DNA Brings Justice for a Soldier’s Death at Fort Carson, Colorado

DNA Brings Justice for a Soldier’s Death at Fort Carson, Colorado - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

U.S. Army investigators and civilian investigators arrested a 58-year-old man in connection with the death of a soldier that occurred in 1987 – and they found him because of his DNA.

The victim, Darlene Krashoc, was 20 at the time she was murdered, was found strangled to death behind a Colorado Springs restaurant. Krashoc was stationed at nearby Fort Carson and had been at a nightclub with other soldiers from her unit prior to the murder. After she left the club between midnight and 1 a.m., authorities allege, Michael Whyte murdered her and left her behind the restaurant.

Police linked Whyte to Krashoc’s death through genetic testing – the kind people are now using to determine ethnicity, connect with long-lost cousins, and find adoptees.

They’d investigated the death for years, but were never able to find a suspect that panned out – but they reopened the case in 2004, 2011 and again in 2017 for DNA testing. The Army turned over the man’s DNA profile to the Colorado Springs police. Based on the phenotype, investigators were able to put together composite images of what the man looked like – and they used age-progression technology to create images of what he was likely to look like now – but nothing panned out.

Earlier this year, though, investigators started to looking for information on genetic genealogy sites.

That’s when they followed the trail directly to Whyte. Police arrested him in mid-May and he’s awaiting trial now.

“Words cannot convey the satisfaction we are feeling from this arrest,” said Major General David Glaser, the Provost Marshal General of the Army and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the police using genetic genealogy testing services to find criminals and link them to cold cases. P lease join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed to let us know what you think!

Carlos Gamino

The U.S.’s Cyber War With Russia

The U.S. Cyber Conflict With Russia - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

The New York Times dropped a news bombshell in mid-June that says Washington is trying to install malware in Russia’s electrical power grid – a new front in the cyber war between our two countries. The incursion is part of the U.S. response to Moscow’s efforts to disrupt the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections, and many in Washington acknowledge the risk of escalating what’s being dubbed the “Digital Cold War” but want to become more aggressive.

Officials in the current administration say that the U.S. has stepped up its cyberattacks, with one senior intelligence official telling the New York Times, “It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year. We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”

It hasn’t been a secret that the U.S. has been meddling in Russia’s electrical grid for years, but now the Pentagon and U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) are overseeing the installation of malware into that country’s systems.

It’s retaliatory, too.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have issued warnings for years that Russia has inserted – and may still be inserting – malware that could sabotage U.S. power plants, oil and gas pipelines, and water supplies at any time.

““We now have evidence they’re sitting on the machines, connected to industrial control infrastructure, that allow them to effectively turn the power off or effect sabotage,” said Eric Chien, a security technology director at Symantec. The only thing missing? Political motivation.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the new Digital Cold War between the U.S. and Russia, so please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed to let us know what you think!

Carlos Gamino

Schools Restraining Kids: It Happens More Than You Think

By Carlos Gamino In the state of Wisconsin, the 2011 Act 125: Seclusion and Restraint gives public schools the explicit right to seclude or restrain children “when a student’s behavior presents a clear, present and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or others and it is the least restrictive intervention feasible.”  While schools are required to report all instances of seclusion and restraint, the reporting is somewhat lacking – many school districts don’t follow state laws or federal reporting requirements.  What is Seclusion and Restraint? Seclusion means to isolate a child in a room or a space – and make sure they can’t escape. Restraint means to actually restrict a child’s movement, like by an adult holding the child through a mechanism that keeps the child still. Schools are only supposed to use these measures as a last resort, but in many cases, kids who are simply non-compliant with teachers are locked away. As many as 75 percent of all reported physical restraint cases and 60 percent of seclusions take place among special needs children. So is seclusion or restraint ethical? What would you think if it was your child who was secluded or restrained during the school day? Children have died as a result of these practices. Additionally, parents of kids who have been repeatedly subjected to these harsh measures report lasting psychological trauma – with some even saying that their children have something similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the worst offenders when it comes to seclusion and restraint has come under fire recently for misreporting. The Fairfax County School system in northern Virginia reported zero cases for years – but internal documents showed that there were nearly 2,000 incidents that occurred. What Do You Think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on seclusion and restraint. Do you think it’s an acceptable practice, or would you be outraged if it happened to your child? Please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed to let us know what you think! Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

