Inflation relief checks: Why some economists warn they could fuel rising prices




Washington
CNN
 — 

Several states are sending taxpayers money to help them cope with inflation, but some economists warn that the payments will do little to alleviate the pain of rising costs and could further fuel inflation.

In California, for example, about 23 million qualifying taxpayers are expected to receive up to $1,500, with smaller payments going to higher earners. The payments, which are technically tax refunds, will start going out October 7 and are meant “to help address rising costs,” according to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.

In Georgia, taxpayers received up to $500 in one-time tax refunds over the summer.

“As hardworking Georgians face rising inflation caused by failed federal government policies, we are doing what we can to provide relief by returning their money back into their pockets,” said Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a May statement.

In other places, like Colorado, states are required by law to return excess state revenue to taxpayers. Tax rebates that went out this summer are worth $750 for individual tax filers and $1,500 for joint filers. Labeled as a “Cash Back” program, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said the state moved up sending the refunds out by about a year “because they need it now,” according to an interview with Colorado Public Radio in August.

For families struggling to pay for gas and other everyday costs, having some extra cash could offer some short-term relief. But economists argue that putting more money into the economy can drive up demand and prices for everyone.

“Handing out dollars in an inflationary environment will only make matters worse by driving prices up further,” wrote Beth Akers, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, in a blog post last week.

On Friday, the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation showed that prices are still rising, up 6.2% in August compared to a year ago. The central bank is tasked with keeping inflation under control, which it can do by raising interest rates. Unfortunately, higher rates can create economic pain for Americans by making it more expensive to borrow money. The Fed raised its benchmark rate by three-quarters of a percentage point for the third time in a row earlier this month.

Jason Furman, a Harvard professor and former economic adviser in the Obama administration, has also argued that the payments in California, one of the biggest programs, could contribute to rising prices.

“As such these inflation relief payments will export inflation to the rest of the United States – with some showing up in California too,” Furman tweeted earlier this month.

Still, politicians are eager to sell the payments as a helpful benefit to taxpayers in a midterm election year.

“Unfortunately the stimulus checks are more of a tool to push a political agenda,” said Lucy Dadayan, a senior research associate with the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, where she leads a project on state tax collections.

“The checks could fuel inflation further,” she added.

What’s more, it could put state budgets – many of which are seeing tax revenue growth slowing – in a precarious position this coming year.

“At this rate, I think we are going to see state budget deficits this fiscal year,” Dadayan said.





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Burkina Faso: Military dissolves government and announces removal of leader



A new military takeover has been declared in Burkina Faso, after a day marked by gunfire and confusion in the capital city of Ouagadougou. The country’s land and aerial borders have been closed, and its constitution suspended.

In an announcement on state television late Friday, a Burkina Faso military official announced the dissolution of the current government and the dismissal of the junta leader, President Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba.

Army Captain Ibrahim Traore will now take the reins as the President of the country’s ruling junta, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR), which first seized power earlier this year.

With the suspension of the constitution and government, this is Burkina Faso’s second military takeover in a year.

Accompanied by more than a dozen members of the military, official Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho read a communiqué from Traore declaring the changes.

He also accused Damiba of “betraying” the military’s aim to restore security to the country.

“People of Burkina Faso, faced with the degradation of the security situation, we have attempted several times to refocus the transition on the issue of security,” Sorgho said.

“The risky choices of Lieutenant-Colonel Damiba have increasingly weakened our security apparatus,” he also said.

Prior efforts to calm the insurrection appear to have been in vain.

Earlier on Friday, after residents of the capital city of Ouagadougou awoke to the sounds of gunfire, the junta’s then-leaders explained the situation as the result of “a mood swing” among some military members, and said talks were underway.

“The enemy that is attacking our country only wants to create division among Burkinabes to accomplish its destabilization,” Damiba said in a Facebook statement at the time.

Though normal activity was seen on the streets on Friday, heavy gunfire was heard coming from the main military camp and some residential areas of Ouagadougou.

Several armed soldiers were seen taking positions along the main avenue leading to the presidency, as well as blocking access to administrative buildings and national television.

Damiba took power after a military coup on Jan. 24 ousted former President Roch Kabore and dissolved the government.

He vowed to restore security after years of violence carried out by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State. But his government struggled to deliver. Attacks persist and the army is in disarray.

This week, unknown assailants killed eleven soldiers during an attack on a 150-vehicle convoy taking supplies to a town in northern Burkina Faso. Fifty civilians are missing.

