September 15, 2016
A surge of unaccompanied children coming across the southern border could be swelling the ranks of one of America’s most dangerous gangs, either as fresh recruits or hardened sleepers, according to federal authorities.
Some 227,149 unaccompanied children have been apprehended at the border over the last six years, according to the U.S. Border Patrol. They remain in federal custody until a sponsor can be located, at which time they are often sent to communities where they are ripe for recruitment by Latin gangs such as the infamous MS-13.
“Our safety standards have increased,” Andrea Helling, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told FoxNews.com. “In the last few months screening procedures of children and sponsors has increased in their intensity which we hadn’t done previously.”
Federal law requires the Department of Homeland Security transfer children under 18 to the custody of Helling’s agency until they are released to an appropriate sponsor, usually a relative, while their immigration cases are adjudicated. Some observers say that, at the least, the process sends a steady stream of loosely supervised youths lacking in language and coping skills right into the waiting arms of criminal gangs. At worst, the unaccompanied minors were already initiated into the gangs before they arrived at the border.
MS-13 is believed to be among the largest street gangs on New York’s Long Island, and more than 250 members have been convicted on federal felony charges since 2003. Federal prosecutors there have pinned more than 20 murders on the violent gang.
Meanwhile, over the last year, Long Island has received 2,093 unaccompanied children, and between October 2013 and July 2016, all of New York received 12,478 children from Central America. The overwhelming majority of the kids are not criminals and likely have competent sponsors. But some are.
In June 2015, MS-13 members and El Salvadoran immigrants Jose Cornejo, 17, Bryan Larios, 18 and Joel Escobar, 17, all of Brentwood, N.Y. were charged with the brutal rape of a 16 year-old girl on a local golf course.
Earlier this week, Joshua Guzman, 15, was shot and killed in the Long Island city of Hempstead. While not an unaccompanied immigrant, the boy’s father, Raul Guzman, told Newsday his son was under pressure to join a gang. Police believe his murder may be related.
“We’re looking at the possibility,” said Lt. Richard LeBrun, spokesman, Nassau County Police Department, that Guzman’s murder could be gang related.
MS-13 has a foothold in numerous other communities, where unaccompanied minors are being sent. Texas, which has seen a spike in MS-13 crime has received 15,999 over the same period. The 2015 Texas Department of Public Safety Gang Threat Assessment found MS-13 boasts some 800 members, and authorities explicitly blamed the flood of unaccompanied children being placed in the state.
“The influx of illegal alien gang members crossing the border into Texas in 2014, along with reports of extremely violent murders committed by its members in the Houston area, positions the gang as one of the most significant gang threats in the state for this upcoming year,” the report stated.
Other areas that have seen an influx in MS-13 crime are Maryland, Texas, and Virginia. Fairfax County, Va. has seen a 160 percent increase in MS-13 related incidents through April compared to the previous year.
Helling said HHS is looking more closely at the sponsors who step forward to take custody of the minors.
“Our responsibility is providing a safe place for these children,” she said.
She said that high-risk children who may have been identified as gang members by DHS would likely be placed in either a staff secure or secure-juvenile detention facility. But even if they are not gang members when they come into the U.S., the risk remains that they could fall prey to recruitment efforts.
World Meterological Association
Extraordinary global heat continues
19 September 2016
The exceptionally long spell of record global heat, a surge in greenhouse gas concentrations, shocking coral reef bleaching, and long-term Arctic sea ice melt all add urgency to the need for world leaders to ratify and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has convened a special high-level event on 21 September to speed up ratification or accession to the Paris Agreement, reached in December 2015.
“We have witnessed a prolonged period of extraordinary heat, which is set to become the new norm,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “We have observed both unusually high concentrations of carbon dioxide and the record breaking temperatures. The high temperatures of the sea water has aggravated severe coral reef bleaching.”
“All these findings increase the urgency of action in the implementation of the Paris Agreement to avoid temperatures exceeding the 1.5-2.0°C range above the pre-industrial era,” said aalas.
August was the hottest August on record for both land and oceans, according to data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting. NASA said that August 2016 tied with July 2016 as the hottest month ever recorded. The year to date has smashed all existing temperature records.
“The heat in high latitudes has been especially punishing for Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet”, said Taalas.
