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Archive for December, 2012

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Teachers with guns?!?


In the small rural Harrold Independent School District in northwest Texas, some teachers are allowed to be armed with guns — a controversial policy that advocates believe may prevent shooting rampages like the one in Newtown, Conn., and has gained traction among other U.S. lawmakers.

Superintendent David Thweatt created the so-called Guardian Plan about four years ago in response to the 2006 shooting in an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania and to the Virginia Tech shooting spree of 2007. Teachers in this school district, who have undergone gun handling training and who have been approved by the school board, are given permission to carry concealed weapons.

“We’re 18 miles and 30 minutes from the nearest police station,” Thweatt told FoxNews.com. “So we are our first responders.

“If something happened here, we would have to protect our children. You know, police officers are true, everyday heroes in my book, but one of them once told me something very revealing. He said, ‘Ninety-five percent of the time, we get to the scene late.’ I can’t afford to let that happen.”

In the wake of the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Friday, the idea of arming teachers appears to be gaining political momentum in some states. Though it’s not without considerable push-back.

Just prior to the Newtown shooting, Michigan state senators voted to allow people with concealed carry permits, including teachers, to bring their weapons onto school property.

But the American Federation of Teachers is fighting back, trying to get the Michigan governor to veto the new law.”Firearms have absolutely no place in our schools — the Dec. 14, 2012, tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is a chilling and heartbreaking reminder of this,” AFT president Randi Weingarten and his Michigan counterpart, David Heckler, wrote Gov. Rick Snyder, according to the Washington Examiner.

“Permitting firearms in schools — visible or concealed — enables a dangerous set of circumstances that can result in similar tragic outcomes,” the two men wrote.

Still, this is not a debate that looks to be dying down.

Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert told Fox News over the weekend that he wished the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal, who was reportedly killed after confronting the shooter, had an assault rifle in her office “locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out … she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.”

Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Tony Cornish, a former police chief from southern Minnesota, has said he plans to push legislation permitting teachers to have concealed weapons in schools.

South Dakota legislator Betty Olso is drafting a bill that would allow teachers, administrators and even janitors to bring guns to school.Two Oklahoma lawmakers, state Senator Ralph Shortey and state Representative Mark McCullough are pursuing similar legislation.Shortey told CBC News that he’s amazed more situations similar to the Connecticut school shooting don’t occur more often.

“If you’re a crazy person that wants to inflict the greatest amount of havoc with the greatest amount of media attention then their first choice should be a school,” he said.

“You’re guaranteed the most innocent are going to be there so you’re going to get the media attention you desire. You’re also going to guarantee that there’s going to be no security, no protection, because you’re guaranteed a gun-free zone.”

Under his proposal, teachers would have to pass a background check, a certified firearms instruction program and be proficient with basic training in order to qualify to have a concealed weapon on school property, he said.

He added that has received considerable feedback from teachers — both from those who said they would like a gun to protect themselves and their students and from those who said they would never have a firearm at school.

Not surprisingly, gun-control advocates have slammed the idea. Dan Gross, president of the Brady campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has said the idea of arming teachers is “insane” and that having additional weapons at the scenes of mass shootings in recent years would have resulted in even “more carnage.”

“Think about what that’s saying,” he said of plans like Shortey’s. “It’s saying the only answer to violence is more violence. The only answer to guns is more guns,” Gross said.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was one of the first to urge President Barack Obama to press for a weapons ban, has particularly strong words for Louie Gohmert’s suggestion about having an assault rifle at the ready in the principal’s office. “You know, there are people who say dumb things and then there are people who say stupid things,” Bloomberg said.

Even Gary Kleck, the noted Florida State University criminologist who argues that defensive gun use is an effective deterrent, said arming teachers goes too far.

“Notwithstanding these massacres, schools remain one of the safest places you can possibly be, safer than your own home,” he told CBC News. “We don’t really know the effects gun-toting teachers would have on children, so personally I think this is a pretty wacky idea.”

While Shortey acknowledged that a mass-shooting rampage occurring on a school campus is remote, he said it’s better to be prepared.

“If a person wants to do bad, they’re going to find a firearm or a knife or whatever and they’re going to go and do harm,” he said. “This proposal, you fight fire with fire.”

