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A 20-Pound Lobster Impresses Airport Security, but It’s No Record Breaker

PhotoA 20-Pound Lobster Impresses Airport Security, But It's No Record Breaker A T.S.A. agent with the 20-pound Atlantic lobster at Logan International Airport in Boston. Credit via Transportation Security Administration

On a conveyor belt of bags, purses and laptops at Boston Logan International Airport on Sunday, one meaty package was clamoring for an additional security screening. Next to the rest of the luggage that morning, it was a fish out of water and appeared overstuffed, perhaps too big to fit under an airplane seat.

I don t know what would have triggered what we call an alarm, whether it was the size of the container or how it appeared on the X-ray image, said Michael McCarthy, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration.

The it? An approximately 20-pound live Atlantic lobster that was transported through Terminal C of Logan Airport. Like any other luggage, a passenger sent the crustacean, which was packed in an insulated cooler, through the X-ray scanner. It projected the outline of the spiny creature on a security agent s screen.

Logan Airport, with its proximity to the lobster-rich waters of New England, is no stranger to crustaceans. In fact, the T.S.A. has a web page that explains just how to transport lobsters in a clear, plastic, spill-proof container and advises that an agent will need to inspect it.

On Sunday, a security agent not only inspected it, he also took a photo with the monster lobster, which was shared on the T.S.A. s Twitter page[1]. For its brief fame, much remains a mystery. It appeared to be male, but did it have a name? Where was it found, and where was it going? Was it destined for a clam bake, for a taxidermist or to be kept as a pet?

Photo A 20-Pound Lobster Impresses Airport Security, But It's No Record Breaker A short story by The Associated Press on Big Jake s demise in January 1984. Credit The Chicago Tribune

Anecdotally, I have no indication of any other lobster of this size, Mr. McCarthy said.

But 33 years ago, there was a lobster named Big Jake. Caught off Long Island, Big Jake weighed 25 pounds and was shipped to Anchorage, where he toiled with his tiny brethren in a tank and carried a steep price at a seafood store: $212.

In a world where restaurants call three-pound lobsters jumbo, Big Jake became an overnight celebrity and the subject of multiple stories by The Associated Press in January 1984. Customers crowded the Anchorage store to see him and fought over who would buy him. Some said they wanted to mount him in their homes.

It was not a good environment for Big Jake, who was then shipped cross-country again, this time for a market in Boston. But fame, even for lobsters, can be cruel.

His health deteriorating, Big Jake landed in Boston with a mere flicker left in him, the Anchorage seafood store owner told The A.P. He died and was sent back to Alaska on ice.

The crustacean on Sunday escaped Big Jake s fate at least while at the airport.

Continue reading the main story[2]

References

  1. ^ T.S.A. s Twitter page (twitter.com)
  2. ^ Continue reading the main story (www.nytimes.com)

After Steve Scalise shooting, House members want money for personal security

WASHINGTON — U.S. House members want $25,000 each to hire private security right away to protect them in their home districts, an unusually quick, bipartisan response to the shooting of Majority Whip Steve Scalise[1], R-Jefferson, at a suburban Washington ballpark. A House panel has approved an immediate $10 million for the rest of fiscal 2017, which runs through Sept. 30, for that purpose. Representatives could use the money to pay for an off-duty police officer or private security guard at public meetings with constituents and at fish fries, meet-and-greets or other events in their districts. The legislation also would add $7.5 million for Capitol Police to bulk up threat assessment and security measures in Washington for fiscal 2018, especially when lawmakers gather in groups, and $5 million for members to buy in cameras, door buzzers, key cards and panic buttons in their district offices. The Federal Election Commission also is considering letting lawmakers use campaign money to secure their residences. Capitol Police provide security at lawmakers’ offices in Washington and at the Capitol. They also shadow members of the House and Senate leadership teams, including Scalise, who was shot and critically wounded the GOP team’s practice for the annual congressional baseball game. Scalise was reported to be making good progress and remains hospitalized in fair condition.

Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., chairman of the subcommittee writing the security budget legislation, wants to provide more money in members’ office accounts for personal protection next year as well, but the exact amount hasn’t been determined yet. His legislation assumes Congress[2]‘ existing budget will be enough to absorb increases for security by tapping unused funds that members typically return to treasury at the end of each fiscal year.

