Protect and Serve at the highest level — emphasis on High!


Bags of heroin recovered from Lowry’s car

An FBI agent in the District fired for stealing heroin, collected as evidence, for his personal use has been charged with 64 criminal offenses and, through his attorney, said he would plead guilty and focus on avoiding a drug relapse.

The 33-year-old former agent, Matthew Lowry, had been part of a team targeting violent drug traffickers who cross between Maryland and the District. His misconduct compromised cases and forced the dismissal of charges against 28 defendants. It also exposed weaknesses in the handling of drug evidence in the FBI’s Washington field office…

The case represents a stunning turn for the Maryland resident, who graduated near the top of his class at the University of Maryland, earned a graduate degree while working full time for the FBI and tried to follow his father’s distinguished career in law enforcement. He was found six months ago, seemingly incoherent, on a lot near Southeast Washington’s Navy Yard with open bags of heroin in his agency car…

Friends had noticed Lowry’s erratic behavior, but knew that he had a new baby at home and was having trouble in his marriage. They took Lowry to a fellow agent’s apartment that night.

But the next day, agents were cleaning out the trash in the car when they found the drugs. Inside were evidence bags, full of heroin, that had been cut open…

The Washington Post obtained more than 600 pages of internal documents, memos and transcripts of interviews with Lowry’s fellow agents that detail how he managed to obtain the drugs and the personal events leading to his downfall.

In those documents, Lowry described how he took advantage of procedures that allowed a single agent to sign out drugs for lab analysis and did not track whether the packages reached their purported destination. As a result, Lowry was able to store drug evidence in his car, sometimes for as long as a year, with no questions asked. Lowry described how he forged signatures of agents on forms and evidence seals, repackaged drugs in bags and used store-bought laxatives to replaced heroin he had taken to avoid discrepancies in package weight…

Many of the 28 defendants whose cases were dismissed had already pleaded guilty and had been sent to prison, some for up to 10 years or more. Within two months, all of them had been freed and sent home with the convictions erased. Those charges had been filed based solely or substantially on drug evidence that Lowry stole from.

A scary example of unintended consequences – even from a drug addict.

Chewing on dietary politics

Two of Cornell’s leading nutrition experts appeared in Washington, D.C., March 18 to discuss an extensive proposed rewrite of the federal government’s official Dietary Guidelines for Americans

They appeared in the nation’s capital as part of Inside Cornell, a series of public policy roundtables. The pair spoke before an audience consisting largely of journalists who closely follow these issues. National Public Radio correspondent Allison Aubrey moderated the panel.

Tom Brenna said the most fundamental change proposed for the new dietary guidelines, which are updated every five years, “is a focus on overall healthy eating patterns, rather than individual foods…”

Brenna also lauded what he called an emerging emphasis on “nutrition above the neck,” a reference to the role diet plays in neurocognitive health. His Cornell lab, for example, conducts extensive research on nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, which are proving to be effective in treating depression.

David Just focuses on how consumers make their decisions about what foods to purchase and eat.

He said the government’s new nutritional guidance “will probably generate no response at all at the consumer level, at least initially. The primary effect will come from the millions of meals directly influenced by the government, including public school lunches, hospital food and military meals.”

Over time, however, as the new advice takes hold, it will start to be felt as “consumers make their shopping lists or decide which groceries to display prominently in their kitchens, as opposed to buried in cabinets.”

Just also stressed the positive role the food industry can play by adjusting how it markets and advertises its products. Touting the good taste and benefits of healthier foods on packaging, he noted, is far more effective than any government warning about the risks of a poor diet.

They also discussed the never-publicized lobbying over dietary guideline recommendations. The meat industry – of course – wants to water down recommendations that Americans eat less red meat, less processed meat. The last thing they want is linking an animal-based diet to environmental problems like greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution.

Sugar giants don’t want nutrition labels to include added sugar. There’s a surprise!

