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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Appeals court blocks ruling against NYC stop-and-frisk policy

Appeals court blocks ruling against NYC stop-and-frisk policy


A US federal appeals court has blocked a previous ruling against New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy. In addition, the judge who made the ruling was removed from the case, the AP reported.
The appeals court alleges Judge Scheindlin “improperly urged plaintiffs’ counsel to file suit as ‘related’ to a 1999 case previously assigned to her and because of certain media interviews,” S.D.N.Y. Blog reported Thursday.
Judge Scheindlin ruled in August the New York Police Department’s policing method was unconstitutional under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
MORE DETAILS TO COME

Snowden ready to testify in Merkel tapping case – German lawmaker

Snowden ready to testify in Merkel tapping case – German lawmakerGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel using her mobile phone.(AFP Photo / Maurizio Gambarini)German Chancellor Angela Merkel using her mobile phone.(AFP Photo / Maurizio Gambarini)

Whistleblower Edward Snowden has met with a German MP in Moscow. He passed a letter addressed to the German government and federal public prosecutor where he allegedly said he is ready to testify over Washington's probable wiretapping of Merkel’s phone.
During the meeting, Snowden made it “clear that he knows a lot,” Greens lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele told ARD channel. 
He expressed his principle readiness to help clarify the situation. Basis for this is what we must create. That’s what we discussed for a long time and from all angles,” the MP said. 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has dispatched the country’s top foreign affairs and intelligence advisers to Washington this week to further investigate the allegations that her cell phone was tapped by the NSA, the report which caused fierce outrage in Germany.

New in the Maker Shed: Bigshot Camera Kit

New in the Maker Shed: Bigshot Camera Kit

If you attended Maker Faire New York this year, you may have overheard Shree Nayar’s presentation about the Bigshot Camera Kit, or noticed it for sale in the Maker Shed tent. If you missed it, here’s your chance, because they are now available for immediate shipping in the Maker Shed online store.
EL362_parts_packing1_CS2_R2
The Bigshot camera was designed with education in mind. It’s a complete digital camera that you assemble yourself, learning how it works along the way. The detailed descriptions, illustrations, and demonstrations teach you the fundamental concepts of optics, mechanics, electromagnetism, electronics and image processing as you build the camera. Once complete, the camera allows you to tap into your potential as a photographer. You’ll learn how to compose shots, experiment with lighting, framing, motion, and how to use the polyoptic wheel to explore new creative views – including 3D. After your pictures are taken, use the free Bigshot software (PC and Mac versions available) to download, process, and share your images with the world.
Using Bigshot 2
Although the Bigshot was designed for young makers, it’s just as much fun for adults. It’s also green in that it requires no batteries or external power. Just wind the integrated crank when your batteries get low and keep taking pictures!
More details and tech specs for the BigShot Camera Kit can be found in theMaker Shed.

PCB Mill-Drill Built From Makeblock Beams

PCB Mill-Drill Built From Makeblock Beams996886_624810084207717_1296601224_n


Makeblock is a sweet aluminum building set that has facilitated the creation of some cool projects ranging from nanoscopes to xylophones.
Stijn Kuipers is using his Makeblock to build a PCB mill with two rotary tools, one for boring the vias, and the other for milling the traces. It uses three microstep stepper drivers, one for the Y and two to control the Z for the drills. The idea is that Stijn can set up his PCBs to fully mill on a single machine. Pretty sweet!

The Chronophotonic Lamp Switcher

The Chronophotonic Lamp SwitcherM35_Proj_EFF_Chronophotonic_opener


When I go traveling, I like to leave a timer-controlled lamp in my living room to deter burglars. But where I live, the sun sets two hours later in midsummer than midwinter, and I have to remember to adjust the timer with the seasons. Even then, what about stormy nights when the light fades early?
I needed a way to turn on a lamp when outside light levels dim, but off at a fixed time every night when I would normally go to sleep. The “on” function should be controlled by light, the “off” function by a clock. I couldn’t buy a gadget to do this, so I built my own.