“We believe they need additional resources to meet their mission in this polarized political climate,” Yoder said. It still needs to pass through several more steps before final approval, notably support from the full House and Senate. The measure is subject to House and Senate approval, but signs for increased funding are positive. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has called for more money. “I would support and I have suggested they need a bigger budget,” she said of the Capitol Police. The top Democrat on Yoder’s subcommittee, Tim Ryan of Ohio, said Yoder’s bill was a good start. Some members want security details to follow lawmakers wherever they go, he said. “There are a number of members who have had very specific threats and after the Scalise tragedy are feeling legitimately scared that they will be next,” he said.

The cost for 24-hour personal security guards for all 535 lawmakers in Congress likely would be prohibitive, Yoder said, and could make them less accessible to voters. “It puts up barriers between the public and members of Congress,” Yoder said. Lawmakers need to be responsive to the people they represent, he said, and “a wall of security would complicate that. So we’re trying to find a balance.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., is one of the members who would like to see heightened personal security for members who want it, at least when they’re in their districts. He estimated it would cost about $45,000 to $50,000 a year to hire a personal security guard to protect a member in his or her home state during weekends and congressional breaks. Even before the Scalise shooting, Cleaver felt threatened at times. He’s received death threats and racist screeds. A man firebombed his district office in 2014. More recently, an angry voter screamed at Cleaver at the airport.

“I don’t want to overstate the threats,” he said. “But we only talk about it after a tragedy, and if nothing is done now the next time it happens — not if it happens again — then people will say well it’s probably time for us to do something.”

Yoder’s panel was in the process of writing a bill that included security funding for Congress when gunman James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill., opened fire June 14 on Republican lawmakers at their practice in Alexandria, Va. Witnesses said Hodgkinson asked whether the ballplayers were Republicans or Democrats before opening fire. Members of Congress were badly shaken by the shooting, which wounded Scalise and four others, including two Capitol Police officers who were part of a private security detail traveling with Scalise in his role as a member of the House leadership team. After the shooting, Yoder said, people wrote menacing messages on his official Facebook page, saying it was too bad he also wasn’t at the practice too. For Yoder, heightened security concerns have been a factor in his own reluctance to hold a public meeting with constituents in his suburban Kansas City district. Such meetings in some other Republican-held districts have become rowdy affairs over the past seven months as voters upset about President Donald Trump’s election victory in November mobilized at a grass-roots level to pressure their representatives to resist Trump’s agenda.

Yoder said he’s been working with news media groups and Trump resistance organizations in his district to find a safe venue for a public meeting that will accommodate a “productive dialogue” instead of devolving into a “circus.” He prefers telephone meetings for now.

“Members of Congress are being shot in broad daylight because of what they believe in. Of course we’re going to be concerned,” he said. “We just want to find a safe, constructive format for both me and the constituents.”

. . . . . . .

Story by Lindsay Wise.

References

  1. ^ Steve Scalise (topics.nola.com)
  2. ^ Congress (topics.nola.com)

Judge places Oregon refuge occupier Geoffrey Stanek on home detention, 2 years probation

A federal judge on Monday sentenced Oregon refuge occupier Geoffrey Stanek, described as one of the more minor players indicted in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, to two years of probation, including six months of home detention. U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown said the home detention was warranted, partly to ensure Stanek doesn’t respond again to a “call to arms” from Facebook acquaintances on behalf of “We the People.”

Geoffrey StanekMCSO

“You’re free to think what you choose, but your conduct crossed the line,” the judge said. “I need to be sure you won’t take it upon yourself to answer that type of call again. … You need to put this chapter behind you. You need to respect the law, whether you agree with it or not.”

The judge said she considered that Stanek entered a guilty plea early to a federal conspiracy charge last year and that he didn’t withdraw his plea after occupation leaders who went to trial were acquitted last fall. The fact that he heeded the FBI’s request that he and others leave the refuge the night of Jan. 26, 2016, after the arrests of Ammon Bundy and others leaders, also worked in his favor, the judge said.

