Kellogg's cereal cafe to snap, crackle and pop into Times Square

Kellogg Co is offering a grrrr-eat new spot for cereal-lovers, with the opening of its first cereal cafe in New York City’s Times Square, the company said on Wednesday.

The maker of Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies said a bowl of cereal at the cafe, which opens July 4, will cost anywhere between $6.50 and $7.50 and can be eaten in or taken out.

There are plans to launch a delivery service later in the year, the Battle Creek, Michigan-based company said in a statement.

The cafe is part of a push by Kellogg to reinvigorate U.S. cereal sales that have declined as consumers choose healthier foods over sugary and processed products.

The cereal cafe concept already exists in London, England where the Cereal Killer Cafe has two branches.

Celebrity chefs Christina Tosi, owner of Momofuku Milk Bar, and Anthony Rudolf of Journee, will provide the Kellogg’s cafe with new gourmet recipes in an effort to revive cereal’s somewhat soggy status.

“Kellogg’s NYC will remind families how fun and delicious cereal is, especially when elevated with creative ingredients,” Rudolf said in the statement.

The cafe marries a fast-casual dining experience with the cereal brand. Staff members dressed in t-shirts with Kellogg’s catch phrases greet customers, behind a colorful counter laden with myriad toppings like lime zest, thyme and malted milk powder.

Customers receive a buzzer that notifies them when their order is complete.

Once the buzzer goes off, they pick up their order, packaged in a brown paper bag showered with Kellogg’s logo, from a red locker.

And, don’t worry, each bowl comes with a 12-ounce container of milk – on the side.

(Reporting by Melissa Fares, additional reporting by Brendan McDermid; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Obama: Globalization Is 'Here' And 'Done'

(L-R) Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Obama held a press conference in Ottawa Wednesday.

(L-R) Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Obama held a press conference in Ottawa Wednesday. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The global economy is “here” and “done,” President Obama said Wednesday — the question now is under what terms it will be shaped.

Obama spoke at a news conference that was dominated by questions about global trade, the effects of Brexit, and Donald Trump. It followed a summit meeting with the leaders of Canada and Mexico in Ottawa.

“Integration of national economies into a global economy, that’s here, that’s done,” Obama said. Speaking on the second day of a stock market rally, which came after sharp drops following Great Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Obama said it was important not to draw analogies to what happened with Brexit with trade relations between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Obama said ordinary people with concerns about global trade “have a legitimate gripe with globalization.”

But he cautioned that withdrawing from trade deals such as NAFTA, as Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has threatened, “is the wrong medicine for dealing with inequality.”

Addressing protectionist sentiments, Obama acknowledged what he said was “nostalgia” for a time when everyone was working in manufacturing jobs and belonged to the middle class, even though they lacked college degrees. He said that era has been outmoded “far more by automation than by trade,” adding that the U.S. steel industry was producing just as much as it ever was, but now only needs one-tenth of the workers.

On another issue that has been central to the Trump campaign, immigration, Obama said anti-immigration sentiments have been encouraged by demagogues “back to the 1800’s.”

“You shouldn’t think that is representative of how the American people think,” Obama said, adding that illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. is at it’s lowest level since the 1970s.

Obama also took a thinly veiled swipe at Trump, saying someone doesn’t suddenly become a populist be cause they say something controversial to win votes. “That’s not a measure of populism,” he said. “That’s nativism or xenophobia, or it’s just cynicism.”

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was asked to explain a comment he made in March, in which he compared Trump’s “strident tone” to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Pena Nieto responded, “Hitler, Mussolini, we all know the result. It was only a call for reflection and for recognition, so that we bear in mind what we have achieved and the great deal still to achieve.”

Obama also said the U.S. has offered “all assistance available” to Turkey, following the terrorist attack Tuesday at Istanbul’s main airport. He said “we’re still learning all the facts, but we know this is part of our broader shared fight against terrorist networks.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Fact-Check: Donald Trump And The Victimization Of U.S. Steel

A street sign in downtown Johnstown, Penn.

A street sign in downtown Johnstown, Penn. Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump traveled to the small city of Monessen, Penn., on Tuesday to speak about the impact of international trade on U.S. manufacturing jobs.

As he has before, Trump launched a full-throated attack on globalization, pinning the blame on politicians he says have allowed the U.S. manufacturing base to get hollowed out.

“We allowed foreign countries to subsidize their goods, devalue their currencies, violate their agreements and cheat in every way imaginable. And our politicians did nothing about it,” he told the crowd.

