Friday, February 29, 2008

U.S. Faces 'Unusually Complex' Security Environment, Intel Official Says

The Pentagon's top intelligence official today told a Senate committee the United States is operating in a security environment that is "unusually complex."

During a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee here, Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, presented an analysis of current and future threats facing the U.S.

"That threat spectrum is bounded on the one side by traditional nation states with significant military inventories, and on the other by non-state terrorists or criminal networks that exploit the gaps and seams between nations, cultures, laws and belief systems," he said.

Outlining what he called "trends of concern," Maples said current threats include weapons of mass destruction, increasingly sophisticated and longer-range ballistic missiles, improvised bombs and suicide weapons, outer space and cyberspace vulnerabilities, and underground weapons systems produced by potential adversaries.

On Iraq, Maples said efforts by coalition and Iraqi forces, plus intelligence cooperation from concerned local citizens and a ceasefire by a Shiite militia, have created an improved security situation. Officials also have noted a decline in the number of foreign terrorists entering Iraq.

"The trends are encouraging," he said. "But they are not yet irreversible."

Al Qaeda in Iraq has been damaged, but is attempting to reignite sectarian violence in part by conducting "high profile" attacks, Maples said. The terrorist network largely has moved into the more permissive areas of northern Iraq where it remains committed to planning and supporting attacks beyond Iraq's borders, he added.

Maples said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, known as the Quds Force, continues to provide training, weapons and support to groups that attack coalition and Iraqi forces. "The Defense Intelligence Agency has not yet seen evidence that Iran has ended this assistance," he said.

The intelligence director noted improvements to Iraq's security forces. "Iraqi security forces, while reliant on coalition combat service support, have improved their overall capabilities and are increasingly leading counterinsurgency operations," he said.

Turning to Afghanistan, Maples said successful operations by U.S. and NATO forces have inflicted losses on Taliban leadership, and prevented the insurgent groups from conducting conventional operations.

"Despite their losses, the Taliban maintain access to local Pashtun and some foreign fighters and is employing suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices and small arms to increase attack levels," he said, citing ongoing challenges. "While the insurgency remains concentrated in the Pashtun-dominated south and east, it has expanded to some western areas."

In addition to the Taliban, the central government is challenged by corruption and a strong narcotics trade, Maples said. Debate among NATO members on counterinsurgency execution has led to "differences on many levels and approaches" to reconciliation, reconstruction and the use of direct combat power, he added.

On Afghanistan's national security forces, however, Maples said the Afghan army has fielded 11 of 14 infantry brigades, and more than one-third of its combat arms battalions have been assessed as being capable of leading operations with some coalition support.

Al Qaeda remains a threat to the stability of Afghanistan and surrounding nations and has made overtures to extend its reach into other continents, Maples said.

"Al Qaeda presents an increased threat to Pakistan, while it continues to plan, support and direct transnational attacks from its de facto safe haven in Pakistan's largely ungoverned frontier provinces," he said. "(And it) has extended its operational reach through partnerships and mergers with compatible regional terrorist groups, including a continued effort to expand into Africa."

Maples added the Defense Department's intelligence community is confident in the ability of Pakistan, a nation that possesses nuclear weaponry, to safeguard its arsenal. He also underscored the important role played by countries seeking to modernize their military forces, like China and Russia, and nations like Iran and North Korea which invest heavily in military capabilities.

Maples thanked the senators for supporting efforts by defense intelligence professionals, who he said work shoulder-to-shoulder with their national intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement counterparts.

"With the support of Congress, we continue to strengthen our ability to collect and analyze the military intelligence that policymakers and our commanders need in order to be successful," he said.
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
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Actions Taken by the Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists at its February 22 Meeting

The Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists held its monthly meeting on Friday, February 22, 2008.

The Board voted to approve the following individuals for licensure:

Clinical Social Worker

Mary Cobb, Roswell
Alan Densen, Athens
Janice Moore, Smyrna
Bertina Owens, Oswego, IL
Susan Payne, Atlanta
Kristen Sprayberry, Cataula
Janna Swanson-Barroso, Suwanee
Laura Weil, Denver, CO
Becky White, Hoschton

Master Social Worker

Grace Greene, Powder Springs
Jill Hungerford, Dalton
Lindsey Parrish, Atlanta
Tomika Powell-Holcomb, Douglasville
Sherika Wilson, Conyers
Susan Wuttke, Lakemont

Associate Professional Counselor

Pauline Anders, Norcross
Raymond Barrett, Tucker
Jason Bennett, Athens
Robert Bodzioch, Atlanta
LaToya Brantley, Phenix City, AL
Doris Cotton, Atlanta
Shonda Dallas, Fairburn
Whitney Dellinger, Marietta
Michael Dozier, Duluth
Brandon Hurley, Athens
Bradley Jones, Smyrna
Suneetha Manyam, Atlanta
Mark Mazzoni, Dahlonega
Keisha Mayer, Decatur
Elizabeth Melvin, Marietta
Nineshia Mont-Reynaud, Jackson
Nicole Muns, South Carolina
Jeremy Nunnelley, South Carolina
Sneha Patel, Pooler
Bernice Stokes, Vidalia
Lucy Tovar-Uurrillo, Phenix City, AL
Tara Towler, Dacula
Allison Zito, Roswell

Professional Counselor

Josephine Abney, Sugarhill
Rebecca Baldwin, Cummings
Suzanne Baroody, Midway
Dionne Clarke, Covington
Vida Dash, San Antoino, TX
Kimberly Hill, Warner Robins
Amy Iseman, Evans
Michele Lattimore-Smith, Milledgeville
Sharon McMahon, Atlanta
Jynger Morris, Valdosta
Sandra Morrissette, Warner Robins
Gloria Moses, Hephzibah
Gary Souders, Dahlonega
Marie Spada-Doherty, Montgomery, AL
Warren Umansky, Augusta
Erika Williams, Norcross
Yulanda Williams, Evans

Marriage and Family Therapists

Angela Bancroft, Hinesville
Elizabeth Bizzell, Warner Robins
Nina Kennedy, Brunswick
Hal Runkel, Duluth
Bettina Schillawski, Warner Robins

The Board voted to suspend the license of the following individual:

Tim Alfrey, Cumming: Unprofessional conduct.

The Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists will hold its next meeting Friday, March 14, 2008 at 9:00 a.m. at the Professional Licensing Boards Division in Macon, Georgia.

