Monday, July 13, 2015

Escaped drug lord has ties to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania • Smoketown Airport (S37)

An intense manhunt continues for one of the most powerful and dangerous drug lords in the world. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped from a maximum security prison outside of Mexico City on Saturday. This is the second time Guzman has escaped from a Mexican prison. 

Officials say his drug cartel covers the United States including Pennsylvania. Federal investigators arrested Guzman’s drug runners in Lancaster County several years ago. Officials say they used the Smoketown Airport as a hub for their nationwide drug ring.

Mel Glick opened the airport back in 1952. He remembers the plane that the cartel members used. He says had no idea that they were running drugs and will never forget the day investigators came walking through the door.

“I’m not sure if it was the FBI that came in one day and said we would like to talk to you,” Glick said. “They went over our records because we keep a record of who uses our fuel pumps.”

State police would not comment on the Guzman case in Pennsylvania. They say that they are working with other law enforcement agencies to monitor drug trafficking venues.

In the second quarter of 2015, Pennsylvania State Police seized $34.6 million worth of drugs. This includes $27.5 million worth of heroin and $2.9 million of cocaine.

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Pilots say they’re contending with lasers pointed at cockpits

During the early hours of a late spring day, a crew member of a Boston MedFlight helicopter with a patient aboard reported the flash of a green laser aimed at its cockpit as it descended toward Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

State Police scoured the Storrow Drive area near the Esplanade on that May 27 morning, searching for the laser’s source, but found nothing. While no one was injured, the company denounced the incident as a “terrible thing” that had put its crew and the patient at risk.

The tiny laser pointers, easily available in office supply stores, can cause big problems for pilots, who are increasingly encountering their disorienting light in Massachusetts and across the country — through mischief, malice, or accident.

Between 2008 and 2014, the number of laser incidents reported in Massachusetts climbed 175 percent, according to a Globe analysis of thousands of Federal Aviation Administration records. Nationwide, the number grew by 327 percent.

In Boston this year, pilots have reported 17 laser events, including the May incident, through June 19, said FAA spokesman Jim Peters, already surpassing last year’s total of 15.

The FAA attributed the rise in reports to the increased availability of inexpensive laser devices and greater awareness among pilots of their danger.

A laser can be as distracting as a camera flash or the high-beam headlights of an oncoming car, the FAA said on its website. While pilots are unlikely to suffer permanent eye damage, it may take them a few minutes to adjust their vision back to normal, which is particularly dangerous during a flight’s takeoff and landing.

“At 35,000 feet, you have time to react,” said Patrick Murphy, who tracks laser incidents on the website “At takeoff or landing, you may not have time to recover.”

No aircraft accidents have been attributed to lasers, but “given the sizeable number of reports and debilitating effects that can accompany such events, the potential does exist,” a FAA report said.

The FAA began formally tracking laser events in 2005. The number of annual reports climbed steeply during the next six years, then held steady. In 2012, George Johnson, a supervisory federal air marshal, said the number of attacks had almost reached an “epidemic level.”

Across the country, pilots reported 3,894 laser-related incidents last year, according to the FAA records. Through June 19 of this year, 2,524 laser events in the United States were recorded, said Peters.

Almost 70 percent of these laser events occurred at altitudes between 2,000 and 10,000 feet, according to the FAA. Most took place between 7 and 11 p.m. and involved a green laser. Green lasers are more visible than other colors, the administration found.

Laser incidents were more densely located on the West Coast, particularly in California, which had 888 reports in 2014. The highest number of reports last year came from the Los Angeles area, which had 107.

Officials warn that thousands of incidents each year still go unreported. Murphy said pilots may have tired of reporting them, particularly when they occur at times when no significant danger is posed, such as when their airplanes were at cruising altitudes.

The light from laser pointers can radiate for miles, growing in size and scope at longer distances.

Murphy said there are generally two types of people who shine lasers at aircraft: those who do so inadvertently, not realizing how far their laser extends and others he called the “criminal and antisocial element,” who flash lasers at aircraft cockpits deliberately to distract pilots.

A Medford man was sentenced to 36 months in a federal prison in 2011 for shining a powerful green laser beam into a State Police helicopter that was escorting a tanker through Boston Harbor and then lying about the incident. His conviction on the charge that he pointed the laser at the helicopter on purpose was vacated upon appeal, however.

According to federal law, anyone who knowingly aims the beam of a laser at an aircraft can be fined or face up to five years in prison. But prosecutions are rare and convictions even more so. The technology publication Ars Technica tallied 134 arrests made in the incidents nationwide from 2005 to 2013. Eighty of those arrests led to convictions.

“It’s difficult to locate the person doing it,” said State Police spokesman David Procopio, noting that there is often a lag between the time of the incident and when it is reported.

Even so, each Massachusetts report is forwarded to the Boston’s joint terrorism task force and investigated, said Procopio. The vast majority of the local incidents were considered “nuisance activities,” however, where terrorism was not the aim, he said.

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RAF pilot filmed up skirts of Royal Ascot racegoers. His excuse? He was 'stressed'

RAF man Andrew Hack was so stressed at work that he went to Royal Ascot and spent the day taking video clips - up women's skirts.

The 44-year-old father-to-be lay on the grass during the world famous race meeting last month and used his camera to film behind him as women also lay down.