A Phototransistor and a Comparator

Figure A.
Figure A.
Suppose you wire a phototransistor as in Figure A, and point it at the sky. If you recall my key-card door lock from MAKE Volume 33, you’ll know that the voltage at point X will gradually fall as the sun sets.
Figure B.
Figure B.
We use a comparator, symbolized in Figure B, to convert this gradual change into a sharp, clean signal to turn on a lamp. The + and – signs on the input pins do not mean to apply positive and negative voltage. Rather, both pins accept positive voltage, and if the + input rises higher than the – input, the comparator output flips from low to high — and vice versa.
Figure C.
Figure C.
Figure D.
Figure D.
The LM339 is a cheap, reliable chip containing 4 comparators (Figure C), each built around an NPN transistor with “open collector” output. (Some comparators use CMOS transistors with an “open drain” output, but the principle is the same.) To get a positive signal, you attach a “pull-up” resistor, as in Figure D.
A “high” output from the comparator is created when the transistor inside it blocks current from the pull-up resistor and diverts it to other components. A “low” output is when the transistor sinks current from the pull-up resistor and takes it from other components.
If we connect the output to a 555 timer wired in monostable mode, the transition will make it emit a single high pulse, which can be amplified by a transistor to activate a latching relay, which can turn on a lamp. (For more information about relays and other components, please see my Encyclopedia of Electronic Components, Volume 1.)
Figure E.
Figure E.
The circuit is powered by an AC adapter, with an alkaline battery backup (Figure E). In a blackout, the battery will run the circuit for at least 24 hours. In normal use, an AC adapter rated 10VDC or more will prevent the battery from discharging. Be sure it’s an alkaline battery, not rechargeable. Don’t omit the fuse.

Clocking the Lamp

Now we can switch the lamp on. What about off? The easiest way is to modify a cheap battery-powered digital alarm clock. If you can’t find a Sharp SPC500J, just make sure to get one that runs off two 1.5V batteries.
Put in the batteries, open the case, and set the alarm one minute ahead. Press your multimeter’s black probe against the negative end of the battery pair, and when the alarm starts, test voltage into and out of the beeper with the red probe. Set your meter to AC volts, since most clocks use a stream of pulses to create an audio signal. Now silence the alarm, and check for DC volts.
Figure F.
Figure F.
In my clock, the beeper has a positive DC voltage on both sides when it is off, because it is wired as in Figure F. A transistor triggers the beeper by grounding it, pulling down the voltage on one side. (I have shown the transistor separately, but it’s probably built into the chip that runs the clock.) The voltage between the beeper and transistor is normally high; when the alarm goes off, it goes low.
Figure G.
Figure G.
If we tap into the circuit, as in Figure G, the voltage transition can activate the 555 timer we use to switch off the relay. Attach an output wire to any point in the alarm wiring where the voltage fluctuates above and below 2V. In some clocks, the beeper may go low-high instead of high-low, but that’s OK. The circuit will accept low-high-low or high-low-high, steady or pulsed current, AC or DC, just so long as the high is above, and the low below, 2V. If you can’t get that range, substitute a resistor for the beeper (or LED), as shown. Start with 1K and increase as needed.
M35_EFF-1-cropped
My clock also illuminates an LED for 5 seconds when the alarm sounds. I decided to use that as my alarm signal instead of the beeper, but the LED didn’t create the necessary voltage drop, so I substituted a 100K resistor (Figure H).

Details

Figure I.
Figure I.
Figure J.
Figure J.
Figure I shows an overview of the circuit, and Figure J the schematic. The clock signal passes through resistor R5 to a second LM339 comparator, triggering a second 555, powering the relay’s “off” coil via transistor Q2.
For long-term use, the clock is powered from the switcher circuit with an LM7833 voltage controller. Remove the batteries, solder wires to the battery carrier contacts, and run them out through a hole drilled in the case, along with the alarm output wire. Set the reference voltage on the second comparator to 2V using potentiometer P2, and test it with a meter. Now, when the alarm goes off, it should trigger the second 555 timer.
Capacitors C1 and C2 isolate the timers from DC voltage while allowing transitions to pass. Resistors R7 and R8 hold the timer inputs high until a transition occurs. R3 provides positive feedback from the first comparator’s output to its input to reinforce the transition and make it fast and clean.
Figure K.
Figure K.
Figure K shows the relay pinouts from above. The transistors powering the coils will cause a slight voltage drop, so I’ve specified a 3V relay rated for pulses up to 4.5V. Test its outputs with 2 LEDs. Once you’ve got it working on a breadboard, solder the relay onto a perf board, and check that the joints are secure. Cover them with liquid insulation, and absolutely do not omit the 1A fuse. Use an incandescent bulb no brighter than 60W.
To protect your phototransistor, point it through a window without any direct sun. At sunset, set a very low reference voltage with potentiometer P1, and gradually increase until the lamp turns on. (To test this function, use any bright light that dims gradually.) Now trigger the alarm. The lamp should turn off.
NOTE: If you upgrade to house current to switch a lamp, be careful! Never run house current to a breadboard!
A complete breadboarded circuit showing the orange relay with input transistors and 2 green test LEDs, two 555 timers with red test LEDs, blue trimmer potentiometers, LM339 quad comparator chip, and voltage regulators for 3.3VDC and 5VDC.
A complete breadboarded circuit showing the orange relay with input transistors and 2 green test LEDs, two 555 timers with red test LEDs, blue trimmer potentiometers, LM339 quad comparator chip, and voltage regulators for 3.3VDC and 5VDC.