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New Campaign To Combat Teen Prescription Drug Abuse February 1, 2008The Office of National Drug Control policy launches a new effort to educate parents about teen prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse. Read More

Teens Are Abusing Benadryl to Get High KTRE-TV — 2/25/2008
Powerful and Dangerous Drugs Newsweek — 2/21/2008
Girls and Steroids: Anything to Be Thin ABC News — 2/20/2008
Trauma During Youth Linked to Increased Risk of Smoking USA Today — 2/20/2008
Pupils Popping Pills Portsmouth Herald News — 2/17/2008

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008


U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., today delivered the following remarks before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. The hearing, Chaired by U.S. Senator Joe Biden, D-Delaware, focused on the importance of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance (JAG) Grant Program, which helps pay for drug task forces, courts and treatment programs, police salaries, innovative technologies and gang prevention strategies.

Chambliss was invited to highlight the importance of this program to Georgia’s law enforcement community. In January, Chambliss called for Congress to provide robust funding for the Byrne/JAG program, which was severely cut last year in the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman:

I want to talk about this program for two main reasons: first because it is the program for which I have strongly advocated since arriving in the Senate and second because it is the program that received the most staggering cuts in the Omnibus Appropriations bill that Congress passed at the end of last year.

The Byrne/JAG program is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions – and the funding supports all components of the criminal justice system – from multi-jurisdictional drug and gang task forces to community crime prevention programs to substance abuse programs, prosecution initiatives, domestic violence programs, and information sharing initiatives. And I will tell you that our law enforcement officials – our sheriffs, our prosecutors, our drug court professionals, and many other public servants in the law enforcement community rely on this funding to make our communities safer.

The results they get with this Byrne/JAG funding are tangible and real. In my home state of Georgia the Byrne/JAG funding program has been essential to fighting crime, drugs, and gangs across the state. I’d like to highlight a few of the successes in Georgia from the Byrne/JAG Program during the 2006-2007 grant period:

multi-jurisdictional task forces were able to make 5,600 drug arrests and seize almost $50 million in drugs;
2,500 law enforcement officers were trained in more than 100 different classes offered by the Georgia Public Safety Training Center through its Drug Enforcement Training Program;
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s State Drug Task Force led a cooperative investigation resulting with an inter-state drug enforcement effort with Alabama that received national recognition;
The Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center is Georgia’s Homeland Security state-level fusion intelligence center. The Center expanded its “Southern Shield” initiative and widened the focus for intelligence integration in the region by coordinating with 12 other states within the southeast on intelligence collection and dissemination.
Nine drug court programs were supported as was a Mental Health Court Diversion Program.

During fiscal year 2007 when the national funding level was at $520 million, the State of Georgia received $12.4 million in Byrne/JAG funding. If we cannot restore the funding that was cut in the fiscal year 2008 Omnibus, Georgia is projected to receive just $4.6 million. This difference of $8 million will make a huge difference in Georgia. Sheriff John Cary Bittick from Monroe County, Georgia was recently in Washington, D.C. to urge that Congress find a way to restore this cut in funding. Sheriff Bittick is former president of the National Sheriffs’ Association and has been very active on this issue over the years. When we met he told me that without restoration of these funds, 60% of the drug task forces would disappear.

These cuts are of the scope that the drug task forces that rely on them cannot bridge the gap until we complete the fiscal year 2009 appropriations process. And I’m afraid that our rural areas will be most affected. My hometown is in a rural part of Georgia, down in the southwest part of the state, so I know firsthand the challenges that small town police chiefs and sheriffs face from a funding perspective. One great thing about the Byrne/JAG program is that the money is allocated so that 40% of the funding is distributed to local governments. In many cases, grants from the Byrne/JAG program are the only source of federal funding for sheriffs and police in smaller communities.

Immediate action is needed and I am pleased to join with so many of my colleagues to try to do just that in the supplemental appropriations bill that Congress is expected to take up this spring. I’m sure each and every member of this Senate has heard from law enforcement officials in their state about the importance of the Byrne/JAG program to helping them fight methamphetamine and other drug trafficking as well as gang violence and other crime.

I think this program enjoys such widespread bipartisan support here in the Senate because we know of the good results it produces and we know that for so many localities that this is where the rubber hits the road in terms of ability to tackle the critical tasks they face. Particularly in light of the new security environment in which we live in the post-9/11 world, as we call on state and local law enforcement to do more, we have to provide them with the resources they need to carry out their duties.

I thank the Chairman for allowing me the opportunity to put in the record the critical importance of Byrne/JAG funding for my home state of Georgia and I look forward to working with him and our other colleagues to ensure we provide the necessary support to our law enforcement officials.

Background on Chambliss Action:

In 2006, Chambliss and Senator Mark Dayton, D-Ohio, offered an amendment to restore $900 million in funding to the Byrne/JAG program as part of the Senate-passed budget. The measure was overwhelmingly supported by the Senate. Upon Dayton’s retirement from the Senate, Chambliss partnered with Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Ca., to introduce the legislation. Last year, Chambliss and Feinstein pushed to authorize more than $1 billion in much-needed support to state and local law enforcement task forces and other agencies each year through Fiscal Year 2012. The measure passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

Chambliss offered an amendment to the 2007 Senate Budget Resolution to provide $900 million in formula funding for the Byrne/JAG Program. The amendment was accepted by Unanimous Consent. With the Budget Committee’s decision to also provide $191 million in Byrne discretionary funds, the amendment provided room in the budget for the Byrne/JAG program to be funded at or near its full $1.095 billion authorized level.

On June 18, 2007, Chambliss and Feinstein sent a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund the Byrne/JAG program. 32 Senators signed onto the letter.

For more than 20 years, grants from the Byrne/JAG program and its predecessor programs have funded state and local drug task forces, community crime prevention programs, substance abuse treatment programs, prosecution initiatives, and many other local crime control programs. The grants are administered by the U.S. Justice Department, with 60 percent of the funds going to state agencies and 40 percent set aside for distribution to local governments. The Byrne/JAG Program provides one of the only sources of federal funds for sheriffs and police chiefs in many smaller and rural towns and counties. The program was named after New York Police officer Edward Byrne, who was killed in the line of duty in 1988.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Power out to millions in Florida

MIAMI (Reuters) - A widespread power outage struck south Florida on Tuesday because of a shut-down at a nuclear reactor, knocking out electricity to millions of people and snarling traffic across the state, officials said.


Five defendants were convicted today by a jury in federal district court of criminal charges that include racketeering, murder, attempted murder, assault, methamphetamine trafficking, and numerous related firearms offenses. The jury convicted the defendants after six weeks of trial and two days of deliberations. The five defendants were the leaders of a racketeering enterprise that originally included 30 defendants in the first indictment.

