Monday, December 22, 2014
Charles County sheriff’s officer dies in crash in Virginia
Maryland Independent

10-year decorated veteran was assigned to patrol operations at District IV Waldorf station

Charles County sheriff’s Patrolman First Class Jamel Clagett, 30, died in a motor vehicle crash Sunday morning on Route 218 in King George, Va., according to the sheriff’s office.

Clagett was driving home after working a midnight shift when his car left the roadway and struck a tree; he died instantly, the sheriff’s office reported. Clagett, a 10-year decorated veteran of the sheriff’s office, was assigned to patrol operations at the District IV Waldorf station.

“Jamel was a great policeman who cared about his community and valued his fellow workers. He was known for his kindness. In fact, his last act this morning – after working an eight hour overnight shift – was buying breakfast at a local restaurant and dropping it off to our midnight communications staff, whom he considered family,” Sheriff Troy Berry (D) said in a news release. “Jamel always made it a point to look out for others and to make sure everyone was happy before he went home for the day.”

Sammy 08:27 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
REMINDER:  Town Hall Meeting with Commissioner Stewart is tonight

[...]

Amanda Stewart (Commissioner-Elect, District 3)
Monday, Dec. 22, 6:30 p.m.
Waldorf West Library, Room A (10405 O’Donnell Place, Waldorf)

Sammy 08:24 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
MVA to tweak parts of voter registration process
Kate S. Alexander ― Gazette

Starting in January, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration employees will no longer be able to select or change a voter’s political party when handling voter registrations.

The change comes in response to reports of Montgomery County voters’ political party affiliations being changed, without their knowledge or consent, following a trip to the MVA.

The Gazette first reported the registration problem when voters came forward after the June 24 primary saying they faced obstacles to voting because their party affiliation was changed to “other” without their consent.

Sammy 08:15 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Hewitt proposes tax break for senior citizens
Dick Myers ― TheBayNet.com

Several of the new St. Mary’s County Commissioners feel the previous board was over-aggressive in stoking the trust fund for future employee health care costs (called Other Post-Employment Benefits or OPEB). Commissioner Michael Hewitt (R- District 2) raised the issue during a discussion of the audit for the Fiscal Year 2014 budget and also the previous day during a budget work session.

Hewitt claims that current residents, particularly those getting close to retirement, are paying now for benefits for future generations. Hewitt, instead, wants the commissioners to consider imposing a property tax increase freeze for residents aged 65-75. He said his proposal could sunset in 10 years and the board at that time could revisit it.

Hewitt noted that Montgomery County, with all of its wealth, hasn’t funded at the rate of St. Mary’s. He also used Worchester County as a county with a larger tax base that has taken a more modest approach to OPEB contributions. Others contributing less are neighboring Charles and Calvert counties.

Sammy 08:05 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Missile-hunting blimps are coming to Maryland
Drew Hansen ― Baltimore Business Journal

The Army is planning to launch the first of two missile-detecting balloons known as aerostats in the coming days over Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, kicking off a three-year evaluation of the technology.

The aerostats are part of Raytheon Co.‘s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS for short. The first 250-foot, helium-inflated blimp will be launched to an elevation of about 10,000 feet. It will keep a cruise missile-detecting radar system aloft — one that can detect threats from Upstate New York to Virginia Beach, Va.

The Army plans to launch a second JLENS aerostat in late winter or early spring 2015 that will work in tandem with the first vehicle.

Sammy 08:00 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Shoppers can sue Target over data breach, St. Paul judge rules
Nick Halter ― Washington Business Journal

Consumers who had their personal information stolen during Target’s massive data breach a year ago can sue the Minneapolis retailer, a U.S. judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson of St. Paul denied Target’s request to toss out a class action lawsuit, reports Reuters.

The suit was brought by consumers who argue that they suffered damages due to unauthorized charges, lost account access, fees and credit monitoring costs.

Sammy 07:58 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
US coal mines nearing record low in worker deaths
Boston Globe

Less than five years after an explosion fueled by excess coal dust killed 29 men deep inside a West Virginia underground mine, the nation’s coal mines are on pace for an all-time low in work-related deaths.

Federal mine safety officials credit changes they have made since the Upper Big Branch disaster in April 2010. They point to their more aggressive use of team inspections at problem sites and other measures, which they say have fostered more responsible behavior below ground.

‘‘I do think we’re seeing a cultural change in the mining industry that’s for the better,’’ said Joseph Main, the assistant labor secretary who heads the US Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Sammy 07:51 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
As Air Force Fixes Nuke Flaws, Future Debated
ROBERT BURNS ― ABC News

Faced with one of its biggest challenges in years ? repairing a troubled nuclear missile corps ? the Air Force has taken an important first step by admitting, after years of denial, that its problems run deep and wide.