Those politicians include his Democratic rival and her husband, he said.

“At the center of this catastrophe are two trade deals pushed by Bill and Hillary Clinton. First, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or the disaster called NAFTA. Second, China’s entry into the World Trade Organization,” he said.

The location for Trump’s speech was no accident: Monessen lies southeast of Pittsburgh in the Monongahela Valley. Although the area was once a major steel center, most of its mill jobs have long since disappeared, leaving the region much poorer than it once was.

Although Trump’s speech was about manufacturing jobs more broadly, he included steel among the industries that have fallen victim to the forces of globalization, dumping and politicians’ neglect. He told the large crowd that if elected he will bring steel jobs back to the region.

The Claim

“The legacy of Pennsylvania steelworkers lives in the bridges, railways and skyscraper that make up our great American landscape. But our workers’ loyalty — you know it better than anybody — was repaid with total betrayal.”

The Question

Was Trump’s take on the U.S. steel industry — that it has fallen victim to dumping, unfair trade pacts and self-serving politicians — accurate?

The Short Answer

The once-mighty U.S. steel business has been losing jobs since the early 1980s, but not because of NAFTA.

Instead, steel has had trouble competing with foreign companies, some of which received government subsidies, and productivity increases meant the steel mills that remain need fewer workers.

More recently, China’s rapid, unprecedented expansion of its steel industry has driven prices down sharply.

U.S. officials have sometimes fought back by imposing tariffs, but their efforts have been inconsistent.

The Long Answer

Starting with the recession of the early 1980s, the U.S. steel industry underwent a long, painful period of retrenchment.

Giant steel plants in places like Pennsylvania and Indiana simply couldn’t compete against newer, more efficient “mini-mills” popping up in the non-union South, said Frank Giarratani, professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh.

The old-line companies also found themselves doing battle with steel producers from Europe and Asia, especially Japan, that were often subsidized by their governments and thus relatively protected from economic downturns, Giarratani said.

Many U.S. plants were shuttered, replaced by smaller, specialty mills that tended to employ fewer people.

“We lost employment in the steel industry because mills shut down, but we also lost employment in the steel industry because we could produce steel with many fewer workers,” Giarratani said.

These changes were under way long before the passage of NAFTA, which one industry group says has actually been good for business, by opening up Canadian and Mexican markets.

Kevin M. Dempsey, senior vice president and general counsel of the American Iron and Steel Institute, told the International Trade Commission last year:

“NAFTA has largely been seen as a success for the North American steel industry, providing increased access to our two closest markets. It has resulted in strengthened North American manufacturing supply chains, especially with key groups like the North American automotive industry. In recent years, it has also resulted in increased U.S. steel exports and a positive U.S. trade balance in steel with Canada and Mexico.”

Trump is right about one thing: Dumping of low-cost steel by foreign countries, especially China, has hurt the industry, said Scott Paul, president of the American Alliance for Manufacturing.

Since China was admitted to the World Trade Organization in 2001, its steel industry has grown enormously, allowing it to flood the global market with underpriced goods, he said.

“What happened there was they went from, in 2003, having a steel industry of almost no consequence internationally to having more than 50 percent of the world capacity for steel,” says Giarratani.

“When I look at the challenges facing the American steel industry, the first three things that come to mind are China, China and China,” Paul says.

But Paul says Trump is hardly the only politician to sound the alarm about dumping by China, a concern also voiced by Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, among others.

“I think there is very definitely steel dumping, and China is the best current example of it, but it’s gone on for a long time, and we have been slow to react,” Giarratani said.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Los Angeles Pioneers Program To Help Educate Foster Parents For LGBT Kids

Juana Zacharias, 18, lives in a group home for foster children in Oxnard, Calif. She came out as transgender when she was 10; she entered the foster care system when she was 11, after her father was killed.

Juana Zacharias, 18, lives in a group home for foster children in Oxnard, Calif. She came out as transgender when she was 10; she entered the foster care system when she was 11, after her father was killed. Leo Duran/KPCC hide caption

toggle caption Leo Duran/KPCC

The backyard of Juana Zacharias’s home hugs the railroad tracks snaking through the town of Oxnard, Calif.

Her room in the cozy three-bedroom house is decorated with strips of pink polka-dotted and leopard print fabrics. It’s filled with lot of make-up.

Tons of it, according to Zacharias.

The 18-year-old also has boys on her mind.

“Everybody says dating a Latina is really hard,” Zacharias says. “Give us the password to your phone, we’ll be totally good.”

