Saturday, November 09, 2013

What Country Am I Living In?

Above image was taken from Google Images, but appeared in the December, 2013 issue of Guns & Ammo.

Hard to know how many people read about this in the paper, or heard about it on the news, but I was appalled when I read this story.  I understand that the magazine Guns & Ammo is owned by InterMedia Outdoors and they have control over what's published in their publications.  But firing employees like Dick Metcalf and Jim Bequette because of suggesting that there may be some common ground for gun advocates and gun control proponents is unconscionable.  Is this the old Russia where no dissident speech can be tolerated?

Dick Metcalf is an example to all Americans.  Stand up for what you believe.  Put your job on the line when you are faced with an issue so important that, literally, lives are at stake.  Hey!  Maybe elect Dick Metcalf to Congress!

Here's Joe Nocera's blog post about the Guns & Ammo-gate.

When a Gun Advocate Dissents
Published: November 8, 2013 in NY Times

It’s not as if Dick Metcalf was some kind of gun control fanatic.

On the contrary, he’s a gun guy through and through, such an unyielding defender of the Second Amendment that last year he led the charge to push through a law giving the residents of Pike County, Ill., where he lives, the right to carry concealed guns without a permit. He called the practice “constitutional carry” rather than “concealed carry.”

In the early 1980s, he and a handful of friends started a successful gun club, called the Pike Adams Sportsmen’s Alliance, which is located on Metcalf’s farm in Barry, Ill. A few years later, he played an important role in lobbying for the federal Firearm Owners Protection Act, which loosened many of the gun restrictions that had become law after the assassination of Robert Kennedy. A friend of his told me that Metcalf had even written some of the language in the bill.

Mostly, though, Metcalf, 67, was known as a writer for magazines owned by InterMedia Outdoors, a publisher of gun periodicals that include the industry bible, Guns & Ammo. He did videos on subjects like “Guns for Family Home Defense” and wrote articles with headlines like“Smith & Wesson’s 12 Most Important Guns.”

It is perfectly understandable, then, that the gun world might be a little taken aback by Metcalf’s opinion piece in the December issue of Guns & Ammo calling for some modest gun regulation. “I firmly believe that all U.S. citizens have a right to keep and bear arms,” he wrote, “but I do not believe that they have a right to use them irresponsibly.” The article went on to call for mandatory training for gun owners. That’s all. Such limited regulation, he argued, did not constitute an infringement on anyone’s constitutional rights.

When people like me read an article like that, it seems momentarily possible that gun advocates and gun control advocates might be able to find some common ground. Much in the way that many gun control activists have come to accept the legitimacy of the Second Amendment — something that hasn’t always been the case — here was a man on the other side of the divide saying that some sensible regulation didn’t necessarily lead down a “slippery slope” to confiscation. If we are ever to have a sane gun policy, we desperately need people from both camps to meet somewhere in the middle.
But when people like me see the reaction from gun advocates to Metcalf’s tame proposal, it all seems hopeless again. Robert Farago, who maintains a blog called The Truth About Guns, started the ball rolling by linking to — and denouncing — Metcalf’s “diatribe.” He went on to describe the article as a “bone-headed, uninformed, patently obvious misinterpretation of the Second Amendment.” Other bloggers piled on. On the Guns & Ammo Facebook page, subscribers demanded Metcalf’s head, even as they canceled their subscriptions.

Finally, according to a blog post Metcalf wrote, two major gun manufacturers told InterMedia Outdoors that they would pull all their advertising if something wasn’t done. That’s all it took. Within 24 hours, Metcalf was permanently banned from the company’s publications. And the longtime editor of Guns & Ammo, Jim Bequette, who was planning to retire at the end of the year, was pushed out as well.
Before departing, however, Bequette wrote a groveling apology, which ran on the magazine’s website. He described his decision to publish Metcalf’s article as “a mistake” and took pains to remind readers that Guns & Ammo had always been the hardest of hard-liners. “It is no accident that when others in the gun culture counseled compromise in the past, hard-core thinkers...found a place and a voice in these pages,” he wrote. With that, capitulation was complete.

If you want to understand why so few gun owners are willing to stand up to the National Rifle Association, even though the majority disagree with the N.R.A.’s most extreme positions, here was a vivid example. Straying from the party line leads to vilification and condemnation that would give anybody pause.

My guess is that Dick Metcalf always knew what he was in for — all the more reason writing his article took guts. In the aftermath, he was the only one who could still hold his head up high. On a blog called The Outdoor Wire, he wrote a lengthy response to his critics. He didn’t back down one iota. Describing himself as “disappointed” at the reaction to his article, he added, “If a respected editor can be forced to resign and a controversial writer’s voice be shut down by a one-sided social-media and Internet outcry, virtually overnight, simply because they dared to open a discussion or ask questions about a politically sensitive issue...then I fear for the future of our industry, and for our Cause.”

Maybe there’s hope yet.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Let's Fix the System

Let's have a poll:  what do you think is the biggest obstacle to getting any of these suggestions passed?  Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?

