FAA relaxes rules to allow use of smartphones, electronic devices on planes
by Brian Sumers
The Federal Aviation Administration moved Thursday to considerably relax restrictions covering the use of electronic devices on airplanes, a shift that should allow passengers to tap away on smartphones and tablets during all phases of flight as soon as today.
Passengers still will not be permitted to transmit data below 10,000 feet, so devices such as iPhones and iPads will need to be placed on “airplane mode” at lower altitudes. Making phone calls remains banned at all times.
Carriers cannot make the policy change unilaterally, however, as they must prove to federal officials that the new electronic device policies will not impact flight operations. The FAA originally was expected to move relatively quickly on the airline applications, and JetBlue signaled it hoped to make the change as soon as Thursday afternoon. But the FAA was not prepared to approve proposals so fast.
“JetBlue is in the final stages of gaining FAA's approval on our implementation plan that will allow personal electronic devices through all stages of flight,” JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin said in an email. “We will implement the policy as soon as the FAA gives us their approval.”
All airlines are expected to alter policies soon, but some will move faster than others. Officials at Delta Air Lines also said a policy change could come also come as quickly as Friday. Officials with Southwest, American, US Airways and United said they also were seeking FAA approval, though their applications could take slightly longer than JetBlue and Delta, which both made quick policy changes a priority.
Delta officials said all of their airplanes had completed “tolerance testing” to ensure they could safely operate under the new guidelines.
“We are still waiting for FAA approval,' Delta spokesman Paul Skrbec said Thursday afternoon. “We will be ready to move when we get that approval. We are expecting that sometime (today).”
The prohibition on electronic devices is about 50 years old, and it was originally implemented because officials worried electronics might interfere with cockpit systems. At the time, the issue was with small FM radios. But the restriction has been increasingly viewed as anachronistic in recent years, especially as more passengers — violating airline rules — kept their devices on.
In September, a 28-member committee endorsed by the FAA recommended a rule change. On the committee were airline executives, electronics manufacturers, pilots and flight attendants.
In a briefing Thursday in Washington, D.C., FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said pilots may ban electronic devices in rare instances — about 1 percent of all flights — when there is extremely low visibility. In those cases, Huerta said, devices could interfere with landing systems.
While passengers can't access networks aloft, they now will be permitted to use their phones to connect to the Web if an airplane is equipped with an Internet system.
For safety reasons, passengers still will need to stow larger devices, like laptops, during some phases of flight. The fear is they could be dangerous if they fly around the cabin. They might also impede an emergency exit.
At Los Angeles International Airport, JetBlue ground employees were preparing Thursday for the policy change. As soon as JetBlue receives approval from the FAA, Dervin said, ground staff will begin delivering in-person briefings to pilots and crew members, and handing out one-page reference sheets on the new policy. Dervin said the first LAX flight under the new system could be a 7 a.m. departure to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.
How much the rule change will affect passengers probably depends on whether they actually followed the guidelines in the first place. Travelers like Brett Douglas, 30, of Los Angeles have long flouted the rules. Waiting outside Terminal 3 at LAX on Thursday, he said he often listens to music below 10,000 feet.
“I don't turn it off anyway,” Douglas said. “I have my phone in my pocket. I don't think it interferes with anything. It just seemed like it couldn't be a real threat.”
Charlene Baughman, 34, of Wildomar said she is pleased the FAA is relaxing its rules. She said the beginning and end of flights can seem endless without electronic devices.
“It's like time stands still,” she said.
West Philadelphia Community-Police Partnership Recognized with $20,000 National Safety Award
MetLife Foundation honors University City alliance reducing crime and revitalizing neighborhood
University City District (UCD) and the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) will be honored by MetLife Foundation for their extraordinary partnership to improve community safety on Monday, November 4, 10am at the UCD office and Philadelphia Police 18th District substation located at 3940 Chestnut Street. MetLife Managing Director David Fleisher presented the partners with the award.
This partnership was selected from more than 540 applicants nationwide for a MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Award, a program administered by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). The partners' collaborative approach to revitalize the community through a place-based and data-driven approach caught the attention of the national selection committee comprised of police commanders, community development executives and LISC staff.
"Collaboration between community-based groups and police departments can reduce crime, stimulate housing and business activity, and improve the quality of life in lower-income neighborhoods," added Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. "The Philadelphia partnership is an exemplary model for groups nationwide facing similar challenges and opportunities."
The work of UCD and the PPD has grown significantly over the years and has sustained crime declines for their target area. This is the second time the partners are being honored by MetLife Foundation and LISC. In 2004, UCD and the PPD were recognized for their successful revitalization and safety work for the Baltimore Avenue Commercial Corridor Initiative. They are now being recognized with an award in Neighborhood Revitalization and Economic Vitality for the Multi-Institution and Police District Public Safety Partnership.
"UCD recently completely a 15-year analysis of crime trends in the neighborhood, and determined that—while serious crime in the entire city has fallen by more than 20% since 1998—serious crime in University City has been cut in half over that same time period. Even more significant drops were observed in the occurrence of quality of life crimes across several categories. This stands as a testament to the incredible partnership between the Philadelphia Police Department and UCD, as well as the major investment in policing and public safety by Penn, Drexel and many other University City institutions. As always, we're happy to play a supporting role to all of our partners through UCD's ambassador program and public safety initiatives," said UCD executive director Matt Bergheiser.
«The partnership between University City District and the Philadelphia Police Department combines data analysis, community engagement, coordinated deployment and community revitalization. It is a best practice in integrated community safety and community development,» said Andrew Frishkoff, Director of LISC›s local office in Philadelphia. «Philadelphia LISC is proud to work alongside these two excellent partners and we congratulate them on their well-deserved MetLife Foundation award.»