Arctic Sea Ice
The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said Thursday that the Arctic’s ice cover appears to have reached its minimum extent on 10 September 2016, at 4.14 million square kilometers (1.60 million square miles). It was statistically tied at second lowest in the satellite record with the 2007 minimum. The figures are provisional.
The WMO notes that the record lowest extent in the 37-year satellite record occurred on 17 September 2012, when sea ice extent fell to 3.39 million square kilometers (1.31 million square miles).
It was a stormy, cloudy, and fairly cool summer. Historically, such weather conditions slow down the summer ice loss.
“It really suggests that in the next few years, with more typical warmer conditions, we will see some very dramatic further losses,” said Ted Scambos, NSIDC lead scientist.
Arctic sea ice cover grows each autumn and winter, and shrinks each spring and summer. The maximum Arctic sea ice extent in March 2016 was the lowest on record. The Greenland ice sheet also began its melt unusually early this year.
The extent of Arctic sea ice at the peak of the summer melt season now typically covers 40 percent less area than it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Heat in August and September
Data from NASA and the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting confirmed that August 2016 set yet another monthly record.
Although the seasonal temperature cycle typically peaks in July, August 2016 wound up tied with July 2016 for the warmest month ever recorded. August 2016’s temperature was 0.16 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous warmest August (2014). The month also was 0.98 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean August temperature from 1951-1980, according to NASA.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is due to issue its August global temperature figures on 20 September. WMO uses a combination of international datasets to compile its annual statements on the Status of the Global Climate.
“Prospects of a cooling La Niña episode later this year are uncertain,” said Taalas. “It is looking likely that 2016 will the hottest year on record, surpassing the incredible temperatures witnessed in 2015,” he said.
Many parts of Europe experienced exceptionally high temperatures in the first half of September. In the United Kingdom, for instance, Gravesend, in Kent reached 34.4°C on 13 September — the hottest September day since 1911. Denmark saw temperatures of up to 29.9°C. France saw temperatures on 12 September which were 8 to 12 ° C above average for this time of year.
Carbon dioxide concentrations
Carbon dioxide concentrations have passed the symbolic milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere so far this year. Levels vary according to the season, but the underlying trend is upward. According to NOAA, the global monthly mean CO2 in July 2016was 401.72 parts per million, up from 393.13 parts per million in July 2015.
The ocean in a warmer world
The ocean is protecting us from the worst impacts of global warming by not only storing more than 90 percent of the extra heat from greenhouse gases, but also by taking up about a third of the total man-made emissions of carbon dioxide.
The WMO says that new research into the complex interactions between the ocean and the global climate — as evidenced by the recent super El Niño — will be examined at an international scientific gathering in China. The conference will also focus on how the ocean is bearing the brunt of global warming, with huge consequences for the future of the planet.
The Open Science Conference takes place in Qingdao, China, on 18 – 25 September, bringing together more than 600 scientists. It is organized by the World Climate Research Program’s (WCRP) Core Project on Climate and Ocean — CLIVAR. WMO co-sponsors the World Climate Research Program.
Drug-Resistant Leprosy Emerges in West Africa
Sep 9, 2016
A recent publication in the Clinical Infectious Disease Journal highlights an investigation identifying a cluster of Guinean patients with drug resistant leprosy infections. Some of the patients were identified to have dapsone-resistant Mycobacterium leprae, as well as a single case demonstrating rifampicin resistance. This finding is significant because while the prevalence of leprosy has declined greatly, there are still approximately 200,000 new cases of leprosy reported globally each year.The emerging threat of drug-resistant leprosy infection could pose a serious public health risk if left unaddressed.
Leprosy is a curable infectious disease that primarily affects the peripheral nerves, skin, upper respiratory tract, eyes, and nasal mucosa. This disease is caused by a slow-growing bacterium known as Myobacterium leprae, which has an incubation period of approximately five years. Leprosy causes discoloration and lumps on the skin, and, if not treated early, can cause disfigurement and deformities. Leprosy is typically found in tropical areas of Africa and Asia.
First-line antibiotics used to treat leprosy include: dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine; second-line drugs include: ofloxacin, minocycline and clarithromycin. Resistance to the first-line drugs could have a large impact on leprosy control programs because reliance on second-line antibiotics is not as effective for treatment, particularly if rates of leprosy infection begin to increase.
