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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An Early Take on the Impact of the Hours of Service Changes
July 11, 2013  Story thanks to Oliver Patton and Link provided below:

It is too soon to measure the full impact of the changes in the hours of service rule, but the carriers that will be most affected are high-output truckload fleets that have drivers out on the road for weeks at a time, said Noel Perry, an economist with FTR Associates.
These are the carriers most likely to lose productive hours under changes in the 34-hour restart provision, said Perry in a Thursday webinar sponsored by FTR.
The changes that went into effect July 1 require the 34-hour restart to include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., and limit use of the restart to once a week. They also require drivers to take a 30-minute break in an 8-hour period.
The nominal effect of both changes in the restart provision is to reduce productivity by 14%, but since relatively few carriers will be affected the net effect is more like 2.5%, Perry said.
“It’s those long-haul drivers who are out two to three weeks at a time who will be most affected by this change,” he said.
The 30-minute break requirement is likely to have little impact, he added. Drivers take breaks as a matter of course throughout their shifts. “Instead of stopping for 15 minutes they must take 30. This is a relatively small change.”
The important thing is to look at the HOS changes in the context of other recent or pending federal safety and health regulations, Perry said.
The hours revision will require these carriers to either change their level of service or hire on new drivers. Perry estimates the driver demand at about 60,000 over the next year or so.
But when he adds in estimated driver requirements to comply with a long list of pending and possible regulations, he gets to a total of 1.2 million new recruits required over the next three to four years.
His list includes the CSA safety enforcement program, and pending rules such as electronic logging and its prohibition of driver coercion, the drug and alcohol database. Also possible are a mandatory speed limiter requirement, driver training standards and electronic stability controls.
On the other hand, Perry does not foresee a huge increase in demand for freight movement from the economy.
“For the next couple of years the economy will put only modest pressure on (trucking) capacity,” he said.  
Meanwhile, carriers and shippers can make some moves to mitigate the impact of the hours of service changes, he said.
Carriers should ramp up recruiting and take care of their drivers.
“If you’re thinking about an increase in pay, this is probably the time.”
Shippers should make sure they have budget flexibility if freight rates go up, and should be flexible in their relations with carriers, he counseled.
“This is not the time to send truckers away and ask them to come back in four hours because they missed their appointment.”
And think about cooperative programs with core carriers to match shipments with equipment.
Perry does not believe that the ongoing litigation over the hours rule will lead to a reversal of the changes.
The rule has been challenged in a federal appeals court on different grounds by American Trucking Associations and Public Citizen. A ruling could be handed down any day.
If the judges had intended to intervene they would have done so before the rule went into effect, so it is likely that the rule will be upheld, he said.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A fatigue detection device to help keep your eyes on the road

flickr creative commons
  • Source: Mediacom, Link provided below:
15.07.13 - SUMMER SERIES (3) - An EPFL student has developed a video analysis algorithm able to estimate the level of a driver’s fatigue based on the degree of eyelid closure. PSA Peugeot Citroën, a project partner, has built a prototype in order to test it in real driving conditions.
Nearly a third of highway accidents are caused by fatigue. Nowadays, there exist several attention detection systems for drivers, e.g.: based on the loss of vehicle control. Marina Zimmermann, as part of her master thesis in electrical and electronic engineering and in partnership with PSA Peugeot Citroën, has focused directly on drivers and their state of wakefulness. She developed an algorithm able to measure the degree of eyelid closure by using a single camera and thus avoiding invasive methods.

One of the indicators most frequently used to determine the state of a driver’s fatigue is "PERCLOS" (percentage of eye closure). It measures the percentage of time that the pupil is at least 80% covered by the eyelid during a predetermined timespan. The challenge was to measure this indicator in real time, keeping the drivers’ eyes on the viewfinder and bearing in mind that they can turn their head, wear glasses, drive during the night, cross through tunnels etc.

The Signal Processing Laboratory 5 (LTS5) at EPFL is specialized in face recognition, monitoring and analysis techniques and has man-machine interfaces capable of keeping track of a driver’s face in real time. This is achieved by placing a small infrared camera behind the wheel. In order to carry out the project -initiated by the Transportation Center and carried out at LTS5- Marina Zimmermann developed an eye-analyzing module by creating an algorithm able to disregard possible light effects as well as the drivers’ different eye morphologies. She then established a 3D profiling of the eye and eyelids so as to distinguish an open one eye from a closed one. Lastly, she had to optimize her methodology to make it possible for it to run in on-board vehicle computers with limited computing power in real-time conditions.
Industrialization potential
The first tests carried out under real conditions showed good reliability. However, the system remains highly dependent on the frame rate as unconscious blinks of the eye occur within 100 to 150 milliseconds. "The proposed algorithm is sufficiently robust and simple to run on a standard camera. It will be able to combine the degree of eyelid-opening information together with other data - like yawning or head tilt- provided by the already existing face tracking system, "said Jean-Philippe Thiran, head of LTS5 and supervisor of the student’s master project.

As it stands, the project’s industrialization potential has already caught the eye of PSA Peugeot Citroën, project partner, which will integrate the device into a first stage test vehicle for evaluating its performance in real conditions.

PSA Peugeot Citroën has setup an innovation unit on the EPFL campus since 2011.
EPFL’s Transportation Center is in charge of fostering research projects dealing with transportation and mobility through both, private and public partnerships.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Shadowy Connections - The Mafia in Milwaukee
Is the Mafia still in Milwaukee? Was it ever in Milwaukee?

Thanks to and written by By Chuck Nowlen Link provided below:
Published January 30, 2003

They wouldn’t break in until the last guy was gone. Then it went like clockwork. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom.
Seven bugs in all – each planted by FBI cat burglars in the wee hours of the morning. One in a first-floor office at the Shorecrest Hotel on Prospect Avenue. Another at Snugg’s restaurant across the hall. One at another restaurant on Jackson Street. Four in Frank Balistrieri’s phones.
And that was just for starters. This was the biggest FBI mob hunt in Milwaukee’s history after all. They wanted Balistrieri bad.
So it was nine months around the clock, beginning in October, 1979: 12 agents with backups; a stack of court orders; endless undercover work and a cadre of snitches; tedious days of waiting. They even set up a dummy "competing" vending company to attract Balistrieri muscle.
And nobody ever forgot that except for a one-year tax-evasion rap in the ‘60s, cagey old “Frankie Bals” had made them all look like chumps in the past.
Some 7,000 wiretapped conversations later, the feds raided Balistrieri’s home and other locations on March 5, 1980; and a four-year court battle was on.

