FAA OKs air passengers using gadgets on planes

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta announces that government safety rules are changing to let airline passengers use most electronic devices from gate-to-gate during a news conference, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, at Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport. The change will let passengers read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music _ but not make cellphone calls. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta announces that government safety rules are changing to let airline passengers use most electronic devices from gate-to-gate during a news conference, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, at Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport. The change will let passengers read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music _ but not make cellphone calls. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta announces that government safety rules are changing to let airline passengers use most electronic devices from gate-to-gate during a news conference, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, at Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport. The change will let passengers read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music _ but not make cellphone calls. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta announces that government safety rules are changing to let airline passengers use most electronic devices from gate-to-gate during a news conference, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, at Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport. The change will let passengers read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music _ but not make cellphone calls. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta announces that government safety rules are changing to let airline passengers use most electronic devices from gate-to-gate during a news conference, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, at Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport. The change will let passengers read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music _ but not make cellphone calls. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta announces that government safety rules are changing to let airline passengers use most electronic devices from gate-to-gate during a news conference, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, at Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport. The change will let passengers read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music _ but not make cellphone calls. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

(AP) — Airline passengers will be able to use their electronic devices gate-to-gate to read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music — but not talk on their cellphones — under much-anticipated guidelines issued Thursday by the Federal Aviation Administration.

But passengers shouldn’t expect changes to happen right away, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said at a news conference. How fast the change is implemented will vary by airline, he said.

Airlines will have to show the FAA how their airplanes meet the new guidelines and that they’ve updated their flight-crew training manuals, safety announcements and rules for stowing devices to reflect the new guidelines. Delta and JetBlue said they would immediately submit plans to implement the new policy.

Currently, passengers are required to turn off their smartphones, tablets and other devices once a plane’s door closes. They’re not supposed to restart them until the planes reach 10,000 feet and the captain gives the go-ahead. Passengers are supposed to turn their devices off again as the plane descends to land and not restart them until the plane is on the ground.

Under the new guidelines, airlines whose planes are properly protected from electronic interference may allow passengers to use the devices during takeoffs, landings and taxiing, the FAA said. Most new airliners and other planes that have been modified so that passengers can use Wifi at higher altitudes are expected to meet the criteria.

But connecting to the Internet to surf, exchange emails, text or download data will still be prohibited below 10,000 feet. Passengers will be told to switch their devices to airplane mode. That means no Words With Friends, the online Scrabble-type game that actor Alec Baldwin was playing on his smartphone in 2011 when he was famously booted off an American Airlines jet for refusing to turn off the device while the plane was parked at the gate. Heavier devices such as laptops will continue to have to be stowed because of concern they might injure someone if they go flying around the cabin.

Airline passenger Ketan Patel, 24, said he’s pleased with the change and happy that regulators have debunked the idea that the devices pose a safety problem. “If it isn’t a problem, it should be allowed,” he said as he stepped into a security line at Reagan National Airport near Washington, a smartphone in his hand.

Another passenger entering the same line, insurance marketing manager Melinda Neuman, 28, of Topeka, Kan., was disappointed that she still won’t be able to text.

“If you can’t download data, what’s the point?” she said. “I don’t power it off all the time, anyway.”

In-flight cellphone calls will continue to be prohibited. Regulatory authority over phone calls belongs to the Federal Communications Commission, not the FAA. The commission prohibits the calls because of concern that phones on planes flying at hundreds of miles per hour could strain the ability of cellular networks to keep up as the devices keep trying to connect with cellphone towers, interfering with service to users on the ground.

An industry advisory committee created by the FAA to examine the issue recommended last month that the government permit greater use of personal electronic devices.

Pressure has been building on the FAA to ease restrictions on their use. Critics such as Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., say there is no valid safety reason for the prohibitions. Restrictions have also become more difficult to enforce as use of the devices has become ubiquitous. Some studies indicate as many as a third of passengers forget or ignore directions to turn off their devices.

The FAA began restricting passengers’ use of electronic devices in 1966 in response to reports of interference with navigation and communications equipment when passengers began carrying FM radios, the high-tech gadgets of their day.

