
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - People living in the U.S. illegally would be able to seek a California driver's license under a bill that passed the state Assembly.
The measure from Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo of Watsonville would allow those without a Social Security number to apply for a license. They must show several alternative forms of identification, including a birth certificate and proof of residency.
Alejo says AB60 would increase safety on California roads because unlicensed drivers are nearly three times as likely to cause a crash.
A committee analysis says there are 2 million people in California who would be eligible for a driver's license or ID card.
Republicans opposed the bill, saying it could jeopardize other uses for the IDs. The Assembly approved the bill 53-20 Wednesday, sending it to the Senate.
Cops: Letters to NYC mayor test positive for ricin
by COLLEEN LONG
NEW YORK—Two threatening letters containing traces of the deadly poison ricin were sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York and his gun-control group in Washington, police said Wednesday.
The anonymous letters were opened in New York on Friday at the city's mail facility in Manhattan and in Washington on Sunday at an office used by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the nonprofit started by Bloomberg, police said.
Chief New York Police spokesman Paul Browne said preliminary testing indicted the presence of ricin in both letters but that more testing would be done. He said the threats contained references to the debate on gun laws and an oily pinkish-orange substance.
The billionaire mayor has emerged as one of the country's most potent gun-control advocates, able to press his case with both his public position and his private money.
The people who initially came into contact with the letters showed no symptoms of exposure to the poison, but three officers who later examined the New York letter experienced minor symptoms that have since abated, police said.
Browne would not comment on what specific threats were made or where the letters were postmarked. He also wouldn't say whether they were handwritten or typed and whether investigators believe they were sent by the same person.
"In terms of why they've done it, I don't know," Bloomberg said at an event Wednesday night.
One of the letters "obviously referred to our anti-gun efforts, but there's 12,000 people that are going to get killed this year with guns and 19,000 that are going to commit suicide with guns, and we're not going to walk away from those efforts," said Bloomberg, adding that he didn't "feel threatened."
The letters were the latest in a string of toxin-laced missives. In Washington state, a 37-year-old was charged last week with threatening to kill a federal judge in a letter that contained ricin. About a month earlier, letters containing the substance were addressed to President Barack Obama, a U.S. senator and a Mississippi judge. A Mississippi man was arrested in that case.
Federal officials and NYPD were investigating. Browne would not say whether the letters were believed to be linked to any other recent ricin cases.
Police said the letter in Washington, D.C., was opened by Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He was working out of the offices of The Raben Group, a Washington lobbying firm where he keeps an office. Glaze happened to open the letter while sitting outside over the Memorial Day weekend, said the firm's founder, Robert Raben.
"I'm very concerned about our employees and co-workers and clients. I'm sorry that we live in a world in which people do such awful things. Thank God, right now, everybody's physically fine," Raben said by phone Wednesday, adding that the firm would do whatever needed to ensure safety.
A mayor's spokesman also speaking for the nonprofit said he had no comment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, vomiting and redness on the skin depending on how the affected person comes into contact with the poison.
Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which now counts more than 700 mayors nationwide as members. It lobbies federal and state lawmakers, and it aired a spate of television ads this year urging Congress to expand background checks and pass other gun-control measures after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The background check proposal failed in a Senate vote in April, and other measures gun-control advocates wanted—including a ban on sales of military-style assault weapons—have stalled.
Separately, Bloomberg also has made political donations to candidates who share his desire for tougher gun restrictions. His super PAC, Independence USA, put $2.2 million into a Democratic primary this winter for a congressional seat in Illinois, for example. Bloomberg's choice, former state lawmaker Robin Kelly, won the primary and the seat.
Fighting Spice, a Growing Epidemic
It's about as easy to buy as a soda, there is no age restriction, it's pseudo-legal and it's difficult to detect.
Spice, as it is commonly called, is frequently branded as incense or potpourri and, although the label says that it's not intended for human consumption, it is often used as synthetic marijuana. With names like K2, Fake Weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk and Moon Rocks it's little wonder why.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Spice consists of dried lettuce leaves mixed with fertilizer that has been laced with synthetic cannabinoids, which mimics THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Because Spice is sold in legal retail outlets as incense the manufacturing process can avoid Food and Drug Administration regulatory oversight. Further complicating the situation, because Spice is easy to produce, it's impossible to know how much of what chemical is being ingested, which makes it incredibly dangerous.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports nationally 659 calls of exposure to synthetic marijuana from January to March of this year. The use of this dangerous synthetic drug can lead to agitation, confusion, hallucinations, vomiting, heart attacks, comas and death.
Use of synthetic marijuana is alarmingly high. According to data from the 2011 Monitoring the Future survey of youth drug-use trends, 11.4 percent of 12th graders used Spice in the past year, making it the second most commonly used illicit drug among seniors.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Santa Ana Supervisory Special Agent Thomas J. O'Donnell explained that much of the difficulty comes from the pseudo-legality of the drug.
