The New York Daily News says the number of celebrities, millionaires and high-profile athletes authorized to carry a concealed weapon in the city is growing. The list includes singer Marc Anthony, actor Robert De Niro, radio host Howard Stern, Donald Trump and his son, artificial-heart inventor Robert Jarvik, Mets third-baseman David Wright and Martha Stewart's daughter, Alexis. "We have seen an increase in celebs seeking their own permits," said John Skylar Chambers, a lawyer who helps get gun permits. "They can get their own security, but with the Internet, it is much easier to find people. They don't want to find someone on their lawn at 5 in the morning."
To get a permit, applicants have to prove a documented threat or that they routinely carry large amounts of cash or valuables. While experts say the number of celebs allowed to carry guns is on the rise, the number of overall permits issued in the city this year is down from last year. There were 2,145 carry permits issued last year compared with 2,093 this year - a dip of about 2.4%. Gun permits aren't easy to get. "The NYPD is extremely thorough in their investigation," said divorce lawyer Raoul Felder, who has a permit to carry. "In other states, you fill out a form, swear you are not a lunatic, and you get it."
The New York Times says the contents of medicine cabinets are driving a nationwide crime trend. Opiate painkillers and other prescription drugs, officials say, are driving addiction and crime like never before, with addicts singling out the homes of sick or elderly people and posing as potential buyers at open houses just to raid the medicine cabinets. The crimes, and the severity of the nation’s drug abuse problem, have so vexed the authorities that they are calling on citizens to surrender old bottles of potent pills like Vicodin, Percocet and Xanax.
On Saturday, the police will set up drop-off stations at a Wal-Mart in Pearland, Tex., a zoo in Wichita, Kan., a sports complex in Peoria, Ariz., and more than 4,000 other locations to oversee a prescription drug buy-back program. Coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, it will be the first such effort with national scope. Data suggests the country’s prescription drug problem is vast and growing. In 17 states, deaths from drugs — both prescription and illegal — now exceed those from motor vehicle accidents, with opiate painkillers playing a leading role. The number of people seeking treatment for painkiller addiction jumped 400 percent from 1998 to 2008.
Texting while driving likely caused more than 16,000 road fatalities between 2002 and 2007, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The study, which public safety officials say is yet yet another wake-up call about the dangers of cellphone use in automobiles, was released Thursday by the American Journal of Public Health. It comes on the heels of the US Department of Transportation’s second annual Distracted Driving Summit, during which Secretary Ray LaHood called for even more action to combat what he called a “unsafe, irresponsible, [and] devastating” behavior.
LaHood said distracted driving is “an epidemic because everyone has a cellphone--and everyone thinks they can use it while driving. They can’t.” While attention to distracted driving has increased over the past year, firm numbers on texting-related deaths have been hard to pin down. Federal agencies collect data on fatalities caused by “distracted driving,” which can include anything from talking on a cellphone to eating in the car. Although there have been laboratory and observational studies that have estimated the impact of cellphone usage while driving, there has been no way to tease out exactly how many crashes are caused by texting – or cellphone use overall.
The Pentagon official in charge of the military's cyber unit says the government should create a "secure zone" for federal agencies and critical private sector industries to protect them from attacks, reports The Hill. General Keith Alexander said a network sectioned off from the rest of the Internet is probably inevitable for systems crucial to national security. Alexander said setting up such a network would be technically straightforward, but difficult to sell to the businesses involved. Explaining the measure to the public would also be a challenge, he added. The U.S. Cyber Command chief testified in front of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
Alexander said the Pentagon would likely have to work with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to secure the country's critical infrastructure, 85 percent of which is owned by private companies. He said the agencies may need additional powers to take action during a cyber attack. Several pieces of competing cybersecurity legislation pending in Congress would give them that power, but lawmakers have been unable to settle on which agency should regulate civilian cybersecurity. DHS is currently in charge of protecting civilian networks. Alexander said the Pentagon has no role and added that he isn't sure if it should operate domestically unless asked for help.
Scores of people convicted of crimes such as rape, elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon are permitted to care for some of California's most vulnerable residents as part of the government's home health aide program, reports the Los Angeles Times. At least 210 workers and applicants flagged by investigators as unsuitable to work in the program are nonetheless scheduled to resume or begin employment. State and county investigators have not reported many whose backgrounds include violent crimes because the rules of the program, as interpreted by a judge earlier this year, permit felons to work as home care aides. Thousands of current workers have had no background checks.
Only a history of specific types of child abuse, elder abuse or defrauding of public assistance programs can disqualify a person under the court ruling. But not all perpetrators of even those crimes can be blocked. In addition, privacy laws prevent investigators from cautioning the program's elderly, infirm and disabled clients that they may end up in the care of someone who has committed violent or financial crimes. "We are allowing these people into the homes of vulnerable individuals without supervision," said John Wagner, director of the state Department of Social Services. "It is dangerous." Administrators and law enforcers have warned lawmakers. But efforts to address the problem have stalled in the Legislature.
Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday announced a $5.5 million "Defending Childhood" initiative designed to address the exposure of children to violence as victims and as witnesses. The funding, which will support the development of programs and projects on the subject, would increase to $37 million under President Obama's proposed 2011 budget request.
The initial funding includes planning grants for eight demonstration sites to support the development of comprehensive community-based strategies to prevent and reduce the impact of children's exposure to violence in their homes, schools, and communities. The eight demonstration sites are Boston, $160,000; Portland, Maine, $160,000; Chippewa Cree Tribe of Montana, $153,210; Grand Forks, N.D., $159,967; Cuyahoga County, Ohio, $157,873; Multnomah County, Ore., $159,349; Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, $159,534, and Shelby County, Tenn., $159,099.
The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals has thrown out the murder conviction of an East Texas man, ruling that results from controversial dog "scent lineups" are not reliable enough to stand on their own in court, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The decision means that Richard Winfrey Sr. , 56, now serving a 75-year prison sentence, will go free. No physical evidence tied Winfrey to the 2004 murder of a neighbor in Coldspring. But three bloodhounds owned and trained by Keith Pikett , a now-retired Fort Bend County deputy sheriff, indicated that they smelled Winfrey's scent on a gauze pad that had been wiped on the victim's clothes and stored in a plastic bag for three years.
A San Jacinto County jury convicted Winfrey of murder based almost entirely on the lineup results, according to Wednesday's decision. On appeal, Winfrey's lawyers claimed the scent lineups were unreliable and quoted scientists and dog experts who found Pikett's methods to be unethical, unprofessional and biased in favor of law enforcement. Wednesday's decision means prosecutors can continue to introduce scent lineups at trial, but only if the conclusions are supported by other, corroborating evidence. The Court of Criminal Appeals declined to delve into the bigger question of whether dog scent lineups should be admissible in court at all.
Writing in the Nieman Watchdog, Dan Froomkin suggests that journalists should look into whether prisons in their locales allow volunteers. Pat Nolan, vice president of Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowsship and a former federal prison inmate, said the policy can be a telling indicator of whether a warden has a lot to hide. “They will never say they don’t allow volunteers, but just ask how many they have,” Nolan said. “Their reaction will tell you whether you’re onto something or not.” The reason is simple: “When you have many volunteers coming into a prison, there’s just no way you can keep a lid on things,” Nolan said.
“If there are 100 excuses why volunteers aren’t there, that’s not an accident,” he said. “I would say it merits looking deeper.” He continues, "There are really two philosophies in running prisons. Some wardens and officers feel that the sentence is the punishment, not the way they treat them, and that they should treat the inmates as human beings, and that they have a future, and that they need to be prepared to return to the community. These wardens take the word ‘correction’ seriously.” By contrast, “there is a whole other group that are basically bureaucrats,” Nolan said. “Take a DMV office, string barbed wire around it, and give the clerks guns."
Teresa Lewis died by injection Thursday night for the murders of her husband and stepson, the first execution of a woman in Virginia since 1912 and the first in the country in five years. In her final words, Lewis, 41, said, "I just want Kathy to know I love you and I'm very sorry." The murders left Lewis' stepdaughter, Kathy Clifton, the only surviving member of her family.
Lewis appeared serious and fearful as she was led to the execution chamber. Outside the prison, about a dozen people stood in protest. They were outnumbered by about three dozen members of the media, including reporters from Great Britain and Italy. The execution was just the 12th of a woman — compared with more than 1,200 for men — since the death penalty resumed in 1977. The rare event drew attention, and criticism, from across the nation and abroad. Lewis was sentenced to death in 2003 for the Oct. 30, 2002, murder-for-hire slayings of her husband and stepson. Using sex and promises of money, she persuaded two men to kill for her in an effort to gain $250,000 in life insurance.
A plan by Republican gubernatorial Rick Scott to curtail state spending and create 700,000 new jobs includes slashing $1 billion from the prison budget by cutting salaries, reducing health care costs and expanding inmate-run vegetable farms, notes the Miami Herald. But people who know how the corrections system works call the Republican candidate for governor's plan a ``hoax'' and a ``shell game.'' The Florida Department of Corrections is the nation's third-largest prison system with more than 100,000 inmates in 139 facilities. Scott's proposed cut represents more than a third of the agency's $2.4 billion budget.
``We're going to benchmark what other states are doing,'' Scott said. ``There's things such as what Texas does. They have the prisoners grow their own food. You just look at the layers of management and things like that . . . We shouldn't be more extensive than other states.'' The Republican candidate's cost-cutting ideas have sent shock waves through the prison work force at a time of near-record unemployment in Florida, especially for lower-income families who represent the vast majority of prison employees. ``It would be devastating,'' said Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for the prison system. ``You would have to close prisons.''