Archive for Maryland

DoD gives Scientology federal funding for “detox” of Gulf War vets

scientology

Annapolis Capital Gazette:

A detoxification program in Annapolis supported by the Church of Scientology is treating veterans suffering from chronic Gulf War-related conditions.
Treatments are funded by the U.S. Department of Defense through a $633,677 grant issued in September 2010, according to Pentagon officials. The Annapolis office opened in January, Clinical Trial Coordinator Crystal Grant said.
Seven Gulf War veterans have completed the program and at least four plan to begin the regimen next year. One is currently undergoing detoxification, a treatment designed to rid the body of environmental toxins through exercise, sauna therapy and doses of vitamins.
The federal money was awarded to researchers at the University of Albany in New York state, with David O. Carpenter, the director of the school’s Institute for Health and the Environment, as the chief applicant and investigator.
Carpenter said the program is a “preliminary study” intended to find out if there is a scientific basis for the therapy developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard for the church’s detoxification program.
He said the study is the first of its kind to be done by “independent people … in a fashion that’s rigorous and objective.”

The program is also funded by a nonprofit headed by John Travolta, a noted Scientologist.

It sounds a lot like L. Ron Hubbard’s controversial Purification Rundown. More on that has been written by Tony Ortega and Daily Kos. Gulf War Illness has also been called Gulf War Syndrome.

Don Quinn’s honorable military service

quinn1

A report published earlier today (and later removed) on This Ain’t Hell (TAH) showed a FOIA reply on service records related to Don Quinn, who failed in a bid for the State Senate and currently serves on the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee. These records and the post, written by a blogger on that site, indicated (incorrectly from all appearances) that Quinn had served but had not served as a combat veteran.

Quinn posted a Release from Active Duty document today that looked legitimate (people who are guilty of stolen valor have been known to fake those sometime but Quinn’s appears to be the real deal) that shows overseas service, among other things. This contradicts the FOIA reply.

Yes, I did send the FOIA reply I obtained to TAH in an attempt to try to sort out the discrepancy between that reply that he didn’t serve overseas and the pictures online of him in DCUs (desert camo uniforms) along with a Third Army combat patch on his right sleeve in one picture. Additionally, the lack of awards and schools for someone who was a NCO seemed weird. I didn’t have any plans to publish anything here at all on the subject and I didn’t intend it as a pitch for a story to TAH unless there was actually something there (I would’ve written a post myself instead of shopping it to someone if that was my goal.)

I know there are nuances with the records from the National Guard and Regular Army based on my own records and a case earlier this year when I was shopped a story on a candidate in Washington County who had done initial entry training on active duty but no other service that was shown on the FOIA request (since National Guard service records outside of active duty days would only be at the state level.) Maybe the USAR has a similar situation or maybe there are some problems in St. Louis that need straightening out. I would urge Mr. Quinn to check that out and get it fixed.

I would also note that Quinn can authorize a release of his complete records to anyone (with personal info redacted.) Delegate-Elect David Vogt, as a part of his abortive congressional campaign, posted his whole service record online and sadly it might be a good idea if other candidates did likewise. It’s sad that this question even comes up ever but that is a byproduct of the scum who actually lie about their service. As I noted when I blogged about Anne Arundel County’s Steve Barr, who lied about being a POW in Vietnam, it would probably be a good idea if the state looked at penalizing those who receive tangible benefits from stolen valor. Another good idea might be mandating that the state MVA allow veterans to verify their service and get that status denoted on a driver’s license, like other states are doing.

I apologize to Don Quinn for setting this chain of events into motion. It was not my intent for any of this to come out unless it was  vetted further and verified. I will note that I never accused Quinn of embellishing his service. I did look into it, but with good reason honestly (based on his track record in other areas.)

Quinn’s record of apparently untrustworthy statements and actions is what caused this research to be started in the first place. The fact that he falsely claimed to have a degree when he didn’t (also reported on by The Sun and The Capital Gazette) is the only thing that made me look into this issue. Additionally, questions about Quinn’s residency and the fact he didn’t register to vote until the day he filed for office were an issue in his primary. Additionally, I noted Quinn’s involvement in a Find Local Pot website, and despite his denials and spin, the local media agreed with that I wrote.

Quinn devoted a good deal of time to writing a screed about me on his website before on the pot website issue and he ranted about me again today (understandably so in this case.) Of course, his primary opponent’s campaign ranted about what I wrote about them before as well. I won’t respond to what Quinn wrote today in the heat of the moment other than to say I don’t personally dislike him. I’d even be open to meeting him for a cup of coffee or tea to clear the air in a cordial fashion.