Why Not Use a Microcontroller?

You’d still need 2 transistors to power the relay and an external clock for accurate long-term timekeeping. You wouldn’t need a comparator, because the microcontroller could directly process the alarm signal and phototransistor input. You’d have to guess at the software value that corresponds to a “sunset” state, download the program, test it, edit it to adjust the value, etc. Personally, I think twiddling a potentiometer is easier.

The Atlanta Mini Maker Faire in Photos

The Atlanta Mini Maker Faire in Photos

The third annual Atlanta Mini Maker Faire was this past Saturday on Georgia Tech’s campus. The weather was nice, the football team had an away game (therefore leaving the campus devoid of rowdy fans), and the makers were out in full swing. Check out a few highlights below:
View All
Photos by Brian Gardner
Congrats to the production team on a great show. I’m looking forward to coming out again next year to see how much it’s grown.

Transforming Papercraft Robot From Caramel Boxes

Transforming Papercraft Robot From Caramel Boxescaramel-box-robot-1

caramel-box-robot-2
caramel-box-robot-3
Before you go throwing out all your post-Halloween candy boxes, maybe you should consider undertaking an incredibly ambitious papercraft project with them, like this unbelievably detailed transforming robot made from caramel boxes by Dori Asuka.
Anime Golden Warrior Gold Lightan aired in Japan during the early 1980s and followed the adventures of a young boy and a gold cigarette lighter than turned into a giant robot.
Just a thought.

Transfer the MintDuino from Breadboard to Perfboard

Transfer the MintDuino from Breadboard to Perfboard

The MintDuino kit is a fantastic project to help you learn the basic circuitry of an Arduino clone, but it is not mechanically sturdy enough for most projects. This breadboard-to-perfboard project will provide a solution to make your MintDuino as strong as the tin it comes in! Plus, this board layout even allows a 9V battery to fit in the tin alongside the perfboard MintDuino.
DSC_0939

Best Day of the Dead Costume Ever

Best Day of the Dead Costume Everday of the dead

We spied this amazing Day of the Dead costume online today. The dress is skillfully made of “cups, plates, and plastic utensils,” and it looks like the suit is made of garbage bags. Not sure how “recycled” the materials are, but a great re-imagining of those form factors nonetheless. Do you know who these makers are? If so, let us know in the comments so we can give them the credit they deserve. It was just too good not to share.

Making Pigments

Making PigmentsM35_Proj_Pigment_Opener_01

After reading about ferrofluids (liquids with magnetic properties) in MAKE, I started trying to make my own. I learned how to electrolyze water with iron electrodes to create magnetite — a jet-black iron-oxide — and realized the same process could be used to make simple metal oxide pigments. Instead of just buying supplies at the art store, I wanted to make a painting truly “from scratch.”
Electrolysis is the process of using direct current to cause a chemical reaction that would not otherwise occur. It requires an electrolyte, 2 electrodes, and a current source. It has many applications, but the most common is probably electroplating, which is used, for example, to coat a large piece of cheaper metal with a small amount of a more expensive one that is more attractive or a
better conductor.
My pigment-making process is dirt simple. The current source is an old cellphone charger with the plug cut off. The electrodes are pieces of common metal hardware, and because they’re identical I don’t have to pay attention to the current’s polarity. The electrolyte is just salt water.
The reaction takes 3 hours and produces a brownish-black mixture of iron oxyhydroxides. It can be repeated with copper electrodes to give a vibrant orange.