United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said of today’s verdict, “The truly violent character of this drug gang, which operated out of the small town of Cedartown, Georgia, is demonstrated by the fact that the racketeering convictions are based on several violent crimes, including five murders, attempted murder, and kidnaping, as well as drug trafficking. The five murders for which defendants Villenas-Reyes and Shane Rosser were convicted were 50% of the total number of murders that occurred in Floyd and Polk counties in 2003.” Nahmias added, “The use of federal racketeering and drug statutes to attack the leadership of an organization is important, especially with an organization such as this that operated across local and state jurisdictional lines. Indeed, this prosecution resulted from the excellent combined investigative efforts of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.”

FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Greg Jones said, “Getting inside of these violence driven gangs is a very difficult challenge for law enforcement agencies when conducting such investigations. The skills and expertise of the agents and officers brought together from the many varied agencies involved was the key to the successful outcome of this investigation. The FBI remains committed to working with its law enforcement partners in the aggressive investigation and prosecution of these types of criminal organizations.”

“The guilty verdict has made it clear that those involved in criminal activity and responsible for terrorizing communities will be brought to justice,” said Kenneth Smith, Special Agent in Charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Atlanta. “ICE and its federal, state, and local counterparts will continue working together to dismantle organized crime rings that threaten public safety.”

GBI Director Vernon Keenan said, “The GBI's priority is addressing the violent crime problem in smaller communities across Georgia, and we are pleased with the GBI's role in the successful investigation and prosecution of those involved in this methamphetamine trafficking gang. The cooperation among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in this effort was outstanding and was paramount to the successful conclusion of this case.”

According to Nahmias and evidence at trial: Daniel Villenas-Reyes, 36, MARCO Antonio Cordero, 33, Sammy Duque, 34, and Juan Duque, 31, all of Cedartown; and Houston Shane Rosser, 36, of Centre, Alabama, were all convicted of conspiring to engage in a racketeering enterprise in Polk and Floyd counties in Georgia between March 2000 and December 2006. The evidence at trial proved that the enterprise trafficked methamphetamine and protected its territory, enforced discipline among members, and collected debts through a pattern of racketeering activities that included the murders of five people, attempted murder, aggravated assault, kidnaping, transporting and harboring illegal aliens, drug trafficking, and arson. The defendants were also convicted of conspiring to distribute and distributing methamphetamine and cocaine.

Daniel Villenas-Reyes was convicted of shooting and killing Cesar Juarez Vasquez, Arturo Torrez Ventura, and a woman who has never been identified, in a house at 506 7th Street, Cedartown, on September 16, 2003, and setting the house on fire to hide the evidence of the murders. Evidence at trial showed that Villenas-Reyes committed the murders after residents of the house refused to pay him for highly diluted methamphetamine that he had supplied them. Villenas-Reyes was also convicted of participating in the shooting of Jesse Vargas in Rome on December 17, 2002, several counts of selling methamphetamine, and several counts of using firearms in connection with crimes of violence and drug trafficking offenses.

In addition to the racketeering and drug trafficking offenses, Houston Shane Rosser was convicted of shooting and killing T.J. Agan and Christopher Fortenberry in their home in southern Floyd County on March 27, 2003. Evidence at trial showed that Rosser killed Agan over a methamphetamine debt, and he killed Fortenberry after finding that Agan was not alone. Fortenberry became Agan’s roommate a few weeks before the murders occurred. Josh Darrell Smith went to trial with the other five defendants on January 14, 2008. But he pleaded guilty midway through the trial and testified that he heard Rosser shoot Agan and watched Rosser shoot Fortenberry. Another eyewitness who had accompanied Rosser to Agan’s home also testified against him.

Marco Antonio Cordero was also convicted of pistol-whipping a victim whom Cordero suspected of stealing methamphetamine, selling methamphetamine while he was escaped from the Polk County Jail in the late winter of 2003, and being a convicted felon and an illegal alien who possessed several firearms on different occasions while he was a fugitive. Other evidence presented at trial showed that Cordero, Villenas-Reyes and Sammy Duque were previously deported to their native country of Mexico before and during the operation of their criminal enterprise, but illegally re-entered the United States.

Sammy Duque and his brother, Juan Duque, were also convicted of selling methamphetamine, and Juan Duque was convicted of participating with Cordero in the pistol-whipping of an innocent victim and using a firearm to commit that crime of violence.

Evidence presented at trial also showed that Polk County and Floyd County law enforcement agencies assisted each other in investigating the five murders when a witness came forward in January 2004 and explained how the killings were part of the violent operation of a single methamphetamine trafficking enterprise that operated out of Cedartown. The FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) then assembled a multi-agency task force that investigated the wide-sweeping enterprise and led to the prosecution of thirty alleged enterprise members. In addition to the five defendants convicted today, 15 other co-defendants have pleaded guilty to the racketeering charges in the indictment. Ten more defendants await trial. No trial date has yet been set.

Villenas-Reyes, Cordero, Rosser, Sammy Duque and Juan Duque face maximum sentences of life in federal prison and fines of at least $4,250,000. There is no parole in the federal criminal system. Their sentencing is scheduled for May 9, 2008, at 1:30 p.m. before United States District Judge Murphy.

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the FBI, ICE, and the GBI, with substantial assistance from the Georgia State Fire Marshal’s Arson Unit, the Floyd County Police Department, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the Polk County Police Department and the Cedartown Police Department.

Assistant United States Attorneys Kim S. Dammers and William G. Traynor are prosecuting the case.
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Monday, February 25, 2008

FBI Response to Rolling Stone Magazine Article on Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs

(This is the full version of a letter sent to the editor of Rolling Stone magazine in response to their article, The Fear Factory which appeared in the February 7, 2008 edition.)

Rolling Stone printed an edited version to comport with their word limitations, in the February 22, 2008 issue.

There is an old saying among reporters: The worst thing you can do to a good story is check it out. Guy Lawson (“The Fear Factory” Rolling Stone, February 7th) brings hypothetical theory to new heights. After “checking it out,” Mr. Lawson simply tailored his story around any compelling facts that did not fit his original premise. Before coming to the FBI, over 25 years ago, I won most of the major awards that they give to a reporter. I feel I have standing to say that a journalist has an obligation to tell at least two sides of a story. Your readers only got one.