Joe Nocera's Blog
November 7, 2013, 5:18 pm
Fixing the System: Your Turn

In my last column I asked readers for their best ideas about how to fix the political and electoral system. Here’s a sampling of the responses. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Why not just make Election Day a holiday?
—Theodor Grossman

Provide free public transportation to polls. Increase “no pamphleting” radius around polling places.
—Victor Delclos

We can bank and pay our taxes online, why oh why can’t we build a system to safely vote online?
—Steve Lightner

The city of Albuquerque has computer voting. It allows residents to vote at any polling place in the city, be it near home, work or the shopping mall. This removes the main inconvenience of having elections on Tuesday.
—Caryl Baron

In the 1960s, Frank Stanton, the president of CBS for more than 25 years, proposed a 24-hour voting period. The polls would close simultaneously country-wide.
—Joel Azerrad

Limit the time for campaigning to eight weeks. This would allow politicians to focus on the work they were elected to do and decrease the amount of money spent campaigning.
—Jean Wilder

Confine radio, TV and Internet campaign ads to the candidates themselves speaking directly on-camera or on-air, stating their positions and policies. It would help to level the playing field for less well-financed candidates who lack the resources to buy the best advertising as opposed to having the best ideas.
—Will Stanton

What if during election season, every day a 30-minute prime time block was allocated to the candidates on a rotating basis across the major networks? No produced ads, just the candidate and a camera given the time to discuss what s/he finds most important?
—Brett Jones

Everyone must be registered to vote in order to receive any check from the government and in order to obtain a driver’s license or government-issued ID.
—William M. Pinzler

When a person turns 18, he or she should automatically become a registered voter.
—Thomas Kaercher

We really need a third party. More than ever, just watching these two parties function, appeasing the extreme elements of each, is why both parties have ceased to function. The new party could be those who are in the center. If allowed to flourish, it could be the largest of the three parties.
—Barry Ritter

One date for all the primaries. Why should Iowa and New Hampshire decide who will be the nominee while the “late” states are totally irrelevant?
—S. Freier

Make voting mandatory.
—Alvaro Rodriguez

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
100 percent public financing of campaigns with no contributions allowed from anybody. Campaign contributions are akin to corruption or bribery.
—Wilbur Miller

I believe that candidates should only be able to accept money from individuals who can vote for them in an election. No corporate or union money or PAC money.
—Jeff Levy

Nothing will make any difference until two things happen: Overturn Citizens United and restore majority rule.
—Lorin Duckman

To end gerrymandering, we should use ZIP codes. Each district should include a certain number of ZIP codes, depending on number of residents.
—Alberto Zonca

Make the popular vote the basis for the distribution of seats in Congress. Then, if the number of directly elected candidates of one party amounts to a higher percentage than the popular vote suggests it deserves, add additional seats from the other party to restore proportionality.
—Fritz Mueller

A period of 10 years should be mandated before a congressperson, high level staffer or cabinet member can apply for a job in the lobbying or influence-peddling industry.
—Eric Berger

End the electoral college. Nationwide popular vote instead. Right now only 10 “battleground states” even count at all. Why should anyone in the other states even bother to vote?
—S. Freier

Not term limits but non-consecutive terms. Seven years for senators, four years for congress, with the incumbent only running for re-election after sitting out the next election cycle. This precludes the perpetual electioneering that presently permeates the landscape.
—Stan Stoler

Term limits are a must. Eight years in the house and 12 in the senate. Stop the pension-for-life perk for senators and representatives. Do not allow members of the House and Senate to have a different health care plan than their constituents.
—Steven Kahn

I propose that we triple the number of congressmen/congresswomen and require that they live in their home districts. Voting can be done by teleconference. This combined with the elimination of gerrymandering will dilute the effect of money and encourage normal people to run for office.
—Matthew Gamache

Eliminate the Senate and make the President’s term eight years with no reelection. Have one legislative body which is truly representative of the people and regions.
—Tom Friedman

Many states make it very difficult for citizens to get their names on the ballot. Change that system so that a potential candidate does not require the support of a party and a phalanx of lawyers and experts just to get on the ballot, and we might start seeing more people running for office.
—David M. Harris

Mandate a rotating system for committee chairs in Congress. This would prevent representatives/senators with seniority from accumulating and wielding disproportionate power and influence and would open the avenues to move bills through the system.
—Gabriel E. Yankowitz

I would propose an age limit for Supreme Court justices rather than a term limit. Seventy would be old enough. We don’t need a bunch of doddering old fools interpreting national laws.
—Clark Landrum

Add four more seats to the Supreme Court, two nominated by each party. These and all confirmations require two-thirds approval. This will encourage more moderate nominees. Require a two-thirds vote for all Supreme Court decisions.
—Richard D. Hyman

For each level of government, all statements, claims and election attacks must be cleared by a nonpartisan fact checker. Purposefully misleading with false information is not public service.
—Jeremy Werner

Doctors and lawyers have to take and pass board exams. Why not politicians who seek election on a national level?
—Eric Berger