SAFETY

This process creates a small amount of hydrochloric acid in the dish. It won’t be a lot, but if you keep your hands submerged in it long enough, you could get a rash. It also creates a small amount of chlorine gas, which is poisonous! Work on a small scale in a large, well-ventilated room. Do not attempt to use this process to make large quantities of metal oxides. Finally, it creates large amounts of hydrogen and oxygen gases, which can be explosive if allowed to build up. Again, stick to small scales and work with plenty of ventilation, away from ignition sources.

Robot Hacks: Sign Up Your Team, Get Awesome Gear

Robot Hacks: Sign Up Your Team, Get Awesome Gearrobot hacks

Want some equipment to help make your robot endeavor a reality?
We’re recruiting teams to participate in Robot Hacks, our upcoming series of expert discussions and builds about open-source robotic projects happening in the Maker community. If you’re a makerspace with some build skills that you want to flex, a school program eager to further your students’ robotics capabilities, or even just a group of pals who want to solder some modules, be sure to sign up to get your group on our list of Robot Hacks participants.
In return for your commitment to work on a robotics creation of your own selection and documenting it on our Robot Hacks community page, we’ll send you a great package of supplies (free!), including the Ultimate Micrcontroller Pack, servos, shields and connectors from Adafruit, and a variety of Make books and other materials.
Through November, we’ll be interacting with the teams on our G+ page, checking in with experts, and highlighting the creations you’ve assembled. We’re excited to have your participation, so sign up and get going.
rt6oabexxb2audgu

Q-Tips and Earwax Appetizer

Q-Tips and Earwax Appetizerear-pesto-1


If your party guests are people who you’d like to remain friends with then maybe it’s for the best if you don’t have time to make these Q-tips and earwax appetizers from The Food In My Beard, but these look so gross that they’re totally making my holiday anyway. If make_halloweenbadgeV2 (1)you do have a few friends that you’d like to get rid of then you can watch Dan Whalen demonstrate how he makes this unique dish (complete with homemade ear bowl) on Massachusetts morning show “Mass Appeal” (starting at about 6:45).

No cigarettes if under 21: New York City approves new anti-tobacco law

No cigarettes if under 21: New York City approves new anti-tobacco lawAFP Photo / Spencer Platt


Lawmakers in New York City have approved a measure that will increase the legal age for purchasing tobacco, cigarettes and related products up from 18 to 21.
The City Council approved the bill on Wednesday this week, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he plans to sign it soon after it arrives on his desk. The ‘Tobacco 21’ initiative will then go on the books 180 days later, raising the legal age for purchasing tobacco products in the Big Apple to well above the national standard.
Eighteen is the legal age for purchasing cigarettes, cigar, tobacco and accessories in most of the United States, sans a handful of jurisdictions where the threshold is 19. Needham, Massachusetts — a suburb of Boston — for example, raised the legal smoking age there to 21 in 2005.
"We know that tobacco dependence can begin very soon after a young person first tries smoking, so it's critical that we stop young people from smoking before they ever start," Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement this week.
The legislation will also impose a mandatory minimum price in NYC for cigarette packages — $10.50 — and will allow for authorities to impose fines starting at $1,000 for storekeepers who sell to customers under 21.
If shops in the city are caught violating the new law more than once, the city can consider an array of other options, such as revoking a vendor’s cigarette-selling license. Shopkeepers are understandably opposed to the measure, and James Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, issued a statement warning that incidental purchases can soon dwindle at local retailers, potentially costing the industry thousands of jobs.
On the other side of the argument, however, lies a compelling case courtesy of city officials who say the initiative could save millions of New Yorkers who might otherwise increase the odds of developing diseases attributed with smoking.
"This will literally save many, many lives," an emotional City Councilman James Gennaro, the bill's sponsor, told reporters after the bill was signed.
Both Gennaro’s mother and father died from tobacco-related illnesses, but he suggested to the New York Daily News that others around the country might not be as unfortunate if other cities opt to follow New York’s lead.
We’re the first ones to act. Once we go, I think the dominoes are going to fall, and I think this is a very good day for the city and ultimately for the state and for the country,” Gennaro said. “We looked at other places that have gone to 21 in other parts in the world and we saw that there was a big difference to be made by doing that,” he added.
"We have to do more and that's what we're doing today," added City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who told reporters that “this is literally legislation that will save lives.”
"We have a real chance of leading the country and the world,” insisted Quinn.
Opponents of the bill, however, say it will only make worse the underground black-market that allows underage smokers to acquire tobacco products elsewhere.
"New York City already has the highest cigarette tax rate and the highest cigarette smuggling rate in the country," Bryan D. Hatchell, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, told the AP. "Those go hand in hand and this new law will only make the problem worse.”
Ray Story, founder of the Atlanta-based Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, also told the AP reporters that he didn’t favor raising the legal age.
Is 21 the right number? People can join the Army at 18,” Story said.
The “Tobacco 21” law, once signed by Mayor Bloomberg, will also apply to electronic, or e-cigarettes, like the kind sold by members of Story’s trade group.

