Daily Archives: October 13, 2009

Cub Scout faces 45 days in reform school for carrying Swiss Army camp set

Cub Scout utensil gets boy, 6, school suspension

First-grader brought it to eat his lunch with; now he’s facing reform school

TODAYShow.com | Oct 13, 2009

By Mike Celizic

A combination fork, knife, spoon and bottle opener is Zachary Christie’s favorite utensil — but it got him in trouble at school. Photo: TODAY

A combination fork, knife, spoon and bottle opener is Zachary Christie’s favorite utensil — but it got him in trouble at school. Photo: TODAY

Dressed in a button-down shirt and tie and speaking calmly and articulately, first-grader Zachary Christie hardly looks or acts like the sort of kid who should be spending 45 days in reform school. But, thanks to a zero-tolerance policy, that’s where Zachary’s Delaware school system wants him to go after he made the mistake of taking his favorite camping utensil to school.

A Swiss Army-type combination of fork, spoon, bottle opener and knife, the tool has been Zachary’s favorite ever since he got it to take on Cub Scout camping expeditions. “He eats dinner with it, breakfast and everything else, so it never occurred to him that this would have been something wrong to do,” the 6-year-old’s mother, Debbie Christie, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Tuesday from Newark, Del.

‘Can I have that?’

Zachary, an A student who sometimes wears a shirt and tie to school just because he likes to, told Vieira he put the tool in his pocket on Sept. 29 for a very simple reason: “To eat lunch with. I had absolutely no idea this was going to happen. I wasn’t thinking about this. I was thinking about having lunch with it.”

But when the tool fell out of his pocket on the bus and he walked off the vehicle with it in his hand, a teacher intercepted him. “She said, ‘Can I have that?’ ” Zachary recalled.

What Zachary didn’t realize was that he had fallen afoul of the Christina School District’s zero-tolerance policy toward weapons in school, one of many such policies implemented in the wake of such incidents as the Columbine High School massacre. The policy does not allow teachers or administrators to take into account intentions or the character of the student; if a student has a knife, suspension and subsequent assignment to the district’s “alternative placement school” — aka reform school — is mandatory.

Racial issue

Christina, which, according to its Web site, is the largest school district in Delaware with some 17,000 students, made its policy zero-tolerance because of concerns over racial discrimination. Studies have shown in other districts that when school officials are given discretion over such cases, African-American students are disciplined at a disproportionately high rate.

“The idea was to avoid discriminating against any student and to treat all students the same,” George Evans, president of the Christina school board, told NBC News.

While some experts favor such zero-tolerance policies, others question their efficacy, saying there is no indication that they cut down on violent incidents in schools. One of them, national school safety consultant Kenneth Trump, told NBC News, “The school administrators have to be able to administer consequences and still have some discretion to fit the totality of the circumstances.”

The totality of Zachary’s circumstances was that he had no idea that it was wrong to take his favorite camping tool to class. When the teacher asked for it when he got off the bus, he handed it over, unaware that he was already in serious trouble. He went to class while his principal called his mother.

“She said that I needed to come to the school immediately; that Zachary had brought a dangerous weapon into school, and I needed to come and pick him up. He would be suspended for five days pending a disciplinary action committee hearing. She said that he had a knife,” Christie told Vieira.

When his mother arrived at the John R. Downes Elementary School with her fiance, Lee Irving, Zachary was called from his first-grade classroom to join them.

“When they called my name up, I was like, ‘Uh-oh,’ ” he said.

Home school, not reform school

Zachary was suspended immediately for five school days. At the end of the suspension, he and his mother appeared before the district’s disciplinary action committee, where his principal and others spoke up for his good character. It didn’t matter. The committee’s hands were tied. The rules said he had brought a knife to school and would have to spend 45 days in the reform school.

Christie decided she would not send her son to that school. Instead, she has been home schooling Zachary while waiting for an opportunity to address the district’s board of education, which was to meet Tuesday night.