There has been a massive decline in the prevalence of leprosy following the global implementation of multidrug therapy (MDT) in the 1980s by the World Health Organization (WHO), however there are still over 200,000 new leprosy cases recorded every year. In 2014, 313 cases of leprosy were identified in Guinea, but data on resistant infections were not collected.
The recently published study collected 24 skin biopsy samples from leprosy patients during 2012 to 2015, and analyzed genes associated with resistance for any evidence of mutations. The researchers also examined a subset of these cases and performed whole-genome sequencing and epidemiologic investigation to determine the existence of drug-resistant leprosy. The results found three patients living in the Kankan region of Guinea with evidence of dapsone-resistant leprosy and one patient living in the Boke region of Guinea with evidence of rifampicin-resistant leprosy.
The WHO states that drug resistant leprosy is not presently a serious concern. However, it recognizes the potential for an increase of rifampicin-resistant strains of leprosy if patients are not compliant with their drug regimens . It is important to monitor the rates of resistance closely, so that effective measures to combat the problem can be developed and deployed.
The WHO announced a two-pronged strategy to combat the potential threat of drug resistant leprosy with the Global Leprosy Programme, which includes the following:
Phivolcs warns of 'big' Mayon eruption in coming daysPhivolcs cites 'abnormal activity' such as drying wells, more earthquakes, and increased sulfur dioxide emission of the volcano
September 08, 2016
LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has warned of a possible "big" Mayon volcano eruption in the coming days.
"Phreatic explosion may happen anytime but a big explosion is expected in the coming days," said Philvolcs resident volcanologist Eduardo Laguerta.
Laguerta cited "abnormal activity" similar to what happened prior to the Mayon eruption in 1984.
The 1984 Mayon eruption is classified as a Vulcanian-type eruption which involves relatively small but violent explosions of thick lava producing columns of ash, gas, and occasional pyroclastic flows.
"The massive drying up of wells across Albay, specifically in the municipalities surrounding the volcano, may be attributed to the magma movement activity beneath the restive volcano," Laguerta added.
He also cited the 3 consecutive earthquakes in August originating from the Sto Domingo fault line, which can affect volcanic activity.
Laguerta said his office asked geodetic engineers from the Phivolcs central office to conduct a ground survey around the volcano following the earthquakes.
"We noted after the survey, Mayon is inflated, magma beneath the volcano is building up. Deep wells are drying up surrounding the volcano and in several towns here – an implication of abnormal activity," he said.
Magmatic eruption possible
Laguerta said that while magma build-up did not progress past the belly of the volcano during its explosion in 2014, a "magmatic eruption" may happen this time around.
"Today the possibility to continue for magmatic eruption is possible. We cannot discount the possibility of big explosion," he said.
With these latest findings, Phivolcs raised Mayon to Alert Level 1.
According to a Phivolcs advisory, its monitoring showed the following:
Rocks and steam are spewed out during a phreatic explosion.
Laguerta also reiterated the government's warning for the public to stay out of the 6-kilometer danger zone, to avoid casualties.
In 1993, 77 farmers were killed, while several foreigners and their Filipino tourist guide were killed in phreatic explosions in 2013.
Cedric Daep, Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo) chief, said there are 18,000 people living along the slopes of the volcano.
Mayon has an elevation of 2,462 meters and is about 300 kilometers away from Manila. Its worst eruption was in 1814, which killed 1,200 people.
The Wichita Eagle
September 13, 2016
New fault line discovered after 5.8 Oklahoma earthquake
A magnitude-5.8 earthquake and a series of smaller aftershocks in Oklahoma has led to the discovery of a new fault line.
The discovery stoked fears among some scientists about other unknown faults that could be triggered by oil and gas wastewater that’s being injected deep underground.
State and federal regulators this week said 32 disposal wells in northeastern Oklahoma must shut down because they are too near the newly discovered fault line that produced the state’s strongest earthquake on record on Sept. 3.
The quake shook Wichita and many other parts of Kansas. It caused minor damage to some city and county buildings.
Jeremy Boak, head of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, said it’s possible that a large “pulse” of disposed wastewater is slowly moving deep underground and triggered the temblor along the new fault located near the town of Pawnee, farther east than most of the previous earthquake activity in Oklahoma.
“My inclination is to worry about the (fault) we don’t know about yet, more so than about another very large earthquake in this area,” Boak said.
