Xiaomi is getting into the drone business.

Xiaomi is getting into the drone business. The Chinese manufacturer mostly known for its aggressively priced high-end smartphones today introduced the Mi Drone, a camera-wielding quadcopter that undercuts comparable models from market leader DJI by over $300. Two models will be available: the cheaper one, priced at 2,499 Chinese Yuan (just over $380), will feature a 1080p camera, while the 4K model is 2,999 Yuan ($457).

The ball-shaped camera on the higher-end Mi Drone uses a Sony 12.4-megapixel sensor that can capture video at up to 3,840 x 2,160 at 30 fps and take RAW photos, while On the lower end 1080p model, Xiaomi has packed a 16-megapixel Sony backside illuminated CMOS and a 104-degree wide angle lens. Both feature a detachable gimbal that does 3-axis stabilization and is assisted by an optical flow sensor positioned between the camera and the battery bay on the back.

Xiaomi says the Mi drones will have 27 minutes of flying time on their 5,100 mAh batteries, with a range of of 3 kilometers. Like DJI, Xiaomi will build geofences into its drones to prevent them fromIn terms of design the drone itself looks quite a bit like DJI’s Phantom drones.

There’s a standalone controller with a dedicated button for take off and landing and a built-in smartphone clamp so you can use it as a viewfinder. flying into restricted areas. The drone will automatically return to base when its battery is dying or when it loses contact with the controller.

 

Comprehensive tax information for Uber drivers and Lyft drivers goes beyond TurboTax tips

(2/1/2016 Headline News.Guru) I Drive with Uber (IDWU), the evolving authority for Uber and Lyft drivers, released free comprehensive tax information specifically geared towards ridesharing drivers.

I Drive With Uber is regarded as a leading authority and information provider for Uber drivers. The website’s mission is to do just that – provide information for Uber and Lyft drivers/passengers that goes beyond the actual Uber website.

Time For Taxes Message Shows Taxation Due
Time For Taxes Message Showing Taxation Due

If you are one of the many new drivers for Uber or Lyft (or one of other ride sharing companies), filing your 2015 taxes is most likely uncharted territory for you. “I Drive With Uber” realized this and collaborated with a tax specialist to lay down the ‘rules and regulations’, and created a tax preparation guide for drivers. I Drive With Uber is providing this free extensive info packet on their website.

Uber identifies its drivers as independent contractors and not as employees. This subject, whether Uber drivers should be classified as employees or independent contractors, is currently being litigated in numerous states in the US. However, until a decision has been reached, Uber drivers will have to file taxes as self-employed individuals (1099 contractors).

This is one of the key points the tax guide on the IDWU website focuses on: the difference between being a 1099 independent contractor versus a traditional employee (which many new drivers mistakenly think they are). Furthermore, the guide elaborates on the tax benefits and deductions that are available for ride share drivers. Many drivers will be surprised about the numerous tax deductions they are actually entitled to.

The IDWU guide provides relevant information for any Uber or Lyft driver in the process of preparing for the current 2016 tax season. Other than the above-mentioned topics, other covered subjects include: self-employment tax, estimated tax payments, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, and many more. If you’re thinking of becoming an Uber driver or already are driving for Uber or Lyft, IDWU is a valuable information platform for you.

Michael Gingino \ 2012 Multi awarded ICFJ Honoree

Headline News Guru – International Journalism Review

657 222-7074 Newport Coast / New York

Top candidates attack but express cautious optimism about winning

Headlinenews.guru 2/1/2016 – The first major test for the 2016 presidential candidates is now just hours away with the Iowa Caucus on Monday — its outcome a likely sign of whether front-running Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump can hold their leads or if the unpredictable and often-angry electorate has other plans.

Trump and Clinton made their closing arguments Sunday, barnstorming across Iowa and battling on the political shows, in a final effort to beat back close rivals like Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, both eager for an upset in the first-in-the-nation balloting.

“Thirty six hours from now, the men and women of Iowa are going to caucus,” Cruz, who is trailing Trump in Iowa by roughly 5 percentage points, told “Fox News Sunday.” “And we have a grassroots army. We’ve got 12,000 volunteers in the state.”