Every voter gets a lottery ticket, either from a state-run lottery or from a special “Vote!” lottery based on a small percent of the “get-out-the-vote” budget (or other scheme). This will encourage participation from people who ordinarily feel their vote doesn’t count or feel that voting is a waste of their time.
—Lee Rosner

A $100 refundable tax credit for donations. With 50 percent participation, this would raise $7 billion per year ($14 billion per federal election). That would completely swamp special-interest and billionaire money.
—Howard Frant

Have negative votes, not just the customary positive votes. In other words, voters could vote against a candidate, not just for a candidate. The number of negative votes would be subtracted from the number of positive votes. A candidate could theoretically receive a vote tally that is less than zero. This negative vote scheme would assume greatest significance in situations where there are more than two candidates.
—Michael N. Alexander

Eliminate voting altogether. However, continue fundraising. The one who raises the most money by Election Day wins. This eliminates the folly that the individual counts. And it may wake us up enough to do something about it.
—Fred Gerson

Thinking Outside the Box to Curb Gun Violence

This is such an important piece of news, but I doubt that you will see it on the 6 o'clock news in your city.  It's fair to say, I think, that all of the mass shootings that have taken place were committed by people who had previously had some contact with the mental health system.  It's also fair to say that some of them didn't get the treatment they needed because their insurance (if they had any) wouldn't pay for it.  Now that changes and mental illness will be treated no differently than appendicitis.  It's a lengthy article, but well worth your time reading it.

Rules to Require Equal Coverage for Mental Ills
Published: November 8, 2013 NY Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday will complete a generation-long effort to require insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses when it issues long-awaited regulations defining parity in benefits and treatment.

The rules, which will apply to almost all forms of insurance, will have far-reaching consequences for many Americans. In the White House, the regulations are also seen as critical to President Obama’s program for curbing gun violence by addressing an issue on which there is bipartisan agreement: Making treatment more available to those with mental illness could reduce killings, including mass murders.

In issuing the regulations, senior officials said, the administration will have acted on all 23 executive actions that the president and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced early this year to reduce gun crimes after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. In planning those actions, the administration anticipated that gun control legislation would fail in Congress as pressure from the gun lobby proved longer-lasting than the national trauma over the killings of first graders and their caretakers last Dec. 14.

“We feel actually like we’ve made a lot of progress on mental health as a result in this year, and this is kind of the big one,” said a senior administration official, one of several who described the outlines of the regulations that Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, will announce at a mental health conference on Friday in Atlanta with the former first lady Rosalynn Carter.

While laws and regulations dating to 1996 took initial steps in requiring insurance parity for medical and mental health, “here we’re doing full parity, and we’ve also taken steps to extend it to the people covered in the Affordable Care Act,” the senior official said. “This is kind of the final word on parity.”

With the announcement, the administration will make some news that is certain to be popular with many Americans at a time when Mr. Obama and Ms. Sebelius have been on the defensive for the bungled introduction of the insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act.
According to administration officials, the rule would ensure that health plans’ co-payments, deductibles and limits on visits to health care providers are not more restrictive or less generous for mental health benefits than for medical and surgical benefits. Significantly, the regulations would clarify how parity applies to residential treatments and outpatient services, where much of the care for people with addictions or mental illnesses occurs.

Any geographic or facility-type limitations would have to be comparable for medical and mental health benefits. For example, an administration official said, an insurer “can’t say you can only get substance-abuse treatment in state but you can go anywhere for medical/surgical.”

The regulations, which specifically put into effect the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, would affect most Americans with insurance — roughly 85 percent of the population — whether their policies are from employer plans, other group plans, or coverage purchased in the market for individual plans.

The final parity rules do not apply to health plans that manage care for millions of low-income people on Medicaid. However, the administration has previously issued guidance to state health officials saying that such plans should meet the parity requirements of the 2008 law.
The parity law does not apply to Medicare, according to Irvin L. Muszynski, a lawyer at the American Psychiatric Association.

The rules have been awaited since the 2008 law by patient advocate groups. As it happened, the groups’ complaints about regulatory delays were the subject of a Senate hearing on Thursday. Interest picked up further last month as individuals could begin enrolling in the new insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, provided under Mr. Obama’shealth care law.

Under that law,treatment for mental health and substance abuse is among 10 categories of benefits considered essential and thus mandatory in plans marketed in the new exchanges to individuals and small groups. Although many insurers already provide extensive mental health coverage, some have found ways to get around existing rules and to deny payment for treatment, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, said the five-year delay in issuing a final rule had real-world consequences. “In mental health, uncertainty kills,” he said. “If an individual poses a threat to himself or others, he cannot be told he will get the care he needs as soon as his insurance company decides what ‘parity’ means.”

Insurance companies have raised concerns about the expense involved in paying for the lengthy and intensive courses of treatment that the final regulations address. But experts have said the rules are not expected to significantly add to the cost of coverage because so few patients require these levels of care. 
Mental health services are scarce in many parts of the country, particularly for children, so experts have questioned whether changes in the law will have much impact in practice.

Former Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island, a co-sponsor of the 2008 law, said the rules could particularly help veterans. “No one stands to gain more from true parity than the men and women who have served our country and now need treatment for the invisible wounds they have brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.