The premise to which Mr. Lawson’s story was married is his theory that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) have to justify their existence in the post 9/11 world by ginning up thin cases against arguably docile suspects who have neither the intent nor capability to cause real harm. Mr. Lawson deftly skips over 27 years of the work of the JTTFs capturing al Qaeda suspects from the first World Trade Center bombing, preventing the attacks on New York landmarks, the Embassy and USS Cole bombings, the Millennium Plot and more. Instead, Mr. Lawson narrowed his focus to cases involving small groups and “lone wolves” that planned to murder American citizens on U.S. soil.

Derrick Shareef, the convicted terrorist at the center of the story who Mr. Lawson frivolously described as being a “wanna-be jihadi,” possessed all of the traits necessary to harm or kill innocent citizens. Investigators were also keenly aware of Mr. Shareef’s continuous contacts with Hassan Abujihaad, another domestic terror suspect being monitored by the FBI. Mr. Abujihaad was indicted for sending classified e-mails while serving on a U.S. Navy ship to pro-Taliban forces, divulging his naval battle group’s operational vulnerabilities. It was only after the two had a falling out that Mr. Shareef accelerated his plans to act independently and swiftly to launch an attack. The JTTF took correct action to disrupt his plans and arrest him.

Mr. Shareef, like scores of suicide bombers overseas, was infused with a poisonous ideology, displayed a single-minded desire to take action, regularly declared his intent to kill, and sought to obtain weapons to commit an attack.

One needs only to reflect on the example of Timothy McVeigh, who murdered 168 U.S. citizens in the Oklahoma City bombing. Mr. McVeigh could have been described as having little money, working a dead end job as a security guard, dealing with anger issues, and devoted to an extremist ideology. Like Mr. Shareef, Mr. McVeigh discussed his plans with others, cased potential targets, took action to secure explosives for the operation, and tried to do it as cheaply as possible.

Other killers have started out with even less. Take John Allan Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, the “D.C. Snipers.” Two practically homeless men, living out of a car, filled with hate and armed with a high-powered assault rifle. As in the case of Mr. Shareef, you might be tempted to call them “losers,” but their actions paralyzed greater Washington D.C. for three weeks in 2002. In the end, 10 people died in the attacks and still others were identified from earlier shootings in other states. None of these men would have met Mr. Lawson’s standard as being a legitimate threat, yet had the FBI known about them before they struck, we would have been severely criticized.

At any point during his planning process, Mr. Shareef could have stopped his actions, but he chose not to. There is no evidence that he ever wavered in his desire to murder holiday shoppers in the CherryVale Mall that day. Would he have succeeded had it not been for the diligence of the JTTF? Mr. Lawson’s story suggests we should be willing to take this gamble, but he is not responsible for the outcome. No one will knock on the doors of Rolling Stone and ask why people died that day.

Not every terrorist needs to be linked to an organized group like al Qaeda to kill the innocent. What these lessons have taught us is that if the motivation is strong enough, challenges such as getting weapons or paying for the operation can be overcome.

JTTF agents and officers abide by FBI procedures, Department of Justice legal guidance, and the United States Constitution. They must bring facts before a judge to get authorization for a warrant or electronic surveillance. Since 9/11, the JTTFs have broken a dozen plots targeting civilians on U.S. soil. None of them have been well-financed, but I cannot remember any victim of a terrorist attack lamenting that they wished they’d been killed by a more expensive plot.

Mr. Lawson’s sweeping statement, “The defendants posed little if any demonstrable threat to anyone or anything,” seems to be his uneducated guess rather than an objective summary of the legal outcomes or courtroom results. In almost every case heard by a jury, the defendants were found guilty, in spite of having some dedicated and talented defense lawyers articulate the same claims Mr. Lawson has swallowed. The Yassin Aref case in Albany, New York, and the Hamid Hayat case in Lodi, California, are two examples. In other cases such as the “Lackawanna Six,” and the Torrance cell, the defendants pled guilty with the advice of counsel.

If we have identified somebody with the intent to take lives in the name of extremism and we fail to take the appropriate action, we are ignoring our sworn mission to protect the innocent. Regardless of criticism, it is our obligation to err on the side of safety while continuing to adhere to Constitutional protections.

John J. Miller
Assistant Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Secretary of State Handel Warns Georgia Corporations: New Firm May Be Pulling Old Tricks

Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel warned corporations today that her office received complaints about solicitations sent from a firm called “Georgia Corporate Headquarters.” The firm offers to complete corporate meeting minutes on behalf of Georgia corporations for a fee. The “Annual Minutes Disclosure Statement” included in the offer is very similar to solicitations mailed throughout the past year from a firm called “Georgia Corporate Compliance.”

Despite the implications contained in the solicitation, Georgia corporations are not required by law to file corporate minutes with the Secretary of State.

“Georgia’s corporate entities should be on the lookout for this misleading mailing,” Handel said. “Additionally, Georgia Corporate Headquarters is not registered with our Corporations Division to do business in our state.”

Based upon phone calls the Secretary of State’s Office has received, it is apparent that Georgia citizens are understandably confused by Georgia Corporate Headquarters’ solicitation.

First, the solicitations are presented in a manner similar to annual registration forms sent out by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Second, the solicitations contain a limited response time. Although the solicitation contains a disclaimer stating that Georgia Corporate Headquarters is not affiliated with the Office of the Georgia Secretary of State or endorsed or made by the federal government or an agency of the federal government, some corporate officers have been understandably confused by the official-looking documents.

Georgia’s Corporate Entities do not have to do business with Georgia Corporate Headquarters. The forms provided by Georgia Corporate Headquarters are not required by the Office of the Secretary of State. Whether corporations choose to do business with Georgia Corporate Headquarters will in no way affect their corporate filing with the Secretary of State, either positively or negatively. There is no need for corporations to use Georgia Corporate Headquarters or any other business offering similar services for any reason, unless they choose to do so. The Office of the Secretary of State does not require the use of any businesses offering services like those offered by Georgia Corporate Headquarters.

It is important to remember that any official statement or request from the Office of the Secretary of State will clearly indicate its origin by displaying the State Seal and the name of Secretary of State Karen Handel.

If corporate customers have any other questions, please call the Corporations Division Call Center at 404-656-2817.

Karen Handel was sworn in as Secretary of State in January 2007. The Secretary of State's office offers important services to our citizens and our business community. Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting efficient and secure elections, the registration of corporations, and the regulation of securities and professional license holders. The office also oversees the Georgia Archives and the Capitol Museum.