Still, Cruz, who argues that he’s the true conservative in the GOP field, was, like the rest of this year’s White House candidates, steering clear of predicting a win, then having to face the fallout from a loss or even a below-expectations finish.

“Right now, this is all about turnout,” said Cruz, a Texas senator in a close race for second with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “This is all about who shows up tomorrow night at 7. … If conservatives come out, we will win.”

Sanders, a Vermont independent, told ABC’s “This Week”: “I think we have a shot to win it, if people come out.”

His populist message about the economy being “rigged” against the middle class and “billionaires buying elections” has resonated with the largely disaffected and angry electorate and has posed a clear alternative to the Clinton political dynasty.

Even the supremely confident Trump, who has a double-digit national lead over the GOP field, tamped down Iowa expectations Sunday.

“I don’t have to win it,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I’m doing really well with the evangelicals in Iowa. But I’m also doing tremendously well all over the country with the evangelicals. … I think we have a good chance of winning Iowa.”

Still, Trump, who has a wider lead among the more independent-minded voters of New Hampshire, who vote second, on Feb. 9, realizes the importance of a lead-off victory.

“I have a very substantial lead in New Hampshire,” he told CBS. “But I think it would be really good to win Iowa. I’d like to win Iowa.”

And at least 9 percent of potential Iowa caucus-goers remain undecided, according to a Des Moines Register-Bloomberg Politics poll released Saturday.

After New Hampshire, the voting continues in South Carolina and Nevada, with the outcomes of those so-called “early-state votes” expected to winnow the GOP’s 11-candidate field.

After Trump and Cruz, Rubio is the only other GOP candidate with double-digit poll numbers.

They are followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former business executive Carly Fiorina and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Santorum and Huckabee, popular among social conservatives, won Iowa in 2012 and 2008, respectively.

Though none of the candidates below Rubio is expected to make a strong Iowa finish, Kasich, Christie and even Bush could do well in New Hampshire and challenge the frontrunners — as the GOP and Democratic races head across the south and into the late spring before this summer’s nominating conventions.

Kasich was the only candidate in New Hampshire on Sunday, telling potential voters at an Elks Lodge in Salem that cutting regulations that kill small businesses would be a priority of his first 100 days, if elected president.

Trump and Cruz each attended Sunday morning church services with family members.

Trump attended services at the First Christian Orchard Campus, a nondenominational church in Council Bluffs.

Cruz went to the Lutheran Church of Hope, outside Des Moines. The sermon called on politicians to treat their opponents with love, not attack ads.

Trump has tapped into the angry electorate with plans to build a wall along the southern U.S. border to keep out “drug dealers” and others from Mexico. And in the wake of two recent terror attacks, he proposed keeping Muslim from entering the United States until the government improves its immigrant-screening process.

Amid some public outcry, Trump’s poll numbers increased by double digits after his called for the ban, in the aftermath of the San Bernardino, Calif., massacre in December.

Since Cruz emerged in recent weeks as Trump’s closest primary rival, Trump has called Cruz “a nasty guy” and a “liar,” particularly about whether Trump essentially supports ObamaCare.

The only other Democratic candidate is former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has single-digit poll numbers.

The front-running Clinton, who has a superior fundraising and campaign apparatus, continues to hold a roughly 25-point national lead over Sanders.

However, the former first lady has been stuck defending herself in a controversy about her use of a private server/email setup to conduct official business when secretary of state.

On Friday, the State Department said it had identified 22 “top secret” emails that it would not release, as part of a court order to make public Clinton’s email correspondence.

“It’s a continuation of a story that’s been playing out for months,” Clinton told ABC News.

Clinton also said that none of the emails was marked classified at the time, and she again called for their released, in an apparent effort to help end the controversy. She also suggested that Republicans were “grabbing at straws” on the issue.

“I want to see them disclosed,” she told ABC.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

gunmen-killed-outside-Muhammad-cartoon-contest-in-Texas

2 gunmen killed outside Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas

GARLAND, Texas (AP) — Two gunmen were killed Sunday in Texas after opening fire on a security officer outside a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of Prophet Muhammad, and a bomb squad was called in to search their vehicle as a precaution, authorities said.

The men drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center in the Dallas suburb of Garland as the event was scheduled to end and began shooting at the security officer, the City of Garland said in a statement. Garland police officers returned fire, killing the men.

Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said it was not immediately clear whether the shooting was connected to the event inside, a contest hosted by the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

But he said at a late Sunday news conference that authorities were searching the gunmen’s vehicle for explosives, saying, “Because of the situation of what was going on today and the history of what we’ve been told has happened at other events like this, we are considering their car (is) possibly containing a bomb.”

Drawings such at the ones featured at the Texas event are deemed insulting to many followers of Islam and have sparked violence around the world. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous.

The Curtis Culwell Center, a school-district owned public events space where the Texas event was held, was evacuated after the shooting, as were some surrounding businesses. The evacuation was lifted several hours later and police were not aware of any ongoing threat, but a large area around the center remained blocked off late into the night.

Police helicopters circled overhead as bomb squads worked on the car. Harn said the bodies of the gunmen, who had not yet been identified, were not immediately taken from the scene because they were too close to the car. He said they would be removed once the car was cleared.

The wounded security officer, who was unarmed, worked for the Garland Independent School District, Harn said. He was treated and released from a local hospital.

Harn said the district hires security for events at its facilities, but noted additional security also was in place for Sunday’s event. The sponsoring group has said it paid $10,000 for off-duty police officers and other private security.

Harn said the city had not received any credible threats before the shooting.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said state officials are investigating, and Dallas FBI spokeswoman Katherine Chaumont said that agency is providing investigative and bomb technician assistance.

The event featured speeches by American Freedom Defense Initiative president Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders, a Dutch lawmaker known for his outspoken criticism of Islam. Wilders, who received several standing ovations from the crowd, left immediately after his speech.

After the shooting, authorities escorted about 75 contest attendees to another room in the conference center, where a woman held up an American flag, and the crowd sang “God Bless America.”

The group was then taken to a separate location, where they were held for about two hours until being briefly questioned by FBI agents before being released.

Johnny Roby of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who was attending the contest, told the Associated Press he was outside the building when he heard around about 20 shots that appeared to be coming from the direction of a passing car.

Roby said he then heard two single shots. He said he heard officers yell that they had the car before he was sent inside the building.

Geller told the AP before Sunday’s event that she planned the contest to make a stand for free speech in response to outcries and violence over drawings of Muhammad. She said in a statement issued Sunday night that the shooting showed how “needed our event really was.”

In January, 12 people were killed by gunmen in an attack against the Paris office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had lampooned Islam and other religions and used depictions of Muhammad. Another deadly shooting occurred the following month at a free speech event in Copenhagen featuring an artist who had caricatured the prophet.

Tens of thousands of people rallied around the world to honor the victims and defend the freedom of expression following those shootings.

Geller’s group is known for mounting a campaign against the building of an Islamic center blocks from the World Trade Center site and for buying advertising space in cities across the U.S. criticizing Islam.

When a Chicago-based nonprofit held a January fundraiser in Garland designed to help Muslims combat negative depictions of their faith, Geller spearheaded about 1,000 picketers at the event. One chanted: “Go back to your own countries! We don’t want you here!” Others held signs with messages such as, “Insult those who behead others,” an apparent reference to recent beheadings by the militant group Islamic State.

National-Guard-plans-exit-from-Baltimore

National Guard plans exit from Baltimore

Things could be returning to normal in Baltimore: The city has lifted its curfew, the National Guard is preparing its exit and a mall that had been a flashpoint in the riots has been reopened.

The “goal,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake “has always been to not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary.”

The mayor spoke following a tour of Mondawmin Mall, which reopened Sunday after recovering from rioting that police said was spawned by social media rumors of a “purge” following Freddie Gray’s death.

Because of the improving conditions in the city, she said, the National Guard will be wrapping up its operations, but don’t expect the troops to leave immediately.

“It’s not like you flip a switch,” she said. “They have to unwind their operations, and they’re going to do that over this next week.”

Asked if she thought it was premature to send the military home, she replied, “It will either be too long or too early. You’ll let me know afterward.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, speaking at a separate news conference Sunday, said it “will take a couple days, maybe about 72 hours” to complete the drawdown, at which point the state of emergency can be lifted.

“We’ve already started to withdraw. It will take a little while. We brought 4,000 people in,” he said.