Israeli planes strike Syrian military base - US official confirms to media

Israeli planes strike Syrian military base - US official confirms to mediaA-Latakia, B-Damascus (Google Map)


Israeli warplanes struck a Syrian air defense base near the port city of Latakia on Thursday, an Obama administration official confirmed to CNN.
The US official said that the Israelis believed the base near Snobar Jableh, south of Latakia, had sensitive and sophisticated missile equipment that may have been transferred to the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
The strikes targeted and destroyed an SA-8 surface-to-air missile shipment, Israeli media reported. 
Earlier, Dubai-based broadcaster al-Arabiya reported two attacks carried out by the Israeli Air Forces – one in Latakia and the other one in Damascus. 
Neither the Syrian nor Israeli governments have commented on the alleged attacks.
Israeli soldiers prepare their tanks during a military exercise near the northern border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on October 02, 2013.(AFP Photo / Jack Guez)
Israeli soldiers prepare their tanks during a military exercise near the northern border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on October 02, 2013.(AFP Photo / Jack Guez)

Grave mistake: Gestapo chief buried 'in Jewish cemetery in Berlin'

Grave mistake: Gestapo chief buried 'in Jewish cemetery in Berlin'The gravestone of German philosopher Moses Mendelssohn is seen beside the site of the mass grave at Grosse Hamburger Strasse Jewish cemetery in Berlin, October 31, 2013.(Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch)The gravestone of German philosopher Moses Mendelssohn is seen beside the site of the mass grave at Grosse Hamburger Strasse Jewish cemetery in Berlin, October 31, 2013.(Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch)


Heinrich Mueller, one of the most senior Nazis and one of the organizers of the Holocaust, whose fate after the Second World War was until now unknown, is buried in a Jewish cemetery in Germany’s capital, a historian claims.
Mueller ran the Gestapo secret police throughout World War Two and was last seen in Adolf Hitler’s bunker the day after the Fuehrer committed suicide in 1945.
He said that he never would let himself be captured by the Russians, while investigations by British and American forces found no evidence that he died in the fall of Berlin, or that he was among one of the few Nazis who escaped to South America.
But now Professor Johannes Tuchel says he has found evidence that Mueller did die in Berlin in 1945. He was first, says Tuchel, buried in a grave in the Luftwaffe headquarters but then consigned to a mass grave in a Jewish cemetery.
“From my point of view, all mysteries around Heinrich Mueller are solved,” said Tuchel, speaking to Reuters at the German Resistance Memorial Center in the German defense ministry. The building is significant because it’s where the German officers who tried to assassinate Hitler in the Stauffenberg plot were executed.
Tuchel re-examined evidence from a grave digger after the war, who was then located in communist East Germany and remembered burying a man in a general’s uniform in the Berlin-Mitte Jewish cemetery in 1945. 
Heinrich Mueller, born 28/04/1900 was an important man in the Gestapo and reported first of all to Reinhard Heydrich, who was one of the main architects of the Holocaust, and then directly to Heinrich Himmler, head of the paramilitary SS. After Hitler’s fall, various rumors surfaced as to Mueller’s whereabouts. In 1951 he was said to be working as the right hand man to the Stasi chief in East Germany. In 1963 some papers alleged that he had been buried in the Neukolln district of Berlin, but these turned out to be false. 
“Grave diggers found Mueller's corpse in a temporary burial place near the former Reich’s Aviation Ministry," Tuchel told the Bild.
He said the inspection of the body did not leave any doubt about the identity of the deceased, as Mueller "was wearing a general's uniform. On the inside, his service ID with a photo was in the left breast pocket, among other things.”
Tuchel also traced documents and military medals found on the body to archives in Berlin and then cross referenced that with data from German and CIA intelligence. The historian discovered that a grave digger called Walter Luders told police in 1963 that he had buried Muller personally and that he had seen his face. The statement was dismissed at the time.
The Jewish cemetery, where Mueller appears now to have been buried, was desecrated by the Nazis and became the site for the mass graves of 2,700 people who had been killed in allied air raids and subsequently during the fall of Berlin. It has now been turned into a Jewish memorial.
“It’s an insult to the memory of the victims” and “in outrageously bad taste that a brutal Nazi sadist should be buried in a Jewish cemetery,” said Dieter Graumann, chairman of the Central Council of Jews, in a statement, issued in response to Tuchel’s report.
This is not the first time that a corpse thought to be Mueller’s has been discovered.
In August 1945, the remains of an SS Gruppenf├╝hrer, with Heinrich Muller’s ID, were found on the territory of the Ministry of Aviation. The body was first buried in the Hamburger Street cemetery and then on Lilienthalstrasse Garrison Cemetery in Berlin.
In September 1963, on the orders of the prosecutor's office, the tomb was opened. However, the examination found that the remains did not bear any relation to Mueller.