Married Flight Sergeant Hack took the opportunity to zoom in with his high quality lens as he filmed over his shoulder, capturing images of his targets' underwear as they sat down and stood up.

The serviceman was eventually spotted by suspicious security guards as they patrolled around the grandstand and parade ring, where members of the Royal Family were also present.

The self-confessed naturist appeared at East Berkshire Magistrates' Court and heard the prosecutor reveal details of his offenses.

The Flight Sergeant who filmed up the skirts and down the tops of more than a dozen women at Royal Ascot, admitted a single charge of outraging public decency.

JP's heard that Hack was arrested in the Royal Ascot car park in the evening of June 19 after police were approached by a member of security.

He had been ejected from the racecourse prior to his arrest after the security guards caught him snooping with his camcorder.

Arresting officers checked the footage on the camera and found 82 video files on the device's memory card which showed up-skirt shots of around 13 different women.

Pamela Hayre-Wakefield, prosecuting at the court in Slough, Berkshire, said: "For the majority of the videos the defendant had clearly sat down on the grass near a group of women drinking and filmed backwards with the camera positioned between his arm and his body.

"The camera was of very good quality and could perform extreme close-ups.

"The majority of the women in the footage were wearing underwear, but in some videos you are able to see female pubic hair.

"One officer observed images of female genitalia and breasts on the camera. Mr Hack had been using his camera to zoom in and film up skirts and down tops."

Hack, of Didcot, Oxfordshire, admitted that he had committed the offense because he had been stressed at work and sought a challenge and a thrill.

He claimed he was unaware he was committing an offense and had carried out similar practices 20 to 30 times over the last 20 years, but did not gain sexual gratification from doing it.

The expectant father is a naturist and has previously filmed and taken part in naked cycling events.

Jelia Sane, defending, said: "There is no suggestion that Mr Hack masturbated whilst recording and there is no indication that he followed or pursued the women in any way.

"No threats were made and there was no racial or religious aggravation in his actions.

"He did not subject the women to high levels of harm and he understands the repercussions his actions will have on his work life and family life - his partner is currently seven months pregnant.

"This was an instance of someone seeking a thrill and a challenge under a great deal of strain."

Hack admitted one count of outraging public decency and will appear before magistrates later in the month to be sentenced.

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Alberta takes $5-million bath on the sale of aircraft fleet

Alberta taxpayers took a $5-million bath on the sale of the government aircraft fleet, according to provincial finance documents.

Although PC premier Jim Prentice boasted earlier this year the sale of three of the government’s four aircraft netted $6.1 million, the loss figure was revealed in a single line in the 2014-15 Treasury Board and Finance annual report.

“Air Services (expense) was $5-million higher due to a loss on the sale of airplanes as proceeds were less than net amortized book value,” the report said.

Alberta Finance and Service Alberta officials referred questions to each other Friday with no one providing an explanation why the three Beechcraft King Airs were sold for below book value.

Service Alberta, however, confirmed the province is still attempting to sell the fourth plane — a 30-year-old Dash-8 — which is costing $500 a week for operational maintenance and an undisclosed amount for leasing a hangar.

Prentice announced he was selling the fleet one day after taking office last fall in the wake of a storm of controversy over the inappropriate use of the government aircraft by former premier Alison Redford.

Wildrose’s finance critic Derek Fildebrandt, a former director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said selling the planes was still the best course — even though they sold at a loss.

“We’re pleased the aircraft are sold,” he said Friday.

“The Wildrose and myself in my previous capacity had called for the planes to be sold for a long time because the former government proved it was incapable of resisting abuse. While they were sold at a loss, it is likely that over the long term the money saved from the abuse of these planes will still have been worth it.”

Liberal Leader David Swann called it “a disappointing end to a shameful legacy.”

Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark questioned why there was such a rush to sell the planes.

“The airplanes should have been sold a long time ago and disposed of in an orderly fashion,” he said. “Instead, we had a political fire sale and Albertans didn’t get fair value for their assets.”

Alberta’s auditor general Merwan Saher last year detailed a long list of abuses of the aircraft fleet in a special case report requested by Redford.

He said her staff reserved seats on government flights for ghost passengers so she could fly alone. Redford and her ministers also used the taxpayer-funded fleet of planes to travel to Tory political events, the auditor general said. Redford also used government aircraft for personal trips to Jasper and Vancouver, he claimed.

RCMP investigated the premier’s use of the aircraft, but found no evidence to lay criminal charges.

Prentice announced in February that three planes had been sold to Fargo Jet Center Inc. of Fargo, N.D., for $6.1 million, but there have been no takers for the De-Havilland Dash-8. The four aircraft cost $25.2 million when they were purchased between 1985 and 2007.

Service Alberta said the government has dropped the price on the 36-passenger Dash-8 to $4.9 million from the reserve price of $5.5 million.

Alberta has operated an aircraft fleet for the past four decades, but in recent years it was costing taxpayers nearly $10 million annually.

Saher calculated the province could save $3.9 million annually by flying on commercial flights or using other modes of transportation to travel to Alberta communities.

Shuttering the air service division resulted in the layoffs of 22 employees, including pilots, aviation mechanics and administrative staff.

The NDP has yet to say how much it will cost to get out of the 10-year hangar lease the PC government had just recently signed before the sale.

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