Georgia corporations, limited liability companies and limited partnerships are formed by filing with the Corporations Division. Some foreign (out-of-state) entities that do business in the state of Georgia are required to file with the Corporations Division. The Division serves as custodian of the filings and provides copies and certifications of the documents. As an administrative filing agency, the Division does not have authority to intervene in disputes between consumers and businesses, disputes between businesses, or disputes between shareholders, members, officers or other persons involved in an enterprise. Currently, over 720,000 domestic and foreign corporate entities are on file with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Corporations Division.
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Wal-Mart Provides New Toy Safety Guidelines

In light of the recalls and concerns over toy safety, last fall Wal-Mart implemented a “Toy Safety Net” program to re-test toys on its shelves through independent labs, and work with industry representatives and policy makers on improving standards.

In January, Wal-Mart began sharing its new standards with all toy suppliers – before the production of new orders began. These new safety requirements and guidelines for material content in toy products, and testing, will impact all new toys and toy re-orders.

"We know national legislation is pending, but toy orders for this year are taking place, which prompted the need for us to provide suppliers guidance now,” said Laura Phillips, vice president of Toys, Wal-Mart. “We believe these new requirements help move all toy suppliers in the right direction, even as legislation is still evolving.

Phillips continued to state that “our customers expect no less from Wal-Mart than to be an advocate for value, and for safety. We will take action now, knowing there are changes to come, so there will be quicker compliance in the future.”

Wal-Mart new toy safety guidelines include these main areas:

1.) Testing requirements for all toys have increased.
As of March 2008, Wal-Mart will require independent lab tests and documentation that all new toys and toy re-orders meet Wal-Mart’s guidelines. This is a continuation of independent lab testing requirements that Wal-Mart began with its Toy Safety Net efforts last fall.

2.) New standards on heavy metals, including lead.
Wal-Mart is requiring all toy suppliers for all new toy orders and re-orders to adhere to a maximum level of 90 ppm total lead in surface coatings on toys, down from a current limit of 600 ppm, and a maximum level of 600 ppm total lead in accessible components of a toy.

3.) New guidelines on Phthalates for toys.
Wal-Mart will require all toy suppliers of new toy orders and re-orders to reduce the level of certain phthalates (compound found in PVC and other substances) in toys to a maximum of 0.1%.

4.) Introduce Date Codes
Wal-Mart strongly recommends suppliers date (or lot) code or stamp toy products, for traceability and date of production.

For all toy products currently on shelves, Wal-Mart suppliers have been required to follow the highest CPSC standards that currently exist, and Illinois statutory law for lead levels – the nation’s toughest standard – in every state.

Toy Safety Net Program Announced Last August, 2007
Before the beginning of the 2007 holiday shopping season, Wal-Mart further enhanced its testing and toy safety program, covering five main areas:

• More Checking – Wal-Mart asked all toy suppliers to re-submit testing documentation for toys currently on Wal-Mart shelves or on their way to stores. And with more testing than ever being done by toy suppliers, that reassured customers that Wal-Mart has the most up-to-date information about the toys on its shelves.

• More Testing - Wal-Mart engaged leading independent laboratories to carry out an average of 200 additional tests each day. Priority testing was given to those toys for children up to the age of three, including toys that can easily end up in a child’s mouth. This also covers toys with a surface coating and/or containing magnets. The testing complements current toy manufacturers’ efforts and ensures all suppliers – whatever their size –have access to the best testing available at a reasonable cost.

• More Dialogue – Wal-Mart ensured the results of its tests were shared with the whole industry – retailers and manufacturers. It played a full part in building consumer confidence through groups such as the Toy Industry Association (TIA). Wal-Mart is cooperating with the TIA in supporting new measures aimed at ensuring higher safety standards.

• More help for China – Wal-Mart also stands ready to help leaders in China who are implementing new testing procedures to ensure the highest safety standards for toy products.

• More Selection - Wal-Mart will continue to identify and work with toy manufacturers from all across the world on finding new toy products for its shelves and providing parents with greater choice.
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Saturday, February 23, 2008

The 'Hit Man' email scam has reached Georgia and DHR is offering presentations and tips on telemarketing scams

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) started warning the public about the ‘hit man’ scam early in 2007, and recently the scam showed up in the Coastal Georgia Region of the state. In the scam, an individual writes an email threatening to kill the recipient if he does not pay him thousands of dollars. The person claims to be a hired assassin, or ‘hit man’, who knows where the recipient lives and works. If he gets a reply from someone requesting that he stop his threats, the scammer gets more aggressive in his messages.

The Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Aging Services (DAS) is offering presentations around the state on how to avoid becoming a victim of telemarketing scams. To schedule a free presentation in your area, call DAS’ Elder Rights Team Leader at 404-657-9589.

"We want to educate people on ways to avoid becoming a victim of fraud," said Maria Greene, Director of DAS. "We have trained staff doing presentations on telemarketing scams."

DAS offers the follow tips to avoid becoming a victim of the ‘hit man’ scam:

Do not respond in any way.
Do notsend any money.
Keep the message and contact local law enforcement.
Report the threat to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), online at IC3 receives, develops, and refers criminal complaints regarding cyber crime, and provides an electronic reporting system for filing a complaint involving criminal Internet activity online.
Spread the word about the scam to other Internet uses.
For more information on how to avoid telemarketing scams or to schedule a presentation on the topic, call the DHR Division of Aging Services’ Elder Rights Team Leader at 404-657-9589.

For information on services available to older adults in Georgia, call 1-866-55-Aging (1-866-552-4464).
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

U.S. Labor Department Enforcement Agency Announces Eight Criminal Convictions for January 2008

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In January 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) marked its 5,000th indictment since recordkeeping began in 1964. During January, OLMS obtained eight convictions, nine indictments and court orders of restitution totaling $121,867. The office's totals for fiscal year 2008 (which began on Oct. 1, 2007), including previously unreported indictments and convictions from prior months, now stand at 36 convictions, 47 indictments and court-ordered restitution of $877,212. The bulk of the cases involved the embezzlement of union funds.

"America's union members deserve justice, and the eight convictions this month represent a success against those who would abuse their trust," said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Labor-Management Standards Don Todd. "Our successful prosecutions of 835 individuals and court orders of restitution for more than $103 million since 2001 demonstrate the effectiveness and importance of our work. OLMS has a long track record of success, and last month we marked our 5,000th indictment since OLMS began its records in 1964. This total includes more than 880 indictments since 2001."

