Monthly Archives: June 2012

Shatner drops pants at L.A. airport

via Sun:

william shatner

Star Trek legend William Shatner was left nursing a bruised ego when his trousers fell down during an airport security check in front of dozens of fellow travellers.

The actor was queuing at Los Angeles International Airport to catch a flight to South Africa when he was singled out for a search by officials.

He had decided to wear loose-fitting clothing for the journey and did not have a belt holding his pants up – and he was left red-faced when they fell down, exposing his underwear.

Shatner says, “It was awful to have people looking at me with my pants down, probably the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to me… It was a long flight so I wanted to wear loose clothing because I didn’t want anything to bind me.”

Darrell Issa Puts Details of Secret Wiretap Applications in Congressional Record

via Roll Call

In the midst of a fiery floor debate over contempt proceedings for Attorney General Eric Holder, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) quietly dropped a bombshell letter into the Congressional Record.

The May 24 letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member on the panel, quotes from and describes in detail a secret wiretap application that has become a point of debate in the GOP’s “Fast and Furious” gun-walking probe.

The wiretap applications are under court seal, and releasing such information to the public would ordinarily be illegal. But Issa appears to be protected by the Speech or Debate Clause in the Constitution, which offers immunity for Congressional speech, especially on a chamber’s floor.

According to the letter, the wiretap applications contained a startling amount of detail about the operation, which would have tipped off anyone who read them closely about what tactics were being used.

Holder and Cummings have both maintained that the wiretap applications did not contain such details and that the applications were reviewed narrowly for probable cause, not for whether any investigatory tactics contained followed Justice Department policy.

The wiretap applications were signed by senior DOJ officials in the department’s criminal division, including Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco and another official who is now deceased.

In Fast and Furious, agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed assault guns bought by “straw purchasers” to “walk,” which meant ending surveillance on weapons suspected to be en route to Mexican drug cartels.

The tactic, which was intended to allow agents to track criminal networks by finding the guns at crime scenes, was condemned after two guns that were part of the operation were found at U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder scene.

Straw purchasers are individuals who buy guns on behalf of criminals, obscuring who is buying the weapons.

While Issa has since said he has obtained a number of wiretap applications, the letter only refers to one, from March 15, 2010. The full application is not included in what Issa entered into the Congressional Record, and names are obscured in Issa’s letter.

In the application, ATF agents included transcripts from a wiretap intercept from a previous Drug Enforcement Administration investigation that demonstrated the suspects were part of a gun-smuggling ring.

“The wiretap affidavit details that agents were well aware that large sums of money were being used to purchase a large number of firearms, many of which were flowing across the border,” the letter says.

The application included details such as how many guns specific suspects had purchased via straw purchasers and how many of those guns had been recovered in Mexico.

It also described how ATF officials watched guns bought by suspected straw purchasers but then ended their surveillance without interdicting the guns.

In at least one instance, the guns were recovered at a police stop at the U.S.-Mexico border the next day.

The application included financial details for four suspected straw purchasers showing they had purchased $373,000 worth of guns in cash but reported almost no income for the previous year, the letter says.

“Although ATF was aware of these facts, no one was arrested, and ATF failed to even approach the straw purchasers. Upon learning these details through its review of this wiretap affidavit, senior Justice Department officials had a duty to stop this operation. Further, failure to do so was a violation of Justice Department policy,” the letter says.

Holder declined to discuss the contents of the applications at a House Judiciary Committee hearing June 7 but said the applications were narrowly reviewed for whether there was probable cause to obtain a wiretap application.

Thousands of wiretap applications are reviewed each year by the DOJ’s criminal division. The applications are designed to obtain approval, so they tend to focus on the most suspicious information available.

A line attorney first creates a summary of the application, which is then usually reviewed by a deputy to Lanny Breuer, the head of the division, on his behalf. It is then reviewed and approved or denied by a judge.

Cummings has sided with the DOJ in the debate over the secret applications, but the full substance of his argument is unknown.

A June 5 letter from Cummings responding to Issa’s May 24 letter said Issa “omits the critical fact that [redacted].” The entire first section of the letter’s body is likewise blacked out.