I don’t think he or Eric Knowles would’ve been able to beat Senator Astle. Quinn proved that he couldn’t beat Astle and Knowles couldn’t beat Quinn. I understand a potential candidate for 2018 is moving into the district and this person has actually gotten elected to office before on more than one occasion. It would be good for the GOP if they had a good candidate to face Astle. All bets would be off with a wide open field if Astle were to retire after this term.

One other thing to note: Don Quinn is a public figure. He ran for office in 2014 and is an elected member of the AA County Central Committee. He has said multiple times he is a candidate in 2018.

Ex-Coastie charged in fraud scheme

sterling-scott

WBAL TV reported on this story and here’s the Anne Arundel Police Department statement:

On December 2, 2014, the Anne Arundel County Police Department was contacted by the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) out of the Coast Guard Yard located at 2401 Hawkins Point Road in Curtis Bay in reference to a fraud scheme being conducted by 28-year-old Sterling Orlando Scott, a recently discharged military member. Eastern District detectives immediately began investigating and collaborating with Coast Guard Special Agents.

CGIS agents indicated that they received information from a Chief Warrant Officer on December 2, 2014, who reported receiving a phone call from an individual that identified himself as “Sergeant Major Reese from Army Emergency Relief” on December 2nd around 1:00 p.m.

The person claiming to be “Sergeant Major Reese” indicated that he had an Army member flying to Baltimore that needed emergency travel assistance. In addition, “Sergeant Major Reese” contacted the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Program at 2401 Hawkins Point Road in Curtis Bay asking for assistance for a soldier named “Orland Scott”, whose wife was reportedly killed in a car accident. The person calling was believed to be the defendant posing as “Sergeant Major Reese”. CGIS agents had developed information that the individual posing as “Orlando Scott” was actually Sterling Orlando Scott who had committed similar schemes under that name at military installations in Galveston, Texas, Yorktown, Pennsylvania, Savannah Georgia and Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

On December 4, 2014, the suspect showed up at the Hawkins Point Road location to receive the funds approved for his alleged crisis. Once he signed for the funds, he was immediately taken into custody by detectives and agents conducting surveillance. The funds the suspect was attempting to fraudulently obtain are to be provided to active military members. Mr. Scott was discharged from the military in November.

Suspect: Sterling Orlando Scott, 28, of 745 Ridge Circle, Chesapeake, VA. The suspect was charged with Theft, Fraud and Document Use to Imply Government Association.

He was charged with defrauding organizations that provide emergency financial support to service members, including his former Coast Guard comrades. Throw the book at him if he’s found guilty. After this post went up, it was written about and linked to by This Ain’t Hell.

Report: MD man lied about being a POW in Vietnam

Barr

Steve Barr (pictured above between Delegate Nic Kipke and new Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh) lives in Pasadena and claims he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He was honored – along with other veterans – by the Lake Shore Volunteer Fire Company last month and Kipke tweeted the above photograph, which Schuh retweeted.)

Unfortunately, This Ain’t Hell reports that Barr is lying about being a POW. TAH has his service records which show he did serve in Vietnam honorably, but that he wasn’t a POW. Barr even fooled Voice of America News and told them a story about a supposedly fallen comrade who died well after Barr’s service in Vietnam. TAH also notes that only one POW in Vietnam had the last name Barr and his remains were repatriated to the US in 1995.

I have written things that were less than flattering about both Kipke and Schuh in the past so I want to make sure to emphasize that I am not doing that here. They, along with everyone else Barr lied to, are among the victims in this situation. As a veteran, I am astounded that someone who went to Vietnam and was honorably discharged would betray his brothers who were held prisoner and, in many cases, died in captivity. It seems to me in some way that people who actually have a service record and embellish it this way are guilty of a worse offense than people who make their service up from whole cloth. Either way, people who commit this offense of stolen valor are reprehensible people.

Stolen Valor was in the news earlier this week after video emerged of Sean Yetman, a fake Army Ranger who never served, being berated in a Philadelphia-area mall last Friday by a veteran who saw him for the phony that he was. Officials are looking into whether Yetman benefited from his lies so that they can decide whether to charge him. A federal law that banned lying about your military service was struck down by the Supreme Court, so getting people for fraudulently obtaining benefits is the only avenue now in most cases.

I would suggest to Delegate Kipke and other members of the General Assembly that they might want to explore their options to pass a state law dealing with this issue. It might not help in the case of Barr (although it could – I’m just not sure what specific benefits he might have received solely because of the POW claim) but it’s something that needs to be looked at and would likely enjoy bipartisan support.

Stolen valor cases in this area are a topic I will continue to cover in the future.