Once Congress gets quickly past the parts about science, no doubt they will return to rules and regulations directly proportional to the influence of lobbyist/industry dollar$.

BTW, that 2nd link up top is a fine article on the details of new recommendations.

Five years later, Arizona immigrants still defy SB 1070

After three months of working at Lam’s Seafood Market for $7.65 an hour as a cashier, Noemi Romero had finally saved the $465 it would take to apply for President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an initiative launched to shield from deportation young immigrants brought to the United States as children.

That was before the hard-line immigration policies of Maricopa County — made infamous in 2010 for its hostile attitude toward undocumented immigrants — torpedoed her dream of legalizing her status.

Romero, brought to the state by her parents when she was 3, did not even realize she was undocumented until she was 16, when her friends began getting driver’s licenses. Her parents told her she couldn’t. “You’re not from here,” they explained.

After graduating from high school, she found herself in limbo. She couldn’t afford to attend college in Arizona, one of a handful of states that explicitly bar undocumented students from receiving financial aid and paying in-state tuition rates. And without a Social Security number, she couldn’t work. She spent her days helping her mother babysit…

On Jan. 17, 2013, Romero was working the cash register at Lam’s Seafood Market, planning to take off from work the next week so she could meet with an immigration lawyer. She saw a man in a black collared shirt and dress pants walk in and present a badge to the manager.

Moments later, Romero and 21 others were rounded up, herded to the front of the store, searched, interrogated about their papers and handcuffed — swept up in one of Maricopa County’s trademark workplace raids, engineered by Sheriff Joe Arpaio to catch undocumented immigrants using fraudulent identities to work in the United States…

The prospects for undocumented immigrants in Maricopa County remain fragile, as Romero’s situation illustrates. But the crackdown in Arizona has not quite worked as intended. Even as the undocumented population in Arizona plummeted by 40 percent from 2009 to 2012, according to the Pew Hispanic Research Center, the efforts to drive out the immigrant community have prompted a backlash, inspiring a new attitude of defiance, according to immigrants interviewed this month in Phoenix…

Romero, now 23, is part of a class action lawsuit, led by civil rights group Puente Arizona, against the sheriff’s office, that has won an injunction to halt the workplace raids. If she and her fellow plaintiffs win their case, it’s possible that their criminal records will be expunged.

“There have been a lot of positive things that have occurred in Arizona that have pushed back against the passage of the bill,” said James Garcia, a Hispanic-American playwright and communications consultant in Phoenix.

He noted the recall of state Sen. Russell Pearce, the architect of the legislation, and the way in which the business and arts communities have worked to repair Arizona’s tarnished reputation.

RTFA for many individual stories of a dream deferred. Deferred by bigotry, the usual story in this land of liberty.

Business and arts communities working to repair Arizona’s tarnished reputation have decades to go. There are many reasons for Arizona being called the Mississippi of the west. Good will to all ain’t part of it.

Dumb crook of the day

A Maine man who’d been wanted by police for several weeks made a couple of critical mistakes that led to his capture – he sent out social media messages pinpointing his location.

The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office had been looking for Christopher Wallace, of Fairfield, in connection with a burglary in January.

Police tell the Morning Sentinel that on Sunday night they received tips from people who said Wallace had posted on Snapchat that he had returned to his Fairfield home.

So, police went to the house.

While they were searching with permission of the resident, they were tipped off that Wallace had posted a new Snapchat message saying police were in the house looking for him and he was hiding in a cabinet.

He was found in the cabinet.

There is dumb. Then there is compulsively dumb.

How to win friends & buy influence in Washington DC — Google edition

The Wall Street Journal recently published a report based on accidentally released documents about FTC’s two-year investigation into Google. The 160-page document concluded that Google’s “conduct has resulted—and will result—in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.” I am sure Yelp and others would agree with that conclusion, and are contemplating further action.

