The Recent Timmothy Pitzen Hoax

Timmothy Pitzen Age-Progression - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Timmothy Pitzen, who was just six years old when he was last seen with his mother on surveillance footage, has been missing since 2011. In early April, an Ohio man – now known to be Brian Michael Rini – crafted an elaborate story to convince the police that he was actually the boy… but the FBI did a DNA test and discovered the man was lying.

What Happened?

Timmothy Pitzen’s mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, picked him up from kindergarten on May 11, 2011 without telling her husband, Timmothy’s father Jim Pitzen. Jim wasn’t aware that they were missing until he went to pick up Timmothy from school, and he filed a missing persons report the next morning.

Timmothy and his mother went on a “road trip,” stopping at a Kalahari water park and buying toys for two or three days. Surveillance footage from multiple locations shows a happy mother and son – but then authorities found Fry-Pitzen’s body in a hotel room in Rockford, Illinois, where she had apparently committed suicide.

Her note said, “You’ll never find him.”

The note also said that Timmothy was safe but offered no details on where he was.

According to friends and family members, Fry-Pitzen battled depression during her adult life. She wanted to divorce Jim, but was afraid that the court would take her son away from her due to her mental health issues.

The case appeared on CNN’s “The Hunt With John Walsh.”

Fast-forward to April 4, 2019.

In Newport, Kentucky, a woman called the police after a boy approached her car and asked for help. He told her he’d been running for two hours and said he was Timmothy Pitzen, fleeing two men who had been keeping him captive for more than seven years. He told the woman he’d been held most recently at a local Red Roof Inn across the border in Ohio.

He kept up his story when police picked him up, even going so far as to identify his “kidnappers” as two men with very distinctive tattoos. He said his captors drove a Ford SUV with Wisconsin plates.

But then the FBI conducted a DNA test and discovered his true identity. He’s 23-year-old Brian Michael Rini – not a 14-year-old boy, as Timmothy is. Rini has a string of criminal convictions in his past, including burglary, vandalism and “making false alarms involving a law enforcement agency.”

Aurora police are still searching for Timmothy, who disappeared nearly eight years ago.

“Although we are disappointed that this turned out to be a hoax, we remain diligent in our search for Timmothy, as our missing person’s case remains unsolved,” Sgt. Bill Rowley, a spokesman for Aurora police, said in a statement.

Anyone who has information on Timmothy should call the Aurora police at 630-256-5000 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-843-5678.

What Do You Think?

Have you been keeping up with this case, or did you see it on “The Hunt”? What do you think motivated Rini to pose as Timmothy Pitzen? I’d love to hear your take on this, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

FBI Director Wray Says the White Nationalist Threat is Huge

FBI Director Christopher Wray Says White Nationalists Are a Danger to the U.S. - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

FBI Director Christopher Wray, during a House Appropriations Committee meeting in early April, told lawmakers that white nationalism is a tremendous threat to the American public. In fact, he went so far as to say that the “significant” threat that white nationalist extremists pose is a “persistent, pervasive threat.”

Wray said that white nationalist extremists pose serious challenges to law enforcement, too, because they’re “small groups of people” who are capable of enacting horrific violence like what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand last month. White nationalist extremists were also responsible for the 2015 Charleston church massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, Charlottesville and several other incidents.

But there’s a serious lack of funding to combat this type of domestic terrorism – and in some cases, the existing funding has been revoked.

Civil rights and faith leaders have been pushing the FBI to take white nationalist violence more seriously. Groups involved include the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Sikh Coalition and Muslim Advocates.

Wray told the committee, “The danger, I think, of white supremacist violent extremism … is, of course, significant. We assess that it’s a persistent, pervasive threat… In general, domestic terrorism in this country has changed in the sense that it’s less structured, less organized, fewer groups, more uncoordinated, one-off individuals as opposed to some structured hierarchy, and that presents its own share of challenges. There’s a lot of social media exploitation that comes with it.”

What Do You Think?

