Nation roundup for October 7


L.A. students use iPads for games

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Education officials in the nation’s second-largest school district are working to reboot a $1 billion plan to put an iPad in the hands of each of their 650,000 students after an embarrassing glitch emerged when the first round of tablets went out.

Instead of solving math problems or doing English homework, as administrators envisioned, more than 300 Los Angeles Unified School District students promptly cracked the security settings and started tweeting, posting to Facebook and playing video games.

“‘Temple Run.’ ‘Subway Surfing.’ Oh, and some car racing game I can’t remember the name of,” said freshman Stephany Romero, laughing as she described the games she saw fellow Roosevelt High School students playing in class last week.

That incident, and related problems, had both critics and supporters questioning this week whether LAUSD officials were being hasty or overreaching in their attempt to distribute an iPad to every student and teacher at the district’s more than 1,000 campuses by next year.

“It doesn’t seem like there was much planning that went into this strategy,” said Renee Hobbs, director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island. “That’s where the debacle began.”

It’s crucial, she said, to spend extensive time drawing students into a discussion on using iPads responsibly before handing them out. And, of course, installing a firewall that can’t be easily breached.

Cop present at violent bike rally

NEW YORK (AP) — Authorities are investigating whether an undercover police officer present at a motorcycle rally witnessed a violent confrontation between an SUV driver and a swarm of bikers and didn’t immediately report it, a law enforcement official said Saturday.

The officer came forward several days after the Sept. 29 rally to say he was present, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The officer has an attorney, and internal affairs detectives are trying to determine whether he witnessed the assault on the SUV driver, the official said.

New York Police Department spokesman John McCarthy said a detective had been stripped of his gun and badge pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.

McCarthy said internal affairs was investigating the case and looking into whether any off-duty officers may have been present. Undercover officers are required to immediately report being a witness to a crime. Uniformed officers are required to take police action if they see a crime occurring, but the rules are murkier for undercover officers who face blowing their cover, confusing civilians who don’t realize the undercover is really a cop and ruining yearslong investigations.

Cleveland police force beleagured

CLEVELAND (AP) — It hasn’t been a good year for the Cleveland Police Department.

A county prosecutor is investigating a deadly chase in November that involved more than 60 squad cars and ended with 137 shots fired by 13 officers at two unarmed black people. The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing years of excessive force claims.

And a growing list of complaints about the handling of missing person cases and rape investigations culminated with the escape of three women who had been held captive and raped for more than a decade. They were freed not because police cracked the case, but because one victim kicked out a door and yelled to neighbors for help.

The turmoil has hurt police morale, invigorated a mayoral campaign and led to frank discussions about the divide between the majority black residents of one of the nation’s poorest cities and a police department critics say is too quick to use force in some cases and lackadaisical in other respects.

The cases have harmed the police department’s standing in the eyes of residents, mayoral spokeswoman Maureen Harper said in a recent video presentation in Columbus on handling public information issues.

Turkeys gone wild, hunting expanded

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Once nearly wiped out of existence, turkeys are running wild.

Buoyed by what’s been called the most successful wildlife restoration project ever, wild turkeys are eating crops, ruining gardens, crashing into cars and motorcycles and even smashing through suburban windows.

The unprecedented population spike prompted Maine to expand its turkey-hunting rules, creating a bounty for bird hunters. The fall turkey hunting season began Thursday.

Nonexistent in Maine 26 years ago, the turkey population has increased to an estimated 60,000 birds. The growth in Maine mirrors what’s been happening across North America, with the numbers climbing from about 1 million to 7 million birds in the past 30 years.

Government casts a spell on Salem

SALEM, Mass. (AP) — The partial federal government shutdown is riling witches and visitors alike in the Massachusetts city that held the notorious witch trials of 1692, where officials have lined up dozens of volunteers and some portable toilets to replace services lost when the National Park Service closed its visitor center.

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said Friday the timing of the shutdown couldn’t be worse for the city that sees a quarter of its annual visitors during October’s “Haunted Happenings.” The monthlong event — featuring daily Halloween trick-or-treats, a psychic fair and witchcraft expo as well as numerous special events — generates $30 million for the city.

The government shutdown, however, has forced the National Park Service to close its Salem visitor center. The facility provides information on national maritime historic sites and other local attractions and has public restrooms.

“People have stepped up, we got a makeshift visitor center set up, we brought in portable toilets, so anyone needing information isn’t gonna be lost,” Driscoll said.

Nancy Ryan of Manhattan, Ill., says the shutdown is affecting her trip in “in a very bad way” since visitors have to use port-a-potties set up outside the shuttered visitor center.

She said she hopes members of Congress have to come to Salem to use the port-a-potties “because that’s where they belong.”

Verna Hahn from Kelowna, in the British Columbia province of Canada, was grateful that volunteers with deep knowledge of Salem had stepped up to provide information to visitors. Without their help, she said, the trip “would have been awful.”

“This is once-in-a-lifetime we are going to be here. We are not coming back, so it’s a lot of dollars the city is going to be losing if we are not here, spending our money and that . is a snowball effect” on the local economy,” Hahn said.

Christian Day, one of Salem’s better known warlocks, said he shares everyone’s frustration with the impasse that has shut down a range of government programs.

“If this shutdown doesn’t end soon, the Salem witches may have to get together and do a little magic to push it along,” said Day, who despite the events 300 years earlier had just cast a spell to bring prosperity to the town.

 

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