World and Nation

Shorts (right)

Hedge Funds See Opportunity in Chinese Surveillance Companies

Li Runsen, the powerful technology director of China’s ministry of public security, is best known for leading Project Golden Shield, China’s intensive effort to strengthen police control over the Internet.

But last month Li took an additional title: director for China Security and Surveillance Technology, a fast-growing company that installs and sometimes operates surveillance systems for Chinese police agencies, jails and banks, among other customers. The company has just been approved for a listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company’s listing and Li’s membership on its board are just the latest signs of ever-closer ties among Wall Street, surveillance companies and the Chinese government’s security apparatus.

Wall Street analysts now follow the growth of companies that install surveillance systems providing Chinese police stations with 24-hour video feeds from nearby Internet cafes. Hedge fund money has paid for the development of not just better video cameras, but face-recognition software and even newer behavior-recognition software.

Now, the growing ties between China’s surveillance sector and American capital markets are starting to draw Washington’s attention.

Death Sentence Is Upheld, Though Jury Checked Bible

The federal appeals court in San Francisco on Monday upheld a death sentence from a jury that had consulted the Bible’s teachings on capital punishment.

In a second decision on the role of religion in the criminal justice system, the same court ruled Friday that requiring a former prisoner on parole to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous violated the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion.

In the capital case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals split 9-6 on the question of whether notes, including Bible verses prepared by the jury’s foreman and used during sentencing deliberations, required reversal of the death sentence imposed on Stevie L. Fields in 1979.

Fields, on parole after serving time for manslaughter, committed a series of rapes, kidnappings and robberies, and murdered Rosemary Cobbs, a student librarian at the University of Southern California.

After the jury convicted Fields and while it was deliberating his sentence, the foreman, Rodney White, conducted outside research, consulting several reference works and preparing a list of pros and cons on the death penalty that he shared with fellow jurors. On the pro side, he quoted passages from the Bible, including this one from Exodus: “He that smiteth a man, so that he dies, shall surely be put to death.”

FAA Urges Pilots to Use A Digital Transmitter

The type of beacon on the plane flown by Steve Fossett, the millionaire adventurer, when he disappeared last week, emits false signals 98 percent of the time, the Federal Aviation Administration has concluded.

As a result, after Feb. 1, 2009, the FAA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will no longer monitor signals from these devices, the agencies said in a memorandum issued on Friday.

The devices, known as electronic locator transmitters, or ELTs, have been standard in aircraft for decades, but the agencies have concluded that the older models, which operate at a frequency of 121.5 megahertz, are antiquated and unreliable. Furthermore, the analog frequency that the beacons use is often trespassed accidentally by radio signals emitted by other devices, including some stadium scoreboards and video arcade equipment, said Lt. Jeffrey Shoup of NOAA.

The authorities have not picked up any signals from Fossett’s plane, which vanished on Sept. 3 in northern Nevada.

After February 2009, planes with old ELTs will have to rely on their distress signals being picked up by planes flying overhead, rather than by the satellites that monitor such signals.

The FAA is urging — but not requiring — plane owners to switch to the digital transmitters that emit a signal 20 times stronger at 406 MHz, to be spotted by satellites. The newer ELTs transmit identification numbers that the authorities know and can use to quickly contact the owners to determine if there is a real distress.

Road Accident in Mexico Kills 37 in Huge Explosion

At least 37 people were killed and scores injured late Sunday night when a truck carrying explosives blew up after crashing into a pickup truck and catching fire, state and federal authorities said.

The victims included three local reporters, four paramedics, three police officers and more than a score of residents of the nearby village of Celamania. All were looking at the burning wreckage of the two vehicles when an enormous explosion ripped them apart and left a crater 15 feet deep and 60 feet across, officials said.

“The tractor-trailer turned over and started to burn,” Jesus Torres Charles, the Coahuila State attorney general, explained in a radio interview. “When rescuers arrived, along with a local police unit and three local reporters, the explosion occurred.”

Fausto Destenave Kuri, the state secretary of public security, said in a separate radio interview that the truck had been carrying more than 50,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, an explosive used in the mining industry. The driver was trucking the explosive from the town of Cuatro Cienegas toward the border to deliver it to a company identified as Takata, the federal police said.

Later in the day, Takata put out a statement denying the shipment was theirs.