- Brazil police say 8 firemen evaded duty at deadly nightclub blaze - TV
- Snowden as a teen online: anime and cheeky humour
- Exclusive - U.S. in antitrust probe of Lockheed-Boeing rocket venture
Posted: 12 Jun 2013 09:13 PM PDT
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian police accused eight firefighters of dereliction of duty for their alleged failure to enforce fire codes at a nightclub where a January 27 blaze resulted in the deaths of 242 people, the Record TV network reported on Wednesday.
The accused, all men, were responsible for inspections of the Boate Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, a university town in Brazil's southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul.
The firemen were also responsible for making sure the club's fire prevention and escape plans met local codes. Officials with Rio Grande do Sul's state security secretariat, the agency responsible for the police investigation and the fire department, were not immediately available for comment.
News reports shortly after the fire showed that the club failed to meet many basic safety regulations that the fire department and city inspectors are charged with enforcing. The club did not have all the required licenses to operate.
Victims and their relatives consider the charges, most of which only carry prison terms of several months and demotion or expulsion from the force, too light, the G1 news service reported on its website.
Two club owners and two band members face manslaughter charges over the fire and could face years in prison if convicted.
The Boate Kiss nightclub was packed when a member of a live band allegedly fired off fireworks that set insulation on the club's ceiling alight. The only exit door from the club was temporarily blocked by security who thought the victims trying to flee were skipping out on their bar tabs.
Many panicked club-goers fled instead into exitless bathrooms where they piled up, overcome by toxic smoke. Some who made it to safety died going back to rescue friends and family. Others, damaged by smoke and cyanide-laced fumes agonized in hospital for months. The latest victim died May 19.
One of the firemen, an officer, also faces a charge of fraud for failing to disclose that he was a partner in a company that developed fire prevention plans, the Exame newsweekly magazine reported on its website Wednesday.
The accusations were made before judges of the Rio Grande do Sul state military court. The judges have the authority to accept the accusation, formally charging the individuals, or to reject the accusations.
The state military court has authority over all cases involving the state's paramilitary police and paramilitary firefighting forces. In Brazil most police and firefighters are not subject to the jurisdiction of civilian courts for acts committed on duty.
Brazilian fire departments and most police are auxiliaries of the Brazilian Army, but under the command of the governor of each state.
(Reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 12 Jun 2013 08:09 PM PDT
SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Long before he became known worldwide as the National Security Agency contractor who exposed top-secret U.S. government surveillance programs, Edward Snowden worked for a Japanese anime company run by friends and went by the nicknames "The True HOOHA" and "Phish."
In 2002, he was 18 years old, a high school dropout and his parents had just divorced. On the tiny anime company's website, he wrote of his skills with video games and popularity with women.
In an online forum eight years later, he apparently again used the screen name "The True HOOHA" in a discussion of surveillance by a private computer company for the government.
"It really concerns me how little this sort of corporate behaviour bothers those outside of technology circles," the post from 2010 reads. "Society really seems to have developed an unquestioning obedience towards spooky types."
Snowden, a former CIA employee who turns 30 later this month, does not appear to be otherwise active on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter - at least not under his own name.
But the website of Ryuhana Press, a defunct start-up that sold anime art, offers a glimpse of Snowden as a youth. As its web editor, Snowden's profile page is a mix of truth, sarcasm and silly jokes.
For example, he listed his correct birthday - June 21, 1983 - and noted that it fell on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. But he also claimed to be 37 years old and to have fathered two preteen children.
"I really am a nice guy," Snowden wrote on his profile page. "You see, I act arrogant and cruel because I was not hugged enough as a child, and because the public education system turned it's (sic) wretched, spiked back on me."
Reuters viewed the website on Tuesday and contacted former company employees for comment. On Wednesday, the website had been taken down.
Snowden wrote that he favoured purple sunglasses and praised the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.
"I like my girlish figure that attracts girls," he wrote, "and I like my lamer friends. That's the best biography you'll get out of me, coppers!"
'WHO IS HE?'
Photographs uploaded by friends for Snowden's 19th birthday show a young man pulling down his pants for his colleagues, putting a clothespin on his chest, and dancing. A blog entry from a company employee teased: "Who is he? What does he do? Does he really love himself as much as his shameless marketing would have you believe?"
Within years, he took a job as a security guard at the NSA and by age 23, Snowden was working undercover overseas for the CIA on classified computer systems. He went to work for a private contractor in 2005, congressional officials said Wednesday.