Do you believe white supremacists and white nationalists are a danger in the U.S.? What about in Milwaukee and the surrounding communities? I’d love to hear your take on this, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

NASA Says It’ll Put Astronauts Near Mars in 2033

NASA Says It’ll Put Astronauts Near Mars in 2033 - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Since the Mars Rover’s final goodbye, NASA has announced that it wants to speed up its efforts to explore space – and it wants to have astronauts on Mars by 2033.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says it’s possible because the current administration wants another trip to the moon in the near future – and the agency has been given a budget that includes enough cash for a new “Lunar Gateway” space station, which it anticipates will orbit the moon by the mid-2020s.

“We need to learn how to live and work in another world,” said Bridenstine. The moon is the best place to prove those capabilities and technologies. The sooner we can achieve that objective, the sooner we can move on to Mars.”

Apparently NASA intends to go beyond Mars, too.

According to NASA, the moon “is a treasure chest of science that holds many fascinating mysteries to explore – many that will advance our understanding of our home planet and solar system, as well as the cosmos beyond. NASA wants to use the Moon’s unique perspective as a science platform to look back at the Earth, observe the Sun, and view the vast universe.”

The agency intends to deliver scientific instruments to the moon for U.S. companies this year, and it plans to use those deliveries to test new lander technologies that can eventually be used on Mars. It’s also working with private companies to meet the challenges of living in space by exploring technology for disposing of trash and using existing resources.

The trip to Mars is a 34-million-mile journey, which means the technology NASA develops for use on the moon (and on the way to the moon) must be able to survive it. 2033 may be an incredibly ambitious goal, but the U.S. government has implemented Space Policy Directive 1, which demands human expansion across the solar system on a tight timeline.

Vice President Mike Pence said of Space Policy Directive 1, “Under President Trump’s leadership, America will lead in space once again on all fronts. As the president has said, space is the ‘next great American frontier’ – and it is our duty – and our destiny – to settle that frontier with American leadership, courage and values.”

The Outer Space Treaty, which the U.S. signed in 1967, says “The exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind,” and “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

What Do You Think?

Do you think space is the ‘next great American frontier,’ or do you believe that statement to be in violation of the Outer Space Treaty?

I’d love to hear your take on this, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

200 Californians Exposed to Measles at a Hospital

By Carlos Gamino Pockets of measles outbreaks are springing up all over the United States, and one of the most recent mass exposures occurred in a Sacramento emergency room. Patients who visited UC Davis Health’s ER on March 17 received letters that said, “You will need to notify your primary health care provider(s) and your child's provider(s) of this possible exposure to discuss your possible risk of infection, vaccination history, and other questions you may have.” The letters also mentioned family members who stayed in the waiting room, saying that they’d need to notify their health care providers, as well. Measles is very contagious, and it spreads through coughing and sneezing. It can even live in the air for up to two hours where an infected person has coughed or sneezed. Symptoms first appear within two weeks of infection, and people can spread the disease from four days before a rash appears to four days after. Measles is rarely deadly in healthy people, but infants and the elderly, as well as those who have compromised immune systems are more likely to have life-threatening complications.  Rayna Souza, one of the letter’s recipients, was in the emergency room that day with her son, Jackson. Jackson was suffering from seizures caused by tuberous sclerosis – a condition that has caused him more than 100 brain tumors, which will eventually be fatal.  “When I found out, I felt mortified. My son's already terminal," said Souza. "I don’t have any area to risk any potential anything with him because I’m just, like, walking around him with a plastic bubble just trying to keep him here as long as I can.” Souza said that a physician told her the source of the measles contamination was another child whose parents had not vaccinated her.  UC Davis Health Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Dr. Dean Blumberg, said, “Jackson was in the room, the emergency department room, where this other patient was seen. It was less than an hour separation between them. So, there was potentially still measles virus in the air.” Because measles is so rare, it’s tough for many doctors to identify the disease. The original patient was in the hospital for days before she was diagnosed with measles. What Do You Think? Have you been following the measles outbreaks, and did you hear about the exposure in Sacramento? Do you feel that your community has done enough to protect the public? I’d love to hear your take on this, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter. Carlos Gamino By Carlos Gamino

Pockets of measles outbreaks are springing up all over the United States, and one of the most recent mass exposures occurred in a Sacramento emergency room.

Patients who visited UC Davis Health’s ER on March 17 received letters that said, “You will need to notify your primary health care provider(s) and your child’s provider(s) of this possible exposure to discuss your possible risk of infection, vaccination history, and other questions you may have.” The letters also mentioned family members who stayed in the waiting room, saying that they’d need to notify their health care providers, as well.