In the state of Wisconsin, the 2011 Act 125: Seclusion and Restraint gives public schools the explicit right to seclude or restrain children “when a student’s behavior presents a clear, present and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or others and it is the least restrictive intervention feasible.”

While schools are required to report all instances of seclusion and restraint, the reporting is somewhat lacking – many school districts don’t follow state laws or federal reporting requirements.

What is Seclusion and Restraint?

Seclusion means to isolate a child in a room or a space – and make sure they can’t escape. Restraint means to actually restrict a child’s movement, like by an adult holding the child through a mechanism that keeps the child still. Schools are only supposed to use these measures as a last resort, but in many cases, kids who are simply non-compliant with teachers are locked away.

As many as 75 percent of all reported physical restraint cases and 60 percent of seclusions take place among special needs children.

So is seclusion or restraint ethical?

What would you think if it was your child who was secluded or restrained during the school day?

Children have died as a result of these practices. Additionally, parents of kids who have been repeatedly subjected to these harsh measures report lasting psychological trauma – with some even saying that their children have something similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.

One of the worst offenders when it comes to seclusion and restraint has come under fire recently for misreporting. The Fairfax County School system in northern Virginia reported zero cases for years – but internal documents showed that there were nearly 2,000 incidents that occurred.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on seclusion and restraint. Do you think it’s an acceptable practice, or would you be outraged if it happened to your child? Please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed to let us know what you think!

Carlos Gamino

Canada to Ban Single-Use Plastics by as Early as 2021

Canada to Ban Single-Use Plastics by as Early as 2021 - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Every year, more than 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean – and although groups like 4ocean have removed significant amounts (4ocean itself has removed 4.7 million pounds of trash since 2017), more than a million plastic bottles are purchased every minute.

Half of all plastic produced is made for a single use, including up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags annually. Fewer than 10 percent of those are actually recycled, and what’s left can persist for hundreds of years in the environment.

Now Canada wants to ban single-use plastics. But will it work?

Some experts say that a prohibition on single-use plastic products might not address the worst types of plastic litter, although Canadian officials say that the potential bans would do more than address the litter problem. They’d also cut nearly 2 million tons of carbon pollution, as well as stimulate the Canadian economy by creating 42,000 new jobs.

The ban would address things like plastic bags, cutlery and plates, straws, takeout packages, cups and cigarette butts.

Max Liboiron, an environmental scientist at Memorial University in Newfoundland, says that those things aren’t what he’s cleaning up off the beaches, though. She says that the trash mainly includes things like fishing gear and microplastics. (Microplastics are pieces of broken-down particles of plastics that collect and leach out harmful chemicals and heavy metals.)

Other opponents of Trudeau’s proposed ban say that banning plastic straws place a burden on people with disabilities – with some going so far as to say that plastic straw bans are a step backward for accessibility.

Proponents have other ideas, though, like Morton Barlaz, an environmental engineer with North Carolina State University.

“Nothing works like an incentive better than money. Instead of banning bags, we could start charging for them,” says Borlaz. “Anything we’re talking about – a straw, a plastic bag, a piece of cutlery – it has a function consumers want. If we ban it, we need to think about the alternative and what that alternative does for people and the environment.”

Loboiron believes that financial means are the best way to lower plastic use, too, only she says that reducing Canada’s oil subsidies will do the trick. Oil is the source of all petroleum-based products, so an increase in prices could decrease the demand for single-use plastics, which would automatically become more expensive.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on single-use plastics bans. Do you think they’re a good idea, or do you have a better solution? Please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed to let us know what you think!

