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White House drone raises security concerns

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 26, 2015 - 11:48am

The White House received an unlikely visitor early Monday – in the form of a drone.

Secret Service agents found a 2-foot-quad-copter drone on White House grounds and, although it ultimately was cleared as not a threat, there were concerns at first that it could be carrying explosives. A spokeswoman for the Secret Service would not say whether there are special protections against drones, The New York Times reported.

Early Monday afternoon, The Times also reported that the drone was operated by a government employee. The employee, who is not on the White House staff, told the Secret Service he lost control of the drone when he was flying it for recreation at 3 a.m. 

Flying any object over the White House grounds is prohibited, as is throwing anything onto the grounds or jumping over the fence.

After the 9/11 attacks, the Federal Aviation Association declared the airspace over Washington, D.C., a flight-restricted zone. Although the rules about small drone use around the president’s home are clear, rules governing the technology elsewhere in the United States remains murky.

Back in 2012 Congress ordered the FAA to integrate drones into the airspace for commercial use by the end of 2014, which opened up a floodgate of preemptive state and local government bills meant to limit the use of drones because of security concerns. The FAA ultimately failed to meet its deadline.

Although an official ruling has yet to be passed, in the interim the FAA has issued some pretty strict guidelines that limit almost all commercial drone use. Only 16 permits have been granted out of 295 applications — one to make movies in Hollywood. Drone use for recreational purposes is allowed as long as the drone files lower than 400 feet.  

But even those limitations have been challenged. A case in March of last year challenged the FAA’s right to regulate domestic drones when it hadn’t actually issued formal regulations. The FAA lost the case, and many drone or “unmanned aerial vehicle” owners took it to mean they were free to use the systems as they want until the final FAA regulations are released.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee conducted a hearing last week that explored the technological advancements and research developments in the drone industry. Members also discussed how to best integrate drones into the national airspace. A drone was even flown at the hearing as a demonstration. 

The FAA is scheduled to release new regulations any day now that would allow the use of small commercial drones weighting up to 55 pounds. Some believe the final rules may include requiring a pilot’s license for commercial use and keeping the drone within sight of the operator.

[Also by Miranda Green: Are journalism and satire the same thing?]

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Bill Clegg’s Debut Novel Is ‘Did You Ever Have a Family’

NY Times Books - January 26, 2015 - 11:27am
Bill Clegg, the literary agent, faced a different pressure when seeking a publisher for his debut work of fiction.

CHP warns public of telephone scam

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 26, 2015 - 11:02am

Authorities are warning the public about a series of phone scams in which the caller claims to be a member of the California Highway Patrol and asks for payment for missed jury duty, outstanding fines or an arrest warrant.

The CHP reports the callers typically tell people to purchase prepaid cards and call them back with the numbers to the cards. Similar scams have been reported to other law enforcement agencies.

The CHP does not call people seeking payment under any circumstances, and people should be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason, the agency said.

Anyone who receives such a call should contact the CHP at 549-3261.

Utility companies and government agencies never contact people for payment by prepaid card, and anyone who has the card’s number can access the funds, the CHP said. You also should never wire money or provide debit or credit card numbers to strangers.

If you suspect a scam over an alleged unpaid traffic citation or other court-imposed financial obligation, authorities say to ask the caller for the court case number, date of ticket or other specific information. With such information, people can verify the debt or confirm other details with the local court.

More information about telemarketing scams is available from the California Department of Consumer Affairs at 800-952-5210 or http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/telemarket.shtml.

CHP warns public of telephone scam

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 26, 2015 - 11:02am

Authorities are warning the public about a series of phone scams in which the caller claims to be a member of the California Highway Patrol and asks for payment for missed jury duty, outstanding fines or an arrest warrant.

The CHP reports the callers typically tell people to purchase prepaid cards and call them back with the numbers to the cards. Similar scams have been reported to other law enforcement agencies.

The CHP does not call people seeking payment under any circumstances, and people should be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason, the agency said.

Anyone who receives such a call should contact the CHP at 549-3261.

Utility companies and government agencies never contact people for payment by prepaid card, and anyone who has the card’s number can access the funds, the CHP said. You also should never wire money or provide debit or credit card numbers to strangers.

If you suspect a scam over an alleged unpaid traffic citation or other court-imposed financial obligation, authorities say to ask the caller for the court case number, date of ticket or other specific information. With such information, people can verify the debt or confirm other details with the local court.

More information about telemarketing scams is available from the California Department of Consumer Affairs at 800-952-5210 or http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/telemarket.shtml.

U.S. to Give $1 Billion to Fund Immunizations

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 26, 2015 - 10:42am
The U.S. government plans to donate $1 billion over the next four years to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, to fund immunizations for millions of children in developing countries.

Oklahoma to Postpone Executions Due to High Court Review

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 26, 2015 - 10:39am
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a request to postpone the pending executions of three men until the U.S. Supreme Court finishes reviewing the state’s lethal-injection process.

Medicare to Rework Billions in Payments

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 26, 2015 - 10:14am
The Obama administration set an ambitious goal to rework hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals in an effort to reduce waste and make older Americans healthier.

Light rain returns to Ventura County

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 26, 2015 - 10:04am

Light rain returned Monday to parts of Ventura County as a low-pressure system slowly moved north.

The forecast called for mostly cloudy skies and a few sprinkles during the day, followed by a greater chance of rain Monday evening.

Click here to see the current conditions in your area.

Rain was most likely in the Los Angeles County mountains, but also possible along the coast and valleys of Ventura County, the National Weather Service said.

Not much rain was expected to fall — only 0.10 to 0.25 of an inch in coastal and valley areas, the weather service said.

The rain might persist into Tuesday morning, forecasters said. Wednesday will be partly cloudy and warmer, they said. Another storm system was expected Thursday, but even weaker than Monday’s and expected to bring rain only to mountain areas.

Cleveland Challenges Federal Report on Police

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 26, 2015 - 10:02am
The Cleveland police department hasn’t demonstrated a systemic problem of excessive force despite the findings by federal Justice Department report late last year, according to the city’s police chief.
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