They said he’d ordered and threatened murders. They said he’d skimmed millions from casinos in Las Vegas, sharing it with bosses in Chicago, Cleveland and Kansas City. They said the Teamsters pension fund was in Frank Balistrieri’s pocket, as was local vending and more. They said he put Milwaukee big-time on the national Mafia map.
And after two banner-headline trials in Milwaukee and Kansas City, the 67-year-old Balistrieri got 13 years for conspiracy and extortion – the FBI finally had its man. He died of a heart attack on Feb. 13, 1993, about a year after his release. Sons John and Joseph ended up serving three years as well, losing their law licenses in the process.

And to think, just a decade or so before the Balistrieri investigation began, both J. Edgar Hoover and Milwaukee Police Chief Harold Breier had declared that the Mafia didn’t exist.

frank balistrieri
"lefty guns" ruggerio

Big Questions
But did it really exist in Milwaukee –- at least as extensively as the government said it did -- under a far-reaching Balistrieri hand? And, more importantly, in the wake of a massive FBI sweep that took down almost every major mobster in America just a few short years ago in the ‘90s, is the Mafia still at work in Milwaukee today?
Is it behind all those adult shops lining the Interstate between Milwaukee and Chicago? Internet porn and gambling? How about telemarketing and cigarette tax schemes?
Is it mostly security fraud and predatory business deals now – where you lose your property deed, not your life, if you cross a mob financier? Are restaurants and taverns still feeling the mob pinch?
Is behind-the-scenes mob money fueling the local drug trade and rackets run by other organized-crime groups, with the profits carefully laundered through the syndicate’s legitimate businesses?
And, if so, as Enron and other recent scandals have taught us, where exactly are the lines that separate government, capitalism and organized crime, anyway?
The More Things Change?
“C’mon, Milwaukee’s only 70 minutes away. Do you really believe the mob would leave a town like that alone?” laughs Chicago lawyer David Schippers, a former US attorney who helped convict Sam “Momo” Giancana in the 1960s. Schippers is now in private practice and defended an accused Chi Town mobster as recently as six months ago.

Giancana’s Chicago “Outfit” meanwhile – believed to have had a big hand in the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 – has long been assumed to be calling the big-picture mob shots in Milwaukee, Schippers notes. And recent mob-related sentencings in Chicago-suburb Cicero, for example, he says, point to a transformed, but still potent, Mafia reach to Milwaukee today.
“As Chicago goes, so goes Milwaukee – that’s just the way it is,” adds former FBI agent Mike DeMarco, the bureau’s point man in the ‘80s Balistrieri investigation.

What’s more, Schippers, DeMarco and many others insist, the Mafia learned its lesson from the domino fall of high-profile bosses like the late John Gotti, who thumbed his nose at the cops and curried favor with the media, while still wielding murderous old-time muscle.
“They’ve learned that when you commit violence, you’ll just get more law enforcement,” explains current FBI agent Ted Wasky, who worked on the famous “Pizza Connection” money-laundering case in the ‘80s – which, by the way, included one restaurant in tiny Milton, Wis. just an hour's drive west. “It’s evolved into things more like stock fraud, money laundering and Securities and Exchange Commission violations.”

Or, as FBI union-racketeering informant Ronald Fino testified before a congressional subcommittee on crime in 1996: “Many creative members and associates … are no longer adorned in fedoras, and you will find that they are well-educated and take full advantage of that education and the monies they have accumulated. Today, you will find the mob is as reliant on public relations firms as it is with its high-powered attorneys and accountants.”
Gone, agrees Schippers, are some of the ways of ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s kingpins who are now “either dead or in the shithouse, or hobbling around with walkers.” Instead, it’s seemingly legit businessmen in “pin-striped suits and white shirts.”

“Try to open a restaurant or a nightclub. You’ll find out real quick whether there’s still a mob,” Schippers says. “You might start getting visits. A guy’ll come in one day and ask you, ‘Who does your cleaning? Well, we’ve got a cleaning guy right out here for you.’ They’ll infiltrate like that little-by-little. And if you say no, just try and get your laundry picked up. Try and get your liquor delivered. Then maybe (mob) guys even start causing trouble at your place, and, pretty soon, it’s the cops who have a (regulatory) gun to your head too.”
Chicago private investigator and former FBI agent Pete Wacks puts it this way: “As long as something’s working and making money for the mob, that’s the bottom line in all this.”

Milwaukee County Supervisor Gerry Broderick, meanwhile, thinks there’s still mob money to be made in a cigarette-tax scheme that he’s convinced he documented while working in the state Department of Revenue about 20 years ago.
Capitalizing on tax differentials between Wisconsin and other states, the scheme goes like this: Mob operatives buy semis full of cigarette cartons in low-tax states, then truck them to high-tax Wisconsin – paying off weigh-station workers and other officials along the way.
Once the cartons are here, Wisconsin tax stamps are forged, and the merchandise is sold at a huge profit. Broderick estimates that the payoff might have been as high as $100,000 per semi in the ‘80s.

“There would be minimal risk; the criminal penalties wouldn’t exactly stagger anyone,” he says. “I remember showing my flow charts and everything to the agents who took custody of them, and those agents were just taken aback as they looked at all my evidence. … But nothing ever came of it, which I found curious.”

Broderick adds: “To assume that something like this has just gone away would be a mistake because, if anything, the tax differentials have gotten bigger, and the penalties have gotten less stringent. And where there’s money like this to be made, I’ve got to believe that somebody will make it.”
Schippers and Wacks see highway porn shops as another plausibility.
“Just a few years ago, some guy opened up a men’s club with a lingerie shop, just outside of Chicago,” Schippers notes. “And he started getting visits. Pretty soon they were constant, and pretty soon he was out of business. … I don’t think there’s any porn in the United States that doesn’t at least pay tribute to the mob.”

