SAN FRANCISCO: Federal authorities are hoping the public will act as whistle-blowers in an attempt to stop people from pointing lasers at commercial airplanes.
Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began tracking laser strikes in 2005, statistics show a more than 1,100 percent increase in the deliberate act of targeting aircraft from the ground with handheld lasers.
In an effort to combat the problem the FBI has launched a targeted regional reward program, which will run for 60 days in 12 FBI field offices.
As part of the pilot program, a reward of up to $10,000 will be available for information that leads to the arrest of any individual who takes part in the act.
The FBI said they will also be working with state and local law enforcement to educate teens about the dangers associated with lasing.
“Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious matter and a violation of federal law,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
“It is important that people understand that this is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions,” he added.
ELEVEN STRIKES DAILY
In 2013, there were a total of 3,960 laser strikes reported. That's an average of almost 11 incidents per day, and Industry experts say laser attacks can present a potentially serious situation for pilots.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said that shining a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft can temporarily blind a pilot and therefore jeopardize the safety of everyone on board.
“We applaud our colleagues at the Justice Department for aggressively prosecuting aircraft laser incidents, and we will continue to use civil penalties to further deter this dangerous activity,” Huerta said.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) also condemned the act of laser pointing. The group's International President, Captain Lee Moak said: "The risk associated with illegal and inappropriate laser illuminations is unacceptable. Pointing lasers at aircraft in flight poses a serious safety risk to the traveling public”.
“Since ALPA successfully urged lawmakers to make laser illuminations on aircraft a specific federal crime, laser targeting of aircraft is now a violation of both federal and civil laws with real penalties, and we will advocate for our FBI and FAA partners to vigorously pursue anyone who misuses these devices.”
Thousands of laser attacks go unreported every year. In fact numbers have almost doubles in some of the region's airports. San Jose International Airport saw 63 laser incidents last year. That's in comparison with 33 in 2012. Oakland International Airport also strikes almost double from 22 to 43. While reported strikes from San Francisco International Airport indicate a lesser increase from 33 in 2012 to 38 last year.
If you have information about a lasing incident or see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call your local FBI field office or dial 911.
OAKLAND: Police in Oakland have issued an amber alert following the hijacking of a car that contained an elderly male driver and a teen girl believed to be 13-years-old.
The incident happened in a parking lot of a Safeway store at 4100 Redwood Road in the Lincoln Square Shopping Center.
Read more on this ongoing story on NBC BAY AREA NEWS
Last year, across PG&E's service area there were 1,799 dig-ins by contractors and the public, compared to 1,536 in 2012
SAN FRANCISCO: Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is asking customers to make a call to 811 prior to any street excavations, to stop further accidental gas dig-ins.
Last year, contractors and homeowners in PG&E's service area were responsible for more accidental pipeline hits — where natural gas pipelines are struck during excavation projects – than in previous years. 2013 saw an increase of 263 cases of dig-ins by contractors and the general public in the PG&E service area, when compared with the previous year.
California State law requires that all excavation jobs are marked before work begins, including smaller tasks such as planting a tree or installing a new mailbox.
Every three minutes nationwide, an underground utility line is damaged during a digging project. These accidents can happen in a residential backyard, not just on heavy construction projects.
"We're seeing an increase in construction projects – from backyard improvements to major development. Unfortunately, we're also experiencing a dangerous uptick in the number of incidents where our gas and electric lines are damaged, which is a significant public safety risk," said Jesus Soto Jr., SVP of Engineering, Construction and Operations at PG&E.
"Whether you're building a deck, trenching or planting a tree, calling the 811 is easy, free and required by state law," he added.
Striking a utility line can lead to injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient service outages. And for that reason every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to the free phone number.
THE 811 SERVICE
The 811 number connects homeowners and contractors to Underground Service Alert (USA). This free service notifies utility companies about any type of excavation project. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with guide markers such as flags, spray paint or both.
PG&E SAFETY TIPS
N.B. If there is any damage to PG&E electric wires or gas pipelines, or if there is a possible gas leak move to a safe location, call 911, call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000
SAN FRANCISCO: A US pharmacy chain plan to cease the sale of all tobacco products from October in an effort to support the health and wellbeing of the nation.
The announcement, by CVS Caremark came today in parallel with a piece published online this morning in a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The article highlighted the conflict of interest of selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in the nation’s pharmacies.
SETTING A STANDARDS
CVS Caremark, trading as CVS pharmacies will be the first national pharmacy chain to take the step. The company will pull tobacco products from shelves in over 7600 stores in support of the health and well-being of its patients and customers
CVS president and CEO, Larry J. Merlo said that he thought ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in their stores was the right thing to do for both customers and the company.
"Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose,” he said.
"The significant action we're taking today by removing tobacco products from our retail shelves further distinguishes us in how we are serving our patients, clients and health care providers and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving health care marketplace,” Merlo added.
The JAMA journal piece was co-authored by CVS’s Chief Medical Officer, Troyen A. Brennan and Steven A. Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco. Brennan and Schroeder noted the paradox of cigarette sales in pharmacies had become even more relevant, in large part because of recent changes in the pharmacy industry.