Zacharias is a trans girl — the only one in the group home she shares with five boys.

The six residents are foster kids. They’re waiting for parents to adopt them, or to age out of the system.

Moving From Home To Home

It wasn’t always like this for Zacharias, though.

She grew up with a loving dad, one who accepted her when she came out at age 10.

“I was at dinner, and he was making tacos,” she remembers. “It was really heart-touching because he’s like, ‘You’re my daughter now.’ “

But a year later, her dad died in a drive-by shooting.

“I was there. All I hear is the ‘ttsssstt,’ like a car skirt, ‘pah pah,’ and it’s like your life flashes before your eyes and someone’s gone,” Zacharias says.

After that, she clashed with her mother over her dad’s death, her own identity. Then she got in trouble with the law.

So for the past seven years, Zacharias has moved from juvenile hall to group home to group home — never finding a home with a permanent family.

“The probation officers, they even say it’s hard to find a placement for you because you’re transgender,” she says. “A lot of people don’t want transgenders.”

Teaching The ABCs Of LGBT Kids

Zacharias isn’t alone. More than 400,000 children in America are in foster care, and among them, there’s a disproportionate number of LGBT kids. In Los Angeles County, 20 percent of foster kids identify as LGBT, according to a UCLA study — or double the rate outside the foster care system.

But since 2010, LA has had a federal grant to develop something that doesn’t exists anywhere else in the country: a program to teach foster families the basics about LGBT children.

There is a lot to learn, according to parents like Lana Freeman.

“It was something that we had never even thought about,” Freeman says. “We adopted my son when he was four weeks old. And I guess he came out (as gay) when he was about 16.”

That was more than 20 years ago, and Freeman had to research on her own the correct terms, and how to support him.

“Coming from a minister’s background, we were always told that it was not right,” she says.

Now she works with the National Foster Parent Association from her home in Oklahoma to help others.

Freeman says that lack of knowledge about LGBT issues scares some foster parents away from accepting these kids. That’s why she calls the effort in LA to teach parents these issues “groundbreaking.”

Exercises In Empathy

In one of those sessions, held by the Los Angeles LGBT Center, trainer Sarah Vitorino has foster parents and care givers do an exercise on empathy.

Participants are directed to write down the names of people they love on cards. Then she tells them to take those cards and throw some away at random.

“I want you to think about how it made you feel to have these people that you adore and have them taken away like that,” Vitorino tells the group.

Vitorino says the lesson is this: You should now understand what it’s like for an LGBT child when they come out and are abandoned by loved ones.

As of 2012, it’s California law for foster parents and providers to get training on “cultural competency and sensitivity relating to, and best practices for, providing adequate care to LGBT youth.”

But all that’s required is one 60-minute session, once a year, with no standardized curriculum. And Vitorino says there’s no passing or failing — you just have to attend a training session.

“So the backseat is the popular seat for the most resistant people,” Vitorino says. “They’ll kind of have their arms folded and refuse to participate.”

On top of all that: The federal grant to fund the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s training program has run out.

But Vitorino hopes to get more funding to continue these sessions so more LGBT children get out of group homes and into the arms of open-minded foster parents.

A Model For What All Kids Need

Foster care expert Khush Cooper is in charge of assessing what all LA County departments can do better to place kids with parents.

Cooper says that what the county develops will be used to create standards for the whole country on how to help kids, and not just LGBT ones.

“If you can make your system hospitable for a 14-year-old, male-to-female, African-American transgender who’s got mental health issues, you can make your system hospitable to anyone,” she says.

So another child like Juana Zacharias won’t have to bounce around the system, alone, for seven years.

Now, though, having turned 18 and graduated from high school, Zacharias can live on her own.

She is hoping to move to downtown Los Angeles soon, to study fashion and cosmetology.

“I’m over here having hope for something good in my life, something that I can live for, and make my dad proud from heaven,” Zacharias says.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Researchers Uncover Long-Lost Tunnel Used By Jews To Escape Extermination Pits

This is where the Burning Brigade was housed. The apparatus in the middle is not the original, but ones like it were used as ramps so that the bodies could be stacked high and set alight. All the pits at Ponar were originally dug by the Russians to store fuel.

This is where the Burning Brigade was housed. The apparatus in the middle is not the original, but ones like it were used as ramps so that the bodies could be stacked high and set alight. All the pits at Ponar were originally dug by the Russians to store fuel. Ezra Wolfinger for NOVA hide caption

toggle caption Ezra Wolfinger for NOVA

Using advanced imaging technology, researchers in Lithuania have uncovered a tunnel that Jewish prisoners used to escape Nazi extermination pits.