Here’s the original tweet from Kipke:

JFK’s niece explains why government knows best

kkt

Bryan Sears of The Daily Record notes:

Maryland residents who fail to save for their own retirements are like drivers who speed or children who won’t do what you tell them to do, according to former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Kennedy Townsend, who leads a task force studying the problem of retirement savings for private sector employees, made the comparison during a hearing in Annapolis.

The group is looking at the possibility of recommending the creation of a mandated retirement program where nongovernment employers would be required to offer a retirement plan or enroll employees into a state managed plan. Employees would be automatically enrolled and as much as 6 percent of their pay deducted for retirement (under one proposal) in a defined benefit plan unless the employee opted out.

The troubling part of her remarks during the hearing (emphasis added):

“Education is great…but it is not enough,” said Kennedy Townsend. “It won’t get us to where we want to go.

“I love education but why do drivers stop speeding? It’s not because they were told ‘This is bad for you’ but because things happen to make you quit speeding. I’m a great believer in education but I know as a mother of four children, I can tell kids what to do or I can tell them they have to go to their room if you don’t do it.”

The task force was established by Gov. Martin O’Malley and its authorization expires in February. Governor-Elect Larry Hogan says he won’t re-authorize it

World of Beer to open 2nd Baltimore-area location

wob2
The website for World of Beer shows that a new location is coming soon to 115 East Joppa Road in Towson (which is apparently Towson Square.)

I asked Baltimore County Councilman David Marks (whose district this will be located in) for his reaction to the news and he provided the following comment:

I welcome any business to our district that is going to create jobs, but particularly a distinctive restaurant that is unique to the area.

World of Beer features an extensive craft beer selection along with food and live entertainment in their tavern locations. There is a location at McHenry Row in Baltimore City and two locations in the northern Virginia suburbs of DC (Reston and Arlington.)

I had heard rumors of one coming to White Marsh in the Baltimore suburbs and that resulted in me finding the Towson location that is coming soon. If you know details that confirm or debunk the White Marsh rumors, please leave a comment.

There’s one other issue with the Towson location. On their website directory, World of Beer misspells the town’s name as “Towsen.” I tweeted it to the attention of their corporate Twitter account but so far it has yet to be fixed.

ACLU: Baltimore PD using “warrantless and deceptive” cellphone surveillance

bpd-patch

WBAL TV reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union is taking the Baltimore City Police Department to task for its “warrantless and deceptive use of cellphone surveillance devices.”

Local law enforcement is using methods to pinpoint a suspect’s location straight out of a spy agency’s playbook. It’s a cutting edge crime-fighting tool whose trade name is Stingray, which is made by the Harris Corp.

The ACLU calls the practice the invasion of the data snatchers. The problem is, according to the ACLU, Stingray scoops up the personal information contained in the cellphones of everyone in their range.

The ACLU filed a friend of the court brief, alleging the Baltimore City police misled a judge so they could use Stingray. The complaint claims the device violated the Fourth Amendment right of a suspect and allowed police to obtain personal information from other people’s phones.

The device impersonates cellphone towers, prompting all phones within its range to connect to it, picking up everyone’s information, not just the suspect’s personal information. There’s concern it’s being used unlawfully and the data kept in a file.

The city spent a lot of money on it:

Baltimore City police declined to comment, but the city Board of Estimates records indicate city police spent more than $250,000 on the technology.

According to Board of Estimates records and ACLU legal briefs, on Feb. 4, 2009, the city award $132,000 to Harris Corp. for its cellphone-tracking system. On June 9, 2010, the Board of Estimates gave $30,000 to Harris Corp. for a cellphone-tracking system extended warranty. On Jan. 23, 2013, the city paid $99,786 to Harris Corp. for a hailstorm cellphone tracker upgrade.

But it wasn’t until a criminal case made it an evidentiary issue that the public learned how police used Stingray without a warrant. Police said they wanted what’s called a pen register order to see what calls were going in and out from a suspect’s phone.

An ACLU attorney noted the device collects identifier information on phones along with calls and text message information; and could even be used to intercept calls. The attorney said the police used the Stingray to geo-locate a phone in a house, but that’s not what they told a judge they were using it for. The ACLU attorney also called that “insane” and said officials “were willing to put secrecy above public safety.”

The US Supreme Court has ruled a warrant is required to use it and state law now requires the same.

In addition to Baltimore City, other police departments in the area are using it, with almost all of them (like the city) refusing to talk about it:

Anne Arundel County police said they use the technology in a responsible and lawful way to find missing persons and wanted felons. Montgomery County police would not confirm they have it but budget documents indicate they spent $180,000 to upgrade their Stingray system. Other local police departments did not respond to the 11 News I-Team’s inquiry.