Measles is very contagious, and it spreads through coughing and sneezing. It can even live in the air for up to two hours where an infected person has coughed or sneezed. Symptoms first appear within two weeks of infection, and people can spread the disease from four days before a rash appears to four days after.

Measles is rarely deadly in healthy people, but infants and the elderly, as well as those who have compromised immune systems are more likely to have life-threatening complications.

Rayna Souza, one of the letter’s recipients, was in the emergency room that day with her son, Jackson. Jackson was suffering from seizures caused by tuberous sclerosis – a condition that has caused him more than 100 brain tumors, which will eventually be fatal.

“When I found out, I felt mortified. My son’s already terminal,” said Souza. “I don’t have any area to risk any potential anything with him because I’m just, like, walking around him with a plastic bubble just trying to keep him here as long as I can.”

Souza said that a physician told her the source of the measles contamination was another child whose parents had not vaccinated her.

UC Davis Health Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Dr. Dean Blumberg, said, “Jackson was in the room, the emergency department room, where this other patient was seen. It was less than an hour separation between them. So, there was potentially still measles virus in the air.”

Because measles is so rare, it’s tough for many doctors to identify the disease. The original patient was in the hospital for days before she was diagnosed with measles.

What Do You Think?

Have you been following the measles outbreaks, and did you hear about the exposure in Sacramento? Do you feel that your community has done enough to protect the public? I’d love to hear your take on this, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

Gun Laws Changing in New Zealand Following Christchurch Mosque Shooting

Gun Laws Changing in New Zealand Following Christchurch Mosque Shooting - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

In mid-March, a deadly shooting at two mosques in the quiet city of Christchurch, New Zealand prompted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to vow that the country’s gun laws would change. The attack, perpetrated by an Australian white supremacist who posted a 74-page manifesto on social media and live-streamed the carnage, resulted in nearly 50 deaths and dozens of injuries – including a number of children.

The 28-year-old shooter was arrested and charged with murder, and police tweeted that he would be charged with a series of other crimes, as well. Two other people were also arrested, but their connection to the case isn’t certain.

“As soon as New Zealanders hear that someone was legally able to acquire, as I’m advised, those weapons and carry out this event, that will raise enormous questions with our gun laws, and that is why we will respond swiftly,” Ardern said. She also said that she was evaluating a ban on semi-automatic weapons like those used in the attacks.

None of the people arrested for the mass shootings had a criminal history – neither in New Zealand nor in Australia – and none were on government watch lists, either.

The perpetrator got his gun license, a requirement in Australia, in 2017. He began stockpiling weapons the next month. The weapons he used were decorated with white supremacist symbols, and he appears to have been radicalized on the darkest recesses of the internet – a hate-filled message board where white supremacists gather. The shooter posted a message to the board that said, “Well lads, it’s time… to make a real life effort post… by the time you read this I should be going live.”

The accused mass-murderer was looking for “revenge” against Muslims, and he claims to have chosen Christchurch because he wanted to show that nowhere was safe. His manifesto says that he was motivated by “white genocide.”

What Do You Think?

Do you think PM Ardern is justified in changing New Zealand’s gun laws after an Australian citizen committed a mass shooting? What do you think an appropriate response would be? I’d love to hear your take, so please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed.

Carlos Gamino

The U.S. Youth Climate Strike

The U.S. Youth Climate Strike - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Students all over the world – but mostly in the U.S. – skipped school on a Friday in mid-March to protest global leaders’ inaction on climate change. Organizers called the event the U.S. Youth Climate Strike, though the protests began last year with a Swedish teen who eventually spoke at the UN climate summit.

In Wisconsin, protests took place at East High School in Madison and a few other locations.

The Swedish student who originally set off the string of protests, Greta Thunberg, has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. At a rally in Stockholm, she said that climate change is an “existential crisis” and that it has been “ignored for decades by those that have known about it.”

U.S. students have the most at stake in this fight, according to one young woman who participated in a Philadelphia rally.

“You know, Congress, they’re pretty much old people,” said 18-year-old Amira Ferjani. “We’re going to be here, our kids are going to be here. We want to leave a good world for them.”