OLMS is the federal law enforcement agency responsible for administering most provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA). The agency's criminal enforcement program includes investigations of embezzlement from labor organizations, extortionate picketing, deprivation of union members' rights by force or violence, and fraud in union officer elections. The agency's civil program collects and publicly discloses unions' annual financial reports, conducts compliance audits of labor unions and seeks civil remedies for violations of officer election procedures. In certain cases, OLMS also conducts joint investigations with other Labor Department agencies, including the Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Office of Inspector General, as well as other law enforcement agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

OLMS's public disclosure Web page at contains union annual financial reports and additional forms required to be filed under the LMRDA. Other information, including synopses of OLMS enforcement actions, is available on OLMS' home page at

Editor's Notes: A listing of selected OLMS enforcement actions during January 2008 accompanies this release. An indictment is the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity. As in all criminal cases, each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal charges and indictments noted in these materials are accusations only. Selected Enforcement Actions in January 2008

Office of Labor-Management Standards
U.S. Department of Labor

False Statement Subject Enters into Pre-Trial Agreement
On Jan. 9, 2008, a failure to maintain records investigation conducted by the OLMS New Orleans District Office resulted in the subject entering into a Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. Under the terms of the Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement, the subject must make full restitution to the union and not hold any union office during the duration of the agreement. Due to the confidential nature of the Pre-Trial Diversion program, details that could identify the subject are not public information.

Former Union Local President Sentenced for Falsification of Union Records
On Jan. 11, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Charyle Emel, former president of American Postal Workers Local 2013, was sentenced to a one-year probation, ordered to make restitution, pay $60 to the U.S. Postal Service and pay a $25 special assessment. On Feb. 23, 2007, Emel pled guilty to one count of falsifying union financial records by willfully making or causing to be made a false loan agreement between her and the local totaling $12,864.10. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Philadelphia District Office.

Former Union Local President Sentenced for Embezzling More Than $13,000 in Union Funds
On Jan. 14, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Terry Howell, former president of Steelworkers Local 8-505, was sentenced to three years of supervised probation, including six months of house arrest; ordered to pay restitution; and fined $2,000 for embezzling $13,210 in union funds. On Oct. 26, 2007, Howell pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the same amount. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Cincinnati District Office.

Former Local Union President Sentenced for Filing False Reports
On Jan. 23, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, Timothy C. Ferrucci, former president of Northeast Emergency Services Union, was sentenced to a one-year probation, which includes six months of home confinement, and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and make restitution of $27,347. On Nov. 2, 2007, Ferrucci pled guilty to four counts of filing a false report. Ferrucci admitted making false statements on the local's annual Form LM-3 for the years 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. In each of the annual reports, Ferrucci understated the amount of compensation he directly or indirectly received. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS New Haven Resident Investigative Office.

Former Officer Sentenced to 14 Months of Confinement for Making False Statements
On Jan. 29, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Brad Harper, former treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1629, was sentenced to 14 months in prison and three years of supervised release, ordered to pay a special assessment of $100 and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $75,069.49. On Aug. 9, 2007, Harper pled guilty to one count of making materially false statements on the local's annual financial report. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Detroit District Office.

Embezzlement Subject Enters into Pre-Trial Agreement
On Jan. 29, 2008, an embezzlement of union funds investigation conducted by the OLMS Seattle District Office resulted in the subject entering into a Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement with the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho. Under the terms of the Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement, the subject must complete 40 hours of unpaid community service work and not hold any union office. Due to the confidential nature of the Pre-Trial Diversion program, details that could identify the subject are not public information. The Pre-Trial Diversion follows an investigation by the OLMS Seattle District Office.

Former Union Employee Sentenced for Forgery
On Jan. 30, 2008, in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia, Timothy A. Wilson, former employee of Stage and Picture Operators Local 271, was sentenced to two years of probation for forgery. On Nov. 16, 2007, Wilson pled guilty to a one count felony charge of forgery in the amount of $168. Prior to the investigation, Wilson paid restitution in the amount of $16,750. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Pittsburgh District Office. Guilty Pleas

Former Union Officer Pleads Guilty to Falsification of Records
On Jan. 8, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Kathleen Drake, former secretary-treasurer of Machinists Local 2339-C, pled guilty to one count of falsification of union records, and agreed to make restitution in the amount of $17,035. The guilty plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

Former Union President Pleads Guilty to Embezzling More Than $170,000
On Jan. 9, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Graham Paul Vane, former president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 1280, pled guilty to one count of embezzling more than $170,000 in union funds and four counts of making false statements to a government agency. The final embezzlement amount will be determined at Vane's sentencing hearing. On May 24, 2007, Vane was indicted on one count of embezzling union funds in the same approximate amount and four counts of false statements to a government agency. The guilty plea follows an investigation by the OLMS San Francisco District Office.

Former Union Officer Pleads Guilty to Embezzling More Than $10,000 in Union Funds
On Jan. 16, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, an information was filed against Fredrick W. Jones, former vice president of Glass, Molders and Plastic Union Local 285, charging him with one count of embezzling union funds in an amount exceeding $10,000. Subsequently, Jones pled guilty to the offense. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Chicago District Office.

Former Union Officer Pleads Guilty to Making a False Representation
On Jan. 18, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Michael Rutowski, former treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2913, pled guilty to one count of making a false and fraudulent representation to a federal agency. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Seattle District Office.

Former President of ATU Local 1181 Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Charge
On Jan. 18, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Salvatore Battaglia, former president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, the primary union that represents drivers and escorts for school bus companies in New York City, pled guilty to participating in the conduct of the affairs of a racketeering enterprise in violation of 18 USC 1962 (c). Battaglia's act included the extortion of bus company owners. The plea follows a joint investigation by the OLMS New York District Office, the FBI and the Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General. Criminal Charges and Indictments*

Former Union Officer Charged with Grand Larceny
On Jan. 7, 2008, in the City Court of Peekskill, N.Y., Glenroy Richards, former president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2440, was charged with grand larceny in the third degree. During the period from July 2006 to November 2006, Richards is alleged to have utilized his union-issued debit card to withdraw a total of $11,243 from the union's checking account. The charge follows an investigation by the OLMS New York District Office.

Former Union Officer Charged with Embezzling More Than $11,000 in Union Funds
On Jan. 15, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Kim M. Van Handel, former president and acting treasurer of Steelworkers Local 1980, was indicted on one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $11,500. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.

Union President Indicted for Embezzling More Than $20,000 in Union Funds
On Jan. 16, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Clarence Morgan, president of Steelworkers Local 2948, was indicted on one count of embezzling union funds in the approximate amount of $20,499. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Atlanta District Office.