He added, “some 99.999 per cent of the schools are not going to be affected. But that one that is, then at least one teacher, one administrator, one secretary will have a firearm ready to respond.”

Shortey also downplayed the risk that a student could get caught in the potential crossfire, saying that doing nothing during a shooting is a worse option.

“There’s never a situation where a 30-second shootout between an armed assailant and a legally law-abiding armed citizen is worse than the armed assailant having free reign for five to six minutes.

As for the possibility that a student might get his hands on a teacher’s gun and cause harm to either himself, staff or other students, Shortey said he believes teachers would be responsible in locking their weapons away in a safe place.

“The kids won’t even know if there’s a gun in the classroom, and it’ll be locked in a way so the kids can’t get to it,” he said.

“We trust our teachers with the very lives of our children. If we can’t trust a teacher with a gun, why should we even trust a teacher with our kids.”

…..from the Huffington Post

 

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Jason Rehel | Dec 12, 2012 11:18 AM ET
More from Jason Rehel | @culturejunky

Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Johannes Simon/Getty ImagesBeer might help might off a virus that causes pneumonia and bronchitis in children and cold-like symptoms in adults, but you’d have to drink a ton of it, since the active anti-viral compound is in the hops.

It’s what everyone wants to hear, especially this time of year: Beer, in large quantities, is good for you.

Well, sort of.

New research being trumpeted by Sapporo Breweries of Japan — who also own Guelph, Ont.’s Sleeman Breweries and a stake in The Beer Store half of that province’s liquor oligopoly — says beer with high quantities of hops (the good stuff, in our humble opinions) may have anti-viral powers. Whoa!

According to scientists at Sapporo Medical University, a compound called humulone helps guard against a virus that’s the root cause of serious ailments of the respiratory tract in children, such as pneumonia and bronchitis in youngsters, and common cold-like symptoms in adults.

Now, we’re the first ones often looking for a way to justify an extra brew, but we’d be remiss here if we didn’t take this pint of news with just a few grains of salt. After all, it wasn’t long ago that women were told beer could help guard against osteoporosis, by adding silicon to their diets, while men were even more recently informed that their beer guts could have the opposite effect. Dosage, it would seem, is what matters most. And too much of a good thing is too much.

So what does that mean for the Sapporo study?

Well, one thing is sure: under the current terms of their discovery of humulone’s properties, it would be hard to have your beer in a healthy quantity, and your positive health effects of hops, too. To wit:

Jun Fuchimoto, a researcher from Sapporo, said such small quantities of humulone were present in beer that someone would have to drink around 30 cans, each of 350 millilitres (12 oz), for it to have any virus-fighting effect.

We’re not dietitians, but it does sound a bit like the cure might have it’s own set of problems. Perhaps the solution are more super-hopped double IPAs?

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Controversial union-weakening ‘right-to-work’ laws could soon come to Canada

Terry Pedwell, Canadian Press | Dec 12, 2012 10:34 AM ET | Last Updated:Dec 12, 2012 11:31 AM ET
More from Canadian Press

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Bill Pugliano/Getty Imagesnion members from around the country rally at the Michigan State Capitol to protest a vote on Right-to-Work legislation December 11, 2012 in Lansing, Michigan.
OTTAWA — The federal opposition parties are warning that so-called “right-to-work” legislation that has passed in Michigan could soon come to Canada.

Thousands of people in that state protested Tuesday as the first of two laws designed to weaken union power passed in Michigan’s Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

Opponents of the law, including U.S. President Barack Obama, say the law only gives workers the right to work for less pay.

Unions already provide this information to their members through financial audits, reports, and regular membership meetings

As 1 of 24 states with right-to-work laws, Michigan will prohibit requiring nonunion employees to pay unions for negotiating contracts, representing them in grievances and other services.

Supporters say the laws give workers freedom of association and promote job creation, while critics insist the real intent is to drain unions of funds need to bargain effectively.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian WyldParliamentary Secretary Pierre Poilievre rises during question period in the House of Commons Monday December 10, 2012 in Ottawa.

Ottawa-area Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre has already been calling for new rules allowing union members to opt out of paying dues.