The United Nations issued a report that says the world has just 11 years left to get climate change under control – and the same report says that unless we come up with new technologies to remove carbon emissions from the air, we won’t make it.

The public is becoming more alarmed about climate change, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Right now, Americans fall into these camps:

  • 29% are alarmed
  • 30% are concerned
  • 17% are cautious
  • 5% are disengaged
  • 9% are doubtful
  • 9% are dismissive

Part of that rising alarm is due to a series of reports warning about extreme weather and the displacement of millions of people if big changes aren’t made soon. 2018 was the fourth-warmest year on record, with the only warmer years being 2015, 2016 and 2017.

And while it is true that the Earth’s climate has changed over the millennia, scientists say we’re on a path to certain destruction – and it’s not going to change unless we do.

“We’re not seeing cycles,” said climate scientist Martin Hoerling, who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We’re not seeing things that are going to revert back” while greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to increase. The climate hasn’t changed this rapidly since Earth formed.

What Do You Think?

Are you concerned about global warming and climate change? Do you think that there’s a possibility humans can turn it around? I’d love to hear your take, so please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed.

Carlos Gamino

Is it Legal to Give a Cop “The Finger”?

Flipping the Bird - Legal, According to the Constitution - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

A federal appeals court ruled that “Fits of rudeness or lack of gratitude may violate the Golden Rule. But that doesn’t make them illegal or for that matter punishable.”

Why?

Because Michigan woman Debra Cruise-Gulyas. Cruise-Gulyas was pulled over for speeding in 2017. The officer let her go after writing her a ticket for a lesser violation – but she was still upset about the incident, so as she was pulling away, she flipped him the bird.

The officer, Matthew Minard, flipped on his lights and pulled her over again. He rewrote the ticket for speeding.

Cruise-Gulyas sued, arguing that giving the officer the finger was her First Amendment right.

The court agreed – and also said that once the officer let Cruise-Gulyas go, he needed a legitimate reason to pull her over again. The court said that detaining Cruise-Gulyas without reason constituted a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights, as well.

“Cruise-Gulyas did not break any law that would justify the second stop and at most was exercising her free speech rights,” wrote the court.

Minard tried to compare his actions in pulling the woman over a second time to what a prosecutor might do – yanking a plea deal when the person refuses to cooperate. He also wanted the case dismissed because he said he had “qualified immunity,” which is an argument that says police can’t be sued for the things they do in a professional capacity. The court didn’t buy it, though. (Ordinarily, they would – except when an officer violates a person’s clearly established constitutional or statutory rights.)

The court decided that when Minard issued Cruise-Gulyas an upgraded ticket, he was really trying to quell her right to free speech, as well as trying to deter her from expressing herself in similar ways in the future. The court’s opinion also explained, “Any reasonable officer would know that a citizen who raises her middle finger engages in speech protected by the First Amendment.”

So while you can give police the finger, we still recommend that you don’t.

What Do You Think?

Do you think that giving a cop the finger should be protected by the Constitution? Have you ever done or seen something similar? I’d love to hear your take, so please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed.

Carlos Gamino

Facebook Mired in Scandal Again

Facebook Mired in Scandal Again - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

On the one-year anniversary of Facebook’s notorious Cambridge Analytica scandal, which weaponized Facebook users’ private information for politicians, the tech giant found itself mired in a fresh batch of trouble. The social media company removed ads critical of Facebook and failed to catch and remove a livestream of the deadly mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand – and lawmakers in the U.S. and the E.U. are raising concerns about its power.

First, the ads. Senator Elizabeth Warren ran a series of ads that called for a breakup of the social media network, claiming that the company – along with other tech companies – hold too much power. Facebook took the ads down, claiming it was “because they [the ads] violated our policies against use of our corporate logo.” However, a Facebook spokesperson said it restored the ads “in the interest of allowing robust debate” once the social media company was censoring speech.

Warren’s position is that companies with an annual global revenue of $25 billion or more should not be allowed to sell ads on their own platforms, and she says she’ll take steps to fight “anti-competitive mergers” like Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram.

It wasn’t just Facebook that Warren took issue with, though – she also set her sights on Amazon and Google.

