Warning about plot to blow up Universal City station prompts heightened security across Los Angeles County
– LA Times
“An overseas tip about an imminent bombing of the Metro Red Line’s Universal City station has forced federal and local law enforcement in Los Angeles to swiftly ramp up security across its sprawling transit system, authorities said Monday.
An anonymous man warned of a potential attack on Tuesday and provided the information on a tip line abroad, according to Deidre Fike, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s office in Los Angeles.
“This could be real, it could be a hoax,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell. “We’re asking the public to stay calm and vigilant.”
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said that area law enforcement reviews threats “constantly” but that this particular incident was “very specific” and forced a rapid response.
“We don’t have the time to vet this threat in the way we would like,” Beck said. “This one we had to move quickly on.”
Riders were told to expect an increased presence of uniformed police and sheriff’s deputies as well as K-9 units scouring the area for explosives.
McDonnell, whose department oversees security for the Los Angeles County Metro rail and bus system, said undercover operations would be conducted throughout the day.
Mayor Eric Garcetti asked the public to prepare for random bag searches, and said he would ride the Red Line on Tuesday morning from Universal City.
Foreign, Ghana security authorities shut down fake US Embassy in Accra
“A fake US Embassy which has been operating in Ghana for about 10 years has finally been discovered and shut down.
It is not clear exactly when that happened, but a joint task force of both Ghanaian and foreign security operatives shut down the fake Embassy operating somewhere in the capital, Accra, according to information published November 2, 2016 on the website of the US Department of State.
Members of an organized crime gang made up of Turkish and Ghanaian citizens operated the fake Embassy in Accra where they flew the American flag on the building every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 7:30am to 12 noon and issued fraudulently obtained, legitimate US visas, counterfeit visas, false identification documents (including bank records, education records, birth certificates, and others) for a cost of $6,000.
According to the Department of State, the suspects hanged a photo of President Barack Obama on the wall of the room and targeted mainly citizens of Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Togo.
The scam was discovered following investigations, which is a small part of a broader “Operation Spartan Vanguard” initiative.
“Operation Spartan Vanguard” was developed by Diplomatic Security agents in the Regional Security Office (RSO) at the US Embassy in Ghana in order to address trafficking and fraud plaguing the Embassy and the region.
The investigators also identified the main architects of the operation, and two satellite locations (a dress shop and an apartment building) used for operations.
It noted further that the scam operation didn’t accept walk-in services, but instead they went to the remote parts of West Africa to find customers that they brought to Accra and put in a nearby hotel.
During the raid, several suspects were arrested and evidence collected included a laptop computer; smartphones; 150 passports from 10 countries; legitimate and counterfeit visas from the US, the Schengen zone, India, and South Africa; and counterfeit identity documents.
While the information did not identify any of the suspects by name, it indicated that a Ghanaian immigration lawyer working with corrupt Ghana law enforcement officers were part of the scam.”
The government suspended naturalization ceremonies and banned officers from approving any new applications for citizenship earlier this week after realizing its background check system was broken and ineligible people may have been slipping through, a key congressman revealed Friday.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, whose office was tipped off to the monumental error, said he was stunned by the problem — and also by the fact that the administration never bothered to inform him of it.
In the internal email Mr. Goodlatte obtained, the associate director at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ordered all officers “not to approve or oath any naturalization cases in ELIS,” referring to the Electronic Immigration System that’s the case management system for processing applications.
“At this point we are not confident that proper FBI Name Checks have been run on certain ELIS cases. At this point we are uncertain of the scope of the problem,” Daniel M. Renaud, the associate director, said in the email.
FBI name checks are a critical part of the application process, giving immigration officers a look at potential criminal histories or other national security red flags that would make someone ineligible for citizenship.”
Let’s cut the crap: the country is under sustained, targeted attack by the Islamic ummah (it doesn’t matter which “countries” the would-be citizens stem from) and the FBI can’t get its act together on background checks??”
Carrier Will Receive $7 Million in Tax Breaks to Keep Jobs in Indiana
“As TV crews and reporters camped out in the lobby of Trump Tower on Monday, recording VIP arrivals in hopes of detecting new members of the incoming Donald Trump administration, a middle-aged corporate executive drew little notice.