“I understand why they have it, but I don’t agree with the implementation of it,” Christie said of the zero-tolerance policy. “I think they need to look at the age, maturity, intent, situation; bring in the teachers who know the child or the principal, and allow them to make the first call in these situations,” she said. “Looking at other schools’ codes of conduct in the Delaware Valley, their first step would have been a suspension.”

Christie assured Vieira that her son is well aware of the necessity of not taking anything new to school without first asking and is not a threat to anyone. She hopes the school board will agree with her.

“I hope that they expunge his record and allow him to go back to Downes immediately,” she said of the board. “I think he has had an over-excess of education on this issue. I’m hoping that out of all of this the policy changes and that no other child is affected negatively by what is supposed to keep them all safe.”

Vieira asked Zachary if he’s nervous about the prospect of eventually returning to his school.

“I’m not very nervous,” Zachary said. “I like being home-schooled. It’s happy in some ways; it’s sad in some ways. Sometimes I’m strict, and sometimes I can get into my serious mode. I can get into my happy mode. It’s just kind of fun being home-schooled, but I’m not scared to go back.”

And what has he learned from everything that’s happened to him?

“To always ask before taking something new into school,” he said.

German army gets special swine flu vaccine without controversial additives given to general public

Army first in line to get cutting-edge swine flu shot

thelocal.de | Oct 12, 2009

The German army has ordered a stock of special swine flu vaccine that does not contain controversial additives that will be given to the general public, the Defence Ministry confirmed on Monday.

The announcement came in response to a report in daily Westfalen-Blatt, which said that Bundeswehr soldiers and their families on foreign deployments or preparing for missions overseas would receive the inoculations.

The A/H1N1 flu shots given to soldiers will contain neither a controversial strengthening additive, nor the preservative agent mercury, both of which are contained in the shots for the general public.

Additive-free Celvapan, manufactured by the US pharmaceutical company Baxter, was approved on October 6 for use in the European Union.

Defence Ministry spokesman Thomas Raabe said the Bundeswehr needs to be able to quickly and impartially inoculate soldiers and their dependants on foreign missions to ensure they were protected.

Raabe said that not all of the Bundeswehr‘s 250,000 soldiers could be vaccinated at once, but added it is important that the 7,200 troops on foreign missions receive the first shots, he said.

Some doctors have warned of unforeseeable side effects to the other EU-approved vaccines Pandemrix, made by British firm GlaxoSmithKline, and Focetria, manufactured by Swiss company Novartis.

However, there are no studies comparing the side effects, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which oversees drug registration and safety in Germany.

The president of Germany’s Association of Children’s and Young People’s Physicians (BVKJ), Wolfram Hartmann, told the Westfalen-Blatt that the vaccines committee of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin had reacted with surprise to the Bundeswehr’s “solo approach.”

He called for children aged six months to six years to also be given the additive-free shots.

Sceptics welcome BBC report on ‘global cooling’

Climate change sceptics have welcomed a “surprise” BBC decision to give prominence to evidence from leading scientists that there could be 30 years of “global cooling”.

Telegraph | Oct 12, 2009

By Richard Savill

Under the headline `Whatever happened to Global Warming?’, the BBC has reported that the warmest year recorded globally was 1998, and for the last 11 years no increase in global temperatures has been observed.

The report by the BBC climate correspondent, Paul Hudson, which provoked a strong debate on the Corporation’s website, quotes a climatologist as saying there could be 30 years of cooling due to the falling temperatures of the oceans.

Last night, one solar scientist, Piers Corbyn from Weatheraction, a company specialising in long range weather forecasting, said: “It is interesting the BBC is prepared to tolerate him (Hudson) writing these things.

“It is a surprise – a welcome one – that the BBC has put it as bluntly as they have. More often than not they (the BBC) put forward the brainwashing views of CO2-driven, man-made climate change.

“Possibly some people in the BBC have worked out that the whole shooting match will collapse and they had better be ahead of the game.”

Mr Corbyn is due to put forward his view that solar charged particles “impact us far more than is currently accepted” to the international scientific community at a conference in London later this month.

He said climate change was a “weapon of mass taxation.”

“All the political parties want to use climate change as an excuse to raise taxes,” he added. “Also it is a tactic for the Western powers to control the world energy supply.”