A lot has changed since then. New airliners are far more reliant on electrical systems than previous generations of aircraft, but they are also designed and approved by the FAA to be resistant to electronic interference. Airlines are already offering Wi-Fi use at cruising altitudes on planes modified to be more resistant to interference.

The vast majority of airliners should qualify for greater electronic device use under the new guidelines, Huerta said. In rare instances of landings during severe weather with low visibility, pilots may still order passengers to turn off devices because there is some evidence of potential interference with instrument landing systems under those conditions, he said.

Today’s electronic devices generally emit much lower power radio transmissions than previous generations of devices. E-readers, for example, emit only minimal transmissions when turning a page. But transmissions are stronger when devices are downloading or sending data.

Among those pressing for a relaxation of restrictions on passengers’ use of the devices has been Amazon.com. In 2011, company officials loaded an airliner full of their Kindle e-readers and flew it around to test for problems but found none.

A travel industry group welcomed the changes, calling them common-sense accommodations for a traveling public now bristling with technology. “We’re pleased the FAA recognizes that an enjoyable passenger experience is not incompatible with safety and security,” said Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.


Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy

Associated PressSource: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/3d281c11a96b4ad082fe88aa0db04305/Article_2013-10-31-US-Cellphones-Planes/id-1cc838596e984c03b9dab765545c917b
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Report: NSA broke into Yahoo, Google data centers

This undated photo provided by Google shows a Google data center in Hamina, Finland. The Washington Post is reporting Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, that the National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world. The Post cites documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with officials. (AP Photo/Google)

This undated photo provided by Google shows a Google data center in Hamina, Finland. The Washington Post is reporting Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, that the National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world. The Post cites documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with officials. (AP Photo/Google)

(AP) — The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

A secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, indicates that NSA sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade, Md., headquarters. In the last 30 days, field collectors had processed and sent back more than 180 million new records — ranging from “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received emails and when, to content such as text, audio and video, the Post reported Wednesday on its website.

The latest revelations were met with outrage from Google, and triggered legal questions, including whether the NSA may be violating federal wiretap laws.

“Although there’s a diminished standard of legal protection for interception that occurs overseas, the fact that it was directed apparently to Google’s cloud and Yahoo’s cloud, and that there was no legal order as best we can tell to permit the interception, there is a good argument to make that the NSA has engaged in unlawful surveillance,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of Electronic Privacy Information Center. The reference to ‘clouds’ refers to sites where the companies collect data.

The new details about the NSA’s access to Yahoo and Google data centers around the world come at a time when Congress is reconsidering the government’s collection practices and authority, and as European governments are responding angrily to revelations that the NSA collected data on millions of communications in their countries. Details about the government’s programs have been trickling out since Snowden shared documents with the Post and Guardian newspaper in June.

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the Google and Yahoo data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ. The Post said NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.

The NSA has a separate data-gathering program, called PRISM, which uses a court order to compel Yahoo, Google and other Internet companies to provide certain data. It allows the NSA to reach into the companies’ data streams and grab emails, video chats, pictures and more. U.S. officials have said the program is narrowly focused on foreign targets, and technology companies say they turn over information only if required by court order.

In an interview with Bloomberg News Wednesday, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander was asked if the NSA has infiltrated Yahoo and Google databases, as detailed in the Post story.

“Not to my knowledge,” said Alexander. “We are not authorized to go into a U.S. company’s servers and take data. We’d have to go through a court process for doing that.”

It was not clear, however, whether Alexander had any immediate knowledge of the latest disclosure in the Post report. Instead, he appeared to speak more about the PRISM program and its legal parameters.

In a separate statement, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said NSA has “multiple authorities” to accomplish its mission, and she said “the assertion that we collect vast quantities of U.S. persons’ data from this type of collection is also not true.” At no point did the NSA deny the existence of the MUSCULAR program.

The GCHQ had no comment on the matter.

The Post said the NSA was breaking into data centers worldwide. The NSA has far looser restrictions on what it can collect outside the United States on foreigners and would not need a court order to collected foreigners’ communications.