Large areas of the north and east have become ungovernable since 2018. Millions have fled their homes, fearing further raids by gunmen who frequently descend on rural communities on motorbikes. Thousands have been killed in attacks.

The West African country, one of the world’s poorest, has become the epicenter of the violence that began in neighboring Mali in 2012 but has since spread across the arid expanse of the Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert.



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Farms in Florida are underwater and without power, pushing back critical planting season



New York
CNN Business
 — 

About 15% of Nick Wishnatzki’s 650-acre family strawberry farm sustained damage from Hurricane Ian. His fields in Duette, Florida, are underwater, and plastic used to protect the carefully prepped fields for planting season in November, were ripped off by Ian’s 100-mph winds. That’s sent Wishnatzki scrambling to get back on track.

“I think it’s going to delay us about a week,” said Nick Wishnatzki, public relations manager and fourth generation owner at Wish Farms. “It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re talking about market prices, a week can mean a big part of your bottom line as a farm.”

But he considers himself one of the lucky ones. His cooling and refrigeration facility in Plant City, Florida, had power back as of Friday morning, but his second facility just slightly south in Manatee County was still dark.

“We can manage like this for a couple of weeks, but anything beyond that will be a challenge,” said Wishnatzki. “These facilities are critical during the harvest season because we … cool the berries coming in from the field in order to maintain quality and shelf life.”

Millions of other Floridians including farmers are still surveying their damage and waiting for power.

Flooded and damaged Strawberry fields at Wish Farms in Duette, FL.

“This will be a major event for agriculture,” said Nikki Fried, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner. “Dairy farmers are in need of immediate generators to milk cows.”

The main agricultural season in Florida runs November through May. But many farm and ranch lands aren’t even able to be surveyed for damage because they are still inaccessible. Farm groups are still trying to connect with farmers and ranchers on the ground. But connectivity remains an issue.

“We anticipate it may be several days – and in some cases, several weeks – before we know the full extent of the impact on Florida growers,” Christina Morton, Director of Communications with the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association.

Citrus crops could be devastated, as Hurricane Ian went through 400,000 of 450,000 acres of citrus fields, according to Fried. Florida is the US’s leading citrus producer and agriculture is the state’s number two industry behind tourism with three hundred crops being planted and harvested in the next several months.

Fall vegetables have been destroyed across the state, the Florida Farm Bureau said. Peppers, tomatoes and green beans are “gone.” Many honey bee colonies are submerged in water and in distress, the bureau said, threatening pollination.

Citrus production was already at its lowest level in 55 years because of greening – a bacterial disease that kills citrus trees, according to the Department of Agriculture.

“When hurricanes hit citrus groves, it’s not always 100% of the fruit that will fall off the tree, but storms with stronger winds tend to drop a larger amount of fruit, especially when the storms hit later in the growing season,” writes Christa Court, University of Florida economist and director of the UF/IAS Economic Impact Analysis Program.

Photos taken Thursday by the University of Florida Economic Impact Analysis Program after Hurricane Ian passed through the Manatee/Hardee County region show uprooted citrus trees surrounded by flooding and hundreds of citrus fruits on the ground.

“Damage to citrus trees are a concern and could have a multi-year effect on production, driving down numbers even further below greening levels,” said John Walt Boatright, Director of National Affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau.

Orange futures spiked 10% as Ian made landfall and rose another 2% Friday.

An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Christa Court.



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Dallas police release body camera footage from fatal shooting


DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas police released body camera footage on Thursday showing officers warning an armed suspect multiple times early Wednesday before the confrontation ended in a barrage of bullets.  

Officer Brandy Walling sustained a minor injury. The suspect, now identified as 64-year-old Darrell Hibbard, later died at a local hospital.  

“This is never our intended outcome,” Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said at a press briefing to release body camera footage from all three responding officers. 

Garcia called the cameras one of the “best things to happen to law enforcement” in a career spanning more than 30 years.

“I can come up here and tell you all day long how scary that situation was, right? You’re not gonna get the feeling to see the reaction of those officers facing an armed gunman in a gun battle,” Garcia said.

Officers were called out to the 10300 block of Shiloh Road just before 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning after receiving several 911 calls reporting a man with a gun.  

Walling was first on scene. Her body camera captured her screaming at least 30 commands for Hibbard to drop his weapon as he appeared to stand near the sidewalk in front his home.  

That officer – her voice becoming more strident – even warning Hibbard “you’re going to get shot.” After about a minute and a half of such commands, the exchange ends in a barrage of gunfire.  

And while the body camera shows officers in the line of fire – two patrol vehicles were hit by bullets – the video cannot answer the pressing question of why Hibbard refused to drop his weapon.