The proposal is similar to the legislation adopted in Michigan and 23 other states south of the border — as well as a private members bill proposed earlier this year by Conservative backbencher Russ Heibert.

His financial transparency bill, which was debated Tuesday in the House of Commons and will likely go to a final vote Wednesday, would require unions to disclose how much money they spend on political activities.

Critics say it would also create mountains of paperwork for the unions and almost anyone doing business with them, forcing them to file reports including “the percentage of time dedicated to political activities.”

Labour groups say it’s simply a power grab.

The Conservatives want their corporate friends to have access to this information so that they can undermine unions

“Unions already provide this information to their members through financial audits, reports, and regular membership meetings,” says the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

“The Conservatives want their corporate friends to have access to this information so that they can undermine unions.”

Government of Canada

Government of CanadaConservative backbencher Russ Heibert has proposed a financial transparency bill requiring unions to disclose how much money they spend on political activities.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said similar laws are already in effect in other parts of the world, including the U.K. and Australia.

“It really is for the workers to have a good understanding how their money is being spent, so they can make informed decisions on how they vote in the people that represent them,” Raitt said.

“It’s a fundamental part of having rights.”

Even if Heibert’s bill doesn’t pass, the Michigan law is likely to eventually have a ripple effect on other jurisdictions, including Canada, said New Democrat labour critic Alexandre Boulerice.

“This will have a huge impact on Michigan workers first,” said Boulerice.

“And after that on all the union movement in North America.”

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae warned that the Rand formula could be next to come under attack in Canada.

The formula, adopted in the 1940s, makes the payment of trade union dues mandatory in unionized workplaces, regardless of a worker’s union status.

“This is about going after, and it’s about harassing, trade unions,” said Rae.

Poilievre has said he’s heard directly from public servants who are not happy with how one of the country’s biggest civil service unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, manages its union dues.

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Here’s some thinking outside the box.  The Conservatives have scrapped the controversial and very expensive F-35 fighter jet procurement and are back to the drawing board for something to replace the  F-18.  Why not consider buying a jet from the Russians?  Instead of listing the Sukhov (see article below) as a potential adversary, how about considering it as our next fighter jet?  The cold war ended long ago.  We (and the USA) are not involved in any field combat with the Russians nor is that likely to ever happen, at least in the near future.  I mean, Germany was a mortal enemy not so long ago and look at our cozy relationship with them now.  Seems to me that Russia is done with Communism and is well on the way to being an even more capitalistic society than Canada or the USA.  I’ll bet Russia would jump at the opportunity to provide us with a new jet fighter, and at far less cost than proposed by our good neighbors to the south.  Let’s focus on the real enemies like North Korea.  Just saying folks, it’s an idea worth considering.

 

F-35s scrapped by Conservatives as audit puts true cost past $30-billion

Michael Den Tandt | Dec 6, 2012 7:13 PM ET | Last Updated: Dec 7, 2012 9:36 AM ET

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press“Where is the eject button?” Defence Minister Peter MacKay checks out the cockpit of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter following the July 16, 2010 announcement that Canada would be purchasing a number of them.

The F-35 jet fighter purchase, the most persistent thorn in the Harper government’s side and the subject of a devastating auditor-general’s report last spring, is dead.

Faced with the imminent release of an audit by accountants KPMG that will push the total projected life-cycle costs of the aircraft above $30-billion, the operations committee of cabinet decided Tuesday evening to scrap the controversial sole-source program and go back to the drawing board, a source familiar with the decision said.

This occurred after Chief of the Defence Staff Thomas Lawson, while en route overseas, was called back urgently to appear before the committee, the source said.

The decision is sure to have ripple effects around the world, as any reduction in the number of aircraft on order causes the price to go up for all the other buyers. Canada is one of nine F-35 consortium members, including the United States.

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Defence Minister Peter MacKay is not a member of the cabinet operations committee. It remains unclear whether he was present at the meeting Tuesday. However, MacKay is a member of the cabinet Priorities and Planning committee, which is to discuss the F-35 decision Friday morning.

The F-18s currently flown by the RCAF are at the tail end of their life cycle and are not expected to be operable much beyond 2020, at the outside.