“Sadly, it looks like Mr. Issa is continuing his string of desperate and unsubstantiated claims, while hiding key information from the very same documents,” a Democratic committee staffer said. “His actions demonstrate a lack of concern for the facts, as well as a reckless disregard for our nation’s courts and federal prosecutors who are trying to bring criminals to justice. We’re not going to stoop to his level. Obviously, we are going to honor the court’s seal and the prosecutors’ requests. But if Mr. Issa won’t tell you what he is hiding from the wiretaps, you should ask him why.”

House could arrest Holder with inherent contempt power

via Washington Times:

Despite voting to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt ofCongress, there’s little House Republicans can do in the short term to compel him to turn over documents — unless it wanted to revisit a long-dormant power and arrest him.

The thought is shocking, and conjures up a Hollywood-ready standoff scene between House police and the FBI agents who protect the attorney general. It’s a dramatic and unlikely possibility not least becauseCongress doesn’t even have a jail any longer. But in theory it could happen.

Republicans say it’s not even under consideration, with House SpeakerJohn A. Boehner’s spokesman flatly ruling it out.

But the process, known as inherent contempt, is well-established by precedent, has been confirmed by multiple Supreme Court rulings, and is available to any Congress willing to force such a confrontation.

“The House is scared to death to use the inherent contempt power,” saidMort Rosenberg, a fellow at the Constitution Project and author of “When Congress Comes Calling.” “They’re scared to death because the courts have said … the way the contempt power is used is unseemly. It’s not that it’s unconstitutional, because it’s been upheld by four Supreme Court decisions, but unseemly to have somebody go arrest the attorney general.”

That’s why it’s been more than 75 years since either chamber has used the option though it used to be somewhat common.

The House on Thursday voted 255-67 to hold Mr. Holder in criminal contempt, and 258-95 to pursue a case against him in the courts.

But those votes do little to break the impasse over his refusal to turn over documents the House is seeking in an investigation into Fast and Furious, a botched gun-walking operation. The House issued subpoenas for the documents last year but President Obama last week asserted executive privilege in withholding them.

A court case will take time, meaning there’s little immediate effect of the two contempt votes.

Indeed, the lack of any penalty for Mr. Holder’s failure to cooperate was cited by one Democrat as his reason for voting against Thursday’s contempt motion.

“While I strongly believe that the Department of Justice should fully cooperate with Congress to ensure transparency in the Fast and Furious operation, this motion lacks an enforcement mechanism to make it anything more than politically motivated,” said Rep. Heath Shuler, North Carolina Democrat.

That’s why Mr. Rosenberg, a former analyst for the Congressional Research Service, said Congress should consider using its own police powers and should try to impose a fine rather than physically arrest someone.

Short of that, there are few options left to Republicans, said Louis Fisher, another former CRS analyst who specialized in separation of powers issues.

“They had hoped that by acting today they would get Holder to make some concessions. That didn’t happen. Now I think it’s pretty awkward,” he said.

He said the best chances for an end to the stalemate now rely on the political process which is one reason why Republicans said they were seeking answers for the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, who was killed in a shootout where two of the guns from Fast and Furious were found.

Mr. Fisher, a scholar in residence at the Constitution Project who has written a forthcoming article in the National Law Journal criticizing Mr. Obama’s legal reasoning for asserting executive privilege, said a key break could come if more Democrats joined Republicans in pushing for disclosure.

Inherent contempt is not unknown to members of Congress.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi raised the issue last week, noting that when she was House speaker and Congress was fighting with the Bush administration over testimony related to the firing of U.S. attorneys she could have had Karl Rove arrested.

“I could have arrested Karl Rove on any given day,” Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said as part of a sit-down interview with the Huffington Post.

“I’m not kidding. There’s a prison here in the Capitol. If we had spotted him in the Capitol, we could have arrested him,” she said.

Back in 2007 and 2008, there was substantial interest in Congress‘ arrest powers, with CNN even doing a segment in 2008 trying to figure out where Mr. Rove could have been jailed if the House chose to go that route.