“I have no idea,” Garcia said in response to a reporter question. “We need to try to get more history on this individual, what he was thinking. But at this point, we don’t know why he did not or why he began to fire at my officers.”

As multiple investigations continue to pursue answers, Garcia said they are exploring possible mental health issues. According to Garcia, more weapons were found stashed on Hibbard’s porch. Even after he was wounded, Garcia said Hibbard continued to point his weapon at officers.

“It gives you all a sense of what they face every day… the dangers of this honorable profession,” Garcia said.



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Austin hospital shooting: Police respond to reports of shots fired at Seton Hospital





CNN
 — 

Police in Austin, Texas, are responding to reports of shots fired at Seton Hospital, the department said on Twitter Friday, adding the hospital has been placed on lockdown as a “precautionary measure.”

The scene remains active and “no patients have been located, treated, or transported” as a result of the reported incident, according to Austin-Travis County EMS.

“Continue to avoid the area,” EMS said.

Late Friday afternoon, EMS authorities said they were scaling down their “number of units on scene.”

“The situation remains that no patients are located, treated, or transported. The scene remains active overall,” the agency wrote on Twitter.

This is a developing story and will be updated.





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GOP congressional candidate Joe Kent’s ties to white nationalists include interview with Nazi sympathizer





CNN
 — 

Despite disavowing White nationalism last spring when one of its adherents endorsed him, a US House candidate in Washington subsequently gave a previously unreported interview in June to a Nazi sympathizer and White nationalist.

While Republican Joe Kent touted his support for prominent far-right figures like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Green and Paul Gosar and supported MAGA policies, he was speaking with Greyson Arnold, a Nazi sympathizer.

Kent’s exchange with Arnold is all the more notable because just weeks later Kent’s campaign worked to distance him from Arnold after photos surfaced of the pair together. A Kent campaign strategist told the Associated Press in July that the campaign did not do background checks on those who took selfies with the candidate.

Arnold has a well-documented history of making White nationalist, racist, antisemitic and pro-Nazi statements, including once calling Adolf Hitler “a complicated historical figure which many people misunderstand.”

In a statement to CNN, campaign spokesperson Matt Braynard said, “Joe Kent had no idea who that individual was when he encountered him on the street and Joe Kent has repeatedly condemned the statements that the individual is accused of making.”

Braynard added that the campaign screens all interview requests and that Arnold approached Kent on the street by what he assumed was a local journalist. “None of the questions gave Joe any indications that the individual had any racist or antisemitic views and, if he had, Joe would have cancelled the interview immediately,” said Braynard.

The campaign said that Arnold “is not in any way part of our campaign nor would we allow our campaign to be associated with someone who has that background. We also have no record of any contribution from that individual and if we had received one, we’d return it.”

Kent, a former Green Beret and gold star spouse endorsed by former President Donald Trump, ran in this summer’s primary against Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of ten Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in 2021.

In August, Kent advanced to November’s general election against Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez under the state’s top-two primary system after edging out Beutler, who placed third. Inside Elections recently redesignated the race as more competitive, moving it from “Safe Republican” to “Likely Republican.”

On a since-suspended Twitter account and active channel on Telegram called “Pure Politics,” Greyson, or “American Greyson” as he calls himself, has shared posts that called Nazi men the “pure race” and that the US should have sided with the Nazis during World War Two. Arnold has falsely claimed there were “Jewish plans to genocide the German people,” and in a post, he shared a quote that said the “Jewish led colored hordes of the Earth” were attempting to exterminate White people.

Arnold was pictured in multiple photographs with Kent at a fundraiser in April and has been canvassing for Republican candidates with Washington State Young Republicans, with one recent photo showing Arnold in a Joe Kent shirt according to photos on their public Instagram.

Speaking with Arnold, Kent praised Gosar’s stance on illegal and legal immigration in a friendly five-minute interview.

“Paul Gosar has been excellent, obviously immigration – border state down there. He took me down to the border, so I got a firsthand feel of all the crises we face there,” said Kent. “Representative Gosar also has some awesome legislation he’s proposed about getting rid of a lot of the legal immigration.”

Arnold was at the Capitol during the January 6, 2021, riot, posting a video of himself leaving the steps of the front of the building saying they were being “chased out by communists,” calling the riot “an American baptism,” as he said police were deploying tear gas. There is no indication he entered the building, and he has not been charged with any crime.

While Kent has tried to shift his campaign rhetoric toward the center – including by removing calls to adjudicate the 2020 election from his website sometime between June and July – his campaign has been bogged down by associations with white nationalists and extremists, whom Kent has repeatedly had to distance himself from.

Back in March 2022, Kent disavowed Nick Fuentes, a 24-year-old far-right white nationalist, after Fuentes endorsed Kent in the primary. Fuentes is the architect of the America First Political Action Conference, a white nationalist conference held annually that received intense backlash this year after Gosar appeared at the event and Greene attended it.

Kent said at the time that he was unfamiliar with Fuentes despite a brief call with him in spring 2021 about the candidate’s social media strategy. In April 2021, Kent tweeted in defense of Fuentes after he was banned from Twitter.

“Many are glad that their political rivals are targeted by the state & big tech, they hate Trump, @NickJFuentes & MAGA. This short side thinking has led to some of the greatest tragedies in human history. We must fight for all speech & fight the confluence of gov & big tech.”

He later said he stood by his comments but reiterated he did not want Fuentes’ endorsement because of Fuentes’ “focus on race/religion.”

Kent’s website also features an endorsement from Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers who was censured by the Republican-controlled Arizona senate after she gave a speech to the white nationalist conference calling for public hangings.





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Ketanji Brown Jackson’s first few months at the fractured Supreme Court





CNN
 — 

Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has joined an institution of isolated chambers and archaic procedures. It is also a place that has lost the public’s trust. So, as she navigates the cloistered corridors, she’ll also have to watch her footing in the ongoing debate over the institution’s legitimacy.

In some respects, Jackson begins the new session Monday with advantages her recent predecessors lacked. She moved into her expansive, freshly painted chambers weeks ago. She had the summer to bone up on cases. And she has hired, among her clerks, a lawyer who previously served the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Jackson, 52, took the ceremonial oath on Friday but officially assumed her position on the nation’s high court in June and was able to begin reviewing the cases for the 2022-23 session.

RELATED: The Supreme Court is fighting over its own legitimacy

The three prior appointees – Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch – were seated as cases were already underway and had little time before facing difficult votes. Barrett and Kavanaugh were confirmed in October 2018 and 2020, respectively, after oral arguments had begun, and Gorsuch was seated in April 2017.

Once into a routine, justices say it can take years to build confidence.

“I do think it takes three to five years,” Stephen Breyer, whom Jackson succeeded, said in a CNN interview last year. “Justice (William O.) Douglas said three years, (David) Souter thinks it’s five. … I was pretty nervous the first three years at least, and maybe a little longer … Can I really do this job? And then you begin to absorb the mores of the institution.”

Those mores exist in an atmosphere distinct to the Supreme Court, one that can be disconcerting, irrespective of experience as on lower federal courts (as Jackson had for nine years) or service as a Supreme Court law clerk (as Jackson and five other current justices were early in their careers).

And here’s a new twist: Since last session’s decision reversing nearly a half-century of abortion rights, and other decisions rolling back precedent, public approval of the court has plunged.

A new Gallup poll shows a record high number of people, 58%, said they disapproved of the job the Supreme Court was doing.

Justices have gone public with conflicting views about such numbers and whether the court’s legitimacy can be questioned, escalating the tensions as they’ve gone along. This week Justice Samuel Alito warned of criticism that “crosses an important line.”

Jackson has not commented on the boiling issue and has no speeches scheduled for the remainder of 2022.

Her past judicial record would naturally align her with fellow liberal Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, who referred last year about the “stench” of politics permeating the court.

But it is not known how Jackson will present herself in the public eye regarding the ideological and partisan divisions.

It is difficult to know, more broadly, how Jackson may interact with fellow colleagues, beyond the geniality she showed at the Senate confirmation hearings last spring. She operated solo for eight years as a federal trial court judge in Washington, DC. Her few months on the US appeals court for the DC Circuit, hearing cases in three-judge panels, did not test her as dealing with eight colleagues on all cases will.

At the outset, one of the most daunting tasks involves the screening of the hundreds of appeals (known as petitions for certiorari) received each week from people who have lost their cases in lower courts.

Jackson has joined the “cert pool,” by which justices’ law clerks band together to screen these petitions and write memos summarizing whether the cases should be granted and scheduled for oral arguments or outright denied.

The justices take up less than 1% of the cases that come their way, hearing and resolving only about 60 each annual session. Justices primarily look for instances in which lower courts have issued conflicting decisions (seeking to resolve those conflicts) or cases that test the reach of federal power.

The “cert pool” began in the 1970s as a way to ease the court’s workload, and not all justices have joined over the years. Some justices thought it would add a level of bureaucracy or lead to manipulation of the review process. For instance, Justice John Paul Stevens, who served from 1975 to 2010, never joined the pool.

More often than not, however, justices have joined the pool through the years, including Roberts, who himself was part of it when he served as a law clerk to then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist in 1980 and 1981.

Gorsuch is a more recent exception. He opted against it, and after a few years of participation in the pool, Alito has also pulled out.

Most new justices try to pick up at least one former clerk, and among the four law clerks that Jackson has hired for her inaugural term is Michael Qian, who worked for Ginsburg during a tumultuous 2019-2020 session that happened to be Ginsburg’s last. Two other Jackson clerks served with her when she was a district court judge.

Kagan, who had not been a judge on any bench before her 2010 appointment, succeeding Stevens, described recently, at a judicial conference in Big Sky, Montana, enlisting three clerks with prior experience, from the chambers of Ginsburg, Breyer and now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. She said she depended on them – up to a point.

Whenever she would have to make a decision regarding an internal procedure, she would inevitably get three “entirely different” views. “So I would sort of listen to them, and say, ‘Why don’t we do that one.’ … Sometimes I would be happy with my choice, and other times we would do it that way, and I would think: that is the worst way of doing things.”

Seniority reigns at the Supreme Court. In the justices’ private conferences, held in an oak-paneled room off Roberts’ chambers, the justices proceed in order of rank as they offer their views of cases and cast votes, beginning with the chief justice.

Not only does she speak ninth, Jackson also has the junior-justice chore of taking notes of the proceedings. (No one other than the nine is allowed into these sessions.) If someone knocks on the door, to deliver a book, document or forgotten pair of reading glasses, answering the door falls to Jackson, too.

Her first session of oral arguments will be Monday, and she will take the freshman seat at the end of the bench, to the chief justice’s far left, next to Kavanaugh. Barrett will now be on Roberts’ far right. (The justices sit at the mahogany bench in alternating order of seniority: the more tenure, the closer to the chief justice, in the center chair, a justice moves.)

In the past, some new justices have held back at oral arguments, waiting to make sure more senior members can get their questions in. This has reflected personal style, rather than any ideology. Gorsuch, as well as Ginsburg, who served from 1993 until 2020, jumped into the fray early and often, while Alito, who joined the court in 2006, initially asked few questions.

In the beginning, Alito also had trouble with the microphone in front of him, sometimes accidentally hitting it with his hand or bumping his head against it. “It is in the way,” he told me in his early months regarding the placement of the microphone. “Then you can’t help hitting it when you gesture. It’s kind of awkward.” Alito used to lean in close to the bench. He now sits back a bit.

Beyond the new patterns in the justices’ consideration of cases, a delicate dynamic can emerge among the nine in extracurricular matters when a new justice arrives. Roberts himself told C-SPAN in 2009 that the arrival of a new justice can be “unsettling,” and in 2017, he and Gorsuch fell into some early squabbles, including over Gorsuch’s decision to skip a private justices’ session, soon after his confirmation, because of a previously scheduled commitment.

Back in the early 1980s, after Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman justice, joined the bench, she inadvertently irritated Justice Harry Blackmun by settling into a small justices’ private library.

Blackmun had been the only justice who used the private quarters at the time, and once O’Connor began using it, the sometimes-prickly Blackmun made sure she and the rest of the justices knew he considered it an intrusion.

But such griping eased over time. The justices, all appointed for life, often speak of learning to live with each other.

Breyer happened to succeed Blackmun in 1994. Asked this week whether his predecessor had any advice at the time, Breyer responded: “Justice Blackmun told me: “You’ll find this an unusual assignment.’”



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News 4 Investigates Metrolink train not stopping, separating 10-year-old from family


ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) – It’s 9:30 at night after a Cardinals home game. A 10-year-old girl and her family are heading home on a Metrolink train. The girl steps off at an East St. Louis stop, thinking her parents and sister are behind her. Seconds after getting off the train, the girl turns around to see the doors closed before her family could join her. The train speeds off, leaving the girl alone.

Those terrifying moments have the girl’s family and other passengers who were on the train, questioning if something could have been done to prevent this.

News 4 Investigates obtained surveillance video from the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center platform, which shows how the train doors closed within two seconds of the 10-year-old getting off the train.

News 4 is not identifying the girl since her family did not want to be interviewed.

Julie Conley was also leaving the game and sitting in the same car as the family. She recalls the panic that immediately spread through the train.

“We are starting to pull away from the station and we hear these blood, I mean blood curling screams,” Conley said. “The dad started running towards our part of the train and he says my daughter got off the train.”

Surveillance video from the platform shows how the doors closed as the girl’s dad was trying to step off the train. Passengers on the platform can be seen trying to wave down the driver.

Conley says inside the train every passenger swung into action,

“Everybody in our section was screaming,” Conley said. “Several people jumped up and we’re all saying hit the red buttons because above each one of the doors there is a red button.”

Conley is referring to buttons labeled “passenger alarm” which work by sending an alert directly to the driver. Conley says the parents also used the emergency intercom to talk to the driver.

Metrolink trains do not have emergency stop buttons that passengers can hit. The only one who can stop the train is the driver.

“The driver should have been able to come over the PA and and said is there a problem?” Conley added. “Train didn’t slow down nothing.”

Instead Conley says the train continued to the next stop, Washington Park which is nearly two miles away. Conley remembers the family get off and never a word from the driver.

“The train pulled right on to the next station,” she said.

At the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center station, security video from Metrolink shows the train left at 9:32 p.m. The video shows how people on the platform immediately tried to help the girl, including a man who used the emergency telephone on the platform to call Metrolink’s private security.

In Metrolink’s audio recording of the call you can hear the dispatcher ask the man to stay with the girl until deputies get there.

The man agrees and the call ends. During the call, the Metrolink dispatcher never asked for the man’s name or contact information.

Based on Metrolink records, that passenger made the first call to security. The train driver called it in nearly 5 minutes later, something he did as he left the next stop.

Around the time when the train driver is calling security, surveillance video from the platform shows the camera started to move as staff located the girl and zoomed in on her.

At 9:40 p.m. around 10 minutes after the train left, two St. Clair County sheriff’s deputies show up and stay with the girl.

Meanwhile, at the Washington Park station, surveillance video shows the girl’s parents waiting and then rushing to catch a bus back to their daughter.

Metrolink surveillance video shows the family was reunited just after 10 p.m., nearly a half hour after they were separated.

News 4 Investigates asked Metrolink why the family’s only option was to get off at the next stop and find a ride back to their daughter.

“I will not suggest to you that anything was done improper,” said Kevin Scott, General Manager of Security at BiState Development, which runs Metrolink.

Scott says all the emergency alerts and the train’s intercom system worked. Weekly maintenance records show the train was checked four days earlier and everything passed.

“Prior to every shift the operators inspect the train the buttons alarms,” Scott added.

According to Metrolink emergency buttons on the train send alerts directly to the driver, who then has to call it into security. Scott says those steps were followed in this case.

News 4 Investigates found Metrolink records show the driver called it in as he was leaving the next station, which was 5 minutes after the girl got separated.

When asked if there would have been a way to stop the train, Scott answered, “There’s no emergency stop button on the train. When you press the emergency button that puts you in direct communication or it alerts the operator that there’s an issue.”

News 4 Investigates checked other cities with above ground metro systems to see what their policies on emergency stops.

In Chicago the transit authority says if a train was pulling away a passenger would have to use the intercom to talk to the driver, who would then notify security and employees at the station.

San Francisco, which has a bigger rail system, says drivers are expected to look out the window before moving the train to make sure there’s no issue with passengers. They also have security staff on platforms who could step in.

On the Metrolink tracks Scott says everything comes down to timing.

“The trains are only at the platforms for about 20 seconds,” he said.

Scott explained that drivers can hold trains at a platform, but once the train is moving it’s a different case.

“Once the doors are closed and the train is moving, the scenario will play out as we’re discussing,” Scott said. “I would suggest that if there is something that is happening and the door is not closed yet, to block the door so the operator can’t close the door.”

Scott acknowledges the man who helped the girl and made the first call to security was a best case scenario.

News 4 asked Scott, “Things could have ended very differently had it been maybe someone else at the platform, as a parent if you’re in that situation what are you supposed to do?”

Scott explained that Metrolink passengers are a community. He added, “My recommendation would be and will always be, when you have a child with you keep the child close to you, make sure you’re in control of where they go and what they do.”

Scott claims this isn’t an issue that comes up often and this is the first time he’s seen it happen in his three years on the job.

“Does this happen often? It does not happen often. Is this an anomaly for us where a child gets separated on the system? It is,” Scott added.

Julie Conley hope it stays that way, but knowing the train didn’t stop is leaving her with more questions than answers.

“How do we get help?” Conley questioned.

Metrolink stresses everything worked like it should have in this case.

Following News 4′s interview with Kevin Scott, the head of Metrolink security, a spokeswoman sent News 4 a statement to add more information. In the statement she wrote that drivers are the only ones who can stop a train and using the emergency brakes can cause cause significant injuries to the driver and passengers.



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FBI warns drones pose potential risk to critical infrastructure after some spotted over Louisiana chemical facilities





CNN
 — 

Drones have been spotted flying over Louisiana chemical facilities and a pipeline over the past year and a half, prompting an FBI warning on Thursday about the potential for espionage and terrorism at critical infrastructure facilities, according to a report obtained by CNN.

“[O]verflights can be an effective means of surveilling critical infrastructure because facility security personnel and law enforcement officers have limited options to detect and respond to” this type of drone activity, the report says.

For instance, on July 29, observers saw multiple drones flying over a Louisiana chemical facility at night. The group of drones flew several feet above the facility before splitting in two directions, according to the report.

Additionally, on March 8, 2021, a drone was discovered flying near a Louisiana pipeline. A law enforcement officer located the drone operator and discovered they had taken pictures, the report says. It’s unclear what action, if any, was taken by law enforcement.

According to the report, there are no indications of nefarious activity that directly threatens these facilities. However, drones could be used for documenting patterns of activity or the physical layout of the targeted critical infrastructure facilities, the report says.

The FBI encourages facility operators to contact their local field office if industrial espionage, terrorism or other criminal activity is suspected.

“While most drone flights over infrastructure is innocent enough, it creates a real safety, operational, and security concern. Drones are a great tool, but they can also be used as a modern day explosive weapon in the wrong hands,” Brian Harrell, former assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security, told CNN.

“Industry is well aware of the tactics to map, surveil, and drop projectiles into very critical sites and they often deploy onsite situational awareness systems to provide early warning,” Harrell added.

Even when drones are spotted, finding the drone operator can be difficult, according to the FBI report, which notes that “current security measures at critical infrastructure might not be able to detect [unmanned aircraft systems] incursions or determine what information a UAS has collected.”

The report was prepared by the FBI New Orleans Field Office in coordination with several federal agencies, including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration, to alert critical infrastructure security personnel at chemical facilities of the continuing risk of unmanned aircraft systems.

Last year, CNN reported that a drone that crashed near a Pennsylvania power substation in 2020 was likely meant to damage or disrupt the electric equipment, according to a federal law enforcement bulletin.

The July 2020 incident was the first known case of a “modified unmanned aircraft system likely being used in the United States to specifically target energy infrastructure,” according to a memo from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center.



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Putin’s new land grab is dangerous for Ukraine — and the world





CNN
 — 

Russia’s new land grab in Ukraine is an act of geopolitical piracy that will make the war more dangerous, add new risk to the West’s strategic calculations and deal a long-term challenge to the international rule of law.

President Vladimir Putin presided over a Kremlin ceremony Friday to formalize an annexation process of four occupied regions that will slice away thousands of miles of Ukraine’s heavy industrial and agricultural wealth.

In effect, the move amounts to stealing territory from a sovereign power and declaring it part of Russia after an unprovoked invasion – a clear violation of international law and one reason why much of the world will not accept it.

The Russian leader made the announcement with a new rhetorical blast against the United States and its allies, underscoring how he sees the war in Ukraine as part of a wider project to reverse what he sees as the humiliations caused by the fall of the Soviet Union.

“The West has been looking for and continues to look for a new chance to weaken and destroy Russia, which they have always dreamed of splitting our state, pitting peoples against each other,” Putin said.

“They are simply haunted by the fact that there is such a great country as Russia.”

The absorption of the Ukrainian regions, which recalls the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, will not change the reality of a war that has backfired on Putin, inflicted a bloody toll on his forces and is stoking unusual dissent inside Russia.

But it is a ruse – produced through what the West says are sham referendums – that creates an alternative reality about the conflict that will have several important consequences for Americans, future US global power and the cause of democracy, even if the war, seven months on, may feel to many Americans like a faraway dispute brewed from ancient enmities on the edge of Europe.

  • First, in the political fantasy world concocted by Putin, the annexations turn the war from an offensive operation into one of self-defense. That’s because Moscow will now define these new possessions as part of larger Russian territory, which has raised fears of an escalation of the war because Putin has warned he could use all weapons systems (code for nuclear arms) to defend the Russian state.
  • This new dimension to the conflict may mean that the West’s staunch support for Ukraine, which has made major advances in the east and the south in recent weeks, comes with a higher risk premium given that there’s no sign Kyiv’s forces will stop fighting to restore control over the annexed districts using billions of dollars in US weaponry and materiel.
  • In the longer term, the annexations will crystalize the reason why the United States and its allies have been so adamant about helping Ukraine’s war effort. The war threatens to enshrine a precedent of a bigger, powerful nation simply marching into a smaller one and seizing its territory on a spurious rationale. That scenario is not just a threat at the fringes of Europe; it is one that could arise around the world and be replicated by other autocratic regimes. It represents a fundamental challenge to the international rule of law if allowed to stand. And it tests the principle of the Western-led post-World War II world that free peoples have the right to choose their own national and political destinies.