The city can now take a breath and assess the events that rocked the city since Gray’s death.

Since April 23, police made 486 arrests at protests, rallies and other gatherings related to Gray’s death, police spokesman Capt. J. Eric Kowalczyk said Sunday.

Since last Saturday, 113 police officers have been injured. Forty-six people were arrested Saturday night, four of them juveniles, he said.

Two hundred Baltimore businesses — many of them minority-owned and many lacking insurance — were lost in the April 27 protests alone — the worst night of protests. It “will take a little while to get back to normal,” Hogan said, “but let’s get people back to normal, get people back in the city to visit devastated shops.”

The majority of stores inside Mondawmin reopened Sunday, Rawlings-Blake said, declaring it “a great day for this community.”

Six police officers have been charged in the death of Gray last month, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Friday.

The 25-year-old died after suffering “a severe and critical neck injury” while being transported “handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained” inside a police van, she said. It is against police policy to transport a prisoner without proper restraints such as a seat belt.

The police union called for an independent prosecutor, saying Mosby has conflicts of interests. They also criticized her for not waiting until police were done with their inquiry.

“We are disappointed in the apparent rush to judgment, given the fact that the investigation into this matter has not been concluded,” said Gene Ryan, president of the police union. “Our officers, like every other American, are entitled to due process.”

Police officers arrested Gray on April 12. He slipped into a coma after suffering a series of injuries and died a week later.

Mosby said the incident began when two police officers on bike patrol “made eye contact” with Gray, who then ran.

When officers caught up to him, he surrendered and was placed on the ground, arms handcuffed behind his back. He said he couldn’t breathe and asked for an inhaler, but he did not get it, according to Mosby.

Baltimore-tries-to-recover-after-unrest

Baltimore tries to recover after unrest leads to damage, multiple arrests

BALTIMORE — Residents here shaken by violent protests over the death of a man in police custody awoke Sunday to sweep up shattered glass and board up broken windows, while authorities upped the count of those arrested to nearly three dozen.http://wapo.st/1J1sGNU

The impact of the Saturday demonstrations was felt in both the seascape of boarded, abandoned homes in West Baltimore and in the gleaming waterfront along the Inner Harbor, where protesters had vowed to shut down the city with the slogan “no business as usual.”

Authorities said Sunday that 35 people had been arrested — 31 adults and four juveniles — on charges ranging from failure to disperse to rioting, assaulting police, burglary, theft and destruction of property. Police said two journalists were “inadvertently detained” and were freed without charges.

A spokesman for the Maryland prison system said one of the protesters arrested was from Philadelphia, another from the District and a third from a suburb north of Baltimore, but most were from Baltimore.

City leaders and the NAACP blamed the violence on “outside agitators,” and they said the arrests of so many from Baltimore did not reflect instigators who escaped apprehension. One of the last speakers at a City Hall rally Saturday told the crowd he understood they wanted to go to Camden Yards, and assured them they would soon “be released” and be on their own.

Both affected areas of the city returned to quiet Sunday, and community leaders said protests were suspended in deference to wake on Sunday afternoon and funeral on Monday for the man whose death sparked the protests. Freddie Gray, 25, died April 19, a week after he was arrested on a West Baltimore corner, pinned to the ground and dragged to the back of a police wagon. Police said he died of severe injuries to his spine and are trying to determine how the injuries occurred.

Six officers have been suspended, and police plan to turn over their cases to prosecutors on May 1. But demonstrators demanding murder indictments have turned Baltimore into the latest in a long list of cities grappling with deaths of young black men at the hands of police.

Rage boiled over late Saturday, and on Sunday the city tried to recover from hours of unrest that led to damaged police cars, the trashing of three crowded outdoor bar patios near Orioles Park at Camden Yards and fights that followed six hours of peaceful protest.

Business owners covered broken windows as fans filled the downtown ballpark Sunday afternoon to watch the Orioles play the Boston Red Sox. The night before, frightened spectators had to navigate angry demonstrators and police in riot gear before the game, and were held after the last out of the game until police “were absolutely sure it was safe for them to depart.”

