Kurdish Oil Exports Set For May

OSLO, Norway, April 29 (UPI) — The semiautonomous Kurdish government of Iraq is expected to start selling exported oil within the next few weeks, Turkey’s energy minister said Tuesday.

A pipeline from the Kurdish north is sending oil to storage tanks in Ceyhan, a Turkish sea port. Exports of Kurdish oil, however, have been on hold because of the lingering stalemate between the Kurdish and central governments over who controls what in the Iraqi energy sector.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said from Oslo the Kurdish oil will be leaving storage.

“This oil belongs to Iraq [and] they may begin its export in May,” he said.

Oil from northern Iraq has been flowing north at around 100,000 barrels per day since the start of the week, he said. He gave no indication of the export destination, noting it was up to private sellers to determine who gets Kurdish oil deliveries.

“[Turkey’s oil refiner] Tupras has its own contracts as a private company,” he said. “I always say, they can make their proposal to the private sector and carry out their trade if they agree on a contract.”

Last week, the Kurdish government said it generated “billions of dollars” from the oil and gas sector.

Pipeline Proposed To Feed Wyoming Rail Terminal

HOUSTON, April 29 (UPI) — Genesis Energy, which has headquarters in Houston, said it was soliciting interest for a crude oil pipeline that would run 70 miles through Wyoming.

The company said it was seeking shipper commitments for a 70-mile oil pipeline that would run from Casper, Wyo., to the Pronghorn rail facility in Douglas, Wyo.

Genesis Energy CEO Grant Sims said the proposed pipeline would give shippers additional options to transport crude oil by rail.

Pronghorn is the only regional facility serviced both by BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad.

“As Canadian [oil] volumes continue to increase over time, along with local production, Pronghorn is best positioned long‐term to provide shippers with the flexibility to load trains and facilitate the movement of these barrels directly to the most attractive markets,” Sims said in a statement Monday.

An increase in North American crude oil production has strained existing pipeline capacity, forcing some energy companies to turn to rail as an alternate transit method. The safety of rail transport has come into question because of a series of derailments involving railcars carrying crude oil.

The solicitation period ends May 30. If there’s enough interest, Genesis said the new pipeline could go into service by the middle of next year.

U.S. Probes Waves As Source Of Energy

WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) — More than $10 million will be invested into a program that will test the ability to convert wave energy into a source of power, the U.S. Energy Department said.

The Energy Department announced the test program for wave energy off the coast of Hawaii.

“The Energy Department-supported demonstrations at the U.S. Navy’s wave energy test site off Hawaii’s island of Oahu will help develop reliable wave energy options and collect important performance and cost data for wave energy conversion devices,” it said in a Monday statement.

Two prototype wave energy converters will be deployed in open waters at depths of 196 feet and 260 feet.

The demonstration projects are aimed at examining wave energy technology that’s in the late stage of development or close to full-scale operations.

The test program will run for one year. The project gives the federal government the ability to evaluate the performance, reliability and cost associated with converting the kinetic energy from waves into a renewable power source.

Florida Man Accused Of Throwing Bucket Of Urine On Building Inspector During Investigation

SARASOTA COUNTY , Fla., April 29 (UPI) — A Florida man who was under investigation for 19 counts of scheming to defraud didn’t help his cause on Monday when he allegedly threw a bucket of urine on a Sarasota County building inspector.

Craig Siegel is accused of dousing the code enforcement officer with pee while he was investigating the rental property owner for advertising a five-bedroom home as a 12-bedroom house.

When renters showed up to the home and found it was short seven bedrooms, Siegel allegedly refused to give back their money and told them to sue, netting himself more than $53,000 in the process.

“(I said) You give me my money back. He said no, we are not in the financial position to do that,” renter Denise Blair told My Fox Tampa Bay.

Siegel has been charged with criminal mischief and battery on a code enforcement officer in addition to the fraud charges.

While leaving court, Siegel called the urine bucket story “an allegation.”

Blair was happy to hear about his court appearance. “Love it, that’s where he deserves to be. I asked him many times to make it right,” she said. “Doing that to someone, come on, that’s just disgusting.”
Evan Bleier

Trio Of Oregon Women Arrested For Twerking Outside City Hall In Beaverton

BEAVERTON, Ore., April 29 (UPI) — Oregon police were called to the scene of an impromptu dance party on Monday afternoon that got a little too wild be going on in public.