Cybersecurity expert James Lewis said it is likely that the Google and Yahoo data was part of a larger collection of communications swept up by the NSA program from the fiber-optic pipeline. He said that while the collection was probably legal, because it was done overseas, the question is what the NSA did with the data linked to U.S. citizens.

To meet legal requirements, the NSA has to distinguish between foreign and U.S. persons, and must get additional authorization in order to view information linked to Americans, said Lewis, who is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said it’s not clear from the reports what the NSA did with the U.S. data, and so it’s difficult to say whether the agency violated the law.

David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer said the company has “long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping.”

“We do not provide any government, including the U.S. government, with access to our systems,” said Drummond. “We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform.”

Google, which is known for its data security, noted that it has been trying to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links.

Yahoo spokeswoman Sarah Meron said there are strict controls in place to protect the security of the company’s data centers. “We have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency,” she said, adding that it is too early to speculate on whether legal action would be taken.

The MUSCULAR project documents state that this collection from Yahoo and Google has led to key intelligence leads, the Post said.

Congress members and international leaders have become increasingly angry about the NSA’s data collection, as more information about the programs leak out. A delegation from the European Union Parliament came to Washington this week to conduct intense talks about reported U.S. spying on allied leaders, including the collection of phone records. And a German delegation met with U.S. officials over allegations that the NSA was monitoring Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.

Alexander told lawmakers that the U.S. did not collect European records, and instead the U.S. was given data by NATO partners as part of a program to protect military interests.

Congress members, however, are working on plans that would put limits data collection. And Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has called for a “total review of all intelligence programs”

More broadly, Alexander on Wednesday defended the overall NSA effort to monitor communications. And he said that as Congress considers proposals to scale back the data collection or provide more transparency to some of the programs, it’s his job to lay out the resulting terrorism risks.

“I’m concerned that we give information out that impacts our ability to stop terrorist attacks. That’s what most of these programs are aimed to do,” Alexander said. “I believe if you look at this and you go back through everything, none of this shows that NSA is doing something illegal or that it’s not been asked to do.”

Pointing to thousands of terror attacks around the world, he said the U.S. has been spared much of that violence because of such programs.

“It’s because you have great people in the military and the intelligence community doing everything they can with law enforcement to protect this country,” he said. “But they need tools to do it. If we take away the tools, we increase the risk.”


Associated Press writers Mike Liedtke in San Francisco and Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.

Associated PressSource: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/3d281c11a96b4ad082fe88aa0db04305/Article_2013-10-30-NSA-Yahoo-Google/id-74762395328f4bdf99a12ae59101665e
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The Dutch Don’t Care About Marriage

Visitors to the Lowlands Festival relax on a giant hammock on the second day of the Lowlands festival in Biddinghuizen, the Netherlands, on August 17, 2013.
Being single in the Netherlands is pretty great.

Photo by Ferdy Damman/AFP/Getty Images

I was in Amsterdam for probably three hours when I began to see that having children and not being married was not a big deal there. In fact, marriage itself is not a big deal there. I was there to talk about my book In Praise of Messy Lives, which was coming out in Dutch, but what passes in America for a messy life is in Amsterdam just, well, how things go.

The Dutch attitude, which I like, is that marriage is not for everyone; it is a personal choice, an option, a pleasant possibility, but not marrying is not a failure, a great blot on your achievements in life, a critical rite of passage you have missed. Sometimes people get around to getting married, and sometimes they don’t. Several Dutch women in their 40s, with children and rich romantic histories, tell me about marriage, “It just wasn’t something that mattered to me.”

As a popular view, this laissez faire approach accommodates the vicissitudes of the heart, the changing nature of love, the great variety of forms attachments take in real life. It acknowledges that things change, and to exit a relationship with kids is less violent somehow, less publically absolute, than to exit a marriage. A bit of tolerance, of bemusement, of compassion or imagination is built into the system. 