Carlos Gamino

U.S. Birth Rates Hit Record Low; CDC Asks Why

Why Are U.S. Birth Rates Falling - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. birth rates keep falling – and nobody can figure out why. Last year, there were only 59 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, and that’s 2 percent lower than the rate for the previous year. In fact, 2018 births were the lowest recorded since the government even began tracking them 110 years ago, in 1909.

Although that seems like a lot fewer births, there were still a shade under 3.8 million babies born in 2018.

The biggest drops in birth rates were with women under 35 and more specifically, those in their early 20s.

But although the CDC can’t zero in on the reason, there have been numerous studies that say millennials – who sit comfortably in the most prolific baby-making age group – just don’t want to have children because they’re not sure about what the future holds. That’s true for finances, the environment and the climate.

Couples spend an average of 25 percent of their income on child care in the U.S. (In other wealthy nations, it’s about 15 percent.) Housing costs are pretty high, too, and job security isn’t what it used to be. Pair that with the fact that college-degreed professionals are having a hard time even finding jobs to pay off their crippling student loan debt, and each couple has an average of about 30,000 reasons not to have children.

A recent INSIDER poll conducted a survey that revealed surprising results, too – it said that nearly 30 percent of Americans agree that couples should “consider the negative and potentially life-threatening effects of climate change when deciding whether or not to have children.”

What Do You Think?

What do you think about the declining birth rate in the U.S.? Will it affect us long into the future, or do you believe the rates will bounce back up? Do you think that finances, climate and the environment should all play a role in whether millennials choose to have kids? I’d love for you to share your thoughts on this, so join me on Facebook or on Twitter and chime in!

Carlos Gamino

North Carolina Sues Juul in Landmark Suit

North Carolina Sues e-Cigarette Manufacturer - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

E-cigarette manufacturers have gotten into plenty of hot water lately, particularly with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s most recent campaigns against them. A federal judge ruled in mid-May that the FDA needs to regulate the thousands of types of e-cigarettes on the market, saying that the agency dodged its legal duty by postponing reviewing them for several years.

The fact is that e-cigarettes are dangerous, as anyone with a modicum of common sense can tell you – and it looks like many public health groups have caught on to the fact that they’re being marketed to children.

In fact, the state of North Carolina – not always known for its common-sense laws or consumer protections, but definitely known for its tobacco production – is suing e-cigarette manufacturer Juul. The state’s attorney general said that e-cigarette use is an “epidemic” among the state’s youth, and they’re not taking it any more.

Josh Stein, the state’s attorney, said at a press conference, “Juul entered the market with the highest nicotine potency of any product. Meanwhile Juul understated the strength of the nicotine in each pod, downplaying its risks.” He added that the reason teens are more likely to use Juul than the people it’s intended for – those in the 18-and-up set – is because these vaping liquids come in fruit and dessert-like flavors that serve to entice children to the product.”

Not so with traditional cigarettes, which come in menthol and regular tobacco flavors.

And perhaps that’s why around 17 percent of North Carolina’s high schoolers reported using e-cigarettes in 2017.

“In a span of six years we’ve seen a 900 percent increase in high school students reporting that they are using e-cigarettes. In 2017, about 17 percent of high schoolers reported using e-cigarettes, and that I’m confident is an underestimate, given the marketing that we’ve seen,” said Susan Kansagra, a doctor who works with the North Carolina Department of Public Health. She added that in middle school, they’ve seen a 400 percent increase in e-cigarette use.

The company also claims to be concerned about youth use of its products. It issued a statement that reads, “We stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored JUULpods to our traditional retail store partners, enhanced our online age-verification process, strengthened our retailer compliance program with over 2,000 secret shopper visits per month, and shut down our Facebook and Instagram accounts while working constantly to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms.”

What Do You Think?

Have you noticed an increase in kids vaping? What do you think manufacturers, states and the federal government should do about it? I’d love for you to share your thoughts on this, so join me on Facebook or on Twitter and chime in!

