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Squeezing turnips: FEMA attempting to recoup $5.8M from families who received Hurricane Sandy aid

Sandy victim
© AP Photo/John Minchillo
In this Sept. 5, 2014 photo, Gary Silberman stands for a picture as he guides reporters on a tour of his parent's home that was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, in Lindenhurst, N.Y. After Silberman received nearly $17,000 in assistance from FEMA, the agency is demanding a return on the funds.
After Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast nearly two years ago, the federal government quickly sent out $1.4 billion in emergency disaster aid to the hurricane's victims.

Now, thousands of people might have to pay back their share.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is scrutinizing about 4,500 households that it suspects received improper payments after the storm, according to program officials and data obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request. As of early September, FEMA had asked around 850 of those aid recipients to return a collective $5.8 million. The other cases were still under review.

FEMA's campaign to recover overpayments, called "recoupment" in agency lingo, typically involves instances where the agency believes a household got more money than allowed under program rules, but not necessarily because of an intentional attempt to cheat the system. Fraud cases are handled separately.

Many people asked to return money were deemed ineligible because their damaged properties were vacation houses or rental properties, not their primary residences. Others had double dipped into the aid pool, with more than one household member getting payments. Some received FEMA money for things later covered by insurance.

Take that! Barrage of hate mail heaped on authoritarian NY judge who sentenced grandmother protesting drones to one year jail term

drone protest
© Reuters / Jonathan Ernst
A small-town New York judge - who recently sentenced a grandmother to one year in jail over her involvement with an anti-drone protest near a US military base - is receiving a barrage of hate and anti-Semitic e-mails from people all across the country.

"Are you considering a career change moving to Israel to judge Palestinian rock throwers, for 'Publicity at any cost, without any regard for the rules of society?'" reads one of the e-mails sent to DeWitt Town Judge David S. Gideon, who is Jewish. Another statement called him a "Nazi."

This incident stems from a case involving a grandmother of three - 58-year-old Mary Anne Grady-Flores - who was charged in July with a second-degree criminal count for violating an order of protection while protesting with the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones at the Hancock Air Base back in October 2012.

People expressed their outrage in the emails to Judge Gideon, with letters coming from different states across the US. These letters were acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request by

Comment: Hundreds of drones are already deployed over the US, with local law enforcement agencies acquiring their own drones as well. Drones can carry facial recognition cameras, license plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras, open WiFi sniffers, and other sensors. And they can be armed. The precise technological capabilities of these drones, developed by defense giants such as Northrop Grumman at a cost of billions of dollars, are a closely guarded state secret.

Nevertheless, the surveillance potential of today's drones makes the spying carried out by the dictatorships of the last century look like child's play. Everywhere one goes, everything one says, everything one does - even within one's home - can now be surreptitiously observed, recorded, and collected in huge government databanks being secretly constructed by the Obama administration. The authoritarians running the US police state are terrified of anyone who dares to protest.

Drones over America: Infrastructure of US Police State

Airplane Paper

Private drone lands in Michigan man's backyard


mystery drone michigan
Allen Park Police say the owner of the Drone came forward Friday morning, after seeing this report.

The device has been returned to him.

Officers say the owner is from Lincoln Park, and got the Drone as a gift. He put it in the air from a local school, and lost it in the trees. His daughter was taking a live feed of what the on-board camera was displaying, but its not believed anything was recorded, nor was he trying to intentionally invade anyone's privacy.

Original Story:

A mystery drone is the talk of Allen Park, as a family there watched the flying device land in their backyard. The operator--nowhere to be found.

Comment: So anyone can fly a drone in your backyard and record you, yet they cannot watch the recording. Yeah right - and who is going to stop them?

Bats, butterflies, roaches, mosquitoes, and birds: The coming micro-drone revolution


Paralympian Pistorius cleared of all murder charges, can still be convicted of culpable homicide

© Kim Ludbrook / EPA
Oscar Pistorius weeps at the reading of the verdict in his murder trial in Pretoria, South Africa, on Sept. 11.
Oscar Pistorius, the South African Olympian who shot and killed his girlfriend on Valentine's Day last year, was found "negligent" in the killing Thursday, but was acquitted of murder charges before the court recessed for the day without a final verdict.

Judge Thokozile Masipa halted the proceedings before delivering a ruling on a lesser charge of culpable homicide and said she would resume the proceedings on Friday.

"It's clear that his conduct was negligent," Masipa said.

But the judge said she did not find sufficient evidence to prove the prosecution's contention that Pistorius intended to kill Reeva Steenkamp after the couple had an argument, though she did conclude that the athlete was negligent in firing his weapon four times through the door of the bathroom in his residence, in which Steenkamp had locked herself.

Comment: See also:
  • Prosecutor says Pistorius 'concocted' story as runner sobs on witness stand

Easter Egg

Invasion and occupation? Crimea for Dummies

crimea cartoon

Typical Western propaganda.
For his first film project American filmmaker Miguel Francis chose the highly controversial subject of Crimea and how it was reunited with Russia. He travels to the beautiful Peninsula to see the current situation first hand and to explore its history and cultural heritage. He takes in some of Crimea's tourist attractions and historical sites while talking to local people about their attitudes to becoming Russian citizens.