The fighter procurement process has been the responsibility of Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose since last spring, following Ferguson’s audit. It is understood that veteran senior bureaucrat Tom Ring, who handled the government’s much-praised ship-building contract process in the fall of 2011, is now steering the reframed fighter replacement process, from within Public Works.

Last spring, Auditor-General Michael Ferguson ignited a political firestorm when he reported that the top-line cost cited by the Conservatives in the 2011 election campaign – $9-billion for 65 planes, or $15-billion including maintenance and other life-cycle costs – was $10-billion below the Defence department’s internal estimate.

Even the internal figure of $25.1-billion was suspect, critics said, because it assumed a 20-year life cycle. The longevity of the Lockheed-Martin-built aircraft, according to the Pentagon, is 36 years.

KPMG’s audit, due out next week, has confirmed the contention, long made by critics such as former assistant deputy minister (materiel) Alan Williams, that the F-35 program’s real cost would be much higher than any previously stated government estimate, sources say.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page predicted a cost of $30-billion over a 30-year life cycle.

LOCKHEED MARTIN

LOCKHEED MARTINAn F35 during midair refuelling.

Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, who took on the F-35 file after Ferguson’s audit, has been signaling since last spring that she was unhappy with the procurement process. On Nov. 22 in the House, Ambrose said the government is committed to “a full evaluation of all choices, not simply a refresh.”

Gen. Lawson, in an appearance before the House of Commons Defence committee Nov. 29, further opened the door when he confirmed what industry critics have long said; the F-35 is not the only modern fighter with measures to evade radar, though it is considered to be the most advanced in this respect. “Is there only one airplane that can meet the standard of stealth that’s set out in the statement of requirements?” Liberal defence critic John McKay asked. Lawson’s answer: “No.”

The F-35’s unique stealthiness had long been advanced as the single most compelling argument for buying that plane.

Also in the mix, former Industry Minister David Emerson last week published a report on the aerospace and space sectors, calling on Ottawa to more aggressively press for Industrial and Regional Benefits (IRBs) and In-Service Support (ISS) contracts when inking procurement deals. Lockheed-Martin has in the past been reluctant to hand over its proprietary technology to clients. Industry insiders believe the Emerson report added impetus to the decision to start over.

Boeing’s Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, Saab’s Gripen, the Eurofighter Typhoon , and the F-35, are seen as the leading contenders in any new contest to replace the F-18 fleet.

 

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You have to wonder how serious Israel is about ever co-existing with Palestine.   They are like the thief and bully who won’t return your lunch money.

No peace deal without new Israeli settlements, Netanyahu says

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty ImagesIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press conference with German chancellor at the Chancellery in Berlin, on December 6, 2012. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was holding tense talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday as plans to build thousands of new settler homes on occupied Palestinian land strained ties with key allies.

Israel’s prime minister brushed off international uproar over a planned new settlement project near Jerusalem, claiming Thursday that Israel will keep the area under any future peace deal in any case.

Israel’s plans to build 3,000 new settler homes in the corridor east of Jerusalem triggered sharp criticism in Europe — including from Germany, traditionally one of Israel’s most stalwart allies. The move came after the UN General Assembly voted to support a Palestinian statehood bid — with Germany abstaining rather than voting against.

Netanyahu’s tough comments were the latest sign that he has no plans to step back from his plans to develop the area. On Wednesday, initial plans for the project were unveiled, though officials stressed it could be years before construction actually begins.

E1

National Post GraphicsClick to enlarge

German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared anxious to downplay tensions between the two countries, saying after meeting Netanyahu that, as far as Israeli settlements on land that the Palestinians want for a future state are concerned, “we agree that we do not agree.”

Palestinians say building settler homes in the so-called E1 corridor would make it impossible for them to establish a viable state in the West Bank.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said it “is a red line, and there will be no solution in the presence of this project.”

“After the decision of the UN General Assembly, every centimetre in Jerusalem and the West Bank is Palestinian land, and every Israeli settlement is illegal,” he said.

Netanyahu offered no indication that his government might be prepared to backtrack. The contentious corridor is small, he told reporters, and “successive governments from Yitzhak Rabin on down to my predecessor, Mr. [Ehud] Olmert, have also said this would be incorporated in a final peace treaty.”