Administration officials consulted closely with mental health groups. “What we are hearing is very positive,” said Andrew Sperling, a lobbyist at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, based on what he had been told of the final language.

Under the 2008 law, treatment limits — like restrictions on the number of doctor visits or days in a hospital — cannot be more restrictive for mental health benefits than for medical and surgical benefits. But interpretation of the law left much in question.

For example, Mr. Sperling said, policyholders can easily determine whether numerical limits on doctor visits are comparable in their plans for mental and medical health care. But, he said, it is more difficult to challenge “nonquantitative limits” — like some insurers’ requirements that people get their authorization before seeing a psychotherapist.

The provision of the rule that will seek to clarify the amount of transparency required of health plans “is important,” Mr. Sperling said. Patients advocates say they need to be able to see the criteria by which insurers find a particular service to be medically necessary, so policyholders can judge whether standards for mental health treatments are more restrictive.

Carol A. McDaid, the leader of a coalition of patients and providers of mental health and addiction services, said: “This is the beginning, not the end, of our work to make the vision of the law a reality. We have to make sure that the law and the rules are fully enforced.”

Insurers and business trade groups said they did not know enough about the rules to comment.
Dr. Paul Summergrad of Tufts University, president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association, said he hoped the final rules would end “the uniquely discriminatory form of prior authorization and utilization review” applied to emergency care for patients with mental illness.

A person who has a heart attack or pneumonia and goes to a hospital will routinely be admitted, with electronic notice sent to the insurer on the next business day, Dr. Summergrad said. By contrast, he said, if a person who is profoundly depressed and tried to commit suicide goes to a hospital, an emergency room doctor must call a toll-free telephone number, “present the case in voluminous detail and get prior authorization.”

State insurance commissioners will apparently have the primary responsibility for seeing that commercial insurers comply with the parity standards. They already have their hands full, however, enforcing new insurance market rules, and in some states insurance regulators are considered close to the industry.

“We need enforcement,” Mr. Kennedy said in an interview. “The notion of delegating this to the states, which are looking to the federal government for direction, is problematic.”

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Now You'll Know When You're Eating Slime

Last year there was a lot of concern about "pink slime" that was being used in hamburger meat.  The fatty parts of beef are "washed" in ammonium hydroxide and used in the filling of the burger.  In defense of the process, accounts reported that it had been done for years with no harmful effects.  Oh, that makes me feel so much better.  Now, Cargill doesn't say they are going to stop making pink slime, but they are going to tell consumers when they put it in a product.  So watch out for "finely textured beef"whenever you buy beef products.

After Public Outcry, Cargill Says It Will Label Products Made With a Beef Binder
Published: November 5, 2013 in the NY Times

On a day when consumers in Washington State were voting on whether to 
require food companies to label products containing genetically engineered 
ingredients, Cargill announced that it would begin labeling packages of 
ground beef containing what is colloquially known as pink slime.

Pink slime, or what the beef industry prefers to call “finely textured beef,” is made from beef trimmings left over after the processing of higher-quality cuts of meat that is washed in citric acid or ammonia to kill contaminates. It became the stuff of consumer nightmares last year after an ABC News report exposed its widespread use as a binder in ground beef, and companies from Kroger and Safeway to McDonald’s scrambled to drop it from their shelves and products.

“Our research shows that consumers believe ground beef products containing finely textured beef should be clearly labeled,” John Keating, president of Cargill’s beef operations, said in a statement.  “We’ve listened to the public, as well as our customers, and that is why today we are declaring our commitment to labeling finely textured beef.”

Cargill said it had spent 18 months researching consumer attitudes toward pink slime. The company has created a website,, with information for consumers about its contents, how it is made and what products it can be found in.

Michael Martin, a spokesman for Cargill, noted that not all of its ground beef products contained the binder. It will label those that do, including its Excel brand and the brand Our Certified Ground Beef, starting in the spring, he said. Another company that processes finely textured meat, Beef Products, has sued ABC News for defamation.

Consumer advocates by and large favored better labeling of beef content, even though many of them suggested the furor over the filler was overblown. “This is a good minimum step,” said Patty Lovera, assistant director at Food and Water Watch, which works to promote food safety and sustainability.
But Ms. Lovera said that despite assurances from the Agriculture Department that finely textured meat was safe to eat, she continued to have questions about whether the processes used to protect it from contamination work.

“These meat scraps are prone to contamination,” she said. “Is what they’re doing to clean it enough?”
Cargill does not, however, want to label its products as containing genetically engineered ingredients and is among the food companies that have contributed to fight the labeling initiative in Washington State. Results of that vote will not be known until mail-in ballots are counted.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

I Want to Be Like Max

Published: November 5, 2013 in the NY Times
My son Max is a 25-year-old singer and songwriter who goes by the moniker Dolfish. When my friends ask how his career is going, I say, “There’s a girl in Indiana with Dolfish tattooed on her arm,” although that doesn’t exactly answer their question.