Comment: See what Crimeans really think about rejoining their Motherland.

Arrow Down

Spanish gravedigger suspended for corpse photo gaffe

Dead Man Photo
© Twitter
The photo was shared by family members of the deceased but town hall officials described the act as "silliness".
A cemetery worker in a town in southern Spain has been suspended after a photo of him posing with an exhumed corpse went viral on social media.

The mummified body of a man who died 23 years ago had been moved from his grave to allow the burial of his wife alongside him in the family tomb in Guardamar del Segura.

The niece of the deceased had arranged for the grave to be extended. Clemente, the gravedigger, opened the tomb to begin his usual job of breaking up the corpse to allow another body to fit into the same space.

For reasons unknown, the niece then took a photo on her mobile of Clemente holding up the body alongside another man, said to be the corpse's nephew by marriage, who is grinning broadly.
Arrow Down

Freaked-out mushroom pickers discover bag-loads of body parts in Southern Ukrainian woods

Body Parts
A Ukrainian gang that took medical waste that included body parts and disease testing samples for cremation dumped it all in local woodlands instead of burning it.

The gang reportedly made hundreds of thousands of pounds collecting medical waste including amputated limbs and aborted foetuses from hospitals in Zaporizhia Oblast in southern Ukraine.

They also collected other biologically hazardous waste including parts from veterinary surgeries and laboratory samples awaiting safe disposal.

The gang's activities were uncovered when surprised mushroom pickers spotted sack-loads of amputated limbs dumped around the woods.

Up to 2 million Catalans march for independence from Spain in Europe's biggest rally ever

Hundreds of thousands of Catalans have flooded the streets of Barcelona in the region's national day to demand the right to vote on independence from Spain. The demonstrators have formed a big V in red and yellow, symbolizing "vote."

People who wanted to make their voices heard, were wearing red and yellow, the traditional Catalonian colors during La Diada, the Catalan National Day. Almost half a million Catalans have signed up to form a "V for vote," a show of support for the right to decide on their independence from Spain.

"It would be the people's triumph if we were allowed to vote. If we live in a democracy we should be allowed to vote," Montserrat, a 58-year-old homemaker, told Reuters.

American shakedown: Mafia police won't charge you, but they'll grab your money

U.S. police are operating a co-ordinated scheme to seize as much of the public's cash as they can

In the U.S., a cash-grab by police and government is dressed up in terms like “interdiction and forfeiture,” or “the equitable sharing program.” (CBC)
On its official website, the Canadian government informs its citizens that "there is no limit to the amount of money that you may legally take into or out of the United States." Nonetheless, it adds, banking in the U.S. can be difficult for non-residents, so Canadians shouldn't carry large amounts of cash.

That last bit is excellent advice, but for an entirely different reason than the one Ottawa cites.

There's a shakedown going on in the U.S., and the perps are in uniform.

Across America, law enforcement officers - from federal agents to state troopers right down to sheriffs in one-street backwaters - are operating a vast, co-ordinated scheme to grab as much of the public's cash as they can; "hand over fist," to use the words of one police trainer.

Government can only wage war elsewhere for so long, before it inevitably comes home

© Unknown
You can't assemble a totalitarian war machine and expect it to never come home. Sooner or later, all those military-grade weapons end up in your own back yard. Pointed at you.

Over the last several decades, we've seen the rise of militarized law enforcement. From no-knock raids to Ferguson under armed occupation, America is beginning to look a lot less like the peaceful land of the free and more like a land where only the brave dare venture. Even sleepy little towns in New Hampshire are getting armored assault vehicles, despite hundreds taking to the streets in protest. Weapons of war are in our streets, and they're here to stay.

Many ardent critics of America's transition into the land of checkpoints and armored personnel carriers supported military interventions and occupations abroad. The argument goes, fight them there so they don't come here. Heavily-armed patrols and universal inspections are easier to tolerate when they aren't in your back yard, especially when accompanied by the expectation that they will never, ever, happen at home.

As it turns out, that expectation was foolish. The war has come home. To begin with, America's civilian law enforcement increasingly benefits from tactics, training, and close ties with its military. Train cops with Navy Seals and give them a "war" on drugs to fight, and it's hardly surprising when officers begin to view the people more like enemy combatants than civilians. With dispositions and training more suited to fighting a war than keeping the peace, it's easy to see how an otherwise peacefully-solved conflicts could escalate into violence and death.

Next, state and city police departments are stocking up with some heavy equipment. Much of this is either direct military hand-me-downs or made available through federal grants. This means that federal defense spending approved under the assumption that none of it would be used against Americans is being employed for just that purpose. Local government, always aware of the popularity cost of raising taxes and fines to fund various projects, simply can't say no to free stuff.

Finally, many military-style operations, though carried out by local law enforcement, are funded by the federal government. A prime example of these are so-called sobriety checkpoints, where police are paid by federal money to hold regular checkpoints arbitrarily detaining motorists. Slowing traffic and harassing citizens in a sleepy little town is hardly something that would be deemed cost effective in a city budget meeting. Provide the funding for free, however, and the objections simply wither away.