According to police, Christie Valazquez Coura went to Beaverton City Hall to pay a fine with two friends, Brittany Medak and Leokham Yothsombath.

After Coura paid the fine, the three women went out to the parking lot and began twerking, the Oregonian reported.

During the dance party, Medak allegedly began urinating between cars in the parking lot while Yothsombath recorded the whole thing with her cellphone.

A court employee called the Beaverton police and the trio was arrested on multiple charges including disorderly conduct, cocaine and methamphetamine possession, and offensive littering.

Medak and Coura are 20, while Yothsombath is 22.
Evan Bleier

Study: Revenues Dip But Profits Up For Defense Industry

NEW YORK, April 29 (UPI) — Declines in revenues last year were recorded by 17 of the top 20 U.S. defense contractors but profitability increased, a new study shows.

Deloitte, the international consulting firm, said a revenue decline of 2.6 percent was mostly the result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which led to decreased spending by the Department of Defense and others, and the drawdown of U.S. forces in the Middle East.

“Of the top 20 U.S. defense contractors, 17 had decreases in revenues — an indication of how widespread the impact of budget reductions has been on the industry,” Deloitte said. “Companies producing ground equipment, including armored vehicles, and those that provided onsite services in conflict zones experienced the highest reductions in revenues due to the drawdown of troops. Generally, companies involved in military aircraft and naval ships experienced flat revenues.”

Despite a dip in revenues, profitability for U.S. defense contractors increased 17.9 percent, the study said. About half of the increase was due to the absence of large one-time charges but profitability also reflects actions taken by companies in anticipation of sequestration-related budget tightening.

Those actions included workforce reductions and plant closings.

“With U.S. defense budgets being cut, defense contractors are likely to experience continued revenue declines,” said Tom Captain, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. and Global Aerospace and Defense leader. “We anticipate that U.S. defense contractors will aggressively address this revenue shortfall with foreign military sales, acquisitions, new product introductions and growth in adjacent markets.”

For the study, Deloitte viewed the financial performance of 100 major global and U.S. aerospace and defense companies in 2013, analyzing sales revenue, operating earnings and operating margins.
Richard Tomkins

Mozilla Gives Firefox 29 A Major Makeover

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., April 29 (UPI) — Mozilla released its most ambitious update to the Firefox browser, the first since 2011, with an emphasis on customisation and cross-device syncing.

The browser now features a modernized look, with rounded tabs, and the ability to access preferences from the browser quickly and to edit features and add-ons. It continues to feature the same three-bar menu on the right.

“The point of the redesign is to adapt the design to how modern users engage with the web,” Mozilla VP for Firefox Johnathan Nightingale told TechCrunch earlier this month.

The new menu located on the top right lets users access all major controls, features and add-ons in one simple interface. Users can bookmark and manage them in the same menu.

Users can pin tabs to highlight them and the new design makes it easier to see open pages while de-emphasizing other tabs in the background.

The redesign features Firefox Sync, which is powered by Firefox accounts, allowing users to keep the same browser setup and preferences across devices, including browser history, saved passwords, bookmarks and even open tabs.

Mozilla is still recovering from the PR backlash surrounding the appointment of co-founder Brendan Eich as CEO, after it became public that he had privately donated to support a ban on gay marriage in California.

Mozilla hopes this redesign and the launch of Firefox 29 will help it to not only compete with other browsers, but also move away from the controversy.
Ananth Baliga

Case-Shiller Index: U.S. Home Prices Flat In February

NEW YORK, April 29 (UPI) — Home prices in 20 cities across the U.S. continued to rise at a slower rate for the year ending February as the housing market shows signs of cooling.

The Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index of property values increased 12.9 percent from February 2013, the smallest 12-month gain, after registering a 13.2 percent growth in January. The index found that only five cities had appreciating annual rates of price, where as 13 cities posted lower annual rates of growth.

“The days of very robust home-price gains are over,” said Thomas Costerg, a New York-based economist at Standard Chartered. “Elevated price gains are a headwind, especially for first-time buyers. Prices will slow going forward, and the housing market needs that to recalibrate supply and demand.”

Rising mortgage rates and severe winter weather have been affecting demand for the few months of the year. Analysts hope rising wages and increasing consumer demand will help home sales regain lost momentum.