Then, the livestream. Facebook, along with Twitter and YouTube, struggled to catch up with a livestream video that showed a white supremacist murdering dozens of people at mosques in Christchurch, NZ in mid-March. The footage, according to New Zealand police, was “extremely distressing.” Law enforcement professionals asked people not to circulate it, but it was widely available on all three platforms.

Facebook says it’s “removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware,” and Twitter and Google’s YouTube said they were removing that type of content as well. The same thing has happened elsewhere, too, including in the U.S., Denmark and Thailand.

And between all that, Facebook suffered the longest outage in its history, its data-sharing policies are the subject of a criminal investigation, and two of its top executives – Chris Cox and Chris Daniels – are on their way out the door. Other executives have recently left, too, including its chief security officer and its top policy and communications executive.

What Do You Think?

Do you use Facebook? What do you think of all the scandals that have been plaguing the company over the past year or so? I’d love to hear your take, so please join the conversation on my Facebook page (yes, I know!) or on my Twitter feed.

Carlos Gamino

Mars Rover’s Final Goodbye

How Mars Rover Said Goodbye to NASA - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover was only supposed to last 90 days, clambering over Martian rocks and taking detailed measurements of temperatures, wind speeds and other environmental conditions.

However, it outlasted its original lifespan – in fact, Opportunity continued its mission for more than 15 years, sending data back to on-the-ground NASA operators daily.

Until about 8 months ago, when it sent a tear-jerker of a message back to Earth: “My battery is low and it’s getting dark.” The message, sent during a massive, two-month dust storm the likes of which the Red Planet hadn’t seen in decades, was the last thing Opportunity sent.

NASA personnel continued sending wake-up messages to Opportunity until mid-February. The messages included songs on a playlist entitled “Opportunity, Wake Up!” like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “I Will Survive,” and “Dust in the Wind.” (They’ve released the playlist on Spotify if you’re interested.)

In a final bid to wake up Opportunity 8 months after its final message, NASA’s scientists played Billie Holliday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

It didn’t work.

I’m not crying. You’re crying.

“We have made every reasonable engineering effort to try to recover Opportunity and have determined that the likelihood of receiving a signal is far too low to continue recovery efforts … Even though it’s a machine and we’re saying goodbye, it’s still very hard and very poignant, but we had to do that. We came to that point,” said NASA project manager John Callas.

Opportunity set several records beyond its original 90-day mission, including:

  • Setting a one-day Mars driving record when it traveled 721 feet
  • Returned more than 217,000 images to Earth, including 15 360-degree color panoramas
  • Exposed the surfaces of 52 rocks to analyze their mineral content
  • Found hematite on Mars (hematite is a mineral that forms in water)
  • Discovered that Endeavor Crater may have once held potable water

You can explore some of Opportunity’s photos here.

What Do You Think?

Did you keep up with the Opportunity Rover? How did you feel when you discovered its mission was complete? I’d love to hear what you think, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Citizenship Question Can Appear on 2020 Census

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Citizenship Question Can Appear on 2020 Census - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

In early April, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether it’s okay to include a citizenship on the 2020 U.S. Census.

There hasn’t been a citizenship question on the census for nearly 70 years, and this time, it’s subject to all kinds of legal challenges.

The question is, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” The options:

  • Yes, born in the United States
  • Yes, born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Northern Marianas
  • Yes, born abroad of U.S. citizen parent or parents
  • Yes, U.S. citizen by naturalization (with a requirement to print the year the person was naturalized)
  • No, not a U.S. citizen

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross initially approved the request.

Some of the question’s opponents say that asking about citizenship will prevent people from participating in the census – and we won’t get an accurate accounting of people who live here in the U.S. Census bureau research says as much, too.

An accurate accounting is incredibly important. The number of people counted in the census determine how many congressional seats are allocated among districts, as well as how many Electoral College votes each state gets. These numbers also determine how much federal money is sent to states and communities for schools, Medicare and other public services.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of New York ordered the government to abandon its plans to include the question on the census, but the Trump administration is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on it. Furman wrote a 277-page opinion on the case, saying that court filings show Ross decided to pressure the Justice Department to “ask” to include the question after talking with nationalist Steve Bannon.

What Do You Think?

Do you believe there should be a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. census? How do you expect the Supreme Court to rule?

I’d love to hear what you think, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino