IC News 3-01-05




Pentagon Tries to Explain Secret Group
By ROGER T. BURNS, AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon sent its top intelligence official to Capital Hill on Monday to explain the mission and makeup of a secret battlefield intelligence group that some lawmakers suggested may have skirted congressional oversight and not been coordinated fully with the CIA.
The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, John Warner, R-Va., and the panel's top Democrat, Carl Levin of Michigan, met for over an hour with Stephen A. Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
After the meeting, Warner said he thought a full hearing was unnecessary on the unit, for now, but there was a need "to make sure the functions are in line with the new law" on intelligence reform passed last year.
"It could require, perhaps, more oversight than we've given it in the past," Warner said.
The group was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to expand the military's ability to collect human intelligence — information from spies as opposed to listening devices or satellites.
Larry Di Rita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld acknowledged the existence of the branch, which he said was managed by the Defense Intelligence Agency's Human Intelligence Service.
Another official, who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal details, said the unit's origins can be traced to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, when commanders of special operations forces found they lacked the interrogation experts they needed.
This official, who has direct knowledge about the unit, said it is not a standing force but rather a "task-organized" group that is put together to meet a battlefield commander's special needs.



Population of Fog-Covered Roanoke, VA Disappears

LYNCHBURG, VIRGINIA — The Lynchburg police station has been inundated by reports from terrified motorists who report that the nearby town of Roanoke has vanished from the face of the earth. Travelers on Highway 220 and I-81 report that a strange, low-lying fog blankets the area.

Cell phones will not function in the region, and radios emit an eerie sound that witnesses describe as the “howls of the damned.” Several reports also included sighting vehicles stopped at various points along the highway with their lights on, doors open and engines running, but no sign of their owners.

Law enforcement and scientists have no explanation for the phenomenon at this time. Some self-appointed paranormal experts point out that Roanoke Island, North Carolina was the last known location of the "Lost Colony," a settlement of 117 English that disappeared under Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh's watch, leaving behind only the word "Croatoan" carved onto a tree on the deserted island. Their disappearance was confirmed by John White in 1590, and never solved.

Some 90 men, 17 women, and 9 children had disappeared; there was no sign of a struggle or battle of any kind, and the people seemed to have left suddenly in the middle of other tasks. The only clue was the word "Croatoan" carved on to a tree. White took this to mean that they had moved to Croatoan (now Croatan) Island, near Cape Hatteras, but no evidence of them was found there either.

Roanoke Island, nestled in the Outer Banks, was part of Virginia at the time this occurred, and transferred to North Carolina ("Carolana") in 1633 under King Charles. The Jamestown, Virginia settlers, charged with amongst other duties, trying to find the Colony, never did, and fell upon hard times of their own just a decade later, including plagues and rampant cannibalism.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that Roanoke Island and current events in Roanoke, Virginia are related in any way.

[OOC Note: Special and heartfelt thanks to the National Parks Service of Fort Raleigh, Manteo, NC for historical data on Roanoke Island. Your tax dollars well spent, for once.]


Illegally Cut Off From Shelter
By Theola S. Labbe

On a cold night recently, the McCulloughs, a homeless family, dialed the District's 24-hour emergency hotline to request a warm place to sleep. They were turned away.
David McCullough, 38, said a hotline worker told him that D.C. Village, an emergency family shelter in Southwest Washington, was full. When he asked about other options for his family, he said, the worker told him he didn't have any and abruptly ended the call.
McCullough called a homeless advocacy group that night, Feb. 1, to complain. Then, with his wife, Michelle, 37, and their son, Matthew, 11, at his side, McCullough put his faith in the public.
The family sat on the ground on First Street NE near Union Station, with a gray blanket as a buffer from the cold sidewalk, and they displayed a cardboard sign: "Homeless Family Please Help God Bless." With quick thanks, the McCulloughs accepted folded $1 bills from strangers. They collected $54.50 to rent a hotel room in Virginia and enough to buy food.
City officials confirmed that the city had violated the law by turning away the McCulloughs on a night a hypothermia alert was declared by the District. They said the city had investigated the incident and had taken steps to prevent it from happening again. "Our policy is that no one gets turned away, especially on a frigid night," said Lynn C. French, senior adviser to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) on homeless policy.
Last year, there were 3,326 applications for family shelter space in the District, according to the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness. The number of family shelter units, which by law are supposed to be apartment-style for the safety of children, declined from a high of 1,216 in 1991 to 110 this year, according to the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.
On any given day, there are about 200 pending applications for family shelter, French said. On nights that the city has declared a cold-weather alert, she said, there were a few times when there were only two or three vacancies for families out of 191 beds set aside. "We know we're dancing on the edge here," French said.
The city also has been unable to meet a commitment to open 75 additional beds for families this winter because it could not secure a building that it had planned to use as a shelter.
Marta I. Beresin, a staff attorney for the Legal Clinic, said the city needs to have better contingency plans.
On Sunday, the city referred the family to a shelter for families on the grounds of the former D.C. General Hospital in Southeast that is open during the winter season. The McCulloughs were given a seven-day placement. They are not sure where they will go next.





ADULT FANTASY CLUB OFF TO A SECOND FALSE START - NORTHEAST:  The Foxxx's Den adult entertainment and dance club, in the same U Street corridor as Bound and the Black Cat, endured another rocky, abortive attempt to reopen under new management. Just a few months after the club suffered numerous structural problems, the repairs delayed by Black November even further, the Den reopened to enjoy just a few days of decent crowds, when another strange collapse took out a gaping hole in the front bar area, closing the building for repairs yet again. The DC Zoning Board is investigating the matter, as well as the buildings flanking the Den on either side, looking for clues as to what continues to cause these strange architectural anomalies.



LOCAL POLITICAL ASPIRANT'S CAREER GOES UP IN FLAMES -- NORTHWEST: Sidelined political hopeful Democrat Aesik Baird saw the rest of his life go the way of his Capitol Hill career, literally up in flames, as his Northwest DC home experienced a devastating propane gas explosion last week.

Arson investigators say the blast was suspicious in nature and is therefore treating it as an arson case for the time being. Baird has not been seen since the explosion, but neither has his body been recovered. He is currently being treated as a Missing Person pending further investigation of the property.

Neighbors reported seeing a suspicious utility vehicle near his exclusive home, which was still boarded up from damage due to Black November.

None of the 3 mystery women linked to Baird in recent gossip columns have been located either.





Shrieking Frogs Unnerve Hawaiian Island

By B.G. KEYES, Associated Press Writer
A tiny frog with a huge shriek has invaded the Big Island and won't shut up.
Mayor Harry Kim is looking for $2 million to begin controlling the spread of the nocturnal coqui frog, a beloved
native in Puerto Rico but considered an annoying pest in Hawaii since hitching a ride over in shipments of tropical plants around 1990.
The frogs have been mating easily — and shattering quiet island nights — ever since.
Aside from the noise, the frogs have a voracious appetite for spiders and insects, competing with native birds and fauna. And coqui frogs are adaptable to many ecosystems and breed heavily in Hawaii, experts said.
More than 150 communities on the Big Island are now infested with the coin-sized frogs, named after their high-decibel "ko-KEE, ko-KEE" chirp.


Woman charged with killing daughter with hammer, shovel
ROSELLE PARK, New Jersey (AP) -- Police charged a woman Monday with fatally bludgeoning her 14-year-old daughter with a hammer and shovel as the girl slept.
Lynn Giovanni, 45, was charged with murder and was being held at a psychiatric hospital on $250,000 bail. Authorities would not comment on a possible motive.
Several hours after Sunday's slaying, the mother tried to kill herself by crashing her car into a guardrail along a highway in a nearby town, authorities said. She sustained only minor injuries.
State police investigating the accident questioned Giovanni, who told them "of a possible homicide," said Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow.
Police then broke into the house where Giovanni had been staying with her mother and daughter, and found the bloodied body of Nicole Giovanni.
The girl was a freshman at Roselle Catholic High School, where administrators described her as popular and an accomplished indoor track runner. Grief counselors were called to the school Monday.