They know Max was signed to an indie record label when he was 23. They know he tours a lot and has been reviewed by some important music sites and even by mainstream magazines. They know these things because I send them links with messages like this: “Paste says Max is a ‘remarkably strong songwriter ... worth following his yelp down whatever future path he explores.'” Or this from American Songwriter, describing Max as having “a unique voice and lo-fi mindset” (I assume a lo-fi mindset a is good thing).

What my friends don’t know is how to measure any of this on the only scale most of us have. You know, the one the I.R.S. uses. And to be honest, I’m not sure how to answer the question either. How successful is Max’s music career? What is a tattoo on the forearm of a 20-something in a medium-size Midwestern state worth? The Eskimos have all those words for snow, and it seems the only language we have for expressing success is numeric. It may be a universal language, but it’s an impoverished one. Maybe we need a word for “never having to sit in a meeting where someone reads long power point slides out loud.” Maybe we should have an expression that captures the level of success you’ve achieved when you do exactly what you love every day.

Max gets up when he likes and does what he loves. He avoids most of the things that most of us numerically successful people complain about all the time: racing from one unreasonable deadline to the next, sitting in unproductive meetings and watching simple things made complicated by committees. And he doesn’t want for much, largely because he’s smart enough to know that the only way to be rich is to want little. He takes no money from his parents. If he doesn’t make enough from a particular tour to cover the next few months, he gets jobs substitute teaching.

Somehow he manages to save a little money. So recently, while on vacation, I was sitting on the beach with my friend Dale, a 62-year-old hospital administrator, successful by every measure. He was lamenting that our families’ vacations were about to end and he would have to go back to the daily grind. He described what he was going to do in a few years when he retires. “I’m going to wake up when I want and take a long bike ride,” he said. “Then I’m going to read. I love to read. I’m going to finally learn to play the hammered dulcimer. And if I need a little extra cash, I’ll work a few hours a week as a physical therapist, which was my first career and first love before I got an M.B.A. and ended up herding cats.”

Am I crazy, I thought, or is Dale describing Max’s life? My friend, who has everything, is working his tail off, making maximum contributions to his 401k and buying rental properties, so he can afford to have the life of someone who has none of the trappings of success.

Then I thought about what I want to do when I retire. My plan is pretty much the same as my friend’s. Basically I want to do what I did when I was in my 20s, before I “succeeded.” I want to write novels and teach part-time at a university. And travel, which I don’t have time to do now but managed to do when I was young and poor.
So we live and learn. But in between the learning, I worry about Max. Will he ever be able to get a loan from a bank? Take his family on a vacation? Can he even afford to have a family? And if so, will he have health insurance and all those other things we all acquire in that long middle career before we retire to what we love.
I also worry about whether he will have trouble finding that career if his music fails him. In short, will he become us some day?

But for now, here’s the answer I give when people ask me if Max’s career is a success. I say: “It’s off the charts. He’s living the life of a millionaire retiree.”

Whisper in the Library

We have a good friend who lives in Seattle and frequents the public library near his home.  He uses their computers when his iPad isn't enough.  He'd better be careful now - he's likely to get shot for not whispering in the library.


Guns are now allowed in public libraries in Seattle, thanks to a state supreme court ruling holding that cities have no right to ban guns in public places such as parks and libraries. The board of the library system said it did not have a choice but to remove its longstanding ban on firearms.

Dave Workman, a gun rights advocate, told KOMO News that there’s no reason guns shouldn’t be allowed in libraries. “It’s public property,” he said. “Carrying a firearm is fundamental, individual civil right.”

But Pete Holmes, a city attorney, said he hopes that someday cities will be permitted to create their own gun controls. “It’s just wrong, and it is something that can be fixed at the state level,” Holmes said.
Guns are still banned in schools and courthouses in Washington State. Here is today’s report.
Jennifer Mascia