Oh, So You’re Saying My Money’s Not Good Here?

via Legal Juice

Actually, madam, your money isn’t good anywhere in the United Kingdom. As a personal injury lawyer, but for his alter ego, this is not something The Juice would normally come across. No doubt Ms. Louise Munro would not have come across a law like the Coinage Act of 1971 either, had she not tried to pay for her gas with, well, coins! As reported by The Liverpool Echo:

Staff at the BP garage in Queens Drive, West Derby, told 24-year-old Louise Munro that they could not accept the 1p and 2p pieces she offered after her bank card failed because of a system failure.

Say what?

Ms Munro, from Roby, who went home to raid her piggy bank for the loose change to settle her debt, was even told by police over the phone that the garage was correct in refusing the payment after a row broke out.

According to the Royal Mint, 1p and 2p coins are legal only if something is bought for just 20p or less.

Under the little-known Coinage Act 1971 it is illegal to use 21 or more 1p pieces in a single transaction.

A truly brilliant customer relations move by the gas station…

Ms Munro, who denied she was being vindictive by handing over coppers, said: “I admit it’s annoying to have to count pennies but that’s all I had and I’m not the kind of person to leave a debt hanging. I wanted to settle it as soon as I could.

“As far as I was concerned it is legal tender – it has the Queen’s head on it and why would they produce them unless they could be used?”

Seems reasonable. After all, it’s only £30, and it’s not like it’s a daily occurrence.

The dispute happened on Sunday afternoon after Ms Munro’s RBS debit card was rejected because of the bank’s system troubles.

And it was brought about through no fault of Ms. Munro!

… she returned three hours later with two money bags filled with carefully counted-out coppers.

But after the garage searched the internet to see if they could accept the change they stumbled across a newspaper article from earlier this year telling of an accountant who was sued for trying to pay an £800 bill in coppers. There they learned of the Coinage Act 1971.

A phone call to the police also confirmed that Ms Munro’s payment contravened the Coinage Act.

[Garage worker Mugeen] Mohammed said the petrol station has not cashed the loose change and wants Ms Munro to return with an alternative form of payment.

Really? People are probably just lining up to buy gas at such a customer-friendly station.

Merseyside Police confirmed they were contacted over the dispute but said it was a “civil matter”.

Whew. No jail time. You’ll find the source here

Washington DC Injury Lawyer John B. Mesirow represents injured accident victims in Washington DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia. His practice includes Car AccidentsBike AccidentsBoating AccidentsBrain Injury casesConstruction AccidentsDog Bite cases,Medical MalpracticeMotorcycle AccidentsTrucking Accidents and Wrongful Death cases. John Mesirow was named a “Top Lawyer” by Washingtonian magazine and aggressively represents his clients. You can contact him online or by phone at 866-463-0303 or 202-463-0303.

Delaware is first to OK full-service casino gambling — online

via Los Angeles Times 

Online gamblingA roulette table awaits gamblers at Revel in Atlantic City, N.J. (Wayne Parry / Associated Press /May 21, 2012)

If you love casino gambling and live in Delaware,  it won’t be long before you’ll no longer have to make your way to one of the state’s three casinos. By 2013, due to a bill signed into law Thursday, people in Delaware will be free to play slots and roulette on their computers — and probably on their smartphones too.

The tongue-twisting Delaware Gaming Competitiveness Act, signed by Democratic Gov. Jack Markell, makes Delaware the first state to allow full-service online casino gambling, the News Journal of Wilmington, Del., reports. The vote was close, with strong opposition from lawmakers who fear the law will only add to the social costs associated with gambling.

But the bill’s backers say online casino gambling is necessary to help tiny Delaware compete with casinos in its larger neighbors, Pennsylvania and Maryland.  They said provisions in the law for geo-location software will ensure that only people in Delaware are allowed to participate. Federal law limits online gambling to people within a state’s borders.

Casino games will be available to Delaware residents through the websites of the state’s casinos, with betting controlled and monitored by the state Lottery Office.  The state hopes to provide online casino gambling by 2013, with access also available via computer tablets and smartphones. (Office workers should probably check with the boss before laying casino bets on the office computer.)