People living next to the police station in West Baltimore — where Gray was pulled unconscious from the transport wagon April 12 – also spent the morning cleaning up from overnight clashes, in which police said protesters threw rocks and bricks at officers. People there too urged calm, but their emphasis was on justice and reform.

City work crews cleaned the corner of Riggs Avenue and Mount Street, in front of the barricaded police station, and a resident hung a sign on a light pole: “Please protest peacefully for your community.”

The streets were empty, but the pews of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church a block away from the station were full. Inside, the Rev. Alfreda L. Wiggins likened Gray’s death to martyrs of the civil rights movement.

“Freddie Gray died under mysterious and vicious circumstances,” she thundered to the congregation, “so that the attention of the world could focus on the injustice that African Americans are subjected to, over and over again.”

Parishioners then took to the streets “to pray outside, to pray for our community.” Wiggins noted that “Freddie was a black boy. His mother and father were black. His sisters and brother were black. We are black. He could be our son, our grandson. . . . We need to reach out, and cry.”

At Camden Yards, the epicenter of the downtown disturbances Saturday, there was little evidence Sunday that anything was amiss. It was Little League Day, and parents poured into the stadium with children in baseball uniforms in tow.

Marvin Hott, 42, came with his son Nathan, 12, a player for the Bel Air Reds, from north of Baltimore. Having monitored accounts of Saturday, Holt said, “I was a little bit nervous. I thought, if it was like it was last night, I would skip the game.”

But Hott said the situation appeared calm. “People are angry, and they want to be heard,” he said. “If it’s peaceful, then I understand.”

Carl Mummenthey, 44, brought his children Ainsley, 8, and Andrew, 11, from upstate New York to cheer on the Red Sox. They had been at Saturday’s game, too, and, taking note of the protests, had arrived early to avoid the disturbances.

But they could see lines of police pushing against protesters from inside the stadium’s patio and picnic area, next to the fence along Pratt Street. Ainsley said she was most scared of the police in riot gear. Her father said they all watched the news and he explained what was happening.

“We saw the usher rushing people inside,” Mummenthey said. “We saw police rushing people on a side street. We felt safe, and it looked to me like the police were restrained and handled it right.”

Paul Rossi, who works at a food stand selling peanuts and sausages on Camden Street, said he was injured when protesters overturned two grills and rained water bottles on patrons of outdoor bar patios. They then threw metal gates, overturned tables and broke windows, sending customers fleeing inside already jammed bars.

The scene was one of chaos, with bags and purses stolen, fistfights between protesters and baseball fans, and people scattering in panic before the crowd moved on to attack police cars on another street. One man threw a trash can through the back window of a squad car; a teen used a orange street cone to shatter the windshield of another.

Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP, said the violence at the end of what had been hours of peaceful protest trampled the message of the day. “The last two hours was about breaking things up, and nothing about Freddie Gray,” she said.

Hill-Aston said that during the violence, she saw Gray’s cousin sitting on a curb, crying and saying, “We don’t want this.”

At another location, an older woman carrying an umbrella tried to stop a youth from throwing a burning trash can at police. When she failed, she stomped the flames out herself.

Gray’s brother pleaded with a protester to put down a sign that read, “F— the police,” saying, “It’s not what we want.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) called the violence unacceptable as she addressed reporters with lawmakers and religious leaders Sunday evening. “We cannot and will not let a minority of incendiary individuals exploit our community,” she said at a news conference with lawmakers and religious leaders at Bethel AME Church. She said she would not let outsiders “put their own agenda ahead of our community.”

She said outsiders were pushing protesters to “shut this city down,” “inciting” the crowd, and then left. The mayor praised residents who urged calm “and put their lives before the blue line” of police.

“We are seeking answers,” Rawlings-Blake said. “We can seek answers as we seek justice, and as we seek peace.”

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md) called the violence a distraction. “We are about to go to a funeral, where a family has lost a son,” he said. “I don’t want to lose sight of that.”

He added, “I didn’t come to ask people to respect the family” and keep protests peaceful, “I’m begging them.”

Cummings said he had faith in city leadership. “I have heard the mayor say it, and you know she means it. I have heard the police commissioner say it, and I know he means it. There will be change.”

Said the Rev. Frank Reid, pastor of Bethel AME, “Business as usual is not an option here.”

