News & Blues
by Roland Sweet - Wednesday, December 4th, 2013


Curses, Foiled Again
Police named West Virginia University football player Korey Harris their armed robbery suspect after the victims recognized Harris, who was wearing WVU-issued football sweat pants with his uniform number, 96. Harris was arrested and dropped from the team. (Charleston’s Metro News)

Update: See No Evil
Following the release of pictures taken after the July 6 Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco showing a fire truck running over and killing a 16-year-old survivor who’d been thrown clear of the crash, the city fire department explicitly banned helmet-mounted devices that record emergency scenes, such as the one worn by a firefighter that showed how Ye Meng Yuan died. “The privacy of the individual is paramount,” Chief Joanna Hayes-White insisted, but Anthony Tarricone, attorney for the victim’s family, questioned the decision and its timing, asking, “Why would anybody not want to know the truth?” (Associated Press)

Hidden Costs
U.S. military services have spent more than $12 million to design 10 new camouflage patterns for their uniforms, and millions more to buy, stock and ship them, according to the General Accountability Office. Eleven years ago, the military had two camouflage patterns: a green one for woods and a brown one for the desert. Then the Marine Corps implemented two new patterns, followed by the Army, Air Force and eventually even the Navy, which developed water-colored uniforms that some sailors objected to because it made them hard to spot if they fell in the water. The Air Force eventually ordered its personnel in Afghanistan to switch to the Army camouflage because it worked better in battle conditions. (The Washington Post)
After tests by the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility determined that the camouflage working uniforms most sailors wear at sea are flammable and would “burn robustly,” fleet commanders announced that all sailors afloat would be issued fire-retardant clothing. Submarine crews will continue to wear the flammable polyester and cotton coveralls because of low-lint requirements. (Navy Times)

Second-Amendment Follies
A 5-year-old boy shot and killed his 2-year-old sister at their home in Cumberland County, Ky., while playing with a .22-caliber rifle he’d been given last year. “It’s a Crickett,” coroner Gary White said. “It’s a little rifle for a kid.” The maker, Keystone Sporting Arms, describes the weapon as “My First Rifle,” intended to “instill safety in the minds of youth shooters.” White said the gun was kept in a corner of the family’s mobile home, but nobody realized it was loaded. (The Lexington Herald Leader)
Police said a 48-year-old man in Beavercreek, Ohio, shot himself in the chest with a pistol he bought on the street. He explained that he was unfamiliar with handling firearms and pointed the .22-caliber revolver at himself while checking to see whether it was loaded. (Dayton’s WHIO-TV)

Snoop Proof
Russia’s Federal Protective Service offered to pay $15,000 for 20 typewriters. The agency, a KGB successor assigned to protect President Vladimir Putin and other top officials, explained that it began using typewriters after Edward Snowden’s disclosures about U.S. National Security Agency secret surveillance to print drafts of official documents intended for Putin. (Associated Press)

Thanks for Nothing
To point out to voters how much Canada’s Conservatives are doing to improve life for disabled citizens, the party mass-mailed a flyer headlined “Supporting Jobs for All Canadians.” It repeated those words in a series of Braille dots. Only instead of being raised, the dots were printed on the flyer’s flat surface, making them unreadable to blind people. Jim Tokos of the Canadian Council of the Blind called the flyers “baffling.” (Toronto Star)

First Is Worst
First-class airline passengers are nine times more damaging to the environment than coach passengers, according to a study by the World Bank. The report noted that first-class seats are bigger than other ones, meaning planes can hold fewer people, thereby requiring more fuel per passenger to fly and increasing carbon emissions. First-class passengers are also likelier to have more luggage per person, requiring even more fuel. The report calculated that average coach passengers have a 0.76 carbon footprint, business-class passengers 2.30 and first-class passengers 6.89. (Britain’s Daily Mail)

Drone On
The Air Force has been flying U.S. flags on secret drone flights out of Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, then retrieving them from the 22-hour round-trip missions and presenting them to visitors or delivering them to stateside recipients. Each flag is accompanied by a personalized certificate that includes details of the surveillance operation and the Predator drone that carried the flag. “A lot of people don’t know about it until we present it to someone they know or a friend,” an Air Force captain identified only as “Cedric,” commented on the Incirlik Air Base website. “Then they’re like, ‘‘Oh, I want one. What do I need to do?’’” (The Washington Post)
A Philadelphia dry cleaner began using a drone to deliver clothes to customers. “I’m all about technology, and I see a lot of these cleaners, it’s so old school. You come in and you just pick it up,” Harout Vartanian, 24, the owner of Manayunk Cleaners, said, explaining he converted an unmanned four-bladed DJI Phantom quadracopter, designed for taking aerial photography. “We fly it to your house, it makes a noise, you pick it up, and that’s that.” Vartanian said he doesn’t think Federal Aviation Administration guidelines on unmanned aircraft systems apply to him because it’s “just a toy” used to promote his business. (Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV)