I try to describe to a couple of audiences in Amsterdam the against-the-grainness of someone, especially a woman, who has not married in America. I try to explain how having children outside of marriage is still considered an alternative, and essentially inferior life choice. I mention that an American writer wrote a cover story in the Atlantic on the remarkable and exotic fact that she was in her late 30s and had never married. This sort of blew their minds. Who could possibly care? It seemed like a crazy American thing for marriage to matter so much. To them this obsession, this nagging necessity for weddings, the lack of general acceptance toward other pretty common ways of living, is so foreign, so uniquely American, such a quaint narrowness, that it’s incomprehensible as an actual mode of modern life.

At first I started fantasizing about whether I could move to a steep little Dutch house, and if I could balance a child on a bicycle. But it also seems to me it would be a great thing if we could absorb some of the Dutch attitude toward conjugal life. I am not here arguing against marriage, but against marriage as a rite of passage, against the assumption of all little girls that they will one day be married in a white dress on a green lawn, against the socially engraved absolute of it, the impossible-to-evade shining ideal.

What would it mean to end the centuries-long American fixation on traditional family structures? Would we be able to look at families living outside of convention without as much judgment, as much toxic condescension? Would the “smug marrieds” Helen Fielding wrote about in Bridget Jones’s Diary be less smug and just married?

If we woke up one morning and discovered that in America marriage was suddenly regarded as a choice, a way, a possibility, but not a definite and essential phase of life, think how many people would suddenly be living above board, think of the stress removed, the pressures lifted, the stigmas dissolving. Think how many people living unhappily would see their way to living less unhappily. In Edwardian England, the cultural critic Rebecca West wrote about the “dinginess that come between us and the reality of love” and the “gross, destructive mutual raids on personality that often form marriages.”

Whatever one thinks about the institution, the truth is that marriage is increasingly not the way Americans are living. If one goes strictly by the facts—that the majority of babies born to women under 30 are born to single mothers, or that about 51 percent of American adults are married—one has to admit that marriage can’t be taken for granted, assumed as a rite of passage, a towering symbol of our way of life. But somehow this hasn’t dimmed our solid sense of marriage as the American normal.

If we suddenly stopped being in thrall to the rigid, old-fashioned ideal of marriage, we could stop worrying about low marriage rates and high divorce rates. We could stop worrying about single mothers and the decline of marriage as an institution, especially in the lower middle class, and the wasteful industry of wedding planning. We could instead focus on actual relationships, on intimacies, on substance over form; we could focus on love in its myriad, unpredictable varieties. We could see life here in the amber waves of grain not for what it should be, but for what it is.

Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/roiphe/2013/10/marriage_and_the_dutch_what_americans_could_learn_from_the_conjugal_indifference.html
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Historical Software Archive lets you use vintage software in your browser

The Internet Archive’s new Historical Software Archive brings old software to your browser through the magic of JSMESS emulation.

The Internet Archive has protected and preserved old software for a while now; archivist Jason Scott claimed back in April that the organization possessed the largest historical software collection in the world.

[ Find out the latest craziness in the world of technology: Read InfoWorld’s Notes from the Field blog or newsletter by our man on the street, Robert X. Cringely. ]

Software is so transient, though. It’s sometimes hard to get a program from 2003 to run on a modern machine, let alone a program from 1983. For most people it wouldn’t be worth the trouble to, as the Internet Archive puts it, “track down the hardware and media to run [old software], or download and install emulators and acquire/install cartridge or floppy images as you boot up the separate emulator program, outside of the browser.”

An easier way
The Historical Software Archive, announced Friday, changes that. There’s no need to fuss with stand-alone emulators. Instead, the Internet Archive runs MESS (short for Multi Emulator Super System) with Javascript in Chrome, Firefox, Safari — any modern browser.

“Turning computer history into a one-click experience bridges the gap between understanding these older programs and making them available in a universal fashion,” says the Internet Archive’s announcement. “Acquisition, for a library, is not enough — accessibility is where knowledge and lives change for the better.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time someone has emulated old software in a browser. Look around the Internet, and you’ll find plenty of sites that allow you to play Gameboy and SNES games.

The difference, presumably, is twofold. One is that the Historical Software Archive is for all types of software — not just games. Go ahead and check out Apple Presents the IIc, a series of instructional guides that introduced users to their new computer. Then make a spreadsheet in VisiCalc, the 1979 Apple II program that pioneered the computer spreadsheet.