Many also see cooperation between the mob and other ethnic organized-crime groups: the African-Americans, the Eastern Europeans and Russians; the Latinos, the Asians and the rest. In America, ethnicity is a matter of survival; no group is immune to organized crime. But now, many experts say, the new Mafia’s presence is kept well off the radar.

“Some people say that in 10 to 15 years, the Outfit as we know it will be dominated by blacks,” Schippers says of Chicago, where African-American gangs got all the big headlines during the ‘90s and early 2000s.

W.K. Williams, the new head of the FBI Organized Crime Section in Washington, D.C., adds telemarketing scams and Internet and offshore-based gambling to the Mafia’s new “white collar” profile.

“I won’t be specific about the numbers, but there are some L.C.N. (La Cosa Nostra, or “This Thing of Ours”) members in the Milwaukee area,” Williams says. “I just wouldn’t like to characterize what we may or may not be doing there. Basically, I don’t want to give them any information to use.”
Self-Perpetuating Myths?
None of this, however, washes with noted Milwaukee lawyer Jim Shellow, a former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers who has represented many local organized-crime suspects during his long career – including Balistrieri relatives and associates. Shellow thinks the government often sees only what it wants to see – a sophisticated network – when something much less organized is at work, if it exists at all.

And, Shellow insists, FBI investigators have a vested interest in justifying the scope of the activities they look into, often at a steep budgetary and manpower cost.
“The hard data I have – and this is based on experience, not only in Milwaukee, but in Chicago, New York, Denver, Philadelphia and Las Vegas – I never saw what has been defined as the Mafia in Milwaukee, and I don’t see it now.
“I never saw evidence of extortion or evidence of organized hijacking. I never saw domination of construction trade unions or the Teamsters, or the hotel/restaurant workers or bartenders. I never saw domination of laundry businesses or garbage and trash collectors – or narcotics or prostitution. And I never saw organized-crime domination of gambling or stores that peddle adult material.”

“Yes,” says Shellow, “there certainly were narcotics dealings in Milwaukee. There was gambling conducted in Milwaukee and a lot of other things. But I never saw either Italian influence or, indeed, any Italian interest in dominating it.”

In Shellow’s eyes – and those of several other sources interviewed for this story – even the successful Balistrieri investigation was based on a politically driven, self-perpetuating myth. And, once the government trains its sights on you, there’s no turning back – not then and not now. These are more than investigations, after all; they’re million-dollar budget items and political careers.

“Robert Kennedy certainly had information that Frank Balistrieri associated with people who were identified as organized-crime figures in Chicago, New York, Las Vegas and Kansas City,” Shellow says. “But I think the attorney general drew the inference that those who were friends of organized-crime figures are by definition involved in organized crime themselves.”
Bugs, Bugs Everywhere
As early as the 1960s, a government-wary time when FBI surveillance also often focuses on private citizens’ political activities, a young Joe Balistrieri found a microphone in his father’s office. The bug was later suppressed as evidence in his father’s ‘60s tax case after it was discovered that the government had used the device improperly.

“It’s like a cancer eating away at the foundations of the (legal) system,” the younger Balistrieri later told Milwaukee Sentinel reporter William Janz in 1974, insisting that his office and home were still being bugged – five years before his father’s extortion and conspiracy investigation formally began. “The big ear, the giant ear, is here.”

Joe Balistrieri, who still lives on Milwaukee’s East Side, declined to be interviewed for this story.
“And I hope this doesn’t keep me from being appointed to the Supreme Court,” he joked during a brief, but cordial telephone conversation.
When told about others’ suspicions about the presence of a new Mafia in town, he added, “If I’ve learned one thing in my 62 years, it’s that every point of view has a constituency.”

Even hard-boiled FBI investigators have to admit that at times, they’ve been charmed by their Mafia targets. Retired Milwaukee agent Fred Thorne, another key player in the Balistrieri case, says mob humor might be the most realistic aspect of the hit TV show, “The Sopranos.”
“I’ve met some people in the Mafia who were vicious, but they also were hilarious,” Thorne says. Usually, it was the mobsters’ strange mix of ruthlessness, sophistication and naiveté.

One example: big-time New York Mafioso Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggerio (played by Al Pacino in the movie “Donnie Brasco”), who gazed at the Lake Michigan horizon during a visit to Milwaukee and asked a Balistrieri-case undercover agent, “Hey, what ocean is this?”
Later, during a seaside conversation in Atlantic City, the reputedly murderous Ruggerio asked another agent, “So, is this the same ocean that’s in New York?

Bodies In Beer Town
Retired Milwaukee detective Bob Blackburn and his partner, the late Ray Koehler, made up the city’s colorful “Body Squad” homicide-investigation team for more than two decades. And Blackburn remembers well the old days here, when apparent mob hits left corpses on the streets from time to time.

But Blackburn, too, is skeptical that the organized crime scene was as cut-and-dried in Milwaukee as it was sometimes made out to be“We had murders here, lots of them. But nothing Ray and I worked on was ever proven to be mob- or Mafia-related,” says Blackburn, who left the police force in 1980. “When you’re talking about the mob or the Mafia, you have to take this into account: These guys aren’t dummies. Now I’m not saying there’s no organized crime in Milwaukee. But to say the Mafia’s in Milwaukee – well, how do you prove something like that?”

Three suspicious murders during the alleged reign of Frank Balistrieri:
* Isador Pogrob, whose family owned the Brass Rail strip club for 13 years before selling it to Balistrieri in 1968. In 1960, Pogrob’s body was found in a ditch in Mequon, riddled with bullets from at least two guns.
* Reputed local crime figure August Maniaci, who was shot in the head multiple times on Sept. 11, 1975 with a .22-caliber pistol equipped with a silencer. His brother Vincent, who found 20 sticks of dynamite under his car hood in 1977, testified at Balistrieri’s sentencing hearing that he didn’t think Frank had anything to do with either incident.
* August Palmisano, another reputed local mobster, who died on June 30, 1978 when his car exploded. Palmisano relatives also told Balistrieri’s sentencing judge that they didn’t think Frank had any role.