Man Appears Simultaneously in LA and Florida

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK — Executives at both Disney/ABC and General Electric/NBC today denied involvement in the strange appearance of an African-American man calling himself "Dante" in the live broadcasts of the February Super Bowl game between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, and of the final episode of the live reality show Who Wants to Marry a Movie Star?

The man, appearing simultaneously to witnesses on both the Movie Star set in Los Angeles, and at Jacksonville, Florida's Alltel Stadium, issued an enigmatic warning to “everyone who knows the truth.”


Monster star burst was brighter than full Moon
Stunned astronomers described the greatest cosmic explosion ever monitored -- a star burst from the other side of the galaxy that was briefly brighter than the full Moon and swamped satellites and telescopes.
The high-radiation flash, detected last December 27, caused no harm to Earth but would have literally fried the planet had it occurred within a few light years of home.
Normally reserved sky watchers struggled for superlatives.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Rob Fender of Britain's Southampton University. "We have observed an object only 20 kilometers (12 miles) across, on the other side of our galaxy, releasing more energy in a 10th of a second than the Sun emits in 100,000 years."
"It was the mother of all magnetic flares -- a true monster," said Kevin Hurley, a research physicist at the University of California at Berkeley.
Bryan Gaensler of the United States' Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, described the burst as "maybe a once per century or once per millennium event in our galaxy. "Astronomically speaking, this explosion happened in our backyard. If it were in our living room, we'd be in big trouble."
The blast was caused by an eruption on the surface of a known, exotic kind of neutron star called Magnestar SGR 1806-20, located about 50,000 light years from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius and about three billion times farther from us than the Sun.
To give an idea of this in earthly terms, the magnetic field of such a star is so powerful that it could strip the data off a credit card at a distance of 200,000 kilometers (120,000 miles).
Many questions will be thrown up by the event, including the intriguing speculation that the dinosaurs may have been wiped out by a similar, closer gamma-ray explosion 65 million years ago, and not by climate change inflicted by an asteroid impact.
"Had this happened within 10 light years of us, it would have severely damaged our atmosphere and possibly have triggered a mass extinction," said lead-author Gaensler.




Shaolin kung fu master appeals to legislators for protection
A top kung fu master from Shaolin Temple has urged China's legislature to enact a law to better protect the world-renowned martial arts centre's trademark rights, state press reported.
"China needs to make a law at an earlier date so that Shaolin kung fu and other intangible heritage are better protected within a legal framework," Xinhua news agency quoted master Shi Yongxin as saying.
The 1,500-year-old temple, known as the cradle of China's martial arts, is under siege from competitors taking advantage of its name, said Shi, a deputy to the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament.
Shi cited a brochure that read: "Want to practice Shaolin kong fu? Come to Japan."
Shaolin Temple, in central Henan province, has also recently applied to the United Nations to protect the site as a world heritage area.
Today Shaolin is inundated by tourists and the monastery's monks and practitioners have few places left for quiet contemplation or the rigorous practice of kung fu.



German supermarket chain uses fingerprint ID for payment
From Wikinews, the free news source (BETA)

The future of grocery shopping has changed in the Palatinate region of Germany. Last November, the Edeka supermarket chain offered in one of its Rülzheim stores fingerprint identification as method of payment. Customers can have their fingerprint put on file and begin using the system as an alternative to cash or card. Customers then place their finger on the scanner to complete a purchase.
The supermarket owner Roland Fitterer claims the system shaves 40 seconds off checkout time and plans to introduce it into his other 5 stores.
Internet and biometrics services provider, it-Werke, is the technology company behind the effort. The supermarket is their third client to adopt what it-Werke calls its digiPROOF technology.
There was sufficient interest among store customers that 100 registered to use the system. The chances are one in 220 million that two people have the same fingerprint.








Star-"Crossed" Lovers? - Seen noshing and canoodling at the trendy Vault Nightclub in Midtown, were former British Invasion fan Crucifico "Cross" Sanchez and newest gal pal, Aria Pirezelli, known amongst the Cap Hill set for her aspirations and her law firm contacts. The two came separately, enjoying a light dinner and bar drinks, before dancing together rather intimately. They soon left the Vault, presumably to do some debriefing of their own.