The second difference is legality. The Internet Archive is a reputable organization with a clean website and a name you can trust. That site where you found all those Nintendo ROMs? Yeah, not so much.

The unfortunate problem with legality, however, is it limits your scope. Hopefully more developers will open up their software for emulation through the archive, as it has the potential to make preservation more than an academic exercise. The full list is only 28 programs for now, but expect that number to grow soon.

For now you can always play E.T., the Atari game that reputedly caused the video game industry to crash and burn in 1983 — and you can understand why E.T. caused the video game industry to crash. Spoiler: it’s abysmal.

Source: http://www.infoworld.com/d/applications/historical-software-archive-lets-you-use-vintage-software-in-your-browser-229603?source=rss_applications
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KEXP Presents: Julia Holter

Somewhere between the experimental nature of Laurie Anderson and the ethereal artiness of Kate Bush lies Los Angeles musician Julia Holter. Her new album Loud City Song was her first to be recorded outside the comfort of home with a group of musicians, and that adventurous spirit shines through in songs that shimmer with jazzy overtones.

Holter recently visited the KEXP studios in advance of her set at the 10th annual Decibel Festival in Seattle. Watch the composer and her band perform “City Appearing” here, then catch the entire performance on KEXP’s YouTube channel.

Source: http://www.npr.org/event/music/241370239/kexp-presents-julia-holter?ft=1&f=10001
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Why We Need a Healthcare.gov Witch Hunt

Kathleen Sebelius
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is under fire for possible mishandling of the healthcare.gov website.

Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

Washington think tanks, your moment has arrived! Healthcare.gov is a mess and someone must chronicle exactly what went wrong. The press is trying, of course, but we also must cover the aftermath—the parade of predictable behavior that obscures more than it illuminates. Did you see the hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday? Despite the best efforts of Chairman Fred Upton, between the grandstanding, confused questions, and the witness fog machine, it’s a wonder anyone got out alive. Meanwhile, Republicans are pointing fingers, placing blame, and otherwise showing disgust that a program that they have tried to kill is being run so badly. (Perhaps they’re jealous that the administration is better at undermining Obamacare than they are.) Administration officials, on the other hand, are caught between covering their backsides, spouting plumes of happy talk, and hiring more people to collect the springs and sprockets from the launch pad where the whole thing went kaput. On Friday, officials in charge of the #techsurge said that healthcare.gov would be running smoothly by late November, two months after the launch.

Here’s why a controlled witch hunt is needed: This episode is about much more than a website. That’s true with respect to health care, as Ezra Klein points out, and it’s also true because there are big national issues at stake that have nothing to do with the specific issues of sickness and health. Can government do big things? Sen. Lamar Alexander famously said during the health care debates, “We don’t do comprehensive well”—meaning that any law that is big and complicated will fail. Is that right?

Alternatively, have partisanship and gridlock created a situation where small flaws in a law can’t be fixed through tweaking legislation because such legislation can never pass? Is there something about complex technology that confuses the bureaucracy? Is the procurement system nuts? Does the political nature of all administration activity mean that no one is capable of reporting that the launch of a key element of the president’s signature legislation is going to throw a rod? Some of the states seem to be doing just fine. Is that because they are smaller enterprises or because the people working on state health exchanges have more flexibility?

What’s needed is expertise, patience, and methodical reasoning. These have long since been banned from congressional hearings.

These are sloppy questions; experts can come up with better ones. But whatever questions are asked should be broad and sloppy, because right now everyone is scheduled to leave this drama with the answer they want. The experience will confirm their pre-existing views. That’s no good as a matter of logic, but it’s also a waste of rich material. This crack-up is a genuine disaster—it is expensive, it is worrying people who need and want insurance, and it is a huge waste of time. But it also provides rich material for a case study about the effectiveness of government.

Precision in this hunt is the key. Usually in investigations you need subpoena power. That doesn’t seem to be an issue. (Though I’d still put a hand on the shredders at Health and Human Services and the White House just to see if they’re warm.) In this case, what’s needed is some expertise, patience, and methodical reasoning. These attributes have long since been banned from congressional hearings. There are nevertheless people in Washington think tanks who will be excited to think through these matters.