The BBC report quotes Prof Don Easterbrook from Western Washington University as saying the oceans and global temperatures are correlated.

The oceans have a cycle in which they warm and cool cyclically. The most important is the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO), he added.

He said in the last few years it has been losing its warmth and has recently started to cool down.

“The PDO cool mode has replaced the warm mode in the Pacific Ocean, virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling,” Prof Easterbrook was quoted as saying.

Some reader comments on the BBC’s website said the broadcaster had made a “U-turn” over its readiness to acknowledge the views of scientists who believe cooling is here to stay.

However the BBC said: “We have always reported a range of views and this article is no different.

“The point the article is making is that views about climate change are hotly contested. To characterise this as some sort of change in position is simply wrong.”

Liz Cheney: Peace Prize should be dedicated to US military

rawstory.com | Oct 11, 2009

By David Edwards

Liz CheneyLiz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that President Barack Obama should not travel to Oslo in December to accept the Nobel Prize. Cheney called the prize a “farce” that could only be legitimized if the family of a US military member accepted it.

“I think the president himself understands he didn’t earn this prize and therefore the notion that this White House has said he would go to Oslo to accept the prize would add to the farce,” said Cheney.

She offered the following proposal: “I think what he ought to do, frankly, is send the mother of a fallen American soldier to accept the prize on behalf of the US military. Frankly, to send the message to remind the Nobel committee that each one of them sleeps soundly at night because the US armed forces, because the US military is the greatest peacekeeping force in the world today.”

It should come as no surprise that neoconservative columnist Bill Kristol disagrees with the Nobel committee. He responded to the award with sarcasm.

“It’s hard for me to be objective about this because I’m so disappointed personally,” he said. “I was up early Friday morning. I thought the phone might ring, you know. Pundits for peace. I deserve it pretty much. President Obama and I have done about the same amount to bring about world peace, I think.”

UPS adds carbon offsets to shipping menu

Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Oct 12, 2009

By Rachel Tobin Ramos

UPS is offering customers a chance — for a fee — to offset the environmental effect of shipping their packages across the country or around the world.

The Sandy Springs-based shipping giant announced that its 1 million online account holders can buy a so-called carbon offset for their shipping, at a cost of 5 cents for ground packages and 20 cents for those shipped by air.

UPS also is offering an audit that will customize a carbon offset program for large shippers.

So what is a carbon offset? UPS describes it as a financial instrument aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A company that emits more carbon can buy an offset from a company that has diminished its carbon use.

UPS will buy the carbon offsets through a third party that will in turn invest in waste water treatment, reforestation and landfill methane mitigation projects, said Bob Stoffel, UPS’s senior vice president of engineering, strategy, supply chain and sustainability.

UPS will match the offset purchases  in 2009-2010, up to $1 million.

The carbon offset concept arose several years ago as environmentalists began to campaign to cut carbon emissions. Some companies responded with ways to purchase carbon offsets.

Stoffel said UPS models showed even a single-digit percentage of customers participating would have a huge impact — even more than the purchase of low fuel emission vehicles.

“I think it’s cool,” he said. “If it has a low take rate initially, it will gain momentum.”

So far, he said, UPS has gotten interest from a broad base of large shippers, from financial services  to consumer electronics and retail apparel. UPS will expand the program worldwide in about a year and a half, he said.

Doug Caldwell, a principal with ParcelResearch.com, an Oregon-based consulting firm, said UPS is the first shipper with a carbon offset program in the United States. European rivals like DHL and TNT have offset programs, he said.

He thinks it could drive shipping sales to UPS from companies that want to improve their environmental credibility. “Green” products and methods of doing business have become important marketing hooks for some companies.

Mitch Jackson, Memphis-based FedEx’s director of environmental affairs and sustainability, said FedEx prepares carbon footprint reports for customers who want one, but added, “We haven’t considered asking our customers to pay for off-setting the emissions.”

Caldwell said companies like Nike and Patagonia disclosed carbon emissions created by their products for several years. Delta Air Lines lets fliers purchase a carbon offset.