By doing so, they have provided physical evidence of a well-known tale of heroism during the Holocaust – known before only through the testimony of 11 Jews who escaped.

For the last 72 years, teams have been searching for the tunnel at the Ponar massacre site, located in a forest about 6 miles from Vilnius.

“They’ve used every single normal form of exploration but the use of this noninvasive technology allowed us to go into burial pits – the areas are filled with graves –and not desecrate the grave sites,” Richard Freund, a University of Hartford professor of Jewish history and a leader of the expedition team, tells The Two-Way.

“This is one of the great stories of courage during the Holocaust, that would not ever have been able to have been tracked but for the use of this geoscience,” he adds.

Dr. Richard Freund, University of Hartford (front), Dr. Harry Jol, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (middle), and Dr. Philip Reeder, Duquesne University (back) discuss where the next round of work will be conducted.

Dr. Richard Freund, University of Hartford (front), Dr. Harry Jol, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (middle), and Dr. Philip Reeder, Duquesne University (back) discuss where the next round of work will be conducted. Ezra Wolfinger for NOVA hide caption

toggle caption Ezra Wolfinger for NOVA

The extermination pits at the site hold the “remains of 100,000 people who were executed there by the Nazis, including 70,000 Jews shot and buried there from July 1941 through July 1944,” as the PBS series NOVA reports in a statement.

The group of 80 prisoners who attempted to escape through the tunnel was known as the Burning Brigade. Freund explains, “They were from the local area, and brought there for the most gruesome task of the entire Holocaust: these people were brought there, 80 Jews, to burn all the bodies that were there.” Russian troops were nearing the area in April 1944, he adds, and this was an attempt to destroy the evidence of Nazi crimes.

Freund says the Burning Brigade knew, “in their heart of hearts, that they were going to be the last victims – unless they got out.”

A civil engineer in the group came up with the daring plan to dig a tunnel out of their barracks which was in a pit. “For 76 days, they used spoons, they used their hands, and they burned [bodies] all day and dug all night,” Freund says.

And on the last night of Passover, on one of the darkest nights of the month, they made their move. Only 11 made it out of the tunnel and through the forest to safety. They testified a year later at a crimes commission in the Soviet Union. “These people’s testimonies really are a document that now, with the physical evidence, is like solving a cold case after 72 years,” Freund adds.

Electrical Resistivity Tomography imagery showing what the team believes is the tunnel’s “exit.” Dr. Richard Freund hide caption

toggle caption Dr. Richard Freund

The researchers used Electrical Resistivity Tomography, which is also used in oil and gas exploration, Freund says. He describes the moment that they found the tunnel:

“It’s great working with geophysicists, because the geophysicists are very dispassionate usually. They’re sitting in the field, and these guys are generally looking for gas and oil. … They ran this section over where we suspected the tunnel might be, and they [reviewed] the results [the computer had analyzed]. And it’s there. On June 8, we’re looking at the first image of this tunnel that had been missing since the people left on April 15, 1944. And I think that everybody got a big chill.”

The tunnel, which has collapsed, was about 100 feet long and measured 27 inches by 25 inches. As Freund puts it, that’s “just about the size for an emaciated human being to slide through.”

In 1979, two Ponar survivors – Motke Zaidel and Itzak Dugin – described the painstaking, dangerous work which culminated in their miraculous escape in an interview for the film Shoah. Zaidel describes the moment he finished digging the last few inches of the tunnel:

“I started to work and I still hadn’t quite finished when there were already twenty people in the tunnel and I felt that I really could no longer, I didn’t have any more air to breathe. I had a bar of iron in my hand and I tried, I attempted to make holes in the surface of the soil and suddenly I made a hole, two holes, and finally I had air. It was then that we cut the electricity, there was electricity inside the tunnel, and when we took off… when we removed the chains and I opened the hole, I widened it and I had open air. When I stuck my head out, I already saw the sky, the stars, but I also saw a group of German soldiers who looked precisely in the direction of our tunnel.”

The Germans started firing at the Jews. Other escapees were killed by mines. You can read the full transcript of the interview here.

None of the survivors who escaped from Ponar are still alive, Freund says. He adds that it’s techniques like the ones used to find the tunnel that will likely dominate future research on the Holocaust, after the last survivors have died.

