LOS ANGELES — Police chases in Los Angeles County are “causing unnecessary bystander injuries and deaths” and most pursuits are launched in response to relatively minor crimes, according to a new grand jury report.

The grand jury said local agency rules on police chases should take into account the likelihood of a dangerous collision compared with the chances of catching a suspect.

Two-thirds of the 421 pursuits that took place in the 12-month period beginning in October 2015 resulted in a suspect’s capture, the grand jury’s report said. About 17 percent of pursuits resulted in a collision.

Over the same period, three fleeing drivers were killed and 45 people were injured, including suspects, their passengers or officers, the report said. That put the rate of injury or death at 11 percent.

“Is this the best balance that can be realized between law enforcement goals and the risk of unintended consequences?” the grand jury report asked.

—Los Angeles Times


Cook County’s soda tax hold extended until July 21 hearing

CHICAGO — A judge on Tuesday extended the temporary hold on implementing Cook County’s penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages until at least July 21.

That’s when Circuit Judge Daniel Kubasiak will hold a postponed hearing in a lawsuit brought by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association seeking to block the tax.

The temporary restraining order was set to run through Wednesday, but a scheduled hearing was pushed back in the wake of a motion by the Cook County Department of Revenue to dismiss the lawsuit.

“We believe it’s the county’s attempt to both try to bleed us and buy more time to try their PR campaign that the sky is falling,” Rob Karr, merchants association president, said Tuesday.

County spokesman Frank Shuftan wrote in an email Tuesday that the extension was by “mutual agreement” with the association.

The temporary restraining order, issued June 30, was upheld Monday by an Illinois appellate court.

The tax on soda and other sweetened beverages was supposed to go into effect July 1.

Cook County had projected about $67.5 million in revenue from the tax this year and more than $200 million for fiscal year 2018.

—Chicago Tribune


Energy Department must improve its cyber defenses, House appropriators say

WASHINGTON — The Department of Energy is the lead agency for combating cyber threats to the electric grid, but House appropriators are expressing concern that it is not doing enough to prevent hacking of its own operations, according to the House Appropriations’ full committee report on its fiscal 2018 Energy-Water spending bill.

The committee’s $37.6 billion draft bill would direct DOE, within 180 days of enactment, to create a cybersecurity implementation plan with the aim of strengthening DOE’s “cyber posture,” according to the report released Tuesday.

“The Committee is concerned that the Department has not been effectively addressing cyber threats to its enterprise,” the appropriators said in the report. “The Department developed a cyber strategy in December 2015, but failed to create an implementation plan to carry out its policy, which creates uncertainty throughout the enterprise on how to properly deal with cyber threats and safeguard the Department’s assets.”

With a wide-ranging portfolio including advanced nuclear energy research and development and management of the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile, the department’s work involves sensitive nuclear secrets that could be prime targets for cyber attacks.

On top of the implementation plan, the report would direct DOE to consolidate its cybersecurity efforts for the department under the Office of the Chief Information Officer, which would then disperse “not less than” $69 million for activities to protect against cyber attacks and secure information.

The committee’s cyber interest comes as federal agencies, including DOE, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, investigate the potential hack of nuclear plants and power plant system manufacturers that has raised congressional eyebrows. Media reports indicated that Russian backed hacking groups may be the lead suspect in last week’s reported cyber attack.

—CQ-Roll Call


State Department: Syria cease-fire largely holding

WASHINGTON — The cease-fire in southwestern Syria has largely been holding, the U.S. State Department said in Washington Tuesday.

“We are a little over two days into the cease-fire in that part of Syria. We’re pleased with that,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

“We think it’s holding fairly well at this point. In terms of who is doing what, when, where, how, some of those details are still being worked out,” she added.

This is to be worked out in the coming days between Russia, Jordan and the U.S.

Brokered by the United States and Russia, the partial cease-fire went into effect Sunday.


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