A man who walked through a Paramus, N.J., mall firing a weapon and sending thousands of people running Monday night shot and killed himself early Tuesday. Richard Shoop, 20, entered the Garden State Plaza at around 9 p.m., shortly before the mall was scheduled to close, and roamed the hallways before taking his own life. No customers or employees were injured.
12-year-old Dario L. Datis shot and killed himself at a home in Lower Milford Township, Pa., Monday morning. “Any time a child loses their life, it is very difficult,” said Leah Christman, the district superintendent.
41-year-old Robert Libke, an Oregon City, Ore., police officer who was shot and critically injured as he responded to a house fire on Sunday afternoon, died Monday afternoon. The home’s owner, 88-year-old Lawrence Cambra, had set it ablaze and was running around the property with a gun. Cambra was killed at the scene.
Abdul Waqas Hussain, 24, who was shot at his family-owned gas station inPaterson, N.J., on Thursday, died Monday. Three people have been charged with murder. Police say they are responsible for a string of robberies in the city.
Four people were wounded in a drive-by shooting outside a nightclub inPerris, Calif., early Sunday. A large group of people were leaving when someone drove by and opened fire. Jose Luis Avalos, 36, was arrested. The shooting may have stemmed from an earlier argument.
Natasha Clark, 32, and Anthony Torres, 41, were found shot to death inside a home in the Meadow Lakes area outside Wasilla, Alaska, Sunday morning. Both were shot in the head and a pistol was found next to the man. The victims were reportedly involved in a relationship.
A woman was shot and killed and two other people were injured in a home on the east side of Indianapolis, Ind., Monday evening. Police are trying to piece together the details of the shooting.
One person was shot and killed while breaking into an apartment in Fort Wayne, Ind., early Monday. One of the apartment’s occupants was wounded. It is unclear who fired the shots.
Tiara M. Paul, 20, accidentally shot herself in the back of a police cruiser while trying to conceal a handgun from officers in Chicago, Ill., Saturday evening. Paul was stopped by officers in the Armour Square neighborhood for unsafe crossing between cars on a Chicago Transit Authority train. She was charged with two felonies.
Loretta O’Neal was shot in the back of the head outside a restaurant inDoniphan, Mo., Friday afternoon. Police arrested the victim’s ex-boyfriend, 45-year-old Curtis E. Ellis. He had been served with an order of protection last month.
A 19-year-old woman was shot in the stomach and seriously wounded inWaldorf, Md., Sunday evening. Police said several people were arguing when a man pulled a gun and fired twice. Officers are working to identify the shooter.
A 29-year-old woman was found lying outside an apartment complex suffering from serious gunshot wounds in Polson, Mont., Sunday morning. Police had earlier received a report about a domestic disturbance. Michael James Gardipe, 35, was charged with armed assault.
Michael Chrisco, 36, was shot in the face with a sawed-off shotgun in Jackson County, Ore., Sunday night. Investigators said his brother, Joshua Chrisco, 32, shot at the victim’s trailer after a drunken disagreement and the pellets shattered the window and hit the victim in the face. Joshua Chrisco was arrested and his bail was set at more than $2 million.
A woman in her early 30s was shot in an apartment complex in Richmond, Calif., Monday afternoon. No one was arrested, though police said it’s possible the woman knows the shooter.
46-year-old Jay Seaford was shot and killed after an argument with his wife at their home in Marshall County, Ky., Sunday evening. Deputies said Rhonda Seaford shot her husband in the back with a handgun after a day of target shooting. Their child was home at the time. She was charged with murder.
A 22-year-old man was shot in the foot following a dispute over money inAiken, S.C., Sunday evening. A woman said four people came to her home and began yelling at her, and one of them pulled out a shotgun and began waving it around. He then shot the victim in the foot. The victim refused to press charges.
A man sustained multiple gunshot wounds at a home in Pointe-aux-Chenes, La., Monday afternoon. Detectives are searching for Adam Naquin, 42, who lives at the home. He is considered armed and dangerous.
One person was shot and wounded at Gonzales Gardens, a public housing complex known for gang activity, in Columbia, S.C., Monday afternoon. A second gunshot victim was being treated at a local hospital and investigators were trying to determine whether the shootings are related.
A man was shot and injured in east Las Vegas, Nev., Monday afternoon. A police gang unit is searching for the suspect.
A man was shot in the stomach with a revolver during an argument over a card game in Wildwood, Mo., early Sunday. The victim was dropped off at a police station. Alfredo Castro, 37, was charged with first-degree assault.
A 19-year-old man was shot several times and wounded while standing outside the McDougald Terrace apartment complex in southeast Durham, N.C., Sunday night. No word on his condition or suspects.
A man was shot and wounded in Long Beach, N.Y., late Saturday. Police recovered two rifles and have detained a person of interest. No motive was revealed.
A man was shot and wounded while leaving a grocery store in the Hollywood Heights neighborhood of Shreveport, La., Monday evening. No word on suspects.
19-year-old Raymond Mills was shot in the head and killed in the driveway of his home in Miami Gardens, Fla., early Monday. “A child is supposed to bury the mother and now I gotta bury my grandson,” the victim’s grandmother, Dianne Cope, told NBC6. “It just don’t make sense.”
A 45-year-old man was shot in the back and collapsed in front of a pizza shop in downtown Trenton, N.J., Monday morning. No arrests have been made.
Jerrmie Fields, 39, was shot and killed in the Homestead neighborhood ofPittsburgh, Pa., early Monday. Police said the victim was shot multiple times inside a car before being pushed out. Police are reviewing surveillance footage.
Edward Gwinner was shot in the chest and killed in an apartment inYpsilanti, Mich., early Friday. Police said the victim’s sister was involved in a domestic violence incident at a house party and he intervened on her behalf. Witnesses aren’t talking.
Two men who allegedly robbed a Reading, Pa., convenience store were shot to death by a man who stumbled upon the scene Monday afternoon. Police said the victims entered Krick’s Korner, pointed guns at the store owner and demanded cash. When the men fled the store they ran into someone leaving an apartment in the same building. He pulled out his own weapon and shot the two men.
A man in his late teens or early 20s was shot multiple times and left for dead at an intersection in northeast Houston, Tex., early Monday. A dark-colored S.U.V. was seen fleeing the scene.
A man was shot in the leg near a daycare center in central Toledo, Ohio, Monday afternoon. The victim also cut his hand on a fence while fleeing the shooter. No word on a suspect or an arrest.
According to Slate’s gun-death tracker, an estimated 10,199 people have died as a result of gun violence in America since the Newtown massacre on December 14, 2012.