Texas man arrested and jailed for overdue library book

Texas man arrested and jailed for overdue library bookAFP Photo / Christophe Simon


Failing to return a library book often results in a fine, but it landed one Texas man behind bars.
On Wednesday, Jory Enck was booked into jail, and later released, because he had failed to return an overdue book to the Copperas Cove city library. He has had a GED study guide checked out since 2010.
According to a controversial city ordinance, residents who fail to respond to calls or emails concerning overdue library materials for more than 90 days are reported to the municipal court, which can then issue an arrest warrant.
As the local KWTX-TV notes, if law enforcement encounters an individual with an overdue material warrant on their record, he or she can be arrested and booked into jail. Typically, people are then released the same day on a $200 bond.
The city ordinance isn’t very popular, but Municipal Court Judge Bill Price said the bill was originally passed to save money, and that many residents could see both sides of the issue.

"The reason they passed it was that they were spending a tremendous amount of money replacing these materials that people just didn't return,” Price said, according to Yahoo News.
"Universal hatred,” he added regarding perception of the law. “Nobody wants to get arrested over a library book. The other side of that is people that go to our library and can't have these materials, they're put out too."
This is the second Texas arrest that’s made the headlines this month, following a report concerning a Richland Hills woman who was arrested, strip-searched, and jailed because she failed to pay a traffic ticket on time.
When it comes to overdue library books, though, Texas hasn’t been the only state to make waves. In 2011, police arrested an Iowa man for failing to return roughly $700 worth of loaned materials.
In 2012, four-year-old Pennsylvania girl Katelyn Jageman was questioned by police about why she had not returned her books to the library. She wasn’t jailed, but her mother had to pay an $81 fine.
That same year, a five-year-old girl in Massachusetts broke down and cried after being approached by police concerning her overdue books.
In this most recent case, Enck declined to comment on the incident, though the GED study guide in question did show up at the local library the day after his arrest.