Passage of the bill follows a Justice Department legal interpretation last year allowing states to offer online gambling within their borders.

Markell said the law will protect and promote jobs in the state’s casino industry.

“We’re talking about a couple thousand jobs,’’ the governor said. “The competitive landscape for this industry has changed dramatically.’’

Delaware’s casinos employ about 2,500 people and gambling generates about $250 million a year in state taxes, according to the News Journal. The state’s Department of Finance estimates that the new law will generate an additional $7.75 million for Delaware in fiscal 2013.

Delaware also plans to sell lottery tickets on a state-run website. Other states already sell lottery tickets online, and Nevada is considering online poker games.

“We can help protect the jobs and this revenue source for our state,’’ said Delaware Senate President Pro Tem Anthony DeLuca, who sponsored the bill in the state Senate.

Markell signs online gambling bill

via News Journal: 

DOVER — Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill today authorizing online betting in Delaware and more venues for sports wagering and other gambling.

Markell signed the measure less than 24 hours after it narrowly passed the state Senate. The Senate vote was marred by controversy as a Democratic lawmaker who opposed the bill mistakenly voted for it, thinking he was voting for an amendment instead.

Sen. Robert Venables of Laurel had said he may move to rescind Wednesday’s vote, but Markell’s quick signature of the bill into law may have been intended to moot that possibility.

In addition to allowing online slots and table games, the bill expands keno beyond Delaware’s three casinos to at least 100 other sites, and betting on NFL football to at least 20 non-casino sites.

Too-Tense Flight Attendant Booted From Flight For Telling Passengers To Leave Plane “If They Have The Balls”

Too-Tense Flight Attendant Booted From Flight For Telling Passengers To Leave Plane “If They Have The Balls”

aeagleattendant

After all the stories of flight attendants who were perhaps a little too eager to toss passengers off flights for minor infractions, it’s a refreshing change of pace to read about a flight attendant who had to be removed from a delayed plane for taking his frustrations out on passengers.

According to the NY Post, things got tense during a long delay for passengers on an American Eagle flight leaving LaGuardia International in NYC en route to Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina.

First, passengers didn’t board the flight until 2.5 hours after its scheduled departure time. Then it got stuck in a line of 20 planes at the runway.

The plane then decided to return to the gate to refuel, which meant everyone had to deplane. Four and a half hours after the original departure time, passengers finally re-boarded the plane.

“People were getting really amped up at this point,” one passenger tells the Post. “It took forever to get back on the plane. The fuses were getting pretty low.”

That apparently included one flight attendant, who took to the plane’s intercom to announce, “If anyone has the balls to want to get off, I’ll let you get off! Get off!”

He also is reported to have declared, “I don’t care anymore. This is probably my last flight.”

“He’s being abusive verbally, my daughter was crying,” says another passenger.

The Post reports that several passengers refused to let the plane depart the gate with the attendant on board, and at least three families deplaned.

Port Authority cops were called to the plane and spoke to witnesses, but no one was arrested.

However, once the attendant was removed for questioning, the flight was canceled.

One source tells the Post the cancellation was due to an insufficient number of flight attendants, while the official American Eagle line was that the cancellation was related to the weather.

The airline denies passengers’ allegations that the attendant had been drinking, though it admits it did not administer a breathalyzer test.

“From what we can determine, this is just kind of a group dynamic that got out of control because of weather delays and things like that,” an American Eagle rep tells the paper. “He has been with the company for six years and has an exemplary record. And basically, it appears that the situation with the passengers became so intense that he actually began to cry.”

WATCH: Flight attendant rants at passengers over intercom after five-hour delay at LaGuardia

Delaware Becomes First State To Allow Gambling In Casinos From The Comfort Of Home

Delaware Becomes First State To Allow Gambling In Casinos From The Comfort Of Home

Putting on pants too much for you, and yet you love gambling at the casino? Better move to Delaware if you don’t already live there, as the state has become the first to approve online casino gambling. That’s right, making bets on games you would usually only be able to play inside the casino, from the comfort of your couch. Whether or not you wear pants is your call.