The West continued to show strong price appreciation of any region. Denver and Houston were the only cities to have prices anywhere close post-crisis highs, while the Northeast continues to show some of the smallest year-over-year gains.

Case-Shiller is the latest indicator to show that the housing market has cooled down from the strong price rise it showed in late 2012 and 2013. Added to that higher mortgage rates and a still tight lending market has made it difficult for residential homebuyers.
Ananth Baliga

Lockheed Gets Production Order For Patriot Missile Modification

DALLAS, April 28 (UPI) — Lockheed Martin has received a first production order from the U.S. Army for the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement.

The PAC-3 MSE, an anti-missile missile, features a larger, more powerful dual-pulse motor for added thrust for range and altitude, along with larger fins and other structural modifications for enhanced agility.

The larger fins collapse to allow the missile to fit into the current PAC-3 launcher. They also give the hit-to-kill interceptor more maneuverability against faster ballistic and cruise missiles.

As part of the first production order from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, Lockheed will also produce launcher modification kits to allow PAC-3 launcher to control and launch the hit-to-kill PAC-3 Missiles, as well as heritage Patriot missiles.

“These enhancements are the natural, pre-planned evolution of a system that was first demonstrated 20 years ago,” said Scott Arnold, vice president of PAC-3 programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “Every current Patriot-using nation is a candidate to upgrade their PAC-3 systems to the PAC-3 MSE.”

The Patriot-3 has a range of about 12.4 miles. The Missile Segment Enhancement, for which Lockheed is the prime contractor, will increase its range to more than 18 miles.
Richard Tomkins

Government, Industry Experts To Discuss Biometrics

LOS ANGELES, April 28 (UPI) — Government and industry experts on analytics-based biometric systems and technologies will discuss in June the needs and challenges in the biometric arena.

Technology Training Corporation, a California-based company that organizes symposiums and training, said the discussions will be held in Arlington, Va., at the 3rd Symposium on Biometrics Systems and Technologies.

The experts, it said, will present a comprehensive picture of Department of Defense, Homeland Security, FBI and intelligence community biometric and biometric data analytics plans, needs, technical challenges, and emerging capabilities and opportunities. Among topics covered during the two-day event are: How to cope with and manage, the ever-increasing volume of biometric inputs; the latest advances in biometric data analytics for dealing with challenges in active identity authentication in mobile environments; prospects for on-demand identity intelligence; quick real-time DNA analysis.

Among those participating: Don Salo, director, Defense Forensics and Biometrics Agency; Dalton Jones, senior Biometrics, Forensics and Identity Intelligence Executive, Defense Intelligence Agency; Col. Sandy Vann-Olejasz, project manager, Defense Biometrics, and others.
Richard Tomkins

Britain Hosts Talks Over Looted Ukrainian Assets

LONDON, April 29 (UPI) — A two-day meeting has convened in London, aimed at recovering assets believed to have been looted during the regime of deposed president Viktor Yanukovych.

The meeting, organized by the Ukraine Forum on Asset Recovery (UFAR) and led by the United States and the United Kingdom, is designed to track down stolen assets and send “a strong message that there is no impunity to those who carry out such illegal actions,” a statement from the forum said.

British Interior minister Teresa May noted the meeting presented international support for Ukrainians and “a strong commitment to the people of Ukraine. It (the meeting) will also provide practical leadership and assistance to the Ukrainian government as they identify and recover assets looted under the Yanukovych regime.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the United States was determined to “support Ukrainian leaders and citizens as they combat corruption.”

Yanukovych, elected president, was ousted in February and is believed to be living near Moscow.
Ed Adamczyk

Head Of Massachusetts Child Welfare Agency Resigns Amidst Questions About Three Deaths

BOSTON, April 29 (UPI) — Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said Tuesday he was reluctantly accepting the resignation of Children and Families Commissioner Olga Roche.

Roche has been under fire because of the deaths of three children under its supervision. Legislative leaders demanded her departure Monday.

Patrick said that changing commissioners while the agency is going through a difficult time is “a very very high-risk move,” and that he still believes personally that Roche is up to the job. But he said the criticism has cost her the public’s trust.

Roche had headed the Division of Children and Families for a year, first as acting commissioner and since October as the permanent one.

“I think it impossible for her to do the job that we’ve asked her to do in this environment,” Patrick said. “Whenever or whatever she does, still causes folks to call for her resignation.’’