A precise example of the kind of thinking that’s required is in David Auerbach’s wonderful deconstruction of yesterday’s hearing. Talking about the watery responses from the witnesses, Auerbach writes, “They don’t seem to understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable bugs, and worse, they don’t seem to know that there is a difference.” The point is that there’s a distinction between garden-variety problems and catastrophic problems that you could either have seen coming or for which you should have been on guard because they’re so damaging. So, using that same fine screen: What problems here are the normal ones you’d have in any big enterprise, what are the problems that are the result of unique one-time-only stupidity, and what are the problems that result from this being a government rather than private enterprise? 

This project should be one everyone loves. Only the most devout libertarian doesn’t want the government to do anything. Those who want a smaller government should still want it to operate efficiently. Liberals, and people like the president, who believe in smart government, should be pushing hard for answers. If they’re not interested in a thorough deconstruction of what went wrong for policy reasons, they should care for political ones. Healthcare.gov is now a very good excuse for anyone who wants to oppose an activist federal government. All a lawmaker has to say is that they don’t want the same government that ran healthcare.gov in charge of X, where X is anything you want to see stopped in its tracks. 

Right now, no one in this drama is trying to learn from the mistake. That’s understandable, but it also guarantees that the mistake will be repeated.

Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2013/10/healthcare_gov_witch_hunt_why_we_need_to_know_who_is_responsible_for_the.html
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Feds Recast Child Prostitutes As Victims, Not Criminals

Across the country, newly formed task forces made up of local, state and federal law enforcement officers are starting to view what was once seen as run-of-the-mill prostitution as possible instances of sex trafficking.

With support and funding from the FBI and the Justice Department, agencies are starting to work together to identify and rescue sex trafficking victims and arrest their pimps.

The new approach is being hailed by victims of trafficking and their advocates as a much-needed paradigm shift — and, the FBI says, is reaping results.

Ron Riggin, a Maryland State Police sergeant who recently retired from a long career spent searching for missing children and runaways, says he’s been aware of the problem for some time, but just hasn’t had the resources or cooperation to effectively combat it. The recent infusion of support and coordination from the feds, he says, has been a game changer.

“At this point, there’s a federal task force that covers just about every state in the union, as far as I know, so that makes it easy for us when we have interstate cases,” Riggin said recently during a Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force sting operation near Baltimore. To tackle the problem, the task force regularly peruses online escort ads, conducts stings, and offers services and support to the women they encounter.

Some sex worker advocates say that the approach is throwing the net too wide and leading to the arrests of too many women who are in control of their situations.

But the feds point to their results as their justification. Since 2008, task forces like the one Riggin is a part of have recovered more than 2,700 sexually trafficked children and convicted more than 1,350 pimps.

Looking For A Sense Of Belonging

The volume of cases is exposing a problem that has long been hidden in plain sight: Child prostitution, or sex trafficking of minors, happens in every state in the country, in poor and rich communities alike. And more often than not, victims are children and are American-born.

“Typically they are not the ones who are highly supervised at home,” Riggin says. “I think they are running away from something at home, whether it’s emotional or physical abuse or lack of love, or call it what you will. There is usually a reason they are leaving home. They don’t have a reason to go to somebody.”

The pimps, Riggin says, give the victims the attention and sense of belonging that vulnerable children desire.

The emergence of social media and online escort ads, experts say, has only exacerbated the long-standing problem.

“This can happen in any town,” says Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “We’ve seen it happen in very affluent areas of the country. Each of our field offices has reported these crimes, so we think that it’s everywhere.”

Last year, Hosko oversaw a team that uncovered a sex trafficking ring in affluent Fairfax County, Va. In that case, gang members recruited several adult women and at least eight high school girls through social media networks and contacts inside local schools. They plied them with drugs and alcohol, and controlled them with violence and intimidation.

Getting To The Local Level

Congress changed the legal definition of sex trafficking in 2000 to include recruiting or transporting a person by force, fraud “or coercion.” As minors are legally unable to give their informed consent, anyone under the age of 18 is typically considered a victim.