None of the cases has been solved.

A more typical Mafia case, Blackburn says: “I was in uniform, riding is a squad car one day, and I just happened to be behind this car – and now all of a sudden it’s snowing. So we stopped the guy for littering, and it turns out we’ve got this very famous bookie – and he’s throwing his betting tickets out the window!

“Well, he turned out to be part of that organization, whatever that organization was. I can’t say for sure that it was a Balistrieri organization either, but he did associate with them.”
A Thrown Gauntlet?
Shellow, meanwhile, suspects that the FBI’s Balistrieri investigations – beginning with the 1960s tax case – might have been prompted by two major factors.

One was the government’s view “that organized crime was a pervasive influence in every community, and that there really could be no exceptions,” Shellow surmises. The notion gained favor in Washington D.C. and the rest of the country after the famous ‘60s “Apalachin Conference,” in which a nationwide meeting of suspected mobsters was raided in rural New York State.

The other factor, says Shellow, was the way strip-club and real estate magnate Balistrieri circumvented a Milwaukee ordinance that banned dancers from asking their patrons to buy them a drink: He’d have them meet for cocktails elsewhere after they got off work.
“And I think stuff like that offended the Common Council, some aldermen or the police or somebody, and that might have started the wheels rolling,” Shellow says.

FBI Balistrieri hunters Fred Thorne and Mike DeMarco doubt that, insisting that the 1979-80 case was sparked only by a critical-mass stockpile of solid FBI evidence, backed by a parallel undercover investigation of local vending.

Besides, they add, there were more than enough checks and balances in the long subsequent legal proceedings to root out any bias.

“I don’t think people understand how wiretaps, for example, are approved,” Thorne explains, “how difficult they are to get, how stringent the rules are: the accounting, the reports to a judge every five days, when you can listen and when you can’t, a new court order for every new violation you find. And if you don’t find anything within a certain period of time, then your court order gets canceled and you have to start all over.”

Whatever the case, even FBI agents will admit that politics were all over the Balistrieri case at one level or another – both within and beyond the bureau. That’s just the way it is when you’re dealing with government agencies, competing budget priorities and investigations that cost thousands of man-hours to carry out.
The irony, insist many sources, is that politics are also essential to the Mafia’s survival.
“The fact of the matter is that the Outfit can’t exist without the cooperation of politicians and public officials, people like inspectors and beat cops – especially the cops,” says Chicago’s David Schippers. “If they do their jobs properly and don’t accept bribes, the Outfit can’t operate.”

Longtime Milwaukee Mayor Frank Zeidler echoes that, adding, “In my time, it was understood here – no vice in this city. And if you have that policy, maybe a little organized crime sneaks in, but it isn’t a major problem. … I don’t think the local underworld here has ever had a real hold like it might have in Chicago and other cities.”

Zeidler also cites his current regular meetings with stalwarts of the local Italian community: “These people would know about it if any major stuff was going on, and it would be brought up at the meetings. But it never has been – not once.”
A History Lesson
The FBI, of course, has been busy in Milwaukee lately, mainly on a City Hall investigation that had produced two indictments as of early this week – neither involving alleged mob connections.

Still, according to the [defunct as of December 2011] website,, history shows a strong connection between the Italian mob and the government dating back as far as the 9th century, when the island of Sicily was occupied by Arab forces that “oppressed the native citizenry.” The word, “Mafia,” in fact, is derived from the Arabic word for “refuge,” the website asserts. (Others say it’s a late-1800s acronym for “Moretta ala Francia, Italia avanatis,” or “Let the French die, Italy march on.”)While unifying the natives and protecting them from their occupiers, Sicily's quasi-governmental secret society soon was ruled by a rigid hierarchy, wielded by dons in each village who answered to the don of dons in capital city Palermo. Five basic principles were sacred in members’ initiation oaths:
* “Omerta,” a total code of silence under threat of torture or death;
* Total obedience to the boss;
* No-questions-asked assistance to any befriended Mafia faction;
* A promise to avenge any attack on members of the family; and
* A vow to avoid any and all contact with authorities.

By the 19th century, the Mafia in Sicily had evolved into a vast, now criminally oriented society. The most common form of extortion: “Black Hand” notes that demanded money for protection – followed by kidnappings, bombings and murder if they were refused. By 1876, the Mafia controlled the entire Sicilian government.
And with mass migration in the 1800s, the system flourished amid the cruel realities of new ethnic neighborhoods in American cities. In New Orleans, which had the nation’s highest Mafia concentration at the time, local dons even had a crusading police chief assassinated.

By the early 1900s, every major US city had its own Mafia chapter, with operatives getting a big boost from Prohibition in the ‘30s. The most famous gangster of all, Al Capone, and others often passed through Milwaukee, with “Scarface” himself reportedly keeping a house in the suburbs that just recently went up for sale.
A turning point, of course, came just before World War II, when Charles “Lucky” Luciano organized the “Commission,” under which New York’s famous five families ruled organized crime like a corporate board, while other metropolitan areas came under the purview of a single boss.

Everywhere, the mob depended on corrupt city politicians and officials, as well as union clout drawn from the highly stratified, working-class ethnic neighborhoods that fueled the Chicago Teamsters’ membership, for example.
According to Zeidler, though, Milwaukee was insulated, “largely due to the socialist and labor movements here that weren’t supportive” of the mob. Zeidler was Milwaukee’s mayor from 1948 to 1960.

FBI sources, meanwhile, note that consent decrees signed by several unions from 1989 to 1995 all but admitted past mob influence and agreed that members would have no more contact with organized-crime figures, with at least one decree specifically mentioning Frank Balistrieri. There has been no publically disclosed evidence since of any Mafia union influence in Milwaukee.