Carlos Gamino

Is the U.S. Sending Troops to the Middle East Again?

Is the U.S. Sending Troops to the Middle East Again - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Senators are demanding more information from the U.S. government after it evacuated all nonessential personnel from Iraq and suggested sending as many as 120,000 troops back into the Middle East, which has been largely left to its own defenses since the drawdowns from the Iraq war.

Citing concerns about violence from Iran, the government seems to be preparing for military action in the country.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) is the ranking democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he demanded that the current administration “immediately provide this committee with a briefing on the decision to order the departure of embassy staff, the intelligence on what Iran may be planning to do and any plans to go to war with Iran.”

Legislators from both sides of the aisle agree. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said, “I hope that either the entire committee or perhaps the chair and the ranking member would be able to have that kind of briefing.”

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said that he’s working on it.

The State Department ordered the departure of all nonessential personnel from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. consulate in Erbil on May 15. At the same time, it renewed its warning to Americans not to travel to Iraq.

Just prior to the evacuation order, the administration deployed an aircraft carrier strike group as well as bombers to the Middle East – but it only said it was due to a threat that Iran and its proxies posed.

Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, who is the deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, said there has been no increased threat from Iran. However, U.S. Central Command issued a statement saying that Ghika is wrong.

What Do You Think?

Do you feel that the U.S. should have a bigger military presence in the Middle East, and do you feel the administration should have to explain why? I’d love for you to share your thoughts on this, so join me on Facebook or on Twitter and chime in!

Carlos Gamino

San Francisco Bans Facial Recognition by Police and City Agencies

By Carlos Gamino

The city of San Francisco is rather cutting-edge. With its proximity to Silicon Valley, which lies just south along US-101, the city’s government usually embraces new tech. However, the City by the Bay has now become the first to ban use of facial recognition technology by police and city agencies.

The city’s Board of Supervisors voted on the rule in mid-May, and the measure also requires all city departments to disclose the surveillance technologies that they currently use or will use in the future. Agencies also have to spell out policies that will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

But governments all over the world, including our own, have used facial recognition technology for years. In some cases, it’s helped find missing children and prevented driver’s license fraud.

However, a study published by the MIT Media Lab earlier this year says that facial recognition software has a hard time identifying people’s gender when they’re female or when they’re darker-skinned. Some Chinese iPhone X users claim that Apple’s technology is full of problems, too, saying that it can’t distinguish between many users and allows the wrong people to unlock phones.

The Chinese government is actually using face scans of its citizens to racially profile ethnic Muslims in the country. Software built right into China’s huge network of surveillance cameras can look exclusively for Uighurs based on their appearance – and the government keeps records of all of it for search and review. (They also use software to track people’s DNA.)

It looks like San Francisco’s city government wants to avoid going down that rabbit hole – but some people, particularly those who profit on the development of facial recognition technology – disagree.

“They’re saying, let’s basically ban the technology across the board, and that’s what seems extreme, because there are many uses of the technology that are perfectly appropriate,” said Daniel Castro, vice president of the Technology and Innovation Foundation, an industry-backed group. “We want to use the technology to find missing elderly adults. We want to use it to fight sex trafficking. We want to use it to quickly identify a suspect in case of a terrorist attack. These are very reasonable uses of the technology, and so to ban it wholesale is a very extreme reaction to a technology that many people are just now beginning to understand.”

But Georgetown University researchers discovered that there’s more than a 50 percent chance that you’re already in a law enforcement facial recognition database. The American Civil Liberties Union says, “The government has no business tracking when we leave our homes, when we go to a park or place of worship, and that’s the sort of power that facial recognition technology gives the government.”

What Do You Think?

Do you think the San Francisco city government was wrong for banning facial recognition technology, or do you believe it’s something necessary that they should embrace? I’d love for you to share your thoughts on this, so join me on Facebook or on Twitter and chime in!

Carlos Gamino

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