President Joe Biden made exactly this point during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly this month when he argued that nations should not be allowed to pursue imperial ambitions without consequence.

“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people,” Biden said. “Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, that should not – that should make your blood run cold.”

The annexations cover four regions – Donetsk and Luhansk, which are self-styled breakaway republics, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which have been controlled by Russian troops since soon after the invasion in late February.

The Ukrainian government, the United States and its European allies have all rejected the notion that this land will henceforth be part of Russia.

“The United States will never, never, never recognize Russia’s claims on Ukraine sovereign territory,” Biden warned at a Pacific Islands summit in Washington on Thursday. “This so-called referenda was a sham – an absolute sham – and the results were manufactured in Moscow,” the President said, promising a new range of swift and severe punishments for Russia.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has already made clear the US will establish no limits on where Ukraine’s forces can use US-made weapons, effectively calling Moscow’s bluff about the implications of attacking what they now consider to be part of wider Russia.

“Ukraine has the absolute right to defend itself throughout its territory, including to take back the territory that has been illegally seized in one way or another by Russia,” Blinken said at a news conference on Tuesday.

“Because there is no change at all in the territory that is being annexed by the Russians as a matter for us or for the Ukrainians, the Ukrainians will continue to do what they need to do to get back the land that has been taken from them. We will continue to support them in that effort,” Blinken said.

Putin warned when he announced a partial mobilization last week, which caused thousands of would-be conscripts to flee the country, that every means at his disposal would be used to defend the territorial integrity of the homeland. That was widely seen as a threat to use tactical nuclear weapons if newly annexed regions come under attack. Such a scenario could test Putin’s newly established red line. But the threat of losing any newly annexed areas could also increase his own embarrassment over a war he needs to win in order to continue his strongman rule.

The United States says that it has so far not detected any movements of Russian nuclear weapons. This includes tactical battlefield devices that could have a smaller footprint than higher-yield long-range strategic warheads that make up the nuclear deterrents of the United States, Russia and other declared nuclear powers. Still, US intelligence officials have told CNN that while Russia’s potential use of nuclear weapons is still seen as unlikely it cannot be definitively ruled out.

From overseas, the hastily organized referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine look laughably amateurish and hurried. In a sense, they are an example of Putin trolling the West in yet another show of contempt for international law and the idea of democracy. Putin left no doubt on Thursday that he considers the war in Ukraine part of a wider effort to check Western power and influence, telling intelligence chiefs from former Soviet republics that “we are witnessing a difficult process of forming a more just world order,” and bemoaning the fall of the former Soviet Union.

But the obviously illegitimate nature of the referendums also point to their true purpose – creating an impression of progress to Russians back home and also a justification for the mobilization of thousands of reservists who can now be told they are being sent to Ukraine to fight to defend Russian territory.

In other circumstances, Putin’s annexations may have been seen as a potential face-saving way out of the conflict and a way for him to declare a measure of victory. But Ukraine has said such moves mean that there are no grounds for negotiation with Moscow. And recent battlefield success and the flow of Western weapons – the US announced another $1 billion package on Wednesday – mean that there is no strategic reason to stop fighting now.

The new Russian land grabs will also likely firm up support for Ukraine in the US Congress at a time when there are some indications that a potential Republican majority in the House after this fall’s midterm elections may be less keen on sending billions of dollars in aid to Kyiv – a factor that may influence Putin’s long-term strategy.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut on Thursday unveiled a draft resolution that would require Biden to immediately cut off economic and military aid to any nation that recognized Russian annexations.

Graham noted that the annexations were occurring while much of the United States is fixated on the devastation in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian. Congress will likely be called upon to fund a massive clean-up and rebuilding effort in the days to come. But Graham, while pointing out that the storm was now bearing down on his state, warned that lawmakers needed to “do two things at once.”

“We have to help our friends and neighbors here at home but we also have to stand up for what’s right abroad. So we are dealing with Hurricane Putin, for the lack of a better word,” Graham said.

“He’s trying to rewrite the map of Europe, he’s trying to do by force of arms what he can’t do to the political process.”



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