During World War II, the Luciano-controlled longshoremen’s union worked closely with the government to protect New York shipping docks against Nazi sabotage. The mob – deeply involved in 1950s Havana casinos – also is widely believed to have helped the CIA in Cuba as Fidel Castro’s rebels were seizing power.
The Enforcement Pendulum
All along, notes Marquette University history professor Athan Theoharis, the nation’s mob-enforcement tactics changed with the winds of politics. In the ‘30s, wiretaps were banned as evidence in court out of Depression-era fears of Big Brother government. The taps continued anyway, however, under J. Edgar Hoover’s “Top Hoodlum” program, under which each FBI office was required to identify a city’s major suspected organized-crime figures. The bugs just couldn’t be used in court.
“That is, unless you could somehow launder the information you got so it wouldn’t be seen as obtained by a wiretap,” Theoharis notes.
In the wake of the Apalachin raid and the high-profile testimony of Mafia turncoat Joe Valachi came 1968’s federal Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, which revived wiretaps and set standards for their use.

Then, in 1970, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which made it easier to attack organized crime by focusing on previously hard-to-pinpoint conspiracies whose proceeds could be shown to benefit a criminal association or “enterprise."
Soon, undercover agents were also authorized by the FBI – before the Apalachin and Valachi bombshells, Hoover had worried that undercover agents might be corrupted if they got too close to the mob.

The final modern federal law-enforcement tool: the US witness protection program, which shattered the mob’s previously solid omerta.
“They all came together,” Theoharis explains – prompting the series of convictions during the ‘80s and ‘90s that all but eliminated the mob as it was known until then.
The Future
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, the FBI’s problem isn’t so much a lack of enforcement tools as it is a matter of competing priorities. Terrorism is the top demon now, and the FBI is in the midst of a fundamental reorganization aimed at bringing Osama bin Laden and others down.

FBI organized crime section chief W. K. Williams insists that the changes won’t dilute the agency’s power. “Fortunately, we haven’t been impacted by the restructuring,” Williams says. “It will still enable us to do our job. Our strategies have changed – I’d say it’s more focused, in fact. Actually, our manpower and budget have stayed pretty constant.”
Williams declined to release specifics. DeMarco and Thorne, meanwhile, note that in Milwaukee, their onetime 12-agent contingent had dwindled to one agent by the late 1990s.

Other FBI sources, however, explain that the investigative and enforcement techniques for organized crime apply to terrorism as well.
“Both types of groups have to be attacked in the same way,” says one FBI source. “The difference is that the fundamental goal of organized crime is making money, whereas Al Qaeda’s goal is annihilation. And with organized crime, law enforcement can afford to sort of watch and wait for them to make a mistake. But with terrorism, we can’t wait.”
Still, Theoharis worries that at some point, hard choices will have to be made by the agency, with organized crime taking a back seat to the nation’s war on terror.
“You’ve got Enron and white-collar crime to worry about, too, as well as the kinds of things we’re seeing now at City Hall,” he adds. “And I suspect that it all puts a strain on the resources of the bureau. If you’re increasing the number of agents in counter-terrorism, it’s almost got to affect the FBI’s ability to monitor organized crime.”

Bottom line? You decide whether to be worried or relieved by state and local law-enforcement agencies' official responses to Shepherd Express requests for comment on the Mafia's presence in Milwaukee today:
“There’s nothing going on with the Mafia here, and I don’t know if we’ve ever had anything,” said a spokesperson for the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department.
“Nothing current here,” said the Milwaukee US Attorney’s Office, while at the state Attorney General’s Office, the reply was, “That’s part of what we’ve been asked to do here, but we haven’t been involved in it for a long time.”

The Milwaukee Police Department also reported nothing current, suggesting that the Shepherd Express contact the FBI.

More of my related posts:
"Mr. Fancy Pants" Balistrieri - Tracking Milwaulee's most dangerous mobster
Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggerio-The real story of the "wise guy"
The Beef That Didn't Moo - Wisconsin Ties to the Mob
Tales of the Milwaukee Mob and Two Cigarette Men!
Married to the Daughter of a Milwaukee Mob Boss-Our Pediatrician!
The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime
Tale of a Failed Milwaukee Mob Hit!
Lieutenant Uhura (of the Starship "Enterprise") - close encounters with the Chicago and Milwaukee Mob!
Part Two: The Milwaukee Mob and Lieutenant Uhura (Star Trek)
The New York Mob and Iowa Beef - Part 1
The New York Mob and Iowa Beef Processors - Part II

Friday, July 26, 2013

FMCSA Grants 30-Minute Break Waiver to Livestock Haulers
Does this make any sense? In the name of safety, the Feds require us to stop our truck for thirty minutes of rest, whether tired or not! I guess they think us drivers don't have the common sense to pull over when our bodies tell us when we need to. That is, unless you have some overheating cattle, I guess in that case, the hell with safety, drive on driver! 

Ludicrous, useless rules and they keep writing more and more of them. 
Story thanks to Link provided below:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Thursday is expected to publish its granting of a limited 90-day waiver from the 30-minute rest break provision of the federal hours-of-service regulations for the transportation of livestock.
The agency says several associations representing various segments of the livestock industry raised concerns about the risks to the health of animals from rising temperatures inside livestock trucks during drivers' mandatory 30-minute break, especially in light of long-range weather forecasts for above-normal temperatures for July, August and September.
FMCSA says it has determined that it is appropriate to grant a limited 90-day waiver for this period to ensure the well-being of the nation's livestock during interstate transportation. It has determined that the waiver, based on the terms and conditions imposed, would likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved without such exemption.
New hours-of-service regulations requiring truckers to take a 30-minute break after no more than 8 hours of driving went into effect the first of July, along with rules limiting use of the 34-hour restart.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Feds, truckers clash over new safety rules