University City District (UCD) is a partnership of universities, small businesses and residents dedicated to improving economic vitality and quality of life. UCD fulfills this mission of community revitalization through several interconnected efforts and a longstanding relationship with law enforcement. UCD and the Philadelphia Police Department have developed shared goals of day-to-day responsive deployment and long-term crime data analysis. UCD, representatives from two police districts, and other partners regularly gather for deployment meetings to assess crime and determine the need for increased patrol presence, distribution of alerts to the community, and to discuss ongoing challenges. UCD also partners with the University City Safety Group, which coordinates monthly meetings of the 19 agencies responsible for safety in University City, including the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, AMTRAK, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the IRS, and the FBI.
Violence by al-Qaida prompts Iraq to ask US for help 2 years after kicking us out
by Lara Jakes
A bloody resurgence of al-Qaida in Iraq is prompting Baghdad to ask the U.S. for more weapons, training and manpower, two years after pushing American troops out of the country.
The request will be discussed during a White House meeting Friday between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Barack Obama in what Baghdad hopes will be a fresh start in a complicated relationship that has been marked both by victories and frustrations for each side.
Al-Maliki will discuss Iraq's plight in a public speech Thursday at the U.S. Institute for Peace in Washington.
“We know we have major challenges of our own capabilities being up to the standard. They currently are not,” Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday. “We need to gear up, to deal with that threat more seriously. We need support and we need help.”
He added, “We have said to the Americans we'd be more than happy to discuss all the options short of boots on the ground.”
“Boots on the ground” means military forces. The U.S. withdrew all but a few hundred of its troops from Iraq in December 2011 after Baghdad refused to renew a security agreement to extend legal immunity for Americans forces, which would have let more stay.
At the time, the withdrawal was hailed as a victory for the Obama administration, which campaigned on ending the Iraq war and had little appetite for pushing Baghdad into a new security agreement. But within months, violence began creeping up in the capital and across the country as Sunni Muslim insurgents, angered by a widespread belief that Sunnis have been sidelined by the Shiite-led government, lashed out, with no U.S. troops to keep them in check.
More than 5,000 Iraqis have been killed in attacks since April, and suicide bombers launched 38 strikes in the last month alone.
Al-Maliki is expected to ask Obama for new assistance to bolster its military and fight al-Qaida. Faily said that could include everything from speeding up the delivery of U.S. aircraft, missiles, interceptors and other weapons, to improving national intelligence systems. And when asked, he did not rule out the possibility of asking the U.S. to send military special forces or additional CIA advisers to Iraq to help train and assist counterterror troops.
If the U.S. does not commit to providing the weapons or other aid quickly, “we will go elsewhere,” Faily said. That means Iraq will step up diplomacy with nations like China or Russia that would be more than happy to increase their influence in Baghdad at U.S. expense.
The two leaders also will discuss how Iraq can improve its fractious government, which so often is divided among sectarian or ethnic lines, to give it more confidence with a bitter and traumatized public.
The ambassador said no new security agreement would be needed to give immunity to additional U.S. advisers or trainers in Iraq — the main sticking point that led to U.S. withdrawal. And he said Iraq would pay for the additional weapons or other assistance.
A senior Obama administration official said Wednesday that U.S. officials were not planning to send U.S. trainers to Iraq and that Baghdad had not asked for them. The administration official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters by name.
U.S. officials were prepared to help Iraq with an across-the-board approach that did not focus just on military or security gaps, the administration official said. The aid under consideration might include more weapons for Iraqi troops who do not have necessary equipment to battle al-Qaida insurgents, he said.
Administration officials consider the insurgency, which has rebranded itself as the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, a major and increasing threat both to Iraq and the U.S., the official said.
U.S. and Iraqi officials see a possible solution in trying to persuade insurgents to join forces with Iraqi troops and move away from al-Qaida, following a pattern set by so-called Awakening Councils in western Iraq that marked a turning point in the war. Faily said much of the additional aid — including weapons and training — would go toward this effort.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who opposed the U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011, said Iraq likely would not get the aid until al-Maliki, a Shiite, makes strides in making the government more inclusive to Sunnis.
“If he expects the kind of assistance that he's asking for, we need a strategy and we need to know exactly how that's going to be employed, and we need to see some changes in Iraq,” McCain said Wednesday after a tense meeting on Capitol Hill with al-Maliki. “The situation is deteriorating and it's unraveling, and he's got to turn it around.”
Al-Maliki's plea for aid is somewhat ironic, given that he refused to budge in 2011 on letting U.S. troops stay in Iraq with legal immunity Washington said they must have to defend themselves in the volatile country. But it was a fiercely unpopular political position in Iraq, which was unable to prosecute Blackwater Worldwide security contractors who opened fire in a Baghdad square in 2007, killing at least 13 passersby.
James F. Jeffrey, who was the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad when the U.S. troops left, called it a “turnabout” by al-Maliki. He said Iraq desperately needs teams of U.S. advisers, trainers, intelligence and counterterror experts to beat back al-Qaida.
“We have those people,” said Jeffrey, who retired from the State Department after leaving Baghdad last year. “We had plans to get them in after 2011. They can be under embassy privileges and immunities. They will cost the American people almost nothing. They will, by and large, not be in any more danger than our State Department civilians. And they could mean all the difference between losing an Iraq that 4,500 Americans gave their lives for.”
Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq between the 2003 invasion and the 2011 withdrawal. More than 100,000 Iraqi were killed in that time.