Less certain is whether it will find all the right fixes, apply them fully and convince a doubting force of launch officers, security guards and other nuclear workers that their small and narrow career field is not a dead end.

The stakes are huge.

The nation’s strategy for deterring nuclear war rests in part on the 450 Minuteman 3 missiles that stand ready, 24/7, to launch at a moment’s notice from underground silos in five states.

Sammy 07:47 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Highly Pathogenic H5 Avian Influenza Confirmed in Wild Birds in….
U.S. Geological Survey

...Washington State H5N2 Found in Northern Pintail Ducks & H5N8 Found in Captive Gyrfalcons

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic (HPAI) H5 avian influenza in wild birds in Whatcom County, Washington. Two separate virus strains were identified: HPAI H5N2 in northern pintail ducks and HPAI H5N8 in captive gyrfalcons that were fed hunter-killed wild birds. Neither virus has been found in commercial poultry anywhere in the United States and no human cases with these viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada or internationally. There is no immediate public health concern with either of these avian influenza viruses.

Both H5N2 and H5N8 viruses have been found in other parts of the world and have not caused any human infection to date. While neither virus has been found in commercial poultry, federal authorities with the U.S. Department of Agriculture also emphasize that poultry, poultry products and wild birds are safe to eat even if they carry the disease if they are properly handled and cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sammy 07:45 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
South Korea nuclear plant operator says hacked, raising alarm
Meeyoung Cho and Jack Kim ― REUTERS

Computer systems at South Korea’s nuclear plant operator have been hacked, the company said on Monday, sharply raising concerns about safeguards around nuclear facilities in a country that remains technically at war with North Korea.

The Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co Ltd (KHNP) and the government said only “non-critical” data was stolen by the hackers, and that there was no risk to nuclear installations, including the country’s 23 atomic reactors.

But the hacking was reported as the United States accused North Korea of a devastating cyberattack on Sony Pictures.

Sammy 07:44 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Republicans weigh big changes at U.S. budget referee agency
David Lawder ― REUTERS

When Republicans take full control of Congress on Jan. 6, they will face decisions on major changes at the Congressional Budget Office, including possibly naming a new head and changing the rules used to assess the cost of legislation.

Conservative groups have been calling for the replacement of CBO Director Doug Elmendorf, who was appointed by Democrats in 2009 and whose term expires next month. They argue that a Republican-leaning economist would more readily adopt a cost analysis known as “dynamic scoring” that incorporates expectations of higher economic growth associated with legislation.

Analyses by the CBO, a non-partisan office, show how much a bill would increase or decrease the federal budget deficit over a 10-year period.

Sammy 07:38 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Navy testing stealthy robot tuna
Neal Augenstein ― WTOP

It looks like a tuna and swims like a tuna, but the Navy’s “biomimetic autonomous artificial fish UUV” is an underwater drone that could protect fighting forces by going where people can’t or shouldn’t.

The GhostSwimmer undersea vehicle — nicknamed Silent NEMO — was recently tested near the Joint Expeditionary Base, near Norfolk.

Approximately 5 feet long and weighing about 100 pounds, the GhostSwimmer can operate in water depths ranging from 10 inches to 300 feet.

Sammy 07:34 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
N. Korea threatens strikes on US amid hacking claims
HYUNG-JIN KIM ― WTOP

President Barack Obama is “recklessly” spreading rumors of a Pyongyang-orchestrated cyberattack of Sony Pictures, North Korea says, as it warns of strikes against the White House, Pentagon and “the whole U.S. mainland, that cesspool of terrorism.”

Such rhetoric is routine from North Korea’s massive propaganda machine during times of high tension with Washington. But a long statement from the powerful National Defense Commission late Sunday also underscores Pyongyang’s sensitivity at a movie whose plot focuses on the assassination of its leader Kim Jong Un, who is the beneficiary of a decades-long cult of personality built around his family dynasty.

The U.S. blames North Korea for the cyberattack that escalated to threats of terror attacks against U.S. movie theaters and caused Sony to cancel “The Interview’s” release.

Sammy 07:33 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
The new face of terrorism
J.J. Green ― WTOP

Thirteen years after the devastating attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, led by Osama bin Laden and a relatively small band of hardened jihadists from the Soviet-Afghan war, today’s biggest terror threat is composed of teenagers who’ve slipped away from home, societal misfits and confused thrill-seekers.

The common denominator is, none of them have any terrorism experience. Their strength is their staggering numbers.

“There are 20,000 Western passport-holders fighting with ISIL in Syria and Iraq. The number could be higher,” said outgoing House intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers. He told WTOP hundreds or more of them are believed to be Americans.

Sammy 07:32 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Open Thread - December 22, 2014

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Pauleen Brewer 04:00 AM | (1) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
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