Because of the Delaware Gaming Competitiveness Act, which was signed into law yesterday by Gov. Jack Markell, by 2013 people in Delaware will be able to play slots and roulette on their computers and likely smartphones as well.

It’s the first state to allow full-service online casino gambling, says the News Journal of Wilmington. The vote was close, as some lawmakers in opposition are afraid the law will add to the social costs associated with gambling.

Proponents of the bill said online casino gambling would be a boon to help the tiny state compete with the casinos in larger neighboring states like Pennsylvania and Maryland. Geo-location software used in the online gambling will ensure that only people in the state of Delaware will be able to participate.

Gov. Markell says the law will protect and promote jobs in Delaware’s casino industry.

“We’re talking about a couple thousand jobs,’’ he said. “The competitive landscape for this industry has changed dramatically.’’

Estimates from the Department of Finance in Delaware say the new law could generate an additional $7.75 million for the state in 2013, on top of the $250 million the industry already generates.

When you need a drink during a particularly crushing game of poker, however, that will be all up to you.

Markell signs online gambling bill [News Journal]
Delaware is first to OK full-service casino gambling — online [Los Angeles Times]

Why Is Sunscreen Forbidden For Kids At Some Schools And Camps?

Why Is Sunscreen Forbidden For Kids At Some Schools And Camps?

Sunscreen is a friend to fair and dark complexions alike, protecting its wearers from sunburn and other forms of skin damage. So why would schools and camps ban kids from carrying the stuff without a doctor’s note? After a recent story of a mom horrified that her two daughters were severely sunburned after a school field day, claiming no adults gave them sunscreen or provided shade, these policies are getting closer scrutiny.

USA Today says the mother who complained of the sunscreen policy at her kids’ school has prompted a change at that school, after a state law was tweaked to give schools some leeway on how they handle over-the-counter drugs.

Sunscreen rules turn out to be common and are usually the result of state and local rules that prevent kids from bringing any drug, including non-prescription drugs to school. Sunscreens are regulated as over-the-counter drugs and are treated like aspirin.

Policies vary, with some treating sunscreen application at a school as they would any other fragrance product, and forbid its use or distribution to avoid allergic reactions.

But one expert from the  American Academy of Dermatology says allergy concerns shouldn’t be an issue, telling USA Today: “Sunscreen allergies are no more common than allergies to soap. Are schools going to take soap out of their bathrooms?”

Adults can also get in trouble for inappropriately touching children if they help apply sunscreen, which is why it’s often forbiden at camps for staffers or even other kids from coating it on each other.

If you’re worried about your kids, make sure to check with the school or camp on their sunscreen policies before sending them off into the hot summer sun. Sunburn is fun for no one.

Sunscreen forbidden at schools and camps [USA Today]

TSA Firings Continue With Termination Of 8 Air Marshals Suspected Of Boozing While Training

TSA Firings Continue With Termination Of 8 Air Marshals Suspected Of Boozing While Training

On the heels of yesterday’s news that the Transportation Security Administration would be firing eight security screeners for allegedly sleeping while on duty in Newark, it seems the agency is doing a thorough housecleaning job with the termination of eight U.S. Air Marshals. Investigators say they were drinking alcohol on a training day.

The TSA told The Associated Press the drinking happened at a restaurant in February and was reported to a website set up for employees to blow the whistle on inappropriate behavior. No one had to fly that day, but the TSA says drinking on the job is forbidden no matter what. Some of the marshals had service weapons on them at the time as well.

In a statement close to the one offered yesterday regarding the dismissal of the eight security screeners, the TSA said:

“TSA holds all of its employees to the highest professional and ethical standards and has zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace,” said Nico Melendez, an agency spokesman. “TSA’s decision to remove the individuals involved in the misconduct affirms our strong commitment to the highest standards of conduct and accountability.”

Six other federal marshals are being suspended for not reporting the misconduct as well. All 14 involved in the investigation are out of the New York office, and all can appeal the decision except for a probationary employee who was terminated immediately.

TSA firing 8 air marshals in NY for drinking on training day [New York Post]