“Science is the new frontier for studying the Holocaust,” he says. “In 20 years we won’t have survivors to ask, but we’ll have another generation of people doing serious research on the Holocaust.”

The PBS’s NOVA was part of the excavation and will release a full-length documentary on the findings next year.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Conservative Christians Grapple With What 'Religious Freedom' Means For Muslims

Residents vote in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary election at the Cross Roads Baptist Church in Greer, South Carolina, on Feb. 20.

Residents vote in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary election at the Cross Roads Baptist Church in Greer, South Carolina, on Feb. 20. T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Religious liberty is a rallying cry for many evangelical voters — and it’s been popping up repeatedly throughout this presidential campaign. But in the current political climate, some conservative Christians are struggling with how to apply religious freedom to other faiths — like Islam.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made religious freedom a hallmark of his failed campaign for the Republican nomination. Now, presumptive nominee Donald Trump is picking up the theme.

“Religious freedom. The right of people of faith to freely practice their faith. So important,” Trump said in a June 10 speech in Washington, D.C. to members of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

On June 21, in a room full of evangelical leaders in New York City, Donald Trump again promised to protect religious freedom. The presumptive GOP nominee said if he’s elected, “people are going to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

For decades, fights over religious liberty in the U.S. have mostly been about the religious liberties of Christians. Evangelicals have rallied around issues like prayer in public schools, and more recently, whether conservative Christian vendors should be required by law to provide services for same-sex weddings.

But now, as the nation’s small but growing Muslim population gains a higher profile, other questions are emerging, including debates in several communities over the right to build mosques.

Pastor John Wofford of Armorel Baptist Church in northeast Arkansas raised that question at a national meeting of Southern Baptists earlier this month.

“I would like to know how in the world someone within the Southern Baptist Convention can support the defending of rights for Muslims to construct mosques in the United States when these people threaten our very way of existence as Christians and Americans?” Wofford said. “They are murdering Christians, beheading Christians, imprisoning Christians all over the world.”

It had been just days since a gunman who had pledged loyalty to ISIS and shot and killed 50 people, including himself, at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

In response, Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore warned that letting the government restrict Muslims could lead to restrictions on Christians. He believes Christianity is the only true faith, and people must choose it freely.

“Sometimes we have really hard decisions to make — this isn’t one of those things,” Moore said. “What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody.”

Moore leads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which recently signed on to a legal brief supporting the right of a group of Muslims in New Jersey to build a mosque. His answer was met with enthusiastic applause — but he’s also faced criticism from some fellow conservatives, including Wofford.

On a recent Sunday morning, after a fire-and-brimstone sermon, Wofford said he believes the U.S. Constitution protects all religions, including Islam. But Wofford doesn’t believe Southern Baptist leaders, who draw their salaries from dues paid by local congregations, should be advocating for the rights of Muslims.

“What I am actually doing if I support and defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship? I am helping them go to Hell. And I do not want to help people go to Hell,” Wofford said.

Some Christian groups dedicated to defending religious freedom argue for equal for treatment for all faiths, out of the principle that discriminating against one religion could threaten them all.

“It’s a double edged sword,” said Matt Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Council, which focuses on religious freedom litigation on behalf of Christians but has also represented at least one Jewish client. “Religious freedom is for all of us or it’s for none of us,” Staver said. “If we want to pick and choose, what’s the standard? And if it’s only that might makes right, then that means it’s a political struggle and whoever is the ruling class at any particular time, they’re the ones that have their say.”

In a tense presidential election year, such debates have a tendency to become political. After the meeting with Trump in New York last week, several evangelical leaders held a press conference, where they praised Trump’s promise to protect religious liberty.

Asked how that pledge applies to Muslims, conservative columnist Ken Blackwell responded that he favors freedom for all faiths, but his primary concern is the rights of Christians.

“I was more interested in hearing Donald Trump say that he was willing and ready to defend religious liberty not just for Christians, but including for Christians, in the public square,” he said.

Pressed on Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslim immigration — a proposal that has appeared to shift over time, but which Trump has yet to explain in detail — Blackwell said that issue will be part of an ongoing “conversation” between Trump and evangelical leaders. He said many conservatives Christians see the real estate developer as more favorable to their concerns about religious freedom and other issues than his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

“We’re not going to, in fact, throw him overboard,” over the Muslim ban issue, Blackwell said.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

During A Drug Bust, Miami Police Find Some $20 Million Stuffed In Buckets

Police found these 24 buckets inside a secret room in a Miami house.