Former President Indicted for Embezzling More Than $16,000 in Union Funds
On Jan. 16, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, James Eric Kay, former president of Boilermakers Local Lodge 523, was indicted on 43 counts of embezzling union funds in the approximate amount of $16,979. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Atlanta District Office.

Former Union Officer Charged with Theft of Union Funds
On Jan. 19, 2008, in the County Court of Fremont County, Colo., Jamie Solis, former president of Steelworkers Local 594, was charged with one count of theft of union funds in the amount of $500 or more, but less than $15,000, by threat or deception. The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS Denver District Office.

Former Union Officer Charged with Falsifying Union Records
On Jan. 29, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, an information was filed against Kristen Swint, former vice president and secretary-treasurer of Machinists Local 2339-C, charging her with one count of falsifying union records. The charge follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

Former Union Officer Indicted for $31,000 Mail Fraud Scheme
On Jan. 30, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, William Sargent, former treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees Local 704, was indicted on one count of mail fraud involving a scheme to defraud the union of approximately $31,015. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Chicago District Office. Enforcement Actions and Civil Complaints
OLMS Files Suit

On Jan. 4, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, the department filed suit against American Postal Workers Union, Local 732, located in Dallas, Texas. The lawsuit seeks to nullify the May 17, 2007, election for the offices of president, vice president, sergeant-at-arms, human relations director, one trustee and several delegate positions, and seeks a new election for those positions under OLMS supervision. The complaint alleges candidates on the incumbent slate used a different and better mailing list to mail their campaign literature to members than the mailing list provided to other candidates. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the local violated sections 401(c) and 401(g) of the LMRDA which prohibit, respectively, discrimination in the use of union mailing lists and the use of union funds in union officer elections. The lawsuit follows an investigation by the OLMS Dallas District Office.
Union Enters into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement with OLMS

On Jan. 9, 2008, the Labor Department accepted a voluntary compliance agreement from Sindicato de Guardias de Seguridad de Puerto Rico, a local labor union in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. The agreement calls for the department to supervise an election for local union officers on or before March 31, 2008. The agreement stems from the union's failure to conduct an officer election within three years of its last regular election. The agreement follows an investigation by the OLMS Atlanta District Office.

* Indictments and informations are the methods by which people are charged with criminal activity. As in all criminal cases, each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal charges and indictments noted in these materials are accusations only.
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CDC State Preparedness Report Highlights Progress and Challenges

Improvements noted in disease detection, investigation, and laboratory response

An inaugural report on public health preparedness released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates states have made significant progress with respect to emergency preparedness, but that significant challenges remain.

"This assessment of public health emergency preparedness is a major step forward," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC director. "It illustrates the many specific ways that the investments we've been making since 2001 have increased states' capacity to quickly and effectively respond to a wide range of health hazards and emergencies. Today, for example, all states have emergency response plans, improved ability to identify and confirm public health threats, and more consistent and effective collaboration and communication between the many entities involved in responding to public health threats and emergencies."

More than $5 billion of federal funding has been distributed to the nation by CDC to improve public health preparedness and response since 2002.

"As a nation, we are better prepared today to respond to public health threats but the reality is that these efforts must be ongoing," said Richard Besser, M.D., director of CDC's Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response.

The CDC report, Public Health Preparedness: Mobilizing State by State, presents data that illustrate the progress state health departments have made in disease detection and investigation; laboratory testing capabilities; and planning, exercising and responding to public health emergencies. Key improvements from the report include:

* Disease detection and investigation. All state public health departments can now receive urgent reports about disease 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In 1999, only 12 states could do so. In addition, all states share information using the Epidemic Information Exchange (Epi-X), a secure, CDC-based communications system that helps track disease outbreaks. The number of users of this network nationwide has increased from 1,366 in 2001, to 4,646 in 2006.

* Public health laboratories. The number of laboratories that can test and analyze samples has nearly doubled since 2001.

* Response plans. All states have developed detailed emergency response plans to address all hazards, including an influenza pandemic. All states also now have plans to distribute the Strategic National Stockpile's federal caches of pharmaceuticals, antidotes, and medical supplies used for an emergency.

* Training. All public health departments now systematically and routinely train their workers in a wide range of crucial emergency response areas.

Work needs to continue

According to Besser, CDC's preparedness report is an important part of the agency's focus on measuring and documenting results, systematically using data to continuously improve programs and increasing accountability regarding the country's investment in preparedness activities.

"We recognize that CDC's report presents important data on some preparedness activities but does not provide information on all areas of preparedness," said Dr. Besser. "The nation's public health preparedness information and measures need to improve and CDC continues to engage with states and others to identify and incorporate effective public health emergency preparedness systems that enhance the nation's ability to respond."

CDC's approach has been to support public health preparedness for all hazards, including natural, biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear events. This work falls under one of the agency's overarching health protection goals: "People prepared for emerging health threats - people in all communities will be protected from infectious, occupational, environmental, and terrorist threats."

CDC's report also provides a better understanding of where the major national and state challenges lie, and the areas where more progress needs to be made. Preparedness challenges include:

* Improving the ability to quickly dispense medicines and vaccines in an affected community
* Increasing the use of electronic health data for preparedness and response by networking surveillance systems
* Improving legal preparedness by helping states and other jurisdictions implement public health mutual aid agreements, which enable sharing of supplies, equipment, personnel, and information during emergencies
* Exercising public health systems to continuously improve capability and demonstrate readiness

CDC released the report during the annual Public Health Preparedness Summit in Atlanta today. The summit is coordinated by the National Association of City and County Health Officials. The report and state specific information is available on CDC's Web site at

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Thunderstorm Safety Is Up To You

Thunderstorms affect relatively small areas when compared with hurricanes and winter storms. Despite their small size, all thunderstorms are dangerous because they can produce strong winds, lightning, tornadoes, hail and flash flooding. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes.

"Last year, at least 600 thunderstorms occurred in Georgia on about 80 separate days. The biggest threat in Georgia from severe thunderstorms is damaging straight line winds and large hail," said Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) Director Charley English.

Straight line winds can reach speeds excess of 100 mph and produce damage similar to a tornado. These winds occur, on average, 19 days per year in Georgia. These events have occurred in every month of the year, but are most common in the spring and summer months, peaking in July.

Here is some information to help you recognize severe weather, develop a plan, and be ready to act when threatening weather approaches:

To prepare for a thunderstorm:

Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
Remember the 30/30 lightning safety rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.