In one high-profile case, Jeremiah Oliver, 5, of Fitchburg, was not reported missing for three months after he vanished in September, although a social worker was supposed to be tracking his family. The boy’s body was found this month, and his mother and her boyfriend have been charged.

A baby, Aliana Lavigne, died about a month after her birth. Patrick suggested that police in Grafton share responsibility in that case.

Another newborn, Bailey Irish, died Saturday when she was 16 days old. The Division of Children and Families told WCVB-TV that a home visit on Friday was canceled because no one was home when the social worker arrived, and was rescheduled for Monday.

Erin Deveney, a lawyer and former chief of staff at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, is to become acting DCF commissioner.
Frances Burns

Treasury Sec. Lew Defends Sanctions Against Russia

WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew defended the program of sanctions the Obama administration has leveled against Russia, insisting the sanctions were taking a toll.

“You have to look over the period of time Russia went into Crimea, since we’ve imposed sanctions, there has been a quite substantial deterioration in Russia’s already weak economy,” Lew told a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing Tuesday. “We see it in their stock exchange, we see it in their exchange rate, we see it in a number of important economic indicators.”

Lew faced skeptical members of Congress from both sides of the aisle a day after White House announced additional sanctions, targeting seven individuals and 17 companies, including travel restrictions and the freezing of assets, and said further action could still come.

“We need to continue to keep our options open,” Lew said. “We are prepared to take more action and we’ve made clear that we’re prepared to take more action if the policy of Russia doesn’t change.”

The new U.S. sanctions include Dmitri Kozak, the deputy prime minister; Vyacheslav Volodin, deputy chief of staff to President Vladimir Putin; Alexei Pushkov, the chairman of the international affairs committee of the Duma, and Igor Sechin, president of the state-owned Rosneft oil company.

The European Union issued sanctions of its own Tuesday, targeting 15 Russian individuals that also included Kozak as well as first deputy Defense Minister Valery Gerasimov, and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, including the self-declared leader of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” Denis Pushilin.
Gabrielle Levy

John Kerry Backtracks On Israel ‘Apartheid’ Comment, McCain Mocks Kerry Critics

WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement Monday saying he regretted using the term “apartheid state” when referring to the fate of Israel and the Palestinians if a peace deal could not be reached.

The original statement from Kerry was made during a closed-door meeting at the Trilateral Commission and published in an exclusive by The Daily Beast. Kerry told world leaders Friday if there is no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, Israel risks becoming an “apartheid state.”

Apartheid describes a system of segregation that results in political and economic racial injustice, and it’s most often associated with the South African system from the 1940s to the 1990s.

The backlash to Kerry’s statement was swift, with figures from both the left and the right condemning the remarks and calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to repudiate Kerry’s words.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called the statement “outrageous and disgusting,” and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. said in a tweet that Kerry’s assertion was “nonsensical and ridiculous.”

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and any linkage between Israel and apartheid is nonsensical and ridiculous.— Sen. Barbara Boxer (@SenatorBoxer) April 28, 2014

Kerry quickly backtracked and reaffirmed his commitment to Israel, saying he wishes he had chosen a different phrase because he does not believe “that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one.”

“I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution. In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve.”

Update via Personal Liberty Staff:

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) mocked fellow Republican Senator Ted Cruz (Texas) for calling on Kerry to resign over the remarks.

US Senator John McCain Meets Israeli President Shimon Peres

On Monday, Personal Liberty reported:

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called for Secretary of State John Kerry’s resignation Monday following the top U.S. diplomat’s remarks that Israel risks becoming an apartheid state if current peace talks with Palestinians fail. …

On the Senate floor, Cruz called for Kerry’s immediate departure.

“John Kerry should offer President Obama his resignation and the president should accept it,” Cruz said.

Noting that Kerry’s remarks brought him “great sadness,” the Texas Senator went on, “There is no place for this word in the context of the state of Israel. The term ‘apartheid,’ means ‘apart, different, isolated.’ The state of the victims of apartheid with which the Jews are tragically all too familiar.”

Roll Call reported that the Arizona Senator said that his response to Cruz should read, “Sen. McCain laughed heartily.”

“Resign?” McCain said. “Woo. That’s a pretty high bar.”

Former Illinois Lawmaker Faces Federal Child Pornography Charges

ELGIN, Ill., April 29 (UPI) — A former member of the Illinois legislature who supported bills for longer sentences for child pornography now faces federal child pornography charges.