“My general feeling is that the rate of earthquakes is declining. I’m more concerned, I think, about whether there’s another one of these faults out here that is queued up and ready to go.”
Boak said it’s also possible that some aftershocks greater than magnitude 4 could still be triggered along the newly discovered fault that has yet to be named.
The Pawnee quake damaged more than a dozen buildings and slightly injured one man when part of a chimney collapsed. It shook several states, including Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas, and was reportedly felt more than 1,000 miles away in Florida and Nevada, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Five more earthquakes occurred in the southern Great Plains on Tuesday: four in Oklahoma and one in Kansas, the survey’s online records show. The Kansas earthquake occurred at 11:18 a.m. 6 miles northwest of Harper in Harper County.
It measured 3.2 and was more than 5.5 miles deep. Tuesday’s activity followed at least four earthquakes that occurred in northern Oklahoma late Monday, including a 2.8 that occurred not far from the epicenter of the 5.8 quake earlier this month.
Scientists, including those at the OGS, think the vast majority of the earthquakes in Oklahoma are triggered by the injection of wastewater from oil and gas production deep into the earth.
After the Pawnee quake, state and federal regulators immediately ordered disposal wells to shut down or reduce volume of wastewater within a 725-square-mile area. That area was expanded on Tuesday to encompass 67 total wells in more than 1,100 square miles.
Some of the disposal wells that were initially ordered to completely shut down will be allowed to resume at lower volume, regulators said.
In all, the 75,000 barrels a day of wastewater that was being injected in the area is being reduced to about 35,000 barrels a day, said Jim Marlatt of the oil and gas division of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
Forcing oil and gas operators to stop injecting wastewater or reduce the amount they can inject means they can’t produce as much oil and natural gas, which can cause a serious financial hardship, said Chad Warmington, president of the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association.
“These are multimillion-dollar wells in some cases that you can’t operate any more, period,” Warmington said. “If you take away your disposal activity, there’s nothing else you can do with that water.”
Still, Warmington said the industry also is concerned about the quakes and is working with regulators to try to stop them.
“As long as we’re making decisions based on good data and good science, we’ll live with it,” Warmington said.
Super-gonorrhoea outbreak could be out of control as attempts to stop spread fail
Attempts to stop the spread of the sexually transmitted disease have failed
9 September 2016
A drug-resistant strain of gonorrhea is now spreading in the UK Rex
An outbreak of super-gonorrhoea in the UK is out of control and efforts to stop it have been unsuccessful, health officials have warned.
It is feared the sexually transmitted disease may be becoming increasingly resistant to treatment, prompting concerns further rapid spread could occur.
In April, it emerged an outbreak of so-called ‘super-gonorrhoea’ had occurred in Leeds, with cases also noted in the West Midlands, London and southern-England. It began among heterosexual couples but has since been spread among men who have sex with men (MSM).
In a report issued today by health agency Public Health England, the group warned: “The outbreak of HL-AziR gonorrhoea in England persists. There have been 17 cases of HL-AziR gonorrhoea reported to date in 2016 compared to 15 cases for the same time period in 2015. Between November 2014 and August 2016 there have been a total of 48 confirmed and two probable cases.
“The potential for rapid spread of HL-AziR N. gonorrhoeae among high risk sexual networks including MSM is of particular concern.”
The disease can result in serious discomfort, pelvic inflammatory disease and even infertility. Among 1 in 10 infected men and half of infected women, symptoms can go undetected. Symptoms include a green or yellow discharge from the genitals, discomfort urinating and irregular bleeding between periods.
Chief Executive of sexual health charity FPA Natika H Halil told The Independent: “There should be statutory sex and relationships education, which the government has still not implemented, and easy access to sexual health services. With ever-shrinking public health budgets and increasing pressure on local authorities to meet people’s varied health needs, this is no longer a given and is a cause of real concern.
“PHE’s report is a timely reminder, ahead of our Sexual Health Week focusing on STIs next week, how important it is for people to know how to protect themselves. It particularly highlights the importance of testing so that cases can be diagnosed early and as well as of partner notification to help limit infections being passed on.
“Through a survey we have conducted for Sexual Health Week, we know some people struggle to use condoms because they don’t like how they feel and they impact on the pleasure of sex. However, condoms remain the best way to help prevent STIs being passed on.”