"The really hard part is proving the intent for human consumption," said O'Donnell, "it's perfectly legal to manufacture these products; that is, unless you intend for people to use them to get high."
The manufacturing of analogs that mimic the effects of Schedule I Controlled Substances was made illegal by the Analog Act.
In order to be labeled as an analog, authorities must prove that a product, which mimics the effects of Schedule I narcotics, was sold with the intent to be consumed. As it stands, the product is labeled potpourri and bears the warning "not for human consumption."
He explained that every time a chemical in the compound is labeled as a Schedule I substance, the manufacturers replace it with another compound that is equally as harmful.
"We are fighting an epidemic," said O'Donnell. "These drugs are unregulated and untested, so you have no idea what's in them."
O'Donnell explained that special agents have seized so much of the chemical compound that makes up Spice, that they are running out of room to store it.
"It's the legal distribution of narcotics," he said. "One of the reasons the industry has taken off is because in order to prove that something is an analog of a controlled substance you have to do a lot of lab tests. It's hard to prove that a substance has a similar chemical structure and similar effect to a narcotic, so what's happened is it's taken a long time for law enforcement to catch up. Basically, the industry is hiding behind the products not being for human consumption."
Despite the overwhelming tide against them, HSI special agents continue the fight against this dangerous, and potentially lethal, drug.
As a result of such efforts, a federal grand jury indicted five Boise, Idaho, area residents on federal charges for their role in a scheme to manufacture and sell Spice, May 5.
The defendants, Mark A. Ciccarello, 35, Holly F. Ciccarello, 39, Robert A. Eoff, 30, Troy L. Palmer, 43, William B. Mabry, 45, were arrested and made their initial appearance in federal court following a probe by special agents and officers with the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force.
The defendants face four counts of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance analogue; conspiracy to smuggle goods into the United States; conspiracy to sell and transport drug paraphernalia; and conspiracy to launder money.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine on the distribution charge alone.
From the FBI
Helping Injured Soldiers Continue to Serve
May 31, 2009. Eastern Afghanistan. U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Clifton and his Special Forces team were conducting a raid against a Taliban stronghold. As an assault team leader, Clifton busted into a compound—and into a wall of enemy bullets. “I still remember everything vividly,” he said, “from the time I kicked in that door to the time they Medevaced me off the battlefield.”
Clifton was critically injured, with major organ damage and a shattered wrist. He eventually pulled through and spent several months at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. before returning to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. There, he learned about Operation Warfighter, a Department of Defense program that places wounded service members in internship positions with federal agencies so they can contribute while healing (at the time, the program was only available in the D.C area). Intrigued by this idea but wanting to stay in Ohio, Clifton—who had at one time considered becoming an FBI agent—called up our Cincinnati Division to see if it would be willing to do something similar. The answer? “Anything we can do to support you during your recovery.”
Clifton began working as an intern in the Columbus Resident Agency, shadowing analysts and agents to help out on cases. And when his time with the military—and therefore, the internship—was up, another door opened. On April 22, 2012, Clifton became a full-time Bureau employee.
Clifton is one of many injured service members who found a place at the FBI. Various field offices—like Cincinnati—have allowed wounded warriors to intern with them over the years…and field-wide interest and support led to a national pilot program, then to the launch of the FBI's official Wounded Warrior Internship Program in August 2012.
Participants—who remain on the military's payroll—must first be approved through Operation Warfighter, have at least nine months left on their wounded warrior status, and be able to pass a full background investigation. Those selected are given assignments around the country that don't interfere with their rehabilitation and recovery and that allow them to build a résumé, explore employment interests, develop job skills, and gain federal work experience. So far, more than 50 wounded warriors have participated in the program since the pilot began in March 2011, and 15 of those interns have since come on board as full-time FBI employees.
“My goal for the program is for every field office, every Headquarters division to have at least two wounded warriors working in their space,” said William McNeill, manager of our Wounded Warriors and Veterans Program and a 23-year Army veteran. “These service members still have so much more to give. They may not be able to serve in the capacity they first desired…but that sense of commitment and dedication is still there.”
Four years after his injury, Clifton is grateful for all the support the FBI provided him as a wounded warrior and as a Bureau employee. “Even from day one, coming in as an intern—that helped me out not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, too, because now I have another mission and another team to be a part of. And that was just a big part of my healing.”
This Memorial Day—and always—the FBI remembers those who have fallen and thanks our nation's current and former service members for all they have done and continue to do for the country.
About Operation Warfighter
This federal program has placed more than 2,500 recovering wounded service members in internships with more than 100 federal agencies and sub-components. Visit the Department of Defense's Warrior Care Blog for more information on this and other programs that support our nation's soldiers. (Note: Operation Warfighter and the FBI's Wounded Warrior Internship Program are not affiliated with the non-profit Wounded Warrior Project). | Learn more