From Joe Nocera's blog on the New York Times website.

Pot Versus Booze

pot v boozeThis was taken from an article in the NY Times November 3, 2013.  It was written by the Editorial Board.
Americans are growing more comfortable with marijuana, with 58 percent favoring legalization.  Researchers believe they have identified a side benefit to increasing availability of marijuana: It could lead to decreased use of alcohol among young people.

Two researchers - D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University and Daniel Rees of the University of Colorado at Denver - report that legalization of marijuana for medical purposes has been associated with reductions in heavy drinking, especially among 18- to 29- year-olds, and with an almost 5 percent decrease in beer sales.  In addition, the increase in the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 seems to encourage greater marijuana use among people under 21, usage that drops sharply when they reach the legal drinking age.  So I guess young people would still rather get drunk than get high.  For young drivers, alcohol is far more hazardous.

For the most part, marijuana-intoxicated drivers show only modest impairments on road tests.  (If anything, they drive too slowly!)  After using marijuana, drivers overestimate their impairment, so the slow down and increase their following distance.  The opposite is true of drivers under the influence of alcohol.

Run For Your Life

When I see a "feel good" story in the news, I am compelled to share it with the world.  There are so few rehab programs that have good success rates in the US I am hoping that this model may catch on.

CORIANO, Italy — It is still dark when Sara Floriddia laces her shoes and goes running on the hilltop roads near the Adriatic coast of Italy. With every mile, she leaves her past further behind.
Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
Runners from the San Patrignano drug rehabilitation center trained in Coriano, Italy, for the New York City Marathon.

When Floriddia, 34, came here to San Patrignano, one of the largest drug rehabilitation centers in Europe, she had been a heroin addict for five years. She remembers crying, even as she administered her doses.
Now she is a part of an unusual running team of six former drug addicts who will represent San Patrignano on Sunday in the New York City Marathon.

“We are broken vases that have been glued together again,” Floriddia said. “But if we can work and live in a healthy environment, we won’t break again.”

Tucked in the northern hills of Italy, San Patrignano is not a typical training ground for marathoners. It has 1,300 residents at its main facility, which doubles as a small farming community. The addicts submit to a four-year rehabilitation program in which they must cultivate their food, clean their rooms and undertake tasks like making cheese, raising pigs and cows, and producing wine.

And some have become runners. Since February, a top marathon coach, Gabriele Rosa, has been training the program’s team of runners to help improve their self-confidence. The New York City Marathon is a way for the runners to pursue a dream, but there are other benefits.

“We also hope that the visibility of the N.Y.C. Marathon could make our community known and available to other people in need all over the world,” said Letizia Moratti, a longtime supporter of San Patrignano and the president of its United States affiliate, Friends of San Patrignano.

San Patrignano, which was founded in 1979 and has two smaller branches in Italy, is not like many drug rehabilitation centers. It is free, for one. Unless the newcomers need to scale down their use of methadone, residents are not given substitution medicines. They can see a therapist but are not compelled to. Social workers and former drug addicts who have seniority in the program assist those who have just arrived. If necessary, the seniors “crowd around you and talk you off the cliff,” as an American resident put it.

The San Patrignano method mirrors the mental and physical discipline needed to run, forcing the participants to work methodically, Rosa said as his group of runners, who have 3 to 18 years of drug addiction behind them, went up a slope.

“I am confident that they will all finish the race in a good time, out of personal motivation or out of gratitude for this community,” Rosa said.

For many, San Patrignano is family. About a third of the 422 collaborators and volunteers in the community were once residents there. Antonio Boschini, the community’s therapeutic manager, graduated with a medical degree in the 1980s from the University of Verona while living in San Patrignano, where he still lives, with his wife and two children. He is also a member of the running team.

“Drug addicts are not ill people; they are not doomed to lead a life of minor league,” Boschini said. “We need to show it to the world when in New York.”

For Andrea Grossi, 27, running is a challenge requiring his concentration at every step.
“They all know it — I just don’t want to run in the first 20 minutes,” he said. “Then I break that mental barrier, and I love it.”

Grossi recounted his personal victory at the Rome Marathon in 2011. At Mile 23, he thought he could not take it anymore. Fatigue took over his mind before his legs. Yet he would not stop. Training for months and then finishing the race proved to him that he was no longer the boy who provoked 13 car and scooter accidents in a daze of drugs.

“We used to be derelicts of society, people in the corner,” he said, but no more.

For some athletes from San Patrignano, the New York City Marathon is their first important test.
Floriddia, now a nurse in the community, said it was a matter of pride for her to complete the race in less than five hours. She is also racing so that her father, an award-winning road runner now in his 60s, will be proud of her.

“When I was little and we followed him to the races, I hated it,” she said. “At the finishing line, he was drenched in sweat; at times he would even throw up. ‘Why would he do it to himself?’ I thought.”