USGS urges Kansans to prepare for earthquakes like Californians
Sep 08, 2016
Oklahoma's largest earthquake ever still has people talking. Saturday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake caused only minor damage in Kansas, but officials with the US Geological Survey say it's time for people in the region to start preparing for earthquakes like Californians.
Items on your wall or shelves can be hazardous in an earthquake, but there are ways you can protect yourself and your belongings.
"It scared me this time," said Errica Weaver.
The morning jolt felt across the region didn't skip Weaver's home.
"I ran down the hallway and woke my husband up and I was like 'we're having another earthquake'," said Weaver.
Weaver says the earthquake shook pictures off her wall, and caused drawers to slide out of her bedroom dresser.
We took Weaver through the FEMA Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt, a guide to eliminate potential dangers in your home in the event of an earthquake.
FEMA recommends you securely fasten or relocate heavy pictures over beds and furniture. We checked Weaver's home and all wall hangings are in safe places.
Another suggestion is to secure cabinets to wall studs, and use latches to keep cabinet doors from flying open during an earthquake. Weaver says that's something she'll have to fix in her own home.
FEMA also recommends strapping down TVs and other expensive or hazardous electronics.
FEMA emphasizes making sure all heavy objects are secured inside your home. There are also steps you can take outside the home, such as making sure your house is anchored to its foundation.
15,000 French citizens are in the process of being radicalized: French PM
13 September 2016
France’s prime minister Manuel Valls warned on Sunday that some 15,000 French citizens could be in the process of being radicalized. His warning came a day after the police arrested a 15-year-old boy at his Paris home in order to thwart a planned weekend terrorist attack.
France’s prime minister Manuel Valls warned on Sunday that some 15,000 French citizens could be in the process of being radicalized. His warning came a day after the police arrested a 15-year-old boy at his Paris home in order to thwart a planned weekend terrorist attack.
Bloomberg reports that the Saturday arrest of the teenager followed last Thursday’s arrest of what the Paris prosecutor said was a group of radicalized female “commandos” who were planning to attack the Notre Dame Cathedral. In addition to the three women, the police also arrested the 15-year-old daughter of one of arrested women.
The police said the arrest of the 15-year old boy on Sunday was not related to the arrest of the three women and the girl on Thursday.
The police noted that the plot by the three women to attack Notre Dame was discovered after the father of one of the three women reported to the police that she had disappeared with his car. He was briefly detained and interrogated because he was already being monitored by the French intelligence services for suspected ties to radicals.
The initial interrogation of the 15-year old boy revealed that he was planning to carry out a knife attack in a public place this weekend. The judicial official refused to identify the location where the attack was to occur.
On Sunday, Valls said that “every day attacks are foiled … (including) as we speak.”
Valls said nearly 15,000 people in France are being tracked because they are suspected of being in the process of radicalization, while 1,350 are under investigation – 293 of them for alleged links with a terrorism network.
“Today the threat is at a maximum, and we are a target,” Valls said on Europe 1 radio. “Every day intelligence services [and] police foil attacks, dismantle networks, track terrorists.”
Despite the tracking and other surveillance measures, Valls warned: “There will be new attacks. More innocent people will die.”
County prepares for nuclear emergency
Sep 14, 2016
Participants in the Perry Nuclear Power Plant Evaluated Exercise interact at the Ashtabula County Emergency Management Agency headquarters in the basement of the Ashtabula County Courthouse on Tuesday in Jefferson. Dawn Cragon, Ashtabula County treasurer, (right kneeling) interacts with Ashtabula County Extension Agent David Marrison (left on phone) and Ashtabula County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Nathan Paskey during the drill designed to insure public safety in case of a nuclear incident at the plant.
Ashtabula County Emergency Management Director Mike Fitchet (right standing) monitors a Perry Nuclear Power Plant Evaluated Exercise at the EMA center at the Ashtabula County Courthouse with Tim Reichel (standing left), Renee Palaygi, representing the American Red Cross, and event operations manager Tim Parks (standing center) on Tuesday in Jefferson.
Screens flashed with the latest information and Ashtabula County government officials worked with each other — and officials off-site — in response to an emergency at Perry Nuclear Power Plant Tuesday.
The effort was not in response to a leak or terrorist attack, but a "mock" nuclear emergency mandated bi-yearly by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Mike Fitchet, Ashtabula County EMA director.
