Amtrak Rail Security Drill Underway: K-9 Technology Still Man's Best Friend

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rail passengers across the country may have noticed more police and heavily armed guards on trains today as part of a national rail security exercise, but they probably did not realize that the most specially trained officer at the station might be the Labrador retriever standing on the platform.

The Department of Homeland Security and Amtrak today held Operation RAILSAFE, which stands for Regional Alliance Including Local, State and Federal Efforts.  It included the deployment of increased security patrols, more passenger bag inspections and K-9 units, including "Vapor-Wake Detection" (VWD) dogs that can hone in on explosives that may be on a moving person or bag passing through the station.

Amtrak police have been increasing their use of K-9s and getting more vapor wake dogs deployed on trains as more of the dogs are trained.

While traditional bomb detection dogs have the ability to sniff out explosives and residues that may be on a person or an item at close range, the vapor wake dogs can sense the explosives at a greater range for as long as 15 minutes and track down where the scent is coming from.

The term "vapor wake" comes from the fact that air swirls behind people as they walk, according to Dr. Robert Gillette, director of the Animal Health and Performance Program at Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine.  The Canine Detection Research Institute also is part of the Auburn program, which has been the only place where the VWD dogs are trained since 2008.

"These are the Michael Jordans of the explosive detection world," Amtrak police inspector William Parker said of the vapor wake dogs in an interview with ABC News at Union Station.

Unlike screening technology and x-rays, the dogs can quickly learn new types of explosives that they may need to search for. "It detects all type of explosives," Parker said. "If something new comes out, all we do is introduce the odor to the dog and after a couple of hours the dog will pick it up."

Amtrak has held the RAILSAFE exercises before, but this exercise was one of the first to take place nationwide. Despite the elevated threat environment in Europe over possible attacks there, officials said the event was planned far in advance to take place on the long Columbus Day weekend.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Average "Digital Birth" Happens at Six Months, Survey Says

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The average American toddler might be a decade away from her own Facebook account, but chances are she's already made her online debut.

According to a new survey on "digital births" from computer security company AVG Technologies, 92 percent of American children have an online record by the time they're two years old.

About a quarter (23 percent) of children start their online lives before birth, when their parents post prenatal sonogram scans to the Web, the survey said.

The study surveyed 2,200 mothers in 10 countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Australia and Japan, and found that the average "digital birth" happens at around six months.

About a third of children make their Internet premiere within weeks of their birth, as parents share pictures and birth announcements with family and friends.

A few lucky babies even have e-mail addresses (seven percent) and social networking profiles (five percent) created for them by their online-happy parents.

But before you go and make your child a digital denizen, you might want to consider the implications of a life entirely documented online. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


10/10/10 Internet Virus? Nope, Just a Rumor

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It has all the makings of a sci-fi doomsday scenario: at 10 minutes and 10 seconds past 10 o'clock on Oct. 10, 2010 (10/10/10), a malicious computer virus will sweep the Internet and topple our tech-savvy society.

Despite online fears that the symmetry in this Sunday's date will spell danger, Internet security experts say that for cybercriminals, Oct. 10, 2010, is just another day.

Echoing Y2K concerns that a specific date and time would cause computers to go haywire, a Facebook group asks, "Will my computer still work at 10.10.10 at 10:10 a.m.?"

In the lead-up to March 3, 2003 (03/03/03), Internet users worried the Internet would stop working, he said. And we all remember the ticking time bomb fears surrounding Jan. 1, 2000 (Y2K).

But just like those fears, Clulely said, the 10/10/10 concerns are equally unfounded.

He said every 24 hours, Internet criminals churn out 60,000 new pieces of malicious software -- that's about one new attack every second and a half.

"Focusing on a particular day is just daft," Cluley said. "You need to take computer security seriously all year long."

He said some computer geeks might attach extra significance to 10/10/10 because 101010 is binary code for the number 42, which in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy signifies the answer to "Life, the Universe and Everything." 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Employers Cut 95,000 Jobs in September; Unemployment Rate Steady

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The nation’s employers cut 95,000 jobs in September, significantly worse than economists were expecting, according to a government report released Friday.

This marks the fourth straight month the nation has seen headline jobs loss.

The government sector shed 159,000 workers, while private sector companies added 64,000 jobs during September.

The nation’s unemployment rate remained steady at 9.6 percent.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


West Virginia Has Highest Risk of Deer-Car Accidents

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BLOOMINGTON, Ill.) -- For the fourth year in a row, West Virginia tops the list of states where a driver is most likely to collide with a deer.  Auto insurer State Farm determined a driver's odds of hitting a deer in the state is one-in-42.

Iowa ranks second on the list, with odds of one-in-67, followed by Michigan with one-in-70.  Hawaii finishes off the list in last place,  with the odds of striking a deer standing at one-in-13,011.

State Farm said while the number of miles driven by U.S. motorists over the past five years has increased just two percent, the number of deer-vehicle collisions in this country during that time has grown by 10 times that amount.

Using its claims data, the company estimated 2.3 million collisions between deer and vehicles occurred in the U.S. during the two-year period ending on June 30. That's 21.1 percent more than five years earlier.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. cause about 200 fatalities each year. The average damage to a car or truck is $3,103.

The deer migration and mating season falls in the months of October, November and December, which happens to be the time period with the highest number of deer-car collisions.  More accidents are expected this year than in past seasons, since the deer population is growing and their habitats are being displaced by urban sprawl.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Double Standard? Lou Dobbs Fires Back at 'Smear Piece'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Lou Dobbs, the former CNN anchor who is under fire for reportedly relying on illegal immigrants to care for his horses and properties, said a "smear piece" by The Nation magazine and reporter Isabel MacDonald is holding him to a double standard.

"I never, ever used a contractor as a way in which to indirectly hire an illegal immigrant purposefully. Never, never, never," Dobbs told ABC News on Friday.

The article, entitled "Lou Dobbs, American Hypocrite," does not state that Dobbs directly hired illegal workers but that contractors he employed did, suggesting he should be made liable.

Dobbs has been critical of employers who hire illegal workers and had previously suggested they should face felony charges. He insists that he did ask the landscaping firm at his West Palm Beach, Fla., home for assurances that there would not be illegal immigrants working on his property, but there was no legal way to guarantee that for himself.

"Unless you're asking me and millions of other Americans to engage in racial profiling -- because that's the only way you can satisfy the objections that The Nation has raised -- that would be racial profiling on my part to make sure this thing doesn't happen. That's what you're suggesting," he said.

"I have never hired an illegal immigrant, never will. None of my companies have hired illegal immigrants and we work very hard to make certain we do not do so," he said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


FTC to Consider Online 'Do Not Track' Marketing List

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Federal Trade Commission is considering a proposal that would make it illegal for companies to trade private information about young people who don't consent to online tracking by marketers.

The proposal, along with the suggestion for an online "do not track" list, will be part of an upcoming report.

A Zogby International poll released Friday found that 92 percent of parents fear their children were sharing too much information online, and that 85 percent of parents were more concerned about online privacy than they were five years ago.

It also found that 91 percent of parents think search engines and social networking sites should not be able to share kids' physical locations with other companies until parents give authorization.

Zogby surveyed 2,100 parents and 401 teens between the ages of 15 and 18. The poll was conducted between Aug. 13 and 20.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Postal Workers Union Ballots Lost in the Mail 

Photo Courtesy - American Postal Workers Union(WASHINGTON) -- The election committee for the American Postal Workers Union was scheduled to begin tabulating ballots this week for the election of national officers, but the count has been delayed because voting forms have apparently been lost in the mail.

The union tells that less than 40,000 completed ballots have been received so far, a small percentage of the total membership, and many members have complained about never receiving theirs in the mail.

The APWU has decided to extend the voting until Oct. 14, and is directing members who need additional forms to contact union officials by telephone or e-mail.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


New Jersey Governor Scraps Tunnel to New York 

Photo Courtesy - State of New Jersey(TRENTON, NJ) -- A construction project that would have linked New Jersey and New York by an underground rail tunnel has been scuttled by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

It’s estimated that the Hudson Rail project, the largest transportation undertaking in the nation, would have created 6,000 jobs.

However, Christie says the state is broke and can’t afford the cost of the tunnel, which he claims might cost as much as $14 billion, far more than the $8.7 billion projected price tag.

Even with the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey pledging $6 billion toward the project, the governor said his state couldn't come up with the balance.

The tunnel was intended to double the rail capacity into New York and ease the ever-growing congestion on the roads between the two states.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


NOAA Administrator 'Sets the Record Straight' to Oil Spill Commission

Photo Courtesy - NOAA dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- The administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote to the chairs of the Oil Spill Commission Thursday to "alert" them to a "mischaracterization" of a NOAA document in a commission staff working paper, the release of which Wednesday subjected the White House to much criticism of its response to the oil spill.

NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco said she wanted to "set the record straight" regarding the description in the paper that: "The Commission staff has also been advised that, in late April or early May 2010, NOAA wanted to make public some of its long-term, worst-case discharge models for the Deepwater Horizon spill, and requested approval to do so from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.  Staff was told that the Office of Management and Budget denied NOAA’s request."

Lubchenco said that NOAA "wanted to share the outcome of these models with the public, and so prepared a short description of the models and outcomes and submitted the document through OMB's interagency clearance process."  OMB required more work, though.  "Contrary to suggestions in the Draft Staff Working Paper, the document was cleared and released to the public."‬

In addition, asserted Lubchenco, the paper in question was studying long-term movement of the oil, not flow rate.  And though the draft paper "suggests that the early low flow rate estimates might have hampered the federal response,” she said, “[t]his was not the case.  Two goals of the worst-case scenario modeling were to inform the Unified Command's understanding about possible scenarios and aid the response effort, both of which happened.”‬

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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