Now, her raven-black hair stands out as the team’s runners march up a hill in bright yellow shirts. She has never left Europe. She is one of the two female runners flying to New York, and the only one who is still going through the rehabilitation program. She said she felt the need to pave the way for former addicts like her, and for others who needed to learn how to keep their self-destructive tendencies out of their lives.
“At times I worry that when I’ll be out of here, I could get discouraged, bored or be nervous again,” she said. “But now I know what I’ll do. I will run.”

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Let's Ban the Box

the box

An 18-year-old gets mixed up with the wrong crowd, gets arrested on a marijuana charge, sent to jail for 6 months, and pays the price forever.  This is happening so often that, in an interview at Taco Bell, a friend of my son's was told, "Oh, everybody we interview has a felony!"  But, needless to say, this kid didn't get a job.  Nor will he be able to rent an apartment.  Or vote when he's old enough to understand how our political system works.  His life will always be compromised because of one stupid night when he was 18.  Finally, states and corporations are recognizing that this is a counterproductive approach.  If  these folks are given a chance, they can be productive citizens, pay taxes, buy houses, raise a family, and not end up back in jail.  This article in the NY Times explains.

"Sanctions that make it more difficult for ex-offenders to obtain jobs, housing and even basic documents like drivers’ licenses only serve to drive them back to jail. With that in mind, a growing number of states and municipalities now prohibit public agencies — and in some cases private employers — from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history until the applicant reaches the interview stage or gets a conditional job offer. These eminently sensible “ban the box” laws are intended to let ex-offenders prove their qualifications before criminal history issues enter the equation.

Earlier this year Minnesota extended its existing law to cover private employers. Now, the Minneapolis-based Target Corporation, one of the nation’s largest employers, has announced that it will remove questions about criminal history from its job applications throughout the country. The announcement represents an important victory for the grassroots community group TakeAction Minnesota, which had been pressuring the company to change.

This comes on the heels of a similar development earlier this month in California, where Gov. Jerry Brown signed a ban-the-box bill that applies to government employers. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave this movement a lift last year, when it expanded and updated a ruling that barred employers from automatically denying people jobs based on arrest or conviction records. The E.E.O.C. guidance made clearthat an arrest alone is not proof of illegal conduct or grounds for exclusion from employment. It also explained that employers need to take into account the seriousness of the offense, the time that has passed since it was committed and the relevance of the crime to the job being sought. Given that 65 million Americans now have criminal records, that reminder is crucial."

We Need Data


This is so exciting!  I found out about this from an article in Newsweek, titled "Science Passes the Hat." You have probably heard of Kickstarter and have perhaps even helped fund a project that interests you.  Well, sites like Microryza raise money for scientific research.  Research has been hard hit by cutbacks in funding, and frequently a worthwhile project can't get funding because either the project is too speculative or the project is sound enough, but the researcher is too young and has not yet earned a good reputation.

Since the NRA paid for passage of legislation to prevent the Centers for Disease Control from gathering data on gun violence in the U.S., there hasn't been anyone trying to gather this data in order to persuade policy makers.

Enter Microryza and Bisakha (Pia) Sen, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who raised more than $22,000 to examine the effects of state gun-control policies on firearm death rates, crime rates, and children's access to guns.  Check out the project on the Microryza site:


Here is her Microryza proposal:
 This is a timely project because of the newly reignited political debate about gun background checks.Since we will compile and use data that has already been collected by various agencies, we anticipate being able to complete the project and get the papers out within 6 months. This should help inform policy-makers.Also, as funding for gun violence prevention research becomes available again, the findings from this project will serve as ‘pilot studies’ that we can utilize to put together a large-scale project involving more complex data.

What are the goals of this project?

This research project will look at a state’s gun polices (comprehensive background checks, checks for purchases at gun shows, concealed carry laws, ‘stand your ground’ laws) and gun culture (percent of population who are licensed hunters, percent of gun-owning households) affect the outcomes listed below. In addition to a state's own polices and culture, the project will also look at whether the gun policies and gun culture of neighboring states affect the outcomes listed below.
We will examine the following outcomes: (1) Firearm deaths (homicide, suicide, accidental). For homicides we will also examine justifiable homicide (i.e. shooting a felon in self-defense), and homicides where the victim knew the perpetrator. (2) Crimes (burglary, robbery, assaults). This is to examine whether there is evidence that stringent gun laws may reduce the ability of citizens to self-defend themselves against criminals, and thereby increase crimes. (3) Gun access among youth. Specifically, whether youth report carrying a gun, including to school, and being threatened by other youth with guns on school property
The results will be published in quality, peer-reviewed journals. We will also make our gun-policy database available to other scientists who wish to do research in this area.
Up until now this research has not been possible because of a funding freeze. In 1996, lobbying pressures led Congress to cut all CDC funding for research on guns, public health and safety (link). As a result, hundreds of public health scientists who require funding to support their research have not been able to work on this topic. While Obama has talked about restoring the funding, the sequestration poses a major constraint to such research funding.
We are turning to crowdfunding to continue this much-needed research on gun policies and gun violence.