6/30/13  The federal government thinks long-haul truckers like Bryan Spoon need more rest.
But with the Department of Transportation's new rules forcing drivers to take longer breaks and cut back on hours behind the wheel, Spoon thinks the government has created a solution looking for a problem.
"I wish the government would just quit trying to fix something that's not broken," Spoon said on a recent rest stop in Columbia, Mo., after hauling a load of construction materials on the 48-foot Great Dane flatbed behind his 2009 Volvo 780.
"If I get any more breaks out here I won't be able to make a living," he said.
Starting Monday, drivers like Spooner will have to stick to a schedule that requires taking a 30-minute break in the first eight hours of driving, cut the maximum workweek to 70 hours from 82, and "restart" those 70 hours with a 34-hour break once a week.
The rules are part of a program by the Obama administration to make U.S. highways safer by reducing the number of truck accidents and fatalities. The program also includes a safety rating system that shippers can review when they choose a new carrier, with the goal of prodding the trucking industry to further improve the safety of its drivers and equipment.
"The updated hours of service rule makes three common sense, data-driven changes to increase safety on our roadways and reduce driver fatigue, a leading factor in large truck crashes," Anne Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which issued the rules, said in a statement.
Ferro was not available for an interview.
But the trucking industry—which has sued to have the rules reversed—is warning that they will mean more highway traffic and high shipping costs for consumers.
The industry also argues that it's already doing a good job of reducing accidents, and that government data supports that position. The number of people killed each year in large truck crashes has fallen by almost 30 percent, to nearly 4,000 in 2011 from 5,282 in 2000, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
"This isn't the trucking world of old," said Spoon, 40, a third-generation trucker who has been driving full-time since 2000. "When the lay person who doesn't work within the industry thinks of trucking they think of 'Smokey and the Bandit.' That's just not the way it works. We run safe, we run compliant."
But the federal safety administration counters that nearly 4,000 truck crashes a year is still too many. The new rules, it maintains, will prevent about 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries, and save 19 lives each year, according to its analysis.
"There has been progress on reducing the number of fatal truck crashes," said Marissa Padilla, a spokeswoman for the federal safety administration. "But we know that fatigue is still a serious challenge. The bottom line is that our analysis shows that these new rules will save lives, prevent crashes and prevent injuries."
The latest example surfaced last week after a federal probe into the March 28 crash that killed an Illinois State Police trooper revealed that the driver of the semi-truck that slammed into his cruiser had been working more than 14 hours and had fallen asleep at the wheel.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday that federal records show the driver and United Van Lines have been fined for violating rules requiring drivers to get adequate rest.
The newspaper reported that the 26-year-old driver worked for Barrett Moving and Storage, an agent of United Van Lines. He has not been charged in connection with the March 28 crash in Chicago's northern suburbs. Trooper James Sauter of Vernon Hills died in that crash.
The Department of Transportation contends the new rules would also save money. The department's analysis found that in 2009, large truck and bus accidents cost about $20 billion in medical and insurance costs, infrastructure damage, lost wages and productivity. The analysis also estimated $470 million in benefits from reduced driver mortality.
The trucking industry disputes those figures.
"We are extremely skeptical based on their analysis," said Dave Osiecki, head of policy and regulatory affairs at the American Trucking Associations. "We've dug into their documents over and over again and there's good reason to be skeptical."
Researchers concede that it's tough to draw up detailed estimates of the broad economic and health impact of changes in rest patterns for long-haul truckers. But most agree that the link between fatigue and highway accidents is well established.
"There are a lot of research and papers, and science really drove this policy," said Richard Hanowski, director of the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. "I think that's what we want: Regulation that's well-informed and that's based on all of the research that's out there."
No one disputes that the rules also come with a cost to the trucking industry. More breaks and time off the road means it will take more drivers—and more trucks to move the same volume of goods. That cost impact won't be felt right away because shipping volumes tend to slacken in the summer months and pick up again in the fall.
So don't be surprised if you end up paying a little more for shipping when you do your holiday shopping online this year.
"The direct cost of operating a trucking company is more expensive come July 1," said Derek Leathers, chief operating officer of Werner Enterprises, an Omaha-based carrier that operates a fleet of more than 7,250 trucks. "So our costs will go up, and therefore our prices will go up."
Industry estimates vary, but the overall productivity impact is expected to be relatively small—reducing the average carrier's capacity by roughly 3 percent.
The impact, though, will be concentrated for certain types of shipments. The transportation department’s analysis shows that more than 85 percent of drivers will see little to no change in their schedules as a result of the rule. But time-sensitive shipments—like refrigerated produce—may have to be handed off, pony express style—to avoid delays.
That means carriers would have to find more qualified drivers at a time when the industry already is having a hard time filling openings. It's not hard to see why. Trucking is not an easy way to make a living. Drivers spend days—sometimes weeks on the road—working irregular hours for a median wage of $39,700 a year or about $19 an hour. Driver turnover last year topped 100 percent, according to industry estimates.
The new regulations may have the unintended consequence of putting more traffic on the nation's already congested highways, according to some truckers. The new rules require drivers to "restart" their week with two consecutive rest periods between 1 and 5 a.m. The goal is to encourage drivers to get a full night's rest, according to the DOT.
But that new mandatory start time coincides with the start of the morning commute.
"So you're going have a much higher percent of trucks entering the road around rush hour," said Werner's Leathers. "Traditionally we like to get into and out of cities in the early morning hours before the motoring public is on the roadways."
Drivers say they're resigned to adjusting to the new rules, but those rules could be rolled back.
In March, the American Trucking Association presented oral arguments in a lawsuit asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overturn the new rules. It's not clear when that ruling will be handed down.
—By CNBC's John W. Schoen. Follow him on Twitter at@johnwschoen.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Busy Highway - Patient Trucker
Nice post thanks to Dean Smallwood, managing editor of CCJ and Overdrive magazine. Link provided below:

7/8/2013  You’ve been there – a busy highway at the finale of a long holiday weekend. Every four-wheeler is busting a move to get home about 10 minutes earlier and will attempt no shortage of death-defying driving tactics they’ve picked up from watching NASCAR – except that those guys know what they’re doing and get paid to do it.

Anyway, my family and I were on the interstate returning from a fantastic beach weekend and arrived at the rear of a long stretch of slow-moving traffic in both lanes. There literally was nowhere to go and nothing to do except go with the traffic and wait for our turn to see what was holding things up.
Well, some folks never mastered the art of waiting in line for their turn – by the way, you must have noticed that often when you’re behind the wheel and essentially unseen by all of the driving strangers around you, all decorum flies out the window, and it becomes every man for himself. So the long slow lines of traffic broke down into a rude dangerous game of “How many drivers can I cut off while switching lanes so that I can get out of this jam a few seconds faster?”
Soon, we saw the holdup was a pickup truck towing an open-top trailer full of who-knows-what, and it was being followed by an 18-wheeler dutifully waiting for all of the crazed four-wheelers to pass until it was his turn to get around the slowpoke. The truck driver never attempted to cram his way into the passing lane and calmly was waiting for his moment.
I respected that driver’s patience, and when it became my turn to pass, I realized I still had literally dozens of cars behind me and that the trucker probably never would be able to pass. So I flashed my lights at the trucker, got his attention, and he slowly made his way into the passing lane in front of me. We passed, he returned to the right lane, and I passed him. He flashed his lights in appreciation, and off we both went.
A few extra moments of delay, and good feelings all around. Drive safe, folks.
- See more at:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The 2014 Silverado now arriving on dealership lots
Thanks to Jason Cannon at Link provided below:
The newly redesigned and highly anticipated 2014 Chevy Silverados have begun arriving at markets across the U.S.
Among the most noticeable changes, the 2014 Chevy Silverado has replaced some of its V6 and V8 engines from 2013 with EcoTec3 models, which are designed to produce more power and torque while also providing improved fuel-economy.
Those EcoTec3 engines utilize direct injection, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation technology to optimize efficiency and help boost towing and payload capacities.
The Chevy Silverado was the second best selling vehicle in America in 2013, and cosmetic changes to the truck’s exterior are minimal from year’s prior.
The 2014 installment features a slightly broader front end with an uptick in chrome. The truck loses some weight and is more aerodynamic, resulting in less wind noise and improved economy, according to GM.
GM has added a notched step-up at each corner of the rear bumper, for easier access to the bed, as well as hand grip pockets at the rear of the truck. Extended cab models feature traditional hinge-forward rear doors.
The Silverado comes with a 285-horsepower, 4.3L EcoTec V-6, a 355-horsepower, 5.3L EcoTec V-8 or a 6.2L EcoTec V-8 (available this fall). All engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Chevy’s Max Trailer Package that is set to be available this fall, the Silverado will have a trailering capacity of 11,500 lbs. behind the 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8. Features like Trailer Sway Control with StabiliTrak help keep cargo secure while using smart technology to reduce engine power when cargo swaying or rocking is detected.
Currently available only in a crew cab, additional variations of the Silverado will be made available throughout the year, in addition to the heavy-duty 2500.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Curly Lambeau: Loved, hated equally

This is a great piece on Packer history I found in the Journal Sentinel archives from back in 1998, thanks to Cliff Christl, who covered the Green Bay Packers for many years. I was born in 1952 and grew up during the Lombardi championship years. I had not known much about Curley until reading this very interesting article.

By Cliff Christl, of the Journal staff. Link provided below:

Oct. 17, 1998
He was a philanderer, a compulsive liar and a manipulator. He also smoked at one point in his life, but didn't inhale.
To borrow an old cliche, he could charm the birds out of a tree, but he allowed few people to get close.
No, we're not talking about the pride of Hope, Ark.
We're talking about Curly Lambeau.
Lambeau Field may be the most famous and sacred football stadium in the country. It has played host to perhaps the most famous game of all time, "The Ice Bowl," as well as two other National Football League championships.
The eyes of the nation focus on it every time the Green Bay Packers play at home. They were drawn to it just two weeks ago when the Packers entertained the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night television and they will be directed at it again over the next two weekends when the Packers play the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
But as well known as it is and as often as it is in the spotlight, Lambeau Field is associated more with Vince Lombardi and others who actually have stalked its sidelines or gallantly performed on its hallowed turf than with its worthy namesake.
There are still people among us who personally knew Lambeau or closely followed his career, but to most contemporary fans he represents little more than a familiar name.
There are legions who probably know that he helped found the Packers and was a highly successful coach. But we rarely, if ever, see film clips or snapshots of him in action.
He has been dislodged from our collective conscience by death and time. . . .
And that's too bad.
Because Curly Lambeau was a fascinating and enigmatic individual.
In the prime of his life, he was a national celebrity, someone who hobnobbed in high society and found himself in the spotlight nearly everywhere he went. Like many notable leaders, he had an insatiable appetite for power, women and riches.
His imperfections and indiscretions alienated many of the men who played for him, cost him three wives and galvanized a small force of enemies who usurped his authority and drove him out of Green Bay.
But his legacy is written all over one of the two most storied franchises in the NFL and his name is emblazoned across what may be the country's most famous football shrine.
"He certainly was very human," said Lee Remmel, who was a young sportswriter covering the team when Lambeau was still coaching and now is director of public relations for the Packers. "But he's the guy who founded the Packers in company with George Calhoun and then kept them together for a long, long time.
"A lot of people around the country have the perception that the Packers originated with Vince Lombardi. That's obviously totally erroneous, but I feel Curly gets cheated nationally because of it.
"I've said many times that if it hadn't been for Curly Lambeau there would have been no Vince Lombardi. There would have been no Green Bay Packers."
With that glowing testament as a backdrop, we look at two sides, but really many sides, of Earl Louis "Curly" Lambeau.