Greg Hayes, chief executive of United Technologies Corp., wasn’t there to see Mr. Trump. He rode the gold-colored elevators to see Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and the two men then shook hands on a deal that seemed impossible months earlier, say people familiar with the matter.
The Indiana governor was offering $7 million over 10 years to encourage the company to keep in the state roughly one-third of the 2,100 jobs it planned to ship to Mexico. United Technologies would also get credit from the state for keeping 300 research and headquarters jobs that it didn’t plan to shift abroad.”
Suspect in Fatal Boston hit-and-run apprehended by Texas Rangers Returning from El Salvador
– Boston Globe | Dec 02
“The former Everett man allegedly responsible for a June hit-and-run crash that killed a 25-year-old man in Chelsea was arrested Thursday by Texas Rangers, marking the end to what officials called “an exhaustive investigation.”
Jose Daniel Arevalo, 34, was taken into custody just outside Houston, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office said in a prepared statement. Prosecutors believe he fled to El Salvador in the days after the crash but then returned to the United States.
He is expected to be brought back to Massachusetts to face the criminal charges at a later date.
Arevalo allegedly struck and killed Marco Salguero-Cruz with his Toyota Camry June 4 on Washington Street in Chelsea, prosecutors said. The driver fled and Salguero-Cruz was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he died.”
A Maryland teen, lured to the woods and stabbed 40 times, becomes latest victim of gang-related killings
“Members of the MS-13 street gang enlisted a 19-year-old woman to lure another teenager into a darkened Montgomery County park, where he was stabbed more than 40 times, according to police accounts of the county’s 10th gang-related killing in the past 10 months.
The accounts, filed this week in Montgomery District Court, underscored the horror of the slaying, with at least three assailants — one of them just 16 — who either held down the victim or repeatedly stabbed him.
“We really are seeing an unprecedented level of gang-related homicides,” said Capt. Paul Liquorie, director of the Montgomery Police Department’s Special Investigations Division.
In one of the suspected MS-13 killings last year in the county, assailants allegedly threw heavy rocks down on a victim as he crawled away from an attack toward a stream, according to court records. In another, the victim was told, “Get on your knees,” before being shot in the face, neck and shoulder while in the woods.
In the June 16 death of Cristian Antonio Villagran-Morales, 18, in Malcolm King Park in Gaithersburg, police said the 19-year-old, Vanesa Alvarado, used the promise of sex to entice Villagran-Morales into the park.
Police have arrested two suspects in the case, charging them with first-degree murder: Alvarado and Juan Gutierrez-Vasquez, 16, who allegedly took part in the attack. Police are looking for two more suspects: Oscar Ernesto Delgado-Perez, 27, and Jose Coreas Ventura, 20, who also goes by the name Jose Corea.
Court records do not indicate whether Gutierrez-Vasquez or Alvarado have retained attorneys. Police describe Alvarado as an “associate” of MS-13, a large gang with ties to El Salvador.
Detective Dimitry Ruvin, one of the investigators working the case, said the suspect, Gutierrez-Vasquez, came to Montgomery County from El Salvador in February and probably joined MS-13 after arriving. “I think he was recruited here,” Ruvin said.
At Gutierrez-Vasquez’s first court appearance on Tuesday, prosecutor Robert Hill said the 16-year-old had been enrolled at Gaithersburg High School but showed little interest in his studies. “He never went to school,” Hill said. “He was mostly interested in whatever the gang was doing.”
Immigration agents recently lodged a jail detainer against Gutierrez-Vasquez, an indication they could move to have him deported.
The Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, operates drug rings, human trafficking and prostitution networks extending from its base in El Salvador to Mexico, the United States and Canada, according to the Treasury Department. In October 2012, Treasury designated the group a “transnational criminal organization.”
In 2014, after years of relative quiet for the gang, FBI officials noted an upswing in violence. Experts attributed part of the resurgence to gang leaders in El Salvador attempting to reconstitute operations here in order to make more money.
In a report written last month, Montgomery police officials cited another factor for the renewal: the wave of teenagers migrating, without parents, from the gang violence of El Salvador and other Central American countries.