Cops in bankrupt Detroit forced to buy own uniforms

Cops in bankrupt Detroit forced to buy own uniformsReuters / Rebecca Cook


Patrolling the streets of bankrupt Detroit, Michigan is no easy feat for the local police department, and budget woes are about to make things ever for difficult for law enforcement officers in the Motor City.
The president of the Detroit Police Officers Association told a local CBS affiliate that city cops are going to have to empty out their own wallets if they want to remain fully equipped while on the job. The financially-devastated city is cutting back on spending left and right, and new slashes to the budget mean officers are going to soon be responsible for buying their own uniforms and ammunition.
According to remarks made by DPOA President Mark Diaz to Detroit’s WWJ News, officers will be issued a single uniform upon joining the force. After that, every extra outfit they want to wear while on patrol is going to have to be paid for with their own money.
It’s obviously to the world the city of Detroit’s in a fiscal state of emergency, so the funds really aren’t being allocated to the uniforms as they should be,” Diaz told the station.
Officers are awarded an annual stipend for clothing, Diaz added, but that amount is hardly enough to keep cops comfortable all year long, he told WWJ.
“[T]he stipend that an officer gets on an annual basis is not enough, truly, to keep the officers outfitted properly,” Diaz said.
The uniform just doesn’t stop with the shirt, the hat and the pants,” Diaz added. “[P]arts of the uniform such as boots, those aren’t covered; and the true quality boots that last and that can live up to the rigors of patrolling in a city like the city of Detroit — that’s an extra $300 on an annual basis.”
According to the union president, some officers on the force make as little as $14 an hour, making just a pair of boots cost the equivalent of working for three days after taxes.
That, Diaz added, doesn’t even take into account the money some officers may have to spend if they want to stay fully armed while out on patrol. Diaz told WWJ the officers are given ammunition for weapons qualification, but a cop who blows through his personal inventory — during target practice at a shoot range, for instance — may be forced to purchasing extra firepower on his own.
Depending on how much extra time at the firing range that officer needs, now that number can go through the roof,” Diaz said. “It’s not uncommon for officers to spend thousands of dollars a year just on ammunition.”
And in a city like Detroit, staying fully equipped is something that even citizens may want to consider. A recent Federal Bureau of Investigation report revealed that Motown ranked in third place last year with regards to the most murders, clocking in with 386 behind Chicago, Illinois and New York, New York. Upon publication of that report, Reid Wilson of the Washington Post wrote that, taking into account Detroit’s population, those numbers equate to roughly one murder for every 1,832 residents in the city.
In July, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said that despite the “best efforts” made by Detroit’s Office of the Emergency Manager, the city was unable to reach a restructuring plan that would allow it to pay the $18 billion-plus it owes in outstanding debts. Gov. Snyder has tasked an emergency manager, bankruptcy effort Kevin Orr, to manage the city’s finances and it attempts to avoid a total collapse.

US readies for $400 bln nuclear arms upgrade

US readies for $400 bln nuclear arms upgradeReuters/RC/ME


High-ranking Pentagon officials told members of Congress this week that the United States is in dire need of billions of dollars’ worth of upgrades to the country’s arsenal of antiquated atomic warheads.
Before a meeting of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, United States Department of Defense officials said the US must spend at least a decade working to revitalize the high-power weapons, and insisted that doing otherwise could be detrimental to the country’s national security.
Madelyn R. Creedon, the assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, insisted to lawmakers that the US is obligated to move forward with plans to invest a tremendous amount of time and money into the program, because the repercussions of not doing so would be not worth risking.
Modernization work of this kind is expensive, but there is no doubt that the investment ... is necessary,” Creedon said, according to Reuters’ David Alexander.
Alexander reported that Creedon considers the US’ B61 gravity bomb, currently deployed in Europe, a “cornerstone” of America’s commitment to protect its fellow NATO nations.
Elsewhere during the hearing, the commander of the US Strategic Command said that three key functions performed by the nation’s nuclear arsenal could be questioned if upgrades aren’t made soon.
America’s warheads deter potential adversaries, assure allies and partners and “in the unlikely event deterrence fails, [they employ] nuclear weapons when directed by the president to achieve US and allied objectives,” Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler told the committee, according to the American Forces Press Service.
To do as much, Kehler said, requires repairing and replacing of old components that have degraded over the course of several decades.
Our requirement to deter nuclear attack is a military mission,” Kehler said. “This B-61 weapon arms the B-2. It will arm the future long-range strike platform. It arms the dual-capable aircraft that are forward stationed in Europe as well as those of our NATO allies.”
Earlier in the hearing, Creedon told the panel that the last time the country’s nuclear stockpile was fully examined and upgraded accordingly occurred in the 1990s when the production of new warheads was suspended.
Launching an operation now, though — even if some call it imperative — is too costly to consider for others. The non-partisan Stimson Center think-tank estimated last year estimated that the cost of upgrading the nation’s entire nuclear arsenal over the course of a decade, including weapons, infrastructure and delivery systems, could come at a price-tag as high as $400 billion. At the same time, the sequestration deal signed earlier this year calls for the Pentagon to slash spending by roughly $1 trillion during that same time-span.
Not all say it’s worth it, and among those is Kingston Reif, an analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. According to Reuters, Reif said that spending even as little as $11 billion to upgrade just the B61 bomb would be inappropriate.
"That program is unaffordable, unrealistic and unnecessary because there are cheaper alternatives to extend the life of the weapon,” Reif said in a recent interview cited by Reuters.
Others, including the Pentagon’s Kehler, said it is something that should be done despite any astronomical costs.
Equipping current and future nuclear bombers is a “necessary and crucial component of the triad and arming that force is a top priority,” Kehler said at this week’s hearing.