Take a look at this:

Police found these 24 buckets inside a secret room in a Miami house. Miami-Dade Police Department hide caption

toggle caption Miami-Dade Police Department

Now take a look at what was inside:

Indeed, those are packets of $100 bills in heat-sealed compressed bags.

Indeed, those are packets of $100 bills in heat-sealed compressed bags. Miami-Dade Police Department hide caption

toggle caption Miami-Dade Police Department

Police are still counting the money.

Police are still counting the money. Miami-Dade Police Department hide caption

toggle caption Miami-Dade Police Department

That’s what the Miami-Dade Police Department found in the home of Luis Hernandez-Gonzalez, a Miami man who owns a store that sells equipment for indoor gardening.

Police are still counting the money but they know it’s about $20 million, making it the largest cash seizure in Miami-Dade Police Department history.

According an arrest affidavit, police searched Hernandez-Gonzalez’s home after confidential informants tied him to the drug trade. According to the affidavit, investigators wire-tapped Hernandez-Gonzalez’s phone and heard him hand out advice on how to keep pot plants healthy.

During one conversation, an alleged client describes sad-looking plants that are not responding to extra oxygenation. Hernandez-Gonzalez asks for a picture and tells the person that they have to be patient. Giving a plant extra oxygen after weeks of neglect is like giving “a starving old man … testosterone,” Hernandez-Gonzalez says.

Police eventually contacted Hernandez-Gonzalez and he was cooperative telling them that he could draw up a list of clients who he believes grew marijuana indoors. They searched his shop and found bundles of money and police allege that Hernandez-Gonzalez voluntarily let them search his home.

Police dogs led them to more bundles of money. Police say they found pot seeds and steroids and a loaded Tec-9 with an extended clip.

In the attic, they detected a hidden room:

This is what police saw through attic.

This is what police saw through attic. Miami-Dade Police Department hide caption

toggle caption Miami-Dade Police Department

This is what that room looked like from below:

Behind this wall was a secret room.

Behind this wall was a secret room. Miami-Dade Police Department hide caption

toggle caption Miami-Dade Police Department

Detectives cut through the walls and found 24 5-gallon buckets full of cash.

There they are.

There they are. Miami-Dade Police Department hide caption

toggle caption Miami-Dade Police Department

Hernandez-Gonzalez was arrested and charged with money laundering, cannabis trafficking and other charges. His sister was also charged.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Syrian Refugee Finds $55,000 Cash, Turns It In To German Police

Muhannad M. stands to get a reward of less than $5,000, after turning in some $150,000 in cash and bank documents that he found in a used piece of furniture.

Muhannad M. stands to get a reward of less than $5,000, after turning in some $150,000 in cash and bank documents that he found in a used piece of furniture. Minden Police hide caption

toggle caption Minden Police

The windfall must have seemed heaven-sent. How else to explain a young man who had fled Syria’s violence and reached Germany — where he realized the donated wardrobe he’d been given contained 50,000 euros (around $55,000) in cash?

But instead of keeping it, the man contacted the immigration office to ask about turning the money in. And so, eight months after he entered Germany as a refugee from Homs, Syria, the man is being praised as a hero by local police for his honesty.

The man, identified by German media as Muhannad M., was given the wardrobe to help furnish his apartment in Minden, a city west of Hanover. As he cleaned and reassembled the pieces, he found a wide storage pouch hidden beneath a lower shelf. In it: a hundred 500-euro notes, along with bank passbooks to accounts holding an additional 100,000 euros (around $110,000).

Currency and bank papers were hidden in this compartment beneath a shelf in an old wardrobe.

Currency and bank papers were hidden in this compartment beneath a shelf in an old wardrobe. Minden Police hide caption

toggle caption Minden Police

Before he could decide what to do with the money, Muhannad, 25, first had to check whether the 500-euro notes were real. A check online revealed that they were.

The money could have helped Muhannad get his two younger brothers out of Syria and into a new life in Germany. But he tells Germany’s Bild newspaper that he couldn’t do that.

“I am a Muslim. I’m not allowed to keep this money. My religion forbids it,” he said, in a translation by news site The Local. “Allah would never allow me to finance my own interests with someone else’s wealth.”

Muhannad stands to get a reward of 3 percent of the total amount of his discovery – around $4,500. The police in Minden say they’re trying to track down the wardrobe’s rightful owner.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Tough Problem: Airport Public Areas Designed For Commerce, Not Security

Passengers walk through a TSA checkpoint area at Los Angeles International Airport. Security experts say making airports safer is a huge challenge because public areas are designed for commerce.