The week-long Perry Nuclear Power Plant Evaluated Exercise, which is overseen by FEMA, centered on a "mock event" occurring at the plant, 10 Center Road, Perry, less than 10 miles from the Ashtabula County border. County officials coordinated their response from the bowels of the Ashtabula County Courthouse, where the Ashtabula County Emergency Management Agency is housed.
Fitchet said the exercise includes four steps ranging from "an unusual event" through a "general emergency."
"The worst case scenario would be a general emergency," he said.
Participants don't know what level the exercise will start and what type of conclusion will occur. Scenarios can range anywhere from a malfunction at the plant to a terrorist attack to a radioactive leak.
Planning for the event takes months and on-going plans continue all year to make sure area emergency workers are equipped to keep the public safe, Fitchet said.
The likelihood of any major event at the nuclear power plant is slim, he said, and detailed planning in the last 30 years has improved how government reacts to any potential disasters.
"The plant is designed to get people out of danger before it occurs," Fitchet said, adding the plan for nuclear issues "is designed by history."
Only three major nuclear leaks have occurred throughout the world — Chernobyl, in the former Soviet Union; Three Mile Island, in central Pennsylvania and Fukushima in Japan (following a tsunami) — and each were long-term problems that escalated, Fitchet said. Even in those instances, the safety areas were relatively confined, he said.
The drill is designed to handle all the details of a radioactive release from the plant, Fitchet said.
"I don't see a melt down every happening anywhere. That is more something from the movies. The big concern is a release of radioactive contaminants off site," he said.
Tuesday's drill was jammed into a relatively short period of time that would actually have taken days or weeks in case of a major problem.
"It's a slow process," Fitchet said.
Dozens of fire departments, police departments, county agencies, schools and even businesses are part of the major drill, which involves massive communications, coordinated in the county's emergency center.
While Ashtabula County is running their response, there is a simultaneous drill occurring with state officials and county counterparts from Lake and Geagua counties, Fitchet said.
Decision makers, which include Fitchet, the three Ashtabula County commissioners and Ashtabula County Sheriff William Johnson, meet in a separate room in the EMA office and two scribes take detailed notes on the interaction.
"You get this feeling of teamwork. None of this can happen without everybody here," said Ashtabula County Commissioner Dan Claypool.
As details of the "mock" event come out, the command center responds and calls organizations affected by the event — starting with school children, which is the first group that must be moved. During Tuesday's event, planners transported children from Madison and Geneva to the Lakeside Elementary School complex.
Evaluation and education
As part of the process, controllers, who deal directly with trainers prior to the drill and then monitor the event as it proceeds, work with agencies to provide suggestions and understanding of proper procedures in case of a nuclear emergency.
Bill Mahan, a retired utility liaison with the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant, was a controller for the event and always tries to learn something new that can be taken back to Pennsylvania.
FEMA evaluators have a more detailed role in the drill providing a "report card" after the event.
"I've been doing it for eight years," said David Ortman of the FEMA Region 5 office in Chicago, which includes five states.
Ortman said he spent eight years in the Air National Guard as an emergency manager before moving on to FEMA. He said evaluators go through a screening process than multiple classes and hands on observation before moving on to become an evaluator.
The controllers worked with area agencies during a "dress rehearsal" about a month ago with no evaluators on hand to grade the event.
A final grade for this week's drill is expected to be issued Friday.
wtop Washington’s Top News
‘Huge security gap’ lets dangerous packages enter US through postal system
September 7, 2016 5:51 am
WASHINGTON — Every day, about a million packages are shipped into the U.S. through the U.S. Postal Service from China, Russia, India and other countries. Many packages are not checked for dangerous and illegal contents, posing what the co-leader of a new national security project calls a “huge security gap.”
“The gap is essentially when mail is sent to the United States from foreign countries; if it’s of a certain weight, it doesn’t go through normal cargo surveillance like the mail that is sent through private mailing services such as UPS and FedEx,” said Juliette Kayyem, of Americans for Securing All Packages (ASAP).
Every year, according to ASAP, 340 million mail items, from small letters to large boxes, sent from foreign postal systems enter the U.S. postal system delivery stream — without electronic data that could tip off intelligence agencies to a threat.
Shipping companies, on the other hand, are required under the 2002 U.S. Trade Act to collect what’s called advance electronic security data. It’s used to track hundreds of millions of the packages that flow into the United States from foreign countries each year.