“On the other hand, you were part of the problem,” Brown told Stanek. Stanek, 27, brought an AR-15 rifle and a body armor vest to the refuge on Jan. 7, 2016, after learning of the takeover on Facebook. There, he performed armed guard duty in the watchtower and at the refuge entrances. He also blocked a refuge entrance with an ATV belonging to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Stanek thought the takeover of the refuge was a “constitutional protest,” his lawyer Benjamin Andersen said.

“He didn’t really have a concept of what was actually going on,” Andersen said. Stanek, who served in the Army from about 18 until 21, said he also had medic training and thought he could use his medic skills at the refuge if things got out of hand.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around,” the judge said. “Somehow you were preparing for a bloodbath.”

Stanek was allowed to leave the refuge through an FBI checkpoint and was arrested two weeks later in Forest Grove. Stanek’s lawyer argued against home detention and found it unfair that Stanek wasn’t allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor trespass offense as three other co-defendants later did, including Sean and Sandra Anderson who were among the last four holdouts at the refuge during a tense standoff with federal agents.

But the judge found Stanek more “culpable” than the Andersons, who got a year probation for a misdemeanor plea to trespass. The Andersons traveled back and forth to the refuge several times and didn’t perform guard duty as often as Stanek, the judge said.

“You came, you stayed and stayed and stayed and then you left,” Brown said to Stanek. Federal prosecutors didn’t allow Stanek to plea to a misdemeanor because of a threatening Facebook message he had with co-defendant Corey Lequieu in the days after he left the refuge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel told the judge.

Lequieu and Stanek talked about killing federal agents on social media at a time when the FBI was concerned about refuge occupiers returning to the west encampment where four people remained holed up during the last two weeks of the standoff, Gabriel said. Gabriel also acknowledged that prosecutors learned from the trial of Ammon Bundy, his older brother, Ryan Bundy and five co-defendants. They were all acquitted of federal conspiracy and weapons charges last fall. Prosecutors also paid attention to the concerns of a juror from the first trial who spoke to The Oregonian/OregonLive shortly after the verdict.

“The government took a lot of lessons from the first trial, your honor, to be candid,” Gabriel said, noting that jurors concluded that “whatever was happening at the west encampment was not part of a conspiracy.” That’s partly why Sandra and Sean Anderson were given a chance to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, he said.

Eleven people pleaded guilty to the felony of conspiring to impede federal employees through intimidation, threat or force from doing their work. Sentences for those who enter guilty pleas to the felony are expected to range from home detention and probation to three years and five months in prison, Gabriel said. Stanek and four others, Wesley Kjar, Eric Lee Flores, Travis Cox and Jason Blomgren, are considered “low-level defendants” facing similar probationary sentences, Gabriel said.

The government will recommend Ryan Payne receive three years and five months in custody, the longest sentence of those who entered guilty pleas to conspiracy, Gabriel said. Others who have pleaded guilty to the felony charge are Lequieu, who got two years and six months in prison, and Brian Cavalier, who received time served with about nine months in custody. No federal employees spoke Monday. What’s important to them, Gabriel said, are conditions set for Stanek and others not to occupy, reside in or camp on any federal land or enter land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service or the U.S. Forest Service without a probation officer’s approval.

“It was very costly to the government financially and to employees emotionally,” Gabriel said. “The victims continue to suffer because of the occupation in this case.”

Brown, who is retiring next month, said the case “has been the most challenging legal experience of my career.” She noted the wide range of legal perspectives and motivations in the case, and the constant second-guessing. As Stanek stood beside his lawyer, the judge asked him what his plan was going forward.

“Plan on working hard to be a father to my daughter,” said Stanek, dressed in black pants and a short-sleeved plaid button-down shirt with a pocket Constitution in his left shirt pocket.

“You’re going to have to get a job, plan for a career and a life,” Brown replied, and urged him to seek out veterans’ services to help find employment. Stanek has no prior criminal history. He previously worked as a security guard and was in the process of becoming a firefighter when he went to the refuge last year. He’s had trouble finding a job since his conviction, his lawyer said.

The judge told Stanek if he does well on home detention after three months, his probation officer can request the court reduce or eliminate the it.

“I think you’ve earned the chance to play it out this way,” she said. “Honestly, I don’t want to see you again, Mr. Stanek.”

“No offense, I don’t want to see you again either,” Stanek replied.

“It’s a deal,” the judge said. “Make it work.”

— Maxine Bernstein

References

  1. ^