The Daily DFM (07.12.13)

The Brattleboro Reformer has many colleagues around the country producing news for our "sister" papers. The Daily DFM is a "top picks" of today's national news. Consider it a collection of "things you should know, today."

1. Homeland Security secretary resigns

By Alicia A. Caldwell and Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press

Barack Obama, Janet Napolitano

President Barack Obama, left, walks away from the podium after talking about the Oklahoma tornado and severe weather, Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. Earlier, the president will met with his disaster response team to talk about the tornado that tore through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday. At right is Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON (AP) - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who led the burgeoning Department of Homeland Security through a host of policy changes in the post 9/11 era, is resigning to head the University of California system.

Napolitano, just the third person to lead the 10-year-old department, told her senior staff Friday she would be leaving for California. She will become the president of the University of California system, which includes UCLA and the University of California, Berkeley, among other campuses. The University of California also announcedNapolitano's nomination to be the 20th president of the statewide system.

"The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the front lines of our nation's efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career," she said in a statement. "After four plus years of focusing on these challenges, I will be nominated as the next president of the University of California to play a role in educating our nation's next generation of leaders."

"I thank President Obama for the chance to serve our nation during this important chapter in our history,"Napolitano said, "and I know the Department of Homeland Security will continue to perform its important duties with the honor and focus that the American public expects."

Obama issued a statement commending Napolitano for "her outstanding work on behalf of the American people over the last four years."

"At the Department of Homeland Security, Janet's portfolio has included some of the toughest challenges facing our country. She's worked around the clock to respond to natural disasters, from the Joplin tornado to Hurricane Sandy, helping Americans recover and rebuild," he said. Obama also said the American people "are safer and more secure thanks to Janet's leadership in protecting our homeland against terrorist attacks."

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2. Saudi princess charged with human trafficking in California


LOS ANGELES - A Saudi princess has been charged in California with enslaving a Kenyan woman, forcing her to work in abusive conditions and holding her passport hostage, authorities said Thursday.

Meshael Alayban, 42, one of six wives of a grandson of the Saudi King Abdullah, is accused of forcing the Kenyan woman to work 16 hour days, seven days a week, for a monthly salary of just $220.

The unnamed woman, 30, who sought overseas work to pay for her young daughter's medical care, allegedly worked in Alayban's palace in Saudi Arabia and then in her home in Irvine, Calif., southeast of Los Angeles.

Bail for Alayban, who was arrested on Wednesday, has been set at $5 million.

Prosecutors said the victim signed a contract with an employment agency that promised her a salary of $1,600 a month for a 40-hour work week.

The princess was charged with "human trafficking of a Kenyan woman into the United States and forcing the victim to work as a domestic servant against her will," the Orange County District Attorney said in a statement.

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3. A new digital diaper tracks your baby's health

y Staff, Relaxnews

Pixie Scientific's Smart Diapers (Pixie Scientific)

A new sensor-embedded diaper tracks not only when it's time for a nappy change but also your baby's hydration and kidney health, and alerts parents when it's time to call a doctor.

New York-based Pixie Scientific has developed urine-tracking Smart Diapers, which feature a QR code on the bottom of the diaper that changes colors when your baby has urinated. Parents can then scan the code with their smartphone using a companion app to log the data. The app can then analyze the results to measure the risks for urinary tract infection, dehydration, and kidney problems, and can track health patterns over time. If it detects a problem, an alert lets parents know when it's time to call a doctor.

The company launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in order to begin manufacturing its product and is conducting a study with the University of California San Francisco. Pixie Scientific is aiming to secure approval from the US Food and Drug Administration as well.

A pledge of $90 will get you a 30-day supply of Smart Diapers, with shipping planned for March 2014.

Other savvy diapers in the works include Huggies' TweetPee, which debuted as a test product in Brazil in May. The diapers send tweets via a clip-on monitor to a companion app when they sense wetness in the diaper and can remind busy parents when it's time to buy a fresh pack.