The law did not call for the immediate utilization of the system by the USPS. It said the DHS and the Treasury Department should consult with the postmaster general to determine whether it would be appropriate to implement.
The system, according to Kayyem, a former assistant secretary of Homeland Security for Intergovernmental Affairs in the Obama administration, has “managed, surveyed, looked at and assessed (packages) to determine whether there’s a threat.”
“A perfect example,” said Kayyem, “is if there is an address in Russia that is sending packages to a specific address in Baltimore that seems to be too consistent and of the same weight every time. We know this is how a lot of narcotics are getting into the country.”
On Oct. 29, 2010, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula shipped two packages to the United States containing bombs hidden in printer cartridges. The FedEx and UPS packages never made it — they were intercepted in the U.K. and Dubai, thanks to a lucky break: intelligence provided by a former al-Qaida terrorist.
The memory of that near-miss haunts many current and former security officials, who know that even though it’s been mandated, and the capability exists in the private sector, there still is no such system for the U.S. Postal Service for packages sent from foreign postal services.
As a result, ASAP, led by Kayyem and Tom Ridge, the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, seeks to close what it calls in a statement “a dangerous security gap that leaves our nation vulnerable to terrorist attacks and invites illegal and toxic drugs into our communities.”
In an alert released by the postal service’s Office of the Inspector General on Sept. 3, 2015, the agency was criticized for its practices.
“We are issuing this alert because some inbound international mail is not being presented for inspection, as required by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This could present public safety and security concerns, which could reflect poorly on the Postal Service’s brand or image,” said the alert.
WTOP reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which did not respond to questions in time to be included in this story.
Kayyem says the problem, as the U.S. prepares to observe the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, is the lack of pressure close the gap.
“I think they [the Department of Homeland Security] haven’t been required to do enough. This is a major gap, and — look; it’s not that technology is the challenge anymore, because we have an entire mailing system right on the private side that is using electronic data,” said Kayyem.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, shared a similar concern in The Washington Post on Aug. 4. He suggested the lack of attention to the loophole has exacerbated “the dangerous epidemic of dangerous drugs sweeping the United States.”
He added, “No congressional district has been spared from this problem, and people are dying at an alarming rate from the use of fentanyl, bath salts, flakka, K2, Spice and other synthetic drugs.”
Experts say many of those drugs are bought directly and shipped from abroad and sent directly through the U.S. postal system because illicit drug dealers are aware of the loophole.
McCaul recommended “advanced electronic screening data must accompany all packages.”
ASAP said in material sent to WTOP that its goal is to pressure “President Obama and Congress to insist that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of the Treasury to enforce the 2002 law by requiring foreign posts to submit customs and advance electronic data for shipments imported to the United States.”
2017 PROPHECY: Christians warn Pan-American solar eclipse to unleash biblical APOCALYPSE
AMERICA and Europe will be plunged into darkness by a solar eclipse in 2017 - and then the world will end - according to a group of fundamentalist Christians.
Sep 6, 2016
Hardcore Christian group predicts the end of the world in 2017
The apocalypse has been predicted next year by doomsayers from Christian website Unsealed.
The solar event will spread across America on August 21 next year - Crossing 12 US states.
Western Europe, including the UK, Ireland, France and Spain will then experience a partial eclipse.
It will be the first total eclipse to travel from one coast of America to the other, across 12 states, for almost a century.
Unsealed has said this event will be the beginning on the end.
The eclipse will leave the USA in darkness before Europe
The Christians are quoting the Bible as their main source of proof.
Scripture from the Book of Revelation supports its theory, according to Unsealed.
The conspiracy theorists have pointed to passages from The Book of Revelation to support their predictions.
They have highlighted passages describing a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon at her feet.
Scripture says the woman will be hunted by a Satanic seven-headed dragon looking to eat her unborn child.
It is said the child will be born and taken unto god, before an army of angels defeats the dragon.
Conspiracy theorists have also pointed to the birth of Israel as a state, which began in 1947, to support the theory.
They give significance to mention of this in accounts of the end of the world and say that next year will mark a biblical generation – 70 years – since it happened.
Unsealed also highlights predictions of twelfth-century Rabbi Judah Ben Samuel, who reportedly said the end of the world would come in 2017.
But, the doomsayers do hint at some uncertainty in their predictions as they've also said that scripture warns "no one knows" the hour of the apocalypse.
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