Wednesday July 3, 2013

Investigators to examine why 19 men died in Ariz. Wildfire; were safety precautions followed?

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) -- Investigators from across the U.S. poured into the mountain town of Yarnell on Tuesday to figure out why 19 elite firefighters perished in an out-of-control wildfire and whether human error played a role in the tragedy.

The monthslong investigation into the nation’s biggest loss of firefighters since 9/11 will look at whether the Hotshot crew paid attention to the forecast, created an escape route and took other precautions developed after a similar disaster in Colorado nearly two decades ago.

The team of about 10 investigators from various agencies also will look at whether the crew should have been pulled out before the fire exploded.

Within hours Sunday, violent wind gusts turned what was believed to be a relatively manageable lightning-ignited forest fire into a death trap that left no escape.

In a desperate attempt at survival, the firefighters unfurled their foil-lined emergency shelters, but those offer only limited protection when in the direct path of a raging fire.

Surveillance pervasive around
the world, but Silicon Valley
gives America the edge

LONDON (AP) -- The saga of Edward Snowden and the NSA makes one thing clear: The United States’ central role in developing the Internet and hosting its most powerful players has made it the global leader in the surveillance game.

Other countries, from dictatorships to democracies, are also avid snoopers, tapping into the high-capacity fiber optic cables to intercept Internet traffic, scooping their citizens’ data off domestic servers, and even launching cyberattacks to win access to foreign networks.

But experts in the field say that Silicon Valley has made America a surveillance superpower, allowing its spies access to massive mountains of data being collected by the world’s leading communications, social media, and online storage companies. That’s on top of the United States’ fiber optic infrastructure -- responsible for just under a third of the world’s international Internet capacity, according to telecom research firm TeleGeography -- which allows it to act as a global postmaster, complete with the ability to peek at a big chunk of the world’s messages in transit.

"The sheer power of the U.S. infrastructure is that quite often data would be routed though the U.S. even if it didn’t make geographical sense," Joss Wright, a researcher with the Oxford Internet Institute, said in a telephone interview. "The current status quo is a huge benefit to the U.S."

The status quo is particularly favorable to America because online spying drills into people’s private everyday lives in a way that other, more traditional forms of espionage can’t match. So countries like Italy, where a culture of rampant wiretapping means that authorities regularly eavesdrop on private conversations, can’t match the level of detail drawn from Internet searches or email traffic analysis.

Snowden’s father praises son
in letter for summoning
Americans to confront ‘tyranny’

McLEAN, Va. (AP) -- The father of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, frustrated by his inability to reach out directly to his son, on Tuesday wrote him an open letter, extolling him for "summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny."

The letter was written jointly by Lon Snowden and his lawyer, Bruce Fein.

It comes a day after Edward Snowden issued a statement through WikiLeaks ripping the Obama administration for leaving him "stateless" and revoking his passport. Snowden is in Russia and has been seeking asylum in multiple countries.

Snowden’s father has expressed concern that WikiLeaks supporters who have been helping his son seek asylum may not have his best interests at heart. The father has said he’d like his son to be able to return to the U.S. under the right circumstances. Wikileaks is an anti-secrecy website that has published several documents deemed classified by governments.

In the letter, Fein and the father tell Snowden that "(w)hat you have done and are doing has awakened congressional oversight of the intelligence community from deep slumber" and "forced onto the national agenda the question of Whether the American people prefer the right to be left alone from government snooping absent probable cause. ... You are a modern day Paul Revere: summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny and one branch government."

They still didn’t get the word? More airline passengers showing
up with loaded guns

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Several times every day, at airports across the country, passengers are trying to walk through security with loaded guns in their carry-on bags, purses or pockets, even in a boot. And, more than a decade after 9/11 raised consciousness about airline security, it’s happening a lot more often.

In the first six months of this year, Transportation Security Administration screeners found 894 guns on passengers or in their carry-on bags, a 30 percent increase over the same period last year. The TSA set a record in May for the most guns seized in one week -- 65 in all, 45 of them loaded and 15 with bullets in the chamber and ready to be fired. That was 30 percent more than the previous record of 50 guns, set just two weeks earlier.

