The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will spend the four days leading up to the Boston Marathon conducting a helicopter-based survey to measure naturally occurring background radiation in a ten square mile area west of downtown Boston. The measurements are being taken to "establish baseline levels [which] is a normal part of security and emergency preparedness", especially before large public events such as the marathon. A similar survey was conducted in northern New Jersey and New York City before the Superbowl in January.
The NNSA made the announcement to alert residents who may be alarmed by the low-flying aircraft. The twin-engine helicopter out of the military's Joint Base Andrews in Maryland will fly a grid pattern as low as 150 feet above the ground at 80 miles per hour, though only during daylight hours.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2006 reported "significant benefits" to such surveys in the event of nuclear terrorism:
There are significant benefits to conducting aerial background radiation surveys of U.S. cities. Specifically, the surveys can be used to compare changes in radiation levels to (1) help detect radiological threats in U.S. cities more quickly and (2) measure contamination levels after a radiological attack to assist in and reduce the costs of cleanup efforts.
At the time of the 2006 report, New York City was the only major U.S. city to have conducted a full survey of the entire city, which was done in 2005 at a cost of $800,000.
Washington, D.C. was the site of a 70 square mile, two-week survey in the weeks before President Obama's second inauguration in January 2013.
The NNSA also deployed a team of 33 experts to Japan in 2011 to measure and monitor radiation levels around Fukushima following the tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster at the power plant in that city.
On Wednesday, the House Homeland Security Committee released a report summarizing its investigation into the April 15, 2013, terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon. Among the report’s key findings: Nearly one year after twin backpack bombs killed three people and wounded more than 260 others, U.S. officials are still unsure about the extent of the terrorists’ foreign ties.
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of the men accused of bombing the Boston Marathon in April, isn't winning any fans among the victims of her sons' crimes. The Boston Herald reports that one of those victims, who was hospitalized for weeks after the bombings, says Tsarnaeva's pro-jihad comments are "vile." Here's the story from the Herald:
The reaction of most Americans to the tragedy in Boston was typical: We came together as a nation, mourned our fallen, and applauded our newest heroes. The sight of first-responders running to the sound of danger within mere seconds of the explosions, not away from disaster as human instinct might dictate, was nothing short of exceptional—but also characteristically American. Indeed, for 237 years, Americans have risked all to help their fellow citizens, strangers, and foreigners equally.
Law enforcement officials are carefully reexamining any possible role that Katherine Russell Tsarnaeva, the wife of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, played in the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, according to three federal officials with knowledge of the investigation. The intense scrutiny comes as a result of information provided by Dzokhar Tsarnaev in his on-again, off-again interrogation by FBI officials before he was read his rights by a federal magistrate.
Vice President Joe Biden made a joke today at the memorial service for slain MIT police officer Sean Collier:
"One of my favorite poets is Seamus Heaney," said Biden, who is of Irish descent. "I know the congressman thinks I always quote Irish poets because I'm Irish. That's not the reason I do it. I quote Irish poets because they're the best poets and that's the reason why," Biden deadpanned. "And the Collier family knows that, right?"