AIR TRANSportation
Knife policy to stand, TSA chief tells panel

The head of the Transportation Security Administration told lawmakers Thursday that he stands by his plan to allow passengers to carry small knives onto planes despite a growing backlash against the proposal.

It’s unlikely in these days of hardened cockpit doors and other preventive measures that the small folding knives could be used by terrorists to take over a plane, TSA Administrator John Pistole told a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee.

On the other hand, searching for the knives on passengers or in their carry-on bags is time consuming, Pistole said.

The policy, which goes into effect April 25, has sparked strong opposition from flight attendants, federal air marshals, pilot unions, aviation insurers and even some airline chief executives, who say the knives present security risks.

— Associated Press

Civil rights probe set for Cleveland police

The Justice Department said Thursday that it will open a wide-ranging civil rights investigation into the use of force by Cleveland’s police department, whose officers fired 137 shots at the end of a police chase last fall, killing two people who were likely unarmed.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said the investigation will look beyond the November car chase that involved more than 60 patrol cars and ended in the shootings of Timothy Russell, 43, and his 30-year-old passenger, Malissa Williams.

Perez said the probe will not be a criminal investigation; its focus is the entire department, not individual officers.

— Associated Press

Judge in Bulger trial is removed from case

The judge who was set to preside over the trial of reputed gangster James “Whitey” Bulger was removed from the case Thursday by a federal appeals court that found his background as a former federal prosecutor could create the appearance of bias.

In a significant victory for the defense, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled that U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns must step down from the case.

Stearns was a federal prosecutor in Boston in the 1980s when Bulger was working as an FBI informant while allegedly committing crimes.

Bulger claims that he received immunity for his crimes from Jeremiah O’Sullivan, another federal prosecutor who worked in the same office as Stearns.

The decision was written by retired U.S. Supreme Court justice David H. Souter, who sits on the federal appeals court in Boston for three months each year.

Bulger, the 83-year-old former leader of the Winter Hill Gang, is awaiting trial on charges of playing a role in 19 killings.

— Associated Press

Domino’s founder gets relief over health law: A judge in Detroit blocked the federal government on Thursday from requiring Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan and Domino’s Farms to provide mandatory contraception coverage to employees under the health-care law. Monaghan, a Roman Catholic, says he considers contraception “immoral.”

Colt sends workers to lobby: Dennis Veilleux, president of the Hartford, Conn.-based Colt’s Manufacturing, closed down the gun factory Thursday and bused 400 workers to the state Capitol to urge lawmakers not to pass gun-control legislation that they say could risk their livelihoods. The state is considering new laws in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 school shootings in Newtown.

N.Y. population grows: For the first time in 60 years, more people moved to New York City in 2012 than left it, swelling the city’s estimated population to an all-time high of 8,336,697, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday.

— From news services