In postings a year later on the Ars Technica internet message board, he apparently again used "The True HOOHA" screen name. The later Ars Technica postings were first reported by the New York blogger Anthony De Rosa.
He wrote that he joined the CIA for the opportunity to travel abroad. He also wrote about his concerns regarding government wiretapping. In 2006, "TheTrueHOOHA" wrote: "NSA's new surveillance program. That's the sound of freedom, citizen!"
In the earlier postings as an 18-year-old, Snowden wrote on his profile that he liked online role-playing games, or RPG. "I always wanted to write RPG campaigns with my spare time, but I'll get about three missions in and scrap the world for my next, better, powergamin' build."
He joked that he "got bullied" into being an editor on the website by a gaggle of artists and "beautiful nubile young girls."
Snowden said he liked playing the popular fighting video game Tekken. He was so skilled that he attracted a gathering of fans at the 2002 Anime USA convention, a co-worker wrote on another part of the site. "He tends to spontaneously be a ray of sunshine and inspiration. He's a great listener, and he's eager to help people improve themselves."
The co-worker did not reply to inquiries from Reuters on Wednesday. Ryuhana closed in 2004 as the primary proprietors went off to college and opened a new business in California, according to the website. Other contributors to the site could not be reached for comment.
The defunct company listed an address in Fort Meade, Maryland, next door to the NSA.
(Editing by Tiffany Wu and Peter Cooney)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 12 Jun 2013 07:50 PM PDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators have opened a probe into whether a Lockheed-Boeing joint venture that launches U.S. government satellites into space has violated antitrust laws through an exclusivity agreement with the maker of engines used in its rockets.
The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, or the engine maker RD Amross violated laws "by monopolizing, attempting to monopolize, or otherwise restraining competition in the provision of state launch services," the agency said in an April 22 document obtained by Reuters.
The agency has requested documents from at least one of the parties involved in the probe, industry sources said.
RD Amross, a joint venture of Russia's NPO Energomash and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a unit of United Technologies Corp, provides RD-180 engines for ULA rockets.
Industry sources say ULA is preventing RD Amross from selling the engines to other rocket makers, including Orbital Sciences Corp, which is trying to break into the lucrative market for government rocket launches.
Jessica Rye, spokeswoman for ULA, confirmed the investigation and said the company was cooperating with antitrust regulators.
"ULA's contracts to purchase the RD-180 engine are lawful, pro-competitive and designed to provide the most reliable launch vehicle possible for critical U.S. government missions," Rye said. "Because this is ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on specifics."
Pratt & Whitney spokesman Jay DeFrank said his company is aware of the investigation and cooperating with U.S. regulators.
The FTC declined comment.
Barry Beneski, a spokesman for Orbital Sciences, said the company had been contacted by the FTC about the probe.
"We have been contacted by the FTC about their investigation. However we can't be more specific than that," Beneski said. "In general, the company supports efforts to ensure there is an open and fair competitive environment in the market for launch services."
Lockheed and Boeing formed the joint venture in 2006 after years of competing for contracts under the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, which provides launch services for large military, intelligence and NASA satellites.
The companies won U.S. government's approval for the venture by arguing that there was not enough demand for heavy lift rocket launch services to support two competitors since the commercial demand they had expected had failed to materialize for such large rockets.
The U.S. Air Force, frustrated about the high cost of EELV rocket launches, has in recent years tried to infuse more competition into the launch service market.
Industry sources said the FTC investigation follows repeated unsuccessful efforts by Orbital to buy the RD-180 engines for its new medium-lift Antares rocket, which was developed in partnership with NASA to haul cargo to the International Space Station. The first Antares rocket was launched from a new commercial spaceport in Virginia in April.
Orbital ultimately used the AJ-26 engine, a refurbished Russian engine that is supplied by Aerojet, a unit of GenCorp Inc, to power the rocket. But that engine is no longer in production and there are only limited supplies available.
To be a viable competitor in the future, industry sources say Orbital needs access to the RD-180 engine, the only liquid propulsion engine in production that is commercially available and can be used for Orbital's Antares rocket.
Orbital developed the Antares rocket together with Aerojet and Alliant Techsystems as a replacement for the Delta II rocket built by Boeing that has been retired.
Orbital has enough AJ-26 engines to support its resupply missions for the space station but needs more engines to be a viable competitor for launches of medium-sized satellites that do not need larger and more expensive boosters.
Orbital is not seeking to compete directly with ULA for heavy lift rocket launches, but says it could save the government money by using the Antares rocket, which costs under $100 million, to lift smaller payloads into space.
(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Ryan Woo)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
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