Fukushima taboo? Politician draws Japanese Emperor into nuclear controversy

Fukushima taboo? Politician draws Japanese Emperor into nuclear controversyJapanese lawmaker Taro Yamamoto (3rd L) hands a letter to Emperor Akihito (front C), while Empress Michiko (R) looks on, during the annual autumn garden party at the Akasaka Palace imperial garden in Tokyo October 31, 2013. (Reuters//Kazuhiro Nogi)Japanese lawmaker Taro Yamamoto (3rd L) hands a letter to Emperor Akihito (front C), while Empress Michiko (R) looks on, during the annual autumn garden party at the Akasaka Palace imperial garden in Tokyo October 31, 2013. (Reuters//Kazuhiro Nogi)


An anti-nuclear lawmaker broke a taboo, drawing heavy criticism in Japan, by handing the Emperor a letter of concern over the issue of the growing Fukushima radiation and the impact on children’s health.
Taro Yamamoto, an independent lawmaker at the Tokyo prefecture in the House of Councilors, the upper house of the Japanese parliament, personally handed the letter to Emperor Akihito during a party at the Akasaka Palace’s imperial garden on Thursday.
The vocal anti-nuclear activist said that he wanted to inform the Emperor “directly” of the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant north of Tokyo. The Tohoku earthquake that hit off Japan’s Pacific coast in March 2011 triggered a tsunami that damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi. Since then the plant has been leaking radioactivity leading to the evacuation of more than 150 000 people. The land surrounding the plant has been off-limits due to high radiation that can cause cancer and other health problems.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (in red helmet), wearing protective suit and mask, is briefed about tanks containing radioactive water by Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant chief Akira Ono (4th R) during his inspection tour to the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, September 19, 2013. (Reutes/Japan out)
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (in red helmet), wearing protective suit and mask, is briefed about tanks containing radioactive water by Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant chief Akira Ono (4th R) during his inspection tour to the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, September 19, 2013. (Reutes/Japan out)

"I wanted him to know about the children who have been contaminated by radiation. If this goes on, there will be serious health impacts," said Yamamoto.
Emperor Akihito inclined his head as he took the letter in his hand but then handed it to a chamberlain, said Yamamoto adding that His Imperial Majesty made no comment.
The politician’s initiative set off a storm of protest in the Japanese media with many saying that his action was inappropriate breaking the “taboo” of involving a member of the Imperial Family in politics.
Some critical netizens called on Yamamoto to resign from parliament calling his action “really low."
Chief cabinet secretary, Yasuhide Suga, also expressed disapproval, telling a news conference, "There is a line for appropriate behavior at such an occasion".
The Emperor in Japan fills a ceremonial role. According to the first article of the postwar constitution, the emperor is “the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power." While the Japanese parliament - the Diet – remains the highest organ of state power, the emperor usually convenes it. His Majesty also bestows decorations on deserving citizens and receives foreign ambassadors.
Japan's Emperor Akihito (2nd R) walks with Empress Michiko, as the Imperial family members follow towards a crowd of guests during the annual autumn garden party at the Akasaka Palace imperial garden in Tokyo October 31, 2013. (Reuters/Kazuhiro Nogi)
Japan's Emperor Akihito (2nd R) walks with Empress Michiko, as the Imperial family members follow towards a crowd of guests during the annual autumn garden party at the Akasaka Palace imperial garden in Tokyo October 31, 2013. (Reuters/Kazuhiro Nogi)

The politician’s concern comes as the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant responsible for the decontamination, struggles to cope with the aftermath of the nuclear crisis.
At the beginning of October the combined Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 readings just outside the damaged No. 2 reactor jumped to 1,200 becquerels per liter, the highest levels of radiation recorded since late 2011. 
In attempts to tackle the problem, the Japanese government is reportedly considering stripping the Fukushima nuclear operator of the responsibility to decontaminate the devastated station, while handing the issue and decommissioning of reactors from TEPCO to a government-affiliatedorganization. (link)
Amid rising concerns, UN scientists said that traces of radioactive contamination have been found in rice, and far out in the Pacific Ocean.
Nuclear power expert, Arnold Gundersen, told RT that the health risks are great and continue to increase every year.
“Somewhere between 100,000 to 1,000,000 [people] will over the next thirty years get cancer from this accident...1,000 additional cancers a year from eating fish from the Pacific.”