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty ImagesIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a joint press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, on December 6, 2012.

Olmert wanted to keep the corridor under Israeli control under a final peace deal, but reportedly opposed any development of the area before a peace agreement is reached. A spokesman for Olmert did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The Palestinians note that no agreements were ever reached.

The area could sever parts of the West Bank from east Jerusalem, their hoped-for capital. Linked to an existing bloc of settlements, the sprawling area would also drive a deep wedge between the northern and southern flanks of the West Bank, greatly hindering movement.

The unusually tense build-up to Netanyahu’s long-planned trip to Germany, one of Israel’s closest allies in Europe, reflected the increasing displeasure in Europe at his government’s seeming intransigence, particularly over Jewish settlements on lands the Palestinians want for a future state.

Six friendly European countries summoned the local Israeli ambassadors to file protests, and the U.S. has condemned the latest settlement plans. On Wednesday, the Palestinians asked the UN Security Council to call on Israel to halt the planned construction.

In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt published on Wednesday, Netanyahu said that he “was disappointed, as were many people in Israel, by the German vote in the UN” on Palestinian statehood.

“I took note of this,” Merkel said at the two leaders’ joint news conference at which she stressed anew Germany’s commitment to Israel’s security.

“We did not take the vote, and our position, lightly,” Merkel said. “We are against unilateral measures, so we didn’t vote yes — that was very carefully considered. On the other hand, there is a certain amount of movement on the recognition of two states, which at many points in time we didn’t have with the Palestinians.”

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Uriel Sinai/Getty ImagesNew housing under construction on December 4, 2012 in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel. Israel plans to build 3,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, , a move that has prompted wide-spread, international objections.

Netanyahu stressed that despite the vote, Germany and other European countries have been among Israel’s strongest allies and remain committed to helping ensure its security.

“I don’t think that we lost Europe,” he said of the vote.

Canada and the United States, both staunch allies of Israel’s who voted against the controversial Palestinian statehood bid at the UN, have also condemned Israel’s construction plans.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Wednesday that Israel’s plan to build new settlements on territory claimed by the Palestinians is not helping the cause of peace in the Middle East, making his first public statement on the matter in the House of Commons.

The Harper government has been criticized for staying virtually silent on the Israeli move, beyond a generic statement that unilateral moves by either side were not good for the prospects of peace.

John Baird

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian WyldForeign Affairs Minister John Baird responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 4, 2012 in Ottawa.

Baird reiterated the government’s heavy criticism of the Palestinian statehood bid during question period when he was asked about the settlements by the Bloc Quebecois.

But he emphasized that neither the UN vote nor the settlement announcement is helpful.

“We have been a strong supporter of economic development and security relations in the West Bank through our humanitarian and foreign aid developments, with respect to the Palestinian Authority,” said Baird.

“However, the PA’s action and provocative rhetoric at the United Nations would obviously elicit a response from Israel. Neither is helpful to advance the cause of peace and we do not support either.”

Baird was responding to a question by Bloc Quebecois MP Jean-Francois Fortin, who called for “a more balanced position” and from Canada.

“Even Israel’s allies are denouncing this renewed colonization,” said Fortin.

The exchange marked the first time the government was questioned in the Commons on Israel’s new settlement announcement, which came a day after the UN recognized the state of Palestine as a non-member observer.

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Uriel Sinai/Getty ImagesA general view of the Jewish settlement on December 4, 2012 in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian relations continued to deteriorate Wednesday over the settlement dispute.

Israel continued to move forward with plans that would see the construction of 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The Palestinians were using their newfound status to push the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to stop Israel from “methodically and aggressively pushing ahead with this unlawful land grab and colonization of Palestine.”

The U.S. State Department condemned the “unhelpful rhetoric” of the Palestinians.

The U.S. would likely veto a Security Council resolution condemning Israel, and it has said it won’t tolerate the Palestinians taking Israel the International Criminal Court, something that is now an option with its increased UN recognition.

The U.S. also has expressed its opposition to the new Israeli settlement plan in a harsher-than-usual tone.

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