It wasn’t until 2008, though, that federal efforts to bring local protocol more in line with federal law took off. Since then, the FBI and DOJ have pumped resources into training law enforcement officers around the country on what to look for, how to approach potential victims, and how to connect them with services like housing, job training and counseling.

They have also made it a priority to gather evidence needed to prosecute their pimps.

The number of sex trafficking cases investigated and prosecuted at the local level is not yet known, but the FBI is gathering that data for the first time as part of its 2013 Uniform Crime Report.

Advocates, including Suzanne Tomatore of the Freedom Network, a national coalition of anti-human trafficking service organizations, say the new approach is making a difference.

But, she adds, there’s still a ways to go — in training officers, in providing resources to those who want to help the victims build new lives and in making sure that victims’ rights are protected.

“We all want to do the right thing, but I think it is important that the individual rights come first and [the victims] aren’t pressured into cooperating with law enforcement,” she says.

Renee Murrell, a victims advocate at the FBI field office in Baltimore, says that just a few years ago, most police departments dealt with these cases as child prostitution and simply put the victims into juvenile detention facilities.

“[A victim] was seen as a delinquent child,” she says. “Because they’re giving her drugs, so she may have a drug charge. She might get a shoplifting charge. All of that was masked as the issue when the trafficking was really the issue.”

Of course, many law enforcement agencies still take that approach.

Hosko says that mindset is still the biggest ongoing obstacle for federal efforts to recast child prostitution cases.

“If a particular local law enforcement officer sees what they perceive as purely a prostitution issue, and they don’t dig deeper or take it to the next level, or don’t collaborate with someone who is interested in taking it to the next level, it is a revolving door,” he says.

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/NprProgramsATC/~3/85J1efvdn0I/feds-recast-child-prostitutes-as-victims-not-criminals
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Zac Hanson, Wife Kate Welcome Third Child, Baby Boy George Abraham Walker

MMMBaby! Zac Hanson has become a dad for the third time, a rep for the musician confirms to Us Weekly. The “MMMBop” singer and his wife Kate welcomed a baby boy on Thursday, Oct. 17.

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“We are very excited to share the addition of George Abraham Walker Hanson to our growing family,” Zac tells Us. “Abraham is healthy and we are happily sharing a little down time together as a family.” The couple’s new baby boy arrived weighing 8 lbs. and 7 oz.

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Hanson, 27, confirmed to Us in May that he and his wife were expecting again. “We are so happy and thankful to add more life and love to our family!” the singer said.

He added: “It’s fun this time to watch the little ones so excitedly anticipating their new sibling.”

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Zac and Kate, 29, married in 2006 and already have two children together — son Shepherd, 5, and daughter Junia Rosa Ruth, 2.

The couple’s new addition will sure have plenty of cousins to call his playmates. The new bundle of joy now joins Zac’s nieces and nephews. His brother Isaac, 32, has two kids with his wife Nicole — daughter Everett, 6, and son James Monroe, 4. Frontman Taylor, 30, has five kids with his wife NatalieEzra, 10, Penelope, 8, River, 6, Viggo, 4, and Wilhelmina Jane, 12 months.

Source: http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/zac-hanson-wife-kate-welcome-third-child-baby-boy-george-abraham-walker-20132410
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Emma Roberts: Wednesday in WeHo

Picking up a few things for the rest of her week, Emma Roberts went to Bristol Farms and Rite Aid Pharmacy in West Hollywood on Wednesday (October 23).

The “We’re the Millers” star smiled brightly at cameras in a black short-sleeved top, blue jeans, and black ankle boots.

Later that day, the 22-year-old actress plugged her boyfriend Evan Peters’ show, “American Horror Story.”

This season, Emma herself appears in the series and to help spur viewership, she tweeted, “Who’s watching #ahs #coven tonight?” along with a photo of herself as a child in a witch costume.

Source: http://celebrity-gossip.net/emma-roberts/emma-roberts-wednesday-weho-948514
Category: Government Shutdown Over   Dylan Penn   Ken Norton   Romain Dauriac   Electric Zoo