90-percent-of-Federal-Tax-Returns-Filed-Online

90 percent of Federal Income Tax Returns Filed Online: IRS

IRS has reported that more than 90 percent of the federal tax returns have been filed online this year. Online tax return filing is much easier compared to paper filing of returns. Procrastinators are facing tough time as the tax filing deadline is approaching fast. Many taxpayers are confused regarding their deductions under Affordable Care Act.

The National Society of Accountants estimated that tax preparers charged an average $261 for an itemized Form 1040 and state tax return filing in 2013. Last week data from IRS suggested that 67 percent of taxpayers had filed their income tax returns. IRS has urged taxpayers to file taxes online and to request direct deposit option for tax refund. Tax refund status can be checked on IRS website.

For individuals who still haven’t filed their tax return, VITA, TCE, and Tax-Aide provide free tax filing assistance. Tax-Aide covered more than 7,000 locations across the country. Tax-Aid has 32,000 trained volunteers who help more than two million taxpayers each year in filing their income tax return. Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) offers free assistance to American aged 60 years and above.

IRS has also offered a special toll-free helpline for people to setup a meeting with IRS officials while filing paper return. IRS also offers a dedicated smartphone app for filing tax return online and for checking refund status. Tax preparation software is also helpful in filing individual or small business tax returns.

IRS report said that more than 1.2 million income tax returns have been processed this year.

California-delta-water-missing-amid-drought

California delta’s water mysteriously missing amid drought

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — As California struggles with a devastating drought, huge amounts of water are mysteriously vanishing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — and the prime suspects are farmers whose families have tilled fertile soil there for generations.
A state investigation was launched following complaints from two large agencies that supply water to arid farmland in the Central Valley and to millions of residents as far south as San Diego.
Delta farmers don’t deny using as much water as they need. But they say they’re not stealing it because their history of living at the water’s edge gives them that right. Still, they have been asked to report how much water they’re pumping and to prove their legal rights to it.
At issue is California’s century-old water rights system that has been based on self-reporting and little oversight, historically giving senior water rights holders the ability to use as much water as they need, even in drought. Gov. Jerry Brown has said that if drought continues this system built into California’s legal framework will probably need to be examined.
Delta farmer Rudy Mussi says he has senior water rights, putting him in line ahead of those with lower ranking, or junior, water rights.
“If there’s surplus water, hey, I don’t mind sharing it,” Mussi said. “I don’t want anybody with junior water rights leapfrogging my senior water rights just because they have more money and more political clout.”
The fight pitting farmer against farmer is playing out in the Delta, the hub of the state’s water system. With no indication of the drought easing, heightened attention is being placed on dwindling water throughout the state, which produces nearly half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the U.S.
A large inland estuary east of San Francisco, the Delta is fed by rivers of freshwater flowing down from the Sierra Nevada and northern mountain ranges. Located at sea level, it consists of large tracts of farmland separated by rivers that are subject to tidal ebbs and flows.
Most of the freshwater washes out to the Pacific Ocean through the San Francisco Bay. Some is pumped — or diverted — by Delta farmers to irrigate their crops, and some is sent south though canals to Central Valley farmers and to 25 million people statewide.
The drought now in its fourth year has put Delta water under close scrutiny. Twice last year state officials feared salty bay water was backing up into the Delta, threatening water quality. There was not enough fresh water to keep out saltwater.
In June, the state released water stored for farmers and communities from Lake Oroville to combat the saltwater intrusion.
Nancy Vogel, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Water Resources, said “thousands of acre-feet of water a day for a couple of weeks” were released into the Delta. An acre-foot is roughly enough water to supply a household of four for a year.
The fact that the state had to resort to using so much from storage raised questions about where the water was going. That in turn prompted a joint letter by the Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation calling for an investigation into how much water Delta farmers are taking — and whether the amount exceeds their rights to it.
“We don’t know if there were illegal diversions going on at this time,” said Vogel, leaving it up to officials at the State Water Resources Control Board to determine. “Right now, a large information gap exists.”
Some 450 farmers who hold 1,061 water rights in the Delta and the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds were told to report their water diversions, and Katherine Mrowka, state water board enforcement manager, said a vast majority responded.
State officials are sorting through the information that will help them determine whether any are exceeding their water rights and who should be subject to restrictions.
“In this drought period, water accounting is more important to ensure that the water is being used for its intended purpose,” said U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Louis Moore.
Mussi, a second-generation Delta farmer whose family grows tomatoes, wheat, corn, grapes and almonds on 4,500 acres west of Stockton, said Central Valley farmers have long known that in dry years they would get little or no water from state and federal water projects and would need to rely heavily on groundwater.
“All of a sudden they’re trying to turn their water into a permanent system and ours temporary,” Mussi said. “It’s just not going to work.”
Shawn Coburn farms 1,500 acres along the San Joaquin River in Firebaugh about 100 miles south of the Delta. As a senior rights holder, he figures he will receive 45 percent or less of the water he expected from the federal water project. On another 1,500 acres where he is a junior water rights holder, he will receive no surface water for a second consecutive year.
“I don’t like to pick on other farmers, even if it wasn’t a drought year,” said Coburn. “The only difference is I don’t have a pipe in the Delta I can suck willy-nilly whenever I want.”