The Coach

Lambeau coached in the NFL for 33 years, including 29 with the Packers. Only George Halas coached longer.
He won 226 games, lost 132 and tied 22 (only Don Shula, Halas and Tom Landry won more). He won six NFL championships (only Halas won as many).
But his players never once carried him off the field in celebration. For every player who believed in him, there was another who despised him for being insincere and untrustworthy.
"I don't think guys played out of respect for Curly as much as out of fear of Curly," said Bob Snyder, who served as an assistant coach with the Packers in 1949. "A lot of guys didn't like Paul Brown. A lot of guys didn't like Lombardi. But they respected them. I think they were just scared of Curly."
Lambeau wasn't necessarily a tyrant on the field, but he had strict rules and he let everybody know who was boss.
He would slap players with steep, unreasonable fines in an age when they made meager wages. He would threaten their jobs. He would place the blame for mistakes and defeats squarely on their shoulders.
"I remember I called him up once after we lost a ball game," said Art Daley, a retired sportswriter who covered the Packers in the 1940s for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "Andy Uram fumbled at the end. I think it was (against) the Bears. Curly said, 'We didn't lose the ball game, Andy Uram did.' "
Of course, players who were more secure were more willing to stand up to him.
"I remember a deal once where (Mike) Michalske and (Cal) Hubbard backed him against the wall one time over some money or something," Howie Levitas, a director emeritus on the Packers' board who began his association with the team as a water boy in 1928, said in reference to two of the team's Hall of Fame linemen.
"They literally backed him against the wall in the dressing room."
More often than not, when players had a beef with Lambeau, it was over money. They'd grouse to each other that he had deceived them in negotiations and even reneged on the terms of their contracts. But the times where Lambeau lost control were rare.
He had a reputation for being a disciplinarian -- much more so than for being a brilliant tactician.
Early in his career, he was considered one of the pioneers of the forward pass. He also has been credited with being the first coach to hold daily practices and watch film. But many of his players openly questioned his knowledge of the game.
Some even suggested that it had passed him by at the end. A proponent of the Notre Dame box, Lambeau was one of the last coaches in the NFL to switch to the T-formation. He made the move in 1947 but had little success thereafter.
"When I got on his staff, I was surprised," said Snyder. "We had very few meetings. It didn't seem like he had any system. The plays to the left side weren't the same as the plays to the right side. And I don't remember looking at movies."
What made Lambeau such a success was that he was a master salesman and motivator.
Before the college draft was introduced in 1936, he sold a long list of great players on the idea of coming to Green Bay. And once they arrived, he inspired them to great heights with his competitive fire, his unbridled enthusiasm and his artful powers of persuasion.
"He could really get you worked up," said Snyder.
Lambeau would stir players with his oratory. He'd grab their attention by storming the sidelines: ranting and raving, stomping his feet and kicking at air. Before sending them into a game, he'd grab them by the jersey, incessantly pound them on the back for encouragement and exhort them to play the game of their lives.
"I was charmed by him," said Dick Wildung, a former Pro Bowl tackle who played with the Packers from 1946-'51 and again in '53. "I thought he was a good guy to play for."
Wildung may have been in the minority.
"A lot of people didn't," said Johnston, "but I thought he was great."

The Socialite

If there was anything Lambeau liked better than football, it was women. He was an unabashed ladies man.
"He really was," said Mary Jane Sorgel, who lives in Mequon and was once known as the Packers' Golden Girl, when she was serving as drum majorette for the team's Lumberjack Band.
"And as far as I'm concerned, when I was with him, he didn't have any other ladies. But he was charming to everybody. My mother thought he was charming."
Sorgel was Lambeau's girlfriend when he died in 1965 at age 67. She was roughly half his age.
By then, Lambeau had been married and divorced three times. His first wife was a high school sweetheart. His second wife was a former Miss California. His third wife was divorced from a Hollywood film director.
Women found Lambeau ruggedly handsome. He stood 6-foot-1, weighed 200-some pounds and walked with an erect, graceful stride. He also liked to coat himself with body fragrances and dress in sharp, flashy clothes.
"He was a wonderful fella, but oddball, really," said Jim Schymanski, who served as equipment manager for the Packers in 1942. "He wouldn't go anywhere until his hair was combed perfectly. Always dressed nice. Liked women. He always made sure he was out with somebody."
Women weren't the only ones attracted to Lambeau's charm. So were sportswriters.
In the Packers' early years when they were struggling for survival and in desperate need of publicity, Lambeau always knew what to say to attract headlines and attention.
"In the '30s when he continued to win championships, he was introduced in night clubs in New York like Bill Tilden and Jack Dempsey," said Remmel in reference to two other legendary sports figures. "That was the so-called 'Golden Age of Sports' and Curly became a national figure.
"He really did."
Lambeau also felt at home in California, where he often spent his off-seasons. He purchased a residence in the exclusive Malibu beach area and befriended a number of well-known Hollywood entertainers. He lived the life of luxury, driving big, fancy cars and always carrying a large wad of bills in his pocket.
Even though he was immensely proud of his physique and unusually health conscious, Lambeau also smoked cigarettes back then.
Perhaps just to be cool.
"He never inhaled," said Daley, a heavy smoker at the time. "He'd draw on it and puff it right out."
Lambeau's California lifestyle didn't go over well in his native Green Bay, especially when the team started losing in the late 1940s.
"They said he had gone Hollywood," said Remmel. "He spent a considerable amount of time there in the off-season and some people said that was why the team had become much less successful, that he wasn't paying attention to business."
In 1948, the Packers finished 3-9, their first losing season in 15 years. The following year, they lost their opener to the Chicago Bears, 17-0. Five days later, Lambeau announced that he was turning over the team to his three assistants and kicking himself upstairs to become advisory coach.
The Packers spent the season rudderless and in turmoil.
On Nov. 30, with the team in the midst of a six-game losing streak, the board of directors met at the Brown County Courthouse to determine Lambeau's future.
He had ruled the franchise like an autocrat for more than 25 years. But with the Packers losing money and heading toward a second straight disastrous season, he had become vulnerable.
Lambeau's authority had gradually been undermined.
He also had made a number of enemies. Three years earlier, he had dismissed Calhoun, who had helped him found the team, from his post as publicity director.
A bitter Calhoun plotted with his friends on the board to oust Lambeau, but couldn't garner enough support. After five hours of acrimonious debate, Lambeau emerged from the meeting and announced that he had been offered a new two-year contract as coach and general manager.
However, he still hadn't signed it two months later.
On Feb. 1, 1950, the man who had been the heart and soul of the Packers since their founding in 1919 resigned to become head coach of the Chicago Cardinals. He coached four more years -- two with the Cardinals and two with the Washington Redskins -- before leaving football, returning only to coach the College All-Stars.
On June 1, 1965, Lambeau died in Sturgeon Bay of a massive heart attack. He was cutting the grass at the home of Francis Van Duyse, a good friend. Sorgel was there. She was Van Duyse's daughter.
"He was mowing our lawn just for fun," said Sorgel. "He was showing me how he had learned to do the twist in California. All of a sudden, he fell right into my dad's arms."