Passengers walk through a TSA checkpoint area at Los Angeles International Airport. Security experts say making airports safer is a huge challenge because public areas are designed for commerce. Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

From Thursday through Monday, about 3.3 million Americans will head to airports for the July Fourth holiday travel period. They’ll be flying during the peak of a record-breaking summer travel season.

Those passengers can expect to see heavier-than-usual security in the wake of recent deadly attacks on airports in Belgium and Turkey.

The extra measures may help a bit. But security experts say making airports safer is a huge challenge because public areas are designed for commerce, not security.

Think about it. Security lines are set up to keep passengers from boarding planes with guns, bombs or other weapons. That makes flying safer.

But at major airports, thousands of people may be standing in ticket lines, checking luggage, eating at restaurants and shopping for T-shirts – all before they ever approach the screening area.

In fact, the very existence of Transportation Security Administration checkpoints could make public portions of the airport more attractive to terrorists, according to Douglas Laird, who heads Laird & Associates, an aviation security consulting firm. “The long security lines create a target-rich area” as people cluster together with nowhere to duck, Laird noted.

“Terrorists go after soft targets. If they can’t get to the airplane, then they attack the airport,” he said.

In Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday, terrorists arrived in a taxi cab and began shooting near the airport entrance.

Istanbul has long had much tighter security systems than most airports. Travelers there go through double screenings.

Still, a deadly attack could happen because the taxi was able to pull up to the airport’s “arrivals” area. As is typical at airports, security is tighter in the “departures” area where people are heading to flights, not arriving from them. So the terrorists in Turkey could quickly kill 42 people outside of the airport’s secured areas.

Back in March, terrorists took a taxi to the Brussels airport, entered the open doors and — before ever reaching a security check point — exploded bombs hidden in suitcases.

In the U.S., there have been smaller attacks in public areas. On July 4, 2002, a lone gunman shot and killed two people at the ticket counter of El Al, Israel’s national airline, at Los Angeles International Airport. In 2013, another lone gunman opened fire at the same airport, killing a TSA officer.

Trying to re-design this country’s hundreds of airports to boost security would be a financial and political challenge. Passengers already are annoyed by TSA lines inside airports; moving those long lines to areas away from the terminal would add greatly to travel times – and complaints. And vehicle check points away from the terminal would likewise add huge hassles for travelers.

Even if Congress were to appropriate billions of dollars for drastic design changes and additional TSA guards to expand secured areas, local airport authorities may not want to surrender more turf to federal agents.

That’s because operators of restaurants and shops in public areas of airports can generate much more revenue by doing business in open environments. They know that while travelers passing through, say, Israel, expect extremely high levels of security, Americans are accustomed to hanging out at airports, spending money.

For example, inside Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport, the Atlanta Chophouse & Brewery is a popular steakhouse that invites locals to come by for “cocktail receptions, business dinners and celebrations.” One of the selling points is that it is “located pre-security in the Atlanta Airport Atrium.”

Reducing such open access could wreck a flourishing business model and discourage use of airports and air travel.

Reese McCraine, a Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman said that rather than redesign the airport, security officials “are maintaining a hypervigilance and have increased the visible presence of law enforcement,” even though there is no “imminent threat.”

At the L.A. airport, officials released a statement saying they are using random checkpoints at airport entrances and are being “vigilant.”

Such efforts can help, Laird said, but “there’s nothing you can do to be completely safe. You plug one hole and the water comes out someplace else.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Turkey's Debilitating Conflicts On Three Separate Fronts

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks on Monday at the presidential palace in Ankara. Turkey is now embroiled in conflicts with Syria's President Bashar Assad, the Islamic State and the Kurdish separatists.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks on Monday at the presidential palace in Ankara. Turkey is now embroiled in conflicts with Syria’s President Bashar Assad, the Islamic State and the Kurdish separatists. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/AP hide caption

toggle caption Murat Cetinmuhurdar/AP

In a few short years, Turkey has gone from a regional pillar of stability to a rattled nation fighting battles on three separate fronts.

Turkey has pushed hard for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Its security forces are again clashing with Kurdish separatists in the southeast of the country. And Turkish leaders suspect the Islamic State is behind Tuesday’s terrorist attack at the Istanbul airport.