How Government Works
Contracting and budget officers at the Defense Department’s Defense Information Systems Agency urged their colleagues to set an aggressive spending timetable to use up all of the DISA’s $2 billion budget before the end of the fiscal year. “It is critical in our efforts to {spend} 100 percent of our available resources this fiscal year,” budget officer Sannadean Sims and procurement officer Kathleen Miller said in an email to their colleagues. (The Washington Post)
Contractors for the Environmental Protection Agency maintained a warehouse containing secret man caves, according to an audit by the EPA’s inspector general. Contractors used partitions, screens and piled-up boxes to hide the rooms from security cameras in the 70,000-square-foot building in Landover, Md. “The warehouse contained multiple unauthorized and hidden personal spaces created by and for the workers that included televisions, refrigerators, radios, microwaves, chairs and couches,” the report said. “These spaces contained personal items, including photos, pinups, calendars, clothing, books, magazines and videos.” The responsible contractor, Apex Logistics, has received $5.3 million while operating under the contract. (Washington’s Government Executive)

Fuel for Thought
Because homeowners who lease rooftop solar panels to reduce their monthly electricity bills are costing the Arizona Public Service Co. money, the utility has proposed charging customers who install the panels anywhere from $50 to more than $100 a month. APS said solar customers don’t pay enough for its services, which include providing electricity at night and during the day when power consumption exceeds the amount the panels supply. “What we are hearing from solar-leasing companies is that you are picking an alternative to your utility when you go solar,” Jeff Guldner, APS senior vice president of customers and regulation, said. “You actually need the grid 24 hours a day.” (Phoenix’s The Arizona Republic)

Congress reversed a 1996 law eliminating the Federal Helium Reserve, voting to keep the gas now that it is essential to MRI machines, fiber optic cables, computer chips and more. The government began stockpiling the inert gas after World War I when blimps were used in aerial warfare and continued until it was finally declared superfluous. “Helium is not just used for party balloons,” Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said. “It is essential to our 21st-century economy.” (The Washington Times)

Horseless-Carriage Follies
An automobile killed a woman and injured three other people when it overturned outside Zion National Park in Utah. The vehicle was a 1915 Ford Model T. “There’s no rollover protection,” said Russ Forstnow, chairman of an international Model T club’s annual outing in which the soft-top vehicle was taking part. Troopers said it went off the pavement, causing the wheel’s wooden spokes to separate, then flipped, ejecting all four occupants. (Associated Press)

Beaten to the Punch
Tony Gesin, 50, called police in Fairbanks, Alaska, to report that his neighbor had assaulted him. He repeated his story to troopers who responded but then admitted punching himself in the face because he wanted his neighbor arrested. Department of Public Safety official Megan Peters said Gesin and his neighbor are engaged in a civil dispute about property. (Fairbanks News-Miner)

Do the Math
Several students at Virginia’s George Mason University signed a petition urging the legalization of fourth-trimester abortions “so that women have a choice,” according to Dan Joseph of the conservative Media Research Center, who circulated the petition. (

You Be the Judge
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Karen Nudell ordered Arman Samsonian to stand trial for manslaughter in the deaths of two women who tried to rescue him after he crashed his sport utility vehicle into a utility pole and a fire hydrant. Irma Zamora and Stacey Schreiber were killed when they stepped into a pool of water that had been electrified by 4,800 volts from the fallen power line. Nudell said Samsonian, 20, “was definitely driving negligently,” but defense attorney Andrew Flier argued that his client couldn’t have foreseen the “intervening acts” once he crashed and that the victims should have known the dangers created by downed power lines and standing water. (Los Angeles Times)
Tennessee Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew was listening to the parents of a 7-month-old baby who couldn’t agree on the child’s last name, but when she heard that the boy’s first name was Messiah, she promptly ordered it changed to Martin. “The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Ballew said, explaining that her decision is best for the child, especially while growing up in a predominantly Christian community. Meanwhile, according to the Social Security Administration, Messiah ranked fourth among the fastest-rising baby names in 2012. (Associated Press)

News & Blues is compiled from the nation’s press. To contribute, submit original clippings, citing date and source, to Roland Sweet in care of The New Times.