The search results manipulation by Google has resulted in complaints that are far worse than anything FTC could have done — people have complained of declining quality and user experience. The emergence of social and mobile environments have taken some zing out of Google. Nevertheless, the WSJ report and reading through the excerpts made me wonder if there is a correlation between FTC investigation and Google’s lobbying efforts…

And after Om’s intro to the topic – we might look back at this:

Google News buries news of Google’s FTC investigation

After the embarrassing leak of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation that described how Google shifted around its search results to harm competition, Google News has shifted its search results to harm journalism, promoting instead a fluff piece glorifying Google…

The exposé of Google’s “strategy of demoting or refusing to display, links to certain vertical websites in highly commercial categories,” as described in the FTC’s 2012 investigation, which concluded that “Google’s conduct has resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers and to innovation,” was essentially erased from existence in 2013 when Google agreed to make a few minor changes to avoid a federal antitrust lawsuit.

The Wall Street Journal noted that the FTC Commission watered down its public conclusions issued about Google before letting the company off the hook, leaving the findings of the staff investigation secret for two years.

Daniel Lyons reply is included in the AppleInsider article as an update.

Read it – and judge for yourself.

France uses new law allowing it to ban half the cars in Paris

Paris smog
Click to enlarge

Tomorrow will be an odd day in Paris. The government has triggered a pollution control law which allows it to ban half the private cars in the greater Paris area.

Cars with registrations ending in odd numbers will be allowed to drive today. If the air pollution alert continues, it will be the turn of the even-numbered cars on Tuesday.

Over 1,000 police officers will be mobilised to hand €22 on-the-spot fines to offenders. The law, first triggered last year, allows the government to limit traffic if micro-particles in the atmosphere rise above 50 microgrammes a cubic metre.

The use of the law has provoked a spat in recent days between two of France’s best-known female Socialist politicians.

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, asked for the restrictions to be imposed last Friday. The environment ministers, Ségolène Royal, complained that a ban on even-numbered cars without advance warning would be a “punitive” attack on suburban commuters.

The two women have a long-standing quarrel, believed to be private in origin. President François Hollande intervened. He ruled in favour of Ms Hidalgo and against his former romantic partner, Ms Royal.

You won’t see much about this in the mainstream media in the US, of course. In the eyes of the American Establishment the only only air pollution in the world that’s dangerous is in Beijing.

In truth, there are long-standing reasons for much of the air pollution in the world – including geography and topography. Which everyone living in Albuquerque or Denver well knows. Correcting the political economy at the root of most air pollution takes time measured in decades, no magic bullets. Beijing’s problem is almost identical to the cause of London’s famous smog – not the fog – and will take longer to clear than current solutions aimed at transport and electric power generation.

Half of Beijing’s smog comes from coal-fired home fires used for heating and cooking. That will take a network of natural gas pipelines to resolve. Right down to the last mile, the last block, house-by-house.

And in related news? In Los Angeles, exposure to both nitrogen dioxide and small particulates has dropped dramatically since the late 1990s.

Children living in five notoriously smoggy parts of greater Los Angeles showed improved lung growth of about 10% between the ages of 11 and 15, compared with children at the same age 20 years ago.

It’s a never-ending fight, folks. Albuquerque’s determination that MTBE added to winter gasoline also increased deadly smog led to the removal of what was a common additive. And more whining.

Japanese burger-freaks have a chance to smell like a Whopper

For hamburger aficionados who want the smell even when they can’t get a bite, Burger King is putting the scent into a limited-edition fragrance.

Burger King said…that the Whopper grilled beef burger-scented cologne will be sold only on April 1, and only in Japan.

Sounds too good to be true? It’s not an April Fools’ Day joke, though the company chose the date deliberately.

The limited “Flame Grilled” fragrance can be purchased at 5,000 yen (about $40), including the burger. There will be only 1,000 of them.

Burger King is hoping the scent will seduce new fans for their burgers. I know it certainly would have the opposite effect on me. And I love hamburgers.