All this turmoil has unsettled Turkey, where the powerful security forces have historically been given wide latitude to impose order. Yet the country that sees itself as a regional leader has lurched from one fight to another inconclusively. All three are draining its influence, sapping the economy and driving away tourists.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who’s been in power since 2003, once declared Turkey’s foreign policy was based on “zero problems with neighbors.” Almost everything that’s happened in recent years has made a mockery of that claim.

The Turkish leader was an early advocate for ousting Assad after Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011. And in the past year, Erdogan has emphasized the renewed fight against Kurdish separatists at home.

He was paying less attention to the Islamic State, or ISIS, but that may change now that the extremist group has been blamed for several major attacks inside Turkey over the past year.

“Critics say Turkey has been too focused on the Kurds and not enough on ISIS and I think what we’ll be seeing now is whether this latest deadly attack results in any kind of shift in their focus,” Peter Kenyon, NPR’s Istanbul correspondent, told Morning Edition.

And don’t forget, Turkey is sheltering 2.7 million of the 4.8 million Syrian refugees who’ve fled their homeland since the war. All this adds up to a major mess for Turkey, with no end in sight. Here’s a look at the status of all three conflicts.

Map showing Turkish cities that have had major terror attacks

Notes

Turkey has been hammered by multiple terrorist attacks in the past year. Some have been blamed on ISIS, others on Kurdish separatists.

Source: AFP

Credit: Alyson Hurt/NPR

Turkey Vs. Assad

It seems like long ago, but Turkey’s Erdogan and Syria’s Assad used to be allies. They split over the Syrian war, and Erdogan has been leading the call for Assad to go.

Turkey hasn’t sent its own troops to Syria, but was allowing fighters from all over the world to transit its territory on their way to fight Assad in Syria.

“Originally, Turkey did encourage people to come and fight against Bashar Assad’s regime,” Henri Barkey of the Woodrow Wilson International Center told NPR.

But, he added, “the opposition that emerged against Assad proved incapable of taking Assad down. So in its frustration, [Turkey] allowed a large number of Islamists to cross because the Islamists, the jihadists, were much better fighters than the traditional, secular Syrian fighters.”

It hasn’t worked. Assad remains entrenched after five years of war. Turkey’s efforts have been further undermined by Russia’s stepped-up support for the Syrian leader, including an air campaign that has bolstered the sagging Syrian army.

Turkey Vs. The Islamic State

Many of the jihadists who passed through Turkey ultimately joined the Islamic State. But instead of bringing down Assad, they contributed to the rapid rise of the world’s most dangerous extremist group, one that fights in Syria and Iraq and now carries out terrorist attacks further afield.

In addition, Turkey’s open-door policy for Islamists created friction with the United States and other NATO countries, which wanted Turkey to clamp down on its border and devote much more energy to battling the Islamic State.

As ISIS made spectacular territorial gains in Syria and Iraq in 2014, fighters, money and weapons flowed to the group, while those resources dried up for more moderate forces, such as the Free Syrian Army.

Turkey has become more active in supporting the U.S. and its coalition partners against ISIS, though the relations can still be bumpy.

Turkey is working with the U.S. to cut off key border routes used by ISIS to move men and supplies from Turkey to Syria. Turkey now allows U.S. fighter jets to use the Incirlik air base for bombing runs against ISIS. The Turkish Air Force has flown missions as well.

But Turkey’s actions against ISIS have generated a backlash from the group, which has no trouble infiltrating Turkey. ISIS has been blamed for four terrorist attacks inside Turkey over the past year. That’s not counting Tuesday’s airport slaughter, where Turkey suspects ISIS, though no one has claimed responsibility.

Turkey Vs. The Kurds

This was a regional bright spot back in 2012, when Turkey and the Kurdish separatists ended more than three decades of fighting in southeast Turkey. But it all unraveled a year ago and the Turkish security forces have resumed operations against the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK.

No Turkish leader has completely defeated the PKK, yet Erdogan insists this time the PKK will be eradicated as a threat.

Erdogan also says Syrian Kurdish fighters are a terrorist group every bit as dangerous as the PKK in Turkey. But the U.S. draws a sharp distinction. The U.S. sides with Turkey in declaring the PKK a terrorist group, but supports the Syrian Kurdish fighters, known as the YPG, who have been effective fighters.

Where the U.S. sees the Kurds delivering a blow to the Islamic State, Turkey sees an emerging threat from another armed Kurdish group.

“This has greatly complicated the effort to fight ISIS in northern Syria,” Kenyon noted.

Larry Kaplow is NPR’s Middle East editor. Greg Myre is the international editor for NPR.org.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)