Last year TSA found 1,549 firearms on passengers attempting to go through screening, up 17 percent from the year before.

TSA didn’t keep statistics on guns intercepted before 2011, but officials have noticed an upward trend in recent years, said spokesman David Castelveter.

Overdose deaths rising fastest among middle-aged U.S. women; ‘Rates we’ve never seen before’

ATLANTA (AP) -- Overdose deaths in the U.S. are rising fastest among middle-aged women, and their drug of choice is usually prescription painkillers, the government reported Tuesday.

"Mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are dying at rates that we have never seen before," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which compiled the data.

The problem is one of the few health issues the CDC is working on that are clearly getting worse, he added.

For many decades, the overwhelming majority of U.S. overdose deaths were men killed by heroin or cocaine. But by 2010, 40 percent were women -- most of them middle-aged women who took prescription painkillers.

Skyrocketing female overdose death rates are closely tied to a boom in the overall use of prescribed painkillers.

Wave of bombs, clashes around Iraq kill at least 56 people,
wound dozens, officials say

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Insurgents unleashed a new wave of attacks on Tuesday in Iraq, killing at least 49 people, officials said, the latest in a surge in violence across the country that has raised concerns over a return to sectarian bloodshed. Also, seven militants were killed.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attacks, mostly car bombs in Shiite areas. Al-Qaida’s Iraq branch, which has been gaining strength in recent months, frequently targets Shiites, security forces and civil servants in an effort to undermine the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

Iraq is weathering its deadliest outburst of violence since 2008, with more than 2,000 people killed since the start of April. The bloodshed appears to be largely the work of resurgent Sunni militants such as al-Qaida, feeding off Sunni discontent with the Shiite-led government.

Violence increased sharply in April and May, with frequent bombings in civilian areas raising concerns that a widespread sectarian conflict might once again break out in Iraq. The bloodshed accelerated after a deadly April 23 crackdown by security forces on a Sunni protest in the northern town of Hawija against the Shiite-led government.

In Baghdad’s northern Shaab neighborhood, two parked car bombs targeted car dealers and a commercial area, killing nine people, including a policeman, a police officer said.

As protests mount, Egypt’s president defiantly says he
won’t step down

CAIRO (AP) -- With the clock ticking, Egypt’s besieged president said Tuesday that he will not step down as state media reported that the powerful military plans to overturn his Islamist-dominated government if the elected leader doesn’t meet the demands of the millions of protesters calling for his ouster.

Mohammed Morsi’s defiant statement sets up a major confrontation between supporters of the president and Egyptians angry over what they see as his efforts to impose control by his Muslim Brotherhood as well as his failure to introduce reforms more than two years after the revolution that ousted his autocratic predecessor Hosni Mubarak.

Writing Tuesday on his official Twitter account, Morsi said he "asserts his adherence to constitutional legitimacy and rejects any attempt to breach it and calls on the armed forces to withdraw their ultimatum and rejects any domestic or foreign dictates."

The leaking of the military’s so-called political road map appeared aimed at adding pressure on Morsi by showing the public and the international community that the military has a plan that does not involve a coup.

With tensions high, at least seven people were killed in three separate clashes between Morsi’s supporters and opponents in Cairo, according to hospital and security officials. The violence raised the overall death toll to 23 since Sunday when a mass protest was held to mark the anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration.

Prosecutors want to use Zimmerman school records
over defense objections

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- A prosecutor in George Zimmerman’s murder trial on Tuesday tried to pick apart the statements of a Sanford police detective was a prosecution witness but gave testimony that seemed to benefit the defense.

Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda asked the judge to strike from the record a statement Detective Chris Serino made Monday in which he said he found credible Zimmerman’s account of how he got into a fight with Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in 17-year-old’s fatal shooting last year, arguing he acted in self-defense.

De la Rionda argued the statement was improper because one witness isn’t allowed to give an opinion on the credibility of another witness. Defense attorney Mark O’Mara argued it was proper because it was Serino’s job to decide whether Zimmerman was telling the truth.

Judge Debra Nelson told jurors to disregard the statement.