How-To-Reenergize-The-Hard-Hit-Oil-And-Gas-Industry

How To Reenergize The Hard-Hit Oil And Gas Industry

Here’s a piece of legislation the Republican Congress should pass pronto: end the decades old, misbegotten ban on the export of crude oil, as well as the stifling bureaucratic restrictions on the export of natural gas. Astounding advances in technology and new discoveries of oil and natural gas reserves have skyrocketed U.S. energy production. America is drilling and refining more oil than it has in decades. Gas is so abundant that electric utilities can’t build or retrofit plants fast enough to absorb it all.

These barriers were put in place to help American businesses and consumers by keeping the stuff at home rather than letting foreigners get their hands on it. Back in the 1970s people thought we were running out of both resources because nominal prices were going up. The real cause was the weak dollar. When President Ronald Reagan and Paul Volcker’s Federal Reserve ended the terrible inflation of the 1970s, commodity prices crashed. Oil fell from almost $40 a barrel to $10 before stabilizing in the $20-to-$25 range.

In the early part of the last decade the Fed, with the connivance of the Treasury Department, weakened the greenback, with the same consequences: Commodity prices zoomed up, with oil reaching a peak of more than $140. Now that the dollar has strengthened—something the Fed didn’t intend, which says something about its competence—commodities such as oil have taken a hit, just as they did in the 1980s. The price of natural gas was already low because of the surplus generated by fracking.

This is why antiquated restrictions on oil and gas exports are especially harmful now. Our oil storage capacity has peaked, which means oil fields will have to cut production because there’s no place to store the stuff. It’s one thing when lower prices or less demand affect output; it’s quite another when production is reduced because of artificial, government-caused reasons. At a time when falling oil prices have put many drillers under serious financial pressure, removing wrong-headed obstacles to increase demand would make all the sense in the world.

Repealing these prohibitions would not only lead to more demand from overseas for our oil and gas but also bring closer the day that the U.S. becomes the world’s leading energy producer. More to the point, rising output at low prices will spur the use of natural gas—an ultraclean fossil fuel—for both new purposes (think transportation) and traditional ones, such as a raw material for the chemicals industry.

Opening up the export taps would also lead to a more efficient, i.e., cheaper, oil market. Most of our refineries, particularly on the Gulf Coast, are geared toward processing what’s known as “heavy” crudes. The surge in U.S. production, however, has come in what are labelled “sweet” or “light” crudes. It would make sense–and in dollars and cents–to allow us, in effect, to swap light crudes for heavy crudes until the day comes when we can construct new refineries here.

Licensing for liquefied natural gas export facilities should be approved in a timely manner instead of falling victim to the foot-dragging that’s all too common. The House of Representatives has passed such legislation. It should be coupled with a bill to end the ridiculous ban on oil exports and passed expeditiously.

Most people don’t realize that the U.S. is already the world’s largest exporter of fuels, which include diesel, gasoline and jet fuel. We send roughly 4 million barrels of these products overseas each day. In the natural gas arena U.S. producers have used technology to impressively lower costs. Whatever happens to the dollar, we can easily be a major player in the global fuel market.