It’s not necessarily that the teenagers are arriving as hardcore gang members, but what seems clear, Liquorie said, is that by the time the teenagers get to Montgomery County, they often are isolated, broke, unable to speak English — and prime targets for area MS-13 members.”
Illegal Immigrant Ordered Deported Now Accused of Raping Minor in Virginia
“An illegal immigrant who was ordered to leave the country a year ago is now being sought by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for allegedly raping an underage girl.
Ronald Fabricio Herrera Contreras, 18, is wanted by ICE and the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia for allegedly raping a 15-year-old girl; abduction; assault and battery; and gang involvement, WJLA reported.
Contreras is accused by law enforcement of “dragging” the 15 year-old into a wooded area and then proceeding to rape her. The alleged gang member was reportedly given a “final order of removal” in June 2015 when he was found by immigration officials in Hidalgo, Texas.
ICE and Fairfax County police told local media that finding and arresting Contreras is now a top priority, partly due to the rape accusation and his illegal immigration status.
“Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino went missing Nov. 18. On Friday, authorities identified the headless body of a teenage boy, found the day before along the banks of the Merrimack River, as Viloria-Paulino, dashing the boy’s family’s prayers that it somehow wasn’t their Lee.
“The family is devastated, they’re shattered,” family spokesperson Linette Perez said from outside the family’s home Friday afternoon. “They still had hope that it wasn’t Lee.”
Viloria-Paulino, 16, was last seen in the area where his body was found, Perez said. He was with another boy who his family did not know well, she said. The boy had only come to the family’s home once.
The medical examiner’s office has declared the teenager’s death to be a homicide. No arrests have been made. Investigators recovered the boy’s head at the scene.”
– Note: The two stories from the Globe were on the front on the same day. In California we have had to grow accustomed to seeing this carnage at the hands of people who have no respect for our laws and borders. This problem is now coast to coast./CJ
California Republicans: Online Registration Allows Voter Fraud
“The California Republican Party is considering taking legal action to force the State of California to adopt a more secure system for online voter registration, alleging that the current system is too lax and allows for potential voter fraud.
“The [California] secretary of state’s website does not track the IP addresses of the people who register to vote,” Harmeet Dhillon, a former state party official, told the Los Angeles Times. “You could literally register hundreds or thousands of people from the same computer … There is more security on the websites that I shopped on Black Friday than there is on the secretary of state’s website.”
The California GOP has not produced evidence that any voter fraud actually took place through online registration in 2016. Recently, President-elect Donald Trump claimed that “millions” of people had voted illegally nationwide, and said there had been incidents of voter fraud in California, among other states. California’s Democratic Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, took exception to that claim, calling it an “irresponsible attempt to undermine confidence in our elections.”
California’s voting system, however, has been technologically backward for many years. A Pew study in 2014 ranked California 49th out of the 50 states in election administration. The system of online voter registration dates to 2012, well within the scope of the study.
The poor job that the Golden State does in managing voter databases and other election data is ironic, given the fact that the state’s high technology industry leads the world, and that Silicon Valley is a global hub of innovation in database management.
The task of managing voter registration in California is complicated by the fact that the state is home to a high proportion of the nation’s illegal aliens, some of whom volunteered openly for the Hillary Clinton campaign to register others to vote.”
Déjà Vu All Over Again: California’s DMV IT Project Cancelled
“The Golden State’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) must think it has checked into an IT version of Hotel California, where once a DMV modernization project is started, it can never ever finish it.
Last week, on behalf of DMV’s management, California’s CIO informed state legislators that it had decided to cancel at the end of January the remainder of its US $208 million, 6-year IT modernization project with Hewlett-Packard, which was supposed to be completed in May of this year. As reported in theLA Times, after spending some $134 million ($50 million on HP) and having “significant concerns with the lack of progress,” the DMV decided to call it quits and do a rethink of the program’s direction. HP had apparently saw the handwriting on the wall. Its contract ended last November, and HP refused to hire key staff until the contract was renegotiated.