"Most pharmacy chains are retooling themselves as an integral part of the health care system. They are offering more counseling by pharmacists, an array of wellness products and outreach to clinicians and health care centers,” the pair said.
They also noted that pharmacies were moving into the treatment arena with the advent of retail health clinics. These retail clinics are gearing up to work with primary care clinicians to assist in treating conditions that are exacerbated by smoking, such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes.
SMOKING AND HEALTH
Smoking is the leading cause of premature disease and death in the United States with more than 480,000 deaths annually.
While the prevalence of cigarette smoking has decreased from approximately 42 percent of adults in 1965 to 18 percent today, the rate of reduction has stalled in the past decade, and more interventions, such as reduced availability of cigarettes are needed.
CVS's decision to stop selling tobacco products is consistent with the positions taken by groups such as the American Medical Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and American Pharmacists Association. All these organizations have publicly opposed tobacco sales in retail outlets with pharmacies.
NATIONAL SMOKING CESSATION PROGRAM
According to Merlo, CVS also have plans to undertake what he called a ‘robust national smoking cessation program’ in an effort to help Americans to quit the habit.
Approximately seven in ten smokers say they want to quit and about half attempt to quit each year.
The program, to be launched this Spring will include in-house information about quitting smoking, along with online resources.
The company estimates that it will lose approximately $2 billion in revenues annually by eradicating tobacco product sales. However, the company say they have identified incremental opportunities that are expected to offset the profitability impact.
SAN FRANCISCO: The City Attorney's Consumer Protection Unit has filed a lawsuit against a social networking site over concerns about child safety.
City attorney, Dennis Herrera says the social media platform known as MeetMe, is unlawfully publicating information that may pinpoint the exact location of minors to online, sexual-predators.
The civil complaint was filed in the San Francisco Superior Court this morning, when Herrera claimed that the that the Pennsylvania based company was 'violating California's Unfair Competition Law' by relying on legally-invalid consent from children between the ages of 13 and 17 to share their real-time geolocation and personal information.
According to social media marketing statistics cited in the complaint, approximately 25 percent of MeetMe's user base is under the age of 18. The lawsuit also alleges that MeetMe fails to adequately disclose to its users how their personal data is distributed.
"MeetMe has become a tool of choice for sexual predators to target underage victims, and the company's irresponsible privacy policies and practices are to blame for it," Herrera said.
He added that he believes that the company improperly collects personal information from young teens, including their photos and real-time locations. It then distributes that information in ways that expose children to very serious safety risks.
"Under California law, MeetMe's business practices are illegal, and we're asking a court to put an end to them".
According to news reports that Herrera documented as part of the complaint, MeetMe has emerged as a key factor in numerous crimes involving sexual assault and illicit sex with minors in California.
In August of last year, a 29-year-old Citrus Heights man was charged with multiple counts of sexual acts with a minor and communicating with minors for unlawful purposes. Police investigators found that MeetMe was among the apps the perpetrator used to send sexually-explicit photos and text messages to underage girls in order to begin a "sexting" relationship that progressed to sexual contact.
Another man from Fresno was arrested in October on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor that he met using the social meetup platform. And in July 2013 a 21-year-old Fair Oaks man was criminally charged after posing as a 16-year-old to have sex with two girls who were aged 12 and 15. He also used the website to meet with the minors.
Dozens of minors nationwide have been similarly victimized in sex crimes by predators who relied on MeetMe to target underage victims, according to reports cited in Herrera's complaint.
In June 2013, a Massachusetts man was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to more than 50 charges, including rape of a child by force, indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. The individual had used multiple aliases on MeetMe to trick teenage girls into sending him nude images which in turn he used as blackmail unless the girls had sex with him.
Other listed cases in the complaint included, a man in Pennsylvania who was charged in September of 2013 after using MeetMe to meet and then sexually assault three teenagers. And in Oklahoma, a 25-year-old man used the site to meet and rape a 15-year-old girl.
An Albuquerque TV news station, reporting on MeetMe's role in the case of a 21-year-old man who was arrested for soliciting sex with a 13-year-old girl, noted: "Investigators say it's the latest site predators are cruising to find new victims, and it's happening all too often".
The lawsuit is seeking a court order to instruct that MeetMe discontinue engaging in activities in California that violate state law. It is looking for civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation found to have occurred in the state, and costs of the City Attorney's lawsuit.
Complete documentation on the case is available at: http://www.sfcityattorney.org/.
SAN FRANCISCO: City landlords may be hit hard in the pocket if they plan to evict tenants from properties they wish to clear or sell on.
As the number of evictions in the city continue to rise, one of the main reasons for ousting tenants is to clear a rented property and take it off the market. An action made totally legal because of the Ellis Act in state law.
However, a new proposal to be put forward by Supervisor, David Campos, tomorrow (Tuesday) would see landlords having to pay the difference between a tenant's current rent and the price of a similar apartment.
The proposal has caused conflicts between groups representing both tenant's and landlord's rights. Some tenant's rights groups believe the Ellis Act is being abused by landlords solely for commercial and monetary gain. While some landlords are looking for means testing to be included in any new proposals agreed upon.
Read the full story here on SFGate.com.
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