It makes no sense to ignore this colossal opportunity any longer. According to one report, between 394,000 and 859,000 U.S. jobs could be created by lifting these export bans. Americans would receive lower long-term energy prices, and increased U.S. energy output would make the world a safer place.

Detroit-police-officers-accused-of-robbing-drug-dealers

Detroit police officers accused of robbing drug dealers

DETROIT — A Detroit police lieutenant and an officer — accused of robbing drug dealers and stealing money and drugs obtained during police searches — were arraigned on charges Thursday.

The indictment, which came down Wednesday, comes months after Detroit Police Chief James Craig disbanded the department’s troubled drug unit and officers became the target of a federal investigation.

Lt. David Hansberry and Officer Bryan Watson are each facing charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute narcotics, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, possession with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a crime of violence, possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a crime of violence and drug trafficking crime and multiple counts of interference with commerce by robbery and extortion.

Kevlin Omar Brown — who the indictment says is an “associate” of Hansberry — is charged with one count of interference with commerce by robbery or extortion.

Hansberry and Watson were arraigned Thursday in U.S. District Court and Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub entered not guilty pleas for them. Brown appeared in court, but his arraignment was continued to Friday because he did not have an attorney. All three men were given $10,000 unsecured bonds.

Additionally, Brown was ordered to clear up any outstanding warrants within 90 days, must remain confined to his Detroit home and must wear a tether. Brown ignored requests for comment as he was leaving the courtroom after the hearing.

Watson was ordered to turn over four weapons he owns, as well as his concealed pistol license. His attorney, Steve Fishman, was not immediately available for comment.

Michael Harrison, Hansberry’s attorney, said his client, who has been aware of the investigation for months, maintains his innocence.

Hansberry is “confident he’ll be vindicated,” Harrison said, adding that his client has been a police officer since he was 18 years old, was promoted to sergeant at age 25 and then promoted to lieutenant at age 33. “Never had so much as a parking ticket.”

Hansberry and Watson, though, are accused of arranging “drug transactions with civilians, including confidential sources, so that they could rob and extort them,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office says. “The defendants allegedly carried out traffic stops and fake arrests, and then stole drugs, money and personal property from their victims.”

At a news conference this afternoon, Craig said he was “troubled” by the allegations against the veteran officers. He said criminal allegations of this magnitude impact the public trust.

“The vast majority of the men and women of the Detroit Police Department are honest and hardworking, they honor the badge they wear and the oath they took to serve and protect the citizens of this city,” Craig said.

He said he believes four other former narcotics officers remain suspended with pay “until this investigation is fully complete.” Craig said he couldn’t comment on whether those officers would be charged.

In place of the disbanded narcotics unit, the department — which Craig previously said also investigated narcotics officers for an allegation of theft — created the Major Violators Section. Craig said officers assigned to that section work there for a limited duration of time.

The indictment says Hansberry — also known as Sarge or Hater — was a sergeant in the department’s narcotics section from November 2009 through November 2013, when he was promoted to lieutenant.

Hansberry, 34, and Watson, 46 — who have been on suspension since October — are accused of failing to log money and drugs seized during searches into evidence, instead splitting the proceeds and arranging to sell the drugs.

From June 2010 through about October 2014, Hansberry and Watson, whose nickname was Bullet, arranged drug transactions “in which substantial amounts of controlled substances were intended to be purchased or sold by private parties, including informants of the defendants,” the indictment says.

They are accused of using their status as police officers “to assist in their scheme.” It says they drove police vehicles, activated the lights, wore police clothing and badges and carried guns.

The indictment says the officers carried out “pretext traffic stops and fake arrests.”

According to the news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office: “Hansberry and Watson also allegedly identified themselves as police officers to coerce their victims into complying with their demands and to encourage their victims to flee, leaving behind illegal drugs, money and personal property.”

“The vast majority of the men and women of the Detroit Police Department are honest and hardworking, but these defendants betrayed their oath and their fellow officers,” Craig is quoted saying in the news release. “We are committed to the highest standards of integrity, and we will remove any officers who do not live up to those high standards.”

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said they applaud Craig’s “commitment to root out any officers who tarnish the badge.”

She said: “Officers who violate the law cannot be tolerated because effective law enforcement requires public trust.”