The DMV IT modernization program was started in 2006 in the wake of a previous DMV project failure (called Info/California) that blew through $44 million between its start in 1987 and cancellation in 1994. That “hopeless failure,” as it was then described, was supposed to be a 5-year, $28 million effort; when it was terminated seven years in, the project’s cost to complete had skyrocketed to an estimated $201 million with an uncertain finish date. A 1994 LA Times story reported that an assessment found the DMV had limited experience in computer technology, grossly underestimated the project’s scope and size, and lacked consistent and sustained management. The project’s failure also sparked a full legislative probe.
The current DMV debacle, along with this month’s termination of the MyCalPay’s project, has spurred calls for yet another probe. Legislators could save a lot of time and money by just cutting and pasting from the the earlier project’s investigation. I’m sure they’ll find a lot of the same inexperience, underestimating, and inconsistent management.
Not all was lost in the current effort: at least a new system for issuing California drivers’ licenses was rolled out. However, the critical vehicle registration portion of the DMV system, with its decades-old “dangerously antiquated technology” (pdf), will have to stay in use while a new go-forward plan is developed.”
Obama Student Loan Foregiveness Plan To Cost Taxpayers $137 Billion, GAO Finds
– ZeroHedge | Tyler Durden
“To our complete shock, the Government Accountability Office has released a report blasting the Education Department’s understanding of basic mathematics and accounting concepts after finding the department drastically underestimated the costs of Obama’s student loan forgiveness programs. The 100-page report entitled “Federal Student Loans: Education Needs to Improve Its Income Driven Repayment Plan Budget Estimates” found that taxpayers could be on the hook for $137BN of student loans to be forgiven over the coming years as a result of Obama’s executive actions on “income-driven repayment” (IDR) plans.
For the fiscal year 2017 budget, the U.S. Department of Education (Education) estimates that all federally issued Direct Loans in Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans will have government costs of $74 billion, higher than previous budget estimates.
IDR plans are designed to help ease student debt burden by setting loan payments as a percentage of borrower income, extending repayment periods from the standard 10 years to up to 25 years, andforgiving remaining balances at the end of that period. While actual costs cannot be known until borrowers repay their loans, GAO found that current IDR plan budget estimates are more than double what was originally expected for loans made in fiscal years 2009 through 2016 (the only years for which original estimates are available). This growth is largely due to the rising volume of loans in IDR plans.
Education’s approach to estimating IDR plan costs and quality control practices do not ensure reliable budget estimates. Weaknesses in this approach may cause costs to be over- or understated by billions of dollars.
As the Wall Street Journal points out, the so-called IDR plans set caps on borrowers’ monthly student loan payments at 10% of discretionary income, which is defined as earnings above 150% of the poverty level. Then, whatever principal balance is left over on the loans at their maturity date is simply forgiven. ”
U.S. to Forgive at Least $108 Billion in Student Debt in Coming Years
– Wall Street Journal
GAO report offers first full cost estimate of debt-relief programs, berates Education Department over accounting methods
“GAO report offers first full cost estimate of debt-relief programs, berates Education Department over accounting methods
The Government Accountability Office disclosed the sum Wednesday in a report to Congress which for the first time projected the full costs of programs that set borrowers’ monthly payments as a share of their earnings and eventually forgive portions of their debt.
The GAO report also sharply criticized the government’s accounting methods for its $1.26 trillion student-loan portfolio, pointing to flaws that have led it to alter projected revenues significantly over the years. The government says it still expects the program to generate a profit over the long term, but it has repeatedly trimmed expectations for revenues.
President Barack Obama has promoted income-driven repayment plans—passed by Congress in the 1990s and 2000s—to stem a sharp rise in borrowers defaulting on their loans since the recession. Enrollment in such plans has more than tripled over the past three years to 5.3 million borrowers, who owe roughly $355 billion.
Ted Mitchell,undersecretary at the Education Department, said such programs “are helping millions of borrowers successfully manage loan repayment, particularly those for whom standard repayment may prove challenging.
The most generous version of income-driven repayments caps a borrower’s monthly payment at 10% of discretionary income, which is defined as adjusted gross income above 150% of the poverty level.
That formula typically lowers monthly payments of borrowers by hundreds of dollars. Public-service workers—those employed by a government agency or at most nonprofits—have balances forgiven after 10 years, tax-free. Private-sector workers have balances forgiven in 20 or 25 years, with the forgiven amount taxed as ordinary income.”