4. Spread of DNA databases sparks ethical concerns

By Jill Lawless, Associated Press

In this Friday, March 2, 2012 file photo, DNA samples are processed at the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center in Albany, N.Y. Countries around the world are collecting genetic material from millions of citizens in the name of fighting crime and terrorism. Few nations have been more enthusiastic than Britain, where a database of DNA from criminal suspects grew by 2012 to hold samples from almost 7 million people, more than 10 percent of the population. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

LONDON - You can ditch your computer and leave your cellphone at home, but you can't escape your DNA.

It belongs uniquely to you - and, increasingly, to the authorities.

Countries around the world are collecting genetic material from millions of citizens in the name of fighting crime and terrorism - and, according to critics, heading into uncharted ethical terrain.

Leaders include the United States - where the Supreme Court recently backed the collection of DNA swabs from suspects on arrest - and Britain, where police held samples of almost 7 million people, more than 10 percent of the population, until a court-ordered about-face saw the incineration of a chunk of the database.

The expanding trove of DNA in official hands has alarmed privacy campaigners, and some scientists. Recent leaks about U.S. surveillance programs by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden have made people realize their online information and electronic communications may not be as secure as they thought. Could the same be true of the information we hold within our genes? DNA samples that can help solve robberies and murders could also, in theory, be used to track down our relatives, scan us for susceptibility to disease, or monitor our movements.

Earlier this year Yaniv Erlich, who runs a lab at MIT's Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, published a paper in the journal Science describing how he

was able to identify individuals, and their families, from anonymous DNA data in a research project. All it took was a computer algorithm, a genetic genealogy website and searches of publicly available Internet records.

"It was a very weird feeling - a 'wow' feeling," Erlich told The Associated Press. "I had to take a walk outside just to think about this process."

Erlich says DNA databases have enormous positive power, both for fighting crime and in scientific research. But, he said, "our work shows there are privacy limitations."

Ethical qualms have done little to stop the growth of genetic databases around the world.

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5. Beaver dam collapses, washes out Brookline road

By BOB AUDETTE / Reformer Staff

Just after midnight on July 11, a beaver dam in Greer Swamp in Brookline gave out and washed out portions of Hill Road between Kirsch Road and Grassy Brook Road. (submitted photo)

BRATTLEBORO -- Road crews in Brookline scrambled Thursday to clean up a backroad that was inundated after an upstream beaver dam gave out just after midnight. The torrent of water dropped debris and tore up pavement on Hill Road, which was closed between Grassy Brook Road and Kirsch Road for repairs.

Road Commissioner Thomas Staats, who also is a member of the town's Selectboard, said the beaver dam was holding back at least 17 acres of water in a wetlands known as Greer Swamp and apparently had given way because of the amount of rain that has fallen over the past few days.

"This is the second time this dam has caused problems," he said. "It's a huge beaver dam that has been there for years."

The last time it gave away was about 10 years ago. About eight years ago, Brookline's road crew replaced a small culvert under Hill Road with a sturdier one.

"The box culvert held really well, but the water went around it and took the road out on both sides," said Staats.

Grassy Brook Road was also damaged, he said. As of Thursday, it was a one-lane road, but still passable.

Selectboard Chairman David Parker, Jr., said after the dam collapsed, the water "just blew down the hillside. No one was hurt, but you take 17 acres of water and run it down a mountain side and you've got a heck of a situation."

He said about 100 feet of Hill Road was buckled and cracked by the flow of water.

"They're in the process of picking

up crumpled pavement so traffic can resume," said Parker.

They're also looking closely at a bridge on Grassy Brook Road that was affected by the collapse, said Parker.

"There was some undermining of the bridge that's going to have to be fixed as well as some undermining of pavement."

Hill Road will be closed for a while, but Staats noted because it's a loop, no one has been cut off due to the damage.

Staats credited John Alexander and Mark Pickering, from District 2 of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, for their quick response to the flooding.

"They did a heck of a job," he said. "They were here around 7:30 a.m. doing an estimate of the damage to see whether we qualify for emergency assistance from the state."

If the town does qualify, Vermont will pick up 90 percent of the repair costs, while Brookline will be responsible for the remaining 10 percent.

"The cost could be substantial," said Staats.

He also thanked Archie Clark for his quick work in bringing down equipment to divert the water and get it back into the brook, and Highway Foreman Mark Bills and his crew for their hard work in getting the mess cleaned up.

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