If a thunderstorm is likely in your area:

Postpone outdoor activities.
Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades, or curtains.
Avoid showering or bathing. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
Use a corded telephone only for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use.
Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
Use your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.

Avoid the following:
Natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area.
Hilltops, open fields, the beach, or a boat on the water.
Isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
Anything metal-tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles.

For more information, contact GEMA at 1-800-TRY-GEMA, your local EMA or visit these Web sites:,,, or

Sunday, February 17, 2008

CDC Warns of 'Choking Game' After 82 Youths Die

At least 82 youths have died from the so-called "choking game," according to the first government count of fatalities from the tragic fad.
In the game, children use dog leashes, bungee cords wrapped around their necks or other means to temporarily cut blood flow to their head. The goal is a dreamlike, floating-in-space feeling when blood rushes back into the brain.
As many as 20 percent of teens and preteens play the game, sometimes in groups, according to some estimates based on a few local studies. But nearly all the deaths were youths who played alone, according to the count complied by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,2933,330695,00.html


DAVID ANTHONY FLOOD, 32, of Atlanta, Georgia was sentenced to federal prison late yesterday on a charge of using a telephone to willfully and maliciously convey false information concerning an alleged attempt to damage and destroy buildings and to injure and kill people at the Richard Russell Federal Building at 75 Spring Street and the Woodruff Arts Center, located at 1280 Peachtree Street, both in Atlanta.

“This defendant will now spend a year in prison after making a few very serious phone calls. He made false bomb threats to accomplish another objective, which was to distract law enforcement from a nearby bank he was considering robbing,” said United States Attorney David E. Nahmias. “Law enforcement must take seriously all bomb threats; a false threat requires the same commitment of investigative resources as a real threat until we are certain no real danger exists.”

FLOOD was sentenced to one year, one day in federal prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. FLOOD pleaded guilty to the charge on September 11, 2007.

According to United States Attorney Nahmias and the information presented in court: On October 18, 2006, a bomb threat was made via telephone to the Atlanta 911 Communications Center. The call was recorded as follows: “Praise Allah, you have 13 minutes to clear the Richard B. Russell Building out and the Woodruff Arts Museum in Buckhead, otherwise 13 pounds of C-4 will explode.” The call prompted an emergency response from the Atlanta Police Department, along with the Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service, MARTA Police, Fulton County Police and United States Marshal Service. Law enforcement personnel and explosive detection canines from those agencies conducted a search of the federal courthouse but no bomb or C-4 explosives were found. Law enforcement agents were also dispatched to the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown, as well as Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta. No explosives or bombs were located at either location.

Telephone records led the agents to discover that FLOOD had made the call. FLOOD stated he had made the call to attempt to distract law enforcement so that he could rob a nearby bank, and that he was desperate for money. He ultimately did not rob the bank; he stated that he became frightened and abandoned the plan. FLOOD has no known affiliation to any terrorist group.

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant United States Attorney Katherine Monahan prosecuted the case, represented in court by Assistant United States Attorney Richard Moultrie.

For further information please contact David E. Nahmias (pronounced NAH-meus), United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is


SANDEO PABLO DYSON, 44, of Gainesville, Georgia, has been charged in a criminal complaint with arson and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. He is making an initial appearance today before a federal magistrate judge in Denver, Colorado to begin removal proceedings to Georgia.

United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said of the case, “This alleged arson relates to another case involving Army associates of this defendant, who is an Army medic. He has been arrested in Colorado and will be returned to Georgia to face justice.”

"Arson is a serious crime of violence, which often has a dramatic impact on the community" said Scott Sweetow, Acting Special Agent in Charge of ATF's Atlanta Field Division. "As alleged, it became clear to ATF that Mr. Dyson was considering an armed robbery/home invasion before we entered the picture. It is my hope that this investigation and prosecution will ensure that the alleged perpetrators will never commit or attempt to commit such crimes again."

According to United States Attorney Nahmias, the federal criminal complaint, and other information presented in court: This investigation started on January 2, 2007, when ATF began to assist the City of Atlanta Fire Department in its investigation of a fire at Club Onyx, an adult entertainment club at 1888 Cheshire Bridge Road in Atlanta. At the time of the fire, a surveillance system showed a male figure coming out of a bathroom/storage closet area in the rear of Club Onyx after the club had been locked and alarmed by management. This individual hugged the side wall, entered the kitchen, and then re-emerged only to walk beyond the range of the cameras. The fire started in the rear of the club and quickly spread with the use of an accelerant. The unknown male then fled out the exit door of the club nearest the location where the fire was set.

For many months, investigators were unable to develop any leads on the arson. A break in the case occurred in August and September, 2007, when the ATF and the FBI, working together, identified a subject from a competing club. That person ultimately confessed to paying DYSON $5000 to burn Club Onyx, which was siphoning away business as well as dancers from the other club. DYSON had allegedly told the subject, who became an informant, that he could “solve the Club Onyx problem.” DYSON was the head of a security company, “Perimeter Security,” and said that he was in the military, assigned to a facility in Dahlonega, Georgia, and a member of the Special Forces/Delta. DYSON claimed that many of his employees were also members of Special Forces/Delta, and were armed and well-trained.

Subsequent investigation showed that DYSON is in the U.S. Army, but is not Ranger-trained. In 2006 and 2007, he was a medic assigned to Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, but was recently transferred to Fort Carson in Colorado.

On November 8, 2007, the informant met with DYSON and made a consensuallymonitored recording of their encounter. DYSON admitted to burning Club Onyx and advised that he had used a home-made accelerant, the recipe for which DYSON had obtained from the so-called “Anarchist’s Cookbook.” According to DYSON, this accelerant would be undetectable to law enforcement investigating the fire. DYSON and the informant also discussed the possible armed robbery/home invasion of a narcotics stash house. From the nature of the conversation, it was obvious that this was not a new topic but had been discussed previously. DYSON was eager to participate in the home invasion, advising that he had approximately four other soldiers to assist him, and agreed to introduce these people to the informant. Four other Army defendants have been arrested in the armed robbery/home invasion scheme and their bond hearing before a United States Magistrate is scheduled to continue on February 4, 2008.

DYSON was arrested without incident yesterday by agents of the ATF and Army CID at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Members of the public are reminded that a criminal complaint only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the ATF, assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistance has also been provided in this case by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and Atlanta Fire Department.

Assistant United States Attorneys Robert McBurney and Zahra Karinshak are prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact David E. Nahmias (pronounced NAH-meus), United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is