In a complaint filed Monday, federal investigators charged that Keith Farnham, 66, used state computers as well as his personal computer to trade pornography and chat online with others who shared his predeliction.

Farnham allegedly said in one online exchange: “Twelve is about as old as i can handle. i love them at six, seven .”

As a legislator, Farnham co-sponsored two bills to toughen penalties for child pornography. He faces up to 10 years in prison if he is found guilty on the federal charges and is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

Farnham, a Democrat from Elgin, 35 miles north of Chicago, resigned his seat in the Illinois House of Representatives in mid-March, four days after his home computer was seized. At the time, he said he was leaving for health reasons.

Federal investigators say that an email address was identified in November as one used to trade child pornography. They discovered the address also appeared in online discussions about pornography and sex with children.

The address was allegedly eventually linked to Farnham.

Farnham, who owns a painting business in Elgin, had been in the state legislature since 2009.
Frances Burns

Boehner Keeps It Short On Grimm’s Legal Troubles

WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) — House Speaker John Boehner had no interest in dwelling on the legal problems plaguing New York Representative Michael Grimm, who was arrested and indicted on 20 charges of fraud related to his Manhattan health-food restaurants Monday.

During his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill Monday, Boehner gave a curt assessment of the freshman Republican’s decision to step down from his assignment to the House Committee on Financial Services.

“I think he made the right decision,” Boehner said. “I think all members should be held to the highest ethical standards.”

Grimm surrendered to the FBI Monday morning ahead of the unsealing of the indictment from the U.S. Attorney. He is accused of concealing about $1 million in gross receipts from the restaurant chain, Healthalicious, and falsely reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages to employees.

A former FBI agent himself, Grimm was charged with five counts each of mail fraud and wire fraud, three counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false and fraudulent tax returns, one count of conspiring to defraud the U.S., one count of impeding the IRS, a count of healthcare fraud, one count of obstructing and official proceeding and one count of employing unauthorized workers.

While those charges all relate to actions that precede Grimm taking office, Grimm also faces two counts of perjury for allegedly giving false testimony as a member of Congress when questioned under oath about his company’s financial dealings.

Grimm has denied wrongdoing and has refused to step down from his seat.
Gabrielle Levy

Luhansk, Ukraine, Government Building Stormed By Pro-Russian Seperatists

LUHANSK , Ukraine, April 29 (UPI) — An administration building in Luhansk, Ukraine, 20 miles from the Russian border, was stormed and occupied by pro-Russian separatists Tuesday.

Several dozen men, armed with sticks and steel bars, smashed windows and doors to enter the building, unattended by local police, where they shouted “Referendum now” before pulling down the Ukrainian flag and flying the tri-color Russian flag atop the building.

In an indoor courtyard they found security personnel in riot gear, but after a standoff, there was no report of violence.

“The regional leadership does not control its police force,” said Stanislav Rechynsky, and aide to the Ukraine Interior Minister in Kiev. “The local police did nothing.”

The invasion came after hundreds gathered outside the building to demand a referendum on greater autonomy to the city of 465,000 and other parts of eastern Ukraine.

Until the administration building was overtaken, only the city’s state security service headquarters had been targeted by separatist forces. Rechynsky said the government received information a television station in Luhansk was the next potential target.
Ed Adamczyk

EU Announces New Sanctions Against Russian Individuals

BRUSSELS, April 29 (UPI) — The European Union issued new sanctions Tuesday against 15 Russian individuals.

The newly sanctioned includes Russian deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, first deputy Defense Minister Valery Gerasimov, and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, including the self-declared leader of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” Denis Pushilin.

The 15 names were selected for sanctioning “for threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,” said Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Ashton spoke out Wednesday against recent unrest and destabilizing actions in eastern Ukraine.

“A number of people have been killed, wounded, tortured or kidnapped in the last few days. I notably condemn the shooting of Mayor of Kharkiv Henadiy Kernes yesterday and the detention of military observers from OSCE participating States in Slovyansk by armed separatists since last Friday. All persons still illegally detained by armed groups in Eastern Ukraine need to be immediately released. I am also concerned about continued attacks on journalists and the deterioration of media freedom environment in Eastern Ukraine, including the illegal seizure of TV transmission towers.”

Such incidents undermine the Joint Geneva Statement on Ukraine that Russia and Ukraine agreed to and signed on April 17, Ashton charged.

Under the terms of the agreement, all parties agreed to cease violent and provocative actions, disband all illegal armed groups, and that all occupants of seized buildings must disarm and depart — and will be granted amnesty.

While Ukraine has taken “concrete steps” to honor the agreement, Ashton pointed out that Russia must “take now concrete action in support of the Geneva accord.”
JC Finley

New Poll Finds More Than Half Would Prefer A Republican Congress

WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) — More than half of U.S. voters prefer a Republican majority in Congress to keep President Obama in line, a poll released Tuesday said.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll also gave the president a 41 percent approval rating, a drop of 5 percentage points from earlier in the year and the lowest this poll has ever found for him. At the same time, 53 percent of respondents said they would like to see a Republican majority in Congress while 49 percent would prefer a Democratic one.

Democrats had a slight edge in how people say they would cast their votes, with 45 percent of registered voters planning to support the a Democratic congressional candidate in the fall compared to 44 percent for the Republicans. But that is the same advantage the Democrats had before the 2010 election when the party lost control of the House.

Republicans have an advantage in mid-term elections because the older white voters who are now the party’s base are more likely to turn out.

Respondents gave Obama low marks on his handling of the economy, healthcare and especially foreign policy. Only 34 percent said they approve of his handling of the crisis in Ukraine.

There was some good news for the Democrats. While 40 percent of respondents said they trust the party more on most of the major issues facing the country, only 34 percent trust the Republicans.

Democrats have an especially strong advantage on women’s issues, helping the middle class and the minimum wage, and even on healthcare and the economy respondents found the party a bit more trustworthy. Respondents preferred the Republicans on gun control, handling the federal deficit and cutting the federal deficit.

The poll was conducted between Thursday and Sunday with 1,000 adults surveyed. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.
Frances Burns

Supreme Court To Hear Case On Police Searches Of Cellphones

WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases regarding whether police searches of cellphones should require a warrant to avoid violating the 4th Amendment.

The 4th Amendment prohibits law enforcement and the government from engaging in “unreasonable searches and seizures” but the Justice Department is trying to exploit an old loophole that allows a warrantless search to prevent the destruction of evidence.

The cases are among several that have tested the Constitution in the digital age. The first case, which is being heard on Tuesday, is Riley v. California. When David L. Riley was pulled over for expired registration in San Diego in 2009, police found guns in his vehicle and searched his smartphone, which contained evidence linking him to a street gang. He was arrested and convicted for attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In its Supreme Court brief, California claims information on cellphones “is not different in kind from wallets, address books, personal papers and other items that have long been subject to examination.”

However, many argue now that smartphones carry troves of personal data including communications, banking information, health information and access to a person’s social media, it needs to be protected as that information would under the 4th Amendment.

The original judge in the second case the court will hear, United States v. Wurie, agreed with that sentiment when he threw out the evidence collected from Brima Wurie’s cellphone after his call logs led to an arrest on drug and gun charges.

“Today, many Americans store their most personal ‘papers’ and ‘effects’ in electronic format on a cellphone, carried on the person,” Judge Norman H. Stahl wrote for a divided three-judge panel.

Riley’s lawyers say the solution to the police’s problem is as simple as requiring them to put the phone in airplane mode while they wait for a warrant or to disrupt the signal with Faraday bags to prevent wiping.

State Department Calls Sentencing Of Muslim Brotherhood Members En Masse ‘Unconscionable’

WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of State condemned Egypt’s continuation of mass trials for members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization now deemed a terrorist organization by the Egyptian government.

On Monday, a judge presiding over a mass trial in Minya recommended the death penalty for 683 people Monday, including a Muslim Brotherhood leader.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki called the death sentences “unconscionable.”

Echoing Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks regarding such mass trials and sentencing, Psaki said “it is impossible to believe that such proceedings could satisfy even the most basic standards of justice, let alone meet Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law.”

The U.S., she said, urges “Egyptian authorities to remedy the situation and reverse these court rulings and ensure due process for the accused on the merits of individual cases” and called “the Egyptian government to demonstrate — through actions rather than words — its support for the universal human rights and freedoms and democratic, accountable governance that the Egyptian people continue to demand.”

The death sentences handed down Monday are considered preliminary. Egypt’s top Islamic authority, the Grand Mufti, will make a final decision of approval or rejection, a step typically a formality.